January 2016

Disaster relief volunteers still serving after Midwest flood

January 28 2016 by Tobin Perry, NAMB

A month after heavy Midwest rains created historic flooding that damaged hundreds of homes and killed at least two dozen people along the Mississippi River, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) will wrap up relief jobs this week and begin to consider the need for long-term rebuilding efforts.
 
SBDR volunteers from 18 state conventions have served at sites throughout Missouri this month in a variety of flood-response roles. Volunteers have completed about 400 relief jobs, according to Dwaine Carter, the state director for Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief.
 
“I hope [the people of Missouri] see that we’ve been ‘help, hope and healing’ as we come,” Carter said. “The help is physical. We give them hope that things are going to be OK. Then we trust that God will bring the healing in their lives.”
 
Carter also says SBDR volunteers presented the gospel 110 times, and 13 people expressed a desire to commit their lives to Jesus. Southern Baptist volunteer hours totaled 2,908 days during the flood response.

 
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Photo by Mike Hubbard, courtesy of the The Pathway
This waterlogged scene from Eureka, Mo., was a familiar site throughout Missouri after torrential rains fell between Christmas and New Year’s. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers from Missouri and 17 other state Baptist conventions have responded with assistance.

Carter says volunteers served throughout the southern part of the state from the Arkansas/Oklahoma border north to the I-44 corridor. Disaster relief units focused much of their efforts in the St. Louis area. Units worked out of First Baptist Church of Arnold, Central Baptist Church of Eureka and First Baptist Church of Ellisville.
 
While Missouri took the lead in the efforts, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) supported the work by providing equipment, funding and personnel, according to Mickey Caison, interim director of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
 
Caison notes that in addition to all the physical work provided by SBDR volunteers, Southern Baptists provide spiritual support as well.
 
Chaplains made more than 550 chaplaincy contacts in the past month in Missouri.
 
“[We let] them tell their story,” Caison said. “They get to share what happened to them with someone who cares about them, someone who is sympathetic to them. The hope is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We care enough to want them to know the God that we serve, the God who loves us. We want them to know that God as well.”
 
Illinois volunteer Butch Porter served during a week of the flood response in Missouri. He said the team developed such a reputation in one neighborhood that local residents were referring others to them. He specifically mentioned a heating and air repairman who had been working on an elderly woman’s house. Realizing that she needed more help, the repairman found Porter and his team and asked them to help her.
 
Porter says he enjoyed being a part of SBDR because it gives him an opportunity to help others.
 
“I can’t preach, and I can’t sing. But I’m good with people,” said Porter, who is a member of First Baptist Church of Galatia, Ill. “My wife and I feel like this is a great way to serve. When the Lord walked this earth, He helped people.”
 
The Southern Baptist state conventions that participated in the effort included Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Baptist General Convention of Texas, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Kansas-Nebraska, Iowa, Utah-Idaho, Colorado and New Mexico.
 
SBDR leaders from NAMB and state Baptist conventions are meeting this week at First Baptist Church of Hendersonville, Tenn., for the annual Disaster Relief Roundtable.
 
Those wishing to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visit donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call (866) 407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
 
NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state Disaster Relief ministries.
 
Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers – including chaplains – and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained Disaster Relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)

1/28/2016 11:33:00 AM by Tobin Perry, NAMB | with 0 comments



CMP activists indicted by Houston grand jury

January 27 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The Houston grand jury charged with investigating Planned Parenthood in conjunction with undercover videos produced by the pro-life Center for Medical Progress (CMP) has said the abortion provider broke no laws and instead has indicted CMP journalists on two felony counts.
 
In response to the indictments, a spokeswoman for Texas Right to Life said the grand jury process “reeks of something amiss.” She said the case illustrates “a pattern” in the Harris County district attorney’s office of failing to issue indictments in “abortion-related” cases despite significant evidence that abortionists have committed crimes.
 
CMP founder David Daleiden and his colleague Sandra Merritt were both indicted on felony charges of tampering with a government record, Harris County district attorney Devon Anderson announced Jan. 25. The New York Times speculated the charges may stem from making and presenting fake identification resembling California driver’s licenses in conjunction with the CMP’s investigation of Planned Parenthood’s Houston affiliate. If convicted, the journalists each could face up to 20 years in prison, according to the Houston Chronicle.

 
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ERLC photo
David Daleiden

Daleiden also was indicted on a misdemeanor charge related to purchasing human organs.
 
Last week, Daleiden told Russell Moore, president of Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, CMP’s undercover investigation of Planned Parenthood’s apparent sale of body parts from aborted babies was not unethical.
 
Asked by Moore at the Evangelicals For Life conference in Washington whether he was “making morality relative here by using lying and deception,” Daleiden responded, “I think that undercover work is fundamentally different from lying because the purpose of undercover work is to serve the truth and to bring the truth to greater clarity and to communicate the truth more strongly.”
 
Deleiden continued, “Certainly in normal everyday life we don’t always communicate the truth by a simple one-equals-one mathematical way of speaking. We often use poetry and metaphor and even pretext in order to communicate really important truth in a more clear way. Our Lord did that in the Gospels with the parables; it’s often done throughout the holy scriptures; and so I see undercover work in that same sort of vein, as a creative way of communicating and speaking that is in service of the truth.”
 
District attorney Anderson, a Republican, said in announcing the indictments, “As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us. All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case,” the Chronicle reported.
 
Anderson said the grand jury’s investigation, which lasted more than two months, was “lengthy and thorough” and involved her office, the Houston police and the Texas Rangers, the Times reported.
 
CMP posted a statement on its website in response to the indictments: “The Center for Medical Progress uses the same undercover techniques that investigative journalists have used for decades in exercising our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press, and follows all applicable laws. We respect the processes of the Harris County District Attorney, and note that buying fetal tissue requires a seller as well. Planned Parenthood still cannot deny the admissions from their leadership about fetal organ sales captured on video for all the world to see.”

 
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Facebook photo
Devon Anderson, District Attorney

Melissa Conway of Texas Right to Life said this is not the first time Anderson’s office has declined to indict an abortionist despite what she deemed significant evidence of a crime.
 
Anderson’s office did not indict abortionist Douglas Karpen in 2013 despite testimony from former employees and “photographic evidence” that he used “barbaric methods of murdering babies born alive during late-term abortions,” Conway, director of external relations at Texas Right to Life, said in written comments. Likewise, “the hard evidence against Planned Parenthood and contained in the investigative video by CMP is overwhelming and undeniable,” yet no indictment of Planned Parenthood officials was handed down.
 
“This case reeks of something amiss,” Conway said. “...We proudly stand in defense of the efforts of CMP through their investigative reporting and feel that a grave injustice exists as a result of the charges brought against the very people seeking justice on behalf of the true victims in this case – brutally dismembered preborn children.”
 
Conway and other pro-life activists expressed concern that one of the prosecutors in the Harris County district attorney’s office, Lauren Reeder, has served on the board of directors for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast since 2013 – a fact confirmed by Reeder’s LinkedIn page.
 
But Anderson said in August that Reeder “would not be involved in any manner in this investigation.”
 
“If at any time in the future,” Anderson said according to the Chronicle, “reliable and credible information is brought to my attention that would question our ability to continue to perform a fair, thorough and independent investigation of this matter due to her board membership, I will revisit the issue of seeking the appointment of an independent prosecutor and act accordingly.”
 
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas attorney general Ken Paxton both said the state’s investigation of Planned Parenthood will continue, according to CNN.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

Related Stories:

‘Even abortion doctors have human dignity,’ says CMP founder
Planned Parenthood sues over undercover videos

1/27/2016 11:42:32 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Abedini: ‘God saved me’ from death in Iran

January 27 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

American pastor Saeed Abedini prayed hours at times to survive years of abuse and unjust imprisonment in Iran for his Christian faith, and described his prayers as a “wonderful time with the Lord” which he enjoyed.
 
In his first media interview since his release from an Iranian prison was announced Jan. 16, Abedini told FOX News’ Greta Van Susteren of the brutal physical and psychological torture he suffered in Iran for three and half years.
 
The 35-year-old Abedini described three harsh beatings in particular, including a beating by an al Qaeda prisoner that nearly took his life.
 
“I was beaten within to death kind of,” he told Van Susteren in broken English. “God saved me over there.” During a botched trial, the judge closed him in a room where guards beat him so badly with their fists that he suffered internal bleeding in his stomach. And at another time, he said, he was beaten on the face and body with a heavy metal chair.

 
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Fox News screen capture
American pastor Saeed Abedini sometimes prayed for as long as 20 hours at a time while imprisoned in Iran, he said on told FOX News’ On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.

“They tried hardly [sic] to damage my reputation in Iran so they asked me to write and sign the things that I didn’t do,” Abedini said. “Actually it was in a courtroom that the judge closed the door and the interrogators started beating me, which in that time I got stomach bleeding. They asked me the things that criminal prisoners do, so when I deny it, they start beating me. They asked me to sign it, to write it, and I denied and they, when they saw it doesn’t work, they let me go.”
 
He described the 60 days he spent in a cell with U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, also released in the prison swap, as both joyful and painful.
 
“It was the best moment I had since I got arrested, to see him alive,” Abedini said, while describing the pain he felt upon seeing Hekmati, underweight with black eyes. During that time, the two decided to encourage one another.
 
“It was just me and him in a room, nothing to do … for two months. Actually he was over there for more than eight years in the same room when I met him,” Abedini said of Hekmati. The harshness of solitary confinement sweetened the release to another prison area, he said.
 
“But after coming out from solitary and seeing one person, that you can talk, it was like heaven,” Abedini said. “So it was a good time.”
 
Tens of prisoners at a time were executed on Wednesdays, Abedini said.
 
“The worst thing I saw was they took some Sunnis for execution; it was in front of our eyes, and they took like tens of them to hang them,” Abedini said. “Every Wednesday … they hang the people, and they take them for execution. Most of them, they are Sunnis, some of them political prisoners, and I can say most of them, they are there for their faith.”
 
The prisoners were afraid, crying, screaming, forcibly taken by their hands and feet to be hanged, Abedini said, “like when they take a lamb for slaughtering.”
 
Van Susteren interviewed Abedini Jan. 25 at the Billy Graham Conference Center at the Cove in Asheville, and announced plans to release portions of the interview in segments in the coming weeks.
 
Abedini’s wife Naghmeh has twice been delayed in seeing him since his prison release. She cancelled plans to visit him in Germany, where he was treated at a U.S. military hospital before his Jan. 21 arrival in the U.S., to give him more time to recover before reuniting with their children Rebekkah and Jacob. She told Baptist Press of plans to meet him Jan. 25 at the Cove, but according to news reports, Saeed reunited with his children in Boise, Idaho, on Jan. 26.
 
Naghmeh Abedini could not be reached for comment Jan. 26, but she earlier said she was looking forward to spending time with her husband and undergoing counseling with him at the Cove.
 
The Abedini marriage is strained by the imprisonment and emails that surfaced, intended only for close friends, in which Naghmeh Abedini accused her husband of spousal abuse and an addiction to pornography. She expressed regret for sending the emails and declined to discuss the specifics of the abuse.
 
“I think when it’s time,” she said, “I think it’s a story that needs to be told by Saeed, not me. I think it had better not be anything that I focus on anymore.”
 
On her Facebook page Jan. 27, Naghmeh said, “I do deeply regret that I hid from the public the abuse that I have lived with for most of our marriage and I ask your forgiveness. I sincerely had hoped that this horrible situation Saeed has had to go through would bring about the spiritual change needed in both of us to bring healing to our marriage.”
 
Three months ago, Naghmeh said that her husband “demanded” certain things she “must do to promote him in the eyes of the public that I simply could not do any longer. He threatened that if I did not the results would be the end of our marriage and the resulting pain this would bring to our children.”
 
She shared that more than anyone, she longs for reconciliation for her family, but she stressed that she wants the reconciliation to be based on God’s Word. Counseling would have to be involved, she said.
 
Naghmeh said she has taken “temporary legal action to make sure our children will stay in Idaho until this situation has been resolved. I love my husband, but as some might understand, there are times when love must stop enabling something that has become a growing cancer. We cannot go on the way it has been. I hope and pray our marriage can be healed. I believe in a God who freed Saeed from the worst prisons can hear our plea and bring spiritual freedom.”

