July 2005

First Baptist Dunn fostering dignity in Ukraine : Friday, July 15, 2005

July 15 2005 by Jeremy Watson

First Baptist Dunn fostering dignity in Ukraine : Friday, July 15, 2005
Friday, July 15, 2005

First Baptist Dunn fostering dignity in Ukraine

By Jeremy Watson
BR Intern

Ten members of First Baptist Church in Dunn will travel to Kiev, Ukraine in August to help convert the former site of a Soviet youth camp into a Christian foster care facility for homeless children.

By some estimates, the number of children in Kiev without homes is 40,000. Poverty has pushed many teenage girls towards prostitution and scores of male adolescents have developed drug habits like glue sniffing.

Len Keever, the pastor at First Baptist in Dunn, believes that the Village of Hope foster care center can redeem the lives of these children and restore a sense of dignity to them. The foster home will provide a supporting environment for children to study, excel in public schools and obtain jobs that will sustain them and perhaps benefit their parents.

Although many of Kiev's homeless children are orphans, the youth who will be staying at the foster care center are not, Keever says. Their parents live on the streets and are unable to give them the nourishment that they need to improve their lives.

If weather conditions permit, the crew from Dunn will lay the foundation for a wall and erect a fence to enclose the Village of Hope's 17-acre grounds. The wall and fence are being constructed to comply with an ordinance that requires foster homes to install protective barriers. On the week-long trip, the group also plans to worship with Bucha Baptist Church and get a glimpse of what life is like inside Kiev's homeless shelters.

Based on his prior missions experience in poor areas of Germany, Keever expects the church members he travels with to be enlightened by what they witness. "It will change their world-view to see how other people live," he said.

Keever is also aware of the possible dangers that his team could encounter. "There are risks that you don't take going to work everyday. It will be an exercise of faith," said Keever.

Fourteen years have passed since Ukraine was released from the grip of Soviet communism. Following independence, the nation endured its share of growing pains. Setbacks like high inflation and political corruption plagued the state for much of the 1990s and early 2000s.

But a silver lining has appeared in the new millennium. Late last fall, disgruntled Ukrainians came out in droves to challenge the results of a fixed election and demand a revote. The popular, non-violent movement known as the "Orange Revolution" succeeded and reformer Victor Yushchenko became the country's third president. Staying true to campaign pledges, Yushchenko is making government activity more transparent and globalizing Ukraine's economy.

Jim Fowler, missions coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina (CBF-NC), says that the Ukrainians he spoke with this year were more optimistic than in 2004. "The attitude, especially in Kiev and the larger cities is very positive. People freely talk about and celebrate the Orange Revolution," said Fowler in an e-mail interview.

First Baptist learned about the mission opportunity from CBF-NC. By the year's end, CBF-NC will have coordinated mission trips to Ukraine for 13 N.C. churches.

Ukraine was a favored missions location for First Baptist because of the church's ties to the region. Members have sponsored Belarusian children in past years.

Excitement from First Baptist's children's ministry also influenced the selection. When Keever entertained the possibility of going to Ukraine with his wife over dinner, Keever's son, who was learning about Kiev's street children in his RA class, exclaimed, "Mom, you have to do it!" The rest is history.

After plans for the trip were finalized, children at the church's Vacation Bible School raised $1,000 to pay for building resources.

7/15/2005 12:00:00 AM by Jeremy Watson | with 0 comments



Mene, Mene, Tekel and Parsin : Friday, July 15, 2005

July 15 2005 by Tony W. Cartledge

Mene, Mene, Tekel and Parsin : Friday, July 15, 2005
Friday, July 15, 2005

Mene, Mene, Tekel and Parsin

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

The handwriting is on the wall.

In a familiar story found in Daniel 5, the Babylonian king Belshazzar hosted a big drinking party at which his wives, concubines, and court favorites guzzled their wine from gold and silver goblets stolen from the temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem.

