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Archive for March, 2011

With all the activities going on yesterday surrounding evening services, prayer meeting, hospital visits and choir practice, I was unable to find the time to get my word of encouragement up on the blog!  I also forgot to send out an email encouragement to everyone!  While I hope you all can forgive me, the busyness of my day actually reminded me of the tremendous challenge involved in a project like the one we are undertaking.  We are calling on people to fast (at interval times), pray, and meditate on Scripture consistently for 21 days.  That’s a long time!  All of us are busy and have lives that tend to get in the way of a project like this.  In short, it’s easy for us to miss a day…or perhaps even two.  So what do we do when our initial commitment has been “broken?”  I say, get right back up and pick up where you left off!  In the context of our “Find it Here” 21-day emphasis, just know that if you miss or forget a day of prayer, you need not give up altogether.  In fact, upon realization of your missing a day, pick right back up with your commitment and continue pressing on in prayer, fasting, meditation, and preparation for sharing Christ with your lost family and friends.

What’s our other option?  To quit altogether every time we face an obstacle?  I say no.  Press on.

So yesterday, you should have read through John 4 and meditated upon Christ, the soul-winner as you read the exchange between Jesus and the woman at the well.  Is there really any better picture in all of the New Testament of what compassionate gospel engagement should look like?  If there were any passage worthy of our meditation as we prepare to share Jesus with loved ones, this one is it!  Every aspect of Jesus’ behavior deserves our emulation in this passage.  A couple of observations worthy of noting about Jesus’ engagement in John 4 (and there are TONS of things that could be said here, but let me limit my comments to only a few!):

*First, Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well is a classic example of what some call “cold-call” evangelism.  Now I understand that there is a tremendous emphasis today upon the relational aspect of evangelism (i.e. building a relationship first, then sharing Jesus at an appropriate and comfortable time).  I also affirm the value of relational evangelism.  However, we must not discount the possibility that often in His sovereignty, God arranges situations in which you might have an open door opportunity to share Christ with someone whom you have only just met.  In such a case, the relationship is not necessarily there, but the opportunity for sharing the gospel is.  In such cases, we must see these opportunities as divine appointments and be faithful to share Christ with the opportunity we have.  If we neglect these opportunities by reasoning that we lack the “relational depth” to bring up Christ, we will miss countless opportunities to share Jesus every day.  Clearly, Jesus cut through the relational red-tape and did that which showed the greatest possible love for this woman whom he had just met when he addressed her greatest need, namely her need for forgiveness and salvation.  Don’t believe or perpetuate the lie that people will only listen to you when they know you.  Thousands can give testimony to the fact that an effective witness can be shared on a city bus, in a grocery-store line, or at a sporting event with an otherwise total stranger.

Secondly, we see in various places in this passage that Jesus doesn’t allow himself to be side-tracked with trifling questions or debates but instead goes straight to the heart of gospel-witness by confronting the woman with the message of deliverance.  She asks questions at various points that could have led Jesus down the path of pointless debate and contention (i.e. verses 9, 12a, 19-20), but Jesus remains focused on addressing the key issues of sin and redemption by directing the conversation back to Himself and His redemptive work.  Often, it is tempting for us to “chase rabbits” and get involved in pointless debates when attempting to share Christ.  In an effort to avoid spiritual confrontation or deflect questions of eternal significance, our lost friends and family will often want to change the subject and distract us from the central message of redemption.  Have you ever been sharing the gospel and had a lost person ask a question like “why does God allow earthquakes to happen?” or “what happens to those who never hear the gospel?”  Now please understand, I am a strong believer that there is definitely a time and place for Christian apologetics.  I firmly believe that Christians should have answers for those questions and there are few things more valuable (in my opinion) than investing in a few good apologetics texts and being equipped to debate the merits of the Christian faith (1 Peter 3:15).  However, when these questions appear in the context of an initial gospel witness, they are often little more than a thinly-veiled attempt to change the subject and avoid confronting the central truths of the gospel.  Don’t allow this to happen.  Tell your friends that “these are good questions, and I would like to address them later, but for now, I really want to know what you think about your own relationship with Jesus Christ.”  Stay focused.  Stay on course.  Point others to Christ.

