October 2003

Biblical Recorder:Planting fig trees

October 30 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Biblical Recorder:Planting fig trees

| Home | NewsOpinion | Baptist Life | OpinionFriday, Oct. 31, 2003

By Tony W. Cartledge

BR Editor

I planted a fig tree in our yard this fall.I don't know why I had not thought of it before now, because I have always loved to eat figs fresh from the tree. When I was growing up, there was always a fig tree in the back yard. I thought everybody had one. I was fortunate in many ways to spend my childhood in a stable, peaceful environment embellished by a bountiful garden and a variety of fruit trees. I groused about working in the garden, but until I left for college, moving never crossed my mind. For most of my adult life as a student and pastor, I lived in a string of dorms, rental houses and parsonages, not the sort of environment that is conducive to planting fig trees in the yard. But, we started making payments on our own house when we moved to the Triangle area in 1988, and have been there ever since. It occurred to me recently that I've lived in our present house even longer than I lived in my boyhood home.And I decided it was time to plant some figs. Among the ancient Hebrews, a primary symbol of peace and prosperity was for every family to have its own grapevine and sit in the shade of its own fig tree. During Solomon's time, 1 Kings 5:5 tells us, "Judah and Israel lived in safety, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, all of them under their vines and fig trees." In 2 Kings 18:31 (repeated in Isa. 36:16), the scalawag Rabshekah campaigned for Israel to abandon King Hezekiah, promising that under Assyrian rule, "every one of you will eat from your own vine and your own fig tree." When the prophet Micah proclaimed a future era of peace for God's people, he said they would not only hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, but also they would "all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid" (Mic. 4:4). Likewise, the prophet Zechariah spoke of a great day of redemption for Israel, promising that "On that day, says the LORD of hosts, you shall invite each other to come under your vine and fig tree" (Zech. 3:10).The ability to have one's own vine and fig tree implied a time of peace and stability, for neither vines nor fig trees can be expected to produce useful fruit in a single season. It suggested that one had access to enough land for raising crops and grazing cattle, with a spot left over to plant grape vines and fig trees as a source of sweetness and shade, a place of hospitality where neighbors could share their blessings and themselves with one another. The beauty of the vine and the fig tree was such that the prophets also used them as a metaphor for Israel in times of faithfulness and fruitfulness. But, when God's people turned their trust to the ways of the world and failed to be faithful, the prophets spoke of fruitless times. "The vine withers, the fig tree droops," said Joel (1:12).Haggai spoke of a time when the vine and fig tree had not born fruit, but saw hope in the laying of a foundation for the temple, promising in God's behalf that "From this day on I will bless you" (Hag. 2:19).The Baptist world we currently inhabit has known so much strife and uncertainty in recent years that it hardly seems a time to be planting fig trees. Still, I plant in hope. My father and I planted a tree that is an offshoot of the one behind my boyhood home, a second-generation descendant of the tree behind my great-grandmother's house. I will care for it, water it and fertilize it with manure. In time, I hope to enjoy and to share its fruit. I planted the tree not only because I like figs, but as a personal sign of hope in the Baptists among whom I work and live, a metaphor of my own commitment to promoting peace and understanding among the various tribes. I planted a fig tree in the hope that I can still be working for North Carolina Baptists in a meaningful way when the tree reaches its full fruit-bearing potential. And I hope others will join me. The nurseries couldn't keep up if we all went out and bought fig trees, but we can all cultivate mutual understanding among brothers and sisters. We can seek not only to accept but also to defend those who may not always see things as we do, but who earnestly seek to serve the same Lord. We can strive for peace in a time of strife. And that would be sweet.| Home | NewsOpinion | Baptist Life |

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



Biblical Recorder:Yellow hat fever

October 30 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Biblical Recorder:Yellow hat fever

| Home | NewsOpinion | Baptist Life | OpinionFriday, Oct. 31, 2003

By Tony W. Cartledge

BR Editor

Many children enjoy books about Curious George, a mischievous monkey who lives with an outdoorsman he knows only as "the man in the yellow hat."George constantly gets himself into trouble, but the man in the yellow hat is just as constant in lending aid to his simian companion.The books remind me of the men and women in yellow hats who faithfully lend their aid to people who face trials that are generally not of their own making. When hurricanes ravage trees, when floods wreck houses, when tornadoes or terrorists strike, the people in the yellow hats appear as if by magic. They cook hot meals for those who have lost homes or power. They remove trees from roofs and driveways and yards. They shovel mud and scrub walls when some affected residents are still too dazed or too overwhelmed to do the job themselves. Go to just about any town that has faced a disaster and you'll probably hear stories about those wonderful, helpful people in the yellow hats.The yellow hats, of course, are basic attire for volunteers working through relief and recovery efforts coordinated by N.C. Baptist Men. But the hats are worn by women as well as men. And under a large percentage of those hats, you are likely to find gray hair, if you find any hair at all. Growing older does not bring an end to one's usefulness. On average, today's retirees are far healthier and more mobile than those of earlier generations. Fortunately, many of them are also sold on the idea of service to others - even when it means leaving home to sleep on the floor of a host church and take showers in a gym or a portable trailer.One delightful aspect of my job is that I get to visit with and report on the faithful work being done by the people in the yellow hats - people who are younger and older, male and female, working and retired, well-set and barely making it, but all united by a common love for God and for others. I tip my own yellow cap to them all.| Home | NewsOpinion | Baptist Life |

