October 2002

Western N.C. church reach people with 'Jesus' videos

October 18 2002 by

Western N.C. church reach people with 'Jesus' videos | Friday, Oct. 18, 2002

Friday, Oct. 18, 2002

Western N.C. churches reach people with 'Jesus' videos

From wire and staff reports

One hundred and twelve western N.C. Baptist churches participated in the "Jesus Video Project" by distributing the "Jesus" film to 102,195 postal addresses in Alexander, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Mitchell and Yancey counties during the week of Sept. 11. A total of 187 churches in the six-county area participated in the project.

The "Jesus" film is an 83-minute video presentation based on the gospel of Luke. It has a strong evangelistic thrust, and a simple plan of salvation is offered at the end with an invitation to receive Jesus Christ as Savior.

It all started when Terry Whitson, southeast field director of the Jesus Film Project, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ International, spoke to the Mitchell County Pastors Conference in early 2001. Steve Sisk, pastor of Altapass Baptist Church in Spruce Pine, was so impressed with the evangelistic possibilities of the film that he took steps to get a project started in Mitchell County.

Soon a project manager and steering committee were named.

The steering committee decided the project should be nondenominational, so every church in the county was invited to participate.

By late 2001, the support of several churches and individuals had generated enough money to cover all the mail drops in Mitchell County. It was then discovered that there were not enough mail drops in Mitchell County to qualify for the quantity discount for bulk postal delivery.

The logical option was to recruit another county to increase the number of mail drops. Churches in Avery and Yancey counties agreed to participate and a little later, churches in Burke, Alexander and a portion of Caldwell counties joined in.

With these additional counties and more fund raising success, the committee had 102,195 mail drops, enough to qualify for the lowest postage rate. The final cost was $2.50 per video, which included all expenses.

The Jesus Video Project committee plans to have spiritual and statistical follow up in a couple months after people have had an opportunity to watch the film.

Since the film was released in 1979, the worldwide viewing audience, as of July 1, totals 5.1 billion people, according to the Jesus Film Project.

The film has been translated into 743 languages and shown in 236 countries, territories and protectorates. In addition, an audio version of the film, "The Story of Jesus," is available in 226 of the 743 worldwide languages. Over the years, 1,529 mission agencies and denominations have used the film, along with the current 2,756 Jesus film teams.

Southern Baptists continue to be the largest global distributors of the film through International Mission Board teams. In fact, the distribution efforts are so widespread that the mission agency is "unable to keep track of the incredible quantities and creative variety of 'Jesus' film uses," said Mark Snowden, IMB overseas communications director.

"In many places we widely distribute the movie in the marketplace, tourist destinations or to seamen in strategic ports," Snowden said. "In other places, a multiple-language DVD is quietly handed to a seeker who encounters a believer. We also have distributed the 'Jesus' film in a special audio format on radio and cassette."

The "Jesus" film project was started by Campus Crusade for Christ International founder Bill Bright, who had a vision for an appealing biblically accurate film about the life of Christ.

In the mid-1970s a team of 500 scholars and leaders from a number of Christian and secular organizations began a five-year effort focusing on how best to portray Jesus on the motion picture screen.

The film was produced at a cost of $6 million and, according to the project's website, www.jesusfilm.org, has been viewed in every country of the world.

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10/18/2002 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Defining 'volunteer'

October 18 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Defining 'volunteer' | Friday, Oct. 18, 2002

Friday, Oct. 18, 2002

Defining 'volunteer'

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

A reader recently took me to task for the headline on our Sept. 27 story entitled "IMB rejects volunteers from church with woman pastor."

The story involved Don and Esther Gardner, a couple from Birmingham, Ala., who had spent time as mission volunteers in Africa, where one of their children serves as a missionary with the International Mission Board (IMB). Missionaries there encouraged them to apply to become International Service Corps (ISC) missionaries so they could stay longer.

ISC missionaries are typically appointed for a period of four to 24 months, and receive a stipend for living expenses from the IMB.

