April 2019

Discovering authentic Christianity

April 30 2019 by R. Albert Mohler Jr.

It began as an assignment. It ended as a milestone in my Christian life. My church history professor assigned the class to memorize the Apostles’ Creed. Obediently, I began to memorize this historic affirmation of the Christian faith word by word, phrase by phrase, truth by truth. Within a few hours I had committed the Apostles’ Creed to memory, ready when called upon in class to recite it. But even at that time I knew that something else had happened.

As a young man I realized that this ancient confession of faith is Christianity. This is what Christians believe – what all Christians believe. The Apostles’ Creed collapses time and space, uniting all true believers in the one, holy and apostolic faith. This creed is a summary of what the Bible teaches, a narrative of God’s redemptive love and a concise statement of basic Christianity.
All Christians believe more than is contained in the Apostles’ Creed, but none can believe less.
Ancient Christians honored this creed. Martyrs recited this creed. The Protestant Reformers continued the use of the Apostles’ Creed in worship and the teaching of believers. There is such power in knowing that when we confess the Apostles’ Creed, alone or in corporate worship, we are declaring the truth of the Christian faith with the very words that gave early Christians hope, sent martyrs confidently to their deaths and have instructed Christ’s church throughout the centuries.
It was the most important class assignment I ever had.
I believe. These two words are among the most explosive words any human can utter. They open the door to eternal life and are the foundation of the Christian faith. Belief stands as the very center of Christian faithfulness and is where Christianity begins for the Christian. We enter the faith and find eternal life in Christ by responding to the truth with trust – that is, with belief.
But Christianity is not belief in belief. It is belief in a propositional truth: that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and savior of sinners. We do not believe in a Christ of our imagination but in the Christ of scripture – the Christ believed in by every generation of true Christians. Furthermore, beyond belief in Christ stands belief in everything Jesus taught his disciples. Matthew recorded that Jesus instructed his disciples to teach others to observe all that he had commanded them (Matthew 28:18-20). Therefore, there is no Christianity without belief, without teaching and without obedience to Christ.
But where do we turn in order to know how to believe and what to believe? We turn first, of course, to the Bible, the very Word of God. The Bible is our only sufficient source and unerring rule of faith, and the Christian reflex to turn to the Bible is always right. The Bible is without error, totally trustworthy and true. It is the verbally inspired Word of God. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. When we read the New Testament, we find the faith handed down from Christ to the apostles, those who were taught by Christ himself. Any form of belief that does not agree with the teaching of Christ to the apostles is false – a religion that cannot save.
The New Testament refers to authentic Christianity as “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Real Christianity is Christianity resting on truth – a faith of definite beliefs cherished by believers throughout the ages and once for all given to the church.
This is one of the great wonders of Christianity and explains why all true Christians hold to the same essential beliefs and have done so for two thousand years: as Christians, we believe what the apostles believed. And we want to hand that same faith to the next generation.
Further, we want to worship like the apostles and preach and teach like them. To do so, we turn first to the Bible, but we also turn to the historic and faithful summaries of the Christian faith, the most honored, historic and universal of which is the Apostles’ Creed.
From its earliest beginnings the church has faced the dual challenge of affirming the truth and confronting error. Over the centuries, the church has turned to a series of creeds and confessions of faith in order to define and defend true Christianity. The confession of faith we know as the Apostles’ Creed is one of the most important of these confessions.
For long, unbroken centuries it has stood as one of the most crucial teaching instruments of the Christian faith – along with the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer.
The Apostles’ Creed was not written by the apostles, but it does reflect the early church’s effort to express and summarize the faith given by Christ to the apostles. Early Christians called the creed “the rule of faith” and turned to it as they worshipped and taught the faithful.
In light of this reality, Christians must stand firm and stand together on the essential truths of scripture. The church fathers understood this fact, which is why they labored so diligently to give the church faithful summaries of scripture’s teaching, like the Apostles’ Creed.
The Apostles’ Creed, this most venerable of creeds, exposits the fundamental core of the Christian faith. It contains within its affirmations spectacular and eternal truths. Indeed, wrapped up in the Apostles’ Creed is nothing less than the unfathomable riches of our God, the surpassing knowledge of Christ, and the true theological identity of Christ’s people. That is why we must consider each phrase of the creed, one by one, in order to mine its glorious riches.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article is adapted from Albert Mohler’s new book, The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits. It originally appeared at AlbertMohler.com. Used by permission.)

