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Guest Columns

Bullying & doing the right thing

August 29 2014 by Bob Stith, Baptist Press

It has been over 60 years but I still remember Jimmy M.

My family was going through a time of turmoil and a long string of moves necessitating yet another new school. I don’t remember the name of any other classmate nor the name of my teacher, so why do I remember Jimmy so vividly?

Jimmy was a bully. I was his target on only a couple of occasions and I was always conscious of his presence.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 160,000 kids stay home from school every day for fear of being bullied.

In this era of technology-fueled openness, we’re learning that bullies are not as rare as many have believed and that their mayhem may be more lasting than just the fading bruises of childhood encounters. A number of young people have taken their lives, including several in the Dallas-Fort Worth area where I live.

Many of those who have taken their lives struggled with same-sex attractions. On March 29, 2007, 17-year-old Eric Mohat was told by a classmate that he should “go home and shoot himself” – the last in a long line of bullying incidents the boy had been subjected to at his high school in Ohio. That afternoon, he took a gun from his father’s bureau drawer, locked himself in his room and pulled the trigger.

The church’s discomfort with homosexuality is no excuse to turn a blind eye to those who are bullied because of their struggle with same-sex attraction. The fact that children are taking their lives should be of far greater concern to us than whether we agree or disagree with homosexual conduct. Indeed, if our personal fears drive us into silence over bullying, we’re more of an accomplice than a comforter.

Can you imagine for a moment the pain and anguish these children felt? Can you imagine what their parents and loved ones continue to feel? Should we not do all in our power to stop that pain before it starts?

It isn’t necessary to share the same beliefs with others to seek to prevent suffering and pain. Christians above all people should know this. God did not send His Son into a world that was in perfect alignment with His will. Scripture tells us: “He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him” (John 1:11). And this: “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8). Jesus was not showing approval of a lifestyle, for example, when He protected the woman taken in adultery from religious bullies.

As Christians we have a unique perspective on bullying. Our Lord suffered the ultimate act of bullying. The government, the religious authorities and the multitudes in the streets all vehemently demanded His death. And yes, our fallen humanity makes us a part of that.

If for no other reason, our hearts should break over the deep despair and suffering so many children are experiencing. Studies show that serious illness, struggling to hold down a regular job and poor social relationships are among the adverse outcomes in adulthood faced by those exposed to bullying in childhood.

I was asked once by a gay man if I would be willing to go into schools with him to speak against bullying. I responded that I would go anywhere, anytime to seek to put an end to the harassment of children for any reason. I could not, however, do anything that would give the impression that homosexual conduct is biblically acceptable. I’m certainly aware that this last statement, for many homosexuals, disqualifies me as a compassionate advocate for kids.

Too often gay activists are unwilling to join with conservative Christians because no matter what we do or say, if we believe the Bible says homosexual acts are sin, we are labeled as homophobic. At the same time, Christians often are unwilling to do the right thing because we may be perceived to be affirming homosexual conduct.

But it is precisely as our kids see adults able to honestly and civilly disagree that the tension level will be lowered. That which should set us apart as human beings is to be able to honestly and honorably disagree. As Christians it is incumbent on us to love all the world – not just those who are like us.

We are missing a great opportunity in our schools, communities and nation to manifest the love and compassion of Christ to those who feel hopeless, to those who suffer day after day with pain they should never have to endure. Our churches and pastors must speak out. Our youth ministries should be training our kids to address this in a Christ-like way. Our national leaders must continue to speak out with a clear, consistent voice. Can we afford to do less?

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Stith is founder of Family and Gender Issues Ministries in Southlake, Texas, who formerly served as the Southern Baptist Convention’s national strategist for gender issues.)

8/29/2014 9:41:39 AM by Bob Stith, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Robin Williams & pain relief

August 28 2014 by William Hardwick, Guest Column

The media is abuzz with the news that acclaimed actor and comedian, Robin Williams, has died from suicide. Many are glorifying the man for a career that caused so many to laugh and think more deeply about how we view life. Because of this, they are at a loss for why someone with so much humor could have battled such deep depression that he would take his own life. Over the next few days, weeks, possibly even months, there will be plenty of psychologists on the news describing all kinds of signs, symptoms and related causes for this, but here we will postulate about only one – hopelessness.
 
