Archives For July 2013

“May the God of hope…”

Romans 15:13 begins with a promise that our God is a God of hope, and that something else is coming. He’s going to do something, He’s going to work.

This week in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a group of 19 volunteers from Illinois waits in expectation that God will work. But their waiting isn’t passive; they won’t be killing time. Instead, they plan to build two houses and visit families on behalf of local churches.

They arrived Sunday morning at New Life Children’s Home, their home this week, wearing bright yellow T-shirts  proclaiming Romans 15:13 in Haitian Creole. The team spent most of the day getting used to the Haitian heat and meeting the kids who live at New Life, which, in addition to the guest house, also operates an orphanage.

Check this blog throughout the week for more from the group, and how they’re living out Romans 15:13 here  in Haiti.

The team traveled to the children's home in. Yellow school bus, after an overnight layover in Miami.

The team traveled to the children’s home in. Yellow school bus, after an overnight layover in Miami.

One worker at New Life calls it "an oasis in the chaos." The compound has bright buildings, quaint guest accommodations, and is also home to a long-established orphanage.

One worker at New Life calls it “an oasis in the chaos.” The compound has bright buildings, quaint guest accommodations, and is also home to a long-established orphanage.

Abby Fleischer of Cross Church in Carlingille colors with a young boy at New Life.

Abby Fleischer of Cross Church in Carlinville colors with a young boy at New Life.

pull quote_LUTERHard questions remain for nation still affected by racial tensions

COMMENTARY | From Baptist Press

After a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the death of teenager Trayvon Martin, Southern Baptist leaders called for active love and respect for justice. They also acknowledged very real questions raised by the case, including the validity of state laws like Florida’s “stand your ground” statute, and the prevalence of racial tension and discrimination in the United States.

Zimmerman, a 29-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer, shot and killed Martin, 17, last February in Sanford, Fla. The case ignited a firestorm of controversy about race and gun laws across the country.

Churches had the trial on their minds as they met Sunday, July 13, after the not-guilty verdict was announced Saturday evening. Kevin Cosby, pastor of St. Stephen Church in Louisville, Ky., tweeted: “The black community is engulfed in grief. Service today was like attending a funeral. Despair!”

This is a perfect time for the church to be a “healing balm” for the country, Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter said. “Some people are upset, angry and frustrated, while others are in full support of the verdict, so where does the church fit in?” Luter asked in comments to Baptist Press.

“The church should be there to pray for both families, the city of Sanford, and our nation. We are to intercede and stand in the gap by showing the love of God to all those who have strong feelings about this case.”

Amidst the call to love and to pray, leaders also urged Christians to stand for what’s right. “This is our season as the body of Christ to heed the call of the minor prophet Micah to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8),” said Philadelphia pastor K. Marshall Williams, chairman of the African American Advisory Council of the SBC Executive Committee.

“The world needs to see God’s people of all races stand up not just on issues of morality but issues of race and social justice…”

Some leaders voiced questions about laws that enable discrimination against particular ethnic groups. San Diego pastor A.B. Vines noted while Zimmerman used Florida’s “stand your ground” law as a successful defense, Jacksonville mother Marissa Alexander was sentenced last year to 20 years in prison for firing a gun in the air – even though she injured no one – because of a state law that predetermines the sentence for firing a gun in public.

Alexander had secured a restraining order against a husband based on physical abuse. Comparing her case to Zimmerman’s, Vines said, “…Those are the issues I think Southern Baptists need to address … the disparity of the law and how certain laws affect certain ethnic groups differently than other ethnic groups.”

Russell Moore, president of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, also referenced a disparity in the justice various ethnic groups receive.

“This…ought to remind us of the blighted history of our country, when it comes to racial injustice. Despite all the progress we’ve made, we live in a culture where too often African American persons are suspected of a crime just for existing.”

Kevin Smith, an assistant professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., referenced that hard truth in a tweet the day after the verdict: “Revisiting ‘the talk’ with my rising senior (UK honor student) about where he hangs out – unique duty to parents of black males.”

Tuesday_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Military members ranked the highest in Pew Research’s study of how much various professions contribute to society. Pew found 78% of Americans believe military personnel contribute “a lot,” followed by teachers (72%) and doctors (66%). Clergy members didn’t fare quite as well, with 37% of respondents saying they contribute a lot to society, and 36% that they contribute some. Read more at PewForum.org.