4/30/2019 11:39:38 AM by R. Albert Mohler Jr. | with 0 comments

Thy will be done

April 26 2019 by Redunda Noble

Sometimes, it seems the hardest thing for a Christian to do is to accept God’s will.

We pray and ask God for help – to heal us, bless our lives and change our situations. We pray that God will answer us in the way we want, and when He doesn’t, we become frustrated and question the love of our heavenly Father.
Let’s be real and honest, Christians do get angry with God at times. I have. Our faith wavers when we can’t understand why bad things happen to good people. We become despondent when tragedy strikes. Confusion sets in when we pursue and still suffer hardship. We’re stunned when the doctor gives a negative report. We may get depressed when we pray for a promotion and a colleague gets the exact job we asked for. We begin to doubt God’s goodness when things don’t go our way.
We often forget that God is sovereign over His creation. When we struggle to accept God’s will, we need to remember He has a plan for our lives and we are not in control. That’s a hard truth to admit at times.
Many times, we ask God to change our situation, but God is more concerned with changing us.
I remember praying for 10 long years that God would change my career and give me the job that I wanted. He allowed me to struggle and strain all that time because He ultimately wanted to change my mind about my career. He wanted me to want what He wanted. I had to surrender to Him and relinquish my stubborn will.
Through that intense spiritual trial, I finally learned that God wanted me to honor and obey His will for my life even when I didn’t fully understand it at the time. I now have the career that God knew was best for me all along – with opportunities to share God’s Word with the world, and I absolutely love it!
In my devotion the other day I read Isaiah 55:8-9 for about the thousandth time. It’s amazing how we can read God’s Word over and over and still miss something it is saying to us. But when we open our hearts to the Spirit of truth, then the meaning becomes so clear. The Lord declares in these verses that His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are not our ways.
We think small, He thinks big. He sees the end from the beginning. He knows what works and what doesn’t. He knows what’s around the corner for us and what is years ahead. He desires to give us the best when we just want what is good. God’s thoughts are as high as the heavens are above the earth. We cannot fathom His ways because we are human and He alone is God.
When we read about Jesus as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, we see that He had to surrender to God’s will. Yes, it was God’s will for Jesus to suffer and die for the sins of the world. Jesus asked if there was any other way, but there was none. Obeying God’s will meant that He would suffer a horrible crucifixion. We read in Luke’s gospel that after praying in agony, Jesus said, “nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
Jesus died on the cross, but God raised Him from the dead with all power and victory over sin, death, hell and the grave. His obedience to God’s will provides sinners like you and me the only way to gain eternal salvation. Remember, God sees the end from the beginning. He knows exactly what He is doing.
Are you struggling to obey God’s will? Has God revealed a path for your life that you don’t desire or understand? Let me encourage you to surrender and obey. Whatever the situation, you can trust that your heavenly Father knows you better than you know yourself and only wants the best for you.
Rest in the fact that He loves you more than you love yourself, and that His love never fails. Trust Him to guide your path as you acknowledge Him and take each step. Be thankful that your Father’s ultimate will is to prosper you and give you a future and a hope in Him (Jeremiah 29:11). You will begin to see God’s power and blessings for your life only when you follow the example of Jesus, and say, Thy will be done.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Redunda Noble is a writer in Anderson, S.C., where her husband James is assistant professor of pastoral ministry and interim vice president for diversity and inclusion at Anderson University.)

4/26/2019 1:31:15 PM by Redunda Noble | with 0 comments

A tombstone’s counsel

April 25 2019 by Steve Playl

Someday, I suppose, we will look back on the days we are living in and reminisce about how it was back before … (you fill in the blank). Can you imagine the changes in technology that are still “out there” somewhere?

