October 2016

Sharing Christ’s love with Hindu friends

October 28 2016 by J. Brennan, IMB

Anyone who has shared the gospel with a follower of Hinduism will likely be familiar with a common refrain something like this: “Yes, what you are sharing is very much like what I believe. I also believe in Jesus. You see, all religions are different paths to the same God.”
 
Our reaction might be to promptly set about showing how it’s just not true. We display our Western logic to prove that the gods are not the same and that Christ is supreme.
 
Indians love to argue religion, and the Hindu worldview imparts to its children a suspicion of exclusivity and a way of reasoning that inverts our normal rules of logic. The upside is that Hindus have a built-in spiritual tuning fork that resonates easily with any talk of the divine.

IMB Photo


It’s much easier to broach the subject of religion with a Hindu than a secular Westerner. The question, then, is how to turn those conversations to a good dialogue, not an exasperating and pointless conversation.
 
As a fellow traveler among Hindus, a few basic principles for fruitful interaction can be helpful.
 

The power of prayer

For all their philosophical pretensions, Hindus are religious pragmatists at heart. They patronize certain gods because they, or someone they know, can attest to some benefit they’ve received from them. Now, obviously, we don’t embrace such motives in prayer. We do, however, have a heavenly Father who loves to give good gifts to His children.
 
So be open with your Hindu friends about the power of prayer in Jesus’ name and about the God who hears and answers prayer. Ask early on how you can pray for them, and then let them hear you praying for them – for their requests, for their salvation, for spiritual blessing. Most importantly, persist in prayer for them and expect God to answer. Dialogue with them about the things you are praying for and affirm the power of Christ as He answers.
 

The plain Bible

When talking with a Hindu friend, open your Bible. Hindus are drawn to religious scriptures. Hinduism is full of myths about reality and the nature of God. Instead of confronting these through debate, let God’s Word do the arguing for you. The more they read or hear, the more opportunity there is for the Spirit to imprint the truth on their hearts.
 
There are a few key topics that Hinduism is particularly fuzzy on. Here are some passages that can shed light where it’s needed: the story of creation (Genesis 1-2); the fall of humankind (Genesis 3); God’s law (Exodus 20:1-21); true uncleanness (Mark 7:14-23).
 
Do all you can to get them hearing or reading the Word for themselves. Bring up the Bible as you talk with them. Ask questions about what they’ve read, listen to their responses and direct them back to the Word.
 

The person of Christ

Hindus who have heard of Jesus often hold Him in high esteem as a religious teacher. To turn that fascination to true worship, be clear about who Christ is and what He has done. As you open the Bible with your Hindu friends, let them see Christ’s power over sin, Satan and death. The powerful person of Christ speaks for Himself among our Hindu friends as you point to the basic truths of the gospel.
 
Here is a roadmap to walk a Hindu friend along that gospel path: the healing of the lame man (Mark 2:1-12); Jesus defeats Satan (Luke 4:1-13); Jesus’ death (Mark 15); His resurrection (Matthew 28).
 

A proper response

For Hindus, the afterlife is a world of second chances. Their belief in reincarnation tends to insulate them from any sense of urgency regarding their eternity. Therefore, as we present the gospel, we need to bring its implications – depravity, judgment, lostness – to bear on the person we are talking to.
 
Ask probing questions to help them place themselves in the midst of the biblical world they’ve been learning about: “Do you think your sin separates you from God (Romans 3:23)? Do you think your spirit could be ‘dead’ because of sin (Ephesians 2:1)? What makes someone clean before God? Are you?”
 
Building on the foundation laid through the gospel truths, we can guide our Hindu friends to the proper response: to repent and believe. A few passages that may help to bring that point home: the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31); the Pharisee and the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50); Peter’s hearers repent (Acts 2:37-41); count the cost of belief in Jesus (Matthew 10:26-39); salvation through faith (Ephesians 2:1-10).
 
Every day, thousands of Hindus cross from life to eternal death, the vast majority having never heard of the Savior of the world. For us, the question remains: Who will take this good news to them?
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – J. Brennan has worked as a church planter and church-planting trainer in South Asia since 2005. This article is adapted from its posting at IMB.org. For information about engaging with Hindus during their five-day Diwali festival of lights, which begins Oct. 30 and is described as “the biggest, brightest and most elaborate of all Hindu festivals in India,” click here.)
 

10/28/2016 11:05:17 AM by J. Brennan, IMB | with 0 comments



Halloween’s bony finger of fear

October 28 2016 by Amy Hebert

As a mother of four young children I dread the month of October.
 
Life becomes incredibly inconvenient because I cannot even make routine shopping trips without being confronted with “holiday cheer.” I’m not referring to the beautiful scenes of fall or the already visible Christmas decorations.
 
It’s the bony finger of Halloween which seems to point at me as I round every aisle.

Amy Hebert


Our culture celebrates fear. We have made it cute. We even have entire stores devoted to a holiday that thrives on fear. This is by no means an exposé on the merits or demerits of participating in Halloween activities; rather, it is a seasonal opportunity to shed light on one of the devil’s oldest tactics.
 
What we have minimized is actually one of the sharpest arrows in his quiver.
 
I have experienced the profound effect that fear can have on a life. By tracing my history as a young person and even into adulthood, God graciously has revealed the stranglehold that fear had on my heart. Insecurity, guilt and irrational fears prevented me from fully embracing the identity that I have been given in Christ. Satan used fear to bring me to points of mental anguish over issues from which the gospel unburdens me.
 
Do you struggle with fear? Before answering too quickly, think about your life. Are you different in public than in private? Are there issues you would rather avoid discussing with your spouse? What are you willing to do in order to feel loved or accepted? What motivates these behaviors? An honest assessment of your heart may reveal that the enemy has pierced you with a subtle yet devastating arrow. It is one of his most potent forms of hostility toward humanity.
 
The good news is that we have a more powerful tool for defeating his advances. We have the gospel.
 
Throughout scripture we are invited to see God as our refuge. He is constantly reminding the Israelites to rely on His might to defeat their enemies. David cries out to Him in moments of weakness and fear. New Testament writers plead with the early church to be bold for the good news of Jesus Christ because of the power of God to protect them. God is called our rock, our fortress, our shelter, a protective husband over His bride, and a gentle shepherd who cares for His flock. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and a sound mind.” God reveals in His Word that because of His infinite and unstoppable love for us, we have nothing in this world to fear.
 
Satan’s power lies in the art of suggestion. He presents questions to the hearts of believers which prey on our unspoken and sometimes subconscious fears. Brothers and sisters, when the deceiver knocks at the door of your heart with a delivery laced in fear I encourage you to battle him with the truth.
 
The truth is that you are more broken than even you recognize, but in Christ you are more forgiven, accepted and renewed than you could imagine. You have the power of the Holy Spirit residing in you, which means there is no temptation from which you cannot turn, no guilt left from your mistakes and no need to follow the latest cultural trend in order to matter.
 
Our fears are all as unique as we are, but they all have one answer, Jesus Christ. His sacrifice on our behalf means that we now have access to God’s power in a personal way if we will rely on His strength instead of our own.
 
So as you are shopping this season and are bombarded by ugly decorations, allow them to remind you of the love of Christ and His power to perfectly cast out all fears.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Amy Hebert is a wife, mom and writer. She and her husband Andrew have four children and live in Hobbs, N.M., where Andrew serves as the lead pastor of Taylor Memorial Baptist Church.)
 

10/28/2016 11:02:36 AM by Amy Hebert | with 0 comments



Leading kids to Christ

October 27 2016 by Jason K. Allen

My greatest stewardship in life is not training a generation of students as a seminary president. It is training my five young children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
 
I feel the weight – and glory – of this stewardship daily and find immeasurable fulfillment and joy as I see my children taking steps toward Christ.
 
I am sure many Christian parents feel the same way – awestruck by the opportunity and responsibility that is ours. My wife Karen and I are often asked about building a Christian home and rearing children who grow up to follow Christ. We will be the first to admit that we are far from accomplished. On the contrary, we just keep plugging away, seeking the Lord’s grace in our children’s lives, as in our own.

Jason K. Allen


This is definitely not an article about “success, and how we have achieved it.” Rather, as the old adage goes, we are beggars telling other beggars where we have found some bread. If you are seeking to influence little ones toward Christ, you might find these 10 tips helpful:
 
1. Remember, children do not have to become like adults to be saved; adults have to become like children. When Jesus made this point in Matthew 18, He was commending a spirit of humility, dependence and deference – virtues which are common in children and essential for whoever would follow Christ.
 
2. Remember, you are responsible for your child’s spiritual formation, not your church, your pastor or your children’s minister. Be faithful to teach them the Word, to shape their hearts and, yes, to indoctrinate them. Even if your church can help with your kid’s spiritual formation, don’t let it rob you of some of life’s greatest joys.
 
3. Remember what conversion is. Conversion is more than intellectual and more than our children’s ascent to biblical facts about Jesus. My children have known the broad contours of the gospel since preschool, but that is not enough to save them. Be looking for the affective as well as the intellectual. Have an ear for confession, repentance, faith and submission to Jesus as Lord. Ask yourself, has Jesus changed their life?
 
4. Share your testimony with your children. Do your kids know how much Jesus means to you, how He changed your life, and when and how you became a Christian? Sharing your testimony with your children provides a natural context to discuss what God is doing in their lives.
 
5. Share the gospel with your children. Do not leave it to them to connect the dots from Sunday School lessons and sermons. Share the gospel with your children plainly, passionately and frequently.
 
6. Share the gospel in settings where your children can overhear the gospel in a less intimidating, more natural context. Moreover, they will sense how important the gospel is to you, that it applies to all people, and that you value the gospel and people enough to acquaint the two.
 
7. Provide natural contexts for spiritual conversations. In our house, we strive for spiritual conversations to be as natural as talking about school, activities, sports or any other aspect of our lives. For us, this most naturally takes place during family worship. The key is not the context but the consistency. Infrequently talking about the things of God ups the awkwardness for your children. Frequency makes it more natural.
 
8. Encourage steps toward Jesus. W.A. Criswell, the famed pastor of First Baptist Dallas, coined this helpful phrase. When your children express interest in following Christ, even if they are quite young or you have other reservations about their inquiry, you can still affirm them as they ask questions and “take steps toward Jesus.”
 
9. Talk to your pastor. Though you should not outsource your child’s spiritual formation, you should seek your pastor’s counsel. Let him visit with your child and join in shepherding them toward Christ. Sometimes the church assumes parents are leading their children to Christ while the parents are assuming the church’s ministers are doing the same. Assume nothing. Your child’s heart is too precious for ill-informed assumption. Partner with your church.
 
10. Be quick with the gospel, but slow with the baptistery. Just because your child expresses interest in following Christ – or even professes they are following Christ – does not mean you have to baptize them right away. Baptizing young children who are not yet genuinely converted confuses both the child and the congregation. Even worse, it may mislead the child into thinking they are converted while they yet remain outside the Kingdom. Instead, be patient and trust the Lord. Let their desire for Christ ripen. Look for the fruits of conversion. Baptize them as you gain confidence they have truly met Christ.
 
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of baptizing one of my own children. Leading her to Christ and seeing her grow over many months has been an unmatched joy. I now resonate with the apostle John’s assessment, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in truth” (3 John 4). As you shepherd your children toward Christ, may you know the joy of seeing your children walk in the truth as well.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jason K. Allen is president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., and author of the new book Discerning Your Call to Ministry: How to Know For Sure and What to Do About It.)
 

10/27/2016 8:22:05 AM by Jason K. Allen | with 0 comments



Refuge for refugees

October 26 2016 by Diana Davis

He’s right in front of you in the grocery line. She’s the new girl in your child’s school classroom. You’ve read about immigrants or refugees who are moving to your town but you’re not sure what to say or do.
 
What is a correct Christian response to strangers in your community? When we see immigrants as individuals who are dearly loved by God, it’s easy to truly care. Your Bible class, women’s ministry group or entire church can impact eternity when you accept this new “mission field” in your own backyard.

Diana Davis


Seek out refugees or immigrants and ask God to guide you to minister to them. Read local news and study census statistics. Ask church members to pay attention in their workplace and neighborhood. Obtain information from governmental leaders and entities. Drive the neighborhoods where immigrants live.
 
Your method of ministry will vary widely to fit the needs of individuals and people groups but the goal is the same: to show God’s love and share His plan of salvation.
 
Some of these simple ideas may help you get started:

  • Begin an ESL class in your home or church to assist with language. Personally invite each refugee to the class.
  • Help them find a place to live. Some may have few possessions, so offer help with furnishings, box fans, refrigerator, clothing and food.
  • When you see a need, find a way to meet it. Don’t make it a one-time touch. Assist with children’s school registration, finding medical or dental care, connecting utilities or basic skills such as grocery shopping.
  • Offer help with employment, such as job leads, interview tips, wardrobe assistance or computer skills. Some may be professionals, so pair them with church members in similar vocations for assistance.
  • Be a true friend. Learn his name. Pronounce it correctly. Invite her to your home. Take time to hear their story. Observe interests and skills. Give a baby shower for a new mom. Give a Bible in their native language.
  • Show love to their children. Give a backpack of treats, school supplies and clothing. Invite them to play with your kids and provide a safe place to play. Help with homework. Include them in church events. Pay for church camp.
  • Socialize with them. Assign individual or refugee families to church members. Invite them to your home, and have fun by including them in family and church holiday celebrations. Plan a barbecue for volunteers and their assigned families.
  • Bring them to church. Include them in worship, Bible class, Vacation Bible School and every aspect of church. Provide translation headphones or a worship service in their language, if needed.
  • Plan a ladies’ lunch for all the ladies. Pair each refugee woman with a church member who will befriend and help her.
  • Help with preparation for U.S. citizenship requirements. Celebrate when they succeed.

 
Most importantly, help refugees find true refuge in God. Share Jesus. Ministry to immigrants and refugees can enliven your church.
 
There she is, in front of you in the grocery line. Initiate a conversation now.
 
As Deuteronomy 10:17-19 tells us, “[God] shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. So you, too, must show love to foreigners…” (NLT).
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This column is adapted from the new book by Diana Davis and Autumn Wall, Across the Street and Around the World: Ideas to Spark Missional Focus, New Hope Publishing, 2016.)
 

10/26/2016 8:41:50 AM by Diana Davis | with 0 comments



Filmmaking debut from actress Erin Bethea

October 25 2016 by Phil Boatwright

The further we Christians walk with Jesus, the less important the things of earth become. At least that’s the way it should be as expressed in Colossians 3:2-3.
 
But like anyone else, we must deal with the toils of life on a daily basis. It’s natural for us to seek moments of escape either through sports, long walks on the beach or through the woods, or even in movies. But are there movies we can still view? Yes.

Phil Boatwright


Throughout the years, some – mainly men – have developed film companies catering to discerning Christians. Now there’s a new family-friendly studio in town, this one co-founded by a woman.
 
Actress Erin Bethea (pronounced Beth-ay) of Fireproof fame heads Argentum Entertainment along with partner Drew Waters (Friday Night Lights). Argentum (Latin for “purified silver“) is based in Los Angeles and was formed to make wholesome family entertainment for the big screen.
 
I became convinced of Bethea’s desire to serve Christ through her profession as early as 2013 having interviewed her after she completed her role as a newly graduated missionary student in the film This Is Our Time.
 
When I asked what it’s like being a Christian in entertainment in today’s sociopolitical climate, she expressed her excitement at God’s timing.
 
Our society is so twisted right now, she said, but God has a funny sense of humor in that He has chosen this time for Christian media to take huge steps forward. More and more Christian films are being made, Bethea said, and there’s a hunger these days for positive, spiritually enlightening forms of entertainment.
 
She is the daughter of Michael Catt, senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga. If that church sounds familiar, it’s because that’s where the concepts for Facing the Giants and Fireproof developed.
 
She is a committed performer, nowhere more so than in her latest film and the first offering from Argentum, New Life. Portraying a character losing her hair to chemotherapy, Bethea actually shaves her head on screen. Now that’s commitment!
 
Though not religiously themed, New Life is a moving story reminiscent of Love Story, where the love of two people fated for each other is cut short by terminal cancer. But it’s not morbid; rather, it offers hope even after enormous loss. “The most important thing about life is to live it” is the film’s conclusion.
 
Opening in theaters Oct. 28, New Life also stars Jonathan Patrick Moore (The L.A. Complex) and veteran actors Terry O’Quinn (Hawaii Five-O) and Bill Cobbs (Night at the Museum). Drew Waters has already won the Best Director prize at the Love International Film Festival in Los Angeles for directing the film, his feature film directorial debut.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Phil Boatwright, in addition to writing for Baptist Press, reviews films at moviereporter.com and is a regular contributor to “The World and Everything In It,” a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group.)
 

10/25/2016 8:40:08 AM by Phil Boatwright | with 0 comments



Getting what we asked for

October 24 2016 by Jeff Iorg

No matter who wins the presidential election, it appears the American people are about to get what they have asked for over the past 50 years – institutionalization of their rejection of moral authority.
 
Since the 1960s, there has been a concerted effort by multiple groups to cast off moral restraint in the name of personal freedom. Special interest groups demanding abortion on demand, sexual liberty, marriage redefinition and gender abolition – all in the name of civil rights, personal rights, and individual entitlement – have won the day.

Jeff Iorg


Persons who oppose them are marginalized as bigots and rights-denying obstructionists. We are said to be on the wrong side of history, meaning we will look back someday and see how supposedly misguided – even ignorant – we have been.
 
That, however, is a truncated, revisionist view of history. When you consider the record, the historical pattern – in both Old Testament and secular history – is quite the opposite. When any society rejects moral authority, chaos and anarchy always lead to collapse.
 
One of the ways this happens is when God allows leaders to arise who will institutionalize the amorality and immorality their followers demand. Those leaders are the culmination of a populace rebellion. Check the record – every time this has happened in history the result has been cultural collapse. Many Americans arrogantly believe this cannot happen to us. How naïve!
 
In this context, God-fearing people are being laughed at or ignored today. We are mocked for warning about God’s judgement. That’s considered an archaic concept, an out-of-touch superstition from a past era.
 
A final, concrete step in rejecting God’s standards is when people demand leaders who model and institutionalize their demands – and God gives them what they have asked for. Regardless of who wins the White House on Nov. 8, he or she will represent and amplify the prevailing values of an electorate that, by and large, seems to have acquiesced to the inevitability of amoral and immoral behavior becoming our new normal.
 
As our moral decline accelerates, it’s important for Christian leaders to retain our prophetic voice. We must continue to advocate moral positions based on timeless truth, call people (including people in power) to repent, and help people learn to make better choices. While we may be in a marginalized minority, our prophetic responsibility – even though we feel like voices in the wilderness – has never been more important. God help us.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jeff Iorg is president of Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
 
 

10/24/2016 10:35:59 AM by Jeff Iorg | with 0 comments



Refugees – retreat or welcome?

October 21 2016 by Erich Bridges

The United Nations held a conference in September focusing on the more than 65 million migrants worldwide – by far the biggest displacement of people since World War II.
 
They are driven from their homes by war, instability or grinding oppression and poverty. Some 21.3 million of those people are officially designated as refugees. Half of that number have fled three countries: Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Erich Bridges


Most refugee families, even if they have enough food to eat, languish in camps or squatter settlements with little hope of finding new homes. Few refugee children have schools to attend.
 
Yet in the face of such staggering need, some American evangelicals have joined in the call by various politicians to close our golden door to refugees, particularly those who might pose any conceivable terror threat or security risk.
 
One notable bright spot, however, is Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., which was included in a “60 Minutes” report Oct. 16 for its work in resettling two Syrian refugee families in the Atlanta area.
 
“Isn’t it better to reach out and love these folks than to give them the cold shoulder?” pastor Bryant Wright, a former Southern Baptist Convention president, asked. “Which approach do you think might cause a Muslim refugee to be more sympathetic to Islamic terrorism?”
 
It would be sad if Christians en masse turned their back on some of the world’s neediest people. Churches have been the primary sponsors and welcomers of refugees to the U.S. since the aftermath of the Vietnam War. We still are – for now.
 
“Of all the legal pathways to enter the United States, the Refugee Admissions Program features the most rigorous screening,” notes Matthew Hawkins, coalitions director for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “It is correct to say the program can’t guarantee perfection (no program can), yet even those who wish to shut down the program don’t deny its security relative to non-immigrant visa entries. … Shutting down legal pathways of entry out of fear isn’t exactly the response of a confident, free nation.”
 
Nor is it the response of confident, openhearted Christians.
 
“Virtually every day, in quiet corners of airports across the country, refugees are being welcomed and cared for by teams from churches and community groups,” writes Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief. “This is our new Ellis Island. It is the expression of our faith and our humanity, and it is a worthy response to the legacy we have inherited.”
 
The movement to bar refugees is an understandable reaction to homegrown terror attacks by radical Muslims. Some citizens also fear refugees and immigrants in general will take scarce American jobs and change American culture forever. But the impulse among Christians to join in closing the gate, despite our historical generosity, might point to something deeper.
 
There is a time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing, says the preacher in Ecclesiastes 3:5. Throughout church history, Christians have taken his advice, one way or the other, in their embrace of the world. Sometimes they sense when the moment has come to withdraw in order to seek new strength in God.
 
But how do we know when it is time to “shun embracing” the things of this world?
 
Benedict of Nursia, born about 480 A.D. in Italy, was repelled by the decadence of “Christian” Rome. He went to the mountains, founded a monastery and eventually wrote the Rule of Benedict, the founding document of the Benedictine order and much of Western Christian monasticism. Benedict’s aim wasn’t necessarily to renounce the world, but to form communities of believers who would dedicate their lives entirely to working, praying and seeking God.
 
In an increasingly hostile environment, some say it’s time for Christians, including evangelicals, to follow Benedict’s example. Conservative Christian intellectual Rod Dreher calls it the “Benedict Option.”
 
“Even as we stay engaged in the public square ... we have got to retreat somewhat, reclaim our own story as Christians, thicken our practices and build institutions that can be resilient in this post-Christian and, in fact, anti-Christian culture that is emerging,” Dreher stressed during an ERLC-sponsored conference last year.
 
Some dismiss the “Benedict Option” as a surrender to culture, not a temporary retreat from it – an abdication of the church’s mission to live and proclaim the gospel to the world. That’s not quite fair, however. The Christian tradition of retreat and renewal is a very old one. Many historians argue that the great monasteries preserved the Christian faith – and Western civilization – during the Dark Ages. Christian communities of many varieties continue to renew and enrich the church.
 
Strategic retreat is sometimes the only option for believers under pressure. But are American followers of Christ under such cultural siege that we need to withdraw from a world that desperately needs us? The earliest Christians faced constant threats, persecution and ridicule. Yet that ragtag band managed to turn the world upside down with their message of God’s love and grace.
 
We, in contrast, have enormous resources, religious freedom and countless opportunities to spread the Good News at home and among the nations. If we reject the most desperate out of fear and suspicion, and withdraw into spiritual cocoons, are we shunning the embrace of the world for the right reason?
 
I wonder what Benedict would say. He welcomed needy visitors to his monastery.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges, a writer based in Richmond, Va., has covered international missions and trends for more than 30 years.)
 

