Archives For Jesus

After the gifts are opened, what’s left to celebrate?

By Mike Keppler

Simeon

What comes after the waiting is over? Let’s ask Simeon.

Christmas gift-opening for our family is a seasonal experience of merry mayhem! The usual gathering of 16 adults and children is a large-sized event for our family room. We fill up the couches and chairs and use all the floor space as well, but still have to spill over into the dining area to accommodate everyone. I just have to keep remembering that it was my wife, Monique, who wanted this large family. But everyone knows that I, too, consider this one of our greatest blessings.

Monique has tried numerous approaches over the years for this time of giving and receiving. We started out opening only one gift at a time (and still prefer this!), but in these last years we have allowed the grandchildren to open their large Christmas bags of gifts at their own frenzied pace in order to deal with their exuberant impatience. It still seems that after the paper has found its way into the recycling bag, there are some eager ones waiting on the adults who are passing and sharing their gifts with each other. With a pile of unwrapped gifts strewn before them, our “near perfect” grandchildren can be heard pleading and even demanding, “Is that all there is?!”

There is a letdown after the last gifts are opened and all the boxes, wrappings, and bows have been processed. The tree looks lonely without packages teeming under its ornamented boughs. Adults feel relief that it is over but secretly long for the feelings of anticipation they had at the start of the season. The declaration that “Christmas is over” brings a certain disappointment with the acknowledgment.

Luke’s Gospel is rich with details surrounding the first Christmas: angelic announcements to Zechariah, Mary, and the shepherds. It is the latter who are blessed to follow the angel’s directives to Bethlehem. After finding Mary and Joseph, these lowly shepherds are the first to see the baby lying in his manger bed. With great joy that night, they return to their fields and flocks glorifying and praising God on their way.

Most families conclude the reading of the Christmas story with the shepherds’ return, but Luke, the historian, is not ready to wrap up his thrilling account. He wants all his readers to wait because the story of Christmas is far from over. The scene shifts to the temple 41 days later and focuses on two saintly seniors who, with hope-filled lives, are waiting for the coming Christ.

One of these is Simeon, who, with prophetic insights that could have only be revealed to him by God himself, sings out this part of the Christmas story to all who are waiting for more. Within this prophecy, there is a musical message of singing praise, stumbling rejection, the all-important message of salvation for everyone, and even a surprising finale of sadness and sorrow.

The Singing: A sight to celebrate
“I have seen the One who was promised!” must have startled many who witnessed the crescendo of praise from the old prophet. How many who heard the old man sing this out could have thought he was a little tipsy in his prophetic merriment? How could anyone see in this vulnerable baby boy, the son of peasant parents, the Promised Deliverer? These young parents could only afford a humble and modest sacrifice at his dedication. Israel was expecting a prominent and proud warrior who would restore glory to the nation once again. Surely, many observers concluded this baby could not be the son of David, the hoped-for Messiah of God.

Simeon was so convinced by what he saw in the child that he was now ready for the next chapter of a peaceful end to his life. The promise of God was fulfilled. He had seen the Messiah.

What would Christmas be like without music? Musical programs abound during the holidays, rekindling Christmas memories. Luke’s Gospel account has even been put to poetic harmonies. Throughout church history, liturgies have been written and chancel choirs have been singing the canticles of Mary’s Magnificat, Zechariah’s Benedictus, the angels’ Gloria and Simeon’s Nunc Dimittis (Latin for “now let your servant depart”). Community and church choral performances at this season become excellent occasions for inviting seekers to experience these Scriptural songs. More importantly, they allow these friends to hear the good news of the Christmas story.

As the mood swings with this old man’s continued prophecy, Simeon now predicts there will be a stumbling resistance in this child’s future.

