Archives For Scripture

Bob-Harrington---BourbonStreet

Famed New Orleans evangelist Bob Harrington, known by many as “the Chaplain of Bourbon Street.”

Forgiveness is a significant theme in God’s Word.

The Bible tells us: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will remember not your sins” (Isaiah 43:25). “He [Jesus] was delivered up because of our offenses, and raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:25). “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Scripture is clear; God’s forgiveness is for all, but each one of us must receive His forgiveness personally.

Our family has experienced forgiveness in a clear and visible way. My dad, Bob Harrington, was dramatically converted on April 15, 1958, when I was only 6 years old. He attended a revival meeting in his hometown of Sweet Water, Ala., to find some insurance prospects, and instead he found the Lord. During the fifth stanza of “Just As I Am,” Dad was forgiven of his sin and saved by the grace of God.

He preached his first sermon three days later and led his parents to faith in Jesus Christ. My mother, sister and I followed Dad in faith and became active in church. The Lord called my dad to ministry and led him to attend New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

In a chapel service, then-NOBTS President Leo Eddleman presented a challenge to students: “Any pocket of sin is a mission field, and the closest Christian to it is a missionary.” Dad responded to that call and began a ministry in the French Quarter of New Orleans. In 1962, he was proclaimed by the mayor “The Chaplain of Bourbon Street.”

His ministry expanded in the 1960s and 1970s from the second block of Bourbon Street to nationwide crusades and national television. Many people were converted and called to the ministry through his personal soul-winning and powerful preaching. God used Bob Harrington to share His gift of forgiveness with thousands of others.

At the peak of Dad’s ministry, “the devil threw him a pass and he ran for defeat” (drawing from his own words). He left the Lord, left the ministry, left my mother and left our family. What a painful time for each of us.

God immediately spoke to me about forgiveness. I needed to forgive my dad even though he did not ask for forgiveness. Initially I did not want to forgive him, but later I chose to obey God’s clear command. We prayed faithfully for Dad’s restoration for 17 years before he returned to the Lord. What a time of rejoicing for our family! We were a part of his redemption story as Dad sought forgiveness from each of us.

After Dad returned to the Lord, he again had “fun being saved” and became “happy in the Lord.” He was bold in his witness and called to preach to others like him who had left the Lord and needed to get right with Him. He titled his message on prodigals, “Loving the Left Back Right.” What a beautiful picture of forgiveness!

In his later years, Dad had dementia. He was completely at peace in his condition. He spent his days sitting in his big red chair watching television.

As I walked into his little house one afternoon, God gave me a vivid example of total forgiveness. A divorced couple on the Jerry Springer program was screaming at each other. Dad looked up at me and said, “Isn’t it wonderful that no one in our family has ever been divorced? We all love each other.” Wow! Who would have ever thought that such truth could come from a Jerry Springer moment? Dad himself had been divorced twice, but God had forgiven him and taken his sin out of his conscious thoughts. What a perfect picture of forgiveness! When God forgives, our sin is completely removed.

My sister and I rejoice in the forgiveness of God which allowed our family to be reunited and our dad to have joy until his last breath. To our knowledge, Dad had no memory of the time he was away from the Lord. He talked often about our family years ago and remembered many amazing days of ministry. When once asked by a reporter what led him back to the Lord, Dad sincerely replied, “I have never left the Lord. I have always loved Him.” God literally removed his sin and blotted it from his memory, so he remembered it no more. I will always be grateful for being a part of a real-life story of forgiveness!

This article first appeared at BPnews.net.

Unintended family histories

ib2newseditor —  January 23, 2017

My wife, Beth, is definitely the gift-giving genius in our family. She has, I believe, the spiritual gift of giving, and so she is not only generous, but also has a knack for choosing gifts that are personal, useful, meaningful, and often even frugal. But this year, it seems, I got lucky, and thought of a pretty neat gift for her.

Just a couple of days before Christmas, I was scrambling to put together our annual family Christmas letter. For 24 years now, since our youngest son Ethan was born, we have produced a two-page letter with an overall family update on the front page, and individual updates on the back page.

