December 2004

Christmas tingles with life : Friday, Dec. 17, 2004

December 17 2004 by Jim Royston

Christmas tingles with life : Friday, Dec. 17, 2004
Friday, Dec. 17, 2004

Christmas tingles with life

By Jim Royston
BSCNC Executive Director-Treasurer

Even in the dead of winter, people everywhere tingle in anticipation of new birth during Christmas.

Christians have a special relationship with this holiday. It is our holiday. God came to earth in the form of a baby boy whose name would be called both Emmanuel (Matt. 1:23) and Jesus.

We can't blame those who don't know the Jesus of Christmas for getting caught up in the spirit of things - the giving, singing, gathering, special events and symbols we treasure to remind us of that earth shattering night. The tinsel and music reflect the glitter and song of the angels' announcement to the shepherds. Gifts reflect the wise men's humble adoration of their new king.

But the voice of God announcing His arrival was only the crackling cry of a baby's first breath, muffled in the shuffling and snuffling of cattle and sheep.

That's the voice lost in a holiday taken over by those who love the glitter of store windows over the dust of a manger bed; who think it more important to send gifts than to worship and who "hate the holiday" because of the stress and pressure of keeping up with the secular expectations.

Christmas is not a hurry and worry, buy and die time. Christmas is a slow down, enjoy the kids, write a letter, read a card, worship with your friends time. Participants in our Christmas web poll declared "family togetherness" to be their favorite Christmas activity. Shopping didn't get a single vote.

We encourage Baptist State Convention staff to save a few vacation days for Christmas and we close the building from Dec. 23 to Jan. 2 so they can enjoy an extended time with family after what is a very harried fall season for us.

I pray you, too, will consciously hit the brakes on the holiday "Polar Express" and instead, express your love to family and friends and to God for His greatest of all possible gifts.

Worship the King. Enjoy your friends and family. Give in gratitude. Rejoice, for unto you is born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Your Baptist State Convention staff joins me in extending our very deepest wishes for a blessed, safe, memorable, meaningful and merry Christmas.

We thank God upon every remembrance of you and pray that 2005 will be a blessed year.

12/17/2004 12:00:00 AM by Jim Royston | with 0 comments



Former leaders probably 'still miffed' : Friday, Dec. 10, 2004

December 10 2004 by

Former leaders probably 'still miffed' : Friday, Dec. 10, 2004
Friday, Dec. 10, 2004

Former leaders probably 'still miffed'

I would just like to make an observation about the article (BR web, Dec. 9) "Former SBC leaders advocate support of BWA." Truth be known, most of those former "leaders" are probably those that are still miffed over the "conservative resurgence." I myself wouldn't put too much stock into what they think, seeing that some, even from our own state, are not true supporters of the SBC; kind of like the reporting from this "news" paper.

Matt Ledbetter

Glenville, N.C.

12/10/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



'One-size mold does not fit all' : Friday, Dec. 10, 2004

December 10 2004 by

'One-size mold does not fit all' : Friday, Dec. 10, 2004
Friday, Dec. 10, 2004

'One-size mold does not fit all'

Unwittingly, I drove past one of our deacons plowing his field. Next Sunday was a day of reckoning: "You drove past me and didn't wave." I explained, "I didn't see you." He rebutted, "Mr.(former pastor) would walk across the field to talk with me." I countered, "I didn't have my glasses on." Pointing to his specks, he informed me, "I wear mine!" He thought he had cut me off at the pass. My ministerial cup ran over. I eyeballed him: "Don't try to put me in somebody else's mold."

According to the Recorder, two conventions in other states are planning to enlarge the mold of rules and requirememts for membership. "Also proposed are rules and procedures to enforce the new standards." I reckon it's a matter of submit or exit.

Conventions and preachers ought to be wary of trying to put everybody in the same mold. A one-size mold does not fit all.

Years ago at Wake Forest College, a student propped his feet on the stove. The professor said, "son, you're gona burn your brains." He replied, "we're not all made alike, you know."

