November 2017

Preppers, fear & faith

November 30 2017 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

Have you built your underground bunker yet?
 
Don’t wait too long. If hurricanes and earthquakes don’t get you, terrorists and North Korean nukes might – not to mention lone gunmen randomly spraying bullets. We live in fearful times.
 
My bunker question isn’t entirely facetious. The survivalist movement, which has been around since Cold War days, has morphed into the trendier “prepper” movement. There was even a cable TV show about it (“Doomsday Preppers”).

Erich Bridges


Suburban moms anxious about the apocalypse seem to embrace the “prepper” moniker better than “survivalist,” which evokes images of wild-eyed, bearded guys in camo gear running around in the woods. “Prepper” moms can stock freeze-dried food and water in their safe rooms at home without feeling weird. A whole retail niche has developed around the trend. Costco, for example, offers a one-year emergency food kit. Price: $1,000, shipping included. Be prepared to eat a lot of granola, canned vegetables and canned fruit.
 
“Lurking beneath our well-socialized exteriors is an intense, primitive need to protect ourselves and those around us from existential threats,” Andrea Palpant Dilley writes in “Confessions of a Christian Prepper,” a recent article in Christianity Today. “One way or another, we all have to contend with the fundamental tension between readiness and relinquishment: When do we accept our mortality, when do we fight against it, and when do we give it up to God’s providence?”
 
To prep or not to prep – that is the question. Surrendering to God’s providence, customary in past generations when death visited more frequently, seems quaint in our day. We want to eliminate all threats, real or imagined.
 
This, at least in part, drives the relentless campaign to create “safe spaces” on college campuses and “protect” students from “dangerous speech.” Four in 10 American millennials (ages 18-34) now think the government should be able to regulate offensive speech, according to the Pew Research Center.
 
So much for the First Amendment. If we fear mere words that much, how deeply do we fear actions?
 
Not only do parents want to protect their kids from any potential danger, we demand that social institutions do the same for the rest of us, to the point of absurdity. There are plenty of real victims in our society, but a generalized culture of grievance and victimhood enables everyone to feel offended by – and fearful of – just about everyone else.
 
“Fear, in all its forms, is at the heart of these issues – fear of failure, ridicule, discomfort, ostracism, uncertainty,” psychologist Clay Routledge writes in The New York Times. “Of course, these fears haunt all of us, regardless of demographics. But that is precisely the point: Our culture isn’t preparing young people to grapple with what are ultimately unavoidable threats. Indeed, despite growing up in a physically safer and kinder society than past generations did, young Americans today report higher levels of anxiety.”
 

Why this nameless fear?

There are many causes: rapid change, loss of trust in traditional authorities, economic uncertainty, seemingly endless acts of violence and terrorism – magnified by 24/7 media. We are all susceptible to it.
 
But if there is any place that should be immune to fear, it is the heart of a Christian believer.
 
Do not fear, the Lord tells us – again and again, from Genesis to Revelation. His will shall be done. His Spirit shall lead us to victory. His glory shall be revealed. His presence shall comfort and protect us, no matter how terrible things seem. His purpose shall be fulfilled. Only be “strong and courageous,” He repeatedly commands the fearful Israelites as they venture into an enemy-filled Promised Land (see the Book of Joshua).
 
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity,” the apostle Paul tells his young disciple Timothy, “but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, NASB).
 
Yet many evangelical churches seem fearful these days. Fear of being overwhelmed by a hostile culture. Fear of losing liberty. Fear of outsiders and enemies, real or imagined. Fear of immigrants and refugees – the very people we should be welcoming and evangelizing in an age of unprecedented global migration.
 
Build a wall, the alarmists say – around our borders, our culture, our churches. Retreat into tribal enclaves. Even if some sort of Christian “Fortress America” were possible, is it what God intends? What about going to the nations, including the nations among us?
 
The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside; I will be killed in the streets!’” (Proverbs 22:13, NASB). Fear is a convenient cover for laziness, disobedience and distrust of God.
 
“Quite frankly, I don’t always trust God to provide,” Dilley, the prepper mom, admits. “I believe in the power of evil to overcome, and I’m determined to do everything I can to fend it off on my own. ... [But] I’m called to pivot outward, toward my neighbors.”
 
Who are our neighbors? Do we fear them – or love them?
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is a writer based in Richmond, Va., with 30-plus years in Baptist journalism.)
 