When I tell my grandchildren about phones that had to be plugged in the wall with rotary dials but no cameras, about TVs that required walking across the room instead of using a remote or speaking a command to adjust the volume or switch to one of the other two channels available, maps on paper instead of GPS, timepieces that had hands and had to be wound – when I tell them about the “old days,” they don’t know whether I’m teasing or being truthful.
While looking at pictures on my phone – we used to have to thumb through photo albums – I came across pictures of tombstones in the cemetery at Quaker Gap Baptist Church in Stokes County, N.C. It was nearly two years ago that Sammie and I were showing a couple of our grandkids where some of their ancestors are buried – Nahnee’s people, Newsome, Hall, Bennett, King and others.
One of the pictures on my phone was the reverse side of a grave marker. The name on the front seemingly was not related to my wife but the words stated on the back caught my attention. The epitaph was somewhat familiar. In fact, the inscription has been chiseled into marble, limestone and various other types of rock for centuries.
The poignant proclamation addresses us all:
“Dear Friend,
Remember me as you pass by,
As you are now so once was I.
As I am now soon you must be,
Prepare for death and follow me.”
A good friend, Jerry Adamson, saw the same inscription years ago in an Indiana cemetery and commented that another verse should be added:
“To follow you I can’t consent,
Until I know which way you went.”
Words on tombstones not only are a warning but also a simple reminder of our humanity. Life on earth is brief – Vita brevis, as folks were saying in Latin before there was an English language.
Preparing for eternity is clearly a wise decision. So is living life to its fullest. There aren’t enough days in our lives to waste any of them.
And certainly there’s plenty of counsel in scripture to heed:
– James said, “What is life? It’s like an early morning fog, burned off by the heat of the sun.”
– The psalmist reminds us that life is like a breath, a passing wind or shadow, and we should number our days. They are short and we are frail.
– Job tells us that our days are few and filled with trouble.
– The writer of Hebrews stated that all of us have an appointment with death and it would behoove us to be prepared.
– Amos, the Old Testament prophet, warned the children of Israel, “Prepare to meet thy God.”
My imagination is not big enough to conceive of the possibilities of discoveries and inventions ahead. Yet with the help of descriptions in scripture, I can imagine how wonderful heaven will be.
Through God’s grace and faith in Christ’s sacrifice at the cross to rescue us from sin – and, in His resurrection, to impart His Holy Spirit to us – we can be prepared to follow the One who said, “I go to prepare a place for you ... and I will return for you.”

4/25/2019 10:43:15 AM by Steve Playl | with 0 comments

An ultra-marathon of endurance

April 23 2019 by David Allen

It was a grueling 543.7-mile endurance race from Sydney to Melbourne, Australia – the world’s longest and toughest ultra-marathon. In 1983, 150 world-class runners converged on Sydney for the event.

On the day of the race, a toothless 61-year-old potato farmer and sheepherder named Cliff Young approached the registration table wearing overalls and galoshes over his work boots. At first, people thought he was there to watch the race, but to their surprise, Cliff Young declared his intention to run and requested a number.
Cliff Young had grown up on a farm without the benefit of luxuries like horses and four-wheel-drive vehicles. When the storms rolled in, Cliff headed out to round up 2,000 sheep over a 2,000-acre farm. Sometimes he had to run them two or three days to complete the round up.
The incredulous staff issued Cliff #64. As he mingled with the other runners at the starting line, spectators couldn’t believe their eyes. “This must be a joke!” some mused.
When the gun went off, bystanders snickered at Cliff, left behind in his galoshes and overalls as the other runners with their sculpted bodies and running gear briskly began the race. Snickers gave way to laughter when Cliff began to run, not like the other runners, but with what could only be described as a leisurely, odd shuffle.
All of Australia was riveted to the live telecast as they watched the scene unfold. “Someone should stop that crazy old man before he kills himself!”
Five days, 15 hours and 4 minutes later, Cliff Young came shuffling across the finish line in Melbourne, winning the ultra-marathon! He didn’t win by a few seconds or even a few minutes. The nearest runner was 9 hours and 56 minutes behind.
Australians were stunned at this remarkable yet seemingly impossible victory. How did it happen?
Everyone knew that the only way to win the ultra-marathon was to run for 18 hours, then stop and sleep for six hours. This routine was repeated for five punishing days. But no one told Cliff Young. He just shuffled along, day and night, night and day, without stopping to sleep. Cliff broke the previous race record by nine hours and became a national hero overnight.
Interestingly, professional runners began to study and experiment with the odd shuffle that Cliff used in his running. Many long distance runners have since adopted what has come to be called the “Young shuffle” due to its aerodynamic and energy efficiency.
Likewise, victory in the Christian life comes through endurance. The Christian life is not a 100-yard dash. It is a marathon. In the short distance race, speed is important. In the long distance race, endurance is what leads to success.
As Hebrews 12:1 says, “Let us run with endurance the race set before us.” Each of us must run the race in our own special way using the gifts and talents God has given us. Against all odds, we run the race.
For the joy before Him” Jesus endured, we read in Hebrews 12:2. You and I are His joy!
As scripture tells us in Hebrews 12:3: “Consider Him, who endured such hostility of sinners against himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
When we run the Christian ultra-marathon with endurance, keeping our focus on Jesus, we can be assured of finishing strong and hearing those cherished words:  “Well done, good and faithful servant.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Allen is dean of the school of preaching and distinguished professor of preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

