April 2002

'Lost Boys' to young men

April 12 2002 by Craig Bird , Special to the Biblical Recorder

'Lost Boys' to young men | Friday, April 12, 2002
  • Listening helplessly to the cries of another young boy, perhaps your own brother, being dragged into the bush by a hyena;
  • Standing on the banks of a swift-running river knowing four things: you'll be shot if you don't get across, you can't swim, crocodiles own the water, and there is no safety on the other side either, just more opportunities to die;
  • Staggering through land so harsh you live for weeks at a time on tree leaves and damp mud (when you can get them) and force down swallows of urine (when you can get it) because there is no water.

    Approximately 4,000 Lost Boys, the surviving remnant of 35,000-45,000 "instant orphans" severed from families and homes in 1987 by civil war, have come to America over the past 18 months. The U.S. State Department and Catholic Social Services Refugee Resettlement Office officially assigned 40 of the young men to Charlotte.

    Many folks at St. John's Baptist Church think God providentially sent most of those boys to them. And vice versa.

    That's where living "with" fear comes into play.

    After 13 years, the young men no longer must invest all their physical and emotional energy in a frenetic, daily (and often minute-by-minute) struggle to survive, but the images of terror still lurk in their minds.

    Living "with" fear is more subtle - vague feelings and anxieties. It resists being seen except in private nightmares and defies logic. It may disappear from consciousness but it doesn't go away.

    Living with fear is:

  • Hesitating over an invitation to "come on in, the water's fine" until you're assured no crocodiles lurk there, and declining to enter a park until you're convinced lions or jackals don't crouch in the bushes;
  • Discovering that the richest and most generous nation on earth still has homeless and hungry people sleeping on the street, and wondering if that fate could await you;
  • Approaching your 30th birthday with no biological family to guide and support you, no resources to afford a wife - and no suitable woman available to be your bride anyway.

    When nearly 50 members of St. John's opened their arms, hearts, homes and checkbooks to tall young men with names like Ajak, Luom, Mayen, Awar, Makuac and Jok, they expected to teach the young men to cook, ease them into high school or college classes, sit with them a t church and feed them an occasional meal.

    They didn't expect to be accepted as parental figures or to discover pockets of seemingly irrational terror from time to time.

    The first - and continuing - impressions one gets of the young Sudanese are of quiet maturity, compassionate resourcefulness and a respect for others.

    Mentors Phillips and Leslie Bragg's description of James Lubo Majak is typical: "He is a wise soul, a kind soul, a gentle soul." Maggie Bond refers to the entire group when she asks: "Can you explain to me why they are not angry young men? That blows me away, I would be overflowing with rage if I had been treated the way they have, but they aren't."

    Good question.

    The Lost Boys have a common answer: their Christian faith. "The United Nations and America saved our lives," Joseph Bol, 22, explains, "But God is with us." Not "was with us" but "is with us." The spiritual relationship that sustained them when they lived in fear still grounds them as they learn to live with fear.

    They don't wonder where God was when troops of the Muslim government in Sudan began attacking Dinka villages, "castrating the men like bulls and cutting off the breasts of the women;" or when they weakly scratched too-shallow graves for their companions who died by the thousands; or when the world forgot them as they starved in refugee camps.

    Instead they worship with a depth that awes St. John's members, and they insist that though all else failed about them, God was always true.

    The point was first made when St. John's decided to use the Sunday School hour for "life lessons," practical teaching about balancing checkbooks or making peanut butter sandwiches. Politely the young men resisted. "They go to church for one reason and one reason only," Bond remembers, "to worship."

    Now life lessons are part of a monthly luncheon or taught in the mentor's homes. Sunday School is for Bible study and church is for praise.

    "The insights they bring to class are incredible," says Susan Lancaster, who leads the study. "When we discussed what keeps people from God they talked about hunting lions and playing soccer," she explains. "When we wondered what God looked like they shared images of warmth and love and grace."

    The Sunday the passage came from Revelation and the question was what heaven might look like, Majak drew a scene dominated by a huge rainbow. Why? "Because heaven will have all kinds of people, people of all different colors," he replied.

    The first time the Dinkas took part in worship burns in the memory of everyone there. Caroletta Partain, head of the church's Sudan Relief Committee, recounts: "They were sitting together on a pew near the front when James Chol stood up and walked to the front of the sanctuary. He addressed the altar in three different directions before starting to sing in the most beautiful voice I have heard in any church. The other guys answered him in song - all in Dinka. Then the others joined him.

    "They continued singing, James leading with solo phrases and the boys answering in unison. All the while they all were moving fluidly to mesmerizing drumbeats provided by two of the guys. The congregation was spellbound, silently listening to and watching what, to us, was a totally new way to worship.

