May 2002

The little church that could and does

May 17 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

The little church that could and does | Friday, May 17, 2002

Friday, May 17, 2002

The little church that could and does

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

HEATHSVILLE - The little church called Antioch sits on a back road running through the cotton fields of Eastern North Carolina. The population growth that fuels expansion of many N.C. churches remains far removed from the crossroads community of Heathsville, where most new residents are migrant farm workers who live in nearby camps.

Antioch Baptist Church is 161 years old, and many of its members are aging, too - but its ministries are multiplying. The church's pastor, Joy Heaton, dubs it "the little church that could."

The church recently began an outreach to developmentally delayed adults. While Antioch's regular attenders fit easily into three small Sunday School classes, the fellowship hall overflows with the new "Smiles Class."

Class members are developmentally delayed adults from group homes and families in the community.

Charles Jack works with LIFE, Inc., a company that operates 30 residential care facilities for developmentally delayed adults in Eastern North Carolina. He was delighted when Heaton came to him, looking for ministry opportunities with residents.

"Usually I have to go out and hunt places and ask if we can come," he said, "so we very much appreciate the ministry offered by the church."

On an average Sunday, a dozen residents, accompanied by several caretakers, make their way to the Smiles Class, presided over by Carolyn Vick. It was Vick's interest that led to the formation of the class, Heaton says. Vick has helped with the Baptist State Convention's "Happiness Retreats" at Caraway, held annually for developmentally delayed adults, for more than 15 years. She has a special passion for the ministry, in which she is assisted by son, Dean, who is mildly affected by the condition. Tommy Wrenn, Hope Carter and others also assist. Church member Ernie Vick, oldest son of Carolyn Vick, occasionally dons biblical costumes to tell illustrated Bible stories.

The youngest class member is 23; the oldest is in her 50s. Some are Caucasian, some are African American. The church has opened its arms to both.

A typical class begins with coloring, which some members enjoy more than others. One member, who colors with great vigor, snaps one crayon after another. "All broke!" he says, with a smile.

The class always includes a time for singing as joyful as it is off-key, and often includes hand motions. There are Bible stories, refreshments, and crafts - a typical curriculum for children, who in this case happen to reside in adult bodies.

Before Antioch began the Smiles Class, residents occasionally visited other churches, but had no regular place to go or targeted program of religious education. Volunteers who work with the class find that blessings work both ways. As Vick puts it, "They've done our hearts so good!"

What Heathsville lacks in year-round population, it makes up for in Sunday smiles.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
5/17/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Virginia Baptists set new missions course

May 17 2002 by Robert Dilday and Robert O'Brien , Associated Baptist Press

Virginia Baptists set new missions course | Friday, May 17, 2002

Friday, May 17, 2002

Virginia Baptists set new missions course

By Robert Dilday and Robert O'Brien Associated Baptist Press

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Virginia Baptists overwhelmingly endorsed a new missions vision May 10 at a called meeting of the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) that drew more than 2,500 messengers and visitors to First Baptist Church in Charlottesville.

Executive Director John Upton, who introduced the plan called "Kingdom Advance" about a month earlier, said it would prepare the BGAV to minister more effectively in the 21st century while offering "a seat at the table" for its diverse 1,440 affiliated congregations.

The vote authorizes an ad hoc committee to draw up recommendations to implement the plan. Messengers will consider those recommendations at the BGAV's regular annual meeting, scheduled Nov. 8-9 in Virginia Beach.

A separate motion also approved at the five-hour Charlottesville meeting authorized the Alma Hunt Offering for Virginia Missions to include allocations for Kingdom Advance, if the BGAV opts to tap the offering for funds.

Upton has estimated that about $1 million annually in new money is needed to fund Kingdom Advance. The BGAV budget committee will consider - and recommend to the BGAV - how to finance the plan.

Fewer than 100 messengers voted against the Alma Hunt offering expansion, according to estimates by observers. About two dozen voted against Kingdom Advance entirely.

