July 2018

The pro-choice language pro-lifers need to drop

July 12 2018 by Aaron Wilson, Facts and Trends

“Have I really been sending mixed messages about when life begins?” Mary asked herself as she drove home from her coworker’s baby shower.
 
Mary looked at her two kids through the rearview mirror and remembered the “Repeal Roe v. Wade” bumper sticker she had displayed on the back of her minivan. Mary bit her lip and continued to mull over a comment a pro-life friend had made at the shower.
 
“I wish Christians would stop using ‘parent-to-be’ labels,” Mary’s friend had whispered as a “mommy-to-be” sash was draped over the guest of honor. “It sends such a poor message about life in the womb.”
 
Mary had never thought of this before. She considered herself to be as pro-life as they come, but she also knew she’d used the terms “mommy-to-be” and “daddy-to-be” at baby showers, gender-reveal parties, and in celebratory comments for ultrasound pictures posted on social media.
 
Now, she was questioning whether such language squared with her belief that life begins at fertilization.
 

“To be” or not “to be?” That’s the question

 
Mary’s concerns are well-founded. “Parent-to-be” language for expectant families is inconsistent with a worldview that seeks to honor life before birth.
 
Logic states if a pregnant woman is a “mommy-to-be,” what she is carrying must be a “child-to-be.” And if this were the case, why would pro-lifers be surprised when parents consider aborting someone they’ve been told isn’t yet a person?
 
Sadly, a “parent-to-be” label communicates that parenthood, and thus personhood, isn’t achieved until after a child’s birth. This message runs counter to a biblically informed ethic that claims life begins at fertilization – a belief grounded in passages such as Psalm 51:5, Isaiah 44:2, Psalm 139:13-14 and Luke 1:41, 44.
 
Since “mommy-to-be” and “daddy-to-be” language sends a mixed message to the world, those who believe life begins at fertilization may want to retire the terminology. This is especially true considering the ambiguity that overshadows some Americans’ claim to be pro-life.
 

Pro-lifers who are pro-abortion?

 
Recent polling from Gallup finds Americans evenly split on whether they consider themselves pro-life or pro-choice, with each label representing a 48 percent share of the population.
 
But while nearly half of Americans call themselves pro-life, the same study shows 6 in 10 Americans believe it should generally be legal for a woman to have an abortion in the first three months of pregnancy.
 
Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds of Americans (62 percent) have a favorable or mostly favorable view of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading abortion provider.
 
And according to the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, more than 60 percent of Americans say they don’t want to see Roe v. Wade overturned.
 
In other words, some Americans say they are pro-life while still holding favorable opinions about organizations that perform abortions and the laws that allow abortions to take place.
 
Because of this inconsistency, it’s important for Christians to be precise in their language regarding personhood to let others know what they mean when they claim to be pro-life.
 

Language reflects a worldview

 
Vocabulary can be influential when it comes to issues relating to life and abortion. This is why those who feel strongly on such issues often choose their words with specificity.
 
Note how careful people are to use either the term “child” or “fetus” when referring to a baby in the womb. One description humanizes preborn life while the other refers to it in purely clinical terms.
 
Or, notice how pro-life proponents describe abortion as “the taking of a life” while organizations like Planned Parenthood call it “the ending of a pregnancy.”
 
Comedian and late-night talk show host Michelle Wolf recently demonstrated the importance of word pictures related to preborn life when she provided on-air commentary on the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned.
 
“Some people say abortion is ‘killing a baby.’ It’s not,” Wolf said to a national audience. “It’s stopping a baby from happening. It’s like Back to the Future and abortion is the DeLorean.”
 
Like this pop culture reference, the use of “parent-to-be” language shapes a view on when life begins. Do pro-lifers believe it takes nine months for parenthood to be established – a time frame during which people can hop in their “abortion time machines” and get a do-over if they’re not ready to be parents? Or are moms and dads formed as soon as a life comes into existence at the point of fertilization?
 
If the latter is true, “parent-to-be” language is misleading and should be abandoned by the church.
 

A consistent message

 
Of course, even the most precise pro-life terminology means little if not accompanied by pro-life action administered in love.
 
Christians must be willing to back up life-honoring words with deeds that extend love to those who are wrestling with decisions that affect life.
 
