Friday, October 30, 2009

Should We Save or Give? By Randy Alcorn

I am not sure about you, but I have often wondered (when considering the radical call of Jesus regarding money and possessions) where the line is between saving for the future and giving for kingdom causes. It is something that I really wrestle with. On the one hand, I long to be wise for the present and the future; and on the other hand, I don't want to stand before Jesus with piles of money in the bank unaccounted for except my greedy and untrusting heart. So, where is the line? Randy Alcorn has written much about money and possessions from a biblical perspective. His web-site/blog is here. I encourage you to utilize the vast resources he has there. Below I copied an article he wrote about this very issue. I found it extremely helpful and I hope you do as well. I would love to know your thoughts on this as I prepare to preach on the wisdom of money from the book of Proverbs next Sunday (November 8th, 2009).

To whet your appetite and encourage you to read the article, I thought this quote was incredibly insightful: "The distinction between financial responsibility and financial foolishness is this: Saving becomes hoarding when it is exercising our own sovereignty and financial independence so that God doesn't have to come through for us."

How do we balance financial responsibility with the scriptural imperative to give sacrificially?

Q. For several years my husband and I have enjoyed giving most of our discretionary income to our church and various missionaries. But lately we have been counseled that we need to be more "responsible" about preparing for our future, especially since retirement is only a few years away. How do we deal with the guilt we would feel about decreasing our giving, since we still desire to meet the needs we see all around us?

A. There are two sides to the issue of savings. Scripture tells us that the wise man anticipates future needs, while the foolish man spends and consumes all his resources with no thought for the future. "In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has" (Prov. 21:20). Even ants store up provisions for the coming winter (Prov. 6:6-8).
It's a shortsighted person who fails to store up provisions (money, food, or materials) for upcoming times of predictable need. If you are planning to retire and have no other means of income, then it would be wise to make some plans for how and where you will live after retirement.

On the other hand, Jesus commended the poor widow of Mk. 12:41-44 because she did something most of us would consider foolish. She gave her last two pennies to God, having no idea where tomorrow's provision would come from, except that it would come from her Lord. In 2 Cor. 8:3-15, the Macedonian Christians gave "beyond their means" to the point of leaving themselves impoverished. Paul commends them for it.

So, when it comes to the "retirement dream," we must ask ourselves, Whose dream is it? Is it God's dream or the American dream? Consider one man's plans for retirement: "I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, 'You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink and be merry'" (Lk. 12:18-19).

We aren't told that this man was dishonest or irreligious. His plans make sense by our standards. But in the verses that follow God calls this man a fool. He tells him his life is over and asks, "Who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" Jesus promises, "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God" (Lk. 12:21) .

The distinction between financial responsibility and financial foolishness is this: Saving becomes hoarding when it is exercising our own sovereignty and financial independence so that God doesn't have to come through for us.

James condemned the spirit of selfish stockpiling and indifference to a suffering world that had spread into the early church (Jas. 5:1-5). And in Exodus 16 there is a graphic lesson against hoarding. We must beware of any savings or retirement or insurance plan that becomes a God-substitute.

You mention that you have "enjoyed giving" to the Lord. The joy of giving is at the heart of a walk with God, so don't stop giving sacrificially. Saving can be wise, but it is never a substitute for giving. If ever we don't feel we can save and give, by all means we should give. Some people in Scripture are rebuked for saving too much, but no one is ever rebuked for giving too much.
You have been counseled to be more responsible. In the truest sense, generous giving is not just compassionate, it is also responsible. By giving we prepare for our eternal future, because we lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven (Mt. 6:19-24). Laying up treasures on earth is ultimately irresponsible. Why? Because it's investing in something worthless, that will be annihilated in the coming holocaust of things (2 Pet. 3:10-11).

Now, if you have been counseled to be more thrifty, to reduce your lifestyle expenses in order to provide savings for retirement, this is probably wise. I believe that having less because you give is different than having less because you spend.

We know a missionary family who took their retirement savings and poured everything back into the mission. I suggest that God looks very differently at these people than at the Christian who spends his money on short-term indulgences with no thought of saving for upcoming needs or providing for his family's future. To those who seek first His kingdom, and to those who sacrificially give of their assets to His kingdom, His promise is one of material provision (Mt. 6:32-33; Phil. 4:19).

I suggest that you look for ways to save without reducing your giving. To that end, there are some practical questions to ask yourselves: Can we presently reduce some expenses that would allow us to continue to give generously and save money? Are there other means to supplement our income during retirement? Can we liquidate certain assets? Can we sell our home and buy or rent a smaller one? Or buy a comparable home in another area where it is cheaper to live? Is it necessary for us to maintain our present standard of living, or can we cut costs in our retirement?

The old saying goes, "You can't take it with you." But when Jesus spoke of laying up treasures in heaven he added a corollary. "You can't take it with you, but you can send it on ahead."
Instead of spending our lives backing into eternity and clinging to our earthly treasures, we can turn around, walk forward and lay up our treasures in our eternal home. Then, instead of moving away from our treasures we'll spend our lives moving toward them.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Benny Hinn on Nightline

Justin Taylor posts an interview with Benny Hinn here. Very, very interesting.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Al Mohler and the Story of Lottie Moon

Earlier this week, Dr. Al Mohler presented a forum at the seminary where he serves as President (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) on the life and legacy of Lottie Moon.

I listened to it this morning. Very good and very insightful, especially for those wanting to know who in the world is the woman behind the offering that bears her name every Christmas?

Russell Moore on Why Orphan Sunday Should Be Recognized at Our Church

Dr. Russell Moore blogs here.

Several weeks ago he posted the article provided below on his blog. I thought he provided some helpful thoughts on ideas and results for recognizing Orphan Sunday on November 8th.

Why Your Church Should Recognize Orphan Sunday
— Tuesday, September 29th, 2009 —

Orphan Sunday is November 8th. Your church should recognize it, and I hate to say that.
I hate to say it not because I don’t believe in the mission of Orphan Sunday, churches from every denomination and tradition calling us to orphan care and adoption. I do, enthusiastically. I hate to say it because I know the probable reaction of many of my fellow preachers and church leaders when they see another special emphasis Sunday, especially one that’s part of parachurch ministry: slack jaws and glazed eyes.

After all, our church calendars are marked up enough as it is with everything from, it seems, “Clown Ministry Awareness Sunday” to “Week of Prayer for the Wives of Retired Interim Pastors.” Our “special emphasis” days are so usual that they’re neither special nor particularly emphatic.

But this one’s different.

Orphan Sunday isn’t an emphasis on a program or a “cause” or a special interest group. It’s not an offering or a volunteer recruitment tool. Orphan Sunday could be the Pearl Harbor for spiritual warfare in your church.

Orphan Sunday reminds us all that orphan care isn’t a special emphasis at all. Every Christian is called to care for the fatherless (James 1:27), in different ways to be sure. No one is exempt from this mark of the Christ’s followers. Orphan Sunday carves out a space for us all to encourage one another, together, toward that end.

You don’t have to have a huge program in place for Orphan Sunday, now just a little while away. Go to the website,, and pray through some of the ideas there, to see which, if any, would work in your context.

For some of you pastors, Orphan Sunday might be the first time you preach about our adoption in Christ (Rom 8; Gal 4), and our task to rescue orphans and widows. It might be an opportunity for you to ask some families in your congregation to pray about whether God is calling them to foster or adopt a child or children. Or to ask others in the church if God is calling them to financially empower an adoption or to take a mission trip to an overseas orphanage or to a local group home.

For some of your worship leaders, it might be a time to build up the body in song with some of the recent hymnody about orphan care and our adopted identity in Jesus.
For some of you Sunday school teachers or deacons or women’s ministry leaders or “regular” members, Orphan Sunday might be a time to encourage your fellow members of the Body to pray for God’s heart for orphans to pierce through your church, to just start asking the question of where you fit in orphan care ministry.

For some of you, Orphan Sunday might just be a time to confess you don’t know how to care for orphans. It might just be a time to pray, perhaps with groanings too deep for words, for fatherless children in North America and around the world and for Christians missing the joy of obedience in finding Jesus in his little brothers and sisters.

Whatever it is your church can do, however broad or limited, don’t miss the chance to join with the household of God everywhere in highlighting orphan ministry, foster care, and adoption.
God honors his Word, you know. He loves to hear prayers, and to answer them. Take the time to recognize orphans on November 8th. You might find next year some extra children in the pew next to you, or maybe on your own pew. And you might find that the next great preacher or missionary or evangelist comes to faith in Christ through a ministry started in some little way on November 8th.

Whatever Orphan Sunday looks like in your church, I pray it will spark something for you. And I pray it will start something that makes the emphasis on orphan care less and less “special” and more and more “normal” in your congregation, and in mine.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Orphan Statistics

I found the information below at Zach Nielson's blog. He found them from Jason Kovacs.


New Orphan Statistics

Jason Kovacs:

These are the most recent and reliable statistics on the global orphan situation.
The most recent estimate is that there are approximately 145 million orphans in the world (UNICEF 2008). For this number, an orphan is defined as a child who has lost one or both parents.
More than 15 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS, over 11.6 million of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2007 67.5 million Children in South Asia and East Asia had lost one or both parents due to all causes.
Included in the 2008 estimate of 145 million orphans are more than 92 million that have a surviving mother—-with whom they most likely live.
Another 38 million have a surviving father.

Approximately 15 million children are “double” orphans—growing up without either mother or father. That’s about ten percent of the whole 145 million.
The UNICEF orphan numbers (145 million) are only for deceased parents. If you were to factor in single parents in general, we’d be talking a number many times higher.
The UNICEF orphan numbers DON’T include abandonment (millions of children) as well as sold and/or trafficked children. Are the millions of kids abandoned in China not orphans?
The UNICEF orphan numbers DON’T include many non-reporting nations (namely, Middle Eastern Islamic nations) where shame and divorce abandonment are rampant. 200,000 + orphans in Iraq, for instance, are not part of the count.
I think we’re looking at a number quite higher than 15 million “double orphans.” We often communicate that the real number of kids that fall into our care categories is somewhere around 40 or 50 million.

According to data released in 2003 as many as eight million boys and girls around the world live in institutional care. Some studies have found that violence in residential institutions is six times higher than violence in foster care, and that children in group care are almost four times more likely to experience sexual abuse than children in family based care.
As of 2002 in Europe and Central Asia, over one million children lived in residential institutions.
Worldwide an estimated 300 million children are subjected to violence, exploitation and abuse, including the worst forms of child labour in communities, schools and institutions, during armed conflict, and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation/cutting and child marriage.
In the US there are approximately 500,000 children in foster care (Based on data submitted by states as of January 16, 2008)

130,000 of those children in foster care are waiting and available for adoption. Children waiting to be adopted include children with a goal of adoption and/or whose parental rights have been terminated. Children whose parental rights have been terminated, who are 16 years old and older, and who have a goal of emancipation are excluded from the “waiting” population. An individual child is included in the count for each year that he or she has these characteristics on the last day of the year.

Approximately 51,000 children are adopted from the foster system each year.
That leaves 79,000 children annually in the US needing an adoptive family.
Each year, an estimated 20,000 young people “age out” of the U.S. foster care system. Many are only 18 years old and still need support and services. Several foster care alumni studies show that without a lifelong connection to a caring adult, these older youth are often left vulnerable to a host of adverse situations:

Earned a high school diploma 54%
Obtained a Bachelor’s degree or higher 2%
Became a parent 84%
Were unemployed 51%
Had no health insurance 30%
Had been homeless 25%
Were receiving public assistance 30%

Sources:,,, Young adults ages 18-24 years old 2.5 to 4 years after leaving foster care: Cook, R. (1992). Are we helping foster care youth prepare for the future? Children and Youth Services Review. 16(3/4), 213-229. Cook, R.; Fleishman, E., & Grimes, V. (1989). A National Evaluation of Title IV-E Foster Care Independent Living Programs for Youth (Phase 2 Final Report, Volume 1). Rockville: Westat, Inc.,,

I list these statistics with a broken heart and realization that each number represents a real, living child who is in desperate need of care and a family. We can become easily overwhelmed with these statistics but I pray for my self and for the church that they would lead us to pray more specifically and passionately for them. I pray they will move us to act with greater urgency to see each one of these children cared for in the name of Christ.

Videos from GIC 2009

David Platt twice

Al Jackson

Jerry Rankin

Enough said...

Oh yeah,
Matt Pearson

Click here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Two GREAT Quptes from Dr. Jerry Rankin

Yesterday morning, WBC had the incredible privilege of hearing Dr. Jerry Rankin preach in both morning services. Below are two quotes that he gave that really, really moved me:

"The greatest tragedy (when it comes to the task before us in international missions) is that the One who is worthy is being deprived of worship from all the peoples of the earth."

"By what criteria should any people be deprived of hearing the Gospel?"

Lord, help us.

Orphan Sunday is November 8, 2009

Click here for many, many more details!

Biblical Knowledge About Adoption Resources

For those of you who were at WBC this past Thursday night, you heard Dr. David Platt preach a very moving and powerful message on adoption and orphan care, using Ephesians 1:3-14.

He reference a book by Dr. Russell Moore during his sermon. The title of the book is Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches. You can order it from Amazon here. I started reading it this weekend. It appears to be Dr. Platt's sermon in book form. Very, very good and necessary read for the evangelical world.

I also found this free e-book on adoption. You can find it and download it here.

There is a great Together for Adoption web-site you can go to directly by clicking here.

Recently, there was a Together for Adoption conference. The audio of the conference can be listened to and/or downloaded here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Reflections from WBC's GIC 2009 So Far...

I hope to type out more later, but so far the time at GIC here at Wynne Baptist has exceeded my hopes.

Wednesday night David Platt preached from Luke 9:57-62 and asked these three questions:

(1). Will you choose comfort or will you choose the cross?

(2). Are you going to settle for maintenance, or are you going to sacrifice for mission?

(3). Will your life be marked by an indecisive mind, or an undivided heart?

Wednesday after the evening service Dr. Platt met with our fellowship of deacons and ministerial staff. We ended up spending the majority of our time hearing from him relating to the radical experiment going on at Brook Hills.

Thursday evening David preached to us about adoption and orphan care from Ephesians 1:3-14. Absolutely amazing and life-changing message.

He labeled his three points as "3 Simple Glorious Truths of the Gospel"

(1). The Father has Planned Our Salvation/Adoption (vs. 3-5)

(2). The Son Purchased Our Salvation/Adoption (vs. 5-7)

(3). The Spirit Will Preserve Our Salvation/Adoption (vs. 13-14)

Thursday night after the service I had the incredible and unique privilege of meeting with David and Al Jackson (pastor of Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn, AL). We meet for a couple of hours. Needless to say, it blessed my soul beyond description of words. I am grateful to the Lord God for both of these men and for the opportunity to sit in the same room with them and just talk about church, the convention, Jesus, etc.

Today I had the wonderful privilege of spending the day, along with my wife and boys, with several of the missionaries that are here for GIC serving King Jesus around the world. What a privilege of being with these people of God today!

Tonight, Bro. Al will be preaching to the people of WBC out of Matthew 6:19-24. He preached a form of this same message at Southern Seminary and Southeastern Seminary recently. Very powerful and something I, as well as our people, desperately need.

I hope to post several reflections in the days to come. God is doing alot in my heart and in the hearts of the people here at WBC. I look forward to seeing how He is going to appropriate it.

Other Posts Responding to the USA Today Article on the Exclusivity of Believing on Jesus for Salvation

Al Mohler blogged here on the issue related to this.

Kevin DeYoung blogged on the article itself here.

Interesting dialogue. These issues are helpful for all Christians to think through to be able to answer and defend the hope that is within us.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

USA Today Article On Sports and the Exclusivity of the Gospel

Mike Pohlman, over at the Gospel Coalition blog, includes a section of an article in yesterday's USA Today entitled "And I'd Like to Thank God Almighty" by Tom Krattenmaker. I am posting it here below and would love to hear and read thoughts concerning this. Very interesting to say the least. In short, the author does not deem it a good thing at all that figures such as Tim Tebow believe that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to avoid eternal punishment. Just a reminder of the hostile world Christians are finding themselves living in. God help us. Here's Pohlman's post:

Sports and the Gospel

Writing for USA Today, Tom Krattenmaker isn’t so sure conservative evangelicalism is all-together good for college and professional sports. While he lauds the civic-mindedness of many high profile Christian athletes, Krattenmaker is concerned with the exclusive claims many outspoken Christian athletes make with respect to salvation. From the column:

But Jesus’ representatives in sports aren’t just practicing faith. They are also leveraging sports’ popularity to promote a message and doctrine that are out of sync with the diverse communities that support franchises, and with the unifying civic role that we expect of our teams. Typifying the exclusive creed taught by many sports-world Christians is the belief statement published by Baseball Chapel, which provides chaplains for all major- and minor-league baseball teams. Non-believers in Jesus, the ministry declares, can look forward to “everlasting punishment separated from God.”

Urban Meyer, Tebow’s coach at Florida, has praised his quarterback’s faith-promoting ways as “good for college football … good for young people … good for everything.” Such is the rhetoric usually heard from those who defend sports-world Christianity as wholesome and harmless.
But should we be pleased that the civic resource known as “our team” — a resource supported by the diverse whole through our ticket-buying, game-watching and tax-paying — is being leveraged by a one-truth evangelical campaign that has little appreciation for the beliefs of the rest of us?

Having researched and thought about Christianity in sports for the better part of a decade, I am impressed by the good that’s done by sports-world Christians. Jesus-professing athletes are among the best citizens in their sector, and they commit good deeds daily in communities across this country.

These sports stars, like all Americans, have a right to express their faith.

Evangelical players and ministry representatives in sports aren’t out to harm anyone, of course. On the contrary, they see themselves as fulfilling the Bible’s Great Commission (”Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19). In this sense, their mission is pure altruism: They seek to share the gift of eternal life.

But there’s a shadow side to this. If their take on God and truth and life is the only right one — which their creed boldly states — everyone else is wrong.

Of course, there’s the rub. Christian athletes like Tim Tebow actually believe in the exclusivity of the Gospel for salvation. And they want others to embrace Christ as their only hope for forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. For many outspoken Christian athletes life is about far more than sports. And out of love for neighbor and their Savior they risk ridicule and offense in saying so.

Here’s how Krattenmaker closes:

Is sports-world evangelicalism really “good for everything”? Certainly a lot, but not everything. Not if you’re Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, non-evangelical Protestant, agnostic or anything else outside the conservative evangelical camp.

What do you think? Should high-profile athletes use their platform for the proclamation of the Gospel? What guidelines, if any, should be kept in mind?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Powerful Video On An Orphan Ministry in Ethiopia

Click here to watch a 4 and a half minute video about a ministry in Ethiopia called "Drawn From Water." Their aim is to rescue children's lives from being killed due to superstition. Powerful.

(Video found at Jeremy Haskins orphan advocate web-site)

Daily Need of the Gospel Prayer

I came across the prayer posted below at the Gospel Coalition web-site. A gentleman by the name of Scotty Smith composed it. If you are like me, your heart resonates with his prayer:

Dear Lord Jesus,

While I still believe, with all my heart, you are the only Savior, I now see how more of my heart needs more of you and more of the gospel.

There is nobody on the face of the earth that needs the gospel today, and its transforming resources, more than me, and I am SO glad to be able to acknowledge this reality. I need you today, Jesus, as much as I did in March of 1968 when you washed away all my sins and covered me with the robe of your righteousness.

You have saved me in the past, when I was justified by grace alone through faith alone; you are saving me in the present, as the Holy Spirit applies more and more of your finished work to my whole being; and you will save me in the future, when you return to finish making all things new, including ME!

Lord Jesus, though I’m never tempted to look to any other name for my justification, I am very tempted to look to other names and means for my transformation—worse of all, is when I look to me to be my own savior. But only you, Jesus, are able to save completely those who come to God through you, for you are always living to pray for us and to advocate for us (Heb 7:25). You are my righteousness, holiness and redemption, and that’s why I only boast in you today! (1 Cor. 1:30-31)

So I come to you today, Jesus, right now! Save me more fully from my fear of man, my need to be in control, my ticky-tacky pettiness. Save me from trying to be anybody’s savior. I want to get irritated far less often and to be spontaneous much more often. I want to “light up” more quickly when I hear your name, Jesus, and not be downcast, when I don’t hear my name.
That’s more than enough confession for one day… Indeed, Jesus, I must be saved, I am being saved, through your name alone. Hallelujah!

Ed Stetzer and Discerning Ministry for a Local Church

Ed Stetzer recently posted an article entitled "Discerning Your Church's Call to Ministry." Very insightful. I copied it below. He blogs here. I like his ideas and think he provides some very helpful and profitable perspective.

Here's the article:

I have a new article featured at Christianity Today's Building Church Leaders website that focuses on how a local church should discover their particular calling to its larger community. You can read it below. Be sure to check out the BCL site. It has a lot of helpful resources for pastors and church leaders.

Discerning Your Church's Call to Ministry

How does a church discern its call to ministry--creating ministry space that lines up with its mission and vision? Often believers and churches seem to be waiting for God to strike them with a lightning bolt, to reveal what he wants them to do through some spectacular event. But God isn't a genie who pops out of his bottle if we rub it hard enough. A church that waits passively finds itself beset with ministry paralysis.

Then there are the churches that show a degree of life and energy and have significant percentages of the local body engaged in ministry, yet what they do is routine and ineffective. Call it "ministry calcification." Maybe what they are doing was effective five years ago or even last year, but communities can change rapidly. Many churches are ministering to people who have long ago left the community. The missional church constantly assesses what God is doing in a community and what needs are emerging--and adjusts its ministries accordingly.

Do I believe God reveals himself and gives us direction in life? Yes, absolutely. But I also believe he reveals himself more specifically as we obey the commands he has already given us. In other words, God will show us how he wants our church to minister to the community when we act on the directives he has already given us.

Four of the last things Jesus said to his disciples in his final days on earth are a good place for his followers and his churches to seek direction:

1. Jesus reminded his followers they have been sent just like he was: "As the Father sent me, I am sending you" (John 20:21). Now, if he stopped there, it could still be pretty confusing. He didn't specifically tell them where to go, what to do, what to say, or what to accomplish. He just told them they were being shipped out to serve in his spiritual army.

2. Jesus continues to clarify the vision and mission he has for his followers and churches: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matt. 28:19-20). Going out to all the world and proclaiming the Good News was to result in new disciples among all people groups. After that, Christ's followers are supposed to baptize new disciples and teach them to follow everything he commanded.

3. Jesus isn't finished yet. Before he ascends, he tells them: "Thus it is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:46-49). This clarifies the Good News they are to announce: Jesus died in our place so we could repent and be forgiven of our sins, and he rose from the dead so we could live a victorious life. In order to be witnesses about these things, however, they needed one more thing: the power from on high promised by the Father.

4. The last thing Jesus communicated to his disciples picked up where his previous instructions ended. He laid out a strategy for things to move forward: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). A good place for his followers and churches to start is to be witnesses in their own communities and then move out from there, as he leads and opens doors for ministry.

As you begin to engage practically in fulfilling the mission and vision that God has already given us, he will begin to reveal where your church fits best in serving and witnessing to your community. Instead of sitting around, waiting to be hit by lightning, here are some practical ways you and your church can begin to discern your ministry call.

