31 Days of Prayer for Liz Encinia

As Kentucky WMU welcomes our new Executive Director-Treasurer, we invite you to join us in 31 days of Prayer for Liz and the leadership transition.

  1. Genesis 12:1-3 – God has called Liz to leave her state of Texas and come to Kentucky. Pray for her as she wraps up responsibilities this week with Texas WMU.
  2. I Corinthians 15:58 – Give thanks for the good work Liz has done with Texas WMU and the experience she brings to her new role with Kentucky WMU
  3. Acts 20:24 – Pray that Liz will finish well with Texas WMU.
  4. Matthew 24:45-27 – Give thanks for the faithfulness that Liz has shown and God’s blessing in giving her new responsibilities.
  5. Acts 20:36 – Pray for Liz as she leaves friends and family.
  6. Isaiah 40:28-31 – Moving requires a lot of work. Pray for Liz to have the energy she needs to finish packing and preparing for the move.
  7. James 1:5 – Pray for Liz to have God’s wisdom as she is preparing for her work with Kentucky WMU.
  8. Philippians 4:4-7 – Pray for Liz to experience God’s peace in whatever anxious thoughts she may have this day.
  9. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 – Pray that God will use Liz in a great way to bless others in the same ways that she has experienced God’s grace and comfort.
  10. Psalm 121:8 – Pray for a safe journey for Liz as she travels to Kentucky.
  11. Joshua 1:9 – Pray for Liz to feel the assurance of God’s presence as she begins to experience a new place.
  12. Proverbs 2:1-8 – Pray for Liz to daily cry out to God for understanding because the Lord gives wisdom and protects the way of those who are faithful to Him.
  13. Joshua 1:6-9 – Pray for Liz to be a faithful student of God’s Word, meditating on it daily, and careful to follow what the Bible teaches.
  14. Isaiah 43:1-3 – Pray for Liz to be reassured that God has summoned her by name to Kentucky and will be with her no matter what comes.
  15. Proverbs 3:5-6 – As Liz begins her first day with Kentucky WMU, may the wisdom and promise of this verse resonate in her heart. (This verse was written on the concrete in the Executive Director’s office before the carpet was laid in 2006!)
  16. Colossians 1:9-12 – Pray that as Liz is introduced to many details regarding the work of Kentucky WMU, that God will fill her with the knowledge of His will.
  17. Philippians 1:3-6 – Pray that as Liz meets with staff members at the Kentucky Baptist Convention, she will rejoice in the partnership of KBC and Kentucky WMU for the gospel.
  18. Philippians 1:9-11 – Pray that as meetings continue, that new relationships will be established, and that Liz will grow in knowledge and insight.
  19. Jeremiah 29:11 – Liz is wrapping up her first week and may be feeling a little overwhelmed. Pray for confidence that God knows the plans!
  20. 1 John 5:14-15 – Pray for Liz to be strong in her prayer life and confident in approaching God.
  21. 1 Corinthians 3:9 – The permanent watchword of WMU, “Laborers Together with God,” is taken from this verse. Pray for Liz as she fulfills this calling.
  22. Ephesians 2:10 – Pray for Liz and the good works that God has prepared for her to accomplish.
  23. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 – Pray for Liz as she works with a team of gifted staff members, seeking to utilize their gifts for the greatest effectiveness.
  24. Matthew 5:25-34 – Pray that Liz will not worry about all she has to learn in her new role.
  25. 1 Timothy 4:12 -16 – As Liz participates in her first Kentucky WMU Executive Board Meeting, pray that she will be an example to everyone throughout this meeting and in the days ahead.
  26. Isaiah 6:8 – Pray for Liz as the mantle of leadership is passed tonight.
  27. Philippians 3:12-14 – Pray for Liz as she wraps up Board meeting and presses on to what is ahead.
  28. Psalm 46:10; 62:1-2 – Pray for Liz to be still and rest today.
  29. Philippians 4:19 – Pray that as Liz settles into her new place and new role that she will experience God’s provision over and over.
  30. Ephesians 4:1-3 – Pray for Liz to walk worthy of the calling she has received.
  31. Ephesians 3:14-21 – Pray verses 14-19 for Liz and then give thanks that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine!

