August 2001

Alaska Baptists endorse Baptist Faith and Message

August 31 2001 by Martin King , Baptist Press

Alaska Baptists endorse Baptist Faith and Message | Friday, Aug. 31, 2001

Friday, Aug. 31, 2001

Alaska Baptists endorse Baptist Faith and Message

By Martin King Baptist Press SOLDOTNA, Alaska - Messengers to the Alaska Baptist Convention's annual meeting approved a resolution endorsing the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) and affirming the Convention's relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

The state Convention also gave final approval to new articles of incorporation and bylaws, elected officers and heard numerous challenges to "Focus on Alaska," the theme of the Aug. 7-8 meeting attended by 133 messengers at College Heights Baptist Church in Soldotna.

The resolution affirming the BF&M and the SBC, which was approved without opposition, was distributed to messengers and guests by the resolutions committee. It stated, in part, that the BF&M has been "an integral part of the fiber and theological life of Alaska Baptists (and) is accepted and used by the SBC and our partner entities such as the North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, and others."

The move is not expected to impact the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina's partnership with Alaska, said Richard Brunson, director of N.C. Baptist Men.

"When you're doing missions that just doesn't come up," he said.

Brunson said he wasn't aware that Alaska Baptists had endorsed the BF&M until a reporter told him about three weeks after the decision.

The three-year partnership between the two state conventions is scheduled to end in December 2003, but could be extended, Brunson said.

The resolution affirmed the state Convention's "relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention as historic, God-led and productive in the cause of reaching Alaska and the world for Jesus Christ." Further, the resolution said Alaska Baptists "endorse the Baptist Faith and Message 2000," and expressed appreciation to the BF&M committee that "worked diligently, carefully and prayerfully."

The resolution encouraged "every autonomous Alaska Baptist congregation to study the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and incorporate it into its life and organization as the congregation sees fit."

Messengers also concluded a long and complex process of rewriting and approving foundational documents for the state Convention and its two agencies, the Alaska Baptist Foundation and the Alaska Baptist Family Services. Final approval was given to articles of incorporation for all three entities and bylaws for the foundation and family services agency. A new constitution applying to all three entities was approved during last year's annual meeting. Messengers expressed special appreciation to the Convention's constitution and bylaws committee and its chairman Jack Green, a member of First Baptist Church, Anchorage, who also was elected Convention president.

New state Executive Director David Baldwin, in his first report to the annual convention, challenged messengers to reach the state for Christ. "The state Convention and associational staff are not going to reach Alaska. Every Alaska Baptist church and every church member must build the bridges to take the gospel to our state," Baldwin said.

The Convention numbers 68 churches and 26 missions.

Baldwin told the Convention that his goal is that "every church in Alaska have an active, vital prayer ministry ... Bible study program ... offer evangelistic training ... and be involved in missions education and ministry."

In the annual sermon, Johnny McCoy, pastor of First Baptist Church, North Pole, called pastors to live the life of a servant. "Don't draw back from the servant's towel," McCoy said. "Why aren't more pastors dwelling in the servant's quarters? It's where our Lord lived, and the Master bids us to dwell with him there."

Eddie Lindsey, Alaska and North American Mission Board partnership missionary, delivered the convention's theme message. "If Alaska is to be reached, it will be because Alaskan Baptists accept the responsibility to reach Alaska," he said. "We appreciate the help from other Southern Baptists, but it's our responsibility."

The convention also celebrated results of the mission partnership with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and a mission partnership in Russia.

In addition to Green, messengers also elected Leon May, pastor of Greater Friendship, Anchorage, first vice president; Scott Hoffman, pastor of the host church, as second vice chairman; and, Judy Zack, a member of University Baptist Church, Fairbanks, recording secretary.

Messengers approved a $1.87 million budget, up $90,000 over the current budget. The 2001-2002 budget includes $652,593 in anticipated Cooperative Program giving from Alaska Baptists, an 11 percent increase over the past year's CP receipts. The Convention will continue to forward 33 percent of its CP receipts to SBC national and international missions and ministries.

