Last Tuesday, I again was asked to speak at the devotional time at Coronado Stone in Fontana. I decided to share a few thoughts about the call to be a missionary, taking my text from Isaiah 6. This is the passage in which God says to Isaiah, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" This question came on the heels of an incredible worship experience and vision of God by Isaiah. Isaiah's response was, "Here am I, send me." A missionary goes to others who have not responded or maybe have not even heard the gospel message, that message of hope and forgiveness and purpose. The call of missions involves a spirit of sacrifice and deep love for those near and far.
On Wednesday, I was scheduled as the featured chapel speaker at the Chino Valley Christian School. The assembly was composed of students K - 5. They are taking up a collection for our Homeless Ministry in Riverside. I spoke about God's call to missions and, because of that, I said that we are called to minister to those around us who are in need. I asked the students to help by bringing knit caps, scarves, gloves, blankets and toiletry items. The kids were very responsive and enthusiastic about helping! Our friend Vicki Park works at the school and enlisted me as the guest speaker that day, so Pastor George Nelson accompanied me to share in the experience.
Last Thursday night, Crystal and Shawn (and girls) met us at California Baptist University in Riverside for the annual Lighting of the Christmas Tree event held on the front lawn of the campus. They had little piles of snow brought in from the mountains nearby, so the little kids could play and throw a few snowballs. Bands were on the stages that were set up, playing both contemporary praise songs and Christmas carols throughout the evening. Bailey enjoyed throwing snowballs at us all! Afterwards, we ate a little snack at Baker's Drive-In before going home.
Friday night, the grandkids (Bailey and Brynnlee) were brought over to spend the night with us. Shawn and Crystal were going to have a night out and get a good night's sleep. It is a joy and a blessing to take care of a newborn (almost three months old now) and a two-and-a half year old. It is a lot of work, but great fun.
On Saturday morning, Pastor George (who had come in on the Metrolink train for the previous night as well) went with me to a monthly meeting at the Associational Office in Riverside. It is a Church Planters Network meeting, in which close to 20 people gather to discuss what God is doing in their work to start new churches in the Inland Empire. I attend this fellowship time, as I have three men who are doing the work of church planters under the auspices of our church. It is always a wonderful time of testimonies, as well as prayer time for the challenges being faced.
Our Sunday service was another time in which I shared the message of the certainty of God's promises. Our belief is secure and firm on the reality of God's blessings and faithfulness to his people. We do not doubt God, question God, argue with God nor bargain with God to get our way. Our hearts must be constant, settled and untroubled as we serve him with passion and love. We tend to waver when under stress, when hurt and pain are present, when faced with conflict, when we are tired and exhausted, and when we feel so terribly alone. God promises (he gives his binding word), God is able (his power is unmatched), and God performs his work (he always comes through).
Sunday evening, I was the guest speaker for the annual Foreign Missions Emphasis Dinner at the Crosspointe Church, where my brother Roger is co-pastor. During the dinner, Roger had pre-arranged for his daughter Jennifer to be on Skype internet video connection. The video call was shown on a large screen in the gymnasium-turned-banquet-hall. Jennifer is serving as a Journeyman Missions volunteer in South Asia (in a country which cannot be disclosed for security purposes). It was exciting to see her and to have a live conversation going on about her ministry there.
My message that evening was again taken from Isaiah 6, detailing the call of missions and evangelism to those spiritually lost. I spoke of sacrifice in depth, with the following quotes:
There is no success without sacrifice.
If you succeed without sacrifice, it is because someone suffered before you.
If you sacrifice without success, it is because someone will succeed after.
If you are troubled by thoughts of finances for serving, here is a quote from the great missionary Hudson Taylor:
"When God's work is done in God's way for God's glory, it will not lack God's support."
The three G's for personally being involved in missionary work are:
Go. Surrender your life for mission service and be immediately available to God to go anywhere!
Get on your knees. Pray desperately for those who are serving and giving themselves for missionary work.
Give. Share with those who go forth to evangelize, by giving of your finances and other resources.
My nephew Steven (my brother Noel's oldest son) came into town, as his Schneider trucking company had him stop in Fontana for the night. He came to the missions dinner with us at Crosspointe, and we had a special time together as family. Shawn and Crystal came and were able to catch up on news with Steven also. Steven then spent the night with us (in David's old room) and this morning, he and I met Roger at Panera for breakfast. Having time with family members is awesome!
As a sidenote, I got some pictures from David, who is now down in Tuxtla-Gutierrez, Chiapas, in Mexico. You may remember that the rains and floods were causing mudslides on the hill behind David and Meche's house. They have contracted for a retaining wall to be built in their backyard against the hillside to prevent further problems and possible damage. That is why you will see some dirt and rock and cement in the front of the house, as well as some of the digging and setting of the wall's foundation in the back. Here are a few of the photos:
Tonight, Sondra and I will attend a Pastors' and Staff Christmas Banquet for our Inland Empire Southern Baptist Association.