Saturday, September 20, 2008

Prayer Blog - 9/20/2008, #2

My aunt JSN traveled from Knoxville to Pensacola where she is helping my cousin HANJ move from Florida to San Antonio where she is joing her husband. The couple will be moving from San Antonio to Abilene in November. Please keep all of these transitions in your prayers.

Prayer Blog - 9/20/2008

My aunt and uncle, LEMV and JHV, depart today for India where they will be participating in a 10-day mission trip. While they are both frequent missionaries, they usually travel alone and to China. Please pray for their trip to be successful and for the family they are leaving in Tennessee.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 9/19/2008

Associated Baptist Press
September 19, 2008 · (08-89)

Greg Warner, Executive Editor
Robert Marus, News Editor/Washington Bureau Chief

In this issue
Survey: Megachurches more intimate, believers less gullible than stereotypes
'Red-letter' Christians can transcend partisan politics, Campolo insists
Opinion: Torture: Our first major 21st-century scandal

Survey: Megachurches more intimate, believers less gullible than stereotypes
By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- A new survey by Baylor University researchers suggests that megachurches are more intimate, believers less gullible and atheism less prevalent than popular stereotypes would suggest.

Results of the 2008 Baylor Religion Survey were released in a Sept. 18 Washington press conference during a meeting of religion reporters. It found some results that might surprise those unfamiliar with the lives and beliefs of deeply religious Americans.

For example: Stereotypes about churches that have an average weekend attendance of more than 1,000 worshipers.

"We all know that megachurches have all sorts of flaws. They're big; they have a wonderful Sunday service because they can afford a symphony orchestra. But they're kind of cold, they have kind of, like, theater audiences," said Baylor sociology professor Rodney Stark, the study's lead researcher, noting common perceptions of megachurches. "All wrong."

The survey found that members of such churches tended to have more friends within their congregations, hold more conservative or evangelical Christian beliefs, share their faith with friends and strangers more often, and be involved in volunteer work more frequently than their counterparts in churches with less than 100 in average attendance.

"How does that make any sense?" Stark asked. "The answer is: That's how they got there. Their friends brought them to church, and then they brought their friends to church, and that's how the congregation was built."

An additional factor suggested by the survey: Megachurches are far more likely than small churches to be conservative evangelical congregations. Meanwhile, smaller churches had a higher rate of affiliation with what the survey called a "liberal Protestant denomination," or with mainline church bodies such as the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church.

The survey also found that active religious believers -- and particularly conservative Christians -- were less likely than the general public to believe in the occult and paranormal.

"The Baylor Survey found that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases credulity, as measured by beliefs in such things as dreams, Bigfoot, UFOs, haunted houses and astrology, with education having hardly any effect," the survey's authors said.

For instance, as measured against an index of belief in occult and paranormal beliefs researchers constructed, only 14 percent of respondents who described themselves as "evangelical" rated high on the index. Meanwhile, 30 percent of those who rejected the "evangelical" label scored high on the same index.

Those who described themselves as "theologically liberal" were actually more likely than evangelicals -- and than the public at large -- to believe in such things as the ability to communicate with the dead, the existence of mythical creatures such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, and alien encounters with Earth.

Stark, asked if it should surprise people that those who hold conservative biblical beliefs would reject beliefs in the paranormal, said no -- but that some in academia and the scientific community hold that stereotype.

"It seems pretty logical that people who are into conventional Christianity are not going to be open to this other stuff," he asserted. "But there's an enormous amount of belief out that they're just suckers for anything -- that they're just credulous people."

The survey, of 1,648 English-speaking American adults, used detailed questionnaires mailed in the fall of 2007. Collected by the Gallup Organization and analyzed by Baylor researchers, it has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

It was funded by the Templeton Foundation, and is the second wave of a three-part survey project. The first set of results was released in 2006. The final set, researchers said, will be released next year.


'Red-letter' Christians can transcend partisan politics, Campolo insists
By Ken Camp

WACO, Texas (ABP) -- "Red-letter" Christians committed to taking Christ's teachings seriously have the potential to transform society in a way that moves beyond partisan politics, author and educator Tony Campolo told a recent ethics conference at Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

"We're looking for a new way of doing politics that transcends partisanship and polarization," Campolo said.

Rather than adopting a liberal or conservative political philosophy, it means conversion to a radical lifestyle of obedience to Christ, he stressed.

"To be a biblical, red-letter Christian is to be counter-cultural," Campolo said.

Conversion means a whole-hearted commitment "to what God is doing in the world at the present time," he explained. "The Kingdom of God is a transformed people at work transforming the world."

Campolo, professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University and associate pastor of an American Baptist church in West Philadelphia, spoke at the Sept. 16-17 event sponsored by the Christian Ethics Today Foundation.

Old labels that once described Christians who take the Bible seriously no longer apply. Fundamentalism -- which began as the response of Christian orthodoxy to German skepticism -- has become equated with anti-intellectualism, legalism and judgmentalism, Campolo observed.

And the once-popular term "evangelical" -- once equated with Billy Graham -- has been co-opted by political extremists, he added. "Sadly, the word 'evangelical' has become synonymous with the Religious Right."

A secular Jewish country-western radio personality in Nashville, Tenn., first applied the "red-letter Christian" label to social-justice evangelicals during an interview with Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners. And Campolo, Wallis and others in the movement readily embraced it.

God inspired all Scripture, Campolo stressed. But red-letter Christians believe the rest of the Bible should be read from the perspective of God's perfect revelation in Jesus Christ.

And people who interpret the Bible in light of Jesus' teachings will have special concern for the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized, he emphasized.

"To be a Christian is to manifest a commitment to the poor," Campolo asserted.

Red-letter Christians have the potential to offer solutions to "hot-button" issues -- such as abortion, same-sex marriage and immigration reform -- that defy traditional ideological and political categories, he insisted.

"We can find common ground for the common good," Campolo said.

A comprehensive "seamless garment" sanctity-of-life ethic that not only deals with issues of abortion and euthanasia, but also encompasses torture, war, poverty, prison reform and capital punishment provides a distinctively Christian framework for dealing with tough issues, said David Gushee, Christian ethics professor at Mercer University's McAfee School of Theology.

"In the fabric of humanity that God has made, every thread matters," Gushee, who is also an Associated Baptist Press columnist, said.

Sanctity of life means all human beings -- at every stage of life and without distinction -- are people who possess "equal and immeasurable worth" and "inviolable dignity," he said.

"Therefore, they must be treated with the reverence and respect commensurate with this elevated moral status -- beginning with a commitment to the preservation, protection and flourishing of their lives," he said.

Belief in the sacred worth of all human life flows from biblical faith, Gushee insisted.

"In particular, life is sacred because -- according to Scripture -- God created humans in his image, declared them precious, ascribed to them a unique status in creation, blessed them with unique God-like capacities, made them for eternal life, governs them under his sovereign lordship, commands in his moral law that they be treated with reverence and respect, and forever elevates their dignity by his decision to take human form in Jesus Christ and to give up that human life at the Cross," he said.

"No social order treats people as immeasurably valuable -- but Jesus did."

Baptists and other "baptistified" Christians have distinctive insights they bring to political discussion that spring from two bedrock theological principles -- soul freedom and Christian hope, said James Dunn of Wake Forest Divinity School.

Soul freedom means "everyone and anyone can come to God directly, personally, without formula or filter," said Dunn, former executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Baptists "cannot conceive of coerced Christianity, forced faith or required religion," he insisted.

"When we transplant that theological thought to the turf of politics, it helps us to understand why it is hard for us as a nation to force democracy on an unoccupied people -- unwilling and unready to accept an ideology, indeed a theology, not their own," Dunn said.

"Forcing religion on a people only makes hypocrites. Roger Williams got us started off right in that modality. A demanded democracy may not be authentic, serve well or last long."


Opinion: Torture: Our first major 21st-century scandal
By David Gushee

(ABP) -- The week of Sept. 11, 2008, I had the privilege of hosting a national summit on torture at Mercer University in Atlanta. (To learn more about the program called "Religious Faith, Torture, and Our National Soul," and what happened there, see for news summaries.) In this column I want to reflect on what the torture summit meant to me and where our movement will go from here.

The combination of military, legal, national security, and religious speakers have convinced me that the practice of torture by the United States marks the first major American scandal of the 21st century. It is a governmental scandal, necessitating investigations, accountability and policy change for at least the next several years.

But it is also a religious scandal, involving the compromised loyalties of a majority of American evangelicals.

Here is the basic story that was told at the conference:

After 9/11, top officials in the United States government, driven by the vice president, concluded both that long-standing legal and moral constraints on torture needed to be set aside to prosecute the "war on terror," and that the executive branch must be free to pursue this effort with as little congressional and judicial review as possible.

Systematically cutting dissenting voices out of the policy-making process, Dick Cheney and his "war council" crafted a policy that set aside or weakened human-rights protections provided in the Geneva Conventions, in the law and traditions of the U.S. military and in domestic laws explicitly banning torture. A series of secret legal memos were written -- primarily by a small cadre of ideologically driven lawyers in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel -- that provided the dubious legal permission for the executive branch to pursue these policies.

These memos narrowed the definition of torture so as to permit a number of cruel and inhumane interrogation techniques that aroused extraordinary alarm among senior military and civilian officials within the government once they were discovered. But the die was cast.

These techniques were employed at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo, Cuba, where terrorism suspects captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere were held. They migrated to Iraq and then showed up in Afghanistan.

Worse techniques were employed by nations, such as Egypt and Syria, to whom we outsourced some of our prisoners. We still do not know fully what has happened at the so-called "black sites" and ghost prisons -- clandestine detainment centers run by U.S. intelligence agencies. But it is highly unlikely that treatment was or is better there, given the administration's insistence on the need for "enhanced interrogation techniques" by the CIA even today.

It appears that the weakening of human-rights protections not only permitted cruel techniques that were explicitly authorized, but also created a degraded environment in which unauthorized sadism and cruelty ran rampant. For example, according to original research done by graduate student Michael Peppard and presented at our conference, religious desecration and humiliation of sacred Muslim objects and practices appears to have been widespread at Guantanamo, at least for a time.

Not that this is the bottom line, but it must be noted that these cruel techniques were employed against hundreds or thousands of prisoners who were either innocent of any terrorist activity or had no particularly valuable information to give up. Many of the people we are holding at Guantanamo were sold to us by bounty hunters in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan and never have been charged with any wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, we were reminded at the conference of a number of cases in which detainees tortured in other conflicts from around the globe told their captors anything they could think of that would make the torture end, as most of us would do in the same situation. This yielded worthless information and misdirected our intelligence efforts in pursuing false leads.

When the secrets are all out and the documents are all released, prosecution of government officials who authorized torture will be a real possibility unless foreclosed by pardons. Even then, international criminal prosecutions are possible. In the meantime, we have compromised our values, forfeited our claim to the moral high ground, damaged our most important alliances, implicitly authorized torture by other governments and created or deepened an everlasting hatred toward our nation by those most affected by our actions -- all for a negligible intelligence benefit.

The American human-rights community, including many groups represented at our summit, will continue to press for policy changes to be adopted immediately by the new president and Congress. (See to sign on to the major policy principles we are promoting.)

There is a serious chance that these principles will be accepted, given the general policy stances of Sens. McCain and Obama on torture. But nothing can be taken for granted -- especially in light of the disturbing results of the poll of Southern evangelical Christians that Mercer University and Faith in Public Life released at the conference.

Perhaps the most shocking number is that only 22 percent of white Southern evangelicals say that torture is always wrong. Fifty-seven percent say it is often or sometimes justified. The sliver of good news from the survey is that, when presented with the option of affirming the Golden Rule principle -- we should do nothing to our detainees that we would not want done to our troops if captured -- opposition to torture increased strongly across all demographic groups.

I was shocked to hear that only 28 percent of all those evangelical Christians we polled said that their faith provided the primary source to which they turned when thinking about the morality of torture. Most cited common sense or life experience.

Southern evangelical Christian leaders apparently have failed to communicate an understanding of the Christian faith and its moral demands that would prohibit believers from embracing the torture of their fellow human beings in the name of national security. This emerges from a faith community whose Founder was tortured and murdered by the state, and most of whose original leaders were also tortured and murdered by the state. What an incredible collective amnesia! Who would Jesus, Peter, John and Paul torture?

Not long ago I was in northern Georgia at one of those ubiquitous interstate gas stations. Interspersed among the tacky trinkets and mugs was a T-shirt with the slogan, "Waterboarding is my favorite sport."

I wonder if the creator of that T-shirt goes to church?

We are indeed in a fight for our national soul. That fight begins in the church, whose complicity with torture is far more scandalous than any government wrongdoing.


-- David Gushee is distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University.

Bible Trivia - 9/19/2008

Question: Who said the following: "Thus saith the Holy Ghost, so shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles."

Answer: Agabus. (Acts 21:10-11)

Comments: Agabus was a prophet who appears twice in the book of Acts. (Acts 11:27-28, Acts 21:10-12) He first successfully predicts a famine and then many years later warns Paul that the apostle would be bound if he persisted in his plans to travel to Jeruslaem.

And coming to us, he took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, "This is what the Holy Spirit says: 'In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'" (Acts 21:11, NASB)

Paul did not heed Agabus' warning and was arrested as was prophesied.

Note: This image is "The Prophecy of Agabus" by Louis Cheron (1660-1713).

Word of the Day - 9/19/2008


To inveigh is to protest strongly or attack vehemently with words; rail (usually followed by against).

Isaiah inveighed against those who accumulated houses and displaced the population.

Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field,
Until there is no more room,
So that you have to live alone in the midst of the land! (Isaiah 5:8, NASB)

Note: This fresco of the prophet Isaiah was painted by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564).

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 9/19/2008

On Thursday morning, I met with TWC. He handles much of the Christian Education at my church. We had a good visit. Beginning in January, I will begin working with him so that I can see how the theories I am taught in the classroom apply in practice. The only question remaining is whether or not this will be in a formal or informal capacity.

I learned that TWC had originally planned on being a senior pastor. He was being groomed in his first stint at the church under the direction of Bill Bruster. He also visited the noteworthy Riverside Church in New York and commended the book Where Cross The Crowded Ways: Prayers Of A City Pastor by Ernest T. Campbell to me. Campbell (b. 1924, no relation to my knowledge), who served as their pastor 1968-1976, spent as much time researching his prayers as his sermons! It was good to get to know TWC better.

Afterwards, Bible Study was conducted. We discussed different interpretations of Revelation (the book, not the theological concept), the interpretation of John 11:25, and the nature of humanity. It was your typical session with this group.

After Bible Study, I ran errands with SMA. We stopped by the Disc Exchange and Michael’s. I never go to the latter without SMA. He is always getting something framed. On this day it was print of a painting depicting Johnnie Jones running in Tennessee’s 41-34 victory at Alabama on October 15, 1983. Jones ran 66 yards for a score to the north end of Legion Field to win the game for the Vols. The border was done with leather from a football. It looked very cool. The masculinity of the item almost made up for us being in yet another arts and crafts emporium. Almost.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bible Trivia - 8/18/2008

Question: What was Noah’s first act after leaving the ark?

Answer: He built an altar and offered a sacrifice to the Lord. (Genesis 8:20)

Comments: After surviving the Flood, Noah's first act after disembarking from the ark was to build an altar. This was the first altar built in all of Scripture.

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. (Genesis 8:20, NASB),

Note: This image of Noah's altar was painted by Joseph Anton Koch (1768-1839).

Word of the Day - 9/18/2008


A potsherd is a broken pottery fragment, especially one of archaeological value.

In Job's misery, he was reducing to taking a potsherd to scratch his many boils.

And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes. (Job 2:8, NASB)

Note: This image of "Job among the ashes" (based upon Job 2:8) was engraved by Bernard Picart (1673-1733)and was first published in "Figures de la Bible" in 1728.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 9/18/2008

Wednesday was a beautiful day in Knoxville. I spent most of the day indoors keeping various appointments.

My morning was spent at Faculty Internal Medicine at Parkside Plaze in Turkey Creek. There I not only got a clean bill of health but got to catch up with my beloved doctor, JLP. Maybe I ought to call her "Luke". (See Colossians 4:14.)

My blood pressure was at a healthy level and I had blood taken for tests to determine my cholesterol levels. In exciting news (to me), I was given a referral to Robert Overholt (RMO). He is a local allergist / immunologist who has an office near my home (801 N Weisgarber Rd Ste 200). I will be tested for allergies and finally be given shots incrementally to reduce my allergies. I am truly excited at the prospects.

I may also participate in a new sleep study at the allergy center.

After my doctor’s appointment, I had two appointments scheduled at the campus branch of the Hope Resource Center at 1 pm and 2 pm. It went well, though our 2 o’clock client did not arrive. It was a good experience. I especially enjoyed hanging with MLM and his daughter, who works as a receptionist. She has been planning her wedding this week.

I also enjoyed “working with” a new receptionist, Andrea Hitefeld. The rest of the days events cannot be discussed due to matters of confidentiality. I could tell you, but they would have to sue me.

On Wednesday night, my Survey of Adult Education class convened as usual in the Humanities Building at UT. As part of our discussion, we completed the Philosophy of Adult Education Index (PAEI). It is an inventory developed by Lorraine M. Zinn that helps one determine her educational philosophy.

After taking our assessment, we watched the conclusion of “Adventures of a Radical Hillbilly”. If especially interested as to what this is, you can read my review from last week's class here. My classmate Dan Trentham (DRT)generously brought Smartfood Popcorn: White Cheddar Cheese Flavored for the class. It was quite good.

My evening concluded at IHOP with JTH and JBT. We had a good visit though I must admit that I was exhausted. At the suggestion of the waitress, I tried the Colorado Omelette. It was okay but I enjoyed the pancakes that came with it far more than the massive omelette itself.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 9/17/2008

Associated Baptist Press
September 17, 2008 · (08-88)

Greg Warner, Executive Editor
Robert Marus, News Editor/Washington Bureau Chief

In this issue
Houston school suffers from Ike; Baptists respond in Texas, La.
Missions in a Dangerous World
Missions in a Dangerous World: Tell the whole truth?
Missions in a Dangerous World: Don't deceive, expert says
Faith leaders to candidates: Stop neglecting Gulf Coast
Global Women founds endowment, sets priorities at board meeting
Opinion: On morality and our faltering economy

Houston school suffers from Ike; Baptists respond in Texas, La.
ABP staff

HOUSTON (ABP) -- Baptists continued Sept. 17 to send relief teams into hard-hit areas along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Ike, which battered the area five days earlier.

In the storm's path, Houston Baptist University suffered an estimated $8-10 million in wind, water and structural damage.

HBU's student center -- which houses admissions offices, the band hall, the bookstore, the university's television station, offices and food areas -- and the administrative complex were hardest hit, according to a statement on the HBU website.

HBU President Robert Sloan cancelled classes through at least Sept. 17 and other scheduled on-campus events through Sept. 18. The statement said students will not be allowed back on campus "until further notice."

Baptists continue to assess damage to churches and ministries. First Baptist Church of Galveston has reported a near-record amount of water in its facility. Ike's surge level fell between those of a record-setting 1900 storm and a 1915 hurricane as indicated by the congregation's outdoor sign marking the levels of storm surges the church has weathered.

The church will hold services off the island this weekend. Members have already begun to clean up the facility.

In many areas throughout nearby Houston the most pressing problems are lack of electricity to keep food from spoiling and no water.

Texas Baptist Men has sent chainsaw teams to communities around Houston, including Livingston, The Woodlands, Beaumont, Buna and Huntsville.

Texas Disaster Relief also has responded with feeding units, including a mega-feeding site at League City where volunteers are preparing 40,000 meals each day and transporting them to more than 20 locations. The relief group has set training sessions throughout the state to prepare additional volunteers to respond to needs in the Houston-Galveston area.

Assessment also continues in Louisiana, which has been affected by Ike as well as Hurricane Gustav in recent weeks. Some associational directors of missions are calling for churches in other parts of the nation to consider partnering with churches hit hard by the latest round of storm damage.

According to news reports, Louisiana Baptist Convention Executive Director David Hankins was to meet Sept. 17 with officials of the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board. The leaders would determine the level of assistance the national body might be able to provide to Louisiana.

During a Sept. 15 teleconference on hurricane recovery on the Louisiana Gulf Coast, Patty Whitney of Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing noted a 9-foot storm surge from Gustav hit Houma, La., damaging 13,000 buildings.

First Baptist Church there lost a new eight-building day school in its final construction phase.

Baptist volunteers continue to provide meals and assist with cleanup in Baton Rouge.


-- John Hall contributed to this story.

Missions in a Dangerous World
By Vicki Brown

(ABP) -- Imagine being invited to go on a short-term mission trip to a country closed to mission personnel and bordering a closed nation torn by civil war. Participants cannot disclose the underlying reason for the trip -- ministry to refugees -- to the host country's government. Instead, they must go in on a tourist visa.

Is that ethical? Should a conscientious Christian participate?

Most missionaries, both career and short-term volunteers, must deal with ethical dilemmas as they strive to share God's love.

In making tough ethical decisions, leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board stress the importance of understanding culture and applying biblical principles. The IMB helps missionaries understand and apply two concepts -- to strip away Western culture and go to the Bible to avoid anything that might cause a brother to stumble, spokesperson Wendy Norvelle explained.

"Sometimes applying biblical principles is hard to do, because we encase our understanding of the Bible in our Western culture," she said.

Missionaries must understand the culture where they work to avoid causing problems for those to whom they minister, even when understanding may require them to adopt patterns from that culture.

For example, women in some societies are required to cover their heads when they go out in public.

"It's not our custom or belief, but it is in some cultures; or in some places, it's the law.... We teach missionaries to look at the culture and determine how to bridge the two," Norvelle said.

Still, missionaries face difficult choices. For instance, some cultures forbid educating women.

"What law are you breaking to teach a woman to read?" Norvelle asked.

Strategies for dealing with ethical issues are woven into the presentations and classes new appointees take during stateside orientation.

"We teach them how to live cross-culturally.... We teach them to seek answers, not give them answers," she said. "We give them the tools to teach them how to live and adapt."

The IMB also works hard during the candidate-screening process to make sure an appointee serves where his or her gifts are best suited. An individual gifted in street evangelism likely would be sent to an area that allows open religious activity, for example, rather than to a closed country.

Honesty and integrity are the bedrocks upon which ethical decisions -- both at home and abroad -- must be made, a longtime missionary and former top missions leader believes.

"The best course is to maintain integrity and honesty, to recognize that anything we do or say can become public knowledge," Keith Parks said. "The best defense is to say, 'I did what I thought was right.'"

Parks speaks from years of missions experience, including 42 years as a missions professional. He served 38 years with the Southern Baptist Convention's Foreign Mission Board, first as a missionary and then as a field administrator, with his final 13 years as the agency's chief executive.

He also served the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as coordinator of global missions for six years.

Missionaries -- whether career workers or short-term volunteers -- face ethical dilemmas, he acknowledged. Even a simple choice can present an ethical issue. For example, should a worker going into a country that does not allow mission volunteers declare that he or she is on vacation?

"I recognize that there are gray areas and that it is necessary to fudge a little at times," Parks said. "I have had to struggle with [the visa issue]. I would put down 'administrator' or 'teacher' rather than 'missionary' or 'preacher'" on visa applications, Parks said.

But outright lying never has been an option, he stressed. Sometimes, Parks added, staying within a country's legal system requires telling the truth without volunteering additional information.

Parks believes missionary-sending agencies and volunteer groups do not need to use clandestine methods for reaching people with the gospel. Should officials of the host nation discover such deception, he noted, that usually results in the end of missions work in that country. Such exposures also can lead to even tighter religious restrictions for the local residents and potential future missionaries.

Learning the culture and following the laws of the land can help minimize the ethical conflict, he said.

"I think the way we are able to function is to play by the rules of the country. I think [government officials] know -- or at least know most of -- what we're doing" in their country, Parks added. "If we try to flaunt their rules, they are going to do something about it. We're not 007 [the agent number of fictional spy James Bond]. We're not super secret."

Working within a country's laws can often lead to encounters to develop relationships or share the gospel. Parks believes sending workers into closed countries as professionals in non-religion-specific fields is ethically appropriate as long as the sending agency delivers what it promised.

"I think we had a problem early on of sending people in as a professional but who were not fully qualified," he said. "But I think we've transitioned from pretending to be proficient in business to actually being proficient and using that proficiency as an opportunity."

Sending professional people into closed countries has been a longstanding IMB strategy.

Medical professionals, teachers, agricultural specialists, business executives and others have been able to connect one-to-one with unreached people in restricted countries while fulfilling their secular roles.

Is that a clandestine approach? Norvelle acknowledged some would see it as such. But the IMB believes professional workers uphold the law and have opportunities to build personal relationships -- "the best way to mission effectiveness."

"Governments grant visas and welcome U.S. citizens to come for teaching, agriculture, medicine and others," she said. "As they go, they seek ways to build relationships and to share what they believe. They do what the Bible says: Build relationships where you are. ... Paul was a tentmaker. He ran a business."

Programs and workers tend to be accepted best when they deliver on the promises administrators make. And following the rules sets an example.

"There is such an expectation and a common reality of lying and cheating in many cultures. When people encounter those who don't [lie or cheat], it is more of a witness," Parks said.

"There is the sense of 'this guy is different'... and it gives the worker a chance to witness."

But problems in restricted countries may arise after missions workers -- whether short-term or long-term -- return to the United States or other open societies.

Instantaneous worldwide access to information through the Internet can create those problems. Articles, books, e-mails and blogs by returning missionary personnel can create risks for workers and nationals who remain in those high-security areas. Most mission-sending agencies use pseudonyms for individuals in those areas and do not disclose actual locations.

"It's a very uncomfortable situation when people are working incognito but then come home and write about their experiences," Parks said. "It's a real problem because it casts suspicion on others working in those countries."

"Play by the rules" and "do what's right" are the two maxims Parks tries to follow in any missions endeavor. And sometimes doing "what's right" may mean breaking the laws of a repressive country.

"The distinction is to do what's right. When the law says we can't witness, we break that law" when workers respond to opportunities to share as they develop relationships, he said.


Missions in a Dangerous World: Tell the whole truth?
By Ken Camp

(ABP) -- Christian workers who serve in countries closed to traditional missions outreach should tell the truth -- but that doesn't necessarily mean full disclosure, some Christian ethicists and missiologists say.

"It is not correct to lie about the reason for being there," said Ebbie Smith, a missions and ethics distinguished fellow with the Texas-based B.H. Carroll Theological Institute. Still, he added, "We don't have to tell all."

When it comes to matters of truth-telling or deception, Christian ethicists generally fall into two camps, said Joe Trull, editor of Christian Ethics Today.

One group insists biblical ethics demands that people always tell the truth. The other group says the ethics of truth-telling or deception depends on the end result.

"This position says deception may be allowable, even if it is not the ideal, if there is some greater good to be served or some lesser evil to be avoided," said Trull, a former ethics professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Biblical examples cited by Christian ethicists who espouse the latter position include the Hebrew midwives who lied to Pharaoh to prevent infanticide and Rahab, who lied to protect two Israelite spies in Jericho.

Christians who use a specialized skill -- such as medical professionals and agricultural development workers -- to enter a country where they can meet secular needs and share the gospel in the process are in a different category than another kind of clandestine missions worker, both Smith and Trull agreed. Some travel to restricted or dangerous countries and claim employment by a business that is nothing more than a front for missions activity.

"Certainly, there is a difference in giving needed services and simply having a cover," Smith said. "My view would be that, when in a country under some cover, that the cover should produce something beneficial to the people in the country. It should be more than a cover."

Practically speaking, missions activity may require "higher or lower ends of deception," Trull noted. For instance, some Latin American countries officially prohibit missionaries but turn a blind eye to missionary activity. But some Islamic nations strictly enforce bans on proselytizing.

Missions-sending agencies have a special responsibility to consider that violation of a law not only could lead to the imprisonment -- or even execution -- of missionaries on the field, but also could have a long-range negative impact on any gospel witness in a particular nation, Trull observed.

Christians who engage in illegal activities -- such as Bible smuggling or violating laws against proselytism -- claiming that their allegiance is to a higher law presents a special ethical problem, Smith acknowledged.

"I would be uncomfortable smuggling or actually violating the laws of a country. I might, however, feel that I should do some prohibited things if no other way exists to share the good news" of Christ, he said. "Eternity is too important a matter to fail to do all we can to bring people to faith."

Mission workers who subscribe to liberation theology -- who see part of their role as political involvement to free victims of oppression and advance social justice -- face particular dangers, Trull noted.

Likewise, other missionaries who may serve out of nationalistic motives -- to advance the interests of the United States and spread democracy around the world -- ironically may face some of the same kinds of risks, he added.

"The missionary has to ask: 'What is my basic calling? If I violate the law, am I willing to face the music? Will what I do help or harm the gospel?" Trull said.

Missions can be risky business -- particularly when mission workers skirt the law. And everyone involved should recognize that reality, Smith noted.

"Both the agency and the people deployed must accept the possibility of serious consequences," he said. "Part of the idea of defying laws for the sake of the gospel is that the one defying the law must accept the punishment of the action if punishment is given. The agency should not make promises of protection it cannot give."


Missions in a Dangerous World: Don't deceive, expert says
By Robert Dilday

PLANO, Texas (ABP) -- Deception is never an appropriate stance for mission workers, a former employee of both the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the International Mission Board insists.

But that's not the same as telling everything one knows or does, said Kent Parks, who is now international director of Mission to Unreached Peoples.

"The standard I held to is that I'd never say something dishonest, but I did not tell everything I was doing," said Parks, who is based in the Dallas area, in offices provided by First Baptist Church of Plano, Texas.

As an IMB worker and later in a similar capacity with CBF, Parks lived in a country where his ties to the mission agencies were not publicly disclosed.

But, he added: "I never hid the fact that I am a follower of Jesus, though I did not lead with that in most situations. And the phrasing is important -- I didn't call myself 'Christian' because that is a political term in many parts of the world. ... And I never used the term 'missionary' because that's like saying, 'Hi, I'm a terrorist, and I've come to assassinate your culture.'"

But Parks said he found a way in every conversation to describe himself as a "follower of Jesus."

"The fact is, people in most parts of the world are followers of some religion," he said. "And if Americans don't describe themselves as followers of something, they assume we're atheists."

Ethical questions about mission strategy are important, but "it's a complex situation," said Parks. "The first ethical question to ask is, 'Is it fair that many people have no access to hearing and seeing the gospel?' Obviously, you know where I stand on that."

The second question: Do honesty and transparency require full disclosure? "American culture has a tendency to say, 'You have to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,' and if you don't, you're not being truthful," he said. "But, to use a poker analogy, I don't think we have to show our whole hand" to be above board.

Third, when a mission worker chooses a "platform" -- an open reason for living in a country -- he or she "needs to actually do enough of that occupation to make it legitimate," and not a "cover" for another motive.

The bottom line, said Parks, is that the decision to live as an undisclosed mission worker in a restricted-access country is "a civil-disobedience thing -- and you must be willing to pay the price if you get jammed up in that country."

Sometimes, he said, such mission workers who run into legal troubles will distribute "martyr" letters asking for help. Parks thinks an acceptance of such risks is a crucial part of the decision to serve in some parts of the world. "I knew the times when I was skirting the hedge, and I was willing to make the sacrifice."

Most importantly, mission workers in closed countries must make every effort to keep their actions from endangering local believers.

"If I get jammed up a country for being a witness and I get kicked out, that's inconvenient for me," he said. But it can be life-threatening for a Christian in that country. "It's not my right to jeopardize what [local Christians] are doing."

"I'm willing to pay the price and I chose to do so," but no one can make that choice for others, Parks added


Faith leaders to candidates: Stop neglecting Gulf Coast
By Vicki Brown

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- A coalition of religious leaders are asking politicians in this election year to address what they say is a moral scandal: Three years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, much of the region is still far from recovery.

Several religious leaders -- representing a coalition of more than 100 -- held a teleconference Sept. 15 to urge passage of the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act (H.R. 4048). The Gulf Coast Civic Works Campaign is a non-partisan group of community, faith, student, labor and human-rights organizations.

At the same time, faith leaders sent a letter to the major-party presidential nominees -- Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain -- and to members of Congress to urge their support of the recovery plan.

Co-sponsored by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.) and Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), the bill seeks to establish the Gulf Coast Recovery Authority to implement and oversee a massive job-training and reconstruction project. Twenty additional representatives have since signed on as co-sponsors, including one Republican (Louisiana Rep. Rodney Alexander).

Proponents tout the measure as a means to provide job training-opportunities and increase employment while speeding recovery in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. Damage caused by hurricanes Gustav and Ike this season has compounded the problem, they said.

The recovery program would train displaced workers to rebuild destroyed infrastructure and restore the environment, they added.

"We are hoping this becomes nationwide to help repair infrastructure and public buildings in a way that is equitable to everyone," noted Stephen Bradbury, national campaign coordinator for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, during the teleconference.

Patty Whitney, representing Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing in Thibodaux, La., emphasized that hurricanes destroyed more than oil production. The region's agricultural base -- especially the cotton, sugar and fishing industries -- suffered significant devastation as well.

More than 200,000 people in Louisiana's hard-hit parishes of Lafourche and Terrebonne have been left out of most of the recovery decision-making process, she said. While faith groups have been "efficient" in pulling together to assist those who are hurting, the federal government "miscalculated the need," Whitney said. "We need help finding ways to help those in need."

Julie Kulinski, director of Women in Construction for the Moore Community House in Biloxi, Miss., noted the United Methodist ministry helps create a climate for women to pursue careers in construction. With training, they are able to find jobs to support their families.

She said the area needs 150,000 workers to rebuild its infrastructure. "We see this as a way to provide those workers and to provide jobs," Kulinski said.

None of the presidential campaigns or major political parties is addressing the recovery problem, Gulf Coast Civic Works Campaign participants said.

Frederick Haynes, pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, said religious leaders "must lend our voices" to influence both presidential campaigns. He also said the public and media should "not be so obsessed with the Palin factor" -- referring to the media attention lavished on Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

The Dallas church has served as a disaster-relief center for hurricane evacuees from the Gulf Coast as a result of Katrina and subsequent storms.

New Orleans and other Louisiana residents have been criticized for failure to leave their homes before hurricanes hit, Haynes said. Many rode out Katrina because they did not have the resources to leave, while others stayed put during hurricanes Gustav and Ike because they had no place to go. Communication must be improved before a hurricane hits, and those who need help must be assisted, he said.

"This crisis situation has gone on too long without local input," declared Simone Campbell, director of NETWORK, a Catholic social-justice lobby. "We call on Congress and the administration to enact this comprehensive, sane program ... and to use it as a model."

Christian leaders who have endorsed the recovery campaign include Rich Cizik, vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Richard Stearns, president of World Vision; Michael Kinnamon, president of the National Council of Churches; David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; and Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners.

Besides Haynes, Baptist leaders who have publicly thrown their support behind the campaign include sociologist and author Tony Campolo; Paul Corts, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities; Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance and worship pastor of Northminster Baptist Church in Monroe, La.; Central Baptist Theological Seminary President Molly Marshall; LeDayne McLeese Polaski, program coordinator for the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America; and Fuller Theological Seminary ethicist Glen Stassen.


Global Women founds endowment, sets priorities at board meeting
By ABP staff

SAN ANTONIO (ABP) -- Global Women established its first endowment, created a funding plan for its projects and adopted next year's projects at a recent board meeting.

Gathering in San Antonio, board members established an endowment to ensure the future of an organization that seeks to minister to oppressed and marginalized women around the world. They also determined to earmark 40 percent of Global Women's undesignated receipts to fund several projects in 2009, and voted to support the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

The ministry will focus on "creating global friendships among women for shared learning and service while meeting needs of women in Afghanistan, Burma (Myanmar), Central Asia, Iran, Moldova and Thailand, among refugees in the United States and through training for emerging Latina leaders," according to a press release.

Because directors recognized that the Millennium Development Goals parallel Global Women's core values and purpose, they voted to affirm them.

The eight U.N. goals include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and empowering women; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and developing a global development partnership by 2015.

"We stopped and looked and realized that this is what we do, this is who we are, this is what we stand for," noted Trudy Johnson, Global Women's director of development, by phone Sept. 17.

Also at the meeting, board members elected Lita Sample, a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field representative in California, as president; Nell Lockhart of Kirkwood, Mo., as vice president; Ann Wilson of Maryville, Tenn., as secretary; and Martha Isom of Birmingham, Ala., as treasurer in 2009.

Sample will assume the president's post from current president Deniese Dillon, who has served on the board since 2003 and must rotate off in January.

In addition, Laura Savage-Rains, Nomie Derani and Melissa Ward were elected as directors.


Opinion: On morality and our faltering economy
By Benjamin Cole

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- America faced an unprecedented challenge requiring military intervention halfway around the globe. Russia was recalcitrant in the face of international diplomatic pressure, and rogue South American dictators scoffed at democratic reforms. Africa suffered the stresses of modernization. The Middle East was unstable; Israel dealt with anti-Jewish regimes; and America faced a series of unanticipated economic challenges.

Sound familiar? Not only does it describe the current year, but one more than 40 years ago. It was 1962, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy was president. He listed the world's woes in a speech during spring commencement at Yale University.

In that speech, Kennedy summoned every ounce of his soaring rhetorical skill to address challenges to the American economy -- wasteful spending, budget deficits and national debt, the falling value of the American dollar and rising anxieties about international confidence in the American markets.

Flash forward 46 years. Today, the American economy is tottering. Republicans know it. Democrats know it. The Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department know it. And most certainly, the American people know it. At the moment, however, it seems that nobody is to blame -- not the government that turned a blind eye to predatory lending; not usurers who eschewed every vestige of moral responsibility; not the covetous, debt-laden suburbanites who had to keep up with the Joneses down the street.

Out on the presidential stump, Barack Obama and John McCain point fingers in every direction. If it's not legislators who have failed to provide congressional oversight, then it's an administration that has failed to manage the economy. Everywhere you look, the current economic crisis is a reason to reject the other guy and empower whoever has the microphone for the moment.

I spent the greater part of last weekend trying to digest Obama and McCain's economic proposals. Both candidates want to fix the mortgage meltdown by helping sub-prime borrowers keep homes they couldn't afford in the first place. Both have endless acronyms -- the HOME plan for McCain, and the HOME score for Obama, to name two -- that offer grand and hopeful ideas without much in the way of nuts-and-bolts proposals.

As I sorted through the presidential rivals' economic plans, it seemed to me that the problems America faces are much more substantive and subtle than a few unrestrained executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The wrong questions are being asked; therefore, the wrong solutions are being offered.

Why must lowering taxes always be a plank in a winning political platform, for instance? Since the Great Depression, Americans have steadily increased the expectations they have from the federal government. Since the 1980s, however, Americans have grown accustomed to shouldering less and less of the burden to pay for the government programs they demand.

Take the case of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for example. Both McCain and Obama have called for more regulations and stricter governmental oversight. Missing from their solutions is the fine print. More regulations mean more regulators. More regulators mean more federal jobs. More federal jobs mean a larger federal budget. A larger federal budget means a need for more tax revenue.

Which leads me to the real reason I've been thinking about the moral and political foundation of the economic questions that America now faces.

In his 2005 "Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics," Harvard professor Michael Sandel explores the digression of American political concern from the noble pursuit of an economy of citizenship -- where the goal of democracy was the formation of self-governing citizens -- to the lesser end of economic growth at any cost. Rather than making citizens who are capable of working diligently and providing generously for the common good, America became a nation of nursing babes unable to wean themselves from Uncle Sam's bosom.

Americans, according to Sandel, are less able to govern themselves than they were a century ago. And a people incapable of self-government should be careful about blaming the federal government for failing to balance its own budget or audit its own expenditures. When "we the people" have gotten ourselves into an economic freefall, "we the people" should bear the burden of getting us out.

Sandel's book directed me to Kennedy's 1962 commencement address. Quite profoundly, he spoke to the very problems that Americans now face: an expanding federal government, a deepening federal debt and a growing federal deficit. Those economic dilemmas and the economic stresses they created were -- for Kennedy -- too important to be reduced to campaign slogans or political clichés. They demanded discipline, nuance and complex thinking.

They required moral reasoning -- the kind that preachers and philosophers and politicians had undertaken at the nation's founding. Looking across the Pacific to escalating military conflict in Indochina, looking at stresses of outdated domestic policies and looking at the Yale Class of 1962, Kennedy called the next generation of America's leaders to a higher level of political discourse. He urged them to face the challenges with courage and calm.

"You are part of the world and you must participate in these days of our years in the solution of the problems that pour upon us, requiring the most sophisticated and technical judgment; and as we work in consonance to meet the authentic problems of our times, we will generate a vision and an energy which will demonstrate anew to the world the superior vitality and strength of the free society," Kennedy told them.

Forty-six years later, it remains to be seen if Americans will find the solutions to our problems through the diligent work of moral and political reflection, or if we will simply watch the dog-and-pony show of presidential campaigns without demanding something more realistic than panacean economic proposals or partisan blame-shifting for today's fiscal ills.

The economic crisis is not a new problem. It's not a Republican problem or a Democratic problem. It's not a rich problem or a poor problem. The distractions and divisions that threaten the nation's resolve to tighten our own economic belts, to roll up our own economic sleeves and to do the tough work of seeing our country through another dark season of fiscal strain must be rejected. The partisan potshots that discourage collaborative solutions must cease.

Whether or not a leader will arise to summon the resolve of a nation to do something other than provide knee-jerk reactions to problems on Wall Street and Capitol Hill remains to be seen. For now, we watch as the rains of economic woe fall upon the just and the unjust.


-- Benjamin Cole is a former Southern Baptist pastor who now works on public-policy issues in the nation's capital.

Prayer Blog - 9/17/2008, #3

My mother's first cousin CJN has hip replacement surgery scheduled for tomorrow morning at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Please keep her and the doctor in your prayers.

Prayter Blog - 9/17/2008, #2

Tomorrow, my grandfather, WCV Jr., has a crucial follow-up visit to a specialist in Knoxville to determine his next course of action in battling prostate cancer. Please keep all involved in this meeting in your prayers.

Prayer Blog - 9/17/2008

MLM received a phone call late on Monday night that LF had been incarcerated. MLM has worked closely with the young man for years. Many of you knew his aunt, the late Kia Carver. At this time the charge is unknown, at least to MLM. Please pray for whatever challenges this young man is facing.

Bible Trivia - 9/17/2008

Question: How did Solomon come to possess the ruined city of Gezer?

Answer: It was a dowry. (I Kings 9:16)

Comments: Solomon acquired the city of Gezer from Pharaoh as a dowry. Pharoah had previously sacked the city and burned it to the ground.

For Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up and captured Gezer and burned it with fire, and killed the Canaanites who lived in the city, and had given it as a dowry to his daughter, Solomon's wife. (I Kings 9:16, NASB)

Solomon rebuilt the city and Gezer became one of three fortified cities (with Megiddo and Hazor) by which Solomon controlled the all important International Coastal Highway.

Word of the Day - 9/17/2008


A specie is coined money; coin.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells three parables involving lost items: a lost sheep, a lost specie, and a lost son.

"Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? "When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!' "In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luke 15:8-10, NASB)

As feminist scholars are quick to point out, the parable of the Lost Coin is the only parable in which a female figure assumes the role of God.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 9/17/2008

On Tuesday night, SMA, WRK, and I attended a play at the Performing Arts Center at Pellissippi State Community College. WRK was to receive extra credit for attending “Patriots and Lovers” and since my love for the theater is no secret, I was asked to attend as well.

Lovers & Patriots is a two-performer, two-act play depicting “The Love Story of John & Abigail Adams.” The set was composed of two desks where the two wrote to each other. While John was serving as a delegate in Philadelphia, Abigail raised their children at home in Braintree, Massachusetts. Their letters are invaluable to the historical record as they provide an insider’s account of the Revolutionary War.

The play was written by and starred Gary L. Anderson. Anderson is “our country’s only full-time nationally renowned portrayer of Clarence Darrow and tours year round.” He is based out of Redding, California. The role of Abigail was played by local actress Elizabeth Attaway.

Though we appreciated the concept, the play dragged. We left at intermission. I promised WRK that if she was unable to write her summary, I would assist.

Before we left, WRK stopped by her locker. Why does a college have lockers? (Note: Examine the photo closely through the eyes of a teenager to determine why they are laughing.)

After much debate (and deciding not to eat when we found a crowded Buffalo Wild Wings), the evening concluded at Calhoun’s in Turkey Creek. I did not realize it at the time, but I ordered essentially the same meal I eat at Applebees. I do not like Calhoun’s wings (which they are pushing) near as much. I rated them a C and SMA, who sampled mine, rated them a B.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Prayer Blog - 9/16/2008

My mother received a phone call today informing her that her job would not be renewed at UT next semester. She is very disappointed as she believes in the program in which she is participating. It will no longer exist in its present form. She also prides herself on her self sufficiency and is anxious not to have "her own money." Please pray for her and the university during this time. Also pray that, if it be God's will, that she find another position that she enjoys.

Bible Trivia - 9/16/2008

Question: After whose death was the kingdom of Israel divided into two - Judah and Israel?

Answer: Solomon. (I Kings 12)

Comments: The death of Solomon marked the end of an era in the history of Israel. The kingdom crumbled following his death. His son Rehoboam maintained control over the southern portion, known as Judah. Jeroboam, who had been an exile in Egypt during Solomon's reign, returned to rule the northern kingdom which would be known as Israel.

But as for the sons of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them. (I Kings 12:17, NASB)

The tribes of Judah and Benjamin comprised the southern kingdom. The remaining ten tribes alligned to form Israel.

Word of the Day - 9/16/2008


An arcanum is a secret, mystery.

Ehud got a private audience with king Eglon by telling him that he possessed an arcanum intended only for him.

But he himself turned back from the idols which were at Gilgal, and said, "I have a secret message for you, O king." And he said, "Keep silence." And all who attended him left him. (Judges 3:19, NASB)

The Israelite Ehud used this ruse to assassinate the rival king of Moab.

Note: This image of Ehud killing Eglon was painted by Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893).

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 9/16/2008

On Monday night, my team played its second game in the slow break basketball league at church. My team was pitted against a team captained by GLO. We played much better on this week. In fact our 30 first half points exceeded our total from the previous week. Still, we lost our halftime lead and the game, 57-52.

We played the second half shorthanded. SRM could not attend and MPW sustained a leg injury midway through the first half. I had never seen him ask out of a game. Please keep him in your prayers.

As usual, I gave the half-time devotional. I have started a policy that the player who makes the play of the game in one game selects a basketball player to feature in the next week’s devotional. JTL merited the play of the game with a blocked shot. Admittedly, he was called for a foul on the play, but we only scored 28 points collectively so highlights were few and far between.

What basketball player did JTL select for his devotional? Sarah Palin. Yes, the vice presidential candidate. Palin (#22 in the photo) was the point guard and captain of the Wasilla High School Warriors’ 1982 state championship team. In those days, she had the nickname “Sarah Barracuda”. Her team upset top-ranked Anchorage East 50-48, then defeated another Anchorage school, Service, 58-53 in the state final to win the title. She hit a critical free throw in the last seconds of the game, despite having an ankle stress fracture. She shot free throws underhanded.

To give equal time, I noted that Barack Obama's basketball nickname was "Barry O'Bomber" in deference to his jump shot.

Next week's devotional we be selected by JDM for his blocked shot of WDS. No foul was called. God willing, he will select a player who is actually known for basketball.

After the game, SH, JDM and I were joined at Applebees by Amanda #2 and Amanda #3. We watched a great Monday night football game (the Cowboys beat the Eagles 41-37) ) while talking. Amanda #2's handbell choir at St. Mark United Methodist Church will be playing during both morning services at Bearden United Methodist Church on October 19th. Does anyone want to go?

When I returned home I found that my parents had also returned, safely from their trip to Rhode Island. They brought me a souvenir shirt from Newport. It does not denote the state so I can wear it to represent my home town.

It was great to have them home.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 9/15/2008

Associated Baptist Press
September 15, 2008 · (08-87)

Greg Warner, Executive Editor
Robert Marus, News Editor/Washington Bureau Chief

In this issue
Relief, recovery efforts begin after Ike ravages Texas coast
As Ike disaster draws focus, Caribbean relief continues

Relief, recovery efforts begin after Ike ravages Texas coast
By ABP staff

GALVESTON, Texas (ABP) -- Less than 24 hours after Hurricane Ike ravaged the Texas and Louisiana Gulf coasts Sept. 12, Baptist groups were mobilizing supplies and relief workers for the disaster zone.

The massive storm -- rated as a strong Category 2 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale of hurricane intensity when it came ashore -- pushed a huge storm surge onto the far eastern Gulf coast of Texas and southwestern coast of Louisiana. As of midday Sept. 15, the Associated Press was reporting that Ike had claimed 31 lives in the United States -- several of them caused by winds and flooding as Ike moved inland across the South and Midwest.

Authorities reportedly feared that more would be found dead as they began recovery efforts in the remote Bolivar Peninsula, just east of Galveston. The sparsely-populated area suffered the highest winds and largest storm surge of the hurricane -- and many residents were unable to evacuate because wind-driven high water began cutting off escape routes nearly 24 hours before the storm made landfall.

Baptist Child and Family Services, a Baptist General Convention of Texas-related agency, entered the strike zone as part of the state's 500-vehicle convoy making up Texas Task Force Ike. The institution will lead medical and health services for the strike zone of Hurricane Ike.

The BCFS incident-management team is providing logistical support to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) operations for Texas Task Force Ike. BCFS President Kevin Dinnin is serving as incident commander for DSHS operations establishing command for Texas Task Force Ike on Galveston Island for the entire storm strike area of Texas.

As part of the 1,000-person team, including federal medical teams, BCFS is setting up a global command post to aid victims who have experienced the brunt of the storm.

"Resources are stretched thin across the state, and we consider it a privilege to serve in this way," said BCFS President Kevin Dinnin. "We are thankful for those who are working with us around the clock in San Antonio, Tyler, Houston and Galveston to restore communication and aid those affected by this massive storm."

BCFS has been charged with caring for evacuees with special medical needs in San Antonio and Tyler, Texas, in partnership with local churches. The special-needs shelters temporarily house people who do not "fit" in the massive general population shelters because they need basic medical attention such as a caregiver, medical support or monitoring or need to have large amounts of medical equipment with them. They may also be individuals with acute illnesses or who have special mental-health needs.

BCFS has responsibility for manning and managing such special-needs shelters any time there is a mass evacuation to San Antonio or anywhere else in Texas. BCFS and its partner churches have the capacity to care for up to 5,000 people. When Hurricane Gustav threatened just two weeks ago, BCFS cared for close to 500 such evacuees in San Antonio and Tyler.

Texas Baptist Men has activated all of its mobile kitchens and has been asked to prepare as many as 110,000 meals a day. Kitchens will be working in League City, Beaumont, Orange, Bryan, Marshall, The Woodlands and San Antonio.

As of Sept. 14, some of the units were en route. Others were scheduled to leave early Sept. 15. Volunteers from Utah, Idaho and Iowa will work alongside Texas volunteers on some of the kitchens.

Ike inflicted some damage on BGCT-affiliated institutions. Memorial Hermann Hospital sustained minor damage at some of its Houston-area locations, but remains open.

Less than 24 hours after Hurricane Ike hit Houston, Parkway Place Executive Director Chuck Childress reported late Saturday that power had been restored to the retirement community, which is operated by Buckner Baptist Benevolences. Childress said service crews already were making repairs and performing clean-up. The restoration of power also restores air conditioning to the community and will halt earlier contingency plans by Buckner Retirement Services to move residents to other retirement facilities because of the heat.

"The lawn service is here taking care of the many branches and two trees that are down around the campus," said Childress, "And the roofer is already here taking care of shingles and any other areas of the roof that are damaged. An extraction service is on site taking care of the areas that received water. We're in really good shape considering the damage other buildings received in Houston."

Initial rports from observers indicated moderate damage to the Beaumont, Texas-based Buckner Children's Village and the Calder Woods retirement community.

Greg Eubanks, director/team leader for Buckner Children and Family Services of Southeast Texas, said a spouse of a staff member made an early-morning assessment of all the structures Sept. 13, finding mostly wind- and rain-related damage.

"It appears from that report that we were blessed with less damage than we had feared," Eubanks said. "Although it looks like we've got a lot of clean-up. There seems to be some water damage from seepage and a window that blew in, there's some roof damage caused by falling trees and we lost some shingles."

Calder Woods security personnel also reported moderate damage and power loss to the retirement community Saturday afternoon. Initial reports showed the townhomes received no damage, but that some fencing, carports and trees were down from the Category 2-force winds that blew through the area.

Pearl Merritt, president of Buckner Retirement Services, said she was pleased with the reports.

"Other than a small leak from a few missing shingles, Calder Woods received no water damage," she said. "We're so relieved. We feared flooding the most and it appears we had none at all. What a blessing."


-- Haley Smith, John Hall, Jenny Pope and Robert Marus contributed to this report.

As Ike disaster draws focus,Caribbean relief continues
By Vicki Brown

GONAIVES, Haiti (ABP) -- Even as the attention of Americans turns to the disaster caused by Hurricane Ike in their own country, Baptist agencies are responding to massive devastation across the Caribbean islands, battered by three successive tropical cyclones since Aug. 26.

Currently, most are sending monetary donations to hard-hit islands devastated by flooding. Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance, has designated an initial $10,000.

American Baptist International Ministries, the overseas missionary arm of the American Baptist Churches USA has provided almost $15,000 in emergency grants to its Caribbean partners. The agency has sent a $3,000 grant to Jamaica, $3,500 to the Dominican Republic and $5,000 to Haiti. At least another $3,000 in emergency aid is planned for the region.

According to BWA reports, hurricane-caused damage is estimated at $20 billion in the area.

Ike was particularly destructive in Cuba, where it made two landfalls as a strong hurricane. "The destruction of houses is really terrible, some houses have fallen, and a great quantity has lost roofs totally or partially," Manuel Delgado, vice president of the Fraternity of Baptist Churches in Cuba, told BWA. Paso Real de San Diego in the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio was badly damaged, he said.

Caribbean nations weathered Hurricane Gustav Aug. 26, Hurricane Hanna Sept. 1 and Hurricane Ike Sept. 5.

Gustav affected Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Cuba, and the United States. Hanna struck Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United States. Hurricane Ike caused further damage in Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Turks and Caicos. All told, the three storms have caused hundreds of deaths and left tens of thousands homeless.

According to news reports, Gustav killed at least 94 people in the Caribbean, with Hanna killing at least 26 in Haiti. At least four died in Cuba as a result of Ike.

Haiti has been among the hardest hit, suffering four storms within three weeks, with more than 550 reported dead -- many due to flooding and landslides caused by heavy rains. News sources indicate 80 percent of homes in the Turks and Caicos Islands have been destroyed.


Prayer Blog - 9/15/2008

In our team's basketball game tonight at church, MPW left the game in the first half with a leg injury. He did not reenter. Please keep his health in your prayers and not solely because I need him as a post player.

Bible Trivia - 9/15/2008

Question: What contained Aaron’s rod in later years?

Answer: The Ark of the Covenant. (Hebrews 9:4)

Comments: The Ark of the Covenant housed a golden jar of manna, Aaron's rod (which had miracuously budded), and the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written. (Hebrews 9:4)

having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron's rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant; (Hebrews 9:4, NASB)

These items are not listed in any one place in the Old Testament, but are found instead in Hebrews. The writer of Hebrews draws from three different Old Testament passages to create this list. At various points, God tells Moses to put the gold jar of manna (Exodus 16:33-34), Aaron's staff that had budded (Number 17:10), and the stone tablets of the covenant (Exodus 25:16) into the Ark.

Word of the Day - 9/15/2008


Coparceny is a special kind of joint ownership arising especially under common law upon the descent of real property to several female heirs.

A landmark case involving the the daughters of Zelophehad (Hebrew: בְּנוֹת צְלָפְחָד‎) set the precedence for coparcency in Hebrew law. They were five sisters who lived during the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, and who raised before Moses the case of a woman’s right and obligation to inherit property in the absence of a male heir in the family.

"The daughters of Zelophehad are right in their statements. You shall surely give them a hereditary possession among their father's brothers, and you shall transfer the inheritance of their father to them." (Numbers 27:7, NASB)

Note: This image is the logo of an organization known as The Daughters of Zelophehad (DOZ). The DOZ is a transitional housing program for homeless women and their children based in the Richmond, Virginia area.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 9/15/2008

I had a great weekend culminating in my preaching two sermons (morning and evening) at Southside Baptist Church in Newport on Sunday.

On Friday night, SMA, DBN, and I went to Knoxville Catholic High School where we watched the Fighting Irish (the Irish Times Pub is a sponsor) defeat the Webb School Spartans, 20-16. Why? I honestly do not know. We wanted to see a high school football game as we had not done so in years. We chose this game over the Farragut-Bearden rivalry game. The irony is that DBN actually attended Farragut and SMA graduated from Bearden. We had no ties to this game but chose well as the alternative was the Admirals’ 48-10 blowout victory.

We parked at DBN’s nearby Fox Lake apartment and walked to the game. High school football has far more pageantry that it did when we attended. (That really makes us sound old.) We were especially surprised at how many souvenirs were sold. We paid $6 for a ticket and then a one armed ticket taker ripped their tickets. (Could they have not found a better job for him thatn this?) Actually, this process was rather slow so I forewent the ripping process. Since the ticket is generic, I suppose I could reuse it. I don’t have any plans to return, however.

We got great seats as you can see. We sat directly in front of the press box on the 50-yard line. The heat was unpleasant and the seats were hard but we still had a good time. Thankfully I could not hear the comments DBN was making about underage girls as SMA sat between us. I could get the gist of the conversation based upon the facial expressions of the mother sitting in front of him.

We came rooting for no one in particular. The Catholic fan sitting directly in front of us made us Spartan fans quickly. He was not only ignorant but voiced his ignorance authoritatively. The John Chavis lookalike at one point asked loudly and repeatedly, “How can a defense hold?” When his team scored late to accrue a three-point lead he pleaded for them to go for two. If you know football, you realize that taking the more certain extra point prevents a field goal from tying you. We may not have had a preference on the field, but we wanted this guy to lose. Naturally, his team did not.

The game itself was entertaining. It paced itself like a prize fight. Both teams played conservative in the early rounds before letting it out later. Catholic, the #2 ranked team in class 3-A, prevailed in the second half.

Not that we are scouts, but we were all most impressed by Catholic’s 6'5" senior tight end Daniel Hood. Evidently, we are not the only ones. He runs a 4.9 40-yard dash and according to is the #19 tight end in the country. You can read his profile here. He had visits scheduled to Georgia Tech (September 20th), Auburn (September 27th) and Ole Miss (October 4th). Tennessee offered a scholarship earlier in the year.

The most impressive performance on this night came from a Catholic High School majorette. She worked alone (Catholic did not even field a full band). Her ability made her stand out as much as the pink outfit she wore. She performed to Michael Buble’s“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” (covering Queen). She was phenomenal. She recently placed nationally in the 58th annual NationaL Majorette Contest at Notre Dame.

After the game, SMA and I picked up a pizza from Pizza Hut. The manager (and only cook on hand) cut her staff on a Friday night. Suffice it to say, we waited awhile. We may be able to explain this decision based upon this advertisement in the store. Evidently, Pizza Hut is seeking to hire crazy people...

The night ended eating, and hanging out with DBN at SMA’s house. DBN is well. He is contemplating another job change. He has had three job interviews with Frontier Communications. Should he get the job, he would be stationed in Cookeville, Tennessee. He is not overly happy with his job at AT&T and this job would have both an adequate salary in addition to the potential for substantial commission. He has told the company he is available as early as October 1st. His wife is happy with her job and as they just moved home has made DBN promise to commute 6-8 weeks to insure DBN likes his job. I cannot say that I blame her. Please keep DBN and his family in your prayers as they make decisions about the future.

I spent Saturday watching the Bring It On marathon on ABC Family. No, not really. I peripherally watched football most of the day while finalizing my sermons for the following day.

I did stop by MoFoS and visited with JTH and TK. Evidently, the landlord called about the previous Thursday’s shenanigans. JTH and TK have resolved the issue. They have bought a broom and decided to destroy all property facing east as this will reduce the area that must be cleaned. That sounds like good thinking to me.

JTH was not supposed to work on this day but NHH called in on his first day on the job. This surprised absolutely no one. He cited a family emergency. I am sure it was merely a coincidence that this was the day of the first home football game of the season. Based upon past experience, I theorized that this emergency in some way entailed picking up his grandmother from the airport. (He used that excuse so often in his past stint at the store that his grandmother likely leads the nation in frequent flier miles.)

In other Saturday news, my father called from Providence, Rhode Island, from the First Baptist Church in America. As its name suggests, it was indeed the first Baptist Church in this country. It was founded in 1638 by among others, Roger Williams. To be honest, I would have thought that after a week in Rhode Island, they would have exhausted all things to see. Evidently not.

On Sunday morning, I drove to Newport where I spent the day preaching at Southside Baptist Church. (Note: My grandparents’ car is pictured, parked where it is every Sunday morning.) I last preached there June 8th. Their pastor (and my friend), CWB, was preaching the homecoming service at Point Pleasant Baptist Church elsewhere in the county in the morning and attending the Tennessee Association of Housing and Redevelopment Agencies (TAHRA) annual meeting in Nashville that evening. I resisted the urge to have a cliff hanger ending in the morning sermon.

I preached the morning service on Exodus 14:19-31, the parting of the Red Sea. I was pleased with a well researched sermon that tied the passage with the use of the passage in the American Revolution and the Christian’s freedom from the bondage of sin.

I arrived to find that the church wished me to preach a children’s sermon. I gave an extemporaneous discourse on fear. After the service, I received numerous compliments on the sermon - the children’s sermon. Neither the irony nor the lesson was lost on me.

After the service, I ate with my grandparents and my aunt and uncle at Shoney’s. It was strange not eating at the Holiday Inn. In fact, I instinctively drove past the Shoney’s. I think my subconscious was telling me that I needed their pie. While the tradition of eating at the Holiday Inn was broken, the family tradition of snapping photos with mouths full persisted. Thanks for my meal, Uncle Eugene!

The Holiday Inn will actually be changing names soon as a Holiday Inn Express is being built nearby and they are disbanding their present franchise. The buffet will be owned and operated by the same staff, but they are saddened by the name change after forty years in the same location.

After eating, I visited Union Cemetery to see if my grandmother’s tombstone had been placed. It had. The good news is that is matches by grandfather’s. The bad news is that (as you can see) it got very dirty during the installation process. I will return and clean it when I am not dressed to preach. What were the odds of my formal attire preventing me from doing something?

I then went to Goodwill where my childhood babysitter DLB serves as manager. I asked why every Goodwill in the foreseeable area has a near infinite supply of the Van Helsing Junior Novel. She did not know why but acknowledged that she has boxes full in the storage room.

DLB will be in an upcoming episode of Outsider’s Inn. The episode “Night on the Town” airs on September 26th. The Goodwill she manages is next to one of the locales in the show. Two of its principle characters get dates with the shows stars (Maureen McCormick and Carnie Wilson) and shop at her Goodwill to procure the proper attire. She was directed only that she should not give the duo a discount. In the segment, the two rural characters attempt to barter for clothes.

While I have not watched much of the show due to its portrayal of my hometown, DLB insists that the “Outsiders” are the ones that are poorly portrayed. There were eight episodes filmed for the first season and it is doubtful the show will be renewed.

In other news, her nephew and my friend JTG was slated to graduate from the police academy that Friday, September 19th. He has always dreamed of being in law enforcement. In his final test, he hit only one cone on a driving test, in contrast to one co-applicant who hit 16! The only negative is that the father of two is in the process of getting a divorce.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon watching football with my grandparents. Wanting to spend the day with them, I did not bring my usual posse. As such I am sorry to note there are no WAM Quotes or pictures of KJW this week. Instead, I give you my grandfather sleeping, a common site at all family gatherings.

At 6 pm, I preached the night service on Genesis 50:20. The sermon drew heavily from the work of my mentor John Claypool. I still miss him very much.

I then drove to Knoxville where I watched the TNA pay-per-view presentation, “No Surrender”, with SMA and DBN. On the way home, I filled my gas tank at Shell station. It is good thing money is not my motivation for preaching as I would not have fared well on this day. Gas prices were the talk of the town during the weekend and rested at $4.99/gallon on this day!

The pay-per-view was a good way to wind down after a long day.

Finally, Sunday was my father’s birthday. Happy birthday, dad!