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



Biblical Recorder:Intrigued: Out of sync, down the drain

October 30 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Biblical Recorder:Intrigued: Out of sync, down the drain

| Home | NewsOpinion | Baptist Life | OpinionFriday, Oct. 31, 2003

By Tony W. Cartledge

BR Editor

Occasionally I have a bad dream that revolves around promising to be somewhere, and then forgetting to show up. That dream could become a reality in the near future, because my PDA died last week, and took my updated calendar with it. For the technologically impaired (or uninterested), "PDA" is a common moniker for "Personal Data Assistant," generally a handheld device for storing information. My little Toshiba is no bigger than the palm of my hand, but has more computing power than the first desktop computer I owned. Though it can perform many functions, I use it mainly as a glorified calendar and address book. A great benefit is that I can plug it into my laptop computer and synchronize all the information so I have multiple updated copies.A great downfall is that I rarely remember to do so. When the battery died and I lost all the data in my PDA last week, it had been at least six weeks since I had synced with the laptop, so all the speaking engagements I accepted during that time went down the cyber-drain.Some of them I remembered, or have been able to reconstruct from correspondence.But there could be others I don't recollect.I have a bad feeling, for example, about Nov. 23. I remember deleting a possible engagement in favor of a definite one, but I definitely cannot recall what it is. Most folks who invite me to speak will call or write a week or two in advance to check in and ask for a sermon topic and text for the bulletin. I'm hoping that whoever is looking for me on Nov. 23 will provide such a reminder, or else they might be left without a speaker, and I'll be left without an excuse other than my own failure to back up my calendar. So, if you're expecting me to visit your church in the next year or so - especially if it's something we set up in the past two months - I hope you'll check in soon to make sure it's still on my calendar. I'd hate to see that bad dream come true.| Home | NewsOpinion | Baptist Life |

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



Biblical Recorder:Editorial: Ready for liftoff

October 30 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Biblical Recorder:Editorial: Ready for liftoff

| Home | NewsOpinion | Baptist Life | OpinionFriday, Oct. 31, 2003

By Tony W. Cartledge

BR Editor

On Nov. 1, the Biblical Recorder's league-leading Web site will launch a series of significant upgrades designed to make it even more user-friendly and better equipped for the task of keeping Baptists on top of the news. Did I say league-leading? It's true: in the category of Baptist news services, Google.com's prestigious "PageRank" index lists the Biblical Recorder at the top of the heap - comfortably ahead of all other state and national Baptist papers and news services. Even so, we're determined to make the site still more appealing and useful. Here are some of the new or improved features you'll find:DesignThe site features a slightly cleaner and tighter look, allowing more information to appear on the opening screen. The Biblical Recorder logo at the top has been redesigned to be thinner (allowing more room for content) and to incorporate the walnut cross that has appeared on our site from its inception. The cross will also appear in the address line of many browsers.The page is designed to be self-centering, and to fit completely on any size screen without the need of horizontal scrolling.Navigation bars on either side of the text are now color-coded by category of service, a feature that is carried throughout the site. On some pages, such as "Advertising," the menu expands to incorporate additional items. AccessibilityThe site employs the new Cascading Style Sheet technology, which allows for faster and more efficient downloading of content, and complies with all technical standards of the Internet's governing organization. We've built in parallel pages in WML and PDA code, so simplified versions of our news and opinion pages can be accessed by wireless devices such as cell phones and personal data assistants. And, we now include coded pointers for those busy folks who use Really Simple Syndication (RSS) programs to glean the news they consider most important. Handicapped users will also find the site easier to navigate by using keystrokes rather than requiring the use of a mouse or touch pad. FeaturesUsers who allow javascript can access a new feature that allows the reader to choose his or her preferred font size. By clicking on any one of five "A's" in the top right corner, users can make the text as large or small as they like. I like it small so more text can fit on the page. Some like it larger for ease of reading. Through the magic of cookies, the site will remember the reader's preference, and automatically display the chosen font size at the next visit. ContentWe know that most readers come to the Biblical Recorder Web site because they trust us to provide accurate, balanced information and helpful opinions about issues that impact Baptist life. The trustworthiness of our content will not change, but with the new upgrades, we will strive to make it more timely by moving from weekly to near-daily updates. Primary content headings will include "NC Baptist News," "National and World News," "NC Baptist Life," "Opinion," and "Resources." Updates from other news sources will appear under a section called "More Headlines."ServicesWhile many readers already access our ChurchSearch, Calendar and "Search the Bible" features, we have gradually added several other helpful services during the past few months. For example, readers can now generate, place and pay for a classified ad online, a service that became popular the first week it was available. Readers can also subscribe to the print version online, and we've even ventured into e-commerce by enabling the online purchase of Intrigued, How I Love To Proclaim It. We also have the ability to produce fast-loading banner ads for Baptist organizations or advertisers hoping to reach our expanding audience.As we become aware of the need, more services are yet to come. The Biblical Recorder online does not replace the print version of our paper, which contains more information and more pictures, and can be read anywhere. But, it serves as a helpful supplement, especially when news is breaking. If you haven't visited our Web site lately, come on by www.biblicalrecorder.org and stay a spell. We're committed to being good Net-neighbors.| Home | NewsOpinion | Baptist Life |

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments



Biblical Recorder:Baptist colleges: True partners in kingdom growth

October 30 2003 by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-treasurer

Biblical Recorder:Baptist colleges: True partners in kingdom growth

| Home | NewsOpinion | Baptist Life | Other VoicesFriday, Oct. 31, 2003

By Jim Royston

BSC Executive Director-treasurer

N.C. Baptists have had colleges almost as long as we've had a Baptist State Convention. A major reason we established our convention in 1830 was to birth and support a "manual institute" located in the "forest of Wake (County)," opening for classes in 1834. Six other Baptist colleges - Chowan (1848), Mars Hill (1856), Campbell (1887), Meredith (1891), Wingate (1896) and Gardner-Webb (1905)-later joined the convention family. Christian education has been a major part of our denominational foundation.Baptist colleges and universities are still a vital part of our cooperative ministry efforts. One of the unique and amazing aspects of our schools is their ability to adapt to the changing needs of our churches and communities. Most of our colleges began as boarding high schools, later becoming two-year (junior) colleges and then four-year institutions, several with graduate programs. Meeting community and church needs is a hallmark of our institutions.One of the major needs of our churches today is leadership development. Everywhere I go - in churches large and small - trained leadership tops the need list. Many of our congregations face critical leadership shortages, especially as older members are no longer able to continue in their service. All of our schools are committed to addressing these leadership issues, from the founding of divinity schools at Gardner-Webb and Campbell to an on-campus church leadership institute at Chowan. Our schools - strategically located across the state - have a tremendous potential to serve church leaders, both clergy and laity. Our colleges and universities have also taken extraordinary measures to serve N.C. Baptists by making college education as affordable as possible. Wingate University, for example, provides a tuition free education to any active N.C. Baptist minister. Baptist ministers attending Chowan College pay only $125 in tuition per semester, a bargain by even state-supported college standards. Scholarship assistance for N.C. Baptists is available at all of our institutions. You can attend a Baptist college or university for a lot less money that you might expect!My vision for our state convention centers around reaching the lost and developing believers. These two goals obviously depend upon vital and healthy churches, especially congregations designed to reach the thousands of people moving into our state. Vital and healthy churches depend upon trained leadership. And I'm looking to our colleges and universities to be our partners in this important endeavor.| Home | NewsOpinion | Baptist Life |

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-treasurer | with 0 comments



A Joyful Thanksgiving? : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

October 30 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge,

A Joyful Thanksgiving? : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003
Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

A Joyful Thanksgiving?

By Tony W. Cartledge,
BR Editor
We think of the Thanksgiving season as a time of great gratitude. Even if we don't feel thankful, we feel like we ought to be thankful, but some of us may wonder why. Maybe you've had a good year financially despite the struggling economy. Maybe your family has grown closer this year.

Then again, maybe things haven't gone so well. Maybe you've been sick, or someone you love. Maybe you got downsized. Maybe your family is cracking at the seams, and you don't know what to do about it. Maybe you are asking, "What do I have to be so thankful for?"

Psalm 100 was written for people on both ends of the spectrum, and in between. It was written for every person who believes, and even for those who do not believe. It is a joyful invitation for all people on earth to celebrate God, and to celebrate God's goodness. It is also our text for today.

The psalm is only five verses long in English (6 in Hebrew), and it falls naturally into two parts. The first three verses call us to celebrate the Lord because He is God. The last two verses call us to celebrate the Lord because He is good. If you can remember no more than that - that God is God and God is good, you already understand the main point of the psalm.

Celebrate the Lord. . . (vv. 1-3)

"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth!" So says the psalmist. He seems to be talking about serious noise -- but just what do you think he means by that? Are we to appoint holy cheerleaders to build pyramids on the pulpit and exhort us to shout praises as they shake their sacred pom poms? Should we have the music director lead us in the fashion of "Otis Day & the Nights" from Animal House, going "Shout! a little bit louder now, Shout! a little bit louder now, Shout! real loud now Shout! come on now . . .?"

Maybe not.

So what does it mean? Can you make loud noises in church? Many churches have big organs that make lots of noise, but they don't always sound very joyful. Our more charismatic friends and many ethnic congregations have no problem with shouting out words of praise and thanksgiving and encouragement during the church service. Most Baptists don't do it because they're afraid the pastor might get so pumped up that he'll preach too long, because they know that saying "Amen!" to a preacher is like saying "Sic 'em!" to a dog.

When it comes to making noise in church, however, it's not the volume that counts, but the attitude. The psalmist calls us to come together with an attitude of praise, to make a joyful noise, to worship the Lord with gladness, and to come into his presence with singing. All of those verbs are imperatives. As far as the psalmist was concerned, there was no role for wallflowers at the temple - all were called to worship and sing joyfully.

We know that the psalms were written as songs to be sung in the temple, and we even know the names of some of the tunes, but we don't know the tunes. Sometimes I like to imagine what a psalm would sound like if it were written today. I am convinced that Psalm 100 would have a joyful, Jamaican beat. I once paraphrased the psalm to fit into a common Caribbean beat, and it came out like this:

"Calypso 100"

Verse 1 (vv. 1-2)

Praise the Lord in his holy temple,

make a joyful noise and sing.

We will worship our God with gladness

praise the Lord for everything.

Verse 2 (v. 3)

Know ye that the Lord he is God, now

he has made us and we are his,

Like the sheep within his pasture

what a blessed joy it is!

Verse 3 (v. 4)

Come on in with great thanksgiving

come into his courts with praise.

Bring your hallelujahs to him,

bless his precious holy name.

Verse 4 (v. 5)

For you know the Lord is good now

and his love will never end.

He is faithful and eternal,

he will always be our friend.

This psalm calls us to praise the Lord, and to praise the Lord with joy. Now the important question: Why? Why should I praise the Lord with gladness? And the first answer is this:

Because He is God!

Verse 3 calls us to "know that the Lord is God!" That is where worship begins. Thus far, the psalmist has referred to God by the special name that was revealed to Moses, the name Yahweh, which means something like, "the one who is," or "the one who causes to be." English translations usually render "Yahweh" as LORD, in all capital letters. Why do we worship Yahweh? Why worship the Lord? Because he is God! He really is. There really is a God, says the psalmist, and we know his name, and we know he cares for us in a special way.

There really is a God, and we belong to him. It is he that hath made us, and we are his! The familiar King James version translated that as "It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves." Some other translations follow the same idea. That is because there are two Hebrew words (l'o and l�) that sound just alike, but are spelled differently. The first means "not." The second means "belonging to him." Whichever translation you prefer, the meaning is the same. We did not make ourselves. God did. We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

That tells us something about our basic identity in life, and it is important to know. If we can accept what the psalmist has told us, we can know where we came from, and we can know where we belong. We came from God, who created us, and we belong in his pasture, where he cares for us.

Take just a minute to think about that first imperative word in v. 3: Know. In Hebrew, that word means "to know by experience," not just by intellectual understanding. I know many people by reputation. I know a lot of things about Bill Elliott and Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett as race car drivers, for example, but I don't know them as individuals.

For a long time I knew Fred Rogers by reputation. Bethany and I used to watch "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" most every afternoon. I knew that he appeared to be a kind and gentle man who loved children. I had read that he was ordained as a Presbyterian minister, but I didn't know Mr. Rogers. Then the phone rang one day about a month after Bethany died. It was Fred Rogers. I had written him to thank him for being a part of Bethany's neighborhood and for having a part in building her good sense of self-esteem. He called and talked with Jan and with me for a long time. He asked us to keep in touch, and since then we have visited with him in Pittsburgh and in Raleigh. His wife Joanne came and did a piano concert in our church. I came to know Mr. Rogers as one of the most gracious, compassionate and wise people on the face of the earth. When he died, my grief was different, because I really knew him.

There is a difference between knowing about someone and knowing them. The psalmist tells us that we can go beyond the simple knowledge that Yahweh is God - we can know God in a personal and intimate way, even as a shepherd and his sheep know each other. Can you think of a better reason to praise the Lord, than the realization that he really is God, and that he really cares for you?

Celebrate the Lord . . . (vv. 4-5)

But the psalmist is not finished. Once again, he calls us to celebrate the Lord. "Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him, and bless his name!"

Notice we have three more imperatives - Come into his courts! Give thanks to him! Bless his name! I like to think of the psalmist as running outside to gather even more people for joyful worship before God. There are always those who see no reason to worship, who feel no need to be thankful to God. Many people are convinced that they owe everything to their own hard work and determination, that they did it all themselves. Even to those folks who remain outside, the psalmist cries "Come on down! Give thanks to God! Bless his name!"

And we still may ask "Why?" We still may be less than inspired to give thanks. But the psalmist never hesitates, for he has an answer -

Because he is good!

We celebrate the Lord because he is God, and we celebrate the Lord because he is good. And how is the Lord good to us? His steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

God's goodness to us is shown in that he truly loves us. The psalmist uses a word that means something like "steadfast love," or "faithful love." God's love is not like human love, which is often fickle or shallow. It is a deep love, an abiding love, an eternal love. Because of God's love for us, those who trust him need never feel alone or unwanted or unloved.

What are some of the ways we see evidence of God's creative power and his enduring love?

Once upon a time there was a delightful young girl named Barbara Ann. She was a happy child, much of the time, because she had the special ability to find happiness in little things. When the skies were cloudy, she found joy in the shapes of the clouds. When she was stuck inside, she found happiness in the smell of a Crayola crayon, or in the sight of her cat streaking by at thirty miles an hour, or in the soft fluffiness of a cotton ball.

Sometime in Barbara Ann's sixth grade year, she began to write down all of these little things that made her happy. She started with an ordinary spiral bound notebook, and soon she had filled it up. She got more and bigger notebooks, and as she grew older, she continued adding to her collection of all the little things that gladden the eye and bring wonder to the heart. Things like:

Ancient alphabets.

Lighthouses.

Onions on a hot dog.

Beachcombing.

The little bitty red and blue threads you can see in a dollar bill.

Different accents.

Honeysuckles.

Three-gallon tubs of ice cream.

After twenty years of this, bubbly Barbara Ann Kipfer decided that other people might enjoy reading her collection, and she persuaded Peter Workman to publish them in a book called 14,000 Things To Be Happy About (New York: Workman Publishing, 1990).

When I read from Barbara Ann's list, I discover that some of the things that make her happy don't do a thing for me. We are different people. But reading her list inspires me to be more aware and more appreciative of some of those little things that bring joy to my own life and remind me of the goodness of God:

The smell of new-mown grass.