Finally, this passage provides us with an amazing example of a truth long-known by those who study evangelism and church life, namely that newly born-again believers are our greatest source of evangelistic passion.  This woman immediately (v. 28-30) runs into town and begins telling others about Jesus.  New believers have a tendency to do this, and we must learn to harness that energy for the glory of God so that their testimony and passion burn brightly before days of difficulty set in.  We are sometimes afraid to let new converts share Christ for fear that they might not “get it right.”  We fear that their lack of theological training and time in church disqualifies them from witnessing to those friends and family who are still under their influence.  I say that when we do this, we fail to capitalize on one of the greatest resources available to us in the church.  The woman at the well was changed and she wanted her friends and neighbors to know!  Her faithful witness led to a tremendous revival in her town!  Oh that it would be so today.  Imagine if, at the end of our 21-day emphasis, dozens of our friends and family professed faith in Christ and left our church with a zeal and passion to tell everyone they knew about their new faith!  We would be wise to encourage this and to continue to encourage new believers to burn brightly and share with zeal.  Otherwise, they’ll become dull and disinterested in sharing their faith just like many who occupy pews today.

Well, for day 5, I pray that you will read, meditate, and pray for the lost.  Just a thought about chapter 5, take special notice of verse 18.  The Jews of Jesus’ day knew full well that He was claiming to be divine.  So much did they understand this that they wanted to kill him for it.  For those skeptics and outright liberals today who deny that Jesus ever claimed to be the divine Son of God, I would say that they need to reconsider the exchange in John 5:1-18.  Furthermore, verse 24 is one of the greatest evangelistic passages in all of John’s gospel.  Memorize it.  Understand it.  Use it.  For in it, Jesus states very simply what it means to have faith in Him and the eternal consequences of that choice.  He states “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

Let’s make sure this Easter that our loved ones “hear” and pray that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they “believe” so that they may obtain “eternal life” and escape everlasting “judgment.”  Let’s pray for these things together!

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Our Lord Jesus was, and remains, the greatest evangelist of all times.  In the gospels, we constantly see him dealing lovingly and relationally with lost and broken people and confronting them with truth.  Such is the case in John 3.  This chapter records Jesus’ interaction with the “seeker,” Nicodemus, and the subsequent gospel-centered conversation that follows (3:1-21).  In this passage and the one that follows it (John 3:22-36, which records John the Baptist’s discussion about Jesus’ Messianic ministry), the Apostle John records for us exchanges in which some of the essential, core truths of salvation are recorded.  These passages remind us that evangelistic encounters must be about more than just relationships, love, and invitations to church.  They are also about engaging false worldviews with theological and Christological truth.  Notice the way this is done in John 3:

* In v. 3, Jesus speaks of the absolute necessity of regeneration
* In v. 8, He speaks of the activity of the Spirit in regeneration
* In v. 14-15, He speaks of the centrality of sacrifice to the plan of redemption
* In v. 16 (and again by John the Baptist in v. 36), we are reminded of the simplicity of faith
* In v. 18-19, Jesus speaks to the difficult truths surrounding the reality of human sinfulness and the resultant inevitability of divine judgment

Jesus’ evangelistic encounter with Nicodemus leaves us with no doubt that when he spoke with the lost, he engaged them with difficult truths concerning God and the gospel.  We must do the same.  And we must pray, like the Apostle Paul, that God will not only open the doors of opportunity for us, but that He will also give us the words to speak and the boldness to speak them when the opportunity arises (Col 4:2-5).

Today, pray for your lost friends to whom you have committed.  Meditate on these truths from John 3.  And pray for one another.

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Our “Find it Here” launch yesterday was a great success!  We have 52 people committed to pray and fast for the salvation of 151 unsaved people over the next 21 days (now 20)!  Don’t forget to pray for those to whom you have committed today!  And don’t forget to read John’s gospel, chapter 2, today!  You should have finished chapters 1-2 by the end of today!  Let’s prepare our hearts for the celebration of the resurrection in a few weeks by getting ourselves ready to share the good news of Jesus Christ with our lost family and friends!

Follow these daily emails over the next 3 weeks for updates, reminders, and thoughts about the “Find it Here” campaign!

Today, ponder Jesus’ cleansing of the temple in John 2:13-22, and think deeply upon Jesus’ words in verse 19.  He said “destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  John goes on to tell us (v. 21) that he was actually referring to the temple of his body and the resurrection!  Already, Jesus was making it clear that his ministry would lead him to death, burial, and resurrection for the sake of the lost!  Let us pray today that our lost friends would hear of Jesus’ resurrection for their justification this Easter season!

