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Ed Jordan: Overcoming Feelings of Disappointment

Posted: 3/24/17 at 7:30am. Column by Ed Jordan.

How do you feel when things didn’t turn out like you planned? Disturbed? Disappointed? Discouraged, depressed, or perhaps even despairing? This is not a topic we talk about much, and yet it is something that almost all of us experience more than we want to admit.

Life rarely aligns with our dreams, and we frequently encounter unpleasant things beyond our control. Listen to the emotions expressed in these verses from Psalm 137:1–4 (NIV): “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept, when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”  How can we sing the songs of the LORD while (living) in a foreign land?”

Life rarely aligns with our dreams, and we frequently encounter unpleasant things beyond our control.

The people described in this Psalm were people of Judah, who had been taken captive into Babylon (near modern-day Baghdad, Iraq). Babylon was one of the major powers of the Fertile Crescent (Middle East) area at the time. While the people lived as unwilling inhabitants of a foreign land, they weren’t literally in prisons. They just lived as outsiders in a land whose customs and lifestyle ran counter to that of Judaism. They couldn’t just pack up and go back to back to Jerusalem (Zion).

Look at the feelings and emotions mentioned in the above verses. The people were in grief, and wept whenever they thought of home. They wept when they remembered the good old days. They were mocked because they had been defeated and taken captive. They were jeered and taunted to sing to the Babylonians songs about their God whose temple was in Jerusalem, about the life and culture they used to have.

They weren’t sure if they would ever again experience their city, relatives, traditions, food, music, or dances.

They were so discouraged that they wanted to hang up their harps. It was the day the music stopped. The joy and song had departed from their lives. They were mockingly taunted to sing some of the songs about how God always won the victories for them.

It was a way of saying:  So, if your God is so great, why are you living in our land under our domination? They didn’t have an answer. They were experiencing cultural upheaval, and their ideas about God and their identity as His people were under siege.

All of us encounter things that challenge our identity, security, comfort zone, and traditional ways of doing things. Most of us encounter losses, sometimes monumental ones like the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or career, or the loss of health. Sometimes losses are more subtle like losing our hair, thoughts, hearing, or vision.

Through relocations we often lose our support systems and friends. As we get older, some lose their ability to drive or to live independently.

In the midst of these, people are often tempted to lose their faith, or lose their joy in life. The song seems gone. They are ready to hang up their harps and just sit around bemoaning the loss of the good old days. But the good old often look a hundred times better than they actually were at the time.

So how do we not lose hope and overcome difficulties? We need to adjust to life by learning to live where we are now instead of trying to live where or how we lived once upon a time. We need to focus on God, who is always with us and is eternal, rather than focusing on things which are temporal, or have already past.

We need to focus on what we have gained instead of what we have lost; on what we have now, instead of what we had then; and on what awaits us just around the next bend.

We need to pick up our harps and raise our voices to sing to God! Sing of God’s beauty, his love, his faithfulness, his salvation, and of Jesus. We need to live, really live, where God has us right now! These days are the good old days that we will long for 10 years from now.

ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.

    Diversity is Difficult Everywhere

    Dean MillerDean Miller, BGAV Missions Development Staff Coordinator, is currently in Ghana in support of More Than Nets.

    He is blogging from Ghana about what he’s seeing and experiencing while there.

    As I sit among many Ghanaian leaders from various denominations it is clear that there is one concern that looms large among them.

    Diversity

    There have been many, many churches planted across the country in the last decade with most of them having been started in the north. And most of those churches are thriving communities of faith. Ghana consists of over 60 different tribes but the majority of churches planted have been among one tribe. It’s not that the churches don’t care about these other tribes. It’s just that this particular tribe has been more accessible and open to the gospel.

    Now, there is a concerted effort to reach out to people of other tribes. But, reaching them is more difficult. Different languages; different backgrounds; different belief systems. Can one people group reach across the aisles and open their hearts and doors of worship to a different people group? Is it possible for these tribes to worship together? If it is possible, is it even beneficial?

    Reaching these other people groups will require the churches to adapt their philosophies and change strategies from what has worked so well for so many years.

    Their struggle is real. And, it is a struggle we share in Virginia and across our own nation. I look forward to what we might learn from them.

    Pray for these leaders and the challenge before them. Pray for wisdom. Pray for their strong desire for diversity to translate into action, acceptance (not tolerance), and community.

    Dean Miller

      Tony Brooks: March Madness and Starting New Classes – How to Keep from Being One and Done

      Posted: 3/21/17 at 11:15am. Post by Tony Brooks.

      Many people are trying to keep up with what is happening with the NCAA basketball tournament that we call March Madness. As you know, each game is pivotal. You lose; you go home. (I wish we had the same passion for what Sunday School/small groups could do to bring people to Christ and mature disciples!)

