News from the Baptist Press

Formed in 1946 by the Southern Baptist Convention, and supported with Cooperative Program funds, Baptist Press (BP) is a daily (M-F) international news wire service. Operating from a central bureau in Nashville, Tenn., BP works with four partnering bureaus (Richmond, Va.; Atlanta, Ga.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Washington, D.C.), as well as with a large network of contributing writers, photographers and editorial providers, to produce BP News.

Click on the title to view the full article at the Baptist Press website.

 

Friday, February 14, 2020 - 5:24pm
NOTA DEL EDITOR: La columna First-Person (De primera mano) es parte de la edición de hoy de BP en Español. Para ver historias adicionales, vaya a http://www.bpnews.net/espanol.

FORT MYERS, Fla. (BP) -- Casi al final de la oración modelo Jesús dijo: "Y no nos metas en tentación mas líbranos del mal" (Mateo 6: 13a). En realidad, esta es la penúltima frase y es en sí, una petición para que Dios nos proteja de Satanás. ¿Es necesario que los seguidores de Jesús hagamos este tipo de petición? ¿Es posible que Dios vaya a permitir que nos dejemos llevar por la tentación?

Santiago 1:13 dice: "Cuando alguno se sienta tentado a hacer el mal, no piense que es Dios quien le tienta, porque Dios no siente la tentación de hacer el mal ni tienta a nadie para que lo haga". Observa esto, el que habla es el medio hermano de Jesús y nos lo está diciendo por inspiración del Espíritu Santo. Pero si Dios no nos tienta, ¿Por qué entonces vamos a orar pidiéndole: "No nos metas en tentación"?

Déjame decirte que estas palabras han confundido hasta a los teólogos más profundos y a los más famosos intérpretes de la Biblia. Pero me parece que la profundidad de este asunto tal vez no es tan difícil de comprender cuando nos acercamos a Dios considerándolo como nuestro Padre. Entonces esto cobra sentido y adquiere simplicidad, si consideramos que, para este momento, en la oración modelo ya le hemos pedido a nuestro Padre el alimento para hoy, le hemos pedido que nos perdone el ayer y le pedimos protección para el mañana.

Recuerdo el primer invierno que pasé en los Estados Unidos. Estaba viviendo con la familia de norteamericanos que "me había adoptado". En aquella ocasión, había estado nevando toda la noche y cuando me disponía a salir para mi trabajo, todos en casa me advirtieron: "ten cuidado en la escalera, pues hay hielo sobre la nieve". Vivíamos en "una casa móvil" (Mobile home). Sin embargo, estaba tan fascinado con el espectáculo que ofrecía la nieve, que antes de que me pudiera dar cuenta, estaba en el suelo. El sonido de mi caída alertó a los que estaban en el interior de la casa que salieron a prestarme ayuda, para que me pudiera levantar. No se me ocurrió algo mejor que disculparme por mi torpeza y por no haber escuchado las advertencias que me habían hecho. Pero, interiormente comencé a sentir temor y deseaba decirles: "por favor no me suelten". "No dejen que me vuelva a caer".

Nuestro amoroso Padre celestial siempre está deseoso de ayudarnos. Dice el salmo 37:23-24: "El Señor dirige los pasos del hombre y le pone en el camino que a Él le agrada; aun cuando caiga, no quedará caído, porque el Señor le tiene de la mano". Considero que detrás de esta petición que Jesús nos enseña a hacer, se encierra esa idea. Ese fue el mismo sentimiento que sentí, cuando me encontraba en el suelo con mi cuerpo adolorido y mi orgullo destrozado y no podía levantarme por mí mismo, pues resbalaba y volvía a caer. Los resbalones que hemos dado en la vida también nos han enseñado que el camino es resbaloso y por eso quisiéramos aferrarnos a la mano de alguien para que nos ayudara a levantarnos.

Para mí, en aquella mañana del mes de noviembre, la blancura de la nieve que lo cubría todo y el azul limpio de un cielo sin una nube que brillaba bajo un sol naciente de color naranja, fue el botón que disparó la tentación de mi "arrogancia" que me hizo caer de forma estrepitosa, lastimándome, sobre todo, mi "orgullo" al verme imposibilitado de levantarme por mí mismo, y sobre todo, al escuchar las risas incontrolables de los que me habían advertido que tuviera el cuidado que no tuve. Era como el título del programa de televisión: "Solo duele cuando alguien se ríe".

Considero que el problema de nuestros pecados sería suficientemente malo si solo tuviéramos que lidiar con nuestra falta de atención o desobediencia, pero cada día nos encargamos de cavar un poco más profundo el hoyo. Diariamente corremos el riego de hacer las cosas peores de lo que ya son. Pero nuestro Padre está atento para proporcionar lo que necesitamos para satisfacer nuestras necesidades. Él sabe cuándo nuestras mentes están embotadas porque nuestras despensas están vacías. Él conoce cuando la amargura comienza a llenar nuestras vidas porque no hemos podido perdonar a los que nos han ofendido. No vivir como debemos, delante de Él, nos roba el gozo para adorarle y testificar. Tenemos mucho que perder al no obedecerle y no tenemos una salida a nuestra situación, a menos que Él nos ayude.

Considero que la mejor manera de darnos cuenta de la necesidad que tenemos de clamar constantemente: "No nos metas en tentación mas líbranos del mal", es reconocer la imposibilidad que tenemos de vivir una vida de acuerdo con los propósitos de Dios, sin la ayuda de Él. La razón es bien simple: "el enemigo es superior y es más poderoso que nosotros". ¡Sus características no son humanas! El diablo fue capaz de revelarse contra Dios porque quería ser igual a Él. Aunque es un ser creado, es superior en atributos y poder a los seres humanos. Y como si esto no fuera suficiente, no podemos confiar en nosotros mismos para mantener nuestras vidas limpiar y agradables a Dios.

Aunque la Biblia describe a Satanás como "el engañador", "el padre de las mentiras" y "el tentador" entre otras cosas, según Santiago 1:13-14 no podemos culpar a nadie por nuestras tentaciones. La tentación proviene de nosotros mismos, de nuestra concupiscencia que lleva al pecado. Mientras vivamos en la tierra tendremos que luchar contra nuestro enemigo, contra el medio en el que nos desarrollamos y contra nosotros mismos, para permitir que Dios nos lleve a alcanzar la victoria.

