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What happens to those who never hear the gospel?

HinduWorship

Copyright 2017 by Bob Rogers

Many people wonder, “If a person lives in an unevangelized area and never hears the gospel of Jesus Christ, do they go to hell?”
On the one hand, John 14:6 says that Jesus is the only way to heaven, yet we know that millions of people have never heard about Jesus. It seems unfair for God to send them to hell, especially since 2 Peter 3:9 says that God does not desire that anybody perish, but desires all to come to repentance and faith in Christ.
Some Christians try to solve this dilemma by thinking that God just gives people a pass if they haven’t heard. But if that’s true, then they’re better off not hear the gospel at all, because once we tell them about Jesus, we doom them to hell if they refuse! But we know that can’t be right, because the Bible commands us to share the gospel with all people.

We find some answers in Acts 17. It says Paul preached to a group of people who had never heard the gospel before, and Paul says something that can help us understand this dilemma. He noticed that they had worshiped what they called an “Unknown God,” and then he told them what they call “unknown” he wants to make known to them: Jesus Christ. Then he says this:
“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:26-27, 1984 NIV)
Notice three things in this passage that helps us understand the fate of those who have never heard the gospel:

I. God knows where we live (Acts 17:26)

People say it is unfair that God sends somebody to hell because they happened to be born in a land or culture where they don’t hear the gospel, but Paul says almost the direct opposite. He says in verse 26 that God determined the exact time and place where every human should live. Verse 27 even says that God did this so that men would seek Him!
Could it be that God put people who are less likely to seek Him in strongly evangelical areas, and He put people who are more likely to seek Him in non-Christian areas? I used to pastor in one of the most evangelized areas of the world, in Mississippi, where there is a church on every corner. But I can also tell you that many of the unchurched people that I met were some of the most hardened to the gospel and hardest to witness to that I had ever met. Yet when I went to an unevangelized area of Mexico and shared the gospel, hundreds of people responded.
So don’t think it is an unfair accident that some people live in areas where the gospel is rarely preached. God didn’t make some mistake. He knows exactly where He put every person, and God is revealing Himself. Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

II. God knows our hearts (Acts 17:27a)

Paul goes on to say in verse 27, “God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him…”
God knows our hearts. God knows who is going to seek Him.
In Romans 4, Paul discusses this with the illustration of Abraham. Abraham believed what God revealed to him. Jesus had not yet come, but Abraham had faith in everything He saw, and God accepted that faith as righteousness. Apparently God even revealed Jesus to Abraham, because in John 8:56 Jesus says, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” Notice the words “he saw it.” Jesus was saying that somehow, God allowed Abraham to see and understand about Jesus.
Cornelius was another example. Acts 10 says Cornelius was a God-fearing Roman centurion. He had not heard the gospel, but he had heard about the God of Israel, and he sought the Lord, even giving generously to the synagogue and praying regularly. Acts 10:4 says an angel appeared to Cornelius and said, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.” Then God sent Peter to Cornelius to share Jesus with him, and when Cornelius heard about Jesus, he believed.
God knows our hearts. If people live in lands where the gospel is not preached, but they seek God, then God will respond to them. If they come to the light they are given, God will give them more light!

III. God is available to us (Acts 17:27b)

Finally, notice what Paul says in the end of verse 27: “He is not far from each one of us.”
God is available. He is not far away. He can be found.
Romans 1:20 says that God has revealed Himself through creation, so that all people are “without excuse.” Everybody has been given the revelation of God’s existence through creation. When we pay attention to the light that God gives us, then God gives more light. Deuteronomy 4:29, (HCSB) says to “search for the Lord… you will find Him when you seek Him with all your heart…”
The International Mission Board reports that around the Muslim world, Christian workers report an increasing openness and turning to Christ — often preceded by dreams or visions of him among potential converts. Several examples of such phenomena were detailed by National and International Religion Report:
— Thousands of North African Muslims wrote to a Christian radio service asking for information. Many reported a similar dream: Jesus appears and tells them, “I am the way.”
— In Nigeria, Muslims savagely beat a Christian convert from their tribe. As he lay dying, they heard him asking God to forgive them. That night two Muslim mullahs who participated in the attack saw visions of Christ. Both repented and took 80 followers to a Christian church to hear the gospel. (“Analysis: To Muslins with ‘love, prayer, tears and blood,’ IMB Connecting, http://www.imb.org. Adapted from The Commission, January 8, 1997).
Each of these stories illustrate the truth, that God is available, no matter where a person lives, and even people who live in areas where the gospel has rarely been heard, are hearing and coming to Christ.
Really, the question should not be, “Why did God put them in places where the gospel is rarely preached?” The question should be, “Why are we not taking the gospel to them?”

