August 2018

An untended garden

August 14 2018 by Randy Bennett

I was anxious to walk through my garden after being out of town for vacation to see how it had fared in my absence for two weeks.
 

The corn and cucumbers looked fine. Many of the tomatoes in their colorful cages were noticeably tilting to one side. The bell peppers were discolored and drooping. The yellow squash and zucchini plants were riddled with white flies. All but a few of our peaches were lying on the ground. And of course there were hundreds of weeds all over the garden and surrounding areas.
 
As I walked back to the house, I realized how important the gardener is to the garden.
 
Without the care and nurture of the gardener, the vegetables and flowers suffer while the weeds thrive. There was no one to water and protect the plants. There was no one to pull the weeds. There was no one to straighten out the tomato cages.
 
As a pastor and missionary, I immediately associated the garden to a church, Bible study group or ministry. Every organization needs caregivers, whether they are vocational ministers or members of the church.
 
Someone must take care of the people God has entrusted us with. Someone must care for and nurture those enrolled in a small group. Someone must care for and direct the ministries and those who volunteer in them. Someone needs to mow the lawn, pull the weeds and paint the buildings.
 
After His resurrection, Jesus intentionally waited for the right moment to talk to Peter, who vowed to die for Christ the night of Jesus’ arrest. Sadly and tragically Peter ended up denying His Lord three times. Peter’s heart was humbled and broken. The Lord restored him by asking him a few key questions followed by three simple instructions for the future.
 
“Peter, do you love me (agape = unconditional love)?” “Yes Lord, I like you (phileo = friendship and brotherly affection).” Jesus replied:  “Feed my lambs.” He asked him the same question again. “Peter, do you love me (agape = unconditional love)?” Again Peter could only say that he cared for Jesus as a brother. Jesus replied:  “care or shepherd my little ones.” Jesus asked Peter a third question. “Peter, do you like me (phileo)?” “Yes Lord, I like you.” Jesus followed with the command to feed his little ones. Jesus used the same word for brotherly love in His third question to Peter.
 
It seems that Peter was not ready to make any more bold claims for his future as he did the night of Jesus’ arrest. Yet Jesus’ challenges to Peter are a strong reminder to feed (teach, disciple and mentor) God’s sheep as well as to shepherd (care, nurture, love and protect) God’s people.
 
It breaks my heart to drive by an abandoned or neglected church building. A whole string of questions come to mind. Where are the teachers, preachers and caregivers? Where are the Bible teachers and ministry leaders? Is anyone home?
 
Just as a garden needs a gardener, the church needs shepherd leaders to teach God’s Word and care for God’s little ones. It is a thing of beauty to see what a dedicated gardener can do. The same is true for shepherd leaders who lovingly care for and feed the body of Christ.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/14/2018 10:09:27 AM by Randy Bennett | with 0 comments



God’s discipline

August 13 2018 by Chuck Lawless

None of us likes being at the receiving end of God’s discipline – especially when we’re in the midst of it. Every believer I know, though, has been through it. If you haven’t yet been, you will be at some point.
 

With that in mind, here are several things God’s discipline does, drawing primarily from Hebrews 12:5-11:
 
1. It helps us to see the destructive nature of sin. God wouldn’t discipline us for our sin unless He wants us to stop it – and He wants us to stop it because it dishonors Him, hurts us and harms our witness.
 
2. It magnifies God’s love for us. In His own words, He “disciplines the one he loves and punishes every son he receives” (Hebrews 12:6). His discipline is a mark of His care for us.
 
3. It protects us from future consequences of sin. That is the case, of course, only if we respond properly to His discipline by turning from our sin. Continual rebellion in the face of His discipline is dangerous.
 
4. It provides evidence that we are God’s children. Again, here’s what His Word concludes: “If you are without discipline – which all receive – then you are illegitimate children and not sons” (Hebrews 12:8).
 
5. It prepares us for the future. The battles change, but seldom does following God get easier along the way. God’s hand of discipline that calls us to repentance today can strengthen us for the temptations of tomorrow.
 
6. It humbles us. Discipline forces us to admit that we’re not in charge. We don’t set the rules and we don’t determine the repercussions of our wrong actions. Arrogance and disobedience are connected, so discipline and humility are often in order.
 
7. It makes us holy. Once again, let’s turn to Hebrews 12 for the point: “He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). The temporary pain of discipline helps conform us to the image of Christ.
 
8. It gives us peace. That conclusion may seem strange, but that’s exactly what happens. God disciplines us, we turn to Him in repentance, we experience the grace of His forgiveness, and we sleep better at night.
 
