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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
Apr212016

Are Christians like frogs in boiling water?

While today’s scientists dispute its basic premise, we have all heard the story of the boiling frog. I believe it is a good analogy for our country today.

The story is about a frog that rests comfortably in a pot of cool water. While the frog would normally jump out of boiling water, as the water is warmed slowly the frog stays put and eventually ends up perishing in hot, boiling water.

The story is intended as a metaphor for life. The moral of the story is that if we become complacent about the little things and allow them to pass without notice, one day they will consume us!

I believe this simple story told to children over the years can be used as a sad commentary of life today in the United States.

There is moral decay all around us. Many people of faith agree that we are losing our beloved country to a bevy of special interests, the activity of secular humanists, socialist thinkers, progressives, and practically every type of thought that runs counter to the tenants of God.

As if those Americans elected to the seats of power are too busy pandering to special interest groups, those who pad their pockets and others who extend special favors wasn’t bad enough, now we have corporations stepping in to dictate our country’s social and moral agenda – as we see in actions related in legislation in Georgia, North Carolina and Mississippi.

The media have reported extensively the political correctness of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal in vetoing the state’s religious liberty bill – in an effort to keep Georgia’s lucrative and powerful corporations from pulling up stakes and relocating elsewhere outside the state.

Now we have Baptist Press reporting in a recent story that, “At least nine U.S. cities and five states have banned non-essential travel by government employees to North Carolina, Mississippi or both, claiming religious liberty bills adopted there discriminate against homosexual and transgendered persons.”

It seems that corporate America – which sells you and me the products and services we rely on in everyday lives – is siding with the forces of evil.

With power comes great responsibility – and these corporations are attempting to frame a social agenda to the America people that many find morally objectionable.

While not all Americans are religious in the sense that Christians understand, there are still a majority of Americans who are getting tired of politicians and the liberal elite telling us how we should live our lives – all while taking away or challenging many of our basic freedoms.

I’ve said it in this space before, it is this feeling among voters why a presidential candidate like billionaire Donald Trump is receiving so many votes and garnishing so much support. People are fed up.

Ironically, it appears that Trump’s bid to be the GOP presidential nominee could be derailed by members of the GOP establishment. Indeed, those in power who helped create the problems that so many voters seem to care about have said they will have their way – in spite of what the voters are saying.

On the Democratic side, dysfunctionality is also apparent in the chosen candidate of the party – Hillary Clinton – as she is being strongly challenged by none other than self-professed Socialist Bernie Sanders.

The point in all of this is that our country seems to be dysfunctional at all levels, and the danger is that we give up and allow ourselves to be pulled down along with the dysfunction we see every day as we live our lives and seek to honor Jesus Christ.

Now, more than ever, Christians should be resolute in our thinking and in our actions, Christians should strive to not just practice our religion on Sunday, but set the example of and demonstrate how God would have us to live a life of righteousness.

When David faced times of intense persecution and danger, he prayed not just for protection from his attackers but – even more – for protection from sin:

“Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. . . . Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you” (Psalm 25:4-5, 20-21, NIV).

We should pray without ceasing for our country, for those in authority over us and for God to heal our sick land – all the while readying ourselves for the fiery darts that may come our way as we seek to honor and serve God as aliens in a foreign land.

Thursday
Apr072016

Religious liberty attacked again; it’s time we cared

Here we go again –  religious liberty in America is under attack, and I’m beginning to wonder if anyone cares.
Of course we do. But how far are Christians going to let it go unchallenged before there is no turning back?

When they take away our Bibles?

When they arrest our pastors for preaching the Word of God from the pulpit of our churches?

How about when we are attempting to teach our children (or grandchildren) biblical values?

This is a serious issue which literally touches the core of who we are as Christians, as well as citizens of the United States of America.

It’s no surprise that a growing number of Americans believe religious liberty is on the decline and that the nation’s Christians face growing intolerance, says a new survey released by LifeWay Research.

Just this past week, the governor of the mostly conservative (except Atlanta) state of Georgia vetoed a bill.

The veto could place churches and pastors squarely in the cross hairs (see article below).

We’ve all watched the news as America has a hostile environment for religious liberty.

“As this perception grows, some approve of it while others speak up against it,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, adding: “Religious liberty has become an increasingly contentious issue in American culture – with disputes over birth control, same-sex wedding cakes, headscarves at work and prisoners’ beards.”

We’ve heard the phase all our lives, “It’s just a sign of the times.”

As America grows more tolerant of every action and lifestyle imaginable, it seems to grow more intolerant of Christianity and the things of God.

Now more than ever we must strive to lives our lives with conviction and resolve to address cultural and societial ills with the hope found only in Jesus Christ.

Thursday
Mar242016

If we must boast, let’s boast of His amazing grace!

Human beings are a proud lot.

It seems not a day passes in my life that I either catch myself boasting about something or hear someone else boast.

We boast about our position in life, our houses, our cars, our accomplishments, the success of our chosen sports teams – the list seems endless.

Boasting is a part of human nature, I guess, which of course has its origin in the fall of man.
A quick Google search returns this definition of “boast”: “Talk with excessive pride and self-satisfaction about one’s achievements, possessions, or abilities.” Ted used to boast, “I manage ten people.”

1. synonyms: brag, crow, swagger, swank, gloat, show off.

