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February 2004 Issue

Editor's Note: The 2004 North American Missions Emphasis includes the Week of Prayer, with suggested dates of March 7-14; the North American Missions Study; and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.

There's a reason the description of the United States as a "melting pot" is not used as much these days. Increasingly it has become more of a mosaic, a mesh of distinct culture and ethnic groups that continually find their place in the ever-shifting pattern of national identity.

The hope of Southern Baptist missionaries in this environment — working through the North American Mission Board and its state and local partners — is that one of the bonds holding the mosaic together would be Jesus Christ.

"The World at Our Doorstep," as described in the theme for 2004 North American Missions Emphasis, is more than just ministry to recent immigrants, however. It also touches the diversity of distinct cultures in the United States and Canada, as well as the way that globalization has extended our ability to influence the world from within our own borders.

The following three missi...

One hundred percent of Annie Armstrong Easter Offering funds directly support North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionaries and their ministries. These funds ensure more than 5,200 missionaries in the United States, Canada, and U.S. territories are equipped with salaries, benefits, and supplies to sustain their ministries and impact as many people as possible with the good news of Jesus Christ.

Receipts to the 2004 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering will benefit the following mission endeavors:

75% ($40,500,000) Missionary Support includes:

• Salaries (the majority of missionaries are jointly funded by state conventions and NAMB)

• Health benefits

• Missionary orientation

• Ongoing missionary training expenses

16% ($8,640,000) Church Planting support includes start-up funds for new churches, such as:

&bu...

I am writing this article on the day before Christmas. As I have reflected on what I should say concerning our Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis to begin the year 2004, I was overwhelmed by the meaning and message of this season. By the time you read this, Christmas 2003 may already be fading into your memory. Unfortunately, as the season fades we too easily forget about the incarnation of the sovereign King of the universe.

We can't begin to comprehend the sacrifice that was made when the King stepped down from His royal throne and took upon Himself human flesh. Perhaps no one has described this self-emptying better than the Apostle Paul when he wrote: Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the for...

Harold stood up, paused for a moment, and began to speak softly, "We don't want our church to die. We'll do what it takes." That was when I first knew the church could make it. The well-respected deacon and pillar of the church spoke from his heart. He really meant it — and he spoke for the church. They were ready to make the big changes needed to rescue their church from decline and eventual death.

Like many Southern Baptist churches, this church had its heyday in the 50s and 60s. Decline had been slow but steady. A church that once served hundreds (and had the building to prove it) now averaged thirty-five on a Sunday morning. Now they wanted to reach young families, a difficult task since their median age was in the 60s.

Over time, most churches plateau and most eventually decline. Typically they start strong or experience periods of growth, but then they stagnate. Patterns and traditions that once seemed special eventually lose their meaning. ...

The Fifth Pillar of a Kingdom Family

Time Management; Ordering Your Priorities; Making the Most of Your Time; How to Make Your Minutes Count; and Distinguishing the Important from the Urgent. The popularity of subjects like these indicates the struggles we each experience when seeking to use our time wisely. The saying, "I've got places to go, people to see, and things to do!" is descriptive of many in a society, which literally bombards us with claims on our time.

Ironically, though the best instructions anywhere on the wise use of time are available in God's "timeless" book, many dedicated Christians confess to being as pushed and weary as anyone else. They often lament that they "just don't even have time for a quiet time!"

The fifth pillar in our Kingdom Family Commitment states that time is a resource given to each person by God. My use of it, especially in matters related to my family, reflects my esteem for God. One day, I will give an account to Him for how ...

For a Federal Marriage Amendment

A Massachusetts court decision legalizing same-sex "marriage" underscores the need to pass an amendment to the Constitution protecting the traditional definition of marriage, conservatives say.

The ruling November 18 by the Supreme Judicial Court, the highest court in the state, legalizes "marriage" between homosexuals, although it doesn't grant them licenses immediately. The court stayed its ruling for 180 days to give the Massachusetts legislature time to take action "it may deem appropriate."

The decision will begin a push to amend the Massachusetts constitution to ban same-sex "marriage," although conservatives believe the U.S. Constitution should be amended as well. One such effort, the Federal Marriage Amendment, has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and has some 100 cosponsors. It would add language to the U.S. Constitution banning same-sex "marriage."

