Obama tells of personal faith at prayer breakfast

February 5 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

President Barack Obama used his final National Prayer Breakfast address as America’s chief executive to explain how he has combatted fear by drawing on his personal Christian faith and by looking to people of all faiths for inspiration.
“Like every president, like every leader, like every person, I’ve known fear,” Obama said Feb. 4. “But my faith tells me that I need not fear death, that the acceptance of Christ promises everlasting life and the washing away of sins. If scripture instructs me to put on the full armor of God so that when trouble comes I’m able to stand, then surely I can face down these temporal setbacks.”
The address’s positive statement of the gospel contrasted with Obama’s 2015 National Prayer Breakfast address, which drew pushback from some evangelicals after he warned Christians about getting “on our high horse” regarding Islamic terrorism. The Crusades, the Inquisition, American slavery and Jim Crow laws each had been “justified in the name of Christ,” he said.


Screen capture from C-Span
President Barack Obama said faith is the antidote to fear at the National Prayer Breakfast Feb. 4.

For the third consecutive year, Obama mentioned American pastor Saeed Abedini, who was imprisoned in Iran more than three years for his faith before being released last month. “Last year we prayed that he might be freed, and this year we give thanks that he is home safe,” the president said.
The breakfast also included a keynote address by the husband-wife team of television producer Mark Burnett and actress Roma Downey, creators of the History Channel miniseries “The Bible.” House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi both spoke as well, and Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry of The University of Alabama delivered the closing prayer.
Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee attended with his wife Dayle as the guests of Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.
Page said, “I was honored to be able to attend my second national prayer breakfast. The place was filled with leaders from all around the nation as well as elected leaders in Washington. It was encouraging to hear the faith testimony of so many. My heart’s prayer was and is for a deep and true understanding of the words spoken. Mrs. Page and I were honored to be guests of Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, a true champion of pro-life issues.”
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson also attended the breakfast but did not speak, CNN reported.
The president based his remarks on 2 Timothy 1:7 – “for God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind” – which he referenced at least five times during his 27-minute address. “Lately,” Obama said, “I have been thinking and praying on” this verse.


Photo courtesy of Marsha Blackburn
Frank S. Page, right, president of the Southern Baptist Cconvention Executive Committee, attended the 2016 National Prayer Breakfast with his wife Dayle, center, as the guest of Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.

Fear “can be contagious,” and its consequences “can be worse than any outward threat,” Obama said.
Some commentators interpreted the president’s references to fear as a veiled critique of 2016 Republican presidential candidates, whom Obama has criticized for playing on America’s fears.
“For me,” the president said, “and I know for so many of you, faith is the great cure for fear. Jesus is a good cure for fear.”
Obama said that when his faith falters, he looks to friends and family for encouragement as well as to “good people of all faiths who do the Lord’s work each and every day.”
Among the examples of faith he cited was a Christian American soldier in World War II who helped save Jewish soldiers from execution in a Nazi concentration camp. Another example was an American Muslim who prayed in public, despite his fears of persecution, the day following terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., by Islamic extremists.
In discussing the Muslim who prayed, Obama referenced “the peaceful spirit of Islam.”
Obama said his personal prayers include petitions that “our leaders would always act with humility and generosity,” that “my failings are forgiven” and that “we answer scripture’s call to lift up the vulnerable.”
The National Prayer Breakfast, which is sponsored by the evangelical Christian organization The Fellowship Foundation, began in 1953 during President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first administration. Obama has spoken at the event each year since he first took office in 2009.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

2/5/2016 1:16:55 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Carolina Panther finds identity outside spotlight

February 5 2016 by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press

SAN FRANCISCO – It’s safe to say Carolina Panther J.J. Jansen won’t make headlines if his team wins the Super Bowl this weekend.
He’s in the starting lineup and he will touch the football every time he’s on the field. But when the game is over and the confetti settles on the field for the Panthers or Broncos, the only way most people who watch the game will know who Jansen is will be if he makes a mistake. So goes the life of a long snapper in the National Football League (NFL).


J.J. Jansen, long snapper for the Carolina Panthers, talks to a reporter Feb. 1 at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. He shared with Baptist Press how he finds his identity through faith in Christ, not the football field.

But for the 2013 Pro Bowler, none of that seems to matter. His identity, he acknowledges, isn’t found on the football field.


