December 2004

Would Amos agree? : Friday, Dec. 3, 2004

December 3 2004 by Tony W. Cartledge

Would Amos agree? : Friday, Dec. 3, 2004
Friday, Dec. 3, 2004

Would Amos agree?

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

Baptists are famous for not always seeing eye-to-eye, but remaining partners nonetheless. We're familiar with the adage that if you put three Baptists in a room and ask them a question, you will get at least four opinions. An unspoken assumption is that the three Baptists with their four opinions remain together in the room, even with their differing views.

This quintessentially Baptist trait could be lost if those who inhabit the Baptist heartland do not rise up to defend it. Increasingly, we hear calls for a division in the camp, an animated insistence that Baptist people cannot live and work together unless they sit at a single table where a uniform diet of doctrinal, and ecclesiological fare is served.

A number of voices, including some that once were raised in dissent from a minority position, suggest that contemporary dissenters should surrender their voices and simply go away. Some who are no longer in the majority at convention meetings feel so beaten down that they are tempted to do so.

Frequently, the call for division is accompanied by a quotation of Amos 3:3, as if a single out-of-context scripture settles everything.

I would like to rise in defense of Amos and explain why his prophetic word has been misused and abused.

Let's consider the passage in question. First, the context. Amos, the first of the writing prophets, was called from the farm to prophecy against 8th century Israel. In Amos 3, the prophet reminds the Israelites that they are called as the elect of God, and are subject to divine judgment for their sins (vv. 1-2).

Some apparently doubted Amos' word, so he stresses the reliability of the prophets to hear and to announce God's intent (vv. 3-8). To do so, he asks a string of seven rhetorical questions in vv. 3-6, each illustrating a cause and effect relationship. Would a lion roar if he has no prey? Is a bird likely to fall if it hasn't been snared in a trap? Would a trumpet blown as a warning be ignored by a city's residents?

Having set the stage, Amos moves to his main point: God would not act without revealing His plans to His prophets (v. 7). In v. 8, Amos insists that the Lord has indeed spoken, so that Amos has no alternative but to proclaim the prophetic word. He then turns to describe the coming destruction in the remainder of the chapter.

From a brief look at the larger context, it is clear that v. 3 plays a supporting role as one of several rhetorical questions in service to the main point. Some commentators describe v. 3 as an allusion to God's meeting with Moses and a call for Israel to walk with God, but that seems to be stretching Amos' intent.

Secondly, let's take a look at the verse itself. Those who cite Amos to defend division generally quote the verse from the King James Version, which says "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" This translation may have been understood properly in the 17th century, but unfortunately, it does not communicate well to those who speak contemporary English.

The Hebrew word translated in the KJV as "be agreed" is the niphal perfect form of the root y'd, which means "to appoint" or "to designate." In the reflexive niphal form, the verb means "to meet at an appointed place" or "to meet by appointment." Clearly, the verb has nothing to do with persons agreeing on specific issues; only with agreeing to meet at a certain time or place for the purpose of walking together.

Thus, the New American Standard Version reads "Do two men walk together unless they have made an appointment?" The New International Version has "Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?" The New Revised Standard Version renders it "Do two walk together unless they have made an appointment?" Even LifeWay's Holman Christian Standard Bible says "Can two walk together without agreeing to meet?"

Careful study, then, makes it quite clear that Amos 3:3 makes no comment on the need for fellow believers to agree on all matters of biblical interpretation. The meaning of the words, even when read out of context, speaks only of having the same willingness to meet and walk together.

Herein lies the problem for contemporary Baptists. When proponents of division refuse to walk together with those who hold differing views, they make Amos 3:3 a self-fulfilling prophecy, but in a different way than they imply. It is true that two cannot meet and walk together if either one of them rejects the appointment. It is not true, however, that doctrinal or ecclesiological uniformity is a prerequisite for such agreement.

Amos would surely come out of his sandals if he knew how his rhetorical warning to Israel has been turned into a dictum of division for Baptists.

The most recent meeting of the Baptist State Convention signaled the hope that Baptists in North Carolina might continue to walk together, for there were many who stood up for the free Baptist tradition of unity in diversity, of cooperation without conformity.

It is my hope and prayer that they will remain standing, and urge others to join them in agreeing to walk together toward the common goal of serving the Christ we celebrate in this holy season.

I hope you will agree.

