November 2013

Assessing ‘Chrislam’

November 26 2013 by Rob Phillips, Baptist Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Christians sharing the gospel in Muslim-dominated countries take incredible risks. And converts from Islam to Christianity are routinely banished, imprisoned or murdered.

So, how do Christian missionaries teach Muslims about Jesus when Islam denies His deity and death on the cross? And how do new converts from Islam to Christianity worship Jesus without inviting severe persecution?

One attempt is “Chrislam,” the bringing together of Christianity and Islam. Proponents of Chrislam say that because the Qur’an mentions Jesus and affirms certain biblical teachings about Him, Christianity and Islam share at least some common ground.

They further argue that if Christians avoid the offensive term “Son of God” when referring to Jesus and, instead, emphasize His role as prophet rather than divine Savior, Muslims are more open to the gospel. Once they come to faith in Christ, Muslims may continue to worship at a mosque, pray Muslim prayers and even partake in a pilgrimage to Mecca.

The motives behind Chrislam seem sincere. Believers want to be, like the apostle Paul, “all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). But the problem with Chrislam is that it strips away, or at least masks, the essentials of the gospel, according to Joshua Lingel, Jeff Morton and Bill Nikides, editors of Chrislam: How Missionaries are Promoting an Islamized Gospel.

Their book is a well-researched challenge to so-called “Insider Movements” – Christian missionary efforts that to some extent embrace Chrislam. The premise of their book is that Insider Movements are not a viable strategy for evangelical missions to Muslims.

The authors provide both clarity to the issue of Chrislam and correction to a well-intentioned movement. Christians genuinely want to see Muslims come to faith in Christ. However, the gospel has always been an offense, and it can be no less of an offense to Muslims than to the Jews and pagans of the apostles’ day.

And, to be sure, Christianity and Islam are incompatible. Consider the following:

First, Allah and Yahweh are different deities. Allah is unknowable and unapproachable; Yahweh is personal, knowable, and invites us to approach His throne of grace. Allah has never spoken directly to a human being; Yahweh has spoken to people throughout history and continues to do so today. Allah reveals his will but not himself; Yahweh reveals Himself in creation, conscience, the canon of scripture, and Christ – the Word who became flesh (John 1:14).

Second, Muhammad denied the Trinity, the Fatherhood of God, the Sonship of Jesus, the deity of the Holy Spirit, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and many other Christian doctrines.

Third, Christians must not call themselves Muslims for the sake of evangelism. Islam defines a Muslim as one who submits to Allah and Muhammad.

Fourth, Christians must not encourage new converts to Christianity to call themselves Muslims, stay in a mosque, pray toward Mecca or travel there on a pilgrimage. These are religious practices that demonstrate submission to Allah. Rather, new converts should be urged to follow Christ and become part of a fellowship of Christians.

Fifth, Bible translations that deliberately mistranslate the Greek and Hebrew terms for Son, Son of God, Son of Man, or Father should not be used to evangelize Muslims.

Sixth, Christians should not use the Qur’an as scripture. While the Qur’an speaks of Jesus in many places, it teaches another Jesus, a different spirit and a different gospel (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).

Finally, it is impossible for a person to be both a Christian and a Muslim. Despite an ever-growing trend toward syncretism – the belief that all is one – the gospel stands apart as the only good news for sinful people, and Christ alone is sufficient for forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

The differences between Islam and Christianity as to the person and nature of God and his prophets – and what constitutes scripture – are vast and the similarities are few.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rob Phillips is director of communications for the Missouri Baptist Convention with responsibility for leading MBC apologetics ministry in the state. This article first appeared in The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Phillips also is on the Web at www.oncedelivered.net.)
11/26/2013 12:48:17 PM by Rob Phillips, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Giving thanks in all things

November 25 2013 by Frank S. Page, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In the month of November, Americans traditionally set aside a day for Thanksgiving. Obviously, it is a time of food and fellowship and family time for millions and millions of Americans. That is as it ought to be. However, scripture tells us that we need to give thanks at all times and in all seasons.

In the scriptures, Philippians 4:6-7 gives us the following words: “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

That passage is precious to me. It gives a guiding principle for life. It calms my spirit. It lets me know that in every circumstance I am to take my life’s needs to the Lord, with thanksgiving.

Many know this month marks the time of year when our oldest daughter died. Though it is now some years ago, the 27th of November will always be a day remembered in the Page household as a day when our lives changed forever. Our daughter took her life that day.

Yes, it changed our lives ... and it has taught us many lessons.

