February 2012

Life is short – redeem the time

February 29 2012 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. – Your days are numbered.

That cheery thought occurred to me – not for the first time – as I read a recent USA TODAY story headlined, “How long do I have, Doc?” Patients often hesitate to ask their doctors that question, but many would like to know the answer. They can visit a new website that offers rough estimates of life expectancy based on their answers to a set of questions. Similar online tools predict longevity based on age, nutrition and level of physical activity.

One medical professional interviewed for the article questioned the value of such tools. “My experience is that patients know and families know that life is not infinite,” she told the reporter.

True, but occasional confirmation of your mortality – if not the actual date – can put things into spiritual perspective, regardless of age or health. “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom,” the psalmist prays (Psalm 90:12).

Time is a holy thing, if we make it so. It is our daily, hourly, moment-by-moment opportunity to love God. We can use it for Him, or we can waste it on ourselves. “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

“Making the most” in that verse literally means “redeeming.” Time needs to be redeemed, to be rescued and made whole. Otherwise it is squandered.

One of the saddest people I ever knew spent most of his life seeking excitement and pleasures for himself. He died virtually alone, having driven away nearly all the people who loved him. He felt cheated by the world because nothing brought him real happiness. In his last years, he kept saying, “Enough. I’m tired. I’ve lived too long. I’m ready for it to be over.” He sounded like the weary Solomon of Ecclesiastes, who finally realized the vanity of all things apart from God. Unlike Solomon, he never admitted his misery was self-inflicted.

Sadder still are young people who waste the gift of time because they think there is an unlimited supply of it. The nonstop distractions available via new media technologies make the process of squandering that gift much easier and more efficient. One day you wake up and realize you have entertained yourself for a lifetime – and accomplished nothing of consequence.

For all our activities and gadgets and apps, we are bored. Why? There is nothing more boring than living for ourselves. We must continually find new pleasures and sensations to stave off despair. The days become evil.

There’s a better way. We were created to love God – moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day. It isn’t always easy, but it’s never boring. And it fills our hearts with joy that cheap substitutes can’t begin to match. It’s not too late to redeem the time, no matter how much you have wasted.

Begin with small things.

“Have I ever been carried away to do something for God not because it was my duty, nor because it was useful, nor because there was anything in it at all beyond the fact that I love Him?” asks Oswald Chambers. “Have I ever realized that I can bring to God things which are of value to Him ... Not divine, colossal things which could be recorded as marvelous, but ordinary, simple human things which will give evidence to God that I am abandoned to Him?”

Small things have a way of becoming large things. The child you read Bible stories to might become a missionary. The immigrant you treat with kindness might become the first follower of Christ among her people. The friend you encourage might lead thousands to God.

Time is holy, or evil. It’s up to you what to make of it.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is global correspondent for the International Mission Board (IMB). Visit “WorldView Conversation,” the blog related to this column, at http://worldviewconversation.blogspot.com/. Listen to an audio version at http://media1.imbresources.org/files/147/14723/14723-81739.mp3.)
2/29/2012 4:20:33 PM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



New film spotlights abortion, power of forgiveness

February 29 2012 by Dwayne Hastings, Guest Column

There have been over 52 million abortions performed in the U.S. since the ignominious Roe v. Wade court decision in 1973. And for every abortion there is a woman who to some degree – knowingly or unknowingly – is complicit in the taking of her baby’s life.
 
While those around her may have tried to convince her that it was in the baby’s “best interest” not to live and that it was good for her well-being that she abort her unborn child, the reality is that no one walks out of an abortion clinic totally whole.
 
Abortion doesn’t just impact the unborn child. The emotional, and sometimes physical, damage to its mother is severe and long lasting – even if the mother herself denies it. The ring of damage extends to the baby’s extended family, including his father and grandparents, particularly if they advocated for the abortion.
 
The statistics about abortion are staggering. Nearly half of the 6 million pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned and about 1.3 million end in abortion. At this pace, nearly a third of U.S. women will have had an abortion by the time they turn 45.
 
Those who push a so-called pro-choice perspective disavow reality when they say that women can have an abortion and be unchanged. Apart from Christ, they have been inalterably changed. Most often abortive women seek to deal with the emotional trauma and distress on their own. Society tells them to get over it and to get on with their lives.
 
Yet there is healing and forgiveness with no strings attached in Christ. Jesus knows the pain; He feels their hurt. And He wishes each person, no matter his or her background or baggage, to come to Him in faith.
 
This is a spiritual issue. The scourge of abortion is the sour fruit of a culture that denies that all human life is beautiful and valuable. The reality of abortion is evidence the church has failed to teach Truth and to be “salt” and “light.”
 
‘October Baby’
As Christ-followers, we must forgive because we have been forgiven. The soon-to-be released film “October Baby” centers on the redemptive power of forgiveness. The film, written by brothers Andrew and Jon Erwin, follows a college freshman, whose mother tried to abort her, as she searches for answers to a growing list of questions. “October Baby,” which will release in selected theatres March 23, is a powerful tool for encouraging church-goers to re-engage in the “life” issue.
 
As Christians, it is our responsibility to support women in difficult pregnancies, particularly when they lack a support network. It is the church’s duty to teach the biblical precept of the sanctity of every human life. The burden rests on people of faith to care for children who are unwanted–either to foster care, adopt, or support those who are called to do so.
 
And Christians are obligated to reach out in love and in forgiveness to those who are still struggling with a decision they made years earlier to abort their child.
 
The tragic reality is that the state of the culture in the area of “life” in the 21st century can be laid at the feet of Bible-believing Americans who are neither speaking out nor stepping out for the innocent and defenseless. When God’s people go silent and hide their “light” under a basket, children are at risk and people suffer.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dwayne Hastings is the vice-president of communications for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.)
2/29/2012 4:19:09 PM by Dwayne Hastings, Guest Column | with 0 comments



The Summit Church, SBC, and Cooperative Program

February 27 2012 by J.D. Greear, Guest Column

(EDITOR’S NOTE – J.D. Greear is lead pastor at The Summit Church in Durham. This column originally appeared on his blog jdgreear.com.)
 
I have written ... before on The Summit Church’s relationship to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), why we believe it is a valuable network/denomination and why we are a committed part of it and plan to be so for many years to come. If it’s of any interest to you, I did not grow up Southern Baptist, and thus I have no nostalgic loyalty to it. I am in the SBC by choice and conviction. I believe strategic partnership and networking is key for the progress of the Great Commission.
 
In recent years, the rubbing point for many younger pastors has been how much to give to the “Cooperative Program” (CP), the joint “pot” of SBC churches. The CP finances the Southern Baptist seminaries, the North American Mission Board, the International Mission Board, and other Southern Baptist mission efforts. The CP has enabled the SBC to do unparalleled things. For example, Southern Baptists have put more missionaries on the field (5000+ currently) and provided a more affordable, higher quality theological education than any other denomination. That’s what happens when 42,000+ churches contribute to a collective pot.
 
The problem (famously now) is that so much of what is given to the CP stays right here in the states, particularly in those states where there are already a great number of churches. The Baptist State Convention of NC keeps something like 65 cents of every dollar given to the CP. That means of every dollar given, only 35 cents makes it out of the state! From there it is further divided between seminaries and national agencies. A disturbingly small fraction makes it to the actual “mission field.” Can it really be considered a wise investment of the money that God, and our church, has entrusted to us to get to the field?
 
A couple of thoughts. First, I don’t mind paying for some “bureaucracy.” “Bureaucracy” is just a fancy word for “organization,” and organization is necessary for effective cooperative networks. So, I have no problem paying for an organizing, administrating group.
 
Second, I want to be a team player. I really like the current leadership of our SBC, both on the national and state levels. The leaders of the IMB, NAMB, our seminaries and our state have an aggressive, and in my view, properly prioritized view of mission. They are about as good as you could ask for. And most really want to turn the system around so that more money gets to the field.
 
It’s just that the institutions are so big, and have suffered from mission drift for so long, that even with the right leaders now in place, it will be a long journey to get our dollar allocations back to the right levels. It’s not fair to say to an organization, “Hey, re-organize 70 percent of your budget and give most of it away!” and expect that they can do that overnight. For example, Milton Hollifield, the executive director of our state convention, is a very mission-minded man, and committed to increasing the amount they get to the field by half a percent a year – which, when you think about it, is quite significant. In order to do that, they’ve had to make some painful cutbacks. And for that I am very grateful. I want to support their efforts, and believe they are headed in the right direction.
 
So I feel caught in a dilemma: I believe in the SBC and I want to support it, particularly the good work I see happening in it. But I also have to be a wise steward of the money entrusted by our church to me for the sake of missions. There are a lot of good things the N.C. Baptist State Convention is doing, but there are also a lot of churches already here in N.C. We (the local churches) can and should be leading in mission efforts in our own state. It’s not that there is no role for a state convention in that – there are certainly some things we could use a central office to help us with – but we want to see most of our money, all but a fraction, going to places where there is no church.
 
So what then do we do? Here’s where we, the Summit Church, currently are: We plan to increase our giving to the CP in the years to come, especially as we see the Convention going in such positive directions.
 
Admittedly, we have let our direct giving to the CP get too low. It’s not that we quit giving to missions – in fact, that’s at an all time high for us. Last year, we gave nearly 20 percent of our income away to missions, and 900K of that went to specifically Southern Baptist mission efforts and institutions (for example, the IMB, Southern Baptist church plants, the seminaries, etc.) – but the amount we gave to the CP itself was too low.
 
While we are doing that, however, we will continue to give directly to institutions we are particularly excited about, bypassing some of the unnecessary bureaucracy. As the system gets leaner, our giving will increase.
 
