March 2013

‘Les Miserables’: a God of wrath or love?

March 7 2013 by Russell Lievers, Baptist Press

CLARKSVILLE, Ind. – The Academy Award-nominated film “Les Miserables” has garnered praise as an overarching parable contrasting the Bible’s Old Testament, where God’s law and wrath is in focus, and the New Testament, where God’s love and grace is evident.

From Genesis to Revelation, however, the Bible conveys a remarkably uniform picture of the God of justice and love revealed throughout the Bible.

The New Testament book of 2 Thessalonians tells of the second coming of Christ in terms of “affliction,” “vengeance,” “flaming fire” and “everlasting destruction from the Lord’s presence” upon those who do not obey the gospel (1:6-10).
 
According to a popular contrast of Old Testament wrath and New Testament love, this sounds like what one would expect to hear thundered from the lips of some Old Testament prophet of doom rather than from the apostolic author of the Bible’s “love chapter” (1 Corinthians 13).

Remember also Jesus’ own words about the tortuous existence of the wicked in the place where “the worm dies not and the fire is not quenched.” Again, this is New Testament – Mark 9:48.

On the other hand there is not a more “New Testament” book than that of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. God speaks to His people with tender love and words of redemption in this gospel-rich book. Consider for instance chapter 53, where the servant of the Lord is described as “bearing our sicknesses” and “carrying our pains” (v.4). The people are described as straying sheep, rescued by God’s servant who bears their iniquity (v.6).

God’s classic self-revelation to Moses includes on the one hand a description of abundant love and grace, while on the other, of his searching justice and judgment:

“The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation,” (Exodus 34:6,7).

We must remember that the Old Testament law included divine commands carrying punishment for disobedience, as well as an intricate system of sacrificial worship, indicating God’s merciful will to forgive sinners based on the timeless principle made clearer in the New Testament: “without shedding of blood there is no remission,” (Hebrews 9:22).

Abraham, representing a multitude of Old Testament saints, experienced this himself (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3).

God’s plan of salvation, worked out in the historical panorama of both testaments, could be considered an exposé of these two marvelous aspects of His character coexisting in harmonious tension.

Perhaps in this regard the most instructive passage in the entire Bible is the wonderful self-disclosure from our God Himself: “I am the Lord, I do not change,” (Malachi 3:6). God’s redemption of man is an expression of His character and person and is grounded firmly in it.

The only reason anyone is saved, whether Abraham, Moses, Paul, Peter or the person that received Christ yesterday, is because God is merciful and gracious, offering forgiveness and love to anyone who turns from his or her sin in faith and repentance to the crucified, resurrected and living Christ.

It is the abundant mercy and love of God that moves Him to take upon Himself human flesh and bear the iniquity of us all in His own body on the cross. At the same time, the harsh judgment of sin is necessary because of the blinding white purity and holiness of the God who reigns in righteousness.

For God to do less than judge unrepentant sinners would make Him an inferior and flawed judge of His universe. It is this eternal, changeless God of the Bible who redeems sinners, and He does so – in any age – in a way that is entirely consistent with and that gloriously reveals His perfect justice, love and majesty.

This God of the Bible we can and should know.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Russell Lievers is pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Clarksville, Ind.)
3/7/2013 3:07:39 PM by Russell Lievers, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Homeschooling as a fundamental right of parents

March 6 2013 by Gary Ledbetter, Baptist Press

GRAPEVINE, Texas – Consider this a continuation of our discussion of religious liberty or freedom of conscience. Several articulate pundits have spoken in favor of a German couple, the Romeike family, who are seeking asylum in the U.S. to avoid crippling fines, perhaps jail time, and the potential loss of their children. Why the problem? Because they did what was illegal in their native land by homeschooling their children.

It’s not illegal here at this time, so they’ve moved to the U.S. and are being defended by a homeschool advocacy group. This is a little embarrassing to the U.S. because Germany is a close ally; we rarely grant asylum to citizens of Western nations.

Catch up with the issue by reading the Baptist Press article. This matters. The reasoning of the U.S. Department of Justice is that no religious liberty issue exists with the Romeike case because the German law is not religiously orientated – all Germans are forbidden to educate their children, not just Christian ones.

