February 2016

Words of life

February 29 2016 by Kristen White, Guest column

Are Christ’s words relevant – still true – even when they are difficult? We say they are, but then we pluck around like nervous chickens, on the hunt for distraction and satisfaction.
 
What really is our way of life? Is it spending time with Christ, following Him even if it leads to human rejection, or melding with the culture around us?
 
We are constantly bombarded with the temptation to think that the current ways are truer than Scripture that they will lead to more meaning and significance. But think about it, marketers heave massive amounts of money and research to get their products, movies and messages into the public eye. They want to change your thinking and appeal to your wants and needs, yet they offer nothing lasting. Their words are only as good as the next product.
 
God’s words are different. They have power. They endure.
 
The first “word” He spoke into existence – light – still exists. Then, Jesus became the Word incarnate (John 1:1). God will have the last word, too. All people will bow and call Him the holy Lord of Lords, even those who want us to think their goods or words are god. Imagine, everything is inferior compared to Him, yet we tend to look to everything but Him for happiness and validation.
 
In John 6, the people following Jesus around were having difficulty digesting His words. The very ones who had been miraculously fed by Him turned and walked away because He said strange things, things that meant they would have to surrender personal agendas. And they didn’t want to, just like so many of those leaving the church today.
 
And in this chapter we read: Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69, NIV).
 
Every day, we face a choice. We have been given the words of life that will absolutely satisfy us, more than food and drink, more than the next gadget or achievement. Will we prioritize Him, trust Him to be what our hearts are looking for?
 
Jesus wants to save us the disappointment of prioritizing the next fad. He wants people who have come to believe and to know that there is no place, no one, no thing, no word as absolutely true and fulfilling as Him. To whom will we go today?
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kristen White, on the Web at womenwithroots.com, is a writer in Shelbyville, Ky.)

2/29/2016 10:12:49 AM by Kristen White, Guest column | with 0 comments



Give up or try again?

February 26 2016 by Vicki Heath, Guest Column

When the world says, “Give up,” hope whispers, “Try one more time.” This may be your “one more time.”
 
So many have experienced defeat in the area of health and wellness. You may be in that spot today.
 
If you declared in January, along with so many others, that you would do whatever it takes to lose weight this year, you may be sorely disappointed in yourself once again.
 
From personal experience and from what the Bible says, fitness is not really about how determined you are, but what kind of thinker you are. Wellness starts in the mind. We need some adjusted thinking about what it takes to become fit.
 
You do have the power to change your thinking. The Bible says that Christians have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and He is able to transform your thinking. Romans 8:5 says, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (ESV).
 
When we set our minds and adjust our thinking on exercising and healthy eating, it can become a consistent part of our lives. For most of us, the most common thought that needs adjustment is that exercise is punishment for an imperfect body. We have to change that thinking to an understanding that exercise is an excellent way to improve one’s health and enhance our quality of life.
 
We also need to adjust our thinking about how hard it is. Yes, there may be some discomfort associated with walking or other basic exercise activities but this is temporary. It may last an hour, a day or even a week but eventually it will give way to strength. Consistency will bring results if we do not give up. And yes, it may be the hardest work you ever do – that’s why it’s called a workout.
 
And this whole eating thing – is it really going to kill you to deny yourself a second helping of ice cream? Jesus has called us to sacrificial living. He said to those following Him, “If anyone comes after me he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23 NIV).
 
Sacrificial living calls for denying myself, as does getting to my health goals. Therefore, I choose to sacrifice what I think I really want for what I know I really need.
 
Today is a new day and my new favorite saying is “a setback is just a set up for a comeback.” Welcome back to fitness.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Vicki Heath is the national director of First Place 4 Health, a wellness program for balance in spirit, soul, mind and body based on giving Christ first place. The FP4H movement began in 1981 as a ministry of Houston’s First Baptist Church and became a separate nonprofit ministry in 2010. FP4H counts groups in 12,000-plus churches, fitness centers, offices and homes, with more than 500,000 participants.)

2/26/2016 11:37:07 AM by Vicki Heath, Guest Column | with 0 comments



What church planters want you to know

February 25 2016 by Shane Pruitt, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention

What is a church planter?
 
