Celebrating the Savior

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Pastor Top is bi-vocational pastor of Little Oak Baptist Church somewhere in a rural area.
Pastor Top knew Easter was coming and the folks at Little Oak were enthused about celebrating the Resurrection of the Savior. Top knew the folks at Little Oak would enjoy sunrise service, breakfast, and other festivities on Easter Sunday. He would preach a sermon on the resurrection yet he was struggling with something fresh to say about the resurrection.
In talking with other pastors Top became aware that most pastors struggled with what to preach on Easter, Christmas, and Mother’s day. He knew the Lord would show him what to say and how to say it. He was more concerned about the hearts of people. He wanted to communicate the intensity of a risen savior. He also wanted them to know that the risen savior lived in each heart that accepted Jesus. Jesus came to transform lives.
Life transformation comes from the inside out. The savior gets in our heart and creates the desire for each believer to become more like Jesus each day. The hymn More About Jesus says it well with ideas found of more loving, filled with grace, and holy. The Jesus we sing about Easter Sunday is able and powerful enough to come reshape our lives.
Top’s desire was to communicate the power of the Gospel of Jesus to transform lives. The Jesus who rose from the grave is powerful enough to change lives and rescue the perishing. I think we live in an age where we minimize God’s power and make him small. In Old Testament world many gods were considered weak or powerless if the walls of a city were broken down, or there was a drought, or pick your favorite crisis to discredit your God. Our me centered way of thinking makes us feel God should be at our beck and call. When life doesn’t go our way we make our God small and less powerful. Most of us won’t say that out loud but in our heart we question why God doesn’t see things our way and answer our way. In a sense we each have a bit of Thomas in our hearts. We want to serve and believe in a powerful God yet we find ourselves doubting when we feel powerless.
Top was listening to the Lord and was getting an idea of what the Lord wanted him to say at the sunrise service. The power of the resurrection would be the theme of the first service. The Lord would give him the message in due time for the second service.
Top was also concerned that the folks of Little Oak take seriously the need to invite people to come and celebrate the savior on Easter. The resurrection was a great celebration for believers. It was also a great time for the unchurched to hear about the savior. Little Oaks members needed to invite as many as they could to be a part of church on Easter Sunday. The county where Little Oak was had 20,000 people and 14,000 were not in church on any given Sunday. Top was confident that many people were waiting on someone to invite them to come to church and hear the gospel. His role as pastor was to get folks to invite unchurched on Easter Sunday. Ultimately the best idea would be for the folks of Little Oak to develop a lifestyle of inviting people to church and sharing their faith. That would be living out the great commission.
Jesus told us in Matthew 28: 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of[e] all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember,[f] I am with you always,[g] to the end of the age.” It seems that believers today treat this passage as the great suggestion not the great commandment. Believers are ready to talk about the decay of society and ills of the world. Yet there is little talk given to the answer to decay and decline. Jesus is the answer to the problems and challenges of our society and world. Believers must obey Jesus and go through life sharing the Good News about Jesus.
Tops number one challenge as the shepherd of Little Oak was to pray, teach, and remind his flock that they are to make disciples each day.

Gospel Conversations

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Pastor Top is bi-vocational pastor of Little Oak Baptist Church somewhere in a rural area.
     Little Oak Church was doing well it seemed. People were happy, attendance was steady, and the church budget was in good shape. With all the good news Top wondered what was wrong with him. He was restless about the focus of the church. Top was concerned that the people of Little Oak were more concerned about themselves than the lost and unchurched that were all around the church. He saw people in need and people that needed a savior. The people in the church seemed indifferent to the plight of the people. Top was becoming increasingly concerned and was asking the Lord how to create an attitude of sharing their faith was important.
     Top had recently read about having a Gospel Conversation. It was the new term for witnessing. It seemed that the catchy term Gospel Conversation had turned into a denominational emphasis to challenge and encourage Christians to witness. The website Top looked at regarding Gospel Conversations was: https://gcchallenge.com/overview/ . The website had reminded Top of the simplicity of the Gospel and the mandate of Christ to pray for the harvest and pray for workers for the harvest. The GC website had a section on prayer. Within this section there was a 42 week prayer suggestion. One could print off their own and use as a bulleting insert or give to church members. Top printed off two weeks and began filling in some blanks. He soon realized he would be praying longer and be more focused in his prayer time on the names of lost people. The prayer sheets would be helpful.
     Top also noticed a couple of books he could use to help teach people a simple process to talk to people about the gospel. He liked the simplicity. It was brief, used a person’s own story with Jesus, and not rote memorization. What a blessing the simplicity was.
     Top was getting excited as he thought of people who needed the Lord. In his mind he could see people coming to know Christ. He could see lives being transformed into the nature of Christ and families healed. The Lord was at work. Top thought the Gospel Conversation emphasis was a good thing for Southern Baptists to be involved in.

