January 2003

God's plan, Baptist work, Catholic help

January 24 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

God's plan, Baptist work, Catholic help | Friday, Jan. 24, 2003

Friday, Jan. 24, 2003

God's plan, Baptist work, Catholic help

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

When the giant logging equipment started chewing up trees near Cary's WestHigh Road on Jan. 15, Westwood Baptist Church moved one step closer to planting itself as a permanent and growing fixture in the burgeoning community.

Westwood's history is similar to other new churches in some ways, but with a few unusual twists.

It began with a 1989 appeal from the Raleigh Baptist Association, seeking sponsors for a new church on the rapidly growing western side of Cary. Greenwood Forest, Woodhaven, Good Hope, Collins Grove and Salem Baptist churches signed on to offer varying levels of assistance, with Greenwood Forest church in Cary taking the lead.

A steering committee endorsed Tom Ogburn to become the founding pastor. Volunteers from the churches helped renovate rented space in a building that included a convenience store, and a group of volunteers blitzed the community with phone calls inviting interested persons to attend the mission's first service on Easter Sunday of 1990.

More than 100 supporters and prospective members attended, but the first two years were a struggle. During that time the fledgling congregation of about 50 souls did the hard work of building a budget base, writing a constitution, and becoming established as a self-supporting church.

In 1993, Ogburn engineered the purchase of 12.6 acres of prime property on High House Road, for the surprisingly reasonable price of $250,000.

Within the year, however, Ogburn and his wife, Beth, felt led into global missions and were appointed by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as missionaries to Thailand.

The congregation forged ahead, calling Charles Allard as pastor later that year and making plans for the new property.

The church constructed a flexible facility to serve the needs of about 200 congregants, completing the major work in 1996, upgrading some unfinished areas over the next two years, then expanding the parking area.

Membership grew to 140 in 2001 to nearly 300 in 2002, leading the church to hold dual worship and Sunday School programs, and to rent four classrooms from the adjacent St. Michael the Archangel Catholic church.

As church leaders pondered an expansion of their facilities, Father John Wall of St. Michael's approached Allard with a surprising proposition. St. Michael's, which had relocated to the area and had already constructed a large complex of buildings, was also running out of space. Would Westwood consider selling their property to the Catholics?

After negotiating a price of $2.5 million - more than twice Westwood's initial investment in the property and its building - the church agreed.

The church paid off its indebtedness, put money in the bank, and spent $953,000 for an 11-acre site about two miles away. It is now embarking on an ambitious campaign to construct a $5 million facility with educational space for 700 and a sanctuary to seat 1,000 people.

Allard said the church conducted a self-led capital campaign that netted three-year pledges of $1.2 million from the church's current 310 members.

But money and buildings are not the only story at Westwood. The church has been active in hands-on mission projects from the start, including overseas mission trips and a major "Operation Inasmuch" effort last October.

And, Allard plans to baptize at least 12 new members on Feb. 2, including four adults who made professions of faith during the holiday season.

Baptists planned and Catholics helped, but it is God's work they are about, Allard says: "Joining God in His work is the most exciting thing a believer can do."

News | Opinion | Children | Youth | Youth Q&A | Archive | Calendar | Email Updates | Feedback | Sunday School Lessons | Churches | Church Search | FAQ | LinksAdvertising | Mast Head | History | Staff | Classified Ads | Place An Ad In The Biblical Recorder ClassifiedsSubscribe To The Biblical RecorderChange Your Biblical Recorder Subscription AddressSend A Tar Heel Voices Letter
1/24/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



Southern Baptist chaplaincy head unexpectedly 'leaves' post

January 24 2003 by Mark Wingfield , Associated Baptist Press

Southern Baptist chaplaincy head unexpectedly 'leaves' post | Friday, Jan. 24, 2003

Friday, Jan. 24, 2003

Southern Baptist chaplaincy head unexpectedly 'leaves' post

By Mark Wingfield Associated Baptist Press

ATLANTA - Bob Vickers has "left" his position as director of chaplaincy evangelism at the North American Mission Board (NAMB), according to a statement issued by NAMB Vice President John Yarbrough.

Others familiar with the situation, however, contend Vickers was forced to resign because he did not enforce stringently enough NAMB's newly tightened doctrines on female chaplains and chaplains with divorce in their backgrounds.

Under terms of a severance agreement, Vickers reportedly cannot speak about his departure. News of the termination had begun to filter out among the chaplains endorsed for service through NAMB, however, particularly among the ranks of military chaplains whom Vickers once served alongside.

Some chaplains, as well as others close to Vickers, are angry about his dismissal, which they contend is an attempt by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) mission board to exert further control of the chaplains they endorse but do not pay.

One chaplain described Vickers' dismissal as "brutal" and akin to "the Taliban taking over." Another person well connected to the situation asserted that NAMB administrators and trustees "want total control over these people's lives."

NAMB acts as the SBC's agent to endorse chaplains serving in the military, health care, prisons, business and industry. Most chaplains, although paid by the companies or government entities that use their services, must be endorsed by a religious body to be hired.

Last year, NAMB trustees announced they no longer would endorse female chaplains who have been ordained, even though the military and other organizations require all chaplains to be ordained for their roles. NAMB and its Chaplains' Commission also reportedly have been giving more scrutiny to applicants who have experienced divorce, even if the divorce occurred 15 or 20 years earlier.