Many think they know the real Mr. Williams, but they don’t. As an audience we have seen him in many roles – acting as someone we can identify with. There have been interviews in which he opens up a little, but no one opens up completely, especially not in front of the whole world. In the minds of many who reach the point of depression there is a secret world they shrink back into in public, but especially in private. There is an emptiness and lonely presence that they feel, a feeling that cannot be explained simply by words unless you have been there.
 
As far as we know Williams had knowledge of the God of Holy Scripture, but never placed his trust in Christ alone for his salvation. He was a man who lived with a worldview that did not have a place of eternal hope. And in this life he also reached a point where all the worries, fears, anxieties and troubles caved in on him and swallowed him. His hopelessness reached a breaking point, the point of no return. He made a decision, and it was a final one.
 
I do not want to be misunderstood here. Suicide victims are not only those without a personal relationship with Jesus.
 
Believers can be trapped into this same death spiral of hopelessness. The noise of the lies from within and without, drown out the truth that they have not only come to know but for some have even come to share with others.
 
The scripture teaches, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh this will mean a fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:21-23). To depart the struggles and battles of this world is a way to reach Christ sooner than later in their minds.
 
Just a few weeks ago on July 29, a 15-year old young man with a vibrant faith in Jesus Christ, Braxton Caner, also reached that point. His name was not plastered all over the mainstream news. Accolades did not pour out from presidents, pontiffs and potentates over his decision to leave this earth and enter into the arms of his Savior. While the media is highlighting suicide this week, the pain is still raw for the family and friends of this young man as well.
 
The message is real – suicide and depression hit all ages, all political and socio-economic strata. Some are pushed toward this decision because of outside forces that engage the inner turmoil of hopelessness from one reason to another. There are warning signs, but sometimes they are so subtle you will never see them. There is often no solution that will catch them in time.
 
Here is the lesson: hug and kiss those you love – not just daily, but often. Remind them that you love them and that God truly does have a greater plan for them.
 
The rest of the text in Philippians says, “Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again” (Philippians 1:24-26).
 
Hope is found in Christ. Even the strong, evangelistic Christian needs the reminder of their mission here on earth. May this article help find some closure and some peace to those who have lost a loved one at their own hand.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – William Hardwick is pastor of Quankie Baptist Church in Roanoke Rapids.)

8/28/2014 11:43:12 AM by William Hardwick, Guest Column | with 0 comments



Why I’m glad David Platt is the new IMB president

August 28 2014 by Russell D. Moore, Baptist Press

Today the trustees of our SBC International Mission Board (IMB) elected my friend David Platt to serve as president, and I am radically happy. Here’s why.

I have been praying for a long, long time that he would be elected. Our IMB president must be one who can drive our missions focus in a new way for a new era. It’s not enough that Southern Baptists’ global missions leader motivates us all to give and to go (although he must do that). He must be someone who can connect from the Scriptures how the Great Commission, and especially our global Great Commission responsibilities, are the urgent concern of all of us. Most Christians know that Matthew 28 and Acts 1 command us to go, to reach the unreached with the gospel. We need though to be constantly reminded how every text, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 is connected to the mission of reaching the nations.

In a rapidly shifting American culture, this means modeling a vision of why it is that cooperating together for this task is connected to everything else that we do. We need to activate and enthuse a new generation for the adventure of reaching the world with the gospel.

Look at the latest Pew Research poll of Millennials. The primary problem there is a mistrust of institutions – from political parties to marriage to church membership and beyond. We cannot simply say, “Look, we have the greatest missionary organization in the history of the Christian church” (although I believe that to be true). We must speak to a generation wary of institutions of why cooperation together is part of the eternal purposes of God in Christ.

We need leaders radical enough to make changes, but radical in the right, biblical sense. We need a radical, not a revolutionary. Someone radical enough to build up, not radical in order to tear down. That’s precisely what David is.

We need leaders radical enough to work together, against the headwinds of a secularizing American culture and a global persecution of Christians that is, if anything, only just beginning.

