May 2013

10 reasons to be involved in a church

May 8 2013 by David Roach, Baptist Press

SHELBYVILLE, Ky. – According to a recent newspaper report, only 8 percent of British men attend church regularly, though 53 percent identify themselves as Christians. 

And the situation is similar in other Western nations, with more than 40 percent of U.S. evangelicals not attending church weekly and more than 60 percent of American mainline Christians not attending weekly, according to Pew data. In short, millions who consider themselves Christians limit their church attendance largely to holidays, weddings and funerals.

If you’re among these millions, please give church another chance. By getting involved, you’ll discover that what you once viewed as a chore is actually a blessing. Here are 10 reasons why:
  1. Church involvement is evidence that you’re a Christian in the first place. It also helps keep you from abandoning the faith. According to the author of Hebrews, the antidote to developing an “unbelieving heart” that leads you “to fall away from the living God” is to “exhort one another” (Hebrews 3:12-13) – an activity that occurs most prominently in the church.
  2. Gathering with a church encourages believers to love others and do good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25).
  3. A church is the main venue for using your spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1-31). God has given you abilities and talents intended to help other Christians. If you’re not involved in a church, others are being deprived of what you have to offer.
  4. A church helps you defend Christianity against those who attack it. When Jude told the early Christians to “contend for the faith” (Jude 3), he directed his instruction toward a group of believers, not a scattering of lone-ranger Christians. Answering challenges from coworkers, friends and family members is always easier when you can ask fellow church members for help and wisdom.
  5. A church is a great venue for pooling resources to support missions and benevolent works (2 Corinthians 8:1-7; 3 John 5-8). Your money combined with that of fellow church members can do a lot for Christ.
  6. A church helps its members maintain correct doctrine (1 Timothy 3:15). You might begin to adopt unbiblical ideas without realizing it yourself. But you probably won’t adopt unbiblical ideas without someone at your church realizing it, and they can help you get back to the truth.
  7. After your family, a church is the best group of people to meet your physical needs in an emergency (1 John 3:16-17; 1 Timothy 5:3-16).
  8. A church supports you when you face persecution (Acts 4:23-31; 12:12-17). You may not be imprisoned for your Christian beliefs like the apostles were, but a church family is still a great source of comfort when you face stinging words or unfair treatment.
  9. A church is where you can be baptized and take part in the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34; Ephesians 4:4-6). These two ordinances are a vital part of any believer’s walk with Jesus.
  10. A church provides the setting for corporate worship (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Though it’s a blessing to praise God alone, there is a unique joy that accompanies singing God’s praises with an entire congregation of Christ followers.
The list could go on, but you get the idea. It’s worth it to start attending church.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This column first appeared at the blog of Bible Mesh, a website that teaches the Bible as a unified story pointing to Christ. David Roach is a writer in Shelbyville, Ky.)
5/8/2013 4:11:58 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Begin early & be consistent (tips for handling rebellion in kids)

May 8 2013 by Elizabeth Owens, Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas – Recently I had the privilege of spending some time with a wise young mom and her very cute 17-month-old son. During the course of our conversation she told me that she and her husband were surprised when, at the child’s tender age of six months, they began to notice rebellious behavior. They had not expected to see it so soon, and said they realized that they had to begin early to deal with it. She related that they were finding that they needed to be consistent in handling rebellion.

Bingo! They have got it right. When dealing with rebellious behavior in children, the plan should be to begin early, and be consistent.

Some say that rebellious behavior in our children is a sign they are trying to be independent, and that all we need to do is educate our children, and they will naturally make the “right choices.” They say that people are inherently good, and it just takes education and the right environment for them to choose to do the right thing.

However, one of the keys to dealing with rebelliousness in our children is to correctly identify it for what it is. It seems to be a shock to realize that the sweet-faced little child with whom we have been blessed actually has a sin nature. The Bible tells us that all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and explains that it is because we are born with a sin nature passed down from Adam (Romans 5:12-17). It is only when we recognize our child’s behavior for what it truly is that we can begin to deal with it effectively.

Our goal as parents is to raise children to become independent young adults who are willing to assume responsibility for themselves and to live in submission to God’s authority in their lives. Our work begins when they are babies. We should be training them for independence and obedience almost from the day they are born. Your child needs to learn to submit his rebellious will to the will of his parents, just as we submit our rebellious wills to God. We as adults need to exercise self-discipline to live lives of obedience to God (Romans 12:1, 2; I Corinthians 9:24-27); in the same way we need to train our children to learn self-discipline in order to obey us.

