WALK LIKE A MAN (OF GOD)

Clint Morgan

WALK LIKE A MAN (OF GOD)

I walked into my living room to chat with my wife. As I approached, she looked up and said, “Sometimes you walk just like your dad. When you walked in, it sort of gave me a flashback.”

I responded, “I would love to know that I could be half the man my dad was.”

Lynette, of course, was talking about my walk in a literal sense. I, on the other hand, was coming at it from the figurative sense. Either way, I do not consider it an insult to “walk” like my dad. He passed away in 2005, the same year my father-in-law Dr. LaVergne Miley went to be with the Lord. Two great men of God left this world in the same year. My dad was a church planter/pastor in North Carolina. I learned many wonderful things from him. Three things, in particular, come to mind.

  • One, he was absolutely committed to the task. He literally wore holes in his shoes as he went out knocking on doors to share his faith.
  • Second, he was a true man of his word. When he said he would do something you could bank on it. He didn’t use fancy, flattering words. Neither was he curt or disrespectful. He was simply always truthful.
  • Third, in the years he pastored, I never heard him, or my mother, speak disparagingly of anyone in the church. This probably is the biggest lesson learned.

If you ask me, those are pretty big shoes to fill. I may walk from point A to point B as he did, but it is my deep desire to truly “walk”, in the figurative sense, as he did. Do you have a hero in the faith? Do you “walk” as they do?

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Stay or Leave?

Clint Morgan

Stay or Leave?

Stay or leave? That looks like a straightforward question with two possible answers. In most situations, the question does not appear too complicated. However, the stakes go up considerably if your life hangs in the balance of your answer.

In Central Asia, I have met many people who faced this question. Three stories with three different outcomes come to mind.

  • Story 1: A young pastor was told if he preached the gospel one more time in his village, he would be killed. That very night he sent his wife and children away. He brought his case to the village counsel, but his point of view only enflamed the people against him. The threat was repeated in front of all those gathered. The pastor carefully weighed out his options and chose to leave this village and find ministry elsewhere.
  • Story 2: A pastor was told to leave town or he would regret staying. He chose not to leave. He was awakened early one Saturday morning by an angry mob surrounding his house. They tore the gates off the hinges, stormed into his courtyard, entered his home, and beat the pastor severely, leaving him with a broken arm and contusions. In spite of this severe opposition and continued threats, he and his family chose to return to the same village after his recovery and continue serving there.
  • Story 3: A man in prison heard the gospel. He was greatly moved by the message and became a true Christ-follower. Later, he pastored a church in a town with 33 registered mosques and one evangelical church. Threatened many times, he was told to cease preaching in that town. Undaunted by the threats of unbelievers, he happily shared his faith with many people. Each night he sat in his living room, which also served as the gathering place for the believers, for his quiet time. On one such night, several shots shattered the windows of his home and three bullets found their target. He dropped to the floor and soon died.

Now, the question is, which of these three did God’s will? Thousands upon thousands of believers around the world live in constant danger. Let’s lift them up in prayer, asking God to give courage and strength each day to face the opposition Satan hurls at them. Pray, as they live in this challenging environment, they will be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

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Types of Partnerships

Kenneth Eagleton

Types of Partnerships

In previous blogs, we established that partnerships in the International Missions (IM) context are cooperative efforts with organizations working internationally, and we looked at some of the principles that guide our cooperative efforts. Today we will focus on the different types of partnerships.

Partnerships with National Churches. Most of our partnerships are with national associations of Free Will Baptist churches on fields where we no longer have resident missionaries (with a couple of exceptions). IM has a high investment of personnel and finances over a period of several decades in these fields resulting in mature churches, mature spiritual leaders, church growth momentum, and FWB institutions (such as Bible institutes or seminaries). We cannot and should not walk away from them. We must do all we can to cultivate our interdependence, maintain relationships, empower them to continue to effectively evangelize and disciple their country, and facilitate their involvement in an international network of Free Will Baptists. Some of the partnerships in Brazil, Panama, Cuba, Ivory Coast, India, and South Korea have formal agreements of cooperation while in some countries our agreement is informal.

Local Kingdom Organizations. In Uganda, Africa, we partner with Village of Hope, an organization providing shelter, restoration, and training for children caught up in the country’s recent civil war. In Ecuador, we partner with Jungle Kids for Christ (JKC) which takes Christian education into the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle. They not only have a Christian school and a children’s hostel but are also planting a church.