“I think [my faith] shapes my game in the sense that it just shapes everything I do – keeping the proper perspective, keeping the proper identity,” Jansen said. “One of the interesting things is this has really been a year where God has been teaching me a lot about my identity as a son of God and a child of God. And all of a sudden you’re thrust into this moment where everyone wants to put you on a pedestal. So it’s really cool that in a year where I felt like God was really taking me through what identity means that suddenly you’re now in a moment where you can easily lose a sense of where you are. This has been a cool year to be on that ride.”
Jansen grew up in the Phoenix area playing baseball until the day he decided he wanted to be a part of a winning football team.
“We had an undefeated freshman team so I wanted to play,” he said. “More importantly, I wanted to touch the football. And I couldn’t play quarterback so my dad long snapped so he taught me. I picked it up quite quickly, and it was always one of those things where every year I got a little bit better.”
Jansen, now in the NFL, says he doesn’t feel pressure snapping the ball anywhere from seven to 15 yards. But he noted he is driven to help the Panthers place kicker Graham Gano and punter Brad Nortman do their jobs well.
“I just want to perform really well for them,” he said. “Obviously you want to do your job and take care of the team.”
Off the field, Jansen helps with a conference that equips coaches to teach Christ-like character and values through leadership. Another area of ministry for both Jansen and his wife Laura is working with a local Charlotte-based nonprofit ministry that provides furniture and beds for families and children that need them.
“It’s a really important ministry that we get to share our faith with [families] as we’re serving them as they’re transitioning out of homelessness,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to not only meet their needs and meet them where they are but to share our faith if they will allow us.”
For Jansen, the sad part of Super Bowl week is this will likely be the last time he and the entire team will be together for a game. In the offseason, some of the players and coaches will go on to other teams, retire or be released.
“This is a great group of guys,” he said. “And so it’s really fun to be able to experience this environment with [them], because you just never get to be together again. It’s been a fun eight months doing this.”
Kickoff for the Super Bowl, Sunday, Feb. 7, is slated for 6:30 p.m. Eastern from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. The game will be telecast on CBS.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shawn Hendricks is managing editor and director of operations of Baptist Press.)

Related Stories:

The Super Bowl: Does God care who wins?
Broncos, Panthers discuss sportsmanship, faith

2/5/2016 1:05:11 PM by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Broncos, Panthers discuss sportsmanship, faith

February 5 2016 by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press

While underinflated footballs aren’t dominating Super Bowl headlines this year, the National Football League (NFL) still had its share of unsportsmanlike conduct calls, concussions and doping allegations this season. But rules do matter, and those who don’t follow them must pay the consequences, players say.
Team members from the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers weighed in on the importance of sportsmanship and their Christian faith during Opening Night of Super Bowl 50 with the media at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., Feb. 1.
Is sportsmanship becoming a thing of the past in the NFL as teams continue to clamor for an edge to get to the Super Bowl?


BP Photo by Shawn Hendricks
Brandon Marshall, linebacker for the Broncos, shared thoughts with reporters Feb. 1 on his faith and the state of sportsmanship in the NFL. "You never want to jeopardize the integrity of the game.... You gotta try to stay in control," he said.

“I don’t think [sportsmanship] is going extinct in the NFL,” noted Brandon Marshall, linebacker for the Broncos, responding to a Baptist Press question. With the number one defense, the Broncos are a hard-hitting team that more often than not seems to find a way to keep teams out of the end zone. But playing by the rules and being an example on and off the field, Marshall said, should remain the priority.
“I think we saw a game in the playoffs where it was kind of crazy,” said Marshall, responding to another question that referenced the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals playoff game, where an illegal hit and numerous penalties appeared to cost the Bengals the game with them losing 18-16. “Sportsmanship is huge. You never want to jeopardize the integrity of the game.... You gotta try to stay in control.”
Marshall said he seeks to prioritize his life by faith, family and football.
“I thank God everyday for where I’m at ... for blessing me with these abilities,” he said. “I’m thankful for Him because He blessed me with this. I feel like I’m anointed to do this. That’s why I play the game, also for my family.”
Jared Allen, a defensive end with the Carolina Panthers, said athletes must keep their excitement and desire to win at a level consistent with the rules. Allen sat out the NFC Championship game against the Cardinals because of a foot injury, but is expected to play on Sunday.
A key to success, Allen said, is for players to accept that football and life are not about them.
“For me I think you have to realize that this isn’t about me,” he said. “Obviously God has blessed me with a tremendous talent and I have the ability to play this great game so I just try to keep that in perspective.... There is somebody else guiding this ship and God’s got a plan, and I’m kind of along for the ride.”
While football can be a violent sport and one that requires intensity, players have to rein in their emotions, Allen said.


BP Photo by Shawn Hendricks
"God's got a plan and I'm kind of along for the ride," Jared Allen, a defensive end with the Carolina Panthers, told reporters at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., Feb. 1.