One of those lessons is to take our life’s needs to the Lord. The amazing truth of God’s scripture is that when we do that, a peace which truly does transcend human understanding guards our hearts and minds.

Humans cannot understand that in their carnal nature. However, in our spiritual nature, we understand that God gives supernatural ability to have peace in the midst of the most difficult of circumstances.

I pray that you will rejoice with me today for the many great things God has done. I pray that you will rejoice with me that God gives us a supernatural ability to handle life, even hard times in life, in a way that is not understandable by our world.

So, when I call for people to give thanks, we have much to be thankful for! We need the peace of God and we need the God of peace. Happy Thanksgiving!

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Frank S. Page is president of the SBC Executive Committee.)
11/25/2013 12:08:23 PM by Frank S. Page, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Thanksgiving – a religious holiday

November 25 2013 by Kelly Boggs, Baptist Press

ALEXANDRIA, La. – Thankfully, many of the founders of America were literate. If they had been unable to commit their thoughts to writing, the secularists of our great nation would have already succeeded in erasing religion in general, and Christianity in particular, from any significant role in United States history. There is no more poignant reminder of our religious heritage than the national holiday of Thanksgiving.

Some historians try to downplay and even deny the religious motivation for the Pilgrims’ voyage to the New World. However, upon reading the thoughts of these brave adventurers there is no doubt as to why they left family and friends to undertake such a dangerous and difficult journey. As they prepared to leave their ships and set foot on dry land, the Pilgrims drafted and signed the Mayflower Compact. In part, the document reads:

“In the name of God, Amen, We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, ... Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony....”

Given the context in which the Mayflower Compact was produced, it is difficult to interpret it as anything but a religious statement of purpose – even a Christian statement.

The first English settlers of the land that would become the United States found the first year in their new home difficult. Almost half of the original 101 colonists perished during a harsh winter. However, with the aid of Indians who had befriended them, the surviving Pilgrims managed to cultivate and reap an abundant harvest. Desiring to express their joy, they called for a celebration of thanksgiving in the fall of 1621.

Dedicated secularists have sought to revise history in order to downplay the significance religious faith played in the lives of the Pilgrims. The assertion is made by some “historians” that the initial thanksgiving was a feast honoring the Indians. It is true the Pilgrims were appreciative of the help they received from their native friends, however in their writings they indicate their praise and thanks were directed to Almighty God.

William Bradford, who served as governor of the fledging community, recorded in a journal titled Of Plymouth Plantation the Pilgrims thoughts about one particular Native American named Squanto. Bradford wrote:

“About the 16th of March [1621], a certain Indian came boldly amongst them and spoke to them in broken English. ... His name was Samoset. He told them also of another Indian whose name was Squanto, a native of this place, who had been in England and could speak better English than himself. ...

“[A]bout four or five days after, came ... the aforesaid Squanto ... [He] continued with them and was their interpreter and was a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation. He showed them how to plant corn, where to take fish and other commodities, and guided them to unknown places, and never left them till he died.”

Many historians believe the Pilgrims may not have made it without Squanto’s help. It seems Bradford indicates as much. However, it is clear he believed it was the providential hand of God who brought Squanto into the lives of the Pilgrims. The initial thanksgiving was ultimately about the Lord’s providence and not merely the native people of the New World.

Shortly after the first thanksgiving celebration, Edward Winslow wrote a letter titled: “A letter sent from New England for a friend in these parts, setting forth a brief and true Declaration of the worth of that Plantation, as also certain useful directions for such as intend a voyage into those parts.” In the communication Winslow gave a brief chronicle of the Pilgrims’ first year in the New World. Throughout the letter he made it clear that the thanksgiving gathering was for the purpose of giving thanks to God “who hath dealt so favorably with us.”

By placing their thoughts and convictions on paper, the Pilgrims left a written record for their motivation in settling the land that would become the United States of America. They came to establish a place where of religion, specifically their understanding of Christianity, could freely be pursued and practiced.

I find it interesting that even many atheists and agnostics pause to observe America’s Thanksgiving holiday. Though they attempt to assuage their secularist consciences by insisting it is national day for celebrating family, gratitude for friends or the extoling of nebulous positive thoughts, the historical record is clear; Thanksgiving – a religious holiday – is a significant part of our heritage.

As a nation, we take time the fourth Thursday of each November to remember the first colonists and thank the same God who inspired and sustained their courageous journey of faith. If gratitude to God is not on your menu this Thanksgiving, you miss the entire point of the holiday.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)
11/25/2013 11:58:07 AM by Kelly Boggs, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Helping students stay in church

November 22 2013 by Steve Masters, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – What can you do to help a student or young adult have a lifelong faith?