Specialized Kingdom agencies. We partner with an agency that provides opportunities for teaching English in creative access countries (as a means of ministry). Another partner, Bible Missions, works in evangelism, church planting, and leadership training in five countries of Central Asia. Our cooperation with BERACA in Ivory Coast, Africa, provides for medical needs, adult literacy, AIDS prevention initiatives, and micro-loans for those needing to start an economic activity to support their families.

Other FWB organizations. IM also partners with other FWB organizations stateside and overseas for the benefit of our international works. Some of our projects have received the collaboration of WNAC, NAM, the FWB Foundation, Welch College, Randall University, Randall House, our own The Hanna Project (THP), and others.

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Lord, Teach Us to Pray

Clint Morgan

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

Several years ago, at a pastor’s conference, Howard Hendricks pointed out an interesting fact about the time the disciples spent with Christ: nowhere in Scripture do the disciples ask Christ to “teach us to witness” or “teach us to perform miracles” or “teach us to teach.”

We all know the disciples often seemed a bit slow to catch on to the truths Christ was trying to teach. Yet, they honed in on this most important aspect of Christian disciplines and in Luke 11:1 one of the disciples made a very direct request—“Lord, teach us to pray.”

I am convinced this rose to the top of their list because of the example Christ set for them. More than once they observed Him pulling away from the crowd, and them, to spend concentrated and consecrated time with His Father.

Prayer was obviously of primary importance for Christ, the Messiah, and this marked the disciples. More than 25 biblical passages show Christ praying. He talked to His Father about many matters. A few examples are:

Luke 3:21-22—at His Baptism

Luke 6:12-13—before choosing His 12 disciples

Matthew 11:25-26—while speaking to the Jewish leaders

John 6:11—giving thanks to the Father before feeding 5,000

John 11:41-42—before raising Lazarus from the dead

Matthew 26:26—at the Last Supper with His disciples

John 17:1-26—for Himself, His disciples, and all believers just before heading to Gethsemane

Luke 23:34—right after being nailed to the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Luke 24:30—blessing the bread before He ate with others after His resurrection

Luke 24:50-53—blessing the disciples before His Ascension

Just how important is this discipline for us today? Would we request of Him, “Lord, teach us to pray?” Can we be true followers of Christ if we minimize the discipline of prayer?

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Strangers in the Land: Challenges and Opportunities

Clint Morgan

Strangers in the Land: Challenges and Opportunities

Did you know over 40 million immigrants and refugees live within the borders of the U.S.? That’s over 13% of our population!

In the fiscal year 2015, 69,933 refugees were granted asylum in the U.S. It is predicted, as many as 100,000 refugees may arrive in 2016.

What is your reaction to the presence of so many “strangers” in the land? Hopefully, your answer is not “That’s not my problem!” Research tells us this really is the attitude of many Americans and, unfortunately, it doesn’t vary much from Christian to non-Christian groups.

Perhaps the primary question is, “How do I, as a follower of Christ, address the increasing challenges and opportunities before me with the influx of immigrants and refugees in the United States?” If we seek biblical responses rather than politically, emotionally, or culturally-driven responses, then we will embrace their presence by seeing the challenges and opportunities before us.

I think it is safe to say that, as believers, we should look for a solution that reflects God’s love, mercy, grace, kindness, and justice. We should desire to help immigrants and refugees find safety, self-worth/dignity, and acquire the necessities of life in a way that does not create dependency.

Their contacts with believers should comfort, refresh, and breathe hope into them in their transition to a new land, language, culture, and in many cases, a new understanding of God. Their interactions with Christ followers should lead them clearly to the Savior of the world.

Let’s take this matter head on and seek God’s direction. We might get a good start by realizing “92 times in the Old Testament, God refers to strangers (immigrants) and overwhelmingly, God instructs His people to love, welcome, and care for them” (Turnbough, Jeff. “The Nations Among Us.” One Magazine Oct.-Nov. 2014: 14-19. Web. 17 May 2016.).

 

Clint Morgan is the general director of International Missions. He and his wife Lynette served as missionaries in Côte d’Ivoire, Central Asia, and France, prior to him being asked to serve in the office.