A simple definition of a church planter is one who plants (or starts) a new local church. That leads to the question, “What is a good definition for church?” The word “church” originally comes from the Greek word ekklesia, which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” The root meaning of “church” is not that of a building but of a people.

 
2-25-16gcPruitt.jpg

Shane Pruitt

Beyond just a Greek definition of the word, the New Testament model of the local church is a group of people who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior and live out the Great Commission.
 
So, to combine these ideas, a church planter would be one called by God to start a new movement of people who commonly trust in Jesus and are faithful disciples of Him.
 
Who is this kind of person that in the process of church planting often leaves a steady salary and an established ministry for the complete unknown? Is he brave or is he naïve enough to try it? Even for church planters, these are sometimes hard questions to answer.
 
While not an exhaustive list, here are a few characteristics about church planters that are helpful to know as you pray for and support them in their work:

  1. Planters (at least most of them) are not trying to steal people from your church but to reach a segment of people not hearing and/or responding to the gospel in a particular location. They are focused primarily on those people, not on wooing members of other churches.

  2. Church plants could benefit from you sending people from your church. Like green plants need air and water, every new ministry needs two basic things: resources and people. What a blessing it can be when established churches prayerfully support the work God is doing by intentionally challenging some of their members to go out as laborers into the harvest to live like missionaries.

  3. Planters have put everything on the line – finances, families, pride, fears, everything. One of the most amazing things you can do for a church planter is commit to walk with him through this process. Commit to six months, a year or a lifetime. For a planter to know that someone else has his best interest in mind instills courage to dream God-sized dreams.

  4. Planters desperately need faith and wisdom. When starting a church, literally hundreds of decisions have to be made. Church planters need prayer and counsel to help them make wise decisions and maintain a strong faith in God. In the face of risk, great challenges and, at times, internal opposition, being encouraged to have faith in God to do the work He has called them to is incredibly important.

  5. Planters fear failure but know it’s a very real possibility. Many struggle with coming to grips with failure, as many church plants do not survive past their third year. A key spiritual battle is for the planter to fully and daily give the future and the work to God so that he is free to minister with joy and confidence rather than worry. Even the apostle Paul suffered with these kinds of fearful thoughts when he wrote, “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28).

  6. Planters need a pastor, too. They desperately need your help, and they know that. While they don’t necessarily want to be constantly critiqued and prodded, they often appreciate fresh eyes, outside perspective and wisdom that comes from experience. Sometimes they’ll ask. Sometimes they won’t. But if you’ll listen well and ask insightful, caring questions, they will be glad to listen when you offer advice and thank you for it.

  7. Planters have a wife and a family. The pioneering nature of church planting can be extremely hard on a church planter’s spouse and children. Often, planters are bivocational, working a job on top of pastoring. Pray for them and challenge them not to sacrifice their families on the altar of ministry. At the beginning, planters are preachers, greeters, chair-stackers, toilet-cleaners and much more. As a result, their families can suffer. Help them to value their wives and pastor their children.

So, who is this man called to plant a church? Likely, he is nothing more than a follower of Jesus, called by God to “go” with nothing more than a vision that can only come from God. But when it comes down to it, he is just someone being obedient to the will of God, and really, that is all that matters.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shane Pruitt is director of missions for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

2/25/2016 11:28:12 AM by Shane Pruitt, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention | with 0 comments



Racing through life blindfolded!

February 24 2016 by Jimmy Draper, Guest column

Although I sometimes feel that the car in the next lane is about to sideswipe me as I head home, I know that’s nothing like the grueling miles at the Daytona 500.
 
It is amazing how NASCAR drivers drive within inches of each other at nearly 200 mph. They all work in unison to keep the pack moving around the track; even a minor mistake can send cars smashing into each other and into concrete walls.
 
But what if the drivers were blindfolded?
 
“Blindfolded?” you ask.
 
They’re expert drivers, after all, and many times they effortlessly blow through 500 miles without a challenge. Blindfolds would really test their ability. They’d have to navigate around the crashes and through the smoke without actually seeing the pitfalls ahead.
 
Yes, this is a ludicrous notion. Even with the incredible ability of NASCAR drivers, it would be ridiculous to expect that a single driver could make it around the track blindfolded at even school-zone speeds.
 
So, Christian, why do you believe you’d fare any better racing the course of life blindfolded without ever looking in the Bible to see how the course is laid out?
 
Unfortunately, that is what too many of us do. We race out of our houses every day and into the fast lane of our busy lives without preparing for the pitfalls ahead. It’s no wonder the slightest trial can send us spinning toward a crash or leave us scrambling to make repairs.
 
Al Mohler addressed the issue of the biblical illiteracy in a recent blog, noting, “While America’s evangelical Christians are rightly concerned about the secular worldview’s rejection of biblical Christianity, we ought to give some urgent attention to a problem much closer to home – biblical illiteracy in the church.
 
“Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples,” Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote. “According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments. ‘No wonder people break the Ten Commandments all the time. They don’t know what they are,’ said George Barna.”
 
Interestingly, John Adams, one of our nation’s founders, believed the great need for an American educational system was because it taught people to read the Bible for themselves. Adams said that no government could fully be expected to work unless citizens acknowledged the Creator from whom it came – an acknowledgment and understanding drawn from reading the Bible.
 
God never intended for us to go through life blindfolded. The Bible is God’s manual for successfully maneuvering in a broken world. God’s Word addresses every issue we could possibly face; it brings us to our Savior and strengthens us. Learning how to overcome life’s stress only comes through reading scripture.
 
Not only do many believers not know the scripture, the preaching/teaching ministry of the local church often has devolved into a time of meeting “felt needs” and “fellowship.” We must never let the church become a place that has lost a place of prominence for God’s Word.
 
Mohler concluded his blog with this incisive statement: “We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs.”
 
NASCAR drivers would never get behind the steering wheel wearing blindfolds and we should never pull into the fast lane of life without first reading our Road Map – the Bible.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jimmy Draper is president emeritus of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

2/24/2016 11:21:02 AM by Jimmy Draper, Guest column | with 0 comments



Ten 2016 Southern Baptist Convention preparations happening now

February 22 2016 by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President

Significant actions are taking place right now for our upcoming 2016 Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 14-15. Permit me to give you a briefing.
 
1. Online registration opens today
Online registration is open for the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention. You can begin registering messengers from your church at SBCAnnualMeeting.net. This website also answers all your questions about becoming a messenger to the Southern Baptist Convention.
 
2. Anyone can attend the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention
While our convention does have elected messengers from our churches, anyone can attend a Southern Baptist Convention gathering. You can come and attend everything, even if you are not a messenger. Please join us even if your church has its messenger capacity filled.
 
3. Crossover St. Louis needs you and your church’s assistance
The week before the Southern Baptist Convention, but especially on Saturday, June 11, our convention has many people volunteer, making an investment in personal ministry throughout metro St. Louis, on both sides of the river.
 
Please go here to find out more about Crossover 2016. Please pray for Jim Breeden and his team from the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association who are making this a fantastic experience. This association is comprised of 150 cooperating churches in a region of 2.7 million people. We have a need for 2,500 volunteers to come and help these churches in 75 different projects. Contact them today.
 
4. Final decisions are being made
We are making final decisions now in relationship to our convention program. While we have much already completed, there are so many more decisions that must be made. Please pray for us.
 
5. Committee on Resolutions is almost completed
Within the next several weeks, I will release names of the ten persons who will serve on our 2016 Committee on Resolutions. This is a very important committee. There are many pieces that complete this puzzle, by-laws to follow, and many matters to take into consideration. I can announce to you that Dr. Stephen Rummage will serve as Chairman of our Committee on Resolutions. Dr. Rummage is the Senior Pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church, Brandon, Florida. He is also an officer on the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. Please begin to pray for Dr. Rummage.
 
6. Committee on Committees is being recruited now
Additionally, within the next several weeks, I will release a list of the sixty-eight members of our 2016 Committee on Committees. There are many by-law restrictions that are part of appointing this significant committee. It is a long process from initial work to final completion. I can announce to you that Dr. Willy Rice will serve as Chairman of our Committee on Committees. Dr. Rice is the Senior Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Clearwater, Florida, and served last year as the President of the 2015 Pastors’ Conference of the Southern Baptist Convention.
 
7. 2016 Pastors’ Conference of the Southern Baptist Convention
Dr. John Meador is serving as the President of our 2016 Pastors’ Conference this year. John is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Euless, Texas. Please plan to join thousands of us in this pre-SBC conference that begins on Sunday night, June 12 and goes through Monday night, June 13. Please go to sbcpc.net to learn more.
 
8. Tonight I am speaking to the SBC Executive Committee and leadership in Nashville
Tonight I will speak to the SBC Executive Committee and the SBC leadership meeting in Nashville. Please pray for me. Also pray for Dr. Frank Page and the entire Executive Committee during all their meetings on Monday and Tuesday, February 22-23.
 
9. A strategic time with leaders from across our Southern Baptist family
On Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, February 23-24, I have called a strategic meeting with leaders from across our Southern Baptist Convention. I have invited all State Convention executives, State Convention presidents, SBC entity leaders, and a group of pastors to join Dr. Frank Page and me in Nashville for this strategic time together.
 
This is an unprecedented gathering in our modern history, as these groups are rarely together except for our annual convention, and do not typically meet together in a strategic sense. Please pray for us. We are all partners in the gospel and need to be together to chart our future. While schedules prohibit some from coming, approximately ninety of us will be meeting together.
 
10. #SBC16
Most of us use social media in some form or another. When you mention our 2016 Annual Meeting in St. Louis on social media, remember to use the hashtag #SBC16. We will all benefit from sharing with one another in this way.
 
Finally…
 
Finally, these are great days to be part of our Southern Baptist Convention. Please pray for these days leading up to and through our 2016 Southern Baptist Convention on June 14-15.
 
Now is the Time to Lead,
 
Ronnie W. Floyd
 
Senior Pastor, Cross Church
President, Southern Baptist Conventio

2/22/2016 12:39:57 PM by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President | with 0 comments



When tears arrive

February 19 2016 by Diana Davis, Guest Column

You slowly hang up the phone and close your eyes. “Lord, use me!” you pray. “Help me know how to ease her pain.”
 
When death comes to a member of your church or to an unchurched acquaintance, your acts of ministry can remind the bereaved of God’s love for them.
 
The days between a death and the memorial service can be difficult. What role can you play? As soon as you learn of the death, ask God to give you wisdom in how to minister to the family.
 
God gives us this assurance and encouragement: “He gives us comfort in all our troubles. Then we can comfort other people who have the same troubles. We give the same kind of comfort God gives us” (1 Corinthians 1:4).
 
When a time for bereavement ministry, try some of these ideas:
 
The Hand-Holder. Your presence means a lot. Never overstay, of course, but when you’re there during crisis, it’s a reminder of God’s love. Share a prayer. A hug. A tear. A scripture written on a note card.
 
The Food Organizer. Five dishes of macaroni might be too much of a good thing. If you’re organizing food for their guests or a funeral meal, consider using one of the many free online schedulers, such as TakeThemAMeal.com.
 
The Book Sharer. Find an encouraging pamphlet or book to share. Be sure it’s heavy on scripture, the best words of comfort. I often give Joyce Rogers’ book, Grace for the Widow to recent widows. On the inside cover, write a note to tell something you loved about the deceased.
 
The Gesturer. Carefully observe needs, then help meet them. Do they need a pet-sitter? A phone answerer? Babysitter during funeral? Help with airport pickup? Mow the lawn. Offer to pick up kids at school. Deliver flowers from your garden to brighten their home. Write your phone number on a card and offer specific help.
 
The Rolodex King. When requested, a member of our church would help a grieving family to finish making personal notifications. After they’d called their closest friends, the volunteer sits in the kitchen with their list to compete the calls.
 
The Bag Lady. Early preparation enhances ministry. Stock up on sympathy cards. Keep a frozen casserole, soup or cookies for quick crisis ministry. Prepackage a grocery bag with paper towels, plates, cups, napkins, toilet paper and plastic utensils, and when you learn of a death, deliver it immediately to help with their guests. Plan ahead.
 
The Elephant. (No, I’m referring to memory, not size.) The moment you learn of the death, mark that date on your calendar each month for at least a year. This will remind you to pray, call, send a note or take him or her to coffee. Listen with love. Pray with them.
 