Other news:

‘We all lost’ in George Zimmerman verdict, pastor says
In a Christianity Today essay about Saturday’s verdict, Pastor Victor Montalvo shares his perspective as the leader of a church in Sanford, Fla., the eye of the storm since teenager Trayvon Martin was killed in February 2012. Montalvo writes, “A young man is dead. Another man’s life is ruined. A city struggling with an undercurrent of racial tension for decades has another gaping wound.” Read Montalvo’s essay, including his charge for the Church, at ChristianityToday.com.

Baptist named new president of The King’s College
Greg Thornbury, a vice president and dean at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., has been named the new president of The King’s College in New York City. Located just around the corner from the New York Stock Exchange in Lower Manhattan, the Christian college is in an extremely strategic place, Thornbury said. “There is one freestanding Christian college in that city, and it must succeed… We need an institution of higher education that is articulating the cause of God and truth in the greatest city in the world.” Read the full story at Baptist Press.

Illinois Supreme Court clears way for parental notice law
The Illinois Supreme Court acted on the Parental Notice of Abortion Act last week, breathing new life into a law that is nearly 20 years old, but has never taken effect in the state. The Associated Press reports the court upheld the dismissal of a suit against the law, ending years of legal challenges and requiring doctors to notify the parents of any girl 17 or under 48 hours before she undergoes an abortion. The law is scheduled to go into effect in mid-August. Read the full AP story at sj-r.com.

Churches investigate Boy Scouts alternatives
More churches are investigating Royal Ambassadors, a Southern Baptist missions education program for boys, in the wake of Boy Scouts decision to allow self-identifying gay members. Julie Walters leads corporate communications for Woman’s Missionary Union, the organization that directs RA’s.

“The first week following the [Boy Scout] vote we received more than 25 requests via Facebook and email from churches and individuals interested in beginning an RA program,” Walters told Baptist Press. “This is an increase from the typical number we receive on a weekly basis.” Read more at BPNews.net.

 

pull quote_MOORECOMMENTARY | Russell Moore, from Baptist Press

With the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decisions all over the news, some Christian parents wonder how they ought to explain all of this to their small children. I’ve faced the same question as my children have asked, “What is the Supreme Court doing that’s keeping you so busy?” So how does one teach the controversy, without exposing one’s children to more than they can handle?

First of all, you should, I think, talk to your children about this. No matter how you shelter your family, keeping your children from knowing about the contested questions about marriage would take a “Truman Show”-level choreography of their lives. That’s not realistic, nor is it particularly Christian.

The Bible isn’t nearly as antiseptic as Christians sometimes pretend to be, and it certainly doesn’t shrink back from addressing all the complexities of human life. If we are discipling our children, let’s apply the Scriptures to all of life. If we refuse to talk to our children about some issue that is clearly before them, our children will assume we are unequipped to speak to it, and they’ll eventually search out a worldview that will.

This doesn’t mean that we rattle our children with information they aren’t developmentally ready to process. We already know how to navigate that; we talk, for instance, about marriage itself, and we give age-appropriate answers to the “Where do babies come from?” query. The same is true here. There is no need to inform small children about all the sexual possibilities in graphic detail in order to get across that Jesus calls us to live as husbands and wives with fidelity and permanence and complementarity.

Some parents believe that teaching their children the controversies about same-sex marriage will promote homosexuality. Christians and non-Christians can agree that sexual orientation doesn’t work that way. Moreover, the exact opposite is true. If you don’t teach your children about a Christian way of viewing the challenges to a Christian sexual ethic, the ambient culture will fill in your silence with answers of its own.

You can tell your children that people in American culture disagree about what marriage is. You can explain to them what the Bible teaches, from Genesis to Jesus to the apostles, about a man and a woman becoming one flesh. You can explain that as Christians we believe this marital relationship is different than other relationships we have. You can then tell them that some people have relationships they want to be seen as marriages, and that the Supreme Court is addressing that.