And the church must show it values all of life, in all circumstances, to demonstrate a consistent ethic to a watching world.
 
But words do matter – especially on the topic of life. For this reason, it’s time for pro-lifers to expire “parent-to-be” labels in order to send an unswerving message about when life begins.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Wilson is associate editor for Facts & Trends, factsandtrends.net. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/12/2018 1:27:51 PM by Aaron Wilson, Facts and Trends | with 0 comments



Will missions solve your porn problem? No.

July 11 2018 by Keelan Cook

Let me just come out and say it: pornography is a problem that impacts the mission field. In our #MeToo era, we’re used to seeing web articles speaking of the dangers of pornography. We hear – and it is most certainly true – that pornography is both the result of and fuel for the objectification of humanity.
 

 

Pornography makes another human less like a person and more like a snack. And yet, so often our recent reminders on the internet about the dangers of, well, the internet and other peddlers of this smut focus on that young man alone in his bedroom late at night. However, the grip of pornography reaches into more than teenage bedrooms. Today, pornography reaches as far as the curse is found. It reaches to the very ends of the earth.
 
Overseas missions isn’t an escape from pornography.
 

The false promise of escape

 
I’m no stranger to awkward conversations, staring across the table, as a student or church member confesses to an ongoing struggle and hearing of their hope that missionary service might provide freedom. Ensnared is the right word for pornography.
 
Christian men (and many women) ensnared in an addiction to pornography feel trapped. Caged animals instinctively look for an escape, and so it is with Christians caught in the trap of pornography. Subtly, the Enemy’s tactic turns a person’s gaze away from the things that provide real freedom toward other avenues of escape.
 
Christian missions overseas can be seen as just such an escape.
 
For some, the thought of some mistakenly “extra Christian” service begins to look like a doorway to a new life, a new chapter without the shackles of pornography (or any other gripping moral compromise). Perhaps it’s the change in vocation. They are convinced that a focus on missions, evangelism, and church planting – all holy pursuits – will drown out the siren song of pornography.
 
For others, it’s the change in location that makes missions so compelling as a means of escape. Surely secluding oneself in a remote corner of the earth will remove the temptation of ever-present internet access.
 
Finally, there is the assumption that such a radical adjustment, selling one’s possessions and giving over to a life of sacrifice, provides the hope of escape. After all, such devotion to Christ and his gospel must result in a life free of these temptations.
 

Vocation, location, and the heart

 
But the draw to pornography isn’t a vocation issue, and it isn’t a location issue. It is an issue of the heart. Like any idol, pornography asks for your love. The affections don’t merely change with new scenery or a new purpose in life, even if that purpose seems “extra Christian.” If viewing pornography is a problem on this side of that commitment, it’ll board the airplane and arrive with that person, just like all of the other baggage.
 
A common mistake concerning the allure of pornography is assuming the problem is ease of access. Ease of access is bad, but it isn’t the problem. The problem lies deeper. Viewing pornography is merely the symptom, the fruit not the root. The heart will seek out its loves, even when they are hard to find. Heart issues always find a way to manifest.
 
If one is considering the mission field as an escape from pornography (or any number of struggles), I would urge that person to reconsider. If they have somehow found themselves on the field of service already, shackled to a love for pornography (a love that you hate), freedom is only found through rightly ordered affections.
 

Dealing with pornography on the field

 
There is no silver bullet, no radical commitment of sacrifice that curbs the appetite of lust. If the root is not pulled and replaced, it’ll continue to bear fruit. The exhortations given to those seeking freedom from this bondage in the States are just as true on the field. As with any affection, we must remove it from our whole person – head, heart, and hands. We must establish barriers to access. Yes, this does apply, even in remote jungles. One would be amazed at the ways this temptation is satisfied overseas.
 
We must seek community, transparency, and accountability. I mean real accountability, too. For the missionary, there are added layers of complexity concerning community and accountability. Community is often hard to find on the field.
 
Cross-cultural relationships, while sweet and often deep, create barriers to communication and meaning. Missionaries are often tempted to remain silent concerning their own heart issues because of the challenges presented by cross-cultural relationships.
 
