June 2017

We need more Aquilas and Priscillas

July 3 2017 by Greg Mathias

Symmetry appeals to me. I often stop and take notice when I see it in nature. Having things line up and correspond breathes life into my world. However, life would be boring if everything was symmetrical. When things don’t line up, life’s unexpected twists or turns add color and vibrancy to the world around us.
I think we try to find too much symmetry in the worlds of missions and business. We want everything to line up. Specifically, we want missionaries and businessmen to accomplish the same things. Yet they are two different worlds that can work together, but not always in the way we think. And this adds color and vibrancy to the church.
Missionaries and businessmen are not the same, but they need each other.

The example of Aquila and Priscilla

I want to highlight a couple who was used of God through their business – Aquila and Priscilla. They were a dynamic couple that was booted out of Rome (Acts 18:2). They landed in Corinth and then provided a place for Paul to stay and work after his travels from Athens. Aquila and Priscilla quickly move from acquaintances to invaluable friends and co-laborers in the ministry with Paul.
Why did Aquila and Priscilla move from the status of acquaintance to lifelong friend of Paul? There are at least four reasons:
1. They were consummate encouragers. By the time Paul landed in Corinth, he had experienced a difficult and trying season of ministry in Thessalonica and Berea. Paul couldn’t escape his rowdy Jewish fan club who kept stirring up riots against him, so he stayed in Athens for a bit while he waited for his traveling companions, Timothy and Barnabas.
After some mixed ministry results in Athens, he ended up in Corinth. Upon arrival, Paul found a couple who opened up their home to him. Not only did Aquila and Priscilla open up their home to Paul, they also provided for his needs – through work. Paul worked as a tentmaker out of need, and it was through this provision that God provided financial and relational encouragement.
2. They were hard workers. Aquila and Priscilla were able to give Paul a place to rest and work while providing relational capital for him. They were bridges into the community for Paul. It is through their reputation in the Corinthian community, among their business associates and neighbors, that Paul began ministering the gospel. Aquila and Priscilla provided a gospel-centric network for Paul.
3. They were faithful at their jobs and in their church. At the end of Corinthians Paul specifically mentions Aquila, Priscilla and their church (1 Corinthians 16:19). Their church enthusiastically prayed for and sent greetings back to the Corinthian church. The people in Corinth already knew Aquila and Priscilla, as faithful workers and as a fellow brother and sister-in-Christ, so this greeting added a personal touch to this letter from Paul. Paul’s ministry was enhanced due to the reputation of Aquila and Priscilla.
4. They were trusted companions and co-laborers. Paul calls them fellow workers (Romans 16:2). We know that Aquila and Priscilla didn’t go everywhere with Paul, nor did they minister in the exact same way as he did, but they faithfully proclaimed the gospel wherever they were – Rome, Corinth or Ephesus. They were believers who lived out the gospel in word and deed, to the point that they risked their very lives for Paul. Aquila and Priscilla gave Paul ample reason to give thanks to the Lord (Romans 16:4)!

Aquila, Priscilla and You

If you are being sent as a missionary, begin praying for an Aquila and Priscilla to receive and encourage you. Ministry is difficult and often lonely. Seek out brothers and sisters whom you can be more than acquaintances of, but those that might become lifelong friends, co-laborers in the work and your reason for giving thanks to the Lord.
Maybe you sense that you are an aspiring Aquila and Priscilla. Perhaps the most encouraging and refreshing thing you can do for a missionary is provide short-term work that provides financially and relationally for them.
Here are some questions for you to consider as you seek to imitate Aquila and Priscilla:

  • Who are you encouraging in the ministry?

  • How are you helping bridge gospel-centric relationships into your community?

  • Are you known as faithful to both your job and your church?

  • In what ways are you faithfully proclaiming the gospel where you live and work?

Missionaries and businessmen are not the same, but they need each other. Similar to Paul and Aquila and Priscilla, they need the humility and ability to listen to one another, learn from one another and then, as opportunity presents itself, to work together.
The symmetry between missions and business is rarely a perfect match, but when these two spheres work together, the kingdom picture is compelling.
We need more Aquilas and Priscillas. We need faithful believers who proclaim the gospel wherever they are and who are not afraid to be a breath of encouragement to missionaries.
Will you consider being an Aquila and Priscilla?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This post first appeared at IntersectProject.org. Used by permission.)