      We have an eternal message, and we need to realize how powerful we can be to transform the world. I was reminded of a twist on how we need to see ourselves by this YouTube video, How To Explain What You Do, When You’re A Pastor.

      So how do we make sure we are successful at starting new groups/classes, and that we are not one-and-done? Here are some proven ideas:

      1. You need at least three passionate people to start a new class or small group. Why three? You need a teacher, someone in charge of outreach, and someone in charge of care groups. You don’t want to promote a new possibility with just a teacher. If only one person shows up, it is awkward!
      2.  Whom are you trying to reach? Start in the pews on Sunday morning, use a census, or contact people whom members already know. You need a target audience. Whom would that be, and how many viable contacts do you have? This is imperative. You may get half or fewer to join you.
      3.  Where will you have it? Starting a new class on Sunday morning at church works if you have several seekers with similarities. What if you are trying to reach unchurched people? Perhaps a home or public place is a better location. Make sure you decide on a space before you invite people.
      4.  Enlist & train workers. As I mentioned, you need at least three. This may require persons to leave an existing group. Share and encourage the passion and vision to reach new people. Train them in teaching, outreach, and care.
      5.  Go get new people!

      Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:3-7 NIV)

      In the final step for starting new classes/groups, you need a deep commitment and passion for reaching people for Christ much like Jesus’ parable above. Every adult class ought to pray weekly in class to find ways to reach lost people and start new classes as a missionary endeavor. As you prepare to “go after the people,” I encourage you to consider the following:

      Six months before starting a new class/group:

      • Enlist the workers (three: Teacher, Fellowship/Care Leader, and Outreach Leader) to begin praying and preparing: looking for prospects, deciding on the age group to reach, and building relationships with prospects they know for this class. Meet with experienced workers in other classes to learn from them. Go to a training session to prepare.  
      • Ask another class to begin praying for God to work in a mighty way through the three leaders and to open doors for prospects. This adult class should see the new class as an adoption on their part. 

      Three months before starting:

      • Continue to pray and enlist the entire church to pray about your efforts.
      • Decide on the first quarter’s curriculum as you talk to prospects and what their needs are.
      • Begin promoting the class in your church newsletter, worship bulletin, and in the community you are targeting with the topic you will start teaching. Use social media like Facebook and your website to help get the word out. There may be a specific neighborhood or group you are targeting. Get the adult class that adopted you to help spread the word. 

      For instance, some churches have started new classes specifically for parents of preschoolers or parents of children or parents of youth. The first eight weeks were focused on biblical parenting. You may want to bring in a specialist in the age group to talk about developmental stages for the child–physical, emotional, and spiritual–in one of the sessions.

      One month before:

      • Continue to pray.
      • Plan a social event and have the adult class that adopted you host and help promote the event. Having a larger crowd for interaction would be great for both the class and prospects. Send letters, use email, Facebook, and other means to spread the word.
      • Commission the workers for the new class in worship. This is significant in two ways. It will validate the importance of these workers and their work, and it will allow other classes to see the need to begin thinking about Sunday School’s significance or small groups as a missionary movement.  

      First day of class/group:

      If your new group is a Sunday School class, have a breakfast 15-20 minutes before the Sunday School hour to build fellowship. If it is a small group, have a meal perhaps before or as part of the session. The sooner this new group can bond, the better. Breaking bread together brings a different level of intimacy to a group.

      As we plan to start new classes, may we embody Luke 15 as we seek to reach lost people for Christ! 

      Brooks-TonyTony Brooks is our Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist and Field Strategist for the Southside Region. You may email him at tony.brooks@bgav.org.

      Follow Tony on Twitter: @TonyBrooks7 

        An Awesome History and a Bright Future!

        Dean MillerDean Miller, BGAV Missions Development Staff Coordinator, is currently in Ghana in support of More Than Nets.

        He is blogging from Ghana about what he’s seeing and experiencing while there.

        At least that is what I am experiencing in Yendi, Ghana this week. Our history with the Ghanaian Baptists is not that deep – only 5 years – but what has been accomplished through the efforts of Virginia and Ghanaian  Baptists working alongside each other through the More Than Nets project is pretty incredible. Eighty thousand nets distributed, over 235 churches planted, thousands coming to know Christ! Could we ask for anything more?  Well, of course we can.

        The work is not yet complete. Has your church become involved? Have you been part of a team to come to Ghana and work alongside some of the most passionate church planters you would ever want to see? What are you waiting for? The harvest is ripe!

        And while I am here once again to support the work I am also casting an eye toward the future. Tomorrow will begin some dialogues with not only Baptists, but many other church planters representing a host of evangelical groups who are seeking ways to work together so that Christ will be made known in this place.

