Wednesday, April 25, 2007

From the Beginning to the End

The following is a poem I wrote for an assignment in New Testament class. We were asked to re-read revelation and write a poem, hymn, responsive reading, etc.

In the beginning God created, that's where our story will begin.
From darkness and chaos came light and form and a short time later us.
In the creator's image we were made, all women and even men.
We lived in paradise, had all we needed, there was no need to fuss.
But we wanted more, to be like God. And so we learned to sin.

Before we fell walking and talking with God was possible every day.
It must have been like heaven on earth – the existence God intended.
We had it all but did not know we were blessed in every way.
God let us choose, and choose we did. And paradise was ended.
All that was new began to age, and away from God we began to stray.

Years, centuries and millenea have passed, creation is no longer new.
Many do not have the basic needs: food and a roof over their head.
We destroy the world the Lord created and pollute the skies of blue.
We don't protect the helpless the innocent or mourn them when they're dead.
Even though we don't deserve it, God still says I have not forgotten you.

We have talked about the beginning of the story and so we move to its end.
Everything that we have made old, God will make new once again.
A new Jerusalem free of destruction and sorrow from heaven will descend.
And, as in the beginning, God will once again dwell among women and men.
Suffering, pain and death will all pass away. On this we can depend.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Christians Respond to Virginia Tech Tragedy

The Associated Baptist Press has an article on the responses of well known Baptist figures to the tragedy at Virginia Tech this week.

I think Jim Wallis hit the nail on the head:
"This is not a time to seek easy answers or to assign blame," he said. "It is, rather, a time to pray, mourn, and reflect. It's time to let sorrow do its reflective and redemptive work, to hold the hands that need to be held, to let our tears open our hearts to change those things that lead to such tragedy, and to trust our pain to the loving arms of God."
There were a lot of good responses in the article, but there are several that are so bad they deserve attention.
American Family Radio has raised a similar battle cry, claiming in a video that events leading to recent years' school shootings in places like Jonesboro, Ark., Springfield, Ore., Littleton Colo., and Blacksburg, Va., "started when Madalyn Murray O'Hair complained she didn't want any prayer in our schools, and we said 'O.K.'" That is an apparent reference to Supreme Court decisions that have outlawed government-sanctioned prayer and devotional Bible reading in public schools.
I have quoted this scripture before but I think it deserves repeating here:
At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’ (Luke 13.1-5, NRSV)
Another response came from Dr. Paige Patterson, the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary:

Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, told students in an April 19 chapel sermon that if a shooter attacked the Fort Worth, Texas, school, students should "rush him."

Patterson told the male students in the crowd to raise their hands and told the men, "I'm counting on you."

"See, all you had to do was have six or eight rush him right at that time, and 32 people wouldn't have died," Patterson said. "Now folks, let's make up our minds. I know we live in America where nobody gets involved in anybody else's situation. That shall not be the rule here. Does everybody understand? You say, 'Well, I may be shot.' Well, yeah, you may. Are you saved? You're going to heaven. You know, it's better than earth."

So, Patterson's response is to call the male students at Virgina Tech cowards and blame them for the deaths? What message does that send to the families?

The final response comes from a Pastor that repeatedly ignores Jesus' commandment that we love one another:

And an anti-gay group infamous for protesting at the funerals of U.S. soldiers has announced plans to picket the funerals of the Virginia victims.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., said the shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, was doing God's will by punishing non-Christians, CBS News reported. A church news release added: "God is punishing America for her sodomite sins. The 33 massacred at Virginia Tech died for America’s sins against [Westboro Baptist Church]."

The tiny church, whose paster if Fred Phelps, is not affiliated with any national Baptist convention. The CBS News report said police are expected to break up any such protest. Funerals and memorial services are included in Virginia's disorderly conduct statute.

A Few New Baptist Links

Here are a couple of great Baptist links I have come across recently. If you haven't visited them, they are definitely worth a visit!

