March 2019

Crucify self?

March 29 2019 by Sarah Dixon Young

When we moved from Florida to North Dakota, I was surprised at the number of official documents we needed to change.
 
Driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations and insurance, health insurance, mailing address for all our bills, information for the IRS and other matters entailed hours of paperwork that had to be submitted.
 

In addition, we changed our wardrobes. Clothing appropriate to Florida’s climate was only a drop in the bucket to North Dakota winters. I only owned one pair of socks, and I didn’t even understand what a heavy coat was. We changed the kinds of shoes we wore. We changed how we cared for our dog, a shorthaired, warm weather-loving animal. We even changed the kind of oil we used in our cars and had to put block heaters on the engines.
 
We died to being Floridians and became genuine NoDakers. Even our accents changed.
 
When, however, the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans that the old self must be crucified, he wasn’t just talking about an external part of an individual. Crucifixion entailed the whole being. Everything about the old self had to be put to death and left behind in order to walk in newness of life.
 
Crucify self? This concept seems extreme. Why total death to the self? What about self-expression? Self-actualization? Self-esteem? Our society does a lot of self-valuing.
 
Paul answers that too in Romans 6:6-7: “... so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.”
 
I was talking with a group of ladies recently who struggle with drug addiction. They were discussing the motivation behind their drug usage.
 
“We use drugs because we have the freedom to do what we want,” one said.
 
“Yeah,” another contended, “that judge can’t tell us what to do. I love that feeling of being able to make my own choices. I can just be myself.”
 
In one moment, they spoke of drug usage as a freedom they choose, yet in the next breath, they sobbed about the horrible slavery their addictions had caused in their lives, acknowledging the full extent of the corrupted tyrant of self.
 
Perhaps you don’t have a drug addiction, but you may be a slave to fear, anxiety, pride, bitterness, depression or anger. When we choose to follow Christ, we must die to all these forms of slavery.
 
For one who has died has been set free from sin,” Paul continued in Romans 6:8. “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.”
 
Once we have died to sin, we not only change our eternal residence. We also become a whole new creation. Instead of dressing, acting and being identified as a citizen of hell, we now think, love, speak and act like a citizen of heaven. We live with Christ, and our identity is in Him.
 
Watching the struggle of drug addicts to crucify the old self makes it poignantly clear how difficult a step this is for all of us who have been slaves to sin. It is much more difficult than the identification and wardrobe changes we made when we moved.
 
But there’s good news to those who turn to Christ, Paul noted in Colossians 2:13-14: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses ... God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
 
As Jesus said in Matthew 19:26, “With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sarah Dixon Young is the author of God on a Shelf, available on Amazon.)

3/29/2019 10:56:46 AM by Sarah Dixon Young | with 0 comments



Looking for heaven on earth

March 28 2019 by Lynn Pryor

I am all for improving society and culture, but what should that look like?
 
My Democratic friends tell me one thing. My Republican friends tell me another.
 

Some of my evangelical friends tell me one thing. Others with more ecumenical, liberal views tell me another.
 
Perhaps the best thing we can do is draft our own standards for society, gather likeminded believers, buy a huge chunk of land and start our own community. We’ll follow the rules we’ve set up (based on biblical principles, of course) and everything will be perfect.
 
Just one problem: History has shown over and over that trying to create a utopia just won’t work.
 
Early in American history, scores of people flooded to this continent in hopes of a better life. Even after we became a full-fledged independent country, scores more continued flooding in for the better life. This “grand experiment” with a democratic republic was good – but for many it wasn’t good enough. So the great expanse of untapped land (never mind the Native Americans already here) seemed to be the ideal solution: Start their own town and lead it according to their own rules and interpretation of scripture.
 
Starting your own utopian community was especially popular in the 1800s. Eighty were started in the 1840s alone. Probably the two most well-known are the Shakers, who practiced celibacy, and Oneida Community, where everyone was married to everyone else (they called it “complex marriage”). Two communities with opposite views, both espousing their way as integral to a utopian community.
 
