"Forward March" Into the New Year
Are we inward or outward focused? This week I had an uncomfortable realization pounce upon me. We, the church, can be incredibly self-centered. At Thanksgiving we hold dinners, primarily for ourselves. At Christmas, we hold parties, primarily for ourselves. We might put up some posters or run a newspaper ad inviting outsiders to attend a Christmas service, but few unsaved come. The devil has convinced us that all we need to do is put up a sign and people will come and be saved.
Years ago, I had the privilege of spending a week behind the scenes of a Billy Graham Crusade in Pittsburg. The man in charge of the massive publicity campaign emphasized that advertising only raises public awareness that the meetings are taking place, unsaved people come because they are personally brought by a friend.
Our Lord gave us a "Great Commission", to "go and make disciples". He said nothing about sit and wait for them to come. We must take the church to the people, not wait for the people to come to the church! Please don't misunderstand me, ministry to our church family is an important part of our church life, but it's only a part. As our former associate pastor Rich Townsend recently said, "We should have one outreach activity for every church family activity." What do you think?
December Blessings: Melva and I are incredibly blessed to serve our small Saturday Night worship group. In November we packed 100 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child and brought Thanksgiving meals to 9 families. In December we sang for the nursing home and assisted living residents one weekend, and then shut-ins as far as 20 miles away the next. We were able to adopt 7 families in need and provide Christmas presents. Most of these folks don't attend our services but were referred to us. We sang for them, prayed with them, and showed the love of Jesus. A wonderful blessing came to us through Sue, a resident in the assisted living center. She offered to recruit her fellow residents to adopt a needy family. She reports that the response was great!
Ski Area Ministry: Our Bible studies have started at the ski area as well as our weekly "Mountain Top Chapel" services. The second week I was re-taught a valuable lesson. As the 1 pm start time approached, no one had come. I prayed. Then one local resident came, and I prepared to start. Suddenly, ten Air Force Academy Cadets skied up, followed by others. The Lord reminded me that my job is to be faithful, He determines the numbers. Today I received word that people are contacting the ski area to be sure we are doing the chapel before they come!
Upcoming: Lord willing, December 31st I will lead a prayer for our ski school staff at the top of the mountain before we ski down with highway flares in a torchlight parade. I've had the privilege of doing this for over 40 winters and it always opens a door to share with instructors about Jesus. February 7, we will host our 12th annual Evangelical Pastors and Wives Dinner, March 1-3, I help lead worship for the "High Ground" men's Bible ski retreat at Beaver Creek.
Miscellaneous Blessings: This past week we received word from folks in Idaho and Colorado that the "Unshackled" radio program played our testimony again. (This goes back to 1994 when I shared at the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago.) A recent widow of a forest firefighter in MI contacted us to thank us for the impact I had on her husband years ago on a fire in the northwest. This month we ran a series of 30 second testimonies of local Christians on the classic rock station. And more!
Finances: By God's grace working through you, every need is met, and we are able to continue to share with many workers in the Lord's service. "This service (giving) that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God." (2 Corinthians 9:12)
Prayer Requests: For the anointing of the Holy Spirit to be upon us as we share God's glorious gospel. For the families whose loved ones have passed or are in hospice care. For daughter Joy, husband Stephen, and granddaughters Hannah and Bethan as they transition from Scotland to London. For our son Steve as he seeks God's direction for a new job. For Melva who has a recurrence of blood clots in her lungs and arthritis in her thumbs. The blood clots seem to be disappearing but please pray. She enjoys writing personal notes to all of you but must cut back some because of arthritis in her thumbs. We still pray over every gift and note we receive, but just can't write as many responses. For our well situation-our well casing has apparently failed, and it looks as if we must drill a new well next summer.
Thank You for all your prayers and investments in God's work! They are paying eternal dividends!
Rick and Melva
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Rick Barton Ministires
PO Box 1155
Gunnison, CO 81230