October 2003

CBF-funded searchable missions database unveiled

October 10 2003 by Lance Wallace , CBF Communications

CBF-funded searchable missions database unveiled | Friday, Oct. 10, 2003

Friday, Oct. 10, 2003

CBF-funded searchable missions database unveiled

By Lance Wallace CBF Communications

ATLANTA - Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary professor Todd M. Johnson introduced the World Christian Database, a user-friendly, searchable database, Oct. 9-10 on the seminary's campus in South Hamilton, Mass., as part of the 2003 Paul E. and Eva B. Toms Lectureship on the status of Global Christianity and World Missions.

Funded initially by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) as a tool to help identify areas of greatest need in the world, the World Christian Database is an online version of what currently exists in print in the World Christian Encyclopedia. This new tool was created by Johnson, director of the newly established Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell, in coordination with Breuer & Co., a Boston-based data management firm. It will be maintained, updated and expanded as a part of the ongoing work of the Center.

"This is truly a landmark achievement in facilitating the spreading of the gospel around the world," said Daniel Vestal, CBF national coordinator. "As we seek to be the presence of Christ in the world to the most neglected, we now have better tools to assess who are the most neglected and where they are located. We are grateful for Todd Johnson and his work, and his willingness to partner with us in the continuing search for ways to answer God's call."

The database will also have a subscriber-based service called Multi-Objective Decision Analysis that allows for in-depth research, such as selecting, designing and managing a wide variety of questions and queries about people groups, countries, cities and other geographic designations.

The Fellowship's Global Missions initiative had prepared to develop such a resource for its own use. However, when global missions co-coordinators Barbara and Gary Baldridge along with a CBF task group learned of Johnson's work, they decided to sponsor and support Johnson's effort.

"The World Christian Database provides us with a relevant, user-friendly tool for sorting through Christian and secular research data for identifying the most neglected in all parts of the world and in all segments of society," Baldridge said. "Congregations will be able to discover who the most neglected are in their own communities. Missions agencies will be able to discover who the most neglected are globally, using the criteria they choose as relevant and meaningful."

10/10/2003 12:00:00 AM by Lance Wallace , CBF Communications | with 0 comments

Louisiana College trustees tighten faculty hiring process

October 10 2003 by Lacy Thompson and John Pierce , Associated Baptist Press

Louisiana College trustees tighten faculty hiring process | Friday, Oct. 10, 2003

Friday, Oct. 10, 2003

Louisiana College trustees tighten faculty hiring process

By Lacy Thompson and John Pierce Associated Baptist Press

PINEVILLE, La. - Louisiana College trustees adopted new policies that give trustees more direct involvement in faculty hiring and make affirmation of Southern Baptists' controversial doctrinal statement an official part of the hiring process.

Since 1997, prospective faculty members have been asked informally if they would teach "in harmony" with the Baptist Faith and Message statement, school officials said. The new policy makes affirmation of the more conservative 2000 version of the statement an official policy.

"This simply represents an enhancement of the process we already have, " said trustee Ed Tarpley, pastor of Alpine First Baptist Church in Pineville, La.

Trustee leaders said the action, adopted during a September executive session, does not affect current faculty members and does not reflect dissatisfaction with current policy. Rather, the change was made to ensure the "Christian" character of the Pineville school, which is owned and operated by the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

However, fellow trustee Wayne DuBose, pastor of First Baptist Church in Minden, La., said the changes "raise the bar a little bit" for prospective faculty.

Previously, trustees have had final approval on new faculty members who were recommended by President Rory Lee and other administrators. But the new policy gives the trustees' academic affairs committee the option of a face-to-face interview with the candidate.

Also prospective faculty will receive a copy of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message and a letter clearly defining the college as a Christian liberal arts school "owned and operated by cooperating Southern Baptist churches in Louisiana."

"Not every person who teaches at LC is required to be a Southern Baptist," the letter states, "but every teacher must reflect a certain faithfulness to teach within the doctrinal tenets of our convention."