Those with knowledge of the Vickers termination were reluctant to speak on the record about it, for fear of jeopardizing Vickers' severance agreement with NAMB. However, the story they told was verified by multiple interviews with people knowledgeable about what has occurred.

For its part, NAMB released a brief written statement from Yarbrough, who is vice president for evangelism. About the departure, the statement said, "Robert C. Vickers left his position as director of chaplaincy evangelism at the North American Mission Board, SBC, December 31, 2002." It added: "It is not NAMB's policy or practice to discuss personnel matters with those not directly involved."

While Yarbrough praised Vickers as "a tremendous Christian gentleman" whose "love, support and desire to equip chaplains is without question," he gave no reason for the dismissal.

Vickers had managed NAMB's chaplaincy unit since May 1998. He had been director of military chaplaincy two years prior to that. From 1975 to 1996, he was a chaplain in the United States Army, achieving the rank of colonel.

Vickers, a Lexington, Ky., native, holds degrees from Eastern Kentucky University, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Lexington Theological Seminary and Vanderbilt University. Among his degrees are two master's and two doctorates.

Increased narrowness in NAMB's endorsement process in recent years has led several hundred chaplains to leave the SBC's fold and seek endorsement from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Baptist General Convention of Texas and other religious bodies.

To date, NAMB has not required chaplains to sign or affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message doctrinal statement as some Southern Baptist missionaries have been asked to do.

However, individuals familiar with Vickers' case said they fear that could be the next step.

"The minute they dare require a chaplain to sign something, there's going to be a mass exodus," predicted one person who has worked on the inside of the chaplain-endorsement process at NAMB. "I think there's going to be an exodus anyway."

Chaplains currently endorsed by NAMB "are Southern Baptists wholeheartedly," this insider said, "but they'll give that up in a moment if it gets to the point where we say: 'We're going to control your life. You've got to look like me, act like me, talk like me or you're not one of us."

Friends described Vickers as the kind of person who sought to encourage chaplains, to include rather than exclude, to bridge gaps rather than build walls.

While Vickers sought to follow the endorsement policy set by NAMB, he "never suggested that God can't call women as chaplains," one colleague said. "That got him in trouble."

A NAMB spokesman said he could not answer any further questions about Vickers' departure beyond what was contained in the statement from Yarbrough.

Vickers himself could not be reached for comment, apparently because of the terms of his severance agreement.

The NAMB statement insisted the SBC mission board "continues to be committed to endorsing and assisting Southern Baptist chaplains as a key part of impacting North America with the gospel."

That may be true, Vickers' supporters said, but it likely will be done with fewer chaplains and a less diverse corps of chaplains due to Vickers' dismissal.

News | Opinion | Children | Youth | Youth Q&A | Archive | Calendar | Email Updates | Feedback | Sunday School Lessons | Churches | Church Search | FAQ | LinksAdvertising | Mast Head | History | Staff | Classified Ads | Place An Ad In The Biblical Recorder ClassifiedsSubscribe To The Biblical RecorderChange Your Biblical Recorder Subscription AddressSend A Tar Heel Voices Letter
1/24/2003 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Fort Bragg hero urges Gator Bowl teams to trust Christ

January 17 2003 by Joni B. Hannigan , Baptist Press

Fort Bragg hero urges Gator Bowl teams to trust Christ | Friday, Jan. 17, 2003

Friday, Jan. 17, 2003

Fort Bragg hero urges Gator Bowl teams to trust Christ

By Joni B. Hannigan Baptist Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Speaking of going to war as the military's Super Bowl, Jeff Struecker, an American war hero featured in the movie "Black Hawk Down," told Gator Bowl players the definition of success is not to be drafted by the National Football League.

Instead, real success is defined by a "life surrendered to Jesus Christ," said Struecker, a Southern Baptist chaplain and an Army Ranger, in Jacksonville for a Gator Bowl luncheon Dec. 27 hosted by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Struecker also served as the grand marshal of the Gator Bowl parade Dec. 31 and threw the coin toss at the start of the New Year's Day bowl game.

Football players and coaches from N.C. State University and the University of Notre Dame listened intently as Struecker, a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., recounted the 17-hour battle that pitted several hundred U.S. soldiers against thousands of Somalis on Oct. 3, 1993.

Struecker, now assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division's 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg, won the Bronze Star with Valor for leading several of the rescue attempts in Somalia and the 1996 David L. Granger Best Ranger Competition, considered the Army's Olympics.

In Mogadishu, Somalia, Struecker said his mission was to kill or capture warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. Unlike the previous operations, Oct. 3 turned ugly when two Black Hawk helicopters went down in the city.

Struecker said his mission changed from one of escorting prisoners to rescuing fellow Ranger Todd Blackburn, a Floridian who had just fallen 70 feet to the ground from one of the Black Hawk helicopters.

Speeding down the bullet-riddled streets to the airfield, Struecker said the men in the vehicle began to panic when it was splattered with the blood of soldiers.

Watching men pulling bodies from vehicles, Struecker said he had only one thought: "Thank God he spared my life and I made it out of this thing alive." Struecker recalled thinking, "There's no way that I can go back out there."

Struecker said he didn't have long to dwell on his thoughts before his platoon leader grabbed him by the arm and told him he needed to get the blood cleaned out of his vehicles and go back out to help bring in fellow Rangers who were being overrun by Somalis.