    "All of a sudden we 'heard' it. The words were Dinka but the melody was 'I have decided to follow Jesus.' I can't tell you how moving it was."

    Maybe in 1987 the 5-, 7- and 11- year-old boys didn't have any other options but to trust in God. They couldn't trust in the parents who weren't there. They couldn't trust in their own government who stalked them. They couldn't trust in world opinion that ignored them for four years and forgot about them for nine more after they entered the refugee camp.

    But in 2002, in Charlotte, they have food in their apartments. They have jobs. They have friends at St. John's. They have a choice now.

    But when the panic starts creeping into their stomachs, when they can't score high enough on entrance exams to get into college; when the need to hear their mother's voice or feel their father's touch wakes them up at 2 a.m.; when anxiety for their future assaults them, they confront again the fear they live with.

    And eventually they overcome it with two declarations.

    "God is with me."

    "I have decided to follow Jesus."

  • Friday, April 12, 2002

    'Lost Boys' to young men

    By Craig Bird Special to the Biblical Recorder

    The Lost Boys of Sudan no longer spend much time living "in" fear because they no longer roam the dangerous wilds of East Africa.

    But living "with" fear looks to be a longtime, possibly even a lifelong, situation even after - and sometimes because of - coming to America.

    Several years and at least 10,000 miles now separate them physically from:

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    4/12/2002 12:00:00 AM by Craig Bird , Special to the Biblical Recorder | with 0 comments

    That's so rude

    April 12 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    That's so rude | Friday, April 12, 2002

    Friday, April 12, 2002

    That's so rude

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

    Rudeness is a growing problem in America, according to a recent study by the Public Agenda research group. They surveyed 2,013 adults and found that 79 percent of them think a lack of respect and courtesy in American society is a serious problem. Sixty-one percent say the problem is getting worse.

    Respondents complained about poor customer service, and half said they had walked out of a store in the past year because of it.

    Half the respondents also said they often found others' cell phone use to be loud or annoying.

    Observing aggressive or reckless driving got the goat of 60 percent.

    The results were surprisingly consistent across the country, the lone exception being that foul language bothered Southerners more than folks from the Northeast.

    I'd be lying if I said some of these things don't bother me, too - especially the foul language (even more so when it's around kids) and the reckless driving.

    But, I figure you can let others' foibles get under your skin only so much without giving yourself ulcers. And, I see examples of graciousness and politeness every day.

    My completely unscientific survey of one person (me) suggests that, while rudeness may indeed be growing, so is our cultural sensitivity to affronts. While the use of cell phones in public may send one person's blood pressure skyrocketing, for example, others may simply accept it as a fact of life in contemporary society. While the lack of personal attention in a store can cause apoplexy for some shoppers, there are other possible responses.

    I'm not defending rudeness. I'm bothered when others are rude to me, and I'm ashamed when I find myself being rude to others.

    Rudeness is, well, rude.

    I am reminded, however, that an overt reaction to others' rudeness can be rude in itself.

    Christians, of course, are called to be kind and gentle. Jesus never said, "Blessed are the rude," or "Blessed are those who so easily take offense."

    Those who show less self-centered sensitivity and more other-centered compassion (even to those they perceive to be rude) are bound to have a more effective Christian witness. Lower blood pressure is just a value-added bonus.

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

    The who's who of translations

    April 12 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    The trouble with translations | Friday, April 12, 2002

    Friday, April 12, 2002

    The trouble with translations

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

    A recent article in the Biblical Recorder explored criticism that the International Bible Society's (IBS) Today's New International Version (TNIV) has been receiving, largely because it includes more gender-inclusive language than the New International Version (NIV) it is intended to update.

    In 1997, the IBS bowed to heavy pressure from critics and withheld U.S. publication of a gender-inclusive NIV. It also acquiesced to a list of translation guidelines hammered out at James Dobson's Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado Springs. These came to be known as the Colorado Springs Guidelines (CSG), and they deal entirely with translation principles related to gender issues.

    As the IBS Committee on Bible Translation continued work on an update of the NIV, its members found the CSG too restrictive for what they believed to be the best translation methods. As a result, the IBS disavowed some of the guidelines and forged ahead with a new translation that includes more gender-inclusive language than the CSG would allow.

    The IBS policy shift angered some of those who thought their influence had halted publication of a gender-inclusive NIV, and several critics were featured in a series of articles published by Baptist Press.

    Our article about the TNIV was accompanied by a companion piece noting that the Southern Baptist Convention's new Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) also includes far more gender-neutral language than the King James Version (KJV) or the NIV.

    Some readers thought the purpose of the article was to brand the HCSB as no different from the TNIV, and thus accuse the SBC pot of calling the IBS kettle black.