The Stumbling: Rise and fall
Jesus was a polarizing figure in his time. Some would gladly welcome the Son of Man, and others would vigorously oppose him. Those rejecting him would say he was not their kind of Messiah. He challenged the assumptions of his enemies. They wanted a revolution of power to overthrow their oppressors and establish an earthly kingdom of dominance and glory for Israel. Jesus would come to rule over human hearts, live his life in selfless service, and die on a cross as a sacrificial lamb for the sins of the world. The opposition would declare, “Not my kind of Messiah!”

We live in a culture that speaks about and even practices spiritual things. However, these beliefs are more aligned with eastern religions such as Buddhism that emphasize self-help. Engaging people readily talk about their own ideas of the spiritual realm, but it is increasingly clear that many of them do not really know what Christianity is all about. It seems that too many individuals today want to design a god in their own image. They vigorously defend the need to love, respect, and accept others, but they are repelled by the God who holds them accountable and confronts their sin. More and more will even dare to claim they do not sin and don’t need a savior! Their stumbling over Christ is our cultural challenge in witnessing.

For centuries, Israel hoped for a Messiah who would deliver them from Roman oppression and restore the glory of their nation. Even Jesus’s disciples zealously shared this idea of Messiah. Many who saw in him hope for the future, however, turned against him when he spoke of suffering and death on a cross. They stumbled over what he was accomplishing in their presence. They refused to believe in him.

Simeon’s prophetic song predicted this child would be a light and salvation to the nations. He would expose the darkness of man’s unbelief and futile attempts to live without God. He would challenge assumptions and there would be resistance. But like Simeon, there would be many in the world who would accept Jesus and follow him into eternal life.

On this occasion of happiness and joy at the prophet’s celebrative praising, there follows a surprising prediction of great grief and sorrow for this young mother.

The Sorrowing: A sword
It is almost ironic that a season like Christmas, so full of joy, could also have a mix of grief and sorrow; however, everyone who has lost a loved one to death can say this is true. There is a letdown and sadness for many at this season when loved ones are no longer with us at family gatherings.

Mary must have been taken aback by Simeon’s painful pronouncement. The coming opposition to Jesus would result in a stabbing grief like a sword piercing her own heart. Mary, who had treasured and pondered many things at Jesus’ birth, no doubt would leave the temple that day thinking deeply about the perplexing prophecy of this devoutly righteous man.

It is sad to think, and reflects a very shallow understanding of Christmas, that for many this season is only a time of gift-giving and receiving. The nation’s retailers project the average American will spend around $900 this Christmas on holiday presents and candies. The Christmas season alone has become a $500-billion-dollar juggernaut of sales for the economy. These businesses with accounts in the red count on Christmas profits to put them back into the black.

It is surely time for Christians to say, “Wait a minute! There is more to this season!” The truth must be told that if this season is only about sharing material gifts, we will feel a great letdown after the credit card bills start coming in January. But there’s good news! The baby Jesus came for a greater reason. He came to forgive our sins through his suffering death on the cross and provide salvation for everyone who will put their faith and trust in him. Unless we are convinced of this, we will miss the whole point of Christmas.

The Saving: A revelation
Many of the Jewish faithful saw in the Messiah a hope only for Israel. They had no problem receiving the blessing of God to make of them a great nation. But Simeon’s prophetic song of salvation was more inclusive and offered a broader invitation to all the nations. This salvation would start in Jerusalem, but that would only be the epicenter. From this locale, the gospel would spread to the ends of the earth. The baby whom Simeon held with humble gratitude this day in the temple would grow up to be the Savior of the whole world!

During this season of giving to international missions, those of us who have received Christ know that we have a global missions mandate to share the good news of Christ our Lord with everyone on earth. The annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is a partnership among Southern Baptists to give to make this mandate a reality around our world by funding church planting and the making of disciples. It is projected that there are 2.8 billion in our world who have little or no access to the gospel. For an individual, this task would be impossible, but working and giving together, we can make an everlasting difference in people’s lives.

