August 2004

Formations lesson for Sept. 12: Faith and Response to Crisis : Friday, Aug. 20, 2004

August 20 2004 by Ken Vandergriff

Formations lesson for Sept. 12: Faith and Response to Crisis : Friday, Aug. 20, 2004
Friday, Aug. 20, 2004

Formations lesson for Sept. 12: Faith and Response to Crisis

By Ken Vandergriff
Focal Passage: Daniel 2:1-49

We hope that when crisis strikes we will respond appropriately. We hope that our mind will remain focused, that our actions will be well chosen, and that our faith will be steadfast. We hope that when the crisis is past we will be able to be proud of ourselves. In short, we hope to face crises with integrity.

Since crises by their very nature are unexpected, there is little we could do to adequately prepare ourselves for every conceivable crisis situation. But there may be some ways to condition ourselves so we will be fit when a crisis strikes.

There is an issue that teachers will need to think through before teaching this chapter. Will attention be focused on the dream and its meaning or on the narrative framework that surrounds the dream?

The history of interpretation of this text shows that most frequently interpreters have been preoccupied with the dream, neglecting the narrative (see C.L. Seow, "From Mountain to Mountain: The Reign of God in Daniel 2," in A God So Near, ed. Brent Strawn and Nancy Bowen). However, the theme of this month's lessons is demonstrating integrity, and that is more clearly seen in the narrative framework around the dream. The following comments focus on the narrative.

Conditioning through prayer

Daniel 2:17-23

Daniel is presented as a man of prayer (6:10; 9:20-21). When faced with the king's death sentence, though he was numbered among the wise men and magicians of Babylon (1:19-20; 4:9), Daniel's first action was prayer (2:17-23).

The content of the prayer is significant. As Seow points out, "the doxology here is theologically pivotal to the entire passage ... The hymn returns to the issues that the narrative has implicitly raised so far. Wisdom, which the experts summoned by Nebuchadnezzar are supposed to have, and power, which is presumed to belong to the king, are, in fact, God's to give (v.20)" (362-63). And God chose to give them to Daniel. Through prayer he received the tools to face the crisis with integrity.

Speaking the truth to power

It takes boldness to speak an unpleasant truth to a power, especially a power that has already issued a death sentence. It might have seemed safer for Daniel to lie about the dream. He could have pandered to the king by saying that Nebuchadnezzar was the stone that demolished the other kingdoms.

But, having received the wisdom and power of God, he could speak the unpleasant truth to power. Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom was not the all-powerful one. It, too, would fall.

No matter how many scenarios we might run through our imagination, we cannot prepare in advance for every possible adversity. From a vital relationship with God comes the wisdom, power and fortitude to meet crises with integrity.

The integrity of doubt

I can't let this go without a word about doubt. Daniel exhibited integrity in his faith, both in his conviction that God could reveal the dream and in his forthright explanation to Nebuchadnezzar.

That is true, but it is also important to remember that persons of faith will not always respond as he did. No single narrative, nor any single text of Scripture (such as James 1:6-8), conveys the entirety of truth.

A pet peeve of mine is that we don't give adequate attention to the reality of doubt in our faith lives. Even persons of faith struggle at times with doubt - see Job, Ecclesiastes and Jeremiah 15:10-18, 20:7-18.

There is integrity in admitting and wrestling with honest doubt. As the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno said, "Life is doubt, and faith without doubt is nothing but death."

8/20/2004 12:00:00 AM by Ken Vandergriff | with 0 comments

Disaster recovery volunteers invited to Hertford praise service : Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2004

August 18 2004 by

Disaster recovery volunteers invited to Hertford praise service : Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2004
Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2004

Disaster recovery volunteers invited to Hertford praise service

September 18, 2003 was a day that many in North Carolina will not forget. Hurricane Isabel's visit to the eastern part of our state left changes in our landscape that will remain for years to come. But it also brought life-impacting changes as well, as many lives were touched by the helping hands offered by North Carolina Baptists. Many of you traveled to Hertford, many making repeat visits, as you came to help those less fortunate as a result of Isabel. By making these trips, you demonstrated your love for God and God's love for us. On September 19, the Hertford Baptist Church will hold a service of praise to thank God for the blessings He bestowed upon our church.

