February 2013

CP slightly above budgeted goal

February 4 2013 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist national and international causes are 1.11 percent above the budgeted goal, and are 2.69 percent behind contributions received during the same time frame last year.

As of January 31, gifts received by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee for distribution through the Cooperative Program (CP) Allocation Budget totaled $63,359,413.41, or 101.11 percent of the $62,666,666.68 year-to-date budgeted amount, said Frank Page, SBC Executive Committee president. The total is $1,753,874.22 less than the $65,113,287.64, received through the end of January 2012, and will support Southern Baptist ministries in the U.S. and internationally.

“We are grateful for each gift contributed to the missions and ministries of the convention,” Page said. “We see encouraging signs that the worst of the sluggish economy may be behind us and continue to pray for the financial well-being of the members of our cooperating churches and their members.”

The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ method of supporting missions and ministry efforts of state and regional conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention. The total includes contributions from state conventions and fellowships, churches and individuals.

For the month, a total of $18,339,654.49 was received for distribution through the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.

The CP Allocation Budget is distributed 50.2 percent to missions through the International Mission Board; 22.79 percent to missions through North American Mission Board; 22.16 percent to theological education; 3.2 percent to the SBC operating budget and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

If the SBC exceeds its annual budget goal of $188 million, IMB’s share will increase to 51 percent of any overage in CP receipts. Other SBC ministry entities will receive their adopted percentage amounts and the SBC operating budget’s portion will be reduced to 2.4 percent of any overage, the budget stipulates.

Designated giving of $39,711,275.49 for the same year-to-date period is 2.50 percent, or $1,018,079.09, below gifts of $40,729,354.58 received at this point last year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the EC and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities.

The CP and designated giving totals represent money received by the Executive Committee by the close of the last business day of each month. Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the number of Sundays in a given month, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions and the timing of when state conventions forward the national portion of their CP contributions to the Executive Committee.

Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions, Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund and other special gifts.

State and regional conventions retain a portion of church contributions to the Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program to support work in their respective areas and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist national and international causes. The percentage of distribution is at the discretion of each state or regional convention.
2/4/2013 2:50:06 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

New HHS rule on abortion mandate ‘inadequate’

February 4 2013 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration proposed a rule change Friday it says will appease the concerns religious organizations have about the abortion/contraceptive mandate, but legal groups who defend religious liberty called the proposal inadequate and said it fell far short of what is needed.

Religious groups had hoped the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would announce that all religious organizations – universities, hospitals and charities – are exempt from the mandate, which requires employers to carry health insurance plans covering contraceptives and drugs that can cause chemical abortions. Churches, for example, are exempt from the mandate. Instead, HHS issued a rule it says allows for employees to obtain contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs without the religious employer taking part in the process. Religious liberty groups say employers still will be involved.

The proposal also does nothing to help businesses such as Bible publisher Tyndale House or Christian-owned Hobby Lobby or any other for-profit whose owners have religious objections to contraceptives and/or abortion-causing drugs.

“Having reviewed this proposed rule, we ... have to say we’re extremely disappointed,” Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said in a conference call with reporters. Becket Fund has helped lead the legal charge against the mandate. More than 40 lawsuits have been filed against the mandate. Duncan called the proposal “radically inadequate.”

According to an HHS website, under the proposal, the religious employer “would not have to contract, arrange, pay or refer for any contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds.” Employees “would receive contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies, without cost sharing or additional premiums.” The insurance company would be required to offer the drugs for free, HHS said.

Religious organizations that are self-insured would have to contact a third party administrator, which would “work with a health insurance issuer to provide separate, individual health insurance policies at no cost for participants.”

Religious liberty groups had multiple objections to the proposal. First, the groups said, religious organizations still will be required to carry an insurance plan that is tied to coverage of contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs. Second, religious employers – particularly those who are self-insured – will be acting as “conduits” with health providers to ensure their employees can obtain the drugs. Third, it’s unclear who is paying for the “free drugs.” As some religious commentators were suggesting: Will insurance companies simply raise rates – and thereby pass the cost for the abortion-causing drugs on to the religious organization?