Our Story is Your Story

A few days ago, I got a notice from Facebook that they had added a section to our Kentucky WMU page called Our Story. The notice told me that Facebook had created the section from material we provided when the page was originally set up, but that I could choose a picture for it and update what it said.  When I took a look, there was nothing wrong with what it said, but I realized that it was incomplete. I changed the title from Our Story to “Our Story Is Your Story,” added a picture of Cheryl Hatfield surrounded by children in Swaziland, and then changed the text to read:

WMU challenges Christian believers to understand and be radically involved in the mission of God. Kentucky WMU equips women, men, girls and boys to change a life and change the world. We provide a range of missions events and resources to help you get more involved in missions and bring others with you.

For you see that is exactly what Kentucky WMU does. We provide missions opportunities that people like Cheryl can get involved with, and now she has a story to tell about sharing Jesus with children in Swaziland.

Missions Education and Resources
Our story in WMU is your story when you use WMU resources to teach missions to preschoolers, children, students, and adults. Just last week, one of my co-workers was thrilled when one of her preschoolers in Mission Friends came in and said, “So what missionary are we learning about tonight?”  A preschooler who gets it, who understands that God loves her, that God loves all the boys and girls, moms and dads in the world, but that not everyone knows about God and His love, so that’s why we send missionaries.

You make stories like that happen when you support WMU and use WMU resources. Our story becomes your story.

Kentucky Changers
You make the stories happen every summer through Kentucky Changers as students put on roofs, paint, build decks, and other exterior repairs for senior adults, disabled, and low income families.  Last summer Kentucky Changers were known for  the purple house in Greensburg. Home to a single mom with two austistic children, the purple house was painted to be memorable. It is one of the colors in the austism logo, but more importantly, if there was a medical emergency, the house was easily identifiable to EMS as the purple house.  And for those who worked on that house, our story is now their story. Each one of them could go home and tell about this family and the ministry they were part of.

You make testimonies like the one shared by Tyler Puckett possible. We got him on camera explaining that he had been to Changers 8 times and had been saved at Changers. He admitted that at first he did not want to come, that his parents made him. But the change in his life was evident in his video testimony. You are part of stories like that every summer through Kentucky Changers.

Creative Ministries Festival
In just a few weeks we will have Creative Ministries Festival. At the festival, we teach creative arts, puppetry, mime, drama, ballooning, juggling, and more, our goal is to show students how their skills can be used to share the gospel. Then we invite Kentucky missionaries to come join us for the festival each year and encourage the students and leaders to meet them, learn about their ministry, and make plans for the students to go in the summer and help. We want students to go on mission trips whether that is across town or across the state and use creative arts to tell people about Jesus.

Last year lady named Renee Parsons came and brought a display about a ministry she leads called Hope Central. Renee was not really familiar with creative ministries but attended several of the classes and got so excited that she went home and started a student drama team called ACTS. Here’s what Renee said in a note after the event:

I had such an amazing time at Creative Ministries Festival and learned a lot about the power of the arts. So much so, that as the promotional arm of Hope Central, we have created ACTS…Ashland Christian Traveling Stage. It is a theatrical guild that does everything from plays and sketches to music and juggling, and anything in between…We travel to churches, community events, youth or WMU groups, and anywhere we get invited! We work with our local community theater who provides us access to sets and costumes, and we had sound equipment donated with 16 head mics! Thank you for the inspiration, and for all you do! God Bless! – Renee Parsons, Hope Central Baptist, Ashland, KY

Annual Meeting
The first weekend of April (4/6-7), I want to invite you to join us for the Kentucky WMU Annual Meeting at Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort. We like to call our state meeting the gathering place of everyone who cares about missions. So, if you are interested at all in missions, you are invited. Men, too!

One of the reasons you need to be there is because Kentucky Baptists care about children. The focus of the Friday morning session will be on foster care and adoption ministries. Sandy Wisdom-Martin, our national WMU executive director, is an adoptive parent and will share her story. Dr. Paul Chitwood, and his wife, Michelle, are both adoptive and foster care parents. They will tell their story. Dale Suttles, president of Sunrise Children’s Services, will share the challenge for all of us to do more on behalf of children.