The Gardners did apply to return under the ISC program, but were turned down after their church called a woman as pastor, and they supported the church, putting them in violation of an article in the 2000 version of the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M).

The Gardners said they would return to the mission field and work in a hunger project in Swaziland at their own expense.

Since they were paying volunteers both before and after the ISC rejection, I was comfortable using the term "volunteers" in the headline.

There may be others, however, who thought the headline implied that the IMB requires all short-term volunteers to affirm the current BF&M, which is not the case.

Lest there be any misunderstanding, I asked IMB spokesman Mark Kelly for clarification. The IMB uses the term "volunteer" only for "people who pay their own way to serve for a few days or a few weeks," Kelly said.

Participants in all other categories - career, associate, apprentice, Masters, Journeyman and ISC - are appointed and counted as "missionaries." They all receive some remuneration, and are required to be in sympathy with the BF&M.

For unpaid volunteers like those who work through the Baptist State Convention's partnerships with the IMB in Honduras and Southeast Asia, the board accepts endorsements from the pastor of their home church, and no detailed statements of personal theology or acceptance of the BF&M are involved, Kelly said.

So, if you're interested in volunteering for a partnership project under IMB auspices, you may need a medical checkup, but a theological exam is not required.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
10/18/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

The lost art of positive speech

October 18 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

The lost art of positive speech | Friday, Oct. 18, 2002

Friday, Oct. 18, 2002

The lost art of positive speech

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

I suspect I am not alone in my aversion to negative political campaigning, especially through the various advertising media.

This year's U.S. Senate race, like other contests in recent years, is not about presenting oneself in a positive light, but all about portraying the opponent in the most negative way possible. The political handlers responsible for this persistent abuse of the public airways seem to care little for the straight truth, choosing instead to twist or exaggerate their opponent's political record, financial dealings and family affairs.

The tactic is not limited to the current senate campaign, but is a common feature across the election spectrum.

I've heard so many put downs and run downs that I've developed an outright allergy to negative campaigning. I gag at the first hint of a political slur-fest and frequently change the channel, only to hear the same ad or the opponent's comeback on the new station.

I shudder to think of the millions of dollars being spent this year - and it is mucho millions - for no purpose other than to make the opposing candidate look less appealing by throwing mud (or worse) in his or her face.

It's enough to make anyone heave.

Imagine the number of prescriptions that could be filled with the mega-dollars candidates are spending to criticize their opponents' views on prescription drug assistance for the poor and elderly.

Calculate how many people could be paid a decent salary for a year with the cartons of cash that candidates are spending to tear down their opponents' purported views on the minimum wage, tax relief or free trade.

When candidates consistently stoop to negative campaigning, I break out in a rash of disgust and don't want to vote for any of them.

I'm confident that most of the people who run for office are basically good citizens who really do want to do good things for the residents of their district or state. Their campaign language, however, is more typical of the trash talk preceding a World Wrestling Federation smackdown, only with less integrity. "Rasslin" hardly even pretends to be authentic.

I want to vote for a candidate who will stand up and tell me what he or she is for, not what they're against.

I want to vote for a candidate who will tell me why I should support him or her, not why I should shun their opponent.

I want candidates to acknowledge that it's okay to have differing visions of what is best for the public, and encourage voters to choose on the basis of political vision rather than campaign distortion.

Sadly, I first developed this allergy to negative campaigning from over-exposure to the denominational politicking that has ravaged Baptists for the last quarter of a century.

If the Southern Baptist Convention or the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship wants my allegiance, if Mainstream Baptists or Conservative Carolina Baptists are seeking my sympathies. I want to hear what's good about us, not what's bad about them.

I want to hear an acknowledgement that good people can have differing visions of what it means to serve God faithfully, and to sense a spirit of trust that allows people to follow the vision that resonates for them without questioning their character or commitment.

Likewise, if a Christian preacher believes that Christ is the only way to salvation and that Christianity is preferable to all other faiths, I want to hear him or her tell me what is so good about Jesus - not what is so bad about Muhammad or Buddha or Krishna.