4/23/2019 9:35:03 AM by David Allen | with 0 comments

Glorify God: the shared task of churches & seminaries

April 22 2019 by Jason G. Duesing

The apostle Peter explains in 1 Peter 4:7 that “the end of all things is at hand” and by that he means he and his readers were living in the last days before the return of Jesus.

Since that time until our very own, humanity has been living at the verge of the end of the world, but that is not a cause for despair or hand-wringing. Peter’s point was focused rather on how one is to live at the end of all things, and he spends the next few verses underscoring this for believers.
Peter explains that while a Christian should have his eyes fixed and his hope set on the soon and certain return of Jesus, he should be using his spiritual gifts, whether they be serving or speaking, all for the glory of God.
What, then is the source of our hope and on what task are we to have our minds and hearts set? Until the end, whether one eats, drinks, preaches, trains, waters, reaps, types, writes, shares or disciples, he should be doing these things as the biblically prescribed means for carrying out the Great Commission to the glory of God.
Such it is, too, with the work of cooperating churches – to the end that churches are to cooperate for the sake of global evangelism and to see the knowledge of the glory of God among all peoples as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).
If that is the end goal for churches, then such should also be the singular shared desire of the seminaries who exist to train men and women for service in those churches.
In much of what is classified as theological education in this country, the six Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) seminaries stand apart, for many schools are content to sit in ivory towers and see the churches as resource providers and tangential dependents. The task of theology for these schools is to observe, comment, criticize, but not actually implement or trust at all the biblical end goal of churches.
Spectator sports are where those watching can speculate, cheer, criticize or enjoy all that is done by the coaches and players on the field. But being a spectator, while feeling the hurt of loss and the joy of winning, does not compare to the experience of those who actually play the game. Such it is also with the task of studying theology and theological education.
By contrast, the six SBC seminaries, held accountable by the churches of the SBC and the confessional parameters mandated by the churches, are training students to be non-spectators for God-glorifying, Great Commission service in and through the churches.
This is a part of the seminaries’ shared ministry assignment:
“Southern Baptist Theological Seminaries exist to prepare God-called men and women for vocational service in Baptist churches and in other Christian ministries throughout the world through programs of spiritual development, theological studies, and practical preparation in ministry” (SBC Organizational Manual).
Each seminary carries out this mandate in their own region and context, and with their own unique leadership and identity, but for all six seminaries, it:
1) Starts with faculty members who, while qualified and exceptional scholars, are not mere theorists, but also practitioners – professors engaged in applying theology to life and ministry just as much as they are teaching and writing theology.
2) Continues throughout the curriculum where every degree program, every event and every square inch of the campuses are relentlessly claimed for the purpose of directing students to the churches to aid in carrying out the churches’ end goal.
The six seminaries take this assignment given by cooperating Southern Baptist churches as a matter of significant stewardship and eternal seriousness.
For, as we live and serve at the end of the world, the six seminaries count it a joy to do whatever it takes to serve cooperating churches as they carry out their biblically designed task of seeing God’s great name proclaimed to the ends of the earth.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jason G. Duesing is provost at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Spurgeon College and author of Mere Hope: Life in an Age of Cynicism, B&H Books. Seminary Sunday on the Southern Baptist Convention Calendar is normally the third Sunday in April. This year, it was changed to Sunday April 28.)

4/22/2019 10:03:10 AM by Jason G. Duesing | with 0 comments

‘Pilgrim’s Progress,’ now animated

April 18 2019 by Phil Boatwright

In time to celebrate Easter, an animated adaptation of the enduring John Bunyan allegory “Pilgrim’s Progress” reaches movie theaters April 18 and 20.
The epic adventure, written some 340 years ago while Bunyan was sitting in prison for preaching the gospel, is a metaphorical tale about the obstacle-laden yet spiritually-rewarding path of those who follow Christ.

