Archives For December 2018

By Autumn Wall

Christmas. The season of joy. Jesus’s birthday. It’s right around the corner!

As believers, we know the real reason for the season is Jesus. This is the day we celebrate our Savior coming to earth to begin his journey to the cross which will give us freedom from sin and shame eternally. But the chaos of the season can overshadow the real reason we celebrate and distract us from the very thing we were put on this earth to do: tell his story.

This Christmas, will you be intentional to share Jesus everywhere you go? Here are some fresh ideas to keep you focused on the gospel:

• Buy some clear or blank ornaments and decorate them with your favorite Scripture verse. Keep a box of them in your car and give them away to people you encounter—at the gas station, grocery store, your kid’s school program, on a family walk, etc.

• Get a stack of invitation cards from your church (or make some yourself) to invite people to your church’s Christmas Eve service or program. So many people are willing to attend a holiday event who might never go to a “church service.” Who are you inviting?

• Host a neighborhood Christmas tea. Invite your neighbors to stop by your home just to celebrate the season together for a few minutes. Present each attendee with a small gift, card, and/or invitation to your church or small group.

• Take time to train your kids how to tell people about Jesus. It can be as simple as telling their teachers and friends that we celebrate Christmas because God came down to us and made a way for us to know him.

It’s simple in this season to share Jesus, but it’s also simple to forget to share him. How will you share him everywhere you go this Christmas season?

Autumn Wall, online at autumnwall.com, is an author, speaker, worship leader, pastor’s wife, and mom of three in Indianapolis.

Teams wrap up work

Lisa Misner —  December 13, 2018 — Leave a comment

In states hit by hurricanes

IBDR logo

Just before tornados swept across central Illinois, Disaster Relief volunteers from the state completed a long season of hurricane relief in Florida and North Carolina. Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief (IBDR) volunteers put thousands of miles on the road traveling south and east in the wake of Hurricanes Florence and Michael.

“Illinois saw key partnerships develop during the hurricane season this year,” said IBDR State Coordinator Dwayne Doyle. “We partnered with Missouri in a significant way as we responded together in locations in both North Carolina and Florida. We served with Kentucky Baptists on one of their kitchens in North Carolina. We also served North Carolina Baptists for over two months in Lumberton.”

“We sent 12 or more teams to both North Carolina and to Florida,” Doyle added. “Chaplains, tree cutters, and flood recovery teams served the Lord well. We were happy to rejoice with several who found hope in Jesus as they were served by Southern Baptists.”

Doyle said it was also a significant year for the state’s mass feeding teams. “We were able to mobilize mass feeding teams to both states as well. This is the first time in several years that we participated in mass feeding of survivors.”

Prior to the Dec. 1 Taylorville tornado, IBSA volunteers had worked 16,817 hours responding to the hurricanes, and to flooding in Illinois and Iowa. They recorded 769 gospel presentations, distributed 1,341 gospel tracts and 937 Bibles, and witnessed 15 people accept Christ as Savior.

An IBDR team from the Heartland Baptist Network was the last Illinois team to serve in Lumberton, N.C., completing chainsaw work in early November before work transitioned to the recovery phase. In late November, teams from the Winthrop Harbor area, Heartland Network, and Kaskaskia, Salem South, and Williamson Associations wrapped up IBDR work in Bristol, Fla., for 2018.

Known for the yellow shirts they wear, the Illinois volunteers were joined for the first time by “green shirt” volunteers. Sarah Maddison, granddaughter of IBDR volunteers Don and Jan Kragness, and Andrew Cairel, son of Pastor Derrick and Angie Cairel of Liberty Baptist in Harrisburg, joined recovery teams in Florida in November. The high schoolers completed the required seven hours of training including DR 101.

For more information about Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief, go to IBSA.org/dr.

– Lisa Misner

By Andrew Woodrow

The death of missionary John Allen Chau has sparked arguments among Christians. Some call the young man impulsive, while others admire his commitment to reach unreached people with the gospel. Many are comparing Chau to another missionary killed in South America more than 60 years ago.

On Nov. 17, Chau was reportedly struck and killed by arrows from a Sentinelese tribe living on a remote island off the Bay of Bengal. Born in Washington state, he had been intrigued by the tribe since his teenage years. He chose his college degree to prepare him for his mission. He underwent linguistic training, participated in global missions, refrained from romantic relationships, and later joined the mission-sending agency All Nations.

