November 2015

Now is the time to end America’s racial crisis

November 10 2015 by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President

Ronald Reagan once said, “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” I believe that great change can’t happen unless someone sets the table for tough conversations. This past Wednesday in Jackson, Miss., a table was set for America’s toughest conversation to occur: a conversation on racism in America.
 
This conversation did not take place among politicians, business leaders, educational institutions or sports leagues. This tough and long overdue conversation took place with pastors of local churches.
 
Dr. Jerry Young, president of the National Baptist Convention, and I led a conversation with a group of 20 other pastors. Dr. Young invited 10 pastors from his convention and I invited 10 pastors from our convention. The conversation was filled with special, difficult and joyful moments.
 

Martin Luther King Jr. and Birmingham, Ala.

When Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his Letter From a Birmingham Jail* on April 16, 1963, he noted he had never written such a long letter. Reading this letter recently, the words in his final paragraph penetrated my heart.
 
Dr. King wrote, “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”
 
Sadly and regrettably, after 52 years, this deep fog filled with racism, injustices and misunderstanding has not lifted fully. In fact, in the last 18 months in our nation, it has become like a fire fanned by a mighty wind. Rather than the fire coming from the Holy Spirit of God and His breath upon our churches, the fire is raging from the DNA of our hearts. Sin is in our DNA and is at the heart of our human condition. Prejudice and racism are offenses against God and one another.
 

Silence is not the answer and hope is not a strategy

We must not be silent any longer; silence is not the answer. Hope is not a strategy; you cannot just hope something goes away. Nor can you sit passively in the church pew and believe it is enough. Passivity has never been and will never be a prescription for healing.
 
We, the Church, have come to one of the supreme hours in our history since our birth on the day of Pentecost. With great conviction in this hour of crisis in America, our generation must rise like never before, resolving that the sin of racism will stop now and not be forwarded to generations in the future.
 

Now is the time for racism to end in America

Sin wounds. Sin hurts. Sin divides. Sin destroys.
 
Grace forgives. Grace heals. Grace unites. Grace lives.
 
Since we believe the Bible is God’s authoritative, infallible, trustworthy, inerrant and sufficient Word about all matters of life, including racism, then let’s obey it.
 
Genesis 1:27 says: “So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.”
 
Let us take these convictions to our country:
 
1. AMERICA, ALL PEOPLE ARE CREATED IN GOD’S IMAGE
 
No one is less than another. We are created by God and created for His glory on this earth.
 
Acts 17:26-28: “From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him, we live and move and exist.
 
2. AMERICA, THERE IS ONLY ONE RACE – THE HUMAN RACE
 
Each of us came from one man, Adam. Every ethnicity on this earth came from him. God Himself determined when you would live in human history and where you would live. Therefore, God has each of us where we can demonstrate His love so when people seek after God, they will find Him.
 
We not only have the same problem of sin, we have the same solution: our Savior, Jesus Christ.
 
1 John 2:2: “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.”
 
3. AMERICA, JESUS DIED FOR ALL PEOPLE
 
Jesus did not die only for white people, black people or any other group. Jesus died for all people. Why?
 
John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall have everlasting life.”
 
4. AMERICA, GOD LOVES ALL PEOPLE
 
When we receive God’s love found only in Jesus Christ at the moment of salvation, we become devoted followers of Jesus Christ. We become Christians.
 
I want to remind each of us today: We are not black Christians. We are not white Christians. We are not Latino Christians. We are not Native American Christians. We are Christians. We are followers of Jesus Christ.
 

We are one in Christ

The death of Jesus Christ on the cross makes us one in Christ. While Satan and sin destroy and build walls between people, it is only Jesus and His love that gives life and tears down these walls between people.
 
In this desperate hour in our nation when racial tension is building rapidly, the church of Jesus Christ must rise together as one.
 
We are not black churches. We are not white churches. We are not Latino churches. We are not Asian churches. We are the Church of Jesus Christ. We are members of the same body. Let the Church rise!
 

The hope for all racism to end in America

The hope for all racism to end in America is Jesus Christ and His triumphant Church. Schisms and divisions will end when the Gospel of grace begins to rule in our hearts again.
 
Your church must be for your city. Your church must be for your town.
 
The Church needs to rise up and not just have a racial unity conversation, but also live out an ongoing demonstration of racial unity to the world. As Jesus said, as recorded in John 17:21, “May they all be one … so the world will believe You sent me.
 
Each pastor in this nation must rise to become a prophetic voice relating to the issue of racism, calling it what it is, even if the price is high personally. For the sake of America, pastors and churches must be the prophetic voice of not just doom and gloom, but the voice for hope and future.
 