Late on the day of the hurricane, as water poured through the sanctuary roof and other parts of the building, blessings were not readily visible. But on Friday morning the 19th, as the sun came up, we realized things could have been much worst and we also realized that God was still on His throne and He was in control. Over the course of the next six months we watched His blessings unfold.

If you came to Hertford to help with disaster recovery, we would like to thank you for your efforts and invite you to make one more trip "down-east" and share in this service with us. Some of the many blessings we received were your hard work and the many friendships that were formed. If you can come and participate in this service, please e-mail us at or call (252) 426-7460 so we will know how many to expect. Also you can visit our Web site at to get details as they unfold.

Kenneth McNeill

Hertford, N.C.

8/18/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Original manuscripts don't exist : Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2004

August 18 2004 by

Original manuscripts don't exist : Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2004
Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2004

Original manuscripts don't exist

In the Aug. 14th (printed) issue, David H. Wyatt made the statement: "I have yet to understand how anyone can reject the inerrancy of the original manuscripts of scripture ..." I have never known anyone to reject them, nor have I ever hear of anyone having a copy of them. As far as I know the original doesn't exist.

Joseph H. Scalf Jr.

Creswell, N.C.

8/18/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Thank you N.C. Baptists : Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2004

August 18 2004 by

Thank you N.C. Baptists : Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2004
Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2004

Thank you N.C. Baptists

On behalf of our entire Lolley family, thank you for the many ways you have poured out your love and words of comfort to us in the recent home-going of our Dad, Tom Lolley. We have been so blessed by the hundreds of cards, letters and phone calls. Dad enjoyed his ministry with N.C. Baptists so much and he counted it a joy and an honor to be your missionary in western North Carolina. We miss him greatly, but rejoice in the gift of precious memories and the treasure and promise of life eternal. Thank you for opening your heart to us in countless ways and for being willing to help carry this load of grief. You have demonstrated God's love in action and our lives will forever be blessed. May God continue to walk with you, and walk with all of us, as we seek to water what others, like Dad, have planted. And may those who come after us - following in our footsteps - find us having been faithful to our calling. Until all have heard, may we simply share Jesus through living lives of authenticity, strength, hope, faith and love and may we learn to smile and laugh together as N.C. Baptists in reflecting the promises of all that God gives to them "whose hope is placed in Him." May God's blessings be upon you in the days ahead.

Tim Lolley

Asheville, N.C.

8/18/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Seeking information on women deacon chairs : Friday, Aug. 13, 2004

August 13 2004 by

Seeking information on women deacon chairs : Friday, Aug. 13, 2004
Friday, Aug. 13, 2004

Seeking information on women deacon chairs

I am writing a history-based book tentatively titled Women Deacons: 400 Years of Baptist Service. I am compiling a list of churches with women deacon chairs. If your church has women deacons and if one or more women have served as deacon chair in the present and/or the past, please send me your church's name and address. In what year did your church's deacon body first elect a woman to serve as chair? How many women have served as deacon chair? You can e-mail me at Or write me at Baptist History and Heritage Society, P.O. Box 728, Brentwood, Tenn. 37024-0728. Thank you.

Charles W. Deweese

Brentwood, Tenn.

8/13/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for August 22: Be Humble : Friday, Aug. 6, 2004

August 6 2004 by Phyllis Elvington

Family Bible Study lesson for August 22: Be Humble : Friday, Aug. 6, 2004
Friday, Aug. 6, 2004

Family Bible Study lesson for August 22: Be Humble

By Phyllis Elvington
Focal Passage: 1 Peter 2:13-14, 17-21; 3:1-4, 7-9; 5:5-7

Be humble. Now there's a phrase you don't hear every day. Can't you just hear the young mom giving last minute instructions before the kids leave for school: "Have a great day! Work hard. And don't forget - be humble."

