December 2017

What Lottie Moon taught me about injustice, gospel

December 8 2017 by Lori McDaniel, IMB

I’ve met injustice face to face.
 
She was a trafficked woman who stood beside me at a train station in Asia, her pimp glaring from a few feet away. Everything within me wanted to grab her hand and rescue her. But our conversation ended abruptly, and I don’t know where she is today.
 
I heard injustice cry out on the edge of an African village as 10-year-old girls were “circumcised” as part of a village tradition. The village women sang in celebration, and my heart split between anger and compassion. The need for justice and the gospel weighed heavy on my soul.

IMB Photo


“I cannot be silent,” wrote Lottie Moon, the nineteenth-century Southern Baptist missionary who helped inspire the international missions offering that carries her name today. And I feel a similar urgency myself. Writing as if she were a wartime correspondent, Lottie sent dispatches from the front lines. Her provocative letters asked the church to courageously send reinforcements to advance the gospel, and to compassionately give aid to those dealing with oppression. Her words a mere whisper of the thunderous life she lived: “The needs of these people press upon my soul, and I cannot be silent.”
 

Lottie’s voice for the voiceless

Lottie entered China to teach women and school-aged girls. It wasn’t long before she collided head-on with injustice in the Chinese culture, specifically the ancient practice of foot-binding. The custom entailed bending a young girl’s toes downward until her foot doubled and binding them tightly until they broke. The tighter the better.
 
The agonizing pain resulted in a deformed, three-inch foot believed to attract better marriage prospects and a higher social status. To a groom, “It is much more important for her to have small feet than a pretty face,” Lottie wrote. “As to education, that is neither desired nor expected.”
 
Lottie spoke out, encouraging parents to unbind their daughter’s feet and to allow them to go to school. And for 40 years, Lottie lived among people whose needs altered between poverty, disease, war, persecution, famine and the results of human atrocities.
 
She met injustice face to face with a relentless love and the truth of the gospel. Her resolve to persist on the front lines nearly 150 years ago inspires me to tenaciously wrestle with injustice and the gospel in my own world today.
 
Here’s what Lottie’s example teaches me about injustice and the gospel.
 

We must live in the tension of injustice.

Lottie proclaimed the gospel while ministering to broken people wrapped in the brutality of injustice. The inner tension she felt was thick. She knew that unbinding the feet of a young girl came with risks. A girl with unbound feet may have become an outcast, rejected by her family.
 
But with feet bound, girls suffered excruciating pain, were susceptible to infection and death, and would likely become uneducated child-brides. As many of us would, Lottie wrestled through her options. “Has the time come and are we strong enough to make a decided stand on the question of foot-binding?” she asked. “Shall we make it a rule that all who come in (to school) shall unbind their feet?”
 
Injustice binds, the gospel sets free, and we must relentlessly minister in the tension between the two. Let us not shrink in the face of injustice but courageously fight injustice with a gospel-informed response.
 

Righting a wrong of injustice is not redemptive. Christ’s presence and power is.

The gospel breeds injustice-fighters, but fighting injustice is not necessarily proclaiming the gospel. We are called to defend against the assault of injustice while introducing God as the one who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalms 147:5).
 
After years of attempting to right the wrong of foot-binding, Lottie wrote of one student who chose to follow Christ, but “was forced to marry into a heathen family. They used every effort to induce her to recant.”
 
But she would not. Her husband destroyed her Bible and demanded she leave her faith. Unrelenting, this woman fervently prayed. Twenty years later her husband chose to follow Christ. Not long after his conversion, she “prayed about the unbinding of her daughters’ feet, and when she spoke of it to her husband, she could scarcely believe her ears that he promptly consented.”
 
It was Christ in him that changed his perspective of right and wrong. Injustice and brokenness dwell where God’s name and glory does not. But, when His name is present, God has the power to redeem and restore justice.
 

Injustice dwells where truth does not.

Injustice will continue as long as the truth is suppressed (Romans 1:18). As believers, we don’t just inform people of truth, we introduce them to truth by being a living example of Christ.
 
When we introduce people to the Word, “many hearts are stirred,” wrote Lottie, “but these newly awakened souls are bound in the chains of old habits. ... Now what these people need – next to grace of God in their hearts – is to see the life of Jesus Christ set before them.”
 