What else has God’s discipline taught you?
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/13/2018 11:29:19 AM by Chuck Lawless | with 0 comments



Can you spiritually multitask?

August 9 2018 by David Jeremiah

Instead of having one slow brain, today’s computers have several really fast brains that can handle tasks independently of each other. While the brain God gave us is more powerful than any computer, we only have one. And it works best when it is focused on one thing at a time.
 

If you’re a student of the Bible, you already know where we’re headed: Matthew 6:24 – “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (NKJV).
 

Spiritual multitasking

 
First, let’s look carefully at Jesus’ words in this part of the Sermon on the Mount, then define them more closely. To give context, Jesus is talking about the practice He witnessed in Roman occupied Galilee – slavery. When He says, “No one can serve two masters,” the word for serve is “douleuo,” from which comes the familiar Greek word for slave – “doulos.” A doulos was a bondservant, a slave, not an employee. His allegiance was to only be to one, and only one, master.
 
Those listening to Jesus’ teaching would have understood perfectly what He meant: “Being a slave is a full-time job. You owe complete allegiance to the one who owns you. He feeds you, clothes you and provides for you and your family. If you tried to deceive your master by submitting yourself to a second master, chaos would result. You will serve neither well. You’ll love and be loyal to one, while hating and despising the other.” The lesson was, “You cannot serve God and mammon.”
 
Mammon was an Aramaic word that meant money, riches or wealth. Some English translations today use mammon and some use one of the other English words. In any case, Jesus’ point was clear: You cannot be the slave of God and the slave of money at the same time. You will have to choose this day whom or what you are going to serve (Joshua 24:15).
 
It is a disappointment that, in many English translations, Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:24 are separated by a section header that separates this verse from what follows: Jesus’ words about not worrying about money! Many Christians are familiar with the “God and mammon” verse (Matthew 6:24) and the verses about not worrying about material provisions (Matthew 6:25-34) without realizing they belong together.
 
Apparently, lots of people in Jesus’ day –and no doubt in ours – were making themselves a slave to worrying about money and sustaining wealth instead of trusting God for His provision for their lives. And Jesus said, You can’t multitask this; you can’t be a slave of God and a slave of riches at the same time.
 

Spiritual ‘monotasking’

 
God has designed us to do only one thing for all time – to keep our heart, soul, mind and strength focused on serving God alone. “This is the first and greatest commandment,” Jesus would say later (Matthew 22:38).
 
Yes, we need food, money and clothing for ourselves and our family. So how do we obtain what we need without becoming a slave to those needs in the process? By “[seeking] first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Jesus had already told His audience, “Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). When we seek Him, and His righteousness alone, God will provide what we need.
 
When we adopt a “monotasking” lifestyle with our whole life devoted to God alone:
 
– Our heart will be faithful to the Savior.
– Our soul will be fellowshipping with the Savior.
– Our mind will be focused on the Savior.
– Our strength will be found in the Savior.
 
And as a result, our steps will be following the Savior’s. Do you see a single, common word in those sentences? That’s it – Savior. We have only one task in life: be a faithful servant of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and His Kingdom.
 
The apostle Paul wrote that “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). When His will and words fill our mind, there will be no room left for the mindset of this world. Once we learn to serve Him alone, we’ll wonder why we ever tried to do more.

8/9/2018 10:35:46 AM by David Jeremiah | with 0 comments



Childlike awe

August 8 2018 by Randy C. Davis

I grew up on the Alabama Gulf Coast and love it. But it’s a little more than just loving it, it’s in my blood.
 

The majority of my earliest memories are of water skiing up and down the canal, fishing off the coast of Orange Beach, shrimping in Perdido Bay and sitting at the end of a pier watching beautiful sunsets with my family.
 
Not having had a beach fix in years, our family planned a vacation to Blue Mountain Beach, Fla. I’d been looking forward to a time to “chill out” and decompress, and the beach is a good place to do just that.
 
Our kids and their families would be joining Jeanne and me the day after we arrived. Our daughter Wendy called and said our 4-year-old grandson, Davis, said to her, “I can’t wait to see what the beach looks like.” It hadn’t dawned on any of us that Davis had never seen the Gulf, the sand dunes, the beach or the vast horizon.
 
Late that next afternoon when Wendy’s family arrived, we walked a couple hundred yards toward the beach. Blue Mountain Beach is not exactly a mountain, but it is reportedly the highest point on the Gulf Coast, a whopping 64 feet above sea level. However, from even that vantage point you get an excellent vista.
 