This well-produced screen version tells the story of an anguished man named Christian meeting spiritual guide Evangelist, who urges him to leave the City of Destruction and head to the Celestial City. Christian is told that he will find salvation there. Along his journey, the wayfarer has several adventures and thwarts many obstacles.
The new movie is a compelling, family-friendly rendition that never condescends to its intended audience – full of life lessons for children and some eye-openers for accompanying adults, it is a tribute to those who have stepped out on faith in order to find purpose, redemption and a connection between man and his creator. It’s a film that should resonate with older moviegoers who desire to evangelize in an era when the culture often stands against them.
Tragic elements in the film – while incorporated to reveal the darker side of man’s nature – are never presented in a way meant to disturb little ones. That said, the trek that Christian undertakes has its scary moments. Mom or dad should be there to reassure and later explain the story’s theological points.
Presented by Fathom Events, the production stars the voices of John Rhys-Davies (“The Lord of the Rings”), hymn writer and recording artist Kristyn Getty and Ben Price (“America’s Got Talent”).
In 17th-century England you had to be licensed by the Anglican Church in order to preach, or face the possibility of imprisonment. Many Puritans fled to America to escape this religious persecution, but John Bunyan chose to remain incarcerated for more than a decade, knowing his beliefs were justified though not in line with the doctrines of the state-controlled church. It was during his confinement that he wrote Pilgrim’s Progress to express the trials and temptations that often detour a Christian’s walk of faith.
Bunyan was released after 12 years and remained in his country, embracing a calling to further the gospel of Christ. His endeavors and this classic saga live on: Through the centuries, the book has been translated into more than 200 languages. The film also has been translated and re-voiced into 26 languages and will be donated to missions organizations operating in countries where Christians are being persecuted.
What’s more, as reported by the press, on Easter weekend, this animated parable will be aired on the second-largest network in Iran – with an estimated audience of 6 million people. (Keep that in prayer!)
While viewing Pilgrim’s Progress, two additional films made for young audiences came to mind. You may find them suitable for your children during Easter break.
For younger children: “The Miracle Maker” (2000)
Claymation and graphically striking two-dimensional animation were combined in this American-British-Russian coproduction that brought the story of Jesus to television on the ABC network on Easter Sunday back in 2000. (It’s now on DVD from Family Home Entertainment.)
In this re-telling, 12-year-old Tamar (voiced by Rebecca Callard) encounters Jesus in different stages of His life. Fascinated by the spiritual strength of this charismatic man, she becomes a follower, but her father and others in authority are troubled by Jesus’ ability to inspire the people. Plotting against Him, the rich and powerful Ben Azra (Antony Sher) arranges the murder of Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist (Richard E. Grant), and stirs up the authorities against Jesus.
Using little Tamar as a composite of different people who experienced Christ’s healing powers, The Miracle Maker related the story of Jesus to little ones without sacrificing the integrity of the gospels. Like the new animated Pilgrim’s Progress, this compelling adventure used state-of-the-art production values and sound theological references to help children grow closer to a loving Savior.
TV-G (Christ is crucified, but the scene is handled with discretion).
For older kids and teens: “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” (2005)
Not since Dorothy landed on the yellow brick road have young and old alike entered such an enchanted world. The movie’s story and dialogue are compelling for adults while its magical look is spellbinding for younger viewers.
Both the C.S. Lewis novel and the Walden/Disney film version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are a step above most children’s fables – full of evocative analogies and spiritually iconic images. Although adventures, not sermons, take center stage, the story serves to open a rewarding dialogue between parent and child about the Christ-like symbolism in the pivotal character, Aslan.
There is no blood-letting and the filmmakers avoid excessive brutality, but this parable of good versus evil does include some violence. You will find a few jolting scenes and several scary moments but the young central characters learn life lessons, and the production is filled with spiritual insights that are distinctly biblical.
Happy Easter, everyone. And thank you, Jesus, for its meaning.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Phil Boatwright is the author of MOVIES: The Good, the Bad, and the Really, Really Bad, available on Amazon.com.)

4/18/2019 9:58:08 AM by Phil Boatwright | with 0 comments

Insights for discerning God’s will

April 17 2019 by Ronnie Floyd

I announced my resignation as senior pastor of Cross Church on Sunday, April 7. Completely content in the Lord serving in my 33rd year in northwest Arkansas, God issued a new calling on my life when I accepted the position of president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee the previous Tuesday, April 2.

Needless to say, over these past months, I have needed to discern the will of God pertaining to my life and calling to the ministry, which prompts me to share with you a few insights for discerning God’s will for our future.
Insight #1:  A God moment is a point in time when God defines your life and turns your life toward Him.
Walking with Christ daily is imperative to discerning God’s will for your life. Staying in the Word of God, the Bible, and filling your life with the Word daily in an overflowing way is necessary to see God turn your heart toward Him. When this occurs, you will experience points in time when God more clearly defines your life and calling.
Insight #2:  When these God moments occur, they lead you to God’s will.
These God moments can be personal and private with God in the midst of walking with Him daily or He can use events or experiences to demonstrate Himself to and through you. He can also use both as He did with me. These spiritual markers will ignite your life toward God and His will for your life.
Insight #3:  As you more clearly understand and see God’s work within you, you will more clearly understand and see what God wants to do through you.
Even after all these years of walking with the Lord and leading people, God took me back to my calling and giftedness in order to set His path before me. I believe God has been preparing me for much of my life for this assignment by placing me on an undeniable path providentially.
Insight #4:  God uses everything we walk through in life to prepare us for what He has ahead of us.
God will use your life experiences to prepare you for what lies ahead of you. When you are anchored in the Word of God daily, this will empower you to see your life from God’s perspective. You do not view life from the lenses of experience, but through the lenses of scripture. This matures what you sense God is doing, rather than being driven by experience alone, which can be extremely dangerous.
Insight #5:  God’s preparation precedes God’s calling.
God calls you to do what He prepares you to do. Enough said.
Insight #6:  God’s will and future for you are not controlled by you, but by Him.
You do not control or dictate God’s will; He does. You do not belong to yourself; you belong to Jesus. If you were called into the ministry of the gospel, you do not get the privilege to determine where you locate and how you are going to spend your life. When this is violated, you settle for much less than what God has for you. Stop reducing God into any selfish and vocational box. Release God to do whatever He desires to do in and through you, regardless of what it may be or where it leads you.
Insight #7:  Always keep the heart of Isaiah 6:8, “Here am I, send me.”
Early in the morning on March 4, 2018, God led me to begin praying Isaiah 6:8 into my life daily. Yes, for over 13 months I prayed Isaiah 6:8 daily, which God used to keep my heart aligned with the Holy Spirit, and ultimately unknowing to me, what God was doing in my life. Never did I imagine while praying these words, that they would become so personalized and so dramatically shift my calling, position and location.
God seeded my heart with Isaiah 6:8, cultivating a culture in my life that whatever God wanted, I was ready to do. I was willing to go and more than willing to stay.
There is so much more I could say about these matters. But today my goal is to keep this brief enough, that the insights glisten before you more clearly as you discern God’s will for your future.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ronnie Floyd is president-elect of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. For his overview of the EC’s work, click here.)

4/17/2019 9:54:38 AM by Ronnie Floyd | with 0 comments

Urgent call for women’s voices in our churches

April 16 2019 by Traci Griggs

As a North Carolina Baptist who has worked and worshipped in Baptist circles for most of my adult life, I see an urgent need for conservative evangelicals to take decisive steps to ensure that women’s voices are being heard in our churches. In light of recent revelations of sexual harassment and abuse in Southern Baptist churches, as well as the long list of pastors and church leaders who have fallen due to impropriety related to women, it’s important to ask ourselves: are the lines my church has drawn between the functions of men and women based on tradition and opinion, or are they based on a close scrutiny of the entirety of scripture? 

