Let’s get organized!

I would like to see the Fourth Baptist Young Adults get more of an organization in 2009.

Kathee and I count it a joy to work and fellowship with 4BYA. My prayer is that 4BYA would be a young adult led fellowship.

I propose that in 2009 we have a young adult council comprised of three 4BYA women and three 4BYA men. This council would be elected and serve for 1 year. The purpose of this council would be to plan and direct the 4BYA ministry.

I would like to have us talk about this in December and make a decision in January. Please know that we need to follow all 4th Baptist Church policies in implementing this idea. After 4BYA feedback, I will confer with Pastor Stamper for direction.

I will send out a survey link with the next 4BYA newsletter.

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Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

JP: Worthwhile read. The Apostles’ Creed’s central doctrines are those of the Trinity and God the Creator.

All Monotheisms Are Not Alike: How the Apostles’ Creed can sharpen our dialogue with Muslims.

Excerpts:

Despite undeniable similarities, all monotheisms are not alike. Love notes that many Muslims who later become followers of Christ say that they worshiped the true God all along, but only with partial knowledge. Certainly God can reveal himself to Muslims however he chooses, but Islam does not lead lost sinners to God. Only Jesus does.

Yes, we should speak gently and respectfully, but if we truly love Muslims, we must tell them the truth as God has revealed it. Scholar of Islam Kenneth Cragg noted, “As long as Christ is Christ, and the church knows both itself and him, there will be a mission to Islam.” I agree.

How can we engage in conversation and still stick to our theological guns? I propose employing the Apostles’ Creed—a time-tested and easily digestible template of basic Christianity—to remind ourselves how much our beliefs differ from Muslims’.

The text of the Apostles Creed is available here.

Traditional English Version

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. AMEN.

One man’s Reader’s Digest version of why I am a Christian

JP: I thought this was a good read (see caveat below the blockquote).

Answering the Atheists – A Reader’s Digest version of why I am a Christian

Excerpts:

Let’s face it: Atheism is in. Not since Nietzsche have disbelievers enjoyed such a ready public reception to their godless message—and such near-miraculous royalties. But even that hasn’t put them in a good mood. Snaps Christopher Hitchens, who wrote God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (although not, presumably, the pronouncements of atheists), “Many of the teachings of Christianity are, as well as being incredible and mythical, immoral.” A feuding Richard Dawkins suggests that believers “just shut up.” Apparently, they didn’t get the tolerance memo.

But remembering Bertrand Russell’s famous essay, “Why I Am Not a Christian,” here is a Reader’s Digest version of why I am.

  1. Creation: The universe, far from being a howling wasteland indifferent to our existence, appears to be finely tuned … to support life on this planet.
  2. Beauty: Beethoven’s Ninth, a snowflake, the sweet smell of a baby who has been sleeping, and a sunset beyond the dunes of Lake Michigan all point to a magnificent and loving Creator.
  3. New Testament reliability: … Scholar F. F. Bruce said, “The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar.”
  4. Scripture: Unlike other religious texts, the Bible gives us the good, the bad, and the ugly of its heroes: Abraham, Jacob, David, and Peter among them. Further, Scripture’s message rings true.
  5. Jesus: Christ’s life and teachings are unparalleled in world history, as any Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim—or atheist—worth his salt will admit. Napoleon reportedly said, “I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist. There is between Christianity and whatever other religions the distance of infinity.”
  6. The trilemma: C.S. Lewis, commenting on Christ’s claim to divinity, said: “You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
  7. Resurrection: After the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty. His formerly despondent disciples then turned the Roman world upside down with the message that Christ had conquered death. And they were willing to die for it. The best explanation, according to N. T. Wright and other scholars, is that Christ rose from the dead.
  8. Testimonies: While many Christians have behaved badly, Christ specializes in turning sinners around. What other faith can boast of a Chuck Colson? A John Newton? A William Wilberforce? Then there are the innumerable soup kitchens, universities, hospitals, and orphanages founded to the glory of Christ.
  9. My experience: Finally, as a forgiven sinner, I testify to an imperfect yet growing sense of God’s peace, presence, and provision since receiving Christ more than a quarter-century ago. Despite occasional setbacks, my faith has deepened and strengthened, whatever life brings.

Caveat: I do not fully endorse every aspect of this article: for example, the author’s comment about the world being an “estimated 13.7 billion years” old. I personally am an young earth creationist.

God Give Us Willing Hearts

JP: Good read by Warren Vanhetloo.