As we reached the top of the dunes, seeing the great body of water before him and sugar white beaches stretching as far as he could see to his right and his left, Davis’ eyes were as wide as saucers. “Wow, it’s so big!” he exclaimed with giddy excitement. I wish you could have seen that kid at that special moment and experience his enthusiasm.
 
God did.
 
I can only imagine how it must have blessed the heavenly Father’s heart to see, hear and feel the child’s astonishment at and genuine appreciation of His creation. The psalmist writes, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). Little Davis didn’t need to be a theologian in that moment to understand the greatness of God. He was looking at it in wide-eyed wonder.
 
I’m afraid we sometimes get so familiar with what God has done and is doing that we lose the awe of Him and the wonder of the work of His hands. Our worship lacks wide-eyed wonder. Our cynical and critical spirits, our pride and arrogance, our harshness and hardness, our “been there, done that” attitudes dull our vision for the majesty of God. Real worship is stepping back from all that and taking up a child’s heart of simplistic faith that is blown away by God’s grace, greatness, power, majesty and love.
 
Take a Sabbath moment and really see the next sunset, mountain, flower or friend. Experience God’s mercy like it was the first time. Let His beauty astound you.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Randy C. Davis is executive director the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. This article first appeared in the Baptist and Reflector, news journal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/8/2018 11:04:21 AM by Randy C. Davis | with 0 comments



Ephesus: Have we lost our first love?

August 7 2018 by Marty Jacumin

First in a series
 
When people are searching for a church to join, they usually have a set of criteria in mind. These criteria can revolve around sermon delivery or personality of the preacher, stance on the Bible, mission activities, local outreach, social awareness, church programs, music or the friendliness of the people. I understand this is not an exhaustive list, and this list may not include the characteristics you look for in a church.
 

In Revelation 2:1-7, the apostle John describes the church at Ephesus. He compliments this body of believers on some wonderful characteristics that we have come to desire in our church.
 
John says the Ephesian church was working with patient endurance. There were many difficulties and persecutions that were happening in the first century. Despite these circumstances, the church at Ephesus was not running from the task, but continuing to serve the Lord.

They also would not tolerate evil coming into the church. They had standards of life taught by the Apostles, and they were holding one another accountable. Furthermore, the church held their leaders to a higher standard.
 
Verse 2 says they tested those who said they were apostles. This church didn’t just assume a calling had been placed on a life, but tested each life for that calling. Churches continue this same practice today through testing and in many cases, ordination of leaders.
 
The church at Ephesus sounds like the perfect church.
 
This church would be consistently mentioned in denominational papers, and its leaders would headline the major conferences. However, there was a problem. At first glance, this problem may appear to be small, because not much is said about it.
 
It simply says that the church had left the love they had at first.

But what does it mean to lose your first love? We often say their love for Jesus had simply grown cold. The church at Ephesus was busy doing the Lord’s work, but their worship diminished. This can happen quickly in our lives. We want to serve the Lord and we work as hard as we can, but we forget the warmth and sweetness of the relationship.
 
While I’m sure that was part of their problem, I don’t believe it’s the whole story. When you read about the Ephesian church in Acts 19-20, you see a church willing to risk it all for the spread of the gospel. They were so passionate about sharing the Good News, riots broke out in the streets. Their love for the Lord was a passion more than it was a duty. They didn’t care if it cost their lives, they wanted everyone to know about Jesus Christ.
 
Perhaps this is the first love they were missing.
 
Is this the kind of love that describes our church? Is this the love that describes our state convention?
 
Are we willing to risk everything so those who’ve never heard the name of Jesus can hear the gospel and place their trust in Christ?
 
Let’s not be so busy doing church that we stop being the Church. Let’s find that first love and renewed passion in our lives.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTEThis article is part of a series on the theme of the 2018 North Carolina Pastors Conference, “7 Churches of Revelation.” This years event will occur Nov. 4-5 in conjunction with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolinas annual meeting. Visit ncpastorsconference.org for more information. Marty Jacumin is senior pastor of Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh. Each column in the series will be written by a different N.C. leader and refer to one of the seven churches in Revelation.)

8/7/2018 11:36:38 AM by Marty Jacumin | with 0 comments



Book Review: How to mobilize a church toward evangelism

August 7 2018 by Todd A. Benkert

As a biblioholic, I am constantly looking for new books. As a pastor who wants to grow in my personal witness and lead my church to greater effectiveness in reaching people for Christ, I’m especially interested in new books on evangelism. This summer, I discovered a gem while at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Dallas.
 

