Archives For salvation

The 8 people Americans trust more than their pastor
Less than half of the country—just two out of every five Americans—believe clergy are honest and have high ethical standards, a recent Gallup poll found. Pastors are now seen as less trustworthy than judges (43%), day care providers (46%), police officers (56%), pharmacists (62%), medical doctors (65%), grade school teachers (66%), military officers (71%), and nurses (82%).

The new pro-life generation
High-school students are organizing and engaging in the fight for life, despite sharp opposition from some administrators and peers. Many are members of Students for Life of America, best known for its work with college students, which now has 604 high-school chapters—334 at religiously affiliated schools and 270 at public campuses.

Churches can now get direct FEMA funding after disasters
Houses of worship damaged during natural disasters will be able to rebuild using federal funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Trump administration announced, a shift traditional faith groups have been requesting from presidents for decades without success.

Ancient DNA said to support Bible’s Babel account
A study published Jan. 3 in the journal Nature claims DNA extracted from the remains of an infant girl buried in central Alaska suggests an ancient migration of people from East Asia, across a frozen land bridge, to North America. Nathaniel Jeanson, a Harvard-trained research biologist with Answers in Genesis (AiG), said some details of the find corroborate the account in Genesis 11 of mass human migration following attempted construction of the Tower of Babel.

The salvation of ‘Napalm Girl’
Kim Phuc Phan Thi was the subject of a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph during the Vietnam War in 1972 where she was pictured at age 9, running along a puddled roadway with arms outstretched, naked and screaming, with the dark contour of a napalm cloud billowing in the distance. Kim writes how she came to faith in Christ.

Sources: Christianity Today, World Magazine, Washington Post, Baptist Press, and Wall Street Journal

Bob-Harrington---BourbonStreet

Famed New Orleans evangelist Bob Harrington, known by many as “the Chaplain of Bourbon Street.”

Forgiveness is a significant theme in God’s Word.

The Bible tells us: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will remember not your sins” (Isaiah 43:25). “He [Jesus] was delivered up because of our offenses, and raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:25). “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Scripture is clear; God’s forgiveness is for all, but each one of us must receive His forgiveness personally.

Our family has experienced forgiveness in a clear and visible way. My dad, Bob Harrington, was dramatically converted on April 15, 1958, when I was only 6 years old. He attended a revival meeting in his hometown of Sweet Water, Ala., to find some insurance prospects, and instead he found the Lord. During the fifth stanza of “Just As I Am,” Dad was forgiven of his sin and saved by the grace of God.

He preached his first sermon three days later and led his parents to faith in Jesus Christ. My mother, sister and I followed Dad in faith and became active in church. The Lord called my dad to ministry and led him to attend New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

In a chapel service, then-NOBTS President Leo Eddleman presented a challenge to students: “Any pocket of sin is a mission field, and the closest Christian to it is a missionary.” Dad responded to that call and began a ministry in the French Quarter of New Orleans. In 1962, he was proclaimed by the mayor “The Chaplain of Bourbon Street.”

His ministry expanded in the 1960s and 1970s from the second block of Bourbon Street to nationwide crusades and national television. Many people were converted and called to the ministry through his personal soul-winning and powerful preaching. God used Bob Harrington to share His gift of forgiveness with thousands of others.

At the peak of Dad’s ministry, “the devil threw him a pass and he ran for defeat” (drawing from his own words). He left the Lord, left the ministry, left my mother and left our family. What a painful time for each of us.

God immediately spoke to me about forgiveness. I needed to forgive my dad even though he did not ask for forgiveness. Initially I did not want to forgive him, but later I chose to obey God’s clear command. We prayed faithfully for Dad’s restoration for 17 years before he returned to the Lord. What a time of rejoicing for our family! We were a part of his redemption story as Dad sought forgiveness from each of us.

After Dad returned to the Lord, he again had “fun being saved” and became “happy in the Lord.” He was bold in his witness and called to preach to others like him who had left the Lord and needed to get right with Him. He titled his message on prodigals, “Loving the Left Back Right.” What a beautiful picture of forgiveness!