Some may not see the point of sharing the Christmas story with unchurched family and friends. Yet it remains that when we do get the message and the “reason for the season” to the forefront of our witness sharing, we see that the gospel does impact the lives of those who hear it. Simeon understood what God was doing the moment he saw the infant Jesus. Let’s give the Holy Spirit something to work with in our witness by sharing the good news with someone this season.

Who knows how God will work through an intentional spiritual conversation that simply retells how Simeon had a surprising encounter one day at the temple with a baby boy who would change the world. Through those conversations, we just might convince some friends of the need to accept Christ as Savior. Imagine what they will discover as the Lord blesses and takes charge of their lives each day!

You might find yourself thinking, as you follow Luke’s telling of the Christmas narrative through the part about the shepherds, “It would be hard to top that story!” However, Luke interrupts that thought like a stage manager in a theatre drama and directs the next actor forward to stage right, “Simeon! Tell your story!” And Simeon joyfully sings out, “I can top that! I’ve seen the Sovereign Lord’s Salvation with my own eyes! I’ve experienced him face to face!”

There will not be a Christmas letdown if we who have accepted Christ and do see him at the center of this Christmas season, say to our world, “Wait a minute! There is more to this story! Come. Experience Christ! Worship him! Share him with everyone!”

Mike Keppler served as pastor of Springfield Southern Baptist Church for 26 years. Recently retired, he is enjoying writing and grandfathering.

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.

Missionary heroes

ib2newseditor —  April 26, 2018

Dr. Doug Munton, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, Illinois

We need heroes. The true hero of our story, of course, should always be the Lord Jesus. No earthly hero can do what He did or give what He gave. But there is something to be said for the example of a fellow Christian who has followed the Lord in a way we can emulate.

The apostle Paul said, “Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). He served the church of Corinth as an example of a sinner following the Savior. He was a model, an example — a hero if you will — for other Christians to follow. He reminded them to follow him only as he followed Jesus. But he showed them how it was done in the real world by a real sinner who was following a real Savior.

Career missionaries serve as models for Christians back home. They might not like the tag “hero” but they serve as models and examples for the rest of us who follow Christ.

Missionary heroes may not leap tall buildings in a single bound or be faster than speeding bullets. But they point us to the Ultimate Hero.

We see their example of sacrifice and learn something of what it means to “die to self” amid the joys of a calling often tempered by loneliness, isolation and illness. We see what “take up your cross daily and follow Jesus” is all about. We learn from them. We “imitate them as they imitate Christ.”

Having missionary heroes doesn’t mean we think they are perfect. Only Jesus is. It doesn’t mean we don’t know they have feet of clay like all the rest of us.

It just means that we have seen people who followed Jesus even when it was hard. And we learn that we can follow Jesus through hard times as well. We learn that we can sacrifice, we can value the eternal over the earthly and we can be obedient to our Lord. They serve as models of the kind of heart we need as we follow the Lord wherever He leads us.

We don’t put missionary faces on bubble gum cards like we used to do with baseball players. Not many movies feature missionaries saving the day. But career missionaries ought to be a special kind of hero to us. We should honor them, pray for them and love them. We should tell their stories. We should follow their examples.

Maybe you will never be called by God to serve as a career missionary far from family and home. But every missionary can serve as an example to you of how to follow Jesus where you are. Missionaries can be spiritual heroes who point you to the greatest hero — the Lord Jesus who loves you and calls you to follow Him.

Missionary heroes may not leap tall buildings in a single bound or be faster than speeding bullets. But they point us to the Ultimate Hero. And that is better than being more powerful than a locomotive any day!

Doug Munton, online at dougmunton.com, is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in O’Fallon, Ill., and a former first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is the author of “Immersed: 40 Days to a Deeper Faith.” This column appeared at BPnews.net.

Going public

Lisa Misner —  April 16, 2018

Hundreds across Illinois take the baptism plunge on One GRAND Sunday

Net Church Staunton Group


Eleven people at NET Community Church in Staunton joined hundreds more that were baptized across the state on One GRAND Sunday April 8.

