August 2005

Center helps Hispanics : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

August 26 2005 by Mike Creswell

Center helps Hispanics : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005
Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

Center helps Hispanics

By Mike Creswell
BSC Staff

Louis Ramirez is a pleasant man who works long hours in his auto body shop near Lincolnton.

But today he is sitting at a desk studying English at the Centro Contacto Latino, a Baptist-sponsored ministry center in Lincolnton.

Ramirez, 47, came here from his native Costa Rica four years ago and has prospered because of his auto skills and hard work. "This is a good country," he said, summing up his experience. But there's no replacement for speaking English well.

His son and daughter already speak English like natives. Unless his own English is good, he cannot even help them with homework. "And I need good English to run my shop," he added.

There are thousands of Hispanics like Ramirez living in and around Lincolnton and surrounding Lincoln County these days, and that's why South Fork Baptist Association is sponsoring the center with a portion of the financial support coming from the North Carolina Missions Offering.

Besides finances, area churches also provide dozens of volunteers to help work with the program and help with a never-ending stream of renovation work as programs have changed to meet new situations.

The center is housed in a small strip shopping center and offers English classes at varying levels, computer classes, Bible clubs for children, Christian counseling plus a bilingual staff ready to help answer questions and provide information on adapting to life in Lincolnton.

Hispanic children can get help with homework from tutors. They can even take Spanish classes so they can keep communicating with their families as they become increasingly immersed in English in local schools.

"This area has been a center for the heaviest Hispanic immigration in our state," said Bob Wise, associational missionary for South Fork Baptist Association, composed of 58 North Carolina Baptist congregations.

That's saying a lot, because North Carolina's Hispanic population has grown faster than that of most other states. By 2003 native Spanish speakers made up 5.3 percent of North Carolina's 8.1 million people.

"If the current Hispanic growth continues, by 2010 somewhere around 14 percent of our state's people will be Hispanic," Wise said, citing government forecasts.

After a spring missions trip to Cuba, Wise is even more understanding of what immigrants must cope with in a new country without knowing the local language. "It's hard for people who have never been outside this country to understand the courage it takes for a person to go to a place they cannot communicate," he said. "Having just returned last week from Cuba, I know how helpless you feel when you're in a situation where you cannot directly communicate with people."

Though Wise does not know why, most Hispanics in his area come from the Central American countries of Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua, although significant numbers also come from Mexico, South America and even Eastern Europe.

Anna Gatgens, an immigrant from Costa Rica, talks with Betsy Chacon at her Restaurant Iguana. Gatgens has studied at the center and had high praise for its work.
There are enough Costa Rican immigrants here that Anna Gatgens, also Costa Rican, does a good business at her "Restaurant Iguana," serving up tasty black beans, rice, fried bananas and other Central American dishes. She keeps Costa Rican bread pudding cakes, wrapped in plastic on the counter; a jar includes the English and Spanish words for "tips."

Gatgens also has studied at the Hispanic Center and had high praise for its work, though she is reluctant to use much English in front of Anglo visitors. She especially likes the spiritual emphasis threaded through much of the center's program. "We all need that," she said.

She is referring to the graduation banquet attended by 80 Hispanics in March; 10 present made commitments to Christ following an evangelistic message by Wise. He consistently reminds people using the center that it is funded not by the government but by local Christian people and others across North Carolina.

"I think it's important they realize it's not just the government doing this, but it's actually God's people working together," he said.

South Fork Association launched the center four years ago as Wise began to see the growing missions challenge. He is also aware that Hispanic immigration is a controversial topic in some quarters.

"We are trying to minister to this situation as we found it," Wise said. "We may or may not agree with why these people are here and how they got here, but nevertheless, they are here. We have a responsibility as Christian people to try to help them in their life endeavors. It has afforded us a lot of really good evangelistic opportunities because we have four active Spanish language congregations that operate here."

While Wise is clearly proud of the center and its work, he is quick to step aside and give full credit to Betsy Chacon, the director. As Wise was pondering how to minister to Hispanics, Chacon approached him with her dream of an ongoing ministry to help Hispanics assimilate, learn English, get jobs, and get health care for their families.

Chacon, earlier worked as youth minister at Salem Baptist Church in Lincolnton, but since 1987 had spent much of her time ministering to Hispanics. She attended seminary in Mexico and then married a man from Costa Rica in 1992. They ran an orphanage in Mexico for two years before she returned to the Lincolnton area to run the center. "We wanted a ministry to reach out to all the people," she said.

