September 2012

Why every Christian should register & vote

September 28 2012 by Sudi Kate Gliebe, Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas – Two years ago my husband Steven and I started Patriots’ Campaign Ministry. We approached our pastor with the vision to register voters at our church. It was not hard to convince him. His courage and patriotism were evident. So with our pastor’s blessing we became deputy registrars and held our first voter registration drive before the 2010 primaries.

This year we recruited another couple to become deputized and held a four-Sunday voter registration drive in the Spring. Next we sought our pastor’s blessing to export the ministry to churches in our area. Once again, he gave us his unwavering support and wrote a letter to endorse our ministry. After dozens of emails and phone calls, a handful of churches invited us to come and hold registration drives. The churches that turned us down inspired me to write this article.

Champion the Vote estimates that out of 60 million Christians in America, only 30 million vote or are even registered. Can you imagine the impact 30 million votes can have on a general election? Can you fathom the weight that 30 million votes would have on the issues of life, marriage, religious freedom and fiscal restraint? Think what would happen if 30 million believers embraced this truth: My vote counts.

Clearly, however, these 30 million believers either don’t care enough to vote or have never been taught the importance of voting. This is why pastors are so important. But before I share how pastors can encourage their congregations to get involved in the political process, let me give just two examples of why voting is so important.

First, the value of life is the heartbeat of God and marriage is the nucleus of God’s church. When government says the destruction of life is lawful and the definition of marriage expendable, the Kingdom of God is threatened and the church must say: no! Therefore, electing pro-life candidates that are committed to life and God’s definition of marriage is a biblical and moral imperative.

Second, the religious freedom we enjoy in America is not guaranteed. It must be defended and preserved. In fact, religious freedom in America is severely under attack. Therefore, electing candidates who are committed to defending religious freedoms in America is crucially important.

Politics is not a hobby like scrapbooking. Getting involved should not be an option. Politics, whether we like it or not, affects every area of our lives. The stakes for families and ministry are very high.

Here are five things pastors can do to make a difference:

1) Teach the congregation the importance of praying for God to raise righteous leaders to fill the White House, the Congress and the Supreme Court. Call out periods of fasting and prayer for this specific purpose. Create prayer guides and distribute them.

2) Preach boldly about the sanctity of life and the importance of honoring God’s definition of marriage – one man and one woman. These are biblical truths, not just political hot buttons.

3) Exhort the congregation to vote. “We the people” means that all of us are responsible to preserve our republic. The citizenry of America is enormously powerful. Remind the congregation that voting is a privilege, a responsibility, a sacred trust.

4) Encourage the formation of a task force at the church that has as its purpose to register voters, provide voter guides before elections, and inform the congregation about issues that matter so they can contact their representatives and senators.

5) Invite pastors in your circle of influence to get involved, share ideas, and establish partnerships with them. There is strength in numbers.

In the fight for life, marriage and religious freedom, every vote counts and every pastor matters.

Get started by visiting ChampionTheVote.com.

“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual – or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.” –Samuel Adams

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sudi Kate Gliebe is scheduled to graduate in December from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Ph.D. in childhood education. She is a member of Southcliff Baptist Church, and she and her husband Steven reside in Benbrook, Texas.)
9/28/2012 2:46:12 PM by Sudi Kate Gliebe, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



The destructive legacy of Helen Gurley Brown

September 28 2012 by Penna Dexter, Baptist Press

DALLAS ­– One popular magazine that sometimes makes it embarrassing to take your kids through a grocery line is Cosmopolitan.

The magazine has actually been around since 1886. It used to be a family publication. Then changed in 1965 when the faltering publication hired Helen Gurley Brown as its editor. At that time, television was becoming the recreation medium of choice and advertising dollars were increasingly flowing in that direction. Helen Gurley Brown transformed the magazine to target the single working woman. During her 40 years at its helm, Cosmopolitan’s circulation hit more than 2.5 million.

Brown was first a secretary and then became an advertising copywriter and account executive. She gained Cosmopolitan’s attention due to the success of her 1962 “advice” book, “Sex and the Single Girl” which was cutting edge, to put it mildly. The book has been said to have spawned the sexual revolution in that it bluntly proclaimed that sex ought to be part of the single girl’s life. It sold millions of copies.

Brown asserted that women really should partake of sex without marriage and she advocated interoffice affairs as a way to get ahead professionally. Her philosophy was summed up by a quote displayed in her office: “Good Girls Go to Heaven ­– Bad Girls Go Everywhere.”

It’s not that Ms. Brown frowned on marriage. She was 40 and married when she wrote the book. She stayed married to 20th Century Fox executive David Brown until his death in 2010. He urged her to write the book. Indeed, it also contained relationship tips out of her own long and faithful marriage, one being; “Always say yes to sex.”

Later, the book was made into a movie. Natalie Wood played Helen Gurley Brown.

Brown brashly admitted, “I think marriage is insurance for the worst years of your life. During your best years, you don’t need a husband. You do need a man of course every step of the way, and they are often cheaper emotionally and a lot more fun by the dozen.”