Traci Griggs

I do not pretend to be seminary-trained on the nuances of this issue. However, I have done a lot of reading and discussed it with countless pastors, church leaders and laypeople over the years. I have been met by varied reactions. My response is always the same: Is that a personal opinion, a presumption of what the Bible says, or is that based on where your careful study of the Bible leads you? 
I want to clarify. I am not challenging scripture. I am calling all of us to be truer to it. I affirm the biblical concept that teaching pastors are to be men, and I gladly accept my husband’s leadership in the home. However, it seems clear that the delicate relationship God created between men and women is one we need to get right. The skewing of God’s design for that relationship in the home can have tragic and far-reaching effects. Why would this be any less true in the church?
I am not saying that giving women more of a voice in the church would have protected us from sexual impropriety in our churches. The issue goes much deeper than that. But, I do know that when we tolerate even unintentional misapplications of scripture, no matter how insignificant we might deem it, there are consequences. I believe taking proactive steps toward ensuring women have a voice in the direction and decisions of the church may help prevent some of the problems outlined above – in part, by serving as a different set of eyes. I wonder if our churches may experience some of these problems, in part, because they have insulated themselves from women leaders and women’s unique understanding of and sensitivity to issues pertaining to sexuality, and what might turn into problems.
There are other good reasons to remove any unnecessary limits on women serving in the church. The most obvious is the amazing giftedness of some women in our churches. Why, without solid scriptural backing, should those gifts of administration be relegated to women’s ministry alone?
In addition, how women are regarded in our churches may affect our witness to those who are seeking Christ. In a culture that is acutely sensitive to improper treatment of women, why would we tolerate restrictions on women in the church not clearly commanded by scripture?
Finally, adding more women to leadership roles would enable us to better minister to women and children in our churches. The chairman of deacons in a church I attended, once asked the congregation: “What can we do to serve you all more effectively?” I answered him via text message: “Install some women deacons.” Let women see they have a deacon who they can approach with a sensitive matter or a complaint they may be embarrassed to discuss with a man.
I concede women deacons may be a step too far for some. It is an issue on which beloved and respected brothers and sisters in Christ have come to differing conclusions. If you believe that scripture is clear and that God would have us only ordain men as deacons, I would not suggest that your interpretation of scripture is incorrect. However, many pastors and church leaders believe the Bible gives freedom here, and there are compelling reasons to move in this direction. Yet many remain silent because it would be “divisive” or “frowned upon” either within or outside of their church.
If you and your church are not comfortable with going in that direction, perhaps consider a women’s advisory board or council, voted on and commissioned by the church. To make this group effective and not simply a figurehead, it should meet regularly and church leadership should commit to seeking their opinion on all matters being considered. Creating such a group without giving it any “teeth” would do more harm than good.
If your church needs to take smaller steps, you could ask more women to serve on committees – and chair committees – and ask women to make presentations in front of the church. Even asking women to join in taking up the offering can be a big step in some churches.
I am also aware that change can be difficult, and this is not the most important issue our churches face. However, what does it say to women and men that this issue is not important enough to tackle or not worth the hard work? Especially when we see that women could bring even more value to the church and could add another layer of accountability that is clearly needed.
It is more important than ever for all of us, pastors and laypeople, to take another look at how women serve in our churches and ensure we are arriving at these conclusions based on solid biblical understanding of all applicable scriptures. If you would like to dig into this issue, and I urge you to do so, you might begin by consulting with your pastor or mentor. Some other good resources to get you started might be:
40 Questions About Elders and Deacons by Benjamin Merkle
Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches (2019) by John Hammett
Sojourners and Strangers by Gregg Allison
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Traci Griggs is director of communications for the North Carolina Family Policy Council and a member of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex.)

4/16/2019 3:32:17 PM by Traci Griggs | with 0 comments

Tell it to all

April 12 2019 by Clara Molina

We sing every year to encourage people, especially Christians, “Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere” that Jesus was born!
Many of us, however, fail to go and tell that Jesus Christ came to die as a living sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins and to save us from eternal flames. The collective effect is that many people are remaining dead to God in their sins (Ephesians 2:1) both now and for all eternity.
Some have no burden for lost souls while others are afraid to share. We all live and talk with loved ones every day and yet some of our spouses, children and family members have not heard the Good News from us – the Good News that Jesus gave us and sent us to tell to all. As Christ’s ambassadors and those who are indwelt by His Spirit, His love and mercy should drive us to share the gospel (Matthew 28:16-20).
We should not be afraid to share the gospel. When Jesus sent out His disciples to share the Good News of His coming, He said, “Whenever they bring you before synagogues and rulers and authorities, don’t worry about how you should defend yourselves or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what must be said” (Luke 12:11-12). It is good to have a plan on how to share the gospel but, most important of all, we need to depend on the Holy Spirit when we share Jesus with others.
Bear in mind the following when sharing the gospel with others:
– God’s love has no borders but we, God’s people, sometimes need to cross borders to share Christ. These borders could be our backyards, another town, city or country. After all, Jesus crossed the border of heaven and earth to give of Himself (John 8:42).
– God’s mercy is available to all. Therefore, we should not discriminate when we share the gospel because Jesus died for everyone. We are all included in John 3:16 regardless of the color of our skin, education, culture, sexual orientation, social status or religious background. Everyone needs the Savior.
– We should go on mission trips away from the familiar and invite others to go with us. These trips will instill within us a heart for missions, encourage us to minister in our own neighborhoods and even help us to discern if God is calling us overseas. God will move you to the place where He created a heart for missions within you (John 15:2).
– We must pray for opportunities to share the gospel. For me, every opportunity that I get to share the gospel is a divine appointment.
– Let’s ask others to pray for us so that we might become one of the laborers Jesus asked us to pray for in Matthew 9:37-38. The harvest is ready and the laborers are still few.
– Trust in the Lord and not yourself (Proverbs 3:5-6), know that you will never be alone (Deuteronomy 31:6) and know that trials will come as you serve (James 1:2, 12; 2 Peter 2:9).
– We should prepare our hearts so that God can use us (Psalm 51:10). When Isaiah heard God’s call, he was ready and that is why he was able to say, “Here I am. Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).
– Remember that we are not responsible for whether those with whom we share the gospel respond in faith (John 16:8). We do not save people; that job belongs to God and the conviction from the Holy Spirit. Our responsibility is to share out of love and obedience to God.
The gospel is Good News that fixes the bad news. If you live on mission, at some point you will understand Jesus’ words when He said: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you” (John 15:16).