Even more so, confessing sexual sin to one’s team may be even harder to do. In the field setting, often a missionary’s team is the closest thing they have to a church community. In this setting, a person can feel like their shepherd and boss are the same person. Confessing may mean the end of their time overseas.
 
As difficult as these realities are, remaining silent will not do. The person who refuses to depend on brothers and sisters makes too much of his or her own will and too little of sin. It is easy, in the grip of ongoing sin, to reorder our priorities in an unhealthy way. Staying on the field becomes more important than a heart rightly directed toward God. Ironically, such misshapen priorities may allow a missionary to remain in place, but he or she stays at the cost of the spiritual vitality necessary to succeed in the mission.
 
Two centuries ago, Thomas Chalmers addressed the issue of our affections in a sermon entitled, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” Chalmers wisely questions, “The love of the world cannot be expunged by a mere demonstration of the world’s worthlessness. But may it not be supplanted by the love of that which is more worthy than itself?”
 
In other words, the loves of the heart – those idols that claim our allegiance – can’t merely be removed. They must be replaced with an even more powerful affection. And so it is with the love that leads one to submit to pornography. Pornography is a hateful master who doesn’t love in return.
 
The heart needs a better master. This is why Christ pleads with us, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28–30, HCSB).
 
This article first appeared at imb.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keelan Cook leads the Peoples Next Door project and is a senior church consultant with the Union Baptist Association in Houston, Texas. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/11/2018 1:32:25 PM by Keelan Cook | with 0 comments



Taking time to read the ‘times’

July 10 2018 by Rudy Gonzalez

They say that hindsight is 20/20, but if that is so, why does the human race continue to commit the same mistakes history should have taught us to correct?
 

 

You would think we would be the best equipped to finally get it right. After all, we, more than any previous generation, move the learning needle forward daily and we pride ourselves for it. But, of course, all this knowledge comes at us so quickly we scarcely have time to assess whether the latest discovery is factual or a hoax, whether the news is reliable or fake.
 
Alas, in spite of our desire to know, and perhaps because of it, we binge on endless information and suffer a collective headache. Maybe the problem is that we have become blind to a filter God created to help us make sense of it all.
 
In the day-to-day world, not paying attention to its signs would prove disastrous. If a farmer didn’t take the seasons into consideration, he might plant rather than let the land rest. Likewise, a builder will look to the weather before deciding whether to pour a concrete slab.
 
This reading of the “times,” “seasons” or “signs” (terms I take as synonymous) is an intuition, which kings used in deciding when to make war (2 Samuel 1:11). But the greatest endorsement of this comes from Christ. In Matthew 16:23–24, Jesus pointed to the clouds, but not because He was interested in meteorology. He chided people because they were experts in reading the clouds, but failed to see that everyday events were also couched in a “time,” a specific milieu that provided the proper context for interpreting those same events.
 
In light of this fortunate aid witnessed in most fields of knowledge, we should ponder whether we are making the most of it. Without being mystical about it, I would suggest that like the telltale signs we see in nature, God has provided us with moral signs that must be read if we are to understand our world, our politics and our cultures with greater sensitivity.
 
But how or where to start? For myself, as one committed to the truthfulness of God’s Word, the most obvious sign which commends itself to my thinking is the biblical revelation that the days are “evil” (Ephesians 5:16). If we acknowledge the pall of this truth over life as we know it, then at least two things follow.
 
On the one hand, we will not make the mistake of gauging the rightness or wrongness of things against the naive belief that earlier times were somehow immune from living in a world wracked by sin. Roe v. Wade truly exacerbated the abortion mill, but it didn’t create it. It brought to light an awful practice which had lurked in the shadows. On the other hand, since the days are evil, we should not forget the Evil One’s schemes, even if things should seem to ring true.
 
The fact is the gamut of human virtue and vice has been on display throughout history, but don’t fall into the trap of believing that what society has deemed good or evil, has remained fixed, not in this present evil age. The prophet Isaiah knew the ungodly were prone to tinker with the moral categories of their day and so he warns:
 
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).
 
For such social engineers, all is fair game:  good, evil and everything in between. They not only “call” (rename), they “substitute,” creating new “truth” on the fly. Most recently, we were given front row seats to see this strategy play out, redefining marriage from how it had always been understood, paving the way to legalize homosexual unions, and all in the span of a few short years.
 
