Category: Foreign Missions (Page 3 of 7)

$450K and Counting

Central Missions LogoThe goal for Missions Sunday here at Central yesterday was an ambitious $300,000 to fund our ongoing foreign missions efforts. But, just like last year, our merciful Father blew that goal right out of the water. God opened up our hearts and our wallets yesterday to the tune of more than $450,000! And the money is still trickling in today!

Three years. Three Missions Sundays. Three extravagant shows of abundant generosity. Three remarkable displays of God’s amazing power and grace. And I’m still…

“Surprised” is not the correct word. I’m not surprised. I always assume God is going to “meet all our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” and accomplish much “more than all we can ask or imagine.” I know that. Our God does stuff like this all the time. It doesn’t surprise me. At this point, the surprise would be only in falling short of the goal.

I guess I’m mainly just in wonder. I’m in awe. When most churches in most cities and settings all over this country are slashing their missions budgets and cutting their missionaries, why does God bless this church all the way out here in the middle of the Texas panhandle with so much? When traditional missionary training and sending organizations are wringing their hands over reduced contributions and most congregations are struggling to find new ways to raise missions money, why is God compelling our people at Central to give so much? When our Sunday attendance at Central has actually gone down over the past three years, why does our missions giving keep going up? And up?

I can’t figure it out. None of us can. And that’s the way it ought to be. Tim McMenamy spoke to us yesterday around the table about the mystery of God and how God works through Christ to do magnificent things we can’t wrap our brains around. This is one of those things. It doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t add up.

Vickie is checking and re-checking all the numbers right now; I’m going to have an official total before the end of the day. And in the meantime, I’m going to try to spend less time analyzing and more time just thanking our Father.

Praise God from whom all blessing flow!



$357,000 and Counting

The goal for Missions Sunday at Central today was an ambitious $275,000 to fund and expand our foreign missions efforts. But, just like last year, our merciful God blew that goal right out of the water. God opened up our hearts and our wallets this morning to the tune of more than $357,000; and the money is still trickling in this afternoon.

As far as feelings go, I’m not sure anything will be able to top what happened last year. It’s like when the Rangers beat the Yankees in 2010 to win the pennant and advance to their first ever World Series. All Rangers fans can tell you exactly where they were, who they were watching with, and how they felt when Feliz struck out A-Rod to clinch the title. It was the first time. It was unexpected. It was exhilarating. The next year when they advanced, it was great. It was wonderful. We hugged and high-fived, we bought the championship T-shirts, we talked about it every minute of every day. But it just wasn’t the same. It wasn’t as great or as unexpected. There’s only one first time.

And, honestly, I felt myself today almost taking for granted that God would provide more than our goal. When John Todd announced the total at the end of our worship assembly, the gathered Christians whooped and hollered and stood and cheered. And I enthusiastically joined them. But it wasn’t like last year. Last year, very few people were really expecting it. This year, we almost knew it was going to happen.

And I don’t know what to do with that yet.

I do know we/I should never, ever take for granted the blessings we receive from our God. Good grief, $357,000?!?!?!? That’s what churches of two-thousand members give on their Missions Sundays, not churches of 700 like us. I know that I belong to a very mission-minded, very generous, very over-the-top giving church. These people give. And I’m so honored to belong to them. I also know that they all own our foreign missions initiatives. They are committed to our goals of sending more and more of our own people out into the field; they are dedicated to our efforts to bring salvation in holistic ways, to partner with God in restoring all of an individual through medical missions, justice missions, and evangelistic missions; they are completely partnered with our missionaries and their families. They pray every night for little orphan children in Kenya, they email and send care packages to our Great Cities Missions teams, they train and take Let’s Start Talking trips to Columbia, and they buy sewing machines and bicycles for preachers in India. They can tell you everything we’re doing in foreign missions and who’s where and what’s happening when. I love that about Central.

And I’m so privileged to be their preacher.

I believe our giving today reflected our gratitude and joy in God’s amazing grace. I believe our generosity was motivated by our genuine love and concern for all of God’s people all over the world. And I believe I should never, ever take that for granted.