Here are a few practical things – whether you are a parent, grandparent, youth leader or church staff member –- to help students in your church grow and mature in Christ.

Encourage mission involvement

Going on church and youth mission trips is one of the best ways for a student to personalize his or her faith. As the director of an on-campus collegiate ministry, when I ask incoming college freshmen why they stayed close to Christ during their high school years, many of them share the importance a mission trip or mission involvement had in strengthening their walk with the Lord. Consider participating in a mission trip and local mission ministries as a family. Organize your service with several families in your church.

Live it out

As a parent or grandparent, be an example to students. They are watching and observing how you live out your faith. Are you having a daily quiet time? Are you memorizing scripture? Are you using your spiritual gifts? Are you sharing your faith with your co-workers, friends and relatives? Are you involved in local missions and the mission trips of your church?

If your son or daughter really is like you spiritually, what kind of Christian will that make them? Are you a 24/7 Christian or just a weekend warrior? If you aren’t living out your faith, then chances are great that your son or daughter will follow in your footsteps.

Help them get to know the staff and adults in your church

Students need to be a part of the total church, not just the youth ministry. Be creative in helping them get to know the church staff and other strong Christian adults in your church. I am convinced that students “catch” Christianity as much as they learn it. As they spend time with other strong Christian adults, students grow in their faith.

Realize the importance of the summer student conferences

Many youth groups participate in a summer conference such as World Changers, Student Life or FugeCamps. These weeks can be invaluable in helping students grow and mature in their faith. As they spend a concentrated period of time in Bible study, prayer and worship, they “catch” a passion for Christ from the camp leaders and counselors. They develop strong friendships with other students and the adult leaders of your church.

Plan your vacations around major youth conferences your church attends. Make sure your older students don’t let summer jobs or sports activities keep them from participating. Valuable spiritual growth can be missed.


Connect graduating seniors to campus ministries

As a collegiate minister for more than 30 years I can confidently say that being able to contact incoming students months before they arrive on campus greatly increases our chances of reaching and involving the student. Visit sbccampusconnect.net to connect with your student’s campus ministry. To contact the BCM director visit bcmlife.net.

Encourage high school juniors to be Senior Disciples

Senior disciples commit to being leaders in their youth groups and to reaching out to their high school for Christ during their senior year. They can sign up at seniordisciple.net.

Encourage high school grads to be Collegiate Disciples

Collegiate Disciples commit to being involved in a local church and the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at the college or university they attend, as well as being a disciple for Christ while in college. Students can sign up at collegiatedisciple.net.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Steve Masters serves as Baptist Collegiate Ministry director at Louisiana State University and as transitions coordinator for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. This article first appeared in Parenting Teens magazine published by LifeWay.)
11/22/2013 2:10:51 PM by Steve Masters, Baptist Press | with 2 comments



An evangelical war on marriage?

November 22 2013 by David E. Prince, Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – “Lord, thank You for the life of this beautiful little girl. Thank You for adding to the heritage of this family. Help her parents raise her in the fear and admonition of Your holy name. Even as we celebrate her birth, I pray that by Your sovereign grace she will experience new birth through faith in Jesus Christ. Lord, give her a future husband who loves You and serves You and will protect, provide and love her as Christ loves the church. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

As I lifted my head in that hospital room after praying for the family and their newborn baby, I carefully gave the child back to her mother. I saw the grandparents who were in the room glaring at me with astonishment on their faces. The grandfather spoke up and said, “What kind of prayer was that? Why would you already be talking about a husband? She may not even get married! Who knows what she will become?”

These grandparents were not liberal progressives. They were Bible Belt conservative evangelicals who would heartily defend every word of the Bible as God’s inerrant Word and would be appalled at the notion of legalizing same-sex marriage.

The moment hit me like a ton of bricks. Without a doubt, the proponents of same-sex marriage have lost an understanding of what marriage really is – but, in alarming ways, so have evangelicals.

The end result of the widespread legalization of same-sex marriage will not be a broadening of the definition of marriage but the destruction of the institution. We evangelicals must acknowledge that our own failure to communicate the meaning and gospel significance of marriage has hastened the cultural confusion and decline of the sacred institution. Evangelicals often tell children that their education, career and individual success should be firmly in place before they should even think about marriage. After all, if they marry too young, they won’t be able to accomplish their individual dreams and become successful people who lead lives of significance.

At the same time, we act befuddled that a generation we have taught to put themselves first does not understand the importance of self-sacrificial relationships beginning with marriage and family.

