Hello Again!!

Wow. I just realized that I had a blog and totally forgot about it. Forgive me for not keeping up with it. I believe now would be a good time to update.

This morning I read half of my postings on the blog and I was amazed. Amazed at what? How God has brought me from one place to another and to where I am today.

21 years of ministry. Seems like only yesterday I was asked to teach a small men’s bible study class using materials from a Promise Keepers booklet. God has brought me through some real good stuff. But He has also brought me through and out of really hard stuff. I used to think that those “hard” experiences were a waste of my time. But now that I look back and after reading some of my past postings….those “hard experiences” were my “stepping stones” to where I am today.

If you are reading this and you was a former member of any church that I served for and with. Whether I was part of the administration or leadership team, pastor or ministry leader, or part of an outreach team…this is for you. You know who you are.

Let me formerly say that I am proud of serving with you. No matter the “hard experiences” or good ones…God taught all of us a lesson while we served together. Romans 8:28 is clear on that…”For we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”  While I admit, for some people that I served with…I felt the time was wasted…but the Lord was teaching me several things: patience, kindness, and the practice of unity.

Every ministry that I have served in has brought you and me to where we are today. God has brought me to Alabama to help strengthen the Deaf ministry work here. So far its been a challenge but the Lord has given us some great people with great potential to do His work. Once again…God is reminding me of patience, kindness, and the practice of unity.

The one thing that God is putting on my heart more lately above the other three is HEALING. The folks that I am serving at this time and for the past year or so…are in great need of that. So many people have been hurt by “hard experiences” that I feel some have not shifted their awareness to know that these “hard experiences” are “stepping stones” as well. WOW! I just experienced that myself while serving in 21 years of ministry.

And we sometimes wonder and ask God…”why put me through this?” instead maybe, today…we need to ask God…”OK, with this experience…How can I learn from this and help You?”

 

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Pause, Ponder, Pray = Power

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I know its been awhile since I’ve last wrote. Let me apologize for that. I know many of you have visited and reread a lot of my posts. Many of you have asked when I will start posting again. Its been a hectic few months. While that is NO excuse, I emphasize..its been a hectic few months with moving my family to Alabama, traveling for 6 non-stop weekends for ministry or family-related things.

Tonight, for the first time as a representative of the Deaf Ministries of Alabama, I got the first chance to experience what the Alabama Baptist State Convention was all about. We met in Daphne, Alabama which is near the southern end of Alabama.

The theme was “P.R.A.Y.” which was inspiring for me because if you don’t already know…I am what most people call a “prayer warrior.” The convention broke it down into four simple areas:

  • Pardon us for our sin
  • Renew a right spirit within us
  • Accept our adoration and praise
  • Yoke us together in sacrifice and service

All of the sessions were focused on prayer and renewal.

Tonight…. was different for me.

As I sat in tonight’s session, Brother Ronnie Floyd released a message that challenged me in a way that I’ve never experienced before in any other non-Deaf conference.

First question out of him was “What is the number one issue that Alabama is experiencing in the ministry field?” My head starting rolling out ideas such as discipleship, willingness to serve, people not giving enough money to the church, accountability, etc.

And then we read from Acts 1. Specifically in Acts 1:4 which says,

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and your will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all of Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Think about that for a minute….”but you WILL receive POWER…”

How often do we try to do things WITHOUT His power? How do we get this power? Theres a method thats described in Acts 1:14. It says:

“All those with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer…”

If you read before and after that…you will learn that for 10 days straight…with 120 people….with one another….like-minded….they PRAYED

120 people….10 days straight…..1 mission….PRAYER

I am amazed by that…our churches have been missing the point of ministry. We cannot and SHOULD not be doing ministry UNLESS we start with prayer.

God can do more in a moment’s time more that you can do in your whole lifetime!

So…lets pause for a moment….and ponder on that…

If we pray with a heart on fire to serve Him, we will receive His power!

