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By Mike Keppler

Mike KepplerI was pretty unruly the last weeks leading up to my retirement. In dealing with the loose ends and trying to find an acceptable closure to over 26 years of ministry, I was stressed and disagreeable at times. I was getting into trouble by saying some harsh things to family and friends and finding myself needing to ask for forgiveness. How often do we need to ask, “Please forgive me”?

Over the years, I have had to “walk back” several comments that were hurtful. Sometimes I tried unsuccessfully to make excuses about what I had meant, but when something mean comes out of the mouth, something mean must be in the heart. No amount of excuse-making will work toward healing in these situations. Rather, it’s time to admit wrongdoing and ask for forgiveness. You would think that as time goes on, a maturing Christian should be growing past some of these careless words and actions, but it seems that the devil never gives up working to trip us up!

While patience may be one of the more important of virtues required in a long-term ministry, asking for and offering forgiveness is a close second and surely related. By the grace of God, I have been able to re-constitute my relationship with some fellow church members over the years. Misunderstandings, differences of opinion, and handling (or mishandling) expectations often disrupt our relationships, but patient forgiveness helps us to reform and experience even stronger bonds with those individuals who may have become adversarial toward us at times.

I had an “old salt” come out the auditorium doors one Sunday morning early in my ministry. I had been his pastor for a good three years by this time. As I reached out to shake his hand, he bluntly declared, “Preacher, I was against calling you when you came, but I’m for you now!” I thought later how that would qualify him as a “late adopter!”

You might think it’s ‘I love you,’ but it’s not.

I wasn’t really aware of the man’s resistance to my leadership, but evidently, he was not fully on-board with it either. I was able to forgive that blunt remark, even forget about it and move on with him in the following years of service together. Sometimes it is not so easy with others. I have been “dressed down” in auditorium confrontations, “roughed up” during church business meetings, and yes, there was also that unpleasant incident of “physical aggression” in my office long ago that left me asking myself what I had done to deserve such an angry reaction. These encounters take a lot of time, prayer, support from family and friends—and forgiveness—if there is to be healing.

When I read about Paul’s encounters, I think I had it easy. He suffered numerous angry reactions and many hardships throughout his ministry. He said to the Corinthian believers, “As servants of God, we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger…” (2 Corinthians 6:4-5). Paul never wanted to be a stumbling block or to have his service and witness for Christ discredited by inappropriate responses. Neither should we!

Paul warns the Ephesians, “Watch the way you talk!” (4:29,32). Speaking in a “kind and forgiving” way should define us. Our speech should not be from a rancid, angry disposition, but rather, one that always expresses thoughtful consideration and patient preference of others.

One way we do this is to show kindness. We must learn to let go of things and forgive. In the Model Prayer, Jesus gives us the motivation: “And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” (Matt. 6:11). We respond with forgiveness because we have been the recipients of God’s great forgiveness of our sins.

Have you discovered that an unforgiving spirit does more harm to us and our relationship with the Lord than it does to hurt others? My experience is that if we aren’t kind and don’t exercise forgiveness, we will be miserable in our spirit. God has taken me to the “woodshed” to discipline me more than a few times for grieving the Holy Spirit. I think it all comes down to this: It grieves God and breaks his heart when we have conflict in our relationships and use speech that does not build others up. The Holy Spirit is aggrieved by our harsh and unforgiving ways. When the Spirit isn’t happy, we’re not happy as a result.

Mike Keppler recently retired after 26 years as pastor of Springfield Southern Baptist Church.

A compelling vision

Lisa Misner —  August 23, 2018

MIO Logo 500pxImagine a place in America where people have never heard the gospel. Imagine a growing town with no church to share the Good News of Jesus. That place is Illinois, and that community is Pingree Grove—rather, it was. Now, church planter R.T. Maldaner and City of Joy Church are taking the gospel to Pingree Grove, with the help of IBSA church planting strategists.

People in Pingree Grove are catching a vision of what it would be like to see their community transformed. The spiritual need there, and across Illinois, is at the heart of the 2018 Mission Illinois Offering & Week of Prayer.

Acts 1:8 commissions believers in Christ to share the gospel everywhere, from their home towns to the ends of the earth. Tucked into that call is “Judea,” which modern readers often translate to mean our state. Our Judea is spiritually needy, with millions who don’t know Christ, and at least 200 places in need of a new church.

13 million people call Illinois home. More than 8 million of them do not know Christ.

Baptists have long been people of vision, especially for missions. We give cooperatively to send missionaries to North America’s largest cities, and to remote villages around the world. Here in Illinois, people need the truth of Christ just as desperately. Imagine whole towns and cities transformed. Churches made stronger by members intentionally living out the gospel, and sharing it with their neighbors. Lives changed—for eternity.

The Mission Illinois Offering is a lifeline to vital ministries and missions here. Your MIO offering helps start new churches, strengthen existing congregations, and train people to share the gospel in their neighborhoods and beyond.