The center approach was needed, Wise and Chacon agreed, because immigrants are reluctant to enter a church building or appeal too quickly to government agencies. Word quickly spread that the center was a source of reliable information. "I think there's a high trust level between our Hispanic community and our local South Fork Baptist Association," Wise said.

While some English classes are sponsored through Gaston Community College, others are held at area Baptist churches, where Campus Crusade's film about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is used in English, with Spanish sub-titles.

As Chacon reviews the center program and gives the numbers of participants for each segment, it is clear this is not just a job for her. It is a ministry God called her to. "We feel every step of this ministry has been God-given," she said simply.

She and Wise now are wondering where God will lead them next.

The current building has become too small as the Hispanic population and the center's popularity have both grown in recent years. They would like to find a bigger building, especially for the Saturday morning Bible club, attended by scores of Hispanic children.

How will God meet this need? They are looking both to local Baptists and others across the state for that answer.

A portion of the gifts to the North Carolina Missions Offering coming from churches in each association is returned to the association for ministry needs such as the Hispanic ministry center in Lincolnton.

For more information on how your church can be involved and support the work of Baptist Men, Woman's Missionary Union, church planting, and other special Acts 1:8 missions, contact Dan Euliss, North Carolina Missions Offering coordinator, at (919) 467-5100 or (800) 395-5102 ext. 121. Information is also available online at

8/26/2005 12:00:00 AM by Mike Creswell | with 0 comments

Summer missions impact students : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

August 26 2005 by Tom Creech

Summer missions impact students : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005
Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

Summer missions impact students

By Tom Creech
Special to the Recorder

Twenty-eight North Carolina Baptist college students received a different sort of education this past summer. They served as summer missionaries and youth workers in seven states, Washington, D.C., and seven foreign countries.

The students were funded by the Baptist Student Union of North Carolina (BSU). Seventeen stayed in the United States, serving in such venues as metro New York City, Yellowstone National Park, and Alaska. Eleven students were sent overseas to the countries of Sri Lanka, Belarus, Wales, Poland, South Africa and Cuba. Canada was also represented.

N.C. State student Crystal Williams spent the summer working in Sri Lanka with N.C. Baptist Men. She was one of 28 N.C. Baptist college students serving as student summer missionaries across the state and around the world.
One of the students assigned overseas was Crystal Williams, 20, a junior at N.C. State University. Williams and Andy Hale, a student at Campbell University, spent nearly two months in southern Sri Lanka helping teams of North Carolina Baptist Men with tsunami relief.

Millions of people in Southeast Asia were displaced by the devastating tsunami that hit last December. Relief teams sponsored by North Carolina Baptist Men have been in Sri Lanka since January.

Teams with three to 12 members typically go and work over a two-week period before returning home. Williams left May 28 and returned July 22.

N.C. Baptist Men paid local masons to construct 100 cinder block houses in the area of Sri Lanka where Williams and Hale served.

Although teams worked on six houses at a time, Williams and Hale didn't complete one house. They worked mostly as support, helping to build foundations and a septic tank, carrying blocks and rocks and doing other jobs. They also distributed clothing to needy local people.

According to Williams, most of the people not displaced by the tsunami lived in cinder block houses with dirt floors. They cooked over open fires.

"The people were always clean," she said. Since they had to clean their clothes in the wells, they were careful not to get their clothes too dirty. "We Americans were always covered with mud at the end of the day."

As to evangelistic opportunities, Williams said, "We tried to show Christ through our actions. We were there to help the people first of all, and then, if they questioned us, we could open up and tell them about our faith.

"Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country so you can't just openly share the gospel," she said.

Williams and Hale slept in a local church. The pastor's wife and her mother cooked all the meals and cleaned up after the team workers.

Williams was struck by the humility of the Sri Lankans she met. "They'll serve you a meal, but not eat with you," she said. "They usually wait until their guests are finished before eating themselves."

However, Williams and Hale returned the favor by cooking dinner for their hosts and insisting that they eat with them. "We considered it such a honor that they would eat with us," said Williams.

"I would definitely go back," she said. "I learned a lot of patience; we had to work according to the Sri Lankans schedule." Overall "it was an excellent experience."

Williams, the daughter of Skip and Sheila Williams of Mint Hill, is not a newcomer to mission projects. She has gone on several youth summer missions trips through her church, Pritchard Memorial Baptist in Charlotte, and has worked with Habitat for Humanity for a couple of years while attending N.C. State.

