Enrich your churchâ€™s missions time and deepen your personal devotions. Written by the Stewardship Development Association. SBC of Virginia churches support missions and ministries across Virginia, North America, and around the world through the Cooperative Program. We also support state, national, and international missions through the Vision Virginia Missions Offering and the Cooperative Program. Devotional content contributed by the Stewardship Development Association.
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I N T E R N AT I O N A L
More than half of the nearly 5,000 international missionaries we support around the world serve in areas so dangerous they cannot be identified in public media. This is why many of our missionaries are either not identified or use pseudonyms.
Table of Contents
TABLE of CONTENTS
1 8 15 22 29
7 14 21 28
3 10 17 24
Peter & Lucy Station • Pg. 7 David Pothier • Pg. 9 Matt Fontenot • Pg. 11 Tim Shupp • Pg. 13 Josh & Amy Carter • Pg. 15
FEBRUARY 5 12 19 26
Robert & Janice • Pg. 17 Scott Yawn • Pg. 19 Sung Chung • Pg. 21 Jason & Diana Fuller • Pg. 23
Brad Horne • Pg. 43 Jeb Colburn • Pg. 45 Unnamed Missionary • Pg. 47 Doug Carver • Pg. 49
Mike McAfee • Pg. 77 Eric Suddith • Pg. 79 Brianna Weir • Pg. 81 Rusty Ford • Pg. 83
4 11 18 25
1 8 15 22 29
Rawson & Carlie Brinley • Pg. 51 Drake Nosco • Pg. 53 Heath • Pg. 55 Phil Wardell • Pg. 57
Jackie Lewis • Pg. 85 Anthony Beazley • Pg. 87 Johnny Maust • Pg. 89 Phil Kesler • Pg. 91 Mary Alan • Pg. 93
5 12 19 26
2 9 16 23 30
5 12 19 26
Andrew Mann • Pg. 25 Trey Van Camp • Pg. 27 Jim Britts • Pg. 29 Blake & Laura Beth Comer • Pg. 31
Garth Leno • Pg. 59 Brennan Masterson • Pg. 61 Danny • Pg. 63 Brett Myers • Pg. 65 Laura Sharpe • Pg. 67
APRIL 2 9 16 23 30
Clint Stewart • Pg. 33 David & Gayle Butler • Pg. 35 Quinn McClintock • Pg. 37 Joe Kelley • Pg. 39 Josh & Elizabeth Howeth • Pg. 41
Table of Contents
Jeremiah & Joy Farmer • Pg. 95 Jon Cole • Pg. 97 Yi Zhang • Pg. 99 Ray Owens • Pg. 101
DECEMBER AUGUST 6 13 20 27
Randy & Denise Chestnut • Pg. 69 Jeff & Barbara Singerman • Pg. 71 Rob & Amy Burgess • Pg. 73 Laura Reese • Pg. 75
3 10 17 24 31
Becky Harrell • Pg. 103 Don • Pg. 105 Scott & Alyssa Branding • Pg. 107 Suzie Rodgers • Pg. 109 Robert Lane • Pg. 111
by David Waganer
for a NEW YEAR
he small books of the Bible are fascinating to read, but are rarely studied. Let us consider some giant steps from the small book of Philemon that, when implemented through our stewardship commitment, will be heartfelt in our lives and the lives of others.
GIANT STEP 1: Discover Refreshment as a Christian Giver The Apostle Paul offered Philemon an opportunity for refreshment as a giver in how he viewed Onesimus. He encouraged Philemon to not see Onesimus as a piece of property, but as a fellow believer. If you desire refreshment as a giver, begin to see others as persons of worth. GIANT STEP 2: Discover Profitability as a Christian Giver
Many today are consumed in finding a way to be profitable in terms of their financial portfolios. A greater profitability comes when we view things from an eternal perspective. A believer’s profitability should be measured by investing in the Lord’s work, not their finances.
gratitude to others in the home, business, community, and church. GIANT STEP 4: Discover Eternal Significance as a Christian Giver
GIANT STEP 3: Discover Gratitude as a Christian Giver
If you really want to impact eternity, you can — by living as a committed Christian, through your giving and by sharing the good news of Christ with many who need the Lord.
It is difficult to teach anyone to show gratitude. Opportunities are given daily for us to show
What giant steps do you need to work on to become a stronger steward in 2017?
Peter & Lucy Station Friends, Acts 1:8 tells us we’re to share the Gospel to the ends of the earth and, today, we want to pray for two of our missionaries who are right on the edge of the ends. Peter and Lucy Station, are serving in Mongolia. Now, in case you don’t have an atlas with you, that’s north of China and south of Russia, where many people still live in tents. Peter and Lucy go out visiting in tent communities to witness and share the Gospel. We help support them in their work there, through our church’s Cooperative Program giving. Last Christmas they told a man and his wife the Christmas story and how Jesus came into the world; our missionaries also
gave their testimonies about how Jesus could come into their lives and provide salvation.
The man, his wife and their daughters, all came to faith in Christ. Soon after this, the man, whose name is Ganzorig, became sick with hepatitis, which damaged his liver. While that’s bad, the good news is that this new believer was not afraid. He was trusting God to take care of him. Today, let’s pray for our brave missionaries, who are being faithful in going so far to share the precious message of the Gospel. And let’s pray that this new believer may be healed if it is God’s will. Let’s ask the Lord for many to be saved in Siberia. K
(Life Realities) • by Robert Simms
To him we obey, we belong; so mark well whom or what you serve.
e tend to believe we are our own persons, that we are nobody’s
The Scriptures teach that we belong to whomever or whatever we serve. We may think that we serve only ourselves, but we cannot belong only to ourselves. We were created to belong to God. By sinning, we chose to serve another master. Throughout the Bible, we find key Scriptures that teach us that
sin is an insidious master: the Psalmist was urgent to avoid having any sin conquer him; Jesus taught that sin is the master of those who devotedly commit it; Peter calls us slaves to whatever controls us; and Paul said that we are servants of one of two masters: sin, or righteousness. Slavery to the first brings death. Service to righteousness brings life.
for Christ or “receiving” Him. However, it’s more than that — it is deciding that He is Lord, and receiving Him as Master. Until we allow Christ to be Lord of our lives and obey Him as such, we will suffer the internal conflict of claiming to belong to Jesus, but actually belonging to another master.
The heart of discipleship to Christ is obedience to Him. Many of us call Christianity a matter of “making a decision”
The test of whom we serve is not merely whom we call Lord, but whom or what we actually obey.
SCRIPTURES: Psalm 119:133, John 8:34, Romans 6:16, Heb 9:14, Luke 6:46
David Pothier Montreal
We probably do not think of Canada as a mission field, but we should. There are hundreds of towns in Canada that do not have a church of any kind. Montréal is one of its largest cities with some four million people, but few people bother with any kind of church. Most people know nothing about the Christian faith. The city is anti-religion in some ways — it requires a permit to buy or rent a building for religious purposes, but then does not issue permits like that anymore. But our missionary in Montréal, David Pothier, started a church called La Chappelle four years ago with five or six people meeting in a living room. He
has been supported in part by our church, through our Cooperative Program giving. Now there are two congregations with some 1,300 members. On Easter Sunday a year ago, they baptized 69 new believers. They’ve started 45 home groups for discipleship. The church has helped many people get away from drugs and many other problems and become active church members instead. Today, we rejoice that people are being reached for Christ in this city of lostness. And we pray that many, many more churches will be started in the days ahead. K
(Life Realities) • by Robert Simms Prayer is our chief avenue of spiritual intimacy, power, and peace; neglecting it impoverishes us on all counts.
od has revealed to us how to express our worship, request His power, seek His will, and pour out our troubles. It is how we communicate and establish our relationship with Him as Father, Savior, and Empowering Presence. It is prayer. Jesus taught His disciples to pray and provided them with a constant example of prayer. He taught His followers that prayer is especially necessary to deal with the most stubborn and hostile spiritual attacks,
and that if they declined to immerse themselves in prayer when they faced trial, they would be especially vulnerable to falling into destructive sins. Prayer is simply talking with God, yet its simplicity belies its power. Spending time in prayer can help relieve worry, doubt, and fear. It is the conduit for spiritual power and the conductor for directions from God, not just messages to Him. Christians who pray regularly, earnestly, and honestly will
SCRIPTURES: Matthew 26:41, Mark 9:29, Philippians 4:6
encounter the ever-growing presence of God. Those who do not pray will experience a growing sense of alienation, a nagging emptiness, lack of purpose, and weakness to temptation of all kinds. Christians who pray will be victorious in God’s purposes while those who do not will fall flat in spiritual endeavors. Prayer is about seeking God’s will for your life, much of the success in discipleship depends on it.
Today, we want to pray for one of our overseas missionaries serving in Eurasia. We’ll call him Matt.
One day, he met a man walking out of a tattoo parlor; Matt stopped to talk to him because the man wanted to show off the new ink he was now wearing. Now, tattoos and the man’s general appearance would have put off most people. But Matt’s a missionary, so he made it a point not only to talk with the man, but to arrange a time to talk more later — not about tattoos, but about the Gospel. “He could be the next church planter here,” Matt said. Because our church gives through the Cooperative Program, we support missionaries like Matt who share the Gospel in many languages among all sorts of people around the world. Let’s pray for Matt now. K
S T E WA R D S H I P (Life Realities) • by Robert Simms
God owns you and all you call yours, and expects you to manage His things for his glory.
verything we own or possess, even our lives, have been placed in our care by someone else: God. He expects us to manage all He has given us in such a way that His causes will be staffed and funded, His purposes will be accomplished, His people will be blessed, and His name will be exalted. Often, our automatic thought when the word stewardship is brought up is of offerings
made in church. To be certain, money contributed toward the ongoing ministry and mission of the church is a vital part of Christian stewardship. However, stewardship is much, much more. God owns your time: what you spend in church, what you spend in work, and what you spend in leisure activities. Are you managing your time for God’s purposes, or are you appropriating time for things
SCRIPTURES: Psalm 24:1, Luke 12:42, 1 Corinthians 4:2
that do not honor Him? God also owns your abilities, since He gave them to you to carry out his will. Are you using your abilities to enrich yourself rather than serve God? The Bible declares that not only the earth and everything in it, but all of us human beings as well, belong to the Lord. We are reminded that faithful stewards will hear “Well done!” from their Lord and will be welcomed into His eternal kingdom.
One of our missionaries in Spain, Tim Shupp, was meeting some people one day. He was puzzled, because when he was introducing himself, one of the women started crying. Then, she explained why. Tim once directed a literature ministry in Spain. He drove a van packed with Bibles and Christian books all around to introduce the Gospel. One day when the woman came to the van, Tim’s daughter gave her a drawing that presented the Gospel and explained how to become a Christian. Tim did not even know about it. But long after the Shupps had left, the woman came to faith in Christ.
Our church supports Tim and his family there in Spain through our Cooperative Program gifts. Let’s pray for them and their ministry today. And let’s thank the Lord that even a drawing given by a child can help lead someone to faith in Jesus Christ. K
(Life Realities) â€˘ by Robert Simms
Family is potentially the greatest earthly blessing, to be cherished, protected, and celebrated.
utside your very relationship with God, the greatest blessing on earth is your family. Everyone, regardless of background, has the opportunity to establish a new heritage for his or her own family, as God provides grace and love. How many things in this world conspire to cheat us of this great blessing from God? Some things are beyond our control like the ravages of disease, death, and war. Many things that destroy
families are ours to choose or reject: greed, lust, indulgence, intemperance, anger, bitterness, c o nt e m p t , n e g l e c t , a n d unfaithfulness. These, much more than all outside enemies, ruin families and rob us of their ability to enrich our lives. A strong family reinforces every one of its members against feeling lost and alone in the world. Loving parents create secure children, who in turn can guide their own children with confidence. Loving siblings
construct a framework for belonging and a support system for all lifeâ€™s troubles. Loving children reward the difficult years of parenting and temper timeâ€™s onslaught. God long ago promised families who love and honor one another some of the best of His blessings. Length of life or quantity of things vary, even among families who love God and one another. But the blessing of each other is equally rich in this world and beyond.
SCRIPTURES: Exodus 20:12, Psalm 127:3, Proverbs 17:6, Colossians 3:18-21
Josh & Amy Carter Portland, Oregon is a city with about 2.3 million people. Almost none of them consider church an important part of their lives. The city is famous for being so-called “freethinking” and focused on New Age kinds of things. That’s where two of our missionaries, Josh and Amy Carter, have gone to start a new church. They already started one church in East Tennessee, but they think Portland is going to be a bigger challenge.
They moved to the multiethnic western part of Portland. Once they have a successful church started, they plan to immediately start other churches about the city, because every one of Portland’s neighborhoods needs churches.
