July 2018

Ministry not for the faint of heart

July 31 2018 by Coy Webb


 

I have served in active ministry for the sake of my Lord for 40 years, and for the last decade as director of Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief. In that time, I’ve learned that ministry is not for the faint of heart.
 

Our calling often requires us to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of Christ and others with long hours and stressful days. This can wear on us physically, emotionally and spiritually.
 
I was reminded of this in May of last year when I began having some neck pain and numbness in my left arm. When this continued, I decided to call my cardiologist.
 
I was quickly scheduled for a heart catheterization, and the result was three stents placed in my coronary arteries. I am thankful for God’s sufficient grace and that I could catch this health problem before it caused more serious issues like a major heart attack or stroke.
 
God has reminded me afresh that I cannot serve Him well if I do not take care of my own health.
 
I would encourage you to:

  • ​Develop a regular discipline of exercise. Especially in ministry, I have found a morning 30-minute exercise regimen to be best for me since I often lose control of my afternoons and evenings as needs arise during the day. Find a type of exercise that you enjoy and can maintain. For me, it is walking or riding a stationary bike.

  • Maintain a healthy diet. It is easy to eat “on the go” and to make less than healthy choices. I am disciplining myself to watch my portion size, to eat more vegetables and fruit, and to watch my cholesterol and fats. I thank God that eating healthier has increased my energy for His sake.

  • Get proper rest. We all need a good night’s sleep. God recharges the body when we allow it to rest and trust the events of the day to Him.

  • Take time to get away from ministry for brief periods and to allow God to restore you. Unlike the Energizer Bunny, we will run down without some down times to relax. Ministry can be demanding and stressful, even when things are going well. Burnout and compassion fatigue are damaging to us and our families and can be deadly to ministry.

  • Rely on the strength of God’s Holy Spirit to help you begin and maintain good health practices. If overeating is a weakness for you, then ask the Spirit to help you fight the urge to make unhealthy food choices. If lack of exercise is your problem, then ask God to help you set your alarm and get up a few minutes earlier.

 
God cares about our physical, emotional or spiritual health. He wants us to do all we can to be healthy and active for His sake for the days He has appointed us. Take care of yourself for your sake, but, even deeper, for His sake.
 
For you were bought at a price,” Scripture tells us. “Therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Coy Webb is director of Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief, a ministry of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. This column first appeared at the convention’s news website, Kentucky Today, kentuckytoday.com.  Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/31/2018 10:06:43 AM by Coy Webb | with 0 comments



The right tools

July 30 2018 by Hance Dilbeck

You can do just about anything if you have the right tools.

 
What tools do we need to use to build and repair our nation? Most everyone agrees that our nation is facing some serious challenges. Christians live with a deep sense of burden and obligation to be salt and light. We want to be good citizens who help build up and not tear down. What tools should we use?
 
Free citizens of this great nation are blessed with some political powers – political tools – that most people in our world do not possess. We can vote. Americans can influence public policy and actively participate in our democracy. We can protest and run for public office. Baptists in America have always sought to use everything in their political toolbox.
 
In 1789, after the passage of the Bill of Rights, James Madison wrote to George Washington:
 
“One of the principal leaders of the Baptists lately sent me word that the amendments have entirely satisfied the disaffected of his Sect, and that it would appear in their subsequent conduct.”
 
Our Baptist forefathers were exercising the political tools they had gained with independence.
 
In the broad span of history, the political tools of our democracy are new. They are helpful and effective; however, we do have some older tools. We have tools of influence that Christians have been using to build, to repair, and to shape nations and cultures for centuries – tools of influence available to every follower of Jesus no matter the political status.
 
The apostle Paul writes to Timothy about these God-given tools of public influence in 1 Timothy 2:1-5:
 
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
 
In view of Paul’s exhortation, we must:
 

Proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ

 
As Christians, we can repair a broken nation by helping restore broken people – Jesus heals broken people. We transform a city by transforming its citizens. All political power is puny compared to the life-changing power of the gospel.
 

Live a pure life

 
Our culture is rotten because the salt has lost its distinctive flavor. Our nation is dark because the light has grown dim. We are the salt and light. Lost people are expected to live like lost people, but the church ought to behave differently. When Christians live like the blood-bought people of God, we exercise an influence far more potent than any political power.
 

Pray

 
The church at Ephesus had no political clout. They were largely nobodies – people without status. Yet, Paul called them to make prayer a priority. He believed they could influence even Nero through prayer. History confirms this truth.
 