The biblical word we translate as "gospel" literally means "good news." Believers are not called to insult those without Christ, but to proclaim the good news about Christ.

Some folks seem to thrive on a diet of disputes, but most people really don't want another argument.

Those who promote political candidates as well as those who promote the gospel would do well to learn the power of a positive message.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
10/18/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Mission possible: prescription savings for seniors

October 11 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Mission possible: prescription savings for seniors | Friday, Oct. 11, 2002

Friday, Oct. 11, 2002

Mission possible: prescription savings for seniors

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Many disabled or older adults find themselves in a difficult situation: they have Medicare insurance to cover catastrophic hospitalization costs, but nothing to assist with skyrocketing pharmaceutical bills.

Medicaid includes prescription coverage, but many seniors' income, though limited, remains too high to qualify for it.

A recent study found that more than 80 percent of seniors take prescription drugs, with the average senior needing to fill 20 prescriptions per year. Drug bills averaging hundreds or thousands of dollars per month are not uncommon, leaving many seniors with difficult budgetary choices.

Many seniors are unaware that several pharmaceutical manufacturers and management companies have developed helpful programs to allow seniors to buy their prescription drugs at a significant discount.

For example, both Pfizer (www.pfizerforliving.com) and Lilly (www.lillyanswers.com) have programs through which seniors can buy a 30-day supply for any of their retail distributed drugs for only $12 (Lilly) to $15 (Pfizer) per prescription.

To qualify, seniors or disabled persons must be enrolled in Medicare, have no other prescription drug insurance coverage, and have an annual income under $18,000 for singles or $24,000 for a couple.

Pfizer's drugs include several commonly taken by seniors, such as Glucotrol, Lipitor, Procardia, Viagra and Zoloft.

Lilly's program includes frequently used drugs like Evista, Humulin and Prozac.

The California Health Care Foundation (www.chcf.org) has a helpful Web site that includes a comparison of 11 different programs designed to save seniors some serious money. From the Web site, click on "Prescription Drugs" (in the left column) and then choose a June 2002 article that contains a comparative guide to discount drug programs.

You may know someone who could benefit from these programs, but who cannot use the Internet to search out the best programs or obtain the needed applications.

As a missions project this week, consider being a real minister to those folks by using your Internet savvy to help them gain access to these truly helpful programs.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
10/11/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

The truth about dogfights

October 11 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

The truth about dogfights | Friday, Oct. 11, 2002

Friday, Oct. 11, 2002

The truth about dogfights

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

There is nothing pretty about a dogfight.

There is nothing to admire in a flurry of snarls, teeth, tattered ears and bleeding shoulders.

When dogfights occur as a result of pack dogs fighting for supremacy, the whole bunch jumps in, and it gets even uglier.

Not that I have much personal experience with dogfights. Most of what I know about them was learned from Jack London's Call of the Wild and White Fang, books I first encountered in junior high and recently re-discovered online.

Dogfights play a major role in both books, and the one that stuck in my memory involved a semi-domesticated wolf called White Fang and a bulldog named Cherokee.

The fight was pre-arranged by a crowd of Alaskan frontiersmen who took bets on a battle to the death between the two very different animals.

White Fang, a swift slash-and-run fighter, held the apparent advantage on the squat bulldog, charging and biting at will. Cherokee patiently persevered until it caught the bigger animal in an uncharacteristic misstep that allowed it to get a vise-like grip on White Fang's throat. The wolf tried its best to break loose, but the bulldog stubbornly held on, slowly gathering more and more of White Fang's throat into its jaws.

Time crawled by as the combatants struggled, but the outcome was certain. Finally, the wolf collapsed. As its eyes began to glaze over, a newcomer broke up the fight and separated the animals by prying the bulldog's jaws apart with his gun barrel. Both dogs survived, but not unharmed.

I could not help but recall that story while pondering the unhappy situation at Gardner-Webb University over the past few weeks. The school, whose athletic teams are called the "Bulldogs," has been embroiled in a lengthy and painful dogfight, and there has been nothing pretty about it.