Un día, cuando se establezca el Reino de Dios, escaparemos incluso a la presencia del pecado, pero hasta que venga ese día, dependemos diariamente de Él, para poder escapar al poder del maligno. Es una pérdida de tiempo tratar de enfrentarse a las tentaciones, contando con nuestras propias fuerzas. Solamente Dios puede darnos las fuerzas que necesitamos para resistir. Cuando le pedimos a Dios que nos libre de la tentación, le estamos solicitando que nos aparte y que no permita que estemos expuestos a esa situación que va a poner a prueba nuestra vulnerabilidad. Podemos vivir confiados, porque nuestro Padre celestial ha provisto para cubrir todas nuestras necesidades. ¡Dios es la respuesta a todo lo que el hombre pudiera necesitar!
--30-- Read more...

Friday, February 14, 2020 - 5:20pm
BOSSIER CITY, La. (BP) -- A group described as "grassroots" Southern Baptists announced the formation of the Conservative Baptist Network Friday (Feb. 14). Group spokesperson Brad Jurkovich, pastor of First Baptist Church of Bossier City, La., told Baptist Press the group was launched to address concerns about the direction of the SBC.

Jurkovich is the only person publicly identified as part of the group's leadership. He declined to share names of other leaders, though he said it was "really local pastor-driven."

"There's lots of people involved with the network, and that's really the passion behind it," Jurkovich said. "There's just lots of people around the country and [Southern Baptist] Convention that are involved with this.

"Right now," Jurkovich told BP, "we haven't really shared a lot of those names, et cetera, on a lot of fronts. So, and again, part of that is structurally, we're still putting some things together that when we want to share that, we will certainly be ready to do that."

In a press release, the network said it is not a new denomination or a competitor with other like-minded ministries. In response to potential division the network's founding could cause, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee president and CEO Ronnie Floyd released a statement Friday.

"Since I arrived at the EC, I have worked diligently on moving us towards a clear, concise, and compelling unified Great Commission vision," said Floyd, who assumed the role in May 2019 after nearly 33 years as pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. "The Southern Baptist Convention is at her best when churches are partnering together for mission and standing on the inerrant, infallible, sufficient Word of God. Regardless of our secondary affiliations or networks, we must continue to uphold the Baptist Faith and Message, cooperating with one another for the purpose of seeing every person reached for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, every state and every nation.

"Anyone who has questions about our future together, please stay tuned.... Now is the time for all of us to come together around the heartbeat of missions and evangelism."

Floyd will announce a major five-year vision to the SBC Executive Committee during its Feb. 17-18 meeting in Nashville.

During a radio interview Friday on The Todd Starnes Show, Jurkovich was asked if it is time for a second Conservative Resurgence.

"Absolutely," he told Starnes.

The network has the support of Chuck Kelley, president emeritus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and various leaders of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Cordova, Tenn.

But when asked by BP, Jurkovich would neither confirm nor deny whether former Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson, a prominent leader in the original Southern Baptist Conservative Resurgence that began in the late 1970s, is involved in the network's leadership.

About 800 pastors joined the network within three hours of its launch, Jurkovich told BP, but he provided no names nor churches.

The network officially launched Friday with a website and press release, and announced a formal launch event June 8, the evening before the opening session of the 2020 SBC Annual Meeting in Orlando, Fla. Preaching, worship, encouragement, a vision statement and denomination-related challenges are slated for the event, Jurkovich said.

In its press release, the network said "a significant number of Southern Baptists are concerned about the apparent emphasis on social justice, Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and the redefining of biblical gender roles.

Additionally, the press release referenced Vice President Mike Pence's appearance at the 2018 Annual Meeting in Dallas, suggesting "when all attempts to keep the vice president from speaking failed, scores of messengers exited the convention in protest as the vice president began his address." The press release accused those who exited the Dallas hall of "insolence and disrespect ... foreign to what the Bible teaches about respecting those in authority in 1 Peter 2:11-17."

According to video of the session reviewed by Baptist Press, the meeting hall appeared full, with many messengers standing to their feet and applauding during his speech. A small number could be seen exiting the hall, but it is unclear whether their action was done in protest.

The network has announced no plans to endorse a current candidate nor enter a nominee for elected offices of the SBC.

Jurkovich told BP the network is "prayerfully looking at the coming months and looking at who's running.... We have really been intentional to say there's not anyone that we're backing today, or we have any plans to do so as a network."

Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary leaders endorsed the network on social media and in comments to the Christian Post Friday.

Jurkovich told BP the seminary, outside the Southern Baptist family of seminaries, has supported the network from early discussions that began months ago. There has been no discussion of whether the seminary should receive Cooperative Program dollars, Jurkovich told BP.

"They are a like-minded entity," Jurkovich said of Mid-America, "that shares our burden for the Word of God and evangelism, and they've always been so supportive of Southern Baptists.... They just wanted to partner with us and help us any way they could, and they're excited to be a part."

When asked about the network's funding, Jurkovich said grassroots support has been offered, but the group currently has no official funding stream.
Read more...

Friday, February 14, 2020 - 5:11pm
NASHVILLE (BP) -- SBC Executive Committee president Ronnie Floyd is expected to issue a call for Southern Baptists to reimagine a new future of reaching the world for Jesus Christ at the February SBC Executive Committee meeting next week (Feb. 17-18) in Nashville.

In his remarks with Baptist state publication editors and state executives earlier this week in Tucson (see related story), Floyd announced the unveiling of "Vision 2025" -- a call to reach every person for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, every state and every nation. Floyd's address is scheduled for Monday night in the first of two scheduled plenary sessions of the 86-member board.

The Monday night plenary begins at 6:30 p.m. and will also feature an address by SBC president J.D. Greear. It was in this speech a year ago when Greear issued a convention-wide call to better respond to sexual abuse in local churches and to provide better training to pastors and lay leaders for how to care well for survivors.