I have friends who were concerned because David’s church, The Church at Brook Hills, though they heavily supported world missions, didn’t do so mostly through Cooperative Program (CP) channels. I understand that concern. If I didn’t know David, I might be just as concerned. I believe in the CP, and always have. As the president of an entity funded through the CP almost entirely, I would be insane to celebrate the election of someone I thought wasn’t committed to CP.

David believes in the importance of CP. He does not want the mess that we came out of before 1925: a missionary force having to spend inordinate time at home fundraising. The society model doesn’t work in reaching the world for Christ, and he knows that.

The CP will thrive and flourish in the future. I firmly believe that. And I believe that’s the case not because Southern Baptists will feel guilty if they don’t. I believe that because there is a new sense of energy, excitement and focus. A new generation of Southern Baptists will give, and I think give sacrificially, to CP because we believe, together, in a common cause, despite all our differences.

David Platt, the other entity presidents, and I plan to work hard, together, to say to the generations that gave sacrificially and built this great denomination, “You were right. This is the best mechanism for cooperating that can be found.” We also plan to say to those churches that want to reinvent the wheel, “How can you say the SBC isn’t committed to change, to innovation, to generational connectedness? Look at the unity, the purpose, and the cooperation together. Now, let’s work, all of us, together.”

I know and love David Platt. We have prayed through this, together and separately, and I am enthusiastic. I understand how those who maybe don’t know him, or who don’t know his heart here, might be concerned. The Cooperative Program is too important a legacy to ignore or to undermine. The Apostle Paul himself had to prove himself to the apostles at Jerusalem. Paul reflected that James Peter and John “asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do” (Gal. 2:10).

Southern Baptists expect us, all of us, to guard our legacy of cooperation, and that’s the very thing David is eager to do. And, together, we want to do more than just protect the legacy. We want also to build on it to meet the crushing burden of global lostness.

I think what you’ll see in the years to come is an IMB that is just as cooperative as ever with the rest of Southern Baptist life. You will see a dynamic and close working relationship between the entities. And you’ll see the Cooperative Program proving the legacy right: as a new generation joins together to work, together, to see the gospel cover the face of the earth.

In my view, that’s the right kind of radical for radically challenging time.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Russell D. Moore is president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.)

8/28/2014 11:30:05 AM by Russell D. Moore, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



World’s bad news, God’s Good News

August 27 2014 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

Overwhelmed by the cascade of grim global headlines, a young friend of mine announced he couldn’t take it anymore – at least until tomorrow.

“I don’t know why I care,” he wrote. “I don’t know why I bother. I check the news. Bad. All bad. Unless the news is horrible, it’s bad. Why care? Why bother? Why not just play ‘Angry Birds’ and pretend it doesn’t affect me? It sounds easier.”

Perhaps you can relate. I know I do. Violence and hatred seem to rage everywhere. Wars, skirmishes and suffering flare up where we don’t expect them, and where we do. Ukraine and Russia. Syria. Iraq. Israel and Gaza. West Africa.

Death and disease abound. Innocents are infected, blown out of the sky, kidnapped, driven from their homes, shot in the crossfire. In some places, the bad guys seem to be winning – if we can even figure out who the bad guys are. It’s too complicated, too confusing, too depressing. It’s tempting to tune it out.

Most people do.

Not my friend, however. Despite his frustration and discouragement, I know he won’t stop reading, watching, caring and praying. He’s an intelligent and compassionate young man, for one thing. He’s concerned about world affairs. He makes a point of keeping up with what’s happening and tries to understand it, unlike many others.

Most important, as a child of God, he’s in touch with the mind and heart of God, who so loved the world that He gave His only Son to redeem it. If He loved even those who hated Him, we must do likewise.

“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love,” the apostle John teaches. “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:8-14, NASB).

It’s only His love, through His Spirit, that changes a broken world. By His grace, He chooses to use us, if we submit to Him. His love is more than enough to make up for our lack of it.

Another young person I know, on a youth mission trip to Amsterdam, the Dutch capital, arrived the same week in July that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew members. Two-thirds of the passengers were Dutch. People on the streets of Amsterdam were just beginning to experience the shock of the tragedy as my friend and others on the youth team walked through the city and distributed more than 6,000 copies of the Gospel of John.