On Sunday, April 8, volunteers at NET Community Church carried a livestock feeding trough into the high school gymnasium where the church meets. The trough had a lofty purpose—11 people were baptized during the morning worship service. They wore shirts with the words “going public.”

“Their life stories were all very different, but their life conversion was the same,” said Pastor Derrick Taylor. “It was so exciting to witness each one going public with their new lives in Christ, thus declaring I’m not ashamed of the Lord Jesus Christ!”

Across Illinois, hundreds of people were baptized on the day dubbed “One GRAND Sunday.” IBSA’s Pat Pajak first shared the goal of 1,000
baptisms in one day last fall. As word came in of baptisms around the state, Pajak celebrated the 321 reported so far, and the renewed excitement about evangelism that seemed to characterize the day.

“The real purpose of One GRAND Sunday was to remind churches that our responsibility and privilege is to have gospel conversations outside the walls of the church,” said Pajak, associate executive director for evangelism. The day “was a reason to reignite our passion for the Great Commission and rejoice in both salvations and baptisms, which some of our churches had not seen for many years.”

Read a few of the many stories from a day focused on baptism, and on “going public” with faith in Jesus.

‘I’m serious about this’
Brittany Miller grew up going to church, but when she went away to college, it never became a priority, she says. Over the past year, she felt a pull to go back. When a co-worker told her about his new church, NET Community in Staunton, Brittany decided to check it out.

“The pastors were so, so dedicated and just really believed in what they were preaching,” she says. “And I liked how it was just taken right from the Bible.”

There was a disconnect, though. Everyone kept talking about salvation, an unfamiliar concept for Brittany.

Net Community Brittany Miller

Brittany Miller was baptized by her pastor, Derrick Taylor, on One GRAND Sunday.

“I kind of just kept it all to myself,” she remembers. “I didn’t want to ask too many questions, because I didn’t want anybody to think I was a non-believer. Because I believed.” A personal relationship with God, though, was something she didn’t have—yet.

At a small group Bible study one evening, Brittany got up the courage to ask her questions. The group’s leader, Nancy Taylor, pulled in associate pastor David Baker, and together, they walked Brittany through what it means to have saving faith in Christ.

“After hearing what salvation was, I knew that that was what I wanted,” she says. “I wanted that relationship with God; I wanted to deepen my knowledge of him. I wanted him to live through me.”

There was one hang-up, however. “I was so worried that I couldn’t do this because I was going to let God down. And I didn’t want to do that,” she says. “It took a while for the pastor to assure me that that is not how this works.”

After two hours of talking, she prayed to receive Christ. “It all makes sense now,” she says. “It was God pulling me, little by little, to that moment.”

Over the next days and weeks, Brittany started telling family and friends what had happened to her. They were supportive in some cases, and skeptical in others. In some cases, the news didn’t go over as well as she had hoped. Brittany says she’s leaning on her church family to deal with the relational difficulty. She also downloaded a Bible app on her phone, so encouragement is always nearby.

Her baptism April 8 was a way to publicly give God the glory for her faith, and a testimony to the people in her life, she says.

“I need to do this so these people know I’m serious about this.”

All in the family
Willow Krumwiede decided to be baptized so she could share her decision to follow Christ with her church family, among others. Her public profession of faith April 8 also had a profound impact on her dad.

Willow’s father, Tim, came to Grace Fellowship Church in Amboy on that Sunday morning to support his daughter. The church planned baptisms for the end of their first worship service, Pastor Brian McWethy explained, so Tim sat through the entire service that day. Unbeknownst to him, Willow, her fiancé Andrew, and their pastor were actively praying for his salvation.

Throughout the sermon on biblical baptism where McWethy explained why each person must choose to be baptized for themselves, Willow’s father faced his own life decisions. McWethy said he could see the Holy Spirit was at work in Tim’s life during that sermon.

Grace Fellowship Amboy

Willow Krumwiede’s baptism at Grace Fellowship Church in Amboy compelled her dad, Tim, to profess his faith in Christ and be baptized.

As the band played an invitation of “O Come to the Altar”, Willow’s father stood up. He stepped forward and grabbed McWethy by the arms, saying, “I just surrendered my life to Jesus Christ.” McWethy was thrilled at the news. Before he could say much, Tim also said that he was ready to be baptized. Today.

So, a few minutes later, Tim followed his daughter into the baptismal trough. After everyone celebrated with them, McWethy asked Willow, “Did you have any idea this would happen?” Incredulous, she smiled and replied, “No.”

The pastor gives all glory to God. “There is power in his word. There is power in the gospel.” One GRAND Sunday’s emphasis on baptism helped him and his church to focus not only on baptizing, but also evangelism, McWethy said.

“If I’m gonna baptize somebody, they’ve got to get saved.” McWethy has found a renewed focus in sharing Christ daily because he was given the charge to renew his commitment to baptizing believers. “If it did nothing else, it got our minds thinking about the lost.”

‘One happy Grandma’
McKenzie Boston and Kaitlyn Warren are 15-year-old cousins whose “carefree” lifestyle completely changed when McKenzie’s mother suddenly passed away February 8.

McKenzie and Kaitlyn were brought up rarely going to church despite their mothers’ Christian upbringing. But during their visits with their grandparents, John and Carol Warren, the church-going became more frequent.

“I had a burden for all my children and grandchildren,” Carol said. “But I had especially been praying for my daughters and granddaughters.”

Carol wasn’t satisfied with just praying, however, and put her prayer into action. She wanted her children and grandchildren to know where her faith stood. “Every time they visited, I would take them to church.” Carol’s influence paid off and her daughters began attending Emmanuel Baptist Church in Carlinville—the church where they had both been baptized.

Emmanuel Carlinville

Pastor Cliff Woodman of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Carlinville baptizes McKenzie Boston.

The death of McKenzie’s mom came as a shock to the family. The young cousins started thinking more seriously about their own faith and what happens after life on earth. Kaitlyn’s mom, Cheryl, began talking to both girls about Jesus and the salvation he offered from ultimate death.

“The girls were ready by this time to have a relationship with Christ,” Carol said. She laughed, “But they wanted to wait for their grandmother to talk to them.”

On Friday, April 6, Carol talked through the Romans Road with her granddaughters and prayed with them as they received Christ. “It was such an answer to prayer!” she said. “And such a relief for me to know the hope of their salvation.” After talking to their pastor, Cliff Woodman, they prepared to publicly proclaim their salvation to the church on April 8—One GRAND Sunday.

“It was a very emotional time for us all,” Carol said. “But perhaps most especially for me.”

Carol had led her own daughters to the Lord years earlier and had seen the two of them get baptized. Now, she was watching her own granddaughters, whom she had also led to Christ, get baptized in the same church.

“It was very special for me,” Carol said. “I’m just one happy grandma!”

-IB Team Report

Scared to share?

ib2newseditor —  March 29, 2018
Dr. Doug Munton, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, Illinois

Doug Munton, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, Illinois

Though I have shared the gospel message many times, I can still be afraid to share my faith with others. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. I’ve heard many others express that same anxiety. Here are some reasons we might be afraid to share our faith and what to do about it.

We worry it won’t be well-received. I’ve actually had very few people who were offended that I tried to share the gospel with them. That doesn’t mean they all trust the Lord when I witness. It just means that people are frequently more interested than you might think.

Often, I ask for permission to share the gospel by saying something like, “Can I tell what the Bible says about how you can have a relationship with God?” or something like that. A few say “no” to that question. But many people are willing to at least hear the message.

We worry we won’t be able to answer their questions. It is true that we can’t always answer all the questions people ask about faith. Sometimes we have to say, “I don’t know” or “Let me find out more about that.” But we don’t have to know everything about everything to be able to share what we know.

