‘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

Why I go to SBC annual meetings

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As Southern Baptists gather in Columbus, Ohio, for this year’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, I’ll be in attendance. With plenty else to do, why use the time and money for a trip to Columbus?

First, I go to the SBC because I believe in the Great Commission work of Southern Baptists and the annual meeting provides the best opportunity to learn about that work and show my support for it. Hearing reports from our convention’s leaders and the heads of our agencies and institutions allows us be more connected to and supportive of our cooperative mission efforts.

Second, I go to the SBC because I still believe in the Cooperative Program and the annual gathering of Southern Baptists to celebrate CP funded ministries is essential to its future. Some tend to undervalue the CP because they believe they can have a greater impact by supporting missionaries directly or they believe that every penny of our missions offerings should be used exclusively overseas. In my estimation, that is a shortsighted and immature understanding of the missionary enterprise. Overseas missionaries not only need a salary and housing allowance, they also need the logistical support of a home office, the advantage of a theological education, the benefit of dedicated servants working on their behalf back at home to promote their ministry and raise the funds necessary to keep them on the field, accountants to process the funds, ministries that strengthen their sending churches, etc.

Moreover, the Great Commission isn’t exclusively an assignment for a plane trip to another continent. For example, as close as the college and university campuses in Kentucky can be found 8,500 students from other countries. And, in the city of Louisville alone, there are 109 different language groups represented among students in the public schools. Across the state, there are 116 language groups from among the nations and over 200,000 Kentucky residents who speak a language other than English in their homes. Are the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s CP supported Baptist Campus Ministries, international church planting efforts, and evangelistic initiatives targeting the various ethnic groups in Kentucky authentic Great Commission ministries? Absolutely! And the hundreds upon hundreds of churches that sacrificially invest in cooperative mission work through the Kentucky Baptist Convention know that to be the case.

Third, I go to the SBC because I still believe in Southern Baptist doctrine and value being part of a denomination with doctrinal standards in place. The annual meeting is where those doctrinal standards are affirmed and championed.

Paul warned Timothy, “The time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine” (2Tim 4:3). That time has surely come. Threats to sound doctrine are more numerous than can be counted but some threats are obviously more pressing than others. Today, the Bible’s teaching on gender, homosexuality, and marriage are under intense attack in the world and, sadly, in some of the more liberal segments of the church. The prosperity gospel and the charismatic movement, often one and the same, pose another potentially lethal attack on Bible doctrine as they confuse the good news either with worldly success or emotional exuberance and ecstatic utterances. These doctrinal distortions typically mitigate God’s grace as they gravitate toward a works-based salvation that is always in jeopardy of being lost.

For the most part, Southern Baptists fit within the broad framework of the evangelical movement. But while I thank God for other evangelicals who share a commitment to the Great Commission, I am first and foremost a Baptist rather than an evangelical. If I had only one gathering to attend besides the annual family reunion of Kentucky Baptists, it would always the assembly of our Southern Baptist family.

 

Posted in Southern Baptist Convention | 2 Responses

Summer is for missions!

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More than any other season of the year, summer is the time for Kentucky Baptists to be on mission! Volunteer mission trips in and out of the state and overseas are on the calendar for most of our churches.

Experience-18-bucketsHere at home, probably the biggest mission event in our communities is Vacation Bible School, a time when churches all across the state will be ministering to and sharing the gospel with families. Kentucky Changers is also a big part of a missional summer for many of our churches committed to sharing Christ in their Judea. In addition to hosting Kentucky Changers, the WMU staff members have a calendar packed with summer mission activities and trainings. I recently had the privilege of spending time with Crossings Ministries’ summer staff, most of whom are college students, as they prepare for their summer mission of sharing the gospel with close to 14,000 young people at our Kentucky Baptist camps. Another group of college students will take part in the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Experience 1:8, a discipleship and missions program that seeks to mold students into missional leaders. Students will serve in Kentucky, as well as outside of the state and nation.

Kentucky Baptists will benefit from thousands of reinforcements as we seek to reach our state for Christ this summer. Volunteer mission teams from churches sprinkled across the Southern Baptist Convention choose Kentucky as a missions destination each year, most doing their work in the summer. While the mountains of eastern Kentucky and counties along the Mississippi River Valley receive the lion’s share of volunteers, several other communities in our state are host sites as well.

Why such a flurry of activity for Southern Baptists and Kentucky Baptists while most are simply enjoying the “lazy days of summer?” The Bible’s final chapter helps answer that question. No less than four times do we find the imminent return of Jesus referenced in Revelation 22. In verse 7, Jesus declares, “I am coming soon.” In verse 10, the angel warns, “The time is near.” Then, in verses 12 and 20, Jesus twice more announces, “I am coming soon!”

At the moment of His return, the invitation to “come … take the free gift of the water of life” extended in verse 17 will forever be closed. Those who have accepted Christ’s invitation will have their sins forgiven and enjoy eternity in His heavenly kingdom. But those who have not accepted the invitation will receive the wages of their sin in an eternal hell. Yet, until that moment, the invitation still stands. And that invitation is to be heralded by those who, themselves, have accepted it. Thus, the highest privilege and heaviest obligation in history rests upon us: We are to share the hope of the gospel while there is still time for the lost to be saved.

Summer is close at hand. So is the Savior’s coming. Kentucky Baptists, we have work to do!

Posted in Baptist Collegiate Ministry, Camp Ministry, Collegiate Ministries, Crossings, Kentucky Changers, Missions | Leave a comment
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