November 2012

Capping charitable deductions would hurt charities, society

November 30 2012 by Richard Land, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – If Americans are not vigilant, they may well wake up from their New Year’s celebrations to discover that while they were cleaning up from Thanksgiving and preparing for Christmas festivities their lame duck Congress combined with the Obama administration to fashion a draconian threat to the religious and non-religious charities they cherish.

In recent weeks, both Republican and Democrat leaders have surfaced a dangerous and destructive idea in their desperation to avoid the fiscal cliff facing our nation on Jan. 1, 2013.

If nothing is done to prevent it, then on that date “sequestration,” the Congress and Obama administration’s jointly engineered fiscal monster that makes crippling cuts of the defense budget and other federal spending cuts, takes effect.

Coupled with the simultaneous expiration of all the Bush era tax cuts, the resulting financial “double-whammy” could end the extremely fragile and anemic economic recovery and plunge the country back into recession. Desperate to avoid this calamity, members of both parties are now floating the very dangerous idea of further capping deductions for those tax-filers (approximately one-third of all returns filed) who itemize deductions. People in the upper income levels are already limited regarding their charitable giving relative to their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), but current proposals would be radically more restrictive.

One of the oldest axioms of public policy is, “You reduce activities you tax and you increase activities you subsidize in the tax code.” For a century now, American government has greatly increased charitable giving by allowing people to deduct their contributions from their taxable income. American charitable giving, and the nonprofit civil society institutions such giving has funded and enabled to flourish, is the wonder and envy of the rest of the world.

By all means we should reduce tax loop holes and extravagant personal deductions. Our entire federal tax system is irredeemably broken and must be completely transformed. However, charitable deductions are fundamentally different than all other itemized deductions such as mortgage interest. Deductions for donations to charity incentivizes giving to others and certainly raises more money for charitable institutions (religious and non-religious) than would otherwise be generated. A recent study revealed that one-third of donors would give less if the tax deductibility of charitable giving were to be eliminated. This is particularly true of those most likely to give five- and six-figure donations, the kind of donations nonprofits call “sustaining gifts.”

At a time of severe economic dislocation, when the people’s demand for the services of charitable institutions is particularly high, it would be extremely counterproductive and illogical to implement tax policies which would result in crippling cuts to the budgets of charitable institutions, rendering them far less able to help the most vulnerable in our society.

The Charitable Giving Coalition, which includes more than 50 of the nation’s biggest charities and nonprofits, including the American Red Cross, Goodwill Industries, The Salvation Army, United Way and Volunteers of America, sent President Obama a letter Nov. 14 taking issue with his proposed additional cap on charitable deductions. They pointed out the economic impact of nonprofits in their letter, stating, “Nonprofits generate $1.1 trillion every year in the form of jobs and services. One in 10 U.S. workers are employed by the nonprofit sector, which provides 13.5 million jobs, or approximately 10 percent of the country’s work force.” They went on to point out that, “Data suggests that for every dollar a donor gets in tax relief for his or her donation, the public typically receives three dollars of benefit. No other tax provision generates that kind of positive public impact.” Indeed!

At a time of a seemingly ever-expanding, but financially strapped, federal government, why would that government seek to weaken and eviscerate the civil society nonprofits so necessary to act as a gentle buffer between government and individual citizens in need?

The proposal to further cap charitable deductions in the federal tax code is a threat aimed like a dagger at the heart of America’s charitable nonprofit entities, secular and religious. It will weaken most, kill many, and harm all.

The Charitable Giving Coalition’s letter to President Obama reminds him that “three out of four Americans . . . do not favor cutting, capping, or eliminating the charitable tax deduction.” Our nation’s leaders in the Executive and Legislative branches of our government should listen to the people’s wisdom and reject this truly dangerous and damaging idea.

All Americans concerned about the enormous danger that would be done by such a reckless and short-sided policy, should take time from their holiday activities, to contact their elected representatives in Washington and tell them to cease and desist from such malignant foolishness.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Richard Land is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.)

Related stories

Charitable deduction cap would be ‘devastating’
Year-end givers choose organizations they can ‘trust'
11/30/2012 2:47:50 PM by Richard Land, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



A father’s love

November 29 2012 by Cheryl Robinson, Baptist Press

WOODSTOCK, Ga. – It was St. Patrick’s Day earlier this year when my newly divorced son, actively serving in the U.S. Navy, decided to spend a fun weekend with his three children at Balboa Park in San Diego.

He made a special trip to the base the week beforehand to purchase tickets for an exciting and fun-filled day since only a few months before he had returned from a deployment overseas.