When death comes to those around you, act quickly. Move gently. Love largely. When someone in your church or community dies, your timely touch in Jesus’ name shows that you and your God truly care.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Davis [dianadavis.org] is an author, columnist and ministry wife in Pensacola, Fla. She is the author of Fresh Ideas for Women’s Ministry (B&H Publishing) and Six Simple Steps – Finding Contentment and Joy as a Ministry Wife (New Hope Publishers). This column is adapted from her book Deacon Wives (B&H Publishing).)

2/19/2016 11:38:41 AM by Diana Davis, Guest Column | with 0 comments



The Holy Spirit at work

February 18 2016 by Phil Boatwright, Guest column

Most of us have seen films made in Hollywoodland or by faith-based production companies that caused us to draw closer to our Creator. What was the factor in those movies that gave us a sense of spiritual awareness? Was it due to a big budget? Great acting? A formidable director with a thought-provoking script?
 
Generally, movies with a spiritual punch share all of those elements. There is, however, one other component to be considered when examining a successful faith-based film: subtlety or, if you will, that gentle suggestion.
 
Lasting impressions stem from imagery and dialogue that respectfully suggest the need for and the existence of spirituality.
 
Although Hollywood films seem nearly bereft of Christian symbolism nowadays, Christian imagery has played an enormous role in entertainment. Most notably, such imagery was seen in Hollywood’s Golden Age, the 1930s to the 1950s, with many religious epics also produced in the early and mid-1960s.
 
One such example is found in 20th Century Fox’s “The Robe.” The epic religious drama has a Roman centurion played by Richard Burton haunted by his participation in the execution of Christ. A significant scene has the Roman giving a donkey to a Hebrew boy. It is probably the finest gift, if not the only one, the child has ever received; yet, the next day the child has given the animal to another peasant boy. With little dialogue, the visual signifies, “It is better to give than to receive,” startling the soldier into an awareness that there is something to this “new” religion.
 
Such a lasting tableau suggests rather than sermonizes.
 
What does it suggest? That man is more than a physical and mental being. A soul affects the whole man. If his soul is fed, he will find peace, contentment and purpose. And by suggesting these truths, the power of an image often lasts far longer than a thousand words.
 
But there is another element as important as theatrical suggestion that can only be described as the influence of the Holy Spirit.
 
Alex and Stephen Kendrick, who got their moviemaking start at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., are open to the Holy Spirit. While the two have learned the importance of the rules of filmmaking, it is obvious in their work that the message of the need for Christ is paramount (no pun intended) in their screen efforts.
 
Years ago I was sent a screener of one of the Kendricks’ films, “Facing the Giants.” Financed on a shoestring budget, the brothers acted as an artistic and technical two-man army, the issues of faith and fear being addressed in their heartfelt sports drama. There were the usual filmic shortcomings associated with well-meaning religious storytelling, but within minutes something special began to happen. The involving narrative kicked in, providing positive answers to nagging spiritual questions. Then, I suddenly felt the Holy Spirit’s presence.
 
It was as if He were showering spiritual knowledge and blessing upon the project, and upon this viewer. The film took on a sincere life, one that seemed to comfort while extolling biblical principles.
 
The gospel, as it deals with the ethereal “things not seen,” may be the most difficult subject to bring to the screen. But spiritual matters generally ring true when included in realistic, believable storylines germane to everyday life. And if openness to the Holy Spirit’s leading has been sought, the project will point to the Way.
 
On Easter Sunday in the year 2000, ABC presented a family-aimed, animated retelling of the story of Christ. As a sick little girl encounters Jesus through different stages of His life, a remarkably accurate retelling of Christ’s ministry unfolds through Claymation and graphically striking two-dimensional animation.
 
For some inexplicable reason, an executive at ABC in charge of the production asked me to see a prescreening, and miracles began to unfold.
 
First miracle, she was a Christian. Second miracle, I was the only one sitting in the screening room watching this upcoming Christ-themed TV event. Why me? Third miracle, when the centurion acknowledges who Jesus is as He died on the cross, it’s not quite right. The centurion says, “Truly this was a son of God.” While I’m no theologian, I caught the subtle change in the line found in Matthew 27:54, which reads: “Truly this was the son of God.” There’s a huge suggested difference between the grammatical articles used.
 
