March 2018

EASTER: ‘No fear in death!’

March 30 2018 by Steve Gaines, Baptist Press

As I walked into the hospital, I looked on a visitation card at the name of the man who had requested that I visit him. He was dying of cancer and wanted me to come and pray with him. I was honored to do so.
 
When I walked into his hospital room, I was taken aback by his appearance. His body was thin. His skin was darkened. His teeth were shattered. All of this was the result of endless rounds of chemo. Yet in spite of all the doctors could do, Jim was dying.

Steve Gaines


He was on the brink of eternity. He knew he was going to heaven but he was still afraid. He said, “Pastor, I know I am saved. I know that when I die, I’ll go to heaven. But I’m afraid. I’ve never died before. I’m afraid of what death will be like. Can you help me?”
 
We talked about what happens when a Christian dies. We talked about how his spirit and soul would soon leave his body and go directly to God’s presence in heaven. Then the Lord gave me a thought to share with Jim that I’d never shared before.
 
I said, “Jim, when I was young, I was afraid of the dark, especially any dark area in our house. I remember coming home at night with my family. My father knew about my fear of darkness. So, every time we came home, my dad would unlock and open the door, go inside and turn the light on. Then he’d turn around and say, ‘Come on in, Steve, everything’s fine.’ I remember walking into our house in total peace because I knew that I could trust my father to take care of me. I didn’t have to be afraid.”
 
Then I said, “Jim, when Jesus came to this earth, He lived a sinless life so He could die for our sins. He gave His life as an atoning sacrifice for God’s children and then He was buried. But three days later, Jesus walked out of that grave with the keys to death, hell and the grave itself in His hand. Jim, Jesus unlocked the door of eternity, went into the grave and turned the lights on for you. Now He’s saying, ‘Jim, come on in, everything is fine.’”
 
By this time, Jim and I were both crying. In fact, I’m fighting back tears as I write this article. Jim said, “Pastor, I get it! I can see Jesus opening the door for me! He’s turning the light on for me! He’s saying, ‘Come on in, Jim, everything is fine.’ Jesus is the Light of the world! He’s turned the light on in my grave! I can die without fear! Thank you, pastor, for helping me.”
 
We prayed and I left. A few days later, Jim stepped out of this life into eternal life. And Jesus was there waiting for him with the lights on.
 
That’s all possible because Jesus died and rose bodily, victoriously and eternally from the grave.
 
The apostle Paul said that one day every Christian will die. Each of us will shed this earthly body and our spirit and soul will enter eternity. This perishable shall put on the imperishable. This mortal shall put on immortality. At that moment we won’t fear the grave any longer because Jesus has conquered it! Death is swallowed up in His victory!
 
As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:53-57: “For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (NASB).
 
Jesus removed the sting of death when He walked into the grave and defeated its power. He turned the light on and says to us, “All is well! Come on in!”
 
That’s why I love Easter. It shouts loudly that because of a bloody cross and an empty tomb we can have what the modern hymn says: “No guilt in life, no fear in death!”
 
May God bless every Southern Baptist and every Southern Baptist church this Easter. Let’s tell the world that Jesus is alive, and all fear is gone!
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Steve Gaines is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn.)
 

3/30/2018 8:09:52 AM by Steve Gaines, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



The resurrection – a fatal blow to death

March 29 2018 by Joshua Crutchfield, Baptist Press

Pain is something all the world can relate to. But the cross upon which Jesus died was not the ultimate source of the pain He endured.
 
The cross took Jesus to the source of ultimate pain – death. He died so that He could eradicate sin, yes, but also vanquish death.

Joshua Crutchfield


The world sees the cross as a foolish and absurd means of defeating death (1 Corinthians 1:18) because the cross kills. How can Jesus overpower death by dying?
 
But in the resurrection, Jesus delivered death a fatal blow when He walked out of the tomb. He met death on His terms and disarmed its ability to maintain power over the dead, leaving death powerless and dying. While the cross appears to be foolish to the world, those who are being saved can testify to its power because of what Jesus accomplished when He was raised from the dead.
 