Some people they encountered rejected the small gift of truth. Like many Europeans, the Dutch consider themselves secular and post-Christian. But many accepted it – many more than the Amsterdam-based Christian worker helping the young people expected – and they began reading it. Perhaps they were looking for something to hold on to, something to hope in.

While interacting with them, my young acquaintance learned some things about herself. She realized she wasn’t as tolerant, as patient or as loving as she thought she was.

“But through learning all these ‘I am nots,’ I learned who God is,” she said. Distributing the gospel, “even if they were going to reject it a second later, is so much more important than my comfort.... I learned to really care for and love the Dutch people.”

So it is with all who seek to follow Him. It’s not who we are; it’s who He is. And He has overcome the world.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is the International Mission Board’s global correspondent.)

8/27/2014 9:35:56 AM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Rejection of natural law will lead to loss of Constitution

August 26 2014 by Alex McFarland, Guest Column/Hamilton Strategies Media

Few were surprised when a panel of the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision striking down Virginia’s voter-approved prohibition against same-sex marriage. After all, the court’s decision continues a trend courts across American have been following: overturning voter-backed legislation upholding natural law in favor of recognizing the “right” of gay couples to marry.
 
Alex McFarland points out that our nation’s Constitution is based on a recognition of natural law, and the rejection of that law will inevitably lead to the loss of our Constitution.
 
Author of 16 books, McFarland is the director for Christian worldview and apologetics at the Christian Worldview Center of North Greenville University in Greenville, S.C.
 
“What’s particularly worrisome about the pathway to the legalization of same-sex marriage is that the only way to travel down this path is to abolish the belief in natural law,” McFarland said.
 
“As any student of our nation’s history understands, our entire system of government is based on the understanding that natural law exists and that it governs our liberties.
 
“Our own Declaration of Independence directly cites natural law as the basis for declaring independence from Great Britain – ‘When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them….’ The rejection of natural law leads neither to liberty nor to equality, but rather to anarchy. And this will lead to the end of the U.S. Constitution and the end of our democratic republic.”
 
McFarland further said that only within the framework of a Judeo-Christian culture that recognizes natural law do individuals have the freedom to be gay.
 
“A society that recognizes natural law, as our Judeo-Christian society has long done, is a society that also maximizes liberty for individuals,” he continued. “Within this framework, if someone wishes to practice homosexuality, go ahead. But don’t tear down the framework that gives you the freedom to be gay. Those who embrace homosexuality should be actively advocating for a Judeo-Christian culture that recognizes natural law. Because the two options if they don’t are the iron fist of Statism or the iron fist of Sharia. And both of these options mean not only the death of freedom but, literally, the death of any individuals who disagree with the state.”
 
Virginia’s attorney general Mark Herring made it clear early on that he would not defend the state’s law supporting natural marriage.
 
Attorney General Roy Cooper of North Carolina, which also falls under the jurisdiction of the 4th Circuit Court, also said that he would not defend his state’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, saying, “It is time to stop making arguments we will lose.”
 
Earlier this year, U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, advised state attorneys general that they are not required to defend any state prohibitions against same-sex marriage, despite the fact that attorneys general are, by definition, the primary law-enforcement officers of their respective governments.
 
McFarland said, “This is what’s so frightening about the events now unfolding: elected officials are essentially changing the laws of their states that have been legitimately passed through due process. … And while homosexual individuals are now rejoicing because the fiats are in their favor, if we as a nation continue to reject the rule of law, natural law and our Constitution, then there will come a day when the fiats will be in no one’s favor. Unfortunately when that day comes, we’ll have no Constitution to stand on to defend our liberties as we’ve allowed it to be trampled beyond the point of recovery.”
 
McFarland is also organizer of the annual Truth for a New Generation apologetics conference. “Life and Liberty: Given by God” will be the theme of this year’s conference, which will be held Sept. 5-6 at First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C. 
 
The conference will teach that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and will also help equip attendees with the facts they need to fight for our liberties, along with the understanding that the Source of our life and freedoms is God and nothing else.
 
Confirmed speakers include radio host and Fox News contributor Todd Starnes, renowned pediatric neurosurgeon and nationally known speaker Dr. Ben Carson, and Eric Metaxas, author of the New York Time Bestseller Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Also headlining the conference will be Joni Eareckson Tada, Tim Wildmon, Josh McDowell, David Barton and more.
 