This is why we need to call out to God and ask Him for the next Great Awakening in America. Each Sunday in our churches we need to ask Him for the next Great Awakening in America.
 

Racism is Satan’s tool

In closing, I am not sure what you believe about the subject of spiritual warfare. But I believe the issue of racism is from Satan and his demonic forces of hell. Why? Racism is completely opposite of the message of Christ. Racism is completely opposite of the message of love. Racism is completely opposite of the message of reconciliation.
 
We are notifying Satan and his demonic forces that steal, kill and destroy that enough is enough. The power of God is greater than the forces of evil, even the evil of racism. “Greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
 
Pastors, rise up! Churches, rise up! Business leaders, rise up! Educational leaders, rise up! Political leaders, rise up! Towns and cities, rise up! Everyone, rise up!
 
The need has never been greater. The urgency is upon us.
 
Now is the time for racism to end in America!
 
*To view a copy of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail, go to okra.stanford.edu/transcription/ document_images/ undecided/630416-019.pdf.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. This column by Ronnie Floyd first appeared at his website, ronniefloyd.com.)

11/10/2015 1:01:37 PM by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President | with 0 comments



8 reasons older people struggle with change

November 10 2015 by Chuck Lawless

I hear it all the time – something like, “The older people in our church just don’t like change. They’re aggravating.”
 
As a pastor at heart and an older person (age 54), I understand both the frustration of the pastor and the reticence of the older person. I hope the following thoughts will help us minister better to older folks facing change:
 
1. They’re people, and most people eventually don’t like change.
Change might seem the norm to young people today, but even young people eventually grow older – and then long for days gone by. It happens, even when you’re sure it won’t. Trust me.
 
2. Sometimes they legitimately long for something to stay the same.
The older I get, the more I understand this reality. Careers end. Friends die. Children move away. Spouses pass away. Memories fade. When everything else is changing, the one place an older person can cry for normalcy is the church. What seems like obstinacy might simply be a cry for pastoral understanding.
 
3. They’ve seen pastors and programs come and go.
When pastors change every 3-4 years, and each pastor brings a new program that doesn’t last, I understand why long-termers might question change. Their knowledge of a church’s history naturally makes them skeptical of the latest change.
 
4. They’ve seen change not work out.
We’ve all seen that happen, of course – but older folks have often seen it happen many times. In fact, sometimes they’ve been there multiple times to clean up the mess when a poorly handled change leads to disruption and division.
 
5. No one has helped them understand the “why” behind changes.
You may disagree with me, but I’m convinced that many older folks are willing to accept change as long as they understand the reasons behind the change. They’ve been around long enough to know that we should be able to explain and defend our reasoning in a logical and loving way. If we can’t – or won’t – do that, why should they accept the change?
 
6. They’ve seen change that they believe really has led to compromise.
Growing up, they never dreamed that drums would be in the church, women would wear pants to church or the Bible would be anything different than the King James Version. We may not agree with what they believe is “right,” but sometimes their fear of change comes from a genuine, heartfelt desire to avoid seeming compromise.
 
7. They’ve watched some pastors lead poorly through change.
They’ve been there when pastors “ran over” faithful church members to implement change. They’ve seen others ignore the loving advice of church leaders. When you’ve seen enough leaders harm the church through poor leadership, any change produces anxiety.
 
8. Change often means loss.
To move in one direction usually means moving away from another direction. Adopting a new program requires giving up an old one. For older folks who are sometimes already facing loss, loss in church – their place of security – is even more difficult.
 
When I think about these honest reasons, I can minister better to folks struggling with change. What other honest reasons would you add to this list?
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Lawless currently serves as professor of evangelism and missions, dean of graduate studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and as president of The Lawless Group, a consulting group for church leaders. This post first appeared at chucklawless.com.)

11/10/2015 1:00:00 PM by Chuck Lawless | with 0 comments



Lottie Moon still honored by her church in China

November 9 2015 by Bruce Moon, Baptist Press

China has changed radically since the death of famed missionary Lottie Moon in 1912. Denominations and evangelism are illegal and the government is officially atheistic. But do the Christians in Penglai, the city where Lottie Moon once served, remember her?
 
I learned the answer at the Penglai Christian Church this summer. Amid the singing, dancing and preaching in an auditorium filled with teams of men and women in colored polo and T-shirts along with a choir in white robes and a group of women in flowing fluorescent purple dresses, I repeatedly heard, “mu la di xiong di jie mei.”

 
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Photo by Bruce Moon
The pastor of Penglai Christian Church shows a photo from the days when Lottie Moon was a missionary in China’s Shandong province.