And, all questions are not the same. Some questions people ask are more theoretical. Some are excuses. Some are genuine questions that need to be dealt with carefully. Often I find myself saying, “I don’t know the answer to that fully and will need to get back with you on it. But can I tell you what the Bible says about how you can know Jesus?” If possible, I want people to be able to hear the basic gospel message fully, even if I can’t fully answer every question they might ask.

We worry about what others will think of us. Let’s face it. This one can be a big part of our fear of sharing the gospel. After all, like many of you, I can be something of a people pleaser. But God reminds us that he wants to use us to be his ambassadors. In other words, our primary thought should be on what he thinks and not on what someone else thinks.

Remember that telling others is the natural result of what we believe. We are beggars who have found the bread of life. It is only natural that we want other beggars to find that same bread. While we can’t make them eat, it is our compassion that leads us to tell them about this life-giving bread. We should be kind and caring and loving in our sharing, but our primary focus should be on doing what the Lord wants us to do.

We worry we might mess up and are unsure how to make the gospel clear to them. I don’t want to add confusion to those already living in spiritual confusion. This is one of the reasons why a sound method of sharing the gospel is helpful and healthy. Learning a solid method can keep us on track and help us avoid confusing those who are hearing the gospel.

There are dozens of great tools for sharing the gospel. Whether it is the Romans Road or 3 Circles or Can We Talk or any other biblically sound method, these tools can help you to share the gospel in an understandable way. A solid methodology can help us overcome the fear of not knowing how to share.

If you have had any of these fears, or others, you are not alone. But, with God’s help, you can be a witness of God’s grace to others. Don’t let fear keep you from following the Lord’s command to share the gospel. And don’t let it keep you from the joy of learning that God uses people like us—fears and all—to accomplish his purposes.

Doug Munton is pastor of First Baptist Church in O’Fallon. This column first appeared at BPNews.net.

Rocking chair

A BIG REST – The world’s largest rocking chair beckons the weary in Casey, Ill., and beyond.

A USA Today article confirmed what I’ve been thinking: I’m tired. I’m tired of bad news, the 24-hour news cycle, shootings, Congress, Tweets, screens, talking heads, arguments, and politics. I’m tired of zealots, protests, terrorists, bombings, and assassinations. I’m tired of hurricanes, wildfires, blizzards with names, missile testing, election meddling, special investigations, and dictators. And it turns out I’m not alone. We’re all exhausted, according to that Jim Beckerman article, and it’s not getting any better.

Doctors report we’re losing sleep, gaining weight, and suffering anxiety in greater numbers. We toss and turn and fret and work up a sweat. “There is a sense of danger,” one therapist said, “that we’re living in very dangerous times.” And no one is predicting relief anytime soon. Which makes these words all the more important:

Come unto me.

If any period in biblical times seems to mirror our own, it’s the first century, especially in Israel. A massive empire is in charge, a foreign power ruling from a distance, but the Pax Romana seems a farce. The peace of Rome? What peace? Troops march in the streets of all the major cities to keep a lid on the boiling pot. And in Jerusalem, the local government is threatened by activists plotting political and religious takeover. Thinkers are searching for solutions, and regular people want deliverance. Not even their religion offers relief. If anything, it only adds to the weight they carry, piling rules upon rules, and making daily life harder.

In this environment, Jesus says, “Come unto me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden.” That is an address to an ample and ready audience. What he says next is especially nervy: “I will give you rest.”

The text in Matthew 11 is familiar and beloved. The rest Jesus offers is from the burden of religion. The Ten Commandments weren’t enough; the Jewish teachers had mounted up 613 rules for daily living that still couldn’t keep adherents in right relationship with God. The yoke Jesus offers is his own teaching, by comparison easy, like well-fitting shoulder gear, and lightweight.

