August 2012

When God says, ‘No ma’am!’

August 17 2012 by Amanda Walker

RUSTON, La. – My daughter, Makaylan, is 1 year old. As a result, my husband and I have entered a new phase of parenting – the discipline stage.

Right now her biggest temptation is the electrical sockets. Though we have them covered, we still do not want her to play with them. We know that one day we will go visit friends who do not child-proof their homes, and we do not want her getting into the habit of playing with something that is potentially dangerous. But, every time she passes an electrical socket, she cannot resist the urge to touch it.

The first day she discovered her new “favored” toy, I spent most of my day bent over her, removing her hand from the socket, and repeating, “No ma’am.” During one instance, my husband counted how many times I gave her this instruction, and I repeated it 15 times before she finally became frustrated and moved on. God has used these experiences to convict me of my own sin and temptations in life.

So what can a 1-year-old teach you about discipline and discipleship? More than you can imagine.

The first thing I have learned is that God’s discipline is always for my good and for His glory. The writer of Hebrews gives a great description of God’s discipline when He says, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6). He goes on to say, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). In the original language, the word “trained” is the Greek word “gymnazo,” which means “to exercise vigorously, in any way, either the body or the mind.”[1] Gymnazo is where we get our English word “gymnasium.” A gymnasium is a place of training. I played sports throughout high school and nearly two years of college; therefore, I am accustomed to the regimented and strenuous training that must occur in order to perform well. No athlete would dare go into a competition without first disciplining his or her body.

In the same way, God uses His discipline to train our hearts and our bodies to be submissive to His perfect will in order that His righteousness might be displayed in our lives.

I want my daughter to grow up to be a woman who loves and serves God with a submissive heart, but this submission does not come naturally. We are all tempted by certain lusts of the flesh, and sometimes it is difficult to pass up those opportunities to sin. God continues to remind me that in order for me to teach her how to submit to Christ, I must first submit myself under His Lordship. It is amazing how children can pick up on their parents’ lack of obedience. We cannot expect our children to be obedient to our instruction if we are not being obedient and submissive to God’s instruction. It first begins with us.

The second lesson I have learned is that discipline takes time. Too often I have seen parents “discipline” their children from the couch with a remote control in hand. In all honesty, that is the easiest thing to do. But, God commands us to train our children and not just to shout orders at them. I am so thankful that God does not discipline me haphazardly. Hebrews 5:8 says that Jesus “learned obedience through what He suffered.” Jesus, while in the flesh, had to learn to be obedient to the Father’s instruction. God allows temptations and difficult seasons into our lives in order to train us to trust in Him and obey Him. Scripture shows that no difficulty or temptation comes into our lives without first passing through the Father’s approval (Job 1:6-12). Learning obedience and submission takes a lifetime; therefore, careful instruction must be given in order to ensure growth in maturity.

For example, right now Makaylan is fighting the battle against the electric socket, but when she grows up she will have other temptations that will be more dangerous. If we are not diligent to train her in the small things, through discipline, then she will never learn self-control and submission for when the bigger temptations arise. She needs “hands-on discipline,” meaning we must show her exactly what we expect and not just verbally rebuke her actions. God continues to show me that I need the same thing. I need for Him to show me, through His Word and through my situations, exactly what He expects of me.

The goal is to grow in Christlikeness. As my husband and I enter this stage of disciplining our daughter, I will admit that it is not a fun stage ... and we are only at the beginning. I would much rather wrap Makaylan in my arms and snuggle with her than be firm about what she can and cannot do. But God has given us this precious child in order for us to train her according to His Word and His commands. As we train and discipline our daughter, it has been a blessing to get a glimpse into the heart of our Heavenly Father.

Though God’s discipline is not always pleasant, it is exactly what I need. I want to encourage you (and me) not to run from the Father’s discipline, for by it, He is producing within us the fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:11)

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Amanda Walker is in the Doctorate of Educational Ministries program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Her greatest joy is serving alongside her husband who is the University Minister at Cook Baptist Church in Ruston, Louisiana, and being the mother of two beautiful daughters. This column first appeared at BiblicalWoman.org, a blog of Southwestern Seminary.)
8/17/2012 1:11:12 PM by Amanda Walker | with 0 comments



Further training opens doors for medical missions

August 16 2012 by Jack Carroll, Guest Column

Every time I tell the story of the Gypsies and New Life Church, I begin by saying, “I never planned to go to the Ukraine because it seemed like a cold and damp place.” I am sure I will find it that way when I go back for the third time this winter.
 
My involvement with North Carolina Baptist Men Disaster Relief Ministry goes back to Williamston, N.C., during the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd in 1999. It began with a feeding unit early one morning. It continues today.
 