“Me personally I never go out there to hurt anybody,” he said. “Does it happen? Yes, it happens sometimes but obviously you want to play as hard as you can within the rules.... You got to think about your team.”
DeMarcus Ware, defensive end for the Broncos, said, “Consequences do matter.”
“You gotta play smart in between the lines and [know] how to be a smart player,” he said. Echoing Allen’s advice, Ware urges young players to stay aggressive but keep their teammates in mind. “You’re playing a brutal sport. But know that you can do things to hurt the team.”
J.J. Jansen, long snapper for the Panthers, described football as a “beautiful game” because you immediately get impacted by consequences. See related story.
“In life sometimes you don’t experience the consequences until days, weeks, months later. Maybe even years later, maybe never,” Jansen said. “Football is really cool because if you jump off sides there is an immediate consequence to your team. I think one other really cool thing about the game of football is that it’s 11 on 11. So one man’s mistake is an opportunity to bring down the whole team.”
Panthers cornerback Charles Tillman, who will reportedly have to sit the Super Bowl out with a partial tear of the ACL, is known for forcing fumbles by punching the ball loose from players arms. Though a tenacious player, Tillman is also known for his Christian faith.
“People think Christians are always supposed to be nice all the time,” the 2013 winner of the Walter Payton Man of the Year award said. “You can still be a Christian and competitive ... and still be nasty.”
“There is always a choice, a decision and a consequence,” he added. “Whatever that decision is – good or bad – you gotta deal with that consequence. You definitely gotta follow through with the rules.”
For those struggling with making the right decision, Tillman said, “My advice is to pray.”
“A lot of meditation, a lot of prayer, and again I think God always has a plan,” he said. “I don’t always understand His plan ... but I [pray].”
Kickoff for the Super Bowl, Sunday, Feb. 7, is slated for 6:30 p.m. Eastern from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. The game will be telecast on CBS.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shawn Hendricks is managing editor and director of operations of Baptist Press.)

2/5/2016 12:57:22 PM by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Missouri, Illinois flooding ‘bigger than people realize’

February 5 2016 by Benjamin Hawkins, The Pathway

The daunting challenge of restoring flood-damaged homes continues to face many families around Missouri and Illinois after widespread flooding wreaked havoc in late December and early January.
“It’s bigger than people realize,” said Joe Banderman, leader of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s collegiate relief team. “Unless you’re here, it’s hard to get an idea of the scope of the flooding.”


Randy Ewart keeps track of job requests and projects at the Disaster Relief mobile command center set up in Ellisville, Mo.

Caused by a month of heavy rain, flooding across Missouri and Illinois killed at least two dozen people, affected roughly 5,000 homes and temporarily closed portions of Interstate 44 and Interstate 70. In some areas along the Mississippi, floodwaters rose to 48.9 feet, surpassing the 1993 record by nearly half a foot.
Dwain Carter, the Missouri Baptist Convention’s disaster relief (DR) director, hopes Southern Baptists can continue to help families by deploying volunteer teams to assist in flood recovery, following the departure of DR teams in late January who prepared meals and engaged in various facets of outreach to flood victims.
Most likely, no homes will need to be rebuilt from the ground up, Carter said, but many people will need help with such projects as putting up new drywall or laying carpet.
The only factor that keeps Carter from moving forward is the funding required for such a deployment, which could run between $250,000 and $500,000. Otherwise, Carter is eager to deploy volunteer teams to help families rebuild their lives – and, he hopes, help them find new life in Christ.
The flooding is one of Missouri’s largest disasters, Carter said, noting how many families it affected across such a wide expanse of territory. But local churches and disaster relief teams from across Missouri – and soon flowing in from 20 other state conventions – responded quickly.


Members of Genesis Church suit up to remove flood-damaged items from homes after the historic floods the final week of 2015. Nearly 5,000 homes state-wide were affected.

Mike Hubbard, pastor of Genesis Church in the hard-hit St. Louis suburb of Eureka, told of members from the church helping local residents after the rains stopped.
They helped one woman remove everything from her basement before a recovery team was slated to arrive the next day. “She told us they were going to sanitize her basement, cut out drywall that was affected and get her house on the road to recovery,” he recounted.
“So I asked her who she had doing the work. Her eyes filled with tears as she said the group is called ‘Disaster Relief.’ I immediately knew what was happening.” Southern Baptist volunteers were “headed to our town to serve. The flood left Eureka on Friday. We were there Sunday and they had already been there to schedule her for Monday.”
Missouri Baptist churches were eager to support disaster relief teams as they provided hope for those affected by the floods. Sterling Acres in Arnold, Central Baptist in Eureka and First Baptist in Ellisville opened their doors to house and support disaster relief teams. Because of a previous partnership with the Red Cross, First Baptist in Arnold immediately opened its doors to provide shelter to hundreds of people displaced by the floods.
During a full month of relief work, Baptist volunteers in Missouri totaled 2,777 volunteer days, prepared 20,410 meals and provided various other services hundreds of times – cleaning houses, spraying homes to prevent mold, removing debris, washing people’s laundry and giving them a place to take a shower.


Recovery has been a cooperative effort, with churches like Starling Road Baptist hosting Disaster Relief volunteers.

