Thursday, July 30, 2009

The blessings of God's discipline

Last night's Bible study at the Love In Action warehouse was another good one with 30 in attendance. After being gone for one week, it was nice being back at Bible study and seeing everyone. They told Martha and me they missed us and were glad we were back.

The theme of the lesson was "Chastening." We looked at how God will chasten or discipline us. He does so because like a good father will discipline his child, God will do the same to us because He loves us. God doesn't want us doing the wrong things.

I shared an example from my childhood. I set the woods on fire one time as a child, and my dad administered some discipline. In addition to being grounded for what seemed like eternity, I received a memorable spanking. Why? Because my dad loved me and what I did was bad. I could have put a lot of people's lives and homes in danger. Thankfully the fire was put out before it go out of control. My dad didn't want me putting myself or others in danger like that. Believe me, after I was disciplined, I didn't even want to strike a match. Lesson learned.

God will discipline His children. He loves us. He wants us to stay out of harm's way. Some times you hear how Christianity is a religion of "cannots." You cannot do this. You cannot do that. The Ten Commandments won't let you do anything.

Nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ. Secondly, we can do a lot. We can live for God and allow Him to work through us to change other people's lives. We can be in the presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords. We can have everlasting life in Heaven with God. We can live with peace and joy in a world filled with fear and sadness. Those are just some of the things we "can" do as Christians.

The Ten Commandments are awesome! One reason God gave them to us is He wants to keep us safe. Let's look at just a few of them. "You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal." What happens when people murder and/or steal? They go to prison. For murder in some states, they could be sentenced to death. How about adultery? In addition to it being a sin, it will cause tremendous emotional suffering to loved ones and to the ones who commit the adulterous act. It can also get the adulterers killed. As an editor, I can't tell you how many murders we have covered because a man got caught sleeping with another man's wife, or a woman got caught sleeping with another woman's husband.

See how not doing those things will keep us safe?

Some of the people at the Bible study last night shared how through being disciplined for the things they have done wrong they gained wisdom. Yet another benefit of discipline. They also shared that if they hadn't been caught doing a crime and put in jail, they would not have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and would probably be dead today and spending eternity in Hell.

God tells us not to reject His discipline. "My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in." - Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV)

As I was teaching, the Holy Spirit led me to share an illustration I had not thought of or planned prior to the Bible study. When Jesus was on the cross, there were two criminals on either side of him. One of the criminals insulted Jesus and said, "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" - Luke 23:39 (NIV) He didn't receive the discipline that was given him and he rejected Jesus. He was wanting to be taken off the cross and not have to pay for his crime.

However, the other criminal received his discipline. He knew he deserved what he was getting. Therefore, he gained wisdom through that and saw Jesus for who He is - the one and only true Son of God. The Savior of mankind.

Here's what he said in Luke 23:40-43 (NIV): "But the other criminal rebuked him. 'Don't you fear God,' he said, 'since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.' Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' Jesus answered him, 'I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.'"

Wow! Those words are as powerful today as they were more than 2,000 years ago.

Discipline isn't fun. Nobody likes to go through it, but if we receive it and learn from it we are always better once it's over. The Bible uses words like "happy" and "blessed" are those who God disciplines. We should be happy and know that we're blessed when God disciplines us, because that means our Heavenly Father loves us and only wants the best for us. Thank you Father.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Diversity of people shows God's creativity

Every time Martha and I travel to NYC it’s always great to see the diversity of people in the city. Nearly every nationality is represented. As you walk down the streets you will see and hear, Chinese, Italians, Pakistanis, British, Scottish, Germans, many of the African nations, Japanese, Koreans, and the list goes on.

It reminds me of how awesome our God is and how He loves all of us, no matter where on this planet we live. He loves someone from Kenya just as much as he loves those of us in America.

The diversity also reminds me of the creativity of our God. He made us with many different colors and characteristics that make each one of us unique. None of us are the same, we are all different and God knows every single thing about each of us, even the number of hairs on each head. That will blow your mind if you think about it for a few minutes.

Every time we fly to NYC , as we get close you can see that mass of humanity and concrete jungle known as New York City. Martha usually starts tearing up as she looks out the plane’s window. She thinks about how many people we’re flying over and how God knows and loves each one. She also knows that there are a lot of hurting people in NYC, and it’s her heart’s desire to let them know that God loves them.

Traveling to other cities is great. It gets you away from the everyday hustle of work and everything else in life. For us, it gives us a chance to minister the love of Jesus Christ to the homeless and poor outside of our hometown of Dothan, Ala. That’s part of Love In Action’s mission. We minister a great deal in Dothan, but God has also called us to go to other places as well. Some of those places include NYC, Atlanta and Los Angeles.