Tickets to the conference are available for $69.95. Attendees can also register for a special “Evening with Ben Carson,” for $50, a “VIP Lunch with Todd Starnes” for $50, or both for just $80.
 
For more information or to register for the event, visit TruthforaNewGeneration.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Alex McFarland is a speaker, writer and advocate for Christian apologetics who lives in North Carolina.) 

8/26/2014 11:04:11 AM by Alex McFarland, Guest Column/Hamilton Strategies Media | with 0 comments



Impacting lostness among bikers at Sturgis

August 25 2014 by Brian Davis, Guest Column

On July 31, I began a journey; some might call it the journey of a lifetime. I joined a group of 11 other bikers that, over the next nine days, would travel over 4,000 miles as we rode our motorcycles to the 74th Annual Black Hills Motor Classic, aka Sturgis. Our group would be joining other volunteers from across the Southern Baptist Convention to work with the Dakota Baptist Convention (DBC) in that convention’s annual evangelism effort among the bikers attending the rally.
 
Attendance at this year’s rally was estimated at just over 400,000, which is slightly less than recent years. However, next year’s estimated attendance for the 75th anniversary of the Sturgis rally is projected to approach one million. I hope that you will begin praying now for the effort that will take place at next year’s rally.
 
Our group consisted of convention staff, associational staff and church members from a variety of North Carolina churches.
 
After riding three and one half days to the rally, we worked for three days and returned to North Carolina in just three days. The final day involved riding 16 hours through heavy fog, light rain, hot sun, with the day ending with heavy rain and downpours.
 
However, all of that was well worth the effort as we watched God work among the bikers in an amazing way. The approach used by the DBC is very simple and has remained virtually unchanged for the last nine years. The DBC purchases a new Harley Davidson to give away in a drawing; this year the bike was a 2014 Road King. To register to win the bike requires three minutes of a person’s time in order that a volunteer may share the story of how Jesus Christ has changed their life. Only after the volunteer has shared their story may an individual register to win the motorcycle.
 
Amazingly, thousands of bikers gave volunteers the three minutes required, and as a result 513 souls were added to the Kingdom this year. Throughout the nine-year history of this outreach, more than 6,000 bikers have become followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
The DBC is not the only Christian group engaged in ministry at Sturgis. One group was seen providing free oil changes – and sharing the gospel while the bikers waited.
 
Another group provided free bike washes, followed by the opportunity to have a picture made with your clean bike – and the gospel is shared as bikers wait. A local church provided free breakfast, and free parking while the bikers are enjoying the meal – and the gospel is shared during the meal. Other groups were also engaging bikers in many other effective ways.
 
The value of each of these ministries was driven home during our team’s first work session. A young man tentatively entered the tent, looking intently at the motorcycle.
 
Volunteers began to engage him in conversation only to quickly hear him say, “I’m not here to register. I only wanted to come back and say, ‘Thank you.’ I got saved through this ministry last year.”
 
If you are interested in volunteering in 2015 for the 75th Annual Black Hills Motorcycle Classic, visit www.sturgisbikegiveaway.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Davis is associate executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)

8/25/2014 5:08:32 PM by Brian Davis, Guest Column | with 0 comments



Cultivating a church’s heart for the persecuted

August 25 2014 by Nathan Knight, Baptist Press

It doesn’t take long when reading the Bible to see that God is impassioned for the plight of His people, such as this passage in Exodus:

“Then the Lord said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them...’” (Exodus 3:7-8).

In the face of an ever-increasing worldwide persecution of Christians, we would be wise to cultivate practices in our churches that might more readily reflect this notion of God’s nature. I would like to note three ways you can implement this in the life of your church that will, eventually, lead to three rewards.

Three practices:

1. Apply biblical truth locally by using what is happening globally.

Every pastor labors to try and faithfully apply the truths of the Bible in a way that will assault his people and spur them on toward faithfulness. They do that by considering their own context and using aspects of it to illustrate or apply that particular truth.

