June 2004

'Let's get back to basics' : Wednesday, June 30, 2004

June 30 2004 by

'Let's get back to basics' : Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Wednesday, June 30, 2004

'Let's get back to basics'

I have read with great interest the reports from many sources about the SBC and CBF recent annual meetings. They indicate two distinctly different approaches to being Baptist, and this is sad. At one time Baptists gloried in their unity within diversity, but now everyone is asked to choose sides. The most glaring report from the SBC is that, despite taking over the convention, baptisms are at the same level as prior to the takeover. This is like the curriculum taught at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary prior to and after the takeover - they were using some of the same basic texts. If so much was wrong with the old way, why is the "new way" not producing greater results?

We have churches torn apart by seminary graduates practicing the "new way" of a king pastor. It appears to me we are majoring on fighting and accusation rather than sharing the good news of the joy of salvation.

I long for a time when we can have a state convention in North Carolina where there is genuine fellowship and people stop guessing "which side he is on." What is wrong with being on God's side of respecting differences while cooperating together for the spread of the gospel?

The term "conservative" should mean "preserving that which makes a positive influence on a lost world." Sadly, most "conservatives" I meet want to destroy what was a good system of cooperation and respect. The SBC dropped the Baptist World Alliance while the CBF picked it up and offered a friendly hand of fellowship to the Jewish community. This is the way we used to do our Baptist business. Let's get back to basics, at least in the state of North Carolina.

Gene Scarborough

Rocky Mount, N.C.

6/30/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Pastors are not lord of their members : Wednesday, June 30, 2004

June 30 2004 by

Pastors are not lord of their members : Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Pastors are not lord of their members

Kyle Turner hit the nail on the head ... almost. In every church I've served as pastor I have led them to embrace the concept of a church being a theocracy. The church is to seek God's will for every decision. But I took issue with Turner's use of the term "pastoral authority." That term suggests that the pastor is the boss, but my Bible says that pastors are not to lord it over their members but be an example (1 Peter 5:3).

Pastors are shepherds - sheep cannot be driven, they must be led.

Pastors who love and lead generally have greater ministries than those who embrace pastoral authority.

Don Letzring

Waynesville, N.C.

6/30/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Speaking out in support of BWA : Tuesday, June 29, 2004

June 29 2004 by

Speaking out in support of BWA : Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Speaking out in support of BWA

Thank you Jim Royston. Now is not the time for us as Baptist and believers to limit our options for mission work. The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) has historically helped open previously shut doors for God's work. I agree that the SBC's decision to withdraw from BWA was "ill timed and ill informed." Apprehension over such a move was part of the motivation for our fellowship, Calvary Baptist Church in Shallotte, to become a Global Impact Partner with BWA. There is too much work to be done to abandon a proven mission partner.

Rex Gore

Shallotte, N.C.

6/29/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for July 11: Encouraged By Sure Salvation : Friday, June 25, 2004

June 25 2004 by Phyllis Elvington

Family Bible Study lesson for July 11: Encouraged By Sure Salvation : Friday, June 25, 2004
Friday, June 25, 2004

Family Bible Study lesson for July 11: Encouraged By Sure Salvation

By Phyllis Elvington
Focal Passage: I John 3:23-24; 5:1-5, 9-13, 18-19

There are really only two groups of people in the world: saved people and lost people. You either know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior or you do not know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior.

Are you saved? If you died tonight, are you absolutely certain that you will spend eternity with God in Heaven?

I am sure. As a Christian, I am absolutely confident that the moment I take my last breath on this earth, that the next breath will be in the very presence of Jesus.

How do I know this for a fact?

First and most importantly, God says so in His word: "...to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:6-8).

Secondly, salvation is a gift God freely gives to anyone who believes on His name, Rom. 10:13 and Eph. 2:8-9.

Thirdly, God is faithful and cannot go back on His promises. Jesus said in John 10:29, "My Father, which gave them to Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand."

