February 2017

Washington high court rules against Christian florist

February 16 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

The Washington State Supreme Court decided against a Southern Baptist floral artist Feb. 16 when it ruled that she discriminated against a same-sex couple in 2013 by refusing to create flower arrangements for their wedding.
The unanimous decision upheld a lower court ruling that ordered Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, to provide her artistic services for same-sex marriage ceremonies and pay penalties for violating the state’s Consumer Protection Act and the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD).

Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers in Richland, Wash., refused to create flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding based on her Christian beliefs.

For nearly a decade, Stutzman sold flowers to Rob Ingersoll on various occasions and considered him a friend. But when Ingersoll asked her to prepare flowers for his same-sex wedding, she refused to do so because of “her relationship with Jesus Christ.” Stutzman suggested other florists in the area.
The court said her action “constitutes sexual orientation discrimination,” and that government enforcement of the WLAD against Stutzman “does not infringe any constitutional protection.”
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a non-profit legal organization representing Stutzman, said in a press release that she will appeal the decision in the United States Supreme Court.
“The Washington Supreme Court's ruling shortchanges our nation's most fundamental freedom in favor of ideological conformity,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Barronelle Stutzman followed her genuinely held beliefs without hostility toward any, and yet finds herself the target of a government that wants to steamroll her constitutional rights.
“The Court held that the government can force citizens to use their creative gifts and expressive speech to participate and endorse acts they believe to be immoral. This decision is a loss not only for Barronelle Stutzman but for every American who values liberty and civility over coercion by the government. My prayer is that this ruling would be overturned and that the U.S. Supreme Court would recognize the crucial importance of religious liberty.”

The ERLC is among several groups that filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the florist.
Related stories:
Court rules against florist for refusing gay wedding
Washington florist fined, ordered to create gay wedding arrangements
Florist who refused gay wedding gets appeal

2/16/2017 2:45:23 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

Lent has narrow appeal, LifeWay Research reports

February 16 2017 by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends

During the season of Lent, some Americans give up chocolate or another favorite food. Others dump guilty pleasures like binge-watching television or social media.

But most give up Lent.
Three-quarters of Americans (76 percent) say they don’t typically observe Lent, according to a survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research released Feb. 15.
Unlike other Christian traditions like celebrating Easter or Christmas, Lent seems to lack crossover appeal, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. It remains a religious event, he said, rather than one that appeals to a broader public.
That’s in part, McConnell suspects, because Lent focuses on giving things up in order to gain spiritual benefits in preparation for Easter. There’s no social benefit to Lent like giving gifts or getting together with family.
It’s a religious tradition that remains focused on personal devotion, McConnell said. “Lent is not about having your best life now,” he said. “Those who observe it believe they are giving up things they want in order to focus on what God wants. There’s little popular appeal in that.”
Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday (March 1) and ends during Holy Week, is traditionally seen as a time of preparation for Easter. Part of that preparation, for some, includes various forms of fasting as a spiritual discipline – a practice that dates back to the early church. Lent traditionally lasts for 40 days (excluding Sundays), a time frame established after the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.
Catholics (61 percent) remain most likely to observe Lent, according to LifeWay’s survey. Protestants (20 percent) and those with evangelical beliefs (28 percent) are less likely.
Forty-three percent of those who attend church at least once a month observe Lent. That includes 82 percent of Catholics who regularly attend service as well as 30 percent of Protestants.

Older Americans, those over 55, are more likely to observe Lent (30 percent) than those under 55 (20 percent). Hispanic Americans (36 percent) and Christians in general (35 percent) also are more likely to observe Lent. Those from non-Christian faiths (12 percent), “Nones” with no denominational affiliation (4 percent) and those who attend services less than once a month (15 percent) are less likely.
McConnell said the degree of popularity of Lent among those with evangelical beliefs is surprising. Lent is often associated with Catholics and Mainline Protestants from more liturgical denominations. But it holds appeal for evangelicals as well, he said.
For one pastor, however, Lent stirs reticence.
Rob Pochek, pastor of First Baptist Church on Park Street in Charlottesville, Va., wrote in a 2015 blog, “It seems to me that any attempt I may make [to observe Lent] does not memorialize the death of Christ as much as it trivializes it.”
Pochek, who respectfully noted that his mother’s side of the family is Catholic, including three great aunts who are nuns and a great uncle who is a priest, wrote, “In one sense, the death of Christ was the most horrific thing in all of human history.... At the same time, it was the most glorious of all deaths. In the death of Jesus, God reconciled the world to Himself.” Pochek, contacted by Baptist Press on Feb. 15, said the 2015 column continues to reflect his outlook toward Lent.

