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
Jan292015

Tempering the tongue

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

The tongue is the smallest member of the body, yet it can bring great destruction. It’s like a termite: It may be small in size and go relatively unnoticed, but in the end, it can do great damage if left unchecked!

James 3:8 talks about mankind’s ability to tame wild animals, adding, “No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”

YarbroughWe witness “untethered” or “unrestrained” tongues every day – especially in our current age of 24-hour talk news and TV! And – perhaps like you – I have witnessed individuals and families destroyed by a loose tongue.

We all struggle with the tongue at times. Following are some steps to controlling the tongue that I picked up along the way, … so these observations aren’t my own, but they are good instruction (I wish I could recall in whose sermon I heard these)!

First, we must recognize that we have a choice. James 3:2-3 tells us that we can bridle our tongue. After all, the fruit of the Spirit is self-control, according to Gal. 5:22-23.

Secondly, to control our tongues, we have to respect the power of our words. James 3:3-4 says even big ships are guided by a small rudder … guided by the pilot.  

Third, we must control our thoughts before they reach our mouths. We should take every thought captive to obey Christ. Many times, the first thing we want to say can be the most critical. Pause and consider how Jesus would respond.

Fourth, we must accept that we can’t do it alone. We must admit that we can’t do it alone; it is not our human nature. It’s increasingly evident that we live in an angry world. People today are so angry and many times out of control.

The only hope we have of controlling our attitude and tongue is through our Helper and Guide, the Spirit of God.

And finally, we must identify the source of our problem (James 3:15). Hurt people hurt people. A lot of people like this have been hurt by someone else earlier in their lives, and they – either consciously or subconsciously – in turn hurt people. I have known pastors and leaders in churches who constantly have gotten jabs from some people in the churches where they have served – pointing out their every flaw. A close inspection of these individuals reveals it is their hearts that needs healing. These people can (and do) destroy churches.

As Arkansas Baptists, we have important work to do through our local church before Jesus returns.

If there are unresolved issues that need fixing – issues that cause your tire (attitude) to go flat – fix it by crying out to God for healing and repair, asking Him to give you the strength to be a positive light for the gospel instead of a negative one.

Tim Yarbrough is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.

Thursday
Jan152015

Let’s be ‘all in’ in 2015

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

If you know me at all, you know when I take on a challenge I’m “all in.”

Such has been the case since I took over the leadership of your state Baptist newspaper four years ago. Being all in for me means being totally and completely focused and committed to the cause, working hard and doing everything that is necessary to bring success to the ministry.

YarbroughHowever, I have come to realize that sometimes in the midst of being all in and doing all the physical work of my ministry, I can sometimes miss the bigger picture of what God wants to do with me spiritually.

We all were reminded in 2014 of the aggressive spiritual warfare being waged for the souls of men. All you have to do is survey the landscape of our world to witness the stronghold the devil has on literally billions of people – a stronghold that leads to utter destruction without the Lord Jesus Christ guiding their lives.

As I reflect on this past year, I see that my biggest struggles and challenges came as a result of the devil attempting to get hold of my life and my ministry – amid all the busyness of my work.

These words penned by Paul to the Church at Corinth and to the Ephesians give me encouragement, hope and perseverance when it seems the world is attempting to take hold and divert my attention. I pray they do for you, too.

1 Corinthians 16:13 (ESV): “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”

Ephesians 6:10-12 (ESV): “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

As leaders for the cause of Jesus Christ, we can be lulled into believing that we are somehow immune to the fiery darts of the evil one as we go about our ministries and that we can never be taken down! However, I believe just the opposite. I believe the devil steps up his efforts on us because he knows he can win by rendering us weak spiritually – when leaders fall, they fall hard and for all to see!

So, in 2015, in the midst of all of our busyness and obligations, it is important that we all strive to stay true to our Christian calling and committed to walk in a manner of our faith. For me, that means equipping myself daily through His Word and through prayer. When I neglect God, I am not experiencing all that He has in store for my life and ministry.

These times are not for the faint, but rather the bold. I know each of you – you are not doing what you are doing by sheer happenstance. God has placed each of you strategically where you are for a purpose – now is the time for all of us to remain strong in our faith as we go about seeking to make a difference for Christ.
That’s my encouragement for you today as 2015 sits before you – we are leaders called out and set apart to bring fame, honor and glory to our Lord.

We owe the Lord no less than our daily faithfulness.

It’s time for us to be all in – both through hard physical work and hard spiritual work!

Tim Yarbrough is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.

Friday
Jan092015

Religious expression and terrorism

Doug Hibbard
First Baptist Church, Almyra

HibbardBy now, you have certainly heard of the events at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. As I write this, the final chapter in that tragic attack remains unwritten; the French police are searching for the murderers but have not found them. Overall, though, we need to consider these events as both Christians and as Americans.

First, let us consider this situation as Christians. A dozen families lost loved ones who stepped off into eternity. We are not privy to their relationship with Christ, but we most certainly should weep with those who weep. This should drive us to love our neighbor in both word and deed, by seeking ways to meet needs and share the Gospel.

Second, let us consider this situation as Christians and Americans, for we cannot simply act as citizens of our natural nation. We remain servants of the Lord, even with our citizenship in the United States. Most assuredly, though, we want to carry out both with excellence.

Because of our heritage as Americans, we are firm believers in the freedom of speech and expression. Placing our duty to serve the Lord alongside this, though, we should never approach that freedom with the goal simply of offending or disrespecting anyone. This is something that, though we may be free as people to do, we are not free as Christians to do. It violates the essence of “doing unto others as we would have done to us” and “loving our neighbors as ourselves.” I’m certain you know who said both of these.