The first time you saw your crawling child reach out to touch an electrical outlet, you probably said “no!” and pulled him away from it. Your child was exerting independence and expressing curiosity, which are both good things. A minute or two later you may have seen him crawl back to it, study it, and then, while looking at you, reach out to touch it again. While your child is again exerting his independence, he is now doing it in a way that is rebellious to your authority. At this point simply pulling him away is not teaching him self-discipline. (You can keep pulling him away from things you do not want him to touch or do, but it will be a lot harder when he is fifteen and weighs 30 pounds more than you do.) Stopping him and “educating him” (telling him about electricity and why it is dangerous) will not keep him from the outlet. At his young age, what will keep him from the outlet is his choice to obey you. He needs to develop his own self-control to not touch the outlet, and this requires training on your part, which may include punishment for disobedience. At the very least it requires time and a consistent approach.

Perhaps, it could be argued, if you would just child-proof your home, you would not have to have these difficult confrontations. While I agree that you probably don’t want to leave irreplaceable or dangerous objects out where a young child has access to them, your child will never learn to obey your authority and develop self-control if there is no reason for it. This is a lesson better learned early, than late. 

One has only to watch the news, and the sports reports, to see adults who never learned to respect those in authority over them, and to have self-discipline. Begin early. Be consistent.

When my husband served as pastor, he on more than one occasion had parents come to his office to talk to him about their rebellious 15-year-old. He usually thought to himself, “It would be better if we had had this conversation about 13 years ago.” 

Following are a couple of random thoughts about beginning early and being consistent with children. I learned them as a young mom from wise older moms. (The Titus 2 model is there for a reason – it really works!)
  • If it won’t be cute at 15, then it shouldn’t be cute at 2. The smart aleck attitude that you might laugh at in your 3-year-old won’t be funny when he is 15. Be the parent; deal with it when your child is 3. While you may chuckle at the 2-year-old peeking over his shoulder to see if you are watching when he knows that he is disobeying you, it won’t be funny when he is 15. Be the parent; deal with it when your child is 2. 
  • If you wouldn’t want 12 children doing it, then don’t let one do it. This one I learned from my mother-in-law. So, for instance, if you don’t want 12 children running in and out of the house yelling at each other and slamming doors, don’t let one or two do it. It is much easier to not have to re-train children. Your kids can help their friends know the house rules when they visit. (Let me say here that noise and commotion go along with children to a certain extent, and that is part of the joy of a family. But there is a difference between happy noise and controlled chaos, and children running and yelling thoughtlessly and out of control. Decide on your limits, and train your children.) 
The truth is that true freedom comes from self-control and obedience. An adult can function freely if he obeys the laws and has developed self-control. In the same way, a child can be given more freedom within certain parameters if the parent knows that the child is obedient and has a certain level of self-control. Ultimately, our hope for our children is that they choose to submit their will to the Lordship of God in their life, and that the obedience they learned as a child by submitting to their parents becomes obedience to God as they live a life of self-discipline and service to their Savior.

Be early. Be consistent. 

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Elizabeth Owens is a homeschooler and is the mother of four. Her husband is Waylan Owens, dean of the school of church and family ministries at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. This column first appeared at http://waylanandbetsyowens.com.)
5/8/2013 4:07:07 PM by Elizabeth Owens, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Mother’s Day: The greatest legacies

May 7 2013 by Kathy Chapman Sharp, Baptist Press

People say my daughter looks like me. She does, but it is not the only similarity we share. 
 
We both love to decorate. I am in my French Country stage of life having gone through Country and Colonial. 
 
Rebekah, not so much. 

Walking through the first home she and her husband Terrence bought, the word eclectic comes to mind. It is a house that says, “Artists live here.” Explosions of color greet you when you walk into the living room and continue to welcome you in whatever direction you turn. There’s peacock blue in the living room, burnt orange in the dining room and raspberry in the downstairs bath. Chartreuse green – which feels like happiness on the staircase wall – is mixed with stripes and a bold mural I recognize as Rebekah’s work. 
 
And finally, when you leave, you are treated to the unique art on the front door which has been covered with Rebekah’s signature swirls and dots created with a Sharpie pen. 
 
Yes, quite a difference from the inheritable rustic provincial elegance I’ve strived to create in my home. But, I think that’s the point. 
 
We also both love to cook and entertain. Even when she was too short to reach the counter, she’d pull up a chair and help me stir the batter for cookies and scones as we prepared for open houses and afternoon teas. She learned to carefully measure ingredients for cakes and watched the time as we baked cookies for a school function or the new neighbors next door.  
 
