November 2018

4 pegs

November 30 2018 by Curtis A. Woods

Richard F. Lovelace, in his work Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal, explains how the Puritan Richard Baxter labored extensively on developing a core doctrinal belief that would unite all English Christians.
 
Baxter, according to Lovelace, leaned on the words of Rupert Meldenius, a lesser-known 17th century European theologian, who said, “Unity in essentials, liberty in incidentals, and in all things charity.”
 
This adage rightly characterizes the heartbeat of a big tent convention that works hard to maintain unity in diversity. We cannot proclaim theological incidentals unfounded in scripture as universal maxims, but when someone errs in this regard, we must approach the erring party with a spirit of grace and truth (Proverbs 15:1-4, 25:11; Ephesians 4:29-30).
 

Baptist churches come in many shapes, forms and sizes. Some of us meet in traditional red brick buildings while others meet in storefronts. Some love the traditional hymns with piano accompaniment while others sing modern praise music to the beat of electronic drums and the rhythm of an electric guitar, and yet others love southern gospel, Negro spirituals, contemplative silence and upbeat Latin worship expressions. Some of our pastors preach in ties and others preach in jeans and may not own a tie. Some have “Baptist” in their name and some do not. Some of our leaders are seminary trained and others cut their teeth in ministry by learning from a seasoned pastor.
 
While we are not the same, and do not see eye-to-eye on every issue, we have more in common than not. Every church can find unity and support in the Southern Baptist family regardless of church title, location, ethnicity or economic status. We are a big tent convention stabilized by four pegs.
 
What are the four pegs?
 

First and foremost is a high view of scripture.

 
The Bible is authoritative for faith and practice. It shapes our presuppositions and ignites our passion to know God and reach our world for Christ. We unashamedly read the Bible like Jesus and the Apostles read the Old Testament. They believed in the absolute authority and sufficiency of the Word of God to shape one’s worldview. God’s Word reveals God’s mind without any hint of error. The inerrant Word shapes our identity so that we can faithfully engage a culture committed to a revisionist picture of Jesus Christ.
 

Second, we are committed to the Great Commission.

 
Jesus says we must “make disciples” of all people groups. In order to do this, we intentionally seek out loving relationships with unbelievers, praying for an opportunity to snatch souls from the fire as an act of love (Jude 21-23). I will lamentably admit that sometimes the hustle and bustle of life distracts me from the most important thing – personally sharing my faith with the lost. I am sure you have had a similar experience, but you can change that by leaning on the Word of God, your local church and your convention’s servant-leaders. We are committed to train our churches to do the work of an evangelist so that every man, woman, boy and girl around the world has an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel.
 

Third, the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) reflects our common confessional beliefs.

 
As a convention, we must fight the fight of faith by avoiding “theological tribalism.” We are Baptists. We should no longer define our Christian friends based on geographic location, ethnicity, economics or school affiliations. The BF&M was designed in 1925 to serve as a confessional rudder, rather than a creedal instrument, to keep SBC churches from being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. The confessional document experienced two revisions with the final revision given at the turn of 21st century. The BF&M can serve as a necessary guardrail for any Baptist church in our beloved family.
 

Fourth, our commitment to cooperation displays biblical maturity.

 
We advance the gospel together by powering missions and ministries through Cooperative Program (CP) giving and living. I say living because CP was created to give life to the Great Commission. By God’s grace, He has provided us with an ingenious tool to advance the gospel throughout the nations. Every church. Every nation. Our churches have the ability to be like the Macedonian churches who gave exceedingly above their perceived ability because, as the song says, “people need the Lord” (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
 
If these pegs are in place, our convention will be secure in the gospel against the winds of change.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Curtis A. Woods is co-interim executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. This column first appeared in convention's news service, Kentucky Today, kentuckytoday.com.)

11/30/2018 10:29:30 AM by Curtis A. Woods | with 0 comments



Marijuana’s momentum

November 29 2018 by Brian Hobbs

The 2018 midterm elections saw many winners and losers. Yet the much-discussed Nov. 6 vote had one big winner that some people are not talking about.
 

