March 2001

A home for Georgina

March 29 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

A home for Georgina | Friday, March 30, 2001

Friday, March 30, 2001

A home for Georgina

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - When Roy A. and Shirley Smith left the Sandy Creek Association for a three-year stint in Johannesburg as on-site directors of the South Africa partnership, they were empty-nesters who did not expect to be starting over as parents. That was before they met Georgina, the first child rescued through the Door of Hope ministry. Like many other N.C. volunteers, they had learned to love Georgina through helping to care for her at the Berea Mission and later at the ministry's Baby House.

When the Door of Hope sought "weekend parents" for children in its care, the Smiths signed on to keep Georgina on the weekends. When it became harder and harder to take her back to the Baby House, they registered with the South African government as a "house of safety" and became temporary parents.

Several months later, they applied for adoption, which is normally a lengthy and difficult process. After much effort and constant prayer, the adoption was approved. In short order (much shorter than usual), she also had a South African passport and a visa to visit the United States. Obstacles remain before Georgina is cleared to return to the United States when the Smiths' term is up at the end of October, but they are confident that God will find a way.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
3/29/2001 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Author says Christians need to find God's agenda

March 29 2001 by Bill Boatwright , BSC Communications

Author says Christians need to find God's agenda | Friday, March 30, 2001

Friday, March 30, 2001

Author says Christians need to find God's agenda

By Bill Boatwright BSC Communications CHARLOTTE - Christians need to find God's agenda rather than asking God to bless their agenda, a popular author told more than 1,000 people attending a semi-annual conference on prayer. Henry Blackaby, author of the Experiencing God materials and former staff member of the North America Mission Board (NAMB) and LifeWay Christian Resources, was the featured speaker at the conference March 16-17. The event at Carmel Baptist Church near Charlotte was co-sponsored by the Baptist State Convention and NAMB.

More than 1,000 people crowded into the church to learn more about deepening their personal prayer life and to hear practical suggestions on expanding and improving the prayer ministry of their congregations. The mostly young adult to middle-aged participants, about equally divided between men and women, came primarily from churches in the Charlotte area including several non-Baptist congregations.

The focus of the weekend was to challenge participants to see prayer from a fresh perspective, moving away from praying only out of their circumstances and feelings.

"Prayer must begin with the awareness of the heart of God," Blackaby said in one of his messages. "Too often, our prayers are strictly self-centered rather than God-centered. We need to find God's agenda and proceed, not ask God to bless our agenda."

In addition to the two general sessions lead by Blackaby, conference participants selected from 20 small groups with such topics as teaching children to pray and equipping every church member to share Jesus with every person in the community. Several of the small groups overflowed into the hallways with standing room only.

One series of small group conferences - "Taking Prayer to the Streets," an expansion of the idea of prayer walking - was offered in six different languages: Spanish, Russian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese and English.

Topics in each language-group included how to involve believers in on-site prayer through field and support teams and implementing the program into a church's overall prayer ministry.

Other small group topics included mobilizing young people to pray, prayer and spiritual warfare, prayer and holiness, prayer in the African-American congregation, and managing time to pray.

Each general session featured special music led by Ron and Patricia Owens of NAMB. Chris Schofield, manager of NAMB's prayer evangelism unit, led the March 17 morning meeting with a "pray-through" of the Lord's Prayer, where those attending divided into smaller groups to pray together as the leader walked them through the various elements of the prayer.

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3/29/2001 11:00:00 PM by Bill Boatwright , BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Innovation can help worship, pastor says

March 29 2001 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

Innovation can help worship, pastor says | Friday, March 30, 2001

Friday, March 30, 2001

Innovation can help worship, pastor says

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor CHARLOTTE - Traditional churches should not fear using innovative methods in worship, a N.C. Baptist pastor said. But Michael Tutterow, pastor of Winter Park Baptist Church in Wilmington, told about a dozen people attending a breakout workshop during the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina meeting March 17 that the changes must have a purpose.

"Introducing change to a traditional service just to be different would be a sure way to alienate people," he said.

In an interview after the seminar, Tutterow said music styles probably should not be blended in a worship service. During the workshop, he talked about several other ways to work innovative styles into traditional services.

Tutterow said his church presented a proposal and an eight-week course on contemporary worship before it started such a service.

