Our desire is to be a Christ-centered Summer Care Program. This calls for excellence in our staff, facilities, and curriculum. In keeping with Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:31 when he says, “Do all things for the glory of God,” we strive for excellence in everything that takes place here at our center. Our goal is to teach our children to lead the way in the days ahead.
Our center provides a comprehensive Christian program for children having completed kindergarten thru 5th grade during the summer school break only. This program’s goal is to reflect and meet the needs of the many different children in our community. We believe this may best be done through offering a variety of age appropriate activities and experiences in a comfortable and noncompetitive environment. It is the goal of these experiences to produce physical, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual opportunities for growth and development.
Each summer, our CDC offers a summer camp program for school-aged (K-5th) children. The camp runs May 13th-August 12, 2013 from 7:00 AM-5:30 PM (M-F). Cost is $75/week. For more information or enrollment, email Beth Boyd at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Childhood Development Center at 731-423-9317 (ext. 15).
Join us on Saturday, April 13, beginning at 8:00 AM for our next Serve the City effort. We will have the privilege of working alongside our brothers and sisters from First Baptist Church on MLK Drive, and all our teams will be working on Butler Street in Bemis. We have been assigned four homes, all within a short distance from one another, so we will all be able to work together.
There should be something for everyone, so plan to be a part of this day, whether you have specific skills or not. We need people who can scrape, paint, hammer, saw, and do yard work. But we also need people who can talk with those who live on the street, who can provide drinks for those working, and those who can help with food. Whatever you can contribute, it will be appreciated.
Please sign up at the Welcome Center. And whether you can stay all day or just part of the day, come on. Whether you can be there at the beginning or not until later, come on. We’ll meet in our church parking lot at 8:00 AM (or you can meet us there).
For further information, see Jeff Oakley or one of our deacons.
For those of you unable to attend our Mission/Vision Fellowship, we wanted to provide you with an overview of the information that was presented that evening. While this overview cannot communicate everything that was shared in that gathering, we hope it will at least give you a basic idea of what was discussed.
Before presenting the language of the mission that we, the pastoral staff, have been working to craft and shape, there were a number of caveats that we felt were necessary to mention and explain:
- General not specific – the mission is intentionally general; the specifics will be fleshed out in the months and years to come; the purpose of this gathering was not to present detailed strategies
- Basic not best-selling – we recognize that this mission is something that any church that believes the Bible should be able to affirm; it’s not intended to be “the next best thing”
- Descriptive not prescriptive – there is no desire to prescribe the exact means of carrying out this mission; our purpose was simply to describe the kind of mission to which we believe God has called us
- Sharpening our focus not changing our direction – we believe God is doing some really good things in our midst, so we have no desire to change everything; rather, we want to sharpen our focus on what we see as most important
- Mission and vision – this was really more about mission than vision, and the reason is because we believe vision ought to be shaped by mission; we want everyone to be on the same page about our mission before any kind of specific vision is cast
- Verbal and visual – we wanted to try and communicate this mission in both words and in pictures so that something of a collective mental image would remain in our minds as we seek to carry out the mission
- Lengthy yet complete – we recognize that the mission statement is lengthy (and we recognize that it will likely get shortened to just the first line, which is okay with us), but we also wanted to present as close to a complete picture as we possibly could (even if that meant it was a little lengthy)
So, here is the language we have crafted to communicate the mission we believe God has given his Church:
Making, maturing, and multiplying disciples
who are rooted in the gospel,
watered with the Word,
and nurtured by the church –
for the bearing of much fruit,
for the good of all nations,
and for the glory of God.
The language we chose is intentionally grounded in the Scriptures; even the imagery of a well-rooted, well-watered, well-nurtured, and fruit-bearing tree is something we intentionally incorporated due to its prominence in the Bible. (To see the biblical basis of this mission, see the following passages: Matthew 28:18-20; Colossians 1:28; Psalm 1:1-3; Jeremiah 17:7-8; John 15:1-5, 8; Matthew 7:17-18, 20.)
Based upon the Great Commission, we believe the primary task that the risen Lord has given his Church is to make, mature, and multiply disciples. This making, maturing, and multiplying of disciples includes the inter-related activities of evangelism, missions, discipleship, teaching, training, church planting, church revitalization, etc. Therefore, we want to see these activities prioritized in the life of our church and in the day-to-day lives of our members.