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What do you do after Christmas?

Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers

ChristmasTreeRecycle

What do you do after Christmas? What happens after you take down the tree, put up the lights, and put away all the wrapping? You do as the shepherds and Mary did: promulgate, meditate and celebrate!
1. PROMULGATE. In a previous century, they called missionary-sending organizations a Society for the Promulgation of the Gospel. In this century, the need is as great as ever to spread the good news. “After seeing them, they reported the message… about this child” (Luke 2:17). Ask somebody how their Christmas went, and use it as an opportunity to tell them how much it means to you to know Christ as your Savior.
2. MEDITATE. “But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them.” (Luke 2:18). Spend some time quietly reflecting on the miracle of the Virgin Birth, and the Incarnation, God coming in flesh.
3. CELEBRATE.  “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God.” (Luke 2:19). You probably went to church before Christmas. Sadly, the Sunday after Christmas is often one of the lowest in attendance of the year at many churches. But the shepherds rejoiced and worshiped AFTER the birth of Christ. So should we.

Book review: “Redeemed by Fire: The Rise of Popular Christianity in China”

RedeemedByFireMost Christians who are interested in missions are aware that Christianity has grown dramatically in modern China, despite persecution by the Communist government. But the story of how Christianity grew and what it looks like today in China remains a mystery to most Western Christians. Lian Xi, a native of China who is now professor of history at Hanover College, lifted that mystery for Western readers in 2010 with his carefully researched book published by Yale University Press, Redeemed by Fire: The Rise of Popular Christianity in Modern China.

Xi briefly surveys the presence of Christianity in China in ancient times, and then focuses most of the book on Christianity in China in the 19th and 20th centuries. China was forced to sign treaties with Western nations that included official toleration of Christianity after 1858. For the next century, over 23,000 missionaries poured into China from the West, half of them Americans. While this mission effort did contribute to over 623,000 members in mission churches by 1949, it also led to a deep resentment against Christians by most Chinese, who saw it as a religion of foreigners that was forced upon them. This resentment erupted into violence at times, such as the Boxer Rebellion. Xi stresses that Protestant Christianity was able to become truly indigenous under Communist rule, and no longer was seen as a foreign religion. The Communist government unwittingly allowed this to happen, by settting up the officially recognized and state-controlled Three-Self Church. Most Christians rejected the Three-Self Church as guilty of ungodly compromise with the state, and turned instead to a variety of underground church movements.

Xi then follows the stories of several influential indigenous movements among Protestant Christians, including the True Jesus Church, the Bethel Band, the Jesus Family, and the Little Flock, with charismatic leaders like John Sung, Wang Mingdao, and Watchman Nee. Most of these churches held to a fundamentalist faith, a charismatic leader, pre-millennial hope, and a revivalistic, if not Pentecostal, fervor. Some half million Christians died under Communist persecution, but by 2000 there were 15 million Protestants and 5 million Catholics in the official registered churches, and an additional 30 million Protestants and several million Catholics in underground churches.

Westerners tend to idealize the faith of Chinese Christians, but Xi points out that the lack of theological training and isolation from any accountability in underground churches occasionally led to doctrinal heresies and mixtures of Chinese folk religion with Christianity, as well as opening the door to leaders who were dictatorial and sometimes immoral. Despite these shortcomings among the underground churches, Xi credits them with having a powerful appeal by offering hope to the powerless under Communist oppression. Despite the phenomenal growth of Christianity in China, it is still a minority faith in China, and expected to remain  a religion of the common people, not a majority faith or a faith of those in influence or power in China.

I found Xi’s research to be thorough and highly informative, but it came across as somewhat aloof and skeptical of genuine faith. He tends to explain away the faith of Chinese Christians in terms of sociological factors. He includes stories of the moral failings of Chinese Christian leaders, but he reports very few of the stories of commitment, martyrdom and persecution suffered by Chinese Christians. Nevertheless, Xi’s research is likely to become a standard resource for any historian or missiologist wishing to understand Christianity in modern China.

