June 2012

The need of Southern Baptist prayers for the nation

June 29 2012 by Bryant Wright, Baptist Press

MARIETTA, Ga. – The Prayer Vigil for Spiritual Revival and National Renewal (Sept. 26-Nov. 4) is a great opportunity for Southern Baptist Christians to come together as a unified body and lift up our nation to our Almighty God. I believe this vigil can have a profound influence on the course and the future of our nation. History has demonstrated the power of believers coming together and becoming the catalyst for great awakenings.
In Daniel 9 we find the godly prophet Daniel crying out to God for such an awakening in his own people. He sincerely came before God "by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes." This was not a prayer before bedtime, but a crying out to God for His mercy and grace on a rebellious people. Daniel recognized specifically how Israel had turned against God by forsaking His law and shaming His name. In this contrite position of prayer Daniel also begged God for forgiveness for this disobedience. He faced the truth that they were getting exactly what they deserved and receiving the consequences for which they had been warned. In Daniel 9:18, 19 we find Daniel’s basis for petitioning God:

"O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before you on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people are called by your name."

The urgency in our day and for our nation is just as great! I could cite statistics, but I think that would be unnecessary. A simple look around at the decadence that surrounds us should suffice – materialism, obsession with pleasure and entertainment, family breakdown, and on and on – and sadly the church often reflects culture more than being a light to culture. It is not that we should pray, we must pray. When sin is the problem there is no human cure! Repentant faith in Christ is our only answer.

It is my hope that Southern Baptist Christians pray during the vigil. The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the North American Mission Board have not only sponsored this vigil each election cycle since 2008, but they have prepared for us the Prayer Guide as an invaluable tool to aid in the effectiveness of our prayers. This guide can help both churches and individuals pray specifically for those issues in our nation, churches and our personal lives. I urge you to encourage each of your church members to earnestly pray to our great and awesome Lord during these 40 days of prayer.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bryant Wright is pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., and immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention. To learn more, visit www.4040prayer.com.)
6/29/2012 12:40:35 PM by Bryant Wright, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

It’s the size of your heart, not your church

June 28 2012 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS – Chris Jenkins wants fellow pastors to know something up front: It’s not easy to get your church strategically involved in global missions.

In fact, it might be the hardest thing you ever do.

“I hear the IMB giving us these steps, you do this and you do that, and it sounds easy,” says Jenkins, pastor of Unity Baptist Church, a congregation of about 200 people in semi-rural Prince George, Va. Four years ago, the church called IMB’s prayer office and committed to pray for a nomadic group in the Sahara Desert with more than 300,000 people and only one known Christian.

“We wanted somebody that nobody else wanted,” Jenkins told messengers to the annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting in New Orleans during IMB’s convention presentation June 19. “Of course, we just wanted to pray for them and didn’t have a clue what we were getting into.”
They were getting into something that is revolutionizing their church – and might just revolutionize the people group they began visiting in 2010. But that’s getting ahead of the story. Jenkins insists he’s like most pastors: so busy he can barely carve out enough time to handle garden-variety ministry and family life – much less a major commitment to an unknown group thousands of miles away.

“When you’re dealing with a couple hundred people in your congregation and they all have a different idea of what you’re supposed to be doing, it’s hard to put rubber to the road,” he admits. “You’re dealing with hospital visits and marriages falling apart and teenagers getting in trouble at school. You’ve got single moms trying to pay the bills, and they need help with their kids. Then you’re trying to have a family of your own. [Jenkins and his wife have three foster children in addition to their own two children.]

“You want the church to be missional, but it’s overwhelming.”

Yet Jenkins and his flock couldn’t ignore God’s call to the nations. Unity has become one of hundreds of churches and entities to act on its commitment to embrace an unengaged, unreached people group.

Before, “We liked to talk like we were a church on mission, but we really knew it was just a show,” he told listeners during the International Mission Board (IMB) program. “We were more concerned with what was going on inside the four walls [of the church] instead of out.” After Unity’s first trip to the Sahara in 2010, their whole outlook began to change – beginning with Jenkins himself.

“God kind of slapped me around a little bit” on that trip, he reflects. “I was getting comfortable as a pastor. I was getting comfortable doing American ministry. … I saw people, thousands of miles away, that are going through things I could never imagine going through, and they have no one in their life sharing with them that God cares. … How in the world are they going to know it unless we’re out there with our hearts, pouring ‘em out, with our hands, getting ‘em dirty, and with our voices telling people about the Good News of Jesus Christ?”

