All Christians are called, gifted and sent.
“But God can’t use us if we don’t give Him what we have with open hands,” said Richard Brunson, executive director of North Carolina Baptist Men (also known as Baptists on Mission), to more than 1,200 people at the 2018 Missions Conference April 6-7 at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte.
BR photo by Steve Cooke
Bryan Loritts, who serves as pastor of Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in Mountain View, Calif., spoke at the Baptists on Missions Conference April 6 at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte.
Brunson referred to the “Open Hands” theme during the main sessions as did featured speakers – Bryan Loritts, pastor of Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in Mountain View, Calif.; Vicki Grossman, director of operations for the Good Shepherd Ministries in the western region of Guatemala; Kyle Idleman, teaching pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky.; Jennifer Rothschild, author and speaker; Terry Rae, founder of Africa for Christ and former general secretary for the South African Baptist Union; and Tom Richter, pastor of Cullman (Ala.) First Baptist Church.
The Annie Moses Band led music for the event.
Referring to John 6, Brunson said the boy who had the loaves and fishes “could have kept what he had for himself. [God] gives you and me the freedom to hold onto what we have with clenched fists or open hands. “God can’t work if we don’t give Him what we have.”
‘Not where I once was’
Loritts said to look for fruit in people’s lives.
“Just because you hang out in the same environment as Christians doesn’t make you saved,” he said. “If I hang out in a garage, it doesn’t make me a car.”
Struggling with the flesh continues to be a battle throughout life, he stressed.
“Please be patient with me, God is not through with me yet,” Loritts said. “I should also be able to conclude that I am not where I once was. I am a work in progress. When the Spirit of God moves into your soul, He begins to change you.”
He warned against confusing philanthropy with love.
“You can write a check but not love,” he said. “You can serve out of a sense of duty and obligation and not love.”
For a real picture of love, believers need to review the pastor and prostitute story of Hosea 3.
“If it doesn’t go through seasons of strangeness, it ain’t love,” he stressed, talking about the tribalism of churches today.
He mentioned Fox News Church, CNN Church, Republican Church and Democrat Church.
“It’s not the church of Jesus Christ,” he said. “If our churches look that way, our dinner table looks that way. To emancipate the one who wronged him cost [Hosea] everything he had (Hosea 3). If it doesn’t cost, it ain’t love. If you ain’t paying a price, it ain’t love.”
He mentioned a son that is making some awful choices but he and his wife are trying to help any way they can. The couple doesn’t “expect claps of affirmation because that’s what you expect parents to do.”
Loritts said many believers “want Nordstrom quality community at thrift store prices,” adding that “we don’t want to be inconvenienced.”
But that’s not how God works.
“[Hosea] doesn’t give [Gomer] the standard before he redeems her,” Loritts remarked. “If he did it would have been conditional on her works.
“This is the gospel: God always rescues and redeems us before He gives us the standard.”
Strength through fire
Rothschild recently lost her father. She talked about things that shake you in life. “Blindness is the most difficult thing I deal with,” she said, but there are other things that can cause you to shake … when your child makes tough choices that terrify you or when you lose a loved one.
“We feel shaken for all sorts of reasons,” she said. “When God allows something to shake you … it’s because He wants to use it to shape you, shape your understanding of who He is, shape your future.”
BR photo by Steve Cooke
“When God allows something to shake you … it’s because He wants to use it to shape you, shape your understanding of who He is, shape your future,” said Jennifer Rothschild, a speaker and author living in Missouri.
Last fall, when she was involved in a busy speaking schedule and balancing visits to see her sick father, she was feeling overwhelmed. “I needed to be in too many places, and I was running on empty,” she said. “I was spent. If we are so fixated on our present situation we may miss His presence.”
Two praying ladies on either side of her middle plane seat helped, as did a cup of coffee sent by her husband with another passenger boarding the plane.
“When God’s glory comes down, our issues come up,” she said. “When we really see who God is, we really see who we are.”
Before her dad’s illness, she would proclaim self-reliance and emotional self-control as strengths of hers. She doesn’t let her blindness keep her from many things. She brags about putting together her furniture that came in pieces. “Our strengths can be our greatest liabilities,” she exclaimed. “Our strengths can keep us away from God.”
In scripture, there are references to purification through fire. God uses fire to purify His followers.
She mentioned the Manzanita tree that grows in western North America. The tree rarely flowers until there is a forest fire. “The heat of the fire breaks open that hard shell and then the beauty is revealed. You may feel shaken,” she added. “It’s fire that makes us flower. It’s that difficulty that helps us see God.”
God will carry you
Having to preach and speak often, Idleman admits to sometimes dealing with anxiety. If he “messes up” a message on Saturday night, “it gets in my head,” he said. He will wake up early Sunday morning, and he asks his wife to pray over him before he preaches that morning. “She will put her hands in my hands,” he said, and “she will pray God’s courage into my life. God’s strength [is] more important than what people might think. She’ll pray me out the door.”
Much of the anxiety people experience “comes because we were caught off guard,” he said. “God, as a Father, just wants to say to you, ‘Can I get that for you … that weight that you’re carrying?’ And if you need Him to, He’ll carry you as well.”
God is ‘on the loose’
Richter spoke of the woman, who with open hands, poured out perfume on Jesus’ feet (John 12).
“The reaction of the people is, ‘What a waste!’” Richter stated.
The perfume used represented “the very best Mary had,” he said, calling it an heirloom worth $45,000. It was a one-time use container. She broke it open to use it on her Jesus. The best could take so many forms, challenging college students, retired people or those with money. “How much perfume is in the sanctuary? When it’s your child, grandchild.
When you bless that, that’s perfume,” Richter stressed.
Richter recounted Jesus’ triumphal entry, the “messianic fervor boiling over,” the trumped up charges, crown of thorns, the whipping, mocking, the nails, etc.
“Messiah’s kingdom was supposed to have no end,” he said. “The disciples are terrified. They didn’t know it was Easter.”
Richter’s favorite verse follows the women arriving at the tomb. The angel speaks to them, saying, “He is not here.”
But the angel doesn’t clarify where Jesus is.
“It seems we have a deity on the loose,” Richter said, stressing that whether it’s a closed country of a closed heart, God can find a way to get past a locked door.
“That’s why you keep preaching,” he said. “That’s why you keep disaster reliefin’. You don’t know which heart He’s going to touch next. When [Mary] got her moment, she took it with open hands.”
As one of the final parts of the conference Brunson recognized Scott and Janet Daughtry as volunteers of the year. Both have served in numerous capacities with NCBM. Currently Scott is serving as disaster relief logistics team leader and Janet is international ministry projects coordinator. They have four children and five grandchildren.
Next year’s Missions Conference will be back at Hickory Grove April 5-6. Brunson confirmed Richter was returning to speak.