7/3/2017 3:24:05 PM by Greg Mathias | with 0 comments

7 ways to welcome refugees into your neighborhood

June 30 2017 by Kathy Sharp

Imagine being a refugee landing in the United States for the first time.
You’ve been waiting for years for the opportunity to start your life again. You haven’t had a home to call your own, your children have only sporadically attended school, and your spouse suffers from insomnia and nightmares about the violence that drove you from your country. You don’t speak English, and you have no idea how to get started in a new country.

IMB Photo

Refugees have an array of hopes and fears as they acclimate to a new culture and new way of life. As followers of Jesus, we need to stand ready to embrace those who arrive in our cities and neighborhoods.
We have a ready opportunity to impact their hearts and lives for the gospel as they resettle in our midst.
Here are some practical ways to welcome them into your community:

Greet newly arrived refugees

Greet and transport a newly arrived refugee family from the airport to their new home. Meet them with a welcome basket filled with information about their new community, including emergency contact information, maps, invitations to your church worship services, tutoring sessions and ESL classes, as well as a note telling them how happy you are to have them in your community.

Be a friend

If you’ve ever moved to a new neighborhood, you understand that you don’t truly feel settled until you’ve been welcomed by new friends and neighbors. According to Terry Sharp, diaspora network leader for the International Mission Board (and my husband), most refugees are accustomed to being ignored, and loneliness is one of their greatest challenges.
For help getting to know a family and becoming a part of their lives as they adapt to a new country and culture, connect with the local resettlement agency that sponsors new refugees in your community, and learn about their volunteer opportunities.

Visit refugees in their homes

As with any friendship, you must make time for your new friends. Visit them frequently in their homes, and bring along a basket of fruit or a freshly baked cake. Allow time to stay and chat. Ask them questions about their family’s stories and how they came to arrive in your community.
Learn about their favorite foods and customs. They’ll likely be happy to share.
In return, you can share more about your family and some of your favorite traditions. If you’re invited to a meal, try everything. They’ll be happy to share their very best with you, even when they have a limited amount to give.

Help refugees adapt to their new communities

Take your refugee friends shopping and explain the different types of stores in your community. Help set up phone service and doctor’s appointments. You can also assist them in registering their children for school and showing them how to use public transportation.

Share your home and life

Open your home and welcome a refugee family into your everyday life. Share important milestones by inviting them to birthday parties.
Invite them to participate in routine family activities throughout the year. Teach them how to build a snowman, and serve hot chocolate or make homemade cookies.
Take them for their very first roller coaster ride at a local amusement park. Invite them to your children’s baseball or soccer games or to be your guests at a professional sporting event. Host them for their very first American picnic or cookout.

Share special holiday traditions

Invite your refugee friends to take part in your special holiday traditions at Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and any other festivities that may be new to them. Share the American tradition of thankfulness with a traditional turkey dinner.
Plan your favorite Christmas recipes, sing carols and give each family member a special gift. In the spring, invite them to the Easter service with your church. Special occasions like these can make your new friends feel honored and provide wonderful inroads to explain your hope in Jesus and the difference He makes in your daily life.

Cooperate with others

Churches and associational networks also have strategic opportunities to be a blessing to refugees in their area. Not only can they provide cross-cultural evangelism training to their members who will be building relational bridges, but they can also provide venues for larger community outreach.
Consider the following ministry possibilities:

  • ESL (English as a Second Language) classes for adults and tutoring sessions for children
  • Health screenings and basic health care
  • Classes on citizenship, budget planning, banking and driver’s education
  • A furniture bank where families can obtain essential household goods
  • Job boards to post hiring opportunities
  • Baby showers for new mothers

Ask the Lord to give you His heart for the refugees in your community.
Perhaps Jesus has placed specific families in your area so that you could be the one to demonstrate the gospel to them. Showing and sharing His love and compassion to refugees in your community can be one of the most strategic and rewarding global missions experience you will ever have.
For more information and links to related stories, go to imb.org/2017/06/23/how-7-ways-welcome-refugees.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kathy Chapman Sharp is a former IMB missionary who works as church communications and ministry marketing consultant. She currently resides in the Nashville area.)

6/30/2017 10:18:48 AM by Kathy Sharp | with 0 comments

Here’s my card

June 29 2017 by Diana Davis

The young mom ahead of you in the grocery line chats about her toddlers, and you mention your church’s awesome kids’ class and couples’ Bible study. She’s interested, so you give her your card and say, “Here’s my email. Let me know if you’d like to come on Sunday, and I’ll meet you at the entrance.”

