Straight to the Heart

 
 
 

May Our Gospel Life Confirm our Gospel Word

So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.  (1 Thessalonians 2:8, ESV)

One of the great failures of the church is that our “gospel” lives have not undergirded our gospel words. And yet, throughout Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments, HOW the people of God lived before the world mattered. When God rescued Israel out of Egypt, he brought them to the center of the world in Canaan. There, they were to be a royal priesthood and holy nation-displaying to the surrounding nations what it was like to live under the rule of Yahweh (Exodus 19:4-6). As a holy nation who was consecrated to God, they were to be different than the world – different in their worship (only one God), different in their government (theocracy), different in their sexual ethic (monogamous, covenantal marriage), different in their daily lives (dress and food). The reason they were to be different is that as a royal priesthood, they had special access to God and served to represent God to the nations, showing them how good and glorious and kind and just He was. Sadly, Israel failed. Their lives did not reflect their God. They continually disobeyed until God removed them from the land and exiled them.

But God promised He would give His people a faithful Son – one who would faithfully represent Him on earth as a royal son and priest, one who would be holy and show the world what God is like. You see, Jesus is the true image of God – the beloved Son who faithfully represent God as king and priest. He showed the world what God is like and who God is. He showed the world God’s love and mercy in how he treated the outcasts of society: women, children, the sick and lame, Gentiles. And Jesus showed the world God’s justice as he went to the cross and received upon himself the full cup of God’s wrath as a payment for sin. And Jesus showed God’ eternal plan as he was raised from the dead and crowned King of kings and Lord of lords. Now, God is uniting all things under Christ and placing all things under his authority (Ephesians 1:10, 20-22).

One of the things God is uniting under Christ is a fractured humanity – Jew and Gentile – into one new man (Ephesians 2:13-16). When we evangelize, we are participating in God’s eternal plan to unite a fractured humanity in Christ. As we preach the gospel word, we are calling all people everywhere to recognize that God has placed Jesus on His throne as King and Lord and to bow down to him in repentance and faith. In order to fulfill this mission, Jesus has established the church – the new covenant people of God. Unlike the old covenant people of God, we are not located in one central geographical location. Instead, we are spread throughout the world in local gatherings called churches. As such, each local church is an embassy of our heavenly king and kingdom. Under the new covenant in Christ, Christians are God’s royal sons and daughters, called to represent King Jesus on earth as faithful ambassadors. Consequently, we are to display the glory and wisdom of God in this eternal plan to exalt Christ as king by the way we live our lives together as a church (Ephesians 3:10). It is no wonder that Paul calls the Ephesians (and us) to live our lives in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called – walking in truth and love and light and wisdom (Ephesians 4-6).

How we live our lives matters. Jesus said we are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world,” letting our “light shine before others, so that they may see you good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16). Peter says much the same thing (1 Peter 2:11-12). As we live our lives on this earth as Christians, we are to show the world who our king is, what he is like, and what it’s like to live under his rule, showing the world self-sacrificial love, genuine forgiveness, long suffering patience with one another. By living life together as a church in love, we show the world how wise our God is (Ephesians 3:10).

But it’s not right to think as those who approvingly quote the saying (wrongly attributed to Francis of Assisi): “Preach the gospel, and if necessary use words.” That’s like saying, “breathe, and if necessary use air.” There is no evangelism without the gospel word. Paul reminds us in Romans 10 that “faith comes from hearing and hearing through the words of Christ” (10:17). The “hearing” is the preaching of the word of God. Paul is using a play on words to say that people receive the gospel by faith – saving faith comes from “hearing” this good news, and this “good news” comes through the “hearing” of Jesus’ words. Paul is pointing back to Isaiah 53:1 – “Who has believed what he has heard from us?” In doing so, Paul is making the connection between the preached word and saving faith. God delights in saving a people through the proclamation of the gospel. Peter confirms Paul’s point, saying, “you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, though the living and abiding word of God (1 Peter 1:23).