Fourth miracle, the executive took time to hear my opinion. I brought the “a” versus “the” contrast to her attention, though I couldn’t imagine how it could be fixed. The production was completed and I was all but sure that those in charge of budget at the TV network weren’t going to rehire an actor to re-voice one brief line. I didn’t think for a minute that my observation would make a difference. But the Holy Spirit knew better.
 
In the editing room, the infraction was easily changed. The video editor copied a “the” the actor had previously spoken and dubbed it over the “a,” allowing for the line to have its correct meaning. And that’s how it aired that Easter Sunday.
 
I was proud to have been involved, but you miss the point if you think I was the one at work that day.
 
For those of us who don’t make movies, this is still a reminder to do whatever you do for the Lord, and with the Lord. Our work is better when He’s involved.
 
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” Acts 1:8.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Phil Boatwright, in addition to writing for Baptist Press, reviews films at moviereporter.com and is a regular contributor to “The World and Everything In It,” a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group.)

2/18/2016 12:13:29 PM by Phil Boatwright, Guest column | with 0 comments



An essential element: wisdom

February 17 2016 by David Jeremiah, guest column

Many elements make up a blessed life, but none is as powerful or important as wisdom.
 
Wisdom is knowledge compounded by grace. It’s seeing things through the lens of God’s vision.
 
When it comes to wisdom, Solomon is the person to study. According to 1 Kings 4:29-34: “God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand of the seashore.... For he was wiser than all men.... And men of all nations ... came to hear the wisdom of Solomon.
 
Solomon’s wisdom didn’t depend on his IQ but on a combination of elements that enriched his life and can enrich ours. The story of Solomon prods us to grow in this virtue of wisdom ourselves. How do we become wiser?
 

Recognize the grace of wisdom

First, we must acknowledge that wisdom comes from God and is given by grace. First Kings 4:29 says, “God gave Solomon wisdom.
 
When David committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged her husband’s death, the baby resulting from that union died. When we hear the linked names of “David and Bathsheba,” we’re reminded of one of the most scandalous stories of the Old Testament. Yet a few verses later we turn the corner and bump into God’s overcoming grace. He gave David and Bathsheba a God-loved son, Solomon, who would become the wisest man on earth.
 
Sometimes we bemoan our background and think less of ourselves than God does. We let our parents, our past or our problems make us feel foolish and useless. But with God’s grace always right around the corner, the experiences of life can enhance our wisdom. Wisdom and grace go together. Luke 2:40 says Jesus was “filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.”
 
Jesus Christ – being God – is the embodiment of wisdom. He possesses perfect knowledge and therefore has no need to learn. There isn’t a scrap of information, a byte of data or a spark of genius that He hasn’t known from eternity past. He compasses and surpasses all facts; He comprehends and transcends all reality; and in Him are the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. [Robert J. Morgan, All to Jesus (Nashville: B&H Publishers, 2012), entry for Day 4.]
 
By grace He shares His insights with those who fear Him, for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). He teaches His children how to think and live.
 

Request prayers for wisdom

Second, Solomon was wise because someone prayed for him. When we think of the sagacity of Solomon, we often think of his special petition for understanding in 1 Kings 3:9. But before Solomon ever prayed for wisdom, his father David asked the Lord to bestow wisdom on his son. In 1 Chronicles 22:11-12, David offered him this blessing: “May the Lord give you wisdom and understanding ... that you may keep the law of the Lord your God.”
 
How blessed we are when others are pleading with God for our wisdom! And as you intercede for others, ask the Heavenly Father to grant them daily wisdom for their daily walk.
 

Pray for wisdom yourself

In keeping with Solomon’s example, we should then pray for wisdom ourselves. In 1 Kings 3, the Lord famously asked Solomon to request anything he wanted. What if God invited you to ask for anything you wanted in life? Solomon asked for wisdom, and James 1 says we can do the same. The Lord makes us the same offer He gave to Solomon. James 1:5 says: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
 

Meditate on scripture

The next step in growing wiser is meditating on scripture. As we advance from Bible study to Bible meditation, the Word of God begins to settle into our brain and becomes part of our thinking. Take the book of Proverbs, for example. Most of it came from Solomon’s pen, providing meaningful maxims we can memorize and mull over.
 