    This was not the case, however, as the article pointed out some ways in which the HCSB employs translation methods similar to those in the TNIV, and other ways in which it clearly differs. It also quoted LifeWay spokesmen who asserted the HCSB's goal of providing an accurate and precise translation of the text without bowing to cultural pressure to produce a "politically correct" translation.

    And that's where the rub comes because the HCSB does offer a more precise translation of the text, meaning that it avoids adding some of the superfluous male-dominated language of earlier translations that were culturally influenced and politically correct in their own day.

    This does not make the HCSB a "gender-inclusive" translation by any stretch. The HCSB follows the Colorado Springs Guidelines to the letter. It translates the specific Greek words for "man" and "brother" literally, and does not add words (like "and women" or "and sisters") that aren't in the text.

    By consistently following the guidelines, however, it likewise does not add many of the male terms - also not in the text - that were inserted by the KJV translators and generally retained by the NIV. This makes it, not gender-inclusive, but more gender-neutral or gender-accurate in those translations.

    Jimmy Draper, president of the SBC's LifeWay Christian Resources, is hesitant to speak negatively about a competitor but eager to say a positive word for the HCSB, which LifeWay publishes. The goal of its translators, he told me, is not to concern themselves with other English translations, but to accurately translate the Bible from its original languages.

    And I say, "Good for them."

    Now, equally sincere and comparably educated Bible translators can reach different conclusions about what is the most precise rendering of the Greek, Aramaic or Hebrew that underlies our English Bibles, but all of them should strive to provide an accurate and understandable translation for today's readers.

    An issue in the current spotlight lies with the Greek usage of relative and indefinite pronouns, and with adjectives and participles that are used as substantives. For example, the Greek adjective dika�ou, found in James 5:16, literally means "righteous." Used substantively, as it is here, it means "a righteous one." Since the word has a masculine ending (though the same form is used to indicate neuter gender), early translators rendered it as "a righteous man" (as in the KJV and NIV). The HCSB avoids the unneeded gender reference by translating it as "the righteous."

    In Mark 4:9, the Greek phrase underlying the KJV's "he that hath ears to hear, let him hear" begins with the relative pronoun h�s, which can be translated with "who," "which," "what," or "that." The relative pronoun can have masculine, feminine and neuter forms, however, and the form in Mark 4:9 is masculine. Thus, the KJV translators rendered it as "he who ...," and the NIV kept the male-specific pronoun. The verb for "has" (or "hath") and the following two forms of the verb "to hear" have no inherent gender, and must take their cue from the subject. Thus, one who translates "he who has ears to hear" will also translate "let him hear."

    But, when the relative pronoun was used without a specific referent to males or females, it was customary to employ the masculine form in a generic sense. Thus, the HCSB rendering "Anyone who has ears to hear should listen!" is right on the money.

    Such word wrangling may sound strange to those unfamiliar with the rather complex declensions of languages that assign gender, case and number to every noun, pronoun, adjective and participle.

    But the scholars responsible for the HCSB - undergirded by the Colorado Springs Guidelines - understand that the New Testament Greek's gender-specific endings do not always require a gender-specific translation. Thus, the New Testament translation they have given to Southern Baptists naturally includes more gender-neutral language than the KJV and the NIV - not because they added "politically correct" language, but because they avoid adding male-specific language not demanded by the Greek.

    And I again I say, "Good for them."

    Some Baptists believe the King James translators were uniquely inspired in their choice of manuscripts and in their translation of them. Thus, any new English rendering of the Bible will be problematic for them.

    For those who are open to continuing advances in manuscript and language study, however, new translations can offer new insight in our reading and study of the Scriptures. And I say, "Good for them."

    (EDITOR'S NOTE - The Colorado Springs Guidelines are listed on the Internet at www.bible-researcher.com/csguidelines.html.A comparative study of gender language in the KJV, NIV, TNIV and HCSB is available at http://www.brunswickislandsbaptist.org/hcsb.htm, where David Stratton has posted his research at our request.)

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

    Family Bible Study lesson for April 28: Promise of Restoration

    April 12 2002 by James Baldwin , Amos 8:11-12; 9:5-15

    Family Bible Study lesson for April 28: Promise of Restoration | Friday, April 12, 2002

    Friday, April 12, 2002

    Family Bible Study lesson for April 28: Promise of Restoration

    By James Baldwin Amos 8:11-12; 9:5-15

    It was only after I became a parent that I learned the difference between punishment and discipline. As a child, the subtle distinction made little difference on my backside. As I became responsible for my own children's moral development, however, I discovered that punishment and discipline really do have a different focus.