To assure that faithfulness, prospective faculty are asked to return a signed affirmation that they have read the full text of the Baptist Faith and Message, will agree to teach in harmony with and not contrary to the faith statement, and will agree to meet with the trustee's academic affairs committee for a question-and-answer session if requested.

The policy change calls for a written yes or no response to the doctrinal statement and asks candidates to put in writing their personal understanding of a Christian worldview, specifically detailing their view on the sanctity of human life, the sanctity of marriage and family, and creation.

The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message was significantly changed from the 1963 version. The most noted changes include the removal of a statement declaring Jesus Christ as the criterion for interpreting Scripture and the addition of a prohibition against female pastors. Drafters of the new statement deny accusations that the revised document is a creed, although they define it as an "instrument of doctrinal accountability."

The statement was used as a requirement for all SBC missionaries earlier this year, resulting in at least 77 resignations, retirements and terminations.

10/10/2003 12:00:00 AM by Lacy Thompson and John Pierce , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Religious Right groups rally as court begins new session

October 10 2003 by Robert Marus , Associated Baptist Press

Religious Right groups rally as court begins new session | Friday, Oct. 10, 2003

Friday, Oct. 10, 2003

Religious Right groups rally as court begins new session

By Robert Marus Associated Baptist Press

WASHINGTON - As about 200 protestors rallied outside the Supreme Court demanding government support for religious displays, inside the justices began their annual term with at least one major church-state case on the docket.

The protesters displayed a replica of the Ten Commandments monument recently removed from the Alabama judicial building in Montgomery. Meanwhile, the high court opened its 2003-2004 session Oct. 6 by sidestepping one church-state case and remaining silent on another. Only one church-state case so far - involving government funding of a religious college - is scheduled to get the court's attention this year.

The justices declined to review a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed a Bible club in Washington state to meet in a high school during school hours. A lower court had ruled against Tausha Prince, who as a sophomore at Spanaway Lake High School sued for the right to form the World Changers club.

The school allows students time during the school day to do homework, be tutored or take part in school-approved clubs. The clubs can make announcements over the school's public-address system and apply for use of a pool of funds shared by the clubs.

At the time, there were no religious clubs. Prince applied to start the club and was rejected by the school because of the group's religious nature. She then filed a lawsuit, saying the school was violating her First Amendment right to free expression of religion.

The 9th Circuit ultimately agreed. The Supreme Court, in declining to review that decision, has again avoided speaking on the issue of whether such clubs can operate during school hours. The case is Jacoby vs. Prince.

The court also did not reveal whether it would hear arguments in another controversial case from the 9th Circuit. That court caused great controversy last year when it declared the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in a California public school unconstitutional because the oath contains the words "under God." In that case, United States vs. Newdow, atheist father Michael Newdow sued his daughter's Sacramento-area school district to end their practice of teacher-led recitation of the pledge.

The court has already agreed to hear another Washington state case involving religion and schools. In December, justices will hear oral arguments in Locke vs. Davey - also a case from the 9th Circuit. The question before the court is whether states are required to fund religious programs - in this case a Bible college - on an equal basis with secular programs even if the state constitution contains an explicit bar on indirect government funding of religion.

The protesters who provided the backdrop for the Supreme Court's opening session were attending the culminating event of the "Save the Commandments Caravan," calling attention to the Ten Commandments monument erected by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore but removed by court order. Supporters say they will appeal the federal court ruling that banned the monument. But it is not known if the case will make it to the U.S. Supreme Court this year.

The caravan, organized by the groups Faith in Action and Grassfire.net, left Montgomery, Ala., Sept. 28 and stopped in Atlanta; Columbia, S.C.; Raleigh; Lynchburg, Va.; and Fredericksburg, Va., before concluding their rally in Washington.

Organizers and participants touted a grab-bag of Religious Right causes - including denouncements of abortion, homosexuality and the separation of church and state - and assailed Supreme Court decisions the activists believe support each.

