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October 2003 Issue

For Empowering Kingdom Growth

As we read the New Testament, we are not left with any question about the importance of the Kingdom of God in the life and teaching of Jesus. His ministry was announced by John the Baptist with the startling words: Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt. 3:2). And after the time of Jesus' temptation, we are told that He "began to preach" the message of the Kingdom (4:17) — the clear implication being that His teaching on the Kingdom was not an occasional message, but a consistent message. Even a cursory reading of the gospels will illustrate this.

And this passion continued to the very end of His earthly life. A passage that often goes unnoticed as it relates to this is Acts 1:3. Luke tells us that during Jesus' last forty days, He was speaking of the th...

Is Empowering Kingdom Growth just another denominational program or is it a wake-up call from God? I believe it's a wake up call.

Our nation, our culture, and our churches are experiencing the judgment of God and He is trying to get our attention. The question is: Will we continue to seek our own solutions or will we humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways?

Here's what I mean — evangelical Christianity is about to experience a train wreck if something doesn't change. Most major evangelists estimate well over half of church membership is lost and 88 percent of evangelical children leave church before age 18. Additionally, Barna research shows no significant statistical difference exists between those who claim to be Christians and those who ...

The First Pillar of a Kingdom Family

It was a bitterly cold night in early spring. I was a college student serving as a "summer missionary" and for that week, a camp counselor in northern Maine. Before I opened the door to the bunkhouse I could hear the bedlam taking place inside. It was a free-for-all, and I was about to bring it to an end.

"Lights out!" I shouted. "Everyone get in his own bunk! Nobody gets up or goes out! And nobody is to say another word." For a moment I believe we were all surprised by the immediacy of the response. It became perfectly quiet ... but only for a moment. Out of the darkness came the recognizable voice of one of my problem kids, "Are you asking us or telling us?" he queried. "I'm telling you!" I blasted back in return. "That's all I wanted to know," he said, rolling over and soon going to sleep.

His question was telling. In it there was rooted the basic issue of authority. "Who's in charge," ...

Praying for the Light of Christ to Shine on the Big Apple

Nelson Searcy has a dream for the city that he has come to call home, a dream that the prayer support that once flooded New York and its residents in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, would become the norm.

Through New Hope New York in 2004 and 2005, Southern Baptists have their best opportunity for helping make that happen. Searcy serves as coordinator for the effort, part of the North American Mission Board's Strategic Focus Cities initiative to impact major cities with the gospel.

Just as the city now bills itself as the "capital of the world" because of its vast influence in so many areas, "I would like to see New York become the Christian capital of the world," Searcy said.

Rich Carney, a Strategic Focus Cities planner coordinator for NAMB, said the New York effort brings unprecedented possibilities.

"The significance of New York cannot be overstated," he said. "If we can reach the hearts and mi...

Encouragement And Hope From Southern Baptists

Baptist relief workers from Florida, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, and North Carolina, in Jordan to provide assistance to Iraqi refuges, began visiting in homes Sept. 7 and joined in a healthcare effort Sept. 9.

The workers originally were scheduled to go into Baghdad, Iraq, to begin delivery of 46,000 food boxes collected by Southern Baptists for needy families there. When security concerns diverted the team from Iraq to Jordan, Baptist workers in Jordan tried to arrange for a portion of the boxes to be delivered to some of the estimated 500,000 Iraqi refugees living there.

Difficulties with the between-country administrative red tape involved in redirecting the boxes, compounded by the closure of ports in the Middle East during the soaring temperatures in August, prevented the team from being able to deliver any of those boxes to refugees in Jordan.

Sept. 7, the relief workers were able to visit some refugee homes, giving a limited amount of baby supplies and othe...

In a historic move, Arab Baptists in Iraq have elected a moderator who has the support of Baptists in other Arab countries to set up a center for ministry in Baghdad.

Though the Catholic and Orthodox churches have had a long-standing presence in Iraq, the formation of a Baptist Union is a first for Iraqi Baptists. These evangelicals are seeking to practice their faith openly in this mostly Muslim country that is experiencing some newly found freedoms since the liberation efforts of Coalition forces began.

In a special presentation, the newly elected moderator told a group of relief workers that God has prepared him to return to his native homeland of Iraq where fifteen to twenty believers are awaiting baptism, and one leader will soon be ordained to the gospel ministry.

Quoting Genesis 32:9-10, Fadi* said he and his family will claim the promise God gave to Jacob: ... O Lord, who didst say to me, 'Go back to your country and your relatives and I will ma...

They are attacked and shot at. Bombs go off randomly and danger lurks on every patrol. But the chaplains under Captain Scott Riedel's unit know one thing for certain — "God's heart is in Baghdad."

"God can work anywhere," Riedel said in a recent interview with the Florida Baptist Witness over a satellite phone from the U.S. Army's 2nd Armored Calvary Regiment's headquarters in Baghdad.

Riedel, in Iraq's capital since June, said he believes Baghdad "is a place where people are seeking the Lord."

"Not only the soldiers, but the local population, is seeking the Lord," he said. "They are eager to hear the Word; they are hungry here."