Beth provides the raw content for the letter, and then I work at making it humorous or at least interesting. Unfortunately, multiple moves and computer changes over the years had left us without copies of many of the older letters, the ones that described little boys and grade schoolers rather than college students and young men.

There’s a sense in which our churches today, now walking in the light of fully revealed Scripture, continue to add their own pages to the story of God’s faithfulness to his people, his family.

So I set out to find all the old computer files, to update and repair the documents the best I could, to recreate the pieces that were missing, and to print them out fresh, or photocopy the originals I could find. On Christmas morning, I presented Beth with a complete notebook of those letters, all carefully protected in clear plastic sleeves, and with front and back covers decorated with photos of our growing family across the years.

I kind of hoped that Beth would like the gift, and I thought our kids might eventually like copies too. So I made extra copies while I was at it, but only wrapped one to place under the tree. As soon Beth opened it, not only did she love it, but it became the conversation piece of Christmas.

Our sons and daughters-in-law quickly asked for turns reading it, and asked if they could get their own copies some time. That’s when I had the fun of retrieving books for each of them from the next room. To my surprise, all other gift opening came to a halt, as we all sat and paged through our family’s journey from little boys to big boys, from Illinois to Georgia and back to Illinois, from trips in America to trips abroad, and from one year of God’s faithfulness to another.

I’ve been reflecting since then on how surprisingly valuable and precious this last-minute gift was, and why it has continued to captivate our family’s attention. As a gift, it was much more than a flurry of searching, typing, printing, and inserting. It was an unintended family history, a series of annual mileposts that traced our journey as a family for a quarter century.

My thoughts turned from our family’s story, to the Christmas story, to the stories of the Bible, and ultimately to the fact that the Bible itself is essentially a family history of God and his people. None of its authors, though divinely inspired, could see very clearly beyond their own time in history and their own chapter of faithfulness. But once Jesus perfectly fulfilled God’s revelation, early church fathers could compile and preserve all those chapters into one wonderful notebook that we now rightly call the Holy Bible.

There’s a sense in which our churches today, now walking in the light of fully revealed Scripture, continue to add their own pages to the story of God’s faithfulness to his people, his family. As I discovered this Christmas, we may not fully realize the history we are writing until we have an opportunity to look back. But looking back should make us want to write this year’s chapter with great care.

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

HEARTLAND | Eric Reed

The world has gotten scarier in recent months. If the ongoing threat from Al Qaida, government-sponsored terror in Syria, escalating conflict in Israel, and the persecution of Christians across the Middle East were not enough, now there’s the march of ISIS, a vast, mobile, and unpredictable kind of terror that produces beheadings on our TV screens and a surge in troop deployment.

We might soothe ourselves by saying, “That’s far away—over there,” if not for Ferguson, Missouri. The scenes of protests following the shooting death of a teenager by a city policeman are still fresh, and the threat of deadly riots pending the outcome of a grand jury investigation of the policeman’s actions is even scarier. Our Illinois friends who live in metro St. Louis television market have been subjected to four months of daily news coverage predicting trouble. Teachers, pastors, and church leaders have all been advised what to do if protests again turn violent.

Eric_Reed_Nov24And don’t forget Ebola. For people all over the world, these are scary days. But into such frightening times, God often sends a message: fear not.

The Lord assures Joshua as he assumes command after Moses, “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Gideon, ordered to save Israel from the Midianites, is fearful until he hears from God himself: “But the Lord said to him, ‘Peace to you. Don’t be afraid, for you will not die’ (Judges 6:23).

From Lamentations, the prayer of all Israel: “You come near when I call on You;
You say: ‘Do not be afraid.’” (Lam. 3:57).

And most famously, the head of a night-sky army tells a little band of shepherds outside Bethlehem, “Fear not, for behold…” In their declaration there’s a reason for steely nerve: A savior, a rescuer has been born.

When God sends the message to be brave and courageous, he often couples it with an assurance of his own presence. “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

In Isaiah’s question, “Who has believed what we have heard?
And who has the arm of the Lord been revealed to?” (53:1), the prophet is referring to the coming Messiah. God’s strong right arm is Jesus himself. That’s who will defend us. That’s who will protect us.

“Fear not” is not an idle command; God backs up what he says. “For behold” is an invitation to look and see that His promise is ready to be tested and fully verified.

