The Paper Pulpit

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



Why I’m thankful to be a North Carolina Baptist

November 12 2018 by Steve Scoggins

I cannot tell you what an honor it is to be elected as president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina! I look forward to getting to know more and more of you over the next year.
 
This past convention was one of the most inspiring I have ever attended, beginning with the Pastors’ Conference led by Matt Capps. The preachers in this conference modeled for all of us what great expository preaching should be like. They touched my heart and gave my soul deep insights into God’s Word.
 
Lee Pigg was such a blessing in the way he presided over the convention. I loved his smile and was melted by his tears. His sermon for us was nothing less than a home run!
 
I left this convention even more excited about the privilege of supporting missions through the Cooperative Program.
 
We saw first-hand how God is using this important giving strategy. We were reminded of the good work supported by the Cooperative Program in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
 
The video from the International Mission Board (IMB) was one of the highlights of the convention. Baptists have brave and committed missionaries all over the world reaching the nations!
 
Danny Akin’s message at the Pastor’s Conference and his seminary report to the convention showed us that our SBC dollars are being used by God in a great way to shape the next generation of leaders through our seminaries. I am glad that we not only have a partnership with the SBC, but also a commitment to growing the percentage of what we forward to the SBC continues.
 
I am also grateful for the privilege of supporting the important mission work being done through our state convention. Our IMB sends missionaries across the world to reach the nations for Christ.
 
But the nations have come to North Carolina as well. Our state convention is leading great efforts to reach those born in other countries who now call North Carolina home.
 
Our North American Mission Board is doing an effective job in planting churches in those areas outside the South that so desperately need Jesus. That means the job of planting churches in North Carolina is now in the hands of North Carolina Baptists. The success rate of N.C. church plants is much higher than the national average.
 
The theme of this annual meeting “Who is my Neighbor?” reminds us that Jesus gave us both the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
 
We are to both share the gospel and love our neighbors. North Carolina Baptists are strongly committed to loving their neighbors.
 
We saw the Great Commandment in action when over 100 of those cared for by the Baptist Children’s Homes of N.C. gave their report. Their testimonies brought tears to our eyes.
 
We are loving our neighbors once again through sending out N.C. Baptists with their yellow shirts to minister in disaster relief through Baptists on Mission. Being faithful to the Great Commandment opens doors for us to fulfill the Great Commission.
 
As inspiring as this convention was for all who attended, every N.C. Baptist can be reminded constantly of what they are supporting through their giving by reading the Biblical Recorder. Every two weeks I can read about how God is working through our national convention, our state convention and our local churches. I encourage each of us to regularly read the BRnow.org web site and strongly recommend that at least all of our church leaders should be given the printed newspaper as a way to stay on mission with what God has called us to do as Southern Baptists.
 
Because I believe in the Great Commission, because I believe in the Great Commandment, I am committed to the Cooperative Program. Each of us, no matter the size of our churches, can impact the world through a church by church commitment to giving through the Cooperative Program.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Steve Scoggins is president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and pastor of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, N.C.)

11/12/2018 3:46:51 PM by Steve Scoggins | with 0 comments



Thankful for God’s character in life’s circumstances

November 12 2018 by Milton Hollifield Jr.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year. There are many reasons why I love this holiday, and those reasons certainly include the wonderful food and fellowship with family and friends around the table together.
 
While we rejoice in the many blessings that God has bestowed upon us, scripture informs us that these blessings flow from the character and nature of God Himself.
 
In my personal times of devotion with the Lord, I love to read through the chapters in the Book of Psalms before I study other passages of scripture and devotional readings. Throughout this wonderful book, there are numerous reminders for us as followers of Christ to be thankful. In fact, Psalm 92 opens with the words, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord.” Psalm 100 instructs us to “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.”
 
Admittedly, sometimes in the midst of life’s circumstances it can be hard to express gratitude and thanksgiving at certain times. We even see this in the Psalms.
 
King David wrote many of the Psalms, and in his writings we see that he experienced and understood the highs and lows that life’s circumstances can bring. Throughout the Psalms, we find David offering great words of songs and praise in one instance, and we later see him expressing sorrow and grief over things like abandonment, loneliness and loss.
 
Yet in the midst of all of the different types of circumstances that David faced, his writings in the Psalms often conclude with encouraging reminders about God. Over and over again, David reminds us of God’s love, mercy, grace, righteousness, power, might, faithfulness and more.
 