Next year's convention will be Aug. 6-7 at South Anchorage Baptist Church.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - King is a staff writer for the North American Mission Board. Biblical Recorder Managing Editor Steve DeVane contributed to this story.)

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8/31/2001 12:00:00 AM by Martin King , Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Atlanta association leaders ask gay-friendly church to leave

August 31 2001 by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press

Atlanta association leaders ask gay-friendly church to leave | Friday, Aug. 31, 2001

Friday, Aug. 31, 2001

Atlanta association leaders ask gay-friendly church to leave

By Bob Allen Associated Baptist Press ATLANTA - The executive committee of Atlanta Baptist Association has asked Oakhurst Baptist Church of Decatur, Ga., to voluntarily leave the association or be removed. Oakhurst is one of two churches in the association to survive earlier ouster votes for their "welcoming and affirming" stance toward homosexuals.

The other church, Virginia-Highland Baptist Church in Atlanta, voted May 20 to withdraw from the association after deacons met with the association's director of missions, said Pastor Tim Shirley.

Meeting Aug. 26, the assocication executive committee voted 44-20 to ask Oakhurst to comply with a bylaw banning churches that "affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior" or withdraw voluntarily. If the church doesn't leave the association by Oct. 31, according to the resolution, it will be dismissed.

The executive committee vote reverses decisions at two associational meetings earlier this year. In January, the association voted 253-164 in favor of a membership-committee recommendation to keep the two churches in membership. The action said the association did not "support or condone homosexual activity," but respected the autonomy of the local church.

In March the association approved a new bylaw against full inclusion of gays, but a subsequent vote to expel the two churches didn't receive a required two-thirds vote.

A staff member at Oakhurst said the church desired to remain a part of the association but hasn't yet met to consider a response to the most recent vote.

"We were saddened by the decision and hoped we would be able to work together," said Melanie Vaughan-West, interim minister at the church. The congregation's senior pastor, Lanny Peters, is scheduled to return from a sabbatical Sept. 18.

Vaughan-West said it would now be up to the congregation to decide how to respond.

The executive committee defeated a motion by Robert Walker, pastor of Peachtree Baptist Church, to table the action.

Shirley said at one time his church might have considered leaving quietly but others in the association urged them to stay and fight. Those dynamics changed, however, with a change of personnel on two key committees formerly strongly supportive of the churches and intense pressure over the issue.

After the January vote, the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board and the Georgia Baptist Convention both announced plans to defund the Atlanta Association for its refusal to expel the gay-friendly churches.

About 50 Atlanta-area Baptists met in early March to begin a new metropolitan association in protest of the vote sustaining the churches.

Another 20 churches were said to be waiting on the sidelines to see how the executive committee vote came out before deciding whether to defect as well.

With the prospect of losing additional churches and financial support, Shirley said even some of the association's more progressive leaders appeared to be losing their resolve. "It's easy to take a stand on Day One," he said. "How easy is it to take a stand on Day 100?"

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8/31/2001 12:00:00 AM by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

State your mission!

August 24 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

State your mission! | Friday, Aug. 24, 2001

Friday, Aug. 24, 2001

State your mission!

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor Good soldiers or other persons responsible for strategic assignments should be able to state their mission clearly and concisely. Can Christian believers state their God-given mission? Can Baptists? More particularly, can we N.C. Baptists state our mission?

Our mission begins and ends with the gospel, which compels us to spread the message of salvation and the love of Christ to all people. Baptists have long practiced cooperative ways of working together to support that mission in our local associations, our state, our nation, and our world.

The "state" part of the equation is supported in two ways: through regular cooperative missions gifts through the Baptist State Convention (BSC) of North Carolina, and through contributions to an annual North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO).

The time for celebrating and supporting the NCMO has arrived: September 9-16 is the focus date for promoting and beginning to receive the funds needed for N.C. Baptists to carry out the mission we have been given for 2001. Funds received for past NCMO projects have made a tremendous difference to countless people. Current and future projects have the potential for even greater impact.