Come to think of it, when was the last time you heard a person advise someone else to be humble? It just doesn't seem to fit with the prevailing culture of our day, does it? We're much more accustomed to hearing people talk about succeeding regardless of the cost or looking out for number one.

What is this humility thing really all about? Webster defines humility as "the state or quality of being humble; absence of pride or self-assertion."

It must be important to God regardless of the world's view of humility. Micah 6:8 shows us three ways we can please God and one of them involves being humble: "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Submit to authorities

1 Peter 2:13-14, 17-19

Submit is a word we all love to hear. It falls in the category of being one of the most misunderstood and most needed words in the English language today. "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men" (v.13).

I truly believe the majority of problems occurring in our schools today comes from a failure in submission to authority. Children - and even some adults - think they can make up the rules as they go along. This, however, is contrary to what God's word says about submission to authority.

For a clear view of God's plan in this area, read Romans 13:1-7. For Jesus' views on obeying both man's laws and God's laws, read Matthew 22:15-22. And if you still need help in discerning what is right to do, read Peter's solution in Acts 5:25-32.

Imitate Christ

1 Peter 2:20-21

Imitate Christ. It's easier said than done, isn't it? What would Jesus do? Again, that is easier said than done. I believe we are going to have to work on this one for a fairly long time before we get it right. Read Matthew 5:43-48 and Luke 6:32-36 for help in this area of true humility.

Honor your spouse

1 Peter 3:1-4, 7

Peter made it clear in this passage that honoring your spouse is a two-way street. "Likewise, you wives, be submissive to your husbands," (v.1) and "Likewise, you husbands, live understandingly with your wives" (v.7).

True humility is found in considering the needs of others before considering our own needs. Jesus is our example in sacrificial giving to others: "I came not to be served, but to serve..." (Matt. 20:28).

Show compassion

1 Peter 3:8-9

"And when He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them ..." (Matt. 9:36a). Compassion goes deeper than pity.

Compassion occurs when you put yourself in someone else's place and you feel their pain. At that moment, you are compelled to do something - anything - to help that person.

Just remember, you cannot see someone else's pain if your eyes are focused on yourself.

Depend on God

1 Peter 5:5-7

Jesus personified humility.

  • He emptied Himself (Phil. 2:5-7a).
  • He came in the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7b).
  • He trusted God completely (Matt. 26:39).
  • Humility is formed in relationships - our relationship to God and our relationship to others.

    To be humble, then, involves having a proper perspective of who God is, who we are in Him, and how we should treat others.

    8/6/2004 12:00:00 AM by Phyllis Elvington | with 0 comments

    Family Bible Study lesson for August 29: Take Courage : Friday, Aug. 6, 2004

    August 6 2004 by Phyllis Elvington

    Family Bible Study lesson for August 29: Take Courage : Friday, Aug. 6, 2004
    Friday, Aug. 6, 2004

    Family Bible Study lesson for August 29: Take Courage

    By Phyllis Elvington
    Focal Passage: 1 Peter 3:13-17; 4:1-3, 12-16, 19

    When was the last time you suffered for being a Christian? Makes you stop and think, doesn't it? I am not quite sure we could put our modern-day "suffering" in the same category as the "suffering" Peter was referring to in this passage.

    Peter was writing to believers living in the northern part of Asia Minor who were facing opposition and persecution because of their commitment to Jesus. A footnote in the Life Application Bible explains that this persecution came "from three main sources: the Romans, the Jews and their own families."

    Who opposes or persecutes you because of your commitment to Jesus? Do you live your life in such a way that it is obvious to those around you that you belong to Christ?

    Luke tells us in Acts 5:41, "The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name."

