Archive for September, 2013

FBC Oxford, Miss., members apologize for 1968 vote banning black members

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OXFORD – In the words of William Faulkner, the past is never dead. It’s not even past.

It was with this in mind that the Rev. Eric Hankins and his congregation at First Baptist Church in Oxford passed a resolutionto retract and nullify a 1968 vote by the church to ban African-Americans from its pews.

“Too often apologies are made to no one specifically,” Hankins said. “But a true apology has to acknowledge someone specific. The vote in the ’60s was cast by the whole congregation during a Sunday service, and we passed this resolution in the same way.”

This article appeared Sept. 5 in the DJournal.com –  Northeast Mississippi News web site. Read MORE

Our thanks to Dr. Eric Hankins for responding to SBCToday’s request both for a copy of the resolution and the permission to post it.

Resolution on Reconciliation and Revival

WHEREAS, since our founding in 1842, First Baptist Church was established for the purpose of Gospel witness in this city, state, nation, and world to show the love of Christ to any and all (Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:16-20). In many ways, we have fulfilled this purpose well, but we have often struggled on the issue of race; and

WHEREAS, the Scriptures clearly teach that all people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), come from the same parents (Acts 17:26), have equal worth and dignity before God (Acts 10:34-35), and are equally the objects of His love (John 3:16); and

WHEREAS, our congregation’s relationships with African-Americans have been marred from the beginning by the role that slavery played in the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention; and

WHEREAS, in subsequent generations, we failed in many instances to support and, indeed, often opposed efforts to secure the civil rights of African-Americans; and

WHEREAS, such racism was often invoked under the supposed sanction of God Himself through the mishandling of His Holy Word and the perversion of His Gospel; and

WHEREAS, in April of 1968, our congregation voted in a duly-called business session of the entire church to exclude African-Americans from worship; and

WHEREAS, we continued into the mid-1970s to use this policy in official church business to guide our treatment of African-Americans, most notably by refusing to allow their children access to our bus (Mark 9:42) and  by refusing to host a community-wide Day of Prayer in our sanctuary because African-Americans had been invited (1 Corinthians 10:32); and

WHEREAS, the Southern Baptist Convention sought to take steps to address the egregious sin of racism by confessing it publically and seeking the forgiveness of African-Americans in 1995; and

WHEREAS, that same year, First Baptist Church reached out to our African-American brothers and sisters at Second Baptist Church for a season of shared worship services and fellowship as part of a process of our changing views on race that had been developing since the mid-1970s as African-Americans began to attend and join our church; and

WHEREAS, we have been experiencing and obeying the correction and direction of the Spirit and the Word concerning race for many years and continue to grow as a place where all people are welcomed and loved regardless of race; and

WHEREAS, especially since 2011, we have been praying earnestly and examining ourselves as to unconfessed sin (Matthew 5:23-24, I Corinthians 11:27-32, Psalm 66:18) desiring that God would bring revival to our families, church, city, state, and nation. We have asked that our collective sins not stand in the way of His restoring a right relationship with us (2 Chronicles 7:14).

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the members of First Baptist Church, on July 21, 2013, unequivocally denounce racism in all its manifestations as sin against Almighty God. This repudiation of racism has been our attitude for decades, and we want to leave no doubt in the Oxford community; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we declare as utterly sinful the vote in April 1968 to exclude African-Americans from worship and the decisions that flowed from it. That time-period in Oxford was extremely difficult, but such difficulties in no way excuse what was done. Many were against those decisions at the time, but the will of the congregation was determined by a clear majority. Even though this happened years ago, we are one body, sharing in all things, even painful things (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). Therefore, on this day, we renounce and repent of those decisions with our whole heart. We seek the forgiveness of the Lord and of African-Americans who were and are still hurt by these things, and we hope they will extend such forgiveness to us (Psalm 51:9-13, James 5:16, 19-20). In addition to the sorrow we have caused, we acknowledge that our witness and our relationships with God and each other have been diminished greatly as a consequence of this sin of our past; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we will seek opportunities for continued reconciliation with churches, leaders, and individuals in the African-American community, that we will support and encourage African-American sister congregations in our collective kingdom work, and that we will strive to learn sustainable means of fellowship and mutual encouragement (Revelation 7:9-10); and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that, because it is still the tendency in the Church-at-large to gather with those with whom we have the most affinity, our congregation will seek to discover how we can continue to grow as a place where people of all races are welcomed and included. We affirm that the New Testament teaches that the power of the Gospel is fully on display when every humanly constructed barrier comes down within local churches (Ephesians 2:14). We reject the idea that it is permissible for churches to ignore that calling on the basis of convenience or personal preferences (Romans 14:5-12); and

FINALLY, BE IT RESOLVED, that we will be a church that leads the way in calling this town, this state, and this nation away from its ugly past with regard to race, through a present experience of growing Gospel obedience, into the saving knowledge of Christ alone, and into a future where there is no division of any kind, but where we are one in Christ (Ephesians 2:15-22).

LifeWay’s Midlife Identity Crisis

RickPatrick

by Dr. Rick Patrick, pastor
FBC Sylacauga, Ala.

The traits of a midlife crisis are easy to identify. Chasing the years, men of a certain age begin acting in an erratic manner. Almost overnight, they dress differently. To feel even younger, they purchase a new motorcycle or a hot red sports car. They grow bored with their faithful spouse and spend all their energies attracting the attention of new and much younger friends. They embrace an independent attitude, throwing off conventional ways. Their behavior is erratic, unfaithful and obsessed with a younger generation. They stop acting their age. Lifelong friends barely even recognize them anymore.

The Baptist Sunday School Board no longer exists. When it was replaced by LifeWay, Southern Baptist messengers were promised that nothing would change but the name. Messengers had in mind the exporting of Southern Baptist values into the broader evangelical world. We anticipated opening a door so that Southern Baptists could influence evangelicalism. Unfortunately, when we opened the door we found that the evangelical world was already at our doorstep trying to get in and influence us.

Is LifeWay still a Southern Baptist institution that just happens to provide resources to evangelicals? Or is it now an evangelical institution that just happens to provide resources to Southern Baptists? In which direction is the influence running? Is LifeWay making the evangelical world more Southern Baptist? Or is it making the Southern Baptist world more evangelical? Since most Southern Baptists in the pews have no idea about all of these inner workings, let me share a few examples of the identity crisis.

Non-Southern Baptist Media Strategist

In recent years, I have observed that Calvinists appear to be systematically pursuing a reform agenda within the Southern Baptist Convention. While this should come as a surprise to no one, since their refrain is semper reformanda, or “always reforming,” nonetheless my remarks were usually met with charges of wild conspiracy theories. Such charges by my critics often hurt my feelings, forcing me to put on my big boy pants. But when LifeWay hired Barnabas Piper, a Presbyterian* with a weak view of immersion baptism, my suspicions were vindicated. Friends, a line has been crossed.

No longer do I need to apologize for using the term Presbybaptist. No longer is it a wild accusation for me to speculate that Southern Baptists are engaged in a theological clash with reformed writers and thinkers whose positions are foreign to most Southern Baptists. They are being invited into our denomination not to serve at entry level posts,  but to fill major leadership positions that will influence the entire convention.

Why in the world would LifeWay give the reigns to its Ministry Grid project to the son of a non-Southern Baptist who is perhaps the leading Calvinist author in America? Such a move was bound to signal High Noon in the “time of tension” for Southern Baptists. Southern Baptists are now standing at a crossroads and must decide if we are going to insist that LifeWay remain Southern Baptist or if we are going to allow it to abandon its long standing identity in favor of this Young, Restless and Reformed Evangelicalism.

Non-Southern Baptist Creative Team

Much has been written about the creative team that put together The Gospel Project. Putting aside for now the issue of whether or not The Gospel Project possesses Calvinist overtones, its leadership team clearly includes many outside of Southern Baptist life. The list of those involved in The Gospel Project who are not Southern Baptists includes D. A. Carson, James MacDonald, Collin Hansen and Jared Wilson. It would be naive for us to think that outside influences on literature will not affect our denomination.

Most Southern Baptists in the pews assume that everything published by LifeWay is written by Southern Baptists. Since this is clearly not the case, it raises a few questions. How many non-Southern Baptists write, edit or serve on creative teams at LifeWay? What is the criteria for deciding who oversees LifeWay materials? If LifeWay is not completely Southern Baptist, how can we trust that the theological content will remain true to our Southern Baptist convictions over time? What safeguards exist to prevent the gradual promotion of this young, restless, reformed evangelical theology over time?

Non-Southern Baptist Small Groups Specialist

Mark Howell, LifeWay’s Small Groups Specialist, is on the pastoral staff of a non-Southern Baptist Church in Las Vegas, Nevada. The now infamous training event originally scheduled to be held at prosperity gospel preacher Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church has thankfully been moved elsewhere. But the change in venue leaves a major issue unaddressed. With no slight intended at all toward Rev. Howell, why is it that LifeWay feels the need to move outside of the Southern Baptist Convention in making so many of its new hiring decisions? Are there no qualified Southern Baptists to lead in such training? What will be the practical result, over time, of hiring so many non-Southern Baptist leaders?

If one briefly glances at a LifeWay job description these days, one finds that the only church affiliation requirement for hiring is that a person be an active member at “an evangelical church.” While such a broad approach does not exactly forbid Southern Baptist hires, neither does it provide Southern Baptists any preference in hiring. One wonders why the millions of dollars Southern Baptists have invested in LifeWay historically and continue to invest today have not earned us such a privileged position.

Conclusion

LifeWay Christian Resources does not serve Southern Baptists exclusively, nor should it. We are the largest Protestant denomination in America and have every right to export our Southern Baptist influence throughout the entire Christian world. Unfortunately, our current strategy appears to be the reverse–importing the entire Christian world into our hiring, our literature, our training and our theology.

The Southern Baptists in the pews who pay the bills at LifeWay expect our publishing house to be uncompromisingly Southern Baptist. We will not allow our children to be led away by any pied piper. We must seal our borders and protect our house. Southern Baptist Churches may be old and traditional, but we have been faithful for many years. Mr. LifeWay must stop his flirting, act his age and reconnect with the love of his life.

*CORRECTION: Under the first of three sections detailing the current Non-Southern Baptist influence at Lifeway, Barbabas Piper was identified as a Presbyterian. Although Piper has publicly admitted to ATTENDING a Presbyterian Church as recently as two years ago, it is unclear whether he ever JOINED, raising additional concerns, of course, regarding the requirement for all employees to be active evangelical church members. Also, the phrase “give the reigns to its Ministry Grid project” may be less than accurate, due to the incredibly euphemistic title “Content Media Strategist,” which may or may not actually involve strategic decision making regarding media content.

Crushed, not destroyed; eternal, not temporal.

Norm Miller

by Norm Miller

“We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed” 2 Cor. 4.8-9.

My beloved and I leave the Gulf today having spent four non-labor days here. As a preacher’s kid decades ago in Nashville, our family routinely vacationed here. Many great memories.

photoOn the beach yesterday just before sunset, millions, yes, millions of fingerlings swam frantically at shore’s edge, where scores of squawking gulls pecked at them, and dozens more dive-bombed them for dinner. There were so many wanton wingers that I expected to turn around and see Tippi Hedren sitting on a park bench.

When we stepped into the water, knee-deep, the small fry parted and then gathered around us. And the feathered feeding frenzy stopped.

But another began.

On the perimeter of this amorphous, undulating shoal of tiny fish — whose congregation obscured the sea floor like a black carpet — the water boiled. The torrent of terror splashed us as about 30 large fish resembled a malevolent merry-go-round.

Swimming like 60, the marauders bolted blindingly into their hapless victims. And upon seeing my not-tan legs, cut away with splashing severity.

The sea-borne attack drove the tiny meals shoreward, where gulls unafraid of humans continued their fish supper. And that sent the frightened fingerlings back to their much larger cousins.

Back and forth, from death to death. So it went for a half hour. But the fishies that swam at our legs were safe.

Stepping back onto shore, we observed a free-for-all. Without our legs in the water and our bodies above it, the scaled and feathered predators ate their fill, crazily, ceaselessly.

“Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” 2 Cor. 4.16-18.

Duck Dynasty’s Sadie Robertson & Youtube Devotionals

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Sadie Robertson, 16, prayed as a child that God would allow her to make a difference in the world. With her weekly “I Am Different” devotional on Youtube (every Monday) and a fashion line due out in spring that champions modesty, SBCToday thinks she’s made a great start.

To read more about Sadie’s efforts to let her light shine in a sin-darkened world, click HERE.
To view the “I Am Different” introductory video, click HERE.

Be sure to watch the “I Am Different” video every week. Multiply Sadie’s efforts using social media, and support her with your prayers. A young woman reared in the church and attempting to make an overt Christian impact, Sadie provides a stark contrast among other such women whose fame has turned their heads in a different spiritual direction.

 

Why God Honors Repentance, Isaiah 59

PastorDanNelson

by Dan Nelson, pastor
FBC Camarillo, Calif.

God is not waiting for us to climb the Himalayan Mountains somewhere and ask the Dali Lama the secret of the universe. God is waiting for us to turn to Him in repentance and faith. He will not force anyone to follow Him and accept Christ as Savior. He has been and will be there for anyone to come to Him.

This truth was the message Isaiah gave to the people of Judah who had turned away from the true God. They had been influenced by other pagan nations who had their cultural idols and were practicing immorality along with their idolatry. Isaiah had lived through four kings: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. Unlike the Northern Kingdom, three out of four of these kings were not idolaters. But the kings could have exerted more influence. Instead of influencing the people, they had let the other nations influence them.

There was a quirk in Uzziah’s leadership when he tried to usurp the office of the priest. He was smitten with leprosy and it was a blue day when Isaiah looked up in the year that King Uzziah died and said, “Woe, is me. For I am a man of unclean lips and dwell in the midst of a people with unclean lips.”(Isaiah 6:5).[1]

Jotham reigned shortly and continued the slide by not going to the house of God. Ahaz was given to idolatry and plunged the people into sin. Although his son Hezekiah repaired the temple and stood for the Lord, he gave his enemies secrets. He pulled a Joe Biden blabbering government secrets. So, it is in the midst of this environment Isaiah speaks for God.

From chapter 40 on there is less of a condemnation of sin and more of a message of hope and promise. Although the people would be taken into captivity, they would be restored as a people and kingdom. From them would the Messiah come and die as a suffering servant as Isaiah details in the 53rd chapter for our sins in our place. The remainder of the book is a call to come back to God.  God has not changed. The people had changed in their departure from His teachings and their lack of reliance upon Him. So, God offers a plea to come back to Him. In the midst of this understanding we these great testimonies about how God will honor repentance.

Repentance deals with the root of our problem that keeps us from God

The prophet starts out with a tremendous promise. God has not shortened His hand neither is He deaf the prayers of His people so that He would need a hearing aid.

Don’t place the reason for your problems on God. Your sin has separated you from God that has His face turned from you. There is a fog, there is a cover between you as sinful and God who is Holy. But God stills bids you to come to Him.

Isaiah makes it clear the problem was not with God but with them. God waits to forgive and forget their sin. When a sinner encounters a great crisis the first thing they want to do is blame God. But God is not the problem; their sin is the problem.

Les Miller, one of our former deacons now with the Lord told of his ship in World War 2 sinking a Japanese ship. He tells of reaching out to save Japanese soldiers drowning but they would not take his hand. They had rather drown. They were taught it was more honorable to die than be taken prisoner.

Isaiah describes their sin in vivid terms such as: Shedding of blood, speaking perversity and lies. They don’t work to be just. They are dishonest in business and in relationships.