She thanked readers for prayers and support.

“We need them more than ever,” she said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

Related Story:

Saeed Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, interviewed post release

1/27/2016 11:34:47 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Florida Baptists send additional $500,000 to SBC

January 27 2016 by Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention

The Florida Baptist Convention sent an additional $500,000 in Cooperative Program (CP) funds to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Jan. 25.
 
The funds represented 51 percent of the $970,924 in budget overages from Florida Baptist churches to the state convention’s 2015 budget of $28.8 million.
 
“What a tremendous blessing from God for Florida Baptists to express our commitment to the Great Commission in our work together as Southern Baptists through this budget overage,” said Tommy Green, the convention’s executive director-treasurer.
 
“This means we will be sharing an additional $500,000 to the SBC beyond the $11,808,000 budgeted amount, bringing the total earmarked for the SBC to $12,308,000,” he said.
 
Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, voiced gratitude to the Lord “for the faithfulness of His people to support our state convention and SBC ministries through the Cooperative Program.”
 
“I have recently heard from [state convention executives] Rick Lance with Alabama, Terry Dorsett with New England, Terry Robertson in New York, as well as this wonderful news from Tommy Green in Florida,” Page said. “I have heard of several other states that have experienced overages in their CP as well. As in this case, several have shared this means an even greater percentage for national missions and ministries because of their state’s predetermined formulas for distribution. These state executives are excited about what God is doing through their churches, and we celebrate with them. We’re grateful for every dollar and rejoice over this particular good news coming from Florida. Praise the Lord!”
 
The 2015 giving of Florida Baptist churches through the Cooperative Program is the first time since 2007 when receipts exceeded the prior year, reversing a seven-year trend when CP receipts dropped by 25 percent.
 
Florida Baptists gave $29,770,924 through the Cooperative Program in 2015, exceeding the year’s $28.8 million budget by 3.37 percent and surpassing the 2014 giving of $29,643,195 by approximately $128,000, or 0.43 percent.
 
“I am thrilled we have reversed a declining trend in Cooperative Program receipts. We had dropped by 25 percent since 2007 in our Cooperative Program giving. The 2015 CP giving reveals the first yearly increase since that year,” Green said.
 
“The generosity of our Florida Baptist churches reflects their deep commitment to reaching the world for Christ.”
 
The decline over the seven-year period, which originally mirrored the downturn in the economy, was felt throughout the Florida convention, as receipts dropped from an all-time high of $39.61 million given in 2007 to $29.64 million in 2014.
 
But as time progressed, many Florida Baptists urged the convention to send a larger percentage of CP receipts to the SBC to reach the nations, rather than keeping the money in the state. In 2010, at the initiative of then Florida Baptist State Convention President John Cross, a Great Commission Task Force recommendation approved by messengers called for the state convention to move toward a 50-50 split of CP funds between Florida and the SBC. But little progress was made in subsequent years.
 
Then, this past November, under the leadership of Green as the new executive director, messengers to the Florida Baptist State Convention approved sweeping budget revisions that would allocate 51 percent of the CP budget to the SBC. Green had pledged to present such a budget to messengers – “sending more than we are keeping” – when he assumed office the previous June.
 
Green said that decision of Florida Baptists to send 51 percent of the 2016 Cooperative Program gifts to the SBC and retain 49 percent for work in the state “is already being blessed by God.”
 
“Our next transition of the budget percentage will be a 55-45 percent split when we reach $34 million in CP receipts,” Green pledged. “I praise God for the faithful giving of our Florida Baptist churches to global missions through the Cooperative Program.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Witness. Baptist Press editor Art Toalston contributed to this article.)

1/27/2016 11:31:03 AM by Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention | with 0 comments



Floyd: ‘Pulpit swaps’ foster racial unity

January 27 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Ronnie Floyd and National Baptist Convention President Jerry Young are featured in a Jan. 24 New York Times article on their continued efforts to bring racial healing in the U.S. through the gospel of Christ.
 
Still working on goals the two Baptist leaders established in November 2015 at “A National Conversation on Race in America” in Jackson, Miss., the men sat down with New York Times writer Laurie Goodstein to discuss their hearts’ desire to heal wounds that for some run as deep as the SBC’s 1845 founding to uphold the rights of slaveholders.
 
“I can’t do anything about what happened in 1845, but I can do a lot about where we are today in 2015,” said Floyd, senior pastor of the multisite Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. “My church has a lot of people that are not white. We live in the homeland December 2015of Walmart, J.B. Hunt, Tyson Foods and the University of Arkansas. And with the growth of those companies, our whole region has changed. And in order for us to reach our region, we have to be able to reach all people.”

 
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File photo from Cross Church
SBC President Ronnie Floyd and Jerry Young, president of the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc., delivered joint keynote addresses at Mission Mississippi’s racial reconciliation celebration at the Jackson Convention Center Nov. 4.

Young, who leads the National Baptist Convention USA Inc., formed in 1880 by freed blacks, told The New York Times that the historical dichotomy between the two conventions still surfaces today.
 
“I’ve never said this to Dr. Floyd, but I’ve had fellows in my own denomination who called me and said: ‘What are you doing? I mean, are you not aware of the history?’“ Young said in the interview. “And I say, obviously I’m aware. They bring up the issue about slavery and that becomes a reason, they say, that we ought not to be involved with the Southern Baptists. Where from my vantage point, that’s reverse racism.
 
“I do understand the history, and I understand the pain of the past,” said Young, who pastors New Hope Baptist Church of Jackson, Miss. “But what I’m also quite clear about is, if the gospel does anything at all, the gospel demands that we not only preach but practice reconciliation.”
 
The leaders of the nation’s two largest Baptist denominations convened 10 pastors from each group in November to find concrete ways to achieve reconciliation between the groups and foster national healing.
 
“I am convinced that if we don’t get this racism issue right in the church, I don’t think there’s any way we can do it in the culture,” Young said. “The church has a checkered past, even now, with racism, no question. And that’s not just white racism. It’s racism period.”
 
The men pointed to pulpit exchanges as a next step.
 
