November 2017

Giving thanks ‘in’ & ‘for’

November 14 2017 by Michael Kelley, Baptist Press

There are a few verses that most Christ followers at least sort of know by heart. Verses like John 3:16. Or Hebrews 11:1. Or this one:
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Michael Kelley

It’s a strange passage coming from someone like the apostle Paul. He’s been bitten by snakes, shipwrecked, beaten within an inch of his life on numerous occasions, abandoned by his friends on some occasions, maligned by people he cared about on others. And yet, Paul stresses the obedience of joy and thankfulness almost as much as he stresses grace and faith.
And make no mistake – it is an issue of obedience. Often we think of joy and gratitude in the realm of feelings. Either we feel joyful or thankful, or we don’t. When we feel it, we do it. But obedience doesn’t work that way.
Obedience is doing regardless of whether you’re feeling. Thankfully, as we grow in Christ, we find the Lord not only bringing about in us the correct actions but also the correct feelings that come alongside those actions. But until we are made right and whole again, it is left to us to give ourselves to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit by continuing to do, even (and perhaps most especially) when we do not feel.
So, your gratitude – just like mine – is not a question of whether you feel thankful, but whether you are willing to obey this command from the Lord.
There is another issue here to examine this week, the week of the year set aside in this country for giving thanks – whether there is a difference between giving thanks in all circumstances and giving thanks for all circumstances.
If there is, it means that no matter what situation you find yourself in, there is always something to be thankful for.
You may not be thankful for the suffering, the pain, the hardship or the persecution, but there are other things to lift your heart. When you consider everything that the Lord is, all that He continues to do in the world and the next world waiting for the believer, there are plenty of reasons to say “thanks,” no matter what happens to be going on.
If there’s not a difference, it means you believe that every circumstance, regardless of how devastating or marvelous, has come from God. And since you know that God is for you, not against you, then you can be thankful for the circumstance, even if you are doing so in faith. You are thankful because you believe that ultimately good will come of it.
I think people love Jesus and believe both of these things. And at the end of the day, both sets of believers are thankful.
In my own life, I have seen how, over time, you become more thankful “for.” Over time, and with perspective, you begin to see the invisible hand of God moving in times that, in the moment, you could not see. You begin to reflect on God’s providential care and love and wisdom even when He may have seemed so significantly absent. You see how He has shaped you and guided you into a deeper experience of Jesus. And so, over time, you become thankful “for.”
To bring it full circle, notice that the command here is to give thanks in all circumstances. That’s what you can do right now, even if you don’t feel like it. You can practice the discipline of gratitude, finding the grace of God, in general and in particular, at work in your life.
But as you do that, think back a bit. Think back to those moments when you thought you would never have another reason to feel thankful again. Think back, and then look and see the redemptive hand of God at work because of those times. And maybe this is the year that you are not only obediently thankful in, but also being thankful for.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Kelley is director of groups ministry for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention and author of Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, and God and Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life. He is on Twitter at @_michaelkelley and online at, where this article first appeared.)

11/14/2017 8:18:01 AM by Michael Kelley, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Women & God’s design for the church

November 10 2017 by Candi Finch, Baptist Press

Have you noticed that Christianity sometimes gets a bad rap when it comes to women? The notion that God has a distinct plan for womanhood has offended plenty of people inside and outside the church.
Truth be told, there was a time when those ideas ruffled my feathers. 1 Timothy 2:11-15, as well as other places in scripture that deal with boundaries for women in the church, seemed, well, unfair. I came to realize, though, that the problem was with me and not with God’s plan.

Candi Finch

A lesson about why God’s design is good news for women came as I put together some store-bought bookcases. My living room looked like a carpenter’s shop had exploded. Patience was severely tested. Band-Aids were needed. However, when I look at those bookcases today, I feel a sense of accomplishment.
The secret I discovered is that it is vital to follow the manufacturer’s directions.
I have absolutely no skills that enable me to be a master bookcase assembler. Yet, as long as I did exactly what the directions said, the bookcases slowly emerged from the many odd-shaped pieces I was provided. A few times I thought the directions seemed silly, so I went off on my own direction, only to discover that I was the silly one, coping with shelves that would not fit properly in their designated slots.
You see, someone designed those bookcases. This person then provided directions on how they were to be assembled. In those moments where I veered from the directions, I was essentially saying (in my mind) that I thought I knew better than the one who had a plan for how every piece was meant to be used.
As senseless as it was to go off on my own with those bookcases, how much more so when I say to God that I am going to do my own thing and ignore His directions and design for my life and His church? God is the Master Designer. He made each one of us and fashioned us (Psalm 119:73).
Like any good designer, God has the blueprints for how we fit together as the church – blueprints found in the Bible. God fashioned you. He loves you. It just makes sense, then, to follow His blueprints for how to serve within the church.

