July 2016

The journey(s) to faith

July 28 2016 by Randy Adams

What process, or journey, does an unchurched person travel before coming to faith in Christ? The answer depends on the individual’s locale, background, language and a host of other things. You can easily identify the journey to Christ of a child who grows up attending your church, but what of the unchurched in your town?

Randy Adams

Answering this question is vital for Christians who want God to use them to lead others to Jesus. Moreover, the answer requires the ongoing pursuit of knowing your community and the various peoples in your community.
I was once the pastor of the “big church” in a small Texas town of 1,700. One family who came to faith in Christ did so after my wife and I got to know them in the hospital. We both had a child in the hospital suffering from pneumonia. This common experience led to talking and praying, and eventually this family gave their lives to Jesus. Later, the husband said that a church member had invited them to our church a few years prior. The invitation went something like this, “It will help your business if you come to our church.” Yes, that really happened. It would have helped his plumbing business had he attended our church. But even though he wasn’t yet a Christian, he understood that attending church to build his business didn’t seem right.
Although church attendance might be a business strategy in some places (not in the Northwest, however), appealing to a business motivation won’t help you reach the unchurched for Jesus Christ.
I once served in an area where nearly half of the adults were functionally illiterate. Learning this changed how we trained our small group Bible study teachers. It impacted our methods of evangelism. In another church, when discussing how to take the gospel to every home in town, the person who helped plan the strategy was a newspaper delivery person. He knew how to cover the town!
The point is, people are different and communities are different. First Baptist Church of Toledo, Wash., has 400 people attending on Sunday morning, and the town only has a population 725. FBC of Toledo, Ore., isn’t nearly so large, though the town has a population of 3,465. The towns are very different religiously, spiritually, historically and culturally. These differences make for a different kind of ministry.
The journey to Christ will likely follow a path that takes into account several factors, including:

  1. Rhythms of life. People’s schedules and lifestyle differ depending upon age, ethnicity, education, children in the home, employment, hobbies, health matters, etc.
  2. Religious background and beliefs
  3. Real and perceived needs
  4. Friendships (including family) – who their closest friends are and what they believe about Christ
  5. Personal sin with which they struggle, or which they simply enjoy

There are other factors you could add to the list. But the main point is this: When a person comes to Christ, they travel along a particular road to do so. The better we know the people of our community, as individuals and as groups, the better we are able to share the real Jesus with them.
For every person there is a process, a journey, on which they can encounter the real Jesus. Part of the joy of ministry is discovering what process works with each person. When we know this, we can help guide their steps so that they will meet the real Jesus and hopefully come to know Him.
Remember, many people who reject Jesus don’t reject the true, biblical Jesus. They reject the “people of Jesus,” or they reject some “image” of Jesus that is distorted.
So what about your town? Where do people gather? Where do women or men sit around and discuss important things? How can you discover the particular needs of people in your town? Do you have church attenders who are connected to organizations and groups that will help the church connect to various peoples? Are new homes being built in your area? Are new businesses being started? Do you drive around the town using different routes so that you can discover such things?
Let me end with one caution. Many churches have discontinued evangelistic methods that they perceive are not as effective as they once were. The problem, however, is that they haven’t replaced the old methods with new methods.
Don’t throw out the old unless you have a legitimate replacement. Although people come to Christ through different processes, ultimately it is the power of the gospel, the message of Jesus’ life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and second coming, that is powerful to save a person from sin and for eternity.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Randy Adams is executive director of the Northwest Baptist Convention. This column is adapted from his website, randyadams.org.)

7/28/2016 8:26:01 AM by Randy Adams | with 0 comments

The next great generation?

July 27 2016 by Erich Bridges

Remember the “Greatest Generation” that won World War II and turned America into a global powerhouse? Well, their spoiled grandchildren are the “Lousiest Generation,” says Johnny Oleksinski, a 26-year-old New York Post reporter.