Final answer: "No, thank God."

Crate Jones

Durham, N.C.

12/10/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



Praise God for preachers - men and women : Friday, Dec. 10, 2004

December 10 2004 by

Praise God for preachers - men and women : Friday, Dec. 10, 2004
Friday, Dec. 10, 2004

Praise God for preachers - men and women

Thank you for the coverage of the news in the Biblical Recorder. In the Nov. 29 issue under the heading "Proposed identity," I want to address the statements that were made by Rev. Phil Addison of Stoney Point Baptist Church in Taylorsville. I, too, came from the background of "old-fashion preaching, praying, shouting camp meeting influence." I cast my lot with that crowd and after 55 years of preaching, I have found no reason to change. I also believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God, truth with no mixture of error, but our interpretation can sure be confused.

Where in the scripture is a woman forbidden to pray in public? I thank God for preacher Anne Graham Lotz, and I praise God for men and women who are born again, dedicated to our Lord Jesus Christ, filled with the Holy Ghost, and preaching the gospel to the lost and dying, sin-saturated, hell-headed world in which we live.

Let's study again the great Pentecostal sermon in Acts 2:14-36, noting especially verse 17.

Until then, let us go on preaching, praying, singing and shouting.

Harold L. McKinnish

East Flat Rock, N.C.

12/10/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



Thanks for giving and going : Friday, Dec. 10, 2004

December 10 2004 by

Thanks for giving and going : Friday, Dec. 10, 2004
Friday, Dec. 10, 2004

Thanks for giving and going

This letter is to congratulate those volunteers in North Carolina who invested their lives in the people of the Ukraine by way of the North Carolina/Ukraine Partnership during the 90's. You must know you are a part of what has happened in that beautiful country in recent weeks as the people have rallied in protest against corruption and a faulty election.

You encouraged and loved those who had been under a government of "no God" for 70 years. Many you were ministering to were struggling with deep fears of the future.

God has blessed them through you. Your strength, joy and hands-on work is still there. The hope you gave them has blossomed into a new generation of pastors and lay people with a vision for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

They were in Kiev in the snow and cold with the protesters serving hot drinks, giving warm clothes, providing a tent for warmth and refreshment and most of all a Christian witness.

Thank you for giving and going.

Mary P. Zedick

Durham, N.C.

12/10/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



Lottie Moon Christmas Offering : Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2004

December 8 2004 by

Lottie Moon Christmas Offering : Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2004
Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2004

Lottie Moon Christmas Offering

As a Southern Baptist pastor for 25 years, the good Lord has given me the unique privilege of serving churches both small and large, in rural areas, in town and in a large city. In each of these churches this pastor has been wonderfully blessed each year at Christmas, to observe God's faithful people giving so generously to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. These precious folks in the pew are to be commended for their commitment to missions and evangelism. They come in all shapes and sizes, from various backgrounds, with different levels of education and socio-economic status. But all have the same heart and mind when it comes to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world.

So this pastor just wants to say thank you Southern Baptists and especially North Carolina Baptists for your faithful giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Only heaven will reveal the precious souls that have been saved because you cared enough to give. Thank you for being such a wonderful example of what it means to be like Jesus.

Ed Yount

Conover, N.C.

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



N.C. witness to people of Ukraine : Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2004

December 8 2004 by

N.C. witness to people of Ukraine : Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2004
Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2004

N.C. witness to people of Ukraine

This letter is to congratulate those volunteers in North Carolina who invested their lives in the people of the Ukraine by way of the North Carolina/Ukraine Partnership during the 90's. You must know you are a part of what has happened in that beautiful country in recent weeks as the people have rallied in protest against corruption and a faulty election.

You encouraged and loved those who had been under a government of "no God" for 70 years. Many you were ministering to were struggling with deep fears of the future.

