How to pray for the brethren today

It is so easy to confuse our membership in Christ’s Church with our membership in a local congregation. We do need to fellowship, worship and serve with a local body of believers, but our membership is in the Universal Church. We have brethren all over the world, and we need to pray for them. Here are a couple of specific ways you can pray for the brethren today…

  1. Youcef Nadarkhani is a pastor in Iran. He is currently in prison under a death sentence because of his faith in Jesus Christ. He has been told that if he recants his faith in Christ he will be released. He has refused. Now, he awaits the results of a final appeal. May God be glorified is this. Let’s lift Youcef and his family up to our Lord.
  2. A home Bible study in Orange County, California has been fined and threatened with additional fines if they do not stop meeting. They, too, need our prayers.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” — John 15:18-21


How to pray for the lost today

It is far too easy to become sidetracked with day-to-day living. Our jobs, our chores, they can dominate our days — and our thoughts. But, those of us who are Christians — new creations born of the very Spirit of God — should never allow this world to distract us from the reason we are here. God saved us for His glory. We are to be his witnesses. Our Lord Jesus commissioned us to “go and make disciples” of all nations. Sure, we all have to earn a living, but we LIVE for God’s glory and purpose.

The world is full of people who are lost with absolutely no knowledge of Jesus Christ. At the very least we can pray for them. Operation World has compiled information on many of the world’s people groups, making it possible for us to pray specifically for them. If you would like to pray specifically for the lost today how about praying for these people…

And, while you are thinking about it, remember that there are lost people living all around us — we see them every day. Consider telling them about Jesus personally.

It’s why we are here.

Is Scripture Sufficient?

Several years ago a battle raged over the direction of the Southern Baptist Convention. The primary issue was whether or not the Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God. Those who advocate the inerrancy of Scripture won the day in what has been called the “Conservative Resurgence” in the SBC. Now, Southern Baptists are almost unanimous in their view that the Bible is, in fact, the inerrant, inspired Word of God. However, Paul Washer, founder of HeartCry Missionary Society and an itinerant preacher, says that was only half the battle.

What’s the other half?

Do we believe the Bible is sufficient?

While most of us would say we believe the Bible is sufficient, the uncomfortable truth is that most of us don’t act like we believe it…

Thideology Research Team: Case File 008

GEZER, Israel — The Thideology Research Team has announced that an archeological team from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary has uncovered a natural cave at the end of a Canaanite water system in Israel, a discovery that could potentially provide valuable insight into Old Testament culture.

The story originally was reported in the Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention, and not by the Thideology Research Team.

“That’s only because we didn’t know anything about it,” said a spokesman for the Thideology Research Team. “If we had known about it I feel certain we would have said something earlier.”

The spokesman went on to explain that the Thideology Research Team was otherwise engaged in “important matters.”

“Our coffee maker was on the blink,” he said.

The Gezer Water System Expedition, which is about 20 miles west of Jerusalem, is a joint project of NOBTS and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

“The research at Gezer is important to Baptists because of our commitment to understand the Bible within its historical context,” said Dan Warner, associate professor of Old Testament and archaeology at NOBTS.

The Thideology Research Team was not invited to participate.

“Which is just as well,” said the Team spokesman. “Since we had that whole coffee maker situation to deal with.”

The Thideology Research Team can confirm that the coffee maker has since been replaced.


“Don’t give me doctrine, I just want Jesus”

It is a favorite quote of many evangelicals — “Don’t give me doctrine, I just want Jesus.”

As if “doctrine” is a bad thing.

Let’s think this through for a sec, shall we? You say you “just want Jesus?” Okay, take your pick. Would you like…

What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have?

Just remember, each one of these groups believes in some form of “Jesus.” But they are all very different from one another — they all can’t be true. It’s even possible that none of them are true (hint: none of them are true). But this isn’t like picking out a side dish to go with your value meal. There are real consequences to this. Jesus kind of said so…

“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” — John 8:24

Wait! We have to believe that Jesus is “he?”

“He” who?