Duncan said religious organizations are “going to have to carefully consider whether this accommodation really doesn’t change the moral landscape at all. It’s going to be up to them to make that determination. We believe they’re going to have some serious concerns about remaining unacceptably involved in the provision of these drugs and devices.”

Alliance Defending Freedom senior legal counsel Matt Bowman said the proposal still infringes on religious liberty.

“Religious non-profits will, in fact, be forced to provide an insurance plan with a provider that gives the religious group’s employees abortion-pill coverage in direct connection with that plan, the coverage is definitely not free, and the coverage is imposed ‘automatically’ even against the objection of many employees who don’t want free abortion-pill coverage for themselves or their daughters,” Bowman said.

To qualify for the proposal, an organization must self-certify that it “holds itself out as a religious organization,” according to HHS. Ironically that could mean that many of the nation’s leading pro-life organizations – despite being non-profits – won’t qualify for the accommodation because they’re technically not religious organizations.

The HHS announcement did nothing to change the coverage by for-profits. Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts store whose Christian owners say they will not follow the mandate, apparently will face fines of more than $1 million each day if a federal court does not step in. Its owners always have made their faith a central part of their business. Their stores play Christian instrumental music and are closed on Sundays. Hobby Lobby contributes to Christian organizations and runs full-page ads in newspapers during the Easter and Christmas seasons with gospel-centered messages.

The good news for Christian for-profits is they are winning in court, having seen 10 wins and only four losses. Hobby Lobby, though, is one of those losses. The issue likely is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The administration fails to understand,” said Gene Rudd of the Christian Medical Association, “that many employers and individual Americans, regardless of a religious label or not, maintain strong conscience objections to participating in any way, shape or form in a plan that promotes pills that the FDA says can cause the demise of a living human embryo – a developing baby in her earliest stage.”

Covered under the mandate are emergency contraceptives such as Plan B and ella that can kill an embryo after fertilization and even after implantation. Pro-lifers consider that action a chemical abortion.

The mandate was announced by HHS in August 2011 as part of the health care law championed by President Obama. Although the Supreme Court upheld the health care law last June, the justices’ ruling did not deal with the religious liberty issues surrounding the abortion/contraceptive mandate. That means the nation’s highest court could yet strike down what has been for religious groups and some business owners the most controversial part of the law.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
2/4/2013 2:28:26 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Super Bowl, Mardi Gras & gospel converge

February 2 2013 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS – Many have dubbed it “Super Gras,” the rare convergence of the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, a $700 million influx encompassing well over a million tourists. The city has spent the last three years getting ready.

Amid the revelry and planning are prime opportunities to model Christ at various game-related events across the city in the days leading up to Super Sunday.

Lagniappe Ministries, for example, will disperse helpers among the 8,000 Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation volunteers interacting with fans, workers and sports officials. Cherry and Ben Blackwell, who co-founded Lagniappe Ministries as an outreach to the sports and hospitality community and other groups, have been North American Mission Board Mission Service Corps missionaries for more than 10 years.

Volunteers “can’t give out tracts or anything like that. That’s taboo as far as the NFL is concerned,” Cherry Blackwell said. “But relationship witnessing is the way to do it.

“The main thing is for people to see Christ in our everyday lives. Most of our ministry part of this is among volunteers more than anything else this time,” Blackwell said. “Because we’re working through the sports foundation and we’re working through the NFL and the host committee, we’re dealing with a lot of volunteers who are not Christian, so a lot of our ministry is to them directly.”

The Super Bowl and its related events have great potential to grow Lagniappe’s circle of influence, putting them in touch with new people, businesses and sports industry groups.

“It opens the doors for future ministries with so many people because we network with so many different groups of people and organizations,” Blackwell said.


Cherry Blackwell, who co-founded Lagniappe Ministries with her husband Ben as an outreach to the New Orleans sports and tourism community, is shown with Zac Johnston at a charity flag football benefit for the Miracle League of Greater New Orleans, a sports league for disabled children. At this year’s Super Bowl and related events, Lagniappe volunteers will serve in various capacities, modeling Christ and sharing the Gospel as God gives opportunity.

Blackwell has encouraged volunteers to pray at every opportunity, prayerwalking while going to and from their cars in the central business district. And she has encouraged the elderly and homebound, referred to as “rope holders,” to pray at home during all events.

