My son Jake is a talented musician and gifted worship leader. He also has a burning heart to preach the Gospel. I am an evangelist. My life was transformed after a near death experience. In that moment my life literally flashed before my eyes and God had my attention! Some time later while attending a Revival meeting I was challenged to walk with God. Walking with God became the desire of my heart and since then I have never looked back! God called me to be a preacher and at age 19 I was called to my first church. I served as a Pastor to 7 different churches over a period of 25 years. In 2007 the Lord led me to start Touch of Hope Ministries. Today Jake and I believe the Lord is calling us to serve together in this ministry. Prayerfully we have decided to relaunch Touch of Hope Ministries with a fresh vision. We would like to share this vision with you. On December 8 at 6 o’clock at the Bethel Baptist Church Family Life Center in Berea my family and I are hosting a Banquet for Touch of Hope Ministries! We would like for you to attend! We are preparing a delicious meal and Jake will lead us in a time of worship. We will share what God has placed on our hearts for this ministry and how churches and individuals can partner with us. It will be an exciting night of celebration! We want to surround ourselves with people that love the Lord and who love us and who will pray for us. These are difficult times we are living in. Our Country needs Revival. Someone must go and someone must labor for Revival. Many evangelists are struggling to stay in evangelism, but America is broken and the need for sweeping revival has never been greater. Jake and I have a burning heart and we believe God is sending us to broken places and to broken people. We are missionaries to America! We have a vision and a plan. We need people that are willing to help us, who want to make a difference in the world and desire to see America turn back to God.
Do you rejoice over your church? It seems that many people are quick to complain about problems or people in their church but spend less time rejoicing over it. Remember that whatever binds us together as Christians is far more important than anything that could ever tear us apart!
Paul loved the church. Out of every letter Paul wrote to churches, none display his affection for God’s people like that of the Philippian epistle. He wrote, “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy…” There were three reasons for Paul’s joy. First, because of their fellowship in the Gospel. There was a strong bond between Paul and these believers because of the Gospel. He was highly interested in their spiritual progress. Paul said, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) Not only did Paul rejoice in the fellowship of the Gospel, but also He rejoiced in “furtherance of the Gospel” (Philippians 1:12).
“But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;” (Philippians 1:12)
The Philippian church gave sacrificially to assist Paul in preaching the Gospel. They were very generous in their love and support of his ministry. Paul took joy in knowing that they were praying for him. Paul not only rejoiced in the furtherance of the Gospel, but also He rejoiced in the faith of the Gospel. (Philippians 1:27)
“Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;” (Philippians 1:27)
Paul summed it up in one phrase. He said, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) He was willing to suffer for the sake of Christ, and even wrote these words from a prison cell. He encouraged the church at Philippi to be courageous for Gospel, and to suffer faithfully for Christ.
A study conducted by the University of Southern California found that the stress hormone cortisol was significantly reduced when people shared their problems with others. Fifty-two college students were asked to make a speech while being taped by researchers. Those students who were allowed to discuss their fear of giving the speech with another student in the study had lower levels of cortisol before, during, and after the speech than students who didn’t share their feelings of fear. The point is we need each other! (source: David Jeremiah)
The Bible teaches us to bear one another’s burdens because we need one another! We are better together, and we can do far more together than we can do apart. Let us be kind and compassionate to one another and so committed to the Gospel that when others think of us they rejoice in Jesus Christ!
