January 2001

N.C. Baptist Men helps others on mission

January 19 2001 by Jimmy Allen , BR Assistant Editor

N.C. Baptist Men helps others on mission | Friday, Jan. 19, 2001

Friday, Jan. 19, 2001

N.C. Baptist Men helps others on mission

By Jimmy Allen BR Assistant Editor The number of N.C. Baptists serving as short-term missionaries in 2000 was enough to populate a city the size of Kinston. About 25,000 volunteers headed to places as far away as Bosnia and as close by as Grifton to serve others by building church facilities and houses, teaching Bible studies and developing relationships.

The response of N.C. Baptists to neighbors rebuilding from Hurricane Floyd flooding elevated the number of missionaries during 2000, but the number without Floyd relief would still be 20 times higher than a decade ago, said Richard Brunson, director of N.C. Baptist Men.

As Floyd relief begins to recede this year, N.C. Baptists are still heading to other areas of the world to express their faith through action. During 2001, about 1,000 Tar Heel Baptists are expected to serve short term in Alaska where the Baptist State Convention (BSC) has a partnership. About 1,500 are expected to participate in international mission trips, most of them to Honduras and Southern Africa, where the BSC has partnerships. Another 1,000 people will work with Baptist Men's medical and dental buses. And 10,000 are expected to complete N.C. Baptists' effort of rebuilding about 1,400 homes in Eastern North Carolina.

N.C. Baptist Men is well respected for its missions work, according to observers.

"Whenever we can get them for a partnership, we celebrate," said Tom Warrington, an associate director for the volunteers in mission department at the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) International Mission Board.

Vocational missionaries in Honduras were so impressed with N.C. Baptists' response to flooding caused by Hurricane Mitch they sought the Tar Heels in developing a partnership, said Bill Cashion, director of the volunteers in mission department at the IMB.

Warrington sees three reasons for N.C. Baptists' strong reputation - one, Baptist Men is seen as a well-organized group; two, N.C. Baptists fulfill their commitments; and, three, N.C. Baptists are a joy to work beside.

"We look forward anytime we can get North Carolina engaged in something," Warrington said.

The reputation reaches other groups, as well.

In December, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship announced the opening of a missions office in Raleigh. John Derrick, the associate missions coordinator for volunteers and for missionary training, cited N.C. Baptist Men as a reason for locating in the state.

"North Carolina Baptist Men have set a very tremendous model for being involved in volunteer and partnership missions," Derrick said. "They have set a great example of how that can be done."

Brunson sees several reasons for the success of N.C. Baptist Men's mission efforts.

"We're still a neighbor helping neighbor state," Brunson said. When a family's home is burned, people rally around the family. "That's part of North Carolina culture. That's a big part of North Carolina Baptist culture."

A second reason is related to the BSC. "We have a good system in North Carolina that values volunteers in the Convention," he said.

Third is a system in place that he calls "volunteer friendly."

"Because of that we could handle 1,900 people in two years," Brunson said, referring to the number of N.C. Baptists who traveled to Honduras to help in Hurricane Mitch relief. "People had a great experience."

Many of the volunteers who traveled to Honduras had never been outside of the United States, he said. If the system had not been volunteer friendly, the volunteer missionaries could have had a bad experience and carried home bad reports to their congregations. Instead, they carried back enthusiasm which has fostered the development of N.C. Baptists' mission efforts, Brunson said.

The fact Hurricane Floyd hit in North Carolina's backyard has resulted in more exposure to the opportunities of serving others.

About 20,000 people have responded since the flood in September 1999. Another 10,000 are expected this year.

"Something's happening and Floyd brought it on," Brunson said.

Before Floyd, N.C. Baptists were prepared with about 30 recovery units sponsored by churches and associations. Since Floyd, the number of units has increased to 70, he said.

"It's exploded and that's great," Brunson said.

No other state has more than 10 units, he said.

The effects of participating in missions can be noticeable in churches.

"It's more dramatic when you go to a Honduras," Brunson said. "People can just see God's working. A lot of time in regular, routine, daily life it's easy not to experience God's working."

One of the strengths of N.C. Baptist Men is the network that has been created, said Cashion.

"I would say, undoubtedly the response of North Carolina Baptist Men ranks with the very best of the SBC," he said.