Thinking, "it's gonna be my blood," Struecker said he didn't know at the time he would venture out a total of three times before his mission ended early the next morning. Spotting 15 men running down the hill behind his vehicle, Struecker said the look on their faces, the abject misery and emotional strain evident even in their posture will stay with him forever.

"If you're not afraid in a situation like that, then something's seriously wrong with you," Struecker said. "This is where God really put my life in perspective. It wasn't the blood, it wasn't the bullet holes, it was the condition of those battle-hardened combat Rangers."

At that point, Struecker said he promised God he would be a chaplain.

"Does an NFL contract equal a successful life?" Struecker asked rhetorically. "Does that equal real success in life, or is it all in vain?"

Paraphrasing Matt. 16:24, Struecker told how Jesus directed his disciples to take up a cross and follow him.

"'A' is admitting to God you are a sinner; 'B' is believing Jesus Christ is the payment for sin; and 'C' is a life committed to God," Struecker said.

Struecker, 33, told the Florida Baptist Witness in an interview he believes God used the 15 years he spent in the enlisted ranks to "mold him" into a soldier. Unlike most military chaplains, Struecker completed most of his seminary training while still on active duty.

"I often think of what was important to me when I was a private or a sergeant," Struecker said. Plain and simple, it's the little things like knowing when to go out to the field to visit soldiers in a wrinkled uniform with a little dirt on his boots that makes the difference between being resented or respected, he said. "In fact, one of my men said to me recently, 'Captain, you are the dirtiest chaplain I have ever met in my life.' I said, 'Thank you very much.'"

Knowing too much can produce some "tension" at times when Struecker considers the difference in his role as a non-combatant rather than a well-trained gung-ho Army Ranger.

"I wrestle with it every day," Struecker said. "I have to remember that my primary responsibility is now to minister to this battalion, to their families and that God would use me to speak to their lives, to their hearts.

"But there's always a part of me that remembers what it is to be in the thick of it, to exchange gunfire with the enemy. But the overarching thought that always wins out is that my primary responsibility is to minister to these men, not to win a war. It's their job to win a war."

And if he finds himself in a position to give combat advice, Struecker said he doesn't hesitate, but waits to be asked. Given the opportunity, he shares the gospel as well.

Struecker said God uses tragedy to turn people in His direction.

"There were a lot of battle-hardened Rangers who really were just devastated by what they had been through. A lot of guys lost their best friends and a lot of guys who had been really shook up came to me because I was a Christian, asking me questions.

"If these guys had the same faith in Christ that I had, they wouldn't struggle with it," Struecker said. "That has really been a driving force in my ministry."

News | Opinion | Children | Youth | Youth Q&A | Archive | Calendar | Email Updates | Feedback | Sunday School Lessons | Churches | Church Search | FAQ | LinksAdvertising | Mast Head | History | Staff | Classified Ads | Place An Ad In The Biblical Recorder ClassifiedsSubscribe To The Biblical RecorderChange Your Biblical Recorder Subscription AddressSend A Tar Heel Voices Letter
1/17/2003 12:00:00 AM by Joni B. Hannigan , Baptist Press | with 0 comments



'I was in prison and you visited me ...'

January 17 2003 by Derek Hodges , BR Correspondent

'I was in prison and you visited me ...' | Friday, Jan. 17, 2003

Friday, Jan. 17, 2003

'I was in prison and you visited me ...'

By Derek Hodges BR Correspondent

Bill Hall isn't afraid of much. He's spent the last 30 years behind bars, not as a hardened criminal, but as a good-hearted chaplain. One thing he is afraid of, though, is losing his job, especially now.

Hall and the 35 other chaplains in the N.C. prison system have watched as some 30 of their colleagues have been released from service over the past two years alone. The moves came as officials in state government struggled to meet budgetary needs during a downturn in the economy.

Hall, a member of First Baptist Church of Morganton, serves as a chaplain at Western Youth Institute, a facility for offenders from the ages of 13 to 22. The facility has a capacity of around 740 inmates, though Hall said he has seen as many as 900 in the building. His "congregation" currently consists of about 700 inmates in close, medium and minimum security.

Through his experience in working for the prison system, Hall said he has seen the importance of the chaplaincy to the inmates and to the community. "Most of them were not raised in a Christian home," Hall said of the inmates to whom he ministers. "There's always that spark of wanting to know God. We just try to tell them, 'This might be what you're looking for.'"

To assist inmates in their search for God, prison chaplains coordinate and lead religious programming in the prisons, work to meet religious needs, and coordinate teams of volunteers from local churches that want to help in the ministry. They also provide crisis ministries to inmates that include breaking the news of a family death or illness - and the list goes on, Hall said, with a slightly weary smile.

Speaker of the N.C. House of Representatives Jim Black agrees that chaplains play a critical role in the lives of inmates and prisons, calling spiritual guidance "the most important part of the rehabilitation process. I'd be really ashamed of our state if they cut the chaplains out of the budget," Black said.

Black knows the situation the legislature and its appropriations committees must face. He cites cuts to state revenues made six years ago during an economic upswing for putting the budget into a tailspin now that times are tougher. The cuts, which included doing away with several key taxes, took nearly $1.6 million from the annual budget. Over the past two years, some of the state's efforts to make up the difference have come at the expense of prison chaplains.