They also handed out 100 teddy bears to children – and to at least one adult, volunteer disaster relief chaplain Rhonda Myers, a licensed professional counselor from Southridge Baptist Church in Jefferson City, reported.
“One woman had recently lost a child, and we gave her a teddy bear,” Myers said. “That was the comfort she needed that day.”
Disaster relief workers made 714 ministry contacts and 607 chaplaincy contacts, distributed 197 Bibles and 546 tracts, verbally presented the gospel 111 times and led 19 people to faith in Christ.
Cheryl Mayfield, a volunteer from First Baptist Church in Viburnum, Mo., recounted one of the encounters in Arnold.
“The first day we worked with one couple. She was distraught and her husband was angry,” Mayfield said. “But after we worked so hard on their house, we saw his mood change.”
Mayfield noticed this transformation most clearly when volunteers gathered to pray for the couple after completing their work on the house.
“All the members of the team always sign a Bible,” Mayfield said, “and we gather to pray for the homeowners. When we met with this couple, he just bawled and said, ‘I want you to know that I prayed for help, and God sent you.’“


Missouri flood waters within inches of the floor of Starling Road Baptist Church.

Debbie Porter, a member of First Baptist Church in Galatia, Ill., shared how she and 12 other Illinois Baptist disaster relief volunteers shared hope with the people of Arnold after the flood. One couple, she said, “was tormented with questions about why God did this to them.”
“Also, other groups had already visited them and left much of the work unfinished,” Porter said, according to the Illinois Baptist news journal. “They thought we would be there for an hour and do the same, but we stayed until the job was done – nearly 24 hours of work.”
While Porter and her team worked in Missouri, other Illinois disaster relief teams responded to floods in southwest Illinois along the Mississippi River as well as in the central Illinois town of Kincaid, where nearly 40 homes were damaged. Nevertheless, volunteers from Illinois still came to bring help and hope to Missourians.
Rex Alexander, director for the Illinois Baptist State Association’s disaster relief ministry, expressed his gratitude for volunteers like Porter who served in “bitter-cold” conditions, dealing with a disaster that usually takes place in warmer months.
“It made us all proud of our volunteers,” Alexander said.
Carter, of the Missouri convention, said the sacrificial service of disaster relief volunteers from 21 state conventions painted a “perfect picture” of Southern Baptist cooperation. “We talk about cooperative giving a lot, but this was a cooperative effort to overcome a disaster,” he said.
“Southern Baptist Disaster Relief,” he added, “is a cooperation of thousands of Southern Baptists to bring hope, help and healing while transforming lives and communities through the gospel.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Benjamin Hawkins is associate editor for The Pathway at, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Contributing to this report were Pathway staff writer Brian Koonc and contributing writer Vicki Stamps and the staff of the Illinois Baptist newsjournal at

2/5/2016 12:46:17 PM by Benjamin Hawkins, The Pathway | with 0 comments

Uphold abortion rules, ERLC, SBTC urge court

February 5 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The U.S. Supreme Court’s own decisions and the need for states to protect women’s lives call for the justices to uphold a Texas law that regulates abortion doctors and clinics, according to two Southern Baptist entities and other religious organizations.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) joined the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and four other groups in a friend-of-the-court brief filed Feb. 1 with the high court. The brief urges the justices to affirm a Texas measure that requires an abortion doctor to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital in case a woman needs emergency admission. The law also mandates abortion clinics must meet the health and safety standards of other walk-in surgical centers.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments March 2 to decide if the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans was correct in upholding most of the Texas measure.
If upheld by the high court over the objections of abortion rights organizations, the law would reduce the number of abortion facilities in Texas from what had been about 40 to fewer than 10. Such a decision by the justices also would have an impact in other states that have similar laws.
Southern Baptist leaders expressed their hopes the Supreme Court would find the law constitutional.
“The abortion lobby’s resistance to common-sense accountability measures should alarm everyone, on both sides of the political aisle,” ERLC President Russell Moore said. “Abortion activists have claimed for years that protecting women from harm is their primary goal, but they are certainly on the wrong side of women’s health on this issue.”
His prayer, Moore said, is the court “will recognize the reasonableness of Texas’ measures and defend women and families.”
Gary Ledbetter of the SBTC, which supported the legislation during debate in the state, said the law “recognizes the right, even the obligation, of the state of Texas to regulate medical procedures in order to ensure a high level of care for all patients, without regard to the nature of their procedures.”
“Abortion providers seem to believe that they should be exempt from regulation because it would make a hardship on their ability to make a profit,” said Ledbetter, the SBTC’s director of communications and ministry relationships. “Pro-life Americans reject this argument of those with a financial interest in being sheltered from reasonable regulation.”
The brief, written by lawyers for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), contends the law is consistent with Supreme Court decisions for more than four decades that give states the authority to protect the lives and health of women seeking abortions. Even the Roe v. Wade opinion, which legalized abortion in 1973, said states may adopt standards for abortion doctors and clinics, the brief offers. The brief quotes Roe:
“The State has a legitimate interest in seeing to it that abortion, like any other medical procedure, is performed under circumstances that insure maximum safety for the patient. This interest obviously extends at least to the performing physician and his staff, to the facilities involved, to the availability of aftercare, and to adequate provision for any complication or emergency that might arise.”
The 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling – which permitted state regulations if they did not place an “undue burden” on women – “allows even greater regulation of abortion to protect maternal life and health,” the organizations contend in the brief. “To hold that states may not enact measures like the Texas law challenged here would be a betrayal of over 40 years of precedent,” they say.
The brief also points to what it calls “ample evidence” that the requirements for doctors and clinics that safeguard women’s health and lives.
“[W]ith regard to health and safety standards, the interests of abortion providers and patients do not coincide and, to some extent, are adverse,” the brief says. “Providers have a direct economic interest in avoiding the time and expense needed to comply with health and safety standards. Patients, on the other hand, have an obvious interest in their own safety and in not having their health compromised by any procedure.”
Advantages to requiring physicians to have admitting privileges include credentialing for the doctors and avoiding delays in hospitalization if there are problems, according to the brief.
The recommendation of the National Abortion Federation is more stringent than the Texas law, the brief points out. The association of abortion providers calls for doctors to be able to admit patients to a hospital no more than 20 minutes away, while Texas requires a hospital to be within 30 miles of the abortion clinic.
Planned Parenthood, the country’s leading abortion provider, has acknowledged at least 210 women a year are hospitalized in Texas after seeking an abortion, the brief says.
Also signing onto the brief were the National Association of Evangelicals, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and Texas Catholic Conference.
An opinion in the case, which is Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, is expected before the court ends its term in late June or early July.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

2/5/2016 12:38:25 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Copenhagen: A godless paradise?

February 5 2016 by William Bagsby, IMB

COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Welcome to the capital of one of the happiest countries. No, there’s no Willy Wonka, perpetual street sing-alongs or continual dance parties.
“I wouldn’t say they are overly joyous. They’re not running the streets singing Pharrell’s ‘Happy,’ dancing down the streets like ‘Glee’ or something, but they’re pretty content,” said Brad Smith,* an International Mission Board worker in Copenhagen.
Danes take care of one another. Health care, education, unemployment benefits and so on are provided; maybe not the best, but they have what they need. Smith said, “A lot of Danes will tell you it’s because they’ve lowered their expectations.”

IMB video by Byron Stacey
Brad Smith*, an IMB worker living in Copenhagen wants to share his faith with his Danish friends, but finds that the postmodern, cold-weather culture requires a change from traditional ways of building relationships as well as a go-and-tell approach to evangelism.

Happiness in these terms is measured in the well-being of its citizens, meaning they feel reasonably safe, secure and content.
Danes in general also seem content with the notion that there is no God. In fact, it’s rather an embarrassing topic to be discussed, as if they’ve moved on from such a story.
So if they are content, why try to change them or bring up Jesus?
In short, Smith and his friends believe and desire that God should be worshipped.
Christianity in Denmark isn’t foreign. It’s even regarded as a Christian nation, as state churches have been a part of Danish society for hundreds of years.

IMB video by Byron Stacey
Danish Christians Henrik and Sofie Nissen have moved from their comfortable inner city church environment to an area where there there is little Christian presence. Getting to know their neighbors, make new friends and gain trust has taken time and intentionality.

Henrik and Sofie Anne Nissen, a Danish Christian couple, share what it’s like to live in a society that claims Christianity, yet doesn’t believe in God.
“I had a professor call it the distant church,” Henrik said, “because they like that church is there. They can go there when they get married, or they can go there and have their child christened, but they don’t want it to intervene in their lives.”
The Nissens were both raised outside the Danish national church, but still in a Christian community in what they coin in a familiar term, the Christian bubble.
“We’ve grown up in church, but most of us haven’t seen a successful way of being missionaries to our friends and to people around us,” said Sofie.
Christianity currently works in this culture by staying within the Christian community and in the confines of societal norms, without challenging them.
“If we’re living on the church campus, and we’re constantly in church activities, there’s no space for anyone to see anything working unless they come into our world, and that’s the Old Testament – come and see, come and taste,” Smith said. “Whereas, the New Testament is go and tell, and so it’s a paradigm shift.”
Smith said he saw this in the U.S., yet felt like he stepped into the future of a socially acceptable Christianity when moving to Copenhagen.
Postmodernism is the realization that communism or capitalism or any one system can’t fix every problem, Smith said, which gets carried into a post-Christian thinking that there is no absolute truth.
“Christianity is an absolute religion,” said Smith. “Jesus said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except by me.’ That’s a pretty absolute statement.”
To reintroduce Jesus in this culture is a challenge for the church.
“They don’t just want to hear your words. They want to see your deeds,” said Henrick. “That’s the thing that’s going to challenge them the most, that they see that our words and our actions connect. This is actually what we’re doing, this is what we’re about.”
The Nissens and Smith take confidence that they are joining God as they love their neighbors.
“That comes by praying. That comes by sharing what you feel God has said to you about these people, and then allowing God Himself, allowing the Holy Spirit to just speak to them in a simple way,” said Henrik. “It’s not up to us to convince people. That’s the Holy Spirit’s work. So often we make it all about us, when it’s really all about God.”
*Name changed
(EDITOR’S NOTE – William Bagsby is an IMB writer based in London.)

