November 26, 2007

Why "Lottie Moon"?

When I was a very young child, I was quite confused about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. What is a Lottie Moon? And why do we have a missions offering named after it? I later found out Lottie Moon was a she, not an it. But I still didn’t know who she/it was. Perhaps you are similarly in the dark. So let me shed some light on Charlotte “Lottie” Moon.

Lottie Moon was born into a wealthy Baptist family in Scottsville, Virginia in 1840. As is often the case, she was turned off to Christianity in her childhood as she saw squabbles and hypocrisy in the church. By the time she was a teenager, she thought Christianity was utterly ridiculous, openly refused to attend church with her parents, and once (upon hearing the story of a missionary to Israel) said: “If there is a single way of wasting a life, being a missionary is it.” Boy did God have a surprise in store for her!

The change began to happen when she was a student at Albemarle Female Institute (at the time, the women’s wing of the University of Virginia). One evening, Lottie took it upon herself to attend a service at the local church, seeking to find logical inconsistencies and “holes” in the message of the gospel. She was looking for ammunition with which to belittle her Christian classmates. But after attending the meeting, she found that she couldn’t find the holes she was so sure were there! That night a barking dog kept her up all night, and all she could do was think about the words of the preacher. By morning, the truths that she could no longer make fun of became the joy of her heart. Lottie was a believer in Jesus!

As her faith grew, Lottie gradually found herself feeling called to use her education (a rare commodity for a female in those days) to serve Jesus on the mission field. She petitioned the Foreign Mission Board (now our IMB) and was appointed a missionary at the age of 33. Aboard ship in the San Francisco Harbor, awaiting departure for China, Lottie Moon wrote these words in an open letter to the Southern Baptist Convention: "For women… foreign missions open a new and enlarged sphere of labor and furnish opportunities for good which angels might almost envy...Could a Christian woman possibly desire higher honor than to be permitted to go from house to house and tell of a Savior to those who have never heard his name? We could not conceive of a life which would more thoroughly satisfy the mind and heart of a true follower of the Lord Jesus." Quite a change from her earlier attitude toward “wasting a life” on the mission field. And perhaps, quite a word of encouragement to someone reading these words?

During 35 years in China, Lottie opened Christian schools for girls, taught illiterate Chinese women how to read (using the gospel of Matthew!), held Bible classes, ministered through hospitality, and suffered persecution. She eventually died of starvation because folks back home weren’t giving as they should have been, and Lottie was giving what little food she could afford to feed starving, war-ravaged Chinese villagers. The nurse who was with Lottie when she died said this, "It is infinitely touching that those who work hardest and make the most sacrifices for the Master should suffer because those in the homeland fail to give what is needed."

“To give what is needed.” Perhaps this is the most lasting theme of her life. She was constantly faced with the fact that there wasn’t sufficient money to get more workers into the fields, nor to adequately support them while once were there. She often wrote Southern Baptists, urging them to give more to the cause of missions. In fact, it was her idea (in 1887) to start a Christmas offering for foreign missions. That first year, Southern Baptists collected a grand total of $3,315.26 collected for missions. 120 years later, as a result of Lottie’s forward-looking vision, and her willingness to challenge to the people in Southern Baptist pews, we now collect over 150 million dollars annually for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering … and support close to 6,000 full-time workers on the field… none of whom are starving. Let’s you and I make sure we keep it that way.

November 17, 2007

Luziana Woman, Mississippi Man...

They get together any time they can. Gotta love Conway Twitty!

Anyway, most of you know that Tobey is from Lake Charles, Louisiana. And that is where we will be for the next week or so. Thus, you won't hear anything from me next week, nor will there be any audio updates. Hope to check back in the Monday or Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

Have a great week of thanking our good God!

November 13, 2007

What Has Casserole to do with Salvation?

This week, the elders and deacons of PRBC are finalizing our Servant Ministry Roster for 2008. Each year, in an attempt to help every member find its place in the body (1 Corinthians 12), we survey the congregation, seeking to get their input on spiritual own gifting and minsitry desires for the coming year. Then the six of us (3 elders and 3 deacons) sit down together and sort it all out, developing a plan for every-member ministry to present to the congregation. We'd appreciate your prayers in the endeavor.

Now, by way of encouragement for those who aren't a part of PRBC, I'd like to point out that the very first Servant Ministry Roles were assigned in Acts chapter 6. There was a logistical problem in the church at Jerusalem: thousands of church members; and only twelve apostles to meet all the needs! More specifically, the widows in the church were in need of basic daily provisions. In those days, a woman without a husband was very often financially destitute. So the church had undertaken to care for the ladies within its membership who faced this kind of poverty. So should every church.

But again, logistics tripped them up. Remember, there were thousands of people to care for; perhaps hundreds of widows to feed; and only twelve apostles! There was no way the twelve could do it all…especially if they were to give proper attention to study, teaching, and prayer. So the church had to get organized. And, in Acts 6.1-6, they did just that, selecting from among themselves seven men who would bring foodstuffs to the widows (and probably do other various necessary tasks). They were the forerunners of our deacons.

What a heart-warming story! All the widows were fed, and they all lived happily ever after. Yes…but that is not where the story ends. After the church’s first business meeting and the selecting of it first Servant Ministry Roster in verses 1-6, we read this sentence in verse 7: “The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem.”

I don’t think verse 7 is the beginning of a whole new line of thought. I believe it is meant to be read as a continuation of, even a result of, what happened in verses 1-6. What was the upshot of the Servant Ministry Roster and, particularly, the feeding of the widows? The gospel spread even further than it had before! A fact which begs an interesting question: ‘They fed the widows and people got saved? How did that work? What has casserole to do with salvation?’

Think it out. Because the Servant Ministers brought canned goods (OK, maybe it was sacks of grain) to the old ladies:

  1. The church was brought back from the brink of civil war. If people don’t serve, things don’t get done. And when things don’t get done, people start to complain (which they did in Acts 6.1). And when church folks complain, their testimony in the community is quickly snuffed out. But because of those bags of corn—and those Servant Ministers—that didn’t happen.
  2. The apostles (the preachers and teachers) were freed up to give their best attention to the preaching of the gospel.
  3. The church gave off a sweet-smelling aroma to their unbelieving neighbors. ‘Look at the way they care for each other. Maybe we ought to listen to what that preacher is saying. It sure seems to make a difference for them.’
  4. The widows had a great testimony to give to the other old ladies: ‘Let me tell you about Prochorus from my church. What a difference Jesus has made in his life. He’s like a son to me…every day bringing me food and caring for my needs.’

Four good reasons, I think, to thank the members of my congregation for their acceptance of one or more Servant Ministry Roles in 2008. Four good reasons for me to encourage you to be faithful to find your part in the body wherever you may live. Who knows how the word of God may spread, and the number of disciples in your city increase, because you watched the nursery, ran the sound board, shoveled the snow, or baked a casserole!

November 8, 2007

No Soup for You! No Bibles Either.

It would seem that, among other items listed as suggested contraband for 2008 Olympic athletes, coaches, and spectators in Beijing...Bibles make the list ("Each traveller is recommended to take no more than one Bible into China.").

An attempt to prevent Christian participants from "making disciples of all nations"...or at least the Chinese nation? An opportunity to put Acts 4.19-20 into practice?

This scenario reminds me a bit of the dilemma of Eric Liddell, who, in 1924, put his place on the British Olympic team on the line in order to obey his conscience regarding the Lord's Day. Will any 2008 particpants do the same?

No doubt, China has the right to make and enforce her own laws. Thus, any believing athlete, coach, or spectator who chooses to circumvent the Bible rule, needs to be willing, like Liddell, to quietly accept the consequences...confiscation of Bibles, interrogation, removal from the games, stripping of medals, etc. I wonder if any will count the cost and take the risk? More to the point...I wonder what you or I would do given such an opportunity/challenge.

Think it out for yourself.

HT: Justin Taylor