Blackwell is in the Super Dome daily as the full-time director of business development for the New Orleans VooDoo Arena Football team, a position she has held since May 2012.

“I walk through the Super Dome every day and ... I’m praying as I’m walking … first of all for safety, for those who are there who don’t know Christ, for the door to open for somebody to share with them,” she said. “The rope holders are groups of people ... our senior citizens who are homebound. They can’t get out and actually volunteer, but they’re supporting us by praying.”

Lagniappe will provide hospitality volunteers at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and on game day at the Super Dome.

“Volunteers will offer a welcome smile and a helping hand whenever and wherever needed,” Blackwell said. “You’re standing at the airport with three or four other people, and you’re going to have down times” that allow for communication and relationship building.

“We just plant the seed. God promises He’ll take care of the rest,” said Blackwell, who has already shared the gospel with several individuals during the pre-game Super Bowl events. “Very seldom have I had the opportunity to actually win somebody to Christ during an event or on the street, but a lot of times it’s come later because of relationships or discipleship.”

For the past two weeks, Blackwell’s days have typically run from 4 a.m.–11 p.m., and she anticipates even longer days this weekend.

“The only way I’m handling it is that God’s doing it,” she said. “When this and Mardi Gras [the first parade was Jan. 19] are over, then I’ll have to take a few crash days and just completely regroup and start all over.”

Lagniappe Ministries has seen much fruit from prayers and labor, Ben Blackwell said.

“There are a lot of stories that show how God is working through this ministry. One of my favorites happened in 2006 when the AFL [Arena Football League] chose to bring the Arena Bowl Game to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina,” he said. “We got a phone call and the voice on the other end said they were looking for volunteers. And they had been told by someone at the NFL that if these people are still there after the storm they are the ones you want to call.

“They had been told we could be trusted and were good people. That meant a lot to us,” he said. “God used that vote of confidence to open many doors and we believe to eventually open the door for Cherry’s current job as director of business development for the New Orleans VooDoo.”

With the Arena League team, Blackwell is paid to conduct ministry she previously conducted as a volunteer.

“I’m blessed because one of our owners is a believer,” she said. “He knew what we did ministry-wise already before he hired me. And he knew that that was going to continue. ... They know that’s what my life is about; that’s what we do.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’s staff writer.)

Related stories

Ravens or Niners? Christians face a 'Super' dilemma
49ers' kicker perseveres
Low profile suits Ravens' Cox
Super Bowl, Mardi Gras & gospel converge
Super Bowl & beyond: Human trafficking lurks (guest column)
Under the Helmet video
Super Bowl photo gallery
2/2/2013 4:54:17 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Low profile suits Ravens’ Cox

February 2 2013 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS – If Morgan Cox does his job in Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, he won’t make the headlines.

He won’t make a game-saving tackle or catch a winning touchdown pass. He could have the best game of his life, and few will know it.

But if Cox messes up at a key moment, he’ll forever be remembered as a goat.

Such is life for the Baltimore Ravens’ long snapper.

“I know that I’m doing my job if nobody really knows my name,” Cox said during Jan. 29’s media day in New Orleans. “You kind of have to have the personality for that – being OK with staying in the background and watching your kicker succeed and being happy for him.”

That mentality doesn’t stop on the field with Cox, however, and permeates his entire life – flowing from his Christian faith.

“I can’t even begin to describe the blessings that I feel that God has given me in my life,” Cox said. “I just have to trust in Him to know where to go, where to take this [Super Bowl appearance] in order to use it as a platform to honor Him.”

Raised in a Christian home near Memphis, Tenn., Cox became a believer at an early age. His family was actively involved at Hope Presbyterian Church in Memphis, where Cox still attends during the offseason.

He graduated from Evangelical Christian School in Cordova, Tenn., and though he wasn’t heavily recruited to play college football, made the team at the University of Tennessee as a walk-on.

Following his collegiate career, he signed with the Ravens in 2010 as an undrafted free agent and earned the starting long snapper role for the 2010 season. Cox quickly earned a reputation as a hard-nosed and fierce competitor, especially after a game against Cleveland in 2010 when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in the second quarter. He stayed in the game and snapped for three punts, two field goals and two extra points.