When Rebekah was 6 years old, we moved into a nice white house on Rua Fialho de Almeida in Campinas, Saõ Paulo, Brazil. By that time she was a pro at new languages and cultures, having already lived in two states and Madrid, Spain. We settled into our new life quickly; every morning Terry and I would go to language school where we were learned Portuguese, and Rebekah would head off to the Little Red Riding Hood School where she soaked up the language like a sponge. And, just like in Spain, she was speaking it faster and better than Terry and I ever hoped to accomplish.  
 
One day she burst into the kitchen with a mission. “I need cardboard boxes,” she said, her beribboned braids flying through the air. When I asked why, she told me about the little boy at the front gate. “He’s looking for cardboard and paper because the storm blew his house down.” 
 
We found some old moving boxes out back in the storage room and broke several down. “I can do it,” she insisted when I offered to help carry the cardboard to the front gate. Gathering her treasure, she balanced the awkward bundles under her arms and started down the narrow sidewalk that led to the front of the house. But before she reached her destination, she set her bundles down and ran back into the kitchen where I had returned to finish dinner preparations. “Do we have any food we can give them?” she asked in a low voice with a troubled look in her eyes. “I bet they’re hungry since they don’t have a house.”  
 
She took three little loaves of fresh bread I’d bought for dinner and put them into the bag of black beans I brought from the pantry. By the time she added a banana, two apples and an orange, the bag was bulging, and she balanced it carefully in her arms as she made her way outside and lifted it through the bars to the eager hands that waited patiently on the other side. First the bag of food, and then, one by one, the flat boxes, destined to become the new walls of a shanty. They talked for a few minutes before the beautiful brown boy tucked the bag into the crook of one arm and dragged the cardboard down the street behind him, heading back to the hillside slum he called home.  
 
The very next day, we went to the market and bought large bags of rice and beans and measured them out by the kilo into brown paper sacks Rebekah had decorated with pictures of hearts and flowers, carefully writing ARROZ across the bottom of half the bags with rice and FEIJÃO on the rest. Taping them shut, we lined them up on the lower pantry shelf so that whenever hungry children came clapping at the gate, Rebekah would have something to give them.  
 
And that’s what she did. She watched for them, hurrying out to the gate to eagerly greet them before running back in to grab the bags of rice and whatever fruit and bread or cookies we had to send with them.
 
She loved the children who came to the gate; the only difference she saw between them and herself was the hunger in their eyes.  
 
Rebekah is a married woman now, but I still see the generous heart of the little girl who drew pictures on brown paper bags and carried her gifts of food to the gate. I hope others see the fingerprints I have left on this child. But more importantly, I hope others see the fingerprints she has left on me. 
 
Sometimes legacy is handed down, but other times a legacy is handed up. People may say my daughter looks like me, but I hope I look more like her.  
 
As a mother I’ve learned that the greatest legacies are not family heirlooms or recipes handed down from generation to generation. The greatest legacies come when we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our motives of love and compassion. Life’s too short to leave legacies for tomorrow – we must live them today and build trails on which our children will follow.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kathy Chapman Sharp is a communications consultant, speaker and conference leader and author of Life’s Too Short to Miss the Big Picture for Women from which this article is excerpted. Chapman Sharp formerly was director of communications for Saddleback Church, Purpose Driven Ministries and The Chapel and has held management positions at LifeWay Christian Resources and the International Mission Board.)
5/7/2013 2:25:59 PM by Kathy Chapman Sharp, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Jason Collins is not a hero, but let’s pray for him

May 7 2013 by Jeff Robinson, Baptist Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Sports Illustrated dropped a bombshell on the world of professional sports by announcing through its cover story that veteran NBA center Jason Collins has come out of the closet as an openly gay athlete.

Predictably, the mainstream news media has hailed Collins as a hero and a pioneer. And predictably, his “coming out” has led to his being compared to Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King Jr. and others.

I agree that it is a landmark moment, but it is a sad and troubling landmark that has now been set upon the landscape of professional sports and our culture – like those lurid adult club signs that mar and pockmark the beauty of the natural scenery alongside interstate highways. As historical comparisons go, this moment to me feels much more like the Roe v. Wade decision or the recent decision to allow women to fight in combat. In other words, there is nothing here to celebrate.