Diana Davis

You can do this. Here’s an inexpensive, simple, effective tool for a Christian.
A personal card can turn casual conversation into a sincere offer of friendship or assistance. It personalizes a spontaneous invitation to church. It may open a door to share Jesus with someone who doesn’t yet know Him.
Go to an online or local print shop, and design a personal card. It’s simply a business card with your personal info such as name, email and phone. Select colors and graphics to reflect your own style. If you like, add a favorite scripture, quote or internet link to the plan of salvation (like findithere.com).
Next, work intentionally to make a habit of keeping cards with you at all times – in your pocket or backpack, your phone case, handbag, diaper bag, workout bag, beach bag. Whether you’re inside, outside, at work or play, consistently keep your card within reach.
Ask God to make you keenly aware of people around you who need friendship, help, encouragement or an invitation to church. Give away several cards every week for the purpose of representing Jesus. Jot a note like “Praying!” or an appropriate scripture reference. Or say, “Feel free to call if I can ever help you.”
You’ll find dozens of ways to use that little card, but here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Anytime you’re waiting in line, realize that God placed you there. At the post office, the doctor’s waiting room, the amusement park, bus stop, checkout line. Get your card ready, and begin a conversation.
  • To personalize a conversation with newcomers at worship, a small group gathering, women’s ministry or church events, share a card. If you teach preschoolers, give a card to parents. When visiting a sick or grieving person, leave a card.
  • Keep a card ready to share during leisure activities. At the library, the park, a concert, a festival, the ballpark. Walking. Gathering shells on the beach. At the kids’ karate practice or play date.
  • Intentionally get to know neighbors. Speak as they walk by when you’re outdoors. Meet newcomers. Attend homeowners meetings or neighborhood events.
  • Share a card in everyday conversations. Getting a haircut, a bagel, a prescription. Eating out. As you take a coffee break, go to a community meeting, volunteer activities, a garage sale.

Then, when that young mom from the grocery emails you, connect her with members of the couples’ class. Follow up, be a friend and introduce her to Jesus.
It’s amazing how God can use something as seemingly insignificant as a personal card to impact the eternity of those you encounter every day.
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders,” scripture tells us in Colossians 4:5, to “make the most of every opportunity.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Davis is online at dianadavis.org. Her newest book, co-written with her daughter Autumn Wall, Across the Street and Around the World, New Hope Publishers, is a resource for missions ideas for churches, small groups and individuals.)

6/29/2017 8:15:09 AM by Diana Davis | with 0 comments

Independence Day: ‘We face another challenging hour’