Giving up food, bad habits

LifeWay asked Americans who observe Lent about how they observe this Christian tradition.
Fasting from a favorite food or beverage (57 percent) and going to church (57 percent) are the most common ways to observe Lent. Additional prayer (39 percent), giving to others (38 percent) or fasting from a bad habit (35 percent) also are popular. Fasting from a favorite activity is less common (23 percent).
Fasting from a favorite food or beverage is more common in the West (62 percent) than the Northeast (42 percent). Young Americans, those 18 to 24, who observe Lent are more likely to choose this option (86 percent) than those over 65 (43 percent). Catholics (64 percent) are more likely give up a food or drink than Protestants (43 percent).
Midwesterners observing Lent are more likely to pray more (52 percent) than those in the Northeast (29 percent) or South (35 percent). Those who attend services at least once a month are more likely to pray more (55 percent) than those who don’t (18 percent).
Hispanic Americans (34 percent) are more likely to give up a favorite habit than white Americans (17 percent). They are also more likely to give up a bad habit (50 percent) than white Americans (30 percent) or those from other ethnicities (11 percent).
Catholics (46 percent) are more likely to give to others while observing Lent than Protestants (32 percent). Those who go to church at least once a month (49 percent) are more likely to give to others than those who don’t attend church as often (22 percent).
Those with evangelical beliefs (71 percent) are more likely to go to church during Lent than those without evangelical beliefs (54 percent). Those who attend church at least once a month go to church more during Lent (76 percent) than those who don’t (32 percent).
“There’s a lot more to Lent than giving things up,” McConnell said. “Americans who observe Lent also take other steps – like praying, giving and going to church more – to practice their faith.”
Methodology: LifeWay Research conducted the study Sept. 27-Oct. 1, 2016. The survey was conducted using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Initially, participants are chosen by a scientific random selection of telephone numbers and residential addresses. Persons in selected households are then invited by telephone or by mail to participate in the web-enabled KnowledgePanel. For those who agree to participate but do not already have Internet access, GfK provides at no cost a laptop and ISP connection.
Sample stratification and weights were used for gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, metro/non-metro, education and income to reflect the most recent U.S. Census data. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.1 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine. Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston contributed to this article. The column by Rob Pochek, “Why I do not celebrate Lent,” written when he was a pastor in North Carolina, can be seen at robpochek.blogspot.com/2015/02/why-i-do-not-celebrate-lent.html.)

2/16/2017 10:15:31 AM by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends | with 0 comments

Elderly patients at risk of forced starvation in Oregon

February 16 2017 by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service

Oregon pro-lifers are fighting a bill in their state’s Senate that could allow the starvation or dehydration of patients with dementia or mental illness – without their prior written consent.
S.B. 494, introduced by a judiciary committee, appears at first simply to update the state’s advance directive laws. But it allows a patient’s representative to remove undefined “life-sustaining procedures” if the patient has “a progressive illness,” has stopped talking, and cannot recognize family members.
Patients would no longer need an advance directive, since an authorized guardian, spouse, a majority of their children, their parents, a friend, or if none is available, an attending physician can order the withdrawal of “life-sustaining procedures.”
A spokeswoman for the Senate committee said about 50 people worked on the legislation for the last two years. Authors of the bill did not respond to questions about its content.
“S.B. 494 has as its goal to give surrogates the ability to withdraw food and fluids from Alzheimer’s patients, dementia patients and mentally ill patients,” Gayle Atteberry, director of Oregon Right to Life, told me. “It does it in very sneaky and crafty ways, but it does it.”
Atteberry said lawmakers kept the bill’s wording intentionally vague in order “to make everything very unclear and subject to whatever the people surrounding the patient want to do.”
The bill removes the definitions of tube feeding, life support, and dementia, along with all references to power of attorney from current Oregon advance directive law. But it leaves the definitions of tube feeding and life support in the advance directive form patients would fill out.
“You can say, ‘I don’t want tube feeding,’ but unless tube feeding is defined in the statute, it’s just words,” Atteberry said.
The bill also leaves room to stop spoon-feeding patients who can and still want to eat, Atteberry said. Last year, Oregon courts considered the case of a man who wanted nursing home workers to stop spoon-feeding his wife, Nora Harris, who had Alzheimer’s. He argued her advance directive against life support included spoon-feeding. A judge disagreed, ruling Oregon law requires nursing home workers to provide assistance with eating, including offering food on utensils.
Alex Schadenberg, director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said the bill would not force people to choose death by dehydration, “but it’s so highly suggestive it’s ridiculous.”
Most advance directive forms allow people to choose death by dehydration, he said, but he’s never seen an advance directive bill so focused on withdrawing food and water.
“This is dressed up as a normal advance directive bill, but for some reason, someone has a fetish for dehydration,” he said. ”It’s the priority of this bill to get people to say, ‘yes’ to dehydration. I will tell you that that is the gateway to euthanasia.”
Since death by dehydration, even softened by morphine, is a death prolonged over roughly nine days, he said people will begin “clamoring for death by euthanasia,” which is faster and appears more compassionate: “Who wants to watch Mom dehydrating to death? No one.”
Oregon Right to Life members are working to inform legislators, both Republicans and Democrats, of every facet of the bill. Pro-life senators, Atteberry said, oppose the bill, while even pro-choice senators act surprised at its contents.
“We are hopeful,” Atteberry said. “We are praying. The only one who can really stop this bill is God.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Samantha Gobba writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)

2/16/2017 10:13:06 AM by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Shelters for trafficking victims aid their healing

February 16 2017 by Grace Thornton, The Alabama Baptist

Erin Futch rolled up her sleeves and got to work in the kitchen of Mountain Brook Baptist Church right next to a girl who looked like she was about her age.