In all this, we must come to grips with the fact that we do not live in a world that plays by the rules. The apostle Paul knew this when he said, “Let God be true and every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). And so, we must remember that everyone, journalists, pundits, researchers, the learned of this world and even preachers, myself included, are not immune to the subtle and brute agendas of “this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4).
 
Knowing the days are evil, we assume a two-fold strategy. From a defensive posture, we resist the naïve inclination to accept all we hear indiscriminately (1 John 4:1). Proactively, we evaluate everything by the standard of God’s Word, subjecting our minds and the thoughts it entertains to the obedience of the faith (Hebrews 4:12–13; 2 Corinthians 10:1-6).
 
Today, we are barraged by news that threatens to tear us apart not just as a nation, but as a people of God. To even permit such a possibility would speak louder than any congressional report or POTUS tweet. At minimum, it might tell us we have been ignoring the signs God has provided to frame, to guide and to bring sanity to our understanding.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rudy Gonzalez is professor of New Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/10/2018 1:11:54 PM by Rudy Gonzalez | with 0 comments



Unchanged amid transition

July 6 2018 by Randy Davis

Transitions and changes are not the same. That’s important to keep in mind when considering the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
 

The 2018 SBC annual meeting was a watershed for Southern Baptists. Most of the national news related to Southern Baptists was not good prior to the convention. It would be easy to gravitate toward the negatives, but I choose to focus on the positives.
 
And that’s where transition and change come in.
 
Transition is the migration from what is to what is to become. I see our denomination transitioning, but it’s always gone through transitions. It’s a dynamic entity. A transition that I noted during the convention was a renewed sense of personal and corporate accountability. We also saw a transition in seating our most ethnically diverse convention leadership ever. That rightly reflects the growing diversity within our SBC network of churches. I also noticed a transition in demographics. Our convention is getting younger, not older.
 
What I did not see at the convention was change. Change is “altering or making radically different.” Southern Baptists have not changed our vision to be a group of Bible-believing, Jesus-exalting, gospel-preaching churches committed to pursuing the spiritually lost and fulfilling the Great Commission.
 
That encourages me so here’s how I am personally responding in the wake of SBC 2018.
 
I will pray for the new SBC president, J.D. Greear. These are challenging days, and Dr. Greear needs wisdom to lead our convention. It is our responsibility to pray for him.
 
I will keep doing what I’ve done for more than 40 years, which is supporting our International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries and our Southern Baptist entities both in word and deed. This includes supporting our various missions offerings and being fully committed to the Cooperative Program. For Great Commission success through our vast national network of churches, we must stay engaged together.
 
However, the primary focus of God’s calling on my life is in Tennessee, through the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board in serving the good churches that comprise the Tennessee Baptist Convention. This is my front-line mission field and make no mistake, it is a mission field, just as each of the other 49 states in the U.S.
 
Here in Tennessee, with nearly four million spiritually lost souls, more than 145 global people groups and oppressive poverty, we have so much to do in reaching our state for Christ. The challenge would be overwhelming except God continues to reveal He’s working through Tennessee Baptists.
 
For instance, All Nations Camp, which Tennessee Baptists support through the Cooperative Program and the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions (GOTM), saw 155 children and teens make decisions for Christ. More than 400 children from seven different ethnic groups attended. It was a little slice of heaven.
 
Tennessee Baptists are celebrating 40 years of disaster relief ministry this month. It would be impossible to know the spiritual impact recorded in heaven as a result of this most practical of ministries.
 
There is a great unity among TBC entities that include educational institutions, adult and children’s homes, Baptist Hospital and the Tennessee Baptist Foundation. There is a spirit of cooperation for bringing people to Christ through the platforms of these ministries.
 
I believe we have a clear mission and direction. We are committed to making Christ known by serving churches. Over the past several years we have streamlined our staff and ministries to focus on those things that most support a church in being salt and light in its community.
 
No successful endeavor is accomplished without a cooperative effort from all involved. As noted in the report of the Great Commission Resurgence Report of 2010, the preferred and primary means of supporting our SBC network of ministry and missions – the SBC “ecosystem” as IMB President David Platt has called it – is through the Cooperative Program, as it has been for 92 years.
 