Our mission begins with evangelism and church growth, and about 21 percent of the $2,604,990 goal for 2001 is earmarked for special projects administered through the BSC's Mission Growth Evangelism (MGE) group. The lion's share of those funds ($350,520) is designated for new church starts. An article in the August 11 Biblical Recorder reveals how crucial those funds are, as church growth continues to fall behind population growth in the Tar Heel state.

Other funds routed through the MGE group support training and assessment of church planters, support for new language churches, seminary extension classes, prison ministry, resort ministry, deaf ministry and other chaplaincy ministries.

The NCMO also supports the training of new ministers and other church leaders through a $75,000 allocation for Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, which fills an important niche by providing ministry education for students who don't have the benefit of a college education.

Special projects in local associations account for 8 percent, or $210,000 of the NCMO goal. These funds support work that local churches can easily see and support, knowing the needs. Another $138,000 will fund research, strategy planning and technological assistance for churches and associations across the state.

The North Carolina Missions Offering is about missions, and there are no greater advocates for missions than the Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) and North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM).

The $833,005 that North Carolina WMU hopes to receive from the offering supports the organization's entire budget, with the exception of employee benefits. That includes the salaries and travel expenses of the staff who supports the crucial ministry of age-graded missions education in our churches. If our mission is to remain viable in future years, we must do an effective job of teaching children the importance of believing in missions, supporting missions, and doing missions. Nobody does that better than WMU.

The NCMO also includes support for WMU ministries through Camp Mundo Vista, training conferences for adults and a variety of targeted outreach efforts.

North Carolina Baptist Men is also fully supported by the NCMO, except for employee benefits. NCBM needs the $662,605 it is slated to receive to provide staff salaries and expenses, promotional publications, and support for missions education/experiences for boys through church programs and Camp Caraway. NCBM also funds and promotes a slew of important ministry projects ranging from disaster relief and the medical/dental bus to aviation and agriculture ministries.

Stating our mission is simple in some ways, incredibly complex in others. Our mission begins with personal obedience to Christ's call that we should be witnesses wherever we go. It continues with financial support of mission efforts in places we can't go.

I hope and pray that your church will observe the week of prayer for the North Carolina Missions Offering, and that you will be moved to contribute a generous amount.

Being able to state our mission means little if we are not also prepared to carry it out.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
8/24/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Thank God for kindergarten

August 24 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Thank God for kindergarten | Friday, Aug. 24, 2001

Friday, Aug. 24, 2001

Thank God for kindergarten

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor Robert Fulgum became a well-known and much-published author on the strength of a simple book called "All I Really Needed To Know I Learned in Kindergarten."

I suppose that's why I started out slow in life. The only kindergarten around when I was growing up was a small private affair for town kids, so I had to learn those important lessons about sharing and cleaning up and playing fair somewhere else. I had two younger brothers, so I learned most of them at home. Most of the other lessons I picked up in Sunday School long before I got to first grade at the ripe old age of five.

These thoughts come to mind because our son, Samuel, started kindergarten this week. My first reaction to his first day of school was a fast bit of mental math and the unhappy conclusion that I can forget early retirement, or even "normal" retirement. By the time Samuel finishes with college, I'll be well past 65.

Lots of folks my age (closing in on 50) have grandchildren starting kindergarten this year. Some of them bankrolled so much during the stock market's glory days that they've already retired.

By the time I get to my quiet cottage with time enough to write whatever I want, I may have forgotten what it was I wanted to write about.

Yet, even as I grouse about the long years between now and retirement, I'm taken down a peg by the wonder in Samuel's eyes and his excitement about beginning a new stage in his life.

What changes will he see in the days that are allotted to him? By the time he reaches adulthood, how much of the societal, political, scientific and religious landscape will we still recognize?

Will kindergarten teach him all he needs to meet the challenges of tomorrow?

My concept of the "world's most important jobs" has been reshuffled. I hope the kindergarten teachers of the world don't crack under the pressure.

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8/24/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Disaster relief helps rebuild lives

August 24 2001 by Bill Boatwright , BSC Communications

Disaster relief helps rebuild lives | Friday, Aug. 24, 2001

Friday, Aug. 24, 2001

Disaster relief helps rebuild lives

By Bill Boatwright BSC Communications Anyone who doubts a direct relationship exists between disaster relief ministry and evangelism should talk with Ashley Summerlin, pastor of Seven Springs Baptist Church. Seven Springs is a quiet Wayne County town that almost floated away in the floods of Hurricane Floyd.