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(If you see a video ad below this post, please understand that I have no control over these ads, and that I do not necessarily endorse the product.)

 

ABC’s of Praying for Missionaries

missions
When you ask missionaries what they need from us, more than anything else, they say, “Prayer.” So how can we pray for them? Here are seven scriptural prayers, arranged alphabetically:

Accepted by the believers
“Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, that the gift I am bringing to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints,” Romans 15:31 (HCSB)

Language study can be difficult, but it’s vital to be accepted among the believers, and fit in. If the missionary isn’t accepted by the believers, he won’t be able to reach the unbelievers.
Unfortunately, believers aren’t perfect, and can have conflict in churches on the mission field, just as churches here can have conflict. So pray for unity between the missionaries and the local believers.

Bold in sharing the gospel
“Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should.” Ephesians 6:19-20 (HCSB)

Dr. Cal Guy was a missions professor who was asked to preach a revival. Members were concerned about one man, “Fine Old Mr. Crenshaw,” who was known to be a fine man, but saw no need for Christ. The pastor took Dr. Guy to meet him, and said, “Mr. Crenshaw, I’ve been telling Dr. Guy what a fine man you are.” Dr. Guy retorted, “I don’t believe it. If you’re a man as I’m a man, then you’re a rotten sinner, headed to hell.” After a long pause, Mr. Crenshaw smiled and said, “You’re right. Let’s talk.” And he accepted Christ.
Missionaries cannot be timid about sharing their faith. They need wisdom about when to be bold.

Clear in sharing the gospel
“…that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” Col 4:4 (ESV)

The gospel can often be misunderstood. Hindus want to add Jesus to their other gods, and need to hear that Jesus is the only way. Muslims often think that when we say Jesus is the “Son” of God, that we are talking about a literal, crude sexual relationship between God the Father and Mary. So pray that missionaries will make the message clear in the culture where they serve.

Delivered from unbelievers
“Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, that the gift I am bringing to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints,” Romans 15:31 (HCSB)

Persecution is very real in many places around the world. Missionaries have been expelled from countries on trumped-up charges. Pray for them to be rescued.

Enter open doors
“At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah, for which I am in prison,” Colossians 4:3 (HCSB)
“After they arrived and gathered the church together, they reported everything God had done with them and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.” Acts 14:27 (HCSB)

Steven Gillum, IMB missionary in Curitiba, Brazil, prayed and prayed to discover an area of his city without a church, and then it was shown to him.
Missionaries are always looking for unreached areas. Pray those doors will open for them to go in.

Fruitful
“Now I want you to know, brothers, that I often planned to come to you (but was prevented until now ) in order that I might have a fruitful ministry among you, just as among the rest of the Gentiles.” Romans 1:13 (HCSB)
“You have already heard about this hope in the message of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. It is bearing fruit and growing all over the world,” Colossians 1:5-6 (HCSB)

William Carey labored in India for seven years without a single convert. One North American missionary befriended 60 families among an unreached people group, but has not yet seen one of them convert to faith. The work can be hard. Pray that they will be fruitful, as Carey was, when eventually God sent a revival. Today there are over a million Baptists in India who consider William Carey their spiritual forefather.

Good Health
“Dear friend, I pray that you may prosper in every way and be in good health physically just as you are spiritually.” 3 John 2 (HCSB)

Anytime you go to a different country, you may be exposed to different diseases. When I went on a short-term mission trip to Villa Berthet, Argentina, I noticed trees painted white halfway up, and certain markings on houses. When I asked what it meant, they said that it meant the “chagas” disease from an insect had infected those trees and houses.
In Africa and Asia, missionaries often have to confront malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, typhoid fever, cholera, and hepatitis A, among other diseases. Pray for their health.

Missionaries serve in many different circumstances and different places around the world. Carlton Walker is a missionary reaching out to some of the 24 million senior adults in Japan. A retired man, Mr. S, takes Carlton around and introduces him to people, and he boldly shares his faith when people who have been Buddhist all of their lives. Pray for missionaries like Carlton Walker and others in the United States and around the world.

