July 2002

Offering grace for the journey

July 26 2002 by Jimmy Allen , BR Assistant Editor

Offering grace for the journey | Friday, July 26, 2002

Friday, July 26, 2002

Offering grace for the journey

By Jimmy Allen BR Assistant Editor

CARAWAY - Richard Eller understands the fear Jesus likely faced during the last days of His earthly ministry.

Like Jesus heading to the cross on Good Friday, Eller is heading toward the day he will stop undergoing kidney dialysis. It's a decision that will probably mean his death.

He'll eat vegetables and exclude meat after Aug. 16 so his body will more easily handle the effects of having no operating kidney to cleanse toxins from his blood.

"I figure it'll take a week or two to hit hard," Eller said.

"I'm positive (in outlook). I was real scared for a long time. I still am. ... Jesus Christ was scared, too. Walking through town carrying the cross, He was scared, too."

Eller's kidneys stopped functioning because of a string of medical problems related to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, commonly known as AIDS. He also has leukemia and a disease called CMV that started in his stomach and then moved to his right eye, blocking his vision. The next stop for the disease is his left eye. Eller calls the first drug given to him to stop the CMV a "kidney killer." In addition, he suffered a small heart attack. Two years ago, he needed 156 pints of blood during the year.

"It's been one battle after another."

The whole second week of July was spent in the hospital. He got out on Friday so he could leave the next Monday for a five-day retreat for people with HIV/AIDS at Caraway Conference Center. The retreat, one of two held each year for people living with HIV/AIDS and their caregivers, was sponsored by Baptist AIDS Partnership of North Carolina (BAPNC) in partnership with the Baptist State Convention. Eller wanted to make sure he could attend the retreat, knowing it would likely be his last.

Although his family in Kings Mountain has been supportive, he also wanted to attend the retreat because "I just needed some friends," Eller said.

Eller was one of 36 people (including 11 staff members) who gathered from Monday afternoon through Friday morning for a daily schedule of testimonies about issues in their lives, small group discussions, Bible studies, seminars, worship services and special activities.

The theme throughout the retreat was reflected in the name, "Grace for the journey."

The retreat is a place where people like Eller can live for a short time without being stigmatized as having HIV/AIDS.

Although HIV/AIDS was initially called Gay Related Immune Deficiency in the late 1970s, the disease affects many more than those who are homosexual. Eller got the disease from a girlfriend after his divorce. A man in West Virginia, who still denies he has the disease, infected the girlfriend, Eller said.

The disease is transmitted through blood or semen, according to Geraldine Whitley, an HIV instructor from Wilson County who served as a staff member and doesn't have HIV/AIDS.

Her nephew, Myk Wilkins, attended the retreats before he died of AIDS. Some of his family rejected him. "We accepted him where he was," Whitley said. The episode helped her realize that many AIDS patients are alone and she began ministering to them in the Wilson area by taking them to the doctor (usually out of town because of the stigma associated with the disease that could affect family members as well as the patient), taking them to the grocery store and being someone who cares.

Whitley also leads the Bible study at the retreat and sings with the retreat choir.

Participants noted that many seminars and retreats are held for people living with HIV/AIDS. This one focuses on the soul of the person with HIV/AIDS and their caregivers.

Sheila Evans of Raleigh attended her first retreat last month. The retreat helps people live with the disease and also know about Jesus. "It's almost like having your cake and ice cream, too," Evans said. "It's just good. I thank God that there is a program like this. They're putting Jesus at the forefront of everything."

The retreat started in 1995. Two years later, the first person was baptized during the retreat. Since then, at least one person has been baptized every year. Two years ago, three were baptized. Last year, two people were baptized.

This year, Joyce Donevan was baptized. Her baptism came about a week after she had decided to commit suicide. She said she was "sick and tired of being tired." Her liver is deteriorating from AIDS and now that deterioration has affected the right side of her brain. Donevan said she didn't have faith the week before the retreat. "I didn't have God." She had wanted to attend the retreat but was put on a waiting list. Just a few days before the retreat was to begin, Eric Raddatz, executive director of the BAPNC, called and said he had an opening. She went.

At the beginning of the week, she met with the retreat's preacher, Philip Elliott, a 2001 Campbell University Divinity School graduate and pastor of a church in Virginia, to ask if he would conduct her funeral. He asked her if she had God in her life. She said no. "He showed me how. He prayed for me, and I felt it," Donevan said.

Donevan was raised in a Baptist church, she said, and was baptized as a child. But she did it only because others wanted her, too, she said.

"If you had seen me last week, you wouldn't have seen all these smiles," she said.

Raddatz said about 50 people living with HIV/AIDS were turned away from attending the retreat. Although some denominations may have a retreat with 200 people, it's impossible for staff members to get to know that many participants one-on-one. Those types of retreats become strictly a time of preaching, he said.

If BAPNC had the money, Raddatz said he would have more of the smaller retreats instead of one large retreat. Each retreat costs about $8,000, he said. In addition to the BSC, sponsors of BAPNC include about 10 churches, individuals and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina. For more information on BAPNC, see the ministry's Web site at www.baptistaidspartnership.org or write to BAPNC, P.O. Box 1318, Wake Forest, N.C. 27588.

Sometimes Raddatz is asked if the retreat addresses homosexuality. The question usually is, "Do you tell these people the truth?" Raddatz said. His response: "We preach God's grace and love. You can't argue with grace and love."

Specific sins aren't targeted during the retreat, he said. "We don't talk about lifestyle unless it's brought up," he said. "We talk about God's love and grace and opportunity to seek forgiveness." Raddatz said they let the Holy Spirit do the convicting.

Brenda Boberg served as a facilitator during the retreat. She doesn't have AIDS, but her brother died from the disease. "AIDS has such a stigma," she said. Her family had trouble accepting her brother. She went to Ohio to visit him before he died and asked him about his belief in Jesus Christ. He told her, "You're the first person who cared enough to ask."

"He ended up accepting Christ. I know he's in heaven," Boberg said.

After watching her brother suffer, she told herself that she didn't want to be around HIV/AIDS patients again. She went back to Greenville where she works at Pitt Memorial Hospital. She got a call at work from a co-worker asking if she would talk to a young woman who was pregnant and who had just found out she has HIV positive. The baby was expected to die.

She learned the pregnancy had been planned, but the father had been involved in an affair.

"What do I do first?" the young woman asked. Was she suppose to deal with the fact her baby would die? Or that she would die? Or that her marriage had been a lie?

Boberg left the hospital that day and went home where she saw a small notice about BAPNC retreats in the Biblical Recorder. The notice may have been small in the paper, but it stood out like a full-page ad to her, she said.

She has been a regular staff member since then. Her husband, Tom, is the retreat nurse. Her daughter, Angel, is in charge of crafts, and Angel's husband, Jason Webb, is also a staff nurse.

"God has just opened the door," she said.

Boberg led a devotion during the retreat in which she talked about fears - fear of spiders, snakes, animals, and losing loved ones. She quoted 1 John 14 that says, "Perfect love casts out fear."

All people have pain, she said, whether that pain is a family problem, an addiction or HIV/AIDS. "Joy does not come in the absence of pain. Pure joy comes through Christ Jesus in the midst of our pain, in the midst of our fear," she said. "Perfect love isn't on earth. It's from God."

It's that type of teaching that makes Geneva Vauters of Smithfield want to capture the atmosphere of the retreats into a Mason jar and take a whiff every so often at home.

"I need to be here because it gives me strength to go on," Vauters said. "The grace allows you to tolerate the ignorance."

She has been to 12 retreats after being diagnosed HIV positive 10 years ago - after her two sons were born. The oldest son is 15 and HIV positive. Her 13-year-old son, like her husband, is free of the disease.

Vauters believes she got the disease during a visit to a bootleg dentist in 1979 in which she had 23 teeth removed and lost a lot of blood. Although HIV positive, the disease has yet to develop into AIDS.

She lived in a dark period after learning she had the disease. "I was angry at God. I was so angry at Him. I questioned, 'Why me?' I had to come to the realization, 'Why not me?' ... I was blaming Him. Then I realized I couldn't live through it without Him." Vauters said she then took it as a compliment that God had given her so much to handle.

She now works part time as an HIV/AIDS case worker and speaks to groups about the disease.

Raddatz has a list of 25 people who have been to the retreats and have since died. Death is a scary part of the disease, Vauters said. "It's like when am I going to be on that list Eric has." Instead of focusing on those who have died, Vauters said she concentrates on the good times she had with those on the list.

"(I) hope when I'm on that list folks will feel the same about me. It's a journey," she said.

Eller has been able to plan much about his death. He knows who will be around him. And he's keeping the option that his kidneys may decide to work on their own.

"I believe in my God enough I'm going to be healed either way," Eller said. "He'll never give us more than we can handle. This has been a little more than I can handle."

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
7/26/2002 12:00:00 AM by Jimmy Allen , BR Assistant Editor | with 0 comments

Second association excludes press

July 26 2002 by Steve DeVane and Derek Hodges , BR staff

Second association excludes press | Friday, July 26, 2002

Friday, July 26, 2002

Second association excludes press

By Steve DeVane and Derek Hodges BR staff

A Buncombe Baptist Association committee decided July 18 to exclude members of the press from a series of otherwise public sessions.

The move marked the second time in 10 days that a N.C. Baptist association committee decided to meet in private.

The Buncombe committee was holding "listening sessions." It was gathering information for a report on whether the association, in concept, would consider endorsing a new church that chose to affiliate with the moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) but not the more conservative Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

The decision to close the meetings was made at the committee's second meeting. A Biblical Recorder reporter attended the first session.

The Recorder intended to cover the third meeting on July 22, but was told by Director of Missions Ron Kiser that the meeting was closed to members of the press.

Association Moderator Dennis Thurman made the decision to close the meetings on July 18, Kiser said. Other members of the committee agreed, he said.

Kiser said the committee would likely issue a statement after it completed its report. Members of the committee might be available for interviews then, he said.

