April 2005

There is therefore no condemnation : Friday, April 8, 2005

April 8 2005 by Tony W. Cartledge

There is therefore no condemnation : Friday, April 8, 2005
Friday, April 8, 2005

There is therefore no condemnation

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

The familiar words of Romans 8:1, that "there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," danced in my heart as I stood beside a treatment table in a new hospice facility in Fish Hoek, near the southern tip of South Africa.

Most of the residents there are dying from HIV/AIDS. The thin hospital blanket on the treatment table, like others at the hospice, had been donated by a local hospital. To indicate that the blankets were deemed unsuitable for the hospital's use, each was stamped with a message in indelible ink: "CONDEMNED."

I tried to imagine how it must feel to be an AIDS patient, sleeping under a blanket that labels you as "condemned." Hospice officials, apparently obligated not to obliterate the label, would not allow condemnation to be the last word, however. In equally indelible ink and bolder print, they have added the words "LIVING HOPE."

Not surprisingly, the name of the hospice is the "Living Hope Community Centre," and it is one of several diverse ministries of the King of Kings Baptist Centre, which is associated with Fish Hoek Baptist Church. I was invited to preach there March 20, and found a beautiful facility where ministers offer both contemporary and traditional worship services. The praise band and PowerPoint capabilities were top notch, but the warmth of the people overshadowed the technology.

What impressed me most was the church's commitment to reaching the lost and hurting, offering ministry in nonjudgmental but clearly Christ-centered ways. Pastor John Thomas is a dynamic and effective leader.

For example, the new hospice is just one piece of a broader ministry to those who are infected with HIV. In the nearby township of Masephumelele (mah-si-fooma-lay-lee), Fish Hoek Baptists not only planted a church, but also established one of several free medical clinics sponsored through the Living Hope ministries.

The township's 20,000 residents live mainly in flimsy shacks, and 99 percent of them are less than 50 years old. Up to 27 percent of the people are HIV positive, Thomas told me.

Instead of criticizing or condemning those who suffer from the disease, the church provides multiple medical clinics that specialize in dressing wounds and sores. Since skin sores are a frequent symptom of AIDS, contact with the 300 patients who come each week for clean dressings allows staff members to encourage voluntary testing and treatment. The extra effort is crucial, because denial, secrecy and stigma related to AIDS are endemic, Thomas said. Those who have the disease are often unwilling to admit it, or to stop spreading it to others.

The Fish Hoek church, with the aid of multiple funding streams, employs more than 50 full-time staff members engaged in health ministries. "We do everything from diagnosis to the care of orphans left behind," Thomas said. That includes counseling, job creation, and assistance with getting medications and fresh vegetables, which come from a large community garden. "It is stunning to see what incredible healing can come just from having a balanced diet," he said.

Until recently, the missing piece of the church's ministry was a hospice center for patients who are dying, but the "Living Hope Community Centre" opened January 3 and now houses 10-12 patients. Steve and Linda Walker, along with their church, First Baptist Church of Elkin, were major donors to the project. Their names are included on an inscribed plaque inside the new facility, which includes wards for men, women and children, plus two private rooms, a small morgue, kitchen and office space.

Nobuntu Matholeni, one of eight ministers on staff at the church, serves as chaplain and pastor for the residents, who display an obvious affection for her.

Ministries of the Fish Hoek congregation extend to other areas, as well. The church has also established a string of Christian radio stations in many countries, and offers drug education and counseling programs for the community.

One of the radio stations is in the nearby village of Muizenberg, where white sand surrounds a half-moon bay known for good surfing on its teal blue waters. While operating the radio station, Thomas' wife, Avril, started a feeding program for homeless people she had seen sleeping in a town park. The church eventually purchased a former bank building on the main street, and the program grew to offer a wide range of services including a clothes closet, counseling and job training.