Wherever God opens a door we go. It’s a great honor and very humbling to be used by God to show His love to those who are really hurting. To see God work in their lives brings tears of joy to our eyes every time.

It was great being in NYC, but it’s great being back home now. We’re looking forward to tomorrow’s Wednesday night Bible study at the LIA warehouse.

Ministering to the homeless in NYC

Martha and I always enjoy traveling to New York City. We have many great memories from trips there. We have experienced some wonderful ministry times in NYC, especially in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Spanish Harlem.

Being back in NYC this week was a blessing. We went to Brooklyn to see our friends at Sunset Park Community Church. Pastor Larry Pitta and his wife Margie have great hearts for the homeless. They do a lot in their community. Every Tuesday and Thursday they provide lunch for the homeless and they have a shower ministry, which Love In Action helped begin.

Over the past six years we have helped Sunset Park Community Church by shipping them hygiene items, socks, boots and other items to help the homeless. Last Thursday we started planning a 2010 outreach at Sunset Park. We hope to take a team with us to Brooklyn to help Pastor Larry minister to his community.

We will help him host a block party that will be part of a back to school outreach to help families living in poverty get their children ready to return to school. We will also minister to the homeless that week, which will probably be the third week of August 2010. If you are interested in going with us next year, please keep an eye on this blog and our Web site for more information. All of the plans should be completed by November-December.

In addition to going to Brooklyn last week, we also went back to a place where I had helped serve the homeless food. A few years ago, I was in NYC for an Associated Press Managing Editors board meeting and we ate at a place called Carmine’s. It’s an Italian restaurant that serves family style food, and it’s always way more than anyone could ever eat. Instead of packing up the food and taking back to the hotel, four of us took all of our leftovers to the Port Authority. You would have thought we had given the homeless gold. They loved it.

Martha and I had sandwiches we bought in Greenwich Village and set out to give them to the homeless. We were going to hand them out at Battery Park, but a Methodist church was already serving food, which was great to see. The homeless swarmed around their vans and really enjoyed the meal.

I told Martha I knew where we would find more homeless people, and that was at the Port Authority. We walked to the Port Authority and found the homeless where they were several years ago. One of the men was extremely thankful for the sandwiches. We told him that we had Italian subs and just wanted him to know that God loves him. A big smile arose and he graciously accepted the sandwich. As we were leaving, he started unwrapping the sandwich and said, “Thank you Jesus.”

We’re looking forward to working with Pastor Larry this next year planning the big outreach. We hope you go. If you start saving now, you will have plenty of money to go next year. We will make it as inexpensive as possible. We will have a list of suggested hotels and you will also have the option of staying at the church. Once we have the dates finalized you can start looking for a flight at the right price. You can find some good deals if you diligently look. That just leaves food and whatever sightseeing you want to do. We always make time for sightseeing on our trips.

Keep Pastor Larry and Margie in your prayers. Thanks for your prayers for us while we were in NYC. It’s nice knowing we have people praying for us.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A great day in Brooklyn

Martha, Pastor Larry and Ken.

Martha, Benjamin and Ken



It was such a blessing to be back at Sunset Park Community Church in Brooklyn, NY, yesterday (Thursday, July 23, 2009). It was great seeing Pastor Larry Pitta and his wonderful wife Margie. It was great seeing Benjamin again. It's been four years since we last saw him. It was great seeing the ministry to the homeless still going strong. It was a great day all the way around.

We started working with Sunset Park six years ago to help them reach out to the homeless and poor in their community. That's where we met Benjamin for the first time. He was a homeless man, completely broken and contemplating suicide. That's when God sent a team from Love In Action all the way to Brooklyn from Alabama to minister His love to Benjamin. Since then, he's been to Alabama twice - once to sing at mine and Martha's wedding.

He's had some trouble since then, but he's back on the right path and is doing really good. He still has a ways to go, but he's determined this time. He wants to live for God and minister Jesus to those who are in the situation he was in. But first, he knows he needs to let God restore and renew him.

Pastor Larry is a great man of God. He has been ministering to the homeless and poor in Brooklyn for 28 years. That's amazing! His wife is a great woman of God with a tremendous heart for the hurting.

Every Tuesday and Thursday the homeless come to Sunset Park Community Church to pick up a sack lunch. Whether it's sandwiches and sides like yesterday or hot soup and coffee during the winter months, they know they are welcome at Sunset Park and they know they will have a good meal on those days.

They can also come to take showers. Love In Action helped Sunset Park start their shower ministry, and it's been a great blessing to the homeless. That part of the ministry has been going on for four years now.