In his later years, Dad had dementia. He was completely at peace in his condition. He spent his days sitting in his big red chair watching television.

As I walked into his little house one afternoon, God gave me a vivid example of total forgiveness. A divorced couple on the Jerry Springer program was screaming at each other. Dad looked up at me and said, “Isn’t it wonderful that no one in our family has ever been divorced? We all love each other.” Wow! Who would have ever thought that such truth could come from a Jerry Springer moment? Dad himself had been divorced twice, but God had forgiven him and taken his sin out of his conscious thoughts. What a perfect picture of forgiveness! When God forgives, our sin is completely removed.

My sister and I rejoice in the forgiveness of God which allowed our family to be reunited and our dad to have joy until his last breath. To our knowledge, Dad had no memory of the time he was away from the Lord. He talked often about our family years ago and remembered many amazing days of ministry. When once asked by a reporter what led him back to the Lord, Dad sincerely replied, “I have never left the Lord. I have always loved Him.” God literally removed his sin and blotted it from his memory, so he remembered it no more. I will always be grateful for being a part of a real-life story of forgiveness!

This article first appeared at BPnews.net.

God and sinners reconciled

ib2newseditor —  December 25, 2017

Even now God is at work, drawing sinners to himself

Reconciled

Michelangelo lay on his back 17 years painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, paint dripping on his face as if it were a drop cloth. The result was a masterpiece, and at its center this moment of reconciliation: God reaching down to Adam. In the Second Adam, we see God reaching down to man, not at his creation, but for his salvation.

“So it is written, The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”
– (1 Cor. 15:45)

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled

At Christmastime, the familiar refrain echoes in our churches, our stereos, even our shopping malls. It’s so familiar, in fact, that the magnitude of the concepts in Charles Wesley’s hymn may be easy to overlook. Even at Christmas.

God and sinners, reconciled. Listen up, the angels say. Lend an ear. This is big news.

Wesley’s original intent was to set his “Hymn for Christmas Day” to a slower, more solemn tune. He also wrote verses we don’t sing today, including one in particular that is steeped in imagery of dark and light, of sin and holiness, of the differences between us and Christ.

Wesley’s verses aren’t very Christmas-y, at least not in a tinsel and trees, lights and presents kind of way. But it’s easy to imagine it sung in a hushed stable, long after everyone should be asleep, when the import of what’s just happened is becoming ever more clear.

Come, desire of nations, come,
Fix in us thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conquering seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.

Now display thy saving power,
Ruin’d nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to thine.

The “mystic union” Wesley describes is at work every time a sinner turns to Jesus. We’re reconciled to him in one sense of the word—a broken relationship is repaired—but there’s more.

Our purposes are also aligned with his. Our very nature is back in step with our Creator’s.

Hark indeed.

Once empty, now full
Matt Mevert and his wife, Andrea, grew up going to church. In fact, they went to the same church. They were married there and raising their family there, until recently, when something shifted.

“I started to realize that there was something missing, but I don’t even think I realized it before,” said Matt, who owns an auto shop in Steeleville.

The Meverts came to a place in their lives where they realized worshiping God and praying to him could be personal and dynamic—that they could have a relationship with him.

They were baptized Dec. 10 at Steeleville Baptist Church in front of their new church family and their three sons.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:6, CSB).

“All around us, we are surrounded by people who have a God-sized hole in their hearts,” said Scott Foshie, the Meverts’ pastor. “We are all made to enjoy a relationship with him, but our sin has separated us and we are enslaved by it.”

But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).

For Matt and Andrea, a host of factors led to their decision to follow Christ. Their oldest son joined a Bible study and started asking questions about the Scriptures. They attended a summer revival and felt God moving them to make a new commitment to him. And they started studying the Bible.

“At that point, you can’t get enough of it,” Mevert said of the Bible. “You start studying and making opportunities to learn more all the time.”

How much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by his blood, will we be saved through him from wrath. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life (Rom. 5:9-10).

“In Matt’s case, while he grew up in church, he realized that even though he knew a lot about God, he didn’t know God personally,” Pastor Foshie said. “He was lacking the experience of being born again and experiencing the saving power of knowing Jesus.

“The Holy Spirit revealed Matt’s need to be born again, and he responded in simple faith.”

And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation (Rom. 5:11).

“Without Jesus, our lives are empty and meaningless,” Foshie said. “Those of us who know him need to use the Christmas season (and every season) to offer the Good News that we can come to Christ and truly be reconciled to him.”

Mild he lays his glory by,

Born that man
no more may die.

Born to raise the sons of earth,

Born to give them second birth.

Hark!

Partners in reconciliation
In her work at Angels’ Cove Maternity Center, Carla Donoho sees people in need of reconciliation. With their families, and with God. But it often doesn’t come easily.

“Accepting the love of a Heavenly Father is foreign and difficult when many have no father in their lives or the ones they have do not represent love,” said Donoho, who directs Angels’ Cove, a ministry of Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services.

“For those who have come from difficult circumstances, either from their own doing or acts of someone toward them, seeing the love of God through his people is a miracle.”
Apostle Paul describes that miracle in 2 Corinthians, and gives a clear directive to those who have experienced Christ’s reconciliation.

Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18).

“Nothing thrills me more than to see one of ‘ours’ come to know Jesus as the loving Savior who has given himself for them,” Donoho said. “Those who feel so unloved, rejected, and unwanted realize they are a child of the True King. This is true reconciliation.”

Scott Foshie heard the message of reconciliation at nine years old from his grandmother, Lois, when she was suffering from cancer. Even if she lost the battle, she told him, she knew she would be with Jesus because she had given her life to him, and he had forgiven her sin.

“When she told me that she hoped I had that kind of relationship with Jesus too, I began to think,” Foshie recounted. “That was when I realized that while I knew facts about God, I didn’t really know him. I needed to begin a personal relationship with Jesus.”

The ministry of reconciliation is at work whenever a Lois or a Carla Donoho or a Pastor Scott or a Matt Mevert shares the work of Christ in their own lives.

That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us (2 Cor. 5:19).

At the manger, God extended reconciliation through his son, Jesus. On the cross, the offer of reconciliation is completed through Jesus’s death for the world’s sins. Charles Wesley married two holy days—Christmas and Easter—and the reconciliation seen in both with another of his hymns for Advent, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.”

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

-Meredith Flynn

The Mission Illinois Offering and Week of Prayer is September 10-17, but there are plenty of opportunities for prayer ahead of that week. In fact, all of September is a good time to focus on God’s work through Baptists in Illinois.

Devote time to prayer every Sunday or Wednesday in September. Share mission facts and videos on the mission stories. Our main focus is evangelism and church planting in Illinois. Review the statistics about lostness in Illinois. These are not just numbers, they are people.

Pray for salvation. Check Wikipedia for the population of your county or town. According to the experts, more than two-thirds (say 65%) of those people do not know Jesus Christ. Do the math. Pray for their salvation. While you’re at it, make a list of people you know who need Jesus.

Pray for the missionaries by name. Use the daily devotions as brief prayer prompts in worship services and in personal prayer. They are in the MIO Prayer Guide/bulletin insert, online, and printed in the special Illinois Baptist wrapper on the outside of the Aug. 14 issue.

Schedule a special prayer meeting for state missions. Some churches use the Wednesday during the Week of Prayer, others use Sunday morning or Sunday night. Or pick another time, day or night.

Spread the responsibility. Ask Sunday school teachers and small group leaders to focus prayer on state missions during September. Ask the missions team or WMU or men’s group to pray for state missions in their September meeting.

Focus on Romans 10:14.
“How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher?” (CSB)

Pray each section of the verse:
• For the Holy Spirit to open hearts to believe;
• for the gospel to be shared; for the church planters;
• for gospel witnesses to respond to the call to
missions and evangelism, especially in Illinois.

We could plant so many more new churches and reach so many more lost people in Illinois if there were more future leaders in the pipeline.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering at MissionIllinois.org.

Sharing Jesus everywhere

ib2newseditor —  August 21, 2017

Pat Pajak praying

Pat Pajak will make you cry. Why? Because he cries.