President Chris White came under fire after news broke that he had intervened in a grading issue that affected a basketball player's academic eligibility. The two-year-old incident became public after Gardner-Webb athletic officials self-reported it to the NCAA and an anonymous insider leaked confidential records documenting the incident to The Star of Shelby.

The unhappy fallout has become familiar to those who have followed the story in the Biblical Recorder or other news media.

White admitted that his handling of the matter, which he maintains was motivated by concern for the student, was a mistake.

It was.

And it harmed the school.

The leaking of school records and the handling of the called faculty meeting on Sept. 10 also brought substantial harm and embarrassment to Gardner-Webb, though none of the principals seem inclined to admit it.

Subsequent events wrought continued damage to the school as competing interests fought for control.

Various members of the faculty, student body, alumni, donors, trustees and members of the community urged White to resign for the good of the school.

Supporters of White, including other faculty members and administrators, friends and a majority of the trustees voting at a called meeting of the board, affirmed his continued leadership.

Much of the conflict took place in the public media.

It was a real dogfight, and it wasn't pretty.

Many observers recognize that news of White's intercession for the athlete was the flash point that set subsequent events in motion, but it was not the only issue, perhaps not even the main issue, for many of those involved in the fray.

Even his detractors acknowledge that White led Gardner-Webb to impressive accomplishments in fund-raising, facilities, athletics and the establishment of new graduate schools. He wanted to put Gardner-Webb in the top tier of small private colleges and universities, and made great strides in that direction.

Such progress, however, did not endear him to those who hold different priorities for the school, or to others who felt under-appreciated by his administration. They say he was arrogant and aloof, that he failed to build important relationships.

White's handling of the athlete's eligibility issue is unfortunate, but not without mitigating circumstances. It was not a hanging offense.

That misstep, however, provided the opening for opponents to get a stranglehold on popular opinion that grew stronger by the day, and there was no real defense against it.

That is why White eventually had to step down, not just for his handling of the grading incident, but for a simple lack of support. That bulldog would not let go.

I'm grateful that wise and willing people were able to negotiate a settlement that allows White to depart with dignity while preserving a positive legacy for the contributions he has made.

Now that his opponents have unseated a leader that many of them simply didn't like, the school is left to wonder, while licking its wounds, if their success should count as a victory.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
10/11/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Conservative group aims for BSC boards

October 11 2002 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

Conservative group aims for BSC boards | Friday, Oct. 11, 2002

Friday, Oct. 11, 2002

Conservative group aims for BSC boards

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

A conservative group wants only conservatives elected to all N.C. Baptist boards for the next three years.

The call came in a column by Roy Mason Jr. in the September issue of The Conservative Record, which is published by Conservative Carolina Baptists. The column emphasizes some words by putting them in all capital letters.

"The only possible way to see conservatives respected and represented fairly is for an absolute balance to take place in ALL our trustee positions," Mason said in the article titled "The Issue of Just Fairness. "This means that for the next three years ONLY (conservatives) are placed in positions of trustees on ALL boards, agencies and institutions of the convention."

N.C. Baptists elect trustees or directors to BSC agencies and institutions for four-year terms. Electing only conservatives for three straight years would give conservatives at least 75 percent control on all boards.

Mason, a former pastor who is now a full-time evangelist, said that "for years" conservatives have correctly believed that they were not fairly represented on N.C. Baptist boards. As support for that belief, he said only 20 of the Baptist State Convention's General Board 100 members are "identifiable conservatives." He does not explain the criteria used to determine those members or offer further documentation.

The BSC General Board has 113 members, including the three BSC officers.

Mason said that even though conservatives have elected a majority of Baptist State Convention (BSC) officers in the last several years, there has been "scant improvement" in conservative representation. The officers' appointments have been "fair and balanced," but haven't altered moderates' overwhelming majority on boards, he said.