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



Thanks for healthy, effective convention : Friday, Dec. 3, 2004

December 3 2004 by Jim Royston

Thanks for healthy, effective convention : Friday, Dec. 3, 2004
Friday, Dec. 3, 2004

Thanks for healthy, effective convention

By Jim Royston
BSC Executive Director-Treasurer

In an annual meeting filled with outstanding messages, singing and inspiration, important business and moving presentations, John Butler, board chair of our newly incorporated Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, Inc. gave Suzie Tipton credit for the best sermon.

Suzie suffers severely from cerebral palsy and she addressed the convention crowd by answering questions from her wheeled bed. In spite of Suzie's physical limitations, Camp Mundo Vista Director Suzanne Reece hosted her for a week of camp last summer. Suzie attended the convention with her mother and sister to say thank you.

When Suzanne asked Suzie the most important thing she learned at camp, Suzie struggled to say, "Not to judge anyone."

So while the message from Anne Graham Lotz garnered the most attention, the message from a little girl in a wheeled bed likely pierced the most hearts.

It was a moving moment during an outstanding "missions mobilization" presentation, one of several presentations that clearly and meaningfully demonstrated the resources available to North Carolina Baptist churches through their state convention.

Messengers responded overwhelmingly to approve incorporation, so we are now the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, Inc. That sentence is probably all you'll ever see that will make such a distinction. We'll continue to operate as we have to do the work we must.

David Horton grew mightily into his role as president of our convention and I'm proud of the job he and officers Phyllis Foy and Brian Davis did in presiding at our meeting. They were re-elected without challenges.

I'm grateful to their churches and families for supporting them in their important work in the larger convention.

The large number of man-hours - including volunteers and staff - required to produce the annual meeting is almost overwhelming. I appreciate those who labored to make it happen.

Despite the inconvenience of orienting ourselves to one facility for Monday night and to another for Tuesday and Wednesday, I heard no complaints from participants. Our staff, working with coliseum staff, could not begin to set up the Joel Coliseum until after the basketball game.

Almost one in three messengers responded to the survey asking where they would like to meet in annual session, and overwhelmingly, they indicated they like a central location. More on that later.

I look forward to our 175th anniversary annual session next year and to the next 12 months to move forward in common ministry for an uncommon purpose.

12/3/2004 12:00:00 AM by Jim Royston | with 0 comments



Family Bible Study lesson for Dec. 19: Praise Jesus, our Savior : Friday, Dec. 3, 2004

December 3 2004 by Robert Hunter

Family Bible Study lesson for Dec. 19: Praise Jesus, our Savior : Friday, Dec. 3, 2004
Friday, Dec. 3, 2004

Family Bible Study lesson for Dec. 19: Praise Jesus, our Savior

By Robert Hunter
Focal Passage: Luke 2:8-20

It is approaching Christmas and many people associate this time with a baby and a manger, as they rightly should. But, there seems to be less and less association of this grand birthday with any daily impact on our lives. We easily think about vacations and gifts, family gatherings and parties, plays and trees.

What about the hope that is announced to us by the first Christmas messengers? What about the praise that is offered to us on that first Christmas? This day, in fact the whole season, is filled with reasons for hope and praise.

Praise Him for His salvation

Luke 2:8-12

A significant Greek word used here for "all people" in verse 10 is laos, from which we get our word laity. The idea is that this Savior is for all people who accept the provision. In other words this gift is available to all people who will receive it.

Suppose this Christmas that you decided to refuse all the gifts offered to you. You would lay them at your feet and not open them. How much would you benefit from such action? You would not benefit. You have to open the gift and receive it to enjoy its effect.

The same is true of Christ, whom you must receive in order to gain any benefit.

The gift He offers is not a temporal gift that will soon wear out. It is the gift of salvation that has eternal dimensions. Accept Christ as your Savior. If you will receive or if you have already received then you can praise Him for His provision of salvation.

Praise Him for His peace

Luke 2:13-14

Note also that a provision of peace is offered to the people of God. We are a people who say we long for peace but seem to spend much of our time in conflict. From 1965-1975, 58,000 lives were lost in Vietnam. From 1950-1953, 55,000 lives were lost in Korea. From 1941-1945, 450,000 lives were lost in World War II. We have yet to determine other loses. When will all this end? When will we come to our senses?

The angels tell us the answer in this passage. In verse 14 they tell us that peace will happen when we give glory to God. Have you ever wondered why treaties don't last and why summits fail? There is a conditional clause to peace. We must give glory to God in the highest.

