God’s Got People In All The Right Places

Thailand Team 2016

Indian Springs Baptist Church Thailand Team

My heart is full as I sit down with my Macbook in the lobby of the hotel in which we have been staying for the past seven days. It is 5:19 a.m. back home in Tennessee, but it is 4:19 p.m. here in this particular city in Thailand. I hesitate to post the precise city name because I have a duty to my new friends to protect them. You see, my new friends gathered here this week from all over South Asia for a season of rest and revitalization. The team you see in the picture above was tasked with the responsibility of providing programming for the children so that these new friends of mine, brothers and sisters in the ministry of the Gospel, could focus on God and each other.

My heart is full because I had the high honor and privilege of opening the glorious Word of God each day and allowing the Holy Spirit to minister the Gospel among us. Each day a ballroom full of men and women who have said, “Yes!” to the call of God in their life, who work and serve in some of the most spiritually dark places on Earth, listened intently and graciously to the messages God had placed in my heart and in my mouth. I did not feel worthy to stand before them, yet, I was fully aware of the One who called me to this ministry and He certainly is worthy to stand there in me as I stand in Him.

My heart is full because I was able to sit for hours on end and listen to stories of the miraculous works of God. Stories of God saving individuals from lives bound up in the worship of statues and dead men, turning instead to the One who had died yet rose again victoriously. I heard the story of “Amelia” – not her real name – the seven-year old daughter of two of these faithful workers who just two weeks ago had confessed her faith in Jesus Christ. Her father warned her about the fact that now that she had committed her life to Christ, Satan, the enemy, would be attacking. Only one week later, Amelia began to convulse with violent seizures. She was rushed to the hospital where she began a battery of tests to determine the cause. They were concerned that it was a parasite in her brain or, possibly, tuberculosis. While lying in the hospital, Amelia turned to her father and said, “Daddy, this is what you were talking about isn’t it?”

My heart was full five days later when “Amelia” and her family walked victoriously into the ballroom where we were gathered to the thunderous applause of all in attendance. Take that, Satan!

My heart is full because as a Southern Baptist pastor, I hold a leadership position in a local church that supports these workers with Cooperative Program giving and funding from money given to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering each year. Some may question what happens when those checks are written, when those apps are initiated, or when those bills hit the offering plate. I feel as though I have hitched a ride atop one of those wire transfers and have followed it all the way to the field. I can say, unequivocally, as for me and my house, we will gladly and generously continue to support this work because I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears what God can do when He gets the right people in the right places. His name goes forth in power and lives are transformed from death unto life.

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My heart is full because this team of which I am a member, went above and beyond the call of duty this week. They worked hard and they loved harder. They stepped out of their comfort zone and pretty much slammed the door so hard they shattered. These baby toting, child disciplining, youth engaging pals of mine are my new heroes. Their hard work enabled me to participate in virtually every aspect of this conference and it has radically energized me even as I was coming to try to energize others. God is sneaky like that! We pour ourselves out for Him and He fills us to overflowing.

My social media pages will not be graced by the images of my new friends. No hash tags will be formulated to encapsulate these days. Because the enemy prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, I cannot publicly disclose the awesomeness that we have experienced. I must have faith in the applause of heaven that cannot yet be heard. I must be satisfied with the fullness of my heart that will not soon be exhausted.

Meet Will George

Will George is one of my little buddies. In the church I serve I have a whole bunch of little buddies across both of our campuses. We fist bump. We laugh. They hit me up for gum balls out of my gum ball machine. They threaten me with bodily harm. I growl. They run. On occasion, one will need to talk or ask advice or need to pray with me.

A few days ago, Will George came to my office and wanted to tell me about his newest endeavor. Will George (he’s a two namer) had a God given idea to start an after school meeting for his fellow 3rd graders called “Church After School” (C.A.S. for short). Here is the letter to his principal seeking permission that he wrote all by himself:

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If you can’t make that out, here’s the transcription, word for word:

Dear Mr. Edwards,
I’m a fellow beleiver in christ and I would like to start a bible study. I’m wanting to teach people about Jesus. The name of the study will in my expectation be C.A.S. (Church After School). You may be thinking, “why ask me?” But here’s why. I don’t have anywhere to teach them so I ask for permission to use you’r school. Please trust me to teach the gospel to the students of this school. There are kids that don’t know about christ and I want to teach them! You’r and my question is, will you let me? If you’ve got the answer, yes or no, I’m in Ms. Lackey’s home room class and I would love to here the answer. The whole thing has been planned. I am a patien kid and give you all the time you need to figure out the answer so wait as long as you want. I will be okay if the answer is no so do whatever you want. Contact me at any time.

Sincerly,
Will George

Third grade, people!!!