You will want to be there to see your Annie Armstrong Easter Offering at work. The new NAMB Send Relief Mobile Dental Unit will be parked at the church on Friday for you to visit. Then on Saturday it will be at another location for a dental clinic, meeting needs and sharing Christ.

You will want to be there because on Friday evening we will focus on North American and International Missions. Travis Smalley, NAMB missionary with Send Cincinnati will be with us. Susan Hatfield, missionary to Kenya, will be with us. And the Swaziland team that delivered Kentucky hospice care buckets that many of you helped to pack, will be on the program.  For you see, our story is your story. You were part of the effort in Swaziland by packing a bucket and praying for Miss Linda and our team.

You will want to be there because on Saturday morning we will present the missionary of the year award and have a commissioning service for new Kentucky missionaries.  Coy Webb will share an update about Kentucky Disaster Relief. Your gifts to CP and EBO help make these ministries possible.

Throughout the meeting you will hear about ministries that you have provided items for, prayed for, and given to. As we tell our story, you will know that these are your stories, too.

WMU is a Catalyst
As we Focus on WMU at this time of year, the focus is not really on WMU at all. Our focus is on missions. We know that our story is your story. We are simply a catalyst by planning and supporting projects like the recent Backpack Project. Because you and many others said yes, over 8,000 backpacks were provided and a gospel witness shared with children and families this past Christmas. I was there in Rockcastle County and heard Randy McPheron share the gospel with every group that came through that day.

WMU is a catalyst for your missions story by providing resources to help churches learn, pray, give, serve, and support missions. It’s not about WMU, it’s about YOU, and yes, YOU can do missions.  “I’m not called to missions,” you might be thinking. I would say to you, that we are ALL called. The Great Commission includes my name as it does yours. When Jesus said “Go ye therefore,” His command has each of our names implied. So what are you going to do?

Paul wrote passionately about his calling to share the gospel: I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings (1 Cor. 9:22b-23 NIV).

Don’t miss the last phrase – that I may share in its blessings. Did you know that when you are involved in missions you receive a far greater blessing than anything you might do or might spend to go. Every person who gets involved in missions, locally, or on a trip, will tell you, they were far more blessed than anything they ever did.

We don’t go so that God will bless us. We go and do missions because Jesus commanded it. We go because people are lost and going into eternity without a Savior. But if we are obedient, the Lord does bless and does more than we can ask or imagine.

How to change uninspired, fearful students

If you suffer from a lackluster youth group…. if you want to fire up your students for Jesus…. if you know you need a better approach to helping teens learn to share their faith….  then this message is just for you. Here’s why…

YOU CAN INVOLVE STUDENTS IN CREATIVE MINISTRIES WHICH CAN BE USED TO SHARE JESUS, THEN WATCH THE EXPERIENCE CHANGE THEIR LIVES.

As church leaders, we all realize that if we don’t help students overcome their fears, it just gets worse. Students either drop out or we have adults who never tell anyone about Jesus

And what happens if you just do nothing? If you just keep doing what you’ve been doing in your student ministry? NOTHING. YOUR YOUTH GROUP DWINDLES, AND WHEN PEOPLE ASK, YOU MUTTER SOMETHING ABOUT “CAN’T ENTERTAIN THEM.”

WE CAN HELP YOU EMPOWER STUDENTS TO SHARE THEIR FAITH

Peggy Murphy’s story will inspire you. Here’s the story: “I have worked with students for years. I learned quickly that the best way to help them gain confidence in sharing their faith and learning to get in front of an audience was through creative ministries. I’ve taken students to Creative Ministries Festival for years and also developed creative ministries in the churches where I have served. My students always had fun but also learned creative ways that they could share Jesus.
In 2013, Kentucky WMU was asked to be the sponsor of Kentucky Changers and Creative Ministries Festival. They invited me to become the coordinator of both ministries. Our first year to sponsor CMF was in 2015 AND WE HAVE BEEN ON A ROLL SINCE,holding Festivals each year with a line up of fantastic workshops and instructors. We’ve also added a “How to Share Your Faith” class for everyone and we really emphasize that creative ministries is more than puppetry, balloons, drama, etc. It is a way to share Jesus that is fun.”

