Daily Archives: March 19, 2008

Good News, Bad News

After twenty-five years in ministry I am beginning to learn the ups and downs and the twists and turns of the journey. If you are going to survive for very long you must learn to be a “half-full” person. You must hold on to the reality—“the joy of the Lord is your strength” and wipe away your tears with hope.

 I stumbled across a few “good news—bad news” jokes that reminded me that it could be worst!

GOOD NEWS: You baptized seven people today in the river.

BAD NEWS: You lost two of them in the swift current.

GOOD NEWS: The Women’s Missionary Society voted to send you a get-well card.
BAD NEWS: The vote passed by 31-30.

GOOD NEWS: Your women’s softball team finally won a game.
BAD NEWS: They beat your men’s softball team.
GOOD NEWS: Church attendance rose dramatically the last three weeks.
BAD NEWS: You were on vacation.

 I heard it said confession is good for the soul—“I was the pitcher on the softball team”, but the good news is the Texas Rangers are always looking for pitching! Remember never lose hope!

 The Baptist General Convention of Texas released this week their Cooperative Program giving report for January 2008. It was a classic good news/bad news report. Let’s get the bad news out of the way, our churches only gave 90% of our budget needs for this year after we significantly cut our budget and a number of professional positions. We are over $800,000 behind in our giving toward our ministry budget. We must do better.

 Now for the good news, we have given over $600,000 or 1.1% more than last year at this time. I see this as a promising trend. I believe it is a hopeful sign about our future. $600,000 is a great deal of money and can make a big difference as we seek to fulfill our mission.

 A number of years ago, when I was a young pup in the ministry and thought I knew all the answers! I was at a conference that Rick Warren was leading. I will never forget what he said that day. Warren said, “We usually over estimate what we can do in one year, and underestimate what we can do in ten years.” Unfortunately since most of us in ministry rarely stay around for ten years we tend to take a short view on times. We want quick “micro-wave” answers. Our version of praying for patience is “Lord, give me patience, and I want it RIGHT NOW”.  I don’t think it is an accident the Lord used agricultural illustrations when he spoke of His Kingdom. The harvest is not right now—it comes after planting, weeding, sunshine & rain. It comes after months not minutes.

 I believe this February report is something to build on. We still have hundreds of churches holding the ropes. Let’s encourage Dr. Everett, the Executive Board, and our staff to take the long view and dream about where we will be ten years from now!

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The Cross of St. Patrick

The legend of St. Patrick continues to be bigger than life today. This week our nation sported green in honor of a Christian missionary (possibly the first to leave the safety of the Roman Empire) who transform a pagan Ireland into a Christian nation. Often lost in the partying that has become the stable of St. Patrick’s Day with its corned beef and green beer is the story of a fully devoted follower of Jesus.

 The story of Patrick is an amazing story of the hand of God at work in the life of a common ordinary man. As a teen Patrick was captured by slave traders and taken to Ireland to live under the bondage of slavery. By the grace of God he escaped only to return many years later as a missionary. Since Patrick knew very well the customs and the ways of the Irish he was able to translate the gospel of Jesus Christ into their customs and ways.

 One example of Patrick’s evangelistic strategy is the Celtic cross. This distinctive cross can be seen all across Ireland, Scotland and English. The Celtic cross combines the straight lines of the Roman cross with a circle. There is much debate about the meaning of the circle. Some suggest it represent the sun god worshipped by the Irish, or even the moon. Others suggest it represents endless life—or eternal life.

 

The legend goes that Patrick traced the cross over the sun to show how the cross gives life. He took a symbol the Irish worshipped and revered and transformed it into a symbol of Jesus—the savior of their souls. Patrick mastered the art of making the gospel relevant and yet true to its eternal message. The key to reaching a pagan culture is often getting a hearing and helping the people to understand the significant of Jesus.

 We would do well to learn from Patrick in our day. Instead of forcing the world to file into our stained glassed sanctuaries we need to take the gospel to the street and meet people where they are. As our society moves steadily away from its Christian roots it is essential we lay aside our “come and hear” strategy of waiting for seekers to darken our doors, and we need to take up the “go and tell” strategy of Patrick and become the “seekers” of the souls of men and women, boys and girls.

 The next time you see a Celtic cross I pray it will inspire you to share the message of the cross with those around you.

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