A Win for Life!

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Today is an historic day in Kentucky. Over the course of the past four decades, more than 50 million children have been murdered before birth in the United States, many of those children in Kentucky. Yet, in recent years, efforts to protect the unborn have been growing. Ten years ago, when I served as president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, I worked with KBC staff members and the KBC Public Affairs Committee to organize informational meetings across the state to help people better understand the abortion procedure and the need to curb this horrific evil. Before and after that effort, untold millions of prayers were lifted on behalf of the unborn and tireless other efforts have been undertaken to impact the political system in an effort to save the lives of children. Today we see evidence that God has heard our prayers and rewarded our efforts.

Kentucky Baptists have been working, hoping, and praying for this day for a very long time. I thank God for House Speaker Jeff Hoover, Senate President Robert Stivers, Governor Matt Bevin, and every Kentucky lawmaker who courageously used their influence and vote on behalf of the voiceless and vulnerable to see that abortion is now banned in Kentucky after a conceived child is 20 weeks old. The first responsibility of government is to provide security for its citizens and today that promise is being fulfilled to babies who, in most cases, could survive outside of the womb.

A close friend of mine is the adopted father of a happy, healthy three-year-old whose biological mother chose not to have him killed after seeing him in her womb through the technology of an ultrasound. I never think of him without also thinking about the Texas lawmakers who helped give him and untold thousands of other children a better chance of survival by passing ultrasound legislation in that state five years ago. While every Kentucky mother considering an abortion may not make the same decision, she now will at least have the same opportunity and babies will have a better chance at life. At a minimum a required ultrasound will help ensure a mother understands the abortion procedure, its risks and consequences.

Only the God of Heaven knows how many babies’ lives will be saved by the events of this day, by the diligence of God’s people in prayer and in the prolife battle, and the courage of elected officials who stand for life. But while God, in His wisdom, has chosen to use these and other avenues to bring today’s events to pass, God, alone, deserves the glory. He is the giver of life.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:13-16).

Posted in Abortion, Culture, Government, Prolife, Public Affairs, Social Justice | Comments closed

Christmas reminds us of God’s grand promises

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“Thus says the Lord: ‘Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed’” (Isaiah 56:1).

My wife, Michelle, recently asked our 4-year-old foster daughter what she wants for Christmas. Her reply was straightforward: “I want all the toys.” Most 4-year-olds and too many 40-year-olds want ALL the toys. Isaiah 56 doesn’t mention Christmas toys, but it is a chapter packed full of Christmas promises to all kinds of people.

Christmas is a time to be reminded of God’s promises. In Isaiah 56, we see that His promises are for everyone. God makes promises to the Israelites, the foreigners, even to the most lowly, the eunuchs who were slaves with no descendants. Read through the chapter and you will see that God promises salvation and deliverance (v. 1), honor (v. 5), joy and acceptance (v. 7), and a place within His walls, within His family (vv. 5,7,8).

How can God make such grand promises? He purposed to fulfill them in Jesus. While the people of Isaiah’s day had to look forward in faith and hope, today, we are able to look back from our vantage point and see that God fulfilled every promise in Jesus.

Jesus provided for our salvation by giving His life for us. Jesus delivered us when He was delivered up for us. Jesus brought us honor by His dishonor, joy by His sorrow, and acceptance by His rejection. Jesus granted us a place within the walls by being sacrificed “outside of the camp.” Jesus brought us into the family by laying down His rights as the Son to provide for our adoption. God has kept His promises.

Hundreds of years after God speaks in Isaiah, we see His promises to eunuchs coming true in Acts 8 where Peter introduces the Ethiopian eunuch to Jesus when he finds the man reading from Isaiah. The Ethiopian welcomes the good news, puts his trust in Jesus, and is baptized as a symbol of his salvation.

Two thousand years after that, even today, the promises of God are still true and still being kept to any who trust in Jesus. Those promises are for you, for your neighbors, and for the nations. Thank you, Kentucky Baptists, for all you do to ensure that the good news of the promises of God is being heard. As you enjoy those promises and share them with others, Michelle and I pray for you a very Merry Christmas!

