Sunday, April 24, 2011

Muddy Easter

This morning Chad and I woke to a bolt of lightening followed directly by a loud clap of thunder. If it's true that the distance can be told by how many seconds pass between the two, I'd say the storm was at our front door. The sound of rain hitting our window replaced the sun that would usually shine through.

Already, we had cancelled the outdoor Easter picnic plans because of the chance of rain and cold temperatures. We were hoping it would atleast hold off until after church this morning.

Last week was beautiful. Kids were out playing so we just opened up the front door. We fed lots of kids and our families breakfast then I taught 12 children in Sunday School under the tree.

This week, Chad was ready to preach his first Easter sermon, but I had to pare down my lesson plans for lack of space and participants in doors.

Still one faithful little family, the Balderas' came across the yard with a hot breakfast in hand.

For Ruby's birthday her Mimi and Papa had given her a perfectly white polka dot dress which she wore this morning with her light pink tights and white shoes.

After they had eaten breakfast, while the adults were still visiting, the kids went straight out the front door to play like they always do.

Ruby lead the way. David and Josiah came back in immediately. They're not crazy! It was rainy and cold.

About five minutes later Sean came up to the door with Ruby. Ruby ran through the front door giggling and scot free, but not Sean! Sean was covered knee deep in red Oklahoma MUD!

I jumped up from my seat and stopped him at the door. Made him leave his boots off, but his socks and pants were soaked and muddy.

I took him back to the room, scolding him all the way. Really I was upset with myself for letting him go outside in the first place.

We replaced his pants and he put on his sandles. While I huffed and puffed about it he said, "Mom, do you know why Ruby didn't get muddy but I did? I saw her about to step in the mud and I had already stepped in it so I picked her up and carried her to you."

Now, having been a mom for a while, I'm sure this may have been a clever attempt to get himself off the hook. But tonight, as I think about what Sean did, it is a picture of what Jesus does for His children.

One day we will stand before our Heavenly father. The only explanation for the stain of sin missing off of our lives will be when Jesus comes to our defense.

2 Corinthians 5:21 says

"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

It is only through Jesus we can be made clean and granted access to the Father. Because He bore our sin on the cross. On this day and every other I am so thankful for this truth.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Give and It Shall Be Given. . .

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:32-34

At the beginning of the week Chad and I felt blessed. We didn’t have any outstanding bills and the fridge was stocked with groceries. Chad worked Monday and Tuesday at a church in Norman resealing a concrete floor, earning us enough money to keep gas in the car.

Last night at dinner we had our nightly dinner guest. The little boy from across the way came in and took his place at the table. After dinner the boys went out to play. They came right back in with friends and said, “the kids were wondering if you were going to make cookies tonight?”

We had cooked all the cookie dough, but still had a case of applesauce from Sam’s which we handed out until it was all gone. Finally at around 8:00, we had to lock our door to slow what had been a constant stream of children all evening.

This morning the weatherman was calling for storms about the time we would be teaching this afternoon. Even if we wanted to brave the storm we had no food or anything else for the kids. I was doing good to make lunches for the boys to take to school.

Needless to say we were generally discouraged. It would be nice to wake up and have everything in order to do all the “great” things we want to do. It would certainly be easier to give food away if we knew how it was going to be replaced, and to spend time in preparation instead of worrying.

I took the boys to school and prayed all the way home. Chad had a meeting with a pastor in town and I stayed home with Ruby to get our house in order. We waited until around 11:00 then called our volunteers to cancel the Bible Club.

The pastor Chad met with said he would call Chad later with some news. On our way to pick up the boys from school he called and said their church wanted to pay our rent for the month of May. This was a huge encouragement and burden lifted off of both of us! Our apartment has become a place of ministry and we’re thankful for it!

We came home from school and I went straight to the kitchen to make brownies. I thought, even though we weren’t able to have Bible Club across the street we could have afterschool snacks for the kids in our complex.

Just then my phone rang. It was a friend from Amarillo who moved to Oklahoma City not long before we did. She asked how we were doing and said, “I’ve been blessed with some extra money and the Lord laid you on my heart.” She followed it up by saying, “You’re not discouraged are you?”