Yesterday we sat down with Pastor Larry and started planning an outreach for August 2010. We would like to bring a big team up here to help them reach their community through a block party. I will have more information about that later. But, if you are interested in coming to NYC with us next August, go ahead and start planning and saving money. We will make it as affordable as possible. If you don't mind sleeping in a sleeping bag, members of the team can sleep at the church. That will save you a lot of money on hotel rooms.

Thanks Pastor Larry and Margie for having us with you yesterday. You two are a great blessing to the homeless and poor in Brooklyn, and to Martha and me as well. Your friendship means a lot to us.

We will post videos to our Web site later of interviews with Pastor Larry and Benjamin. You will also get to hear my great New York accent. :-)

Keep Pastor Larry, Margie and Sunset Park Community Church in your prayers. And, keep praying for Benjamin.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Greetings from New York City

How you doing? Well, my thick New York accent is tough to translate through a keyboard, but that's a traditional New York City greeting. Martha and I arrived in NYC this afternoon on a vacation/ministry/business trip. Nothing like multitasking a trip.

I try to convince people up here I'm from the south Bronx, but for some reason they think I have more of a south Alabama accent. What's up with that? :-)

We always enjoy coming to the Big Apple. It's definitely a city everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. For five of the last six years we have been coming to NYC twice a year, because I have been fortunate enough to serve two consecutive 3-year terms on the national board of directors of the Associated Press Managing Editors. We meet twice a year at the Associated Press headquarters in NYC.

Love In Action is something Martha and I do totally on a volunteer basis. We love it. We spend at least 40 hours a week doing the ministry. We don't receive a penny for anything we do with LIA. My "real" job is being the managing editor of the Dothan Eagle in Dothan, Ala. I'm also the regional editor of the Media General Alabama newspaper group. I enjoy my job and being on the APME board of directors has been a terrific experience.

Today as we got off the airplane, I noticed that I had a totally different mindset. Six years ago when I first arrived for an APME board meeting all I could think about was APME and what I could do to help the organization. I also focused on how it could help my career. Thankfully, I have accomplished some good things with APME, and it has helped my career.

But today, all I could think about was the ministry Martha and I are going to do in Brooklyn tomorrow (Thursday) with our friends at Sunset Park Community Church. I also was thinking about seeing Benny for the first time in nearly five years. When we first met Benny he was a homeless man living on roof tops and the streets in Brooklyn. We kept working with him until we got him the help he needed. We brought him to Alabama twice. One time was to sing at mine and Martha's wedding.

When he came back to NYC he got in trouble and went to prison. He's out now and he's doing good. He is doing something this time that he didn't the last time, and that's use his support system, which we are part of, as is a pastor here in New York. It's going to be great to see him.

Growing closer to God and doing His work is constantly on my mind now. I like that change in me. Yes, I'm thankful to still be on the APME board of directors and look forward to our meetings this weekend. This will be my last meeting though as I can't run for re-election. But, I have to admit that I'm much more excited about serving the homeless in Brooklyn tomorrow.

You can keep up with us on our Twitter page, which is http://twitter.com/liaministries. There is also a widget or Twitter thread on our Web site that you can check out to keep up with us - http://loveinactionministries.com

Please keep us in your prayers. Thanks and God bless.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Experience forgiveness

Love In Action Vice President Martha Tuck shares an illustration during Wednesday night's Bible study.

My wife is awesome! She is an awesome woman of God and does a lot of ministry work behind the scenes that goes unnoticed. Tonight, her ministry work was very visible. For the first time, she led the Love In Action Wednesday night Bible study. She was awesome!

Martha taught on "Forgiving Others." Forgiveness is a powerful thing to experience. To receive forgiveness is incredible. If you have ever accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior you know what I'm talking about. There is no greater experience.

Forgiving others can be tough. Forgiving yourself can be even tougher. Jesus tells us in Luke 6:37, "Forgive, and you will be forgiven." (NIV)

Martha told the 29 of us in attendance tonight that Jesus gives us the greatest example of forgiveness. He was beaten, spat upon, flesh ripped off His back, crown of thorns hammered onto His head, laughed at, punched, denied, and nailed to the cross. However, even after all of that, Jesus forgave. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." - Luke 23:34 (NIV)

It was a powerful Bible study with a lot of participation. Martha ended it with an illustration. She had a bag filled with stuff and threw it over her back. She told everyone that it represented the heavy load we carry when we don't forgive. We become filled with bitterness, unforgiveness, anger and more. It weighs us down and makes us feel down. Then she let go of the bag and said that's what happens when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and when we forgive others. He takes all of that junk away and we are free.

