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January 2006 Issue

The Psalm 139 Project

What if a mother considering abortion were introduced to her child by means of a sonogram? What if she were able to actually see her baby moving around inside her womb before making that final and fateful decision? Imagine the dramatic drop in abortions that would take place across this nation if mothers could see their children. Such is the goal of the Psalm 139 Project.

The Project, administered by the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, seeks to create an awareness of the value of ultrasound technology in crisis pregnancy situations and to provide a way for individuals to give to a fund that places ultrasound machines in qualified pregnancy care centers.

"If wombs had windows, people would be much more reticent to abort babies because they would be force...

Life is precious. Miraculous. Delicate. Created by a loving God who makes every human being unique. King David prayed: My bones were not hidden from You when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all [my] days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began. (Psalm 139:15-16, HCSB). God is the Author and Artist of human life.

Life, made in the image of God, is also a fundamental right. According to The Declaration of Independence, "All men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The order is significant. Life is the first God-given right of every human being. If you don't have life, you certainly can't enjo...

Recently, the national media hailed the advent of "breakthrough" technology that enables women to more readily determine the likelihood that their babies will be born with Down Syndrome. The new technology, which combines the results of an ultrasound test with the results of a blood test, is capable of identifying many unborn children with the genetic disorder eleven weeks after conception. Fergal Malone, leader of the study, stated that the breakthrough is a "big deal" for women, because it permits women who opt to abort Down Syndrome babies to do so much earlier than before. It should be noted, however, that the test is not completely accurate, and it produced false positives in about 5 percent of cases.

Thoughtful people in quest of a just society should eschew the notion that it is acce...

I am outraged every time I consider the extraordinary measures the abortion industry takes to avoid putting a realistic face on the tragedy that is abortion! They call it "choice" and have gone to great lengths to keep it out of the arena of morality; instead they insist on restricting it to arenas of politics, rights, and self-gratification. Rather than exposing the reality of the shattered lives and lifelong guilt associated with slaughtering a child, they endeavor to sell it as merely a "simple" procedure that removes a "fetus" — or my personal favorite, "undeveloped tissue."

What do you suppose would happen if just one major network news show or popular talk show revealed the "real" side of abortion? Just once I would like to see an interview with a g...

What next? That seems to be the question that we regularly attempt to answer. Sometimes it is asked in relationship to the next paradigm for the church. For a period of time "paradigm" was the buzz word, and we were all looking for a new one — whether we understood what "paradigm" meant or not. At other times, when we asked what next? we were simply wondering about the next program or study that would engage our hearts and minds for a time and, hopefully, impact lives and churches.

So, we began to debate whether the church should be organized in "cells" or in "traditional Sunday school classes." We then debated musical styles to the point that books were written addressing the "worship wars" that were splitting churches. We've debated whether the chu...

Bobby Welch, continuing his visits to churches across the Southern Baptist Convention, has kept his focus on urging Christians to get out of their pews and into the streets where neighbors, family members, and strangers are searching for meaning and purpose in life.

The SBC president, speaking during a two-day evangelism rally in November at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Owensboro, Kentucky, underscored the words in 2 Peter 3 that God does not want anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance.

The Everyone Can rally included one baptism — of a college girl who manages the local Arby's restaurant — to celebrate the church ordinance to which Welch is urging Southern Baptists to give heightened attention.

Toward a goal of 1 million baptisms, Welch has asked Baptist associations to hold two baptism rallies by next September and for churches to emphasize baptism on Easter Sunday and on September 30, 2006.

Churches are asked to re...

The Bible Belt does not buckle in Illinois. Many of my neighbors don't even own a Bible. Most have never been to a Southern Baptist church and don't know anything about potluck socials, Lottie Moon, or the Cooperative Program ("Is that kind of like a Christmas program?").

But I know this — my neighbors in Illinois need the forgiveness of sins and the love of Jesus just as much as lost people anywhere do. And I know God can use me to help them hear the Good News.

In the last few weeks, I have shared the Good News with people from all kinds of backgrounds. I shared with a Mormon family who had tried in vain to earn salvation through baptism and good works. They discovered the truth of God's Word and trusted Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of the only true God, as Savior. I led a young immigrant from Poland to discover a personal relationship with Christ that was more than empty religious rituals.

A family from a liberal Protestant b...

I recently celebrated my thirty-fifth anniversary in the gospel ministry. Shortly after surrendering to God's call upon my life I accepted my first assignment as a pastor. I was a nineteen-year-old college student who had a passion to serve God and to be obedient to His call upon my life. Although my knowledge of the biblical guidelines for pastoral ministry was limited, I did assume my first pastorate knowing the Bible contained my job description.

