Deuteronomy 6:5-9

"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Lord's promise...

Today, for me, has been one of those days where you wish someone could physically come beside you to help hold you up. We have had so many exciting things happening in our life lately. So many blessings. But the Lord has ways of keeping me humble and depending on Him for everything. So it has been a bad day. Plain and simple.

As I was thinking through some things I started singing the song, Better is one day in your courts. Then I opened the Scriptures and started reading my bible reading plan. I'm reading in 1 Chr. and Psalms. Well God in all His goodness planned for me to be at Psalm 84. I love how the Spirit works.

Psalm 84:10-12
"For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You!"

I love this!!! His is a sun and shield! He gives grace and glory! He doesn't withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightly!

I am blessed because I trust in this Lord! I am so thankful that He is the one that has come beside me to lift me up and encourage me through His word.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Journey @ Parkwood Baptist Church (by: Martie)

The Journey @ Parkwood Baptist Church

My journey at PBC began in a strange and unforeseen way. My family and I had left one church where I served as a youth pastor and were in transition. I didn’t necessarily want to jump right into a ministry position considering I was attending SEBTS and working a part-time job to help support the family. My love for the Lord was strong as was my desire to serve Him. We heard about PBC through a good friend of ours who had talked with the church about possibly becoming the pastor. Upon hearing about this opportunity we began attending PBC. 

The first Sunday my family attended PBC we discovered six individuals in the pews all of who were in their mid sixties and older. There was in addition to these six individual the pastor who was part-time and the pianist. Upon arrival with our two children some of the members graciously took Ethan and Taylor downstairs to share a Bible story and do a craft with them.

As we sat in the service and many after that, it was easy to realize that this church had very little to offer anyone. From my perspective the building was in disrepair, the music was lacking, the preaching wasn’t great, the Bibles in the pews were falling apart, and so many other things. Though PBC did not look hopeful by any stretch of the imagination, God did something miraculous inside of me. I remember sitting in the pew one Sunday thinking deeply about PBC when suddenly God put His finger on a particular sin in my life.

The sin I had fallen into was the sin of consumerism. You see during the transition phase my family had visited several churches in Durham. I had been looking for a church that first and foremost had good solid biblical preaching, a great music ministry, a dynamic children’s ministry, were passionate to reach the lost and so many other factors. PBC was the exact opposite of what in my consumeristic mindset was looking for. On that day God caused me to look inward and I was impressed with this thought: You have been going to churches with a “what’s in it for me” attitude, when in reality I should be approaching churches with a “what can I do to help” attitude.

After that day my mind was made up, I would no longer go to a church asking what can you offer me, but rather, considering the gifts God has given me, how can I best serve God and His people and see His mission accomplished. I then began to look at PBC through the lens of potential. These facilities might be falling apart, but what great potential; these Bibles might be falling apart, but we can get some new ones; etc.

Through some unfortunate circumstances my good friend became the pastor and then left after only three months of serving. This was due to many factors I will not go into here. When my pastor friend left, my wife and I began praying about what to do next. Upon much prayer, we both were convinced that the Lord had called us to PBC to serve and so we decided to remain.

The next several weeks were filled with uncertainty. Who will preach, what is my friend going to think of us staying, what is the Lord’s plan for PBC? A week or so after my pastor friend left the church asked me to fill the pulpit until we could find an interim pastor. At that time I was working two other jobs and was enrolled in school full-time. In spite of my busy schedule, I agreed, thinking it would only be for a week or two.

To my surprise, at the next business meeting, the church asked me to serve as the interim pastor while they formed a committee to search for a new pastor. After much time in prayer, my wife and I agreed this was the right decision. The search committee was formed and the hunt for a pastor was futile. There were not many men interested in coming to such a small church with so little to offer. Those who did apply the committee did not think they would be a good fit. The eventually asked me to submit a resume to be their pastor.

My wife and I began to pray, think deeply about this opportunity, and seek wisdom from others. In the end we concluded that we were convinced that God had called me to pastor, he had gifted me with the necessary gifts, and had put an open door in front of us. Although this came about through some very unusual circumstances, we were convinced this was what God wanted and had even planned. I was later unanimously voted in as the pastor of PBC.