Brunson recalled N.C. Baptists' response to Hurricane Floyd. While other denominations called on state government to respond, N.C. Baptists were providing food and helping "mud out" houses that had been flooded.

"We thought it was our job," he said. "We weren't asking the state to do it."

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1/19/2001 12:00:00 AM by Jimmy Allen , BR Assistant Editor | with 0 comments

A 'need to read' book

January 19 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

A 'need to read' book | Friday, Jan. 19, 2001

Friday, Jan. 19, 2001

A 'need to read' book

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor Sarah Lanier was a friend and classmate of mine at the University of Georgia many moons ago. Sarah grew up as the child of Southern Baptist missionaries in Israel. Early on, she wanted to devote her life to helping missionary families. She has spent most of her career with Youth With a Mission (YWAM), an international, interdenominational missions organization that has 15,000 full-time missionaries at work in our world. Sarah now travels the world as a consultant, and one of the things she does best is to help people of different cultures understand each other. In a new book, Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot- and Cold-Climate Cultures, Sarah translates a lifetime of international living experience into an easy to read primer for understanding cultural differences. Her distinction between hot- and cold-climate cultures includes allowances for ethnic origin as well as for geography. Israel's population, for example, includes "cold-climate" immigrants from Europe along with "hot-climate" peoples indigenous to the Middle-East.

The basic distinction is that hot-climate cultures focus on establishing and maintaining relationships, often through indirect means of communication, while cold-climate cultures tend to be task-oriented and direct. The book demonstrates how this dichotomy plays out through tendencies toward direct or indirect communication, individualism or group identity, and the relative values of inclusion or privacy.

The book also explains differences between "high-context," or formal, cultures that have long-standing traditions, and "low-context" cultures that have less history and thus a more informal approach to relationships.

Cultural conditioning leads to differing concepts of hospitality, time and planning that offer distinct challenges to those who want to forge good relationships with peoples from various ethnic or geographical backgrounds.

Understanding cultural differences is important for Christian witnesses, who may have trouble "connecting" or even cause unwanted offense when unaware of societal taboos or customs in a given culture.

The book is inexpensive and would be an ideal text for a mission or study group.

Every volunteer who works with international people in the United States or who plans an overseas missions endeavor would benefit from a careful reading of Foreign to Familiar.

For more information, contact McDougal Publishing at (800) 962-3684.

(EDITOR'S NOTE-Watching my weight? It's 213. A reminder: Jan. 31 is the deadline to guess when I'll reach my goal of 195. Closest entry wins a Biblical Recorder shirt.

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1/19/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Become an abolitionist

January 19 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Become an abolitionist | Friday, Jan. 19, 2001

Friday, Jan. 19, 2001

Become an abolitionist

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor It sounds old fashioned, doesn't it? The idea of being an abolitionist, of speaking out against the evils of slavery. There was a time when such voices were desperately needed in our own country because there was a time when our forefathers bought, sold and used men, women and children as if they were cattle. People with hearts and souls just like ours were stripped of their dignity, ripped from their families, often forced to live and work in brutal conditions. Even those who had kind "masters" and decent living conditions had no freedom to decide their own fate.

Courageous people who believed in basic human rights risked their reputations, their fortunes and even their lives to bring an end to organized slavery in the United States. I, for one, am thankful for their vision and their sacrifice.

There is still a time when voices are needed to speak out against slavery - and the time is now. The London-based Anti-Slavery International organization estimates that as many as 27 million people in our world still live in slavery.

Charles Jacobs, who is president of the American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG), says, "Most people believe slavery no longer exists, but it is still very much alive. From Khartoum to Calcutta, from Brazil to Bangladesh, men, women and children live and work as slaves or in slavelike conditions. Indeed, there may be more slaves in the world than ever before."

The continued existence of slavery is not widely known. One reason is that it rarely fits our image of people being captured, shackled and brought to a new world in the crowded holds of slavers' ships.

But that does not mean free people are no longer being captured and sold into slavery.

In the Sudan, Muslim raiders from the northern part of the country regularly attack Christian and animist strongholds of the south, capturing entire villages and trucking them north for sale as slaves. Sudan and the nearby country of Mauritania are countries where slavery is both accepted and protected.

In a Dec. 5 article carried by Baptist Press, Patrick Goodenough reported that Susan Rice, then U.S. assistant secretary of state for Africa, recently visited the rebel-held southern part of the Sudan and met with former slaves. She expressed outrage after hearing testimonials of women and children who had been "captured, enslaved, held, beaten, tortured and raped" by Arab militiamen.

Goodenough, who is the London bureau chief for CNSnews.com, reported that Rice said her mission was to show the world that slavery exists, even though the Sudanese government and some partners of the European Union might pretend otherwise.

The same pretense can be found among U.S. politicians, according to Jacobs, who was quoted by CNSnews as saying, "International politics are stifling America's natural response."

Neither the United States nor the United Nations wants to make the oil-rich Arab world angry, so any public outcry against atrocities in the Sudan and Mauritania are muted at best.

But these are not the only places where slavery flourishes. In Southeast Asia, an entire sex-tourism industry (fed mostly by western and Japanese travelers) has emerged. Governments look the other way as seedy brothels fill their rooms with girls and boys as young as 8 years old. Many of the children are collected by brokers who offer "loans" to poor families in return for "work" to be performed by their children. The children are then shipped to the brothels, where their debt is never paid until they are no longer useful.

In India, unscrupulous "employers" use similar tactics to force children as young as 5 into working 18-hour days in damp pits where they operate the looms that manufacture Oriental carpets. This problem is so endemic that a consortium of European and Asian rights groups began the RugMark Campaign in 1993, licensing humane exporters and manufacturers to affix a "RugMark" label certifying that their carpets are made without the use of child labor.

In Bangladesh, deceptive labor contractors regularly promise poor parents that they can get good jobs for their children in the Persian Gulf region, where their wages will be sufficient to help support their families back home. The children end up in bondage in the Gulf states, forced to work as camel jockeys or sex slaves for no income at all. Often, they are never heard from again.

Slavery is a worldwide evil, and Christians have a responsibility to God and to humanity to speak out against it. A good place to begin is the AASG Web site (www.anti-slavery.org), where visitors can sign a U.N.-bound petition and find practical suggestions for combating slavery.

We cannot ignore the injustice of slavery just because it was also widespread in Bible times. Jesus taught us better than that.

Let us pray, let us speak out and let us work to end this ongoing crime against all that is right and good.

There is still a need for abolitionists.

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1/19/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

I'm counting on Baptist Men

January 19 2001 by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-treasurer

I'm counting on Baptist Men | Friday, Jan. 19, 2001

Friday, Jan. 19, 2001

I'm counting on Baptist Men

By Jim Royston BSC Executive Director-treasurer N.C. Baptist Men is well known for its network of volunteers involved in hands-on missions, especially in the area of disaster relief. Last year we estimate that almost 25,000 volunteers (men and women) were involved in some type of mission ministry under the auspices of our state Baptist Men's office. (There are probably an equal number of volunteers from our churches involved in projects not promoted by our statewide Baptist Men's organization as well). When you think of hands-on volunteer missions, Baptist Men is second to none. Without diminishing anything from this spectacular record of volunteer service, especially in disaster relief efforts, I want to challenge N.C. Baptist Men to demonstrate equal energy and commitment to another critical area of need within our state denomination: Become personally involved in winning the lost and developing believers.

These two goals have become the centerpiece of everything I hope to accomplish as executive director-treasurer. As I begin my fourth year in this position, I am more committed than ever to reaching our state for Jesus Christ and developing current and future believers into true disciples.

These challenges are not just "preacher" goals. God calls everyone to be a witness. Evangelism does not just belong to the clergy.

With the same zeal Baptist men and women build churches (brick and mortar), I am challenging them to help us birth new churches in strategic areas across our state. If we were to return to a church-to-population ratio of 30 years ago, we would need an additional 1,500 or so churches in existence today. I'm hoping we can have a net gain in five years of just 10 percent of that number - 150 churches.

Rather than start churches that may, or may not, stay in existence, I'm interested in birthing new healthy churches that will, in turn, begin other churches every five years or so. I would like to see us add 125,000 new members to our N.C. churches in the next five years.

As a matter of record, it took us 25 years - from 1974 to 1999 - to add approximately that same number of new Baptists. North Carolina grew by 21 percent in the last decade. We grew by less than 2 percent.

Baptist Men's Day in our churches is Jan. 28. As we take time to celebrate the accomplishments of these dedicated volunteers, we need to move forward with our basic task of winning the lost and developing believers. More than ever, North Carolina is a mission field. And Baptist lay people need to be enlisted as local missionaries.

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1/19/2001 12:00:00 AM by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-treasurer | with 0 comments

Between Prophet and King

January 19 2001 by Ken Vandergriff , 1 Kings 18:1-18

Between Prophet and King | Friday, Jan. 19, 2001

Friday, Jan. 19, 2001

Between Prophet and King

By Ken Vandergriff 1 Kings 18:1-18 We've all been caught between the proverbial "rock and a hard place," where all our choices are less than desirable, or where choosing the right thing results in uncomfortable repercussions. Such occasions challenge our ethics, our determination, our faithfulness. We like to believe that faithfulness solves problems, producing calm and comfort. Sometimes it does. And other times faithfulness brings problems, as 1 Kings 18 shows. It will be helpful to set the historical and literary context of this narrative. King Ahab ruled the northern kingdom of Israel from 869-850 BC. Ahab was even more evil than his father, Omri, who had been more evil than all the kings preceding him (16:25, 30). Ahab's sin centered on his flagrant worship of the Canaanite god Baal(16:31-34).

Ahab's story is part of a lengthy historical work known as the Deuteronomistic History, stretching from Joshua through 2 Kings (excluding Ruth). The History was edited after the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. to answer the question, "Why did God do this to us?" The historians found the key in the book of Deuteronomy: When Israel was faithful, God blessed them; when they were unfaithful, God cursed them (11:26-28; 30:11-20). Surveying the 700 years from Israel's settlement in Canaan under Joshua to 587, the historians found a repeated pattern of unfaithfulness; no wonder God had destroyed and exiled His people. Ahab's story is one element of this larger narrative. It is notable how much attention the historians give to this one king (chapters 16-22); likely he epitomizes how debased the religious and social life had become.

The story in 1 Kings 18 actually begins in 17:1. Elijah, introduced for the first time here, abruptly appears and announces that it will not rain again until he says so. Since Baal was worshiped as the storm god, who controlled life and fertility by sending rain, Elijah's word is a direct challenge to Canaanite religion. Following his announcement, Elijah went into hiding for three years. After three years of drought and famine, God sent Elijah back to confront Ahab (18:1-2).

Our lesson's text focuses on Obadiah (not to be identified with the prophet of the Book of Obadiah), an administrator in charge of Ahab's estate. Obadiah lived daily between the rock and a hard place. He served a Baal-worshiping king, yet he himself is loyal to Yahweh, the god of Israel, as his very name suggests (Obad-yahu means "servant of Yahweh"). When Jezebel, wife of Ahab, murdered Yahweh's prophets, Obadiah, endangering his own life, hid 100 other prophets in caves and supplied provisions to them (18:4, 13). While music, art, literature and preaching have extolled Elijah, Obadiah was an unsung hero of the faith, unobtrusively yet effectively risking for God.

As if negotiating the terrain between King Ahab and his own faith were not dangerous enough, Obadiah's predicament became even more perilous. Instructed to inform Ahab of Elijah's return, Obadiah resisted. He knew the king's rage; if Elijah disappeared again after Obadiah informed the king of his presence, Obadiah would be killed. When he protected the prophets of God from Jezebel, Obadiah's actions were clandestine and he was in control. Now he was instructed to perform a public action that placed his well-being in Elijah's hands. Not only that, Obadiah may have realized that Elijah's name might convey to Ahab something other than the fact of Elijah's reappearance. In Hebrew, the name Elijah means "my God (eli) is Yah" (abbreviated form of Yahweh). So, if Obadiah said, "Behold Elijah," the Baal-worshiping Ahab might have heard it as, "Behold, my God is Yahweh." Obadiah must have wondered if his rock and hard place could get any tighter.

Obadiah quickly passed from the scene. In verse 16, his faithfulness is reported - "so Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him." We hear no more of him; the action returns to the major figures, Elijah and Ahab.

Like Obadiah, most of our acts of faithfulness and quiet heroism are private, far from the limelight. Occasionally we are called to be faithful on a public stage. Paul wrote that "it is required of stewards that they be found faithful" (1 Cor. 4:2). No more than that is expected, and no less.

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1/19/2001 12:00:00 AM by Ken Vandergriff , 1 Kings 18:1-18 | with 0 comments

Satisfaction Guaranteed

January 19 2001 by William (Mac) McElrath , John 4:13-14

Satisfaction Guaranteed | Friday, Jan. 19, 2001

Friday, Jan. 19, 2001

Satisfaction Guaranteed

By William (Mac) McElrath John 4:13-14 Once Betty and I met a woman at a country crossroads; she was minding a village store. She told us how sickness in her family had driven her to seek help from spirit healers - a fact of life in Indonesia. One healer advised her to make special sacrifices of rice, fruit and flowers every month. Another healer told her to go on a partial fast for 31 days. Still another said she must offer up fried soybean cakes to demons that hovered near. Finally that woman went to 17 different spirit healers. None of them brought health or peace to her family.

Her husband was the first to hear of a different way of life. He brought home a Bible in their Javanese language, saying, "This is better than all those spirit healers put together!" Later the woman found that what he had said was true.

Once Jesus met a woman at a country crossroads; she was drawing water from a village well. She, too, had been seeking satisfaction in all the wrong places.

Everyone needs what Jesus gives (John 4:4-10) Bible scholars differ as to the meaning of "the sixth hour" in John 4:4, but many of them believe it means six hours after sunrise, or about noon. If this is correct, then the woman had come to the well in the heat of the day, when others weren't as likely to be around.

Can you blame her? Considering her lifestyle, she probably wasn't the most popular woman in the neighborhood. Village children were more than likely told not to talk to her.

Yet everybody, good or bad, needs drinking water in order to stay alive. So the woman came to the well.

She was startled when a man sitting there spoke to her. In those days men didn't usually bother to converse with women in public places. Besides, this man's clothing or His accent told her He was not Samaritan (as she was) but Jewish. She knew most Jews looked down on Samaritans. She had no idea that this strange man, this particular Jew, was about to offer her something everybody needs even more than we all need water.

Jesus offers what no one else can (John 4:11-15) When Jesus offered "living water" to the Samaritan woman, she thought at first He was making light of Jacob the patriarch who, according to Samaritan tradition, had dug the ancient well at that village crossroads. But Jesus was speaking of something far more ancient than Jacob: the wellspring of life itself that comes from God the Eternal One.

When you think about it, it's surprising that the woman immediately asked Jesus to give her this "living water." Or did she only understand His words to mean "running water" - water she could access without having to trudge out to the well?

Either way, Jesus knew there was a deep-seated problem to be faced before she could receive His matchless gift.

Jesus goes to the heart of the problem (John 4:16-18) When Jesus asked the woman to go get her husband, this simple request reminded her of two things she already knew. According to social conventions of her time, she knew she wasn't supposed to be chatting with a man in a public place without a male member of her family nearby. She also knew that she had tried (and failed) to find satisfaction by living with several different men; at least one of them she hadn't even bothered to marry.

If you had been there instead of that Samaritan woman, what would Jesus have asked you to do? What's the heart of the problem in your own life?

Jesus is the key to experiencing God (John 4:19-26) The woman pointed to Mount Gerizim looming nearby - a place of worship since Old Testament times, considered by Samaritans to be more sacred than the Temple in Jerusalem. Some people say that, in doing this, she was trying to change the subject because Jesus had quit preaching and gone to meddling. Maybe so; but note that she called Him "a prophet." Earlier she had addressed Him merely as "Sir" (vv. 11, 15). Later on she would call Him "the Christ" (John 4:29), and those who believed through her testimony would call Him "the Savior of the world" (John 4:42).

Once again, Jesus told her that what He could give her was more lasting than any ancient tradition, more important than deciding the best place for worship.

Why did Jesus say "salvation is from the Jews"? (v. 22, NIV). Because God chose to send His Savior and Messiah to planet earth through the Jewish people.

The point is - for Samaritans, for Jews, for all people everywhere - that the way to know God, experience God and worship God is through our Lord Jesus Christ. Only this relationship can guarantee satisfaction in human life.

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1/19/2001 12:00:00 AM by William (Mac) McElrath , John 4:13-14 | with 0 comments

Transforming power

January 12 2001 by William (Mac) McElrath , John 2:1-11

Transforming power | Friday, Jan. 12, 2001

Friday, Jan. 12, 2001

Transforming power

By William (Mac) McElrath John 2:1-11 When you attend a short wedding ceremony followed by an elaborate wedding reception, do you ever get the feeling that the tail is wagging the dog? Betty and I used to get that feeling sometimes when we lived in Indonesia. In their wedding invitations, our Indonesian friends would often refer to the meal after the ceremony as a "simple feast." Usually it was anything but simple.

Indonesians would have felt right at home attending weddings in Galilee during the time of Jesus. Festivities after the ceremony might go on as long as a week!

Jesus' power is self-determined (John 2:1-5) It's good to know that Jesus was not the type of religious leader who holds himself sternly aloof from mere human affairs, especially if there's going to be any fun about it. When His mother, Mary, went to a wedding held in Cana, a village near Nazareth, Jesus and some of His disciples accepted the invitation as well.

Many devout Christians have been a bit troubled because wine was served at the wedding reception and because (as the story continues) Jesus Himself saw to it that the wine didn't run out. Such concern overlooks the fact that in those times and in that climate, wine was not only the usual drink, it was the safest drink. Water often became contaminated; milk quickly went sour. Usually the wine was fairly well watered down (although the remaining fermentation still helped kill germs). It's clear enough, both from the overall teachings of Jesus and from specific texts in other parts of the Bible, that our Lord considers alcohol abuse a sin.

Many devout Christians have also been a bit troubled because Jesus spoke as He did to His mother when Mary told Him the wine had run out (John 2:4). Such concern overlooks the fact that what He said to her didn't really sound as harsh as most of our English Bible translations make it. The New International Version gets it about right: "Dear woman, why do you involve Me?"

The important thing to remember is, even His beloved mother was not supposed to decide when and where Jesus would make use of His transforming power. Jesus always reserved that right for Himself.

When He heard that His friend Lazarus was very sick, Jesus waited four days before starting out for Bethany.

When His disciples were crossing the stormy waters of Galilee, Jesus slept on a pillow in the stern until the time came for Him to quiet the winds and waves.

Even today, Jesus always follows His own timetable.

Jesus' power is effective (John 2:6-10) We all know the story of the water being changed to wine: Jesus sent servants to fill six great stone jars with water, then instructed them to take water to the steward of the feast - water that had been miraculously transformed.

The stone jars were used for Jewish purification rites. Did the wedding guests realize Jesus was saying, "What I will give you goes beyond mere ceremony"?

Furthermore, the water turned into wine tasted better than the wine served earlier. Did the wedding guests realize Jesus was saying, "What I will give you is better than anything you have ever had before"?

That was then, this is now. Yet our Lord Jesus still has transforming power.

As a college student helping with Vacation Bible School at a little church in the mountains of North Carolina, I was startled to hear a 10-year-old boy state his name as "'Bad' Roberts." Soon I found out why everybody called him "Bad."

During that VBS, Jesus' transforming power began to work. After making a profession of faith, my 10-year-old pupil urged me, "Don't call me 'Bad' no more. I'm gonna be good now."

Those could have been mere words. Yet ... six years later I met a friend from that same little church in the mountains. She told me that John Hardin Roberts, who seemed well on his way toward juvenile court at age 10, was still in church and still in school at age 16. Jesus' transforming power is effective today!

Jesus' power reveals who He is (John 2:11) The Gospel of John relates only seven of the many miracles of Jesus and gives a special name to them: Signs. Each of these miraculous signs points to who Jesus really is.

In performing this first miracle at Cana in Galilee, Jesus "revealed His glory, and His disciples put their faith in Him" (John 2:11, NIV).

Compared to those early disciples, we have had many more opportunities to see Jesus' glory and transforming power revealed. Have we put our faith in Him?