Whenever there’s talk about how many people in Illinois don’t know Jesus, you can count on Pat to get choked up. And whenever Pat tells how he had the privilege of sharing the gospel with someone—and that someone accepted Jesus as Savior—tears will flow. His shoulders shake up and down. His voice cracks. And for a moment, the story stops. But he catches a breath, and continues.

And invariably, the person he’s witnessing to agrees that they need Jesus, and prays to receive him as Savior.

The biker. The nurse. The couple at the gas station on the way to North Carolina. “I believe in witnessing opportunities wherever you’re at,” Pajak said.

Pat Pajak has a gift. Some would say his gift is evangelism, but that’s only part of it. Pat makes lostness in Illinois—vast, unfathomable, and seemingly almost too big to tackle—become real, and personal, and up-close.

“Lostness” is people, and Pat knows them personally. Even if he doesn’t, he’ll sidle up to them and ask if they go to church anywhere. And that leads to real conversation about knowing—and believing in—Jesus Christ.

Whether it’s 8 million people in a state of 13 million, or the nurse at the Decatur hospital where he had heart surgery, lost people matter to Pat, because they matter to God.

After three decades as a pastor of growing evangelistic churches, and another leading church strengthening in Illinois, Pat today serves as associate executive director of evangelism for IBSA.

Winning Illinois, one by one
For some people, simply walking across the room to start a conversation feels like taking a risk. Taking the next step—turning a conversation toward the gospel—may feel even riskier. But that’s what we’re all called to do. Share the gospel.

And for many IBSA churches and their members, that’s where Pat Pajak comes in.
Pat will train more than 200 churches in soul-winning this year. And through IBSA’s Pastor’s Evangelism Network, Pat will help mentor more than 100 pastors. Encouraging pastors who encourage their churches in faith-sharing is Pat’s specialty.

“The easiest way, I think, to impact lostness in Illinois, is to build friendships with people where they begin to trust you,” he said.

For Pat and his wife, Joyce, that level of trust was established in a crisis more than 30 years ago, when a house fire claimed their infant son and a pastor soon led them to Jesus. Not every conversion comes after crisis, but Pat finds opportunity to share Christ in tough times, even his own.

“After Memorial Day last year, I had a heart attack…and quadruple bypass surgery,” he said. And since he believes in sharing Christ wherever you happen to be, that included the ICU and later the cardiac rehab unit. Eventually, he led eight nurses to faith in Jesus Christ in a three-month period.

“I said, ‘Will you allow me to pray with you?’” he recalled from an encounter with Gina. “So I shared the Romans Road with her and asked if that made sense to her. She said yes, and she prayed and asked Jesus Christ to come into her heart.”

Pat wells up when he tells the story. “I saw her today and she hugged me and said, ‘I love you.’”

From complete stranger to sister in Christ.

“What a difference it would make if our church (members) decided, ‘I have the responsibility of sharing Christ, not just my pastor,’” he said.

With support from the Mission Illinois Offering and Week of Prayer, IBSA is equipping pastors, church members, and church planters to share the gospel. “Now is the moment,” Pajak said, because people in Illinois need Jesus Christ. “We just need to capture that.”

In other words, now more than ever.

Learn more about the Mission Illinois Offering at MissionIllinois.org.

Rites of summer: VBS

ib2newseditor —  July 17, 2017
VBS-Rockford

Living Stones Community Church, Rockford

A woman pulling dandelions along the sidewalk in front of her house seems willing, even eager to take a break.

“Well,” she says, “the church is over there about a block,” pointing westward along one of the community’s few streets. “But the marker you’re asking about is right over there, waving a hand holding weeds southward.

“That’s where it really started, so that’s where they put the marker.”

It’s clear that Hopedale, Illinois is still proud of its place in history as the one-horse, no stop-light town that birthed an international movement: Vacation Bible School.

In the late spring of 1894, Mattie Pritchard Miles, wife of Hopedale’s Methodist minister, had a bold idea: take advantage of the summer break to teach otherwise idle children about the Bible. She planned a day of Bible teaching and activities “for all children of whatever church—or no church at all.” From the beginning, VBS has been about outreach. Perhaps that’s why its first organizer took the school outside the walls of her church and denomination.

