Archives For August 2013

Justin_KinderCOMMENTARY | Justin Kinder

A recent article in the Illinois Baptist newspaper caught my attention:

“The Presbyterian Church USA chose not to include the song, ’In Christ Alone,’ in their new hymnal all because the song mentions the ‘wrath of God.’ On Christiancentury.org, Mary Louis Bringle, chair of the committee who made the decision, wrote that the song propagates ‘the view that the cross is mainly about God’s need to assuage God’s anger and that view could be harmful to future generations of worshippers.’”

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by such an article in today’s day and age. However, I did almost spit out the Cheerios I was having for breakfast as I read it.

We must understand what the Bible says about sin and about God and His wrath. When our first parents Adam and Eve fell in the Garden of Eden, they let sin enter into our world. We are all sons and daughters of Adam. In other words, we are all born into this world as sinners. Adam and Eve did not escape punishment for their sin either. They were going to die a physical death and they also died a spiritual death. The same holds true for us: we are all going to die someday and before we ever come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we are spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins.

We must also understand that God, the God of the Bible, is a holy God. He cannot tolerate sin. In fact, He hates sin and He must judge sin. We deserve God’s wrath for sin but God in His mercy and grace sent Jesus Christ to be the perfect sacrifice to take away the punishment and penalty for our sin. When Jesus was on the cross, He endured God the Father’s wrath for sin for us. I believe that shows amazing love and grace by God!

There is also further proof from the Bible that Jesus Christ endured God’s wrath for sin while He was on the cross. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane remember that He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” The cup that Jesus was talking about is referring to the wrath of God. Remember that Jesus also said while He was on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” He was quoting a psalm of David but in reality what was happening is that Jesus Christ was experiencing the wrath of God the Father at that very moment.

In John 3:36 it says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” In that passage, there is good news and bad news all at the same time. The bad news is this:  if you reject the cross of Jesus Christ, then the wrath of God still abides on you, but you don’t have to remain in that condition.  You can be saved.  Saved from what specifically? The wrath of God. Here is the good news then: when you believe on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior the wrath of God is taken away from you and you are given eternal life. You are no longer under condemnation but under God’s grace. My friends, we must not sugarcoat the Gospel. We must speak the truth in love and not be afraid to offend people with the truth of God’s Word.

Justin Kinder is pastor of Main Street Baptist Church in Braidwood, Ill.

Tuesday_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago held a prayer vigil last Wednesday evening after a drive-by shooting at the corner of Sheridan Rd. and Wilson Ave. rocked their neighborhood two days before. The church was in the middle of a prayer service when the shots were fired from a passing car, seriously wounding five men. One victim has since died.

Police believe the violence is gang-related.

“Just left the prayer vigil @ ubc tonight,” Pastor Michael Allen tweeted last Wednesday. “Great night. Proud of the Chicago Bride of Christ. We cried, sang, quoted Bible, prayed, hugged…”

Allen also shared through social media that six people were baptized Sunday at Wilson Ave. beach: “‘Out of the ashes we rise…there’s non like You’ Oh God!”

The Chicago Tribune interviewed Allen about his neighborhood shortly after the shooting. Read it here.

Other news:

Christian photographers fined for refusing to photograph same-sex ceremonyA New Mexico court ruled against Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin, photographers who declined an assignment to shoot a same-sex commitment ceremony in 2006. Fox News reports the Huguenins turned down the “because their Christian beliefs were in conflict with the message communicated by the ceremony.” New Mexico has no statute for or against same-sex marriage; the court ruled the photographers were in violation of the state’s Human Rights Act. Read Fox News reporter Todd Starnes’ full story here.

Florida pastors take message of racial reconciliation on the road
The pastors who helped keep the peace in Sanford, Fl., during George Zimmerman’s trial and following his acquittal are on a multi-city tour to help other leaders deal with race issues in their communities. (Zimmerman was on trial for the murder of African American teen Trayvon Martin.) Christianity Today reports the pastors, who took turns sitting through Zimmerman’s trial in a show of unity with one another, were in Detroit last week and will soon visit Toledo, Charlotte, New York, Denver and Minneapolis. Read more at ChristianityToday.com.