We must preach, declare, share the gospel word! There is no salvation apart from God working by His Spirit through his word. Just being a good neighbor is NOT evangelism. Just being kind to everyone is NOT the gospel. Just inviting someone to church is NOT the gospel. Just giving someone an evangelistic book or tract is NOT evangelism. Now, don’t get me wrong. All these things are good, and we should be doing them – all of them. But the point is that evangelism requires we share the gospel word. But that gospel word falls on deaf ears when our gospel lives don’t match our gospel message. So, let us share the gospel word with boldness in order to please God, and let our gospel lives confirm the truth of this gospel – that God, though Christ, and by His Spirit, has changed us. We are a new creation belonging to a heavenly kingdom. And as we do, may God delight in displaying His glory and wisdom through us, and may He grant us the grace to see much evangelistic fruit from our grace-filled, Spirit-fueled evangelistic efforts.

Love,


Making Big Requests of Our Big God in 2018

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8, ESV)

It’s a joy for me to write this article the first Sunday of each new year. My aim is to encourage us to look forward with the expectation that God delights in answering the prayers of His people as we pray according to God’s will, for God’s glory. As we seek to discern His will, I want to encourage us to ask great things of God. Ironically, as I look back at our prayer requests at the beginning of 2017, the sale of the Jourdan Crossing property was not even on our radar. But as we begin 2017, we have the privilege of starting the new year on the heels of this great but unexpected answer to prayer.

But because it’s so tempting to rest in God’s blessings, I want to challenge us to keep looking forward and continue making BIG requests of our gracious God. The Bible encourages us to approach God boldly in prayer (Hebrews 4:16). To be sure, we are to pray according to God’s will (1 John 5:14). When we pray according to God’s will, we can come before Him boldly, not on the basis of who we are or what we’ve done, but on the basis of who Christ is and what He has accomplished for us by His life, death, resurrection, and exaltation to the Father’s right hand. The apostle Paul reminds us that Jesus Christ is the one “in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him” (Ephesians 3:12).

When we approach God with boldness on the basis of Christ’s work and for the purpose of God’s glory, then such prayer is pleasing to God. It is in such a context that Jesus invites His disciples to ask, seek, and knock. We are to ask persistently of God things that will glorify Him; we are to seek earnestly in prayer those things which honor God; we are to knock urgently on the doors of heaven for those things that will advance God’s kingdom. When we take such joy in God and His glory, the Bible reminds us that God will give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). 

As we begin our thirteenth year together, I invite you to pray with boldness and make BIG requests of God that bring Him glory. Ask God to do BIG things in our midst that will advance His kingdom purposes and thereby bring Him great glory. We have two primary prayer guides at High Pointe. First, the church directory lists our membership. Let’s continue our commitment to pray for one another. If you just pray through one page a day, you will get through the directory at least once every two months. We’ve also added a prayer guide at the end of the directory for your convenience. Use this guide for your personal prayer time. Write down requests and be sure to jot down the date when the Lord answers your prayer. It will be encouraging to see the Lord at work in your life through answered prayer.

Secondly, our budget shows what we, as a church, have prioritized in 2018. Use the budget as another prayer guide because it shows how we are supporting gospel workers at home (High Pointe, Austin, Texas, North America) and abroad (to the ends of the earth). It also shows how we are caring for one another (benevolence). Finally, it addresses the administrative needs that are required in order for us to meet together as a church and minister to one another and our community.

In addition, below you will find a small list of BIG requests we, the elders, are asking from God in 2018.

  • CULTURE OF EVANGELISM: Pray that we (High Pointe) would grow in having more gospel conversations with unbelievers and sharing about those conversations with one another for the purpose of encouragement and prayer. In an effort to encourage evangelism, the very first sermon of 2018 will focus on how we should engage in reaching unbelievers with the gospel. In addition, on the second Sunday of the year, we will begin a study of the New Testament book of Acts. By spending an extended amount of time studying the acts of the ascended Christ in the beginning of the church, we will be challenged and encourage continually to share the gospel for the glory of Christ and the joy of all peoples as the gospel spreads and the church grows.

Personal challenge: Pray that God would allow you to lead one person to faith in Christ in 2018.

  • CULTURE OF DISCIPLESHIP: Pray that we would grow in seeking meaningful relationships at High Pointe for the purpose of mutual edification through reading the Bible together, praying for one another, and speaking the gospel in one another’s lives.

Personal Challenge: If you are not presently involved in a discipleship relationship (one to one, life group, men/women’s group, etc.), that you will make every effort to build discipleship relationships at High Pointe in 2018.

  • OUR MISSION: Three-Mile Radius: Pray that we would make inroads in reaching the unchurched and unbelieving neighbors within the three mile radius of our building. Pray especially for English as a Second Language (ESL) and our partnership with Dessau Middle School.

Personal Challenge: Consider how you can help us engage our three mile radius with the gospel: mentor at Dessau Middle School, volunteer with ESL, etc.

  • OUR MISSION: International: Pray that the Lord would allow us to cultivate fruitful gospel partnerships for the spread of the gospel and encourage more of our members to involve themselves in international missions, either short-term or long-term. 2018 will be our second year of a three year partnership with Reaching and Teaching to train pastors and church leaders in Uganda. In 2018, we also hope to establish an ongoing partnership plan with Mack Stiles in Erbil, Kurdistan (Norther Iraq). Mack is the pastor of the international church there.

Personal Challenge: Would you consider going on a High Pointe short-term mission trip in 2018? If not Uganda, then how about one of the other places in which we already have gospel partners? Ask the elders, and we are glad to guide you and help you prepare.

  • OUR MISSION: Resources: Pray that the Lord would provide all the necessary resources of finances, persons, and materials that High Pointe requires for accomplishing our mission – that includes reaching and surpassing our projected budget income for 2018 and even liquidating our remaining debt (now approximately $1.08 million). Here are some other ways you can be praying!
  1. Joint Venture (JV) on 5+ acres of land: in 2017, we entered into a joint venture (JV) agreement with our neighbor and Guefen Development to construct luxury apartments on the property just north of us. The developer plans on breaking ground at the beginning of this year, and they estimate that construction will be completed in about 18 months. Pray that the Lord would grant us favor in this venture and that all would go well with the development of the property and the construction over the next year and a half. And pray that we may be able to realize financial gain by July 2019.
  2. Thanksgiving: We also want to give thanks for your generous giving over 2018. We do not have the final financial figures for last year, but it looks like our 2017 giving will come in ahead of 2016. That’s a great answer to prayer! We praise God for your generosity!
  3. Pray: Let’s be sure to pray that the Lord would continue to allow us to be generous and meet and even exceed our 2018 budget. And let us ask the Lord to remove this debt from over our heads in 2018.
  4. Personal Challenge: If you have been giving regularly, sacrificially, joyfully, and as the Lord has blessed you, continue doing so. If not, let me encourage you to begin giving regularly this year, according to how the Lord has blessed you. If you need help managing your budget, beginning a budget, reducing your personal debt, or just making better financial decision, let the elders know. We have a number of gifted brothers who can counsel you.
  • OUR MISSION: Harvest: Pray that the Lord would allow us to see much fruit of our evangelism, discipleship, and missions over the next twelve months.
 

These are not all the requests for prayer that we have as a church in 2018, but these are some BIG requests that are on the hearts of the elders. Join us in making these bold requests of God that we may see God’s greatness and worship Him more deeply! And join us on Sunday nights when we have a focused time of prayer for such BIG requests. May the Lord grant us the grace to see much answered prayer in 2018 because we are praying boldly according to God’s will, in the name of His Son, Jesus, in order that God would be glorified.

Love,



Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow!