CREATIVE MINISTRIES has been vital for other youth leaders and it will make an impact on your students, too!

Hundreds of students and leaders attend Creative Ministries Festival each year. Here’s what Renee Parsons from Hope Central in Ashland had to say about Creative Ministries Festival.… I had such an amazing time at Creative Ministries Festival and learned a lot about the power of the arts. So much so, that as the promotional arm of Hope Central, we have created ACTS…Ashland Christian Traveling Stage. It is a theatrical guild that does everything from plays and sketches to music and juggling, and anything in between…We travel to churches, community events, youth or WMU groups, and anywhere we get invited! We work with our local community theater who provides us access to sets and costumes, and we had sound equipment donated with 16 head mics! Thank you for the inspiration, and for all you do! God Bless!

Now, It’s Your Turn
When you sign up for Creative Ministries Festival, you will join with a group of 300 plus students and adults for a weekend of creative arts experiences.

  • We have about 20 different workshops lined up for the event
  • You will receive an easy to follow program with workshop  descriptions for you and your students
  • We will have great sessions with a wide variety of creative ministry presentations by workshop leaders
  • We will teach beginning and advanced students how to do different types of creative arts
  • Church groups that already do creative arts can sign up to perform at a local block party on Saturday during the Festival. This will be a live ministry opportunity to share the gospel and also be critiqued by experienced instructors
  • WE HAVE… IN OTHER WORDS… COMPLETELY PLANNED THIS OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN AND EXPERIENCE CREATIVE ARTS. YOU JUST HAVE TO GET THERE WITH YOUR STUDENTS!

That’s right – this a an event planned with you and your students in mind. And if you had to plan it, put together the workshops, enlist the leaders, secure a location, and work out all the details, it would cost more than most churches can afford. But this creative ministries festival opportunity is available to you for just $25 per student and adult registered by March 1. Registration increases to $30 after that date and is $35 at the door.  Still a bargain, but why not register now!

The workshops, sessions,and block party all come as part of CREATIVE MINISTRIES FESTIVAL for just $25 per student and adult participant.

We invite you to come to CMF one time to see what this experience is all about. Come and bring a couple of students. You’ll be delighted – and we think you will find that you can’t wait to get all of your students involved.

It’s Decision Time – The event is March 9-10, 2018 at Highland Baptist Church in Shelbyville

You have a choice to make: Do what you’ve been doing (or worse, do nothing at all). You know where that will lead. Dwindling youth group. Students who never share Jesus. Students who have no excitement about their faith. Is that really where you want to go?  Do something new and get a new result. Come to Creative Ministries Festival. Finally help your students learn how to share their faith and not be afraid.

Have questions? Here’s what to do now… JUST SEND AN EMAIL TO “[email protected]”, ASKING TO TALK ABOUT CREATIVE MINISTRIES. INCLUDE YOUR PHONE NUMBER. She will have a personal conversation with you and determine if CMF is a good fit for your students.

If you want more details about all the classes that we are offering this year and a schedule for the weekend, visit our web site:  www.kywmu.org/cmf.  Online registration available!

Kentucky Volunteers – There when needed

The recent school shooting tragedy in Marshall County has touched many lives and in the midst of the tragedy, Kentucky Baptists were there. Dr. Chitwood wrote about the pastors who went to the school and to the hospital (See Unsung Heroes: Pastors rushed to school shooting because that’s just what they do.)

Kentucky Disaster Relief volunteers were also helping.  Coy Webb, Kentucky Disaster Relief Director, shared this note:

To Red Cross & KY Baptist Disaster Relief,
Thank You.  Thank you for being there.  There has been only two or three times in my career that I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside the American Red Cross (ARC) and the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief (KBDR).  The first was the floods in Ashland, the second in West Liberty for tornadoes, and now the Marshall County High School shooting.