Ten Secrets to Successful Missions

Copyright by Bob RogersEarth boy

Luke 10:1-20 records that Jesus sent out 70 people to go on a mission trip, going in pairs to towns and villages where He was about to go. Apparently it was very successful, because we read in verse 17, “The Seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’” And Jesus replied in verse 18, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a lightning flash.”

What made their mission so successful? And how can our mission work and the missionaries we pray for discover the same power in their ministry?

This passages gives us ten secrets to successful missions. Here they are. Open your Bible to Luke 10, and notice these ten truths:

1. Multiplication. (v. 1) Use everybody, not just professional clergy. The Lord commissioned the 12 apostles in Luke 9:1-6, but here he sends out 70. Multiply your ministry. Use volunteers.

2. Teamwork (v. 1) He sent them in pairs, not alone. We can be so much more effective by working together, and it is a testimony to our unity in Christ to work in teams. Southern Baptists believe in the Cooperative Program as an excellent strategy, as thousands of churches pool their resources to support missionaries.

3. Prayer (v. 2) Before sending them out, He told them to pray for workers for the harvest. When Jerry Rankin was president of the International Mission Board, he spoke at Ridgecrest Baptist Assembly and mentioned that the IMB has recently appointed our first missionary to serve openly in Albania. After the service, a woman came up to Dr. Rankin, crying. When she gained her composure, she said that seven years before, she had read that Albania was the most atheistic country in the world, and she called the IMB to ask what we were doing there, only to learn that Albania was completely closed to missionaries. So she went back to her ladies’ group in her church, and asked them to pray for Albania. “For seven years we have been praying for Albania!” she wept, and Dr. Rankin wept tears of joy with her. (Jerry Rankin, To the Ends of the Earth, p. 57-58)

4. Expect opposition (“like lambs among wolves”). (v. 3) A Christian pastor took a group of school children whom he was teaching, for a walk. The Secret Police dogged them at first, but when they went into a zoo, they left them alone. He led them to a lion’s cage and gathered them around so he could speak quietly. He said, “Your forefathers in the Christian faith were thrown to wild beasts like these. They died gladly, because they believed in Jesus. The time may come when you also will be imprisoned, and suffer for being a Christian. Now you must decide whether you are ready to face that day. With tears in their eyes, each in turn said, ‘yes.’ It was the last class he taught before he had to leave his country. (Richard Wurmbrand, God’s Underground. Cited in “The Last Class,” The Voice of the Martyrs, February 2013.)

5. Commitment (v. 4, 7-8) If you care too much about your personal comfort (“money-bag, traveling bag,” “eating what they offer,”) you will become discouraged. If you care too much for sightseeing and socializing (“don’t greet anyone along the road”), you will lose your focus. When William Carey arrived in India, his wife was sick, he face financial hardship, and he was so lonely that he wrote in his journal, “O that I had … an earthly friend to whom I could unbosom my soul!” (Mary Drewery, William Carey, p. 74.) Andrew Baldwin, who ministers to an unreached people group in London, England, says, “This also emphasizes the need to move out in faith and in total dependence on God. Some people insist on having everything in place and being totally prepared – preparation is good, but as the leader who first recruited me to Turkey wisely said, if we waited till we felt completely ready, we’d never go!”

6. Look for a person of peace (v. 5-6). “Shalom” means more than just peace; it means wholeness and health. A person of peace was a person who fully receives the missionary. This is a person living in the culture you are reaching, who welcomes you, receives the message, and can be a bridge between you and your target culture. When Lottie Moon was serving in China, she learned of a village ten miles from where she was, that was open to the gospel. There lived a man named Dan Ho-bang. He had heard from another missionary that Jesus could remove sins from people. Then he learned that Lottie Moon was teaching about Jesus. Mr. Dan sent three people to invite Miss Moon to preach the way of Jesus in his home. She went, and great crowds of people came to the home to listen to the gospel. It became possible, because of Mr. Dan, a man of peace. (Catherine B. Allen, The New Lottie Moon Story, p. 171)

7. Show and tell the gospel (v. 9) In other words, meet their physical needs and also their spiritual needs– by sharing the gospel. While we always have the authority to share the gospel, often they are more receptive to hearing it when we show that we love them in a practical way. But beware: don’t use service or meeting physical needs as an excuse to not share the gospel. Servant evangelism alone is not a substitute for preaching. James Harvey is a missionary to an unreached people in Nashville, Tennessee. He says, “people use it [servant evangelism] as an excuse to be lazy and non-strategic in declaring the gospel message up front with people in their first meeting/encounter, whether it’s a waitress at a lunch meeting, a worldly relative at a family reunion, or a lost co-worker they pass by every day.”