Charlie Davis, interim director of Chaplaincy Services for the Department of Corrections, says there are currently only 35 full-time chaplains serving 33,319 inmates in 80 different correctional centers throughout North Carolina, a ratio of about one chaplain to every 1,000 inmates. Generally, prisons with less than 400 inmates have no chaplain on staff. Prisons with 400 to 700 inmates have one chaplain and prisons with 700 or more have two chaplains, Davis said.

Cuts made over the past few years, combined with rumors that appropriations committees in Raleigh are considering deeper cuts in the number of chaplains, have made some, like Hall, very nervous. "When chaplains are fired, religious programs basically die," he said. "There's nobody to speak for the inmates."

And it's not just the inmates' need for religious programming that keeps chaplains employed. As Hall put it, "Not all your constitutional rights are limited when you go to prison." Lawmakers debating the validity and/or necessity of chaplains in prisons have often cited a citizen's constitutional right to worship as they choose. Prison chaplains provide not only for Christian worship, but also for the celebration of other religions recognized by the prison system. The right to worship as one chooses, guaranteed, in part, by the work of America's early Baptists, is one that few volunteers can or will press for when there is no chaplain to facilitate their work, Hall said.

Baptist State Convention (BSC) president Jerry Pereira said he and other N.C. Baptists support the work of the chaplains. "Chaplains play such an important role in the life of prisoners," he said. While he and the voters at this year's state convention agreed on the wish to see chaplains stay, he said the convention has also taken steps to provide for ministries if the state should decide to cut the positions.

In November the convention voted to allow Pereira to appoint a board to study how the BSC could or would react if chaplains are cut from the state's budget. One proposed option involves raising money in local churches to support the chaplains' continued service. Unfortunately, chaplains supported by churches often spend as much time trying to raise money as they do ministering to inmates.

Pereira encouraged N.C. Baptists to urge lawmakers to keep the chaplains in the system. "Write letters," he said. "Our representatives can't know what's in our hearts unless we express it."

Hall agrees that concerned Baptists must do something to prevent the end of the prison chaplaincy in North Carolina. "The General Board has been silent too long," Hall said. "I would encourage North Carolina Baptists to lobby hard to keep chaplains in the prisons. Most of our inmates will be going home one day. The question is, 'Will there be something here to change them?'"

News | Opinion | Children | Youth | Youth Q&A | Archive | Calendar | Email Updates | Feedback | Sunday School Lessons | Churches | Church Search | FAQ | LinksAdvertising | Mast Head | History | Staff | Classified Ads | Place An Ad In The Biblical Recorder ClassifiedsSubscribe To The Biblical RecorderChange Your Biblical Recorder Subscription AddressSend A Tar Heel Voices Letter
1/17/2003 12:00:00 AM by Derek Hodges , BR Correspondent | with 0 comments



Family Bible Study lesson for Feb. 2: The Bible - It Origin

January 17 2003 by John S. Pond Jr. , Hebrews 1:1-2; 2 Peter 1:12-21

Family Bible Study lesson for Feb. 2: The Bible - It Origin | Friday, Jan. 17, 2003

Friday, Jan. 17, 2003

Family Bible Study lesson for Feb. 2: The Bible - It Origin

By John S. Pond Jr. Hebrews 1:1-2; 2 Peter 1:12-21

The Bible is a collection of 66 individual "books" that span more than 1,500 years, written by kings, peasants, farmers, poets, fishermen, a former tax collector, etc. It is a book that "does not ask to be defended but read, used and proclaimed" (Hobbs). The Bible - God's book of grace.

The one source of revelation

Hebrews 1:1-2

In these two verses the author of Hebrews gives the full spectrum of divine communication and revelation. Like the first chapters of Genesis and the Gospel of John, the letter to the Hebrews focuses on the primacy of God. God is the source of revelation - "In the beginning God..." (Genesis, John) and "in times past (of old times) God..." (Hebrews).

Genesis and John's Gospel describe the activity of God in creation through His Word. The letter to the Hebrews serves as a treatise on the superiority of that Word, i.e., Jesus Christ.

In a series of contrasts, this superiority is illustrated and declared. We read that in old times God spoke, but now God has spoken. God spoke to the fathers, but now He speaks to us. God spoke through the prophets, but now He speaks in a final and full way by His Son.

God's revelation presented in the Old Testament is expansive, yet incomplete; God speaks in temporally fragmented and variegated ways. He spoke through dreams, direct communication and by signs using a diversity of forms through His messengers to proclaim His message to His covenant people.

But now, "of these days," God has spoken fully and finally by His Son, His "Son-revelation." Not to be identified as another fragment of divine truth, Jesus Christ is the whole truth. He is recognized and proclaimed as the Son, heir of all things (Psalm 2:8) and agent in the creative process (1 Cor. 8:6). It is the whole of the incarnation, Christ's person, work and acts, that God has communicated His ultimate word to "us."

The superiority of the written word

2 Peter 1:12-19

In the face of his approaching death, Peter reminded his readers of the truth of Christ's second coming (2 Peter 1:11; 2:16). Even though Peter affirmed them in their certitude of the truth, he was concerned that they would stagnate into a state of complacency. Thus he reminded them by "thoroughly waking them up, continually rousing them up" (2 Peter 2:13) that the time is too short - "remember and trust!"

