Joining Hearts and Hands In Mission with Christ

And Ye Shall Be Witnesses Unto Me

“…and ye shall be witnesses unto me…” (Acts 1:8)

The “ye shall be” in the verse cited above is a plural not a singular “ye”.  In the Greek the word is “esesthe”.  It is the 2nd person plural form of the future tense verb “eimi” meaning “shall be”.  In our Southern vernacular we’d say “y’all”.  Or in my mountain upbringing we might even say, “yunces”.  The point being, it is all inclusive.  Nobody is left out.  You, y’all, yunces, however you slice it, it involves us all.  Every one is expected to be!

With that in mind I want to share with you from the seventh chapter of Avery Willis’s book entitled, Biblical Basis of Mission, a condensed version of an imagined summit between Satan and his emissaries of darkness and deceit as they began to battle the growth of the new found Church in the first century A.D.

Satan opens the summit saying, “We need a new strategy.  Since the Pentecost sensation, our strategy of intimidation and murder has not stopped the church.  Their leaders are not our problem, be we can’t stop the ordinary people.”

Then another demon added, “They talk about Jesus spontaneously, whether they have a leader or not.  When we scatter them by persecution, it is like trying to stamp out a grassfire.”

And another chimed in, “When we kick them out of synagogues and public meeting places, they just worship in their homes.  When we have services banned, they go to the catacombs”.

As the evil spirit beings sat in silent despair, Satan suddenly stood to his feet and declared, “I have it!  We’ll make Christians think that only leaders can witness.  We can tell them that leaders are different and no one else is equipped to do their jobs.”

Then another demon suggested, “We can tell the leaders they should have authority in the church.  They’ll gladly fall for that! Then we can give pastors so many different jobs to do that they won’t have time to pray, or study the Word, or to equip the saints, or to otherwise help the church to grow”.

“Right”, injected another evil one,  “And we could give the pastor special designations or titles to make him different.  For instance, we could say he is ‘full-time’ so the members will think their ministry is only part-time.  We could say he is the servant of God so members would think they aren’t.  We could even say he has surrendered for special service so that they think their service isn’t important. We’ll make them all think he has special status and that they are rank amateurs.  We could even make them believe that missionaries who go to other races and places are holier than anyone else so that they would never dream of being a missionary.  Our kingdom will not be in danger if we can keep church members passive and we have to fight only overburdened leaders”.

Chilling thought, isn’t it?  I am not so sure how imagined it is.  As I write these words, we have just recently completed SPLASH 2016 and I can begin to see possibilities of reversing those lies from the pits of hell.  I think we averaged 166 folks, not counting drivers and cooks, and some other behind-the-scenes people, reaching out in direct witness to people right here in Gordon County.  Some may have sung, played bingo, or simply visited with a resident in a nursing home.  Others may have put a roof on a house or trimmed shrubbery.  Still others may have worked in a backyard Bible club, or a Boys & Girls club or Imagination Station.  Others may have painted or done repairs.   Still others may have been sharing door-to-door, or preaching on a street corner, or sharing in a fire house or police headquarters.  But the simple truth of the matter is, when it was all said and done more than 50 new souls had accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior.  And there is no knowing how many more will yet come to trust Him as a result of our efforts.  Hallelujah!

By the time you read this, we will be in the midst of, or just finished with, our On Mission Connection Revival.  We are praying that even more will sense their call to missions.  It is only as every single one of us begin to realize that all of us are needed to truly impact our world that we will ever get that job done.

People need the Lord!  But you may be the very one God intends to tell them.  As someone said to me just the other day, “I don’t know about you, but God is convicting me that I need to be doing a whole lot more about sharing Jesus with others.”  Could God be saying the same to you and me?

Appeal To Heaven

“Four our conversation is in heaven: from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”  (Philippians 3:20)

Appeal to Heaven FlagWhether you are aware of it or not, our nation was actually created on a very personal and powerful appeal to heaven. Let me explain.

Some know it as the “Pine Tree” or the “Liberty Pine” flag. Others call it the “Tree of Peace” flag. Still others know it as “Washington’s Cruiser” flag. It may be best known as the “Appeal to Heaven” flag. But whatever its moniker, it plays a significant role in the history of our nation. Nearly a full year before Betsy Ross was commissioned in 1776 to sew the “oh-so-familiar” Stars and Bars, the “Appeal to Heaven” flag was chosen to fly over America’s first naval vessels.

The American colonies found themselves in turmoil in the summer of 1775. Shots had been fired. King George had declared the colonies in rebellion. When unanimously appointed as general over the Colonial forces on July 3, 1775, George Washington quickly commissioned (at his own expense) six schooners to be used in intercepting British military supply ships. These six ships quickly became known as “Washington’s Secret Navy”. But lacking a flag to fly under Washington carefully chose a white background with a large green pine tree in the center and the words “An Appeal to Heaven” boldly emblazoned across the top.