Jesus, walking on water, tells the disciples: “‘Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’

‘Lord, if it’s You,’ Peter answered Him, ‘command me to come to You on the water.’

‘Come!’ He said” (Matt 14:27-29).

Fear not, Peter, the Lord’s strong arm will hold you up, even on the roiling sea. With such an all-powerful guard alongside, there is no reason to be afraid.

Kizzie Davis, owner of the Ferguson Burger Bar, told KMOX radio last week she refused to board up her new business, as other owners were doing ahead of the grand jury’s report. The mom-and-pop hamburger shop opened one day before the death of Michael Brown and survived the first protests. “We had no issues at that time,” Davis told the reporter. “Prayerfully, we won’t have any issues if unrest occurs this time.”

Customers commended her brave stance. “Cool management. They fear no one, but God,” one posted at the restaurant’s website. (And the turkey burger topped with a fried egg got five stars.)

Davis reminds us all that we can’t live in fear, even in fearful times. And if we follow her example, we too will stay open, keep cooking, and pray.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist and associate executive director for IBSA’s Church Communications Team.

God’s Word gives rest

Meredith Flynn —  November 17, 2014

HEARTLAND | Meredith Flynn

Women worship at the Ministers’ Wives’ Conference, held each year during the IBSA Pastors’ Conference.

Women worship at the Ministers’ Wives’ Conference, held each year during the IBSA Pastors’ Conference.

Ministers’ wives face a lot of expectations—from themselves and from other people. Often, those expectations are too high, said Sue Jones during IBSA’s annual Ministers’ Wives’ Conference and luncheon.

“As we confront expectation, as we confront worry, what we need to do is to remember the truth that God has for us,” said Jones, who has been married to her husband, Clif, for 34 years—30 of those in ministry. “That He will never leave us or forsake us, that He who has called us will complete the work in us.

“Am I there yet? Oh my goodness, no.”

God’s sovereignty was the theme of this year’s conference, held during the IBSA Pastors’ Conference Nov. 5. Jones, a native Southerner, entertained her audience with stories about her family and frank life advice, which she said may some day make it into a book about common sense living. She talked about her worries, and asked women to call out their own: money, children, church, husbands, not saying the right thing.

Jones urged minister’s wives to believe rightly by “taking every thought captive,” as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:5. How do we live transformed lives, she asked. God led her to try to memorize John 1. She didn’t want to, Jones admitted; in fact, once she got to verse 11, she felt like that was probably enough. But the words have helped her ward against worry.

Sue Jones from Tabernacle Baptist Church in Decatur shared about living a life transformed by a reliance on God’s Word.

Sue Jones from Tabernacle Baptist Church in Decatur shared about living a life transformed by a reliance on God’s Word.

“When I lay down at night and those thoughts come to my mind, I say, ‘In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God…” said Jones, quoting the passage.

“And as I begin to pray John 1:1-11, I find peace. He is God. All things were made by him. He is light and life. I am dearly loved. I am the apple of his eye. There is nothing in my life, there is no hurt, there is no person, and there is no worry that is beyond the scope of the God of the universe. And I begin to discover rest.”

Libby Morecraft from First Baptist Church, Harrisburg, led in worship during the conference, and current officers Judy Taylor and Lindsay McDonald shared encouraging words about missions and marriage. IBSA’s Carmen Halsey spoke about upcoming women’s ministry opportunities, and encouraged the audience about the position they have.

“Yes, it’s different,” Halsey said. “Yes, there are some hardships that come with it. But it’s really a glory moment, too, that God trusted you to do something unique and put you out in front.” She encouraged women to “be the vessel” through which God works.

Ministers’ Wives’ Conference officers for 2015 are: president, Judy Taylor, Dorrisville Baptist Church, Harrisburg; vice president, Lindsay McDonald, First Baptist Church, Casey; and secretary-treasurer, Sue Jones, Tabernacle Baptist Church, Decatur.

The 2015 Ministers’ Wives’ Conference and Luncheon will be held Nov. 11 in Marion.

Young people fill the pews at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., pastored by Mark Dever.

Young people fill the pews at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., pastored by Mark Dever.


COMMENTARY | Meredith Flynn

Mark_Dever_blogA 16-page church bulletin leaves little to the imagination. At Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., worship attenders know exactly what they’re getting into from the time they walk into the split-level, high-ceilinged sanctuary, less than a mile from the U.S. Capitol.

The order of service, printed neatly on the inside cover page, lists every hymn, prayer, and Scripture reading. Every song is there in entirety – not just lyrics, but actual music.

Even the Nicene Creed gets its own page, with three paragraphs of explanation about where it came from and why we recite it. (“I said this in church for 28 years,” said one visitor, “and nobody ever explained it to me.”)

Your first impression is that this church is good at welcoming new people. They remember well that not everyone who walks in the door has been here before, and maybe they’ve never been in any church before. But it’s more than that. There’s a shrewdness here (in the nicest sense of the word), and an attention to detail that may be best matched just down the street under the Capitol Dome.

Capitol Hill Baptist Church is a church for its very unique city.

Capitol_Hill_exterior_blogWhat’s most interesting is that there are Millennials here – that elusive generation that’s giving churches fits around the country. A variety of ages are represented at Capitol Hill, but the congregation skews young. A few families sat in “bulkhead” seating at the back of the sanctuary, with a little extra leg room to accommodate a fidgety toddler. The rest of us were packed into crowded pews – between 900 and 1,000 are here for worship on Sunday mornings.

Capitol Hill isn’t doing what most churches do to try to reach Millennials. Lately, the normal prescription is a relaxed dress code, coffee bar in the lobby, and maybe a violinist in the worship band. But here in Washington, what’s reaching Millennials is orderliness. And 5-minute prayers (four of them). And a 55-minute sermon based on one chapter of Psalms.

Capitol_Hill_bulletin_blog“You will be bored if you don’t open your Bible and leave it open,” Pastor Mark Dever said before his message on Psalm 143. “All I’m gonna do is talk about what’s in the Bible.”

The service lasted more than two hours, but people still stuck around to chat afterward. Some milled around the small bookstore tucked into a corner of the overflow room just off the main sanctuary. Coffee and cookies and conversation were had downstairs.

There are few surprises at Capitol Hill, besides the fact that this church on a quiet tree-lined street is ministering effectively in a difficult place, using methods that you never would have thought would work. Combined with age-old truth.

“You may have come in here as an adversary of God’s, an enemy,” Dever said at the end of his sermon. “But there’s no reason you have to leave that way.”

Meredith Flynn is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

Editor’s note: We think this column by Greg Smith, which first appeared at BPNews.net, is especially timely as many Christians start a read-through-the-Bible plan – beginning in the Old Testament.

Greg_Smith_0120COMMENTARY | Greg Smith

Marcion of Sinope lived in the second century during some of the most formative years of the early church. The son of a bishop, he was also active as a teacher in the region of Asia Minor. In 144 AD, Marcion parted ways with the Christian community by starting his own movement; by doing so, he encouraged thousands through his teachings to better appreciate the Bible.

There was just one problem.

In 144 AD, Marcion was excommunicated from the church for heresy. What was his crime? Marcion taught his followers to reject the Old Testament entirely. His reason? Marcion thought that the Old Testament represented a god different from the New Testament. One cannot have two gods. Thus, Marcion and his followers read only selective books from the Bible and rejected the 39 books of the Old Testament entirely.

Callout_0123Is the cult of Marcionism still alive and active in our churches? It has become apparent to me over the last seven years of teaching Old Testament Survey that students come to my class with an under-appreciation for the text and history of the Old Testament. This stems from the fact that most of their exposure to the Bible, through teaching and preaching, has come largely from the New Testament. For many of my students, the stories of the Old Testament have served as illustration material and have rarely been allowed to speak theologically. This situation falls dangerously close to what the followers of Marcion practiced in the second century.

So what can pastors and teachers do to help their congregations and classrooms grow in their appreciation for the entire Bible?

First, ground your people in the truth that all Scripture is under the inspiration of God and beneficial for preaching, teaching, correction and spiritual growth (2 Timothy 3:16). For Paul and the other authors of the New Testament, the Bible of their day, the Bible that they read and used in the writing of the books of the New Testament, was the Old Testament.