I commend to you Matt Queen’s new book, Mobilize to Evangelize: The Pastor and Effective Congregational Evangelism. This short book is one of the latest offerings from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) to equip pastors and churches in ministry. I believe the book will be a helpful tool for any pastor who wants to lead his church toward being more intentional and accountable in the practice of evangelism.
 
The book is divided into two sections. The first section helps with self-assessment about where a church currently stands in their evangelistic efforts. The second section provides practical helps to help pastors lead their churches toward more consistent and effective evangelism.
 

Self-assessment questionnaires

 
The book provides four questionnaires to assist the pastor in discerning the present state of evangelism in his church.
 
As I examined these tools, I was reminded of my associate director of missions who used to tell us “Facts are our friends.” The tools Queen has provided here help us get at those facts.
 
The first questionnaire helps us examine Annual Church Profile (ACP) data. I have long argued that the ACP is a helpful evaluative tool for self-assessment. By examining the data over the past five years in several key areas, this survey helps look at the current trends and progress for a church.
 
The other three surveys are for the pastor, church leaders and staff and the congregation respectively.
While it is not necessary for every person in the church to participate, the more who fill out the surveys the better the picture one can draw of the overall state of evangelism.
 
Through both quantitative and qualitative analysis, Queen provides helpful tools to examine the various areas that affect evangelism in church: the doctrinal health of the church and beliefs about evangelism, understanding of the gospel itself, the culture of the church and expectations regarding evangelism and the actual practice of evangelism in the church.
 

Next steps for evangelistic congregational motivation

 
After these four assessment tools, the remainder of the book offers specific strategies to address what you have found. Queen lists nine areas to consider as you develop a strategy for evangelism in your church.  Most of what Queen presents in this section will be relevant across the different cultural contexts and the diversity of our churches.
 
Thus, in some places, Queen does not give specific strategic actions but does bring an issue to light and challenges the pastor reader to address the issue and gives guidance in planning specific ways to address the issue.
 

Where he does provide specific recommendations, usually those are presented in the way to get you thinking strategically; that is, have you considered these things?
 
Admittedly, Queen writes from what seems to be a traditional Baptist approach to strategy and some readers may prematurely think this book is not for them. In places, he includes data demonstrating that some practices which churches have long abandoned are still effective methods in many locations (door-to-door visitation, revivals, etc.).
 
Queen also advocates for a particular philosophy of ministry that encourages open enrollment in Sunday School or small groups, setting goals and expectations in evangelistic practice, issuing some kind of public invitation and instruction in responding to the gospel in every service (which I commend to you as well) and specific evangelistic methods.
 
If, for whatever reason, you find yourself pushing back on some of these specifics, don’t let that deter you from reading on or considering the questions he raises. Whether you agree with Queen at every point, don’t let minor disagreements on methodology keep you from gleaning from the strengths of this practical book. The main goal is to motivate you to be intentional in evangelism.
 
The key value of Queen’s book, and why I commend it to you, is its help in getting you to think strategically about evangelism in your congregation. In both sections, he asks the right questions to help you make evangelism a priority in your personal ministry and in the life of your church.
 
Whether or not you like all of the specific recommendations he makes, let his questions rouse in you a desire to see God work effectively in your church. Let it help you begin to think strategically about how you can lead your church to share the gospel in your community more liberally and more effectively. Let it motivate you to make evangelism a first order priority in your church’s ministry.
 
Ultimately, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting. Queen has used these assessments and strategies to encourage congregations and pastors to renew their passion for evangelism and increase their evangelistic practice. His love for the lost and his desire to see the gospel spread far and wide are contagious and evident to all who know him and to those who read his books. His exuberance and zeal for the gospel has led him to become one of the favorite professors of students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
If you ever have the opportunity, find Dr. Queen and let his passion rub off on you. In the meantime, pick up a copy of this book and be encouraged and challenged by it.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Todd Benkert is pastor of Oak Creek Community Church in Mishawaka, Ind. Matt Queen holds the L.R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism at SWBTS and is associate dean for doctoral programs in the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions. He has an undergraduate degree in religion from Mars Hill University, along with master’s and doctoral degrees from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. He has master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.) 

8/7/2018 11:30:57 AM by Todd A. Benkert | with 0 comments



Technology’s increasing authority in our lives

August 6 2018 by Jason Thacker

In February 2017 there was a far-reaching event that few noticed. It wasn’t the Oscars, or even the president’s first address to Congress. Amazon S3 web servers went down – a much bigger deal than might be expected. These server outages primarily affected the East Coast, but the implications reached farther.
 