Generous Hearts

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Pastor Top is bi-vocational pastor of Little Oak Baptist Church somewhere in a rural area.
Top was smiling as he got off the phone with Laura. She had called to point out the need of a couple in the area. The husband had lost his job. The wife worked part time and her hours were being cut. They had two kids in grade school. The couple didn’t attend church yet were a nice family trying to raise their family. The family was in need. They hadn’t asked for help yet Laura, church member had become aware or their situation. She had helped them on her own and realized this was an opportunity for Little Oak church to put faith into action. Laura was rallying the folks of Little Oak to give time, money, and even canned goods to help the family.
Top was very humbled and amused by the response. A few years when he became the pastor of Little Oak the concept of getting involved and helping a family in need was a little foreign. People gave canned goods to the local food bank. They would give money to the Salvation Army. It was good to give the way they did yet there seemed to be a reluctance to touch the need in the area. The area around Little Oak was like many areas where folks weren’t rich, many worked hard, yet it was difficult to raise a family and make ends meet.
Top had been disappointed the first time he asked the folks to help a family and they refused. The family needed help winterizing their home and a few minor things they didn’t know how to do. Top thought it was the perfect mission project to go over and spend the time to help them. They would also spend under $100 dollars for the project. The response of the church was a sound NO! Top went home that night demoralized. He believed what James said in James 2: 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.”[e] Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works. [f] Several verses prior to 18 James had pointed out the connection between faith and action. He contrasted the treatment of the rich and poor pointing out there should be no difference. James went on to say that a person’s faith came to life in the actions that they did. He spoke of those in need of food and clothing and people that professed to follow Christ refusing to help them. This was not faith but lip service to being a follower. Top had avoided the temptation to teach from James following the refusal of the church to help a family. He instead spent time calling on the Lord for wisdom and patience as to how to handle it. Hearts began to soften; attitudes began to change toward those in need. One evening after church at a fellowship a good discussion on helping sprang up and that was a turning point. Individual members of Little Oak began to help folks in need. At first it was usually the members of Little Oak. Then it began to branch out to families who had no connection to the church. Little Oak wasn’t affluent or large yet helped as much and as many as they could.
The Lord was at work in several ways. People of the church were praying for families not connected to the church. The Lord works on the believers heart as they pray then they go and touch the lives of those they have been praying for. The hands that serve following the prayers come in all sizes and ages. The oldest Sunday School class was making Shoe Boxes for Samaritans purse. It seemed severa other groups in the church were actively involved in the lives of a family who weren’t members or attenders of Little Oak. Top remembered reading in church history that many pagans came to know Christ because the believers cared for them. The church in Acts set the example for the church today. We must have an action oriented faith. A generous heart that pleased the Lord.

God and Money

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Pastor Top is bi-vocational pastor of Little Oak Baptist Church somewhere in a rural area.
Pastor Top sat reviewing Little Oak’s budget statement for the past month. He also had the past years budget statements in front of him. The past month the church members had given a record amount. The church had grown and the offerings had grown proportionally, so had the expenses. While the church had been given more than they had spent this month some members were concerned the expenses were growing more rapidly than they liked. The new expenses were easily identified. Children’s ministry expense was booming which made the expenses boom. The church cared for the children in good ways by teaching the Bible, providing activities, and reaching the parents. Youth ministry was following the same path. Young families attending the church increased the expenses through multiplication. Other expenses that were seasonal had contributed to the increase in expenses such as VBS, building improvement, and insurance had contributed to the growing expense side of the budget. Top looked thoughtfully at the budget report.
Instead of number-dollars and cents he saw faces. Faces of new people at the church, faces of kids who came to Christ, and faces of hurting people the church was helping. Top also saw the face of God. He saw God sitting on his throne with all the riches of heaven around him. Top knew from Scripture and from life experience that God would faithfully supply all the needs of the church plus future needs. God is always faithful.

Unhelathy Relationships

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Pastor Top is bi-vocational pastor of Little Oak Baptist Church somewhere in a rural area.

It seemed to Top most folks were upset about something. At work the men seemed to bicker about everything. Top was accused of favoritism, sending people home from work, and not praying equally for all workers and their families. At least he wasn’t in trouble for praying. Society as a whole seemed to be set on an antagonistic mindset. The nation seemed divided politically and this is affecting every fiber of society.
The church didn’t seem to be doing much better. Folks in several churches seemed out of sorts, families were often struggling with their personal relationships bringing harsh feelings into the church. Folks were divided over the prior election and the movie the Shack. Top knew this isn’t what Jesus had in mind for his follower’s behavior. Jesus said In John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Jesus tells us plainly how we love people is an indicator of our relationship with Christ. He went on to say everyone will know of our faith by how you love people. Top knew he must find a way to love people and communicate a depth of love that only Christ could give. Top knew his love demonstration had to begin at home and work. How do you love construction workers? Simple you show them you care. Coffee and doughnuts were not the answer. Caring for people meant caring for their family and learning what was going on in their families. Top was the pastor of the church yet he had to become the Pastor of the Job Site. Serving the church family Top would need to lead them to love each other by loving the folks more than ever. To really love people he would need to rise above the petty complaints and griping. He would need to challenge people to find ways to love those folks God put around them. Next he would set a positive example by living out Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Encouragement was so easy it became hard for people. Generally speaking folks had fallen into a mindset that complaining was chosen over encouragement. Top knew the secret to overcoming complaining was found in Jesus teaching in John 13. Love as Jesus loved. Jesus put aside his life, feelings, time, and energy to show people how he loved them. Very rarely did he appear angry. He didn’t seem to complain yet he warned his followers not to become hateful, bitter, and look down on others. In fact Jesus warned all of us not to think more of ourselves than others. That could be at the root of complaining. Love one another as I have loved you were the words of Jesus. Love others sacrificially putting their feelings ahead of mine. Love others so they will see Jesus in me. Love those which use me for their own agenda. Love until it becomes a life habit.
Top was beginning to realize he too had fallen into the habit of criticism and complaining being his first response. He was challenged by Jesus to live out love.