I don’t think there’s any question that some of the institutions must cease to function, at least at their current levels. The flatness of the world and cultural shifts in our country have made some of the institutions less necessary today than they once were. Don’t expect those institutions to go away quietly. Institutions have a tendency to fight for their survival. This is understandable. Most see themselves as pursuing genuinely good works, and for the most part, they are. The question is not, however, whether their works are good, but whether they are the best investment of kingdom dollars.
 
I hope the process of change can be expedited. I pray God raises up leaders who act courageously. We need there to be a future for the SBC. We need our seminaries to continue to provide excellent and affordable theological education. Otherwise, how will we stem the rising tide of secularism? We need educated, biblically-grounded and philosophically-aware pulpits. We need organization and support for church planting, both domestic and international. We need organizations to help us serve the poor and the orphans around the world.
 
Bottom line: At the Summit Church, we plan to increase our CP giving, and pray that the institutions of the SBC increase the speed of their restructuring as well.
2/27/2012 2:08:08 PM by J.D. Greear, Guest Column | with 0 comments



Changing names is good, changing actions is better

February 24 2012 by Ed Stetzer, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – This week an administrative committee for my denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), approved a recommendation that the SBC adopt the informal name of “Great Commission Baptists” (GCB).

The proposal will be presented at the SBC Annual Meeting in June, and I will support it.

Initially, I would have liked to see something more than an “informal name,” but I think the change will help in many local church situations (though for the foreseeable future, my church will still list itself as SBC, rather than GCB).

I understand this is a tough decision with many layers of complexity ranging from legal issues to public perceptions to historical accords, and this gives churches a choice. I might have made a different choice, but I will support this one.

I agree with the task force that the equity we have in the SBC name is helpful in many respects and whatever could be gained by changing the name of the denomination cannot measure up to what would be lost from our nearly 170-year history. However, there is also much negative baggage that comes with the name – some because of what we believe, but some because of how we act.

That history is what has brought us to this juncture. For example, and since the task force referenced it, the injustices condoned or perpetrated by those bearing the name “Southern Baptist” have brought distrust and discord in African-American communities. And I am glad the task force chose to address the issue head-on.

It is widely known that the founders of the convention split from the North for reasons that included the right to appoint slave-holding missionaries. That leaves a deep scar. Furthermore, the fact that many Southern Baptists were on the wrong side of those hoses in Birmingham, Ala., a century later also leaves a scar.

I’m grateful for the churches like that of committee member Ken Fentress, where sound Christian theology takes priority over cultural and political norms. This is, unfortunately, not always the case. For some, there is still deep sociological and racial tension, and the name “Southern Baptist” does nothing to dispel this.

There are, of course, many other issues caused by bad decisions and bad relationships. Some people don’t like the SBC because of what it stands for – and we can take the hits for that. But let’s be honest, much of this bad reputation has been earned by bad actions.

Thus, the new name isn’t the only – nor the most important – change needed. I’m speaking in Australia this month so I missed the task force’s presentation, but I understand Frank Page, Jimmy Draper, and others mentioned this very truth. Changing the name of the convention is useless if the people of the convention do not change as well. The key issue is not a name change, but a heart change.

I believe there are three needs facing the Southern Baptist Convention currently that new resurgences, name changes, and study groups can’t fix.

First is a need to stop bickering and infighting. My fear is the proposed name change will drive an even deeper wedge in an already wide rift between different SBC factions. I can tell you it is an amazing thing to see just how much Baptists like to fight. You could name yourself an Egyptian hieroglyph and say you are “the Baptist denomination formally known as Southern.” But if you are mean-spirited, you just have to change the name again in a few years. And, yet, that fighting and bickering continues.

Baptists always seem to need a bogeyman, and changing the name won’t change that. This infighting, name-calling, and dishonest “watchblogging” must stop if the convention as a whole is to progress. We must speak up and call for unity, honesty and cooperation among leaders and their blogging proxies. Tolerate nothing less.

Secondly, we must work together to promote cooperation. We are a convention that needs to work in a unified manner toward a unified goal: that the world might know Christ, and God be glorified through that. We must act like a convention, not a bunch of small constituencies that want to get their own way. Only after we understand that the goal is bigger than us, our groups, and our views will we be able to unify for Great Commission work.

The promise of the SBC’s conservative resurgence was that we would eventually agree on enough to cooperate for global missions. Well, when will that day come? We will never be Great Commission anything if we can’t say, “We agree on enough in our Baptist Faith and Message. Let’s get busy doing missions and evangelism.” It is an odd day indeed when it’s controversial to say we favor cooperation around the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. We must stop pushing for narrower and narrower parameters. Let’s move on – and into mission.

Finally, we need to keep the goal in sight. The new moniker, “Great Commission Baptists,” does that. If nothing else, every time we think of our additional name, we will be reminded of what we should be doing. Clinging solely to our legal name, “Southern Baptist Convention,” would have worked functionally, but GCB speaks to our DNA. We don’t need to be primarily “Southern” or “conventional,” but a group of churches on mission. Our goal is to be about the task for which Jesus called us.