Amazon S3 web servers host many websites and services including ERLC.com, Wix, Apple’s iCloud.com, Netflix and Hulu.
 
These same servers also run many popular and increasingly critical apps like IFTTT, Slack and YNAB. They also help control Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant, Google’s Nest thermostat and other home automation functions. While the servers were only down for a few hours, it caused lingering headaches for individuals and businesses.
 
As we become increasingly tied to the internet by utilizing tools like social media, cloud-based storage, internet-connected home appliances and online entertainment, Amazon’s outage was a needed reminder of our increasing dependency on technology. It is important that we think critically about how to engage with technology.

Here are a few thoughts to get us started:
 
1. Technology is a good gift from God
 
Modern advancements in technology have contributed great things to culture and society. Countless lives have been saved through the use of medical technologies, such as the ability of an ultrasound to show us life within the womb and light bulbs that can disinfect and kill bacteria in hospital rooms. These advances are just the beginning. In just 50 years, we have been able to do things and connect with people across the world in ways that our grandparents never would have dreamed.
 
The development of technology is a good gift from God and one of the many hallmarks of being created in the image of God.
 
Human beings alone are given the ability to reflect our Creator by using the things around us to cultivate and create technologies for the good of society. We are able to take dominion over creation and cultivate it for the advancement of society.
 
For example, humans have learned how to harness the power of water to create electrical energy, channel that electricity through power grids that light up our homes and businesses and use that electricity.
 
For the first time in human history, we have created things that have the ability to usurp the authority and dominion given to us by our Creator to automate our homes using the Internet of Things (IoT) through devices like smart thermostats.
 
Moreover, we use security technology to monitor our homes on our smartphones from almost any location. These advances should remind us how richly blessed we are as a people. We should try to take a step back, remember how amazing it is to be part of the technological revolution and worship God for his creativity and provision. After all, He’s the one who has given us the intellectual faculties that are able to create for the benefit of society.
 
2. Our dependency on technology comes with dangers
 
While technological advances are a great gift from God, they can and will be abused because we are broken and sinful. We have the innate ability to take the good that God gives us and manipulate it in an attempt to glorify and set ourselves as gods over our lives.
 
We, as a society, hardly know how to live without these technologies. Our addiction to social media and our smart phones isn’t the only area of temptation. With the rise of IoT and smart devices, we now have the option to set things and forget about them.
 
We can automate simple things like turning on/off lights at certain times of the day or have our news curated for us by our digital assistants.
 
When some of the Amazon S3 servers went down, people complained about not being able to get into their houses or workplaces.
 
While some of the situations are comical, I think, in many ways, we have become so dependent on technology that we don’t even see the dangers.
 
Yuval Harari sheds light on the implications of technology and our dependence on it in his work, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.
 
He was recently interviewed in Wired magazine about this new book and gave the example of someone using Google Maps or Waze for directions.
 
He states, “On the one hand they amplify human ability – you are able to reach your destination faster and more easily. But at the same time you are shifting the authority to the algorithm and losing your ability to find your own way.”
 
Whether it’s big data or devices with the ability to learn, we are facing the temptation to give over our authority to our creation and lose part of what it means to be human.
 
Technology, while a great gift from God, can easily devalue and dehumanize us.
 
So, what should be our response when faced with these truths about the goodness and dangers of technology?
 
Recognize limitations. We need to acknowledge the limitations of technology and guard ourselves from making them our own demi-gods that control various aspects of our lives and take away part of our human identity. We must keep our minds set on the fact that God is our Creator and Sustainer.
 
Technology should not control us or take away our ability to do things for ourselves, unless it’s something vital to our protection or health.
 
One practical way of remembering this is to take a technology break every once and awhile – totally disconnecting from our phones and smart devices. Take an afternoon to go for an extended walk with friends or family, making it a point to remember who you are in light of who God is as you enjoy the display of his majesty in nature. These breaks can help us reset and keep things in perspective.
 
Seek accountability. Talk with friends or your spouse about how to engage with technology in ways that you can live a more balanced God-honoring lifestyle. These simple conversations can reveal areas you may be overlooking and allow you to have human interaction undeterred by technology.
 
As one who loves technology, I’m keenly aware of the need to be wise and think through the pitfalls and dangers that we’ll increasingly face in this age. Internet outages and downed servers are not common, but they provide us with an opportunity to think about how to prepare ourselves – ethically and relationally – to navigate the complex technological days ahead.
 