 

And on the 8th day, God says, “I got this!” *patting his chest repeatedly*

I know that scripture doesn’t teach that really happened on the 8th day, we don’t really know what happened on the 8th day except that life went on after the creation of the earth, skies, waters, stars, animals, Adam & Eve, etc.

But I can visualize after the fall of man, God shook His head in disappointment and raised His head back up and said with assurance, “I got this!” while repeatedly patting his chest. Disappointment in our Christian lives sometimes leads to something better.. in this case, Adam was the disappointment and many years later, Jesus came to clean it up (so to speak).

But how often, do we say that to ourselves or to our family & friends…when a problem comes up or a situation seems impossible, we look to the skies and say “I know You are with me…”I got this!”

Have you ever had the thought that sometimes things are just unbearable? I have in my physical mind, but in my spiritual sense, never.

God teaches us in Isaiah 40:10 “Do not fear, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand”

God also teaches us in Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart…”

I often seen people hold their heads down because of decisions in their life. Or financial reasons. Or family issues. Or marriage issues.. How often we we raise our heads high to the skies and say what I normally say “I know You are with me, WE got this!”

  • If God can create a world so vast in 6 days for us, don’t you think He can take care of your problems too?
  • If God can make the Red Sea part and allow His people to cross over into freedom, why should we doubt Him now?
  • If God can become the air and come behind the stone that was flying towards Goliath’s forehead, why doubt Him now?

I often  wonder what this world would be like, if we raise our heads MORE than we drop our heads in doubt… thats a thought to ponder about.

Until next time…may YOU raise your heads to the heavens NOW…no matter what you are going through at this moment…God has got this!

“Time to Rebuild”

brokenfaith-980x735Sunday, September 14th was a milestone in our lives. The Lord blessed us with a new Deaf Ministry to serve at under Highview Baptist Church. While the excitement and joy of serving never leaves me, I was reminded of a few things while I watched the people converse, fellowship, and making discussion during the lesson.

I was reminded that there is always a time to “rebuild”

Think about that for a moment…to rebuild….

Several definitions for this word could be: to build something over again….to strengthen again…to replace with something better….to repair…..

I mentioned and challenged the group several times but am reminded that the word also is a challenge to myself.

What can I rebuild? Of course, my own knowledge and power, I am nothing without God’s assistance. But I began to realize, what does God want me to rebuild?

I know that in the last three years since my last time serving at a local church for Deaf ministry….the community for the Deaf needs to be rebuilt. Through faith in actions. Its not enough to just speak and show them what God’s Words says…..we have to be aggressively showing our actions.

i shared three scriptures with the group that helped me also to consider the best way to rebuild anything that God puts in front of me…

2 Chronicles 7:14 says:  and if my people who are called by my name become humble and pray, and look for me, and turn away from their evil ways, then I will hear them from heaven. I will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Isaiah 40:31 says: But those who trust in the Lord will become strong again. They will be like eagles that grow new feathers. They will run and not get weak. They will walk and not get tired.”

Matthew 15:8 says: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me..”

Those verses help me to realize that the best and ONLY way Jesus expects me to rebuild anything is by humbling myself, praying, seeking Him, and turning away from my sinful ways as it mentions in 2 Chronicles 7:14. Jesus also expects me to TRUST in Him so that He will give me strength to continue working on my relationship with Him and with others as it mentions in Isaiah 40:31.

But the most important thing that Jesus desires is for me to make sure my heart and my actions line up. In order to rebuild something the way that Jesus wants, I must have show my faith, not just talk about it. My heart and my talking about it must produce actions….faith in action.

So…challenge to you…how and what do you need to rebuild in your life?  Relationships with friends? family? Maybe you need to rebuild your trust and faith in Jesus…why not start today? May the Lord bless you as you humble yourself, pray, seek after Him, and TRUST in Him always.

