‘For the Least of These’

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I just returned from South Africa with a new perspective on the worldwide impact of Kentucky Baptists. My time in the country included days spent in and around Pietermaritzburg where I was able to trace the footprints of Kentucky WMU, Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief, KBC Collegiate Ministry, and numerous volunteer groups that have gone there to serve and share the love of Christ with orphans, AIDS victims, and countless lost and hurting people.

I was accompanied on the journey by my 18-year-old son, Daniel, and Chuck McAlister, our KBC Evangelism, Church Planting & Collegiate Ministry Team Leader, who also serves as the chairman of the board for Baptist Global Response, the humanitarian relief ministry of Southern Baptists. Since much of the work in Pietermaritzburg is funded by BGR and supported by Kentucky Baptists through a unique partnership between BGR and our disaster relief ministry, Chuck and I were eager to get a firsthand look. We were also looking forward to connecting with a team of our college students serving there through KBC’s Act 1:8 Leadership Experience.

What we saw left me in awe of what God is doing through the giving and going of Kentucky Baptists and also deeply grateful for the ministries supported by our churches. We visited Tabitha Ministries in Pietermaritzburg, home to 42 orphaned children now being cared for by missionaries and staff. Most of these children lost their parents to AIDS, and roughly one-third of the kids are HIV positive. They are the thrown away and forgotten. They are “the least of these” our Lord called us to serve and love. And Kentucky Baptists are answering His call.

In an outlying community called “Sweetwaters,” we were able to see a ministry center constructed, in large part, by Kentucky Baptists. That ministry center is now a beacon of hope in the midst of overwhelming hopelessness. Each week, 130 child-headed households come to the center for a package of food. There are no parents in these families, most of them having fallen victim to AIDS. The oldest child has assumed responsibility for his or her siblings and leads them in a struggle to survive. We distributed the food paid for by Southern Baptists and thanked God for the compassion of His people that would prevent the starvation of the least of these.

We also made several home visits with a Southern Baptist missionary doctor to check on hospice patients and deliver buckets packed with personal-care items. Those buckets were packed and provided by Kentucky Baptists. We had the joy of seeing some of those patients, and their caregivers, come to Christ. And, again, we thanked God for the love and generosity of our churches at home that haven’t forgotten the least of these.

Posted in Baptist Collegiate Ministry, Baptist Global Response, Collegiate Ministries, Cooperative Program, Kentucky Woman's Missionary Union, Missions | Leave a comment

When the power’s out, spiritual truths reveal themselves

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Tom-JamesBy Tom James, KBC president

Warren County, where I live, has been rocked by several storms over the past few weeks, producing three separate power outages in our neighborhood. One of the outages lasted 10 hours. God used this lengthy power outage to remind me of some spiritual truths.

  1. Sometimes it takes storms to make us aware of the reality of darkness; it is easy to take light for granted. Once we come to faith in Christ we become part of the “light of the world.” Over time, it is easy to forget that there are billions who are hurting and hopeless, blinded by the darkness, trying to find their way one day at a time. Whether it is carrying our light across the street to a neighbor or to an unreached, unengaged people group, we must let our light shine (Matthew 5:14).
  2. Darkness is uncomfortable. It was HOT when the power was out and our house was without air conditioning. Spiritual darkness is a very uncomfortable place to be. People are looking for meaning, for something to fill the void in their lives. Because they walk in darkness, they often try to bring joy to their lives with the wrong things that only compound their misery.
  3. Those in darkness look for those who have the light. After several hours of darkness, I was frustrated. I actually drove around trying to find those working on the power in hopes of knowing when I would have lights. Those in spiritual darkness are looking for someone — anyone really — who might tell them how to have light in their lives. They drive by our churches and walk past our cubicles at work desperate for hope, and we often are blind to their plight.
  4. Ten hours seemed like a lifetime. In my frustration, the Lord spoke to me and reminded me that a temporary power outage and walking in darkness for a few hours is nothing like walking in darkness for a lifetime, only to then spend eternity in the darkness of hell.
  5. There was joy when the lights finally come on. It was 1:30 a.m. but I still felt like throwing a party. I could finally rest as the house would be more comfortable. The joy I felt when the lights came on is nothing compared to the joy in heaven over a sinner who repents and is ushered from spiritual darkness into light (Luke 15:10).

Being lost is an uncomfortable place to be. For many like myself, we have been saved so long we forget the pain of being lost. We have the One who is the “light” (John 8:12), and we should daily take Him to those in darkness, extending to them the hope that is only found in Him. We have the Holy Spirit who gives power (Acts 1:8). It is He who uses us to help those walking in darkness to walk into the light. Let’s take the light while there is time, for night comes when no man will work (John 9:4).

Posted in Culture, Evangelism, Missions, Pastor | Leave a comment

‘Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world’

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Like so many others, my earliest memories of music include the lyrics, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His site. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

From Sunday School and Vacation Bible School lessons, I knew that song to be true. I learned Jesus had said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). I also learned He had said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).

Over time I learned that our Lord’s love and concern for children will be shared by all genuine disciples.

A recent article in the Louisville Courier-Journal raised the above thoughts and memories when it reported on the woeful state of Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS). The opening line announced, “State social service officials in northern Kentucky lost track of nearly 100 cases of alleged child abuse or neglect – some not assigned to workers for investigation and others languishing for months after social workers responsible for them resigned.” It continued with a host of quotes from present and past employees revealing enormous caseloads, epidemic employee turnover, and workers’ debilitating stress levels. As for the Cabinet’s handling of the myriad of problems, one person observed, “The Titanic is sinking and the cabinet is rearranging the deck chairs.”

The systemic brokenness of the state system is a matter of life and death for Kentucky’s children. A report published by the Division for Protection and Permanency of CHFS reveals that in 2013, 22 abused and neglected children died. Of those 22, the state had received credible reports of abuse and neglect on 17 of the victims. That tells me that our system failed 17 kids to the point that they are now dead. Don’t get me wrong, I know that the abusers are ultimately responsible. But I also know that, since the abuse had already been reported, the deaths of these children could have been prevented.

Why do I highlight such sad and disturbing news? Because, as Kentucky Baptists, we are in a position to help.

Joshua Hutchens, pastor of Mt. Tabor Baptist Church in Buffalo, Ky., puts it like this: “What does the foster care system need? An invasion! The only way to fix it is to invade with Spirit-empowered, church-supported, praying, in-home missionaries!” Like a growing number of Kentucky Baptist ministry couples and lay couples, Joshua and his wife, Stacy, practice what they preach. They have invaded the system and welcomed victimized children into their family where these precious little ones will not only learn that Jesus loves them, they will also have a mommy and daddy who love them.

sunrise logoFor the past year, Michelle and I have been working with Sunrise Children’s Services to challenge Kentucky Baptists to “Be the One.” We have had many opportunities to celebrate families accepting the challenge by being trained as foster parents and welcoming children into their homes. We decided to do what we were asking others to do by being trained ourselves and welcoming a foster son into our home in February.

While we are thanking God for those who have answered the call, I know that kids are still dying in Kentucky. They are still dying because wicked people, typically in their own families, victimize them. And they are still dying because an overburdened and broken state system is failing them.

Kentucky Baptists, let’s help relieve the burden. Let’s step in and step up. We can do that by advocating for the kids. We can do that becoming foster parents and/or adoptive parents. And we can do that by supporting the work of Sunrise Children’s Services through our Cooperative Program giving and direct donations.

Why should we? Jesus loves the children, all the children of the world … and all the children of Kentucky.

Posted in Adoption, Family, Foster care, Sunrise Children's Services | Leave a comment

Kentucky Baptists still believe same-sex marriage is wrong. Here’s why.

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Last Friday’s Supreme Court ruling represents a departure from the entire scope of civilized human history as the justices turned a blind eye to the historic teachings of every major religion in the world. Determined to alter our society, they have thrown nature, the needs of children, and the rights of voters to the wind and cast marriage to the moral gutter. Moreover, they clearly usurped the will of Kentucky voters and defied the foundational governing document that ensures order and justice, i.e., the Constitution of Kentucky.

While the sin of homosexuality may be no more offensive to God than other sexual sins, for a society to be forced to endorse it through the sacred institution of marriage is both objectionable and dangerous, moving us further down the slippery slope toward moral chaos. In the wake of the ruling, Kentucky Baptists remain resolute in our stand for biblical marriage, resting on the authority of Scripture that same-sex marriage is wrong. Let me explain why.

First, the Bible is not fuzzy when it comes to homosexuality. Both Testaments unequivocally condemn it. In Matthew 19:4-5, in response to a question on divorce, Jesus clearly defines marriage in heterosexual terms, being perfectly consistent with Genesis 2. Jesus asked, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?”

The Apostle Paul includes homosexuality in a list of eternally condemning sins when he writes, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1Cor 6:9-10). In Romans 1, Paul associates the sin of homosexuality with God’s deadly wrath. Paul writes, “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (vv26-27). Our Lord and Paul do not stray from the more direct and condemning Old Testament language of Leviticus 18:22, where the Lord refers to homosexual sex as an “abomination.” Leviticus 20:13 reveals homosexuality to be a mortal sin.

Second, beyond the arguments from Scripture, same-sex marriage precludes government’s primary interests in marriage, i.e., procreation, and, at the same time, denies natural order. Whether one is a Bible-believing creationist or a secular evolutionist, any rational observer of our world must admit that the survival of any and every species on the planet depends upon a natural order that includes reproduction. Homosexuality perverts the natural order and homosexual marriage cheapens the institution of marriage by removing from it the essence of its purpose.

Third, government-endorsed same-sex marriage wrongly legitimizes homosexual couples as parents. Some will find this statement offensive, arguing that homosexual parents can be successful at rearing children. Indeed, homosexual parents, like single parents, grandparents, foster parents, or even abusive parents can successfully raise children. But attempts to sanctify homosexual relationships via marriage, placing them on par with heterosexual married couples, is a grave injustice not only to marriage but to children as it presents homosexual couples as the ideal context for creating a family and raising children. In so doing the Court tragically endorses depriving children of their innate need of both a father and a mother. Children raised by homosexual couples are ensured to have either/or not both/and when it comes to a mother and father. The Court’s decision not only thwarts nature, it robs children of an intrinsic need.

Fourth, in every state in our nation, same-sex marriage is now forced upon the citizens by liberal judges even though many states, like Kentucky, overwhelmingly voted to refuse it. The Court subverted the democratic process in tyrannical fashion. Simply put, that is wrong.

Fifth, same-sex marriage is a headlong leap down the slippery slope toward moral chaos. The rally cry from gay activists and their growing band of supporters is, “Love wins!” If the mere profession of an individual’s love for someone or something else is now the new standard for marriage, gay marriage clearly opens the doorway to bigamy and polygamy and at least cracks the doorway of state-sanctioned childhood brides and bestiality. This type of government-sanctioned perversion has teenage girls in locker rooms at Louisville’s Atherton High School being required to undress in front of teenage boys pretending to be girls. That kind of moral outrage denies the rights of children to be protected.

Sixth, same-sex marriage is a clear threat to religious liberty, a foundational principle of American law and life. Within hours of the ruling, cries went up for religious institutions to lose their tax exempt status if they are found unwilling to adopt the government’s new ethic. In a number of states the civil rights of individuals who refuse to use their businesses as a platform to promote homosexuality have already been tread upon. Now enter the earthmovers.

The Book of Proverbs contends that, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (14:34). The United States has never been righteous. But on June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States took the deadly step of endorsing, even celebrating, unrighteousness and, in so doing, has brought reproach upon America.

Posted in Creation, Culture, Denominational Life, Gay Marriage, Government, Public Affairs, Religious Liberty, SCOTUS | 1 Response

Today’s Supreme Court Ruling

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The hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ and our confidence in the sovereignty of God gives Baptists in Kentucky joy and optimism even in the face of today’s ruling.

I don’t think many people in America are surprised by the SCOTUS ruling in favor of same sex marriage. Given the tenor of the court and the culture, frankly, I would have been shocked by any other outcome.

Moving forward, one of the most pressing questions now regards  religious liberty. Does the ruling threaten this foundational principle of American law and life? In the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy writes:

Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons.

Appealing to the First Amendment, biblically faithful Baptists in Kentucky will continue to preach and teach God’s truth on the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, as well as the sinfulness of the homosexual lifestyle. Should the First Amendment fail to provide protection to the Church, nothing changes. Like the early disciples, those who love the Lord and live by His Word will continue to do what pleases God rather than men and face whatever consequences Caesar may bring.

As for our ministry to those who practice homosexuality, again, nothing has changed. We will continue to love all sinners and hate all sin, including the sin of homosexuality.

Our prayer is that those who are bound by sin and lost from God’s family will believe the gospel, be adopted in Christ, and be liberated. Our churches are loving and welcoming to all people of all faiths and those who have no faith even though we refuse to affirm any belief or practice that contradicts the word of God. As people who have been saved by the Lord Jesus from our own sin and sinful lifestyles, we approach others with grace, love, and mercy. To avoid being unloving, we refuse to compromise the  truth of God’s word.

Posted in Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Gay Marriage, Government, SCOTUS | 8 Responses