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To Die is Gain

Tom McCullough

To Die is Gain

Last time, we accepted the fact that our lives may very well include uncertain futures. Long-term illnesses, sudden debilitating accidents, terminal diseases, unemployment, divorce, wayward kids, a split church, are only examples of some of the detours on the road of life. These are struggles and sufferings no one intentionally plans into his future.

Paul never planned for prison and possible execution either. Yet, he said he could rejoice…even when facing that uncertain future. He said either way—delivered (liberated) from prison, or delivered (separated) from his body—he was a winner.

He knew this because of the life principle that clearly defined him. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” I like the way the Message paraphrases this: “Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead I’m His bounty. Life versus more life, how can I lose?” Indeed, how can we lose if to live means living as Christ’s servant and to die is to live with Christ in glory?

I heard of a missionary agency whose logo included the image of an ox pulling a plow next to an altar of sacrifice. Underneath was the statement, “Ready for either.” That is what Paul was saying. “If God wants me here serving you, well we’ll have a blast doing that. But if God wants me with Him, well what could be a bigger blast than that? I can’t lose.”

The problem with many of us is that we don’t share Paul’s commitment described in that oath. Many today say, by their lives if not with their lips, “For to me to live is…security, or pleasure, or success, or wealth.” If we substitute any goal or person in place of “Christ” we are destined for disappointment. If security is your goal, welcome to a world of worry. Burglars break through windows and insurance premiums won’t keep you from being “t-boned” at the next intersection. If wealth or success is your goal, then get ready for disappointment. Stock markets crash and home values plummet, and you have no control over either.

Paul, in effect, concludes that no one can say, “To die is gain,” unless you have first said, “to live is Christ.” For anything else, “to die is loss”—loss of security; loss of wealth; loss of position, etc.

Here’s the bottom line from Philippians 1: It is possible to rejoice when facing uncertain futures when the worst thing that can happen is to go to be with Jesus.

Tom McCullough, a former missionary to France, concludes 12 years on the Board of Free Will Baptist International Missions in July 2016. Tom currently pastors in Michigan.

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Lessons in the Games

Clint Morgan

Lessons in the Games

Paul, the student at the Bible institute in Côte d’Ivoire referred to in the previous blog, did play sports. As predicted, he was not the greatest player. But, he worked hard and became a pretty decent volleyball player. Soccer never did excite him, but he did not complain about playing. At times, I could sense he was mustering up every ounce of tolerance to play soccer. Again, he did not complain.

We came to the end of the first semester and sat down to debrief. Of course, the subject came up concerning the lessons learned by playing soccer and volleyball.

Paul was, and is, a perceptive person. When I asked what he had learned from playing sports, he presented a striking list.

·      As part of a group I must do what the group is assigned to do

·      Rules must be obeyed in the games

·      Referees have authority to apply the rules and discipline those who do not respect them

·      Players must respect those in authority

·      Rules are equal for every player

·      Encourage those who are not very competent

·      Be prepared to cover someone else’s task if they can’t (or don’t)

·      There are times when you simply have to do things you are not comfortable with

As we went through this impressive list of lessons learned, I was once again reminded of how similar life and ministry are to sports. As you look back over the list do you see the parallels?

The Bible presents us with an inspiring list of how we are to treat others. Many of the lessons learned from sports are really biblical principles lived out. When we apply biblical principles in life, things go much smoother and victories come more often.

Take a few minutes to read through these “one another” verses: John 13:34; Romans 12:10; 1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11-12; Ephesians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Philippians 2:3; Galatians 5:13; Colossians 3:13-16; 1 Thessalonians 4:18; 1 Peter 3:8;
James 5:16; Colossians 3:9
 

Photo credit: ©  | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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NON-VARIABLES OF PRAYER

Clint Morgan

NON-VARIABLES OF PRAYER

Believers have a plethora of ideas and concepts about the Christian discipline of prayer. Studies, books, pamphlets, essays, sermons and much more has been written about prayer. People discuss at great length the why, how, what, when, and where of prayer. We refer to some individuals as prayer warriors and we think other people pray very little, if at all. It is simple and complex all at the same time.

