Friday, July 11, 2008

Bible Trivia - 7/11/2008

Question: Complete the following sentence from Psalm 51:10: "Create in me a clean heart O God and renew..."

Answer: "a right spirit within me." (Psalm 51:10)

Comments: The superscription of Psalm 51 indicates that it was a song of contrition written by David after his affair with Bathsheba and conspiracy to kill her husband. (II Samuel 11) It is the only superscription that references this incident. It has become the most famous of the seven Penitential Psalms. In it, David pleas for the removal of the personal disorder that his sin has brought.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10, NASB)

Note: This painting of King David playing the harp was created by Domenico Zampieri (1581-1641).

Word of the Day - 7/11/2008


To evanesce is to disappear gradually; vanish; fade away.

After his resurrection, two men recognized Jesus after eating with him in Emmaus. Shortly after "their eyes were opened", Jesus evanesced. (Luke 24:31)

Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. (Luke 24:31, NASB)

Note: This is the most famous of Rembrandt (1606-1669)’s works on Emmaus. Rembrandt had painted the supper in Emmaus before, in 1628. This work comes from 1648.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 7/11/2008

On Thursday, I got to go to Bible Study, see my friends, and give my mother a guilt trip. Need I say it was a good day?

My Thursday Bible Study met at 10 am. We discussed abortion, euthanasia, and debriefed on The Bucket List, which deals primarily with death. It was a lighthearted session.

Next week we will be attending a matinee of The Dark Knight next Friday with debriefing the following week. The latest’s edition of the Batman saga opens that day. If you would like to go with us, let me know.

After Bible Study, I went with SMA to the Smoky Mountain Brewery. We both tried sandwiches. I ordered the Meatball Grinder and SMA partook of the Chicken Reuben. Neither of us were overly impressed with our meals, but it appears the place specializes in pizzas. We plan on trying that next time.

The place does have an interesting atmosphere with the brewery engulfing the restaurant. I would like it noted that these people in this photo had a discussion of movies that annoyed SMA. It involved the guy detailing a movie plot and the woman responding with an exuberant “Wow!” He noted that Charlton Heston could not have explained a plot that would have justified that response.

The person who delivered our food was none other than LMC. She is the Ellen Page lookalike that SMA crushed on when she was a waitress at Connors Steak & Seafood. We are uncertain if she recognized me or not. She was very sweet as always.

Afterwards, we went to Target where SMA purchased at showerhead and I bought the second season of Psych. Yes, there are some DVDs that are so amazing that I actually purchase them new. Admittedly, there are not very many.

While there we also planned to buy General Mills cereal. They have a promotional offer that distributes miniature Batman figurines with the purchase of a box of cereal. Unfortunately, the only brand that had these specific toys was Cinnamon Toast Crunch which I had not eaten in years. It is not that bad. Darn effective marketing plans!

The day I do not buy cereal based upon the complimentary toy is the day I will officially be old. For the record, I got "The Joker Chop" figure.

I was to eat with my parents on Thursday night but they abandoned me when friends called to take them to a presentation of “My Fair Lady” at the Oak Ridge Playhouse. You have reached a sad state when your parents stand you up.

I would have loved to see my father’s reaction when my mother told him of these plans. He does not share my affinity for plays, especially an epic like “My Fair Lady.”

Instead, I brought JTH food from McDonald’s to MoFoS. When I take a friend out, it is first class all the way.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 7/10/2008

Associated Baptist Press
July 10, 2008 (8-70)

Carson-Newman names Baylor Provost Randall O’Brien president
Declaration responds to torture-policy shift
Daniel Vestal counters BP column that said CBF not ‘truly Christian’
John Templeton, religious philanthropist, dead at 95
Baptist student missionary killed in Peru bus accident
Economy may affect churches in ways other than giving

Carson-Newman names Baylor Provost Randall O’Brien president
By Ken Camp and Robert Marus

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. (ABP) -- Veteran Baylor University professor and administrator Randall O’Brien has been named president of Carson-Newman College.

Trustees of the Jefferson City, Tenn., school elected him July 8. O’Brien will assume full-time duties Jan. 1, 2009, after a transitional period that begins in August. During the transition, he will share administrative duties with Carson-Newman’s current interim president, Joe Bill Sloan.

“It quickly became apparent to the committee that Dr. O’Brien’s reputation in Baptist higher education was national in scope,” said Carson-Newman trustee chair David Ogle, according to a news release from the school. Ogle also served as chair of the search committee that called O’Brien.

“He brings a breadth and depth of education, experience and understanding for the roles, challenges and opportunities required to ensure quality faculty and instruction, vibrant student life, and visionary leadership,” said Ogle, a Sevier County, Tenn., businessman. “Further, he is also nationally recognized by Baptists as an outstanding pastor, religious scholar, author and speaker. I look forward to seeing Dr. O’Brien in Baptist pulpits across this nation as Carson-Newman’s chief ambassador.”

O’Brien replaces James Netherton, who resigned under pressure in early 2007. He was the target of a no-confidence vote by the faculty in the fall of 2006. Critics among Carson-Newman professors, alumni and supporters accused Netherton of incompetence and mistreating faculty, and they blamed him for declining enrollment and financial pressures.

The school has also been a point of contention in the Tennessee Baptist Convention for at least a decade. In 1998, Carson-Newman trustees voted to remove the power to appoint their successors from the convention. Fundamentalists have accused the moderate-dominated school of teaching incorrect doctrine, while moderates have defended the academic freedom of professors.

However, Carson-Newman and the convention have reached an agreement to jointly appoint trustees and continue the convention’s financial support for the school.

Like O’Brien, Netherton previously worked for Baylor. He was vice president and chief operating officer until 1996, when he accepted the post of provost at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.

O’Brien told the Knoxville News Sentinel that he hoped to continue to improve Carson-Newman’s relationship with the churches that support it. “We want Tennessee Baptists to trust us,” he said. “When people trust you they'll support you. I hope to prove trustworthy.”

O’Brien has served at Baylor -- Texas Baptists’ flagship school -- for 17 years, including the last three as executive vice president and provost.

“Randall has served Baylor admirably in a variety of positions over a period of nearly two decades,” Baylor President John Lilley said. “I have deeply appreciated the important role he has played as executive vice president and provost, overseeing our academic programs and helping to lead the university as we’ve confronted a variety of opportunities and challenges.”

A popular choice of students, O’Brien’s courses often were oversubscribed, and students have honored him with numerous teaching awards. He also has written four books and more than 70 scholarly articles.

He has filled the pulpit in many Texas Baptist churches, and he currently serves as interim pastor of one of the state’s most prominent moderate congregations -- Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio.

“Baylor University has been good to us,” O’Brien said. “For 17 wonderful years, Baylor has been home. Our children have grown up here. We have loved Baylor and Baylor has loved us. We have been a part of each other—family you might say, and in a very real sense we always will be.

“The only thing harder than saying goodbye to family and friends is saying ‘no’ to God, a sure recipe for misery,” he said.

“Someone has said that God’s other name is ‘Surprise!’ Well, God has, indeed, surprised us once again, this time with a call to become the 22nd president of Carson-Newman College. … We have prayerfully accepted God’s call upon our lives and Carson-Newman’s call to become president of the college.”

O’Brien was a full-time pastor -- most recently at Calvary Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark. -- before going to Baylor. A native of McComb, Miss., he is a graduate of Mississippi College, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Yale Divinity School. He also studied at Harvard and Oxford universities and is a decorated Vietnam veteran.

O’Brien’s wife, Kay, has extensive experience as a licensed social worker and an educator, and has taught in Baylor’s social-work school since 1997. They have two married adult daughters, both of whom are preparing to be international missionaries, and a son who is in college.


Declaration responds to torture-policy shift
By Vicki Brown

(ABP) -- For years in foreign-policy circles, the United States was regarded as the world’s premier protector of individual liberty, promoter of democracy and champion of human rights.

But terrorist attacks on U.S. soil on Sept. 11, 2001, created a new climate of fear, President Bush’s declaration of war on terror -- and a shift in the government’s policies on torture.