But we also believe that for disciples to be healthy (and truly mature), they need to be rooted in the gospel, watered with the Word, and nurtured by the church. Just as a healthy tree that bears fruit has deep roots, a steady supply of water, and someone to care for it, we believe the same is needed for the mature and fruit-bearing disciple of Jesus Christ. We believe that gospel roots bear gospel fruits, so we want to do all we can to ensure that we are making, maturing, and multiplying disciples who have deep gospel roots – disciples who clearly understand the gospel, who are confident in the gospel, and who can faithfully communicate that gospel to others. For that to happen, we know that the Word of God must be the steady source of growth and nourishment for such disciples. And we know that the church must be the place where they are cared for, loved, and taught the Word of God. A church-less disciple of Jesus Christ is a biblical anomaly, so we want to do all we can to prevent that from being the case with any disciples we see made.
Finally, the purpose of making, maturing, and multiplying such well-rooted, well-watered, and well-nurtured disciples is so that they will bear the fruit of the Christian life. We want to see them growing in holiness and giving evidences of the work of God’s grace within them. And in accordance with the Great Commission, we want to see this happen beyond the walls of First Baptist Church and to the ends of the earth. This mission, therefore, is world-wide; it’s intended for the good of all nations. Of course, ultimately, the purpose behind all of this is the glory of God.
That is the mission we want to seek to carry out as a church. There are certainly details and specifics to be fleshed out in the future, but we want them to be fleshed out in light of this mission. So, we want this to be the picture that is before us and the mission that drives us forward. We want to staff according to this mission. We want to budget according to this mission. And we want to plan for the future according to this mission.
So please join with us by beginning to pray this way for our church. Pray that we would be obedient to this mission. And pray that we would have the wisdom to know how best to carry out this mission in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.
I certainly hope you benefited from our recent exposition of Philippians on Sunday mornings, as well as the Advent series on seeing how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament. And the last two Sunday mornings have been sermonic encouragements to practice the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and prayer during the new year, which I hope you will do. But beginning this coming Sunday morning, January 13, we will begin a new sermon series – Sermons in Psalms: Learning from “a Little Bible.”
I will not be preaching through every psalm, nor will I necessarily preach them in the order in which they appear in our Bibles. Instead, I have attempted to choose a representative selection of psalms that will help you see the variety and beauty of the Psalter – from psalms of lament to psalms of confession, from the pilgrim psalms to psalms of instruction. In doing so, I pray that you will find “the prayerbook of the Bible” to be a balm to your soul and a light to your path.
Now, if you are wondering why I am calling this series Learning from “a Little Bible,” it is a reference to a comment made by Martin Luther on the Psalms. Luther called the Psalms “a little Bible” and said the entire Bible is summarized in it, so the title of this series is a tip of the hat to Luther’s fitting description of the Psalms. The full quote by Luther is as follows:
The Psalter ought to be a dear and beloved book, if only because it promises Christ’s death and resurrection so clearly and so depicts His kingdom and the condition and nature of all Christendom that we may call it a little Bible. Most beautifully and briefly it embraces everything in the entire Bible; it is made into a fine handbook. Therefore it seems to me that the Holy Spirit wanted to take the trouble of compiling a short Bible and a book of examples of all Christendom or of all saints, with this purpose in mind that whoever could not read the whole Bible would here have practically an entire summary of it, comprised in one booklet…
The Psalter is the book of all saints, and everyone, whatever his situation may be, finds psalms and words in it that fit his situation and apply to his case so exactly that it seems they were put in this way only for his sake…
I hope and pray we will all benefit from this series, and that we will all truly learn from this “little Bible.” And I certainly appreciate your prayers as I study and prepare to preach from this “little Bible.”
Hamburgers and all the fixings
Broccoli with Cheese
Country Fried Steak
Vegetable Chicken Pot Pie
Tomatoes, Cucumber, Onions, Celery Salad
Taco Salad Bar
Bar B Q Chicken
June 5th: VBS Family Night
Children’s plates available.