The design

God intentionally created men and women as distinct, yet complementary beings (Genesis 1:27; 2:18). He did not create us haphazardly. While both men and women are given the responsibility of being God’s image-bearers to the rest of creation (Genesis 1:27), God had a specific purpose in mind when He created Eve as a “helper” for Adam (Genesis 2:18,20). Being a helper does not mean Eve was inferior to Adam in any way. It means that, from the very beginning, God had a plan and purpose in creating two distinct genders. Men and women need each other; they are “interdependent” (1 Corinthians 11:11) but not interchangeable with each other. These distinct roles for women and men were a part of God’s good plan before sin entered the world.
When it comes to how women serve in the church, I have found it helpful to remember some foundational truths regarding this sometimes-heated topic:

  1. True Christianity has raised the dignity of women. Whereas some societies, and even some religions, have treated women as property, the Bible teaches that women, just like men, are created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-31).
  2. Christianity teaches that while both women and men are sinners, Jesus loved us enough to make a way for us to be forgiven of our sins and to have a relationship with God (John 3:16).
  3. The Creator has a blueprint for the church. We may not always understand or, at times, even like the plan, but we can and should trust the Plan-Maker (Isaiah 40:28-31; 1 Corinthians 12).
  4. God has designed each of us and equipped us as He has pleased – it’s not about us; it’s about Him (1 Corinthians 12:18).
  5. Women and men are called to be a living witness of the goodness of God’s design by living obedient lives (Ephesians 4:1).
  6. The church needs each member of the body – men and women, boys and girls – working together to build each other up (Ephesians 4:12).
  7. Despite the fact that there are some distinctions between men and women in terms of their roles within the church, the Bible is clear that both are equal in terms of their worth before God and in terms of the inheritance they have in Christ (1 Peter 3:7; Galatians 3:28). Neither sex is more loved or more valued or more important than the other.
  8. While women have been given two boundaries within ministry (not to teach men in the church or have authority over men in the church, 1 Timothy 2:12), there is a vast field of ministry women can and should do (Titus 2:3-5).

At the end of the day, God’s design for the church will be accomplished whether we choose to be obedient to Him or not. However, isn’t it cool that He wants to use us? And, doesn’t it just make sense to do things His way? He is, after all, the Master Designer.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Candi Finch is assistant professor of theology in women’s studies and Dorothy Kelley Patterson Chair of Women’s Studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. This article was originally posted at Used with permission.)

11/10/2017 10:04:07 AM by Candi Finch, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Where in the world is God?

November 9 2017 by Frank S. Page, Baptist Press

One of the most often asked questions today is, “Where in the world is God?”
With horrible tragedies ringing in our minds such as school, workplace, event and, most recently, church massacres, we are sometimes prone to ask this very same question.
We would have no problem if we did not believe in a loving, merciful God who acts with power in the world. But we do believe in such a God and are often struck with questions when we see the evil and sorrow in this world.

Frank S. Page

In times of deep sorrow and trouble, I often turn to Psalm 42 – a song of anguish. The psalmist’s pain is deep yet can help to give us answers and assurance in our times of greatest grief. Here are some ways that can help us determine where God is during our times of trouble:

Pray for a memory of divine thirst (vs. 1-4).

The psalmist turns to God, the one whom he counts as an absolute necessity. Just as these bodies of ours are not self-sustaining, so it is with our souls.
Whether we thirst consciously or unconsciously, vaguely or intensely, God has planted a hunger and thirst for Himself within every human heart. If you sometimes wonder where God is, I believe you need to pray with the psalmist that God will help you recall the thirst and the hunger that resides within you. Remember, God is the only one who can truly answer your questions and meet the needs of your heart.

Ask yourself tough questions (vs. 5-8).

After his moment with God, the psalmist’s question of “Where are you God?” turned to “Why am I so downcast, even when I know where help is?”
This is a question that many of us have asked over the years. Why do we allow ourselves to be influenced by the circumstances of our lives when the very core of our heart tells us where the truth of peace is found? We spend enormous amounts of time and energy trying to change the circumstances of our lives, but we usually simply shift problems or substitute difficulties. It is time to ask honest questions about why we are the way we are and seek answers from the only place answers will be found.

Hear God’s answer (vs. 8-11).

