December 2004

Editorial distracts from real issue : Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2004

December 29 2004 by

Editorial distracts from real issue : Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2004
Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2004

Editorial distracts from real issue

Tony Cartledge's article "Would Amos Agree?" exemplifies the communication problem between moderates and conservatives in the BSC. Cartledge covers up the legitimate question that conservatives are asking with a tedious discussion of yods, tittles and reflexive niphals. The real question, "Is there a minimum of commonality we must possess to live in unity?" Conservatives have never rested their case on a few obscure words in Amos, for numerous other Scriptures tell us that doctrinal or moral deviation can warrant separation, even from those whom we consider brothers. In 2 John 10-11 the Apostle tells his congregation to separate themselves from some who possess a certain variant doctrine. He goes on to tell them that by linking arms with those in error they are "/sharing in their evil deeds./" John implies that we are not only held accountable for what we believe, but also for the beliefs of those to whom we join ourselves. The editor implies that no doctrinal deviation warrants division. Surely he does not mean such. Should we stand in league with those who deny salvation by faith? Or the Trinity? At some point we must go our separate ways, because can two who are walking in opposite directions walk together.

Cartledge's position is especially confusing coming from the pen of a Protestant. Wasn't the Protestant Reformation the triumph of truth over false unity? Luther was told that division in the church would belie the incarnation. But he responded with, "Better to be divided by truth than united by error." I wonder what Dr. Cartledge would have advised Luther on the eve of Diet of Worms? Perhaps we'd still all be Catholic.

I do not mean to imply that moderates are guilty of the doctrinal deviation of 2 John 10-11. It is just to refocus on the relevant question, "What do the essentials of the Baptist faith and message really need to be?" Articles on that subject will advance the argument. Both sides of this discussion should refrain from trite discussions that only distract from the real issue.

J.D. Greear

Durham, N.C.

12/29/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



Tidings of great joy : Thursday, Dec. 23, 2004

December 23 2004 by

Tidings of great joy : Thursday, Dec. 23, 2004
Thursday, Dec. 23, 2004

Tidings of great joy

There is a great deal of controversy surrounding the effort of some to remove a favorite Christmas greeting from the vocabulary of humanity. While, in the past, "Merry Christmas" was meant to express the spirit of the real reason for our celebration of this time of the year, I believe a more appropriate saying is now evident. Have a "Blessed Christmas" is a greeting that will express to others what we who believe in the real purpose of Christmas have in our hearts and will hopefully match up with our ministries for Christ throughout the year.

We are truly blessed when we swell with joy at this time of year because God came to us in human form and provided us with a physical example of love. God's Divinity was displayed in such a loving manner with a purpose of releasing us from our sin.

Yes, there are those who don't choose to recognize the reality of God and the gift of His Son Jesus, but this should not quench the believer's joy in shouting to the world that Love is still available through Christ, at least until judgment day.

God pours out blessing when His Son is lifted up. This is the joy of the believer. Selah

H. Lucas Lloyd

Fayetteville, N.C.

12/23/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



Can N.C. Baptists walk together without unity in doctrine? : Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2004

December 21 2004 by

Can N.C. Baptists walk together without unity in doctrine? : Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2004
Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2004

Can N.C. Baptists walk together without unity in doctrine?

It was interesting to read an editorial entitled, "Would Amos agree?" (BR, Dec. 11, printed edition). In the editorial he stated, "... as if a single out-of-context scripture settles everything." I agree. That is why I am amazed when the more moderate Baptists justify unbiblical stands with proof texts. For example, I have heard it taught that women can serve as pastors based on Romans 16 and Phoebe, the deaconess. Paul commends Phoebe as a servant in the church who led and taught other women (see Titus 2). This text has absolutely nothing to do with qualifying a woman as a pastor. The other text used is Galatians 3:28, which also does not address ministry, but spiritual equality. However, the moderate camp seems to by-pass 1 Timothy 3:1-7 where the qualifications are clearly given. No one has ever been able to explain to me how a woman can be the husband of one wife. Women are vital to the church and essential to ministry, but as dictated by scripture, cannot serve as pastors.