Summerlin will say there's nothing like a "good" disaster to bring people together in a true spirit of missions and evangelism.

"I was talking to a man at work and the man ... said they were having problems at their church," said Summerlin. "And my Sunday School teacher said, 'What y'all need is a flood! That will straighten it out.'"

The recovery efforts at Seven Springs straightened out many things in the eastern North Carolina community, including the rebuilding of homes and other buildings. But most important was the rebuilding of the lives of many of its people.

Like Brenda and Ricky Tillman, two of the hardest-hit flood victims in that community.

"This man introduced himself to me and told me he wanted to help me rebuild my house," said Ricky Tillman. "And then he went on to explain why they would do that for me."

"And help you they did," added his wife, Brenda.

The Tillmans have since accepted Christ and joined Seven Springs Baptist Church.

Disaster relief, one of the most popular - and one of the most used - programs of the Baptist State Convention (BSC) unites hands-on ministry to evangelism probably better than any other convention-sponsored endeavor, BSC officials say. For more than two decades, the BSC disaster relief units have literally crisscrossed the nation and the world following major hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and other natural disasters.

N.C. Baptists were in South Florida following Andrew, in Charleston and Charlotte after Hugo, and in Wilmington and Raleigh to clean up after Fran. Baptists have gone to places such as distant as Mozambique, and as devastated as Honduras when Mitch washed away a large portion of the second poorest nation in our hemisphere.

An American Red Cross official once stated that a majority of all meals served following U.S. disasters were served by Baptist relief organizations.

Feeding disaster victims is usually the first ministry in the overall recovery process. Following Hurricane Floyd, N.C. Baptists prepared almost one million meals for victims throughout eastern North Carolina.

Next, the clean-up teams arrive for some of the hardest and dirtiest work, especially after floods. Later, teams return to build and re-build structures of all kinds - houses, churches and other buildings.

Each step in the process happens because volunteers want to express the love of Christ.

"It's hard to imagine that somebody would just come out of the goodness of their heart and help you," said Brenda. "They did. They showed up."

"And they would get in there and they would work. And I never had no one do that for me before," Ricky said. "I remember in '84 when the tornadoes came through and tore up a bunch of stuff, but all the family members went and helped out. But this time, these were people I never seen before that came to my house. I mean, they came from all over the place."

When disaster relief teams come together, it is like one big family - created right on the scene, relief workers say. People who have never met one another before - people from different parts of the state, sometimes from different states - immediately bond in a manner difficult to describe. Friendships are made almost instantly.

Team members don't care about their fellow-workers' background, vocation, nationality or any other categories, they say. A team members' politics - denominational or secular - simply doesn't matter.

All are there for the same reason: to show the love of Christ by helping other people.

What team members do care about immensely is the people they are helping and their spiritual condition. The teams are there, without question, to witness. They've come to share their faith and to tell the disaster victims about the One who commands them to be there in the first place.

The Tillmans of Seven Springs noticed immediately the love of God expressed through the volunteers' efforts.

"We would start every day that they came with prayer and you just knew why they were there," said Brenda. "They weren't there for any kind of gratitude or anything. It just makes you have a really good feeling when they're there helping you out and it's just hard to explain."

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
8/24/2001 12:00:00 AM by Bill Boatwright , BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Texas church leaves CBF over anti-gay policy

August 24 2001 by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press

Texas church leaves CBF over anti-gay policy | Friday, Aug. 24, 2001

Friday, Aug. 24, 2001

Texas church leaves CBF over anti-gay policy

By Bob Allen Associated Baptist Press AUSTIN, Texas - A former Southern Baptist church has announced it is cutting ties with the moderate breakaway group Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) over what congregation leaders called discrimination against gays and lesbians. Members of University Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, voted Aug. 15 to withdraw from the Atlanta-based CBF over a new policy against hiring gays or funding organizations that "condone, advocate or affirm homosexual practice," according to a press release.