Erich Bridges

“Like a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, I must admit that I’m powerless to [change] my biological age,” Oleksinski lamented in a recent column. “Nonetheless, I fight back every day against the traits that have come to define Gen Y: entitlement, dependency, nonstop complaining, laziness, Kardashians.”
They’re more interested in snapping selfies than developing actual selves. They invent elaborate personalities on social media but can’t hold an actual face-to-face conversation. They have no loyalty to anything that doesn’t build their own personal “brand.”
After rehashing all the stereotypes about Millennials (at least the upscale Millennials he encounters in trendy Brooklyn neighborhoods), Oleksinski tells today’s 20-somethings: Stop blaming everybody else for your own lack of accomplishment. Stop waiting around for something big to happen. Get a life and start living it.
Every time I read one of these anti-Millennial screeds, I’m tempted to join in the jeering. I’m a Baby Boomer, after all, so it’s my duty to complain about these young upstarts who dare to out-“me” the original Me Generation.
Problem is, the stereotypes don’t fit many of the Millennials I know.
Consider the Sunday School class I co-teach for young adults (ages 18-25). We average eight to 10 people a week. On two recent Sundays, only one or two showed up. Were the others chilling at the beach or out playing Pokemon Go? Hardly.
Three of our young women were in South Asia, making friends and sharing the love of Christ with Hindus, Muslims and anyone else they met in one of the world’s great megacities. Two of our young men were in Uganda, boating to isolated islands on Lake Victoria to deliver the gospel to fishermen and their families. So I’ll gladly give them a pass for missing Sunday School.
Another member of our class has contended with a major disability since birth. Yet she is one of the strongest followers of Christ I know. She finished college last year and has begun writing a book to encourage others who struggle with disabilities and various challenges. Her main message: Trust God and never give up.
Still another class member just began graduate study in social work. She wants to use her training to serve others – especially the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized.
A young woman from our church joined a mission group straight out of high school. She’s already spent time in the Middle East helping Syrian refugees. More recently, she led a 10-person team to Israel and the West Bank to build relationships with Jews and Palestinians. Half of the people on her team were older than she is.
I could go on. True, the Millennials in our church are much too tiny a demographic sample to be representative of their generation. True, many Millennials have dropped out of churches or never become a part of one in the first place. And I’ve encountered plenty of Millennials who seem aimless or content to fritter away their lives on pointless pursuits. But I’ve met hundreds of other 20-somethings around the country who are just as committed, just as inspiring, just as determined to serve God and others as the young adults in my church. And they represent millions more.
Oleksinski and others who push the media stereotypes of Millennials may not be aware of this cohort of young Christ-followers. But they are there – and we should celebrate them. They need our encouragement, our mentoring and our prayers. Too often, we allow the world to frame how we view the people who live right next to us, even our younger brothers and sisters in the faith.
Let’s stop bashing Millennials and start building them up.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges, a writer based in Richmond, Va., has covered international missions and trends for more than 30 years.)

7/27/2016 9:04:08 AM by Erich Bridges | with 0 comments

NCMO helps ‘Prepare the Way’ for Jesus

July 26 2016 by Richard Brunson

All across our state, nation and world, men, women and students are preparing the way for Jesus thanks to your support of the annual North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO).
“Prepare the way” is the theme for this year’s NCMO. When you go, pray and give to this offering, you are directly involved in preparing the way for Jesus.
All of the regular budget for N.C. Baptist Men, also known as Baptists on Mission, comes from the NCMO. Some of the ministries that the NCMO makes possible are disaster relief, two medical/dental buses, the new health screening ministry bus and mission camps in Shelby and Red Springs.
NCMO also provides numerous opportunities for individuals to serve on missions teams here in North Carolina, across the country and around the world in places like Honduras, Guatemala, Cuba, Armenia, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine and elsewhere.
Recently I was asked why we do the ministries that we do. My response was “to glorify God and prepare the way for Jesus.”
There are many verses in the Bible about glorifying God. In John 15:8 Jesus said, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.” In Luke 10:1, Jesus sends out the 72 “two by two to every town and place where he himself was about to go.” Jesus sent them out to prepare the way for Him. In verse nine, Jesus told them how to prepare the way. He said don’t worry about what you will eat or where you will stay. He instructed them to heal the sick and proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.
Your investment in NCMO enables us to do as Jesus instructed. By caring for the physical needs of people, we prepare the way for Jesus to meet their spiritual needs, as well.
The volunteers who serve at our mission camps aren’t just helping people, they are glorifying God and preparing the way. Volunteers serving on the medical, dental and health screening buses aren’t just fixing teeth and checking blood pressure, they are glorifying God and preparing the way.
Right now, the disaster relief volunteers who are working in flood-ravaged West Virginia aren’t just helping people clean up and rebuild their homes. They are glorifying God and preparing the way for Jesus.
Through our national missions partnerships, volunteers in the Appalachian coalfields, Pennsylvania, Vermont, the Rocky Mountains and Hawaii are doing everything from leading Vacation Bible School and sports camps to construction and evangelism. But the greatest thing they are doing is preparing the way for Jesus. Around the world, volunteers are teaching English in Hungary, building a seminary in Cuba, and conducting sports and medical projects in Honduras and Guatemala. They aren’t just building homes for widows, they are building relationships with Jesus. You are a part of all of these things and so much more. Thank you for going, praying, and giving to the North Carolina Missions Offering.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – To learn more about the North Carolina Missions Offering, visit ncmissionsoffering.org. Richard Brunson serves as executive director of Baptists on Mission, also known as N.C. Baptist Men.)

