Archives For April 2014

Mothers Day Offering 2014COMMENTARY | Nate Adams

I remember my dad writing once about an Easter Sunday that came long after we kids were grown and gone. None of us were going to be home for the holiday weekend that year, so my mom suggested that she and my dad volunteer to work in the nursery that Sunday.

In case my dad had doubts, my mom was ready with her reasons. “There are likely to be several young families visiting our church that day. Those who work in the nursery all the time deserve a break. We’re available, and able. Oh, and by the way, others took care of our kids on Easter for years. Even this Easter, others will be taking care of our grandchildren.”

And so those two grandparents who hadn’t needed a nursery nor worked in one for quite a while sat and rocked babies that Easter Sunday. As they did so, they prayed for the families of those babies, and for their own family. I remember my dad saying it was one of the most memorable Easter Sundays he ever experienced.

There is something especially sacred it seems, about giving to others out of gratitude for the way that you have received yourself. In fact, as Mother’s Day now approaches, I think of the countless ways I have benefited from a godly, sacrificing mother. And I think of how blessed our own children have been by my wife’s investment in their lives.

One way to “pay it forward” to others in gratitude for the mothers who have blessed our lives is to give generously to the Mother’s Day Offering for the Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services (BCHFS). Last year, BCHFS provided Christ-centered services to 1,417 individuals – 23% more than the previous year. Through residential care at the Baptist Children’s Home in Carmi, maternity services at Angels’ Cove, multiple Pathways Counseling offices, the Safe Families for Children program, and ministry to orphans in Uganda, BCHFS lives out this year’s Offering theme, “Families are Worth Fighting For!”

Sharing Christ is the central motivation for the services BCHFS provides. Of course they provide ministry and healing that help families through troubled times. But in doing so, the BCHFS staff also unashamedly shares the Gospel of Jesus with those they serve, and seeks to model His love daily to them. Last year alone, 16 children from the Residential Care program and from Safe Families made professions of faith in Christ.

The BCHFS does not receive state or federal contract for care funding, and does not receive funding through the Cooperative Program. Their ministry is completely reliant on the generosity of Illinois Baptist churches and individuals who invest in the lives of those they serve. That’s why the Mother’s Day Offering is so important.

From the BCHFS web site (www.bchfs.com) your church can download information and materials to help you promote this year’s Mother’s Day Offering. And if your church doesn’t receive an offering that particular Sunday, you can still use the web site to donate directly to BCHFS’s important ministries.

If you appreciate your own family, and especially your mom this Mother’s Day, I can’t think of a better way to demonstrate your gratitude to God and “pay it forward” than to support this important ministry to hundreds of hurting families. And remember, if your own family is facing challenges right now, the Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services is there for you too.

Our family will be supporting the ministries of BCHFS this year, and I pray yours will too. Whether it’s thanking our children’s workers with a turn in the nursery, or thanking our mothers by giving to help hurting families, it’s a good, good thing to “pay it forward.” As Jesus said in Matthew 10:8 “Freely you have received; freely give.”

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

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Barna reports the same percentage of Americans are Bible-engaged as are Bible-skeptical. The annual State of Bible study, produced with the American Bible Society, found 19% of people say they read the Bible at least four times a week and believe it is the actual or inspired Word of God. And 19% say the Bible is “just another book of teaching written by men that contains stories and advice.” The number of skeptics has almost doubled over the past three years, according to a summary at Barna.com.

Baptists may meet with gay author
Southern Baptist leaders who authored a response to Matthew Vines’ book “God and the Gay Christian,” said they’re willing to meet with the author in person. Vines’ book was released April 22, the same day Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler and a group of professors released an e-book to respond to Vines’ belief that Scripture allows monogamous same-sex relationships.

“I will be very glad to meet you in person and not merely in print. I am thankful for a respectful exchange of beliefs,” Mohler tweeted in response to a message from Vines thanking him for engaging in a Religion News Service Q&A about the book. Read more at BPNews.net.

‘Family Talk’ wins in court
A ministry run by Focus on the Family founder James Dobson was issued a temporary injunction against the federal government, meaning the organization does not have to provide abortion-inducing drugs in its employee health care plans. Dobson’s “Family Talk” radio program, newsletter and website has 28 full-time employees, according to an Associated Press report. The U.S. Supreme Court currently is considering a similar case involving Hobby Lobby. Get the full story at ChristianPost.com.

Midwest leaders meet to pray
Around 100 Baptist leaders and church planters from the Midwest gathered in Wisconsin for an April prayer summit hosted by the North American Mission Board. “It was a wonderful time of focused prayer for our personal life, in a small group, and corporately in a large group setting,” said IBSA President Odis Weaver. “We prayed for personal holiness, for the Midwest Send cities, and for revival and spiritual awakening.”