That first journey – and three more since – have changed priorities at Unity. Some members are selling cars and taking second jobs, even planning for early retirement, to get involved in the Sahara mission, according to Jenkins. “And what we’ve learned on the global side certainly has helped us on the local side” – whether it’s reaching out to public schools in Prince George or other ministries.

During his time at the SBC meeting, Jenkins had the chance to share his experience with other pastors, both as a participant in the IMB presentation and in one-on-one conversations around IMB’s “prayer tent” exhibit.

“To be mobilizing others when we’re just getting mobilized, it helps you see the work that God is doing,” he says. “But I feel like a cat in water, too. I dove in and here I am trying to help other people. Sure, we’ve sent four teams, but I’m not ignorant enough to think that we’re an engaging church just because we’ve sent four teams. We’re still learning about our people, what our platform is and how we’re going to raise money for the next 10 or 20 years to do this thing.

“But I want to help churches see that this is not just for mega-churches. You don’t have to have a thousand people in your sanctuary on Sunday morning to be able to adopt an unengaged, unreached people group. If you’ve got 80 people in your church, adopt that people group, be as loud about ‘em as you can, find other churches of 80 members to team up with, and you might have a thousand people reaching out to that group one day. It’s for all of us. It doesn’t matter our size; it doesn’t matter our race. … That’s who God has called – the local church.”

The first step, he adds, is to take a first step:

“Start praying for a people group. Start researching and learning about them. It’s amazing what God does in your heart as a pastor and the heart of your congregation as they start to literally embrace a people group, not just on paper. Their heart starts to get wrapped around these people and they start seeing a God-sized call and a God-sized task in reaching them. I came [to the SBC meeting] to talk to pastors and see churches get fired up.”

As IMB President Tom Elliff says, it’s not the size of a church that matters in embracing lost peoples; it’s the size of the heart of a church.

And its pastor’s heart.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is IMB global correspondent. Visit “WorldView Conversation,” the blog related to this column, at http://worldviewconversation.blogspot.com/. Listen to an audio version at http://media1.imbresources.org/files/156/15602/15602-86086.mp3.)

6/28/2012 4:08:03 PM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Turning a page in SBC history (& shedding tears of joy)

June 27 2012 by Rick Lance, Baptist Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Tears welled up in my eyes when I stood applauding the election of Fred Luter as the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). I was not alone in the demonstrative display of emotion. You could feel it in the atmosphere of the room. Few times have I experienced such a moment as that in a gathering of fellow SBC messengers at a convention meeting.

Having grown up in Birmingham during the height of the civil rights era, I was so glad that we as Southern Baptists could come to the place where we could celebrate such a moment. There were times in the past when I saw progress in racial reconciliation, but there were never moments such as this one when we could come together and rejoice in the Lord over them. Thankfully, that high and holy moment came during this SBC meeting.

At the National African American Fellowship meeting, I joined hundreds of others, Anglo and African American, in a worship service where Luter spoke so eloquently and poignantly about what brought him to this place of leadership at this strategic time in our history. Fred Luter has never preached a bad sermon – at least I have never heard him do so. On this occasion, he was at his best.

His message was vintage Fred Luter. He was humble but courageous. Fred told of being asked by a reporter why he wanted to be president. He answered “Why not?”

Then he laid out three reasons for his willingness to serve. First, because of “the right Person.” He was speaking of course of Jesus, our Lord, as being the right Person. Fred described how he sought the Lord in determining whether he should allow himself to be nominated. He and his wife prayed and fasted for a lengthy period before accepting the challenge.

The second point of his message focused on “the right process.” This was the process of waiting for the right time to serve. Years ago, Fred was approached about being nominated for the position, and he said, “The time is not right.” Concerning this point, Fred Luter spoke so clearly about how change takes time and very few of us want to wait on it. “Waiting on the Lord” is a part of preparation for service, and Fred Luter knew that so well. Now, his time had come.

As Fred transitioned to his third point, which focused on “the right promises,” the crowd was reaching a crescendo of emotion. Many were standing and clapping. Everyone in that room, Anglo or African-American, stood on the same promises: the promises of God! We all were applauding and praising the Lord for His precious promises.

In electing Fred Luter as our new president, Southern Baptists were electing one of our own and one of our best. I remember well when Fred preached last year at our state convention. He was not feeling well, and yet he told me that he had to travel back to New Orleans during the night to be present for an associational meeting the next morning. This is a strong indication of what kind of leader we have in our new president.

Fred Luter understands Baptist life on all levels. He has served his church, Franklin Avenue Baptist, so well during the past 25 years, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He is involved in his local association and state convention in vital ways. He is an example of commitment to missions at every point of Baptist life. He knows Southern Baptists well.