In what I have seen, heard, and experienced, I am convinced several non-variables exist in this matter of praying. Rather than a definitive list, the following should be viewed as food for thought. We can conclude prayer is:

  • Founded on a personal relationship with a Holy God
  • A spiritual encounter
  • An exchange between holy people and a Holy God
  • Entering into the presence of God
  • Focused on God
  • Grounded in faith
  • Knowing God is willing to act
  • An implied willingness on our behalf to do what He asks of us

In Robinson’s commentary on the Book of Job he wrote, “Prayer is like the dove that Noah sent forth, which blessed him not only when it returned with an olive-leaf in its mouth, but when it never returned at all”. Ultimately, we know prayer is an integral part of the Christian life and, whether we fully comprehend it or not, we are instructed to “pray without ceasing.” 

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Let’s Eat Meat!

Clint Morgan

Let’s Eat Meat!

(Part 1 of 2)

What greater culinary delight than to go to a real Brazilian churrascaria (grill)? If you have a carnivorous tendency this is ideal. The waiters bring out a continuous flow and variety of juicy meats begging to be eaten in adequate quantity.  They keep bringing meat options until you give the appropriate signal that enough is enough. 

In this day and age, it is a bit dangerous, at least in some circles, to talk about eating meat. That declaration is often followed up with a talk (i.e., lecture) about the dangers of eating something that comes from anything “with a face.” 

My wife is very much into what is referred to as clean eating. I thought I was pretty much in favor of that because I’ve never cared much for food that’s dirty. But it didn’t take long to figure out that “clean eating” is a euphemism for “stay away from the meat.” 

I am in favor of eating meat—in moderation, of course. As I told my dear wife in jest, “I don’t think God put the cows on earth to be worshipped. I think He wants the Baptists to eat them and I want to do my part.” Obviously, that is a humorous exchange about a very serious subject.  We must take care of our bodies and that includes eating properly.

In I Corinthians 3:1-2, Paul addressed a very serious matter in the Corinthian church. In his usual manner, he hits the problem head on stating, And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

Four key words figure in this passage and they can be paired in the following manner: carnal-milk, spiritual-meat. Paul began this exhortation with a troubled spirit.  His desired to address them as “spiritual” but can’t because they are “carnal.”

In this context, the word carnal signifies someone whose hopes and desires are controlled by unregenerate passions. It is this factor that prohibits people from discerning the difference between right and wrong. Paul was compelled to speak of the very simplest of Christian principles to these believers. They should have been far advanced in their walk, but that obviously was not the case. 

The fact is many believers today are in the same condition. They have been believers for years, and yet, they exhibit no clear indicators of spiritual growth. 

To put it in cross-cultural terms, “I would love to take you to the spiritual churrascaria, but you must drink milk so you will not choke.” Makes one want to grow up!

Luke 2:40, Hebrews 6:1, 2 Peter 3:17-18

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Times of Solitude

Clint Morgan

Times of Solitude

I am a certified, card-carrying extrovert. When I was younger I could hardly stand to be alone for any extended period of time. I wanted to be around people and participate in constant conversation.

My introverted friends could not understand my perceived need for social interaction. Conversely, I couldn’t comprehend their need to be alone. We all know that both personalities are normal but very different.

Time and experience can hone our temperament and give us a different perspective on life, and perhaps even of ourselves. I have seen an interesting shift in my thinking—moving me from a desire to continually be with people to a need for times of solitude.

I attribute this personal shift to aging, a sense of being drained at all levels, and, most of all, the real need of spiritual renewal. Being around people constantly can drain one of physical, emotional, and yes, spiritual energy. Just as we need food to refuel our physical energy we need time for emotional renewal and spiritual restoration.

Another defining cause of this modification in my thinking is the ongoing spiritual warfare we experience in the States and hear about from our missionaries serving overseas. As we train new missionaries, we give a strong emphasis to the need of times of spiritual renewal. I can’t say they really grasp the significance of it at this point, but they will.

We encourage our missionaries to take time (half or whole day) each week to focus on spiritual renewal. It is assumed they have a daily quiet time. The “time of solitude” is in addition to, not intended to replace, their daily Bible study and prayer time.

Jesus set an example for us. He took time away from His disciples and other people to spend a time solely with His Father.

So, whether you are extrovert or introvert, please consider setting aside a time of solitude and allow God’s Spirit to renew your spiritual strength and prepare you to stay at the task to which He has called you.

 

Mark 1:35, Mark 6:45-46, Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12

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