One of the utopian communities, the short-lived Fruitlands, was based on transcendental principles: People are inherently good, society has corrupted us, and we are at our best when we are fully independent and self-sufficient. So how do you achieve this transcendental goal in a community? Don’t eat any meat, don’t consume any “stimulants,” don’t use any form of animal labor, don’t use any artificial light, don’t take hot baths and don’t drink anything but water! (A side note for fans of Little Women: Louisa May Alcott lived for a while in this community because her father was one of the founders.)
 
These communities are a fascinating part of our American history, especially considering how unique they were from one another. But note this: They are a part of our history, not a part of current culture.
 
The reason is simple: They were created and led by imperfect, fallen, sinful people. And the people that flocked to these communities were imperfect, fallen, sinful people. We’ll never reach a utopia – a perfect place to live – as long as imperfect people are allowed to start them or live in them. The only perfect utopia would be lived under God’s law. His laws are perfect, but we’ve done a lousy job living up to His laws.
 
As we read in Romans 3:10-12: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (NIV).
 
There is a “utopia” in the future of those who follow Christ, but we will only live in it when we are living in His presence in His eternal Kingdom. Until then, let me suggest the following.
 
Instead of running off to start a utopian community, get involved with the culture you’re in. Partner with your church family in engaging and interacting with the people in your community. You don’t have to embrace everything in culture, but by your presence – by living for Christ in the power of His Spirit – you can infuse that culture with the gospel.
 
Be Jesus to those around you.

3/28/2019 2:06:17 PM by Lynn Pryor | with 0 comments



Are you an enemy of the cross of Christ?

March 27 2019 by Kelvin J. Cochran

For I have told you often before, and now I say it again with tears in my eyes, there are many who walk along the Christian road who are really enemies of the cross of Christ,” the apostle Paul lamented.
 

Their future is eternal loss,” Paul continued in Philippians 3:18-19, “for their god is their appetite; they are proud of what they should be ashamed of; and all they think about is this life here on earth.”
 
I have been blessed to share my testimony at many churches, conferences and Christ-centered events around the country over the last few years. It has been quite inspiring to see pastors and congregations, faith-based organizations and Christian elected officials fighting to uphold laws which preserve our freedom to live out our faith and the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
 
Sadly, I have also witnessed those who have been on the battlefield for years who have turned away from the boldness of faith under pressure to conform to a culture that diminishes the authority of God and His Word.
 
As I write this article with a heavy heart and “with tears in my eyes,” I bear witness there are those who profess to be Christians but have become enemies of the cross of Christ. They were once followers of truth but through carnal and worldly influences, including social-political popularity, have forsaken the authority of scripture to accommodate their own interests. The influence of popular culture, moral relativism and politics has turned their hearts from the truth.
 
How does a Christian know if he or she is an enemy of the cross of Christ? Paul set forth three descriptors: 1) “their god is their appetite” 2) “they are proud of what they should be ashamed of” and 3) “all they think about is this life on earth.”
 
Religious liberty is diminishing. Laws legalizing abortion the day before birth are being pursued and have been enacted in the state of New York. Biblical standards of marriage and family are no longer esteemed and have become highly politicized. The increasing trend of normalizing sexual immorality in entertainment, marketing and media has fueled the increase of enemies of the cross of Christ.
 
As a result, even Christians with public status and influence in education, government, business, arts, entertainment, media and marketing, churches and denominations have given support to same-sex attraction, same-sex marriage and transgender ideologies, often for fear of the consequences of speaking the truth.
 
Worst of all, some now espouse a position that these ideologies are within the scope of Bible truth and are acceptable lifestyles in Christendom. The motivation for Christians who embrace these worldly ideologies (idols) is to satisfy their desire to gain or remain in the favor of popular culture. “Their god is their appetite.”
 
Initially they are reluctant. But social and political pressures eventually cause them to conform. When the social-political gains for forsaking the truth are greater than the consequences from the church for having done so, their minds are transformed to where what was once a lie has become the truth. In their minds, what was once evil in the sight of God is now good. In other words, if my pastor or church is still supporting me and not correcting me, then I must be right.
 
Sadly, becoming celebrated for forsaking the cross of Christ often results in public office, re-elections, increasing customer base, being on news and TV talk shows or retaining a pastoral office. The worldly rewards become so attractive, the cravings for them increase more and more, reaching a point where these once faithful followers of Christ only think about life on earth – compromising Christ for worldly gain.
 