Protestors directed their harshest criticism at two targets - the six Supreme Court justices who in June issued the landmark decision legalizing gay sex in all 50 states and the federal district judge who ruled the Ten Commandments display in Alabama unconstitutional.

"Impeach the Sodomy Six and Myron Thompson" read the protesters' signs.

One man at the rally said he was there to "rebuke" the Supreme Court for past decisions and to support government display of the Ten Commandments and other religious monuments. "It's always been a part of the landscape - the forefathers acknowledged God, right?" said Gregory Pembo, pastor of Vieux Carre Assembly Church in New Orleans. "Why all of the sudden, after 300 years, we are saying, 'Wait a minute, this is wrong?'"

But a lone counter-protestor said she was there to provide a silent witness for the rights of religious minorities. "When you put one particular religion's monument inside of a government building, it gives the appearance that the government is promoting that particular religion - which, of course, is unconstitutional," said Sandra Van Maren, Illinois state director of American Atheists.

"As soon as you start moving religion into the government, you end up with, at the extreme, the Taliban, the Iranian government, all the governments we say we despise," she said. Van Maren held up a sign that said, "Thou shalt not turn a republic into a theocracy."

10/10/2003 12:00:00 AM by Robert Marus , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Retired woman missionary to be pastor

October 6 2003 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

Retired woman missionary to be pastor | Monday, Oct. 6, 2003

Monday, Oct. 6, 2003

Retired woman missionary to be pastor

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor

Before Ida Mae Hays retired as an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary to Brazil in 2002, she asked God to give her "a ministry in retirement."

She thinks that prayer was answered Oct. 5 when Weldon Baptist Church in Weldon voted overwhelmingly to call her as pastor.

"I consider Weldon to be my mission field in the U.S.A.," she said in a telephone interview the day after the vote.

Hays, 63, will become the first woman to serve as Weldon's pastor on Nov. 16. An installation service is planned for Nov. 23.

Wayne Martin, the church's previous pastor, retired in October 2002.

A Missouri native, Hays said the people at Weldon Baptist Church have been wonderful. Her call to the church came together like pieces of a puzzle, she said.

"I am excited," she said. "To me, it's just awesome."

Edna Weeks, who led the pastor search committee, said the church is excited about having Hays as pastor.

"We're going to enjoy Ida Mae," Weeks said. "She's going to be good for our church and good for our association."

Hays becomes the second woman pastor in North Roanoke Baptist Association. Joy Heaton is pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Enfield about 12 miles from Weldon.

Hays joins at least three other women who serve as pastors of N.C. Baptist churches. At least four others serve as co-pastors.

Hays and Weeks said they realize the church may face some repercussions for calling a woman as pastor.

The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message says the office of pastor is limited to men. She retired before affirming the document became mandatory. Several N.C. Baptist churches have been criticized for calling women as pastor or co-pastor.

Hays has faced controversy over her ministry before. Just before she left Brazil in February 2001, the First Baptist Church of Paranoa in Brasilia, Brazil ordained her and named her pastor emeritus.

In July 2001, IMB officials called her to a meeting where they questioned her for two hours, she said. As a result, IMB officials asked her to rescind her ordination and pastor emeritus title. "I informed them that I had neither the power or authority to rescind," she said.

Bob Shoemake, an associate vice president with IMB, said that in September 2001, the IMB trustees adopted a statement saying the IMB does not recognize Hays' ordination or pastor emeritus title. In March 2002, the IMB gave Hays missionary emeritus status and thanked her for her service, Shoemake said.

Hays said she performed pastoral duties in Brazil. She worked alongside the pastor and preached during worship services he asked. She also visited members of the church.

Hays said she did not seek ordination in Brazil. The pastor of the church began asking her in 1990 if she would let the church ordain her.

"My pastor kept saying, 'It will enhance your ministry among us,'" she said. "I had to agree with him, but I wouldn't allow it."

Hays supervised the building of more than 30 churches during her time in Brazil. A chapel at a Baptist camp is named in her honor.