Today, let’s pray for Josh and Amy and the big assignment they have out in Portland. They are our missionaries; we support them through our church’s Cooperative Program giving. K
Financial Freedom (Life Realities) • by Robert Simms
True financial freedom is a balance of trust and planning in the context of biblical priorities.
hristians need to have a balanced view of money. The Bible says that wealth comes ultimately from God and that He uses it to bless us. Jesus also called money “unrighteous mammon,” and urged us to be wary of its deceptiveness and power to corrupt. If we are to achieve true financial freedom, we must learn how to have money and use it without falling in love with it. A secular approach to financial freedom is to amass as much
wealth as possible in the shortest possible time with the least amount of effort. The ultimate goal: a comfortable life.
balanced formula, we invite disaster. Omitting the service of God brings anything from emptiness to eternal loss.
A biblical approach to financial freedom, however, begins with a commitment to seek the kingdom of God and do His will. Jesus promised we could trust fully that God would provide for our needs. It’s within that commitment to serve God first that we must plan our finances.
Your attitude toward money and the use of it is one barometer of your relationship with God. Loving money displaces loving God. Yet depriving oneself of money doesn’t guarantee closeness to Him. The Bible’s answer is to discover God’s purpose for money in your life, to achieve it, and to seek nothing beyond it.
If we neglect either side of this
SCRIPTURES: Isaiah 55:2, Matthew 6:33, 1 Timothy 6:10
Robert & Janice Our missionaries for today are Robert and Janice who serve in the small country of Latvia. We want to pray for them. This is a country with about two million people that got independence from the Soviet Union in 2001. It is situated between Russia and the Baltic Sea in northern Europe. Robert and Janice are helping train Latvian students who will start new churches throughout the country. Baptists in Latvia started a church planting drive back in 2010 — they want to start 100 new churches by 2020. The drive has gone well. They now have two dozen church planting teams with
a total of nearly 350 people. New churches are urgently needed in Latvia; more than 60 percent of the people have no religion at all. Through our Cooperative Program giving, our church helps support Robert and Janice as they serve in Latvia, so our church is helping reach many for Christ there. And the new churches we’re helping start will be growing for many years to come. Today, let’s pray for our missionaries and pray that the Lord will bless and multiply these new churches. K
P L A N N I N G
(Life Realities) • by Robert Simms
To plot your course without reference to God’s purposes is evil, but to plan your life according to God’s will is wise and is rewarded.
he Bible commends prudent planning. The Proverb writer praised the example of insects that store food, but he chided the sluggard who lived in denial of life’s harsh realities. He also observed that while we may plan our lives extensively, ultimately it is not we, but God, who is in charge of what happens. In the New Testament, James soberly advised Christians who depend on guaranteed results from their planning to consider, instead, the will of God, and to seek His guidance.
Living without any serious effort at planning is foolish. But planning without constant and sincere reliance on the leading of the Holy Spirit is just as foolish. Presumptuous planning is more like plotting: at the very least it skirts danger, but at its worst it challenges God’s sovereignty. As with Jesus’ parable of the rich fool, such presumption may actually invite God’s humbling intervention.
foolish presumption is the invisible attitude. God’s wisdom is for us to apply His revealed priorities as well as His circumstantial leading to the process of planning our work, our living, our going, and our giving. Those who search out God’s wisdom and then works a disciplined plan according to wise counsel will be rewarded with fulfillment and fruit to God’s glory.
Sometimes the difference between wise planning and
SCRIPTURES: Proverbs 6:6-11, Proverbs 16:1,9, Luke 12:18, James 4:13
S OUTHERN BAPTIS T CHAPLAIN We Southern Baptists partner together in many ways to minister to needs. One of our Southern Baptist chaplains in the U.S. Army, Chaplain Scott Yawn, tells how partnership helped him a year ago when he was serving in the Middle East during a blazing hot summer. He let Southern Baptists know that they needed some popsicles to give to the soldiers as a little break from the heat. Wo r d g o t around to many of the churches. Chaplain Yawn was amazed
when thousands of popsicles came pouring in from churches back in America. Many of them came with cards or letters offering encouragement and support, which made the frozen treat even sweeter. Folks, when we work together for Christ, we can do anything. We can even ship popsicles to the desert! Today, can we pray for Chaplain Yawn and his ministry with our brave military men and women? Our Cooperative Program dollars support our North American Mission Board, which endorses and supports more than 3,600 of our Southern Baptist chaplains. K
(Life Realities) â€˘ by Robert Simms Both a spirit and a discipline of proportionate giving are necessary to keep life from being an exercise mostly in self-indulgence.
ne of the most powerful outgrowths of biblical stewardship of life is proportionate Christian giving. Proportionate giving is necessary to the success of the churchâ€™s ministry and outreach. Paul said that we should give as God blesses us, and that our giving should grow as the more weâ€™re blessed. If we assess the blessings of God in our lives, we will increase our motivation for giving and set challenging and worthy goals for ourselves.
Giving proportionately to the Lord is vital to our strategy of missions. Our participation in missions ventures in our state, our continent, and in the rest of the world, is largely a function of our financial contribution to the labors of others. Baptist conventions depend completely on the giving of individual church members to send more than 10,000 missionaries into the field and to help fund the ministries of others who support and train
missionaries each year. Proportionate giving also has a profound effect on our own lives. The sinful nature is selfcentered. Not surrendered to the mastery of a loving and giving Christ, our lives tend toward self-indulgence. Giving freely washes away this me-ism and orients us toward others and toward God. The committed Christian will make giving an important part of his growing faith.
SCRIPTURES: Mark 12:43-44, 1 Corinthians 16:2, 2 Corinthians 9:6-10
GATEWAY SEMINA RY of the SOU TH ERN BA PT IST CONV ENTION We know that the whole world has come to the United States — people from all over the world. Our six Southern Baptist seminaries are training many of these to prepare for ministry. We support all six seminaries and the approximately 18,000 total students who attend them through our church’s Cooperative Program giving. Today, we want to pray for one of those international students. His name is Sung Chung, and he is a very international student. He was born in South Korea but grew up in Paraguay and Brazil in South America. Sung grew up in a Christian family and feels God has called
him to be a missionary and reach the nations for Christ. He decided to move to California and attend Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention. Now, remember that this is the school that used to be called Golden Gate Seminary. It has changed its name to Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention, because the school has opened new facilities away from the San Francisco area. Messengers approved the name change at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in St. Louis last year.
Sung has been studying at Gateway and also serving as a pastoral intern at a church in San Mateo. When he completes his studies and a bit more time as intern and youth minister, he will return to Brazil to serve. Today, let’s pray for Sung as he prepares to be a minister and a missionary in Brazil. And let’s rejoice that our church has helped send a well-trained missionary to serve there in South America! K
(Life Realities) • by Robert Simms
Ministry to people in need is God’s expectation of you as a discipline in love and a demonstration of true worship.
cripture teaches us to accept responsibility for ministry to the poor, the troubled, and the neglected. While there is a need for organizations that can shoulder burdens greater than even the most compassionate individuals can bear, there is still a place for every Christian to respond to needs. Leviticus urges us to make provisions in our lifestyles and business affairs to include benevolence toward the poor. The Proverbs decry our being
stingy, and they especially chide us for pretending that we can’t afford to help people when we can. In the New Testament, James boldly says that Christ’s faithful disciples consider ministry to widows and orphans. Many Christian financial counselors recommend that Christians, who establish budgets for themselves or their families, create a category for ministry and look for opportunities to do ministry. They will be able to respond to
SCRIPTURES: Leviticus 19:9, Proverbs 3:28, James 1:27
situations of need as they arise. While we agree that we should respond to a need where we see it, we may have learned to avoid seeing it almost unconsciously, or to see it through the dim lens of cynicism or judgment when we are confronted with it. We should pray to be sensitized to the needs of others and to see them as Jesus sees them: people made in God’s image and needing His love, channeled through us.
Jason & Diane Fuller
We know God often prepares As they talked, Jason and people ahead of our going Diana realized they had to witness to them. And prayerwalked around the that happens overseas, too. building where Patrick lives That’s what our missionaries, — asking God to prepare Jason and Diana Fuller in someone for witness. Then Italy, discovered. Now, they learned Patrick’s Italy is a beautiful country mother is a Christian who and many Americans go has been praying for her son there on vacations, but it’s to follow Jesus. a hard mission field for many reasons and starting Our church supports the Fullers as they serve there churches is slow work. in Italy. So let’s pray for them The Fullers teach English as and their ministry. Let’s ask a way to both meet people God to prepare many hearts and improve their Italian. for the Gospel, so many can Patrick was a man who come to know Him. K came to one of their classes.
T I T H I N G
(Life Realities) • by Robert Simms
The Christian tithe is a believer’s act of loving obedience in giving his substance proportionately for the cause of the kingdom of God.
h e O l d Te s t a m e n t required God’s people to tithe. The New Testament stresses cheerful, generous, and proportionate giving, based on the response of the heart. Tithing appears in the Bible before it was ever law. Abram tithed to show his thanks to God. Jacob promised to tithe in expectation of God’s blessing. They left us an example for all time, regardless of the Mosaic law.
When the law began to require tithing, it stood as a measure of three things: ∞∞ ∞∞ ∞∞
submission to the Word of God love for the people of God and faith in the provision of God
We have the Spirit of God inside us, enabling us to live “from the inside out.” We do not get to God by good works: we do good works because we have already
come to God through Jesus Christ. Giving is expected to be a measure of inward devotion — a symbol of our thanks to God. The issue is whether we can ever give enough, do enough, or live faithfully enough to show gratitude to God equal to how He has blessed us. Tithing is proportionate giving that expresses the grateful thoughts of the worshipful heart.
SCRIPTURES: Deuteronomy 14:22, Malachi 3:10, Matthew 23:23, 1 Corinthians 16:2
Andrew Mann B RON X , NEW YORK
We know that reaching people with the Gospel in big cities is often harder than working in small towns. And few places are harder than the Mott Haven area of the South Bronx in New York City. That's where missionary Andrew Mann has started Graffiti 2 Community Ministries, a church which has focused on helping needy people in the community â€” where drugs, gangs, crime, and other urban ill are all too common. Our church has supported Andrew through our Cooperative Program giving. Today, let us pray for his ministry that God would keep him safe and effective as he serves. K
(Life Realities) • by Robert Simms Time is the most precious commodity and the least guaranteed; the most often wasted as a possession, and the most appreciated as a gift.
nd of all the things we have in life, time is the most precious c o m m o d i t y . Fr o m t h e perspective of eternity, we had a fixed amount of time when we began life’s brief trek. As a resource, it is constantly being depleted and is not renewable in this world. As one of the many things God gives us to manage for Him and His glory, our time is to be used under His guidance. The writer
of Ecclesiastes rightly observed that there is a time for every purpose under heaven. Some purposes are urgent and some are not. Among the Bible’s greatest wisdom for our right use of time is Paul’s insistence that we redeem the time by living wisely before those who do not yet know Christ. Thus, time becomes part of our witness to Jesus. Since we cannot guarantee that we will always
have tomorrow or next year to be a better witness than we were yesterday, time spent today in casting the kingdom net may yield a catch that may not be caught another day. Since time when given is most greatly valued, perhaps time sown today in someone else’s salvation may yield eternal fruit. And without a doubt, time exchanged for spiritual treasure will bring lasting joy.
SCRIPTURES: Deuteronomy 14:22, Malachi 3:10, Matthew 23:23, 1 Corinthians 16:2
TREY VAN CAMP
QUEEN CREEK, ARIZONA Today, we’re going to cowboy country in Arizona. There really are lots of cowboys around Queen Creek, Arizona, which is southeast of Phoenix. Queen Creek has grown from under 30,000 to about 50,000 in three years; it is one of Arizona’s fastest-growing cities.
baptized that first service.
Our missionary, Trey Van Camp, decided to launch a new church meeting in a movie theater on the busy north side of Queen City. They mailed out 5,000 invitations to the first service. Nobody answered. But they had gathered about 40 people for that first service through offering Bible studies. Eight people answered the call to salvation and were
Our church is supporting Trey through our Cooperative Program giving, and it’s important for us to know that this new church, meeting in a theater, also supports missions through the Cooperative Program. May we pray now that this new church will do well and reach many with the Gospel, especially those who do not realize how much they need it! K
Many younger people in Queen Creek turn down being involved with a church though they know nothing about it, but the church has reached a number of people who were into drugs or had families that were broken.
OPPORTUNITY (Life Realities) â€˘ by Robert Simms
Each of the hundreds of intersections of your life with other people and with circumstances each day is called an opportunity. Almost all of us experience regret. It is more instructive to see our sins as choices we made wrongly. In all temptations, there is not only the possibility of evil, but the potential of righteousness. Some of our greatest regrets are not for things we did, but things we did not do. We cannot undo yesterday, but we can act differently today.
We can retrain ourselves through the grace and presence
of Christ to see our lives in a new way, as an unbroken string of opportunities, as they truly are. Consider your life directions, daily occupations, traffic patterns, abilities, and needs. Recognize that everyone else has the same multiple factors operating in his or her life constantly. Combine these situations with the constant flow of every necessary event or chance happening, and the result is moments of intersection where we must make choices and respond to life.
Each of these intersections is an opportunity. The prophet Samuel told Saul that when he was made into a new man by the Holy Spirit, he should recognize and take every opportunity to serve God. Jesus taught that opportunities to maximize the investment of God in our lives may easily be missed, and that the occasion to witness or minister takes place in the most common moments of our days.