"With all the talk of fairness, the only people who have been treated fairly are the moderates within our convention," he said. "... There will be no fairness until there is justice in the process."

In the same issue of The Conservative Record, an article criticizes moderates for trying to control the BSC.

"In recent months there have been increasing signals that the 'moderate' leadership is starting to show what we perceive as its real motive in North Carolina, total control of the Baptist State Convention ... and the exclusion of the 90 percent of North Carolina Baptists who support the (BSC) and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)," states the article written by Steve Hardy, chairman of the newsletter's editorial committee. He is on staff at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.

The article said the newsletter has "contended for years that the real issue for moderates is defunding the SBC."

The article focuses on a Jan. 16 letter written to N.C. Baptists by David Currie, a consultant for the national Mainstream Baptist Network.

The article also criticizes the Biblical Recorder's coverage of the national Mainstream meeting held in Charlotte last March. Hardy said the Recorder did not fully report remarks Currie made critical of the SBC.

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10/11/2002 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Wilkes churches face rebuilding after fires

October 11 2002 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

Wilkes churches face rebuilding after fires | Friday, Oct. 11, 2002

Friday, Oct. 11, 2002

Wilkes churches face rebuilding after fires

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

Two N.C. Baptist churches in Wilkes County are recovering from fires believed to be intentionally set.

New Hope Baptist Church in Moravian Falls burned in the early morning hours of Aug. 24. About 24 hours later Stony Hill Baptist Church in Purlear was destroyed by fire.

New Hope is in the Brier Creek Association. Stony Hill is in the Brushy Mountain Association.

The State Bureau of Investigation has not completed an investigation into the fires, said Noelle Taylor, a N.C. Department of Justice spokesperson.

"The fires are of a suspicious nature," she said.

Church officials said arson is suspected in both.

"It's hard to imagine anybody would burn a church," said Jonah Parker, interim pastor at New Hope.

Parker lives near the fire department that responded to the fire. He heard the fire trucks leaving the station, went out on his porch to see where they were headed and went back to bed. A short while later, his phone rang.

"It was devastating," Parker said. "It's hard to imagine what it's like to watch a church burn."

A motorist passing the church had noticed the flames and called the fire department about 3 a.m. The fire department arrived about 10 minutes later, but it was too late.

"The only thing we saved (from the sanctuary building) was the church bell," Parker said. "It was a total loss."

Ken Pardue, pastor of Stony Hill Baptist Church in Purlear, said a man who lives near the church called him at about 2:20 a.m. on Aug. 25 to tell him he heard an explosion and thought he saw fire in the church. Pardue and one of the church's deacons rushed to the scene. They arrived just behind a fire truck.

"When we rounded the corner below the church it was totally engulfed in flames," he said. "We lost everything."

Parker said members at New Hope have been meeting in the church fellowship hall that was damaged but not destroyed in the fire. The church had $175,000 in insurance, which is believed to be as much as $100,000 less than needed to rebuild the burned building.

The destroyed building included the sanctuary and classrooms, Parker said. A new building will probably have a smaller sanctuary, he said.

"I told them if the Lord wants us to rebuild, He knows where the money is," Parker said.

New Hope has about 150 members on its rolls, but only about 70 resident members and about 40 in attendance on a normal Sunday.

Pardue said the Stony Hill congregation has been meeting in the West Wilkes High School cafeteria.

"We've been trying to go on like normal," he said.

The church had just broken ground for a new fellowship hall. Church members plan to go forward with that construction and meet there when it is finished, Pardue said.

Stony Hill averages about 125 in Sunday School and about 165 in worship, he said.

The church had about $331,000 in insurance. Estimates to replace the building range from $700,000 to $800,000, Pardue said.

"It's put us in an awkward position because we've always been the church that took food to others," he said. "We've never been in the position of asking for assistance."

Both churches have had people offer to help.

"We're not begging, but we'll accept any help we can get," Parker said.

New Hope has received donations of a baby grand piano and an organ.

"I quit crying about the church burning," Parker said. "Now, when I open an envelope and find a donation of $1,000, I cry again.