Writing with a yellow No. 2 Ticonderoga pencil, freshly sharpened.

Baked beans with real bacon.

A new novel by a favorite author.

The softness of a baby's head.

The laughter of children.

A day when things go right.

Purple-inked test papers fresh from the spirit master duplicating machine.

Finding socks that match.

Corn flakes and cold milk.

A cat sleeping in your lap.

Sunshine.

A mountain stream.

Fall.

Homemade bread.

The voice of a friend on the phone.

Looking at cloud tops from the window of an airplane.

Sleeping until you're ready to get up.

What kind of things remind you of God's love and goodness? Can you think of one or two or three of those little things in life that bring a special joy to your heart and remind you of the ever-present loving-kindness of God? You may even want to write them down in your bulletin, and start your own list.

Whenever I contemplate a list of things that bring me hope and joy, it always concludes with the hope we have in Christ that God's blessings don't stop when we die. The psalmist's emphasis on the lasting quality of God's love - his faithfulness that extends to all generations - reminds us that God's love stretches even beyond this life for those who trust him - even into eternity. I think that's something worth celebrating - and maybe even making some noise about!

I hope you will do both.

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10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge, | with 0 comments



Biblical Recorder:A Joyful Thanksgiving?

October 30 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge, , BR Editor

Biblical Recorder:A Joyful Thanksgiving?

| Home | NewsOpinion | Baptist Life | ResourcesFriday, Oct. 31, 2003

By Tony W. Cartledge,

BR Editor

We think of the Thanksgiving season as a time of great gratitude. Even if we don't feel thankful, we feel like we ought to be thankful, but some of us may wonder why. Maybe you've had a good year financially despite the struggling economy. Maybe your family has grown closer this year. Then again, maybe things haven't gone so well. Maybe you've been sick, or someone you love. Maybe you got downsized. Maybe your family is cracking at the seams, and you don't know what to do about it. Maybe you are asking, "What do I have to be so thankful for?"Psalm 100 was written for people on both ends of the spectrum, and in between. It was written for every person who believes, and even for those who do not believe. It is a joyful invitation for all people on earth to celebrate God, and to celebrate God's goodness. It is also our text for today.The psalm is only five verses long in English (6 in Hebrew), and it falls naturally into two parts. The first three verses call us to celebrate the Lord because He is God. The last two verses call us to celebrate the Lord because He is good. If you can remember no more than that - that God is God and God is good, you already understand the main point of the psalm.Celebrate the Lord. . . (vv. 1-3)"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth!" So says the psalmist. He seems to be talking about serious noise -- but just what do you think he means by that? Are we to appoint holy cheerleaders to build pyramids on the pulpit and exhort us to shout praises as they shake their sacred pom poms? Should we have the music director lead us in the fashion of "Otis Day & the Nights" from Animal House, going "Shout! a little bit louder now, Shout! a little bit louder now, Shout! real loud now Shout! come on now . . .?" Maybe not.So what does it mean? Can you make loud noises in church? Many churches have big organs that make lots of noise, but they don't always sound very joyful. Our more charismatic friends and many ethnic congregations have no problem with shouting out words of praise and thanksgiving and encouragement during the church service. Most Baptists don't do it because they're afraid the pastor might get so pumped up that he'll preach too long, because they know that saying "Amen!" to a preacher is like saying "Sic 'em!" to a dog.When it comes to making noise in church, however, it's not the volume that counts, but the attitude. The psalmist calls us to come together with an attitude of praise, to make a joyful noise, to worship the Lord with gladness, and to come into his presence with singing. All of those verbs are imperatives. As far as the psalmist was concerned, there was no role for wallflowers at the temple - all were called to worship and sing joyfully. We know that the psalms were written as songs to be sung in the temple, and we even know the names of some of the tunes, but we don't know the tunes. Sometimes I like to imagine what a psalm would sound like if it were written today. I am convinced that Psalm 100 would have a joyful, Jamaican beat. I once paraphrased the psalm to fit into a common Caribbean beat, and it came out like this: "Calypso 100"Verse 1 (vv. 1-2)Praise the Lord in his holy temple,make a joyful noise and sing.We will worship our God with gladnesspraise the Lord for everything.Verse 2 (v. 3)Know ye that the Lord he is God, nowhe has made us and we are his,Like the sheep within his pasturewhat a blessed joy it is!Verse 3 (v. 4)Come on in with great thanksgivingcome into his courts with praise.Bring your hallelujahs to him,bless his precious holy name.Verse 4 (v. 5)For you know the Lord is good nowand his love will never end.He is faithful and eternal, he will always be our friend.This psalm calls us to praise the Lord, and to praise the Lord with joy. Now the important question: Why? Why should I praise the Lord with gladness? And the first answer is this:Because He is God! Verse 3 calls us to "know that the Lord is God!" That is where worship begins. Thus far, the psalmist has referred to God by the special name that was revealed to Moses, the name Yahweh, which means something like, "the one who is," or "the one who causes to be." English translations usually render "Yahweh" as LORD, in all capital letters. Why do we worship Yahweh? Why worship the Lord? Because he is God! He really is. There really is a God, says the psalmist, and we know his name, and we know he cares for us in a special way.There really is a God, and we belong to him. It is he that hath made us, and we are his! The familiar King James version translated that as "It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves." Some other translations follow the same idea. That is because there are two Hebrew words (l'o and l�) that sound just alike, but are spelled differently. The first means "not." The second means "belonging to him." Whichever translation you prefer, the meaning is the same. We did not make ourselves. God did. We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.That tells us something about our basic identity in life, and it is important to know. If we can accept what the psalmist has told us, we can know where we came from, and we can know where we belong. We came from God, who created us, and we belong in his pasture, where he cares for us.Take just a minute to think about that first imperative word in v. 3: Know. In Hebrew, that word means "to know by experience," not just by intellectual understanding. I know many people by reputation. I know a lot of things about Bill Elliott and Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett as race car drivers, for example, but I don't know them as individuals.For a long time I knew Fred Rogers by reputation. Bethany and I used to watch "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" most every afternoon. I knew that he appeared to be a kind and gentle man who loved children. I had read that he was ordained as a Presbyterian minister, but I didn't know Mr. Rogers. Then the phone rang one day about a month after Bethany died. It was Fred Rogers. I had written him to thank him for being a part of Bethany's neighborhood and for having a part in building her good sense of self-esteem. He called and talked with Jan and with me for a long time. He asked us to keep in touch, and since then we have visited with him in Pittsburgh and in Raleigh. His wife Joanne came and did a piano concert in our church. I came to know Mr. Rogers as one of the most gracious, compassionate and wise people on the face of the earth. When he died, my grief was different, because I really knew him. There is a difference between knowing about someone and knowing them. The psalmist tells us that we can go beyond the simple knowledge that Yahweh is God - we can know God in a personal and intimate way, even as a shepherd and his sheep know each other. Can you think of a better reason to praise the Lord, than the realization that he really is God, and that he really cares for you?Celebrate the Lord . . . (vv. 4-5)But the psalmist is not finished. Once again, he calls us to celebrate the Lord. "Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him, and bless his name!"Notice we have three more imperatives - Come into his courts! Give thanks to him! Bless his name! I like to think of the psalmist as running outside to gather even more people for joyful worship before God. There are always those who see no reason to worship, who feel no need to be thankful to God. Many people are convinced that they owe everything to their own hard work and determination, that they did it all themselves. Even to those folks who remain outside, the psalmist cries "Come on down! Give thanks to God! Bless his name!"And we still may ask "Why?" We still may be less than inspired to give thanks. But the psalmist never hesitates, for he has an answer - Because he is good! We celebrate the Lord because he is God, and we celebrate the Lord because he is good. And how is the Lord good to us? His steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. God's goodness to us is shown in that he truly loves us. The psalmist uses a word that means something like "steadfast love," or "faithful love." God's love is not like human love, which is often fickle or shallow. It is a deep love, an abiding love, an eternal love. Because of God's love for us, those who trust him need never feel alone or unwanted or unloved. What are some of the ways we see evidence of God's creative power and his enduring love?Once upon a time there was a delightful young girl named Barbara Ann. She was a happy child, much of the time, because she had the special ability to find happiness in little things. When the skies were cloudy, she found joy in the shapes of the clouds. When she was stuck inside, she found happiness in the smell of a Crayola crayon, or in the sight of her cat streaking by at thirty miles an hour, or in the soft fluffiness of a cotton ball. Sometime in Barbara Ann's sixth grade year, she began to write down all of these little things that made her happy. She started with an ordinary spiral bound notebook, and soon she had filled it up. She got more and bigger notebooks, and as she grew older, she continued adding to her collection of all the little things that gladden the eye and bring wonder to the heart. Things like:Ancient alphabets. Lighthouses. Onions on a hot dog. Beachcombing. The little bitty red and blue threads you can see in a dollar bill. Different accents. Honeysuckles. Three-gallon tubs of ice cream.After twenty years of this, bubbly Barbara Ann Kipfer decided that other people might enjoy reading her collection, and she persuaded Peter Workman to publish them in a book called 14,000 Things To Be Happy About (New York: Workman Publishing, 1990). When I read from Barbara Ann's list, I discover that some of the things that make her happy don't do a thing for me. We are different people. But reading her list inspires me to be more aware and more appreciative of some of those little things that bring joy to my own life and remind me of the goodness of God:The smell of new-mown grass. Writing with a yellow No. 2 Ticonderoga pencil, freshly sharpened. Baked beans with real bacon. A new novel by a favorite author. The softness of a baby's head. The laughter of children. A day when things go right. Purple-inked test papers fresh from the spirit master duplicating machine.Finding socks that match. Corn flakes and cold milk. A cat sleeping in your lap. Sunshine. A mountain stream.Fall.Homemade bread. The voice of a friend on the phone. Looking at cloud tops from the window of an airplane. Sleeping until you're ready to get up.What kind of things remind you of God's love and goodness? Can you think of one or two or three of those little things in life that bring a special joy to your heart and remind you of the ever-present loving-kindness of God? You may even want to write them down in your bulletin, and start your own list.Whenever I contemplate a list of things that bring me hope and joy, it always concludes with the hope we have in Christ that God's blessings don't stop when we die. The psalmist's emphasis on the lasting quality of God's love - his faithfulness that extends to all generations - reminds us that God's love stretches even beyond this life for those who trust him - even into eternity. I think that's something worth celebrating - and maybe even making some noise about!I hope you will do both.1| Home | NewsOpinion | Baptist Life |

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by Tony W. Cartledge, , BR Editor | with 0 comments



Family Bible Study Lesson for March 4: Bringing Others to Jesus : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

October 30 2003 by William (Mac) McElrath

Family Bible Study Lesson for March 4: Bringing Others to Jesus : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003
Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

Family Bible Study Lesson for March 4: Bringing Others to Jesus

By William (Mac) McElrath
Mark 2:1-12
As a Sunday School teacher I've always written lots of cards and letters to members of my class. Most of the messages have been simple: Happy birthday, sorry to hear you're sick, we missed you last Sunday. But a letter written 20 years ago to a teenager in Indonesia had an unexpected result.

A new boy turned up in my class one Sunday. Betty and I had known his family when he was a child, but we had since lost track of him. After a visit in his home, he started asking some serious questions.

A few days later we met by appointment. Then and there that 15-year-old gave his life to the Lord Jesus. Earnestly he prayed for his parents, his brother and sisters. When he made public profession of his faith, two other teenage boys followed him down the aisle from the back pew where they had all been sitting together.

I asked the new believer why he had suddenly reappeared and started attending Sunday School. Flashing his eager grin, he said, "At another guy's house I saw a letter you'd written him. I decided I'd go to your class whether he did or not."

That "other guy" was a church and school dropout who later moved away. What if I had given up on him before writing that one last letter?

When Betty and I went back to Indonesia a year ago, one of the young adults who greeted us warmly was the boy who had responded to an invitation addressed to someone else. He and his wife and child are now building a new Christian home.

There are many ways of bringing people to Jesus. I used one way; four friends who lived in Galilee long ago used another. What method are you using?

Determination: The four friends

(Mark 2:1-5)

Perhaps, like me and many others, you've known this Bible story all your life. I couldn't have been more than 5 the first time I remember helping act it out in Sunday School.

What determination those four friends showed! When they couldn't get through the door to the house where Jesus was, they climbed up to the flat roof. What they did next is easier explained to Indonesian than to American pupils, because roofs in Indonesia - like roofs in Palestine long ago - are fairly easy to open up and then repair again.

When they had lowered their friend on the mat where he lay paralyzed, notice that "Jesus saw their faith" (v. 5). It was the determined faith of all five of them that caused Him to declare, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

Antagonism: The religious leaders

(Mark 2:6-9)

Jesus' words stirred up a hornets' nest of criticism. Teachers of the law were sitting there watching. These religious leaders felt that Jesus was claiming powers properly exercised only by God.

They were also thinking: "It's easy enough to say that this man's sins have been forgiven. Who can see whether his sins have really been forgiven or not? In the mean time, the poor fellow still lies there paralyzed."

Authority: The Son of Man

(Mark 2:10-12)

As He often has a way of doing, Jesus then brought out into the open the thoughts that were rankling in human hearts. To those antagonized religious leaders He said, in effect, "I accept your unspoken challenge. I will prove to you that as the Son of Man (a Messianic title He often used for Himself) I have authority to do what I am doing."

Notice that Jesus did things in the right order. (Mark 7:37 says that Jesus did "everything well.") The paralyzed man's greatest problem was spiritual, not physical. First, in response to the faith shown both by the man himself and by his four friends, Jesus forgave the man's sins. Only after that did He heal the man's wasted body.

Mark 2:12 stresses that this was not a miracle performed in a corner. Everybody there that day saw the healed paralytic get up, pick up his mat, and walk away. No wonder "this amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this!'" (NIV)

How do you suppose the four friends felt that day?

How do you suppose Betty and I felt last year when we saw our former pupil as the sturdy head of a young Christian family?

How do you suppose you will feel when you experience the joy of bringing others to Jesus?

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by William (Mac) McElrath | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for March 4: Faith as Obedience : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

October 30 2003 by Ken Vandergriff

Formations lesson for March 4: Faith as Obedience : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003
Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

Formations lesson for March 4: Faith as Obedience

By Ken Vandergriff
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-22
Obedient faith is an adventure. Faith should never be boring.

One reason we study the heroes of faith found in the Bible and in church history is to experience their sense of adventure and hopefully to have that sense take root in us and blossom. Abraham exemplifies the adventurous journey that faith can become.

Too often we lose the sense of adventure because we want to know the end at the beginning. When God called Abraham to "go to the land I will show you," Gen. 12:4 states bluntly, "so he went, as the Lord had told him." Although he traveled well-used caravan routes (not blazing a trail through the wilderness), he did not know the destination. He simply followed God's leading. The life of obedient faith became a life of pilgrimage, of following but never quite knowing how the journey would end (Heb. 11:8-9). That's adventure!

Verses 10 and 13-16 are difficult. The writer of Hebrews interprets Abraham's journey in a way that moves significantly beyond the Genesis narrative. According to Genesis, Abraham and his family lived in the land of Canaan, the promised land, but they did not possess it. Only centuries later would their descendants actually own it. Nevertheless, they trusted God's promise that even after their deaths, God would give that land to their descendants.

According to the writer of Hebrews, however, Abraham "looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (v. 10). In the Old Testament, the city founded by God was Jerusalem (Ps. 87:1; Isa. 54:11), but for the writer of Hebrews, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were "strangers and foreigners on the earth," whose real destination and hope were for "a better country, that is, a heavenly one" (vv. 13-16).

Therein lies the problem: throughout most of the Old Testament period there was not a concept of heaven, and nothing in Genesis suggests that Abraham looked for anything other than an earthly home. We might resolve the tension like this: the promises Abraham received from God (Gen. 12:1-3) engendered in him a hope that God would bless him wonderfully. From Abraham's limited vantage point, surely that meant possession of the promised land. However, the writer of Hebrews, having much fuller revelation than did Abraham, realized that Abraham's destination was greater than he could have imagined - a heavenly home. That is often how the adventure of faith turns out - the reality far surpasses what we hoped for.

Another reason we lose the experience of faith's adventure is that we want everything to make sense. But adventurous faith often doesn't. The birth of a child to a hundred year-old man and a ninety year-old woman does not make sense. The writer of Hebrews ignores the frustration voiced by the childless Abraham in Gen. 15:2-3 and the attempt to fulfill the promise of children through the surrogate mother, Hagar (Gen. 16). It is enough that Abraham did not give up on the promise of fatherhood, no matter how ludicrous it seemed. His adventurous faith enabled the miracle to occur.

A third reason we lose the sense of faith's adventure is that we want faith to be safe. It wasn't for Abraham, as verses 17-19 assert (cf. Gen. 22). Obedient faith meant offering Isaac, the son of promise, as an offering to God. Interpretation should proceed with great caution here. What is important is the recognition that faith often places us into uncomfortable, even dangerous, situations. We will not assume that all believers should test their faith in this way, but we will acknowledge that adventurous faith might take our families and us into danger.

There is no adventurous journey without faith, hope and obedience. All three work together, like the three legs of a tripod. When we envision what can be, then trust that in fact it will be, despite any evidence to the contrary, and then live our lives accordingly, we are living out hope, faith and obedience.

A student once asked professor Ralph Wood to state his main objection to atheism. Wood replied, "It is so bloody boring." Obedient faith, on the other hand, is always an adventure.

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by Ken Vandergriff | with 0 comments



Family Bible Study lesson for November 2: Experiencing The Gospel's Power : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

October 30 2003 by Mary Fillinger

Family Bible Study lesson for November 2: Experiencing The Gospel's Power : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003
Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

Family Bible Study lesson for November 2: Experiencing The Gospel's Power

By Mary Fillinger
Focal Passages: Acts 3:1-8, 11-16, 19-20
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples in the upper room (Acts 2) marks the birth of the church, leading to the spread of the gospel throughout the known world.

This is still the greatest need of the church today. A Spirit filled, Spirit directed, Spirit-empowered ministry is the only thing that will meet the needs of a sin sick world. All of us need to surrender our hearts totally and completely to Jesus, to let Him fill us with His Spirit and make us what He wants us to be.

Expecting the Unexpected

Acts 3:1-8

"One day Peter and John were going to the temple to pray, at three in the afternoon ..." (v1). The Jews had two times of prayer, nine in the morning and three in the afternoon, in connection with the morning and evening daily sacrifices. It is interesting to note that the believers continued to participate in these times of prayer at the temple, even after the day of Pentecost.

On this particular day they found a man crippled from birth at the temple gate. The grand gate was added by Herod the Great, between the court of the Gentiles and that of Israel.

When Peter asked the man to look at them, the beggar hoped for a bountiful gift. Peter did not give the man what he wanted (money) but what he needed (a healthy strong body). Now he could work and earn his own living. To encourage the man's faith, Peter took him by the right hand and raised him. Often a little gesture of encouragement will help people in responding to the divine invitation.

The man went into the temple courts, full of excitement, praising God for his goodness. This man had his legs and ankles strengthened. He went into the temple walking and leaping. Until that moment he had never been able to walk nor had he ever learned how. The miracle was both physical and psychological. He had a right to celebrate.

A Good Witness

Acts 3:11-16

The people in the temple courts came running to the east wall of the outer court to see what had taken place. When Peter saw he had a crowd, he began to preach. That was just like Peter. "Why are you staring at us? We didn't do anything, but God did. It was God that glorified His servant Jesus," he said. Peter was probably referring to the passage in Isaiah 52-53 about the suffering servant.

Peter brought a very serious charge against the Jews that day: "You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer (Barabbas) be released to you." That is what every sinner does when he rejects Jesus and holds on to sin. Peter concluded by saying, "By faith in Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong." It was Jesus who healed him.

A True Repentance

Acts 3:19-20

Repentance is often overlooked or misunderstood. However, true repentance is essential for a person to come to a saving knowledge and acceptance of Jesus as Savior and Lord. The word "repent" means to turn away from our sins and to dedicate ourselves completely to God. Without repentance, salvation is hollow and is nothing more than some nicely spoken words. Jesus is God's appointed Messiah and Savior. He came that we might have an abundant life as we repent and serve Him through faith.

Why is there so little witnessing with power being done today? This type of witnessing can be done only by those who have the power of the Holy Spirit within their individual lives. The tragedy is that the average church has too often concentrated on programs, rather than waiting on the Lord until the Holy Spirit empowers the leaders and the people.

There is no substitute for power, which comes through prayer. A prayerless church is a powerless church.

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by Mary Fillinger | with 0 comments



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