8. Don’t take rejection personally (v. 10-12). If they reject you, they are actually rejecting Jesus, not you. You’re only accountable for sharing the gospel; you are not accountable for their response. When Lottie Moon first went to China, the Chinese called her a “devil woman” because she was a foreigner. She patiently responded, “Do not curse me. I am a human like you.” It took time for them to even accept her. (Catherine B. Allen, The New Lottie Moon Story, p. 158.)

9. Celebrate spiritual victories. (v. 17-19) When the 70 returned with joy that the demons submitted, Jesus rejoiced with them that Satan was being defeated. Whether you experience small victories, such as a person listening to the gospel, or great victories, such as a person coming to faith in Jesus, it is always reason to celebrate God’s work.

10. Find your greatest satisfaction in your own salvation (v. 20) Jesus reminded them that the greatest rejoicing was that their own names are written in the Book of Life. If you have been obedient to your call to be on mission, you will always be successful, no matter what numerical results you see in your lifetime.

A famous artist was asked to paint a picture of a dying church. One would expect that he would paint a small congregation in a dilapidated building. Instead, he painted a beautiful edifice with a rich pulpit and magnificent stained glass windows—and near the door, an offering box marked “Missions,” with the contribution slot covered with cobwebs. (Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes, p. 378.)

It’s very true. If the church of Jesus neglects mission, the church will die, for the heart of Christ is a heart for missions. But if a church will follow the words of Christ for missions listed here in Luke 10, that church will be alive.

Which kind of church will we be? What kind of missionary will you be?

Some simple gift suggestions for Christmas

Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers

A lady didn’t have time to purchase gifts for her circle of friends, so she rushed to the store and bought a box of pretty Christmas cards, and mailed them without even reading the message inside. When she finally had time to relax on New Year’s, she picked up one of the unused cards and to her horror she read the message she had sent: “This Christmas card is just to say, a little gift is on the way!”
In all of our rushing around this Christmas season, let’s not forget the little gift, the baby Jesus, whom God sent to become the big gift for our eternal life. And let’s ask ourselves what gifts we are giving this Christmas. May I suggest a few?
The gift of time. Spend time doing things that matter– with your family, in worship, and in personal reflection.
The gift of love. Look people in the eye, give them a hug, truly listen to what they are saying. Show them they are important to you.
The gift of the gospel. Share the real meaning of Christmas with your Christmas decorations, using a nativity scene, a lighted cross, and so on.  Ask a friend or co-worker, “What does Christmas mean to you?” and after they answer, tell them what it means to you.
The gift of money. Yes, money, but not like you may think. After all, it’s not your birthday or my birthday, it’s Jesus’ birthday. So why not spend at least as much money in honor of Jesus as we do on our own family members? Share generously with the missions offering to spread the gospel to those who have never heard. Share generously with people in need. And don’t forget your tithes to your own church, to continue the ministries that focus on the real reason for the season.
The gift of song. Christmas is a time for singing and rejoicing! Surround yourself with Christmas carols, and share it with everybody you meet. Go Christmas caroling in your neighborhood and share fresh-baked cookies with an invitation to our Christmas Eve service. This is one time of the year when the whole world likes to hear songs about Jesus, so spread the joy! Like the wise men who gave gold, frankincense and myrrh, what gifts can you and I bring Jesus?

What about those who have never heard the gospel?