We’re on our way to thinking more wisely as we fear the Lord and receive His grace, learn that others are praying for us, ask God for wisdom in all circumstances, and let God’s Word mold our minds.
 
As Solomon said long ago, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7).
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Jeremiah is pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., and founder and host of “Turning Point for God.” For more information on Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org. This column has been approved by Turning Point for redistribution in Baptist state newspapers; for other reprint requests, contact Myrna Davis at mdavis@turningpointonline.org.)

2/17/2016 11:17:54 AM by David Jeremiah, guest column | with 0 comments



God, America & politics: key issues facing evangelical believers

February 16 2016 by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President

God-talk is filling the campaign trails across America. The candidates and their public conversations about God range from comfortable to unfamiliar. Often, this results in confusion within the minds of Christian voters about whom they should support.
 

A biblical worldview

There is a competition of worldviews occurring in this season. This is not new, but it is becoming more and more apparent as we listen to the views of the candidates for president of the United States.
 
Additionally, secularism is growing in America. A secular worldview is indifferent toward God or just excludes God from the thought process completely. Therefore, when you listen to the views of candidates or read their various positions, listen for their specific worldview.
 
Are their thoughts coming from a biblical worldview, a secular worldview or even a combination of these two competing worldviews? You should not necessarily look for them to quote Bible verses or stories from God’s Word. But when holding a Bible in your hand and opening up its eternal treasure of truth, is anything they say they believe found anywhere in God’s Word?
 
God’s Word is the only forward truth. It is the only truth that has been true, is true today, and will be true eternally. Therefore, we need to be familiar enough with God’s Word to evaluate not only the politics in American life, but all things in this world.
 

5 major issues facing genuine evangelical Christians

Prayer is not inaction, but our greatest action. Simultaneously, it is incumbent on us to not check the Bible and Christian worldview at the door when we live life and participate in the political processes afforded to us in America.
 
We are to live out our faith and the principles of the Bible through dating, marriage, family, workplace, recreation, church, government and all of our relationships. A faith built on Jesus Christ is a faith that is strong and balanced enough to be lived out in all areas of our life. It is not intimidated by intellect nor does it retreat when attacked.
 
Even though there are many things that genuine evangelical Christians must consider, I want to highlight five issues in this political season:
 
1. The sanctity and dignity of human life
The sanctity and dignity of human life from the womb to the tomb should be a major concern for all Christ-followers. The de-valuing of human life in the way we treat one another is not without great consequence. This includes the racial crisis that is real and big. The divine imprint of our God is on each human being. He places value on each of us; therefore, we should mimic His treatment of all people.
 
We need to remember that regardless of who becomes the next leader in our nation, one day we will stand in the presence of God and give an account of ourselves to Him. The sanctity and dignity of human life should be non-negotiable for all evangelical Christians.
 
2. Marriage and family concerns
Biblical marriage is between a man and a woman. The brazen attack against this most important fundamental truth is outrageous. Evangelical Christians must stand strong for biblical marriage even if the cultural winds deem us irrelevant.
 
As you evaluate the words and positions of candidates, what do they believe about family? We believe that redemption is possible for anyone. A new path toward righteousness is always applauded by any genuine evangelical.
 
Yet, will this person have your family on his or her heart in all their decision-making? Do they have the next generation on their heart? What will they do to lift up the family unit in America?
 
3. Religious liberty
While the threats and horrific actions against Christians exist globally, will the next Commander in Chief of our nation sit idly by hoping it will just go away, or rise up and lead toward a solution?
 
Even though religious liberty was the core belief that led to the creation of our great nation, we know it is being threatened more today than any of us remember in our generation. This is unacceptable and defies not only the dignity of each human life, but also the history of our nation.
 
America needs a champion for religious liberty. The world needs America’s next president to be a champion for religious liberty internationally.
 
4. Competent executive
Evangelical Christians should desire that our president be competent in leading our nation. He or she may not be able to state theological positions and quote Bible verses to your satisfaction, but he or she must be a leader who understands the history of our nation and the Constitution of the United States.
 
He or she needs to be a competent executive and an effective leader of people. He or she needs to be able to gather other competent leaders around them who can assist in charting a robust future for our nation that honors our history and Constitution in every way.
 
5. Appointments, appointments, appointments
Leadership matters. The president of our nation makes appointments to various places of influence all over our nation and world. Have you ever considered the power of his influence in these appointments? Some of these appointments are not for a term, but for life.
 
We need to remember: One of the most critical issues facing the next president will be the appointments to the Supreme Court of our nation. These appointments are for life. Some say the next president may be able to appoint as many as four Supreme Court justices.
 
While preparing for the release of this article, we became aware of the sad and untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court. It was President Ronald Reagan who appointed Justice Scalia in 1986. Leadership matters! Justice Scalia leaves a legacy of conservatism on moral and social issues. He was a giant of a man and a leader. He championed human life from the womb to the tomb, biblical marriage between a man and a woman, religious liberty, the Second Amendment, and he was a brilliant jurist and faithful to upholding the United States Constitution.
 
Now with his untimely death, we likely will see the appointment powers of the president become talked about in this election season. We must wake up and ask each candidate: What kind of people are you planning to appoint to any open positions on the Supreme Court of the United States?
 

Leadership does matter

As evangelicals, we need leaders from across the world of business, government, education, church and beyond to do what is right. Your leadership does matter. The spirit of your leadership is critical. We must be involved in these processes. Leadership matters!
 
I say it again. Dear America: Evangelicals can pick the next president, period. Your leadership matters.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. This column first appeared at Ronnie Floyd’s website, ronniefloyd.com.)

2/16/2016 12:59:32 PM by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President | with 1 comments



Evangelism through the church community

February 15 2016 by Matt Capps, Guest Column

As church leaders, we all desire to lead evangelistic churches. Proclaiming the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ is central to our ministry and our faithfulness to the mission of God. In my experience, there are two primary strategies for evangelism in the modern American Church. It would seem that local churches lean heavily toward event-based evangelism or a more individualistic approach to evangelism.
 
In event-based evangelism the idea is, “get the unbelievers to the church event so they will hear the gospel and prayerfully be saved.” The problem is, many church events like this tend to attract Christians from other churches rather than unbelievers. While people should hear the gospel at a church event, they shouldn’t have to come to a church event in order to hear the gospel. Simply put, we should not become dependent on an event to reach the lost.

 
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Matt Capps

The individualist approach tends to promote an evangelism that is primarily undertaken in isolation. In other words, individuals are sent out like lone rangers to share the gospel by themselves. Certainly, individuals should present the gospel when the opportunity arises. However, an evangelism strategy that primarily depends on individuals has the potential to crush our people under the burden of carrying out the mission of God on their own.
 
While there are benefits to both strategies, as we see, there are also a few drawbacks. Something seems missing if these are the only two ways we train our people for evangelism. What if we started to think of evangelism as something that is done in the context of community?
 
In my experience, it is becoming more and more the case that people are attracted to biblical, Christian community before they are open to the biblical, Christian message. Skeptics need to see the power of the gospel lived out in the context of a Kingdom community.
 
In other words, Christian proclamation makes the gospel audible, but we also need a corporate witness to make the implications of the gospel visible. The local church “examples” the power of the gospel to those around them. The world should look at the Church and see the gospel interpreted in every day.
 
Our loving commitment to one another despite our differences and our grace toward one another’s failures are a beautiful testimony to the gospel. True gospel fellowship within the local body transcends the barriers of race, sex, class and education, creating a community bound by the gospel alone.
 
With this in mind, introducing people into the Church community as a relational network becomes an important part of our being a faithful presence in the world around us.
 
Now, our love will not be perfect, but it must be substantial enough for the world to be able to observe. Isn’t this what Jesus said in John 13? “Love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
 
The ongoing witness of a church community is much more powerful than a one-time event. The collective witness of a church family is much more widespread than the impact of one individual.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Matt Capps serves as senior pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex. He will be leading an equipping session at the “Reveal” Disciple-making conference Feb. 29. A list of all the equipping sessions available at the conference can be found here.)
 

Related stories:

Dhati Lewis talks disciple-making before ‘Reveal’
Reveal leaders share how to make disciples
Disciple-making conference to help attendees ‘reveal’ gospel
Milton Hollifield: Relationships help reveal the gospel to others

2/15/2016 11:24:25 AM by Matt Capps, Guest Column | with 0 comments



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