As the Lord delays His return and human history marches on, it seems to me that man has less and less to actually boast about.

Look around us. There is chaos around the globe. Financial markets are flimsy. Politicians and leaders are corrupt and self-serving. The environment is being ravaged. Wars and rumors of wars are rampant.
Yep, we humans have kind of made a mess of things in this old world for sure!

So just what do we have to boast about? As believers, it seems to me that we should strive to live just the opposite of boasting about what we have, what we do or who we are – or for what we are not!

It seems to me that the only real boast that we have – or should have – is that we are extended grace by the Creator of the universe.

With Easter upon us, it is time that we focus on the only boast that has truth and meaning – that of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As Christians, I think we sometimes forget just how miraculous the coming of Jesus was!

Think of it. The God and Creator of all things saw fit to rescue us from ourselves – and our boasting – by sending His one and only Son to save us from eternal destruction.

God could have chosen not to do that and with the wave of His finger ended it all, but He didn’t – He gave us a pathway to salvation. This  Easter it’s time we quit being so proud of ourselves and boast to others of His amazing grace!

Tim Yarbrough is editor and exceutive director of the Arkansas Baptist News.

Thursday
Mar102016

Why has political discourse taken such a nasty turn?

Not too many years ago what is happening in our presidential election would have been unfathomable.

While political discourse in our country has certainly become increasingly more crass over the years, the current presidential election cycle has been literally “over the top.”

While a lot of nastiness in this election has been doled out by the leading candidate of the Republican Party, others have seen fit to jump on the bandwagon, resorting to name calling apparently to discredit or embarass in an effort to gain votes.

I see something very interesting at play that directly points to recent leadership – or lack thereof – demonstrated in Washington.

I believe Donald Trump is simply the anti-establishment  candidate who personifies everything many Americans see as wrong with politicians and Washington.

Trump is brash, confident, and powerful – everything enemies of the U.S. and the liberal elite (both Democrats and Republicans alike) hate about America.

Trump’s potential election literally terrifies them!

Voters feel President Barack Obama and Washington politicians made us weak and powerless in the world’s eyes,  and they want that changed – something they believe establishment politicans have proven over and over that they do not have the will to do.

While I did not vote for Trump on Super Tuesday, I am seeing his election as perhaps an unstoppable juggernaut fueled by widespread voter discontent.

Therein lies the problem: Some people are voting for Trump because they think that he is some kind of savior of the United States.

Conversely, as Christians, we place our trust and hope in the one true Savior, Jesus Christ. We already have a future and it’s not predicated on Trump, or any politician for that matter.

Pray now for God to heal our sick land and to bring salvation to all who don’t know Jesus!

Now that’s hope and change I want to be a part of!

Tim Yarbrough is Editor/Executive Director of the Arkansas Baptist News.

Thursday
Feb252016

Here’s who to vote for in 2016 (and it’s not who you think)

The election year is upon us, and perhaps never before in the history of our nation has it been more difficult to determine which candidates reflect the founding Judeo-Christian principles of our country.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear a political candidate quote Scripture during a campaign – being the skeptic that I am – I often wonder if they are just pandering for my vote or if they are true followers of Jesus Christ.

Already in this election cycle we have seen candidates quote Scripture out of context and even incorrectly identify Scripture references.

So how then can a believer ascertain which candidates to cast their vote for and to support with confidence that they are representing their values?

Answering the Pharisees and Herodians regarding whom we should serve, Jesus famously said in Mark 12:17 (NASB), “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Christians are also told to pray for those in authority over them  – which certainly includes politicians and lawmakers – in 1 Tim. 2:1-2: “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”

But we all know it’s not simple in today’s complex society when it comes to determining who to support.
Here are a few tips to consider before you go to the ballot box:

(1) Be informed. It seems the “dumbing down of Americans” continues as society grows more complex and diverse. There are many excellent Christian voter guides – for local, state and national candidates – available as close as a Google search. Research your candidates and get the facts about where they stand on the issues – particularly those that concern you.

(2) Watch for signs. If a candidate you like misquotes or misrepresents the Bible consistently, there’s a pretty good chance he or she is pandering for your vote, rather than truly representing your values. If a candidate says he or she is a Christian but disrespects his or her parents, lies or misrepresents the truth for his or her own advantage, etc., that person might not be the best choice. Conversely, if a candidate articulates his or her faith on the campaign trail consistently and accurately, in front of a variety of audiences in a variety of settings, the proof is “in the pudding” so to speak.

(3) Don’t get caught up in the hype. It seems politics has become more a popularity contest than choosing the right person to lead and do what’s right for our country. Carefully consider what the candidates say and what they do.

(4) Beware the media. It goes without saying that the mainstream media in the United States today has a bias, and that their bias for one candidate or another – if even ever so subtle – comes out in their coverage. Media bias can be overtly intentional, such as promoting a candidate with a certain political view, or covertly relatively unintentional, such as giving a popular or newsmaker candidate more coverage than others.

(5) Pray. I saved what I think is the most important thing to do when deciding to vote for anyone – that is to commit the matter to prayer. As with other major decisions of life, politicians – when elected to power – have an enormous impact on my life and yours. For example, in spite of Supreme Court decisions on abortion and same-sex marriage, ask what the candidate’s official position is on such matters. If a candidate publicly supports your causes, there is a better chance they will stand for them when critical decisions are made about them.

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