You can then explain that you love your neighbors who disagree with you on this. You agree that they ought to be free from mistreatment or harassment. But the church believes government can’t define or redefine marriage, but can only recognize what God created and placed in creation. Explain why you think mothers and fathers are different, and why those differences are good. Find examples in your own family of how those differences work together for the common good of the household, and point to examples in Scripture of the same.

Don’t ridicule or express hostility toward those who disagree. You might have gay or lesbian family members; be sure to express your love for them to your children, even as you say that you disagree about God’s design for marriage. You probably have already had to do that with family members or friends who are divorced or cohabiting or some other situation that falls short of a Christian sexual ethic. If your children see outrage in you, rather than a measured and Christlike biblical conviction, they eventually will classify your convictions here in the same category as your clueless opinions about “kids these days and their loud music.”

The issues at stake are more important than that. Marriage isn’t ultimately about living arrangements or political structures, but about the Gospel. When your children ask about the Supreme Court, be loving, winsome, honest, convictional and kind.

Russell Moore is president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. This column first appeared on russellmoore.com.

While Tom Goble is on a six-month deployment with the U.S. Air Force, his wife, Jackie, and sons, Jacob and Evan, are buoyed by the support of Towerview Baptist Church in Shiloh.

While Tom Goble is on a six-month deployment with the U.S. Air Force, his wife, Jackie, and sons, Jacob and Evan, are buoyed by the support of Towerview Baptist Church in Shiloh.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Shiloh | By the time Jackie Goble’s husband, Tom, returns from a deployment in Africa, the couple’s one-year-old son will probably be able to string a few words together and have a little conversation with his dad.

Evan had already started walking and saying “Dad” when Tom, a captain in the U.S. Air Force, left in June. That first week, Jackie says Evan would toddle into their bedroom calling for his dad. But it will be almost six months until they’re reunited, and it’s up to Jackie to hold down the fort for Evan and his older brother Jacob until then.

“Dad’s gone and we’re trying to rely on God, and point to God,” she says, recounting how she encourages her boys, and herself. “God’s taking care of us, God’s taking care of Dad. When we’re sad and we miss him, we just need to turn to God and pray and ask for protection for both us and Daddy.”

It’s a heavy load, one shared by many military families in Illinois and around the country. The Gobles have found support, though, at Towerview Baptist Church, a church uniquely located to serve their family and many others going through a deployment or navigating the specific challenges of being a military family. Read more in the newest edition of the Illinois Baptist, online here.

Other news:

Disaster Relief volunteers serve during memorial service for Arizona firefighters
The spring and summer months have been busy for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers working across the country, from storm cleanup in Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas, to wildfire recovery in Colorado, and now caring for people in Prescott, Arizona, after the deaths of 19 firefighters last week. Disaster Relief chaplains in the state were called out to minister in Prescott last week, and a new message on the Arizona Disaster Relief website asks for trained volunteers to help serve during a memorial service today. Read more Disaster Relief updates at NAMB.net/DR.

 

Believers in Egypt look for opportunities to share hope
Christian workers in Egypt say political unrest in the country is an opportunity to share the hope of Jesus, reports the International Mission Board. “It’s not just riots and chaos, this is opportunity,” says one worker. “For the first time in hundreds of years people are questioning everything. This is the greatest opportunity we have had in a long time in a city that is promised to the Lord.” Read the full story here.

Survey: On Twitter, Christians are happier
A new study from the University of Illinois compares the Tweets of people who follow five religious leaders (Pope Benedict XVI, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Dinesh D’Souza and Joyce Meyer), with the messages posted by Twitter users who follow five atheist leaders. The results, CNN reports, indicate Christians use more positive words and express more happiness through the social media tool. Read more on CNN’s Belief blog.

pull quote_ADAMS_julyHEARTLAND | Nate Adams

One of the ways my wife, Beth, and I celebrated our anniversary this year was to watch the video of our wedding ceremony and reception. It’s been a few years since we’ve done that, and I found myself a little surprised by some of the things I saw and heard, and how they made me feel.

I was ready to see a bride and groom that looked very young, but I was taken back a little at the site of our parents. For example my dad, on my wedding day, was exactly the age I am now after 28 years of marriage.

Having recently performed my own son’s wedding ceremony, there was something about seeing my dad perform my wedding ceremony when he was my age that was a little unnerving. Has a generation passed already? Will the next generation pass that quickly?

During that nostalgic viewing, however, I found great encouragement in the music we chose for our wedding ceremony. Some of it was just fun, such as the piano recessional that was the Charlie Brown theme song from the Peanuts cartoon series. Some of it was serious and prayerful, such as the hymn that truly expressed the desire of our hearts, “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us.”

But there were two more contemporary duets that spoke freshly to me as we watched ourselves getting married a generation later, and wondered at how quickly time passes. Just after our vows to one another, we heard this musical encouragement for lasting fidelity from the Farrell and Farrell song, “After All Those Years.”

“After all those years, when our children have said goodbye, after all those years I’ll love you even more.”*

I first heard Farrell and Farrell sing that song at an IBSA-sponsored Youth Encounter in Springfield, Illinois. Its message stuck with me, as I knew even then that I wanted to marry someone who I would adore, even after the kids were grown and gone. We’re almost there now. And I do.

But there was another duet, “The Wedding Day” by Harvest, that also reassured me, and helped me reset my perspective on weddings, and generations, and how quickly time passes. It pointed to the Wedding Day that is much more important than any here on earth.

“We will fly away, when He hears His Father say, ‘Jesus, go and get your bride. Today’s your wedding day.’”**

I think I understand more fully now why music is so important in our worship. We the Church are indeed the bride of Christ, waiting with longing for our Bridegroom to come and make our relationship complete. On one hand, it seems we’ve been waiting a long time. But when we live by faith with the one we’ve chosen to adore, the years and the generations fly by quickly. And that’s okay.

The music of a Christian marriage can give us a wonderful picture and promise of love and fidelity that lasts, both in a marriage and in a relationship with God. Many of us are fortunate to have been blessed by that kind of marriage for years, even generations.  And all of us in the Bride of Christ, His church, are blessed by it from now through eternity.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

* “After All Those Years,” by Tim Sheppard, ©1982, Tim Sheppard Music Company
** “The Wedding Day,” by Brent Lamb, ©1981, Straightway Music

pull quote_FLYNNCOMMENTARY | Meredith Flynn

There were many empty seats in Houston’s convention center right before the official beginning of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual business meeting last month.

Granted, it was early – SBC President Fred Luter banged the opening gavel at 8:10 a.m. And it was a poorly attended meeting, with the lowest number of registered messengers in a Bible belt city since 1944.

But seven or eight rows from the front of the convention hall were two familiar Illinois faces: Jack and Wilma Booth.

The couple, members of Calvary Baptist in Elgin, were two of 95 reported Illinois messengers at this year’s convention. Wilma is currently on the SBC Executive Committee, and Jack is a member of IBSA’s Board of Directors. In Houston, they were a reminder that “being there” is valuable, even in a year without contested elections or decisions.

Not that there weren’t some crowded meeting rooms in Houston. A North American Mission Board luncheon focused on church planting hosted a reported 3,500 people. And younger leaders crowded into after-hours sessions hosted by 9Marks, a para-church organization based in Washington, D.C.

In fact, the Houston meeting may well be remembered as “the denim convention,” for the tendency of younger convention-goers to dress casually…and to be there. More than any year in recent memory, the SBC annual meeting seemed to actually skew younger.

The next generation of Baptist leaders is something to be excited about. They appreciate the previous generation that fought to return the SBC to its doctrinal roots. They’re concerned about delivering biblical truth in love. They understand new churches are an evangelistic force to be reckoned with. They crave face-to-face, genuine, redemptive relationships.

But they could also learn something from Jack and Wilma Booth, because “being there” will be more and more important as Southern Baptists carve out their identity in a changing world. And not just at youth-oriented meetings, but in the convention hall too, even at 8 a.m.

Southern Seminary President Al Mohler said as much at a 9Marks gathering in Houston, when he talked about how some cities draw a bigger convention crowd because families have the opportunity to vacation in the area. “I’m not saying that’s even bad stewardship…What’s bad stewardship denominationally, is to not show up when it appears less interesting to you.”

As the denomination looks toward its 2014 meeting in Baltimore, the influence of younger leaders will be interesting to watch. They’ll help elect a new president, and take on leadership roles themselves. But to do those things, they’ll need to be there.