Sovereignty of God key to joy in turbulent times, minister says

LOUISVILLE, Ky (BP) – The sovereignty of God as presented in the book of Revelation should remind Christians that God is in control of all the events of history, even those that such as warfare that result in suffering, Scottish minister Eric Alexander said recently at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Alexander, a noted Presbyterian minister, said chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation paint three pictures that should give believers assurance during uncertain times.

Rev. 4-5 unpacks God’s kingship, His guidance over the history of creation, and the central act of history—God’s redemption of sinners in Jesus Christ, he said.

“We are conscious that these are critical hours in which we live,” he said. “We are aware of the question, ‘Where is the hand controlling the events we are passing through?’

“The relevance of the Bible at such a time as this, and the relevance of Revelation is that it takes us to this throne of God. It (Revelation) is not there to satisfy our curiosity, but to give us a perspective on the world in which we live and the whole of history, so that we are able to see it (history) from a different vantage point from the rest of the world.”

The apostle John presents the throne as the central feature to his vision in Rev. 4. This is highly significant because the eternal kingship of God is evident by John’s pointing out that the throne is constantly occupied, he said.

John penned Revelation while suffering in exile on the island of Patmos, which Alexander described as “a kind of Alcatraz in the ancient world.” His audience – the seven churches in Asia – were also undergoing intense persecution. John shared his vision to encourage the churches and to remind them that God was still on the throne despite their suffering, he said.

Alexander recalled where he was when terrorists attacked New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. He was in the clubhouse at St. Andrews golf course in Scotland when the news that America was under attack scrolled across a television screen.

Alexander remembered how a fellow golfer reacted to the news after discovering Alexander to be a minister. The man’s words echo the very thought that sometimes enters believer’s mind during seasons of suffering, he said.

“He said to me, ‘I guess your God has gone for a holiday,’” Alexander said. “And that is the deep fear that lies even in the hearts of some trembling, faithful souls: ‘Is God really on the throne?’ And John clearly gives us the answer in the outset of his vision.”

In Rev. 5, John’s vision includes an angel holding a scroll. This scroll is the record of human destiny and divine purpose for the world, Alexander said. The scroll is both complete – it contains no blank spaces – and is sealed or closed.

This points to the fact that, while every event in history is in God’s hands, it is sealed from the sphere of human speculation or knowledge, he said. It also shows that there is God-ordained purpose for every event in life and that all God’s purposes in the world are a closed book to human beings.

“John weeps. It has made him deeply sad and the mystery of life is beginning to engulf him,” he said.

Believers should note that John points to the climax of history in Rev. 5:6. The “Lamb looking as if it had been slain,” is Christ who is the key to history.

During times of war and suffering, Christians must look to the Lamb and take comfort in the fact that His purposes – even though mysterious from a human perspective – will not be thwarted, he said. This should lead Christians to worship God in awe and wonder, he said.

“That Lamb is the crucified, risen, exalted, and now reigning Lord Jesus Christ,” Alexander said. “He is the key to history, the key to life. Christ is the key to every mystery that life brings to us because He was slain and with His blood purchased a people for God.

“That is the central thing about the whole of history. It is the building of the church which is the central element in history. When that work is done and when the church of Jesus Christ is complete, that is when God will bring down the curtain on the affairs of this sad world. May God help us that we may have that special view of the world which comes from dwelling near the throne.”

More

Worship leader urges balance in contemporary praise and worship

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – Worship leader Bob Kauflin thinks Christians have reacted too extremely to the contemporary praise and worship movement.

Instead of either wholeheartedly embracing praise and worship music or completely rejecting it, Kauflin encourages a middle approach: Appreciate the benefits of contemporary praise and worship, but recognize that some concerns accompany those benefits.

Kauflin says such an approach may ultimately allow worshipers to learn a new vocabulary for declaring God’s glory.

Kauflin serves as director of worship development for Sovereign Grace Ministries, an organization that seeks to establish and nurture local churches. He recently spoke at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. His lecture was part of the seminary’s Institute for Christian Worship speaker series.

Urging churches to consider the benefits of contemporary praise and worship, Kauflin said, “Worship is not about what’s comfortable for me. Worship is about learning new ways to express God’s glory.”

While not advocating exclusive use of contemporary praise and worship music, Kauflin cited several positives emerging from the contemporary praise and worship movement. Among them:

* Praise and worship music has renewed a God-focused emphasis in the Christian music industry.”Certainly entertainment is still a big part of CCM [Contemporary Christian Music], but you hear more talk about people wanting to listen to music to connect with God, to experience intimacy with God, to encounter God.” One example of this trend, he said, is the overwhelming sales of recent worship albums such as Third Day’s “Offerings,” and Michael W. Smith’s “Worship,” he said.

* Praise and worship music is helping to revitalize worship services. In many churches, Kauflin said, praise and worship music has helped people to gain “a new awareness of God’s presence, a new appreciation for the words they are singing, and a new experience of intimacy with God as a result of just singing songs that allowed them to say these things.”

* More styles of music are being used to praise God, reaching a new generation. “Every generation will in some way reflect its own voice in the worship of God. Now it shouldn’t do that alone. It shouldn’t do that exclusively, but we should welcome new expressions,” he said.

Yet despite these benefits, the contemporary praise and worship movement has brought some negative features to the arena of Christian music, Kauflin admits. Negatives include:

* Contemporary praise and worship may cause us to think that worship is equivalent to music.God certainly values our musical expressions of worship, but true worship is much broader than music, he said. ”God loves music. He wants us to praise His name with music...but worship has to do with what rules our hearts and desires, what takes up our time, what we think about when we don’t have to think about anything. That’s where we see worship,” Kauflin said. “It’s reflected not just in what we sing, but in the way we speak think and act.” Because so many contemporary uses of the word ‘worship’ refer to music exclusively—such as worship CDs, the worship station and worship bands—we may gain a warped perspective of the term’s true meaning, he said.

* With the contemporary praise and worship movement, there may be a temptation to think that worship is somehow new or has finally become genuine. According to Kauflin, every generation of Christians tends to think that its music has reached an unsurpassed level of genuineness. But such a thought is simply inaccurate, he said. “What a slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of Christians who have worshiped God probably more sincerely than you ever did, before you were ever born. There’s that tendency to think that because the style of music is new that the worship must be better, and we just want to be careful here.”

* Given the fact that worship songs are highly memorable, musicians can become our primary theologians. Many contemporary worship songs stick in our minds because of their catchy tunes, said Kauflin. But some of these songs may not accurately transmit the message of Scripture.

“Just because a song has a catchy chorus and is easy to learn doesn’t mean it’s good theology,” he said.

Ultimately, Kauflin concluded that Christians should utilize contemporary worship music but take care to ensure the biblical faithfulness of their worship.

“Look for songs that contain solid biblical truths, that inspire a passionate response,” he said.

More

Biblical discipleship key to spiritual warfare new book says

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – At an ever-increasing rate, modern churches are turning their attention to church growth at the expense of strong church foundations—a trend that believers must reverse by teaching their congregations the essence of biblical discipleship, according to a new book by one professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In his recent book, Discipled Warriors (Kregel Publications), Charles Lawless, associate professor of evangelism and church growth at Southern Seminary, explains that building strong church foundations and combating Satan’s attacks requires a dual emphasis on biblical discipleship and biblical spiritual warfare.

“...[B]elievers who are adequately taught and trained know how to stand against the enemy by claiming the promises of God,” writes Lawless.

“They know how to extinguish Satan’s darts through faith. They have learned how to pray effectively. They find guidance and strength in their devotions. They feel confident to share their faith at every opportunity. They are discipled warriors.”

This book is particularly relevant for churches today because many churches are focusing on organizational issues at the expense of discipleship—a strategy that plays directly into Satan’s hands, Lawless contends.

“Few people are addressing the spiritual issues that affect church growth,” he said. “We’ve written much about contextual and institutional issues related to church growth, but the church is a spiritual entity. We can’t legitimately talk about church growth without addressing factors such as spiritual warfare.”

Lawless opens Discipled Warriors by voicing three concerns in particular about current models of a “healthy church.”

First, he notes that such emphasis has been placed upon church structure that “too little attention has been given to the theological foundation required for any healthy church.”

