February 2018

Beth Moore’s Living Proof Live conference marks 20 years

February 28 2018 by Joy Allmond, LifeWay Christian Resources

As the lights dimmed in Fort Lauderdale’s Calvary Chapel sanctuary, Lisa Hitchcock didn’t know what was happening. But when 17 figures carrying lanterns ascended the stage, she wept.
Hitchcock, a history teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was among the 3,500 attending LifeWay’s Feb. 23-24 Living Proof Live with Beth Moore event – on its 20th anniversary.

Photo by David Lowe
Author and Bible study teacher Beth Moore speaks to 3,500 women gathered Feb. 23-24 for a Living Proof Live event in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Living Proof Live events with Beth Moore.

The Friday night session began with a choreographed tribute to the 17 people slain in the Feb. 14 shooting at the Parkland, Fla., high school – just 13 miles from where Moore, the LifeWay team and volunteers would minister to this grieving community.
“God knew I would need to be here,” said Hitchcock, who bought her ticket months ago.
During the tribute, Beth Moore read a letter she crafted that included a prayer on behalf of the loved ones of those killed in the attack, a prayer for the injured, a list of the names of the slain, and a declaration of ministry to the Fort Lauderdale region.
“We are so sorry,” said Moore as she choked back tears after the tribute. “Scripture tells us we have been foreordained in the times and places we will live. ... It’s no accident we are gathered in this place. And for those of us who came from hundreds or thousands of miles away, we have come to sow faith and seed of God’s Word into this suffering part of our country. We will grieve with them and we will believe God for and with them. And until they can stand again, we will stand for them.”
To commemorate the inaugural Living Proof Live, Moore’s message for the weekend was the same subject she taught on Feb. 21, 1998: “The Living Water.” Too often, she explained, people go to a cistern – a tank in the ground that holds water. Sometimes they settle for a small container of water. But the only source that will satisfy is the well of Jesus Christ – the Living Water.
“Water is not just a desire,” she told the audience as she taught through various scriptures referencing living water. “It’s not just a hope. It’s an absolute necessity for life. This weekend we have come to meet Jesus at the well.”
Since launching Living Proof Live in partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources in 1998, Moore has spoken at more than 200 events in all 50 states and in Canada. More than a million women have attended, and counting simulcasts, more than 2 million women have been reached.

Photo by David Lowe
Fort Lauderdale’s Calvary Chapel, the host site of the Feb. 23-24 Living Proof Live, is 13 miles from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people lost their lives in the Feb. 14 shooting. The weekend began with a tribute to the slain, which included a choreographed stage presentation, and a prayer and declaration from Beth Moore.

Two of those women, sisters Cynthia Still and Lisa Santino, Calvary Chapel members, returned to celebrate what God began in their lives through the first Living Proof Live event 20 years ago.
When Still thumbs through her Bible, she said it’s obvious to her that Moore’s ministry left an indelible mark on her life. She said God used the 1998 event among a series of others to draw her to Him. Less than a month later, she trusted Christ as her Savior.
“One book that changed my life was (Moore’s) Breaking Free,” Still said. “She was instrumental during that time period in my life. And it changed everything.”
Santino was a Christian at the time, but she said the 1998 event helped put her faith on a deeper trajectory.
“What (Moore) has done in my life has caused me to dig deeper into the Word, which I hadn’t done. It made me want to have a deeper relationship with the Lord,” she said.
Still said she is eager to see what the Lord has for her now, 20 years later.
“He began such a healing that day,” she said. “And He did it through women in my life who helped grow me. Betsy Langmade was one of them.”
Langmade, now a LifeWay event coordinator, was the city coordinator for the inaugural Living Proof Live as the women’s ministry director at First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale. She said placing women into the hands of the local church for continued ministry has been the legacy of this event since its inception.
“We’re not coming in just for the sake of the event,” Langmade said. “We’re coming to provide a catalyst for ministry we hope will happen long after we’ve packed up and moved on to the next city.”
And ministry is what Hitchcock plans to do as she returns to work this week at Douglas High. Having taught history there for 27 years, she calls it her “home away from home.” Although she’s still reeling after losing several students in the attack, she said the corporate worship and prayer, along with Moore’s message, have given her resolve to get back in the trenches.
“My main concern is I want to be for my students the teacher I have always been,” Hitchcock said. “But they need to grieve. I want to say to them, ‘I love you and I’m here for you,’ and let them know it will be OK.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joy Allmond is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

2/28/2018 9:34:21 AM by Joy Allmond, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