After arriving in the region in early November, Chau paid fishermen to take him on trips where he attempted to befriend the Sentinelese with gifts, songs, and declarations of Jesus’s love. Chau wrote of his fear in returning to the island for his third visit (and his first overnight one), but reassured himself that the tribe’s eternal lives mattered more. The next morning, when Chau’s companions sailed near the island, they saw his body being dragged on the beach.

For its striking similarity, Chau’s death has been compared to that of five missionary martyrs in 1956, among them the well-known Jim Elliot. Elliot also devoted his early years to preparing for missions. He and his team sought to evangelize the Huaorani tribespeople in Ecuador. They were killed by warriors’ arrows soon after first contact. Elliot journaled extensively of his desire to reach the lost tribe, and his work was continued successfully after his death by his wife, Elisabeth.

But Jim Elliot was celebrated, while Chau has been criticized.

Wheaton College’s Ed Stetzer said he imagines Elliot would receive very different treatment today. “People are much more negative about missions, partly because of mistakes missionaries have made, such as colonialism, a lack of cultural awareness, and more.”

But, “As Elliot wrote (and Chau experienced), ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose,’” Stetzer wrote. “Here at Elliot’s alma mater, we still believe and train missionaries. To some, that makes us the fools. But…if that makes us fools, we will be ‘fools for Christ.’”

– IBSA’s Andrew Woodrow was a missionary kid, living with his family in Mozambique

Briefing

2018’s top Bible verse
According to the world’s most downloaded Bible app, YouVersion, the most popular Bible verse of 2018 is found in the Old Testament. Isaiah 41:10’s “Do not fear…” verse was shared, bookmarked, and highlighted more than any other passage by hundreds of millions of YouVersion users. 

Congress approves aid for religious minorities
Persecuted religious minorities victimized by Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria are now set to get some relief from the U.S. government. Congress unanimously passed a law designed to provide aid to Christians, Yazidis, Shia Muslims, and other religious minorities that underwent displacement and genocide at the hands of ISIS.

Evangelical church sees highest giving since 2014
Evangelical churches saw an increase in giving of almost 6% in 2017, the highest increase since 2014, according to a new report by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. ECFA President Dan Busby said in a statement that he was “so pleased to see this increased support for Christ-centered churches and ministries.”

Ill. town cancels trip to Ark after complaints
An Illinois town canceled a trip to KY’s Creation Museum and Ark Encounter after an atheist group filed a complaint. Charleston’s parks and recreation department cancelled the trip for its community after the atheist group argued that the trip violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

School district faces pressure over nativity display
A Michigan civil rights group is threatening to sue the Newaygo Public School District if they do not remove a Wise Men display from an elementary school building, citing it to be a violation of the US Constitution. Most citizens of the small Michigan town, however, support keeping the display, which has been part of Newaygo’s Christmas tradition since the 1940s.

Sources: Christianity Today, World, Christian Post (2), CBN News

Service begins at home

Lisa Misner —  December 10, 2018 — Leave a comment

26 tornadoes damage 500+ structures

By Meredith Flynn and Andrew Woodrow

DR group Taylorville

After a Dec. 1 tornado in Taylorville, Disaster Relief teams ministered to homeowners like Mark Sockel (center above), who put his faith in Christ after volunteers shared the gospel with him.

Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief (IBDR) volunteers were in Taylorville the morning after an EF-3 tornado damaged hundreds of structures in the town 30 miles southeast of Springfield. The Dec. 1 storms, rare this late in the year, spawned a record-high number of tornadoes in December—at least 26—and affected several central Illinois communities. The most severe damage was in Christian County, where more than 20 people were injured.

Disaster Relief teams mobilized to Taylorville Sunday, with assessors working to evaluate needs and one chainsaw team already working to remove limbs felled by the storm. Volunteers quickly set up an Incident Command Center at the Christian County Fairgrounds, and teams moved into First Baptist Church, Edinburgh.

Three days after the tornado, the Disaster Relief response continued, with around 35 volunteers serving each day and chaplains ministering to homeowners. One Taylorville resident, Mark Sockel, heard the gospel from Disaster Relief chaplain James Bathon, and responded by putting his faith in Jesus.

He had heard people say they’d been saved, Sockel said, but “I didn’t exactly know what that meant until today.” The Lord was calling him, he said, “and I just picked up the phone today.”