Our God is not far away but is infinitely near. We do not have to wait for tomorrow to find Him because He is ready to meet our needs now. Nobody can rob us of our finding Him, but ourselves. Will we take Him seriously and live, or will we go on our way feeling that His promise is too good to be true?
In times of deep anguish and sorrow like this past week, we often wonder where God is. Then we meet God in personal experience and know that He is there.
Do not let the circumstances of life destroy the clear picture of who He is, where He is and how to find Him. When confronted with the evil and sorrow of this world, open your heart to Christ and find that only He can satisfy your longing and weary soul.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Frank S. Page is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. This column first appeared at his website, Used with permission.)

11/9/2017 9:33:56 AM by Frank S. Page, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Lostness & brokenness

November 8 2017 by Chuck Lawless, Baptist Press

As Christians, we are called to share the gospel with the world (Matthew 28:18-20). Studies show us, though, that most Christians seldom if ever share their faith with a non-believer.
If evangelism is a struggle for you, think about these ways to deepen your burden over those who are without Christ:

1. Study what the Bible says about lost people.

They’re following the “prince of the air” (Ephesians 2:1-3), living in darkness in Satan’s domain (Acts 26:18, Colossians 1:13), blinded by Satan (2 Corinthians 4:3-4) and caught in his trap (2 Timothy 2:25-26). They’re helpless apart from God’s grace, no matter how good they may seem to be.

2. Do a Bible study on eternal judgment.

Meditate on texts like Matthew 25:41-46, Luke 16:19-31 and Revelation 20:11-15. See and sense the separation and the anguish. If you can study the reality of hell and not be more burdened about non-believers, you may want to examine your Christianity.

3. Think about these facts of life and death.

Today, approximately 150,000 people will die around the world, most of whom will not be followers of Christ. Some of us have family members who, if they were to be among that number today, would be destined for hell. These realities ought to bring us to tears.

4. Learn about the spiritual tragedies of the world.

Today, people in some parts of India are praying to ancestral spirits and turning to wild animals for guidance. Some in China are worshiping trees, mountains, dragons and rivers. In Africa, men carry their personal gods with them for protection, as if that which is carried is stronger than the one doing the carrying. In Southeast Asia, people sacrifice to pagan gods to bring healing to the sick. In some parts of Russia, sorcerers who cast spells are the center of spiritual power. Go to, study more about people groups of the world, and grieve these misguided attempts to find security and life.

5. Be grateful for God’s grace in your life.

Jesus told us that the way to life is narrow, and few people find it (Matthew 7:13-14). Were it not for God’s amazing grace, you and I would also be among the many who never find eternal life. Recognizing God’s favor in your life should compel you to tell others about Him.

6. Consider what it’s like to face life without Christ.

That might be hard if you’re a Christian, but think about tough things people face. Job loss. Natural disaster. Terminal illness. Marital breakup. Incarcerated children. Unexpected death. I honestly don’t know how people get through life without trusting Christ.

7. Ask God to give you His heart for lost people.

Confess your lack of concern to Him, and ask Him to change you. Meanwhile, enlist two believers to pray Ephesians 6:18-20 and Colossians 4:2-4 for you. Ask God to give you His heart while others are praying for you to speak the gospel boldly and clearly – and see what God does!

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chuck Lawless, online at, is vice president for spiritual formation and ministry centers and professor of evangelism and missions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

11/8/2017 9:49:42 AM by Chuck Lawless, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Darkness & light at Sutherland Springs

November 7 2017 by Gary Ledbetter, Southern Baptist TEXAN

John’s prologue in the Gospels is my favorite Christmas passage, showing us in theological outline what happened in Bethlehem’s stable. We know that Jesus is “the Word,” the light that shines in the darkness. With somber joy we read that “the darkness did not overcome it.”
I thought of that passage as I’ve considered the darkness manifested at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs Nov. 5.

Gary Ledbetter

As I write this, hours after the event, pundits are talking in the background about causes and solutions – “coming together” as a nation, gun laws and our culture of violence. In due respect to those wiser than I, there is no solution by means of inspiration or policy. The darkness hates the light; the darkness hates life; the darkness really hates churches that celebrate the risen Savior. That is not new. And it will not change.
Yet we grieve. My heart lurches within me at the grief of a pastor and his wife who lost their precious daughter to the darkness or the grandparents who lost their pregnant daughter and never met their unborn grandchild. I try to imagine the picture of an entire congregation shot down – wounded or killed. It’s just too horrible. I think of the grief the entire congregation will experience for years, even decades, as a result of this day.