Second, Lawless insists that an increased focus on prayer is essential for healthy churches—so essential in fact, that prayer should be considered a main purpose of the church.

Third, he worries that many churches view discipleship as a segmented purpose of the church rather than an overarching process.

“In some churches disciplemaking is a narrow training program with little focus or intention,” Lawless said. “Believers study randomly chosen, short-term courses, and those who complete the courses are ‘discipled.’”

In response to these concerns, Lawless draws upon Ephesians 6 and issues a call to intensified discipleship in our churches – to teach believers how to model every aspect of their lives after Christ. Such discipleship will effectively undermine Satan’s attacks on the church, according to Lawless.

Discipled Warriors additionally explains that a healthy church will fulfill six biblical purposes for the church: worship, evangelism, equipping believers for the Christian life, edifying one another through service and ministry, encountering God through prayer, and fellowship. Along with each purpose Lawless offers practical suggestions for building a biblical church.

Yet he warns that for each purpose of the church, Satan has strategies of his own that attempt to thwart God’s purposes.

To combat the devil’s attacks, Lawless argues that Christians must focus on obedient living and not yield to the temptation to seek a magical formula to defeat Satan.

“Here’s my concern,” he writes. “Many people are enamored of the power and excitement of spiritual warfare, but leaders aren’t often calling them first to holiness and obedient living. They are trying to be warriors without first being discipled.”

“Healthy churches, on the other hand, strive to grow discipled warriors. They build a theological foundation, fulfill the purposes of the church, and guide members to flesh out their faith in their personal walk, in their homes, in the church, and in their workplaces.”

Ultimately, Lawless concludes that because spiritual warfare is a reality, churches must lead believers to put on the armor of God.

“We fight warfare most effectively when we not only reach people for Christ, but we also train and equip them as disciples,” he said.

More

NY Times columnist’s ‘discovery’ of evangelicals draws Mohler reply

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--A New York Times columnist’s “discovery” of evangelicals demonstrates just how far out of touch the media elite are from mainstream America, R. Albert Mohler Jr. wrote in the March 22 edition of World magazine.

Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a response to a column by Nicholas D. Kristof in which the longtime journalist took his media colleagues to task for being “completely out of touch” with evangelicals.

Kristof called on his media brethren to take into account the growing influence of evangelicals and stop sneering at them, though Kristof made clear his own alarm at their clout. “I tend to disagree with evangelicals on almost everything,” Kristof wrote, “and I see no problem with aggressively pointing out the dismal consequences of this increasing religious influence.”

As evidence of an upswing in evangelical influence, Kristof cited a December Gallup poll in which 46 percent of the respondents described themselves as “evangelical Christians” and the faith of President George W. Bush.

The “elite national news corps,” Mohler observed in response, “is so far removed from ordinary Americans that evangelicals seem to have emerged from a forgotten ‘fringe’ into the national spotlight.”

“The fact that something like 100 million Americans claim to be evangelicals is almost unbelievable to journalists.

“They simply don’t know any evangelicals. Who are these conservative Christians anyway? And why don’t they just go home, and leave public debate to journalists and their liberal friends?

“Every few years the secular elite rediscovers evangelicals,” Mohler wrote, “and then treats conservative Christians like National Geographic announcing the discovery of an exotic new tribe. ‘These people are very interesting to watch,’ the secularists explain, ‘but just don’t let them get close to public policy and influence. They look dangerous.’”

Kristof chided journalists for mocking the faith of evangelicals and accused his colleagues of “showing more intellectual curiosity about the religion of Afghanistan than that of Alabama, and more interest in reading the Upanishads than in reading the Book of Revelation.”

Kristof wrote, “I cannot think of a single evangelical working for a major news organization.”

Mohler pointed out that Kristof’s obvious shock at evangelicals moving from the fringe to the mainstream reinforced the stereotypes the columnist has set out to dismiss.

“Well, elite journalists may take secularism to be normal, but that just demonstrates how distant they are from Main Street America -- the country outside the elite schools, clubs and newsrooms where reporters and editors decide what ‘normal’ is,” Mohler wrote.

“Some evangelicals see the Kristof column as a step forward. After all, his column asks fellow journalists to show conservative Christians some respect. But it’s hard to see how Kristof’s approach is anything but a well-intended failure. He ends up reinforcing all the stereotypes he sets out to dismiss.

“Nevertheless, his column is noteworthy,” Mohler wrote, “because such an influential journalist is now on the record in The New York Times accusing his colleagues of being ‘completely out of touch’ with evangelical Christians. But when it comes to this kind of bias, America’s elite journalists and news executives are not only out of touch -- they’re also out of excuses.”

More

Chaplain shows “Good Morning America” audience how to minister to families

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- United States Air Force chaplain Andrew Thornley recently demonstrated to a national television audience that the war in Iraq offers Christians a unique opportunity to minister to the families of deployed U.S. troops.

The war is also creating a wide open mission field for military chaplains, he said.

On March 19, Thornley, a 2000 graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., appeared on ABC’s popular morning show, “Good Morning America” (GMA) to discuss how parents can tell their children about the war.

Thornley spoke about the military chaplaincy with GMA host Charles Gibson and answered questions on war from a panel of children whose parents have been deployed in Iraq.

Thornley, who serves as an Air Force chaplain at McGuire Air Force Base in Wrightstown, N.J., said of the war effort, “It’s a difficult time on military families in general, but the military chaplaincy is ready for this. We are reaching out to the families. We do a lot of counseling.”

By fielding questions from a panel of children, Thornley demonstrated how his counseling ministry offers comfort to military families.

In answer to 7-year-old Cynthia Bensberg’s question, “Why do we have to go to war?” Thornley replied, “Cynthia, that’s a great question, and I’d ask a question to you. Wouldn’t it be great to live in a world where everybody got along, everybody was nice to each other, everybody told the truth and nobody wanted to hurt anybody else?

“That would be a great place to live wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, our world’s not like that yet. We live in a place where there are bad people who do bad things, and nobody wants to go to war. But sometimes we have to do that.”

When Emily Lucas asked how to make the time go by faster while her dad is serving in Iraq, Thornley encouraged her to pray. “If I were you,” he said, “I would just try my best to go about life as normally as possible. Think about your dad. Pray for your dad. Realize he’s over there doing this for you because he loves you, and he loves this country.”

Ultimately, however, military chaplaincy includes far more than simply explaining theories of just war to children, Thornley told Baptist Press. “My primary purpose for being a chaplain is to fulfill the Great Commission,” he said. “ This is in my mind one of the best kept secrets about doing ministry in America—that is, the mission field of the military...Indeed the fields are ripe for harvest.”

And according to ABC, an increasing number of soldiers are coming to appreciate the ministry of military chaplains as the war intensifies. With reports of U.S troops being baptized in the Kuwaiti desert and military churches overflowing, chaplains say that the danger of military conflict is driving soldiers to contemplate their spiritual condition.

Stephanie Walker, a soldier serving in Iraq, told ABC that the danger of war has made her think about her relationship with God more seriously than she has in years. “I get a little nervous out here and think, ‘Maybe I should get things straight,’” said Walker.

For Thornley, one of the most effective ways of ministering to military personnel like Walker has been through a small group ministry called, “Ministry Reaching Everyone.” This ministry brings soldiers and their families together for small group Bible studies, discussions, and prayer times. It brings a network of prayer support and Christian fellowship to the lives of transient military families, he said.

Prior to his ministry as a chaplain, Thornley pastored Southern Baptist churches in South Carolina for more than a decade.

In the final analysis, Thornley told GMA that it has been a great honor to minister to the families who risk their lives to protect our nation.

“They have very special families,” he said. “They are willing to put on the uniform and to defend the country. And in regards to that, it’s not easy. But everyone I‘ve found wearing the military uniform, every family, has just been exceptional in their character. So they can be proud of that.”

More

Chaplain’s wife set to minister to others when he goes to Iraq

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Lance and Shawna Fadeley know it’s just a matter of time. All within two hours, the phone could ring, the orders could arrive, and Lance could be transported along with several thousand other U.S. troops to the front lines of America’s war on terror.

If and when the call comes, Lance, a 2001 graduate from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will go to perform his service to God and country as an active-duty chaplain in the 4th Infantry Division from Texas’ Fort Hood. No doubt, his ministry on the battlefield will be challenging. But, the separation and uncertainty for both Lance and Shawna will be even more so.

Shawna doesn’t plan on taking the hardship, loneliness and worry sitting down, though. While her husband is ministering to U.S. Army soldiers, she will be ministering to the Army families left behind.

“Lance loves his job,” said Shawna, who served as executive secretary to the dean of the School of Leadership and Church Ministry while the couple was at the Louisville, Ky., seminary. “God has called him to minister to soldiers. I have peace knowing that Lance is in God’s will. I am scared that when he leaves, it may be the last time I see my husband.

“... [But] I have great support groups here and am looking forward to ministering to those who will be staying here.”

Indeed, the ministry opportunities will be and are plentiful. A primary place of service for Shawna will be her local church.

“They are getting together a support group for families of deployed soldiers,” Shawna said. “... I am excited to be involved in that group. They are also thinking of having a women’s Bible study during the day. I told the pastor I would lead it.”

Shawna will also be involved in ministry on base, where the needs are great among the soldiers’ spouses.

“From the meetings I have been to so far, there seems to be a lot of needs to be met,” Shawna said. “A lot of the ladies are newly married with children and are not Christians. I feel that by getting to know these women by having them over for dinner and taking an interest in their children, a friendship may be formed.

“I am thankful our church wants to be involved with the families, and that will be something I will share with these ladies.”

On base, Shawna is already involved in the battalion’s Family Readiness Group (FRG). FRG is a group of about 55 spouses from Lance’s battalion which meets on a monthly basis. They gather to share news and offer encouragement to each other.

“I would like to get to know these ladies so they can trust me and call on me when their spouse is gone,” Shawna said. “Since I am not working, I would like to watch their children if they need a baby sitter, pray for their specific needs and just be there if they need help with anything.”

She is also participating in the Protestant Women of the Chapel (PWOC) group on base. Each week, this group of 50 women come together for fellowship, testimonies, music and Bible study. Shawna has volunteered to lead a PWOC Bible study, as well as an aerobics class.

“This may be the only day of the week the ladies are doing something for themselves,” she said. “And what a great environment [it is for them] to be around other Christian women and children and learning about the Lord.”

But Shawna’s ministry isn’t limited to church and Ft. Hood. She also has an important ministry at home -- to manage the household while Lance is gone.

“I will have to take care of the house [and] lawn and pay the bills,” she said. “For me, this will not be so difficult since I have done these things before. We don’t have any children and that makes it easier to keep up on these tasks. For spouses who just got married -- and some people do get married just because their boyfriend or girlfriend is leaving -- the household duties may be more difficult since they may have never paid the bills before. They do not know what bills need to be paid, how much is owed, where to send the bills, and they may not know when they are due.”

As challenging as it will be for Shawna at home, the separation from her husband will be the most difficult.

“Lance will not be able to tell me where he is going,” Shawna said. “He may not be able to communicate with me for three months or longer depending on what he is doing.”

For this reason, she knows that her most important ministry to Lance will not be in the home but will be in her prayers.

“I will pray for Lance daily,” she said. “I will pray that he can minister to those around him, that he won’t get discouraged when he comes to the road blocks while he is away. I pray that many will be receptive to him and that God reveals Himself to them.”

She takes comfort that Lance is where a sovereign God has called him to be.

“I am thankful God is in control,” she said. “He will be with Lance.”

And she has faith that God will use Lance in a powerful way.

“God called us back into the Army for such a time as this,” she said. “The military needs good chaplains right now. Many are not called to be there, and some do not preach God’s Word. That is really scary during this uncertain time.”

It is this assurance in God’s providence, love and care that she hopes to share with those other women who are left behind.

“I want to be available to these ladies, whatever their needs entail,” she said.

More

Students expressed confidence in God, hope for future missions in Iraq

LOUISVILLE, Ky.(BP)--As war commences in the Middle East, students at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary are expressing confidence in God’s providence and hope for future missions efforts in Iraq.

In interviews following chapel services at the Louisville, Ky., seminary March 20, several students said they were praying with assurance that God would protect people in harm’s way and would expand His Kingdom through this crisis.

“My wife and I prayed last night for, of course, the safety of our troops over there [and for] the safety of the Iraqi people,” said Greg Gilbert, a master of divinity student from Linden, Texas. “Mostly, I think that I‘ll be praying that when this regime is toppled, that the country will be opened up to the Gospel. I would like to see missionaries flood in there and preach the Gospel to all those people.”

Many students watched the beginnings of American operations the night before. The sounds of explosions drove home the fragility of life and the urgency of the Gospel.

“I think the fact that it [the war] is so vivid makes you immediately think of the consequences,” said Dave Theobald, a master of divinity student from Hamilton, Ontario. “And as a Christian, I immediately think of their souls rather their lives. I‘m concerned about their lives, but I just hate the thought of people dying without knowing Christ.”

Yet, students are also confident that God is in control and that His will is being accomplished.

“The images were very sobering to see,” said Mark Schweitzer, a bachelor of arts student at Boyce College, Southern Seminary’s undergraduate institution. “... Holding a view of the sovereignty of God such as I hold, I have confidence that through His plan and according to His purposes He will bring about a good end to this.”

Students, however, do feel the apprehension and uncertainty accompanies war.

“I guess you have to be a little anxious about terrorist attacks here,” Gilbert said. “And, I hope Saddam Hussein doesn’t try to do anything unconventional over there--chemical or biological. But, I’m pretty confident.”

But, they said such uncertainty can be used by God for good.

“You know, times like this God uses,” Theobald said. “These people are more face to face with the reality of death. I‘m just praying that the Lord will use that to make people see the their need of Him and their own sin.”

Many students have friends and family involved in the conflict.

“I actually have [a friend] who’s over there,” said Kristin Sanford, a bachelor of science student at Boyce College. “He’s 19. And I‘m praying for him as a Christian that he’ll stand strong in his faith. And I‘m praying for all those who do not know the Lord, that this will be a time they would by the grace of God be humbled.”

Master of divinity student Kyle McDaniel has a brother-in-law who serves as a C-130 navigator in the United States Air Force. He doesn’t know where his relative is, and he is concerned for his safety.

“The American Air Force is amazingly superior,” said McDaniel, a Disputanta, Va., native. “But, you know, it doesn’t take superiority [to shoot someone down], it just takes a rocket hitting the wrong spot. But once again, ultimately, we don’t trust in our own strength.”

Indeed, God’s strength, sovereignty, and providence in war was a refrain echoed by each student. They each are praying that Americans and Iraqis will turn to this God in this time of crisis.

“I just trust that the president knows what he’s doing,” McDaniel said. “But more than that, like we prayed in chapel today, this isn’t ultimately in the hands of the president.”

More

Southern Seminary prays world will look to Christ amid war

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – Even as war heats up in Iraq, Christians must continue to look to Christ and pray that God will bring eternal peace to the hearts of the Iraqi people, a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary said this morning.

During Southern Seminary’s regular Thursday chapel service, professors and students held a special time of prayer for America’s war with Iraq which began Wednesday night.

Herschael York, professor of Christian preaching, said believers should continue to focus on the gospel as the only force that will ultimately liberate the Iraqi people and recreate their nation by giving them new hearts. He prayed that the outbreak of war would also lead to revival of the faith among American soldiers and citizens alike.

“As God’s people, we are aware that apart from Him we can do nothing,” York said in the opening prayer. “We realize that only the Lord is our comfort. All war is an admission of our depravity. I pray that this might cause us to yearn and to long for the return of Jesus Christ. Make us truly, one nation under God.

“I pray that this might even be the beginning of a time of national revival. We have seen the images from the desert of American soldiers turning to Christ and being baptized in makeshift baptisteries there on the sands, we are reminded that salvation is from the Lord.”

Jim Orrick, professor of literature and culture at Boyce College, Southern’s undergraduate program, prayed that God would help Christians to realize that no nation is saved by its multitude of weapons but through Christ alone.

“A horse or a tank or a bomb is a vain hope,” Orrick said. “We know that your all-seeing eye is upon those who fear you so our hope is in you. Our soul waits for the Lord and (He is) our strength and shield.”

Don Cox, professor of evangelism and church growth, prayed for the soldiers and President George W. Bush and reminded those gathered that God is the ultimate sovereign power.

“In this great time of uncertainty, there are two things we do know: (God’s) unlimited power and (His) immeasurable love,” Cox said. “We pray that our soldiers would make their call and election sure and that they war might end quickly with a minimum number of casualties. We pray for President Bush not only as our leader but also as our brother.”

Kathryn Webb, associate professor of leadership and church ministry prayed that God would comfort the families and friends of soldiers fighting in Iraq. She also prayed that Christians would project a dynamic witness before a world torn by the war.

“We are here for such a time as this,” she prayed. “I pray that we might be enabled to love those who may be called our enemies.”

Dr. Daniel Block, professor of Old Testament, prayed that Christians would have a deep love for the Iraqi people even though the country may be seen as America’s enemies in the war. He also prayed for peace in the world and for eternal peace in the hearts of all lost men through Christ.

“We pray that love would triumph over hate, that compassion would triumph over ambivalence,” Block said. “We long for the day that swords would be beaten into ploughshares, that missiles would be beaten into tractors, when nation will not take up sword against nation and never again will have to learn war.”

More

Traditional hymns & contemporary tunes could cool worship wars, minister says

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--College minister Kevin Twit thinks he has a solution to what many call the “worship wars.” Instead of arguing over traditional versus contemporary styles, Twit combines both and comes up with a new twist:

A traditional hymn set to contemporary music -- guitars and drums included.

Twit says the music has so influenced his students at Christ Community Church in Franklin Tenn., that many of them prefer these “new” hymns over contemporary music. Twit sings in a band, Indelible Grace, that travels the country performing its brand of music. The group has released a handful of CDs and has a website -- igracemusic.com.

Indelible Grace recently held a concert at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where Twit spoke. His lecture Feb. 20 was part of the seminary’s Institute for Christian Worship speaker series.

“I want to challenge the idea that we have to lose the church’s tradition if we want to be relevant in our age,” he said.

Twit said he once saw an antique store sign that summarized his position: “My grandmother saved it, my mother threw it away and now I‘m buying it back.”

“What I‘m seeing from my vantage point working with college students is a real hunger and desire to buy back the tradition that the baby boomers said that we could dispense with,” he said.

While not criticizing the use of contemporary music -- such as praise choruses -- Twit said that hymn lyrics offer elements not seen in other styles. Among them:

-- Hymns are mini-meditations on the “paradoxes” of the gospel.

“The gospel is so much bigger than we think, and it’s so much more mysterious than we think,” he said. “... When you sing a hymn, you actually have four or five minutes to just sit in the mystery.”

One example of this mystery, he said, is Charles Wesley’s famous composition, “Amazing Love.” Twit pointed to one particular line written by the 18th-century hymnist: “How can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”

“We should never get over that,” he said. “That should never cease to amaze us.”

Praise songs, Twit said, generally contain one thought repeated several times. While there are times praise songs can and should be used, he said hymns tend to go deeper.

“Hymns tend to actually start somewhere and go somewhere,” he said. “They take us through a progression. They will actually allow us to sit in this mystery that the judge of all would suffer death and set his prisoners free.”

-- Hymns offer a wider range of emotional expressions.

This is surprising to some, Twit admitted, because churchgoers often relate hymns to dullness and boredom.

But hymns don’t simply dwell on the positive, he said. For example, Anne Steele, who lived in the 18th century, wrote a song titled, “Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul” following a series of family deaths and tragedies.

Such songs can help comfort those in the church who are suffering, Twit added.

“They cover this huge range of emotions,” he said.

-- Because they were written centuries ago, hymns remind Christians of the rich history of their faith.

“It’s one of the most important reasons we need to keep the hymns -- kids need to know that the church is bigger than their generation, that’s it’s not faddish,” Twit said. “... It’s been here and it will [continue to] be here.”

Pastors and church leaders wrote many of the hymns, he pointed out.

“The reason we sing hymns is because they resonated with people and they have gotten a wider hearing,” he said.

More

Old & New Testaments unified on saving faith, Block says

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Persons were saved during Old Testament times by the same means as those in the New Testament -- by grace through faith in Jesus Christ -- a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary told a group of college students.

Daniel Block, professor of Old Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary, addressed the topic of salvation before the time of Christ, pointing to Christ as the only way for all time, during the “Give Me An Answer Collegiate Conference” which drew more than 1,000 collegians to the Louisville, Ky., campus Feb. 21-22.

Some Christians falsely believe that Old Testament saints were saved by keeping the law. Others say they were saved by “doing the best they could.” Still others believe those who lived during Old Testament times were not saved at all, Block said.

One of the keys to understanding salvation through Christ as being consistent with Old Testament teaching is in seeing that Israel’s covenant God “Yahweh” is the same eternal God as Jesus Christ.

“There is salvation by no other way than by the grace of God who revealed himself in person as Yahweh in the Old Testament and provided a way of forgiveness that was fulfilled and completed in the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ, in the New Testament,” Block said. “The two names refer to the same person.

“The question, ‘What about before Christ?’ is an earthly question. With God, that question is irrelevant because there is no ‘before.’ God lives in the eternal present, and Jesus Christ was sacrificed in the eternal present (1 Peter 1:17-21). Thanks be to God.”

The most frequent answer Block hears to the question is that people in the Old Testament age were saved through obedience to the law. Most Christians say this even while quoting the apostle Paul in Romans 4:1-3, which says Abraham was saved by faith, Block said.

“Many of us wouldn’t believe [that Abraham was saved] unless it is affirmed in the New Testament. The witness of the Old Testament is rarely enough,” Block said.

When Scripture says “there is salvation in no name other than Jesus,” this does not mean the name “Jesus” by itself holds a mystical power that saves, Block said. Rather, it is the divine person behind the name -- God -- who saves. God is the same both in the Old Testament and New, he said.

A clue to seeing this truth is found in the meaning of the name of Jesus -- “Savior,” Block said. “Jesus” is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua,” which is short for “Yahweh has saved,” he said.

“But curiously the name is never used of God in the Old Testament. And when the angel tells Joseph that Mary’s child shall be called ‘Jesus,’ he is in effect affirming the saving action of Yahweh, though now it is not a matter of saving his people from the sins of others in Egypt but from their own sins.”

That the names are the same is even more apparent in John 18, Block said. There, Judas and a group of soldiers come to arrest Jesus, and when the men tell Christ that they are seeking “Jesus of Nazareth,” the Lord replies, “I Am.”

Most English translations render this “I am he,” but the pronoun “he” is not part of the Greek construction, Block said. A more accurate reading is simply “I Am.” The soldiers drew back and fell to the ground because the Lord’s answer echoes Yahweh’s self-introduction in the Old Testament. Jesus hereby claims to be the “I Am” of Exodus 3-4, he said.

Block said the fact that Jesus is the same as Yahweh of the Old Testament seems to be Paul’s point in Romans 10:1, 8-10 where the apostle begins in verse 1 by writing, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for [the Jews] is that they may be saved,” and goes on to say in verse 12, “The same person is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on all who call on him. And whoever will call upon the name of the Lord [Yahweh] will be saved.”

How should readers of Scripture reconcile Old Testament sacrifices which individuals and priests carried out for the remission of sins with Hebrews 10:4 which says, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins”?

The sacrificial system took away sins by pointing to the true sacrifice, Christ, “the lamb slain before the foundation of the world,” Block said. While the sacrifices themselves did not remove sins, when they were brought in faith and by persons whose lives were pure and clean before God, God accepted them on the basis of Christ’s atoning death, which was foreknown by God. As the Book of Hebrews insists, this is the only sacrifice that could actually take away sins, Block said.

“There is no contradiction here at all between [the Old Testament declarations and those in the New Testament],” Block said. “There’s only one sacrifice for sin and that is the sacrifice of Christ slain before the foundation of the world.”

Christ came in New Testament times and both fulfilled and clarified the redemption typified in the tabernacle/temple ritual and anticipated in the Old Testament.

“For clarification we need to wait until the New Testament when the seed -- now capital ‘S’ -- of the woman defeats the devil and death itself on the cross,” Block said.

As in the New Testament, salvation was by faith alone, Block said. He pointed out that the law was given after the salvation of the Israelites when they miraculously crossed the Red Sea. God gave the law so that Israel might live as those set apart as the covenant people of God, he said.

More