June 28 2017 by Doug Carver

One hundred years ago 5,543 registered messengers gathered in New Orleans for the 62nd session of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). A month earlier President Woodrow Wilson had declared war on Germany for violating its pledge to suspend unrestricted submarine warfare in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean, as well as its attempts to entice Mexico into an alliance against the United States.
Our nation immediately began drafting all able-bodied young men between the ages of 18 and 31 into the military. Over 25 percent of this age group, 4.7 million Americans, would be called up to serve in World War I, a global conflict that took the lives of 11 million military personnel and 7 million civilians. More than 107,000 U.S. troops lost their lives in this “war to end all wars,” including 23 military chaplains. One of those chaplains was a Southern Baptist from Salemburg, N.C., Auremas T. Howard.
The 1917 SBC was the first gathering of any religious group following America’s entry into World War I. Prayer was a prevailing theme of the convention. Messengers were encouraged to pray for the commander in chief, our national leaders and members of the Armed Services who would be required to make grave and costly decisions. They were reminded of how a world war would profoundly affect the economic and industrial base of America as well as its costly and immeasurable impact on our churches and local communities. The call for prayer would heighten in the spring of 1918 when an influenza epidemic began that would sweep the world, killing an estimated 50 million people.
R.H. Pitt, editor of Virginia’s state paper, The Religious Herald, said, “In these testing times ... Southern Baptists ... cannot afford to be dumb or indifferent. The seriousness of our situation must not be ignored. No one can forecast the duration of the struggle or estimate the sacrifices which the country will be called upon to make.
“Facing the stern and terrible realities of war, men will turn their thoughts instinctively and inevitably to God,” Pitt noted. “There will be opportunities in the military training camps and in the trenches of Europe and in our communities for bringing people to Jesus such as we have never known.”
E.Y. Mullins, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said that the best way to support our troops during the war was to strengthen their moral and spiritual life through the preaching of the gospel, especially to those young men from Baptist homes and Baptist churches who were laying their lives on the altar of their country.
In the world’s most trying hour, Southern Baptists stood firmly in support of our national leaders and our armed services. Southern Baptists directed that we put “strong, devout, and consecrated pastors” into the military as chaplains and made every effort to take the gospel to our troops as they mobilized, trained and deployed for combat.
Today, 100 years after America’s entry into World War I, we face another challenging hour filled with anxiety and uncertainty that most certainly requires the unfailing support of our armed services. For such a time as this, our troops and their families need our daily and constant prayers.
We enter into a sacred trust with our troops the moment they put on the uniform. When they raise their right hands and take the oath of enlistment, our troops swear to support and defend America against all enemies, foreign and domestic, knowing they may, at some point, have to stand in harm’s way, daily, through exhaustive heat and numbing cold, under almost 80 pounds of body armor and equipment, against a tough, often barbaric, enemy, never knowing as they go outside the forward operating base whether they’ll be greeted with a smile or a suicide vest.
The continued sacrifices of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guardsmen allow us to meet freely in our churches and share the gospel in our communities. They have made it possible for us to live safe and secure lives, pursue our dreams and exercise our religious liberty.
The sacred trust with our troops was forged in the hardships endured by our American military from Lexington to Yorktown, the bloody Civil War battles at Bull Run and Gettysburg, the trench warfare faced by our doughboys and marines in France and Belgium, the deadly assaults launched by our troops on the beaches at Normandy, the heroic stand of our soldiers and marines east of the Chosin reservoir in Korea, and the jungle warfare our troops waged against an almost invisible enemy in Vietnam.
It’s a trust paid for in the blood, sweat and tears of over 1 million Americans who’ve given their lives in all wars, including the almost 7,000 killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 16 years.
Let us pause and remember that a Marine is risking his life for us advising Afghan soldiers in the Helmand Province ... a soldier is training Iraqi Security Forces in Mosul; an airman is flying critical supplies to our troops in the Horn of Africa; a sailor is far from home, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, protecting the freedom of the seas. Our troops do this for us; they do this for their country; they do this because, like millions before them, they answered a higher calling, to preserve our freedom and that of other nations.
For such a time as this, let us continue to give thanks to Almighty God for the blessing of liberty. Let us give thanks to and pray for our veterans and their families who have given so much of themselves for the freedoms we enjoy.
And let us remain faithful stewards of the freedom we’ve been granted by the men and women who have, through their brave and sacrificial service, kept America the land of the free and the brave.
As we are exhorted by the apostle Paul, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:1-3 ESV).
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Chaplain (Major General) Doug Carver, U.S. Army, Retired, serves as executive director of chaplaincy services for the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. He delivered these remarks at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, June 13 in Phoenix.)