The Buncombe committee is expected to give a report at the association's annual meeting Oct. 14-15.

The committee was formed in response to a motion at an association board meeting by Guy Sayles, pastor of Asheville's First Baptist Church. The motion asked for a committee to find out the association's stance on new churches that affiliate with the CBF, but not the SBC.

The motion asked that the committee consider whether the association would welcome cooperation with such churches and whether the association would endorse funding for them.

The Baptist State Convention (BSC) has given local associations heavy influence into whether new churches get state funding. Earlier this year, the Carolina Baptist Association effectively vetoed BSC funding for Providence Baptist Church, a new CBF church in Hendersonville. That church was co-sponsored by several churches in the Buncombe Association, but eventually joined the United Association, which is made up of churches mostly in the Charlotte area.

Debate in the first meeting focused on the source of money for CBF church starts like Providence. Several people said that money comes from the offerings of SBC churches, which means that SBC churches are promoting a cause with which they don't agree.

In an interview after the meeting, Barbara Vassar, a member of First Asheville, said that is not the case. She said some money for starting churches comes from a BSC giving option, Plan C, that doesn't include funding for the SBC.

"These people think we're spending SBC money on Providence," she said. "I think it's so sad that they are in churches that give to the state convention and don't know the different giving plans."

In 2001, Plan C contributions were $2.29 million, of which $68,706, or 3 percent, was earmarked for "North Carolina Home Mission Projects and New Church Starts," according to the BSC budget. Plan C includes money for CBF but not the SBC.

Vassar said she believes Sayles' motion goes beyond the question of funding for new CBF churches. At issue is where the association stands and whether churches that now support CBF will be accepted by other churches in the association, she said.

"They think we don't love the Lord," she said. "It's just like we don't even speak the same language."

The listening sessions were announced in an e-mail message from Thurman. He said the sessions were not intended for "back and forth debate."

"The committee members aren't there to discuss their positions, but to listen to yours," he said. "We invite you to speak passionately, but always courteously."

Thurman asked members of the association to attend one of the meetings.

"This report will have an impact on the future of Buncombe Baptist Association," he said. "Its implications may likely be profound, not just for new church starts, but in the current fellowship of churches."

The decision to close the meetings followed a July 8 move by the Tuckaseigee Association's Executive Committee to hold one of its meetings behind closed doors. In that meeting, the committee affirmed the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message and asked the association's credentials committee to counsel two churches over matters of faith and practice.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
7/26/2002 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane and Derek Hodges , BR staff | with 0 comments

Adventures in measurement

July 26 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Adventures in measurement | Friday, July 26, 2002

Friday, July 26, 2002

Adventures in measurement

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

It all started with an expensive bottled-water contract utilizing a dispenser that was hard to keep clean. Our health-conscious staff of seven drinks so much water that I decided it would be cheaper to buy a decent refrigerator with a built-in filter and water dispenser.

Since the staff is also cost-conscious and most of them bring their lunch to work, we needed a larger refrigerator, anyway. The old one, designed for a dormitory room, just wasn't getting the job done.

So, I carefully measured the dimensions of the available niche in our little office kitchenette (32 inches), went down to the department store, and bought a sale-priced unit that was 29 1/2 inches wide.

The next day, while tearing out a shelf midway up the refrigerator alcove, I bumped my shoulder on the door to the kitchenette. That's when it struck me that the doorway was only 23 inches wide. Soon I was back in the construction business. Tearing out the doorframe and two jack studs widened the opening just enough for the refrigerator to pass through with the doors taken off.

It also left gaps in the well-worn linoleum, however, which needed replacing, anyway.

So now I've widened a door (a first), cut and laid a vinyl floor (another first), installed a valve for the water line to the refrigerator (a second and third, since the first one leaked), and replaced the cold water pipe under the sink (reference the aforementioned leak).

We also had to patch big holes in the drywall from where the old shelf had been glued in, cut the bottom off of an overhead cabinet, and repaint the room.

Two stories I intended to write will have to wait, but we have cold, clean water and lots of room for lunch bags.

First things first.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
7/26/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Where do sermons come from?

July 26 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Where do sermons come from? | Friday, July 26, 2002

Friday, July 26, 2002

Where do sermons come from?

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Have you ever wondered where the preacher at your church gets the sermon material you hear on Sunday mornings?

If you are fortunate, the sermon starts with the Bible and comes from the pastor's own heart, experience, insights and daily relationship with God. Even poorly presented sermons can be tolerable if you know they have an authentic base in the preacher's life.

Chances are just as good, however, that all or part of the sermon originated with someone else and found its way to your pastor through a book or journal. There are ways to use such source material ethically and effectively. And there are ways to abuse it.

A case of full-blown pulpit plagiarism made headlines recently when Baptist Press reported that Reba Cobb, an official with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), had used someone else's sermon when speaking to a meeting of Baptist Women in Ministry. When confronted, Cobb admitted that she had used material she didn't prepare, but said she didn't realize it was copied because she had hired a research assistant to write the sermon for her. Cobb issued a public apology. I hope her assistant returned the fee.

Unfortunately, the practice of passing off others' sermons as the preacher's own is as common as it is inexcusable.

Many years ago, the story was told of a seminary professor who preached a powerful chapel sermon on the subject "Peter's wife's mother lay sick of a fever." The next week, a student supplying the pulpit for a small church parroted the sermon. The following week, another student brought a powerful message on "Peter's wife's mother lay sick of a fever." When a third student preached yet the same sermon, a frustrated member of the congregation was heard to say, "Lord, I hope that woman gets well soon!"

I don't know if that story is true, but I'm confident many seminary chapel sermons experience more lives than a cat.

More recently, I heard about a pastor who was sued because he reportedly downloaded a sermon from the Internet, preached it on Sunday, and then posted it on his own church's Web site as if he wrote it.

You can be sure the carefully alliterated sermons preached at pastor's meetings and evangelism conferences, along with anything written by Rick Warren or Bill Hybels, will be heard again and again.

Preachers draw sermon material from other pulpiteers on a regular basis, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Really good stories and clear windows into the meaning and relevance of scripture ought to be repeated - but with proper credit given to the source.

I heard preachers at both the SBC and the CBF annual meetings use nearly identical versions of the same sermon illustration this past June. Neither gave credit. The illustration, about a poor person having the inner wealth to give away a precious stone, originated in the Hindu tradition as the story of a wandering mendicant known as a sannyasi. I first read it in The Song of the Bird, a collection of stories put together by a Catholic priest named Anthony de Mello. It's a good story and worth retelling - but not as a current event.

I was a pastor for 26 years. I know the dual pressures of short time and tall expectations, and how tempting it is to find a good sermon book and just preach your way through it.

Publishers do their part to help pastors by producing large quantities of resources. Pastors who use the lectionary can find ready-made sermons and illustrations tailored to the weekly text in journals like Homiletics and Pulpit Resource. Others may prefer magazines like Preaching or LifeWay's Proclaim magazine.

There are sermon books by the hundreds, preaching Web sites by the score, and a variety of software programs packed with text-keyed sermon illustrations (mostly really old ones).

If I were asked to suggest guidelines for the appropriate use of preaching resources, here's where I would begin:

(1) Do your own study and research. If you don't have the time or the talent to prepare a sermon yourself, maybe someone else should be preaching.

(2) When using illustrations or insights gleaned from someone else's material, give credit where credit is due. If you use a direct quotation, say so. It can be distracting to stop and attribute every insight, but a "catch-all" credit is appropriate. "In preparing this message, I profited greatly from Max Lucado's imaginative treatment of the same text," for example.

(3) Never - unless it's an obvious joke - recite someone else's experience as if it were your own. This is dishonest to the core and fatal to your future credibility with those who know you misrepresented the truth.

(4) The best stories are your stories, growing from your personal experiences and theological reflection on daily life. Do not, however, tell stories that might embarrass other people (including your family) without their permission.

The preacher who spends adequate time in Bible study and prayer, who pays attention through the day, and who is open to the Spirit's leading will find no shortage of exegetical insight and homiletical application. The real work comes in choosing what to say and how to say it best in order to proclaim God's truth to God's people.

That, after all, is the preacher's job.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
7/26/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for August 11: Human Beings - Why Get Personal?

July 26 2002 by Crate Jones , Genesis 2:7-9, 15-25

Family Bible Study lesson for August 11: Human Beings - Why Get Personal? | Friday, July 26, 2002

Friday, July 26, 2002

Family Bible Study lesson for August 11: Human Beings - Why Get Personal?

By Crate Jones Genesis 2:7-9, 15-25

A teacher was explaining to her class how life began: "Aeons and aeons ago, the pre-historic water beat upon the pre-historic shore. A microscopic one-celled animal, called an amoeba, was formed. From that one cell, mankind evolved."

A little boy asked, "Teacher, where did all that water come from?" (Out of the mouth of babes ...)

How did we get here? The amoeba tale can't hold a candle against the light of God's word: "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Gen. 2:7). "Human beings are the result of the personal work of God" (L. Theme).

Martel Reccious, a brilliant teenager in our youth group, could quote more scripture and find a passage more quickly than the rest of us. But something changed him; he lost his bearings. He said, "I believe in God, but I do not believe in a personal God." We grieved when he lost his life in World War II.

We have "dusty" bodies, but God's breath gave us life. Being set apart from and above the animal kingdom makes us His crowning act of creation.

Mankind is more than a new and improved model of some animal. Ruth Graham said, "If we descended from the monkey, we owe the monkey an apology."

Who are we? "And God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness"' (Gen. 1:26). We are God's handcrafted offspring. God's image is stamped within us.

A very successful man may be called a "self-made" man, but that's unlikely. Dennis the Menace put it in perspective. He was introduced to a visitor in the home. He said, "My daddy says you are a self-made man: why did you make yourself that way?" At least God couldn't be blamed.

"An image is a likeness of the real thing. A finished photograph 'does not express the totality of the original, ... but it may convey the original essence with great force'" (In His Image by Dr. Paul Brand).

The likeness of George Washington is engraved on a dollar bill, but it's not the father of our country. A new born baby may be the "spitting image" of his father, but is not the same person.

Cousin Doris and I hadn't seen one another since we were children. As adults, we met. She said, "I knew who you were; you look like Uncle Crate," my father.

Creation continued "God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make a help mate (woman) for him.' And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam; and He took one of his ribs ... and from the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man, made He a woman" (Gen. 2:18,21-22).

Adam said, "This is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh" (Gen. 2:23). Hear a fable: "Eve said, 'Adam, do you love me?' He answered, 'Who else?"' To be sure, she counted his ribs. You might say, she ribbed him.

God has plans for human beings Example: His plan for man and wife is clear: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife" (Gen. 2:24).

My wife's middle name is Cleaves. Included on our wedding invitation are these words: "Mr. and Mrs. J.W. Congleton request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their daughter, Harriett Cleaves to the Reverend Crate Jones." We have been cleaving to each other for 54 years.

He has a plan for each of us, regardless of age. It will always bring glory to Him and be a witness to Jesus. "They shall still bring forth fruit in old age" (Ps. 92:14). Praises be!

Martha Snell Nicholeson was bed-ridden for 25 years. She wrote The Other Side. "This isn't death - it's glory. It's not dark - it's light. It isn't stumbling, groping or even faith - it's sight. This isn't grief - it's having my last tear wiped away. It's sunrise - it's the morning of my eternal day." She speaks of meeting, "The One who sought me - saved me and kept me by His grace!"

God will use the useable to honor His Son, Jesus.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
7/26/2002 12:00:00 AM by Crate Jones , Genesis 2:7-9, 15-25 | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for August 18: Sin - What Went Wrong?

July 26 2002 by Crate Jones , Genesis 3:1-3, 6, 9-17, 19, 22-23

Family Bible Study lesson for August 18: Sin - What Went Wrong? | Friday, July 26, 2002

Friday, July 26, 2002

Family Bible Study lesson for August 18: Sin - What Went Wrong?

By Crate Jones Genesis 3:1-3, 6, 9-17, 19, 22-23

This lesson deals with the tragedy of sin, its consequences and God's provision of redemption through Jesus.

In a prayer meeting years ago, I asked the congregation for a definition of sin. The only answer I remember came from an older man: "I think it's the worst thing in the world." He hit the nail on the head.

How sin entered God's perfect world God commanded Adam not to eat fruit from "the tree of knowledge of good and evil." To do so would bring the penalty of spiritual and physical death into the world.

Enter Eve. Satan persuaded her to question God's command. The fruit looked good and was good to eat. She ate and offered some of it to Adam; he did likewise. They had a choice to make and failed miserably.

A wrong choice leads to the wrong destination. We took our grandsons to see "Sword of Peace" near Snow Camp. Coming back, at an intersection, Harriett said turn left; I turned right. We arrived in Siler City with two hungry boys, a closed Hardee's and many miles from our Durham home. We got home at midnight.

The world-shaking word is "disobedience." (My mother used to say: "Disobedience always brings pain." She demonstrated on me how it works.)

Adam and Eve did not take personal responsibility for their choice but passed the buck. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent (Satan). Neither said, "I have sinned." Ring a bell?

"The devil made me do it." 'Tain't so. He can't unless we consent. We choose to do right or wrong.

Sin's consequences Often, we hear these words: "I'm not hurting anybody but myself." Or, "What I do is my own business." Hogwash. It's easier to contain a wild fire than to contain the effects of sin. It always hurts a lot of others. Like a snail, you can tell Satan has been around by his trail of slime.

God's plan of redemption A redeemer would be needed to lift fallen mankind out of his helpless estate. From the beginning, Jesus Christ was designated to come into the world as the Savior. In light of the reality of sin that separates us from God, this is the good news we need to hear.

How can we know Jesus as our personal Savior? Included are these important elements: (1) the convicting work of the Holy Spirit; (2) the Scriptures; and (3) personally receiving Christ.

Convincing a person that he or she is a sinner is the work of the Holy Spirit. God's word can show him the way; only the one under conviction can invite Jesus to come into his or her heart.

John and I have been friends for more than 36 years. Every time I tried to talk with him about Jesus, he would out talk me or change the subject. He never seemed to know his real need until major troubles overtook him.

A few months ago, the phone rang. John wanted to accept Christ but did not know how. I shared Scripture with him, assured him that God loved him and that Jesus died on the cross for him. Then I said, "Will you ask Jesus into your heart now?" He said he would. I led the prayer as he repeated the words with me. It's beautiful to see how the Holy Spirit does His work.

While walking along the beach, Harriett and I noticed a humanlike form that some artistic person had fashioned out of sand. It was a good sculpture, but some less appreciative person had kicked part of it to pieces, leaving only a portion of what it once was.

But there's a bright side. The sculptor, who formed the "sand man," could have returned and reformed his work to its original likeness.

Jesus, who suffered all that Satan could do and died for the world's sin, can take the marred life and restore it to the beauty and purpose that God intended. "As many as touched Him were made whole" (Matt. 14-36).