God has blessed them through you. Your strength, joy and hands-on work are still there. The hope you gave them has blossomed into a new generation of pastors and lay people with a vision for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

They were in Kiev in the snow and cold with the protesters serving hot drinks, giving warm clothes, providing a tent for warmth and refreshment and most of all a Christian witness.

Thank you for giving and going.

Mary P. Zedick

Durham, N.C.

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



Midnight madness: A first-person account of the first Christmas : Monday, Dec. 6, 2004

December 6 2004 by Ephraim son of Abijah, of Bethlehem

Midnight madness: A first-person account of the first Christmas : Monday, Dec. 6, 2004
Monday, Dec. 6, 2004

Midnight madness: A first-person account of the first Christmas

By Ephraim son of Abijah, of Bethlehem

Madness it was! Madness! Madness in the midnight. So we were thinking. Madness!

Please excuse my speaking. I am not talking English very good, but I am wanting to tell you what I was seeing and hearing in the midnight time.

So much time ago now. So much ago but still like yesterday. My brothers Jared and Lamech and I were keeping our flocks out in the fields all the time, because the weather was being good. We were not bringing them home in the nights. We were sleeping in the fields and getting wet with the dew.

We were taking turns keeping watch over the sheeps, so some of us could be sleeping. It was my time to be waking up and watching the sheeps, but I wanted to be sleeping because it was in the middle of the night.

For keeping myself awake, I was counting the sheeps, but that made me want to be sleeping again. So I was thinking I would be praying the Shema, so I did: "Be listening, oh Israel, the Holy One your God is being one God, and you will be loving the Holy One your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strongness."

So I was praying. But I was still being very sleepy - I mean sleepy. So I was remembering on the scriptures that are being my favorite. I was thinking about stories for David, how he was watching the sheeps when Samuel called him for being king of Israel. I was remembering how Amos was watching over the sheeps until God called him to be a prophet over Israel. I was wondering if the Holy One, Blessed be He, would ever be speaking to me while I was watching my sheeps in the night.

I was looking up at the stars when the sky was suddenly exploding. There was a great booming and a shining and I was jumping on the ground and hiding my face. Then it was becoming quiet except for a humming in the air, and I was looking up and there was in front of me an angel.

I am being on my word that this was true. My brothers were waking up now, so they can tell you so. I had never been seeing angels before, but I head the rabbis talking about them. They said Isaiah had been seeing angels, and Ezekiel, and even father Abraham. I was thinking that this great shining man was looking like an angel. What else could he be?

The old women in my village were saying that angels sometimes were still appearing, but I was not believing it until that night. When the angel came I was jumping back onto the ground and covering up my head because I was afraid. My brothers were also being afraid. We thought the sun must be coming up in the midnight because the light was so bright all around us.

While we were still hugging the ground, the angel was speaking to us. He was saying: "Do not be being afraid, but look - I am bringing you good news about great joy for all people. On this very day, in the city of David, there is being born to you a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord."

My heart was dancing inside my chest. The Messiah was being born! The Messiah we have been hoping for these many years! The Messiah was being born into our own little town, into Bethlehem, where King David once lived. It was really too much for my poor mind to believe, and my brothers were looking at each other like they were not believing it, also.

Then the angel was raising his voice and he was saying: "And this is being a sign for you - you will find the baby all wrapped up in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."

We were thinking, "In a manger?" The great Messiah is being born in a hay manger where they feed cows and donkeys and sheeps? How could this be happening? But we were not having long to be thinking, because all around in the air above the fields there was a popping and a crackling and a fizzing like the stars were all blowing up.

Then I was looking up and there was being a whole sky filled up completely with angels, and they were all beginning to shout "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace among those he is favoring!"

We were just standing there with our jaws hanging down because the angel voices were sounding like beautiful music in our ears and we didn't know what else to be doing. And we were still standing there when the angels started popping and disappearing one after the other until we were being left all alone.