Too often we feed our children the junk food of narcissistic self-esteem along with a side of the American dream then wonder why they do not have a healthy Christian worldview. We pair culturally shaped dreams about what our children will become along with a romanticized view of love and marriage, which is rooted in notions of self-fulfillment rather than self-sacrifice. Christian marriage, however, is a gospel-magnifying, self-sacrificial commitment that teaches us what love is over time as we practice long-term fidelity.

The current divorce culture is grounded in the same perverse idea of marriage as a means of self-fulfillment. If marriage is simply about your means to a personal end, then it’s right to consider it an addendum to the pursuit of your personal goals and to walk away when it’s no longer functioning to your benefit. After all, many evangelicals reason in abandoning their spouse, God would not want them to live in an unhappy, unfulfilling relationship – a reasoning that sounds eerily similar to the contemporary argument for same-sex marriage.

In some ways, the younger generation has become more conservative in recent years, as seen by its growing opposition to abortion, while at the same time approving of same-sex marriage. Why? Evangelicals must be willing to face the reality that what we have taught them in our churches about marriage as self-fulfillment provides them no logical reason to oppose same-sex marriage.

Our assertion that marriage is a lifelong monogamous relationship between a man and woman marked by a lifetime of fidelity rings hollow when we have taught them that self-oriented achievement should be valued above marriage and children. When an evangelical parent tells a college-educated daughter who is planning to become a stay-at-home mom, “Are you sure? I don’t want you to waste your gifts,” it is evident that many evangelicals are just as confused about marriage as the homosexual community. When an evangelical father says to his son, “What do you mean you’re getting married? You need to finish law school,” it is clear that the confusion regarding marriage doesn’t stop at the LGBT meeting.

How can evangelicals effectively defend marriage in the culture when we no longer practice and advocate Christian marriages in our churches?

Could it be that evangelical churches and Christians have been offering an edict about marriage but not an alternative? Could it be that the evangelical sexual abstinence movement has fallen short because it has simply focused on saying “No” to promiscuity without a reciprocal “Yes” in championing Christian marriage? Could it be that evangelical impotence in dealing with the pornography crisis in our churches is partly because we have allowed marriage and sex to be defined in terms of self-fulfillment rather the gospel-centric, self-sacrificial commitment?

The Creator of the universe pronounced that it was “not good” (Genesis 2:18) that man should be alone, and He gave to man a woman who was bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh (Genesis 2:23), with whom he was to become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24) and “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). The apostle Paul declared that this marriage union was created to be a living picture of the mysterious one-flesh gospel union between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32).

Being pro-marriage will begin with evangelicals who stop saying it is good that man should be alone until his 30s after he has a good education, career and individual achievements. And with evangelicals who stop saying don’t be fruitful and multiply too much; after all, you will not to be able to afford a nice home in a good neighborhood. In fact, we ought to tell them the good news that Christian marriage and the glorious gospel it represents liberates them from the ball and chain of trying to live the American dream.

(EDITOR’S NOTE ­– David E. Prince is pastor of preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., professor of Christian preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
11/22/2013 1:56:00 PM by David E. Prince, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘Scratch & smell’

November 21 2013 by Larry Doyle, Baptist Press

GREENSBORO – An advertisement for a brand of perfume came in the mail the other day. On the flyer was a place to scratch and smell the fragrance. The purpose of the sample was to make you want to purchase the product.

We scratched and smelled, then threw the sample in the garbage. We were not impressed!

As followers of Christ, there are “scratch and smell” opportunities every day. In the normal rhythms of life, we touch the lives of those who do not know Christ – those who have never experienced God’s love and forgiveness through Christ. These touches are opportunities for our neighbors, co-workers, fellow students, business partners and team members to sample the “fragrance” of knowing and following Christ. Every conversation, business dealing, community event and any social encounter is a scratch and smell opportunity to reveal the aroma of the Kingdom of God.

The question is, what kind of “scratch and smell” experience do others have when they rub up against us outside of our church buildings, away from our worship services and Bible studies? Does the fragrance of our lives remind them of sacrificial, unconditional love – the kind of love that led God to send His only Son to die on a cross for our sins?

Or do our attitudes and behavior give off an odor of self-serving arrogance and pride? Do others smell the stench of materialism and consumerism so prevalent in today’s culture? Worse, is it possible they smell nothing at all because our apathy, fear or lack of concern keeps everyone at a distance?

These scratch and smell opportunities are important for the church’s testimony to the world. They are more important than budgets, buildings and programs combined. They have a greater impact than mission projects, revivals and special offerings. These day-to-day encounters will either negate or validate what we say we believe. Further, when our actions and lifestyle during the week are not consistent with what we preach on Sunday, the testimony of the church is lost. Even worse, the Kingdom of God is maligned.