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I am praying for a great response today from the people of God at Southern Heights as each member is challenged to commit to pray, fast, and reach out to 3 friends over the course of the next 28 days.  21 of these days will be committed to prayer, fasting, and spiritual preparation while the last 7 days (beginning on Palm Sunday) will involve actually going to and sharing Christ (and an Easter invite) to those for whom we are praying.

I believe this kind of evangelistic approach has the power and potential to change our church.  We must have each and every person in our pews actively praying, fasting, reading Scripture, and sharing Christ if we ever hope to be a Great Commission Church.  If there is no passion for reaching the lost at home, there will never be a passion for reaching them in Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world!

So if you’re reading this, pray for us as we launch our strategy today.

Check out the video component of this strategy at www.findithere.com

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Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;  but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31, ESV)

With these words, written near the end of John’s gospel, John makes explicitly clear his reason for writing his account of the life and ministry of Jesus.  Clearly, he had evangelistic intentions.  Under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, John recorded the miracles, discourses, and interactions of Jesus contained in his gospel in order that his readers might believe and be saved.  This has led many scholars through the years to classify the gospel of John as the most evangelistic book in the Bible.

How appropriate that John’s gospel be intimately woven into this year’s spring evangelistic initiative promoted by our Kentucky Baptist Convention.  The “Find it Here” initiative for 2011 will stress the use of intentional, targeted prayer, meditation on John’s gospel and personal sharing of faith to reach our unsaved family and friends in the days leading up to Easter.

Last year, Southern Heights participated in the state-wide “Find it Here” initiative (sponsored by the KBC) along with hundreds of other Southern Baptist churches around the state.  We prayed, strategized, and then canvassed the homes of hundreds of our neighbors in South Lexington with gospel literature and invitations to worship with us.  Along with close to 1,700 other churches from around the state of Kentucky, we were a part of an initiative in 2010 that eventually reached into the homes of over 1.3 million Kentuckians. Reports flowed in from all around the state and eventually we found that there were thousands who responded to the invitations all over the state and many whose lives were changed through either salvation or rededicated lives.

The 2011 initiative has the potential to accomplish even more than last year’s efforts.  The focus this spring will be very different than last year’s focus.  Canvassing, while a valuable tool for reaching our community, is to some degree very impersonal and focused on quantity rather than quality.  This year’s initiative will be much more personal, much more intimate, and much more focused.  The 2011 spring “Find it Here” initiative will challenge individuals to reach the lost with the gospel through the following process:

1.  On March 27th, we will have a final commitment day, on which all members of the church will be challenged to commit to 21-days of prayer and fasting for 3 lost individuals to whom they have access in their daily lives.

2.  Beginning on March 27th, participants will begin the process of daily-prayer for the salvation of their three lost friends.  They will be challenged to fast for spiritual awakening during this time, either daily or for various lengths of time during their 21-day focus.

3.  Also beginning on March 27th, participants will commit to reading a chapter-per-day of the gospel of John (21 chapters in all) and praying that the Lord will create in them the same type of evangelistic passion that motivated John to write with such passionate concern for the lost.

4.  When the 21-day-period ends (April 16th), participants will then take the following 7-day period (between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday) to go to those for whom they have been praying and personally share the message of the gospel while giving their friends a gospel-packet (Bible, audio CD of New Testament, evangelistic tract, and personal invitation to Easter Sunday services) and encouraging them to attend Southern Heights on Easter Sunday.

5.  On Easter Sunday, we will see an amazing harvest as dozens and dozens of individuals for whom we have been praying attend worship with us and hear the life-changing message of the gospel of Christ.

This initiative has the power to launch a great revival in our church.  Not only because it will force participants out of their comfort-zone and into the realm of personal evangelism, but because it has the potential to result in dozens of individuals coming to faith in Christ.  Can you begin to imagine with me what it might be like to have 25 or 30 individuals come to saving faith in Christ on Easter morning?  Even to see 2 or 3 would be an amazing testimony to God’s saving power!

But this initiative will fall totally flat if YOU do not commit to participate.  With your participation, we have the potential to personally reach out to 300- 400 people in our community.   If only a few participate, we will only sow a handful of seeds, but if many will make the commitment to reach their family and friends this Easter, we could see a tremendous movement of God.  If we fail as a congregation to develop an evangelistic burden for our neighbors and our community, then we fail to properly comprehend the real power of the gospel to transform lives and we disobey our Master, who commanded us to “proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).  If we lack the motivation to reach out to the lost around us then we will most certainly not survive much longer as a church.