The gospel that lacks the resurrection is void of power and is useless. Without it, Christ would benefit no one, for He would still be dead. If Christ is still dead, then what hope do we have in the face of the looming reality that our lives will one day come to an end? There is none. The apostle Paul said that if Christ was not raised from the dead, then our faith in Christ is worthless – literally powerless (1 Corinthians 15:17).
 
And if we preach the resurrection of Christ, but fail to preach the resurrection of the saints from their graves, what hope would this kind of faith give us in this world? Sure, we could say that death is the gateway of heaven, that it is our friend in assisting us into the afterlife much like the Greek mythological figure Charon, the ferryman who led the deceased souls across the river Styx.
 
But how can death be our friend, when the Bible has declared death to be our enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26)?
 
There is no lasting victory of heaven if there is no resurrection of the dead, merely spiritual morphine that eases our discomfort while death continues his rampage.
 
Funerals, as reminders that death is our enemy, show no partiality to age, gender, race or social status. Death is an equal opportunist. This means that the entire world has a common adversary. But what weapon can be fashioned against such a foe? We could pull all of our resources together and seek ways to extend our lives, but this only delays the inevitable.
 
There exists only one weapon that can vanquish such an opponent – the gospel. But what gives the gospel the punch, that knocks death down permanently is the resurrection. When we fail to preach the resurrection, we fail to preach the gospel.
 
What we believe about the resurrection of the dead impacts our preaching, our evangelism and every other aspect of our lives. The chief victory of Jesus is not that He died, but that even though He died, He lives. So if Jesus dies and then lives, He validates that He is indeed the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). And if He is the resurrection and the life, then those who believe in Him, even if they die will live.
 
The resurrection is the demonstrated power of God in Christ and fills every believer with the hope that death does not have the final say. The resurrection promises us a future where death is dead. For the one who said, “Lazarus, come forth,” will one day call us forth to everlasting life.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joshua Crutchfield is pastor of First Baptist Church in Madisonville, Texas, and vice president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
 

3/29/2018 8:03:00 AM by Joshua Crutchfield, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Strategic seniors

March 28 2018 by Tony Wolfe, Baptist Press

I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago – a young pastor – who shared an honest concern I remember mulling over when I was in the pastorate. As the church was beginning to reach young couples, students and children, the senior adults felt less and less valuable. The believed “their time” had passed them by in the life of the church, and their ministry had now been relegated to nothing more than watching and waiting.

Tony Wolfe


I shared with my pastor friend some memories from when I was a child. My dad was a pastor. There were plenty of young adults and young marrieds in our church. But for some reason, the people I remember to this day – the ones who left a Jesus-shaped impression on me as a boy – they were all old. Every one of them.
 
Even as I type this 30 years later, their faces flash across my mind. As a child and a youth, I did not despise senior adults. I valued them. They tended to love a little more deeply, to be present a little more frequently, and to listen and speak a little more empathetically. Mr. Kendall. Mrs. Ada. Mr. Rogers. Mr. Billy. Mr. Fred. Mrs. West. I remember wanting to be like them when I was a child. Thirty years later, I still do.
 
Senior adults are vital to the health and ministry of the church. A thriving senior adult ministry has very little to do with health fairs, trips to Branson or backgammon. Rather, a thriving senior adult ministry facilitates an atmosphere where older men and women can be intentional about reproducing themselves in the lives of younger church members.
 
The Bible is clear that senior adults are not just to be respected because they are “old.” Here are seven reasons your church needs senior adults.
 

Wisdom gained through experience (Job 12:12, Proverbs 23:22-23)

If younger men and women in the church would learn to capitalize on the wisdom of experience possessed by senior adults, they may be able to avoid many pitfalls of the faith and of the ministry.
 

Involvement in ministry opportunities (Psalm 92:12-15)

Honestly, there are some ministries of the church for which senior adults are better suited than younger men and women. They have more time. They have more life experience. They often have an extensive network of relationships within the community (family, friends and business connections) that young people do not. Senior adults can and should still “bear fruit in old age, healthy and green” (Psalm 92:14).
 