It’s been a really beautiful Sunday. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!




Missions Sunday

This Sunday is Missions Sunday here at Central. The goal is $275,000 to fund and expand our current and brand new foreign missions efforts for the sake of the world. Unlikely? Maybe. Improbable? Perhaps.

Good! That means it’s definitely going to happen!

If we’ve learned anything in our study of Jonah this month, it’s that our God’s strength is seen in our weakness. His power is revealed in our inadequacy. He does his greatest work when the odds are stacked against him.

Last year, our ambitious goal of $250,000 was blown out of the water when the Lord provided more than $353,000 on Missions Sunday. The same thing is going to happen this time. I’m assuming, if you’re part of the Central church, you want to be in on it.

As a church family we’ve studied and preached, fasted and prayed about it. We’ve done the math. We’ve read brochures and pamphlets, purchased cookies and bracelets, held garage sales, and given up gourmet coffee and golf. We’ve heard from Tony Morrow, Seth Bouchelle, Junior and Patricia Lira, Neely Borger, and Bret McCasland. We’ve seen a lot of pictures, watched a few videos, and learned a new song. We’ve been inspired by our missionaries and challenged by our elders.

Now it’s time to give.

I’m anticipating a wonderful morning together as we express and practice our commitment to spreading the good news and as our God reveals his glory to us in surprising and powerful ways. May our hearts be opened to God’s call, may our lives be transformed by his Spirit, and may Christ Jesus be eternally praised.



God Will Not Be Stopped

“I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.” ~Ezekiel 34:16

Our God will go to whatever lengths are necessary, he’ll do whatever it takes, he will not ever give up on saving his people. Even when we resist, he keeps pursuing. Even when we rebel, he keeps forgiving. Even when we run away, he keeps chasing.

“Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?” ~Luke 15:4, 8

Our merciful Father used the power of a violent storm and the weak witness of a runaway prophet to save the pagan sailors in Jonah 1. He created and commanded the great fish to rescue his rebellious servant in Jonah 2. And in Jonah 3, our faithful God put five Hebrew words into the hearts of a wicked people and turned an entire nation upside down for him.

“‘I take no pleasure in the death of anyone,’ declares the Sovereign Lord. ‘Repent and live!'” ~Ezekiel 18:32

Our God is on a mission to save the world and he wants us to participate. Either way — whether we join him in that mission or not — our God will not be stopped. He’ll find the young professional in that tiny house in Bogota, Columbia; and he’ll send a group from Amarillo, Texas all the way down there to do it. He’ll save the impoverished orphan girls in Kenya; and he’ll use a bunch of ladies in a sewing room at Central to make it happen. God will save ten thousand people in India; and he’ll use a broken preacher on a TV show to do it. God will rescue the dying and lost in Brazil and Guatemala & Ukraine; and he’ll use your garage sale earnings and your Starbucks money to accomplish it. Our God is on the trail to save and he will not be stopped.

He’s tracking you, too. He’s chasing you. You feel it. You know it. He’s on to you and he won’t let go. Our God is that relentless hound of heaven that C. S. Lewis writes about.

May we adopt that same mindset. May we see the world as our Father sees the world. And may we allow nothing — absolutely nothing! — to get in our way of seeking and saving the lost.



Still Counting

“It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” ~Philippians 2:13

Allow me to update you here with the latest numbers from our first ever Missions Month / Missions Sunday here at Central. The money continues to trickle in this afternoon, but the current grand total offered is $344,421.84! And counting…! Before you pull out the calculator, that’s almost $95,000 more than our really ambitious (I thought) goal.

As you know, my initial reactions to the tremendous generosity of our church family ranged from disbelief and wanting to ask for a recount to grateful praise and worship of our forever-giving Father. Since then, several more thoughts have been churning in my brain, among them, that we all should have known this wasn’t going to go in any other way. This is the way it had to happen for God to get all the glory which, by the way, only he deserves.

