May 2015

Yadkinville man shares Christ through gift of cross

May 20 2015 by Jesse Miles, Special to the Recorder

Witnessing to complete strangers can be intimidating, but not for Mickie Reavis. He has a story to tell and doesn’t hesitate to let others know how God spared his life.
 
Reavis grew up in the Lone Hickory Community of Yadkin County, N.C., where he and his wife, Ann, still reside. They are active members of Bethel Baptist Church in Yadkinville.
 
In 2010, while working on his truck in the shop behind his house, Reavis was overcome by carbon monoxide fumes. He was rushed to a local hospital and later transported to Duke University Hospital where he was placed in a hyperbaric chamber to rid his body of the poisonous fumes.

 
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Mickie Reavis sands one of the crosses he plans to give to someone as he shares Christ with others in his daily life.

In the months that followed his breathing continued to deteriorate. A lung biopsy revealed he had a severe lung disease known as Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis.
 
The treatment placed him back in a hyperbaric chamber at Duke. It was the only treatment available at the time short of the last option, a lung transplant.
 
After three separate hospital stays involving extended procedures and multiple battles with infections, Reavis was released to go home. He credits his recovery to determination, answered prayers and “God’s amazing grace.”
 
Reavis said he has always been able to witness to people, and doesn’t mind asking, “Are you saved?” But after his recovery he had a desire to do more.
 
He doesn’t work full time, but Reavis never seems to run short on things to do.
 
He serves on the building and grounds committee at Bethel and spends countless hours doing small repairs on the church property.
 
In his spare time, he serves the “Good Lord” by hand crafting small wooden crosses that he offers to everyone he meets.
 
The small cross measures about one inch by two inches. He draws the pattern on a plank of walnut wood, Reavis’ wood of choice, and skillfully cuts the cross with a scroll saw. After the sanding process he drills a hole for a chain or ring. The final step is to hand a cross to a stranger, something he enjoys.
 
Reavis estimates he has given away over 1,000 crosses. He carries them tucked away in the front pocket of his jeans and hands them out in restaurants, stores or wherever life takes him.
 
The crosses serve as a reminder that “our Savior is waiting for anyone who will accept His saving grace. When you are going through a difficult season in life, you are never alone – God is with you every step of the way.”
 
Reavis keeps a journal of responses from people to whom he has witnessed. He also hands out a tract on “How to be saved.” It’s his way of witnessing; his way of serving.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jesse Miles, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Yadkinville, N.C., submitted this story to the Biblical Recorder.)

5/20/2015 12:49:14 PM by Jesse Miles, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments



Nathan Finn joins Union University

May 20 2015 by Tim Ellsworth, Union University Communications

Union University has named Nathan Finn of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) as dean of the university’s School of Theology and Missions.
 
Finn, director of the Center for Spiritual Formation and Evangelical Spirituality and associate professor of historical theology and spiritual formation at SEBTS, has taught at the seminary and held a variety of positions there since 2006.
 
“Nathan is a great teacher, an excellent scholar, a strong churchman, a devoted husband and father and a faithful follower of Christ,” Union President Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver said. “We are excited that he is joining us at Union and look forward to his leadership and service as we seek to advance our mission and vision.”
 
Finn will take over the position previously held by Greg Thornbury, who left Union in 2013 to become president of The King’s College in New York. James Patterson has been the school’s acting dean since then.
 
Finn said he is thankful for Union’s storied history and ongoing influence in Baptist life and the wider evangelical world.

 
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“I could not be more excited to be joining the Union family,” Finn said. “I was shaped profoundly by my own education at a Baptist liberal arts college. I look forward to being a part of a comprehensive university where every discipline is engaged from the perspective of the Christian worldview.”
 
The faculty in Union’s School of Theology and Missions is one of the strongest theological faculties in the nation, he added.
 
“I have been friends with many of them for years and have been greatly influenced by their teaching and writing in my own ministry,” Finn said. “I love how they wed faithful Christian scholarship with an emphasis on practical ministry and a burden for the salvation of the lost. I’m grateful for the chance to lead the School of Theology and Missions as we educate a rising generation of pastors, church staff, missionaries and other Christian leaders for the glory of God and the advance of his kingdom.”
 
Danny Akin, president at SEBTS, called Finn “one of the finest church historians I have ever known” and “a wonderful churchman.”
 
“His departure from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is a huge loss for us and a tremendous gain for Union University,” Akin said. “I can only give my blessing to this move because in my heart I know it is good for the kingdom work of Christ. I believe Nathan will excel at his new assignment, and he goes with my love, prayers and full support.”
 
Finn completed his bachelor’s degree from Brewton-Parker College and his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy from SEBTS.
 
In addition to his role at SEBTS, Finn serves as an adjunct professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he teaches seminars and supervises doctoral students in biblical spirituality.
 
A prolific writer and editor, Finn is co-author, along with Anthony Chute and Michael Haykin, of The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement, which B&H Academic will release in August. This textbook offers a comprehensive narrative introduction to the Baptist tradition.
 
Finn edited Help to Zion’s Travellers by Robert Hall Sr. and co-edited Domestic Slavery: The Correspondence of Richard Fuller and Francis Wayland and Ministry by His Grace and for His Glory: Essays in Honor of Thomas J. Nettles. He has written dozens of book chapters, scholarly essays, popular articles and book reviews.
 
In addition to his teaching and writing ministry, Finn is an ordained Southern Baptist minister who previously served in ministry positions in several Southern Baptist churches in Georgia and North Carolina. He is an elder and member at First Baptist Church in Durham, N.C.
 