Those going astray passed their sin on to future generations (which is the most devastating consequence I see in our present cultural slide in America). They are like poisonous spiders hatching more eggs that breed poison if you eat of them. Many influences are poisoning the stream of freedom in America. Unrestrained sexual sins, acceptance of immorality and the role models that are corrupt are letting us down.

Their webs or coverings were similar to Adam and Eve when they sinned and covered themselves with fig leaves. Nothing we can do can hide us from God knowing our sin and judging our sin.

Their feet were swift to do evil and their thoughts are not on God but on sin and committing sin. They were going to places that are corrupt like they secret shrines. They ran to do crimes as one would rob a bank or deal drugs. They were constantly thinking about themselves and doing evil.

Jeremiah said, “The hearts were deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it.” (Jer. 17:9). Jesus said that out of it proceed evil things (Mk. 7:20). Paul uses this description of sin in Romans 3 to describe the depravity of mankind.

We are born with a natural sin-nature that manifests itself. We need a supernatural intervention by God that only begins when we turn in repentance to Him in order to put our faith and trust in Christ.

John the Baptist was charged with preparing the way of the Lord for Jesus to come. This means to clear out the crooked paths and build a straight road. The Pharisees were estranged from God although pretending to know Him. So John’s message to them was it is time to repent and get to the ready for God will do.

The Pharisees would not repent because they were worried about what others would think. They were prideful about who they were and what they represented. Yet, John called them a bunch of snakes as Jesus did latter because they were unprepared for Judgment. Everyone will be guilty if they stand before God in self-righteousness (Rom. 10:1-4.) God would cut them down as an ax cuts down a tree.

I was putting in ground cover, in my rose garden and came across a deep-rooted stump feeding troublesome vines. The only thing that would work was an axe to take to the root of the tree and clear it out, to get rid of it. That is what repentance is to our life.

Alexander Maclaren said, “It is not because God is great that I am small, it is not because He lives forever, and my life is a handbreadth, it is not because of the difference between His omniscience and my ignorance, His strength and my weakness, that I am parted from Him. …Your sins have separated you from Him.” [2]

Many things pull us away from God in this place on Sunday like recreation, entertainment and leisure. Many don’t need the local church when it is God’s prescribed way of service and ministry.

Repentance responds to the light given to the sinner

The figure is given of a person lost on a road not knowing where they are going. They were following crooked paths and don’t even know it. They do not see judgment coming and being inevitable. They were walking in darkness because they thought they could abandon God for sin. Jesus said, “Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil” (John 3:18). The futility of mankind is that he believes sin is best for him.

The sinner was groping in darkness similar to trying to walk in a pitch dark building without hitting something or tripping over something as described in v. 10.

Conviction of the Holy Spirit is God turning the lights on in your life. Repentance is turning to the light of the gospel and God’s salvation in Christ (II Cor. 4:4-5).

B. H. Carroll said,When we come to ourselves and come to Christ our sins are made invisible forever. There remains no more of them as the passing clouds or fleeting shadows on a sunlight lawn.”[3] Like the father who accepted the prodigal back, the estrangement is over (Heb. 8:12).

To be in darkness rather than light is to ignore God. You cannot ignore God though. He will not be ignored. (Rom. 10:21) says God said about His people, “All day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people.” God is constantly pursuing us as the poem from Francis Thomas details in our running from God yet He still finds and waits for us to repent.

Repentance ends the rebellion we have against God

We are in rebellion against God through our sin. We are roaring like bears but are wounded sore like doves that are winged by a shotgun blast. Judgment (discernment about right and wrong) is undetectable because of our deluded state.

At the same time, all our sins are declaring us guilty. The mountain of evidence is rising up against us. In truth we are know we are sinners but don’t want to admit it.

Through all these false-hoods, Isaiah said we are revolting against God.

God uses the law he gave to Moses embodied in the 10 Commandments to prove we are in rebellion against Him. It is essential in us knowing that the gospel is good news of God wishing to end the hostilities by His offer of salvation in Christ.

God’s salvation in Christ is much like the attitude of Abraham Lincoln in the time before his assassination. Asked what they should do with the South after the war. He said, “We need to treat them like they have never been enemies in the first place.[4]

The biblical Gospel makes proper use of the law of God. A sinner must understand the gospel to be saved (Matt 13:15, 19, 23, Acts 8:30-31, Rom 3:11). But before a sinner can understand the mercy of a loving God, he must understand the requirements of a righteous God. Now, the law is not the gospel and the gospel is not the law; but the gospel establishes the law (Rom 3:31). That law which the Gentiles have in their hearts by nature (Rom 2:15), Israel also had written on stone – and the purpose of this law is clearly stated by Paul: “by the law is the knowledge of sin(Rom 3:20).

If we start by telling the typical Westerner “God loves you”, he will puff out his chest and say in his heart “Why shouldn’t He; I’m a good person?” Our life though is not measured by how good we thing we are.

 Driving down the freeway, there are a number of excuses one can think of to justify going at 85 mph. until the law enters. When you see a Highway patrol car on the side of the road, your foot hits the brakes. By the law is the knowledge of sin. That is what will make a man, rushing headlong down the highway of life to hell, sit up and listen. He simply must see his precarious position or he will never repent.

Repentance is turning toward God instead of Against Him

Isaiah establishes that these actions of his people were against God and His purpose for their lives. It is lying to the Lord. It is conceiving and uttering lies. It has confused people as to what is right and wrong. The person who is turned against God is in a perilous position in opposing His word and His will for their lives.

The passage ends with great hope though. We can depart from evil. With truth fallen, the person God will forgive sees the source of salvation in God. Judgment is turned. No longer are we prey for the devil. Now instead of God being against Him, God will clothe the man who turns to Him with His righteousness. He will send a redeemer who comes to Zion which is a promise of the Messiah. God will make a spirit with Him and put His in Him. He will put His words in Him so that they will be constantly in Him and his seed will know of God’s truth, salvation and mercy

B.H. Carroll said, “The new covenant herein spoken of involves giving of God’s Holy Spirit to his people (Joel 2:28 and Acts 2), and this Spirit was promised by Christ as the paraclete of the church forever. He shall not depart from God’s people while time endures, and his work will continue in men and women till Christ returns.[5]

Satan comes to snatch people away from the truth of His Word (Eph. 4:14), when we are really in the grip of His grace (John 10:28-29).

So, if God will honor repentance we must be sure of what it really is.

Repentance is defined in the following text: “Let the wicked for-sake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him” (Isaiah 55:7). Have you come to God and repented of your sin.

A mother had once contacted me about visiting her son in the county jail. He was facing trial and she wanted me to talk with him. By her own admission, “He was not a Christian.” I went into the visiting room and  picked up the phone to talk with him and he had to pick up the phone to talk with me on the other side of the glass. I was hoping he would pick up the phone and did because of the crisis in his life. He could have easily ignored me. I went over there though praying the Lord would give me an open door to talk with Him. If he had spurned Christ, it would not have been my fault. I did everything I did to be in a position to help him find Christ as Savior. He may have been incarcerated but that day He found freedom in Christ by praying with me across the glass on the phone. He turned toward God and trusted in Christ as his savior. God reached out to Him through me. Not anyone who remains unrepentant and misses heaven can blame God for not finding salvation. It is like a patient saying it was the doctor’s fault and died of a disease when they would take medicine he prescribed to cure them God stands ready to give anyone a new life we only will come to Him through Christ. Don’t let your sin separate you from Him any longer.


[1] All Scriptural quotations or citations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise indicated

[2]Jay Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary.  (Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 1982), Volume 3, 330.

[3] B.H. Carroll, Interpretation of the English Bible (Baker: Grand Rapids, MI, 3rd Printing, 1978), Vol. 4, Part 1, 200.

[4] William Barclay, The Daily Bible Series. (Westminster: Philadelphia, Revised edition), vol. 5, 205.

[5] Carroll, vol. 3, 246