The North Carolina BSU has been sending out students to do summer missions since 1954. BSU students raise money to fund the trips during the school year through various fundraisers and offerings. This year, $89,000 was raised by the students for summer trips, according to Rick Trexler, Baptist campus ministries state director.

All of the returning students underwent debriefing at Caraway August 7 and 8. The experience gave the students opportunities to reflect on what happened to them over the summer, and to process some of the thoughts and feelings they had - and will have - as they go back to school. One of the questions they faced at Caraway was how the experience changed them, according to Trexler.

Summer missions can have a profound effect on students. According to past surveys conducted by Southern Baptist missions organizations, two-thirds of people entering missions careers went on summer missions endeavors as college students.

Trexler and his staff are already looking ahead to the summer of 2006.

Students will be going back to countries such as Poland and South Africa, but will also be traveling to new places such as Jamaica and China. Trexler is also currently negotiating with the Hawaii Baptist Convention to send students to Guam.

8/26/2005 12:00:00 AM by Tom Creech | with 0 comments

On cooperation and compromise : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

August 26 2005 by Tony W. Cartledge

On cooperation and compromise : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005
Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

On cooperation and compromise

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

Three significant stories appear in this issue (page 9), all deserving careful reflection by members of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina family.

The search committee to recommend a new executive director-treasurer is about as balanced as one could hope for. We owe John Butler (president of the BSC board of directors) a debt of gratitude for his diligent work and fair-handed approach to the task. We need to pray for chairman Robert Jackson and the committee as they seek a qualified candidate who appreciates the rich diversity of N.C. Baptists and will gladly work with all of them.

The new relationship for Baptist Retirement Homes (BRH), if approved by the convention, could be good for the homes and for the elderly saints who live there. BRH president Bill Stillerman has made a convincing case that the financial future of the homes requires BRH directors to have enough autonomy to avoid negative spillover from conflict within the convention.

Sadly, the budget proposal, which decreases funding to the BSC in favor of national entities and no longer counts gifts to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) as "Cooperative Program" (CP) is more troubling.

The presentation to the Executive Committee described the proposals as necessary compromises designed to head off more potentially destructive motions at the November convention.

I am confident that budget planners have done what they believe are in the best interests of the BSC. Even so, that doesn't make the backroom bargaining any less bothersome.

On the first issue, the division of CP gifts prior to 1992 was sometimes listed as 65 percent for the BSC and 35percent for the SBC, rather than the current 68/32 split. Some have apparently pressed for an immediate move back to the 65/35 division.

The 65/35 split was not always what it appeared to be, however. In years prior to 1993, a variety of other items, such as the Minister's Expanded Annuity Plan, were "taken from the top" before the remaining funds were divided.

I'm not suggesting that it's necessarily a bad idea to decrease the BSC share by one-half percent in each of the next two years, and to increase giving to the SBC (in Plans A, B, and D) and to CBF (in Plan C) by the same amount. The committee believes overall budget growth will cover the difference.

But, I would question the need to propose it in reaction to a threatened motion calling for an immediate three percent shift. I'm confident that BSC messengers would not willingly wreak havoc with BSC missions and ministries by cutting funds so drastically.

The proposal to cease counting CBF contributions in Plan C as Cooperative Program funds is also worrisome. Again, the stated rationale was that the budget committee wanted to forestall a motion on the floor to eliminate the giving plans.

The success of such a motion was conceded as a foregone conclusion, even though messengers to previous conventions have supported the giving plans every time the matter has come to a vote. Last year, a motion to abolish the plans was defeated by more than two to one.

In support of the proposal, the Executive Committee was told that some "leaders at the CBF" had been contacted about the proposal to cease counting CBF contributions as Cooperative Program funds, and that those leaders said it wouldn't really bother them.

I believe that assertion, repeated multiple times, was made in full confidence that it was true, with no attempt to be disingenuous.

I suspect, however, that the statement is based on a small kernel of conversation that snowballed into an overstated assumption as it was passed along. I have not been able to find one CBF leader or Plan C church pastor who recalls being asked this question, or any convention official who can name one.

I have been able to confirm only that the root idea, at least in part, goes back to informal corridor talk during the 2004 convention.

And every CBF or Plan C related person I have talked to cares very deeply whether they are considered full partners in the BSC family.

If indeed CBF contributions are disqualified as cooperative funds for the purpose of determining messengers, the BSC would be reversing field on its history, putting CBF supporters into a less favored category, and signaling a willingness to declare the SBC as the BSC's sole acceptable ministry partner.