I begin with the assumption that this is a religious matter. My wife, Tammi, and I were homeschoolers. Each of our kids experienced home teaching, public schooling, and private Christian education for some portion of their childhoods. We were homeschooling parents because we believed that our children were assigned to us by the Lord (not by the state) for training in all things. Each year we considered each child and each option available to us and made the best decision we could for our family. We considered that our right, but more importantly our appropriate application of Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6:4. For us, it is a religious thing we did, and a very fundamental religious thing. Regardless of who assisted us in the teaching of our children, we were their primary teachers. And when we (rarely) discovered those assistants teaching our kids things we considered wrong or wrong-headed, we corrected the error by whatever means necessary.

One news story quoted a spokesman for the German Teachers’ Association as saying, “No parental couple can offer a breadth of education [that can] replace experienced teachers.” I pretty much disagree with that and have three well-educated and admirable kids to back up my point.

The rights of American parents to educate their own children often have been challenged, and some states are more friendly to the idea than others. That, by the way, is why the Home School Legal Defense Association exists.

And, of course, there is another way of understanding the idea of religious indoctrination. One reason that any culture would want to provide, even require, standardized education is to somewhat conform all budding citizens to a baseline understanding of citizenship. In our culture and in our day, I don’t agree with the majority opinion on morals. The “settled science” on creation, marriage and other hot-button issues is a matter of faith no less to the non-religious than to the religious. Christians are a doctrinal minority, but we are not the only “people of faith” contending for the hearts of our children. If I lived in Germany, I’d probably agree with the Romeikes and their dismay over what kids are being taught. Is that opinion allowed even in our country?

If the attorneys in the Department of Justice (DOJ) seriously misunderstand the notion of religious liberty, we have a problem. I know that immigration cases have complex facets that go beyond the convictions or even the needs of a petitioning family. But if DOJ does believe that religious freedom is not abridged if it is abridged uniformly, it has ominous implications for every American with a conscience.

To be plain, if the Romeike case is being accurately reported, they should be granted asylum as refugees from religious persecution. They are fleeing unjust persecution as surely as our Pilgrim forebears. Sending them back to imprisonment and possibly the breaking apart of their family is unworthy of this nation.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gary Ledbetter is editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, on the Web at www.TexanOnline.net, where this column first appeared.)
3/6/2013 3:17:34 PM by Gary Ledbetter, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



The top 10 faith films of the modern era

March 6 2013 by Phil Boatwright, Baptist Press

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Faith on film connects with the audience on both emotional and intellectual levels. Indeed, the most powerful expression of visual arts today is that of the cinema. Why? Because moving pictures evoke illusions of reality more convincingly than any other artistic form. True, it is a medium more often used as a voyeuristic tool than one meant to feed us spiritually. There are, however, movies that lift the spirit of man to a devotional level. For my list of “Top 10 faith films of the modern era,” I have chosen 10 movies that contain religious metaphor designed to help us confirm and explore our spiritual nature.

Keep in mind that while motion pictures can be catalysts for raising provocative questions, to find true answers, more time must be given to reading God’s Word than to viewing man’s movies.
  • Courageous” was the fourth release of Sherwood Pictures, the moviemaking ministry of Sherwood Church in Albany, Ga.

“Courageous” joined “Fireproof,” “Facing the Giants” and “Flywheel” in touching lives through heartfelt stories of faith and hope. The story concerns Christian cops wanting to be better fathers. There’s drama, comedy, action and even a bit of suspense, plus it sends the message of the need for good fathering – and teaches how to achieve this honorable goal.

  • October Baby” is a powerful parable about healing, one that tenderly reveals the psychological aftermath created by abortion.

It doesn’t preach, nor does it accuse, but it merely makes a valid point that should be considered. Maybe the most effective aspect of the production is how gently Christian philosophy is intertwined within the narrative, spotlighting the need for forgiveness and faith.

  • A Greater Yes” has a low budget, a few clunky performances, and not the best of technical aspects (the recording of dialogue for the outdoor sequences seems like it was dubbed in someone’s basement), but soon these inadequacies are dwarfed by the filmmaker’s storytelling abilities and Anne Underwood’s perceptive performance as a high school student devout in her Christian faith – even after she hears the tragic news that she has cancer.