Cooperative Program math is amazing. If churches even slightly increased their CP giving, there would be significantly more millions of dollars collectively available for Southern Baptists to do missions on every tier of the Acts 1:8 local, regional and “ends of the earth” model.
 
And beyond the Cooperative Program, here are some encouraging ways churches and individuals are investing in Tennessee missions:
 
– Through associational work where groups of local churches are having an impact in a concentrated geographic area.
 
– Through the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions. GOTM is to Tennessee what the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is to the International Mission Board. Every penny is vital in supporting some highly impactful ministries.
 
– Through giving directly to the work of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. This giving option has been in place for decades and has been a vital source of support that supplements the work of Tennessee Baptist missionaries beyond the Cooperative Program.
 
True, there has been a lot of transition in Baptist life over the past several years and especially this year. However, our commitment to reaching Tennessee and reaching the nations for Christ is unchanged. In fact, that passion to see people saved, baptized and set on the road to discipleship burns brighter than ever.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Randy C. Davis is president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/6/2018 2:54:29 PM by Randy Davis | with 0 comments



A journey from Korea to the Army & beyond

July 5 2018 by Paul Kim

Life is like a journey toward a destination. The apostle Paul describes it as a race (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
 

Photo submitted
Paul Kim as an enlisted soldier stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash, in the spring of 1968, just months after immigrating to the U.S.

For most of us, life is more a marathon than a sprint. Even so, God has fixed human life spans, usually around 70-80 years (Psalm 90:9-10), which is relatively short compared to the age of, say, certain types of trees. What’s important to God is not the length of the race or journey, but its quality. And the quality depends on our effort to reach the goal, which is to win the race. I pray every day that God will give me the strength to run in such a way.
 
As I reflect on my Christian journey for half a century, I am grateful to God that I came to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior in August 1968 during active duty in the U.S. Army.
 
The Rev. George Godfrey, a Baptist pastor, shared with me God’s plan of salvation on that August afternoon at my home in Hilo, Hawaii. He explained the meaning of the cross, why Jesus had to die on the cross for my sin. As Rev. Godfrey turned the pages of the Bible showing me verse after verse, I could not help but accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
 
Growing up in Korea, I attended a mission school but no one had ever asked me whether I had received Christ. I assumed going to church made me a Christian but I was wrong. Through Rev. Godfrey, I learned that being a Christian is to be in a personal relationship with Christ (John 1:12-13; John 3:3-5; Luke 19:10).
 
Since starting my spiritual journey 50 years ago, I can testify to how much I have been blessed spiritually. God has been faithful to guide me every step of the way. I do not know when my journey will come to an end in this world (John 14:1-6; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Hebrews 9:27-28). But I long for my departure so that I may be with my Lord who saved me from death and gave me eternal life as His child on that August afternoon in Hawaii.
 
I came to America in 1967 at the age of 19. Just three months after immigrating to Hawaii from Korea I joined the Army. During those two years on active duty, I learned English quickly so that I could assimilate into American culture. I also earned my U.S. citizenship. Two years in the Army helped shape me into who I am today. Upon discharge from the Army I started my college and seminary education under the GI Bill.
 
I am proud to be an Army veteran; it’s such an honor to have served this nation in uniform. Later during my pastoral ministry in Berkeley, Calif., I felt God’s call to Army chaplaincy and so I served as a reserve Army chaplain for 10 years. Currently I serve as a chaplain in the American Legion Post #442 in Cambridge, Mass., and as the national assistant chaplain for the Korean War Veterans Association.
 

Photo submitted
Paul Kim, now an American Legion post chaplain in the Boston area, visits the Korean War Veterans Memorial on Memorial Day this year in Washington, D.C.

The Lord has opened many doors of opportunity for me to minister to our veterans who served our beloved country. Truly, our nation is “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” But more than anything, the Army has given me insights and readiness for the reality of the spiritual battle that is before us daily. I am forever indebted to the armed forces for preparing me to be a faithful soldier of Christ, who does not get entangled in civilian affairs but is focused on pleasing his commanding officer (2 Timothy 2:3-4)
 
During the early days of my ministry, I heard the name of Billy Graham, who in 1973 made a visit to my homeland of Korea to preach the gospel, which turned out to be the largest crusade ever held in his 60 years of evangelistic ministry. It took place at an old Air Force base in Seoul, with an estimated crowd of 1.3 million people gathered to hear Dr. Graham’s powerful gospel message. Over the years I watched him preach numerous times on TV and attended his crusade on several occasions.
 