We can’t just do good. We must love people enough to live as a tangible gospel witness among them – yes, live among the impoverished, the diseased, the broken, the displaced and the dejected. We can declare truth when we dwell among injustice.
 

Injustice is uprooted when we share the story of reconciliation.

As believers, we understand justice differently because we’ve been justified. Our story has been redeemed by our reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ. Injustice is often tethered to a belief – a story – that’s a deeply rooted worldview, passed down through generations.
 
Cultures may place their identity in such beliefs, anchored in religion, tradition or societal expectations. We cannot change the narrative of a culture without giving them a better story to believe. Through Jesus Christ, God reconciled the world to Himself and entrusted us as “messengers of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
 

We can’t love the gospel and not have compassion for the broken in need of the gospel.

Ironically, a year and a half before Lottie died, she was still writing of injustice and oppression as famine claimed the lives of many around her. She wrote of men collapsing on the side of the road, their sacks of grain still beside them as they died of starvation on their way back to their families. She told of mothers sending their children away from home, just hoping someone would feed them.
 
Lottie fell in love with the Chinese people, and the Chinese people fell in love with her. When she died, her Chinese friends carved in Chinese letters on a plaque, “Lottie Moon.”
 
And underneath could be found the phrase, “how she loved us.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lori McDaniel is a church initiatives leader at the International Mission Board. She served with her family for several years in Africa before returning to plant a church in the United States.)
 

12/8/2017 8:25:00 AM by Lori McDaniel, IMB | with 0 comments



‘That’s the Book for me’

December 7 2017 by Brian Hobbs, The Baptist Messenger

“The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E.”
 
For decades, these lyrics have been on the lips of boys and girls in Sunday School classes around the world. If taken to heart, they contain a lasting truth that can withstand life’s greatest tests, as well as waves of skepticism young people will face from the entertainment industry, the academic world and elsewhere.

Brian Hobbs


Yet research shows that many of the children who learned these lyrics, while they may still believe in the Bible, don’t live like it. Even in the “Bible Belt,” we feel the effects. Among summer campers at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center, a recent survey found that 93 percent of students said they believe the Bible is accurate in everything it teaches, yet only 18 percent said they read it daily.
 
In the same survey, asked what helps them most in their walk with God, students ranked “reading the Bible” fifth out of six choices. Among the things ahead of scripture reading were events (camps, retreats, etc.), Christian friends and attending church.
 
Christian events, friends and worship services are, of course, good things. But research shows there is no substitute for daily Bible reading.
 
The Center for Bible Engagement of the Back to the Bible ministry found that reading the Bible four times a week is the “magic number.” If a person reads their Bible fewer than four times weekly, they are more likely to engage in destructive behaviors, such as drunkenness or fornication.
 
If, however, a person reads their Bible at least four times weekly, they are less likely to engage in these destructive behaviors and are more likely to engage in productive behavior, such as prayer, evangelism, graciousness toward others, marital commitment and personal ethics in the workplace.
 
What’s at stake in regard to Bible engagement, then, is theological and behavioral. That is partly why it is so encouraging to see one new development in America. Last month, the Museum of the Bible opened in our nation’s capital.
 
Founded by the Green family (of Hobby Lobby), the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., is the largest museum in the world devoted to presenting the history, narrative and impact of the Bible.
 
Since 2009, Steve and Jackie Green have been planning the presentation of archaeological finds pertaining to the Bible and the world’s most impressive display of materials relating to the Bible’s original writings, its preservation and its distribution around the globe.
 
I, for one, cannot wait to see the wonders of God’s Holy Word on display in this first-rate museum. Yet, the museum will be important not just for Bible-believing folks like me. For honest skeptics, the museum will show the unquestionable significance of the Bible in our world. For seekers, the museum will speak to minds and hearts.
 
Indeed, the Museum of the Bible is one way we must awaken an awe and newfound appreciation for the Word of God. If local churches and national efforts like the museum are successful, we can expect the full power of God’s Word to be unleashed on a nation walking in darkness.
 
If we are unsuccessful, then the B-I-B-L-E children’s song will be left in the dust bin of memories, and even worse, an entire generation will have missed completely the ultimate memo from God to all of mankind: the Bible.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Hobbs is editor of The Baptist Messenger, baptistmessenger.com, news journal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, where this article first appeared.)
 