That “winner” is marijuana, which is actually a loser for families and society. On Nov. 6, voters approved recreational marijuana use in Michigan, as well as so-called medical marijuana in Missouri and Utah.
 
Indeed, 2018 as a whole has been a banner year for the advancement and normalization of marijuana. A recent article in The Washington Post observed, “It has been a big year for marijuana policy in North America. Mexico’s supreme court overturned pot prohibition ... while Canada’s recreational marijuana market officially opened its doors in October.”
 

The article went on to note that “Oklahoma voters approved one of the country’s most progressive medical marijuana bills” in a June election.
 
In the face of marijuana’s rapid advance, what can Christians do? There are at least three things:
 

Don’t panic, pray

 
It would be a mistake to overact to the marijuana moment. We need to pray that God would turn the hearts of people away from the lure of drunkenness and toward obeying the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
 

Warn others

 
The culture in America is increasingly in favor of marijuana use. Christians need to re-double our efforts on warning people – especially young people – about the spiritual and physical ramifications of these mind-altering, addictive drugs. We need to go back to the basics about why drunkenness is not only wrong and displeasing to God, but that it leads to a wasted life (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
 

Win over

 
Ultimately, marijuana’s momentum is a sign of the times. The surge of marijuana legalization suggests a moral laxness, showing that people now want license over laws. Yet no policy victories – bad or good – are permanent. If marijuana is truly as dangerous as we warn, then we must continue to persevere and also persuade people against it (Proverbs 25:15).
 
Moreover, the trends mean Christians will need to stand ready with ministries to help those who are addicted and help families who are shattered by the ugly effects and empty promises of drugs.
 
It also means that, until the societal pendulum swings back away from marijuana, Christians must contend for our convictions in the marketplace of ideas with confidence, standing on the Word of God.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Hobbs is editor of The Baptist Messenger, baptistmessenger.com, news journal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, where this article first appeared.)

11/29/2018 10:50:44 AM by Brian Hobbs | with 0 comments



Hatred, racism, forgiveness

November 28 2018 by Keith Shorter

Do you know the internal struggle of trying to forgive someone who has deliberately hurt you or someone in your family? Reverend Anthony Thompson knows exactly what that feels like.
 
His wife Myra was one of the nine people murdered on June 15, 2015, at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. Recently, I heard him share his story at the same church where his wife was killed.
 
Two days after the shooting, Reverend Thompson reluctantly went to the bond hearing for Dylann Roof. He had no intention of saying anything. In fact, he told his family members who were present to keep their mouths closed.
 

When the judge asked if anyone would like to speak, Reverend Thompson felt the Holy Spirit was prompting him to get up and address Dylann. As he approached the podium he had no idea what he was going to say. He stood there and looked at the young man who had murdered his wife just 48 hours earlier. “As I looked at him,” he recounted, “it was like no one else was in the room.”
 
Then it happened. Reverend Thompson spoke words of healing rather than vengeance.
 
“I forgive you, and my family forgives you,” he said, “and you need to confess to God and repent.”
 
Reverend Thompson recalled, “As I spoke those words I felt the anger, bitterness and loneliness leaving my body. I felt this peace like none other. I realized that was the peace that passes all understanding. God’s peace is real. But you are not going to get it until you forgive somebody.”
 
Over the years, I have heard many messages about forgiving those who have hurt you, but none of them could match the sincerity I heard at Mother Emanuel Church that night. Reverend Thompson was literally standing one floor above where his wife and eight others were gunned down in the basement. Yet his message was clear and unwavering: “Only forgiveness can bring about healing in your life.” I sat there with hundreds of others that evening amazed at how hatred, racism and violence were defeated with one simple act of forgiveness.
 
We carry a lot of baggage. When someone has intentionally hurt us or someone that we love, it is easy to carry bitterness and anger from our past into our future. If that is you, here is something to consider: what if forgiveness is more about setting you free than it is about setting them free?
 
Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievance you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (NIV).
 