In the summer of 2010, twice in 2011, and twice already this year N.C. Baptist Men provided medical care and relief teams to a considerable Roma Gypsy population. The Roma have been pushed to the edge of society for so long it has become their home. They are tougher than we are. Their ruddy complexion and hard hands tell an unspoken story. I do not know many folks [who] could live like they have. I am always amazed to see smiles and laughter spring from such a desperate situation. I have been blessed to be part of the hope and the healing for these people.
 
In 2005 I enrolled in EMT continuing education classes at the local community college. I had joined the N.C. Baptist Men International Search and Rescue Team and I wanted to learn a skill that would be useful.
 
It was a long and winding road, but one traveled by others before me. As a student you are trained academically and emotionally to deal with illness and trauma. I was being prepared for my mission.
 
The medical training and the EMT certification put me in a position to go with the first Baptist Men team into Haiti after the earthquake. I could not have planned to be used by God in a more powerful way. Our team was amazing, and so were the people we worked with. It was on a canvas of desperation and hopelessness that God did his best work in Haiti. We were the colors He used to create a brighter day for so many, and His artwork continues to take shape. You are always changed after experiences like that.
 
I had been asked to go to Ukraine once before with some friends I had met on mission. I was not able to accept the invitation then, but God was working.
 
Earlier in the spring of 2011, I opened an e-mail that indicated that a medical team was forming and needed a pharmacist, an EMT and nurses to go to Ukraine. God was still working, because you see, my wife is a pharmacist. I had always wanted to be able to go on mission with my wife, and here was this opportunity. God is awesome!
 
With God going before us, we prepared for our mission in Munkacs and at New Life Church. The team came together, and we were able to secure the medical supplies that we thought we would need. We took a lot of supplies but the most important thing we carried with us was love.
 
It was love that carried us past the whitewashed houses and the grape arbors to the end of the road. We found the Gypsies where the road turned into dirt and dung and trash. Women and children with aimless expressions became animated at the sight of the vehicles. Others continued to stare as if to say, “so what.”
 
Their dilapidated homes soaking in the sunlight that beamed through holes in the roof and walls, the same holes through which the rain and the icy winter wind would soon blow. Their animals have that “I’ve been kicked before” look. It was in that place at that time that God continued his work with us and the Gypsies.
 
The stories of their lives were revealed as we listened to their hearts beating and touched their weathered bodies. If we needed further understanding we were blessed with wonderful young people who translated and worked beside us.
 
We laughed and cried and cared for them and for some it was the first time anyone cared. God revealed himself to them as he accomplished his perfect will through us. I could not have planned any of this. God is great! His timing has always been perfect.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This column has been updated since it originally ran in N.C. Baptist Men’s promotional material. If you would like to join N.C. Baptists serving around the globe through N.C. Baptist Men, contact 800-395-5102, ext. 5599. Visit baptistsonmission.org. His wife, Mary, was featured in the May 26 issue along with two other women for their involvement in Baptist Men.)
8/16/2012 1:09:13 PM by Jack Carroll, Guest Column | with 0 comments



Is it hateful to suggest gays can change?

August 15 2012 by Denny Burk, Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Last week, Albert Mohler appeared on the CNN program “Out Front” with Erin Burnett to talk about Chick-fil-A and the gay marriage debate. In the course of the discussion, Mohler explained briefly what the Bible teaches about moral renewal in the life of a Christian.

In short, he argued that the same Christ that redeems sinners also helps them to “change” – i.e., to put aside those things the Bible defines as sin. Burnett’s response was astonishing at one level and not surprising at another. It’s no surprise that she would be in favor of gay marriage. It is astonishing, however, that she would be so overtly dismissive of basic Christian morality – as if it were completely outside the bounds of rational discourse.

Burnett couldn’t believe that a Christian would suggest that homosexuals can or would even need to “change.” In the course of her remarks, she told Mohler that his statements were “crazy” and “hateful.” As usual, Mohler did a fantastic job representing the gospel and parrying the push-back from a hostile host.
 
There is a key take-away from this exchange that Christians need not to miss. What Mohler contends for is something that all Christians will have to contend for if they wish to be faithful to Christ. The focus of this particular conversation is homosexuality, but the implications of Burnett’s dismissal go beyond that single issue. Her incredulity calls into question what Christianity teaches about the nature of salvation.

The Bible teaches that Christ not only saves sinners from the penalty of sin but also from power of sin (Romans 6:14). That means that genuine Christianity inevitably results in a changed life on the part of the one who trusts in Christ. From the moment of conversion, the Spirit of God progressively transforms Christians into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18). Without this kind of holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). To reject God’s purpose of holiness is to reject Christianity altogether (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8).

What the Bible teaches on this matter is not aimed only at gay people. It goes for all sinners, gay or straight. Every person who receives Christ and believes the gospel must change.
 
They cannot remain the sinner that they were without calling into question the validity of their conversion. As one preacher put it, “If the faith that saved you didn’t change you, then it didn’t save you.”

