April 2002

A holy conundrum

April 26 2002 by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard

A holy conundrum | Friday, April 26, 2002

Friday, April 26, 2002

A holy conundrum

By Mark Wingfield Texas Baptist Standard

If it's a matter of who got there first, the Israelites have a case against the Palestinians.

If it's a matter of who has held control of the land most recently and for the longest period of time, the Palestinians have a case against the Israelis.

And if those were the only two questions to answer, the Middle Eastern conflict between Arabs and Jews still would be a tough nut to crack.

By some accounts, the current conflict in the Middle East is about land - a relatively small piece of real estate bordered by Egypt, Syria, Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. Palestinians and Jews both claim the land as theirs. And historical facts can be cited to support both claims.

On cable TV broadcasts, representatives of Israel and the Palestinian Authority may be heard "using history like a stiletto," said Christian historian Tim Weber, dean at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Illinois.

"The land has been contested for thousands of years. The different parties point to different historical periods, but ignore the rest, to make their case for ownership."

Both sides agree the land's history begins with early civilizations thousands of years ago. After the Exodus, Israel arrived to find the Canaanites, a collection of Semitic people who developed complex societies administered through city-states.

The Canaanites, according to biblical and historical records, worshipped fertility gods and engaged in all manner of illicit sexual practices and mystical wizardry as part of their religious rites. Jewish and Christian Scriptures record the Canaanite practices as "detestable to the Lord."

The children of Israel, acting on the promise of God, took possession of the land from the Canaanites sometime around the 13th century B.C. Ancient Scriptures say God instructed the Hebrews to wipe out the Canaanites because of their wickedness.

For the next 500 years, Israel flourished and expanded under the leadership of patriarchal figures, judges and then kings such as Saul, David and Solomon. David made Jerusalem Israel's capital around 1000 B.C., and Solomon built the first temple there around 960 B.C.

By 720 B.C., however, the Assyrians crushed Israel, and 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel were lost in the ensuing dispersion. The remnant of Jewish people held on to parts of the land for several more centuries, suffering under the rule of Babylonians, Greeks and Romans with a brief period of independence under the Hasmoneans.

Israel held together in some form through the time of Christ until 70 A.D., when Roman troops destroyed Jerusalem and scattered the Jewish people far and wide in what is known as the Diaspora.

For the next 900 years, control of the Holy Lands went back and forth between various occupying forces, including the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Christian Crusaders, the Mamluks and the Ottoman Empire.

Muslims were the third major religious entity to lay claim to the land, not arriving as a distinct faith group until the seventh century A.D. Their founding prophet, Mohammad, was born in 570 A.D. and wrote the Koran in 610 A.D. By 691, Muslims had built the Dome of the Rock on the site of the destroyed Jewish temple. This is the third-most-holy site in Islam because according to Islamic tradition it is the site from which Mohammed ascended into heaven.

Jews and Muslims claim a common heritage through the patriarch Abraham, with Jews tracing their lineage and faith through Abraham's son Isaac and Muslims tracing their lineage and faith through Abraham's son Ishmael. Jewish Scripture records Ishmael as the child of Abraham and his wife's servant, Hagar. Islamic tradition considers Hagar Abraham's second wife. Isaac was the child of Abraham's wife, Sarah.

Jews and Muslims co-existed in the land, although Muslims had the upper hand through most of the latter half of the first millennium after Christ. They coexisted largely because of outside domination and because the Jewish people had not yet begun returning to the land in large numbers.

Four hundred years of rule by the Ottoman Empire ended in 1917 with a British conquest, with the British prime minister pledging support for a "Jewish national home in Palestine." That never fully materialized, however, despite Britain's declaration of a "Mandate for Palestine" in 1922.

Only after World War II and the Holocaust did European and American sentiment for a Jewish state lead to concrete action. And that, undertaken at the authority of the United Nations, set the stage for the wars that have raged between Arabs and Israelis from 1948 to the present.

With consent from the British, the victors of World War II carved out a new Israeli state, hoping to create a place of refuge for persecuted Jews worldwide. To do this, however, they made hundreds of thousands of Palestinians homeless.

So whose land is it anyway?

Jews claim historical rights to the land and a divine mandate given to Abraham to possess it. Muslims claim more recent possession of the land and a divine mandate as well.

"There are two types of reality going on," said Paula Fredriksen, professor of Scripture at Boston University and an authority on ancient Christianity.

While the Israelis claim the land was theirs first, the Palestinians claim they have the latest revelation from God. In their view, Fredriksen said, "Mohammed trumps Jesus or Moses."

The Muslims have no basis to claim they were there first, because Islam wasn't founded until after both Jews and Christians had occupied the Holy Lands, she said. "They know perfectly well that Islam is sort of the third-comer into the neighborhood."

Nevertheless, some Palestinian leaders have attempted to draw a connection between themselves and the Canaanites from whom the Jews originally captured the land. This rhetoric says, "Just as Joshua seized the land from the people who were the original natives, so the Jewish people are trying to do it again," Fredriksen said. "It's very clever rhetoric." But it doesn't wash with history, she said. "The Palestinians are no more or less related to people in that area than Jews are. By referring to biblical narrative and identifying themselves as Canaanites, they are making a political claim to prior ownership, and those are two different things."

