June 2013

Give me liberty

June 17 2013 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

One of the most famous speeches of the revolutionary war was delivered in a packed church building. The windows were wide open to allow those gathered outside the church to hear. On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry spoke the famous words, “Give me liberty or give me death,” to colonial delegates and concerned citizens gathered at St. Johns Church near Richmond in the colony of Virginia. Among those who sat in awe of the compelling speech were Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.
Henry recounted the many appeals the colonists had offered to the throne of England and its parliament to “arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and parliament.” Their appeals were “slighted,” producing only “additional violence and insult” and “contempt” from the throne of England. He said, “If we wish to be free – if we wish to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long engaged, ... we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight!”
England called the colonists weak, particularly in contrast to the superior British military resources. Henry’s famous speech stated, “Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power.” He added, “we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God Who presides over the destinies of nations, and Who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us.”

With passion and conviction Henry closed his persuasive speech with, “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
The colonists fought and won against all odds. Since then the United States of America has basked in the freedoms purchased by their courage, their convictions, their blood and their prayers.
In a few days Americans will celebrate another Independence Day. July 4th will mark the 237th anniversary of our forefathers’ decision to establish a country committed to the values of “...life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We enjoy the liberties of this celebration only because biblical values dominated the minds and hearts of colonial patriots.
Freedom is not an endemic value of paganism, atheism or liberalism. These worldviews peddle the theories of “license,” all the while believing they are advancing liberty. There is a vast difference between license and liberty. License is a self-indulgent lifestyle. It produces bondage, not liberty.
Freedom is conceived in truth – biblical truth. Therefore it is only through the exercise of truth that freedom can prosper. It advances on the tracks of sacrifice and humility.
Jesus said it this way, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32, NKJV).  He expanded our understanding of freedom with an additional statement, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36, NKJV).
The apostle Paul wrote, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2, NKJV). In other words, the only time and the only way I am free to do the right thing is when I am set free from the bondage of sin. As long as an individual or a nation is enslaved to sin, it is never free.
America needs the truth of the gospel if we are to remain free. America also needs bold voices of biblical conviction who value freedom. The preaching of biblical truth gave birth to America through the voices of George Whitefield, Jonathan Mayhew, Samuel Cooper, James Caldwell and many others. President John Adams stated that godly preachers were most influential in the “awakening and revival of American principles” that led to our independence.
If we want to “let freedom ring” again in America, the pulpit must be known for the heralding of truth. Silence is not an option.
I recently purchased a book titled, Tyrants: History’s 100 Most Evil Despots and Dictators. As you would expect, it tells the story of Herod the Great, Nero, Attilla the Hun, Mary I of England, Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Adoph Hitler, Sadam Hussein, Muammar al-Gaddifi and others. Without exception, not one of the one hundred tyrannical rulers led by biblical truth. Not one permitted freedom to exist under their rule.
Ours is a corrupt land where voices of humanism scream louder than voices of truth.
The hypocritical cries for “tolerance” have given birth to the exercise of tyranny toward voices of dissent. Christians are being pressured into silence in unprecedented attacks on Christianity and the Bible.
The “scandal de jour” headlining the news should cause grave concerns for every Christian. Each scandal is exposing the threat to personal freedoms and to the general principles of a free nation. We are dangerously close to the extinction of freedom in America. Are we paying attention, or do we somehow find selfish solace in blindly following political pied pipers?
Christians are the salt that prevents decay and corruption. If we do not speak up now, it will soon be too late. If we do not speak up, no one else will.
6/17/2013 5:10:51 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Why every pastor should read about Melissa’s suicide

June 3 2013 by Thom Rainer

(EDITOR’S NOTE – This week I yield my space to Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources. In a recent blog he shared this moving comment on Frank Page’s newly released book about his daughter’s suicide. This is a subject that can no longer be hushed. Two months ago a member of the Biblical Recorder’s Board of Directors and long-time pastor in our state chose to take his life. Incredible grief was pressed on so many. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate for people aged 35 to 64 jumped 28 percent between 1999 and 2010. This disturbing fact means more Americans die of suicide than by car accidents. It happens to Christians and non-Christians. We can learn from the Page family.)
The words seem cliché in some ways: “It’s a parent’s greatest fear.” But they are not cliché. They are real. And haunting.
Frank and Dayle Page had the “perfect” family. Or so it seemed to many of us on the outside looking in. Frank had pastored a megachurch. He had been elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.
Even today he serves as president and chief executive officer of the administrative offices of the denomination. And he has three lovely daughters.
But one of those daughters, Melissa, was troubled most of her life. She was spunky and compassionate at the same time, but her life was dominated by problems and depression.

Melissa took her own life.

A courageous story

Page decided to write a book about Melissa. He took the courageous path. There are no false platitudes in this book. No syrupy cover-up for the distinguished Page family.
No holding back. The book delivers one hard punch after another. It details the day Melissa took her life. And Frank writes again and again about Melissa’s last words on that fateful day: “Daddy, I love you.”

He writes it because he wants to remember her love for him. He writes it as if he can grab the words and snatch Melissa back to life. He writes it with both gratitude and deep pain.
Frank told me that he wrote this book out of selfishness; he said he wrote it for his own therapeutic needs.
I don’t buy it.
Certainly there was a therapeutic value for him to write the book, but there is no hint of selfishness. It took deep courage to write this book.

Taking down the façade

Many of us in vocational ministry want to try to fool our churches and the world.
We want to act like our home has no problems.
We never fight with our spouses. Our children are the embodiment of angelic beings. We are never tempted. We have no sin issues in our lives.
And we certainly don’t have family members who are depressed, and perhaps, suicidal.
Frank Page takes down the façade. He lets us see a real family with real problems, with real struggles, and real hurts. It’s a family not that much different than all of ours. It’s a Christian family in a fallen world.

Why you should read this book

I wish every Christian leader in America would read this book. Frankly, I wish every Christian would read this book. It is one of the most powerful books I have ever read.
I read the entire 200 pages in one sitting. I could not stop. I did take occasional breaks to wipe tears from my eyes. And I did take a few other breaks to pray. But I couldn’t put the book down.
You need to read this book. You really do.
You need to hear the story behind suicide. We recently were shocked and saddened to hear about Rick Warren’s son’s suicidal death. We were reminded again that depression and suicide could come to any family. Your family. My family.
You need to understand some of the issues behind depression and suicide so you can more effectively minister to others. Indeed, you may find yourself using the book to minister to your own family.
I also pray that this book will get into the hands of thousands of persons who are contemplating suicide. Frank writes a series of letters to those who are struggling to the point where they may take their own lives.
You should also read this book to see how a Christian leader courageously allows others to see the real world of a messy family. We all, to some degree, have messy families. But we are often too prideful to admit it.

Be a part of a movement

On Friday, May 31, 2013, we published the podcast interview I recorded with Frank Page on this blog (ThomRainer.com). Please take less than 30 minutes to listen. You really do need to do so for your own ministry and, perhaps, for your own family.
Then get the book. It’s called Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide. Read it for your ministry. Read it for your family. Read it for yourself.
Perhaps a movement will grow from this book.
Perhaps lives will be saved because we have a greater awareness and sensitivity to this darkness. Perhaps we will learn to love more deeply. Perhaps we will become more compassionate people.
On one weary occasion, Frank Page was asked how many children he had. Because he was so tired of explaining where the third child was, he conveniently omitted Melissa.
As soon as he did, he had deep grief and remorse. He had denied his firstborn, his third daughter. He vowed never to leave out Melissa again. Yes, she had committed suicide, but she was a believer. Frank has no doubt where she is today. He will never deny her existence again.
Melissa lives for us too. Her story, told by her father, is one of the most incredible tomes I’ve ever read.
Thank you, Frank. Thank you Frank and Dayle Page.
Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your love of your family. And thank you for giving life to Melissa.
May her story give life to many more.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. He publishes a daily blog at ThomRainer.com, where this column was originally published, and can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.)
6/3/2013 3:20:19 PM by Thom Rainer | with 0 comments