That display helped him earn the team’s Ed Block Courage Award in 2011 for his courage on and off the field. Cox also is an active participant in several community outreach projects in the Baltimore area.

Cox has found the Baltimore locker room to be a comfortable place for him as a Christian. He’s surrounded by several other believers on the team and said even those who aren’t Christians have listened as he has shared his faith with them.

Even when he’s on the field, Cox has ways of reminding himself about God’s presence in his life. When he prepares for a snap and is looking through his legs, the holder’s left arm is pointing down at the field, and Cox envisions his target as a cross between the holder’s knee and his arm.

“That’s just a small way of reminding me that Jesus is with me, and He’s going to take care of me,” Cox said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is editor of BP Sports and director of news and media relations for Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)

Related stories

Ravens or Niners? Christians face a 'Super' dilemma
49ers' kicker perseveres
Low profile suits Ravens' Cox
Super Bowl, Mardi Gras & gospel converge
Super Bowl & beyond: Human trafficking lurks (guest column)
Under the Helmet video
Super Bowl photo gallery
2/2/2013 4:49:22 PM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

BOD eyes new strategy, structure changes; elects officers

February 1 2013 by Shawn Hendricks, BR managing editor

Significant changes involving the structure and staff of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) could be unavoidable in the coming year if N.C. Baptists are to reach their full potential for ministry, Milton Hollifield Jr. told the BSC’s Board of Directors (BOD) Jan. 29.
A proposal to restructure and reassign convention staff will be presented to the BSC’s Executive Committee in April, Hollifield, executive director-treasurer, told the board during their first meeting of the year at Caraway Conference Center in Sophia. If approved by the Executive Committee, the proposal will go before the board in May. And, ultimately, it could go before messengers during the annual meeting in November.
If approved by messengers, the implementation of this strategy would begin in 2014, and it would impact the BSC’s budget for that year, Hollifield said. The new strategy and structure also would require amendments to the bylaws of the convention.

Milton Hollifield Jr.

For now a team of 18 convention staff members, called the Strategic Development Committee, will continue their work to complete a five-year strategy for the BSC. Once the strategy is completed, Hollifield said, he will wrap up his work on a new structure that will support the plan.
“Here’s when the water hits the wheel ... changes will need to occur,” Hollifield told the board. “It is impractical, as well as impossible, for everything that the convention has ever conducted, ever supported or ever supplied in ministry to continue. But that which supports the strategy must receive our best effort, our best investment and our best energies.
“In simplest terms, the strategy will be all about strengthening churches in order to impact lostness through the making of disciples. … It’s going to aid us in our mission efforts in North Carolina, North America … and even in reaching unreached people groups in the world.
And cutting more expenses in the coming year will be part of the plan, said Hollifield, adding that these decisions will be “difficult and painful.”  He reported that significant cuts have already been made to the 2013 budget.
In 2012, the N.C. Missions Offering was down by 3 percent, and the convention finished the year $3.5 million dollars under budget. Still, the organization made necessary cuts and finished last year in the black with $48,000 remaining in the budget. In addition to attrition and trimming staff expenditures for the 2013 budget, messengers at last year’s annual meeting approved a 3 percent decrease for most of the BSC’s institutions and agencies with exceptions to the Baptist Children’s Homes and Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute.
“ … And not without impact on our effectiveness in some areas of ministry,” he said. “At times we have to make tough decisions about choosing to fund one thing over [another] … [rather than] funding everything that we’ve always funded.”
Hollifield explained to the 32 new board members who rotated on this year that these upcoming strategy and structural proposals are the result of the BSC’s Vision Fulfillment Committee. The committee was formed in 2010 in an effort to better position the organization toward ministry effectiveness.
In 2011 the Vision Fulfillment Committee, made up of people from N.C. churches, conducted 16 “listening sessions” with Baptists around the state. That committee brought recommendations back to the Executive Committee in August of that year.
“The single most significant matter addressed in the report was the need for a convention-wide, five-year strategy,” Hollifield said. 
 The Executive Committee then called on BSC staff to develop a response to the report. Throughout last year, the Strategic Development Committee worked toward developing a strategy.
The ministry needs in N.C. alone are significant, said Hollifield, pointing out one possible aspect of the proposed strategy.
“There are 5.6 million lost people living in N.C. … well, that number continues to grow,” Hollifield said. “Our research [conducted by the Strategic Development Committee] has identified the top 100 pockets of lostness within this state.”
“These 100 pockets are found in eight areas across our state,” he added. “These are the areas where the greatest concentration of lost people have been identified.”
In order to reach these areas, Hollifield said, the convention must assist churches through two primary channels – strengthening existing churches and planting new churches.
“At the present, we do not have staff assigned in each of these [eight] areas … but this is something that we must do in order to fulfill the strategy,” he said. “I’ll give you the specifics of how we will do this when we meet again in May.”
In other business, the board elected new officers. Michael Barrett pastor of Pleasant Garden Baptist Church in Pleasant Garden, was re-elected as president of the board.

Perry Brindley, pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Canton, was elected as vice president. Teresa Jones, executive assistant for the administration of the BSC, was re-elected as board secretary. All officers ran unopposed.
For more reports and stories related to the board meeting look for the Biblical Recorder’s Feb. 16 issue and on its website, brnow.org.
2/1/2013 3:56:35 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR managing editor | with 0 comments

Ravens or Niners? Christians face a ‘Super’ dilemma

February 1 2013 by David Gibson, Religion News Service

Who should Christians root for in Sunday’s Super Bowl: the San Francisco 49ers or the Baltimore Ravens?
It may be a silly question to some, though not to millions of American believers who invest a lot of faith and hope in their sports teams, and see it repaid many times over by the regular public testimonies of numerous athletes and coaches.
A survey released days before the big game shows that more than a quarter of Americans – and about four in 10 evangelicals – think God will help decide the winner of the Super Bowl. So certainly God is rooting for one side or the other, no?
This year’s National Football League (NFL) championship game, however, is especially challenging for those who like their Christian faith to align with their sports loyalties.
The problem is not that evangelical poster boy Tim Tebow isn’t in the big game; the celebrity quarterback had such a lousy season with the New York Jets that no one knows if Tebow will ever make it back to the pros, much less to the playoffs.
Instead, the heart of this moral conundrum is that both the Ravens and Niners have more than their share of Bible-quoting believers – as well as card-carrying cads. And to make matters worse, the saint and sinner can be the same person.
Take Ray Lewis, Baltimore’s defensive standout and future Hall of Famer.
Not only is Lewis a great player, but he is so outspoken about his Christian faith that Sports Illustrated dubbed him “God’s Linebacker” in a 2006 cover story. Moreover, Lewis is retiring after a 17-year career and a season in which he made an improbable (miraculous?) return from a triceps tear that should have ended his year. Redemption, anyone?
On the other hand, Lewis is a fierce and intimidating character who was implicated in a double homicide 13 years ago outside an Atlanta nightclub, an incident that led to a plea deal on a reduced charge. To the anguish of some victims’ relatives, he still has not spoken in detail about what happened that night.
Lewis is also the father of six children by four different women, none of whom he has married; even after his clamorous conversion to Christianity, his chief bit of fatherly wisdom to other players was to use a condom.
To top it all off, Lewis has just been linked to a banned substance that allegedly helped speed his return from the triceps injury – allegations he has heatedly denied.
Then there’s the 49ers. San Francisco’s coach is Jim Harbaugh, a devout Catholic who wears his faith on his sleeve. On the other hand, Harbaugh wears pretty much everything on his sleeve. He is best known for his profane sideline tirades and he is routinely labeled “intense,” which is a football euphemism for when a lot of people think you’re a big jerk.
Then again, the Niners have an inspiring story in quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Harbaugh picked Kaepernick to replace quarterback Alex Smith when the long-suffering starter went out with a concussion mid-season. Kaepernick is so public about his Christianity that his on-field motions of devotion have made “Kaepernicking” an odds-on favorite to replace “Tebowing” as the hot new Christian verb – and controversy.
But, wait ... San Francisco also has star wide receiver Randy Moss, who is known as much for his petulance and self-aggrandizing as his pass routes. And there’s cornerback Chris Culliver, who insisted he doesn’t have gay teammates and if he does, “they gotta get up out of here.”
Fine, back to Baltimore. Their coach is Jim Harbaugh’s brother, John, who is every bit the Catholic Jim is, but with less cursing. Yet ... the Ravens have strong safety Bernard Pollard, whose pride in delivering violent hits and loud-mouthed taunts matches his outspoken faith to the extent that he is praised by teammates as a “Christian thug.”
Moreover, trash-talking Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs last year dissed Tebow and the on-field displays of faith that made him a hero to American evangelicals. “With all due respect, we don’t need God on our sidelines,” Suggs boasted. That left Ravens fan Monica Johnson, a writer for the Baltimore Evangelical Examiner, sputtering. “No team loyalty supersedes my love for the Christian brethren,” she wrote.
And so it goes. Every time a Christian finds a good reason to root for one of the teams, up pops an apparent disqualifier.