In our state of great need, we have a compelling vision—to see the gospel transform lives, churches, towns, and cities.

Many IBSA churches will observe the Mission Illinois Offering & Week of Prayer Sept. 9-16. Your church should have received an offering kit in the mail, and additional resources are available at missionillinois.org.

If your church is planning to collect the offering for the first time, or the first time in a while, the IBSA ministry staff will gladly help you communicate with your church about the vital nature of state missions. Please contact the Church Communications Team at (217) 391-3119 or request a speaker online.

In our state of great need, we have a compelling vision—to see the gospel transform lives, churches, towns, and cities.

MIO Logo 500pxThe Mission Illinois Offering and Week of Prayer is September 9-16. For all the resources and materials available online and at your church, you may be thinking, Where do I begin? How do I get my church excited to give and contribute to kingdom work here in our own state? The first answer is to pray for state missions.

Pray for your congregation’s hearts to be open to giving to the Mission Illinois Offering. Then, distribute the prayer guide and join as one body, committing to praying together for all the requests listed.

  • Ask your worship leadership team to allot time for prayer for Illinois during the month of September.
  • Distribute the Mission Illinois Offering bulletin prayer guide in your Sunday morning worship service. The guide is in your MIO kit and at MissionIllinois.org under the tab “Downloadable Extras” and then scroll down the page to “Inserts and Other Helpful Documents.”
  • Consider holding a special prayer gathering at your church where you take turns individually lifting up each ministry and missionary.
  • Pray for the millions in our state who don’t know Christ, for church leaders and church planters in Illinois, and for local churches to have opportunities to share the love of God with their community.

Organize a state missions study. It is easy to do a mission study! Missions-related studies geared specifically towards students and adults are available at MissionIllinois.org. You simply need to pick a time for people to meet—it could even be during the Sunday school hour—and find someone to facilitate the study and discussion. We all could use a fresh understanding of the spiritual need in Illinois.

Look for the MIO kit in your church office. Download mission studies and videos at MissionIllinois.org. If your church has not received its kit, e-mail MissionIllinois@IBSA.org and request one.

Commit to give. And keep giving until your church’s goal is met! Lead by example and communicate to others the importance of this offering for furthering the kingdom in Illinois.

Provided in your church’s MIO kit are video reports showing the need for Christ across Illinois and some of the missions and ministries IBSA churches together support to meet those needs. During the Sundays leading up to MIO Week, please show them to your congregation. Make sure to include the video “Partners for Illinois” and at least one or two of the stories from the mission field.

Just as there are those who speak up for other annual offerings or ministry events, you can become a champion in your church for the cause of state missions. Whether you are a pastor, a deacon or elder, a missions leader, part of a committee, or a preschool teacher—you can be a voice for Mission Illinois. Our call to missions begins here where we live.

When you champion missions in Illinois, know that lives will be transformed because of your church’s commitment to prayer and to generous giving,

A blessing in the mirror

Lisa Misner —  August 16, 2018

By Adron Robinson

Mirror

Read: James 1:22-25

It’s not simply the hearing of the word that blesses us but the practicing of God’s word, James reminds us. Hearing the word is not enough. Warren Wiersbe once said, “Too many Christians mark their Bibles, but their Bibles never mark them.”

To prevent this, James gives us a mandate to observe the word: “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” But many believe that hearing is enough, so they substitute reading the word and talking about the word for doing the word. But true disciples learn God’s word in order to do God’s word; we apply the word of God to the situations and circumstances of our lives and practice standing on the promises of God.
James also warns us that if we listen to the word and don’t obey the word, we deceive only ourselves. Others know, and most importantly God knows.

That’s why we need the mirror of God’s word. It reflects God’s glory and shows us our great need for God. And unlike those trick mirrors at the State Fair, the mirror of God’s word doesn’t lie. It always reflects the truth!

A quick glance at the Bible isn’t likely to reveal our deepest needs; we must examine our hearts in the ongoing light of God’s word. It’s like the difference between a photo and an MRI. They both involve exposure to light, but one is brief and reveals an external image, and the other is a prolonged exposure that reveals what’s inside of us. There is a blessing waiting for you in the mirror of God’s word.

PRAYER PROMPT: Father, thank you for your Word, for as we read your word, your word also reads us. Help us to look into the mirror daily and be doers of your word and not hearers only, so that you can shape and mold us to be more like you.

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

By Joshua Steely

Open Bible

God the Father, Spirit, Son

Veiled in glory

Three-in-One

One true God in Persons three

Wondrous divine

Mystery

The last Sunday in May was Trinity Sunday, so I preached a sermon focused on the Trinity from the baptism of Jesus in Mark 1:9-11. It’s a powerful passage that displays God’s triune saving work.

