ABN Columns & Viewpoints

Editor's Note: This section includes current and past ABN columns - published in the print edition and online exclusives - as well as viewpoints from a variety of Arkansas Baptist and Southern Baptist authors. Opinions expressed are that of the author and are not necessarily an endorsement.

Thursday
May212015

Posers and repentance

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

A scene from the movie “Wild Hogs” is helpful in illustrating where Christianity is today in America.

In a defining scene in the movie – which is about urban men seeking to escape their mundane lives by riding cross-country on Harley-Davidson motorcycles – the villain of the movie calls the men out as “posers” and not real bikers.

YarbroughIt happens when the men stop at a roadside bar where they meet the Del Fuego biker gang, headed by the tough biker Jack. Jack calls the Wild Hogs “posers” and steals one of their motorcycles to rub it in.

By the end of the movie, the urban biker adventurers realize they really want no part of being a biker gang, because, in their opinion, biker gangs are thugs, thieves, drunkards and generally wayward souls who haven’t
grown into real men. The gang members were  in all actuality the real posers, refusing to accept the real responsibilities of life.

We live in a world today full of posers, and no poser is more damaging than the one who pretends to be Christian.

Recently,  the Pew Research Center released a study of the U.S. Religious Landscape that shows that – while Americans who self-identify as Christians has dropped from 78 to 71 percent – the number of “born again” evangelicals has actually grown slightly from 34 percent to 35 percent.

Being a Christian can mean many things to many people. But generally, when one identifies himself or herself as a born-again Christian evangelical, it narrows it down to someone who believes in and is committed to the Lord Jesus Christ.

While mainline denominations continue to lose members (5 million members since the last survey), evangelical churches have gained 2 million members.

How a person identifies himself or herself is really of little consequence to God;  rather, it is the lifestyle he lives. God wants total commitment to His cause and not posers:

“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matt. 7:22-23, NIV).

What this means is posers won’t inherit the kingdom of God, but rather those who repent of their sins and commit to follow Jesus Christ every day of their lives.

Tim Yarbrough is editor/executive director of the Arkansas Baptist News.

Thursday
May072015

Is it the end of civilization as we know it?

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

Same-sex marriage is front and center before the highest court in our land. Fancy lawyers are arguing passionately for the normalization of homosexuality. By all accounts, God-ordained marriage is on the rocks and headed for a redefinition by the U.S. Supreme Court – what many Americans consider the “final word” on matters of the law.

YarbroughBut Christians know the final word comes only from the Lord, and He has spoken clearly and consistently regarding marriage and homosexuality.

Leviticus 20:13 identifies homosexual sex as an abomination and a detestable sin. Homosexual desires and actions are said to be shameful, unnatural, lustful and indecent, according to Romans 1:26-27. Homosexuals are unrighteous and will not inherit the kingdom of God, says 1 Corinthians 6:9. Since the Bible condemns homosexual desires and actions, it is clear that homosexuals “marrying” is not God’s will and is, indeed, a sinful act.

So what is the Church to do if the court redefines marriage? As society and the morality of our times erodes, the Church must simply be the Church. No longer can we remain silent as Satan gains a foothold among those who are lost with no direction, bound for eternal destruction. We must point the way to repentance and salvation, as there is no hope other than the hope found in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Without Christ, this is what will result when the same-sex marriage advocates get their way: “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Rom. 1:28, ESV).
While we live in a time when God’s Truth is rejected by men, when the highest court in our land rejects that Truth, judgment will soon follow.

“The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day” (John 12:48, ESV).

Lead your family and church to pray for our country and for the decision of our high court, which is expected to announce a decision soon.

However, at the same time, prepare for how your church will minister to those living in deception in the last days.

Tim Yarbrough is editor/executive director of the Arkansas Baptist News.

Thursday
May072015

Mother’s Day: Gratitude, sacrifice, humility

Editor's Note: In honor of Mother's Day, the Arkansas Baptist News (ABN) has named Yvonne Rodgers, member of First Baptist Church, DeWitt, as its 2015 Mother of the Year. Rodgers was nominated by her sister, Libbie Dougan, of North Little Rock, as part of the ABN A Tribute to Godly Mothers essay contest.

Gayla Grace
Home Life Magazine

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) – As a young mother, I thought Mother's Day should be all about me. Surely I deserved recognition for my never-ending sacrifices as a mother and stepmother to five children, right?

However, after driving away from my parents' home not long ago with tears spilling down my cheeks, I sensed God asking me to honor my mother with the time we have left.

No longer able to deny that dementia is consuming Mom's every fiber, I must acknowledge this is the last Mother's Day she'll know me as her daughter. I'd never considered how to truly honor my mother. What does that look like? Why is it important?

Honoring our mothers starts with a thankful heart for the role they've played in our lives. I wouldn't be the person I am today without the influence of my mother.

Perhaps you struggle with a thankful heart toward your mother. Many adults have leftover anger and disappointment from a childhood wracked by hurt that makes it almost impossible to consider honoring their mothers. If this is the case, I challenge you to examine your heart and consider making amends if possible.

Honoring your mother doesn't mean you agree with past behavior; it simply acknowledges her place in your life. It might require professional help to deal with your feelings and set appropriate boundaries for your current relationship, but I encourage you to put the past in the past and move forward. I'm not saying it will be easy, but holding on to unforgiveness keeps us in bondage and poisons other relationships.

We experience many blessings when we choose to honor our parents. We allow family legacies to be passed down as we make time for our children to get to know their grandparents. We bask in knowing we've done the right thing, preventing regrets later of what can't be changed. We reap the rewards of deeper relationships and meaningful memories we can savor long after they're gone. And we more than likely receive the same respect and honor in return as our children watch our actions.

