April 2005

Formations lesson for May 15: If God Gave the Law, Don't We Need to Obey It? : Friday, April 22, 2005

April 22 2005 by Julia S. Ledford

Formations lesson for May 15: If God Gave the Law, Don't We Need to Obey It? : Friday, April 22, 2005
Friday, April 22, 2005

Formations lesson for May 15: If God Gave the Law, Don't We Need to Obey It?

By Julia S. Ledford
Focal Passage: Galatians 3:1-9,15-29

In Paul's travels to reach people for Christ and help them establish church groups, I am reminded of an entertainer who appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show who could keep 20 plates on 20 poles spinning at once.

In this letter, Paul was distressed because the plate he had set spinning among the Galatians appeared to be on the verge of toppling. He minced no words to persuade them to achieve the proper balance in their theological view of the law and grace.

He reminded them that the Jewish people had never achieved through law-keeping what the Galatians had known through faith.

I dare say that many people still do not fully comprehend the totally freeing nature of God's grace.

Paul's letter to the Galatians is relevant to us today because we, too, are influenced easily by popular beliefs that conflict with the pure gospel. We need to be freed from a doubtful salvation earned or supplemented by personal effort or merit.

By Grace, Through Faith

Galatians 3:1-9

Paul found it difficult to understand how they could have witnessed the work of the Spirit in powerful ways and then choose to revert to a legalistic religious culture. He began with the Spirit to remind the Galatians that their experiences through the Spirit were in response to their faith, not by legal observances or human effort of any kind.

In writing to the Ephesians later, Paul penned the glorious declaration: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." (Eph. 2:8-9 NIV) Even faith itself cannot be claimed as a human achievement, for the ability to believe is a gift of God. He pointed the Galatians toward their most revered patriarch, Abraham, to pinpoint faith as the sole basis for God's promise.

Value of Law

Galatians 3:15-29

In Paul's view, the Galatians were attempting to add a codicil to a will that was already in place. God's will for salvation by grace, through faith alone was established long before the law was given through Moses; and it became fully operative through the death of Christ.

Paul realized that his argument would beg the question of the value of the law. Employing metaphor, Paul taught that the law was given to teach what a righteous God requires and to bring us to recognize our need for God's grace.

Through the example and witness of God's chosen nation, called to strict adherence to divine law, it was clear that obedience to the law or religious duty does not fulfill one's search to please God. We can only experience justification through the freeing grace of God, in response to active faith such as Abraham modeled.

Paul viewed the whole world as potential recipients of the faith-based promise to Abraham. He saw that Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free, male and female, were all imprisoned by sin under God's divine law; but gloriously freed through Christ on the basis of faith alone.

Simple Summary

I came across this simple summary of what it means to live by faith. "When God made a promise, Abraham believed it. When God's will conflicted with Abraham's, he trusted. When God gave him an order, he obeyed it" (Andrew W. Blackwood, Jr., The Epistles to the Galatians and Ephesians, 1962).

God made us a promise of forgiveness and salvation through Christ Jesus. We believe it. God's will is that the sacrifice of Christ redeems us from sin and sets us free to live abundantly and eternally. We trust it. God bids us, through Christ, to love one another and fills us with the Spirit to achieve it. We obey it. That is the Christian gospel, the way of faith.

4/22/2005 12:00:00 AM by Julia S. Ledford | with 0 comments



Still concerned about Open Doors : Wednesday, April 20, 2005

April 20 2005 by

Still concerned about Open Doors : Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Still concerned about Open Doors

I was happy to see that the Student Government Association of Mars Hill College voted not to recognize Open Doors as an "official" organization. However, my concern is Open Doors at present remaining an "unofficial" organization that claims membership consisting of 32 faculty and staff supporters and only 27 students (see "Open Doors Answers Questions," Hilltop Online). If this is a student organization trying to get recognition from the Mars Hill community as a whole, should there not be more students involved than faculty and staff? Who is seeking recognition of this ungodly lifestyle? Students now freed from the confines of their parents trying to experience life, or faculty and staff, whose salaries are paid in part by North Carolina Baptist dollars, trying to influence these North Carolina Baptist students? Open Doors may not be recognized as "official," but as an "unofficial" group they have been sponsored by the Conservation Club - an official group - and therefore able to use campus facilities to promote their lifestyles and behavior. I wonder if this is what the founding fathers of Mars Hill College had in mind some 148 years ago?