He is a 1995 graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., where he met his wife, Susan. Riedel first served the Army in a variety of positions related to air defense and infantry. After seminary he completed clin...

Implications from the Election of a Homosexual Episcopal Bishop

By confirming the election of an openly homosexual bishop, the Episcopal Church has bowed to political correctness and cast aside the clear teachings of Scripture, several Southern Baptist professors said in statements to Baptist Press.

The Episcopal Church confirmed Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire Aug. 5, making him the first openly homosexual bishop in denominational history. Robinson passed the final hurdle, the House of Bishops, by a vote of 62-43.

Conservatives within the denomination criticized the move, as did other members of the 70-million-plus-member worldwide Anglican Church — of which the Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch. The Episcopal Church has some 2.3 million members.

Threats of schism and separation abound as American conservatives within the church plan for a meeting in October.

Several Southern Baptist theologians and professors condemned the move.

"This is an issue that is absolutely clear in t...

As the Episcopal Church splinters over the question of homosexual bishops, Episcopalian liberals are telling us that they are the heirs of the civil rights era of 20th century American history. And they are partly right. The gay liberation movement in the mainline churches stands firmly in the tradition of the segregationist churches of the Jim Crow-era South.

The skirmish over gay rights in the Episcopal Church erupted over the nomination of homosexual Gene Robinson as a bishop. The fractures were evident in an Aug. 5 debate on NBC's Today show between the "progressive" bishop of Massachusetts and the "traditionalist" bishop of South Carolina.

Defending Robinson's appointment, the Massachusetts bishop argued for the autonomy of the liberals to do as they pleased. The bishop of South Carolina noted that the homosexual agenda was driving out of the church those communions who still hold to the Scripture as final authority, namely the Epis...

America was founded on the pursuit of religious liberty, including the liberty to acknowledge God and to pray in the public square.

This liberty originates in higher law, or "the laws of nature and of nature's God," as the Declaration of Independence puts it. In the words of Rabbi Daniel Lapin, the founders modeled themselves "upon God's ancient people" and "wrote what they considered to be a modern-day interpretation of the basic biblical principles of government."

Those principles demand a place for religious expression in the public square. Unfortunately, radical advocates have long been trying to rewrite the Constitution by making the First Amendment say something it doesn't. The First Amendment plainly forbids the creation of a national denomination, because that would be an "establishment of religion." It says nothing about the so-called "separation of church and state."

Even those who agitate t...

Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand. ~ Luke 14:31

No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. ~ 2 Timothy 2:4

Some people may wonder why Jesus and Paul used military illustrations; I do not. Son of a career army officer, one of three sons that served concurrently in Viet Nam, and soon the father of two soldiers, I believe the Christian life can best be understood from a military perspective. Recently, the family visited our oldest son, Ashley, before his deployment to Afghanistan and our youngest son's enlistment. As the visit drew to a close we gathered beside the car and prayed as a family. In that prayer I asked God to help my son to "Complete the mission, take care of his men, and to come home safe." Since that ...

Here's a FAITH story from a sister church about a man's old liver that got him a new heart.

Our church has completed three semesters of FAITH and God has blessed in each semester. Although we are a small church, God is blessing in a big way! Because of our FAITH outreach ministry, Sunday School attendance and enrollment is up, baptisms are up, and there is joy in our membership that we are keeping the "main thing the main thing" which is reaching the lost. I want to tell you about one such example of God blessing our FAITH ministry.

A man and his wife had been attending our church — the wife was saved but the husband was lost. They had come for a number of weeks and seemed to have really enjoyed our church. After a week or two we sent a FAITH team by their home to explain the love of Jesus. We were certainly welcomed in their home, but it became obvious that this might be a seed-planting ministry visit instead of a harvest visit. Upon visitin...

Peter Drucker says that an organization begins to die the day it begins to be run for the insiders and not for the outsiders. That is not only true in the business world; it is true in the church world. I know the only person that likes change is a wet baby, and they scream until the process is finished. Our culture has changed from Ozzie and Harriet Nelson to Ozzie and Sharon Osbourne.

I'm not saying that change is easy. Our church started a casual service, and I'll never forget being stopped by an irate member telling me that I was destroying the church by allowing people to serve that didn't wear a tie, to which I responded, "Yes, that is what ticked me off about Jesus, too — He never wore a tie." Now you know why I'm in the Pastor Protection Program and move from church to church. To me it seems simple. If Jesus was the true worshipper He was and He gave more glory to God than anyone, true worship would be what Jesus did. He didn't spend a lot ...

President's Ban on International Abortion Funds

President Bush has expanded a White House policy that prohibits federal funds from going to international organizations that perform abortions or lobby foreign governments to liberalize their abortion laws.

The president issued a memorandum Aug. 29 that requires all State Department funding for population planning to be governed by what is known as the Mexico City policy. The decision expanded a 2001 order by Bush that restricts family planning funds through the U.S. Agency for International Development. The State Department grants population-planning funds not only through USAID but through other channels as well.

The memo provided another example that Bush "is strongly and emphatically a pro-life president and the friend of the unborn everywhere in the world," said Richard Land, president of the...