These and other attributes of God can help encourage and sustain us during life’s difficult times.
 
This Thanksgiving season may be one in which you are overflowing with gratitude. Or it may be one in which you are overwhelmed with pain and sorrow. No matter what we are facing in life, we can be encouraged and take comfort in what the Bible says about the character and nature of the God we serve.
 
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” – Psalm 107:1 (NKJV).

11/12/2018 3:44:20 PM by Milton Hollifield Jr. | with 0 comments



The photo on my phone

November 9 2018 by Sammi Carby

On my phone there is a photograph that I catch a glimpse of every day – sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. Some days I linger a bit longer, but regardless, I see it every day.
 
It’s a very personal and protected photo to our family, one that we will forever cherish and hold dear. It’s the sweet and timeless image of our 18-week-old still-born son.
 

Seeing his beautifully formed, yet tiny face with its already perfectly poised lips, nose and cheeks never fails to snap me back to that unforgettable Wednesday morning, not too long ago, when our family’s giddy excitement was prematurely cut short by the words, “I’m so sorry, but your baby no longer has a heartbeat.”
 
Have you ever been so sleep-deprived that it felt as though you were standing still while the world moved in reverse at a rapid pace? That surreal, out-of-body experience, where voices and faces become a muffled blur? Well, that was what I experienced in that moment. Everything, especially the dream of having a future with our son, was vanishing, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.
 
It was in that exact moment that I came face-to-face with the mortality and fragility of life. Suddenly the world felt a bit more finite than I was ready for.
 
The next 48 hours proved to be a whirlwind of decisions we never thought we’d be making. Medical terms were thrown about, and incredible – but conflicting – advice swirled around us in no short supply. Apparently, I was too far along for a D&C (dilation and curettage) so either a D&E (dilation and extraction) would have to be performed or I could go through a normal and painful labor process (which by the way was highly discouraged by my high-risk doctor.) We were swimming in information and emotions while doing our best to rely on God in order to process it all.
 
My husband Paul and I both have strong opinions about many things and don’t always initially see eye-to-eye in every situation, but God has blessed us with an uncanny ability to sense His guidance at the exact same moment in our most difficult circumstances. Perhaps it’s just a testament to the magnificent bond of a husband and wife when you’re both wholeheartedly seeking Christ together and at the same time.
 
So, after spending some time together in prayer and wading through our options, we looked at each other and just knew that, for us, the best way to preserve the dignity of our God-given unborn child was through labor and delivery.
 
Ultimately, having the opportunity to see, hold, love on and say goodbye to our boy gave us clarity that we had made the right decision. Our few hours with him will always be a special time in our lives that we won’t take for granted. It was a bittersweet moment in which we learned to celebrate the value of life in a very tangible way. (Side note: please know that this isn’t to say that anything is wrong with the other procedures since sometimes medical safety requires different methods; we felt that delivery was the best option for us.)
 
Part of preserving our son’s dignity came in the naming process. Years before as we had been preparing for marriage, we daydreamed about the children God may choose to bless us with. We had chosen a name for our daughter, Catherine, born 2009, and we had chosen a name for our son. On the day of his delivery, while holding his still and lifeless body, neither of us could bring ourselves to call him by his name. I think we just didn’t want it to be real, for our time with him on this earth to be over. However, after a few hours of countless tears, prayer and finally rest, we woke up, looked at each other and just knew: this was our Gabriel.
 
As we faced this hard, yet refining time in our life, most comments, calls and texts to us were uplifting and encouraging. But there also came others from those who just simply didn’t understand. “Why are y’all so upset? It wasn’t even a real baby yet.” Though God supernaturally shielded us from the sting of this remark and others like it, they did make me think deeply on how beautiful every single life is.
 
It would be very hard to convince us that our son wasn’t yet a baby. We were already able to count all 10 tiny fingers and 10 tiny toes. Our son was every bit a life, every bit a baby, and every bit our child. While many in the world may not value our son’s 126 days of life, God’s Word promises us that HE does.
 
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be,” the psalmist wrote (Psalm 139:16, NIV). Though our time with Gabriel was shorter than we ever dreamed, imagined or wanted it to be, we, too, will always value his brief but precious life.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sammi Carby is a homeschooling mother and member of Gambrell Street Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

11/9/2018 12:08:01 PM by Sammi Carby | with 0 comments



Jesus took naps

November 7 2018 by Jim Futral

That was the message on a sweatshirt worn by a senior adult at a gathering at one of our churches. So pointed, so provoking, so simple – and so true.