SCRIPTURES: 1 Samuel 10:7, Matthew 25:26-27, Luke 10:31, 1 Corinthians 16:9
SA N DI E GO, CA L I FORNI A Today, we want to pray for one of our missionaries who has started a new church in California. His name is Jim Britts, and he helped start New Song Parkside Church in San Diego in September of 2014. Our church helped him do this because our church’s Cooperative Program missions dollars help support Jim. He’s one of our more than 5,000 Southern Baptist missionaries serving across North America. The church has done well. They baptized 84 new believers in the first 18 months, but that’s because they work at being the church — in other words, they work at outreach. More than half the 250 adult members work in their summer program for children, which help draw in families. Also, even though his church is still new, Jim is already working to start more new churches. Many churches are needed in North County, where Jim serves. When asked what their religion is, more than half the residents answer “none.” Today, let’s pray and ask the Lord to bless Jim and his ministry there on the Left Coast, so that many, many “nones” will become Christ followers! K
GIFTS & ABILITIES (Life Realities) • by Robert Simms
God gives every natural ability and spiritual gift for some purpose, and fulfilling that purpose is your sober responsibility.
ome Christians do not expect much of themselves in spiritual service if they were not called to a full-time Christian ministry. They may assume they have no spiritual gift, or none worth identifying. As a result, many Christians are mostly “attenders” and not participants in the ministry of the church. Peter taught that every Christian has a gift, and Paul revealed that gifts come in many varieties. The
Bible identifies at least 16 types of spiritual gifts, most of which are not supernatural, but abilities heightened by the Holy Spirit to benefit the church by enriching the fellowship through service and spiritual growth. Perhaps the key to understanding your spiritual gift is realizing that it consists of a motivation. A spiritual gift involves a specific motivation to serve the Lord. For example, the teacher not only has an ability to teach, but wants
to teach as he sees others in need of truth and wisdom. The helper possesses perhaps no skill so much as he does a desire to take part in whatever work is necessary. Discovering your spiritual gift and putting it into action is one of your main responsibilities as a believer. It is crucial to your fully experiencing the purpose God has for your life in the church.
SCRIPTURES: Matthew 25:15, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 1 Peter 4:10-11
Blake & Laura Beth Comer
SA N DI E GO, CALIF ORN IA Today, we want to pray for two of our missionaries who are starting a new church in Brooklyn, New York. Now, we see all the TV shows that take place in New York City, and it’s usually all skyscrapers and big buildings in Manhattan, but the missionaries we want to pray for today are on the other side of the East River, in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. This is still New York City, because Brooklyn is one of the city’s five boroughs.
of 2016, they found an apartment to live in and got their two young children enrolled in school. It was a big adjustment coming from South Carolina to New York! By the end of 2016, the Comers were beginning to invite people into their homes for brunch or cookouts, so they can get to know neighbors, share faith and start Bible studies. Our church is helping Blake and Laura Beth serve in Brooklyn through our Cooperative Program giving.
Blake and Laura Beth Comer moved to Brooklyn from South Carolina in December of 2015. During the first few months
More than 40,000 people live in Greenpoint, but there are only a few evangelical churches. Strong Bible-teaching
churches are greatly needed. Many people in Greenpoint are of Polish background. There are many stores and restaurants where Polish is spoken. Blake and Laura Beth have found a great little donut shop they stop by once a week to meet people, again to share their faith. They often hear Polish spoken. Today, let’s pray for this young family as they adjust to life in a very different part of the country for them. Let’s pray the Lord will bless their ministry and help them get a strong and growing new church planted very soon! K
(Life Realities) â€˘ by Robert Simms
Surrendering to the Lordship of Christ is the key to understanding your purpose and to achieving true fulfillment in life.
lives to Christ will we understand the purpose He has for us and achieve the fulfillment we all long to experience.
God has so designed us so that our sense of fulfillment is directly linked to the degree to which we find and fulfill His purpose. Only when we surrender our
Surrender is necessary because, in our natural state in a sinful world, we are in rebellion against God and His purpose. We do not wander by accident into a relationship with God. We must deliberately choose to surrender to the mastery of Christ when we are presented with the Gospel.
ome of us may be surprised or even offended to be told that God expects us to surrender to Him and worship Him with all we are, have, and do. We owe our lives to God, and we do not exist in this world to serve our own purposes, but His.
SCRIPTURES: Romans 10:9, Colossians 1:16, Luke 9:23
We cannot count on a decision for Christ in the distant past to suffice for Godâ€™s expectation. Surrender is a daily decision and a constant necessity. With conscious intention and heartfelt submission, we must take up the cross as Jesus bore ours, that He might be on the throne of our lives instead of our being there. It is His rightful place.
Clint Stewart RU S S I A
Today, we want to pray for Clint Stewart, one of our missionaries serving in Russia. We support him through our church’s Cooperative Program giving. Clint shares the Gospel with Muslims. He does that by offering English classes and presenting Christian movies.
These can lead to Bible studies and witnessing opportunities. One young Muslim man named Ildar came to the classes for months and has begun seriously considering the Gospel. Now, Ildar’s mother is interested in the Gospel.
Let’s pray today that many Muslims in Russia will find Jesus Christ is the only Savior, as they study English and come to movie nights. K
Be a Person of CHANGE
his is a time for courageous people to stand up for what’s right. More than a decade has come and gone by since Sept.11, 2001. Life before and after the horrific events on that day has for all time been altered. Amidst the tragedies of that day emerged some courageous stories of individuals putting their own lives in danger in attempts to rescue others. From the book of Judges there was a judge by the name of Shamgar. (Judges 3:31 & 5:6) He emerged for his time as a person of courage. He defeated
SCRIPTURES: Judges 3-5
600 Philistines with a farm tool referred to in Scripture as an ox-goad. He was not a warrior, but he was a man of courage, standing for what was right and thus an encourager to others. What could we possibly learn to apply in our lives from this judge of another time? ∞∞ Use your ABILITY to make a difference. ∞∞ ACCEPT the challenge and use what you have. ∞∞ Make the most of your ACCESS to others as a person of courage.
by David Waganer ∞∞ Remember to ACKNOWLEDGE: do everything for the Lord. Are you willing to be a person of courage by standing for what’s right in the midst of difficult times? We might not have an invasion of Philistines attempting to take our food and land, but we certainly live in a time in which “spiritual Philistines” attempt to discourage us. It is time for COURAGEOUS CHRISTIANS to remain faithful in their giving unto the Lord.
David & Gayle Butler B O S T ON, MASSAC H U SETTS When most of us think of Boston, Massachusetts, we probably think of colonial times and Paul Revere and Old North Church and the like. But, unfortunately, there are actually very few evangelical churches in Boston and the city is filled with people who are lost. Thatâ€™s why our North American Mission Board has sent dozens of missionaries to Boston to evangelize and plant new churches.
Our church supports all of them through our Cooperative Program giving. Two of those Boston missionaries we want to pray for today are David and Gayle Butler. They are an experienced team who has worked together in ministry since their college days 40 years ago. Their ministry is to support the church planters and their wives
and families, help them line up partnerships with churches in other states, and, in other ways, help them to succeed. Today, let us pray for David and Gayle as they support our other missionaries there in Boston. Let us ask God to keep them strong in body and soul, that His work can go forward! K
The PLACE of ATTITUDE in
S T E• byW A R D S H I P Dr. Clarence E. Hackett •
he Christian’s attitude about life, wealth or other opportunities can be somewhat different from God’s will as revealed in His Word. Your mental attitude toward a matter plays an important role in determining the kind of response you will make to it. Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. In Luke 18:18-27 is the account of the Rich Young Ruler who felt there was something lacking in his life. The young
man asked the question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded that he lacked one thing, to sell all that he had and distribute it to the poor and he would have treasure in heaven, and to come follow Him. The account ends by saying, “He was very sorrowful for he was very rich.” Few of us think of ourselves as being rich materially. The young man was unwilling to surrender his all at Christ’s invitation. Jesus was not teaching that the proper use
of wealth brought salvation. He was asking this man to give Him first place in his attitude and lifestyle priorities. The Bible has some wonderful promises for those who are faithful Christian stewards. As you read, study, and apply the Scriptures to your daily life, may you seek to have a godly attitude in your worship and use of material resources. How would you evaluate your Christian stewardship in light of your attitude now?
As we come to our missionary prayer time today, I want to point out that when we come together for worship, we have hundreds of hymns and songs that we can sing. But in some places where the Gospel is just being shared, there are no songs to sing because they have not been written yet. That is exactly the ministry of our missionary, Quinn McClintock, who serves in West Africa. He works with new believers and teaches them how to write worship songs in their own language. Just imagine â€” years from now, believers in some of those countries may be praising God, singing songs that our missionary helped them write. Our church supports Quinn as he serves there in West Africa, because we give through the Cooperative Program. Can we now pray for Quinn? K
IF THE COOPERATIVE PROGRAM DIED
he Cooperative Program has been around longer than most Southern Baptists. Most of us cannot remember what it was like before the Cooperative Program was birthed in 1925. The Cooperative Program was born to make sure that all agencies and institutions received a fair share from all the churches. The Cooperative Program has been around for more than 90 years, but what would happen if the Cooperative Program suddenly ceased to exist?
∞∞ Yo u r S t a t e B a p t i s t Convention would lose almost all of its income for
operation because almost all of its financial resources are derived from the Cooperative Program.
by Doug Strader theological education prices. ∞∞ The International Mission Board would lose nearly a third of its income.
∞∞ The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention would lose all of its funding, which means that they would not be able to give direction to all the work that Southern Baptists do as a result of Cooperative Program gifts from the churches.
∞∞ Likewise, the North American Mission Board would lose more than a third of its income which would result in it not being able to keep a third of its 5,000+ missionaries in the United States of America, the Territories and Canada.
∞∞ S o u t h e r n Baptist seminaries would have to seek financial resources from other sources if they continued to educate ministers, increasing
Every time you give money through the church, you are helping to do the work that Southern Baptists do in your state, the nation, and throughout the world.
JOE KELLEY Joe Kelley is one of our high-tech missionaries. Among other things, he operates a multilanguage web site that lets people ask questions about the Gospel. In this part of the world, many people either know nothing about the Gospel or dismiss religion as useless. Joe’s work focuses on pointing people not to a religion, but to Jesus Christ. As he types out answers to questions, a young believer helps translate the answers into local languages. Joe checks the answers, because sometimes the student’s translations change the Bible’s message without his realizing it. Joe uses every such change as an opportunity to teach the students doctrine and biblical truths.
Our church supports both Joe and the web site he operates, as we contribute through the Cooperative Program. Now, let us pray for him and his ministry. K
BE A FRIEND O
ne of the greatest biblical examples of a friendship was the relationship between David and Jonathan. The story is found in the book of First Samuel, and youâ€™ll learn how they loved each other as brothers and were willing to do anything for each other. Their friendship grew because of their investment in each other. Someone recently suggested a book titled, African Friends and Money Matters by David Maranz. The book helps people serving in Africa to understand a basic mindset of Africans regarding friends and stewardship (money). Most of
SCRIPTURES: 1 Samuel 18-20
Africa is comprised of collective societies wherein people rely on each other for security rather than on themselves or their governments. Obviously, most of us do not live in the same type of a society but we can learn from the principles in this book. Here are some challenges we might learn from: 1.
Be more concerned with putting your resources into circulation and less concerned with hoarding them. 2. Be very sensitive and alert to the needs of others
by David Waganer and ready to share your resources. 3. Be less concerned about budgeting for special events and more concerned about helping others that have needs. 4. Be aware that a network of friends is a network of resources. We each need to work at developing friendships. Christ called His disciples friends as men that lived according to the Commandments. It is as we love each other that we can best be viewed as friends!
Josh & Elizabeth Howeth C ORVA LL IS, OREGON Today, we’re going to Oregon, which is on the Pacific coast between Washington state and California. We usually read about Oregon when they legalize marijuana or the like. What you don’t usually see in the news is that many new churches are needed in the state. Southern Baptists only have about 450 congregations spread across Oregon, Washington, and northern Idaho. So that’s some background on why we are praying today for Josh and Elizabeth Howeth, two of our missionaries who have started a new church in Corvallis, Oregon,
just over an hour south of the larger city of Portland. The Howeths started Vine Church. Through this ministry, they've reached many college students enrolled at Oregon State University. They also started a ministry to the city’s homeless, even sending out teams to wash the feet of homeless people. We support Josh and Elizabeth with our Cooperative Program giving and encourage you to pray for them and their ministry. K
Be an ENCOURAGER • by David Waganer •
love to sing songs! I recall taking music classes in school. I enjoyed the challenge of allowing a teacher to help shape my voice as a trained instrument. It was nice to sing in choirs, mixed quartets, duets, and even occasional solos. Over the years, I’ve taken pride in being able to sing my part correctly. Recently, I agreed to sing a duet with someone else at church. It was an old song titled, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” We rehearsed very SCRIPTURES: Judges 3-5
little and were to start the song without instrumental support. We somehow managed to start the song in the wrong key. No one could tell until the instruments and other choral support started. At that moment, each of us would have loved to crawl under a pew but didn’t have one close enough. By God’s grace, we managed to get on the right key and finish well. After finishing the song, I shared a message on Christ calming the storms of life. The
failure to start in the right key certainly put me in the midst of a raging storm in my spirit and only the Lord could give me a calm spirit. Are you willing to let the Lord do what’s necessary in your life to calm your storms? Your storms might be a difficult home life, a shaky church life, or a disobedient life as a steward. Regardless of your storm, the Lord can calm it and allow you to finish well.