As they drank toasts to a variety of pagan gods, the story goes, "the fingers of a human hand" appeared and began writing on the wall, frightening the king so much that his face turned pale, his knees knocked, and "his legs gave way."

Only Daniel was able to interpret the enigmatic writing. He charged Belshazzar with the same sins of arrogance and pride that had brought down Nebuchadnezzar, his father.

Daniel then interpreted the message, "mene, mene, tekel and parsin," to mean that Belshazzar's days were numbered and the kingdom would soon be divided.

Belshazzar rewarded Daniel and promptly died. Soon after, the kingdom was lost.

Since that time, the memorable metaphor of "the handwriting on the wall" has been employed as a harbinger of change.

Some veteran observers have argued for years that the handwriting was on the wall for joyous and cooperative ministry among those affiliated with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

In some ways, it has been, though the threat was not immediate.

Never, however, has the writing been clearer than now.

Take note that I do not speak of an endangered "moderate" kingdom in North Carolina, nor do I suggest that the players in Daniel 5 have parallels in contemporary Baptist life.

The age of moderate leadership passed years ago, eclipsed by a rising tide of conservatism that swept the country.

Yet, North Carolina Baptists have been unique - thus far - in making that transition while cherishing continued cooperation and participation by all who share the mission and values of the Baptist State Convention.

What we most are in danger of losing is one of those values, the traditional Baptist freedom to differ on some issues while joining hands for common mission.

We have seen the demise of this value on the national stage, where the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) now enforces rigid doctrinal parameters: missionaries, employees, and even volunteers serving as officers or committee members are fully expected to affirm an approved doctrinal statement.

Some state conventions have followed closely in the train of the SBC, while three have divided over the issue, resulting in dual (if not dueling) state conventions. In contrast, North Carolina Baptists have steadfastly sought to walk a different path, holding to the traditional Baptist values of both freedom and cooperation.

That appears be changing.

Why do I say this?

  • The BSC continues to provide different giving plans that allow churches to choose where their Cooperative Program Missions Giving money goes. The plans have been affirmed by several studies. Yet, not a year goes by without someone challenging the giving plans, chipping away at their support and calling for the BSC to limit its national cooperation to the SBC only. It is likely that this year will be no different.
  • A series of lost causes and lost elections over the past few years has left many moderates feeling dissatisfied or disenfranchised, and an increasing number have simply withdrawn from participation in BSC life.
  • Moderates and "mainstreamers" appear to have given up on the election process. When elections are freely contested, it is more likely that cooperative candidates will be chosen. But, if any one group is allowed to handpick unopposed candidates, they will be free to select persons who favor ideology over cooperation.
  • Important committees such as the BSC's Committee on Nominations and the Budget Committee, along with the powerful Board of Directors, are now overwhelmingly conservative. While many members remain cooperative, the influence of those who bring a revisionist agenda has increased significantly, and is likely to grow.
  • Executive director-treasurer Jim Royston will soon step down and return to the pastorate. In his seven and a half years at the helm, Royston worked diligently to keep both conservatives and moderates coming to the table, and making sure there was a place for them.
  • We can expect acting executive director-treasurer George Bullard to continue seeking broad-spectrum involvement, but his tenure will be temporary. It is almost a foregone conclusion that the new executive director-treasurer will have more conservative credentials, and the question of his (no chance of a "her") support for continued cooperation with freedom remains open.

  • Some observers believe conservative strategists want to have the BSC well in hand when the SBC comes to Greensboro next June, perhaps through efforts such as pushing for adoption of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 statement this November. No such plan has been announced, but any messenger can bring a motion. That will be easier at the upcoming convention, because the Committee on Program, Place and Preacher has juggled the schedule, placing a business session on Tuesday afternoon to facilitate the introduction of business not on the agenda.
  • In any case, the SBC's unsolicited plan to bring its showcase event to the Tar Heel state will almost certainly spark an upsurge in loyalty to the SBC and its model of closed-tent cooperation, which will inevitably spill over to the BSC.