Tim Rogers

Seagrove, N.C.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Officials from Mars Hill College told the Recorder that official student clubs can have only one faculty or staff member, who serves as an advisor. Student clubs must be run by students. The number of faculty or staff who have expressed support for the Open Doors club is unknown, as no list was submitted with the club's application for membership. Officials also told the Recorder that the policy allowing unofficial groups to use campus facilities under the sponsorship of an official club is currently under review.)

4/20/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



Free getaway offered to ministers : Tuesday, April 19, 2005

April 19 2005 by

Free getaway offered to ministers : Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Free getaway offered to ministers

Nestled in the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains is a cabin hidden in the woods where pastors and missionaries can to stay for up to a week. These servants of God and their families can hike the trails, take a walk down our peaceful country road, or play in the creek with the kids. We do not charge anything as this is our ministry to ministers.

Please visit our brief website at www.campgetaway.org

Steve Levinson

Rutherfordton, N.C.

4/19/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



Emerging Worship. Creating Worship Gatherings for New Generations : Monday, April 18, 2005

April 18 2005 by Dan Kimball. Zondervan Publishing. 2004. 238 pages. $14.99.

Emerging Worship. Creating Worship Gatherings for New Generations : Monday, April 18, 2005
Monday, April 18, 2005

Emerging Worship. Creating Worship Gatherings for New Generations

By Dan Kimball. Zondervan Publishing. 2004. 238 pages. $14.99.
Review by Wayne Hager

This book is specifically about existing churches - new forms of worship and beginning alternative worship services for persons in the 18-35 year old range. Fresh back from a worship conference sponsored by Integrity Music, much of what Kimball writes is the buzz among those who are exploring the "contemporary" form of worship.

The book helps is to show that there is no one form of contemporary worship. The goals of the service might be the same, but the shape in which the service emerges is unique to each church community entering into this journey. The common element is creating a multi-sensory worship gathering, not for the sake of being multi-sensory but to help the community connect.

One aspect of this book that is usually missing from other books is the focus on small worship gatherings, what we would usually call services, such as small group and house church gatherings.

Kimball gives detailed suggestions on how to approach birthing new worship gatherings. In most cases this also necessitates a review of the current pattern of church leadership. He wants to help leaders negotiate this shift.

This book will help church leaders, who sense the need for change, to be aware of trends that exist. It will also help leaders answer some of the hard questions about the future of ministry for the younger generations.

The whole book will not apply to any one church, but there are parts that should make a light bulb go on for any church setting.

4/18/2005 12:00:00 AM by Dan Kimball. Zondervan Publishing. 2004. 238 pages. $14.99. | with 0 comments



How to Be Good in a World Gone Bad : Monday, April 18, 2005

April 18 2005 by James S. Spiegel. Kregel Publications. 2004. 223 pages. $12.99.

How to Be Good in a World Gone Bad : Monday, April 18, 2005
Monday, April 18, 2005

How to Be Good in a World Gone Bad

By James S. Spiegel. Kregel Publications. 2004. 223 pages. $12.99.
Review by Wayne Hager

James Spiegel defines a virtuous person as one who is morally excellent and who exhibits certain character traits that humans were designed to display. But as the author looks around the world he sees a decline in the value placed on being virtuous. He writes in order to encourage Christians to make re-establishment of virtues a central task for the church and individuals.

Spiegel suggests over 20 virtues that a Christian should nurture. The nurturing begins with repeated actions, which develop into habits, which then turn into personal characteristics. Most chapters are devoted to one virtue. Each virtue receives not only a discussion that might include historical and religious background, but also practical ways the virtue may be developed.

Spiegel concludes by discussing the greatest virtue: love. He shows how love, as defined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, defines many other moral virtues. Love, then, is the virtue of virtues.

He makes a good case for a good life being one that is lived virtuously. He also offers the encouragement that one is not left alone in trying to live a good life. Christ has already walked this path, and through His Spirit, which lives in us, we may capture what we were designed to be, regardless of what the rest of the world is like.