In the face of a myriad of teachings and philosophies, Peter recalled the readers to a living faith as clearly enunciated in his preaching. Rather than succumbing to sophisticated fables and myths, they have received the living truth of Christ's power and parousia (coming).

To substantiate this truth Peter presented three evidences: (1) It is firmly grounded on historical events. Peter testified that he and James and John were eyewitnesses of Christ's majesty on the mount of Transfiguration and actually heard the voice of God confirm His Sonship. (2) It is thoroughly illuminated by the prophetic word, for it acts as a lamp that exposes a dark, dry, squalid, dismal place with blazing divine light. (3) That prophetic word is totally sufficient and reliable for the present life until Christ returns.

It is through the Bible that we encounter and interact with the living reality of the word, Jesus Christ. The experiences and testimonies of the biblical writers provide us a guarantee of the superiority, the viability and verity of God's written word.

The divine origin of the scriptures

2 Peter 1:20-21

Unlike other books, the Bible is unique. Other works are a result of creativity and imagination, a compilation of ideas and opinions. Peter reminded us that the scriptures are not the product of any individual's private opinion, personal interpretation or private disclosure, but are the revelation of God to humanity through His Spirit.

According to Peter, the Holy Spirit operated upon the minds and lives of the biblical writers, "carrying" them to actualize the divine message. Their personalities and thought processes were not superseded, but were used by the Spirit to produce the divine written record. The writers were used by the Holy Spirit to consciously write the message God gave them.

As we read and study the scriptures, that same Spirit should guide our interpretations. Jesus promised that His "Spirit ... will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come" (John 16:13).

When we read the scriptures we must rely upon His Spirit to give understanding, encouragement and illumination so that whenever we sense a new teaching we can ask ourselves if it is truly the outcome of fresh light from the Holy Spirit, or a personal opinion or bias.

News | Opinion | Children | Youth | Youth Q&A | Archive | Calendar | Email Updates | Feedback | Sunday School | Churches | Church Search | FAQ | LinksAdvertising | Mast Head | History | Staff | Classified Ads | Place An Ad In The Biblical Recorder ClassifiedsSubscribe To The Biblical RecorderChange Your Biblical Recorder Subscription AddressSend A Tar Heel Voices Letter
1/17/2003 12:00:00 AM by John S. Pond Jr. , Hebrews 1:1-2; 2 Peter 1:12-21 | with 0 comments



Family Bible Study lesson for Feb. 9: The Bible - Its Value

January 17 2003 by John S. Pond Jr. , Psalm 119:9-16; Jeremiah 36:2-3, 21-24, 27-28

Family Bible Study lesson for Feb. 9: The Bible - Its Value | Friday, Jan. 17, 2003

Friday, Jan. 17, 2003

Family Bible Study lesson for Feb. 9: The Bible - Its Value

By John S. Pond Jr. Psalm 119:9-16; Jeremiah 36:2-3, 21-24, 27-28

A recent survey revealed that nine out of 10 adults owned at least one Bible and most read it during the year. Although a huge majority claimed to know all of its basic teachings, six out of 10 rejected the existence of Satan, seeing him as a symbol for evil. Close to half said that Jesus committed sins, and 44 percent contend that the Bible, Book of Mormon and the Koran are different expressions of the same spiritual truths. Analysts concluded: "Over the past 20 years we have seen the nation's theological views slowly become less aligned with the Bible. Americans still revere the Bible and like to think of themselves as Bible-believing people, but the evidence suggests otherwise ... We remain a largely Bible-illiterate society ..."

Regardless of what the public may voice, the Bible is a relevant, powerful expression of God's will and redemptive activity in this world. It has great value.

A purifying treasure

Psalm 119:9-11

In the Old Testament, the spoken word was considered a living expression, conveying the power and authority of the speaker. This is especially evident in the word of God. Rather than being independent of God, the word of God is "God accomplishing his will." The focal point of Psalm 119 is the decisive role the word of God and His law plays in every sphere of life - the actualizing of God's will. For the psalmist it was the very foundation for each person, corporately and individually.

The psalmist asked: "How can I keep my way pure? How can I face the many struggles of life without compromise ..." Almost in the same breath he exclaimed, "I have filled my heart with your word and presence, O Lord!" By filling the heart with God's Spirit and word, no room remains for foreign influences (Col. 3:16).

According to Prov. 2:10-12, by filling the heart and mind with God's word "discretion will preserve you and understanding will keep you."

A delightful treasure

Psalm 119:12-16

The psalmist opened the treasures of God's word, His statutes and testimonies. As the reality of God's revelation of His will envelops him, he exults: "Teach me Your statutes!" More than anything money can buy, he relishes "the way of (God's) testimonies." He delightfully involves himself in the Lord's statutes, God's unchangeable words of revelation. It now becomes an essential part of his life.

A purposeful treasure

Jeremiah 36:2-3

During the 23rd year of Jeremiah's ministry, Babylon had established itself as a world power by defeating Egypt. At this critical juncture, God commanded His prophet to write down all the words He had spoken to Jeremiah concerning Israel, Judah and the nations. He was to give a written record of God's prophetic revelations of impending judgment.

The reason was twofold. First, it was to witness the reality of God's holiness and judgment, "every disaster I plan to inflict on them." As a witness, God's word serves as an invitation, a gracious encouragement for the people of Judah to change, "abandoning their wicked ways" (Jer. 26:3). Second, it was to serve as a declaration and summons. If His people would read and experience His word, then and only then would God forgive their rebellion, their iniquity and restore them. Thus, the word of hopelessness becomes a word of great hope for the nations and especially God's people.