On the other hand, the aroma of the Kingdom of God is the beautiful fragrance of love. When Christians truly and consistently love one another, they give off the scent of God’s character and His unconditional love. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another” (John 13:35).

This was very important to Jesus. He called this love for one another a “new commandment.” Earlier in His ministry, He said the first and greatest commandment is to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.... And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” So, what is new about the commandment in John 13:35? We are to love each other as He loves us. The new standard for loving others is Jesus. This is the fragrance and aroma of God’s Kingdom.

What kind of “scratch and smell” experience do others have when they bump up against us? Is the encounter memorable and pleasant? Or is the aroma one that pushes them away? May we strive to be the sweet smell of Jesus in the community where God has placed us.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Larry Doyle is director of missions of the Piedmont Baptist Association in North Carolina.)
11/21/2013 1:42:39 PM by Larry Doyle, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Seeking the unseen Kingdom

November 20 2013 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. – “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven,” Jesus taught His disciples to pray.

Where is the Kingdom of God? You will find it on no map, but it is coming – one soul, one household, one village, one nation at a time.

“We arrived at house number 37 and were met by a sweet, short, red-headed woman with a smile that flashed the most beautiful gold teeth,” an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary wrote earlier this year. “We introduced ourselves and told her that we came to her village to tell her that God loves her and to give her a copy of His Word. She took the gift and invited us into her home. Once inside, we met a man with a sad, sunken face. He had no legs. The first words out of his mouth were, ‘Yesterday, I wanted to die.’ We talked about faith matters and asked if he wanted to invite Jesus into his life. He asked if he could right now, and then he prayed with great emotion. Then I looked up and saw his wife with tears streaming down her face, and I asked if she had repented, too. She said, ‘Yes, right along with my husband.’

“When we arrived, that house had been full of despair, but the Savior gave hope. I am so grateful that I still have legs and can walk into places and touch lives for eternity. Though I don’t get to experience it every day, I was born for this.”

You were born for it, too, if you belong to Christ. Before you can spread the Kingdom of God, however, you must seek it with all your heart. “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you,” Jesus urged in the same sermon that contained His guide to prayer (Matthew 6:33, KJV). Only one thing is necessary, He told anxious Martha: Sit quietly at the feet of the Master, like Mary (Luke 10:38-42).

Worldly kingdoms are visible. They traffic in power, wealth, military might, prestige. Victory is to be sought at all costs. Defeat is the ultimate humiliation.

The unseen Kingdom of God, by contrast, glories in humiliation. Its symbol is a cross. In this life, it offers rejection, suffering and death. It demands surrender. The reward: union with the Lord.

“To really be His heart, His hands and His voice, to completely love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind, we must totally surrender to God’s leadership,” says IMB President Tom Elliff. “This means being unconditionally, wholeheartedly committed to God – first to love Him, then to love others.”

It begins in prayer, a deeper form of prayer than many of us have experienced.

“Most people don’t know how to pray for the fulfillment of the Great Commission because they don’t even know how to pray for themselves,” said Marty Sampson,* an associate pastor from Alabama who attended the first School of Prayer for All Nations, held earlier this year at IMB’s International Learning Center. Sampson, who asked that his real name not be used because he travels to overseas regions hostile to Christianity, said he was drawn to the school out of deep conviction that Southern Baptists have forgotten the importance of prayer.

“I’m convinced the church lags behind in spreading the gospel because we are depending on ourselves, our strategies and our plans as opposed to the power of God in response to intercessory prayer,” he told IMB writer Don Graham. “I’ve been on a personal journey in my spiritual life of learning to be dependent on Him. And the key to that is absolute surrender. Everything about my life, everything that I value, I’m going to put on the altar so that nothing takes precedence over God.”

Drawing away from the world in order to change the world seems counterintuitive, but it was the spiritual practice Jesus Himself followed. He sought out solitary places to be alone with His Father and to listen to His voice. He returned to the world filled with God’s Spirit and power.

Let’s follow Christ’s example. No strategy, no amount of resources will bring light to the darkness without Him.

*Name changed


(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is International Mission Board global correspondent with a blog at worldviewconversation.blogspot.com. Learn more about the School of Prayer for All Nations or register for an upcoming session at imb.org/span. Send questions to SPAN@imb.org.)
11/20/2013 1:01:08 PM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Free Will Baptists cancel Duck Dynasty event

November 19 2013 by Mark H. Creech, Guest Column

 Kevin and Jason made their way down the steps after 1 a.m. Kevin led his friend into the corner room that the family called the study and opened his Dad’s liquor cabinet. “He’s going to know you got in here,” Jason warned. “No way,” said Kevin. “I only take what he won’t miss.”
 
Then 12-year-old Kevin drew out a bottle of vodka and swallowed a mouthful of the clear liquid. He passed it to Jason and the two of them drank a few more swallows before returning the bottle to the cabinet.
 
Kevin and Jason would share this late night adventure together every time Jason would come over to stay for the night. By the time Kevin was just 14 he was drinking every day. Kevin’s parents were gone a lot and somehow the booze seemed to make him feel a little better about his life. Neither Kevin’s father nor his mother ever seemed to notice the alcohol disappearing. [1]
 
Many young people simply experiment with alcohol and after finding their curiosity satisfied will later abstain. But today most do not; they continue drinking. In fact, alcohol has become such an accepted part of our culture that a Columbia University study noted that underage drinkers account for 11.4 percent of all the alcohol consumed in the United States. [2]
 
The average age of a teen boy who tries alcohol for the first time is 11, and for a girl it’s 13. According to statistics as recent as last year, 72 percent of students have consumed alcohol by the end of high school, and approximately 37 percent have done so by eighth grade. [3] More than three million teens in the U.S. between the ages of 14-17 are problem drinkers – something they will likely struggle with the rest of their lives. [4]
 
Free Will Baptist Family Ministries in Greenville, Tenn. recently cancelled a fundraising event featuring “Duck Dynasty” star, Willie Robertson, over a recent decision by the Robertson family to create a line of their own wines. The fundraiser could have raised $70,000 to $85,000 for a project to add another 10,000 square feet to the ministry’s school where at-risk youth receive education and counseling.
 
Dereck Bell, the ministry’s director of development, said the cancellation wasn’t based in any ill will towards the Robertsons. The ministry’s concerns were related to the Robertsons’ association with the sale of wine and how this could send the wrong message to the ministry’s adolescents. Bell explained half of the adolescents in their program undergo treatment for alcohol and drug addiction issues. He said, “Our message must be consistent. The lives of these children may well hang in the balance.” [5]
 
The A&E reality show “Duck Dynasty” is not only a huge hit, but its contribution to the good of our nation can’t be understated. It resonates with teachings of the Bible and family values. The Robertsons are committed to spreading the Word, seeking to lead people to Christ and helping various Christian groups and nonprofits.
 
But even more commendable is a group like the Free Will Baptists in Tennessee who will take a loss, who will not compromise their faith for any worldly gain, who will not compromise their biblical convictions even in the name of some worthy cause.
 
In Jeremiah 35, God commended the Rechabites for their commitment to stay away from wine. Some will argue they were blessed only because of their obedience to the patriarch of their clan and not their abstinence. But would God bless obedience to a sinful or foolish precept? Would God have selected to highlight in His Holy Word His special approval to a particular rule that was simply observed from some superstitious motive or mere legalistic practice? Hardly! The point of the text is that God wanted to contrast the praiseworthy fidelity of the Rechabites’ holy and separated lifestyle with that of the Jews who had forgotten God and became careless and reckless in an age of indulgence. One can only wonder how God intends to bless Free Will Baptist Ministries for their sterling, similar example.
 
Certainly there are many good Christians who for various erroneous reasons choose to imbibe or traffic in the sale of alcohol. But, to do so is an abuse of their Christian liberty. Judge Paul Pressler once wrote, “The upcoming generations need to know the havoc brought on our society and upon individuals by the use of alcohol. If we use it ourselves, we recommend its use to others. A Christian should not exercise his freedom to put himself and others at such risk.” [6]
 
Moreover, it should be remembered that alcohol is a recreational, mind-altering drug. To use it even moderately is to swing the door wide open for the moderate use of other recreational drugs like marijuana. Should Christians endorse the moderate use of other recreational drugs? Why is alcohol, which happens to be the nation’s number one drug problem, morally acceptable, but not other drugs that scientifically and socially speaking actually effect less harm? Beer, wine and liquor today like all mind-altering recreational substances can make a fool of one’s life, biting like a poisonous serpent (Proverbs 20:1). And just as discretion is the better part of valor, abstinence is the better part of wisdom.
 