I left this convention meeting feeling like we have made some positive history. We now can turn not just a page in our history but begin a whole new chapter. We need to pray for our new president as he leads us. As is always the case, pressures will mount upon him, and the secular world will put him to test in ways no other president has been tested in the recent past. However, I believe in Fred Luter, and I know that with the Lord’s help he is up to the task.

As a young boy growing up, I often heard the tired-old saying, “Big boys don’t cry.” I am glad that trite expression is so wrong, because when my friend and brother Fred Luter was elected as our president, I shed a few tears. I couldn’t help it. It was indeed a high and holy moment for us all and I am glad I lived to see it.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rick Lance is executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. This column first appeared on his blog at RickLance.com.)
6/27/2012 1:30:51 PM by Rick Lance, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Only God can repay you’

June 27 2012 by Anna Farmer, Baptist Press

(EDITOR’S NOTE – The following note was written by a Baptist Global Response partner after the first distribution of food to two villages in Mali suffering in the Sahel food crisis. The name has been changed for security reasons. You can help save lives in this crisis by donating to the World Hunger Fund at worldhungerfund.com.)

DAKAR, Senegal – It’s going to be difficult to put into words the experience we had distributing food to these villages. I should begin by saying thank you to all of you have given to the World Hunger Fund. We brought six truckloads of grain to two different villages.
Upon our arrival at the first village, nearly all the residents came to the road to welcome us. We were greeted with traditional musicians and singers, then treated to dancing – something I’ve not seen amongst this people group. It was a festive air, filled with the anticipation of the arrival of much-needed grain. The first truck had arrived, and three days later the second arrived. In the interval, our team had the opportunity to share stories and participate in village activities, such as a baby-naming ceremony.

Through this gift of love and our relational approach to the people, the residents of these villages now have a better understanding of God’s love. After we had distributed the grain, we met with the village elders, who repeatedly thanked us for the food. They told us it arrived just in time.

BGR photo

A Southern Baptist relief worker and her West African friend celebrate the arrival of a six-month supply of food in a village in Africa’s Sahel famine region. The provision of grain and peanuts will help two villages with a combined population of about 3,000 survive the summer.

After the second day of distribution, I was in the “shower” taking a bucket bath under the stars after yet another 120 degree-plus day. In the distance, I heard a lady let out this traditional whoop of joy. I heard banging, like on a drum. After supper that night, our host asked if I had heard the lady. I said yes, and he went on to tell me a bit of her story.

She was a divorced lady with four children; her husband had left her. Because she had no man to advocate for her to be on the recipient list for the grain we were distributing, she knew she and her children would be left out. When she got home from her work, however, she found enough grain for a family of five sitting in her courtyard. It was then she let out the whoop I had heard earlier, and she began to beat a five-gallon water jug as a makeshift drum. She told her neighbors she was going to beat the drum all night because she now had food to feed her children!

The second village that received the grain was about three times larger than the first. Two semi trucks arrived shortly after we did, and we inventoried the contents as they unloaded. We then got to wait another two days for the other two trucks to arrive. As those trucks were unloaded, the village treated us to traditional drumming and dancing in thanks for the food. They couldn’t believe we would really bring such a gift. Our team and two volunteers from a sister organization measured out bowls of corn and peanuts to be sure the food was equally distributed – hot and dusty work.

Our last night in the village, we were called to the public square for more dancing and drumming. It was a very special night. We got back to our hosts’ home at about 11:30 p.m., all of us quite tired and ready for bed. Just 10 minutes later, though, the traditional singers and drummers came into the yard. They had followed us back to dance and sing more for us. Never mind some of us were already in bed. The song they sang, though, was the sweetest: “Who brought us corn? Who brought us peanuts? Who brought us millet? Jesus did!”

During the past two weeks, I have received many thanks and blessings from the recipients of the grain. Our prayer from the beginning has been that this food would be seen given by Jesus and not simply the Americans. Villagers came to us and said, “We thought you’d forgotten about us. We were told you went back to America and didn’t care.” We explained that we had to leave for a little while but we were back for now. Others came to us and said, “You just don’t understand, the food came just in time.” Each time our team got to respond with a story and words of love.

Many of these families had little or no food left at all in their homes. The neighbors of our teammates had had no food at all in their home that week. One teammate returned to his village and noticed there were very few folks out and about to talk with. He asked where everyone was and was told “Oh, they’re at home sleeping. We finally have food in our stomachs, and we can sleep now.” Before, the majority of the village was too hungry to sleep through the night.