6/28/2017 10:26:59 AM by Doug Carver | with 0 comments

Southern Baptists & the alt-right: On being in the room where it happened

June 27 2017 by Nathan Finn

In the blockbuster Broadway musical Hamilton, Aaron Burr sings about a deal struck between political rivals Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison concerning where the permanent capital of the United States should be located. Burr laments that, “no one else was in the room where it happened.” Of course, Burr harbors some significant political ambitions himself, so before the song ends, he switches to singing, “I’ve gotta be in the room where it happens!” The message is that you have to actually be there to really understand what is going on.
Recently, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) adopted a resolution “On the Anti-Gospel of Alt-Right Supremacy.” It was not without some controversy. During its report June 13, the resolutions committee declined to present the original resolution, which had been submitted by Texas pastor Dwight McKissic. The committee was concerned the original resolution didn’t adequately define the alt-right and included some language that was arguably inappropriate; they rejected McKissic’s resolution instead of revising it to make it more acceptable. However, it became clear fairly quickly that the resolutions committee had misjudged the desire of the convention and something needed to be said about the topic. Because the SBC follows Robert’s Rule of Order, parliamentary procedure dictated how the relevant committees, the chair, and ultimately the messengers should move forward. A revised resolution was prepared that evening, it was presented to the convention on Wednesday morning (June 14), and that afternoon the SBC voted by a 99 percent-plus margin to adopt the resolution.
What I just recounted is a condensed, but accurate account of what happened. I know exactly how it all went down because I was in the room where it happened. I was in the convention hall for all the relevant presentations and votes. I was in conversation with several individuals who were directly involved at every stage of the process. I publicly advocated that the SBC take a stand on the issue prior to the convention and during the meeting I worked to make sure messengers were in the hall at the appropriate times. I was there, and I was engaged. I know what I’m talking about. And so do many, many other people who were also in the room where it happened.
Because I was there, I’ve been disappointed at some of the musings, pontifications and even insinuations of those who weren’t there, including both secular media and armchair quarterbacks who were offering misinformed assessments.
At no point and in no way was the resolutions committee being “soft” on the alt-right or other forms of white supremacy. At no point were Southern Baptists debating whether or not we ought to denounce these demonic impulses.
At no point did Steve Gaines or anyone else force Southern Baptists to do something they didn’t want to do. At no point were Southern Baptists wringing their hands over how we would look in the media if we didn’t do something. At no point were we trying not to offend Trump voters – or any other voters, for that matter.
None of that happened, and folks who suggest it did are either speaking out of ignorance or out of malicious intent, period. Ed Stetzer is absolutely correct: this issue played out over two days because we are bound to our parliamentary procedure, a necessary component to an efficient business meeting the size of the SBC annual meeting.
Yes, the resolutions committee could have revised the original resolution and we could have avoided the controversy. But, chairman Barrett Duke admitted as much and publicly apologized for making the wrong call. We should acknowledge and accept his apology.
Also, there might well be an honest difference of opinion about whether the original or revised resolution was the best statement. But, these sorts of differences are commonplace among Baptists, and they do not detract from the truth that virtually everyone at the convention was of the same opinion about the alt-right and white supremacy.
Some have complained that the revised resolution not only speaks against the alt-right and white supremacy in general, but also recounts recent advances Southern Baptists have made in speaking out against racism and for racial reconciliation. I would simply respond that every bit of that is true and worth noting. This resolution is consistent with many decisions and initiatives over the past twenty years because our recent track record on these matters is commendable, even as we should also acknowledge we still have a long way to go. If mentioning our recent track record in the resolution offends some readers, I would suggest it might be because they aren’t willing to give Southern Baptists the benefit of the doubt.
Again, we no doubt have a long way to go – but we’ve also come a long way. And as Russell Moore so eloquently said at the convention, playing off of a famous quote from Martin Luther King Jr., “the arc of history is toward Jesus.”
This is the bottom line: if you weren’t in the room where it happened, then you really don’t know. You are free to make whatever assumptions you wish, but please admit they are just that: assumptions, rather than informed commentary based on first-hand knowledge. And as you make those assumptions, give us the benefit of the doubt. It’s the Christ-like thing to do.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nathan A. Finn is dean of the School of Theology and Missions and professor of theological studies at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. Used by permission. This was first published at SBCVoices.com.)

6/27/2017 9:44:51 AM by Nathan Finn | with 0 comments

Thank you, N.C. Baptists

June 27 2017 by Dave Miller

A great adventure has just concluded for me and our hard-working team. To everyone’s surprise, last year’s Pastors’ Conference in St. Louis bestowed on us an honor and privilege I did not believe the pastor of an average-sized church in Iowa would ever receive.
When we were elected and given the responsibility to put on the Pastors’ Conference in Phoenix this year, there were several challenges.
First, we had to raise an amount of money larger than the annual budget of any of our churches – a daunting task. We determined that we would put on a conference “for the pastors, by the pastors.” Our goal was to bless the rank and file, average pastors who are the backbone of the Southern Baptist Convention. We did our best to accomplish that.
But, we determined to engage one more challenge. From the start, I was told that attendance in Phoenix would be awful. We took the challenge of getting as many pastors there as we could. The end result of that was a scholarship program (led by my team – I had little to do with it personally) that ended up giving $1,000 to each of 62 different churches so they could send their pastors to the Pastors’ Conference and the SBC annual meeting. Keith Getty, who led our music, asked me how many we hoped to have at the Pastors’ Conference. I told him we had no idea, but that if we had 2,000 on Sunday night it would be a hallelujah moment.
A parliamentarian who was present estimated the crowd on Sunday night to be over 3,500. Attendance fluctuates wildly during the sessions and only the Monday evening session may have topped that number, but we were blown away by the attendance and the encouraging response.
I am writing to express my thanks to the editor and to the people of North Carolina.
The Biblical Recorder was a great support to us all year with your published articles and especially your support for our scholarship effort.
North Carolina Baptists responded with generosity that blessed us and many others. In fact, we gave out 60 scholarships and intended to stop there, but late gifts – mostly from North Carolina – allowed us to add two more.
I am grateful for the Biblical Recorder, the North Carolina Baptist Foundation and for the generous people of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina for all they did in helping us with our efforts this year. Thanks to all of you from all of us!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dave Miller, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa, served as president of the 2017 SBC Pastors’ Conference.)