2/5/2016 12:24:01 PM by William Bagsby, IMB | with 0 comments

LifeWay trustees authorize construction of new headquarters

February 4 2016 by Carol Pipes, Baptist Press

Trustees of LifeWay Christian Resources authorized the purchase of land and construction of a new corporate headquarters in downtown Nashville during their Feb. 1-2 meeting.
“This property is not just a location – it’s a new community in which we can invest ourselves for the future,” president and CEO Thom S. Rainer told trustees.


Artists rendering of LifeWay Christian Resources' proposed new building in Nashville's central business district

The property is five blocks north of LifeWay’s current headquarters with frontage on Interstate 40/65. LifeWay administration will continue its due diligence on the 2.7 acres of land in Capitol View, a new mixed-use development site in Nashville’s central business district.
Rainer told trustees the Capitol View development would be a great location for employees and provide convenient access to hotels, restaurants and meeting space for LifeWay visitors and conference attendees.
The authorization included a recommendation to enter into a contract with Gresham, Smith and Partners for the design of the facility and “to execute other contracts and documents as necessary for LifeWay to complete the new campus.”
“We are designing a building that will reflect LifeWay’s culture both now and for the future,” Rainer said. “It will be a building conducive to collaboration, innovation and fun.”

During a Feb. 4 news conference, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry joined Rainer to announce LifeWay's decision to remain downtown. She said, "I know LifeWay had many options, and we are excited they have chosen to remain a part of the fabric of Nashville."
About 1,100 LifeWay employees are based in the downtown offices and will move into the new building. Rainer estimated the completion of the new building could be as early as November 2017.
During his report to trustees, Rainer talked about the many changes that have occurred at LifeWay over the last 10 years. “We have faced headwinds again and again. But God has worked through these times. It is amazing to see what God has done through LifeWay.
“We are here for such a time as this,” Rainer continued. “And it’s time to move forward.”
In other business, LifeWay trustees:

  • Elected new board officers. They are: Kent Dacus, vice president for enrollment and student services at California Baptist University, as chairman; Bruce Moseley, pastor of Zion Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala., as vice chairman; and Darron Edwards, senior pastor of United Believers Community Church in Kansas City, Mo., as recording secretary.

  • Discussed and approved responses to two motions referred to LifeWay by the Southern Baptist Convention during last summer’s meeting. The responses will be reported to the 2016 convention in St. Louis, Mo., June 14-15.

  • Recognized eight trustees who are ending their board service in June. They are: Terry Braswell, Lithia Springs, Ga.; Jeanne Davis, Brentwood, Tenn.; Johnny Dickerson, Mansfield, Texas; Kathleen Todd, Brunswick, Maine; Craig Carlisle, Rainbow City, Ala.; Michael Inouye, Kaunakakai, Hawaii; John Hardin, Washington, D.C.; and Jesse Messer, Asheville, N.C. The trustees had a special time of prayer for the family of Messer, who passed away Monday morning.

  • Heard reports from each of the organization’s vice presidents regarding progress and plans for ministry advance.

  • Received a “clean audit” report from LifeWay’s outside auditor Ernst & Young.

2/4/2016 1:41:00 PM by Carol Pipes, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

The Super Bowl: Does God care who wins?

February 4 2016 by Bob Smietana, LifeWay Research

An old gospel hymn says God’s eye is on the sparrow, but what about panthers and broncos?
When it comes to the ones from Carolina and Denver matched up for Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, most Americans are skeptical about divine intervention on the football field, according to a new survey from LifeWay Research.
A phone survey of 1,000 Americans found nearly 9 out of 10 respondents (85 percent) said “no” when asked, “Does God determine winners and losers in the Super Bowl?” About 1 in 10 (11 percent) said “yes.” One in 25 (4 percent) didn’t know.