4/12/2019 4:58:26 PM by Clara Molina | with 0 comments

Emergency responders

April 11 2019 by David Jeremiah

I have endless respect for emergency responders, those trained to deploy when time is of the essence. In most search-and-rescue missions, conditions are unpredictable and every second can make the difference between survival and disaster.

Whether it’s a mountain rescue team in a barren wilderness, a combat search-and-rescue operation or an air/sea rescue team, these are true heroes – men and women who use all available means to locate those in distress, provide for their initial medical needs and deliver them to a place of safety.
What a calling! And what a reflection of the Lord Himself!
History’s ultimate search-and-rescue mission was the one launched by Jesus Christ in the fullness of time. In Luke 19:10, Jesus said, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” In John 17:3, He said, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
One dark Bethlehem night, our Savior rappelled into human history, descending from the heights of heaven into the cold of this world. He was determined to search for and rescue the lost, even at the cost of His own life. He once likened Himself to a one-man search-and-rescue mission, leaving the security of the fold to scour the mountains for one lost sheep.
And yet Jesus was opposed by the very ones He had come to save. I think it helps us to think of the work of Jesus in these terms because it conveys the life-and-death urgency we should feel. We’ve all watched heart-pounding missions portrayed in the movies or on television, and we’ve followed breaking news of dramatic rescues. We can understand the passion and urgency of such missions, and when we transfer those feelings to our own calling as soul-winners, it enhances our understanding of the need for an urgent response. After all, God is not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

Broken hearts, bleeding hearts

Your friend in the next cubical at work, the neighbor whose house sits catty-corner to yours, your nephew at the university, your workout partner at the gym – unless we have a God-given sense of urgency, many of them may not be reached. We cannot be indifferent, unresponsive or lackadaisical. Our mission is to evangelize the world, and we are called to be responders.
Emergency responders are highly trained professionals who go into action at the right moment. I don’t believe it’s necessary for every Christian to verbally witness to everyone we meet each day or to operate with a sense of panic or perplexity. Sometimes my witness to a waiter at a restaurant is simply a warm smile, a pleasant attitude, and my bowed head as I offer thanks for my food. The apostle Peter warned his readers against trying to “nag” their loved ones into heaven. He told the wives of unsaved husbands to exhibit such a Christ-like attitude at home that their husbands would be won “without a word” by the “conduct of their wives” (1 Peter 3:1).
On the other hand, we shouldn’t be so passive that we’re never rescuing anyone. The English Congregational pastor Dr. J.H. Jowett wrote, “The gospel of a broken heart demands the ministry of bleeding hearts. As soon as we cease to bleed we cease to bless. … Tearless hearts can never be the heralds of the Passion.”
We need an urgent burden that never flags or fails.
The times are more urgent than they have ever been, and our response is more important than ever.
Today’s emergency responders and their heroic efforts are models for us. The world needs Christians who are serious about their mission. Time is short. At any moment, the trumpet will sound, and tomorrow will be too late. It’s of utmost importance that we take the gospel across the street and across the seas as never before. We must devote our energy to struggling souls in the darkness of a dying world like our Lord, who came to seek and to save those who are lost.

4/11/2019 9:22:28 AM by David Jeremiah | with 0 comments

Displaying results 1-10 (of 17)
 |<  < 1 - 2  >  >|