Photo courtesy of The WellHouse
Women and their children who are residents of The WellHouse in St. Clair County, Ala., look at the property where the organization’s new facility will be built. The new facility will allow The WellHouse to have double the occupancy of its current space.

They started talking that morning, swapping stories. Turns out both of them were 22 and had played softball in high school – not only that, they’d played against each other.
But then their stories had gone vastly different directions.
Erin Futch had gone to college.
The girl beside her had fallen victim to sex trafficking.
“That was a really poignant moment for Erin,” said her mother Sherrie who on the first two Fridays of every month helps with the Alabama church’s ministry to the residents of The WellHouse, a St. Clair County-based refuge for women rescued from the trafficking industry.
“I know for me before I knew much of anything about sex trafficking, you think it’s somewhere else – around the world, in big cities,” Sherrie Futch said. “But it’s so much closer to home than we think. We have a lot in common with these ladies. If it wasn’t but for a few different circumstances in my own life, something like what happened to them could’ve happened to me.”
Ashley Anderson, development director for The WellHouse, said young women can get pulled into trafficking so easily.
“It’s not the Hollywood picture of what a trafficker or a pimp looks like – in real life, this is a guy who’s quite charming and has a fantastic way of being able to lure these children in and the adults as well,” Anderson said, noting that the grooming process can often begin as a preteen.
“Many who come to us also have a history of childhood sexual abuse, so they were recruited [by sex traffickers] when they were most vulnerable,” Anderson said. “You may find that 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds who were abused and think leaving is a better option than their unhealthy home will run away onto the street and into the arms of a trafficker.”
And it isn’t long before they find themselves in slavery, Anderson said.
That’s why The WellHouse and other ministries like it exist – ministries like Hope Haven in Summerdale, Ala., which executive director Donna Armstrong said was born in 2012 out of national Woman’s Missionary Union’s (WMU) Project Help that focused on fighting human exploitation.
“Ladies in our WMU became very interested in what we could do to help, being located so close to the I-10 corridor and ports along that corridor,” said Armstrong, a member of First Baptist Church in Summerdale. “It’s a heavily trafficked area and we asked for help in figuring out what to do.”
After attending a seminar on the topic, they organized and set out to explore what their area needed most.
“At that time The WellHouse was there and doing great work in St. Clair County but within a 250-mile radius of our area there was nothing,” Armstrong recounted. “We determined at that time our best efforts would be to create a shelter.”
And the eventual result was Hope Haven, a six-bed, faith-based shelter for women 18 and over who are victims of human trafficking.
“In January 2014 our first resident came through our doors and we’ve had numerous ones since then,” Armstrong said.
Women can stay at Hope Haven as long as they need to, but the goal is to move them to a longer-term recovery program or back home with a family member within 60 days if possible, she said.
“It’s been very humbling and rewarding to be a part of this ministry,” Armstrong said. “It’s not like I had a heart for victims of human trafficking when this all began – what I had was a heart for Christ and this is the area He laid out for me to serve. I went into that field that He gave me and over time I have developed quite a passion for these women.”
That sort of openhearted willingness is exactly what these women need from churches all around the state, Anderson said, noting, “At The WellHouse, churches and individuals have helped us tremendously.”
That help ranges from activities like the cooking ministry of Mountain Brook Baptist Church to collection drives for needed items like paper towels, toiletry items and canned goods.
Both Anderson and Armstrong said their ministries greatly benefit by their volunteers being able to share with congregations about their ministries at church services, conferences and retreats.
“Until we raise awareness, human trafficking will continue to be a crime that’s hidden in plain sight,” Armstrong said.
The WellHouse also needs volunteer mentors for the women as they prepare to transition out from the shelter into normal life, Anderson said. “They are assigned a social coach – someone who is interested in being a part of the healing process, someone who is going to walk alongside them, do Bible study, be a really close mentor and friend.”
All of this comes together to rescue and redeem women and fight the atrocities of trafficking, she said.
“While it’s not a new topic, it’s a new conversation, and I’m glad people are starting to have it within their congregations,” Anderson said. “We kind of all live in our little worlds and have tunnel vision sometimes. I can’t blame people for not knowing what they don’t know. But once you know, let’s work together to eradicate it.”
For more information about The WellHouse, visit the-wellhouse.org. For more information about Hope Haven, visit hopehavenal.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a freelance writer in Birmingham, Ala., and author of I Don’t Wait Anymore, a 2016 release from Zondervan. This article first appeared in The Alabama Baptist thealabamabaptist.org, newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention.)

2/16/2017 10:04:25 AM by Grace Thornton, The Alabama Baptist | with 0 comments

Independent church aligns with Missouri Baptists/SBC

February 16 2017 by Benjamin Hawkins, Missouri Pathway

The shared vision of transforming lives and communities with the gospel has led a historically independent church whose pastor serves as president of the Baptist Bible Fellowship International (BBFI) to become a cooperating church with the Missouri Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.