An indestructible treasure

Jeremiah 36:21-24, 27-28

Not everyone willingly receives God's word of judgment, thus depriving themselves of God's resultant comforting word of forgiveness and mercy.

Challenged by Jeremiah's "scroll," Jehoiakim, Judah's notorious king, responded by destroying it. He derived more pleasure from burning the document with fire than humbly receiving it. In the face of God's penetrating word the king and his attendants responded with indifference.

Earlier in Judah's history, King Josiah tore his clothes in repentance when the word was read to him. Jehoaikim tore the "word" in defiance.

God's word is indestructible. An individual or group rejection of the word cannot destroy it in any final way. "The word of God is not chained" (2 Timothy 2:9)!

Though the king dismissed it by literally destroying it, God used His prophet to produce another copy.

Today many people reject God's word. But just as judgment followed Judah's rejection of God's word, so today it comes on those who continue to reject it. "The word of God stands forever" (Isaiah 40:8).

News | Opinion | Children | Youth | Youth Q&A | Archive | Calendar | Email Updates | Feedback | Sunday School | Churches | Church Search | FAQ | LinksAdvertising | Mast Head | History | Staff | Classified Ads | Place An Ad In The Biblical Recorder ClassifiedsSubscribe To The Biblical RecorderChange Your Biblical Recorder Subscription AddressSend A Tar Heel Voices Letter
1/17/2003 12:00:00 AM by John S. Pond Jr. , Psalm 119:9-16; Jeremiah 36:2-3, 21-24, 27-28 | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for Feb. 2: Grace - What We Do With Regrets?

January 17 2003 by Robbin B. Mundy , 2 Samuel 18:21-33; Matthew 26:69-75

Formations lesson for Feb. 2: Grace - What We Do With Regrets? | Friday, Jan. 17, 2003

Friday, Jan. 17, 2003

Formations lesson for Feb. 2: Grace - What We Do With Regrets?

By Robbin B. Mundy 2 Samuel 18:21-33; Matthew 26:69-75

News of a death is painful no matter how it is delivered; receiving such news while feeling deep regret seems intolerable.

In all of scripture there is not a more heart-wrenching story of regret than the portion of David's story our text addresses. Peter's denial of Jesus, likewise, is difficult to imagine after all the disciples experienced firsthand with Jesus. Peter's denial was devastating.

2 Samuel 18:21-33

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Two "news boys" ran to give the king the news. His troops had won the war! Ahimaaz had started last but arrived first. When King David heard the news he immediately inquired about the health of Absalom, but Ahimaaz withdrew and chose not to give the news.

A Cushite man arrived next with the news of victory. Unlike Ahimaaz, he did inform the king of Absalom's death. David's reaction was the deepest kind of grief one might ever experience. His reaction as King David was far overshadowed by his regret as Absalom's father.

Years before, David's oldest son, Amnon, had raped his half-sister Tamar, David's daughter and Absalom's full sister. King David took no action, so Absalom did. Two years later, in anger over the violation of his sister, he killed Amnon. Absalom fled for his safety and remained gone for three years. He did return, but not to his father, and David made no attempts to make amends. So, David was separated from his son both in life and in death.

News of his victory was also news of his son's death. The regret of many past mistakes and missed opportunities was immediate - and immensely painful:

If only David had taken a stand for his own daughter ...

If only David had taken appropriate steps with his son Amnon ...

If only David had taken steps to restore a relationship with Absalom ...

The grief and regret of the father was heard in the voice of the king, "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!"

But it was too late; his son was gone - forever.

Matthew 26:69-75

Peter's denial of Jesus followed by the cock's crow is a wonderful example of God's grace in the face of painful and hurtful sin - rejection. All four gospels record the event, but Matthew brings into view the dramatic climax of the denial.

When addressed by a servant girl in the courtyard as a follower of Jesus, Peter denied Him with head knowledge, "I don't know what you are talking about." This first denial was to "all of them" who were present.

Then a second servant girl on the porch informed those standing near him that indeed he had been with Jesus. Peter firmly denied Jesus with heart knowledge; "I do not know the man."

And finally one of the bystanders charged him, "Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you" and Peter denied Jesus with a curse.

This is the same Peter we studied last week who responded to Jesus' question, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter's response was, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And in reply to Peter, Jesus said, "Upon this rock I will build my church."

When Peter denied Him the third time, the cock crowed just as Jesus said it would. Peter "wept bitterly."

Conclusion

David and Peter knew regret. They knew the agony of betrayal. They understood what it meant to "want to die for another."

Peter must have agonized a long time. I am sure Jesus agonized over it, too. And when it occurred, it must have hurt. However, when Jesus commissioned His disciples following His resurrection, He included Peter. And the words of Peter's Savior must have meant the world to him: "Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20b).

Sift through your regrets and take the action that is possible - the inner strength has already been given to you, your own doubt is all that stands in your way.

As dark as it feels and as painful as it is to deal with regret, we can discover the grace and mercy of Jesus, our Lord. When there is darkness, God creates light. When there is chaos, God brings order. And when there is regret, God offers grace.

News | Opinion | Children | Youth | Youth Q&A | Archive | Calendar | Email Updates | Feedback | Sunday School | Churches | Church Search | FAQ | LinksAdvertising | Mast Head | History | Staff | Classified Ads | Place An Ad In The Biblical Recorder ClassifiedsSubscribe To The Biblical RecorderChange Your Biblical Recorder Subscription AddressSend A Tar Heel Voices Letter
1/17/2003 12:00:00 AM by Robbin B. Mundy , 2 Samuel 18:21-33; Matthew 26:69-75 | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for Feb. 9: Abundance - Living Beyond a Withered Self

January 17 2003 by Robbin B. Mundy , Genesis 25:27-35; Mark 3:1-5

Formations lesson for Feb. 9: Abundance - Living Beyond a Withered Self | Friday, Jan. 17, 2003

Friday, Jan. 17, 2003

Formations lesson for Feb. 9: Abundance - Living Beyond a Withered Self

By Robbin B. Mundy Genesis 25:27-35; Mark 3:1-5

Similarities and differences are gifts of God. How bland the world would be if we were all equally skilled, equally gifted and equally interesting. It is in our differences where God can make the most use of us.

How many times do you hear parents express the amazing differences between their children? As parents we celebrate the uniqueness of our children as opposed to their similarities. So does our creator.

Our differences illuminate both our strengths and our weaknesses. What we choose to do with them either opens doors or closes them.

Genesis 25:27-28

Esau and Jacob were as different as night and day. Esau was quite the outdoorsman, a skilled hunter and deeply admired by Isaac, their father. Jacob was mild-mannered, quiet, reserved and favored by Rebekah, their mother.

It is puzzling that some parents would allow themselves to choose favorites. It is equally puzzling that adult siblings would give in to their parent's failure rather than mature beyond it so they can achieve their full potential.

Genesis 25:29-30

Human need generates both strengths and weaknesses. Esau was more than hungry. He likely had been hunting for more than a day or two and, perhaps, had been unsuccessful, so he was famished, literally. Jacob prepared a lentil stew which undoubtedly created an aroma that filled the air. It was calling Esau's name. He was hungry for food but Jacob was hungry for wealth.

Genesis 25:31-32

Jacob began bargaining with his brother. Esau wanted - needed - nourishment, but Jacob decided to take advantage of his brother's weakened state of mind and negotiate ownership of Esau's birthright. Jacob required the promise of his brother's birthright in order for him to acquire a bowl of stew.

Sibling rivalry is real.

Genesis 25:33-34

Esau gave in to his hunger pangs and chose food - momentary satisfaction over rational thinking and decision-making. He agreed to give Jacob the birthright, ate until he was satisfied, and left resentful.

The text discloses something further. At first one might conclude that Esau simply chose self-satisfaction or instant gratification over a secure future. However, the text carefully points out that Esau "despised" his birthright. The birthright established one's place in the family and indicated a measure of wealth.

Did the role fit Esau? Did the pending responsibility haunt him? Were his feelings related to Jacob and Rebekah's favoritism or to deep-seated sibling rivalry? Were there other issues that made him feel personally unworthy before the God of Isaac and Abraham? Whatever the reason, his feelings were strong.

Was it greed that led Jacob to take advantage of his brother? Did the idea originate with him or with Rebekah? Did he orchestrate the exchange knowing Esau's predictable behavior, or did the thought occur to him on the spot? Like Esau's, his feelings were strong.

Mark 3:1-2

People were gathering in the synagogue, no doubt expecting to study the law of the Sabbath. Jesus was under constant scrutiny because the Pharisees disagreed with his practices. On this day the Pharisees must have been anticipating trouble so they were on watch.

Not to be disappointed, a disabled gentleman arrived. He had a withered hand. The Pharisees watched and waited.

Mark 3:3-4

Jesus invited the man with the withered hand to come forward. Jesus looked at the Pharisees and challenged their thinking, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?"

Jesus emphatically pointed out that people are far more important than laws.

Mark 3:5

In anger and disgust Jesus lectured the Pharisees on the value of human life. He restored the man's withered hand to health in front of them. Sadly their hearts were as hard as Jesus said they were.

The usual reaction to a miracle was astonishment, praise, worship and elation - not anger and threats. God values individuals far more than rules.

Conclusion

There are disappointing turns in life and challenging realities. How do we respond? If we choose the path of Esau and Jacob, then we give in to our weaknesses and go with our initial feelings as opposed to our spirit-filled capabilities. If we choose the path of the gentleman with a withered hand, then we claim the hope for a brighter future and "hand" our weaknesses to God - in spite of the limitations Pharisees of today want to impose.

News | Opinion | Children | Youth | Youth Q&A | Archive | Calendar | Email Updates | Feedback | Sunday School | Churches | Church Search | FAQ | LinksAdvertising | Mast Head | History | Staff | Classified Ads | Place An Ad In The Biblical Recorder ClassifiedsSubscribe To The Biblical RecorderChange Your Biblical Recorder Subscription AddressSend A Tar Heel Voices Letter
1/17/2003 12:00:00 AM by Robbin B. Mundy , Genesis 25:27-35; Mark 3:1-5 | with 0 comments



All your base are belong to us

January 17 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

All your base are belong to us | Friday, Jan. 17, 2003

Friday, Jan. 17, 2003

All your base are belong to us

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Yes, the title of this column is chockfull of incorrect grammar.