12/7/2017 9:04:01 AM by Brian Hobbs, The Baptist Messenger | with 0 comments



Giving up

December 6 2017 by Rebecca Manry, Baptist Press

I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma earlier this year. It was shocking; cancer diagnoses usually are. The treatments were unpleasant; cancer treatments usually are. I thank God that my final chemo treatment was two months ago and my scans showed no sign of the disease remaining.
 
As I begin my new phase of life as a cancer survivor, a new enemy has crept in: anxiety.

Rebecca Manry


I find myself worrying that it will come back. I worry about possible long-term effects from chemo. I worry that I’ll be afflicted by another type of cancer or a completely different disease in the future.
 
While I was in the hospital waiting for my initial biopsy results, I had a strange peace. After months of uncertainty, we had a name for the symptoms I was experiencing. There was a standard treatment with an excellent response rate, and I was under the care of experienced doctors. During treatments I had some difficult moments, but I looked forward to the end and couldn’t wait to get back to normal.
 
Now that I have moved on to the next phase, I’m finding that anxiety can be crippling if not addressed and confessed daily.
 
As we suffer trauma, sometimes in the moment we don’t fully process what’s happening. We’re just in fight mode and do what we have to do to get through. When the dust clears and we start to make sense of everything, the deeper feelings come out.
 
Anxiety feels different when you have actually experienced something life-changing. The event serves as justification for future worry: That awful thing happened that one time, so who’s to say that this new thing I’m worried about is not a legitimate concern?
 
Jesus gives us plenty of instruction about anxiety in Matthew 6:25-34. He tells us plainly: Don’t worry about your life. Don’t worry about tomorrow. But why are these commands from our Lord so hard to follow?
 
I’m convinced that to move on, we have to give up. We have to give up a lot of things that we love, that we cling to, that we rely on. If we don’t, we’ll never make it.
 
We certainly have to give up the illusion of control. You can live a healthy lifestyle, but you can never guarantee that you won’t get cancer or another debilitating disease. You can drive safely, but you can’t prevent someone else from crashing into you. You can cling to your loved ones, but you can’t guarantee their safety. There’s literally no other option but to trust God.
 
I have repeated Matthew 6:27 to myself often during this period of my life: “Can any of you add one moment to his life-span by worrying?” This is a very practical statement from our Lord – worrying doesn’t change circumstances. I wasn’t able to prevent getting cancer by worrying about it, and God saw fit to heal me without any assistance from me.
 
To worry about our lives is to demonstrate a lack of trust in God and His good plan. He tells us repeatedly in His Word that He loves us and cares about us. He showed us His love in a very definitive way at the cross. Jesus’ sacrifice involved more physical, emotional and spiritual pain than most of us will ever have to experience, but it was part of the good plan of our good God.
 
We also have to give up our idols – the things and people that we value more than the will of God.
 
For me, my biggest idol has been my marriage. At the time of my diagnosis, I was engaged to a wonderful man. We worked with my doctors to plan my treatment schedule around the wedding date, and we had a wonderful ceremony right at the mid-point in my treatments. I had longed for marriage for so long, and I wasn’t ready to let go for anything. Even the thought that I might not be able to live a long and happy life with my husband was too much to bear.
 
God’s priorities for us might be different than our priorities. He promises to provide for our needs as we seek first His Kingdom (v. 33), but He knows what we need better than we do. We need to be prepared that He might allow us to lose the things we love the most, including our families or our own lives.
 
I encourage anyone who has experienced trauma or debilitating anxiety to seek assistance from a counselor or doctor. But it’s also worth it to reflect on what you’re holding on to. If we hold on tightly to our lives, we will worry that things won’t work out the way we want them to. Jesus has already guaranteed that we will have troubles (v. 34), so there’s no question that we will all experience seasons of pain, loss and disappointment. We need to give up so that we can trust God and free ourselves from the anxiety that will keep us from seeking and desiring His will.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rebecca Manry is communications specialist for the SBC Executive Committee. This article first appeared in SBC LIFE, the journal of the Executive Committee.)
 