Abedini denied reprieve from Iranian court
Pastor Saeed Abedini, imprisoned in Iran since 2012, still faces the remainder of his eight year sentence, even as Abedini’s attorneys and others from the international community fought on his behalf. “The decision is deeply troubling and underscores Iran’s continued violation of principles of freedom of religion, association, peaceful assembly, and expression,” said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice. The Christian Post reports prayer vigils are planned for Abedini around the world on September 26. The pastor, an Iranian-American, is charged with threatening national security, but his representatives believe his imprisonment is more a result of his Christian faith. Read the The Christian Post’s full story here.

Survey measures American norms a decade after 9/11Americans report being less committed to getting ahead in life, more concerned about the future, lonelier and more stressed out in the years since September 11, 2001. Barna’s fascinating survey looks at how the last decade has changed us.

“Leila’s Big Difference” is 7-year-old Mackenzie Howell’s latest project to help Haiti. Photo by Kristi Burden

“Leila’s Big Difference” is 7-year-old Mackenzie Howell’s latest project to help Haiti. Photo by Kristi Burden

NEWS | August 26, 2013

On the first page of “Leila’s Big Difference” by Mackenzie Howell, a little girl stands with her arms crossed as the words “Too Little” float around her.

As the baby of her Haitian family, Leila sometimes feels held back by her youth. But when a teacher tells her class the story of a young shepherd who kills a giant that’s been menacing his community, it inspires Leila and her schoolmates to band together to make a difference.

First-time author Mackenzie likely can empathize with her main character. The 7-year-old Texan started trying to make a difference in Haiti when she was just five years old. The book is her latest project to raise money for relief efforts in the country where hundreds of thousands were displaced after a massive earthquake three years ago.

The first 400 copies of “Leila’s Big Difference” are nearly sold out, and Mackenzie has spoken at two local churches about the project. Her story was also featured in the Beaumont Enterprise newspaper. She has already sent $1,565 in book sales to the Illinois Baptist State Association for continued work in Haiti.

“When you hear about missions in action, Mackenzie is a true example,” said Bob Elmore, IBSA’s short-term missions coordinator, who has led several mission teams from Illinois to Haiti since the quake. “Her heart was touched by a need, she determined what she could do and didn’t limit herself. Her efforts are truly making a difference.

“This is commendable for anyone, but astounding for a 7-year-old.”

It started two years ago, when Mackenzie saw a TV show about the one-year anniversary of the earthquake and told her mom she wanted to do something to help. The Howells organized a coin drive at her preschool and a bake sale at their church. They raised more than $1,400 and sent the money to International Mission Board missionaries Jo and David Brown, who were instrumental in the re-building process.

The missionaries then connected Mackenzie with Elmore and IBSA’s continued work in Haiti through short-term mission trips. She sent IBSA the proceeds from her next project – selling homemade sidewalk chalk, playdoh, crayons and finger paints through a local mall’s program for enterprising kids. Her donation helped build a church in Port-au-Prince that doubles as a school.

This summer, with a 15-month-old brother in the house, Mackenzie decided she needed a project he couldn’t get in the middle of. “So we decided to do a book,” she said.

She enlisted the help of Jace Theriot, a 9-year-old in the Sunday School class her mom teaches at their church, Hillcrest Baptist in Nederland, Texas. Jace illustrated Mackenzie’s story, giving life to Leila, her kind-hearted teacher Mr. Bertin, and her lush homeland.

The two recently had a signing party where they autographed 150 copies of their book. And ate pizza and cookies, Mackenzie added.

Watching her daughter “gives me such an appreciation of the Lord being willing to use us,” Alison Howell said. “Because for her, the calling is so clear, and we could see how genuine it was, that it reminded me that the Lord really wants to use us.”

Mackenzie corresponded with Elmore as she created the story, e-mailing him questions about Haiti. Alison said he asked the questions of a young boy and girl in Haiti, so Mackenzie could use their input too. The young writer also researched the country online.

“She was so adamant,” Alison said about her daughter’s will to write the book. “And that’s been the really neat thing in this process, that she has wanted to do this. She has had the passion. Not one time has she said, ‘Mom, this is getting old,’ or ‘I don’t want to work on this story.’”

And while the book has made Mackenzie a bit of a local celebrity, her parents are careful to remind her of the spiritual lessons she’s learning.

“One of the things we’ve learned…is how blessed we are to live in America, and how much we have,” Alison said. “And so we’ve tried to teach her that when much is given to you, much is expected from you.”

“Leila’s Big Difference” by Mackenzie Howell is available for order here.

Coming home

Meredith Flynn —  August 26, 2013
Kids in Haiti crowd around to see themselves in a camera’s tiny screen.