6/27/2017 9:42:24 AM by Dave Miller | with 0 comments

Death & angels

June 26 2017 by Shane Pruitt

With sweat beading on my forehead, a lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach, I stood behind a funeral home podium staring at a crowd of a couple hundred people.
Between the crowd and me was a casket three feet in length with a child inside it who was way too young. I repeated the only thing I believed could help in this dreadful moment – hope from the scriptures.

Shane Pruitt

The funeral for a short life is never easy to officiate, but no matter the age, death is an inescapable reality for all of us. Many of us fear the death of family and friends more than we fear our own death. Their death produces extreme pain that stirs our emotions to grasp at any hope we can muster to give our hearts a brief moment of rest from the brokenness over unbearable loss.
In grasping and searching for the right words to help others, or even to soothe our own souls, we tend to believe and say things that are not necessarily biblically true.
Too many times to count in seasons such as these, I’ve heard people say and/or post on social media, “God gained another angel today.” I believe it’s not helpful to dive into theological debates while someone is in the midst of extreme hurt. Often, the best thing we can do is to hurt with them, hold them and just listen. In moments, then, when cooler heads and hearts can prevail, we will be significantly more empowered by biblical truth than we will ever be by pithy statements, especially ones that aren’t true.
Here is the plain and simple truth: Humans are humans, and angels are angels. This remains so even in eternity. In fact, angels are intrigued by the interaction between God and His “image-bearing” humans. As we read in 1 Peter 1:12, for example, “angels long to catch a glimpse of these things” (CSB).
It’s actually better for you to be human than it is for you to be an angel. Most Bible scholars believe that the scriptural accounts of Ezekiel 28:12-18, Isaiah 14:12-14 and Revelation 12:4 describe the fall of Lucifer (a former angel) and one-third of the angels (now considered demons) that joined his revolt against a holy God. What’s sobering about the accounts of these fallen angels is that their judgments were final, with no hope of redemption, forgiveness or grace.
But God so loved humans that He sent His Son to become a human (although, He also never stopped being God) to die as a human for humans. “But God proves his own love for us,” we read in Romans 5:8, “in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (CSB).
And through His resurrection, Jesus conquered sin and death for people, not angels. Through faith in the Son of God, we get to experience grace, hope and complete forgiveness of our rebellion against Him – angels never get to experience this.
Here is our ultimate hope: When a loved one dies knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior, God does not gain another angel. Rather, God calls another worshiper to come home. Your loved one gains the opportunity to see Jesus face to face, to leave this temporary place for a home in the arms of a loving Father.
Let the promises of the scriptures mend your broken heart knowing that your loved one, if they knew Jesus, is more alive today than you are – not as an angel but, rather, as a fully glorified human being with a perfect heart that is no longer susceptible to sin, a mind that is no longer susceptible to depression or a body that is no longer susceptible to disease or death.
If you’re a believer and follower of Jesus, one day you’ll see your Christian loved one again, and together you’ll see the perfect Jesus who loved humans so much that He laid His life down for our redemption.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shane Pruitt, director of missions for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, is online at alreadyam.com.)

6/26/2017 11:35:06 AM by Shane Pruitt | with 0 comments

It started with a baby & a puppy

June 22 2017 by Rhonda Rhea

Not that I’m big on throwing my time away, because I had plans for accomplishing something great today. But you have to understand, that video said I wouldn’t BELIEVE what happened next.
“BELIEVE” – it was in all caps. It’s not like I had a choice anyway, but I could see that this video had a baby in it. And a puppy. Only a monster could just scroll down like it wasn’t a baby and a puppy.

Rhonda Rhea

There are a few other things I squeezed onto the day’s itinerary that didn’t exactly start out there. But those makeup tips on Pinterest are not going to pin themselves. And also, that word game on my phone keeps my brain sharp. Who needs a mind-sharpener more than I do? I’ve finger-swiped miles of words in that game.
Frittering my time away isn’t too biblical – even if something in my brain says it’s OK. At the end of this life, I wonder how many of us will say, “Sure wish I’d played more dragon games on my computer.” Or maybe, “If only I’d spent more time looking at my phone.”
It’s not that recreation is a bad thing. There’s often restful, rejuvenating purpose in a couple of “kick back and relax” items on the day’s itinerary. But we do only live once here, YOLO as they say.
We need to spend our fleeting time wisely.
I think if someone translated “YOLO” into Latin, it would be, “carpe diem.” Every day is one that’s begging to be seized.
Despite its familiarity, I still read Romans 12:1-2 regularly: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (CSB). It never fails to inspire me to seize the day. It does for my heart so much more than any word game could ever do for my brain. It’s like a heart-soul-and-mind-sharpener.
At every point I allow His Word to be my mind-sharpener, change happens. It’s a renewing of mind that doesn’t simply result in a nice word score, but one that can reveal “the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” There’s simply nothing I want out of this one and only physical life more than I want to know and do His will.
Live once in the physical – sure, YOLO. But for those of us who’ve been born again, life here is followed by an eternity spent in the glorious presence of Christ. Every time we think of that glory, we’re inspired all the more to live each day like it’s our last, loving Him with every minute we’re given.