The unusual called meeting tallied the largest attendance of any BGAV meeting since 1994, when about 3,375 met in Salem. Preliminary figures indicate 2,452 messengers registered at the called meeting, along with 110 visitors. About 385 congregations were represented.

The new plan calls for funding and administering several categories of mission workers in Virginia, the United States and around the world. It would also focus on church planting and revitalization, identifying and developing leaders for the next generation and helping pastors and churches to minister effectively.

But details are still developing, said Upton, who presented the vision to messengers in Charlottesville.

"There is no program or structure yet," he said. "This is a process, not a program. You are invited in at the beginning of the process. ... Everything you say will be video taped and written down and will be taken into consideration. You are at the front end of this piece."

Upton said he has already talked with hundreds of church leaders and laypersons about the plan. He said he plans to continue to travel across the state for more discussion. "I hope to have talked to one thousand pastors by the end of the year," he said.

Upton said Kingdom Advance comes at a time when the state population is outstripping Christian growth, when there is a growing crisis in church leadership development and when ministries are opening up all around the world.

It envisions a flexible approach to missions that would avoid competing with other Baptist bodies, such as the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) International and North American mission boards, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or the Baptist World Alliance.

Instead, it would expand current cooperation with these and other entities and open up opportunities for Virginia Baptists to partner with other Baptists around the world. Upton and other leaders have insisted they will not launch an effort to lead Virginia Baptists out of the SBC or undercut the SBC's Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong missions offerings.

"BGAV local churches will decide, in the Baptist way, what they will support. We will offer options and opportunities to all of them who wish to participate," Upton said.

During his discussions across Virginia, Upton said he got three consistent questions: (1) Can you give us something bigger than us to excite our church? (2) Is there a place for us at the table? (3) Is there any way to lift ourselves out of this denominational controversy and get on with the gospel and ministry of Jesus Christ?

"Kingdom Advance says, 'Yes' to all three questions," he said.

Although approved overwhelmingly, critics of the plan predicted it would be doctrinally lax and loosen ties to the SBC.

"Today is a sad day for the Southern Baptist Convention and many Virginia Baptists," said Rick Sadler, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Charlottesville. "What we have is not 'Kingdom Advance' but a kingdom divided."

Upton replied that his prayer is that history books would one day record that "Baptists divided became Baptists united" because of the historic vote. Messengers responded with a standing ovation.

"We all may disagree about some things," Upton said, "but we are going to find things we can agree on and get on with the main thing - the gospel and ministry of Jesus Christ."

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Robert Dilday is associate editor of the Religious Herald. Robert O'Brien writes for the Virginia Baptist Mission Board.)

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5/17/2002 12:00:00 AM by Robert Dilday and Robert O'Brien , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

The maritime score

May 17 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

The maritime score | Friday, May 17, 2002

Friday, May 17, 2002

The maritime score

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

I was surprised at the number of responses to a recent column about our purchase of an "experienced" boat.

Others, evidently, have been there before.

One person defined a boat as "a hole in the water to pour your money in." The statement wasn't very grammatical, but after we paid for some needed repairs, a decent boat cover and parking place, it made sense.

Other readers reminded me of the old proverb that the two happiest days of a boat owner's life are the day he buys the boat, and the day he sells it.

I don't put that much "happiness stock" in any form of recreation, but I took the point.

Still others recalled fond memories of boating with their children, and assured me that we will have great fun and not be disappointed.

For those who are still reading, here's the current score: two rainouts, two short evenings on the lake, nine night crawlers either drowned or nibbled to death, and one sunfish the size of Samuel's hand. Appropriately, he's the one who caught it.

Oh - and one crumpled fender on the boat trailer.

The first time out, I tried to use the drive-through at a fast food place that will remain unnamed, and found out why they put those big heavy pipes on either side of the menu board.

Lesson learned.

I'm sure there are more lessons to come, and I count no day as wasted when I learn something new or spend it with people I love.

It looks like the thing is paying for itself already.

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5/17/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Want to walk in these shoes?

May 17 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Want to walk in these shoes? | Friday, May 17, 2002

Friday, May 17, 2002

Want to walk in these shoes?