    Punishment is done as an expression of anger. Its goal is to inflict pain or regret, and thereby to change behavior. Discipline has the purpose of changing behavior, as well; but this goal is secondary to a more important one - restoring a right relationship with the parent (Heb. 12:5-11). God was preparing to discipline the people of Israel. His final word, however, was one of restoration and grace.

    Severity of judgment (Amos 8:11-12) Amos uses a little prophetic license to communicate his message of judgment to the people of Israel. He takes a basket of ripe fruit (in Hebrew qayits) and turns it into a symbol of doom (in Hebrew qets). He transforms the Jewish notion of "the Day of the Lord" from a celebration of God's deliverance to a symbol of His destruction. He even takes the promise that we can never escape the presence of God (Ps. 139:7-12) and turns it into a threat (see Amos 9:2-4).

    Perhaps the most frightening of God's judgments is His withdrawal from His people. In Amos 8:11-12 the prophet describes a time when people will seek a word from the Lord but will not be able to find it.

    The only thing more frightening than "falling into the hands of an angry God," to use Jonathan Edwards' famous phrase, is for God to remove His hands altogether. Paul uses the term, "God gave them over ..." to their sinful choices to describe the dreadful consequences of sin (Rom. 1:24, 26,28).

    Inevitability of judgment (Amos 9:5-10) Amos reminds the people of Israel that God has full authority and ability to bring judgment on their sins. He is Lord of all creation (Amos 9:5-6), and He is judge of all nations (Amos 9:7).

    The house of Israel will not be spared because of their unique relationship with God. "All the sinners among my people will die by the sword," God proclaims.

    Being among the people of God does not make us exempt from divine judgment.

    Jesus tells a parable in which wheat and weeds are allowed to grow up side by side until the time of harvest (Matt. 13:24-30). Only then does the harvester separate the two - the wheat is preserved and the weeds are destroyed.

    Jesus makes it clear that church membership and proper church talk alone will not qualify us for eternal life. "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21).

    Promise of blessings (Amos 9:11-15) In contrast to the rest of his message of coming destruction, Amos ends his preaching with a note of hope: "I will restore," "I will repair," "I will bring back," "I will plant." This dramatic shift in tone has led some commentators to suggest that a later writer who felt Amos' message was too harsh added these final verses. The words of grace, however, seem consistent with our earlier distinction between discipline and punishment.

    God's ultimate desire is always to restore His people to a right relationship with Himself. If He cannot accomplish that with the entire nation, He will do it with a faithful remnant. This does not mean that the promises of judgment are empty threats.

    We all know parents who threaten their children if they don't "straighten up," but who never follow through on their threats. Children quickly learn when parents "mean business."

    The nation of Israel did experience nearly total destruction, yet it was through that nation that the Savior was born who would bring about all the promises of God. And even though full restoration of our relationship with God is available through Christ, it is only because He took upon Himself the judgment we deserved. "He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities" (Is. 53:5).

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    4/12/2002 12:00:00 AM by James Baldwin , Amos 8:11-12; 9:5-15 | with 0 comments

    Formations lesson for April 28: A People Called to More

    April 12 2002 by Steve Zimmerman , Colossians 4:1-6

    Formations lesson for April 28: A People Called to More | Friday, April 12, 2002

    Friday, April 12, 2002

    Formations lesson for April 28: A People Called to More

    By Steve Zimmerman Colossians 4:1-6

    You've seen it. It's that moment of truth when the application at the end of the Sunday School lesson comes into play. Some people in the class get that glazed over look. They either don't get the point due to lack of sleep the night before or maybe the poor teaching habits of the leader. Others seem to soak up every word and make sure they "know the letter of the law." It seems like only a small minority truly understands and then sets out being changed from the experience.

    Paul in his final words to the Colosse Christians wanted to make sure they applied what they had learned from him.

    In this text we find four key areas that he admonishes them to follow so they can make a difference in their world. He knew that having only an intelligent understanding of the Christian faith is not good enough. It had to be lived out or else it is no good.

    Remembering whose you are (Colossians 4:1) The last few verses in chapter three reflect the apostle's instructions on how to live in the home and with your employer at work. Many people in the early church would be classified as slaves. Yet there were a growing number of masters who were being converted to the faith. In this verse he reminds the owners that they are also slaves. They now are under the lordship of Christ. If they truly belong to a heavenly master, their behavior would reflect Christ.

    Praying faithfully (Colossians 4:2-4) Paul knew the power of prayer. He also realized that the prayers of many would help change the world, as they knew it. In these verses he gives some areas where these Christians can pray specifically. Not only do they need to communicate with God for their spiritual health and well being; they can also be instruments through prayer to help the kingdom flourish beyond where they live.

    The same holds true today. The responsibility of our prayer life does not need to center around just our own part of the world.

    Acting wisely (Colossians 4:5) The lifestyle of these early believers was critical for the growth of the church. Their personal actions would set the tone on whether or not others would come to faith in Christ. But their behavior was intertwined with their relationship with Christ. If they did keep a close connection with God in their daily lives by seeking His will and purpose (wisdom), opportunities would abound to share their new joy with others. Paul realized that healthy, vibrant Christians, who lived out their faith, would naturally bring in others to Christ.

    That challenge is true for us today. How well are we attracting others to Him?

    Talking gracefully (Colossians 4:6) This condition is not about social etiquette. It is a reminder that whatever is usually important in our hearts will spill out in our conversations. Ask any newly engaged couple about the person they will be marrying and you will hear all the wonderful attributes of their soon-to-be spouse.

    Our love relationship with Christ is so special that we do have the chance to make an impact. We can become agents of positive change to a world that has lost its way and direction. We are flavoring to those people who have lost their taste of what it is to be truly alive. We are a special preservative to those folks rotting in sin.

    Yet our talk does not need to be shallow. The Christian faith is not wrapped in feelings alone. We must continue to strive toward understanding more about our Christian journey. We must be able to have the ability to make our beliefs understandable to those around us. A Christian needs to balance both a heart-felt and head-smart faith and be capable of making it known to others.

    Now that is where application comes in!

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    4/12/2002 12:00:00 AM by Steve Zimmerman , Colossians 4:1-6 | with 0 comments

    For the beauty of North Carolina

    April 4 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    For the beauty of North Carolina | Friday, April 5, 2002

    Friday, April 5, 2002

    For the beauty of North Carolina

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

    A recent flight to Dallas/Fort Worth just happened to occur on an unusually clear day, and I had a south-facing window seat. I had brought a book to read on the plane (God, Time & Stephen Hawking), but the view was more entrancing.

    The plane followed a course just north of U.S. 64 to its first intersection with I-40, then stayed near the interstate all the way into Tennessee.

    Pittsboro, Siler City, Ramseur and Asheboro crawled by at a surprising pace. By peering almost straight down, I picked out the two lakes at Caraway, tucked into the northwest side of the Uwharries.

    Thomasville was next, home to the central campus of N. C. Baptist Children's Homes, then Lexington and Mocksville slipped beneath my airborne perch.

    I tried to trace I-77 back to Charlotte, but could see only haze. Statesville was clearly in view, however, and Hickory, followed by Morganton and Marion, Old Fort and Swannanoa. Tiny communities dotted valleys hidden in the north flanks of the mountains leading toward Asheville, but I didn't know their names. The last things I recognized before running into cloud cover near Knoxville were the red roofed outlets of Pigeon Forge.

    Watching just one narrow band of North Carolina pass below reminded me again of how large and impressive our state is - and of how large and impressive are its needs. From Corolla to Sunset Beach to all points west, there are cities and towns and villages and crossroad communities where people are lost and hurting, where people need the witness and the ministry of someone who knows Jesus. There are Baptist churches in most of those communities, and challenges on every side.

    Those challenges cannot be met in a fly-over, but must be confronted one by one, face to face and heart to heart ... by people who are down to earth.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    4/4/2002 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

    Good news about sad news

    April 4 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    Good news about sad news | Friday, April 5, 2002

    Friday, April 5, 2002

    Good news about sad news

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

    First, the good news: the Annuity Board announced last week that two of its charitable programs are being combined to offer increased aid to retired ministers and spouses who have little retirement income.

    The "Adopt an Annuitant" program, which has been providing $75 per month for qualified individuals or couples, will mesh with the "Supplemental Assistance Program," which has offered as much as $200 monthly for individuals, or $265 for married couples. The combined program will go by the "Adopt an Annuitant" name, but provide the larger $200/265 amount to those who qualify.

    The sad news is that so many retired ministers and their spouses qualify. Thousands of ministers have served thousands of churches that paid them low salaries and no benefits. Those devoted servants come to retirement with no support other than a small social security check, and often without a home to call their own.

    To qualify for assistance, recipients must be retired ministers, denominational workers or spouses with 10 years or more of paid service in an SBC setting. Current monthly income can be no higher than $1,250 for an individual or $1,665 for a couple, with other assets no greater than $30,000.

    Of the $7 million to be distributed to need-based participants in 2002, $1.5 million will come from Cooperative Program funds, $500,000 from the Annuity Board's endowment income, and $5 million from individuals, groups, and churches who contribute to the Adopt an Annuitant program.

    Here's more good news: N.C. Baptists are leaders in Annuity Board participation, second only to Texas. There were 4,875 active N.C. participants in 2001, including 558 new enrollees. About 2,300 N.C. Baptist churches provide benefits for their ministers and staff through the Annuity Board, with 57 of those coming on board in 2001.

    But there's also more sad news: 1,600, or 41 percent, of the 3,900 churches and missions claimed by the BSC are not participating. This suggests that more ministers will be equally unprepared for retirement in years to come. Of North Carolina's 2,410 annuitants in 2001, 100 received less than $50 per month, 202 received between $51 and $100, and another 451 received between $100 and $200. A total of 275 retired N.C. ministers or widowers received supplemental help from the Annuity Board.

    As pastors have clear responsibilities to the churches they serve, so churches have responsibilities to their pastors and other staff members. When it comes to pay packages, a church should avoid offering a "lump sum" to its staff members, who may choose to buy groceries rather than contribute to a retirement program. Churches serve their staff well by paying at least 10 percent of staff salaries into a retirement program, and offering matching incentives beyond that.

    Many churches are unaware that even minimal monthly contributions through the Annuity Board can be matched by the Baptist State Convention with funds that purchase disability and survivor protection benefits. Many are also unaware than non-ministerial staff such as secretaries and maintenance workers can also participate in the Annuity Board's programs.

    Even the newest and poorest of churches have no excuse for failing to provide minimal protection and retirement benefits for their staff. The Annuity Board has a program to assist new churches whose annual budget falls under $40,000, offering a phased-in benefit plan that begins with a church outlay of only $100 per year.

    But new and non-participating churches are not the only ones who could benefit from a fresh look at retirement plans. The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA) includes a large increase in the amount allowed for retirement contributions. EGTRRA also provides a tax credit of 10 percent to 50 percent of personal retirement contributions for families with incomes under $50,000. With matching funds from the BSC available on the one hand, and tax credits from the Internal Revenue Service on the other, retirement planning is more appealing than ever.

    For more information about retirement planning and other benefits offered through the Annuity Board, contact Johnny Ross at (800) 395-5102 (toll free in N.C.) or (919) 467-5100 (locally), ext. 174. Interested persons can also call the Annuity Board directly at (800) 262-0511 or consult its Web site at www.absbc.org.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    4/4/2002 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

    Family Bible Study lesson for April 21: Courage of Conviction

    April 4 2002 by James Baldwin , Amos 7:7-17

    Family Bible Study lesson for April 21: Courage of Conviction | Friday, April 5, 2002

    Friday, April 5, 2002

    Family Bible Study lesson for April 21: Courage of Conviction

    By James Baldwin Amos 7:7-17

    The college I attended required all freshmen to attend a week of orientation before classes started. We heard lectures and took campus tours, but we also did some fun, group-building activities together. One of these activities was a team relay race called the dizzy-lizzy. Each member of the team had to race to a designated spot, pick up a baseball bat, put his or her forehead on the end of the bat, and spin around five times. The challenging part of the game was to find your way back to your team. The spinning made everyone completely disoriented, so that some ran into the water, and some just ran in circles, eventually collapsing on the ground.

    Amos realized that the people of his day had lost all sense of direction. Rather than following God, they were running in circles, and heading toward dangerous behaviors. On two separate occasions, as God revealed to Amos His plans to punish Israel, Amos cried out, "Sovereign Lord, I beg you stop! How can Jacob survive? He is so small (Amos 7:1-6). The scripture indicates that God relented - changed His mind - in response to Amos' prayers. This is a beautiful example of the power of prayer. Our prayers can provide new opportunity for those who are lost to find God.

    Certainty of Judgment (Amos 7:7-9) Outside Boone is a tourist attraction known as Mystery Hill. The billboard advertising its location shows a ball bouncing backward toward a boy who is leaning forward. I remember visiting this place as a child, and watching in amazement as water flowed uphill and rooms seemed oddly out of kilter. The "mystery" is that the house on Mystery Hill is built out of plumb. It is built perpendicular to the hill, but not straight up and down. The effect of this construction error makes everything else seem unnatural.

    Although God is "patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish" (2 Peter 3:9), He will not tolerate sin forever. God reveals to Amos a vision in which God is holding a plumb line. Natural laws of gravity always pull upon the weight at the bottom of a plumb line, giving a true measure of what is straight. God has given natural laws to all people by which they can gauge right from wrong. Paul says even Gentiles are to be judged by the law, "since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts" (Romans 2:15). He has further given the Law of Moses to show us the right way to live. Finally, we have Jesus, the Living Word, who is the truest picture of how God intends for His people to live. Measured by any of these standards, I fear our society is way out of line with God's will.

    Conflict of Loyalties (Amos 7:10-17) The priest, Amaziah, challenged Amos regarding his prophecies. He accused Amos of treason against the king. He told him to go back home to Judah if he wanted to prophesy. He did not want to hear that the religion that paid his bills was found unacceptable to God.