Yet our Christian duty requires that we speak the truth. And not just any truth, but God’s truth as we find it in the Bible. The exclusive nature of statements like “I am the way, the truth and life, no one comes to the Father but through me,” or “It is appointed to man once to die, and after that the judgment” will certainly offend some people. Since we must obey God rather than man, another familiar statement, we cannot withhold these truths simply to avoid causing offense or discomfort.

The difference in our behavior is based in our intent. If our goal is to proclaim God’s truth, then those who take offense may dislike us, but we must not keep silent. If our goal is to simply make “those people” feel uncomfortable, then we should check our own motives and close our mouths.

Sometimes, though, only the Lord knows our own motives. Certainly the Lord only knows what the motivations of others are. We, therefore, cannot approve and disapprove of public expression based on intentions.

Instead, we must defend the rights of all to express themselves, even if that expression causes offense to us. This includes allowing people the freedom to insult the Lord Jesus Christ. That does not mean we simply sit by and laugh it off, for we should respond clearly with the gospel of Grace in any opportunity provided. We must learn and practice restraint, though, at offense given to us. When we cry out for our opponents to be silenced, we are preparing the gags for our own mouths in the years to come.

Does this mean we sit idly by while the good name of our Lord is insulted? Of course not. But rather than argue that someone should not be allowed to say things, instead let us respond by showing how they are wrong. By allowing debate to flow freely, we promote the best environment for us to proclaim the truth of Scripture, the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the blessing that the practice of freedom of expression brings us. Let us defend it for others, just as we would have it for ourselves.

Doug Hibbard is an author and frequent contributor to the Arkansas Baptist News. He serves as pastor of First Baptist Church in Almyra.

Thursday
Dec112014

When an LGBT ordinance comes to town

FalknorBy Douglas Falknor

Editor's Note: Douglas Falknor, pastor of First Baptist Church in Fayetteville, recaps lessons learned from the Dec. 9 vote to repeal an LGBT ordinance adopted by the city council in August. Read related story here.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (BP) – Although I have been in the ministry nearly 30 years, the Fayetteville ordinance promoting the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) agenda was the first time I felt the need to oppose the local government to stop an action they had taken.

On Dec. 9, Fayetteville voters successfully repealed the ordinance, which the city council had enacted on Aug. 19. While I will be glad for this issue never to occur again, a few lessons have been learned along the way:

Work with others.

From the first days that this ordinance was proposed, many people expressed a desire to stop it from going into effect. I was asked to host a gathering of interested people to discuss what steps could be taken. Leading this meeting was akin to herding cats with so many emotions and ideas from so many different leaders, but it was important to begin the organizational process. While this initial meeting was comprised mostly of pastors and other church leaders, successfully repealing the ordinance required broadening the base of active opposition to include business owners and others from the community. 

Recognize the important role of activists.

Some people are comfortable – even energized – by the role of activist. I am not. Activists sometimes make me uncomfortable. However, successfully overturning bad laws requires someone who will spend hours tirelessly making phone calls, strategizing, knocking on doors and encouraging others. Activists often need us non-activists to keep them more balanced, but we need them to beat the drum for change.

Money is helpful; people are essential. 

In Fayetteville, the supporters of the ordinance received over $190,000 in donations (including "non-money contributions") while opponents received $35,000. The difference, however, was the broad-based support for repealing the law. People from every part of the city spoke out in the city council meeting, gathered signatures for the petition, put out signs for repeal, and, most importantly, voted.

Lead in your own church family.

As a pastor, I spoke for repeal of the ordinance during worship services, addressed the ordinance in newsletter articles, and emailed the church family a reminder to vote. The church, especially pastors, need to remember their responsibility to lead in moral and religious freedom issues. Our words must be gracious and compassionate, but they must also be clear and biblical.

Stay focused on your purpose.

It is tempting to focus all of our energy on stopping a bad law and bringing change through political activism. As important as that work may be, we remain focused on our mission of changing lives by proclaiming the good news of Jesus. Elections will be won and lost. Bad laws could negatively impact us and religious freedoms may be lost. But we will continue to declare "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" and "whoever believes in Him will have eternal life" (John 1:14; 3:16).

Thursday
Dec112014

So this is Christmas...

Tim Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

So this is Christmas. And what have you done. Another year over. And a new one just begun.”

While I didn’t agree with musician John Lennon’s political, social and religious ideology, the anti-war Christmas anthem he wrote many years ago often resonates deeply within me each year I hear it played.

YarbroughI find myself thinking about the year that has passed by so quickly, and I say to myself, “Just what have I done with my life this past year, especially as it relates to telling others about Jesus?”

And every year I am convicted that I could have done much, much more to honor our precious Lord and Savior –  then commit myself to do more in the upcoming year to honor Jesus Christ.

Like you, while I exercise self-examination during the Lord’s Supper throughout the year, there’s just something different and so real about doing it at Christmastime when we celebrate our Lord coming to this sinful earth in human flesh.

It’s so easy to allow the glitz and spectacle of Christmas – with its rampant materialism – get in the way of pausing to truly internalize the significance of what God did by lowering Himself to become one of us, ultimately pouring out His grace for wretched mankind so that we might have eternal fellowship with Him.

I don’t know about you, but as I grow older, I am beginning to see heaven in my rearview mirror approaching oh so quickly like a speeding car on the open highway.

So this is Christmas ... what have you done?

Tim Yarbrough is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.