So what is a Christian football fan to do this Sunday? Maybe get some distance, suggests Shirl James Hoffman, author of the 2010 book, Good Game: Christianity and the Culture of Sports, and a pointed critic of the ethics of the modern game.
“I will watch the Super Bowl, but not under the illusion that the game is in any sense blessed by God or that it is going to bolster my Christian faith,” said Hoffman, a professor emeritus of kinesiology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. “In fact, I will be very conscious of the fact that it is appealing to instincts that are anything but Christian.”
Hoffman argues that modern football is a consumer product that glorifies violence, not God. Unless it can return to its original “flag football” ethos, the pro game is really akin to the gladiatorial contests in pagan Rome, he says, and the big-money incentives for this “degradation of the human body” makes the NFL “close to what we call prostitution.”
Indeed, new revelations about the tragic effects of violence in football produced an unexpectedly dark story line in the normally sunny run-up to the Super Bowl. Even President Obama, a die-hard Chicago Bears fan, voiced concern.
Given all this moral ambiguity, Hoffman says, believers who invest theological importance in football, or make icons of Christian players, are taking a big risk.
So what will Hoffman do on Sunday night? Root for whoever is the underdog, he says. “I think there’s something essentially Christian in that. You’re rooting for the person who is down and out – the object of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.”

Related stories

Ravens or Niners? Christians face a 'Super' dilemma
49ers' kicker perseveres
Low profile suits Ravens' Cox
Super Bowl, Mardi Gras & gospel converge
Super Bowl & beyond: Human trafficking lurks (guest column)
Under the Helmet video
Super Bowl photo gallery
2/1/2013 2:34:38 PM by David Gibson, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

49ers’ kicker perseveres

February 1 2013 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS – David Akers spent a dozen seasons in the NFL in a time of plenty.

Now in his second year with the San Francisco 49ers, Akers was one of the most consistent kickers in the game during 11 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, regularly hitting more than 80 percent of his field goal attempts. Last year with the 49ers, Akers had arguably the best season ever for a kicker, setting an NFL record 44 field goals.

This year, however, has been a time of want for Akers, even though the 49ers will vie for a Super Bowl title on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. Struggling with inconsistency, Akers converted only 69 percent of his field goal attempts this season. He drew the ire of 49ers fans and even received death threats on Twitter.

As he rested in God’s grace during the bountiful years, Akers has learned to do the same during this season of difficulty.

“I think everybody, as humans, we question a lot of what’s going on or we can’t see the big picture of what’s happening,” Akers said. “Sometimes the answer comes quickly and sometimes it takes a long time before reflection is turned into answers.”

Those answers have often come to Akers from scriptures such as “Lean not on your own understanding” and “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD.”

Photo by Tim Ellsworth/BP Sports

San Francisco 49ers kicker David Akers, speaking at media day Jan. 30 for Sunday’s Super Bowl, has emerged the toughest of his 12 years in the NFL.

Though this season was the toughest Akers has faced in a long time, he’s not new to adversity away from the game. From 2007-09, Akers invested $3.7 million with a financial group in what proved to be a Ponzi scheme scam. He lost his life’s savings.

Then in 2011, Akers’ 6-year-old daughter Halley had surgery to remove a malignant tumor from an ovary. She has since recovered fully from the cancer scare.

Struggles such as those tend to put football in its proper perspective for Akers.

