Vince Smith – Living Witnesses: Caring & Hope

October 15, 6pm, at First Baptist Church Allen Collin Baptist Association calls all our churches to meet in worship for A Night of Caring and Hope. We state our shared vision this way: “We live for the day when every girl, boy, woman and man within our reach experiences a living witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Gospel literally means “Good News.” Our world is full of bad news—I hope you will come hear how God works through people to bring Good News through his church.

It is a fact bad news abounds. The last two months have seen unprecedented natural disasters in our own backyard. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria pounded Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, flooding homes, destroying business and claiming over 300 lives. The Mexico City earthquake shattered homes and buildings, also claiming over 300 lives.

Human inflicted horrors also abound. The worst mass-murder in Plano history occurred just last month– 9 young adults, including the murderer, killed. Today, as this article is written, our nation experienced the worst mass murder in our history in Las Vegas. An insane man massacred over 50 people putting even more horrific carnage scenes in front of our eyes. The amount of pain, suffering, and horror inflicted on so many people, in so many places, in such a brief time span is staggering.

Against this backdrop of horror and pain, we see God quietly loving and caring for people through his church, through His people. God’s people served many thousands of meals, prayed with thousands of people, removed countless tons of storm and flood debris and cleaned thousands of homes. God’s people are literally giving their blood in response to the Las Vegas massacre plea for plasma to treat the 100s of wounded. Our own CBA churches and people have been part of this response (come hear the details October 15).

The last few months profoundly highlight death, destruction and lostness. God calls and commands every follower of Jesus to be a living witness to a lost and dying world. What does being a living witness look like in the face of such death and destruction? Consider God’s servant Job.

When told of the loss of his children and wealth, Job fell on the ground and worshiped God:
20 Then Job stood up, tore his robe, and shaved his head. He fell to the ground and worshiped, 21 saying: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. Blessed be the name of the LORD. 22 Throughout all this Job did not sin or blame God for anything. Job 1:20–22 (CSB)

When Job was afflicted with infectious sores all over his body and his wife told him to blame and curse God and die, Job continued to worship:
9 His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10 “You speak as a foolish woman speaks,” he told her. “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” Throughout all this Job did not sin in what he said. Job 2:9–10 (CSB)

The temptation to curse God and to blame God for all the ills of the world is strong. Job never did. Job did not blame God despite his own wife’s urging. When Job’s friends came to comfort him, they too wanted to determine why these horrific things occurred. Not being as personally impacted, instead of blaming God they blamed Job. Job’s wife blamed God, Job’s friends blamed Job. Job wondered why he was even born.

They were all wrong. They answered the wrong question. We tend to begin with, “Why did this happen?” which quickly moves to “Whose fault is this?” question. We want to assign blame. The right and more constructive question is, “How do we respond to this evil darkness?” Witness, works and worship are much better responses than asking answerless questions. Only God can answer “why” and only God can assign blame. God asks you and me to be living witnesses to the Good News. Living witnesses that pray for God’s kingdom to come (Matt 6:9-15), care for those in need–“clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the imprisoned” (Matt 25:31-46), share the truth of Jesus–“proclaim the Good News to the poor!” (Luke 4:18)

Over the past five years CBA focused on becoming a network of churches that connect, collaborate, and engage with one another in being a livingwitness (prayer-care-share) where we live (households) and work (marketplace) to all people (people groups) everywhere within our reach. This past year’s work advanced this strategy significantly. Our network’s response to Hurricane Harvey (stories will be shared October 15 at A Night of Caring and Hope) by collecting goods, sending volunteers, and connecting with other organizations (SEND Relief, Texas Baptist Men Disaster Relief and local churches) mobilized 100s of people and untold thousands of dollars. One team from a CBA Asian-Indian church started a Bible study for Asian-Indians in Beaumont that is the beginning of a new church there!

Regional examples of our connect, collaborate, and engage strategy include church starts (8 receiving funding, 4 new this year, all include multiple partner organizations/churches) and the launch of Helpfinder.org with Unite Greater Dallas (a specialized search engine and referral system for free and reduced cost services). In the area of evangelism and discipleship, CBA connected churches with Revive Texas and No Place Left ministries. Churches involved in these efforts saw their members engaged in direct evangelism that led to baptisms and discipleship. Church members that had never shared their faith with words discovered people do want to hear about Jesus! These efforts and many other examples are chronicled in The Encourager Magazine (www.encouragermagazine.org). Give it a read and see what God is doing!

It is exciting to see God move in our churches! It is exciting to see girls, boys, women and men experience a living witness to Jesus Christ. Our network of churches is working! Thank you for the privilege of serving the CBA Church Network.

Living for the day…

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