This does not mean that sinners become perfect all at once. There’s no waving of a magic wand to make one completely sinless in this life. It is not that way for any sinner, including gay ones. The work of sanctification is a progressive work that extends over the course of one’s life. There are stops and starts, triumphs and failures along the way. But it is nevertheless the mark of a Christian that he is working out his salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that it is God who is at work in him both to act and to will according to God’s good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). For many gay people who come to Christ, it may be a life-long struggle. But the Bible teaches that they will have what they need for the fight (2 Peter 1:3) and that they are not bound by this sin any longer (Romans 6:6).

What Burnett dismisses as “crazy” and “hateful” is at the heart of the Christian faith. To deny that the gospel can change sinners – even homosexual ones – is to deny Christianity altogether. That is why Mohler’s answer was profoundly and biblically right. He didn’t give any ground on this issue, and neither should any Christian who wishes to give a defense of the hope that is in him (1 Peter 3:15). It is neither crazy nor hateful to suggest that gays can change. It’s the essence of love that God enables them to do so.

We won’t be able to please all the people all the time. And that means that, occasionally, we may have to take our lumps. As the world rages against God’s Word, we must stand firm to uphold it. And we must not be surprised when scoffers denigrate our faith as folly and nonsense. “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

(EDITOR’S NOTE  – Denny Burk is associate professor of New Testament at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. This column first appeared at his website, DennyBurk.com.)
8/15/2012 2:19:40 PM by Denny Burk, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Is it true Jesus never addressed same-sex marriage?

August 14 2012 by Daniel Akin, Baptist Press

WAKE FOREST – Today it is popular among those promoting same-sex marriage to say that Jesus never addressed the issue, that He was silent on the subject.

Those who affirm the historical and traditional understanding of marriage between a man and woman often are admonished to go and read the Bible more carefully. If we do so, we are told, we will see that Jesus never addressed the issue. So, the question that I want to raise is, “Is this assertion correct?” Is it indeed the fact that Jesus never addresses the issue of same-sex marriage?

When one goes to the Gospels to see exactly what Jesus did say, one will discover that He addressed very clearly both the issues of sex and marriage. He addresses both their use and misuse. And, as He speaks to both subjects, He makes it plain that issues of the heart are of critical importance.

First, what did Jesus say about sex? Jesus believed that sex is a good gift from a great God. He also believed that sex was a good gift to be enjoyed within a monogamous, heterosexual covenant of marriage. On this He is crystal clear. In Mark 7 Jesus addresses the fact that all sin is ultimately an issue of the heart. Jesus was never after behavioral modification. Jesus was always after heart transformation. Change the heart and you truly change the person.

Thus, when He lists a catalog of sins in Mark 7:21-22, He makes it clear that all of these sins are ultimately matters of the heart. It is the idols of the heart that Jesus is out to eradicate. Among those sins of the heart that often give way to sinful actions He would include both sexual immorality and adultery (Mark 7:21). The phrase “sexual immorality,” in a biblical context, would speak of any sexual behavior outside the covenant of marriage between a man and woman. Therefore, Jesus viewed pre-marital sex, adultery and homosexual behavior as sinful. And, He knew that the cure for each is a transformation of the heart made possible by the good news of the gospel. The gospel changes us so that now we are enabled to do not what we want, but what God wants. Here we find real freedom and joy.

Second, what about the issue of marriage? Is it truly the case that Jesus never spoke to the issue in terms of gender? The answer is a simple no. He gives His perspective on this when He addresses the issue in Matthew 19:4-6. There, speaking to the institution of marriage, Jesus is clear when He says, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” That Jesus was committed to heterosexual marriage could not be more evident. A man is to leave his parents and be joined to a woman who becomes his wife. This is heterosexual marriage. That He also was committed to the permanence and fidelity of marriage is clear as well.

So, how might we sum up the issue? First, Jesus came to deliver all people from all sin. Such sin, He was convinced, originated in and was ultimately a matter of the heart. Second, Jesus made it clear that sex is a good gift from a great God, and this good gift is to be enjoyed within heterosexual covenantal marriage. It is simply undeniable that Jesus assumed heterosexual marriage as God’s design and plan. Third, Jesus sees all sexual activity outside this covenant as sinful. Fourth, it is a very dangerous and illegitimate interpretive strategy to bracket the words of Jesus and read into them the meaning you would like to find. We must not isolate Jesus from His affirmation of the Old Testament as the Word of God nor divorce Him from His first century Jewish context. Fifth, and this is really good news, Jesus loves both the heterosexual sinner and the homosexual sinner and promises free forgiveness and complete deliverance to each and everyone who comes to Him.