Nevertheless, the Palestinians make a strong argument on the point of most recent possession, said Weber, who sees the Jewish demand to reclaim its land as unprecedented in world history.

"Are you aware of another people group that returned to ancestral land centuries after losing it and succeeded in establishing its rightful claim?" he asked. "I'm not. Western support and sympathy, often fueled by particular readings of biblical prophecy, made it all possible.

"Of course, few worried about the 700,000 Palestinians who were displaced to make the new state. Few worried about the long-term consequences of Israel trying to occupy and control Gaza and the West Bank after the 1967 war."

Fredriksen, who was raised Roman Catholic but converted to Judaism, said Christian dispensationalism, an end-times theology that places great emphasis on the restoration of Israel, has played a large role in American support for Israel as a state. But that's not the only form of Zionism within Christianity, she added. Guilt over the events of the Holocaust sparked another kind of Zionism, combined with guilt over other mistreatment of the Jewish people at the hands of Christians through the centuries, she said. "It's owning that and being responsible for it that feeds that kind of interest in the state of Israel."

That argument is lost on the Palestinians, however, she said. "You have Arabs saying, 'Look, that's a European problem. Just because Europeans killed Jews doesn't mean we have to have them in our neighborhood.'"

Of course, the Jews have been in the land all along. The difference today is the large numbers of Jews who have returned to the land and the shift in the balance of power that has occurred in the region since 1948.

Within Israel's borders, 80 percent of the population is Jewish, 15 percent is Muslim and 2 percent is Christian. In the West Bank, largely controlled by Palestinians, the population is 75 percent Muslim and 17 percent Jewish.

With 6 million people in Israel and 3 million in the West Bank and Gaza, Israel currently has the upper hand in numbers. But the number of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem is growing rapidly. In that region, Palestinians are predicted to outnumber Jews by 2050.

Yet still, the arguments boil down to differing perspectives on history. And that reminds Weber of a favorite saying of one of his own history professors.

"History," the professor said, "is an argument without end."

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
4/26/2002 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard | with 0 comments

CCB speakers highlight 'last days' theme

April 26 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

CCB speakers highlight 'last days' theme | Friday, April 26, 2002

Friday, April 26, 2002

CCB speakers highlight 'last days' theme

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

PLEASANT GARDEN - Both featured speakers at the Conservative Carolina Baptist's (CCB) annual rally said the world is in its last days and Christians must make every effort to win the lost before God brings final judgment.

Just more than 100 people attended the afternoon rally, held April 25 at Pleasant Garden Baptist Church in Pleasant Garden.

World missions Bob Claytor, trustee chairman for the International Mission Board (IMB), said "Whatever you're going to do in world missions, you'd better do it now." Claytor, from Anderson, S.C., said two billion people in the world have never heard the name of Jesus, but that spiritual hunger and thirst have never been more intense.

"There are 20 or 30 places I could take you, and just by sharing your personal testimony, in a week's time 500 people would come to know Christ," he said.

Claytor said the IMB currently has 5,137 missionaries, with 3,000 more "in the pipeline," working with more than 1,900 ethno-linguistic groups. But, he said, some work in the Middle East has been canceled because it depends on volunteers, many of whom are afraid to go into that volatile part of the world.

Many people "have tried to make a big deal" out of IMB President Jerry Rankin's request for all IMB missionaries to affirm the 2000 revision of the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M 2000), he said. "But I want you to know that 98 to 99 percent of your missionaries have already written in large, large letters, 'I believe every word of God.'" In January, Rankin asked missionaries to sign a statement affirming their support of the BF&M 2000, to explain any personal differences with it, and to pledge that they would work in accordance with the statement.

Claytor denied that the request was a change in policy, saying "It's the same thing we've always done, nothing new."

Critics of the move say missionaries appointed prior to the BF&M 2000 should not be required to affirm its revisions, which include a statement that women cannot serve as pastors of churches.

Claytor described a recent visit to Burkina Faso, Benin and Senegal. He spoke with emotion of having met a young missionary woman who lives in a mud hut in an isolated village. "During the day she works with the other women to pound millet and prepare food," he said, and at night, in the communal village setting, "she tells stories about Jesus."

"She is planting a church by herself among the Marense," Claytor said, noting that she is one of 14 who have similar missions in the area.

Annual sermon Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, highlighted the preaching of Noah in Gen. 6:1-9. Graham, who is to be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in June, said Genesis is foundational for Christian faith. "If you get Genesis right - especially the first 11 chapters - then everything else will fall into place," he said.

Graham said the text about Noah was especially important because Jesus said the world would be "as it was in the days of Noah" during the last days.

As in the days of Noah, "our world is a pornographic and perverted culture," he said.