Before deploying he had intentionally taken the time to form an everlasting bond of love with his children, one they would never forget.

That morning, Jonathan, 14, Joshua, 9, and Stephanie, 5, were taking in the museums, attractions and venues when out of the cool, clear, blue sky, Joshua was gone.

Joshua is a smart little guy, often becoming sidetracked, wandering off to take a closer look at something he finds interesting or peculiar. There was so much for his curious mind to absorb and he couldn’t wait to investigate all Balboa Park had to offer.

Once Joseph realized Josh was missing, an agonizing and intense search ensued. Joseph and Jonathan, with Stephanie in tow, ran, searching frantically, through the park for an hour, but Joshua was nowhere to be found.

Out of sheer terror, Joseph decided he had a decision to make and reported Joshua as missing at the information booth.

His decision was made, and Balboa Park came to a screeching halt. An Amber Alert was issued, the gates were locked and doorways into the museums and other attractions were forced into lockdown mode. Everybody – moms and dads, police and park staff – joined in the search for Joshua.

As Joshua’s Nana, I can’t begin to imagine what was going on in his mind. I’m sure he must have been just as frightened as Joseph was. He must have run through the park too, thinking, “I’m in this huge place with all of these people. How on earth am I going to find my Dad?”

Finally, in his 9-year-old mind, he made the decision to return to the spot where he thought his dad would eventually come looking for him.

The search drug on for nearly half an hour when Joshua finally was found in the enormous parking lot, shaking nervously in the mid-day sun next to his dad’s truck amongst a sea of other cars. By the time he was found Joshua was pretty shaken up, as was the rest of his family and everyone at the park that day.

All he could think of to say was, “I thought you left me.”

Joseph lovingly responded, “I will never bring you someplace and then abandon or leave you. Do you believe me?”

“Yes,” Joshua said with his head hanging in embarrassment and relief.

What a wonderful thing for a frightened child to hear.

Our Heavenly Father has made the same promise to us. Throughout Scripture the Lord reminds us that He will never leave us or forsake us. The definition of forsake is to quit, abandon, leave behind or to cease from.

God, in His sovereignty, holds and shapes every life He’s ever created in His powerful hands. If we can begin to wrap our minds around what this means and the promise He has made to those who belong to Him, we should never have moments when we feel far from Him and His love.

In Deuteronomy 31:6, God says He will never leave us or forsake us. Allow that truth to sink into your heart and soul the next time you feel afraid or alone, and be truly grateful and full of praise for a God who loves you this much.

I’m reminded of a phrase I learned years ago: There is nothing I can do to make God love me more, and there is nothing I can do to make Him love me less.

Knowing and embracing this truth should transform our lives into a desire to live to honor Him and Him alone. If we’re walking in true communion with God’s Holy Spirit, we will take enormous comfort in knowing He is in control of our lives. Are we willing? Are we able to get past our own agenda and follow God’s will for our lives, trusting and clinging to the words He has promised?

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Cheryl Robinson, on the Web at www.madenewinjesus.com, is a writer in Woodstock, Ga.)
11/29/2012 2:52:59 PM by Cheryl Robinson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Why should Christians read literature?

November 28 2012 by Michael Travers, Baptist Press

WAKE FOREST – Why should Christians bother reading literature at all? Because reading literature humanizes us – in the best sense of the word. Literature helps us realize the image of God in us in ways that we cannot afford to miss. (By “literature,” I am simply thinking of published works of imaginative writing in various genres, such as poetry, fiction and drama.)

Consider ...

Literature exercises and develops our emotions and imaginations. People write about what they experience and how they respond emotionally and imaginatively to their experiences. As we read good imaginative literature, we begin to see our own experiences and emotions in the larger human context. Which emotions are healthy, and which are not? Which emotions ought we to cultivate, and which should we put to death? In literature, we can see the expressions and consequences of human emotions in real-life situations and can be encouraged or take warning accordingly. It is the same with our imaginations. Reading literature gives us what Kevin Vanhoozer calls “the power of synoptic vision”: Through our imaginations responding to the imaginative writings of others, we see the important issues in life, not just the urgent and immediate circumstances around us. Imagination allows us to see the universal and timeless human issues and truths in the particular experiences of the characters in the book we are reading.

Literature speaks to the human condition in which we all find ourselves all the time. As humans, we all share the same human condition. No matter our gender, race or nationality, we all struggle with sin, experience the emotions of love and hate, give expression to our strongest desires, and we all long for something that this world cannot satisfy – in the end, God. Literature connects us with others who have given effective expression to our common humanity and longings and, while we may not agree with a writer’s worldview, he or she illuminates our common condition in ways that can help us understand our situation better and relate to others outside of our immediate community. In “Windows to the World: Literature in Christian Perspective,” Leland Ryken helpfully suggests that literature “clarifies the human situation to which the Christian faith speaks.” Likewise, with C.S. Lewis, a Christian can think of literature as one form of “pre-evangelism”: a means to help people ask the important questions – the eternal questions – and which gives us an opportunity to speak the gospel into their lives.