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

As Baptists in America, we tend to spend a lot of time bickering among ourselves and bemoaning our denominational fate when things don't go our way.

Christians in North Korea, Turkmenistan and Sudan should be lucky enough to have such luxury. According to a story in Religion News Service, those three countries are the world's worst when it comes to state-sponsored religious persecution.

According to the report, thousands of North Koreans are risking their lives to flee into China in search of both freedom and food. Millions have died of starvation and disease in recent years.

"Religious freedom does not exist (in North Korea) and what little religious activity that is permitted by the government appears to be largely staged for foreign visitors," said Michael Young, chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The government of Turkmenistan, a northwest neighbor of Afghanistan, recognizes only Sunni Islam and Russian Orthodoxy as legitimate religions. Members of other religions are reportedly tortured, their literature confiscated and their places of worship destroyed, according to the government report.

The panel also criticized Sudan, where civil war continues to rage between the predominantly Muslim North and Christian South. Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom of Freedom House and one of the commissioners, said abduction of women and children as slaves, deliberate denial of international humanitarian assistance and the pushing away of populations from oil-producing areas are some of the violations committed by the Sudanese government.

The commission is urging the U.S. government to exert pressure on regimes that repress religious freedom. Those measures can involve withholding all but essential humanitarian aid, refusing to purchase oil or natural gas from offending countries, or encouraging nearby nations to accept refugees.

But religious persecution is not limited to those three countries. In Indonesia, for example, the government has been accused of complicity - or at least, of consciously failing to intervene - in violent rampages by the Laskar Jihad, an Islamic militant group.

Indonesia is an archipelago made up of thousands of islands that include many distinct people groups.

The region of Maluku, like West Papua (the western half of what was once called New Guinea), was once predominantly Christian, but former president Suharto encouraged Javanese Muslims to migrate to less densely populated areas of Indonesia, leading to widespread demographic change.

According to a recent report prepared by Elizabeth Kendal, writing for the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Freedom Prayer List, there was relative peace between Christians, Muslims and Hindus prior to Suharto's departure in May 1998. Afterward, various power brokers who felt disenfranchised by the new government instigated conflict designed to destabilize the country and encourage military control.

Thousands of Laskar Jihad militants arrived in mid-2000 and began committing horrible atrocities in Ambon, the capital (see the Recorder's December 2000 story). Extremists murdered, dismembered and burned church members in an effort to eradicate Christianity from the region. As many as 8,000 died and half a million became refugees.

Many people worked to better the situation, and on Feb. 12 the "Malino Peace Accord" was signed by delegations from the Muslim and Christian communities of Maluku. The Laskar Jihad refused to attend, however, and pronounced the accord to be "treasonous."

Jihad leader Jaffar Umar Thalib, who preaches that democracy is 'incompatible with Islam,' calls for Indonesia to be made an Islamic state with Sharia Law and scorns Osama bin Laden for being too soft, recently instigated new attacks.

On April 26, Thalib urged some 5,000 Muslims outside the Al-Fatah Mosque in Ambon to rally together in holy war against the Christians. Soon afterward, heavily armed militants entered the Christian village of Soya (near Ambon city) as the people slept, and killed up to 21 people by stabbing, decapitation or burning them alive. Many more were wounded; 30 homes and a Christian church were burned.

Meanwhile, Lakar Jihad troops are also advancing in West Papua, and the government refuses to expel them from the area.

We, who sometimes think we have it bad, have a responsibility to act.

When possible, we must do all we can through legitimate means to work for peace and for religious freedom in all places.

At all times, we must pray.

We can pray for God to protect the faith of frightened and traumatized believers, asking God to strengthen the hearts and minds of those tempted to doubt His goodness or presence.

We can pray for government officials in Indonesia, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Sudan and elsewhere to bring an end to violence against people on the basis of their faith.

We can pray for militant extremists to be recognized and dealt with for who they are, and not who they claim to be.