Pray together for great boldness. The early believers followed Jesus' instructions and actively waited and prayed for what the Father promised. Assemble a group of people regularly and pray for your church to be filled and anointed with the Spirit. The believers joining constantly in prayer led to the Holy Spirit coming at Pentecost.

Most people remember that prayer preceded Pentecost, but they may not remember that Jesus' followers kept praying after Pentecost. Acts 4:23-31 records believers gathering and raising their voices in prayer. They stood in prayer against the people who were persecuting them and the forces of evil, right? Wrong! They asked the Lord to enable them to speak his word with great boldness and prayed he would do wonderful things through the name of his holy servant, Jesus. What does the current prayer environment of our church look like? Are we praying those kinds of prayers? What steps will we take to change the environment?

Explore multiple ministry options in your community. As you pray, take action by serving your community and finding ways to be his witnesses. God will give your people new passion and direction for ministry as they engage their community. Jesus himself "saw the multitudes" and was "moved with compassion for them" (Matt. 9:35). Try some or all of these practical ideas:

• Set up a time each month to conduct servant evangelism projects like giving away free drinks (water, hot chocolate, coffee, pop, etc.) at a traffic intersection, cleaning local parks, raking leaves or mowing grass for elderly folks, giving away coupons for free stuff, etc.

• Involve your small groups or Sunday school classes in community service projects at least once a quarter so they aren't just fellowshipping and learning stuff.

• Start ongoing ministries by getting some of your members involved in things like Release Time (for public school kids), Hospice, Big Brother Big Sister, and City Mission. Intentionally train people to be better witnesses with materials like Sharing Jesus Without Fear or Just Walk Across the Room.

• Ask three people in your congregation to set up interviews with leaders of local service agencies to discover unmet needs your church family might be able to address.

Trust God to open specific doors of ministry. As you begin to engage practically in fulfilling the mission and vision God has given you, he will begin to reveal where your church fits best in serving your community. God will show you "persons of peace" who will unlock doors of opportunity you didn't even know existed. As we act in faith, God will provide unique opportunities to serve and witness--and people will get excited about joining God in what he is opening before them.

Revelation 3:7 asserts: "What he (Jesus) opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open." I believe that Jesus opens doors of ministry for us to walk through as we pray and engage the needs in our communities. He also shuts other doors. We really don't know which doors are open and which ones are shut until we start knocking and trying to open them. As we seek the Lord with all our hearts--and act in faith--it's easier for him to direct our steps.

So, what is it going to take for your church to discern its ministry call? Pray fervently together for the Spirit's filling. Engage the people and needs in your community. And trust that God will open ministry doors especially for your church.

10 Ways for WBC Not to "Lose Our Taste" Among the Nations

Last night, I took the spiritual truth behind Jesus' illustration of salt in Luke 14:34-35 to call WBC not to be content with the status quo nor to take a step backward in our international missions efforts. By God's grace, WBC is known for its missions emphasis. The risk is there for us to (1) be prideful; and (2) assume we are okay and that we have heard it all before as we approach another Global Impact. In order to prevent these things from happening and for us to be guilty of relaxing our influence among the nations (there is still MAJOR work to be done among the lost and unreached peoples of the world!) I challenged WBC to the following 10 actions:

1. Be here this week.

2. Expect to hear from God.

3. Be open to what God may call you to.

4. Expect to be led to be involved in international missions in some fashion.

5. Take advantage of the missionaries who will be here.

6. Be intentional about blessing the missionaries who will be here.

7. Pray for God to move throughout WBC.

8. Pray against the enemy having a hint of influence here.

9. Recall that ‘making disciples of all nations’ is THE command given by Jesus and the only real way to keep from wasting your life.

10. Be obedient.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Chuck Swindoll's Leadership Lessons

Justin Taylor posted this on his blog...

"Chuck Swindoll: 10 Leadership Lessons Learned in 50 Years of Leadership"

Chuck Swindoll, accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award at Catalyst 09, offered the following lessons he has learned:

1. It’s lonely to lead. Leadership involves tough decisions. The tougher the decision, the lonelier it is.

2. It’s dangerous to succeed. I’m most concerned for those who aren’t even 30 and are very gifted and successful. Sometimes God uses someone right out of youth, but usually he uses leaders who have been crushed.

3. It’s hardest at home. No one ever told me this in Seminary.

4. It’s essential to be real. If there’s one realm where phoniness is common, it’s among leaders. Stay real.

5. It’s painful to obey. The Lord will direct you to do some things that won’t be your choice. Invariably you will give up what you want to do for the cross.

6. Brokenness and failure are necessary.

7. Attitude is more important than actions. Your family may not have told you: some of you are hard to be around. A bad attitude overshadows good actions.

