This Weekend is the Compassion Experience

This weekend is the Compassion Experience. I am excited about introducing this ministry and missions opportunity with you. I want to thank you for your trust in me in bringing the Experience to our church and the opportunity to challenge our church in this ministry. You may have some questions about Compassion International and why we are doing this, so let me see if I can help.

Why are we doing this? Without sounding over-spiritual, the short answer is that I believe that this is something that God would want us to do. I have built a relationship with Compassion over several years. John Carswell of Compassion, who you will meet Sunday, is a person I have grown to trust. A couple of our members traveled with John to Honduras last December. They came back excited about the possibilities. We have taken this very slow, but I believe that now is the time to dive in completely.

Why are we doing something beyond the scope of our cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention? This is a great question and one that I have wrestled with internally for quite some time. First, why not? We are not taking away from our support of those mission efforts. Secondly, we have noticed that the younger generation of believers is seeking hands-on mission projects in an effort to teach their children about the needs of the world. I do not see this as contradicting our mission efforts through our historical SBC relationships. Rather, I see this as beginning an exciting new partnership.

If you have other questions, I hope that you will contact me directly.

Help us meet our initial goal of sponsoring 200 kids.

Please go to fbclaf.org/compassion and make your reservation to go to the Compassion Experience. Invite lots of people to come with you. We have over 1700 people signed up to come, but we have room for more, especially on Friday and Monday.

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Will He Hear?

I am preaching this summer on the stories of Jesus—the parables. Jesus was a master story teller. People of Jesus’ day were not really any different from people of today in the sense that they related to stories. Jesus took these stories using the familiar things of everyday life in the first century to capture the attention of His listeners.

One of those parables that can be misunderstood is the Parable of the Widow and the Judge or as it might sometimes be called, The Parable of the Persistent Widow as recorded in Luke 18:1-8.

Literally, the word parable means “to throw alongside.” Jesus took these stories and threw them alongside the principles that He was teaching. I’ve always thought these few principles help us to interpret parables.

Basic Principles for Interpreting Parables:

1. Look before and after the story.

We find the point of the parable usually either right before or right after the story. In The Parable of the Widow and the Judge, we actually get both! What is this parable about? Just look at verse 1 and 8.

2. Look for the unusual detail of the story.

We find the point of the parable usually in the unusual detail of the story. And remember, this is the unusual detail in the 1st century setting, not the 21st century. For example, consider the most well-known parable of all—the Prodigal Son. The twist in the story is that the younger son asks for his inheritance before the father dies. If that is not enough of a surprise, we are dumfounded to learn in the story that the father grants the request. The use of this unusual detail is Jesus’ hook to “Come in close and listen.”

In the Luke 18 parable, we must understand that widows had no rights. Widows did not get hearings with judges, and in the rare case that she did, the judge would surely not listen.

3. Look for the point of the story.

We need not press every detail of the story, but rather look for the “punchline” of the story.

So, what’s the big idea of The parable of the Widow and the Judge?

If a judge, who is no respecter of person and does not fear God, hears the cry of a widow, who had no rights or privileges, how much more will a righteous God hear the cries of His Children!

God is not like the judge, and we are not the widow. Will He hear? The answer is a resounding, exclamatory, “YES!”

So What?

• Pray with Desperation

The widow was desperate. She had no rights, but she had no choice. Prayer begins at the point of our desperation.

• Pray with Duration

Don’t think of it as pestering God. Here and elsewhere, we are told to pray unceasingly. The context of this parable goes back at least to 17:20. How long are we to pray about a matter? Until He comes!

• Pray with Dependence

Look to the next parable—The Pharisee and the Tax Collector. There’s at least a little bit of Pharisee in all of us.

• Pray with Deep Faith

Here may be the greatest question of all. Remember the context established back in 17:20. “When He comes will He find faith?”

(This post is based on the message “Will He Hear?” which you can watch at fbclaf.org/video)

What If Your Mother’s Day Is Not a Hallmark Movie?

What if your Mother’s Day is not a Hallmark movie?

Naomi, the mother-in-law of Ruth, had every right to ask that question. Ruth could too for that matter. After a couple of names and places in the opening verses 1-3, verses 4 and 5 have a staccato-like feel filled with a series of events that could simply be labeled, “Bad News.”

The Bible tells us that at some point in this time of the judges, there was a famine in the land of Promise.  (Ruth 1:1). Living in Bethlehem (a town that means by the way, the house of bread), there was a man by the name of Elimelech (God is my King) and his wife, Naomi (Pleasant or Sweet One). They had two sons—Mahlon and Chilion. By the way, Mahlon means “sickly” and Chilion means “frail.” Can’t you see it? It’s a rather sad tale. “Hello, my name is ‘God is my King’ and this is my wife, ‘Sweet One.’ We are from the ‘House of Bread,’ but we left there, because there was a famine in the land, and we were about to starve to death. Meet our two kids, ‘Sickly’ and ‘Frail.’” The old line, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all” comes to mind. We might laugh, but believe me, they weren’t laughing. It could be that their move to the land of Moab was specifically tied to Elimelech’s doubts about God. Moab was a place known for great sin against God. This family went to the land of Moab, outside of the land of Promise, back across the Jordan River and on the other side of the Dead Sea. Not long after being there, Elimelech died. The sons married women from the land of Moab—one named Orpah and one named Ruth. Not long after that and before any children were born, Mahlon and Chilion died.

No Hallmark movie, I assure you.

So, what do you do if your Mother’s Day is no Hallmark movie? I think we can learn several important principles from Ruth’s story.

  • Expect Life to be filled with Challenges

There is a lot happening in Ruth 1:1, and this one verse gives us some pieces of the puzzle of the challenges of life. This was the time of the judges. There was a famine. They decided to go to Moab. So, let’s see, some challenges are from the culture (“time of judges”), some are natural (famine), and others are our own doing (move to Moab).

  • Engage in Christ-Honoring Relationships

After all the men died, Naomi decided to return to Israel. Ruth could have stayed in Moab, but in a touching scene, she commits to her mother-in-law, no matter what. See, when life gets challenging for us, I am afraid that one of our reactions is to shut down and shut people out of our lives. In reality, we should be doing just the opposite.

  • Eliminate the Conclusion that there is no hope.

The beautiful love story of Ruth and Boaz almost got derailed by Naomi’s hopelessness. We see that hopelessness in 1:11-14 and then again in 1:20-21. Naomi had lost everything, but the greatest thing she had lost was her hope.

Hopelessness is the enemy of faith.

  • Exercise faith in all Circumstances.

Everything Ruth does, she does by faith. We exercise faith by faith. We exercise faith when we don’t necessarily have a lot of faith.

  • Be Eager for God to have the Climactic Word.

The story of Ruth ends with the announcement of the marriage of Ruth and Boaz and the announcement of the birth of their son—Obed. A few generations later, we get the birth of King David, the greatest King Israel would ever know. Later, of course, we get from David’s line the birth of King Jesus. The story of Ruth not only becomes a love story for a few people living in Bethlehem, but points to a love story for all the world also stemming from a little place called Bethlehem.