If we had just barely reached our goal — oh, I can hear it now: Those videos were perfect. The guest speakers were an inspiring touch. Using the kids the way we did was genius. Kevin’s songs were brilliant. The plan was explained in wonderfully clear language. The timing was just right. The beautiful brochures made it so easy. Allan’s sermons were breath-takingly irresistible.

But, no. Nobody heard any of that, nobody said any of that Sunday, yesterday, or today. Mostly, we were all driven to our knees in humble gratitude or compelled to our feet in joyous praise of our Father in heaven who is the ONE who make this happen — the only ONE! It’s too big, too indescribable, too over-the-top, too everything! To God be the glory! He did this! Amen and amen!

We’ve already wired $50,000 to Alara to finish out the brand new permanent school building for the orphans in Kenya and another $50,000 to Great Cities Missions for the continued training, sending, and supporting of Latin American missionaries and the churches they’re planting. The rest of the original goal is already ear-marked for exciting missions endeavors in 2014. The fun part now is figuring out how we’re going to spend that other $95,000.

I thought the quarter-of-a-million dollars goal would challenge our church to the limits of possibility. I may have underestimated our God and his plans for our group of Christians here in Amarillo. It’s happened before.



Now What?!?!

“My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” ~Philippians 4:19-20

Our gracious God today delivered far more than anything I could ever ask or imagine. I’m still a little numb. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around what it all means. What happened today makes no earthly sense. None. There’s nothing to do but give glory to God. There’s no one else to thank, nothing else to credit, no other explanation. That’s the way our God works. He’s truly the only one.

This morning, by the grace of God and by the power of his Spirit, Central came through on our first-ever Missions Sunday with $328,417.24, far surpassing our ambitious (I thought) goal of $250,000.

I’ll type that number again so you don’t think it’s a misprint: $328,417.24.

I was ready for a lot of things today. I was prepared for us to meet the goal. I was ready for us to have barely missed it. I had prayed for and was ready for us to blow right past the goal. I really thought it was going to happen. But this? No, I didn’t see it coming. Not this.

What a great morning. Adriann Moore gave her life to Christ by submitting to his Lordship in baptism. All our children, from the four-year-olds to the high school seniors, inspired us with their readings from Scripture, their prayers, their dramatic offerings, and their bold proclamations of what God is doing through them for the sake of the world. Kevin took us straight to God’s throne in song. Adam powerfully reminded us of the great blessing of table communion with those who’ve gone before and those in the room with us right now.

And then our amazing God blew us out of the water by providing us with so much more than any of us expected.

When John Todd got up at the end of our service to announce the total, it was pretty obvious we had surpassed the goal. His poker face isn’t that great. But when he began to break up and sniff back tears during his first sentence, it was clear that something really special had happened.His prayer of thanksgiving to God was beautiful. His words of affirmation to our congregation were perfect. And as the church burst into celebratory song, I almost took off my shoes. Holy ground. Sacred space. A powerfully miraculous thing had occurred. Our God was moving in and with and through his people. God had far exceeded our grandest plans. The Spirit energy and enthusiasm generated by this blessed event was overwhelming in several ways.

First, I believe God is telling us we’re not thinking big enough. Our missions committee and elders and ministers had carefully and prayerfully presented a plan that we thought would push our church to the very limits of possibility. And God, I believe, is telling us to do even more.

Second, I think it’s a testament to this congregation’s heart for missions. This church family is all about evangelism, and today’s offering is an unmistakable witness to that commitment.

Third, I don’t know yet how we’re going to spend all this money! I had more than a couple of missions committee members come up to me after the end of our assembly, wondering what we’re going to do. We had a pretty good plan, lots of line items, everything budgeted and accounted for. Now what?! Back to the drawing board, I guess. Again, I think our God is telling us to think even bigger about what he might do through this group of Christians in Amarillo.

As blessings pile on top of blessings, we are increasingly convinced that our Father is keeping his covenant promises to Central and to all of his creation. May he be glorified and may his Son be exalted for ever and ever. Amen!



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