4/18/2005 12:00:00 AM by James S. Spiegel. Kregel Publications. 2004. 223 pages. $12.99. | with 0 comments



Living the God Life: Finding God's Extraordinary Love in Your Everyday Life : Monday, April 18, 2005

April 18 2005 by John Ortberg. Inspirio Imprint of Zondervan Publishing. 206 pages. $14.99

Living the God Life: Finding God's Extraordinary Love in Your Everyday Life : Monday, April 18, 2005
Monday, April 18, 2005

Living the God Life: Finding God's Extraordinary Love in Your Everyday Life

By John Ortberg. Inspirio Imprint of Zondervan Publishing. 206 pages. $14.99
Review by Wayne Hager

The jacket cover gives away the authors idea of life. When you look closely at the "GOD" of the title, you see a faint "O" set off to the side of the clearly visible "O". Read this as the author's contention that living a GOD life is really living a GOOD life.

This is a unique devotional book. It has no listing of devotions in the front and no published plan for its use. There is also no forward by the author. The book is simply divided up into three parts: "Love is All Around; Turning Ho-Hum into Dee-Dah; and Doing the Double Dares." Outside of that, the reader is left to decide how much of the reading constitutes his/her devotional reading.

There is no consistent pattern and different type sizes, which you could indicate that you have entered into a new thought - but maybe not. I found myself sometimes reading the scripture passages and sometimes just the quotations.

Ortberg is concerned to highlight the incredible love from God that one can discover in everyday life. He steers clear of preacher language and theological jargon. He simply speaks from the heart. He leads the reader on a progression from coming to realize the presence of God in the world, to a celebration of that love, then to a commitment to live out and share that love.

The freshness of Ortberg's writing will not bore the reader. I have already found myself just going back and opening the book to any page and letting the words to speak to me. One series of writings on peace has already made it as a long quotation in an Advent sermon.

This is a wonderful book to give as a gift for Christmas. The binding is attractive, the size is convenient, and the ribbon marker is a nice touch.

4/18/2005 12:00:00 AM by John Ortberg. Inspirio Imprint of Zondervan Publishing. 206 pages. $14.99 | with 0 comments



Love Talk: Speak Each Other's Language Like You Never Have Before : Monday, April 18, 2005

April 18 2005 by Les and Leslie Parrott. Zondervan Publishing. 2004. 185 pages. $19.99.

Love Talk: Speak Each Other's Language Like You Never Have Before : Monday, April 18, 2005
Monday, April 18, 2005

Love Talk: Speak Each Other's Language Like You Never Have Before

By Les and Leslie Parrott. Zondervan Publishing. 2004. 185 pages. $19.99.
Review by Wayne Hager

When it comes to speaking "languages" in marriage, Gary Chapman's Five Love Languages owns the market. A perennial bestseller, the book has spawned numerous sequels, as well as marriage enrichment groups, which focus on the "love languages."

The premise of Love Talk is the same: we need to learn about our partner's communication style in love, both as a talker and a listener. The book, however, is no threat to Chapman's dominance when it comes to talking love.

The Parrott's contend the secret to loving conversation is determining what needs you and your partner have. Basically, they make an adequate case for their point. My problem with the book is the marketing. The marketing itself keeps the book from having the impact it could.

When I pick up a book I expect to get the full measure of what the author has to offer. Instead, as you start reading Love Talk, you are confronted with the need to purchase a workbook in order to get a full understanding of what the authors are saying. The workbook exercises are more than reinforcements, which I would have no problem with; they hold new information and insights. Another problem is that during a quick check of major Christian bookstores, no one was carrying the workbook in stock. In addition, the only assessment tool is on-line and carries an additional cost. True, you get one assessment free, but what good is one assessment in a two-person relationship?

I do not quarrel with the content of the book per say: the Parrots have a good point about figuring out what our deepest needs are. But in reading this book, I found the experience wanting. And the only way to fill the gap is to open my pocketbook and add to the already high price of $19.99. There are better and less expensive options to improve communication in marriage.

4/18/2005 12:00:00 AM by Les and Leslie Parrott. Zondervan Publishing. 2004. 185 pages. $19.99. | with 0 comments



Thirst: God and the Alcoholic Experience : Monday, April 18, 2005

April 18 2005 by James B. Nelson. Westminster John Knox Press. 2004. 217 pages. $19.95

Thirst: God and the Alcoholic Experience : Monday, April 18, 2005
Monday, April 18, 2005

Thirst: God and the Alcoholic Experience

By James B. Nelson. Westminster John Knox Press. 2004. 217 pages. $19.95
Review by Wayne Hager

Over the years I have read a number of James Nelson's books on ethics and theology. He has always been a thoughtful and passionate spokesperson for living life as a Christian in today's world. He has most often dealt with bio-ethical issues. With this book, he solidifies his place with me as one of the premier bio-ethicist writing today.

In Thirst, Nelson continues his standard of speaking with clarity and insight. When I first saw the title of the book I was glad to see him turning his attention to this subject. I was excited at the prospect of reading his take on a problem that plagues families and the church. Until I held the book in my hand I had no idea that Nelson is a recovering alcoholic, himself, and speaks willingly about his addiction.

He discusses everything you would expect a volume on alcoholism to address. What makes it different than others I have read is that Nelson speaks theologically and personally, not academically and clinically. A person just beginning to examine alcohol addiction could learn plenty about the clinical side, the "disease or not-disease" discussion, approaches to treatment, sociological considerations, etc.

What makes this volume such a contribution to the literature on alcoholism, and addiction, in general, is the theological insights Nelson has drawn from his own experience as a Christian, seminary professor and alcoholic. Theologically, he draws on liberation theology to bring a theology out of his addiction.

As the title might indicate, Nelson places the experience of addict in the context of humanity's "thirst for God." What Nelson says would not have the same impact on the reader were it not for knowing that he speaks from experience. He is careful to not claim that he speaks for other alcoholics. In reality, however, I am sure his experience mirrors millions of others. Both the person in addiction and those who love them, whether family, ministers or church members, would find this a must read.

4/18/2005 12:00:00 AM by James B. Nelson. Westminster John Knox Press. 2004. 217 pages. $19.95 | with 0 comments



Military searching schools for recruits : Friday, April 15, 2005

April 15 2005 by

Military searching schools for recruits : Friday, April 15, 2005
Friday, April 15, 2005

Military searching schools for recruits

I am writing to voice my concern about military recruiting in our public schools. While I support the troops and the rights of a volunteer military, I do not support institutionalizing involuntary recruitment practices. The No Child Left Behind Legislation automatically gives the military the right to take any students private information without any form of parental permission or notification. This snooping into students' private school information needs to stop.

There is an opt-out provision in the legislation, but rarely are students or parents informed of it. I encourage students and parents all over our state to send a letter to their school's administrators asking them to keep their information private. A sample form can be found at http://www.militaryfreezone.org/opt_out.

Maren Price

Zebulon, N.C.

4/15/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



Church communication essential : Friday, April 8, 2005

April 8 2005 by Otis Hamm

Church communication essential : Friday, April 8, 2005
Friday, April 8, 2005

Church communication essential

By Otis Hamm
BR Intern

The message of Christ's love must be communicated. How well is the church doing with this task? In years gone by, the means of communication were left to word of mouth, the Sunday bulletin, and morning announcements - and for many churches that hasn't happened. How can the church communicate its message more effectively?

Good communication helps people feel they belong to a community. They feel loved and not taken for granted. Visitors get a better understanding of the church's heartbeat and the opportunities available to them and their families.

Other avenues churches can use to get the word out are newsletters, bulletins, web sites, welcome packs, e-mails, mass mailers, posters, banners, tapes, videos, CDs, DVDs, and church directories.

Welcome packs

One of the most overlooked ministries in the church relates to the visitor. A visitor is not only a prospective member, but also a voice in the community - a voice that can be positive or negative. The church must consider how it feels to be a visitor; and what information visitors would be most interested in having. A few items to consider would be: a church mission statement, available worship opportunities, what ministries are available to youth, and what special events take place during the year. Contact information should be provided in the event people wish to know more. These are all good things to have in a welcome pack.

Well-done welcome packs can paint a wonderful picture of the church as a caring community of believers. For the church fortunate enough to have the necessary technology and talent, an outstanding welcome pack can be produced without the aid of outside sources. Churches that don't have these abilities can find outside help in producing a good, affordable welcome pack.

Crossroads Publications offers a basic a la carte resource that permits one to choose the items for one's pack. A basic folder is offered in several colors, with two pockets inside, and artwork on the front. These run from $69 for 100, $289 for 500, to $479 for 1,000.