But we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Our pain is not without consolation, or without end. These brothers and sisters had gathered on the first day of the week because our Savior rose, victorious over death.
The apostle Paul calls death “the sting of sin.” Sin is another word for the darkness, the root cause of the darkness. Even so, the darkness cannot overcome the life that is the light of men. The believers killed on Nov. 5 were at church because they were expressing a heavenly hope that death is defeated by resurrection. Jesus is the proof and the first fruits of those who would rise after Him.
That’s you and me, because we will die. This church has sung songs about their hope in Jesus and heard sermons about their hope of eternal life in Christ. They are joined with me and you because we believe what they believe, celebrate what they celebrate, and look to the same God for comfort and consolation as the darkness closes in around us. We grieve, but only for a time, and not out of despair.
I don’t gainsay the work of those who try to keep us safer. Policies and protocols help hold the darkness back in some limited ways. Paul calls those who serve our communities in these ways servants of God for good. It’s important work and a great benefit to God’s people.
But these magistrates are servants of the light, whether they know it or not; they are not that light. Human, political answers have the same expiration date as this world – sooner every minute. Those who look for laws or psychology or even first responders for answers to the darkness are not looking to the source of true hope.
Thousands grieve the lost of Sutherland Springs, and Las Vegas, and New York, and Nice, and London – a grief that has spanned thousands of years. And many will try to respond in ways that provide real comfort and healing to those who are most personally affected.
Implicit, and very explicit, in our comfort, however, is that promise that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us so that where He is, we may be also. It’s a place where there is no darkness, no grief, no sin. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gary Ledbetter is editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN,, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

11/7/2017 10:34:02 AM by Gary Ledbetter, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments

Jesus did not die so you could be cool

November 6 2017 by Owen Strachan, MBTS

My kids watched VeggieTales the other night, and as Bob the Tomato plopped around the screen, it struck me: I am thankful for so-called “Christian culture.”
Yes, products of this kind can veer into kitsch and easy moralism. Some companies seem to operate by the philosophy that if you slap an evangelical-friendly label on an item, you can gull some folks into buying it regardless of craftsmanship or theological thoughtfulness.

Owen Strachan

That stated, I’ve been strengthened, blessed and helped by intentionally Christian products and efforts. Some folks sneer at “Christian school” or “Christian homeschooling,” but I’m thrilled to hear of little children receiving a deep education in the things of God, whether in a formal school or the kitchen.
While you can get irony points in some circles for laughing at “Christian art,” I’m thankful that artists over the centuries have sought to create beautiful works that lift up the spirit.
In truth, we need not choose between pursuing beauty and glorifying God. We need not feel shame for using our gifts for the explicit purpose of praising the Lord and training the church’s eyes on excellence. It can be great to teach kids the faith through radio-show skits. It is a lovely thing to write books aimed at moral education (even if every single page doesn’t have a two-paragraph summary of the gospel). It is terrific to create a home environment filled with the happiness of God-celebrating media.
These endeavors and a thousand others will not get you cool points from a secular culture; a secular culture aims at, bends at, getting you to do the opposite. It wants you to be persistently cynical and model that stylish cynicism to your children. It wants you to feel weird about training your kids in the faith, but to dive deeply into the world and skirt around Christian truth. It wants you to praise your kids for liking secular bands, watching an unending stream of secular movies and thinking in secular paradigms.
But when taken together, this amounts to anti-formation, not spiritual formation. It is a long, slow undoing.
Some may wonder whether children of Christian fathers or mothers should consume only so-called Christian culture. I don’t think this; my point is to advocate for excellent things, beautiful things, enduring things as the pursuit of a Christian home. This cannot mean only what elite magazines say is “good art.” It must fundamentally and primarily mean the things of God (Philippians 4:8). We do not cram fistfuls of so-called Christian culture into our kids’ minds; we do, however, cheerfully introduce them to all sorts of uplifting, edifying products.
You could say it this way: We raise our children as if they possess a soul that needs and even craves spiritual nourishment, theological feeding, fog-clearing wisdom and jaw-dropping beauty. All such gifts center in and proceed from God, not secularism. He is truth (John 14:6). He is beauty (Isaiah 33:17). He is goodness (Luke 18:19).
We need to square with this: Christianity is not supposed to be cool. Individual Christians may end up being cool (hopefully with minimal effort), but you will search the Bible in vain for a summons to coolness.
Christianity stands for something better, thicker and more meaningful than being enviably set-apart in social terms. It stands for maturity, for wholeness, for earnest seeking after God, for honesty, for genuine love. Christianity is not about laughing at the social misfit, as the cool kids do; it is about befriending the social misfit when no one else will.
Jesus did not die so you could be cool. Jesus died so you could escape the torments of hell and sing His praises in the new heavens and new earth for all eternity.
There is freedom, very substantial and enjoyable freedom, in the Christian life. We love to see excellency wherever it is found. But as my favorite theologian, Jonathan Edwards, taught in spades, our primary interest in excellency is theological, spiritual and moral. Everything else stems from this theocentric starting-point.
This is personal for me, as I am sure it is for many others. I remember being a bit adrift in college after consuming a good deal of non-Christian culture, knowing I was spiritually malnourished. Randomly one night, I stumbled across the Gospel Gangstaz on a television show. I immediately ordered their CDs. Through them, I discovered a whole underground galaxy of Christian rap, one in which a diverse and underappreciated group of artists skillfully plied their trade. Braille, The Cross Movement, Grits, later Lecrae, Trip Lee and a host of others – these artists built me up. They strengthened my faith. They showed me Christ and helped me love Him more than I loved the world.
To any artists and other folks engaged in such work, I say God bless you. Thank you for not caring about the praise of man. Thank you for helping a goofy college kid laser in on the glory of God. To the authors, skit performers, textbook writers, television show creators, rappers, Christian school administrators, homeschooling mothers and a veritable army of creative men and women of God: Thank you for building up my children in the most holy faith.
As Christians, we not only read Austen or listen to Strauss. We also might find ourselves watching Bob the Tomato and, in gratitude, laughing along with our children at his antics.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Owen Strachan is associate professor of Christian theology and director of the Center for Public Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., where this column first appeared at its website. Strachan is the author of several books, including The Colson Way, Thomas Nelson, 2015, on the life and legacy of the late Chuck Colson.)