I was looking at Jared and Lamech was looking at me and all at the same time we were saying: "Let's go see who is sleeping in the stables!" Then we were leaving the sheeps behind and running back to Bethlehem and there were people sleeping in just about every stable in town, but there was only one where they were having a baby. We were finding it down behind Lumas' inn.

We were apologizing for coming in the middle of the night but they were already awake because of the baby, and they were being very nice to us, the man who was Joseph and his wife who was named Mary. We were telling them about the angels and what the angels were telling us about the baby being the Messiah of Israel, and they were being amazed at our saying.

Then they were telling us that angels had been coming to them in Nazareth and telling them that they would have a baby even though they had not been sleeping together because they were not yet married. The angel had been telling them that this baby would be from the Holy One, and they would be naming him "Jesus" because he would be saving his people from their sins.

"Jesus" is how you are saying the word "Iesus," which is how the Greeks are saying "Yeshua," which is meaning "salvation."

We were hardly believing that the Messiah was being born that very night in that very stable, but all of us had been seeing and hearing the angels, so we were believing. Then we were going back to our sheeps, and we were singing and dancing and giving praises to the Holy One for he had been counting us worthy to be seeing the new Messiah.

Now we are having big joys and we are telling all the people good news about the Messiah being born in Bethlehem. Some people are believing us, but some people think we have been spending too much time with the sheeps.

My friends, I am here today to be telling you that the baby Jesus was becoming the grown-up Messiah of Israel, and there was much more that he was doing, but I must be telling you that on another day.

It was like madness in the night when the angels were coming to us, but now it is being gladness in my heart. I am hoping that you are knowing his gladness, too.

Madness it was, and gladness! Such a night!

(EDITOR'S NOTE: this imaginative retelling of the Christmas story is based on Luke 2:8-20, as reported by Tony W. Cartledge.)

12/6/2004 12:00:00 AM by Ephraim son of Abijah, of Bethlehem | with 0 comments



Try a Christmas monologue this year : Friday, Dec. 3, 2004

December 3 2004 by Tony W. Cartledge

Try a Christmas monologue this year : Friday, Dec. 3, 2004
Friday, Dec. 3, 2004

Try a Christmas monologue this year

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

In search of a different idea for a Christmas sermon or Christmas Eve service? Dramatic monologues can help the congregation view the season from a different perspective.

Monologues work best when memorized and presented by someone dressed in period costume, but one can also effectively employ them by simply asking the congregation to use their imaginations as they hear the story told. The monologue below imagines what the first Christmas experience might have been like for Joseph. A monologue from the perspective of a shepherd and other Christmas resources can be found at www.biblicalrecorder.org.

Joseph's soliloquy

Matthew 1:18-25

You know me. I'm the guy leading the donkey on your Christmas cards.

I'm the tall kid in your children's Christmas pageants - the one who stands there in his father's bathrobe and doesn't have any lines.

I am the Christmas man who is often seen but seldom heard.

My background

I am Joseph -

Joseph, son of Jacob, son of Matthan, son of Eleazar, son of Eliud, son of Achim, son of Zadok - oh, you don't need to know the rest. Suffice it to say that I can trace my family back through many kings of Israel, even to David, even back to Abraham. Do you like my pedigree? As distinguished as it may sound, you will note that I am descended of sinful patriarchs, sinful kings and sinful nobodies! And I am a sinful man. That is the way of life.

I am a sinful man, and a common man - I am poor, but honest. I work with an ax and a hammer, a saw and a drawshave. I know the difference between cedar and eucalyptus and fir, and I know which wood is good for what use. I live with sawdust in my hair and sweat on my face, but that is the way of life for me.

I have also been a confused man, and sometimes an angry man. Perhaps you already know why: the Lord Almighty Himself took my simple life and made it complicated. The Lord God invaded my privacy, interrupted my plans, and interfered with my marriage. I suppose that is the way of life, too.

My wife

And it all started because I fell in love - and I am still in love, with Mary. Mary, daughter of Heli, son of Matthat, son of . . . oh, never mind.

Mary, wife of Joseph. That is what matters now.

I guess it was her eyes that first took me in. How could it be anything else? In my world, the way women dress, their eyes are about all you can see. But her eyes were not like other eyes I had seen. Her eyes could dance. Her eyes were deep. Her eyes were dark passageways leading to a mystery that I had to explore.

Mary was young, as all Jewish brides in my world are young. But she liked me well enough, and her father was willing, and I could afford the dowry, and so we were betrothed. Becoming engaged in my world is like an endurance test before marriage. Betrothal is so official and legal that a divorce is required to break it - and it can go on for a year before the wedding, before the marriage can be consummated. You get all of a husband's responsibilities and none of the benefits. It is good preparation for marriage. Sometimes, that is the way of life.

So we were betrothed, and I swore to keep myself pure and faithful as her husband-to-be. It was not an easy time because I am not always a patient man, but at last the days grew short and our wedding day approached. There are three crooked cartwheels and a ruined yoke in my workshop that can tell you how distracted I was as the time for our marriage drew near.

My quandary

And there is also a broken ax handle that can tell you how I felt when Mary came to me one day and said: "Joseph, I must tell you something." I smiled, because I always smile when Mary comes near.

"Tell me, my darling. Tell me what has brought you here. Tell me why your eyes are not dancing today. Tell me what is on your heart."

"Joseph," she said, and she almost choked with some emotion that was hidden from me, "Joseph, I am going to have a child!"

"I know that, my love! Surely you will have a child. We will have many children!"

"No, Joseph. No. You don't understand. I am going to have a child. I am ... I am ... I am pregnant, Joseph. I am with child now." And then she flinched, as if she expected me to swing at her, but I could not lift a hand. I could not raise my arm. I could barely stand. I could hardly speak.

"Mary, what are you saying? Mary, how can this be? Mary, how could this happen? Mary, how could you do this to me?"

Suddenly all the sawdust on the floor found its way into my stomach, and a hammer pounded inside my head as an awl twisted into my heart.

Mary was still talking, of course, trying to explain, but it was a long time before I could hear what she was saying. I kept listening for the other man's name, but she kept talking about God.

Yes, she was pregnant, but no, she had not been unfaithful. How could that be?

Yes, she was still a virgin, and no, it was not impossible, because the signs were there. She knew she was pregnant. And God was the father. God was the father.

Let me ask you something. Would you believe a story like that? Would that story bring comfort to your heart? Would that answer your questions?

The story she told was strange from beginning to end. An angel of the Lord came and spoke to her. The Holy Spirit of God overshadowed her. A child was conceived within her. A holy child. A male child. A child who would become the Messiah of God, sent to redeem His people.

Of course. Such an obvious explanation! And my sawhorses can pull a plow! I am a simple man, but I am not simple minded. How could she expect me to believe a story like that? And what did she expect me to do?

I know what I intended to do. I intended to get a quiet divorce and take her to another town where she could have the baby in peace. I didn't know how Mary could do this to me, but I did not wish to bring shame upon her by making the matter public.

When Mary left, her eyes were swimming and the front of her robe was spattered with tears. I could see the disappointment in her eyes when she knew that I doubted her. I could see the hurt in her eyes when she thought I would divorce her. I could see the fear in her eyes when she thought I would take her away and leave her.

There were tears on my tunic, too. But what else could she expect me to do? Believe that she was pregnant by the Spirit of God?

"Go home, Mary. Go home and let me think about this. Yes, I still love you, I think. I need to think. This is not the way life is supposed to be. I will talk to you again tomorrow. Goodbye now, Mary. Let me think."

Let me think. I had to think thoughts that no one has thought of before. If Mary was lying with this amazing story, then I was just one more jilted fianc�e. But if she was telling the truth - if she was telling the truth - then the fate of the Lord's Messiah lay in my hands. The burden of responsibility was on my shoulders. Would I give Him a name and a family and a home, or would I leave Him quietly in another town?