Kids in Haiti crowd around to see themselves in a camera’s tiny screen.

HEARTLAND | Meredith Flynn

Re-entering my everyday life American life after a week in Haiti, I was reminded of

something Mark Emerson said: “We’re pretty good at going away on mission. We may not do as well with coming home.”

Emerson, who leads IBSA’s missions team, said we need a how-to about coming back from a short-term mission trip. Because the emotions run so high during a week in Haiti or inner city Chicago or Bulgaria or East St. Louis, it’s inevitably an adjustment to come back to our normal houses, routines and lives.

It’s not just mission trip participants that are prone to a letdown. Any spiritual mountaintop experience is wonderful when you’re in the middle of it, but it’s hard to come back down to earth. On our last night in Haiti, our team leader Bob Elmore talked about how to come home well. He and others who had been on previous international mission trips cautioned us newbies about the challenges we might run into, and how to counteract a bumpy re-entry. Their counsel focused mostly on how we should interact with people who weren’t on the trip.

One volunteer laughingly told the team about a message she’d received from her parents, gently reminding her that they were going on family vacation the day after she returned to the States and that they would like her to be in a better frame of mind than last year – when she got back, walked into the house, and promptly burst into tears.

The lesson is that others who weren’t on your particular mountaintop may not full grasp the emotional connections you formed with a place and a people in just a week or two. We ought to be patient, speak well, and remember God gives us unique experiences so that we can magnify how great and creative He is.

When we come down from the mountaintop, we also have to be responsible in the stories we tell. It’s tempting to focus on the spider you saw, or how hot it was, or how delicious soda is when it’s made with cane sugar. Say those things – details help people remember and pray – but say them quickly. Get them out of the way so you can talk more about how God worked to transform you and your team, and how He’s at work in parts of the world you rarely or never thought about before.

Make Him the main character in your stories – after all, He’s the one who took you to the mountaintop.

Everything grows together

Meredith Flynn —  August 22, 2013

pull quote_ADAMS_NEWCOMMENTARY | Nate Adams

Editor’s note: This column is the second in a three-part series, interpreting IBSA’s 2013 state mission offering theme statement: Mission Illinois – Churches Together, Advancing the Gospel. Read Nate’s first column here.

Throughout September, and during the September 15-22 week of prayer in particular, churches across our state are joining together to focus on our Illinois mission field, where at least 8.2 million people don’t yet have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In addition to praying, most churches participate in the “Mission Illinois Offering,” all of which goes to work right here in our state to push back lostness, and to assist missionaries and churches in disciple-making evangelism and church planting.

The theme statement we’ve chosen to describe Mission Illinois is “Churches Together, Advancing the Gospel.”

The second word of that theme – together – speaks of the multiplied strength, impact, and growth that happen when churches embrace cooperative missions. The power of what churches can do together far exceeds the power of what any church can do individually.

Individually, an Illinois church might work for years to help establish one new congregation somewhere else in the state. But last year, Illinois “churches together” started 28 new congregations.

Individually, an Illinois church might be too far away from a college campus to have a meaningful ministry, even to its own students there. But Illinois “churches together” provide Baptist collegiate ministries on dozens of college campuses.

Individually, an Illinois church might be able to equip a handful of its members to go on an annual mission trip or two. But Illinois “churches together” sent more than 27,000 missions volunteers last year, a 34% increase over the previous year.

Individually, an Illinois church might baptize five or ten new believers, or even a hundred if it were one of our larger churches. But Illinois “churches together” welcomed more than 5,000 new believers into the Kingdom of God last year.

Those kinds of results go beyond mere cumulative totals. They are the synergistic result of us believing together, praying together, giving together, and working together as a Baptist family of churches here in Illinois. But let me cite another noteworthy example, or rather examples, of what “together” means.

Individually, an Illinois church might be flooded, or lose its pastor, or be divided in conflict, or be confronted with a lawsuit. That church might simply not know how to respond to a crisis or traumatic event, or it might need help improving its Sunday School, or evaluating its facilities, or hosting its first Vacation Bible School in years.

Illinois “churches together” provide one another with our statewide staff and resources so that each church is only a phone call, e-mail, or visit away from getting whatever kind of assistance each one needs to remain strong, or in some cases, to survive.

One of the many catchy tunes embedded in my memory from childhood days of watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” is the song, “Everything Grows Together.”  Mr. Rogers taught us that: “Your toes grow as your feet grow as your legs grow as your fingers grow as your hands grow as your arms grow as your ears grow as your nose grows as the rest of you grows, because you’re all one piece.”