During that process, 25 people from his church each interviewed three to four unchurched people. The group found only one person who didn't go to church because they didn't believe in God, he said.

Tutterow said the need to reach people who do not go to church was illustrated by a question asked by a man who has been going to his church for a few months. The man wanted to know if Jesus was in the Old Testament or New Testament.

The answer to the question is obvious for most churchgoers but shows the type of biblical illiteracy among people who were not raised in churches.

"We can lament that or we can say we'll change so somebody else can understand," he said.

Tutterow said there are a number of ways to blend traditional and innovative worship styles.

One way is to use video clips from movies, which Tutterow compared to parables.

"It's a slice of life that people will be familiar with," he said. "They probably never thought of it in religious terms."

Churches who want to use video clips must have a license that cost about $125.

"You need this to be legit," Tutterow said.

Dramas are another innovative feature that can be used in traditional services, he said.

"It can help you poke fun at serious issues," Tutterow said.

Churches shouldn't use a skit just because it's cute, he said.

"The best dramas don't wrap things up," he said. "What you want to do is surface the question.

"Even in the sermon you don't have to solve it, but you can give people handles to deal with it."

Tutterow said biblical storytelling - texts that are memorized and presented - can be an effective way to introduce innovation into worship.

"They speak very powerfully, especially in traditional worship," he said.

Another potential innovation is what Tutterow called "faith stories."

"We used to call them testimonies but now that'll scare them away," he said.

An effective method of using faith stories is to ask people in the church to identify parts of their spiritual journeys they are willing to discuss. The church leaders can find stories that fit into the worship service's theme and ask the person to participate. A leader of the service will discuss the story with the person before the service, then interview them about it during the service.

Faith stories work well when they end up being a conversation between two people.

"It allows people to eaves drop," Tutterow said.

Multi-media can also be used during worship, he said. One member of Tutterow's church edited some video clips to the song, "Turn, Turn, Turn."

"People are dying to do stuff like this," he said.

Message notes from the sermon can help people follow along. Tutterow said he provides the notes in the bulletin with blanks to fill in during the sermon. The blanks are filled in on a screen during the service, he said.

"We are such a visually oriented society," he said. "Not everybody learns just through their ear."

Tutterow said there are some secular songs that have spiritual meanings. The theme song from the television show "Cheers," which talks about a place where "everybody knows your name," is a great image of the church, he said.

Whatever innovative methods are used, the service should have continuity, Tutterow said. The service should have a theme that is "like a thread pulled all the way through."

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3/29/2001 11:00:00 PM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Small door, big vision

March 29 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Small door, big vision | Friday, March 30, 2001

Friday, March 30, 2001

Small door, big vision

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Cheryl Allen doesn't look like a mover and a shaker, but her delicate features overlay a bulldog tenacity, a core of inner steel and a burning heart for children. Her visionary concern for abandoned children has already impacted scores of abandoned children who have found safe harbor through the Door of Hope. If Allen gets her way, the count will reach into the thousands. Allen, who is trained in nursing and midwifery as well as theology, has been pastor of the Berea Baptist Mission in Johannesburg since 1997. The inner-city mission is located in one of Johannesburg's most dangerous and crime-ridden areas, where muggings, rapes, shootings, prostitution and drug sales are common.

Yet, Allen holds forth, though she cannot safely visit some of her congregants without an escort. Even the police avoid some local streets. In a country where most pastors are men and most adult church members are women, Allen's congregation is 80 percent male. Many are immigrants whose families have remained behind while they seek work in Johannesburg. On a typical Sunday, up to 16 nations may be represented in worship.

The church property consists of two buildings more than 90 years old, surrounded by a thick security wall. Partnership volunteers from North Carolina have repaired the roof and added a lighted cross to the sanctuary building, and renovated the interior to provide seating for 120 adults. On many Sundays, it overflows.

Allen gives God the glory for the church's success. Revitalizing the Berea mission is a story in itself: Through a careful strategy of leadership training, discipleship training and prayer, she has grown the congregation from an average attendance of 40 to 140 or more while developing solid leaders to ensure its future stability.

But Allen's vision not only reaches beyond the church walls - it includes a special project that actually uses the church wall. When Allen learned that 40-50 babies were being abandoned in the Johannesburg area every month, she led the church to begin a rescue ministry. An opening was cut into the street-side wall, with metal doors covering either side. The outer door, labeled "Door of Hope," has no latch. Word of mouth and brochures distributed in the area let expectant mothers know that the church will offer a safe harbor to babies they are unable or unwilling to care for.

Thus, mothers who might otherwise have abandoned their babies to an uncertain future can now leave them in the wall compartment, where a weight-triggered sensor alerts someone from the church to come and care for the infant.

Since its inception in 1999, more than 60 babies have found care through the Door of Hope ministry, and many have found adoptive or quality foster homes. While some infants come via the "hole in the wall," others are brought directly to the church by police, hospital workers or the mothers themselves.

Despite widespread acceptance and appreciation in the community, the Door of Hope continues to struggle with a cumbersome legal process required for licensure. The law allows care for up to six children at a time, but the ministry often has more than six children in care, so they have to be parceled out among staff members and supporters to remain legally compliant.

When it became apparent that the Berea church's facilities would be inadequate, Allen found a bargain-priced home in a suburban area to serve as a "baby house." With contributions from N.C. Baptists and other Christian groups, mostly from the United States, the Door of Hope purchased the large two-story house last year. The upper floor provides office space and facilities for the care of 12-15 children, while staff members find lodging on the ground floor.

Many people might see the Door of Hope's continued growth and ministry as a lifetime accomplishment. Where others would rest content, however, Allen has only begun to dream.

She notes that an estimated 25 percent of South Africa's population has the AIDS virus. The number is growing, and the advances in medicine that prolong the lives of AIDS patients in more wealthy countries are largely unavailable to South Africa's countless poor, who are the most affected. By 2004, as many as 1.8 million children will be orphaned by parents who have died from AIDS, she says, and many of them will also be infected with the HIV virus.

Allen envisions a network of 10 "Children's Villages" designed to care for up to 360 children each when at full capacity. Each village would include rental apartments to provide enough income to make each village financially self-sufficient, she says. Children would live in small cottages with no more than six assigned to each house parent.

"If we don't do something, we will lose an entire generation to AIDS," Allen says. Pursuing such a vision while also serving a church is a tiresome and never-ending task. But, Christians are called to obedience, even when it involves sacrifice, she says. "I'd rather burn out than fade away," she said. "The Lord gives me strength."

Allen is working through church, corporate and government channels in search of funding to build two children's villages per year for the next five years.

Many N.C. Baptists have already contributed to the Door of Hope ministry. In 1999, youth attending the four summer youth weeks at Caswell adopted the project and raised more than $13,000. The Door of Hope is also the focus of the N.C. Royal Ambassadors' statewide mission project for 2001, according to Tom Beam of N.C. Baptist Men. R.A. groups will seek to raise $20,000 through a campaign called "Dollars for the Door."

Persons wanting to learn more about the Door of Hope can meet and hear Allen during the annual N.C. Missions Conference, sponsored by N.C. Baptist Men and held at Raleigh's Forest Hills Baptist Church April 6-7. Allen is in the country as a participant in the second "Trans-Atlantic Crusades," a revival-oriented pulpit exchange between pastors in North Carolina and South Africa. She is scheduled to speak on Friday night, April 6.

Readers can also find more information through the ministry's Web site (, or by contacting Kathi Kestler of N.C. Baptist Men at (919) 467-5100 (Raleigh), (800) 395-5102 (toll-free), or (e-mail).

The BSC partnership with South Africa will draw to an official end after this year, but Allen hopes N.C. Baptists will remember that the orphaned and abandoned children of South Africa will need help for years to come.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
3/29/2001 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Soweto soul food

March 29 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Soweto soul food | Friday, March 30, 2001

Friday, March 30, 2001

Soweto soul food

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor I shouldn't have eaten the chakalaka. I firmly believe that one of the best ways to get a taste of a new culture is to literally get a taste of the culture.

But I shouldn't have eaten the chakalaka.

My culinary adventures in South Africa began innocently enough with spicy beef sausage for breakfast, biltdong (similar to beef jerky) for snacks and seafood for lunch. The calamari was excellent, as were two local varieties of fish, kingklip and hake.

The real adventure began when Roy A. Smith took me to Wandie's Place, a converted home in one of the better sections of Soweto, South Africa's largest black township.

The mealie pop (a local staple like finely ground and overcooked grits) was good, though I didn't care for the sour variety, which was purple and tasted like poi. A hominy-like dish was also good, as was the mashed pumpkin and the tomato-onion gravy.

When I dove into a dark and hearty stew called mala mogodu, I noticed a familiar smell, but decided to eat first and ask questions later. It turned out to be made of the stomach, intestines and organ meats of a cow. It was not my favorite dish.

But I would eat mala mogodu 1,000 times before I try chakalaka again.

I thought it would be a refreshing change from the tripe stew. In the dimly lit room, it appeared to be a cold salad of tomatoes, green beans and sliced okra. After my first (and only bite), my sinuses exploded, my hair went curly and my hearing aid began to melt.

What I had assumed to be sliced okra was actually lots of potent green chile peppers. And, what I thought to be a tomato base included red chiles. My taste buds will never be quite the same.

If there is food to be had in hell, it will probably taste like chakalaka - and that's all I need to know to seek a better destination.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
3/29/2001 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Where diversity rules and harmony prevails

March 29 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Where diversity rules and harmony prevails | Friday, March 30, 2001

Friday, March 30, 2001

Where diversity rules and harmony prevails

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor In South Africa, diversity is a way of life. Literal walls of separation based on color and culture are slowly coming down, but the signs of apartheid remain as obvious as the segregated neighborhoods in which most people live. Yet, South Africans across the color spectrum are making valiant and concerted efforts to get beyond their past and to build a new society where there is equal respect for all. Four racial/ethnic groups predominate in South Africa. Blacks who are descended from indigenous African peoples are by far the largest (about 76 percent) - and poorest - of the population groups. They have a rich history and speak more than a dozen languages based on two main language groups. During the 50 years of apartheid, only recently ended, black South Africans were forced to live in separate townships or "homelands" located outside of most cities and towns. Most blacks still live in these areas, or in hastily built shanty towns adjacent to them.

White South Africans are descended primarily from Dutch immigrants who settled the Cape area in the 17th and 18th centuries, and the English settlers who seized the coast in the 19th century, forcing the Dutch "Afrikaners" into the interior, where they conquered and displaced many black tribes. Most whites speak both English (in its British variety) and Afrikaans, a hybridized and simplified form of Dutch. Whites make up about 13 percent of the population but hold most of the wealth.

In South Africa, "colored" is a recognized term that refers not to ethnic Africans, but to a rich variety of peoples who have a mixed heritage. Many are descended from Southeast Asians imported by early white settlers to work in the vineyards and grain fields. Persons of color, as a result of intermarriage between the various ethnic groups, were also defined as colored for purposes of apartheid, and required to live in separate areas. They make up about 9 percent of the population, and often speak both English and Afrikaans.

The smallest population group (about 2 percent) is made of peoples from India, most of whom live in the province of Natal.

In churches and denominational bodies as well as in government, those who once held power because of their privileged position are seeking balance. People of color now hold more and more positions of responsibility in government and in church.

There are no less than five Baptist "conventions" in South Africa. Two small groups consist of Indian churches, while another small group is predominately white Afrikaners. The largest group by far is the Baptist Union, which includes about 50,000 members in more than 600 churches and fellowships from all ethnic groups. In 1987, a group of 70 black churches broke from the Baptist Union because they believed the denomination's leadership had not spoken out strongly enough against apartheid. They are known as the Baptist Convention, and they now number 120 churches.

North Carolina partnership work, like the work of the International Mission Board, has related primarily to the Baptist Union, though there is also work with the other groups.

The Baptist Union is making a concerted effort to include more people of color in leadership positions. Elected presidents were uniformly white until 1992, but several black and colored persons have served as president since then. General Secretary Terry Rae will step down in October after nine years as the Baptist Union's executive leader. He has laid the groundwork for a person of color to follow him in that position.

Change is also apparent in the churches. Black churches are the most likely to be uniform in makeup, largely because of their typical location inside black townships. Colored churches often include blacks and a smattering of whites. Predominately white churches are most likely to be multicultural. One church near Johannesburg recently made a focused decision to call a black pastor, even though most of its members are white. The church recognized that shifting demographics had put it in a largely black area, and wants to be more effective in reaching the people of its community.