6/22/2017 11:27:31 AM by Rhonda Rhea | with 0 comments

Why read missionary biographies?

June 21 2017 by David Sills

We generally consider seeking counsel to be approaching the “gray-beards” in our lives – those who are older, who walk closely with God, who have made wise decisions in their own lives – and asking them their thoughts on a matter.
This is crucial to do; these dear saints are a grace gift from God to each of us. They have watched us grow in our Christian life and witnessed the times when we ran ahead of God or lagged behind His leadership. It is such a blessing to be able to lay our dilemma before one who knows and loves us and seek their counsel.

David Sills

Yet, counsel also comes from even older saints as well.
I love to read missionary biographies, and I always have one or more going. I keep them on my nightstand, in my carry-on, downloaded onto my Kindle, and have shelves in my study dedicated to these biographies, including many favorites that I re-read from time to time.
Reading missionary biographies is another way to seek counsel that allows us to peer into the lives of those who went before us, who ran the race and finished well, and to glean wisdom and insights that we need for decision-making and growing in personal discipleship.
Here are five reasons why reading missionary biographies is wise and helpful to gain counsel from those who went before us.
1. Embracing a call
We are able to “watch” other missionaries struggle with their call to missions, learn how their family members came to accept this new life the Lord had given them. There is something powerful about overhearing another’s call to ministry that puts our own in perspective. It is amazing how much we can relate to a brother or sister from a former time as they walked – or wrestled – with the biblical, theological, practical and logistical concerns connected to accepting a call. We almost sense that we are walking with them as they leave their lives that had been so planned out in order to embrace radical abandon to the newly discerned will of God.
2. Getting started in missions
We find Christian companionship as we walk with others through their search to find a sending agency and answer objections from their dearest relations regarding their “crazy” decision to leave for missionary service in foreign lands.
3. Pushing through the hard times
We are encouraged when we read of their disappointments, setbacks, frustrations, and how ministry-stopping challenges melt away through their perseverance and persistent trust in God.
Sometimes a pastor whom missionaries had poured into for years, spent long hours to disciple and promoted among others as the “real deal” falls away and returns to the world. At other times the new couple who had answered the call to join them in the work is turned back by a family crisis or denied visas by bureaucratic red tape. Knowing that others before us faced and overcame similar setbacks can encourage us along the way.
4. Examples of recovery from sin
While many new missionaries are well-versed in biblical teaching about living the Christian life, reading missionary biographies allows us to see “Christianity with skin on.” Reading of occasions when they sinned, lost their cool, became frustrated with or separated from other missionaries or nationals, but then pressed through to the grace side of it all gives us hope.
5. Missions education
Missionaries in the past faced many of the same cultural, missiological, methodological and relational challenges every missionary will face. Reading the stories of their lives provides a missions education that is more than mere speculation. It is the actual story of receiving and giving grace over and over again, finding the keys to reaching and teaching new cultures, and planting churches in gospel-hostile places.
Whether the book is a missionary’s complete biography, an autobiography or story of an event in missions history, lessons can be learned that will benefit and offer counsel for missions ministry today. Their stories certainly are not authoritative prescriptions for the way missions must be conducted today, but I believe the Lord caused their stories to be preserved for us today and that we would be wise to learn from their hard-won lessons. Listen to their counsel, because “being dead they still speak” and teach us today.
Here is a list of missionary biographies recommended by David Sills:

  • Thirty Years Among South Seas Cannibals by John G. Paton
  • Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot
  • The Journals of Jim Elliot by Elisabeth Elliot
  • Jungle Pilot: The Gripping Story of the Life and Ministry of Nate Saint by Russell Hitt
  • Bruchko: The Astonishing True Story of a 19-Year-Old American, His Capture by the Molitone Indians, and His Adventures in Christianizing the Stone Age Tribe by Bruce Olson
  • Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor
  • A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot
  • Uncle Cam: The Story Of William Cameron Townsend, Founder of the Wycliffe Bible Translators and the Summer Institute of Linguistics by James and Marti Hefley
  • To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson by Courtney Anderson
  • Faithful Witness: The Life & Mission of William Carey by Timothy George

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Sills is professor of missions and cultural anthropology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and president of Reaching & Teaching International Ministries, online at reachingandteaching.org.)

