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September 15, 1999






Love relationship with
Jesus urged at Cedars
___By Ken Camp
___Texas Baptist Communications
___CEDAR HILL--A love relationship with Jesus Christ is "the very essence of the Christian life," not just an added bonus for believers, Henry Blackaby told a Texas Baptist Men prayer retreat.
___The "love relationship" between a Christian and Jesus Christ should be the defining characteristic that sets apart his disciples, the author of the "Experiencing God" curriculum said at the 11th annual Cedars of Lebanon retreat, Sept. 3-6 at Mount Lebanon Baptist Encampment.
___"What you do spontaneously reveals the true condition of your heart," Blackaby said. "If you've ever been born again, the Spirit of Christ takes up residence in you, and the spontaneous response of your heart is God-like love."
___Love for God compelled early Christians and Baptists to give their lives willingly as a witness "sealed by their own blood," said Karen Bullock, assistant professor of church history at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. "They thought that dying for Christ was part of living for him."
___Modern American Christians have trained themselves to "read around" the passages of Scripture that promise suffering and persecution as the cost of discipleship, Bullock said. But not all disciples of Jesus Christ have that luxury in 1999.
___"In some places today, conversion means almost certain death," she reported, noting about one-third of the world's Christians worship despite government restrictions against such worship.
___She also pointed to the ministry of those who serve under "the gray flag"--missionaries whose names cannot be reported due to security concerns but who offer an "incarnational, intentional witness" in countries hostile to open missionary work.
___"Tomorrow, we must expect more persecution, not less," Bullock said. "It costs to follow Christ. It costs the kingdom more if we do not."
___Other speakers included Avery Willis, senior vice president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board; Blake Coffee, a San Antonio attorney and author of "Five Principles of Unity"; Don Miller of Bible-Based Ministries in Fort Worth; and Richard Owen Roberts of International Awakening Ministries in Wheaton, Ill.

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