I have found in my life that forgiveness is a wonderful concept until you are the one who has to offer the forgiveness! That is where the struggle begins. Letting go of our anger and bitterness is never easy because the hurt and pain someone caused you is undeniable.
 
Perhaps it is time you say the words you said you would never say. Imagine feeling the anger and bitterness leaving your body as you say, “I forgive you.” Those three words sound a lot like Jesus.
 
To quote Reverend Thompson again, “God’s peace is real. But you are not going to get it until you forgive somebody.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Shorter is pastor of Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Easley, S.C., and a former president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.)

11/28/2018 10:07:55 AM by Keith Shorter | with 0 comments



Be missional in the marketplace this holiday season

November 26 2018 by Aaron Wilson, LifeWay Christian Resources

Five years ago around this time of year, I was on my phone scrolling through social media when a few posts written by Christian friends grabbed my attention.
 
They read:
 
– “So tired of this corporate greed. The holidays are about faith and family. #StayHomeDontShop”
 
– “Take back Thanksgiving for Christ. #BoycottBlackFriday”
 
– “Camping out at home to avoid the wackos trampling each other over half-priced TVs.”
 
As I read these posts and watched online petitions get circulated by other Christians pledging not to shop on and around Thanksgiving, I felt vilified in my role at the time as a manager over six retail stores.
 
This time of year often brings out a propensity for Christians to confuse the mission of saving people created in the image of God with the call to save holiday values propagated more by Hallmark than scripture.
 

The marketplace is a mission field

 
The apostle Paul loved to use the marketplace as a location to witness for Jesus – so much so that his companion Luke wrote in Acts 17:17 that Paul reasoned in the marketplace every day while in Athens.
 
Paul’s missionary practice stands in stark contrast to modern-day believers who boast about avoiding crowds in the marketplace. Paul, like Jesus, didn’t see large crowds of people as something to dodge; he saw them as a chance to gather around lost people who needed saving.
 
Here are some practical ways your church, small group or members can treat the marketplace as a mission field this holiday season.
 

Adopt a store

 
As a former store manager who worked in retail for 16 years, I can testify Black Friday is a gratifying but exhausting day for retail employees. I gave up turkey and dressing for many years to scarf down a PB&J sandwich while putting together displays for my customers.
 
I didn’t do this because I hated Thanksgiving and family. I did it because it was my job, and I wanted to love my customers by serving them like Jesus by creating the best shopping experience possible.
 
The manager at your local big box store is most likely just a family man or woman trying to do his or her job with excellence – someone who could use encouragement during their most demanding time of the year.
 
Want to really bless folks in your local community this season? Call up a store this week and ask the manager if you can bring their employees cookies or snacks to put in their break room on high-traffic selling days of the Christmas season.
 
Sponsor a store this Christmas by writing cards to the employees, thanking them for their service to the community. If you have the means to do so, have your church provide small gifts – church mugs filled with candy or $5 gift cards – for the employees of smaller stores. Let them know you’re praying for them and actually set aside time to do so.
 
When employees who live and breathe the mantra “the customer is always right” see strangers going out of their way to remember them during this busy season, it makes a memorable impression that could very well pave the way for a gospel conversation or a future visit to your church.
 

Partner with stores

 
Another idea is to work with stores to provide additional services to bless their customers. For example, see if a store would be OK with your church setting up a free gift-wrapping station in their parking lot manned by church members.
 
Or consider partnering with a church located near a shopping center to offer free, curbside gift-wrapping on Saturdays in December. Spread the word to local businesses that you’re offering this service by handing out fliers ahead of time.
 
Not only does this provide opportunities for churches to get to know members of their community in the marketplace like Paul did, it also helps destroy the perception that Christians view businesses and their employees as the archenemies of traditional holiday values.
 

Boycott the boycotts

 
If a person knew nothing about the Bible other than what they could observe through Christians’ social media posts, they might come to think the Great Commission involves going to war over the design of Christmas coffee cups or what hour a retailer should open on or after Thanksgiving.
 
These should be non-issues for Christians, but such topics now attract regular boycotts and hashtags to such a degree that The New York Times describes the five-week period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day as a time marked by “an annual culture war over the role of religion and liberalism.”
 