Randy J. McPheron
Everything we believe about Christ, salvation, the Gospel etc hinges on the Virgin Birth! I don’t think many Christians & even some preachers understand the significance of the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ. To deny the Virgin Birth is to deny Christ! I want to make four statements about Jesus’ birth from Scripture to show the significance of it. His birth was a miracle birth which solidifies God’s claim in the Bible that Jesus is deity! No other human was or ever will be born this way. The Holy Spirit performed this miracle in the womb of a sexually pure young woman named Mary. God revealed this to Mary as well as her husband-to-be Joseph. Jesus’ birth was not natural, it was a supernatural occurrence. The Virgin Birth is the claim of the Bible (Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7, Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1, 2). His birth was a mysterious birth. It was prophesied that a Savior would be born of a virgin. Isaiah said, “Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.” Simeon and Anna were among those in Israel waiting for the Messianic hope (Luke 2:25-38). Jesus explained this mystery to two disciples on the Emmaus road (Luke 24:13-32). Thirdly, Jesus’ birth was a meek birth. He wasn’t born in a palace but where animals were kept. His first bed was a feeding trough because there was no room for Him in the inn. The King of glory being placed in a manger is a wonder in of itself. Think about it. We worship an amazing God! Lastly, His birth was a meaningful birth. Jesus was born to die. He is God’s gift to us. James calls Him “the Perfect gift from above.” The “Gift” is the hope of the world! He came to restore us to God, provide forgiveness for sin, and take us to heaven. The Virgin Birth gives us the right to call Him God. The Virgin Birth is just as important to the Gospel message as the Resurrection is. Without the Virgin Birth there is no Christmas!
If you would like to hear more of the Christmas story join me at Valley Baptist Church tomorrow morning December 25, 2016 at 11 am for a special Christmas worship celebration!
Randy J. McPheron
October is Pastor Appreciation Month! When I was a pastor this was one of my favorite times of the year! The churches I served were so good to me and my family and they took every opportunity to show their love and extend their generosity, even Pastor Appreciation Month! For this reason I share some thoughts and experiences about being a pastor.
I feel very blessed to have served as a pastor to churches that loved me & my family dearly. I have also served churches where the situation was much more stressful and where I did not feel that I was a good fit. In those situations God also blessed me. My family and I made lifelong friends who loved us, and had it not been for these situations we would have never known such comfort, loyalty and faithfulness. God used every circumstance to grow us, even my shortcomings. I now serve as Director of Missions for the Rockcastle Baptist Association and I also head up a Revival Ministry called Touch of Hope Evangelistic Ministries. Though I am no longer a pastor I know what it is like to be a pastor. I spent 25 years of my life serving as a pastor. It seems to me that it is more difficult today than ever. I love pastors, and even when they fail to lead effectively, I still desire to support them as individuals and to show respect for the office of pastor. One thing I know about the ministry is that conflict is unavoidable. Maybe if we never attempted anything for God life would run smoothly… I don’t know. But the minute we try something for God we will face difficulty. We are called to endure, we are called to perseverance. We must learn to suffer well and to look to God for comfort. This may be biased but I don’t know any hurt like church hurt. It is some of the worse pain of all. When I was a pastor the hardest people for me to reach was those who were deeply hurt in church. One of the things I wish people in church would learn to do is to control our speech. If we are careless and reckless with our speech it can be so damaging. We should try to avoid damaging any person’s reputation and especially a pastor’s. If there are hard things that need to be said in the right way then so be it, but make sure it is done in a way that honors God! We need more pastors not fewer. Let’s do what we can to help pastors succeed. Pastors need our prayers, encouragement, love and support. Let’s be generous toward them and esteem them very highly in love for their works sake. What should we do when a pastor needs correction or we have a concern? First, we should pray about it and keep talk to a minimal. Next, if it’s something we can live with then we should be patient and tolerant and live with it. Sometimes it is a matter of forgiveness and we simply need to forgive. Once we forgive we should not bring the matter up again. Since we have forgiven then it is behind us. Unless a new ofIfense arises we simply go forward in unity. If we can’t overlook it and it isn’t a matter of forgiveness then we should consult with our pastor and share our concern in love. If the problem doesn’t go away then after some time and patience and prayer we should share our concern with the church leaders. Church leaders should use great caution and wisdom in correcting a pastor but there are times when it is necessary to bring loving concerns to the pastor. If the matter is not resolved through the assistance of the church leaders then the entire church must be involved. If this process is followed and if those following this process have pure motives, it will lead to unity and peace. If individuals involved in the process have impure motives and personal agendas then it becomes more complicated. Conflict can become a conduit for growth and maturity if handled rightly. Sometimes there is no easy solution and we simply have to move forward in the direction that we feel best honors God and promotes His will being done. It requires much grace for a church to function in love. If we are going to bash pastors then let’s bash them with our love, support, words of encouragement, prayers, and generosity! I remember many years ago in one of the churches where I served as pastor the church gave me a “pounding!” They filled my car with pounds of groceries! I was a young college student and I remember driving back to campus that night feeling overwhelmed with encouragement. Many times in my ministry I couldn’t afford to take a vacation but the churches where I served would bless me with a trip! A pastor’s work is stressful but a restful vacation can refresh a pastor and his family. Most people have no idea what a pastor and his family go through. It’s tough living in a “fish bowl.” A church can make or break a pastor. I’ve been blessed to minister in churches that loved me and my family. For this reason I have found the courage to continue serving God in whatever role He chooses. I pray that God will send faithful pastors, and raise up more loving churches to carry His Gospel to the world! To my fellow pastors I leave you with these words from the Apostle Peter,
“Therefore, as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of the Messiah and also a participant in the glory about to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you: Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”
(1 Peter 5:1-4)
“On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark. She saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran to Simon Peter and to the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him! ” At that, Peter and the other disciple went out, heading for the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and got to the tomb first. Stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying there, yet he did not go in. Then, following him, Simon Peter came also. He entered the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there. The wrapping that had been on His head was not lying with the linen cloths but was folded up in a separate place by itself. The other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, then entered the tomb, saw, and believed. For they still did not understand the Scripture that He must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went home again.”