How does everything grow, even in the ministry of our churches? Together. Why?  Because we’re all one piece. We know the joys and benefits of interdependence. As you consider your gift to the Mission Illinois Offering this year, I hope it will be in part because you see the amazing value of what can only be done by churches together.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond to his column at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.

THE BRIEFING | Five men were shot yesterday outside Uptown Baptist Church on Chicago’s north side. The shooting, thought to have resulted from a dispute between two gangs, occurred while the church held a prayer service inside the building. Uptown hosts the service and a weekly meal on Monday evenings for their neighborhood’s homeless population.

“A few of us went outside to see what happened,” Pastor Michael Allen told DNAinfo.com. “We found several people on the ground bleeding profusely, and they were screaming.”

The church plans to hold a prayer vigil Wednesday evening at 6:30.

Read the Chicago Tribune’s story here.

Other news:

Pastors to pray in Dallas
Senior pastors from Southern Baptist churches of all sizes are invited to gather in Texas this fall to pray together 24 hours. The event, scheduled for Sept. 30-Oct. 1 at the Hilton Dallas/Southlake Town Square, “is not a ‘come and go’ event or a place to ‘come and be seen,’ nor is it a denominational or political meeting,” said Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd (left) in a written statement. “It is a serious spiritual experience of prayer with pastors nationally.” Read more at BPNews.net.

Group advocates pulpit freedom
A 14-member commission recently recommended relaxing restrictions on political speech in church services, Baptist Press reports. The group, created at the request of Sen. Charles Grassley (R.-Iowa), found “a member of the clergy should be permitted to say whatever he or she believes is appropriate in the context of a religious worship service without fear of government reprisal, even when such communications include content related to political candidates.” Read the full story here.

Abortion is moral issue for most
Most Americans still view abortion as either morally acceptable or morally wrong, but they’re less likely to view other birth issues in those terms, according to a survey by Pew Research. The study found 49% of people believe having an abortion is morally wrong, but far fewer respondents were morally opposed to embryonic stem cell research (22%) and in vitro fertilization (12%). According to Pew, only 23% of people believe abortion is not a moral issue, compared to 36% for embryonic stem cell research and 46% for in vitro fertilization. Read more at PewForum.org.

Parenting advice that’s truly inspired
Mother of 19 Michelle Duggar learned how to settle sibling disputes from the Bible. “I thought I’m going to go nuts if all I’m doing all day long is refereeing these little ones,” the matriarch of TV’s “19 Kids and Counting” says in a video on The Learning Channel’s website. But she looked to Matthew 18 for help. “If you have a problem you talk sweet to your brother or sister,” Duggar says, paraphrasing the passage for her little ones. “If they came up and took your dump truck away from you, you talk sweet to them and try and turn their heart to God saying, ‘Brother don’t take that truck away.’” Read the full story at ChristianPost.com.

EgyptHEARTLAND | Charles Braddix, on Baptist Press 

Christians and churches in Egypt need prayer this week, as violent protests continue in the country in response to the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi.

Egypt’s government cracked down on protestors last week; so far, nearly 700 people have died and 3,700 more are injured. And nearly 70 churches, Christian institutions and businesses have been attacked, burned or destroyed.

Beni Mazar Baptist Church in Minya, a city of 250,000 people 150 miles south of Cairo, was burned last week. No casualties or injuries were reported, although the pastor and his family live on the premises.

Months earlier, John Amin*, pastor of the Beni Mazar church, had said, “We live here at the church, so if someone attacks our church, they attack our home. The kids are afraid.”

Many in the community around the church are afraid, Amin said, but he still had a vision to see the church packed with those seeking Christ. “We want the community to see us and come and grow the church,” he said.

Minya reported the country’s highest number of attacks against churches, totaling 14. One of Egypt’s oldest Coptic Christian churches, the fourth-century Church of the Virgin Mary there, was torched and burned Wednesday.

In addition, the Egypt Bible Society bookstore in Minya was destroyed.

“Fear is a part of life in Egypt,” said a Christian worker who serves in the region. He encourages believers in Egypt not to give in to fear. “The enemy is strong here. He makes people afraid.”

Spiritual oppression is real, the worker said, stressing that boldness to share the Gospel, especially in difficult times, must come from the Holy Spirit.

*Names changed.

For Charles Braddix’ full story, go to BPNews.net.