Friday, March 30, 2012

A Matter of Death and Life or Life and Death

"For hours after their boat sank, Ken Henderson and Ed Coen treaded water in the Gulf of Mexico, talking about life and death while struggling to survive.  For more than 30 hours, it worked.

"Then Henderson, 49, a retired Montgomery County sheriff's deputy, was forced to make a decision that would save his life, but not his best friend's."

That's the way the story on the front page of the Houston Chronicle began this week (3/28/12).  It's not my intention to retell the story, nor do I want to exploit it in any way.  But I could not read the story without making some personal reflections, especially at this time of the year when we celebrate Easter.  (If you are interested in reading the story, click here.)

Ken and Ed didn't plan to make any life and death decisions that Thursday morning when they set out to sea.  The only thing in jeopardy in their minds were the fish they were going to catch.  But that's not the way things went.

Their boat took on water and eventually sank.  The friends found themselves adrift in the cold waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  Minutes turned to hours.  Day turned to night.  They did everything they could to keep each other alive.  No one came to rescue them.

After being adrift for more than 30 hours, they made a desperate decision.  Thinking it was their only chance for survival, they decided to cut the strap that bound them together so Ken could swim away to find help.  Both agreed it was their last best hope.  They knew it was a life or death decision.

Easter is all about life and death decisions.  Judas made one when he betrayed Jesus.  The religious leaders made one when they put Jesus on trial.  Pontius Pilate and Herod Antipas made one when they sat in judgement upon Jesus.  The Roman soldiers probably thought of themselves as just following orders when they crucified Jesus, but they, too, were making a life and death decision.

No decision was more a life and death decision than Jesus' decision in the Garden of Gethsemane when he decided to fully obey the will of God and offer his life as a sacrifice for the sin of mankind.  It was a matter of life and death, or, I suppose, a decision of death and life.  Through his death Jesus was offering the gift of life to all who would believe.  And aren't we glad he made it!!

We don't think of ourselves as making life and death decisions.  That's usually the purview of doctors, judges, soldiers, and others, not us.  Or is it?

When we ride the bus into work, talk to a neighbor over a backyard fence, enjoy a midday meal with a co-worker, engage in small talk on the sidelines at our kids' ball game we may be making life and death decisions.  If we know the gospel and they don't, and we fail to share it with them, we could be making a life and death decision by not telling them, by not giving them the opportunity to become a Christ-follower.

Easter … what a story ... Jesus died, was buried, and three days later stepped out of his tomb … alive! ... victorious over death.  It's a story of death and life.  This Easter tell  this wondrous story of God's love to a friend, a family member, a co-worker.  It could just be a matter of life and death.

----- Houston Factoid

According to the Glenmary report, fewer than 50% of Houston residents identify themselves with any religion, and only one out of 5 identify themselves with evangelical Christianity.  For the vast majority of Houstonians, hearing the gospel story is indeed a matter of eternal life or death.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Show Me Some Love

"Show me some love." Those weren't Jesus exact words when he told the parable of the talents (see Matthew 25:14-46), but that's what he was saying.
How does Jesus expect us to show him some love? Jesus encouraged us to minister to the needy among us as a way of showing our love for him. "I tell you the truth," Jesus said, "whatever you did for one of the least of these..., you did for me."

Every day at the Mission Centers of Houston they are showing Jesus some love. The Mission Centers of Houston (formerly known as the Baptist Mission Centers) is a ministry of UBA. Ginger Smith has served as the director this ministry for the past ten years. Every week they reach out to the under-resourced and under-served inside the 610 Loop in a myriad of ways ... giving out food and clothing, providing ESL and job training classes, holding after school programs for kids, week day programs for senior adults and much more.

Let me share with you some of the results of their ministry in 2011:
  • Food was given to over 34,625 people (not all food is recorded)
  • Clothing was given to 17,566 people
  • 4,472 people received MCH services for the first time as new clients
  • 552 Bibles were distributed
  • 565 scripture portions were distributed
  • Every week an average of 153 senior adults, 115 children (ages 4-9), and 73 youth (ages 10-17) participated in MCH programs ... that's almost 350 people per week being ministered to through specific ministry programs (not including food/clothing distribution)
As a result of showing Jesus (and others) some love, people are coming to love Jesus! One hundred and thirty-four (134) people became Christ followers last year (that we know of, could have been more) as a direct result of MCH's witness and ministry.

How is this ministry supported? Some of the money for MCH comes through the UBA budget ... this year, 4% of all undesignated receipts or about $48,000 goes to MCH. But that's not nearly enough.

The majority of their funding comes from direct contributions from folks and churches like yours! Last year MCH received $651,589 through direct contributions and special fund raising events.

Much of the actual work of MCH depends upon volunteers. Last year 33,458 volunteer hours were recorded. What's that worth? In dollars, using standard accounting practices for non-profits, it's worth about $ 714,662.88! Thanks to all the individuals and churches, youth ministries, missions teams that serve so selflessly!

But for all the support they receive, the need is always greater than the resources they have available. Which means, MCH needs you to show them some love. They need you to give, to serve and certainly to pray for their ministry.

What are some things you can do?
  1. Learn more about MCH and the ministry by going to their website: www.missioncenters.org. As you learn, pray for Ginger and the ministry.
  2. Lead your church to adopt a specific MCH initiative like Feed 365, feeding the hungry 365 days a year (my home church--Woodridge Baptist--has been actively engaged in this great ministry).
  3. Attend one of the fund raising events and give. For example, I love to play golf, so I am a Gold Sponsor of the MCH Classic … a golf tournament in which all the proceeds support the work of MCH.  For more information and to sign up, go to www.mchclassic.org).  If you don't play golf, but know someone who does, tell them about it.
Thanks to Ginger, the board and staff of MCH, for all you do to show the love of Christ to others.
PS:  For an update on what's happening at Trinity Pines Conference Center, another ministry of UBA, check their online newsletter by clicking here.