"There's still a lot of good people in the world."

A church in Kernersville gave Stony Hill a piano. When Pardue went to pick it up, he walked through the church's sanctuary and realized he had a new appreciation for such a place.

"I know it's just a building, but it's the building we meet to worship in," he said.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
10/11/2002 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for Oct. 27: Promising a Righteous Ruler

October 11 2002 by John Tagliarini , 2 Samuel 7:8-16; Psalm 89:1-4; Isaiah 9:6-7

Family Bible Study lesson for Oct. 27: Promising a Righteous Ruler | Friday, Oct. 11, 2002

Friday, Oct. 11, 2002

Family Bible Study lesson for Oct. 27: Promising a Righteous Ruler

By John Tagliarini 2 Samuel 7:8-16; Psalm 89:1-4; Isaiah 9:6-7

The story of salvation began in God's heart before time was counted on any human calendar. World history is "His-story."

Early in Israelite history, God made it plain that the rule of David's throne would be more than a flash in the pan in the portrait studio of civilization. David's throne would be established by the reign of a great King, the Wonderful Counselor, and the Prince of Peace.

Three different passages are brought together in this lesson. The initial promise recounted God's good care of Israel and redirected David's intention to build God a temple (1 Sam. 7:8-16). The Psalm related continuing hope in God and questioned how long God would hide Himself from them (Ps. 89). The prophecy revealed the breadth of God's plan. These promises would be fulfilled in a worldwide, eternal arena of hope (Is. 9:6-7).

Jesus is the King who reigns forevermore. The vitality of our relationship with Christ keeps all this from being simply a clich�. Rather than a flash-pan burst of light, Jesus floods us with the glow of God's grace.

A promise to count on

(2 Samuel 7:8-16)

These verses emphasize God's past faithfulness and future plans. God elevated David from shepherd to king and protected David throughout his life. David needed to be reminded of these things. David had proposed to build a temple for God to dwell in. God redirected David's intentions by explaining His own divine plans.

The promises echoed the covenant that God entered with Abraham. God promised David a great name, a place for the people to call their own, and safety from oppressors. Then God personalized His covenant with David. Instead of David building a house for God, God would build David's house, not as a temporal palace, but that the throne would be established forever through David's son.

God furthered the commitment. "When he commits iniquity, I will correct him ... but My loving kindness shall not depart from him ..." (vs. 14-15).

Never imagine impunity from the justice of God, but always be aware of His greater purposes. As God judges sin, He works from the compulsion of redeeming love.

A reason to hope

(Psalm 89:1-4)

The psalmist spoke of his faith and of his dismay. He expressed faith that God's word would be fulfilled. He sang in dismay that God had turned from His people, even though God's rejection was a fulfillment of His word. "If his sons forsake My law ... Then I will punish their transgression ..." (Ps. 89:30-32).

Regardless of your sin and just punishment, the covenant will not be aborted by God. He remains faithful to His word to "... not break off My loving kindness from him, nor deal falsely in My faithfulness" (vs. 33). God's unswerving love allows us hope.

Too bad we often excuse our errant choices based on our misunderstanding of this love. God's love rebukes as completely as it redeems. God is as good (just) as He is loving!

A ruler to come

(Isaiah 9:6-7)

In Luke's gospel, the angel Gabriel told Mary, "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus ... and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end" (Luke 1:31-33).

That Isaiah's prophecy refers to Jesus as Messiah is not an issue in the New Testament. At issue is how the people in the first century received or failed to receive Jesus. How do we receive Him?

Complete fulfillment of this prophecy awaits the return of Christ. However, should not Christians live differently from persons who do not know the Wonderful Counselor? Why, if we know the Prince of Peace, do we pursue self-centered conflicts? How can Christians not strive to uphold justice and righteousness if that is exactly what Christ is doing and will complete in His return?

Isaiah said, "The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this" (Is. 9:7). The plan is for Spirit-filled Christians to be God's people to this end - that Christ will accomplish His work through us.