    And Paul tells us in Philippians 1:29, "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him ..."

    Be ready to defend your faith

    1 Peter 3:13-17

    Peter wrote this letter to Christians who had been scattered throughout the world because of their faith. This persecution, rather than being a hindrance to the spread of the gospel, had actually been the reason for the gospel being taken to the "uttermost parts of the earth" (Acts 1:8b).

    Therefore, Peter told believers, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" (v.15).

    What about you? Are you prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you? What about the Jehovah's Witnesses who pull into your driveway? Are you ready to defend your faith to that person?

    Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 2:15, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

    Remember Christ's example

    1 Peter 4:1-3

    Jesus' total desire was to do the Father's will. He told His disciples in John 4:34, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work."

    If we are to follow Christ's example, then we must have "the same attitude" (v.1) that He had. "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus who ... emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant" (Phil. 2:5-7). Jesus put it this way: "If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me" (Matt. 16:24).

    Count it a privilege to suffer for Christ

    1 Peter 4:12-16

  • "Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials ..." (James 1:2-4).
  • "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven ..." (Matt. 5:10-12).
  • "More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings ..." (Rom. 5:3-5).
  • "Blessed is the man who endures trials, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life..." (James 1:12).
  • Trust God and do right

    1 Peter 4:19

    It really doesn't get much simpler than these five words: trust God and do right. This phrase sums up the essence of the Christian faith. Trust God in everything, and do right at all times. That sounds like pretty good advice for believers in the early church and believers today.

    Do you have the courage to follow these two commands on a daily basis? Joshua 1:9 is God's promise to help you do both!

    8/6/2004 12:00:00 AM by Phyllis Elvington | with 0 comments

    Formations lesson for August 22: God Calls Matthew : Friday, Aug. 6, 2004

    August 6 2004 by Ken Vandergriff

    Formations lesson for August 22: God Calls Matthew : Friday, Aug. 6, 2004
    Friday, Aug. 6, 2004

    Formations lesson for August 22: God Calls Matthew

    By Ken Vandergriff
    Focal Passage: Matthew 9:9-13

    Have you ever done the right thing and then been criticized for it? Has the criticism ever come from people who should have known better? Sometimes responding to God's call can get us into just such a situation.

    An unlikely recruit

    Matt. 9:9

    There is much that we don't know about Matthew. We don't have strong evidence that this Matthew was the author of this gospel, and the fact that Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27 name the tax collector disciple Levi raises numerous questions about his identity (see the Anchor Bible Dictionary article on "Matthew"). One thing we do know - that he was a tax collector put him in disrepute.

    In Greco-Roman writings, tax collectors were linked to beggars and thieves; in the Jewish Mishnah they were linked with robbers and murderers; six out of the 19 dishonorable occupations listed by the Greek grammarian Julius Pollux, in his Onamasticum, were types of tax collectors.

    As a disciple of Jesus, Matthew was not a likely recruit. But when God calls, God observes the potential of an individual. God sees not just what we are, but what we can become.

    We're not told what went through Matthew's mind as he heard Jesus' invitation. Had he heard Jesus before, and if so, what soul searching had that prompted? Was he dissatisfied with his life even before Jesus called? Was he perfectly content in his life and then suddenly and unexpectedly made a life-changing decision, as quite a few of us have done?

    We don't know, and it's just as well. Since each of us responds to God from a unique life situation, we shouldn't attempt to fit all call experiences into a single mold.

    A happy ending?

    Matt. 9:10-13

    Does this narrative have a happy ending or not?

    On the one hand, the text implies that Matthew did a good thing, drawing his associates to Jesus. What lively table conversation that must have been.

    On the other hand, the religious folk complained; tax collectors and sinners, after all, are "not our kind of people."

    In response to the complainers, Jesus quoted from Hosea 6:6. Since Jesus would quote that same verse again to other complainers (12:7), we can assume that the principle set forth by the prophet was significant for Jesus.