Translated, “xiong di jie mei” means “older brothers, younger brothers, older sisters, younger sisters”; it is a familiar phrase in Mandarin-speaking Chinese churches.
 
It took a few minutes for me to understand “mu la di.” In Chinese, the family name comes first – “Mu La Di” was Lottie Moon’s Chinese name. Understanding the words brought tears to my eyes. How could I, a distant relative of Lottie Moon, be in the church in Penglai in China’s Shandong province on the very morning the congregation was celebrating her service and sacrifice in the coastal city?
 
The words projected onto a large screen said it was a “100th anniversary celebration of Lottie’s Moon’s heavenly journey,” but the actual anniversary was three years ago, on Dec. 12, 2012. Not only was it a mystery why the Penglai Christian Church was celebrating Lottie Moon on Aug. 8, 2015, but also how I even got there; until that morning, I could only guess where it was located.
 
The idea of seeing places where Lottie Moon had ministered in China started with my wife Terrie back in 2005. I had made four short-term mission trips to teach English in China in a small city in southern China in the province of Guangdong. Later, my wife’s amateur genealogical research found that our family had a link to Lottie Moon; we had a common ancestor in the 1700s, making me a fourth cousin “twice removed.” The short-terms where I had served were thousands of miles from Penglai, which also has been known as Tengchow. It wouldn’t be easy to get there. City and county names have changed and China’s growth has radically changed most places. I put the idea out of my mind.
 
Since 2010, my annual trips to China have involved arriving in Beijing, which connects to most of the country’s major cities, including those in Shandong where Lottie Moon did most of her missionary work. As my Chinese has improved, travel to Shandong became a possibility via plane, train and bus. This year a friend from Shandong invited me for a visit when she would be visiting her son in Longkou, a city neighboring Penglai. I was teaching at a Beijing university and had three-day weekends and planned to see them in July. But a delay in receiving the university stipend delayed my plan. I let my friend know but received no reply. When the money from the university came a week later, there was still no reply. After 10 days with no word, I went to see another friend in Henan, a province south of Beijing, and decided to see Shandong after finishing my Beijing teaching.

 
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Photo by Bruce Moon
A monument honoring Lottie Moon, though weathered and marred during China’s Cultural Revolution, still stands at the Penglai Christian Church.

I purchased train tickets for my Henan and Shandong journeys and made hotel reservations. Then I received an email from my friend explaining she had been hospitalized in Longkou and was home recuperating in Binzhou with the assistance of her son. She wouldn’t be able to see me, and her son wouldn’t be available to guide me in Yantai, the prefecture city, and Penglai and Longkou. I would be on my own in Shandong province.
 
The Friday after the term ended, I took the subway to the Beijing South train terminal for the six-hour trip to Yantai. I thought Penglai was a local bus trip from Yantai but it was a “local” city that took another two hours. In Penglai, the taxicab driver readily recognized the hotel name and I was there in about 15 minutes.
 
I had chosen the hotel after finding it on the online itinerary of a tour group led by two Woman’s Missionary Union leaders. I figured it was probably near the Penglai church and might cater to foreigners. I had no address for the church and walked the streets that night to get a feel for the city.
 
On Saturday morning, the idea of finding the monument stone for Lottie Moon at the church seemed like a crazy idea. Rick Boyne, pastor of Immanuel Southern Baptist Church in Wagoner, Okla., once visited the Penglai church and had sent me two photos. One was of the church building and the other of a memorial arch for the park/estate of a famous general next to the church. Rick told me to just show the pictures to any cab driver. I had saved the pictures to my phone and showed them to the hotel’s front desk staff. The first person recognized them and called another clerk over. The two agreed and said a name I didn’t recognize. It wasn’t Mu La Di or “jiao hui” (church teaching meeting) or “jiao tang” (church teaching building). It was Ji Qi Guang, the name of the famous hero/general. The clerks took me outside and pointed down the main street, telling me to walk straight and cross two intersections.
 
Just as the clerks said, at the third street I looked to the right and saw both the old church building and the memorial arch of General Ji Qi Guang. The path that led to the arch passed the churchyard. I saw the Lottie Moon memorial, but there was a wrought iron fence and a gate that locked from the inside. I saw two people in the churchyard and asked them to open the gate.
 
The characters on the monument are difficult to read; it was defaced during the Cultural Revolution when everything old, religious and foreign were targets. What was visible were traditional characters that are sometimes different from the simplified characters I have studied. I nodded in appreciation to the pair who had let me in, taking pictures of all sides of the monument with my cellphone.
 