I told her we had cancelled tonight, but were going to do what we could. She said, “Why don’t you come over here and visit with me for a while. I want to give you something.”

SO. . .I did. I got back in the car and noticed we had just enough time to make it to Sam’s, buy some food and candy and get to the apartments on time.

So . . . that’s what we did. Chad went to our apartment and loaded up our equipment. I went to Sam’s. We had great food for the kids and still had enough money left over to fill up the tank in our car and buy groceries for ourselves.

Chad and I pray everyday for God to bless in abundance so we can be a blessing. We know God can and is making a way to do great and mighty things through us. Right now we’re learning to trust.

To follow the Lord’s principle of giving in Luke 6:38 takes courage! “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Obeying God’s principle of giving is the only way to realize His eternal rewards. While we work towards to "big picture" for Truth Baptist Church we realize it requires a daily dependence of our Heavenly Father. We have committed to working as hard as we can and using the resources God provides each day as far as they go. To be faithful with as much or as little as He sees fit to bless us with.

Tonight with the sun shining through the clouds and with thanksgiving in our hearts we praised Jesus for His provision, for His grace and for another week to tell The Good News.

Friday, April 8, 2011

He Is The Vine

By Chad Clement

Have you ever had your life stripped down to the bare bones? Usually it takes a cataclysmic event to separate us from the possessions that we love, like a divorce or a house fire, maybe a death in the family. You find yourself in a place where the things that you relied upon, your life tools, are no longer at your disposal and it’s just you and your decisions. We all like to think that we would excel in this situation, but you never really know until you face it.

I like to use Michael Phelps the Olympic gold medalist as an example. Michael may have a tour bus, handlers, personal trainers, PR people and others helping him, but at some point he has to strip down to his Speedo, stand on the blocks and prepare to be tested. Nothing else matters at this point but preparation form and speed.

Six months ago, my family was pretty normal. We were serving and giving our lives away to serve inner-city children. My wife Anna was the principal of the school that she founded that provided free Christian education to desperately poor children. I was serving as the Children’s Minister and together in the summer we were feeding 2300 kids a day and teaching 10 weeks of bible school in the park we built. Ok, so maybe that’s not “Normal”, but outside of work we were like most couples with three children, busy raising them and enjoying life.

However, there was a problem in paradise, God was laying on my heart to plant a church to duplicate the work we were doing. I thought perhaps we might return to Dallas where I was familiar with the inner-city areas. To be honest, the depth of our roots, the momentum of our lives and my resistance to change deterred me from getting a shovel and digging up my family and moving them to a situation that seemed less secure.

What I failed to recognize was that the only thing secure in this life, the only thing that can’t fail, is when a child of God is obedient to the voice of God. Every plan and scheme draw up by men, including myself has the potential of failure. The failure comes when we refuse to listen and obey.

I have to say that in our case God was gracious to our family. He didn’t sit quietly aside as we moved on in our direction in disobedience. He pulled us up out of the ground like a sapling and took us where He pleased. From the perspective of the sapling we just saw roots breaking, leaves falling off and bark being stripped away. It is a traumatic event for a tree to be transplanted, but the careful arborist knows the right season and series of steps to ensure future health.

After many sleepless nights, agonizing over the loss of so many things we thought were precious to us, God has corrected our priorities, planted us in moist fertile ground and we have begun to bear fruit for Him.

We are in a little apartment south of Quail Springs Mall, surrounded by lost and hurting people, who God loves enough to send us to minister to them. He loves the children who normally get a free lunch at school, but in the summer that turns into a question mark, followed by despair. He loves the mothers, who are the second or third generation of women living in poverty. He loves the fathers, who just a few days back were little boys frightened and confused because they had no father to teach them or provide for them.

If you have never known God’s love, come this summer and witness as He shows His faithfulness and pours out His love on these families. If you know God’s love, this is your chance to be fruitful. Come this summer and experience the joy of working shoulder to shoulder with the Lord of the Harvest in His fields. We will be feeding 600-1000 lunches a day, teaching the bible and breaking the chains of sin with the truth of God’s word. Take it from one who has been stripped bare; it is a privilege to be completely poured out for His purposes.