        Isn’t it exciting when you know you are part of something where it is so evident that God is working?  That’s us right now. That’s BGAV right now. That’s Ghana right now.

        I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

        Dean Miller

         

          Ed Jordan: The Missing Links

          Posted: 3/17/17 at 7:30am. Column by Ed Jordan.

          In past decades, companies, leaders, and churches had years to strategize and develop plans, train people, and then implement the plans. Since there was time to predict possible complications, you could plan adjustments to keep an organization or the church progressing toward long-term plans. Today things move so rapidly that many changes are already established before we first perceive their existence. A world that moves so fast puts us in permanent response mode; we don’t even have a chance to be proactive.

          Changes, developments, by-products, consequences, and further changes occur so quickly that no matter how fast a complex organization adapts, it’s never fast enough. It used to take years for a corporation to develop new products or to respond to new trends. It used to take companies years to become adept at using a new technology, before newer technology comes along to replace it. Development and change are outpacing our adaptation speed.

          Change used to take longer, allowing for time to adjust and compensate. The invention of the printing press made a tremendous impact on the world, and print media was the dominant form of communication for hundreds of years. It dominated until the radio was introduced and eventually became the primary information and entertainment source for decades. Television was dominant for around 40 years. Now the primary sources are internet-based and in real time.  People don’t wait for the evening news on TV. They get instant messages of breaking news on their cell phones all day long. Today’s business world is just trying to keep up.

          In contrast, most church organizations operate mainly with volunteer staffing, volunteer leaders, and limited budgets from the offerings of attenders. By the time a church can mobilize to gain consensus about new problems and strategize new plans, it’s very hard for a church organization to adapt quickly enough to keep pace with the rapid changes occurring. The challenges come at us at light speed, and a complex, volunteer organization functions at tortoise speed in comparison to our changing world. There is no longer time to foresee cultural changes and trends far enough ahead to develop organizational long-range planning.

          Something is missing in this scenario. There are missing links in our lives and organizations that can help us deal with the speed of change. I would like to suggest a couple of missing links in our chain. The first is that we must remain firmly linked to God.  In Revelation 1:8 (NIV) God says: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Don’t panic! Eternal God is with us, and not being phased out.

          Don’t panic! Eternal God is with us, and not being phased out.

          The second link that is missing today is the link between generations. I was recently reading a book by a Jewish rabbi, who said that the Hebrew word for generation is a spiritual and qualitative concept rather than a numerical measuring marker. He said that in their thought, a generation really involves generational continuity between at least three generations so that the grandparents, parents, and children have common shared lives, values, and experiences.

          From his perspective, it takes three generations linked by a continuity of interaction and shared life to really have one generation. The grandparents pass their values and wisdom to their children so that they retain what their parents know, then they build upon it by passing it and their own experiences on to their own children, who will in turn pass it on to their children. Thus all that the grandparents, their parents, and their own children know makes the lives of each generation richer and wiser. It is not just being linked by DNA, but it is multiple generations interlinked with each other.

          Without this generational continuity, each new generation has to start its culture and learning the lessons of life from square one. Not having generational continuity through families and churches leads to diminished potential for future accomplishments, culture, and relationships. Perhaps this is why Paul urged in 2 Timothy 2:2 (NLT): “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.”

          Rather than madly trying to react to the world, why not become purposefully proactive to learn all we can from God, and relate to and learn from older generations all we can, so we can purposely pass on all the rich treasure of truth, heritage, wisdom, and life experiences to one another?

          ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

          He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.

            Danny Quirin: 6 Things to Do Before Hiring a Summer Intern

            Posted: 3/15/17 at 7:30am. Post by Danny Quirin.

            Punxsutawney Phil made his famous weather prediction the morning of February 2, emerging from his burrow to see his shadow. Although the famous rodent prognosticator predicted six more weeks of winter weather, the bigger question of the day is this, “Once the winter chill is gone, is your church ready to meet the needs of your student ministry this coming summer?” Many smaller churches struggle with student ministry in the summer months because they are unable to afford a full-time or even a part-time youth minister.

            If you think creatively and plan ahead, you might be surprised at the gift you can give to your students this summer. You will also be a blessing to a college or seminary student who is trying to get their “feet wet” in student ministry. The key is planning ahead, and although summer is quickly approaching despite what “Phil” predicted, it’s not too late for your church to seize the day and the summer by welcoming a summer intern into your congregation.

            There are college and seminary students who need to fulfill an internship or supervised ministry experience of some type in order to fulfill the requirements for a degree program. Others may be sensing a call to ministry but want to “test the waters” before jumping in and declaring a major or beginning a seminary education only to discover that maybe it wasn’t as much of a calling as they once thought. Your congregation, no matter how big or small, may be the vehicle God uses to help get them to the destination He wants them to go while also enjoying the benefits of having a person investing in your teens this summer.