“We’re going to encourage our pastors to swap pulpits, get them in uncomfortable or at least different environments than they’re used to,” Floyd said.
 
“Fellowshipping is what he’s talking about,” Young added. “We’ve agreed to that. He’s absolutely correct: Suspicion, fear, distrust, all that stuff is there. How do you get beyond that if you don’t get to know people?”
 
The full question-and-answer style article can be read here. www.nytimes.com/2016/01/24/opinion/sunday/race-history-and-baptist-reconciliation.html?_r=1.
 
Floyd and Young are promoting racial reconciliation in the midst of national turmoil expressed in such movements as Black Lives Matter, and the forgiveness exhibited after the June 2015 massacre of nine black churchgoers by a white supremacist at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
 
Following the Charleston massacre, Floyd and Young promoted racial unity at an Aug. 25 service held at First Baptist Church in Jackson to honor Emanuel AME’s witness. The two men have dialogued multiple times since the Nov. 4 Jackson, Miss., summit hosted by the nonprofit racial reconciliation group Mission Mississippi, Floyd told Baptist Press.
 
Floyd has described the Mission Mississippi event as historic.
 
“I want to remind all of us here today, this meeting is somewhat historic,” Floyd said at the November event, “not simply because we have people from all ethnicities talking about this issue, but these are called men of God, leaders of local churches and ministries, who’ve come together in the common name of Christ, and we are representing the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. And that is a fresh wind to this conversation in the United States and far, far, far overdue.”
 
Also this past November, the two men voiced their passion for racial reconciliation in a CNN editorial.
 
“As religious leaders charged with shepherding the faithful, we are resolved to address this tragedy together,” the two men said in the joint CNN editorial. “Now, as ever, pastors across America must stand before their congregations and call racism for what it is: ugly, unwarranted and un-Christian in all its forms.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

Related Stories:

Floyd, Young urge racial unity in CNN editorial
Floyd, National Baptists, to form study group
Mississippi event to focus on racial unity

1/27/2016 11:25:26 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



AiG wins court battle for Kentucky tax incentive

January 27 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Answers in Genesis (AiG) has won a court battle to benefit from a Kentucky sales tax rebate incentive program that could save the apologetics ministry up to $18 million on its Ark Encounter museum being built in northern Kentucky.
 
The Commonwealth of Kentucky had withheld the incentive program from AiG by claiming that the ministry would use religion to discriminate in hiring its employees, and that the use of tax incentives to advance religion violated state law. In its lawsuit, AiG argued that the tax incentive was “facially neutral” and thereby applicable to religious organizations just as any other business that meets program criteria.
 
U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove ruled Jan. 25 in AiG’S favor and issued a preliminary injunction requiring the state to extend the incentive to AiG.

 
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An artist’s rendering of the construction of the life-size replica of Noah’s Ark included in the first phase of the Ark Encounter theme park set to open in July in northern Kentucky.

“The Court finds that the Commonwealth’s exclusion of AiG from participating in the program for the reasons stated – i.e., on the basis of AiG’s religious beliefs, purpose, mission, message, or conduct, is a violation of AiG’s rights under the First Amendment to the federal Constitution,” Tatenhove wrote in his decision. “Because … AiG has shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their federal First Amendment claims, the Kentucky Constitution cannot bar those claims. Additionally, the provisions in the Kentucky constitution cited by the Commonwealth are inapplicable to the case at hand. When balancing this finding against the other necessary factors, the Court concludes that a preliminary injunction is warranted.”
 
The judge also upheld AiG’s right to religious preference in its hiring, stating that the ministry may “utilize any Title VII exception for which it qualifies concerning the hiring of its personnel.”
 
“I rejoice in the court’s decision today,” AiG president Ken Ham said in a Jan. 25 press release. “The state gave us no choice but to bring this legal action. We, along with our attorneys, tried for many months to show these officials why their actions were blatantly violating our rights under the federal and state constitutions, as well as the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.
 
“The law is crystal clear that the state cannot discriminate against a Christian group simply because of its viewpoint, but that is precisely what happened here,” Ham said. “The decision today is a victory for the free exercise of religion in this country, including in hiring.”
 
Ham described the ruling as a victory for “all religious groups and churches that want to maintain their free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment when that freedom is challenged by the government.”
 
AiG won the right to an incentive offered under the Kentucky Tourism Development Act.
 
“The incentive for developers of approved new or expanding tourism projects is the ability to recover up to 25% of the project’s development costs over a ten year term,” reads the law posted on the official Kentucky government website. “On an annual basis the Kentucky Department of Revenue will return to developers of approved projects the state sales tax paid by visitors to the attraction on admission tickets, food and gift sales and lodging costs.”
 
When the lawsuit was filed in February 2015, AiG estimated the rebate could amount to as much as $18.25 million, based on the cost of the project’s first phase. No taxpayer money is being used in the project’s construction, and the business must operate one year before receiving the tax rebates, AiG said.
 
AiG has raised more than $90 million towards the first phase of the project in Williamstown, which will include a full-scale, 510-foot replica of Noah’s Ark at a cost of $92 million, according to the press release.
 
AiG has set July 7 as the opening date of the Ark Encounter, and began selling tickets Jan. 19 to the first 40 days and nights of the ark’s opening. Between 1.4 million and 2.2 million visitors are expected annually.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

Related Story:

AiG to file discrimination suit against Kentucky

1/27/2016 11:18:58 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘Snowmageddon’ doesn’t thwart pro-lifers at March for Life

January 26 2016 by Sharon Mager, Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network

Pro-life supporters from across the country braved the elements in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 22, the anniversary of the historic Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 to legalize abortion, to make the annual March for Life from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Supreme Court building.
 
Couples, women with babies snug against their chests, students, grandparents, Catholics, Protestants, representatives from the Jewish community, and those with no faith, braved the biting cold, waving signs, cheering and clapping for speakers while covering their faces, rubbing hands together and stamping their feet to stay warm at the starting rally near the Washington Monument. Legislators, pro-life and religious leaders urged marchers to continue their commitment to the pro-life cause.

 
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Photo by Chad Bartlett
Russell Moore, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission president, speaks Jan. 22 at the March for Life Rally in Washington, D.C. "We pray … that we will receive all people regardless of stage of conception, or disability, as made in the image of God," he said as he led the crowd in prayer.

On the platform was Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) President Russell Moore, who led the march’s final charge and a closing prayer, beseeching God to make the march unnecessary for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “We pray ... that we will receive all people regardless of stage of conception, or disability, as made in the image of God.
 
“Lord, as we march, we pray for confidence ... not in our numbers ... not in our strength, but in the confidence that the light shines in the darkness, the darkness has not, the darkness will not, the darkness cannot overcome it. And we are here of many faiths, and some of no faith but I pray this in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ.”
 
Thousands of anxious marchers were already on their way before Moore’s “Amen,” a huge sea of people, all bundled up for the cold, carrying signs, some chanting, some holding hands, priests’ and nuns’ robes flying behind them as they moved. With the snow continuing to fall, and the rest of Washington scurrying to gather last-minute supplies, a state of emergency called, the crowd appeared upbeat and spirited. As Washington, D.C., was shutting down, the march moved forward.
 
Previously, also on the platform, March for Life Chairman Patrick Kelly welcomed marchers to “... the largest annual civil rights demonstration in the world.”
 
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) told the crowd, “We are turning the tide! Today, the pro-life movement is stronger than ever and is making serious, significant and sustained progress,” Smith said.
 
“State level gains have been historic,” Smith said, adding that 282 pro-life laws have been enacted since 2010. “In the last year alone, nine powerful pro-life measures have passed the house,” he said.
 
Smith referred to Planned Parenthood as “Child Abuse Incorporated,” systematically destroying children and hurting women. Smith said more than 57 million children have been aborted since 1973, which is estimated to be the killing of a child every two minutes.
 
“You are the antidote ... to this present darkness, the culture of death,” Smith said.
 
“For the sake of women and children, because we love them both, be further involved, defend life with all the courage, faith, insight compassion and love that you have to muster,” he said. “Don’t back down, or give up or ever get discouraged. Ever. Ask God for strength. Combine persistent prayer with ‘Esther-like’ fasting. Combine it all with smart and diligent pro-life work in every level including the political. Someday soon America will protect the weakest and most vulnerable, and into eternity each and every one of you will have played a critical part in this human rights struggle.”

 
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Photo by Sharon Mager
ERLC President Russell Moore and other pro-life speakers raise joined hands in unison at the end of the March for Life rally Jan. 22 .

Focus on the Family President Jim Daly, coming straight from the inaugural “Evangelicals for Life” conference, sponsored by the ERLC and Focus on the Family, at the nearby Hyatt Regency, Capitol Hill, was quick to acknowledge the large Roman Catholic contingency presence.
 
“I’m an evangelical, but thank you to the Catholics for leading the way! We are grateful for your leadership on this issue for life. It’s taken awhile for us to come to the party but we are with you,” Daly said to a cheering crowd.
 
Daly said Focus on the Family’s “Option Ultrasound,” which provides grants for ultrasound machines and sonographer training to life-affirming pregnancy medical clinics in communities with high abortion rates throughout the United States, has saved an estimated 358,000 from abortion.
 
“Moving forward, we need to look at those who aren’t awake yet to the reality of what’s being done, with the grace of God, the love of God and the truth of God’s Word,” he said.
 
Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina said, “Even a ‘Snowmageddon’ can’t stop us from rallying for a cause we know is so important.”
 
Fiorina told marchers the next president would have the responsibility to choose Supreme Court justices that will decide issues of life and religious liberty.
 
“Ours is a fight for the character of our nation, for the value of life,” Fiorina said.
 
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), responded to claims that efforts to defend and protect life constitute a “war on women.”
 
“I reject that. I am a woman,” Ernst said. “I have been to war. Let me be clear. This is no war on women. Being pro-life means you have a deep respect for the miracle of life and a woman’s unique ability to bring life into this world.”
 
“Being pro-life means you mourn the loss of thousands of baby girls and boys who are lost to abortion in the United States each year,” she said.
 
Former abortion clinic worker Jewels Green spoke on behalf of the “Silent No More Awareness Campaign.” Green shared her story of being a pregnant teenager and alone. “I knew no one who was pro-life,” she said. “I already thought of myself as a parent ... but no one agreed with me. No one advocated for life. So I surrendered ... to abort my first child.” Shortly afterwards, Green attempted suicide and later spent a month in a psychiatric clinic. She then went on to work in an abortion facility where she tried to believe abortion was “no big deal.”
 
“But I knew I missed my baby,” Green said. “And I saw the women in the waiting room, crying in the procedure room, crying in the recovery room day after day, year after year.”
 
Many years later, Green said she faced the truth that abortion is always wrong. “Abortion always extinguishes the light of life of a unique, irreplaceable and unrepeatable member of our human family,” she said. “It was accepting this truth that finally led me to spiritual conversion, forgiveness and healing. Once I became pro-life I knew I couldn’t stay silent. Thank you for welcoming us who have been converted, welcoming repentant mothers and fathers.... I’m finished surrendering to a world that treats women as disposable.
 
“I’m Jewels Green, and I am ‘Silent no More.’”
 
Matt Birk, Baltimore Ravens’ center from 2009-2013, was part of the team that won Super Bowl XLVII. Kelly, March for Life chairman, called Birk a Super Bowl Champ and a pro-life champ. Birk received significant media coverage when he chose not to participate in a White House Super Bowl celebration with President Barack Obama because of the president’s support for Planned Parenthood.
 
Birk told the crowd many asked him why he attends the march. “I’m a football player. I like to keep things real simple,” he said with a smile.
 
He noted, “I’ve never heard a woman give birth to a baby and say ‘I wish I had an abortion.’ That’s why we march. I’ve never heard someone say ‘I wish I had fewer kids.’ That’s why we march!”
 
“... If you’ve ever seen a baby being born, even though it happens millions of times a day, it’s still a miracle, it’s pure joy,” he said. “If you’ve ever experienced adoption, which my family and I recently did, it’s one of the most beautiful things in the world. It’s an act of sacrifice by the birth mother to know that she can’t give the child what he or she needs and so she does the selfless act of giving the baby up for adoption. That is love. In this world where we have dictators and communism and nuclear weapons and disease, don’t we need more miracles? Don’t we need more joy? Don’t we need more love?”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sharon Mager is communications specialist at the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network in Columbia, Md.)
 

Related Story:

‘Even abortion doctors have human dignity,’ says CMP founder

1/26/2016 12:43:55 PM by Sharon Mager, Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network | with 0 comments



Pregnancy center shines hope into uncertainty

January 26 2016 by Liz Tablazon, BR Staff Writer

It takes about nine days for a woman to make a decision about the next nine months of her life – and her child’s.
 
The first nine days, or 216 hours, after a woman finds out she is pregnant are critical, according to Tonya Baker Nelson, executive director of A Hand of Hope Pregnancy Center in Fuquay-Varina. For a woman not expecting a pregnancy, it is usually during this time that she decides to either carry the child or terminate the pregnancy. That’s why the staff at A Hand of Hope organized Reality 216, a nine-day initiative to get an idea of the reality a woman and her partner face.

 

During Reality 216, A Hand of Hope publishes blog posts written from the perspective of a woman unexpectedly facing pregnancy.

 
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Contributed photo
A Hand of Hope staff, from left to right: Donna Baker, Valerie Champion, Tonya Baker Nelson, Kelsey Williamson, Mandy Shawver, Mae Durgett and Amanda Schachle.

The stories are based on clients’ experiences and reveal sleepless nights, anxiety, guilt and pressure from the baby’s father to abort. Reality 216 concluded with A Hand of Hope closing on property beside A Preferred Women’s Health Center, an abortion-providing clinic, on Dec. 17.
 
The additional location will allow the center to further minister through mentorship and support leading to and following a child’s birth. Clients come to the center to obtain a free pregnancy test and ultrasound performed by an OB-GYN. A registered nurse gives medically accurate information about the pregnancy and an abortion procedure, for free.
 
“We don’t charge for any services because we want to make sure that they’re informed,” Nelson said. “They don’t know how they will be affected from the abortion. Culture teaches it’s no big deal, you’ll be fine. There’s that secret pain that nobody really wants to talk about.”
 
The staff and volunteers commit to being intentional with the gospel throughout a client’s entire experience at A Hand of Hope.
 
“An abortion is not gonna send her to hell,” Nelson said. “We are very intentional about making sure that they know something more about Jesus than they did when they came in.”
 
Clients often bring up Christianity themselves. Counselors initially ask them to rate their decision on a scale of one to 10. One represents no desire to terminate the pregnancy, and 10 represents a definite abortion. Counselors follow up by asking how they feel about their decision.
 
“Eight out of 10 times they will bring up God in that response,” Nelson said. “Whenever that door opens, we run right through it. We let them know, look, this is who we are. We’re here regardless of the decision you make.”
 
Nelson has seen people of many religious backgrounds at the center: Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans, Jews and Christians.
 
“We point blank say, ‘You know, we recognize that you might not believe this. That’s your business. I cannot live your life for you, make your decision for you, but let me share with you what helped me when I was in the middle of making that pregnancy decision’.”
 
Counselors are encouraged to talk about their own faith. “When you start sharing your story, they can’t doubt that because you’re right there sharing that,” she said.
 
Meeting with clients results in varying circumstances. If the pregnancy test is negative, or if it is positive and the parents are unsure of their next step, they receive a bag of resources, including a Bible.
 
If they decide to parent, they receive a gift bag for the baby. They then have the opportunity to take life skills classes, where they can earn “mommy money” and “daddy dollars” to spend at the center’s boutique. As the expectant parents go through the program, they can “buy” diapers, formula, car seats and other supplies.
 
“Their children are their responsibility,” Nelson said. “They can stay involved until the baby is two years old. That’s three years of mentoring them. Our goal is to make sure they’ve got everything they need to properly parent their child.”
 
Staff and volunteers help parents find a church family if they want to get involved in a local church. They also work with agencies for clients who choose adoption, initiating the first meeting between the birth mother and the agency.
 
Many women choose to abort and later return for counseling. Through Bible studies, Nelson has counseled women healing from an abortion and men who have influenced the decision to abort or have paid for the procedure. She advocates for post-abortion healing because she has not seen many churches walk through repentance and restoration. She said most church members are unaware of men beside them on the pews who paid for their girlfriend’s abortion decades ago, or of parents who have just paid for their daughter’s.
 
LifeWay Research released a study Nov. 23 that showed more than 40 percent of women who have had an abortion were churchgoers at the time, and 52 percent of churchgoers who have had one say nobody at the church knows about it.
 
Nelson believes the devil has two jobs: to keep people from Christ or to keep Christians ineffective. She believes one of the reasons churches do not thrive with servanthood is because many people have not healed from past experiences like abortion.
 
“But there is nothing that Jesus Christ won’t forgive,” she said.
 
A Hand of Hope is a member of Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, a network of more than 60 centers across North Carolina. Nelson hopes more Christians will know that these centers exist and do more to advocate for life than merely voting for the pro-life candidate.

1/26/2016 12:32:19 PM by Liz Tablazon, BR Staff Writer | with 1 comments



Charlotte native, football star talks fatherhood, Panthers

January 26 2016 by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports Q&A

Eugene Robinson’s professional football career spanned 16 years, including stints with the Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers and a Super Bowl win in 1996 with the Green Bay Packers. Robinson provides color analysis for the Carolina Panthers Radio Network and coaches football and wrestling for Charlotte Christian School.
 
He began a new endeavor in January 2015 as co-host of morning television show, Charlotte Today on WCNC.
 
Robinson lives with his wife and family in Charlotte. We sat down and discussed the Super Bowl experience, the Panthers and his commitment to faith and family.
 
Q: How hard is it as a player to make it to the Super Bowl?

 
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Contributed photo
At left, Eugene Robinson talks faith, family and sports with Roman Gabriel III (right) during last year's Super Bowl coverage.
 

A: It is very difficult – every play counts, every moment counts. You can’t have a lapse. For example, if you’re playing the Seattle Seahawks and Russell Wilson, you must keep him in the pocket. You can’t do your own thing and just say, “Whoops! I messed up,” because I didn’t do my assignment. Everything counts; you have to make sure you win on every play. One play going for or against you can mean the difference between winning the Super Bowl or missing the Super Bowl.
 