I heard music that sounded like a children’s choir but since it was Saturday morning I thought it was a rehearsal for Sunday. My new friends asked me to follow them to the newer sanctuary building.
 
When I entered the auditorium, I didn’t find a children’s choir. Instead, there were 300-400 people, mostly adults, almost all seated in groups, with those wearing the same color seated together. Later, I learned that the service – a blending of Chinese and Western influences – was about half over when I entered. The first group I saw was a choir wearing white choir robes with blue sashes who sang two hymns translated into Chinese.
 
The pastor preached a short sermon, repeatedly calling the congregation, “Lottie Moon’s brothers and sisters.” He ended by singing “Jesus Loves Me,” with the congregation joining in. A women’s group used their hands and arms while singing a couple of songs, just like the women you see exercising in China’s parks and city squares. And in Chinese opera style, two women walked about the stage singing to God, telling Him of their love for Him and asking Him to mold them. The finale was Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” sung by the massed choirs.
 
Everyone leaving was given a bag of flat bread with a filling common in the area. As I left and was given my bread, the preacher greeted me and I had my picture taken with him. I tried to explain that I was related to Mu La Di. I took out my passport and pointed to my last name. The pastor then took me into the office and showed me a display case. Two shelves had familiar pictures of Lottie Moon that one sees in articles and books, along with one of her home in Virginia. I took pictures, thanked the pastor and made my way out.
 
As I left, I wondered how I had come to be at the Penglai Christian Church on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015. If I had come when I had originally planned, I would have missed the service in Lottie Moon’s memory. I might not have found someone to open the gates to the church. In other years, my Chinese wouldn’t have been good enough to even make it to the church site.
 
So many details and decisions converged that day to lead me to believe God had allowed me to experience something very special that day.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bruce Moon is a writer and English and technology educator in Sacramento, Calif.)

11/9/2015 11:51:39 AM by Bruce Moon, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Yazidi refugees escape ISIS, still desperate for rescue

November 9 2015 by Rob White, IMB

Whoever built this tennis court probably never imagined refugees would be reclining there under temporary shelters. The sprawling picnic area, once a shady respite for Sunday leisure seekers is now a tent city – home to more than 4,000 Yazidi refugees from Northern Iraq.

 
These mothers, uncles, cousins and children walked seven days through the desert to escape ISIS in August 2014. Their current home has clean water and working toilets, but the camp has only one clinic staffed by a doctor and a few nurses who struggle to meet the medical needs of thousands.
 
Several months ago, I learned of the urgent need for dentists to treat the people here. I invited an experienced field dental team from the U.S. to come serve the refugees in the camp. They arrived with a portable chair, instruments and supplies to treat a variety of challenges. During their time here, they were able to treat the patients with the most severe conditions – abscesses and painful, deep infections that could spread throughout the body.

 
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A Yazadi woman tends to a child in a refugee camp. A Christian worker shares how God is moving among the refugees as they search for hope.

One of the nurses at the camp, Murad*, himself a 23-year-old refugee, was overwhelmed by the team’s willingness to come all the way from the U.S. – at their own expense – just to meet the needs of his people here in a “dangerous” part of the world. I got to know the soft-spoken Yazidi one evening after the crowd of ailing refugees had finally dispersed from the clinic building.
 
“You made us feel like people,” he said. The dehumanizing experience of being a refugee weighed heavily on him. From the time he left his home in northern Iraq until now, he had been working as a nurse, usually unpaid, caring for countrymen who had fallen ill on the arduous journey. Using his medical skills enabled him to maintain his dignity along the way, but many other Yazidis suffered a more tragic fate.
 
Crisis counselors who worked in the refugee camp stated in a report, “Most of the people we encountered were suffering from traumatic grief. The most traumatized age and social group seemed to be the young women. Many of them wept as they recounted horror stories of their friends and sisters being captured and sold into slavery. They recounted abuse and torture and expressed grief over the past and the atrocities that continue to befall their captured loved ones. One expressed survivor guilt, another expressed hatred for the perpetrator of such violence, and another wept in miserable resignation for her plight in life.”
 
Murad’s younger sister, Narin,* was kidnapped by ISIS fighters as their family fled their hometown. Murad explained, “She was held for ten months. We heard no word about her well-being. We didn’t know if she was still alive.” His clear light-brown eyes bore into me with anger and brokenness.
 
He then explained that one month ago the family received a request for a $30,000 ransom if they wanted to see their sister alive again. Somehow they scraped together the money, and their sister was dropped off in a city on the border between ISIS-controlled territory and Kurdish-controlled territory.
 