My first objective as a pastor was to acquaint myself with God's expectations of me. It was important to me to fulfill the biblical mandate for pastoral ministry. Strictly from a human perspective I saw God as my boss. He was my primary employer. With these thoughts in mind I endeavored to be knowledgeable of my biblical job description. I studied the Scriptures to know what a pastor is to be and to do. What does a biblical pastor look like? That was the question I sought to answer.

Now, almost thirty-five years late...

"I think we should approach bringing this parish back as a 'church plant,'" Freddie Arnold said, "because this is what we're doing — starting a new church in a 'new' community."

Arnold, church planting specialist for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans, was addressing several pastors from the metro parish that, alongside New Orleans, also suffered catastrophic damage from Hurricane Katrina.

"So, we'll need to think outside the box," Arnold said during a November 22 gathering to begin discussing the future of Baptist work in the area.

"We need multi-purpose buildings and new vision for the facilities and sites." The churches that emerge from Katrina, he also said, likely will ha...

Jesus answered them, "Stop complaining among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him...." (John 6:43-44a, HCSB)

As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. (Romans 3:10-11, HCSB)

The Lord looks down from heaven on the human race to see if there is one who is wise, one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalms 14:2-3, HCSB)

Tom and I had been waiting for Jim* at the rendezvous point thirty minutes longer than expected. After a morning of moose hunting on a rainy, chilly September day, we had decided to head back to camp. We split up to cover more ground on the return to the canoe, and I last saw Jim as we all entered a large thicket.

Tom and I emerged almost simultaneously about forty minute...

New Beginnings for the New Year

As we start the New Year, listen to this exciting testimony from Pastor Brent Williams of Grace Southern Baptist Church in Virden, Illinois, of what God will do through those who are willing to obey Him.

In the last two weeks we have seen twelve people come to know the Lord. They have followed the Lord's command and have been baptized. We are a church in a rural community of thirty-five hundred people and average two hundred on Sunday. God has truly sent a revival over the last two years. A total of sixty-two people have been baptized!

Last week, a young couple came forward during the invitation and gave their lives to the Lord. They had drug addiction problems, marriage problems, you name it — they've experienced it. They had been turned off by church until someone encouraged them to try "Grace" out. They came, they heard, and they responded to the gospel. My greatest joy was to have the couple in the water at the same time. I baptized the w...

By Demonstrating and Declaring Jesus' Love

Dave and several of his friends could not believe what was happening before their eyes, minutes after praying that God would send someone to help them in their time of need. One hundred-plus volunteers wearing yellow T-shirts with large letters proclaiming "Jesus Saves" were arriving from Valley Isle Fellowship.

Dave and his friends were among about fifty people living just off the edge of the Kahului harbor in Maui with a breathtaking view of the blue Pacific. One might think this place is a seaside national park, but instead it is an area of town where homeless people, singles, and families with children make their home in a combination of abandoned cars and tents connected with makeshift walls covered by an occasional tarp, without the luxury of electric, water, or sanitation utilities.

Valley Isle's senior pastor, Dick Smith, and Gary Hamrick, the Southern Baptist congregation's pastor of evangelism and student ministries, call the area the "Kahul...

Recently, I played an exclusive golf club which provided caddies. I can explain my golf swing in baseball terms. It is a cross between a screw ball and a change up. It is a "screw up." It made my relationship with the caddy interesting. I told him to stop checking his watch, because it was distracting me. He replied that it was a compass, not a watch. I retorted that this was the worst course I had ever played, and he exclaimed that he didn't know where we were, because we had left the course an hour ago. As he handed me a ball, I told him it couldn't possibly be my ball, because it was too old. He said it had been such a long time since we teed off, it probably was my ball. I quit talking to my caddy. I turned to my pastor friend and asked him if he thought it was a sin to play golf on Sunday. He told me that the way I played it was a sin on any day.

I can't play golf, but Tiger Woods can. I was in the gallery when Tiger Woods won his first Masters Tournament. ...

Pharmacists Penalized for Pro-Life Practices

Four Illinois pharmacists have found out there is a price to pay for exercising their pro-life convictions.

The Walgreen Co. placed four of its pharmacists on indefinite, unpaid leave November 28, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The four, all working at Walgreen stores in the Illinois suburbs east of St. Louis, had declined to abide by a state rule that requires pharmacists to fill prescriptions for contraceptives, including the "morning-after" pill, even if it violates their consciences.

Many people with pro-life views consider the "morning-after" pill, also known as emergency contraception, to be an abortifacient because it not only restricts ovulation in a woman but it can act after conception. The method can block implantation of a tiny embryo in the uterine wall, thereby causing an abortion, pro-lifers poi...