7/26/2016 8:32:12 AM by Richard Brunson | with 0 comments

10 ways to minister to police officers

July 26 2016 by Chuck Lawless

If you’ve been paying attention to the recent news, you know that the police have been at the center of often difficult and sometimes controversial situations. Regardless of your opinions of some of the actions of police over the past week, we have an opportunity to minister to the vast number of great police officers who support us. Here are some ways your church might do so:

Chuck Lawless


  • Find a church member or couple to head up a unique ministry to the police. Ideally, look for someone who has had experience on a police force. If your church doesn’t have that person, invite others to pray about leading the ministry.
  • Learn from officers in your congregation. Talk to them. Listen to them. Learn about their pressures. Ask how you can pray for them. Invite them to share their burdens with a small group or the entire church. Send them out as your church’s ambassadors to the community.
  • Pray for officers – and let them know you are. God has ordained governing authorities to help keep order, and we need to pray for those who guard our safety (Rom 13:1, 1 Tim 2:1-3). If your church develops such a ministry, though, make sure your local police know of your prayer support. Build relationships as you pray.
  • Train your members to pray when they hear a siren. The sound of a siren almost always means somebody needs help, and that others are rushing there to provide that help. Use the opportunity to pray for all the parties, including the police.
  • Get to know the local police chaplain. Many departments have a volunteer chaplain who can serve as a liaison between your church and the local department. Developing a relationship with him or her will benefit your ministry to the officers.
  • Honor officers in a worship service. Take the time to affirm them and pray for them. Invite the whole force, and trust God to burden some to attend. Everyone will benefit from their presence.
  • Reach out and minister to the local police station. I’ve known churches that provided free meals, washed vehicles, and wrote “thank you” letters. Work with the local chaplain to find out what needs are apparent.
  • Sponsor a “Parents Night Out” for officers. Make it easier for couples that live under daily stress to have time together. Provide the best, safest childcare possible.
  • Adopt a police officer. Again working with the chaplain, your family can adopt an officer to pray for, send notes to, get to know, and love in Christ. Connecting with his or her family will also spread your witness and your influence.
  • Share the gospel with police you know. After all, the gospel is the answer to everything.  

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Lawless is dean and vice-president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. This blog originally appeared at ChuckLawless.com and is used with permission.)

7/26/2016 8:27:03 AM by Chuck Lawless | with 0 comments

10 small group lessons from old-fashioned Sunday school

July 22 2016 by Chuck Lawless

When I started ministry many years ago, on-campus Sunday school was the predominant form of small groups. That trend has changed now, but the structure of old-fashioned Sunday school still provides needed lessons for small groups, regardless of their meeting place or time:

Chuck Lawless


  1. The small group’s purpose must be clear. Frankly, even Sunday school has often lost its original historical purpose – evangelistic outreach – but a small group program works best when its purpose is most obvious and best known.  
  2. Intentional organization matters. In a good Sunday school program, class workers include at least a teacher, an assistant teacher, a secretary, an outreach leader, a prayer leader, a fellowship leader, and care group leaders (who do pastoral care of class members). The higher percentage of class members who have a role, the better in any kind of small group.
  3. Workers must be trained. In a good Sunday school program, class teachers and other leaders are required to complete training in order to serve. That training is, in fact, ongoing as long as the leader serves. That’s a wise approach for all small groups.
  4. Concern must be focused on the lost. Originally, Sunday school was the evangelistic arm of a church, and one goal was to be the place where non-believers first connected with the congregation. The people who weren’t there were as important, if not more important, than the regular attenders.
  5. Pastoral care via the small group must be organized. That’s where “care group leaders” come into play. Their role is to continually care for assigned class members to make sure everyone is shepherded at a personal level. Nobody is left without a care group leader.
  6. The goal of the Sunday school class is to multiply, to “plant” another class from the current class. Generally, classes seek to multiply by beginning new groups when the current group averages 12-15 regular attenders. Sunday school classes are not intended to become large “mini-churches.” Nor are other types of small groups.
  7. Space matters. Sunday school leaders and teachers recognize the 80% rule: when a classroom is 80% full, it’s unlikely that the class will continue to grow. The group must either increase its space capacity or send out some members to start a new class. That rule applies to other small groups, too.
  8. The class must “go after” the lost. In an old-fashioned Sunday school, the class didn’t wait for guests to show up. Instead, they intentionally sought the unchurched and invited them to attend. That process still works.
  9. The Bible must be the textbook. Other books may be good to study, but the Bible is the only God-breathed book that’s profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. Sunday schools have been built around the Bible, and so must other groups.
  10. Children matter. That’s one reason why I still like on-campus small groups: they often offer classes for little ones even while their parents and grandparents are learning the Bible.

If you understand old-fashioned Sunday school, what would you add to this list?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Lawless is dean and vice-president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. This blog originally appeared at ChuckLawless.com and is used with permission.)

7/22/2016 11:51:55 AM by Chuck Lawless | with 0 comments

Political seasons & pastoral leadership

July 21 2016 by David H. McKinley

“Pastor, where do you stand on ...? Pastor, what should we as a church think or do about ...? Pastor what do you think about this candidate’s comments ...?”

David H. McKinley

These are common questions every pastoral leader faces, but these questions take on fresh fervor and renewed vitality during an election season.
Standing, speaking, leading, nurturing and guiding the “flock of God among you” (1 Peter 5:2) while addressing the confused and conflicted culture around you (Romans 12:2) requires great discernment, fervent prayer and deep conviction.
I’m now entering the fourth decade of my ministry and can honestly say I’ve never seen or experienced days of greater social upheaval or more ardent political debate. Our nation is divided. Our systems of law and order are unraveling. Our understanding of truth has faded. Our leaders are in turmoil and our people are fueled by attitudes of anxiety, anger and anarchy.
While we are neither helpless nor hopeless, no pastor can be silent and ignore the volatile trends or threatening winds of change and unrest in our culture today.
I believe the Bible teaches the stewardship of citizenship (Romans 13). While applications change in every system of government, ours is one of responsible awareness and participation. We cannot ignore or disengage, but the question remains, “What are a pastor and, ultimately, a people to do?”
Knowing that the congregations we address are a “mixed bag” of peoples from varied backgrounds, opinions, perspectives, political parties and personal experiences, we have to speak to the issues with conviction and compassion. And we have to address the unpalatable pottage of political parties and their conflicting platforms.
Our role and responsibility in all of this is clear: “Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.... As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, and fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:2, 5).
Application: Fulfilling our calling requires us to address the mess.
No matter how hard we try to craft our responses, we cannot avoid offense or make everybody happy. However, if you are like me, I have learned I can make everybody mad!
So for what it is worth, here are some guiding principles that I try to put into practice:

1. Be biblical, not just controversial. Opinions abound in the blogosphere, “talking heads” fill the airwaves, and everyone has the ability to post their views in 140 characters or less. Don’t let yourself be defined by adding to the controversy. Help people to think and live biblically.

For me, this means not just standing on the Bible as if it were my “platform.” Yes, I know the lyrics to the “B-I-B-L-E,” but I want to teach people to come under the Bible. The critical issue for every authentic Christ-follower is coming under biblical authority while the issue for every unbeliever is to see their need for a Savior and call upon the name of the Lord.

Every true believer – Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian – must come under the authority of Scripture. If we preach and teach the absolute authority of God and His Word, rest assured we’ll be “equal opportunity offenders.” I want the sharp edge of my conversation not to be political rhetoric or opinion, but biblical truth.

2. Be instructional, not just emotional. Preaching is not venting. As a pastor, you don’t want to simply use your platform to vent your views and frustrations upon people just because you are mad at the culture.

