August 25, 2015
For a couple of years we (WHBC) have taken part in feeding the hungry all over the world. Every 5th Sunday in a month we collect money to send to the Texas Baptists Hunger Offering. Hunger is real for people in Tarrant County, in Texas, in the USA and around the world. I can remember when Kelly and I were a young married couple with two kids, serving in a church and going to seminary full time. We qualified for a program called WIC which provided basic food at a low price. Food such as milk, eggs and cheese helped the Cobb’s stay healthy for a short period of time. I can also remember the level of shame mixed with gratitude we felt each time we used our coupons. We did what we had to do and accepted the help with humility. Maybe this is why we try to send money each 5th Sunday offering to the Texas Baptists Hunger Offering, so we can help others who are in need (where we once were). There is enough food produced in the world today for every person to be nourished so they can be both healthy and productive. However people still go to bed hungry.
All, 100%, the total amount, the ‘whole enchilada’...of our contributions to this offering go directly to support hunger relief and development ministries here in Texas and around the world. What can my pennies collect do when I give? They can be combined with others pennies to feed people in Africa, send meals and food out in the USA, provide agriculture education and jobs in Zimbabwe, provide clean water and a sewing school (so people can make money to buy food) in Kathmandu and help feed hungry toddlers in Paraguay.
Giving to the Texas Baptists Hunger Offering when there is a 5th Sunday in the month is a simple way to help people all over the world. The writer of proverbs wrote, Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” (Proverbs 31:8)
The great thing is that the food distributed does not simply fill the body, but is being used to teach people about Jesus thus filling their soul as well. A pastor overseas who receives funds from this offering said, “Having a water well on our church property has made us a leader in our village. Now we have a new voice every day, and we are able to be living water.”
Please continue to collect your coins (and add some paper bills as well) to you collection bank each week so that this offering is well supplied. This is one of the neatest things we Texas Baptists are a part of and it is reaching people all over the world in Jesus name.
– Pastor Chris
August 6, 2015
Essential Activities of a Growing Christian
‘Be practical with me preacher what should I be doing to grow spiritually?’ This type of question is asked a lot to us preachers, especially after a sermon that is not presented too well and maybe a little too abstract. It is no surprise to us that we have to tend to our spiritual lives if we want to grow. It is 104 degrees out there today, so I was up early getting water on my lawn, since my assigned watering day is Thursday. If I want to keep the lawn from dying I have to keep water on it. If we want to keep our spiritual lives vibrant, our openness to God’s work in our lives, we have to do some spiritual activities. The late Dallas Willard once said that grace is not opposed to effort...it is opposed to earning. We can’t earn God’s love and grace, we can through our effort open our lives up to experience God’s love and grace.
Enough with the talk let’s get practical. In my view there are four essential activities that we have to be engaged in consistently to grow. These are ‘foundational’ activities that will lead us to other actions, activities that we do outside of church, but if these four things are not happening in our lives we have little chance to grow and develop in our relationship with God.
Activity # 1 Read the Bible – I would suggest doing two things, reading progressively through the entire bible in a year and using a couple Psalms each day to form your prayer life. There are several on-line bible resources that divide the Scripture into an Old Testament and a New Testament reading each day. Taking sections in small chunks gives time to ask questions and think about what is going on. Reading sequentially through books of the Bible helps to see the meaning of the entire book in context not just individual passages. I use an online program linked to a study Bible so if I have a question I can look at the commentary right alongside my daily reading. The online program tracks my progress and you can even have the readings emailed to you each day if you wish. Reading the Bible daily is an essential activity of a growing Christian.
Activity #2 Pray – prayer takes a lot of forms and the only way to get good at prayer is to pray. Prayer is not just taking a list of needs to God, although a prayer list is a great idea. Prayer also involves being silent before God, reciting scripture to God, reciting written prayers from other people, and writing out your prayers in a journal. Any communication with God is prayer. The key is to pray each day. I use all of the above methods to pray and find variety helps. (I find the Psalms are key to learning how to pray as they have been the churches prayer book for thousands of years. Take a psalm and read it as a prayer to God, stopping silently when you encounter a grand verse, reading out loud when you notice a direct response or request. If you want to learn to pray, the Psalms are the best instructors).
Activity #3 Have a Top 5 list. Make a list of 5 people you believe to be far from God and ask God to show them salvation. Ask God to bless their lives so they would open their hearts to God’s goodness. This one practice is the gateway to serving others and being outward focused. It is very hard to ask God to bless someone and then not look for ways to be a part of that process. It may be that you never even speak about God to your Top 5 list, but I have found this to be key to my spiritual growth.
Activity #4 Give financially. This is easy for some and extremely difficult for others. When we give our money to God (I encourage through the local church), we are saying we trust God more than our finances. This is a huge statement and an incredibly powerful tool for spiritual growth. I never give to ‘earn God’s blessing’ I give because I am responding in faith to God’s promise of goodness toward me. I am making a statement against the culture that says God is real. Financial generosity is important because it proves our belief in God, not to others but to our self and our family.
I realize that there are other ways to grow spiritually; I just wanted to touch on the four that are foundational. If you have questions or need some ‘coaching’ as you engage in these activities I would love to visit with you. Let me know how you are progressing and know I am praying for you as you seek to deepen your relationship with God.