The task of investigating any crime that involves children is daunting.  Like most of you, I have children.  For some, if not most, you have played the scenario in your mind, “What if this were my kid’s School?” Or worse, “What if my kid were a victim?”  To have to interact with the parent is sometimes harder than interacting with the child.  To be able to ask that parent or child, “Are you thirsty, or hungry?  The ARC & KBDR have brought pizza, Cokes, water, snacks, etc.”  To have that open dialogue we all commonly share, “Are you hungry or thirsty?”  Because of the ARC & the KBDR we could say to the families, “We have comfort” (even if it’s only in the form of food & drink).

We have more work to do.  More kids to talk to.  More stones to turn.  More healing to process.  In this case, comfort & healing came in the form of the ARC & KBDR volunteers.  Thank you.

Senior Trooper Jack A. Hedges  U/887
Kentucky State Police
Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT)
919 Versailles Road
Frankfort, KY 40601

Please continue to pray for the families of those killed, the students who are recovering, and all who were traumatized. Give thanks for Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers and all who have and are ministering in Marshall County.

EBO at Work in Baptism

Do you ever wish you knew more about the results of state missions and the Eliza Broadus Offering?  Ever wonder if your offering dollars make a difference?

I feel the same way at times. I know that our praying and giving is having an impact but there is nothing like seeing the results or receiving an email with a story about someone coming to faith through state missions. I received such an email just before Christmas.

The email included a link to a video of the baptism of a student from Japan at Murray First Baptist Church. Keith Inman, pastor and former Collegiate Ministry Director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, was so excited to be baptizing this student.

In the video another international student read the testimony of the Japanese student who is studying ESL (English as Second Language) at Murray State University. The great thing about his testimony is the connection of international missions and state missions. The first Christian this student met was a missionary in Japan who did student work. He would hang out with the Japanese students, play Frisbee or cards, or visit coffee shops. After seeing how kind this Christian missionary was, the Japanese student became interested in his faith. The missionary shared stories from the Bible, explained who God is, and what makes Christianity different from other religions.

Then Tucker (American name that he chose) came to Murray to study. There he met students from the BCM (Baptist Campus Ministry) who befriended him and shared their faith. Over Thanksgiving break, Tucker went home with another student and began to realize that God had been orchestrating his life for many years. In the car, he believed that God is holy and that he was separated from God by his sin. In that moment he believed in what Jesus had done for him

Before baptizing Tucker, Keith asked everyone who was present who had any part of his journey to faith to stand, including things like giving him a ride to Walmart and subject of Jesus came us. Keith said, “You never know how God is going to use the faithfulness of His people to help a young man or a young woman to understand that God is at work.”

Thank you for your gifts to the Eliza Broadus Offering which provides funding for Baptist Campus Ministry and outreach to international students. You were a part of Tucker’s salvation story.

Focus on WMU will be observed in February. We are asking every WMU group to receive a Focus offering for EBO. The timing of the 2017 hurricanes impacted EBO giving, yet state missions needs go on. Your gift now will make an impact. Be sure to see the video from Dr. Paul Chitwood for Focus on WMU and EBO

And if you want to see the video of Tucker’s baptism and share it with others, it is available online and may be downloaded to share with others. The video will touch your heart and allow you to see EBO at work for yourself!

 

Refurbishing the Kentucky Room at National WMU

National WMU is embarking on a huge remodeling project at the national WMU building. Our beautiful WMU home office has been in constant use since it was built in the mid-1980’s. It is time for wall paper to be removed, carpet to be replaced, lighting to be updated, new window treatments added, and much more.  This includes the Kentucky Room.

The Kentucky Room is a conference room at the National WMU Building that was furnished by Kentucky WMU.  Through the years, I have always been proud to visit the Kentucky room whenever I have been at the National WMU building. I always pause in front of the picture of Eliza Broadus and show my respect for our beloved leader. A few years ago a framed print of “My Old Kentucky Home” was added to the artwork in the room, placed there in memory of my mother, Dorothy Luebbert.

But carpets get worn and decorating styles change. With the availability of more efficient lighting and better equipment for conference room use, it is time for an upgrade. Kentucky WMU has committed to cover the cost of the renovations to the Kentucky Room, including some volunteer labor to strip wallpaper and paint.