John 7 tells the story of a woman caught in adultery. The religious legalists want to stone her, but Jesus intervenes and prevents her murder. He then looks upon the woman and, with grace and tenderness, tells her that He does not condemn her. Then He says to her, “go and sin no more.” In Matthew 11:28 Jesus speaks to every one of us weighed down under the terrible weight and burden of sin. Listen to these tender words of the Savior, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” This is the hope that is found in Jesus. This is the hope found in the gospel. Whether one is guilty of heterosexual or homosexual sin, one will find grace, forgiveness and freedom at the foot of the cross where the ground is always level.

When I came to fully trust Jesus as my Lord and Savior at the age of 20, I determined that I wanted to think like Jesus and live like Jesus for the rest of my life. When it comes to sex I want to think like Jesus. When it comes to marriage I want to think like Jesus. That means I will affirm covenantal heterosexual marriage. It also means loving each and every person regardless of their lifestyle choices. It means, as His representative, proclaiming His gospel and extending the transforming grace of the gospel to others that takes us where we are, but wonderfully and amazingly, does not leave us there. That is a hope and a promise that followers of Jesus gladly extend to everyone, because we have been recipients of that same amazing grace.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Daniel Akin is president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. This column also was posted at www.betweenthetimes.com, a Southeastern Seminary website.)
8/14/2012 1:14:10 PM by Daniel Akin, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



The 12 lessons of fatherhood, part two (7-12)

August 13 2012 by Thom S. Rainer, Baptist Press

In 12 lessons of fatherhood, I covered lessons one through six (See here). Today: lessons seven through 12.

Lesson 7: Communicate the blessing with words and touch.

Even if our children know we love them and that we are proud of them, they need to hear it. They need to feel with our hugs. When they are young, the physical interaction with children is critical. When they are older, we must still keep hugging them.

Lesson 8: Talk to your children.

I love it. I absolutely love it. My sons still want to talk to me. My boys can call my cell phone at almost any time. They know that I am the president of this big company, but they know they can get in touch with me quickly. Most of the time I will answer their calls on the spot. Otherwise, I get back to them quickly. I am honored beyond measure that those boys still want to talk to me.

I think I instilled this desire early in their lives. I let them know that there was no such thing as a stupid question and that there were no subjects that were out of bounds. We really had some interesting discussions. Some of them were theological. Some of them were blunt talks about the “facts of life.” Others were about sports, girls, politics, morals, clothes, careers, hobbies, places to live, places to go and the list goes on.

Lesson 9: Fun and humor is healthy.

The Rainer house was a fun place to be. I think that's why we became a hangout on the east side of town. All three of my boys have a great sense of humor.

Our three sons like to joke with one another. They especially enjoy making fun of their old man. Because they had to endure hundreds of my sermons and speeches, they frequently would imitate my mannerisms and frequently repeated phrases. Their mother enjoyed popping paper bags behind them when they were not aware she was in the room.

Lesson 10: Admit your mistakes.

Art and his brothers have taught me much as they have raised their dad. My natural and sinful tendency was to speak quickly and harshly when one of the boys was out of line. I blew it many times as a father. But my boys have taught me to think before I speak and to be willing to ask for forgiveness when I was wrong. They have indeed raised Dad well.

Lesson 11: Know when to let go, know when to hold.

Indeed, there were not many things that I did not share with my sons. And there were not many emotions I left unchecked.

On the one hand, this transparency is good. My boys knew where I stood on almost all issues. They knew they could get clear and non-evasive answers from me. And they knew how I felt at almost all times. There was no doubt how Dad was feeling in the Rainer home.

On the other hand, I was often transparent to a fault. Kids need to be kids, and they do not need to be exposed to every feeling and concern parents have. I needed to protect them from the harsh world more than I did, instead of letting them hear almost every fear and problem with which I struggled.

Some parents never let their children see the real mom and dad. And some parents let their kids see too much. I was guilty of the latter.

Lesson 12: There is nothing more important than a child's eternity.

“Lord, please look over our sons. Keep them in Your protective and loving hands. Help us to be the type of parents that show Your love. And we pray for the salvation of our sons. We ask that they hear clearly one day the gospel message, and that they accept and follow Your Son Jesus.”

Those words, or words similar to those, were prayed by Nellie Jo and me on a regular basis. We do want the best for our sons in this life. But this life is so incredibly brief. Our most fervent prayer was for each of the boys to become a Christian so that their eternities would be secure.

God has answered our prayers. Very few dads have had the incredible privilege to do what I did. I baptized each of my sons after they became followers of Christ. Those were moments that I cherished, moments that moved me to tears.

Though I was imperfect, I tried to model Christ to my sons. I wanted them to see Him in both my words and actions. I wanted them to have the freedom to talk with me about anything, especially spiritual matters.

God answered our prayers. The most important gift a child can receive is the gift of salvation in Christ. And I thank God that He used Nellie Jo and me as His instruments in their eternities.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. This column first appeared on his website, www.ThomRainer.com. It was adapted from the book “Raising Dad” [B&H Publishing Group, 2007].)
8/13/2012 1:24:40 PM by Thom S. Rainer, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Choose your Tweets (& words) carefully

August 10 2012 by Todd Brady, Baptist Press

JACKSON, Tenn. – The London games are proving that words are often more powerful than the strongest and most athletic of human beings. Long days of training, months of repetitive practice, and years of relentless discipline are simply not enough to outperform the sometimes devastating consequences of careless words spoken in the heat of thoughtless moments.

Today, Shakespeare might ask “To tweet, or not to tweet?” This seems like a timely question for days like ours. Recent Twitter-related scandals coming out of Britain surely have some in the Twittersphere experiencing what might be called Twitter’s remorse.

United States Olympian Hope Solo was quickly chastised by her coach when she used social media to publicly question the knowledge of a soccer analyst.

Police arrested a teenager and are investigating “malicious communication” tweeted about Britain’s synchronized diver, Tom Daley. Heartless comments about Daley’s Olympic performance and deceased father are just unspeakable.

The Swiss Olympic team expelled a sportsman who tweeted racist and threatening comments about an opposing team after losing a soccer match. Imagine how many years this athlete had worked, trained, practiced, hoped and anticipated playing before the world at the 2012 Olympics – only to see it all vanish with the quick movements of a few hasty thumb strokes.

A Greek triple jumper was dropped from her team after making snide remarks about mosquitoes and African immigrants in her country. Techniques of the triple jump aside, unsportsmanlike conduct by any other name is unsportsmanlike conduct.

Children are often fond of saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” The cute little saying simply is not true. It’s not true on the school playground, and it’s not true at the Olympic village. The Bible teaches and life affirms that words often do hurt. Words hurt us, and words hurt others – often more than we want to admit.

Will Rogers once quipped, “Never miss a good chance to shut up.” Such home-spun advice is especially hard in today’s world where social media allows anyone to instantly and indiscriminately publish anything and everything. As people quietly type on their personal handheld devices, tools like Twitter and Facebook offer a seeming anonymity which often deceives one into thinking that words are somehow inconsequential.

The reality of consequences, however, should cause us to reflect on Rogers’s aphoristic wisdom and remember the Bible’s irreversible rule that “whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Indeed, “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).

The technological advances of our 21st century society where communication is both instant and global allow for the opportunity to give life or death more quickly and more broadly than ever before. Now more than ever, we should strive to “Let [our] speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that [we] may know how [we] are to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).

Proverbs 25:11 says “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” Let us go for gold with every word we speak ... or for that matter, tweet.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Todd E. Brady is vice president for church relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)
8/10/2012 1:35:38 PM by Todd Brady, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Sun sets on a Sikh massacre

August 9 2012 by Caroline Anderson, Baptist Press

DELHI – It’s sunset on the day after a massacre. I’m standing in a Sikh temple in Delhi, India, wanting so badly to tell the Sikh men and women here that I’m sorry, that I’m ashamed at what happened to their Sikh brothers and sisters in the U.S.

A shooter in Wisconsin killed six people Aug. 5 in a gurdwara, the Punjabi word for temple, just like this one.

I realize that I walked into the temple with a frown on my face. It has been a long day – it’s hot, a motorcycle almost hit me and a man purposefully shoved me aside on the street.

I realize these are all trivial things, and I have a chance to show Christ’s love to a people who are hurting because of this tragedy.

Everyone’s eyes are on me. Granted, I’m the only Westerner in the temple. I wonder if they’re thinking, is she different? Is she American? Does she think we are Muslims, too?

My facial expressions change after this realization. I smile and look people in the eyes. I say, “dhanwad,” which means “thank you” in the Punjabi language, to the woman I give my shoes to before entering the temple. She holds my gaze and returns my smile.

I say, “Sat Sri Akaal Ji,” the customary Sikh greeting, to an older woman as I enter the temple. As soon as I say this, her face changes from a scowl to a smile.

A man with a neatly wrapped blue turban approaches me and introduces himself. I tell him I’m studying Sikhism.

“I am a Sikh history teacher!” he says excitedly. “Let me teach you!”

He leads me to the balcony of the temple and as the sun sets, he tells me the history of this temple. It is a memorial to a massacre.

One of the Sikh gurus was beheaded near the temple hundreds of years ago by the Moghuls, Muslim descendants of Genghis Khan.

This gurdwara is his tomb.

My new friend asks where I’m from. I first tell him I live in Thailand. I am not sure if telling him I’m from the U.S., where six Sikhs were just killed, will change his mind about being friends.

But I decide to tell him so he knows all Americans don’t act like the shooter in Wisconsin.

The news I’m American doesn’t change anything. He asks to take my friends and me to a Sikh museum, and we have plans to meet with him later this week.

Soon I take a seat, joining dozens of men and women, facing the palanquin that holds their scriptures.

A man sitting next to me explains the rituals as they unfold. There is music from the ragis, the temple singers, as well as congregational prayer and the recitation of scripture.

This man’s son lives in New York, and he’s been to visit him there.

Earlier that day, I met with a former Sikh who became a Christian. He mentioned the shooting and his sadness over what happened. He didn’t dwell on it – his main mission that day was to see that his Sikh brothers and sisters discover Christ just as he had.

I’ve learned Sikhs don’t judge a people by the actions of one. A Sikh businessman told me people’s individual choices are their own.

I’ve learned this week in India that Sikhs are a kind, hospitable and generous people.

They’ve been some of the only people here who’ve approached me on the street and asked if I need directions or assistance.

This week Sikhs have given me free rides in auto rickshaws and others wouldn’t let me pay the full fare in taxis when they hear I’m learning about Sikhism. Sikh men don’t stare at me lustfully like some other men in India do. In Sikhism, women are equal and to be respected.

Sikhs have invited me into their businesses for tea and have made me feel at home in India.

I’m blessed to have met Sikhs. I pray they’ll see the same kindness in me and in Americans.

I pray they’ll see the light of Christ in me and want to know more. Sikhs are seekers of truth – it’s part of their beliefs. I pray they’ll seek the ultimate Truth.

I pray you’ll take the time to get to know a Sikh.

Approximately 700,000 Sikhs live in the U.S. Learn more about Sikhs and how to share the gospel with them at sikhoutreach.org. Download a free, one-page prayer guide concerning Sikhs at http://southasianpeoples.imb.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Prayer4_SouthAsians_Sikhs.pdf and find related information at southasianpeoples.imb.org.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Caroline Anderson is an International Mission Board (IMB) writer living in Asia.)

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8/9/2012 3:26:27 PM by Caroline Anderson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



The 12 lessons of fatherhood, part one (lessons 1-6)

August 8 2012 by Thom S. Rainer, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – I once did an interview for an online publication, and one of the questions was: “Who has been the greatest leadership influence in your life?” Without hesitation, I wrote: “My three sons: Sam, Art, and Jess.”

Fatherhood has been an educational journey that no school could provide. I have learned so much. And even to this day, I listen to my sons. They may think that I am offering them words of wisdom, but I am learning from them as well.

I do not see myself as the great expert on fatherhood. I hope I have been transparent and honest in my self-assessment, especially with the weaknesses and faults that I have.

I also realize that the far superior parent in our family is my wife, Nellie Jo. I have never seen such sacrificial and unconditional love flow from one human to another. She is the true instrument of God who raised our three sons so well.

But this is a column about fatherhood. At the end of the day, I have several lessons that I have learned about the great challenge of being a dad. Thank you for allowing this fellow struggler the opportunity to share these lessons.

Lesson 1: Children are precious gifts from God.

If we parents ever fully recognize the incredible gift we have been given in our children, our attitude about them will be one of unceasing praise. I realize that not every couple has been given children. And I realize that I do not deserve my sons any more than husbands and wives who have not been blessed with children. They are gifts of grace. Undeserved and unmerited.

Have you ever assessed a situation and realized how completely blessed you are? That is how I feel about my boys. One of the reasons that I have not failed completely as a father is that my sons know how much I treasure them. They have a confidence and assurance that they are wanted. They know that I see them as precious gifts from God. They know that I feel like I am the most blessed man in the world to have them as my sons.

On those occasions where I have been weary and irritable, I often remind myself of this gift. Such thinking really puts minor issues in perspective. Children are gifts. Never, ever forget that truth.

Lesson 2: We must love our children unconditionally, and they must know it.

A child who grows up with unconditional love is more secure and more joyous. He or she does not have to earn the love of a parent. It is there no matter what.

The analogy of the heavenly Father’s love for us through Christ is a fit comparison. We did not earn His love. We did not merit His love. But we can be secure in His love. The Apostle Paul said it clearly in Ephesians 2:8–9: “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift – not from works, so that no one can boast.” Paul spoke of the security of Christ’s love in Romans 8:38–39: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!”

Our children can take a lot from this world if they know that Mom and Dad are there for them no matter what. The love of Christ is the greatest security. And the unconditional love of a parent is a child’s greatest earthly security.

Lesson 3: Love your children’s mother.

I am not a perfect father. Not close. And I am not a perfect husband. Far from it. But do you know what Art, Sam and Jess know? Despite my imperfections as a husband, despite my stupid anger, despite my self-centeredness, I love their mother. I am with her until death do us part. My sons can live in the assurance and the confidence that, not only do I love them, I love and adore my wife, their mother.

Nellie Jo and I are blessed with three daughters-in-law. God gave Art a wife named Sarah, Sam a wife named Erin, and Jess a wife named Rachel. These three young ladies are the answers to our prayers. They are beautiful physically but, more importantly, they are beautiful spiritually. And they love our sons. And we love them for that. I pray that my boys will show their children what it is like to love and adore their mothers.

Lesson 4: Time can never be recaptured.

Art often tells a story of his baseball team when he was 7 years old. One day I was coaching at third base when Art hit the ball into the infield. Seeing that he was a certain out at first base, he did not run all the way to the base, a cardinal sin in baseball. The coach gave him several sentences of reprimand, which irked me. I was about to say something to the coach when Art came running across the field, holding back tears. He looked at me with hurt all over his face and said, “Daddy, that coach hurt my feelings.”

I swept my son into my arms. He already knew that he had made a baseball mistake, so I did not dwell on that issue. After a few minutes, Art was fine, having fun again with his teammates.

Why did I tell that story? I simply remember how good I felt when I held my son. And I remember how great it was to be able to soothe hurt feelings with a hug and a few sentences. I also remember how much fun I had coaching the team with both Sam and Art on it.

That was yesterday ... or so it seems. Actually it was nearly 20 years ago. Where has the time gone? The time that we have our children at home is so incredibly brief. Make the most of it. Enjoy each year of their lives. Celebrate each moment. It will be over before you know it.

Lesson 5: Discipline is a sign of love.

Neither Nellie Jo nor I enjoyed disciplining our sons, but we did so anyway. To do less was to tell our boys that we didn’t care what they did, that we had no boundaries. They did not like the discipline when they were children, but now they tell us how much they appreciate it.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that discipline is a sign of love, and he points to God’s love as a disciplining love in Hebrews 12:5–11: “My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly, or faint when you are reproved by Him; for the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and punishes every son whom He receives. Endure it as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there whom a father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline – which all receive – then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness. No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

There were times when I was tempted to avoid the hassle and pain of disciplining Art, Jess and Sam. I am glad that I avoided that temptation.

Lesson 6: Encouragement builds up a child.

Sam was driving his truck one day, and I was in the passenger seat. “Dad, what one piece of advice would you give me on being a father?” Now that question really hit me for a couple reasons. First, my son was really asking for my advice. Second, I love this adult-son age where they really listen to me.

I can’t say that I thought through the answer with any great depth, but the answer that came most quickly to my mind was: “Encourage your kids. Let them know how proud you are of them. Many children go through their entire lives seeking and not getting their parents’ approval.”

Sam responded, “Yeah, Dad, that’s what you have done with Art, Jess and me. And it has worked!”

The blessing. That’s what a parent’s approval is. And for whatever reasons, fathers seem to withhold such encouragement and approval more than mothers do. I thank God that I learned the lesson of the blessing.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. This column first appeared on his website, www.ThomRainer.com. It was adapted from the book “Raising Dad” [B&H Publishing Group, 2007].)

Related story
The 12 lessons of fatherhood, part two (7-12)
8/8/2012 1:22:39 PM by Thom S. Rainer, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



An even faster Internet & its impact on churches

August 7 2012 by Aaron Linne, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Amidst all the technology changes happening in 2012 – from Windows 8 to the new iPhone this fall – the biggest one is happening more discreetly, without you even knowing it. It will change the way we interact with the Internet and, thus, the whole world. Your broadband connection is getting even faster. Ridiculously fast.

The Internet started out at 56 kilobytes per second. In other words, it took time just to push a small bit of data over the wire. The Internet was not built for movies, music or even eBooks. It was meant for simple, small things. But now? Now, in 2012, our Internet service providers are pushing forward our connections at an unprecedented rate.

In June, Verizon started rolling out its new top-tier service, FiOS Quantum. This connection brings 300 megabits per second download speeds to the common household. (By comparison, 300 megabits per second is 38,400 kilobytes.) In July, Comcast began offering the same level of service with their Xfinity Platinum Internet offering.

Do you remember when you first heard that people were storing full length movies on their hard drives? Do you remember how huge the file sizes for HD movies were, and how it seemed like it would take up crazy amounts of space to try and save one of them – let alone the time it would take to download one? A 5GB HD movie, at these new speeds, can be downloaded in little more than two minutes.

And then, in July, as we tried to come to grips with what people might be able to do with 300 megabits per second, Google trumped everyone. Google announced they are becoming an internet and cable provider. Starting in Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., Google will be providing 1 gigabit per second internet. That HD movie download time that seemed so impressive in the last paragraph? Try downloading it in 5 seconds. For only $70 a month.

In my career, I’ve worked with really large files. I used to be a video editor, and working with all the source files for a huge HD project, I may have been looking at 100 GB of data or so. Downloading that at what will soon be the new normal would have taken less than 2 minutes. This flow of data is inconceivable.

There may be no real practical application of this event that can be understood today. Yes, our videos will be faster, our connections will be stronger, and the lag time in video games will be non-existent. That’s all the stuff that we know today – this change will open up the dreams of tomorrow.

Just like churches 10 years ago would never have been able to dream of satellite churches that stream a pastor’s sermon live – like we can do today – our imaginations have yet to catch up with what this may mean. Instead of one HD stream being sent out of your campus, could you have dozens? Hundreds? Is this pipe big enough to stream not video, but a hologram? What if, instead of just streaming the pastor across town, you were streaming the whole congregation? You could turn your head to the right, change a filter in your glasses, and be talking to someone a state away – like they were right there.

And once this kind of free-flowing, rushing river of data heads across the world – there could be no stopping a great and beautiful message of grace, hope and love. There is no telling what the world will look like just a few short months from now, as our Internet providers compete to up the ante on what data can do.

There will be no telling what new collaborations, new learnings, new dangers and new worlds will be facing in two years. At the 2016 Olympics, just four years after the most immersive digital experience that’s ever been offered through the 2012 Olympics, how different our world will be – all because of data.

Thank you, July 2012, for setting up our future.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Linne is executive producer of digital marketing for the B&H Publishing Group of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. He writes a monthly technology column for Baptist Press.)
8/7/2012 12:59:43 PM by Aaron Linne, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



What if you could record your entire life?

August 2 2012 by Aaron Linne, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The greatest struggle the rising generation will have is knowing too much about the world around them – and so little about their own lives. With a few taps on a phone, we can call up the exact population of Lincoln, Neb., or find out what the purpose of our pancreas is. More importantly, we can jump to any verse in the Bible and find a wealth of commentary about it.

This world of knowledge, however, comes with its own psychological and intellectual issues. Specifically, we don’t have to remember stuff. We can skate by with a cursory knowledge of things and – when we need to – dive deep into a topic and have full knowledge of facts, stats and figures. As our minds, education and cultures adapt to this expansive yet unretained knowledge base there is a critical issue at hand:

Forgetting the details of our own lives.

If we don’t have to retain knowledge about how to make bread or some other random piece of hand-me-down information, we become accustomed to not needing to remember anything. And that goes for our personal lives. Do you remember the new guy at church last week? Do you remember the name of the random couple you went to lunch with last month?

Do you know the exact date and time you led someone to Christ?

Surprise, surprise: technology has an answer for that.
 
This year, two key pieces of technology have been announced that will change the way we remember our lives forever. One is for capturing our memories; one is for organizing them. Of course, they are both in prototype stages. But what if you could record every moment of your life?

At the 2012 Google I/O conference, Google revealed that the Google Project Glass was a real device. Originally unveiled as a concept video earlier in the year, at the I/O conference a live stream was sent from a variety of people wearing the glasses jumping from a helicopter, rappelling down a building, and doing tricks on bikes until they landed on stage. All live, streaming from a camera on their glasses.

Google announced that early next year, prototypes of the device will be available to developers who want to start creating apps. The glasses contain a camera, a microphone, headphones, a touch pad, hard drive and, of course, a display that you can see for interacting with the device. The device can automatically capture photos, take video, give heads up display information like a text message and even show maps for directions.

Of course, that’s what it can do today. In the future, the device is expected to be able to do facial recognition, letting you know who you are talking to. It will be able to give augmented information, so you can just look at a restaurant and it will automatically pull up ratings from Yelp. You’ll be able to video conference, flipping the view between your phone camera’s facing you and showing off what you are seeing. In short, it’s going to change the way the real world interacts with our digital world.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has been building a prototype software called Lifebrowser. In this project, researcher Eric Horvitz has been chronicling his life the past several years by taking pictures, adding in calendar entries or scanning Facebook status updates. The Lifebrowser software automatically detects key events that happened in your life and can create “landmark events” to help organize your life dynamically. You are then able to zoom in and out of your own personal timeline to see what occurred when.

In short, two of the major technology companies in the world are working to automate the memories of your life. In a time when our ability – and even our need – to recall knowledge about the world around us is decreasing, tools are being put into place to help us digitally retain our experiences. Imagine when we’ll be able to video our full day. What does that even mean for society?

How would you talk differently if someone was recording you?

What magazines would you look at if someone else could see a live feed of your glasses?

What would you share if you could stream your life?

How do we hold on to memories, when every one of them can be shared? If our personal interactions are broadcast to the world, does it make them superficial? At the same time, if we could hold on to our cherished moments forever, how could we risk not recording them? How could I ever choose to not recall the first dinner with a new friend or the first time my child hit a home run?

We live in a world where, in just a few years, there will be companies eager to record and organize our every moment. Where if there isn’t a digital element to an event, the timeline of our lives won’t have record of the landmark occasion. Will this make us better people, or simply better at forgetting?

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Linne is executive producer of digital marketing for the B&H Publishing Group of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. He writes a monthly technology column for Baptist Press.)
8/2/2012 1:57:26 PM by Aaron Linne, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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