January 2004

Baptist Heritage Preaching Contest deadline nears : Thursday, Jan. 29, 2004

January 29 2004 by

Baptist Heritage Preaching Contest deadline nears : Thursday, Jan. 29, 2004
Thursday, Jan. 29, 2004

Baptist Heritage Preaching Contest deadline nears

Please note the deadline for submitting sermons for the 2004 Baptist Heritage Preaching Contest is February 1. Sermons that emphasize Baptist heritage and principles will be considered. First prize is $400 plus travel expenses up to $1,000 to preach the sermon during the Baptist History and Heritage Society's May 27-29 annual meeting in Vancouver, Wash. The winner will also receive a complimentary 1-year membership in the society and a complimentary registration for the 2004 annual meeting.

Second prize is $300. Third prize is $200. All winners will receive a plaque.

Complete guidelines for the contest can be found on the society's Web site at www.baptisthistory.org, click on "2004 Preaching Contest."

The Baptist History and Heritage Society and the H. Franklin Paschall Chair of Biblical Studies of Belmont University cosponsor this annual contest.

Submissions should be sent to: Charles W. Deweese, Executive Director-Treasurer, Baptist History and Heritage Society, P.O. Box 728, Brentwood, Tenn. 37024-0728, (615) 371-7938 or cwdeweese@comcast.net>

We are eager to promote the inclusion of Baptist heritage and principles in preaching.

Charles W. Deweese

Brentwood, Tenn.

1/29/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



Summer missionary teams wanted : Thursday, Jan. 29, 2004

January 29 2004 by

Summer missionary teams wanted : Thursday, Jan. 29, 2004
Thursday, Jan. 29, 2004

Summer missionary teams wanted

My name is Gary Fox and I am church planting missionary/pastor of Southside Christian Fellowship in Wadsworth, Ohio. We are a new North American Mission Board supported work in the Summit Baptist Association. I am writing to request missions-minded churches in your state to pray about sending summer mission teams to Wadsworth. The Lord has blessed Southside tremendously since September 2003 with seven salvations and one baptism so far. We have grown from just my wife, Naomi, and I to 30-35 who call Southside home. We have made full use of our store front church by opening Southside Cafe that allows people a place to come and receive free soda, coffee, pastries and hot food, in Jesus name. This servant evangelism philosophy has been a wonderful influence in the community, and I am sure has opened the gates of heaven's blessings into our church.

We really need help to keep this momentum going forward. We want to take full advantage of the beautiful seasons in northeast Ohio. We need mission-minded people to help us keep this momentum going forward for the kingdom.

If there are any churches that would like more information they can contact me at (330) 334-3446 or asthedeer1@juno.com

Gary Fox

Wadsworth, Ohio

1/29/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



Can we talk - about a party? : Friday, Jan. 23, 2004

January 23 2004 by Tony W. Cartledge

Can we talk - about a party? : Friday, Jan. 23, 2004
Friday, Jan. 23, 2004

Can we talk - about a party?

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

I'm not sure one could offer a better analysis of the current need among Baptists than a question that often punctuated comedian Joan Rivers' monologues: "Can we talk?"

Baptists, like all people who live in relationships, would profit from spending more time talking to each other, and less time talking at or about each other.

One of the most meaningful experiences I have had as a North Carolina Baptist was the round of dialogue sessions we had several years ago. The sessions, which intentionally put conservative and moderate Baptists in the same room with a skilled facilitator, were designed to foster dialogue between competing factions in hopes of finding a better way.

The sessions led to the development of a "shared leadership" plan that ultimately failed to win convention approval, but the process was not a failure.

The several rounds of conversation broke the ice of contention between a number of brothers and sisters from both sides of the Baptist divide. Sitting in small circles, hearing each other's hearts, we learned that there is far more to unite us than to divide us.

We learned that there is far more we agree on than that we disagree on.

And, we concluded that the kingdom of God would be well served if we focused more on our common values than on our differences.

The conversations sparked new friendships and a new hopefulness among N.C. Baptists, and they are still bearing fruit.

While we have elected a string of presidents who would be considered conservative, all of them have been more cooperative than agenda-laden. Since the addition of Plan C, for example, not one BSC president has called for its elimination. The last several presidents and all of our current officers are on the record as supporting the ability of churches to choose the direction of their national missions money while remaining firmly within the N.C. Baptist family.

I like the way first vice president Phyllis Foy recently described her own approach: "I'm not moderate. I'm not conservative. I am North Carolina Baptist." Foy's heart is missions, not divisions, and she is not alone in that stance.

Whether cooperative leaders will be followed by more hard line candidates may depend on how deeply we draw lines in the sand of our Baptist beach.

Moderates and conservatives would profit greatly from an organized effort to spark conversation and friendship, but they are not the only ones. Our churches are also experiencing a growing generational divide.

We have an older generation that was raised to be loyal to institutions, and they are determined to support Baptist organizations and institutions of some form, come what may.

We also have many younger Baptists who are not only turned off by the conflicted nature of denominational life, but who have no interest in preserving it.

I am hopeful that our state convention, our associations, even individual churches might make a greater effort to foster simple communication between the genders, the generations, and the genuinely different but sincere perspectives among us.

I'm convinced that we need to have more parties.

A friend recently reminded me that Jesus' first miracle was at a party, and its purpose was to keep the party going.

Students of first century Middle-Eastern culture tell us that Jewish wedding feasts could go on for days. Jesus and his mother were in attendance at one such celebration when the host ran out of wine.

This imperiled the party, because wine was one of the few "safe" beverages in a pre-refrigerated, pre-chlorinated world. It also served as a social lubricant to break down communication barriers and keep the party going, with no worries about drunk donkey rider accidents on the way home.

Mary asked Jesus to help redeem the host's miscalculation in ordering wine for the party. Jesus seemed hesitant at first, but miraculously produced more than 100 gallons of the best vintage those partygoers had ever tasted.

The gospel writer says this act "manifested his glory" and led His disciples to believe in Him (John 2:11).

Church homecomings and associational meetings still serve this purpose well in many cases. Annual conventions used to provide a good dose of fellowship and camaraderie, but growing politicization has proven to be an effective party-pooper.

N.C. Baptists would profit from a party - a whole series of parties intentionally designed to sidestep our defensive barriers and get us talking to each other across theological and generational lines. We don't need wine to grease the process, but good food and good facilitators can go a long way toward helping us open our hearts - and even our minds - to one another.

We can cement our separation into theological-political parties, or we can build bridges by throwing fellowship-building parties that focus on our mission instead of division, parties that might even lead to a greater glimpse of Christ's glory.

Any takers?

1/23/2004 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments



Now we can laugh : Friday, Jan. 23, 2004

January 23 2004 by Tony W. Cartledge

Now we can laugh : Friday, Jan. 23, 2004
Friday, Jan. 23, 2004

Now we can laugh

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

January 18 could have been a terrible day at the Cartledge house. It could have been a day of bitter darkness and sharp tears.

Instead, it was a day of bright joy, of soft smiles and warm hearts.

It was the 10th anniversary of the cold day when a drunken driver took our daughter Bethany's life.

You don't forget a date like that.

We've learned a lot in the past 10 years. The lessons were sometimes hard, for reality is a stern taskmaster. Yet, learning to cope with grief, to live with loss, to move on with hope are essential lessons. If we live long enough, we will all face dark days, and not only through the death of loved ones.

One of the earliest and most important lessons we learned was that we have the power to choose whether our lives will be characterized by victimhood or victory.

We've met a lot of victims - people who get stuck in their grief, defining their lives in terms of what they have lost.

Victims live in a perpetual stew of anger, bitterness and self-pity. Since that roiling attitude tends to drive friends (or even spouses) away, victims also tend to become very lonely.

It doesn't have to be that way.

The path to getting through our losses and getting on with our lives is never easy, but always possible - and it always begins with a choice that we will not live as victims, but as victors.

That is why we could smile with friends who came by our home to help us reminisce and to receive our thanks for the many ways they have encouraged us through these years.

One friend brought pictures she took at a party when Bethany was just three-and-a-half years old.

She had lined up the dozen or so kids and told them to make funny faces for the first picture, then to just smile for a more typical pose in the next one.

Bethany did the opposite, making a funny face in the second picture.

And it was okay to laugh.

Thank you, Bethany.
1/23/2004 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments



We belong together, because we belong to Christ : Friday, Jan. 23, 2004

January 23 2004 by Denton Lotz

We belong together, because we belong to Christ : Friday, Jan. 23, 2004
Friday, Jan. 23, 2004

We belong together, because we belong to Christ

By Denton Lotz

Together in Christ

Sunday Feb. 1 is Baptist World Alliance Day of Prayer when Baptists all over the world remember that they are one in Jesus Christ.

Almost one hundred years ago, July 17, 1905, in London, England, Southern Baptists and British Baptist leaders met, and together with many others from around the world, formed the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). Next year, we expect that thousands upon thousands of Baptists around the world will gather in Birmingham, England July 27-31 to celebrate BWA's centennial. All Baptists are invited to this birthday celebration of the BWA.

With the proposed withdrawal of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) from the BWA, many are wondering what kind of celebration it will be. It will be a joyous time, a wonderful time of fellowship, praise and inspiration under the theme, "Jesus Christ Living Water!" And Southern Baptists, no matter what the decision, are invited to join with brothers and sisters from around the world to celebrate the unity we have in Christ. That's why the theme for the centennial has been "Together in Christ 1905-2005." In a time when the world is separated by terrorism, ideological conflict and national and sectarian movements, as Baptist Christians we must be a model of that unity for which Christ prayed. You are a part of the BWA. Plan to attend the world congress in 2005!You are all welcome!

When Baptists first came together in 1905 to form the BWA, they were aware of Paul's injunction in I Corinthians 1:10: "I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment." The theme of so much of the Pauline epistle is a call for unity. Romans 12:16 commends, "Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited." Phil. 2:1 appeals to us all, "So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind." That is what the BWA is all about:

Together in Christ in evangelism

I have just returned from Cuba and what a joy to experience the movement of the Holy Spirit, creating new house churches across the country. Since 1995 there has been an increase to 2,500 house churches, in addition to 2,000 churches and missions. Together in Christ, Baptists are witnessing in a wonderful way to Christ's perfect gift of salvation. What a joy to see thousands of young men and women come to faith in Christ. They are part of the BWA. Do not desert them. They need your love and support.

In 1990 there was only one Baptist Church in Moscow, today there are 52. Do not desert the Russian Baptists who have suffered from religious persecution. Indeed, we belong together because we belong to Christ!

Together in Christ

in helping the needy

In cooperation with Hungarian Baptist Aid, Baptist World Aid (BWAid) has helped recover earthquake victims in Iran and India. BWAid gives food to the starving in Mozambique and Ethiopia. BWAid has helped flood victims in China and hurricane victims in Honduras, built projects to help women in India and street children in Brazil. Do not desert your bothers and sisters in these countries. They need your help, your fellowship and your love. Indeed, we belong together, because we belong to Christ!

Together in Christ in defending persecuted Christians

A pastor is imprisoned today in Turkmenistan and the BWA is defending his religious freedom. Through the UN and in contact with governments, the BWA protests religious persecution of our brothers and sisters in difficult places. Often parts of the former Soviet Union have imposed strict laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion. The BWA defends the right of Baptists to pray and worship without hindrance from the state.

Do not desert Baptists suffering from lack of religious freedom in many countries in the Middle East and Asia. Do not desert those suffering for righteousness sake. Indeed, we belong together because we belong to Christ!

Together in Christ in fellowship

The BWA congresses and youth conferences, seminars and council meetings are opportunities to fulfill the Biblical mandate for fellowship: "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7).

Who will ever forget when, at the BWA congress, one of the first Baptists from Albania confessed, "I did not know I had so many brothers and sisters." Indeed as Baptists gather we can sing for joy, "What a fellowship, what a joy divine....!"

Indeed, Biblical fellowship is suffering with those who suffer from religious persecution, crying with those who cry at the great injustices of evil systems of government, holding hands with those who face a lonely and oppressive future, rejoicing with those who rejoice over new found freedom, and the story goes on.

From 1950 to 1980 Billy Graham was always one of the main speakers at the Congress and he often began by saying, "Yes! I support the Baptist World Alliance." Come to England in 2005 and have real Christian fellowship in Jesus' name! Indeed, we belong together, because we belong to Christ!

Millions of Baptist will celebrate BWA Day on the first Sunday of February. Join hands with your brothers and sisters as your local congregation unites in prayer and praise for that unity which alone comes from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Indeed, because we belong to Christ, we belong to one another. Thanks be to God.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Lotz is general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance headquartered in Falls Church, Va.)

1/23/2004 12:00:00 AM by Denton Lotz | with 0 comments



Baptists 'drawing an ever-smaller circle' : Friday, Jan. 23, 2004

January 23 2004 by

Baptists 'drawing an ever-smaller circle' : Friday, Jan. 23, 2004
Friday, Jan. 23, 2004

Baptists 'drawing an ever-smaller circle'

An SBC committee is recommending a withdrawal from the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). This act could have a significant effect on world missions. As a missionary with the Foreign Mission Board, I watched for 40 years as Baptist work grew from one church to a convention that is now a member of the BWA. We told Thai Baptists that they were not under our control but under the lordship of Christ; that the Bible in their hands was the word of God and they were competent to interpret it; that they had received the Holy Spirit and He would guide them into all truth. We worked with them as brothers in Christ, not as their spiritual superiors.

Other BWA groups grew, not out of missionary work but from the witness of Baptist pioneers in those lands. Many of them have suffered and died for their Baptist faith. Have we?

I do not believe God has appointed Southern Baptists to monitor the beliefs of other Baptists. Are we going to keep drawing an ever-smaller circle around ourselves until we stand in smug and grand isolation from our fellow Baptists, not to speak of other Christians?

To break our bonds with the BWA is to cause a schism in the body of Christ. Denton Lotz has truly said, "It is a sin against love." If we cannot have fellowship with other Baptists, what Christians can we relate to? If we are concerned about faithfulness to the scriptures, and I am, what about the doctrine of the unity of the body of Christ? What about Jesus' command that we love one another as a witness to the world?

May God help us to stop and think of the consequences to the kingdom of God before the SBC takes so drastic a step.

Ronald C. Hill

Geensboro, N.C.

1/23/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



Family Bible Study lesson for February 8: Disciplined Prayer : Friday, Jan. 23, 2004

January 23 2004 by Claude Frazier

Family Bible Study lesson for February 8: Disciplined Prayer : Friday, Jan. 23, 2004
Friday, Jan. 23, 2004

Family Bible Study lesson for February 8: Disciplined Prayer

By Claude Frazier
Focal Passages: Ezra 8:21-23; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; James 5:13-18

Key Verse: 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Exercise Humility

Ezra 8:21-23

Our text finds Ezra seeking to prepare a group of exiled Israelites for their return home. Near the Ahava river (possibly a canal), Ezra proclaimed a fast, encouraging the people to humble themselves and pray. He was attending to spiritual preparations first before moving on to physical concerns. Ezra and the Israelites were seeking from God a safe journey and protection for themselves and for their possessions.

Ezra said he was ashamed to ask for help from King Artaxerxes, because he had previously declared to the king that God would care for them through His power and might. They prayed fervently and effectively that the hand of God would be against all who forsook Him as they sought God concerning their safety. God listened to their prayers and entreaties.

Develop Consistency

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; James 5:13-14

Although people cannot spend all their time praying, they can have a prayerful attitude at all times. This prayerful attitude does not take the place of prayer but can be an outgrowth of prayer. There should be a disciplined daily prayer time. Be diligent and know that the forces of Satan will work to stop it.

Daniel knew this, and even under the threat of death, he maintained his three regular prayer times each day. When he was thrown in the den of lions for this practice, God kept him safe.

Effective prayer and righteousness are related. To live a righteous life one must read from God's words and let them speak to the heart, offering prayers with earnestness and sincerity.

James says that a person who suffers should not say he is being tempted of God. Instead, he should pray in faith so his prayers will reach the ears of the Lord. James empowers the sick by telling them to call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him.