But it wasn’t until I had the privilege of attending meetings at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Charlotte, N.C., as a Massachusetts field representative for “My Hope America with Billy Graham” in 2013 and “Decision America Tour with Franklin Graham in 2016” that I began to study his life closely.
 
The Billy Graham Library, with multimedia displays, rare film footage and more than 350 photographs, gave me a deeper appreciation for the sustained quality of Dr. Graham’s life and ministry. On Feb. 21 of this year, he finished his earthly journey at the age of 99 after speaking to more than 210 million people in 186 countries on six continents.
 
Dr. Graham is no longer with us on this earth but he still speaks through the life he lived. He is a model for us on how to run the race for God’s Kingdom until the very end. What a remarkable spiritual giant who finished his journey as “America’s Pastor.” We are all challenged to follow his example of faith.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Paul Kim is the Asian-American relations consultant with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/5/2018 2:30:09 PM by Paul Kim | with 0 comments



Humility & hope for the SBC

July 3 2018 by J.D. Greear

Recently the Holy Spirit has been drawing me back to Matthew 16:13-20 again and again. After Peter confesses Jesus to be the Messiah, Jesus responds, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:17-18 CSB).
 

This is a promise that we in the SBC need to claim, and it is one that will produce in us a spirit of humility and hope.
 
On one hand, Jesus’ promise should lead us to humility. In this same passage, Jesus calls Peter “Satan” when he attempts to correct Jesus on His path to the cross (Matthew 16:23). Yes, Jesus promises that He will build His church, but He never shies away from chastising His people when they oppose His methods. God will accomplish His purposes. That is as guaranteed as Jesus’ resurrection.
 
But what is not clear is whether He’ll use us to accomplish those purposes.
 
We would not be the first people God had set aside. The Jews of Jesus’ day assumed God would never set them aside. But Jesus warned them, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruit” (Matthew 21:43).
 
He gives the same warning to us: the grace of God is overwhelming and overflowing, but we must never take it for granted.
 
God is stirring in the SBC. He has exposed a startling amount of sin in our midst. He has shaken many of our foundations. I actually think that’s good news because whom the Lord loves, He chastens. He is inviting us, I believe, into an era of unprecedented effectiveness for the Great Commission, if we repent.
 
Which leads to the other aspect of Jesus’ promise: hope. The hope of the church (or the SBC) is not in the quality of our leaders. We are not God’s “last best hope on earth.”
 
The grace of God is our best hope, and when a preacher falls, praise God, the promise remains. Even when everything around us crumbles, His promise of grace remains.
 
In one of my favorite stories from the gospels, a Canaanite woman comes to Jesus asking for healing for her daughter, who is being tormented by a demon. Jesus’ initial response is harsh: “It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:26). But the woman is unflinching, because she knew He wasn’t speaking to her gender or her race; he was speaking to her unworthiness. So she responds with desperate faith in his grace: “Yes, Lord ... yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table” (Matthew 15:27).
 
In other words, the grace of God is so rich and so abundant that it flows off of the table so that even those with no more worthiness than dogs can eat until they are satisfied.
 
Jesus said this Canaanite woman had faith like none in Israel. And she is our example. We can never hope too much in the grace of God, never lean too fully into it. Would we rather be dogs feasting on the crumbs off God’s table or “heroes” asking God to reward us for our greatness? I’ll take the path of the dog every single time.
 
William Carey once said that the future is always as bright as the promises of God. When I think of the future of the SBC, I believe that the Holy Spirit has great days ahead. If we believe Christ’s promises, heed the voice of the Holy Spirit, turn from our sin and cast ourselves upon the mercy of His grace, the gates of hell will not stand a chance.
 