I am confident that budget committee members who support the proposals intended no offense to Plan C churches, and apparently came to believe the changes would cause little pain. The response of moderates on the executive committee and the resulting 9-8 vote, however, suggests that the committee underestimated the level of angst and sense of betrayal the change would bring to the 300-400 churches who support the BSC through Plan C.

An overriding question is whether decisions should be based on the fear of what unnamed parties will do, rather than on principle for what one believes is right. Despite the best of intentions, the proposed changes give the appearance that unknown dealmakers have been ceded power to determine the future of the BSC without having to identify themselves or to bring their rumored, more far-reaching motions to the floor.

Convention officers assured the executive committee that the proposal to deny Cooperative Program status for CBF contributions would satisfy opponents of the giving plans and put the matter to rest. But, will the deal still hold when their terms are up? And, will CBF-related churches stick around long enough to find out?

I appreciate the committee's honest attempt to preserve unity through seeking an acceptable compromise: a certain measure of compromise is necessary in any cooperative relationship

But, one must wonder if we are reaching a point at which "cooperative" ceases to be the operative word.

8/26/2005 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

The Pool of Siloam resurfaces : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

August 26 2005 by Tony W. Cartledge

The Pool of Siloam resurfaces : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005
Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

The Pool of Siloam resurfaces

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

There's lots of buzz among biblical archaeologists these days, as the famous Pool of Siloam has been discovered - and partially uncovered - in Jerusalem.

An article in the Sept.-Oct. issue of Biblical Archaeology Review describes how construction workers repairing a sewer came across two buried stone steps, which an archaeologist on site happened to see.

An emergency excavation was commenced, leading to the uncovering of one side and two corners of a beautifully constructed pool at least 255 feet wide at one point. Five sets of three stairs, with a narrow landing between each, provided access to the pool, which appears to be trapezoidal in shape and is far more impressive than the small Byzantine pool sometimes shown to tourists and erroneously identified as the Pool of Siloam.

The discovery of the large and beautifully crafted pool, along with new indications of a monumental building from David's time just up the hill, have folks who love both the Bible and archaeology all astir.

The Pool of Siloam figured into Jesus' healing of a blind man in John 9:1-11, and thoughts of seeing the very place where Jesus may have refreshed himself or sat and taught is inspiring.

Uncovering the pool hasn't been easy, however. Some parts were buried beneath ten feet of dried mud. And, since Jerusalem is a living city, parts of the pool, like other ancient remains, are buried beneath homes that are in themselves hundreds of years old.

The full extent of the pool may never see the light of day, but its reappearance is a warming reminder of lessons learned from the One we call both the Light of the World and the Water of Life.

8/26/2005 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

FaithSoaring with our strengths : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

August 26 2005 by George Bullard

FaithSoaring with our strengths : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005
Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

FaithSoaring with our strengths

By George Bullard
BSC Acting Executive Director-treasurer

What do you think would make your congregation more successful: improving weaknesses or building on strengths? Unfortunately too many people believe the answer is "improving weaknesses."

This is unfortunate. Improving weaknesses will not help congregations embrace long-term solutions to the opportunities and challenges they face. It will only help them secure short-term fixes. For years several themes of congregational vitality have rung in my ears. One comes from my mentor, Lyle Schaller. He continually says it is important for congregations to affirm what is right and build upon it.

Kennon Callahan is another respected writer, teacher and consultant of recent decades, most known for his book, "Twelve Keys to an Effective Church." He declares that if a congregation fixes everything wrong within its fellowship, it would bring itself right up to neutral. It is not the things that are wrong that must be fixed. The focus should be on the things that are right, strong, and have potential to empower FaithSoaring.

In their 2001 book, Now, Discover Your Strengths, Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton champion the strengths-based organization that focuses on enhancing its strengths rather than eliminating its weaknesses. It includes an instrument on finding your strengths as leaders so you can focus around talents. From a spiritual perspective, we would talk about focusing on gifts, skills and preferences.

FaithSoaring is about discovering, discerning, and developing strengths with which to soar in the direction of the full kingdom potential of congregations. FaithSoaring is about a focus on strengths.

What do you think would make your state convention more successful: improving weaknesses or building on strengths? Should we spend this interim between executive director-treasurers focusing on fixing weaknesses or soaring with our strengths? Obviously the focus should be on soaring with our strengths.

What are the strengths of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina? What do we do well? What would you share with me about strengths on which to build our future together? What are the top two to three strengths you experience in the ministry of N.C. Baptists? It could be a program, a person, an event, a resource, a feeling, an agency or institution, a publication, a conference, a certification, a place, or any other category for a strength you experience.

Let me offer you several ways to send your top two or three strengths directly to me. First, mail them to me at George Bullard, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512-1107. Second, fax them to me at (919) 460-7507. Third, call the FaithSoaring response line at (800) 395-5102, ext. 111. Fourth, e-mail them to me at Fifth, go to and post them as a comment on a web log.

8/26/2005 12:00:00 AM by George Bullard | with 0 comments

Women deacons in Baptist history : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

August 26 2005 by Charles W. Deweese

Women deacons in Baptist history : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005
Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

Women deacons in Baptist history

By Charles W. Deweese

Women deacons played a key role in Baptist origins almost four centuries ago. Led by John Smyth, Baptists organized the first Baptist church in history in 1609, in Amsterdam, Holland. Led by Thomas Helwys, Baptists formed the first Baptist church in England in 1611-1612. Documents written by Smyth and Helwys in the early 1600s clearly favored women deacons.

The first reference to women deacons in Baptist literature appeared in a 1609 writing by Smyth in which he claimed that "the church hath power . . . to Elect, approve & ordain her own Deacons both men & women."

Written by Helwys in 1611, the first English Baptist confession of faith included among church officers "Deacons Men, and Women who by their office relieve the necessities off the poor and impotent brethren concerning their bodies, Acts. 6:1-4." Along with other officers, women deacons were to be chosen "by Election and approval off that Church or congregation whereof they are members, Act. 6:3, 4 and 14:23, with Fasting, Prayer, and Laying on of Hands, Act. 13:3 and 14:23."

Other documentary evidence for ordained women deacons, fully equal to men deacons, is rare in Baptist life between the early 1600s and the early 1900s. For about 300 years, "deaconesses" prevailed in Baptist church life, at least in those churches that chose to use them. Baptists typically did not ordain deaconesses and viewed them as assistants to deacons. Deaconesses usually met separately from deacons.

Two key factors, among others, led to the demise of women deacons in the 1600s and converted them into deaconesses: general cultural resistance to women as leaders in the church and the influence of John Calvin, Protestant Reformer of the 1500s. Calvin's 1541 list of church officers (pastors, doctors/teachers, elders, and deacons) was the most important church order produced by the Protestant Reformation. That order exerted heavy influence on Baptist development, and it did not include women.

Most major Baptist confessions of faith written by English Baptists in the 1600s put women in their place. Typical was the Somerset Confession of 1656, which stated unequivocally that "The women in the church (are) to learn in silence, and in all subjection."

Times have changed. In 2005, thousands of Baptist churches in the United States include women in their deacon bodies with equal treatment with men in nomination, election, ordination (or non-ordination, as among American Baptists), and duties. And hundreds of deacon bodies in these churches have named women as chairs. Many factors may have contributed to these developments. Examples include:

1. The Women's Liberation Movement of the 1960s-1970s;

2. The adoption of the Civil Rights Act of 1964;

3. Discussions about women's ordination resulting from the ordination of Addie Davis to the ministry in 1964 by the Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham, as the first Southern Baptist woman so ordained;

4. The 1971 Supreme Court ruling that treating persons unequally based solely on sex violated the 14th Amendment;

5. Discussions of a possible Equal Rights Amendment in the early 1970s;

6. Formation of American Baptist Women in Ministry in 1974;

7. Freedom themes inherent in the American Bicentennial Celebration of 1976;

8. The human rights initiatives of President Jimmy Carter;

9. The publication of such books as Evelyn and Frank Stagg's Women in the World of Jesus (1978) and H. Leon McBeth's Women in Baptist Life (1979);

10. Official human rights pronouncements adopted in the 1960s-1980s by the American Baptist Convention (American Baptist Churches, USA), Southern Baptist Convention, and Baptist World Alliance;

11. Formation of the Women in Ministry SBC organization in 1983 (later Southern Baptist Women in Ministry and still later Baptist Women in Ministry);

12. The rise of the Southern Baptist Alliance in 1987 (today the Alliance of Baptists);

13. The rise of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in 1991;

14. Escalation of interest in the topic resulting from the Southern Baptist Convention's 1984 resolution opposing women's ordination and the SBC's limiting of pastoral service to women in the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message; and from the SBC North American Mission Board's 2002 decision not to endorse ordained women as chaplains and its 2004 decision not to provide new church-start money to churches with ordained women deacons.

