Friday, March 31, 2017

After TX bus crash, church sets up online donations

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After TX bus crash, church sets up online donations

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas (BP) -- The setting sun over New Braunfels, Texas, on March 30 found First Baptist Church holding a vigil on its lawn in remembrance of the 13 senior church members killed in a tragic bus accident the previous day in Uvalde County two hours away.

Photos are becoming available of the 13 senior choir members of New Braunfels First Baptist Church killed in a two-vehicle accident as they were returning to church from a three-day retreat in Leakey, Texas.

KENS5 screen capture

New Braunfels First Baptist Church established online giving portals after the vigil to enable community support, establishing the Tragedy Relief Fund for the victims' families and a separate portal to "offer your support in any other way, by volunteering, donating food or through your prayers and condolences."

Senior pastor Brad McLean and his congregation have expressed appreciation for the outpouring of love and sympathy already expressed from the Southern Baptist family, Christians of various denominations, area communities, government leaders and others.

"By God's grace, our church family has received an overwhelmingly compassionate response to the tragic bus crash that claimed the lives of 13 of our beloved members," the church said on its website. "Thank you for your support."

Funerals are already being planned for at least two of the victims as the church anticipates the full recovery of the lone bus occupant who survived the accident, 64-year-old Rose Mary Harris of New Braunfels. Her condition at San Antonio Military Medical Center in San Antonio has been upgraded from critical to fair, San Antonio CBS affiliate KENS5 News reported in a March 30 evening broadcast.

"We love her," McLean told KENS5. "We're praying for her, and I fully hope and expect that we will see her beautiful smiling face back in our choir very soon."

McLean and his staff are caring for the grieving families and the congregation that has an average Sunday worship attendance of 481, according to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. SBTC is one of two Southern Baptist conventions in the state with which the church cooperates.

"Our priority as a church in these days is to care for our families who've lost a loved one in this accident," McLean said on KENS5, noting "the hard reality" that the church "won't see those faces walking in the door, and being able to greet them and shake hands and hug them, and see some of them out of that group who served in our kitchen on Wednesday night."

While the church praises God for His assurance of eternity for the priesthood of believers, McLean said "the everyday interaction and relationship that has been built ... are the things that really will affect us, you know, a week from now, a month from now, a year from now."

Among new details emerging as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continues to investigate the crash, the Associated Press has reported that two drivers in the vicinity of the accident called 911 operators in both Uvalde and Real counties to report a man driving erratically in a white pick-up truck. The two drivers called a half hour or so later as eye witnesses to the crash. The NTSB has announced plans to release available details of the investigation no later than this evening (March 31). The medical condition of the pickup truck driver, identified as 20-year-old Jack Dillon Young of Leakey, has been downgraded to critical at University Hospital, KENS5 reported.

Both the SBTC and the Baptist General Convention of Texas (Texas Baptists), with which the church also cooperates, have expressed condolences.

"The Texas Baptists family offers its deepest love, support and sympathy to the First Baptist Church of New Braunfels, and all affected by the tragic auto accident in south Texas," Texas Baptists said March 30. "We join in earnest prayer, asking that the peace of God guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

The condolences were on top of comments by SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards, who has met and consulted with McLean and the New Braunfels congregation to offer support. The SBTC has offered to provide grief counseling as needed and long-term support, Richards said. And SBTC representatives plan to attend each of the funerals.

Several SBTC staff have responded to the tragedy, including field ministry strategist Gilbert Chavez, director of evangelism Nathan Lorick, and pastor/church relations associate Ted Elmore. First Baptist New Braunfels senior adult pastor Billy Barnes is dually employed part-time as an SBTC senior adult associate.

None of the funeral arrangements have been finalized, First Baptist New Braunfels told Baptist Press. Funeral services for Sue Tysdal, a 76-year-old retiree survived by at least one granddaughter, are under the direction of Doeppenschmidt Funeral Home in New Braunfels, KENS5 reported; while services for Addie Schmeltekopf, 84, are under the direction of Zoeller Funeral Home in New Braunfels.

See the names of all of the victims in BP's March 30 story. Funeral arrangements will be released as they are finalized, First Baptist New Braunfels told BP. The church is still assessing the needs of the victims' families.

"As they grieve this tragic loss of their loved ones, the families have been moved by the compassionate outpouring of support from the community and across the world," the church told BP in a statement.

"The needs of the victims' families vary and are still being identified," the church said. "To offer to volunteer, donate food, or donate hotel accommodations, utilize the online Support Message Board at The church administrative team is actively matching offers of support from that form with unmet needs of the families.

"Donations to the Tragedy Relief Fund will be used to meet the needs of the families," the church said.

Financial donations are being accepted at, and offers of other help may be extended at

"First Baptist Church of New Braunfels is incredibly grateful for the overwhelming, compassionate support we have received from our community and from people around the world," the church said on its website. "We welcome your prayers during this difficult time."

SBC DIGEST: 2 GuideStone funds garner honors; SBCAL names regional leaders; Mo. apologetics enters 3rd year

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SBC DIGEST: 2 GuideStone funds garner honors; SBCAL names regional leaders; Mo. apologetics enters 3rd year

GuideStone Defensive Market Strategies Fund garners honors

By Roy Hayhurst

DALLAS (BP) -- A top investment industry honor has been awarded to GuideStone Financial Resources for its Defensive Market Strategies Fund - Institutional Share Class.

The fund was named by industry analyst Lipper as the best of 425 similar funds over a three-year period and best of 322 similar funds a five-year period in Lipper's Flexible Portfolio Funds category.

The 2017 Lipper Fund Awards, which honor funds for consistently strong risk-adjusted performance relative to their peers, were announced at an investment industry dinner March 23 in New York.

This marks the seventh and eighth times in six years that Lipper has awarded GuideStone one of its top honors.

GuideStone's Defensive Market Strategies Fund - Institutional Share Class offers a lower-volatility option that aims to deliver equity-like returns at reduced risk when compared to the S&P 500 Index. The fund is designed to participate in the return potential of stocks over time but at lower risk levels than traditional stock portfolios.

"We are humbled and energized by these awards," said GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins. The awards bear witness to the Southern Baptist entity's commitment to honor the Lord, he said, by being a lifelong partner with its participants in enhancing their financial security.

"These awards, once again, distinguish GuideStone from all of our peers," Hawkins said. "As we develop our investment products, we want to ensure that they always reflect the values of the pastors and other church and ministry workers we serve, while not sacrificing performance. We strive for excellence in all we do for God's glory and for the benefit of our participants."

The Defensive Market Strategies Fund fills a unique position in the market, said John R. Jones, president of GuideStone Funds and chief operating officer of GuideStone Financial Resources.

"Our team worked diligently in 2011 to create the Defensive Market Strategies Fund, seeking to offer our investors an opportunity to achieve long-term capital appreciation while seeking reduced volatility when compared to the equity markets," Jones said. "We believe this fund helps illustrate the value active management can have in investing environments like we've experienced in the last several months and years."

GuideStone's other honors from Lipper are:

2012 - Best Overall Small Company Award (1 out of 182 eligible as of Nov. 30, 2011).

2013 - Mixed-Asset Target 2025 Fund Award-3 year for the MyDestination 2025 Fund (1 out of 92 funds eligible as of Nov. 30, 2012).

2014 - Corporate Debt A-Rated Fund Award-3 year for the Extended-Duration Bond Fund (1 out of 57 funds eligible as of Nov. 30, 2013) and the Corporate Debt A-Rated Fund Award-5 year for the Extended-Duration Bond Fund (1 out of 51 funds as of Nov. 30, 2013)

2015 - Corporate Debt A-Rated Fund Award-3 year for the Extended-Duration Bond Fund (1 out of 44 funds eligible as of Nov. 30, 2014) and the Corporate Debt A-Rated Fund Award-5 year for the Extended-Duration Bond Fund (1 out of 41 funds as of Nov. 30, 2014).

David S. Spika, chief strategic investment officer of GuideStone Financial Resources and president of GuideStone Capital Management, LLC, the adviser to GuideStone Funds, said the awards "speak to the excellence pursued by our GuideStone Funds team and investment sub-advisers each and every day on behalf of our investors and GuideStone participants."

Spika said the latest Lipper awards "continue to tell the story that Christian-screened investments do not come with a discount on performance; one can invest according to his or her values and still expect best-in-class returns."


Regional coordinators named by Baptist associational organization

McDONOUGH, Ga. (BP) – The Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders has named regional coordinators parallel to the North American Mission Board's four U.S. regions.

SBCAL's regional leaders are in the process of enlisting state ministry coordinators, all of whom will comprise a regional leadership team "to better strengthen, encourage and partner with DOMs [Baptist associational directors of missions] across the country," the organization reported in its latest newsletter, The Encourager.

More than 1,100 Baptist associations, encompassing 35 to 150 churches, work cooperatively in their localities in missions, ministry, leadership development, church planting and church revitalization. The Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders describes itself as "a national professional organization representing and assisting associational leaders of the 1100-plus Southern Baptist associations across North America."

SBCAL's regions and coordinators are: Northeast, Keith Lawrence, Maine Baptist Association; South: Robby Smith, Catawba River Baptist Association in North Carolina; Midwest, Mark Millman, Southern Wisconsin Baptist Association; and West, Deryl Lackey, Inland Empire Baptist Association in California.

Ray Gentry, director of ministries for the Southside Baptist Network in McDonough, Ga., is SBCAL's executive director.

The regional and state coordinators will seek "to find out needs DOMs have and how we can help meet those needs," The Encourager reported, "and will explore the possibility of holding a one-day winter conference in their region in cooperation with the North American Mission Board and the state conventions beginning in 2018. In the South region, SBCAL will promote the Network of Baptist Associations in its focus on educational development, resourcing and networking.

SBCAL's annual meeting will be June 11-12 in Phoenix, prior to the Southern Baptist Convention's June 13-14 annual meeting. For information about SBCAL and its annual meeting, go to


Mo. apologetics network in third year of ministry

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP) -- The Missouri Baptist Apologetics Network has entered its third year of ministry with 11 speakers to help Missouri Baptist Convention churches train their members to defend the Christian faith.

The MBC launched the network in 2015, enlisting leaders committed to the defense of the faith and called to equip Missouri Baptists to engage others in meaningful spiritual conversations. Each leader is an active member of a Missouri Baptist church, involved in an apologetics ministry and a convention-approved Christian apologist.

These leaders are available to speak in churches and at conferences. Information about them and their areas of expertise may be found at Topics range from arguments for God's existence to apologetics training for women and children.

"Our vision is to equip every Missouri Baptist to defend the Christian faith with gentleness and respect, according to 1 Peter 3:15-16," said Rob Phillips, who directs the MBC's apologetics ministry.

VP Pence's marital integrity draws criticism

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VP Pence's marital integrity draws criticism

WASHINGTON (BP) -- A Washington Post reporter's claim that Vice President Mike Pence never eats alone with a woman who is not his wife has drawn a storm of criticism from opponents but praise from evangelicals.

Karen and Mike Pence

Photo by Gage Skidmore, from Wikimedia Commons

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin responded that he has made the same commitment to his wife Charlotte while Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma executive director Anthony Jordan said he "applaud[s]" the vice president.

A March 28 profile of Pence's wife Karen by Post reporter Ashley Parker noted highlights of the Pences' 32-year marriage, including their Christian faith and a 2002 claim by Mike Pence "that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won't attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either."

The Post didn't indicate whether Pence has made more recent claims of maintaining that practice.

When Parker tweeted about Mike Pence's practice March 29 to promote her article, within two days nearly 2,000 people replied, 1,400 retweeted the information and 3,600 "liked" the tweet.

The Federalist's Mollie Hemingway chronicled responses to the tweet, including mocking sarcasm, comparisons of Pence's practice to Islamic Sharia law and uses of lewdness and profanity. Clara Jeffrey, editor-in-chief of the liberal publication Mother Jones, tweeted a series of responses claiming, among other things, that the vice president relegates women as "second class citizens."

Akin, author of two books about marriage based on the Bible's Song of Solomon, told Baptist Press, "The day I married Charlotte I made the same pledge to her that Mike Pence has made to his wife. I have never broken it. I promised her I would never be alone with any woman other than she. I did not make this promise because I am afraid of women or think they are of lesser value and worth than men. I made it because I know the sinfulness of my own heart.

"The Bible teaches us that King David was a man after God's own heart," Akin said in written comments. "But because he was at the wrong place, at the wrong time and with the wrong person, he lied, committed adultery and murdered. I doubt I love God more than David. If something like that could happen to him, then it could happen to me. My goal is to go to my grave being faithful to Charlotte. I really don't care what the world thinks when it comes to this issue."

Jordan, chairman of the 1998 committee that drafted the Baptist Faith and Message article on the family, told BP in written comments, "There is no more sacred human relationship than that of husband and wife. I applaud Vice President Pence in protecting that relationship by not spending time alone with someone of the opposite sex. He is putting his marriage above political and cultural correctness."

Among other details of the Pences' marriage noted by The Post:

-- As a member of the House of Representatives from 2001-13, Mike Pence had an antique red phone on his desk to which only his wife had the number.

-- Karen Pence is a key adviser to her husband, often accompanying him on trips and to media interviews.

-- Karen Pence is her family's "prayer warrior."

"You can't get a dime between" Mike and Karen Pence, Ken Blackwell, senior fellow at the Family Research Council and a member of President Trump's transition team, told The Post. "It is not him seeking her approval, but his doing a sort of gut check with what they have learned together and come up through together in terms of their shared Christianity."

6 Stones leads churches in transforming communities

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6 Stones leads churches in transforming communities

EULESS, Texas (BP) -- John Meador experienced "a grief, a heartbreak ... soul-searching, a time of prayer and fasting" when he learned about a woman who had no one to help her after an apartment fire.

The church Meador leads, First Baptist in Euless, Texas, was emerging from millions of dollars in debt and was focused on missions ventures worldwide. Though the church had begun exploring what they could do to help their local community, news of an apartment fire at a complex adjoining the church campus was the last straw.

Two police officers help distribute school supplies to families during 6 Stones ministry's Operation Back to School in August 2016. Officer Vanessa Nilson is from the city of Euless, James Webster the city of Hurst, both localities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Submitted photo

"It became apparent that we really needed to pay more attention to our Jerusalem," Scott Sheppard told Baptist Press, in reference to a biblical term for one's community. Meador, president of the SBC Pastors' Conference in 2016, tasked Sheppard, who was serving on the church staff at the time, with finding a way to help the woman who had lost everything, as well as others like her.

What emerged from that challenge was a ministry called 6 Stones which has merged the nonprofit, public and private sectors to transform parts of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Since it began in 2008, 6 Stones has repaired more than 500 homes, donated school supplies to more than 26,000 students, provided Christmas gifts for more than 22,000 children, logged nearly 270,000 volunteer hours and invested $9 million in local communities, according to a 2016 year-end report.

Sheppard, executive director of 6 Stones, a name based on the church's retirement of a $6-million-plus debt over 28 months prior to launching its community outreach, recounted how eager First Baptist Euless was to start the ministry.

"They were so moved, so excited about the possibility of investing in their Jerusalem that we went from realizing the need to the church voting and launching a nonprofit in less than 120 days," Sheppard said.

"The congregation was so inspired to do something locally. They do stuff all over the world, but we had forgotten in many respects Jerusalem and the needs that they had. That's really what precipitated it," he said.

Dallas-Fort Worth is among the top destinations for relocation in the world, Sheppard said, noting that people from other countries arrive in New York, Los Angles or Chicago and realize there are no jobs, and then they turn to Texas, which he said has produced twice as many jobs in the past decade as the rest of the U.S. combined.

"So they're coming for work, but that puts a strain on your school system and your city and all the other social service agencies," Sheppard said. "I think that's what brings the receptivity now for the church to step into some of these arenas because they need the help and they want to collaborate."

One of the first ways 6 Stones got involved was to partner with the city of Euless -- with the help of federal housing grants -- to revitalize deteriorating homes.

Gary McKamie, a former Euless city manager, described the initiative at a Catalyst of Hope forum in February in nearby Bedford, when a panel explained how churches can replicate the 6 Stones model.

"It was kind of unusual for us to be approached at the city by someone asking, 'What can we do for you?'" McKamie said. "... At the time, property values were falling. We had all sorts of needs.... We had a growing group of people that didn't have decent roofs over their heads."

Gene Buinger, a former superintendent of the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district, said more than 50 percent of children in the area today come from homes at the federal poverty level or below, and more than 70 languages of the world are spoken in homes throughout the district.

When 6 Stones asked Buinger how they could help the school system, he had "a whole laundry list of things that they could do with us."

Among those projects have been Operation Back 2 School, providing students with school supplies, and Night of Hope, a Christmas experience for those in need.

Sheppard said the city transformation movement is growing as churches across the nation are realizing they must engage with their local communities, but 6 Stones is unique because they've "been able to bridge the gap to the other sectors, whether it's the city, school district, corporate or even collaborating with other nonprofits."

With collaboration across sectors, "you usually get more done," he said, than if a church alone tries to transform a community. About 60 churches from various denominations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are part of the 6 Stones coalition.

Corporations want to get involved and supply the resources, Sheppard said, because "it's good business to do good right now." He noted a new campaign by State Farm Insurance called Neighborhood of Good, which connects consumers to charitable opportunities in their towns.

As churches are catching on to the city transformation movement, Sheppard said they're the most poised to help "because of our faith, because of our gearing -- Christ said to serve. If you can bring the Christians into this, that's really where the power is."

6 Stones is intentional about sharing the Gospel alongside the good works, and the salvation stories are abundant.

"At the Night of Hope, we work with the school district to identify the kids, we go in and raise the funds and volunteers from all those sectors, and at every one of those parties -- 20 of them on 20 school campuses -- the Gospel is shared to every one of those at that Christmas program, and we've seen as many as 500-600 kids and parents pray to receive Christ during those four nights in December," Sheppard told BP.

"We've seen homeowners that we've worked with in revitalization -- because we start to bless them and they want to hear what we have to say. One of our largest sponsors is a car dealer who gives about $100,000 a year to us as an organization. I was able to lead one of their executives to faith in Christ over a hamburger one day because he wanted to know, 'Why do you all do this?'" Sheppard said.

A man named Marcus was homeless after wrestling with drugs and other bad decisions, and now he knows Jesus and volunteers in the 6 Stones community garden, helping feed people after knowing true hunger himself. Another man, a retired veteran, had a simple Gospel conversation with Sheppard on a loading dock one night, and he has become a key volunteer.

"It's not just those in poverty, but it can be the executive at the corporation that needs to know because they are spiritually bankrupt just like anybody else may be financially bankrupt," Sheppard said of those 6 Stones reaches.

God may be challenging the church to get outside the walls and work alongside other sectors so communities can see Christ in action, Sheppard said. Too often, the world sees the church as irrelevant to the community at large, he said, recounting a conversation he had with a police detective.

The detective told him, "We see the crime, we see the pain, we see the dysfunction, and we wonder, 'What in the world are you guys thinking as you fly all over the world and do all these great things with all these other people but you don't help us in your own backyard?'"

But as the detective saw what 6 Stones was doing in Dallas-Fort Worth, he told Sheppard, "When you start doing things like this and you start working with us across all these sectors, you might be relevant to our community."

Sheppard told BP, "We're the largest Southern Baptist church in northeast Tarrant County, and he saw us as irrelevant. So that's how, unfortunately, most of our secular entities see the church.

"It's time to go be relevant."

Pence twice breaks ties to repeal pro-PPFA rule

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Pence twice breaks ties to repeal pro-PPFA rule

WASHINGTON (BP) -- The U.S. Senate approved repeal of a pro-Planned Parenthood rule by the slimmest of margins Thursday (March 30) in an action that twice required Vice President Mike Pence to break a tie.

Mike Pence

Photo from Twitter

Pence's decisive votes -- first to bring the proposal to the Senate floor and then to pass it -- broke 50-50 roll calls and provided final action by Congress to reverse an Obama administration regulation. The rule in question effectively bars states from prohibiting funds for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. The House of Representatives approved the measure in a 230-188 vote in February.

President Trump must sign the legislation for it to become law.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued the rule in December, and many pro-life advocates perceived it as a going-away gift to abortion providers five weeks before President Obama left office. The rule affects the Title X program, which provides federal funds to states for family planning and preventive health services.

The HHS rule appears particularly beneficial to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). In recent years, at least 12 states have cut money for Planned Parenthood, some in the wake of various scandals uncovered regarding the country's No. 1 abortion provider. Courts have blocked those actions in some cases, thereby enabling the organization to continue to receive government funds.

Voting in his capacity as president of the Senate, Pence may prove to be the difference-maker in enabling states once again to refuse to send Title X money to abortion providers.

"Every taxpayer dollar that goes to Planned Parenthood is one that could go to hundreds of other health and family clinics that don't exploit children, women and communities for profit," said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). "Planned Parenthood is a storefront for the culture of death, and it deserves not one cent of federal money.

"I'm thankful to Vice President Pence for casting the decisive vote on this measure, and I pray for the day soon when taxpayer funds will be used to protect human dignity, rather than assault it," Moore told Baptist Press in written comments.

Evangeline Bartz, corporate counsel for Americans United for Life, said, "Women's health should not be used by the abortion industry to hijack funds better distributed through medical centers committed to their full-service needs."

Congress' disapproval of the rule means it also "has acted to prevent future pro-abortion administrations from reinstituting it as an agency rule," she said in a written statement.

Planned Parenthood responded to the possibility it would lose Title X funds in some states with a promise. "We will never stop fighting for the right of every person to access the care they need," said PPFA Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens in written comments.

The tie votes demonstrated Senate Republicans cannot depend on all 52 of their members or any Democrats on some abortion-related measures. Two Republicans -- Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska -- voted against the resolution, while none of the 48 Democrats voted for it. Even Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia -- who have described themselves as pro-life -- refused to depart from their Democratic colleagues.

Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., applauded the Senate's approval of her proposal, House Joint Resolution 43.

"Abortion is not health care, and vulnerable women seeking true comprehensive care deserve better than abortion-centric facilities like Planned Parenthood," Black said in a news release.

"For over 45 years, states like Tennessee have had the authority to direct federal family planning funds to the health care providers that best suit the needs of their unique communities," she said. "Sadly, in a parting gift to the abortion industry, President Obama stole this freedom and flexibility and forced his own political agenda on states across the country."

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., opposed the resolution on the floor, charging Senate Republicans with "continuing on their extreme, anti-women agenda."

The new HHS rule does not explicitly block states from providing Title X funds to abortion providers. Instead, it bars states from basing the selection of a recipient organization on anything other than "its ability to provide Title X services." As a result, states are unable to block funds from going to organizations simply because they provide abortions.

According to federal law, Title X funds cannot be used for the performance of abortions, but pro-life advocates point out grants to Planned Parenthood and similar providers free up other funds for use in performing abortions.

Planned Parenthood affiliates performed 323,999 abortions during 2013-14, the most recent year for which statistics are available. PPFA and its affiliates received $553.7 million in government grants and reimbursements, according to its latest annual financial report (2014-15).

The latest in a series of scandals plaguing the organization involves the online release beginning in 2015 of secretly recorded videos that allegedly showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of organs from aborted children.

Congress is considering using a health-care bill or other legislation to cut most of Planned Parenthood's federal funding and direct it to federally qualified health centers that do not perform abortions.

The ERLC is conducting an online advertising campaign to rally support for the congressional effort to slash federal dollars for Planned Parenthood. The effort is the first of its kind by the ERLC and includes a digital petition for delivery to congressional leaders. The petition is available for signing at

Mom shares 5 lessons from raising kids overseas

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Mom shares 5 lessons from raising kids overseas

RICHMOND (BP) -- My daughter was two when we first arrived in East Asia. Eighteen months later, our son was born with the assistance of local midwives. Even from the earliest days, I loved how God painted on the blank canvas of my family's life using East Asian themes and colors.

That was 27 years ago. Now my children are adults who have moved to mission fields of their own. I didn't realize it during their childhood, but experiencing life overseas with my kids taught me meaningful lessons about cultural adaptation, reentry to the United States, and growing older.

Kids find their own ways to adapt to their overseas environment

My daughter used to joyfully sing at the top of her lungs on the back of her dad's bike as he pedaled in tandem with his new local friend. As she grew, I watched her carry the same enthusiasm into many cultural experiences and embrace every moment.

Conversely, my son pulled his baseball cap down farther over his eyes each time we went outside. He found safety under the brim. Over time, however, I realized something else was happening under there. He was becoming a keen observer of people and culture as he quietly watched, learned, and engaged in his own way.

I discovered that they each have personality-driven ways to encounter people and culture. I found both of their approaches to cultural adaptation both acceptable and adorable.

Children need preparation for re-entry to the United States

My daughter and I walked into her classroom together for her first day of American public school during our family's temporary furlough. As I joined the other moms in the back of the room, I saw my daughter grasp her pencil and line up with her second grade classmates. I suddenly realized I had not coached her in the mundane task of pencil sharpening. I thought I had surely failed and the pencil would be her undoing.

Yet, there she stood, craning her neck around the kids ahead of her and watching them insert the pencil into the sharpener and grind their Number 2 to a perfect point. I watched her take a turn, and with a whirl of the handle, she too completed the task.

In that moment, I recalled coaching her to be a good observer when she encountered something she didn't understand about American culture, and that's exactly what she did. Perhaps I wasn't a failure after all. She was a champion to me that day as she emerged from the pencil queue, victorious over her cultural challenge.

God gives them everything they need when they need it

As an eighth grader at a public middle school in the United States, my son encountered many difficult situations and peer pressures that he hadn't previously experienced in East Asia. Rather than retreat in this new territory, he used the cultural observations skills God had given him to thrive in the middle school setting. He allowed God to instruct and enable him to stand firm as he thoughtfully engaged with this new culture and chose friends and activities that closely fit his moral compass. Looking back, I see that God protected and instructed him throughout his eighth grade experience far better than I could.

My children's realities don't have to be the same as my own upbringing

As a family we lived firmly in the culture where we served believing that God wanted all of us to be there. I had a simple faith that even though I might not understand the implications and impact that living cross-culturally would have on my children, I could trust God with the results -- with their lives.

I remember one particular moment of counting the cost. During a stateside assignment, I longed to stay to keep our daughter in public school and in the wonderful church programs for children. But I knew in my heart it wasn't the life she would have. The things she would miss out on in the United States paled in comparison to God's desired reality for her life.

My kids' geographical and cultural context helped develop their understanding of the world, their future roles in it, and their relationship with an entirely trustworthy God. And I became at peace with that reality.

I adjusted to and learned to love my new role in their lives

When they began attending colleges in the United States, I cried and clutched framed photos of them to my chest while wailing, "I needed more time to love them! I wasn't through having them close to me!"

I wanted to know all the details of their everyday lives. We had been such a tightly-knit family. Yet, I gratefully watched God help them transition to independence. Even now, they still take on life in similar ways to their childhood methods -- one with a vibrant enthusiasm for the culture du jour and for making new friends, and the other with quiet determination to learn, understand and relate to the people and culture around him.

I cherish watching them continue to embrace their God-ordained life with the same delightfully personalized approaches. And I'll continue learning more about them and about our faithful God who keeps adding his strokes to the canvas of our lives.

Learn more at the International Mission Board's website,

FIRST-PERSON: Teach them to tell it

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FIRST-PERSON: Teach them to tell it

FORT SMITH, Ark. (BP) -- A personal Christian testimony is a powerful thing. Sadly, it seems many churchgoers don't understand exactly what it is or how to share it.

By definition, a testimony is a firsthand account of something. So, a Christian testimony is a firsthand account, or story, of Christ's transformational work.

A common outline is: 1) My life before Christ; 2) How I realized my need for Christ; 3) How I responded in faith to Christ; and 4) The difference Christ has made in my life.

There are many reasons why it is important for each believer to learn to tell his or her faith story or testimony. Here are just a few:

1) A testimony enhances worship.

Anytime a believer articulates his or her story of God's grace, forgiveness and adoption, that believer is reminded of God demonstrating His love through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This leads to the believer expressing a deeper sense of gratitude, awe and wonder toward God.

2) A testimony prepares a believer for evangelism.

A meaningful Gospel presentation typically entails a personal testimony of a changed life. Without it, the Gospel can sound like a religious sales pitch. A personal testimony produces firsthand evidence and legitimacy to the hearer. It is difficult to argue with a personal account of a miraculously transformed life.

3) Teaching how to share a testimony is a proven evangelism method.

As crazy as it might sound, I have seen many people make professions of faith as they are thinking about their personal testimonies. In leading numerous evangelistic training seminars and training hundreds for service on international mission teams through the years, I would estimate that more than 100 individuals discovered that they had never been born again, leading to a true salvation experience. I have even seen a young man get saved in a seminary class I was teaching. In most of these cases, as people are trying to write their personal testimonies, they discover that they really do not have one. The Holy Spirit utilizes this to convict them of their lostness and draw them to a true profession of faith in Jesus Christ.

4) A testimony enhances Christian fellowship.

A person's story helps us understand not only that person's experiences, but also that person's very personhood. It helps define for us who that person is as well and helps us understand that person's personality, attitude and actions. It helps us love each other more deeply and accept each other for who we are. It reminds each of us that without God we are nothing.

Every believer has a testimony. What's yours? Tell it and teach others to do the same. Those who hear may hearken to the Savior for life abundant and eternal.

EDITORIAL: Jesús el inmigrante

EDITORIAL: Jesús el inmigrante

NOTA DEL EDITOR: La columna First-Person (De primera mano) es parte de la edición de hoy de BP en español. Para ver historias adicionales, vaya a

LA MIRADA, Calif. (BP) -- Jesús fue un inmigrante. Todos los cristianos también somos inmigrantes. Por lo tanto, Cristo se identifica con nosotros y nos entiende. Como sus seguidores debemos imitar su ejemplo y aprender de él. También debemos mostrar compasión por aquellos que son extranjeros al venir de otros países y regiones ya que reconocemos que todos nosotros somos también peregrinos y extranjeros.

Es posible que las palabras en el párrafo anterior le hayan sorprendido un poco. En estos tiempos la inmigración es un tema importante y relevante para nuestra sociedad. Existen diferentes perspectivas y opiniones de lo que comúnmente se denomina "el debate migratorio". El tema es complejo y estas diferencias también se ven reflejadas en aquellos que quieren poner a Cristo en el centro de sus vidas. Mi deseo no es intentar conciliar los diferentes puntos de vista, pero sí enfatizar dos puntos centrales y que comúnmente olvidamos como seguidores de Cristo: Jesucristo fue un inmigrante y todos los cristianos somos inmigrantes. Estas realidades nos deberían de dar una perspectiva más amplia sobre el tema de la inmigración que tanto se escucha a nuestro alrededor y del que muchos nos sentimos parte.

En primer lugar, Jesús fue un inmigrante tanto en su deidad como en su humanidad. El evangelio de Juan enfatiza la deidad de Jesucristo y comienza con una sorprendente declaración: "En el principio era el Verbo, y el Verbo era con Dios, y el Verbo era Dios. Este era en el principio con Dios. Todas las cosas por él fueron hechas, y sin él nada de lo que ha sido hecho, fue hecho (Juan 1:1-3). El apóstol Juan utiliza una palabra conocida para sus lectores (logos) para describir la personalidad de Dios y su habilidad para comunicarse con su creación a través de su palabra. Este Verbo es Dios mismo; el eterno Creador del universo. Para los judíos, la expresión "la palabra de Dios" denotaba la personalidad divina y para los griegos implicaba la mente racional que gobernaba el universo. Por lo tanto, Juan deja en claro que Jesucristo es Dios y la fuente de todo lo que existe.

Sin embargo, el versículo 14 hace una declaración aún más asombrosa, "Y aquel Verbo fue hecho carne, y habitó entre nosotros (y vimos su gloria, gloria como del unigénito del Padre), lleno de gracia y de verdad". La segunda persona de la Trinidad se hizo hombre y vivió entre nosotros. En otras palabras, Jesús emigró a la tierra para vivir entre los seres humanos. Uno pensaría que su visita fue recibida con regocijo, pero lamentablemente Juan nos indica que "En el mundo estaba, y el mundo por él fue hecho; pero el mundo no le conoció. A lo suyo vino, y los suyos no le recibieron" (Juan 10-11). Jesús sufrió el rechazo de aquellos con los que se identificaba y que quería salvar. Jesús ejemplificó perfectamente la gracia y la verdad, pero aún así su presencia no fue celebrada y valorada como era de esperarse.

Filipenses 2 afirma que al hacerse hombre, Jesús tuvo que humillarse. De ser Dios Jesús voluntariamente y en obediencia al Padre "bajó de categoría" al hacerse un ser humano. Por lo tanto, Jesús es nuestro ejemplo de humildad al que debemos imitar:

"Haya, pues, en vosotros este sentir que hubo también en Cristo Jesús, el cual, siendo en forma de Dios, no estimó el ser igual a Dios como cosa a que aferrarse, sino que se despojó a sí mismo, tomando forma de siervo, hecho semejante a los hombres;  y estando en la condición de hombre, se humilló a sí mismo, haciéndose obediente hasta la muerte, y muerte de cruz" (Filipenses 2:5-8).

La segunda persona de la Trinidad, el Dios del universo se convirtió en un inmigrante al venir a este mundo. Además, Jesús no solamente fue un inmigrante en su deidad sino también en su humanidad. Como niño, Jesús y su familia huyeron a Egipto. Su familia tuvo que huir a un país extranjero, dejar atrás a su familia, posiciones y cultura. Tuvieron que comunicarse en un idioma diferente, comer comida diferente convivir con costumbres diferentes. Su papá tuvo que dejar su trabajo de carpintero y buscar trabajo en una tierra extraña. El evangelio de Mateo nos relata esta historia de la siguiente manera:

"Después que partieron ellos, he aquí un ángel del Señor apareció en sueños a José y dijo: Levántate y toma al niño y a su madre, y huye a Egipto, y permanece allá hasta que yo te diga; porque acontecerá que Herodes buscará al niño para matarlo. Y él, despertando, tomó de noche al niño y a su madre, y se fue a Egipto, y estuvo allá hasta la muerte de Herodes; para que se cumpliese lo que dijo el Señor por medio del profeta, cuando dijo: De Egipto llamé a mi Hijo … Pero después de muerto Herodes, he aquí un ángel del Señor apareció en sueños a José en Egipto, diciendo: Levántate, toma al niño y a su madre, y vete a tierra de Israel, porque han muerto los que procuraban la muerte del niño. Entonces él se levantó, y tomó al niño y a su madre, y vino a tierra de Israel" (Mateo 2: 13-15; 19-20).

Jesús y su familia en obediencia a Dios dejaron todo para proteger sus vidas. Una vez que se estaban acomodando en Egipto tuvieron que dejar atrás su nueva vida y regresar a Israel. Es muy posible que los regalos de los magos de oriente (oro, incienso y mirra) ayudaron a sufragar los gastos de su estadía en Egipto (Mat. 2: 11). Jesús, por lo tanto, supo lo que implica llegar a un país diferente por necesidad y no de paseo como turista.

Jesús también fue un inmigrante dentro de su propio país. Al ser de Nazaret y ministrar en Judá, Jesús experimentó la discriminación de sus propios paisanos. Al inicio de su ministerio, Natanael exclamó las palabras que reflejaban la percepción general de aquellos que pensaban que su región tenía más importancia que otras, "¿De Nazaret ha de salir algo bueno?" (Juan 1:46). Jesús creció en Nazaret, un pueblo que pertenecía a la región de Galilea y que era considerada de mucho menor importancia que Judá, la región del sur y en donde se encontraba la capital, Jerusalén. Desgraciadamente los seres humanos tenemos la tendencia a ser regionalistas y considerar que nuestros lugar de origen o residencia nos da un valor agregado que otros no tienen. Jesús, el Rey de Reyes y Señor de Señores, se identifica con aquellos que son marginados y cuyo valor es minimizado por su lugar de procedencia.

En segundo lugar, todos los cristianos somos inmigrantes. La Biblia es clara al afirmar que al recibir la vida eterna que Jesús ofrece por su gracia nos convertimos en ciudadanos del cielo y que ahora somos peregrinos y extranjeros en esta tierra. Los siguientes pasajes nos confirman esta realidad:

"Mas nuestra ciudadanía está en los cielos, de donde también esperamos al Salvador, al Señor Jesucristo" (Fil. 3:20).

"Así que ya no sois extranjeros ni advenedizos, sino conciudadanos de los santos, y miembros de la familia de Dios" (Efesios 2:19)

"Conforme a la fe murieron todos éstos sin haber recibido lo prometido, sino mirándolo de lejos, y creyéndolo, y saludándolo, y confesando que eran extranjeros y peregrinos sobre la tierra" (Hebreos 11:13)

"Amados, yo os ruego como a extranjeros y peregrinos, que os abstengáis de los deseos carnales que batallan contra el alma" (1 Pedro 2:11)

Así que, Jesús fue un inmigrante y todos los cristianos somos inmigrantes. Algunos además somos inmigrantes en un país o región diferente de donde nacimos y crecimos. Aquellos que sabemos lo que se siente vivir como extranjeros terrenales podemos identificarnos con Jesús quien nos entiende y nos consuela. Nuestro Señor experimentó lo mismo que muchos inmigrantes en todo el mundo enfrentan a cada día. Jesús es nuestro refugio y fuente de inspiración para salir adelante en medio de los conflictos migratorios.

Al reconocer que Jesús fue un inmigrante, todos también podemos tener empatía por los extranjeros e inmigrantes que viven a nuestro alrededor. En Mateo 25 Jesús dijo que el que recibe a un extranjero también lo recibe a él y el que lo rechaza también lo rechaza a él (v. 35; 43). Nuestro llamado principal es ver a los demás con los ojos de Cristo, es decir, como personas valiosas y con dignidad intrínseca sin importar su origen o condición social. Es cierto que cada país tiene el derecho y la obligación de proteger a sus ciudadanos, pero como seguidores de Cristo tenemos que recordar que también nosotros somos extranjeros e inmigrantes en esta tierra. Sin importar nuestras preferencias políticas, Jesús nos dejó un ejemplo para que sigamos sus pisadas (1 Pedro 2:21).

Why I nominated Shane Hall for the Pastor’s Conference

God brought Shane and I together. Back in 1999, when I was a young church planter, I attended my first SBC annual meeting. While there, I went to the mic and asked some question about insurance for planters, identifying myself, my church, and the town in which I was planting.


A few months after the Convention, Shane’s dad, an evangelist named “Tiny” Hall, showed up at my storefront church and introduced himself. He has seen me at the Convention and his ears perked up when he heard where I was planting. He was from Oklahoma, but had a brother in my Indiana town and had once planted churches in the area. We had a friendly visit and talked about him coming to preach a revival at some later date.


The next year, our new church was in the process of purchasing a local building to convert into a worship facility. We were nearing the closing date, having raised a significant amount of money for the down payment. We were $3,000 short with ten days to go, praying that God would meet our need. That week, I got a call from a young preacher named Shane Hall.


“You don’t know me,” he said, “but my dad met you last summer.” We shared a few pleasantries then he got down to the reason for his call.

“We had a member who passed away and left us $30,000. We felt led to tithe on that money to missions… could your church plant use $3,000?”


I don’t know if those are the exact words, but that’s how the conversation went – A “God story” we would tell for years to come, usually every Convention when we got together to share a meal and fellowship together. Shane would later come up on a mission trip to help us with evangelistic work and fixing up our new building where the church still meets today. We’ve been friends ever since.


In the course of our friendship, I’ve come to realize his giftedness as a preacher and pastor. He has been an effective pastor and seen the churches he’s served grow and reach people for Christ. He has been active in Convention life, both in his home state of Oklahoma and, most recently, in his service on the SBC executive committee.


As gifted as he is, what I’ve admired most about my friend is his godly character. He has always been an encouragement to me, but also to just about every person I’ve met who knows him. Shane is the real deal. He strives to live what he preaches and teaches — in his ministry, his marriage, his family, in every sphere of life.


Over the past few years, he and his wife have been an example to me of faithfulness and trust in the Lord. In his battle with stomach cancer, a nearly always terminal disease, they have continued to trust that God is good, that he is faithful, that he is in control, that he loves us, that he is worthy of our life and devotion. He has modeled faith and faithfulness in the midst of suffering. God has miraculously brought him through, and even as he continues to have health problems, he has never wavered in pointing others to Christ and his goodness. He’s become more than a friend. He’s a man I admire and want to be like.


When Dave and I were talking about the Pastor’s Conference in St. Louis and who we might ask to preach, I didn’t have to think twice: “Shane Hall!” I am delighted that he has been selected and know that we will all be blessed. He’s already been a blessing to me.


Please keep Shane in prayer as he continues to fight health problems related to his battle with cancer.

Pastor Billy Bob thinks Bobby Baptist is wrong

On Wednesday, I read an article by Brad Reynolds on the Christian Index website called Bobby Baptist and the ERLC.  Dr. Reynolds begins the article by reminding his readers of the well-known sermon, “A Baptist and his Bible,” preached by Dr. Jerry Vines.  In that sermon Dr. Vines referred to a fictional Southern Baptist named Billy Baptist.  Reynolds plays off of Dr. Vines’ Billy Baptist and introduces his readers to Billy’s younger brother Bobby Baptist.  Bobby is in Reynolds’ words, “a twenty-first century hypothetical typical member of a Southern Baptist rural church.”

Upon reading the article, I couldn’t help but remember the tongue (or keyboard?) lashing I received several weeks ago for creating a fictional pastor named Pastor Billy Bob.  In doing so, it was not my intention to disparage anyone.  I was simply doing exactly what Vines did in his sermon and what Reynolds does in his article.  I created a fictional character to make my point.  But as we know, those who look for offense will surely find it.

The point that Reynolds makes in his article is that Russell Moore and other SBC leaders are simply out of touch with rank and file Southern Baptists.  Bobby Baptist has two primary concerns: abortion and religious liberty (by which Reynolds really means Christian liberty).  Bobby Baptist is not concerned about what it means to be an evangelical, the importance of sexual immorality, or racial divisiveness.  And because Bobby Baptist is not concerned about these things, neither should Russell Moore concern himself with them, argues Reynolds.

Well, I am Pastor Billy Bob, and I disagree with Bobby Baptist.  I agree that Christians should be concerned about abortion.  I even agree that such concerns should inform the way we vote.  I agree with Bobby Baptist that religious liberty is an important issue of our day.  Unlike Bobby though, I believe true religious liberty  includes the freedom of Muslims to build a mosque.  I strongly disagree with Bobby when he says that we should not be concerned about sexual immorality and racial divisiveness.

Bobby seems to argue that we cannot possibly focus our attention on more than one or two issues at a time.  Therefore, we must focus all of our attention on opposing abortion.  I completely reject that position.  Just as Russell Moore and the ERLC under his direction have done, we must seek an end to abortion.  But we must also stand against sexual immorality.  We must seek to bridge the racial divide that plagues our nation.  And we should defend religious liberty for all people of all religions.

I can’t speak for Russell Moore, but I’m not surprised that Bobby Baptist exists.  In fact, if he didn’t live in Georgia, I’d think that he is a member of my church.  The problem is not that I am so out of touch that I don’t even realize that Bobby Baptist exists.  The issue is that I disagree with him.

Dr. Reynolds writes, “Perhaps this hypothetical character who represents real, live Southern Baptists will help Southern Baptist leadership understand the outcry over Dr. Moore.  Not in an effort to remove him, but in an effort to ask him to either represent us or remove himself for we do not desire to pay someone who doesn’t represent us.  That representation would begin by an admission that abortion, Supreme Court justices, and the judicial system is rightly our main focus.”

With all due respect to Dr. Reynolds, it’s not just that Dr. Moore disagrees with this position, but I disagree as well.  No one is saying that abortion should not be a main focus of the ERLC.  Certainly it should.  But many of us, not just Dr. Moore, are saying that it should not be the only focus of the ERLC.  Many of us believe that the ERLC can seek racial reconciliation and fight against abortion at the same time.  Many of us believe that the ERLC can support justice appointments like Judge Gorsuch while also standing against sexual immorality in all its forms.  Many of us believe that the 10 policy priorities of the ERLC for 2017 are exactly where our focus should be.

So how should we move forward?  Should Pastor Billy Bob or Bobby Baptist get his way?  Dr. Reynolds seems to think that he should get his way and the rest of us can either like it or lump it.  I disagree.  Dr. Moore’s employment as President of the ERLC obviously presents a binary choice.  Either Dr. Moore stays or he goes.  But it doesn’t have to be Pastor Billy Bob’s way or Bobby Baptist’s way.  Bobby Baptist does not need to agree with every position Dr. Moore takes on every issue to recognize and celebrate the good done by Dr. Moore and the ERLC.  I do not need to agree with Bobby Baptist on every issue to want to continue working together for the sake of the gospel.  Sometimes things will go my way.  Sometimes things will go Bobby’s way.  And sometimes neither of us will be happy!  But that’s okay.

I do not always agree with every decision made by every entity affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.  And when I disagree, I do not demand that leaders conform to my viewpoint or resign.  Instead, I try to advocate for my position in hopes of seeing positive change in the direction that I think things should do.  The same is true in the church I pastor.  Not everything at the church I pastor happens exactly as I would prefer.  But for the sake of unity within the body and love for God’s flock, I do not demand my own way.

The Southern Baptist Convention, despite our flaws, is a wonderful tool that God has used for His glory since 1845.  I believe that our best days could still be ahead of us.  But if that is going to be true, we will all need to be willing to bear with one another in love even when we disagree.  A group of believers as diverse as our convention will disagree about things.  But even in the midst of disagreement, we can still cooperate together in this one sacred effort of seeing the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ advance even to the ends of the earth.


The Briefing 03-31-17

The perennial "rise" of the religious left: Why the secular left doesn't need the religious left

The horrifying intersection of assisted suicide and organ donation: Culture of death advances in Canada

AP updates style guide to include genderless "they" as Oregon grants citizen "right" to be genderless

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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Psalm 32 – Happiness Through Forgiveness (Teaching Outline)

Introduction: The first word of this psalm is blessed, from the Hebrew word ’esher (אֶ֫שֶׁר), which refers to the true happiness that one can only find through a right relationship with God. The Reformation Study Bible thus correctly asserts in a footnote on the use of ’ešer in Psalm 1:1 that it is “A stronger word than 'happy'; to be 'blessed' is to enjoy God's special favor and grace” (p. ).

Such true happiness is the theme of this psalm, and, as we examine the psalm, I will highlight seven things that David teaches us in it about true happiness in the LORD.

I. True Happiness Is Found in Complete Forgiveness

This truth is stressed in verses 1-2:
NKJ Psalm 32:1-2 Blessed [אֶ֫שֶׁר, ’esher] is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed [אֶ֫שֶׁר, ’esher] is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
In describing the need for forgiveness and the nature of forgiveness, David uses three distinct words for sin and three distinct words for forgiveness.