Literature expands us. Reading imaginative literature takes us outside of our own immediate situation. We get to meet other people from other places – even from other times – that we would otherwise never meet. When we read a novel, we don’t just follow a plot line; we become acquainted with more people – some friends, some not-so-much friends – who hone our humanity. We get to look in on other cultures – oriental as well as occidental, contemporary as well as ancient – and in its turn that experience helps us not to be blinded to the realities of our own culture and time. Again, C.S. Lewis is helpful here. What he says in “An Experiment in Criticism” is worth quoting at some length: “We want to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own ....” He continues, “in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here [i.e. in reading great literature], as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.” Think a bit about that!

Literature can help us glorify God in our lives. Humans are “wordish creatures.”[1] Only we, of all God’s creatures, use sounds and graphics symbolically to communicate what is not immediately present to our five senses. Only we imagine and create what is not essential to our immediate needs. Only we can appreciate beauty, truth and goodness in their own rights. God made us wordish creatures, and He communicated the gospel to us in words. Even Jesus Christ is given the epithet, “Word made flesh,” and only He communicates the Father to us sinful people. Because literature is a wordish medium, it is in some senses the form of artistic expression that allows us to get closest to our Creator. After all, we are all part of that great Story, and our stories fit into the larger Story. And you can’t tell a story without words.

Why read literature? How can you not? It’s part of our heritage as humans. But we must cultivate it if we are not to lose it again and revert to an earlier age or place where the Word and the word were both darkened. Make your words flesh that the Word made flesh might be glorified.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – This column first appeared at http://betweenthetimes.com/, a website of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. Michael Travers is professor of English and associate vice president of institutional effectiveness at Southeastern. He is author of “Encountering God in the Psalms” (Kregel, 2003) and co-author (with Richard D. Patterson) of “Face to Face With God: Human Images of God in the Bible” (Biblical Studies Press, 2008).)

[1] Bradley Green, The Gospel and the Mind: Recovering and Shaping the Intellectual Life (Crossway, 2010), 104.
11/28/2012 1:56:40 PM by Michael Travers, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Who really was the first U.S. missionary?

November 27 2012 by Jason Duesing, Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas – Earlier this year Jeremy Webber at Christianity Today asked: Was the first U.S. missionary black, not white? Referencing the little–known George Liele (1750–1820), Webber rightly questioned whether this freed slave should supplant Adoniram Judson as the first Protestant missionary from America.

Not only was George Liele the first Protestant missionary from America, but his departure for Jamaica in 1782 actually puts him ahead of the widely recognized progenitor of the modern missions era, the British Baptist, William Carey. The right ordering of these pioneers of gospel advance has been noted in recent years by Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, first in a biographical sermon on Liele and then in various publications, most recently in his book “Ten Who Changed the World.” Akin writes, “[Liele] was the first Baptist to leave his homeland and take the [g]ospel to foreign soil.”

As early as 1964, E. A. Holmes, then–professor of church history at Stetson University, noted in an essay on Liele that clarified the matter: “Though supported by no church or denominational agency, [Liele] became the first Protestant missionary to go out from America to establish a foreign mission, ten years before William Carey set out from England” (source: biblicalstudies.org.uk).

Discovering this important corrective in recent years has been one of the most instructive things for me as one who loves the rich historical and theological heritage of the Baptists. As I teach students, the pursuit of every fact and detail in the spirit of careful and colorblind scholarship often leads to new discoveries of monumental significance. As I have researched the life of Adoniram Judson over the last few years for a collaborative book project that seeks to honor the bicentennial celebration of his departure from America in 1812, I was faced with the very task of how to classify Judson’s work.

After originally categorizing Judson, as most have throughout history, as the first American missionary, it was Dr. Akin who shared with me the life and ministry of George Liele. Delighted to learn of Liele’s proper place in history, I gladly changed the subtitle of the volume of Judson from “A Bicentennial Celebration of America’s First Missionary,” to “A Bicentennial Celebration of the Pioneer American Missionary.”

