December 2003

Formations Lesson for December 21: Two Births : Monday, Dec. 1, 2003

December 1 2003 by Jimmy Allen

Formations Lesson for December 21: Two Births : Monday, Dec. 1, 2003
Monday, Dec. 1, 2003

Formations Lesson for December 21: Two Births

By Jimmy Allen
Focal passages: Luke 1:57-58, 2:1-7

My wife's obstetrician wanted us to know exactly what to expect during her first pregnancy. We got a tour of the medical office and the hospital nearby. We got a schedule of visits we would make to the doctor's office the upcoming months. We got an explanation of how the baby would develop in the womb. We even got an opportunity to schedule the payments we would make.

The medical staff did a good job of organizing and explaining what would happen, thus reducing our anxiety.

Then a nurse put the seemingly methodical procedure into perspective. The nurse was nearing retirement and noted the years she worked on a labor and delivery ward. She told us that over the years she had heard the first cries of many babies. Each time she heard that cry, she paused for a moment and thought, "How could someone hear that first cry and not believe in God?"

The birth of a child is a miraculous event. When we look back upon it, we tend to see the beauty of the moment, forgetting the weeks of morning sickness, the burden of swollen feet, the discomfort of lying down and the pain of labor.

Maybe it would help us appreciate the gift of the child more if we didn't ignore the difficulties, and instead see that something wonderful can come out of pain.

A Long-time Coming

Luke 1:57-58

We don't know many details of John's birth. The only report we get from Luke is that Elizabeth's child was a son and that neighbors and relatives rejoiced because the Lord had displayed great mercy toward her.

Elizabeth had endured an adult life void of what her society saw as a great virtue for women - giving birth. Zacharias had also endured because he was married to a woman without child.

Yet in their pain, something wonderful happened. They had a son.

No Hospital Here

Luke 2:1-7

Mary didn't have to wait long in her adult life to deliver a child. Her pain was different. She wasn't married. And she was forced to travel, probably on the back of a donkey, while late in her pregnancy.

When she arrived in Bethlehem, she couldn't even find a room in an inn. So Joseph took her to a manger, a place where animals were kept. It was there, barely protected from the cool night air, she gave birth to a son, the Savior.

We have heard the birth story of Jesus Christ so many times that we have added filter upon filter of smiles and good feelings. When we do that, we forget the pain that was a part of the story. And we forget that Jesus wasn't born to make us happy. He was born to save us.

"In contrast to what the cards would have us believe, Christmas did not sentimentally simplify life on planet earth," Philip Yancey wrote in The Jesus I Never Knew. "Perhaps this is what I sense when Christmas rolls around and I turn from the cheeriness of the cards to the starkness of the Gospels."

Tough Lives

If we measure happiness in our society by living in a two-story home with a white-picket fence, we can agree that John and Jesus didn't have happy lives.

John lived in the wilderness. He ate bugs. Jesus worked as a carpenter. When he began his public ministry, he moved from town to town with no place to rest his head. And he made plenty of enemies.

Yet look what came from these two tough lives.

John led people to repent of their sins. John baptized Jesus as well as others.

Jesus taught. Jesus preached. Jesus died on our behalf. And Jesus rose from the grave.

Something wonderful came out of the pain that John and Jesus experienced.

Our challenge this Christmas is to see the birth of Jesus from the perspective of His whole life. The birth was a miracle. Through it, God became human. Yet the birth was just the beginning of the Good News. God can do wonderful things through our pain, too.
12/1/2003 12:00:00 AM by Jimmy Allen | with 0 comments



Family Bible Study Lesson for December 21: What Child is This? : Monday, Dec. 1, 2003

December 1 2003 by Claude Frazier

Family Bible Study Lesson for December 21: What Child is This? : Monday, Dec. 1, 2003
Monday, Dec. 1, 2003

Family Bible Study Lesson for December 21: What Child is This?

By Claude Frazier
Focal Passages: Luke 2:4-7, 27-38

Journey to Bethlehem

Near the end of the reign of Herod the Great, Joseph and Mary traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem to take part in a census, which had been order by Caesar Augustus. Accommodations for travelers were very primitive; they had to take all their personal needs and food.

At this particular time, Bethlehem was very crowded and Mary was great with child. There was no lodging available for them. No room in the inn was symbolic of what would happen to Jesus later. The only room for Him would be on a cross.

While they were in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth. Jesus was laid in a manager and His first clothes were swaddling clothes, believed to be a square of cloth with a long strip coming from one corner, which was wrapped around and around the child.

The birth of Jesus is special because of who He is - God's Son who offers salvation to all people. It was a unique birth because Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38).

The Shepherd and Angels

A wonderful announcement from God came to a special, unsuspecting, simple group, the shepherds. An angel told them not to be afraid and where to find baby Jesus. Because shepherds could not keep details of the law to the letter, orthodox people looked down on them. Some think this group of shepherds was tending sheep used in Temple sacrifices.

The angel delivering the good news was joined by a host of angels praising God and telling of peace and good will on earth.

The Aged Simeon and Anna

After Jesus' birth and Mary's purification, Jesus was praised by a man and woman awaiting biblical prophecies.

Simeon had waited quietly and patiently on God. He had a faithful expectation and waited for the day God would comfort and deliver His people. Simeon had been promised through the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen God's own anointed king. He recognized Jesus as that King.

When he heard about Jesus' birth, he was a happy and contented man. Simeon announced that Jesus would be the cause whereby many would fall and many would rise. He knew Jesus' life would be full of sorrows and that He would meet much opposition.

A person either surrenders to Jesus or is at war with Him. Pride is most often the culprit that keeps a person from attaining salvation through Christ.

Anna was a prophetess and widow. She had known sorrows but did not let that make her bitter. Even though she was 84 years old, she never stopped hoping. She knew God would send deliverance to Jerusalem. She worshipped with fasting and prayer, and never left the Temple day or night. She never stopped worshipping or praying. Her private worship kept Anna's hope alive in old age.

If we are to be ready for Christ's second coming, it would be well for us to follow Anna and Simeon's examples.

The Wonder of the Birth

All through this lesson, we see the rough simplicity of the birth of Jesus, the Son of God. Everyone would have expected the God's Son to be born in a palace.

This brings to mind the story of a monarch who would disappear at times and walk among his people incognito. This worried his security people. They asked him to stop. He answered, "I cannot rule my people unless I know how they live."

God knows the life we live, because He lived it too. This made Jesus' birth so special. But many people get so involved with celebrating Christmas that they forget Christ is the reason for celebrating.

God's Son was born into the world for the sole purpose of dying for humanity's sins and saving those who believe in Him.
12/1/2003 12:00:00 AM by Claude Frazier | with 0 comments



Baptize certain repentant sinners or all repentant sinners? : Monday, Dec. 1, 2003

December 1 2003 by

Baptize certain repentant sinners or all repentant sinners? : Monday, Dec. 1, 2003
Monday, Dec. 1, 2003

Baptize certain repentant sinners or all repentant sinners?

The Baptist State Convention (BSC) Executive Committee's approval of the decision to remove McGill Baptist Church from the BSC is not surprising, but it is disheartening. McGill is my home church, in which godly men and women taught that Christians love because God first loves us. As a "beginner," I was awed by Jesus' incredible love for sinners, which is the primary reason His religio-political world crucified Him. I am grateful for the continuing Christian witness at McGill, when the opinion and action of so much of our Baptist religio-political world is set against them. This removal is disappointing, too, because it seems that we have set a precedent of sorts. If we do not baptize certain repentant sinners, does that mean we do not baptize all repentant sinners? And what about those on the church rolls who still live their pre-baptismal lifestyles - those who have other gods: money, power, prestige, etc.; or gossip about others unconcerned that theirs might be a false witness; those who take God's name in vain, calling themselves "Christians" without demonstrating God's love; those who fail to honor father and mother by not honoring the values of parents or fight over family inheritances; those who do not keep the Sabbath holy; or those who steal, who, for instance, use copyrighted materials and music without paying royalties (even for church use); or those who covet material possessions because our neighbors have them? Do we annul their baptisms? We'd empty the church rolls!

It appears our hands are full of stones, like those good folks in John 8, and we are not about to drop them when confronted with the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Gene Sherrill

Pilot Mountain, N.C.

12/1/2003 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



BSC takes 'firm biblical stance on repentance and baptism' : Monday, Dec. 1, 2003

December 1 2003 by

BSC takes 'firm biblical stance on repentance and baptism' : Monday, Dec. 1, 2003
Monday, Dec. 1, 2003

BSC takes 'firm biblical stance on repentance and baptism'

I would like to thank our Baptist State Convention (BSC) for taking a firm biblical stance on repentance and baptism. If one is willfully living a sinful lifestyle and will not agree that it is sin and repent of that lifestyle, then no Bible believing church should baptize that person. This subject raises a question: Just what should be required for membership in our state convention? If we accept churches that will not stand against sin and for the Word of God then why not accept churches that believe one can get to heaven by some other means than Jesus? Where do we draw the line for membership in our state convention? Some would have us believe the only requirement to join the state convention would be to send money. If that is the case we should start to accept any cult that would send a dollar all for the sake of money.

Yes, each church is autonomous, and the BSC is autonomous also. The convention did not tell a church who could be members of that local church. This church can go right on accepting whatever members they desire, in any fashion they want. The convention told this church they could not be members of the BSC, a right the convention has. Church autonomy ends at the two leather backings of the Bible.

We can and must guard our membership in the state convention. Membership should not be for sale for the sake of dollars.

Thank you General Board and Executive Committee for your biblical stand. And a big thank you to the messengers for standing strong in your voting.

Alan Davis

Clyde, N.C.

12/1/2003 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



Disappointed at Falwell's endorsement of secular politics at BSC meeting : Monday, Dec. 1, 2003

December 1 2003 by

Disappointed at Falwell's endorsement of secular politics at BSC meeting : Monday, Dec. 1, 2003
Monday, Dec. 1, 2003

Disappointed at Falwell's endorsement of secular politics at BSC meeting

I read with interest the letter concerning the message delivered by Dr. James Walker of Asheville at the BSC annual convention. I was unable to attend but do know the Biltmore Baptist Church has been blessed. Our representatives who did attend remembered his words on what makes a spiritual church - prayer and commitment. My disappointment is the fact we had Jerry Falwell as the keynote speaker at the Ministers Conference. After reading an excerpt in the Biblical Recorder, I was disappointed to see we once again allowed secular politics to become part of our convention. I have pastored for over 24 years. The Lord called me to preach the gospel in its simplest form. We cannot legislate morality; it must be a rebirth through Jesus Christ. We need to get back to basics.

The pastors that continue to preach the word have two issues to deal with. Those being the unsaved and the world, in addition to the pharisaical views of Falwell, that if we are not actively involved in secular politics we are not bold. His definition of involvement and boldness is certainly different than mine.

Steve Honeycutt

Leicester, N.C.

12/1/2003 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



'Holding churches accountable' : Monday, Dec. 1, 2003

December 1 2003 by

'Holding churches accountable' : Monday, Dec. 1, 2003
Monday, Dec. 1, 2003

'Holding churches accountable'

I am not saddened to see the Baptist State Convention join with our Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in holding member churches accountable in their doctrine. I believe, and it's the belief of many that I have spoken with, that if you wish to be called a Southern Baptist you should be in cooperation with the doctrine set forth by the SBC. We have good godly men in leadership positions in our SBC. I know God placed them there to help us remain faithful to the apostles doctrine as mentioned in Ephesians 2:20. Any church that has been expelled by the state convention must have been way-off base from Ephesians 2:20, which McGill Baptist was. The state convention has not turned its back on salvation by grace through faith, autonomy of the local church or Christ's message of grace. Rather, we have finally turned our back on unbiblical teachings. I thank God the battle is over and we are finally holding churches accountable.

Brian Self

Hendersonville, N.C.

12/1/2003 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



Pray for Judge Roy Moore : Monday, Dec. 1, 2003

December 1 2003 by

Pray for Judge Roy Moore : Monday, Dec. 1, 2003
Monday, Dec. 1, 2003

Pray for Judge Roy Moore

I am a firm believer in prayer and I would love to challenge each church in our Southern Baptist Convention to lift Judge Moore up in prayer everyday. Thank God that he refused to deny God to keep his job. He may have to go through the fire but God will be that fourth man in the furnace with him.

Oscar Hullender

Whiteville, N.C.

12/1/2003 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



Refusing funds is only option : Monday, Dec. 1, 2003

December 1 2003 by

Refusing funds is only option : Monday, Dec. 1, 2003
Monday, Dec. 1, 2003

Refusing funds is only option

Maybe this will help clear up some of the confusion surrounding the controversy concerning the rejection of funds by a church endorsing homosexuality. I had hoped the two members baptized were repentant, born again Christians and that this was all a misunderstanding. After further research, it seems the pastor of McGill Baptist Church, Steve Ayers, also affirms homosexuality in practice, according to his quotes in a Baptist Press article appearing October 6 written by Erin Curry. Ayers, when asked the question whether homosexuality is a sin told Baptist Press "a tolerance for various interpretations is necessary. The Apostle Paul was not referring to homosexuality but instead to pedophilia," Ayers claimed. He went on to say: "Certainly those two people do not feel it's a sin. I've reexamined my own beliefs about it. I'm convinced now it's certainly not what Paul was talking about. Even if it is a sin, that is between them and God."

At first glance, I was shocked that any Baptist pastor could possibly interpret the Romans 1 passage this way, but after realizing how German higher criticism and liberal theology has corrupted our pulpits, it was no surprise.

You see it never has been political; it's always been theological. The priesthood of the believer was never meant to mean the priesthood of any heresy you wish to believe. Hopefully, the pastor and church will see how wrong they are in God's eyes, repent and be welcomed back into fellowship.

Michael McGirt

Roseboro, N.C.

12/1/2003 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



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