Coach denies proselytizing charges
Clemson University football coach Dabo Swinney, an outspoken Christian, defended his program’s policies after the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter of complaint detailing “several serious constitutional concerns.” FFRF’s concerns include Swinney’s appointment of a chaplain for the team, scheduled devotionals, and the team’s attendance at a 2011 Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast.

“Players of any faith or no faith at all are welcome in our program. All we require in the recruitment of any player is that he must be a great player at his position, meet the academic requirements, and have good character,” Swinney responded in a statement. CBS News reported the coach said in a teleconference he would continue to run the program like he always has. Read more at

Erich_Bridges_blog_calloutHEARTLAND | Erich Bridges

She wants desperately to return to the hurting people she loves.

Laura Miles* is a missionary on hold. At least, she sometimes feels that way.

Miles spent two terms overseas with her husband, in places where the people she served are experiencing hard times and the threat of worse. It tears her up inside to watch from a distance their suffering. But for now she’s back home, where she and her husband minister to young adults in a local church.

“We really felt like it was a lifetime calling,” Miles said of the first stint abroad. “We went over and just loved the people, loved the ministry. We have a definite heart for Muslims. We felt like we really connected, but about halfway through the Lord was telling us we needed to go back and [prepare] for long-term career ministry.”

They thought God would lead them back to the same place, “but it wasn’t long after leaving that we felt that door kind of shut,” Miles said. “We prayed and prayed. We were very impatient with the Lord. We wanted to know where and what was next. We realized we weren’t trusting in Him, so we committed to resting in serving where we were until He revealed the next location.”

When the time was right, they went to a different country and ministered there for three years. “We left everything, sold everything, and we thought it was going to be long-term,” she recalled.

Once again, however, they sensed the Lord drawing them home — this time to reach out to American millennials searching for God’s purpose for their lives. Young women who look to Miles for guidance and inspiration confirm that she’s doing a pretty good job.

Still, a hurting, darkness-enveloped world calls to her.

“Honestly, my heart is on the field somewhere,” she admitted. “So I’m trying to seek out, ‘Lord, who do You want me to be right now while I’m here? Whenever You want to send me back somewhere, I’m ready.’ But until then, it’s about trying to be faithful where you’re at, with whom you’re given.”

The missionary call of God is as clear as glass. He called Abraham to leave his home for a place yet to be revealed (Genesis 12). Abraham obeyed, setting in motion a divine plan that would bless all nations. Jesus called His followers to make disciples among all peoples (Matthew 28:19-20), a command to His church that still stands. The New Testament refers 195 times to a “calling.”

But God’s specific calling to individuals is more mysterious. It arrives in His time, not ours. It might be dramatic or quiet. It might come gradually or in a single, powerful moment. It is personal, tailored to one’s gifts and experiences. It might involve traditional avenues of mission service, or using your professional skills to share the Gospel in the secular marketplace.

“God’s call involves a personal response to the witness of the Holy Spirit within us,” according to “Exploring your Personal Call,” an IMB document shared with potential missionary candidates. “In this sense, the call of God is inward, personal and even secret. People accurately say, ‘God has laid this on my heart.’ There is a sense of ‘oughtness’ or divine compulsion toward a task or occupation. This kind of conviction led Isaiah to utter [in Isaiah 6:8] the memorable words, ‘Here am I. Send me!'”

“This inward call can come in a variety of ways: through reading Scripture, through concentrated prayer, through special events or a special person, or through life’s experiences,” the IMB document reads. “However this personal call comes, it must be followed by a commitment to do that which God intends.”

Obedience, then, is the key. God calls us first to Him, not to a place or a people. Location comes later, and it may change. Abraham didn’t know where he was going; he only knew the One who was calling.

“No one, in other words, has a call to a particular place,” writes author and speaker Joan Chittister. “The call of God is to the will of God.”

Day by day, Laura Miles is learning that truth. What about you?

*Name changed. Erich Bridges is an International Mission Board global correspondent. He blogs at Worldview Conversation.

Movie_postersCOMMENTARY | Mark Mohler

“Son of God,” “Noah” and “God’s Not Dead” each created a stir at the box office (and on blogs) already this year. And “Heaven is For Real” had a great opening weekend, coming in behind only “Captain America.” It’s been a busy season for Christian-themed movies, and everybody’s talking about them.

Your friends all saw “Noah.” Your small group planned an outing to view “God’s Not Dead,” and invited non-Christians to watch the movie with them. All this sounded like a great idea until you read a blog calling these movies heretical, warning Christians against worldly influences, and shaming you for supporting these blasphemous productions. Now what seemed like missional opportunities for fellowship, outreach, and redemptive conversations make you wonder if you are denying your faith and disappointing your Savior.