“Nathan Finn is a Bible-man, a gospel-man, and a church-man,” Union Provost C. Ben Mitchell said. “His passion for students, for his discipline, for the church and for the worldwide spread of the gospel of the risen Christ will be infectious.”
 
George Guthrie, Union’s Benjamin W. Perry Professor of Bible, said he is grateful for Finn’s appointment.
 
“Nathan loves the church, understands the academic context as a crucible for Christian discipleship and integrates a warm-hearted faith with rigorous scholarship,” Guthrie said. “The fact that he is one of our very best Baptist historians in the field today can help keep us rock-solidly grounded in our heritage while giving us crystal-clear perspective on our current challenges in the broader Baptist and evangelical life.”
 
Finn and his wife Leah have been married since 2001. They have four children: Georgia, Baxter, Eleanor and Fuller. He will begin at Union July 1.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for Union University communications.)

5/20/2015 12:31:55 PM by Tim Ellsworth, Union University Communications | with 0 comments



Church strengthening: What makes a church strong & healthy?

May 20 2015 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

The apostle Paul is widely considered the greatest missionary who ever lived.
 
Paul is known for the many churches that he planted and established during his missionary journeys. Sometimes overlooked, however, is Paul’s work in strengthening the churches he helped start.
 
Acts 15:41 says Paul “went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”
     
Following the example of Paul, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) disciple-making strategy is focused on not only planting new churches, but strengthening existing churches, as well.
     
That’s why there’s a group of consultants at the convention who serve on the Church Strengthening Team. They work with churches to help them become stronger and healthier as they seek to carry out the Great Commission. Antonio Santos leads the Church Strengthening Team, which is a part of the convention’s Evangelism and Discipleship Group.
     
“Our main thrust and our main goal is disciple-making,” Santos said. “We seek to strengthen churches by helping them develop a disciple-making culture. We are all about making disciples.”
     
The Church Strengthening Team works with churches in a number of areas, including leadership, stewardship, pastoral ministry, worship, renewal and special ministries. A key component of the Church Strengthening Team’s work is in the area of church revitalization.
     
Although the numbers vary, recent statistics cited by the North American Mission Board report that 70-75 percent of Southern Baptist churches have either plateaued or are in decline. Add to that another estimated 10-15 percent that are considered at risk, and that means up to 90 percent of churches across the country are struggling.
     
Helping churches change course and reverse these trends is not an easy fix.
     
“Often times we believe these issues can be addressed through programs and processes,” said Lynn Sasser, the BSC’s executive leader for evangelism and discipleship. “This is not a mechanical fix.”
     
That’s why Santos and his team work hard to help churches first realize that their challenges are spiritual rather than physical or material.
 
“A major aspect of our work is related to spiritual warfare,” Santos said. “This is a spiritual battle. We first want to help churches develop an understanding of where they are, spiritually speaking.”
     
To assist churches in this self-discovery, the Church Strengthening Team has developed a helpful resource for pastors and church leaders titled “Revitalize.” This brochure is designed to help leaders assess their church through a series of questions that are undergirded by prayer, fasting and repentance.
     
The “Revitalize” resource is designed so that pastors and church leaders may work through the assessment themselves or in consultation with a member of the Church Strengthening Team. The resource is available at ncbaptist.org/revitalize. Download your free copy today.
     
Members of the Church Strengthening Team are available to assist you and your church to evaluate your current situation and make recommendations. You may contact the team by emailing Santos at asantos@ncbaptist.org or by calling (800) 395-5102, ext 5642.
 
Visit ncbaptist.org/revitalize.

5/20/2015 12:15:52 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Mount Zion’s story wins BSC historical award

May 20 2015 by Dianna L Cagle, BR production editor

Mount Zion Baptist Church had A Story to Tell about its history, so the church did what any good Baptist church would do – formed a committee.
 
“It was a joint effort by a lot of people,” said Floyd Annas, chairman of Mount Zion’s history committee.
 
Annas, along with several others, recruited information from current and former members. He said they were inspired after Caldwell Baptist Association, the association in which the church is involved, published its history. A couple of Mount Zion members were involved in the publication of the association’s history and suggested the church, which was founded in 1889, do so as well.
 
The church’s history, published in A Story to Tell: The History of Mount Zion Baptist Church Hudson, North Carolina, won the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) award at the 2014 annual meeting held in Greensboro. The BSC Historical Committee chooses a winner each year for the historical writing competition.
 
Having a good author like Bill Kincaid, Mount Zion member and former editor of three newspapers, “helped an awful lot,” Annas said. Compiling the church’s history took time and included all the minutes from the very beginning. The book even includes a copy of the deed filed in 1889, lists of previous staff members and reports from various ministries of the church throughout the years. The book also calls attention to the present-day staff and former members called out to various ministries.
 
Annas’ family has a long history in the church.
 
“My mother brought me in her arms to Mount Zion when I was real small,” he said. He was saved and baptized in the church in 1937 at age 12. Reading through A Story to Tell finds the family name mentioned several times.
 
Now, Floyd Annas is one of the church’s oldest members. He and Kincaid have also interviewed some of the older members and keep the audio recordings at the church’s library for people to check out.
 
“Oral history is very important,” he said. “Sometimes it is overlooked.”
 
Annas remains excited about his church. He shared that Mount Zion gives 16 percent to the Cooperative Program and that they recently finished studying Ezekiel in small groups at people’s homes. They have started a study on discipleship.
 
“It’s really strengthening our church,” he said.
 
Much of the church’s early history is available at the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. The library houses the North Carolina Baptist Historical Collection (also known as the Ethel Taylor Crittenden Collection in Baptist History).
 
The Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives (sbhla.org) offers resources and information to help churches preserve and protect historical documents.
 
There are three categories in the BSC historical writing competition: church history,* association history (includes agencies and institutions); and biography, autobiography, memoirs and personal reflection. For the 2015 competition, the entries should have been released in 2014 or 2015.*
 
To enter, mail two copies to: BSC, Historical Committee, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC  27512-1107.
 
The deadline for submission is June 30. Winners will be recognized at the 2015 Baptist State Convention Annual Meeting in Greensboro.
 
Contact Norma Jean Johnson at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5618, or njohnson@ncbaptist.org.
 
*Older church histories can qualify if additional work has been done to bring them current to this date, and have not been previously submitted.

5/20/2015 12:10:42 PM by Dianna L Cagle, BR production editor | with 0 comments



Olympic swimmer offers hope

May 20 2015 by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports Q&A

Amy Van Dyken is a former world-record competitive swimmer, six-time Olympic champion and national radio sports talk show co-host. She won four of her gold medals at the 1996 Summer Olympics, making her the first American woman to accomplish such a feat. She was also the most successful athlete at the 1996 Summer Olympics.
 
Recently Amy was in a severe all-terrain vehicle accident that severed her spinal cord, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. It was an honor to sit down with this great champion. I came away blessed because of her incredible faith, positive outlook and relentless drive to help others through her difficult challenge.
 
Q: What is it like to be an Olympic champion?
 
A: It was an amazing experience to represent our country. To be able to say that I’m an Olympic champion for my country is so cool.
 
Q: You recently suffered a potentially life-ending accident. What happened?

 
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A: Yes, I was in an ATV accident 10 months ago. My husband found me, and I wasn’t breathing. It took about four minutes to get me to breathe, and then I went to the hospital. The doctor said, “One of your vertebrae is right up against your aorta.” They said to say goodbye to my husband, and I did.
 
I know how to overcome obstacles, and I know how my mind works. I know that my mind can tell my body to do just about anything. You can say I walked through hell with a smile on my face, so maybe your Monday morning meeting isn’t really as bad as you think it is. It gives you perspective.
 
Q: As difficult as this has been, what have you taken from this challenge?
 
A: It’s been amazing. I’m an ambassador for the Reed Foundation. They are looking for a cure for spinal cord injuries. I’m also working with Cure Paralysis Now that is trying to do the same thing.
 
I was sitting in a hospital in Colorado with a bunch of paraplegics and quadriplegics. They tell you that you’re never going to walk again, and you’re going to sit in the chair for the rest your life and not move or feel anything.
 
Just to take a shower you need a special chair that costs $2,500 and insurance may not pay for it. There’s a statistic out there that says when you’re newly injured, that first year could cost up to $1 million in medical bills alone, that you will have to personally take care of.
 
Q: You have stepped in to help find a solution. Tell us about it.
 
A: We formed the Amy Van Dyken Foundation. An arm of our work is called “Amy’s Army.” What we do is provide necessary medical equipment for people with spinal cord injuries who can’t afford it. I feel this is my calling. All of this happened to me for a reason.
 
Q: As Christians, we wonder how people without God go through tragedy like this. Obviously, your accident has given you a real heart for suffering people.

 

A: You have to smile about it; every day is a blessing. You have to look at life like you do not know what is around the corner. Sometimes we don’t tell our loved ones that we love them. We think, “Oh, I will tell them later.” Tell them now, because we never know what could happen. This has really given me the freedom to tell my loved ones how I feel.
 

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Amy Van Dyken, seen here upon her release from the hospital after her accident, said it has been a tough battle but her faith and family have helped.

Q: You have a famous husband, Tom Rouen, who punts for the Denver Broncos. How has he responded to your injury?
 
A: Tom has been such a big help through this challenge. He is there every single day as a shoulder to cry on. He’s there to help me when I fall out of my chair. He’s absolutely amazing, and you talk about inspiration – he helps me wake up every day.
 
Q: Tell me what faith, family and sports means to you?
 
A: Faith, family is sports, right? I mean it is the Olympics. You have to have faith, because God gave you the gift to do what you’re doing. You need family to help you get where you’re going; you need faith, also.
 
When I tell people I saw the light, they kind of start shaking. “Oh, she didn’t say that, right?” But on your show, Sold Out, you can be open, and talk about these things. There are so many negative stories out there, and we don’t hear [enough] about the good stories. Let’s focus on some of the positives that go on.
 
Q: Tell me a personal story from the Olympics that no one has heard.
 
A: Amanda Beard was a multiple Olympic gold-medal swimmer. She was 14 years old at the time that we were getting ready to do a relay. Before getting ready to go, she takes me aside and says, “Amy I’ve never done a relay.” I’m like, “You’re kidding me, right?” She said, “No I don’t know what to do.” So I said, OK, here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to stand when it’s your turn, and I’ll scream “GO!” Even if it doesn’t look like you’re supposed to go, GO!
 
So the swimmers are coming in, I scream “Go!” We win the gold medal and the media goes nuts. They say, “Amy, you were so supportive of Amanda and cheering her on.” I said, “Yes, we love each other.” What was so funny is they did not know that I was literally telling her to go.
 
Q: Amy Van Dyken, you’re a six-time Olympic gold medalist. What do you want to do moving forward?
 
A: Right now I want to walk again. I would like to help people to live the best life they can live, letting them know that their day isn’t as bad as they thought it was, and help them to live their life to the fullest.
 
Visit amyvandyken.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roman Gabriel 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 soldouttv.com; Facebook: Roman Gabriel III; connect on Twitter: @romangabriel3rd. Contact at (910) 431-6483 or email: soldoutrg3@gmail.com.)

5/20/2015 12:00:12 PM by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports Q&A | with 0 comments



Caraway dedicates new auditorium

May 19 2015 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications and K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Caraway Conference Center has opened the doors of a new auditorium and meeting space that allows an enhanced experience by guests who use the facility each year.
 
Hollifield Hall, named in honor of Wyndolyn Royster Hollifield, was officially dedicated on Tuesday, May 19 during the regular meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) Board of Directors. More than 100 people attended the dedication, which included BSC leaders, board members, donors and Caraway staff.
 
Milton Hollifield, BSC executive director-treasurer, said the new facility will support the convention’s strategy of impacting lostness through disciple-making, adding that numerous individuals who have attended an event at Caraway have come to faith in Christ or answered a call to ministry.

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Photo by K Brown
Milton Hollifield, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, said the new facility will support the convention’s strategy of impacting lostness through disciple-making.

 
“We are here today to dedicate this facility to God’s glory,” Hollifield said. “We celebrate what God has done in the past, what He is doing in the present and what He is going to do in the future in this facility.”
 
Clay Warf, executive director of the North Carolina Baptist Foundation, recalled how Wyndolyn Hollifield and her husband gave generously to Baptist causes throughout their lives. She was a longtime member of First Baptist Church in Winston-Salem and served on the board of directors for Gardner-Webb University from 1992-95.
 
“Wyndolyn and her husband, Hughy, were models in Christian stewardship,” Warf said. “They lived simply, but they gave abundantly.”
 
The new $1.3 million, 7,000-square-foot auditorium that bears Hollifield’s name is located in front of Caraway’s main lodging and administrative facility, connected by a covered breezeway.
 
Hollifield Hall features state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment and can be configured to accommodate up to 300 guests in theater-style seating or 180 in classroom-style seating. Each year, Caraway welcomes more than 21,000 guests to its facility near Asheboro for conference and retreats. The new meeting space will provide even more opportunities for patrons.
 
The Hollifields provided generous gifts to North Carolina Baptist institutions and agencies over the years. One of those gifts established the Hollifield Leadership Center on Lake Hickory near Conover.
 
BSC sold Hollifield Leadership Center to the North Carolina Boy’s Academy, a division of Teen Challenge, in late 2013. Proceeds from the sale helped fund the construction of Hollifield Hall. Additional infrastructure upgrades were also made to accommodate the new building and to prepare for future facilities at Caraway.
 
The facility is the third building project in the past three years. Plans are already underway to expand Caraway even more.
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Photo by K Brown
Caraway Conference Center has opened the doors of a new auditorium and meeting space named Hollifield Hall that allows an enhanced experience by guests who use the facility each year.

 
Don Warren, chairman of Caraway’s New Beginnings Capital Campaign, said fundraising is ongoing for the next two facilities at Caraway – a new multipurpose recreation building and a new housing unit. The new stand-alone housing unit will include between 16 and 24 new hotel-style bedrooms for guests.
 
The recreation building and housing unit represent the only two remaining goals out of an original list of 25 objectives that were part of Caraway’s capital campaign when it commenced, Warren said.
 
“You will never receive a greater return on investment than an investment in Caraway,” Warren said. “Our prayer of dedication is that all of the activities that take place here will point everyone to the cross.”
 
The addition of Hollifield Hall and the new facilities that are planned aren’t just about expanding Caraway’s facilities and capacity to serve more guests, said Caraway’s director, Jimmy Huffman.
 
“It’s not just about bricks and mortar,” Huffman said. “It’s about changed lives.”

 

5/19/2015 3:52:19 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications and K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



N.C. Leaders assess upcoming Supreme Court decision

May 19 2015 by Biblical Recorder staff

The nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on April 28 related to the question: Does the 14th Amendment – which ensures “equal protection of the laws” for all citizens – require states to license and recognize same-sex marriages? The high court is expected to reach a decision in June or July.
 
The following North Carolina Baptist leaders were asked the question, “Do you believe Christians should be concerned about the court’s decision? What should Christians to in the meantime?”
 

Jeremy Evans, pastor at Wendell Baptist Church, Wendell; associate professor of philosophy, Southeastern Seminary

The most pressing concern deriving from the upcoming Supreme Court decision pertaining to same-sex marriage is religious liberty. More specifically, is the government going to force institutions that have a moral objection to the practice of homosexuality to recognize a same-sex marriage as a legitimate marriage? Since the Biblical Recorder has already addressed that issue, then I would like to focus my few comments on what Christians should do as we await the decision.
 
First, pray for the people of our country as well as our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-3). It’s important for us to remember that prayer causes things to happen, and that God can turn the hearts of those in positions of responsibility (Proverbs 21:1).            
 
Second, remember that the issue of same-sex marriage is derivative of another issue – homosexuality; as such it is primarily a biblical/theological issue and only secondarily a political issue.
 
The traditional Christian view is that homosexual acts are sinful (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Romans 1:24-28). Accordingly, Christians should be advocating for change at the source of the problem and less on the periphery. Such is not to say that Christians shouldn’t be involved in government, or concerned about legislation. Instead, it is to keep our eye on the ball.
 
Just as Roe v. Wade provided legal grounds for abortion, the upcoming legislation could provide legal grounds for same-sex marriage (notice, I did not say moral grounds). However, when people’s hearts change, so do their values. Abortion could be both legal and non-existent because people value life as created in the image of God. The same can be said for the current discussion: same-sex marriage can be legal and there be no same-sex marriages. So, in the event that the Supreme Court finds in favor of same-sex marriage, there is still the work of sharing the gospel and allowing it to reform lives.
 

Bruce Ashford, provost and dean of faculty and professor of theology and culture at Southeastern Seminary; lay elder, The Summit Church

On April 28, the U.S. Supreme Court entertained arguments about same-sex marriage, and whether or not the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution applies to same-sex marriage. The Equal Protection Clause declares, “No State shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
 
This case is significant for several reasons. First, the Court has tended to locate its protection of same-sex relationships in due process rather than in equal protection (e.g., Lawrence v. Texas, 2003). This case could signal a major shift.
 
Second, this case is significant because, as Christians, we believe that marriage by definition is between a man and woman. We believe the Court would not be discriminating by denying marriage to same-sex couples because marriage is an entirely different category, a category for procreative unions.
 
Third, this case is significant because society is built upon the family unit, and the allowance of same-sex marriage will foster a further weakening of an already-deteriorating American family unit. Sociologists such as Harvard professor Carle Zimmerman have demonstrated that societal health is directly linked to familial health. We believe that familial health is fostered by marriages of one man and woman, in covenant marriage under God.
 
Christians should be concerned about this decision because the stakes are high. While we are waiting for the Court’s decision, Christians should make their voices heard on this issue, but should do so with grace and joy rather than with anger or fear. We should love our homosexual neighbors and colleagues, affirm their dignity as humans and their value as citizens, and at the same time make the case that marriage is reserved for the union of one man and one woman.
 

Kevin Clubb, pastor at Cape Carteret Baptist Church, Cape Carteret

The short answer to whether Christians should be concerned about the decision of the Supreme Court regarding same-sex marriage is yes. There are at least two reasons that make this the obvious answer.
 
First, this is an issue that deals with God’s design for His creation and another example of exchanging the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man (Romans 1:23). Second, this decision has the potential for changing the way we practice our faith in Jesus, making our land more like first century Israel and less like 20th century America.
 
What should we do in the meantime? First, we should pray for all those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-8). Second, we should model the beauty of marriage between a man and a woman as God designed (Ephesians 5:22-33). Third, we should prepare for the difficulty that is coming to the Church in America (1 Peter 2:11-17). And finally, we should rest in the sovereignty of our great God Who is still redeeming a people for Himself.

 
Kelly Bullard, pastor at Temple Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Supreme Court justices will render what will prove to be one of the most important judicial decisions in the history of our nation.
 
While I firmly trust in the sovereignty of God, I also believe as Christians we have a biblical mandate to “pursue righteousness.” In regards to the forthcoming decision from SCOTUS, I believe pursuing righteousness looks like this: we pray like we have never prayed before for SCOTUS and that the Holy Spirit of God would move upon their hearts to render a decision that is honoring to Him and to the historical tradition of our nation.
 
I also believe we must “fight the good fight of faith.” We must be concerned about this decision and its implications for the church. Regardless of the outcome we must stand firmly upon God’s Word. We must echo the words of Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms in 1521, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience would be neither right nor safe. God help me. Here I stand, I can do no other.”
 

Scott Davis, pastor at Pitts Baptist Church, Concord

Should the court act to redefine marriage, it will have unavoidable consequences for all believers. Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently wrote a piece on this, quoting a source from 2005, “The legalization of same-sex marriage would represent the triumph of an egalitarian-based ethic over a faith-based one.”
 
If same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, religious liberty will be crushed concerning this issue. Christians will not have a right to operate contrary to a Constitutional provision except under the threat of penalty. We will find ourselves where the believers in Acts were when they said, “We must obey God rather than men.”
 
More tragic still for believers are the theological implications. The scripture says the marriage relationship of husband and wife is a visible image of the relationship of Christ and His church. I recently read a profound statement by Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, where he said, “Likewise, the destruction of a Christ-imaging, gospel-announcing family order is as antichrist as desecrating the temple of God.”
 
I had never heard it put so forcefully, but theologically speaking, he is absolutely right. The deliberate undermining of the biblical image of Christ and His church ought to be the most offensive aspect of this whole debate to Christians.
 

Richard Mills, pastor at Faith Baptist Church, Youngsville

I think we have two particular concerns as we await the Supreme Court decision.
 
The first concern was voiced when Chief Justice [John] Roberts addressed Mary Bonauto, an attorney arguing on the side of same-sex marriage. The chief justice noted that extensive research has convinced him that, throughout history, marriage has always been a heterosexual union and told Bonauto, “if you succeed, that definition will not be operable.” Roberts then stated, “You are not seeking to join the institution. You are seeking to change the institution.” At stake is a fundamental changing of what marriage has always been.
 
The second concern is the religious liberty of those refusing to celebrate homosexual marriage. It was obvious from questions raised by justices that if the religious liberty of those who refuse to provide housing for homosexual couples is endangered, then religious organizations that will not hire homosexuals as staff may soon find their religious liberties in danger.
 
When asked about issues of religious liberty, responses suggested such matters will be left up to the states. Yet, we have seen already what happens when the federal government disagrees with matters that have supposedly been left to the states; the federal government exerts authority over and against the states.
 
As believers, of course, we are to give ourselves to prayer. And we are also to educate our members so they can intelligently and carefully address issues while refusing to compromise the truths to which we are bound.
 

Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, Charlotte

The upcoming SCOTUS decision will be a landmark and historic moment for America.
 
Everything that defines who and what America is rests upon the foundation stone and bedrock of religious liberty and freedom of conscience. This may be the most important religious liberty and freedom of conscience decision since the adoption of the First Amendment.
 
Defining same-sex marriage as a basic civil right will provoke a religious liberty crisis. We have already seen repeated attempts to hijack the consciences of Americans and use government as a weapon to coerce people to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies. If the Supreme Court deems same-sex marriage a basic right, then government at every level will increasingly strong-arm business owners to violate their consciences – and let’s not fool ourselves, churches and religious schools would be next in line to be required by the government to affirm the homosexual lifestyle and to perform same-sex ceremonies.
 
Recent headlines remind us of bakers, florists and business owners whose religious liberties have been trampled already in direct attacks on their First Amendment rights.
We must all pray fervently that the justices will make the right decision for our country and for our basic American freedoms.*
 

Bruce Martin, pastor at Village Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Christians should be very concerned about the upcoming decision by the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage. The decision hinges on whether same-sex marriage will be a federally sanctioned constitutional right, or a right that remains under the purview of the individual states. If it becomes a federally sanctioned right, then it becomes a right that is federally enforced.
 
When hearing the case, some justices pointed out that if same-sex marriage is federally sanctioned, then some Christian institutions which oppose same-sex marriage and gay rights, could lose tax exempt status, and face federal penalties. Religious colleges were mentioned. There was also the hint that this could lead to churches losing tax-exempt status.
 
It was pointed out by one justice that if the marriage decision stays in the hands of the individual states, then states could more easily determine these issues by the vote of the people, and not by the decision of a court.
 
This decision could let “the camel into the tent.” This decision might be the vehicle that allows the federal government to intrude into our church life, and begin to penalize Americans for their beliefs.

 
Mike Whitson, pastor at First Baptist Church Indian Trail, Indian Trail

The upcoming Supreme Court decision should be of extreme importance to all Christians everywhere. The impact of a decision in favor of same-sex marriage will have an immediate effect not only on churches, but also on all faith-based organizations.
 
Consider the plight of ministries, like ours, that have a Christian school. Failing to hire a teacher or other employee because of their sexual orientation would be against the law, regardless of our scriptural convictions.
 
Recently an attendee of First Baptist Church Indian Trail was instructed that as a magistrate, if she did not perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, then she would lose her job – and did. That decision was on this side of the Court’s ruling. Imagine how it will be if there is a ruling that all states would be required to recognize the union of same-sex couples.
 
Churches, bakeries, florists and other businesses would be required to accommodate their services and facilities for the use of events surrounding those unions. Church staff would be required to conduct the ceremonies regardless of convictions.
 
Faith-based organizations as we know it today would be a thing of the past. They would be replaced by an equal opportunity, governmental system.
 
Yes, we should be concerned and prayerful because persecution will increase on those who stand on biblical convictions.

5/19/2015 12:27:44 PM by Biblical Recorder staff | with 1 comments



Prayer conference calls for more ‘Elijahs’

May 19 2015 by Rick Houston

Marty Jacumin was back home again, leading off the May 1-3 North Carolina Foothills Prayer Conference at First Baptist Church of Icard in Connelly Springs.
 
It was at Icard where Jacumin, currently the senior pastor at Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh, was licensed into the ministry in 1997. This was his turf, the place where his ministry began nearly two decades ago.
 
Jacumin took to the pulpit to begin the conference with a sermon based on James 5:13-18, emphasizing the ways Christians are called upon to pray.
 
“Sometimes, we have this mentality that, ‘You know what? God told me in His word that I’m just supposed to pull up my bootstraps and I’m supposed to get after it,’” Jacumin said. “I don’t know what translation you’re reading, but that’s not in my Bible. God says to call on Him. Someone said meekness is not weakness. We’ve got to humble ourselves and say, ‘God, I can’t do this without You.’”
 
There are prayers of intercession, Jacumin said during his sermon. There are many kinds of prayers including prayers for holiness, prayers for peace, prayers for healing, prayers for salvation, prayers of confession and prayers of praise, he added.

 
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Photo by Rick Houston
Richard Blackaby

The bottom line is the need to draw nearer to God, he said, emphasizing the conference theme, “Draw Near 2” based on James 4:8, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”
 
“We come into this place with different needs,” Jacumin said.
 
“What are ways we can pray for ourselves and pray for one another? Maybe you feel alone, and that’s why you’re here tonight, because you just wanted someone to draw near with you.
 
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone among you having troubles and turmoil in your life? If that’s the case, let him pray. For the abused, let them pray. For the downhearted, let them pray. Those who are struggling now, those who’ve got bad news, let them pray.”
 
Jacumin was followed by Richard Blackaby, president of Blackaby Ministries International. He challenged those in attendance about their prayer life, asking if people in need come to them for prayer and if Satan feared their prayers.
 
His text was 1 Kings 17-18, in which Elijah’s prayers resulted in a widow’s son being brought back to life. That prepared the way for the prophet to have the faith necessary to bring down fire during a showdown with the prophets of Baal.
 
“We need Elijahs in America today,” Blackaby said. “We don’t need namby-pamby, wimpy praying, ‘God, if it be Your will.’ We need people like Elijah who can stand up against the government, against evil society, against wickedness and pray with confidence [and] when they pray, the fire is going to fall. In this room alone, if we became fire-falling, rain-stopping pray-ers, America would feel the impact.”
 
That kind of powerful prayer was something Blackaby recommitted himself to following the births of his three grandsons.
 
“I don’t want to see temptation, pornography on the Internet and worldliness coming after these innocent little babies, and think my prayers are not even getting past the ceiling,” Blackaby said. “They have to know that when grandpa prays, Heaven hears.”
 
Blackaby returned to 1 Kings the following night, asking what happens after momentous events like the one Elijah experienced on Mount Carmel. He encouraged attendees to earnestly pray leading up to an event such as a church revival, but in the aftermath as well.
 
The time to know whether an event has been productive is not the day after, Blackaby said, but six months later.
 