Second, preach and teach from an entire book of the Old Testament and cover every verse. Will this require a few good commentaries and other resources that assist with understanding the culture, background and history of Israel? Yes, most definitely. But as you preach and teach the text and incorporate that information into what you say, you will make the Scriptures come alive for your people. You will also give them a context for reading the Old Testament on their own, with confidence, and with the ability to draw appropriate application for their lives.

Third, model life-changing application from the Old Testament in your teaching and preaching. While it is true that some things have changed over salvation history, the Old Testament still contains timeless truths that need to be incorporated into the life of the faithful.

Finally, inspire your flock with the simple but profound truth that God is always the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). The “old” of the Old Testament cannot mean that God is somehow “updated” in the pages of the New Testament. Help make the pages of the Old Testament come alive for your congregation as you focus on the gracious and loving God who has revealed Himself throughout the entire 66 books of the Bible.

Greg Smith is associate vice president for academic administration and associate professor of Bible at The College at Southwestern, the undergraduate school of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. This column first appeared at http://www.BPNews.net.

Tuesday_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

“The reason I am here is because I don’t want to have to rescue you.” 

Tajuan McCarty stood in front of more than 100 teenage girls and their leaders in November, pulling no punches as she told her story. Speaking in short, unflinching sentences, she explained how she was pushed into prostitution at age 15, and trafficked into every state except Hawaii and Alaska over the next 11 years.

“I am a survivor of trafficking.”

McCarty is founder and director of The Wellhouse, a ministry that rescues women trapped in the same kind of life that once enslaved her. Headquartered in Birmingham, The Wellhouse is in a prime location to fight trafficking along I-20, known as the sex trafficking superhighway. She also helps raise awareness about the global problem that is deeply entrenched in the United States.

McCarty has been a Christian for four years, so her message begins with this: All women are beautiful, because they’re made in God’s image.

“If you walk away from here thinking prostitution is a choice and/or she’s doing it because she’s on drugs, I have not done my job,” McCarty told a captivated audience at AWSOM, an annual missions event for young women in Illinois. Drugs are only a symptom of the problem, she added.

“At The Wellhouse, what we try to do is reach the core of the problem. And yes, we introduce them to Jesus because that is the only way to heal people.”

Read more in the new Illinois Baptist, online at http://ibonline.IBSA.org.

Other news:

New missions housing opens in Chicagoland
The new home of the Chicago Metro Baptist Association also has room for volunteers serving in the city. The Rockwell Street building’s 9,000 square feet on three floors have been remodeled into several large spaces for mission teams to stay, plus a chapel/meeting space, and in the basement a large dining hall and full commercial kitchen. And nine showers. At $15 per mission tripper per night, “it’s a clean, affordable, functional place,” said Jay Noh, “and I am prayerfully optimistic that many more churches will be able to bring groups to minister in the city.” Read more here, and check out page 6 of the newest Illinois Baptist for information about another mission housing opportunity in the Chicago suburb of Plainfield.

Rainer blogs 14 trends for 2014
LifeWay President Thom Rainer’s predictions for 2014 include more megachurches, downsized denominations, smaller worship centers and a stronger focus on small groups. Read more of his 14 predictions for churches at ThomRainer.com. (Note: Predictions are split into two posts.)

Creation Museum president vs. Science Guy in evolution debate
The president of a museum dedicated to creationism will soon debate Bill “the Science Guy” Nye on evolution. Ken Ham, president of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., and Nye will engage in a sold-out public debate at the museum on Feb. 4. “It is an important debate to have as we deal with the question, ‘Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?'” Ham posted on his blog.

Nye, host of TV’s “Bill Nye the Science Guy” in the mid-1990s, made headlines last year with a YouTube video calling creationism inappropriate for kids. A recent study by Pew Research found 60% of Americans believe in evolution. Read more about the survey here, and go to anwersingenesis.org for more about the debate, which also will be live streamed.

Most popular Scripture passages of 2013
According to analysis shared on ChristianityToday.com, Philippians 4:13 was the most popular verse on the YouVersion Bible app last year, followed by Isaiah 40:31, Matthew 6:13, Joshua 1:9, and Philippians 4:6. Read YouVersion’s top 10 shared verses of 2013 at ChristianityToday.com.