Jesus, who was fully God robed in flesh, experienced the drain of resources that all of us have encountered from time to time. We get tired and need rest, recuperation and restoration.
 
In Matthew 8:24, we find Jesus with His disciples getting into a boat to go across to the other side of the sea, and there are these poignant words: “And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.
 
The “He” is Jesus.
 
It had been a busy and no doubt strenuous day. Jesus found a place to rest and get refueled and be ready to go again. What a lesson to be learned by all of us.
 
It’s not a matter of just getting physically tired but we can get drained emotionally, mentally, spiritually. At times, maybe sitting in a meeting, or talking to someone on the phone, or hearing of a crisis in someone’s life, suddenly you’re pulled into a moment that can drain you – a moment for which you can’t prepare, a moment you can’t envision happening.
 
While God knows what is on the horizon, you have no idea what is about to occur, and it takes everything out of you and you need to recoup. Just remember, Jesus took naps. I’m not by any means saying we ought to drag through life doing nothing and snoozing all the time, but we certainly need to listen to the Lord as He speaks to us and follow His example.
 
Think about that as you hear the words of Jesus in Matthew 14:13 and 23. Verse 13 says that He departed by boat to a desert place apart, and then in verse 23 when He sent the multitude away, He went up into a mountain apart. Many have suggested that if we don’t come apart for a time of refreshing, a time of prayer, a time of clarity of thinking – if we don’t come apart – we will come apart.
 
It’s interesting how we somehow imagine that if we really walk with God, we are supermen and superwomen and never need a time of rest and reflection. We put that kind of aura around people who are in positions of leadership or service of the church and think they ought to give over and above forever and ever until there’s nothing left, and sometimes they do.
 
I often think about the woman who came by to see the pastor only to be told by his secretary that it was his day off. The woman who stopped by was somewhat perturbed. Later she confronted the pastor about his day off and said to him, “The devil doesn’t take a day off.” To which the pastor politely and gently said, “And that’s why he’s the devil.”
 
The Bible is clear in helping us understand that each of us lives in a world of limitations, where our mental faculties may not be as extensive as they need to be, or we are just empty emotionally or physically and find it impossible to give any more sensitivity and care.
 
It’s not wise for any of us to run on empty for very long. If you try that in your car, just down the road as you begin to go up a slight incline it will probably buck a few times and you’ll find yourself sitting on the side of the road wondering what to do.
 
That can happen to any of us personally. So today, you don’t have to take the whole day off but find moments during the day when you can come apart, rest, reflect and be renewed and face the rest of the day.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jim Futral is executive director-treasurer of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board. This column first appeared at his Directions blog, mbcb.org/directions. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

11/7/2018 11:12:59 AM by Jim Futral | with 0 comments



Laodicea: the need for fresh water

November 2 2018 by John Mark Harrison


Seventh in a series
 
Located 600 miles from Jerusalem and 300 miles from Athens, Laodicea was a wealthy commercial center. It was known for its medical care and banking industries. They were resilient, secure and self-confident. They had all they needed, except clean water. The city received its water from Hierapolis or Colossae. The water was so bad that many visitors to the city would become sick from the water’s poor quality.
 
The hearers would have a clear picture what Jesus was speaking about when they were told in Revelation 3:15-16: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
 

This harsh word of correction was given because of the self-sufficient, over confident and even ignorant culture in the church of Laodicea.
 
The culture of the city had influenced the church instead of the church influencing the culture in the city. They were rich and it led them to self-sufficiency. They were dependent upon their ability instead of Christ’s ability.
 
They were accomplished, and it led them to overconfidence. When an earthquake struck in A.D. 60, the city rebuilt itself without any outside assistance. They ultimately were ignorant toward the spiritual realities of life.
 
This would have been a stinging rebuke to the church. They had stopped growing spiritually. They had become like worthless water that should be spit out!
 
But the situation was not hopeless. Jesus still made Himself available to them. He confronted their self-sufficiency, overconfidence, and ignorance by reminding them of the better offer.

What was the better offer? Himself.
 
He offered:

  • (v. 18) Gold refined by fire – Jesus is speaking of genuine gold rather than fool’s gold. Genuine gold is revealed in the fire! The genuine gold is the righteous character of Christ that He has made available to us through repentance and faith.

  • (v. 18) Garments of His righteousness – Fine clothing was a symbol of honor in the ancient world. Jesus is telling the church that they are walking around impressed with themselves, but the clothing He offers will qualify them spiritually for all eternity because He will clothe them in His righteousness.

  • (v. 18) Spiritual restoration – This medical community was known for an eye salve called “Phrygian Powder.” Jesus was offering them spiritual restoration so that they could see their true condition before God.

  • (v. 19) Love – Jesus is offering them His love if they will repent. The church is undeserving of Christ’s love, but He is willing to offer His love when they repent and return. Just like Ephesus, Pergamum, Thyatira and Sardis, Laodicea is called to repent!

  • (v. 20-22) Fellowship – Jesus desires fellowship with the church in Laodicea. He desires to know them intimately, but is relegated outside the door until it is opened. He’s waiting to see if they respond to His offer. He will reward their acceptance with His presence.

 
As we prepare our hearts for this Pastors’ Conference, let’s evaluate our hearts to see if we, like Laodicea, are in need of some fresh water, free from self-sufficiency, overconfidence or even ignorance. May God be patient with us as we discover again the Living Water of His riches, righteousness, restoration, love and fellowship.
 
Related columns:
Ephesus: Have we lost our first love?
Smyrna: The poor church that was rich
Pergamum: No compromises
Thyatira: a call to church discipline
Sardis: Be watchful
Philadelphia: finish the race
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article is part of a series on the theme of the 2018 North Carolina Pastors’ Conference, “7 Churches of Revelation.” This year’s event will occur Nov. 4-5 in conjunction with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting. Visit ncpastorsconference.org for more information. John Mark Harrison is lead pastor of Apex Baptist Church. Each column in the series is written by a different N.C. leader and refers to one of the seven churches in Revelation.)

11/2/2018 12:17:26 PM by John Mark Harrison | with 0 comments



If you’re not dead, God’s not done

November 2 2018 by J.D. Greear

Do you remember “Choose Your Own Adventure” novels? They were some of my favorites as a kid.

You’d get to a certain place in the story where you’d have a choice, like, “You’re being chased by a flock of rabid wolverines, and an old lady invites you into a house to escape. If you want to accept her invitation, turn to page 210. If not, turn to page 130.” And I’d accept the invitation, only to read on page 210, “Turns out she was a witch so she puts a spell on you and cooks you in her stew. The end.”
 

And I would think, “Oh, if only I could have known, I would have chosen differently!”
 

We often see the will of God like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story: we have two doors in front of us, and one probably leads to peace and prosperity and the other to doom and destruction. When things go wrong later, we look back and think, “If I had only known the right door!”
 
How do we know what God wants us to do in any given situation? Does He give us some warm, fuzzy feeling of peace when we think about the right decision? Do we learn to see God’s hand in strange coincidences or look for signs in our Cheerios?
 
Psalm 25 is a new favorite of mine, because it is about how God guides us and is a great template for how to pray for guidance today. There are two particular promises in Psalm 25 that are precious to remember when we seek God’s guidance for our lives.
 

1. The sin of others does not disqualify you from God’s will.

 
All throughout this psalm, David talks about enemies who are trying to ruin his life. He declares, “My God, I trust in you. Do not let me be disgraced; do not let my enemies gloat over me. No one who waits for you will be disgraced.” (Psalm 25:2-3 CSB).
 
Many people look back on their lives and see how somebody messed them up – a parent, sibling, business partner or ex-spouse. David had those people, too, and he said, “I trust that your promises are greater and more powerful than any of their evil intentions against me.”
 
It’s hard here not to think of Joseph, whose brothers’ sin brought him a level of suffering few of us can imagine. But ultimately God used those things in Joseph’s life as a way of fulfilling his destiny. At the end of his life, Joseph was able to say to his brothers that all the things they did to him were meant for evil, “but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).
 
It is this belief in God’s goodness that enabled Joseph to forgive his brothers. When he realized God had a greater plan, he was able to let go of the bitterness that comes from thinking someone else had ruined his life.
 
If the sovereignty of God is real, that means no one can ever ruin your life. They can wound you, abuse you and betray you, but they can never ruin you. God’s goodness toward you remains.
 