8. Integrity eclipses image. Today we highlight image. But it’s what you’re doing behind the scenes.

9. God’s way is better than my way.

10. Christlikeness begins and ends with humility.

Great Quote from Charles Spurgeon

From the Gospel Coalition (posted by Ray Ortlund)

Christ Himself

Our faith is a person; the gospel that we have to preach is a person; and go wherever we may, we have something solid and tangible to preach, for our gospel is a person. If you had asked the twelve Apostles in their day, ‘What do you believe in?’ they would not have stopped to go round about with a long sermon, but they would have pointed to their Master and they would have said, ‘We believe him.’ ‘But what are your doctrines?’ ‘There they stand incarnate.’ ‘But what is your practice?’ ‘There stands our practice. He is our example.’ ‘What then do you believe?’ Hear the glorious answer of the Apostle Paul, ‘We preach Christ crucified.’ Our creed, our body of divinity, our whole theology is summed up in the person of Christ Jesus.

C. H. Spurgeon, “De Propaganda Fide,” in Lectures Delivered before the Young Men’s Christian Association in Exeter Hall 1858-1859, pages 159-160.

Six Steps for Combating Anxiety from Paul Tripp

From the Gospel Coalition blog/web-site...

"From Anxiety to Peace"

Tullian Tchividjian (via Susan Fiske) summarizes Paul Tripp’s six action steps for combating anxiety:

Remind Yourself That God Is In Control: When you convince yourself that your world is out of control, you are on the verge of paralysis. Watch your self-talk. Are you saying to yourself: “God is in control of this circumstance, He is my Father, and He is ruling this for my benefit”?

Accept Confusion: Believing in God’s sovereignty doesn’t mean life will make sense. Believing in God’s sovereignty is needed because life doesn’t make sense. Your rest is not in figuring out your circumstances–your rest is in the God behind the circumstances.

Don’t Allow Emotions To Rule: As much as the emotions you experience will be right, good, and appropriate, don’t let them set the agenda. There is a temptation to do that, but allowing yourself to be pulled away by the emotions of the moment could cause you to regret your decisions later.

Distinguish Needs From Wants: Be very careful what you put in your catalog of “need.” The minute you tell yourself something is a need, you’re saying it is essential for life. Then you are going to determine that you can’t live without it. It’s easy to attach yourself and your sense of security to the gift rather than to the Giver.

Know Your Job Description: God promises to provide. Your job is to live the way God has called you to live. Instead of giving way to discouragement, look for ways you can contribute to God’s people at the moment.

Run To God, Not Away From Him: God’s promise to us is not first the relief of the suffering–His promise is to give us Himself. He will never turn a deaf ear to the natural cries of a person of faith when life doesn’t make sense. God hears and answers and works and comforts.

Global Impact at WBC - October 14th-18th, 2009

Words could never, ever begin to describe how excited I am about our GIC next week. David Platt, Al Jackson, Jerry Rankin, and a gentleman from the persecuted church, missionaries, etc. It is going to be an outstanding week to say the least.

Though I am not promising, I do want to blog my thoughts next week before and after various events. I believe that God has ordained our time together with these people and has some fascinating plans to reveal to us as a church next week. I plan to be 'radically intentional' in how I approach next week, ready and expectant to hear from the Lord.

To whet our appetite for next week, I am providing some links I encourage you to explore and look through. I encourage you to visit these sites to feed your soul, your prayer life, your brain, and your compassion for the world that so desperately needs the Gospel.

Joshua Project - A incredible web-site designed to educate about the unreached peoples of hte world.

Global Prayer Digest - A great resource to help guide you in different ways each day in how to pray for an unreached people group.

Voices of the Martyrs - A web-site devoted to the persecuted church

The International Mission Board Web-Site - International Missions arm of the SBC and where Dr. Jerry Rankin currently serves as President

The Church At Brook Hills - Where David Platt serves as pastor

Lakeview Baptist Church - Where Al Jackson serves as pastor

Russell Moore on David Letterman and the Gospel

Below is an article posted by Russell Moore (via his blog) on what we can learn about the Gospel and the recent David Letterman scandal. I thought his insights were well thought out and extremely helpful.

"What David Letterman Can Teach Us About the Gospel"

If you pay a little attention right now to David Letterman, you could learn something critical about carrying the gospel to your neighbors, and to yourself.
I’m not talking about re-tooling some Christian version of the late night comedian’s “Top Ten Lists” or his “Stupid Pet Tricks.” I’m not talking about his cynical humor, or emotionally detached coolness. I’m talking about why he was so scared of a blackmailer’s extortion.

We’ve all been there.