She called herself a feminist, but her emphasis on pleasing men became anathema to the second-wave feminists’ view of female empowerment, which became more like, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”

Helen Gurley Brown died last month at age 90. In 1982 she told The New York Times, “My relevance is that I deal with reality.” But it’s a sad reality, one that included an explosion in abortion, and sexually transmitted diseases. Brown’s reality also means that, now, 41 percent of children are born out of wedlock, while single motherhood is overwhelmingly synonymous with poverty. Who knew the Cosmo girl would spawn an exploding welfare state? Now, our government just assumes women will lead this sexually free lifestyle. Hence the mandate that employers provide insurance for free contraception, including the abortion-inducing kind, and sterilization.

National Review columnist Kathryn Jean Lopez calls this “the Cosmogenization of America.” Helen Gurley Brown left a terrible legacy.
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(EDITOR’S NOTE – Penna Dexter is a conservative activist and frequent panelist on the “Point of View” syndicated radio program. Her weekly commentaries air on the Bott and Moody radio networks.)
9/28/2012 2:41:34 PM by Penna Dexter, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



What must I do to be a soul winner?

September 27 2012 by David Jeremiah, Baptist Press

EL CAJON, Calif. – Jesus told His disciples, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). The implication is that if we are really following, we’ll be fishing – soul-winning. Jesus’ last words were, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19). The Christians in the New Testament went everywhere, preaching the Word (Acts 8:4).

How, then, can you and I be effective witnesses for Him?

1. Ask God to give you an evangelistic burden for others. Ask Him to help you see the world as He sees it, and to lay upon your heart a handful of people for whom you can earnestly pray. Then pray over those names every day. Keep a little prayer list, and pray for an opportunity of reaching these souls for Christ. An old song says, “Lord, lay some soul upon my heart and love that soul through me; / And may I humbly do my part to win that soul to Thee.”

2. Live a consistent Christian life before these people. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. ... Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). We must live obedient lives of integrity and authentic faith. We must love when others hate, and forgive when others harbor grudges. We must remain trusting when others panic, and be honest when all around us are cooking the books. Not that we’re going to be perfect – only Christ was sinless. But we must have a growing, maturing Christian life that others recognize and respect.

3. Build bridges to others. When the Lord shows you those needing Christ, seek to build a relationship with them. Remember how Jesus went to the home of Zacchaeus where many sinners had gathered? While we must be careful not to place ourselves in an environment where we’ll be pulled down, we must be equally careful to cultivate friendships with those needing Christ. Perhaps Christ has placed you in your particular school or workplace just to reach those whom no one else can reach.

4. Learn the gospel. Memorize the following verses and practice saying them in a mirror or to another Christian: Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9, 10:10, 10:13; 1 John 5:1, 5:13.

5. Watch for openings to share a word for Christ. Peter said: “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

6. If the right opportunity doesn’t come naturally, create one. Sometimes we wait too long, looking for just the right time to invite someone to church or to share with them the message of the gospel. There often comes a point when we must prayerfully introduce the subject and do our best to impress someone with their need for Christ.

7. Leave the results with God. We’re responsible for sharing the gospel, but only God can convert the soul. Having done your best, let Him do the rest. And if you ever feel you’ve botched the job, think of Edward Kimball. He was determined to win his Sunday School class to Christ, including a teenager named Dwight Moody who tended to fall asleep on Sundays. His heart pounding, Kimball entered the store where the young man worked. “I put my hand on his shoulder, and as I leaned over I placed my foot upon a shoebox. I asked him to come to Christ.” It didn’t seem to go well, and Kimball left thinking he had botched the job. Moody, however, left the store that day a new person and eventually became the most prominent evangelist in America during his generation.

Don’t underestimate how God can use you. Follow Christ, and He will make you a fisher of men.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – This column has been approved by Turning Point for redistribution in Baptist state newspapers and in Townhall.com. For permission to reprint it, contact Myrna Davis at mdavis@turningpointonline.org. David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif.)
9/27/2012 3:05:08 PM by David Jeremiah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



How gay marriage harms religious liberty

September 27 2012 by Eric Metaxas, Baptist Press

NEW YORK – Christians are often asked by gay activists why they oppose same-sex marriage. “How does our marriage hurt you?” they ask.

Well, I can think of one significant way it will hurt us: It will destroy religious freedom and free speech rights.

The handwriting is on the wall in Canada, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2005, in effect completely changing its true meaning. Since then, as Michael Coren notes in National Review Online, “there have been between 200 and 300 proceedings ... against critics and opponents of same-sex marriage.” Of course he means legal proceedings.

For instance, in Saskatchewan, a homosexual man contacted a state marriage commissioner, wanting to “marry” his partner. The commissioner, an evangelical Christian, declined to conduct the ceremony for religious reasons. He simply referred the man to another commissioner.

But that was not enough for the gay couple. Even though they got their ceremony, they wanted to punish the Christian who had declined to conduct it. The case ended up in the courts. And the result? Those with religious objections to conducting such ceremonies now face the loss of their jobs.