The South African Baptists I visited hold an impressively inclusive attitude toward cultural and theological differences. Black churches tend to be the most conservative, both theologically and in maintaining traditions such as formal dress for worship. White churches often hold more moderate views, with colored churches tending to fall in the middle. Such differences are accepted with hardly a blink of the eye, however, as South African Baptists focus on the challenges of their common work among the beautiful peoples of their land.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
3/29/2001 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for April 15: Confession Christ

March 29 2001 by William (Mac) McElrath , Matthew 16:13-28

Family Bible Study lesson for April 15: Confession Christ | Friday, March 30, 2001

Friday, March 30, 2001

Family Bible Study lesson for April 15: Confessing Christ

By William (Mac) McElrath Matthew 16:13-28 Is Simon Peter your favorite among the 12 disciples? If so, you are not alone. In Peter's impulsive nature and all-too-human weaknesses, many people have found the apostle with whom they can most easily identify. Today's lesson shows Peter at his best and (almost) his worst. He spoke for himself and for his colleagues in confessing Jesus as Messiah and Son of God. He spoke for Satan when he denied that the Messiah could possibly be intended to suffer, die and rise again.

Jesus' confirmation of His identity (Matthew 16:13-17) These verses in Matthew chapter 16 mark a change in emphasis on the part of Jesus. Turning from the crowds that had followed Him since the beginning of His public ministry, He thereafter would focus on teaching His disciples.

First, though, He wanted to know what the crowds had been saying about Him. (Note that He did not ask His disciples what the religious leaders were saying about Him: Their judgments might have been much more negative!) After hearing three responses, Jesus then turned the question toward His disciples. Using a plural pronoun, He asked in effect: "But you - who do you-all say I am?"

As so often seemed to happen, Simon Peter was the one who spoke up for all of the disciples. These 12 people had a better opportunity than anyone else to observe who Jesus really was. On the basis of that personal experience, Peter spoke out boldly: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (v. 16, NIV).

Jesus confirmed Peter's right answer; in so doing, He even bestowed upon Peter a special Beatitude (v. 17).

Jesus' intention to build His church (Matthew 16:18-19) In verse 18 Jesus made a play on words. The name Peter means "rock"; note the similarity to such words as "petrify." In verbalizing a sturdy confession of Jesus as Son of God and Messiah, Peter had shown that he would make good building material. Note, however, that it is not Peter who will do the building: Jesus clearly said, "I will build my church."

Jesus' promise in the last part of verse 18 has proven true again and again. It is being proved yet again in the year 2001, as Christians in Indonesia and elsewhere face hellish trials. (How often do we remember to pray for the persecuted church in all the world?)

Jesus' words about "binding and loosing" in verse 19 echo expressions often used by Jewish rabbis. He meant that those who rejected the testimony of His apostles, His sent-out ones, would thereby shut themselves out of heaven, whereas those who accepted the apostolic testimony would find heaven's doors open to them.

Jesus' prediction of His death and resurrection (Matthew 16:20-23) Why did Jesus warn His disciples "not to tell anyone that He was the Christ"?

The answer becomes apparent as we read Peter's reaction to what Jesus said next. For the first time Jesus explained what kind of Messiah He would be: a suffering Messiah - rejected, crucified, and then raised up from death by the power of God.

Probably Peter didn't even hear the part about Easter; he never got past Good Friday. It was all too much for him: This was not at all what he had in mind when he confessed Jesus as the Christ. More in sorrow than in anger Jesus had to tell him that he was speaking for Satan when he voiced his human desire for an entirely different sort of Messiah.

Jesus' call to self-denial (Matthew 16:24-28) It was in this context - the tension between human desire for a conquering king and divine purpose in sending a suffering Messiah - which Jesus issued His great call to self-denial.

Verse 26 is as relevant today as when Jesus spoke it. Recently an on-line auction site had to rule that it would no longer let a human soul be offered to the highest bidder. Yet many continue to sell their souls for wealth, power, fame or sexual conquest.