I worked as a journalist and a sportswriter for many years before entering ministry, and I continue to hold a keen interest in sports. As a minister of the gospel, I also cast a wary eye on the culture within which God has called me to proclaim the Good News. That said, here are a few observations on the news surrounding Jason Collins:
  • Jason Collins is not a hero. A hero is someone who lays down his life for his platoon or his country in war, a person who rescues a baby from a burning building, a person who loves to such a degree that it drives him to lay down his life for his friends. Celebrating participation in that which God calls sin is never heroic. Let’s face it, Collins’ announcement is not even counter-cultural in America in 2013. The mainstream media will canonize him as a patron saint of gay rights, but make no mistake, he is no hero.
  • Jason Collins is not Jackie Robinson nor is he MLK. Comparing Collins to these two men is an affront to their legacies. Jackie Robinson was a hero who suffered for his people, tearing down a wall of separation that was erected to exclude a group of people from participation in a sport due to their skin color. Men made in the image of God were discriminated against because of externalities and this was tragic. MLK laid down his life for an equality which scripture clearly affirms: “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:25). This is hardly the same thing as fomenting for the freedom to choose a partner for sexual intimacy. In the history of sports, there has never been a wall labeled “sexual orientation” on the outside. It is an issue of recent vintage. Collins has not suffered and will not suffer, because the national media and popular culture in America have embraced and advanced homosexuality and its dark agenda for many years now. Robinson suffered grinding persecution, his first name often a hateful slur that began with an “n.” MLK paid for civil rights with his own blood. Jackie Robinson was an evangelical Christian who would likely disapprove of Collins’ lifestyle choice. MLK was a preacher of God’s Word which clearly depicts homosexuality as turning the created order on its head (Romans 1:18-32).
  • Jason Collins serves as evidence that homosexuality is, in most cases, a lifestyle choice and not a genetic orientation. In the wake of his announcement, Collins’ fiancée of eight years, a woman named Carolyn Moos, spoke to ESPN. Moos was shocked by her former fiancee’s announcement. The two had planned to marry and Moos had seen no hint of same-sex attraction in Collins. While I certainly believe there are many, including Christians, who struggle with same-sex attraction, I also believe Collins illustrates the truth that the embrace of homosexuality is more often than not a volitional choice. But as R. Albert Mohler Jr. has pointed out, even if a so-called “gay gene” were eventually found, we must recognize that even our genes are fallen and stand in need of transformation by grace. Encouraging another person to embrace a bent toward same-sex attraction, even were it proven to be genetically driven, would be akin to encouraging them to submit fully to a tendency toward womanizing, a violent temper, meth addiction or hitting the bottle daily. No, we must pray for grace to resist all our sinful tendencies, and this comes only through the heart-change wrought by the Spirit of God through the gospel of Christ.
  • Jason Collins needs prayer and the gospel, not enablement. As followers of Christ, we must reject the news media’s portrayal of Collin’ announcement as a Shakespearean romance or a landmark moment in civil rights. Telling Collins to embrace his sinful desires would be like telling Pete Rose to embrace his gambling addiction or telling Ty Cobb to embrace his violent racism. Sinners need rescue from sin, not affirmation to continue in it. As those who have been transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ, we must pray that God will open Jason Collins’ eyes to the reality of his sinful and destructive lifestyle and that the transforming grace of God will unshackle him from bondage to it. Sovereign, unilateral grace is what every sinner, including us, including me, needs and it is the Good News that, by God’s grace, will give the story of Jason Collins the happiest ending of all. Let us refrain from condemning Jason Collins, but let us also love him enough to pray that God will pour out His redeeming mercy on Collins and make him a trophy of amazing grace.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jeff Robinson is elder of preaching and pastoral vision at Philadelphia Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.)
5/7/2013 2:07:56 PM by Jeff Robinson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



The media’s inconsistent logic on abortion

May 6 2013 by Jeff Iorg, Baptist Press

MILL VALLEY, Calif. – The Seton Hall University woman’s lacrosse team was involved in a bus accident in March. The bus driver and head coach were killed, and many players were injured. This is a horrific event for the families of the deceased, the injured and the university community. Our hearts go out to them and prayers go up for them. May God sustain them through the pain

The news reporting of this accident caught my attention. The two large, local newspapers in my area reported coach Kristina Quigley, who was pregnant, was killed – along with her “unborn son” (San Francisco Chronicle) or “unborn child” (San Jose Mercury News). Ms. Quigley was about six months pregnant. Multiple other Internet news sources reported two people were killed in the accident – referring only to the driver and the coach without mentioning the child

The media, who largely support abortion on demand, don’t know exactly how to handle the death of an unborn son/child/fetus. They can’t really report it as another “person” killed in the accident – which would be inconsistent with their position that abortion doesn’t really take a life, just eliminates tissue. By reporting the “unborn” as a “son” or “child,” they seem to be actually acknowledging that some “one,” not some “thing,” actually died in the accident. 