Now, a coalition of religious and secular leaders hopes to persuade either the current administration or the one that takes office in January to return to the United States’ historic stance against torture.

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), Evangelicals for Human Rights and the Center for Victims of Torture issued a unique document June 26.

Called the “Declaration of Principles for a Presidential Executive Order on Prisoner Treatment, Torture and Cruelty,” it was signed by several religious, political and military leaders. It includes six principles for prisoner treatment and asks the president to issue an executive order enshrining them as U.S. policy.

Shifted by fear

“The events of 9/11 were horrific,” noted Richard Killmer, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. “I’m sure the administration had fear, and they began to develop policy in an effort to make us more secure.”

The problem, Killmer believes, is that fear induced inappropriate policies. “We have no doubts about the intention of the president…. But he forgot about international law, laws on the books, about how you treat enemy combatants,” Killmer said.

Information about Justice Department and Defense Department memos surfaced in 2005. The memos, written primarily in 2002 and 2003, offered legal justification for using harsh measures against terrorism detainees.

A March 2003 memo by John Yoo offered the most sweeping arguments. A former deputy in the Department of Defense Office of Legal Counsel, Yoo asserted that the president’s authority as commander-in-chief gives him unlimited power to order interrogations. The Constitution gave the president authority to protect the nation from attack, Yoo claimed. The memo was declassified and released earlier this year.

Passage of the Military Commissions Act in March 2006 strengthened the administration’s position. It gave the president power to determine the enemy and to imprison those tagged as enemies without charges.

“Policies developed that really endangered our country,” Douglas Johnson, director of the Center for Victims of Torture, said.

Moral/strategic concerns

The possibility of a concerted effort to affect the administration’s view emerged as individual groups examined possible consequences of the government’s shift toward condoning torture.

Johnson noticed voices emerging on several levels. Religious voices, especially among evangelicals, had begun speaking out on “the deep immorality of torture,” he said.

At the same time, foreign-policy experts and former military leaders emphasized the strategic implications of torture policy. “The issues of security were badly played in the administration and the news media,” Johnson said.

Condoning torture “has hurt America,” he added, by alienating U.S. allies and providing some credence to al Qaeda’s charge that America is out to persecute and martyr Muslims.

As conversations continued, several individuals recognized the need for “an important moral statement to get people to re-examine the frivolous conversations taking place…to get people to start thinking,” Johnson said.

“The policies were not only wrong, but stupid” in their effect, he added. “These [moral and strategic] arguments were being rolled over. We were looking for people who would bring sanity to the conversation.”

Building consensus

The center organized a dinner meeting in early 2007 to discuss how to build consensus.

Dinner participants determined that a declaration asking for an executive order would be an effective means of clearly spelling out their concerns. They enlisted David Gushee, director of Evangelicals for Human Rights and an ethics professor at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology, to help write the document. (Gushee also writes a regular column for Associated Baptist Press.)

The declaration affirms six principles on prisoner treatment: refusal to use treatment on others that most Americans would find unacceptable; creating uniform, national standards to be used by all U.S. governmental agencies; adherence to the rule of law and adequate judicial process for prisoners; acceptance of the responsibility to protect prisoners after they are transferred to the custody of other nations; adherence to the checks and balances in the U.S. political process; and clarity and accountability to legal rules, regardless of rank or position.

The document “is an aspect of what it means to follow Christ, to speak up for justice in the public square,” Gushee emphasized.

“September 11 basically temporarily unhinged us. We have to go back. There have always been and there will always be security threats…but we have to uphold our ideals.”

Growing movement

“It’s kind of a ‘grass-tops’ and a grassroots movement,” Gushee said.

The three organizations began the “grass-tops” effort by enlisting key leaders involved in initial conversations to sign the declaration, and a concerted grassroots outreach by launching a website (

Early signers include former secretaries of state George Shultz, Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher and former defense secretaries Harold Brown, William Perry and William Cohen. Several political figures, such as former senators Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and John Glenn (D-Ohio), have signed.

Project organizers intend to keep the document in the public eye. “I’m genuinely thrilled by the kind of people who have already signed it and the diversity of influence they represent,” Gushee said.

“There are everyday folks who need to be persuaded. It helps that some people whose job has been to protect the country have already signed,” he added. “We are hoping to help foster a national consensus.”

And they hope that consensus will grab the administration’s attention and the attention of presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama.

The principles would have to be incorporated by executive order and legislative action to return to previous policies.

“It’s hard to get anybody to admit when they’re wrong. But this is the voice that’s needed to tell the administration that we don’t need them to protect us,” Johnson said. “It’s the ideals that we want protected.”


Daniel Vestal counters BP column that said CBF not ‘truly Christian’
By Jim White

ATLANTA (ABP) -- Why would some Baptist writers go out of their way to create the impression that the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is not even Christian?

CBF Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal said he is trying to answer that question after a the Southern Baptist Convention’s news agency published a column claiming the Fellowship was neither Baptist nor Christian at all.

“It pained me that people have been offended and hurt by this confusion about what CBF believes. I want to make clear that CBF is Christ-centered and trinitarian in its theology,” asserted Vestal. “CBF is clear in its affirmation of the core commitment to the triune God. Our commitment to Christ as the savior for the whole world stems from our trinitarian faith.”

Vestal responded to the column by James Smith, editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, which Baptist Press published nationwide June 25.

“Here's the bottom line,” Smith wrote. “It's long past time to declare the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is no longer truly Christian, let alone Baptist.”

Smith conceded that some -- perhaps even most -- individuals in the CBF are Christians. But he contended they are ill informed about what he called CBF’s promotion of “heresy.”

Smith’s words were apparently inspired by comments made at CBF’s recent annual meeting by John Killinger. The Presbyterian pastor and author led three of about 60 breakout sessions at the meeting.

According to multiple reports, in one session Killinger said: “Now we are re-evaluating and we’re approaching everything with a humbler perspective and seeing God’s hand working in Christ, but not necessarily as the incarnate God in our midst. Now, that may be hard for you to hear depending on where you are coming from, but we can talk more about it.”

Some of Killinger’s comments were first reported by BP, which sent reporters to cover the CBF general assembly in Memphis, Tenn.

Killinger is currently executive minister and theologian-in-residence at Marble Collegiate Church in New York -- the pulpit from which the late Norman Vincent Peale rose to fame.

Vestal denounced the theology Killinger expressed. “The only confession of the [early] Christian church was ‘Jesus is Lord,’” he said. “To make that confession cost many people their lives because of its radical claim. To say and believe that Jesus is Lord was to say and believe that Jesus of Nazareth is God. It was a clear affirmation of the deity of Jesus. And the Incarnation of God in the man Jesus is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.

“And so for somebody in one of our workshops to question the Incarnation is simply very painful for me,” Vestal continued. “I have known John Killinger to be a popular Presbyterian preacher. He was a professor at Samford University. … But we had no idea that his views on Christ were what he declared in this breakout session. His perspective is deeply troubling to me.”

Vestal’s own views on the lordship of Christ are made clear in his book, Being the Presence of Christ, just published by the Upper Room. The book’s premise, according to Vestal, is “that all the gospels were written from the perspective of the Resurrection, and the living Christ is none other than the incarnate Christ that was proclaimed in the pages of Scripture.”

Vestal said he regretted allowing Killinger to challenge such christological views at a CBF event. “I feel like that we gave him a platform at the general assembly,” he said. “We do allow freedom of exchange and ideas that people disagree on. But if we had known then what we know now about his christology, he would not have been invited.”

Vestal conceded, however, that CBF planners should have paid more attention to Killinger’s theological shifts. “I accept the responsibility for that. Obviously the staff and I had heard him speak. We knew him to be a popular preacher, but we did not know of his christological views. Should we have known that? Yes, we probably should have, and we will do more due diligence in the future.”

He continued, “We try to invite people who have different perspectives on a lot of issues, but the issue of the Incarnation is foundational. That’s central. That’s core gospel.”

But Vestal strongly objected to Smith’s characterization of the CBF as non-Christian.

“This is very personal for me and also very personal for Cooperative Baptist Fellowship,” he said. “… For some editors to write and insinuate that we are not Christians is very painful for me.”