So the question remains can N.C. Baptists walk together? Yes, if there is unity in doctrine. How can we be united, yet many churches do not support the SBC? Adrian Rogers said it clearly, "To be divided by truth is better than to be united by error."

We may have to divide in order to unite.

Michael P. McGirt

Fayetteville, N.C.

12/21/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



Did Christ leave Christmas? : Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2004

December 21 2004 by

Did Christ leave Christmas? : Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2004
Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2004

Did Christ leave Christmas?

Some people say we need to put ''the Christ back into Christmas." I didn't know He had left.

Chuck Mann

Greensboro, N.C.

12/21/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



Family Bible Study lesson for Jan. 2: Practice Integrity : Friday, Dec. 17, 2004

December 17 2004 by John Pond

Family Bible Study lesson for Jan. 2: Practice Integrity : Friday, Dec. 17, 2004
Friday, Dec. 17, 2004

Family Bible Study lesson for Jan. 2: Practice Integrity

By John Pond
Focal Passage: Titus 2:1,11-3:8

Integrity is a valued virtue. In Proverbs 11:3 we read: "The integrity of the upright guides them."

Josephus tells the story of an incident that occurred during the reign of Caligula. The Roman general Petronius was ordered to erect a statue of the emperor in the Temple in Jerusalem, but tens of thousands of unarmed Jews protested, baring their throats and insisting that they would rather die than become idolaters.

Moved by their courage, he wrote Caligula to say that honor would not allow him to place the statue in the Temple. That is courageous integrity.

The term "integrity" comes from the Latin integritas, which carries the sense of wholeness, completeness and undividedness.

Integrity comes from God

Titus 2:1,11-15

Believers are called to be a people of integrity. The early church was constantly faced with the problem of false teachings and living. Doctrines were advanced that "professed to know God, but ... denied Him" in practice.

Paul insisted that the Christian message and practice must be inseparably and harmoniously related. He told Titus to speak those things that are consistent and appropriate for sound teaching. He was to challenge all false teachings and the erroneous practice that result from them.

A lifestyle of integrity comes from the "grace of God" that has come to light, with salvation for all people.

The pagan world defined grace as an outside blessing periodically given to undeserving individuals. The biblical image is that of God's continuous covenant with mankind - His unmerited love. This love is expressed in the act of salvation from the penalty, power, presence and possession of sin. This grace-filled salvation also looks to the future "blessed hope and manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (NRSV). That is confident integrity.

Integrity enhances relationships

Titus 3:1-3

People of integrity are trustworthy. In times of crisis they demonstrate consistency and moral passion. Integrity expresses itself in our numerous and intricate relationships.

Thus, Titus reminds the faith community to be obedient and spontaneously available "for every good work." One with integrity will not slanderously "blaspheme" another person or be disruptively contentious. Instead, he or she will be gentle and fair, always showing every consideration (the biblical concept meekness and humility) for all people.

While living with integrity, we are to remember our former lifestyles. We, too, have been ignorant, disobedient, purposely led astray, enslaved to our desires and passions. Rather than caring for others, we greedily detested one another.

God empowers us to act with integrity

Titus 3:4-8

We live in an environment of tolerance and relevance where integrity is desired but difficult to find or experience. We live in a culture of self-aggrandizement that paradoxically craves integrity, but God in His grace saved us and empowered us to live with integrity.

Let us remember not just our salvation, but especially "the genuine goodness and generosity and covenant love of God" (literal sense) directed to man.

Let us remember God's mercy, which wrought our deliverance. It is through His gracious pro-activity that we have been redeemed, regenerated and renewed, spiritually empowered to live lives of integrity. His Spirit has been liberally poured out upon us, enabling us to carefully devote ourselves to doing what is good.