In John 13:35, Jesus says that “everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” This verse should challenge us to consider if our holiday comments about the marketplace are communicating that we really love people.
 
When Christians encourage the boycotting of businesses in an effort to preserve holiday values, they’re not sticking it to the man; they’re hurting people who actually have the least effect on change within their company – the single mom working a second job at Starbucks or the college kid paying his tuition by pulling the late shift at the local Target.
 
Don’t look down on those who make a living selling things during the holidays and criticize them, their employers or their customers; look for ways to support, encourage and thank those who serve on the frontlines of the marketplace.
 

Opportunities abound

 
Thanksgiving and Christmas are wonderful times of the year to sit back and reflect on the blessings God has given, but these holidays are also ripe with opportunities to minister to your community in the public square of the modern marketplace.
 
Instead of simply hunkering down at home and throwing a scornful eye at the hustle and bustle of businesses clamoring to drive customer traffic, consider ways you can be Jesus to those who are serving and shopping at local retailers this holiday season.
 

11/26/2018 11:01:04 AM by Aaron Wilson, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments



MOVIES: … I’m thankful for

November 21 2018 by Phil Boatwright

Numerous films have enriched me either through amusement (“The Nutty Professor” with Jerry Lewis; “The Mouse That Roared”; “Dr. Strangelove”; “The Great Race”) or by including the theme of God’s grace (“Amish Grace”; “The Passion of the Christ”; “Places in the Heart”), but for this Thanksgiving I wanted to feature movies that prompt me to be grateful.
 

At first, they may seem odd choices for the Thanksgiving holiday, but ultimately each of these films emphasizes the need for us to treasure our blessings. So, after the scrumptious feast and the big game(s), hopefully one of these selections will complete a satisfying day with kith and kin.
 

“Little Boy” (2015)

 
An eight-year-old wants his dad home from the war and he’s told that if you have faith even as little as the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains. He wonders, however, how do we get that faith? Gutsy and profound, Little Boy reminds us that the faith of a child can be more powerful than whole armies.
 
It also reminds us that prejudice is something taught and, once taught, is very hard to unlearn. Little boy is rated PG-13, mainly for name-calling. During World War II most in America used a slur when referring to the Japanese. And Japanese-Americans lost rights simply because they had the “face of the enemy.” The film points this out in an attempt to see that such injustice never recurs.
 
A solid cast is led by a child, with young Jakob Salvati’s poignant portrayal reminding us to be thankful for faith, which is God’s path to an eternal relationship with Him.
 

“Raising Helen” (2004)

 
Kate Hudson plays Helen, an up-and-coming assistant to a modeling agency boss (Helen Mirren). But her career plans are put on hold after her sister (Felicity Huffman) and brother-in-law are killed in a car crash, leaving her to care for their three kids, ages 5, 10 and 15. She gets help from another older sister, the bossy Jenny (Joan Cusack), and a kind-hearted pastor (John Corbett), who falls in love with Helen while guiding her down life’s new path.
 
Raising Helen is one of the few-and-far-between films the Christian community is always saying they want: witty, involving, even perceptive, one without crudity, profanity or exploitive sexuality. And it presents a man of the cloth in a good light.
 
It’s a film that reminds us to be thankful for how God can bless us through our families. (PG-13)
 

“Wall-E” (2008)

 
In this ecologically-themed animated family film, a lone robot has been left behind on a futuristic Earth. Once rescued by a spaceship where he is exposed to humans for the first time, Wall-E comes to accept mankind’s frailties and learns to love them.
 
The most original, fun film of that summer, Wall-E is both funny and touching. It contains an overall sense of wonder missing in many films aimed at families. Every detail has been given loving and experienced detailing by Disney and Pixar studios. From the animation to its score (incredible use of music that aids in telling the story) to the directorial pacing, no detail has been overlooked.
 
While there’s no overt religious theme, Wall-E does remind us to be grateful for that which is more valuable than possessions – each another. (G)
 

“The Genesis Code” (2010)

 
Could science and creation both be right? That’s the premise of this thoughtful, spiritually-themed drama. By film’s end nonbelievers will certainly have to consider what the faithful already know – God created science.
 