What did Jesus mean (v. 28) when He said that some of His disciples would live to "see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom"? He was speaking not of His second coming but of His resurrection. After Easter would come Pentecost - the coming of the Spirit in power, the rapid growth of the church.

Some of those disciples did indeed see the beginnings of Christ's kingdom on earth. You and I can see that kingdom continuing to spread today.

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
3/29/2001 11:00:00 PM by William (Mac) McElrath , Matthew 16:13-28 | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for April 15: Resurrection

March 29 2001 by Ken Vandergriff , Luke 24:1-12

Formations lesson for April 15: Resurrection | Friday, March 30, 2001

Friday, March 30, 2001

Formations lesson for April 15: Resurrection

By Ken Vandergriff Luke 24:1-12 "He lives, he wakes - 'tis Death is dead, not he." The line comes from the poem, Adonais, written in 1821 by Percy Bysshe Shelley upon the death of fellow poet John Keats. But what a marvelous expression it is of Christianity's most profound confession. In the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God effected an astounding reversal; where death appeared to have won; God brought life and conquered death. In our teaching of this text, it is important to emphasize the church's present experience of resurrection. Christian faith lives not just on the testimony of witnesses long dead. It lives through the continued presence of the living Christ; the experiences of the first witnesses help us make sense of our own experiences with Christ.

Finding - and not finding (Luke 24:1-5) Verses 2-3 express an intriguing contrast. "They found the stone rolled away, but they did not find the body." That left them perplexed because any number of reasons could explain the absence of the body. Grave robbers might have taken it, or the temple guards might have hidden it to prevent Jesus' followers from getting to it. Or, Jesus' enemies might have taken it to desecrate it. Hatred causes people to do bizarre things; the enemies of John Wycliffe, who translated the Bible into English in the 1300s, exhumed his bones some forty years after his death just so they could burn the bones and scatter the ashes.

In the midst of the women's confusion, two men (Luke does not call them angels) appear and ask the oddest of questions, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" Surely they must have wondered, "We saw Him die (23:49) and we saw His burial (23:55). Why wouldn't we seek Him here?"

Maybe that's what it takes for God to get through to us - a state of confusion and what appears to be an odd question. In the midst of our normal routines and ordinary expectations, the living Christ suddenly breaks in, pointing us to the new.

Remembering (Luke 24:6-8) It is instructive to compare these verses with Mark 16:6-7. In Mark's telling of the story, the messenger points the women to the future - go to Galilee, where Jesus will be seen. In Luke, however, the messengers point the women toward the past and make no promise at all of a personal appearance by Jesus. "Remember how He told you. ..." Indeed, Jesus had taught his followers on numerous occasions that He would be arrested and killed, and on the third day rise again (see Luke 9:22, 44; 18:32-33). Remembering would relieve their confusion and make sense of their present experience.

The emphases of both Mark and Luke are important. Jesus' resurrection appearances would thrill his followers, but without memory, those appearances might become just a series of disjointed adventures. That would not be sufficient for a coherent Christian proclamation. By remembering, those early Christians could begin to make sense of the whole story.

So it is with the church today. Christians ought to eagerly anticipate the new future God is creating (Mark's emphasis), but we will only comprehend the new by remembering what God has already said and done (Luke's emphasis). That is why remembering the stories of the faith is so important. Sociologist Robert Wuthnow has even called the church a "community of memory." He writes, "The church must be a community of memory by perpetuating the narratives of the past, by telling stories that bring the past into the present" (Christianity in the 21st Century [Oxford Univ. Press, 1993], 48).

We cannot assume that the resurrection story is well known to everyone. One importance of Easter is the opportunity to retell the story.

Experiencing (Luke 24: 9-12) According to Luke's account, when the women went to the other disciples, no one had yet seen the risen Christ; the women had only their account of the empty tomb and the messengers' remarks. Verse 11, then, is notable. Their words "seemed an idle tale."