However, considering a different context will help your congregation identify with the plight of God’s people around the world. For example, when preaching or teaching through 1 Peter, don’t limit the illustrations and applications of persecution only to homosexuality or other American problems. Take them to the checkpoint just outside of Mosul where they are walking with their family and will have to answer for their faith in Christ. Bring them into the homes of those who just received word of the mock crucifixions of converted Christians in Syria.

Occasionally sprinkling in ideas like these will serve to strengthen faithfulness in our more immediate contexts.

2. Pray frequently, specifically and experientially.

If we pray for the plight of God’s people in our public services, it is often done in short order or in a sort of peripheral way that does not resonate with the actual circumstances of the world. Don’t just pray for the persecuted church when it is on the calendar; pray for them often so as to engrain it into the minds and hearts of the people.

Praying continually will help your church understand that persecution is going on continually and will model the realities of our brothers and sisters in other countries. And when you do pray, pray for specific people in specific places. This will serve to put a face on otherwise formless peoples.

Also, genuinely pray in the mood of the situation. If I asked you to breathe life into the lungs of a victim the same way I asked you to pick up some milk at the store, we would rightly think something has gone awry in my soul. Likewise, consider the situation and pray in a manner that reflects it.

3. Be meaningfully involved in the nations.

Appropriating 10 percent of your monies toward international missions is a good thing but it is not sufficient to build a fervency among your congregation for the people of God around the world. As a church, we have adopted a couple of communities around the world, and we have people who travel and work in others.

By sending people and resources to Christians in various communities, we make the people at our church more familiar with situations that might have just been another story on the evening news.

As you apply these practices to the particular church you pastor, you’ll probably begin to notice the culture of your congregation changing. Here’s what I believe you’ll joyfully reap.

Three Rewards:

1. Outsiders will be more warmed to your church.

You don’t make an international church by simply putting “international” in your name. Making the nations a regular diet of your service will engender internationals to feel more at home. Also, the lost will see that you are not trying to hide yourself from the world and paint it with rose-colored glasses, but instead, you are broken by its brokenness. This will often pleasantly surprise the lost and possibly have them listen to your answers.

2. You will prepare your people for suffering.

Paul told Timothy that “all those who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3.12). We pampered American evangelicals have been living a dream for a while. But the normal experience of Christians in history is to suffer for what they believe. We are not entering into a strange time of history, but a more normal one (see 1 Peter 4.12).

Bringing the realities of the world to the fore of God’s people will only serve to help believers in their own navigation of an increasingly hostile world.

3. Your church will grow into another facet of Christ-likeness.

Let’s not forget that Christ understood Saul to be persecuting Himself when Saul was assaulting the church (Acts 9.4). The more we knead into the dough of church life – the realities of God’s people all over the world, both the good and the bad – the more we will come to understand all that it is to be in Christ.

Cultivating Kingdom kinship is not something that happens overnight. It takes a great deal of time and tears. Slowly, though, the people you do life with in the church will come to see and identify with the plight of God’s people around the world and have their affections in tune with those of Christ’s.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nathan Knight is pastor of Restoration Church in Washington, D.C.)

8/25/2014 8:36:44 AM by Nathan Knight, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Back to school: Prep students for missions

August 22 2014 by Ben Trueblood, Baptist Press

The beginning of the school year often comes with a variety of emotions from parents. There may be excitement, apprehension, fear, nervousness, or even joy at the reality that the kids won’t be home during the daytime hours anymore. If your student is in one of those big transition years – entering junior high or high school, or beginning their senior year – you’re probably working through all of those emotions at the same time.
 
Other things enter the minds of parents during this season of the year. You want your student to excel academically, socially, and in their extracurricular activities. This is the time when many parents talk about those things under the banner of helping “get them focused.” You don’t mean to put additional pressure on your kids. You mean well. After all, you just want them to be successful in those things. But is that what we’re really called to do as parents – to help our kids become successful academically, socially, athletically and musically?

Sure, those things are good. I want my kids to excel in whatever they do. The Bible doesn’t speak against being successful in those areas. In fact, it encourages us to do our best in everything we do. But isn’t there something in addition to those types of successes that we as Christian parents should be focusing our kids on?

The Bible describes children as “arrows” in Psalm 127:4: “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons born in one’s youth.” In a battle, archers had one shot with an arrow. When a warrior pulled back the bowstring and let an arrow fly, it had to be done with precision and purpose to make sure his one shot mattered. A skillful warrior with a single arrow shot could make a significant difference in a battle.