Last week Letterman started off a segment on his nationally-broadcast program “The Late Show” by telling his viewers a “story.” The studio audience, laughing along, seemed not to be able to tell, at first, if this was a set-up for a joke or a skit, but it became clear this wasn’t a gag.
Letterman said that he had gotten into his car at six in the morning one day to find an envelope in his car, an envelope with details and evidence of Letterman’s sexual affairs with women on his staff. The extortionist wanted two million dollars or he’d make it all public in a screenplay or book.

At first glance, this is just another celebrity soap opera, and, frankly speaking, not a particularly shocking one. What interests me, though, is not that Letterman was doing “terrible things.” What else would I expect a man outside of Christ to do?

What’s interesting to me is that the blackmail scared Letterman, and the reasons why.
Letterman said the extortion note was disturbing, first of all, because he feared the mysterious correspondent was watching him. Someone who knew this much about his life, would this figure be tapping him on the shoulder from the shadows? Pulling him into the back of the car?
Letterman also, though, was upset by the note because it was true.

Letterman acknowledged to this viewers that he had, in fact, had sex with women on the “Late Show” staff. He also said that seeing his “terrible things” there in print, with evidence for it all, in front of him, made him feel “creepy.” Even in his deadpan comedic, “aw shucks this ain’t so bad” wink-and-grin performance, we can hear a terror, a terror that is common to humanity.
If the envelope in the car had accused Letterman of being a member of an Islamic terrorist cell, he might have still been worried that the crazed writer was around, but, after getting out of the parking garage, Letterman wouldn’t have been, in his words, “menaced” by the accusations.

Why not?

It’s because he knows he’s not a member of an Islamic terrorist cell. There could be no evidence to show it, because it’s not a fact. The power the blackmailer had over the comedian was in the truthfulness of his accusations, and in the cold, rational evidence he had for each of his charges.
You and I once felt a deeper, more primal blackmail, and it scared us to the core. In fact, we often still do. Now, for most of us, it’s not the same kind of transgression or the same type of discovery. But we’re blackmailed just as surely, in fact even more so.

The Scripture says that Satan’s reign over this present order is by holding us captive through the slavery of the “fear of death” (Heb 2:15). And why are all humans afraid of death? Because, like Letterman’s letter in the back of the car, our conscience is pointing us to judgment, with a “black box” of evidence of our guilt (Rom 2:15-16).

That’s why the gospel is such good news for blackmailed creepy people like us.
Jesus says of Satan, in one of the most remarkable passages to me of all of Holy Scripture: “The ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me” (John 14:30). Jesus’ calm is the same as if I were asked to take a DNA test to prove that I’m not the father of one of Michael Jackson’s children. I know there’s just nothing there.

Jesus knows that, as the one sinless human since Adam’s catastrophe, Satan has no evidence of guilt in Jesus. He’s been tested, and he’s still standing.

Jesus doesn’t fear Satan’s accusations because he has nothing to hide, from the demonic watchers, from his Father, from himself. He is truth, and the truth makes him free indeed. With his tranquil conscience, Jesus marches right to the pole of slaughter, paying the wages of sin for those in the satanic slavery.

That’s why our Lord Jesus shows us, through our brother John, that “the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God” (Rev 12:10). And how do those in Christ triumph over this accusation? It’s “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” (Rev 12:11).

Satan has nothing left to accuse because at the Place of the Skull “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). If you’ve already been exposed, you can’t be re-exposed. If you’ve already been damned, you can’t be re-damned.

David Letterman said the accusations bothered him because he’s a “tower of Midwestern Lutheran guilt.” But there’s nothing particularly Midwestern or Lutheran about it. It’s a signal of a conscience that points to judgment. But it could also point to the One who has borne all the penalty due at judgment, including the public humiliation of being caught. We’ve all been there.
Let’s remember the gospel, and learn from Dave Letterman how scary blackmail can be. As the accusations come at us, let’s acknowledge the truth of the satanic claims. Let’s find ourselves in Jesus. And let’s point to a bloody cross and an empty tomb where those accusations were verified and crucified.

Poor David Letterman. This extortion is nothing like the one he, and billions more, are facing from a threatening presence who can’t be indicted by a New York grand jury. Let’s pray for him, and plead with those like him in our neighborhood and in cities and villages all around the world, as we remember what it’s like to be that scared.

And let’s remember not to be paralyzed by cosmic blackmail. The satanic powers have the evidence against us; yes, they do. But every accusation comes before an Advocate with a still conscience in his chest, scabbed-over spike-marks in his hands, and a crushed snake skull at his feet.

The satanic accusations are usually true. They wouldn’t bring them up if they weren’t. But if Christ Jesus is raised from the dead (and he is) then they can’t paralyze us anymore.

In fact, if you think about it, they’re just stupid demon tricks.

Powerful Video On the Effects of the Gospel

Click here to go directly to a short video (via Zach Nielson's blog) about a couple who chose to move to an inner-city neighborhood for the sake of the Gospel.

Very, very powerful.