Passing down a legacy of faith (Psalm 71:17-18)

Many senior adults have stories of God’s faithfulness through the years that younger families desperately need to hear. If we do not provide avenues for senior adults to share their stories of God’s faithfulness to younger church members, we are robbing the next generation of the proof of God’s power and strength through all circumstances.
 

Transmission of timeless truth (Titus 2:1-7)

We all know that the longer you study God’s Word, the deeper and richer His eternal truth becomes. Similarly, the longer you apply God’s Word to your Christian walk, the more pervasive the truth of the gospel becomes in every area of your life. Many older men and older women, through decades of faithful study and application of God’s Word, have an intimacy with God to which younger men and women need to be exposed.
 

Faith through trial (Psalm 37:25)

When a young Christian is seriously struggling through circumstances that test faith, he or she needs an older Christian to walk with him through the fire. The senior adult psalmist in this passage writes, “I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.” In moments that feel like forsakenness and deprivation, senior adults can testify that time will prove God’s faithfulness.
 

Lessons in respect and honor (Leviticus 19:32, Proverbs 16:31, 20:29, 1 Timothy 5:1-2)

As God molds and shapes the Christian in the image of Christ, one thing we all need to learn is how to respect and honor our fathers. Scripture is clear that this is a timeless teaching for all generations. How will your congregants learn to respect and honor senior adults if they are not an active part of the body-life of your church?
 

A genuine heart of love (Philemon 9-10)

Things need to happen, and time is of the essence. Young men and women can have a tendency to be forceful in their appeals. But as Paul did in his old age, senior adults often have a gentleness about them that has been forged in the fires of hurt, sorrow, pain and faithfulness over a period of decades. No one is better suited to appeal from a genuine heart of love than a gracious man or woman who has walked a thousand miles in a thousand pairs of shoes.
 
Senior adults are not the church of yesterday. Until the day God calls them home, they are the church of today. The truth is, as time progresses each generation will one day become the senior adults in the church. They are not a burden. Value them. Respect them. Love them. Lead them. They are a gift from God. You need them and they need you.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tony Wolfe is director of pastor/church relations for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
 

3/28/2018 10:06:44 AM by Tony Wolfe, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Coach, captain & cheerleader

March 26 2018 by Scott Brown, Baptist and Reflector

The call to be a church revitalizer is a hard call and, although church revitalizers can come in many varieties and skill sets, there are three qualities we must seek in our leadership among God’s people.
 
Ecclesiastes tells us, “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Likewise, a pastor who emphasizes the following three roles in his ministry will be more likely to find his leadership stronger, durable and enduring.

Scott Brown


First, we are to lead from the front. Borrowing a sports metaphor, we are to be the coach of the team to whom God has called us. They have to believe we know the plays and that we not only know where we are going (that’s vision), but that we can guide them there (that’s leadership).
 
Leading from the front means that we are championing the mission of the church by dreaming, casting vision and inspiring others to follow. When I was ordained, my pastor challenged me by stating that the leader will either be a spark plug or a flat tire. My friends, be the spark plug! There are few hindrances greater to revitalization than flat tire preachers. If you are the flat tire in your church’s revitalization effort, it is time to either change or be changed.
 
As we seek to lead from the front, we must be careful not to charge so far and fast ahead of our people they mistake us for an enemy and open fire. This is where the second prong is utterly necessary. We must lead from the middle, as a team captain working alongside the team for every victory.
 
I strive to never miss a work day, to arrive early and leave late, and be among my people as much as possible. There is a saying, “The shepherd must smell like the sheep,” and nothing can be more important to a church revitalizer than to get dirty and work hard among their people. We must pastor without a safety net and without an escape plan. When we pastor our people well, they will follow farther and harder when they really believe you love them, and you must love them!
 
While we love them as their pastor, we will also take on the third prong of being the cheerleader by leading our people them from the back. Celebrate every victory and minimize every failure. Barnabas is our obvious example in scripture as someone who leads from the back, pushing others to find their gifts and pushing them to outshine even himself.
 
Encourage your people every chance you get, celebrate even the smallest victories, praise God publicly for all He does. A great tool I’ve used is the Soul Winner’s Candle. This is a candle I place somewhere that’s very visible in our sanctuary, and whenever someone is saved as a direct result of our prayers, service, sharing or sacrificing, then the one most responsible comes forward to light it before the service. When we see that flame, this has served to build momentum, celebrate personal evangelism and give us another excuse to celebrate Jesus together.
 
If you want to see your church come alive, then you must be coach, captain and cheerleader. These three prongs together in you, as pastor, will give power to your leadership and change your church for His glory.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Scott Brown is pastor of First Baptist Church in Waverly, Tenn. This column first appeared in the Baptist and Reflector, baptistandreflector.org, news journal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)
 

3/26/2018 8:14:39 PM by Scott Brown, Baptist and Reflector | with 0 comments



The blessings of a portable church

March 26 2018 by Lori McDaniel, Baptist Press

As I drove by the school our church met in, my son said to his friend, “That’s where our church meets.” In protest, the friend said, “That’s not a church, that’s a school.”
 
Technically he was right. I glanced in the rearview mirror as my son explained in his 9-year-old way, “I know it’s a school, but we use the building for our church to meet in.” My son understood a simple truth that many adults forget: The building isn’t the church; the people are.

Lori McDaniel


That truth is so real when you are a portable church.
 
Every Sunday for five years, as the sun came up, we “set up church.” And as most people were eating lunch, we were packing it back up into the trailer again.
 
We wiped dried milk and crumbs out of plastic school cafeteria chairs and arranged them for worship. We unpacked audio equipment from the 8-foot trailer. In a narrow elementary hallway, we unfolded pack-n-plays used for baby beds.
 
No special lighting. No stages. It was raw and creatively simple. Our makeshift church-in-a-trailer was labor-intensive, but no labor was ever more fulfilling.
 
I’ll never forget the Sunday morning a guy walked in straight from the woods after hunting. Dressed in camouflage, he still had that hunting smell. We welcomed him as he said, “I figure I’m dressed for church in a school.” We made friends with a homosexual man who brought his partner to church because, as he said, “I’m not typical, and you’re not typical either.”
 
For many who had given up on church, we were a safe place. Somehow, the walls of the school seemed more inviting than the bricks and steeples of a church building. We were reaching people.
 
As fulfilling as it was, I also was scared, with the reality of start-up churches that fail ringing in my mind. Would we be next?
 
Well over a decade ago, we started the church. We didn’t make any fastest-growing church magazine articles. We didn’t hit mega-church status in record time. But we grew. And we are healthy. And we are reproducing ourselves and planting churches around the world.
 
But I miss the church trailer days.
 
The first Sunday in our own building felt good. No set up! Unexpectedly, though, it felt strange. For five years, we didn’t arrive at church but at a building, and the church – the people – came together. We had been a team and a community that broke down barriers for the lost to feel at home. Now that we have a building, we work at creatively reminding the people that our church building is just a toolbox and the work is “out there.”
 
So, if your church is still living out of a suitcase and setting up every Sunday, don’t overlook the blessings!
 
If your kids are young and you’re wondering if they are missing “real church,” take a look again. They are growing up learning to be the church. Step back, breathe in and open your eyes to see what our creative God is doing.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lori McDaniel, lorimcdaniel.org, serves as church initiatives manager with the International Mission Board, mobilizing churches to participate in God’s global mission. She and her husband Mike and three children were missionaries in Africa before returning to plant Grace Point Church in Bentonville, Ark., where Mike is the lead pastor. This column first appeared at Flourish, an online community for ministers’ wives sponsored by the North American Mission Board.)

3/26/2018 7:37:49 AM by Lori McDaniel, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Simple questions

March 23 2018 by Jeff Iorg, Baptist Press

The American church has never been more analyzed and categorized, with predictions galore about where it’s headed, what it’s becoming, how it needs to change, and whether it is growing, plateaued or declining.
 
It’s easy to get lost in all this and decide the health of our own local church more intuitively – basically, do we like it? If we do, then it’s a “healthy” church. If not, then it needs to change so we will like it more, which is an unhealthy standard.