10/21/2016 8:16:39 AM by Erich Bridges | with 0 comments



‘Lord, teach us to pray’

October 20 2016 by Steve Gaines

If I could encourage the Southern Baptist Convention in one area, it would be to pray. I want us to be the greatest army of prayer warriors in the world.
 
Jesus is the only “expert” in prayer. When we read the Gospels, we see how important prayer was to Him.
 
There is only one thing recorded in the Gospels that Jesus’ disciples specifically wanted Him to teach them. They said, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Steve Gaines


As we read in Luke 11:1, “It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples’” (NAU).
 
How did Jesus pray?
 

Jesus prayed early in the morning.

The Bible says in Mark 1:35, “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.
 
Jesus had just completed a busy day teaching in a synagogue, casting out demons, healing people and having dinner with friends. Yet, in spite of His demanding schedule, He rose early the next morning and prayed.
 
Every Christian should start his day in prayer (Psalm 5:1-3; 143:8; Matthew 6:11). Before you communicate with others, talk with God.
 

Jesus took prayer retreats.

Jesus was busy but never stressed. Wherever He went, He walked in peace. That’s because He prayed. Luke 5:16 says, “But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.”
 
You’ll never have time to do everything you want to do, or do all that others want you to do. But you will have time to do what God wants you to do, and God wants you to pray. Time spent in prayer is never wasted time.
 

Jesus prayed before making important decisions.

The Bible says in Luke 6:12, “It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.”
 
After a night alone with God, Jesus chose His twelve disciples. The Father directed Jesus in that decision because He prayed.
 
We often make “common sense” decisions, not prayerful decisions. A night spent in prayer and making the right decision is better than years spent in regret because you didn’t pray and made the wrong decision.
 

Jesus prayed when He was tempted.

Everyone has been tempted to sin, even Jesus (Hebrews 4:15). He overcame temptation through prayer, fasting and quoting Scripture (Matthew 4:1-11).
 
Jesus warned His disciples, “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Jesus Himself overcame temptation in Gethsemane because He prayed “fervently” (Luke 22:44).
 
If we pray, we too can overcome temptation.
 
Jesus prayed while He suffered.
In the darkest hours of His life, Jesus prayed. Of seven utterances that Jesus spoke on the cross, three were prayers. Twice Jesus prayed scripture (Psalms 22:1; 31:5). He also prayed and forgave those who crucified Him.
 
You too can overcome the trials you face if, like Jesus, you pray prayers based on the promises of God’s Word.
 

Jesus prayed with thanksgiving.

The Bible says in Luke 10:21, “At that same time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and he said, ‘O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way’” (NLT).
 
Jesus thanked God for His blessings. Even in His resurrected state, our Lord refused to put a morsel of food into His mouth without first thanking the Father for it (cf. Luke 24:30).
 
Similarly, you and I should thank God for all He has done for us.
 

Jesus is praying now in heaven.

Jesus is in heaven preparing a place for His followers, pardoning lost people who repent and preparing to come again. He is also praying.
 
Hebrews 7:25 says, “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
 
Christians should never get discouraged. Jesus is praying for us right now.
 
If Jesus, the Son of God, needed to pray while He was on earth, don’t we? A great place to start is to pray, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
 
My prayer is that the people of the Southern Baptist Convention will become the “prayingest” Christians on earth! May we pray and not lose heart (Luke 18:1).

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Steve Gaines is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church. For more on the topic of prayer, see Steve Gaines’ book Pray Like It Matters – Intimacy and Power Through Prayer.)
 

10/20/2016 8:10:01 AM by Steve Gaines | with 0 comments



A tiny handshake & squeaky voice

October 19 2016 by John Weaver

At the eye clinic at St Louis Children’s Hospital, more than 25 people received a tap on their leg or shoulder the other morning followed by a tiny little handshake and then heard a squeaky little voice say, “Hey Low! How wa you?”
 
As my 6-year-old son Noah made his way around the room, he quickly gained everyone’s attention and I could actually see them look forward in anticipation for their own personal greeting from this precious little boy. Every face in the room had a big smile during and after his little introductions.

John Weaver


As Noah was making his rounds, one of the parents asked me about him, and I was able to share his and Andrew’s adoption story. One gentleman remarked out loud to the whole room, “You know, if more people were like Noah, this world would be a lot better place!” Several said, “That’s for sure!” or shook their heads in agreement.
 
As we left the office to go home, almost everyone who had been there when we arrived said, “Goodbye, Noah!” He, of course, responded with a brief little wave and a squeaky “Byeee!” as he ran down the hall giggling with me chasing him from behind.
 
I absolutely love it when Noah and his brother Andrew greet other people. Sometimes the greetings will involve a wave, handshake, hug or even an occasional kiss on the cheek. It has been so cool to watch as frowns are quickly turned upside down in stores, hospitals, churches and other places as unsuspecting people get a surprise greeting from one of our little guys. Our boys acknowledge almost everybody they see – not because they are running for some political office, want money or candy, or because Mommy or Daddy “told them to.” They do it because they genuinely love other people. As a dad, it has been really good for my heart to see these transformations as well.
 
As Christ followers, may we see others the same way my little guys with Down syndrome do. In other words, let’s treat others the same way Jesus did. He’s the One we are following after all and who spoke these words: “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

(EDITOR’S NOTE – John Weaver is pastor of Morse Mill Baptist Church in Dittmer, Mo.)
 

10/19/2016 8:24:33 AM by John Weaver | with 0 comments



20 simple reasons I’m grateful today

October 18 2016 by Chuck Lawless

I don’t know your situation, but I suspect many of us have all kinds of reasons to say “Thank you” to God before we go any further into the day. Here are some basic reasons I’m thankful today:

  1. I woke up this morning. I have life only because God continues to grant it.
  2. I am a follower of Christ. I wasn’t always, and I am today only because God loved me and sent His Son to die for me while I was yet a sinner.
  3. I was able to get out of bed this morning. Not everyone has that physical ability.
  4. I woke up with a spouse who loves me. She loves me with a love I don’t understand.
  5. I have young adults who love me like a dad and children who love me like a granddad. God hasn’t given us biological children, but He’s granted me relationships that are incredibly sweet.
  6. I can serve God freely. That privilege may not last many more generations (and it’s non-existent for many global believers today), so I must be thankful.
  7. I have a roof over my head. I don’t have to drive far from my home to find others who are not so fortunate.
  8. I have hot water. We take it for granted, but clean, running, hot water is not automatic around the world.
  9. I have heat and air conditioning. Neither is necessary, and both are a blessing.
  10. I have multiple changes of clothing. In fact, it says something about my blessedness (and perhaps my excess) that I have to spend time each day trying to decide what to wear.
  11. I have food in our refrigerator. Combine that food with the food in our pantry, and I actually have more food than some people will eat all week.
  12. I have the entire Bible in my language and in my hands. Billions of people have no such blessing.
  13.  I can read that Bible. I don’t think much about the gift of reading until I meet others who’ve had little opportunity to learn.
  14. I have a job. I may not always enjoy every aspect of it, but I’m employed. That’s God’s grace.
  15. I have a car. It’s older, but it gets me where I need to go. Having transportation may be the norm in our culture, but it’s still God’s gift.  
  16. I have gasoline in my car. That, too, is only because God has been good to me.
  17. I have money to buy lunch and dinner. I’ve never worried about having sufficient funds to eat. To eat out, even.
  18. I have a church family. I wish all the believers around the world could gather with my brothers and sisters at Restoration Church in Wake Forest.
  19. I can live today without fear of death. Even if the Lord calls me home today, all is well.
  20. I serve a God who is sovereign. He’s not an idol made with human hands; He’s the one who made me and holds me in His hands.

How can I not say “Thank You” right now?
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Lawless is dean and vice-president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. This blog originally appeared at ChuckLawless.com and is used with permission.) 
 

10/18/2016 8:25:38 AM by Chuck Lawless | with 0 comments



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