I say it often, but it’s worth repeating: God is a sending God, and we are a sent people. The most profound instruction we ever have received as it relates to our mission is the Great Commission. I’ve written about it in almost a dozen books on evangelism, missions and outreach – it’s my life’s ministry agenda. And, it is why I stay SBC. If we keep the Great Commission as our focus we can succeed as a convention no matter the name.

So, Southern Baptists, let us act like Great Commission Baptists – that will both help fix the reputation of the old name and build a good reputation for the new “nickname.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ed Stetzer is president of LifeWay Research.)
2/24/2012 1:05:56 PM by Ed Stetzer, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



5 ways to avoid temptation on social media

February 23 2012 by Terri Stovall, Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas – Social networking – few things have so defined and shaped our culture. From Facebook to Twitter to Pinterest, it seems like everyone who is anyone has one, if not multiple, ways to stay connected. Whether it is looking at pictures of family celebrations, grandparents keeping up with grandchildren, businesses and ministries promoting themselves or reminiscing about old friends and flames, social media is today’s yellow pages, white pages, yearbook, family album and party line – all rolled up in one.

Through them the gospel has been proclaimed, many a woman has been mentored, and relationships have been strengthened. Conversely, social media sites offer a method of connection that tickles our desire for instant gratification and provides a glimpse into the lives of others, often leading to damaging and destructive consequences.

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers has been in the news in the past couple of years, highlighting the use of Facebook as either a cause of infidelity and subsequent divorce or as a way to build a case for divorce. While reports are mixed as to whether social media is playing an increasing role in marital infidelity and divorce, it is clear that this new way of connecting with people can be used for good and for bad.

Whether it’s reconnecting with an ex-boyfriend, private interaction with a co-worker, or making personal info about your life open to an acquaintance, sites like Facebook offer daily opportunities for a downward spiral.

As Christians who seek to follow after God’s own heart and want to protect our marriages and our families, we must determine our personal boundaries when it comes to social networking. Only if we place hedges of protection and accountability around us are we guarded.

Two reminders:

1. Scripture is clear that “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7). Jesus brings this in to real-world living when he says, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28). He further expounds in Matthew 15 that all words, actions and deeds flow from what is already in the heart. If we begin to wonder what our lives would have been like “if only,” we open the door to emotional infidelity. If we fantasize, visualize or imagine what it would be like to be with someone else, we have been unfaithful to the covenant marriage relationship. For women especially, emotional affairs happen long before any physical boundaries are crossed.

2. Ephesians 5 instructs wives not only to submit to their husbands but also to respect their husbands. For many men, respect is the strongest love language around. Comparing your husband to other men, even if he does not know about it, is a form of disrespect. Disrespect will begin to lay fault lines in the foundation of any marriage.

There are ways to use social networking for good and keep a hedge of protection in place. First and foremost, you and your husband should covenant together that you will do all that you can to protect your marriage from anything that could come in to steal, kill and destroy it. This includes innocent things like Facebook and Twitter.

We must remember that no marriage is so safe that we can let our guard down.

Based on the commitment to protect your marriage and family, consider these practical suggestions to help you live that out:

1. Use the Internet in public. It is good practice for your family to make Internet access on a computer placed in a public part of the home, such as the living room or kitchen. Using the computer in more private areas such as a study or bedroom can easily provide an opening where temptation can seep.

2. Joint account. Create a joint account with your spouse or, at the very least, make sure you know each other’s password. Yes, you both trust each other; yet this simple accountability can often be all that is needed to make us stop and consider our actions. Once one person has something to hide, only trouble can follow.

3. Mutual friending. Do not friend anyone of the opposite sex that is not also a friend of your spouse’s. If a friend of yours requests to be a Facebook friend, only accept the invitation if your spouse is friends as well. Single gals, consider this when you friend-request a married man. If a married man sends you a friend request, check if you’re friends with his wife. If not, be sure to take the initiative of accountability and friend-request her, or just decline the married man’s request.

4. Make yourself unavailable. Keep logged off in the online chat arena. In order to do online chat, even with your girlfriends, you have to make yourself available or “online.” This opens the door for men to initiate online chat with you, which is never appropriate, and can provide for some awkward situations. The solution is never to be available for online chat.

5. Unplug. If you find yourself still struggling with boundaries and getting too close to the line, just deactivate your account. Maybe it is time for a little old fashioned face-to-face time with your husband, your children and your friends, rather than electronic words on a screen.

Perhaps after reading this, you realize that you’ve gone outside the boundaries of wisdom in social networking. What if you have already crossed the line?

1. God heals and redeems. We serve a God who loves us with an everlasting love. Admit to Him that this is a desire that you have and its enticement is strong. Confess that love for Him is better and that you place this desire at His throne. Ask Him to forgive you, to cleanse you and to restore the damage that you have done to yourself and the relationships around you. Then take the steps necessary to guard your heart and mind from future indiscretions.

2. Find an accountability partner. Enlist someone who can be a true accountability partner for you, who can ask the tough questions about your Internet use, your marriage and your relationships. Find someone to whom you can be completely transparent and who will challenge you to take steps towards holiness rather than helping you figure out how close to the line you can be.