The policy, adopted originally by the Fellowship's governing board, survived a challenge at this summer's General Assembly when delegates voted 701-502 against rescinding it for a yearlong study of where CBF churches stand on the issue.

The policy doesn't exclude homosexuals from CBF membership but forbids funding for pro-homosexual causes. Fellowship leaders describe it as "welcoming but not affirming" of gays.

But a letter to CBF officials, signed by University Baptist leaders on behalf of the congregation, said the policy doesn't speak for Fellowship-friendly churches that both welcome and affirm homosexuals.

"We most deeply regret the condemning message you have sent in the name of Christ to all gay and lesbian persons," said the letter signed by Senior Pastor Larry Bethune, moderator Ellen Bell and Anthony Chapple, deacon chairman.

"We cannot in good conscience support an organization which discriminates against our brothers and sisters in Christ on the basis of their orientation any more than we could do so if the CBF discriminated on the basis of race or gender," the letter said.

CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal said in a statement that he was "saddened" that any church would use an internal administrative policy "as a litmus test for cooperating with other congregations in global missions and ministries through the Fellowship."

The 400-member church, one of a small number of traditionally Southern Baptist congregations to come out in support of full inclusion of gays and lesbians, in the past defended itself against challenges from its association and state convention for its stance.

The Austin Baptist Association voted to oust the church in 1995 after University Baptist ordained a gay deacon. The Baptist General Convention of Texas executive committee withdrew fellowship in 1998. The Southern Baptist Convention changed its constitution in 1992 to ban from membership any churches that "act to affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior."

Members of the church were present when the CBF separated from the more conservative SBC over a variety of theological issues in 1991. The congregation still belongs to American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. and the Alliance of Baptists, a smaller and more liberal SBC splinter group that formed in 1986.

University Baptist isn't the first church to leave the CBF over the funding policy. Prescott Memorial Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., cut ties with the national CBF last fall, according to a church spokesperson.

Stan Hastey, executive director of the Washington-based Alliance of Baptists, said he wasn't aware of any other gay-friendly churches discussing cutting ties with the CBF, but some congregations are said to be thinking about reducing their level of support over the funding policy.

Dispute over the issue has also energized voices on the other side who contend the relatively close vote against a study is being misused by political opponents to cast the CBF as soft on homosexuality.

They say only a handful of the 1,800 Fellowship-friendly churches have taken action to ordain homosexuals or perform a same-sex union. Most of the 500-plus individuals voting for a study, they say, weren't necessarily pro-gay but merely sympathized with those calling for dialogue on the subject.

In July, a self-described "centrist" Baptist leader wrote an open letter labeling a "fundamentalism of the left" within the CBF.

David Currie, executive director of Texas Baptists Committed, compared a minority of CBF members who advocate full inclusion of homosexuals with fundamentalists in the Southern Baptist Convention who won't tolerate divergent views from moderates.

In a letter to Baptists Committed members, Currie predicted the Fellowship "will not grow unless it is a traditional Baptist organization and not led by fundamentalists of the left."

"Baptists are conservative, Bible-believing, Jesus-following people," Currie wrote. "CBF must reflect that, as well as the Baptist General Convention of Texas."

Former CBF Coordinator Cecil Sherman told the Texas newspaper Baptist Standard that he also ran into rigidity from the left on issues of homosexuality and women in ministry.

Sherman said there were individuals more willing to destroy the CBF rather than compromise, a position he found reminiscent of conservatives who now control the Southern Baptist Convention.

"Fundamentalists were willing to tear up the SBC if they couldn't control it," Sherman said.

"Fundamentalists of the left are willing to tear up CBF if they can't control it."

Hastey agreed there is nothing new about tension within CBF between its centrist and more liberal constituencies.

But Hastey disagreed that any left-of-center faction wants to control CBF. "The Texas influence dominates CBF life, in my opinion, and has from the beginning," he said. "There's always been, behind the scenes, a lot of talk about the relative conservatism of so-called moderates out there and what I have heard described as easterner elitism."

