January 2019

Grace amidst gaming

January 14 2019 by Joshua and Daniel Greening

Go into all the world and preach the gospel,” Jesus told His followers. He also said that if we love Him, we will feed His sheep. We are blessed to do both at TheWay_TV, a Christian channel on the Twitch.TV video game platform.

When non-Christians come to TheWay_TV, they often express opinions or pose questions we expect to hear. They may ask, for example, if God can lie or if we believe there was a literal Noah’s Ark. Their statements and questions haven’t really surprised us.
What has surprised us, however, is what we hear from many who profess to be Christians but are so bound up by guilt and shame that they doubt their own salvation. They have done things or continue to do things that make them question God’s forgiveness. They don’t seem to have any understanding of the concept of grace.
Of course, God does ask us to repent and turn from our sin. That is a given. However, as the apostle Paul states in Romans 7:15, we can still have struggles in our walk with Christ. Everyone has to constantly battle fleshly desires that go against God. Many Christians also deal with bad influences, habits and addictions.
When we have truly made the decision to be a Christ-follower and turn from sin, we enter into God’s grace. Romans 8:1 states that there is now, therefore, no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. This means that grace covers all our sins. We should not be beaten down or neutralized by guilt and shame. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, according to 2 Corinthians 3:17. If we confess our sins, 1 John 1:9 tells us that God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We can do this a hundred times a day if necessary.
We must remember that God does discipline us as a Father who loves His children. This still happens even though we are under grace. He disciplines us because He wants us to grow and mature in Him. We must also keep in mind that sin often has very serious consequences. We have to face those consequences even if we are forgiven and right with God under grace.
We remind our viewers that, if they feel bad about their sins, it is a good thing. Their conscience is working and they are feeling the conviction of the Holy Spirit. If someone is truly doubting their salvation, there is an easy fix. They should give their life to Christ and start forward from that moment. If they aren’t saved, they can be now. If they are already saved, it can be a rededication of their life to Christ. We all rededicate our lives to Christ daily with every decision and choice we make. Scripture says we must daily take up our cross and follow Jesus.
We encourage our viewers to constantly move forward, seeking God and drawing close to Him. James 4:8 in scripture calls us to draw close to Him, and then He will draw close to us. We don’t want to see our viewers neutralized by sin, guilt and shame. We pray they will live in liberty and peace and joy. We pray the same for everyone who reads this article. Remember, Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. God bless you!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joshua and Daniel Greening host video game enthusiasts on their TheWay_TV channel on the Twitch.TV gaming platform at twitch.tv/theway_tv.)

1/14/2019 11:25:28 AM by Joshua and Daniel Greening | with 0 comments

Let’s sing anyway

January 11 2019 by Chuck Lawless

I’ve been there, and you likely have as well. You’ve never heard the song your church is singing or you’ve heard it but don’t like it. The temptation is to silently mimic the words or not sing at all.
But here’s why we need to sing anyway:

1. It’s right to sing God’s praises.
Even if it’s not our favorite song, it’s right to join the people of God in singing God’s praises (Psalm 96). He delights in the singing of His people.
2. Not singing sends the wrong signal.
Here’s what it could look like – anger or distraction. Worse yet, it comes across as arrogance. And, if you’re not singing just because you don’t like the song, that really does border on arrogance. All of us model something by the way we worship. Some show the joy of encountering God. Others make worshiping God look boring and disconnected. Singing helps others to worship Him well.
3. Some songs you don’t like are quite biblical.
Most of us choose songs we like on the basis of the style and the melody, not on the words. Sometimes, though, the songs we don’t like are straight out of the Bible – so we miss an opportunity to sing His Word when we choose not to sing.
4. We can learn a song best by singing it.
I now love some songs I didn’t like when I first heard them, and I’m glad I at least tried to sing them. The same can happen for you.
5. Singing with the rest of the congregation promotes and reflects unity.
Churches already struggle enough with internal conflict. Sometimes, in fact, members who don’t sing are intentionally sending a signal of disapproval and division. Don’t play that game.
6. Singing encourages the ones leading the singing.
Few things are as discouraging for worship leaders as looking at a congregation with non-participants. We don’t really hide our silence.
I don’t always like the songs a church sings, but I still love singing God’s praises with His people. Hearing others sing, and joining them even when the song may not be my favorite, is a reminder that worship is not about me in the first place. It’s about the One whose praises we sing.

