It seems that every year there are increasing numbers of appeals for our financial support. While we have often heard that it is more blessed to give than receive (and I recently preached on the Biblical call to generosity), the vast number of agencies and ministries requesting our help can be over-whelming. Especially during this time of year, it seems that we hear many calls to help people in need during the Christmas season.
In the midst of so many worthy requests for our giving, let us not forget the Global Missions Offering. I am grateful that HVBC makes a commitment to give 10% of our budget to missions, but I also believe that the Bible teaches us to give a tithe and offerings. The Global Missions Offering provides us one opportunity to make an impact in supporting missionaries and mission work around our world. As a church, we have a goal of raising $6,000 for missions during Advent. We have met and exceeded our offering goal in recent years, and I urge you to give generously and willingly to support this offering.
As has been the case in recent years, we offer two options for supporting global missions this season. In recent years, HVBC has sent most of our international missions money through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The CBF Global Missions Offering has focused its efforts on unreached people groups; that is, language and ethnic groups who have little or no access to the Gospel. You may also give to the Lottie Moon Offering of the Southern Baptist Convention. The International Mission Board of the SBC supports missionaries who work in a wide variety of areas and tasks, but have a special focus on evangelism and church starting.
Beginning this Sunday, you will find offering envelopes in the pew racks for these two offerings. Both offerings send every penny collected directly to the mission field. For this reason, these are excellent ways to support the work of global missions. Amidst the numerous opportunities we have to give during this season, I invite you to consider prayerfully how you might support missions through this seasonal offering.
In a book entitled, Our Daily Bread, Philip Parham tells the story of a rich and successful businessman who became very confused one day when he found a man sitting lazily on the shore beside his boat. “Why aren’t you out there fishing?” he asked.
“Because I’ve caught enough fish for today,” said the fisherman.
“Why don’t you catch more fish than you need?” asked the businessman.
“What would I do with them?”
“You could earn more money and buy a better boat so you could go out deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish, and make more money. Soon you’d have a fleet of boats and be rich like me.”
The fisherman looked at the man and asked, “Then what would I do?”
“You could sit down and enjoy life,” answered the businessman.
“What do you think I am doing right now?” replied the fisherman.
How difficult it is for me, and for many of us, to remember to make time to step away from the pressures of life to enjoy the life God has given us and to appreciate the blessings we have. How difficult it is for many of us to heed the invitation of Psalm 46:10 which tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God.” During this Thanksgiving season and the Advent season that will soon be here, let us make a renewed commitment to spend time reflecting on the blessings we receive from God and the promise of His presence and provision. As we do, may we find peace and joy amidst the busy schedules and pressures of life because we know that God is with us and provides for us all that we truly need.
I recently preached a sermon that reminded us of our responsibility to minister in our own community and, in particular, reflected on ways we as a church might respond to the needs of refugees moving into our own community. During the message, I offered several possibilities for service to refugees through the ministries of Marc and Kim Wyatt and through World Relief of Durham. Among the ideas I mentioned are the following:
Help set up apartments for arriving families – this can include simple decorating and setting up the kitchen, etc., as well as folks who could move furniture.
Build bunk beds (following a prototype) that can be used by refugee families with multiple children.
Be part of a Welcome Team, 2 to 8 people who pick up a family at the airport and help them get settled.
Be part of a Good Neighbor Team that builds relationships with newly arrived refugees to help them make the transition to a new culture by walking with them in friendship and ministry.
Pack welcome boxes with basic household supplies (this might be more of a Sunday School class project).
In addition to these ideas, our Yates Baptist Association is recruiting volunteers to help remodel the old Lakewood Baptist Church building to become the new Associational offices. They would welcome volunteers on Thursdays each week, beginning at 8:00 a.m. Volunteers can work as long as they are able. If you are interested in more information, contact the church office, and we will get you connected.
After sharing the message mentioned above, several of you expressed an interest in these opportunities. If others are interested, please let me know. I was also thrilled to have several of you mention to me that you are thinking of other mission/ministry ideas and possibilities that God seems to be placing on your heart. It excites me when you share your thoughts and ideas as well as ways God might be nudging or calling you into new directions, and I hope we will each continue praying and listening to God’s call as we seek new ways to minister to the people of our community and beyond.
It was such a joy and pleasure to be at Hope Valley on Sunday for our combined worship service with Valle de Esperanza Iglesia Bautista. I sensed a warm spirit in the sanctuary and was blessed by the music shared by the praise team from Valle de Esperanza. What a treat it was to hear the Scriptures read in both languages and to share the Lord’s Supper together so that we all heard both English and Spanish spoken as we received the elements. I have heard so many positive comments about the service. I appreciate your openness and participation in this service. I truly sensed God’s Spirit at work and believe this was a good and important step in our commitment to worship, minister, and fellowship together as partner churches.
We also owe many, many thanks to the members of the Family Ministry Team who organized an amazing picnic for us on Sun-day. Whichever member of the team was responsible for the weather did a wonderful job providing us with a sunny day and a comfortable temperature, but even more than that, the food was wonderful and the opportunity for fellowship around the tables was truly a blessing. I am grateful for all the work that went into cooking and making sure everything went smoothly so that everyone had a chance to eat (and probably overeat) while visiting with friends and making new friends.
After such a good day, let us make the commitment to continue building relationships with the members of Valle de Esperanza, to getting to know them, and to finding ways we can fellowship and minister together in the weeks, months, and years ahead. God has given us a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate how Christian love can cross language and ethic barriers, and He calls us to love each other as He has loved us. As I noted in Sunday’s message, Jesus prayed for the church in John 17:23, asking “that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” As we commit ourselves to living in unity and connectedness, we witness to the world that God’s love brings people together. May it be so!
I used to shake my head at adults who would say things like, “Can you believe it’s September already?” Now I am one of those people! The year does seem to be flying by, and we have entered a new church year and regular fall programming. There are many good things happening in the life of the church these days, and I think we have many reasons to celebrate what God is doing in our midst.
Amidst the many activities happening, however, I want to give you an update on several things that are taking place behind the scenes at Hope Valley.
The Personnel Team is already active in the search process for a new Director of Music Ministries. This will be a part-time position. We have been spreading the word about our search in many areas. We have received some resumes, have had a couple of interviews, and are having conversations with some possible candidates. This is a vital task and one that needs your faithful prayers. Please pray that God will guide the team and connect us with the person that He wants to lead to Hope Valley.
At the end of last year, we committed to beginning work on updating our Constitution and Bylaws. We announced that a team had been formed to work on this task, and they began meeting faithfully every couple weeks. This is no easy job because it requires much time analyzing wording and intricate details as well as discussing how the church can best be organized to operate efficiently while being faithful to the desires of this congregation. We knew it would be a slow process, but then summer happened and it became impossible to find times when a majority of the team could even get together to meet. To make this long story a bit shorter, the team is again meeting regularly and will plan to give an update on the progress in the near future. There is still a lot of work to be done, but this group welcomes any ideas or suggestions about how you think the church can be strengthened moving forward. If you have thoughts you would like to share as this process unfolds, please feel free to contact one of the following members of this team; Ramsy Boland, Toby Bowen, Marie Bush, Mike Dossett, Dave Dugan, Amy Herring, or Nicole Rogers. I also ask that you be praying for these good folks who have undertaken a slow and challenging job. They certainly need and deserve your prayerful support as well as your patience.
There is a story told about a day in 1953 when a large crowd of reporters and city officials had gathered at a Chicago railroad station to greet the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner. A few minutes after the train had come to a stop, a tall man with bushy hair and a large mustache descended from the train. Cameras flashed, and city officials stepped forward with hands out-stretched to greet the famous guest. Various others stepped close and began to tell the man how honored they were to meet him.
The guest of honor politely thanked them and then, looking over their heads, asked if he could be excused for a moment. He quickly walked through the surprised crowd until he reached the side of an elderly African-American woman who was struggling with two large suitcases. He reached over, picked up the bags, and with a smile, escorted the woman to her bus. After helping get her settled, he wished her a safe journey. He returned to his greeting party and apologized to the waiting crowd by saying, “Sorry to have kept you waiting.”
The man was Albert Schweitzer, the famous scholar and missionary doctor, who spent his life helping the poor in Africa. His actions that day in Chicago made an impact, too. One member of the crowd who had observed Schweitzer’s act of kindness said to a reporter standing next to him, “That’s the first time I ever saw a sermon walking.”
That story invites all of us to ask ourselves what kind of sermon we’re preaching (and walking) with our lives? James 2:17 tells us clearly that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” I John 4:12 makes a similar point when it says, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.” In a culture filled with division and angry political rhetoric, most of us are well aware that God calls us to be the hands and feet of God in our community and world. This week, let us ask God to open our eyes to the many needs around us in order that we might through large and small acts of kindness reflect the love of God in our daily lives. As God’s people, we have both an opportunity and responsibility to let others see in us “a sermon walking.”
This Sunday, we will again participate in the Blessing of the Students. During the service, we will have a time when we invite our children, youth, and college students to stand at the front of the sanctuary. We will also invite our teachers and educators to stand, and then we will participate in a prayer of blessing and dedication for all of these beginning a new school year. This is a significant time of transition for our students and educators, and they need our support, encouragement, and prayers. At the end of the service, adults will have the opportunity to take a card with the name of a student and serve as that student’s special prayer partner for the upcoming school year. There will be a table set up in the vestibule and in the children’s hallway where you can sign up to be a prayer partner. We will have some suggestions for those who take a name so each youth and child will know which adult is praying for him or her. I invite you to consider prayerfully whether you would be willing to make the commitment to be a prayer partner for one of our students.