But it’s not only a new teaching the itinerant rabbi offers. Jesus gives himself as a living example.

“Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart.”

In The Message, Eugene Peterson phrases it this way: “Are you tired? Worn out?…Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Jesus offers a promise especially suited to our tiresome times.

In times like these, we need especially to keep company with Jesus. The answer for our trying times is not to add more strident voices to the cacophony, but to follow the example of Jesus, who, by his definition, is gentle and lowly. When we spend time with Jesus, learn more of Jesus, and live like Jesus, we find real rest.

As the writer of Hebrews points out, we’ve been seeking rest since God’s people fled Egypt.

“For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. Therefore, a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people…Let us then make every effort to enter that rest…” (Heb. 4:8-9, 11 CSB).

For believers, there is rest in eternity, but in the spirit of “abundant life,” there is rest now as well. The key, I think, is “keeping company.”

This scene in Matthew isn’t the only time Jesus invited his followers to escape the fray. “Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest awhile,” Mark recorded as Jesus’ response to a frantic season of ministry (Mark 6:31). His disciples were so busy tending and teaching that they didn’t have time to eat. Jesus, the rest-giver, declared a Sabbath.

Sounds good to me.

On a country road outside the small town where my mother grew up is a white wooden church on the flat top of a rise. It’s called Pilgrim’s Rest. Halfway to the next largest town, it seems a good place to pull the wagon off the road and give the horse a drink, before attempting the second half of the journey. Here, pilgrims rested. And a few learned to live there permanently.

Perhaps that’s what we need in these tiring times: to pull off the road, camp out with Jesus, and rest awhile.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist.

Are revivals effective?

ib2newseditor —  March 15, 2018

Abstract cross

I was in a small gathering of folks the other week when a dear lady made reference to a revival she had been a part of.

“But, of course, nobody has revivals anymore,” she said with such confidence. I wanted to say, “Well, that’s not exactly right. I am beginning a revival this Sunday at Summit Baptist Church in Loganville.”

Here in Georgia, I remember very distinctly one statistic that stood out from research a few years ago about evangelistic churches: Churches that have revivals baptize more people than churches that do not have revivals.

In my book “Healthy Kingdom Churches” a few years back, I wrote about a doctor friend, who accepted the task of getting me well from a respiratory ailment, so I could preach a revival meeting at Atco Baptist Church in Cartersville. He made a statement and then asked a question: “I didn’t know churches were still having revivals. Are revivals still effective?”

I gave the most sincere and honest answer I knew: “Revivals are effective in some churches and not in others.”

“How do you explain that?” he asked.

I responded, “It’s like most other things. The success of a revival is determined largely by the amount of effort put into getting ready for revival.”

Churches that have revivals baptize more people than churches that do not have revivals.

The revival at Atco Baptist Church was truly amazing. It happened because the pastor, Wayne Hamrick, had prepared the congregation through praying for revival and witnessing across the community. That week we saw 57 people come to faith in Christ. In one service, we saw over 20 make professions of faith. There were many other decisions as well, with people making rededication commitments and coming on transfer of membership. God had done an amazing thing among His people who dared to trust that if they prayed and witnessed, God would do what only God can do.

I have come to the conclusion that it is wrong to declare the death of revivals, when the only reason they may be dead in a church is a lack of commitment to pray for revival toward reaching the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the first service at the recent revival at Summit Baptist Church, pastor Jason Rothe made the statement that the congregation had literally been praying for months for this series of services. That did not surprise me because when I arrived at the church, I found a vibrant congregation filled with anticipation over what the Lord would do during the week. When the invitation was given, the aisles filled with people coming down front to pray and to unite with the church.

I want to encourage you to plan a revival for your church. As you do, remember that we have a good number of vocational evangelists in our Baptist family that God is using in a great way. When you contact them you will discover faithful, energetic and effective servants of Christ ready to bless your church.

J. Robert White is executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. This article originally appeared at http://www.bpnews.net.