God is not done with the SBC. There are still more than 6,000 unreached people groups in our world. I believe God wants to bless us for their sake. With the unchanging Word as our foundation, soul-winning as our focus, and the Holy Spirit as our guide, we can once again “expect great things of God and attempt great things for God.” He desires to be merciful to us and bless us and cause His face to shine upon us – not for our sake but so that His way may be known in all the earth (Psalm 67).
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – J.D. Greear is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. This column was adapted from his jdgreear.com website. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/3/2018 12:46:25 PM by J.D. Greear | with 0 comments



Peru’s dream of a World Cup: A lesson for missions

July 3 2018 by Jennifer Waldrep, IMB

Tears streamed down the cheeks of thousands of Peruvians who traveled to Russia only to see their World Cup dream end with an 0-1 loss to France at the Ekaterinburg Arena in Yekaterinburg.
 
Yet, what mattered – what Peruvians savored – is that after 36 years on the outside, their national soccer team contended as a World Cup team. No longer watching from the sidelines, they got in the game. Arriba Perú!
 
During the World Cup or the Olympics, the world seems more fair. Countries of disparate political, social and economic power play as equals.
 
Likewise in the body of Christ, Jesus calls people of all backgrounds to participate as equals, and He gives all members spiritual gifts and power, equipping everyone to take the gospel to others. Rich, poor, Jews, Greeks, men, women – all.
 
Despite the biblical call of equitable participation, self-perception of the church in many nations does not line up. But things are changing, as missiologist Paul Borthwick wrote in Western Christians in Global Mission:  “More and more countries are owning the vision to be part of the global Christian missionary enterprise. We hear it in the phrase that the church is going from every nation to every nation.”
 
Yet it remains easy for the U.S. church to see itself – even subconsciously – as the mission force and the rest of the world as the mission field. And why do so many believers in other nations seem to concur?
 
Peru’s World Cup experience helps answer the question. During 36 years on the sidelines, “We had a defeated spirit,” Eduardo Alfaro, a Peruvian in his 50s, explained. Social upheaval shrouded Peru’s football glory days in a war between the government and Neo-Maoist terrorists of the Shining Path Movement that lasted from 1980 to 2000.
 
As for football, “We were conditioned to lose. We didn’t have the spirit to win,” Alfaro said. No longer contenders, most Peruvians rooted instead for Brazil, which became Peru’s team by proxy. Peruvians came to believe they weren’t World Cup material. Peruvian football heroes were legends of the past.
 
In 2015, however, all that changed. Newly appointed manager Ricardo Gareca started to foster a team mentality, a winning mentality. Peruvians united behind their team as the World Cup dream appeared more and more attainable.
 
But the press began to focus on star player Paolo Guerrero. All the publicity made Peruvians believe “Guerrero would be our savior,” Alfaro said. “The coach did not put Guerrero in the first part of the first game because he wanted the team to see themselves as a team and not look to one individual.” But the press had already made the nation and the team believe their hope rested on the star player’s shoulders, Alfaro recounted.
 
It “divided and turned the team into individuals and sowed fear, giving the idea that without Guerrero it would not be possible to win,” Alfaro said. “Actually, without him, they might have gelled better as a strong team.”
 
Bad messaging has historically divided and weakened the global church as well. Colonialism perpetuated the notion that conquering countries were inherently better at building and establishing than those they colonized. Despite the eventual political autonomy of colonized countries, the inferiority complex – and the West’s seeming superiority complex – persisted even in the churches.
 
“We Peruvians never had the idea that the one to bring the gospel would be a national,” Alfaro said. “Rather a ... European or American missionary – all the more if it were a white person. … This concept came from generations back – from our ancestors. Missions always was foreign. It came from elsewhere.”
 
Peruvians still tend to think this about doctors, politicians and religious leaders, Alfaro said, but the stereotype is starting to loosen its hold. And the conflicted mindset is not unique to Peru.
 
The concept of a few nations with fancy resources being the players and the rest of the world being the mission field is as outdated as colonialism. And you won’t find it in Scripture – those who receive are called to give. When it comes to making disciples of all nations, the church in every country qualifies, based on the redeeming sacrifice and calling of Christ.
 
As national churches in Peru and other majority-world countries delve into missions and ministry, they are becoming players in their own right and equal partners with Western churches. They do not want to be anyone’s charity object or ministry project. They simply want the opportunity to participate, to get in the game, to be partnering, leading and serving.
 