My initial plan was two-fold. I was going to love the people and preach the word. I decided that loving the people was crucial. The people at PBC had gone through a lot through the years. There seemed to be very little confidence and trust in pastors. My plan was to win the people over by demonstrating a sacrificial love for them. Considering, what I perceived as a lack of solid biblical teaching in the past, I was going to immerse myself in the Scriptures and attempt, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to faithfully exposit the Word, verse by verse and word by word.

Early in my first year I studied Matthew 9 and 10. In those passages the Lord shared with His disciples that the harvest was plentiful, but the workers were few. This was something I could identify with at PBC. We had very few people who could dedicate their lives to reaching the harvest. I began to pray, as the Lord instructed, that He, the Lord of the harvest, would send workers. The Lord has answered this prayer from time to time in some amazing ways.

Other than to pray I sought to change very little in the first couple of years of leading PBC. I, to some degree, naively believed that all I had to do was faithfully preach the Word and change would naturally happen. In hindsight I realize I failed to paint a clear picture and effectively lead the church to see where God wanted the church to go, what God wanted the church to look like, how the church was going to reach our community, and what changes would be necessary to be the church God desired us to be.

After discovering this, I began to teach through 1st and 2nd Timothy in order to show the church what God wanted us to focus on and how we should organize ourselves to accomplish His purposes. I shared with the church that I believed the Scriptures clearly demonstrated that an Elder-led church government was how the Lord wanted His church to organize. The church eventually agreed and charged a committee to change our current Constitution and By-laws to reflect this. The church is currently in the midst of these changes and well on our way to making the necessary structural changes.

The Lord has just recently revived my desire to pray Matthew 9 and 10. I again am praying that God would both raise up from among the church and send workers from elsewhere. My desire is that God would raise up and send people whose love for Jesus is unwavering and their passion to know Him and to make Him know enables them to sacrifice everything to see His Kingdom advance.

What is the vision for PBC? Where are we headed and how are we going to get there? These questions cannot be easily answered. In reality we know that the Lord Jesus could return tomorrow and all of our plans would be pointless, but at the same time we need to recognize the Lord has given us a mission to accomplish and we need to be busy seeking to be faithful to His mission.

The mission of PBC is to make disciples of Jesus by going into the world, beginning in our community and expanding to the ends of the earth, and declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit, baptizing and gathering these disciples into the church, and teaching them to obey Jesus Christ that they will worship Him now and eternally to the glory of God the Father.

We will best accomplish this mission as we gather in small groups beginning this fall. These small groups are going to focus on intentional discipleship. As families in the church gather together they will immerse themselves in the Scriptures learning what it means to love and obey Jesus Christ. In these small groups the church will be encouraged to use their God-given gifts, talents, and treasures to both build-up the church and to reach their community and the nations.

This vision in a sense is a recovery of the mission PBC had in the beginning. PBC started out as a church plant that met in homes, shopping centers and in various places. In the beginning the members of PBC were convinced the Lord had sent them to make an impact on this community for God’s sake.

My prayer is that God would send workers, not to the end that He would grow a large church in Parkwood, but rather we would be faithful in making disciples who would GO! They would go and plant churches in Durham, in other parts of the US, and among the places where the good news that Jesus Christ has come, died and rose again has not been heard.

So, the answers to my prayers have yet to be seen. Who will join us on this journey? How many will be willing to give up their consumeristic mindset, like I was enabled to, and sacrifice to the Lord everything. Jesus is infinitely worthy of all that we could give, so why don’t you join us on this journey with the Lord?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy July 4th!

For the last 4 years our church has had the privilege of helping out with our community 4th of July celebration. The first year Martie and I were new to Parkwood Baptist, and we decided to take some freeze pops and pass them out to the children. We were looking for ways to get involved in the community. The next year we asked if we could rent a snow cone machine and pass out free snow cones. We did that a couple of years. Then last year the association asked us if we could pretty much run the whole thing.

The association provides the bounce house, games, cotton candy, decorations... We provide the snow cone machine and the people to help set up, run things, and clean up. This has been one of the most awesome things we have done to "reach" and serve our community. We also bring out our PA system and sing.

I love our neighborhood. It still has that close community feel. Over the years we have come to know the people living around us very well. This is definitely our mission field. I thank God for putting us here, I pray that He will use us to reach many people.

Here are a few of the pictures from our morning. By the way, if you live anywhere near South Durham I highly recommend coming next year! You can tell by the pictures that my kids love the celebration!