Graham said God's grace is patient, but God also judges. "God is already judging the world," he said. "9-11 was a serious wake-up call ... I believe we have a window of opportunity, but the door is closing and our world is plunging into darkness.

"We must get ready to meet God and take as many with us as we can," Graham said. "Now more than ever we must get people energized for Jesus Christ, off their seats and into the streets to share Christ with others."

Other speakers Coy Privette brought a report from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he is trustee chairman. Privette spoke glowingly of the school's growth and mission involvement. Of the school's upcoming $50 million dollar fund-raising effort, he said "what has happened in the past 10 years is what has made it possible for us to raise this money."

Jerry Pereira, BSC president, gave a brief report on the state convention. "There is a lot to be happy about in evangelism and missions among North Carolina Baptists," he said. Pereira said he had been inspired by recent visits to several BSC colleges and institutions.

No candidate yet Bill Sanderson, president of CCB, said he had hoped to announce a candidate for 2nd vice president of the Baptist State Convention (BSC), but said the proposed candidate has not yet decided whether to run.

Larry Harper, the current 2nd vice president, is ineligible for re-election. Pereira and 1st vice president Bob Foy are eligible to run for another term. Elections will be held during the BSC's annual meeting in Winston-Salem, Nov. 11-13.

Allan Blume encouraged attenders to "be sure you're getting your messengers to the convention together."

"It doesn't matter what is said before or after," Blume said. "What really counts is how many messengers are present on the floor."

Blume also distributed copies of nomination forms for the BSC Committee on Committees and budget surveys for BSC's budget study committee. CCB members should give their input when it is requested, and not just complain after the fact, he said.

Craig Furlough announced that Bill Sanderson will continue to serve as CCB president, and Blume as executive vice-president and treasurer. Sanderson is pastor of Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell, and Blume is pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone.

Other officers include: Bruce Martin, Eastern vice president; Shannon Scott, North Central vice president; Coy Privette, South Central vice president; Bill Horton, Western vice president; and Steve Hardy, secretary. Larry Burns and Gene Land serve on the executive committee as past presidents, along with five at large members: Craig Furlough, Mark Corts, Roy Mason, Mike Barrett and Mike Whitson.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
4/26/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Cullowhee church may be removed from association

April 26 2002 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

Cullowhee church may be removed from association | Friday, April 26, 2002

Friday, April 26, 2002

Cullowhee church may be removed from association

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

A Tuckaseigee Baptist Association committee is recommending that a church with a woman co-pastor be removed from the association.

The association's credentials committee voted 3-2 on April 23 that Cullowhee Baptist Church is in violation of the association's bylaws, according to a member of the committee. By the same vote, the committee recommended that the church's messengers not be seated at the association's annual meeting in October and that the church be removed from the association "unless corrective action is taken," the committee member said.

The committee said the church is in violation of two sections of the association bylaws.

One section says that the association is composed of Baptist churches "in cooperating fellowship with the Southern Baptist Convention and following the teachings of the New Testament."

The church does not financially support the Southern Baptist Convention.

The other section says the association may "withdraw from any church which has become unscriptural in its doctrine or practices."

The chairman, Cecil Frady, and two members of the committee declined to talk about the meeting or the votes, saying the meeting was closed.

Another committee member and the association's interim director of missions could not be reached for comment.

Wilma Cosper, who is serving in her second year on the committee and is a member of Cullowhee, provided details of the meeting in a telephone interview. She said that the committee was not unanimous in its desire to keep details of the meeting secret.

Cosper said Frady did not vote. Two other clergy on the committee voted for the moves with Cosper and Bill Ansley voting against them. Claude Conard, interim director of missions for the association and an ex officio member of the committee, voted for the motions, Cosper said.

Conard told the Recorder in March that he was "somewhat neutral" on the issue because he is "pastor of all the churches" in the association.

Cosper said there was some discussion about whether Conard could vote since he is an ex officio member of the committee.

The association's by-laws say the director of missions is an ex officio member of all committees and program departments of the association. It does not say whether the ex officio membership includes voting rights.

Cosper said she couldn't recall if Conard had voted in previous meetings.

Cosper said there is also a question about the qualifications of two committee members. The association bylaws say the credentials committee should include "three pastors and two laymen."

Frady and another clergy member are not currently pastors, Cosper said.

Cosper said the votes were disturbing.

"I told them at the end of the meeting that this was a sad day," she said. "I was ashamed to be a part of it."

The votes came about three and a half months after the association's Pastors' Conference sent a letter to the committee urging its members to "take immediate action" regarding the church. The pastors said they concluded "that there are matters of doctrine and practice within Cullowhee Baptist Church that do not conform to the clear teachings of the New Testament."

The head of the Pastors' Conference said having a woman co-pastor is "a major doctrinal error according to scripture."

The issue is expected to be brought before the association's executive committee at its next meeting in July. The association could consider the matter at its annual meeting in October.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
4/26/2002 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

From factory to fellowship

April 26 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

From factory to fellowship | Friday, April 26, 2002

Friday, April 26, 2002

From factory to fellowship

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Jasper and Sue Evans are looking for a few good volunteers who don't mind hard work, German food and the blessings that come with service to God and others.