Murad showed me a choppy video on his phone of the emotional reunion. Even through the hugs, the tears and the wailing of relatives, Narin appeared in shock. She looked happy and hollow at the same time. A tear streamed down my face as I watched. “Oh, Lord, rescue these people,” I silently prayed.
 
Murad and Narin represent a terribly oppressed people. The Yazidi don’t want to go back to Iraq where ISIS threatens their lives, but in neighboring countries they are confined to camps where there is no possibility of finding work or buying property to establish a home. The Yazidis are a vulnerable minority stuck between the bitter Sunni-Shia divide in Iraq. Most are hoping a country in Europe or North America will open its doors and welcome them to begin a new life. But even more than a foreign home, they need a spiritual home.
 
I told Murad I was praying for his people. “Jesus Christ loved me first, so I love Him back by loving God and loving my neighbor, who is you,” I said.
 
Murad said he had always wanted to read the New Testament but had never found one. I helped him download an Arabic Bible onto his phone. He was thankful, but I knew that though he spoke Arabic, his heart language was Kurmanji Kurdish.
 
A few minutes before leaving the camp, I asked Murad if he would step into an examination room with me. I thanked him for sharing his life and his stories with me. I shared the gospel with him and gave him an audio Bible in Kurmanji. I played some of Matthew for him. He strained as he listened at first, but his eyes lit up when he recognized his own heart language. He thanked me profusely and carefully slipped the device into his pocket as we prepared to go.

 

Pray

  • Pray for an end to the kidnapping and abuse of Yazidi women. Pray for physical healing and spiritual redemption for young girls who have been enslaved and violated.

  • Ask God to provide permanent homes for the tens of thousands of Yazidi refugees sleeping in tents in Turkey.

  • Ask for a miraculous movement of the Holy Spirit to save and bring abundant life to the Yazidi people.

  • Pray that God will execute justice for the weak and the fatherless and deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

  • Pray that God will give you the desire, resources and time to walk in obedience as you learn about refugees.

  • Praise God that one day He will destroy His last enemy and Christ will claim the full reward of His suffering as He reigns with His people forever.

Ways to help

Learn more about Baptist Global Response and how they are responding to refugee needs in places like Syria, Northern Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Greece by going to gobgr.org/projects/project_detail/syria-crisis/. Learn more about how you or a team can serve groups of refugees in Central Asia through sports or education opportunities for two months or more by emailing francish@gobgr.org. Or, contact Jeff Palmer at jpalmer@gobgr.org to learn about other opportunities.
 
*Name changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rob White is a Christian worker in Asia.)


Related Stories:

Aid shortfalls are driving desperate Syrians back home
Refugee crisis opening door for gospel witness
10 refugee realities that may surprise you

11/9/2015 11:42:32 AM by Rob White, IMB | with 0 comments



Have Americans really changed their minds on same-sex marriage?

November 6 2015 by R. Albert Mohler Jr.

What explains the fact that the American people changed their minds so quickly on the question of same-sex marriage? A report from the Pew Research Center indicated that in 2001, Americans opposed same-sex marriage by an overwhelming margin, 57 percent to 35 percent. By 2015 those percentages had nearly reversed, with 55 percent supporting same-sex marriage and only 39 percent opposing it.
 
Same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states because of a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, but that decision came after public opinion had shifted. This is the same shift in public opinion that explains why President Barack Obama famously “evolved” on the issue during the 2012 presidential campaign.
 
But what explains the shift in public opinion? Hollywood played its part, for sure, sending a barrage of signals through entertainment. The academic and cultural elites did the same, using their influence in colleges and universities and shaping public opinion, especially among younger Americans. Major corporations, the legal system, liberal churches and even the Boy Scouts of America played parts in this moral revolution.

 
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REUTERS photo by Joshua Roberts
Supporters of gay marriage rally after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 26, 2015, that the U.S. Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to marry.

And yet, I wonder if something else explains at least a large part of this shift in public opinion: What if it isn’t real?
 
What if public opinion has not actually shifted nearly as much as is claimed?
 
I am not arguing that pollsters such as Pew stacked the deck or asked misleading questions. It does seem certain that a majority of Americans will tell a researcher that they support same-sex marriage, even if they believed the opposite just a few years before.
 
But I suspect that the support for same-sex marriage is evidence of what millions of Americans think they are supposed to say, rather than what they really believe. At the very least, their support for same-sex marriage is inconsistent and shallow.
 
An interesting report recently appeared in The New York Times indicating that boys in disadvantaged families suffer even more than their sisters. According to the article, boys “react more negatively to disadvantage,” and this shows up in patterns that range from higher rates of misbehavior to lower rates of high school graduation and college admissions.
 
What caught my eye was that disadvantage was defined as “growing up in poverty, in a bad neighborhood or without a father.”
 