For the last several months, we have been praying as a church for the sale of the Jourdan Crossing property. By God’s grace, He has answered our prayers. On Thursday, 21 December, we closed on the property. It is with great joy that the elders report to you that as a result of the sale, we reduced our debt by $1,500,000.00. As of Friday, 22 December, our remaining debt is approximately, $1,078,915.17. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

After loan payment, realtor commissions, and closing fees, we received a sum of $322,366.77 at closing. As we’ve been discussing these last few months, the elders have set aside 10% of our proceeds from the sale ($182,800.00) to acknowledge God’s blessing by applying this sum to missions and individual missionaries. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Below is the breakdown of the distribution of High Pointe’s missions’ gifts as agreed upon by the elders at our last meeting on 18 December:
 

$50,000.00 The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC):

As a church in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), we give to the Cooperative Program (CP). Southern Baptists designed the state convention (SBTC in our case) to be the vehicle that receives and distributes CP giving. The SBTC keeps 45% of our gift, and sends 55% to SBC causes: International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, SBC seminaries, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Our desire is to see our Cooperative Program giving increase over the next few years.

$50,000.00 Mack Stiles (The Mustard Seed Foundation):

Mack has gained permission from the government where he lives to build a new building. Estimated costs are $3,000,000.00. We want to continue supporting this strategic work.

$25,000.00 Steve Jennings – Immanuel Church Fujairah:

Steve is doing great work in a hard place. They have lost some members due to people transitioning out of Fujairah, and they need an increased salary as their family is growing.

$20,000.00 9Marks:

9Marks is doing great work equipping pastors throughout the world. Their ministry is growing but so is their financial need.

$15,000.00 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering:

We set aside $22,009.00 for LMCO in 2017. This gift goes directly to the missionaries on the field. The elders want to encourage our SBC missionaries with this gift and display High Pointe’s commitment to international missions. Because God has blessed us financially we want to add another $15,000.00 to our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering this year. Our total LMCO gift for 2017 will be $37,009.00.

$10,000.00 Equipo Impacto

Equipo Impacto is the ministry in Cuba that equips local pastors in expositional ministry. In February 2018, Equipo Impacto will host a national pastors’ conference, and they are currently raising funds to provide this ministry to pastors at little cost.

$5,400.00 High Pointe Member Family

As one HPBC family prepares to serve in an undisclosed country, they have asked the elders for financial support to begin the investigatory process, including a visit to their particular mission field to build relationships with their potential future team.
 

$5,000.00 Missions Miscellaneous

The elders set aside this money to be prepared for unplanned missions opportunities that may arise in 2018.

$2,400 Maeghan Bell

The Lord has touched Maeghan’s heart for missions in her previous trip to Uganda. She will be returning to Uganda with High Pointe’s next team in June 2018 and remaining there for a number of months to see of the Lord is calling her to serve alongside Jacob and Carol Lee.

Also as previously discussed, the elders are setting aside $70,000.00 to address deferred maintenance needs in our building and on our property. The remaining monies (approximately $69,544.00), will be set aside as cash reserves. We hope to continue to add to this fund until it reaches $100,000.00.

Continued Giving Needs

It’s important to note, however, that this blessing in no way changes our regular budget needs for 2018. We will continue to need High Pointe to give regularly, generously, and sacrificially because we still require the same amount of giving to meet our 2018 budget.

I thank God for your generosity! But as we prepare for 2018 together, would you please pray about what your regular giving at High Pointe? If you presently do not give regularly, would you begin in 2018? If you presently do not give generously, would you begin in 2018? If you presently do not give sacrificially, would you begin in 2018?

We rejoice over God’s blessings of answered prayer! And we praise God from whom all blessing flow! May our Lord continue to bless us that we may be a blessing through generosity. I cannot wait to see what God has in store for us in this new year.
 
Grace & peace,



Juan Sanchez

Juan Sanchez (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as the senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas. In addition, Juan serves as a council member of The Gospel Coalition, co-founder and president of Coalición, assistant professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. He has authored numerous books, including 1 Peter for You and Seven Dangers Facing your Church. Juan and his wife, Jeanine, have five daughters, two sons-in-law, and two grandchildren.
 
    

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