A lot of Baptists, though, might think it a bit unusual to observe Trinity Sunday; we tend to leave this to our high-church brethren in other denominations. That’s a pity, because the doctrine of the Trinity is the vital heart of the Christian faith, and we should be regularly rejoicing in this great mystery. Here’s why:

First, God the Holy Trinity is the God we worship. Christianity is a relationship with God, and what is a relationship without knowing the other person (in this case, persons)? If the goal of our lives is to be near to God, to know him, then the Trinity is essential. Our prayer and worship, our personal relationship with God, is grounded in knowing him as God triune.

Second, God is our triune Savior. The doctrine of the Trinity is not only a biblical truth, it is a truth of Christian experience. God triune has saved us. When we were lost in sin and darkness, the Father sent the Son by the Spirit to rescue us. In the power of the Spirit, the Son lived a perfect human life in obedience to the Father. Having died for our sins, Jesus rose from the dead and sent the Spirit from the Father to indwell the hearts of believers. The Spirit living in us unites us with the Son by faith, for adoption as children of the Father. 

Salvation is a thoroughly triune work, and we cannot understand redemption rightly without some understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Third, God triune is the God who loves us abundantly and graciously. The Trinity tells us that relationship has always existed in the one God—there has been love between the Father, Son, and Spirit for all eternity. That means that God has never been lonely, and he loves us not because he needs us, but simply because that’s who he is—the God who loves. The wonder of God’s love is magnified when we grasp the mystery of the Trinity.

All glory be to God our King,

Lord of love, One in Three;

Hearts rejoice and voices sing

Praise for all eternity.

The Trinity cannot be left to professional theologians and pastors who read big books. It must be a vital element in the life and worship of the church. How do we make that happen? 

1. Preach and teach on the Trinity.  Now, don’t get the wrong idea—I’m not saying you should turn your Sunday morning sermon into a systematic theology lecture.  Preach on the practical significance of the Trinity. Having a Sunday a year set apart for talking about it is a good habit. But more importantly, the Trinity should be explicitly present when we preach the gospel. Talk about the work of Christ as the saving work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Talk about salvation as being united with the Son by the Spirit for adoption as a child of the Father.

2. Shape the worship service to exalt the triune God. This doesn’t mean that every praise song has to be explicitly trinitarian. But if our worship service as a whole would be acceptable in a unitarian church, that’s a problem. We worship the one true God, the tri-personal God. Some of the old hymns are really good for this—“Holy, Holy, Holy!” is a standout example.

3. Encourage Trinitarian prayer and spirituality. The beginning of our spiritual life is marked by the Trinitarian baptismal formula—in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Carry that through into the everyday spiritual life of your church. In the public prayers of the worship service and in small groups and individual settings, model the practice of praying to the Father by the Spirit in the name of the Son. Talk (humbly) about the work of the Spirit in your life, about faith in the Son, and about the love of the Father. 

Help the people in your church find devotional materials and insightful books that bring out the practical significance of the Trinity for Christian spirituality, like “Delighting in the Trinity” by Michael Reeves (IVP, 2012).

The Trinity is the heart of the Christian faith, the fundamental mystery of our great God. May our churches reflect the centrality of this awesome truth.

Joshua Steely is pastor of Pontoon Baptist Church in Pontoon Beach.

Don’t quit!

Lisa Misner —  August 2, 2018

By Adron Robinson

Read: Hebrews 12:1-2

The other morning I decided to go for a run. I hadn’t run in a while and I knew starting back would be tough. But I underestimated just how tough it would be. I started slowly by walking the first lap. Then on the second lap I began to run. Things were going well for a while and then it happened: Just a few laps in, I began to feel winded and my chest started to burn. Soon, pain kicked in, and the first thought that came to my mind was to quit.

Have you ever been tempted to quit? Quit your marriage, quit your ministry, or even quit your church? I have. Ministry is hard work; it’s spiritual warfare. If you do what God called you to do, there will be serious opposition, but don’t quit. Pastor, ministry leader, spouse, hear me clearly: God did not call us to ministry because we are able. He called us to ministry because he is able! And by his grace, he has chosen to display his strength in the midst of our weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9). So, don’t quit serving, just quit trying to serve by your own power.

Paul David Tripp tells the story about the day he attempted to resign from his church. He was sure this was the best decision for him and his family. He was weary.  On Sunday morning he made the announcement to the congregation. After the service, a member walked up to him and said, “We know you are immature, but where is the church going to find mature leaders if immature leaders run?”

Brothers and sisters, the church needs spiritually mature leaders, and God makes them by training us to endure trials and tribulations while trusting him. So don’t quit! Your family needs you, your church needs you, the Kingdom of God needs you. Don’t quit!

PRAYER PROMPT: Father, ministry is hard and at times we are tempted to quit. Teach us to trust your strength in the midst of our weakness and allow you to use every circumstance for your glory. Amen.

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

No girls allowed?

Lisa Misner —  July 26, 2018