“How much do we pray after the meetings, after the revival?” Blackaby asked. “I’ve known people who prayed three years for a revival meeting, but they didn’t pray one day after the revival. Isn’t that kind of unusual to you? What’s happened to all the seeds that have been planted? What about the fact that Satan is marshalling his forces to put that fire out?”
 
Steve Ellis, senior pastor of First Baptist in Leland, spoke on the story of God calling Samuel in 1 Samuel 3. He focused specifically on verse 10 in which Samuel told the Lord, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
 
Ellis told those gathered to allow the Lord to speak, even when the news isn’t good. “Would you still want to hear from God if the news was bad?” he asked. “Would you still want to hear from God if He had something negative to say about somebody you actually cared a great deal about? See, I think the reason a lot of people don’t hear from God directly is because we’re content not to.”
 
That kind of complete abandon to God’s will, that willingness to hear what God has to say was Ellis’ main point and the focus of the conference.
 
“If God wanted to change your life forever, would you be willing to let Him do that?” he asked. Moments later, Ellis concluded with one of the most powerful moments of the conference. “If you’ve ever had that feeling that God is doing something important, if God’s saying something to you and you just don’t know what it is, can I tell you how to pray? Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening”
 
The Office of Prayer for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina sponsored the event in Icard along with similar gatherings across the state. Chris Schofield, director of the Office of Prayer, is encouraged by the response to the series of prayer events. “You can sense in a deepening work of God’s Spirit in hearts with regard to revival and spiritual awakening,” he said.
 
Pastors and church leaders are responding to the calls for prayer according to Schofield. With the major shifts in culture, he believes it is more urgent than ever that Christians stand together and pray together. “Shallow Christianity will blow away. People are not going to stand up or stand firm if they are not going deep with the Lord.
 
“We’ve got to get serious about the Lord these days,” he added.
 
The next prayer conference is set for Sept. 11-12 at First Baptist Church in Richlands, N.C. Speakers include Steve Griffith, senior pastor of Osborne Baptist Church in Eden, and Richard Owen Roberts, the founder of International Awakening Ministries of Wheaton, Ill. Visit ncbaptist.org/prayer to learn more about prayer movements and events.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rick Houston is a freelance writer living in Yadkinville. He has covered NASCAR extensively and written books on NASCAR and the Space Shuttle program.)

5/19/2015 12:17:22 PM by Rick Houston | with 0 comments



Individuals have responsibility to make disciples

May 19 2015 by Chad Austin, SBC Communications

Making disciples isn’t just the responsibility of pastors and church leaders. Every individual believer has a part to play in fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.
 
“God is not going to ask our church to do something that He’s not asking us to do,” said Bruce Raley, director of church partnerships with LifeWay Christian Resources, to a recent gathering of church and lay leaders in High Point.
 
Raley was the keynote speaker for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s “One Day” training event for church leaders and volunteers, held May 2 at Green Street Baptist Church. The event brought together more nearly 600 attendees representing 102 churches, who received equipping and training in all aspects of church ministry.
 
Attendees spent much of the day in various breakout sessions on an array of ministries, ranging from children’s to senior adult ministry and everything in between.

 
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Bruce Raley

Raley helped attendees see how every ministry of the local church should be aligned to make disciples. He also led sessions with pastors to help them create, cast and implement a vision for making disciples within their churches.
 
The mandate to make disciples is often viewed as a responsibility of pastors, Sunday school teachers or other leaders in the church, Raley said. But since the church is made up of people who are known as disciples, we are all called to make disciples. “Scripturally, it’s disciples making disciples,” Raley said. “We are to reproduce ourselves. Disciples reproduce disciples.”
 
Raley said discipleship is not about information or behavior modification. Instead, discipleship is about transformation, and that process happens best when we engage, share and invest our lives with others. “Discipleship takes place best in the context of relationships,” Raley said. He then identified four relational spheres or environments where discipleship takes place. Raley described those spheres as four concentric circles that flow out from one another.
 
The innermost circle where discipleship begins is the relationship that Raley described as “God and me.”
 
“Discipleship takes place when a child of God is in the Word of God with God on a daily basis,” Raley said. He also cited several long-range studies that indicated that the No. 1 indicator of a person’s spiritual growth is whether or not they spend time reading and studying the Bible on a daily basis. “If we don’t help people read the Word, know the Word and listen to the Word of God, all the rest of these environments are going to be very difficult to penetrate,” Raley said.
 

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BSC photo by Chad Austin
Pastors discuss some points made by Bruce Raley, director of church partnerships with LifeWay Christian Resources, during One Day training May 2 in High Point.

The next sphere of discipleship is in the area Raley calls “my family and me.” This involves accepting the biblical instruction to be a disciple-maker in the home as described in Deuteronomy 6.
 
Raley added that family discipleship doesn’t end when one’s children are grown. He described how he continues to disciple his adult children even though they live in different parts of the country.
 
Each week, Raley writes a handwritten letter to his son and daughter, which includes biblical truths that God has taught him. Additionally, Raley and his son are reading a book together and discussing it during weekly phone conversations.
 
“We need to help our families know how to disciple one another,” Raley said.
 
The third environment is what Raley calls “other Christians and me.” Raley said this sphere is where most of the emphasis on discipleship has taken place. We must be careful, however, not to neglect other areas, Raley said.
 
“The Bible clearly teaches that we are to be in community with one another,” Raley said. “We are to do life together, and this is an integral part of discipleship, but it’s not the only part.”
 
Raley said the final sphere is with the “lost and me,” adding that the multiplying aspect of disciple-making involves helping others come to faith, grow in their faith and reproduce that faith in others.
 