The first few generations of the church had no political tools. They did have some spiritual weapons, spiritual tools. They turned the world upside down by using the oldest, strongest and most reliable of all tools of influence: prayer, purity and the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
 
Father, forgive us for the ways we have set these old tools aside.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Hance Dilbeck is executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. This column first appeared in the Baptist Messenger, baptistmessenger.com, news journal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/30/2018 10:27:31 AM by Hance Dilbeck | with 0 comments



Spurgeon, personal integrity & beards

July 25 2018 by Adam Groza

Over the past few years, perhaps you’ve noticed the proliferation of beards among younger pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Aside from being fashionable, I was recently reminded of an important point about personal integrity and beards from the Prince of Preachers (and beards) himself, Charles Spurgeon.
 

In Lectures to My Students, Spurgeon says, “Alas, the open beard of reputation once shorn is hard to grow again.” This classic quote contains a wealth of information and a timely exhortation.
 
First, Spurgeon reminds us that the personal integrity of a pastor is a public matter. Like a good beard, personal integrity is on public display. One can no more hide his true character than one can hide his facial hair.
 
In his own day, Spurgeon lamented the lack of personal holiness among many pastors. He wrote in An All Around Ministry, “It is a shocking state of things when good people say ‘our pastor has undone in the parlor what he has done in the pulpit; he preaches very well but his life does not agree with his sermons.’”
 
In his excellent book Spurgeon on Leadership, Larry J. Michael recounts a story in which Spurgeon parted ways with a friend and ministerial colleague, Joseph Parker. Spurgeon became aware of Parker’s attendance at secular theaters and “could not fathom [his] support for such worldly amusements.” Spurgeon was willing to endure relational hardships to preserve what he considered to be the high public witness of pastors.
 
The “open beard of reputation” is not only a reminder that personal integrity is a public matter, but also that it is hard to obtain and relatively easy to lose. We all know the names of recent public ministers and Christian leaders who have fallen into sin and disqualified themselves from the office of pastor, and by extension, denominational leadership. Indeed, as Spurgeon says “self-indulgence has slain its thousands.”
 
Reputation, like a good beard, is hard to grow. It takes time to cultivate a reputation of integrity, especially with those outside the church. Perhaps for this reason the Bible says that an elder/pastor must have a good reputation with those outside the church (1 Timothy 3:7).
 
However, like a good beard, a minister’s public reputation can be lost. Michael writes, “... for the most part, a public leader who is found to have committed immoral acts never achieves the same level of trust and confidence he once enjoyed.” In Christ we have forgiveness, and any repentant sinner will find grace with God and should find grace among God’s people. However, Spurgeon reminds us that public trust is easy to lose and difficult to regain.
 
The next time you see a bearded pastor – or if you are a bearded pastor, the next time you look in the mirror – remember to grow and protect the public witness of your personal integrity.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adam Groza is a vice president and associate professor of philosophy of religion at Gateway Seminary. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/25/2018 10:15:23 AM by Adam Groza | with 0 comments



Does righteousness exalt a nation?

July 24 2018 by Robert M. Tenery, Book Review

Neal Jackson’s monumental work, The Coming Destruction of America, reveals his incisive understanding of the drift of our country into moral depravity. In a graphic but sobering style, he points out how this malignant depravity has crept across America in ways that are virtually unnoticed by many Christians. He exposes the subtle signs of moral decay that are more and more accepted, and highlights Christian principles of life that are ignored and even openly attacked. But, the author does not rest his case there.
 

The basic theme of the book is that righteousness really does exalt a nation, as is powerfully pointed out in Proverbs 14:34, and that sin is without question a reproach to any people. This landmark work contains a specific warning that the wrath of God will come upon this nation unless the nation hears the awakening calls from prophetic Christians to repent and seek again the will and ways of God.
 
While the author raises a clarion call for preachers of the gospel that will proclaim God’s message with the clarity and ardor of an Amos from Tekoa, he closes with an emphasis on a certitude that God will forgive and bless our nation if we turn to Him in faith with biblically informed conduct in our lives.
 
God will not only forgive, but will bless our nation, just as surely as he offered new life to Israel during the days of Ezekiel, and blessed Nineveh upon her repentance during the days of Jonah.
 
Jackson sometimes transitioned to parabolic form by utilizing life illustrations to help readers understand profound scriptural truth. This book is sorely needed in America at this time and it should be on the bookshelf of every household in the nation. It is written in such a fashion that it can be understood by older youth and adults.
 
The book is available for purchase at Amazon.com or NealJackson.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Neal Jackson is a third generation preacher and the pastor of Beulah Baptist Church in Bennett, N.C. His weekly telecast, Truth for Today, broadcasts to more than 30 million homes. Robert M. Tenery is a graduate of Pfeiffer University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Now retired, he pastored Baptist churches for 40 years and served many roles in the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/24/2018 12:15:26 PM by Robert M. Tenery, Book Review | with 0 comments



A rainbow in the blue sky

July 20 2018 by Keith Shorter

I remember Oct. 10, 2013, so vividly. When someone called me with the news, they had to repeat what they said because my brain could not comprehend the words. Brent was dead. I had never met someone so full of life.
 

Brent was a 20-year-old young man who had a really big smile and a contagious enthusiasm. He could talk to anybody and seemed to be friends with everybody.
 
That was evident when Brent played high school football. He actually didn’t play much, but he cheered a lot on the sidelines. In his senior year on homecoming night, we were way ahead and the student section started chanting, “Put Brent in, put Brent in.”
 
The coach eventually put Brent in the game. On the next play, he caught the ball and scored a touchdown! The team and the fans erupted in cheers. We were hugging and high-fiving one another in the stands. It was like a scene from the movie “Rudy.”
 
In his junior year at college, Brent decided to go to the mountains with his Bible and spend some time alone with God. It was a beautiful fall afternoon in the mountains near North Greenville University. Brent sent out a Snapchat of a verse he had just underlined in his Bible.
 
It was Revelation 2:10: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.
 
A few minutes later for some reason, Brent decided to walk across the top of a waterfall. He slipped and fell 100 feet. Someone said, “When Brent fell, he fell into the arms of Jesus.” The news shook our community.
 
The funeral home planned for 500 people. More than 1,800 crammed into our sanctuary and an overflow area. It was a bright sunny day when we finally made our way to the grave. After the graveside service, as I was about to leave, I looked up into the blue sky and there was a rainbow!
 
We all stood there for a minute stunned at what we were seeing. Brent’s mother called it “a God kiss.” Even now when his parents are missing Brent or having a bad day, they will sometimes see a rainbow and it reminds them of that day. It is a reminder that they are not alone on this journey and that God is going to see them through.
 
Darcie Sims, a grief counselor who also lost a son, once described grief this way: “Our lives changed without our permission.” July is Bereaved Parents Month. If you know the sorrow and hurt of losing a child, perhaps this column can serve as your rainbow today. You are not alone on this journey, and God is going to see you through these hard days.
 
Psalm 62:8 says: “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before him. God is our refuge.” There are times when we all need to do that, but we especially need to do it in times of grief.
 
I understand the theological significance of the rainbow in Genesis 9. I wonder, though, what Noah must have thought when he saw a rainbow for the first time. The sheer beauty of it probably caused him to stand there and marvel at what he was witnessing.
 
Centuries later rainbows still make us marvel. Only God could put something that beautiful in the sky.
 
After the flood, when death encircled the earth, God did something miraculous for those who were left. He gave them a beautiful reminder that He is still God, and He is still there. With death comes a new season of life. What was true for Noah can be true for you. It’s certainly not the season you would have chosen, but God is sovereignly working in all of it.
 
If you are wondering how you will ever keep going, look up in the sky this week. You may just see a rainbow when you need it most.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Shorter is pastor of Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Easley, S.C., and immediate past president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.)

7/20/2018 12:26:53 PM by Keith Shorter | with 0 comments



A thankful spirit

July 19 2018 by David Jeremiah

Have you thanked God for your pancreas today? That question comes courtesy of James Gills, a Florida ophthalmologist, who performs cataract surgery.
 

 

Dr. Gills has noticed that the worst part of surgery occurs the week before the actual procedure when patients develop an anxious spirit about the operation. Since attitudes can affect the outcome of surgeries, Dr. Gills often talks to his patients about thankfulness.
 
“I often ask my patients if they have thanked God for their pancreas today,” he said in his book, Rx for Worry: A Thankful Heart.
“Probably not, but it has been working 24/7 for them since their birth. And there is much more God is doing for them and will do for them. Yet their mindset of anxious worry shows a lack of trust in the Lord. It does not reflect a thankful spirit or appreciation of the Creator and all of His wisdom.”
 