Do you still need proof that you can be absolutely sure of your salvation? The apostle John wrote the letter we know as First John to assure believers everywhere, "that you may know that you have eternal life" (v. 5:13).

In the letter, John lists several evidences that will encourage you to be confident of your salvation. Remember, however, that these are the evidences/results of salvation. We can do nothing on our own to earn our salvation.

Obedience to God

1 John 3:23-24

One of the most obvious evidences of salvation is obedience. Jesus said in John 14:15, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." He also said in John 14:24, "He who does not love Me does not keep My words."

It seems fairly safe to say that obedience should be at the top of the priority list in the life of a Christian.

Love for God and His people

1 John 5:1-5

When a lawyer tried to trick Jesus by asking Him which commandment in the law was the greatest, Jesus responded, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. ... You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22:37-40).

If you are saved, one thing is certain: you love God and His people. The two are really inseparable. 1 John 4:20b states, "For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen."

Belief in the Son of God

1 John 5:9-13

1 John 5:12-13 is one of the most powerful passages in all of scripture: "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life." These verses need no commentary. The question that needs to be asked is: "Do you have the Son?"

A life changed by God

1 John 5:18-19

William Barclay explained these verses by stating that the Christian has been freed from the power of sin. A Christian may still sin, but "he is not the helpless slave of sin." He will not continue to sin because he has the power of the Holy Spirit living within him to strengthen and guide him.

Read 1 John 4:4, 2 Corinthians 5:17, and Matthew 7:20 for more evidence of a life changed by God.

There are not many things in this world that you count on with 100 percent certainty. But one thing I know is true, because Jesus said it in John 14:3, "And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also."

It doesn't get any better than that!
6/25/2004 12:00:00 AM by Phyllis Elvington | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for July 18: Encouraged By Redemptive Usefulness : Friday, June 25, 2004

June 25 2004 by Phyllis Elvington

Family Bible Study lesson for July 18: Encouraged By Redemptive Usefulness : Friday, June 25, 2004
Friday, June 25, 2004

Family Bible Study lesson for July 18: Encouraged By Redemptive Usefulness

By Phyllis Elvington
Focal Passage: Nehemiah 1:2-7,10-11; 2:4-8,17-18

As a ninth-grader, Calesio finished first in the 100-meter dash, second in the 200-meter dash, and third in the 110-meter hurdles at the State Track and Field Championship Meet. His future looked bright.

Everyone said the sky was the limit for Calesio. And then, he made some bad choices. He got into trouble at school and was sent to the district's alternative school for the remainder of his 10th grade year.

Not only did Calesio have to leave high school and his friends behind, but he could also no longer participate in any extracurricular activities - including track.

He was devastated. He was a state champion who was not able to defend his state title.

But that is not the end of the story. Calesio had an encounter with Jesus and his life was changed completely. He returned to high school as a junior and was committed to doing his best and giving God all the honor and glory for the change that had taken place in his life.

That is why the photograph in the newspaper of Calesio crossing the finish line in first place at the State Track Meet with his hand pointing to the sky was so precious. It was a picture of a redeemed teenager giving thanks to the One who deserved all the credit.

We can all be encouraged in knowing that God can use us regardless of our past or present circumstances.

Assess the situation

Nehemiah 1:2-3

President John F. Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." That is precisely what Nehemiah did.

Although he had lived his entire life exiled from his homeland of Judah, he was concerned about his country and its capital city, Jerusalem. After inquiring about the situation, he discovered that his people were in great trouble and the walls of Jerusalem were in ruins.

What about you? Do you sit around and wait for a member of the nominating committee to ask you to serve your church, or do you take the initiative to look around and discover where your particular talents and gifts could be used?

Confess sin

Nehemiah 1:4-7

Nehemiah literally mourned over the sins that he and the people of Israel had committed against Holy God. He fasted and prayed for days that God would hear His prayer and cleanse His servants of their sins.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 reminds us of the importance of presenting ourselves as clean vessels to be used by God: "If anyone purifies himself from what is ignoble, then he will be a vessel of noble use, consecrated and useful to the master of the house, ready for any good work."