Copyright by Bob Rogers

Dr. Greg Boyd was a Christian Bible professor, but his father, Edward Boyd, was not a believer. As Greg shared his faith with his father, his father agreed to write down his doubts and questions about Christianity, and Greg would seek to answer. Their correspondence is published in a book, Letters from a Skeptic. One of Ed Boyd’s biggest objections was the question of what happens to those who never hear the gospel.
Boyd writes, “Doesn’t this mean that these unfortunate people—who constitute the majority of the world—are in fact going to be sent to hell by your all-loving God? But how can this be since they had nothing to do with when they were born, where they were born, what culture they were born into… How can one go to hell by the accident of where he happened to be born? (Gregory A. Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Letters from a Skeptic, p. 155).
The dilemma that Edward Boyd asked is a dilemma for many Christians, as well as skeptics.
On the one hand, John 14:6 says that Jesus is the only way to heaven, yet we know that millions of people have never heard about Jesus. It seems unfair for God to send them to hell, especially since 2 Peter 3:9 says that God does not desire that anybody perish, but desires all to come to repentance and faith in Christ.
Some Christians try to solve this dilemma by thinking that God just gives people a pass if they haven’t heard. David Platt explodes this idea. He says, “If people have a pass just because they have not heard the gospel, what is the worst thing you can do? If you tell them about Jesus, you just increased their chance of going to hell!” They were okay before you told them about Jesus, but now that they’ve heard about Jesus, if they don’t believe, they go to hell. With that line of thinking, you messed them up by sending a missionary! But we know that can’t be true, because we all know that the Bible commands us to share the gospel with every nation and language. Romans 10:14-15 says that they can’t believe unless they hear, and they can’t hear without a preacher, and they can’t preach unless they are sent. So what is the answer? We find some answers in Acts 17.
Acts 17 tells how Paul preached to a group of people who had never heard the gospel before, and Paul says something that can help us understand this dilemma.u He notices that they had worshiped what they called an “Unknown God,” and then he tells them what they call “unknown” he wants to make known to them: Jesus Christ. Then he says this:
“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:26-27, 1984 NIV)
Notice three things in this passage that helps us understand the fate of those who have never heard the gospel:

I. God knows where we live (Acts 17:26)

Edward Boyd thought it was unfair that God sends somebody to hell because they happened to be born in a land or culture where they don’t hear the gospel, but Paul says almost the direct opposite. He says in verse 26 that God determined the exact time and place where every human should live. Verse 27 even says that God did this so that men would seek Him!
Could it be that God put people who are less likely to seek Him in strongly evangelical areas, and He put people who are more likely to seek Him in non-Christian areas? I used to pastor in one of the most evangelized areas of the world, in Mississippi, where there is a Baptist or Methodist or Pentecostal church at nearly every rural crossroads and every small town. But I can also tell you that many of the unchurched people that I met were some of the most hardened to the gospel and hardest to witness to that I had ever met. Yet when I went to an unevangelized area of Mexico and shared the gospel, hundreds of people responded.
The International Mission Board reports: God descended on a Muslim village in Algeria one night. On that evening in 1983, villagers later testified, the Holy Spirit moved from house to house, revealing himself through dreams, visions and angelic visitations. Some 450 Muslims in the village eventually became believers in Christ as their Savior. Christians had nothing to do with the incident — or so they thought. But when mission workers began asking how such a miracle could have occurred, they discovered this: More than six centuries ago, Spanish missionary Raymond Lull was stoned to death by Muslims for preaching where the village now stands. Lull wrote before his death that Islamic strongholds would be conquered not by force, but only “by love and prayers, and the pouring out of tears and blood.” (“Analysis: To Muslins with ‘love, prayer, tears and blood,’ IMB Connecting, http://www.imb.org. Adapted from The Commission, January 8, 1997).
So don’t think it is an unfair accident that some people live in areas where the gospel is rarely preached. God didn’t make some mistake. He knows exactly where He put every person, and God is revealing Himself. Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

II. God knows our hearts (Acts 17:27a)

Paul goes on to say in verse 27, “God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him…”
God knows our hearts. God knows who is going to seek Him.
In Romans 4, Paul discusses this with the illustration of Abraham:
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about–but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:1-3, 1984 NIV)
“Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God,  being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’  The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness–for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” (Romans 4:20-24, 1984 NIV)
Abraham believed what God revealed to him. Jesus had not yet come, but Abraham had faith in everything He saw, and God accepted that faith as righteousness. Apparently God even revealed Jesus to Abraham, because in John 8:56 Jesus says, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” Notice the words “he saw it.” Jesus was saying that somehow, God allowed Abraham to see and understand about Jesus.
Cornelius was another example. Acts 10 says Cornelius was a God-fearing Roman centurion. He had not heard the gospel, but he had heard about the God of Israel, and he sought the Lord, even giving generously to the synagogue and praying regularly. Acts 10:4 says an angel appeared to Cornelius and said, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.” Then God sent Peter to Cornelius to share Jesus with him, and when Cornelius heard about Jesus, he believed.
God knows our hearts. If people live in lands where the gospel is not preached, but they seek God, then God will respond to them. If they come to the light they are given, God will give them more light!