Canadian churches are also under attack. Coren writes that when Fred Henry, the Roman Catholic bishop of Calgary, Alberta, sent a letter to churches explaining traditional Catholic teaching on marriage, he was “charged with a human-rights violation” and “threatened with litigation.”

Churches with theological objections to performing same-sex wedding ceremonies are being threatened with the loss of their tax-free status. In British Columbia, the Knights of Columbus agreed to rent its building for a wedding reception before finding out that the couple was lesbian. When they did find out, they apologized to the women and agreed to both find an alternative venue and pay the costs for printing new invitations. But that wasn’t good enough. The women took action, and the Human Rights Commission ordered the Knights of Columbus to pay a fine.

Of course, the lesbians knew perfectly well what the Catholic Church teaches about marriage, but they sought out a Catholic-owned building, anyway. As Michael Coren puts it, “it’s becoming obvious that Christian people, leaders, and organizations are being targeted, almost certainly to create legal precedents” – precedents intended to silence and punish anyone who dares to disagree with so-called gay marriage.

If you think this couldn’t happen here, think again. This year we’ve seen the Obama Administration, through the health care law, attack the autonomy of Catholic churches by attempting to force them, in violation of Catholic teaching, to pay for contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs for church employees. And in June, a lesbian employee of a Catholic hospital in New York sued the hospital for denying her partner spousal health benefits.

This is what we need to tell our neighbors when they ask us, “How does gay marriage hurt us?” It means that those hostile to our beliefs will attempt to bend us to their will to force us to not only accept gay marriage, but to condone it as well.

This is why I urge you to join the half-million Christians who have signed the Manhattan Declaration. Please sign it yourself by going to manhattandeclaration.org.

You and I must demonstrate love to our gay neighbors, of course, remembering that we are ultimately engaged in spiritual warfare. But we should boldly stand up when our rights as citizens and the demands of our conscience are threatened.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Eric Metaxas is an author and the voice of the Breakpoint radio commentaries. From BreakPoint, June 26, 2012, reprinted with permission of Prison Fellowship, www.breakpoint.org.)

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9/27/2012 3:02:26 PM by Eric Metaxas, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



A greater vision than the ‘American dream’

September 26 2012 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. – With the national political conventions over, the frenzy of a seemingly never-ending presidential campaign shifts into even higher gear as Election Day approaches.

Only two more months of 24/7 political ads – at least for those of us living in battleground states. I can’t wait.

I don’t mean to sound cynical. I’m thankful. Democracy is messy and often dirty, but it sure beats the alternatives. And I’m proud that my kids – I mean, the young adults I still claim as dependents on my tax return – will both be voting for the first time. It’s an interesting election season for them to begin full participation in the privilege of democratic decision-making as citizens. Sure, politicians across the spectrum are delivering lots of low blows and half-truths, as usual. But amid the mudslinging, they’re debating key issues such as the proper role of government, how best to serve the public in difficult economic times and America’s role in the world.

They also are jousting over who is the better custodian of “the American dream.” Speakers mentioned America’s “dream” or “story” more than 150 times at the Republican and Democratic conventions, according to the Associated Press. It’s a timely topic, as fears increase that Americans now entering adulthood will comprise the first generation to experience less prosperity over the course of their working lives than their parents did.

What is “the American dream,” anyway? Everyone has his or her own spin on it. My pastor reminded me that the term itself was coined in 1931 by historian and author James Truslow Adams (1878-1949). Adams described it as the “dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. ... It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

The second part of that description, written as the nation was descending into severe economic depression, is instructive. Adams saw the dream as more than just “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage” (one of the promises of the 1928 presidential election) – or two garages with luxury SUVs attached to every McMansion, which has typified the dream for some folks in more recent years. Rather, Adams dreamed of a society where every member could freely go as far as his or her striving could take them, unfettered by an oppressive state or the old class system of Europe.

Many people, particularly the immigrants entering America every day, still dream that dream. Noble as it may seem, however, it’s not enough. And as prophetic voices such as David Platt have reminded us, it inevitably conflicts with God’s dream. God did not create us primarily to chase self-realization, prosperity or even “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” as Thomas Jefferson put it in the Declaration of Independence. He created us to love Him and to glorify Him among the nations.

“Radical obedience to Christ is not easy. ... It’s not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And He is more than enough for us,” Platt wrote in his 2010 book, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.

If believers continue to opt for the typical American version of Christianity rather than the biblical one, Platt warned, the price will be “high for people who don’t know Christ and who live in a world where Christians shrink back from self-denying faith and settle into self-indulging faith. While Christians choose to spend their lives fulfilling the American dream instead of giving their lives to proclaiming the kingdom of God, literally billions in need of the gospel remain in the dark.”

It doesn’t have to be that way. And for a new breed of Christ followers responding to the timeless biblical vision – as opposed to a limited American one – it isn’t that way. Their dream: to proclaim the kingdom of God to their own generation.