Years ago, Alliance and CBF leaders held conversations about the possibility of merging the two groups. Eventually those talks broke down, he said, because leaders from Texas felt "we were too far left of center on women's issues and really off the charts when it came to homosexuality." That would keep CBF from attracting what one former leader "liked to call the tall-steeple churches in Texas," Hastey recalled.

In their letter to CBF leaders, University Baptist representatives accused the organization's executive leadership of making "a political decision affecting theological identity," and then requiring membership to react by affirming or disaffirming its leaders.

The letter said the Fellowship "missed the opportunity to lead all Baptists on this issue" by fostering dialogue on the issue of homosexuals in the church. "We regret that the CBF Coordinating Council chose political expediency instead," the letter said.

The letter encouraged CBF leaders to "listen to voices of dissent among you in the days to come" and looked forward "to a day when all Baptists, including gay and lesbian Baptists, will feel welcome at the Lord's table and in the decision-making councils of our common Baptist life."

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
8/24/2001 12:00:00 AM by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for September 9: Following Godly Leaders

August 24 2001 by David Edgell , Numbers 27:15-20; Joshua 1:1-3, 5-9, 16-17

Family Bible Study lesson for September 9: Following Godly Leaders | Friday, Aug. 24, 2001

Friday, Aug. 24, 2001

Family Bible Study lesson for September 9: Following Godly Leaders

By David Edgell Numbers 27:15-20; Joshua 1:1-3, 5-9, 16-17 The topic of leadership has come to the forefront of Christian discussion. Christian bookstores have complete sections dedicated to the topic of Christian leadership. Topics range from how to develop yourself as a leader, to equipping others to be leaders. A book on corporate principles in the workplace may be as popular as a book on biblical principles in church leadership. Models for leadership are presented both in biblical and non-biblical terms. But what does it mean to be a leader? Is it possible to find principles for Christian leadership based upon non-biblical presuppositions? These questions and others will be part of the leadership discussion in the Christian community for decades to come.

As a word of caution, we must be very careful not to disregard God's standard for His leaders too quickly or philosophically. God gives clear and distinct principles regarding leadership.

While these questions are intriguing, they are not new. Many of these issues were the focus of the exodus by the children of Israel and the claiming of the promised land. God desires certain characteristics of His leaders. These characteristics relate both to actions and to character development. They integrate faith and godliness. The children of Israel had wanted action from their leaders, but that action had not always been the will of God.

They had also seen the consequences of leaders who did not focus on integrity and character. Joshua was about to lead a new generation of Israelites into the promised land. This new generation had seen both the work of God in blessing as well as cursing. Those who were brave enough to follow God and His leaders in times of blessing also often turned to the ways of the Egyptians and their leaders in times of uncertainty.

How could an enslaved people be willing to go back to Egypt? They were unclear as to God's model of leadership.

It was in this setting that the word of God gives us several characteristics of Joshua as a leader (Joshua 1). God's desire was for a leader who would act in faith and allow Him to shape the leader's heart. The heart of the leader will be reflected in the character traits displayed before those he leads. "Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful" (Joshua 1:7-8).

The essential qualities of a leader are reflected in biblical principles. They are clear and distinct.

As Christians, we would do well to examine our focus and stay anchored to God's principles. After all, which came first, Nike's "Just do it" or God's "I will be with you"?

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8/24/2001 12:00:00 AM by David Edgell , Numbers 27:15-20; Joshua 1:1-3, 5-9, 16-17 | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for September 16: Leaving a Legacy

August 24 2001 by David Edgell , Joshua 3:9-10a, 14-17; 4:15-24

Family Bible Study lesson for September 16: Leaving a Legacy | Friday, Aug. 24, 2001

Friday, Aug. 24, 2001

Family Bible Study lesson for September 16: Leaving a Legacy

By David Edgell Joshua 3:9-10a, 14-17; 4:15-24 "Daddy, tell me some stories about when you were a kid." The question seemed innocent enough at first. An inquisitive 5-year-old daughter asking her father about all of the games he used to play when he was a child.

I thought of the opportunity to tell about all of the fun places we had explored and how we found hours of discovery the best possible pastime. Yes, a chance was at hand to tell about the silly jokes I had played on my siblings and much more.

But then I realized that my "innocent" red-haired blue-eyed daughter seemed to have something behind her question.

I had preached two days earlier in a Sunday evening service at our church. My opening illustration had been of an event when I was a child regarding my disobedience to my parents when I was 8-years-old.

The congregation's laughter had apparently sparked her interest. Was she amazed at how I had regarded my father as too slow to catch me when I tried to out pedal him with my bike? Was she amazed that her father had ever been disobedient to his parents? Or was she looking for ammunition for a later opportunity when she could quickly proclaim, "Daddy, you did ... when you were a kid!"

Memories can be of events that were life changing (like when my father caught me on my bicycle). They can bring back the precious moments in our lives when it seemed as though life stood still. But memories can also be of painful events that seem to cripple us for an eternity. They can challenge us to great risks or they can bring us to the brink of despair. We must keep in focus that God desires to use all of our memories for His purpose, to accomplish His will and to challenge us to do greater things for Him.

God had an object lesson that He wanted the children of Israel to experience. A lesson for the current generation to learn as well as those that would follow.

The first object lesson was to act on the memories and the promises of God. Joshua was called by God to succeed Moses and he was sure of God's promise to place His people in the promised land.

The presence of God had led the children of Israel across the Red Sea. The ark was the symbol of God's presence on earth. Joshua had planned for the presence of God to go before them. He would act in faith and believe God for the rest.

The second object lesson was the command to establish a memorial. God gave further instructions upon their obedience. He desired for it "to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever" (Joshua 4:6-7).

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8/24/2001 12:00:00 AM by David Edgell , Joshua 3:9-10a, 14-17; 4:15-24 | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for September 9: Taking God Seriously

August 24 2001 by Tom Greene , Exodus 20:7-11

Formations lesson for September 9: Taking God Seriously | Friday, Aug. 24, 2001

Friday, Aug. 24, 2001

Formations lesson for September 9: Taking God Seriously

By Tom Greene Exodus 20:7-11 "You shall not abuse the name of Yahweh, your God." Ruben Alves suggests that it be read: "Don't use God's name unless you mean it, unless you're really serious about it." Alves' definition catches a lot of us. We are guilty of casual churchgoing with little or no commitment to a life of faith; we may even use a little profanity now and then. This commandment is about more than saying some four-letter words. It is about using God's name lightly, flippantly, without realizing or being concerned about the consequences.

What's in a Name? (Exodus 20:7) It started at the burning bush when Moses insisted on knowing God's name in case Pharaoh should ask.

"Tell him it is Yahweh," said God, "...'I am who I am.'"

God did not withhold his name from Moses or from the people of Israel. He gave it to them as a promise of His presence, not so He could be subject to their manipulation. He opened Himself to His people with as much fullness as they could stand. Now they knew His name. It was the only name the Jews had for God, they did not play around with it; they treated it with great respect.

God's good name is important and precious. To treat it with disrespect is to treat His gift lightly, to underestimate His power, to scorn His presence, and to misrepresent His very nature as "The One Who Always Is."

When we make a separation between using the divine name and acting as if God is really the Lord (acting as if He truly means something) we cheapen His name.

One can keep from cheapening God's name by remembering who it belongs to and employing it only with respect and reverence; binding ourselves in genuine obedience to the One who gives us His name. It is true that He is a God of love and grace, but even love and grace carries a measure of obligation. We cannot be His people, called by His name, without living as His people. We cannot be on-again, off-again followers. There must be faithfulness, consistency and obedience on our part as there is on His. It's a matter of bad faith when we pretend to have a relationship that we don't have.

Rest Time (Exodus 20:8-11) Busyness is one of the biggest problems we face today. We recite our mantra, "So much to do and so little time to do it," over and over throughout the day. We're wearing ourselves out and even our children. The result is that because of our busyness we are becoming increasingly efficient at leading meaningless lives.

Life was not meant to be lived that way. The Israelites were not to live as if time was all their own, and they could use it as they please. God gave a day of rest each week to slow down and get in touch with ourselves. The commandment says that God Himself worked six days and on the seventh day He blessed it and rested. Israel, therefore, could hardly do otherwise.