“I do not believe that we are true disciple of Christ unless we are investing our lives in people who are without Christ,” Raley said. “When we are at work, in our neighborhoods or in our schools, we should be looking for opportunities to invest our lives in people who are without Christ.”
 
Raley compared these four spheres of discipleship to the ripples that form when a pebble is tossed into a pond. The illustration underscored why the discipleship process must begin at the inner sphere of spending time alone with God each day. “The ripples go all the way across the pond,” Raley said. “But the outer ripples don’t occur unless those inner ripples do first.”

5/19/2015 11:48:49 AM by Chad Austin, SBC Communications | with 0 comments



Military chaplain brings soldiers to God, God to soldiers

May 19 2015 by Rudy Gray, Baptist Courier

Lt. Col. Derrick Riggs, serving in Afghanistan as command chaplain for North American Treaty Organization Special Operations and the Special Forces Joint Task Force, was beginning a series of Bible studies based on Psalm 91, which he calls “David’s Fearless Warrior Psalm.”
 
There was a visitor for the first Wednesday study, Jan. 28. “Normally the new guy just sits there and listens,” Riggs said, “but not Jason.”
 
He jumped right in, not just giving his perspective on the psalm that speaks of the security of one who trusts in the Lord, “but explaining sections and helping to make the complex easily understandable,” Riggs said.
 
“I quickly realized Jason had a personal relationship with God, and it was refreshing to have another believer in the group.”

 
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Photo courtesy of the Baptist Courier
The late Jason Landphair, shown with his wife Natasha, was an Army Special Forces medic killed in Afghanistan in late January. Below, Lt. Col. Derrick Riggs, who became an Army chaplain shortly after 9/11, encountered a “Fearless Warrior” when teaching on Psalm 91 in late January.

The following evening, Riggs received word of an attack at the Special Missions Wing. Three Americans were dead, shot by an Afghan soldier or someone dressed in an Afghan uniform. The chaplain reported for duty and talked to four men who had witnessed the attack.
 
“Three of them were hunkered down in a bunker when the shooting started,” Riggs recounted. “The other guy was the one who killed the Afghan that turned on our guys.”
 
The Taliban later claimed responsibility for the killings. Riggs, 44, now on his fifth combat tour in his 18 years of military service, read the list of the three deceased men. Walt Fisher was from North Myrtle Beach, S.C., Matt Fineran was from Summerville, S.C., and Jason Landphair was living in Fayetteville, N.C.
 
Riggs did not make an immediate connection to the names until his chaplain assistant said, “Hey, sir, wasn’t that guy from the Bible study last night named Jason? Is this the same guy?”
 
“I felt chilled,” Riggs said. “Stunned ... shocked.”
 
The following day he accompanied the three bodies to a C-130 transport aircraft for a “hero flight” back to the United States. “In one of those cold metal coffins,” Riggs said, “was the body of Landphair, the first-time visitor at the Wednesday night Bible study 48 hours before – alive, vibrant, smiling, talking and engaging in the discussion of how God can make a person into a fearless warrior. Forty-eight hours earlier, I was teaching about the fearless warrior. I had no idea that Jason would be living it.
 
“‘Rest in peace’ is the standard phrase for funerals and sending off the dead. But for Jason, I said, ‘Rest in eternity, my friend, for now you stare directly into the loving eyes and relax in the gentle arms of God. You are the Fearless Warrior.’”

 
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Photo courtesy of the Baptist Courier
Lt. Col. Derrick Riggs, who became an Army chaplain shortly after 9/11, encountered a “Fearless Warrior” when teaching on Psalm 91 in late January.

Army chaplain – a lifelong goal

Even with such occurrences, Riggs is living his dream. “He always wanted to be an Army chaplain,” said his father, retired Col. Dwight Riggs, an Army chaplain himself for 26 years.
 
The senior Riggs and his wife Kathy are members of First Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C., where their son was actively involved before being deployed overseas.
 
His son graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary in December 1997 and went on active duty as an Army chaplain in January 1998. When he began his chaplaincy work at age 26, Derrick was the youngest chaplain ever to serve, his father said. “I was deployed three weeks after 9/11,” Derrick Riggs said, “which began what has become a ministry of bringing soldiers to God and God to soldiers in garrison and combat.”

 

Jason Landphair

Landphair, the visitor to Riggs’ Bible study in January, is survived by his wife Natasha and two daughters, Sofia and Wren. Friends have described Natasha as an amazing woman of God. Following her husband’s death, she sent Riggs a note that read, “Jason called that night and told me about the Bible study. He was excited and looking forward to going back next week.”
 
“That note brought tears to my eyes,” Riggs recounted.
 
Riggs said that even though Landphair was at Camp Integrity only about two weeks, “the impact his visible relationship with God has had on many of my personnel has been profound.”
 
A graduate of Idaho State University, Landphair joined the Army and was deployed to Iraq where he was wounded by a sniper. But he soon returned to duty after receiving a Purple Heart.
 
After his injury, he trained in the Army Special Forces to become a medic and served three tours in Afghanistan without further injury. Landphair was trying to help two wounded comrades when he was killed. Riggs led the second Wednesday Bible study on Psalm 91 with a heavy heart, admitting he was “overcome with emotion. After three tours in Afghanistan and two in Iran, for a total of 46 months, and numerous Bible studies in combat areas, Riggs said he had “never really wondered if someone in our group would not return because of death.”
 
He is scheduled to return to the U.S. in June.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rudy Gray is editor of the Baptist Courier, baptistcourier.com, newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.)

5/19/2015 11:21:27 AM by Rudy Gray, Baptist Courier | with 0 comments



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