Grateful on Monday: Reflections on Big Offering Sunday

Yesterday was amazing day. It didn’t start out that way though. Let me review the day with you…

As a part of our Better Together “One-Day” offering, I had prayerfully challenged our church to give $250,000 on Sunday, June 9. The reason for the goal is this: our church is seeking to purchase 26.7 acres of land along 287 highway north of downtown Fort Worth and west of I-35W. The purpose for purchasing this land is to eventually start a second location for North Richland Hills Baptist Church (you can read more about the entire campaign here).

Again, the day didn’t go as I had planned. To appreciate my quiet despair, you must know about the work that had been going on for several months in preparation for yesterday. People had prayed in groups as families and friends. Many of us had prayer-walked the land over Memorial Day weekend. Before the beginning of 2013, God had been working through the leadership of our church as well as various leadership groups (finance, personnel, long-range planning committees and others) to see that we purchase this parcel of land. In addition, I had prayed privately for months, journaled my prayers and thoughts, and wrote many people within our church to specifically pray for this one day.

All of this work went into yesterday. But then the frustrations began to mount. First, it rained before the 8 a.m. service and it rained throughout most of the first service. Now, we are usually thankful for all the rain the Lord gives in Texas but rain makes Baptists stay home from church. 🙂 Our attendance felt lower than I had seen for any Sunday during my first year as pastor.

Second, what I thought was allergies on Saturday turned into a cold on Sunday. I felt lousy and I preached accordingly!

Third, the first service seemed like it had little life to it. As experienced pastors can tell you, sometimes it just happens this way through no fault of anyone in particular.

All of these things had my mind thinking, “This is not going to be a good start for this three year campaign.” I was quietly disappointed as I reflected on the rain, my cold, and the attendance.

Yet, the results of what God did were far different.

By the end of our third service, we announced our total offering had exceeded $487,000 (some monies have still yet to be counted as I write). This means that on the first day of the financial part of the Better Together campaign, we have purchased approximately 3.5 acres of the land for the second site and have raised more than $97,000 for other mission causes. More than this were the stories behind the gifts. I heard a child bringing his piggybank with coins for the one-day offering. A elderly gentlemen brought an envelope between services to one of our members saying, “I cannot stay for worship. My nose is bleeding and my wife isn’t feeling well.”

As I reflect on yesterday and the grace of God that led to this incredible offering, I am reminded of Paul’s word to the believers in Corinth:

“…What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7 ESV)

Yesterday was good because of God and not because of us. I thank God for our church family’s generosity yesterday. I look forward to many days to come as it will be exciting to see the lives changed at the second location because of the gospel of God’s grace for years to come.

Thank you church family. Now let’s pray God moves in the hearts of children this week for Backyard Kid’s Club.

Thoughts on Reading the Bible in 2013

Over the holiday break, I read 1 & 2 Chronicles. I read about the kings of old, I read about both good kings (like Josiah) and evil kings (such as Manasseh and Amon). I read about how these royal men were at times humbled and how at other times they displayed enormous amounts of arrogance and pride. As I read, I imagined the last gasps of Judah’s final days as the nation ebbed away. All the while Jeremiah, the prophet, sought to voice God’s opinions to a people who simply didn’t have the stomach to hear them.

I turned back again to read the genealogy of 1 Chronicles and wondered why God chose to include so many family lists in the pages of the Bible. I reflected on how little I know of this era of Biblical history. I thought to myself that I need to locate some commentaries to brush up on my Old Testament history.

As I read, I heard the cars go by my window in a rush. I listened to voices of people walking the parking lot outside my office on their way inside. The reminder of the gifts I still needed to purchase distracted my thoughts, as Christmas was just a few days away. The phone rang while I read and I was tempted to answer it instead of continuing my reading.

In other words, I spent some time reading a book that many Americans have purchased and think is helpful but don’t often read themselves. And while many of these same people heard parts of the Christmas story read during this time of year, fewer still would find any substantive benefit from reading about an ancient civilization such as Judah in the pages of the Old Testament and hope to profit personally from its story. Many would agree that the Bible contains many helpful stories and timeless morals. More would nod in agreement that our culture would benefit if we lived by the Bible’s teachings such as the Golden Rule. But few, if any, would take time to read through all of the Bible.

As a pastor, I encourage you to do just that — read through all of the Bible. Read the whole thing at least once in your life. Read every part of it, the genealogies, the stories you don’t understand, and immerse yourself in the ancient but timeless world of the Bible. You know you have wanted to for a long time. You’ve always wanted to read the entire thing, but you haven’t found the time or you simply lacked the persistence to carry through with it. I know this because I have said the same thing. I have lived with the painful realization of knowing the characters of my favorite TV shows but failing to seriously engage the Bible with the same consistent regularity.

I challenge you to make 2013 different. In an age where sound bytes rule the day, go ahead and read the entire Bible from cover to cover. Don’t read it to simply brag to others, “I’ve read the Bible.” Instead, read it for yourself. Read it so you can hear the voice of God Himself between the pages. Crack open the Bible day after day in the coming year to gain the simplicity of life you so desperately want. Spend time morning by morning in its pages to see your life transformed by timeless values such as grace and humility. Study the principles and the stories of the best-selling book of all time in order to reflect seriously upon this book that has shaped all of Western Civilization. Read it even if you’re skeptical – how else will you really have your questions answered? And read it even if you are already convinced of its truth, for in reading it you will see God’s beauty and remember why you fell in love with Him all over again. Join me in reading the Bible all the way through (even if you don’t have time).

For information on reading plans, go here.