            Here are some things to consider in aiding you to think creatively as a congregation:

            1. Have a clearly defined job description while being realistic and reasonable. Simply saying, “we want someone to keep our kids busy this summer” isn’t realistic or reasonable. Add to that fact that there will be plenty of parents and church members who may each have their own set of expectations of what your summer intern should or should not be doing, and the waters that were so tempting for the intern to plunge into have suddenly become murky and even shark infested. What are some reasonable tasks and goals that you would like to see accomplished by an intern in your church? Bring a team of parents and teens together, dream as big as you want, and write them all down. Then step back and be realistic and reasonable while keeping in mind what you are willing or able to pay this person as you are coming up with a job description. A good perspective to keep is, “Would I be happy in this job or having my own college student doing this job for that pay, or would I feel abused and taken advantage of?”
            2. Know whom you are looking for. Once you know what you’re looking for, you need to consider whom you’re looking for. What kind of person do you want to fill this position? Are you looking for a specific age or gender? Do you want someone who is sensing a call to ministry or someone simply looking for a summer job? Would someone who is pursuing a degree in education with a desire to teach at the middle or high school level work? What about their own spiritual maturity? Do you want someone who has been growing in his or her faith for a certain number of years? Could it be one of your own college students who went through your youth ministry and already understands the rhythm and heartbeat of your congregation, or do you want someone your teens may not know as well?
            3. How will your church support the intern? Will you provide housing in the homes of church members? You may have church members who are willing to pay the intern to house sit while they are away, and that will help in providing intern income. Will their meals be provided, or must they be responsible for buying groceries from the money you are paying them? Will you be able to pay them, or will they have to do personal fundraising in order to cover their expenses? Who will oversee the intern this summer and serve as a mentor or coach? Will they be expected to attend weekly staff meetings in order to receive regular feedback? Will you give them a mid-summer and end-of-summer review and if so, who will conduct those? Will you provide some kind of training? Each May, the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) has a training opportunity for youth workers called Forum. Discover more about Forum.
            4. How will expenses be covered? Will you allot money for the intern to attend camp and the activities described in the job description? Will that include incidental money to cover their meals at fast-food stops on the way to and from your summer camp, mission trip, or day trips? Can you offer assistance with things such as mileage reimbursement, an allowance to take teens to the local coffee shop or hang out, or even help offset their cell phone bill? You would be surprised by what providing some of these extra things can do to help offset a lower income. Do you have a computer they can use, or will they be expected to provide their own? What about internet accessibility and printing options?
            5. What other expectations should they be aware of? Are there specific hours they will be expected to be in the church office? What about office policy and procedures and who will train them? What are the expectations concerning their dress for the office, worship, or other times? Will there be other people they will be expected to listen to or report to other than their immediate supervisor? What are your expectations for them regarding handling relationships with the opposite sex? What guidelines will you have as to how they handle social media websites and networking with others throughout the summer? Having a clearly defined starting and ending date will be very important for the church and for the intern. Do you expect them to work ten weeks or twelve; is there any time built into their work schedule for participation in a family vacation?
            6. Celebrate the summer and provide a good closing. If you do things well and help the intern to succeed, you will want to take the time to provide positive closure for them, for your students, and for your church family. Everyone longs to hear that they did a good job, so take the time to celebrate the ministry that takes place over the summer, along with the person who helped to make it happen. You could encourage people to bring them notes of thanks and encouragement. If you give them gift cards to restaurants or coffee shops near the campus they attend, they will be reminded of the experience long after the summer is over and each time they use the cards.

            As the Youth Minister in Residence for the BGAV, I would enjoy helping you brainstorm ideas or provide more information or insight concerning summer interns. I have a sample job description and questions to consider when interviewing prospects as well as questions for a mid- or end-of-summer review. Don’t let the “winter blahs” keep you from investing in a memorable summer for your teens, a college intern, and your church family.

            If you would like assistance recruiting prospective interns from our network of BGAV collegiate and young adult ministries, please contact our Kairos Collegiate/Young Adult Coordinator, Welford Orrock.

            Danny Quirin has served in youth ministry in some form or fashion since 1984. He served as the minister of youth at Bonsack Baptist Church in Roanoke for 21 years and has recently transitioned into the role of Associate Pastor at Bonsack. In 2016 he began serving as the youth minister in residence for the Baptist General Association of Virginia. Danny is passionate about ministry with teens and enjoys speaking, leading conferences, in Virginia, North Carolina and surrounding areas as well as leading youth training conferences in Austria, Italy and Romania.

            He can be reached at danny.quirin@bgav.org.

              Tony Brooks: 6 Ways to Assist Your Teachers/Small Group Leaders to Be Most Effective

              Posted: 3/14/17 at 1:45pm. Post by Tony Brooks.

              Many churches have wonderful teachers/small group leaders who are passionate in their calling. Every teacher/leader, however, can be encouraged to be even more effective.

              Here are some ideas:

              1. How often do you state the vision for teachers and small group leaders about their part in discipleship/spiritual formation? I have shared many times before that Sunday School and small groups get their “why” from the Great Commandment (loving God and neighbor), as well as the Great Commission (make disciples.) I believe that these individuals need the reminder that they are missionaries and disciple-makers on a regular basis. I highlight three components to the vision from Mike Breen and Steve Cockram’s book, Building a Discipling Culture, in their chapter about deeper relationships on UP, IN, & OUT.

              From Luke 6:12-19:

              UP: Verse 12- Jesus spent many hours with his Heavenly Father. How much more should we?

              IN:  Verses 13-16- Jesus called a group to invest in/mentor/disciple. He was intentional, and we must be as well in our Sunday School/small groups.

              OUT: Verses 17-19- Jesus immediately took them down the mountain to minister to the least, last, and lost.

              1. UP: How are you providing resources for your teachers/small group leaders to keep growing in Christ? There are some churches providing commentaries, book studies, and curriculum in a room at the church specifically for them to come and check out options for their growth as well as other options to teach. Some are providing daily devotionals or Bible readings for the entire church. Some use Lent and Advent to provide devotional readings each day.
              2. IN: How are you caring for your teachers? The Sunday School director or staff member should check on the teaching staff on a regular basis in several ways: Show appreciation. Ask how to pray for them. Remember birthdays and anniversaries.
              3. IN: How are you helping the teacher organize to care for everyone in their class/group? Teachers cannot do it all. Care groups help the teacher know how each person is doing. Set up care group leaders, and in turn, the teacher is responsible to care for those leaders. (Send me a request, and I will send documents about care groups: tony.brooks@bgav.org )
              4. OUT: How are you encouraging groups to serve outside the church walls? Every group (youth through adults) should have an ongoing service project. Many spiritual lessons and much community building happens when people serve together.
              5. IN: How are you providing training for your teachers? Every teacher needs ongoing training. We provide webinars and in-person training on many areas from age-graded to specific areas like creative teaching methods through learning approaches. Let me know what type of training your church needs.

              As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17 NIV)

              Brooks-TonyTony Brooks is our Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist and Field Strategist for the Southside Region. You may email him at tony.brooks@bgav.org.

              Follow Tony on Twitter: @TonyBrooks7 

                Josh Hayden: For Your Grandma’s Church, Too

                  Ed Jordan: Shadow or Substance?

                  Posted: 3/10/17 at 7:30am. Column by Ed Jordan.

                  Have you ever seen the little video clip that presents a series of shadow images projected onto a screen, featuring Louis Armstrong singing, “What a Wonderful World?”   The shadowy images are shadows of the hands of Raymond Crowe. The hands’ shadow became a silhouette of Louis Armstrong, a rabbit, a swan, trees, and a child’s and adult’s hands.

                  Shadows are fun to look at, but you can’t embrace them because they lack any substance. Shadows are interesting, but they are not as phenomenal as the substance and reality projecting the shadow. Shadows look alive, but they are not.  You might get some vague ideas about what a person looks like by its shadow, but you may not even be able to recognize the reality when you see it.

                  In the video discussed above, you see a swan in the shadow.  The substance that created the swan’s image in your mind was not really a swan, but two hands put together to look like a swan.

                  A shadow is a one-dimensional representation of a real substance, whereas the real substance is usually complex, multi-dimensional and has more depth and layers to it than can be seen.  Similarly, the substance and reality of personally knowing Jesus is always in many multifaceted ways better and more satisfying than merely looking at a shadow or picture of Jesus, or at some secondary aspect of religion that attempts to exalt distorted glimpses of Jesus.

                  For many centuries leading up to the birth and ministry of Jesus, people who desired to please God tried to do so by following religious rules, and offering sacrifices. As a result of this mindset over the centuries, more and more religious people produced more and more religious rules. While often the rules were established with good intentions, the religious rules became odious burdens that enslaved people to joyless, rule-dominated lives.

                  Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, explained that no one is made righteous by obeying the law (Gal. 2:16), because all of us have sinned (Rom. 3:23; 6:23).  Jesus came to live a perfect life. He is the only human who has never sinned.  Jesus died in our place, and His blood paid the penalties for all our sins. With the law perfectly kept, and forgiveness of our sins provided when we place our trust in Jesus Christ, we are then declared justified and righteous in God’s sight.

                  The culmination of God’s work in Jesus began when Jesus rose from the dead, and then at Pentecost, God sent the Holy Spirit to come live within each Christian. With God’s Spirit living within the believer, we are thereby given the desire to live a lifestyle pleasing to God, as God Himself provides the power for us to actually do what God asks us to do (Philippians 2:13).