Q: Can Panthers quarterback Cam Newton be the NFL MVP?
 
A: It wouldn’t surprise me at all, regarding all the talk this year, about him being the MVP. Newton has really mobilized the Panthers offense; they have absolutely flourished under his leadership. He’s played so wonderfully, with four fourth-quarter comebacks and all of the heroics. His top receiver went down at the beginning of the preseason; there were a lot of things happening. He’s turned a good season into a great season.
 
Q: You have spent some time around Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. What are your impressions?
 
A: Wilson is a perfect example of someone having a strong father and mother. I had the privilege of doing their chapel service. I’m telling you right now that young man is rock-solid in the Lord. Not saying that any of us have it all together, but he wants to know God, wants to know what God wants him to do. That’s the first thing you notice. Having positive role models (father and mother) around you helps you navigate the waters just a little bit better. It’s so important to have mentors in your life, no matter who you are.
 
Q: You have always been about faith, family and football. How rewarding has it been as a father seeing your family grow?
 
A: My wife and I have been fortunate. We have always been a close family. We’ve always been a big part of our kids lives. We’re all about wanting to leave a legacy of Jesus Christ; that’s what we’re all about in our family. As a parent there’s nothing more exciting than when your kids go through the transition when they realize that God isn’t just your God, He’s their God.
 
Q: What is the result of that transition for you as a parent?
 
A: You know they’re in good shape when that happens. When you see they’re on a collision course with Jesus Christ that will never end, and that’s what you want! You want to firmly put them in the hands of the Lord, and we’ve been able to do that, walking with them a little bit farther as they grow up.
 
Q: There are so many negative pressures that families come under today. Are there more now than ever before?
 
A: There are so many things working against family, especially in professional sports, where you see a lot of people leaving after three to five years in the league bankrupt and divorced. That becomes the norm and the standard. Here’s the thing we need to remind ourselves – this is not our world. This is not our home. Heaven is our home, and we need to constantly remind ourselves of that. It’s really important as we navigate through life that we don’t forget where our roots lie. We know the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy. I’m reminded that we have a different calling.
 
Q: How has technology impacted you and your family?
 
A: Technology is really changing the landscape of parenting. The Internet, cell phones and computers have taken the place of family social time with our kids. When my kids were small, there is one thing we never did: have a television or computer in their rooms. I never wanted them to get in a situation where they locked themselves in their rooms or became a recluse. That was the standard in our home; everything was about being able to socialize and interact with other people. We ate dinner together as a family without phones. The last thing I want for my kids is not to be able to give them my full attention.
 
Q: How big a problem do you see with teenagers and the danger of too much time with cell phones and computers?
 
A: This is a big problem this younger generation is having; they don’t relate. They are learning to relate to one other anonymously. They get an alter ego; no one gets the chance to see the real them. And when the real you has problems, that’s when you have to be able to reach out to someone. If you’re unable to reach out to someone because you don’t have the social skills, you’ve done yourself a disservice. You’ll find yourself alone, depressed, by yourself. Man was not made to be alone. I know I sound like I’m preaching … but with my family that’s what we do.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roman Gabriel III is an evangelist and motivational speaker. Hear his Sold Out Sports Talk Radio program on American Family Radio in 200 cities nationally or streaming live at afr.net. Visit his website: soldouttv.com; Facebook: Roman Gabriel III; connect on Twitter: @romangabriel3rd. Contact at (910) 431-6483 or email: soldoutrg3@gmail.com.)
 

Super Bowl coverage

Roman Gabriel III and his team will be in California to cover Super Bowl 50 between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. Look for coverage at BRnow.org and in future print and digital issues of the Biblical Recorder. Gabriel will also be launching a new website focusing on faith, family and sports. Visit his personal and Super Bowl pages on the BR website.

1/26/2016 12:17:20 PM by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports Q&A | with 0 comments



‘Reveal’ leaders share how to make disciples

January 26 2016 by BR staff

Baptist leaders make growing disciples a priority.
 
“The most basic thing I do is to simply be a disciple myself,” said Bruce Frank, lead pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church in Asheville. “That means many things but includes modeling worship, repentance, accountability and outreach.”
 
Leaders at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina want to “Reveal” how to make disciples with an event Feb. 29. “Reveal: Share Your Life. Speak the gospel” is a one-day conference aimed at teaching church leaders and laypeople how to make disciples in a variety of ministry settings. The event (9 a.m.-5 p.m.) is at Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro.
 
The only cost is for a $7 meal; people do need to register. They based the theme on 1 Thessalonians 2:8 – “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
 
Conference leaders include Frank; Chuck Lawless, author and professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Dhati Lewis, lead pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta; Jerry McCorkle, executive director of Spread Truth Ministries based in Bloomington, Ill.; and Lori Frank, women’s ministry leader and wife of Biltmore’s pastor.
 
Breakout sessions are being offered to address various ministry applications with disciple-making.
 
Visit disciplenc.org.

 

Chuck Lawless

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Chuck Lawless, author and professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Chuck Lawless is dean and vice-president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. He is also a global theological education consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Lawless has also served as a pastor at two churches in Ohio. A noted conference leader and speaker, Lawless has written several books including Discipled Warriors, Putting on the Armor, Mentor and Nobodies for Jesus. He has a strong interest in discipleship and mentoring.
 
Q: Much has been written about spiritual warfare in recent years. How would you define spiritual warfare?
 
A: At its foundation, spiritual warfare is the invisible battle in the spiritual realm, but often fleshed out in our lives. At the same time, though, the Bible does not position us on the defensive; we are God’s church called to take the gospel of light into the darkness. Thus, offensive spiritual warfare is “loving Christ and living and speaking for Him in such a way that God is glorified and an already-defeated Satan is threatened.”
 
Q: Why is it important to understand and address spiritual warfare as it relates to evangelism and discipleship?
 
A: Both tasks cannot be disconnected from spiritual warfare. On one hand, we are seeking to reach people caught in the devil’s kingdom. On the other hand, we are discipling and equipping believers so they can win the war. The enemy seeks to keep lost people in darkness, and he then wants to destroy the witness of anyone redeemed from that darkness. If we do not do evangelism and discipleship well, we open the door for the enemy to temporarily win.
 