(John 20:1-10 HCSB)
“But Mary stood outside facing the tomb, crying. As she was crying, she stooped to look into the tomb. She saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet, where Jesus’ body had been lying. They said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? ” “Because they’ve taken away my Lord,” she told them, “and I don’t know where they’ve put Him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not know it was Jesus. “Woman,” Jesus said to her, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for? ” Supposing He was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you’ve removed Him, tell me where you’ve put Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said, “Mary.” Turning around, she said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” — which means “Teacher.””
(John 20:11-16 HCSB)
We’ve all been in situations where we felt it was hopeless, or maybe a circumstance that seemed impossible. When Mary came to the tomb that is how she and the other followers of Jesus felt. They were discouraged, and it seemed as though all was lost. But on resurrection morning the stone was rolled away! God did not roll away the stone so that Jesus could go out, but He did it so that we could see in. There is hope in any situation because Jesus lives! This is why Paul prayed, “That I might know Him (Jesus) and the power of His resurrection.” We need resurrection power to face life and it’s difficult problems. Resurrection power means we have been given victory through Jesus Christ. God who raised up Jesus will also raise us up. Resurrection power means we have hope through Jesus Christ. Don’t be discouraged and don’t be without faith today. Believe God for resurrection power to give you victory over temptation, patience and endurance in your storms, and hope to live life with joy, love, and courage.
Prayer: “Lord Jesus, may we know You and the power of Your resurrection today. In Jesus name. Amen.”
Randy J. McPheron
“Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!”
We preach a bloody cross! There is no way to talk about the Gospel without a mention of the suffering of Jesus Christ. First, there was the scourge. He was beaten with a whip that was made of leather straps extending from a wooden handle. There were nine strands of leather embedded with pieces of bone, rock, and metal. The instrument was often referred to as the “cat of nine tails.” The scourging was so brutal that it would sometimes remove an organ as it tore away the flesh. It was believed that forty stripes would kill most men so the Roman soldiers gave thirty-nine. The scourge was one stripe from death and as close to death as most would ever come and live. The scourge was gruesome and yet Jesus endured it. They pressed a crown of thorns upon His head, and with His flesh shredded and dripping with blood from the scourge they covered Him in a purple robe. The soldiers struck Him and mocked Him. He was then led to Calvary where His hands and feet were nailed with metal spikes to a wooden cross. There Jesus who knew no sin became sin for us. The wrath of God was poured out on Him and He was treated the way we deserve to be treated. He took our place that we might go free. His agonizing death was not in vain. Jesus purchased our salvation by suffering on a cross. He was lifted up so that we might look by faith and live. In Him we have redemption through His blood. Without a bloody cross there would be no remission of sin.
Prayer: “Father, we thank You for the precious blood of Jesus that was shed for us. You did not spare Your Son Jesus but freely gave Him up for us, and in Him You will give us all things. We thank You. In Jesus name. Amen.”