Supreme Court DACA order spurs call to prayer

February 28 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The Supreme Court’s refusal to fast-track a Donald Trump administration appeal related to immigration has given Congress more time to resolve the fate of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
In response to the high court’s action, Southern Baptists with an eye to the legislative process have urged prayer that Congress will act justly and offered a variety of legislative proposals.
“Everybody is tossing this [issue] back to Congress,” said Mark Harris, who resigned the pastorate of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., last year to run for the U.S. House of Representatives. “... At the end of the day, it’s Congress that’s got to pass laws.”
After a federal district judge in California blocked the Trump administration from ending former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the current administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its appeal immediately and forego the normal appeals process through the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California.
The Supreme Court denied that request Feb. 26 in a two-sentence order, concluding, “It is assumed that the Court of Appeals will proceed expeditiously to decide this case.”
In the meantime, Trump’s March 5 deadline for Congress to send him legislation on the category of undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers appears moot. The California federal judge’s order – and a similar order by a New York federal judge – block the administration from ending DACA while courts consider legal challenges to the president’s action.
Mike Whitehead, general counsel for the Missouri Baptist Convention, told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments, “The intermediate courts of appeals are there for a purpose, and the Supreme Court has declined to make an exception here. It may take several months to get a final decision from the Ninth Circuit, and then the president will have the opportunity to make his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the court of ‘last resort.’ They will still have discretion whether or not to hear it.”
It is “totally predictable,” Whitehead said, that the “always-liberal Ninth Circuit” will rule against the Trump administration.
By the time the case reaches the Supreme Court again, “there may have been a political compromise which will make this particular appeal moot,” Whitehead said.
Thus far, Congress has failed to reach a compromise regarding hundreds of thousands of Dreamers currently in the U.S.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told BP “it is well past time for both the White House and Congress to stop playing politics with God-imaging human lives and fix this.”
“Thousands of young men and women who have only ever known the United States as home wake up every morning fearing the loss of their livelihoods and in some cases the splitting apart of their families,” Moore said in written comments. “Even with this recent decision in the Supreme Court, both this fear and imminent threat remain for many. The greatest shame is that all of this chaos and uncertainty is totally avoidable. The overwhelming majority of American people agree on both the problem and solution when it comes to Dreamers.”
Felix Cabrera, co-founder of the Hispanic Baptist Pastors Alliance, told BP the injunction against ending DACA March 5 is “a huge relief to many in my congregation and throughout the country.” But he expressed concern some Dreamers still could find themselves without authorization to work legally while their DACA renewal applications are processed.
“And, long-term, there’s not really a debate about whether the executive branch (which created DACA) can end it – just a legal argument about the way that the administration terminated the program,” Cabrera, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Central in Oklahoma City, said in written comments. “Since sooner or later DACA will go away, I pray that Congress and the White House do not see this [Supreme Court] decision as an excuse to do nothing or to delay.
“I hope they will return to the negotiation table quickly and pass legislation on a bipartisan basis that between 85 percent and 90 percent of Americans say they support, allowing Dreamers to stay securely and permanently in the country, contributing to the country they consider their home,” Cabrera said.
Harris, who is running for Congress in North Carolina’s ninth district, said conservatives in Washington generally want to pair legal status for Dreamers with enhanced border security while liberals generally want to deal with DACA in isolation. President Trump, Harris noted, has offered a proposal that includes border security, legal status for Dreamers and changes to two legal immigration programs.
The bill with the “best chance” to pass Congress, Harris said, may be a measure to extend DACA for two or three years while a long-term immigration bill is negotiated. “But I don’t think a lot of people have the political will for that either,” he said.
Christians should pray, Harris said, for political leaders “to recognize the emergency we’re in” and “rely upon God’s wisdom for a solution.”
Messengers to the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Phoenix approved a resolution on immigration reform that called for the advancement of the gospel of Jesus while pursuing justice and compassion. The measure urged the government to make a priority of border security and hold businesses accountable in their hiring. It also requested that public officials establish after securing the borders “a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country.” It specified the resolution was not to be interpreted as supporting amnesty.
The resolution acknowledged immigration reform “has prompted often-rancorous debate in the American public square.” Action on the resolution demonstrated the different views Southern Baptists hold on how to address the immigration problem. During consideration of the resolution, an amendment to remove the paragraph regarding establishment of a “path to legal status” failed in a ballot vote of 51-48 percent.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

2/28/2018 9:30:52 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pastor’s story sparks generosity for pro-life centers

February 28 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

No one knew what was about to happen when Southern Baptist pastor Nathan Lino stood to share at the Evangelicals for Life dinner about God’s provision for his Houston church’s pro-life pregnancy center in the wake of flooding from Hurricane Harvey.
The leaders of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Commission (ERLC) and Focus on the Family were hoping for $125,000 in donations that evening to provide ultrasound machines and training for pregnancy centers in the United States. By the end of the evening, guests at the Jan. 19 event at the Museum of the Bible had responded to Lino’s account by giving about $336,000. Three weeks later, the amount had surpassed $400,000.