If you would like to have a part in the Kentucky Room renovation, send your donation to Kentucky WMU. The projected cost for the project is $11,500.  We will keep a list of donors who helped with the renovation of the room. We will continue to be “Kentucky proud” of this room and its importance at the national WMU building.

Beyond the Kentucky Room, renovations are planned building wide. Anyone and everyone is invited to help with the costs of remodeling. Contributions for the building wide project can be made to the WMU Foundation. Building renovation donations will be placed in the Wanda Lee Joy Fund and this will be the funding channel for the building work.

The Southern Baptist Convention will meet in Birmingham in June 2019. We know that many will visit the national WMU building at that time and we want it to be ready for guests. Renovations will  also improve the functionality of the facility for meetings and other events which take place.

Please pray for this project, for Sandy Wisdom-Martin and Linda Cooper as they lead us, and for the national WMU staff as they continue their work in the midst of the renovations. Pray for generous donations and for a renewed excitement about our WMU home.

Jerusalem Prayer Center Trip with Kentucky WMU

Kentucky WMU is planning a trip to the Jerusalem Prayer Center as part of our NAME prayer commitment.

Trip Dates: May 21 – June 1, 2018. 

Tentative Cost: $3800 which includes airfare*, hotels, meals, local transportation, travel insurance**, and project expense.

Trip requires a good bit of walking and stamina. There will be some touring in the Holy Land as part of the experience, but the focus will be on learning about mission work with various NAME people groups and praying for them. The group will do a ministry project (sand and paint shutters, picnic table, and benches) at the Jerusalem Prayer Center.  http://jerusalemprayercenter.com/

The following schedule describes what will be done in several day blocks of time. Workers at the Jerusalem Prayer Center will lead the group and make final arrangements for places to visit and the schedule.

Monday, May 21 
Departure

Tuesday, May 22
Arrival Tel Aviv. Transport to Jerusalem, check in hotel, orientation

Wednesday, May 23- Friday, May 25
Introduction to JPC; ministry project; 4 corner prayer experience
Silence retreat; Garden Tomb; Hebrew/English worship;
Visit Western Wall as Shabbat begins; Prayerwalking

Saturday, May 26  – Sunday, May 27
Travel south past Dead Sea; Negev; Beer Sheva;
Visit Tabernacle project; prayer for NAME peoples;
Visit Shepherds’ Field near Bethlehem;
In Jerusalem: Caiphas’ house; virtual Temple tour

Monday, May 28 – Thursday, May 31
Check out of Jerusalem hotel; travel to Qumran;
Drive north to Galilee through Jordan Valley, pass Gilgal & Jericho.
Check into Galilee hotel. Listening Retreat.  Prayerwalking.
Visit and pray over workers in various locations.
Boat ride on Sea of Galilee; Korazim, Capernaum;
Jezreel Valley & Mount of Precipice; Plains of Sharon,
Festival Ministry; Camp/Sports ministry at Baptist Village .

Friday, June 1
Return flight to Kentucky

*Airfare – The trip price includes airfare. However, ticket prices have been fluctuating. Should we find that airfare exceeds what we have projected, all who have made a deposit will be notified with the option of receiving a refund. Once tickets are confirmed, payments are non-refundable.
**Insurance includes medical and travel insurance.

TO APPLY FOR THIS TRIP: Email [email protected] and request an application form.  Questions: 502-489-3423 (office) or 502-321-2756 (cell). An application and deposit must be made by February 1.

Deposit schedule:
$800 with application
$1000 by Feb. 1, 2018   (Total to date: $1800)
$1000 by March 15, 2018   (Total to date: $2800)
$1000 by May 1, 2018   (Total to date: $3800)

Christmas Carols Tell the Christmas Story

Today I participated in a Christmas party sponsored by Shelby County Christians United Against Drugs for people in the Drug Court Program. This party and other events provided by SCCUAD are done as an encouragement to people who are walking a new road to sobriety.

During the party we played a game based on Christmas carols and everyone was given copies of the carols to place in a booklet to take home. We sang some of the carols and then I was asked to share a devotional based on the carols. Here is what I shared today.