Many of you have heard me talk about how much I value being part of an intergenerational church. There are many churches these days that have focused their outreach on one particular age group (usually young adults), and as a result, the majority of members/participants come from similar age groups. While it can be a blessing to be able to interact with many people your own age at church and to share common experiences, I believe the family of God is strengthened when we can learn from different generations in addition to those who are at the same life stage. It is such a treat for me to see our older members interacting with, supporting, and encouraging our youth and children. I love it when our kids can find ways to serve our older adults and when all age groups can learn from the perspective and experiences of differing generations. As the body of Christ, we all need each other, and I am grateful that Hope Valley continues to seek out ways to encourage fellowship, discipleship, and ministry with all ages.
I believe there is much to celebrate at Hope Valley these days and hope you will join me in continuing to pray for God to shape us as His disciples and empower us for ministry in our community.
As many of us are still recovering from Vacation Bible School, I can’t help but reflect with great satisfaction on the ways I saw God at work. Each year during VBS, we ask the kids to share their God sightings, and it’s always encouraging to hear of the ways that these children are seeing God at work in their lives and through their involvement in VBS.
As your pastor, I can’t begin to list all the God sightings I have had as we have ministered together to show God’s love to these children and teach them about God’s power and love. My heart is full as I think about all the ways I saw so many of you giving generously of your time and energy to make this VBS another wonderful example of ministry and grace. What a treat it was to see some of you taking on different responsibilities in VBS this year and doing so with joy, smiles, and an evident commitment to bless the kids. What a blessing it was to see so many people jumping in and doing whatever needed to be done. What a gift it was to hear parents talk gratefully about how they felt welcomed and how their kids truly experienced love and care through you all. What a pleasure it was to hear children learning and being able to discuss the teachings of Scripture. What a joy it was to see the energy of the kids as they sang the Bible School songs and to hear parents describe their kids singing the songs all week long at home and in the car.
There are so many reasons that I give thanks for the privilege of being in ministry with you all at HVBC, but this year’s Everest VBS truly filled me again with gratitude for your commitment to love and teach children. Thanks to all who worked, prayed, and supported this VBS. May God take the seeds planted and bring a wonderful harvest in the lives of the children and their families.
Though many are traveling and enjoying a change of pace during summer months, it remains a busy time in the church. As a result, it is time for another exciting edition of Random Thoughts from a Scattered Mind.
I hope you will join us Sunday for worship and the luncheon afterwards as we honor Ken and Christine Smith as Ken retires. The choir is preparing some gorgeous music, and it should be a true blessing. Ken and Christine have given much time and energy to Hope Valley for more than eight years, and Ken has done well in preparing the choir, ensembles, and soloists to lead us in worship. I have also appreciated his leadership in preparing Christmas cantatas and music for other special seasons and services. We will miss Ken and Chris-tine and wish them God’s blessings, guidance, and joy.
Like you, I continue to grieve over the tragic deaths of the 9 members of Emanuel AME Church. I really can’t understand how anyone could choose to act with such hatred and racism, causing such pain to others. At the same time, our grief over such blatant examples of racism and violence must drive us to prayer and a re-newed commitment to faithfulness. As I said on Sunday, we should devote ourselves to praying for those who grieve, praying for God’s Kingdom to come and His will to be done in our world, and praying that God will cleanse us of the anger, racism, and prejudice we carry in our own hearts and souls. While the shooter has demonstrated an extreme example of racism, we all must acknowledge the judgmental attitudes within us and pray for God’s cleansing and healing so that we might live out God’s love in our relationships. In addition, we as God’s people must invest ourselves in modeling and seeking reconciliation, in building bridges of grace, and in making God’s love visible as we reach out to and treat all people as God’s beloved children.
Please remember that the Hispanic Mission Church will begin meeting with us on Sunday, July 5. I am very excited about this partnership and the opportunity it will provide us to make new friends, build the Body of Christ, and demonstrate that God’s love crosses cultures and language barriers. Let us pray that God will bless this partnership and work through both churches to accomplish His will and build His Kingdom. This is a wonderful opportunity to work with those from different backgrounds and to demonstrate true hospitality.
Summer is always a very busy time in the life of Hope Valley Baptist Church. Vacation Bible School is approaching rapidly, and it promises to be another amazing week of helping children learn about the Good News of God’s love. I am grateful to all who have already signed up to assist with VBS and those who have made the commitment to be part of the Prayer Team that will surround and under-gird this important ministry with prayer. If you have not yet signed up to work in VBS or to be part of our Prayer Team, please do so on the church website. You may also contact Amy Herring or call Robin Wimberley in the church office to let us know how you can assist.
I am also tremendously grateful for your vote to support the partnership with the Hispanic Mission led by Pastor Julio DeLeon. The mission church will use Spanish version of our name, Valle de Es-peranza Iglesia Bautista, and will begin meeting for worship in the Fellowship Hall on Sunday, July 5. You will find a note of gratitude from Pastor Julio here, and their members are eager to begin this new phase of their ministry and development.
I am convinced this partnership can and will enrich both congregations. I know you will demonstrate great hospitality to these brothers and sisters as they make this transition and partner with us. It is also exciting to consider ways the two churches might work together in ministry, missions, and worship. Please join me in praying faithfully for this mission church, for our ministry together, and for God to inspire and empower us as we work together to spread His love and make disciples of the people in our community and beyond.