    In Hosea's time, the eighth-century B.C., Israel appeared religious, regularly going to shrines and offering their gifts to God.

    But it was an empty religiosity, devoid of a genuine knowledge of God and social justice. God, through the prophet, called attention to the main thing: mercy is far more important than sacrifice, the knowledge of God more than burnt offering.

    In citing this verse, Jesus challenged those in His day who made a show of religion but missed the real point.

    Tax collectors and sinners were coming to God, but the complainers didn't see that. What good is religion if it can't rejoice when sinners come to God?

    In his book, The Kingdom of God is a Party, Tony Campolo tells the marvelous story of being in Hawaii on a speaking engagement, awake in the middle of the night due to the time zone differences, and visiting a diner which turned out to be the hangout for a group of prostitutes when they finished working.

    Overhearing that one woman's birthday was the following day, he collaborated with the diner owner to throw a surprise party for this woman he had never met.

    When, after the successful party, the owner learned that Campolo was a minister, the owner growled, "What kind of church do you belong to?"

    Campolo replied, "I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning."

    An unsettling thing this call of God is. Who knows the people God might invite?

    8/6/2004 12:00:00 AM by Ken Vandergriff | with 0 comments

    Formations lesson for August 29: God Calls Paul : Friday, Aug. 6, 2004

    August 6 2004 by Ken Vandergriff

    Formations lesson for August 29: God Calls Paul : Friday, Aug. 6, 2004
    Friday, Aug. 6, 2004

    Formations lesson for August 29: God Calls Paul

    By Ken Vandergriff
    Focal Passage: Acts 9:1-22

    How appropriate to end this month's study of God's call with perhaps the best known call narrative of all, Paul's.

    Since the text is familiar, I will try to make some observations about how this call compares and contrasts with others, to show the variety of ways that God's call comes and is received.

    Spontaneous or studied decision?

    Acts 9:1-9

    Sometimes the most significant, life-altering decisions we make are done on the spur of the moment.

    A young man unsure of what he wants to do in life suddenly decides to join the military; a man in midlife abruptly quits his job to pursue an entirely new career; a couple who have known each other only a short time decide to marry.

    As Frederick Buechner says, "Of all the ten million and one ways in the world, you choose this way ... And if the choice is right (whatever that means exactly), you get the feeling not that you acted on blind impulse without any preparation, but that this is the moment, the crisis, that somehow your whole life has been preparing you for."

    Matthew's response to God's call (Matt. 9:9-13), which we studied last week, showed that spontaneity. Saul's response, however, was very different (Acts 9:1-9).

    Blinded for three days, Saul had time to contemplate Jesus' piercing question, "why do you persecute me?"

    Days of blindness gave him time to review his life, time to wonder how his life would change if he followed this Jesus.

    Does answering God's call require the immediacy of Matthew? On occasion Jesus implied that it did, Matt. 8:21-22 and Luke 9:57-62.

    But Jesus also taught that we should count the cost before beginning (Luke 14:25-33), which implies a studied decision.

    I'm much more comfortable with the studied decision response. When I decided to pursue a Ph.D., and again when my wife decided to pursue her M.D. degree, we both felt God's call.

    Those were still very studied decisions, as we discussed not only the financial impact but also the consequences for our marriage and children.

    But I wouldn't insist that spontaneity is wrong. At times the studied decision approach leads to inertia.

    Alone or with help?

    Acts 9:10-22

    God's call may come to us in solitude. With no one we feel comfortable turning to for advice, we may wrestle alone with God's will.

    Scripture affords numerous examples of people who wrestled with God's call: Jacob (Genesis 28:10-22), Moses (Exodus 3), Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-18), Isaiah (Is. 6), Jeremiah (Jer. 1:1-10; 11:18-19; 12:6).