When we’re sick – let’s say we have a persistent cough – we can still thank God for the parts of our body that are working well and for the diseases we do not have. When we face a setback, we can thank Him for all the areas of life that are in good shape. When there are dark clouds, we can thank Him for silver linings. To paraphrase the late English writer G.K. Chesterton, we take many things for granted when we should take them with gratitude.
 
A truly grateful attitude is only possible for those who take the Bible seriously, submit themselves to Christ’s lordship, commit themselves to the will of God and walk in the light of His promises. Only then are we certain of fulfilling 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
 

In everything

 
The phrase “in everything give thanks” has two parts. The first is: “In everything.” Notice it doesn’t say for everything. Some things are evil, hurtful, harmful and tragic. I don’t think it’s necessary to thank God for those things, but we can thank Him for His blessings in the midst of those things. First Corinthians 3:23 says: “... you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”
 
The apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “I thank my God ... that you were enriched in everything by Him” (1 Corinthians 1:4-5). He told them to “abound in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us” (2 Corinthians 8:7). He told the Philippians: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).
 
Those who abide in Christ are enriched in everything, abounding in everything and prayerful in everything. All things work together for good as we love Him and fulfill His purposes. Therefore we can be thankful in everything, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us. I wonder how our attitudes would change if we looked up every biblical reference to thanksgiving and gratitude and took them seriously. Why not start with 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and practice it today, in everything.
 

Give thanks

 
In any given situation, we can either collapse in discouragement or we can turn around in a 360-degree circle and spot a few things for which to be thankful. Henry Ward Beecher wrote: “The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.”
 
We live in a world of uncertainty, but the Lord promises: “I will certainly be with you” (Exodus 3:12). With God’s presence to accompany us, His Word to instruct us, His providence to work all things for our good, and His future prepared for us, we should certainly accentuate the positive. Beginning today, rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in all things give thanks, because this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
 
(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.” Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/19/2018 10:53:44 AM by David Jeremiah | with 0 comments



7 signs a pastor has stayed too long

July 18 2018 by Chuck Lawless

Some time ago, I posted, “Ten Factors that Help Long-Term Pastors Stay at Their Church.” Since that time, I’ve also worked with declining churches whose pastors have, in my opinion, stayed too long in their current place of service. Here are some of the clues that move my thinking in that direction: 
 

The church is in continual decline, and the pastor always blames the congregation. I know there are many troubled churches – and decline cannot be attributed to only one cause – but long-term pastors leading churches into decline must take some responsibility for the problem. 
 
The pastor no longer has vision for the church; he lives in survival mode. Everything is about paying the next bill and getting through next Sunday. Any sense of future life is long gone. 
 
If anyone would offer the pastor a new job, he’d likely take it. He might even be looking, but few churches want to interview a leader whose church is in constant decline. If they do talk with him and he blames the church, they have even more reason to discontinue the process. 
 
The church has lost any sense of passion for what they do. Often, a church in a state of decline follows the lead of the long-term pastor into pessimism and hopelessness. Nobody takes needed steps toward change because everybody’s just tired of the struggle. 
 
The only people left in the church are long-termers who will die as members of the church. They don’t like what’s happening to their church, but they’re also not moving their membership. They’ll wait out this pastor like they’ve waited out others. 
 
Paying the bills takes priority over everything else. As the church declines and givers decrease, the bills nevertheless remain the same. This problem is especially acute if the church is still making building and property payments.  
 
The pastor is willing to let the church die on his watch. You’d hope that would not be the case, but I’ve seen it happen. The pastor guides the ship to its death and blames the congregation all the way. 
 
Leaving a declining church is seldom easy for a pastor, however. Nobody wants to feel like he is “abandoning the ship,” and no pastor wants to look back on a seemingly failed ministry. Rather than condemn any pastor, let’s pray for all pastors today who may be wondering about God’s will for their lives.  
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Lawless is dean and vice president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. This article first appeared on his website, chucklawless.com. Used by permission.)

7/18/2018 10:38:43 AM by Chuck Lawless | with 1 comments



Lord, make me uncomfortable

July 17 2018 by Lee Clamp

“Lord, please give me an opportunity to share with Barry*,” I prayed halfheartedly as I walked up to my son’s ballgame.
 


 

I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone, and it was so hot I decided to sit in the visitors stands in the shade.
 
If I was really being honest, I should have prayed: “Lord, I don’t want to be uncomfortable. Can you please just get someone else to talk to Barry and bring him to my air-conditioned church on Sunday?”
 
If you’re interested in personal comfort, you probably don’t want to engage in the Great Commission. Jesus constantly laid His comfort aside to restore others to Himself and voluntarily gave Himself up to be crucified on a cross. He crucified the fantasy that personal security would be granted to those who followed Him when He said, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).
 
Fortunately, Jesus answered my prayer that day and made me uncomfortable. Barry obviously didn’t want to talk to anyone either, so he also was sitting in the visitors stands. We sat and made small talk, and then he got up and moved to the home stands, directly in the sun. The Lord had gotten my attention, so I joined him.
 
I asked him where he was from, and he said he was from a small town where there were three churches and six bars. I then crossed the line of comfort and asked, “So which one of those did you go to?”
 
He stood up, threw his drink on me, and yelled as everyone looked at us, “Why are you judging me?”
 
Wait. That’s not what he said. That is what I had imagined he would say.
 
He was actually very open about his time in church, his baptism and his absence from church the past 20 years. I listened to him, talked to him about my beliefs, and invited his family to church. The conversation was engaging and comforting.
 
We talk ourselves out of gospel conversations every day – conversations that others are more than willing to have. It’s almost as if Satan stretches out a wet paper towel and says, “You better not try to push through this. It will break your hand.” We are naïve enough to believe him rather than pushing through the perceived discomfort and risking our personal security.
 
I suppose there will be other days when I talk my way out of starting a gospel conversation. For Barry’s sake, and mine, I’m glad Jesus urged me to start this one.
 
*Name changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lee Clamp is the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s evangelism team leader. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/17/2018 9:41:36 AM by Lee Clamp | with 0 comments



Looking for community?

July 16 2018 by Melissa Meredith

There’s a little watering hole on the way to my sister’s old place. As soon as I take the exit off the highway, I know I have 10 miles of curvy country back roads lined with canopies of evergreens before I reach it.
 

 

Along the banks of the watering hole is a grove of trees, clustered together drinking up the water. The southerly wind blows and they lean together. The sun shines and a kaleidoscope of colors burst through their branches. I’ve seen them in a rain shower; they stand together – deeply rooted.
 
I’m sure that if one were to take a shovel to that Oklahoma red clay and start digging, their roots would be all sorts of woven together. I’m mesmerized by the scene every time I take that country road.
 
I feel like we as women are like that grove. When we find community we find roots.
 
We all know we were created for community with God and one another (Matthew 22:37-40). Yet finding it can be hard. And nurturing it is even harder.
 
God’s design for true community is more than having a group of girlfriends around your age that you go shopping with or have over for dinner occasionally. It is something much deeper and altogether more than we could ever create ourselves.
 
It is a faithful few walking in the same direction, sharing life and sharpening one another in Christ and for His glory. Community finds its beginning and growing and multiplying in the body of Christ (Acts 2:41-47).
 
So how do we find true community? It starts with taking a risk, extending the invitation and welcoming the interruptions.
 

Take the risk

 
If we want community, we must plant ourselves and commit to our local church, for it is where God designed true community to begin, grow and multiply.
 
As a former women’s minister, I know there are many women who have been wounded by other sisters. If you’re reading this and have been wounded by another sister in Christ, I want in the same breath to acknowledge your pain, ask God to continue to shine His mercy and healing on you, and with an arm linked in yours gently ask you to take the risk again toward letting a wise and mature sister in Christ into your life. Our God cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).
 
We all want to hear the words, “I struggle with that too!” Yes, community requires us to be vulnerable and share what God has redeemed us from and what He is walking us through now. But it also requires us to recognize the lies of the Evil One – lies that keep us from taking the risk and walking in power and victory because of perceived silent judgement from other women and self-condemnation.
 
If you need someone to release you or give you permission, let this be the day you take off your mask and let people into your life. In Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1) and as sisters in Christ we have no rivals (Galatians 3:26-28). We are free to share life and grow in Christ together.
 

Extend the invitation

 
Years ago, I extended an invitation to nine young women in my church and 10 older women. The night was brought together by the gifts of so many women. Annie brought the eucalyptus and vases. Terri brought the BBQ with all the comfort food sides. Dana let us use her backyard. It happened over sweet tea in mason jars and under a summer sky. We sat around a long table with women of all ages – college girls, widows, young mamas, single women, empty nesters. Sky brought us a word from God’s Word. And as we cut the pie and passed the pitchers, deep conversation flowed.
 