The Center for Baptist Studies - The Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer University sponsors and encourages the scholarly study of Baptists through instruction, emphasizes Baptists’ ecumenical relationships to the entire Body of Christ, and interprets issues and trends in contemporary Baptist life and American culture. This site has something for everyone: sermon ideas for pastors, ideas for Sunday school and Wednesday nights, news on issues facing Baptists, and even a certificate program in Baptist studies!

Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant - I am really excited about this effort to provide a new Baptist voice in America that is authentically Baptist. I am hoping that Gay and I can put the funding together to attend the meeting in January 2008. The speakers will include Jimmy Carter and Bill Moyers!

The New Baptist Covenant traces its roots to April 10, 2006, when former U.S. President and prominent Baptist layman Jimmy Carter and Mercer University President Bill Underwood convened at The Carter Center in Atlanta a group of 18 Baptist leaders representing more than 20 million Baptists across North America.

The leaders were unanimous in their desire to transcend their differences -- including such factors as race, culture, geography and convention affiliation -- and seek common purpose.

Baptist Leaders at Jan. 9, 2007, news conference at Carter Center in Atlanta.The outcome of the meeting was a document called A North American Baptist Covenant and preliminary plans to hold a major gathering of Baptists from throughout North America in 2008. The leaders of these organizations affirmed their desire to speak and work together to create an authentic and genuine prophetic Baptist voice in these complex times. They reaffirmed their commitment to traditional Baptist values, including sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and its implications for public and private morality. They specifically committed themselves to their obligation as Christians to promote peace with justice, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick and the marginalized, welcome the strangers among us, and promote religious liberty and respect for religious diversity.

A followup meeting attended by 80 representatives of more than 30 Baptist organizations was held on January 9, 2007, at The Carter Center. The core group of those who gathered were representatives of organizations that are members of the North American Baptist Fellowship (NABF), a regional affiliate of the Baptist World Alliance. . At the conclusion of the meeting, the representatives announced plans to hold a convocation in Atlanta on January 30-February 1, 2008.

The theme of this historic gathering will be Unity in Christ. The Biblical basis for the meeting is Jesus’ reading of scripture in the Synagogue as recorded in Luke 4: 18-19. In these verses, Jesus reads from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim the release of the captives, and the recovering of sight of the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” This call by Jesus to pursue both evangelism and ministry to “the least of these” is the Biblical foundation for the New Baptist Covenant.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Minature Earth

The following video was posted to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship North Carolina website. Watch this video, and then read the rest of this post.

John 13:34 reads:
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
After watching this video, do you think we are doing a good job of following Jesus' commandment? Are we focused on loving one another? The focus of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina last rear was the adoption of a resolution that allows the state convention to remove churches that:
“... knowingly act to affirm, approve, endorse, promote, support or bless homosexual behavior. The Board of Directors shall apply this provision. A church has a right to appeal any adverse action taken by the Board of Directors.”
Keep in mind that this had been interpreted to mean that any Baptist church that allows homosexuals to join or remain a member of the church meets this criteria. Is this how Baptists should be "loving one another?" Is this were our focus should be? Even worse, over the past year, the SBC has fired missionaries who admit to using a "private prayer language" (speaking in tongues.)

We live in a world where the majority of the people are hurting and hungry. Telling people they are not welcome is not the answer to the hurt and the hunger. Firing the people who are trying to help the hurting and the hungry is not the answer. Love is the answer, and this video reminds us that our world needs love more than ever.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Complete Children's Service and DVD

Below is a copy of the complete service on Children's Sunday. The children from First Baptist Church of Statesville did a great job leading in worship. I am also working on a DVD, if you want a DVD, leave me a comment with your e-mail address. (I won't publish the comment.) Please note, there is a lot of black at the beginning of the video, so give it a few seconds to start playing.

If you would like to view the video with the option of watching full screen, click here. To download a Quicktime version, click right click here and choose save target as.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Gay's Sermon From Children's Sunday!

We just got the DVD from Children's Sunday at FBC Statesville. So, I did some quick editing on my Mac, and uploaded her sermon, "Childlike...Not Childish," to Google Video. You can watch it below.