Tuesday, March 28, 2017

An Englishman In India

(God is always providing spontaneous, unplanned, and divine appointments in our lives. We simply have to look for them.)
On one of my recent mission trips to India, I was spent several days partnering with with a local Pastor named Sammi. He pastors his own church, founded and runs an orphanage with 37 children, plants villages churches, and installs pastors to lead those churches.

We spent our days conducting evangelistic meetings in the mornings, afternoons and evenings, in three different villages each day.

On one of those evenings, we were in the town where Pastor Sammi had his own church for an evening crusade meeting.

That evening, a large tent was erected in front of Pastor Sammi’s house/church building right on the main road in the middle of town. We were praying for a large crowd of Indian people to hear the Gospel.

(Don’t picture a huge worship center with a beautiful lawn and shrubbery. Think more of a modest, aging stucco structure with a thatched roof, and a dirt yard with a tent in it, along a dirty, busy road.)

During the worship time, a white man (non-Indian) in his mid-thirties walked up to the tent. Pastor Sammi greeted him and introduced him to me. His name was Jonathan.

He told me that he was from England, and that he was here on a month-long spiritual retreat among the Hindu people. I told him that if he stayed around, that I believed he would find what he was looking for.

He stayed, and I preached about the blind beggar who called out to Jesus and whom Jesus told him that his faith had made him see.

After the preaching, as myself and other local pastors were praying for people, Jonathan came up to me and said, “I only speak to experts about spiritual things. I think you are an expert on faith.” Well, needless to say I am no expert, but I do know a thing or two about faith. So we talked, and at the end of our conversation, he committed his life to the Lord!

The next day, Pastor Sammi and I went to the place where he was staying to continue to encourage and challenge him. I gave him my bible, and told him to share what what he found in Jesus with his family and friends when he returned to England.

Jonathan came to India looking for answers, and left having found the Truth! This is why I love to go to India and minister…

Would you like to help financially? You can click on the "Donate" button at the top right of this page, or send checks to me at PO Box 2125, Ft. Oglethorpe, GA 30742. (Please write "India Mission" in the memo line of the check.) Thank you for blessing me!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Have You Ever Hugged A Leper?

As I am preparing for my 15th mission trip to India, I am spending time reflecting on the great things God has done on my previous trips. I remember one day in 2007, on my very first trip to India:

I remember on that trip personally seeing and experiencing things that I had only heard about or read about. On one particular day, God allowed me to see the part of His Kingdom that He loves the most, what most Americans don’t get to see. It shook my soul.

That morning, I had accompanied a local pastor to a very poor area that included a settlement for crippled people. We stopped and spoke with people who had all kinds of physical limitations – twisted limbs, turned feet, unusable limbs – and shared God’s love, then asking if we could pray for them. Just about everyone in the village was Hindu, and the concept of a Savior who not only could forgive sins and heal was very foreign.

A few hundred meters away was a leaper colony, and we went there next. We walked through the village, stopping to speak to people, and groups would form. The pastor would share the Gospel, and then I would lay hands on and pray for the leapers. I remember my heart was so moved with compassion as I saw these outcasts, whom no one loved or wanted to be near.

After I had prayed for the first man, I heard the Lord say to me very clearly, “Hold him.” And so I wrapped my arms around the man and held him for a few minutes. I did this for all of the leapers that I prayed for.

(The Indian culture isn’t big on hugging, so this was very strange for them. Added to that, they were leapers and had not had any human physical contact for perhaps decades.)

When we were leaving, and walking back to the pastor’s car, an old leprous man who had been banished to the colony for over 40 years, came out to the road, hobbling on a stick he could hardly hold. He had heard that we were praying for people, and hugging them. He said: “Pray for me!” I did, and as I held him he put his head on my shoulder and began to cry.

And so India beckons, again....

Would you like to help financially? You can click on the "Donate" button at the top right of this page, or send checks to me at PO Box 2125, Ft. Oglethorpe, GA 30742. (Please write "India Mission" in the memo line of the check.) Thank you for blessing me!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

India Beckons Again...

On Wednesday, April 19th I will be boarding a flight from the USA and traveling to India for 16 days of mission work: Preaching, praying, encouraging, and leading. My brother-in-law, Dr. Pat Kennedy will again be traveling with me as we make our way to an enchanting land whose people have captured my heart.

We will be partnering with three Indian pastors, ministering alongside of men who have been wonderful teammates while in India: Daniel, Ashish, and Kelu. But, this trip will be unlike the others I have taken in recent years.

We normally would assemble and finance a team of Indian doctors and nurses, and along with purchasing medicines would travel by train between Telangana and Kashmir (over 1,350 miles with no interstate highways), stopping each day to conduct medical camps and Gospel meetings in the towns and villages.



Two recent developments are requiring us to alter our plans. First or all, monetary constraints will not allow us to finance the medical team and medicines. Instead, Pat and I will minister several days with Pastor Daniel, then fly to Jammu and Udhampur to minister several days with Pastor Ashish, and finally fly over the Himalayas to be with Kelu in the Muslim region of Srinagar. Pat and I will be on our own for this traveling adventure!



My friend Kelu: This man daily puts his life on the line to bring the Good News of Jesus to the Muslim population of his region where terrorism is commonplace. He suffers from partial paralysis of his right arm and hand because of a beating he received when he converted to Christianity. One of his three children is a special needs child. Yet he joyously goes every day to the city and villages to minister to the Muslim people. He asked me to baptize two new converts when I arrive to be with him. Kelu is my hero.

The second development is that two of my dear friends who were large supporters of my India ministry have passed away in the last year, and that has left a hole in our finances. The Lewis family have pooled resources to purchase my flight to and from India, but I need to travel in-country, as well as some lodging and food.

I do not desire to be a burden on the Indian pastors that we minister with and to, but rather like to bless them financially to meet needs that they have.

Meeting with, pouring into, and encouraging the Indian pastors is some of our most productive time spent.

So I am asking for your help in this endeavor. Pray yes, but consider helping financially. These pastors, especially Kelu, daily risk bodily harm while seeking to expand the Gospel. We desire to stand and minister with them.

You can click on the "Donate" button at the top right of this page, or send checks to First Baptist Church, PO Box 2125, Ft. Oglethorpe, GA 30742. (Please write "Brad's India Mission" in the memo line of the check. You can also send checks directly to me at the same address.) Thank you for blessing me!

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

What Will People Think?

I’m sure all of us have asked this question at one time or another during worship: What will people think? What if I raise my hands? What if I go forward and kneel? What if I shout “Amen?” What if I clap on 2 and 4? (A little musician humor...)
Look what King David did once when the Ark (the presence of God) was paraded through the streets: Wearing a linen ephod (type of clothing), David was dancing before the Lord with all his might. (II Samuel 6:14) He did this publicly and passionately, out in the middle of the street with everyone watching.
David was so filled with joy and a desire to express his praise to the Lord that he publicly danced before the Lord. He didn’t ask, What will people think? (And he had an entire kingdom of subjects who would be quick to judge him.)
I am not advocating that all of us dance before the Lord (unless that is God's specific word to you). I am however, suggesting that we consider what the Lord may be encouraging us to do in worship. And, to make His voice stronger than the voice inside of us asking, What will people think?
A few years ago when I was a youth pastor, I was about to speak at a conference of several hundred high school students. Just before I was to go up and speak, a student was on the stage singing a song called “All Rise.”
As I sat there on the front row, worshipping with my eyes closed as she sang, I felt a prompting in my heart to rise, to stand. She sang, “All rise, All rise, To stand before the throne in the presence of the Holy One.” But these thoughts crossed my mind: "What will people think? I’m the speaker. I need to set an example. What if the students think I’m crazy? Protocol says to sit calmly during a solo.”
Finally, I obeyed the Lord and stood. And as I did, I looked around and noticed that I was the last one to stand. Everyone else had stood and lifted their hands while I was sitting and wrestling with the Lord on whether I should stand or not.


Oh, may we hear the Lord in worship, and obey Him as we express ourselves… Lead Well!

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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Have You Stopped Dreaming?

Have you stopped dreaming? I am not referring to dreaming while you sleep, but rather looking towards a better future. And I am not referring to the “sweet by and by” but rather seeing things as they could be instead as they are.
It seems to me that most dreamers are young. Most dreamers are full of hope, full of optimism, and full of idealism. They are daring. They take risks. They dream.

But as people age, they tend to cut back on dreaming. Some become complacent. Some become discouraged. Some become cold and bitter because life has shut down their dreams.

I am finding that as I age, I could easily fall into a pattern of accepting the status quo, and shuffling along with the rest of humanity.

But I work hard not to fall into that trap. I don't want to become a non-dreamer and a non-visionary. I still expect every seed I plant to grow into a flower. I still anticipate that at the end of a rainstorm there will be the shining of the sun.

I still believe that every melody line that comes from my heart will capture the hearts of others. I still believe that every person I pray for will be touched by God.

I like to believe that God will take my dreams and fuel them with His power so that they become a reality: A melody conceived that touches the soul, a page written that stimulates the mind, a word spoken that encourages the heart.

I have called it hope. I have called it faith. I have called it vision. Sometimes I call it dreaming.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Preparing For Worship: Personal Ministry

(Continuing the thoughts begun three weeks ago on Sunday worship being a culmination and celebration of what God has done in and through our lives during the week.)
How can we make gathered Sunday worship a place celebrate, instead of a place to get “filled-up”? How can the week between Sundays become a positive impact on our lives, rather than a drain on our lives?

We have discussed personal worship and God working in me. Now, allow me to state that gathered Sunday worship should be a culmination of God working through me throughout the week.  Here are some ideas to make that happen:

Our Personal Ministry: We should all minister directly during our interaction with people (see below). And, we should also minister indirectly through prayer. When someone shares a need with us, and when God makes us aware of a need, stop and pray. Don’t “send good thoughts and prayers”, but rather boldly go before the Throne of God and pray, crying out to Him in behalf of that person.

Our Ministry Community: We all have ministry communities. Our small groups, Sunday school class, ministry team, and even our families are great “communities” to have an effective impact on people during the week. As a group, look for and find ways to provide spiritual and practical ministry in the lives of others, and then go minister together!

Our Spontaneous Ministry: Here is our direct interaction with people that God puts in our path. Do you see someone struggling with a “load”? Help them (open a door, carry a box, comfort a crying child, etc.). Do you see a person without enough money to pay for groceries or a meal? Pay for it. Don’t simply go through your day, rather go through your day looking for opportunities minister!

Taking Risks Of Faith: God will put personal and spiritual needs on your heart as you encounter people. When you sense and see these needs, take a risk of faith and speak with them to encourage, and even pray for them. A great way to begin a conversation with a stranger who God has put on your heart is, “Excuse me, but I am a person of faith. Would you mind if I prayed for you?”

Doing these things will give us reason to celebrate in gathered Sunday worship. Imagine entering a gathered worship service being so full of joy because God used you during the week to minister to others… Begin every day looking for ways to minister, and then go and minister! Lead Well!

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Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Preparing For Worship: Personal Victory

(Continuing the thoughts begun two weeks ago on Sunday worship being a culmination and celebration of what God has done in and through our lives during the week.)

How can we make gathered Sunday worship a place celebrate, instead of a place to get “filled-up”? Often we come to corporate worship feeling down, defeated, and empty, looking for filling.
Life is hard, and a lot of times we let it whip us. I believe that gathered Sunday worship should be a culmination of God working in me throughout the week. Here are some things I do:
Praying For Needs In My Life: Often we tell others our “prayer requests” because we like to talk about ourselves. We want people to have pity on our difficult lives. But how many of us really dig in and go before the Lord, and spend time praying for our needs? It’s easy: Pray for your needs. God will answer, we’ll see victories, and have something to celebrate!

Taking Steps Of Faith: Without faith it’s impossible to please God. We can take small and big steps of faith every day as we read what God’s Word says, as God gives us direction, and as we live it out. Being know as a person of faith shouldn’t mean we go to church. It should mean we live our lives by faith, trusting God in everything, every day.

Studying God’s Word: This is different from our daily personal worship time discussed last week. By daily studying God’s Word we learn a biblical worldview, over our culture’s worldview that we tend to live by. Also, daily studying God’s Word teaches us how to live a life of faith. (I study God’s Word in the evenings.)

Becoming Less “Me-centered”: If we’ll honestly look at our lives, we tend to be very me-centered. (Listen to your conversations, read your social media posts, see how often we turn someone else’s story into our story.) It takes effort, but we can change our thought patterns and action patterns to become less me-centered, and more God-centered and other-centered.

These simple steps, exercised daily, will produce victories in our lives. And those victories give us reason to celebrate in gathered Sunday worship. What else can you do during the week that allows God to work in you that gives cause for celebration? Lead Well!

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Best Preparation For Worship: Worship

(Continuing the thoughts begun last week on Sunday worship being a culmination and celebration of what God has done in and through our lives during the week.)
How can we make gathered Sunday worship a place to celebrate, rather than a place to get “filled-up”? How can we become more vibrant Believers who worship out of personal fullness, instead of people who are desperately seeking to get our "Sunday fix"?
I believe that gathered Sunday worship should be a culmination of our personal worship throughout the week. Here is what I personally do each week:
Daily Time Alone With God: This is worship time (for Him), not bible study time (for me). I begin my day using God’s Word to worship, praise and pray, and to give all off my attention to Him, not to me (my needs, my wants, my troubles). Instead of asking of our Daily Time Alone With God "What can I get out of it?" we should be asking "How can I give to the Lord?"
Listening To Worship Music: What better way to spend my driving time, running and workout time, manual work time (mowing, etc.), and “down” time than worshipping the Lord musically. These times have become valuable opportunities to focus on God's greatness, rather than listening to a popular song. This draws my heart consistently to God and who He is. Music that doesn’t exalt Him pretty much stays off my playlist.

Sabbath Preparation: We can learn from much the Hebrew people. On their sabbath day, they worship from sundown to sundown. Their rituals are designed to maximize their worship experience. Years ago our family adopted a Simplify Saturday Evening lifestyle, where we use Saturday evenings to prepare for Sunday worship: Minimal social commitments (we have learned to say "no" to invitations), a relaxed/stress-free atmosphere at home, practical Sunday preparation (choosing of clothes, locating Bibles, etc.), and early to bed (well-rested worshippers worship well).

Worshipping To Prepare For Worship: My Sunday mornings begin with worship (just like the other days of my week). I don’t wait until I enter the Worship Center to begin to worship, but I worship in preparation for worship, and on the way to worship. Yes, there are practical things to do that day, but my focus is on the Lord.

These simple practices have worked well for me in making gathered Sunday worship a culmination rather than a "filling-up" place. And if you notice, they all involve my attention on Him, rather than my attention on me. What can you do during the week in your personal worship to prepare for gathered Sunday worship? Lead Well!

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Corporate Worship: Fill-up Or Pour-out?

A lot has been said about gathered corporate worship being a culmination and celebration of what God has done in and through Believer’s lives during the week. I believe every pastor and worship leader’s heart desire is for gathered worship times to be vibrant and spirited, full of heartfelt praise and intimate worship.
For many Believers, gathered corporate worship is a place to get “filled-up” rather than a place to celebrate. We come empty, rather than overflowing. We are looking to receive, rather than looking to give. (I even worked with a worship ministry member in the past who called gathered corporate worship her therapy, because she spent her days between Sundays empty and lifeless.)
Have you ever felt this way? Do you find yourself entering a worship center with other Believers hoping for a touch from God, instead of entering abounding with praise?
Too often we find ourselves struggling during the week. The pressures of life, the weight of parenting, the stresses of the workplace, the burden of difficult relationships all contribute to emptying us of life rather than making us full of life. We feel loss, failure, insignificance, and defeat.
We cry out to God, but many times we feel like He isn’t listening. We “try to do better”, but find that our efforts are not enough. We pour out our hearts to a close friend (or with everybody on Facebook), but many times they turn it around and make it about their own struggles, rather than offering us significant solutions.
What can we do to change this? How can we live lives to the fullest, so that we can hardly wait for gathered corporate worship? (Not so we can be filled, but so we can let out the praise to God that is building inside of us.)
I will be spending the next few weeks in this space sharing biblical and practical solutions to help us become more vibrant Believers who worship out of personal fullness, instead of people who are desperately seeking to get our "Sunday fix". Watch this Blog for more. Until then… Lead Well!

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