We are enabled to live lives of good result - "good and profitable to everyone." That is biblical integrity.

12/17/2004 12:00:00 AM by John Pond | with 0 comments



Family Bible Study lesson for Jan. 9: Be Pure : Friday, Dec. 17, 2004

December 17 2004 by John Pond

Family Bible Study lesson for Jan. 9: Be Pure : Friday, Dec. 17, 2004
Friday, Dec. 17, 2004

Family Bible Study lesson for Jan. 9: Be Pure

By John Pond
Focal Passage: Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 13b-20

The question of moral and sexual purity is not new. In the Old Testament, Job makes the extraordinary statement: "I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I look upon a virgin?" (Job 31:1 NRSV). In his agony and soul-searching he recognized the necessity for a pure heart and imagination.

As members of the community of faith, we must live according to the biblical standards of moral and sexual purity. The contemporary worldview, which embraces a philosophy of personal freedom and denies the concept of absolute truth, challenges the biblical perspective that calls for self-control and purity in sexual and moral issues.

Pure standards

Romans 12:1-2

Following the doxology of Romans 11:33-36, Paul introduces a new paradigm. Challenging the mores and philosophies of Greek and Latin culture, he enjoins Christians to "present (their) bodies as a living sacrifice." The word "present" is a term used by priest to describe the placing of a sacrifice on the altar. Thus, because our spirits belong to God through salvation, we must surrender or yield our whole bodies as living sacrifices to God.

Second, we must not be conformed to this age. In other words, we must not assume an outward expression patterned after this world, which is not representative of what has been experienced internally as a child of God.

Last, we must be transformed through the renewing of the mind. Paul's paradigm demands a surrender of the believer's thought-life and spirit. Salvation becomes more than a past action; it is a daily yielding of the whole self to God, which is only logical and reasonable. Through this continuous surrendering and transformation the believer tests, examines and finally discerns what is the good and well pleasing and complete will of God.

Pure change

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Today's pleasure-saturated culture is much like the environment of the early church. The Corinth of Paul's day was notorious for its vices and unrestraint and the church was not immune to its pressures and conditions.

As believers, we are called to be morally and sexually pure. Paul confronts the Corinthian believers with the affirmation: "Don't you know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God?" If this is true, then why act like the unrighteous?

Who are the unjust? Paul refers to those who are sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers and swindlers.

"And such were some of you ...," he said. The good news is that Christ can change us. We can be "washed, sanctified and justified in the name of Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." This speaks of transformation - new life, new behavior and a new standing before God. This also speaks of forgiveness.

Pure ownership

1 Corinthians 6:13b-20

Detached sexuality is deceptive. To reason that our bodies are ours alone and we are free to do whatever we wish with it without repercussions is dangerous. It cannot be a matter of indifference. Sexual activities bespeak of relationships. For the Christian who has surrendered his whole self to God, experiencing the regenerating change of salvation, his or her body belongs to God and God alone. Sexual sin damages the human spirit.

Thus, Paul reminds us that the body is not made for immorality (porneia), but for the Lord. Paul's counsel is "Flee immorality!"

I remember seeing former churches in Europe and Canada that had been turned into restaurants and schools, and it troubled me.

Paul reminds us that our bodies are temples or sanctuaries of the Holy Spirit. Unlike literal church buildings, we are not for sale - we were bought at a price by God, our new master. Like sanctuaries, our bodies have one supreme purpose: to glorify God.

12/17/2004 12:00:00 AM by John Pond | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for Jan. 2: Growing What You Have Sown : Friday, Dec. 17, 2004

December 17 2004 by Jeffery Wisdom

Formations lesson for Jan. 2: Growing What You Have Sown : Friday, Dec. 17, 2004
Friday, Dec. 17, 2004

Formations lesson for Jan. 2: Growing What You Have Sown

By Jeffery Wisdom
Focal Passage: Matthew 13:24-30

For two years, I have watched Bermuda grass overtake my yard. At first, there was just a small area next to the mailbox. Then, the runners grew to every corner of the yard.