Our technology will fail us. It’s not infallible or permanent. We must seek to maintain a proper relationship with it, lest it take over areas of our lives and take away, little by little, what it means for us to be human.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article was adapted from a chapter in Jason Thacker’s booklet, Technology & the Future: Human Flourishing in the Digital Age, available at ERLC.com. Used by permission. Jason Thacker is creative director for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.)

8/6/2018 2:59:34 PM by Jason Thacker | with 0 comments



What about my kids? Foster care’s impact

August 3 2018 by Rachel Blankenship

Last year, we were a family of four. My husband and I had a 7-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter. But with one phone call our whole world changed.
 

There was a baby who needed a home. We had felt God’s call to foster care, and though we never expected this baby or this timing, we said yes.
 
In less than 24 hours she was on our front porch and entered our home and hearts.
 
One of the common questions people have asked (and we did too) is “Doesn’t it take away from your biological children?”
 
The answer is “yes.” It does. My kids had to endure sudden and abrupt change. They have to share time, attention and toys. They’ve had to miss out on activities, vacations and playdates. They’ve had to adjust to a new baby’s schedule. They’ve had to deal with tired and worried parents who struggle to play with them as much as they used to.
 
They’ve had to learn the terribly painful lesson that life isn’t about them.
 
I have seen them struggle to navigate people’s questions and opinions. I have watched their eyes well up with tears as other children told them she’s “not your real sister.” I have answered questions about things most kids their age aren’t yet exposed to. I have guided them through tears, frustration and anxiety. And I have listened to them pray for their sister’s unknown future.

I have also seen them grow in maturity, in selflessness and in compassion. I have watched them become more flexible, more resilient, less judgmental kids. I have noticed them bond over their shared experience. I have watched a brother and a sister fall in love with this baby who needed a home.
 
There are kids without homes. There are kids who need a safe, loving place for a time or sometimes forever. And if God calls you to this, He also calls your kids.
 
And it may be the greatest way He could ever “take away” from them.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rachel Blankenship and her husband have two biological children and became licensed foster parents last year, opening their home to their first foster child. They live in St. Clair County, Ill., one of many counties in the country facing a foster home shortage crisis. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/3/2018 10:12:48 AM by Rachel Blankenship | with 0 comments



Neighborly love

August 1 2018 by Autumn Wall

We’re all pretty good at applying Jesus’ call to “love your neighbor” (Mark 12:31) to people we go to church with, people we enjoy being around and people our kids spend time around.
 

But how much do we actually apply it to our literal neighbors?
 
Often we get caught up in going out to do ministry that we miss the people we pass by every day on our own street. Here are a few fresh ideas for creating those opportunities:
 
1. Know them. Make a grid with nine boxes and put your family name in the center box to represent your home. Now, fill in the spaces around your box with the names of your neighbors (next door, in front and behind, etc.). Don’t know their names? Be intentional to find out and get to know them. Then take time to pray for them by name every week.
 
2. Serve them. Help them carry in a large item when you see they’ve come home with something new and need a hand. Surprise them by mowing their lawn, edging, shoveling snow from their driveway, clearing ice off their car or buying a hanging plant for their porch.
 
3. Pay attention. Do they have a new baby? A family member pass away? A child graduating? Be aware of the unusual seasons of life and take a gift or offer assistance in times of challenge and of celebration.
 
4. Be a safe place. Do they have small children? Get to know the family enough that their kids would feel safe coming to your house in an emergency or if they accidentally get locked out.
 
5. Invite them. It’s easy to forget to invite the people we see every day into our church family. Invite them to your small group, Sunday worship service or special event happening in your church.
 
6. Befriend them. The best way to get to know your neighbors is to do something with them. Throw a neighborhood cookout in your front or back yard and invite all the neighbors to come hang out. Invite everyone with a “bring a side item to share and we’ll provide the meat” invitation card.
 
7. Use holiday fever.  Throw a Christmas open house. A New Year’s day lunch. A Halloween or harvest party. An Easter egg hunt. A National Pancake Day celebration. Choose your day to celebrate and use a holiday to bring people together.
 
Whatever you do, make it your goal to know your neighbors so you have the ability to love them as yourself, just like Jesus commands.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Autumn Wall, autumnwall.com, is an author, speaker, worship leader, pastor's wife and mom of three in Indianapolis. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/1/2018 10:48:13 AM by Autumn Wall | with 0 comments



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