                  God has finished everything required for our life and godliness. This produces a dilemma for many Christians.  Most of us were raised in religious settings and are accustomed to living by rules that have become so engrained in us that they easily pop back up as our default mode of operation.  We so quickly forget that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Our challenge is to remain free in Christ and to not go back to letting shadowy religious rules run our lives (cf. Gal. 5:1).  We must also be very careful not to place those kinds of expectations on others either.

                  This is the background for what God is saying through Paul in Colossians 2:16–17 (HCSB):  “Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is the Messiah.”  In The Message, this passage reads: “So don’t put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days. All those things are mere shadows cast before what was to come; the substance is Christ.”

                  The substance of our faith is Jesus. Our faith and life are to be lived experiencing the real substance of life, which is Jesus.  Secondary issues about what to eat, drink, or how or when to worship, etc., should remain periphery issues.

                  Don’t let your life be consumed by secondary issues.  Shadows aren’t alive and will never satisfy you like Jesus will.  Be consumed with Jesus!

                  ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

                  He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.

                    Tony Brooks: 5 Things to Discover about the Parable of the Pencil

                    Posted: 3/7/17 at 11:15am. Post by Tony Brooks.

                    A few years ago, I had the opportunity to go to Quantico along with our team to learn more about leadership. On this trip, our lessons were from a retired Colonel Joseph Shusko in the United States Marine Corps. He was instrumental in changing the training for marines and martial arts at Raider Hall and around the world as he included training in body, mind and spirit.

                    I was expecting discipline, toughness and responsibility as part of the training, but I was surprised by his idea of mentorship and helping others. Part of the training includes what he calls “tie ins,” which are moral parables to help these men and women build character.

                    Thankfully one of our colleagues bought each of us a copy of his book: Tie-Ins For Life: Stories that Teach Great Values and Inspire Moral Action.

                    The Pencil Maker took the pencil aside, just before putting him into the box. “There are five things you need to know,” he told the pencil, “before I send you out into the world. Always remember them and never forget, and you will become the best pencil you can be.”

                    “One: You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in someone’s hand.”

                    “Two: You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, but you’ll need it to become a better pencil.”

                    “Three: You will be able to correct any mistakes you might make.”

                    “Four: The most important part of you will always be what’s inside.”

                    “And Five: On every surface you are used on, you must leave your mark. No matter what the condition, you must continue to write.”

                    The pencil understood and promised to remember, and went into the box with purpose in its heart.

                    Now, replacing the place of the pencil with you, always remember the five things and never forget them, and you will become the best person you can be.

                    1. You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in God’s hand. And allow other human beings to access you for the many gifts you possess.
                    2. You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time when going through various problems in life, but you’ll need it to become a stronger person.
                    3. You will be able to correct any mistakes you might make.
                    4. The most important part of you will always be what’s on the inside.
                    5. On every surface you walk through, you must leave your mark. No matter what the situation, you must continue to do your duties.

                    As a teacher, allow this parable on the pencil to encourage you to know that you are a special person and only you can fulfill the purpose to which you were born to accomplish. Never allow yourself to get discouraged and think that your life is insignificant and cannot make a change.

                    Brooks-TonyTony Brooks is our Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist and Field Strategist for the Southside Region. You may email him at tony.brooks@bgav.org.

                    Follow Tony on Twitter: @TonyBrooks7 

                      Ed Jordan: God Sees and Knows

                      Posted: 3/6/17 at 2:45pm. Column by Ed Jordan.

                      The Christian faith was, and is, truly revolutionary. It represents a shift in the world, especially in regards to man understanding, and relating to, God. The world has now lived with the Christian faith for so long, that it rarely recognizes the quantum leap that occurred spiritually, and in world perspective, as God came to us in the person of Jesus.

                      Before the arrival of Jesus, Judaism was the most progressive and unique religion in the world. Before Judaism the majority of the gods worshipped by humanity were gods made up by humans. Most ancient cultures were polytheistic, i.e. having a myriad of gods which they worshipped. Many of their gods were little idols and statues carved out of stone or wood, then used in their worship.

                      Judaism was a breakthrough as the one true living God initiated communication with Abraham and promised to bless the world through him. God gave Israel the Ten Commandments, which was to be the ethical code for those who committed themselves to become the people of the one, true living God. Some of the commandments addressed the ethical codes to have in relating to God, while others addressed the ethics God’s people should demonstrate in their relationships with one another.

                      God revealed Himself to the people of Israel. He appeared to Moses via a burning bush that burned without being consumed. He spoke with Moses, and gave Moses His name, which in Hebrew is YHWH, normally pronounced Yahweh (Yah-way). The name is the Hebrew verb “to be.” So He is the real God, the existing God, who is always existing in the present tense. In English His name would be translated “I am who I am.”