11/30/2017 9:40:35 AM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘We simply talked about the Savior’

November 29 2017 by Jacqueline Scott, Illinois Baptist

I was blessed to join a group of individuals recently with a heart to reach out to people in Cairo, Ill. This town on the southern tip of the state is a fraction of the size it once was and is plagued by poverty, crime and despair.
 
Speaking to others about Christ is my passion, especially in a street ministry setting. The analogy I use is that the army of God needs boots on the ground, and I enjoy the march.

Jacqueline Scott


We were sent out two-by-two in Cairo, just as Jesus illustrated with the disciples. We were given a small tract called “Your Life (A New Beginning),” which could be used as a conversation starter. We were to inform the individual that this little booklet had valuable information on obtaining a good life, then ask them how their life was going.
 
On the first day I felt some trepidation. I would vacillate between complete trust in the Spirit’s leadership, followed by strict attention to the tract. Although I knew the tract was simply a tool, I found myself concerned whether I’d covered all the bases, more focused on my presentation than on the individual’s reaction or response.
 
A “cold call” is never an easy form of interaction, especially in witnessing. Having just a few minutes at the door, our purpose is to offer the ABC’s of salvation and hope for follow-up and for growth to come later. Nevertheless, we sometimes fall into “Christianese” while conveying the message, which can result in more confusion than clarification. And on that first day in Cairo, I found myself far too focused on checking the talking points in the tract.
 
As a group we had prayed numerous times, but in this wavering between trust in Him and desire to complete the presentation, I knew the Lord was beckoning me to a new place of reliance on Him.
 
I can honestly say I love to talk and I love people. I’ve often said my spiritual gift is beneath my nose and my spiritual calling is to “love people into the Kingdom.” So the question is: What do I love to talk about? Answer: people coming to a real relationship with Christ.
 
For me, having a “gospel conversation” is a natural process, as natural as any other conversation, if the subject matter is about something or someone you love. The Word of God reminds us that we are equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17) and we are always to be ready to give an answer to everyone for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15).
 
If we have been mandated to “go and tell” as the Great Commission instructs, are we to conclude that God would purposely make fulfillment of that call difficult? I believe not. His word cites in Deuteronomy 30:14 and Romans 10:8 that the word is very near us; it’s in our mouths, which means all we have to do is open them. Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to speak His truth through us as yielded vessels.
 
There in Cairo I asked the Lord to allow me to be natural, sensitive and intentional, using the gift He had given me, the gift of sharing, whether it be a through a booklet, a testimony or conversation about the commonalities in our lives.
 
The next two days were significantly better because I released the idea that I had some sense of responsibility for the outcome of a person’s decision. With each day, I felt more liberated to have natural conversations.
 
At one house, an individual of the Black Hebrew Israelite religion informed my partner and me that we made a good team. This was strictly due to how we presented the message in a natural, non-threatening manner. The man was willing to listen because we didn’t so much “present” the gospel; we simply talked about the Savior.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jacqueline Scott, a member of Dorrisville Baptist Church in Harrisburg, Ill., serves on the Illinois Baptist State Association’s (IBSA) board of directors. This article first appeared in the ISBA news journal, the Illinois Baptist.)
 

11/29/2017 9:40:24 AM by Jacqueline Scott, Illinois Baptist | with 0 comments



Will you stand against racism?

November 27 2017 by Milton A. Hollifield Jr., Guest Column

During my address to messengers at the recent annual meeting of our Baptist State Convention, I spoke of how many churches and their members have lost their vision to see people come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
 
Some of the sad and tragic reasons that believers are not interested in reaching out to people living around them are because they speak a different language, have a different cultural background or have skin that is a different color.
 
Frankly, many don’t share the gospel with others because of their personal prejudices toward people of different racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, which goes against the very gospel that we proclaim.

I am thankful that a short while after I concluded my message, messengers took a strong stand against all forms of prejudice, bigotry and racism by adopting a “Resolution Denouncing Racism” by a near unanimous vote.
 
I deliberately chose not to make any public comments about the resolution prior to our annual meeting because I respect and believe in the processes and procedures that we have in place related to resolutions and other business matters. I wanted to allow the members of the Committee on Resolutions and Memorials to do their work, and I wanted the messengers to have their deliberation and debate free from any influence that expressing my own opinions on the matter may have caused.
 
Now that the resolution has been affirmed by our convention – passing by an overwhelming majority – I want to take an opportunity to let North Carolina Baptists know what my personal thoughts, beliefs and convictions are regarding the issue of race in general and this resolution in particular.
 