Eddie Lyons, pastor of High Street Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo., told Missouri Baptists’ Pathway newsjournal, “We didn’t feel like we needed to sustain an artificial separation from the people in this town and state that are so much like us in participating in the same mission.

Eddie Lyons

“We have the same heart, the same calling.”
With the help and counsel of Michael Haynes, director of missions for the Greene County Baptist Association, Lyons and the High Street congregation took their first steps toward becoming part of the state and national Southern Baptist bodies last year in a vote followed by submitting their paperwork to the conventions.
Established 81 years ago as an independent church, High Street Baptist later partnered with other churches in the BBFI, which according to its website (bbfi.org) is “officially a fellowship of pastors, and by extension, a network of preachers, churches, missionaries and educational institutions worldwide, affiliated for the purpose of church planting and sharing the truth of the Word of God.”
Lyons, who has led High Street Baptist for 15 years, described the BBFI as a “very loose network of independent Baptist churches” with “a very strong missions emphasis and focus.”
“There is a power in whatever relationship or network you have,” he said. “No single church can alone provide the support for a missionary endeavor.”
Both Lyons and the High Street congregation share the BBFI’s passion for making disciples and multiplying churches around the world. The church sponsors around 145 missionary endeavors throughout the world, and they also reach out to the Springfield community through various ministry campaigns. For example, through an effort called “Power Packs,” they provide more than 450 bags of food to distribute among five or six schools in Springfield. Likewise, through “One Sole Purpose,” they host an annual 5k/10k race to help raise money to buy shoes for school children. Sometimes, they’ve even raised enough money in this effort to help every Title 1 school in Springfield.
This same missionary heart is reflected in High Street’s pastor. Both Lyons and his wife Cindy grew up as children of missionaries in the Philippines, where Lyons’ parents – now in their 80s – still serve. It was on the mission field that Lyons had his first interaction with Southern Baptists.
“My friends were Southern Baptist missionary kids,” he said. “I always felt like I, personally, had an affinity toward Southern Baptists.”
His desire to lead High Street Baptist into cooperation with the Missouri and Southern Baptist conventions was built upon this early experience of partnership with Southern Baptist families on the mission field.
Lyons has been further encouraged as he’s watched fellow BBFI pastors lead their congregations to align dually with both the BBFI and with Southern Baptists. Although he said that such a move would not necessarily be right for every church in the BBFI, he feels the time was ripe for High Street Baptist.
“When the Southern Baptist Convention overall took their conservative move, it was very clear that there was no difference between us,” he said. “Fundamentally, the Southern Baptist Convention articulates and represents a very strong position with regard to our core theologies. The authority of scripture is huge in our current cultural climate. I think that is the biggest thing that has allowed for this coming together – not institutionally, but church by church.”
As the culture increasingly departs from the truths of scripture, the need for cooperation is especially important, Lyons said. “We don’t need to be divided. We need to be united. We all do believe in the authority of scripture that should guide our life in every area, and we’re becoming less and less of a majority in this country.”
Already, Lyons has been blessed by closer partnership with Missouri Baptists in the Greene County Baptist Association.
“I feel like I’ve got a whole new group of brothers in ministry who share my heart and my biblical positions,” he said. “Now, I don’t have to say ‘Us’ and ‘Them.’” Rather, when he speaks of Missouri Baptist efforts to transform lives and communities with the gospel, he can now say, “We.”
“We’re together in an effort in this county and in this state to get the gospel to the people around us and then around the world,” Lyons said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ben Hawkins is associate editor of The Pathway, mbcpathway.com, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)

2/16/2017 9:58:14 AM by Benjamin Hawkins, Missouri Pathway | with 0 comments

Battling sex trafficking, trekking to hotels & motels

February 16 2017 by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press

Amy Lipovsky felt like a song playing on loop – walking into the same hotels, saying the same things week after week and showing the same pictures of missing girls.

Photo by Allison Hix
Amy Lipovsky leads Legacy Church’s battle against sex trafficking as members visit Detroit-area hotel and motel staffs to impart awareness of what they can do to help free entrapped young women.

“It’s emotionally draining” trying to get people to care, she said of FRe Outreach, which helps hotel and motel employees in the Detroit suburbs to recognize and rescue victims of sex trafficking. “There’s not a lot of visible return for your efforts.”
But Lipovsky couldn’t shake the feeling that she had to keep going – God had put these girls trapped in slavery on her heart. And as she kept going, something began to happen – the people she talked to started to soften. They began to care. They began to pay attention.
And then one day they spotted somebody.
“We had a girl from Toledo who has been missing whose picture we had been showing to hotel employees, and she was identified at one of the hotels we went to,” Lipovsky said. “We were able to give that information to the police.”
The police, however, didn’t find the girl that day. They still haven’t.
But they had new information about where she’d been sighted, and Lipovsky had seen another small victory – a hotel staff that noticed and cared.
“Every time we have a hotel acknowledge this problem, it gives us even more hope,” she said. “I believe that God can do anything. And I believe He can use us as His tools.”