In the volume, Akin and I are joined by Paige Patterson, Nathan A. Finn, Robert Caldwell, Gregory A. Wills, Keith Eitel, Candi Finch, and Michael A. G. Haykin. With regard to the proper ordering of Liele, Carey and Judson we make the distinction that George Liele is properly the first missionary in the modern era. Carey, in England in 1792, is the second chronologically, though the first to create a missions–sending agency and to be sent in an organized and formal manner. Judson, then in 1812, is third overall, the second American, and the first to organize and receive the commission of an American board for the sending of missionaries.

While all three men are pioneers in their own settings and all overcame significant opposition and obstacles to take the good news about Jesus to those who had yet to hear – even at great cost – George Liele is worthy of particular commendation in our day as he advanced the gospel while this nation still gripped tightly to the constrictive fetters of slavery.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – This column first appeared at TheologicalMatters.com, a blog of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Jason G. Duesing serves as vice president for strategic initiatives and assistant professor of historical theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Fort Worth, Texas) and is the editor of the forthcoming book, “Adoniram Judson: A Bicentennial Appreciation of the Pioneer American Missionary” (B&H Academic, 2012).)
11/27/2012 3:41:27 PM by Jason Duesing, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



This season, give gifts more precious than gold

November 26 2012 by Chuck Bentley, Baptist Press

GAINESVILLE, Ga. – As you consider the gifts you will share with friends and loved ones through the upcoming holiday seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I recommend that you consider giving gifts that will ultimately be more precious than gold.

Maybe we can call this the “Biblical Gift Guide for the Holiday Season”:

1. Give from what you do have.

Remember when the beggar outside the temple gate in Jerusalem asked Peter and John for money? Although he was crippled from birth, the beggar was focused on money as the solution to his problem. This story is a picture of the superiority of the treasures we have in knowing Christ. Peter understood this perfectly well. His reply to the beggar should ring in our ears:

“Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk’” (Acts 3:6).

And the crippled man walked! Imagine that electrifying moment.

God did not send Peter and John on a mission to give away money. He sent them on a mission to give away Jesus.

This year, you may not be in a position to give gifts that people are expecting from you; but this can be your opportunity, like Peter and John, to give from what “you do have.”

We have the glorious treasure of the gospel that gives sight to the blind and heals every broken heart. So be compassionate, yet bold, and give Jesus.

2. Give apples of gold in settings of silver.

A few years ago, a personal friend became CEO of one of the largest companies in the world. The story broke in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Fortune. His success in business was very impressive by all measures.

In a conversation with my father, I mentioned in passing how delighted I was for my friend’s spectacular rise to the highest ranks in the business world. Dad’s response will never leave me.

“Well, son, that is impressive, but what you are doing is more important. I would rather you do what you are doing than be CEO of the world’s largest company.”

I was speechless. I never expected that would be my father’s response. Somehow, I had mistakenly thought being the CEO of a multi-billion dollar global company would have made my dad more proud of me than being CEO of Crown Financial Ministries.

I was wrong – really wrong. Those words blessed my soul so much that I had to fight back the tears as he looked at me with pride and joy. I knew that he not only said it, he meant it.

Solomon said, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).

Think of the approaching holiday season as your opportunity to give appropriate words of affirmation to those you love.

3. Give real security.

If you knew you held in your hand the one thing that could liberate a loved one from fear and insecurity, you would put it in a big box, decorate it with a bow, and watch with joy as the recipient opened this invaluable treasure.

Freedom from fear and insecurity is in short supply right now. But, regardless of how much gold you have or how high its price goes, it will never be able to deliver what is promised to those who fear God.

Listen to the promises in Psalm 112:

“Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.

“Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice.

“Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever. He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes” (Psalm 112:1-8 NIV).

One year, the only gift I could give my close friends was a card with a specially selected verse that was meant to bless them. It worked.

As you generously give from the priceless gifts that you have freely received, I pray that this will be your very best year of gift giving.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries. His latest book, “The S.A.L.T. Plan, How to Prepare for an Economic Crisis of Biblical Proportions,” is available now. To sign up for Chuck’s free weekly e-newsletter, “Handwriting on the Wall,” visit Crown.org/handwriting or call 1-800-722-1976.)
11/26/2012 1:29:16 PM by Chuck Bentley, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Letting go of things that hide true beauty

November 26 2012 by Sue Z. McGray, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – At 16, my family experienced a shattering event that forever changed our lives: the day my youngest sister was run over by our school bus. My mother lost her joy that day and never laughed again. I made a commitment that day that I would never be hurt like that again. I withdrew inside myself, overcome with anger, grief and resentment, symbolically burying my heart and feelings in a hole. If I no longer felt, I reasoned, I would never experience such pain.

When describing a devastating loss, people often remark, “You never get over it.” I think that is true – you never do get over the death of a loved one. You just eventually learn to get through it, but you’ll never be the same because the scars go with us forever. After my sister’s funeral, my family and I began the journey of “getting through it” as best we could.