Photo by Eric Brown
Houston pastor Nathan Lino shares with Evangelicals for Life dinner audience about aid from Focus on the Family and ERLC in replacing ultrasound machine at church’s pregnancy resource center following flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

As a result, at least 10 centers – not just three – that serve pregnant women in need will benefit. The heads of both the ERLC and Focus rejoiced in the outpouring of support.
“Houston reeled after the flooding, but God was at work. At Evangelicals for Life, he continued to work,” ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press (BP) in a written statement. “God used Nathan Lino’s testimony about their center’s loss to advance the work of the pro-life movement far beyond the Fifth Ward of Houston.
“Satan hates babies, because they remind him of the Child born in Bethlehem who uprooted his reign and will one day crush his head,” Moore said. “The generosity among those gathered at this event is a gospel counter-proclamation, one that reminds the watching world that Jesus offers life.”
Focus President Jim Daly told BP, “Something powerful happens when people of faith and a love for the sanctity of every life gather together. The Holy Spirit inspired dozens of people at that special dinner to give generously and use their resources to save pre-born life.
“Our campaign to protect every human life carries on with enthusiasm and optimism,” Daly said in written comments. “Thanks in part to the miracle of technology, the case for life is winning. The rising generation sees it. They get it.”
Comparing the pro-life effort to William Wilberforce’s decades-long battle to end slavery, Daly said, “[S]o must we tirelessly advocate for the most vulnerable in our midst!”
Lino, pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church (NEHBC), described for the dinner audience gathered during the three-day Evangelicals for Life conference how Focus and the ERLC came to the aid of the congregation’s Farrington Mission. Flood waters from Hurricane Harvey in late August poured into the community center, which includes a pregnancy resource clinic. The flooding left the mission’s ultrasound machine unsalvageable.
NEHBC members, as well as volunteers from other churches, gutted the building and restored it with the help of contractors. The church could not replace the ultrasound machine, however. The ERLC – which places ultrasound machines in gospel-focused pregnancy centers – contacted Focus, which makes grants to such centers through its Option Ultrasound Program. Focus covered 80 percent of the expense for a new machine that cost more than $50,000, and the ERLC picked up the balance.
The need at Farrington Mission called for quick action, said Robyn Chambers, director of Focus’ Sanctity of Human Life Department. She had been interviewed by a Houston radio station only the week before in response to the announcement some clinics would provide free abortions in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
In Houston, Planned Parenthood “has one of the largest abortion clinics in the United States, and I couldn’t stand the thought of that,” Chambers told BP.
After describing the support Focus and the ERLC quickly provided his church’s clinic, Lino asked dinner guests to give so women who enter other pro-life pregnancy centers can view an image of their unborn children. And they responded generously.
“The ultrasound machine is the heart and soul of our clinic,” Lino said in an email interview with BP. “At our clinic, 95 percent of abortion-minded mothers choose life for their baby once they see the clear, live image of their baby. The machine is the most effective way to expose the lies of the abortion industry.”
NEHBC’s center – which provides a wide range of services for women – schedules about 60 ultrasounds per month, but Lino has been told it could reach 100 ultrasounds per month in the future. “We realistically hope to get to 1,200 [babies saved] per year,” he said.
In addition to their individual programs, the ERLC and Focus have worked together before in ultrasound machine placement, and it appears they will continue to do so. Their programs are crucial, Lino told BP.
“There are many churches and communities of Christians willing to operate pregnancy clinics, but the vast majority cannot afford machines,” Lino said. “For most, the cost of a machine is prohibitive. If ever there was a need for a parachurch organization to come alongside churches, it’s to help provide ultrasound machines for pregnancy clinics.”
This year’s Evangelicals for Life conference was the third consecutive collaboration between the ERLC and Focus in hosting an event to accompany the annual March for Life and encourage evangelical Christians to participate in it. The dinner also included awards presentations for the third year.
The awards and their recipients this year were the:

  • Pro-life Public Service Award to Benjamin Watson, tight end for the National Football League’s (NFL) Baltimore Ravens, founder with his wife Kirsten of the Christ-centered charity One More and a member of the NFL Players Association’s executive committee. The award is given to an evangelical public servant who is a pro-life leader.
  • Pro-life Faith-based Partnership Award to Rich Stearns, president of World Vision U.S. The award is presented to an evangelical leader who has had exceptional influence on the pro-life cause through a faith-based partnership.
  • Pro-life Leadership Award to Steve and Jackie Green. Steve is chairman of the board of the Museum of the Bible and president of Hobby Lobby, the retail chain that won an important religious liberty/pro-life victory at the Supreme Court in 2014. The award goes to an evangelical leader who works in pro-life advocacy.
  • Pro-life Ministry Leader Award to Joni Eareckson Tada, leading disability advocate and popular author. The award is given to a key evangelical pastor, minister or lay leader who champions the pro-life cause.