First, I applaud the work of the Committee on Resolutions and Memorials, which is entrusted with the responsibility of reviewing and deciding which resolutions will be brought before the convention for consideration. As is their responsibility and right, members of the committee wrote and presented this particular resolution to messengers.
 
In an explanatory article released in conjunction with the original draft of the resolution, the committee called racism “a critical and perennial issue in our culture” and wrote “that the Convention needs to formally express a biblically grounded opinion on the cultural issue of racism in America.”
 
Also, I affirm the words that Committee Chairman Jonathan Blaylock spoke when he quoted from the resolution in presenting it to messengers during the annual meeting. Blaylock said, “North Carolina Baptists denounce racism in all its expression as sin against a holy and just God.”
 
Although the resolution that passed was slightly amended during the time allotted for debate, no changes were made that diminish this clear and strong statement.
 
Furthermore, I believe, just as the resolution states, that any form of racism is a sin against Almighty God. The issue of race is not merely a cultural issue or a political issue. It is a biblical issue, and it is a spiritual issue.
 
Every individual is made in the image of God, and each person is precious to Him. What is precious to God should also be precious to us. As believers, we should not allow anything to come between our love of God and our love for our neighbors – and I believe the Bible really does mean anything.
 
The apostle Paul wrote that as believers we should be careful not to allow our rights and our freedoms to become stumbling blocks to others (1 Corinthians 8:9). The resolution adopted by messengers states that “the proclamation of the Gospel to all peoples must take precedence over the important personal preferences of individual Christians.”
 
It also calls on “North Carolina Baptists to joyfully set aside anything that might create a barrier for the sharing and hearing of the full truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
 
Ladies and gentlemen, may I submit to you that there are many things around us that are modern day stumbling blocks to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and to others whom we are trying to reach with the good news of the gospel. When an individual who professes Christ allows things like Confederate flags, monuments, statues or anything else to occupy a place of prominence in their life over and above the gospel, they must carefully examine their heart and ask, “What does this say to my neighbor?”
 
My allegiance to Jesus Christ and His gospel comes before my allegiance to any nation, to any flag, to any political party or to any person. I have a biblical mandate as a believer to serve and minister to others in accordance with the gospel. I am willing to lay aside anything that gets in the way of that mandate. Are you?
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Milton A. Hollifield Jr. is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)
 

11/27/2017 2:20:45 PM by Milton A. Hollifield Jr., Guest Column | with 0 comments



Why Baptists should celebrate Advent

November 27 2017 by J.R. Parks, Guest Column

As we approach this wonderful time of the year, many Protestants and Catholics are preparing to celebrate the season of Advent. Many Baptists, however, are unfamiliar with the tradition, and thus are left wondering what Advent is and why we should celebrate it.
 
The word advent finds its roots in Latin and simply means “coming.” Since at least the fourth century, Christians have been celebrating Advent as a time to remember Christ’s first coming and to look forward to his second coming.
 
The season begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas – this year, it is Dec. 3 – and continues to Christmas Day. During this time, various practices include fasting, reading selected scripture passages, guided prayers and hymn singing.
 
One popular custom that spans time and denominations is the use of light, particularly candles, as a central feature of the celebration. Lighting candles each Sunday, often positioned in an evergreen wreath, marks the coming of the “Light of the World” and calls attention forward to the time when that Light will return to make all things new.
 
The practice makes use of four candles to mark the four weeks of Advent, lighting one the first Sunday, two the second and so on. Some include a fifth candle, called the Christ candle, in the middle of the wreath that is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
 
The simple visual representation builds excitement and hope as each week brings us closer to the celebration of Christmas and more light is added to the room. Baptists began to accept the celebration of Christmas around the mid-1800s, embracing seasonal items such as Christmas trees as they joined other Christians in celebrating Christ’s first coming to earth.
 
Yet, many still view Advent as part of high-church tradition, associated with Catholics and mainline Protestants, although more Baptists, particularly Southern Baptists, have begun to celebrate this season in the last few decades.
 
LifeWay Christian Resources now offers multiple Advent devotionals and guides, even selling Advent-related candles and other supplies.
 
Personally, I began to lead my family in the celebration of Advent a few years ago, and I found it very beneficial. The month of December is a very busy time for many people, filled with shopping, decorating, preparing for Christmas and attending holiday parties. My family has welcomed daily Advent devotionals as an opportunity to slow down, light the candle(s) and spend time reading scripture and singing hymns to remind us of the reason for all the busyness of the season.
 
