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December 2001 Issue

Restored Land, Reclaimed Lives

During the 2001 International Missions Emphasis, Dec. 2-9, Southern Baptist congregations across the United States will focus on extending God's kingdom to every people group. This year's theme — The Unfinished Task: Planting with Passion — emphasizes the passion for planting churches that comes when we understand God's heart for lost nations. The goal for this year's Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions is $120 million — every penny of which will go to support missionaries and their ministries. The International Mission Board draws 36 percent of its income from the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists' unified budget. The Lottie Moon offering provides 46 percent.

Six men encircle a patch of stout seedlings. They shift the rust-red dirt of India with the toes of their shoes. One man, a local Baptist pastor, sweeps his right arm to encompass a whole field of rich, green shoots.


The Unfinished Task: Planting With Passion

The Book of Acts relates one of the most exciting stories in Scripture: the spread of the gospel from a small band of followers in a backwater of the Roman Empire to much of the known world — despite intense persecution and inexperienced leadership.

How did the early apostles do it? By the power of the Holy Spirit: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem ... and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8, NIV).

The apostles also employed a powerful Spirit-inspired missionary method for extending the gospel: planting churches. These early churches became the rapidly reproducing means for Christian worship, teaching and evangelism: Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria ... was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord (Acts 9:31, NIV).

That was only the beginning. In the faithful hands of missionaries like the apostle Paul...

The Unfinished Task: Planting With Passion

Secretly gathered behind closed doors, they study their Bibles. Professing belief in the Scriptures can result in violent attacks or worse.

They are hundreds of Muslims across Israel and Palestine who have come to know Christ as Savior over the past year. Small groups of new believers scatter across the troubled region as they share a newly found faith with others in their extended families of parents, uncles, aunts — and sometimes multiple wives.

This is not the kind of movement Southern Baptists are likely to see covered on their six o'clock news, and it does not yet constitute a church planting movement. Nevertheless, the new responsiveness has created a sense of urgency and expectancy among Christian workers in the region.

"I've been working among these people for thirty years, and I've never seen anything like this," one Southern Baptist worker marveled. "God is moving here like we've never seen before. It is the first...

The Unfinished Task: Planting With Passion

For three years the International Mission Board has been focusing the attention of Southern Baptists on "The Unfinished Task." Our Lord commissioned us with the task — to disciple the nations — almost 2,000 years ago.

The rather slow, incremental expansion of the gospel throughout history has begun to accelerate in recent years. But the task of evangelizing a lost world remains unfinished. Mission efforts have encountered walls of religious resistance. Government restrictions have inhibited the free flow of Christian witness. Many people groups are still without a church and access to the good news of God's love.

Our theme two years ago was "Loving the Lost." That's where the motivation for our commitment to go, to give, and to pray must begin — loving the lost as God loves them. Last year the focus was "Dispelling the Darkness," a powerful reminder that Jesus is the Light of the world and that the light of the gospe...

The Unfinished Task: Planting With Passion

It's a two-day bus ride into the mountains from Chengdu, China. Two hard days.

"You need kneepads and a helmet for that ride," confides "Timothy" with a rueful grin — especially during the final hours of nonstop bouncing over muddy, rutted roads winding toward the remote clouds of the Himalayan plateau. Timothy's real name cannot be revealed for security reasons.

"Lots of people get sick before it's over," adds the twenty-five-year-old Southern Baptist worker. "'Show up and throw up,' we say."

Not to worry. Timothy and his partner seize the opportunity to make friends with their queasy fellow passengers (many of whom are Tibetans) by bringing plenty of extra water to share. They call it "throw-up ministry." Necessity is the mother of invention.

It's worth a little discomfort to reach the mountain villages — some as high as 12,000 feet above sea level — where the ...

Like many Southern Baptists attending the Convention in New Orleans last summer I was deeply concerned about the demonstrations, misinformation, and "political turnspeak" hurled at us by the homosexual community. They accused Southern Baptists of "killing the children of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender" citizens. First, I couldn't understand how gays and lesbians could have children, unless they are referring to adoption. Second, I can't imagine how they believe Southern Baptists, the most pro-life denomination in America, are killing anyone's children.

These demonstrators were using, "turnspeak." This is a tactic by which you verbally attack your opponent, but claim that you are the victim of the attack. Hitler invented this scheme to justify his invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939. Whose fault was the attack? It was the Czech people, of course. They were trying to start a regional war by claiming their land as their...

Southern Baptists are being urged to pray specifically each week for the United States, its leaders and the nation's military, according to a joint statement issued by the presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention and SBC Executive Committee.

"We call upon the 16 million Southern Baptists and the 42,000 Southern Baptist churches spread across this land to commit themselves to regular, specific, and focused prayer for our nation and for its leaders in these trying days," reads the statement, signed by SBC President James Merritt and SBC Executive Committee President and Chief Executive Officer Morris H. Chapman.

In addition to the statement, Chapman announced the creation of a special Internet prayer site at A prayer guide has been prepared to assist those who will commit to this investment of time and spiritual energy to pray pointedly and with purpose.

A multimedia tr...

The quest for pulpit relevance in many churches today has led some preachers to experiment with a variety of homiletical approaches. Even a cursory examination of the contemporary homiletical landscape reveals that both pulpit and pew continue to express concern that all too often sermons have no direct connection with everyday life. This unfortunate development has led many preachers to jettison the most effective and relevant approach for letting the Bible speak — expository preaching.