Grants from Focus’ Option Ultrasound Program go to centers for ultrasound machines and/or sonography training. It has approved 750 such grants.
The ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project – which has placed 11 ultrasound machines and collaborated with Focus on two others – funds the purchase of machines and the training of staff members to operate them. All gifts to Psalm 139 go toward machines and training, since the ERLC’s administrative costs are covered by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program. Information on the Psalm 139 Project and how to donate is available at psalm139project.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

2/28/2018 9:28:01 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Mohler: Lord’s Prayer is ‘revolutionary’ manifesto

February 28 2018 by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS

The Lord’s Prayer is a revolutionary manifesto for God’s eternal reign in heaven and earth, R. Albert Mohler Jr. writes in his new book, The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down.
Most people recognize the familiar refrains of the prayer Jesus taught to His disciples in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. It’s recited at graveside services and before many high school football games. But people often don’t understand the words they’re saying, Mohler writes.

Photo by Emil Handke, SBTS

Mohler hopes readers will see the large-scale purpose of this famous prayer: The Lord alone reigns.
The words in the prayer are the “most revolutionary words human beings could imagine” in calling for God’s Kingdom to come and for His will to be done on earth as in heaven, he writes.
“With those words every empire falls, every throne other than the throne of Christ is shattered. With those words, the world is turned upside down,” Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in an interview. “That relativizes every earthly allegiance. It puts into context every political power and promises the doom of every political power.
“What we’re saying [when we pray] is, ‘I’m praying that Christ’s reign will be visible on earth right now, that the Kingdom of God will show up right now,’ Mohler said. “So take that, Moscow, Beijing, Washington, Ivy League or NCAA. There is no kingdom that can withstand His Kingdom.”
Mohler notes in the book that the church has historically stood on a three-footed stool of instruction: the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed. This book is the second in a trilogy exploring the three foundational texts, with his 2009 book, Words From the Fire: Hearing the Voice of God in the Ten Commandments, being the first installment.
The book opens with an overview of the discipline of prayer in Chapter 1, then moves to a line-by-line exposition of the Lord’s Prayer in subsequent chapters. It concludes with an epilogue about the doxology (“For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen”), which is likely not original to the text of Matthew but is still right for worshipping Christians to pray, Mohler writes in the book.
Commonly, evangelicals resist formulaic or premeditated prayers, but Mohler sees the Lord’s Prayer as providing a model for all believers to follow, just as the disciples did. Not all prayer has to be spontaneous, he said, nor is it helpful to approach God in a conversational or relaxed way. Rather, Mohler believes the church should embrace established forms of prayer like those found throughout the scriptures – the kind of prayer that recognizes God’s reign over all things and submits to Him as both Lord and Father.
Prayer is one of the means by which Christians can commune with the living God, with the Lord’s Prayer encouraging the follower of Christ to come to God as Father and giving them a unique and intimate relationship with their Creator, according to Mohler.
“This is not an artificial kind of chatty sentimentality in which we insinuate that God is our buddy,” Mohler said. “This is the kind of communion that an earthly citizen would have perhaps with an earthly king. There is always a distinction between the king and the subject. The relationship is no less real – just now the relationship is all the more precious. Who are we that the Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth, would care about us or know us, much less want to hear from us?”
Western Christians will recite one of the central ideas of the Lord’s Prayer – “give us this day our daily bread” – without the daily uncertainty where their meals will come from, Mohler said. But when they read the Bible, Christians need to remember how most fellow believers have read it throughout the 2,000 years of church history, Mohler argued, along with recognizing that even most 21st-century Christians worldwide go hungry.
Still, “daily bread” is a metaphor for God’s provision, according to Mohler, so American believers should always rely on the Father for their daily spiritual sustenance.
One of the dominant forms of prayer in American culture, Mohler noted, is that of supplication and intercession – asking God to use His power on behalf of believers. Many Wednesday night prayer meetings become a laundry list of requests regarding the health of family members or for wisdom in decision-making. That way of praying is not wrong, Mohler said. God commands Christians to bring their concerns before the Father. But prayer is more than that, he said. Prayer is oriented toward the Kingdom of God. It is not merely supplicational; it is eschatological. It is motivated by a desire to see the world made right through the spread of the gospel, Mohler writes.
“We are praying that we want to see persons come to know the one true and living God,” he said. “We want to see Jesus made famous. We want to see the poor taken care of. We want to see the hungry fed. We want to see righteousness prevail. We want to see mercy demonstrated.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Andrew J.W. Smith writes for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

2/28/2018 9:21:05 AM by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS | with 0 comments

Baptists share Christ during Olympics in South Korea

February 28 2018 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

On an uncharacteristically warm day during the Winter Olympics, visitors to the train station were greeted by a number of different religious groups.
The Mormons wore yellow vests. The Jehovah’s Witnesses had their literature racks set up. Methodist Koreans were carrying yellow bags as they handed out literature.