6/21/2017 10:39:43 AM by David Sills | with 0 comments

‘I move we fire the preacher’

June 20 2017 by Jim Henry

We were wrapping up the monthly business meeting at my first pastorate, Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church near Quitman, Miss., a meeting where I, as pastor, was serving as moderator. At the time, Mississippi was caught up in a raging fire of racial tension as James Meredith became the first black to enroll in Ole Miss.
That tension spilled over and touched our little country church.

Jim Henry

Our Sunday night meeting was all routine until I asked for new business. One of our men – a man whom I loved, had visited often in their home, and he in ours – rose to his feet and said, “I move we fire the preacher.”
Our peaceful world quickly exploded. At first, I thought he was kidding but quickly realized he was serious. As moderator, I called for a second. (Have you ever called for a second to your potential demise?) There was a prolonged silence followed by a muffled second.
Tom proceeded to tell me why I needed to go. Basically, in his own words, “You are an n–– lover.” Then he went into a litany of things I had said. Taking bits of conversations and messages out of context, he proceeded to attempt to justify his recommendation.
No one else spoke. The people were in as much a shock as I. I asked them to table the motion, give me some time to gather my thoughts and bring it up at a later date. I went into the nursery where Jeanette was rocking our daughter Kitty, knelt by her chair and blurted out what had happened. (My lady has some Irish blood in her DNA. I think her first reaction was just walk out the door and let them have the church.)
Instead of acting out of hurt and anger, Jeanette and I prayed about this disturbing state of affairs. I knew that racial bigotry was such an affront to the love and grace of God for all. In the truest sense, this was a mountain to die on.
The Lord gave me a game plan. I asked the church not to vote as I knew the potential for division among longtime members and friends. I promised that the following Saturday I would visit every home. When I appeared at their home, they just had to say one word – either “Yes” or “No.” Yes if they felt I should continue or no if I needed to move on.
I told the congregation I would announce my survey results the following Sunday. I would continue serving as their pastor if they responded with yes or resign on the spot if the answer was no. We drove home with heavy hearts and our romanticized concept of ministry shattered. All kinds of thoughts raced through my head as I processed what had transpired. On a practical note, I thought about how I might notate being fired on my resumé.
On Wednesday night, a deacon Paul Patrick called me in New Orleans where Jeanette and I were living as I was also a student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
“Brother Jim, do not visit any homes,” Paul said. “You are our pastor. Come by the station and I will give you the details.” (He ran the local gas station in the small logging village of Melvin.) Greatly relieved, I made that gas station my first stop on Saturday morning.
Mr. Tom, the one who called for my firing, apparently had decided to circumvent my request and had made visits in homes encouraging people to show up on Wednesday night to handle some church business. Word reached Paul and another faithful deacon, Bob Brewer, who made some calls and urged the people to pray and not act in haste. They crafted a statement that Bob read at the outset of the Wednesday gathering of a much larger than usual crowd.
I wish I had a copy of that statement. It went something like: “Our Baptist forefathers fought, bled and died that the pulpit would be a place where the preacher could freely preach the Word of God as the Holy Spirit led him. That has been the history of our church. Therefore, we move that our church continue to be a free pulpit where the pastor can preach in freedom the Word of God.”
The motion was made, seconded and then passed by a strong majority of the church. It sustained my continuing ministry there for another year.
I have pondered a thousand times the questions: What if they had voted to fire me? Would I still be in the ministry? What kind of attitude would I carry if I continued as a pastor? Could I ever trust people again?
One thing is for sure: The courageous action of those two deacons and the affirmation of a people living in the midst of a racial conflict with enormous ramifications carved a monument of deepest gratitude in the heart of a young preacher.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jim Henry, online at jimhenry.com, is senior pastor of Downtown Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla. He was the 1995-1996 president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando for 29 years. This column is adapted from his autobiography Son of a Gunn, Oveido, Florida: HighLife, 2016.)

6/20/2017 10:30:32 AM by Jim Henry | with 0 comments

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