Jeff Iorg


Somewhere between these extremes has to be a simpler way to understand the direction a church is trending – growing or declining, healthy or dying.
 
Three simple questions can help cut through the fog:
 

Does your church have more attenders under age 6 than over 60?

With rare exception, preschool children don’t bring themselves to church. They usually come with at least one parent – which means a church is attracting, connecting with and developing members among younger adults.
 
If there’s a paucity of preschoolers, you are not likely reaching younger adults. Your membership is aging and your church is slowly declining. Older members may be serving and giving – which is good. But when their generation passes (and it will happen faster than you think), your church will be history unless you are also reaching a younger generation.
 

Does your church have more adult baptisms than memorial services?

If your church is having more deaths than adult baptisms, you are losing more adults than you are reaching. Baptizing children and teenagers is important, but most of them will grow up and leave your church. Reaching adults in your community is essential to building a church that will last to the next generation.
 

If you are over 50, do you like everything about your church?

If the answer is yes, your church is probably on a downward trajectory. I am almost 60 and there’s a lot about how church is being done today that doesn’t connect with me. That’s OK. Millennials need to reinvent church programs, processes, methods and schedules to reach their generation. As I age, I hope to be less and less comfortable in church as the age difference between me and young adults grows.
 
Answer these simple questions for your church – and then get to work helping it be as healthy as possible!
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jeff Iorg is president of Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention. This column first appeared online at gs.edu/gateway-blog.)
 

3/23/2018 10:11:34 AM by Jeff Iorg, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Do it anyway

March 22 2018 by Randy L. Bennett, Baptist Press

One of my roles as a director of missions is assisting churches in mentoring men and occasionally women in ministry. My favorite mentoring or teaching relationship, however, is with a 37-year-old pastor and a pair of 33-year-old twins.
 
Those are my three children. All three are involved in ministry.

Randy L. Bennett


We have a great time sharing ministry ideas back and forth. I generally receive a phone call from each of them on a regular basis – from my youngest twin it’s almost every Monday night. She and I talk about how our Sundays went; sometimes we strategize new ministries.
 
Years ago when she started teaching Sunday School, she called asking about how to reach some new children for her class. I suggested she go visiting door to door in her neighborhood. I further suggested that she drive around and look for yards with kids’ toys, get out of her car to visit them and invite them to Sunday School. None of her neighbors came but within just a few weeks quite a few new children came!
 
Recently she called to give an exciting report – one of the students in a Team Kid outreach she had initiated in her church came to know Christ and was being baptized. If she hadn’t started Team Kid a few years ago, she realized this young lady may never have been saved.
 
She reminded me about the challenges she faced in starting this new ministry. She had no workers. She had no space for the classes. She had no money to spend. While she had her pastor’s support, she heard a handful of negative responses to the ministry.
 
One evening while washing dishes she became distraught over the challenges she was facing. She called out to God to say, “It’s too hard. I can’t do it.”
 
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been at exactly the same place. No workers. No space. No budget. A so-so response to a new ministry. Should I quit? Do I continue? Do I resign? Do I give up on the idea God gave me?
 
We’ve all faced those breaking points as leaders. Will we move forward or quit before reaching the goal?
 
Praise the Lord; God spoke to my daughter in His still small voice. What do you suppose God said?
 
After Jesus’ resurrection His disciples returned to Galilee and went fishing probably hoping to make some money. They fished all night but caught nothing. Jesus appeared to them and told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. “We never do it that way,” you can imagine them saying.
 
He said, “Do it anyway,” and they had a great catch of fish.
 
God said to my daughter, “Do it anyway.”
 
Knowing my 5’4” daughter as I do, I can easily visualize the look on her face as she processed what God said to her. I can see a look of newfound determination as she chose to move forward. She simply wouldn’t allow a handful of challenges to keep her from trying to reach people for Christ. I love that about her. She’s a tiny lady but I wouldn’t want to get in her way.
 
She took God’s message and continued moving forward. She’s seen so many great things happen. Her Team Kid program has meaningfully increased the church’s Sunday night attendance. Her determination helped the whole church. She was grateful that she just did it, or the little girl that night may never have gotten saved.
 