What truly holds us to the story is the treatment of its theme – God’s ways are not our own. What seems logical to us is not always the manifesto for God’s will. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus says to His Father, “Thy will be done.” That should indicate that a “yes” to our most desired requests may not always be our Creator’s answer. That said, we can always be assured that He has a larger good, a greater yes in store.

The film reminds us of the need for faith. And like we’re taught in that perennial Christmas classic “It’s A Wonderful Life,” each life affects many others. The things we say and do out of faith can impact others. The film is a good reminder that trusting God in the darkest moments is pleasing to Him and ultimately best for us.

  • Faith Like Potatoes” tells the story of Angus Buchan, a South African farmer who suffers a series of seemingly insurmountable losses.

Through an unlikely friendship with his Zulu farmhand and God making Himself known through miraculous events, Angus discovers that the key to healing and learning to accept others lies in his unwavering belief in Jesus Christ.

  • Have a Little Faith” is based on the latest best-selling book by Mitch Albom (“Tuesdays with Morrie”).

Henry Covington was a Detroit preacher who overcame a life mired in drugs and crime. Mitch Albom, portrayed in the movie by Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing”), met the Covington when he wrote newspaper columns about homeless people and homeless shelters. Covington’s I Am My Brother’s Keeper Church provided food and a place – on the church floor – where homeless people could sleep.

The other central character in Albom’s book and movie is New Jersey Rabbi Albert Lewis, played by Academy Award winner Martin Landau (“Ed Wood”). “The Reb,” as Albom calls him, asks Albom – who had briefly attended the rabbi’s synagogue as a child – to write his eulogy.

On the surface, these two larger-than-life characters – the charismatic African-American preacher and the feisty, funny rabbi – could hardly be more different. But they each in their own way profoundly affect the writer. It’s a story about losing belief and finding it again. The producers tackle the subjects of faith and God and caring for your fellow man, giving viewers an involving, spiritually rewarding made-for-TV film (now on DVD).

  • The Nativity Story” was a blessed film event. Screenwriter and Christian Mike Rich (“The Rookie,” “Radio”) began writing a script concerning the faith journey of Mary and Joseph.

Rich’s agent, Marty Bowen, became increasingly drawn to the project. New Line Cinema’s production executive Cale Boyter was open to the idea of a story that hadn’t received major studio attention in over 40 years. And Bowen’s producer friend Wyck Godfrey was compelled to leave a comfortable position at Davis Entertainment in order to make The Nativity Story a reality. Like the Magi and the shepherds, each was being guided toward a life-changing event.

Though missing some of the grandeur we would love to have seen when the angels proclaimed the birth of the baby Jesus, the film’s team successfully fleshed out Mary and Joseph, making them real people and clarifying their love and devotion to God and to one another. It’s a love story in so many ways.

  • Amish Grace” is a true story taken from the aftermath of the 2006 schoolhouse shooting in the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa.

Kimberly Williams-Paisley (“According to Jim,” “Father of the Bride”) stars as Ida Graber, an Amish woman dealing with the tragic loss of her daughter when a crazed outsider who swore vengeance on God after his own baby girl died kills several school children.

The objective of the film isn’t to promote the Amish, but rather to give a penetrating examination of the concepts of true forgiveness and healing faith. One of the greatest mysteries of the Christian walk is this ability to forgive those who wrong us. I have come to the conclusion, after dealing with this inability in my own life, that we are unable to truly forgive on our own. It takes a healing, which can only come from the great physician Himself.

Because this is an account of such horrific proportions, and because of Kimberly Williams-Paisley’s nuanced performance, we are forced to examine the concept of forgiveness. The film is haunting.

  • Luther.” Joseph Fiennes gives a compelling performance playing Martin Luther in this fascinating, well-mounted enactment of the 16th century Christian reformer.

The filmmakers have interwoven a clear presentation of the Gospel in this suspense-filled epic, and while it is a movie, therefore subject to dramatizing, “Luther” reminds viewers of the importance of the Reformation.