Let's spend this Christmas praising God for who He is and for the provisions He has provided for us, for His peace. That would be the greatest thing we could do this season and would finally begin to bring the world to its senses. Let's praise God for His peace.

Praise Him for His coming

Luke 2:15-20

The provision of salvation and the provision of peace would not be available were it not for His coming. Everything we are or ever hope to be hinges on that moment that God took the form of a baby and entered our world. The Messiah had come, even to those who were despised. They demonstrated the proper response, one that we must recreate in each of our own lives. They took immediate action upon hearing such good news.

The shepherds were informed that the baby was to be found in a manger in Bethlehem so they went to find out about this person. They went to worship and offer all that they were. They went to praise God for His coming.

We need to offer to God, we must offer to Him, the praises He deserves. Let our greatest gifts to each other and our families this season be offers of proper praise for our Savior. We have good news to share with the rest of the world. We need to be bold in its proclamation.

I heard at a General Board meeting that in 365 days 2.3 million Americans will die without Christ. We must tell them that Christ was born for them. He has provided the salvation they need. He has provided the peace they long for. Then they too can praise Him for His coming.

12/3/2004 12:00:00 AM by Robert Hunter | with 0 comments



Family Bible Study lesson for Dec. 26: Announce Jesus, the Source for New Life : Friday, Dec. 3, 2004

December 3 2004 by Robert Hunter

Family Bible Study lesson for Dec. 26: Announce Jesus, the Source for New Life : Friday, Dec. 3, 2004
Friday, Dec. 3, 2004

Family Bible Study lesson for Dec. 26: Announce Jesus, the Source for New Life

By Robert Hunter
Focal Passages: John 4:7-10, 13-15, 28-30, 35-36, 39-42

I have noticed that religious beliefs become public when they might win a vote. Former President Jimmy Carter was hauled over the coals by the media for even mentioning being "born again." President Bush has been criticized for "carrying the banner of the cross."

Society says to keep one's religious beliefs quiet and private since one belief system is as good as the next. Society also says that we have no business trying to convince another of our beliefs or our faith. Yet, many other members of society are so dissatisfied. They look in all the wrong places for answers to their dilemma. Our world would benefit greatly from Christians announcing Jesus and what He has to offer, as did the woman in today's text.

Announce the need for new life

John 4:7-10,13-15

I have already mentioned that society is dissatisfied. This Samaritan woman is evidence of what society at large represents.

She is in need of the water that will satisfy her thirst. She comes at noontime, not the usual time, so that she might avoid the gossip and jeering associated with her life style.

That also represents many today who do not come to the church for answers.

Jesus asked her for a drink and she responded with amazement that He would ask her for anything since He was a Jew and she a Samaritan - each race was encrusted with generations of hate and suspicion.

Jesus then made the unexpected offer to her - "living water," the "gift of God." It could be hers for the asking. "How could He offer me anything?" she thought. "He has nothing to draw with." But then with her questions she comes to the conclusion that we must all come to, namely, Jesus can quench the thirst. "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst..."

Announce your testimony of new life

John 4:28-30

There is nothing simpler and more effective than telling someone what Jesus has done for you. That is what the Samaritan woman did. She sensed the need to go tell others what she had found. She "left her water pot" and hurried back into the city to tell so others might experience what she has experienced. She met a man who knew all about her. This was a woman with a very soiled reputation bringing forth that exciting news. Thankfully for the Samaritans it did not fall on deaf ears. They "came to Him" or kept coming to Him as it might be translated. People were excited about the change and had to see for themselves.

It is sad that we often lose our excitement about meeting the Christ.

Announce the urgency for new life

John 4:35-36

We must carry the news now just as the Samaritan woman did. She didn't wait to some other day or more appropriate time or even after she had cleaned up her life. She went right then.

One Sunday service is going to be the last. The last verse of an invitation hymn is indeed going to be the last verse. The fields are ready for harvesting but there seem to be no laborers. Sometimes it appears that all our laborers have gathered under the shade arguing over which method of harvesting is better. In fact, they are not even arguing over which method, but who is going to drive the harvester.

Announce the results of new life

John 4:39-42

Many believed because this woman shared with her people. She faithfully told what happened to her. The text says many "believed in Him" because of this woman's witness. How many Samaritans would have come to Christ that day had she remained silent or kept the great news to herself?