This is the picture given to us in Scripture. Your kids are the arrows you have to launch with precision and purpose into this life to make an impact. As Christian parents, we should be focusing our kids on the mission of God to take the gospel across the street and across the globe.

This school year, try to help your student see the impact they can make for the kingdom.

  • Pray with them and encourage them to pray.

  • Train them to be missionaries wherever they go, challenging them to look for opportunities to invite their friends to the youth group, etc.

  • Model for them what it’s like to be a follower of Jesus all the time.

These are better than high achievement in every area at school – as good and as worthwhile as that is. These are the things that should be our main focus as we pull back the bowstring to launch our kids into the world.

Yes, talk to them about the other stuff but don’t make it number one for them. After all, the other stuff exists partly to give them a platform to share the gospel and minister to the groups of people God gives them access to. “Whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

As I think about doing this in my own life, I know there will be times when I fall short. The thought of having one shot is a heavy burden to bear. It’s in those moments – and many others – as a parent that I’m thankful for Jesus’ strength and power in my life. We can’t parent this way on our own. We need Him. Allow the gospel of Jesus to be what provides your purpose, your direction, and your own destination. That same gospel will give you what you need to let your arrows fly into a world of impact for His glory.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ben Trueblood is director of LifeWay Student Ministry.)

8/22/2014 11:41:59 AM by Ben Trueblood, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Back to school: Five tips for parents

August 21 2014 by Jeffrey Reed, Baptist Press

Maybe my kids are weird, but I have been surprised to learn they can’t wait to start school. In fact, as soon as school ended back in June, they were already talking about the teachers they would have in the upcoming year and the activities in which they would participate. I have kids in all age groups: elementary, pre-teen, and teenagers. They all look forward to going back.
 
What does this look like for you? Are your kids anxious to return to school?

I believe school is another outlet to make disciples for Jesus. We want our kids to live missionally and shape the culture around them. Having said that, we also want them to enjoy the process.

Here are five tips that might serve parents well in launching into the new school year.

1. Consider summer as a time to re-charge for the real work ahead. We all love vacation time, right? But we also know we need to get back to work when the school year rolls around. The work of sharing the Gospel and being ambassadors for Christ is a year-round task, but it’s especially important during the school year because there are so many opportunities for our kids to interact with others. So be sure to regularly teach your kids to think and live missionally.

2. Keep a rhythm. It’s always good to establish some family routines. Our family aims for a regular mealtime together. We allow some flexibility for the occasional practice, rehearsal, or event, but we’re committed to at least five meals together per week. My wife and I intentionally use this time to start spiritual conversations with our kids.

3. Pepper in some fun. I love fun, but not just for the sake of fun. Even during the school year, we plan day trips on the weekends. At least once a month, we do something together as a family. No smart phones. No iPads. No DVD entertainment in the car. We travel together and hang out together. Surprisingly, my teens still love this. I was expecting to hear things like: “This is stupid,” or “Why can’t I bring my friends?” But our kids have now observed how little time their friends actually spend with their families, and have come to appreciate our time together. Sure, they might complain a little, but press in and stick with it.

4. Go to their school. Your teens might be a little freaked out by this. I’m grateful mine are not. When I worked close to their schools, I went to school and had lunch with each of our four kids at least once a month. My younger kids love it. My heart often breaks when I hear other kids say, “I wish my dad did that.” In those moments, I want to be those kids’ dad, too!

5. Set them up well. This might seem a little unusual, but stay with me. I want my kids to be all things to all people (see 1 Corinthians 9:19). I want them to fit in so they might connect with as many kids as possible, in order that they might share the Gospel. However, I’m not concerned that they have the coolest clothes or most expensive shoes just so they won’t feel left out. In fact, we try to stay tuned into what’s popular so we can sway our kids from simply coveting those things. It’s gotten to a point with my own kids that they actually make fun of silly trends. They are the kids who push back when a style of clothing or an accessory starts to trend. Having said that, we will usually let our kids pick out some (reasonable) clothes, backpacks, and other school items so they feel comfortable and confident as they try to make new friends and gain influence for God in their new surroundings.

Seek to make every day of the year about Jesus, and you’re on the right track.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jeffrey Reed is director of LifeWay Kids Ministry.)

8/21/2014 10:17:08 AM by Jeffrey Reed, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Adam’s sin endures in Ferguson

August 21 2014 by Jarvis J. Williams, Baptist Press

On Aug. 9, Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African American, was shot six times by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson, Mo., police officer. His family has called for justice in his shooting while urging residents of Ferguson to abstain from violence, but many African Americans and some whites have taken their anger to the city’s streets in protest.

As an African American Christian, my first reaction to this sad story of a young man’s life cut short consists of anger and sadness as yet another African American family grieves the death of a son. However, I am not surprised by this tragic event or the subsequent events in the aftermath of Brown’s shooting and death.

The reason is simple: Adam’s transgression has enduring effects on the human race to the present day.

In Genesis 2:17, God warned of a universal curse of judgment if Adam disobeyed His command in the Garden of Eden. As soon as Adam disobeyed, the curse of sin and death fell upon all of creation (Genesis 3:14-19; Romans 5:12). Once sin’s lethal fangs sank its teeth into God’s good creation through Adam’s transgression, the entire creation became subject to sin’s tyrannical power. Sin first manifested its malevolent bent toward violence when Adam’s son Cain murdered his brother Abel (Genesis 4:1-8).

Creation’s futility stemming from Adam’s transgression is now being manifested in Ferguson, just as Adam’s transgression manifested itself in Cain’s murder of his brother. Unfortunately, creation will continue to be subject to the power of sin and death until God emancipates it from its current futility (Romans 8:19-25).

The problem in Ferguson, Mo., is not merely an African American problem, nor is it uniquely an American problem. Fundamentally it is a spiritual problem; that is, a sin problem. Adam’s transgression has created death within every human heart, and every human heart (regardless of race) rebels against God and against his fellow man (Genesis 3:8-9; Romans 3:9-18).

The Bible presents the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the solution to the enduring effects of Adam’s transgression on humans and their relationships, including race relations (Galatians 2:11-21; Ephesians 2:11-22). God offered His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross and to resurrect from the dead to reverse the universal curse of Adam’s transgression and to reconcile sinners both to Himself and to one another (John 3:16; Romans 3:21-26, 5:6-21; Ephesians 2:11-22).

The gospel teaches that the only way to defeat sin’s weapon of violence and to reconcile race relations in places like Ferguson is with the blood-bought, resurrection-empowered and reconciliatory Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It proclaims a message of hope to individuals of all races even during this dark time in American history.

In their quest for justice, many African American citizens in Ferguson have chosen another path, one that ignores the reconciling power of the gospel. Various media outlets have shown their fierce protests in the streets as they press for justice. Some protests have erupted into violence, causing even more suffering for many African Americans in the community.

Unfortunately, because of the enduring effects of Adam’s transgression on race relations, Brown’s story will not be the last report of a policeman gunning down an unarmed African American under questionable circumstances.

No human or natural effort or device will be able to stop these enduring effects of Adam’s transgression – neither marches nor protests, neither laws nor policies, neither arrests nor police brutality, neither tear gas nor guns, neither programs nor propaganda, and neither campaigns nor inspiring speeches from famous leaders.

Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can cleanse the heart of racism; only the gospel of Jesus Christ can create love where there is hate; and only the gospel of Jesus Christ can once and for all end the transgression that continues to show its ugly face in violence facing African Americans in Ferguson and elsewhere.

Christians who want to see racial tensions subside must believe, proclaim and live the gospel of Jesus Christ; they must allow it to move them to gospel-action in the church and in society. Christ-followers must preach the biblical gospel that centers on the death and resurrection of the Messiah who died on the cross to save sinners from every tongue, tribe, people and nation. And Christians must become engaged in the various racial problems that face their communities, acting out the gospel in their churches and in society.

Though we cannot put to death the enduring effects of Adam’s transgression, we can create pockets of reconciliation and oases of hope for all who come to God through faith in Jesus Christ – until that Day when Jesus will make all things new.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jarvis J. Williams is associate professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.)
 

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8/21/2014 9:54:53 AM by Jarvis J. Williams, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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