‘God, I can’t do this’

For Lipovsky, the journey from fearful to fiercely committed spanned several years – at first, she didn’t want to get involved in sex trafficking ministry.
“I was first exposed to it on a mission trip to Los Angeles in 2010, and it was on that trip that I really began to grasp the depth of slavery people are trapped in,” she said. “But I was disobedient. I said, ‘God, I can’t do this.’”
But over the next few years, Lipovsky said God began to shatter her expectations in the midst of her fear. She became more and more passionate about taking action, and by 2014, Jon Hix, her pastor at Legacy Church in the Detroit suburb of Novi, had taken notice.
He approached Lipovsky and asked if she would be interested in shadowing his girlfriend – now wife – Allison in Florida where she was involved in sex trafficking ministry at the time.
“God clearly was moving in His people, and after connecting Amy and Allison, the FRe Outreach began to take shape,” Jon Hix said.
And Lipovsky said she took a deep breath and said, “OK, God – here we go.”

What to look for

Lipovsky, now ministry leader of FRe Outreach, said that through prayer and her work with Allison Hix in Florida, they quickly determined that their best strategy in metro Detroit was to raise awareness among hotel employees.
“The way trafficking happens in the suburbs is through hotels and motels, not brothels and street prostitution,” Lipovsky said.
So she and volunteers from the church began visiting area hotels on a consistent basis, building relationships with the staff, showing them photos of missing women and helping them know how to read the signs of trafficking.
“In nice hotels in affluent communities, we have them look for what you think of when you think of the movie ‘Pretty Woman’ – more of a high-class call girl situation,” Lipovsky said, though other victims may look like a woman on a business trip or even a mom.
In two-star hotels, trafficking victims tend to be more unkempt, wearing dirty clothes and bringing with them few, if any, personal possessions, she said. They often have no identification, look like runaways and have men with them who seem like an odd pairing.
“A lot of people, when they see these things, just don’t know what to call it and are unsure about what’s going on,” Lipovsky said. “We want to help people pinpoint that we have these issues in our community and that hotels can help.”
FRe Outreach volunteers also provide three resources for hotel staff:

  1. A victim indicator card to help staff know what to look for and provide them with the National Human Trafficking Hotline Number, 1-888-373-7888.
  2. A discreet wallet-sized card to give potential victims the hotline number and texting hotline number.
  3. Pictures of high-risk missing teens in the region with instructions on which officials to call if they believe they have identified one in their hotel.

Barb Fahrenkrug, a FRe Outreach volunteer, said some hotel staff members have warmed up to their visits and welcome them when they show up.
“We don’t want to be obnoxious – we just want to show that we care about their business and the people who visit their hotel,” Fahrenkrug said. “Building relationships with them is really a good thing. We’ve been able to pray for and minister to the staff as well. It’s been a rewarding experience.”
But two years ago, she couldn’t have been further from wanting to be involved.

The ‘scary’ unknown

When Legacy Church first presented the idea of FRe Outreach, Fahrenkrug said it sounded like a really needed ministry – she intended to pray, but that was it.
But God began to press on her heart that it wasn’t about her comfort level, she said.
“The unknown can be really scary, and sometimes I’d rather have blinders on than know what’s going on. It’s a yucky subject,” Fahrenkrug said. “But there is so much need to advocate for these girls and to pray for a change of heart for the men who buy their services.”
Jon Hix said that volunteers are already seeing a difference in people’s mindset as awareness spreads and hotel staff begin to pay attention to what has largely been under the radar. That’s huge, he said, because those employees “are on the frontlines and their role is absolutely essential,” he said.
FRe Outreach and Legacy Church are also working to get other churches interested in starting ministries of their own, providing resources like kits and workshops for area congregations who don’t quite know where to start.
Tim Patterson, executive director of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan, said they are “doing an admirable job at reaching out to the real needs of their community and especially to those who are caught in the vortex of sex trafficking.”
It’s a desperate problem that hides in the shadows, he said.
Lipovsky agreed, saying she believes God can shine light into those dark places.
“Even though it’s a horrible, horrific problem, God can do anything through us if we just have faith and trust in Him,” she said. “We just keep on going. It’s about obedience and having that faith and knowing there’s hope.”
For more information about FRe Outreach, contact Amy Lipovsky at amy.freoutreach@gmail.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a freelance writer in Birmingham, Ala., and author of I Don’t Wait Anymore, a 2016 release from Zondervan.)