    I cannot help but wonder how Amaziah could be so blind to the injustice and perversion of God's law that was prevalent in Israel. Perhaps Amaziah was so used to the wrong he had forgotten what right looked like. Perhaps he knew that accepting the truth Amos preached would require changes in his own life he was not willing to make. Perhaps he had too much invested in the status quo to consider doing anything different.

    We have to be careful in the church today that we are not guilty of the same spiritual blindness. Some church growth specialists tell us that 75 percent of churches now in existence will be closed within 20 years. Our own church records reveal that we are hardly even baptizing our own children, much less reaching the lost of our communities. We are not fulfilling the Great Commission of God, yet we resist any voice that calls us to repent and change our ways. "For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God" (1 Peter 4:17).

    May God find us faithful when He comes.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    4/4/2002 11:00:00 PM by James Baldwin , Amos 7:7-17 | with 0 comments

    Formations lesson for April 21: A People Who Clothe Themselves in Christ

    April 4 2002 by Steve Zimmerman , Colossians 3:1-17

    Formations lesson for April 21: A People Who Clothe Themselves in Christ | Friday, April 5, 2002

    Friday, April 5, 2002

    Formations lesson for April 21: A People Who Clothe Themselves in Christ

    By Steve Zimmerman Colossians 3:1-17

    The restaurant had been in town for years. As time went by, however, the crowds no longer made their daily trek to the establishment. The owners spruced up the walls with new decor. They offered a drive-by window for quicker service. They even made sure their employees greeted the customers with the friendliest welcome in town. All these attempts were done to bring the customers back, but they weren't working.

    One day something happened. The doors flew open and the people started coming back. They really didn't care for wall designs or fast service. They weren't that impressed with the employees' manners. Two factors changed everything. The restaurant now had new management and a new menu was added that offered better food than what they were getting. Now the place has standing room only everyday!

    The New Manager (Colossians 3:1-4) Paul reminded the church members in Colosse that they had a new owner. In these verses they find out that Christ has raised them up from a life of sin and death. Because of that point they need to buy stock within the new company that is more concerned about heavenly issues than over anything that the world had to offer in their former lives. This new manager will also give out huge dividends in the end if they stay with him. They may not be able to see it now, but the benefits are great!

    The New Menu (Colossians 3:5-17) In order for us to get a better picture of how good the new menu was for the Colossians we have to understand what was offered before. Sins against God as well as people were staples each time. The problems of controlling one's speech in the early part of this section were truly evident on the old menu. The apostle knew that if these early Christians did not alter the spiritual food going into their souls that the outward results of any new transformation would be minimal.

    On one side of the new menu were the choices offered for a better relationship with each other. If these folks could digest these new ways of caring for each other such as compassion and patience found in verse 12, they would begin to show signs of the new birth. They also would take on a lifestyle much like that of the Lord.

    The other side of the menu in verses 15-16 focused more on their relationship with God. Paul admonishes them to take the peace of Christ into their hearts. Take on a thankful existence. Rejoice over what Christ has done in contrast to what the world is dishing out on its plate. Allowing the message of the gospel to penetrate the very essence of who they are is another part of the menu. A good dose of singing is also on the order. Once Christ made a difference in their lives those new believers couldn't help but sing!

    Yet the most critical aspect of this new format is found in the last verse. Whether in word or in action, the Colossian Christians should choose to do everything as a result of their relationship to Jesus. It is therefore imperative that their nourishment comes from Him.

    Once these fledgling believers started ordering from the new menu, a healthy spiritual body was taking shape for not only the new believer but for the church family. This renovation would be so evident that everyone wanted it, too. The good news about this new food is that it never runs out. Christ always supplies the need.

    "Can I take your order?"

    It doesn't take long to figure out the similarities between the restaurant and our church. If we ever get the idea of turning our lives over completely to His management and allow the new life in Christ to enrich us, things will change.

    Just think what would happen. Our churches would not have enough room for everyone to get in next week! What a nice problem to have.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    4/4/2002 11:00:00 PM by Steve Zimmerman , Colossians 3:1-17 | with 0 comments

    Andersen backs out of BFA settlement

    April 4 2002 by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press

    Andersen backs out of BFA settlement | Friday, April 5, 2002

    Friday, April 5, 2002

    Andersen backs out of BFA settlement

    By Bob Allen Associated Baptist Press

    PHOENIX - Nearly 13,000 investors in the failed Baptist Foundation of Arizona got some bad news March 28 when Arthur Andersen said it was backing out of a $217 million out-of-court settlement reached March 1.

    In a stunning setback for investors, Andersen said its wholly owned insurance company is "unable to approve or pay claims at this time due to its financial position."

    Investor Tom Kennedy called Andersen's decision to renege on the settlement agreement "treachery in the highest order."