    Solitude can be a profound way to discern God's call, as Thomas Merton explains: "Today more than ever we need to recognize that the gift of solitude is not ordered to the acquisition of strange contemplative powers, but first of all to the recovery of one's deep self. ... And indeed, we cannot give Christ if we have not found Him, and we cannot find Him if we cannot find ourselves."

    At other times, we discern God's call through a mentor. Ananias served as Paul's mentor (Acts 9:10-17), a role mentioned more explicitly in Acts 22:12-16.

    Out of dialogue comes the perception of truth. That dialogue may be between trusted friends, a respected elder (1 Samuel 3), or even between strangers (Paul and Ananias).

    We can't fit God's call into any one pre-arranged model. Rather, God's call to each of us is personal and targeted to our own personality and situation in life.

    As this month's study has shown, God finds us in myriad ways that respect our uniqueness.

    May we respond with confidence and joy.

    8/6/2004 12:00:00 AM by Ken Vandergriff | with 0 comments

    Now more than ever : Friday, Aug. 6, 2004

    August 6 2004 by Tony W. Cartledge

    Now more than ever : Friday, Aug. 6, 2004
    Friday, Aug. 6, 2004

    Now more than ever

    By Tony W. Cartledge
    BR Editor

    The power that comes with information is a two-edged sword. Accurate information, appropriately presented, can empower people to act in good and positive ways. Misleading or erroneous information can be just as powerful, but in a negative way, leading people to make decisions that can harm them or others.

    Living in what has been dubbed "the Information Age," we are inundated with far more of it than any of us can absorb.

    While information abounds, however, accurate and trustworthy information is often in short supply. Books and magazines claiming to have the "real scoop" are on every hand, but we know that putting something in print does not make it true.

    The Internet alone contains more than enough information to drown anyone who dives in, but much of its ocean of information is agenda-laden, misleading or simply false.

    What is a reader to do? We want to be informed, but we also want our information to be accurate and relevant. Thus, we look for smaller chunks of information that we can trust: things like a good newspaper, a respected magazine, or a reliable Web site.

    When the desired news falls in the arena of Baptist life, we believe the choice is simple. For more than 170 years, the Biblical Recorder has served faithfully as the news journal of the Baptist State Convention.

    We write the first draft of history, reporting responsibly on events as they happen and issues as they develop.

    In our news reporting, we objectively tell the stories of Baptist life that are most relevant to our readers. The stories may involve joyful accounts of mission efforts, more mundane reports of convention business matters, or even stressful news about denominational conflict, but all of them are important to an accurate understanding of Baptist life.

    In our editorial pages, we seek to interpret issues appropriately, bringing a variety of opinions to bear on matters of current interest. We don't hesitate to state our opinions, but clearly label them as such.

    In our resource pages, we provide quality materials and cutting-edge articles designed to support individuals and congregations in their various ministries.

    And all of this is available in a convenient and inexpensive biweekly format, digested and designed to provide North Carolina Baptists with the kind of information they need and can trust.

    When Thomas Meredith first founded the Biblical Recorder in 1833, he could not have imagined the World Wide Web, which has taken the Recorder to new heights of accessibility and timeliness. At, readers find a frequently updated Web site that the Internet's leading search engine consistently ranks number one among providers of Baptist news.

    Our online readership now rivals the number of print subscribers. That is bad for our budget, because the Web site costs far more than the income it produces, and some online readers have dropped their print subscriptions. But, the Web site's growing popularity is good for our mission, as it allows us to reach more people with more news, more quickly and more often.

    Now, more than ever, North Carolina Baptists need a reliable and trustworthy source of information and encouragement as they seek to understand today's challenges and to do God's kingdom work. The mission of the Biblical Recorder is to fill that need "by providing relevant news, insightful opinions and supportive resources in a timely and accessible fashion." That is our calling, and our commitment.

    As we celebrate "Biblical Recorder Day" on August 15, we solicit the continued prayers and support of our readers as we strive to fulfill our mission with faithfulness and integrity.

    8/6/2004 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

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