Americans who are a bit more likely to say God determines the Super Bowl winner include evangelicals (15 percent), members of a non-Christian faith (18 percent) and those who attend a religious service at least once a week (13 percent). So are those with graduate degrees (15 percent).
In popular culture, God gets some credit for two of the most well-known plays in NFL playoff history: the 1975 “Hail Mary” pass from Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson and the “Immaculate Reception” caught by Pittsburgh Steelers’ fullback Franco Harris in 1972.
Still, most Americans don’t believe God even cares about the outcome of the NFL’s big game, now at its 50-year mark.
Nine out of 10 (88 percent) said “no” when asked, “Does God care who wins the Super Bowl?” Almost 1 in 10 (8 percent) said “yes.” One in 20 didn’t know (5 percent).
Christians (89 percent) are more likely to say God doesn’t care about the Super Bowl winner than those of other faiths (79 percent). Those with some college (91 percent) are more skeptical than those with graduate degrees (81 percent). Americans who attend a religious service at least once a week (10 percent) are more likely to say God cares than those who attend once or twice a month (3 percent).
Those with evangelical beliefs (83 percent) are less likely to answer no when asked if God cares about the Super Bowl winner than other Americans (90 percent). They are also more likely to be unsure (7 percent) than other Americans (3 percent).
Americans remain devoted to pro football – especially the Super Bowl. Last year, a reported 114 million Americans tuned in to watch the Seattle Seahawks take on the New England Patriots.
And while faith and football sometimes go together – NFL players often form prayer circles after the game ends – few fans admit seeking divine aid for their teams. A 2014 LifeWay Research survey found only about 1 in 8 Americans (13 percent) say they have prayed for a sports team.
“Our previous research has shown most Americans think God is concerned with their day-to-day decisions,” said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research, based in Nashville. “Yet this survey shows Americans do not see God as interested in their favorite sport.”
Methodology: The phone survey of Americans was conducted Sept. 14-28, 2015. The calling utilized Random Digit Dialing. Fifty percent of completes were among landlines and 50 percent among cellphones. Maximum quotas and slight weights were used for gender, region, age, ethnicity and education to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.6 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine, published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

2/4/2016 12:26:37 PM by Bob Smietana, LifeWay Research | with 0 comments

In prison with her daughter, mother cries out to God

February 4 2016 by Kayla Rinker, Pathway

Sandy Harrell had been in prison for a few months when a guard told her that her daughter Casey would be there soon.
And not just for a visit.
Harrell’s youngest child was about to join her at Missouri’s Chillicothe Correctional Center.
The chaotic life of using and selling methamphetamine had caught up with them – again.
“I’d been in jail before, but never with my daughter. That’s when reality slapped me in the face,” Harrell said.
“She and I were in our cell one morning and I was drinking coffee and watching her sleep. Soon she woke up and we were sitting there together and she said, ‘Look Mom, isn’t this great? It’s the first time we haven’t fought over a meth pipe even once!’“


Sandy Harrell

Harrell’s heart instantly broke. After her daughter left the cell to take a shower, Harrell remembers crying out to God for help. In that moment she realized that the life of drug abuse is the only life her daughter, now 30, had ever known.
“I remember asking God to help me because I had lived no other life and something had to change,” she said. “I felt His presence and a kind of peacefulness and I remember a warm sensation covering me. I knew He was listening.
“I was raised in a good home; I just wish I could say the same for my own children,” Harrell said.
A single mom of three kids, Harrell started doing meth after having her second son, Chad. She started using it as a way of losing some weight after having a baby, but it turned into years of drug abuse. Harrell said she even used meth while she was pregnant with Casey.
“Because of my drug use with Casey, I didn’t even discover I was pregnant until I was seven months along,” she said. “I didn’t stop using even then. My baby, my youngest child, had never seen me clean.”
Though Harrell always believed in God, she never believed she was worthy of His love. But she knows God saved her at the Chillicothe Correctional Center. But Harrell had no idea how to live a different life than the one she had been living for the previous 34 years.
Then she had to do one of the most difficult things she’s ever done: “I had to leave my daughter in the prison when I was released on July 2, 2014.”
Harrell had only one friend who was “clean” and living a godly life, but was in another town.
At first she stayed with her son, Chad, who miraculously escaped the life of drugs and crime that was normal to the rest of the family. But it wasn’t long before she moved to her own apartment.
Harrell was alone for the first time in her life.
“I was worried,” she said. “I didn’t have a church or any clean friends yet, so I read my Bible and prayed – a lot. I checked out a couple of churches, but I couldn’t find a place where I fit in.”
Then she received a call from her cousin, Barry Agee, who asked if she had being doing any meth since she got out of prison.
“I told him I didn’t want to get high anymore,” Harrell said.
Agee then invited her to a Saturday night gathering at Freeway Ministries, a ministry funded in part by Crossway Baptist Church (CBC) in Springfield, Mo., and founded by a CBC member. Freeway Ministries focuses on assisting the local church with hard-to-reach men and women, setting forth the gospel in a way they can relate to – by people who have been in the same circumstances.
“It was exactly what I was looking for. I loved it,” Harrell said.
She started a 20-week discipleship class at Freeway that answered many of the questions she had about God. She also met women who showed her how to live a life without drug abuse.
“I always went to church with my mom,” Harrell said, “but I never had a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“With Jesus,” she said, “even the worst days I have now are better than the best days of my old life.”
Since first walking through the doors at Freeway more than a year ago, Harrell has been baptized, she has become a member of Crossway and she volunteers at Freeway and at Clarity Recovery and Wellness, a drug addiction treatment center.
“I have been able to get involved and see lives changed every week at Freeway,” Harrell said. “God always shows up on Saturday nights.”
“Sandy is a bright light,” said John Stroup, ministry planter and evangelist for Freeway Ministries. “God has done a great work in her heart and life.”
But there is still pain and consequence to sin. Harrell’s daughter, her oldest son and her husband remain in prison. She prays for them daily and writes letters to them, sharing her newfound faith and knowledge.
And God is working. Recently her husband Gary, who had never read a Bible since Harrell had known him, was saved in prison and has been reading his Bible daily.
“God restores families and I am waiting on that day that we are all together again,” Harrell said. “In the meantime, God has filled the void in my life with an awesome church family.”
And when Harrell thinks back to her past and some of the dark and dangerous situations her choices led her to, she is always reminded of Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (NIV).
“My former chaotic lifestyle led me to houses where there were gunfights and where people were stabbed ... when I should have been home with my kids,” Harrell said.
“God protected me through it all; He always provided a way for me to get out; I see that now. I am so excited to see what His plans are for me. I just have to be obedient.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kayla Rinker is a writer in Park Hills, Mo. This article first appeared in The Pathway at, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)

2/4/2016 12:14:27 PM by Kayla Rinker, Pathway | with 0 comments

Female military conscription ‘absurd’ but likely

February 4 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A Feb. 2 proposal by two top U.S. generals that women be required to register for future military drafts represents what a former Army chief of chaplains called the unfortunate end result of the Obama administration’s decision to abolish all gender-based restrictions for military jobs.
“The sad fact is,” said former Army chief of chaplains Douglas Carver, “that our national leaders have championed gender equality in the Armed Services, specifically in the Special Operations and combat duty positions, without fully considering its impact on combat readiness, teambuilding, military recruiting for an all-volunteer force and the stability of military families.”
Carver’s comments, which parallel a 1998 Southern Baptist Convention resolution opposing “the training and assigning of females to military combat service” on theological and strategic grounds, came in response to a query from Baptist Press a day after Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army, and Gen. Robert Neller, Marine Corps commandant, both told the Senate Armed Services Committee they favor a change in America’s Selective Service System requiring young women to register for the draft along with their male counterparts.


Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jeremy J. Fowler Photo from

In December, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced women would be permitted as of Jan. 2 to enter elite combat forces “as long as they qualify and meet the standards,” according to a Washington Post report at the time. Milley and Neller’s appearance before the Armed Services Committee was occasioned by a hearing on implementation of that decision.
Neller told The Post following his Senate testimony, “Now that the restrictions that exempted women from [combat jobs] don’t exist ... [it] doesn’t mean you’re going to serve, but you go register.”
In Carver’s opinion, “Congress now has no legal option to prevent the conscription of women since the Commander in Chief has directed that the Armed Services become a level playing field for all military duty positions.”
Carver, a retired major general and the North American Mission Board’s executive director of chaplaincy, said he “fully expect[s]” Congress to follow the generals’ recommendation and amend the Military Selective Service Act to require virtually all females between ages 18 and 25 to register for the draft.
Carver added in written comments, “I can only imagine the chaos to military communities should our nation reinstate the draft due to a threat to our national security. In the words of an old World War I song, who will ‘keep the home fires burning’ when both moms and dads are required by law to go to war?”
Mark Coppenger, a retired Army infantry officer and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor, raised a question about the deeper motives of Milley and Neller. He argued they may have made their statements to highlight the absurdity of opening all combat roles to women.
“I have no idea what those service chiefs were thinking when, yesterday, they urged that women be required to register for the draft,” Coppenger said in written comments. “But I have a flicker of hope that they were trying to embarrass the social engineers who’ve foisted female ‘grunts’ upon us (a term of endearment for the infantry).”
The generals, Coppenger said, may have been stating implicitly, “You want equality/identity. Okay, you’ve got it. How does that feel?”
“Of course, social madness has proceeded apace since the 1970s,” Coppenger added, “and we have more people willing to embrace absurdities and abominations for the ‘great’ ideological causes of the day, but maybe this latest move will help stir the voting populace to sanity.”
Last year, then-Marine Corps commandant Joseph Dunford, who is now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recommended women continue to be excluded from some frontline combat jobs. When Neller took over as commandant, he vowed to implement the Obama administration’s decision.
Coppenger recalled his final year of college when a draft for the Vietnam War was instituted and American views on women in combat were much different.
“I may have missed it, but I don’t remember a man ... arguing that it just wasn’t fair that all those able-bodied women went scot-free,” Coppenger said. Consensus existed “that it would be absurd, even despicable, to force our nation’s mothers, daughters and sisters suit up for ‘Nam.”
The SBC’s resolution “on women in combat” argued females should not be assigned to combat units because doing so:

  • “Rejects gender-based distinctions established by God in the order of creation”;

  • “Undermines male headship in the family by failing to recognize the unique gender-based responsibility of men to protect women and children”; and

  • “Subordinates the combat readiness of American troops, and the national security of the United States, to the unbiblical social agenda of feminism.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is department head of denominational and public relations services for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

2/4/2016 12:08:27 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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