  • The Gospel.” A semi-autobiographical film about the transformative power of faith and forgiveness, “The Gospel” is a contemporary drama packed with the soaring, soulful sounds of gospel music.

Set in the impassioned world of the African-American church, “The Gospel” tells the story of David Taylor (Boris Kodjoe), a dynamic young R&B star torn between his successful new life and the one he used to know.

Journalist Lee Strobel investigates two of the most searing objections to Christianity, accusations which have become barriers to faith and are confronted by believers and skeptics alike: Why is Jesus the only way to God? And how could a loving God exist if there is evil and suffering in the world?

The DVD from Lionsgate features a host of extras, including “Dealing with Doubt” and “The Least of These: The Christian’s Response to Evil and Suffering” featurettes.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – In addition to writing for Baptist Press, Phil Boatwright reviews films for www.previewonline.org. He is also a regular contributor to “The World and Everything In It,” a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group.)

3/6/2013 2:58:57 PM by Phil Boatwright, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Prop 8, DOMA at High Court

March 5 2013 by Roger S. Oldham, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Christians need to intensify their prayers for the Supreme Court in the countdown days to its deliberations on same-sex marriage later this month, according to Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee.
 
Page, who issued a call to prayer for the court [in January], reminded members of the Executive Committee (EC) of the urgent need for prayer during his remarks at the EC’s Feb. 18 plenary session in Nashville.

The court is set to hear oral arguments [this month] on two cases that will either lead to the legalization of gay marriage nationwide or affirm the rights of legislators and voters to protect traditional marriage. It will consider the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 March 26 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) March 27.

California voters passed Proposition 8 in 2008 by a margin of 52-48 percent. The amendment stated, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” It reversed a California Supreme Court ruling that had legalized gay marriage. A district court later declared the law established by the voter-initiated amendment unconstitutional. That court’s decision was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, paving the way for it to be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.

DOMA passed both houses of Congress in 1996 with wide bipartisan support – 342 to 67 in the House and 85 to 14 in the Senate. President Bill Clinton signed it into law. Two years ago, President Barack Obama instructed the Department of Justice no longer to defend this federal law. Congress has stepped in to defend its constitutionality.

In his January call to prayer, Page listed five specific ways believers in Christ should pray for the nine justices of the highest court in our nation and for those who will present oral testimony before them.

Pray first and foremost that God’s will be done. Page outlined numerous instances of God’s judgment on individual sin (in King David’s and King Rehoboam’s lives) and on national sin (against the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah).

While our preference is for God to extend mercy to us, Page said that the Lord remains a “Righteous Judge” who “punishes the unrepentant heart,” whether an individual, a family or a nation. “If He allowed judgment to fall upon His chosen people throughout history, how much more on a nation that forgets God?” Page asked.

Nevertheless, plead for God’s mercy rather than His justice. Pointing to Habakkuk’s words in Habakkuk 3:2 (LORD, I stand in awe of Your deeds. Revive Your work in these years; make it known in these years. In Your wrath remember mercy!), Page called on Southern Baptists to “pray for the hearts and minds of the justices.”

Though our nation has wandered far from biblical morality, “it only takes five justices,” Page wrote, “to establish the constitutionality of these laws and rescue our nation from the precipice of moral destruction.” He urged Christians everywhere to ask the Holy Spirit to “guide and sway each justice.”

Pray for supernatural wisdom for those who argue for the constitutionality of these two laws. Drawing attention to the ebb and flow of the judicial process, Page wrote, “The law is a fluid thing. It is always being shaped by a combination of factors, including precedent, logic, the effect of past laws on the human condition and even personal charisma of the presenters.”

He urged Christians to “pray that the individuals selected to argue for the constitutionality of traditional marriage will have keenness of insight, eloquence and logical consistency in their arguments and in response to each question directed their way” and that “their arguments will be biblically sound, compelling, reasonable and persuasive.”

Pray that those who argue against biblical truth will be ensnared in their own pride and taken captive by their own conceits. In his remarks to the EC, Page expressed disappointment that the president of the United States had instructed the Department of Justice not to defend the law of the land.