Jesus seems to be indicating that getting his identity right is a key to salvation. Believing in the “right” Jesus is pretty important. So, how in the world are we to determine which is and which is not the real Jesus? All of a sudden we need answers. Where do we go to get them?

Well, we have to go to the Bible.

Did you know the Bible is just packed full of information about Jesus — who he is, what he did and why he did it? If what you really want is Jesus then this information is exactly what you need to make sure you have the right Jesus. In fact, this information is typically referred to as… wait for it…


9/11’s Lesson for the Church

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 has approached we have seen a lot of coverage of the event — a lot of “Where were you when?” and “The Lessons of 9/11” news pieces. I even shared with you my own experiences of that day.

But I didn’t share everything.

When I look back on one of the more memorable things I saw on 9/11 during my drive from Atlanta to Indianapolis, I am compelled to share with you what I consider to be the lesson of 9/11 to the Church. Note: I’ll share what I saw in a moment. First, the lesson…

The Lesson: God will lay low our idols.

You may be wondering how 9/11 could have taught us that lesson. First, let’s look to Scripture to see how God deals with idols and false gods. One of my favorite examples comes from 1 Samuel…

Israel was engaged in a war with the Philistines, and after a defeat on the battlefield it occurred to them that they were defeated because they did not carry the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord before them. So, the Israelites sent for the Ark.

“Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” — 1 Samuel 4:3

Quick question: Where is the faith of the Israelites, in God or in an object?

Let’s continue…

“As soon as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded.” — 1 Samuel 4:5

Israel got excited, but as we will soon see, they got excited for the wrong reason. You see, as the story continues Israel carries the ark into battle with them. And do you know what happened?

They were defeated again.

Yep, the ark didn’t change anything. Do you know what else?

The Philistines captured the ark.

The Israelites were using the ark as a means of manipulating God into giving them what they wanted — namely, a military victory over the Philistines. They looked upon God as the means to achieve their own glory. Their attitude was “God is on OUR side.” They placed their faith in an object, the ark, and effectively turned it into a good luck charm.

An idol.

God will not long tolerate idols. They will all be laid low before Him.

Now, the Philistines completely misunderstood what had happened. In that day, when country A defeated country B, it was a sign that country A’s god was greater than country B’s god. The Philistines took their victory over Israel as a clear sign that their god, Dagon, was greater than the God of Israel. They were wrong. But they had to learn it the hard way.

After they captured the ark, the Philistines took it and placed it before their idol, Dagon, as a sort of offering to him. Let’s see what happened…

“When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him.” — 1 Samuel 5:1-4

So, first God demonstrates to Israel that there is no power in the box they carried before them. Then, He gives the Philistines the impression that the box is greater than their god. In fact, the Philistines eventually get rid of the ark and send it back to Israel because they fear its power.

In both cases God pulled the rug out from under the idols. This brings me to what I saw on 9/11…

What I saw: Americans flocking to church buildings to pray.

On 9/11 churches opened up for prayer. In every town I drove through church parking lots were packed with cars. In one town the police directed traffic around the block because parked cars overflowing from a church parking lot had blocked the street.

On the radio I heard announcers commenting on this. “Our nation is returning to God,” one said. “The faith of our nation is on display,” another said.

My question then was “Where were all these people last Sunday?” My question today is, “Where have they been since?”

I don’t doubt that many Christians honestly turned to God during that time, their faith firm in Him. I saw plenty of that on 9/11, too. However, a big chunk of the people who darkened the doors of those church buildings on 9/11 were there because their idol had just been knocked to the floor. They weren’t there to honestly seek God. They were there to ask God to restore their idol to its original state. God was just a means to an end — namely, the restored glory of America.

I am convinced that the biggest idol in America is America. This is understandable for lost men — they are desperate to place their faith in something. But for actual, born-again Christians this is idolatry at the level of the Israelites.

We should know better.

Nations rise and fall at the will of our heavenly Father. They are but a drop in a bucket. This includes America. But even believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are prone to chase after idols. We must guard our hearts and minds lest we become caught up in the idolatry.

Sunday is the actual 10th anniversary of 9/11. I wonder how many churches will sing “God bless America” — a song that invites God to bless “the land that I love” — and how many will sing “The Doxology” — a song that does nothing but praise God for who He is. Will our prayers be asking God to glorify America? Or will we be more concerned with God’s glory?

On Sept. 11, 2001 God knocked our idol on its face before Him. If we don’t get the message, the next time He may just knock the head off of our idol completely — just like Dagon.


During the course of the past several months I’ve had conversations with a number of individuals on the meaning of the word “all” as it pertains to Scripture. Phil Johnson of Pyromaniacs has had similar conversations. He recalls one of them here.

How do we really worship?

Thanks to Cyndi Perryman for the link.

Remembering 9/11

This month is the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States — what has come to be known simply as 9/11.

In 2001 I was serving as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana. On September 11 I was scheduled to fly from Atlanta to Indianapolis after concluding some business at the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Georgia.

My plans changed.

I shared my thoughts and experiences of that day in my editorial in the Indiana Baptist, the official news journal of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana. Ten years later, I share that editorial with you…

Demanding Justice?

I wanted justice.

After denial gave way to belief. When the shock began to subside. When I finally accepted the fact that terrorists had hijacked four American passenger planes and crashed them into various targets along the eastern seaboard I wanted justice.

I was in Alpharetta, Georgia at the North American Mission Board when I heard the news on Sept. 11, 2001. I was scheduled to fly home later that same day, but ended up waiting at a Hertz rental car counter for almost five hours before I was able to get a care for my 9-hour drive to Indianapolis. I had a lot of time to consider the events of the day and ample opportunity to see, first hand, a nation thrown into near chaos. The more I thought and the more I saw, the more I wanted justice.

Images came at me so fast that day I barely had time to process what was happening. There was the prayer time at the North American Mission Board chapel where I saw brothers and sisters coming before God able only to trust in His sovereignty over something we could not understand.

There was the time I spent with the man who drove my shuttle to the airport. A native of South Africa with a great deal of experience with this sort of thing, he told me he was indeed a Christian (seminary trained) but wanted me to understand the only way to deal with terrorists is to “hunt them down and exterminate them.”

There was the news of 1,500 passengers stranded in Atlanta’s airport and of the restaurant owners who fed them for free.

I saw a man come into the Hertz office and get incredibly upset because the lady behind the desk was going to have to run a few things through the computer in order to get him on his way. The delay, she said, would be about 10 minutes. He almost blew his top, as if there were not thousands of people having a much worse day.

I waited in gas lines in Murphreesboro, Tennessee.

Mostly I had time to think, and it occurred to me that every now and then God gives us a glimpse of just how despicable sin really is. The terrorists who attacked America showed the world what full-strength sin looks like. It is easy for us to look at the behavior of those particular sinners and see how God would be justified in pouring out His wrath on them. I was just about the pray for that very thing when something else occurred to me…

I am just as deserving of God’s justice as are these terrorists.

Oh, I’ve never murdered innocent people by the thousands the way they did, but my heart was just as dark and my nature just as depraved as theirs. On my own I stand just as guilty before a Holy God as they do.

There is just one difference.

Rather than subject me to the justice I so richly deserve, God, in His love and mercy, chose to give me grace instead. Had God removed His hand of grace from me and turned me over to my own sinful nature I would have been capable of crimes just as despicable. But He showed me grace.

When I think that God views my sin as something just as heinous as the terrorist attacks of September 11, I realize just how precious is the grace I have received.

So, instead of praying for justice for terrorists, I will pray that God will provide the means for them to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, be convicted of their sin by the Holy Spirit, and that He will save them.

After the attacks Senator John McCain stood on the floor of the U.S. Senate and said to the terrorists, “We are coming. God may show you mercy. We will not.”

As believers I think our prayer should be, “May God show you mercy.”

I had wanted justice. But, if everyone deserving of justice got it that would include me. I don’t want justice. I want mercy. I want grace.

Those of us who have received grace should want it for others, too. How could we want anything else?

Note: This editorial originally ran in the September 25, 2001 issue of the Indiana Baptist.

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