12/6/2017 9:32:54 AM by Rebecca Manry, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Why we’re a cooperating church

December 5 2017 by Curtis Cook, Baptist Press

Several times each year we offer a membership class at our church outlining what it means to be a member, how we function as a church, what we believe, etc. One of the questions we address each time, because it is regularly raised, is “Why do we choose to cooperate as a part of the Southern Baptist Convention?”
 
Here are a few reasons why, within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), we think we are better together:

Curtis Cook

 

A shared theological commitment

Local churches and church plants who cooperate with the SBC agree with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (BF&M). Depending on who you ask, you may hear that this document is quite broad or that it is too narrow.
 
However, I believe the BF&M provides a sound theological tent under which there can be significant theological differences alongside the confidence that you are cooperating with truly like-minded churches around the country.
 

Centered in local autonomous churches

The SBC is designed to be led not from the top, but from the bottom – to be led by local churches. These local churches, which are autonomous, make the decisions that lead, rather than the decisions being made by a small group of people at the top. Every entity ultimately is accountable to local churches.
 

Missionary vision and entities

Personally, I didn’t grow up in a Southern Baptist church and had little interaction with them until college. The missionary vision and commitment is what initially attracted me to join a Southern Baptist church and it is one of the key elements that has kept me in the convention.
 
From this missionary vision, the SBC has developed two excellent mission entities, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and International Mission Board (IMB). Of course, no entity is perfect, but I am more encouraged than ever about the work currently being done through these two organizations.
 
We are excited as a church to cooperate directly with both NAMB church planters and IMB missionaries. And through our giving, we also have the chance to cooperate on a regional level by supporting the work of the Baptist Convention of New England that helps to impact our own area.
 

Opportunity to join the work no matter your congregation’s size

Through the Cooperative Program, any size church can join in financially supporting missions in North America and around the world. Initially, it can be challenging for a small church plant to engage in giving to Great Commission work and to find a conduit for that giving. The Cooperative Program in the SBC serves as a great tool for this.
 

Infrastructure to help equip and carry out the mission

In order to train up and send out people to join in gospel work around the world, infrastructure is necessary. In any organization, it is a temptation for infrastructure to grow to an unhealthy level, and this has been true at times in the SBC. However, we currently have solid infrastructure, such as the six SBC seminaries that do an excellent job of training future pastors and planters, as well as entities like the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, LifeWay Christian Resources and GuideStone Financial Resources that serve churches in a wide variety of ways.
 
Like any family, the SBC is certainly not perfect. I get frustrated at times, and there are changes I’d like to see. However, I believe the SBC is an excellent channel for our local church to cooperate with as we seek to do gospel work in our region and join in Great Commission work around the world. I’m thankful for the good work that is happening and I look forward to what may be accomplished in the future as we cooperate together.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Curtis Cook is senior pastor of Hope Fellowship Church in Cambridge, Mass., and the Cooperative Program catalyst for the Northeast region. This column first appeared at the talkCP website of the SBC Executive Committee.)
 

12/5/2017 9:15:55 AM by Curtis Cook, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Why Chicago?

December 4 2017 by Dennis Conner, Baptist Press

We may not verbalize the “why” question with the persistence of a young child, but we still look for a reason or substantial meaning when called to some action.
 
Through more than a dozen years in church planting, I’ve heard the “why” question. When a family gave five acres for a new church property to a local association in eastern North Carolina, many in nearby churches asked why, even as their buildings were nowhere near filling their seating capacity.

Dennis Conner


When I planted a church in Buckeye, Ariz., the North Carolina churches I invited to partner with us often wondered why they should care about planting a church in a community 2,000 or more miles away.
 
For nearly four years now, I have had the privilege of living in Chicago. During that time, I have mentored, coached and challenged many church planters here. I’ve also invited churches in more than a dozen states to get engaged in supporting church plants here in Chicago with prayer, action and finances.
 
“Why Chicago?” some ask, jesting, “Why not Hawaii? That would be a great mission trip!”
 
Yet there are three key answers:
 
The first reason is biblical. In Luke’s account of the Great Commission in Acts 1:8, Jesus tells His disciples and us, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (CSB).
 
No matter where you live, major metropolitan areas like Chicago are located between you and “the end of the earth.” And frankly, because of political views and sensationalized news, Chicago in particular is to many in southern Illinois and elsewhere what Samaria was to the Jews: a place and people we’ve been trained or conditioned to dislike or even hate. Yet, even if it is Samaria to Christians, it’s a place and people to which Jesus has sent us to bear witness of Him and His Good News.
 