A primary goal, however, is to help homeless people regain a sense of dignity and worth, Thomas said. The remodeled bank building now houses lockers where homeless persons can store their belongings, facilities to wash themselves and their clothes, and a kitchen where they help prepare their own meals. A craft store on the premises sells wire sculptures, clothing, paintings, tin can art, and other items handmade and often signed by program participants.

The program has been so effective, Thomas said, that the town's previous homeless population of 70-80 has now been reduced to 10-12.

The center also houses a free medical clinic, where most of the patients are Islamic. Program leaders have visited with the local imam, and developed a good relationship with him. Thomas explained that after a recent visit, a patient complained to the imam that clinic volunteers had prayed for him in the name of Jesus.

The imam did not criticize, but replied, "Be thankful that somebody prayed for you."

Be thankful, indeed.

4/8/2005 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments



A man of peace : Friday, April 8, 2005

April 8 2005 by Tony W. Cartledge

A man of peace : Friday, April 8, 2005
Friday, April 8, 2005

A man of peace

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

Philip Mokson is middle-aged, but still one of the oldest residents of Masiphumelele, a poor township on the outskirts of Fish Hoek, South Africa. The township, less than 10 years old, has about 20,000 residents, almost all of them under 50 years of age.

As pastor of Masiphumelele Baptist Church and a longtime resident of the township, Mokson is seen as an influential elder, almost like a tribal chief.

His path has not always been smooth, however. Some years ago, he was called at 4 a.m. to intervene in a situation where two teenage boys had stolen a few small items. Local vigilantes had caught the boys and tied them up, along with their grandmother, beside a table in the tiny shack where they lived.

The villagers planned to take care of the theft problem by burning the shack with the people inside, but Mokson prevailed on them to hold back. "There is a right way and a wrong way to do things," he told them. Mokson persuaded the crowd to turn the boys over to the police, assuring them that justice would be done.

When a judge released the boys later that evening, however, an angry crowd gathered around Mokson's home, some threatening to kill him. Over his wife's objections, Mokson emerged from the house despite the danger. He talked to the mob for two hours, emphasizing the importance of learning to forego violence and live in peace.

The people listened, and many heeded his advice. Masiphumelele is a better place because of a Baptist pastor who is courageous enough to take Jesus' teaching seriously.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

4/8/2005 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments



BSC services impress new pastors : Friday, April 8, 2005

April 8 2005 by Jim Royston

BSC services impress new pastors : Friday, April 8, 2005
Friday, April 8, 2005

BSC services impress new pastors

By Jim Royston
BSCNC Executive Director-treasurer

To know us is to love us.

In March we hosted the largest group of pastors and staff for new minister orientation I can remember. We want to orient to Baptist State Convention people and ministries every pastor, staff member and director of missions new to the state or starting in their first fulltime ministry here.

This entire group was very gracious, energetic and deeply pleased with the diversity and scope of the ministries emanating from the Baptist State Convention.

This is a recurring theme among visitors to your convention offices. They were impressed by the people and ministries we are able to offer through cooperation. Often visitors say things like, "Every member of my congregation needs to know these things."

I agree. Please help us inform them.

Four ways to help inform your members about the ministries they provide through Cooperative Program Missions Giving - besides bringing them here for a tour -are: (1) Sign up to receive the free monthly audio magazine UpClose; (2) Subscribe to the monthly video missions magazine Mandate; (3) Visit frequently the BSCNC web site www.northcarolinabaptists.org and (4) Subscribe to this newspaper, the Biblical Recorder. You can sign up for UpClose and Mandate by calling the Resource Center at (800) 395-5102, ext. 160; and subscriptions to the Biblical Recorder are available at www.biblicalrecorder.org or by contacting Amie Moore at amie@biblicalrecorder.org or (919) 847-2127.

The breadth of services in North Carolina is often a surprise to newcomers. One new pastor told us he thought he'd never find a state convention staff as professional and helpful as the one in the state he just left. He was pleasantly surprised.

The commitment and positive attitude of your North Carolina staff is not a surprise, but visiting with them is a refreshing affirmation of the joy of serving God in this capacity.

I want to share some of the comments Wayne Oakes received after the orientation. Wayne, pastoral ministries consultant, coordinates the orientations and is planning to increase the number of opportunities to at least three:

"I'm very thankful we're not alone in the ministry."

"Very organized and informative. I am so impressed by the friendliness and the joy of the Lord I see in every person I see here at the state office. Extremely encouraging."

"It seemed long on occasion yet to skip something or shorten it would not in my opinion be worth the tradeoff in what I would have missed in overall content."

"Thank you for this wealth of information and spiritual leadership."

"I liked the emphasis on the autonomous church and good balance between SBC and CBF; I feel blessed to be in a state that allows persons to disagree on some things but be united in Christ as Baptists."

"Your emphasis was truly focusing on the support/help of churches. I came skeptical but I am leaving energized and excited about being, now, a new North Carolina Baptist."

4/8/2005 12:00:00 AM by Jim Royston | with 0 comments



Decision follows biblical stance : Friday, April 8, 2005

April 8 2005 by

Decision follows biblical stance : Friday, April 8, 2005
Friday, April 8, 2005

Decision follows biblical stance

I am thankful that the majority of the Student Government Association of Mars Hill College did not approve the formation of a gay and lesbian support/affirmation group on campus. As such the school continues in accordance with the traditional Christian, biblical interpretation that homosexual acts are sinful.

Steve King

Quito, Ecuador

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



Church rises from South African landfill : Friday, April 8, 2005

April 8 2005 by Tony W. Cartledge

Church rises from South African landfill : Friday, April 8, 2005
Friday, April 8, 2005

Church rises from South African landfill

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

CAPE TOWN, South Africa - Barcelona Baptist Church is built on what used to be a giant garbage dump. It is not "down in the dumps," however, but working to be a positive congregation committed to serving those who are among "the least of these" in southernmost South Africa.

Visitors who arrive in Cape Town by air often fly directly over the church, which is in a large township of squatter huts called Barcelona. The area is a former landfill for the city of Cape Town. Almost as quickly as a thin layer of soil could be spread over the last loads of garbage, thousands of flimsy squatter shacks were erected by the poorest of the poor, many of them immigrants from other African nations who have come to South Africa in search of a better life.

Church planter Julius Bonani, who previously served as pastor in the nearby township of Yanga, first felt a burden for the area in 1993. Bonani, a large man now approaching 60, said he often parked across from the township and prayed for it. "But I was afraid to go in there," he said. His wife Irene - who had been instrumental in leading Bonani to Christ - encouraged him, saying, "Let us go in, and if we die, we die together."

In 1994, Bonani was asked to be an election officer for the area. As he facilitated between warring political parties, he gained credibility with local leaders. Later, after Bonani made an official request, an area committee designated a prime spot in the heart of the township for him to establish a church.

The church plot is located several hundred yards up a narrow, rocky dirt pathway that leads from a paved road fronting the township. Tiny shacks made of corrugated tin or thin wooden planks crowd the sides of the path. Many of the short, rough boards come from wooden shipping pallets. The shacks range from six feet square to larger, rectangular structures, with relatively flat roofs of corrugated fiberglass or tin. One of them houses a "shabeen," or beer hall.

The first order of business was to erect a strong chain link fence to prevent squatters from building on the property. Under South African law, it is very difficult to move someone who has built a house in a squatter area.

With help from the Western Province Baptist Association (WPBA), Bonani was able to erect a fence, and during the 2000 Easter season, the WPBA assisted him in obtaining a tent to be used for a series of meetings. Bonani recruited some of the same men he had once feared to assist in erecting the tent, and invited them to attend the services. After he preached in the tent for three nights with only the headlights of his car and a few candles for lighting, several people accepted Christ. "And that was the beginning of the church," he said.

Soon thereafter, the Bonani's left their home in another part of the city and moved into what South Africans call a "windy house" - a small wooden building - that was also used for church services. They are currently living in a shipping container while attempting to straighten the walls and shore up the wooden windy house, which is no larger than the average breakfast nook in a typical American home.

"When you preach to people, you must be among them," he said. "If you just come in your car and then leave, you can't know them, and they don't know you. But we feel at home here now, and it is easier to win the people."

After they had been in Barcelona for two years, Bonani said, township leaders presented him with a letter of appreciation. Crime in the area had decreased since the church began, they said.

The church soon outgrew the tiny house: when Terry Rae, former general secretary of the Baptist Union of South Africa, came to visit, he had to stand in the doorway while preaching so he could be seen by people both inside and outside.

Following a joint service with the Durbanville Baptist Church, an established local congregation, a woman in the Durbanville church offered to donate three large shipping containers that had been used by a local phone company.

Two other containers were added later, ultimately becoming the primary walls for a permanent building. Steel arches hold a corrugated metal roof and support the remainder of the exterior. Claremont Baptist Church, another local congregation, also offered support. "Africa for Christ," an organization led by Rae, provides a small stipend for the pastor.

The assistance is needed because people in the township are very poor, and have little to give. The unemployment rate in urban townships such as Barcelona ranges from 80 to 90 percent.

"I was crying out to the Lord about it one day," Bonani said. "I had only five Rand (about 80 cents) in my pocket. I said, 'Lord, I have been to college, why do you send me here?'

"The Lord said to me, 'Look up,'" he said.

"When I looked up, I saw three of my church members scavenging in a dirt bin (trash can) for food. Then I hid myself and I said 'Lord, I am satisfied. No matter if I get nothing, if I can win the souls of the people.'"

But the Bonani's care about the body as well as the soul. They have raised children of their own - one of whom was murdered by militant activists during the apartheid era - and they now care for two grandchildren and five other small children who have been orphaned by HIV-AIDS. Two of the children are also HIV positive.

Thandiswa, the youngest, is two-and-a-half years old. Her parents died in 2003, and the Bonani's took her in. She was sickly and weak, but with loving care and an AIDS-fighting drug regimen provided to foster families by the government, she is currently healthy and gaining weight.

The other children are a few years older. Together, they sleep in a prefabricated wooden building just large enough to hold four neat bunk beds.

Mike Boone, a former pastor in Salemburg now serving as a missionary with the International Mission Board, has plans to assist the church in using some of its land as a garden that would produce fresh vegetables to improve the children's diet as well as possibly providing some additional income.

The church currently has 37 members, five of whom were baptized on Easter Sunday. Seventeen of the members are HIV positive, Bonani said.

Late on a stifling day in mid-March - early fall for South Africa - nine women and a single young man held choir practice in one of the metal containers. Standing in a sweaty line, they followed words to new songs that were posted on a wall, their powerful voices ringing with strong songs of faith in the melodic Xhosa language.

All of the singing was a capella: one of the women would sing out the first few words, then the others would join in, singing counterpoint and harmony with rich, rhythmic voices. Choir members added accompaniment to some songs with a tambourine and a "pom pom," a small vinyl pillow that is slapped to produce a pounding bass note.

Outside, the sun was setting over Table Mountain. Beneath a spectacular array of clouds lit with shades of pink, orange and gold, the crowded hovels of Barcelona shouted with irony. Yet, with Xhosa choruses punctuating the background, the presence of God was clear, even in Barcelona.

4/8/2005 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments



Church planters reaching Africa : Friday, April 8, 2005

April 8 2005 by Tony W. Cartledge

Church planters reaching Africa : Friday, April 8, 2005
Friday, April 8, 2005

Church planters reaching Africa

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

Julius Bonani, pastor of Barcelona Baptist Church, is one of 66 church planters currently sponsored by "Africa for Christ," an organization founded and directed by Terry Rae. Rae served as a pastor for 21 years before sensing a call to plant churches in the urban centers of Southern Africa. Over the next three years, he recruited, trained and found sponsorship for 19 church planters who established 43 churches and preaching points during that period.

Rae served as general secretary for the Baptist Union of South Africa (BUSA) from 1993-2001, when he returned to a more hands-on role with Africa for Christ. During his tenure as general secretary, the BUSA planted 321 new churches and doubled its membership.

Rae told the Biblical Recorder that potential church planters must have at least a two-year degree from a seminary or Bible college, and must have proven themselves through assisting with other church planting efforts. "They need to have gotten their hands dirty," he said. Africa for Christ currently supports work in eight African countries, and hopes to expand to other areas.

Rae is seeking churches or individuals to sponsor church planters. In most cases, sponsors are asked to contribute $300 per month for one year, decreasing the amount by 25 percent in each of the subsequent three years.

N.C. Baptist Men is partnering with Africa for Christ to assist in finding sponsors for church planters. Interested parties can contact Kecia Morgan at the Baptist State Convention by calling (800) 395-5102 or (919) 467-5100, ext. 341, or by sending an e-mail to kmorgan@bscnc.org.

4/8/2005 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments



Mock disaster hits associations : Friday, April 8, 2005

April 8 2005 by

Mock disaster hits associations : Friday, April 8, 2005
Friday, April 8, 2005

Mock disaster hits associations

From staff and contributed reports

The northeastern North Carolina town of Ahoskie swarmed with N.C. Baptists March 11-12.

They prepared and served hundreds of meals in mobile feeding units. Some purified water from a local pond or made repairs and renovations to a nearby home. Others planned activities for children in a mobile childcare unit. Later that night, they crowded on the floor of a local skating rink to sleep, exhausted after a long day.

Further south, Elizabethtown buzzed with activity April 1-2. Yellow hats and shirts dotted the area as volunteers duplicated the relief efforts then poured into the family life center at Elizabethtown Baptist Church for a hard-earned night's sleep on the floor of the building's gym and classrooms.

With all of the action, one might assume that an out-of-season hurricane had pounded the area, but in reality, it was only a drill. Each N.C. Baptist disaster relief volunteer is required to participate in one of the five sessions offered each year in locations across the state, and the 2005 training has been packed. At each session, volunteers learn skills needed for mass feeding, recovery, temporary emergency childcare and water purification.

In Elizabethtown, 424 new volunteers prepared for ministry in disaster relief. The event was originally scheduled to be held in Lumberton, but was moved to Elizabethtown because of the large number of volunteers. Bladen Baptist Association Director of Missions Bruce Cannon said local Baptists sprang into action as soon as the call came in.

"We were absolutely amazed at how well things went," he said. "Our Baptist Men's director, Thurman Bass, and our WMU director, Judy Elkins, along with the host pastor, David Elks, and myself began to ask Bladen Baptists to be involved. Within a few days we had more than enough volunteers. The N.C. Baptist Men are deeply admired and appreciated within the Bladen Association."

Elks also praised the association's response. "Elizabethtown Baptist may have been the site but Bladen Baptist were certainly among the hosts," he said.

"One of the functions of the church is to equip people for ministry," Elks said. "I do not know of a time in the life of Elizabethtown Baptist when that was more fully fulfilled than last weekend. The church and I are pleased to have been a part of training over 400 men and women to serve people who will need the love of Christ as they endure disasters."

Working alongside more than 70 trainers and volunteers in Ahoskie, 280 new prospective disaster responders inundated the new facilities of the West Chowan Baptist Association mission resource center. West Chowan Director of Missions John Pond said the center was purchased to provide mission resources and opportunities like the training. The facility will also serve as a center for future disaster projects.

"We are excited about the future of disaster recovery for North Carolina," Pond said. "The comment I heard among the participants was, 'We have been recipients of the disaster recovery program for so long. Now, we want to give back and be a blessing to those who will experience disaster in the future.'"

N.C. Baptist Men's disaster relief coordinator Gaylon Moss said the attendance shows the eagerness of volunteers to respond to recent disasters. "We've had a big training season, in proportion to the big disaster season of 2004," Moss said. "The hurricanes in Florida and the tsunami disaster have generated a lot of interest."

N.C. Baptist Men's disaster relief ministry began in 1977 with the purchase of a used trailer that was retrofitted as a feeding unit. The group now has three feeding units. Two are equipped to prepare 10,000 meals a day each; one can provide 20,000 meals.

An additional three shower units can provide about 1,280 showers per day and two washer/dryer units can handle about 75 loads of laundry daily. A mobile childcare unit provides a safe, clean place for children to be cared for while their parents work to put their homes and lives back together.

N.C. Baptist Men also has more than 130 mobile tool trailers that are outfitted with practically everything volunteers need. Chainsaw and repair crews work with these trailers to remove debris and repair damage.

Two water purification units are equipped to dispense more than 6,000 gallons of drinking water each day.

The equipment has been put to good use. N.C. Baptists have responded to disasters across the state, nation and around the world. They have worked in Puerto Rico, Honduras, Mozambique, El Salvador, India, Pakistan, Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and Afghanistan.

In 2004 N.C. Baptist Men responded to ten disasters, preparing 234,511 meals, 10,893 showers and cleaning 1,537 loads of laundry. Volunteers also completed 2,181 work requests, cared for 20 children and purified 1,520 gallons of water. A total of 20,072 volunteer days of work were completed during the year. Most recently, teams were sent to Southeast Asia to assist in relief and recovery efforts after the Dec. 26 tsunami.

Three additional training sessions are planned for this spring. Registration is still open for events in Winston-Salem on May 20-21, Taylorsville on June 10-11 and Hendersonville on June 24-25. More information is available at www.ncmissions.org or by calling (800) 395-5102 or (919) 467-5100, ext. 333.

Moss said the most pressing need currently is long-term recovery after the Dec. 26 tsunami. "We are asking for teams to go through December, probably about two teams a month," he said. N.C. Baptist Men plans to send at least 16 more teams to assist in the recovery in Southeast Asia.

N.C. Baptist crews are also working in Carteret County, where residents continue to rebuild after Hurricane Isabel struck in 2003.

"There are places to serve," Moss said. Anyone interested in participating should contact him by e-mail at gmoss@bscnc.org.

To contribute to N.C. Baptist Men's disaster relief ministry, make a check out to: "NCBM - Disaster Relief" and mail it to NCBM, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512.

More than $1.1 million has been raised for tsunami relief efforts, and more than $700,000 of those donations have already been used, Moss said. To contribute specifically to tsunami relief in Southeast Asia, send a check to the address above, made out to "NCBM - Tsunami Disaster."

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



BCH hosts India ministry leaders : Friday, April 8, 2005

April 8 2005 by Blake Ragsdale

BCH hosts India ministry leaders : Friday, April 8, 2005
Friday, April 8, 2005

BCH hosts India ministry leaders

By Blake Ragsdale
Baptist Children's Homes

Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina (BCH) hosted leaders from the India Vision ministry based in Kerala, India March 11. BCH president Michael C. Blackwell, executive vice president of special ministries C.F. McDowell, and BCH trustee Doug Murray, pastor of First Baptist Church in Wilson, hosted Kunjumon Chacko and his son Biju Chacko on the Mills Home residential campus in Thomasville.

Kunjumon is the president of India Vision, a ministry dedicated to introducing and educating the people of India to Christian values and beliefs. The father and son operate Precious Children Homes, a residential ministry providing care to hundreds of children who are orphans or whose parents are imprisoned criminals and have no where to live.

"In India, people want nothing to do with you if you are the child of a prisoner," Chacko said.

Biju, who served a year of residency at Duke University Medical Center in 1998, has returned to the school to perform Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) training with the purpose of bringing CPE training to India. He will spend the next five years in North Carolina.

Interested in finding out more about BCH services and learning new ways to help their own organization, the Chackos toured Mills Homes' residential cottages and BCH's Weekday Education daycare facilities in Thomasville. While BCH and India Vision geographically are thousands of miles apart, there are similarities between the needs of the children the two agencies serve.

"We discovered Precious Children often serves children who struggle with issues of anger," McDowell said. "Kunjumon and Biju learned, through meeting one of BCH's child care workers, that this is a challenge we consistently help many of our own residents overcome."

India Vision operates about 40 miles from an area of major devastation caused by the tsunami that claimed thousands of lives in December. The Chackos shared their plans to open a children's village to serve as many as 1,000 children who lost their families in the disaster.

"It is encouraging to know there are others in our world striving for the same common goals," Blackwell said. "No matter who and where we are, we all have the ability to make a difference in someone's life. I applaud how the Chackos are making that difference in the lives of countless children in their homeland of India."

4/8/2005 12:00:00 AM by Blake Ragsdale | with 0 comments



Family Bible Study lesson for April 24: Humble Living : Friday, April 8, 2005

April 8 2005 by Phillip Hamm

Family Bible Study lesson for April 24: Humble Living : Friday, April 8, 2005
Friday, April 8, 2005

Family Bible Study lesson for April 24: Humble Living

By Phillip Hamm
Focal Passages: James 4:1-10,13-17

Do you remember the last time you really messed up at something? The time you congratulated a woman on her pregnancy only to find out she wasn't pregnant at all? Or the time you were convinced that emu meat was the beef of the future and you invested all your retirement and savings in emu farming? Or the time your wife got a new dress and asked you if she looked fat? These are events we would like to forget. But God has a way of using these events to teach us how to overcome our pride.

Prayerfully Avoid Selfish Pride

James 4:1-5

Most of the problems we have with other people are the result of pride. Each of us thinks that we have the best answer, the best solution, and the best way. These attitudes only lead to conflict and confirm the world's assertion that Christians aren't really that different from everybody else.

My wife and I recently purchased a hamster for our daughter on her 5th birthday. The mouse-like varmint was affectionately named "Chester" by our daughter. An unfortunate incident occurred only 5 days after Chester came to live in our house ... he died. My daughter took the news rather well, and I removed Chester from the cage and placed him in a sandwich bag. I intended to take the hamster "formerly known as Chester" back to the pet store for a refund during my lunch break. What I didn't count on was for the temperature to soar into the 70's that morning. When lunch time came, I left the office and climbed into my car only to be met with a stench that I was pretty sure was not present earlier that morning. As you guessed, I looked over at the passenger seat, where Chester was reminding me to return him to the pet store.

I think the world gets tired of smelling the stench of Christian pride. Our pride can lead us to believe that we are better than others. Pride doesn't reflect the newness that Christ gives but rather stinks of death from our old life.

James 4:4 says that "whoever makes himself a friend with the world is an enemy with God." As Christians, we are to handle everything differently than the world. The only way to show people in our communities that we are different is to prayerfully avoid selfish pride. We can do this only when we humbly submit to God.

Humbly Submit to God

James 4:6-10

Being humble doesn't come natural to anyone. Humility requires us to recognize that we are wrong, or at a minimum, that someone else might know more than we do. When the state trooper walks up to the window of your car and asks if you know how fast you were going, that is the perfect time to practice being humble. Chances are that he already knows how fast you were going, it's simply your turn to admit you were wrong. All in all, you must submit to his authority because of his position as an officer.

Spiritual humility only comes when we submit to God as verse 7 tells us. We can only submit to God when we recognize that we are wrong in our pride and God, due to His position as Supreme Being, is in absolute authority over our lives. With the difficult step of submission made, we will then have the desire to seek after God's will for our lives.

Earnestly Seek God's Will

James 4:13-17

The difficult part about God's will is not necessarily determining it, but obeying it. God typically has very little trouble communicating to us what He wants. We on the other hand have great difficulty doing what He wants.

Mark Twain once wrote: "It's not the things about the Bible that I don't understand that bother me. It's the things that I do understand that bother me the most."

We usually make plans and ask God to endorse them. I wonder what difference God could make through us if we were more likely to obey the simple plans He has already taught in scripture.

In order for us to lay aside our plans and follow through with what He has taught, we must admit His plans are better. By earnestly seeking God's will we will take a step in overcoming our selfish pride.

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



Family Bible Study lesson for May 1: Seek God's purpose : Friday, April 8, 2005

April 8 2005 by Phillip Hamm

Family Bible Study lesson for May 1: Seek God's purpose : Friday, April 8, 2005
Friday, April 8, 2005

Family Bible Study lesson for May 1: Seek God's purpose

By Phillip Hamm
Focal Passages: Genesis 12:1-7,10-18

"We've never done that before!" You might expect me to say those words came from a group of deacons or during a church council meeting. Fortunately they weren't uttered in our church. Unfortunately those words are heard with some frequency in our home from our five-year-old.

She's not a big fan of change. Whether it is passing down her favorite pants that are three inches too short or rearranging the furniture in our living room, she likes things to remain the same.

If we're honest with ourselves, the only time we like change is when it occurs to someone else.

It says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that when "we are in Christ we are new creations, the old things have passed away and all things have become new." As difficult as this may be for us, becoming a new creation does require change. Here is how we can adapt to change a little better.

Look for God's Purpose

Genesis 12:1-3

Abram was asked to leave everything he knew in order to obey God. This request was no simple task. The only incentive given to Abram was that God was going to make from him a great nation. This promise must have been difficult to believe at the time.

When I was seven years old, our family was outgrowing our home. My parents decided it would be more cost effective to add on to the house rather than move. However, the new layout required that my room become part of the expanded kitchen. This change was not something I was looking forward to with excitement.

Our house was decorated with that lovely yellow trim and yellow doors common to many 70's era homes. When the day came to remove my yellow closet door and replace it with a more modern looking door, I snapped. I laid in front of the yellow door weeping my eyes out and saying over and over: "I love my yellow door."

My parents tried to convince me that the new room was going to be much bigger and better. But the crying continued to no avail.

The addition continued, the yellow door was replaced, and wouldn't you know it, my new room was much bigger and better than my old one.

This is usually our response when God works in our lives and says that we must change an attitude, a habit, or even a vocation. We whine and cry all the way, only eventually to find out that God's purpose was much better than what we previously had planned.

I'm so glad that He doesn't require us to make these changes all alone.

Recognize God's Presence

Genesis 12:4-7

Abram was asked to make some drastic changes in his life. But our loving God wasn't going to make him go through it all by himself. Verse 7 tells us that God appeared to Abram; therefore, Abram made a place to worship Him.

Worship reminds us of God's presence. During the hectic activities of our daily routines, we tend to forget that God's presence is always with us. The reason we are reminded of God's presence during worship is because worship has nothing to do with us. Worship is, or should be, all about recognizing God and His attributes.

Almost all the fusses in churches regarding change would be eliminated if we would put more attention on recognizing God's presence and less on demanding our own way. This task is, recognizably, a very difficult thing to do, but God gives us the ability to make the transition when we seek His help.

Seek God's Help

Genesis 12:10-18

Abram made a terrible mistake. He attempted to handle change on his own, and he ended up in serious trouble.

God always provides us the ability to make changes in our lives. Sometimes He gives us His peace to endure a difficult transition. Sometimes He provides us with the material needs required to make the necessary change. And sometimes He places in our lives people who simply hold us and love us while the changes take place.

In my case, He gave me parents who took my beloved yellow door and placed it in the attic where it remains to this day. Change isn't easy, but God requires it from His children, thus making us who He wants us to be.

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



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