Notes from Deaf Leadership Conference – Thrive 2014

As mentioned, I said I would share the notes that I learned from the conference in Council Bluffs, Iowa. It was hosted by Deaf Missions. The bi-annual conference is for leaders or pastors of Deaf Ministry / Churches. It was my first time and I was very encouraged, as well as reminded, of many of the things shared throughout the three days there.  May you be blessed and encouraged as well.

 

Session 1 – Darrel Bonjour (Pastor of Paramount Baptist Deaf Church in Amarillo, Texas)

“From Discouraged to Encouraged”

The word THRIVE means to grow. We all have different ways of growing. But we need to focus on three areas to THRIVE:

  1. Thrive individually through your relationship with God
  2. Thrive with your church family. Relationships with people in your church are important
  3. Thrive with your mission field. Community outreach, mission trips, etc.

How do we THRIVE well? We must “SOW” biblically.

Galatians 6:9 says: “We must not get tired of doing good. We will receive our harvest of eternal life at the right time. We must not give up”

Some statistics that I want to share with you that I learned from the internet:

  • Every month, 1700 pastors leave the church
  • every year, 4000 new churches are planted
  • every year, 7000 churches close

Wow! Thats sad! Why are our pastors leaving? Why are the churches closing?

Here are some reasons why our pastors leave the church:

  • some realized that they were not called to be a pastor
  • some kinds of immoral sin
  • personal reasons between themselves and God
  • overworked – average 55-75 hours a week of working
  • not enough financial support for the work they do
  • lack of support spiritually
  • overwhelmed by problems in the church – having to do it all themselves
  • stress or health related
  • feeling of a failure because the church is not successful

How do we encourage our pastors or leaders who are thinking about quitting?

Lets read from Psalm 73:1-26

The character of focus is named ASAPH. Who is he?

  • He is one of the priests who led worship during the dedication of Solomon’s temple
  • He saw many bad things happening
  • He saw Solomon led astray by women and idolatry
  • During these hard times, Asaph wrote Psalm 73

Lets read from Psalm 73 and find out more about Asaph

  • In verse 1, Asaph saw God bless the pure in heart
  • In verse 2, Asaph saw NO blessing for himself
  • In verse 3, Asaph envied the success of the evil people
  • In verse 4-9, Asaph saw that they had no struggles while doing evil things.
  • In verse 10, Asaph saw they were drinking plenty of water, while mocking others (only rich people had clean water)
  • In verse 12, Asaph saw that the evil people had no worries.
  • In verse 13, Asaph was frustrated because he tries so hard to keep a pure and innocent life
  • In verse 14, Asaph is hurt all day by new struggles.

THIS IS WHERE WE NEED TO PAY ATTENTION…ASAPH THOUGHT ABOUT QUITTING!

After all of these experiences, what did Asaph do to change his mind? Lets keep reading…

  • In verse 17, Asaph went into a personal sanctuary and understood its importance.
  • In verse 18, Asaph was reminded who wins in the end, God.
  • In verse 22, Asaph is reminded that his thoughts about the evil people are silly
  • In verse 23, Asaph is reminded that God is with him.
  • In verse 24, Asaph is reminded that God leads him with wise counsel
  • In verse 25, Asaph is reminded that God is his ONLY need.
  • In verse 26, Asaph is reminded of God’s strength and where he draws his own strength from.
  • In the end, Asaph says, “I will declare your wonderful works”

 

You see the attitude change?

Our challenge to those who are considering quitting.  Look at Asaph and read Galatians 6:9 again:

“We must not get tired of doing good. We will receive our harvest of eternal life at the right time. We must not give up”

 

Thursday Morning Workshop – Darrel Bonjour (Pastor of Paramount Baptist Deaf Church in Amarillo, Texas)

“Difficulties in Ministry

How do we resolve difficulties in ministry? First LOOK AT YOURSELF

Some of the things we encounter in ministry are:

  • Difficult people. Gossipers, those who LOVE to stir up trouble
  • financial issues with people
  • counseling issues
  • exhaustion, not enough time to do everything.

Lets read from Mark 6:7-8.

7 “Jesus called his twelve apostles together. He sent them out in groups of two and gave them power over evil spirits. 8 This is what he told them: Take nothing for your trip except a staff for walking. Take no bread, no bag, and no money.”

lets review this scripture, piece by piece.

  1. Jesus called his 12 disciples together to do his work. He was going to tell them it was not going to be easy.
  2. Jesus gave simple instructions. *take no bag, food, money. ONLY take a staff. (wood stick)
  3. Jesus wanted his 12 disciples to depend on God, not depend on things, no distractions, no baggage.

Baggage is an interesting word. Baggage is similar to past problems such as bitterness, anger, rejection, hurt.

  1. everyone has baggage. (every has experienced something bad in their past)
  2. find the ROOT of the problem
  • if the same problem pops up in your ministry, something could be wrong with the leadership – not the people.
  • get rid of the problem “take nothing for your journey – Mark 6:8)
  • be root in love (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Our conversations with God needs to be like our conversations on the TDD machine. Everytime we type, at the end…we always push “GA”

The problem is when we talk to God, we usually give a “SK” not a “GA”

Session 2 – Darrel Bonjour (Pastor of Paramount Baptist Deaf Church in Amarillo, Texas)

What are you Sowing?” – Galatians 6:8

We are often deceived in two areas: (a) unhealthy friendships – 1 Corinthians 15:33  (b) Sowing /reaping – Galatians 6:8

Often when we sow in our own fields, we want to reap the harvest of another field. We can’t compare fields. Just like churches, we want to be the main guy for another church but not for our own church.

We MUST tend to our own fields….sow it, water it, weed it out, water some more….

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you sowing in your own spiritual life?

Back in the days, Israel and its kings follow God…the rest of the kingdom followed God too.

So if the pastor or leaders are following God….the rest of the congregation will follow God too.

A church’s character is a reflection of its leadership.

All leadership should try to follow qualifications from 1 Timothy 3:2-5

  1. leaders should be blameless
  2. leaders should be husband of one wife
  3. leaders should have self-control
  4. leaders should be sober-minded
  5. leaders should be respectable
  6. leaders should be hospitable
  7. leaders should be able to teach and be teachable
  8. leaders should not have addictions
  9. leaders should not be violent
  10. leaders should not be quarrelsome
  11. leaders should not be greedy
  12. leaders should manage family well
  13. leaders should have a good reputation with unbelievers
  • do you love people? – Mark 12:30-31

It is so easy to ignore the drama and troubled-people in our churches

  • does prayer become important in your life? – Colossians 4:2

do you believe God can or does more than you ask for? – Ephesians 3:20

If we do not have prayer, we will not THRIVE in any way.

  • Do you attend opportunities (outside of your church) for spiritual growth? Deaf conferences, deaf revivals, deaf workshops. Doesn’t always have to be deaf, but if you are Deaf pastor or leader…your networking is important to other deaf pastors / leaders.
  • do you evangelize? – Matthew 28:19
  • do you empower people to minister? – Acts 14:23

 

Session 3 – Matthew Bellwood (DeafTeen Quest Regional Coordinator)

“Guaranteed Success”

What does success look like? What does Thriving look like?

There are not the same thing because of certain issues.

As leaders & pastors, we need to be reaching out to the lost everyday. If we do not reach out, we will not thrive.

Thriving depends on two important things: (1) DIG DEEPER (2) REACHING OUT

Success is measured mainly by your ASSETS.

There are three kinds of people in this world:

  1. some people make things happen
  2. some people watch things happen
  3. some people say “What happened?”
  • We need to create an urgency.  Urgency to THRIVE in many ways.
  • We need to have a clear strategy. In order to THRIVE, we have to have a good strategy

Many people are great on strategy plans, and they are effective ministers.

If a person studies a lot on the Bible, but have no strategy plan…it will become a failure on reaching the lost.

Video-Logs are great but they become too long, extended, or shows not a good strategy plan. Keep it short and simple. Especially for our deaf youth people.

  • We need to build / empower better teams

Jesus did this with 12 disciples who became effective leaders for his ministry.

 

Session 4 – Matthew Bellwood (DeafTeen Quest Regional Coordinator)

“Guaranteed Risk”

Our top skill in ministry, no matter what field you are in, is LISTENING.

I love the scripture in Luke 24:15-19.

It shows the listening skills of Jesus.

  1. Jesus came alongside them
  2. Jesus asked questions
  3. Jesus already knew the answers
  4. Jesus listened

There are two quotes that I really love and want to share with you:

“An important part of praying is a willingness to become part of the answer”                                                                        – Duane King, Founder of Deaf Missions

“Every pastor chooses how he will lead a flock. As a risk taker, as a care taker, or as an under taker as it slowly dies” – Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church

  • We need to be HONEST with each other

we must recognize our weaknesses.

Allow God to transform our SCARS into His STORY.

  • We need to have diversity and unity on our teams.

Our teams need to have different kinds of people from different backgrounds. Lets face it, we all want people on our teams that are exactly the same as us. They think like us, they work like us, they do everything exactly the way we would do it. But its not going to happen. We need to work together, learn together, and grow together.

its a risk to work with different weird people, but its worth it.

  • We need to SHOW UP.

its a risk to show up. be prepared for the unexpected. And make the most of every opportunity

 

What NOT to do when defending our faith…

You know, this past week…no this past year, I have encountered many people who have lingered away from God into a totally different world. It has saddened me. While I will not go into names because I believe we need to protect those who are still growing in their faith and those who have doubts after seeing these people turn from God. So if you are posting videos, CNN articles, websites, etc…stop it. This is not the way to defend our faith. Putting a picture out there or video out there and adding your own quote does NOT defend your faith well. Because in the end, what are people going to look at most, your words or that picture / video?

Lets be real for a moment……we all have our ways of defending our faith…but is it the correct way? For the past few days, I’ve compiled a list of things that I feel would be proper in defending our faith towards a person who has doubts or has already turned away from God.

(1) Don’t tell them about their beliefs, tell them about YOUR beliefs.

Too often, we get so emotional and caught up in the idea of trying to teach people that their doubts are wrong, their ideas of a God-less world is crazy, and their decision to turn away from God will send them to hell. We are called to love everyone, no matter what or how they live. We don’t have to agree with it. But we need to communicate with love and with a gentle heart AND with gentle words. Teach them about your experiences, what you have seen, what you have come to know. Talk WITH them, not talk TO them.

(2) Don’t say things unless you are ready to defend what you say.

This is a very weak area for most believers. We say stuff to our friends, but when they come back to ask us where in the scriptures does it say that. We get stuck. Be knowledgable in your material. An army soldier does not go to battle unless it is mentally and physically prepared. We as soldiers of Christ need to prepare for battle everyday. Be ready mentally, physically, and spiritually.

(3) Do not ignore answering questions from them

If we ignore questions, because its too hard or overwhelming, it causes others to identify that you are not knowledgable or not able to defend what you say. If you don’t know the answer, be honest and say so. If you are feeling overwhelmed, be honest and say so.  Think of it on the other hand, would you want you questions answered too? Do so for others.

(4) Do not threat or insult them

If a person turns from God, and you bluntly tell them “You are going to hell” – that is a threat. While in some scriptures, it does point to that. That is not our way of reaching out to them. That is not the spiritual answer. A threat like that is more of an emotional one. Threatening or insulting those who have turned away from God only does two things (1) pushes them further away (2) causes them to be more firm in their decision to stay away from God. We are called to pray for those who have turned from God. Don’t say you will do it, DO IT.

(5) Do not think that one person speaks for all of them

Do we Christians have one sole person to speak for all of us here on earth? No, we all have different beliefs, different opinions, different views, different backgrounds. It is same on the other side. What one person says will be 10 times stronger coming from someone else. It would be wise to study on what some say on specific areas to be knowledgeable in situation if the question or discussion arises. Let the person speak for themselves. Maybe God will use you as a tool to win them back.

(6) Do not send them emails, messages, calls with hurtful words. 

This is almost similar to #4 but in the Deaf world, it has become so easy to access people and say things without seeing the response from their faces. Recently, a friend of mine converted to atheism…and while I was hurt and while I was emotionally drained…I sent him a message with a simple and heartfelt meaning. “Brother! Just wanted to let u know that no matter what decision you make, u have my love and prayers for your journey. Blessings!” Simple words of love will go a long way. Because when and IF they turn back to God, they will remember the words of those who were positive and who were negative. Be careful with what you say.

I close this post with a scripture that I love to often mention:

Joshua 1:9 says “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”

My brothers and sisters….the time is NOW to turn up the heat on evangelism work. If you are a minister of a church, enlarge your territory (Prayer of Jabez) and do MORE outreach than before….reach out to other ministers who may be discouraged….mentor them, support them, pray for them…..we need more soldiers prepared for battle!

May the Lord be with you always! Be Strong, Be Courageous, Have no Fear, God is With You!

What happens in this room, stays in this room!

Me and my wife recently attended a Deaf Marriage Retreat that will forever be in our hearts and prayers. We made new friends and strengthened some current friendships while we were there. Before we left, our goals were pretty much set: (1) Strive to improve OUR relationship in ways to honor God and to honor each other. (2) Be supportive and open to help others, if called upon. (3) Be in prayer for all at the retreat.

As we arrived Friday, we got settled in our rooms, rested, and then got ready for the evening’s activities. Pastor David Mason of Liberty Baptist Church of the Deaf did an outstanding job with a kickoff message. The kickoff message focused on the Home, rather than community and church…which is where it all starts anyhow. After the message, David called upon me and my wife to do an activity that would be challenging for those involved. Before we started, the rules were simple: (1) Be honest with each other (2) Listen to each other (3) Do not interrupt each other (4) What is said in this room, stays in this room. Why these rules? Because the activity forced these married couples to “communicate” their feelings and issues. Some of what will be said may be sensitive information. The activity started and all went well. As I glanced around the room, watching some of the wives expressing their words…my heart broke. My wife, Mandi, was in the back of the room glancing at some of the husbands expressing their words. Her heart broke as well.

But that statement that I want to focus on, “what happens in this room, stays in this room”  Where have we heard that before? Marriages can easily be broken up by simple words of distrust. Friendships can easily be broken up by simple words of distrust. So what happens if information that is sensitive between you and your spouse becomes “gossip” outside of the room?

Emotions kick in, shaking of heads, boundaries are drawn more firmly…..and of course, above all, pain sets in.

But as I think of God and His Words…..do we really need to worry about the “sensitive information” that we shared? Isn’t it sometimes good that that information gets out and when it comes back, we may have accountability finally? I know some issues are more sensitive than others. But things like for example: porn issues, communication issues, patience issues, financial issues, discipline issues, job issues, church issues, time management issues. Those are the type of issues that we all need accountability with. So if a person says “what happens in this room, stays in this room”….tell me, how would one acquire accountability?

The scripture that brings up close to this is from James 5:16 which says: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” 

Accountability is a big thing for me and my wife. We have several married couples who look to us for support….but we also look to others for support ourselves. My encouragement to all married couples, no matter how young you are or how many years you have been together, everyone…I mean…EVERYONE…needs an accountable couple to help them in times of need.

So my prayer is that may you find someone to confess your sins, your needs, your struggles, your pain. So that they in return can pray for you. Prayer for strength. Prayer for wisdom. Prayer for perseverance. Prayer for a better life that can serve and honor Him best.