III. God is available to us (Acts 17:27b)

Finally, notice what Paul says in the end of verse 27: “He is not far from each one of us.”
God is available. He is not far away. He can be found.
Romans 1:20 says that God has revealed Himself through creation, so that all people are “without excuse.” Everybody has been given the revelation of God’s existence through creation. When we pay attention to the light that God gives us, then God gives more light. Deuteronomy 4:29, (HCSB) says to “search for the Lord… you will find Him when you seek Him with all your heart…”
The International Mission Board reports that around the Muslim world, Christian workers report an increasing openness and turning to Christ — often preceded by dreams or visions of him among potential converts. Several examples of such phenomena were detailed last year by National and International Religion Report:
— Thousands of North African Muslims wrote to a Christian radio service asking for information. Many reported a similar dream: Jesus appears and tells them, “I am the way.”
— A young Muslim angrily took a Bible tract from a Christian worker, tore it up and threatened the worker’s life. The next day the same young man appeared at the worker’s door, not with a weapon but with a plea: “I must have another booklet.” The previous night, he recounted, he had felt two hands shake him awake and heard a voice say, “You have torn up the truth.” He read the tract and became a believer in Christ.
— In Nigeria, Muslims savagely beat a Christian convert from their tribe. As he lay dying, they heard him asking God to forgive them. That night two Muslim mullahs who participated in the attack saw visions of Christ. Both repented and took 80 followers to a Christian church to hear the gospel. (“Analysis: To Muslins with ‘love, prayer, tears and blood,’ IMB Connecting, http://www.imb.org. Adapted from The Commission, January 8, 1997).
Each of these stories illustrate the truth, that God is available, no matter where a person lives, and even people who live in areas where the gospel has rarely been heard, are hearing and coming to Christ.

A few years ago, a group of nine people from my church visited in the home of a Christian who grew up in the Middle East. She lived in a city and nation where there are very few Christians, and she had never met a Christian or read the Bible or heard the gospel. But one night, she had a dream. In this dream, she stepped outside of her door and was in a desert, and there was a cross lying on a rock. She was told to put the cross in the rock, and when she did, a city appeared with people who looked like her but spoke a language foreign to her.
Three years later, she and her husband moved to Pakistan. There she met people who looked like her but spoke a foreign language, just as in her dream. Then her husband brought home a Bible in Arabic and said, “Why don’t you read this?” She said, “Aha! I have always heard that the prophet Jesus said to follow the prophet Muhammad who is coming after him.” So she read the Bible to find this, but was surprised to read instead that Jesus said false prophets would come after Him (Matthew 7:15; 24:24). When she read this, she exclaimed, “Muhammad is a false prophet! I must follow Jesus.” She has been a faithful Christian to this day, sharing her faith with Muslim women.
Remember Dr. Greg Boyd, and his correspondence with his father, Edward Boyd? After 3 years of writing back and forth 30 letters, and numerous phone calls, Edward Boyd finally came to faith in Christ. So can you, and so can the lost who live in faraway lands!
Really, the question should not be, “Why did God put them in places where the gospel is rarely preached?” The question should be, “Why are we not taking the gospel to them?”

Georgia Baptist Convention meets

Today I attended the opening session of the Georgia Baptist Convention at North Metro Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, in Gwinnett County, north of Atlanta. We heard several reports from various ministries, and a stirring sermon on missions from Dannie Williams of FBC Lyons. There was a mass choir and orchestra from the Gwinnett Metro Baptist Association that lifted the rafters with their songs.

