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December 2004 Issue

During the 2004 Week of Prayer for International Missions, November 28-December 5, Southern Baptists will focus on God's promise of power that transforms even the most ordinary believer into a bold and effective witness. This year's theme — "That All Peoples May Know Him" — emphasizes the wave of divine power that is drawing unprecedented numbers of Southern Baptists into overseas service and sweeping multitudes into the Kingdom of God.

The national goal for this year's Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® is $150 million — every penny of which will be used to send missionaries and support their ministries. The International Mission Board relies on the Lottie Moon offering for 51 percent of its annual income.

Dawn came almost unnoticed to the sacre...

Ask people around Bangalore, India, what a Christian looks like and many would describe Dr. Rebekah Naylor, the Southern Baptist missionary surgeon who has labored at Bangalore Baptist Hospital for the past thirty years.

Some have seen Dr. Naylor, the cool, precise, professional medical doctor who has performed countless surgeries and other medical procedures. She has saved lives, delivered babies, and relieved suffering for thousands of people over the years.

But others know her through her soft-spoken but persistent sharing of the gospel, her training and encouragement of Indian Baptists in how to witness and plant churches. In this role she has helped bring eternal life to thousands of people and relieved the spiritual suffering known by many here who fear Hinduism's vengeful gods.

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I am still overwhelmed with joy and praise to God as I think of Southern Baptists giving $136.2 million to the 2003 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. It represents the largest dollar increase in the offering's 115-year history. But more importantly, it enabled the International Mission Board to appoint more missionaries to impact a lost world with the gospel. Thank you, Southern Baptists! You felt God's desire for every soul to know Him and give Him the honor He is due. You were distressed that qualified missionaries were being held back for lack of finances. And you responded with a vision and passion only God's Spirit can inspire! We are especially grateful to Woman's Missionary Union for their wholehearted partnership in encouraging Southern Baptists to step up to this tremendous challenge.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. ~ Acts 1:8 (NIV)

These words of our Lord, coupled with His Great Commission mandate of Matthew 28:18-20 (also delivered just before His ascension into heaven), frame the missionary task of the New Testament church. They are very familiar to us, but we often neglect the order in which they are delivered. Only as we are empowered by His Spirit will we be His witnesses, or, as the King James Version translates Acts 1:8, "after that" the Spirit has come upon us. Similarly, before issuing the "Go ye" command of Matthew 28:19, Jesus first emphasizes: "All power is given unto Me in heaven and earth" (v. 18).

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Rick Warren's first words from his popular book The Purpose-Driven Life are "It's not about you." While Bible-believing Christians around the world know this to be true, Warren's sobering reminder has helped transform and refocus the lives of thousands of believers around the world to be outward thinking rather than inward thinking.

In a greater way, the last recorded words of Jesus to the disciples and the church are found in the first chapter of Acts. They are a charge to be His bold witnesses throughout the world under the influence and empowerment of the Holy Spirit: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth Acts 1:8 (HCSB).

Southern Baptists realize that reaching the world for Christ means coming to the sobering conclusion that it's not about us, but it's about them.

Church culture many times fo...

The message found in the opening lines of Matthew 2 was of such magnitude that it sent shock waves through all of Jerusalem. I am afraid that this Christmas passage has become so familiar to us that we read it without comprehending its significance for then or now. In verse 1 it does seem a bit matter-of-fact: After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days to King Herod .... We have told this story so often that perhaps we have forgotten that it is truly the most important and earth-shaking historical event that has ever been recorded.

In the Days of King Herod

The King has stooped to enter His own creation. It is not insignificant that Matthew immediately locates this event in real time and history — ... in the days of King Herod ....

Elections and the Kingdom of God

With the presidential election finally over and with the re-election of President Bush, some are thinking, "Hallelujah! We have a president who's going to promote a godly moral agenda. All is well because we've won."

If that's what you're thinking, it's time for a serious reality check. The Kingdom of God will not arrive on Air Force One no matter how good the president's character or great his ability. Don't get me wrong: Elections are important; the law is a moral teacher. But all the laws and political victories will not help us if we lose the culture. Our job is the same no matter who is in office: that is, to make serious disciples and to bring Christian truth to bear in all of life.

The first place to start is training our children in biblical worldview thinking. Statistics show that many Christian kids lose their faith in college. (Not surprising if you look at Barna's poll and see that only 9 percent of evangelical teens be...

Recognizing and Evaluating the Issues

On a Sunday evening in mid-September, my assistant and I drove for three hours from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, to a forum at a church in central Texas. The church was examining its relationship with its association, state convention, and national convention. I had agreed to serve as a representative of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Not knowing what to expect, I quickly prepared my responses to the eight questions on the journey to the church. Most of the questions were programmatic and missions oriented, although there were questions about confessions, inerrancy, and the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). Other organizations represented were the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT), and the local association. The public dialogue from the forum was frank and friendly for the most part. Indeed, the organizers limited our ability to address one another. T...

For the Pastor's Study
The Sacred Desk Sermons of the Southern Baptist Convention Presidents by Ergun Caner & Emir Caner, General Editors Each year, there is a significant moment in the life of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is an ecclesiologically unique instance when messengers from churches across the land gather in one place and the sitting Southern Baptist Convention president takes the podium and addresses the convention. It is a superbly intense opportunity to address God's people with a call to action and service, repentance and change, and relevancy and mission. The Sacred Desk documents fifty-two of these historic moments. Published by Broadman & Holman: $29.99

Dianna was asked by her pastor in Illinois to attend the first Originator FAITH Clinic back in 1998, being held at First Baptist Church, Daytona. She had no idea what it was about but it sounded interesting, so she went. The following accounts demonstrate how the training changed her life - and is still working today!

FAITH changed my life. At the first clinic I was teamed with a man, the leader, and another woman who was a trainee. After observing all week, on the final night it was the trainees' time to share. I was very nervous about being able to remember everything. We visited with a man at his workplace, and the other woman presented the gospel to him — and he received Christ! I was amazed, excited, and so happy. He called his wife and arranged for us to go visit her. It would be my turn to present the gospel. To my delight she, too, received Christ! I was ready now to go home and share all that I had experienced and learned.

At home the first person...

Perspective is important. Most of us can relate to age differences. If you ask a three-year-old how old he is, what does he say? "Three but going on four." If you ask a thirteen-year-old how old he is, he says thirteen going on fourteen. Or a two-year-old would respond, "I'm going on the potty." But it changes. A fifty-six-year-old doesn't say "I'm fifty-six going on fifty-seven." It's "I just turned fifty-six." Our perspective changes.

In fact, I heard of a fifteen-year-old going on sixteen whose dad would not let her date until she was sixteen. When the Incredible Hulk of the class asked her out she begged her dad to let her go, but he said not until she was sixteen. She was really ticked and asked her dad, "Do you believe in the Second Coming of Christ?" When he responded that he did, she told him that she was praying that Christ would come before her sixteenth birthday so he would have to spend the rest of eternity...

Amendment Momentum in Seven More States

Galvanized by results on Election Day — when all eleven bans on same-sex "marriage" passed — legislators and pro-family groups in at least seven additional states say they will push for constitutional marriage amendments.

Conservatives and traditionalists in Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia say they will work for passage of an amendment in their respective state in the coming year.

Three additional states — Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Wisconsin — passed amendments in the last legislative session and must pass them once more before sending them to voters.

Most of the new amendments would go on the ballot in 2006, although at least one — Kansas' — could see a vote as soon as 2005.

Already, more than one-third of the states (17) have marri...