I watched, unaware of what my lack of attention would do. Every week it grew a little more, and I lost a little more of the fescue that had made for a beautiful front lawn.

Only when I decided to rescue my fescue, did I begin to realize how hard it was going to be. Some have half-heartedly called Bermuda grass "devil grass," and for good reason. It is the devil to get rid of.

Discussing my situation with several lawn care pros, I was told that I had three options.

One was to continue to ignore it, and let it grow, allowing it to totally over-run the yard.

Second was to use an herbicide to kill the grass and its roots. That meant killing my entire front yard.

Third was to try and out-grow the Bermuda with fescue next spring. To do that, I would need to cut the Bermuda as close to the ground as possible, thatching it with a thatching mower, and over-seeding the area with fescue.

Of the three options, I chose the third. I am trying to out-grow the Bermuda grass with fescue, but I will not know if I have been successful until next spring and the summer grasses begin to grow.

The devil in tares

The parable of the wheat and the tares is a similar tale to the one above. In it, "the devil" (v.39) is responsible for seeding "devil grass" in a field of wheat "the Son of Man"(v. 37) has planted. The tare, possibly an annual grass called darnel, looks similar to wheat, but cannot be distinguished until it fully ripens alongside the wheat (v. 27-28).

Only when "the servants" (v. 27) appear alarmed at the growth of the tares does the householder offer a strategy to deal with the bothersome plant. The strategy the gospel offers is more than how to deal with weeds in your yard, or tares in your wheat. It is a way of looking at the evil in the world and how best to deal with it.

Three options

Trying to come to terms with evil, as a part of our existence, is not easy.

For some it is easier to simply ignore the problem and to overlook the sin and injustice around them. This approach to evil only allows it to grow un-debated, unquestioned, and to spread like any devil grass to the four corners. It also neglects the Biblical responsibility to shine a little light and sprinkle a little salt in a world that needs both (Matt. 5:13-16).

Another approach is to try to eradicate it. Christian broadcasters, publishers and some preachers would have you believe that you are to pull evil up by its root and "defeat the devil." God's approach to evil in the world is more measured - more patient.

The third approach (vv. 29-30), just mentioned, is patience. Like salt and light, use your faith as seed and over-seed the world where you live. You might not see immediate results, but you have a better chance of out-growing the weeds around you there.

You will never be able to rid the world of evil. That is for another time and another place (vv. 39-42).

12/17/2004 12:00:00 AM by Jeffery Wisdom | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for Jan. 9: The Rise of the Kingdom : Friday, Dec. 17, 2004

December 17 2004 by Jeff Wisdom

Formations lesson for Jan. 9: The Rise of the Kingdom : Friday, Dec. 17, 2004
Friday, Dec. 17, 2004

Formations lesson for Jan. 9: The Rise of the Kingdom

By Jeff Wisdom
Focal Passage: Matthew 13:31-33

Rich is not how much you have, or where you are going, or even what you are. Rich is who you have beside you.

(Author Unknown)

Someone

I am not sure how to thank those individuals who have stood beside me over the years. All I can do is take the seeds they have thrown my way and let them find root in my faith, my actions and dreams. We all are indebted in some way, shape or fashion to someone whose life has inspired us, challenged and corrected us. They are the "someones" in the story.

The sower of the seed in Matthew's tale is anonymous, but is not unknown. The story reads as if the name of the sower is not as important as the seeds he throws. Anonymity only ensures that the sower could be anyone - everyone. It could be you. It could be me.

The seed

The seed in the parable is small. The mustard seed is not literally the smallest of all seeds - botanists attribute that honor to certain species of orchids. It was, however, the smallest seed with which Jesus' listeners would be familiar.