For the second year running, the Evanses are spending six months in the German town of Erda, which is near Geissen, about 60 miles north of Frankfurt. They are recruiting, coordinating and hosting volunteers who are assisting a small but determined Baptist church that is working to convert an old cigar factory into a new worship center.

This isn't the first German project for the Evanses, who live in Mooresville and are members of Charlotte's Pritchard Memorial Baptist Church. They helped remodel the 1936 Olympic village in Elstal into the German Baptist Union Seminary (1996-97), and assisted with the conversion of an old wood-processing factory into the Baptist Church of Wernigerode in north central Germany (1997-98).

That's where they met Rudolf Gerhardt, who sent an appeal to N.C. Baptist Men (NCBM), requesting assistance in building a worship center for the congregation in Erda.

When the Evanses and NCBM international missions coordinator Robert Stroup first visited Erda in the fall of 2000, they found a small congregation with a large vision for their surrounding area. Fifteen to 20 families with about 30 children and youth were making do in a tiny building with no space at all for children's activities.

Erda is one of six villages in a region called Hohenahr, which has a total population of about 12,000. There is no other Baptist church in the district.

Church leaders saw a golden opportunity for expansion when an old cigar factory came onto the market, but they could not pay the asking price. They continued to pray with confidence, however, and the owner eventually reduced the price.

The decision to purchase the factory came at another cost - some members thought it was too big of an undertaking, that would require too much of a financial sacrifice. They pulled away, but others have stepped forward, said Sue Evans.

Working on Saturdays and holidays, the congregation razed a part of the factory that was beyond repair, and began renovating the remainder. With income barely large enough for building payments and some construction materials, members expected the project to take five to eight years.

That's where N.C. Baptist Men stepped in, with hopes of reducing that timetable by a large margin. The Evanses committed to serving as on-site coordinators and volunteers began to arrive in May 2001. From May to September, volunteers contributed about 1,500 days of labor, by Sue Evans' calculations. Volunteers came from across North Carolina, and from Texas, Virginia and South Carolina. The German church that the Evanses had assisted in Wernigerode also sent a three-person team.

While in Erda, volunteers worked hard but were also treated to home cooking and sightseeing trips to nearby castles, cathedrals, old towns and festivals. Each team worshipped with the Erda congregation, placing a pin on a world map indicating the partnership bond between the two countries.

Luther and Becky Yaun, of First Baptist Church in Greensboro, learned about the project from the NCBM newsletter and traveled to Erda last July. After a day of installing "itchy rock wool bats" in part of the upper floor, Luther said, "that Jasper Evans believes in making optimum use of his volunteer help!"

The Yauns also spread vapor barriers, put up pressboard, and spent time with their hosts. "Becky and I so enjoyed meeting the members of Erda Baptist Church," Luther said. "They are friendly to the greatest degree, hospitable and Christ-loving. ... I covet that other N.C. Baptists might experience this same joy and incomparable experience that my wife and I shared in Erda, Germany."

Peggy Bridgeman, a retired schoolteacher from First Baptist Church in Hickory, was one of eight volunteers who worked in Erda last August. Bridgeman shared kitchen and cleanup duty at the apartment where the team found lodging. At the job site, she said, "I was a gofer, a sweeper, a shoveler and mover of sand, and an experienced wheel barrow user for cleaning up the job site."

"God is so good," Bridgman says, "He understands German as well as English. ... The days of living in the village, socializing and worshiping with families in the church, witnessing their love for the Lord and their commitment to Him and the establishment of a larger facility for worship and outreach touched my heart!"

Bridgeman will host a young woman from the Erda congregation for a two-month visit to America this summer.

During the winter months, local church members braved cold weather to replace the structure's existing flat roof with a cathedral roof. The congregation's goal for the next six months is to complete the basement area, making it usable enough to allow the sale of its old facility. Those proceeds can then purchase materials toward completion of the new worship center.

Visitors have been impressed with the church's vision - and surprised that it has accomplished so much without the aid of a pastor. Arno Kawohl, pastor of a Baptist church in Giessen, preaches once every three months and provides some assistance. Visiting preachers, missionaries and members of the congregation preach at other times. One member is a retired missionary, while two others are employees of Evangelisch Rund Funk (Christian radio). The radio outreach is affiliated with TransWorld Radio, which has headquarters in Cary.

Volunteers haven't signed up as quickly this year, the Evanses say, so they are unashamed to paraphrase the Macedonian call: "Come over to Germany and help us!"

For more information about helping with or contributing to the Erda project, contact Fatima Roma, Overseas Project Coordinator for N.C. Baptist Men, at (800) 395-5102 or (919) 467-5100, ext. 324, or e-mail froma@bscnc.org.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
4/26/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Missouri Baptists launch new convention

April 26 2002 by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press

Missouri Baptists launch new convention | Friday, April 26, 2002

Friday, April 26, 2002

Missouri Baptists launch new convention

By Bob Allen Associated Baptist Press

BRIDGETON, Mo. - Saying they are tired of denominational politics in the Missouri Baptist Convention, 350 Southern Baptists met April 19-20 in suburban St. Louis to launch the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.