"The Federal Marriage ...

A solid majority of Americans oppose same-sex "marriage" and favor a constitutional marriage amendment, and nearly half believe same-sex relationships should be illegal, a new poll by The New York Times and CBS News shows.

The poll is the latest sign of a backlash against court rulings favorable to the homosexual movement. It also runs counter to claims by politicians who say a constitutional amendment has little support. Democrat presidential candidates Joe Lieberman and Dick Gephardt have said they oppose efforts by the "right wing" to amend the Constitution.

But the new poll shows broad support for an amendment among voters in both parties. As a whole, Americans favor an amendment by a margin of 55-40 percent. Among Republicans the margin is 63-33, among Democrats it is 52-44.

Additionally, people in every region support an amendment, including those in the Northeast and West — two areas traditionally more liberal tha...

The decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court regarding same-sex "marriage" is likely to have far-reaching implications to redefine marriage across this country. Following the Lawrence decision on sodomy by the U.S. Supreme Court this past summer, the 4-3 decision by the Massachusetts court almost guarantees that this issue will land on the high court's docket sooner than anyone could have imagined.

The dissenting justices in the Massachusetts opinion were correct to argue that the courts had assumed the role of lawmakers. Justice Francis Spina wrote, "Today, the court has transformed its role as protector of rights into the role of creator of rights, and I respectfully dissent." The Massachusetts decision goes beyond the previous ruling in Vermont, which has granted civil unions to gay couples. The emphatic language by the Massachusetts court suggests that gay couples should be offered nothing less than marriage itself.

Such a decision...

"I'm about to pray and bless the food," a restaurant patron said to the young Hispanic woman who had just delivered his food. "Is there any need in your life I could pray for?"

That patron was not an evangelist or pastor, but an ordinary man with an infectious passion for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with anyone, anywhere, anytime — Ron Cogburn, president of a consulting firm in Dallas, husband and father, and layman at First Baptist Church in Colleyville, Texas.

Cogburn sends out a weekly e-mail called "The Soul Winner's Diary" in which he shares his own stories and those of others that demonstrate the power of the gospel to change lives. In his entry for July 17, he wrote about his soul-winning adventure from that same day in a Fry's Electronics store while purchasing a laptop computer:

"The gentleman that helped me was very courteous and proactive in anticipating my questions and concerns. During the ...

On a cool mid-September evening in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, I sat across from two Anglican leaders: one, an orthodox theologian from the Church of England whom I have long respected, and the other, a national representative of the Episcopal Church of the USA (ECUSA). The ECUSA representative was the Right Reverend Douglas Theuner, retiring Bishop of New Hampshire. We were in the midst of an international conversation between Anglicans and Baptists.

Everybody's mind was on the rising indignation of conservative Anglicans over the impending consecration of the Reverend Vicky Gene Robinson, an open homosexual, as the successor of Bishop Theuner. While this crisis was certainly on everybody's mind, these very respectable (read "polite and non-confrontational") ecclesiastics and scholars would not broach the subject. Like many Southern Baptist conservatives (read "more confrontational") I could not let the issue pass. I introduced the subject in a public forum b...

The Potential Impact of Mel Gibson's New Movie

Southern Baptist leaders who attended a screening of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ praised the film's power to grip even the most uninterested, unbelieving viewer.

"I have been unable to erase from my mind the scene of the beating given Jesus by Roman guards," Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, said in a statement to Baptist Press after a December screening in the Nashville area. "It was gruesome. It jarred my sensibilities. The sight of Jesus' back after the cat of nine tails had torn bit by bit into His flesh was almost unbearable. It was so real I was almost certain the audience around me had given a collective gasp, sinking into their seats, shrinking from the horror of such excruciating pain."

The screening at First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee, was hosted by Ricky Skaggs, and the audience consisted mostly of artists and executives...

Two-thirds of U.S. teenagers who have had sexual relations wish they had waited longer, a new survey has found.

According to a December 17 Washington Times article the survey conducted for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found that the number of people who wish they had delayed sexual activity rose 4 percent from three years ago. Of the 2,000 people polled, 67 percent said they wished they had waited. The new data also determined that 85 percent of teens believe sex should occur only in long-term committed relationships.

According to the article the findings were based on telephone surveys of 1,000 young people, ages twelve to nineteen, and 1,000 adults twenty years and older. It was conducted in August and September by International Communications Research, an independent research firm. The margin of error in the survey was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Campaign spokesman Bill Albert said there are two key findings from the survey.

...

Members at Bethel Baptist Church, Yorktown, Virginia, call their commitment to missions "glocal thinking." Community involvement standing atop global missions and the Cooperative Program helps Bethel Yorktown achieve its purpose, pastor Thurman Hayes said.

"The Cooperative Program is a way for me as a pastor to get my church, my local church, involved in God's global purpose," Hayes said.

"What's so exciting to me about the Cooperative Program is that it enables our local efforts to be connected to a worldwide purpose," the pastor continued. "I tell them, 'As you give every week you are touching every week North America and the world for Christ.'"

Bethel's commitment stands as strong as its 21 percent giving of undesignated offerings to the Cooperative Program, the Southern Baptist Convention's method of funding missions, missionaries and seminary training.

It's a commitment that stand...

New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey signed into law January 4 a bill that allows therapeutic human cloning and gives parents the option of donating unwanted embryos to stem cell research.

Supporters say the law will result in cures for life-threatening and chronic diseases. Opponents say the law will lead to the killing of thousands of tiny human beings. They also say non-controversial forms of research — such as that on adult stem cells — offer just as much if not more promise.

"Despite facing overwhelming opposition from many fronts along the way, today we celebrate a great day for families, for research, and for the hope that miracles may be just around the corner," McGreevey said in a statement.

The law bans one form of human cloning — reproductive cloning — while allowing another kind, therapeutic cloning. Therapeutic cloning is referred to in the new law as "somatic cell nuclear transplantation," and differs from...

Biblical application answers two questions: So what? What now? If your Bible teaching doesn't ever answer these two questions, you haven't applied the Bible to the lives of your listeners. Many of us struggle in this area. We're taught to find the central idea of a passage, but we aren't shown how to apply this truth to the lives of our students. I've found the following three ways of applying Scripture to be very helpful.

Dr. David Cox, our co-pastor at First Baptist Church of Daytona Beach, had an extraordinary experience several years ago, prior to coming to Daytona Beach. This account proves again that you never know what thrilling happening is ahead when you take the gospel into the world!

The Lord never ceases to amaze us, does He? His mercies (and blessings) are new every day. His faithfulness is great. Some of His greatest expressions of blessing and faithfulness have been expressed, in my Christian life of late, via the FAITH ministry.
I was elated upon being invited recently to preach for revival services at First Baptist Church, Montgomery City, Missouri, where my father had pastored from 1968-1973. On Monday afternoon of our revival week together, I was visiting with a FAITH team, knocking on doors as we invited people to the evening services.

"Hello," a forty-year-old lady said as she answered the doorbell.

"Have you heard what's happen...

A pastor friend of mine left his church saying there were control issues, which led to an illness. The deacons were sick of him. The fact is that we all have control issues. I have discovered that the winners really don't win and the losers never forget.

Most of our problems come from trying to be in control. We waste a lot of energy on things we can't control. You can devise a great strategy and even pray all night that the sun will not come up, but it will. When the north wind blows, you can say and do anything you want, but it's going to blow whether you like it or not. The best thing to do is to find your big coat and accept that the north wind will blow.

If every morning when you wake your goal is to straighten out people, you probably should be a funeral director. When he straightens out people they stay straight, but the rest of us have to redo it each day.

A nervous passenger once asked the captain of an ocean liner what would happen if the s...

Homosexual Groups Back Off from "10 Percent" Myth

The admission that the actual size of the homosexual or bisexual population is far smaller came in an amicus curiae (or "friend of the court") brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Lawrence v. Texas. In the case, homosexual activists are seeking to have a Texas law barring homosexual sodomy declared unconstitutional. The brief was filed on behalf of a coalition of thirty-one pro-homosexual activist groups, including some of the leading national organizations like the Human Rights Campaign; the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force; Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG); the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD); and the People for the American Way Foundation.

The unusually candid statement about the relatively low number of homosexuals contains the following footnote...