Much of the contemporary reaction to — and criticism of — expository preaching rests upon the faulty premise that this approach fails to address the real needs of people. Consequently, preachers and Bible teachers often begin their sermon preparation with a topic, idea, or subject that they deem relevant to the congregation and then search for a biblical text or texts that might address that particular issue. The danger is that biblical texts often become "pegboards" up...

The disciples could scarcely believe their eyes. While they and Jesus were enjoying supper at the house of Simon the leper (evidently Simon's expression of gratitude to Jesus for healing him of his leprosy), a woman came to Jesus, broke open a box of very costly oil, and poured it upon His head.

Filled with indignation, they pounced on the poor woman. "Why this waste?" they sternly asked. This was foolish, extravagant, and senseless. No, it was worse than that. It was a morally despicable act. Yes, that's what it was! The poor could have certainly used the money that would have been realized had the ointment been sold. What the woman had done, therefore, was tantamount to taking food out of the mouth of the poor. A callous act!

This outburst represented an aberration for the disciples. They certainly didn't believe that anything done for Jesus is a waste. But there are those who so believe. What was a momentary glitch for the disciples is a settled ment...

The devastating whirlwind of drug abuse has no mercy. The casualties come from all walks of life, and the common cry is for freedom from its deadly clutches. We would not deceive anyone by suggesting that there is a sure road back to the sober lifestyle that will guarantee complete recovery and erase all painful memories. Neither would we suggest that the road to recovery is easy or comfortable. Indeed, for most addicts, it is, at best, a long, hard road back. It certainly has been for both of us. Fortunately there is hope.

The most effective course of treatment will vary, depending on the extent to which the individual's drug involvement has become a lifestyle, and the degree of the addiction. However, three critical elements are common to all effective methods of treatment: admission of the problem, the willpower to become and to remain drug-free, and a healthy measure of hope.

Admission Of The Problem

The affl...

Last year my wife's grandmother died at Christmas time. It would be a difficult loss anytime of year, but it was particularly magnified in the midst of the merry holidays.

Ironically, a death or a Christmas crisis is part of the yuletide tradition for my family. We've spent so many holidays in the hospital that we even have a miniature Christmas tree that's easily transported. I'm not exaggerating when I say that every major crisis of my adult life has occurred between Thanksgiving and New Year's.

So, yes, I admit it — Sometimes I think like Scrooge: Christmas? Bah, humbug!

There is a darker side of Christmas that we rarely acknowledge in the church. We create this fantasy of the perfect homecoming that rarely matches reality — even in the best of homes. There are many of us whose Christmas memories are full of tension, not tinsel.

Some of us know that the holidays are just another excuse for Mommy to get drunk, or Dadd...

For The Pastor's Study

Bible Works 5

BibleWorks is an electronic tool for biblical exegesis and research. You'll find everything you need in its 90 Bible translations in 28 languages, 9 original language texts with 7 morphology databases, 6 Greek lexicons and dictionaries, 4 Hebrew lexicons and dictionaries, plus 11 practical reference works. While other programs are merely loose collections of books, BibleWorks tightly integrates its databases with the most powerful morphology and analysis tools. From Hermeneutika Computer Bible Research Software. $299.95

All About The Bible

All About...

(An Open Letter To Kids That Aren't Getting Anything For Christmas)

I wanted to write an apology to you kids that aren't getting anything this Christmas. I know some of you have been waiting for several Christmases for me to stop by and you must be disappointed that I haven't been showing up.

The truth is it has nothing to do with whether you have a chimney or not. Oh, to be sure I do prefer nice wide chimneys, but I can work around the hazards presented by tighter entrances. Furnace flues and vent pipes, back doors, and transoms all serve very well.

It also has nothing to do with whether or not you live in mobile homes. My reindeer can land very lightly on tin roofs and never cave one in. In fact, I can land the old sleigh just about anywhere.

It really has nothing to do with whether you've been naughty or nice. A lot of you have been very good indeed and still have not gotten a present in years.

It's mostly a matter of reality and expectation.

It hurts me to say this, but there are some rich ...

Christmas is the busiest time of the year. It is sad that it comes so late in December when all the stores are crowded and people are everywhere. Is the pace of life too fast? Does cleaning up your dining area mean throwing fast food bags out of the back of the van? Has your grocery list been on the refrigerator so long that some of the products don't exist any more? Do you drive through McDonald's and ask for Christmas dinner to go? Do you forget your twin brother's birthday? Do you ask at the dollar store, "How much is this?" Is the pace of your life too fast?

Did you ever wonder why a pigeon walks so funny? Pigeons have to stop to focus. Humans appear to have the same problem. They may need to stop before they can focus. Not slow down, stop.

There is a difference between stopping and slowing down. A man was pulled over for running a stop sign. He argued to the officer that he had slowed down and looked both ways. The officer said, "You have to ...

Astrological Institute

In August, the Astrological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona became the first school of astrology to ever receive accreditation from a nationally recognized body. With its credentials now in place from the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology, the Astrological Institute can seek approval from the U.S. Department of Education for its students to receive federal grants and loans. According to Elise Scanlon, head of the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology, the institute received accreditation because it demonstrated that its teachers are qualified and that its graduates can be placed in jobs.

Housed in part of a former elementary school, the Astrological Institute currently offers a diploma in astrology and psychology. To earn the diploma, students must pass six required courses: three each...