The oil used to anoint the sick person is representative of the Holy Spirit. The prayer of faith reaches across pain and loneliness and can bring healing to the person. If he has committed sin, it will be forgiven. The parallel shows a connection between healing and forgiveness. There is no gap between physical and spiritual healing.

Focus on Faith

James 5:15-18

Prayers for the sick do not always result in healing, but the lack of physical healing does not mean there was necessarily a lack of faith. All prayers are subject to God's will; our prayers are a part of the healing process.

James insisted that the effectual prayer of a righteous man avails much, calling to mind Elijah, a righteous man who prayed with power. Elijah stood alone as 450 prophets of Baal gathered around. He asked them how long they would be halted between two opinions about whether the Lord is God. He told them to prepare a meat offering and see if their gods could make fire come down from heaven and consume it. They prayed from morning until noon and got no response.

Elijah ridiculed them by suggesting that their god might be taking a nap, or away on a trip. He commanded that a trench be dug around the altar. Water was poured over the offering three times, until the wood was soaked and the trench overflowed. When Elijah prayed, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, stones and dust, licking the water from the trenches.

Powerful prayers are made with intensity and passion. When Hannah wanted a child, she prayed under such stress that the priest assumed she was drunk. Elijah prayed with fervent earnestness and faith. Jesus' prayer of resignation, "Father, forgiven them for they know not what they do" speaks volumes about the power of prayer.

Disciplined prayer reemphasizes that prayer is talking and listening to God. For prayer to become an integral part of one's life, discipline is required in a young believer. Communion with God then becomes as vital to a committed believer as breathing.

1/23/2004 12:00:00 AM by Claude Frazier | with 0 comments



Family Bible Study Lesson for February 15: Disciplined Bible Study : Friday, Jan. 23, 2004

January 23 2004 by Claude Frazier

Family Bible Study Lesson for February 15: Disciplined Bible Study : Friday, Jan. 23, 2004
Friday, Jan. 23, 2004

Family Bible Study Lesson for February 15: Disciplined Bible Study

By Claude Frazier
Focal Passage: Joshua 1:6-9; Psalm 1:1-6; 2 Timothy 2:15-16

Key Verse: 2 Timothy 2:15

Success

Joshua 1:6-9

God's plan is not dependent on any one human leader. After Moses died, God called Joshua to the great responsibility of leading His people across the Jordan and into the Promised Land. God gave to Joshua His divine plan and vision of what Israel could accomplish through Him.

God revealed to Joshua what the boundaries of the new nation should be, but the biblical record suggests that Israel never occupied the full extent of the promise. The author of Joshua believed this was because the people did not meet God's requirements.

Failure can also result when leaders do not realize their potential and nations do not receive what God intended for them.

God's plan is so much greater than we realize. God never walks out on His promises. Some of our objectives are unrealized because we do not fulfill the conditions given to us.

One condition God gave Joshua was to "be strong." God always does His part but humans must do their part also. Every life has its share in the divine purpose of God.

Another condition to Joshua was "turn not." Obedience is necessary for bringing about the vision. God told Joshua to "be not afraid." The true leader must give of himself without question and face his work with assurance. Fear causes other emotions that can take our mind away from the goal.

God's promise for success was His never-failing presence. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. The world seems to change, faces change, conditions change, but God does not change.

Blessing

Psalm 1:1-6

"Blessed" or "happy" describes the one who refuses to follow the way of wickedness, which is ungodly, sinful and scornful. A righteous person "walks," "stands" and "sits" in the way of righteousness. One who is wise delights in the law of Lord and seeks to fulfill the law. The Psalm likened the wise man as a firmly planted tree that yields fruit and is productive, with leaves that do not wither - an image of prosperity and stability.

The righteous are firmly planted in the way of God, learning from scripture godly principles for living. They remain close to the river of grace so they can be continually refreshed and worshiping and communing with God so their spiritual lives will not wither and die.

The latter verses of the text warn against evil. In the judgment of the Lord, the wicked cannot stand, but will be driven about like chaff on the wind. Their lives are not centered on the Lord and they are not comfortable in the assembly of the righteous.

The Lord knows the way of the righteous. The Lord is interested in the life we live, and rewards the righteous.

Godliness

2 Timothy 2:1516

Paul exhorted Timothy to keep the faith and present himself as a real teacher. He told Timothy to study and "rightly divide" or interpret God's teaching in scripture. In other words, He encouraged the habit of disciplined Bible study.

This shows that we need Bible study and prayer to become strong in faith, not fearing. Paul was explaining this to Timothy as the correct response to the threat of false teachers.

Paul described the false teachers' words as godless chatter that amounted to nothing but emptiness. The teachers in question seem to have been teaching false views of the resurrection, stirring up discord and upsetting the faith of others.

Bible studies and discussions that leave us closer to one another and to God are helpful, but if we erect barriers between each other, we also become more distant from God. Our aim should be to help bring others closer to God, to be workmen who handle the word of God with integrity, with no need to be ashamed.
1/23/2004 12:00:00 AM by Claude Frazier | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for February 8: Recognizing Our Sinfulness : Friday, Jan. 23, 2004

January 23 2004 by Jimmy Allen

Formations lesson for February 8: Recognizing Our Sinfulness : Friday, Jan. 23, 2004
Friday, Jan. 23, 2004

Formations lesson for February 8: Recognizing Our Sinfulness

By Jimmy Allen
Focal Passage: Luke 5:1-11

We find tension throughout scripture. None is more obvious than the fact that the Creator became one with us in order to provide a sacrifice for us.

With Moses, God appeared in a magnificent way. Moses removed his sandals because he was on holy ground. Yet in the Gospels, we discover Jesus saying to the disciples that He called them friends. The two views of God, on first impression, seem to be in opposition. But this week's passage reveals both views of God - someone all-powerful and yet someone with us.

A Regular Guy

Luke 5:1-3

Jesus had been teaching in the synagogue when we get to Luke chapter 5. But Jesus' words weren't received well in the synagogue. He was run out of town in an attempt to kill Him, and His days of teaching and preaching in the synagogue were coming to an end.

So Jesus went to the people along the lake of Gennesaret, also called the Sea of Tiberias or Sea of Galilee. This 8-mile by 13-mile harp-shaped lake was a source of food and income for people in Galilee and it attracted workers like Peter, James and John who invested in boats to catch fish. Jesus certainly doesn't come across as a religious leader out of touch with working people. He was so comfortable that He got into one of the boats and asked to go a little way from the shore so He could speak to the crowd. We get a picture of a regular guy, a carpenter, with other regular folks, including fishermen.

Do we see Jesus as a friend? Jesus said: "You are my friends if you do what I command you" (John 15:14).

Much More Than a Regular Guy

Luke 5:4-11

The regular guy scene ended quickly, though. Jesus told Simon Peter to go out and put down his fishing nets. The practical side of Peter showed in his response to Jesus: "Master, we have worked all night long, but have caught nothing." In other words, asking us to let down our nets doesn't make sense. There are no fish. Jesus knew differently.

Peter used a name for Jesus that is noteworthy. He called Jesus "master." That was a term used by disciples for Jesus, and Peter had not yet been called to follow Jesus.

Peter followed his initial comment with this: "Yet, if you say so, I will let down the nets." They, of course, caught more fish than they could hold - the boats were about to sink.

This was a powerful event for Peter. He was overwhelmed with the recognition that Jesus was more than a special teacher. Peter caught a sense of God's presence and fell before Jesus' knees, saying, "Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man."

Although the introductory phrase of his comment may seem harsh, the fact he fell before the knees of Jesus conveys the emotion that goes with the comment.

He immediately knew of his insignificance, his failures when put in contrast with the significance, the perfection of God.

During my first year at Campbell University Divinity School, I had the opportunity to visit the Bible lands as part of a study tour. One night before we left, I had a dream about seeing Calvary, the place where Jesus was crucified. In my dream, I was so overpowered with the sense of God's grace shown at that place that I immediately fell to my knees. The reverence for God combined with the recognition of my own insignificance was overpowering.

When I actually got to the place that is traditionally considered the site of Calvary, I found the scene nothing like I had dreamed. But the sense of God's presence in the dream was real. It gave me an inkling of Peter's emotion.

"Not to Us, O Lord"

Are we willing to see God with the awe shown by Peter? Are we willing to see the power of God in contrast with our sin? If so, then we begin to get a glimpse of the pain we cause God when we allow our pride and our selfishness to separate us from Him. Then we can understand more clearly why Peter threw himself down at Jesus' knees.

Rich Mullin's popular song of praise repeats the line, "Our God is an awesome God." That statement is true. A hymn I've heard the men's chorus at Wake Forest Baptist Church in Wake Forest sing a few times captures that truth in a more inspiring way. With tenderness and power, the men's chorus sings the refrain: "Not to us, O Lord. Not to us, O Lord. But to Thy name give glory. To Thy name give praise."

Although the hymn isn't about Peter's recognition of his sinfulness, it does capture the awe for Jesus shown by a man who made his living fishing in the Sea of Gennesaret.

1/23/2004 12:00:00 AM by Jimmy Allen | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for February 15: Living on Level Ground : Friday, Jan. 23, 2004

January 23 2004 by Jimmy Allen

Formations lesson for February 15: Living on Level Ground : Friday, Jan. 23, 2004
Friday, Jan. 23, 2004

Formations lesson for February 15: Living on Level Ground

By Jimmy Allen
Focal Passage: Luke 6:17-26

Bumper sticker theology has its limitations. Consider this one: "Seven days without Jesus makes one weak." This is, of course, a pun on the word "weak." But most, if not all, Christians would recognize the importance of being with Jesus all the time, not just once every seven days.

A saying I like is the following: "Jesus turned the world upside down but right side up." We could analyze this statement and find problems with it, but it does capture the dramatic essence of Jesus' meaning. He changed the world.

The beatitudes describe well how Jesus did change the world.

Level Ground

Luke 6:17-19

The passage begins with a description of the scene. The 12 apostles had just been chosen and they walked together down from a mountain.

It's noteworthy that Luke included the phrase "stood on a level place." This wasn't necessarily a plain but a flat place in the hills of Galilee where He could speak with the great multitude of people. Matthew describes the scene as being on a mountain.

The phrase "stood on a level place" was probably included simply as a way to describe the surroundings. It also could have been a foretaste of what was to come. In the beatitudes, Jesus took the peaks out of the worldly desires for wealth, plenty of food, laughter and popularity. And He lifted up those who were suffering.

Treasures in Heaven

Luke 6:20-23

Jesus' words must have shocked those who had gathered that day. Who wanted to be poor? Or hungry? Or weepy? Or hated? But those are the people who are blessed, he said.

Through a series of paradoxes, Jesus emphasized the eternal over the temporal, the spiritual over the material, the heavenly over the worldly. "Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled" (6:21a). Jesus looked at the downtrodden and gave them hope. They may not change the world. They may never get rich. But those who followed Jesus would gain a reward in heaven that would be great.

Imagine a poor fisherman or shepherd hearing those words and for the first time sensing true freedom - even in the midst of their poverty. That freedom is still available to us.

Woe to the Rich

Luke 6:24-26

In Matthew 25, Jesus gives a warm, comforting description of those who care for the sick, the imprisoned and those in need of clothing. Then the warmth turns cold with a description of those who don't care for the sick, the imprisoned and those needing clothing.

This passage from Luke does a similar turn. The beatitudes lift up the poor, the hungry, the mourners and those rejected by others for Christ's sake. Then those who are rich, who have plenty of food and who are laughing are described in a woeful way. Those who are rich have already received their consolation. Those who have plenty of food will be hungry, and those who are laughing will mourn.

A Matter of Priorities

People can devote themselves to a materialistic world, but if they do, their reward would have already occurred. Those who focus on the spiritual will see their reward later.

"Jesus promised His disciples three things - that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy and in constant trouble," F.R. Maltby wrote.

Do we succumb to the temptation to be both worldly and spiritual? The passage is clear toward which avenue we should be devoting ourselves. Our lives as disciples aren't easy, and we shouldn't be building the kingdom of earth. We should be building the kingdom of God. That is the eternal.

1/23/2004 12:00:00 AM by Jimmy Allen | with 0 comments



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