Because of the perception of the earthly gain of popularity-reward, they become “proud of things they should be ashamed of” making themselves “enemies of the cross of Christ.” The scripture says, “Their future is eternal loss.” They forget about heaven and the consequences of forsaking Christ. Or worse, they understand the consequences but are willing to try to gain worldly popularity to the demise of their very souls.
 
As the body of Christ, we must take a loving but assertive approach to holding them accountable and turning their hearts back to the truth. Ignoring, overlooking or placating their behavior makes us just as culpable. We are passively giving approval and are therefore just as accountable in the eyes of God.
 
Are you an enemy of the cross of Christ? If you are, do not harden your heart. Jesus is calling you to repent. His arms are waiting to receive and forgive today.

3/27/2019 10:16:24 AM by Kelvin J. Cochran | with 0 comments



Try a little boredom

March 21 2019 by Gary Ledbetter

Aren’t we restless people? It seems our restlessness has expanded with our ability to hold endless long-distance conversations – or to be distracted within a few feet from one another.
 

That’s what I think when I see people sitting at a nice restaurant punching their phones under romantic candlelight.
 
Some make a fuss about this latest technology and how it changes our brains, but I don’t think that is a new thing. We long for something more.
 
On the surface this “connectedness” seems like the opposite of contentment. The apostle Paul’s famous statement in Philippians 4 of contentment “in whatever circumstances I find myself” sets a high standard for satisfaction. Does that mean that Paul would have been equally happy with or without an iPhone X?
 
While I don’t rage against our current level of technology, I do think we’ve crossed a line of immediacy and unlimited access that’s revolutionary. What we’ve lost is down time or boredom, if you prefer.
 
Boredom was the bane of childhood by the middle of July each year. Parents were oppressed by whiny kids who didn’t like any of the choices available. There was “nothing to do.” The choices have exploded in number and scope but I still hear of children with nothing to do. At this stage of life I’m never bored; the mid-summer experience of childhood looks remarkably like peace from this view.
 
Let me recommend boredom to you. This is the time when you can hear the still, small voice in your head. It’s the time when you are convicted, encouraged and reminded by the Holy Spirit of those things you’ve learned during busier times. Quiet periods can be the times when you plan or think creatively about things you’ll need to do another time. With practice it can be a time when trivial things like viral videos no longer break in to your awareness.
 
My boring time is often during a road trip, driving or even waiting for a plane. My coworkers experience this by receiving several annoying calls from me as I have ideas or just-remembered commitments to address. It’s productive and reflective. The urge to reach out to someone distant can be curbed until you actually have something to say. The need to be affirmed or amused by others can be set aside for increasing periods of time, with practice.
 
Unless you learn to do this I’m not sure how a person even prays or worships. I’ve seen folks come to worship with Bluetooth devices in their ears; others text sermon quotes or send photos of the music service. How do they stay where they are mentally if they never stop thinking of all those people “out there”? It’s an honest question because I know mature and godly people who do things like this.
 
The desire for more is not bad. Improvement is a byproduct of a specific dissatisfaction, as is innovation. These are God-given urges that reflect His image in us. We were made to improve broken creation. But maybe the constant amusement available to us is like junk food that fills up our desire for something more without satisfying the appetite.
 
Here are some ideas:

  • Unless you’re a Navy SEAL or on call for a heart transplant, consider leaving your phone in the car during church or at least powered off.

  • Ban electronic friends from meal times, that is, if you are eating with someone in whom you have a measure of interest.

  • Try turning off the radio for an hour or so while driving. Just think about stuff, listen and pray (with your eyes open please). A bonus might be that you begin to notice all the ominous sounds your car makes to warn you of its impending demise.

  • Kill the beeper that announces new emails. No doubt, it’s Pavlovian.

  • Read a book (one made of paper) written by someone who died before you were born.

  • Take a walk without ear buds.

  • Consider a tech-free night each week, especially if you have kids in the house.

  • Stop texting while you’re driving. OK, I know none of you do, but somebody sure does.