Like most seeds, the mustard seed goes unnoticed until given a chance to grow. Seeds like generosity, gratitude, encouragement, benevolence, giving and support can offer safehaven to those who feel insignificant and alone.

A friend of mine had a conversation with a friend of his on a day when he felt small and all alone. The friend offered a word of encouragement, which, with only six words - "I have always believed in you" - was the seed that reminded him that he was not small and insignificant, but was still valuable and important.

Other "seeds of the kingdom" can be found in scripture's listing of spiritual fruit that may grow in the life of the believer. These are the seeds of "peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Gal.5: 22-23).

Each seed grows and becomes more to the one to whom the seed is given, but first it has to be sown.

The size of the kingdom

The size of the seed illustrates that the kingdom of God is built on small, almost unnoticed acts that grow to become something larger.

In an article from the Charlotte Observer, written by David Perlmutt and subtitled: "When Good Deeds Multiply," Antoine Richards was caught late one night without the correct change to pay for his dinner. Walking across the street, he tried to get change to pay his bill, but the store did not have the money Richards needed. When a stranger gave him the money he needed to pay his bill, Richards was shocked by the gesture, but thankful.

The day before Thanksgiving, Antoine was in the grocery store line when a lady in front of him could not get the store's ATM machine to read her card. With every try, the woman grew more frustrated and embarrassed. Finally, Antoine reached into his pocket and pulled out $40.00 and gave it to her. Walking out the store together, Antoine had a chance to tell her his story. A small act of generosity had taken root and become a larger one.

Evangel

Gratitude and appreciation, then, are attitudes that mark the kingdom of God and best describe the focus of this parable.

The kingdom of God is a gift of God, often invisible to our eyes, a realm of relationship which God makes available through the seed of grace.

We all are the beneficiaries of a relationship with Christ. He stands beside us believing in each of us, paying the price for each of us. In turn, you and I are to tell others about Christ, and provide a friend who will stand by them.

12/17/2004 12:00:00 AM by Jeff Wisdom | with 0 comments



A gift beyond price : Friday, Dec. 17, 2004

December 17 2004 by Tony W. Cartledge

A gift beyond price : Friday, Dec. 17, 2004
Friday, Dec. 17, 2004

A gift beyond price

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

Sometimes the measure of a gift is not in its intrinsic value, but in the circumstances under which it was received. A wobbly pottery mug formed and painted by a child, for example, has worth that goes far beyond the cost of the clay.

Gifts that are made my hand, carried from afar, or chosen with special care will be treasured long after more expensive presents-for-the-sake-of-giving-presents are relegated to the attic.

Here is the story of one such gift.

Joyce Dover Whitten, who enjoys collecting old Coca Cola memorabilia, lives in Rising Sun, Indiana. I resonated with Joyce's story immediately, because I have my own small collection, not of antique collectibles, but of ordinary soft drink bottles, cans, hats and T-shirts with Coke or Pepsi logos written in Armenian, Hebrew, Arabic, Thai, and the like. Not only are they cheap souvenirs of overseas travel, but they ignite cherished memories of distant people and places.

Several of Whitten's Coke tins and bottles stand out because they were gifts from her missionary sister, Jean Elliott. Jean and her husband, Larry, were born in Shelby and Oxford, respectively. They served with the International Mission Board for a quarter century in Honduras, where many Baptist State Convention volunteers came to know and love them.

Last March, the Elliotts were re-assigned to Iraq, where they were to be involved in humanitarian missions such as providing clean drinking water, Larry's specialty. Jean promised Joyce that she'd try to find an Arabic Coke bottle for her.

After spending some time in Baghdad and getting to know many Iraqis, the Elliotts began traveling to other parts of the war-ravaged country, looking for opportunities to serve.

On March 15, Larry and Jean visited the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Together with Karen Watson, an IMB missionary from California, and David and Carrie (Niki) McDonnall, recent appointees from Texas, they surveyed the area for potential humanitarian projects.