10/6/2003 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Family lesson for October 19: The Spirit Empowers Believers

October 3 2003 by Mary Fillinger , Romans 8:12-16, 26-30, 35-39

Family Bible Study lesson for October 19: The Spirit Empowers Believers | Friday, Oct. 3, 2003

Friday, Oct. 3, 2003

Family Bible Study lesson for October 19: The Spirit Empowers Believers

By Mary Fillinger Romans 8:12-16, 26-30, 35-39

Through this lesson, we come to realize that many of us have been taught incorrectly. Instead of being instructed to claim the divine power we possess and to live above the drag of our sinful nature, we are only told what to do after we commit sin. Many have been nurtured by corrective preaching rather than preventive preaching. We have come to expect failure, disobedience and resistance in our lives, and we have focused our attention on sin instead of righteousness. And since we expect these we normally get them. It is no wonder that this kind of teaching has led many to an attitude of defect and a life of endurance rather than enjoyment. The good news is Jesus did not save us so that we could suffer through a miserable existence.

Choices to Make Romans 8:12-16 Paul says we should not bind ourselves to the flesh. We are not obligated to engage in a sinful lifestyle, for we have been set free through Jesus. This passage also informs us that there are consequences for the choices we make. A life lived in the flesh results in death. And when we insist on living in a rebellious manner after receiving Jesus, we cause the Holy Spirit to grieve and we become most miserable in our choices.

When we are living according to the will of the Lord, we submit ourselves to His guidance. We are able to draw from His power, and we are able to experience real living. God not only saved us from sin but adopted us as His children. Since we are His children, we can have a close relationship as any father would to his child. Also because of this adoption we are able to be His heirs and to receive all that He has set aside for us. We are to suffer, to serve, to be faithful, for without a cross there is no crown.

Dealing with Struggles Romans 8:26-30 As we struggle through our hardships and trials, we can rest assured that the Holy Spirit helps our every weakness. Even when we feel at a loss in how or what to pray, we know the Holy Spirit will intercede for us. Verse 28 is often misunderstood. Many believe that God is going to make everything right. That just isn't so. This verse says that whatever happens, God can bring good out of the circumstances and the situation for those who love Him. This is a promise to be claimed, and not ignored. It is God's project, not ours. The purpose is good and not evil.

The word "foreknow" suggests that God from eternity knows every detail of all events, including the reasons and results. God has a purpose for each of us. He makes available a way for us to have everlasting life. We have a choice as to whether we choose His plan of salvation or go our own sinful way. Because God is God, His purposes and plans will be fulfilled whether we choose to do things His way or our own. Our purpose is to be like Jesus.

Knowledge to Trust Romans 8:35-39 Paul asked, "Who will oppose us?" No one can successfully strive against us. The Lord Himself is our support and protection, and God cannot be defeated. Therefore, we could never successfully be opposed. Paul asked, "Who shall accuse us?" God is the one that justifies. Those of us who have believed in Jesus by faith alone, and have been declared righteous by the living God, are forever secure in the arms of God.

Paul asked, "Who will condemn us?" Jesus is the only judge, and since we are in Him our sins are covered with His blood. Therefore, no one can ever reverse our position or God's choices. We can never be separated from His love and we can never be defeated as we daily surrender our all to Him and live in the light of His love, yielding ourselves to His plan for our lives. He calls us to be faithful cross bearers and witnesses for Him.

10/3/2003 12:00:00 AM by Mary Fillinger , Romans 8:12-16, 26-30, 35-39 | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for October 26: Giving That Should Hurt

October 3 2003 by John Norman Jr. , Luke 21:1-4

Formations lesson for October 26: Giving That Should Hurt | Friday, Oct. 3, 2003

Friday, Oct. 3, 2003

Formations lesson for October 26: Giving That Should Hurt

By John Norman Jr. Luke 21:1-4

Let me say at the beginning that I get nervous talking about money in church. I feel uneasy asking people to place their hard-earned cash in the offering plate. Money, and how one spends it, is such a personal thing. Who am I to tell people what they should and should not do with their earnings? So when I preach on stewardship, I like to lighten the mood with humor, and one of the most humorous stories I have heard about giving to the church is the following.

It seems that a $1 bill and a $100 met on the street. Being polite and wanting to catch up with his friend, the $1 bill asked the $100 bill what he had been up to. "Oh," said the $100 bill, "I have been extremely busy. I started a new business last spring, went back to school to further my education in the fall, and just returned home from a vacation trip to Hawaii." Wanting to return the friendly gesture, the $100 bill asked the $1 bill what he had been doing with his time. Said the $1 bill with a disenchanted voice, "The same old thing - church, church, church."

But let's face it, giving money to the church is no laughing matter. In order for churches to operate and carry out the ministry to which they have been called, churchgoers have to give money. However, according to a recent study by the Barna Research Group, "... households that tithe their income to their church - that is, give at least 10 percent of their income to that ministry - has dropped by 62 percent in the past year, from 8 percent in 2001 to just 3 percent of adults during 2002" (www.barna.org). No, giving to the church is not a laughing matter, it is very serious.

The Widow and Her Wealth Luke 21:1-4 In today's text we find Jesus in the Jerusalem temple. As usual, he appears to notice things others do not. As the rich put their gifts into the treasury, a poor widow also placed her gift in as well. Some would simply see this as a time for the temple collection, but Jesus saw it as a moment for a life lesson about what it meant to live in the kingdom of God. The question Jesus addressed appears to be "Who gave the most, the rich people or the poor widow?"

Over the centuries, there have been great discussions concerning the amount of the widow's gift. The small coins ("lepton" in Greek) were the least amount of money circulated at the time. It took 128 lepta to make a "denarius," or the equivalent of one day's wages. In order to understand that amount today, we can imagine a person making $5 an hour and working an 8-hour day. A lepton would equal 1/128 of $40, or approximately 31 cents. The widow's gift would be twice that amount - or rather 62 cents.

It does not sound like a lot does it? But, notice what Jesus had to say - the widow gave more with her minimal gift than all the others with their riches. The importance of giving is not about "what" people contribute, but "how" they contribute. It is more about the mindset of the giver than the amount of the gift. Kingdom stewardship is a change in thinking - a change from the idea that we give God 10 percent of what we have to realizing God allows us to keep 90 percent of what God gives us.

A few years ago, our church began to raise money to build a new fellowship hall. The slogan for the program urged our members to realize, "It is not equal giving but equal sacrifice." The premise was everyone would be asked to sacrifice no matter what the amount given. The important thing was not the amount of the gift donated, but the sacrifice made.

As I mentioned above, I get nervous talking about money in church. What people give is such a personal matter. I do not want to give people the impression I am standing over their shoulders watching how much they donate. But this story about the widow's gift should remind us of one very important thing - Jesus is watching.

10/3/2003 12:00:00 AM by John Norman Jr. , Luke 21:1-4 | with 0 comments

Family lesson for October 26: The Spirit Provides Wisdom

October 3 2003 by Mary Fillinger , 1 Corinthians 2:1-16

Family Bible Study lesson for October 26: The Spirit Provides Wisdom | Friday, Oct. 3, 2003

Friday, Oct. 3, 2003

Family Bible Study lesson for October 26: The Spirit Provides Wisdom

By Mary Fillinger 1 Corinthians 2:1-16

Paul often used himself as an example. His preaching at Corinth had been plain and practical. Paul had come to make Jesus real to these people. He wanted them to understand completely that the way of salvation is through the cross of Jesus.

Contrast in Wisdom 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 The real contrast was between Paul's simple preaching of the cross and human wisdom, which some were trying to distort. Paul did not want the Corinthian believers' faith to rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Salvation is God's work as He delivers people from sin by the way of the cross. Paul depended not on his own human skill or prowess, but upon God's spirit and power. He was not afraid of men; he was afraid that these believers would put their trust in someone other than Jesus.

Deeper Truths 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 Having put a disclaimer on any human wisdom, Paul was quick to declare that in teaching mature Christians, he did engage in what he calls wisdom. However, this wisdom is something altogether different from the worldly wisdom in which the proud Corinthians reveled. Earthly rulers of whatever rank, though in significant positions, do not know anything of this wisdom apart from Jesus, and are thus doomed to destruction. This wisdom, which Paul shares with believers who have progressed in the faith and so have attained a certain degree of maturity, is a wisdom from God. It had been a mystery, even as salvation through Jesus' atoning death on the cross had been a mystery. But through God's Holy Spirit the deeper truths of the believers' experience had been made known to Paul and to others (v. 10).

A growing believer's experience does not limit itself to the initial features; it presses onto maturity. The riches of a believer's discipleship are beyond human computation. Paul quotes from Isaiah and possibly other ancient sources when he seeks to evaluate the incalculable blessings of the life of the believer. Verse nine applies to the here and now as well as to blessings that extend into eternity.

Wisdom through understanding 1 Corinthians 2:11-16 It is evident that, through the Holy Spirit, believers may have insights and understanding that unbelievers do not have. Verse 11 states that even for believers, our understanding is limited, simply because we are human beings. Neither can our thoughts be known by another human individual. God knows all that is within us, but we do not fully know God, His ways or His thoughts. Yet, believers can know something of God's thoughts because the Holy Spirit provides us with such understanding. Furthermore, the Spirit helps believers understand God's gifts. People whom the Holy Spirit teaches are able to interpret spiritual truths. Those who possess merely human wisdom cannot understand such truths. Again, Paul draws a sharp contrast between human wisdom and the wisdom God gives to people who respond to Him.

The unregenerate or natural man is absolutely unable to discern or understand spiritual blessings. Conversion and regeneration must precede understanding, since they must be spiritually discerned (v. 14). Under the power and influence of the Holy Spirit, the deeper insights into our riches in Jesus are unfolded to the maturing believer, who is thus enabled to comprehend and to enjoy the growing blessings God bestows. That believer has the mind and spirit of the Master. That which is meaningless or foolish to the unbeliever has great significance to the growing believer. The Holy Spirit enables Christians to receive, to understand, and to convey the true wisdom that comes from God.

The unity of the believers is crucial in reaching a lost world for Jesus. The cross remains at the heart of the church's witness. The good news of Jesus' death and resurrection for sinners unites those who embrace it as a unity of believers. Spiritual people are those who are saved by God's grace and in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. Spiritual maturity comes from the Holy Spirit's working in a person's life. Believers are to have the mind of Jesus.

We are to have His compassion and concern for people. We are to give of ourselves in His spirit to people who need His grace.

10/3/2003 12:00:00 AM by Mary Fillinger , 1 Corinthians 2:1-16 | with 0 comments

Formations lesson for October 19: What's In It For Me?

October 3 2003 by John Norman Jr. , 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Philippians 4:14-19

Formations lesson for October 19: What's In It For Me? | Friday, Oct. 3, 2003

Friday, Oct. 3, 2003

Formations lesson for October 19: What's In It For Me?

By John Norman Jr. 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Philippians 4:14-19

"What's in it for me?" Most of us do not begin a Bible study or spiritual discussion asking this question. Or, at least we do not admit we begin by asking this question. To do so would give the impression that we merely follow Jesus Christ because of what He can give us, rather than following Him because of what we can give Him. But, let us be honest - isn't that exactly the reason we follow Christ? Don't we follow because we cannot obtain spiritual stability on our own? Indeed, it is something provided for us by God. But, is it okay to ask this question as it pertains to material provisions as well?

In this week's study, we are given a chance to ask this question and to see what scripture has to say concerning it.

The Corinthians 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 The Apostle Paul is the complete opposite of one who preaches a prosperity gospel - the idea that if one loves God enough, does everything God wants, and offers money abundantly to a particular ministry, then God will make that person wealthy. Yet, Paul does seem to suggest that in a mysterious way, giving to others as a response to God's grace toward us is beneficial to the giver. In order to comprehend this truth, we must remember the context of Paul's comments to the Corinthians.

Paul struggled with this church in many ways, theologically and ethically. In 1 Corinthians, he dealt with questions concerning strife within the church, sexual immorality, marriage, idol worship, the Lord's Supper and gifts of the Spirit. And now, at the heart of 2 Corinthians, he is dealing with the offering the Corinthian church was to collect to help the suffering church in Jerusalem. For whatever reason, the Corinthians have failed to gather the collection.

The Philippians Philippians 4:14-19 In contrast to Paul's relationship with the Corinthians is his connection to the church at Philippi. This partnership of ministry is different from the one with Corinth: as we read the Philippians' letter, we get the feeling that they have given generously, even in the midst of their own material suffering. The Philippians appear to be for Paul a supreme example of a giving community.

However, Paul approaches both churches in the same way - with encouragement and assurance that because they give, they will be blessed by God. Even though the Corinthians have not lived up to their part of the bargain in gathering the collection for Jerusalem, Paul is attempting to help them understand that there are personal benefits associated with such an act of love. For the Philippians, Paul commends them on their efforts and the spirit with which they have given. Through their acts of generosity, the Christians at Corinth and Philippi will be blessed. But how does this concept work?

There are two extremes that we must avoid in contemplating this fact. First, when we talk about giving, we are not talking about paying God for our salvation. Our relationship with God is accomplished by God's gracious gift in Jesus Christ. We did not earn it and we cannot purchase it. Second, when we talk about blessings, we are not talking about God paying us for our allegiance.

Instead, you have probably heard of someone who has come to the end of the month and struggled with writing the check to the church, but did so anyway. The following week the person received an unexpected monetary gift. Or, you may know someone who set out to help a person in need, only to find that rather than being only a giver of blessing, the person was also the recipient of blessing. In both of these examples, people of faith have given of their time, energy and money, and been blessed in return.

As the texts for today remind us, giving to God through giving to others has its rewards. We are talking about stewardship - managing that which we have been given as the representative of the One who is the owner. As we are a blessing to others, we become an extension of God's love for the world.

10/3/2003 12:00:00 AM by John Norman Jr. , 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Philippians 4:14-19 | with 0 comments

Please don't Plaxo me

October 3 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Please don't Plaxo me | Friday, Oct. 3, 2003

Friday, Oct. 3, 2003

Please don't Plaxo me

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Lately I've been getting e-mail requests from friends, business associates and people I don't even know, asking me to stop what I'm doing and fill in a dozen or so fields of information for their computerized database of contacts.

None of the requests came from them personally, but through a Web site called "Plaxo." Plaxo, from one of the same people who bedeviled the music industry with the file-sharing program Napster, offers itself as a free (for now) service. Users who think it would be a good idea to have other people fill in their address books for them can sign up for the service by turning over their e-mail address books to Plaxo.

Plaxo then sends a message to each address on the list. It pretends to be a personal message from the person who signed up, wanting to know if the information in his or her address book is correct.

Almost inevitably, the only information they have is the e-mail address, so to respond positively to the request, one is left with the time-consuming task of filling out business and home addresses, phone numbers and birthdays. That information goes back to Plaxo, which then fills in the blanks in the original user's address book - and maintains it in its own database.

I'm certain that the requested information is more than most people I correspond with want to know. My address and phone number for both home and business are readily available in the phone book. I get plenty of mail as it is, though very little in the form of birthday cards.

But, a combined list containing thousands of names, addresses and birthdays provides a gold mine of demographic information that marketing companies would love to have, and I frankly don't trust Plaxo to keep it in house.

So, if it's not aggravating enough that friends, family and business associates want me to maintain their address books for them, I'm also being asked to feed my contact information into a potential marketing machine.

So, though it's hard for me to say "no," I just don't do it. I respond with an offer to send a personal e-mail with whatever information a friend might need, but I don't want to send it through Plaxo. The list of active e-mail addresses alone is quite valuable, and they already have that.

I can't prove the connection, but the Spam in my inbox seems to have tripled since I started getting Plaxo requests: on a recent day, my personal account had 156 messages in it, and 154 of them were junk.

So, whether friend or foe, feel free to send me a personal request for whatever contact information you really need.

Just please don't Plaxo me, and I promise I won't Plaxo you.

10/3/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

Second Hand Baptists

October 3 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Second Hand Baptists | Friday, Oct. 3, 2003

Friday, Oct. 3, 2003

Second Hand Baptists

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

One of the better movies I have seen is "Second Hand Lions," a redemptive tale that involves one aged lioness who lives in a cornfield, two aging brothers who spent most of their adult lives in Africa, and a quiet boy who gives the old men one more reason to live.

Michael Caine and Robert Duvall play crotchety Garth and Hub McCann, Texas boys who journeyed to France on a lark just in advance of World War I. After touring Europe, they were shanghaied into a North African post with the French Foreign Legion. Garth later led safaris throughout Africa, but Hub remained in the Legion, fighting other wars and battling heroically against the slave trade.

Forty years later, getting old and feeling all used up, the brothers returned to their rustic home place to die. Locals knew them as eccentrics who lived frugally but were rumored to have millions stashed away.

When a shy adolescent named Walter is thrust upon them by an irresponsible niece, Garth and Hub grudgingly take him in. The kid grows on the brothers, however, as he turns to them for guidance, trusting them to teach him how to become a man.

In a most memorable scene, Hub gives to Walter an excerpt from a speech on what it means to be a man. It is a speech he has given countless times for other young men, whether they were soldiers under his command or young punks in need of a strong hand.

Hub tells Walter there are some things a man has to believe in. Walter, a trusting child who has been lied to all of his life, asks, "But what if they're not true?"

And Hub replies: "Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good. That honor, virtue and courage mean everything; that money and power mean nothing. That good always triumphs over evil. That love - true love - never dies. Doesn't matter if they're true or not. A man should believe in those things anyway, because they are the things worth believing in."

Hub was not suggesting that truth does not matter. He simply had enough experience with pain, betrayal and evil to know that the things he believed in did not always happen. Even so, he believed in those things to the point of basing his life on them, because those were the things worth believing.

These are days in which many of us feel like second hand Baptists. We have seen enough dismay, discord and disappointment to wonder if the things we claim as Baptist distinctives are still true.

Even so, there are things we ought to believe simply because they are things worth believing in. That Baptists are basically cooperative. That faith, trust and conscience are crucial; that dominion and demand mean nothing. That a common mission will triumph over division. That love - Christ's kind of love - always guides our behavior.

These things may not always be true in our experience, but that is no reason to give up on them. Baptists should believe these things anyway, because these are the things worth believing in. These are the things that have made Baptists what they are and who they are for 400 years. These are things worth standing for, worth praying for, worth living for - whether they are true in our current experience or not.

These are not only "the times that try men's souls," as Thomas Payne said, but times that try our faith, our hopes, our beliefs. They can be difficult days to be Baptist, days that tempt us to give up. Indeed, some have walked away from their identity as Southern Baptists, as North Carolina Baptists, even as Baptists, period. Others are edging in that direction.

But, maybe the times that try us the most are the times when we need to believe the most, when we need to trust against the evidence, when we need to hope against hope, when we need to hold tightly those things that are worth believing because that is what makes us who we are.

In the movie, young Walter begged the old "second hand lion" to stay alive and alert until he was old enough to hear the rest of the speech.

We may be second hand Baptists, but there is life in us yet, and there are things we know that are not only worth believing in, but worth passing on to another generation.

We wear Baptist boots, and when we die, let it be with our boots on.

10/3/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments

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