The meeting place was on the grounds outside the elementary school, where the historical marker stands today, with the park next door.

Some 37 children showed up.

What’s even more remarkable is that Mrs. Miles didn’t hold a one-week VBS, or even two-weeks as some older people may remember. Her Vacation Bible School lasted 26 days over five weeks.

The 1894 school quickly became a model for churches and denominations everywhere. The big stone marker includes a time capsule that is to be opened in 2094, on the 200th anniversary of VBS.

In the meantime, proponents of the summertime discipleship ministry, and Southern Baptists in particular, still see its value for evangelism as well as discipling children (and adults). LifeWay reports that 25% of all baptisms in SBC churches come through VBS.

Consider these other 2015 statistics from LifeWay, which produces VBS curriculum especially for SBC churches.

• Every one person trained in VBS in SBC churches results in 1.1 salvation decisions.
• 10% of people enrolled in SBC VBS are unchurched.
• 2.7 million people enroll in VBS each year.
• 72,925 people each year accept Christ as Lord and Savior.
• 2,666 people commit their lives to church-related vocations through VBS.
• 56,386 people enroll in Sunday School/small group Bible study as a result of attending VBS.

Mrs. Miles lived 55 years after her first month-long experiment. By 1949, VBS was a well-established tradition that continues to reach children and families and to change lives today.

-Eric Reed

Columbus, Ohio | Meredith Flynn

The most personal testimony shared publicly during the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention in Columbus, Ohio, came from a source most Baptists probably had never heard of prior to the meeting.

Rosaria Butterfield (second from left) was part of a panel discussion on same-sex marriage at the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention.

Rosaria Butterfield participated in a panel discussion Wednesday afternoon with some very familiar faces—men that have been instrumental in calling Baptists to a deeper reliance on the gospel when it comes to understanding how it intersects with cultural issues.

When it was her turn to speak, she delivered the truth, plain and simple:

“I often tell people I was not converted out of homosexuality,” said Butterfield, a former lesbian. “I was converted out of unbelief. And then the Lord started working on some other stuff.”

One reporter in the press room later commented they were glad Butterfield had been in Columbus, so that more people could hear her story. Her past and, in a different way, her present—her husband pastors a Reformed Presbyterian Church—set her apart from her audience in Columbus. But as she nodded encouragingly as the other panelists talked, and when she delivered the short version of her testimony with an almost-constant smile, the value of hearing from a new voice at the Southern Baptist Convention was clear.

As a professor at Syracuse University, Butterfield said she had finished the book she needed to write to achieve tenure and turned her attention to what she really wanted to write: “a critique of the religious right from a lesbian feminist point of view.”

In the process, she met a Christian pastor and his wife who invited her into their home (and visited hers) and truly befriended her. At first, “I thought I simply got free research assistants,” Butterfield told the audience in Columbus.

But after two years and reading through the Bible seven times, she said, “The Bible simply got to be bigger inside me than I. And one of the things that I realized was that I wanted Jesus.”

Butterfield’s fascinating testimony, detailed in her book “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey Into Christian Faith,” stands alone as encouragement to churches trying to reach out to their neighbors with genuine love and the truth of the gospel.

But it was what she said later in the discussion that could prove to be most helpful. In just a few minutes, Butterfield laid out a prescription for how the church can minister compassionately to the LGBT community:

Make your Christian community an accessible community. That means giving up ownership of our time, Butterfield said, and also gaining a more “collective” understanding of sin.

She quoted 1 Corinthians 10:13, about God providing a way of escape from temptation. “What if your home is the way of escape?” she asked.

Share “the means of grace” in a public way. How can Christians make repentance more known (and understood) among their neighbors?

Get to know the Bible—better than we do now. Time with the Lord is “a public community service,” Butterfield said. It’s how Christians get ready to speak a word of truth.

“Don’t deny the power of the gospel to change lives and to travel at the grassroots level,” Butterfield said near the end of the conversation. “Your friendships matter.”

For those listening to her story in Columbus, the power of the gospel was undeniable.

Watch the panel discussion, held during the Wednesday afternoon session of the Southern Baptist Convention, at http://live.sbc.net.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/ondemand.html.