To complicate matters, respected Bible teachers are weighing in on the subject with no unifying voice to be heard. Your scales of decision teeter toward whichever opinion you heard most recently. As a Christ-follower you have the ability to make your own decision concerning the appropriateness of any faith-based movie. The following are suggestions to help you exercise your faith and reason when it comes to whether or not you should view these movies at home or the theater. But first, remember two things:

Some Christians are against everything. As you read reviews remember that overly cynical Christians speak out against anything and everything. They believe that godliness comes through pointing out the least hint of error, and they somehow serve the kingdom by warning others. If they spot a “non-biblical” moment in a movie, the entire movie should be cast into the abyss, along with the actors, directors, producers, and college student who brought donuts to the set. Beware – the cynic’s definition of non-biblical and yours may differ. For the cynic, non-biblical most often refers to a scene or line that cannot be found in the Bible. For most everyone else, non-biblical refers to a scene or line that stands in opposition to biblical material.

Some Christians embrace anything. The polar opposite of the cynic is the Christian who embraces anything and is enamored with what they call “new perspectives.” By new perspectives, they mean a new approach to telling the story of Jesus; by a new approach to telling the story of Jesus, they mean adjusting the story in order to suit personal tastes, agendas or presuppositions.

So, how do you decide? You are not a cynic, nor do you embrace anything stamped with the word “Christian.” You do wish to view biblically-based movies, making certain you do not open yourself to negative influences. The following are four questions to ask before, during, and after the movie.

1. Does this movie support or negate the need for a Savior? The Bible has a theme –God’s holiness confronts man’s sinfulness in love, redeeming him through the sacrifice of the Son. Scripture is clear that man is hopeless without God’s grace-filled intervention into life and eternity. Any faith-based movie must espouse the biblical motif of exclusive redemption. We tread into dangerous waters when a movie hints that man, apart from God, can better his life or eternity.

2.   Does this movie contradict Scripture, implicitly or explicitly? The Bible is our final voice of truth and authority. If a so-called faith-based movie contradicts Scripture at any point, we must acknowledge its folly.

Some faith-based movies include scenes or dialogue that the Bible does not. For example, in “The Passion of the Christ,” the character of Jesus “invents” the table and chairs (and his mother says she doesn’t think it will catch on). We know Jesus most likely did not invent the table and chairs, but does this make the movie blasphemous? In my opinion, no. It does not contradict Scripture, nor does it teach a false belief affecting the salvation of others. In some ways, this is no different than a pastor postulating the words Jesus wrote in the sand just before declaring, “He who is without sin cast the first stone,” because there is no proof to support any opinion.

On the other hand many films do openly contradict the Bible. Case in point: NBC’s 1999 miniseries “Noah’s Ark.” The show is replete with contra-biblical material. Take for example the episode in which Lot (Abraham’s nephew) attacks the ark. Any student of the Bible knows that Lot appears generations after the flood and God promises to destroy everything except those on the ark. We must acknowledge this movie, and others like it, explicitly contradict Scripture.

3.   Is the goal of this movie to teach Biblical doctrine or rebuff Christian thinking?Is there a Christian who has not seen “Courageous”? Probably so. Should they see it? Probably so. I am not a paid actor, nor paid spokesperson, but “Courageous” is a very good example of a biblically-based, faith-based movie. From beginning to end, the movie affirms Scripture. Actors are portrayed as fallen and each success is connected to God’s grace and the Spirit’s activity. The movie teaches the biblical doctrine of integrity, while offering grace to those who fall short. There are moments of uncommon (or unrealistic) divine activity, but that is not outside the realm of biblical possibility.

But not all movies featuring Christian philosophies are meant to support those philosophies. Let’s go old school. Remember reading, then watching, “Inherit the Wind” somewhere around your sophomore year of high school? If you were a church kid, the movie about the Scopes Monkey Trial made you question your Christian faith. Had your pastor and Sunday School teachers ushered you into the world of idiotic, close-minded bigotry “Inherit the Wind” assigned your faith? The movie featured the Christian doctrine of creationism, but the intent was not to paint an objective presentation of the facts. Instead, the film was written with the sole intent of defacing the Christian belief of creationism, and should be viewed with the understanding that you are not interacting with facts, but a movie as one-sided as the belief it presumes to confront.

4.   Is the Spirit affirming this movie or rebuking it? The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit affirms that which is right and warns against that which is wrong. Jesus told His disciples that the Spirit would lead them into all truth. Believers enjoy the privilege of direct communication with the Father through the Spirit.