Women deacons exist in Baptist churches all across the United States. For example, in Missouri they serve or have served in such churches as First Baptist, Jefferson City; Kirkwood Baptist, Kirkwood; Memorial Church, Columbia; Second Baptist, Liberty; University Heights in Springfield; and Webster Groves Church, Webster Groves.

Among states in the South, North Carolina probably has more churches with women deacons than any other state, with Virginia a close second. Dozens and dozens of North Carolina churches use women deacons, and many have made them chairs.

The percentage of churches with women deacons related to the American Baptist Churches, USA, is much higher than churches related to the Southern Baptist Convention. Most American Baptists do not ordain deacons, male or female; therefore, ordination is not the barrier to women that it often is in the South. A far higher percentage of churches related to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship ordain women deacons than do Southern Baptist churches. Most African-American Baptist churches tend to use deaconesses, although some have women deacons.

A new resource details the full history of women deacons and deaconesses among Baptists: Women Deacons and Deaconesses: 400 Years of Baptist Service (copublished by the Baptist History and Heritage Society and Mercer University Press). This 259-page book can be ordered by calling (800) 966-2278 or by e-mailing Pam Durso at

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Charles W. Deweese is executive director of the Baptist History and Heritage Society in Brentwood, Tenn.)

8/26/2005 12:00:00 AM by Charles W. Deweese | with 0 comments

Greenwood Forest deacons object to nominee rejection : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

August 26 2005 by

Greenwood Forest deacons object to nominee rejection : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005
Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

Greenwood Forest deacons object to nominee rejection

The Council of Deacons of Greenwood Forest is saddened and disappointed that the North Carolina Baptist State Convention's (BSC) Committee on Nominations rejected two of our members who were nominated to serve our state Baptists. It is our understanding that the nominees from our church were rejected simply because Greenwood Forest is listed on the Alliance of Baptist web site and not from any discussion with the nominees, church leaders or others associated with our church. Greenwood Forest has a long tradition of cooperating with Baptists of many different social and theological backgrounds. Our ability to work together has never been grounded in ideology or opinion but in a passion to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We deacons consider this to be part of the foundation of Baptist freedom. It is ironic that we are being excluded for being so thoroughly Baptist.

We value our relationship with the Baptist State Convention as well as our relationship with other Baptist groups. Our association with multiple organizations allows us to do more to minister to those in need and to spread the gospel than we could do on our own. Our missions work in Cuba would likely not have happened without the assistance of the Alliance. It allowed us to help a partner church in Cuba do wonderful things for Christ in a country in which it is very challenging to be a Christian.

We have serious concerns with the way that our church and its members have been treated by a committee of the Baptist State Convention. Still, our hope is that our long-standing association with the Baptist State Convention will continue to bear fruit.

Betsy Hobgood

Cary, N.C.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Hobgood is chair of the Greenwood Forest Baptist Church council of deacons. She sent the letter on behalf of the deacons.)

8/26/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for Sept. 11: Where Purpose Begins : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

August 26 2005 by Chadwick Ivester

Family Bible Study lesson for Sept. 11: Where Purpose Begins : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005
Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

Family Bible Study lesson for Sept. 11: Where Purpose Begins

By Chadwick Ivester
Focal passages: Psalm 8:1-6; Hebrews 2:8b-10,14-15

"What is my life's purpose?" This question comes from the innermost realm of every soul.

Apart from God's word, it is impossible to find true purpose in life. Apart from the Bible, man's existence begins with man and the only compass to find purpose is human experience, which is fallible.

The Bible teaches that man's existence and purpose begins with God and is to glorify God.

Secular humanism has no logical answer for man's purpose. It teaches that man is just a part of nature and has emerged as part of an evolutional process. A blob of green algae has just as much purpose and value as man. How depressing.

To know purpose, one must first know the Self-Existing One, the Creator. Trying to find purpose apart from the God of the Bible can lead to "identity/purpose schizophrenia."

Our Original Purpose

(Psalm 8:1-6)

James P. Boyce wrote, "It (the Bible) does not teach us everything about God; no language could teach us the full glory of God, nor could we ever comprehend it." However, Boyce adds, "The Bible teaches us all that is necessary about God, our duty to Him (our purpose in life), our condition as sinners, and the way to God."

God's glory is so magnificent that it supersedes the universe. Who can measure the universe? In the same way, who can measure God's glory?

God created this world from nothing; He spoke creation into existence. In Psalm 8 we see that David was in love with the Creator of the universe because he had been transformed by God's grace.