No, it's not a typographical error.

The phrase is drawn from an Internet phenomenon so widespread that even I finally became aware of it - about two years behind the curve for most netheads, and longer than that for true geeks and message board aficionados.

I'm aware that some of our readers spend even less than the half-hour or so a week that I spend online, so I'll translate.

"All your base are belong to us" derives from a poorly translated 1989 Japanese video game called "Zero Wing," where it is uttered by a conquering alien with a metallic voice. A frightened earthling replies, "Somebody set up us the bomb."

The game's graphics are crude and the text impossible, but there's nothing geekdom likes better than a kitschy inside joke, so online gamers started using the tagline on message boards, and soon hundreds of websites picked up the theme.

Enterprising graphic designers started posting images manipulated to include the phrase. Movie marquees, road signs, consumer products and comic strips were altered to sport the claim "All your base are belong to us." Popular advertising icons like the Chick-Fil-A cows and distinguished platforms like the speaker's podium at the United Nations were emblazoned with "All your base are belong to us."

In time, someone took digital samples of the voice-track, then combined music and a collage of the doctored images to produce a music video that became an overnight web-sation. Download demand quickly overwhelmed the website (it's now posted at www.planettribes.com/allyourbase).

Time magazine took notice, as did USA Today and a variety of more trendy publications.

Detractors persist in saying the fad is past, but it stubbornly persists. Even old fogies like National Public Radio have featured the phenomenon.

So, if you see a person of many piercings come walking by with a T-shirt proclaiming, "All your base are belong to us," you won't be clueless.

Perhaps, in fact, the door might be open for a positive word of witness.

After all, followers of Christ know who all your base are really belong to.

News | Opinion | Children | Youth | Youth Q&A | Archive | Calendar | Email Updates | Feedback | Sunday School Lessons | Churches | Church Search | FAQ | LinksAdvertising | Mast Head | History | Staff | Classified Ads | Place An Ad In The Biblical Recorder ClassifiedsSubscribe To The Biblical RecorderChange Your Biblical Recorder Subscription AddressSend A Tar Heel Voices Letter
1/17/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



What people want from church

January 17 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

What people want from church | Friday, Jan. 17, 2003

Friday, Jan. 17, 2003

What people want from church

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

The church as a whole has sunk to a new low in public opinion, according to a poll released Jan. 7 by the Gallup Organization.

The group started tracking the "Gallup Index of Leading Religious Indicators" in 1940, and its overall rating for organized religion has never been lower.

The index is based on eight measurements of beliefs and practices. The highest score ever - 746 of a possible 1,000 - was recorded in 1956.

The score for 2002 was 641, a decline of 30 points from 2001.

Why?

The same poll showed that 95 percent of Americans claim to believe in God. Ninety percent state a religious preference and 65 percent claim membership in a church, down only marginally from the previous year.

Church attendance was actually up in 2002, with 43 percent saying they had attended within the past seven days, compared to 41 percent in 2001.

And, 60 percent said religion is very important to their lives, two percent more than the previous year. Sixty-two percent of respondents said they believe religion answers problems, the same percentage as in 2001.

But the number of those who have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in organized religion dropped sharply, from 60 percent in 2001 to 45 percent in 2002.

Why?

The final measurement offers one important clue. The number of those who give "very high" or "high" ratings to ethical standards of clergy fell from 64 percent to 52 percent.

Researchers attributed the decline in large part to highly publicized sex abuse scandals that plagued the Roman Catholic Church in 2002, and that certainly played an important role.

But I don't think that's all of it.

Many contemporary believers - especially those most strongly influenced by our emerging "postmodern" culture - perceive organized religion in general and denominations in particular to be increasingly irrelevant.

Allegiance to the local church rises and falls with the felt needs of individuals and their perception of whether the church is meeting those needs.

There's nothing new about that, but we live in a new world compared to 1956, and many of its inhabitants are in search of a new church.

Dueling egos and bickering Baptists on both the denominational and congregational levels are a constant turn-off for people who are searching for God and longing for authentic Christianity, but who sometimes despair of finding either one in the church.

The Gallup findings should provide a much-needed "wake-up call" to church and denominational leaders.

An unscientific poll of one (me), based on years of curious observation, has convinced me of several truths regarding people, churches and denominations.

Most people, for example, don't care what adjectives we use to describe the Bible - they just want to hear God's truth, love and grace proclaimed from it.

Neither do they care whether everyone else adheres to a prescribed set of doctrinal beliefs - they mostly want a central belief in a living God who gives meaning to life.

Most people don't care how big a church is or how elaborate its accoutrements, but they yearn to belong in a genuine community of kindness and grace.

It is not brightly polished denominational brass that attracts people to the church, but the divinely inspired love they see reflected in its windows and walls and faces and feet.

And if they don't find those glimpses of God, their own feet know what to do.

News | Opinion | Children | Youth | Youth Q&A | Archive | Calendar | Email Updates | Feedback | Sunday School Lessons | Churches | Church Search | FAQ | LinksAdvertising | Mast Head | History | Staff | Classified Ads | Place An Ad In The Biblical Recorder ClassifiedsSubscribe To The Biblical RecorderChange Your Biblical Recorder Subscription AddressSend A Tar Heel Voices Letter
1/17/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



Displaying results 11-20 (of 38)
 |<  <  1 - 2 - 3 - 4  >  >|