Confusing! 

Many who support abortion would argue a fetus this developed is, of course, a child. They would reject late-term abortions as outside what should be “on demand.” But that raises the inevitable question, “how late in the term?” Which day, exactly, does tissue turn into a child? The only answer that makes sense to me is the day he or she is conceived. 

When an unborn child dies in an accident, the media, most people (and probably most abortionists) call it a tragedy. If this woman had aborted the child a few weeks earlier, the same people would have called it a choice. 

Tragedy or choice – it can’t be both.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jeff Iorg is president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif. This column first appeared at his website, JeffIorg.com.) 
5/6/2013 4:09:19 PM by Jeff Iorg, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Developing a yearly rhythm for church prayer

May 6 2013 by Phil Miglioratti, Baptist Press

PALATINE, Ill. – Nine years into my pastorate of a small, suburban congregation all heaven broke loose. On a Sunday in December 1989, like the Berlin Wall that had recently crumbled half-way across the globe, a wall came crashing down in our church. Our creative but comfortable evangelical congregation suddenly went from singing three short choruses each Sunday to worshipping for 30 minutes or more. Our theology of the Holy Spirit went from belief to experience. We began a journey that took us into realms of prayer we had never imagined.

Looking back on that experience more than a decade later, I realized the Holy Spirit had led us into a rhythm of praying. The rhythm of our praying allowed all of us, not just individuals, but the church as a whole, to move closer to the Apostle Paul’s command to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Hardly realizing how it had happened, we had developed an approach to praying that was daily, weekly, monthly, seasonally and annually. With a variety of prayer opportunities, we involved more than just the praying core of the congregation in different forms of significant and strategic prayer. 

Here is a sample of some of the things our congregation did as we developed a rhythmic pattern for prayer:
  • Daily. My goal was for prayer to permeate the life of every member of our congregation every day. Sometimes I asked everyone to follow the same daily prayer guide such as Seek God for the City (www.waymakers.org) so that we all were praying toward the same needs or issues on the same day. Regularly, I reinforced the prayer habit in my sermons and teachings as well as by distributing prayer-focused resources (articles, books and so on) to various leaders and members to stir up their interest for daily prayer. 
  • Weekly. We usually held an all-church meeting devoted to prayer once a week. In addition, small groups transformed into places of prayer, and leaders were trained in how to facilitate Spirit-led prayer. 
  • ­Monthly. Some of our members who were unsure about coming to a weekly gathering were willing to try a monthly prayer time. These times allowed people who were hesitant to jump into (what they thought was) the deep end of the pool get in more gradually, wading in at their own pace. These gatherings often were focused on Christ as together we celebrated the Lord’s Supper, and shared songs, scriptures and spoken prayers of thanksgiving. 
  • Seasonally. Often holidays or other special days provided the opportunity to call the church to prayer. These special events varied in theme (such as the National Day of Prayer) or focus (e.g. spiritual warfare on Halloween). We also held prayer workshops several times a year that combined teaching and modeling as a way to help members take another step into the ministry of prayer.
  • Annually. Soon after our Berlin Wall experience, I had begun attending a Pastors’ Prayer Group (http://nppn.org/PPG.htm) in which we actually spent more time praying than talking! At least once a year we would get away for an extended time of prayer. Those one-day retreats were life-transforming for me personally, but also led me to change our congregation’s yearly planning retreats. As the leaders of the church came aside to plan I made certain we also set aside substantial time to pray. We learned that the unity we needed in order to discern and decide future plans was the fruit of spending significant time praising, seeking and listening to the Lord before and during our planning sessions. Because of the prayerful focus of the few, the entire congregation was blessed with God’s agenda for the coming year. 
The possibilities are endless when a pastor, prayer leader or church leadership team champions a rhythmic perspective on the prayer life of the congregation. If you would like to begin a rhythm of prayer in your church, ask yourself these questions as you prayerfully consider the next 12 months:
  • Daily: What resources can you provide to your church members to challenge and equip them to pray meaningfully every day? Scripture-based prayer cards (http://www.navpress.com/catalog/57/Prayer-Cards-Spiritual-Growth) are one possibility. 
  • Weekly: Is there a weekly doorway into a place of prayer that is appropriate for everyone in your congregation? Is there substantial time given to prayer when men’s or women’s groups meet? Do the Sunday School classes or fellowship group have a segment devoted to prayer? Is there a prayer room available for members to visit any time? Do worshippers have an opportunity to participate in prayer during the weekend services?
  • Monthly: Can you provide training workshops incorporating a focus on a specific aspect of prayer (such as intercession, missions-focused groups, prayer walking or healing prayer)? Could you invite the members to the Lord’s Table with a different prayer emphasis each month?
  • Seasonally: Which holidays can you capitalize upon to create a special prayer event each month? For example, Valentine’s Day (marriages), Thanksgiving, or the beginning of the new school year? 
  • Annually: Could you provide your members with a 24- to 48-hour prayer summit experience? (Go to www.prayersummits.net for information.)
Think about it: If you can start motivating your congregation to become actively involved in church-wide prayer, walls may come down and all heaven might break loose!