Originally God created man "to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever." But because of sin, man cannot see God's glory, even in the universe. The Humanist Manifesto II states, "As nontheists, we begin with humans not God, nature not deity. Nature may indeed be broader and deeper than we now know; any new discoveries, however, will but enlarge our knowledge of the natural."

David looked beyond the universe and marveled in its Creator. He saw the vastness of the universe, yet he acknowledged that God's glory surpassed it. God's glory is immeasurably majestic.

God's majestic glory is magnified in childbirth, a glorious miracle to behold. Yet even more glorious is seeing that child nurse for the first time. Minutes after my son, Isaac, was born, he began nursing. He naturally did what God created him to do at that point in his life.

The great truth of this psalm is God's preferential love for the human race over the rest of His creation. Humans are unique and set apart from all of God's creation. God created man lower than the angels in disposition and abilities, yet God only "breathed the breath of life into man's nostrils"(Gen 2:7). Not even the greatest of all angels can say that!

Our Restored Purpose

(Heb. 2:8b-10,14-15)

A Russian astronaut, who was in space, was asked, "Do you see God?" He answered, "I don't see any god up here." This answer delighted the atheists. Another astronaut, who believed in God, was asked the same question. He answered, "I saw His handiwork in the creation of space and the universe, but I didn't see God Himself."

The tragedy isn't that the Russian astronaut didn't see God, but that man can't find God by his own resources. No one has ever seen God. Since God is an infinite being, no one can see Him in His absolute essential nature, save, "The One and Only Son - the One who is at the Father's side - He has revealed Him." (John 1:18)

It is Christ's redemptive work on the cross that restores sinful men and women and restores them to fulfill their original God-given purpose. God's love for mankind is so gracefully astonishing and immeasurable that He bypassed salvation for the fallen angels, who are damned for eternity, and chose to bring salvation to fallen men through Jesus Christ. How great a salvation!

8/26/2005 12:00:00 AM by Chadwick Ivester | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for September 18: Put First Things First : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

August 26 2005 by Chadwick Ivester

Family Bible Study lesson for September 18: Put First Things First : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005
Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

Family Bible Study lesson for September 18: Put First Things First

By Chadwick Ivester
Focal passages: Ecclesiastes 3:10-14; 12:13-14; Mark 12:28-34

View God Correctly

(Eccl. 3:10-14)

Sound biblical theology is necessary to view God correctly. Theology means the "study of the nature of God." To view God correctly, we must know His attributes and we learn about those attributes through His word.

A great assessment of God's attributes and blessings is stated in the Doxology, "Praise God from Whom all blessings flow! Praise Him all creatures here below!"

For nearly 20 years, I disregarded all of God's blessings and not once felt led to sincerely thank Him. Yet when I was born again in 1992, my view of God changed forever. I realized that even the "nabs and soda" I consume while on the run are a gift from God.

Non-believers don't acknowledge God alone as the source of all blessings. They worship the blessings but deny that God gives the blessings.

Millions of people celebrate Labor Day weekend on beaches and lakes, enjoying the benefits of the sun. Yet many fail to acknowledge that the sun's rays are a gift from God.

The sad reality is that unbelievers are content to worship the blessings and not God, the great blesser. One of the devastating effects of sin is that sinners cannot view God correctly.

Even believers do not always view God correctly. Some who call themselves Christ-followers only follow Him for the blessings. These are "fair-weather" Christians; they follow God as long as He sends them blessings.

At the first sign of hardship or when their blessings are taken away, they cry, "God, how dare you take my blessings from me!" When all they have is stripped away, their faith is also lost.

And true believers often don't thank God enough for all the blessings He has provided. Is it possible to give the Lord too much praise for His blessings? I often find myself overlooking God's "small blessings." But is there even such a thing as a "small blessing" from God? Even the blessings that we consider small are blessings given from the great and mighty blesser whose goodness cannot be measured.

Fear God Obediently

(Eccl. 12:13-14)

John Flavel defines the fear of God as "a gracious habit or principle planted by God in the soul, whereby the soul is kept under an holy awe of the eye of God, and from thence is inclined to perform and do what pleaseth Him, and to shun and avoid whatsoever He forbids and hates."

Psalm 11 says "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His instructions have good insight" (v.10). Therefore to obey God, one must first fear Him. Obedience apart from the fear of God leads to dry, dead ritualism.

Love God Supremely

(Mark 12:28-34)

Secular humanism teaches to love self supremely, then love others. Man naturally loves himself over all other things, providing great evidence of human sinfulness.