Some of the arguments presented before the court will be intended to deflect the merits of the case by raising peripheral or technical matters that are not germane to the central issue. In his January call to prayer, Page observed that “the Psalmist frequently asked the Lord to let the wicked be caught in their own schemes (Psalm 10:2).”

Pray God’s Word back to Him. Page closed his call to prayer in January by quoting the entire chapter of Isaiah 59 as a “most fitting text for us to pray as we intercede on behalf of our nation.” He noted that the Isaiah passage acknowledges God’s might, His ability and His willingness “to rescue our land from imminent moral peril.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roger S. Oldham is vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee.)
3/5/2013 2:16:50 PM by Roger S. Oldham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



The Constitution & its benefits to Christians in America

March 5 2013 by Stephen Douglas Wilson, Baptist Press

MAYFIELD, Ky. – March 4 was the 224th anniversary of the United States operating under its Constitution. Created in 1787, the document endured without legal standing for a year and a half as the different states sought to ratify it. The republic started functioning on the basis of the document on March 4, 1789. On that date the first Congress convened. Two years later, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution were added in 1791. These additions gave the new republic a strong Bill of Rights that protected the liberties of individual citizens.
 
While the Constitution rarely mentions faith or faith issues, the Christian community in the United States has received many benefits from it – a fact that is often overlooked due to the scarcity of direct references. For instance, the document only acknowledges the Deity once – in Article VII, when the original Constitutional Convention gave the unanimous consent of the states present on the date “the seventeenth day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven.”
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Two other direct faith allusions also are contained in the original document of 1787 and the subsequent Bill of Rights of 1791. In Article VI the Constitution states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” In the First Amendment contained in the Bill of Rights, the document reads, “Congress shall pass no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” No Bible verses and/or expressions from historic Christian works are contained in the document.

In fact, the major influences on the men who drafted both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights originated from the writings of the enlightenment philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries who, for the most part, believed that faith could be expressed purely by use of reason and intellect, and that God’s intervention in the process was not a necessary element – hardly a Christian concept.

For instance, Englishman Thomas Hobbes argued that government should be a contract between those that govern and the people. John Locke, taking up Hobbes’ theme in his work, Two Treatises of Government, felt that government should look out for the well-being of its citizens and respect their individual rights. He especially promoted the rights of “life, liberty, and estate” (or property) for all citizens. Interestingly enough, when Thomas Jefferson drafted most of Locke’s theme into the Declaration of Independence, he slightly revised Locke and instead wrote that the people had a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Perhaps Jefferson thought that future American governments should not guarantee that all citizens possess a property entitlement. Locke’s phrase, however, does show up in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. In that amendment the document states that citizens cannot “be deprived of ‘life, liberty, or property’ without due process.” When the 14th Amendment applied federal guarantees to the individual states, the phrase and its context was repeated.

Other enlightenment philosophers also directly impacted the Constitution. Baron Montesquieu in his work, The Spirit of the Laws, proposed that government should be divided into branches. Each branch would then maintain “checks and balances” on the others – thereby limiting the power of each branch. Cesare Beccaria, along with Voltaire, expressed concerns about how citizens were punished. Beccaria’s concerns, published in his work, On Crimes and Punishments, advanced the principle that punishments should not be “cruel or unusual.” He obviously influenced the Eighth Amendment that bans such punishments.

Enlightenment philosophers, like Voltaire (in the Treatise on Tolerance) and others, ironically agreed with the Baptists and other communities of dissenting 18th century Christians and argued against the tyranny of state-supported churches. Voltaire, along with other like-minded philosophers, instead advocated that all faiths should be allowed to worship without state interference. This influence is most evident when the Founding Fathers abolished the religious tests for federal office seekers and created the First Amendment guarantee for religious liberty. While the constitutional convention operated in a society heavily influenced by a Christian worldview, the U.S. Constitution itself was a product of enlightenment thinking, and the United States became the first modern nation to base itself on enlightenment principles.

Nevertheless, the Christian community in the United States gained important benefits from the document. Many of these benefits should be noted. First and foremost, Christians in the United States are not forced to belong to state-mandated religious bodies, and in fact, such bodies are forbidden by the First Amendment. Furthermore, the same amendment allows Christians to worship free from state interference.