Despite the aging of the populations of many developed nations, the world population “quietly hit a tipping point in 2010: Over 50 percent of the people around the globe are now under the age of 25,” reported Mindy Belz in WORLD magazine earlier this year. They’re increasingly part of an “emerging global youth culture in which youth around the world have more in common with each other than they do with the adults in their own culture.”

They’re looking for more than jobs, material things or even freedom. They’re looking for God.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bridges is global correspondent for the International Mission Board. Visit “WorldView Conversation,” the blog related to this column, at http://worldviewconversation.blogspot.com/.)
9/26/2012 1:51:31 PM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife? When sensationalism masquerades as scholarship

September 26 2012 by R. Albert Mohler Jr., Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The whole world changed Sept. 18. At least, that is what many would have us to believe. Smithsonian magazine, published by the Smithsonian Institution, declares that the news released was “apt to send jolts through the world of biblical scholarship – and beyond.” Really?

What was this news? Professor Karen King of the Harvard Divinity School announced at a conference in Rome that she had identified an ancient papyrus fragment that includes the phrase, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife.’” Within hours, headlines around the world advertised the announcement with headlines like “Ancient Papyrus Could Be Evidence that Jesus Had a Wife” (The Telegraph).

The Smithsonian article states that “the announcement at an academic conference in Rome is sure to send shock waves through the Christian world.” The magazine’s breathless enthusiasm for the news about the papyrus probably has more to do with advertising its upcoming television documentary than anything else, but the nation’s most prestigious museum can only injure its reputation with this kind of sensationalism.

A fragment of a text, an even more fragmentary argument
What Karen King revealed (Sept. 18) was a tiny papyrus fragment with Coptic script on both sides. On one side the fragment includes about 30 words on eight fragmentary lines of script. The New York Times described the fragment as “smaller than a business card, with eight lines on one side, in black ink legible under a magnifying glass.” The lines are all fragmentary, with the third line reading “deny. Mary is worthy of it,” and the next reading “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife.’” The fifth states, “she will be able to be my disciple.”

The papyrus fragment, believed to be from the fourth century, was delivered to Professor King by an anonymous source who secured the artifact from a German-American dealer, who had bought it years ago from a source in East Germany. As news reports made clear, the fragment is believed by many to be an authentic text from the fourth century, though two of three authorities originally consulted by the editors of the Harvard Theological Review expressed doubts. Such a find would be interesting, to be sure, but hardly worthy of the international headlines.

The little piece of ancient papyrus with its fragmentary lines of text is now, in the hands of the media, transformed into proof that Jesus had a wife, and that she was most likely Mary Magdalene. Professor King will bear personal responsibility for most of this over-reaching. She has called the fragment nothing less than “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” – a title The Boston Globe rightly deemed “provocative.” That same paper reported that Professor King decided to publicize her findings before additional tests could verify the fragment’s authenticity because she “feared word could leak out about its existence in a way that sensationalized its meaning.” Seriously? King was so concerned about avoiding sensationalism that she titled the fragment “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife”?

This is sensationalism masquerading as scholarship. One British newspaper notes that the claims about a married Jesus seem more worthy of fans of Dan Brown’s fictional work, “The Da Vinci Code,” than “real-life Harvard professors.” If the fragment is authenticated, the existence of this little document will be of interest to historians of the era, but it is insanity to make the claims now running through the media.

Professor King claims that these few words and phrases should be understood as presenting a different story of Jesus, a different gospel. She then argues that the words should be read as claiming that Jesus was married, that Mary Magdalene was likely his wife. She argues further that, while this document provides evidence of Jesus’ marital status, the phrases do not necessarily mean he was married. More than anything else, she argues against the claim that Christianity is a unified body of commonly held truths.

Those familiar with Karen King’s research and writings will recognize the argument. Her 2003 book, “The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle,” argued that another text from the era presented Mary Magdalene as the very model for apostleship.

A preference for heterodoxy
The thread that ties all these texts and arguments together is the 1945 discovery of some 52 ancient texts near the town of Nag Hammadi in Egypt. These texts are known to scholars as Gnostic literature. The texts present heretical narratives and claims about Jesus and his message, and they have been a treasure trove for those seeking to replace orthodox Christianity with something different.

Several ambitions drive this effort. Feminists have sought to use the Nag Hammadi texts to argue that women have been sidelined by the orthodox tradition, and that these Gnostic texts prove that women were central to the leadership of the early church, perhaps even superior to the men. Others have used the Nag Hammadi texts to argue that Christianity was a diverse movement marked by few doctrinal concerns until it was hijacked by political and ecclesiastical leaders, who constructed theological orthodoxy as a way of establishing churchly power in the Roman Empire and then stifling dissent. Still others argue that Christianity’s moral prohibitions concerning sexuality, and especially homosexuality, were part of this forced orthodoxy which, they argue, was not the essence of true Christianity. More than anything else, many have used the Nag Hammadi texts as leverage for their argument that Christianity was originally a way of spirituality centered in the teachings of a merely human Christ – not a message of salvation through faith in a divine Jesus who saves sinners through the atonement He accomplished in His death and resurrection.