The ruler has come. Let us be ruled by Him!

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
10/11/2002 12:00:00 AM by John Tagliarini , 2 Samuel 7:8-16; Psalm 89:1-4; Isaiah 9:6-7 | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for Oct. 27: Commitment to Jesus

October 11 2002 by T. Wayne Proctor , Matthew 8:18-22

Formations lesson for Oct. 27: Commitment to Jesus | Friday, Oct. 11, 2002

Friday, Oct. 11, 2002

Formations lesson for Oct. 27: Commitment to Jesus

By T. Wayne Proctor Matthew 8:18-22

What are the demands of following Jesus? What do we promise, and what are we promised? Do we promise conditional or unconditional commitment, or are we promised prosperity or poverty?

Just as we struggle with our promises and responses today, so did those who watched and listened to Jesus long ago. At the time Jesus spoke the words found in this passage, He was riding the strong tide of popularity. Many were watching Him, and with good reason. Look at what had just occurred. Healings had occurred to a leper, a Roman centurion's servant, Peter's mother-in-law, and many who were demon possessed and sick (vs. 1-17). At this time of popularity, most of the crowd were common, ordinary folk, but one of the religious elite proposed to follow Jesus.

Teacher to teacher

The proposal to "follow Jesus wherever He went" came from a scribe, a lawyer, a teacher. We must understand this to be a sincere desire, perhaps even well thought out.

As a group of people, scribes and Pharisees were not particularly kind to Jesus. They identified Jesus as a threat to their own authority, and were generally found to be plotting against Him.

Nicodemus was an exception, and this man, too, was willing to risk losing his status among his peers.

Jesus' answer could be considered unusual, had it come from anyone else. It wasn't a "yes," and it wasn't a "no." It was a way for the scribe to further contemplate his decision.

Jesus was stating that He could not promise any of the things people usually search for in life. He could not promise wealth, physical comfort or popularity. Instead, it could be said that Jesus was implying that there would be a cost to following Him.

Discipleship might lead to much loneliness and sacrifice. We do not know what decision the scribe made that day. Perhaps he needed time to weigh out his response to Jesus' words.

Son to family

The second man, identified as a disciple or follower, was apparently responding to Jesus' call. His words, "first let me go and bury my father," probably sound strange to us.

We ask: "Had his father died?"

If so, it would have been his responsibility to bury his father on that day. However, if his father were still alive, the response would have been one of "not now, maybe later." The father's death might be years away, and by then he might have forgotten about following Jesus.

Immediacy of discipleship

Just as Jesus called Andrew and Peter, James and John to leave their nets, and Matthew to leave his tax-collecting booth, He called this would-be disciple to follow Him, and let others handle the family responsibility to their father.

The time for decision was now! In our churches we approach our evangelistic witness from two perspectives. One perspective is: "today is the day of salvation." If the Holy Spirit is calling you to trust and follow Christ, don't delay. Tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone.

The second perspective seems almost a contradiction. It says: "be sure!" Count the cost. Weigh the decision you're making. Wait until you know the basics of salvation and church membership before you go through the baptismal waters.

In reality, both perspectives are right. There is an immediacy to discipleship, but there is also a thoughtfulness to discipleship.

In our postmodern world, there is an ever-increasing need for churches to inform and disciple new believers and new church members. Furthermore, as our culture becomes less Christian, this need for training in Christian basics becomes more important. We can no longer assume that these children, teens and adults understand their decision to become a Christian.

Let's not just give them a tract or book to read, but let's take time with them to make sure they are with strong Christians who can provide the example and teaching they need to grow spiritually.

A number of years ago a wise pastor told me that Baptists are guilty of "dipping and dropping them."