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Phil Miglioratti is state prayer consultant for the Illinois Baptist State Association.)
5/6/2013 3:46:41 PM by Phil Miglioratti, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Worship as a lifestyle

May 3 2013 by David Jeremiah, Baptist Press

EL CAJON, Calif. – Many of us live in cities where sunsets and mountain horizons have become distant memories. The majestic stars are blacked out. Just as our capabilities in cities have grown exponentially, our capacity for wonder seems to have withered. 

Before we can say anything about worship, we must come to grips with this idea of wonder. For worship can never be the sole work of the rational mind. In the presence of Almighty God, as the Apostle John discovered, the sense of wonder comes naturally and leaves us changed. But without the capability of awe, where we stand at the edge of ourselves and gaze beyond, we will never come into His presence.


Experience vs. event

Since the days of our first parents in the Garden of Eden, worship has walked a tightrope between lifestyle and liturgy. When God walked in the Garden with His first children in the cool of the day, Adam and Eve worshipped Him as we should – without interruption. The Creator and His creatures experienced a continual, ongoing exchange of provision and praise. God provided everything Adam and Eve needed, and they responded with praise – with gratitude, reverence, honor, submission, and holy fear. 

Yet the experience of worship was soon transformed into an event. Adam and Eve sinned, their state of worship was interrupted, and they were expelled from God’s presence. The next thing we see is their sons engaged in an act of worship – the bringing of offerings to the Lord. Instead of worship being the uninterrupted experience of man, sin necessitated the scheduling of worship to a time and a place (Genesis 4:3-4). 


Appointed vs. perpetual

Reading the elaborate and detailed plans God gave to Israel by which they were to worship in the tabernacle illustrates the legitimacy of appointed times and places of worship. And yet as a backdrop to the appointed times of worship were the perpetual acts of worship which went on before the Lord day and night (Exodus 30:8; Leviticus 6:12; Leviticus 24:5-9). 

But when we get to the New Testament, we find something different. Christians are the new temple and priests of God (1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 2:5, 9). Like the priesthood of old, we are to worship at appointed times as well as to worship perpetually. 

Here are some important reminders:
  • Be regular at appointed times of corporate worship. It has become increasingly popular in our culture for Christians to exempt themselves from corporate worship. Not only is this unbiblical (Hebrews 10:24-25), it has the same effect as pulling a log out of a fire. The personal fire for worship of God burns bright when fueled by the worship of many.
  • Be regular at appointed times of personal worship. It has also become widespread for Christians to plan time with God while driving, showering, exercising and mowing the lawn. I am convinced that this practice should not be a substitute for a personal “quiet” time with God. Distractions do just that – they distract. Make sure you are setting aside priority time daily to be alone with God in prayer, Bible reading and worship. 
  • Cultivate the practice of unscheduled worship. Everyone has times during the day when discretionary minutes present themselves. Instead of turning on the television, flipping through a magazine, calling a friend, or dozing off, get in the practice of redeeming the time to focus on the Lord. Communing continually with God throughout the day and night is the experience of worship (Psalm 16:7; 63:6; 119:48).
  • Offer yourself as a living sacrifice to God. This is an exhortation in the strongest of terms from the Apostle Paul (Romans 12:1). When we make the transition in our thinking from offering a sacrifice of worship to becoming a sacrifice of worship ... we are moving toward reclaiming the experience of worship which we have lost. We offer our sacrifice of worship – time, talent, and treasure – but we are the sacrifice God desires most. 
Living every moment in the wonder of worship will change the way you live every day. 

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif. For more information on Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org. This column has been approved by Turning Point for redistribution in Baptist state newspapers and in Townhall.com. For permission to reprint it, contact Myrna Davis at mdavis@turningpointonline.org.)
5/3/2013 12:33:49 PM by David Jeremiah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Jason Collins, Chris Broussard, & Homosexuality: how do we respond?

May 3 2013 by Brandon Smith, Baptist Press

DALLAS – On Monday, NBA player Jason Collins stepped forward and said he was gay, making him the first athlete in professional sports history to “come out” while still an active player. He also claims to be a Christian despite his choice to engage in such a lifestyle.

Chris Broussard, an NBA analyst for ESPN and president of a men’s ministry named K.I.N.G., was asked to join ESPN’s Outside the Lines to discuss the matter.

When asked if he believes that Jason Collins is a Christian, he said this: “Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly premarital sex between heterosexuals, if you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits, it says that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be – not just homosexuality, [but] adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals, whatever it may be – I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. So I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian.”

Of course, the backlash against Broussard is in full effect. ESPN issued a statement, arrow-shooting columnist Gregg Doyel of CBS questioned his “decency,” and social media was abuzz. On the flip side, Christians worldwide are lauding his bravery in standing on scripture.

The question is, how do we as Christian respond to this story?
  1. Be clear and gracious. Those in defense of Collins are calling Broussard a bigot, judgmental, hateful, ignorant, intolerant, and so on. (Which is ironically intolerant.) If you’re like me, you may have the gut-response to respond with biting words. However, Christians must be particularly aware of how we frame this discussion publicly. We should be prepared to show grace, mercy and love to those who struggle with this sin. There will be plenty of rhetoric to go around, so we should avoid anger while being clear about our beliefs.
  2. Be prepared for backlash. Publicly defending Broussard and scripture’s stance on homosexuality is not and will not be without repercussions. People will insult and misrepresent you and your faith. Some will not listen to reason, no matter how kind and gracious you are. Don’t be surprised, and don’t respond with hate. Boldly stand on truth and take the lumps as they come.
  3. Preach Christ. Opposition to homosexual behavior is surely a part of the Christian message. We cannot compromise this. The gospel demands that “we know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:6). But it’s imperative that we avoid overt homophobia that is destructive to civil conversation. We should pray that God might open the door for opportunities to share the message of reconciliation with our gay neighbors. They are sinners in need of a Savior, as we all are.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This column first appeared at CBMW.org, the website of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Brandon Smith is a freelance writer, associate editor of CMBW.org, and is studying historical & systematic theology at Criswell College in Dallas.)
5/3/2013 12:31:29 PM by Brandon Smith, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Painting refrigerator art for the Father

May 2 2013 by Mike Leake, Baptist Press

JASPER, Ind. – I have a coffee mug sitting on my desk. It’s very special to me because of the artwork on it. It has a heart, the letter “I,” something that looks like a dinosaur or maybe Vermont, I think some space invaders, a purple blob and an equal sign.

I think it’s supposed to say “I love you daddy.” But instead I think it says purple blob equals deformed dinosaur, I heart space invaders. I’m confident the artwork on this will never be featured in the Louvre. 

You know my response when I was handed this coffee mug, don’t you?

I didn’t say, “Son, this work that you’ve done here is quite ridiculous. What is that purple blob? Is that supposed to be a dinosaur? Because it doesn’t look like one. Is this some sort of sorry excuse for abstract art? Do you really expect me to put this on my desk and use this so that people can actually see it? Now go to your room and give me something that is actually of respectable quality for my birthday.”

Yeah, that hurt to even type. It’s ridiculous to think that even the worst of dads would respond in such a way.

Then why do we think God views His children differently? I agree with Kevin DeYoung when he says, “[F]or those who have been made right with God by grace alone through faith alone and therefore have been adopted into God’s family, many of our righteous deeds are not only not filthy in God’s eyes, they are exceedingly sweet, precious, and pleasing to him” (DeYoung, The Hole in our Holiness, 70).

I don’t expect my 4-year-old to create for me a masterpiece. But I know that every little stroke of that wobbly paintbrush was out of love for his daddy. And so I love my deformed dinosaur and my space invaders. When Isaiah handed me this mug, I did what every decent adult does when handed artwork of this caliber from a 4-year-old. I treasured it. I put it on display. I found that which was really good in it, I highlighted it, and I showered him with thanks and appreciation.

“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14).

Just as a very flawed earthly father knows to show compassion to his little boy, so our perfect Father knows our frame. Isn’t it possible that the Lord takes our wobbly efforts and pins them on his celestial refrigerator? How wonderful it is that though we are but dust the Lord takes great delight in our not yet fully redeemed, still flawed, and still tainted expressions of love!