I hope this year you will consider joining Christians around the world as we celebrate our King who has come and is coming again. Grab some candles and a Christmas wreath for your table, find a resource to guide your devotional times and lead your church or your family as we remember – Christ has come, and He is coming again!
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – J.R. Parks is a deacon at Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville, N.C., and a co-host of Potluck Podcast: SBC.)

Click here to visit the Biblical Recorder's Advent page.

 

11/27/2017 2:15:27 PM by J.R. Parks, Guest Column | with 0 comments



Praying for others

November 22 2017 by Ronnie Floyd, Baptist Press

If prayer and the desire for evangelism are genuine, they happen simultaneously.
 
Are local churches, denominations, ministries and the prayer movement in America praying for others to come to Jesus Christ? Are you praying for others? Do you call out specific names to God each day?
 
America needs Jesus Christ more now than ever before. Our hearts should be broken over the lostness of America and the world. Mocking it helps no one. Ignoring it does not make it go away.

Ronnie Floyd


Every Christian needs to pray for others to come to faith in Jesus Christ. Consider these specific ways:
 

1. Pray for the scales to fall away from their blinded eyes.

We cannot deny the reality of what the apostle Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “In their case, the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (CSB).
 
When people do not know Jesus Christ, they are blinded to the truth of their great need for salvation. Intercessory prayer that is intentional and continuous can see God remove the scales of blindness and help them to see themselves as God sees them: lost and in need of a relationship with Jesus.
 
If we believe God can do anything with anyone at any time, then we can offer up prayers for the lost perpetually. I have seen God answer these prayers in my own life and through the life of my church. Only through God opening their eyes and minds will the unsaved see and hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. We need to pray for them and appeal to God for this to happen.
 

2. Pray for God to engineer their circumstances to convince them they need Jesus.

Our God is sovereign and desires for all persons to come to Jesus Christ. He can engineer circumstances to help convince them that their number one need is spiritual, and the answer is found in Jesus Christ alone.
 
I believe we can pray like this because God wants all people to turn from living their own way, doing their own thing, and come to Him. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.
 
Therefore, I pray that our great sovereign God will engineer circumstances in their life that will show them their deep and desperate need for Jesus Christ.
 

3. Pray for God to send someone to tell them about Jesus Christ.

As you pray for them to hear about Jesus Christ, be willing to tell them yourself. In fact, ask God for the open door to share the Good News. You might be the “someone” that others are praying for to tell their friend or family member about Christ. Be faithful to ask God to use you to share Jesus with others.
 
I do not know all that God is saying to America and to the world today, but one thing I am confident He is doing: He is calling every American and every person in this world into a personal relationship with Jesus.
 
May we be faithful to pray for all people to see their need for Jesus Christ and come to a personal relationship with Him.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ronnie Floyd is senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force and immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
 

11/22/2017 10:29:46 AM by Ronnie Floyd, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Unprepared for eternity

November 21 2017 by David Jeremiah, Baptist Press

Oh, the unbelievable horror of putting off Christ! The eternal sadness of waiting one day too long!
 
It’s akin to the terror of those who delayed boarding the ark in the days of Noah or those who failed to escape Sodom and Gomorrah when they had the opportunity. Think of the scoffing thief who died Christ-less within inches of Christ Himself who was – at that very moment – dying for him on the adjacent cross. Think of the multitudes at the Great White Throne Judgment who will frantically insist their names “must surely” be written somewhere in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

David Jeremiah


But they waited too long.
 
The Bible warns that every human being is subject to sudden death. No one has the promise of another day or hour. We never know when we’ll be swept into eternity by a car wreck, heart attack, an act of violence, a natural disaster or freak accident.
 
Thousands of people will die today, and many can’t see it coming. They woke up this morning, showered, dressed, grabbed a cup of coffee and dashed out the door never dreaming they were leaving their doorstep for the final time.
 
The Bible teaches that our days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle (Job 7:6), like flowers that quickly fade (Job 14:2) and like a mist that appears for a little time then vanishes (James 4:14).
 
Jesus told the story (Luke 16:19-31) of a rich man who lived in affluence while a beggar named Lazarus lived nearby in squalor. The beggar was ready for eternity. When he died he was carried away to be with Abraham and the saints of all the ages. But when the rich man died, he found himself in Hades. Jesus said, “Being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and … cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue’” (Luke 16:24).
 