Professor King, along with Princeton’s Elaine Pagels, has argued that the politically powerful leaders who established what became orthodox Christianity silenced other voices, but that these voices now speak through the Nag Hammadi texts and other Gnostic writings. Writing together, King and Pagels argue that “the traditional history of Christianity is written almost solely from the viewpoint of the side that won, which was remarkably successful in silencing or distorting other voices, destroying their writings, and suppressing any who disagreed with them as dangerous and obstinate ‘heretics.’”

King and Pagels both reject traditional Christianity, and they clearly prefer the voices of the heretics. They argue for the superiority of heterodoxy over orthodoxy. In the Smithsonian article, King’s scholarship is described as “a kind of sustained critique of what she called the ‘master story’ of Christianity: a narrative that casts the canonical texts of the New Testament as a divine revelation that passed through Jesus in ‘an unbroken chain’ to the apostles and their successors – church fathers, ministers, priests and bishops who carried these truths into the present day.”

King actually argues against the use of terms like “heresy” and even “Gnostic,” claiming that the very use of these terms gives power to the forces of orthodoxy and normative Christianity. Nevertheless, she cannot avoid using the terms herself (even in the titles of her own books). She told Ariel Sabar of Smithsonian, “You’re talking to someone who’s trying to integrate a whole set of ‘heretical’ literature into the standard history.”

Orthodoxy and heresy: The continual struggle
Those who use Gnostic texts like those found at Nag Hammadi attempt to redefine Christianity so that classic, biblical, orthodox Christianity is replaced with a very different religion. The Gnostic texts reduce Jesus to the status of a worldly teacher who instructs His followers to look within themselves for the truth. These texts promise salvation through enlightenment, not through faith and repentance. Their Jesus is not the fully human and fully divine Savior and there is no bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead.

Were these writings found at Nag Hammadi evidence of the fact that the early church opposed and attempted to eliminate what it understood to be false teachings? Of course. That is what the church said it was doing and what the Apostles called upon the church to do. The believing church did not see heresy as an irritation – it saw heterodoxy as spiritual death. Those arguing for the superiority of the Gnostic texts deny the divine inspiration of the New Testament and prefer the heterodox teachings of the Gnostic heretics. Hauntingly, the worldview of the ancient Gnostics is very similar, in many respects, to various worldviews and spiritualities around us today.

The energy behind all this is directed to the replacement of orthodox Christianity, its truth claims, its doctrines, its moral convictions and its vision of both history and eternity with a secularized – indeed, Gnositicized – new version.

Just look at the attention this tiny fragment of papyrus has garnered. Its few words and broken phrases are supposed to cast doubt on the New Testament and the doctrines of orthodox Christianity. A tiny little fragment which, even if authentically from the fourth century, is placed over against the four New Testament Gospels, all written within decades of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

“The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife?” Not hardly. This is sensationalism masquerading as scholarship. Nevertheless, do not miss what all this really represents – an effort to replace biblical Christianity with an entirely new faith.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – R. Albert Mohler is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. This column first appeared at his website, AlbertMohler.com.)
9/26/2012 1:39:10 PM by R. Albert Mohler Jr., Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘Honey Boo Boo’ & our superficial society

September 25 2012 by Kelly Boggs, Baptist Press

ALEXANDRIA, La. – “We aren’t in an information age,” said Tony Robbins, “we are in an entertainment age.” Almost all indications confirm the motivational speaker’s observation. And when a culture eschews much needed information for empty entertainment, it is not a good sign.

Couple that with the quality of entertainment currently consumed by Americans and it is an indication that we are a nation in decline.

Reality programming dominates television these days. Low budgets and audience interest have caused the genre to explode. Some reality programs focus on difficult jobs and do possess a modicum of value which includes highlighting entrepreneurship and stressing work ethic.

However, much of reality television is nothing more than dysfunction on parade. A prime example is one of the newest programs, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” The program airs on TLC and observes the life of 7-year-old Alana Thompson (a.k.a. Honey Boo Boo) and her family. Thompson came to fame in another reality program, “Toddlers and Tiaras”

“Toddlers and Tiaras,” rife with dysfunction, follows the antics of stage moms and their darling daughters as they travel the country seeking to win various children’s beauty pageants.

“Honey Boo Boo” is as inane as the title. The family indulges the antics of their darling daughter and conducts their rather routine, normal lives before an adoring and seemingly loyal audience.

The Thompsons are not the first to exploit their child while selling the soul of their family for financial gain. They are only the most recent in a long line of folks willing to put their lives on display like a circus sideshow.

In the short term, Honey Boo Boo and her family may bask in the lime-light of their 15 minutes of fame. However, what happens when the show slides in the ratings and is canceled? What happens to the precocious child when the masses no longer care for her antics?

It is only a matter of time until reality turns into rejection for Honey Boo Boo. “What the mass media offers is not popular art, but entertainment which is intended to be consumed like food, forgotten, and replaced by a new dish, “ wrote W. H. Auden his book of essays, “The Dyer’s Hand.”

Those who take pleasure in watching the obvious dysfunction bear responsibility for the genre’s success. If no one watched, the programming would fade to black.

However, people are watching. A recent episode of “Honey Boo Boo” drew more viewers than each of the broadcast networks’ Republican National Convention coverage during the same time slot. The next week, the Thompson clan tied with President Bill Clinton’s speech on CNN during the Democratic National Convention among the 18-49 demographic.

With the most significant election in decades looming large, millions choose to watch a self-absorbed family cheer on the antics of a child rather than watch those who could determine the destiny of their country? One can only hope those who chose “Honey Boo Boo” over the RNC and DNC are citizens who also choose not to vote.

“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?” asked the writer of Proverbs 1 in the Bible. Reality television as characterized by “Honey Boo Boo” is the epitome of the simple. Many, it seems, in American pop culture crave the simplistic and spurn the significant.

“People are sheep. TV is the shepherd,” opined author Jess C. Scott. If true, then reality programming is leading American society away from the significant and toward the superficial – and off a cultural cliff into irrelevancy. The people’s willingness to follow makes it all the more tragic.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)
9/25/2012 1:46:11 PM by Kelly Boggs, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Five things I wish I had known as a young pastor

September 24 2012 by Rob Pochek, Baptist Press

I left my breakfast meeting with a young pastor and realized, with a measure of sadness, that I was no longer a “young pastor.” He was facing a number of ministry challenges that seemed very familiar to me.
 
As I shared with him some of the lessons I had learned, he remarked, “I wish I had known this three years ago.” It occurred to me that the lessons I shared with him were ones that I wish I had been told when a small country church that allowed a rough, unrefined college student to get his feet wet in ministry. As I look back, there are (at least) five things I wish I had been aware of when I was just starting out:
 
1. You are pastoring a parade. The first time I had a family leave the church I was leading, I was personally hurt. I thought that I had really messed up as a pastor, or in my more frustrated moments, I thought that they “just didn’t get it.” What I failed to realize is that, sometimes, God removes people from your ministry for your benefit. And, I am sure, sometimes he moves them for their benefit! It was John Maxwell I first heard say, “every pastor pastors a parade ... people are always coming and going.”
 
As I have watched people “come and go” over the years, I have learned to trust solely in the Lord to bring people that would add benefit to the church. It is, after all, his church to build. Indeed, God often removes someone in order to drive us to Him, and then blesses us with someone else who adds tremendous value to the church. So, as a young pastor, be prepared for the fact that people will come and go, and trust that God is doing so for your benefit and for the good of the body.
 
2. The people who demand the most serve the least. As a young pastor, my assumption was that the people who gave and served most faithfully would demand most of my attention. The truth was the exact opposite. The people who demand the most are typically those who give the least and serve the least. And, upon reflection, that makes sense.
 
When people are faithful and obedient to give of themselves and their resources to advance God’s Kingdom, they are far less inclined to believe they should have a pastor’s undivided attention. So, don’t be surprised when those most disappointed in you and who criticize you the harshest are those who have the least invested in the ministry of the local church.
 
3. You will see ugly behavior. I have to be honest; this lesson comes from my wife. I asked her what she wished she would have known when we first started out. Her comment was, “you will see the ugliest behavior you can imagine in the church.” Now, please don’t think of my wife as a bitter crank. She is not.
 
Rather, as the wife of a young pastor, she was not prepared for the “ugly behavior” that she saw. As a young pastor it is important to remember that you are not the only one who hears the criticism of others. You need to be sure to help your family understand that such behavior is sin, and we ought not return sinful behavior with sinful behavior. Instead, let the Lord defend you as you exhibit Christlikeness in the face of criticism.
 
4. You are irreplaceable (but not at church). A lot of pastors act as if they are irreplaceable at the church they are serving. That is why they cancel or postpone family outings and activities to attend to the latest need of a church member. But, being irreplaceable at the church is not what is intended here. Rather, you are irreplaceable at home.
 
Think about it: You likely were not the first pastor of the church you are serving and hopefully you won’t be the last. But your roles as husband and father are the only truly unique roles you will have in life. I first heard this idea from Andy Stanley at a critical time in my life. I spent nearly half of my pastoral ministry taking my family for granted as I tried to be the pastor everyone else wanted me to be. Thankfully, I have learned that it does not profit us to grow a “successful” church and lose our family. A careful examination of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 2:6 illustrates the importance the Lord places on you faithfully discharging your duties as husband and father as a prerequisite to serving as a pastor.
 
5. Preach the Word. Every year the market is filled with the latest books on how to grow a church. Some of that advice is really good, being based on solid research into churches that are growing. Others are not so good. The temptation for young pastors is to find a concept or idea that they resonate with and decide to run with it. Or, worse, they simply attempt to copy what is working somewhere else.
 
However, while there is much to gain from missiologists and church growth practitioners, there is one thing that must not be forgotten. The only thing we have to say that is of any value to our people is found in the Word of God. No church growth gimmicks, slick presentations, or changes in style can replace the power of the man of God, hidden behind the cross, preaching Christ from all of scripture.
 
When I was a younger pastor, I wish I had been warned about these things. As a more experienced pastor, I have to remind myself of them constantly. Regardless of which describes you, may we all be mindful to “not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rob Pochek is senior pastor at Raleigh Road Baptist Church in Wilson, N.C.)
9/24/2012 2:12:33 PM by Rob Pochek, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



The facts about the ‘Jesus’ wife’ fragment

September 20 2012 by Thomas White, Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas – With all the media publicity over Karen King’s release of information about the fragment of “Jesus’ wife,” pastors likely will receive questions from members this weekend or in the near future.

For us, there will be two main questions. First, was Jesus married and does it matter? Second, what does “she will be able to be my disciple” mean in the discussion over proper women’s roles? I was interviewed by a local media representative, and since I had to do a little research I thought I would share it with others.

The facts about the fragment:

– The fragment is smaller than a business card, with eight lines on one side legible under a magnifying glass, with about four words per line.

– The fragment comes from the middle of a text, which means you lose context on all sides.

– They think the fragment comes from the fourth century. It is written in an Egyptian language – Coptic, and is thought to be a translation of a second-century document. This has not yet been verified.

The facts about Karen King:

– The Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School, she holds the oldest endowed chair in the United States (1721).

– Her books include The Secret Revelation of John; The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle; What Is Gnosticism?; Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity; Revelation of the Unknowable God; Images of the Feminine in Gnosticism (editor); and Women and Goddess Traditions in Antiquity and Today (editor).

– King currently is teaching a class titled “Women, Sex, and Gender in Ancient Christianity.”

– For reference purposes, King has named the “gospel” of which this is a part the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.”

No matter how good a fish tale you weave, this fragment is small. You can see the translation at Boston.com (http://www.bo.st/PUeBsU). Also, the document dates too late to have impact. The Gospels have authenticity because of the date of their writing, the connection to an eyewitness, and consistency with the rule of faith. Any fragment too far removed from Jesus’ time loses credibility because of the distance from Jesus’ life, and we can’t know who wrote it or what agenda that person may have had. At best, this document tells us what some people were thinking in the second or fourth century. Yes, it is interesting, but no, it does not change anything. Bottom line is that we have older and more reliable documents in our Bibles.

Check the sponsors. King has an agenda. The naming of the fragment and the naming of the gospel play into her research field of women’s roles and unknown gospel accounts. This is like a hunting show demonstrating how you can’t kill a deer without a Rage broadhead on your arrow. Then at the end of the show you find out the only sponsor is Rage. While King may be considered a fine academic scholar, she has an agenda.

Was Jesus married? The New Testament never says so. We would expect to find this information in the Gospels if Jesus had a wife. Furthermore, Paul, when discussing this issue of marriage, notes in 1 Corinthians 9:5 that Peter was married. He likely would have stated Jesus also married to make his point, but he doesn’t. Most theories of Jesus’ wife have him married to Mary Magdalene. Even King says it is unlikely that Mary was Jesus’ wife because she is known by the area of her birth, and if she was married, she would be known by her husband.

What about women disciples? Jesus treated women better than did anyone of that time. He had believers and followers who were women, and He appeared to a woman first after the resurrection. So if “disciple” means “follower,” which it likely does in the second or fourth century, then there is not an issue here. But don’t miss the possible agenda. The New Testament clearly lists that men made up the 12. The deacons chosen in Acts were men. Scripture gives the man the authority in the home and in the church.

At the end of the day, this unverified fourth century Coptic fragment from an unknown source written by an unknown author doesn’t compare to the New Testament record in our Bibles. So we should take advantage of this opportunity to reassure our congregations of the reliability of scripture and warn them of the feminist agenda that pervades our society.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Thomas White is Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s vice president of student services and communications. This column first appeared at his blog, www.thomaswhite.wordpress.com.)
9/20/2012 2:06:29 PM by Thomas White, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘Unconditional,’ others, redefine faith-based film

September 20 2012 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE Tenn. – Remember when “faith-based film” equaled “cheesy?” That label was blown away with such films as “Passion of the Christ” and “Courageous,” and it certainly doesn’t apply to the latest movie that is being marketed to churches and that opens Friday – “Unconditional.”

Rated PG-13 and starring well-known Hollywood talent, the movie tells the true story about “Papa Joe” Bradford (Michael Ealy) and his ministry to inner-city children. Bradford’s love for the kids impacts his friend Samantha (Lynn Collins), who is questioning her will to live after her husband is murdered.

The acting is stellar and the story gripping. It seems almost unfair to categorize it as “faith-based” not only because that label leads to negative reactions for many moviegoers but because Unconditional likely will have crossover appeal.
 
Sure, “cheesy” still does apply to quite a few faith-based movies, but the landscape has changed in recent years, with solid movies hitting the big-screen regularly and finding success. Bob Waliszewski, director of Focus on the Family’s Plugged In media/movie review website, says it’s “definitely” the best run of solid faith-based films he’s seen in his two decades of reviewing movies. In addition to the ones already mentioned, there’s “Bella,” “Fireproof,” “Grace Card” and “October Baby” – all of which had relatively low budgets but somehow looked bigger budget on the big screen. And that’s not even including ones such as the “Chronicles of Narnia” series and “The Nativity Story,” which actually did have much larger budgets.

Asked why he thinks there’s been such an influx of faith-based films, Waliszewski said Christians are seeing that they can “make a difference” and “impact culture” through movies and reach people who aren’t interested in coming to church. Through films, he told Baptist Press, “we have the opportunity to bring in a whole lot of people and help them think differently about life, God and the bigger issues.”

Waliszewski wasn’t talking specifically about Unconditional producer J. Wesley Legg, but he could have been. Legg and Unconditional’s other producer, Jason Atkins, spent $2 million of money they had made managing a hedge fund to produce Unconditional.

Legg, Atkins and a couple of other men launched the hedge fund in the mid-2000s. All of them were Christians, growing stronger in their faith, and they began looking into ways they could invest their money into God’s Kingdom. So they created a foundation and gave to widow, orphan and evangelistic ministries.

“Then the Lord started talking to us about media,” Legg told BP. “And I think it really probably first came from a conviction of, ‘Hey, here’s what media is doing to you, here’s what it is doing to your family, here is how the enemy is using it.’ Through prayer, the Lord kept talking to us about it – particularly Jason. And so Jason had a tremendous burden. Passion had already come out and Facing the Giants came out.”
 
So the men used their hedge fund profits to launch an annual short film competition called the Doorpost Film Project. They’d pick a topic – forgiveness, for instance – and ask for submissions. They’d receive hundreds. They picked 10 winners, each of which would then receive enough money to make another short film, this one focusing on the subject of “hope.”

The film competition, though, only whet their appetite for filmmaking.

“God wouldn’t really leave us alone about it – particularly Jason,” Legg said.

And in 2009, they shut down the hedge fund, returned the money to their investors and launched into filmmaking, starting Harbinger Media Partners. There were at least two problems, though: They didn’t have a story idea, and they had never made a movie. God, though, had a plan all along.

While participating in a Nashville inner-city ministry they met the real Papa Joe Bradford, who headed a ministry called Elijah’s Heart. One day while eating lunch with Atkins, Papa Joe began disclosing secret details about his background – how he had been in prison, how he had nearly killed a man while there, and how he had moved to the projects after getting out of prison and felt compelled to help under-served children. That sounded like a good story for a movie, but who would help make it? God was at work there, too.

The Doorpost Film Project had put them in contact with dozens of good filmmakers. They started contacting them. One of them, Brent McCorkle, had won third place one year and became Unconditional’s writer/director. Others from the film competition joined the Unconditional crew, too. The film was shot in the fall of 2010.

“Jason and I never believed that we would make a film,” Legg said, “and all of a sudden, it was like a farm league: We were sitting surrounded by all of these filmmakers, and different levels of filmmaking – not just directors but cinematographers, writers, costume people. God had built a network for us with all of these people, and us not knowing we were going to be making a film.”

For the Unconditional cast, Legg and Atkins wanted the best Hollywood talent their money could buy. Collins and Ealy each have been in major films.

“If we really want to reach people, if we really want to reach those that are going to movies every weekend, we have to raise the bar on the quality, or they’re never going to see our movies,” Legg said. “... We just took it as an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, let’s get the best actors we can get, just like if you’re building a church, we’d say let’s get the best carpenter we can get.’”

It’s been a joy to watch the quality of faith-based movies improve. Sherwood Baptist Church’s movies – their last three being “Facing the Giants,” “Fireproof” and “Courageous” – have gotten better with each release. (I still rate Courageous one of the five best movies I’ve seen.) October Baby was solid, and Unconditional builds on all of those. Interestingly, all five of those films have Southern Baptist ties. Sherwood is an SBC church, while October Baby director/producer John Erwin attends The Church at Brook Hills, an SBC church in Birmingham, Ala. Legg’s church – Judson Baptist Church in Nashville – is SBC.

B&H Publishing and LifeWay have released three products to accompany the release of Unconditional: a Bible study, a novel and a children’s book (“Firebird”). The latter is referenced in the movie.

Legg said he wants Unconditional to have a bigger impact on moviegoers than do most mainstream films.

“I want people to know who God is and that God loves them – and no matter what’s going on in their life, no matter what they’ve done, no matter what’s been done to them, no matter what they’ve gained or lost, that God is a loving and caring God that cares for each one of us, and that He’s with us,” Legg said.

Unconditional is rated PG-13 for some violent content and mature thematic elements. It has no language or sexuality.

(EDITOR’S NOTE ­– Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. It has no language or sexuality. More information: http://unconditionalthemovie.com.)

Related story
‘Unconditional’ film promotes faith in action
9/20/2012 2:00:18 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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