For many years I felt invisible to people around me because I believed the lie that I was insignificant. I didn’t think I deserved God’ love, success or anything else. It also was a way of dealing with grief because being “visible” around people was just too painful. I constantly compared myself with other women and always came up short.

I became a Mary Kay independent beauty consultant with the goal of earning $100 a week to help make ends meet. At the time, I didn’t even know how to wear makeup, I didn’t own a car, had no professional clothes and no money for extras. I got weak in the knees and red in the face when talking with anyone. My initial makeup parties were disasters, but through those failures – and many others – I learned the importance of getting up one more time than I fell down.

At a crisis point in my life, a Christian friend led me to place my faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Even though I had grown up in a Christian home and my father was a pastor, I had never until that day made faith in God personal.

What a great joy it was to discover that Jesus loves and accepts me unconditionally, despite my shortcomings and failures! The Lord redirected my life and helped me learn to become “visible” by overcoming fear, insecurity, low self-esteem, regret and co-dependency. In my darkest and most discouraging adult moments, He demonstrated His love to me and gave me a peace that was beyond understanding.

For 37 years, I’ve worked with thousands of women across the nation, often observing hurt in their eyes and seeing some of the same fears that caused me to lock down my feelings and squash my dreams. In my experience, a lot of women sabotage themselves because they don’t think they deserve anything better. They put themselves in a personal prison (or someone else may have put them there) and draw bad things to themselves because they have an “I don’t count” victim mentality.

To get out of this rut – or to help someone else get out of it – we first have to understand that God loves and values us just as we are. No matter how we feel or how much hurt we’ve experienced, staying hidden in an emotional hole is not the answer, nor is it the place God wants us to be. He has so much more for us.

A person who internalizes emotional conflict can suffer from unnecessary guilt, anxiety, sickness and even self-rejection. Our bodies and souls are not designed to internalize sorrow, but to express it and to walk with one another through difficulties.

Today, God has me on a mission to help women step out of their personal prisons and let go of the things that hide their true beauty. My prayer is that each day I will be able to glorify God by encouraging and motivating women to become more than they ever thought they could.

We never really know the battles someone is dealing with, so I urge giving others the benefit of the doubt. Then, step out in kindness with a few words of hope and encouragement. Those few words may be the one thing that helps someone take the next step. We can’t change or fix people, but we can reflect the light of God’s grace by being an encourager to those the Lord puts in our path each day.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sue Z. McGray, on the Web at www.suezmcgray.com, is a Mary Kay independent national sales director emeritus, a level which only a few hundred of the 2 million-plus Mary Kay consultants reach. Her new book, “Becoming Visible: Letting Go of the Things that Hide Your True Beauty,” is available at LifeWay Christian Stores. McGray and her husband Duane are members of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn. They have three adult children and five granddaughters.)
11/26/2012 1:25:45 PM by Sue Z. McGray, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



After the election: where do we go from here?

November 20 2012 by Ginny Dent Brant, Guest Column

On November 7, I received devastating news. Lady Liberty, the mother who raised me and gave me the freedom to be what I am, was declared terminally ill. I knew moral decay was spreading throughout her borders like cancer, but many of us were fighting with every breath to save her. Half of the country is in mourning and unbelievably, half is celebrating – leaving a nation divided.
 
Those who fought bravely to save her included many patriots over the years, many pastors, and many of the faithful who fasted and prayed. Many Christian leaders of our day warned us about the seriousness of her affliction such as Billy and Franklin Graham, John Hagee, Mike Huckabee, etc., yet many did not heed their warnings. Many pastors preached on the biblical issues and held prayer vigils. We can say, “We did what we could.”

 

The cause of her imminent death

Yes, hard to believe, a majority of Americans voted for a platform that stood against traditional marriage, the sanctity of life, freedom, Israel, and taming our looming deficit. In addition, three states approved gay marriage (total of nine), and two states approved the legalization of recreational marijuana.
 
It’s unprecedented that a president who has increased the unemployment rate, escalated the deficit, weakened our presence and military, and openly stood against the foundation of this country, could stand against the experience and character of a man known for saving failing corporations, Mitt Romney. Francis Schaeffer once said, “The media controls the culture.” In a day when PEW research reports that 80 percent of our journalists are self-professed liberals, we now have a biased media determining the outcome of elections. Barack Obama is reelected with no future election or reliable media to hold him accountable. For a Lady birthed in biblical principles, this was the final blow that destroyed her defense system.

 

Excuse me while I mourn

It was difficult for me to get up Wednesday morning as the devastating news engulfed my body. I grew up in the halls of power and her monuments, engraved in tribute to God, were my playground. So excuse me while I mourn the eventual loss of this Lovely Lady. When she breathes her last breath, it will grieve me to the core. It will be painful to watch her slowly die as our freedoms are stripped little by little.
 
As more liberal judges are appointed, more illegal’s invade our borders, more citizens become dependent upon her breasts for their sustenance, more trillions are added to the national debt, more executive orders are signed, and more scandals are swept under the rug with no accountability to the people or scrutiny by the media, there is no hope for Lady Liberty. She cannot be saved – except by God Himself. We must pray for that miracle.

 

A fair question

In September, I spoke to over 2,000 faculty and students at Charleston Southern University (CSU) about the importance of family, faith and freedom. Afterwards, I had the privilege of meeting with student leaders. One of the leaders asked, “Mrs. Brant, you said God is sovereign over all things. Do you think He might allow our current president to be reelected to bring hard times to America and persecution to the church?”
 
My response was clear, “I’m praying not, hoping not, and trying to prevent that. But if it does, I will know God has a greater plan. The church has always grown more through persecution than prosperity – forcing us to match our walk with our talk.” This student was much wiser than his years.

 

Sadly, it’s a new day

It’s a new day. The people have spoken. This is not about two men, for our presidents are merely a reflection of our culture and how we are changing. In this case, it’s more about us as a nation. It’s about reaping what we sow.
 
We’ve fallen for the delusion that government control can solve all of our problems and Lady Liberty can never die. As Joseph Tson, a pastor from the underground church in Romania warned us, “Communism looks good, but it tastes horrible.” And we’re foolishly embracing it when it’s never proven successful.

 

Our addiction

We’re a country addicted to debt. Just the idea that electing candidates who would prevent or postpone our dive over a fiscal cliff, was clearly out of our comfort zone.
 
Afraid of the pain of withdrawal, we decided to ignore the problems and continue driving over the cliff at full throttle. True, the election of Mitt Romney would bring hardship and withdrawals pains, but that’s the price of addiction. Everybody would have to suffer for her to become healthy again. No man could have done it alone; it would have taken the Hand of God. We have lost our way and our common sense.

 

Does God have a woodshed?

The nation Israel went through seven cycles of apostasy in Judges. As they turned from God, He sent prophets to warn them. When they did not turn back, He sent an oppressor. When the pain and pressure became unbearable, they would cry out asking forgiveness, and He restored them. History reveals one oppressor was Babylon.
 
In many ways, we emulate Israel. Our nation was founded on Biblical principles and God has been a part since her beginning. As we continue to remove Him and His principles, He warns us. When those warnings fail, He lovingly disciplines to restore us. In the South we call that taking someone to the woodshed. We don’t have to be taken into exile; our woodshed could be our own backyard. President Obama could be our Babylon – that oppression used by God to bring us back to Him. If we pray for our president and country as the Bible commands, God could change our hearts and even his heart.

 

God has a plan

While driving this morning, I saw the sun rise over the lake. Its rays were extraordinarily bright and blinding as its fingers reached across the horizon. God was speaking. He was reminding me HE MADE THAT SUN. HE HAS A PLAN. HE WILL NEVER LEAVE US AND FORSAKE US. Yes, as I told those CSU students, HE IS SOVEREIGN.
 
Our prosperity and our freedoms have distorted our dependence upon God. As those in the underground church in Romania, China, and the Middle East have taught us, we must learn to live totally by faith and not by sight. We must be purified as the Romanians who emerged from the underground church. In China, I discovered nearly 10 percent of their population was in the underground church. Oh, God can’t be limited by freedoms or the lack thereof. He won’t be confined in a box. I even met believers in the Middle East who had the joy of Jesus in their hearts. Although our religious and earthly freedoms may become limited, no one can ever take our freedom in Christ.
 
Many have fought to preserve the freedoms of this country. I genuinely desired our nation continue to be the beacon light to the world and an ally to Israel. But God may have other plans. We are limited in our knowledge and understanding. Maybe God wants to show Israel, He ALONE can save her. Maybe parts of Africa will be the next great countries to carry the gospel to a lost world. Maybe He wants to show us ONLY He can save us – if we would turn back to Him.

 

A reminder – our one true hope and home

We cannot stop the movement towards a one-world government, which shows the end is near. We must remember, this earth is not our home – we’re just passing through. We’re part of an everlasting Kingdom that will never end. Our one true hope is Christ and our real home is Heaven. The demise of Lady Liberty is more spiritual than political, and we need a spiritual revival in this nation. It is the only cure that can reverse her cancer and moral decay.