 
There is no irony in the fact that this column is posted online and that you may be reading it on your phone. I have no essential beef with the newest tech, but I am concerned at the price we often pay for non-stop stimulation. If our marvelous inventions are worth using, they are worth using wisely in moderation and to our spiritual benefit.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gary Ledbetter is editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline.net, where this article first appeared.)

3/21/2019 11:40:25 AM by Gary Ledbetter | with 0 comments



3 reasons why young people leave the church

March 19 2019 by Jason Allen

Why young adults leave the church is one of the most vexing questions facing the church today. A 2007 LifeWay Christian Resources survey indicated that 70 percent of 18-22 year-olds stop attending church for at least one year. Furthermore, Barna surveys have repeatedly shown that a majority of 20-year-olds leave church, and often never return.
 

Causation for young adults exiting the church has been studied for decades, yet little has been accomplished by way of reversing it. As a gospel preacher, seminary president, and father of five young children, this is more than a theoretical concern.
 
At risk of being overly simplistic, I want to suggest three additional factors that are often overlooked in this discussion.
 
1. Many young adults leave the church because they never joined it spiritually.
 
Many young adults leave the church because they were never truly converted to Christ in the first place. John the Apostle warned us, “They went out from us because they were never of us; for if they had been of us, they would have no doubt continued with us.” And in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus soberly warns, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my father in heaven.”
 
In fact, this is a troubling, but recurring, theme throughout the New Testament. Jesus frequently warned of pseudo converts, most memorably in His parables of the four soils, the wheat and the tares, and the sheep and the goats. This grievous occurrence is why Paul exhorted the Corinthian church to “examine yourselves to determine whether you be in the faith.”
 
This predicament is as old as the church itself, and it is no respecter of age. Young adults have not cornered the market on unregenerate church membership, but with so many other pressures and opportunities associated with their life stage, their exit ramp is more predictable and more pronounced.
 
In other words, young adults are just one bloated demographic slice of an ever-present challenge within the church today: unregenerate church membership.
 
2. Many young adults leave the church because they never experienced it corporately.
 
To their own detriment, too many churches function like a confederation of para-church ministries meeting under the same roof. For instance, many young adults traveled from children’s church, to children’s ministry, to the youth group and then to college ministry.
 
Amazingly, many young adults spend 20-plus years in a local church with the congregation as a whole always being an ancillary group, and with their predominant religious attention focused from one of the church’s subgroups to the next.
 
Age-graded and targeted ministries can be healthy in as much as they undergird the life of the church and facilitate strategic discipleship and family ministry. But when they displace the central and formative place of congregational worship and corporate gatherings as a whole, they prove detrimental to both the individual and the local church.
 
In fact, the beauty of the New Testament church is its homogeneous diversity: Jew and Gentile, young and old, rich and poor, all united by the gospel and gathered around the common ministry of the Word, the Lord’s table, prayer and fellowship, together as the body of Christ.
 
There is a sweetness in God’s people, and we rob our children of experiences of God’s grace when we neglect to incorporate them into the corporate body. It is for this reason I want my children to know the saintly widow seated behind them and the contemporary adult couple seated in front of them as well as they know the children in their own classes.
 
When they are disconnected from the congregation, it should not surprise us that young adults, who have never known the church as a whole, are disinclined to embrace it when their age-graded group has run its course.  Do you want your children to participate in the church when they become adults? Then cultivate their participation as they travel life towards adulthood.
 
3. Many young adults leave the church because they never came to love it personally.
 
Though the church is not perfect, it ought to be cherished, warts and all, by every member of the congregation, including our children. As parents, we cultivate this by esteeming the church – and the individuals who comprise it – before our children. As a parent, my wife and I have long since covenanted together to guard our tongues, especially before our children, about the ministers and members of the churches we have joined.
 
Granted, no church is perfect, and if you ever find the perfect church, do not join it, or you will likely ruin it. At the same time, a spirit of criticism and sarcasm about the pastor and other members of the congregation mark the homes of too many church members. In so doing, children are hearing reason after reason why they should doubt the Word of God, not value fellowship of the saints, and be indifferent toward gathering with God’s people.
 
When this occurs, why should young adults commit their lives, time and resources to a pastor and group of people they have overheard their parents repeatedly denigrate?
 
Conclusion
 
Why do young adults leave the church? This is a pressing concern, but an often misplaced question. Instead of focusing so much on why young adults leave the church, let’s focus more on how they enter the church and how they engage it along the way. And, when you show me young adults who are truly converted, have ministered and worshiped with the church as a whole, and have grown to love the people of God, I will show you young adults who are a lot less likely to depart the church anytime soon.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jason Allen is the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. This article first appeared at JasonKAllen.com. Used by permission.)

3/19/2019 11:33:05 AM by Jason Allen | with 0 comments



Your imperfect local church

March 18 2019 by Doug Munton

Perhaps you have noticed that your local church isn’t perfect. If you haven’t, many people will be happy to point that out to you.
 
The lost world, disgruntled former members and even some in contemporary Christian culture delight in pointing out the flaws and warts of the church. And, let’s face it, the church has earned portions of her criticism.
 

Some local churches have accepted or condoned aberrant theology and unbiblical practices, even ungodly behavior. I would never ask you to connect with churches that willingly disobey God and His Word.
 
But what about the church that is trying but failing? What about the local church that wants to follow God fully but never fully succeeds?
 
Why in the world should Christians worship, serve and give in local churches that are flawed?
 
Here are some reasons:
 
1. Imperfect local churches are the only kind there are.
 
The reason for the imperfections of local churches is, of course, because of the imperfections of the people who make up the church.
 
Even those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb – those fully forgiven by Jesus – continue to struggle with sin. Like all Christians before us, we struggle with sin because our old, sinful nature still works inside us.
 
There are no perfect local churches because there are no perfect Christians, no perfect pastors and no perfect church members.
 
2. God created local churches knowing they would be imperfect.
 
When the Lord formed the local church – and it is clearly His idea, His plan and His methodology – He knew it was going to be filled with imperfect people.
 
Jesus is not surprised that the church, of which He is the chief cornerstone, is populated by the imperfect. Knowing the inherent imperfections did not stop God from creating the church. God values the imperfect local church which means we should as well.
 
3. Imperfect people fit perfectly with imperfect local churches.
 
You and I would never fit with a perfect local church. We would never relate and our presence alone would end its perfection.
 
But we can certainly relate to a group of people who have failed and fallen. We know perfectly well what it is like to stumble, to be selfish and to break our commitments. We need others who have been there with us and found perfection in the Lord, and the Lord only. We can join arms with others who, imperfectly at times, follow the Savior.
 
4. Imperfect people and churches do imperfect ministry together empowered by the perfect Lord.
 
Our perfect God formed the imperfect local church with what seems like a crazy plan. These imperfect people will join together to do ministry together in imperfect ways, using their gifts and resources and talents to imperfectly serve the perfect Lord.
 
What a perfect plan! The plan isn’t perfect because we are perfect. The plan isn’t perfect because the others in our local church are perfect. The plan is perfect because the Lord is perfect! He perfectly planned for imperfect us.
 
If you are waiting for a perfect church, you will never find it. If however, you are willing to let a perfect Savior use you and others in an imperfect local church, God will impact the world through you. God uses imperfect people and pastors and churches all the time. It is sort of His specialty, which is truly perfect!

3/18/2019 9:23:36 AM by Doug Munton | with 0 comments



Old & new

March 13 2019 by Nate Adams

This past year, my sons convinced my wife that I needed a new watch. Frankly, that idea hadn’t occurred to me, because I already have a nice watch, one that has worked well for more than 20 years. It’s also meaningful to me because it was a parting gift from friends at one of my previous employers.
 

To be honest, I really like my old watch. It’s wound by pendulum action, so it doesn’t need a battery. It has an easy-to-read face, allowing me to glance at it quickly during meetings, or sermons, which most people seem to appreciate. And it has the date right on it. What else would you want from a watch?
 
What else indeed! My new Apple watch does so much more than tell me the time and date. It reports how many calories I’ve burned that day, how many minutes I’ve exercised, even how many times I’ve stood up. It precisely describes the current weather conditions, and forecasts them for the future, wherever I am. It knows the time the sun will rise and set each day, and all about the latest news events. It displays my favorite photos, and with the press of a button it makes available dozens of other apps connected to my phone or computer.
 
When I set exercise goals or appointments or reminders, my watch vibrates or beeps and tells me what to do. Sometimes while I am sitting in a meeting, it tells me I’ve been sitting too long and should stand up. So I do. When people ask me why, I now just say, “Because I work for my watch.”
 
My new watch has also presented me with a challenge, however. After replacing my pendulum watch with my fancy new watch for a few days, I discovered that my old watch had stopped, and I couldn’t get it started again. The jeweler who repaired it told me that he couldn’t promise it would keep running, if I kept letting it wind down.
 
Some people would probably solve that problem by putting the old watch in a drawer and letting it become a relic, a memento of times past. But I’m not ready for my old watch to stop serving me, or reminding me of the people who gave it to me. So now, not every day, but every couple of days or in the evenings, I wear two watches, one on my left wrist and one on my right. It’s become kind of a conversation starter.
 
Since beginning that routine, I have started to ponder how much my dual watch situation represents an important reality in today’s churches.
 
In practically every church, there is an older generation of leaders who have served well and who can continue to serve well. And often, though not always, there is also a new generation of leaders with the same core beliefs and dedication to the church, but with new tastes in music, new needs and preferences, new skills in technology and new ideas about reaching their generation with the gospel.
 
Wise pastors and mature church leaders learn to value both generations and all they have to offer today’s churches. They don’t scorn new ideas and methods simply because the old ones still work just fine. But neither do they discard the old ways simply because some new style or preference comes along.
 
Sadly, that’s not always the case. It seems some churches are unwilling to learn or accept the new, while others are discarding or devaluing the old. But a healthy church with a bright future will learn to value and utilize both generations, side by side, as I have my two watches.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. This column first appeared in the association’s newspaper, Illinois Baptist, illinoisbaptist.org.)

3/13/2019 3:02:57 PM by Nate Adams | with 0 comments



A chance to live

March 12 2019 by Clara Molina

As I walked into the crisis pregnancy center where I volunteered for the first time, I could feel the presence of God guiding me to serve there.
 
The psalmist’s declaration in God’s Word was on my mind and still is today: “For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. Your works are wondrous, and I know this very well” (Psalm 139:13-14).  
 

I was not aware of the impact that volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center would have on my life as a Christian. God used these verses to lead me to pray for the women in crisis; He gave me an urgency to share the gospel with them; and He gave me an unmeasurable love for the unborn.
 
The experience of helping women who were trying to problem-solve without considering God’s will, God’s Word and possible post-abortion consequences has changed the way I minister to women. I am more sensitized about their need of Christ, more compassionate, more aware of their needs, less judgmental and compelled to help them.
 
There is no doubt that life is precious to the Lord. Giving the unborn a chance to live by guiding the mother into a relationship with Christ often results in the mother’s salvation and also saves the precious life of the child.
 
Women who are in desperate need of help during an unwanted pregnancy, including Christians, often do not know what to do about their situation. Most of them are unfamiliar with abortion procedures and the gruesome details they entail. Some are not aware of the resources, support and guidance available to them when they decide to keep a child or give the child up for adoption.
 
At the crisis pregnancy center, I was able to share the pain of a woman who wanted a child and had suffered a miscarriage. Another had tried for years and was disappointed to find out she only thought that she was pregnant but was not. I also experienced the heartache of witnessing the resolve of a woman who insisted on an abortion because she did not value her child. I was able to share the gospel with women who had had a previous pregnancy and wanted another child as well as women who had abortions before they were Christians and were pregnant but uncertain about their future.
 
Sharing Christ with them, praying for them, helping them with resources and offering a shoulder to cry on was an indescribable honor. I learned that most women are capable of giving birth but not all women can actually be mothers.
 
When God created humanity in the garden (Genesis 1:26-31 and 2:1-24), He carefully created them and personally gave them life. As I note in the book A Legacy of Wisdom, “A lot of people do not think about the fact that it took God in three persons to make humanity. One thing that touches me every time I read about the creation of the world is that God took time to make people because we are special to Him. He did not say, ‘Let there be man’ or ‘Let be there be woman.’ Instead, He labored to make man in His own image.”
 
God created new life in the garden and is still creating life today, yet His ultimate creation, humankind, is threatened today by the “convenience” of abortions targeting the unborn and infanticide that allows the already born in botched abortions to be killed after they are out of the mother’s body.
 
Nearly six in 10 Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases (58 percent), Pew Research reports. God gave men a charge to multiply (Genesis 1:28) by making originals of His originals. The result is another unique human being with its own DNA and soul who is created in the image of God. Those who support abortion subvert the multiplication which God intended.
 
God created humanity and it pleased Him (Genesis 1:26-31). Let us pray for women who are having crisis pregnancies so that someone can share Christ with them. “It is He who made us and we are His,” Psalm 100:3 tells us. I believe that God has a plan for everyone and that every soul is entitled to that life. After all, God told Jeremiah, “I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Clara Molina, a member of the Southern Baptist Hispanic Leaders Council, is a conference speaker and author.)
 

3/12/2019 10:10:03 AM by Clara Molina | with 0 comments



Adversity, suffering & Christ’s healing

March 11 2019 by David Jeremiah

On Aug. 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Corpus Christi, Texas. The wind and rain left behind devastating flooding that forced thousands to feel from their homes. But even after the water receded, the psychological impact on the survivors remained.
 

Four months later, a survey found that 18 percent of survivors regularly felt hopeless and nervous. For those whose homes sustained significant damage, it jumped to 48 percent.
 
One teacher listened to students and colleagues share their survival stories. But the challenges of rebuilding her own home and hearing the challenges of others led to increased anxiety and depression, and she was put on medical leave from work.
 
Heavy rainstorms continued to make many survivors nervous. But they encouraged each other to fight through the anxiety.
 
A neighborhood Facebook group in a hard-hit Houston neighborhood posted these words during a storm months later: “It’s just rain. Just a little rain.... Repeat until the rain stops!” according to the Washington Post. The words reminded survivors that they weren’t alone in their struggle to heal after Harvey.
 
The lasting impact of Hurricane Harvey should teach several lessons to all of us:

1) Adversity can come into our lives at any time.
2) Healing isn’t always easy.
3) Words can be both harmful and helpful.
4) “Getting over it” is easier said than done.
5) The best comforters are fellow sufferers who can empathize with us.
 

A lot to get over

 
On earth we’re surrounded by adversity and suffering, and the pain can sometimes be greater than we feel we can bear.
 
One of the most difficult subjects for me to talk about is suffering. I don’t like to discuss it. I don’t like to read about it. I wish we could all avoid it.
 
But adversity is inevitable for everyone on earth, and the Bible says we should not think it strange when it happens to us.
 
On one level, of course, we do have to try to eventually get over things and “accept the things we cannot change.” Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross once explained that in the face of loss or heartache, our emotions go through a “grief cycle,” which might include shock, denial, bargaining, anger, depression and eventual acceptance and adjustment.
 
The problem comes when we get “stuck” in that cycle. When someone tells us to “get over it,” they’re probably trying to nudge us on to a healthier stage of life.
 
In the Bible we read about the prophet Samuel who had chosen and mentored King Saul. When Saul fell into sin, Samuel was devastated. In 1 Samuel 16:1, the Lord asked him, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.”
 
It wasn’t easy, but Samuel obeyed.
 
Yet we have to remember that the deeper the wound, the longer the recovery. If I stub my toe, it takes a few minutes for the pain to subside. But if there’s a car wreck with major injuries, it’ll take weeks, months or even years to recover.
 
The same is true for the soul. The deeper the hurt, the longer the healing.
 

Reckless words/healing words

 
Sometimes the pain just doesn’t seem to end, the tears don’t stop, the illness doesn’t subside, and the wounds just seem to get deeper. So we need to pray for wisdom to say the right words to those going through such times.
 
Remember Proverbs 12:18: “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
 
When a friend needs encouragement, learn to deliberately consult the Lord before opening your mouth. Then as you weep with those who weep, speak the words God gives and remember to prayerfully point them to Christ.
 
When you think you can’t get over some deep hurt or loss, remember how the Father of glory stood silently by as His Son suffered scourging and crucifixion, that by His stripes we can be healed. If you or someone you know can’t move on, take hold of His nail-scarred hands and let Him help.
 