Yet the Bible teaches us to love God, and not ourselves, with all of our being (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). Jesus called this the greatest commandment. Its meaning is further revealed in the first four commandments (Exodus 20:3-11).

Jesus then gave the second greatest commandment: to love your neighbor as yourself, which correlates well with the last six commandments (Exodus 20:12-17). The two commandments are related, in that when you learn to love God first, you will have no problem loving others.

The world doesn't seem to have a problem with the horizontal commandments (relating to fellow man). The world hates the vertical commandments (relating to God). Consequently, the world seeks to divide God's commandments by doing away with man's duty to love God with all of his being. Yet, what God has joined together, let no man separate.

8/26/2005 12:00:00 AM by Chadwick Ivester | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for Sept. 11: The Adult David - Dancing before the Lord : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

August 26 2005 by Haven Parrott

Formations lesson for Sept. 11: The Adult David - Dancing before the Lord : Friday, Aug. 26, 2005
Friday, Aug. 26, 2005

Formations lesson for Sept. 11: The Adult David - Dancing before the Lord

By Haven Parrott
Focal passage: 2 Samuel 6:1-23

Unfathomable Paradox

For six weeks this summer, our family expanded to include another "D" boy. Dane, Drew, Dylan and Dalton, the regulars around here, were joined by Dima, a seventeen-year-old from Belarus with whom we've had a relationship since 1997 through an organization called Global Children Outreach.

Dima, of course, speaks Belarusian. The Parrotts, of course, do not. For many years, however, Dima has studied the English language at his school in Belarus. English taught by Belarusian's, that is, or by Europeans who know nothing of the southern drawl, ya'll.

Dima is also hearing impaired, which only contributes to the communication confusion. Conversing consists of few words and much gesturing. We're able to understand only a little of Dima's broken, syntax-out-of-whack English but, surprisingly, Dima understands most of our down-south speech.

Fact is, Dima's level of English-language comprehension is quite high, far surpassing his ability to verbalize a response. I'm told this is not uncommon. Many who visit foreign countries, having only a classroom knowledge of the language, find themselves in this predicament of being able to understand what they hear but unable to talk about it.

I can relate, because that's how it is with the Spirit and me sometimes. My soul's capacity for understanding what He Scripture-whispers concerning the sovereignty of God far exceeds my mouth's ability to express what I've heard.

I cannot explain how His sovereign predetermination and my willing participation work together, yet somehow my soul understands, and is at peace with, the paradox perfectly framed by Philippians 2:12-13: "work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."

Undignified Praise

David was really good with words. He gave expression to the Spirit's whispers in beautiful, poetic psalms that still ring bells buried in the deepest parts of human hearts. Yet, perhaps the reason David danced down the streets of Jerusalem was because words alone were inadequate for communicating the depths of what his soul understood about God's sovereignty and the privilege of participation.

The journey from the sheepfolds of Bethlehem to the stronghold of Jerusalem had been all God's doing, accomplished through His obedient servant. God alone had paved his path from the pasture to the palace, and David knew it. God's unwavering commitment to His own glory fueled His above-it-all, under-it-all, through-it-all determination to glorify the anointed, heart-like-His shepherd and climaxed in David's escorting the Ark of the Covenant, the symbolic power and presence of God Himself enthroned on a box of wood, into the new capital.

The holy procession was the culmination of the mysterious mixing of God's sovereignty and David's obedience, something so deep even David could not confine it to mere words. So he danced with all his might. Clothed with humility, and little else, the King of Israel abandoned himself in undignified, full-bodied worship. It was Israel's finest hour, and David's purest praise.

A thousand years or so later, another holy procession wound through the streets of Israel's capital, the climax of yet another journey, one that had also begun in Bethlehem. And once again, it was all God's doing through His obedient Servant. But there was no Ark this time. This time the power and presence of God Himself rested not on a wooden box, but on a wooden beam.

The scantily clad, humiliated Shepherd-King abandoned Himself to full-bodied, undignified worship as He jerked and gestured and danced with death down the streets of David's city. Unlike His ancestor, Jesus did not dance because He had no words to explain the mysterious mixing of the sovereignty of God and the Servant's obedience. The Son of David danced because He was the Word, the final Word, on that subject. It was the world's finest hour, and the purest sacrifice of praise the world has known.

And so we who have His life in our hearts have complete confidence that "He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it" (Phil. 1:6), and one day, according to the mystery of His sovereign determination and our willing participation, we too will find ourselves dancing down the streets of the New Jerusalem.

8/26/2005 12:00:00 AM by Haven Parrott | with 0 comments

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