"It's going to be a convention for people who don't want to fight anymore," said Randy Fullerton, who presided over the meeting. Fullerton is pastor of Fee Fee Baptist Church in Bridgeton, Mo.

The new convention's vision statement says in part, "We desire to leave the strife and conflict of the past behind and move forward as we seek to fulfill the commission of our Lord Jesus Christ to make disciples of all nations."

The new group pledges "to be inclusive in our fellowship" and to provide financial support for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and "all our Missouri Baptist institutions."

While the convention "will welcome inquiries and requests for information" from churches and individuals, "we do not intend to actively recruit congregations," the vision statement said.

"We desire to leave the strife and move forward, even if that means walking backward into the future," Jim Hill, former executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), said in describing the new convention's vision.

Factional strife has dominated Missouri Baptist life in recent years, as conservatives and moderates faced off in fierce campaigns for leadership posts in the MBC. Conservatives eventually prevailed, and the MBC's executive director resigned, saying he could not work with the new leaders. Last year, five moderate-controlled MBC agencies switched to self-perpetuating trustee boards to guard against takeover by conservatives. The MBC responded by escrowing funds and threatening to sue if the agencies don't come back under convention control.

Fullerton said his church, which has avoided taking sides in the long-running controversy, had voted to join the alternative state body out of a desire to put cooperation ahead of politics. "We have been willing to put our money where our mouth is," Fullerton said in describing the 195-year-old congregation's long record of denominational support, "but Fee Fee Baptist Church will not play politics."

"We need some people who are willing to trust each other and work together for the kingdom of God," Fullerton said. "There is no place for politics in the church."

The new group, formed in part to support agencies defunded by the Missouri Baptist Convention, ratified a basic Cooperative Program budget of $4 million, with 35.75 percent, or about $1.4 million, earmarked for national and international causes of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The SBC is expected to refuse gifts from the new convention, however. While the denomination recognizes breakaway conservative conventions in two states, SBC executive committee president Morris Chapman has indicated he will recommend against doing the same with the new Missouri convention, saying it competes with the conservative-led Missouri Baptist Convention.

"If you choose to join this convention and you want to remain a Southern Baptist church, you can do that very simply," said Sondra Allen, the new convention's secretary.

The convention will advise member churches to deduct 35.75 percent of their monthly Cooperative Program contribution - the same amount forwarded to SBC causes by the Missouri Baptist Convention - and send it directly to denominational headquarters in Nashville, Tenn.

The budget funds all institutions and agencies of the Missouri Baptist Convention, adding supplemental monies for five MBC defunded agencies: Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist Foundation, Windermere Baptist Conference Center, Word and Way and Missouri Baptist College.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
4/26/2002 12:00:00 AM by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Virtual pilgrims to the Bible lands

April 26 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Virtual pilgrims to the Bible lands | Friday, April 26, 2002

Friday, April 26, 2002

Virtual pilgrims to the Bible lands

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

One of the many downsides to the conflict in Israel and surrounding areas is the loss of its tourism industry. Both Israelis and Palestinians depend heavily on tourism to provide daily bread, but with so many bullets in the air and bombs on the ground, tourists are in short supply.

While local residents suffer economic hardship, potential pilgrims the world over have put their travel plans on hold again and again, waiting and praying for peace.

There's something special about walking where Jesus walked, sailing on the Sea of Galilee, splashing in the Jordan River or sweating on the old Jericho road. The landscape has changed in many ways, but to stand on the Mount of Olives and drink in the sight of Jerusalem remains a heart-pounding experience.

Both prospective pilgrims and veteran travelers who yearn to return can find some small solace in "virtual tours" offered on the Internet (see, for example, www.jesus2000.com and www.mustardseed.net).

The pictures provided there are nice - if you have enough computer memory and a fast line to download them - but I'd still rather sit down with a good book.

The good book I've been sitting down with lately is Where Jesus Walked: A Spiritual Journey Through the Holy Land by Wayne Stacy (Judson Press, 2001).

Stacy is dean and professor of New Testament and preaching at the M. Christopher White School of Divinity of Gardner-Webb University. He is also a veteran leader of study tours to the Holy Land and a good writer.

Stacy's book includes some nice photography but the words are better. He takes the reader to 14 locations in Israel, from Nazareth to Capernaum to the Garden Tomb. For each setting, he offers descriptive insights from archaeology and history, and an extended devotional thought based on a scripture text related to that location.

The nice combination of biblical scholarship and personal experience makes for a book that is both informative and inspirational - a virtual visit in which the reader can smell the dust of the old city's crowded streets, and feel the heat of the sun over Galilee. Tickets are on sale at a bargain price, and you don't even have to pack a bag.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
4/26/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Whose land is it, anyway?

April 26 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Whose land is it, anyway? | Friday, April 26, 2002

Friday, April 26, 2002

Whose land is it, anyway?