Randy J. McPheron
I recently came across a great article in Baptist Press, “10 Revival Meeting Tips” by Jake Roudkovski, assistant professor of evangelism at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Here is the full article…
Even though the number of revival meetings in the Southern Baptist Convention has been declining, a significant amount of churches continue to use revival meetings for evangelism and revitalization.
According to a study conducted by the Georgia Baptist Convention in 2001, 58 percent of the churches in the state conducted a local church revival. In a 2010 survey by LifeWay Research, revival meetings were among the five most often used evangelistic events in Southern Baptist churches.
Let me suggest several practical ways that may help churches benefit from a revival meeting:
–Purpose: When church leadership begins to sense that God is leading them to schedule a revival meeting, they need to ask what the purpose of such an event should be. Will it be primarily for evangelism or revitalization of a local congregation? The purpose will dictate a strategy for preparation. If the primary purpose is evangelism, the strategy may differ from that one if the primary purpose is revitalization. Even though a church selects the primary purpose as evangelism, it may experience a spiritual renewal among the membership. In turn, a church with the primary purpose as revitalization may reach people for Christ along the way. A clear purpose will enable church leadership to be more proactive in matching the purpose with a strategy for preparation and resources.
— Be aware of perceived ineffectiveness: Churches must be aware of the reasons that have caused some Christian leaders to assert that revival meetings are “dead.” The first reason for the perceived ineffectiveness is the spiritual condition of many churches. At times, Christian leaders tend to blame methodology but fail to understand that Western Christianity is in need of spiritual awakening. The church must pray for an awakening and cleanse herself from sin and live the life of holiness. The second reason for perceived ineffectiveness of revival meetings is cultural trends. Pastors cannot overlook the fact that during the golden era of revivalism, the entire community gathered around revival meetings. Those meetings might have been the only major local event going in the community and the lost people came to it. The third reason for the perceived ineffectiveness of revival meetings is the proliferation of other evangelistic methodologies. When revival meetings in SBC experienced their golden era, the revival meeting was the prevalent methodology for evangelism. Today churches employ a diversity of methodologies for evangelism.
— Personalities. Once the primary purpose is established, the church leadership should select prayerfully a revival team. I have to confess for the first 10 years as a pastor, I invited my pastor friends to preach revival meetings. However, I came to a conclusion that if I really believed that an evangelist was God’s gift to the church, I should be willing to employ vocational evangelists in churches God allowed me to serve. Many evangelists have developed proven themes and formats and they have used them effectively in many churches. The church leadership should be open to what the revival teams may bring to the table in regard to theme and format. One year, I was sharing with an evangelist that the main purpose of the meeting would be evangelism when I found out that one of the themes he used frequently was an emphasis on the family. Further, a format the evangelist employed was a Saturday through Monday meeting. Previously, the more common formats for me were Sunday through Wednesday or Thursday through Sunday meetings. After prayerful consideration, we agreed to conduct a revival meeting with a theme of “focusing on the family” while employing a Saturday through Monday format. God blessed that event with over 40 people giving their lives to Christ.
— Preparation. After the church leadership establishes the purpose and secures a spiritually gifted revival team, they are ready to develop a strategy for preparation. Many state conventions publish manuals on revival preparation. The North American Mission Board has an excellent resource: “Revival Preparation Manual: Practical Suggestions for Planning a Revival in Your Church” (available at NAMBstore.com). Revival manuals provide concrete ways to involve church membership in preparation for and participation in revival meetings. The attempt should be made to involve as many church members as possible in various tasks associated with revival preparation and the revival meeting itself.
— Publicity. One critical aspect of revival preparation is publicity. The most effective publicity is a personal invitation to attend. A business card with information about the event could be printed and distributed to church members to use in inviting their family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. Church literature such as newsletters, worship guides and websites should provide pertinent information about the event. Depending on the budget allocated to publicity, the church could publicize the event via a local newspaper, television, yard signs and billboards. Publicity via Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other viral marketing strategies by the church and church members can generate a buzz in the community and beyond about the event.
— Personal evangelism. From my personal experience and observation, personal evangelism is the most productive way of preparation for revival meetings. Even though throughout the year as a pastor I was cultivating relationships with the lost, revival meetings provided an impetus for greater prayer and contacts with those without Christ.
— Program for children. One often neglected aspect of revival preparation is what to do with children. In one church I served as pastor, I became concerned about an apparent lack of participation by young couples. When asked, they responded by pointing to the fact that the church did not have anything for children during the revival week. From that day forward, in addition to a typical childcare, we provided a specialized program for children during revival services. When young couples knew that their children were taken care of spiritually, they were more inclined to participate and to invite their lost friends and family members to attend.
— Possible meals. Another response the young couples gave me for their lack of participation was that they did not have time to prepare a meal and get to the worship service after work. As a result, we began to provide catered meals during week nights. We offered tickets for a nominal price with a major portion of the meal subsidized by our church budget. Church members were more predisposed to invite people to their church when their invitation was accompanied by an invitation to a nice meal before the service during a busy week.
— Post-event follow-up. In preparation for revival meetings, post-event follow-up should not be overlooked. Billy Graham once commented that the most difficult part of his crusades was not what happened before the crusade but what happened after it was conducted. The same is true of local church revival meetings. As soon as the revival meeting concludes, names of those who made spiritual commitments can be distributed among deacons and/or Bible study group members for further follow-up.
— Prayer. The most significant aspect of revival meetings must be prayer. The genuine revival can be brought only by God. Only God can save individuals through His Holy Spirit. As the church leadership and membership engages in prayer, they acknowledge their dependence on God. From establishing the primary purpose of the revival meeting to seeking right individuals for the revival team, from publicity to personal evangelism, from taking care of spiritual needs of children to post-event follow-up, the church leadership and membership must prioritize prayer. Church leaders should set aside personal time to pray for genuine revival in their church as well as provide opportunities for church members to pray for God’s movement in their church.
In identifying causes of perceived ineffectiveness of revival meetings, church leaders become more equipped to address challenges. By employing simple ways such as prayer, purpose, publicity and preparation, churches place themselves in the position for God to bring a harvest of souls. Let God grant us more souls for His glory as we employ revival meetings in our churches!
“And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.”
“And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.”
(Luke 23:33, 38-47 KJV)
At the top of Calvary’s Mountain there were three crosses. Three men were sentenced to die by crucifixion. One man was dying in sin. Another was dying to sin. But Jesus was dying for sin. Jesus was innocent of sin. He was the Just dying for the unjust. The dying thief could find no fault in Him. Pilate found no fault in Him. The Roman centurion who was converted at the cross could find no fault in Jesus, but instead he said, “Certainly this was a righteous man.” Do you find any fault in Jesus? His very nature demands one of two responses. Either you will love Him and follow Him, or you will reject Him and by your actions hate Him. No one is neutral when it comes to Jesus Christ. Where do you stand today?
Prayer: “Dear Father, You are not leading people to heaven backwards. Today, may we make up our minds and set our faces to following Jesus Christ.”
Randy J. McPheron
“Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 HCSB
God is a God of comfort. He seeks to comfort us in all our troubles. He comforts us so that we may be able to comfort others when they are troubled. The more we suffer for Christ, the more God will pour out His comfort on us through Christ Jesus. Our suffering isn’t pointless. God always has a purpose. Those who share in Christ’s sufferings will also share in the comfort God gives. Life is stormy and trouble comes to us all. Even Jesus faced suffering. Certainly, Paul was no stranger to it either. He said of one stormy experience, “We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9 NLT) The word “crushed” reminds us of a donkey with a weight so heavy that its legs buckle beneath the load. Sometimes our burdens are so great that we may lose all hope of recovery. We may feel crushed by circumstances, or broken by burdens. These moments tend to drive us to greater dependency on God. Paul testified that God delivers us from hopeless situations, and the prayers of God’s people aid in our delivery. He said, “You are helping us by praying for us.” And again he said, “God has answered so many prayers for our safety.” If you are facing a storm today know that God will comfort you. If you have been comforted by God in a storm, seek to comfort someone else who is hurting. If you know someone who is in a storm today, know that your prayers are needed and your prayers will be a conduit of comfort to someone crushed beneath the burden of a storm.
Prayer: “We praise You God of comfort, and we lay our burdens at Your feet, we also pray for those we know who are struggling in a storm today. In Jesus name. Amen.”
Randy J. McPheron