We can, and we must.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
5/17/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for June 2: God Wants Me to Be Loving

May 17 2002 by James Baldwin , 1 Samuel 18:1-4; 19:1-7; 20:4,14,17,42

Family Bible Study lesson for June 2: God Wants Me to Be Loving | Friday, May 17, 2002

Friday, May 17, 2002

Family Bible Study lesson for June 2: God Wants Me to Be Loving

By James Baldwin 1 Samuel 18:1-4; 19:1-7; 20:4,14,17,42

Gary Chapman has written a wildly popular book entitled The Five Love Languages. In this book Chapman suggests there are five different ways people express and understand love: words of affirmation, physical touch, gifts, quality time and acts of service. He has expanded his thesis to include not only husbands and wives, but children and teenagers as well.

I believe the same principles can be applied to friendships. If so, then Jonathan was truly multi-lingual. In these few chapters of the Bible we find that he expressed his love for his friend David in all these ways.

Love's commitment (1 Samuel 18:1-4) I remember standing beside my school in the eighth grade, waiting for my bus to arrive. A boy leaned out of another bus and shouted at a girl walking across the parking lot, "I love you!" I thought to myself, "Now that must be true love." The next day the scene repeated itself. The same bus. The same boy. The same declaration of love shouted from the window. Only this time it was a different girl!

Love has to be more enduring than 24 hours in order to be true love! Whether we are talking about a romantic relationship or a friendship, love involves a commitment that goes beyond circumstances and emotions. Jonathan made a covenant with David. They had an agreement that they would remain friends for life. The Apostle Paul describes love this way: "Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails" (1 Cor. 13:7-8).

Love is a decision to continue acting in loving ways, even when you may not feel like it.

Love's active concern (1 Samuel 19:1-7) As an adolescent I had some friends who were less than loyal. We spent a lot of time together, and often got into mischief together. Whenever our escapades were discovered, however, they were quick to clear their names, leaving me to take the blame. After several occurrences, I realized that these friends, who were glad to lead me into trouble, were also glad to leave me there. I decided that those were not the kind of friends I needed.

Love is a risky business. Jonathan was forced to choose between loyalty to his father, Saul, or his friend David. Warning David of Saul's plans to kill him could have cost Jonathan his own life. Speaking up in defense of David might have made him a target of his father's wrath. Yet Jonathan stood by David, knowing all along that one day his friend would one day sit on the throne that rightfully belonged to him.

When you love others, you stand up for them regardless of the cost. You confront them in love when you see them straying, even though they may resent you for intruding in their life. You forgive them when they hurt you, knowing they may hurt you again.

Love's constancy (1 Samuel 20:4,14,17,42) Jonathan committed to David that he would do whatever he wanted (v. 4). He had David reaffirm his love for him (v. 17), and asked him to promise that his love would continue as long as he lived. He further asked David to promise that their love would be passed on to later generations (v.42) - whatever, whenever, forever. That is the nature of true love. The New Testament proclaims, "Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:38-39). Love that is like that of the Lord's knows neither limits nor boundaries.

The next chapter of 2 Samuel tells the beautiful sequel to this story of love between David and Jonathan. Long after Jonathan had died and David had assumed the kingship of Israel, David asked, "Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan's sake?" David was able to locate a crippled son of Jonathan by the name of Mephibosheth. He invited him into his home and treated him with love and compassion. "So Mephibosheth ate at David's table like one of the king's sons" (2 Samuel 9:11).

David had an opportunity to keep his promise to his friend to carry on their love into future generations.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
5/17/2002 12:00:00 AM by James Baldwin , 1 Samuel 18:1-4; 19:1-7; 20:4,14,17,42 | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for June 9: God Wants Me to Be Joyful

May 17 2002 by James Baldwin , Nehemiah 8:1-3,5-6,9-17

Family Bible Study lesson for June 9: God Wants Me to Be Joyful | Friday, May 17, 2002

Friday, May 17, 2002

Family Bible Study lesson for June 9: God Wants Me to Be Joyful

By James Baldwin Nehemiah 8:1-3,5-6,9-17

Frederick Buechner has written a little book entitled "Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC." He defines joy with these words: "In the Gospel of John, Jesus sums up everything by saying, 'These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full' (John 15:11). He said it at the supper that he knew was the last one he'd have a mouth to eat. Happiness turns up more or less where you'd expect it to - a good marriage, a rewarding job and a pleasant vacation. Joy, on the other hand, is as notoriously unpredictable as the one who bequeaths it." It might even be found at church.