After a few meetings and some minor plan revisions, Will George had it all together. Today was the very first meeting of C.A.S. at Johnson Elementary School. Take a sneak peek:

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I have preached a few sermons and taught a few classes where I wished I had that many people for the first meeting. I am so proud of my little buddy! It fills my heart to know that his father and mother, Rob and Julie, have poured into this kid and loved him to the Lord! I weep when I think of Ms. Jeralyn, Ms. Cyrena, and Ms. Lyndy and all of the Sunday School teachers, VBS teachers, Awana and TeamKid leaders who have invested in him and others just like him.

It makes me eager to step behind the pulpit each Sunday with the honor and privilege to preach the Word of God and know that it NEVER RETURNS VOID!

Will George, I love you, buddy! Come by the office for your free gum ball!!!

In Praise of the Praiseworthy

Oh, what a night!

There we were, two and half seasons into our Downton Abbey binge watching marathon. Paige and I were seated in the living room after Midnight on a snow day, anticipating another snow day, when the phone rang. As a pastor, and the son of a widowed mother, a phone call at 12:45 a.m. is never going to be a good thing. It was mom. Her trembling voice barely able to squeak out the words, “Someone just tried to break into the house!” The next voice I heard was that of an officer with the Kingsport Police Department. Mom was so shaken she just handed over the phone to the officer. He explained two juvenile delinquents had been apprehended in the back yard of my old home place and that the situation was under control.KPD-logo-patch

In my truck on the way to my mother’s house, a wave of emotion came over me. I was angered that someone, anyone would frighten my mother so badly that she could not form words to speak. I was distraught at the thought my mother was, indeed, vulnerable to the whims of some punks with nothing better to do than to destroy private property and steal things. It was not a great state of mind to be in as I tried to navigate the frozen, snow-covered streets of Kingsport.

Upon arrival, I saw that three of the five police cruisers that initially responded to the distress call, had already left. An old friend and member of the force greeted me and apprised me of the situation. I could not see the two 14-year-old boys in the back of the car, but I could not help but wonder if they were kids that my church had reached out to through our ministry to the community where they resided. I’m not sure I need or truly want to know either.

Sometime around 12:30 a.m., my mother was awakened by voices and the sounds of footsteps on the other side of her bedroom wall. She got out of bed, grabbed her phone and went to the window and turned on the outside lights. Keep in mind, there’s five inches of snow on the ground and the light of the moon and stars reflecting off the pristine powder was more than enough to allow one to see everything in the backyard… especially footprints in the fresh, untouched snow. Seeing the outside lights come on, our two Einstein’s froze and looked at each other. Decision time: 1) Turn and run for it OR 2) Dismiss it as some sort of motion light and continue on with the nefarious plan. They chose the latter.

When mom saw them turning back for the house, she reported this to the 9-1-1 dispatcher already on the phone. Units were already on the way. The dispatcher advised mom to go to the opposite end of the house from where the boys were headed. As she moved out of her bedroom and down the hallway –  CRASH! –  the 4 foot X 6 foot picture window next to my mother’s bath tub exploded sending plate glass in every direction. The noise was so loud the dispatcher heard it over the phone. My mother ran to a half-bath off the kitchen and attempted to lock herself inside. Can you see it… my 80+… er um… seasoned senior mother cowering in a dark bathroom with who knows what getting ready to come in her house, clinging to the hope in the voice on the other end of a phone call? I see it too and it infuriates me, but I digress.

About that time, before the boys could make entry, the police arrived on the scene. Utilizing the aforementioned weather conditions to their advantage, the officers apprehended the suspects in the backyard. They found the softball size river rock they chucked through the window which, we discovered this morning, was thrown with such force as to break through a plate glass window AND create a gaping hole in the drywall on the opposite wall six feet away. The officers told us there had been three other home invasion-style break ins in my mother’s neighborhood over the previous few days. Perhaps these kids were responsible, perhaps not. All I know is in the final analysis, there needed to be praise offered forth.

First, I praise my Lord Jesus for keeping my mother safe and unharmed through it all. Secondly, I praise the calm, professionalism of the 9-1-1 dispatcher who talked my mother through the turmoil. Finally, I praise the the officers of the KPD who were willing and able to do what was necessary to serve and protect my mother and our community. In the current climate in which we live, too many voices are taking too many political stances and pointing their accusatory fingers at too broad a swath of police officers. Are there some attitudes that need changing? Of course. But we need not besmirch the good names of the 99% who do it right just because of a few bad ones.

Fifteen hours, one tarp and a sheet of plywood later, I am happy that I can still call Kingsport home. However, much like everywhere else in this world, our hometown is not the place it used to be. We must remain vigilant. We must stick together. We must love our neighbors as we love ourselves. If you see something, say something.

I saw some things that were praiseworthy and I had to say something.

For Your Christmas Enjoyment, “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch”

Before I get all the angry people screaming, “Christmas is Jesus!” I believe I already know well the meaning of the season. This is me having fun with a song that meant a lot to me in my childhood.

Enjoy and Merry Christmas!