Preaching is declaring the truth of God by providing instruction (teaching) from the Word of God. I believe the development of a credible and convictional teaching ministry is vital. Let me underscore again: The goal of every Gospel-centered community is to teach and equip people to think and live biblically.

We are to teach the doctrine of Scripture and deal with current and continuing issues such as the sanctity of life, creative design/intent for human sexuality, and the establishment of governmental authority in addition to a multitude of other issues including human depravity and divine sovereignty.

3. Be pastoral, not simply political. Remember, you are speaking to people. You are not just speaking to issues. You are “their pastor” and you want them to know and be assured of your care for them. They may be caught in the middle if they have family members on both sides of the issues. Love them. Help them. Equip them.

4. Be convictional, not just informational. People don’t really need you to rehash the social issues, statistics and political news. They need the Good News. You have the power of the Gospel and the promised work of the Holy Spirit to convict of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). Exchange political correctness in any form with the spiritual transformation found through an encounter with the living Christ.

5. Finally, be hopeful, not cynical. It’s so easy in this world to become a cynic, to become a critic. People do not need a stronger argument; they need a better hope.

As I see it, my job, and yours, is to preach the Gospel in every season and to call people to the one true and living hope found in knowing, trusting and following Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:3-9).
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David H. McKinley is pastor-teacher of Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga., and was one of the “Pastors and the Church in American Politics Today” panel members during this year’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in St. Louis. McKinley is the author of two books, The Life You Were Born to Give and The Search for Satisfaction.)

7/21/2016 10:53:44 AM by David H. McKinley | with 0 comments

Do people’s lives really matter?

July 20 2016 by Terry Turner

Enough is enough. Christian brothers and sisters, it’s time to put away the biased thinking that keeps us divided and embrace all people in godly love. Our lost world will never change unless the people of God acknowledge the pain of all people groups.

Our hearts are broken over the killing of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La., but we should also have broken hearts over every black life taken by police over seemingly minor offenses – whether the deceased was guilty or innocent. To see men and women die for what at times appear to be trivial reasons provokes despair in the black community. It is our hope that all Americans will love and respect the law enforcement officers who protect us, but the trauma experienced by black Americans over police shootings makes that more challenging for some at times.
Amazingly, in America, we have lived so long with racial bias that often we don’t recognize why people of other races are hurting. The people of God must open our eyes, ears and hearts to the lives and struggles of others. Will God hold Christians accountable only for loving brothers and sisters who look like themselves or for loving all the human family? The apostle John answers in 1 John 4:20-21 by stating, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
When the love of God is missing, the world becomes a wicked place and we find ourselves asking tough questions. What is happening in America when Micah Johnson, a 25-year-old black man, takes a gun into Dallas and kills five white police officers in the name of racial hatred? How powerful is racial hatred when a white man, Dylann Roof, walks into a black church prayer meeting in South Carolina and kills nine church members after joining them in prayer? What causes a police officer to kill a man over such trivialities as selling cigarettes, selling CDs on the streets or having a broken taillight? What fear is in the hearts of police officers that causes them to kill a 12-year-old boy playing in the park with a toy gun?
An even more important question should be asked by the body of Christ: When will Christians love all people enough to stop the madness in our land? Professing followers of Jesus who persist in racially divisive rhetoric must be reminded of Peter’s words in Acts 10:34-35, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
“Lives Matter” should be the church’s rallying cry. It is a call to help heal the hurts endured by people from all races. The power of love born in the hearts of the people of God is the only answer for the racial issues that exist in America. When the church is committed to live as Jesus commanded, she can teach the world that the love of God is able to deliver from racial hatred. Yes, all lives matter to born-again Christians who are committed to live by the Word of God.
Some emphases and tactics of the Black Lives Matter movement may be objectionable to some believers, black and white, who love Jesus and genuinely long for racial reconciliation. Yet the fundamental emphasis of the movement should resonate with all Christians. It is a call to see the pain of black Americans who are losing their lives for senseless reasons. This emphasis does not reduce the importance of white lives, brown lives, red lives or yellow lives. Black lives are a part of “all lives.” Therefore, black lives matter.
The power of love within Christianity has been a source of healing for many in the black community. When America deemed blacks chattel slaves and subhuman from 1619-1865, then considered them second-class citizens through the Jim Crow era, black lives did not matter to too many. During those periods, African Americans found comfort in Jesus’ promise “to proclaim good news to the poor ... freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18).
This Scripture remains key to healing our country today. Fifty-one years after the abolition of the Jim Crow laws, residual racism remains in many hearts. For some, a feeling of superiority over blacks is manifested through fear of blacks or the belief they are at fault in instances of police brutality because they “provoked” abuse.
In light of this bleak past, the final question Christians must consider is how history will record our handling racial tension in present-day America. Will we walk in the power of love or yield to the wiles of Satan through hatred, racism and divisiveness? We all need each other’s understanding to overcome these perilous times. Let’s be intentional and love everybody.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Terry Turner is pastor of Dallas-area Mesquite, Texas, Friendship Baptist Church and a former president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. This column first appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN newsjournal.)

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7/20/2016 11:32:33 AM by Terry Turner | with 0 comments

‘Ever since I can remember....’

July 18 2016 by Kennedy Keltner

Motivation is a quality that many people lack. They think, “Why do more work than I have to?” In the job I hope to do in the future, this thinking is unacceptable.

Most of the time, important jobs are very hard, yet they’re worth doing. I’m planning on being a missionary, a difficult but worthy job.
Ever since I can remember, I have been longing to explore the world and have been compassionate for others. When I was 5 years old I felt drawn to China, so all I asked for at Christmas that year was money for China.
At summer camp, missionaries came and spoke. It was then that I heard a small voice telling me, “This is you, this is who you’re going to be.” Ever since then, my heart has been set on becoming a missionary. Last Christmas, I felt drawn to Africa, so all I asked for were Bibles to be sent there.
So, why is it worth all of this sacrifice? Missions work is worth doing because it can make a gigantic change in peoples’ lives. Simply getting saved has the power to flip someone’s life completely and absolutely around. Sometimes, this causes a domino or spark effect: One person gets saved and then in a blink of the eye the whole community or village is saved. Christians are strengthened because of this. We never can get enough good influences in this world and this job multiplies good influences.
As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” The missionary field is very difficult. Upon entering this field you bring onto yourself several challenges and dangers including prison, martyrdom, violence, prejudice and many more.
However, you do not need to get discouraged. Being a missionary can also bring on many joys, such as sharing about God, beautiful scenery, traveling, meeting different people from different cultures, and much more. Life is full of ups and downs and missions work is no different.
I have been called to a life of hard work, but it is worth the struggle. My calling will provide the motivation I need on a daily basis. Just like the world needs doctors who cure diseases, it also needs missionaries who share the cure for the spiritual disease of sin. I am excited about this career that God has called me to and believe that the hard work is worth the prize of pleasing Him.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Kennedy Keltner, 12, is a member of Central Baptist Church in Brighton, Tenn., where her father Rusty is pastor. Kennedy wrote this essay for a writing competition, and it was subsequently published in the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)

