It's hard to believe we're already at the end of this 2013 Operation Christmas Child Global Connect Conference--this God-appointed celebration of our first 100 million shoe boxes.
Former shoe box recipient Izabella McMillen has done a phenomenal job as 'master of ceremonies' for these sessions. Her energy and stage presence coupled with her radiant smile have brought a special spark to this conference.
And then, of course, there's the Tommy Coomes Band leading worship. I guess the TCB is to Franklin Graham as George Beverly Shea is to Billy Graham--longstanding partners in ministry. We enjoyed worshipping for the last time with our brothers and sisters from 102 other countries and singing some of "Blessed Be Your Name" in French was so meaningful.
Then Will Graham came to lead us in devotions on the topic of 'authority'--
You and I are under authority—in our work lives and our personal lives.
As an example Will shared a story of his father, Franklin Graham, who was at a board meeting with a man named Frank Coy. The man was older than Franklin and he’d been taught by his parents not to address his elders by their first names, so Franklin called him Mr. Coy. The gentleman went to Franklin and said that since they were equals at board meetings he wanted Franklin to call him my his first name—Frank. At the next board meeting Franklin did this and his father, Billy Graham, became very upset. Franklin said, “He told me to call him Frank. What am I supposed to do?” Billy replied, “I’m your father. Do as I tell you.”
How much more does our heavenly Father have authority?
In Matthew 28 Jesus told His disciples, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” God’s authority is behind evangelism. Nothing belongs to us. It all belongs to God.
We hang onto our wallets like they belong to us. But they don’t. Time is a precious resource, but you don’t own it. God owns it.
All authority was given by God to Jesus (not by the Democrats or the Republicans.) We’re His ambassadors and we represent Him. It all has to do with Jesus.
Only Jesus can change a person because He has authority to do it. A shoebox can’t change a life. Christ changes hearts. The shoebox is merely a tool. People can receive all the shoeboxes in the world and still go to hell.
Jesus has used His authority to give us three commands:
1) The command to LEAVE
--in order to fish you have to go where the fish are. You can’t stay where you are. You have to GO in His authority.
--you have to GO and make disciples; Jesus told us to tell others He is alive and make disciples
2) The command to WIN OTHERS
--I want to encourage you to be a soul winner
--you can pack a lot of shoe boxes and never tell anyone about Jesus
--you represent the King. Don’t shrink back!
3) The command to FELLOWSHIP
--Samaritan’s Purse is not your church
--Jesus died for His bride, The Church--not for Samaritan’s Purse
--Never let Samaritan’s Purse be an excuse to neglect church involvement.
Jesus said “Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.” ALL things—not just some of them.
The great promise of evangelism is one of the greatest promises of the Bible--"I will be with you always."
Emmanuel='God with us'--The creator came down and has given the Holy Spirit to guide us.
The King is with you. The King changes everything. We've got God in our plan. Who could be against us? That's what sent missionaries all around the world.
What next? What do we do? Hebrews 6:3 "This we will do. If God permits."
--Keep telling people about Christ
--Keep moving forward with the gospel
--We have to be dependent upon God
--It's going to cost us to be a Christian. Jesus said, "If they hate me, they'll hate you."
--Everyone gets excited until the cross comes in. It's going to take everything you have to move forward but He is always with you.
Revelation (the end of the story) is there. The King of Kings is coming for His bride. And, Will said, "I hope it's a shoe box that brings that last one into the fold."
After a moving communion service, Will reminded us, "It's a victory meal. Jesus is coming again."
--The Greatest Invitation is: Come, follow Me.
--The Greatest Promise is: I am with you always.
Worship started again, but unfortunately I had to leave in the middle of it to catch a shuttle to the airport. A whirlwind of connections made and yet, sadly, still there were friends I missed seeing.
There were friends who have encouraged me via Facebook and e-mail--from Iowa and Kansas and Hawaii and California. It's unlikely I'll see most of them face to face again until we pack the next 100 million boxes and can celebrate again.
So....let's get packing!