So it’s been a humbling two weeks for me. Sure, it was 12 days of 120- to 128-degree weather – with a few rains and sandstorms tossed in to keep things interesting – and some interesting food (tastes like chicken!). All of our team can testify to the Lord’s provision and strength through it all. We got to share about God’s love, and because of your generosity, softer hearts will reflect on things tonight as they eat supper.

We hope to do at least one more distribution to these villages before the harvest comes in. Please ask the Lord to send timely and abundant rains to these villages on the fringe of the Sahara desert. Also, ask the Lord to answer the cries of the many, many villages that did not receive this blessing. Many will be hungry tonight in Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.

Thank you for giving. It was a profound blessing to our team during this time of chaos in Mali where the only thing certain is hunger. I just wish we could do more.

Only God can repay you. (Malian proverb/blessing)

(EDITOR’S NOTE – You can help save lives in this crisis by donating to the World Hunger Fund at worldhungerfund.com.)

Related story
As African Sahel hunger crisis deepens, pleas for help grow
6/27/2012 1:26:04 PM by Anna Farmer, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Did Noah’s Ark have dinosaurs?

June 19 2012 by Mark Coppenger, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Were there dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark? Maybe so. If they were alive on the earth in Noah’s day, then they were included in God’s directive that Noah bring two of every kind of land animal and bird into the ark (Genesis 6:18-21).

But wouldn’t that have been impossible, given the dinosaurs’ size and temperament? How could massive herbivores like an apatosaurus and savage carnivores like a Tyrannosaurus rex fit onto the boat and behave themselves? Well, first of all, the ark was huge – more than three football fields long and approximately 45 yards tall and 75 yards wide.

Second, Noah only had to load general kinds of animals, not every species. So, for instance, he didn’t have to board a pair of zebras, a pair of Clydesdales, a pair of Lipizzaners, a pair of Thoroughbreds, etc. One set from the horse family would do just fine, and breeds could emerge down the line. Similarly a few dozen dinosaur types, if that many, could cover things. Third, the dinosaurs didn’t need to be adults; babies or juveniles could fill the bill.

Fourth, if Noah (with God’s help) could keep the lions from eating the sheep, the snakes from biting the frogs and the elephants from trampling the mice, then he could keep the dinosaurs under control.

So what’s the problem? Well, many Christians agree with the majority of scientists that the earth is extremely old (perhaps 4.5 billion years), and that dinosaurs appeared and were long gone by the time man arrived on the scene as God’s special creation, Adam and Eve. (This “old-earth creationist” view is presented at reasons.org and answersincreation.org.) “Young-earth creationists” (see icr.org and answersingenesis.org) maintain that dinosaurs were part of God’s creation-week work, along with Adam, and that these creatures and man co-existed on earth. Following the various genealogies given in the Bible, from Adam on down, they calculate the age of the earth to be somewhere under 10,000 years.

Where you stand on this dispute depends in part upon your view of the behavior of the universe back through the centuries. If you take a “uniformitarian” view, you argue that the patterns we see now (such as radioactive decay or sedimentary rock formation) are reliably constant, and so we can extrapolate from our current experience back through the millennia to make claims about the fossil record, often postulating some form of God-directed evolution.

Those who embrace “catastrophism” beg to differ, saying that Noah’s flood is a perfect example of how God has engineered great upheavals in the order of things, an event reflected in Psalm 104:5-9. They also say that death and decay – including the destruction of dinosaurs – didn’t occur until after man sinned (Genesis 3), and that, besides, there may well be references to dinosaurs in the Bible (though the word, “dinosaur” didn’t appear until the 19th century). They claim, for instance, that the “behemoth” in Job 40 can’t be a hippo or elephant since they don’t have tails “like a cedar.” And they wonder whether the King James Version’s reference to dragons (dinosaurs?) in Deuteronomy 32:33 and Micah 1:8 might be closer to reality that the modern versions, which translate the Hebrew word, “tanniym/tanniyn” as “serpents” and “jackals.”

Whichever way they go on this, all believers should agree that God is Lord of the universe and that He can form, alter and dispose of it exactly as He pleases. Furthermore, the Bible is God’s Word, and whatever position one chooses, it must be consistent with Scripture or be discarded.

Not surprisingly, I’m a “young earther,” and I don’t think it’s a trivial matter. However, some fellow evangelicals I highly respect aren’t there ... yet. In the meantime, we work together to fulfill the Great Commission, delivered by our Lord in Matthew 28:19-20, and rejoice in the great sweep of Scripture, centered on Christ.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – This column first appeared at the blog of Bible Mesh, online at biblemesh.com/blog. Mark Coppenger is director of the Nashville extension center and professor of Christian apologetics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.)
6/19/2012 1:20:29 PM by Mark Coppenger, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

The Rise of Individualism

June 18 2012 by Rit Varriale, Guest Column

The term “individualism” has a variety of nuances. For purposes of this work, the term is used to refer to the value, protection, and promotion of the rights and beliefs of the individual. That’s a good thing. Each individual should be valued in a society.
Yet, when we talk about protecting the individual, a valid question is raised, namely: “From what does the individual need to be protected?”
In answering this question, we begin to understand the dominant philosophy that drives our modern sense of justice in the West.
Our civil philosophy and sense of justice demand that the rights and beliefs of the individual must be protected against the rights and beliefs of the majority. Now, from one perspective this is very logical and necessary for a just society.
If you don’t give some type of protection to the individual or minority group, then the majority will simply outvote them and nullify any influence a dissenting individual or minority group might have in society.
Yet, from another perspective, the unchecked promotion of individual rights can be incredibly damaging to a society because the majority opinion is intentionally suppressed in order to let the minority opinion be expressed.
Such a promotion of individualism first manifests itself in the expectation that the larger society should adapt for the individual, but the individual is not expected to adapt to the larger society.
A second and even more disastrous manifestation is a complete cultural shift of morals and responsibilities in which the values and opinions of the minority are forced upon the majority by the courts. When this happens on a regular basis over the course of centuries, not only does the majority opinion become subservient to the individual/minority opinion in the courtroom, the majority opinion actually loses its influence over the larger society.
This is what has happened in the United States, and this is what is destroying our nation. Our unchecked promotion of individual rights has evolved into an expression of irresponsible individualism.
Considering the fact that the U.S. was formed during the Enlightenment Period, it should come as no surprise that our nation embodies the philosophies and pursuits of that era.
Yet, it also embodies the inherent dangers of the Enlightenment Period, namely, an overemphasis on the individual. It’s absolutely essential to understand that one of the principal goals of many contemporary secularists is the empowerment of the minority opinion and the subjugation of the majority opinion.
This goal isn’t rooted in some national or global conspiracy theory. Rather, the goal of protecting and promoting the individual/minority opinion is rooted in the naïve belief that protecting the minority opinion from the majority opinion is the true expression of democratic justice. Our blind commitment to irresponsible individualism works like this — since defending the individual/minority opinion was clearly the right decision at some points in our history (e.g. the abolition of slavery, women’s rights, the Civil Rights movement), then it must be the right decision all the time (e.g. financial aid for illegal aliens, the promotion of the LGBT agenda, supporting polygamous marriage, the promotion of Islam in the West, etc.).
Ironically, this approach to individual rights is incredibly narrow-minded and anti-intellectual even though it is embraced by many who perceive themselves as intellectuals.
A recent example of the thoughtless pursuit of irresponsible individualism is depicted in the legal action being taken by the polygamists portrayed in the TV show, “Sister Wives.” Their attorney, Jonathan Turley, states on his blog dated July 13, 2011: “We are not demanding the recognition of polygamous marriage. We are only challenging the right of the state to prosecute people for their private relations …  In that sense, the challenge is designed to benefit not just polygamists but all citizens who wish to live their lives according to their own values — even if those values run counter to those of the majority in the state.”
Did you catch the last section of the quote? In the name of justice and freedom, the courts are being used to suppress the values of the majority. This has been going on for decades, but hardly anyone challenges it because we have been taught that this is how a democracy works. Under the current system of thought, it’s an injustice to offend an individual or minority group, in this case polygamists, but it’s proper to promote values and opinions that “run counter to those of the majority” regardless of how many people are offended. That’s not a democracy. That’s irresponsible individualism.
Ironically, irresponsible individualism is the greater injustice because it offends the majority of a nation’s citizens. You see, irresponsible individualism doesn’t dominate our society because it’s synonymous with justice. It dominates our society because the majority have failed to stand up for their beliefs. For over a century now, many of our leading thinkers, politicians, and judges have been aggressive in their protection and promotion of the beliefs and values of the minority opinion while at the same time vehemently opposing the beliefs and values of the majority of our citizens. This is the reason, not in part but in whole, that America has changed so quickly with respect to its beliefs and values. What else would you expect when our leaders deliberately work against the beliefs and values of the majority of our people?
The next time you hear people say they’re frustrated because they don’t know why our nation has changed so much, set them straight. Tell them why we’ve changed. Tell them it’s the result of leaders who have convinced the majority that they must, in the name of democracy and justice, submit their beliefs and values to the minority opinion, but be sure to tell them that’s an illogical lie. It’s the lie of irresponsible individualism.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an excerpt from Rit Varriale’s book, Reformation in Responsibility: A New Ethic for a New Era. The Biblical Recorder published a story about Varriale and his book in the June 9 issue. Varriale is pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby.)
Related story
Editorial by K. Allan Blume: Reformation or Revolution?
N.C. pastor shares inspiration behind new book
6/18/2012 2:09:13 PM by Rit Varriale, Guest Column | with 0 comments

Be there

June 15 2012 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. – Don’t just do something; stand there.

Better yet, kneel there. Be there.

It’s easy to switch the verbs in the old, accusatory challenge to do something – anything – rather than stand around. Lots of preachers, speakers and writers invert the familiar phrase to encourage us to slow down and be still. But it’s hard for us action-oriented Americans to stop and just be. Inaction, even for a moment, seems lazy, unproductive, even weird. We should be multitasking.

Stillness? It’s a little scary.

Yet stillness is where we meet God. To be His heart, His hands and His voice – IMB’s overarching theme for 2012 – we must lay aside the sound and fury of our ceaseless activities, our personal priorities and our very selves to encounter Him. We need His heart to make a difference in the world, not our divided, selfish hearts. His hands do the healing, not our powerless hands. His voice cuts to the core of searching souls, not our meaningless chatter.

“… If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me,” Jesus says. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it” (Matthew 16:24, 25).

There’s plenty of positive action cited in that statement: come, take up, follow, save. Before any of that can happen, however, first there’s a negative action, an “inaction,” so to speak: deny self.

If you’re planning to attend the annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting in New Orleans June 19-20, I recommend a visit to the IMB exhibit. This year it won’t be a media extravaganza or a place to socialize and pick up lots of free stuff. It will be, in essence, a tent – a place of prayer. There, you will find four stations where you will have the opportunity to deny yourself, to take up your cross, to follow Jesus and to lose your life for Him.

When you emerge, you’ll find visual representations of the thousands of people groups throughout the world who have yet to hear the name of Jesus, much less His loving offer of salvation. They wait for someone with God’s heart, hands and voice to come to them with the joyful news. He longs to send someone. Maybe you are that someone.

But you need to spend time in the tent first – whether it be a physical place or an inner one.

Psalm 46:10 is my favorite mission verse: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Stop. Listen. Know. Be. Only then can you act in obedience – no matter the cost. Only then will you know His power.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is global correspondent for the International Mission Board (IMB). Visit “WorldView Conversation,” the blog related to this column, at http://worldviewconversation.blogspot.com/. Listen to an audio version at http://media1.imbresources.org/files/154/15420/15420-84831.mp3.)
6/15/2012 2:23:38 PM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Let’s LoveLoud, Southern Baptists

June 13 2012 by Al Gilbert, Baptist Press

Recently I had a conversation with a church planter in San Francisco. The one-year-old church has been heavily involved in helping a local school. They are tutoring struggling kids, supporting teachers and their families and have helped with repair work at the school.
They are also providing practical help for another struggling group in their community –young women overcoming addictions. Recently, they took up a $10,000 offering to help the school and these struggling women. Demonstrating God’s love in practical ways is part of this church’s DNA.
A few years ago I might have thought this church planter was spending his energy on the wrong things. No more. Quite frankly, I’d missed this for most of my ministry. Having served on the staff of the International Mission Board, I had a glimpse of God’s love for all peoples – panta ta ethne – every people group on the planet. I still believe it – with every fiber of my being. Yet I had missed another clear stream of scripture – God’s heart for the neglected neighbor.  
Throughout scripture we see God’s love for the widow, orphan, foreigner and the poor. The same gospel that moves us to see every tribe, tongue and nation also moves us to see those who live nearby – those with great need for food, shelter, medical care and education. The gospel moves us to see the neglected neighbor!
We’re on the cusp of a new movement of Southern Baptist churches who are demonstrating God’s love by meeting significant human need while sharing Christ. You can see it everywhere—from longtime established churches in the South to new church plants in the urban centers of the Northeast and the West. Since our mission at the North American Mission Board (NAMB) is to penetrate lostness in North America, we must do whatever it takes to be a catalyst for this kind of movement. What will it take to cultivate this movement?
First, we must understand God’s heart for the neglected neighbor. Our theological root system must incorporate what God’s Word teaches on this important issue. If we start talking about events and actions without a root system in place, there will be little to no fruit. Scripture teaches that our Lord is the God of the widow, the orphan, the foreigner among us and the poor (Zechariah 7:10, Proverbs 14:31; Matthew 25, James 1:27, etc.).
Before we can effectively demonstrate God’s love to the neglected neighbor, we must realize our calling doesn’t come from a sense of altruism but from the Spirit of Christ.
Second, we must mobilize churches to love loud in their communities. People in our communities have needs—some overwhelming. Our churches are filled with the resources, skills and gifts to help meet many of these needs. There is a real disconnect when we are surrounded by overwhelming needs and the church is doing nothing to help.  So, how do you mobilize a church?
It starts when church leaders find ways to identify those needs. Someone makes a list that includes activities like tutoring, food, medical or dental help. Then the church is unleashed to meet those needs while sharing Christ. Creativity follows commitment! Imagine what God can do through our churches when it becomes our regular practice to love loud!
For example, Pastor David Uth is mobilizing First Baptist Church of Orlando, Fla., to love loudly in Orlando. Last year he told me he’s seeing the favor and blessing of God on the church as the congregation is willing to notice and care for people who have been hurt and neglected.
Finally, we must develop networks to help church planters love loud in their communities.
Some of the most extreme human needs in North America can be found in the most unreached cities on the continent. We know there are people in our churches who have been uniquely gifted by God to meet those great needs. Through Send North America, we can find ways to come alongside church planters and help them love their communities.
There are dozens of church planters like the pastor in San Francisco who could use some help. And there will be many more.
I pray God will pour out His blessing on your church and our Southern Baptist Convention as we love loud throughout North America.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Al Gilbert is executive director of LoveLoud at the North American Mission Board. Visit namb.net/loveloud to find out how your church can get involved in LoveLoud.) 
LoveLoud Sunday, July 22  
Imagine what could happen if Southern Baptists were sharing Christ while meeting the needs of neglected neighbors, neglected communities and neglected children. LoveLoud Sunday, July 22, is a time to consider how to live out the gospel in word and deed.
Challenge your church to prayerfully consider practical ways to demonstrate God’s love. Consider things like sports clinics in a neglected community, home repairs and service projects for the elderly, or adopting a neglected neighborhood school.
Contact local community ministries and ask how your church can help them (paint their building, provide supplies, etc.).
Ask God to open your eyes to see your neglected neighbors—imagine what could happen!
For more information and things to consider, go to namb.net/LoveLoud.

6/13/2012 12:17:15 PM by Al Gilbert, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

5 lessons about manhood I learned from my dad

June 12 2012 by Jason Lee, Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas – I was blessed to have my dad when I was growing up. Not only that, I also knew both of my grandfathers (since they were World War II vets, one at Utah Beach and the other on Guadalcanal, that was not a given). Not everybody is as blessed as I was.
Today, many boys – through no fault of their own – grow up with no dad in sight. Because of that situation, these boys are put at a great disadvantage. One of the true treasures of my childhood was the father-son relationship with my dad. I watched him. I copied him. I learned from him. All other men were measured against him. From an early age, I wanted to be a man like Dad.

I would not be the same man, husband, father today if it were not for the things I learned from my dad. Some lessons of manhood are caught as much as taught. Not all lessons were positive and many would not show up in a Sunday School curriculum. Dad did not always mean to be teaching me, but I learned from him nonetheless. Many of the manhood lessons that I learned from my dad are hard to express in words. However, I will try to verbalize at least a few of them:

– Men work hard – a lesson Dad learned from his dad. My dad worked the day shift at his job (maintenance/electrical) and then came home in the late afternoon to work at home. Dad built our home. He fenced in the pasture. He planted gardens. He fixed our cars. He trained our animals. When finances were tight, he took on outside jobs for extra cash. Whatever the task before him, Dad worked until it was done, even if it took longer than he or Mom liked.

– Men serve others. Before he was ever labeled a “deacon” at his church, Dad served people. He did not speak often in a public setting, but he was the “behind-the-scenes” man that made life easier for others. He worked in the bus ministry at church. He helped in children’s church. He did (and still does) pro bono electrical work for widows. Small tasks didn’t bore him. Dirty tasks didn’t scare him.

– Men love their families. Dad did not do sappy sentimentalism. Hallmark never asked him to write cards for them. However, he loved us and it showed. He provided for us and worked harder if we needed more. He took us to our sport practices and taught us to fish. He loved our mom and spent weekends with us. He talked with us about life choices.