The second reason is practical. Cities like Chicago have, from their earliest settlement, become a home for immigrant people groups – many that are identified as “unreached and unengaged” by the International Mission Board.
 
Because of technology and ease of global travel from America’s major cities, many immigrants maintain a reach to and influence in their homelands. So, effectively evangelizing and discipling people in a city like Chicago gives us a reach into many parts of the world, including most of the peoples in the 10/40 window, a region between the 10th and 40th parallels across Africa and Asia where most of the people who have never heard the gospel live.
 
Reaching Chicago and other metropolitan areas with the gospel could bring a significant advance toward the global evangelization that Jesus promised in Matthew 24:14.
 
The final answer to “Why Chicago?” is missiological. Chicago is sometimes called the “most segregated city in America.” And while that is changing in some of the neighborhoods of the city, people groups are usually heavily concentrated in certain areas. Poles are heavily concentrated in the northwest neighborhoods and nearby suburbs. Chinatown, as you might guess, is home to mostly Chinese people, many of them still speaking Mandarin or Cantonese. Pakistanis are clustered along Devon Avenue in the northern part of the city. Professional millennials make up two-thirds of the population in the West Loop. Wicker Park is the epicenter of the hipsters.
 
High concentrations of people groups in a specific place give us a missiological advantage in reaching them. Even if it is a cross-culturally gifted southern boy and his family living among south Asian immigrants, winning one or two to Jesus could result in dozens who live nearby coming to faith in Christ. Given their close proximity to each other, bringing them together to a form a new church can happen very naturally.
 
While it may not be unique, Chicago is rare in giving us three good reasons to seize the opportunities for the gospel that lie within our reach, even if it may be several hundred miles away.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dennis Conner directs church planting efforts of the Illinois Baptist State Association in northeast Illinois. Beginning Jan. 1, Conner will transition to planting a church in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood.)
 

12/4/2017 8:56:19 AM by Dennis Conner, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Obviously God

December 1 2017 by Dan DeWitt, Baptist Press

Have you ever looked for your sunglasses only to discover you’re still wearing them? Sometimes what you’re after is right under your nose, or in the case of your glasses, right above it. We can be experts at missing the obvious.
 
In Romans 1, the apostle Paul explains that God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature are clearly seen in what God has made. Paul says that’s why we have no excuse for rejecting Him. But at times, we can miss what is clearly right in front of us.

Dan DeWitt


In Psalm 19 King David said that God’s glory is revealed from heaven. In Romans, Paul says God’s wrath is revealed from heaven. The heavens aren’t sending mixed messages. It’s a matter of vantage point. The believer sees glory (Psalm 19). The unbeliever sees wrath (Romans 1).
 
Paul says God has shown what can be known about Him – apart from scripture – in a way that is plain (Romans 1:19) and is clearly perceived (Romans 1:20) so that we are without excuse (Romans 1:21). But since Paul says that these things are “invisible attributes” how can anyone see them?
 
Why does Paul say that God’s existence is obvious, plain, clear?
 
What else can this be but basic intuition? We see these attributes plainly, though they are invisible, by simply being human. To be human is to have a sense that there is a powerful and moral source behind the universe. It doesn’t take an academic degree to figure that out. In fact, often advanced education can dull our God-given intuition by which we perceive God’s clear role as Creator and Moral Lawgiver.
 
We look at the world around us and perceive that something outside of nature, something supernatural, brought the natural world into being. We recognize intuitively that there is a moral fabric to the universe. These senses, the sense of the divine and the moral sense, should be trusted in ways similar to how we trust our other senses.
 
Of course, God’s world isn’t sufficient to save us – apart from God’s Word. In Romans 10, Paul makes it clear that faith comes by hearing the Word of God, not just by perceiving God’s invisible attributes in the world. But when we reject, stifle, ignore or suppress these basic intuitions, we experience God’s wrath. When we allow them to point us in the right direction, we will sense glory.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dan DeWitt is associate professor of applied theology and apologetics at Cedarville University.)
 

12/1/2017 9:53:22 AM by Dan DeWitt, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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