May 2014

Back from the dead

May 20 2014 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Michael Moore began his chapel message saying, “My name is not Lazarus, but I am back from the dead, and I want to tell you about it.”
 
He recently spoke to the employees of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina in their weekly chapel.
 
He is a well-known pastor, director of missions and Baptist statesman. Moore has served churches in the state since 1971 including First Baptist Mooresville, Friendly Avenue Baptist in Greensboro and Hocutt Baptist in Clayton. He retired as the director of missions for the Robeson Baptist Association.
 
His story is unusual in one sense, but not unusual for those who know the sovereign power of God to act as He pleases.
 
Reading from Ephesians 3:20-21, Moore shared his miraculous 10-year story of physical pain and uncertainty. The passage says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
 
Now unto Him who is able to do ... I like that word ‘do’ I have circled it in red in my Bible,” he said. “Our God is not a ‘sit around and talk about it’ God. ... our God is a God of doing. His ability outruns our disability. His ability to answer outstrips our ability to ask.”

He told the Baptist staff, “This is not about me. It’s about the glory of God. It’s about the providential healing power of God, lost somewhere in His mystery of why He heals some and does not heal others.”
 
Ten years ago Moore was living in terrible pain, he had been to three doctors and ended up in a wheel chair.
 
He visited several cemeteries as he considered his burial place.
 
The tombstones of many children caught his attention. “My heart was filled with sorrow and joy and questions,” he said. “I wrote down the names and dates on some of those tombstones.”
 
One of the children only lived one day; another lived one month; one only lived six months.
 
“I fell to my knees and asked, ‘Lord, why did these die and I lived? ... Have I fulfilled the purpose for which you have made me? Why did I live and not these children?’ That question still pounds in my head, lost in the mystery of the sovereignty of God. I still don’t know, but I might know.”
 
A few weeks later his mystery illness was diagnosed as multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow. Moore asked the doctor, “How long before I get better?” The answer was, “If everything goes well, about a year.”
 
In the spring of 2005 he began a chemotherapy regimen and grew strong enough to have a bone marrow transplant. He responded well to the treatments and for several years was preaching in churches and carrying on his ministry.
 
Moore said, “Then a few years ago I started back on chemo. I took one kind of chemo and that would fail; then another that would fail; then the latest drug would come out, and I would take that.
 
“The whole time I was serving churches and preaching around. ... God gave me strength; it’s not easy to do but it’s doable. You don’t whine, you just go on and live life.”
 
On the first day of January this year, he conducted the funeral of a special friend in Lumberton. Moore came home with pneumonia. In a few days, an ambulance carried him to the hospital. “They took me straight to the critical care unit. I began to go downhill very quickly. I got into deep, deep medical trouble,” he said.
 
Emphasizing the seriousness of his situation, Moore identified five medical testimonies, He said, “One physician can be wrong, but it is hard for five to be wrong when they all agree.”
 
The oncologist came to his bed and said, “Mr. Moore, you’re going to die in about 10 days. I can’t do another thing for you.”
 
His family physician, who is a believer and a Bible teacher, told his wife, “Judy, I can’t do a thing for him. There is no medicine we can give him. Mike’s going to die.”
 
The critical care nurse told his wife, “Mrs. Moore, you need to make other arrangements. One of our staff will hook you up with hospice. He needs to go home, and he’ll be dead in a few days.”
 
He said in a few days the hospice nurse told his wife, “Mike will likely die today. He’ll be dead in two or three hours.”
 
Judy Moore called the doctor at Duke Hospital who cared for her husband through the transplants.
 
The doctor said, “If you can get him to Duke, maybe I can do something for him, but he may not survive the trip.” They did not go.
 
Lynn Bullock, his pastor in Lumberton, visited Moore at his house. He said from his experience as a pastor, he was sure Moore was going to die that day.
 
Moore described something he experienced in what was sure to be his final days of life. It was “... a diffused, bright light. ... I concluded I was moving toward it. ... until it filled my entire vision. I have never had a more contented, sweeter, more loved feeling in all of my life.
 
“I want you to know that I did not see the face of Jesus. I did not see mom and daddy. I did not see streets of gold,” he said.
 
“I’m not sure exactly what was happening in that period of time, but I know this. I know that strong intercessory prayer was made on my behalf.” Hundreds were praying for him.
 
His wife and children went to a funeral home to make arrangements and select a casket. When she returned, she said, “Why pray for comfort in dying? Let’s pray for Mike to live.”
 
People prayed and “God has let me live and preach again, and I’ve come here to say ‘Thank you,’” he said.
He’s been through rehabilitation to learn how to feed himself and use his hands and legs again. He has had no chemo since December and the cancer is getting weaker. Today he is driving to preaching engagements.
 
His oncologist was astonished. His doctor at the beach called it a miracle. “I have no idea why God let me live,” Moore said. “My doctor said, ‘Mike, it might be for some big thing, but I don’t think so. It probably is for some small thing. And you may never even know.’ I think that’s it!”
 
Moore said he knows he will die. “Even Lazarus died again – we’re all going to die. But I’m not in a hurry. I’ll go to heaven soon enough.”
 
“All glory belongs to God,” he said. “This kind of thing just makes us stronger disciples. We don’t know the outcome, but I hope my story encourages someone, especially those who are perplexed.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Moore currently serves on the board of directors of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. He has served on the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. His wife, Judy, is a cancer survivor.)
5/20/2014 12:18:42 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 1 comments



Moore: Gospel addresses sexuality in culture

May 6 2014 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Russell Moore was elected the eighth president of Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) on March 26, 2013. He is charged by Southern Baptists with addressing moral and religious freedom issues.
 
He has faced no shortage of issues, meetings, interviews and speaking engagements in his first year on the job. He literally “hit the ground running.”
 
I attended the ERLC Leadership Summit in Nashville, Tenn., recently where the focus was on topics relating to human sexuality – marriage, pornography, human trafficking – and ways the evangelical church should be addressing each topic.
 
This space is devoted to giving North Carolina Baptists a summary of a powerful message Moore delivered at the summit and some comments he shared with me in an interview. Tom Strode’s story gives additional perspective to Moore’s message. I am using an unusual amount of direct quotes for two reasons. First, you get to see his passion and commitment in his own words. Second, he spoke so clearly and articulately on so many subjects.
 
On the matter of homosexual marriage, he said we are in a very serious crisis. “If churches don’t recognize how dire the situation is, they’re not going to be able to adequately address it,” he said. “The culture is moving rapidly toward, not only the acceptance of same sex marriage, but cultural marginalization of anyone who dissents from same sex marriage. And the courts are hell bent on moving in this direction. ... If we don’t recognize what’s happening, we’re going to be caught as flatfooted as we were after Roe v. Wade.
 
“So that means we should be having conversations in churches of how we are going to protect our religious liberty. How do we articulate what marriage is if we’re living in a culture where few people around us even understand what the term means anymore? How are we going to deal with people who have lived in this ecosystem for a long time? If we’re not ready to do that, we’re not going to be able to adequately minister.”
 
Moore was recently accused by a Christian talk show host of giving up on the battle for biblical marriage. I asked him if he is raising the white flag of surrender on marriage.
 
He said, “No, but I’m saying we just can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve got to do a better job of articulating what marriage is in order to not simply rev up our base, but to be able to speak to people on the outside with a persuasive argument on why marriage matters.”
 
In his keynote address Moore called for Baptists to speak prophetically on the issues encircling us. “We have to do that in a way that opposes the devil, without acting like the devil. It is easy to demonize opponents. It is difficult to oppose demons. ... We have not been called to wrestle against flesh and blood, but against powers of darkness.”
 
Describing the unspeakable evil all around us, including the untold numbers of people in our own congregations who are enslaved to pornography, Moore said, “It would be easy for the people of God to respond to all of that with hand-wringing; it would be easy for the people of God to respond to all of that with panic; it would be easy for the people of God to respond to all of that with surrender; and it would be easy for the people of God to respond to all of that with simple outrage. But we are the people who have been given a mission.”
 
Non-believers and even many liberal-minded church members will argue that Christians are too strict with our values. Moore said he often hears, “If only we would give up a Christian sexual ethic, then we would be able to reach the next generation. Millennials would be able to receive the gospel. What’s holding them back is that we hold to a sexual ethic that is antiquated, that is unrealistic, and this is the reason why they are not coming into our churches.”
 
His response to that misguided suggestion is, “This is the exact same argument that has been used over and over and over again about all sorts of parts of the Christian revelation. In the 20th century the message was, ‘If only you could give up those bizarre, miraculous accounts, then you would be able to save Christianity and to reach scientifically enlightened people who want to follow Jesus, they want to believe in Jesus, but they just can’t accept the virgin birth because they are too educated for that.’
 
“The problem with this is, first of all, no one can accept the virgin birth easily. ... The miraculous element of Christianity always is seen as strange. But without the miraculous element of Christianity, you have what J. Gretchen Machen said in the 1920s, ‘a different religion and a different gospel than the gospel of Jesus Christ.’”
 
Emphasizing that scripture cannot be changed, he said, “We do not have the power to adjust the biblical revelation the way that we adjust the constitution and bylaws of our congregations. We are not making this up. We are delivering to a new generation what we have also received. Which means that we speak honestly, we speak truthfully about what it means to follow Christ, ... even when that message is seen to be a difficult one to follow.”
 
The path to purity is rigorous, Moore stressed. The life of a Christian, single or married, “... is going to be a life of spiritual warfare, including in those places where the world, the flesh and the devil conspire together ... seeking to lead us toward our own destruction. The gospel of Jesus Christ does not pretend that the path to sexual purity is easy.
 
“The gospel of Jesus Christ says that the entire life of the Christian is one of bearing the cross, which is why we need the entire body of Christ ...  so that the stronger bear up the weaker, and all of us need ... a whole gospel that speaks to us truthfully of God’s justice and truthfully of God’s justification to understand and to know the joy of what it means to follow and to walk after Jesus.”
 
Speaking of our sexuality, he said, “We do not pretend as though this is something easily managed by willpower alone.” We need both the body of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
 
“When the pull toward Internet pornography is there; when the pull toward sexual immorality is there, when the pull toward marital breakdown and divorce is there, ... or giving in to whatever the culture is promising ... it is not burdensome to follow in the way of the cross because we believe what Jesus has said to us.”
 
He said in a biblical marriage it is not burdensome for a husband to love and to care for a wife stricken with Alzheimer’s disease even when she no longer recognizes him. “But he loves her and gives himself up for her as Christ loves the church.”
 
An interesting point Moore made is that no human civilization ever ceased to exist because people forgot to procreate. He said, “God has injected a drive in the one flesh union, because in that union He is showcasing, He is picturing, He is demonstrating the union of Christ and His church. That mystery that Paul is talking about in Ephesians chapter five is then revealed ... and the two become one flesh. That is not just a relationship. It is a gospel tract! It is an invitation hymn!
 
“If we are going to be faithful Christians, ... people on mission, we cannot preach a different gospel than the gospel that Jesus Christ has given to us. Even simply by neglecting to speak to issues around us.”
He said Jesus and the gospel writers are constantly clarifying the cost of discipleship. “Jesus did not adjust himself into the lifestyle of people. He called them into His life.
 
“If we are faithful then we must oppose the deception that comes to every single one of us – including in the area of sexuality – that says that we can somehow work ourselves around the revelation that God has given to us, because we believe somehow that there is something better that we can grasp for ourselves than what God has given to us.
 
“If we tell the culture around us what we think they want to hear or if we practice a sort of selective universalism that tells them what they want to hear only as it relates to sexuality, we will not breed evangelism. We will breed cynicism from a group of people who will say, ‘If we cannot trust you to tell us the truth about your gospel, then how can we trust you to tell us how to be resurrected from the dead?’”
 

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‘Whole Gospel’ needed in sexualized age
5/6/2014 12:02:54 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments