There are moments we encounter that provoke great questions. In those moments we seek to assess reality in order to identify what is going on in this world and how the circumstances we are experiencing are going to impact us in our own immediate context as well as life’s trajectory in the days to come.
Every week there seems to be a national tragedy that causes us to shake our heads in disbelief. Terror has crept in and is creating chaos, instilling fear and dividing humanity into polarized factions all over the world. The political wrangling expends a ton of energy measured in billions of dollars and 24/7 media coverage, but it only seems to achieve greater division and disappointment.
The struggle of raising a family in this environment is real. Our society seems to be unraveling, our culture is evolving rapidly (almost morphing into something unrecognizable to us) and the hope of this nation to be the United States of America is ever dwindling. The hostile rhetoric and increasing violence exposes more than a loss of civility, it reveals that we are a fractured people that is spiraling into great brokenness.
It is in these moments. We ask questions. It is in these moments we seek to understand what is going on, but ultimately we search in order to define what we believe to be true. Truth is what sets us free. This world says strike a pose, play the game, and pretend everything is fine, but posturing will not fix the wrecked or ruined parts of life. And although this world continues to undermine what is true, we know that in an ever changing world truth is the only thing that is constant. Is it any wonder then that Christ gave Himself that name. He is Truth! We can believe what is true. If we are to stand in uncertain times and not be swept away by a shifting worldly current, then stand upon what is true.
Earlier this year, our partners in missions gathered for a ministry celebration in Seoul Korea. This gathering was sponsored by Baptist Bible Fellowship International (BBFI), who (if you are not familiar) is one of our strategic partners in world missions. (We strategically partner with others as well, for example)
- SBC- largest Baptist mission organization in the world
- What is it? In essence, 50,000 independent Baptist church network to support nearly 4000 missionaries around the world
- Currently there are nearly 39,000 SBC churches in other countries
- 2013- 190,957 were baptized overseas by these SBC churches
- Excites me to be a part of that effort
- Manna Worldwide – 160 projects in 40 countries
- Partners with missionaries on the field to provide gospel centered churches, feeding programs, orphanages, schools, and clean water.
- I am honored to be serving a 3 year term on the board
- Our mission trips to the Philippines and Guatemala have been Manna mission trips (By the way, pack your bags, we are going to Philippines in 2017)
However, the majority of our missionaries that we support are BBFI missionaries. BBFI has about 800 missionaries serving in 89 countries around the world. The meeting in Korea was intended to measure the global impact of our partnership; and the numbers are staggering. Just in the last 3 years,
- 355,470 have come to Christ and made professions of faith
- 10,616 nationals are training to lead in full-time ministry
- And 1774 churches have been started.
- And 6,483 additional missions have been started with intentions to organize into a church.
This past weekend, an article ran in our local paper regarding the results of the reorganization efforts of Butler County’s Children Services. The committed personnel and dedicated social workers are working hard to mitigate the difficult circumstances that confront many children in our county. Of course, these are they that diligently give of themselves everyday and are clearly doing the lion share of the work. However, I am also grateful for the opportunities that the faith community have been given to invest in the lives of children who are at risk.
Truth is under attack for it is no longer considered to be absolute within our postmodern society. George Barna reported that only 33 percent of Americans accept the idea of absolute moral truth. Barna’s poll also found that even Christians struggle to accept moral truth as absolute. According to Barna, only 49 percent of those born again believe in absolute moral truth. Postmodernism is stripping away the traditional ideas of truth. Therefore the modern Christian believer is required to accurately understand God’s mission through the study of missiology in order to competently relate God’s message by implementing specific evangelistic methods.
“T’was the night before Christmas…” When we hear that expression (the night before Christmas), we usually begin to swell with anticipation of Christmas morning. These are the words that have been uttered for nearly 200 years in the eager expectation of a Christmas celebration. Clement Clarke Moore wrote that seemingly immortal poem on Christmas Eve in 1822. The following December, the poem was published and it ultimately swept across our nation. Today, when we hear those words, the night before Christmas, we are caught up in that suspenseful tale of Christmas Eve where “no creatures were stirring, not even a mouse.”
However, Clarkes Christmas story which depicts a household waiting for Christmas to arrive has a notable point of view. Clarke writes as one that had already experienced Christmas before. There is an anticipation of a wonderful celebration because this family already had known that the first Christmas had come. Christmas had come, so a day had been calendared to celebrate. Christmas had come, so an event was anticipated. Christmas had come, so hope and joy had settled upon all the house (including the mouse).
Well, when we talk about the “night before Christmas,” I want us to consider the night before the first Christmas. In other words, I want us to reflect on what it was like before Christ.
This morning the director of Butler County Job and Family Services presented in our morning worship the critical need his agency has regarding the number of families needed in providing care for children at risk. Mr. Kearns spoke for several minutes outlining several ways the faith community could help in mitigating the harsh realities of families right here in Butler County. The statistics are more than telling, they are alarming and completely overwhelming. Unicef reports that there are 153,000,000 orphans worldwide. There are 20,000,000 orphans in Africa alone due to HIV. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in their Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System, there are over 101,000 orphans/children waiting to be adopted here in the states. In our back yard, Butler County has nearly 100 children waiting to be adopted.
Typically, they are waiting for years. If a child waits 3 years, he could move 3 or more times changing schools 5 times. If a child waits 15 years, he could move 12 times. For many cases, the waiting never ends. Children grow into adolescence which gives way as they become adults. Many children time out of the system with no family to go home to.
There is a lot of noise in the world today. There is a continuous barrage of racket that constantly clamors for our time and attention. We are inoculated with a consistent stream of information. We are inundated with breaking news, status updates, commercials, advertisements, billboards and junk mail. The incessant use of Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat, Instagram and YouTube keep the volume blaring. As a result, we struggle with silence. The once coveted quiet moment is no longer appreciated. In our modern culture, when stillness comes and silence settles in, we get restless. We get uncomfortable. We prefer the noise.
Perhaps, this is why we struggle to hear. We are listening to so many things that we are struggling to really hear what must be heard. All the noise distracts us. The sights of pop culture deter us. The sounds of this world dissuade us and we are never unplugged. We awake every morning and turn on the TV or radio while running through our favorite social media. That morning program is not just a part of our routine, it’s the noise we need to get us going. Like the necessary morning coffee, it grabs our attention and takes hold of our focus.
Think about it, as we prepare for our daily deadlines and responsibilities, how much time in our day is spent in quiet solitude? When was the last time you had such a moment? How many have the discipline to rid themselves of the noise which lingers, to quiet their restless spirit and resolve themselves to purposely pursue the things of God?