Following Jesus

Last December I lost my father to a rare form of Leukemia. While the Leukemia was a sudden illness, his health had been compromised for years by a liver disease. To say I was close with my father is an understatement. He was my hero and loved him very much.

My mother never left my father’s side. As determined as Dad was to fight for his life, my mother was as determined to strengthen and care for him. She never complained during Dad’s extended admittance to the hospital, still I knew mom needed a break. One weekend I drove from Amarillo to Oklahoma City to help.

When I arrived, I offered to spend the night at the hospital and let mom get a nights rest at a near by hotel. Mom informed me that the doctor would come in the next morning and give a report on an important blood test. She instructed me to call and let her know what he said.

The next morning the nurses came in to get Dad dressed. He had his shorts and shirt on with wires and tubes running all through his sleeves. We helped him sit up on the side of the bed. He didn’t want to take the news from the Oncologist lying down.

Soon the doctor would arrive and report that the marrow sample showed three different severe forms of Leukemia. Though they would continue to do all they knew to do for my dad, his chances of survival were small.

The doctor left the room. I was sitting behind the hospital bed looking at Dad’s back. His head was hung low as if the wind had been knocked out of him. At first, neither one of us said a word then I heard Dad say, “The devil is doing everything he can to make me think The Lord doesn’t love me. I know better. I KNOW the Lord loves me!”

I’m not sure my father knew how his words changed my life. It was hard enough to watch the pain he endured for years, I couldn’t imagine how discouraging it had to be to live with it. Even in the face of this horrible news he didn’t give his spirit over to the death sentence handed him, instead He chose to acknowledge The Giver of Life.

Immediately I asked myself if I could do the same. Given the same circumstances with what appears to be a hopeless situation. Could I testify to the Love of the one whom I had entrusted my life?

Almost a year after my father passed away, the life I knew and loved took a dramatic turn. My husband, Chad and I found ourselves leaving a ministry we had invested our everything in to with nothing but the hopes that God would heal our hearts and allow us to serve Him in a mighty way again.

We packed up what we owned and moved back to Chad’s hometown in Oklahoma. One night, shortly after the move I couldn’t sleep. Chad had taken a job delivering oil rig equipment and I was waiting for him to call and check-in.

I was thinking about what our lives had been reduced to. As a young girl I’d surrendered my life to be a missionary. Chad and I both thought we had been obedient. So why was God allowing our family to suffer like this? “What a waste!” I thought. “Chad and I should be clicking right along, doing the work of The Lord. Instead we’ve lost everything; even, at this point, the desire to serve.”

Then I remembered my dad, and how he testified to The Love of Jesus that morning in his hospital bed. See, Dad knew something I didn’t. He had followed Jesus to places in His heart most would rather just read about from a safe distance; however, there is only one path to calm assurance. You have to be willing to be in the boat with Jesus on a stormy night. To trust His voice when He calls you out on the water and obey when He says to cast your net on the other side of the boat.

Not long after that night, Chad and I felt God calling us to “follow Him”. We learned that in Edmond, Oklahoma there are 3 square miles of apartment complexes where over fifteen thousand people reside. By faith, we have moved into a centrally located complex to minister through planting a mission church.

It is the heart of Truth Baptist Mission to teach the word of God, minister to the physical needs of the residents, feed children, and lift up the name of Jesus. Over spring break God provided a way for us to feed 200 lunches a day and have an evangelistic outreach on the last day. Eight children gave their hearts to Jesus that Friday.

By faith, Chad and I are planning an exciting summer of ministry. We know it is possible because we have already seen God multiply our "nothing” and provide. In the coming months, we look forward to reporting on the miraculous way God cares for our needs and how lives are changed through this work. And we shall spend our days testifying to the Great Love of God!

Monday, April 4, 2011

His Workmanship

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

There is a book I came across in our church library at age fourteen. It’s a biography of Amy Carmichael written by Elisabeth Elliot called A Chance To Die. The first time I read it was on youth mission trip to Wyoming. Again I referenced it in college. Now it sits on my nightstand with my Bible. Both Amy Carmichael and Elisabeth Elliot are heroines of mine. Their stories inspire and challenge me to live the calling God has put in my heart.