2/16/2017 9:48:08 AM by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

New research debunks the ‘ball and chain’ myth

February 15 2017 by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service

The “ball and chain” perception of marriage is a myth, according to a research brief by the Institute for Family Values released in February.
Contrary to the common view among men that marriage is an “expensive encumbrance on their freedom and their sex lives,” new research finds married men have more money, better sex, and a longer life than their single peers. And the benefits do not apply to men just cohabiting.
Researchers Bradford Wilcox, a professor and the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, and Nicholas Wolfinger, a professor at the University of Utah, examined recent sociology studies focused on the cost and benefits of marriage for men.
They found a clear takeaway: Marriage is good for men in “every conceivable measure.”
Married men make about $16,000 more per year in salary than their single peers with otherwise similar backgrounds. Research taking into consideration the “selection effect” – the reality that higher-achieving men may be more likely to marry – found “marriage itself increases the earning power of men on the order of 10 to 24 percent.” In addition, men who stay married have three times the accumulated wealth by their 50s, an average $167,719 compared to $48,528 for single men.
Married men also report the most satisfaction with their sex lives, with 51 percent saying they are “extremely” satisfied, compared to 39 percent of cohabiting men and 36 percent of single men. While more cohabiting men say they have sex at least twice a week – 52 percent compared to 42 percent of married men – Wilcox and Wolfinger argue cohabiting relationships are less stable, and so there are more new cohabiting relationships at any given point. Take relationship duration into account, and research finds cohabiting men have no more sex than married men.
The benefits also extend to physical and emotional health. Men who get and stay married live almost 10 years longer than their unmarried or divorced peers. Married men eat more fruits and vegetables. Married men also appear to manage illness better, with their wives providing companionship and advocating on their behalf with doctors and nurses. A recent Harvard study found married men diagnosed with cancer live significantly longer.
Married men also experience less depression and more happiness. Looking at reports of men’s perceived happiness, single and cohabiting men respond within 1 percentage point of each other, and, as a group, are twice as likely to say they are “not happy” and half as likely as married men to say they are “very happy.”
Despite the evidence of benefits, men continue to delay or avoid marriage in unprecedented numbers. The U.S. marriage rate has been at a 45-year low since 2010, according to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research. Cohabitation has usurped marriage as the most common relationship experience in young adulthood. And the average man’s age at first marriage is nearing 30, up from 22 in the 1950s.
Wilcox and Wolfinger don’t deny the sacrifices: “Successful marriages require men to work harder, avoid cheating, spend less time with their friends and make a good-faith effort – day in and day out – to be emotionally present with their spouses.”
But they say the research shows the sacrifices pay for themselves, and more.
The challenge now is to debunk the “ball and chain” perception in the wider culture, something Wilcox and Wolfinger say should be a priority, given the “adverse consequences men, women, and children have suffered in the retreat from marriage.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kiley Crossland writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)

2/15/2017 8:16:37 AM by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Last-ditch effort aims to stop D.C. assisted suicide

February 15 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

A congressional committee has taken the first step in a fast-track effort to prevent the legalization of physician-assisted suicide in the nation’s capital.
The House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted 22-14 Feb. 13 to disapprove of the District of Columbia’s Death With Dignity Act. The measure – which the D.C. Council passed in November and Mayor Muriel Bowser signed in December – would authorize doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to people who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses and supposedly have less than six months to live.
Congress must act swiftly if it is to take the unusual step of nullifying a D.C. law under its authority to review the district’s actions. Both the House and Senate must pass House Joint Resolution 27 and President Trump sign it by Feb. 17, the final day of the 30-day review period, according to the D.C. Council. Such a scenario appears unlikely.
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore thanked the House committee and called for Congress to work swiftly.
“I urge Congress to take the necessary action to get this to the president’s desk this week, and my prayer is that ours would be a generation that stands and fights for life – not only in D.C., but throughout our country,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“Assisted suicide has nothing to do with dignity,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. “It turns human life and death into marketable goods and undermines the inherent worth of every person, regardless of age, health or mental ability.”
Messengers to the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention meeting adopted a resolution affirming “the dignity and sanctity of human life at all stages of development, from conception to natural death.” The resolution called on churches and Christians “to care for the elderly among us, to show them honor and dignity, and to prayerfully support and counsel those who are providing end-of-life care for the aged, the terminally ill and the chronically infirmed.”
The D.C. law is the latest example of the spread of legalized assisted suicide in the country. Colorado became the sixth state to approve the practice when voters passed an initiative in November. The other five states with legal assisted suicide are California, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
A coalition of disability rights organizations, including Not Dead Yet, explained its opposition to the legalization of assisted suicide in a statement released the day of the House committee’s vote.
“When assisted suicide is legal, it’s the cheapest treatment available – an attractive option in our profit-driven healthcare system,” the disability rights groups said Feb. 13.
Some Americans with terminal illnesses have reported Medicaid and/or their insurance companies have informed them they will pay for a lethal prescription but not drugs to treat their afflictions.
Not Dead Yet and the other coalition members also said the safeguards touted by assisted-suicide proponents “turn out to be truly hollow.”
“Assisted suicide is a prescription for abuse: an heir or abusive caregiver can steer someone towards assisted suicide, witness the request, pick up the lethal dose, and in the end, even administer the drug – no witnesses are required at the death, so who would know?” they said. “Many other pressures exist that can cause people with compromised health to hasten their death.”
Assisted-suicide advocates, D.C. officials and congressional supporters of the district’s home rule criticized the House committee’s action.
The committee “has sent a signal to D.C. residents that Congress has zero respect or concern for their will or the will of their elected officials,” Bowser said in a written statement. The mayor called it an effort “to trample the autonomy of the D.C. Government and undermine our local control. ...”
The House committee’s vote broke down nearly along party lines. One Democrat, Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee, joined 21 Republicans in voting for the disapproval measure. One GOP member, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, agreed with 13 Democrats in voting against the proposal.
The Death With Dignity Act requires a D.C. resident who is a terminally ill patient and at least 18 years old to make two oral requests, as well as one written request, of a doctor for a lethal prescription. The written request must have two witnesses who affirm the patient is acting voluntarily. Two physicians must agree with granting the prescription. The patient is required to self-administer the prescription.
Under the bill, a doctor is not required to refer a patient seeking assisted suicide to a counselor, although he may do so if he questions whether a patient is suffering depression or a disorder.
Not only conservative religious and disability rights organizations oppose assisted suicide’s legalization, but health care associations – such as the American Medical Association and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization – do so as well.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

2/15/2017 8:15:52 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

‘Authentic Love’ calls teens to identity in Christ

February 15 2017 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay

Love is a popular topic in today’s culture, especially around Valentine’s Day. But since many teens hear a distorted view, Authentic Love, a new True Love Waits Bible study, aims to ground students’ concept of love in their identity in Christ.

Speaking directly to the hearts of guys and girls, Authentic Love: Christ, Culture, and the Pursuit of Purity exposes culture’s distorted messages about purity and love and reveals how God has created His people for a lifestyle of personal holiness.

Authentic Love, divided into studies for guys and girls, places a “strong emphasis on developing a lifestyle of personal holiness and helps students understand sex and purity in light of the gospel,” said Karen Daniel, team leader in student ministry publishing at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Each eight-session study begins with a recorded video message from the author that leads students to discuss the topic for that session, such as redemption, love, identity or humility. Next, students consider what culture has to say about the issue, compare that message with the truth found in scripture, then consider how to practically apply what they learn to their own pursuit of personal holiness.
The gender-specific studies “make it easy for student pastors and leaders to establish a safe environment where both guys and girls could speak openly and honestly,” Daniel said.
LifeWay enlisted D.A. Horton to write the study for guys and Amy-Jo Girardier for girls to articulate the message to students.
Due to his experience as a church planter in Los Angeles and his involvement in the Urban Youth Workers Institute, Horton has “a unique voice and background that resonates with guys from both the city as well as the suburbs,” Daniel said.
Girardier has years of experience as a girls’ minister in the local church and “equips other girls’ ministers, moms and youth workers engaged in the girls’ ministry conversation,” Daniel said.
Girardier believes it is vital for churches and parents to help students understand a biblical perspective on sex because others are “very willing to invite our children to talk about sex.”

Amy Jo Girardier and D.A. Horton

Horton agrees. He said Authentic Love is needed now because “culture is vocal about impurity. Companies are spending millions to barrage our youth with their misguided views of identity, love and sexuality that are in direct conflict with scripture. Our goal is to refute the culture by boldly communicating God’s Word regarding His command for holy living.”
Authentic Love attempts to do this by helping students find their identity in Christ.
“Identity drives action,” Horton said. “If someone knows they are in Christ, and they understand His commands for holy living, they’ll draw on the ministry of the Holy Spirit to give them the strength to put to death the desires of their flesh.”
Girardier said many girls are finding their identity with a boyfriend or social media approval. “The truth is, our identity is not even determined by us,” she said. “Our identity is determined by the one who made us. And when we know Him, we begin to know some key things about our identity. We are loved. We are valued. We are made for relationship. And we are made to worship Him.”
For Horton and Girardier, the important issue is pointing students to Christ. “If youth can meet Jesus,” Horton said, “and pursue Him with all they have, purity – even if they’ve already fallen into sexual sin – can be a reality before and during marriage.”
Girardier said too often churches unknowingly disconnect purity from a loving God and connect it instead to a moral checklist of do’s and don’ts. Instead, churches need to tell teenagers “about the loving God who created sex and why there are boundaries to this great gift.”
Both authors said their prayer is that students come to understand purity as a lifelong journey, not a momentary choice.
“I pray that girls come to know their identity, significance and purpose in Christ,” Girardier said, “and in doing so, His lordship impacts their purity – not for a moment but for a lifetime as they pursue Him daily to become more like Him.”
Horton said he hopes the study helps parents and student ministers work together to push past the awkwardness to have honest conversations with their teenagers.
“I pray parents, teens and youth workers will engage the topic through the lens of a biblical worldview and that God would capture every heart and direct them toward holistic purity,” he said. “We want students to remain pure not just before marriage but during marriage as well.”
For information on Authentic Love, visit TrueLoveWaits.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is a writer for LifeWay Corporate Communications.)

2/15/2017 8:15:19 AM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay | with 0 comments

True Love Waits: a retrospective look

February 15 2017 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

God is the goal of purity promises and of life itself, an author says after removing her True Love Waits ring and penning a blog post that resonated with thousands of young adults wondering where those pledges had left them.

BP file photo
Evidence of the impact of True Love Waits, even globally, was on display in Athens, Greece, during the 2004 Olympics when more than 460,000 abstinence-until-marriage pledges were on display from teens and young adults in the U.S. and 19 other countries.

The True Love Waits movement, which began in the early 1990s, has impacted countless lives by its message of purity in a culture that emphasizes the opposite, but somewhere along the way some believers may have focused more on waiting on true love rather than on God.
“When I was 16, I got a purity ring. And when I was 25, I took it off,” Grace Thornton, author of I Don’t Wait Anymore, wrote in a 2012 blog post that logged more than 2 million views and was shared more than 10,000 times on Facebook.
Churches today see the symptoms of single church girls crashing in their late 20s and early 30s, disappointed that “the God of their youth group years just isn’t working out,” Thornton wrote, adding, “Some of them have prayed their whole lives for a husband, and he hasn’t shown up.”
Many young believers made abstinence-until-marriage pledges and trusted that if they would just wait to have sex they’d receive the gift of true love in the form of a husband, but now they’re finding that time has passed and they’re still waiting, Thornton wrote at gracefortheroad.com.
In comments to Baptist Press (BP), Thornton reflected on how she arrived at a place in her 30s where she has contentment and joy even as the plans she had for herself did not unfold.
“I realized I had set up my own worldview from things I had grown up with and heard in church or seen around me as far as people getting married, that that was just the inevitable next step, and I think that I had God in that box and I was expecting that from Him,” Thornton said.
She started noticing some people who “exuded what it looked like to really, really love God more than anything else,” and she realized she would rather trade the things she wanted for that kind of relationship with God. She started digging into God’s Word, and in the process He changed her heart to receive His best for her.
The popularity of Thornton’s “I Don’t Wait Anymore” blog post led to the book of the same title, which led to speaking engagements where she now has the opportunity to influence girls who are deciding what they will pursue in life.
“It’s not a ‘God-is-your-consolation-prize’ kind of thing, but this is actually the best thing your life could be – the way that God wants it is the one that’s going to get you more of Him, and that’s better than anything you could have dreamed for yourself,” Thornton told BP.
The True Love Waits movement, Thornton said, taught her the importance of purity, and, looking back, she said she wishes she had done a better job as a teenager of grasping the idea that “purity is so that you honor God and know God better.”
“You are maintaining that purity because of your love for God, not because you’re going to trade it in one day for a different gift,” Thornton said.

‘Why we still need True Love Waits’

Blogger and author Erin Davis, who has spent 15 years ministering to young women, has watched talk of abstinence subside. “Stadiums are no longer full of teenagers promising to wait. As I’ve watched the pendulum swing, I’ve had simultaneous urges to cheer and to sound the alarm,” Davis wrote in a blog post on the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission website last August.
Leaders today should “broaden the conversation about sex, marriage and intimacy beyond the ‘finish line’ message [that teens] sometimes hear when we ask them to wait,” Davis, a pastor’s wife in Missouri, wrote. “As the church rides this next wave of the sexual revolution, we must teach our young people a sexual theology that goes beyond a few ‘thou shalt nots.’
“But at the end of the day, abstinence still matters and purity and chastity still need to be taught.”
Davis, in the blog post titled, “Why we still need True Love Waits,” described the devastating effect casual sex has had on college-aged women. She noted that the top two prescribed drugs at one state university’s health center were anti-depressants and birth control pills, and she quoted an author who said this is a world “which welcomes every sort of sexual behavior except chastity.”
“These are future wives and mothers, future Sunday School teachers and pastor’s wives,” Davis wrote. “They will sit in our pews and in our women’s Bible studies. The men who make up the other half of this sexual equation will also come into our churches as walking wounded.”
Despite a culture so far off course, Davis wrote that “we must warn the next wave. We still need to beat the drum of purity. We still need to teach young people to wait.”
Words like “purity,” “chastity” and “virginity” should still be in the church’s vernacular, Davis wrote. “In this department, perhaps it’s time to teach like it’s 1999. Because true love still waits.”

Lifetime of purity is True Love Waits emphasis

Richard Ross, cofounder of the True Love Waits movement, told Baptist Press the phrase raises a pivotal question: Waits for what?
“One answer stands supreme above all others: True love (meaning a life of purity) waits until one approaches the throne at the end of life on earth,” Ross said. “There a Christ follower presents a gleaming gift to His Highness – a gift of a lifetime of sexual purity in mind and body.
“Some will present a gift of lifetime purity before and during marriage. Widows will present a gift of purity before, during and after marriage,” Ross, a student ministry professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said.
“Lifetime singles will present a pristine gift of purity in all the seasons of their lives. Everyone before the throne will have faced temptation. Everyone will have stumbled in some ways and will be covered by grace. And everyone will believe that only the King is truly worthy of their gift of purity.”
As the sexual revolution marches on, most churches now have one or more young believers confused about their gender or about their affections, Ross said, noting that church leaders are scrambling to know how that impacts the True Love Waits message.
“Without question, most of those confused persons will need biblical counseling for some time,” Ross said. “But even during that process, the message to them is the same as to other believers: For the glory of the King, do not lust in your mind. Regardless of the gender you are tempted to think about, the command is the same – keep your mind pure. Similarly, for the glory of the King, do not do anything with anyone’s body sexually outside a biblical marriage. Anyone.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is a writer in Nashville.)

2/15/2017 8:15:02 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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