Petition God

Nehemiah 1:10-11

Nehemiah knew what he needed to do. He also knew that he could never even attempt it with his own strength. Therefore, he came before God with a specific request: "... and give success to thy servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man" (v. 11b).

God never gives us an assignment without giving us the right equipment to get the job done.

Do you need help with a specific task? Go to the Lord in prayer and watch His power at work within you (see Eph. 3: 20-21).

Enlist support

Nehemiah 2:4-8

Nehemiah went to the king for help, but only after he had spent months in prayer asking God for guidance and support. The king of Persia could supply letters of safe-conduct, army officers and cavalry, but only God could supply the strength needed for the task (see Phil. 4:13).

Encourage others

Nehemiah 2:17-18

Nehemiah told the people that he was in this situation with them, and that with God's help they could work together to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. 1 Corinthians 3:9 shows us the best way to serve, "We are laborers together with God."

6/25/2004 12:00:00 AM by Phyllis Elvington | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for July 11: A God Who Acts in Time : Friday, June 25, 2004

June 25 2004 by Ken Vandergriff

Formations lesson for July 11: A God Who Acts in Time : Friday, June 25, 2004
Friday, June 25, 2004

Formations lesson for July 11: A God Who Acts in Time

By Ken Vandergriff
Focal Passage: Exodus 19:7-15; John 1:14-18

Today's texts focus attention on two spectacular occasions when God acted in time, enabling persons to encounter Him in different ways.

The texts fit this month's mission theme: Reflecting upon mission inevitably leads us back to the source of mission, our encounter with God. Without a genuine encounter with God, mission flounders. It's too easy to get preoccupied with mission strategy, budgets and logistics, and overlook that from which mission springs, the encounter with God.

Preparing to encounter God

Exodus 19:7-15

Having gone to Mt. Sinai and received God's invitation to enter into a covenant relationship (vv. 4-6), Israel unanimously agreed (vv. 7-8). Israel still needed to know what was required - the stipulations of the covenant; those will be given in chapters 20-23 (the laws are the stipulations of the covenant) and unanimously ratified (chap. 24). Exodus 19:7-15 focuses on the preparations for encountering God.

In one of the most famous religious books of the 20th century, The Idea of the Holy, Rudolf Otto argued that the heart of every religion is the encounter with the holy. "There is no religion in which it does not live as the real innermost core, and without it no religion would be worthy of the name."

Encounter with the holy produces certain typical responses in the worshiper: a sense of awefulness, even dread, in the face of overwhelming mystery - the "Wholly Other" that God is; a sense of majesty or absolute overpoweringness, which produces humility; and a sense of fascination, of being entranced by this Wholly Other.

Engaging such a Wholly Other requires preparation. Israel's ritual washing and abstaining from sex made this time extra-ordinary.

Do we do anything special to prepare for our own encounter with God? How different is this time from ordinary time?

Walter Brueggemann warns that "our conventional trivializations of God make God in practice too available, too easy, and too immediate. We drop to our knees or bow our heads, and we imagine that God is eagerly awaiting attention. Or we drop in casually for worship, assuming God is always there." But Israel's encounter with God "is clearly not one between 'buddies'" (Exodus, The New Interpreter's Bible 838).

Do we leave worship with the sense that we have encountered the mysterious, majestic, fascinating Wholly Other? How might our sense of mission differ if we recovered a genuine sense of the Wholly Other and instead of casually dropping in on the Holy God made careful preparation for the encounter?

Encountering God in a different way

John 1:14-18

Notice one dissimilarity and one similarity between the events at Mt. Sinai and the incarnation of Christ. When Israel encountered God, a barrier remained between them.

God appeared at the top of the mountain in fire, smoke and thunder; Israel remained at the base, warned not to break through and gaze, lest they perish (v. 21). God met Israel, but the separation between them remained obvious. When the Word became flesh, however, that barrier was demolished. God did not merely encounter humans, God became human. The separation between God and humans became a unity.

The similarity between the two texts is the element of mysteriousness in both. The mysteriousness of Sinai is seen in the physical manifestations, the fire, thunder and violent shaking of the earth. The mysteriousness of the incarnation is God becoming human. As familiar as that confession is, we ought never miss its profound affirmation - the Wholly Other became one of us.

All of this has implications for what we think about the Christian mission. If God really did become one of us, that has implications for what we consider our mission to be. Don't be too quick to tie that up with a tidy bow; there is an open-endedness still to be discovered about our mission.

6/25/2004 12:00:00 AM by Ken Vandergriff | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for July 18: History is Not Meaningless : Friday, June 25, 2004

June 25 2004 by Ken Vandergriff

Formations lesson for July 18: History is Not Meaningless : Friday, June 25, 2004
Friday, June 25, 2004

Formations lesson for July 18: History is Not Meaningless

By Ken Vandergriff
Focal Passage: Matthew 1:1-17

After glancing at today's text, teachers may be tempted to bang their heads against a wall and scream: "They expect me to teach a whole lesson on a genealogy? Of mostly unfamiliar and unpronounceable names?" As it turns out, though, this one can be both informative and fun.

Functions of genealogies

Genealogies served various functions in the ancient world: they organized families, tribes and nations in terms of kinship (the function we most associate genealogies with); they showed the continuity of a people over long periods of time; they magnified an individual through the presentation of renowned ancestors; they legitimized individuals in an office; and they characterized an individual in terms of his function. The last two items are particularly important for Matthew.

Matthew is as interested in making a theological affirmation, as he is a genetic connection. His main point is in verse 1: Jesus is "son of David, son of Abraham."

These two connections assert something of Jesus' theological function. In God's initial invitation to Abraham was the promise that "in you all the families of the earth will be blessed" (Gen. 12:3). Matthew wants his readers to make that connection. The rest of his gospel shows blessings coming not just to the Jews, the physical descendants of Abraham, but to non-Jews as well - all the families of the earth (2:1; 4:15; 15:21-28; 24:14; 28:18-20).

"Son of David" was a royal designation. The messiah hope of the Old Testament grew out of God's promise to David in 2 Samuel 7, God's promise to David that one of his descendants would rule forever. Jesus' Davidic credentials were important for his function as the Messiah.

Surprising members of the family

It is intriguing that Matthew included several women of questionable character or ethnicity.

Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and seduced her father-in-law, Judah (Gen. 38); Rahab was a prostitute (Josh. 2-6). Ruth, a Moabite woman, becomes significant in the lineage of David and Jesus, even though the law forbid Moabite entry into the assembly of the Lord (Deut. 23:3-4). "The wife of Uriah" (v. 6), Bathsheba, although probably an innocent victim of David's sexual advances, has long been seen with suspicion. All these women were Gentiles.

Isn't it surprising who God chooses to place in the family tree?

The implications for mission

This month's Bible study theme is the implications of mission. What, then, does this genealogy have to do with Christian mission for us?

First, the Christian mission stands in continuity with a plan God set in motion at least as far back as Abraham. God worked in and through Israel for many centuries before Jesus, prodding Israel to see her mission to others (see Ex. 19:6; Is. 2:1-4; 49:6); Jesus' saving activity extended and enlarged what God had begun in Israel; the Christian mission extends that of Jesus.

Second, it's interesting that most of the individuals named in verses 12-15 are unknown, forgotten to history, yet links in the line that led to Jesus.

Most of us are ordinary folk. We're known among our circle of family and friends but not beyond that. Our names will appear in the newspaper only when we marry and die.

We might wonder how significant we are to God's mission. This text suggests that common folk are important; without them the line to Jesus would have been broken.

Finally, this genealogy shows God's inclusion of those with questionable morals. Think about your own family tree. How many of us have a scandalous member who eventually made good? Do we remember them more for the scandal or the good? Why? While God clearly can use those of scandalous character, could we ever bring ourselves to partner with them in God's mission?

6/25/2004 12:00:00 AM by Ken Vandergriff | with 0 comments

A view from afar : Friday, June 25, 2004

June 25 2004 by Tony W. Cartledge

A view from afar : Friday, June 25, 2004
Friday, June 25, 2004

A view from afar

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

The Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) June 15 decision to withdraw its support and participation from the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) came as a disappointment, but not a surprise. SBC leaders were instrumental in founding the worldwide network of Baptists nearly 100 years ago, and the SBC has long been its largest donor, but the two organizations are now walking different paths.

The BWA remains committed to the goal of providing a connective venue for fellowship, support and mutual encouragement among all the world's diverse Baptists, without requiring universal ascription to precisely the same doctrinal statements or cultural practices. Meanwhile, SBC leadership seems committed to exporting its conformist agenda to the rest of the world. In effect the BWA wants to be an umbrella, while the SBC's approach is more akin to a trench coat.

Because it provided a sizeable share of the BWA budget, the SBC has traditionally exercised considerable influence on the BWA, but flexing its financial muscle failed to prevent the BWA from accepting the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as one of its 211 member bodies. When Baptists worldwide consistently rebuffed the SBC's efforts to dictate the BWA's membership policies, the decision was made to withdraw the convention's annual contribution and devote the funds to global networking efforts that the SBC can firmly control.

To justify the action, a select committee of conservative leaders brought a series of charges against the BWA, several of them inaccurate, claiming that the BWA harbors too many liberals and is guilty of a "leftward drift." The lowest blow came just before the vote, when committee spokesman Paige Patterson injected the homosexuality card. Patterson implied that the BWA condones homosexual behavior by maintaining relations with the American Baptist Churches in the USA (ABC), which he claimed is committed to promoting a gay rights agenda. Both the ABC and BWA have responded with shock, outrage and vigorous denials.

Southern Baptist messengers, following their leaders as they have done for the past 25 years, affirmed the committee's recommendation to part company with the worldwide body.

Some have opined that SBC leaders did not want to control the BWA; they wanted to be the BWA. A shifting vocabulary among some leaders now speaks of the SBC as a global entity. Past president Jack Graham recently described the SBC as "a network of churches that circle the planet." Baptists of an earlier generation would never have considered churches begun by missionaries to be Southern Baptist congregations, but Nigerian or Indonesian or Brazilian Baptist churches.

While several Baptist organizations around the world have expressed regret over the SBC's withdrawal, others are quietly relieved that they will no longer have to deal with the bullying tactics of its once-largest donor, confident that future fellowship will now be more harmonious.

I had the unusual perspective of viewing the SBC's decision from the other side of the world, rather than from the SBC floor. I've covered every SBC annual meeting since 1999, but I was invited this year to teach a two-week course at the Theological Seminary of Armenia, where N.C. Baptist Men have a strategic partnership, during the same time period.

So, when SBC messengers voted to leave the BWA, I read about it on the Biblical Recorder Web site in Asatur Nahapetyan's apartment in Yerevan, Armenia. Nahapetyan is both General Secretary for the Union of Evangelical Christian Baptist Churches of Armenia, and rector of the Theological Seminary of Armenia. He also participates actively in executive councils of the European Baptist Union and of the BWA.

Nahapetyan was nonplussed by the SBC's withdrawal from the BWA, saying it appeared to be the same desire for control that he saw in International Mission Board (IMB) efforts in Armenia.

Armenian Baptists are committed to their own indigenous, and very effective, program of evangelism. Armenians remember well their many years of chafing under Soviet rule, and cherish their freedom more than any funds they might get from SBC mission dollars.

For Armenian Baptists, their issues with the SBC are certainly not theological. Their churches are very conservative, and the culture is very male-oriented. Their doctrine and practice would rarely be at odds with the most conservative version of the Baptist Faith and Message statement.

Ironically, one of Armenian Baptists' main concerns with the IMB is that the missionary primarily responsible for planting churches in Armenia is a woman, which is not acceptable in their culture.

While Armenians found relationships with SBC agencies to be fractious, they have nothing but praise for their partnership with N.C. Baptists.

Why? Because SBC missionaries, following the "New Directions" strategy of recent years, came to Armenia and wanted to direct Baptist mission efforts in the country, Nahapetyan said.

In contrast, N.C. Baptist Men came to Armenian Baptists and asked: "How can we help you?"

"The IMB needs to learn how to do missions from N.C. Baptist Men," Nahapetyan said. "Tell them I said that."

Armenian Baptists have a sweet fellowship and are inspiring in their depth of commitment to Christ. They have prospered and grown without the help of the SBC - and the BWA will do the same.
6/25/2004 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

Old man walking : Friday, June 25, 2004

June 25 2004 by Tony W. Cartledge

Old man walking : Friday, June 25, 2004
Friday, June 25, 2004

Old man walking

By Tony W. Cartledge
BR Editor

After a couple of years of painful hobbling, several doctor visits, X-rays and an MRI, I have learned that my left hip is older than the rest of me. I've known for some time that it certainly felt older, and was glad to have the medical confirmation.

The MRI report described a case of degenerative joint disease, characterized by the formation of cysts beneath the cartilage that lines the joint, and "osteophites" (bone spurs) digging into the surrounding muscle. All of that is fancy talk for a case of arthritis that the report said is "prominent for a person of his age."

In other words, the doctor said, my left hip is at least 20 years older than the rest of me, and he suspects that an old injury is the culprit. The only cure is a total hip replacement, but they don't like to do those until you can barely walk at all. In the meantime, the prescription is for pain pills, nutritional supplements and stretching exercises. The doctor would be happy if I spent nearly an hour a day stretching. I'd be happy if I could stretch the day to find an extra hour.

Stretching is important, because the ligaments and tendons surrounding the joint have tightened up in an internally initiated self-defense move designed to protect the joint from further damage.

The result is that my hip has limited mobility, which contributes to the limp, and I can barely tie my left shoe. To cross my legs with the left leg on top, I have to grab the cuff of my pants and pull it into place, which sometimes tips me over backwards.

My litany of complaints helps me appreciate the challenges faced by those who must deal with arthritis in multiple joints.

I couldn't run at any speed if I tried, and the doctor said that I can give up jogging without guilt (there's one thing to be thankful for), because it gives the joints a real pounding. He encouraged me to get my exercise by swimming and walking as much as I can. I don't cover as much territory as I used to, but I stay at it the same number of minutes, and I think the dog appreciates the slower pace.

Having to gear down my exercise regimen reminded me of a scripture verse for which I've often been thankful. Isaiah 40:31 says, "those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

Sometimes we soar, sometimes we run, and sometimes it's all we can do to walk - but we have a God who supports us in all three gears, and that's something to be grateful for, whatever our age.

6/25/2004 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

'Is God moderate or conservative?' : Friday, June 25, 2004

June 25 2004 by

'Is God moderate or conservative?' : Friday, June 25, 2004
Friday, June 25, 2004

'Is God moderate or conservative?'

In regard to the theological implications of the survey (BR, May 22), the question is not are we (N.C. Baptists) moderate or conservative. The question is: Is God moderate or conservative? Does God believe His word to be inerrant? Does God hold us accountable to His holy standard or our best efforts? Does God consult the masses or does He consult with the Godhead?

Even if all of Christendom was moderate in its philosophy and theology, would that change God's perspective?

As Joshua of old said, "As for me and my house, we will follow the Lord."

Robert L. Lewis

Fayetteville, N.C.

6/25/2004 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

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