7/18/2016 11:13:25 PM by Kennedy Keltner | with 0 comments

Feeble prayers in our chaotic world

July 18 2016 by Greg Mathias

Living in a new normal doesn’t feel so normal. The word tragedy is too much a part of my vocabulary these days. I have searched for other words, but tragedy describes best the world events constantly swirling around us. Istanbul, Brussels, Paris, Boston…the list could go on. We live in a chaotic and fallen world. In a world where the new normal is one tragedy followed by another tragedy followed by yet another. It can be overwhelming. Strike that, it IS overwhelming.
For Christians, this normal is not surprising, but that does not minimize the fact that we are constantly faced with new tragedies. Each and every tragedy evokes a response. No matter the tragedy, the most immediate response ought to be prayer. Often, though, prayer feels small compared to the massive tragedy in front of us. Even so, we should pray. We need to pray.
The question is, how are we supposed to pray in the midst of chaos when our prayers seem so feeble? Here are my thoughts on how to pray in the midst of our new and tragic normal:
Be Honest.
Fear, anger, grief, frustration, shock, and a sense of helplessness. These are only some of the emotions that you may experience when you hear the latest news story or are confronted with the next tragedy. Our emotional responses are real. When you pray, express those emotions and even your questions to God. God is big enough and caring enough to handle our emotions, our questions, and our heartfelt cries.
Words are not always required.
Often, when faced with tragedy, it is difficult to know exactly what or how to pray. Getting words to come out in any sort of coherent way is a monumental task. That’s okay. Remember, we have the Holy Spirit who intercedes and groans on our behalf. This Spurgeon quote has been especially helpful for me: “A single groan before God may have more fullness of prayer in it than a fine oration of great length.” The underlying point is to pray even when the right words are in short supply. God hears us!
Pray often.
Pray short prayers, long prayers, ugly prayers, polished prayers. If you need help, pray the Psalms. Pray in the morning, at night, over lunch, or walking between meetings. It can feel meaningless, but we need to persevere in prayer. It doesn’t matter where you pray or how long you pray, but pray. Our prayers in the hand of God are truly powerful.
Use the buddy system.
Praying with a friend or two is always a good idea, particularly in times of tragedy. It allows us to be a little more honest, to process with others, and can help us make sense of our thoughts and feelings. Praying in community also helps our prayers to stay God-centered instead of self-centered. Multiply your prayers by praying with others.
I don’t like living in this new normal. The word tragedy is now used in my daily conversations. It ought not be this way. Until that day, let’s keep lifting up feeble prayers in our chaotic world.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Greg Mathias serves as the Associate Director of the Center for Great Commission Studies. This column was originally published on thecgcs.org. Used with permission.)

7/18/2016 10:53:24 AM by Greg Mathias | with 0 comments

Pure dating

July 15 2016 by Chuck Lawless

I work with young adults, many who are singles, who are dating or considering dating. When they ask my advice about dating and purity, here are some of the guidelines I recommend:

  1. Don’t date a non-believer. You should date only someone you might marry, and the Bible speaks against being unequally yoked with non-believers (2 Corinthians 6:14) – so don’t take a step in the wrong direction by dating someone who doesn’t follow Jesus.
  2. If you’re committed to being a strong believer, date only another strong believer. I have seldom seen a strong believer positively influence a weak believer in a dating relationship without much confrontation and difficulty. I have, though, seen multiple times when the stronger believer becomes weaker in that kind of relationship.
  3. Honor your parents by making right choices. I assume they’ve set some standards for you, especially if they’re Christians; show them how much you respect them by living up to what they expect.
  4. View your date first as a brother or sister in Christ created in God’s image. When you see the other person as a creation of God first, a fellow believer second and a date third, you’ll treat that person in a godly way.
  5. Especially early on in the relationship, do group dates only. I know this guideline might seem strange, but alone time can quickly become dangerous time. Guarding your purity matters if you’re a follower of Jesus.
  6. Pray at the beginning and end of every date. Start and end the date with God. When you do that, it’s tougher to do sinful things in between the prayers.
  7. Set clear physical guidelines up front. I’ve known couples who determined not to do anything more than hold hands until they married. That seemed odd at the time, but there’s wisdom in such a commitment. Whatever your commitment is, allow no room for physical touching you would not do if Jesus were in the room – because He is.
  8. Plan some dates wrapped around the gospel and church. You’ll learn how committed your date is to the gospel if you spend time together doing God’s work.
  9. Know that God won’t bless an ungodly relationship. Why should He? He blesses those who walk with Him, not those who rebel against Him. If you want a God-blessed marriage, have a God-honoring courtship.
  10. Think long-term rather than short-term. If you sin physically, know that you’ll carry the memory of that sin the rest of your life. Realize that it’ll be more difficult to challenge your own kids to be pure. The consequences of your actions will be costly.
  11. Be accountable to someone for your godliness. That godliness includes your physical relationship, but it’s much more than that. It’s making wise choices in what you do and where you go. It’s speaking only godly words and taking only godly actions on a date. It’s modeling Jesus in front of your date.
  12. If you mess up physically, immediately repent, ask God’s forgiveness and put up stronger walls. If you don’t stop after the first time, the pattern can quickly become controlling.

A godly marriage is part of God’s design in creation. Especially today, we need believers who stand up for God’s standards in marriage. Those standards, though, aren’t limited to after we have a ring on our finger. If you date, do it well. Honor Him – you won’t regret it.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Lawless, online at chucklawless.com, is a vice president and missions and evangelism professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. Used with permission.)

7/15/2016 10:58:06 AM by Chuck Lawless | with 0 comments

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