Without a father? To most Americans that is just common sense. Furthermore, a mountain of research and analysis backs it up. Boys do better, not only with two parents in the home, but specifically with a father in the home.
 
The courts legalizing same-sex marriage insisted that there was no real evidence that same-sex couples were in any way lacking in the ability to raise children, boys or girls. Two moms or two dads are just as good as a mom and a dad, the elites insisted.
 
Now a majority of Americans agree? I actually don’t believe so. At the very least, I don’t think they have thought through their position. They are generally saying what they have been told to say – even shamed into saying by Hollywood and the elites.
 
But if research consistently shows that boys need a dad in the home, we can’t turn around and say that two moms will do just as well.
 
The legalization of same-sex marriage was pushed by a vast array of cultural influencers and driven by the courts. Public opinion is now for same-sex marriage, and those pushing the moral revolution are ready to move on to their next goal.
 
But before the rest of the society moves on, we should ask if people really mean what they say when they insist that they fully support same-sex marriage.
 
There is evidence right in the pages of The New York Times that boys do need a dad. Boys “without a father” are disadvantaged by that absence.
 
This is the same newspaper that took every editorial opportunity to support same-sex marriage and to claim that the gender of a parent didn’t matter.
 
Do the editorial writers read their own news sections?
 
I do not doubt that a vast moral revolution is reshaping America, but it is doubtful that most Americans are ready to say that a boy doesn’t need a dad. And, unless they are willing to go that far, they really do not support same-sex marriage as is claimed – or even, as they claim.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This post first appeared as a guest column for Religion News Service, religionnews.com. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and author of  “We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong.”)

11/6/2015 12:46:39 PM by R. Albert Mohler Jr. | with 0 comments



The faces behind the numbers

November 6 2015 by Jared C. Wellman, Southern Baptist TEXAN

Several years ago I pastored a small church in East Texas. Our annual budget was slim, yet a stout conviction of our fellowship was giving to missions. We designated 10 percent of our annual budget to it. I sometimes wondered if our tiny church with our even tinier budget really made a scratch on the proverbial surface of the lost world.
 
One summer I was in Nazareth Village in Israel alongside several other pastors on a tour of the country. While walking into a bookstore, one of the older pastors called me over and introduced me to an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary. I’ll never forget how he did it: “Jared,” he said, “come meet one of your missionaries.” For the first time in my tenure as a Southern Baptist pastor, I genuinely felt connected to missions; I realized that my giving touched real people.
 
This illustrates the beauty of the Cooperative Program (CP) but it also showcases a weakness. While it’s true that every active church can say that they support international missionaries through the Cooperative Program, it’s also true that, sometimes, the missionaries are nameless numbers (as are the lost people they serve).
 
The Cooperative Program is more than just sharing money to support missions. It’s about sharing money to support missionaries. That is, the CP is about supporting living, breathing people who share the gospel with dying, breathing people.
 
In the downsizing of our international mission force due to budget shortfalls, we are losing 600-800 living, breathing people whose lives impact countless dying, breathing people. I attended my first meeting as a member of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee in September and, as you would imagine, this loomed over the gathering. One major concern is how the IMB downsizing might impact the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. This, however, reflects our problem – that this concern is framed in financial terms.
 
The IMB isn’t a budget item or an offering. It’s people – living, breathing people. It’s people with passions and hopes and dreams and convictions and families and lives. But most importantly it’s saved people reaching lost people with the gospel.
 
It’s judicious to be concerned about the impact of the IMB’s budget reset, but this concern should segue to the real problem – lost people. If we express more concern over a budget or an offering rather than the lives being touched, we forget who and what we are as Southern Baptists. Missions shouldn’t be a cog of the church’s machine, but the other way around.
 
The current issue is not an IMB issue. It’s an “us” issue. The IMB has, year after year, continued to keep and send missionaries, but the average church isn’t providing the necessary assets to keep all our missionaries on the field, not to mention send more out.
 
This is why the IMB needs the church’s support now more than ever. It would be a categorical atrocity if our churches’ Cooperative Program gifts stagnate or decline week by week or if this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering dips a cent lower than the $153,002,394.13 received last year, when this year’s ingathering should be the largest in history.
 
Southern Baptist pastors must teach their people that the Cooperative Program isn’t just a line item in the budget but a cooperation of believers to support other believers to create more believers. Pastors need to think about leading our churches to increase their annual CP giving. “Annual” is the key word. The IMB needs consistent gifts to keep missionaries on the field.
 
And pastors need to begin preparing their people for the upcoming Lottie Moon Christmas Offering by asking how we can strategically and creatively raise more money. What kind of event can we host? What kind of appeal can we make to place a face beside the number? What sacrifice can we make or what corner can we cut in our personal budgets?
 
More than ever, this is the time to come together as Southern Baptists. Let’s turn the Cooperative Program into a Cooperative Initiative. Let’s remember that our churches exist because of the Great Commission and not the other way around. Let’s remember that there are faces behind the numbers.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jared C. Wellman is pastor of Mission Dorado Baptist Church in Odessa, Texas, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. This column first appeared in the Southern Baptist TEXAN at www.texanonline.net, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

11/6/2015 12:42:58 PM by Jared C. Wellman, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments



10 refugee realities that may surprise you

November 5 2015 by Anderson Rosson, IMB

Millions of people across Central Asia have crossed borders to escape war, persecution and violence. While Southern Baptists continue to respond, many refugees cling to a hope that wanes with each passing day.
 
The following includes a list of 10 realities about refugees that many may not yet realize. Also, learn ways you can pray and how Baptist Global Response is helping meet needs.

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Refugees are real people, not a statistic, Christian workers amid the crisis note. They laugh, love and hurt. They are men, women and children just like any other man, woman or child in the world. Anyone could become a refugee given the right political circumstances.

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Refugees are diverse group of people. They represent many different people groups -- Assyrian, Syrian, Kurdish, Yazidi, Afghani, Persian or Pakistani. Christian workers say this presents an incredible opportunity for sharing the gospel.

  1. Children are suffering. Half of Syrian refugees are under the age of 18. Three out of four children have lost a loved one because of the war and desperately need crisis counselors. Volunteers who can organize education, English, art or sports camps play a vital role in ministering to children, many of whom are not enrolled in any structured school program.

  2. Shelter is insufficient. Refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon are at capacity. Thousands of refugees are left to sleep on the streets.

  3. Winter is approaching. Most refugees flee with only the clothes on their back and a cell phone. Many are unprepared for approaching winter weather.

  4. Food is scarce. Refugees who travel across borders often subsist on one meal a day. Provision of food is a critical aspect of refugee relief.

  5. Refugees are at risk for exploitation. Crowded housing conditions, which include people living in abandoned buildings, place many at risk of abuse. Pray for God to protect refugees, especially children, from those who prey on the vulnerable and oppressed.

  6. Many refugees are educated. A journalist said he fled his country because he was persecuted for expressing his views on the Internet. Refugees may have been engineers, medical professionals, accountants, educators or artists in their home countries. There is a wide diversity of professions represented on the refugee highway.

  7. Refugees are diverse. Refugees may speak Arabic, Persian, Kurmanji, Sorani or Urdu. They represent many different people groups – Assyrian, Syrian, Kurdish, Yazidi, Afghani, Persian or Pakistani. Meeting the needs of so many peoples can be a challenge for relief workers, but it presents an incredible opportunity for sharing the gospel.

  8. The road to freedom is dangerous. Refugees risk their lives when they flee their countries. According to government reports, 30 people drowned near the Greek island of Lesvos in a period of four months, yet local workers estimate the actual number to be more than 250. In total, close to 3,000 people have died crossing the Mediterranean Sea to arrive in Europe.

  9. Orphans are at risk. The most vulnerable refugees are unaccompanied minors, many of whom have been out of school for a year or more. Volunteer teams could provide critical support through English, art, science or sports camps for refugee children.

  10. Refugees laugh, love and hurt. Refugees are men, women and children just like any other man, woman or child in the world. Anyone could become a refugee given the right political circumstances.

Pray

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Many refugees have insufficient shelter. Refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon are at capacity. Thousands of refugees are left to sleep on the streets.

  • Pray for God to give you a heart full of compassion for those who have been forced from their homes and are adrift in the world.

  • Pray the Lord would heal our broken world through Christ, the Prince of Peace.

  • Pray God will bring eternal hope to many refugees through the Gospel message of a heavenly Father, forgiveness through Christ and a home in heaven that will never fade away.

  • Pray God will execute justice for the weak and the fatherless and deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

  • Pray God will give people the desire, resources and time to walk in obedience as they learn about refugees.

Learn more about how Baptist Global Response is responding to refugee needs in places like Syria, Northern Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Greece by going to gobgr.org/projects/project_detail/syria-crisis. For instance, blankets for refugees – which people can help provide for $10 a blanket – are being distributed through BGR. Learn more about how you or a team can serve groups of refugees in Central Asia through sports or education opportunities for two months or more by emailing francish@gobgr.org. Or, contact Jeff Palmer at jpalmer@gobgr.org to learn about other opportunities.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Anderson Rosson, a Christian worker in Asia.)