This is a perceptive view of how we came to be. Though it has somewhat of a made-for-churches feel, it is nonetheless theologically absorbing. And despite the fact that veterans Louis Fletcher, Ernest Borgnine and Fred Thompson have little to do in the film other than lend their names to a cause they must have believed in, young actors Kelsey Sanders and Logan Bartholomew do a nice job as the protagonists. Directors C. Thomas Howell and Patrick Read Johnson keep the action going at a good pace.
 
What’s fascinating about this production is the presentation of a theory that mixes together both science and creation. It examines how life could have happened in six days – that’s six days in God’s time. In an age when the Big Bang and evolution are the central teachings found in academia’s science classes, The Genesis Code and its sequels are films that thankfully validate a creationist’s concept of how we came to be. Rated PG, I found nothing objectionable.
 

“This Is Our Time: To Seize God’s Calling” (2013)

 
Five friends (including Shawn-Caulin Young, “Thor,” and Erin Bethea, “Fireproof”) graduate from a Christian college and head out into the world believing they will aid their fellow man. But life will present its challenges.
 
The opening sequence with the group in their graduating garb reminded me of 1985’s “St. Elmo’s Fire” in that we were about to see comfortable kids heading into an uncomfortable world. There is a difference; our protagonists in This Is Our Time have a devout faith – one that will be tested and found true.
 
With good production values, This Is Our Time is a spiritually uplifting drama that has something in common with “It’s A Wonderful Life.” It encourages viewers to be thankful for the fact that we can affect the lives of those around us. Not rated, it’s suitable for 12 on up.
 
I hope you’ll enjoy one of these movie selections, and that you’ll have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Oh, and may I suggest – go easy on the stuffing … and the politics.
 
(EDITOR'S NOTE – Phil Boatwright is the author of MOVIES: The Good, the Bad, and the Really, Really Bad, available on Amazon.com.)

11/21/2018 12:07:52 PM by Phil Boatwright | with 0 comments



Be thankful together

November 20 2018 by Autumn Wall

Thanksgiving is a great time to remind our hearts of the importance of expressing our gratefulness to God and to each other. As 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us, we’re to be “thankful in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
 

In our home, we look forward to Thanksgiving as a day when we invite anyone around us who doesn’t have family nearby to come to our house to celebrate. Some years we have our family plus three or four friends, other years we have upwards of 25 around a table eating and playing games for the day. It’s one of our favorite family ministry opportunities as we gather friends to intentionally spend the day investing in their lives.
 

Want to expand your family holiday to make an impact on the Kingdom? Here are a few fresh ideas to get you going.

  • Think through your guest list. Think about college students whose families are far away. International students who would be thrilled to experience an “American holiday.” A young married couple desiring to start new traditions. Your neighbors who tend to keep to themselves. A coworker whose marriage is falling apart. The single mom who is struggling to provide for her kids. The homeless guy you pass when you walk downtown.

  • Organize the meal plan, inviting everyone to bring their favorite dish to share.

  • Have your kids make name cards for each place at the table so everyone feels a part of the family as you sit to eat together.

  • Make a tree out of poster board and put it on the wall. As your guests arrive, have them write on paper leaves things they are thankful for and attach the leaves to the tree. When you sit to eat, read out a few of the leaves and be thankful together.

  • After you eat, give everyone a piece of paper and a pen. Start a timer and instruct everyone to take five minutes to make a list of things they are thankful for today. The kids can draw pictures or have an adult help them make their list.

  • Select a movie to watch, board games to play or black Friday shopping plans to give everyone a reason to hang out for the day and just enjoy being together.

  • Be intentional with every guest to talk about what you are thankful for this year and how you give the glory to God for every good thing.

  • Be ready to share the gospel clearly to each person if you are not 100 percent certain they know Jesus.

 
In whatever way you do Thanksgiving this year, make it intentional. Intentional to encourage others around you. Intentional to talk about God’s goodness. Intentional to share Jesus.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Autumn Wall, autumnwall.com, is an author, speaker, worship leader, pastor’s wife and mother of three in Indianapolis.)

11/20/2018 1:53:35 PM by Autumn Wall | with 0 comments



Codfish & catfish

November 19 2018 by Tim Patterson

I often ask God, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It seems as though some of us are constantly doing battle with life itself and at every turn there is a new challenge.
 
Yet there are others who seem to live in the lap of luxury without a care in the world. “God, why can’t life be as easy as it seems for some people?” we’re prone to ask. “I would really like a lot more blessings and a lot less blisterings.”
 

I don’t have an answer to all of the difficulties and problems in life, but I do believe I have some insight into at least some of mine.
 
My family and I stayed at Michigan Baptists’ Bambi Lake Conference and Retreat Center near Roscommon for a few days, giving us the opportunity to fish in its beautiful lake. We caught several kinds of fish, but to my surprise, no catfish. That is what jogged my memory about catfish and the insight into problems they can provide. Most of us who were reared in the South love catfish (they are very tasty), but after reading this you might find a completely new appreciation for them.
 
Several years ago, I came across some fascinating information about catfish that illustrates the “why” of many of the difficulties we experience in life. In the northeastern United States, codfish are a big commercial business. There is a market for eastern cod all over the United States, especially in sections farthest removed from the northeast coastline.
 
But the demand for codfish posed a problem to the shippers. At first they froze the cod, then shipped them elsewhere, but the freeze took away much of the flavor. So they experimented with shipping them alive in tanks of seawater, but that proved even worse. Not only was it more expensive to ship in this manner, the cod still lost their flavor and in addition became soft and mushy en route.
 
Finally, some creative person solved the problem in a most innovative manner. The codfish were placed in the tank of water along with their natural enemy – the catfish.
 
From the time the cod left the East Coast until they arrived at their westernmost destination, those ornery catfish chased the cod all over the tank. The most amazing thing happened. When the cod arrived at the market, they were as fresh as the day they were first caught. There was no loss of flavor nor was the texture affected. If anything, it was better than before.
 
Each of us is in a tank of our own particular and inescapable circumstances. Yes, it is painful and sometimes almost unbearable to be in this tank we call life. I don’t know about you, but from my perspective, my tank is full.
 
But I have come to realize that God doesn’t see it that way. Because He loves us and wants us to be the best we can be, He has made sure that there are enough God-appointed “catfish” in our tanks to bring sufficient tension to keeps us alive, alert, fresh and growing. It’s all part of God’s project to shape our character so we will be more like Him.
 
At times you may think you will be eaten alive by the predators in your tank, but just remember, God is using those creatures in your midst to accomplish His will in your life. Be “tank-full” to have them there. As Romans 8:28 tells us, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Patterson is executive director/treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. This article first appeared in the convention’s online Baptist Beacon, baptistbeacon.net.)

11/19/2018 11:08:38 AM by Tim Patterson | with 0 comments



Confidence in Christ

November 15 2018 by David Jeremiah

Our days are fleeting; they may end before the next sunrise. Yet God’s children are never insecure.
 
The Bible says of us, “We are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. ... We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).
 

We cannot be confident in everyday life if we aren’t confident of eternal life.
 
To be self-confident, we must be Christ confident, and that means being certain of His love for us both today and tomorrow. God has placed eternity in our hearts, and that’s why secularism can’t erase heaven and hell from people’s minds. Most Americans still believe in heaven and hell. According to findings published by LifeWay Research, 60 percent of Americans believe there is a heaven, while 54 percent believe hell is a real place where certain people will be punished forever.
 
The Barna Group, drawing from its surveys, stated, “Many adults believe, however, that they will go to heaven as a result of their good works. Broadly speaking, this is the most common perception among Americans who have never made a commitment to Jesus – and it is also quite common among self-identified Christians.”
 
It’s frightening to stake our eternal destination on whether we’re good enough to get to heaven on our own.
 