BRAD HORNE One of our missionaries in Russia we’ll call Brad Horne. He teaches English as a way to meet people and share the Gospel. One week he asked a student named Anton if the young man knew his purpose in life. Anton said no. When Brad offered to teach him the Bible, Anton agreed. The first meeting was five hours long as they studied what the Bible says about the purpose of life. At the end, Anton declared, “My life will never be the same again.” Two
RUS S IA weeks later the young Russian put his faith in Christ and became a follower. We support this missionary in Russia, and we rejoice that he helped Anton find that a life with purpose must center on Jesus Christ. Our church supports many missionaries in Russia through our Cooperative Program giving. Now, let us pray for Brad, our missionary. K
T A L EXPRESSIONS of JOY • by David Waganer •
ave you ever thought what expressions others observe as they look at your face? I’m not writing about what they see physically, but, instead, how they read your emotions. As a parent, how do others read your face in reference to the pleasure your children give to you? Some parents spend a significant amount of time attempting to teach his/her children all types of things.
∞∞ ∞∞ ∞∞
We encourage them to walk as young children. We teach them how to ride a bicycle. We teach them how to catch, to throw, and hit a ball. We teach them how to clean up the toys, rooms, etc.
The expressions on a parent’s face when a child takes the first step, rides a bicycle on their own, becomes successful at playing ball and even learns to clean up for himself/herself
is one of great satisfaction. But how much time do you give to teach your children about spiritual things? How much time do you spend teaching your children about stewardship? Many parents leave the teaching of spiritual things to someone else. Most parents spend very little time teaching his/her child anything about stewardship. Take the time to teach your little ones about God’s word and what it means to be a good steward.
We Americans tend to think that all of North Africa is solidly Muslim, and nobody wants to hear the Gospel. But that’s not true. Here and there across the region, churches have been started as people have come to faith in Christ. This is happening even though believers sometimes pay a high price for their new faith. Our church is supporting missionaries serving in many North African countries, as we give through the Cooperative Program. Recently, one of our missionaries, we’ll call Jeb Colburn, met a man at a coffee shop, and Jeb was able to share the Gospel with the man, who we’ll call Gadi. Gadi said he wanted to please God and live as He wants him to. Jeb immediately prayed that God would show Gadi the right way. It’s too soon to say how Gadi will respond, but, today, can we pray that his life will be changed because he turns to Jesus Christ? And can we pray for Jeb, our missionary, that God would keep him safe, but also effective in sharing the Gospel with people like Gadi. K
REFRESH YOUR FAITH by Dr. Kenneth Hemphill
hen Nehemiah discovered that his countrymen were in distress and that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down; he sat down, wept, and began to pray (1:4). Prayer is the first step in refreshing our faith. Prayer reminds us of our own inadequacy and God’s awesome power and ability to keep His covenant with His people (1:5). God called Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem and rally the people to rebuild the wall. He provided the resources for the rebuilding of the wall through a pagan king. When you commit
to “refreshing your faith,” don’t be surprised to learn that God is more than sufficient and will provide all the materials you need for rebuilding the spiritual walls in your life. Nehemiah was motivated amidst constant opposition. After the wall was completed, he called for a time of celebration, leading the leaders and all the people to refresh their faith (9:38). To understand the extent of this covenant for “refreshing,” read Nehemiah 10:28. Two keys to refreshing are the desire to separate oneself from the world
and to commit oneself to obey God’s commandments. Israel did not stand alone in their need for rebuilding the wall and refreshing their faith. We stand in great need of the refreshing of our faith. Here are a few steps we can learn from this book: ∞∞ ∞∞ ∞∞ ∞∞
Start with prayer. Expect God to provide. Persevere in spite of opposition. Focus on God’s Word.
Separate yourself from the world’s values and follow God’s teachings.
Unnamed Missionary NORT H A F RICA / MI DDL E EAST Today, we want to pray for one of our missionaries in the Middle East. Of course, we understand what a dangerous area that is and so we cannot name him. But we want to pray for him, because we are supporting him through our Cooperative Program giving. We also want to thank God for his ministry. Recently, a Syrian man arrived at a refugee camp with his wife and three children. The man was angry and upset, because he had lost
everything because of the war. He had lost his house, his shop, his job. They had nothing. But our missionary there talked to the man, showed him love and urged forgiveness instead of vengeance. As the two talked, the Syrian man came to faith in Christ. He was baptized with his wife and three children. Here’s what the man said: “God saved me from the war to bring me here, to know Him and His love through His Son, Jesus.” Folks,
if we Baptists and other evangelicals would just send enough missionaries, we would not need to send so many soldiers overseas! Can we pray for this missionary now? Even though we do not know his name, the Lord knows and is blessing his ministry. And let us pray for this family who are now our brothers and sisters in Christ, that God will bless them in the days ahead. K
REFRESH YOUR FAMILY by Dr. Kenneth Hemphill
sraelite families had been impacted by the Babylonian captivity and the return to Jerusalem. According to Nehemiah 10:28, “sons and daughters, all those who had knowledge and understanding” were to be involved in the covenant renewal. The inclusion of “sons and daughters” placed a responsibility upon the parents to explain the covenant under which Israel lived with the one true God. The inclusion of children was essential for the continuity of the faith commitment of Israel.
SCRIPTURES: Nehemiah 10
The text gives us several clues concerning what would have been discussed by the families in preparation for this covenant renewal. Notice the emphasis on separation from the peoples of the land. “Separation” for Israel was not a negative isolationism; it was a positive orientation of all of life toward holy God. They had chosen to separate themselves for service to the King. Such a choice meant they would separate themselves from the values and beliefs of the world that are contrary to the Word of God. The family in our day is under
attack, and we would be wise to learn from the covenant renewal made by the Israelites under Nehemiah’s leadership. ∞∞
∞∞ ∞∞ ∞∞
Talk with your children about your faith and your desire to refresh the family. Start or improve your family devotional time. Discuss what it means to have a Christian worldview. Find some kingdom activity to undertake as a family.
Pray for and with your children about their future Christian spouse.
SOU THERN BAPTIS T CHAPLAIN Could we think for a few moments about Memorial Day tomorrow and the men and women who have given their lives for our country? And, today, we want to pray for Chaplain Doug Carver, who holds the rank of Major General in the U.S. Army. He is one of our Southern Baptist chaplains we endorse through our North American Mission Board, which our church supports through our Cooperative Program giving. Chaplain Carver recalls leading a Memorial Day service just outside Baghdad back in 2003
when the war in Iraq was under way. It had been a quiet day before the service started at 6 p.m. But as soon as the service ended, Chaplain Carver got word that five soldiers had died that day, all about the same time as the memorial service. Here’s what our chaplain said about that day: “We had paused in a war zone to think about life, to thank the Lord for those who’d paid the full measure of devotion to duty to our country and to celebrate the Good News of Jesus Christ.
“And then with a prayer and the ‘amen,’ you’re brought right back to the fact that here we are in a combat zone where young men and women are standing in harm’s way and the war continues,” he said. Today, let’s thank God for our military men and women. And let’s pray for the ministry of Chaplain Carver, as he serves our military and ministers to their spiritual needs, often amid life-or-death situations. K
REFRESH YOUR FINANCES by Dr. Kenneth Hemphill
abylonian captivity and the return to Jerusalem, accompanied by the rebuilding of the Temple and the wall, had created serious financial issues for many of the Israelites. The specific commandments related to their finances were all driven by the central commitment to obey the commands, ordinances, and statutes of the Lord our God. I have always been amazed that many Christians trust their eternal destiny to the integrity of God’s Word, but they remain unwilling to trust the reliability
of God’s Word when it comes to their daily finances.
passage that can help us “refresh our finances?”
T h e ke y p r i n c i p l e o f Nehemiah 10:32-39 is found in the phrase, “we will bring firstfruits to the Lord year by year” (10:35). A form of this phrase is repeated four times in the span of three verses. The “refreshing of their finances” was first a reminder of their privilege to be stewards of all God created. Further, it was a celebration of God’s choice of Israel to join Him in His kingdom activity.
Everything begins with a renewed commitment to live by the financial principles taught in God’s Word.
What can we learn from this
SCRIPTURES: Nehemiah 10:32-39
We must understand we are stewards, not owners. We must dedicate our money, possessions, and children to serve the King. Our kingdom commitment allows us to support pastors and missionaries who have committed their lives to the advance of God’s kingdom.
Rawson & Carlie Brinley
Two of our missionaries serving in South Asia are Rawson and Carlie Brinley. They go out to villages to share the Gospel. Sometimes their ministry goes well - sometimes not. On one visit, three people in a village had said they wanted to become Christians, but when the Brinleys returned to that village, leaders told them the three had changed their minds. The leaders had beaten the three villagers to convince them to forget Christianity. The Brinleys were told never to come to the village again. But in another village, believers said they had located 10 homes where someone was interested in the Gospel and were open to studying the Bible. Today, let us pray that the Brinleys stay confident in the Lord and strong in their faith, so that, even when a door closes in their ministry, others will open. Our church supports Rawson and Carlie through our Cooperative Program giving. K
What's Really I M P O R TA N T ?
ften, we hear the word "precious" in reference to a newborn baby, clothes, a relationship, a saying, and a host of other things. Have you thought about what the Lord God considers precious? The Psalmist gives indication of what’s precious to our Lord in Psalm 116:15. The Scripture declares, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His godly ones.” From man’s perspective, death
SCRIPTURES: Psalm 116:15
is an enemy. From God’s perspective, the death of His godly ones is considered precious. When a committed Christian dies, the Lord greets the person on the other side of the grave. Scripture reveals that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord,” meaning they are free from suffering, sorrow, sickness, or separation. It seems like only a few months ago, my family was traveling to another state to attend the funeral of my father-in-law. He was a godly man, who
by David Waganer
lived out his commitment to the Lord over a long life. He wasn’t a perfect man, but he sought to live out his faith. His final weeks were filled with suffering and sickness, but he was confident of his future home in heaven. Our Lord gave His life so we could be viewed as precious in His sight. It literally cost the life of Jesus in order to provide a way for us to know Him. As faithful stewards, we should live and die with a desire to give Him pleasure!
NEW ORL EANS BAPTIS T THEOLO GICAL S EM INARY Our six Southern Baptist — both here in the United life outnumbered his bad seminaries have a total States and overseas. deeds, then he could hope to be admitted into heaven enrollment of more than 18,000 students who are Drake Nosco is a student — which is a false hope, of preparing for ministry as at our seminary in New course. That answer gave pastors, missionaries, or Orleans. He and a team of Drake an opening to explain other leaders. Our seminary other New Orleans students the truth — he was assured students pay much lower went on a missions trip to of his own salvation because fees to attend our schools, Southeast Asia. They went to of Jesus Christ and His because our Cooperative a country where it’s illegal to atonement. Program dollars provide a evangelize. Our missionaries there told them to go as Today, let’s pray for Drake big part of their budgets. tourists, but when a door and the many other seminary We know seminary students opened, just brag on Jesus. students who are learning to study the Bible and many share the Bible’s truth to a topics related to serving in At a large Islamic mosque, world that has often settled or through a church. But Drake asked a Muslim man for much less! K often today, students are how he thought sins were being taught how to share forgiven. The man answered the Gospel in today’s world that if his good deeds in
ENCOURAGEMENT • by David Waganer •
ot too long ago, our son sent us a text with a picture of our sevenyear-old grandson.
Even hundreds of miles apart, this papa found great delight in the accomplishment of our grandson!
assurance and encouragement that He would be able to see His life mission to completion.
Our grandson has been taking a martial arts class, and that evening he had faced an insurmountable challenge. He needed to split a board in half. He was afraid of failing the test, but with the encouragement of his father, he did what he had been prepared to do: he split the board. The picture portrayed our grandson with a split board and a passing score. He was beaming from ear to ear.
The Heavenly Father must have found great delight in His Son’s accomplishments with His life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to His place beside Him! His Son, and our Savior, was well aware of His mission, but struggled with it the closer He came to paying the price for the sin of mankind once and for all!
The Heavenly Father must also find great delight in seeing believers, who are faithful as life stewards. Through the parables, the Lord taught truths about the importance of being faithful stewards. As believers, we are accountable to the Father for what He puts in our hands and lives.
Through His conversations with the Father, He found
Faithful stewards should be the norm instead of the exception.
SOU T H ASIA
One of our missionaries, we’ll call Heath, was praying in a park. A visiting volunteer asked why they were taking time to pray so long instead of just preaching about Jesus. Heath answered that they were asking God to show them where He was at work — that’s where they wanted to be. Heath reminded the worker what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit — He goes where He wants, like the wind. Just then, a strong wind swept through the park. Immediately after, a Muslim man came up and told Heath and the volunteer that someone had given him a tract about Jesus, and he had been reading it over and over. Now, he wanted to know more. Heath was only too happy to talk to the man, of course. We support Heath through our church’s Cooperative Program giving. Let us pray he will continue being responsive to what the Holy Spirit directs him to do there in South Asia. K
Seeing the Rainbow on the OTHER SIDE of the STORM • by David Waganer •
storm raged inside of me while waiting for an MRI earlier today, and I managed to hurt my witness by allowing my personal frustration to overcome me. In the last of three waiting rooms, a sign on the wall caught my attention. It read, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass...it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” The statement also called me into check for a poor attitude. Far too often, we blow it in the “waiting rooms of life” and allow our irritability to set in
on us, which causes all types of anxiety to ooze out. Such challenges call for a calmness during storms, so we can have opportunity to dance in the rain. While driving through a storm last night, our daughter complained about the storm. Our four-year-old grandson blurted out a truth to consider: “Mommy, we can’t have rainbows without rain.” Storms will come in each of our lives, but what we do during the storms might make the difference between life and death.
Worship provides opportunity for believers to discover preparation for the storms of life. One of the key ingredients of Christian worship provides us with the opportunity to return our tithes and offerings to the Lord. The one who can walk with us through the storms of life is the Creator and Giver of Life, Jesus Christ. Remember: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass...it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
We know that our missionaries face many hardships and dangers when they serve overseas. But Phil Wardell, one of our missionaries in East Asia, says having a child who is sick is one of the biggest challenges he and his wife have faced. His oldest daughter was sick for almost three years; five times she had to be evacuated to a hospital in another area for emergency treatment. But their strong Christian faith enabled the Wardells to continue serving. Their daughter recovered. Phil says they learned that the safest place to be is in the center of God’s will. When other missionaries have hardships, he shares their story to encourage them not to give up. Aren’t you glad we are supporting missionaries like the Wardells, who are truly committed to their calling and to service? It is through our church’s Cooperative Program giving we support them. And now, let’s thank the Lord for taking care of this missionary family and for their faithfulness in service. K
J U L Y 2 • Independence Day
S T E •W A R D S H I P by Dr. Clarence E. Hackett •
llowing God, through prayer, to shape your decisions is foundational to your practice of personal Christian stewardship. In order to understand the place of prayer in stewardship, you must first understand the meaning of stewardship. Stewardship is managing for God all that He has entrusted to us. Relating to God as owner is a change in relationships. Change can come, but it will result from a new attitude, a new commitment, and a lot of willingness and determination on the part of an individual or family.
This kind of change comes only through prayer and will never take place until there is an awareness of need. In many cases, you may discover flaws in your style of living. This is the time to recognize your need to call on God through prayer for the following changes. Pray and seek the Holy Spirit's leadership to answer the following questions: ∞∞ Where are we now in our practice of stewardship? ∞∞ Do we understand what God wants from us as faithful stewards?
SCRIPTURES: Philippians 4:6-7; Luke 15:11-32
∞∞ How do we work to overcome the negatives? Our feeling of self-protectiveness? Our objections? ∞∞ Where do we begin? ∞∞ How do we build on the beginning? ∞∞ Where do we get support? ∞∞ How do we develop the faith necessary to accomplish our resolves? Once you have answered these questions, determine in your own mind or as a family what direction you must take for your stewardship lifestyle to be more pleasing to God.
W I N D S OR, ONTA RIO, C A NA DA Today, we want to pray for one of our missionaries in Canada: Garth Leno. He was a pastor for many years in Windsor, a city just across the border from Detroit, Michigan, before he became a church planter. There are a few churches in Windsor, but only about seven percent of Windsorâ€™s people are evangelical Christians.
Garth decided to start a new church in 2014 and began holding Bible studies in his living room. The group grew quickly and soon they had to find meeting space â€” first a golf club and finally a warehouse. Now, more than 350 people attend. Members include South Asians, Chinese, Filipinos, Romanians, Eastern Europeans, and people from the Caribbean islands.
Many more new churches are needed in Windsor. Garth and others are hoping this new church will help them get planted. Today, we can thank God that this new church is growing so well as it reaches new believers. And we are thankful to have a hand in supporting it through our Cooperative Program giving. K
BUGS ATE MY MONEY! A TRUE STORY
bank in Barabanki, India, had stored millions of rupees in a currency chest. The paper rupee bills are the money used in India. When bank workers opened the chest in April 2011, they were horrified to find that most of the paper rupees had been reduced to dust by termites. The bank manager acknowledged that the bank had been struggling with an enormous termite problem. It was estimated that the lost cash could be worth the equivalent of more than U.S.
$9 million, based on how much cash is typically stored in such currency chests. While this is a sad story for whomever owned the cash, it illustrates perfectly what Jesus warned about in Matthew 6:19-21. In this passage, He warned His followers not to store up treasures on Earth, “where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and
SCRIPTURES: Matthew 6:19-21
steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” When we give to our churches, and when our churches support missions — whether across the street, state, country, or around the world — we truly invest in efforts with eternal results. For Southern Baptists, our Cooperative Program remains one of the best methods ever devised for storing up treasures in Heaven. It’s termite-proof!
Brennan Masterson One of our missionaries in South Asia, Brennan Masterson, reminds us that in his part of the world, becoming a Christian can be costly in many ways. He tells what happened when a man we’ll call Deepak accepted Christ as Savior. Deepak’s family disowned him and kicked him out of their home. He was not allowed to attend his brother’s wedding, nor allowed to see the brother’s first child. Deepak’s brother, Rahul saw all this, yet he also became
a Christian. Now these two brothers are taking the Gospel to new places. Their own family cut all ties with them; now fellow Christians are their only family. So often, we in America take the Gospel for granted and forget that knowing Christ personally is the most precious thing there is. We support Brennan as he faithfully shares the Gospel there in South Asia. Our church supports him through our Cooperative Program giving. K
A TRANSMISSION'S FUNCTION &
STEW A R D S H I P • by David Waganer •
ur daughter’s car recently had some unusual sounds coming from under the hood when she attempted to drive faster than 40 MPH. I offered to drive it and give her my opinion. Not only did I hear the sounds, but I also could tell that her automatic transmission would not shift into overdrive. The trouble: The transmission needed to be totally overhauled or replaced.
This transmission difficulty is like a modern-day parable. Sometimes there are unusual sounds transmitted from our
lives that signal a failure to shift into overdrive in service to the Lord. Have you ever wondered why the emerging generations are failing to be committed stewards? Gregory Bateson, in his book Mind and Matter, states, “In the transmission of human culture, people always attempt to replicate, to pass on to the next generation the skills and values of the parents, but the attempt always fails because cultural transmission is geared to learning, not DNA.” Bateson’s comments give tremendous insight into the challenge the church faces
in discipling members to become faithful stewards. We must not assume the discipline will emerge from one’s DNA. Think for a moment about what is done to help members grow in their understanding as disciples regarding stewardship. How long has it been since you studied a stewardship lesson or heard a sermon on stewardship? Every congregation needs to put stewardship development plans on the calendar, or, in time, there might not be a church to attend. Will you be such a force for your church?
SOU T H A SIA
Many of our Southern Baptist churches across the United States have ministries for deaf people. In recent years, our International Mission Board has sent increasing numbers of missionaries to share the Gospel with deaf people overseas. Today, we want to pray for one of those missionaries to the deaf serving in South Asia. His name is Danny. Our church supports him through our Cooperative Program giving. Danny met a deaf man named Abhay who was a Hindu. Abhay had been to the United States to attend a school for the deaf. Christians there witnessed to him, but Abhay would
not listen. He returned to South Asia, where he later met our missionary, Danny. Danny became friends with Abhay and began to tell him Bible stories, using the same sign language Abhay uses. Abhay heard the Gospel and for the first time understood Godâ€™s love for him as shown through Jesus Christ. He gave his life to Christ and became a follower. This story is being repeated all over South Asia and entire churches with deaf members have been started. Today, let us pray for our missionary Danny and for these new believers, that they will continue to grow in their understanding of the Lord. K
Miracles Happen When
PEOPLE CARE • by Dr. Clarence E. Hackett •
n July 24, 2002, a special news report informed us of a mine accident in Somerset, Pennsylvania. Nine coal miners were trapped at a depth of 240 feet, and cold water was quickly filling the mine shaft. The situation of the miners was a crisis that required immediate action.
to allow fresh air to reach the miners. Pumps were installed to control the water level in the mine. Consequently, a large shaft was drilled in an attempt to reach the nine miners.
The response to this crisis was overwhelming. Other miners volunteered to assist in the rescue. Funds and resources were given immediately.
Setbacks occurred, but the rescue effort continued. They finally reached the miners and discovered all nine miners alive. The families rejoiced, and the workers were overwhelmed with joy. A miracle — and unbelievable rescue — had taken place.
The rescue plan involved drilling a small hole in the shaft
God is still in the spiritual work of miracles. We all know
SCRIPTURES: John 3:16
people who are lost, trapped in sin, and helpless without a rescue from the Master. Unless you and I care and share God’s love with people, our neighbors and friends are going to perish (John 3:16). Dedicate yourself today to pray and reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Experience the Miracle of Expansion, as you witness God’s miraculous power and His plan for you. Worship and serve an awesome Heavenly Father, as you sacrificially give your time and resources with a generous heart.
C A LGA RY, AL BERTA , C A NA DA Calgary is a big city of skyscrapers sitting on the plains of western Canada. It is also a city of lost people. More than 1.2 million people live in Calgary and that number is increasing rapidly because of the boom in oil and gas. It was that lostness that captured the heart of our missionary weâ€™re going to pray for today. Brett Myers was a pastor in the small town of
Westminster, South Carolina, when he visited Calgary on a mission trip. He and his wife, Kristin, and their three daughters wound up moving there to start a new church in 2014. Thatâ€™s when our church started supporting them through our Cooperative Program giving. Baptists in Calgary say the biggest
need is more church planters who are willing to stay for a long time and start new churches, despite the long, cold winters and the people, whose hearts are often equally cold to the Gospel. Today, let us pray for Brett and his family, and ask God to give them a lasting commitment to start new churches. K
They Gave Too Much! "The people are bringing more than enough..."
xodus 35 and 36 tell us how Moses led the Israelites to build the Tabernacle, the portable tent temple that symbolized God’s presence with His people.
Similarly, each Christian today must give as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, according to 2 Corinthians 9:7.
The people contributed the treasures they had brought from Egypt.
Note that the Israelites contributed so much that Moses had to tell them to stop, according to Exodus 36:6. When was the last time your heart was so stirred that you cheerfully gave a significant gift to your church?
“Everyone whose heart stirred him and everyone whose spirit moved him came and brought the Lord’s contribution,” and indeed, “all whose hearts moved them, both men and women, came and brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and bracelets, all articles of gold,” it says in Exodus 35:21-22. SCRIPTURES: Exodus 35 and 36
When was the last time members of your church were told to stop giving because enough had been received for ministry and missions?
Today, we want to pray for Laura Sharpe, one of our missionaries in Africa. She works in a clinic that helps people in need, and in the country where she serves, that’s about everybody.
One of the people Laura helped was a young woman named Sahiba. Sahiba’s first baby died when he was just a few months old. Local people told her it was because of demons. But the real cause was malnutrition. Sahiba came to the clinic for help after her second child was born, because she was not able to feed him. Laura gave her a goat that could be milked; goat milk would literally save the baby’s life. Sahiba wept with gratitude. As she learned about goat milk, of course, Sahiba also learned about the love of Christ. Friends, our church helped send Laura to Africa and our church helped buy that goat that saved the baby’s life, both through our Cooperative Program giving. And now, let’s pray for our missionary, Laura, and her ministry there in Africa. K
CONSIDER YOUR WEALTH
eople were working harder than ever before but with very little to show for it. The results of their labors offered them nothing but dissatisfaction and an insufficient supply of income for their lives. It appeared that the people were earning sufficient wages, but, due to “holes in their wallets,” there was never enough to live on. The opening sentences sound like a description of life today, but it is actually a description of the people of Haggai’s day.
SCRIPTURES: Haggai 1:5-6
”” ...Consider your ways! You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.” HAGGAI 1:5-6 Believers today need to consider our ways concerning wealth. Far too many of us are working long hours and, in many cases, multiple jobs in
an effort to accumulate wealth. The results of our actions are often dependent upon the choices we make. Many do not find satisfaction in the accumulation of wealth because they are not including God in their endeavors. Others are poor managers of what God provides and are not investing in the Lord’s work with the provisions the Lord provides. We need to learn to make godly choices concerning our wealth and income.
Randy & Denise Chestnut DAY T ON, OH IO
Today, we want to pray for two of our missionaries who are starting a new church in Dayton, Ohio. Randy and Denise Chestnut grew up in Dayton, but moved away for many years before God called them back there to start a new church. They are two of our Southern Baptist missionaries we support through our church’s Cooperative Program giving. They have started Hope Community Church, and it meets in the same elementary school the two of them attended years ago. They found
the community has changed a lot, because many immigrants from other countries now live in the Dayton area. When Randy and Denise set up a community event with food samples, they had foods from nine different cultural groups. Randy has been in touch with a group of Muslims from Turkey, for example, and hopes to reach some of them. Let’s pray for Randy and Denise as they reach people there in Dayton with the Gospel. Let’s ask God to bless and direct the Hope Community Church. K
CONSIDER YOUR WORSHIP T
he place of worship had turned to shambles.
The people of God allowed the Lord’s House to deteriorate and crumble, while they built their own houses and bank accounts. The Lord was not satisfied with their decision to put personal endeavors ahead of His. Could the above sentences be said of the place where you worship? Does God have first priority in your life? The prophet Haggai said it this way to the people of his day: “...Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified, says the Lord. “...Once more in a little while... I will fill this house with glory, says the SCRIPTURES: Haggai 1:7-8; 2:6-7
Lord of hosts.” (Haggai 1:7-8; 2:6-7) As Christians, we need to come to a realization today: Only God satisfies! When our priorities don’t include worshiping God, our priorities have ceased to be priorities and have become a distraction from giving God first place in our lives. One clear way of seeing whether God is your first priority is by what you are doing with your financial resources. When we put God first in our lives and worship Him, we cannot help but give to His work. When we do our part in supporting His work, He will pour out His blessings on His work.
Jeff & Barbara Singerman Our missionaries go overseas to share the Gospel and start churches. But often their ministry changes more to training others to do the same thing once churches are established. Today, we want to pray for two of our missionaries in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa: Jeff and Barbara Singerman. They are two of the hundreds of missionaries serving in Africa that our church supports through the Cooperative Program. A while back Jeff and Barbara trained Baptists from 250 churches how to share their faith, using stories from the Bible. After the training, reports on what happened began pouring in. One pastor said 60 new believers joined his church. Ruth, a high school student led five of her classmates to Christ. Paulin, a former gangster, went out on the streets to witness and led 19 gang members to faith in Christ and baptism. Jeff and Barbara counted more than 1,000 people who came to faith in Christ because of the training they did. Today, we are going to pray for the Singermans and thank God for the thousands of people that are coming to Christ through their ministry there in Congo. K
CONSIDER YOUR WITNESS
person’s obedience and reverence for God tells a great deal about him.
him. And the people showed reverence for the Lord.” — H AG G A I 1: 12
Regardless of the times, it is difficult to find people living in obedience to God. The prophet Haggai challenged the people of his day to be obedient and show reverence for God.
Today, it is time for believers to obey the voice of the Lord and show reverence for the Lord. Life lived in submission to God offers blessings to individuals, the church, and the kingdom of God. Christians can truly impact the Kingdom of God through faithful stewardship.
“The Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent
HAGGAI 2:6-8, “Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the
SCRIPTURES: Haggai 1:12; 2:6-8; 2 Corinthians 9:6
nations, and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine.” “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” — 2 C ORIN TH IA NS 9:6 Does your lifestyle show obedience and reverence for God?
Rob & Amy Burgess A RVADA, CANADA
Folks, we know that any young person God calls to be a missionary has to be brave to follow through and go. But how about when you’re older and settled and you and your wife have three kids and one’s already a junior in high school? THEN, when you pick up and move halfway across the country to help start a new church — THEN you’re brave, indeed. And today, we’re going to pray for Rob and Amy Burgess, because they moved from Florida to Denver, Colorado, to help start a new church. Although a move like that did not make much financial sense or general sense, both of them clearly understood that’s what God wanted them to do.
Rob and Amy are working with Ben Mandrell to get a new church called Storyline Fellowship up and running in a town called Arvada, which is really a suburb of Denver. It started in February of 2015 and already has some 500 people attending every Sunday. Our church is partnering in this new church, because these missionaries are supported through our Cooperative Program giving. We already know Rob, Amy, and Ben are brave. Now, let’s pray that God will continue to multiply the members and the churches across the Mile High City through their ministries. K
Why TITHE? The Old Testament teaches it. The Old Te s t a m e nt emphasized tithing as God’s basic plan for giving. It was to contribute to the spiritual development of the individual, and Israel as a nation. It was a reminder that God is owner of all. The New Testament expands it. The New Testament expanded tithing to include all a believer has and is. It speaks forcefully about Christian attitudes and motivations in giving. The
tithe is a beginning point and the model for developing the grace of Christian giving. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” — M AT T H E W 23: 23 The need for ministries requires it. Your gifts make possible the
by Dr. Clarence E. Hackett
ministries of your church. We link hands with other concerned Christians to share Christ in positive and practical expressions of concern. The spiritual needs of people call for our faithful giving. “But if a man has enough to live on, and yet when he sees his brother in need shuts up his heart against him, how can it be said that the divine love dwells in him?” — 1 J OH N 3 : 17 Will your love be great enough to do it?
SCRIPTURES: Leviticus 27:30, 32; Malachi 3:10; 2 Corinthians 9:7; Matthew 23:23; Acts 2:44-45; 1 John 3:17
If we go out to visit homes and share the Gospel, probably the most negative thing we have to deal with is bad weather. But in West Africa, it can be much worse.
Our missionary in West Africa we are going to pray for today is Laura Reese. A few years ago, she had just a few believers to work with. Now, there are two churches. Recently when the churches had an evangelistic outreach, 61 people were saved and baptized. When that news got out, local witch doctors cast spells against the new believers, trying to destroy their new faith. Laura met with the new believers for a praise service, because nothing happened to them! God is more powerful than any spell, she told them. We thank God for this brave missionary, who struggles against rugged living conditions and witch doctors as she shares the Gospel. We support her through our churchâ€™s Cooperative Program giving. Now, letâ€™s pray for Laura and those new believers. K
S E P T E M B E R 3 • Labor Day
HOW TO STAY
FOCUSED IN LIFE • by David Waganer •
ave you ever stayed up past your normal bedtime to watch your favorite college basketball team play on television? Your team is playing so well that they hold a commanding lead with only seven or eight minutes left in the game, but they begin to play the game in an autopilot mode. What appeared to be an insurmountable lead begins to deteriorate right before your eyes. The opposing team
drains a three-pointer at the buzzer to tie the score and send the game into overtime. You would love to go to bed with the assurance of victory, but something inside of you just doesn’t seem right about how the game will end. A lack of focus seems to blur not only basketball teams, but also any one of us. Sometimes, we seem to hit the cruise control of our lives. As stewards and managers, we are on dangerous footing
when we start coasting with life choices. Decisions that we make without careful planning and an acknowledgment of God as owner of our lives results in losses instead of victories. Blurred or obstructed vision in our lives can result in us living life as if we own it all instead of as managers entrusted to the care of the events we experience in life. Join me as a fellow manager of the things the good Lord places in our lives.
In Africa and other parts of the world, sometimes Muslims come to faith in Christ because God speaks to them in dreams. One of our missionaries in Africa our church helps support through the Cooperative Program is Mike McAfee. Recently, a local pastor brought a man to him who had been dreaming about a man in white. The man was not just a Muslim; he was an imam — a Muslim teacher — his people group is 99 percent Muslim. When he told his family about the dreams, they persecuted him and said he was possessed by evil spirits. But Mike told the man God was speaking to him through his dreams and wanted him to trust Jesus Christ as his Savior. Mike’s words were in keeping with what the man had dreamed and he knew Mike spoke the truth. The man accepted Christ as Savior and became a Christian. Our missionaries often deal with miracles like this. After all, isn’t every salvation a miracle?
Now, let’s pray for our missionary Mike and for this believer and all believers God is calling through dreams. K
miracle took place at St. Paul’s Chapel, built in 1766, one block from the World Trade Towers. The chapel is the oldest church in Manhattan and began ministering as a place of rest, food and health care after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Towers. Although dozens of buildings were destroyed, there was not a broken window in St. Paul’s Chapel. It became known as the “Little Chapel That Stood.” What an astounding miracle!
The chapel was apparently spared to care for those who were injured, wounded, and also the “finest and bravest” of New York City. George Washington prayed there after the first inauguration. Many shocked believers prayed in St. Paul’s Chapel to gather their thoughts and affirm their faith in God. God is indeed a God of miracles. For with God nothing shall be impossible (Luke 1:37). Nothing is impossible, so anything is
by Dr. Clarence E. Hackett
possible with God. God shows up in remarkable ways. These divine appointments reveal God’s power. He gets all the glory! Praise God that He continues to make the impossible possible! With God’s power and blessings, you can tithe! With God’s grace and gratitude, you can become a generous giver of your time, spiritual gifts, and financial resources.
C ON Y ERS , GEORGIA Most of us know something about Atlanta, that big city in Georgia, and probably some of us here, today, have been there. We probably have not thought about Atlanta as a mission field, but it is. Even though there are some large and effective churches in and around Atlanta, there are not enough to reach all the lost people there. Some of the older, traditional churches are shrinking because they have lost a vision of missions. Now, we move just a little east of Atlanta to the city
of Conyers and look at one of those churches that had declined.
attending, has a new building and many community ministries.
Emmanuel Baptist Mission Church was down to eight members when Eric Suddith went there as pastor. He, his wife, and their three children immediately a d d e d f ive m o re members. Suddith was a bivocational pastor. He had served 25 years in corporate business, including 15 years as an executive at AT&T, even as he served as a minister. Less than 10 years later, Emmanuel has some 1,300 people
This is the kind of church turnaround that our North American Mission Board is promoting; ministers are being trained in how to replace declining stagnation with growth. Our churchâ€™s Cooperative Program giving is helping fund that ministry. Now, let us ask God to bless Eric Suddithâ€™s ministry and pray that this kind of miracle can become more and more common! K
HOW TO KEEP FROM
FUMBLING THE BALL • by David Waganer •
any of us have a “fumble story” in our past. Either we have fumbled the ball, witnessed someone else fumble the ball, or experienced a ballgame completely turned around due to an untimely fumble. Fumbles occur due to carelessness. It is disheartening for coaches and players when fumbles occur. The hours spent in practice to avoid game-time fumbles must, at times, seem a total waste of time. Quarterback coaches work with quarterbacks on
fundamental drills to avoid fumbles on the exchange with running backs. Once a player gets labeled for being excessive with fumbles, he will spend an enormous time on the sidelines. There are many players with tremendous ability, but, due to fumbles, never even see the playing field for game day. Stewards can also fumble the ball spiritually. According to Scripture, God owns it all, but chooses to entrust mankind with what He allows to flow into our hands. The majority of Christ’s parables provide clear
teachings on stewardship. Often through the poor handling of what He places in our hands, we fumble it due to poor stewardship practices. Such practices include: ∞∞ A failure to live as stewards by returning the tithe to God, ∞∞ a failure to practice the truth — it is far more blessed to give than to receive, and ∞∞ a failure to spend time in the spiritual game room of prayer, Bible study and practicing the disciplines of the faith.
BRIANNA WEIR S OUTHEAS TERN BAPTIS T THEOLO GICAL S EM INARY Today, we want to pray for a missionary who’s not one yet. In fact, we don’t know what Brianna Weir may wind up doing in life. She is attending Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Our church’s Cooperative Program giving helps support Southeastern — one of our six seminaries — so Brianna’s tuition is much lower than most schools of similar quality would offer. While she was still in high school, Brianna and five of her friends organized a ministry called “Save Our Sisters,” which fights human trafficking, a global curse.
That might become her life’s ministry, but she doesn’t know for sure yet. She says all of life is an opportunity for missions and ministry. Attending Southeastern is a great way to be ready for whatever the Lord has in store for her. Today, let’s pray for this Southeastern student and ask the Lord to lead her wherever He wants her to go. Looks like she will be ready. K
ANOTHER TIME by David Waganer
isualize an old rusty water pump from earlier times. Use your creative juices to think of all the water that comes as a result of priming the pump. Do you realize that water from an earlier time is necessary to prime a pump for fresh and cool water? Recently, I came across lyrics to a song: “Water from another time.” The words to the chorus state: “It don’t take much, but you gotta have some. The old ways help the new ways come. Just leave a little extra for the next in line. They’re
SCRIPTURES: John 4:7-38
gonna need a little water from another time.” What a great reminder of what faithful stewardship is all about. We are beneficiaries today from a long line of stewards who have left “a little water from another time.” How are you doing at leaving your stewardship watermarks in the bucket for others coming after you? The last verse of the song states: “Newborn cry in the morning air/The past and the future are wedded there/ In this wellspring of my sons
and daughters/The bone and blood of living water/ And, though Grandpa’s hands have gone to dust, like Grandma’s pump, reduced to rust/Their stories quench my soul and mind/Like water from another time.” Be a faithful steward today. Allow the water you pump up to impact the world’s lostness with the joy you have found in Christ. For He is the steam of LIVING WATER! (John 4:7-38)
Rusty Ford E U ROP E
Today, we want to pray for Rusty Ford, one of our missionaries serving in Europe — one of those our church supports through the Cooperative Program. As Rusty ministered to a family, he met a young man named Raoul, who looked strong and athletic, because he was a kickboxing champion. But the young man struggled with drug addiction. Rusty took Raoul to a
Christian rehab center for treatment that included counseling and prayer. As Raoul heard the Gospel, he accepted Christ as his Savior. Soon, Raoul’s twin brother, Jorge, also became a Christian. The two brothers decided they could use their boxing as an outreach method and Rusty helped them start classes at a church. Young men flocked to the
classes, and, so far, the two brothers have shared the Gospel with more than 50 of them. Many of these young men have decided to follow Christ and to stop using drugs. Today, let’s pray for Rusty’s ministry there in Europe, which desperately needs to know the Gospel, just as these two boxing brothers did. K
STEWARDS AS GUIDES • by David Waganer •
eter Drucker once said, “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” Could it be that the shrinking of offerings being received by a significant number of congregations is openly declaring messages that we are failing to hear or see? The shrinking of offerings being received each week is indicative of a lack of communication on topics such as:
∞∞ How to grow as stewards in generosity ∞∞ Poor economic times creates tension for many on what to donate
∞∞ Mismanagement of funds by well-known nonprofits discourages gift-giving Read the following illustration by Richard Armstrong, and then close your eyes to get the picture firmly planted in your mind: “When fog prevents a smallboat sailor from seeing the buoy marking the course he wants, he turns his boat rapidly in small circles, knowing that the waves he makes will rock the buoy in the vicinity. The he stops, listens and repeats the procedure until he hears the buoy clang. By making waves, he finds where his course lies... Often the price of finding
these guides is a willingness to take a few risks, to ‘make a few waves.’ A boat that stays in the harbor never encounters dangers but it also never gets anywhere.” Do you have the picture in your mind? There’s a fog setting in on many congregations with regard to generous giving! It’s time to make waves and hear the warning signs. Then we can make necessary adjustments to establish the growth and maturity in the generosity of believers.
Jackie Lewis is one of our missionaries in Europe, but she does not serve in the places tourists visit and buy postcards. Jackie works with the Gypsy people, also known as the Roma people. These are the poorest, least educated, and most oppressed people in all of Europe, east or west. Mostly, they live in slums, in villages, or in rough communities on the outskirts of larger cities. Jackie works with Gypsy kids and also visits Gypsy families to witness and teach the Bible. One of her big breakthroughs, recently, was finding André and his wife, Stanka. She has been discipling them so they can reach their people with the Gospel. Eventually, there may be a church for the Gypsies in her area. Folks, we know Jesus told us to care about “the least of these,” and the Gypsies in Europe fit the bill. God called our missionary, Jackie Lewis, to work with the Gypsies, and we helped by supporting her through our Cooperative Program giving. Now, let’s pray for Jackie and for these two new believers, who will also be missionaries to the Gypsies! K
STEWARDS AS PROBLEM SOLVERS
ften individuals, companies, and even congregations make tragic errors by wanting to offer solutions before even understanding the problem(s). Consider a typical problem facing congregations today: The challenge is to do more with less because of reduced giving by members. What is the problem that needs to be addressed? Church leaders have failed to develop biblical stewards over the past several decades.
We can look back and attempt to blame others, but it will not offer
• by David Waganer •
solutions to the current dilemma. “Problems are only opportunities in work clothes” (Henry J. Kaiser). Now that we have our “work clothes” on and have identified the problem, what will we choose to do? What opportunities should be considered for moving through the problem to solutions? Denis Waitley once stated, “Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.” An obvious solution would be to equip church leaders to develop biblical stewards through ongoing conversations and by offering
appropriate resources. We cannot assume church leaders are automatically prepared to develop stewards. Why should a congregation desire larger financial contributions from members? The reason for growing more stewards should be to see more cheerful givers, finding their satisfaction in returning the tithes and offerings in obedience unto the Lord. As a result, congregations will be able to do more to reach others for Christ and to support the causes of Christ in our communities and around the world.
AR Y 8 21 O C T OM BE
ANTHONY BEAZLEY S OU T H E RN BAPTI ST CH APL AIN Southern Baptists respect and appreciate America’s military men and women who defend our country. One of the ways we serve the military is through more than 3,600 chaplains, who are endorsed by our North American Mission Board. One of those chaplains we want to pray for today. Anthony Beazley is a Southern Baptist chaplain who serves at the government’s VA medical center in West Palm Beach, Fla. More than 100 of our chaplains serve at VA hospitals like this one. Anthony is a pastor to soldiers and veterans who come here for treatment. Some patients he
listens to and visits like he is their friend — because he is indeed a friend. Sometimes patients who are near death will ask questions about eternity. Anthony is able to tell them what the Bible says. While the hospital pays Anthony’s salary, our church’s Cooperative Program giving helps fund our North American Mission Board which endorses and supports our chaplains. So today, we want to pray for Chaplain Beazley and thank God for his faithfulness and the ministry he provides to our brave military men and women, who risked life and limb for us. K
STEWARDS AS DISCIPLES • by David Waganer •
hen stewardship is made to be an intentional and dynamic element in the development of disciples, churches will no longer have a shortfall of adequate financial resources. Over the years, I have been both a participant and leader of discipleship studies. Most of the studies have given depth for participants except in one glaring area of discipleship, namely stewardship. The teaching of biblical stewardship needs to take place in discipleship groups, small
group studies, new member classes, in our homes, and from the pulpit. What will it take to awaken church leaders to include stewardship as a vital part of Christian discipleship?
It seems quite apparent the church culture of our times simply fails to include stewardship as part of what it means to be a disciple.
How long has it been since you heard someone say, “There are never enough funds for our church to accomplish what we’ve set out to do as a church?”
Take time to study the parables of the Lord, and you will find the importance the Lord placed on stewardship. The Lord challenged people wherever He went with the responsibility of stewards.
How bold are you willing to be with such a person? Let me challenge you to ask such a person, “what type of disciples does our church seek to develop: giving or non-giving disciples?”
YOU can help turn the tide in your life and influence others by your faithful action as a steward.
Johnny Maust Did you know there are thousands of Baptists in Cuba? We don't hear much about them here in the United States, but Southern Baptists have sent many hundreds of volunteers to Cuba to partner with them.
S OU T H A MERICA
Now, here’s another chapter in that story. A while back, the Cuban Baptists sent out their first overseas missionaries to Ecuador, on the northeastern side of South America. They worked with Johnny Maust, one of our missionaries serving in Ecuador. In fact, Johnny helped
baptize six of the people the Cuban missionaries led to faith in Christ as they worked together. Isn’t it great that, because of our faith in Jesus Christ, we can partner in so many ways to help get the Gospel to people who need to hear? We Baptists here in this state partner with Baptists in all the other 50 states to help send missionaries like Johnny to the mission field. Sharing to send missionaries — that’s what we call the Cooperative Program. Now, let us pray for our missionary Johnny and his Cuban Baptist partners. K
HOSPITALITY in the Church • by David Waganer •
ecently, I needed to arrange for a meeting place for a few colleagues to meet in a city, where I didn’t know anyone. I made a call to the state convention stewardship director to make initial contacts to a couple of congregations. He told a church leader of our need for a meeting room for a few hours of work on a specific date. Due to his contact with the church, the church provided a meeting room to some strangers. Actually, when we arrived, we were treated more
like guests than strangers. Early believers looked for opportunities to show hospitality in their service to others. Christ provides us with such encouraging words found in Matthew 25:35 — “When I was a stranger, you welcomed me.” Tragically, in many congregations today, there seems to be an absence of showing hospitality for others — whether it’s trying to find a parking spot at church as a visitor or your way around a new place.
SCRIPTURES: Matthew 25:35; Philippians 2:5-8
How well are you doing in showing hospitality to others? Let us be reminded of the words of Paul in Philippians 2:5-8, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!”
One of our missionaries in South Brazil is Phil Kesler and we want to pray for him today. Phil teaches many churches about the Bible and about how to share their faith. One way to talk to people, Phil tells them, is about names. Many Brazilians in South Brazil are descended from Europeans who settled there in earlier times. Cities like Florianópolis have a very European look and feel to them. Phil’s last name, “Kesler,” is German, because his ancestors were German. He meets many Keslers and Kesslers in South Brazil. When he taught a missions course in a church, one of the Baptist students was named Kessler and was training to become a missionary. Of course in eternity, it is not important where a person comes from; Phil is more concerned about where they are going. But having the same names can lead to many conversations about that very point. We support Phil Kesler in Brazil through our church’s Cooperative Program giving. K
STEWARDS of the
WORD of GOD • by David Waganer •
ver 25 years ago, a group of four ministers traveled from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Little Rock, Arkansas to attend a conference on rural evangelism. One challenge stuck with me for two decades: The presenter challenged us to “preach the Word.” In Scripture, the Apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to simply preach the Word. (2 Timothy 4:1-2) It seemed logical to me as a minister to face the challenge to “preach the Word.” I have heard many messages by ministers in a variety of congregations.
Those who have made this commitment deliver challenging messages that are applicable to listeners. Some ministers today seem more interested in paraphrasing the content of books they have read than in proclaiming the truths of the Word of God. I started working with another congregation that’s over 200 years old. The choir in the traditional service presented a song titled, “Preach the Word.” I renewed my commitment as a proclaimer of the Word during that song. SCRIPTURES: 2 Timothy 4:1-2
To make a difference in the life of worshipers today, we need proclaimers of the Word of God. Each one needs to remain an avid reader, but do not forget the primary message we need to share with others needs to be based on the truths of the Word of God. The Word of God remains applicable for the rapid changes in our world today. Be a good steward and share the Word — both through proclamation and by living according to the scriptural challenges.
Mary Alan Just about every day on the news, we hear about the battles and killings and suffering across the Middle East. But we must remember - our missionaries are serving in and around these troubled areas. They are even seeing more response now because of the problems. One of our missionaries in Iraq we’ll call Mary. She says a Syrian man and his wife came to Iraq to escape the fighting in their homeland. They are
Christians and have actually started a house church where they now live in Iraq! Mary also tells of an Iraqi man named Elias. Islamic State fighters attacked his village and he had to flee for his life to another part of the country. There a missionary led him to faith in Christ. Now, Elias is ministering to other refugees — he understands their
situation very well, but also knows now that people need to hear the Gospel, even in the middle of fighting and confusion. It is our church’s Cooperative Program giving that helps us send missionaries to these dangerous places. And now, how we need to pray for Mary Alan! K
N O V E M B E R 5 • Daylight Savings Time
G R AT I T U D E • by David Waganer •
remember clearly when I was flying in a small airplane from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Ponca City, Oklahoma as a passenger. The pilot informed the passengers that because of the icy fog conditions we would be unable to land. An aircraft flying low over an area, leaving a trail of fog in the flight path, can cause icy fog. Icy fog is marked by near-zero visibility up to an altitude of only a few hundred feet. As a result of icy fog conditions, we were delayed in our return to Ponca City until the visibility
conditions improved so the pilot could land safely. A little inconvenience seemed the better alternative to an unsafe landing of the plane. One definition of gratitude states, “It is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Many times, we equate being thankful to expressing gratitude. However, being thankful should lead us to show appreciation with acts of kindness. Expressing gratitude to others for actions shown to us seems
like an automatic response. But often we fail to show gratitude. Have you ever had difficulty finding the right moment to express gratitude to someone? A failure to show gratitude can usher in clouds to block our view of what’s ahead of us. Gratitude has the power to revolutionize your entire outlook on life. Look for opportunities to express gratitude as a stewardship response during the month of November, as we celebrate Thanksgiving!
Jeremiah & Joy Farmer EA S T A S I A
Can sickness provide a Christian witness? Yes it can! And here’s how it did in East Asia. That’s where our two missionaries, Jeremiah and Joy Farmer, are serving and we want to pray for them today, because we support them through the Cooperative Program. The Farmers were discipling the new believers they had led to faith in Christ. They told the believers that, as Christians, they must have open hearts and that involves giving. Then, Joy got very sick and the Farmers had to leave East Asia. As soon as Joy was better, they went right back to start serving again. Jeremiah told the believers that
Baptist churches back in America give money through a system called the Cooperative Program. That’s how the Farmers were able to get the medical help for Joy she needed. That’s how the Farmers could be in East Asia at all. Those East Asian believers got a good lesson in giving. They also saw that the Farmers were faithful, and that sickness would not frighten them into quitting their important ministry. Friends, this is the kind of missionaries we want representing Christ in that distant land. Let us pray for their health and celebrate their strong faith. K
N O V E M B E R 1 2 • Veteran's Day
STEWARDS of TEARS • by David Waganer •
any children are taught that crying is a sign of weakness.
they say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’” — PSA L M 42:3
I am so thankful for rarely hearing anyone tell me that. We are accountable as stewards for everything God has given us. Then why on earth do we learn to store up tears instead of utilizing this God-given ability to shed them?
∞∞ “You have fed them with the bread of tears, and you have made them to drink tears in large measure.” — PSA L M 8 0 :5
The Psalmist discovered the comfort of God after shedding tears.
Strong’s Concordance indicates 697 biblical references to tears, crying or weeping. A long list of biblical characters shed tears, including Abraham, Hannah, King David, and Jeremiah.
∞∞ “My tears have been my food day and night, while
We even know that “Jesus wept,” according to John 11:35. Christ
certainly touched the followers when He wept with the hurting and as He approached His ultimate path toward the cross in the closing days of His early ministry. Christ was the strongest person ever, and, yet, He allowed tears to stream down His face. Be a faithful steward today and let the tears of sadness over the world’s lostness and tears of gladness for the joy that you know in Christ, stream down your face today!
SCRIPTURES: Psalm 43:3, 80:5; John 11:35; 2 Corinthians 1:3-5; Revelation 21:4
Today, we pray for one of our international missionaries serving in Japan. Now, Japan is one of the most difficult mission fields in the world, partly because the Japanese language is very difficult to learn. But our missionary, Jon Cole, also communicates in other ways. It so happens he’s a pretty good trumpet player. He might have become a professional jazz musician if the Lord had not called him to mission service. So he plays trumpet in the Japanese-speaking church he attends. The band plays music at the local metro station for outreach.
Our church supports Jon through our Cooperative Program giving. Today, let’s give thanks that he can use his God-given music talents there in Japan. And let’s ask that many will come to faith in Christ through Jon’s ministry. K
G R AT I T U D E • by David Waganer •
recently read the story of a customer in a restaurant accidentally leaving his jacket in a restaurant near McAlester, Oklahoma. The customer was a senior adult, but what sets this story apart from others was what was in the coat and how the restaurant workers handled it. The customer and his wife had driven over 100 miles in order to see a used car and had $14,000 in the coat. They anticipated a purchase. The car wasn’t in good condition, so the couple
stopped to have lunch and then returned to their home without purchasing the vehicle. The next morning, the man discovered that his jacket was missing and remembered leaving it at the restaurant near McAlester. He called the manager of the restaurant and, after answering a few questions, found that the manager and an employee put the jacket away in hopes that the man would return for it. The man made the trip back to the restaurant to claim both his jacket and the $14,000. The
man attempted to offer the owner and staff a reward, but it was refused. The response from both the restaurant owner and employee brought tears to his eyes. He was touched by the actions and committed to “pay it forward” to others as a way of showing his gratitude. Too often, many only think how entitled he/she is to the rewards awaiting them in life instead of the opportunity to touch others through doing what’s right.
BA LT I MORE, MARYL A ND
Today, we are going to pray for one of our Chinese missionaries in Baltimore, Maryland. Yi Zhang is starting churches for the many Chinese people who live in the Baltimore area. Our church is helping support him through the Cooperative Program. People from China are a big mission field for us here in the United States â€” itâ€™s estimated that about 4.6 million Chinese now live in the United States and Canada. But so far, we have started only 228 Southern Baptist churches for these Chinese. Now, Yi has an interesting approach to outreach. Many Chinese people work, of course, in Chinese restaurants. So Yi goes to the restaurants to meet with the workers and lead Bible studies. They can only meet when they finish working for the day, which is usually around midnight. So many of the Bible studies are held in the middle of the night. Let us pray for Yi, who so wants to share the Gospel with his people, he is willing to hold midnight Bible studies over and over so they can hear. K
Can it happen again? Dr. Chris Schofield
n 1900, the country of Wales was at an incredibly low spiritual ebb.
Morals were collapsing, crime rates were rising, and churches were weak and declining. But God was at work, calling His remnant back to the three things that always precede Great Awakenings: fervent prayer, deep repentance, and evangelistic passion. As the prayer and repentance began to grow, God poured out His Spirit like a sweeping flood. In 1904, numbers equaling 10 percent of the nationâ€™s entire
SCRIPTURES: Hebrews 13:8
population were converted in just six months. In North America today, that would mean 25 to 30 million people being converted and transformed in less than one year. Could God move again in such power? According to Hebrews 13:8, we know He still can. So, will God send another Great Awakening? That remains to be seen. Please let it begin in you, your family, and your church.
Ray Owens Today, we go to the southern part of California, just north of the city of San Diego, to the city of San Marcos. Around 90,000 people live in this town but there are few churches. The missionary weâ€™re praying for today, Ray Owens, moved there with his family and started a church in 2012. That first service in their living room had about 15 people.
Now, the church has grown to about 70; they just baptized three new believers.
The church is sponsoring community events like concerts to meet people and have opportunities to share the Gospel. Our church is partnering with this new church and providing financial support through our Cooperative Program giving. Now, let us pray for Ray and this new church that it can both grow and multiply into other churches across the city. K
C A LI FORNI A
Serious Giving S ome churches pad the offering plates to dull the sound of coins hitting the bottom.
If a few coins are all one has to give, they’re a perfectly acceptable offering. But Jesus taught in Mark 12:41-44 that giving is important to God, and we’re to give richly of what we have. Spare change does not count much with Him. Think about it: Say we go to a cafe for a meal. Most of us would not think of tipping
SCRIPTURES: Mark 12:41-44
the server less than 10 or 15 percent. How can we give a lower percentage to the God who sent His Son to die on a cross for us? How can we give less to a church to whom God gave the Great Commission — and asked us to partner with Him in reaching a lost world? Quite simply, we can’t reach the world for Him on spare change. We need to give Him our best. That’s what He gave for us!
Becky Harrell Today, we want to pray for one of our missionaries who serves in Mozambique, Africa: Becky Harrell. It is hard for us in America to even imagine the constant spiritual warfare that fights our missionaries as they work to plant the Gospel in African hearts. Becky works with fearful women who make their children wear magic charms that are supposed to protect them from evil spirits and diseases. It is hard for these women to trust in God, but of course, those who do move into a life of blessings â€” free of fear.
Becky is one of the 10,000 or so missionaries our church supports through our Cooperative Program giving. As we pray for her today, letâ€™s ask the Lord to keep her spiritually strong as she fights those evil forces there in Africa. K
Counting the Cost L
arry and Jean Elliott were natives of Cary, North Carolina, who served 26 years in Honduras as Southern Baptist missionaries. During those years, they helped start 12 new churches and 92 mission points. They also helped construct more than 80 water wells. Even today, many people in Honduras have clean water to drink because of the Elliotts’ work. Later, the Elliotts transferred to Iraq, where they again helped install badly needed water supply systems. They were
shot and killed in a barrage of automatic weapons fire and rocket-propelled grenades in Mosul, Iraq, on March 15, 2004. Two other Southern Baptist workers were also killed in the attack and a third was severely wounded, but survived. At the Elliotts’ funeral services in North Carolina, Hondurans wept as they told how the missionary couple led them to Christ. Some of those believers became pastors, who influenced thousands of others. In a newsletter sent from Iraq
just days before her death, Jean Elliott wrote, “We are happy to be here in Iraq, and our calling has been confirmed. This is a very special time for us, and God is so real. No matter what happens, we are in His hands, and we know that we are where we should be.” Like the Apostle Paul, the Elliotts knew they were going to a dangerous place. Like him, they accepted a mission that they knew could cost them their lives. How much have we valued the Gospel?
NORT H AFRIC A / MIDDL E E AS T We’ve seen reports on the war in Syria in the news, but what we haven’t seen on the general news is how Baptists are ministering in the middle of the conflict. Our missionaries are serving all over the Middle East. This is about one we’ll call Don, and no, that’s not his real name. One of Don’s friends, we’ll call Tarik, operates a Christian school for Syrian refugee children. This is a school where kids learn about God’s love for them instead of the hatred taught by the many extremist groups. But recently, Tarik was in a bind; he was out of money. He would have to close the school without more operating funds. Don was able to get money a church here in the States sent for ministry to refugees. The school was saved. It was Cooperative Program funds that enable Don to be there and help make the connections. Part of our church’s Cooperative Program giving helps support Don in that dangerous place. Today, can we pray for Don and his friend, Tarik, and the school that teaches the love of God instead of some group’s hatred? K
Final Word on Stuff H ave you ever see a hearse pulling a loaded U-Haul trailer to a cemetery grave plot? Of course not!
You can’t take it with you. Paul pointed this out in 1 Timothy 6. He wrote that we brought nothing into the world with us, and we’ll take nothing out. All of us know that, yet, often, we don’t live accordingly.
But the Bible says Christians are not to love our “stuff” more than God.
Jesus, Himself, warned against hoarding possessions in Luke 12:15. Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:5 that greed is a type of idolatry — worshiping things instead of God. The final word on stuff was given by Jesus in Matthew 16:26, when He asked, what good does it do for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul?
We hang onto our “stuff” as if our lives depended on it — and spend a huge percentage of our incomes acquiring it.
SCRIPTURES: 1 Timothy 6:6-10; Luke 12:15; Ephesians 5:5; Matthew 16:26
Scott & Alyssa Branding
T H A ILAN D
The Bible is pretty clear that, as Christians, we’re supposed to help people in need and we’re supposed to share the Gospel with everyone. Sometimes, we can do both at once. That’s what our missionaries Scott and Alyssa Branding are doing in Thailand. They are working with a group called the Rohingya. About a million of these people left Myanmar — that’s the country in Asia which we used to call Burma — because they were treated harshly by the government. But the problem was that none of the other Asian countries wanted them. Some of the people went to Indonesia, some to Malaysia, and some to Thailand. But they are mostly in refugee camps
and have trouble getting food, clothing, and medical care. Scott and Alyssa visit these refugee camps and give people food and clothing provided by Baptists in America. They also share the Gospel every chance they get. It is a hard and dangerous ministry. But someone must tell the Rohingya people that God loves them and wants them, even if nobody else does. Today, let us pray for Scott and Alyssa and ask God to keep them safe. And let’s ask God that many in the refugee camps would come to know Jesus Christ as Savior. It is our Cooperative Program giving that enables Scott and Alyssa to serve. K
D E C E M B E R 2 4 • Christmas Eve
The Importance of the
CHRISTMAS NAIL • by David Waganer •
ar too often as Christians, we are pulled into a secular approach to Christmas. Department stores begin to throw decorations at us before Halloween. And Black Friday has become almost as important as Christmas for consumers to find tremendous sales on purchases they desire to make. Somehow, in celebrating the event called Christmas, we often miss the person’s
birthday we need to celebrate. We might purchase costly gifts for each other, but somehow forget the great price our Heavenly Father paid in providing His Only Son to be born with a mission to die for the sin of the world.
how He gave His life for us on the cross. After His death on the cross, He was buried and three days later arose from the grave. The One who was dead is now alive and intercedes on our behalf at the right hand of the Heavenly Father.
As believers, we need to slow down and make sure to remember and celebrate Christ and the sacrifice He made for us. Christmas is a time for us to celebrate His birth, but it is difficult to do without also remembering
Take time to remember the NAILS used to position Christ on the Cross as He gave His life for us. Christ is the greatest example of giving in history. Let us not forget that He is deserving of our greatest gift as we celebrate His birth.
Today, we want to pray for Suzie Rodgers and especially for her two boys. They live in Zambia, one of the African nations. Suzie took them with her to a food market; the boys went off on their own in the store. After a while one of the boys came running back to her and said a man wanted to be baptized. Her son had been telling Bible stories to a man in the store. When she went to check, she found her other son was also telling Bible stories to a man. Suzie got the two men together and shared the Gospel with them. They both decided to follow Christ! Suzie said they went shopping but ended up fishing. Aren’t you glad we send missionaries to Africa who will interrupt grocery shopping to share the Gospel? And aren’t you glad they have done a great job of raising their boys? Our church’s Cooperative Program giving keeps that missionary family serving there in Africa. K
DIRECTION • by David Waganer •
n elderly woman was driving the car just in front of me, as I drove into a small southern town.
I noticed a sign in the back window of her car as we approached an intersection. The words on the sign caused me to grab an ink pen and paper to write down the words. The sign stated: “I never worry when I get lost...I just change where I want to go.”
I shared the message on the sign with two groups later that day as I taught classes on listening. In many ways, the statement really states where many find themselves today politically — as families and, most of all, in their spiritual pilgrimage. In both the Old and New Testaments, we learn of people who wandered around without a clear sense of direction. In the area of giving, many aren’t so concerned with where they are going; they simply change
SCRIPTURES: Philemon 1:10-20
destinations as they go. In the biblical account, we find the Apostle Paul appealing to Philemon to receive back his runaway servant/slave as a brother instead of a runaway servant/slave. The runaway named Onesimus was much more valuable now with Christ than he ever had been without Him.
One of the reasons we must pray for our missionaries is because we send them to some of the most dangerous places in the world. Today, we want to pray for Robert Lane, one of our missionaries in South Sudan, one of the African countries where violence is common. We support him through our church’s Cooperative Program giving. Recently, he was training a man who would go back to his village to share the Gospel. But before he could leave, he got a message. His village had been attacked
and most of his people killed; their houses were burned. His sister’s husband was killed; she ran for her life with a rifle strapped to her back. Here’s what Robert said about it: “We speak with urgency not because people are getting old and dying without Jesus, but because they are being killed before we can get to them.” I am sure we want to pray for Robert and the people he is working with in that troubled land. K