You know the answer. It is the same answer to the question: How many will come to know Christ today if you remain silent?

Survival experts remind us that you can only survive four or five days without water. Life without water is impossible. Eternal life without the Water of Life will also be death.

12/3/2004 12:00:00 AM by Robert Hunter | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for Dec. 19: Let Heaven and Earth Combine : Friday, Dec. 3, 2004

December 3 2004 by Wayne Proctor

Formations lesson for Dec. 19: Let Heaven and Earth Combine : Friday, Dec. 3, 2004
Friday, Dec. 3, 2004

Formations lesson for Dec. 19: Let Heaven and Earth Combine

By Wayne Proctor
Focal Passage: Matthew 1:18-25

In the week prior to Dec. 25, we will hear and perhaps tell the story of Jesus' birth many times. Luke and Matthew both wrote of this great event, writing from different perspectives and recounting different aspects of the Christmas miracle.

Let us today look at Christ's birth through the eyes of Mary and Joseph, two people who were obviously very much in love. Some traditions suggest that Joseph may have been considerably older than Mary, but we can not be sure.

According to the culture and the times, they and their families had made all the proper plans. One of the most important stages of marriage was the "betrothal." While we sometimes use the word "engagement" to describe this pre-wedding stage, it really doesn't suffice here. A betrothal was a pledge not easily revoked or dissolved. In fact, to release one from the pledge required an actual letter of divorcement. Further, if Joseph had died during this time, Mary would have been considered a widow. And, sexual intercourse was forbidden until after the wedding ceremony.

One of the most often asked questions, as it related to Mary and Joseph, is "when did they legalize their marriage?" The answer is unknown by month, but sometime between the discovery of Mary's pregnancy and the beginning of the trip to Bethlehem.

When they learned that Mary was pregnant, they were both terrified. Their wonderful plans had gone awry, and Joseph was prepared to go the divorce route.

Before he could act, however, an angel of God (presumably Gabriel) convinced him to see it through. This was the message: don't be afraid, God had impregnated Mary, the son to be born would be named Jesus, He would be the Messiah, and all this (and the events to come) was the fulfillment of prophecy (Isaiah 7:14, 8:8,10).

A Great Miracle

The two miracles that dominate the New Testament are the virgin birth of Jesus and His resurrection from the grave. Neither is normal to our experience of birth and death. Yet, they are foundational to our belief and teaching.

I personally choose to believe, even though I don't fully understand.

Matthew presupposes the virgin birth in this passage. Luke writes more from Mary's perspective as she grappled with the facts of her pregnancy (Luke 1). Perhaps it's best for us to consider how heaven and earth did indeed combine in this miracle.

For hundreds of years God had been planning and announcing this event. He selected the right people from the correct family tree. He surrounded them with both human and celestial friends who would announce and explain God's plan, and encourage them through the process. God fulfilled His first phase of the salvation plan by becoming Emmanuel, "God with us," in Jesus the baby, Jesus the Son of God.

The final phase would be found in Jesus' death and resurrection.

The Joy of Birth

Perhaps another helpful way to look at this is through the eyes and experience of first-time parents.

I saw this recently in a young couple in our church. They experienced conception and life. They watched and felt that life as it grew, and then the day for birth finally arrived. They experienced both cautious concern and unbelievable anticipation.

Then, their baby was born. They rejoiced and eventually were able to hold their first-born in their arms.

A miracle had happened right before their eyes. And because of that life, that miracle, that gift from God, their lives will never be the same.

Likewise, Mary and Joseph experienced the same in the birth of their child, their son and God's Son.

We, too, can experience that joy in our own salvation event and in the daily joy of living the Christian life. And, that is our great miracle.

12/3/2004 12:00:00 AM by Wayne Proctor | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for Dec. 26: A Gift for a King : Friday, Dec. 3, 2004

December 3 2004 by Wayne Proctor

Formations lesson for Dec. 26: A Gift for a King : Friday, Dec. 3, 2004
Friday, Dec. 3, 2004

Formations lesson for Dec. 26: A Gift for a King

By Wayne Proctor
Focal Passage: Matthew 2:1-12

The actual date for Christ's birth is unknown. Dec. 25 is the date observed by most Protestants and Catholics. However, some churches, such as the Eastern Orthodox (Jan. 6th), observe it later.