My dream

These were not thoughts I ever intended to think, but I thought them throughout the day and into the night, until they finally chased me into a stuporous state that I suppose was sleep. I expected bad dreams, I guess. But the dream I had was beyond bad - or good. It was beyond anything I can put a name on, because it came from beyond the world of my experience.

An angel of the Lord came to me.

"How did I know it was an angel?" you ask. If one ever comes to you, you will know. An angel came to me, and called my name. "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid! Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which is conceived in her is indeed of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a son - and you shall call His name 'Salvation!' - 'Jesus' - for He shall save His people from their sins."

And then he was gone. No time for questions. No time for explanations. No time for Joseph. Just a simple message from God that Mary's tall tale was truth. I did not understand. I did not ask for this, but I chose to obey, because that is what my faith told me to do - and my heart. We are called to trust and obey, even when we do not understand. That is the way life is.

So I took Mary as my wife, and I lived with her but apart from her for all those many months until the baby was born one night while we were in Bethlehem for a Roman census. That is the night you remember - the night I led the donkey into town - the night I could not find poor Mary a decent room - the night I stood quietly by while the Son of God was born to my wife.

My Christmas

For you, that is the story of Christmas. Shepherds kneeling. Angels singing. Joseph standing silently in the corner while radiant light beams from the manger scene. For me, Christmas is far more than that first night in Bethlehem, but still, I will never forget that corner. I would not have been anywhere else.

There was light born in Bethlehem's stable that night. Light that stole my heart, and quickened my soul. Neither Mary nor I understood the kind of Messiah Jesus was born to be, and we struggled throughout our lives to come to terms with what it meant to be the parents of God's child, guardians of the light of the world.

I did not live to see what happened to Jesus. Mary did, but many times she must have wished it had been otherwise. This is the truth and the judgment, that light has come into the world, and men have loved darkness rather than light. Yet the light of God's Son overcame the darkness and blazed a bright path into the future.

Even now, He calls you to follow. Even now, He calls you to come stand in the corner with me, to behold the light of truth, to take hold of the light of life, and to hold forth the light of God's salvation to all who will believe.

12/3/2004 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments



Going the extra meal : Friday, Dec. 3, 2004

December 3 2004 by Tony W. Cartledge

Going the extra meal : Friday, Dec. 3, 2004
Friday, Dec. 3, 2004

Going the extra meal

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

When I have time for recreational reading, I often turn to Terry Pratchett, a British writer with a delightful sense of humor and a wonderful way with words. I marvel at the way his mind works. Sometimes, even when reading alone, I'll laugh out loud over an unexpected turn of phrase - such as his description of a rotund police officer who was "always willing to go the extra meal."

With Thanksgiving just behind and Christmas still ahead, I suspect that many of us can identify with the concept of "going the extra meal." Meeting family and church obligations can sometimes lead to an extra lunch or a double dinner, and they're not usually small.

The thought of "going the extra meal," an obvious take-off on Jesus' command to go the extra mile, led me to remember those who need help finding a meal each day. Food pantries and soup kitchens have needs throughout the year and probably wish somebody would get motivated to help feed the hungry in March or July, because the need for sustenance is not seasonal.

The Christmas season is a time when Baptists typically think of providing needed spiritual food, as well. In particular, we receive special offerings to support international missions, desiring to spread the bountiful news about Jesus, who described Himself as both the bread of life (John 6:33, 35, 48, 51) and One who gives the water of life (John 4:14).

The gospel stories make it very clear that Jesus cared deeply about both physical and spiritual needs, giving special attention to the poor and the sick. The accounts we have of His teachings leave no doubt that He expects us to care and to act in the same way.

The whole idea of "going the extra mile" implies sacrifice, going beyond what is expected, beyond what is comfortable.

How long has it been since we gave a truly sacrificial gift or went without dinner so that others might receive the Bread of Life?

The time is ripe to go the extra meal.

12/3/2004 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments



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