Obviously, the one responding to Christ must count the cost. There is personal responsibility. Just as obviously, the church has its responsibility. This corporate responsibility is our response to the seriousness of Christ's command.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
10/11/2002 12:00:00 AM by T. Wayne Proctor , Matthew 8:18-22 | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for Oct. 20: Creating a Distinctive People

October 4 2002 by John Tagliarini , Exodus 19:5-6; 20:14,7-10a,12-17

Family Bible Study lesson for Oct. 20: Creating a Distinctive People | Friday, Oct. 4, 2002

Friday, Oct. 4, 2002

Family Bible Study lesson for Oct. 20: Creating a Distinctive People

By John Tagliarini Exodus 19:5-6; 20:14,7-10a,12-17

What sets Christians apart from other people? Is our distinctiveness to be found in actions, beliefs or doctrines?

While the distinctiveness of the Christian will be reflected in one's lifestyle, the primary distinction is that we are God's people. We are in vital relationship with the Almighty. Orthodoxy and obedience flows from this relationship.

As God reminded the people whence they came to Him, the point is that He brought them to Himself, not just to Mt. Sinai, or simply out of Egypt, but to Himself (Ex. 19:4).

For the Christian, the Ten Commandments, which are part of this covenant, are meaningless outside of a proper relationship with God. "Do not try this at home" if you are not committed to a faith relationship with God.

Call to be distinctive (Exodus 19:5-6) The call to be God's "special treasure" fills us with value. It is clear from Scripture that neither the Israelites nor Christians were chosen because of their own self-worthiness (Deut. 7:7; Romans 5:8). God's election of us passes beyond our explanation. Nonetheless, His choice imparts a particularity that we cannot escape.

Part of this distinction involves a job description. We are to be to God "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." Christians are called to serve God in behalf of this world. Our missions emphasis turns on this truth. Our ministries are defined by this truth, and our worship pivots on this truth. We represent God to the nations by living as His children.

Distinctive relationship with God (Exodus 20:1-4) The first two commandments clarify our relationship with God. Do not miss the surrounding text.

First, it is God who spoke (vs. 1)! Our religion is revealed to us by God Himself. No other source counts.

Second, God acted on our behalf, securing our release from slavery, be it Egyptian servitude or slavery to sin (vs. 2; Rom. 6:6).

Then, the first commandment sets forth the ultimate aspect of the relationship, namely, God is ultimate. The priority of God in our lives supersedes any other priority.

The second commandment flows from the first. "You shall not make for yourself an idol ..."

Again, the surrounding text is indispensable. No earthly forms should distract from our worship or service because God is jealous. He will not share His glory with any other.

Second, you can be assured of the negative consequences of idolatry (vs. 5).

Third, you can be equally assured of the grace of God. The Lord your God will show "... loving kindness to thousands ..."

Distinctive reverence for God (Exodus 20:7-10a) The third and fourth commandments express our reverence for God. Though often our emphasis on the third commandment is limited to speech, I cannot think of this command without dealing with the contradictions my actions and attitudes might show. If I claim Jesus as Lord while showing contempt for my fellow human being, have I not taken God's name in vain?

I confess a greater struggle with the fourth commandment. Though Sunday is not the Sabbath, the principle remains. Our celebrations of the Lord's Day ought to bring us significant rest from the routines of life, profoundly closer to the Lord of life, and more deeply connected with the "children of life."

Distinctive treatment of other people (Exodus 20:12-17) Commandments five through 10 turn our focus toward human relationships. Honor for our parents is cited in the New Testament as the first commandment with promise (Eph. 6:2). Murder and adultery are addressed by Jesus as mirroring hearts of hatred and lust (Matt. 5:21-30). Lying is also addressed in the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus enjoins us not to manipulate others by our words.

Not to steal receives affirmation in several New Testament passages, but Paul's mention of coveting in Rom. 7:7 really grabs my attention. Of all 10 commandments, Paul chose the 10th to support his defense of the law. Because the command not to covet hit so close to home, Paul came to understand the need for the law and the power of sin.

May these six commandments help us see the desperate needs of our hearts as we relate to one another with the distinctiveness that becomes the people of God.

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10/4/2002 12:00:00 AM by John Tagliarini , Exodus 19:5-6; 20:14,7-10a,12-17 | with 0 comments

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