Many other benefits also are enshrined as constitutional rights. The abolition of religious tests in Article VI means that Christians do not have to meet criteria from another faith to be an office-holder. As noted in the First Amendment, Christians, like all Americans, also can exercise their free speech, assemble to worship, write and publish works about their faith without government interference, and also petition the government to redress grievances. In legal matters, the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Amendments give Christians and Americans in general due process in legal proceedings, a fair trial, the right to be heard by a jury, and the right against self-incrimination. American citizens of all faiths also are protected against “cruel and unusual punishments” by the Eighth Amendment. These are just the more notable examples of how the American Constitution positively impacts the Christian community.

While we American Christians enjoy these benefits, many Christians in other parts of the world do not possess these guarantees. As I write this article, Christians endure nearly unspeakable persecution in many parts of the world. They have no legal protection, are not allowed to assemble, and many are tortured and killed. I have watched in dismay as thousands of Middle Eastern Christians pour out of the historic heartland of the Christian faith to come to our shores. Here they can worship. In their home countries of Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and the Holy Land, these historic Christian communities face discrimination, persecution and steep numerical decline. Today in the land where Jesus walked, only two percent profess Christianity, according to the CIA World Factbook: Israel.

As we acknowledge the difficulties that Christians face in many parts of the world, we also can thank the Almighty that we have the blessing and protection of the United States Constitution. These guarantees of religious liberty for the Christian community should never be taken lightly. Christians should involve themselves in the public affairs of the nation and conversely maintain exemplary citizenship. The Almighty does expect us to “give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17).

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Stephen Douglas Wilson is dean emeritus and chair of the history department of Mid-Continent University in Mayfield, Ky., and a member of the SBC Executive Committee.)
3/5/2013 2:11:32 PM by Stephen Douglas Wilson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Boys allowed in girls' restrooms?

March 4 2013 by Kelly Boggs, Baptist Press

According to a recent directive issued by the Massachusetts Department of Education, public schools in the Bay State must allow boys and girls who identify as the opposite sex to utilize whichever restroom and/or locker room they feel most comfortable using. And they won’t need a doctor’s note to do so.
 
Additionally, if a boy believes himself to be a girl, or is more comfortable identifying himself as a female, he must also be allowed to participate on girls’ sports teams. The same would hold true for a girl who chooses to identify as a male.
 
So, in Massachusetts, if a boy starts singing with conviction, “Man, I feel like a woman,” (with apologies to country singer Shania Twain) then he should, if he wants, be able to use girls’ facilities and play on female sports teams.
 
Of course, in the case of a little girl, if she identifies more with country crooner Brad Paisley's “I’m Still a Guy,” then, of course, she should, if she so desires, be able to use the bathroom and shower with boys.
 
Welcome to the convoluted and confused world of gender identity. According to the Internet site Medscape Reference, gender identity is defined as “a personal conception of oneself as male or female (or rarely, both or neither) ... Gender identity, in nearly all instances, is self-identified ...”
 
According to that description, gender identity is completely subjective. The description indicates it is based solely on “personal conception” and it is “self-identified.” Objectivity is dismissed and even rejected.
 
The definition of “conception” that would apply here, according to the Concise English Oxford Dictionary, is “the ability to imagine or understand.” So, a male who imagines or understands himself to be female is to be treated as a female.
 
If a male imagines or understands himself to be both male and female, is he then to be treated as both? Or is he to be treated as a male on odd days and a female on even days, or vice versa? How, pray tell, is a person to be treated who imagines or understands himself/herself to be neither?
 
Let me say that I am sympathetic to people who are, for whatever the reason, confused about their gender identity. I will not pretend to understand their plight, but I believe they would benefit more from counseling and prayer than by being encouraged to pretend they are something that they obviously are not – especially if they are children.
 
Children and teenagers rarely have the good sense to come in out of the rain. They are also very impressionable. To promote and encourage gender identity that is opposite of the sex God gave them at birth is, at best, naive.
 