It was beautiful and life-giving. It was the start of true community. It was the start of a new grove.
 
Whether it’s over coffee or day-old bread, reach out to another sister this week. While you won’t connect with everyone – and that’s OK – don’t let your past or present encounters keep you from extending the invitation.
 

Welcome the interruptions

 
Nourishing a new community takes time, prayer and welcoming the “interruptions” that come from caring for one another. Did you know that scripture contains 59 verses that beckon those in community to care for one another? Here are just a few:
 
– Be patient with one another (Ephesians 4:2).
– Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32).
– Care for one another (1 Corinthians 2:25-27; Philippians 2:3-16).
– Build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
– Spur one another toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).
 
That long table of women later grew into “oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3). We celebrated births together. They walked with me through the death and grief of losing my mom. We were vulnerable and shared deep hurts and struggles with sins. We welcomed in a few other women new to the faith and older in the faith. Our prayer lives were strengthened. There were wounds, and we forgave and grew from them with the Lord’s help.
 
Are you looking for community? Remember you are not alone. Take the risk. Extend the invitation. And by all means welcome the interruptions that will sharpen and sweeten your life.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Melissa Meredith is the director of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Horner Homemaking House. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/16/2018 11:35:40 AM by Melissa Meredith | with 0 comments



Lessons from a cave rescue

July 13 2018 by Lonnie Wilkey

For nearly three weeks, the world’s attention has been focused on Thailand where 12 soccer players and their coach were trapped in a cave for 18 days.
 

 

The boys escaped the cave with little time to spare as water pumps failed immediately after their rescue, flooding the area they had vacated. The Thailand Navy Seals, who played a major role in the rescue effort, barely escaped. A few days earlier, former Navy diver Saman Gunan lost his life in efforts to supply oxygen to the team and coach.
 
The real-life drama captivated people worldwide. As flooding occurred in the area, the constant question was, “Could those boys and their coach be rescued before they drowned or suffocated?”
 
Rescue efforts included people from various countries including the United States and Australia.
 
Maj. Charles Hodges, U.S. mission commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group for the Air Force, was interviewed by “CBS This Morning” on July 11.
 
Hodges cited the role of cooperation in the rescue effort. “It took every single one of us, putting our heads together and pushing aside political and cultural differences and doing our best to find a solution,” he said. The experience reinforced the concept of teamwork, he said, noting, “It was pretty impressive seeing all these entities working together.”
 
Christians and churches can learn from this incredible cave rescue as they are faced with a similar life-and-death issue: reaching the millions of people in our world who will die without professing faith in Jesus Christ their as Lord and Savior.
 
The Thailand soccer team was rescued because rescuers had a common goal, they laid aside differences to get the job done and no one cared who received the credit.
 

How does that apply to the church?

 
A common goal: The goal of any church – and individual believers – must be seeing souls saved. If every church would focus on seeing people saved, baptized and set on the road to discipleship, we could see multiple thousands come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
 
Lay aside differences and work together: Churches are comprised of people with different backgrounds, opinions, skills and talents. Not everyone agrees on everything that happens within the church. The key is to not allow those differences to sidetrack the goal or mission of the church – sharing the gospel and leading people to Christ. When a church works together in a spirit of cooperation, God will use that to accomplish His will.
 
The credit belongs to God: In every account I read or listened to about the cave rescue, I never heard one person or group claim credit. Hodges said it well: “It took every single one of us … to find a solution.” If churches want to grow and lead people to Christ, Christians can’t worry about “notches on their belt” when it comes to seeing people accept Christ.
 
We, as Christians, can’t save anyone. All we can do is share the Good News of Jesus Christ and let the Holy Spirit work. God will take care of the rest and He deserves all the credit. We are blessed when He uses us to accomplish His will.
 
It was never mentioned on any broadcast I heard, but God performed another of His miracles by enabling those 12 boys and their coach to survive underground for nearly three weeks with minimal food and water.
 
May He receive glory and honor from the rescue and may Christians and churches learn lessons they can use to rescue people doomed for an eternity in hell.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector, baptistandreflector.org, news journal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/13/2018 11:38:39 AM by Lonnie Wilkey | with 0 comments



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