Where are you today? What are you facing? What challengers are robbing you of your joy? God says, “Trust me with the challenges. Follow the dream I’ve given you. Do it anyway!”
 
Imagine if we all took that message to heart and kept on keeping on in reaching people for Christ. Imagine if we learned how to deal with our challenges in such a way that we kept moving forward. The impact would be huge when God’s people trust Him to remove the barriers and challenges that threaten the ministries God has given us.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Randy L. Bennett is director of missions for the Kern County Southern Baptist Association in Bakersfield, Calif., and immediate past president of the California Southern Baptist Convention.)
 

3/22/2018 11:00:16 AM by Randy L. Bennett, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



What about your coworkers?

March 21 2018 by Autumn Wall, Baptist Press

Eight hours of your day is spent with the same people at your workplace throughout much of year. Are you leveraging your time at work for the sake of the Kingdom?
 
Many Christians want to share Jesus with people around them but just don’t know how. It’s much easier than we think to be a witness for Christ at work.
 
It starts with knowing people.
 
As you look around your office today, how many of your coworkers do you really know? Here are a few ways you can be intentional to know those around you:

  • Know the simple things. Do you know their spouse and kids’ names? When is their birthday? What’s their favorite snack?
  • Know the deep things. What’s their story? What are they most passionate about? What do they fear most in life?
  • Know the spiritual things. What do they think about the church? Who do they say Jesus is? Do they have a Bible?
  • Know the personal things. What do they do on their weekends? What makes them tick inside? What are they hurting over right now?
  • Know the random things. What’s their favorite sports team? What kind of music do they like? Are they an introvert or an extrovert?

 
Many of these things you can’t learn just by listening over the phone. Take a coworker to lunch and get to know them. When we know people – really know them – we will see the opportunities to minister to them that we would have missed otherwise.
 
Is a holiday coming up? Does their family live out of state? Invite them to celebrate Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas with your family. Do they love baseball? Do you have a team in your area? Buy them tickets to go to a game with you. Find ways to connect with your coworkers every day in the office to build relationship, then look for opportunities to take that relationship outside of office hours. Then, when you’re at the Thanksgiving table or sitting at a baseball field, share Jesus with them.
 
Your workplace is a mission field to which you have been assigned, and Ephesians 5:16 tells us to “make the most of every opportunity.” Will you be intentional to befriend those God has already put in your path and share Jesus with them at first opportunity?
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Autumn Wall, online at autumnwall.com, is an author, speaker, worship leader, pastor’s wife and mom of three in Indianapolis. She is the co-author of Across the Street and Around the World, New Hope Publishers.)
 

3/21/2018 8:55:11 AM by Autumn Wall, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ministry moments

March 20 2018 by Chuck Lawless, Baptist Press

Everyone in ministry needs these moments. When the work gets tough, we need reminders of why we do what we do.
 
Here are some “glimpses” that have helped me press on in faith through the years:

  • Seeing the look of absolute joy on a new believer who has just been baptized. You can't explain it; you just have to see it.
  • Telling Bible stories to children who hang on every word. Only God knows how He will use that Word to change their lives.
  • Praying with someone seeking God in faith and repentance. I've guided folks who have had no idea how to pray, and I've also listened as others launched into their own prayers. Either way, it's glorious.
  • Renewing vows for a reunited couple. In this case, saying “I do” again is a witness to the power of God's love and a testimony against the wiles of the devil.
  • Telling the story of Jesus to people who've never heard it. Sometimes, watching them pay attention takes you back to when the gospel story first fascinated you as well.
  • Experiencing or hearing answers to prayer that can't be explained apart from “God did that.” When His power is most evident, you realize again that He is the living God.
  • Celebrating the passing of a saint. This one may sound morbid, but it's not at all. Standing beside the bedside or casket of a departed believer has brought some of my strongest ministry memories. I'm reminded then that what we do has eternal ramifications.
  • Singing with missionaries in their mother tongue. There's nothing quite like it. Joining with faithful believers to sing God's praise in their own language – especially after they've been struggling to learn another one – is captivating.
  • Listening to a young preacher fumble his way through his first sermon. We've usually been there ourselves, so we understand the struggle. Raw, yet unpolished commitment in the hand of God, though, is inspiring.
  • Serving the Lord's Supper. This ordinance takes us to the cross in preparation for His return – and we get to lead others to share in the act. It's a holy moment.