There were several events or thoughts of significance behind these choices. The Pine Tree was chosen for several reasons. It had long been a symbol of importance to the colonies.

Known as the “Tree of Peace” it had been a sacred sign of the Iroquois Indians for over 1,000 years in America. At a very troubling time in their history, a peacemaker convened six large tribes from the Great Lake areas and brokered peace and unity in the region. The treaty was ratified by burying their war hatchets under a great pine tree. Thus came the familiar phrase still used today of “burying the hatchet” and the symbolism of the pine.

In 1744 the Iroquois leaders met with the colonial leaders to describe to them their form of government. Benjamin Franklin began publishing their ideas and then in 1754 formally presented “The Albany Plan”, proposing that the colonists form a union loosely patterned after the Iroquois Confederation. As the Continental Congress met in 1775 the Chiefs of those Six Nations were formally invited to attend their Philadelphia meeting. Thus the “Tree of Peace” began to be known as the “Liberty Tree” among the colonists and would begin to appear on coins, medals, banners and all sorts of flags– especially those flown in the fight for freedom.

Along with the influence of the Native Americans an act by the King of England concerning the harvesting of pine trees in the colonies added greater meaning to this symbol. The colonists depended heavily on the wood from the pine tree for many aspects of their livelihood. This wood was used to build homes, furniture, tools, ships, and to make fire. These New World pines were old growth trees and were rumored to be some of the best in the world. With diameters of six feet and heights reaching 230 feet the King sought to harvest the best of these pines for use in constructing vessels for the British Royal Navy. Utilizing the “Broad Arrow Act”, the king ordered soldiers to mark certain trees for use of the king without regard to the location of the tree, even if on private property. That “Broad Arrow Act” infuriated the colonists and strengthened the pine tree’s symbolism in American society.

But how about the phrase “Appeal to Heaven”? Where did it originate and what is its significance? It is actually a call to action from the pen and heart of an English political philosopher of the 17th century by the name of John Locke. Those words along with many others came to influence the formation of American government. Locke, in his Second Treatise of Civil Government, published in 1689-90 lays out the idea of a Natural Law established by our Creator wherein the government are granted inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and property. (Does that sound familiar?) Then he goes on to say that when the body of people, or even individuals, find themselves deprived of their rights and appear to have no appeal hear on earth, then they indeed have a liberty to “appeal to heaven”. And even if they are far outnumbered and out supplied God will come to their aid as they take a stand for that which is right.

With that in mind it might be important to note that it is reported that Washington carried one of these flags into every battle in which he fought. It might also be noteworthy to share that just a few months after Washington’s Secret Navy officially launched, one of their schooners, the “Lee”, overtook and captured a British Brigantine, named the Nancy, and seized muskets, flint, gun powder and other supplies that would end up supplying the American forces for more than a year. This seizure inspired the Massachusetts navy of 25 ships to defend the coast from the British. In 1776 Massachusetts adopted this flag for its own navy and eventually allowed their navy to be absorbed into the United States Navy

So now the flag stands, not just in our American history, but as an inspiration (if not a clarion call) specifically to American Christians to once more come together in unity, bury our hatchets, and appeal to heaven for help. It is a call to action to lay aside those petty issues which tend to divide us, bury the hatchets of racial, denominational and generational prejudices, and unite: in humbling ourselves, praying, seeking God’s face, and turning from our wicked ways.

Then somewhere in the future annals of history some generation to come may learn of a time when God’s children listened and obeyed the Lord as he beckoned and were able to see their land healed. May the pine tree’s triangular shape remind us of our heavenly Father, his precious Son and the indwelling Holy Spirit calling us to action—pointing us heavenward! May its evergreen boughs remind us of the eternal impact our actions can have. And may those words indeed encourage us to make our appeals where they can truly be heard and granted.

I am asking for as many churches as will to focus their worship this July 3, 2016 toward that end. We are calling it “Citizenship Sunday” A call to solemn assembly by the Gordon Memorial Baptist Association Seeking Christians to come in repentance and appealing to heaven on behalf of our Nation.

Doug Ledford

Waiting on the Lord

“…let none that wait on thee be ashamed…” (Psalm 25:3)

My sisters and I were huddled on the roof of the basement porch waiting—not for the fire department to arrive and rescue us, but for something we considered to be far more important. It really wasn’t as precarious a place to find ourselves as it might seem. It was probably about a four foot by four foot concrete slab. To get there, you simply had to climb over the carport wall out onto the roof of the entry porch below. It wasn’t for any sort of daring thrill getting there might afford us. It was instead the view that porch roof offered.