11/5/2015 11:28:44 AM by Anderson Rosson, IMB | with 0 comments



Veterans Day: A Navy wife

November 4 2015 by Jeff Iorg, Guest Column

While speaking for a leadership training event at a church near a military base, I spoke with a woman who described herself as a Navy wife.
 
When I commented on how tough that life must be, she replied, “Not at all. It’s a great life. My husband is protecting America and stomping out evil around the world. His family is his support team, and we are proud to serve.”
 
She then detailed what that meant to her and her children – bringing tears to my eyes that she has stood strong for more than 20 years, helping her husband do this job by patriotically doing hers and teaching their children to shoulder the load. Another man, in a similar situation, apologized to his girlfriend for time away to serve his country. She told him, “I don’t mind being second to the mission of protecting freedom.”
 
Women – not just the men they love – care passionately about defending freedom and protecting the weak. It’s a privilege to know people like this who truly believe “the mission matters most.”
 
These women reminded me of the significant sacrifices and support ministry wives provide their husbands. When young women at our seminary hear the story of Ann moving with me to plant a church – with children ages 6 weeks, 2 years and 5 years – they often marvel that she did it.
 
But I can also see in their eyes a steely determination. They are ready to do the same and more for their generation to hear the gospel.
 
When God calls us to serve others – whether in the military or ministry – the most important missions often come with the least recognition and remuneration.
 
A man who responds to these callings and who has a wife who sacrificially stands with him experiences a special gift from God – the blessing of selfless partnership.
 
Thank God for women and children who believe “the mission matters most” and free those of us called to leadership to serve wholeheartedly.
 
They are the unsung heroes, serving the mission and sacrificing in a thousand quiet ways.
Navy wife, ministry wife – lots of similarities and both a special blessing from God!
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jeff Iorg is president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. This article first appeared at his blog, ggbts.edu/president/blog.aspx.)

11/4/2015 11:10:41 AM by Jeff Iorg, Guest Column | with 0 comments



Why I believe children who die go to heaven

November 3 2015 by Danny Akin, Guest Column

Few things in life are more tragic than the death of a small child. There is no way to prepare for it, and there is no “getting over” it. It is a pain that lingers. Many console themselves with the thought that at least the child is now in a better place, but empty sentimentalism and emotional hopes are not sufficient. We must, if possible, find out what God has said.
 
Though scripture may not speak to this issue directly, I believe that there are at least five good reasons biblically and theologically for believing that God saves all who die before having reached a stage of moral understanding and accountability.
 
First, the grace, goodness and mercy of God provide the strongest argument and perhaps the decisive one. God is love (1 John 4:8) and desires that all be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). His concern for children is evident in Matthew 18:14 where Jesus says, “Your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”
 
Second, when the child born to David and Bathsheba died (2 Samuel 12:15-24), David confessed his confidence that he would see the child again and comforted his wife Bathsheba. These actions only make sense if he was confident that his little son was with God.
 
Third, the scriptures make a distinction between original sin (Romans 5:12) and actual (or volitional) sins. While all are guilty of original sin, moral responsibility and understanding is necessary for our being accountable for actual sins (Deuteronomy 1:39; Isaiah 7:16; James 4:17; Revelation 20:11-15). Infants are incapable of such decisions. People go to hell because they choose in willful rebellion and unbelief to reject God and His grace. Where such rebellion and willful disobedience is absent, God is gracious to receive.
 
Fourth, Jesus affirmed that the kingdom of God belonged to little children (Luke 18:15-17). In the passage he is stating that saving faith is a childlike faith, but He also seems to be affirming the reality of children populating heaven.
 
Fifth, scripture affirms that the number of saved souls is very great (Revelation 7:9). Since most of the world has been and is still non-Christian, might it be that the untold multitude who have died prematurely or in infancy are among that number?
 
It is important for us to remember that anyone who is saved is saved because of the grace of God and the saving work of Jesus Christ. Like all who have ever lived (except Jesus), infants need to be saved. Only Jesus can take away their sin, and if they are saved it is because of His abounding grace and mercy. When it comes to those incapable of volitional, willful acts of sin, we can rest assured God will, indeed, do right (Genesis 18:25). Precious little ones are the objects of His saving mercy and grace.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article first appeared at danielakin.com. This is the first in a series of columns highlighting perspectives from Southern Baptists about various topics relating to doctrine. It will appear regularly in the print publication and online and is called “Baptist Perspectives: Understaning Your Faith.”)

11/3/2015 11:03:25 AM by Danny Akin, Guest Column | with 0 comments



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