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
7/26/2002 12:00:00 AM by Crate Jones , Genesis 3:1-3, 6, 9-17, 19, 22-23 | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for August 11: Wise Wealth

July 26 2002 by Haven Parrott , Proverbs 10:1-15

Formations lesson for August 11: Wise Wealth | Friday, July 26, 2002
  • They are rich in relationships and in righteousness.
  • Their diligence is rewarded by a plentiful harvest.
  • They are bursting with blessings.
  • Their legacy is an asset, not a liability, to their descendants.
  • They are sufficiently prosperous to satisfy their physical needs.
  • They serve up a sumptuous fare of life-giving counsel from their vast storehouse of knowledge.
  • They are supremely secure because their integrity is impeccable.
  • Their discernment is deep and their love is lavish.

    Wisdom involves discerning what's important, what matters and what lasts. The place to dig for wisdom is God's word. It is declared in Prov. 2:6: "For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding."

    Wisdom begins with taking God's word seriously, and eventually leads to the discovery that wisdom is not found in a place, but a person. The word made flesh, "in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2: 3). The wise person drinks from the bottomless well of Christ and thus, avoids spiritual dehydration.

    By contrast, the fool knows where the wisdom well is, but never makes the effort to lower a bucket. Those who forsake the fountain of Living Water end up drinking from leaky reservoirs (power, greed, prestige, adventure, self-gratification) that always run dry. Such wells are just too shallow to last for all eternity.

    There is no drought of wisdom. If we are spiritually parched it is because we are looking for refreshment in something or someone other than the One who said: "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life" (John 4:14).

    Those who drink from the well of wisdom are likely to become channels of blessings to many parched pilgrims. Flood me, Living Water! The banks of self erode. Wear down the rocks of my resistance: let nothing dam Your flow. Surge through my life, Holy Current! Bend my will to Your course; Wind Your way to the desert downstream: lead the thirsty to Your Source.

  • Friday, July 26, 2002

    Formations lesson for August 11: Wise Wealth

    By Haven Parrott Proverbs 10:1-15

    A well on our property supplies the water my family needs for bathing, drinking, cooking, cleaning and flushing. I confess that I haven't given the well much thought until recently. But these days, I find myself thinking a lot about that hole in the ground, for I'm beginning to realize the depth of that hole is what will determine the extent of my family's comfort, convenience and cleanliness until the current drought is over.

    Dry spells tend to make us think about the depth of our wells.

    Unpacking this passel of Proverbs has me wondering about depth in other areas of my life, for this passage is about the abundance that flows from a life in which the well of wisdom runs deep.

    Wealth comes from wisdom According to Solomon, those who seek wisdom will generally enjoy a life that is abounding in affluence, regardless of economic and environmental drought, the wobblings of Wall Street, or the ever-shifting sands of circumstance. Consider the wealth of the wise as described in Prov. 10:1-15:

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    7/26/2002 12:00:00 AM by Haven Parrott , Proverbs 10:1-15 | with 0 comments

    Formations lesson for August 18: Wise Talk

    July 26 2002 by Haven Parrott , Proverbs 18:21; 16:23-30

    Formations lesson for August 18: Wise Talk | Friday, July 26, 2002

    Friday, July 26, 2002

    Formations lesson for August 18: Wise Talk

    By Haven Parrott Proverbs 18:21; 16:23-30

    Mama always said, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." In the movie "Steel Magnolias," Olympia Dukakis' sharp-tongued character twists mama's advice thusly: "If you can't say something nice, honey, then just come on over and sit by me."

    We chuckle at the line because it's an invitation we've all issued or responded to at one time or another. But even when sugar-coated with a delightful southern drawl, the lethal weapon which resides in our mouth is prone to woefully misfire, especially in the context of sharing prayer requests or when commenting, with piously-raised eyebrows, about sister so and so's thus and such.

    There are countless arenas in which we feel justified to utter a little harmless gossip. "Harmless gossip" - now that's an oxymoron.

    The tongue has the power to savagely slice down self-esteem and, with cruel efficiency, dice up dreams. The little muscle can build walls between spouses and drive them to live in separate houses. Venomous words can ruin someone's reputation or even hold hostage a nation.

    Words are enormously powerful. Reckless, thoughtless, heartless words will not be overlooked by the living Word. "And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, that shall render account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned" (Matt.12:36,37).

    The mouth reveals the heart Thanks to World War II, I have cousins in Michigan. (My Daddy, a farm boy from Bertie County, and my Mama, who grew up in a big stone house just outside of Clio, Michigan, met and married while he was stationed at Great Lakes Naval Base in Chicago. They've lived in North Carolina for the past 56 years.) During every summer of my childhood and adolescence, our family trekked north to see Mama's kin.

    My northern cousins could be counted on to make the same request of me, over and over, for the duration of our visit: "Say something, Haven. Just talk." They weren't asking for words of wit or wisdom, they just wanted to hear the twang of my voice. My southern accent was a huge source of entertainment for them!

    You can tell where someone's from by the way they speak, and you can tell what's in their heart by what they say: "For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart" (Matt. 12:34).

    We who identify ourselves by Christ's name are His ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20) - whether we like it or not, whether we act like it or not, whether we talk like it or not. So the question is never: "Are we ambassadors for Christ?" The question is: "As ambassadors for Christ, how well do we represent our King?"

    The words we use betray whether He rules in our hearts or merely resides there. Proverbs 16:23 affirms this truth: "A wise man's heart guides his mouth and his lips promote instruction."

    Do our words attract others to Christ or alienate them from Him? Do our tongues persuade or pound? Do our lips drip with grace or drool with damning drivel?

    It was said of Jesus, whose words were spirit-empowered and straight from scripture, "And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips" (Luke 4:22).

    Let's take our cues from Christ and make sure that our words are spirit-empowered and informed by scripture. Better that the words which fall from our lips should leave folks wondering than wary or, worse, wounded.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    7/26/2002 12:00:00 AM by Haven Parrott , Proverbs 18:21; 16:23-30 | with 0 comments

    CBF-NC lives in tension, coordinator says

    July 22 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

    CBF-NC lives in tension, coordinator says | Monday, July 22, 2002

    Monday, July 22, 2002

    CBF-NC lives in tension, coordinator says

    By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

    FORT WORTH - N.C. Baptist churches that are unwelcome in their associations should consider the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina (CBF-NC) as an alternative, the head of CBF-NC said.

    Members of CBF-NC live within a dynamic of balanced tension with the national Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) organization, its ministry partners, Mainstream Baptists and the Baptist State Convention (BSC), according to Bob Patterson, the CBF-NC coordinator. Patterson spoke to CBF-NC supporters who met June 27 during the national CBF meeting in Fort Worth, Texas.

    Relationships within associations can be more problematic, Patterson said.

    "After three years (as CBF-NC's coordinator), I want to say something I've not said before," Patterson said. "If you belong to an association in which you cannot start another church like you, or your fellowship is met with a cold shoulder ... consider finding another place of fellowship with CBF-NC. Why not?"

    Patterson said CBF-NC and the national CBF organization need each other and live in balanced tension through a mutually independent relationship that "is not your father's convention."

    "We need CBF national because they provide our identity, our missional identity, our fellowship identity in ways we can't do on our own," he said.

    But CBF-NC also does things CBF can't do, such as having three staff persons in North Carolina working with the nearly 400 churches that support CBF-NC.

    There is also a balanced tension between CBF-NC and CBF's ministry partners, Patterson said. CBF's ministry partners include 13 divinity schools, publisher Smyth & Helwys, the Baptist Center for Ethics, the Baptist Joint Committee, and a variety of other organizations.

    Patterson said CBF-NC also lives in tension with Mainstream Baptists, a group he described as a "political partner."

    "No, we are not the same," he said, while acknowledging that many CBF supporters are also involved in the Mainstream movement.

    "It is not a bad thing to partner with others who have different roles," Patterson said. "They have a political role."

    Finally, CBF-NC lives in balanced tension with the BSC, Patterson said.

    "We have no desire to be a shadow convention or to be in competition," he said. "We partner with the BSC through Baptist Men, in church starts where we are able, and in other ways as often as we can."

    In other matters, the group heard from missions coordinator Jim Fowler, welcomed new resource coordinator Rick Jordan, and had special prayer for five new missionaries with North Carolina ties.

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    7/22/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

    SBC, CBF differences cloud BWA General Council meeting

    July 19 2002 by Trennis Henderson , Kentucky Baptist Western Recorder

    SBC, CBF differences cloud BWA General Council meeting | Friday, July 19, 2002

    Friday, July 19, 2002

    SBC, CBF differences cloud BWA General Council meeting

    By Trennis Henderson Kentucky Baptist Western Recorder

    SEVILLE, Spain - The 11-year conflict between the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) reached the international stage last week in Seville, Spain.

    Evaluating CBF's application for membership in the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), the BWA's membership committee issued a three-page report outlining the criteria for CBF to be recommended next year for BWA membership. Several members of the SBC delegation responded by voting against receiving the committee's report.

    Despite SBC leaders' opposition, the 290-member BWA General Council voted overwhelmingly to receive the committee report. The action came during the BWA's annual General Council meeting July 9-13 in Seville.

    Among the principal players in the unfolding drama, BWA is the international umbrella organization of Baptists. Founded in 1905, it represents more than 200 Baptist unions and conventions that include about 44.5 million baptized believers and 110 million worshippers in 193,000 Baptist churches.

    The SBC, one of BWA's founding members, is the group's largest member body with 16 million church members. It also funds about 20 percent of BWA's $2.1 million annual budget.

    The CBF was established in 1991 by Southern Baptist moderates in response to conservative control of the SBC. CBF leaders repeatedly have refused to identify the organization as a separate Baptist convention.

    The CBF-SBC debate overshadowed other actions at the five-day BWA meeting, including resolutions addressing such issues as terrorism, violence in the Middle East and evangelism. BWA President Billy Kim of Korea, completing the second year of his five-year term, even offered to resign if he could not help resolve the Southern Baptist stalemate in the coming year.

    CBF officials first applied for BWA membership a year ago. The membership committee deferred action on the request at that time, citing concerns about the CBF's relationship with the SBC as well as whether CBF could be identified as a separate Baptist entity.

    CBF leaders reapplied this year with additional supporting documentation, gaining a favorable hearing from the 20-member committee.

    "All conversations between the CBF and the membership committee have been warm and favorable and we have been left with very positive views of the CBF as an organization," the report states.

    While "we recognize the independent legal status of the CBF as an organization," the committee said it continued to study the issue of CBF's separate identity "given the overlapping constituencies between their fellowship and that of the SBC."

    The report notes the committee's other primary concern "is the public nature of the deep differences which still mark the relationship between the CBF and the SBC."

    Citing key objectives in the BWA constitution "to promote understanding and cooperation among Baptists" and "to act as an agency of reconciliation," the report emphasized that BWA's failure to address those issues would "bring into question the integrity of the BWA."

    The committee added, however, that it believes CBF's application can to recommended to the General Council next year if the CBF will "affirm publicly that they have separated themselves from the structures and organization of the SBC, and have a distinctly diverse understanding to the SBC of what it means to be an organized body of Baptist churches and individuals in covenant relationship."

    The committee also called on Kim and BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz "to work with others toward enabling better understanding and respect between the CBF and the SBC."

    Membership committee chairman Ian Hawley of Australia told General Council members, "We are dealing here with issues of great pain, hurt and sorrow for many people."

    Noting that the committee "has sensed God's guidance in the process through which we have passed," he added, "We ask for your trust and acceptance of this report."

    Morris Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, responded by noting that Southern Baptist leaders "disagree with some of the presuppositions that undergird the process being recommended by the committee."

    CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal expressed appreciation for the committee's consideration of CBF's application.

    "We want to pledge to you our willingness to cooperate in all ways to fulfill the requests of the committee," Vestal said. "We deeply desire to be a full participating member of this world body in serving God and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ."

    Chapman told the Western Recorder his concerns include the committee's view of CBF's organizational status.

    "I differed with the statement by the committee that the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship had already with great clarity expressed its separation from the Southern Baptist Convention," he said. "That just has not happened."

    He also expressed concern that the committee rejected SBC leaders' request that the committee's work not be made public until the group had reached its final recommendation on the issue.

    Hawley said one of the reasons the committee released a report this year was because of widespread misinterpretations about last year's decision to defer action.

    "There were wrong motives given for our decision," he said. "We wanted to give people the idea of our thinking. ... We're trying to fulfill not just the legal requirements of the constitution but the spirit."

    In a statement issued to Baptist Press, Chapman labeled the committee's decision a "swift and needless action." He said the SBC's "valued relationship" with the BWA "may have been damaged beyond repair."

    While the CBF "has every right to make application" for BWA membership, Chapman added, "I feel the process has become flawed."

    The SBC "historically has existed alongside Baptists who have differences, but this is totally different," Chapman said. "It does not seem like there is a closing of a gap but a widening" between the SBC and CBF.

    Despite Chapman's concerns, Vestal expressed hope for a positive outcome. "I would hope that the SBC would accept us as brothers and sisters in Christ," he said. "We accept them as brothers and sisters in Christ and desire fellowship, partnership and serving God together in the Baptist World Alliance."

    Citing the committee's criteria for membership, Vestal said, "They've asked us to declare ourselves as a Baptist body that is not an integral part of the Southern Baptist Convention. That's not a problem because we're not and we feel like we haven't been since the beginning."

    While the CBF Coordinating Council, the group's governing body, will need to take formal action on the issue, Vestal added, "I'm comfortable that the Coordinating Council will draft a document that will satisfy the requests of the membership committee."

    Hawley said the committee is "desperate to see brothers in Christ able to coexist with one another."

    "If we are brothers and sisters in Jesus, we ought to be able to accept one another and accept differences," he said. "We're not asking for reconciliation but for respect and understanding and agreeing to disagree on some of the big issues."

    Prior to the vote to receive the report, BWA President Kim told council members, "I believe we are moving in a right direction but we don't want to hurry. We need to have a healing of some of those wounds.

    "My deep concern is I don't want to lose anyone or put out anyone," he added. "We need some time to work. Receive this report and let us work with both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship."

    During the council's closing session, Kim again addressed the issue.

    "I leave this General Council with a heavy heart," he said. "I want to see peacemaking between the SBC and CBF."

    Describing the SBC as "our big brother" among global Baptists, he said, "I love the SBC. I do not want them to leave. ... We hope for one big step of reconciliation."

    Announcing that he will resign the BWA presidency "if things do not resolve," Kim said BWA leaders will seek to work with both sides in the coming year to achieve a satisfactory solution.

    "If we do our part, God will do His part," he said. "There are a lot of wounded soldiers but God has healing power."

    Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
    7/19/2002 12:00:00 AM by Trennis Henderson , Kentucky Baptist Western Recorder | with 0 comments

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