3. Disconnect from all social media sites. If someone is an alcoholic, he cannot have access to alcohol. If someone is a drug addict, she better do all she can to limit access to drugs. While you might be saying, “But I am not addicted to Facebook!” if you cannot control your use of social media, you are, at some level, addicted. Pull the plug and remove what is causing you to stumble.

Social media is a great way to stay connected to friends and family. Through a tweet of 140 characters we can give encouragement to a discouraged friend. Through pictures posted on Facebook we can relive the fond memories of a recent celebration. However, social media can also be a gateway to destructive behavior that tears down and separates. It all depends on the user.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Terri Stovall is dean of women’s programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She co-authored the book “Women Leading Women.” This column first appeared at BiblicalWoman.org, a blog of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.)
2/23/2012 1:21:36 PM by Terri Stovall, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Oneness, not sameness, needed to reach North America

February 22 2012 by Kevin Ezell, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – During my first year as president of the North American Mission Board I gained a deeper appreciation for who we are as Southern Baptists. It was my aim to get out and meet as many people as I could. As a result, in one year’s time, I was able to visit the majority of the state conventions and spend time with the people there. The thing I was most thankful for was how diverse we are as a convention and how God is using that diversity to reach people of all backgrounds for Christ.

I am thankful for the early Home Mission Board missionaries who took the gospel to the new territories of North America so the people there would have an opportunity to hear about Jesus and have a church to worship in. I recently heard the story of one of those early pioneers, a man named Paul James.

James was the pastor of the Baptist Tabernacle of Atlanta, one of the largest SBC churches of its day, who left his position there to move to New York City to start the Manhattan Baptist Church. James arrived in NYC in 1957 and by 1977 he had played a major role in establishing more than 100 new SBC churches in the metro area. The churches that James planted were among some of the first ethnic churches in the SBC, including the first Polish congregation established in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1963.

James also helped the SBC cross the color barrier. Keith L. Cogburn’s book, “Like the Book of Acts,” notes that in the fall of 1958 the Manhattan congregation welcomed its first black member, Chris Oswampke, a Nigerian student who had been led to Christ by Southern Baptist missionaries. James’ commitment to New York City ultimately led to thousands of people having a relationship with Christ.

Paul James understood that Southern Baptists are a people who are unified by our passion for the Great Commission and our unwavering commitment to the inerrant Word of God. He understood that we could be “one” without being the “same.” Southern Baptists from Mississippi to Montreal will look different and will have differing perspectives on personal and church life, but we are unified in the gospel of the Lord Jesus as outlined in our Baptist Faith and Message.

As we move forward in 2012, the pioneer spirit of men like Paul James is what we as the SBC are going to have to embody. Not only will we have to be willing to venture into uncharted geographies, but we will have to adapt our methodologies to reach people for Jesus and plant churches among the growing diversity of people who call North America home.

The North American Mission Board stands ready to help all of our SBC churches, associations and conventions in the task of evangelism that results in new churches being planted. It is going to take us all working together as “one” if we are going to get the job done.

For more information on getting your church involved in church planting, log onto namb.net and click “Mobilize Me.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kevin Ezell is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board.)
2/22/2012 2:03:08 PM by Kevin Ezell, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Linsanity, Tebow-mania & the evangelistic witness

February 21 2012 by Bryan Cribb, Baptist Press

ANDERSON, S.C. – Have you caught Linsanity yet? Unless you live life with sports blinders, you probably have at least noticed the meteoric rise of Jeremy Lin, starting point guard of the New York Knicks as of only a week or so ago.

On Valentine’s evening, this improbable hero again amazed the watching world. Lin drained a last-second 3-pointer to win the sixth-straight game for the Knicks since Lin – a perpetual benchwarmer for his brief NBA career and only the fourth NBA player ever from Harvard – took over as team leader. Thrust into the starting lineup due to injuries to more high-profile and highly paid players, Lin has set the ever-combustible media market in the Big Apple ablaze. The Asian American, who until recently went unrecognized even by Knicks security guards, now has spawned the highest TV ratings in recent memory for the team and galvanized the city.

What makes Lin even more intriguing, however, is his forthright Christian faith.

Labeled the “Taiwanese Tebow” by sports journalists, Lin has not shied from expressing his faith on the court, through the Internet, and in other forums. And he seems genuinely grounded in the faith. A recent Religion News Service article quoted him saying in a recent post-game interview, “I’m just thankful to God for everything. Like the Bible says, ‘God works in all things for the good of those who love Him.’”

The article describes Lin’s desire to play “godly basketball.” As his longtime pastor asserts about him, “Very early in his life he decided to pay heed to the call of Christ to take up the cross daily and follow after him.”

