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Archive for February, 2011

Read the story HERE. Let’s hope that this comes to pass.  Tom Elliff is an amazing selection to follow Dr. Jerry Rankin’s passionate leadership at the International Mission Board of the SBC.  Southern Baptists would be blessed to have Dr. Elliff lead our international missions organization.  His wide-range of experience and leadership in all walks of Southern Baptist life along with his most recent work with the IMB make him an excellent choice.

Truthfully, this is a much better selection than what I had anticipated and I pray that it comes to pass.

I have enjoyed many of Tom’s writings, which can be found HERE (Tomelliff.com) and was blessed some years ago when, at an SBC annual meeting, I picked up the book that he and his wife Jeannie co-wrote entitled Letters to Lovers: Wisdom for Every Season of Your Marriage (B & H, 2003).  It’s a book I would highly recommend for couples.

I am very excited today as a Southern Baptist pastor, about the future of our IMB under Dr. Elliff’s leadership!

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And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-20)

 

Congrats to both Chris and Doug on their public professions of faith in Christ as Lord and their subsequent baptism this past Sunday (2/6/2011)!

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“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land- not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.  (Amos 8:11)

In his somewhat recent book The Shape of Faith to Come (B&H, 2008), Dr. Brad Waggoner reveals the results of a study of the spiritual development and habits of over 2000 professed (Protestant) Christians.  He studied, over a period of two years, the spiritual formation and progress of a group of Christians by looking at 21 key areas in which every disciple of Christ should be expected to grow (e.g. prayer, Bible-reading, church attendance, service, etc…).  His findings are both surprising and disheartening.  In a nutshell, they reveal very low scores in almost every category studied.  The conclusion: that Christians today are not taking seriously at all spiritual formation and are shockingly weak in their faith.  Is it any wonder that we are not reaching the world with the gospel? 

For the purposes of this article, the findings of particular interest to me are those concerning Bible-reading.  On page 69, Waggoner reveals that only 16% of the thousands surveyed said that they read their Bibles every day.  Personally, from my experience as a pastor, even that number sounds a little high, but let’s just accept it at face value; that means that only 16 of every 100 Christians read their Bibles daily.  Another 20% said that they read it “a few times per week” and another 12% said that they read it “weekly.”  In all that means that 48% of those Christians surveyed said they read their Bibles at some time during an average week.  If that sounds optimistic, you have failed to think about the implications of the number.  This means that the other 52% (OVER HALF) do not read their Bibles at all during a week.  We’re not reaching the world with the gospel because we don’t know the gospel as given in the Word. 

Given the resources available in the day and time in which we live, I find this inexcusable.  There are literally dozens and dozens of ways for individual Christians to get their “Bible intake” conveniently today.  We have graduated from traditional reading (which is still the BEST way to get your daily Bible intake!) to cassette tapes of the entire Bible, to daily online reading programs to i-phone apps which will dramatically read your daily Scripture portions for you!  I found one a few weeks ago called Bible.is   It is an INCREDIBLE app for my i-phone which allows me to hear well-done, dramatic readings of the Scriptures in various translations (I prefer the ESV, which is available) from anywhere at anytime.  I have been using the app to work through the Book of Acts with my children in the month of February.  We listen to the dramatic reading while reading, pausing, and discussing the text in our own Bibles, and it is all available right at our fingertips from anywhere we find ourselves.  I have also been listening to the Old Testament prophets while working out at the gym (with earbuds of course!).  How much more simple can it get?  What excuse do we have left?  Should we not be MORE Bible-saavy and Bible literate than any previous generation?

The issue of Bible-intake should be one of major concern to every Christian.  Granted, there are more ways than just reading that a Christian can take in the Word of God, but reading the Bible is the primary method of Bible intake for most Christians.  Don Whitney points this out in his excellent book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.  He contends that Christians can improve their practice of taking the Word of God in to their lives through developing such disciplines as:

 1. Hearing the Word preached or taught or even with modern technology, listening to the Word of God read aloud on CD or i-phone apps.  In Nehemiah 8 those who heard the Word attentively encountered God in His Word and were transformed.

2. Reading the Word.  While I am a traditionalist that still prefers good old-fashioned “Bible-reading,” this can be done today electronically through smart-phones, apps, e-reading, etc…  Some folks I know no longer bring a traditional print-Bible to church anymore, but rather carry their downloaded ESV on their phones! 

3. Studying the Word.

4. Memorizing the Word.

5. Meditating on the Word.

6. Applying the Word.

The bottom line is that the most basic element of spiritual formation for the Christian has to do with the child of God hearing from God by daily hearing from His Word.  Anyone  calling themselves a Christian but having no desire to regularly spend time hearing from God in His Word has cause to either question their spiritual maturity or question their salvation.  When following Christ, we want to spend time in the Word of God!  It is there where we find the story of Jesus, the presentation of the true nature of man, the history of God’s people, God’s direction and will for our lives, and truth concerning every issue to which the Bible speaks (2 Timothy 3:16-17). 