    I don't mean to sound alarmist. I have not given up on the values that have made the BSC so distinctively Baptist through the years. I will speak up for our heritage of both freedom and cooperation as long as I can, and I hope both moderates and conservatives will remain active and welcome participants in convention life.

    Nevertheless, I can read.

    And the handwriting is on the wall.

    7/15/2005 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments



    Berry me, please : Friday, July 15, 2005

    July 15 2005 by Tony W. Cartledge

    Berry me, please : Friday, July 15, 2005
    Friday, July 15, 2005

    Berry me, please

    By Tony W. Cartledge
    BR Editor

    The strawberry farmers packed up their roadside tents several weeks ago, but other berries are coming along to fill the void.

    Blackberries are ripening, and blueberries.

    Hallelujah.

    I have no fonder memories from childhood than my grandmother's steaming blackberry cobbler, in which gooey handmade dumplings shared space with the berries, and criss-crossed, sugar-sprinkled strips of golden-brown crust graced the top.

    Ice cream would just be a distraction.

    I didn't learn to appreciate blueberries until later, mainly because they didn't grow wild in our neck of the woods, as the blackberries did. In time, however, a few folks back home started to cultivate blueberries, including my father.

    I was grateful for the chance to sample his abundant crop not long ago, and thankful to God for simple pleasures.

    Those who appreciate the wonder and glory of God's handiwork often quote these lines from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Lee:

    Earth is crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God;

    But only he who sees takes off his shoes - the rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

    I had those words in mind as I wandered into the back yard of my parents' home, a plastic pan under my arm, on a burning hot day in early July. The large blueberry bush was ablaze with berries ranging from green to red to deep blue, nearly black.

    Pondering the laden branches, I stopped to breathe a thanksgiving prayer for the marvels of God's handiwork, and slipped out of my shoes - then stood around picking blueberries.

    I guess you could call that "having your praise and eating it, too."

    7/15/2005 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments



    'Pastorate calls me home' : Friday, July 15, 2005

    July 15 2005 by Jim Royston

    'Pastorate calls me home' : Friday, July 15, 2005
    Friday, July 15, 2005

    'Pastorate calls me home'

    By Jim Royston
    BSC Executive Director-treasurer

    I've always been a pastor.

    When I was an electrician in Tennessee, I was unconsciously preparing the business acumen a pastor needs. When God called me to the pulpit, I left for college with a pastor's heart. In seminary a gracious congregation taught me to be a pastor.

    Like Michelangelo explaining how he was able to carve from marble the beautiful David statue, he said, "I just cut away the part that isn't David," God cut away the parts of my life that weren't a pastor.

    As executive director-treasurer of this great state convention, I've been a pastor to other pastors, to staff and to as many of our 4,000 churches as would let me. I've heard confessions, counseled heartbroken men, preached in dozens of your churches, encouraged, and led as God gave me strength and vision.

    The seven-and-a-half years since Jan. 1, 1998 when I became your executive director-treasurer have been the most demanding years of my life, both professionally and personally. I can't say I've "enjoyed" these years, in the sense of having a rollicking good time. But I've felt tremendously fulfilled to occupy this seat during some very important years in one of the top three Baptist state conventions in the nation.

    We have started hundreds of churches; purchased and developed Hollifield Leadership Center; started a book publishing imprint; instituted Pursuing Vital Ministry; built a staff unexcelled in the nation; created Sustaining Pastoral Excellence that is benefiting not only North Carolina Baptist pastors but other denominations in other states; and fostered relationships that should contribute to unity down the road. Our total number of churches grew beyond 4,000 for the first time.

    It has been an exciting, fulfilling time.

    But, one thing that has been missing for me - in a way I've only recently begun to feel acutely - is a pulpit of my own and a congregational family that calls me their pastor. As a denominational servant, I worked every day to serve congregations and to make sure our staff understands our role is to serve congregations. I've never lost sight of that.

    There's never been a doubt in my mind that in Baptist life the rubber hits the road where congregations impact their communities with the gospel. I've missed it.