Jan Kragness also serves as a Disaster Relief chaplain. “When we’re here doing Disaster Relief, we want to help you physically,” she said in Taylorville. “But we’ve not done our job if we have not also done something to help you spiritually.”

After Sockel made his decision to trust Christ, the team talked to him about church, Kragness said, telling him “the name above the door of the church is not as important as what’s going on inside it.”

“But he did tell us he thinks he wants to look for a Southern Baptist church because he’d like to do Disaster Relief,” she said.

Teams serving in Taylorville have completed 35 jobs so far. Volunteers are cutting limbs, removing debris, and putting tarps on roofs. For more information about the response in Taylorville, e-mail RespondIBDR@gmail.com. To donate to Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief, go to IBSA.org/dr.

Mistaken identity

Lisa Misner —  December 6, 2018 — Leave a comment

By Adron Robinson

Read: John 13:34-35

It may take former Phoenix NBA star Edward Arnett Johnson a long time to get over the worst day of his life. After his NBA career ended, the 6’ 8” basketball player, who is now 47, spent many years serving his community.

But in 2006, another former NBA star—6’2”, 51-year-old “Fast Eddie” Johnson—was arrested for sexual battery and burglary. Some reporters around the country picked up the story and mistakenly assumed that Edward Johnson of Phoenix was the criminal. His phone started ringing off the hook. Neighbors, even friends, were quick to tell him how disappointed they were with him.

“The thing that disappointed me the most is some people were overzealous enough to think it was me and attack me with a ferocity I can’t comprehend,” Johnson said. “That’s the part that didn’t allow me to sleep last night. That’s the part that forced me to reach out to as many people as I could and say, ‘Shame on you; that’s not me.’”

Afterward, Eddie Johnson of Phoenix said his goal was to get the word out about who he really is—and isn’t.

Just like Eddie Johnson, the church is facing a case of mistaken identity. The sinful acts of some who claim the name of Christ have sullied the reputation of the church. And because of this, we need to display God’s love first to other believers, regardless of their race, social status, or place of birth.

Second, we need to venture outside the church building and into our communities to show the world our true identity: love. A world full of hateful speech and hate-filled action needs to see and hear what true love looks like, so be intentional today about loving one another.

Prayer Prompt: Father God, your Word tells us that the world will know we are your disciples by our love. Please forgive us for trying to identify ourselves by anything else but your love. Sanctify our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit to love one another.

Adron Robinson is pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills and president of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

Puerto Rico Convention’s annual meeting highlights new churches
Southern Baptists in Puerto Rico celebrated nine new churches gained in the year since Hurricane Maria at their annual meeting in November. The meeting of the Convención de Iglesias Bautistas del Sur de Puerto Rico (Convention of Southern Baptist Churches in Puerto Rico) was the first since 2016. Last year, Hurricane Maria and its aftermath cut church attendance in Puerto Rico by one-third, Baptist Press reported.

With the new churches, there are now about 80 Southern Baptist congregations in Puerto Rico. Illinois Baptists will work with church planters in the U.S. territory through two mission trips planned for 2019.

SBC President issues Lottie Moon challenge
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear pledged to perform a stunt if the 2018 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions reaches $170 million. So far, suggestions on social media include wearing a mullet at the 2019 SBC annual meeting, or arm wrestling newly elected International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood.

At Liberty University, First Lady addresses opioid crisis
First Lady Melania Trump spoke at Liberty University in Virginia Nov. 28 about the country’s opioid crisis. “I know college is a time to build your independence, experience things on your own terms and make decisions on your own behalf,” Trump told students at the Baptist university. “I am here to remind you that some of those decisions, though they may seem minor at the time, could negatively impact you for the rest of your lives.”

Chau assisted by American evangelicals, officials say
New details have emerged in the death of John Allen Chau, the missionary who died last month while trying to share the gospel with people on North Sentinel island in the Bay of Bengal. The Christian Post reports Indian police now say they believe two American evangelicals helped Chau reach the island, where he is believed to have been shot to death by arrows Nov. 17.

Majority of Protestant churchgoers don’t drink, but the number who do is rising
LifeWay Research found 41% of Protestant churchgoers drink alcohol, up from 39% in 2007. And while the vast majority say the Bible teaches against drunkenness, more than half also say Scripture indicates all beverages, including alcohol, can be consumed without sin.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christian Post, LifeWay Research