Who do you need to forgive? Who has done you wrong and hurt you? Do you need to forgive yourself? Pray and ask God to help you and forgive others and yourself. If you have never experienced the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, call out to Him right now. Ask Jesus to forgive you. He will. Ask Him into your heart and He will enter. If you need help don't hesitate to call me at 334-494-4995 or e-mail at loveinactionministries@hotmail.com or go to this page on our Web site and pray this simple prayer: http://loveinactionministries.com/salvation.htm

Martha is a great teacher. She will be doing a lot more teaching on Wednesday nights. Thank you beautiful for serving God like you do.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

'I have an address'

For most of us, we think nothing about having a permanent address. We've always had one. We tell it to people, write it on envelopes and go about our business, never thinking how blessed we are to have a home.

On Monday I was reminded how blessed Martha and I have been our entire lives. We have never been homeless. We have always had a home. We have always had a permanent address.

We met a homeless man in Dothan, Ala., three months ago named Charles. He was living in the woods in a tent. Over the past 90 days we have seen God do a miraculous work in his life. He told us at the beginning that he wanted someone to listen to him. We listened. He told us he could overcome his problems on his own. We told him God could do all things and we were there for him if he needed us.

Today, he is trusting God to help him with his problems, and he knows that Martha and I truly do care for him and love him. On Monday, Charles left the homeless population. He now has a permanent address. He has a place that he can truly call home. He doesn't have to worry about where he will sleep at night. He doesn't have to worry about where he can take a shower. He doesn't have to worry about moving from one hotel to the next, then back to the woods. He has a home.

Thanks to everyone who supports Love In Action with their prayers and finances, we were able to pay his down payment and rent for July and August, and have his electricity turned on. Charles works full-time and he will be able to pay his own way now. He's excited about that. He wants to support himself.

Thanks to those who donate furniture, Charles has items like a nice reclining sofa, a recliner, TV, desk, coffee table, dishes and more. Restoring lives. That's what God does, and He is using all of you who support this ministry to do that. It's awesome, and Martha and I praise God for it all.

As I helped Charles move furniture into his apartment he kept saying, "I have an address. I have a mailbox. This is so cool." I had to fight back the tears. Martha and I shed tears of joy later Monday evening.

Thank you all so much for everything that you do to help us help the homeless. There are many others like Charles out there who need to know that God loves them. They need to know that Jesus died for their sins and rose again to give them everlasting life. They need to know that there are people who really do care and love them. They need to know that God does have a good plan for their lives as God tells us in Jeremiah 29:11.

We praise God for His faithfulness. We do indeed serve an awesome and loving God.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

You are making an eternal difference

I have to apologize, because it's been nearly two weeks since my last blog entry. It's been very busy with Love In Action and at my "real" job. Being a newspaper editor during a local election season keeps you busy, as does working for a company that just went through some major changes.

The ministry has been going great. God continues to do a great work with the homeless. Two weeks ago we were able to help three homeless people in Dothan, Ala., move into a duplex and provide them with all of the furniture they needed. They were very thankful.

Also, two weeks ago we received another large donation of items from Kaufman's Army Surplus in Dothan. Here's a short list of just some of the items they donated to us:

- 3,400 pairs of boots
- 2 pallets of shirts
-5 pallets of pants
- 1,512 pars of boxer underwear
- 3 pallets of winter coats
- 1 pallet of wool gloves
- 1 pallet of inflatable mattresses
- 5 boxes of winter wool socks
- 1 box of women’s shirts
- 1 box of air mattresses
- 48 boxes of insulated hoods
- 1 box of wool shirts
- 2 pallets of long johns (bottoms)
- 2 pallets of sleeping bags and cots
- 171 boxes of dress blue trousers
- 1 pallet of mosquito netting

Once again, some of the homeless we have been working with in Dothan spent their entire Saturday helping us load and unload truckloads of supplies from the army surplus warehouse. They tell us they will help us do anything, because of the help we have given them.

That should bless all of you who support this ministry as much as it blesses Martha and me. Your financial support makes it possible for us to purchase food, rent hotel rooms for shelter, and help with down payments to transition people from the streets into permanent housing.

Your financial support makes it possible for us to ship and take supplies, such as what Kaufman's donated to us, to other cities throughout the nation to help the homeless.

There is no way we can do this ministry without your prayers and financial support. Thank you so much for helping us do what Jesus talks about in Matthew 25:35-40.

Lives are being changed by the love and power of Jesus Christ, and you are allowing God to work through you to make a difference for His kingdom. I hope you realize the significance of it all. You are making an impact that has eternal ramifications.

Thank you.