Vestal questioned BP’s motives in regularly investing thousands of dollars in denominational resources to send reporters to cover the annual meeting of CBF, a group that is dwarfed in size by the SBC.

He said he believes they attend “to find things in our assembly, either in a breakout session or in a line that someone makes, that they can use then to somehow paint everybody in the CBF in a certain way.”

Will Hall, executive editor of Baptist Press and the SBC’s chief public-relations officer, said his only reaction to Vestal was, “I really don’t have any comment. We’re a news service.”

The SBC agency sends reporters to the event annually. In the past, they have frequently produced stories highlighting general assembly speakers, workshop leaders or exhibitor organizations who may hold beliefs that some conservative Southern Baptists would find questionable.

In 2000, many general assembly attendees accused BP writer Russell Moore of inaccuracies and blatant fabrications in several stories -- most notably a report where he claimed that a former missionary attending the meeting physically assaulted him. Moore is now a dean at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Vestal said BP missed a great opportunity at this year’s assembly to celebrate a fellow Baptist group’s successes in kingdom work.

“This was one of the best gatherings we have had. It was just a wonderful, wonderful meeting. Wednesday night we had a special commissioning service. We appointed 18 new missionaries that are going to some of the most difficult, dangerous places in the world.”

According to Vestal, the meeting was “a high and holy moment” that included inspiring worship, corporate prayer and discernment about the organization’s future, and affirmation of CBF’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and the Micah Challenge.


-- Jim White is editor of the Religious Herald. Robert Marus contributed to this story.

John Templeton, religious philanthropist, dead at 95
By Vicki Brown

NASSAU, Bahamas (ABP) -- Sir John Marks Templeton, religious philanthropist and founder of an annual award that honors innovation in religion, died of pneumonia July 8 in Nassau, Bahamas. He was 95.

Perhaps most widely known for the Templeton Prize and the Templeton Foundation, Templeton made billions in mutual funds and investments.

The longtime Presbyterian wanted to encourage discovery of what he called “spiritual realities” and “progress in religion” through love, gratitude, forgiveness and creativity. He believed that science and religion could cooperate to find answers to philosophical questions.

Born Nov. 29, 1912, in Winchester, Tenn., he graduated from Yale University in 1934. He was awarded a Rhodes scholarship to Balliol College at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in law. He gave up his United States citizenship to become a subject of Queen Elizabeth II, who knighted him in 1987.

He served as a Princeton Theological Seminary trustee for 42 years, including 12 as board chair. He also endowed Templeton College at Oxford.

He founded the Templeton Prize in 1972 because no Nobel Prize was offered in religion. Sir Templeton awarded the first prize of $85,000 to Mother Teresa in 1973. The prize has grown to $1.6 million.

Recipients have included Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus. American religious icon Billy Graham and Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn are among past Templeton honorees.

Templeton established the foundation in 1987 to administer the prize and to promote projects that study religion with scientific methods and the nature and origin of religious belief.

In 1992, he sold his money-management firm to the Franklin Group for $440 million and devoted more time to philanthropy. He authored eight books on spiritual subjects and edited several others.

Templeton is survived by two sons, a stepdaughter, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.


Baptist student missionary killed in Peru bus accident
By Lee Ann Marcel

ST. LOUIS (ABP) -- Southern Baptist student missionary Gregory Gomez IV died July 5 in a bus crash in Peru.

The 22-year-old Gomez was serving as a short-term field worker with the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board.

According to Baptist Press, the SBC’s news outlet, Gomez was traveling with fellow IMB student missionary Lydia Shivar and a Peruvian translator when the accident occurred near the town of Abancay. Shivar, of Crawford, Ga., and the translator received minor injuries.

Gomez graduated in May from the University of Mississippi with a degree in mechanical engineering. He was an active member of the Baptist Student Union, Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and served as president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Gomez was a member of Bethel Baptist Church in Troy, Ill., near St. Louis.

"Greg was on what they call an Extreme Team, and they were going to some of the most rural, rugged areas of Peru, finding what they call micro-people groups," Bethel Baptist Pastor Tim Lewis told KSDK-TV, the St. Louis NBC affiliate in nearby St. Louis. "They were finding out where those communities are, the kinds of language they speak and then preparing the way for other missionaries who try to come in and plant churches."

Mo Baker, director of the Baptist Student Union at the University of Mississippi, told the school paper, the Daily Mississippian, that he remembers Gomez as an inspiring person with great character and enthusiasm about God.

"His smile would brighten up a room the moment he stepped in," Baker said. "He influenced people by being an encourager. He led by serving others."

Gomez is survived by his parents, Elida and Gregory Gomez III, of Glen Carbon, Ill., and two sisters.


Economy may affect churches in ways other than giving
By Rachel Mehlhaff

(ABP) -- The bottoming markets, soaring gas and food prices and a steady stream of home foreclosures may be affecting other sectors of the economy, but that doesn’t mean church budgets will necessarily feel the pinch.

But local congregations may well be affected in other ways, according to experts on the subject.

In tough times people look to religion, said Sylvia Ronsvalle, executive vice president of the Christian research organization empty tomb, inc.

In the United States, “60 million people are in a religious house of worship each weekend” she said. “These numbers suggest church is one of the last places people begin to cut back on.”

Giving to local churches has almost consistently been increasing since 1986. It did decrease slightly during three out of six economic recessions between 1986 and 2005, according to an empty tomb analysis of church giving in recession years. The report also suggests that the decrease doesn’t tend to show up until near the end of the recessions.

The report also notes that “church-member giving declined in four non-recession years during the 1968 through 2005 period,” Therefore, it reasons, “church-member giving does not necessarily decline in a recession.”

Scott McConnell, associate director of research for LifeWay Christian Resources, believes giving has been fairly consistent.

The organization -- the Southern Baptist Convention’s publishing arm -- recently conducted an economic survey of Southern Baptist pastors. The survey indicated that 72 percent felt the economy was having a negative impact on their churches. But the survey’s other findings indicate the situation for most churches may not be as dire as the pastors perceive.

It also looked at whether the pastors’ incomes were meeting their expectations. Half of the respondents said their salaries were about what they expected. Twenty-three percent said they were more than expected and 24 percent said their income was not meeting expectations.

McConnell said the share of those not satisfied with their salary is a normal percentage from what he has seen in surveys conducted in non-recession years.

Finally, the LifeWay survey looked at whether or not the pastors thought their churches would meet their budgets. Sixty-six percent said yes and 26 percent said no.

McConnell said government figures show that, overall, wages are continuing to rise. He believes people should be giving at the same levels as income.

Whether this affects churches will be revealed at the end of the year, he said. In particular, year-end giving figures will show how accurately churches and individual church members budgeted, taking the various economic stresses into account.

As unemployment begins to rise and tough economic times increase McConnell said, the pinch could be a great opportunity for individual church members who can afford to give more generously than those whose budgets are tighter.

This is “an opportunity to see God work,” McConnell said. “I think there is a renewed awareness that we have heard from a lot of churches needing to be in tune with their community.”

But other factors may affect giving in more logistical ways. For instance, high gas prices could make it difficult for members to make it to worship services to turn in their tithe envelopes.

Steve Hewitt, a reporter for Christian Computing magazine said churches are going to have to find alternate routes -- such as online giving or automatic checking-account deductions -- for giving.

“Churches can do stuff to fix this,” he said.

Hewitt believes that churches have other reasons to adapt their ministry to the rising gas prices, which are projected to be as high as $5.75 by the end of July.

He drives 30 to 40 miles to church and frequently has church activities to attend throughout the week.

Hewitt said more churches may choose to stream their worship services and other events live on the Internet to help members for whom driving to church regularly creates an economic hardship.

“Only problem I have with that is the music aspect,” he said.

The soaring price of fuel is fundamentally different than the other aspects of the economic crunch, Hewitt noted. “It is directly proportionate to me going to church,” he said. “It affects the largest of all churches.”

Hewitt believes one solution may actually create better fellowship within churches: A new emphasis on neighborhood meetings and local small groups of church members.