As the body of Christ, we are one team. We can learn from Peru’s mistake of looking to Paolo Guerrero as the team’s savior and squelch the divisive notion that the church in any one or a few countries determines the outcome of mission endeavors. The only one we look to as a Savior is Jesus Christ. His followers throughout the world are called to be His servants, like Paul and Apollos, through whom the nations may believe.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jennifer Waldrep is an IMB missionary in Lima, Peru. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/3/2018 12:46:10 PM by Jennifer Waldrep, IMB | with 0 comments



FOURTH OF JULY: My favorite holiday

July 2 2018 by Daryl C. Cornett

Independence Day is my favorite holiday – an occasion to celebrate our country’s existence and have some mandatory fun!
 
There is nothing particularly religious about it, and that’s just fine. I like the family gatherings, cookouts, parades and fireworks. I like all the red, white and blue. It is an uncorrupted holiday that is exactly what it is supposed to be.
 
However, I believe that this secular occasion affords us the opportunity for important spiritual perspective and reflection.
 
First, Independence Day is an occasion to express thankfulness for God’s gift of our American government and its perseverance. This year we celebrate the passing of 242 years since a small group of men, representing 13 British colonies, asserted that the time had come to declare their independence. They made a long list of grievances against England and declared that independence was necessary and right. After winning a war that few thought possible, the confederation of the new states decided to unite under a federal government with its own constitution.
 
Christians throughout history have lived within a variety of governmental arrangements – monarchies, dictatorships, communist states and democratic republics of various forms. It is fitting to celebrate that in God’s gracious providence He has blessed us with government that guards against abusive power. The design of three separate branches has proven to be a practical check against the consolidation of too much power in one place. Christians can give thanks that God has graciously allowed our context to be a democratic republic in which we get to participate in the election of our own leaders and enjoy the privileges and protections of a constitution with a primary view toward preventing oppressive government.
 
Additionally, we can give thanks that by God’s grace we are still here. Every nation takes for granted its own existence. Human pride causes us to believe that the United States will always be just as it is today – powerful, prosperous and blessed. No empire thinks in its days of dominance that a time could come when it wouldn’t exist. Romans 13:1 reminds us, “... For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” We should be thankful for our Founders – Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, Madison, Hamilton, and many others. However, we should acknowledge that our country’s existence originates from the hand of divine providence. The signers of the Declaration of Independence acknowledged this in its closing words: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor.” As we celebrate with our material comforts and security, let’s be careful to give thanks to the One who has given these good gifts and who has preserved our nation.
 
Second, we should remember to pray for our leaders. The apostle Paul instructed Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers and intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions...” (1 Timothy 2:1-2a).  It doesn’t matter if you voted for him or even if you like him, your Christian political stewardship is to pray earnestly for him. She may be the antithesis of all your political views, but God has seen fit to put her in that position of leadership. Pray for her.
 
Third, Independence Day is an occasion for the church to renew its commitment to the proclamation of the gospel. Because God has continued to bless us with a free society, the door for the sharing of the gospel remains wide open. Our culture has always had sin problems. Where sinful people exist in a fallen world, the enemy is always at work challenging God’s design. Spiritual darkness pushes back against God’s good news.
 
In America we have incredible freedom to proclaim our faith. We should be thankful that the first of the amendments to the Constitution provides every individual with freedom for personal religion. The first phrase promises this freedom. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Since this was adopted in 1791, we have periodically fussed about what constitutes an establishment of religion but never questioned that each of us has the right to our own personal faith and the right to share it with others. We may receive some rejection, but no one is arresting us for telling others about Jesus.
 
We would do well to be mindful that our American freedom must not be squandered on selfish individualism. We have all the freedom we could ever ask for to live out our faith with boldness and share it with others without fear of persecution.
 
On this Independence Day, let our hearts be full of gratitude for what God has established, pray for those God has seen fit to put into leadership, and remember that God continues to give us the freedom to be salt and light to our neighbors and impact our communities with the hope of the gospel.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Daryl C. Cornett is pastor of First Baptist Church in Hazard, Ky., a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and former associate professor of church history at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Cordova, Tenn.)

7/2/2018 12:38:35 PM by Daryl C. Cornett | with 0 comments



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