How could we ever earn enough merits to stand in the presence of the glorious, holy God? The Bible says, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). Only Christ can take us there. We have to be Christ confident in His purpose, passion and practice. We have to say, “He has me!”
 

The purpose of Christ: Redeemer

 
The Bible frequently uses the word redemption to describe what Jesus did for us. The idea behind redemption is that we are delivered from the bondage of sin by the offering of Jesus Christ, who gave Himself as a sacrifice in our place. Titus 2:14 says, “[He] gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people....” (NKJV).
 

The passion of Christ: Savior

 
In order to redeem us, Jesus had to offer Himself in our place and suffer the excruciation of the cross. The angels gave Him the title “Savior” as they announced His birth to the shepherds of Bethlehem (see Luke 2:11). He came to save us from sin, death, hell, the devil, the world, the flesh and the kingdom of darkness. He came to save us eternally. Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28).
 

The practice of Christ: Intercessor

 
Having redeemed and saved us, Jesus ascended to heaven to await the consummation of the ages. But He’s not inactive in heaven. He is interceding for us all the time – when we’re tempted, when we’re tired, when we sin, whenever we falter and fail. The apostle John said, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). He later added, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
 
Until we know the Savior, understand His Word to us and believe in the security of His work, we’ll not experience a confident Christian life. If you don’t have confidence in the Savior, you cannot have confidence in your salvation. If you aren’t sure about your eternal destination, you’ll worry every step of the way.
 
It’s my deeply held conviction that you can know you have eternal life. You can be confident of Christ and His ability to keep you and to keep that which you’ve entrusted to His care. He isn’t a temporary Savior, and His children don’t possess a “hope so” or “maybe” or “wait and see” salvation. He is our Redeemer, our Savior and our Intercessor. His Word will never fail and His work will never cease.
 
Christ gladly died to give us eternal life. Let’s claim it, enjoy it and live with Christ confidence in our hearts. Live with boldness. He has you – both today and forever.

11/15/2018 11:37:44 AM by David Jeremiah | with 0 comments



2 families came

November 14 2018 by DeAnna Gibson

The day finally arrived to kick off our church’s new special needs ministry through a community outreach event. Our church planned, prepared, promoted and prayed weeks in advance.
 
The weather was warm and sunny, and every volunteer came in matching T-shirts with smiles and hope for each family we would meet. Every booth and activity was strategically placed and staffed.
 

I stood at the welcome table waiting for a large group of guests but they never came.
 
Trying not to think about all the money spent preparing for this outreach, I felt the disappointment many church members feel when they work hard toward something that fails to bear the fruit they anticipated.
 
I reframed my thoughts to include the two families who attended, the 26 adults and youth who served, and the children who witnessed an example of their church coming together to show a community its compassion and care. I rested in knowing God has a divine purpose in those two families and intends to continue teaching all of us that special needs ministry has a different way of measuring success than any other ministry.
 
Rather than throwing in the towel at what looks like failure, church, be encouraged. This is the one ministry I know of where the struggle will teach us to more deeply identify with those we serve. Here are some thoughts that have strengthened my perspective:
 

1. Teaching someone with additional needs makes us more aware of the simplicity of the gospel and the variety of ways we can communicate it.

 
Consider a typical Sunday School classroom with 8-10 children: plan a story, craft, song, worksheet, maybe a reinforcing game almost entirely from the teacher’s guide and VOILA! – you have a one-size-fits-most ministry.
 
Special needs ministry is nothing like that. Individualizing reminds us ministry is personal. For us to serve well in this way, we must blaze new pathways to the heart, depending fully on the Holy Spirit to bring life from those seeds we plant. This is exciting work!
 

2. Failure is never failure, unless you fail to try.

 
Special needs ministry will often appear to be unsuccessful on paper if measured similarly to other ministries: budgets, attendance and input versus output. Better assessments may include quality, connection opportunities and community awareness.
 
More money and effort may be necessary for what seems like a “small yield,” but to a family who feels loved, included and valued while finding meaningful community with other Christians – it means the world to them, and how do you measure that? Take heart – the only way to fail at this ministry is to never try!
 

3. Being a constant learner reminds us to remain humble.

 
We do not need to read every article out there on developmental delays or categories of special needs. We will never be fully informed about every therapy or educational method available. Although helpful, the greatest advice I have received on this subject (and any other subject for that matter) is to be a learner.
 
While parents do not have all the answers, they are the supreme example of creatively, resourcefully teaching their child, and they’re usually available and willing to help us as well. Even parents who work tremendously hard to reach their children in a meaningful way will admit they are learning as they go. We will do well to embrace and cultivate this mindset alongside these experts.
 
The evening after the under-attended outreach, I looked at the list of 32 families who were connected through the Facebook event and I prayed they will see how God loves them through a church reaching out to them. On paper this would appear to be an unsuccessful attempt with only two families who attended.
 
I choose, however, to see the church that came together for the 32 families who now know we love them, ministry partners praying that these families will one day come, and the future families who will join with us so we can shake their hands or hug their necks and say, “We are so glad you are here.”
 
This to me looks like very successful ministry!
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – DeAnna Gibson, deannagibsonwrites.com, is a mother of three boys and member of Holly Ridge Baptist Church in Simpsonville, S.C., where her husband Brett is the worship minister.)

11/14/2018 9:48:43 AM by DeAnna Gibson | with 0 comments



Where poppies grow

November 13 2018 by Sarah Dixon Young

November 11th marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
 
The world mourned the loss of approximately 20 million military personnel and civilians during The Great War. Many began wearing red poppies to commemorate the fallen.
 

Why did they choose this flower as their symbol of mourning those lost?
 
Canadian doctor John McCrae penned a famous poem In Flanders Fields during the conflict in which he wrote, “In Flanders fields the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row. ...”
 
Many soldiers realized during the war that where combat had been the worst, poppies filled the fields.
 
Poppy seeds have the ability to remain dormant for many years. A poppy flower can generate 60,000 seeds that remain dormant for up to 100 years, according to some botanists.
 
After the brutal battles of Ypres in France and Belgium in 1914 and 1915, trenching and bombing had destroyed most of the vegetation and churned up the soil.
 
Poppies thrive in an environment where other vegetation has been eliminated, and after the fighting and loss of thousands upon thousands of lives, the poppies came out of dormancy, grew and thrived, creating the beautiful natural phenomenon in the midst of one of humanity’s worst nightmares.
 
McCrae, thinking of lost friends and the ongoing fight, finished his poem by writing:
 
“Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
the torch; be yours to hold it high.
If you break faith with us who die,
we shall not sleep, though poppies grow
in Flanders fields.”
 
McCrae joined the list of war casualties when he died from sickness in 1918, but the poppies lived on.
 
What a picture of the Lord’s work during times of great personal tragedy and loss!
 
In Sutherland Springs, Texas, 26 people were murdered just over a year ago in the deadliest church shooting in U.S. history. Baptist Press reported that though many are still working through the grieving process, the Lord is working in the life of the community.
 
The church used to have about 40 attendees, but now attendance averages 200. Some of those are people who became Christians because of the love of Jesus that evidenced itself in the lives of Christians enduring personal tragedy.
 
Throughout scripture, we can see the poppy principle at work.
 
When Abraham consented to sacrifice his only son, he learned that God provides.
 
When Jacob wrestled with God, God blessed him.
 
When Moses abandoned his calling, God met him at the burning bush.
 
When Gideon was hiding in a wine press to thresh grain, the angel came with God’s plan of deliverance.
 
When David stood against Goliath, God delivered him.
 
When Elijah felt defeated and alone, God sustained him.
 
In times of tragedy, loss and despair, the Lord has repeatedly proven that He sustains us, grows us and multiplies us. In fact, times of adversity prove to be the times He often chooses to create the most spiritual growth in our lives.
 
Poppies bloomed in Flanders fields, God’s reminder that beauty does rise from the ashes when we trust His goodness in bad times.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sarah Dixon Young, facebook.com/SarahDixonYoung, is the author of God on a Shelf. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

11/13/2018 12:57:26 PM by Sarah Dixon Young | with 0 comments



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