    "I am just crushed by the Arthur Andersen announcement that they will not stand by the agreement their representatives negotiated," said Kennedy, a member of Mountain View Baptist Church in Phoenix. "The breakdown in the settlement translates into further suffering by investors who need their funds returned so life can be sustained and we can put this unpleasant experience behind us."

    Lawyers for the foundation's liquidation trust quickly asked a retired federal judge who presided over the settlement negotiations to enforce the agreement.

    Meanwhile, Judge Edward Burke of Maricopa County Superior Court rescheduled a jury trial for April 29.

    The trial, originally scheduled for March 4, was averted when Andersen, accused of negligence in its audits of BFA accounts, agreed to pay investors the equivalent of about 32 cents on the dollar of their original investments.

    In light of Andersen's decision to renege on that deal, Arizona Attorney General Janet Napolitano, called on the state's board of accountancy to impose "the administrative equivalent of a death penalty" by revoking the accounting firm's registration.

    "This is an absolute outrage," Napolitano said in a statement. "This shows that Andersen and its representatives pretended to negotiate in good faith, but in fact never had any intention of making good on their part of the settlement."

    But, according to a report in the Arizona Republic, Andersen's Phoenix attorney, Ed Novak, said Napolitano is wrong. He said the insurer, Professional Services Insurance Company Limited, is a separate entity that had to approve the claim.

    Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported April 1, that the insurer had been rendered technically insolvent because Andersen failed to make a $100 million premium payment.

    Novak told the Arizona newspaper that Andersen's situation had changed dramatically since March 1, when the firm had no way of knowing it would be indicted by the federal government March 14 for its auditing of Houston-based energy company Enron.

    The BFA trust is hoping that Andersen can still be forced to honor the agreement. That could give BFA investors an important edge in the event that Andersen files bankruptcy.

    But Kennedy said investors, many of whom lost 65 percent to 70 percent of their life's savings, believe any recovery from Andersen is now remote. He termed the decision "just another act of betrayal."

    In another development, the Arizona Republic on April 2 quoted Clifton Jessup, the trustee overseeing liquidation of Baptist Foundation assets, as saying his group's lawyers would take a more aggressive approach in seeking restitution from the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.

    The state convention, which started the Foundation in 1948 to raise funds for Baptist causes, has expressed sympathy and raised funds for victims but says it isn't legally responsible for actions of BFA officers, who are accused of defrauding investors out of $550 million.

    Arizona's Attorney General's Office announced last May that a grand jury had indicted five individuals on charges of fraud and illegally conducting an enterprise. No trial dates have been set for the five. Three other former Foundation officials pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for cooperating with prosecutors.

    According to prosecutors, beginning in the early 1990s, BFA sold different types of investments and savings accounts, saying they were backed by collateral.

    Investors were promised high returns and told their investments would help Southern Baptist causes and were safer than if in a bank.

    Unlike most Baptist foundations, which invest church funds but don't offer individual investment products, the BFA invested heavily in Arizona's booming real estate market. But that strategy resulted in losses when property values collapsed.

    Instead of reporting those losses, BFA officials allegedly hid them in "bad banks" through a web of subsidiaries. For example, the BFA allegedly loaned ALO, Inc., a real estate corporation controlled by a former BFA trustee, more than $124 million. While that debt showed up as an asset on Foundation books, investors weren't told that ALO's net worth was negative $116 million.

    Values of real estate holdings used as collateral for such loans allegedly were inflated to help cover up the losses. For example, one gift of Colorado real estate valued at $3.1 million in Foundation records turned out to have an actual market value of less than $152,000, according to a series of investigative news stories that first brought the allegations to light in 1998.

    That didn't stop BFA representatives from continuing to solicit investments, however, often in churches. They allegedly used funds belonging to new investors to pay off old ones, an illegal practice popularly known as a Ponzi scheme.

    After a yearlong investigation, Arizona officials ordered the Foundation to stop selling investment products in the summer of 1999. The BFA went bankrupt that November, owing investors $640 million.

    A liquidating trust established in the bankruptcy says investors should expect to recover between 39 percent and 44 percent of their original investment from litigation and sale of BFA assets over three to five years.

    In addition to criminal charges, the state sued Andersen for $600 million last April, alleging negligence and breach of fiduciary responsibility in issuing clean audits for the BFA - while ignoring red flags, including warnings from whistleblowers - that helped Foundation officials to continue to defraud investors.

    In the March 1 settlement, Andersen had denied any wrongdoing but said paying investors $217 million would help rehabilitate the company's image. In exchange, all three pending lawsuits against Andersen - a class-action suit, a suit by the liquidating trust and an action by the Attorney General - were to be dropped.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    4/4/2002 11:00:00 PM by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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