                      God made a commitment to the people of Israel, to be their God and explained that their responsibility was to be His people who give allegiance to the one true living God. This was a huge shift in world thought and religion. Other cultures had many gods, whereas Judaism was monotheistic. Previously no one had ever seen their unknown gods. They saw storms, lightning, rain, but made those things gods rather than manifestations of the power of God. Their gods were always mysterious, far removed from humanity, and man could never reach or interact with such gods.

                      When Jesus was born, the one true living God became a human in the person of Jesus.  God was no longer far removed from humans, He had taken on a human body to come live among us, reveal the values and reality of God to us, live a morally perfect life, and give Himself up to death on our behalf so that all of our sins would be paid in full.

                      Now we can daily have a living relationship with the one true God, who is Himself eternal life.

                      Because Jesus did this, and resurrected from death, we who by faith receive the gift of forgiveness and new life in Jesus enter into a whole new type and quality of life. Now we can daily have a living relationship with the one true God, who is Himself eternal life. In John 3:16 (NASB95) we read: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

                      In John 1:48 we see Nathaniel’s first encounter with Jesus. Nathaniel asked how Jesus knew that Nathaniel was a person in whom there was no guile or deceit. How do you know me? Jesus responded in John 1:48b (NASB95): “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

                      Jesus saw Philip talking with Nathaniel, who was under a fig tree dreaming of Jacob’s ladder.  Jesus saw Nathaniel even though Jesus had not been physically present with Philip. He saw Philip invite Nathaniel to come away to meet Jesus, the Messiah. As we read on, we discover that not only did Jesus know where Nathaniel was when he was invited to come meet Jesus, but Jesus knew what Nathaniel was doing and dreaming about.

                      The Christian faith connects us to God through Jesus, who continually knows where we are, what we are doing, and even what our aspirations or dreams are. Christianity is a relationship with the one true God, who loves us, knows us, and wants to help God’s purposes for our life come true. Quite a change from chanting to a stone idol. God sees and knows you. Do you know the one true God through Jesus, whom He has sent?

                      ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

                      He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.

                        Mountaintop Faith

                        Posted: 3/3/17 at 10:15am. Article by Adam Tyler.

                        Last week, our church joined many others throughout the world in celebrating the transfiguration of Jesus.  Transfiguration Sunday is a day each year when the church remembers the moment on the mountaintop when three of Jesus’ disciples saw him in his full glory:  the radiant Son of God conversing with the prophets of old.

                        Peter is reduced to babbling on about setting up three shelters to commemorate the moment, to stay there on the mountain – but Jesus has other ideas. He leads his disciples back down the mountain, and immediately they are met (according to Matthew) with a person in need: a father with a sick child.

                        Jesus’ disciples are unable to help him, though they’ve cast out this type of demon before, and Jesus grows frustrated. Where is their trust in his power and might, which three of them have just seen revealed in full? Where is their mountaintop faith?

                        The mission team from the Appomattox Baptist Association. Adam Tyler is second from left.

                        This year, I read this text from Matthew 17 in a different light. Three weeks ago, I returned from a mission trip to Ghana, where I and seven others from the Appomattox Baptist Association joined Rev. Emmanuel Mustapha and the More Than Nets ministry. It was an amazing trip!

                        For ten days, we had the opportunity to help save lives by distributing mosquito nets, we joined Ghanaian Baptists in planting five churches, and we baptized 80 new believers. God’s Spirit moved in powerful ways as people heard the Gospel for the first time and responded in faith.

                        The book of Acts came to life around us as God brought people into our path to share the Gospel with in unexpected ways. Going to Ghana was definitely a mountaintop experience, and all of us on the team came home with the fires of our faith burning brightly.

                        Then…life happened. We entered back into the everyday routine of family, jobs, church, and community. For me, it was like walking into a perfect storm of everyday concerns and stresses. Several people in my congregation had health concerns. One family lost a dear loved one, and they asked me to hold the funeral.  Meetings that had been put off because of Ghana had to be made up.

                        I caught a cold, knocking me out of work for a couple of days; as soon as I got better, my wife and son caught it. Very quickly, the faith that had burned so brightly in Ghana – my mountaintop faith – had dwindled to the sputtering candle flame that it usually is: constant, to be sure, but limited.

                        Jesus has some big things for us to do – big things in places like Ghana, and big things in places like home.

                        There’s nothing wrong with everyday faith. Sometimes, that’s all we can muster. But we need to help it to burn brighter. Jesus has some big things for us to do – big things in places like Ghana, and big things in places like home.

                        He expects something from us, to be his servants and representatives, to share his love and grace and power with a hurting and broken world desperate for the good news. There are wounds to bind, lives to improve, souls to introduce to Jesus for the first time. How can we light the world on fire with a sputtering flame? We need the roaring brilliance of our mountaintop faith.

                        When I was in Ghana, I felt bold, I felt committed, I felt ready to do just about anything for God. Why wouldn’t I feel that way here? God is the same. I believe he is just as powerful now as he was then, half a world away. The only thing that is different, really, is me: my trust, my focus, my memory of what I saw.

                        The same God that can save a village in Ghana, the same Christ that can cast out a demon, can work through my teammates, and me, and you, here and now. We can share our faith. We can help save lives. We can do anything God asks us to do here, just as we could in Ghana. All it takes is some mountaintop faith – and we can have it even when we aren’t on the mountain.

                        Visit our Ghana Mission Blog!

                        More Than Nets

                        Your contribution to More Than Nets literally helps save lives through mosquito netting and church planting in Yendi, Ghana. Our goal is to purchase 100,000 nets and plant over 300 churches. We are well on our way and need your help to reach the goal!

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                        Dr. Adam Tyler is pastor of Grace Hills Baptist Church, Appomattox, and serves on the BGAV Executive Board.

                          To What Will Your Lenten Season Give Birth?

                            When the Mission Trip Came Home

                              Tony Brooks: 4 Transformative Benefits of Training for Sunday School/Small Group Teachers

                              Posted: 2/28/17 at 11:05am Post by Tony Brooks.

                              II Timothy 2:15 says: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (NIV)

                              Teachers and disciples must continue to learn. There is nothing more frustrating and disappointing than to hear someone say, “I have learned all I want to learn.” As long as there is breath, we continue to learn and allow God to shape us (See Jeremiah 18.) Today, I want to encourage you to seek teacher training on a regular basis. If you are a public school teacher, lawyer, doctor, nurse, or other professional, you are expected to experience continued education/learning every year. We have a bigger responsibility than all of the above as Sunday School/Bible study teachers. We are asked to facilitate a discussion of God’s Word (alive and transforming.)

                              Here are four benefits of training on a regular basis:

                              1. We always need a reminder of the “why.”

                              From its inception, Sunday School was a missionary and disciple-making endeavor. Over time with our busy schedules, we, as teachers, can become complacent. We can see teaching as just another duty or service. We need reminders that Sunday School/Small Groups are a life-changing and transformative experience.

                              Transformation is essential. James 1:22 reads, Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (NIV) We need to be reminded that Bible study is not just about knowing the Bible, but living accordingly. How do we teach for life transformation?

                              2. We discover new ways of teaching and new resources.

                              At every training conference I have attended over the years, I could always find new teaching ideas:  curriculum, learning style approaches, outreach ideas, ways to care for class members, and wonderful anecdotes to use with my class. One or two ideas, which can be implemented in your class, make it worthwhile.

                              3. We receive encouragement as we meet new teachers and share with each other.

                              Sometimes as a youth teacher, I felt isolated at church. I was the only youth teacher, and I faced joys and frustrations with no one to really understand where I was. Proverbs 27:17 reads, As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (NIV) When I attended conferences for youth teachers, I met others who faced similar struggles and joys. We could stay in touch and continue to encourage each other! Training leads to new relationships with other teachers.

                              4.  Training rekindles our calling.

                              Teachers are missionaries and disciple-makers. We sometimes put this calling on the back burner, and need to be reminded of this fact. Allow the Spirit to fan the flame within you as you seek training. You will come back with a renewed sense of purpose and calling.

                               

                              Here are some Sunday School training events coming up:

                              Webinars:

                              • Connecting Scripture & Digital Teens by John Uldrick. We will discuss reasons why technology is important when we teach scripture as well as how to utilize technology effectively with teenagers in Sunday School on March 23, at 7 p.m. Deadline to register March 20.

                              Register Online

                               

                              • Special Needs: How to make your church a welcoming and inclusive one; and some practical tips on how to present Bible material to those with special needs. This webinar is April 27, at 7 p.m. led by Mary Buckner. Deadline to register April 24.

                              Register Online

                               

                              Training Event for SS Directors

                              National SS Directors TrainingSaturday, April 1, 8:30 a.m.to 3:30 p.m. Registration begins at 8 a.m., at Calvary Baptist Church, 20957 Timberlake Road, Lynchburg. There is no cost since Lifeway will pick up the tab. This is an excellent training. If your church does not have a SS director, your pastor or a staff member can come. Deadline to register March 22.

                              Register Online

                               

                              Brooks-TonyTony Brooks is our Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist and Field Strategist for the Southside Region. You may email him at tony.brooks@bgav.org.

                              Follow Tony on Twitter: @TonyBrooks7