One response to Greear's call was the conception and formation of a standing Credentials Committee at the SBC annual meeting last June in Birmingham, Ala. This new Credentials Committee is scheduled to present its first report to the SBC Executive Committee on Tuesday.

The Tuesday morning plenary session begins and 10:30 a.m. and includes a presentation from Warren Peek, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Foundation, as well as nearly 30 business items for the Committee to process. Business items scheduled to be addressed include:

-- Restructuring of the EC subcommittee and workgroup structure

-- Revisions to the EC mission and ministries statement including a new prayer ministry (see related story)

-- Amendments to the SBC Bylaws and Constitution regarding the process of elections and timing of business at the annual meeting

-- The proposed Cooperative Program and EC budgets for fiscal year 2021

-- Additions to the SBC Calendar

SBC Executive Committee meetings are open to the public and are held at the SBC Building located at 901 Commerce Street, Nashville, TN, 37203.

Read more...

Friday, February 14, 2020 - 5:06pm
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Saying "Gospel Above All" is "more than a slogan," Southern Baptist Convention president J.D. Greear urged unity in remarks this week at the annual meeting of the Association of State Baptist Publications.

Citing Romans 14, Greear suggested Paul's exhortation and admonishment to believers not to pass judgment on nonessentials applies to some current issues in the SBC. "Gospel Above All" is the theme chosen by Greear for the upcoming 2020 SBC Annual Meeting, just as it was for the 2019 Annual Meeting. He said for the theme to become reality, Southern Baptists must not divide over tertiary issues.

"Paul had a definite perspective on what was right, which is what to me makes his instruction all the more relevant," said Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C. "Because he's not talking about issues that don't matter. He's saying, 'In this issue, I know I'm right, but I just don't want to let this issue create division in this body, and unity in the body is more important than uniformity on perspective on these things.'"

During his presentations to state Baptist executives and editors, Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, unveiled "Vision 2025," and also cited Paul in emphasizing the need for strong relationships in order to achieve unity and to accomplish the collective goal of reaching "every town, every city, every state and every nation" with the Gospel.

"We've got to rediscover the power of relationships," said Floyd, who added that Paul's epistles show clearly, "the Gospel traveled on the tracks of relationships."

Floyd, who assumed the SBC EC role in May 2019 after almost 33 years as senior pastor of Cross Church in Springdale, Ark., said he views his role "through the lens of a pastor," and said the EC "exists to serve churches."

"That's what we do," he said, adding: "We're going to champion pastors."

He told the editors that he was "completely content" to continue as Cross Church's pastor, but felt a distinct calling to the new role with the EC. He told the editors he believes in the SBC.

"I didn't come into this position with a bad attitude," he said. "I came into this position because I believe in what we do. Can we do it better? We can always do it better."

Floyd, who plans to present Vision 2025 at the SBC EC meeting next week (Feb. 17-18) in Nashville, also addressed editors' questions about proposed changes to the EC's mission and its ministry statement, including a proposed revision to "assist churches through elevating the ministry of prayer." Following his presentation, editors gathered around Floyd for a time of prayer for the EC leader.

Others who spoke to the ASBP participants included: International Mission Board (IMB) president Paul Chitwood; North American Mission Board president Kevin Ezell; Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) president Adam Greenway; Guidestone Financial Resources president and CEO O.S. Hawkins; Lifeway Christian Resources president and CEO Ben Mandrell; and Woman's Missionary Union executive director-treasurer Sandy Wisdom-Martin.

Bob Smietana, editor-in-chief of Religion News Service, gave the keynote presentation to the editors, with the theme of "Good news, bad news -- all news is God's news." Former Baptist Press editor Art Toalston provided devotionals and was presented with a resolution honoring his contribution to Southern Baptist and Christian journalism, which included stints with the Foreign Mission Board (now the IMB) and SWBTS. The resolution stated Toalston's reporting "helped to shape Southern Baptist and Christian journalism," and that his "personal character, spiritual life and writings have inspired his coworkers and others in the journalism field and in local churches."

During Greear's presentation to the editors, which included a brief question-and-answer session, he said division "needs to happen" when issues addressed in the Baptist Faith and Message are at stake, but Paul's teaching in Romans 14 shows unity is of paramount importance otherwise.

"Unity of the body (of Christ) is a precious thing. There are times when you have to disunify over essentials," Greear said. "But Paul seems to be equally concerned over those who would divide over nonessentials. And if we're going to be a people who really believe 'Gospel above all,' we're going to have to regain biblical categories for unity and liberty. We've got to unify on the right things and we've got to have liberty on the right things."
Read more...

Friday, February 14, 2020 - 3:21pm
WASHINGTON (BP) -- The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to rescind a deadline established nearly 50 years ago for a constitutional amendment a Southern Baptist Convention entity says would threaten the sanctity of human life and freedom of conscience.

The House voted 232-183 in an almost party-line roll call to remove the deadline set by Congress in 1972 for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a controversial proposal that failed to gain ratification by three-fourths of the states in the allotted time. When Congress approved the ERA, it established a seven-year deadline for ratification by the states. Congress later extended the deadline three more years, but proponents achieved passage in only 35 of the 38 states needed before time expired in 1982.

ERA supporters have sought to revive the proposal in recent years, gaining passage in three more states. Most recently, the Virginia legislature approved the amendment in January.

The House-approved resolution apparently will face difficulty in the Senate, and it seems questionable that the federal court system would find the effort to eliminate a long-past deadline to be constitutional.

The ERA -- which says, "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex" -- received opposition from pro-life advocates and social conservatives during the 10-year campaign for its ratification. Pro-lifers especially are working against it because of its abortion implications.

"As Christians we are called to affirm the full dignity of every human being without reservation, and should reflect that in our daily interactions," said Amy Whitfield, SBC Executive Committee women's liaison.

"We believe God created both men and women in His own image, crowning them with inestimable worth, but ultimately the implications of the Equal Rights Amendment are deeply concerning, particularly for the lives of the unborn."

In a policy brief issued in April 2019, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) affirmed that God created women, like men, in His image and endowed them with "equal value and dignity." The ERA debate, however, is "tainted with abortion politics," according to the ERLC.

In listing problems with the amendment, the ERLC said in its brief the ERA could:

-- Abolish federal and state limitations on even third-trimester abortions, including those performed by the partial-birth method.

-- Mandate government funding for abortion by nullifying the Hyde Amendment, a measure first passed in 1976 that prohibits federal money for the lethal procedure.

-- Revoke conscience protections for health-care workers who object to participating in abortions and other medical procedures in conflict with their beliefs.

-- Essentially eradicate sex-segregated spaces, such as shelters and prisons for women, and leave females vulnerable.

"While it is an honorable goal to work to see respect for human dignity reflected in our laws and culture, the Equal Rights Amendment is not the way forward," said Chelsea Sobolik, a policy director for the ERLC.

"The ERA is not ultimately pro-woman, because it ensures taxpayer-funded abortion would be readily available," she said in written comments for Baptist Press. "Abortion does not honor women but instead places them at a more significant disadvantage as abortion targets baby girls and harms women's health long after the procedure."

Douglas Johnson, senior policy advisor for the National Right to Life Committee, said, "Numerous abortion-rights groups now openly proclaim that they would employ the ERA as a powerful legal weapon against pro-life laws."

The ERA is "40 years dead," Johnson said in a written statement. "We are now witnessing an orchestrated attack on the integrity of the constitutional amendment process itself."

Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., charged the newly passed resolution is unconstitutional. In written remarks, she also said the ERA "would not bring women any more rights than they currently have but it would entrench the legality of abortion. We know this from court precedent and by listening to those who have the most to gain from constitutionally protecting abortion on demand."

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi denied the ERA's impact on abortion in her floor speech Feb. 13. "This has nothing to do with [the] abortion issue," she said. "That's an excuse. It's not a reason. And you're saying by voting against this that your daughter, your sister, your mother, your spouse should not have equal protection under the law in the Constitution of the United States."

NARAL Pro-choice America, one of the country's leading abortion rights organizations, says on its website, however, the ERA "would reinforce the constitutional right to abortion by clarifying that the sexes have equal rights, which would require judges to strike down anti-abortion laws because they violate both the constitutional right to privacy and sexual equality."

Backers of the effort to eliminate the ERA's ratification deadline have failed to gain the support of one of the amendment's most prominent supporters.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a long-time advocate for the ERA, said Feb. 10 of the ratification attempt, "I'd like it to start over," according to the Associated Press.

Speaking of the ratifications by Nevada, Illinois and Virginia in the last three years, Ginsburg said in an appearance at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., "There's too much controversy about late comers. Plus, a number of states have withdrawn their ratification. So if you count a latecomer on the plus side, how can you disregard states that said, 'We've changed our minds'?"

Five states rescinded their ratifications of the ERA after originally approving it.

No Democrats opposed the House resolution Feb. 13, but five Republicans voted for it. They were Reps. John Curtis of Utah, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Tom Reed of New York and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey.

The ERLC's policy statement on the ERA is available at https://erlc.com/resource-library/policy-briefs/the-equal-rights-amendment-poses-threats-to-human-dignity-and-religious-liberty.

Read more...

Friday, February 14, 2020 - 3:01pm
Kentucky church sets goal of reaching 1,201 homes within mile
By Mark Maynard

GRAYSON, Ky. (BP) -- Pastor Josh Schmidt and a little more than two dozen members of First Baptist Church in Grayson went out on foot two Sundays ago to start a yearlong initiative of knocking on 1,201 doors.

That's the number of homes that sit within one mile of the church -- and statistics say that an incredible 94 percent of people in those homes are unchurched.

Put another way, the harvest is ripe.

"The top eight of the most unchurched counties in the state, every single one of them was in northeastern or southeastern (Kentucky) -- right in the middle of the Appalachian Bible Belt," Schmidt said of data provided to him through the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

Schmidt, who has been pastor of the Carter County church for two years where his late father previously pastored, said the impetus for the door-to-door effort was birthed from last year's REACH Evangelism Conference.

"Joel Southerland from NAMB said his church had decided that within one mile of his church that was going to be their Jerusalem," Schmidt said. "He talked about how he'd made himself 'mayor' of that area. From one mile out at least, there wasn't going to be anyone who didn't hear the Gospel."

Schmidt said he was burdened because "we weren't doing any outreach. We were doing discipleship stuff, which is very important too, but nothing with outreach. Our leadership was challenged by that."

So they began putting the plan in motion. The first Sunday they decided to go up and down three streets that covered about 60 homes. Most of those they encountered were not attending church anywhere and some didn't know of the church within a mile of them.

"We had three groups of four and another 13-14 out to prayer walk," he said.

Several businesses and churches are also along Main Street in Grayson where the church is located. They sent out letters of encouragement to them.

Schmidt said the Three Circles evangelism program is "in the DNA of our church" and that's the tool they took with them. They had some Gospel conversations but mostly asked residents how they could pray for them and invited them to church.

"The good thing about Three Circles is it's great about transitioning regular conversations to Gospel conversations," he said. "We had some Gospel conversations. Nobody prayed to receive Jesus at the time. We haven't seen any fruit yet, but I guarantee we will be."

When Schmidt looks at the statistics in Carter County, he found of those 1,201 homes that it included 3,100 people within a mile of the church.

"We have all these horror stories about people slamming the door in your face (when visiting) and that's just not the case," he said. "I've knocked on Lord knows how many doors and never once had it slammed in my face. I've had people not be super friendly, but people build on those false narratives.

"It (witnessing) terrifies people, but at the end of the day, you just gotta go. We started bringing people alongside us, people who are terrified, to show them (it's nothing to be scared over)."

Schmidt said the goal of reaching everyone within a mile of the church wasn't his vision but God's vision for First Baptist Grayson. "We were doing this and then the KBC announces getting the Gospel to every single home was the theme for the November meeting. It was God's providential blessing for us."

Of the 60 homes that they visited on Sunday, only three people said they were members of any church. "The statistics show that means there are about 2,900 people within a mile of our church who don't attend church on a Sunday basis," he said.