God Give Us Willing Hearts

Jesus strongly condemned religious teachers of His day for being concerned about legalistic trivia, such as tithing garden produce while ignoring serious teachings of the Old Testament (Matt. 23:23). He emphasized that difference already in His first extended public sermon, after which the people expressed astonishment at His teaching. “For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:29 KJV). He vividly set forth in a few verses the important instruction of the Hebrew Scriptures, being ignored by the intelligentsia of the day. His hearers knew their Bibles well enough that they recognized that His summation came from their sacred book. He was not ignoring the Scriptures. He was not contradicting them. He was not adding to what God had earlier revealed. He was emphasizing the real meaning of the Old Testament.

Jesus declared those who are humble before their God and toward other men to be both blessed of God and happy within. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). That evaluation is contrary to the attitude of most in the world. His followers, however, could recognize that God dwells “with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit” (Isa. 57:15). They knew it had been predicted that the anointing of the Messiah was that He might “preach good tidings unto the meek” (Isa. 61:1). Repeatedly it had been proclaimed that God favors him that is of a poor and contrite spirit (Isa. 66:2; see also Ps. 18:27; 34:18; 40:17; 69:29, 32-33; Prov. 16:18-19).

Jesus assured also, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). They who heard Him knew that their Bibles taught that the anticipated Messiah would include in His ministry the purpose “to comfort all that mourn” (Isa. 61:2; cf. Ezra 10:6; Isa. 57:18). It made sense that those who sorrow are favored in that they have a more conscious awareness of the closeness and concern of their God. Jesus did not lack pity; He encouraged confidence in the purposes of the Almighty.

Also contrary to typical human estimation, Jesus preached, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). The meek include those who are gentle, humble, and maintain self-control. They that are brutal and vicious constantly endeavor by their cunning and strength to take over portions of the earth or its produce. Their gains inevitably are short-lived. Those who know the Lord and walk humbly with Him are patient and long-suffering, already enjoying the genuine joys of the promised new earth. “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Ps. 37:11). “The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever” (v. 29). “For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait on the LORD, they shall inherit the earth” (Ps. 37:9; cf. Isa. 66:22).

Genuinely happy and richly blessed of the Lord are those who show mercy, Jesus declared, “for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7). David rejoiced of God that “with the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful” (Ps. 18:25). Solomon realized that “the merciful man doeth good to his own soul” (Prov. 11:17) and that “he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he” (Prov. 14:21).

Jesus pronounced that peacemakers are favored and well blessed of their God, even recognized as true children of God (Matt. 5:9). His followers without doubt could recall, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace . . . that publisheth salvation” (Isa. 52:7; cf. Prov. 15:1; Isa. 9:6-7).

Even more significant than a man’s outward activity is his inner condition, which Jesus stressed, saying, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). Those who were present had often heard from their Scriptures, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10). “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it. . . . The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:16-17). God loves pureness of heart (Prov. 22:11; also see Ps. 24:4; Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 9:26).

The condition of the heart and the longing of the heart should correspond. What a man desires controls his life. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6). Those who heard this probably often sang, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God” (Ps. 42:1-2; see also 63:1).

The God who formed us desires not mechanical bowing and scraping or perishable gifts from our hands. He longs for willing hearts to submit fully to Him and to walk faithfully, just as His Son walked among men. With the guidance of His Word and the reminders of the Holy Spirit, we are able to do so. Our “want to” needs to be stirred up and our rebelliousness put down.

Come Ye Thankful People Come

JP: Vicki Sprouse comments on Thanksgiving. Worthwhile read. Five Kernels of Corn, referenced below, is a must read!

Come Ye Thankful People Come

Excerpts:

I love Thanksgiving…the sights, the smells, the sounds and most importantly the meaning. There is something beautiful about late Fall when all the leaves have fallen off the trees, the first hard freeze, and the beautiful bright blue skies now devoid of Summer’s haze. When I was a child Thanksgiving was a holiday unto it’s own. Christmas wasn’t even mentioned until 10:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning when the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade came on T.V. I never knew why they called it a Thanksgiving parade, because it was mostly about Christmas. I guess the Macy’s parade was the slippery slope that led us to where we are today. The Christmas season now starts pretty much on November 1st (and some places before that). It’s really another sad symptom of our society’s state and the commercialism that fuels us, but that’s a post for another day.

I remember when even at school we sang Come Ye Thankful People Come, and Thanksgiving was actually “observed” in and of itself and not noted as the day the “holiday shopping season” officially starts. I remember making the pilgrim hats and Indian smocks out of brown grocery bags. I remember bringing a fruit or vegetable to school and/or church to put in the cornucopia, and most importantly I remember actually hearing the story of Thanksgiving.