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Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief touching lives & sharing Christ worldwide

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The 2016 Kentucky Baptist Convention annual meeting was a tremendous time of celebration as messengers had opportunity to hear updates on the work of the Mission Board and its entities. I sensed a wonderful spirit of thanksgiving and unity unlike any I’ve experienced in the past. My appreciation goes to the host church, Florence Baptist, and to all of the KBC officers, staff members, volunteers, and messengers who made the annual meeting and Pastors’ Conference a blessing for all who were in attendance.

disaster-relief-training-2017-logoDuring the holiday season of giving thanks and celebrating God’s gift of our Savior, I want to make you aware of some of the practical ways Kentucky Baptists are touching lives, healing hurts, and sharing the gospel through Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief. As I do so, I want to thank every person who gives their tithes and offerings in a church that participates in cooperative missions through the Cooperative Program. Your gifts fund KBDR. Thank you for this eternity-changing ministry!

First, I’m pleased to share with you that more than 800 hospice care buckets to help families comfort those with HIV/AIDS were collected during the KBC annual meeting in Florence. Churches also made monetary donations of thousands of dollars to help support this project undertaken in partnership with Baptist Global Response.

In addition, over the past year, KBDR trained 802 volunteers to participate in relief work. In a special initiative, some of our disaster relief teams have begun working with Baptist churches in sub-Saharan Africa where they trained 75 volunteers in South Africa, Mozambique, and Zambia.

New and seasoned volunteers have responded to needs created by floods in South Carolina, Missouri, Louisiana, Michigan, eastern Kentucky, and West Virginia. They responded to needs in Kentucky created by tornadoes in Mayfield and Ohio County and Hurricane Matthew as it impacted people and property in Florida and North Carolina. Our volunteers helped ensure clean water for people in Flint, Michigan, by installing water filtration systems in 275 homes. They also helped provide clean water overseas by assisting with wells and filters in Zambia and South Africa. Disaster relief workers fed 3,500 hundred hungry families in the African countries of Lesotho and Madagascar and did medical and trauma care in Iraq. Here in the U.S., KBDR workers prepared 52,938 meals, distributed 89,736 cases of bottled water, and did cleaned up 381 flooded homes.

These combined projects and relief work created significant ministry opportunities. Our workers and chaplains made 7,474 ministry contacts, distributed 767 Bibles, and saw 57 decisions for Christ. Every church that gives through the Cooperative Program can celebrate this ministry as their own.

KBC staff member, Coy Webb, coordinates our DR work and would be pleased to share with you and/or your church about upcoming training opportunities and ways to get more involved with KBDR. Coy can be contacted by phone (502-489-3527) or email ([email protected]). Information is also available on the KBC website at www.kybaptist.org/dr.

Posted in Annual Meeting, Disaster Relief, Missions | Comments closed

Celebrating Kentucky Baptists’ cooperative mission work

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As Kentucky Baptists gather this week in Florence for the annual meeting, we celebrate all God is doing in our churches and in our cooperative mission work. The Kentucky Baptist Convention has a rich heritage and gospel legacy dating back to 1837, but I am convinced we have a greater opportunity today to reach Kentucky and the world for Christ than ever before.

Annual-Meeting-16-Give-Hope-logoThe growing ethnic diversity of our state has made the nations our neighbors. Ease of travel means we can literally be on mission anywhere in the world in a few days, at most. Technological advances in communications create opportunities for constant interaction with career missionaries, volunteer missions teams, and indigenous partners overseas, so that every church can have an ongoing, meaningful impact for the Kingdom. And, regardless of what we might think about the current economy, believers who prioritize stewarding our material resources for the sake of the Great Commission have more money available to give to gospel work than any generation that has gone before us.

Will our generation of Kentucky Baptists take advantage of this unique opportunity God has provided? If so, what will that look like?

First, we will commit to being a witness for Christ wherever He has us and wherever He takes us. Second, we will commit to fully participating in the life of the local church, God’s agent to reach the lost. Third, we will commit to generously contributing to the cooperative mission work of Kentucky Baptists and Southern Baptists.

No matter what size church you are a part of, the Great Commission is a task too monumental for any single congregation to accomplish. Moreover, churches working in partnership rather than on their own have proven far more effective at advancing the gospel. That’s why the Cooperative Program is such a vital tool, for it harnesses the collective resources of thousands of churches for the sake of the gospel.

In addition to the Cooperative Program, I want to challenge you to take advantage of two upcoming cooperative missions offerings. First, the Thanksgiving Offering for Sunrise Children’s Services is a unique opportunity to give directly to the James 1:27 ministry of Kentucky Baptists. Sunrise is currently touching 1,100 abused and neglected children. Lives and souls are being saved. For more information on the Sunrise offering, go to www.sunrise.org/thanks16.

Then, begin to plan your Christmas budget in a way that will allow your most extravagant gift to be given to the One who gave you the most extravagant gift by willingly laying down his life for you. A gift to Jesus, in the form of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, will ensure that those who do not yet belong to Him the world over will be able to hear His gospel and have an opportunity to be saved. For more information go to www.imb.org/lottie-moon-christmas-offering.

Posted in Annual Meeting, Cooperative Program, Evangelism, Great Commission, Kentucky Baptist Convention, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, Missions, Sunrise Children's Services | Comments closed

The post I never had the courage to write

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My family tree is diseased. Like every family tree in humanity, my family tree is diseased by sin.

Sins take many forms and the overarching consequence of sin, which is death, besets us in various ways. Death has visited my family quite frequently in the form of cancer. Thankfully, due to God’s grace in His provision for advances in medicine, most recent cancer diagnoses in my family have not resulted in death, at least among the nonsmokers. Nevertheless, the battle to overcome cancer can be a journey to the depths of suffering that, at times, make death appear as a welcomed friend.

Besides cancer, another obvious plight on my family is obesity. I have never spoken or written about it because, frankly, I didn’t have the courage. I was afraid I’d eventually be condemning myself. I was afraid I would offend people I love. And I was afraid to highlight a struggle that is impossible to hide when I struggle with many things I’m all too thankful to be able to hide.

So, why would I write about it now? I am beginning to see brothers and sisters liberated because there are those among us who have enough love and courage to address the issue and enough love and courage to come alongside those who struggle with overeating, unhealthy lifestyles, and a general disregard for their bodily temple (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Since Scripture teaches us to steward our bodies to honor God, ignoring our physical health is a matter of disobedience. We must have the courage to admit that and lovingly address it.

For me, a healthy lifestyle has been a lifetime in the making. Blessed with a high metabolism and beset by the sin of vanity, I “kept the weight off” until I hit 40. By the time I was 44, the scales were a good 20 pounds above what the doctor recommended. I’ve always been physically active and exercised – most months of the year. Nevertheless, after 40, exercise was no longer getting it done. So, coming alongside my wife at her request, I began a modified version of the diet set forth in Rick Warren’s book, “The Daniel Plan.” I modified the plan because my attention span is short. A simple, “Don’t eat processed foods, sugar, or dairy,” worked well for me once I figured out what that left on the menu. I’m not a legalist but, unless it’s Saturday, I stick closely to the plan.

In addition to weight loss, I experienced energy gain. And, unexpectedly, the ever-present pain of a bum knee (a church league softball injury) and degenerating vertebrae in my lower back (from picking up too many bales of hay without using my legs) significantly diminished. I was virtually pain-free for the first time in many years.

I’m not providing this personal information because I think you need to know me better. I’m providing it because I have experienced the benefit of a healthier lifestyle, and I want others to do the same. Several of our staff members at the Kentucky Baptist Convention have taken huge strides in healthier eating, weight loss, and exercise. When that happens, energy levels rise, work production increases, health care costs diminish, life becomes more enjoyable, we set better examples for those whom we lead in ministry, we enhance our credibility, and, most importantly, we honor God with our bodies.

If you, like most Kentuckians, struggle with obesity, let me encourage you to make a new commitment to “lay aside every weight,” literally and figuratively, and strive to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). God will be honored.

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