1/11/2019 10:36:05 AM by Chuck Lawless | with 0 comments

A visit to Plymouth, Mass.

January 10 2019 by Paul Kim

We are all in search of freedom, peace and happiness. These ideals are priceless. They were God-given gifts, but sin introduced mankind to slavery, war and suffering. That is why God sent His Son, Jesus – to restore the world through repentance.

Photo courtesy of Paul Kim

In Matthew 4:17, Jesus preached His first sermon in which He declared, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Man can only find freedom, peace and happiness when he repents of his sin and is no longer possessed by the world but instead chooses to possess the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 11:28-30; John 1:4-5; John 1:12-13; John 3:16).
I recently visited the town of Plymouth, Mass., where a group of 120 people who came to be known as the Pilgrims landed in 1620. The story is a familiar one: they boarded the Mayflower and crossed the Atlantic Ocean in what they saw as a search for religious freedom, peace and the right to a pursuit of happiness. Upon arriving in the New World they faced much hardship. Many of them did not survive the first winter and were buried in a strange and foreign land without seeing their dreams come true.
The town of Plymouth still reminds us of this history. Visitors make their pilgrimage, schoolchildren by the busloads, parents with their children. They come to gaze upon the famous Plymouth Rock, where the date “1620” is engraved. The waves of the Atlantic Ocean crash against the rocks on the beach just as they did when the Pilgrims first landed. It brings a tinge of sadness to my heart as I look out on the bay, thinking that they knew the uncertain future they faced.
These early Pilgrims built Plimoth Plantation, a colony where they could live together and worship God freely. They are our forefathers of faith who laid biblical foundations for future generations. And now, nearly four centuries later, America has grown into the greatest nation on earth.
More than ever we must preserve their legacy of faith. We enjoy freedoms today because of their willingness to trust God even in the midst of uncertainty. In John 15:13, Jesus says, “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” Freedom is not free! There is a costly price to be paid.
As we remember the Pilgrims’ sacrifice, we are to help others find freedom, peace and happiness in Christ Jesus our Lord. The Bible says that Jesus gave His life on the cross as a ransom, to pay our debts and to set us free eternally (Mark 10:45; Ephesians 5:25; Colossians 2:14).
The hymn writer Elvina Hall (1820-1889) wrote in “Jesus Paid It All”: “I hear the Savior say, ‘Thy strength indeed is small, Child of weakness, watch and pray, Find in Me thine all in all.’ Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.”
May we live in the freedom that can only be found in Christ!

1/10/2019 10:39:52 AM by Paul Kim | with 0 comments

Like shepherds

January 8 2019 by Cameron McGill

Luke 2:8 says, “… there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.”
I just celebrated my 44th Christmas, my 19th as a pastor, and once again, I noticed something new and fresh right in the middle of Luke 2. Maybe it’s because I’m a shepherd of a flock myself … but the shepherds abiding in their fields caught my attention this year.
Then it happened – conviction!
Yes, there I was hanging out with the shepherds on a starlit night 2,000 years ago, abiding in my field just keeping watch over my flock both day and night – ‘tis the life of a pastor.
Imagine if the shepherds would have just stayed in their comfort zone, complacently enjoying the familiarity of their flock and faithfully leading the needy sheep under their watch-care, rather than responding to the light of God’s presence and the beckoning of the angelic invitation to come to Jesus. Of course, we know the shepherds of old traded their staff of shepherding for a mantle of evangelism.
As 2019 quickly approaches, I am more motivated than ever to open my eyes to see what God is up to in my place of service, open my ears to hear what the messenger of the Holy Spirit has to say, open my heart to be more sensitive to the daily invitation to come fellowship with Jesus, and to open my mouth to share the Good News of great joy to all people.
Pastors, shepherds and precious sheep, let us commit today not to be satisfied just to hang out under the stars enjoying the blessings of being a part of the flock.
Let’s escape the comfortable confines of our local church and be the church in 2019 like never before.

1/8/2019 12:28:34 PM by Cameron McGill | with 0 comments

N.C. Baptists: Who will you nominate?

January 7 2019 by Micheal Pardue

The new year has arrived. It came in, as most do, with fireworks and celebrations. Many of us took the first day of 2019 off and spent time with family and friends. However, as Christians, the work never ceases – Kingdom work does not stop for holidays. I found myself eager to return to my office on the second day of the year and jump back in to the work to be done. A new year always provides new opportunities and new challenges.

Therefore, I want to challenge each of you, especially young pastors and church leaders to consider serving as a part of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) as we enter a new year. N.C. Baptists fulfill this process by nominating fellow leaders.
According to the BSC website, “Recommendations are sought each year for individuals to serve on the convention’s board of directors, boards of the convention’s agencies and institutions, and convention committees. Recommendations of North Carolina Baptists for places of service and leadership in denominational work are essential for ongoing missions, ministries and evangelistic endeavors.”
There is important work being done every day through the ministries of the state convention. Churches are being planted, hearts are being transformed, lost people are hearing the gospel of Christ. Our state convention is guided by those who give their time to serve on boards and committees of our convention. We consistently need new leaders from all over North Carolina to serve in these positions and provide direction and insight from their churches to our state convention.
Joining the BSC board of directors was a formative experience for me eight years ago. I did not understand the intricacies of our convention’s ministries. I had no idea how far reaching were the activities of the BSC. I had only been in ministry for a few years and witnessed the work of the convention from afar. However, my time on the board of directors provided valuable insight that has helped me as I lead my church. I see the work that is being done, from right here in my community to the ends of the earth.
The seventh pillar of the BSC’s “Seven Pillars for Ministry” is to engage young church leaders. Our convention is committed to engaging younger leaders in the ministries going on around North Carolina and throughout the world. This is a commitment that I both appreciate and have benefited from. I am thankful that I have been able to be involved with the convention for over a decade now, and it all started when someone took the time to nominate me to serve.
Who will you nominate to serve with the BSC? Will you serve when asked? Let’s resolve in 2019 to commit ourselves to the work of the ministry, both in our local church and wherever else the Lord leads.
Visit ncbaptist.org/make-a-recommendation.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Micheal Pardue, pastor of First Baptist Icard in Connelly Springs, was elected BSC first vice president in November 2018.)

1/7/2019 5:54:01 PM by Micheal Pardue | with 0 comments

Helping others find ‘newness of life’

January 4 2019 by Mark Snowden

How people learn is important. How they progress toward belief and action is more important.

 A white-haired man was introduced to me after preaching. He was starting a church in the next town over but his comment startled me. “Mark, I appreciated what you said about new believers knowing more lost people. In all my years of ministry, I never thought about training up a new believer to share their faith. And I wanted you to know I’ll be going out with them to share Jesus with their family and friends.” You could see the determination in his eyes. It wasn’t too late for him to learn and act.

There’s a social phenomenon that God instilled in each of us. We respond at different rates to innovations that bring change. When I was studying marketing, I was fascinated by the work of Everett M. Rogers, an Iowa farmer’s kid-turned-scholar. His father was reluctant to use a hybrid corn until a drought proved its worth.
Rogers identified segments of society that would adopt new ideas and tools: Innovators (2.5 percent), Early Adopters (13.5 percent), Early Majority (34 percent), Late Majority (34 percent) and Laggards (16 percent). If you plot this on a graph, it makes a nice bell curve. Those in authority tend to be Laggards while those with the most education and income tend to be Innovators who, though they can be fickle, will try practically anything new.
James F. Engel picked up on this while teaching at Wheaton College and proposed a numerical scale from -8 (lost) to 0 (conversion) to +3 (discipleship). The Engel Scale provides a way of tracking evangelism-discipleship spiritual progress.
Jesus was way ahead of Rogers and Engel when He taught in the parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-20) that people are like different soils. Each of us interacts with the seeds of the gospel in different ways. In that parable, Jesus noted the importance of being like the good soil, receiving the Word and bearing fruit for the Kingdom. The same is true with evangelistic disciple-making.
Our country is saturated in a sensual world that is 3D. It moves and engages them. It provides community experiences, even if it’s avatars interacting online. Most churches, meanwhile, provide evangelism and discipleship that rely on “sit and get” methodology of “come to the class and hear the preacher.”
Are we relegating believers to be spectators? Kyle Idleman was spot-on with his book Not a Fan. The book is a call for Christians to get out of the stands and onto the playing field.
When we share Christ and our faith with those who are lost, they may be closer to a decision than we expect. Different people take different lengths of time to believe in Christ and eventually act to make a decision. Bill Fay, who developed Share Jesus Without Fear, likes to say that it takes about seven exposures to the gospel message before a person will surrender their heart to Jesus.
Living out the faith is important for others who are watching our lives and how it benefits them. It can’t be done inside church walls and cocooning in our homes. Bringing the lost into our lives requires lifelong learning in verbalizing our faith. As we interact, we watch them grow in their faith until Jesus is Lord. And then seamlessly, we walk with them into newness of life, encouraging them to bear spiritual fruit to the glory of God.

1/4/2019 10:06:49 AM by Mark Snowden | with 0 comments

2.8 billion lost people & you

January 2 2019 by Keith Shorter

Have you ever stood face to face with someone who has never heard of the name of Jesus? If so, it is not an experience you will soon forget.
Several years ago, a family from our church was serving as Christian workers in the mountains of China. After being on the field for about four months, they prepared to spend their first Christmas away from home. To help their girls remember the true meaning of Christmas, the dad took two of his daughters to a local bakery to order a birthday cake for Jesus. He got his language instructor to write out “Happy Birthday Jesus” in Chinese.
The baker looked at the paper and then looked at the two daughters and asked the dad, “Which one of your daughters is Jesus?”
The dad tried as best he could with his limited Chinese to explain that Jesus is God’s Son and that Christmas is a time when we celebrate His birth. The baker simply had no context to understand the Gospel.
The staggering reality is that there are approximately 2.8 billion people in the world who are just like that baker.
They have spent their entire lives with little or no access to the gospel. Jesus is a name they are not familiar with. The gospel simply hasn’t made it to them yet.
A number like 2.8 billion people can be overwhelming. Where do you start? How can anyone reach that many people? It can be easy to talk yourself out of even trying.
There is another, more insidious problem that we sometimes have to deal with. When we read or hear about 2.8 billion people who have little or no access to the gospel, they can become a number to us. Most of us have heard stats like this so often that we can become numb to the tragedy that those numbers represent.
I have a suggestion that may help. Let me ask you a question. What if the number of people who had little or no access to the gospel was not 2.8 billion, but just two?
Would you be willing to do something to help reach those two people who had never heard the name of Jesus, even if they lived in some distant country like Afghanistan, Pakistan or China. If you could help make a difference in their lives, what sacrifices would you make to get the Good News to them?
Would you pray for them? Would you give generously to support the missionaries who are being sent to share Jesus with those two people? Would you perhaps even dare to go on a mission trip yourself to show them the love of Christ and tell them how Jesus changed your life?
I believe you would. More than likely, you would consider it a privilege and honor to do so.
There are at least two people living in Afghanistan, Pakistan or China who have never even heard the name of Jesus. You and I will likely never reach billions of people, or even millions for that matter. However, any of us could reach two. Why not start with them?
Pray with them in mind. Give with them in mind. Go with them in mind.
Romans 10:13 makes this promise: “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 2019 could be an exciting year for you and two people somewhere in the world!

1/2/2019 2:40:27 PM by Keith Shorter | with 0 comments

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