11/6/2017 9:20:18 AM by Owen Strachan, MBTS | with 0 comments

COOPERATIVE PROGRAM: Working together in the name of Jesus

November 3 2017 by David Hutchison, SWBTS

Although the flooding from Hurricane Harvey damaged approximately 35,000 square feet of our church in Houston, Sagemont Church, relief efforts first focused on those outside the church.
But after about a week, the church asked for volunteers to help remove the damaged carpet. People started meeting at 2 p.m., but after an attempt to find masks at the hardware store, my wife, oldest daughter and I didn’t arrive until about 2:20.

David Hutchison

We walked in eager to help but as we searched room after room for a place to work, it seemed there was nothing left to do.
Within a few minutes, one of the leaders called everyone together. Much to his surprise, all of the carpet had been removed in short order – 35,000 square feet in less than half an hour. He decided to go ahead and begin the next stage, tearing out the sheetrock halfway up the walls. Even without all the proper tools, within two more hours almost all the work was done, and the dumpsters were full.
I never heard a number, but I would guess 200-300 volunteers were there that afternoon. Since our church has several thousand people who attend each week, acquiring 200-300 volunteers is not a shocking number.
But in many churches in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), there are not even 200 people total. Were those churches to attempt such a mammoth task by themselves, it would be impossible within the same time frame.
But there’s more to the story.
The SBC has long understood the power of cooperation. What would be impossible for one church becomes possible when churches work together. Churches from all over the country have sent teams to help flood survivors, and those who couldn’t come in person have sent funds or supplies.
But it doesn’t stop there. Long before Harvey was even a thought, many churches, perhaps even your church, set aside funds to help in a time of disaster by giving to the Cooperative Program.
As necessary as it is to tear out wet carpet and sheetrock, there are other tasks that are far more important. Who is going to share the gospel with people around the world who have never heard the name of Jesus? Who is going to train the missionaries? Who is going to teach people to share God’s unchanging Word in an increasingly complex world? Who is going to speak to world leaders about issues of justice from a biblical perspective?
You are.
You’re not going to do it by yourself, and you may not yet be the one in the trenches, but if your church participates in the Cooperative Program, you are sharing the load.
Southern Baptists understand the power of cooperation. Indeed, this is one of the most admired facets of the SBC. Far better than asking missionaries to raise their own support, the Cooperative Program (CP) allows churches from all over the country to work together in missions and evangelism.
More than 73 percent of the 2016-2017 CP budget supports missions, a small portion of which goes to disaster relief through the North American Mission Board. The Cooperative Program also supports theological education, designating slightly more than 22 percent of the budget to this task. Just as few would dare take their car to an untrained mechanic or entrust their bodies to a doctor without medical training, supporting theological education affirms the training of ministers who are speaking to issues of everlasting significance. And in the spirit of cooperation, the seminaries gladly declare that it’s not the seminary or the church. It’s both. Together. Cooperating.
Just under 3 percent of the budget covers operating expenses of the convention (compare that to other organizations) and the final 1.65 percent of the budget supports ethics and religious liberty issues. Rather than sitting on our hands to see how fallen people will influence governing leaders, the Cooperative Program helps people who believe God’s Word to seek the welfare of our country.
It’s not just small churches who need to cooperate. Even very large churches do not have all of the resources necessary to accomplish the wide array of tasks that have been assigned by God. Even if they did, could they not accomplish them much more effectively by working together?
As we join together to accomplish God-given tasks, we imitate the pattern of the early church. What distinguishes us is not just the spirit of cooperation (the world has that in a time of crisis), but cooperation in the name of Jesus directed by Jesus to accomplish tasks that were given to us by Jesus.
Does your church support the Cooperative Program? Why not find out? Has its giving taken an inward turn or does it still place a large focus on these shared ministries?
By cooperating together in our work and our giving, we can accomplish great tasks for our great God.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Hutchison is associate professor of New Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SWBTS) J. Dalton Havard School for Theological Studies in Houston. He also teaches at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Darrington Unit. This article first appeared at SWBTS’s Theological Matters website, To learn more about the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention, visit