Attentive hearing (Nehemiah 8:1-3) The people of Israel were hungry for the word of God. We have to remember these people had been in exile in a foreign land. While in exile, the people of Israel found it difficult to worship and praise their God. "How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?" they cried (Ps. 137:4). Although some had been back in their homeland for several years, they had no place to worship. Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to help rebuild the city walls and the temple (Neh. 2:4-5).

Now, several years and much opposition later, the temple had been restored and worship had resumed. They found great joy in being able to hear the word of God once again.

It may be hard for us to imagine life with no church, no Bible and no community of faith. When I think of the number of people who leave their Bibles at church and never miss them, who never attend Sunday School or mid-week Bible studies, I wonder what it will take for us to hunger for the word of God again.

Fervent worship (Nehemiah 8:5-6) If the type of worship described in these verses had occurred in most Baptist churches I know there would have been a special church conference, and a "come-to-Jesus" meeting with the worship leader. Hands lifted over their heads, faces bowed down to the ground, shouts of "amen." Accusations of fanaticism would be quick in coming.

The Bible is full of worship experiences we would consider inappropriate.

"Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth" (Ps. 100:1).

"Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and the lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and the flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals" (Ps. 150:3-5).

We have to ask whose standards we are to follow when we come into the house of God. I contend that if it is God's house, then we operate by God's rules. I believe that if we could get beyond feeling that we have to control the Holy Spirit, we might truly enjoy worship, as the people of Israel did.

Joyous celebration (Nehemiah 8:9-17) A grade school teacher asked her students to bring a symbol of their religion to class. A Jewish student brought a menorah and told of the significance of the candles. A Catholic student brought a rosary and described each of the beads on the necklace. A Baptist student brought a casserole dish.

Sharing a meal together was an important part of the celebration for the people of Israel. They were encouraged, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared."

Even in New Testament times we discover that the early church "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42).

Walls that divide people tend to crumble when you have butter dripping down your chin.

The Israelites also reinstituted the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:37-40). They returned to an old tradition that had been neglected for generations, and they found "great joy" in doing so.

Traditions should not be discarded simply because they are old. They lose their value only if they become routine. Old traditions done with passion and enthusiasm can help a congregation maintain its sense of heritage, while facing the challenges of a changing world.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
5/17/2002 12:00:00 AM by James Baldwin , Nehemiah 8:1-3,5-6,9-17 | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for June 2: Abram's Call

May 17 2002 by Haven Parrott , Genesis 12:1-9

Formations lesson for June 2: Abram's Call | Friday, May 17, 2002

Friday, May 17, 2002

Formations lesson for June 2: Abram's Call

By Haven Parrott Genesis 12:1-9

The witness of scripture overwhelmingly confirms it ... even so, I am perpetually astonished as I ponder the pattern: the Most High prefers, over any other method or miracle, to partner with us puny people in the working out of His will.

I confess that I am not so confident in us. That God would choose to advertise Himself in newspapers of flesh seems a very risky business indeed. But then, God must be into risk-taking, or else He'd have left "that" tree out of the garden.

Wonder of wonders, God allowed His children to choose to withhold what He had the power to demand: obedience. The Sovereign One wouldn't settle for obedience by default; He wanted an obedience that flowed from a heart hungry for fellowship with Him - an obedience fed by faith in His word, His promise.

Yet faith cannot exist where there is no opportunity for doubt; thus the tree, the tempter, and the test of trust. You know the rest of the story: one woman's and one man's lack of faith adversely affected all generations.

But the Faithful One, though surely disappointed, was not daunted by their faithlessness. He had a plan.

Faith matters Why Abram? Because he dared to believe that faith matters.