 
We often get so consumed by doing the hard work of ministry that we inadvertently overlook the blessings of doing God's work. Difficulties and struggles cloud our vision, and we miss the glimpses that can keep us going. Spend some time today remembering glimpses of the past in your ministry, and then watch for new ones throughout the day.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Lawless, online at chucklawless.com, is vice president for spiritual formation and ministry centers and professor of evangelism and missions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

3/20/2018 10:41:17 AM by Chuck Lawless, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



When God takes you on a detour

March 16 2018 by Van Kicklighter

I learned to drive when finding your way around still involved maps – ones printed on paper with different size dots to represent populations and different width lines for what kind of road it was. To get from place to place, you would locate where you were and where you wanted to go and, most of the time, map out the shortest distance.
 
This worked well until you came to one of those big orange triangular “Detour” signs. Typically, you would be directed off the road with a sign or two and, at times, left to your own resources to find your way back to the main road as soon as possible to continue your journey.
 
Personally, my life recently took a detour (with a cancer diagnosis). Not only am I now on a different road, I am headed for a new and different destination. To be honest, my wife Robin and I aren’t sure we know what it will be. This detour is not simply a short-lived excursion, it is a brand-new road.
 
Sometimes God takes our lives on a detour, at least from the plans we have laid out and from the destinations we were headed toward. And trying to get back to the old road, the former route, is to miss what God wants to do in our life. As one author puts it, the detour has become the new road.
 
What do we make of this? Is God playing a mean trick on us, or has He changed His mind about His purpose for our lives? As I have thought and prayed about this, I have come to a new understanding and appreciation for what God might be doing when He interrupts our personal road maps and seeks to take us to a new destination.
 
Even a cursory reading of the Bible reveals that many of God’s choicest servants, men and women, experienced some incredible detours. Consider Abraham, who was told to leave his homeland and go to a place God would show him (eventually). Ruth, a young bride-turned-widow, also journeyed to a foreign land. Peter, Andrew, James and John left the family fishing business to wander with Jesus, and the apostle Paul detoured from persecuting the church to being the planter of churches.
 
These are just a few of dozens of examples. Let me suggest a few possibilities for what God might be up to in the detours of life:
 

You detoured when you trusted Jesus.

 
The truth of the gospel is that we were enemies of God until He intervened and offered us salvation through Jesus. In our old life, we charted our own destination, and it was leading us to separation from God. Our repentance – doing an “about face” – represents the first and most important detour as a disciple of Jesus.
 

Your detour may last for many years before you see the benefit.

 
Joseph was enjoying his time as the favorite son of a wealthy father. Then his brothers threw him in a pit and left him for dead. He was sold into slavery to a foreign king and later thrown in prison, even though he did nothing wrong. Quite a life-changing detour! But after decades and several more detours, Joseph’s position in the foreign land was used by God to meet the need of his people in a time of severe famine. You may not see the benefit or the blessing of a detour for many years to come.
 

Your detour may have a Kingdom impact.

 
Saul, who became the apostle Paul, may have had the most dramatic detour recorded. From hunting down and wanting to kill followers of Jesus, he became the greatest missionary ever, planting churches all over the known world. Only in heaven will we know how many people came to be followers of Jesus because of Paul’s ministry. This was certainly not his original life’s ambition. Yet you and I have heard the gospel because of Paul’s dramatic detour.
 

Your detour may be for the blessing of others.

 
Consider Abram. He was a herder of livestock. God told him to leave home and set out for a place that God would show him. Not only would God bless Abram, whom he renamed Abraham, but “all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). Abram’s detour resulted in all the nations of the earth being blessed.
 
So, don’t get in a hurry to get back to your original route. Allow what seems like a detour to be the new route of obedience for your life.

3/16/2018 3:08:21 PM by Van Kicklighter | with 0 comments



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