ORPHAN SUNDAY: A GLOBAL CATALYST
FOR ADOPTION & ORPHAN CARE
Thousands of churches across the U.S. and around the globe will celebrate Orphan Sunday this November 4, calling Christians to reflect God’s heart for orphans through adoption, foster care and global initiatives. It is yet one more vivid example—as well as a powerful catalyst—of the rising Christian engagement in a Gospel-inspired vision for living out the “pure and faultless religion” described in James 1:27.
Following an example first set by Zambian churches, hundreds of thousands of American
Christians have participated in local Orphan Sunday events each year since 2009. Orphan
Sunday has become a major factor driving what Christianity Today labeled the “burgeoning orphan care movement.” According to ECFA’s most recent “State of Giving Report,” three of the top four categories for increased giving over the past two years have been directly related to adoption and/or orphan care.
On Orphan Sunday, churches and families spotlight God’s deep love for orphans and how ordinary people can make that love tangible, from adoption, foster care and mentoring to global ministry. Locally-organized events range from sermons on how adoption reflects the Gospel to orphan care fundraisers, foster family recruitment, community-wide rallies, concerts and prayer gatherings.
Last year, Orphan Sunday began to echo back across the seas as well, with celebrations in 22 countries as diverse as Russia, the Philippines, Guatemala and Kenya. More than 1,000 churches participated in Ukraine alone. This year, Orphan Sunday websites appear in French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Russian.
Jedd Medefind, President of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, expressed, “When Christians grasp God’s heart for the orphan, we see more fully His heart for each of us as well. We don’t foster or adopt or mentor or give financially out of guilt or duty. Christian care for the orphan is just a small reflection of the way God first loved us—pursuing and rescuing us when we were destitute and alone.”
More than 400,000 children live in the foster system in the U.S. today, with nearly 110,000 waiting to be adopted. Globally, an estimated 17.8 million children have lost both parents, and many times that number live with a single surviving parent, most often their widowed mother. The Orphan Sunday campaign works toward a day when local Christians in every nation will be known as the primary answer to the needs of orphans in their midst.
For more information on Orphan Sunday, visit www.orphansunday.org
The following is an excerpt from the introduction of my first sermon in our new pulpit, which I hope served as an appropriate dedicatory message and a fitting reminder of the fact that the pulpit matters because the Word of God preached from it matters.
Christians of the Greek Orthodox tradition have a wonderful saying about church architecture: “A beautiful church is a sermon in stone.” In other words, the architecture of the church itself says something – the cruciform shape of the sanctuary, the vaulted ceilings and large columns that force your eyes upward to heaven and remind you of how small you are, the symbols of different aspects of the Christian faith used throughout. The artistry of the building is a sermon all by itself, a sermon in stone, as the Greek Orthodox say.
Well, when we as a church decided several months ago to renovate our sanctuary, I knew there wasn’t much need for me to weigh in on the decorative decisions because we had a great committee who was very capable of making those decisions. And haven’t they done a wonderful job! But I did want to have input on one thing. I wanted to have input on the new pulpit. And not for the reason you may think. It wasn’t just because I would be the one preaching from it. In fact, I hope our new pulpit is here long after I’m gone, so that’s not the main reason I wanted to have input on it. I wanted to have input on it because I wanted the pulpit itself to be symbolic of what we believe and value as a church. I wanted it to communicate something all by itself. I wanted our pulpit to be more than just a piece of furniture; I wanted it to be a sermon in wood. I wanted it to be a symbolic sermon all by itself.
So in a day and age in which many churches are moving away from even having pulpits, I wanted someone who walked into our sanctuary (even if it was empty and even if they knew nothing about us) to see our new pulpit and say to themselves, “This looks like a church that values the Word.” In a day and age in which pulpits seem to be getting smaller and smaller, I wanted us to have a pulpit that no one could miss…and I think we’ve succeeded! So if you’re wondering why our new pulpit is so large, the reason is because I wanted it to serve as a symbolic reminder to me and to anyone else who preaches in it of the weight and gravity and significance of the task of preaching. Puny pulpits too easily lend themselves to puny preaching. Lightweight pulpits are too susceptible to lightweight preaching that’s shallow and superficial. And we don’t want puny, lightweight, superficial preaching at First Baptist Church!
In a day and age in which biblical, expository preaching is lacking, I wanted us to have a pulpit that serves as an ever-present reminder that the regular, consistent preaching that should happen in our church is the preaching of the Word of God. That’s why “Preach the Word” is inscribed on the front of the new pulpit. And in a day and age in which the gospel is being distorted and even denied, I wanted us to have a pulpit placed right in the center of our sanctuary with a cross right on the middle of it, so that we remember that what is central here at First Baptist Church is the Word of God and what is central to the Word of God is Jesus Christ and him crucified and risen from the dead. So, that’s why there’s a cross right in the middle of our new pulpit.
Therefore, our new pulpit is more than just a piece of furniture. Our beautiful, new pulpit is a sermon in wood. But here’s the challenge that lies before us – will the sermons that flow from that pulpit match the sermon that is that pulpit? Will what comes out of it match what is on it? Will the actual sermons match the symbolic sermon? Because I’ve seen, and I’m sure you’ve seen, many a beautiful church building whose architecture preaches a wonderful symbolic sermon but the actual sermons in those churches seem to speak of another God entirely. I’ve seen many a large, beautiful pulpit and yet what flows from those pulpits is a far cry from the Word of God.
So yes, the symbolism of our new pulpit is significant, and it matters. It says something, and it says something really important. But it’s not enough. Our new pulpit must be more than just a symbol. We need the actual sermons that flow from that pulpit to match the symbolic sermon that is that pulpit. We need sermons that recognize the weight and gravity and magnitude of being a messenger of the very words of God. We need sermons that point us to the cross of Calvary, that are centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ. And we need sermons that exposit the truth of Scripture, that preach the Word of God, that recognize that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God, that recognize that faith comes by hearing and hearing through the word of Christ, and that recognize that the grass withers and the flowers fall but the word of our God will stand forever.
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HOW TO LISTEN TO A SERMON by J.C. Ryle
It is not enough that we go to church and hear sermons. We may do so for fifty years, and be nothing better, but rather worse. “Take heed,” says our Lord, “how you hear.” Would anyone know how to hear properly? Then let them lay to heart three simple rules.
1) We must hear with faith, believing implicitly that every word of God is true,
and shall stand. The word in old time did not profit the Jews, since it was “not
mixed with faith in those who heard it” (Heb. 4:2).
2) We must hear with reverence, remembering constantly that the Bible is
the book of God. This was the habit of the Thessalonians. They received Paul’s
message, “not as the word of men, but as the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13).
3) We must hear with prayer, praying for God’s blessing before the sermon is
preached, praying for God’s blessing again when the sermon is over. Here lies
the grand defect of the hearing of many. They ask no blessing, and so they
have none. The sermon passes through their minds like water through a leaky
vessel, and leaves nothing behind.
Let us bear these rules in mind every Sunday morning, before we go to hear the Word of God preached. Let us not rush into God’s presence careless, reckless, and unprepared, as if it mattered not in what way such work was done. Let us carry with us faith, reverence, and prayer. If these three are our companions, we will hear with profit, and return with praise.
“American crisis” – it sounds like an oxymoron, does it not? Those two words are not supposed to go together in our invincible, red-white-and-blue vocabulary. They sound about as naturtal in our ears as “dirty clean.” And yet, there is no denying that America is in crisis. We are living in a time of economic turmoil, moral demise, and political unrest.
In times like these, it is easy to grow doubtful and unsure. Our doubt gives way to fear, and our fear yields to despair. And if we are not careful, our despair can begin to consume us – leaving us with the worst of perspectives and no hope for the future.
Of course, it does not take an astute observer of American culture to recognize that the three-headed monster of doubt, fear, and despair is terrorizing us. It has waged a full-fledged assault on the American mindset, and it does not appear to be retreating any time soon. But for those of us who are evangelical Christians, there are few places where our armor appears weaker against its attack than in our perspective regarding politics.
There seem to be two extremes among American evangelicals when it comes to political perspective. The first is found in those who look to a Christian president as the solution to all our problems. Listening to many faithful, evangelical church-goers these days, one might assume that “our hope is built on nothing less than the American political process.” Depending on political persuasion, some go on to sing, “We dare not trust the GOP, but wholly lean on the DNC,” while others declare, “On the GOP we stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” Such misplaced hope, I am afraid, has led to an unhealthy and unbiblical perspective. Many fear that if their favored candidate is not elected, then the will of God will somehow be thwarted and all hope lost.
But there is a second extreme that exists among American evangelicals today – that of dismissing politics altogether. This group says things like, “Neither candidate suits my liking so I’m not voting in this election,” or “I’m through with politics,” or worse, “I’m moving to another country.” Such misguided intentions reflect a misunderstanding of our civic duties. Those guilty of this extreme fear the consequences they will have to face after the election so they allow their fear to render them incapable of involvement. This too is an unhealthy and unbiblical perspective.
What we need are Christians who think clearly and carefully about politics, who do not ignore the obvious teaching of holy Scripture, and who keep the proper perspective long after election day. So lest any of us be in danger of these extremes, I offer the following pastoral reminders as a guide to a more balanced and biblical perspective on the upcoming presidential election.
PERSPECTIVE FOR MISPLACED HOPE
Let us remember that God is sovereign over all things, including government and elections.
The Bible teaches us that God is the one who controls human history, and nothing in the American political process is going to jeopardize that – not now, not ever. Not even pagan rulers can frustrate his sovereign will. Time and again in the Scriptures, we see God’s will being carried out even when pagan leaders are in power (see Pharaoh in the early chapters of Exodus or Cyrus in Isaiah 45). This does not mean that he approves of their means or methods, but it does remind us that they are not outside of his providential purposes.
If we think that God’s ability to work in our world is somehow tied to a certain political party being in power or even to a fellow believer being in the Oval Office, then we have far too low a view of God. The providential plans of God will stand, regardless of what happens on November 6 (Psalm 115:3).
Let us remember that our hope ultimately rests in God, not in the political process.
The fact that we live in a democratic country where we have the ability to voice our concerns and take part in the political process is a wonderful privilege, one for which we should be truly thankful. And the fact that we have had and currently have godly men and women serving in public office is, again, something for which we should be grateful. But even if there were not a single Christian person in office, our hope would not be lost. Despair would still not defeat us. Why? Because some trust in chariots and some in horses; and yes, some even trust in elected officials, but our trust is in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:7). Ultimately, our hope does not rest in man (not even the most powerful man in the world); our hope ultimately rests in God. As Psalm 146 reminds us, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation….Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God….” (146:3, 5).
Let us remember that we do not live in a theocracy.
I realize that it is a popular notion to think of America in terms of ancient Israel – that we are God’s chosen and favored people, that we are the apple of his eye, and that we are to be his workmen in the world. But that notion is completely inaccurate, not to mention unbiblical. Israel stood in a unique, covenant relationship to God, one in which (ultimately) he was their King and they were his subjects. Consequently, the laws of God were the laws of the land. There was no distinction between church and state (or more accurately, temple and state). The political and the religious aspects of the nation were united in a theocratic kingdom.
America knows no such relationship to God – never has and never will. Neither will any other nation, for that matter (the Church of Jesus Christ is the new covenant people of God). We live in a nation of political democracy and religious pluralism, very different from ancient Israel. Therefore, we should not expect every command of God to be appreciated or legislated on Capitol Hill. To think otherwise would just be naïve.
Let us remember that Christianity is not aligned with any political party.
Contrary to what some may claim, Christianity aligns itself with neither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party. It looks beyond mere political partisanship, and it does not limit itself to being red or blue. The truth of the matter is, there are Christian Republicans and there are Christian Democrats. And, of course, there are also non-Christian Republicans and non-Christian Democrats.
Remembering this may save us from making an arrogant and untrue remark about a member of the “other” party. Even better, it could just lead us to realize that, as Christians, there are greater loyalties than those we have to our particular political party. At the very least, it should cause us to exercise charity and humility toward our brothers and sisters with whom we disagree, not succumbing to the demonizing rhetoric and polarizing tone that marks so much of current political discourse. The Scriptures call us to love one another, regardless of our political differences.
Let us remember that we are not the first generation of Christians to face troubled times (political or otherwise).
All too often, we are guilty of what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery” – thinking that our age is the best age. With such a mindset usually comes “chronological isolation” or “chronological amnesia” – thinking that our age is the only age. We tend to forget that others have gone before us and that they too have faced difficult situations (maybe even worse situations) – political, economic, spiritual, etc. If we ignore the difficulties of previous generations of believers, then we cannot learn from them. And what a shame it would be for us to neglect to see how God faithfully saw his people through similar times and thus fail to learn the lessons our spiritual ancestors have to teach us. Now may just be the perfect time to find a copy of Saint Augustine’s City of God, dust it off, and give it a read.
PERSPECTIVE FOR MISGUIDED INTENTIONS
Let us remember that we are citizens of heaven and citizens of the state.
As believers, there is a certain detachment that we must have from this fallen world. We should not love the world or the things in the world (1 John 2:15). We should set our minds on things above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:2). And we should always be mindful that our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and that we are pilgrims and exiles in this sin-plagued world (1 Peter 2:11).
However, we must also bear in mind that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-14). We have been called to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, to subdue it and have dominion over it (Genesis 1:28). How can we be these things and do these things if we completely withdraw from society? The Lord, in his wise providence, has placed us here – in this time and in this place – for a reason. So while our ultimate allegiance belongs to him, we cannot neglect our duties as citizens of the United States. On the contrary, we should fulfill those duties by exercising our civic responsibilities, especially the responsibility to vote. And until he calls us home to heaven, we must learn to live in the tension of our dual citizenship.
Let us remember that we are commanded to pray for our elected officials.
The apostle Paul instructed his young apprentice, Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions…” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Notice, he did not qualify this statement. He did not say, “Pray for those government leaders you agree with and like” or “Pray for those government leaders you know will seek the things of God.” No, he simply urged that prayers be made for all people, and he specifically mentioned those in authority – without any exceptions. And it was not as if Paul or the rest of the first generation of believers lived under the most sympathetic of governments. If anyone had a legitimate gripe about their leaders, it would have been them. Yet, we hear the New Testament commanding us to pray for those in authority over us. And like Paul and Timothy, we must do so without discrimination.
Let us remember that we are commanded to be subject to those who govern us.
Not only are we commanded to pray for our governing leaders, but we are also called to be subject to them: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people” (1 Peter 2:13-15). Or consider Romans 13:1-2, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”
Of course, we realize that Jesus Christ is Lord and that our obedience and submission belong ultimately to him. Thus we should not take part in any activity of the state that would require us to be disobedient to him. Balancing our submission will, at times, require careful discernment. The Bible does not call for blind allegiance to the state. But unless the state requires us to join in or endorse something contrary to the commands of Scripture, then we must be subject to the governing authorities. And again, keep in mind that both Peter and Paul knew government-sponsored persecution firsthand, and yet they still wrote what they wrote.
Let us remember that an imperfect government is still better than no government at all.
Human society needs leadership; it needs authority. Without it, chaos reigns. And history tells us the dangers of anarchy. Even when oppressive governments are overthrown, people do not leave themselves ungoverned. They establish a new government because they recognize the need for governing authorities in society. They recognize that we need men and women who will seek to punish evil and promote the common good. If even the pagans realized such a need, then certainly we as Christians must recognize it as well. If even paganism had some semblance of a common good and a common morality, how much more should we?
No matter how bad things may get, we can be thankful that the Lord preserves us from utter chaos with the gift of government. And while our government is far from perfect, it is much better than most in our world. So, let us refrain from the “woe is me” kind of thinking that has become so common among many in the evangelical ranks.
Let us remember that many of our brothers and sisters are suffering under oppressive governments.
One way to keep us sober-minded about our own political situation is to consider the plight of so many of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world. While we have legitimate concerns about some of our religious freedoms being encroached upon, there are numerous believers who are living under governments that are completely intolerant of Christianity. And there are scores who live under governments that are aggressively hostile toward Christianity. Freedom of religion is not a liberty that they can enjoy in any means.
So when we are tempted to lament our own political situation and grow frustrated and discouraged, let us turn the attention from ourselves toward those who have life-threatening complaints. Let us remember just how good we actually have it. And let us use such moments as reminders to pray for our brothers and sisters who face violent persecution.
We Christians are resident aliens in this world. But remembering that we are both residents and aliens is the key to the balanced and biblical perspective we so desperately need. Otherwise, we succumb to one extreme or the other. Either we grow anxious because we forget our identity and hope as aliens, or we grow skeptical because we forget our identity and roles as residents. Whichever extreme appears most dangerous to you, guard yourself against it. For the sake of society and for the sake of the gospel, let us keep the right perspective.
Outside of the Bible, biographies are arguably the most encouraging, inspiring, challenging, and beneficial types of books for Christians to read. Reading about the lives of other people can be incredibly educating. We learn valuable lessons through their trials and their triumphs, their struggles and their strengths, their greatest mistakes and their greatest achievements. But not only do we learn about that particular person, reading biographies also teaches us about life, about the world, about history, about people, and about God.
And if you have been present with us during the last few Sunday mornings, then you know that in two of my recent sermons from Philippians I encouraged you to read a particular kind of biography – missionary biographies. Missionary biographies give us vivid illustrations of lives spent for the Lord Jesus Christ, of sacrifices made and suffering endured for the advancement of the gospel to the ends of the earth. They spur us on in our evangelistic and mission-minded zeal; they awaken us to the need for all nations to hear the gospel; and they remind us that God uses ordinary people like us to spread the good news of salvation around the world.
In those sermons, I mentioned a few missionaries and missionary biographies by name and recommended them to you. Some of you have asked me about those again, so I thought I would provide a few of those here so that all of you will have them (and I believe Ms. Mickey is going to try and get some of them for our church library…thank you, Ms. Mickey).
Here are just a few good missionary biographies that I would recommend (and I didn’t even list ones on David Brainerd, William Carey, Hudson Taylor, John Paton, etc.):
To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson, Courtney Anderson
Through Gates of Splendor, Elisabeth Elliott
A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael, Elisabeth Elliott
Five Who Changed the World, Daniel Akin
-Justin Wainscott, Pastor
The London games are proving that words are often more powerful than the strongest and most athletic of human beings. Long days of training, months of repetitive practice, and years of relentless discipline are simply not enough to out perform the sometimes devastating consequences of careless words spoken in the heat of thoughtless moments.
Today, Shakespeare might ask “To tweet, or not to tweet?” This seems like a timely question for days like ours. Recent Twitter-related scandals coming out of Britain surely have some in the Twittersphere experiencing what might be called Twitter’s remorse.
United States Olympian Hope Solo was quickly chastised by her coach when she used social media to publicly question the knowledge of a soccer analyst.
Police have arrested a teenager and are investigating “malicious communication” tweeted about Britain’s synchronized diver, Tom Daley. Another teenager’s heartless comment for the world to read about Daley’s Olympic performance and deceased father is just unspeakable.
The Swiss olympic team recently expelled a sportsman who tweeted racist and threatening comments about an opposing team after losing a soccer match. Imagine how many years this athlete had worked, trained, practiced, hoped and anticipated playing before the world at the 2012 Olympics–only to see it all vanish with the quick movements of a few hasty thumb strokes.
A Greek triple jumper was dropped from her team after making snide remarks about mosquitoes and African immigrants in her country. Techniques of the triple jump aside, unsportsmanlike conduct by any other name is unsportsmanlike conduct.
Children are often fond of saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” The cute little saying simply is not true. It’s not true on the school playground, and it’s not true at the Olympic village. The Bible teaches and life affirms that words often do hurt. Words hurt us, and words hurt others–often more than we want to admit.
Will Rogers once quipped, “Never miss a good chance to shut up.” Such home-spun advice is especially hard in today’s world where social media allows anyone to instantly and indiscriminately publish anything and everything. As people quietly type on their personal handheld devices, tools like Twitter and Facebook offer a seeming anonymity which often deceives one into thinking that words are somehow inconsequential.
The reality of consequences, however, should cause us to reflect on Rogers’s aphoristic wisdom and remember the Bible’s irreversible rule that “whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Indeed, “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).
The technological advances of our 21st century society where communication is both instant and global allow for the opportunity to give life or death more quickly and more broadly than ever before. Now more than ever, we should strive to “Let [our] speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that [we] may know how [we] are to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).
Proverbs 25:11 says “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” As we cheer for our favorite Olympiads this year, let us go for gold with every word we speak…or for that matter, tweet.
Todd E. Brady
Vice President for Church Relations