2. Your own mistakes do not disqualify you from God’s will.

 
At least two times in this psalm, David asks God for forgiveness for past mistakes. Once is in verse 11: “Lord, for the sake of your name, forgive my iniquity, for it is immense.
 
“Immense” is certainly right. David was talking about heinous stuff that makes us cringe. And yet he still prayed for God’s guidance and perfect plan for his life because he believed God’s promises were greater than his own mistakes.
 
You may think that God will let you continually suffer for your mistakes because you brought it on yourself. But while sins and mistakes bring consequences into your life that can be painful – and sometimes permanent – even those sins don’t disqualify you from God’s ultimate plan for your life.
 
Look at Jacob, who sinned against his brother Esau. That sin led him into exile. But while estranged from his family, he met the woman from whom would come the line of the Messiah.
 
Was this plan B? Did Jesus come out of the wrong plan? Not at all. It’s not OK that Jacob sinned, and that sin affected him the rest of his life. Yet the Messiah still came from his line.
 
The apostle Paul said, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). You can count on God’s faithful, consistent love because that love isn’t based on your goodness. It’s based on His. He doesn’t give up on you, even when you give up on Him.
 
If you’re not dead, God’s not done.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – J.D. Greear is president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

11/2/2018 10:30:38 AM by J.D. Greear | with 0 comments



Baptist Children’s Homes offer rest to weary children

November 1 2018 by Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer

One of the unique ministries in our state that I am proud of is the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH). This is a great example of specific ministries that the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) depends on state conventions to operate with Cooperative Program (CP) funds because the SBC does not operate children’s homes. The amount that BCH receives from CP is only a small portion of funds required to operate this ministry.

For more than 130 years, the Baptist Children’s Homes has served families and communities across our state and beyond through 21 different locations in North Carolina and an orphanage in Guatemala.
 
Please consider praying and supporting the BCH annual offering later this month. Thanks to your prayers and gifts, the BCH is able to provide children who have endured untold difficulties and hardships with a place of peace and hope. Additionally, the Baptist Children’s Homes is a place where the gospel is shared. Last year alone, more than 32,500 lives were touched through the ministry of BCH, and over 200 decisions for Christ were recorded.
 
Through the BCH, you and your church can play a part in reaching the next generation for Christ. Of those individuals who come to BCH, 80 percent are unchurched. What a wonderful opportunity the Lord has provided to house parents and others who love and care for these boys and girls to introduce them to Jesus.
 
“Come to Me, I Will Give You Rest,” is the theme for this year’s BCH annual offering, based on Matthew 11:28.
 
Randy Stewart, pastor of the Mills Home Baptist Church, located at the center of the BCH’s Mills Home campus in Thomasville, says that’s exactly what happens through this ministry.
 
“Jesus says, ‘Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,’” Stewart says. “This verse speaks to the heart of what we give to the girls and boys who come to us at Baptist Children’s Homes.”
 
During his 26 years as the Mills Home pastor, Stewart has preached, counseled and befriended many children through the years. He’s seen many trust Christ as Savior.
 
“These pews – where so many children have sat over the years – they have stories to tell,” Stewart says. “They are stories of children who have come to us out of chaos.”
 
Stewart shares some of those stories and his heart for BCH in a series of videos that are available to promote this year’s offering. The videos and other information, materials and resources about the offering is available online at bchoffering.org.
 
The goal for this year’s offering is $1.5 million, and Nov. 11-18 has been designated as a week of prayer for the offering and the ministries and families it supports and serves. Daily prayer prompts are also available online.
 
Thank you N.C. Baptists for your partnership, prayers and support of the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina.
 

Week of prayer – Nov. 11-18


Sunday – Pray for all North Carolina children and families.
 

Monday – Pray for the thousands of lives BCH serves each year through its 21 NC locations.
 

Tuesday – Pray for the cottage parents, care givers, chiefs, case managers and staff who give of themselves around the clock to care for boys and girls.
 

Wednesday – Pray for the boys and girls at Good Shepherd Children’s Home, BCH’s orphanage in Xela, Guatemala.
 

Thursday – Pray for those who live at BCH’s nine statewide homes for developmentally disabled adults.
 

Friday – Pray for children and families in your community.
 

Saturday – Pray for BCH president/CEO Michael C. Blackwell as he leads the ministry.
 

Sunday – Pray that the children and families BCH ministers to will come to know Jesus as their Savior.
 

11/1/2018 12:35:13 PM by Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer | with 0 comments



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