Christmas Carols Tell the Christmas Story
The Bible is a book written over hundreds of years by many different writers who were inspired by God to tell His story. The Bible begins with creation, tells about how sin entered the world, about the growing sinfulness of mankind, and then of God’s decision to call one man to begin a nation that would be His chosen nation. Chosen not because He loved them more, but chosen for a task, to make Him known to the nations. God established a covenant with this people but they broke the covenant many times. The old covenant included the sacrifice of animals as a means to seek God’s forgiveness of sin. In the first part of the Bible, what we call the Old Testament, prophets wrote that one day a Messiah would come who would establish a new covenant, one written on the hearts of people.

In the second part of the Bible, the New Testament, we learn about Jesus, the promised Messiah. People who study the Bible have made lists of the prophecies about the Messiah that were fulfilled when Jesus came. One of those prophecies was that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. The song “O Little Town of Bethlehem” is about the town where Jesus was born, fulfilling that prophecy.

Luke chapter 2 records the Christmas story, the story of the birth of Jesus. I encourage you to read Luke 2:1-20 aloud and never lose the wonder of the story found there. There are many Christmas songs, also called carols, that tell parts of the Christmas story as found in the Bible. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Bible tells us that he was born in a stable and laid in a manger. Thus the carol “Away in a Manger” reminds us that the King of Heaven was born in a barn and first laid in an animal feeding trough for a bed.

The night Jesus was born, shepherds were out tending sheep at night, keeping watch to protect them from predators. Shepherds were pretty low in society, but they were the ones God chose to send angels to announce Jesus’ birth. The words of “Angels We Have Heard on High” are what the shepherds told people they met that night. The chorus, “Gloria in excelcis, Deo” is Latin for “Glory to God in the highest.” The second verse is what people asked the shepherds – “Shepherds, why this jubilee?” meaning why are you so happy?  So in the third verse the shepherds respond and say, “Come to Bethlehem and see, Him whose birth the angels sing.”

The Bible says that God is spirit, and those who worship Him, must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Yet the Bible also teaches that God took on human form, what we call the incarnation, to come to earth, live among us, be the once for all sacrifice for sin, and then rise again to conquer death. This is why the angels were singing. God had come to earth and was born as a baby.

Various Christmas carols point to why Jesus came. The song “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” says “Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.” Verse 4 of O Little Town of Bethlehem says: O holy child of Bethlehem! Descend to use, we pray; Cast out our sin, and enter in, Be born in us today! We hear the Christmas angels The great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord, Emmanuel. The song “O Come, All Ye Faithful” invites everyone to come and adore Jesus. The song recounts the angels singing and gives glory to God. Verse 3 is very important in what it says about Jesus: “Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.”

The response of all who encountered Mary and Jesus and the baby, Jesus, was joy. The carol, “Joy to the World” reflects that earth must receive her King and that hearts must prepare room for Jesus.  Jesus does not force himself into our lives. We are so busy and think we are self-sufficient. But the reality is that we all need a Savior and the question in every generation is: Will you receive Him? Will you make room for Him. Make room not as just one more thing in a cluttered life, but will you cast out everything else for Jesus.

The shadow of the cross was on the manger. We forget that sometimes as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. We must always remember that Jesus was born to die, to be the sacrifice for our sin, and proved that it was all true through the resurrection. Hundreds of people saw Him after the resurrection. At His ascension into heaven, Jesus promised He would come again and until then, we are His witnesses, we are to keep telling the story and invite people to believe in Him.

God’s design at creation was good but sin messed things up. We try many things to fix the brokenness – alcohol, drugs, overwork, shopping, etc. None of them fix the brokenness. So God came to earth as Jesus, lived a sinless life, was crucified for our sins, raised again on the third day. Those who trust Him as Savior and seek His forgiveness of sin can experience restoration and discover God’s plan for our relationships with Him which is good. If you have never personally invited the Holy Child of Bethlehem into your life, there would be no better way to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. Make these words from the carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem” your prayer to Jesus: “Cast out my sin and enter in, Be born in me today.”