Fueled by faith in God's promise, Abram put away his plans, pushed aside his agenda, and pitched his tent in a foreign land. And he died there, before the promise was granted, but not before a seed had been planted. One man's faith affected generations: "In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

Centuries later, the seed of Abram pitched His tent on alien soil. And He died there, to lay the foundation for forever-fellowship with the Father.

All it takes is faith.

Salvation has been purchased; now it must be proclaimed.

Like Abram, we are called to have faith in a person we cannot touch, in a future we cannot comprehend, in a promise we cannot see. The pages of scripture offer black-and-white proof of that promise ... our job is to offer it in living color. Our attitudes and actions will be governed either by faith or by sight, and generations will be affected. When we choose to walk by faith, our bodies of flesh become bodies of evidence of the One who finishes what He starts and delivers what He promises ... the One whose faithfulness endures to all generations.

Who's Watching? Who's watching today, Lord, as I cook and clean and shop? Who's watching when I skip devotions because I'm just too busy to stop? Who's listening as I respond too sharply to a child's plea to play: "Not right now! Can't you see I'm busy? Maybe another day." Who's watching, Lord, when I ignore my husband, and brush aside his touch? Who hears me when I nag and criticize because he irritates me so much? Who sees the way my eyes flash fire when someone spills a drink? Who hears the stinging rebuke that slips out before I stop to think? My children hear, my husband sees, and oh, Lord, so do You .... And I think perhaps somehow, some way, my unborn descendants do, too. Help me remember, Lord of generations past and of all generations to come, That I'm to stake a claim for You in this world, beginning right here in this home. These children will grow and leave this house, and then the silence will descend. Will that silence find me full of regret, or will that silence be my friend? Will these children have the heritage of a godly mom to help as they establish their nests ... Or will they flounder because I failed to honor the Father who always knows best?

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5/17/2002 12:00:00 AM by Haven Parrott , Genesis 12:1-9 | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for June 9: Moses and the Burning Bush

May 17 2002 by Haven Parrott , Exodus 3:1-10

Formations lesson for June 9: Moses and the Burning Bush | Friday, May 17, 2002

Friday, May 17, 2002

Formations lesson for June 9: Moses and the Burning Bush

By Haven Parrott Exodus 3:1-10

Scholars are divided over whether the burning bush was a literal experience or a figurative expression of Moses' encounter with God. But why all the fuss? The miracle is not that God used a plant for a pulpit, it's that He chose a shepherd to be a savior ... that He entrusted the message of liberation to a murderer. Moses' skinsuit became God's medium for ministry.

Someone once told me that the two most important days in a person's life are the day they're born and the day they find out why. I'm guessing that the days in between are the days of preparation.

A walk with God is the prerequisite to seeing the miracle in the mundane, the blaze in the bush, the presence of God in the domain of drudgery. When the call comes, desert sand becomes holy ground, and we have a choice to make. God knows we cannot do what He calls us to do, and that's exactly why He calls us to do it ... so there can be no mistaking to Whom the glory belongs.

It was in the early days of motherhood that I realized that 99 percent of my time and energy would be spent doing the same things over and over again, that my ministry would be monotonous. And yet, I longed to do something really big for God, to be used in a way that really mattered.

I'd passionately pray, "God, use me! Let me encourage others with Your word. Use me to win the lost to you. Use me, Father, use me!" Then I'd go and stand by the telephone to wait for Billy Graham to call and ask me to preach at his next crusade.

I never had to wait long before the call came. I'd hear, "Mom, what's for breakfast?" or, "Mom, where are my shoes?" I'd grin and realize that Billy Graham probably wasn't going to call, but God had. He'd called me to be a home missionary and my natives were getting restless! He was using my hands to prepare their food and fold their clothes and guide them as they learned to look up verses of Scripture, so that one day they'd be able to feed on the word themselves. He was using my arms to protect and hug them, and let them know that they are loved and precious beyond measure because they are made in His image.

He was using my tongue to sing praise songs, and encourage them as they learned to make their beds and clean their rooms. And, most often of all, He was using my teeth to bite my tongue so I would not break their spirits with harsh, rather than constructive, criticism!

I'm not a rocket scientist, but I know that no one else can be my children's mother, and no one else is my husband's wife. No one else has a greater opportunity than I do to advertise Christ to them!

Like Moses, the miracle is not that I have discovered my mission; the miracle is that God is using my skinsuit as the medium for His message of liberation.

The bush was just a tumbleweed ... until it bloomed with the blaze of God. The ground around Sinai was just hot dry sand ... until it became holy sod. Moses' staff was just a stick ... until it was lifted to the Lord of the sea; And the tabernacle was just a tent ... until the cloud took up residency. The manger was just a feed box ... until it cradled Mary's Lamb; The cross was just a tree ... until it lifted up I AM. The tomb was just a grave ... until Life burst forth from that place; And my body was just molded dirt ... until He filled me with His grace!

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5/17/2002 12:00:00 AM by Haven Parrott , Exodus 3:1-10 | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for May 26: Ministry to Persecuted Believers

May 10 2002 by James Baldwin , Acts 12:1-17

Family Bible Study lesson for May 26: Ministry to Persecuted Believers | Friday, May 10, 2002

Friday, May 10, 2002

Family Bible Study lesson for May 26: Ministry to Persecuted Believers

By James Baldwin Acts 12:1-17

In most places in America it is still socially advantageous to be a Christian. Contacts at church are great for networking socially and professionally. It is even chic these days for Olympic stars and celebrities to acknowledge God's help in their accomplishments.

In many places around the world, however, the consequences of following Christ are severe. In many communist and extremist Muslim nations Christians are regularly imprisoned, beaten, tortured, raped and even killed for their faith in Christ.

Rightly, we are grieved over such treatment of fellow Christians. A Methodist bishop in Marxist Angola offered a different perspective: "Don't worry about the church in Angola; God is doing fine by us. Frankly, I would find it much more difficult to be a pastor in Evanston, Ill. Here there is so much - so many things. It must be hard to be the church there."

Persecution (Acts 12:1-4) Peter lived in a society that saw Christianity as a threat. Political leaders were intimidated by the followers of Jesus, whose primary loyalty was to a higher authority (John 18:33-37). Religious leaders were disturbed by Christians who challenged their faith and practice (John 11:47-48). Business people saw their livelihood threatened by believers who advocated a different lifestyle (Acts 16:19-20).

Christians today are persecuted for many of the same reasons. The teachings of Jesus do indeed challenge certain economic, political and even religious structures.

Christians in any time or place should not be surprised if the world rejects them and attempts to silence their message. They did the same to Jesus (1 Peter 4:12-19).

Prayer (Acts 12:5) We often feel helpless to address the struggles of brothers and sisters in Christ who live under constant persecution. We don't have the political clout to change their government. We don't have the means to bring them food, clothing or even encouragement. But we can offer them up to God in prayer. Sometimes we use the expression, "At least I can pray." Prayer is actually the best thing we can offer. Through prayer we can bring the power of God's Holy Spirit to intervene in the lives of His children. We can pray that governments will change. We can pray that Christians in prison will be set free. But the best we can pray is that those Christians will remain faithful and true to Christ, in spite of their consequences.

Power (Acts 12:6-10) In response to the prayers of the church, God sent an angel to awaken Peter, and to lead him to freedom. The angel strikes Peter on the side, waking him from sleep, commanding that he "Get up and get moving."

May God send some angels like that to our churches today. Although God's answer in this instance was release for Peter, the story of persecuted Christians does not always end as we would like. Both the Bible and history are full of stories of people who died for the name of Christ (Heb. 11:32-40). This does not mean that God has failed, or that prayers were not answered. Sometimes God receives more glory, and the name of Christ is spread further, through the blood of the saints.

The bishop in Angola remarked, "Sure, twenty thousand of our Methodist pastors were killed during the revolution, but we came out of jail a much larger and stronger church."