As you watch a faith-based movie (or one that claims to be), ask the Father to shed light into what you are watching. Pray that the Lord will affirm the truth, reject the falsehood, all while leading you to a Spirit-led conclusion about what you saw.

I’ve come to this conclusion about this season’s faith-based movies: I have determined to capitalize on Hollywood’s venture. If they choose to produce and release these films, the church should be part of the conversation that follows. Let’s forego the protests and boycotts in order that we might interact with those who have been exposed to the Bible at the movies, but need to hear the true gospel.

Mark Mohler is pastor of Second Baptist Church in Marion, Ill.

ERLC_Summit_logoNEWS | Meredith Flynn

Nashville, Tenn. | The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s summit on the Gospel and sexuality drew to a close this morning. Much was said on a variety of topics related to sexual ethics, and we’ll cover the conference extensively in the May 5 and May 26 issues of the Illinois Baptist. For now, here are three threads that ran through the conversation in Nashville this week.

Same-sex marriage isn’t the only threat to biblical marriage, and may not be the biggest. In a breakout session this week, Andrew Walker of the ERLC outlined 11 contemporary threats. Same-sex marriage was #6 on his list that also includes economic pressures, divorce, singles aspiring to find their soul mates, and the rise of “professional marriages,” in which spouses have individual bank accounts and separate social lives.

Closing speaker Kevin Smith summarized it this way: “I don’t know what homosexuals shall do or can do to the institution of marriage in the future, but I know marriage is jacked up right now in America in the popular culture and among believers because of heterosexuals.”

The call to reclaim biblical marriage is more urgent. Summit speaker David Prince probably raised some eyebrows when he said that as a pastor visiting new parents, he prays over their babies, and specifically for their future spouses. One grandfather in a hospital room expressed his disbelief that Prince was praying that way already, the Kentucky pastor said. But several leaders this week echoed the principle: At a time when marriage is being redefined, and fewer people are getting married in the first place, it’s up to evangelicals to reclaim and profess the biblical meaning of marriage.

Embrace the strangeness. One of Moore’s main messages during his first year as ERLC president has been that Christians will be increasingly strange – he has even used the word “freakish” – as nominal Christianity falls away and culture continues to move away from previously held values. Twitter proved that point this week, as posts with the hashtag #erlcsummit poured in during nearly every session. The majority of the feedback was negative from those watching online or following along on Twitter, but that’s not surprising, Andrew Walker said.

“We are talking about the Christian sexual ethic being more unique and distinguishable in society, and we’re trying to warn Christians, ‘Hey, the ground has kind of fallen out from beneath you. The culture has changed on this issue. And one way to really gage that is to see what social media is saying.'”

The correct response to our increasing strangeness, Moore said, is an awareness of what’s happening in the world and a commitment to speak lovingly into the culture. “We have to understand that as we speak prophetically within the church and outside of the church when it relates to issues of sexuality or any other issue, we have to do that in a way that opposes the devil, without acting like the devil.”

 

The example of the Proverbs 31 woman has been misused in the past, Trillia Newbell said. But there's wisdom to be found in her story too.

The Proverbs 31 woman was excellent not because of what she did, but who she adored, Trillia Newbell said.

NEWS | Meredith Flynn

Iconic TV moms June Cleaver and Clair Huxtable were products of their times – 1950’s idealism and 1980’s feminism. The matriarchs from “Leave it to Beaver” and “The Cosby Show” have been idolized by women and by culture as ideals of femininity and, basically, having it all together.

But idolizing those examples, or that of any other cultural icon, leads to condemnation, said Trillia Newbell. The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s consultant for women’s initiatives spoke today on biblical womanhood to women gathered at the ERLC’s summit on the Gospel and sexuality.

The June’s and Clair’s of television might see their influence wane as the culture changes, or at least they’ll be replaced by other ideals. But what about the one many Christian women have heard about from the time they were old enough to find Proverbs in their Bibles?

“I already know that many people are tired of the Proverbs 31 woman,” Newbell said of Scripture’s ideal wife. “She too has been idolized. It hasn’t been helpful.

“But no worries,” she assured her audience, “I’m not merely going to be talking about how excellent she is.”

Instead, Newbell talked about why the Proverbs 31 woman is held up as an example of excellence in the ancient poem. It wasn’t because of what she did, but rather who she loved. Near the end of the chapter, we discover she fears the Lord.

“If the call to be a God-fearing woman completely freaks you out, God provides the grace for it,” Newbell said. For Sarai, who laughed when He made her a promise. For women throughout Scripture. Even for the woman in Proverbs 31.

 

An almost-Gospel is no match for the sexual revolution.”

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission