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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Wal-Mart Shoppers Meet Jesus

The day we'd waited for finally arrived. The planning was done. We had our supplies. People prayed for us. Our team of 4 met in DC to fly together to New Orleans. Doug Tubb had the first Gospel Conversation when he noticed someone on the plane reading a Christian book. The man knew Jesus but loved hearing the Gospel through the colored beads.

Cathy Tubbs and I had the second conversation. She also knew Jesus. Her eyes lit up at our mission to preach the Gospel at Mardi Gras. Our server at dinner knew where he was going in the next life. Our first three conversations blessed us.

After dinner, we needed groceries and more supplies so we stopped by Wal-Mart before returning to collapse at our sleep space for the week, the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

I first saw the young family in produce. She looked so tired. She was still wearing her mail carrier uniform. I thought about talking to them but they were busily managing the two adorable young boys in their cart. I saw them three more times.

Dad also looked exhausted but on a mission to get the shopping done with as little fuss as possible. I felt drawn to them and was disappointed not to talk to them. I asked God to open the door for conversation. We kept shopping and I didn't see them again.

"Cheryle," hubby Bob said. "Get in that line. It's shorter." Speaking of getting the shopping done with as little fuss as possible. Cathy and Doug had already paid for their groceries. My Gospel team was clearly ready to get back. I laughed and pulled the cart into the line as Bob directed.

I couldn't believe it. There right in front of me was the young family I'd followed through the store. In front of them was a woman with a lot of groceries.
"May I give your boys a gospel bracelet about Jesus?" I asked. The woman smiled for the first time that night and agreed. When I started speaking the scriptures that matched the colored beads, both the father and mother listened but about half way through it, Steven needed to check out so he stopped listening.
The children played with their bracelets and the mother and I talked. Taylor went to church some as a child but worked on Sunday. The youngest was their child. The older boy was Steven's nephew who they were raising. They clearly had their hands full.

Taylor hoped she'd been good enough to go to heaven but wasn't sure. She eagerly prayed to meet Jesus. When she smiled with her entire face and her face relaxed, I was surprised at how young she looked.

"Is he your husband?" I asked, pointing to Steven.

"No," she said, looking down. "He's my boyfriend. But we've been together 5 years."

I felt Bob behind me putting our groceries on the belt and hoped he was providing spiritual cover while he was paying for groceries.

"What you've just done is important and I hate it that he missed it. He's finished paying for groceries. Let's go talk to your boyfriend."

"I don't know what he'll say," she said hesitantly.

"Let's try," I encouraged.

Taylor immediately took the boys a few feet away. I stood in front of this young man with his long braided hair and body art covering his arms and felt the honor of his undivided attention and respectful interest. He prayed with me to call on Jesus distinctly and humbly. He finished, looked up, and the sweetness on his face rocked me. He thanked me and Taylor hugged and thanked me. I got their contact information and we all left.

"Bob," I said. "Thank you for just taking over the groceries. Were you also giving spiritual cover."

"I was," Bob said. "Steven never noticed but I even caught his bananas that were falling." What a team!

When we got back to our room, our Mardi Gras Gospel Team planned tomorrow and prayed for Taylor and Steven. What a great start. What a tender blessing. Thank you God for putting me in line behind Taylor and Steven!

As I sat writing this, I heard singing outside. I peeked out the blinds and looked over the barbed wire fence to the gas station next door. A group of men we call "The Baptists" were at the gas station next door singing praise songs and giving the Gospel. Jesus is at Mardi Gras!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Be Intentional About Your Legacy - Monday Ministry Moment

The New Year is a good time to reflect on how you spend your time and it has me thinking about legacies. You will leave a legacy. The question is, what will it be? Will it be good or bad? Generational sin is real and when we sin, we run the risk of passing a legacy nightmare to 3-4 generations - that's in the Bible. It's been my experience that the "passing along" can include those both on and outside our family tree. Perhaps you're on generation 2 or 3 of a particular generational hurt or hang up and well into the assembly line of passing that legacy along. If so, push the "Stop Button" on that assembly line and be intentional about a new legacy.
We aren't stuck. The Bible says that if we break generational sin, we can bless 1,000 generations. Let's claim that lasting legacy! The legacy of Biblical stars like Moses, Abraham, Mary, David, and the writers of the books of the Bible continue to pass their legacy to new generations thousands of years after they walked on earth. If we want to leave a legacy that blesses future generations, we must be intentional about it.
I've been pondering "legacy," since meeting with my State College pastor, Dan Nold, in early December. I had what I call spaghetti brain about our 2017 ministry direction. I'd been praying for weeks and great words like evangelism, staff, journeys, growth, coaching, writing, donations, and salvations twisted their way through my head leaving tangled trails that resembled strands of spaghetti piled on a plate. All were good words but that spaghetti mess of "good" blocked my hearing the Holy Spirit's "best." Pastor Dan is gifted at seeing to the heart of a matter and speaking a simple truth that untangles what I like to call the "magic knot" that has tangled everything. He gave me 2 hours in a busy holiday season that also included a looming deadline of his doctoral dissertation. I hated to ask but I needed his wisdom. He listened and asked what I wanted my legacy to be. Chills went all over my body and the hair on my arm stood up. It was the key to untangling the "magic knot."
I knew immediately that my legacy calling wasn't building Pocket Full of Change Ministries, writing books and blogs, or branding my name, Cheryle Touchton. That knowledge explained something that had always confused me. I have a strong sales and marketing background from the business world and know the importance of branding. I used it effectively in business and have always felt a little guilty for not doing a better job at branding my name, our books, and the ministry name for the sake of our ministry work. Suddenly, I understood why.
While the name Billy Graham is the perfect legacy for an evangelist like Billy Graham and a book like The Screwtape Letters is an effective legacy for the author, C. S. Lewis, the ministry Pocket Full of Change and my name are mere useful tools for leaving the legacy I'm called to leave.
So what is it? It's the urgency of the Great Commandments and Great Commission and how they work together to further the kingdom of God. My call is to help people love God, love people, and share the Gospel. It's that simple. Everything else is a tool or distraction.
As an example, evangelism helps people begin the process of loving God, which leads to a natural love of people that drives them to share the Gospel. When they share the Gospel, the cycle begins again and perpetuates itself, which to me, is the definition of legacy. When we take Gospel teams to events, not only are we leading people to Jesus, we're training people who already love God and people enough to give their time to go to these events, to effectively share the Gospel. Studies show that when children see their parents giving the Gospel, they're more likely to stay in church as adults and take their own children to church. That means that when these newly trained Gospel-sharing people return home, not only are they leading people to Christ and helping others share the Gospel, when they share the Gospel around their children, they're passing on a legacy of church attendance to their grandchildren. See how that works? Can you see why this might excite me?
I write these hopefully inspirational Monday Ministry Moments specifically to Christians. I keep the focus on some aspect of loving God and people more because until Christians love God with their entire minds, hearts, souls, and strengths, they will never love people enough to effectively share the Gospel. When they do, nothing can keep them silent.
This ministry "Evangelizes America" because we understand that the first step to loving God is to meet Jesus and that loving God, loving people, and sharing the Gospel throughout America is the only true hope for America. That makes anyone who goes out with us, prays for us, or sends us out by donating to Evangelize America a part of passing on the legacy of living in a country we can be proud of. That wonder of how this all works together through our mutual legacy callings for our good overwhelms me.
Pocket Full of Change Ministries probably won't survive me moving to heaven and even if it did, based on what I've observed from watching much larger ministries, the focus of the ministry would most likely change based on the legacy calling of the new director. I'm OK with that.
The legacy I long to leave is what we as a ministry pour into the people we serve in the hopes that they too will pass along the joy and importance of loving God, loving people and sharing the Gospel. Our constant prayer and focus is for the people we lead to Jesus and minister to and with to love God and people so much that if they tried to be silent about sharing the Gospel, "the rocks would cry out," to quote a Biblical phrase. Everything this ministry does and every word we write should be intentional about helping people love God, love people, and share the Gospel.
I left Pastor Dan's office energized. I knew what to do next - write another book. I've already written 3 books and 2 booklets that in some way address the topic of loving God, loving people, and sharing the Gospel. It's "time" to capture the practical tales, tips, and techniques that we've collected from years of intentionally having Gospel Conversations with people in our paths and circles. Maybe my vision isn't large enough but I suspect this gospel conversation "how to" book probably won't make it to the New York Best Seller's List. However, I do expect it to stay on the bookshelves of people we've impacted. People who've experienced the bright light of loving God and people so much that they began sharing the Gospel have discovered an unimaginable joy in being a part of people accepting Jesus. They want to remember the experience and how to do it again. If this "how to" Gospel book is a reminder of that and is a treasured part of their bookshelves that they show others as they share the light of loving God, loving people, and sharing the Gospel, that "how to" book and our experiences will have served their purpose well.
I'm going to be intentional. Between now and our first evangelism event at Mardi Gras in late February, other than 1 speaking engagement next Sunday, I'll be in a private writing season that requires silence to hear the Holy Spirit, writing uninterrupted long enough to get into a productive "writer's zone," and focused time to be intentional about completing this book. I'm turning off my phone and will check messages and respond to urgent calls, texts, and emails at lunch and dinner breaks. I'll be on Social Media briefly in the morning and before bed. If you need me, leave a message. If its urgent, call Bob. He's in Virginia alone until I finish this writing season and will visit me a couple of weekends. I intend to honor Pastor Dan's precious time by being intentional with what I heard God say.
Mardi Gras begins our intentional season of evangelism journeys and events that typically runs through December. I'll continue this Monday Ministry Moment during this "writing season" in this abbreviated form to keep you updated and give you instructions for participating. I hope to stay in our Jacksonville home for this season but will move if I can't avoid the temptation of being with beloved family and friends. I am taking a Sabbath so if you live in North Florida and you'd like me to visit your church and/or share some of these tips, tales, and techniques with your congregation or small groups on a Sunday, just ask. 2017 ministry will be intentionally focused on helping people love God, love people, and share the Gospel.
What legacy are you called to leave? You know what it is. It's what you think about when you daydream. People hear it in your rants and impassioned speeches. It's how you vote and possibly how you pick your friends. Claim it and be intentional about leaving it. Don't expect everyone to have the same passion because they have their own legacy calling. Just focus on yours.
Take inventory about legacies you're unintentionally leaving, particularly those nasty generational sins that were foisted on you. Confess, made amends, and stomp your foot at anything the evil one is using to distract you from leaving the legacy you're called to leave. Be intentional about your legacy by loving God with your entire mind, heart, soul, and strength, loving people through the unique way your legacy call demands, and always sharing the Gospel through your legacy pursuits. Happy New Year!
Click to read the entire Monday Ministry Moment: Be Intentional About Your Legacy