Schmidt understands it will be a marathon and not a sprint to the finish line and keeping the church engaged in the project is vital. "Two major challenges: How do we make sure we're hitting every home and how do you keep this in the forefront of everybody's mind?"

He said "as soon as we start seeing victories, people will continue to get energized."

Schmidt also said he'd be doing a lot more planning on his knees.
--30--
Mark Maynard is managing editor of Kentucky Today (kentuckytoday.com), the news website of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

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California church welcomes all nations
By Karen L. Willoughby

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (BP) -- Reinvention is par for the course at Lincoln Hill Community Church, where Mike (Miguel) Rodriguez has been pastor for 10 years.

He estimates the church essentially has restarted three times in the last 10 years, as the North Bay congregation responds to waves of immigrants from other nations, and as God opens doors.

For the present, Rodriguez preaches in English and Spanish, thought-for-thought in each language:

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. De tal manera Dios amo al mundo que dio a su hijo unigenito. That whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Que todo aquel que crea en El no perezca mas tenga vida eterna."

Each restart, reinvention, reworking of the church has been to better fulfill God's purpose for Lincoln Hill in a time of increasing and sometimes overlapping change, Rodriguez said.

"I don't think we purposefully tried to do this (language back and forth) but God showed us what He wanted," Rodriguez explained. "We completely embrace being a multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multi-faceted church that adapts to reaching the people around us.

"That's led us to the place we're willing to pay the cost of stretching ourselves linguistically or however we function week to week, and trying different things to be contextual to reaching people for the Gospel in our area."

The willingness to adapt may have first come in 2003, when First Baptist Church in San Rafael changed its name to Lincoln Hill Community Church. "We're on Lincoln Avenue. We're on a hill, and we're desiring to reach our community," Rodriguez said.

The church had withered by the time Rodriguez, born in Honduras, was called by the aging Anglo congregation in 2010 to his first senior pastorate. His last name attracted some attention, as the congregation had wanted, and the church started to grow, dependent on Sunday and Wednesday services in English and Spanish.

In time, a group of Brazilians joined Lincoln Hill, which led to the church's refocus outward. English as a Second Language classes, a food pantry, prayer and street evangelism were among the ways the church began ministering in its blue-collar community.

But in time, the church's Saturday evening service in Portuguese led to iOrganic Church. Between the start of that congregation in 2015 and the relocation of Golden Gate Baptist Theological (now Gateway) Seminary to southern California in 2016, Lincoln Hill lost 27 key volunteer leaders from its ESL and food pantry ministries.

"That was really hard on our church," Rodriguez acknowledged.

Then came Lincoln Hill's third "restart" with "a new influx of families," he said. They're coming from San Rafael, Novato, Hercules and even El Sobrante, on the east side of the Oakland Bay Bridge. They're coming from Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Iran, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Korea, China, Ukraine, Ethiopia and elsewhere.

"We're now training new people to respond to their calling," Rodriguez noted. "We're training our people to being good disciples of Jesus and good neighbors. Now we are focusing on our Koinonia groups. They are the focal point to influence the people around us. We say, 'Come and share life in Christ.'"

In addition to the in-home weekday Koinonia groups, Lincoln Hill emphasizes Sunday morning Bible study, which involves going through the Bible systematically, covering foundational doctrines.

"With Koinonia groups, doctrinal Bible study and reforming our base, hopefully we can do evangelism on the street again," Rodriguez said.

The preaching in two languages during the same sermon was a request of the congregation.

"People were so excited for all of us to hear the sermon," Rodriguez explained. "They said, 'We all want to be together even though we are from different countries.'

"Our church tried to do two separate services and it just wasn't going well," but the congregation liked it when he juxtaposed languages one Sunday when the translation equipment failed and he translated for a guest speaker. When the equipment failed, the next two weeks Rodriguez translated himself and never went back.

"When I think about it, it does seem pretty crazy," he admitted. "We have a lot of people touched by it. They feel more unified by doing it that way, like we're all together; and some people learn some of the other languages."

The pastor's mother, Agueda Carbajal, now teaches a Sunday morning class in Spanish as a Second Language.

There's more to the story of Lincoln Hill Community Church. They have started two missions -- Thai-Lao Baptist Church and Vietnamese Community Church -- which both meet at the mother church.

Thai-Lao Baptist, started 33 years ago and still led by Savang Lin, meets Sunday afternoons. Vietnamese Community Church, a restart two years ago of Love and Hope Church, led by Andrew Nguyen, meets Saturday evenings.

"We make it work for sure," Rodriguez said, including all three pastors in his "we." The key is addressing minor issues before they grow, such as reminders to turn off lights when not needed.

"It takes a lot of communication, a lot of being willing to text, making phone calls and meeting in person when necessary," Rodriguez said. "Everybody has their own way of doing things. It takes respecting everybody's space and not infringing on anybody's space or identity."

Lincoln Hill doesn't stop with outreach in its multi-cultural community. The congregation contributes 7 percent of undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program, the way Southern Baptists work together in state conventions, North America and across the world to fund missions and ministries. It also gives 3 percent of offerings to Redwood Empire Baptist Association.

"Ultimately, biblically, the throne of God will be surrounded by all people, all nations, all tongues," Rodriguez said. "We need to be welcoming. We need to remember He loves the nations."
--30--
Karen Willoughby is a freelance writer in Utah. This article appeared in the California Southern Baptist (csbc.com/news), newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention.

**********

Georgia church helps school children hear the Good News
By Amanda Hayes

NAHUNTA, Ga. (BP) -- Pastor Andee Courson of Southside Baptist Church in Nahunta remembers Mrs. June calling for the neighborhood children to come into her living room. The occasion was for an after-school hearty helping of Little Debbie snack cakes, but also Bible stories.

Courson admits he was there mostly for the snack cakes. But he now knows it as where he was introduced to the idea of teaching the Bible to children after school, and outside the walls of the local church.

The Good News Club is one of the primary children's evangelism programs of Child Evangelism Fellowship, founded in 1937. According to their website, "The Good News Club and 5-Day Club ministries take place in neighborhood settings such as homes, backyards, schools, and community centers all over the world. These fast-paced, one-hour programs are designed to bring the Gospel of Christ to children on their level in their environment." Child Evangelism Fellowship estimates that last year, between these two primary children's programs, approximately 25.4 million children heard the Good News.

In southeast Georgia, Southside Baptist Church sits adjacent to the Nahunta Pre-Kindergarten, Elementary, and Primary school campus. With this many elementary- and middle school-aged children ranging from pre-K all the way through sixth grade literally within view of the church, Courson prayed that God would open the door for an after-school Good News Club program. He had seen it happen before in other areas prior to moving back to his home, Brantley County.

Courson turned to his own childhood classmate and School Superintendent, Kim Morgan. It took the entire summer of 2019 for the school board to decide about the club meeting on school grounds, with Courson becoming discouraged. However, two weeks prior to the start of the 2019-2020 school year, the pastor received notice that his request had been approved.

An overwhelming response greeted Courson and others when an information table at the school's open house, word of mouth and fliers brought 209 registered students for the program. The Good News Club now meets at Nahunta Primary and Elementary School each Tuesday, averaging 85 each week. Students are divided into three groups and enjoy a program that includes snacks, prayer, music, memory verses, Bible stories and missionary stories.

The feedback and results have been nothing short of miraculous. Parents, grandparents and caretakers of participating students have praised the program and its volunteers for their work. To date, 24 children have made decisions to accept Christ as their Savior.

Courson is grateful for the partnerships and support he has received from the principal and staff at Nahunta Elementary and Primary School, but he states that there is much more work to be done.

"Many more churches need to sponsor elementary schools and start Good News Clubs in the counties in which they are located," he said.

To start a Good News Club in your county, or get involved with an existing program, go to www.cefonline.com and click on "Get Involved."
--30--
Amanda Hayes writes for the Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
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Friday, February 14, 2020 - 2:53pm
FRANKLIN, Tenn. (BP) -- Contemporary Christian artist Matthew West's new album "Brand New" explores themes of new life, insecurity, hope and grace while melding together musical styles ranging from pop ballads to guitar-led, Springsteen-like tunes.

Dropping today (Feb. 14), this is the first project West has released under a recently-signed deal with Provident Label group and Sony Music.

Brand New represents a refocus and a rekindled vision in his music, career and life, West told Baptist Press.

He describes the album as one that lets the promises of God become brand new again.

The idea of newness of life being the umbrella theme for the album came as West would tell his testimony in previous concerts.

Sharing the story of how, while sitting on his family's blue couch as a 13-year-old flipping through channels to find a baseball game to watch, he accidentally stumbled across a Billy Graham crusade, West remembered the moment he realized he wanted to live for Jesus.

The boldness and clarity of that moment is what West calls his "brand-new" moment.

West said he hopes to encourage listeners to get back to the moment where they found new life in Christ and if they have yet to find that life, to be brought to place where they call out to the Lord for hope.

The encouragement to remember those moments started with his own need, he said.

"I came into the studio and I just found myself writing these songs that were based out of this desire for myself to go back to that blue couch," West told BP.

The 15-track album walks listeners through stories of pain yet offers hope.

"You pick up a lot of baggage along the way in your life," West said. "There's times when I've felt a long way away from that 13-year-old kid calling out to Jesus on a blue couch, and so in a way this album is about me returning and being reminded that God still sees me as that kid who first called on Him and He's never loved me less."

In addition to these calls to remember what God has done, stylistically West hoped to move into new places with the songs.

"I don't ever want to write the same song twice," West said. "I put a pressure on myself to always go to new places. I love albums that are eclectic. I love it when a whole album covers different extremes stylistically."

West attributed much of the new ground covered in the album to his work with other writers and artists whose creative processes were different.

"This was a season of collaboration and community," West said.

Working with young artist A.J. Pruis, a member of West's band, proved especially enriching for the project, West said.

"We really formed a really neat connection creatively," West noted.

Pruis was a part of either writing or producing each song on the album.

The songs' lyrics can stand strong in a full band setting, but still speak deeply in stripped-down environments.

West said he challenges himself as an artist to create melodies and lyrics that can stand alone.

"I want to write the kind of song that doesn't have to hide behind anything because the lyrics speak on their own and there's a power to it, whether you've got a 100-piece orchestra and choir or its just you at a piano," West said.

Working under a new label meant working with new teams, in new environments and in new spaces, West noted.

Recording in his newly built home studio, West said the album felt like a different artistic experience because he got to do it all alongside his family.

"Sometimes those changes in environment, just like they change our moods, can also change the creative process for a songwriter," West said. "I had these really special moments where I'm writing songs and I'm hanging with my family and I'm in this new studio, just a lot of new experiences going on. I can hear the new life and excitement in these songs on this record."

Following the release West will immediately begin touring with artist Casting Crowns during the spring months and will headline the "Brand New" tour in the fall of 2020.

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Friday, February 14, 2020 - 1:15pm
BRIDGETON, Mo. (BP) -- Religious liberty can seem an abstract concept, but consider Kevin.

Kevin is one of more than 13,000 children in Missouri's foster care system. Kevin has been waiting for adoption since he was 6. That was 10 years ago. Back in December, Kevin appeared on KOLR Channel 10 in Springfield, Mo. In a weekly segment, the station features foster kids like Kevin, who are in search of a home and forever family.

After footage rolled of Kevin working behind the scenes at school theatrical productions and taking a turn at the weather man's green screen, he looked at the anchor interviewing him about what kind of family he might want and asked a question: "Can I say something?"

"Of course," she said, as Kevin turned to face the camera.

"I want a Christian family," the high school sophomore said. "Just get ahold of Ms. Krystal and tell her that you want to adopt me, and she'll try to get it figured out."

"Ms. Krystal" is Krystal Neal, Kevin's caseworker and an employee of the Missouri Baptist Children's Home Children and Family Ministries (MBCH), which handles Kevin's case through a contract with the state. Because of MBCH's mission to serve God by responding to the needs of children, youth and families, thousands of foster kids like Kevin have been served not just by the Department of Social Services, but by caseworkers and foster families that know a God-centered family is the one that works best.

During 2019, MBCH helped 187 children find permanent homes (76 reunified with family, 24 through guardianships, and 87 through adoption). More than a thousand families were part of the MBCH extended family through the foster care, crisis pregnancy and human trafficking rescue ministries. Each person touched by MBCH heard the Gospel.

Kevin's story caused nearly every eye to tear up during the Jan. 28 MBCH trustee meeting. But even as they prayed for a family for Kevin and praised God for the Christian influence he clearly has in his life, they contemplated a time when state regulations may make such work difficult or even impossible.

Trustees began developing a five-year strategic plan for MBCH and its affiliates to be finalized by the end of the year. Threats from those who feel Christian values and mission do not have a place in the public sphere means this strategic plan is coming at a crucial time.

For example, MBCH and its subsidiary ministries receive funding through the Cooperative Program (Southern Baptists' unified giving channel) and the Missouri Missions Offering, as well as through gifts and donations from individuals.

While these are vital sources of funding, the bulk of funding comes from bidding on contracts through the state's Department of Social Services. Should a day come when the state or federal overseers object to MBCH's enforcement of its statement of faith on its employees and integrating it into its services, the entity must develop a plan to continue serving with dramatically reduced revenue streams.

Critics of faith-based ministries like MBCH receiving state funds argue that Christians wrongfully discriminate and turn away otherwise qualified prospective parents based on sexual orientation, gender identity and religion. Many would like to see an end to public money supporting such groups.

It's a day MBCH trustees hope and pray never arrives, but it's not that farfetched. In Kentucky, Sunrise Children's Services, a Southern Baptist children's home, has been embroiled in a legal battle after the American Civil Liberty Union brought suit against them in 2000. Like MBCH, Sunrise provides foster care, therapeutic treatment, residential care and community-based services and does so with state contracts. A federal judge dismissed the suit in May of 2018, but the case is still looming, with the ACLU claiming that Sunrise forces religion on children and does so with state funds.

On the federal level, MBCH and its sister organizations -- such as the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities and the Family Focused Treatment Association -- opposed the Every Children Deserves a Family Act introduced in Congress this past summer. If passed, the law would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and religion.

MBCH leaders don't see the bill getting much traction, but elections this fall could change that.

"If these laws become effective and begin to affect us as an agency, how will we do services?" said Ron Robinson, chairman of the MBCH board and pastor of First Baptist Church in Van Buren, Mo. "If we no longer get contracts from the state because we've discriminated on sexual orientation and religious beliefs, how will we serve these kids? We want to be proactive and not to get caught where we have to make a sudden decision. We are beginning to walk through that and we're beginning to say, this is the red line; this is what we can't cross over. This is how we're going to do ministry, this is how we're going to provide services."

MBCH president Russell Martin said the tension between standing firm on Christian convictions and the cries of discrimination is a frequent topic of discussion among the leaders of Baptist children's ministries such as MBCH and Sunrise. He said they all desire to be proactive, not reactive to any potential threats.

"God has a plan for MBCH," Martin said. "We're not where we were 134 years ago, when the Baptist Orphan's Home opened its doors. I will have been here 43 years in June and we're not the same as we were then; things have changed. Even in the last five years, things have changed. In the next five years, things are going to change.

"God has a plan and we want to be sensitive to His will, and seek His face and direction. It may be that we will be sitting in this meeting five years from now and nothing will have changed. I think things will change, and hopefully there will be good changes."

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Thursday, February 13, 2020 - 4:14pm
NASHVILLE (BP) -- More than 30 ethnically diverse leaders joined Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd praying Thursday (Feb. 13) for global healing, comfort and salvation in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak that has killed more than 1,100 people.

"I want to remind all of us on the call, that regardless of how despairing the news may be, or some of the hope that may be even lost in your heart, that there is a God Who lives, there is a God Who cares, there is a God Who is with you everywhere you go," Floyd said during a 30-minute conference call held from his office at SBC headquarters in Nashville.

"And that even though you walk through that valley, you will fear no evil, for He is with you," Floyd said, evoking Psalm 23. "Your rod and your staff, they will comfort you. And so I'm just praying that God will do this for His honor and His glory."

Floyd arranged the call after hearing the concerns of pastors from among 2,000 Asian Southern Baptist churches who, along with families and friends in Asia and elsewhere, are suffering panic, fear and xenophobia in the midst of the crisis that the World Health Organization said might have sickened more than 60,000 in China and 23 other countries. Only 15 cases have been reported in the U.S.

He encouraged Southern Baptists to continue praying for those impacted by the virus, and to include the concerns in congregational prayers Sunday (Feb. 19).

"To all of you on the call, what we want you to know is that you matter to us, we care for you, we love you, we're praying for you, we're standing in the gap for you," Floyd said.

Leaders on the call represented groups comprising the Southern Baptist Asian American Fellowship, including Filipino, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Cambodian, Hmong, Laotian and Japanese, said Peter Yanes, executive director of Asian American relations and mobilization for the SBC EC.

Participants included Amos Lee, executive director of the Chinese Baptist Fellowship of the USA and Canada; Jeremy Sin, a national church planting catalyst with the North American Mission Board; Carter Tan, English ministries pastor at Grace Chinese Baptist Church in Richmond, Va.; and Andy Liu, pastor of Chinese Baptist Mission in Shreveport and a native of Wuhan, China, where COVID-19 cases were first reported.

Asian pastors reported updates from Chinese communities in the U.S. and in Asia regarding the virus, with Sin reporting he had searched two weeks to find surgical masks to send to his family members in Hong Kong. He mailed the masks, he said, just an hour before the call.

Floyd called on participants to pray for key concerns, including healing for those diagnosed with the virus and those quarantined; for hospitals and medical personnel; for Asian churches and pastors abroad and in the U.S.; for the Asian community of believers and the unsaved.

Yanes prayed for a medical breakthrough in treating the virus.

"With your guidance and with your provision Father, the cure will be discovered sooner," Yanes prayed. He asked that those hurting conclude that God is in control and powerful, "and every heart will return" to the Lord.

Also participating were EC staff members including Willie McLaurin, SBC EC vice president for Great Commission relations and mobilization; Julio Arriola, SBC EC executive director of Hispanic relations and mobilization, and Ashley Clayton, SBC EC executive director for church affiliation.

Floyd prayed that God would use the crisis for His glory.

"I pray Lord today that people will come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, even through the challenges, the fears, the anxieties that are created through this virus," Floyd appealed to God. "And Lord with the threat of death upon some people that various people on this phone call know about, or members of family that they've already lost, friends across the world, may God comfort them and may the peace of Jesus Christ be with them."

With reports of as many as 60,000 cases globally, 46,997 of those have been confirmed through laboratory testing, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a Thursday press briefing. The remaining 13,332 cases, reported from China's Hubei province, are instead clinically confirmed and likely represent cases seen from the beginning of the outbreak, WHO said.

"In Hubei province only, a trained medical professional can now classify a suspected case of COVID-19 as a clinically-confirmed case on the basis of chest imaging, rather than having to have a laboratory confirmation," Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO's Health Emergencies Program, said at the briefing. "This allows clinicians to move and report cases more quickly, not having to wait for lab confirmation, ensuring that people get to clinical care more quickly, and also allows public health responses in terms of contact tracing and other important public health measures to be initiated."

However, WHO only includes the lab confirmed cases in its daily numerical tracking of the disease.

No deaths have been reported in the U.S., but fear and xenophobia have risen, according to news reports. Some Chinese American Southern Baptist churches have reported lower attendance during the outbreak, with members holding small-group meetings, meeting electronically or staying home.

In addition to China, the Philippines and the U.S., COVID-19 has been reported in Singapore, Thailand, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Australia, Vietnam, Germany, France, in 12 other countries and at sea on cruise ships.

WHO provides daily updateson the virus.
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Thursday, February 13, 2020 - 3:00pm
Freely you have received; freely give. (Matthew 10:8)

JACKSON, Miss, (BP) -- Dr. Watson was complimenting Sherlock Holmes on a brilliant observation no one else had noticed.

"Of course," Holmes remarked. "It's what I do."

Forgiveness and grace -- that's what we believers do.

Here is one page from Ruth Bell Graham's 1989 book, "Legacy of a Pack Rat,":

"Someone has said, 'If there had not been a Stephen, there might never have been a Paul.'"

"A tribal war was raging in Uganda. The soldiers led a line of prisoners to a bridge over a crocodile-infested river where they could shoot them and dump their bodies into the water for the crocodiles to dispose of.

"Among the prisoners that day was a young Christian. When his turn came to be shot, he asked permission to say a word first. 'Make it quick,' his captors ordered. The young man looked at them calmly, without fear.

"'I am a Christian,' he said. 'I am not angry with you, for the same Jesus Whom I shall see in a few moments died for you as well. I forgive you. May you accept His forgiveness also.'

"They shot him. Turning to the next in line, they recognized a man from another tribe. 'What are you doing here?' they demanded. 'We are not at war.' And he was abruptly dismissed.

"But that young man was never the same again. He spent the rest of his life sharing his new discovery of the risen, transforming Savior.

"He had watched a Christian die."


As followers of Jesus Christ, you and I are not perfect, only forgiven. After receiving God's grace, we are sent into the world to bless others. We do this by extending our own forgiveness and love to those who might otherwise deserve censure and condemnation.

Anyone can exclude and condemn; grace includes. Grace surprises.

Scripture establishes two standards for the forgiveness Christians offer to others:

1) As Christ has forgiven us. (Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13)

If Jesus has cut corners and hedged on His forgiveness to us, we may do the same to others. However, Colossians 2:11-15 gives a long list of what His forgiveness accomplished.

2) As we want God to forgive us. (Matthew 6:12 and Luke 11:4)

We get to decide. We just have to figure out to what extent we want to be forgiven for our sins, and then do the same to others. Nothing could be simpler.

If you will, He will. (Matthew 6:14)

if you don't, He won't. (Matthew 6:15)

The channel through which we receive grace and forgiveness from God is the same one through which we extend it to others. If we clog it up by refusing to forgive others, no further forgiveness will be forthcoming for ourselves.

If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven.

Among the most inexplicable traits of humans that surely must exasperate the Lord is our unwillingness to give to others what Christ has so freely extended to us. Jesus told of a fellow who was relieved of an astronomical debt, but who then had a man arrested for an outstanding debt of a few dollars (Matthew 18:21-35). The human heart is constantly setting new records for harshness and blazing fresh trails for callousness.

Oxymoron: An unforgiving Christian

"Pastor, I'd like you to pray for my brother." Sitting in my office, Leslie told of his brother going off to do military service years earlier. Something happened during his absence that caused the brother to sever the relationship with all family members except his mother. "We never knew what it was," Leslie said. "He has refused to take our phone calls and our letters are returned unopened."

I said I would pray for God to break the heart of his brother and save him. He said, "But Pastor -- my brother is a deacon in that Baptist church where you preached recently." I was stunned.

I told him, "I cannot tell you whether your brother is saved or not, but I do know this. Your brother has not had a prayer answered since he was in the service."

He who forgives pays

To forgive is to absorb the debt incurred by the other. "Jesus paid it all," we sing in church.

John Ortberg tells of a young IBM executive who lost ten million dollars in a risky business venture. He was called into the office of the legendary Thomas Watson, the founder and head of IBM for forty years. "I guess you've called me in for my resignation," the young man said.

"Here it is. I resign."

Watson said, "You must be joking. I just invested ten million dollars educating you; I can't afford your resignation!"

He who forgives pays. Maybe that's why we find forgiveness so difficult.

God in Heaven looks at you at me, sinners all, and says, "I just invested Calvary in you; I can't afford your resignation."

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

God has too much invested in us to stop now.

"Forgiveness is God's invention for coming to terms with a world in which people are unfair to each other and hurt each other deeply. He began by forgiving us. And he invites us all to forgive each other." (Lewis B. Smedes, quoted in "Love Beyond Reason," by John Ortberg, 1998)

The only thing we have to offer the world they can't get anywhere else is grace.

When we fail to offer grace, our sin is enormous, our Lord is betrayed, and our own hearts shrivel.

Help us, Lord, to get this right.
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