We had simply chosen that space, for it afforded us the best view of where the road to our community began at the bottom of the hill. Perched atop the porch roof we could see the very moment someone turned off NC Highway 209 onto that dirt road known as Miami Drive nestled in what was affectionately referred to as Bowlegged Valley by some and Skunk Holler by others.

We had our eyes set and our mission in mind. You see, we were anticipating a party. But we could not go to it until the ones who had invited us got back home to throw it. And so we waited, not so patiently, craning our necks and straining eyes, not wanting to miss the very moment the Meloneses turned between Rule Noland’s and Louisa Boyd’s houses and began the ascent up Miami Drive.

And though it seemed the time would never come, it did indeed finally arrive. And that afternoon I tasted for the first time, those browned twisted salt-laden snacks known as pretzels. I remember the whole incident so vividly for I recall my dad teasing me later that night as I cried with my legs so painfully cramping that it was those twisted up pretzels I had eaten were now twisting up the muscles in my legs. Yet I reasoned in my mind that even if that was the case, they were still worth it. It had been a glorious day filled with wonder and surprise. It had all been well worth the wait.

If the Lord can give us such pleasant memories of such simple things here on earth, can you begin to fathom what kinds of plans He must have for you and me on the other side of glory? It sometimes makes me long for a basement porch roof where I can see the very moment He turns up the road to the house. How about you?

It also whets my appetite of how and when He is going to answer prayers that I have lifted before His throne. It reminds me that those too will be worth the wait. I can certainly sympathize with David as in the first verse of the 25th Psalm he declares, “Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.” And then in verse three he says, “Indeed none of those who wait for You will be ashamed.”

The word in Hebrew is “qavah”. It literally means: waiting together, tarrying together expecting together.” Are you getting my drift? Praying often involves waiting. And waiting is easier done in the company of like-minded friends or family. As the scripture itself says, “Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9)

Gary Bowman and I spent most of last Thursday not just learning about prayer and how to pray, but actually praying. Based around the Battle Plan for Prayer, book written by the Kendrick Brothers and inspired by the movie, “War Room” the seminar was designed to move God’s children from basic training to targeted strategies in praying.

One of the things we must always remember is that praying is an on-going process. We are taught over
and over again throughout the scripture to keep on praying, to not lose heart, to not get discouraged, to be persistent. What seems like delay is really only an opportunity to keep on praying. It is a chance to remind God and yourself just how important what you are praying for really is. We serve a loving God who does indeed want to give us the desires of our hearts.

Are you praying for Revival? Have you swallowed your pride, voiced your concern, sought Him, and repented of your sin? Just keep doing so and wait! It will be worth it!


Connecting With Missionaries From Around The World

“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17

There are some folks I’d love to connect with one more time before I leave this old world. Some were from Missouri. Others were from Louisiana. We and another couple were from North Carolina. One couple came from Virginia. Yet another found their roots in Brazil. But we had all found our way to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX and over a three year period or so grew extremely close. We prayed together, worshiped together, witnessed together, sometimes studied together, at times repaired our vehicles together and, from time to time shared together plans about our futures.

Ted & Cathy were heading to Africa. Richard & Rachel were committing to Chicago. Mike & Janice were going to Portugal. Roger & Sue were planning to serve in China. We had tentatively looked at a possibility in Oklahoma and more seriously at one in Tennessee; but had yet to hear precisely where God was going to lead us.

All of us cherished our time together knowing that it would shortly come to an end as God sent us out to varying places around the world. In fact, as time to launch out grew closer and closer we began to teasingly question each other, “E.E or C.W.T.? When you are out in the jungles of Africa, which will it be?” It was sort of our insider challenge more than a joke. Most would probably have no earthly idea what we are talking about, but let me see if I can explain.

It all had to do with evangelism strategies—ways of sharing the gospel. E.E. Stood for “Evangelism Explosion” a method of sharing the good news, created by Dr. D. James Kennedy, the then senior pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. It was such an effective method of sharing the gospel that the Southern Baptist Convention negotiated with Dr. Kennedy to use his method throughout the convention. As such, South Cliff Baptist church (the church where several of us were members in Fort Worth at the time) had actually become an international training center. People came from literally all over the world to learn how to share the gospel more effectively.

But then someone with a powerful enough voice to be heard within the ranks of our Southern Baptist Convention began to question if we were not smart enough to develop a witnessing strategy of our own. Thus was born a close facsimile of E.E. Called C.W.T. That stood for “Continuing Witness Training.” About that same time South Cliff’s senior pastor changed. So on the “meet the pastor night” before the prospective pastor would be heard and voted on the next day, one of the seminary students asked a very direct question about E.E. Versus C.W.T. The response of; “I see no need to change anything that doesn’t need fixing.” seemed to satisfy the inquisitor, but nevertheless six months later we found ourselves shifting from E.E. to C.W.T. as an entire church. And so our insider question began. It was really a reminder that the method didn’t matter, the mission was and still is the same. We were all to be witnesses. We were all called to share the good news wherever we went. Those connections and that phrase still stir the coals of commitment within me and create a yearning to connect yet one more time.