If you have never heard the history of the pilgrims you need to take the time and read it.  It will blow you away.  That first Winter supplies and food were so meager that many days the food ration per person was five kernels of corn! Yet, God miraculously sustained them on such meager rations.  Yes, they lost weight to the point that the newcomers the next year didn’t even recognize some of their own family members, but no one starved to death.  God also kept them healthy, and no major flu or other  illness epidemics occurred that first year.  If you read (or listen to) the full story you cannot come away with any other conclusion than God worked miracles in the lives of the first English settlers in America.  Really, how the settlers managed to survive the first three difficult years is quite a testimony.

So, that’s the reason  it makes me sad that as country we just brush over Thanksgiving.  If it wasn’t for God’s sustaining power in the first year and every year since this country would not be where it is today.

We have forgotten how to be thankful.  In our mad dash for the new hot gadget or toy of the season we forget to be truly humble and thankful.  No, most of us will never know what it’s like to subsist on five kernels of corn per day.  Heck, the snack mix I’m eating while I type this has probably 20 times that amount, but if we forget to be thankful then how long will it be before society crumbles?

I daresay…not too long.

Come Ye Thankful People Come…

Thanksgiving thoughts

Norman Rockwell’s Ye Glutton (1923)
Copyright © 1923 Life Magazine

JP: Image from best-norman-rockwell-art.com

I found this article interesting:

The First Thanksgiving

The most detailed description of the “First Thanksgiving” comes from Edward Winslow from A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, in 1621:

“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed upon our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

Seventeenth Century Table Manners:

The pilgrims didn’t use forks; they ate with spoons, knives, and their fingers. They wiped their hands on large cloth napkins which they also used to pick up hot morsels of food. Salt would have been on the table at the harvest feast, and people would have sprinkled it on their food. Pepper, however, was something that they used for cooking but wasn’t available on the table.

In the seventeenth century, a person’s social standing determined what he or she ate. The best food was placed next to the most important people. People didn’t tend to sample everything that was on the table (as we do today), they just ate what was closest to them.

Serving in the seventeenth century was very different from serving today. People weren’t served their meals individually. Foods were served onto the table and then people took the food from the table and ate it. All the servers had to do was move the food from the place where it was cooked onto the table.

Pilgrims didn’t eat in courses as we do today. All of the different types of foods were placed on the table at the same time and people ate in any order they chose. Sometimes there were two courses, but each of them would contain both meat dishes, puddings, and sweets.

Reminders:

  1. There will be no 4BYA Bible study this week!
  2. The church will meet in the main auditorium this Wednesday (11/26) for our annual Thanksgiving service (7:00 p.m.)
  3. There will be a fellowship in the Atrium afterward

Paul’s expression of Thanksgiving (2 Corinthians 9:10-15)

Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, 11 while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. 12 For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, 13 while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, 14 and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Reference Rainbow: “It almost looks like one monolithic volume”

JP: Interesting graphic illustrating the interconnectivity of the Bible. Click image for a larger view with explanation.

National Science Foundation: 2008 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge

The first illuminated bibles were produced in the early Middle Ages by monks who painstakingly detailed illustrations for their sacred verse. Chris Harrison, a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Christoph Römhild of the North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hamburg, Germany, present an illustrated Bible with a modern twist. Römhild started with a list of verses in different versions of both the Old and New Testaments that referred to figures or ideas from earlier passages, then combed through both books for additional examples. Using a custom-built computer program, Harrison translated the trove of data into “Visualizing the Bible.” Each bar on the graph along the bottom represents a chapter of the Bible; the bar length corresponds to the number of verses in the passage. The rainbowlike arcs represent references from a chapter in one book to a chapter in another. “It almost looks like one monolithic volume,” Harrison says.

Christianity Today: Reference Rainbow: What it looks like to graph the Bible’s cross-references

When Christoph Römhild, a Lutheran pastor in Hamburg, Germany, sent Carnegie Mellon Ph.D. student Chris Harrison a list of 63,779 cross-references between the Bible’s 1,189 chapters, the two became enthralled with elegantly showing the interconnected nature of Scripture. Each bar along the horizontal axis represents a chapter, with the length determined by the number of verses. (Books alternate in color between white and light gray.) Colors represent the distance between references. The graph won an honorable mention in the 2008 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge, sponsored by the National Science Foundation and Science journal.