Recently, reading a chapter from A Chance To Die helped settle an issue in my heart about raising money for the mission work Chad and I are doing in Oklahoma City. The work of our new church plant has recently demanded our full attentions. By faith, we are planning a summer of outreach and church growth. God provided miraculously during spring break and we expect more great things!

In 1889, Amy Carmichael was walking by faith. She had a growing Bible Study of mill girls who met weekly called the “Shawlies”. The group had grown so large they needed a facility. Amy had seen an advertisement for an iron building. She knew even if she could afford the building she would need a piece of land in close proximity to the mill to put the building on.

As she prayed about what to do she remembered having walked with her mother as a young girl to raise money for charity. They went to the porch of a man who was living in a brand new home. Elisabeth Elliot writes “He refused to give anything. Stunned, the little girl (Amy) pondered the wisdom of asking money from people who don’t really love God. ‘Why not’ she thought ‘ask God to make people who love Him want to give?’ so Amy and the Shawlies did exactly that.”

Amy wrote about her decision to trust God in a newsletter she and her siblings wrote called, “Scraps”

“We must have money. We can’t build spires ninety feet high without it, we can’t decorate our churches with elegant windows without it, we can’t issue costly programmes for our social meetings without it . . . How are we to get it? You may touchingly plead for the heathen abroad. You may paint a picture terrible and true of the state of the home heathen at our doors. You may work yourself into hysterics over these and other intensely real realities but you won’t get the money. So another plan must be devised. We shall get up a fancy fair.”

Amy went on the write, “Oh yes! WE shall get the money for our poor dear little church, and everybody will have the pleasing consciousness of having devoted themselves to the noble cause of screwing, wheedling and extorting money out of a selfish, thoughtless public --- for the cause of God!”

We can then compare this picture to Moses and Aaron building the Tabernacle, a dwelling for The Spirit of God. In Exodus 35 verse 4 we read, “And Moses spoke to the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, ‘This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying: Take from among you an offering to The Lord. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to The Lord : gold, silver and bronze.”

In verse 29 we see God’s people respond. “The children of Israel brought a freewill offering to The Lord, all the men and women whose hearts were willing to bring material for all kinds of work which the Lord, by the hand of Moses, had commanded done.”

I read this chapter several times. It is a beautiful picture of God stirring among the hearts of His people to do His will. Exodus 35:26 describes “women whose hearts stirred with wisdom spun yarn. . .” Exodus 35:33-31 “And Moses said to the children of Israel, ‘See the Lord has called by name Bezalel. . . and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works. . .”

When we, as God’s people, allow Him to express His Love, charity, creativity, wisdom and workmanship through us it is a miraculous work.

“Three things we may notice:” Writes Amy Carmichael about those who gave to build the Tabernacle “1st as many as were willing hearted, 2nd brought their own possessions, 3rd unto The Lord.”

Chad and I spent this morning responding to messages from people who desire to give to help our church get off the ground. One mission committee is praying about supporting us financially in whatever way they can, another group had some food and it met the need of us feeding at our outreach tomorrow. Another lady emailed who works full time and wants to see how she might get involved. A friend of ours in Amarillo made index cards with Scripture verses on them for the children we teach. Mom and our newest members at Truth Baptist prepared breakfast for our fellowship Sunday morning. I taught Sunday School using a complete set of Bible study materials mailed to our apartment by a woman I’ve never met.

I have no doubt as we contemplate the “bigger needs” of Truth Baptist Church such as buildings, vans and support, God will be faithful to stir the hearts of His people to respond.

It is a beautiful and miraculous thing to witness God’s people follow His leading. As we step out in faith to plant a church among these thousands of residents here, please prayerfully consider how you might help. We are deeply thankful for your prayers and encouragement!

Truth Baptist Church

12701 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Apt. 173

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73120

Referenced: A Chance To Die By Elisabeth Elliot, Exodus Chapter 35