Let’s Make it a Week of PRAYER

Years ago when I began Bible study in earnest, I found things that caused reflection (and still do!). One was found in Matthew 6:19-21 where Jesus says,  “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I wondered, if you “can’t take it with you,” then how do you store up treasures in heaven?

Well, study the Bible enough and along the way you discover the interconnectedness of Scripture.  One day I read from Revelation 4-5 the vision of heaven given to John. He describes the throne room of heaven in chapter 4 and the scroll and the Lamb in chapter 5.  Notice Rev. 5:7-8.  “He went and took the scroll out of the right hand of the one seated on the throne. When he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and golden bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”

The prayers of the saints. When we pray, we lay up treasures in heaven. My friend Larry Martin likes to refer to these as “prayers on deposit.”

In Revelation 14 we read again about the Lamb and those who will be in heaven and those who will not be.  Rev. 14:6, 13 says: “Then I saw another angel flying high overhead, with the eternal gospel to announce to the inhabitants of the earth—to every nation, tribe, language, and people…..Then I head a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘so they will rest from their labors, since their works follow them.’”

The deeds of the saints. These are the ministries we do in Jesus’ name which includes giving as well as all the types of things listed in Matthew 25 where Jesus said,  “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”  (Matt. 25:40 CSB).

This is the Week of Prayer for International Missions. At one time WMU groups would gather daily and pray.  Unfortunately, we don’t do that much any more.  Today I asked myself: Why?

First, we believed the lie that we could just pray on our own and that would be enough, missing the point that there is intensity when we gather with others to pray.  (This thinking is prevalent in most of our churches. Just look at the number who gather to pray each week.)

Second we jump too quickly to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and focus on the amount raised. The offering is vital, but this is first a week of prayer.

If you look at the 2017 Week of Prayer brochure, you notice that the way it is folded shows just half of the man’s face on the front. But if you open it and lay it flat, you see his entire face. I noticed on the brochure that one side says Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the other says Week of Prayer, providing an illustration that our international missions emphasis is not complete without both prayer and the offering. We need both the prayers of the saints and the deeds of the saints!

The Day 8 reading in the prayer guide is a message from David Platt which reminds us that prayer matters.  He says, “It isn’t just a rushed or mechanical exercise. God has ordained our prayer as a means to accomplish His purpose in the world. We’ve got to be aware that our praying for boldness for missionaries is actually going to affect whether or not they have boldness. When we pray, God works.”

So this week, let us pray. And it is my prayer that praying will then inspire giving sacrificially that the gospel will go forth to transform lives around the world.

Remembering our missionaries

The offering at the Kentucky WMU Annual Meeting each year is designated for Kentucky WMU Ministries to Missionaries. These ministries include a $50 Christmas gift to all IMB missionaries from Kentucky currently serving as well as emeritus IMB missionaries.  We also provide online subscriptions to the Western Recorder, gifts for Missionary Kids attending college in Kentucky, a missionary parents fellowship, and travel expense for college bound MKs returning from the field to attend the MK Re-entry Retreat.

At the Kentucky Baptist Convention a few days ago, one of our emeritus missionaries came to our display and thanked Kentucky WMU for the gift each year. “It’s not the amount,” he said. “It’s that you remember us!”

This week I signed checks for 100 missionaries on the field and 62 emeritus missionaries.  Yes, we remember!

We remember and are grateful for the years of service of our emeritus missionaries.  We remember those that are on the field, who may feel isolated and lonely.  We remember, we pray, and we give.  And YOU are a part of remembering our missionaries through your offering at Annual Meeting as well personal notes, emails, packages, gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, and through prayer.

This week we hosted our annual Volunteer Luncheon as a way of saying thank you to the volunteers who work in our office counting out envelopes and prayer guides, filling orders for week of prayer materials, and countless other tasks.  Those who came made handmade Christmas cards for us to send to emeritus IMB missionaries along with the Christmas check.  (Those on the field receive a letter by email with a message from our president and each of our staff. Checks are then sent to their bank account in the USA.)

Paul said when he wrote: “Don’t forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ” (Col. 4:3a MSG).

You can contribute to Kentucky WMU Ministries to Missionaries throughout the year. Please visit our web site for more information and online giving.