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Devastating discord in Israel and the West Bank is a matter of concern for people around the world. In the Holy Land, as in no other place, the dangerous mix of politics, explosives and religious fanaticism is an everyday issue.

Israel has held the upper hand in the area since 1948, but it has not always been so. If not for an annual $2 billion in military aid from the United States, the story would be quite different now.

There are no simple issues when it comes to Israel, a land that is equally sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Whose land is it, anyway?

If we could answer that question, the other issues might fall more easily into line.

Does the land belong to the people who got there first? In that case, do the Paleolithic Mousterians, with their Neanderthal features, hold title because they inhabited the caves of Carmel, Kebara and Qafzeh during the Stone Age?

Or does right of claim belong to the Natufian peoples, who left grain-processing tools and grindstones in Palestine before 10,000 B.C.?

Perhaps the Aceramic Neolithic cultures of al-Bayda, Basta and Jericho should be given title, since they built some of the first permanent structures there between 9,000 and 6,000 B.C. Or should it belong to the next generation of settlers, the ones who first began to use pottery about 1,000 years later?

Urban culture began to emerge in Palestine during the third millennium B.C., as did international conflict. Ebla, the dominant city, fell to Naram-Sin of Akkad (which would later become Babylonia).

Egyptian texts from the Middle Bronze Age describe Palestine as a backward place, but a group of peoples called the Hyksos invaded Egypt from that direction.

As a land bridge between the powerful cultures that emerged in Egypt and Mesopotamia, the territory now called Israel spent much of the first two millennia B.C. as a battlefield, much like the rope in a tug-of-war. Dynasties from both east and west (who approached from north and south) sought control of Palestine, always doing battle with - but never fully subjugating - the indigenous peoples who lived there.

When Abraham first arrived on the scene, bolstered by God's promise that the land would belong to him and his descendants (Gen. 12:1-3), it was already home to a variety of people groups who became his neighbors.

When Joshua led the Israelites back into the promised land after their long sojourn in Egypt, the territory was held by people the Bible calls Canaanites, Perizzites, Amorites, Hivites, Asherites, Hittites, Jebusites, Moabites, Edomites, Sidonians and Philistines (from which the name "Palestine" is derived), among others.

The Bible clearly attests that Israel lived among the other people groups of Palestine, but never eliminated them or drove them out. Much of the Old Testament revolves around brutal and violent stories of conflict related to control of the land. Hebrew hegemony waxed during periods of Egyptian and Babylonian weakness, and waned when the neighboring powers grew strong and flexed their muscle.

Theologians of ancient Israel interpreted the nation's changing fortunes as divine punishment or blessing. They demonstrated a clear understanding that what God gives, God can take away, and that possession of the land does not always imply divine approval.

In time, control of Israel fell to Persians and Romans, Ottomans and others. Christian Crusaders of the Middle Ages sought to regain sacred sites from the Muslims, who fought to preserve their own belated claim upon the land.

In our own day, little has changed in Israel except for the horsepower of the chariots, the caliber of the weapons and the distance from which other strong nations can exercise their influence.

Whose land is it, anyway?

It is God's land - like all the other lands of the earth. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof," said the Psalmist (24:1), in words that were echoed by Paul (1 Cor. 10:26, 28). The Bible, along with most other sacred texts, is clear in teaching that God created the earth, holds title to the earth, and has the ultimate say about what will happen to the earth.

As individuals and as nations, we hold little pieces of the world in trust, and are called to be good stewards of what we hold.

As humans, we fight most intensely over the most precious parts, and no place is more precious to Jews, Christians and Muslims than the part we call "the Holy Land."

I wish I could offer an easy solution to the deadly bickering that reigns supreme in Israel and the West Bank. In my dreams, both Israelis and Palestinians agree to mutual disarmament and surrender all claims of sovereignty, allow a multinational coalition to provide security for residents, and designate the entire region as a place of peace, a sacred site and a historical park for all the world's people.

There are, no doubt, many reasons why negotiators will not call me for advice, but the prophet Micah dreamed of a day when all nations would stream to Jerusalem to learn God's ways, and would respond by beating their swords into plowshares (Mic. 4:1-4). Isaiah dreamed of a day when wolves and lambs, lions and bulls would lie down together and rest easy (Isa. 11:6).

And we can still dream.

In any case, let us pray that those who have power to impact Israel's future will remember that the land ultimately belongs to God, who is less concerned with who owns it than with how its owners behave.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
4/26/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for May 12: Ministry in Natural Disaster

April 26 2002 by James Baldwin , Acts 27:14,20,22-25,33-36; 28:2,7-10

Family Bible Study lesson for May 12: Ministry in Natural Disaster | Friday, April 26, 2002

Friday, April 26, 2002

Family Bible Study lesson for May 12: Ministry in Natural Disaster

By James Baldwin Acts 27:14,20,22-25,33-36; 28:2,7-10

This past summer the church I serve surprised me and my family with a month long, fully funded sabbatical. As part of our trip we took a seven-day cruise on the Mediterranean. I was especially excited that our itinerary included a day in Malta.

I recalled how the natives of Malta treated Paul and his companions with great kindness and hospitality. I expected the same kind of warmth when we sailed into port. Instead, we found people to be rude and unhelpful. The employees at the Welcome Center neglected us. We were scolded by a bus driver for not having the proper change. We were chased out of cathedrals by guards who were anxious to close for their three-hour lunch break!

Perhaps a natural disaster really does bring out the best in people.

Disaster strikes (Acts 27:14,20) Paul was on his way to Rome to stand trial before Caesar. As he stood before Festus to defend himself against charges of preaching Christ, Paul appealed his case to the emperor himself (Acts 25:11-12). The journey was delayed by bad weather, keeping the ship in port along the coast of Crete. When a gentle south wind began to blow, the ship set sail for Italy. Before long they found themselves caught in a hurricane.

Those who have seen the movie "The Perfect Storm" may be able to visualize the terror of being on an open sea at the mercy of massive waves. With no sun or stars by which to navigate, the crew had no idea where they were, or where they were headed.

Encouragement given (Acts 27:22-25) In the midst of the storm Paul speaks words of encouragement. Paul's words were effective because he was struggling with them. "Everything will be fine!" can sound superficial and insincere from one not directly involved in a disaster. Paul's words also had significance because they had divine authority. The message of hope came from God, through an angel.

When we speak words that come from scripture and from the Holy Spirit, people will listen.

Finally, Paul demonstrated his own faith under tragic circumstances. Most people would affirm, "I would rather see a sermon than hear one."

Physical needs attended (Acts 27:33-36) After two weeks on a physical and emotional roller coaster, Paul does something very unspiritual. He breaks out the beanie-weenies and crackers, and serves lunch.

Often in times of crisis or disaster people fail to care for themselves. Depression and exhaustion can cause victims to forget to eat, drink, sleep and bathe. Sometimes the most loving thing we can offer is physical nourishment and rest. Crisis situations are usually not the best time to discuss deep theological truths. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

As you read this commentary I will be in Honduras with a group from my church, helping with recovery efforts following Hurricane Mitch. Pray that as we minister to physical needs, God will open doors for spiritual needs to be met.

Kindness shown (Acts 28:2, 7-10) The natives of Malta, who were not Christians, showed unusual kindness toward their shipwrecked guests. They built a fire to help warm and dry their soggy friends. One of the officials of the island showed great hospitality by opening his home to these strangers. When the weather finally broke, the natives of Malta provided Paul's crew with all the supplies they needed to complete their journey. Although they did not realize it, these "heathens" had become a part of God's plan to have Paul stand before Caesar to present the gospel.

When we show kindness and hospitality in the name of Jesus we also may be serving a greater good than we realize. Jesus said, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matt. 25:40).

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
4/26/2002 12:00:00 AM by James Baldwin , Acts 27:14,20,22-25,33-36; 28:2,7-10 | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for May 12: Where Is Your Treasure?

April 26 2002 by Haven Parrott , Luke 12:22-34

Formations lesson for May 12: Where Is Your Treasure? | Friday, April 26, 2002

Friday, April 26, 2002

Formations lesson for May 12: Where Is Your Treasure?

By Haven Parrott Luke 12:22-34

Have you ever been so busy that you forgot something really important?

Distracted by the details One Sunday morning a few weeks after my fourth son was born, I busied myself with the task of getting everyone up and ready for church. I fed, bathed and dressed the baby, and tucked him into his car seat carrier to nap. I placed the carrier by the door and went to check on the older boys, who were 9, 7 and 5.

After much ado, everyone was finally ready, so we piled into the van and headed off. As we drove to church, I patted myself on the back for what I'd accomplished: the boys' faces had been scrubbed clean, including ears and noses; their hair had been neatly combed; their teeth had been vigorously brushed; their shirts were freshly ironed, buttoned and tucked in; their belts had been threaded through all the loops; their socks matched and their shoes were tied; and they each had a Bible and offering envelope. I was quite sure that someone would take notice and nominate me for "mother of the year." Supremely confident of my parental prowess, I smiled smugly and nodded a greeting to all those we met us as my husband and I herded the kids to their respective Sunday School classrooms.

But alas, pride goes before a fall. As Mike and I began climbing the stairs that led to the adult department, my 9-year-old, who was heading for his classroom at the end of the hall, turned and yelled, within earshot of all the nursery workers and Sunday School teachers: "Hey, Mom, when will the baby be old enough to come to church with us?"

I froze in horror as I realized that I'd left my infant son home alone! I'd gotten so caught up in getting to church that I'd forgotten our youngest child!

In a panic, Mike and I raced home to find that Dalton was, thankfully, still sleeping peacefully in his car seat carrier. So much for the "mother of the year" nomination.

Common sense vs. kingdom sense Oh yes, it is possible to get so busy, so hurried, so caught up with "doing" life that we forget why we're doing it. Life can be hectic and it doesn't take long to get so focused on the details that we don't see the big picture.

The Greek word translated take no thought, as in, "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on," literally means to be drawn in different directions. In other words, don't be so distracted by the stuff that doesn't last that you forget about the stuff that does.

The problem is not that we want too much, it's that we settle for too little. The Father knows our need of food, shelter and clothing, and He promises to provide those earthly incidentals, which are to be regarded as means to an end, not an end in themselves. What He longs for us to pursue and treasure are those things that never wear out: His peace, His joy, His perspective, Himself.

Yet, like toddlers who cast aside what's inside the Christmas packages because the boxes and bows distract them, too often we focus on the wrappings and trappings of life rather than the purpose of life - to know and show Christ.

Those who live in view of eternity understand that "life is more than food, and the body more than clothing." Jesus warned that it is the cares of the world that choke the seed of the word (Matt. 13:22).

Satan giggles with glee when we get so busy and distracted by the details of life that we neglect to honor the One who gave us life.

We are, after all, ambassadors of the King of Kings.

When we become entangled in the domestic affairs of this foreign land that we act more like citizens than aliens, we compromise our effectiveness as His representatives. We lose sight of His agenda and begin to pursue and promote our own. We are, simply, incapable of operating from a kingdom perspective without spending time with the King. Easy to say, but hard to do.

The good news is, you always have time for the things you put first.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
4/26/2002 12:00:00 AM by Haven Parrott , Luke 12:22-34 | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for May 5: Ministry in Physical Crisis

April 19 2002 by James Baldwin , Mark 5:21-24a, 35-43

Family Bible Study lesson for May 5: Ministry in Physical Crisis | Friday, April 19, 2002

Friday, April 19, 2002

Family Bible Study lesson for May 5: Ministry in Physical Crisis

By James Baldwin Mark 5:21-24a, 35-43

Can you hear me? Am I getting through tonight?

Can you see him? Can you make him feel all right?

If you can hear me, let me take his place somehow,

See he's not just anyone; He's my son.

Several years ago Mark Schultz wrote these lyrics "to capture the pleading heart of a father dealing with his son's illness." Parents who have spent the night by the bed of a fevered child, or who have waited the long hours outside an operating room know the anguish the song describes. Helpless, we cry out for God to intervene and bring healing for our child. We would gladly take the child's place, and suffer in his or her place, if only we knew how to make that happen.

Jairus must have walked those same hospital corridors and bedside paths all parents dread. His love for his daughter brought him to Jesus, hoping He could help. In their time together, Jesus both helped Jairus and demonstrated for us how to care for people in times of physical crisis.

Jesus was sensitive to need (Mark 5:21-24a) Even though Jesus crossed over the lake, His reputation as a healer and miracle worker had preceded Him. A large crowd gathered to see and hear this wonder boy from Nazareth. One person in the crowd was a man named Jairus. Although he was one of the synagogue rulers, he fell at the feet of Jesus and pleaded with Him. At this point he did not care what others might say about the inappropriateness of his actions. He would have done anything to save his dying daughter. True to his character, Jesus "went with him." Jesus still walks with those who call on Him in times of need. He walks with us in the person of the Holy Spirit, to give us guidance and strength. The Greek word for the Holy Spirit is Paraclete, which means "one who walks alongside." He also walks with us through caring Christian friends who help to bear our burdens.

The path through sickness is not nearly as long when there is someone beside us.

Jesus encouraged faith (Mark 5:35-36) As Jesus and Jairus made their way to the home of Jairus, a woman touched Jesus and was healed. While Jesus searched the crowd, then conversed with the woman, Jairus' worst fears came true. Some men from his house came to say that his daughter had died. "Why bother the teacher any more?" they said, putting words around feelings Jairus had not yet expressed. Jesus saw the disappointment in Jairus' eyes, and told him, "Don't be afraid; just keep on believing."

"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Heb. 11:1). Jesus told Jairus to keep on believing, in spite of what his eyes and ears told him. Even when the diagnosis is bleak, and hope seems lost, we need to encourage each other to hold on to faith. God sometimes answers our prayers for healing by giving a new and heavenly body. He will not fail. As an African-American pastor friend of mine loves to preach: "Jesus was never in a hurry, but He was never late."

Jesus showed compassion (Mark 5:37-43) When Jesus declared that the girl was not dead but asleep, all who had gathered to mourn began to laugh. Jesus took the girl's hand, and as He spoke to her, she rose from the bed and walked around.

I think it is significant that Jesus instructed her parents to give her something to eat. Although Jesus gives life, He allows the family of faith to care for those He has touched. This same principle is found in the story of Jesus' raising Lazarus from the dead. After Jesus calls Lazarus from the tomb, He tells his family and friends to "Unbind him and let him go."

We may not have the power to heal or bring a person back to life, but we are instructed to care for each other, and to help free our brothers and sisters in Christ from things that bind them to old ways of living.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
4/19/2002 12:00:00 AM by James Baldwin , Mark 5:21-24a, 35-43 | with 0 comments

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