    I've never been one to preach one gospel and live another. So when I urge people to seek God's face, listen to Him speak and be willing to move as He leads, I do the same. In a personal prayer time of real surrender several months ago, I earnestly committed myself to whatever direction God would move me - or leave me - where I can be most effective in kingdom work.

    Within days after that, I received a call that changed my life and that prompts this column. I have submitted to the Executive Committee a letter of my intention to retire from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and to accept the call of First Baptist Church, Mooresville to be their pastor.

    I will vacate the office this month to finish writing a book on niche group evangelism before I turn my attention back to writing sermons and writing my life into the life of that congregation. This move will be good for me and good for my family. I pray it is good for First Baptist Mooresville!

    A fall Jeannie took three years ago set into motion a series of health issues that have made my schedule very difficult on her. This move will accomplish two very important things: it keeps me closer to home and it enables Jeannie to be more involved in my daily life and work, a partnership we have enjoyed for 39 years.

    One of my favorite recent books is Good to Great by Jim Collins. He studied 1,435 good companies to find the core elements that make 11 of them great. Our convention is good. We are on the cusp of greatness if we will embrace our diversity and build our corral large. We will shrink in many ways we cannot imagine if we build our corral smaller.

    I will be our convention's strongest supporter and biggest advocate. Thank you for the chance to drive the bus, and now for the grace that lets me take another seat.

    7/15/2005 12:00:00 AM by Jim Royston | with 0 comments



    Trustees need salary information : Friday, July 15, 2005

    July 15 2005 by

    Trustees need salary information : Friday, July 15, 2005
    Friday, July 15, 2005

    Trustees need salary information

    I read with dismay the article in the Biblical Recorder concerning the issue of "Executive Committee salaries." It is a sad day in Southern Baptist (SBC) life when a trustee of the Executive Committee must "fill out a form pledging confidentiality" to find out what an employee makes. One of the greatest responsibilities of a trustee is fiduciary accountability. We elect trustees to oversee our agencies. A trustee should never have to make a written request in order to seek this type of information. I served ten years on the Southeastern Seminary board and never had to fill out a form to see salaries. We who support with our money the agencies of the state convention and the SBC have every right to know what employees make.

    I offer an easy solution to the problem. If they do not want to make salaries and benefits public, then let them quit taking our money.

    Dade Sherman

    Smithfield, N.C.

    7/15/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



    Welcoming technology to worship : Friday, July 15, 2005

    July 15 2005 by Otis Hamm

    Welcoming technology to worship : Friday, July 15, 2005
    Friday, July 15, 2005

    Welcoming technology to worship

    By Otis Hamm
    BR Intern

    In a growing number of North Carolina churches, members enter the sanctuary and instead of looking at a bulletin, they read announcements on large video screen. When the music begins, instead of looking for the lyrics in a hymnal, they look at the same screen for the words to sing.

    Technology has moved into society and churches are working to keep up. They can use visual aides to make worship less confusing for the constantly emerging post-modern culture.

    Today's technology has become less expensive and much easier to use, making for a plethora of opportunities for the evangelistic church. Ten years ago, little was heard about PowerPoint presentations. Today, they are mandatory in many educational settings as people tend to learn and retain more when they can visualize.

    Making use of video presentations has also become less complicated thanks to the improvements in technology and companies offering complete packages. Packages often include equipment, training and technical support. Churches can find a basic package with a 2,500-lumen projector, a DVD/VCR combination player, an 84-inch by 84-inch pull down screen, 100' VGA cable, software, and a universal projector mount for about $2,700.

    Certainly, various configurations can be pieced together to meet the needs of any specific sanctuary/church setting. The size of the room, number of projectors, screens, and cables will determine which equipment is most suitable for a given setting.

    Many different types of projectors are available. The more "lumens" a projector produces, the brighter its light source. It is vital to know what will best suit a specific situation. Lighting, both natural and artificial, makes a profound impact on lumen strength needed for a projector.

    Projectors can be either front or rear projection. The screen used will help to determine which is appropriate. In many cases the projector can be hidden, making it less intrusive. Costs for projectors range from $1,000 to more than $10,000. Churches should consult a professional and know the warranty and maintenance outlays before purchasing.

    Some churches might need high-lumen projectors. Projectors with between 3,500 and 6,000 lumens might cost between $4,700 and $10,000.

    Many types of screens are also available in two categories - manually and electronically operated. The screen makes a huge difference. Aesthetically, screens which appear to be hidden and operate electronically rather than manually are easiest on the eyes. The down side is that these types of screens range in cost from $800 to $3,000.

    Manual pull down screens are far less expensive, $150 to $300. They do require physical help for each use. Rear projection screens are even more expensive, beginning at $30,000, but they provide excellent imaging and little, if any, negative aesthetic issues.

    Churches can find several screens to fit their needs. An 84-inch by 84-inch white matte screen with infrared remote technology and floating bracket mounting lists for $1,086; a white matte pull down 84-inch by 84-inch screen with mounting bracket lists for $193.

    A computer is an absolute necessity, either laptop or desktop. Desktops usually outlast laptops but require more space. Laptops are also more portable, which is a necessity if the projector is not permanently mounted.

    In general, desktops are less expensive than laptops, with some desktops costing less than $700 and including a Pentium computer chip, loads of memory and a combination CD-ROM/DVD drive. A laptop with roughly the same specs sells for around $1000.

    When choosing a computer, compare the specifications, warranties, and technical support to determine the best fit.

    A DVD/VCR player will also be needed. Today, many established companies offer a combination unit for under $200. Some vendors offer consumer reviews of products. While the validity of these reviews cannot be substantiated, they are available.

    The importance of equipment for presentations cannot be overstated. The equipment is the hub of the electronic ministry of the church and deserves careful attention. Church leaders who are unfamiliar with media equipment should seek the guidance of trusted professionals who will help select the proper product and provide training and technical support.

    The church can ill afford to step backward when it comes to reaching the visual community of today. Technology is not something to be feared, rather, it is something the church can embrace.

    7/15/2005 12:00:00 AM by Otis Hamm | with 0 comments



    Family Bible Study lesson for July 31, 2005: Working for God : Friday, July 15, 2005

    July 15 2005 by Chadwick Ivester

    Family Bible Study lesson for July 31, 2005: Working for God : Friday, July 15, 2005
    Friday, July 15, 2005

    Family Bible Study lesson for July 31, 2005: Working for God

    By Chadwick Ivester
    Focal passage: 2 Thessalonians 3:3-15

    If evangelistic programs saved souls, Southern Baptists would have won the world to Christ many years ago. But programs, of course, don't save souls.

    The apostles didn't use a program to grow the church. They used and promoted a potent technique that can be described as lifestyle evangelism.

    Although organized programs can be beneficial, they can never replace lifestyle evangelism. The reason is because that type of evangelism permeates every area of a Christian's life from the dinner table to the workplace. It applies to the housewife and to the shut-in. Though many persons copyright their programs, the Holy Ghost is the author and equipper of lifestyle evangelism.

    When Rolfe Barnard was preaching in Chattanooga, a bank manager came to hear him preach. Though the bank manager had gone to church all his life, he had no living relationship with Jesus Christ. But his heart was opened under Barnard's preaching, and he went through agonies of conviction until the Lord gave him peace.

    He then asked Barnard whether he should tell the people in the bank the next day that he had become a Christian. "No," said Barnard, "Don't tell anyone."

    A few days later, after the evening service, the bank manager came up to Barnard and gave him a hug.

    "Let me tell you what happened today," the bank manager said. "My private secretary has been with me for over thirty years. As I was dictating to her, her eyes brimmed with tears. She got to where she couldn't see what she was writing. She said, 'I just can't do the work today,' I said, 'Is there anything troubling you?'

    "She said, 'Yes. Could I ask you a question? What's happened to you?'"