But it wasn’t possible, and there he still is today without a whisper of hope. One of the worst things about hell is that one’s memory doesn’t die. The inhabitants of hell will remember all the opportunities they spurned. They’ll remember church services they attended, tracts they did not read, invitations they shrugged off and Bibles they disregarded.
 
Are you ready to meet Christ? Or are you in danger of waiting a day too long?
 
A prominent judge was raised in a Christian home by godly parents but he never personally professed personal faith in Christ. He married a woman who was a radiant believer. At the time of their marriage, he gave her the promise that someday he would get saved. She frequently reminded her husband of his promise, only to be put off with the words, “Sometime I will get saved, not now.”
 
This continued for some time until the wife contracted a serious illness and died shortly afterward. Her final pleadings were for his salvation but he continued to put off a decision.
 
One night the judge had a vivid dream – his whole life came before him as a panorama, scene after scene. He saw himself as an infant in the arms of a godly mother. He saw himself as a child listening to his mother’s prayers. He saw himself as a young man, drifting into dark company and bad habits as his mother knelt earnestly in her home, interceding for him. Then he saw his wife and heard her voice pleading with him to be saved. In his dream, he could hear himself saying, “Sometime, not now .... Sometime, not now ....” Then came a vivid scene of his own death. The judge awoke in terror.
 
What about you? Have you yielded your life to Christ or is your attitude the same as the procrastinating judge: “Someday I’ll get saved. Not now.”
 
The Bible uses the word now to express the urgency of salvation.
 
The Book of Isaiah says, “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. ...’” (Isaiah 1:18).
 
If you’d like to trust Christ as your Savior, let me suggest a simple prayer you can sincerely offer to the Lord right now: Dear God, I confess my sins. I don’t want to delay another moment. I invite Jesus into my heart to be my Savior. Today I confess Him as my Lord. I claim His promise of eternal life. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
 
Let today be your day of salvation!
 
(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.” For more information on Turning Point, visit DavidJeremiah.org. This column has been approved by Turning Point for redistribution in Baptist state newspapers; for other reprint requests, contact Myrna Davis at mdavis@tursningpointonline.org.)
 

11/21/2017 8:28:44 AM by David Jeremiah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Whatever happened to obedience?

November 20 2017 by Doug Metzger, Baptist Press

Years back, the church often sang the hymn “Trust and Obey.” It offered a great truth: To be happy in Jesus, we need to trust the Lord implicitly and obey Him completely.
 
Looking at the church today, do you ever wonder whatever happened to obedience? We find so many struggling to find happiness in the Christian life. What many fail to realize is that God’s first priority for us is our practical holiness not happiness.

Doug Metzger


And yet, once we start seeking holiness, the matter of spiritual happiness falls in place.
 
When wondering whatever happened to obedience, we can also ask whatever happened to holiness. How desperately the church needs what Charles Finney said many years ago concerning revival – “a revival is nothing else than a new beginning of obedience to God.”
 
A new beginning of obedience could well lead to a personal revival that brings holiness and happiness to the believer who takes obedience seriously.
 
I learned real obedience the hard way. It was my privilege to attend and graduate from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis. When I arrived to begin my first year, I had no idea what was in store during what is called plebe year.
 
Plebe was the title we wore and whenever you heard the word “Plebe” you knew that very likely it was not going to be good. Plebes back in my day went through a boot camp-type experience marked by enormous physical challenges involving some pretty tough hazing from the upperclassman.
 
Additionally, there was very demanding regimentation in the form of restrictions that placed plebes on the academy grounds seven days a week except for five hours on Saturdays if one was not working off demerits. Not only was there no dating, but a plebe was not to be caught speaking to a girl. Riding in a car was not allowed either.
 
Mealtimes were filled with passing the chow and answering professional military questions all while bracing up, which required a plebe to get into a rigid attention-like posture while tucking one’s chin as far into one’s neck as possible. If one did not know the answer to a question, the only acceptable response was “I’ll find out, sir.”
 
If a plebe returned to the next meal without the answer, he might hear the words “shove out” – assuming a sitting position without the benefit of a chair – or “come around.” That meant showing up at the upperclassman’s room at 6:15 in the morning or at 6 p.m. prior to evening meal formation. What followed in both cases was 30 minutes of pushups or perhaps uniform races requiring a plebe to race back to his room and change from one uniform into another or sometimes into multiple layers of sweat gear or facing a multitude of other commands devised by the upperclassman. It was generally misery for the plebe; it all demanded absolute obedience.
 