So in the weeks to come, pray with me for a moving of God’s Spirit in our midst.  Pray that HE would begin to create a burden within us, embolden our church, and open the hearts of the lost.  Pray that this Easter will be the most spiritually vibrant Resurrection-celebration in many years because of the salvation of many lost family and friends.  Pray with me, that this year at Easter, we will not only preach and sing about the resurrection, but that we will see resurrection power at work in the lives of the lost.

As the lost all around us search blindly for answers this Easter season, let’s be a people who will help them “FIND IT HERE!”

See a helpful video clip provided by the KBC HERE!

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Well, it’s been a week since the conference and I have been short on time for blogging, but I did want to come back and mention a couple of items about the convention that were memorable.

The third (evening) session was a treat.  I have to be honest and say that I have misplaced my notes for the sermon by Dr. Richard Harris.  I was there.  I listened intently.  But I can’t remember a thing about the message and I’ve lost my notes.

However, the second evening-session speaker was Dr. Fred Luter, from Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.  Listening to Dr. Luter is always a treat.  I have heard him speak probably 5 or 6 different times through the years and his rhetorical style, his joy, and his passion for the Word of God always make him a blessing to his hearers.  Honestly, you could hand Dr. Luter the daily stock-reports and ask him to read them at a conference and with his style, passion, and charisma, he could make even those interesting.

But last Monday night, he had something worthy to say to ministers and churches about evangelism.  He titled his sermon “What would Jesus do about today’s evangelism crisis?”  and he preached from Matthew 9:35-38.  He began by challenging pastors to recognize that there is a serious crisis in our churches today when it comes to reaching the lost.  He notes that it is a good thing to consult the “professionals” in a time of crisis (i.e. LifeWay, NAMB, our seminaries, etc…) but it would be the BEST thing for us to consult the one, true, EXPERT on soul-winning if we want true direction.  The expert he speaks of is, of course, the Lord Jesus.  Dr. Luter noted that if we consult Jesus, we would find that He was (and remains) CONCERNED about PEOPLE (9:35).  Just ask Lazarus, or blind Bartimeus, or the woman at the well, or the woman taken in adultery, and all will affirm that Jesus’ first concern was for lost, hurting people.  Is that our first concern? If Jesus was concerned enough about you to rescue you from condemnation, shouldn’t we believe that He cares about the rescue of others?

He noted secondly, that Jesus would be COMPASSIONATE towards the hurting people (v. 36).  It was not enough for Jesus to merely notice the brokenness of others or to merely go to them.  He was moved by and responded according to deep compassion for the hurting masses.  Compassionate action is the appropriate response to those whose desperate situation has raised our concern.  Do we really remember what it was like to be lost and without hope in Christ?  He notes that  compassion should follow concern and NOT condemnation, castigation, or chastisement.

His final point emphasized that Jesus sent out a CHALLENGE TO THE DISCIPLES (37-38) concerning the desperate nature of this situation.  Obviously, the challenge here is for pastors and Southern Baptist leaders to see the need, the genuine need to respond with compassion, and then to begin praying, equipping, and sending.  The only way that the evangelistic challenge of our day is going to be met is when God’s people get serious about praying for laborers (are you and your church doing this regularly?), discipling believers to levels of competence in order that they can reproduce themselves (what are you personally doing to disciple another today?) and equipping our people to both recognize the opportunities all around them daily for gospel witness and to take advantage of the ministry opportunities that we offer as a church.

When we begin to DO these things and mimic the master’s evangelistic patterns, we will truly know what to do about the evangelism crisis facing us today.

Great sermon.  Worth listening to over and over again.

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Sometimes you read something so good that you just feel like everyone you know needs to read it too!  That’s the way I felt when a friend first posted a link to this article written on 3/4/2011 by Dr. Thom Rainer.  It is worth your time to read it.  I wanted to link it on my blog so that I would always have it close for the sake of reference.  It’s ironic that he write this when he did because just the other day, Rick Howerton preached a phenomenal message at the KBC evangelism conference in which he talked about the need for church leaders to do a better job of protecting the church’s unity from those who always seek to destroy it.  He said “it’s time for those who love Christ’s bride to stop others from bullying her around so much!” (paraphrase)

Both men are right.  Check out Dr. Rainer’s article “Responding to the ‘Great Distraction'” here.  It’s short.  But it’s worth reading.  Thanks Dr. Rainer for saying something that needed to be said but that no-one wants to say!

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