It obviously was a youngster that prompted a certain poet to write:
 
An empty glass before the youth
Soon drew the waiter near:
“What will you take,” the waiter asked,
“Wine red, or white, or beer?”
We’ve rich supplies of foreign brew
And wine your thirst to slake
The youth with innocence replied,
“I’ll take what Dad takes.”
Swift as an arrow went the words
Into his father’s ear;
And soon a conflict deep and strong
Awoke terrific fear
Have I not seen the strongest fall?
The brightest led astray?
And shall I on my only son
Bestow a curse today?
Dad motioned to the waiter;
And gave his order clear;
I think I have a taste today,
For a sparkling glass of – iced tea!
[7]
 
Yes, iced tea! That’s what it looks like Uncle Si is always drinking in that beloved cup of his. Let’s hope we don’t start seeing him filling it with wine, at least not for the sake of those young people like Kevin.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Creech is executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.)
 

 Resources:

 [1] McDowell, Josh. Hostetler, Bob. Josh McDowell’s Handbook on Counseling Youth. Dallas, Tx.: Word Publishing, 1996, pg. 390
 [2], [3] “11 Facts About Teens and Alcohol”. dosomething.org. http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-teens-and-alcohol
 [4] “Statistics on Alcoholics”. Alcoholics Info. http://www.alcoholics-info.com/Statistics_on_Alcoholics.html
 [5] Schapiro, Jeff. “Ministry Cancels Fundraiser Featuring ‘Duck Dynasty’ Star Over Wine Deal”. The Christian Post, 12, November 2013 http://www.christianpost.com/news/ministry-cancels-fundraiser-featuring-duck-dynasty-star-over-wine-deal-108626/
 [6] Brumbelow, David R. Ancient Wine and the Bible. Carollton, Ga. Free Church Press, 2011 pg. 135
 [7] Ibid, pgs. 249-250
11/19/2013 1:00:08 PM by Mark H. Creech, Guest Column | with 0 comments



JFK, Graham & irrecoverable moments

November 18 2013 by Douglas W. Mize, Baptist Press

TAYLORS, S.C. – It has been 50 years (Nov. 22) since that tragic day in Dallas when bullets from an assassin ended the life of our nation’s 35th President John F. Kennedy. His death remains one of the darkest moments in our nation’s history.  
 
All who were old enough at the time still remember where they were when they heard the news in 1963. But as we pass the 50-year mark of this tragedy, we also recognize another famous figure of the 20th century. This month Billy Graham celebrated his 95th birthday. You already know these two men among the biggest historical figures of recent times, but what you may not know is their close association and a certain “irrecoverable moment” they shared before Kennedy’s death.  
 
In the early ’60s most of our country had a fondness for JFK. He still remains one of the most popular presidents ever. He averaged a 70 percent approval rating during his time in office. These were the days of “Camelot,” and despite some pressing world issues that included the beginning of the conflict in Vietnam, the early ’60s were viewed as a grand age.  
 
This all changed on Nov. 22, 1963. In fact, this horrific day served as a marker of a much more depressing age in our country with more terrible assassinations to come, escalating violence in Vietnam, the crime rate doubling and the drug age around the corner. 
 
Billy Graham had known JFK before he won the presidency in 1960. After Kennedy’s victory, Graham made it clear that he would do anything to help the new president unify the nation under his leadership. Only a few days before the inauguration, Graham was invited to play golf with the president-elect. The two men enjoyed a conversation about world events and politics, but Graham was most passionate about their discussion of Jesus Christ and His pending return to earth for those who follow Him. 
 
Kennedy was so intrigued with their discussion that he requested to meet again with Graham concerning Christ. 
 
They continued to stay in touch through Kennedy’s presidency and were together in February 1963 at the National Day of Prayer Breakfast. In Billy Graham’s autobiography, Just As I Am, he shares his memory of the morning’s events. 
 
After the gathering, Kennedy and Graham walked out together toward the presidential motorcade on this particularly cold and snowy day. Suddenly the president stopped in his tracks, turned and invited Graham back to the White House so he could discuss something with him. But Graham was battling the flu. Fearing he’d make the president sick, he declined and asked if they could meet another time.  
 
The president agreed it could wait for a more convenient occasion. But that moment never came. For Graham, this moment will forever stay with him. In his book he wrote, “His hesitation at the car door, and his request, haunt me still. What was on his mind? Should I have gone with him? It was an irrecoverable moment.” 
 
Today, Billy Graham is still making his life count for the gospel of King Jesus. Earlier this month on the occasion of his 95th birthday he released maybe his final message for the world, titled, “The Cross.”  
 
It is the central part of his campaign called “My Hope America with Billy Graham.” This month thousands, and possibly millions, of people will see his final message on televisions, computers and handheld devices. Billy Graham knows the value of taking advantage of every single moment. It is remarkable that a man so well loved, who dedicated his entire life to spreading the gospel, still remembers this one missed opportunity to discuss Christ.  
 