11/3/2017 10:19:24 AM by David Hutchison, SWBTS | with 0 comments

Biblical womanhood & the military

November 2 2017 by Shea Hicks, Baptist Press

I have always been the bearer of Type-A personality. As a military member, such a personality pays dividends. “Type-A’ers” recognize problems and thrust themselves into developing solutions. Due to possessing the gift of leadership and having a knack for planning and executing tasks, the military was an ideal fit for me.

Shea Hicks

God opened doors for me to receive a military scholarship to college, affording me the opportunity to meet my future husband. However, somewhere around the five-year mark of my career, I realized it is more conventional, more “normal,” when Type-A attributes are possessed and demonstrated by men.
I lamented that I was (supposedly) not taken seriously. I was angry that I was not a “bro” – a term used half-endearingly, half-sarcastically in the military. As a “green,” young officer, I could not bear this inequality, either blatant or implied. I earned my scholarship just like anyone else, I reasoned. I completed the physical requirements admirably. Why was I being treated so unfairly? Why didn’t I fit in?
Regardless of whether these alleged injustices were real or creations of my own mind, I wondered how I could ever be expected to lead a group of male airmen if my independent, goal-oriented personality traits were not taken seriously.
I figured I might as well buck up and be as tough as possible. I had to prove to my coworkers that I could handle any situation just like my male counterparts. I thought I had to think like a man, talk like a man. Ironically, as much as I tried to fit in with the men, I began to ascribe to the neo-feminist mindset often touted in popular culture: Man is the enemy. This mindset was destructive and created in me a sort of victim mentality. It is almost embarrassingly cliché that I maintained this type of bombastic personal philosophy.
I was absolutely miserable. As much as I tried, the unnatural mantle I donned while in uniform was choking the life out of me. I hated “being one of the boys.” My wakeup call occurred in the midst of a recent deployment, where spending much needed time alone in the Word renewed and refreshed my soul. I dug deeper into the biblical basis for my femininity. I studied and meditated – I mean really meditated – on the stories of women in the Bible: Esther, Ruth, Sarah and especially Eve, in whom I saw a great deal of myself. I had long since scoffed at Proverbs 31, Ephesians 5:22-23 and 1 Peter 3:3-4. In my haughtiness and arrogance, I believed such passages were a given. I chose to focus on what I deemed to be “deeper theological concepts” rather than the “elementary doctrines” of biblical womanhood.
When the Holy Spirit softened my heart, it occurred to me: I am a woman, and the divine design within my biology dictates a great number of my physical weaknesses – and strengths. In trying to figure out how to exist as a female in the military, I had forgotten how God called me to exist as a female, period. I had forgotten that the God of the universe uniquely equipped me to use my gifts for His glory, specifically, a sense of the needs of others and an uncanny understanding that the fighting on the outside is a symptom of things on the inside. No, these are not always traits unique to women. However, my sensitivity and emotionally adept nature make it easy for me to be in tune with such traits.
As females enter the civilian work force and the military alike, we must remember it is a foolish notion that women must take on the traits of men in order to be successful and “make rank.”
A thorough examination of what we deem to be success should be conducted. Unfortunately, many measure success materialistically. In the military, this might mean attaining high rank. God does not define human success that way. A successful endeavor to God is one that ultimately gives glory to Him.
Adhering to biblical womanhood might seem impossible for women called to a profession outside of the home. But if God has genuinely called them to one of these fields, He will equip them to accomplish His purposes in accordance with His Word, not in spite of it.
Neglecting biblical womanhood is not an option for me; it is a blatant slight at my Creator.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shea Hicks serves in the U.S. Air Force and is a master of divinity student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

11/2/2017 8:04:53 AM by Shea Hicks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

My disaster relief story

November 1 2017 by Rick Houston, Guest Column

I’m  writing this on a crowded bus as it pulls away from a heavily damaged Coca-Cola plant in Big Pine Key, Fla. It took 18 hours to get here from Hickory, N.C., so it’s going to be a long ride back.
I am exhausted, and due to a quick downpour this afternoon, my shoes and socks are still damp. I don’t care. I’m looking forward to being home, and if a little discomfort is what it takes to get me there, so be it.