Honoring our mothers on Mother's Day doesn't have to be extravagant or complicated. A simple gesture is often more meaningful than a formal undertaking. Here are three suggestions to consider:

Express gratitude.

As someone who'd rather write words than speak them, I don't naturally express appreciation. I'm making an effort to show gratitude toward my mother for the investment she's made in my life.

I'll never forget the day when I asked Mom's opinion on a career decision I needed to make. As she relayed her thoughts, with tears in her eyes, she said, "I wish I'd done more with my life." I was surprised at her regrets of only small advances in the career world, not recognizing the invaluable occupation she'd chosen as a devoted mother. Realizing her need for affirmation of sacrifices the world considers insignificant, I began to give examples of how her work at home as a mother, wife and homemaker had influenced my life.

Gratitude can also be expressed through a written tribute, detailing childhood memories and expressing appreciation for the positive qualities and values your mother has passed down. A tribute depicts specific ways she's influenced you and the value of her role in your life. It doesn't have to be long and complicated to be meaningful. 

Give time sacrificially. 

My youngest sister lives several states away from our mother, stays busy with a family and a demanding career, but makes time to call, send notes and plan extended visits to my parents' house whenever possible. Her priorities show honor and allow special time with Mom to reminisce about years past, make memories with grandchildren and help Mom adjust to her new stage of life, while conveying the significant position Mom holds in her life.

If you live a distance away from your mother, it's hard to commit to frequent visits, but extended stays provide valuable time together. Giving of our time sacrificially isn't easy and takes intentional effort.

Walk in humility with her.

Parenting roles reverse as our mothers age, forcing us to assume responsibilities outside the norm. Helping with laundry, going to the store, taking over bill-paying and financial responsibilities, driving her to the doctor or even becoming a regular caregiver demonstrate ways to walk in humility through the aging process.

We also walk in humility when we consider our mothers’ opinions on life issues, acknowledging the wisdom they've acquired with their gray hair.

Mother's Day is the perfect time to show honor and love to your mother, without attaching expectations to her response. If you're a mother yourself, it's natural to savor the appreciation you receive and deserve on this special day.

As I watch my mother’s last season quickly drawing to a close, I want to show her honor and gratitude, creating special moments in the process, without regrets in the end.

Gayla Grace, on the Web at StepparentingWithGrace.com, writes and speaks on family and stepfamily issues. This article originally appeared in Home Life magazine, published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Thursday
Apr232015

ABN Day of Prayer celebrates God’s work in Ark.

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

It’s that time of year when the Arkansas Baptist News (ABN) and the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) partner together to provide churches with bulletin inserts to help remind people  of how God is using Arkansas Baptists to bring literally thousands of people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

YarbroughMay 17 has been designated as the official 2015 ABN Day of Prayer.

The focal Scripture passage of this year’s Day of Prayer is 2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV): “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

The passage parallels the convention’s focus on prayer for revival and awakening. We don’t need to be reminded that America is in desperate need of revival. Just read the news. Arkansas Baptists can play a key role in bringing revival and spiritual awakening to our beleaguered land.

So, please join me and other Arkansas Baptists May 17 to pray not only for the role of the ABN in telling the story of Arkansas Baptists, but for the work being done across the Natural State through the ministry of Arkansas Baptist churches and institutions.

Every week we are told of the great work God is doing through Arkansas Baptists and our churches. What a privilege it is to play a small part in making those stories known throughout the state! I want you to know that our staff and board of directors are praying along with you and your church for a mighty movement of God in 2015.

To help your church promote the special emphasis, special bulletin inserts will be mailed to all churches the week of May 3. The insert is being produced by the ABN in cooperation with ABSC executive and administrative team. One side is specifically about the ABN Day of Prayer. The other side includes information about the Cooperative Program and its impact in Arkansas.

Please consider inviting an ABN staff or board member to your church during May to speak in support of the emphasis.  To do so, please call 501-376-4791, ext. 5153, or email abn@arkansasbaptist.org.

Tim Yarbrough is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.

Thursday
Apr162015

When your faith is offensive

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

YarbroughNow when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. – Excerpt from Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin before he was stoned to death (Acts 7:51-58, ESV)

Secular humanists seem to be having their way in our country, and they are using every means possible to sway public opinion and influence public officials to their way of thinking.

Today, as we stand at the precipice of a fundamental transformation of our country, clarification is perhaps needed more than ever on what it means to freely exercise one’s religion.

Just this past week we saw such a spectacle play out at our State Capitol, with hundreds of people rallying against Arkansas House Bill 1228, also known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which attempted to affirm the traditional interpretation of “free exercise of religion” under the U.S. Constitution and the Arkansas Constitution.

While as followers of Jesus Christ we can’t dictate what others believe or control how our government behaves, we can stand tall and stand for Truth just as Stephen did before the Sanhedrin in his day.

While our fate may not be a physical death like Stephen’s, we need to be prepared to be ridiculed, denounced and perhaps to lose the friendship of friends and family who have embraced a false gospel.

It is our duty as believers to condemn the sin but love the sinner, exhibiting Christ’s love in all of our words and actions, acting in accordance with our convictions. But Christians will suffer the consequences.

In Washington, a florist was fined $1,001 for refusing to provide flowers to a gay couple for their wedding, due to her Christian beliefs. An Oregon bakery was ordered to pay a lesbian couple up to $150,000 for refusing to bake them a wedding cake. A New Mexico photography studio owned by a Christian couple was found to have violated the state’s Human Rights Act by refusing to photograph a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony.

May God give us courage and boldness as we represent Him within each of our own spheres of influence.

Tim Yarbrough is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News. Email him at tim@arkansasbaptist.org.