Fifty years ago the assassination of JFK reminded our nation that evil never takes a sabbatical and time is fleeting. The apostle Paul believed in “making the most of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16 HCSB). What a challenge this is for all of us. As followers of Christ we dare not be satisfied until we take every opportunity to share the love of Christ. So who are the family members, friends or acquaintances in each of our lives who seem open to discuss Christ? For indeed today is an irrecoverable moment for all of us.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Douglas W. Mize is minister of evangelism and discipleship at Taylors (S.C.) First Baptist Church.)
11/18/2013 2:51:48 PM by Douglas W. Mize, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



How apostles viewed the Old Testament?

November 15 2013 by J. D. Greear, Baptist Press

DURHAM – I wonder sometimes whether the earliest apostles would recognize the way we treat the Old Testament. At best, the first half of our Bible serves as a lengthy preamble to the real Bible, the New Testament. At worst, it’s seen as an archaic relic of an unenlightened society. But from day one, the apostles had a very different view of the Old Testament. They saw it as:

1. Authenticated prophecies about Jesus


In Acts 1:20, Peter reflects on Judas’ suicide by quoting a Psalm: “May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it” (Psalm 69:25). As Peter reads the Old Testament, this was a prophecy about Judas,” which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David” (Acts 1:16). The scripture, Peter says, ”had to be fulfilled.”

“Scripture had to be fulfilled.” This is a refrain throughout the book of Acts – and in the entire New Testament. The apostles saw the whole Old Testament as a book predicting the coming of Jesus Christ.

Bible scholars estimate that there are approximately 322 direct prophecies that describe the character and nature of the coming Messiah. Some of them give specific details about His birth, life and death. The fulfillment of these prophecies helped to convince the apostles that Jesus was who He said He was, the promised Messiah of God.

The odds of someone accidentally embodying even a fraction of these prophecies are staggering. Consider this: when the CIA arranges meetings with double agents, they provide several steps for the agent to complete to ensure they don’t get the wrong person by mistake. So, for instance, one particular Soviet double agent was given these instructions: ”(1) Go to Mexico City. (2) Send a message to the CIA operative there that ‘I. Jackson’ has arrived. (3) After 3 days, go to a particular place in the city and (4) stand in front of the statue of Columbus, (5) with your middle finger placed in a guidebook. When someone approaches you asking for directions, respond by saying that the (6) statue is magnificent and that (7) you are from Oklahoma.” At this point, the CIA operative would know that this was their agent, according to Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible by Erwin Lutzer.

Seven signs are enough to identify a CIA double agent (if you know what you’re looking for, of course). Jesus had not seven, but 322 signs to identify Him.

Micah said He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Second Samuel says he would be of the tribe of Judah and the family of David (2 Samuel 7). Malachi says He would be preceded by a prophet with Elijah’s spirit (Malachi 3:1). Zechariah says He would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:13). Isaiah says He would die hung on a tree (Isaiah 53:5–6). That happened.

When the apostles looked at the Old Testament, they recognized the man they had spent three years with – Jesus Christ.

2. Words from the Holy Spirit


Look again at Acts 1:16: ”Brothers, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas.” Peter quotes David, but says the Holy Spirit was speaking. So which was it – David or the Holy Spirit? According to Peter, it was both.

“But wait,” you say, “How can something be simultaneously the Word of God and the word of men?” Think of it like this: when my kids were learning to walk, I would hold their hands as they hobbled along. They were taking steps, but I was in charge of where they were going the entire time.

I often hear people say, “Well, maybe the Holy Spirit was inspiring the biblical authors, but they were still regular people, so they got a lot wrong, too. The divine parts are trustworthy, but the human parts are full of mistakes.”

But think about Jesus. He was fully God and yet fully man. His humanity didn’t diminish His divinity or make Him “fallible.” The same is true of scripture, which is precisely what Peter was saying in Acts 1. Later on Peter would say that “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). The word for “carried along” is fero, the same word people used for the way ships were carried along by the wind. As human instruments wrote, God carried their words to His exact destination. 

Because the apostles believed this, they put their opinions aside in light of what the Word said. They devoted themselves to the scriptures – studying it, memorizing it, living by it. Are we devoted like they were? Or, do we feel the liberty to tell God how we think He could improve some of His ideas?

(EDITOR’S NOTE – J. D. Greear is the lead pastor at The Summit Church in Durham. This column also appeared at JDGreear.com and BetweenTheTimes.com.)
11/15/2013 9:31:15 AM by J. D. Greear, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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