Baptists on Mission photo
Terry Hall, left, and Scott Daughtry, right, talk with Pastor Victor Morales in Puerto Rico. They were distrubuting water purification kits to Morales’ congregation. Baptists on Mission have been busy responding to many disasters this year and are still working to get people back in homes after Hurricane Matthew struck North Carolina more than one year ago.

For the last week, I and 50 other volunteers, have been part of North Carolina Baptist Men’s (NCBM) response to the devastation Hurricane Irma wrought on the Florida Keys.
For most of the last 25 years, I made my living as a journalist and author. I’m not a carpenter, electrician, brick mason, mechanic or handyman. So, when I was assigned to a cleanup crew in S.C., I did the best I could to help.
I tore out tiles and carried debris to a dumpster. I tried to be the best carpet nail-puller-upper I could possibly be.
Still, I found myself standing around and watching a lot.
Other disaster relief opportunities have come my way in the past two years, but I didn’t go. I did not want to be some sort of morbid, disaster tourist who watched as other people mourned the loss of virtually everything they owned.
So, here’s why I decided to serve in Big Pine Key. I am tired of all the all-out warfare that exists between conservative and liberal; Republican and Democrat; fake news and real; and maybe worst of all, social-media warriors who vent and spew daily about the evils of “the other side.”
People are hurting, people are dying, and those on the outside are too busy casting blame on their ideological opponents to actually do anything about it.
I wanted to do something about it.
There’s another reason. I attend a comfortable Baptist church, and truthfully, I’ve developed a horrible attitude about it all. For the last few years, I’ve not been much more than a face in the crowd, if there at all.

When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and Irma hammered Florida, I was struck with a profound sense that I needed to respond. It was as if God spoke to me and said, “You want to gripe about church? What are you doing to help those who really, truly and desperately need it?”
I was not able to make the call-up to Texas, but Florida? I was in.
When I got on the bus to Florida, I knew no one on board. For an introvert like me, that is no easy thing.

I sat down and heard someone in the seat directly behind me say they were from Boonville, which is in good ol’ Yadkin County. Turns out, Beverly Eckard not only graduated from high school with my wife, Jeanie, but college, too.
My wife is a district court judge, and Beverly’s husband, Catfish, is a retired North Carolina State Trooper. Jeanie and Catfish worked together in the court system for years.

Baptists on Mission photo by Mike Sandlin
One of the key parts of working on a chainsaw team is keeping the equipment properly maintained.

Another passenger, Mike Ely, introduced himself. His son, Will, was one of my students during a brief stint as a teacher several years ago. I’ll put it this way – if had 100 students like Will, I might very well still be teaching.
For me, there is no greater fear than not knowing what to expect. When I got on the bus, I expected to go to Palmetto Bay, near Miami. Instead, we went to Big Pine Key. I wasn’t going to be on a recovery team. I was going to be on one of the feeding units.
I had no idea what I was actually going to be doing. Maybe dishwashing? I was right, for once.
Actually, even that isn’t quite accurate. I mostly rinsed parts and pieces of the big red plastic containers that workers used to ferry meals. I did it from just after sunup every day to around 9 p.m.
The first day I walked onto the site, I couldn’t imagine how I was going to survive five days in this strange place with people I didn’t know. Five days later, I can’t imagine having shared the experience with any other group of people.
Team leader Dotsie Helton, Charlie Harrington, Robert Marshall, Danny Sides, Anne Anderson, Ronnie Rahn and Doug Allen made this week one I’ll never forget.
With temperatures in the 90s, the conditions were not kind. This may not sound like a rousing encouragement for others to consider the NCBM mission field, and the fact is, it’s not an easy youth group trip to a theme park.
Some from our group were housed at Fifth Street Baptist in Key West. They left for the 45-minute drive before daybreak, and returned well after dark. Others stayed in bunk units on site in Big Pine Key.
Shower units were stationed at both locations to at least temporarily scrub off the grime, until it was time to start all over again just a few short hours later.
So why would you want to get involved? Forget the noise around you.
Forget who is to blame and partisan politics. Forget the disappointments you may or may not have at church. Forget it all, and remember that people out there are hurting and need you.
There is no way to adequately describe the beauty of the Florida Keys juxtaposed against the horrible devastation left behind by Irma.
Framed by nearby debris, vehicles lined up for meals, water and ice. One car pulled up, and the driver was a woman, somewhere maybe in her 30s. As I handed her a boxed meal, I noticed she had tears in her eyes. She was not hysterical; she was not causing a scene by any means; she was just broken.
For five days, I felt as if I would never be fully clean again. At times, the heat was nearly unbearable. I was hungry nearly all the time. There were the usual frustrations that come with any large operation. It took a long time to get to Florida, and it’s going to take a long time to get back home.
For all that, however, that one woman is the reason I came to Florida. I do not know her name, nor her story. She is the woman I served, the one for whom I rinsed container after container after container.
Who are you serving?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rick Houston is a freelance writer living in Yadkinville. He has covered NASCAR extensively and written books on NASCAR and the Space Shuttle program.)
Update from NCBM
Baptists on Mission is currently working in four locations in North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew, as well as Nederland, Texas; south Florida; Puerto Rico and in Granite Falls, N.C., serving a four-county area after a recent tornado outbreak.
Funds from the North Carolina Missions Offering also help to support efforts such as these. Gaylon Moss, disaster relief coordinator, said there has been a steady stream of volunteers to all the locations. To donate or to find out more about how to get involved in disaster relief or other ministries of NCBM, visit