Only Jesus can heal our deepest hurts, and He can help you and me. Move on over to Him.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Jeremiah is pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., and founder and host of “Turning Point for God.”)

3/11/2019 10:45:16 AM by David Jeremiah | with 0 comments



Draper: When God says ‘no’

March 8 2019 by Jimmy Draper

When God says “no” it can be even more marvelous than when He says “yes.”
 
The apostle Paul, in Acts 16, begins his second missionary journey, carefully planning to revisit the cities in his first missionary journey and then go on to western Asia to preach the gospel.
 

His plans were good. God had given the church the Great Commission and had told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the power of the Holy Spirit came upon them. God wanted the Great Commission to be led by the Holy Spirit, which He gave to believers preceding Jesus’ instruction in Acts 1:8: “... you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
 
Paul was being obedient to those commands. This second missionary journey started well.
 
Paul and Silas headed north out of Antioch of Syria and visited Paul’s hometown of Tarsus. They then went on to Derbe, Lystra, Iconium and Antioch of Pisidia where they had been on first missionary journey. They delivered the decision from the Jerusalem conference found in Acts 15 and greatly encouraged the churches.
 
Paul’s plan was to turn west at Antioch of Pisidia and evangelize the area known today as Asia Minor. However, they were led by God to go toward Asia to the north all the way to Mysia in modern-day Turkey. In a bewildering way, God forbad them to preach the Gospel in Asia and when they came to Mysia, on the border of Bithynia, they were forbidden to go into Bithynia to preach.
 
Why did God say “no” to their plan to preach in Asia and Bithynia? Were there no needs for the Gospel there? Were they not included in the Great Commission?
 
The reason is clear. God had a better plan – a perfect plan – one that would reach Europe and the West, and all of Asia and Bithynia.
 
Bypassing Bithynia they came to Troas and on to Neapolis where Paul would go into Macedonia. In Philippi they met Lydia and others worshipping down by the river and led Lydia and her companions to faith in Christ.
 
Several decades later, Pliny the Younger, governor of Bithynia, wrote to Emperor Trajan in 112 A.D. that Christianity had spread to the cities, villages and rural areas of Bithynia. That letter is the first pagan account of the spread of Christianity.
 
How did this all happen? Lydia was from Thyatira in Asia. It was not a great city but it was the center of trade guilds for workers in various industries, including linens, garments, dye, wool, leather, pottery and bronze. It was famous for its dyeing facilities and purple cloth. Those products from Thyatira saturated Asia.
 
Lydia was probably one of the founding members of the church in Thyatira, and from there the gospel spread through the sales force that went out from Thyatira. God used a traveling saleswoman from an apparently insignificant town to spread the gospel to the areas where Paul had been forbidden to go. Amazing! The gospel spread in Asia and on to Bithynia through Lydia.
 
Later Paul would be led back to Asia and he reported that “All the inhabitants of the province of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the Word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10). He shared in the preaching in Asia and Bithynia but only after God had introduced the Gospel through Lydia.
 
God had better plans for Paul. Paul was obedient, but God gave him a new call as he was aggressively following God’s will. Paul’s obedience took the gospel to Europe and the West. Because of that, we heard the gospel. Each step of Paul’s journey was led by God.
 
It is His desire to lead each of us in our witness. God did not give us the Great Commission and then leave us alone to determine how to do it. His method was to have disciples who walk so closely to Him that they can walk in obedience to His presence and guidance.
 
Obedience is preparation to each of us to hear God’s call. God gives vision to those who are obedient. Too often we make our plans and ask God to bless them. God desires to lead us to accomplish His plans which are infinitely better.
 
As contemporary author Francis Chan noted, “The church becomes irrelevant when it becomes purely a human creation. We are not all we were made to be when everything in our lives and churches can be explained apart from the work and presence of the Spirit of God.”
 
The real issue is whether we live in such close relationship with God that we can follow His plan. No attack of Satan can defeat us if we begin each day by surrendering it to God and walk through the day aware of His leadership and power. God desires to join each of us every moment of our ministry and life. Our obedience makes it possible for Him to lead us every step of our journey. When God says “no” to our plans, it is always because He has a better plan!

3/8/2019 2:50:29 PM by Jimmy Draper | with 0 comments



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