In an online testimony recently, Lin quotes well-known pastor/author John Piper regarding the supremacy of Christ over sports and success. Lin then states, “When Paul wrote in Philippians to press on for an upward prize, he was living for that, and it made his life meaningful (Philippians 3:15). And I realized I had to learn to do the same. I had to learn to stop chasing the perishable prizes of this earth, I had to stop chasing personal glory, I had to learn how to give my best effort to God and trust him with the results. I have to learn to have enough faith to trust in His grace and to trust in His sovereign and perfect plan. I had to submit my will, my desires, my dreams – give it all up to God and say, ‘Look, I am going to give my best effort, go on the court and play every day for you, and I’m going to let you take care of the rest.’ This is something I struggle with every day.  ... Playing for great stats is nice, but that satisfaction – that happiness – is only from game to game. It’s temporary.”

Wow!

Of course, all of these characteristics remind of Tim Tebow, the Denver Broncos quarterback, former Heisman winner, and outspoken Christian, who led his team on an improbable run to the NFL playoffs, even as naysayers decried his passing ability and doubted his capability to quarterback his team.

In the face of such scorn, Tebow consistently exhibited Christlike humility, grace and determined leadership. And the world took note.

Now, I come from an era when Christian sports heroes might thank God for a win or mention praying or talk about being a Christian in general terms. I would often excitedly tell friends about sports figures who avowed faith publicly. But then I would witness these same Christian stars fall in some heinous sin or, just as bad, make an appearance on Trinity Broadcasting Network with sequin donned “prosperity gospel” hawkers, talking about God’s “blessing” on their careers.

But with Lin and Tebow, we seem to have a new breed of Christian athlete – orthodox and exemplary, in addition to being outspoken and excellent in their God-given roles.

I mean, how refreshing was it to see Tebow recently turn down an opportunity to speak at a conference/rally that was to be hosted by the well-known prosperity proponents Rod Parsley and Kenneth Copeland! Tebow rightly recognized what is the true Gospel and what is, as Paul states, a patently false “contrary to the one we preached to you” (Galatians 1:8).

Yes, I believe Tebow and Lin represent excellent examples of a new era of Christian athletes who are unashamed, as well as grounded in the historic faith once for all delivered to the saints.

And they are having an impact on secular culture – if anything by bringing Christianity out of the realm of private expression and into the realm of public discourse.

I almost wrecked my car a few weeks ago after hearing two very secular hosts of a Fox sports radio program argue over a correct scripture reference. One of the hosts apparently looked it up on the spot and found the quotation. The source of this odd discussion? Tebow, of course.

What makes these two athletes such powerful witnesses is not just their fame and not just their “on their frontlets” faith. It is their character and leadership and excellence in what they do for a living. Seeing Lin selflessly delivering key passes, diving for every loose ball, chest bumping his teammates ... Seeing Tebow inspiring a rather uninspiring Denver Broncos supporting cast to play beyond their ability ... To use a hip term, these actions “represent.” Specifically, they model Christ to the watching world.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that these two seem to represent with a well-grounded faith, as well. But it does show all Christians an example of how a Christian may impact his or her respective circle of influence with positive outlooks, energetic leadership, selfless service, humility in the wake of accomplishment, and unashamed witness whenever the opportunity presents.

This doesn’t mean that you need to “Tebow” the next time you get a raise. But I do believe that open witness backed by impeccable character and orthodox theology is a powerful evangelistic tool in any setting – whether on the football field or the basketball court, or just in your cubicle or by the copy machine.

Christian “Linsanity” can happen anywhere. And we need more unsung, everyday Tebows and Lins for the cause of Christ.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bryan Cribb is assistant professor of Christian Studies at Anderson University in Anderson, S.C. This column first appeared at MinistryU.org, a blog of Anderson University’s faculty.)

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2/21/2012 7:01:30 PM by Bryan Cribb, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



On Adoniram Judson bicentennial: please go and dig

February 20 2012 by Jason G. Duesing, Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas – The rocks signified a specific event in Israel’s history. The crossing of the Jordan into the Promised Land – a supernatural event – revealed God acting on behalf of His people to keep His promise, show His faithfulness, and display His might.
 
While the generation who migrated across the divided river would never forget walking through that divinely made aisle, human nature and subsequent circumstances likely would have prevented those distinct memories from remaining with the next generation.

So, the Lord God instructed Joshua to create the small tower – not a man-made object of worship or a magical location for accessing the divine favor – but rather a catalyst of remembrance, a memorial (Joshua 4:19-24). Prone to wander, the Israelites needed a physical object to remind them of the great work of God so that they might remain both grateful for and faithful to Him.
 
However, the establishment of the memorial also conveyed a message to the watching world. Only a God of great might could act to deliver His own people in this manner. The memorial stones were meant to witness to the world that the God of Israel was faithful and true.

Not long after the international celebration of the Judson Centennial in 1913 – the anniversary of the gospel being brought to the country – Baptists in Burma erected a sizable memorial stone on the site of the Let-Ma-Yoon prison to commemorate Adoniram Judson’s missionary legacy and sacrifice for the Burmese. Pictures of the stone are difficult to find today, but an inscription on one side tells how Judson, “in this prison of horror which stood here sustained in his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the devotion of his heroic wife, endured unrecorded sufferings from June 1824 to May 1825.”

After the political winds changed in Burma and it became Myanmar, the government sought to eradicate all references to Judson throughout the country. In 1988, the bicentennial year of Judson’s birth, Myanmar authorities tried to bulldoze the stone and throw it in the river. Due to its immense size, all attempts failed, and the authorities determined their only option was to bury it. For the last 24 years, the monument designed to introduce Judson and Judson’s God to future generations has been covered.

For all the years I have worked for him, I had heard how Paige Patterson, with the aid of friends, had found his way to the Let-Ma-Yoon prison. Patterson regularly described what was left of the prison grounds with colorful attention to detail. The landmarks that Judson saw, enormous trees and a leaning palace tower, still remained along with tall overgrown brush. Amid a clearing where the prison once stood and under which the memorial stone is buried, Patterson and friends reenacted Judson’s plight. To hear the story was to live it and my admiration for the Judsons only grew.

During the summer of 2010, after teaching seminary students in a neighboring country, I set out to see if the prison or location of the memorial stone could still be found. To my surprise however, it was not the ultimate discovery of a hidden prison, but what I heard there, that made all the difference.

After a day of dusty and cumbersome travel, I hoped that I would soon arrive at Let-Ma-Yoon. Had my translator and I not sought the help of a local elderly man, we would not have found it. Remarkably, the local man not only knew where to take us, but also knew the significance of what was there.

Once we arrived, I walked out into a nearby field to survey the scene while my translator and the elderly man stayed under three large trees talking in their native tongue. Standing in the field, weeds taller than my shoulders grew wildly all around for several acres. As I took video footage and a few photographs on a very windy day, it took me a moment to realize that the elderly man and my translator’s conversation had grown in volume and intensity. The old man kept pointing to the ground under the trees and repeated the same phrase again and again. My translator had tears in his eyes when he turned to me to explain.

“This man knows about the memorial stone that is buried here. He says he has lived in this area his entire life and remembers the time when the stone was visible for all to see. Now that it is buried, he knows there is a generation who knows nothing of Judson and what Judson did for Burma.

“He told me that he knows he is old and will soon die. He said to me that since I am young he would like me to make him a promise. He said that should the political situation ever change in this country, he wants me to promise him that I will come and dig up the stone and restore it so people will once again know of Judson.

“And then he started pleading and saying, ‘Please come and dig. Please come and dig. Please come and dig.’”

As I write this, the cry of an elderly Burmese man to please come and dig still rings in my ears. Just as Paul heard the Macedonian call in Acts 16 to go and preach the gospel, whether he knows it or not, such is the real substance of this elderly man’s call to dig.

Memorial stones and missionary legacies are important, but one day they, too, will fade. The call to please come and dig is the call Adoniram Judson first answered when he left America for Burma 200 years ago. It is the call that still goes out for many no longer to build upon other’s foundations (Romans 15:20), but instead to go to the places where the name of Christ is suppressed, buried or not known. There are peoples from every tribe, tongue, and nation ready to hear of the Lord Jesus that Judson proclaimed, but how will they hear unless a new generation of Judsons is sent (Romans 10:15)?

Regardless of the state of a buried rock under three trees in Myanmar, the life and mission of Adoniram Judson itself is truly a memorial stone that points to the mercies of God in Christ. Just as Joshua 4:24 explains that Joshua’s memorial stone existed “so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty,” so does Judson’s life and mission.

Nearing the 200th anniversary of Judson’s departure for missionary service it is fitting to unearth this metaphorical stone and present a call to imitate Adoniram Judson in taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Right now there is an old man in Myanmar holding out hope that someday someone will unearth the large granite stone and tell a new generation of Burmese about Adoniram Judson. However, what the people of Myanmar need more is a new generation of Judsons coming to tell them about Jesus.

Please go and dig.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jason G. Duesing serves as vice president for strategic initiatives and assistant professor of historical theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and is the editor of the forthcoming book, “Adoniram Judson: A Bicentennial Appreciation of the Pioneer American Missionary” [B&H Academic, 2012]. This article is an adaption of the author’s conclusion from that volume.)
2/20/2012 1:47:12 PM by Jason G. Duesing, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



A tune-up or an overhaul?

February 17 2012 by Larry Doyle, Baptist Press

GREENSBORO – One of the things I remember about my dad was his uncanny ability to diagnose what was wrong with an automobile. When I was a teen, he owned and operated his own garage where he serviced cars, trucks and just about anything with four wheels.

In the days before computers and electronic diagnostic devices, he would listen to the engine, ask a few key questions, and listen carefully to the owners’ responses. Then, he would share his opinion about the needed service or repair. I must admit I did not learn much from my dad about cars, but I did learn the difference between a tune-up and an overhaul. A tune-up was relatively quick and inexpensive, requiring just a few hours of work without taking too big a bite out of the pocketbook. An overhaul was another matter altogether, and usually required leaving the car for a day or two, while the engine was taken apart, parts replaced and the engine reassembled. No one wanted to hear that diagnosis.