Q: What biblical and practical steps can we take to prepare ourselves for the spiritual battles we face each day?
 
A: First, we must recognize that God is sovereign over all matters, including our spiritual battles. The devil cannot go where God will not allow him to go. Second, we need to fight this battle together. God did not intend for us to be lone warriors. Third, we must wear the full armor of God. That task is not about some mystical way of simply “praying on” the armor; it’s about walking in truth and righteousness as we trust God and proclaim His Word. Wearing the armor is about daily living in obedience.

 

Bruce Frank

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Bruce Frank, lead pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church in Asheville

Bruce Frank is the lead pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church in Asheville. He was born in Atlanta, but grew up in Oklahoma and Texas. Frank became a follower of Christ at age 17 and was discipled through Campus Crusade for Christ during college. During that time, Frank felt a call to the ministry and enrolled in Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He served in churches in Texas until his call to Biltmore in 2008. Frank and his wife, Lori, have two adult sons, Tyler and Conner.
 
Q: As a pastor, how do you model disciple-making to your congregation?
 
A: The most basic thing I do is to simply be a disciple myself. That means many things but includes modeling worship, repentance, accountability and outreach. I also lead a small men’s group each year that usually consists of fairly new Christians (with a couple of them often not yet being believers). Finally, I continually connect all that we do as a church to our disciple-making process/purpose. Our vision/purpose/process statement is, “We exist to glorify God by making disciples who reach up (worship), reach in (community), and reach out (service).
 
Q: What does disciple-making look like among your church staff and leadership?
 
A: All of our pastors either lead or are in a disciple-making small group. They are continually recruiting and training what we refer to as “Great Commission” leaders. We have additionally started a disciple/leadership process for men only called “David’s Men.” This is a more intense discipleship process that all pastors, deacons and connect group teachers will be expected to go through.
 
Q: How does one balance showing grace and sharing truth in a disciple-making relationship?
 
A: I think most of us lean naturally one way or the other. I’m naturally more of a truth guy. However, as I’ve matured in my walk with the Lord, He has developed more of a balance. Continually preaching the gospel to ourselves helps us to be more balanced. I think it was Tim Keller who I first heard describe the gospel in that “we were so bad that Christ had to die for us, yet so loved that Christ chose to die for us.” Letting that saturate your soul gives you the boldness to be strong in truth, but the humility to show much grace. As has been said before, “all truth and no grace is harsh brutality, all grace and no truth is mere sentimentality, grace and truth is the gospel.”

 

Lori Frank

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Lori Frank, women’s ministry leader and wife of Biltmore’s pastor

Lori Frank serves the people of Biltmore Baptist Church in Asheville, where her husband, Bruce, is the lead pastor. She loves teaching women’s Bible studies and has a deep passion to love and encourage other pastors’ wives. Lori is also a registered nurse and worked in labor and delivery for 17 years. Lori and Bruce have been married for 26 years and have two adult sons, Tyler and Conner.
 
Q: As a wife, mom, registered nurse and a pastor’s wife, what does disciple-making look like through the rhythms of your everyday life?
 
A: At this point in my life, being retired and having an empty nest, I am free to really devote time daily to investing in others. This takes many forms. I try to leverage every aspect of my time. Whether meeting with an individual, posting content on my blog (lorifrank.org) or social media (twitter.com/lorifrank1), or speaking with groups, my intent is to edify and challenge others by bringing the gospel to bear on everyday life. I currently disciple a small group of young ladies who are recent high school grads who feel a call to leadership and ministry. We meet up in our local Chick-fil-A to study and pray. I also write the adult Sunday School curriculum for our church.
 
It is sermon-based and takes the weekly message into greater detail and facilitates application and discussion. That investment reaches a large audience on all four campuses of our church.
 
I also teach our weekly women’s Bible study at the Arden campus. I blog about relevant topics with a biblical perspective. Even meeting with a woman from my subdivision for coffee can be an opportunity to inject the gospel and make much of the Good News. The key is to be intentional and be prepared through personal devotion and a tender heart to receive the prompting of the Holy Spirit within the course of the day. Everyone has different demands on their time through the seasons of life. For me, this is my prime time to invest greatly.
 
Q: With all of life’s busyness, how can we make sure that we remain intentional about sharing our lives with others and making disciples?
 
A: Personal holiness and spiritual communion with the Lord and His Word is job No. 1 for anyone who lives ministry. We have to build in margins for Sabbath, worship and spiritual formation in our own lives. From there, we must develop Christ’s love for others in our own hearts. When we do this, we see people who need development as future partners for the gospel – not ministry projects.
 
Good churches understand that disciple-making relationships flow from living in community with others. So, they make it easy for individuals and groups to get together conveniently. Taking advantage of connect groups, Bible studies, support groups and spiritual mentorships makes the process accessible to those who desire it. Taking that step as a leader means making yourself available to serve in your area of giftedness within the body, as well as through the entirety of your day.
 
Q: Sometimes people expect behavior change in others before there is genuine heart transformation. How can we help people understand that disciple-making can be a slow process?
 
A: One of the most painful aspects of a life of ministry is wanting growth for someone more than they want it for themselves. That being said, we need to avoid falling into the trap of thinking that we have the ability to produce spiritual fruit in the power of the flesh. Instead, we should focus on the promise that no word from God will ever return void. Remember that the transformation of hearts is God’s job, not the product of our talents or abilities.
 
We need to just remain faithful and obedient to stay on task. We need to be careful to keep doors open when people fail or fall behind. We need to get over our offenses when immature or lost people act immature or lost. We can then speak truth into their lives from a position of one sinner to another, but as one who is seeing the difference that the power of God can have in our lives.
 
As my husband has said, “We want to be safe, but not soft.” We want places that are safe for people to grow, but that are not soft on sin. When people are exposed to the vision of what victory and growth look like, they begin to see that the work and discipline of God are worth the death to self that is required. Our job is to continue to cast that vision, speak truth and show grace. There are no lost causes.
 
He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it, here or in the hereafter.

1/26/2016 11:57:58 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments



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