Then the president of the convention, Dan Spencer, pastor of FBC Thomasville, brought a stirring message, asking us if we are willing to pay whatever price it takes to share the gospel everywhere. He told the story of a dog that wore a shock collar and could not pass an invisible electric fence without getting a shock. There was a cat that knew exactly how far the dog could go, and the cat licked his paws just outside of the fence to taunt the dog. Finally, the dog decided he was going to get that cat anyway, and he took a running leap, and jumped past the electric fence. After he shook himself off from the shock, the dog took off chasing the cat. Dan Spencer said that just as the dog had to decide that the pain was worth it, we must decide that it is worth it to share the gospel, no matter what obstacles we face. He talked about the apostle Paul’s willingness to go to Philippi, and how Acts 16 records that he was not disappointed by the small group that met by the river, but shared the gospel and Lydia accepted Christ. Then when Paul was arrested and thrown into the Philippian jail, instead of feeling sorry for himself, he sang and prayed, and God sent an earthquake that opened the prison, and led to the salvation of the jailer. Was it worth it? Paul would have said yes.

I wrote down a couple of interesting quotations that I heard today. At the Executive Committee meeting, a Baptist deacon and lawyer said, “Lawyers and preachers have a lot in common. Both depend on people to be a little bit bad to keep a job.”

Frank Page, CEO of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, welcomed the messengers at the Georgia Baptist Convention. He said that when he was a young preacher, and older preacher told him, “Son, if the Bible is silent about something, it’s best that you be silent, too.”

Joseph Wong, pastor of the Chinese Mission in Savannah, closed the meeting with the benediction. He told us he would teach us how to say “Amen” in Chinese, and then explained that in Chinese it is “Amen.” He went on to pray in Chinese as well as English, and of course, he ended with “Amen.”

I saw lots of good friends from all around Georgia, like our former member Ted Kandler who is now the associational missionary for three associations around Fitzgerald, and Bobby Braswell, who is associational missionary for Middle Baptist Association in Sylvania, as well as the pastors at Windsor Forest Baptist and Immanuel Baptist in Savannah, to name a few.

Tomorrow the convention meets all day, and we will be voting on a lot of business, including election of a new president.

American comments on French visit

The following were comments made on Facebook by members of First Baptist Church of Rincon about the youth group visiting from Colombes, France. Each has given their permission to share their thoughts:

Sherri Gordy Many, many thanks to all those who offered prayers, prepared and served meals, provided gifts and transportation, opened your homes and hearts, and made our new friends from France feel welcome and loved. Their passion for the Lord is contagious. I am honored to be part of a church that makes things happen for Jesus. The week would not have been possible without the direction of God and many hands and hearts working hard behind the scenes. You all know who you are, and I thank you for all you have done.

Christina Cleveland Glendye I was not able to be around them a whole lot, but when I was, I was so blessed! Sherri, thank you for everything you did to make this trip so special and meaningful to them!

Elodie Couratier Lockhart Are you done drying your eyes? lol It was great week!

Sherri Gordy Yeah, thanks for making me cry! You could have translated Pastor Thierry’s words into something funny! I was truly overwhelmed with his kind words and humble appreciation. It was a very great week.

Becky Harrison Cowart A BIG thank you Sherri!! There are no words to express the amazing job you did this week. The French group were deeply touched and blessed and we were touched and blessed as well. Thank you for letting God use you in such a wonderful way.

Dana Brackett Flood Sherri, you are amazing! From the itinerary, the daily dinner groups, tickets, phone calls, text, everything was detailed perfectly! God blessed our family with this experience!

Elodie Couratier Lockhart ‎@ Sherri… I cried because you cried and because I was feeling the same as Pastor Thierry…. You did a great job! God is awesome!

Busy Monday for French youth group

Today, Monday, October 24, the church youth group from Centre Evangelique Protestant of Colombes France had a busy day visiting local schools in Rincon, Georgia.
On Monday morning, they visited Effingham Christian School. The French students sang and shared, and the American students asked questions about life and religion in France.
The rest of the morning and in the afternoon, the French students visited Ebenezer Middle School, a public school north of Rincon. They visited many classes and answered many questions about French culture. They also sang Christian songs in French.
At both schools, the French students were able to invite students to visit the youth rally on Wednesday night at First Baptist Church of Rincon.
Pastor Thierry says that they experienced a warm welcome in both schools and were very happy by how friendly everybody was. He also was impressed with the modern equipment and how clean the schools were. He said that he could tell the students showed respect for their school.