Information leaflets range in cost from $39 per 100, $79 per 500, to $129 per 1,000. Leaflets can be purchased blank at $12 per 100, leaving the church with the responsibility of placing the information on the leaflet.

The folder includes a place for a business card and is offered by Crossroads at $129 per 1,000.

Growth Partners offers a complete package that gives the church many choices in order to make the welcome pack specifically its own. The package includes a folder with choice of color, image and even a Bible verse (extra cost), along with a leaflet, registration card and calling card. The price range is $159 per 100, $489 per 500, to $829 per 1,000.

Growth Partners also offers a trifold color brochure priced at $109 per 100, $299 per 500, to $529 per 1,000.

Newsletters

Newsletters can effectively convey the activities of the church to those within the community. However, newsletters are exactly what one makes them. They can be a great tool or simply a glorified bulletin. The key to a good newsletter is content that reflects the activities of women's groups, men's groups, senior ministries, youth ministries, nursing home outreach and shut-in ministry. Words of encouragement from the pastor or other leaders can also be helpful.

The newsletter helps congregations and communities feel the heartbeat of the church. The size of the church will determine the needed frequency, from weekly to every two months.

Hundreds of churches in North Carolina and other states have found the state paper to be a helpful partner in the newsletter enterprise. N.C. Baptist churches, for example, can publish their church newsletter on a page in the Biblical Recorder on a monthly or bimonthly basis. Due to the Recorder's economies of scale, most churches can provide both their newsletter and the Biblical Recorder for less than they would normally spend on producing and mailing a newsletter alone.

Newsletters can be given out on Sundays or mailed, and placed in welcome packets. Mass mailings can be a useful way to reach people other than church members; thus, making the newsletter a form of evangelism.

Mass mailings

Several companies will provide mass mail addresses for targeted areas as well as publish and mail whatever items the church desires to send out. One such company, Church Max, offers an 8.5-inch x 5.5-inch postcard which can include a picture, map, schedule and invitation to attend for a set-up fee of $300 and a price of $1.25 per piece for up to 300 mailings. One can customize content at an additional cost.

Bulletins

The church bulletin is another source of communication. One should not forget the purpose of the bulletin, which is to help the community of worshippers worship. It informs the people of the order of service and opportunities for corporate worship like the doxology, litanies or prayers of confession making the bulletin a worship tool.

Web sites

In this ever-evolving technological era, church web sites are becoming increasingly popular. Literally millions of people around the world are surfing the web making it the single most opportunistic evangelical tool the church has.

Web sites can contain such things as contact information, schedules, class descriptions, ministry opportunities, sermon notes, sermons, membership directories, church vital signs, history, location and maps.

More things can be placed on a web site than in any bulletin or newsletter at a surprisingly inexpensive cost. Crownweb.net offers a basic package with a set-up fee of $50, then $29.95 per month. Or, churches that have computer-savvy members can design and maintain the church's web site without outside help.

More and more people are searching for churches on the Internet; making it necessary to have as much vital information as possible on a church web site.

Posters/banners

Posters and banners for special events, and even regular ones, are important not only to the church, but also to the community. One way to tell a church is alive is by the activity it has. Banners and posters inform the community that the church is alive and well. Reputable sign companies can be a helpful resource.

Church directories

A church directory is a must for all churches. This tool helps members stay in contact with one another. A good directory will include addresses and phone numbers, as well as, a brief history of the church. Good church administrative software can make the task simple in conjunction with a company like Olan Mills. One should also remember to update one's directories every 3-5 years depending on the need, as members come and go.

Today's directories are mainly produced using digital imagery, which can be used - by permission - to enhance things like brochures, welcome packs and newsletters.

Recorded media

Media such as cassette tapes, videos, CDs or DVDs can greatly aid in the outreach of the church. People who are in nursing homes or shut-ins will appreciate having the Sunday service brought to them to enjoy in whichever manner is best suited for their needs. These media can also be useful in welcome packages, assuming one has the ability to produce them with appropriate quality. These tools, which will be examined in great detail in articles to follow, can serve multiple areas of ministry.

Effective communication enhances ministry for an active growing church.

4/8/2005 12:00:00 AM by Otis Hamm | with 0 comments



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