    His life was new. Salvation had made the bank manager a citizen of heaven, and the salvation showed in his life.

    Continue doing good

    2 Thessalonians 3:3-5

    The Apostle Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to trust the Lord to empower them to live holy lives that reflected God's love and Christ's endurance. Lifestyle evangelism is anchored by faith in the faithful one who will never let you down. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep and protects them from the devil (John 10:11-12, 28).

    Consider others

    2 Thessalonians 3:6-9

    Lifestyle evangelism requires consistent and transparent holy living. The age-old excuse for many wrongdoers is they got involved with the "wrong crowd." The Bible teaches that the people we associate with are really a reflection of ourselves. Paul commanded his audience to imitate him and his associates.

    Paul was the pioneer for the gospel in a pagan culture where people had never heard the good news. Paul didn't have an established church to fund him in Thessalonica. Paul visited the town, with Silas and Timothy, on his second missionary journey, and he had to work to put food on his table. He was a bi-vocational minister (a tent-maker). He had no support from the Cooperative Program, and yet, he did not freeload from any of the Thessalonians.

    Behave responsibly

    2 Thessalonians 3:10-13

    Right belief cannot be separated from right behavior. The Lord doesn't call lazy people to do His work. Joni Eareckson Tada's life is a great example of how every Christian should live. Whether physically disabled or financially depleted, every Christian can be active through lifestyle evangelism.

    Laziness is a sin. The church should not consist of lazy people or help them. Doing good should never tire us because it is the essence of the Christian life.

    Relate redemptively

    2 Thessalonians 3:14-15

    Paul bluntly got to the point concerning those who were a hindrance to the church. The best way to deal with cancer is to remove it. If left alone, it will destroy the body. Likewise, troublemakers in the church should be removed for the church's sake and their own sake to bring repentance unto them.

    Church discipline always should be done not for permanent reproach but for eventual repentance of the guilty party.

    7/15/2005 12:00:00 AM by Chadwick Ivester | with 0 comments



    Family Bible Study lesson for August 7, 2005: Once and Future Life : Friday, July 15, 2005

    July 15 2005 by Chadwick Ivester

    Family Bible Study lesson for August 7, 2005: Once and Future Life : Friday, July 15, 2005
    Friday, July 15, 2005

    Family Bible Study lesson for August 7, 2005: Once and Future Life

    By Chadwick Ivester
    Focal passage: 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10

    The biblical doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is the glorious hope the word of God promises every Christian.

    Christ demonstrated this doctrine by raising His good friend, Lazarus, from the dead (John 11:40-44). He ultimately proved it through raising Himself from the dead (John 10:17-18).

    The biblical doctrine of the resurrection is sneered at by secular humanists who deny the hereafter. But Jesus taught this amazing doctrine and told His disciples, "Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come out -- those who have done good things, to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked things, to the resurrection of judgment (John 5:28-29).

    To the believer, the resurrection of the dead is a comforting doctrine. Yet to the unbeliever it is perplexing and foolish. We should not expect the world to believe it now because the world didn't believe in Paul's day. When the philosophers of Mars Hill heard about resurrection of the dead, some began to ridicule him (Acts 17:32).

    Death is not the end

    2 Cor. 4:16-18

    Life is so fragile. You can be here today and gone tomorrow. Being confronted with death always brings the reality of the hereafter - a reality the Lord instills within every heart.

    In the book of Jonah, the sailors thought they were on the verge of dying and each cried out to his god (Jonah 1:5).

    Yes, even the most ardent atheist, when confronted with death, will cry out to a higher power.

    As a former rodeo cowboy, I never met one bronco or bull-rider, whether non-Christian or Christian, who was not concerned about the hereafter just before he crawled onto his mount. That same was true for me, especially when crawling onto the back of a 1,200 lb. bucking horse. Everyone has a philosophy on the hereafter. The question we must ask ourselves is, "What do I base my views on concerning the hereafter?"