Let’s go lovingly paint the best deformed dinosaurs that we know how.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Leake is associate pastor at First Baptist Church of Jasper, Ind. This column first appeared at MikeLeake.net and SBCVoices.com.)
5/2/2013 3:52:23 PM by Mike Leake, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Polygamy, the next marriage battle?

May 2 2013 by Evan Lenow, Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas – While the battle over same-sex marriage still rages, it is hard to imagine what the next battle might be. However, astute observers of the marriage debate have already seen the newest challenge to the definition of marriage – polygamy. 

In a recent article on Slate.com, Jillian Keenan proposes that the legalization of polygamous marriage is a desired result of the current marriage debate. She argues:

“While the Supreme Court and the rest of us are all focused on the human right of marriage equality, let’s not forget that the fight doesn’t end with same-sex marriage. We need to legalize polygamy, too. Legalized polygamy in the United States is the constitutional, feminist, and sex-positive choice. More importantly, it would actually help protect, empower, and strengthen women, children, and families.”

Keenan is not playing the “same-sex marriage is a slippery slope” card to argue against same-sex marriage. In fact, she ridicules that argument as a “tired refrain.” Instead, she brands herself as a feminist who believes polygamy is in the best interest of women and society and perfectly in keeping with the arguments for same-sex marriage.

Besides the 2011 lawsuit to decriminalize bigamy and polygamy in Utah filed by the stars of TLC’s “Sister Wives,” the discussion of polygamy and its connection to the same-sex marriage debate has been fairly silent. Keenan, however, wishes to end that silence.

While admitting that the argument against polygamy has generally been that it hurts women and children, Keenan believes legalization would actually benefit them. She claims that polygamists live in the shadows and fear the authorities. If they were allowed to live in the open, they would be more likely to report instances of abuse.

In addition, she believes feminists should support polygamy because it empowers women. She states:

“Finally, prohibiting polygamy on ‘feminist’ grounds – that these marriages are inherently degrading to the women involved – is misguided. The case for polygamy is, in fact, a feminist one and shows women the respect we deserve. Here’s the thing: As women, we really can make our own choices. We just might choose things people don’t like. If a woman wants to marry a man, that’s great. If she wants to marry another woman, that’s great too. If she wants to marry a hipster, well – I suppose that’s the price of freedom. And if she wants to marry a man with three other wives, that’s her ... choice.”

At the end of her article, she gets down to the fundamental argument for why polygamy ought to be legalized. On this point, her logic is sound – I just disagree with her first premise. She declares:

“The definition of marriage is plastic. Just like heterosexual marriage is no better or worse than homosexual marriage, marriage between two consenting adults is not inherently more or less ‘correct’ than marriage among three (or four, or six) consenting adults. Though polygamists are a minority – a tiny minority, in fact – freedom has no value unless it extends to even the smallest and most marginalized groups among us. So let’s fight for marriage equality until it extends to every same-sex couple in the United States – and then let’s keep fighting. We’re not done yet.”

Keenan’s entire argument is built upon the idea that the definition of marriage is plastic. She believes it is constantly changing and must always expand to include the newest idea.

This is the clear connection to the same-sex marriage debate.

The current battle over marriage involves the definition of marriage. Proponents of same-sex marriage (and supporters of polygamy) consider marriage to be an intimate, emotional relationship between individuals. They offer no basis for discrimination according to gender or number. Thus, the “new” definition of marriage would allow for same-sex marriage and polygamy. If culture, and specifically the government, adopts this new definition of marriage, then Keenan is right. There will be no choice but to legalize polygamy as well as same-sex marriage. However, Keenan does not go far enough. Incest is the next step of progression. We could add to her argument above: “If a woman wants to marry a man, that’s great. If she wants to marry another woman, that’s great too. If she wants to marry a hipster, well – I suppose that’s the price of freedom.” The next line should read: “If she even wants to marry her brother, that’s her choice.”

This is the direction of the debate. Keenan has opened the door and publicly stated what others have been ridiculed for saying. The definition of marriage matters. A redefinition of marriage will undermine the entire concept of marriage that has been recognized throughout human history. As Chief Justice John Roberts stated during oral arguments before the Supreme Court: “If you tell a child that somebody has to be their friend, I suppose you can force the child to say, ‘This is my friend.’ But it changes the definition of what it means to be a friend.” If we tell people they can marry whomever they wish no matter the gender, number, or blood relationship, I suppose we could call that marriage. However, it changes the definition of what it means to be married.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Evan Lenow is assistant professor of ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. This column first appeared at www.EvanLenow.com.)
5/2/2013 3:51:02 PM by Evan Lenow, Baptist Press | with 2 comments



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