Members of such groups not only can conduct some church business without driving to a remote location, but also get to know each other and share fellowship and support during difficult economic times, he said.


By ABP staff

Please replace the 14th paragraph of the July 8 ABP story, "Helms, ultra-conservative icon, steeped in moderate Baptist life," with the following:

"Helms also had a close association with right-wing El Salvadorian leader Roberto d’Aubuisson. D'Aubuisson was identified by the State Department as the man who ordered the murder of San Salvador Archbishop Oscar Romero -- done while the anti-poverty activist presided over the cathedral altar at a communion service."


Prayer Blog - 7/10/2008

The Central Baptist Church of Bearden learned last night that they will be housing the Ride: Well Team next Wednesday night. The group is comprised of Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and eighteen other bicyclists.

The group is cycling across the country to raise awareness for the need of wells in Africa.

It is likely that Miller will briefly address the congregation at the Wednesday night service.

Please pray for the church as they make preparations, the group’s ministry, and the people of Africa affected by this need.

Bible Trivia - 7/10/2008

Question: What is the Hebrew equivalent of the name Calvary?

Answer: Golgotha. (John 19:17)

Comments: Calvary (Luke 23:33) and Golgotha (Matthew 27:33, Mark 15:22, John 19:17) are the English language names given to the hill ascribed to Jesus' crucifixion. They mean "place of the skull". It has been speculated that it was given the name because it was a knoll rounded like a bare skull.

Golgoltha represents the Greek transliteration of the Aramaic word Gulgaltha, which equates to the Hebrew Gulgoleth (Numbers 1:2; I Chronicles 23:3, 23:24; II Kings 9:35), meaning "a skull."

"Calvary" appears only in the KJV and NKJV's translation of Luke 23:33. The word "calvary" is not from the original Greek versions, but is a gloss of the Latin name Calvaria from the Vulgate,.

They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. (John 19:17, NASB)

Word of the Day - 7/10/2008


Pertinacious means 1. holding tenaciously to a purpose, course of action, or opinion; resolute. 2. stubborn or obstinate.

God called Ezekiel as a prophet fully admitting that his audience would be pertinacious.

"I am sending you to them who are stubborn and obstinate children, and you shall say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD.'" (Ezekiel 2:4, NASB)

Note: This image of Ezekiel by Michelangelo (1475-1564) comes from the Sistine Chapel.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 7/10/2008

My Wednesday began early as I was enlisted to drive RAW and KJW to his Best Buy van (lucky #13) so that he could get the tires changed. The incentive for him doing this on his day off was that he is paid for the time that the van is being serviced. So, I drove him to Best Buy, followed him to Firestone Complete Auto Care and then we took KJW to breakfast at Shoney’s.

KJW reached an unfortunate milestone on Tuesday night. She was sent to her room without supper for the first time. She refused to say her blessing - “Thank you Jesus, Amen.” She was sent to her room and later returned promising to bless the food. She then reneged. A girl has got to take a stand every now and then and by God, she was not going to thank Jesus for this meal. So she did not get one. I am not certain about the theological dimensions of eliminating an unblessed meal, but an uncooperative child must be disciplined.

Unfortunately, I inadvertently engaged in positive reinforcement of negative behavior. As we followed her father to the tire store I asked her if she had gotten into trouble the previous night. She sheepishly said, “Uh-huh.” The way she said it made me laugh uproariously. Soon, she bragged, “I got in trouble, Chan!” I tried to correct her and informed her father of my idiocy and he added further correction. Hopefully, my negative reinforcement negates my positive reinforcement. My experience with children makes me seriously doubt this.

On this day, KJW was in a much more cooperative mood. Shoney’s graciously waived their no shoes, no service policy for KJW. They also allowed her to eat from the breakfast bar free of charge. While she enjoyed the food, she far preferred the Goldfish crackers we brought with us than any sustenance the restaurant provided.

After breakfast, I went to take KGG to lunch for her 16th birthday on Friday. Unfortunately, she was not home. She had a 103 degree fever and she and her mother were at the doctor. I felt this was valid excuse.

I did get to catch up with her brother JJG and drop off her gift - the Family Guy Freakin’ Party Pack. It is her favorite show. Her mother did grant approval before the purchase as well. KGG later called me pleased.

We are hoping that she recovers from her virus enough so that she can get her license on Friday. She already has her automobile. Like me, she bought a Nissan XTerra. Unlike the Chanana, hers is black. Nothing is perfect.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Prayer Blog - 7/9/2008

KGG woke up this morning very ill and with a fever of 103. Please pray for her healing. She turns 16 on Friday and we wish her sweet 16 to be spent somewhere other than in bed. (Interpret that any way you like.)

Bible Trivia - 7/9/008

Question: What was another name for the Sea of Galilee during the time of Jesus’ ministry?

Answer: Lake Gennesaret. (Luke 5:1)

Comments: Jesus spent much of his ministry near the Sea of Galilee. It is Israel's largest freshwater lake. The Sea of Galilee is known by four names in Scripture: the Sea of Galilee, the lake of Genneseret (Luke 5:1), the sea of Chinnereth (Numbers 34:11; Joshua 13:27), and the sea of Tiberius (John 6:1).

Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; (Luke 5:1, NASB)

Word of the Day - 7/9/2008


To immolate is to sacrifice or to kill as a sacrificial victim, as by fire; offer in sacrifice.

Abraham was tested when God asked him to immolate his son.

He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you." (Genesis 22:2, NASB)

Note: This oil painting, "The Angel Stopping Abraham from Sacrificing Isaac to God", was rendered by Rembrandt (1606-1669) in 1635.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 7/9/2008

On Tuesday, I began my formal training at the Hope Resource Center.

My training consisted of watching a VHS tape and then debriefing with LEB. I was confined to this room, which coincidentally was furnished by my church. It felt like I was in prison and that watching the tape was cruel and unusual punishment. It’s not just me. LEB apologized profusely for subjecting me to the necessary, but painfully dull video. It was made all the worse as I had not eaten when I began watching the epic presentation.

The footage featured a steady camera filming Cyndi Philkill (CRP) leading a seminar. There were many shots like this one in which someone spoke to her in which I got only a glimpse of the back of the speaker’s head. This is actually better than the shots of CRP nodding her head in approval of some unknown entity.

The tape’s struggles were compounded by the fact during the taping, she was very sick and coughs excessively throughout. I understand wanting to fulfill one’s obligation, but I am thinking postponing the filming would have been a good idea. The coughing was so prevalent that I honestly thought I would be told she had died shortly after filming.

Though the material was very good, it could easily have been condensed into a half hour segment. The feature was so lengthy that the studio audience, if you will, received two breaks during the portions I watched. I was not so lucky. LEB consoled me by noting that the series is comprised of seven volumes and that I will only be subjected to tapes 1 and 5.

One of the principles of the tapes was that I should use my own painful experiences in counseling. Well, watching the tapes was one brutally painful experience.

Being the mature person that I am, I spent part of the time periodically texting JTH so that he could share my pain. Almost two hours into the experience, I let him know the tapes were still going. His response: “Who is teaching this thing? Henry T. Blackaby?” I am not sure if I found this hilarious because I have never associated Blackaby with being long-winded or the fact that JTH incorporated his middle initial.

After watching the videos, I debriefed with LEB. I like her a lot. We compared notes on Juno, which we both agreed was necessary viewing for crisis pregnancy workers. She also recommended Bella when I am emotionally prepared. Duly noted.

On the way home, I had my hair cut at Ross the Boss & Co. Mt stylist, Britney (BLC), was recovering from inexplicably falling on her face in the store and damaging two teeth. Unfortunately she was also slated to lead the music at Vacation Bible School at Cedar Bluff Baptist Church. The swelling incurred made this quite difficult. By Tuesday, it had reduced significantly and she had disposed of the shoes despite admitting that they probably were not a primary contributor to the incident. I told her if I have learned nothing from television, it is that “it had to be the shoes.”

On Tuesday night, JTH, MR. X and I went to Applebees. Amy was our waitress, as is often the case. As all waitresses do, she asked if we wanted a dessert. We declined. When she told us that she could provide free shooter desserts, the answer changed exceedingly fast. I refrained as it was not Sunday. Mr. X requested the apple version and she mocked his decision, noting that it was the least popular choice and that when people do order it they tend to let it sit. So she brought him two, an alternative and the apple he requested so that he could see she had advised him properly. He finished both of them just to spite her though admitted it was not as good as others. Well, to us anyway. So, when ordering a dessert shooter at Applebees, apple bes not the choice.

Finally, has “haha” replaced “lol” in texting/ If so when and why did I not get the memo?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 7/8/2008

Associated Baptist Press
July 8, 2008 (8-69)

Helms, ultra-conservative icon, steeped in moderate Baptist life
Third-World Faith: Hub of world Christianity shifts to ‘Global South'
Third World Faith: Church tells story of Jesus to Sudanese
‘Dear Jane’ letters a problem for military spouses at home
To support military families through divorce, a few tips

Helms, ultra-conservative icon, steeped in moderate Baptist life
By Robert Marus

RALEIGH, N.C. (ABP) -- Jesse Helms, the Baptist former senator who battled communist oppression but backed right-wing dictators and opposed abortion while appealing to racist sentiment, was a polarizing figure who was lionized by some conservatives and vilified by many liberals.

The Republican, who died July 4 at age 86, may also be a remembered as an example of the vast diversity still found in mainstream Baptist life.

Helms represented his native North Carolina for three decades in the Senate before retiring in 2003. His body lay in repose in the sanctuary at Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh July 7, and his funeral was held at the church July 8.

The ultra-conservative senator’s long-time membership in the moderate congregation -- affiliated with both the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Southern Baptist Convention -- may surprise some observers. Baptist historian Bill Leonard said July 8 that he knew Helms was a Hayes Barton member, but was “floored” to learn that the late senator had been a deacon at the church, which employs a female associate pastor.

“I think that’s part of the irony and complexity of Baptist local autonomy,” said Leonard, who is the dean of the Wake Forest University Divinity School in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Helms “was a man of consistent conviction to conservative ideals and courage to faithfully serve God and country based on principle, not popularity or politics,” said Billy Graham, in a statement released shortly after Helms’ death was announced. The long-time evangelist had been friends with his fellow North Carolinian for years.

Richard Land, head of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said it was appropriate that Helms died on Independence Day. “He was a patriot. ... He was a very strong pro-life, very strong pro-family and very strong anti-communist advocate,” he noted, according to an article from Baptist Press, the SBC’s news agency.

But moderates, liberals and some conservatives noted several of the dark spots on his record, most notably Helms’ strenuous opposition to virtually all civil-rights legislation that came before Congress during his tenure.

He first rose to prominence in North Carolina as a television journalist in the 1960s. As an executive of the company that owned Raleigh’s WRAL-TV, a CBS affiliate, he became famous for delivering five-minute nightly commentaries during the station’s evening news broadcast. In them, he frequently railed against “the so-called civil-rights movement,” big government, taxes and those he viewed as cultural elitists. He once infamously referred to the University of North Carolina in nearby Chapel Hill as “the university of negroes and communists.”

After Helms was elected to the Senate in 1972, he opposed civil-rights legislation and backed the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. In 1983, he led an unsuccessful filibuster to prevent the creation of the federal Martin Luther King Jr., holiday, claiming that historians had not adequately explored King’s and other civil-rights leaders’ alleged ties to communists.

Helms never apologized for any of his views on civil rights and in later years defended himself, saying he opposed the movement not on racial grounds, but on states’-rights principles. He -- and his defenders, such as Land and former Kansas senator Bob Dole -- pointed to his personal friendships with African-Americans, including some who worked on his Senate staff. One of them was James Meredith, the black man who integrated the University of Mississippi.

But his fellow conservative David Broder, writing a column about Helms’ retirement from the Senate in 2001, called him “the last prominent unabashed white racist politician in this country -- a title that one hopes will now be permanently retired.”

He faced similar criticism for his foreign-policy views. After Helms was elected to the Senate in 1972, he used his perch as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to battle the threat of communism in the Third World, and particularly Latin America. He gained a reputation as a supporter of many right-wing military dictatorships, most notoriously that of former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet.

Helms also had a close association with right-wing El Salvadorian leader Roberto d’Aubuisson. He was identified by the State Department as the man who ordered the murder of San Salvador Archbishop Oscar Romero -- done while the anti-poverty activist presided over the cathedral altar at a communion service.

Helms also came under heavy criticism for his staunch opposition to funding for AIDS research and relief, once saying that responsibility for every instance of the disease could be traced, ultimately, to “sodomy.” Late in his career, Helms changed his mind on AIDS relief -- thanks to the efforts of rock musician and global activist Bono -- and supported $500 million in funding to help fight the global scourge.

The SBC’s Land acknowledged that Helms had “blind spots,” noting the late senator’s staunch support of the tobacco industry. “And, while there was ample evidence that he was not personally a racist, when he opposed the Martin Luther King Holiday as vigorously as he did, it was not one of his finer moments,” he said in the BP article.

But Helms was reportedly well regarded at his Raleigh church, where he served as a deacon and in other roles. The congregation has long been active in moderate Baptist life, with many members serving in leadership roles with CBF and other organizations that resisted the SBC’s rightward movement in the 1980s.

Helms also donated his personal papers and endowment funds to Wingate University, one of two moderate Baptist schools (along with Wake Forest) he attended. They are now housed at the Jesse Helms Center on the university’s campus in Wingate, N.C.

Wake Forest’s Leonard said that Helms’ long-time support of a church and a school that many of his political allies would regard as liberal or even heretical is illustrative of “the complexity of Southern religious life, particularly with regard to the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Mentioning Helms alongside fellow Baptist Jimmy Carter, Leonard said, both “have, apparently, maintained deep ties to what I would call a kind of traditional pre-controversy Southern Baptist identity.”

One way to explain that, the Wake Forest University Divinity School dean said, is that, “Just as all politics is local, all … Baptistness is local. And apparently Jesse Helms invested his life in a congregation and decided to stay in that congregation even though he had differences with … the direction of that congregation in the [SBC] controversy.”


Third-World Faith: Hub of world Christianity shifts to ‘Global South'
By Kaitlin Chapman

(ABP) -- Sounds of laughter, tambourines and native instruments reverberate through a tiny apartment as a small group of Christians gathers for fervent worship. Despite oppression under Islam and the Soviet system, these Central Asian Christians dance and sing with joy with the freedom they have found in Christ.

Their relationship with Christ is more important to them than their own lives. The gospel is not just a story to study, but is their daily connection to hope and the message to share with their community.

This is contemporary Christianity.

During the last few years, Christian scholars, such as Philip Jenkins, author and professor of religion at Pennsylvania State University, have noted the center of global Christianity has shifted to the Southern Hemisphere and other developing nations that missiologists often refer to as the “Global South.” The center has left the United States and Europe and headed to Latin America, Africa and Asia, where churches have seen unprecedented growth despite persecution and opposition.

The number of Christians in North America is smaller than the number of believers in Africa, Latin America and Asia. By 2050, China, Brazil, India, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, Ethiopia and Uganda will dominate the list of the 10 nations with the largest Christian populations, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity.

World events outside the United States and Western Europe have served as catalysts for the shift, said a mission worker in Central Asia, whose name cannot be published for security reasons. After years of oppression and poverty, people are finding freedom and hope through a relationship with Christ.

“When you look over the past 100 years, one of the most deadly ideologies that killed more people during the 20th century was communism,” the worker said. “Yet, today in places where communism existed, we have seen some of the greatest advance of the gospel over the past 15 years.

“Today, radical Islam is having a similar effect in certain locations in the Muslim world. People have grown weary of living under the oppression of Islamic fundamentalism and are starting to turn to Jesus in places that we can’t even report right now.”

Billy Kim, former pastor of the 20,000-member Suwon Central Baptist Church in Suwon, South Korea, said people feel like they have to rely on God in areas with widespread poverty and persecution. “As you go to affluent Europe, the United States and Australia, churches seem to decline,” Kim, who served as president of the Baptist World Alliance, said. “But when there are problems of war, tragedy and poverty, like in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the church is growing and people are looking for hope.”

Now that Christianity has penetrated these societies, Christians are taking the gospel into the community, meeting people where they live instead of expecting them to come to a church building to experience a programmatic approach to religion.

Stan Parks, strategic catalyzer for Southeast Asia with the Global Connection Partnership Network, said that South Korea is now the second-largest missionary-sending country in the world. India, Brazil, Nigeria, the Philippines and China launch the next-largest missionary efforts, even sending missionaries to the United States.

Christians who “come out of these areas have an enthusiasm, vitality, confidence and joy because they know why they are here, where they are headed and they know the message they have to share,” said David Coffey, the current BWA president.

With the influx of missionaries to the United States and Europe, church leaders are re-evaluating where the Western church stands. As stories of dramatic church growth in developing nations appear more frequently, the decline of Western Christianity becomes more evident.

Scholars cite many reasons why the West has shifted from the Christian center, and all agree new approaches must be taken for the West to turn around.

Rob Sellers, the Connally professor of missions at Hardin-Simmons University, a Texas Baptist school, attributed much of Christianity's decline in the West to growing secularism. However, he added, it is "more complicated than simply a matter of a 'secular-versus-sacred' bent in society.” He pointed to postmodernism -- with its rejection of absolute answers and its receptivity to spirituality -- as an overarching cultural phenomenon.

“Postmodernity as a cultural phenomenon in the West has influenced the way that people perceive and accept systems of thought -- be they religious, political or otherwise -- that claim to have the ‘definitive answer’ to the problem,” Sellers said.

“A lot of people in the West are much more likely to validate different religious, political or social ideas than our parents -- and certainly our grandparents -- were apt to do. [They] are disenchanted with the established church. They perceive the church to be rigid, legalistic, formal, out of touch, superficial and old-fashioned.”

Sellers called for Christians to engage in holistic ministries that seek to enhance and sustain life. "If Christian people and churches were to set up their commitment to addressing human needs around the world, I believe more 'secular' people in the West would take notice and be more likely to participate,” he said.

Amidst the evident decline in church attendance in the West, pastors and church planters are hopeful, believing change can come through the Holy Spirit’s leading and through prayer.

If change happens, it will have to come through non-Western ways, some insist.

“We’ll keep doing what we are doing until we run out of money, but it will slow down,” said Bob Roberts, church planter and pastor of Northwood Church in Keller, Texas. “We will then get desperate enough to try something different and learn from those outside of the U.S.”

In the West, the church does not teach people to be self-feeding in their spiritual life, said Curtis Sergeant, a church-planting strategist with e3 Partners, a church-multiplication organization that equips, evangelizes and establishes connections with churches across the world.

Christians need to be praying, reading Scripture and involving themselves in church life so that they can practice all of the Bible’s “one-another” commands and use their spiritual gifts, he said.

The Western church has created disciples who are dependent, not capable of reproducing disciples themselves, Sergeant added.

“Church in essence is a movement of the Spirit,” said Bob Garrett, professor of missions at Dallas Baptist University.

“It’s a conversion of a mindset, a complete change. [Church growth] has little to do with institutions and buildings and programs. It’s happening by people going out and helping their neighbors with life problems and sharing Christ. It is a contagious element that people catch.”

For growth to happen, Coffey said, Western churches must be more urgent and intentional in their approach to evangelism and be led by missionary-hearted leaders in order to recover their zeal.

“While there are stirring examples around the world of those who are engaging creatively in mission and evangelism, I am discovering that many Baptists are unsure about how to preach the good news to the poor of our day,” Coffey said.

“The changing cultures alarm them, and many have lost their confidence to communicate the gospel. My conviction is that whenever there are changes in cultures, this constitutes a fresh call from the missionary God. We need to realize that a Christian mission has never evangelized a culture by avoiding it. Perhaps the starting point is a greater dependence on the strategic guidance of the Holy Spirit, who is able to lead us into places we may fear to go.”

The West has a giant task ahead, but Coffey added, “Don’t write the West off just yet.”

“Christianity does not seem to plant churches that last forever,” he said, explaining that churches experience a cycle of death and birth.

“While the gates of hell will not prevail against the church, the local and cultural expression of the community of Christ has no divine right to survival.”


Third World Faith: Church tells story of Jesus to Sudanese
By Carrie Joynton

DALLAS (ABP) -- People remember the stories, because with each retelling, moments come alive once again.

In largely illiterate cultures, such as many in southern Sudan, storytelling preserves hundreds of years of history for people groups dependent on oral records. It also gives missionaries a gateway to share the gospel.

“When I was young, everything was in stories,” Sudanese pastor Edwin Makola recalled. “The [Southern Baptist] International Mission Board … and the larger evangelical community … discovered that orality was a good idea -- to go back to Jesus’ day. He taught in parables. … It’s the right thing to do in southern Sudan.”

Makola arrived in the United States 13 years ago from Africa as a refugee from Sudan’s civil war. He now serves in Dallas, as pastor to the Sudanese congregation of Forest Meadow Baptist Church. The church houses four ethnic congregations -- Anglo, Hispanic, Sudanese and Zambian.

Forest Meadow Pastor Tim Ahlen has taken groups to southern Sudan for four years to evangelize, but he uses a different kind of preaching than is usually heard in a typical stateside Baptist church.

“Expository preaching is meaningless to [the Sudanese]. They walk away with the stories and the illustrations -- what they understand,” Ahlen said.

As Texas Great Commission Initiative coordinator, Ahlen works to create awareness among missionaries about how worldview affects a person’s reception of the gospel. The initiative -- a collaborative effort involving the local associations of Baptist churches in the state’s four largest metropolitan areas -- exists to equip church leaders for effective mission work.

“Storying” -- Ahlen’s chosen method for reaching narrative-oriented people groups -- incorporates as many as 50 Bible stories told in chronological order to create a holistic picture of God and his faithfulness.

Church member Lori Hoxie liked the storying method when she went to Sudan with fellow Forest Meadow members.

“We picked the ones we thought were the most appropriate for the culture,” she explained. “We did it at different times during the day, whenever they were available. You tell the stories, and then you ask questions about it to see if they got the facts straight -- to see if they know what’s going on.”

Foreign missionaries have been using storying for years, Ahlen clarified, but he wants to see it used in the Western world as well. He currently works with Makola to apply it in ministry with Forest Meadow’s Sudanese congregation.

Makola arrived from Africa trained in expository preaching. But to become a better minister to Sudanese in the Dallas area, he attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for a few weeks to learn storying.

The alternate method helps Makola communicate the gospel more effectively to people from his own culture, Ahlen said.

“The culture is a storying culture. When Makola got brave enough to start telling stories, people would tell him they had never heard preaching with such power,” Ahlen insisted.

But why would Makola have to come to the United States before learning culturally appropriate teaching styles?

The reason stems, in part, from a long history of Western colonization in Africa, Ahlen said. Many Sudanese Christians think expository preaching is the only correct way to spread the gospel -- one effect of former colonial subjects’ strong association of Christianity with Western cultural norms.

This bias creates negativity toward other, more local, methods of evangelism, such as storying. Many established Sudanese congregations in the United States have reacted negatively to storying. Sudanese missionaries often opt against using the method in their own country.

“They don’t want to go back to southern Sudan to tell stories; they want to go back to preach,” Makola said.

It’s also a struggle to convince Sudanese people, once in the United States, to return to ministry in Sudan because of tough conditions they would face, Makola said. Having just left “a mess … of poverty and torture,” most would rather stay in the United States, he speculated.

Navigating cultural mores in transition also complicates ministry to Sudanese in the United States.

“The Sudanese people in particular -- they feel they have left that Third World background there. They are trying to cross over to the world they call civilized and leave behind the old systems, to shake them off,” Makola said.

Acculturation presents problems, Ahlen said, when value systems clash, especially with first-generation Sudanese Americans. Children often upset their parents as they embrace American culture at the expense of home-country traditions, he said.

But despite frustration, Forest Meadow’s Sudanese ministry -- focused on evangelism and church planting -- has been fruitful. Around 90 attend regular Sunday services. Special occasions, such as Christmas, attract as many as 800.

Makola remains optimistic about evangelism in southern Sudan. “It’s like water upon the sand. … You don’t see it at first, but slowly the sand becomes soaked. That’s how the gospel works in people’s lives. Time will come -- you will see a change.”


‘Dear Jane’ letters a problem for military spouses at home
By Vicki Brown

(ABP) -- Divorce -- the word seemed to leap out of the e-mail from her soldier husband that Nancy (not her real name) had so eagerly opened.

Discussions of divorce among military personnel generally conjure the idea of a weary soldier’s receiving a “Dear John” letter while stationed on some far-away battlefield.

While that is still most common, often the reverse happens -- the service member determines, sometimes while thousands of miles from home, that he or she no longer wants to be married.

A growing problem?

Is the divorce rate among service men and women higher now than in the past? Has deployment to Iraq, Afghanistan and other combat zones increased the rate among military personnel?

No single answer to those questions has yet emerged. Noticing a doubling of the number of divorces among military personnel from 2001 to 2004 and concerned that long deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have contributed to the increase, Pentagon officials commissioned a study by the Rand Corporation. The Pentagon sponsors Rand’s National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center.

Released in April 2007, the Rand study showed no spike in the rate that could be directly correlated to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Researchers Benjamin Kearney and John Crown analyzed military records from 1996-2005 for 6 million soldiers. They found that divorce in the military declined between 1996 and 2000, and then gradually began to rise. The military divorce, separation and annulment rate rose 3 percent in 2005, the same rate as 1996, when the deployment rate was not as high.

Rand researchers did not examine divorce rates among soldiers returning from war, nor have they studied which spouse -- the civilian or the military member -- most often files.

“It’s more traumatic at the return [from war] than the separation [from family] itself,” noted Chaplain Col. Johnny Almond, a volunteer military-ministry coordinator for the Virginia Baptist Mission Board and pastor of Colonial Beach Baptist Church, Colonial Beach, Va. “If records were studied after deployment, [researchers] would probably discover the divorce rate is rising.”

The rate is rising among female military personnel, according to the Rand study. Women in military service are twice as likely to end their marriages as are their male counterparts.

The study suggested two reasons for the disparity, which also is supported by a 1991 study of Gulf War veterans. First, existing support programs may not provide sufficient support for families of married military women.

Second, the study concluded that marriages of women service people “benefit significantly less from being deployed.”

“We’re not arguing that deployment is good for marriage,” Kearney, lead researcher for the Rand study, explained in a recent telephone interview.

However, he added, deployment does provide some positive outcomes, particularly financial benefits due to increased combat pay. “Some benefits may outweigh some of the emotional costs,” he said.

Rand studies indicate that the longer an individual is deployed, the less likely he or she is to divorce, Kearney added.

Military programs

All service branches offer resources to strengthen military families, including briefings for soldiers on how their absence and return could affect relationships and how to cope with change. Family support groups, marriage retreats, marriage-education programs and programs designed to educate single soldiers about choosing a mate also are offered.

Programs tend to be geared to active-duty personnel. Reservists and National Guard members often live far from the nearest military base’s family-readiness center -- which provides support. Likewise, many Reserve and National Guard spouses may not meet or spend significant time with other military spouses, noted Eric Lewis, pastor for military ministries at Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., and military ministry leader for the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board’s Vision San Diego emphasis.

Church ministry possibilities

Lewis offers immediate crisis care for military spouses facing divorce through counseling services, much as he does with civilians. But the reservist and seminary student currently in chaplaincy training also helps spouses navigate the necessary channels to get access to services the Department of Defense offers to them.

Col. Bob Page, command chaplain for the Air Force's Air Combat Command, agrees that churches should respond with immediate care. “They need someone to be there. Most are away from their extended family…or friends to walk through the ordeal with her or him,” he said.

Churches should offer continuing support as well. Page recommends DivorceCare or similar programs.

Remember single parents and divorcing members during special events and holidays. “Even Sundays are family-oriented and can be lonely for that person,” he said. “Help the divorcing person know he or she is not alone. It would be easy for that person to feel isolated and alone.”


To support military families through divorce, a few tips
By Vicki Brown

(ABP) -- Col. Bob Page, command chaplain for the Air Force’s Air Combat Command, believes that, while the military branches have developed more programs and services for military families, support from churches and other non-governmental groups remains crucial.

That support is particularly important for reservists and National Guard members. Active-duty personnel living on base have the greatest access to military programs. Reservists and guardsmen may live up to 150 miles from the nearest military base and, consequently, have few connections to other military personnel.

Page suggests a three-pronged approach to ministry to service members.

1. Prevention: Provide regular opportunities to strengthen marriages and families and to help deal with the stress of military deployment. Churches could provide communication workshops, marriage seminars or retreats, financial-management tools, parenting classes, stress-management workshops and opportunities to renew marriage commitments.

2. Support: “Church members should ask themselves: ‘What can we do for spouses?’” Page said. Common sense generally can guide types of support ministries. “Start a telephone ministry. Just call [military families in the church] and ask how you can help,” he said.

Families of deployed service members welcome emergency home repairs, yard care, programs for children and youth and other practical services, Page added. Church members will discover particular needs as they telephone or visit spouses on a regular basis.

3. Recovery: Provide immediate care for spouses facing crises -- divorce, death of the military spouse or other family member, child-rearing issues and other life-changing experiences. Help them connect to military and civilian services for which they qualify. Provide continuing support through small groups.

Page emphasized that no local congregation has all the resources and skills to meet every need. He encourages churches to develop partnerships across denominational lines, with other groups and with the military. “Get with the chaplains at a base near you so you understand [issues and needs military members face] and find out ways to partner with them.”


Bible Trivia - 7/8/2008

Question: Who said, “I am slow of speech.”?

Answer: Moses. (Exodus 4:10)

Comments: When called by God to lead the exodus, Moses cites his being inarticulate as an excuse to avoid the task.

Then Moses said to the LORD, "Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue." (Exodus 4:10, NASB)

In response, God supplies his older brother Aaron as a mouthpiece. Though Aaron mediates between Moses and the Hebrew people (Excodus 4:30), it will be Moses who addresses Pharaoh. (Exdous 5:1ff) It would appear Moses was more afraid of speaking to the people he was called to free than to their oppressor.

Word of the Day - 7/8/2008


A coterie is a group of people who associate closely; an exclusive group; clique.

Peter, James, and John formed a coterie with Jesus. They were the only witnesses present at the raising of Jarius' daughter (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51), the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1, Mark 9:2; Luke 9:28), and Gethsemane (Mark 14:33).

And He allowed no one to accompany Him, except Peter and James and John the brother of James. (Mark 5:37, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 7/8/2008

I spent Monday night with RAW anf his family. They graciously provided me a meal. RAW's mother had left sausage and rice casserole and KLTW added bread and a salad. As you should be able to tell from KJW's face, it was finger licking good. Literally.

We spent part of the evening in KJW's castle. She has actually gotten every visitor to the house since her birthday, including her Nana who bought it for her, into the castle at some point. The child is quite persuasive. KJW's lesson of the day was that we draw on paper, not the table. She was not overly pleased with this lesson or the fact that her colored pencil was green and not pink as she requested. Signs she is a girl...

Monday, July 7, 2008

Bible Trivia - 7/7/2008

Question: What is the translation of the following words of Jesus: "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani"?

Answer: "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46)

Comments: Jesus spoke these words from the cross. This is the only complete phrase of Jesus that Matthew records in Aramaic, the language which Jesus most likely spoke. The Matthean version is transliterated in Greek as ηλει ηλει λεμα σαβαχθανει, which slightly differs from the Marcan parallel (Mark 15:34).

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?" that is, "MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?" (Matthew 27:46, NASB)

The lines appear to be quoting the first line of Psalm 22. The entire psalm greatly resembles Jesus' predicament on the cross. Like many psalms, though it begins in lament it ends in praise. Many have found it reasonable that Jesus invoked and appropriated the entire chapter of Psalm 22 as being applicable to his hours on the cross.

Word of the Day - 7/7/2008


Retrorse means turned backward.

Eli was so shaken when he heard news of the Ark of the Covenant being captured that he fell retrorsely out of his seat, nroke his neck, and died.

When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell off the seat backward beside the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for he was old and heavy. Thus he judged Israel forty years. (I Samuel 4:18, NASB)

Note: This painting of Eli's death was painted by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1784-1872).

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 7/7/2008

I hope everyone had a great fourth of July weekend. Mine was fun, but for the first time in recent memory I did not attend an official celebration.

I usually spend my Independence Days on CAL’s farm in Newport but she opted to visit some college friends in Bristol. JBT’s party was abruptly cancelled when he decided to visit Myrtle Beach instead. I was asked to go with RAW and company to a fireworks display downtown but decided to stay home as I am unimpressed by fireworks. To me, if you have seen one, you have seen them all. So, I ate with my parents at Calhoun’s and worked. It was a great day.

On Saturday, another party was postponed. Due to inclement weather (or at least pessimism regarding the weather) a cookout at The Estate was cancelled. Instead, SMA and I made the first of potentially many trips scouting for ancient UT sports memorabilia as SMA has plans for a room with a Volunteer theme. One of the eventual goals is to have the room so ridicuously adorned that it is covered by Ken Schwall on a local news segment. We wish to inform Schwall that the room was modeled after our mental image of Verne Lundquist’s Tim Tebow shrine.

At my suggestion, we improvised a trip to the Sweetwater Flea Market in Sweetwater, Tennessee, approximately 35 miles from SMA’s home. The place has many interesting vendors. If you are interested in commemorate soda bottles, unopened packs of Ricky Martin Upper Deck trading cards, or a mailbox designed to look like a fish (pictured), this is the place for you. The Sons of the Confederate Veterans of Tellico Plains also have their own booth. So, if you like seeing moustaches (or even the tv show Deadwood), this also merits a stop.

The flea market has its own unique foods as well. Since I eat desserts only on Sundays, I promised SMA a return trip in which I will sample both cracklings (in a store titled only “Hillbilly Treats”) and a fried Twinkie. I have no idea what a crackling is but will not seek to find out until after I have fulfilled my vow to taste one.

There was one entire building devoted to selling nothing but commemorative soda bottles. Despite having shelves full of soda, the UT items had already been plundered. We realized that antique stores will be our best bet for UT items, preferably stores located out of state.

The most exciting item we found was this Tennessee flip it slot machine game. It is the game where the player inserts quarters and mechanical spinners and arms push a stack of coins towards the edge in hopes of pushing coins over the side. Unfortunately it was not for sale. We did see some intriguing UT pins and a great phallic shaped Tennessee night light, but the only item we went home with was a Christmas ornament for $4.39 (tax included).

On our way out of Sweetwater, I noticed a sign that advertised an “Antique District” off of exit 62. With nothing to lose but time, we veered off course and found five antique stores within a block: Main Street Antiques, Sweetwater Valley Antiques, Bobby Todd Antiques, Antiques and More, and Cones Cupboard Antiques. We found a great supply of clarinet cases and even more commemorative soda bottles. I especially liked this one, honoring a Shriner anniversary in Atlanta. I showed great restraint in leaving it on the shelf.

We also hit pay dirt. Recently, one of the people who consigns space at Main Street Antiques set up a Tennessee display. We would have bought this light for $69 but found a crack in it. If anyone knows where we can locate another one, let me know. SMA was conservative in his selections, but still bought three items:

  • UT chalice: $5.
  • 3" Reggie White Headliners Heroes of the Gridiron (1996) figurine: $10.
  • Football Time in Tennessee magazine Volume 8, 1995, with Peyton Manning on the cover from his sophomore season: $6.

So we spent far more money in gas for the trip than items purchased on said trip, but we were pleased to find four keepers.

SMA plans on making a Craiglist soon for his UT memorabilia. An ancient flask on display at the Alumni Hall store is the Holy Grail of UT items for SMA.

On the way home we stopped at Bojangles Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits as SMA had not yet eaten. While there, he developed a great marketing idea: takeout boxes that play Sammy Davis Jr.’s “Mr. Bojangles” upon opening. This proves that our brilliant advertising strategies are not limited to just Dyron Nix!

Upon returning to Knoxville, I went with my parents, an overworked RLP and SPP (aka “Big Red”) to Ye Olde Steakhouse to celebrate SPP’s birthday. Ye Olde Steakhouse has served the best steaks in town since 1968. I was consulted on the departure time and suggested 6 pm. Almost immediately, the time was set at 5:15 as it always is. I have no idea why they even bothered asking me. (Note: SPP did not bring the birthday glasses that everyone else must wear so this photo is more banal than it should have been.)

My favorite part of the evening came when Eddie Black (HEB), one of my father’s associates from Leadership Knoxville, waved to him from across the restaurant. My mother asked if he saw us. I informed her that HEB just waves aimlessly across restaurants just so he is confident he has not snubbed anyone. I made sure to do the same when I left. My mother was not as amused as I.

While there, we saw JBN (aka “The Meat Doctor”). I informed him of his creation on a wrestling video game and of his potential portrayal of Verne Lundquist in a spoof video. He really did not know how to respond. I don’t think I would have either.

I then returned home where JTH, Mr.X and I watched Be Kind Rewind. It features Jack Black and Mos Def cheaply remaking famous movies after Black erases an entire store’s collection of VHS tapes in Passaic, New Jersey. We all thought the film could have been better if it did not take itself seriously as the premise did not allow for that. The film tries to make a grand statement on gentrification. JTH was pleased as his all-time favorite film Happy Campers is referenced in the movie. Do not feel bad. No one who does not know JTH has ever heard of it either.

In sad Knoxville news, I passed the former site of the Disc ExchangeWest and it is now a Charlie’s Super Pawn.

On Sunday morning, Sunday School was held at RAW’s. I arrived to find KJW eating breakfast in a huge sombrero left over from Cinco de Maio. It engulfed half of her head. She loves hats of any kind. When WAM arrived, she called him “Uncle Bill.” The only people who receive the uncle title are Bill and her literal uncle Pete. We have no idea why. I have tried to get her to call me “Avuncular Chan” as avuncular means ”of, pertaining to, or characteristic of an uncle.” When she said it, it sounded more like monk-ular. KLTW think this should mean “like a monkey” while I prefer to think of it as “like a monk”, which is sadly accurate on many levels.

Oh, Sunday School went well too...

On Sunday night, JTH and I met SRM at Chilis. SRM is the only person he knows who has actually eaten their much advertised baby back ribs. It had been far too long since we had hung out. He is well, still working at ImagePoint where he has moved into middle management. He still plans on going back to school and getting his master’s in structural engineering so that he can one day own his own business. His daughter, ARM is well, and his second daughter is due October 11th. Though names have been suggested, they are presently a state secret.

As we all worked at the same daycare for a time, we updated each other on the kids we had seen recently. Most interestingly, JV, a high school male, now dresses as a woman and works at Torrid, a plus sized goth store. It is alarming there is big enough market for such a store. He is saving up for a sex change.

In other news, KM had her entire back tattooed. Another former pupil will remain nameless as she was suspended for having sex in a school bathroom at age 13. We did such a good job with those kids...

The only positive update came when we found was that Laquon Boyd had his picture in Thursday’s News-Sentinel as a teen model. He is a rising senior at Bearden High School. This means we are old.

After eating, I went to MLM’s for the third week of the Summer Breeze Bible Study. We had nine attend, including LEJ for the first time as she made the long trek from across the street. It was a productive study. I only made one completely inappropriate comment, down from two the previous week. The highly problematic I Kings 22 was brought up and given to me to research. So, if you have any thoughts, let me know.

After the study, I rejoined JTH and SRM at my house. (They had been elsewhere, I did not just leave them there. SRM shared some of his favorite YouTube comedy clips from Dane Cook and Demetri Martin. We have both really missed SRM.