As the party drove toward the McDonnalls' home for dinner, they stopped for a traffic light. Without warning, unknown assailants blasted the car and its occupants with a hail of gunfire, then sped away. All were killed except for Niki McDonnall, who suffered severe injuries, but survived.

In mid-June, McDonnall and Scott Elliott, Larry and Jean's son, were scheduled to speak during an evening session of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Indianapolis. Joyce Whitten attended, along with her husband, Ron. They sat with Scott Elliott and his wife, Leia, during an afternoon press conference at which McDonnall responded to questions about the tragic event.

Just before the evening session, Leia put a bag into Joyce's hands.

Inside the bag was her sister Jean's camera case.

And inside the camera bag, wrapped securely in an Iraqi newspaper, was a bottle of Coke with an Arabic logo.

Joyce later learned that Jean had searched for the Coke all over Baghdad, but had been unable to find one. Finally, she had procured the prize bottle during a visit to the northeastern city of Irbil. She had wrapped it carefully and left it with a friend, planning to pick it up when she and Larry returned to Baghdad on March 16.

Jean took an unexpected detour and went on to her eternal home instead of returning to Baghdad, but two months later, her gift for Joyce reached its intended destination.

With its unexpected arrival, a common Coke became a priceless treasure, a lasting reminder of a sister's love, even an echo of Christmas itself.

In this season of giving, we are reminded of how the eternal Christ became the baby Jesus, born in a common crib as a gift beyond reckoning, an eternal emblem of God's saving love, the mediator of perfect grace to imperfect people of every tongue and nation.

Jean Elliott's thoughtful gift of a Coke from afar was a small reflection of a larger commitment that she, Larry and others have shown - a commitment to give their lives in service to others, and even to give up their lives that all may know God's gift that is beyond price and beyond imagining.

May their example inspire us to accept, proclaim and devote our lives to this inestimable gift of God, a gift that comes to us by surprise, wrapped securely in swaddling clothes, and cradled in a manger.

12/17/2004 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments



Powering up : Friday, Dec. 17, 2004

December 17 2004 by Tony W. Cartledge

Powering up : Friday, Dec. 17, 2004
Friday, Dec. 17, 2004

Powering up

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

I recently gave my first ever "PowerPoint" presentation.

For years, I resisted learning anything about PowerPoint. I was afraid that I'd get so caught up in designing artsy slides that I'd be tempted to skimp on their actual content. I've seen presentations in which the slides danced so delightfully in dissolving from one to the other that I forgot all about what the speaker was saying.

But, the need for a digital presentation was recently thrust upon me.

The good folks at Oxford Baptist Church invited me to come on a Wednesday night and talk about missions in Armenia, showing pictures and sharing stories from my two weeks in the country last June.

In the old days, I would have used a slide projector. After returning from a summer in Indonesia in 1971, I purchased a cheap Agfa model, filled a couple of its trademark vertical carousels with slides, and tramped all over the state of Georgia with it.

I still have the projector and even own a spare bulb, but it's been almost 20 years since I've used slide film.

For that matter, I haven't used any film at all for the past five years: we were among the first to board the digital photography bandwagon.

Digital pictures can be turned into physical slides, but at considerable cost. So, it seemed best to install PowerPoint on my laptop computer and learn enough to create a minimalist slide show with a few dozen pictures from Armenia.

Preparing the slides turned out to be labor-intensive enough that I was not tempted to explore any fancy effects.

While working on the presentation, it occurred to me that despite having traveled to and reported on mission work in South Africa, Southeast Asia, Honduras, Alaska, New York, Vermont and a few other places - taking thousands of pictures along the way - this was the first time I'd been invited to tell the mission story in person and use some of those many pictures that don't make it into the Biblical Recorder.

I hope it won't be the last: I'm powered up and ready to point.

12/17/2004 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments



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