Proof (Acts 12:11-17) This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. Can't you picture the church gathered together, praying earnestly for Peter's release from prison? The prayer meeting is interrupted by a knock at the door. A servant girl named Rhoda goes to the door and asks, "Who is it?"

Recognizing Peter's voice she runs back through the house to tell the others.

"It can't be Peter," they respond. "He's in jail."

"I know it's Peter. I heard his voice."

"You're crazy."

"No, I'm sure it's Peter."

"It must be his angel."

"I'm telling you, Peter is at the door!"

"How can he be at the door? We are praying for God to set him free."

Even then, Christians had a hard time recognizing answered prayer even when it stood right in front of them.

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5/10/2002 12:00:00 AM by James Baldwin , Acts 12:1-17 | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for May 26: Rotten Riches?

May 10 2002 by Haven Parrott , James 5:1-6

Formations lesson for May 26: Rotten Riches? | Friday, May 10, 2002

Friday, May 10, 2002

Formations lesson for May 26: Rotten Riches?

By Haven Parrott James 5:1-6

This is not a pretty passage. It's a putrid picture of corruption, condemnation, waste and ruin, and flesh being eaten by fire the way that rust eats metal. Brother James was certainly no spin-doctor ... he was an in-your-face truth-teller. Using his pen as a bow, James launched arrow-sharp words that penetrated their target dead center.

The message is as unpopular now as it was two millennia ago and every bit as true: eternal suffering and shrieking awaits those who choose to enthrone self, instead of Christ. When self is god, self-indulgence is the goal ... and that can get ugly, even gross.

Tradition has it that Nero, who was notoriously and excessively egocentric, had a hole in the middle of his banquet hall so that when he and his guests glutted themselves on sumptuous fare until they could hold no more, they'd have a place to vomit. Then they'd head back to the tables for more.

Indeed, "more" is the mantra of the self-indulgent. The irony is that, inevitably, when self is crowned as king, self must also become the slave that serves self. The king finds himself fettered to himself: an insatiable tyrant who makes incessant demands ... more, more, more!

When assets become liabilities It would be easy for me to get a little uppity in my comments regarding this passage, for I'm neither rich nor unbelieving. I do not see myself, at first glance, in this mirror. If pastor James were to deliver this scathing sermon at my church, my impulse would be to applaud and agree: "Amen! Tell it, preacher!"

But I must allow the two-edge sword to expose my hypocrisy from deep within me, like some tribal drumbeat that is felt more than heard. I detect a throbbing chant: "more, more, more!"

Alas, two natures share my skinsuit, and one of them is extremely tempted by the temporal. Though I am far richer in grace than in goods, I know well the greed for all that glitters. I am often consumed by what is comfortable and convenient, rather than by that which should characterize a cross-bearer. I have lusted over the lure of finer things, of riches that rot, of assets that become liabilities. I try to walk by faith, but I often stumble - not over what I can't see, but over what I can.

Too often I have allowed the sights of this world to blind me to the glorious realities that are visible only through the eyes of faith.

You'd think that someone who has access to infinite stores of grace wouldn't be tempted by the tacky baubles of earth. You'd think that, except you know better.

Perhaps you too are plagued, not by the intention but by the inclination, to glorify self instead of the Savior.

Oh, thank God for the precision of His word and the provision of His grace!

Thank God for His Spirit, who nudges us toward surrender!

Thank God for His promise that we will one day be pure, and for loving us in the meantime!

Lord, I'm so thankful for Your precious, awesome Word And how it renews my mind With the truth about the me that I'm someday gonna be ... A needed word, indeed, for this saint stranded-in-time. A word that helps me deal with the me that I am While caught between Your cross and my crown - Beached on flesh island in the middle of spirit sea, Watching and waiting for Easter Saturday's sun to go down. Your word reminds this immortal soul, caged in flesh, Of the tension between faith and sight ... Indwelt by Your Comforter, though often uncomfortably, Trapped in groaning grayness now, but blessedly assured of coming Light.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
5/10/2002 12:00:00 AM by Haven Parrott , James 5:1-6 | with 0 comments

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