Photo by Tim Ellsworth
Steve Bradshaw, director of evangelism for the SBCV, distributes a copy of the book of Romans and John to a South Korean mother at the Gangneung Station.

Among these were a group of volunteers from the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV) distributing copies of the books of Romans and John in 24 different languages.
“The world comes to one location, so this gives you an opportunity to share the gospel and to give them something in their hand that they can read and follow up with even after they leave,” said Steve Bradshaw, director of evangelism for SBCV. “We’re to go into all the world, so it’s really just doing the work of the Great Commission.”
The Virginia volunteers were just a few of the many Baptists, both from the United States and across the world, who traveled to South Korea to minister and evangelize during the Olympics.
“There’s a sense of unity in the games,” said Mindy McCord, administrative coordinator at SBCV. “We’re all cheering for our own people. It’s all competition, but once you’re outside of the venue or the event, there’s not contention between countries. It’s just so easy to strike up conversations with people who you wouldn’t normally interact with.”
David Crim, a long-time Southern Baptist who serves as pastor of International Baptist Church of Manila in the Philippines, brought 14 of his church members to South Korea to seek opportunities to share the gospel with people. Crim said his “disciple-makers” were trained to start “Gospel conversations” using the acronym “LOVE.”
They’ll ask people what they “like” about the Olympics, what their “opinions” are about what the world needs most to experience the kind of unity seen at the Olympics, what is most “valuable” about the Olympics that can lead to peace and unity and then “engage” them in a short message about how they can be connected with God’s love for them.
International Baptist Church also established a website, godspassionconnected.info, where they could direct people they encounter who wanted more information about what it means to be a Christian. Those who respond through the site will be directed to a church in their community.
Overall, Crim said his church’s interactions had been positive.
“There have been a few rejections and even a few unkind responses, but most people have been willing to engage,” he said. “We are leaving the results of our conversations to God. We see our role as simply planting seeds of the gospel.”
Randall Aldridge, an SBCV church planting strategist and part of the South Korean ministry team, went to the Olympics in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro and connected with Outreach Bible Project (OBP), a ministry of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Acworth, Ga. (an American Baptist congregation). OBP is a ministry that takes short-term volunteers to Olympic host cities to help distribute Bibles, tracts and pins that are used as a means of sharing the gospel.
“We just wanted to see if it was something that our churches could get involved with, if it would be another opportunity that we could offer our churches to do ministry around the world,” Aldridge said. “God always provides for us divine appointments and opportunities to share the gospel and also to connect with other Christians.”
The SBCV group also spent time, in addition to the train station, at Olympic Park for the ice events and in Alpensia for the ski events.
Bradshaw said they were already thinking about how SBCV churches might be involved in the 2020 Olympics in Japan and come alongside local churches there to assist them in sharing the gospel.
For McCord, the trip to South Korea was a trip home. The daughter of International Mission Board missionaries who served in South Korea, McCord lived there until she was almost 14.
“For me to be able to come back home and do ministry where ministry began for my family is a pretty incredible opportunity,” she said. “I love these people. I love this country. This is home. To remember that, to see that again 20 years later, is pretty special.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is a sports correspondent for Baptist Press and associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. He covered the Winter Olympics in South Korea for Baptist Press, previously having covered four Olympics – 2008 in Beijing, 2010 in Vancouver, 2012 in London and 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.)

2/28/2018 9:12:14 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

BGAV to stop forwarding churches’ gifts to CBF

February 27 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) has become the second Baptist state convention in the past week to announce it will stop channeling churches’ contributions to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF).

Photo courtesy of BGAV
The Baptist General Association of Virginia, pictured here at its 2016 annual meeting, announced Feb. 26 it will no longer forward churches’ gifts to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

The BGAV’s Executive Board approved a statement Feb. 26 noting the board “regrets it has had to address the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s approval” earlier this month of a policy “permitting the hiring of LGBT personnel for certain staff positions in the organization.”
However, the BGAV board stated, “the Virginia Baptist Executive Board believes it must take action on behalf of the General Association to have all of BGAV’s CBF contributing churches send their CBF gifts directly to the CBF National Office as soon as this is feasible. The Executive Board believes this action serves the BGAV, while respecting CBF.”
The Baptist General Convention of Texas likewise announced Feb. 20 it would stop forwarding churches’ gifts to CBF.
The CBF was founded in 1991 as a fellowship of churches that objected to the ideology and methods of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Conservative Resurgence.
The BGAV “at numerous annual meetings has affirmed and acted on its commitment to its orthodox and traditional view of biblical marriage and sexuality,” the state convention’s board stated. “The BGAV remains committed to respecting, welcoming and loving all persons in the name of Christ while affirming an orthodox view of marriage between a man and a woman.”
Some 200 of the approximately 1,400 churches that cooperate with the BGAV send financial contributions to the CBF through the state convention, according to a BGAV news release, and will be affected by the board’s decision. The BGAV will help those churches send their gifts directly to the CBF national office, the release stated.
“I want to express appreciation to the Executive Board for the spirit and heart with which they made this decision,” BGAV executive director John Upton said according to the BGAV release.
The BGAV’s decision came less than three weeks after the CBF Governing Board voted to replace its former prohibition of hiring homosexual and transgender employees with a policy that opened some positions to “Christians who identify as LGBT.”
The BGAV board stated in response, “Though the BGAV respects CBF’s right to change its hiring policy, such a decision has had a direct impact on the BGAV. The Executive Board has sought to respond in the most prayerful and prudent way to the effects of this impact.”
Previously, the BGAV offered three preset giving tracks to its churches, and it provided a fourth option for churches to customize their giving:

  • The World Missions 1 track provided 66 percent for Virginia ministries and 34 percent for SBC ministries.
  • The World Missions 2 track provided 72 percent for BGAV ministries and 28 percent for a combination of Virginia, SBC, CBF and other ministries.
  • The World Missions 3 track provided 72 percent for Virginia ministries and 28 percent for CBF ministries.

All CBF giving options now will be eliminated from the BGAV’s giving plans.
At least one other SBC partner convention – the District of Columbia Baptist Convention – forwards churches’ contributions to the CBF.
However, according to a Feb. 20 action of the SBC Executive Committee, the SBC will “no longer recognize the DCBC as a Baptist body authorized to receive and disburse Cooperative Program and other SBC contributions” if the DC convention does not “secure” by May 20 “the removal of any churches from its fellowship that have demonstrated a faith or practice affirming, approving or endorsing homosexual behavior.”
The BGAV is one of two state conventions in Virginia that cooperate with the SBC. The other Virginia convention, the SBC (Southern Baptist Conservatives) of Virginia, does not forward gifts from churches to the CBF.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

2/27/2018 10:37:47 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

George W. Bush: Billy Graham ‘changed my life’

February 27 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

With Billy Graham’s body scheduled to lie in honor this week in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, former President George W. Bush paid tribute to the late evangelist in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, writing, “He changed my life.”

Photo courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
Former President George W. Bush, pictured here in 2007 at the White House with Billy Graham, said the late evangelist ‘changed my life.’

“God’s work within me began in earnest with Billy’s outreach,” Bush wrote in the Journal Feb. 23. “His care and his teachings were the real beginning of my faith walk – and the start of the end of my drinking. I couldn’t have given up alcohol on my own. But in 1986, at 40, I finally found the strength to quit. That strength came from love I had felt from my earliest days and from faith I didn’t fully discover until my later years.”
Graham died Feb. 21 at age 99, following 80 years of ministry that included personal relationships with every U.S. president since Harry Truman.
A Feb. 24 motorcade transported Graham’s body from a training center operated by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Asheville, N.C., to the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., where a viewing is occurring Monday and Tuesday. Admirers lined the four-hour motorcade route to pay tribute, according to media reports.
Graham’s body will lie in the U.S. Capitol Wednesday and Thursday followed by a private funeral and burial Friday in Charlotte.
Bush, America’s 43rd president, wrote of the 1985 instance when Graham invited him on a walk around the Bush family estate in Maine and their conversation turned to spiritual matters.
“I mentioned something I’d been thinking about for a while – that reading the Bible might help make me a better person,” Bush wrote. “He told me about one of the Bible’s most fundamental lessons: One should strive to be better, but we’re all sinners who earn God’s love not through our good deeds, but through His grace. It was a profound concept, one I did not fully grasp that day. But Billy had planted a seed. His thoughtful explanation made the soil less hard, the brambles less thick.
“Shortly after we got back to Texas, a package from Billy arrived. It was a copy of the Living Bible,” Bush wrote. “He had inscribed it and included a reference to Philippians 1:6: ‘And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.’”

Photo by Bob Carey, Baptist Press
Former President George W. Bush, right, accompanied by Franklin Graham, paid his respects Feb. 26 to late evangelist Billy Graham at the Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C.

Bush recounted several additional memories of Graham as well, including the evangelist’s message at the National Cathedral three days after terrorists attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, and the occasion Graham mediated a theological dispute between Bush and his mother, then-First Lady Barbara Bush.
“Those of us who were blessed to know Billy Graham benefited from his deep convictions and personal example, his wisdom and humility, his grace and purity of heart,” Bush wrote. “We knew that his life was a gift from the Almighty. And I rejoice that he is now in the company of God, whom he loved so much and served so well.”
Among other U.S. presidents to pay tribute to Graham following his death:
– Donald Trump said in a statement, “Billy’s acceptance of Jesus Christ around his seventeenth birthday not only changed his life – it changed our country and the world. He was one of the towering figures of the last 100 years – an American hero whose life and leadership truly earned him the title ‘God’s Ambassador.’”
– Barack Obama tweeted, “Billy Graham was a humble servant who prayed for so many – and who, with wisdom and grace, gave hope and guidance to generations of Americans.”
– Bill Clinton said in a statement, “Hillary and I are saddened by the passing of our friend Billy Graham, one of the most important religious leaders in American history. His powerful words and the conviction they carried touched countless hearts and minds.
“I will never forget the first time I saw him, 60 years ago in Little Rock, during the school integration struggle. He filled a football stadium with a fully integrated audience, reminding them that we all come before God as equals, both in our imperfection and our absolute claim to amazing grace,” Clinton said.
– George H.W. Bush said in a statement reported by the Houston Chronicle, “Billy Graham was America’s pastor. His faith in Christ and his totally honest evangelical spirit inspired people across the country and around the world. I think Billy touched the hearts of not only Christians, but people of all faiths, because he was such a good man. I was privileged to have him as a personal friend.”
– Jimmy Carter said in a statement reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Rosalynn and I are deeply saddened to learn of the death of The Reverend Billy Graham. Tirelessly spreading the message of fellowship and hope, he shaped the spiritual lives of tens of millions of people worldwide.
“Broadminded, forgiving, and humble in his treatment of others, he exemplified the life of Jesus Christ by constantly reaching out for opportunities to serve. He had an enormous influence on my own spiritual life, and I was pleased to count Reverend Graham among my advisors and friends.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

2/27/2018 10:33:39 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Deadly central-U.S. storms mobilize DR in 5 states

February 27 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers (DR) are on the ground and others are on standby after weekend tornadoes and flooding killed five people and damaged homes in five states.

WSMV-TV video screengrab
As storms swept across the central-U.S. Feb. 24-25, tornadoes destroyed and damaged homes in two subdivisions in Clarksville, Tenn., where Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are already responding.

Two disaster relief teams have been deployed in Tennessee; Illinois is assessing a response to flooding there; and teams are on standby in Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio, according to reports from state DR representatives and the North American Mission Board (NAMB).
About 25 volunteers were operating chainsaws and applying tarp to damaged homes in Clarksville, Tenn., Feb. 26 after EF-1 and EF-2 tornadoes damaged Clarksville and Dotsonville Saturday, said Steve Dusenberry, a Cumberland Baptist Association (CBA) DR unit director. Two people were injured in Clarksville, but no tornado-related deaths had been reported in Tennessee this morning, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).
Community members within and outside the church have selflessly responded in Tennessee, Dusenberry told Baptist Press (BP).
“Contractors and churches and just volunteers have come out in droves to help clean up … not looking for anything in return,” he said. “I thought that was a great time. Volunteer upon volunteer was out there, neighbor helping neighbor.”
At least two other disaster relief units are en route to Tennessee communities, including students from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, and others are on standby in Tennessee, said Dusenberry, who hopes he can complete the response by week’s end.
A third tornado touched down in Tennessee, in extreme northern Robertson County, before gathering strength and killing a 79-year-old woman and injuring her husband at their home in Logan County, Ky., as an EF-2, NWS reported Sunday.
The elderly woman was among three total deaths in Kentucky, including two people whose bodies were recovered from flood-submerged vehicles in separate incidents in Simpson and Henderson counties, the Associated Press (AP) reported Sunday. Other deaths were reported in southwestern Michigan, where a 48-year-old man drowned in floodwaters, and in Arkansas, where an 83-year-old man died when high winds blew his trailer home into a pond, government representatives told the AP.
Coy Webb, DR director with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, has DR teams on standby as he prepares to assess damage after flood waters recede, he told NAMB this morning.
“Waters are still up in Louisville, Shepherdsville and northern Kentucky,” Webb said in written comments. “Daviess County is further west … so it may be a few days before we know if they will get significant flooding.”
Responses are considered probable in several communities, including downtown Louisville, Shepherdsville in Bullitt County and the northern Kentucky counties of Kenyon, Campbell and Boone.
“Thankfully damage was minimal in most other areas across the state and mostly road and bridge damage,” Webb said. “I have been checking on areas across the state this morning. … [I’m] hoping rain mid-week does not cause increased flooding and delay waters receding in affected areas.”
Tornadoes, heavy rains, strong winds and flooding were reported in a diagonal line of storms that stretched from northeast Texas to southwest Ohio, according to NWS reports.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

2/27/2018 10:30:15 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Olympic athletes reflect on gold medal performances

February 27 2018 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

The extinguished Olympic torch on Sunday officially ended the 2018 Winter Olympics. And for some Christian athletes, this year’s games were especially sweet – but they seemed to keep their wins in perspective.

U.S. Olympic athletes celebrate Feb. 25 during the closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

U.S. freestyle skier and gold medalist David Wise had the words “I cannot fail because it is not my victory” written on his sleeve during the competition.
“That is my way of reminding myself I am not here to glorify myself,” Wise said. “I am put on this planet to glorify God. He made me with the ability to do what I do, so when I drop into the halfpipe, I cannot fail.”
Wise (featured previously), who won gold in Sochi in 2014, successfully defended his gold medal in the men’s half-pipe event, scoring 97.20 to edge his U.S. teammate Alex Ferreira at 96.40.
The first two of Wise’s three runs were far from gold-medal quality, with Wise falling and his skis coming off. He needed a big performance in his third and final run to capture the gold.
“I said, ‘OK, if God wants me to do well in this event, then I’m going to be able to land this run. If He doesn’t, it’s all good, I’m moving on,’’ Wise said. “So I dropped in and did the run that I knew how to do.”
The U.S. women’s hockey team beat arch-rival Canada in the gold medal game, giving the Americans their first gold since 1998.
“What this group has been able to accomplish is way beyond sport, and that is something that is never going to fade,” Gigi Marvin said about winning the gold in her third Olympics. “Take a picture of my face because a picture is a thousand words. I don’t know what else to say other than joy.
“(This is) a snapshot of everything we have been through,” she continued. “I could sit here and speak for hours on what my team is all about. That is priceless, and it means so much to do it together and come out on top.”
But for those who didn’t enjoy similar golden moments, especially those athletes who profess faith in Christ, the competition results aren’t the ultimate measure of their success.
“I know that regardless of what I do on the track, that I’m still loved by God and that it takes every single pressure away – because I know God is giving me success,” Canadian skeleton racer Elisabeth Vathje said (she finished ninth overall). “But I know that even if the success doesn’t come, it doesn’t change the way God sees me and the way I should see Him.
“So, it gives me peace in that I don’t have to fight for results for my worth.”
The next Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing, China, in 2022. Tokyo, Japan, will host the 2020 Summer Olympics.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is a sports correspondent for Baptist Press and associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. He is covering the Winter Olympics in South Korea for Baptist Press, previously having covered four Olympics – 2008 in Beijing, 2010 in Vancouver, 2012 in London and 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.)

2/27/2018 10:06:47 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Boko Haram kidnaps 110 schoolgirls 4 years after Chibok

February 27 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

As many as 110 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists Feb. 19 are still missing after state government officials admitted to falsely announcing many of the girls’ rescue.

Screen capture of SaharaTV video
Boko Haram terrorists kidnapped as many as 110 schoolgirls from Dapchi, Nigeria Feb. 19, four years after taking 276 schoolgirls from Chibok. This screen capture was taken from a video Boko Haram released in January claiming to show a handful of the Chibok girls that remain missing.

In an attack reminiscent of the 2014 kidnapping of 276 girls from Chibok, Boko Haram raided the town of Dapchi in northern Nigeria late in the evening, forcing students of Government Girls Secondary School and other residents to flee into the surrounding bush, Reuters, the Associated Press (AP) and other news agencies reported.
On Feb. 21, the Yobe state government announced it had rescued 76 of the girls from their captors, causing parents to dance in the streets, Reuters reported. But anger fumed after Yobe Governor Ibrahim Gaidam told villagers a day later that the girls were still missing, Reuters reported Feb. 22.
“The government said yesterday the girls have been found, then the governor came today to say the soldiers are yet to find them,” Reuters quoted Dapchi resident Ali Maidoya as saying. “Why did they lie to us before?”
A series of conflicting reports emanated from the kidnapping, with estimates of the missing girls ranging from 50 to 100 in reports from the Yobe police, government and others. But most recently on Feb. 26, the Christian Post reported 110 missing girls.
The attack came four years after Boko Haram enraged the international community by kidnapping 276 schoolgirls from Chibok, located about 170 miles southeast of Dapchi. While many of the Chibok girls have been recovered or released, about 100 are believed still missing.
In January, Boko Haram released a video claiming to show about 10 of the Chibok girls who reportedly said they would never leave the terrorists, speaking in the Hausa language. Sahara TV posted the video Jan. 15, saying it was obtained from journalist Ahmad Salkida who specializes in reporting on terrorist activity occurring where the girls were first taken.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari claimed in December 2015 he had technically defeated Boko Haram, weakening the group so much that it would only be able to carry out isolated suicide bombings.
Boko Haram, which began attacking first Christians and then others in its attempts to establish Sharia law in Nigeria, has killed an estimated 20,000 people and displaced 2 million in Nigeria and neighboring nations since 2009. The terrorists have claimed allegiance to the Islamic State and have been accused of killing Christian farmers increasingly in raids since 2017 in cooperation with or under the guise of Fulani herdsmen.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

2/27/2018 10:00:11 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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