The only thing that is worse is parents who give prepubescent children hormone blockers in order to delay puberty so that their gender-confused offspring have more time to decide if they want to have a sex change operation. Yes, there are parents who are, in fact, doing just this.
 
If a kid pretends he or she is a spider monkey, we accept this as exploring the imagination. But if the same kid insists he or she is a monkey and begins using the bathroom on the floor, eating fleas and swinging on the light fixture, it’s time to start looking for a counselor, not encouraging the behavior.
 
“Thirty years ago, in 1976,” U.S. Rep. Robert Brady observed in 2006, “the notion of organized activity to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was an extremely controversial one.”
 
The Democrat from Pennsylvania is right. The idea of accommodating so-called gender identity is no longer considered controversial. It is, in fact, being promoted and encouraged even among children by a state department of education. Those who believe the whole idea is misguided are the ones who are now considered controversial.
 
What has happened in America? As Brady's quote points out, in 1976 someone who believed he or she was born the wrong gender, both genders or no gender would be a prime candidate for psychological help. And those who encouraged them to act out their confused state were deemed out of the mainstream.
 
What has happened is that in recent decades more and more secular psychologists and psychiatrists have come to reject the idea of a divine Creator. This leads to the outright rejection of the Bible and the idea of God creating human beings as male or female.
 
In “The Brothers Karamazov,” the classic work by Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky, one of the book's main characters, Ivan Karamazov, contends that if there is no God, everything is permitted. Proverbs 29:18 in the Bible succinctly says, “Without revelation  people run wild ....”
 
Dostoyevsky’s understanding as expressed through his character is correct. If there is no God, everything is permissible. And, as the Bible states, when people have no understanding of God they are morally unrestrained, even to the point of promoting and encouraging the convoluted and confused idea of gender identity expression to children.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)
3/4/2013 11:27:50 AM by Kelly Boggs, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Does NAMB still do evangelism?

March 1 2013 by Al Gilbert, Baptist Press

Does the North American Mission Board (NAMB) still do evangelism? That’s a question I get from time to time, and the answer is, absolutely, “yes.”
 
In fact, I hope that any time NAMB is mentioned that the phrase "penetrate lostness” comes to mind, because this is our mission.
 
Doing what God has called us to and what Southern Baptists have charged us with would be impossible without concerted evangelistic efforts throughout North America.
 
We long to see every believer sharing Christ. That is why we still produce dozens of resources for churches and individuals to use as they share Christ. You can find them at our God's Plan for Sharing (GPS) website: gps2020.net/resources.
 
Here are several other ways NAMB is involved in evangelism:
 
– Through LoveLoud we are assisting churches in developing ministry evangelism movements.
 
– Disaster relief volunteers are sharing help and the hope of Christ in times of crisis.
 
– Chaplaincy ministries throughout United States Armed Forces, law enforcement and other institutions are extending the Gospel reach on the front lines of war and life.
 
– Collegiate ministries are making Christ known on college campuses.
 
– We are currently distributing free Find it Here New Testaments to every SBC church in North America. Each includes the plan of salvation and a guide through the "Romans Road."
 
– Church revitalization efforts are aimed at strengthening churches so they can reach their communities with the Gospel.
 
– In non-Southern states, NAMB pays between 80 and 95 percent of the salaries for our state Baptist conventions to have a director of evangelism for their state.
 
– In addition, every state convention outside the South receives NAMB funds specifically set aside for evangelism efforts.
 
Since 2010, our spending on specific evangelism efforts has gone from 12 percent of total expenses to 13 percent of total expenses.
 
In addition to all of these efforts focused specifically on evangelism, each one of the churches we help Southern Baptists start each year is created to have an evangelistic DNA. Our very definition of a church plant hinges on the fact that it must be evangelistic.
 
Everything we do at NAMB is for the purpose of mobilizing Southern Baptists to penetrate lostness wherever it is in North America –
whether a church planter is establishing a new work in an unreached urban area or a pastor is leading his church through a GPS outreach effort. This is why NAMB exists.
 
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Al Gilbert serves as vice president of evangelism and executive director of LoveLoud ministries for the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.) 
3/1/2013 11:43:40 AM by Al Gilbert, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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