Mere stories of an empty tomb will not convince others. Personal experience with the resurrected Christ will. The good news is that the living Christ still appears - not in a visible, bodily form, but in the convincing form of the Holy Spirit.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
3/29/2001 11:00:00 PM by Ken Vandergriff , Luke 24:1-12 | with 0 comments

An extraordinary hope

March 22 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

An extraordinary hope | Friday, March 23, 2001

Friday, March 23, 2001

An extraordinary hope

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor She was not a little girl any more, but she was her daddy's little girl, and her mama's. When Amanda Pilson started feeling sick on New Year's Day, nobody panicked. She was at home in Asheboro during Christmas break from her sophomore year at Appalachian State University. She had been a bit under the weather. It had been a good holiday, spending time with her close-knit family - her parents, Jeanne and Craig, her younger sister, Sheila - and her lifelong friends.

But then she became extremely nauseous. She went to bed for a while, but things got worse. So her dad took her to an urgent care center, where she got some shots and instructions to go back to bed. But she didn't feel any better. She asked her mom to stay close by. Everyone waited for the shots to work.

They didn't.

Around midnight, Amanda experienced something like a seizure. Shortly after, she stood up and said, "We have to go now!" Then she fell to the floor.

And died.

Right there, in her own bedroom, a promising, winsome, Christ-loving 19-year-old left this world too soon and went on to find another room prepared for her.

For a while, there was speculation that a reaction to penicillin had caused her death. Later, an autopsy established the cause of death as acute myocarditis, a rare heart infection that works quickly and is difficult to diagnose.

What do you do when a child dies? What do you say? How do you make sense of it all? How do you cope?

Craig and Jeanne and Sheila have chosen to keep on keeping on. They have honored Amanda, as they should. They have thought of her every day. And they've gone on with life. Sheila is back in school, and Craig is back at work. So is Jeanne, known by many N.C. Baptists as the guest services coordinator at Caraway Conference Center.

Craig offered a brief eulogy at Amanda's funeral. He recalled how faithful she had been in her Christian walk, in her willingness to take a stand for Jesus. "We are all grieving our loss of Amanda," he said, "but God has used this to bring a message. The message may be different for each person, but the message Amanda would want everyone to feel is 'Don't straddle the fence, be middle of the road, be undecided about Jesus.'"

Amanda's death, like the death of others who leave behind such promise, is a great blow to all who loved her, and who love her still. God cannot be blamed for it. And yet, God has a remarkable ability to bring something good even from the deepest pain.

Amanda's example was and is and will be a strong witness to others, who may listen more carefully because her death is a reminder of their own mortality.

Amanda's family and friends will discover new avenues of God's grace and mercy as they lean on Him for support and trust in Him for daily wisdom on days when "the presence of her absence is everywhere," as another bereaved parent expressed it.

In a poem written before her death, Amanda spoke of individuality:

Speak your mind. Dare to be different. Be the leader, Don't follow the crowd ... Every individual is unique. Special in his own way. Be proud of yourself. Prove to be extraordinary.

The Easter season is upon us, and with it, a reminder of resurrection hope for all who have loved ones on heaven's bright shore.

And that is extraordinary, indeed.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
3/22/2001 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Cloning Jesus?

March 22 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Cloning Jesus? | Friday, March 23, 2001

Friday, March 23, 2001

Cloning Jesus?

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor The subject of cloning humans has been in the news of late. Some folks like the idea of having a child who is genetically identical. Others think it opens the door to immortality. Someone recently drew my attention to a Web site that describes what appears to be a serious attempt to go even farther and clone Jesus. I'm not kidding.

According to the Web site, attempts are being made to extract a cell from one of the "Holy Relics" found in European cathedrals. Many cathedrals have relics on display that purport to be strands of Jesus' hair, bloody splinters of the cross, even the foreskin from His circumcision.

If a cell could be obtained, according to the author, DNA would be extracted and inserted into a human egg that would be implanted into a young virgin, who would bear a clone of Jesus in a second virgin birth.

The Web site's author seems convinced the Bible contains arcane references to a future cloning of Jesus as the means of the second coming and the end of the age, so he argues that it is our Christian duty to support the project.

I'm convinced this project exists mainly in the fantasy of the author.

At first thought, "cloning Jesus" sounds like a bad idea, even if someone believed that original cells could be extracted from so-called "Holy Relics."

On second thought, however, I realized that all believers are called to clone Jesus in a sense, in their own lives. How often have we been encouraged to become more like Jesus, to let Jesus live in us, to be transformed into his likeness and to become Christlike?

Maybe cloning Jesus isn't such a bad idea after all.

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3/22/2001 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

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