The taxpayer might wonder if the expense of such ridiculous training is worth the investment. My answer lies in painting the following scenario:
 
A young Naval Academy graduate is on the bridge of a multimillion dollar vessel serving as the officer of the deck (OOD). He’s in charge. Everything seems to be going well until the commanding officer (CO) enters and, with his vast experience, sees a dangerous situation requiring an immediate course change.
 
The CO says to his OOD, “Mr. M., right full rudder.” Let me tell you what the CO doesn’t want: excuses or the offer of a better idea or delay. He demands and expects instantaneous obedience. So the young officer’s immediate response is “Aye, aye, sir.” He has learned through his training that obedience is the only way to make the CO happy. It is also the only way to stay out of a world of trouble.
 
Does this have anything to do with my life as a believer? Sure enough. My life is to be one of seeking to follow my Lord wherever He leads and to do whatever He says to do. Excuses are not acceptable.
 
As to having a better idea, there is no better way than God’s way. And delayed obedience is nothing more than disobedience. My response to my Father in heaven is to be “Aye, aye, Lord, to Your will and to Your way.”
 
It took a yearlong boot camp for me to learn well what it meant to give total, instantaneous obedience to those in charge over me in the Navy. Most believers have never had such training and unfortunately appear to be slow learners in the school of hard knocks as to what obedience to God would mean for their lives. There is a great truth found in the hymn Trust and Obey. Oh, that those in the body of Christ would learn and practice such obedience. It could indeed be a great step forward toward needed revival!
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Doug Metzger is a retired pastor in Canton, Ga., who served churches 20-plus years in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia and California in addition to eight years with the North American Mission Board as director of prayer evangelism and, earlier, director of its Strategic Focus Cities emphasis and three years with its predecessor, the Home Mission Board, as associate director of personal evangelism.)
 

11/20/2017 9:32:48 AM by Doug Metzger, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Reaching refugees, reaching the nations

November 17 2017 by Bryant Wright, IMB

In 2015, Syrian families seeking refuge from the brutal war in their homeland began arriving in our city.
 
As senior pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., it has been my privilege to lead our people to engage with and serve those refugees, principally in metro Atlanta where they have gathered from all over the world. The people of our church have opened their hearts to them, helping many resettle in our community.

Bryant Wright


Because of our work, we suddenly found ourselves thrust into the media spotlight. Johnson Ferry was featured in The New York Times and on CNN, Fox News and 60 Minutes. Hundreds of calls, emails and letters poured in from people all over the U.S.
 
The reason for the overwhelming reaction was that these are not just Syrian families. They are Muslim Syrian families.
 
Unchurched Americans from states like California, Oregon and Washington (the so-called “Left Coast”) expressed their wholehearted support – and surprise – for the work we were doing as a conservative Baptist church. One memorable letter was from a cab driver in San Francisco who donated $200 from his Super Bowl office pool winnings to help the refugees. He was deeply touched by our church’s efforts, even though he did not share our beliefs.
 
Unfortunately, responses from many Christians ranged from worry over our country’s security to blaming our church for letting in potential terrorists. Some thundered with extreme condemnation like “I hope you burn in hell!” A strong but small Christian voice supported our efforts, most notably our own church members. We are so thankful for their encouragement and involvement along the way.
 

Reaching refugees: reaching the nations

In the wake of these responses to our work with refugees, I’ve begun to wonder if many American Christians have missed the reason why we have been blessed in the first place. If we truly believe God is sovereign, then it should be clear that God is leading peoples from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and other places to our collective doorstep.
 
These refugees are now living in a land where the gospel is freely proclaimed. Peoples previously inaccessible are not only within our reach, they are our neighbors.
 
In light of this reality, we need more churches to understand that God turns even the tragedy of forced migration into the triumph of future salvation. The opportunities are tremendous for the gospel to be heard by literally millions of people who’ve been forced out of places where the gospel could not previously go. And many of those opportunities can now be found in our own neighborhoods.
 

Ways to respond

Here are three simple ways in which we as Christ’s followers can aid the refugees among us:
 
First, we should simply love our neighbors.
Christ makes this very clear in His teaching on the Great Commandment in Matthew 22:36-40. We are meant to love God with all we are and have and to love our neighbors.
 
Our government has been tasked with the responsibility to decide who can gain access to our country and who cannot, and we can speak into that process as American citizens. Our role in the church, however, is different. Once people have been given access, they are our neighbors, and how we respond must necessarily be founded in scripture and mirror the character of Christ.
 
As such, we now have eight Muslim Syrian refugee families and two Christian Iranian refugee families that hundreds of volunteers in our church are helping to learn English, shop in an American grocery store, pay bills – everything that pertains to daily life.
 
Second, we should share the hope we have in Christ. With everyone. The gospel is for all people, including Muslims. Jesus is worthy of their worship and praise just as He is worthy of our own. Our attitude toward refugees must reflect this truth.
 
Third, we should thank God daily for our blessings. Spiritual and material blessings are ours to be stewarded, not hoarded. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 is abundantly clear: “Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of what is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:17-19, CSB).
 
Those of us who live in America are among the richest people in the world. All of us. We’ve been given so much. As believers, we must understand that all we have received is for His purposes (Matthew 25:14-30) to be invested for the good of His Kingdom. Generosity, then must be a defining characteristic – one that determines how we interact with others in need.
 
Presently, our government officials are reshaping our nation’s refugee resettlement policy. As believers, we should pray for wisdom among our leaders in that process. And yet, whichever way the political winds blow, may we as Christ-followers open our eyes to the immigrants and refugees God has placed among us. May we love these neighbors and friends and see their arrival as an opportunity for Christ’s Kingdom to advance.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bryant Wright is senior pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., and a past president of the Southern Baptist Convention. This column first appeared at the International Mission Board’s imb.org website. Used with permission.)
 

11/17/2017 8:08:08 AM by Bryant Wright, IMB | with 0 comments



Movies: Kid-friendly animation & Christ’s incarnation

November 16 2017 by Phil Boatwright, Baptist Press

Though a bit early to hang stockings over the mantle, it’s never too soon to hear a retelling of the first Christmas. With that reasoning, Sony Pictures’ premieres “The Star,” a new animated version of the birth of Jesus, in theaters Nov. 17.
 
Alongside this kid-aimed adaptation from the perspective of the animal kingdom, I’d also like to feature “The Miracle Maker,” another interesting animated reenactment of our Savior’s birth.

 

The Star

The first thing I asked myself before viewing this movie was, Does this Disney-esque interpretation of such a sacred moment in mankind’s history come across as sacrilegious? My conclusion: sacrilegious, no; somewhat frivolous, yes.
 
Not much regard is paid to reverential matters in this cynical age. Indeed, little respect is shown for anything anymore, except for countless kickoffs every Sunday. And some would argue that those cultural events have also been defiled.
 
So, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of animated animals taking the spotlight off the infant who would one day change the course of man’s destiny. But after seeing the screener, I gave way to another view of this lighthearted treatment of a holy event. Though rated PG, adults are not the targeted audience for The Star. The script has been fashioned in a way to make the spiritual aspect of the story understandable to its main demographic: little ones.
 
Gratefully, while utilizing this approach, the filmmakers avoid using Jesus, Mary or Joseph as the brunt of jokes. Well, OK, Joseph, like most sitcom husbands, is a bit of a bumbler. But it is clear that he is a good man. Here, the animals represent mankind. It is they (we) who are bewildered until the true meaning of life is born.
 
I believe that as children enjoy the comic antics of Bo the donkey played by Steven Yeun, Aidy Bryant as Ruth the sheep and Keegan-Michael Key as Dave the dove, they will open up to the picture’s sincere and biblical conclusion. What’s more, I suspect the 86-minute film will cause family discussion on the drive home.
 
The cast of vocal talent also includes Gina Rodriguez as Mary, Zachary Levi as Joseph, radio personality Delilah Rene as Elizabeth, Christopher Plummer as King Herod and, playing other animals, Patricia Heaton, Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Tracy Morgan, Kelly Clarkson, Kris Kristofferson, Kristin Chenoweth, Anthony Anderson, Ving Rhames and Gabriel Iglesias.
 

The Miracle Maker

The Miracle Maker also aids children in understanding the story of Jesus, from His birth to His great sacrifice for mankind. With the use of Claymation and its graphically striking two-dimensional animation, this made-for-TV production from 2000 presents the life of Jesus through the eyes of a sick little girl who encounters Christ through different stages of His ministry.
 
Devised to have genuine family appeal, The Miracle Maker (rated, G, available at Amazon.com) is able to relate the Jesus of the Bible to little ones without sacrificing the integrity of the gospels. The movie combines two very different animation disciplines and adds vivid special effects to make this interpretation mesmerizing storytelling for older family members as well.
 
While watching a children’s cartoon may sound as enjoyable as doing the dishes, it can have long-lasting rewards.
 
A few years ago, I had to view each of the Tinker Bell made-for-DVD movies, both because I was reviewing them for several outlets and because my then-7-year-old niece loved Tink. With each DVD, my beloved niece would sit on the floor and, from time to time, look back at me on the couch, making sure I was watching. When I’d laugh at the exploits of Ms. Bell and her fellow fairies, my niece would be pleased that I was smart enough to appreciate the perplexities of her favorite forest wood nymphs.
 
My point: It means something to kids when you share a movie with them. And for years afterwards, it will mean something to you. Here’s the secret – never make fun of the production. Hint: watch your little one enjoying the movie. That helps a whole lot.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Phil Boatwright is the author of MOVIES: The Good, the Bad, and the Really, Really Bad, available at Amazon.com.)
 

11/16/2017 9:31:42 AM by Phil Boatwright, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



The necessity of patience

November 15 2017 by Susie Hawkins, Baptist Press

“Lord, give me patience, and give it to me right now!”
 
Patience is a virtue that does not come naturally to most of us. We hesitate to pray for it, since we know it comes out of trials and suffering.
 
Cultivating patience is not easy, but it is a mark of spiritual maturity. Bearing with others’ weaknesses (Romans 15:1) is a characteristic of biblical leadership and good shepherding.

Susie Hawkins


Patience, in its highest sense, can be defined as “the capacity to endure without complaint something difficult or disagreeable.” It is steadfastness despite adversity. Patience is not resignation or apathy but firmly believing God is sovereignly at work despite no visible evidence.
 
Patience can persuade a prince and soft speech can break bones,” Proverbs 25:15 tells us.
 
This implies that one who holds the greater power in a relationship can be won over by a tiny thing called patience. Persuading a peer is one thing, but a prince? That’s another.
 
Every church goes through certain levels of crisis. When unity is undermined, conflicts surface. There will always be those who push back on every decision or question motives. Cultivating patience with others during these seasons requires gentleness, humility and faith.
 
I’ve seen this modeled throughout our ministry life by wise leaders. I have benefitted from it. Patience and kind words can minimize negative dynamics whether in personal relationships or a congregation. Even if disagreements exist, relationships can be maintained in the bond of peace.
 
Here are three things I have learned about patience:
 

1. Give the Holy Spirit time to work in people’s hearts.

We once experienced what I thought was the end of a close friendship over a church matter. The couple was angry and left the church, abruptly ending our relationship. A year or so later, we bumped into them at an event. To our surprise, they approached us and struck up a conversation. As we talked, it was clear that their anger had somehow been resolved.
 
I was relieved and was reminded that we are not called to fix people. We must do everything we can to make things right, but sometimes only prayerful waiting can bring healing. Rather than assume a relationship is dead, wait patiently and prayerfully for the Spirit to work. Our job is to examine our own hearts and wait patiently for God to work in theirs.
 

2. Give people time to process actions or policies they may not immediately support.

Usually the staff, elders and committees have planned and worked on a project for months. They have had time to ask all the hard questions, look at both sides of the issue and examine alternatives. Give others the same space. Give them time to question, time to pray, time to understand what a specific event or a recommendation means for the future, waiting upon God to do His work in the hearts of the people.
 

3. Give grace when you speak. Always.

Soft words can break hard hearts. This is the power of “soft speech.” It is disarming and sometimes unexpected, but always timely. “A soft answer turns away wrath,” Proverbs 15:1 says. The story of Abigail’s words to and David in 1 Samuel 25 is a classic example of this point. Abigail’s humble response to David’s anger over a soured relationship with Nabal won David’s heart and prevented bloodshed.
 
There are times when confrontations are necessary and hard truths must be communicated. However, patience and soft speech can make restoration, forgiveness and acceptance easier to find in the aftermath. Patience waits on God to work, claiming the promise of Isaiah 64:4, “God works on behalf of those who wait for Him. ...

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Susie Hawkins has been active in ministry as a pastor’s wife, teacher and volunteer and is the author of From One Ministry Wife to Another. She and her husband O.S. Hawkins, president of Guidestone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, have two children and six grandchildren. This column first appeared at Flourish, an online community for ministers’ wives sponsored by the North American Mission Board.)
 

11/15/2017 8:03:42 AM by Susie Hawkins, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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