11/1/2017 8:42:29 AM by Rick Houston, Guest Column | with 0 comments

What my son taught me about freedom

November 1 2017 by Lori McDaniel, Baptist Press

My perspective on “patriotic” holidays has changed since my oldest son joined the Army.
As a ninth-grader, Caleb told me he wanted to go to West Point. As a mom, I heard his big dream as if he were still the 8-year old boy who in a basketball game handed the ball to the opposing team because “they hadn’t had a turn yet.” His determination became reality last year as he graduated with an international relations degree from the United States Military Academy and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army.

Baptist Press photo
Caleb McDaniel stops to salute as the flag is lowered during the sound of “retreat” at the end of the day.

My son has taught me much about military strategies that I never knew I needed to know. With Caleb now in military life, I wanted to hear from him why patriotic holidays are important. This is what he taught me.

1. We need to understand the importance of “posterity.”

Posterity swings on the hinge of the past and pushes open doors for the future. We record names of those who died for posterity, so future generations will remember the importance of why they died. The liberties we have now were once called into question, yet it’s easy to forget that what we possess now was paid for by others. Posterity is crucial to sustained freedom in the future. As John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife: “Posterity! you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it.”

2. Our greatest threat is not foreign enemies. It’s a generation that forgets.

Lack of remembering the past threatens freedom in the future. According to my son, “Our greatest threat as a nation right now is not ISIS, Russia or China; our greatest threat is a generation that forgets what it is like to not have liberties or to have those liberties threatened. The only way to not forget is to study history.” He backed up his words with another quote from John Adams: “I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.”

3. Remembering honors the time and place where God has placed you.

God is sovereign over nations. He appoints times and boundaries where people live (Acts 17:26). American citizenship is not to take priority over heavenly citizenship of those who follow Christ. Our American citizenship does, however, provide a place and platform to stand for and fight for what is good and right. America is not a Christian nation, but there are Americans who are Christian. Let us steward our liberties to love and fight for those who have none.

4. Loving your country is a choice you don’t want to lose.

You have a choice to love your nation. And because you have a choice, you could choose not to love it at all. But, why would you choose not to love the very thing that gives you the freedom to make that choice? Loving your country is not the act of being right or a romantic feeling that swells when fireworks are shot to the tune of the “Star Spangled Banner.” We love our nation not because it’s a democracy but because it’s a republic. A republic is built so the 49 percent minority can’t be bullied by the 51 percent majority. A republic gives sovereignty to each individual person. To not love this would be to give up your individual rights – even the right to choose the country you love.
This quote by Martin Luther King Jr. became Caleb’s favorite in high school: “If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” It’s this quote that rang in my ear when I saw him commissioned. I’ve definitely entered a season in my life where I’m realizing the depth of grit and tenacity of the men and women who gave their lives that provide me the freedom that I possess. To these in the past and to those in the future, I will remember.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lori McDaniel,, serves as church initiatives manager with the International Mission Board, mobilizing churches to participate in God’s global mission. She and her husband, Mike, and three children were missionaries in Africa before returning to plant Grace Point Church in Bentonville, Ark., where Mike is the lead pastor.)

11/1/2017 8:39:36 AM by Lori McDaniel, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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