    Our views concerning the hereafter should begin with the Holy Writ and end with the Holy Writ. The apostle, inspired by the Holy Spirit, made it clear that what we see now is only temporal and what is unseen is eternal.

    Long for something better

    2 Cor. 5:1-5

    The graveside funeral service is a symbol of hope in the resurrection for every Christian.

    David Brainerd was a missionary to the American Indians in the early part of the 18th century. His parents were so convinced of the resurrection of the dead that when they died, they sought to be buried toe to toe. They desired to unite hand-in-hand, face-to-face together at the "last trump," when they shall ascend to be united with the Lord forever. That is an example of longing for something better.

    Prepare for death

    2 Cor. 5:6-10

    It is impossible to be prepared for the hereafter apart from faith in Christ.

    As my wife and I visited her cancer-stricken father at the hospice center during his last days on earth, there was an Epicurean (pleasure-seeking) patient a few doors down who seemed to be sarcastically jubilant concerning the hereafter.

    This patient was not preparing for the hereafter with faith but with pleasure-seeking parties and obnoxious humor. Dear reader, will this be you on your deathbed? How sad it will be for the multitudes who will appear before the judgment seat of Christ with "unacceptable preparations" and lacking faith. Are you prepared? May this sobering thought remind you that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. It is there that your every action will be judged.

    How can I have peace about the hereafter in the here-and-now? This question must be pressed upon every soul.

    Jonathan Edwards was a great American theologian and philosopher. A few minutes before he died, his friends were by his side talking worriedly about his approaching death. They thought Edwards could not hear them. Edwards, being aware of the conversation, spoke out with confidence, saying, "Trust in God and ye need not fear!"

    7/15/2005 12:00:00 AM by Chadwick Ivester | with 0 comments



    Formations lesson for July 31, 2005: Everywhere : Friday, July 15, 2005

    July 15 2005 by Haven Parrott

    Formations lesson for July 31, 2005: Everywhere : Friday, July 15, 2005
    Friday, July 15, 2005

    Formations lesson for July 31, 2005: Everywhere

    By Haven Parrott
    Focal passage: Romans 15:14-21

    Upward Focus

    "When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight." (Acts 1:9)

    His words, "you shall be My witnesses," had scarcely been whisked away by the wind before Jesus' feet broke free of earth's sod.

    Imagine the sight! With mouths opened, chins lifted, and eyes strained, those gathered on the Mount of Olives beheld His ascent. Their sight became faith as the Son of Man was lifted up, higher and higher and higher finally disappearing into heaven's cloudy embrace.

    It certainly wasn't the first time He'd raised their eyebrows, their vision or their perspective. For three years, Jesus' teaching had blown their minds and shattered their prejudices.

    Then there was His death. As they watched God being hoisted up on a cross, their understanding of His purpose was hurtled past any and all preconceived paradigms.

    And His resurrection? That was nothing short of a brain buster, an elevator ride way beyond the top floor of human comprehension. No doubt about it, He'd definitely challenged their vertical vision.

    And now, with necks craned upward for one last look, they realized He was entrusting them with the work He'd begun, the work of kingdom expansion. "To the ends of the earth," He'd said.

    Perhaps that's why His method of departure was designed to leave them looking up. Jesus knew the extent of their reach for Him would be largely determined by the height of their vision of Him.

    Outward Reach

    Paul wasn't on the Mount of Olives to witness the ascension of Christ, but he'd certainly had an exalted-enough vision of the risen Lord to compel him to extend his kingdom reach beyond his present position: "Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written, 'Those who have never been told of him shall see, and those who have never heard of him shall understand'" (Romans 15:20-21).

    I wonder, is our vision of the risen Lord exalted enough to compel us to extend our kingdom reach beyond our present position? According to Jesus' command, our witness wave must wash farther than family and the familiar; must finally, somehow or other, break upon some foreign shore. The how varies with respect to the some and other: some go in person, others empty their purses. Some are fervent pray-ers, and still others educate the next generation of go-ers, givers, pray-ers and educators.