The Roman emperor Constantine set the date of Christmas on Dec. 25 sometime in the early fourth century, A.D. The date coincides with the pagan feast of Saturnalia.

The word "Christmas" is not found in the Bible but comes from "Christ" and "mass" (religious observance to commemorate Christ's birth).

One of the most common aspects of the Christmas celebration is the giving and receiving of gifts, as was first practiced by the Roman Christians and continues to be practiced in modern times. The real foundation of this practice, however, goes back to the Bible. In Matthew we find the description of the magi who brought precious gifts to the Christ child.

Wise Men Visit

Magi were some of the wisest men alive. They were not necessarily kings, and there were not necessarily three of them, but their knowledge prepared them for their involvement in this worship of the Christ child.

These wise men excelled in the study of the stars (astronomy and astrology), philosophy, science, medicine and religion. Dispersed Jews living in the land of the magi may have told them of the scriptures that promised a universal king.

So, with the star guiding them, they traveled first to Jerusalem and then to nearby Bethlehem, where they found Jesus with His mother, Mary. It is generally believed that Jesus was between one to two years old at this time.

The magi brought three different types of valuable gifts, and they presented to the Christ child gold, frankincense and myrrh. We find prophetic meaning in the gifts: gold for royalty, incense for the bitter suffering of Christ, and myrrh as both a perfume for worship and an embalming lotion for our Lord's burial.

An Evil King Plots

Historians describe Herod as a king gone mad. Certainly the biblical witness validates that perception. Herod ruled for 37 years and was around age 70 at this time.

He had shown some strength as a leader, but could never be fully trusted. He killed three of his sons, a wife and numerous relatives. Anyone he perceived as a threat to his throne was eliminated.

Augustus so distrusted Herod that he said it would be safer being Herod's hog than his son.

These facts help us understand how the cunning and deceitful man could destroy innocent children in his crazed attempt to kill the child Jesus.

One of the most obvious lessons recorded by Matthew is God's protective power. The magi were divinely protected. They could have fallen in Herod's trap and never returned home, but God's angel sent them away in safety. Likewise, Jesus and His family were spared, and at the warning by the angel to Joseph, they hurried away to safety in Egypt.

Have a Giving Christmas

The greatest danger for Americans is to get caught up in the commercialization of Christmas, rather than in the simple act of giving. We don't need to go into financial debt to "buy" Christmas. The amount of gifts doesn't equal greater love.

Here's a suggestion I learned from a well-respected pastor and his wife. Figure out how much you spend on yourself this Christmas. Then, rather than buying so many things, write a check to a worthy mission cause, such as the International Missions Board, Southern Baptist Convention, Global Missions, or the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. That would be a gift worthy of our King.

12/3/2004 12:00:00 AM by Wayne Proctor | with 0 comments



Unintended consequences : Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2004

December 1 2004 by

Unintended consequences : Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2004
Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2004

Unintended consequences

Quoting Richard A. Swenson M.D. in his book Margin: "We do not know what we do not know, and we cannot foresee the unforeseen. We can never fully anticipate the future - it will always hold surprises." Swenson goes on to quote from Mankind at the Turning Point: "Many of the crises of the present have positive origins. They are consequences of actions that were, at their genesis, stimulated by man's best intentions." Which Swenson then follows with: "Best intentions, however, do not guarantee problem-free outcomes."

I wonder if the "progress" supposedly being made in our modern-day churches is in reality causing a whole new set of long term problems our "best intentions" are seeking to correct. Some examples:

  • Are our children & youth ministries and their myriad of activities giving license for the neglecting of parental responsibility when it comes to the rearing of their children in God's ways (Deut 6:7)?
  • Is trying to minister to the MTV-generation through contemporary beat-filled music, PowerPoint and other video projections, taking us away from being people of simply relying on the preaching of the propositional truths of the Bible to convey God's message rather than through the use of subjective imagery and flesh-pleasing music (1 Cor. 1:21)?
  • Are our multiple worship services and ministries that isolate our children and youth from adults into their peer-oriented groups during corporate worship times destroying a sense of corporate-ness of the body meeting in unity to worship as a local body of believers?
  • We complain of a generation and culture that doesn't "respect" the church as previous generations did - but has our desire to be "casual" in our worship and to make things "fun" for the children, in essence, traded reverence for irreverence in the Lord's House?
  • I wonder.

    David Childers

    Wilkesboro, N.C.

    12/1/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



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