When it comes to following Christ, I’ve discovered most of us tend to settle for a tune-up, when what we really need is an overhaul. We think following Jesus is something we can add into the mix of our lives without too much of an adjustment in our routines. We don’t mind Jesus making a few minor changes or variations. We are OK with a little “touch-up” work and a few minor alterations here and there.

However, according to the New Testament, following Jesus requires much more than a few adjustments or changes. It requires an overhaul – a transformation. A tune-up cannot fix the brokenness deep within each and every one of us. Only a complete transformation, a divine intervention, by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can reach deep within us to heal our hearts, and save our souls. In other words, becoming a follower of Jesus is much more like an overhaul than a tune-up.

The “tune-up mentality” however, is seen everywhere in the American Christian culture. Like everything else in our world, we want it fast, and we want it now. Even in some religious groups and some churches, following Jesus has been reduced to an invitation to “pray a prayer” and let “Jesus come into your heart.” Yes, becoming a follower of Jesus does start with a prayer, but it’s a prayer of repentance and forgiveness, preceded by a deep conviction of sin and a heartfelt confession. And, yes, Jesus does come into our hearts and lives, but when He does, He brings life-changing transformation, an overhaul so radical that Jesus referred to the experience as being “born again” (John 3:3). Paul said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

I don’t know about you, but before I became a follower of Jesus, I needed an overhaul in my life. The interesting thing about experiencing total transformation is that you will never settle for just a tune-up again. As a follower of Jesus, we constantly surrender to Him, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us to produce the Christlikeness we could never manufacture on our own. Paul, the Apostle said it this way:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2.

If all you want out of your church or religious experience is a tune-up, just about any kind of religious experience or adjustment will do. You will get just what you are looking for. If, on the other hand, you are desperate for a total transformation, an overhaul, a completely new start, an extreme makeover, then a total surrender to Jesus is for you.

I urge you: Don’t settle for a tune-up when you could get an overhaul.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Larry Doyle is director of missions of the Piedmont Baptist Association in North Carolina.)
2/17/2012 2:07:20 PM by Larry Doyle, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



So what’s an ‘open door’ to do with the gospel?

February 16 2012 by Jeff Iorg, Baptist Press

MILL VALLEY, Calif. – One of the challenges of maintaining ministry or witnessing relationships is knowing when and how to offer spiritual input into another person’s life.
 
It’s easy when “visitation” of people who first visited your church is your only model of sharing the gospel or offering ministry to others. You know the purpose of the meeting, the other person knows it, and the conversation isn’t really started until the spiritual purpose is introduced. That’s fine in that context.

But what about your family members – the people you share holidays, family events, and life’s ups and downs? What about your co-workers, neighbors, friends at your gym, or other people you interact with on a consistent basis? Every conversation isn’t about the gospel or other spiritual issues. In fact, if that is all you talk about you may find you don’t have too many of these people in your life. They see you coming – and go the other way.

As Christians, we have a responsibility to share the gospel. We want to do that as often as appropriate. We are also supposed to be kind, not browbeating people or otherwise being a nuisance. When that happens, the Good News becomes bad news! None of us want that. So, when and how do you help your friends and family consider spiritual issues, particularly the gospel? You look for open doors of opportunity.

Paul used this imagery in 2 Corinthians 2:12 and reported praying that “God may open a door for us” in Colossians 4:3. The image of an open door means “a created opportunity.” We should pray for and look for these in the lives of people around us. That begs the question, “What does an open door look like?”

Working with people, particularly as a corporate chaplain in the baseball world, has helped me to crystallize an answer. These four phrases encapsulate the “open doors” we are looking for: people die, health fails, relationships struggle, things break. When any of these things happen – and one or more of them is inevitable – the opportunity to speak up about the gospel (and other spiritual resources God provides) is presenting itself. Pay attention and walk through the open door.

For example, a few years ago a friend’s mother died. I showed up at the funeral. He asked, “What are you doing here?” I replied, “I thought you might need a friend today.” Through tears he replied, “Thanks.” That moment opened the door for further conversation about his life, his mother, and his questions about life after death (and the gospel). In another instant, a friend was injured in a work-related accident. I showed up, sat with his wife while he was being treated, and she said, “Can you say a prayer for us?” After that, we freely talked about God, the gospel, and his care for us.

Pay attention to what’s happening to people in your circle of relationships. Don’t stress about how to bring up the gospel or otherwise dialogue about your faith. Just watch for open doors – and have the courage to walk through them. Remember, when people are hurting most other people avoid them – afraid of saying the wrong thing or uncorking emotions they can’t handle. Don’t be that person. Have the spiritual maturity to draw close to distressed friends. When you do, amazing things happen.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jeff Iorg is president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., just north of San Francisco, and the author of “Live Like a Missionary.” This column first appeared at his blog, JeffIorg.com.)
2/16/2012 1:33:34 PM by Jeff Iorg, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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