 

The challenge, our mission

As Dwight Moody said:
 
“The world is a sinking ship. Our job is not to save the ship, but to get people off the ship, before it goes down.”
 
The ship has so many holes; she’s barely afloat. Our true mission is to be salt and light to a world in darkness. As God burns off the dross in our lives through hardship, many positive things will happen. We will experience: evangelicals cooperating for the gospel, God’s Word nourishing our hungry souls, prayers bringing us closer to God’s heart, hymns soothing our depressed souls, and our roots growing deep. We may finally learn how to walk by faith, not by sight. And we’ll live with an eternal perspective, yearning for our heavenly home.
 
So what are you doing to get people off the ship before it goes down?
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE ­– Ginny Dent Brant is a writer and speaker who grew up in the halls of power in Washington, D.C. Her book about her spiritual journey with her father, Harry S. Dent, Sr., Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World was released in 2010. She is a former trustee of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Ginny and her husband Alton live in Clemson/Seneca, SC. More info at www.ginnybrant.com.)
11/20/2012 1:42:23 PM by Ginny Dent Brant, Guest Column | with 0 comments



Response to Graham’s critics

November 19 2012 by Mark Creech, Guest Column

The Raleigh News and Observer reported Oct. 30 that William Barber of the NAACP and a coalition of other ministers allege that Franklin Graham has hijacked his father’s ministry for political purposes. They say Graham and other members of the Religious Right like to cherry pick their issues, speaking out against sexual immorality, etc., but neglecting the Bible’s messages about the poor. Their fault with Franklin Graham has largely been focused on newspaper ads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has run in favor of natural marriage and the need to vote for biblical values during the 2012 election.

Well, I’ve got something to say about that. Franklin Graham has hijacked nothing. Dr. Billy Graham has always preached forthrightly about the sins of mankind. In fact, any preacher worth his salt will do the same. Interestingly, I have never once heard Rev. Barber speak out against any sin. The only thing he ever seems to speak out against is the possibility of the end of a government check. He reminds me of those the apostle Paul warned about in Philippians 3:19, describing them as false prophets “whose God is their belly.”
 
Moreover, why is it wrong for Graham to encourage people to vote biblical values? It is well known that Rev. Barber and many other black congregations, though certainly not all of them, have either publicly stated their support for the president’s re-election, or at the least have done no differently than Graham in giving ‘transparent insinuations’ of who they support – the president.  So why shouldn’t Graham be able to urge people to vote based on their biblical values?
 
Moreover, Franklin Graham has done more for the poor and the needy than all of those ministers who fault him combined. I remind you that he is the head of Samaritans Purse – a Christian benevolent agency that reaches around the world. He was the founder of Operation Christmas Child, which has provided unprecedented help and blessing to countless children in numerous countries. Even so, as head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association he is currently providing aid to people in the storm-ravaged wake of Hurricane Sandy.
 
Rev. Barber and these ministers are wrong – very wrong!
 
Contrary to the accusations by Rev. Barber and his ilk, conservative evangelicals are doing much to help the poor and the underprivileged.
 
We just don’t believe addicting the needy to government public assistance is the way to go about it. The government has a God-given mandate to protect the private property of its citizens.
 
Taking money away from its citizens to give it to someone the government believes it should be given to as an act of charity is not charity at all. It’s a violation of the Eighth Commandment – Thou shalt not steal.
Conservative evangelicals of the Religious Right don’t believe there is any social justice to socialism.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Creech is executive director of the Christian Action League. Visit christianactionleague.org.)
11/19/2012 3:15:57 PM by Mark Creech, Guest Column | with 0 comments



Christians, let’s honor the president

November 16 2012 by Russell D. Moore, Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The American people have decided that Barack Obama should have a second term. And, behind them, in the mystery of providence, God has decided that Barack Obama would be re-elected. So how should Christians respond to our president?

Many of us have some disagreements with the president. As a conservative Christian, I believe unborn children have certain inalienable rights, including the right to life, and I wish President Obama would work to protect them. I believe freedom of conscience is the preeminent right in a civil society, and the administration’s incursions on religious liberty are troubling. I don’t plan to back down one bit on these matters, even as our forefathers Isaac Backus and John Leland relentlessly stood up to the founding generation of leaders on behalf of religious freedom and human dignity.

We are going to disagree with the president on some (important) things; there will be other areas where we can work with the president. But whether in agreement or disagreement, we can honor. Honor doesn’t mean blanket endorsement.

I am always amazed by those Christians who will dispute the command to honor, arguing that “kings” in our system are the people, and therefore we’re called to honor the Constitution but not elected officials. But the scripture doesn’t command honor simply for the ultimate authority (which is, of course, ultimately God, in any case). Humanly speaking, the ultimate political authority in the New Testament context was the emperor. And yet, the Apostle Peter specifically calls the people of Christ not only to show submission to the emperor “as supreme” but also to “governors” (1 Peter 2:13-14). The Apostle Paul calls on the churches to pray and to show thanksgiving for “kings” (plural) and for “all who are in high positions” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Paul imitated this when he showed due respect to the governor Felix, referring to him with the honorific title “his Excellency, the governor” (Acts 23:26), even as he appealed his way up through the political process of the Roman Empire of his time. Paul showed thanksgiving for Felix, despite his part in a system with which Paul disagreed at some important points, for his “reforms” for the common good.

Behind that is a more general command to “honor everyone” (1 Peter 2:17), to pray for “all people” (1 Timothy 2:1). We are to not only pay our taxes but give “respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:7).

Christians, above all people, should pray for and show respect for our president and all of our elected officials. After all, unlike those who see politics as ultimate, we recognize that our political structures are important, but temporal, in view of the Kingdom of Christ. We don’t then need to be fomented into the kind of faux outrage that passes for much of contemporary political discourse. And, unlike those who see history as impersonal or capricious, we see behind everything a God who is sovereign over His universe.

So let’s pray for President Obama. Let’s not give ourselves to terms of disrespect, or every crazy conspiracy theory that floats across the Internet.

That doesn’t mean slavish obedience. In a democratic republic, the president and Congress govern by the consent of the governed. We appeal to our elected officials, and lobby them for the common good, expressing disagreement when we must. But we do this, as Paul does before Felix and Agrippa, with respect and honor, even as he seeks to persuade them of the need for religious liberty and as he preaches “righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment” (Acts 24:25).

However we voted in the election, let’s pray for God to bless our president. We can pray for him to be granted wisdom and health. We can pray that God would prosper his good ideas, and change his mind on his bad ideas. Moreover, we can teach our children to respect our president, starting with referring to him as “President Obama” or “our president,” not as “Obama” or “the guy our parents voted against” or what have you.

There’s a time to vote. There’s a time to campaign. And there’s a time to petition. But, through it all, let’s be the people who, even as we speak with conviction, are marked by kindness and respect. When we have to differ with President Obama, let’s do that, with backbone. But let’s make sure we do all this with honor, with respect, with prayer, and, most of all, with love.

Let’s render unto Caesar, as free people with natural rights. Because we know as believers that we will eternally say “Jesus is Lord,” we can as citizens temporally say, “Hail to the chief.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Russell D. Moore is dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. This column first appeared www.russellmoore.com.)
11/16/2012 2:56:57 PM by Russell D. Moore, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



High-profile Christians & their public testimony

November 15 2012 by Jeff Iorg, Baptist Press

MILL VALLEY, Calif. – About a year ago, a friend of mine committed himself to Jesus Christ. He happens to have a high-profile occupation. The conversion was genuine and the spiritual growth over the past year has been consistent. A few weeks ago, he shared his faith in a public forum for the first time. It was a short testimony – powerful not for its length, but for its clarity.

It may surprise you that I encouraged my friend to grow for a while in his commitment to Jesus before making too many public statements about his faith. While he has been very open about his new faith with his family and friends, it was important his commitment be stabilized before he made a public statement.

Over the years, it has frustrated me when athletes, politicians, actors or other public figures were rushed into public pronouncements about their faith. In too many cases, these new believers were expected to be public witnesses just because they are well-known. That is a poor qualification for taking the responsibility to speak out about the Christian faith.

Before a person takes that responsibility, they should mature enough in their faith to handle the expectations of public life as a believer. Christians sometimes get caught up in the celebrity culture and think any well-known person who commits to follow Jesus should immediately start speaking, preaching or singing about their faith. That does them a disservice and leads to embarrassing gaffes by people not yet ready for that kind of responsibility. Worse, it hurts the reputation of the gospel and the credibility of the church.

Every person who commits to follow Jesus should be willing to share their faith. But why does it have to immediately be from behind a microphone? Let’s encourage people to start with their family and friends, maturing a bit before we rush them into a public venue.

So, the next time a high school athlete, city councilman or business owner in your community becomes a Christian, let them grow a while before you have them speak at your church or otherwise go public with their faith. They will be served by your patience, and when they finally begin speaking about their faith the impact will be even more profound.

(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.)
11/15/2012 1:59:03 PM by Jeff Iorg, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Displaying results 1-10 (of 27)
 |<  < 1 - 2 - 3  >  >|