– Men make choices and live with consequences. Leading a home is not a glamorous position filled with lots of accolades. It is not about “coming up big” in the big moments. Leading a home is about thousands of small, daily choices. For Dad, many of these decisions were already made. Once you made a principled decision, as future similar choices appeared you already knew what to do. Dad taught us that with each choice comes a consequence, good or bad. He learned from his own dad that bad choices bring bad consequences. Dad did not shield us from the consequences of our choices. If I challenged his authority, there were consequences. If I made foolish choices at school or in the neighborhood, I suffered the consequences. My natural pride and stubbornness often led me to challenge this choice-consequence relationship. Dad let me see that it applied to me as well.

– Men trust the Lord. Before Dad married my mom, he had strayed from the Lord and knew it. However, when they were expecting me, through repentance and faith, my dad renewed his walk with the Lord and my mom professed her faith through baptism. As a consequence (see previous lesson), all I ever knew was a Christian home. Dad (and Mom) made sure that my brother and I were involved in church during our childhood and teen years. When he faced difficulties or hard choices, Dad leaned on the Lord. Even though our financial provisions often were modest, Dad taught us to be thankful to the Lord for what we had. Dad reminded me that my faith in the Lord should end up with obedience to the Lord.

I am thankful for the many lessons that I learned from my dad. Now that I have five children of my own, it is my time to invest in my children and to trust them to the Lord. I hope to teach my three sons to be real men who will walk with the Lord. To all the fathers out there, I challenge you to meditate on Deuteronomy 6, Psalm 78 and Ephesians 6. Make these texts the formative wisdom of your life. If you do, your children will blessed by a dad who teaches them to trust the Lord, as I was.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jason Lee is associate professor of historical theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. This column first appeared at TheologicalMatters.com, a blog of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
6/12/2012 1:56:41 PM by Jason Lee, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

8 tips for fathers on Father’s Day

June 11 2012 by Diana Davis, Baptist Press

INDIANAPOLIS – Christian fathers can positively impact our families and the world. Share the following Bible-based tips with fathers you know.

The list may be downloaded at keeponshining.com under the “free stuff” tab. Add your church name and logo and laminate the list to make a bookmark suitable for a Father’s Day giveaway at church.

– Pray for your children.

Seize opportunities to pray while kneeling at the bedside of your sleeping children, driving to work or chauffeuring them to school, or before tucking them into bed. Pray aloud with them. Take your needs and crises to God and praise Him corporately as a family when He blesses.

“Pray constantly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

– Invest time in your child’s life.

Create father/child traditions, such as birthday breakfasts with dad and father/daughter or father/son outings. Read Sunday funnies together or share a hobby. Even on busy days, spend at least a few focused minutes with your child. Take a walk, shoot baskets, go for a soda or play a board game.

Listen. Comfort. Make eye contact. Speak wisdom. Make lifetime memories with family vacations. Yes, a backyard campout counts. Idea: Offer to substitute teach your child’s Sunday School class.

“Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

– Be your home’s spiritual leader.

Enthusiastically initiate family commitment to God, His Word and His church. Read your Bible. Truly love His church. Help your children know Jesus as their personal Savior.

Verbalize your God story, sharing your salvation experience. Talk about answered prayer. Conversationally acknowledge God’s importance in your life.

Teach God’s ways to your child constantly – when you sit, walk, lay or stand, as Deuteronomy 11:18-21 encourages.

Idea: Text a scripture or write a verse on a note card to your child.

“Tell your children about it, and let your children tell their children, and their children the next generation” (Joel 1:3).

– Love your wife.

Let your children see you show genuine affection to their mom with compliments, hugs, laughs and prayers. You’re teaching them how to treat their future spouse.

Idea: Tell your children how you fell in love with their mom.

“Each one of you is to love his wife as himself…” (Ephesians 5:33).

– Encourage your children.

Show family affection. Laugh together. Delight in your children. Say often, “I love you.” Compliment sincerely. Speak positively about them to others.

Be the parent. Your child needs a father, not just another buddy. Your loving discipline and wise boundaries demonstrate your love.

Idea: Hug your child for at least ten seconds today.

“Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

– Serve God together.

Help your children discover and use their spiritual gifts. Set an example of joyful service to God. Find ways to include your children, such as homebound visits, church workdays, mission trips and church projects.

“Serve the Lord with gladness.” (Psalm 100:2).

– Be a man of integrity.

Your child is watching your life to emulate it. Tape this on your dressing mirror: “I will lead a life of integrity in my own home” (Psalm 101:2).

– Enjoy your quiver.

Psalm 127:3-5 reads in part: “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him. Children ... are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!” On average, child-rearing days encompass less than a third of your adult years. Treasure them.

Happy Father’s Day.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Davis is an author, speaker and wife of the North American Mission Board’s vice president for the Midwest region, Steve Davis.)
6/11/2012 1:06:44 PM by Diana Davis, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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