“We all go through trials through life,” Akers said. “My business is playing football, and I try to do it to the best of my ability. There’s some times where you have success and other times where you have failures. You realize that what you do in life doesn’t define who you are.”

Akers wrote about what does define him in a recent edition of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ monthly magazine.

“I don’t want my legacy to be that I was great at making long field goals or filling up the stat sheet,” Akers wrote. “I’d rather be known as a great husband and father, a good friend and teammate, a servant and someone who could be counted upon. I love my Heavenly Father and, like Romans 8:28 says, I have a purpose in this life – to give glory to God in all things.”

When his team takes the field on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII, Akers’ spot on the team is secure – even though it was in doubt just a few weeks ago when the 49ers auditioned other kickers because of Akers’ inconsistency. But he withstood the test, and on Sunday, he hopes to reap the rewards.

“As long as you love God, then you know that He has a plan for you and you’ve got to just keep working in the situation that you’re in,” Akers said. “I’ve had a blessed career. It’s been a tough season for me personally, but it’s been one of the most rewarding years as a teammate, to see how well the team’s done. It’s great to be a part of something like this, and hopefully we’ll have even more success on Sunday.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is editor of BP Sports and director of news and media relations for Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)

Related stories

Ravens or Niners? Christians face a 'Super' dilemma
49ers' kicker perseveres
Low profile suits Ravens' Cox
Super Bowl, Mardi Gras & gospel converge
Super Bowl & beyond: Human trafficking lurks (guest column)
Under the Helmet video
Super Bowl photo gallery
2/1/2013 2:16:10 PM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ministering to pastors becomes pastor’s dream

February 1 2013 by Bob Burchette, Special to the Recorder

Darryl Love had a dream. He wanted to do something to help pastors in distress.
“I’ve had a passion to minister to pastors for about 15 years,” said Love, 48.
Love, pastor of Crossover Community Church in High Point, wanted a place of respite for pastors and their spouses. It would be a place of tranquility, one where pastors would find encouragement and renewal.
“The dropout rate among pastors in all denominations is at an all-time high. We need to be there for them,” Love said.
“Pastors are on call 24-7, and it’s their families that pay the price. Pastors devote their lives to ministering to others but seldom do they have anyone minister to them.”

Contributed photo

Darryl and Rhonda Love, inset, have created Healing Place Ministries, a two-story home with a wrap-around porch to provide a place for pastors to retreat with their wives.

Love’s wife, Rhonda, shared her husband’s dream.  She first suggested that the big yellow house, a former bed and breakfast on Archdale Road, might be “just the place” for their shared dream.
Their dream grew bigger when they noticed a “for sale” sign on the lawn of that big house in October 2010.
Could this be an answer to their prayers for a place where they could establish Healing Place Ministries?
The two-story, foursquare home, with its wrap-around porch, was built at the turn of the 20th century when that style was popular. The place was filled with “warmness,” Love said after inspecting the house.
The first time they inquired about the house “They wanted $800,000 for the place, and there was no way we could afford to buy it,” he said. The Bouldin family had lived there for many years but the house had been sold at least a couple of times before the Loves became interested in buying it.
The Bouldin House seemed to be the impossible dream. However, the Loves refused to quit dreaming.
“We really believe a place of retreat for pastors is needed. We wanted to be instruments of that help. Pastors are there to help other people but there needs to be someone to help pastors when they have challenges.
“It might be a challenge that they created or something that was caused by others. But they still need a place for refreshing and sometimes restoration,” Love said.
Darryl and Rhonda never lost interest in the 100-year-old house, with its sprawling 3 1/2 acres of land with towering shade trees mixed with apple, peach, pear, plum, fig and nectarine trees.
Four months after the Loves first were unable to buy the house, what had appeared to be impossible became possible, Love said. The mortgage went into default, and the day that the house went back on the market just happened to be the same day the Loves inquired about the house the second time. This time they negotiated a purchase price – as they said – “was astronomically below” the earlier sale price.
A board of directors for Healing Place Ministries was formed and a non-profit (501c3) status was established. The Loves were then able to begin their new ministry in the roomy 4,500 square feet of floor space. Two weeks later they sold their upscale house that had been on the market for two years.
By July 2011, the Loves were ready to begin their ministry of – as they call it – “refreshing, refueling and restoring pastors to life long ministry.” He also continues his duties at his church.
Several pastors and former pastors have since sought out the place for “renewal.” The pastors traditionally stay three to five days and receive counseling, encouragement and have quiet time.
Located on the first floor of the house is a library of ministry materials available to guests.
Included in the retreat experience are assessments of pastors made through use of materials from the Gallup group to help them determine their spiritual strengths.
Through this assessment “we have been finding pastors spending more time on things they are less passionate and gifted for, rather than on what they are best fit for,” Love said, “When I took this assessment, I felt like somebody gave me my life back. I knew then how to better spend my time.
“It is our desire at Healing Place to be a ministry partner to all who shepherd God’s people. When we began this journey we realized that the cost of most facilities would hinder pastors from taking a retreat,” Love said. They have set a recommended price of $125 per night, with scholarships available to those who can’t pay the full price or even pay at all.
Pastors are finding restoration and refreshment at the ministry, and all have had positive things to say about their experience at Healing Place Ministries. One of the favorite places for pastors’ tranquility has been sitting on that big front porch. “One pastor said he felt like that the porch was anointed,” Love said.
Visit blessthepastor.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Burchette, a retired writer/editor at the News & Record in Greensboro, can be reached at bburchette@triad.rr.com.)
2/1/2013 2:00:49 PM by Bob Burchette, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments

Appeals court rules against abortion mandate

February 1 2013 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

CHICAGO – A federal appeals court has once again ruled against the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate in a case that has strong implications for religious liberty.

A panel of the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday (Jan. 30) granted a preliminary injunction preventing the mandate from applying to Grote Industries, a for-profit company based in Madison, Ind., and owned by Catholics. The same panel in December issued an injunction preventing the mandate from applying to an Illinois-based business, Korte & Luitjohan Contractor, also owned by Catholics. Both rulings were 2-1.Appeals court rules against abortion mandate

The issue likely will end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In addition to the Seventh Circuit, the Eighth Circuit and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals have issued either rulings or orders against the mandate, which requires businesses and many religious organizations to purchase insurance plans covering contraceptives, including emergency contraceptives such as Plan B and ella that can kill an embryo after fertilization and even after implantation. Pro-lifers consider that action a chemical abortion.

The Seventh Circuit panel noted that the Grote family claims the mandate “compels them to materially cooperate in a grave moral wrong contrary to the teachings of their church.” Not following the mandate would result in “several financial penalties.”

“We conclude that the Grote Family and Grote Industries have established a reasonable likelihood of success” based on Grote’s claim that the mandate violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the panel ruled. “We also conclude that they will suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction pending appeal.”

Grote Industries is self-insured and its insurance plans did not cover contraceptives or abortion-causing drugs of any kind prior to the mandate, according to the ruling.

The judges consolidated the Grote and Korte cases.

Although the latest ruling involved a Catholic-owned business, evangelical-owned businesses and evangelical colleges also have won in federal court. There are 44 lawsuits involving non-profits and for-profits against the mandate, according to a tally by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Of the 14 rulings thus far involving for-profits, 10 have gone against the mandate.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing Grote.

“Americans have the God-given freedom to live and do business according to their faith,” ADF attorney Matt Bowman said in a statement. “Forcing employers to surrender their faith in order to earn a living is unprecedented, unnecessary, and unconstitutional. Honoring God is important every day, in all areas of life, including in our work. Freedom is not the government’s to give and take away when it pleases.”

Voting in the majority were Reagan nominee Joel M. Flaum and George W. Bush nominee Diane S. Sykes. George H.W. Bush nominee Ilana Rovner dissented.

The mandate was announced by the Department of Health and Human Services in August 2011 as part of the health care law championed by President Obama. Although the Supreme Court upheld the health care law last June, the justices’ ruling did not deal with the religious liberty issues surrounding the abortion/contraceptive mandate. That means the nation’s highest court could yet strike down what has been for religious groups and some business owners the most controversial part of the law.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
2/1/2013 1:56:50 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Displaying results 81-89 (of 89)
 |<  <  1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 >  >|