    Kingdom expansion, to the ends of the earth, is the responsibility of every kingdom citizen. Knowing we should extend our witness past our present position is not in question. Whether we will extend our witness past our present position is.

    Only an accurately huge, scripturally-informed vision, a sky-filling, neck-craning, eye-straining, mind-blowing, chin-lifting, mouth-opening vision of Him will compel the extension of our kingdom reach for Him. Anything less leaves us stalled at the intersection of "should" and "will," our progress choked by the non-stop traffic of commitments, comfort, convenience and culture.

    Jesus left the disciples looking up. The last earthly glimpse they got of Him was of the soles of His nail-scarred feet, a reminder to them, and to us, that up-looking must express itself in out-going.

    Cross-carrying discipleship begins with vertical focus and finds its fulfillment in the mission field of horizontal living. In other words, evangelism is always the inevitable result of true worship.

    7/15/2005 12:00:00 AM by Haven Parrott | with 0 comments



    Formations lesson for August 7, 2005: Repairing Relationships With God : Friday, July 15, 2005

    July 15 2005 by Haven Parrott

    Formations lesson for August 7, 2005: Repairing Relationships With God : Friday, July 15, 2005
    Friday, July 15, 2005

    Formations lesson for August 7, 2005: Repairing Relationships With God

    By Haven Parrott
    Focal passage: Genesis 27:41-28:22

    Jacob's Dream Comes True

    There's probably something to like about Jacob, but I'm missing it. I guess I can't help connecting the dots (spoiled, deceitful, conniving, ambitious, self-serving) in an attempt to piece together a mental picture of him.

    Assuming my scripture-informed and imagination-inspired depiction is closer to character sketch than caricature, Jacob, for most of his life anyway, was a textbook example of self-centeredness. Which makes him at least relatable, if not likeable.

    And even if I'm way off base in my estimation of his character, as I very well may be (after all, who can understand all the complexities and wrinkles originating from God's baffling, sovereign choice of Jacob over Esau?), it doesn't much matter, because what's most important about this story is God's character, not Jacob's.

    Ever eager to repair the relationship fractured in Eden with Adam's children, even those of questionable character, God went so far as to construct a staircase connecting heaven to earth: Jacob's dream of a ladder linking God and man eventually came true in the person of Jesus Christ.

    The Ultimate in Relationship Repair

    And so Jacob's story is something of a parable of how God relentlessly, sovereignly, works His glorious, redemptive repair job across all times and even individual lifetimes.

    First, there's the personal presentation of Himself to someone whose knowledge of Him is, at best, secondhand. At Bethel, Abraham and Isaac's God became Jacob's. Jacob's recognition of his visitation, "Surely the Lord is in this place!" is pre-reminiscent of the centurion's who, some 2,000 years later, stood at the bottom of the Stairway to Heaven and cried, "Surely this was the son of God!"

    Recall the moment of His personal presentation to you, and I'll recall mine. The moment we each confessed some similar "Surely...!", the moment we accepted His invitation into the house of God, that was our Bethel. Like Jacob, heirs to the Promised Land and recipients of God's constant provision and presence, "And behold, I am with you, and will keep you wherever you go," we journey on.

    Life happens. And, because He is always ruling and overruling, what may seem like a series of unfortunate, even unfair, events (like when Jacob got Leah when he'd bargained for Rachel) turn out to be the means by which Christ is brought forth from us.

    In other words, the wonderfully encouraging, exceedingly intriguing truth is that our bafflingly sovereign Lord eventually brings forth Christ from us ("And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit." 2 Cor. 3:18) just as surely as He eventually brought forth Christ (through the tribe of Judah) from Jacob, through a marriage Jacob never meant to make.

    Now that's what I'd call the ultimate in relationship repair: God using people, like Jacob and you and me, who have botched His image to somehow bring forth His Son's, for our good and His glory.

    7/15/2005 12:00:00 AM by Haven Parrott | with 0 comments



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