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1/12/2001 12:00:00 AM by William (Mac) McElrath , John 2:1-11 | with 0 comments

Home is where the heart is

January 12 2001 by Ken Vandergiff , Luke 4:14-30

Home is where the heart is | Friday, Jan. 12, 2001

Friday, Jan. 12, 2001

Home is where the heart is

By Ken Vandergiff Luke 4:14-30 Do you have a motto that you live by, a statement that provides direction to your actions and goals, that anchors you when life becomes hectic and confusing? Did you compose it for yourself or did you borrow from the wisdom of another? Plato's "Know thyself," Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist," or Robert F. Kennedy's "Some men look at the things that are and ask 'why?' I imagine things that can be and ask 'why not?'" are notable examples of mottos that express the essence of the individual's life and character. Our lesson focuses on a text that Jesus selected to define His ministry. We can say that it functioned as His motto.

While Matthew, Mark and Luke record this incident (Matt. 13:53-58; Mark 6:1- 6), Luke's account has two notable differences that point toward the importance of this text for Luke's story of Jesus. Matthew and Mark state that Jesus taught in the Nazareth synagogue, producing astonishment in the audience; only Luke records the content of Jesus' teaching, namely the quotation from Isaiah.

Second, Matthew and Mark place the incident later in Jesus' public ministry, while Luke sets it at the beginning. Commentators on Luke largely agree that this text is programmatic for Luke's gospel; Luke is telling his readers to interpret the rest of Jesus' actions in the light of this statement.

Defining life's direction (Luke 4:16-21) Although precise records are sparse, historians suggest that the first-century synagogue service included various prayers (such as the Shema, Deut. 6:4-9), a reading from the Torah, readings from the prophets and psalms, exposition of the readings, and the Aaronic blessing (Num. 6:24-26). Since laymen, under the direction of the synagogue ruler, often read publicly, Jesus' reading is not unusual. What is significant is His choice of texts - the Septuagint (Greek) translation of Isaiah 61:1-2.

Six centuries before Jesus, in the context of the Babylonian exile, God had raised up a prophet to announce good news to that oppressed generation. Now Jesus defines His role in the same way. His ministry brings good news to the poor (Luke 6:20; 7:22; 14:13; 16:19-20; 18:22) and recovery of sight to the blind (Luke 7:21; 18:35-43). The statements "to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, ... to release the oppressed" contain an instructive wordplay: "freedom" and "release" are the same word - aphesis - in the Greek text. The word often conveys a physical release from captivity, as it likely did in the original context of Isaiah 61:1. Aphesis is also used for forgiveness - release from sin. Both senses are important here. Jesus frees from sin; He also provides release from the many other kinds of bondage - physical, emotional, social, economic - that plague humankind. An unbalanced focus on either of these limits the fullness of Jesus' ministry.

The rest of the gospel clearly shows how these words gave direction to Jesus' life. His words also claim us. If we follow Him, we continue the life role He set, proclaiming good news to the poor and release to the oppressed. "Today," Jesus said, the good news is announced, not in some vague "someday." It may be unsettling to measure our churches and ourselves by these criteria, but such is the claim of Jesus upon us.

Opposition (Luke 4:22-30) Initial acceptance of Jesus (v. 22) quickly turns to rejection. The sense of the proverb in verse 23, "Physician, cure yourself," is unclear. The proverb seems to be an insult directed at Jesus, but such a change in tone does not fit well with verse 22. Some have suggested taking "yourself" as a general reference to Nazareth itself, which would fit the context but is an unnatural reading of the proverb.

In any case, Jesus challenges the "in-group" loyalty of His audience. They believe that, since Jesus did great works elsewhere, surely He will do even more in His hometown. Immediately He reminds them of Elijah and Elisha, whose great works benefited outsiders, non-Israelites (1 Kings 17:1-16; 2 Kings 5:1-14).

Like Jesus' audience, we may still bristle when God's good news of acceptance goes to outsiders, to those who are "not our kind of people."

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1/12/2001 12:00:00 AM by Ken Vandergiff , Luke 4:14-30 | with 0 comments

The best way to grow a church

January 12 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

The best way to grow a church | Friday, Jan. 12, 2001

Friday, Jan. 12, 2001

The best way to grow a church

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor A number of books have been published lately on the general theme of "how to change your church." The basic premise of these books is that churches need to change, which is generally true. All churches must go through appropriate life-cycle changes, even if they are no more than generational. But not every church needs to convert to a contemporary worship model or revamp a discipleship program that is working well. If truth be known, some churches that currently meet the needs of a substantial segment of their community cannot simultaneously make the changes needed to fill their sanctuaries with newcomers. Like all other congregations, however, they can still be involved in church growth.

A vital way of promoting new growth while respecting the validity and integrity of established congregations is for those churches to birth new missions.

In a properly envisioned and well-supported new church start, significant growth is more likely and more harmonious.

In new churches, it is obvious that everyone is needed, so members have extra incentive to be involved and to accept responsibilities that they may never have considered (or have been offered) in a larger, established church.

In new churches, the sense of community is young and vital. New members are easily absorbed into the fellowship and may be allowed to express their gifts without earning tenure.

In new churches, outreach is natural. Members know the church has been planted for the purpose of bringing others into the family of God, and are naturally inclined to invite friends, neighbors and co-workers to attend.

New churches can also be targeted to meet specific needs of language groups and new population centers, or even to meet generational needs.

As North Carolina's population continues to boom, new congregations are not only ideal, but will be essential to the future vitality and growth of the church. Baptists have fallen far behind the curve when it comes to keeping up with the influx of new arrivals.

New church starts often begin with the vision of an individual or the prompting of a larger denominational entity, but they grow best when they are birthed and nurtured by other churches that are willing to invest time, resources and members in establishing new works.

Here's one example of how that approach can work. When the sleepy village of Cary began to blossom in the 1960s, First Baptist Church of Cary sponsored Greenwood Forest Baptist Church on what was then the southern fringe of town. Greenwood Forest grew and was healthy.

As Cary continued its southward march in the 1980s, Raleigh Baptist Association talked up the need for another new church, and Greenwood Forest joined with First Cary, Salem (Apex) and Ephesus (Raleigh) Baptist churches in sponsoring Woodhaven Baptist Church, in close proximity to Cary, Apex, Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina. Woodhaven grew and was healthy.

As Cary pushed westward in the 1990s, the Raleigh Association again brokered an agreement in which several churches, including Woodhaven, Greenwood Forest, Collins Grove (Holly Springs) and Good Hope (Cary), with Greenwood Forest taking the lead, contributed to the birth of Westwood Baptist Church. Westwood grew and was healthy.

As cultural and generational shifts become increasingly apparent in the new decade, an embryonic "Generation X" church recently found a sponsor in Westwood. Now The Village, as the mission is known, has its chance to grow and to be healthy.

Along with this linear progression, several of the churches named have started other missions, including multiple language churches.

In some cases, the church starts have received additional assistance from the local association, the Baptist State Convention and the North American Mission Board. Through cooperative giving, even congregations not directly involved can still have a hand in church starts.

As we enter this new decade/century/millennium, many things will change - but the need to establish new churches will remain at the forefront of our calling.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
1/12/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

The gift of order

January 12 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

The gift of order | Friday, Jan. 12, 2001

Friday, Jan. 12, 2001

The gift of order

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor I don't know if age has anything to do with it, but I've noticed that my approach to little household tasks is changing. We share the chores at our house. I used to tolerate housework with good humor, but I'm finding increasing satisfaction in doing things that need to be done, and trying to do them well. I've learned to look at small tasks as an integral part of a larger and more important picture.

I like to have clean clothes to wear. Carrying, sorting, washing, drying, folding and returning clothes to their proper place are all parts of "doing the laundry."

I like to eat. Planning and shopping, peeling and chopping, mixing and mashing, oiling and boiling, grilling and chilling all contribute to putting good food on the table.

The same step-by-step process comes into play in washing the dishes, cleaning the floors, scrubbing the bathroom or mowing the lawn. These are simple (if never-ending) tasks that show clear progress toward a desired end.

I'm becoming more aware that there also can be joy in each little step: tossing colorful vegetables in the wok, coaxing the last little bit of casserole from the dish, folding T-shirts so they'll fit in the drawer, making the bed neatly, shining shoes.

When approached as onerous tasks that keep us away from what we'd rather be doing, chores such as these can seem burdensome and depressing.

But when valued as worthy and meaningful endeavors, even menial chores can result in a lift to the spirit that comes with a job well done.

God's gifts to us come in many shapes and forms. Even the ability to do small things well is a gift that is worthy of appreciation.

Having learned that lesson, I'm afraid God will soon have another gift for me: the garage.

(EDITOR'S NOTE-For those who are watching my weight, the current count is 216, down from 223.)

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1/12/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

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