During those seminary days there were so many connections that provided not just comradery, but challenge and commitment, and concern, and correction and even change. As the scripture itself says, “Iron sharpeneth iron…” That is why it so excited me when we started talking of an “on Mission Connection Revival” here within our association. It is a chance for everyone in our Association to experience something of what we experienced in seminary—connecting with missionaries from around the world in a way that greatly enhances our commitment to God, our concern for one another, and our call to be a witness for Him.

Based on a simultaneous four-day revival format each participating church will have a different assigned missionary in their own church for each of the five meetings—Sunday morning, Sunday night, Monday night, Tuesday night, and Wednesday night. Not only will they get to rub shoulders with missionaries from around the world, we are praying the Holy Spirit will move powerfully among us during that time and we’ll see people come back in service and commitment to the Lord, we’ll see unsaved folks get saved and we’ll even see people get called to full-time Christian ministries.

But for that to happen, just like a regular revival, God’s people need to begin now to pray, and promote, and prepare, and pursue how God will use you to make it happen.


Continue In The Faith

If you continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel…” Colossians 1:23

Have you ever faced an issue that you felt like you were in over your head? Did you begin to wonder if you needed to call in the big guns to assist you? Have you ever felt like you just needed someone who knew a little more than you did to come alongside and address with real authority whatever the issue was? I really believe that is how the letter to the Colossians came to be written.

Did you know that Paul never started (or for that matter) never even actually visited this church to which he was writing? It looks as if this church may very well have been started by a lay person named, Epaphras, whose name (by the way) means handsome (I’ll give you that for free).

At any rate, Epaphras apparently came to trust Jesus as Lord under Paul’s ministry. He apparently learned about Jesus and got saved while living or visiting Ephesus. But when this handsome dude got back to Colossae, he along with a well-to-do fellow named, Philemon, witnessed to folks and established a church there, perhaps even in Philemon’s house.

But then some “know-it-alls” came into the church there at Colossae and tried to upset the applecart. They started insisting that salvation and forgiveness depended upon Jesus plus something else—including angel worship and acts of extreme self-denial. Believers began to have doubts about their relationship with Jesus Christ. So Epaphras made an emergency trip to Paul in Rome to seek his advice in dealing with these issues.

Paul quickly let it be known that what these “Gnostics” were calling for was not right. He took some time to remind the Collosians, as well as you and me, that Jesus alone is sufficient. There are really only two things you must do in order to have Jesus present you holy, blameless, and beyond reproof before Him. There are only two conditions that must be met! Do you know what they are?

#1. You must CONTINUE!

“Epimenete” is how it is stated in the Greek. It is a present indicative, which means it is an on-going process. You must keep on keeping on. You must remain. You must persist on. You must preserve. You must prolong to stay. You must constantly adhere to. You must continually embrace what? FAITH! You must continue in faith. Of course to continue in it means you had to at some point in time have put your faith in Him.

And it cannot be just any kind of faith. Paul clarifies that it must be “founded” or “grounded” faith. He insists that it must be the kind of faith that will keep you to the culmination of this life. It is a faith that it is by God’s gift of grace you are forgiven and made right with Him. It is a trust that if you confess your sin he is faithful and just to forgive your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. He will present you spotless before the heavenly Father if you will but continue in faith that he will do so for you. #1. You must continue in FAITH!

#2. You must not be moved!

Every time I go see my movement disorder specialist, I know that part of my exam will involve the doctor standing behind me, suddenly tugging on my shoulders and telling me not to let him move me. It is not me simply deciding to move or not move, but literally bracing myself against someone else trying to move me.

That is what Paul is talking about here. He uses a compound word: “meta”–against and “kineo”– movement. But you must not be moved, you must be against movement, from what or where? HOPE!

And this hope is not just some pipe dream or unassured wishful thinking kind of hope, but rather it is a confident expectation. It is an assured confidence in the HOPE of the gospel—the “euangellion”–the good news. The message: Jesus SAVES! Jesus Saves!

While we were yet sinners Christ died for us. To as many as believe on Him, to them he gave the right to be called sons of the living God. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.

“My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness…I wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” How about you? Are you continuing in the faith? Are you not being moved away from the hope of the gospel?

In a society where the majority think that all roads lead to God and faith in Christ is viewed as radical extremism, are you still clinging in faith to Christ alone and his blessed hope? Easter is almost upon us are you still continuing in faith that the old rugged cross made the difference?

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