Are we better than God is? Everything was to stop on the seventh day. Even the beasts were to rest.

God gave the Sabbath as a holy day for rest, remembering and rejoicing, not for putting all human behaviors in a straitjacket! "The Sabbath was made for man," Jesus reminded them, "not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27).

God gave His law as a blessing, not a curse. The Sabbath is a day to be distinguished from all other days as a day for holy purposes. The reason it is to be kept free from the customary labor for sustenance is because it belongs to Yahweh.

Because it is the Lord's Day, we are called to remember its significance - to redeem and revitalize our lives, to remember and come together to worship and sing hymns to Almighty God, who created the world and is still creating it in His kingdom today.

There is no doubt that we are free in Christ. Our freedom compels us to rest, remember, rejoice, worship and keep life holy by taking God seriously.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
8/24/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tom Greene , Exodus 20:7-11 | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for September 16: Matters of Life and Death

August 24 2001 by Tom Greene , Exodus 20:12-13

Formations lesson for September 16: Matters of Life and Death | Friday, Aug. 24, 2001

Friday, Aug. 24, 2001

Formations lesson for September 16: Matters of Life and Death

By Tom Greene Exodus 20:12-13 The vertical dimension of the Ten Commandments is clear. What Israel is and is to be is determined by God's gift of Himself to them first. The second step is their gift of themselves to Him in response. Their response to others can be seen as the horizontal dimension of the covenant. Individual rights are protected, yet the conditions are also made clear that the larger community has every right to expect certain qualities of conduct from those who enter into the covenant life.

The Promise (Exodus 20:12) Honor your father and your mother; what does it mean? Would we know what it is when we see it? How does one define it, explain it?

Once again the words speak to how we handle and deal with God's gifts. In this situation, the father and mother are the channel of Yahweh's gift of life. No other human relationship is so fundamental and none is more important.

This open-ended commandment invites children to respond in any way that honors parents. It has to do with esteem, duty, respect, having regard and concern, showing affection, considerateness, obedience, generosity, appreciation, thoughtfulness and all sorts of human values, directed toward one's parents.

"Honor your father and your mother," said God, "that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you." The New Testament author of Ephesians calls this "the first commandment with a promise" (Eph. 6:1-3). If the Israelites would follow it, they would find structure and strength to exist as a people, and they would endure as a nation.

Do you see what God intended by the law and how the law is fulfilled in the spirit of Christ? It was never meant to be a law of oppression, with one person lording over another. It was meant to be a guideline for love and compassion and forgiveness - enabling us to live with one another in joy and peace. Children are to obey their parents, for this pleases the Lord; and the parents are never to provoke their children, lest their children become disheartened. Life is beautiful in the Lord, if we will only let it be that way.

The Valuing of Life (Exodus 20:13) "You shall not murder." This commandment sought to take life and death out of the hands of the individual and ensure that the prerogative of life and death would remain with God, mediated through the covenant people. Here we see that the basis for this commandment is that all life belongs to God. Life is not for human beings to do with as they will; they are not God. When we take human life, for any reason, one chooses to act in God's stead. The point the commandment was making is that human life is sacred; made in the image of God, and we must treat it so. What the commandment calls for then is a reverence for all life. Life belongs to God, and we should never take it casually or with impunity. Life is always sacred to God.

One can understand that there are ways of killing that do not always connect the person with the crime. We are told that killing isn't merely a matter of what we do, it is a matter of what we think and say. It is a matter of attitude.

This corresponds with Jesus' own teaching in Matthew 5:21-26. Jesus extends the commandment beyond the physical violence to include verbal abuse and other manifestations of anger. Above all, he expresses the concern that reconciliation among those estranged from one another be given a high priority, even above religious practices.

Therefore, we are to do more than refrain from killing, we are to be so converted to a spirit of love that we want to give life, not take it. Christians are to be a life-giving people. We are to be channels of grace for a life-giving God. Not only are we not to take life, we are actually to bestow life.

Life, then, was a sacred trust to the community within the bonds of the covenant and is for us important in all matters of life and death.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
8/24/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tom Greene , Exodus 20:12-13 | with 0 comments

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