Consider the following questions:

1. How much time do you daily spend in the Word of God? 

2. Have you ever read through the entire Bible and grasped its message from start to finish?

3. How confident are you that you have matured in your grasp of biblical truths and doctrinal positions?

4. How would your life change if you daily spent 20-30 minutes reading God’s Word this year?

5. What obstacles keep you from daily reading of the Word?

6.  What would a church look like where all of the membership were regularly reading lengthy passages of Scripture together as a body?

7.  How much different would the doctrinal positions of most churches today be if their membership was regularly and intently engaging God in His Word? 

8.  How would our nation be transformed if only 50% of its people regularly, daily, and intently read the Word of God?

9. How would our churches be transformed if only 50% of our people were regularly encountering God in His Word? 

10.  What is the other 52% of Christianity going to say as an excuse when they stand before God and account for rarely or never having time to hear from Him in His Word? 

I know these are weighty questions, but I ask them with sincerity and from a pastor’s heart.  I have a desire to lead our church to be more actively engaged with the Word of God.  It is a simple thing, I know, but it has the power to transform the lives of our people and the life of the Christian community.  Consider beginning an accountability group with a few other growing Christians by which you hold one another accountable on this issue of Bible-intake and regularly read and discuss common books and passages.  Consider using Lifeway’s LifeWalk magazines as a guide and meeting weekly and monthly to hold one another accountable and encourage one another to stay on course!

 Don’t wait until next January to begin your “reading-through-the-Bible-in-a-year-program!”  Begin today by committing yourself to reading 3-5 chapters per day and you will be amazed how far you get in a short time.   

Let’s start a program today of getting “Back to the Basics” when it comes to our Christian walk.  Let’s start with the simplest of things, reading our Bible regularly and intentionally, and ask God to help us develop this discipline in order that we may be in a place to hear what He has to say to us and our churches! 

Don’t be a part of the 52% in Waggoner’s study, instead, strive to be in that 16% who daily engage God in His Word and can say like the Psalmist, “your words are sweet to my taste!  Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103, paraphrased)

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For SHBC family, I wanted to (re-) post this article just in case you missed it in last month’s church newsletter.  God provided richly for our International Missions Board (SBC) through your generous giving this past Christmas!  I look forward to “pushing” us even more in the future as we seek to be a church involved in the mission of God both at home and abroad!  Until He comes, let us pray, give, and GO! 

The Apostle Paul said of his friends in Macedonia, that “in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.”  He continued praising them for their generosity, noting that they gave “beyond their means…of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Cor 8:1-5).   The Macedonians had set an amazing example of sacrificial giving for other Christians to follow.  The Macedonians rose to the occasion and made the Apostle overflow with joy and thanksgiving.  He told the Corinthian saints about how God had used the Macedonians to give and could surely use the Corinthians in the same way. 

In similar fashion, the saints at SHBC have gone over and above the call of duty this month in their giving to our missionaries!  It makes me very proud to report that as of today (and I am anticipating that some will continue to give even this coming Sunday!), our church has given a total of $5,211.25 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions!   Through us, God has provided for his servants on foreign fields and that should fill our hearts with joy and thanksgiving!  We set our goal at $4,500 this year and far exceeded that goal.  You have made my Christmas with your generosity, so from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for your giving!  You have modeled generosity at one of the most difficult times of the year in a “down” economy!  In spite of these circumstances, God used you to give the largest Lottie Moon offering in over a decade!  Just looking at the giving records of recent years, see how this year’s gift exceeds what we have done in recent years:

1998- $3,534               2000- $3,273               2001- $3,001

2002- $1,767               2003- $2,488               2004- $3,664

2005- $4,754               2006- $1,931               2007- $2,125

2008- $3,486               2009- $4,345               2010- $5,211* (at time of writing)

The International Missions Board tells us that on average, it costs about $43,845 per year to support a missionary on the field.  This breaks down to about $3,650 per month, $843 per week, $120 per day, $5 per hour, or $.08 per minute.  Know that your generous contributions, when combined with the faithful giving of thousands of other Southern Baptist churches all around the country, will be put to the greatest use in supporting our international missionary force of over 5,000 missionaries who labor daily to reach the nations with the gospel.  We know who the last unreached people groups are and where they live.  We can reach them in our lifetime, but it’s going to continue to cost us.  May we ever respond with the kind of faithfulness, sacrifice, and vision with which you have responded so far this year!

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