1. Three Words for Sin

First, the word translated transgression (vs.1) is the Hebrew pesha‛ (פֶּ֫שַׁע), which basically refers to “rebellion” or “revolt” (Holladay #7004, BibleWorks). As Alexander Maclaren once wrote:
You do not understand the gravity of the most trivial wrong act when you think of it as a sin against the order of Nature, or against the law written on your heart, or as the breach of the constitution of your own nature, or as a crime against your fellows. You have not got to the bottom of the blackness until you see that it is a flat rebellion against God himself. (British preacher, 1826-1910, as quoted by James Montgomery Boice, Psalms, Vol. 1, p. 278)
This is what David realized so clearly on yet another occasion when, after the affair with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, he said to God, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight – that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge” (Ps. 51:4).

Second, the word translated sin (vs.1) is the Hebrew ḥaṭā’āh (חֲטָאָה), which conveys the idea of “missing the mark” and here refers to failure to live up to God's holy standard (TWOT #638e, BibleWorks).

Third, the word translated iniquity (vs.2a) is the Hebrew ‛āvōn (עָוֹן), which refers to a conscious or intentional offense, or to guilt incurred by such an offense (Holladay #6147, BibleWorks). Here David seems to have in mind God's not holding us guilty for such offenses.

These three words used by David seem to be aimed at giving a complete picture of our sin. This picture includes open, conscious rebellion, as well as any sin that falls short of God's standard (which would include sins of omission as well as commission), and it also includes the guilt that such sinning brings upon us.

After using these three words to express sin in such a complete manner, David seeks to be just as complete in his description of forgiveness, as we shall see next.

2. Three Words for Forgiveness

First, the word translated forgiven (vs.1) is the Hebrew nāśā’ (נָשָׂא), which literally means to “lift, carry, [or] take” (TWOT #1421.0, BibleWorks). Here the word is used to refer to taking away sin, to having sin “lifted off” of the sinner. Sin is thus seen a burden that is removed, and for this reason the word may be used to speak of sin as forgiven.

Second, the word translated covered (vs.1) is the Hebrew kāsāh (כָּסָה), which means to “cover, conceal, hide. In a few places used in the sense of 'forgive'”(TWOT #18.0, BibleWorks). The imagery is of our sin being forever hidden from God's sight.

Third, the word used to state that God does not impute sin (vs.2a) is the Hebrew word ḥāšaḇ (חָשַׁב), which means “to reckon” (HALOT #3295, BibleWorks) or “to count” (TWOT #767.0, BibleWorks) something as belonging to someone. This same word is used of God's acceptance of Abraham:
NKJ Genesis 15:6 And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted [חָשַׁב, ḥāšaḇ] it to him for righteousness.
It is worth noting here that Paul refers to both Genesis 15:6 and Psalm 32:1-2 in Romans. After concluding that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law (3:28), Paul goes on to argue:
NKJ Romans 4:1-8 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness [Gen. 15:6].” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin [Ps. 32:1-2].” 
Thus, when David spoke of God's forgiveness as His not imputing our sin to us, he implied also that it involved God's imputation of righteousness instead, and that by faith.

3. The Point of the Three Words for Sin and the Three Words for Forgiveness

The three words for sin accompanied by the three words for forgiveness seems to indicate that the totality of our sin receives the totality of God's forgiveness. And this is only by the grace of God, not by any merit of our own. Yet this is in response only to genuine repentance, as David indicates in the second half of verse 2:
NKJ Psalm 32:2b And in whose spirit there is no deceit.
David emphasizes that we cannot fake true confession and repentance. We can only receive God's forgiveness when the confession and repentance is sincere, and when we hold nothing back!

With this in mind, we move on to the second point.

II. True Happiness Is Hindered When We Try to Hide Our Sins

This truth is stressed in verses 3-4: 
NKJ Psalm 32:3-4 When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah
Here David describes the depressing and debilitating effect that his unconfessed sin had upon him, and he does so in at least three ways.

First, David had not only emotional (“groaning”), but also physical, effects from unconfessed sin. He describes the physical effects when he says “my bones grew old.”

Second, David was continually plagued both by the unconfessed sin and by the accompanying symptoms. He says these things troubled him “day and night.”

Third, David had these ailments as a result of God's discipline, which he indicates when he says to the LORD, “Your hand was heavy upon me” (vs.4a)

That we, too, may be disciplined by God in this way is clear from the example of the church at Corinth:
NKJ 1 Corinthians 11:26-30 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.
Consider also the assertions of James and the author of Hebrews on the matter:
NKJ James 5:14-15 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
NKJ Hebrews 12:5-8 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: 'My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6 For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.' 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.
Application: In what ways do we try to hide our sins from God? Perhaps we 1) blame others, or 2) lie about our sins, or 3) try to justify our sin, or 4) try avoid thinking about it at all. But will any of these things work? I wonder how many of us may be struggling with depression or some physical ailment due to a stubborn refusal to deal with our sins by confessing them to the Lord and receiving His forgiveness.

III. True Happiness is Experienced Through Confession of Sin

This truth is stressed in verse 5:
NKJ Psalm 32:5 I acknowledged [יָדַע, yāḏa‛] my sin [חֲטָאָה, ḥaṭā’āh] to You, and my iniquity [עָוֹן, ‛āvōn] I have not hidden. I said, "I will confess [יָדָה, yāḏāh] my transgressions [פֶּ֫שַׁע, pesha‛] to the LORD," and You forgave [נָשָׂא, nāśā’] the iniquity [עָוֹן, ‛āvōn] of my sin [חֲטָאָה, ḥaṭā’āh]. Selah
In these verses we will see that David repeats the three words for sin as he offers three expressions of contrition.

1. Three Words for Sin Repeated

Observe that David repeats each of the three words he had earlier used in verses 1-2 to describe sin. He uses the word translated sin twice. He uses the word translated iniquity twice. And he uses the word translated transgression once, although we should observe this time that it is plural – transgressions – which indicates in this context that David is thinking not just of one particular sin but of all of his previously unconfessed sins.

2. Three Expressions of Contrition

First, when David said that "I acknowledged my sin," he used the Hebrew word yāḏa‛ (יָדַע), which simply means “to know.” But here the Hiphil form of the word is used with the sense of “let someone know something” (HALOT #3570, BibleWorks) and thus is translated to show that David acknowledged his sin to the LORD. He did not keep the knowledge of his sins pent-up inside; he openly acknowledged them before God.

Second, when David said, "my iniquity I have not hidden," the word he used for hidden is the Hebrew kāsāh (כָּסָה), which means to “cover, conceal, [or] hide” (TWOT #1008, BibleWorks).

There is a play on words here, for David has used the same word that he used earlier is verse 1 to describe God's “covering” (forgiving) his sin. In other words, David is making the point that, as long as he “covered” (hid) his sins, he could not experience the joy of God's “covering” (forgiving) them!

Third, David refers to an internal dialog, to his decision to fully confess his sins, when he writes, "I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.'" So, he made the firm decision within himself to openly confess his sins to the LORD, and this was no spur of the moment decision, made impulsively or without thought or sincerity.

3. The Point of the Repetition of the Three Words for Sin and the Three Expressions of Contrition

David used these poetic repetitions, known as parallelism, along with the change from the singular transgression to the plural transgressions, to show that he fully confessed his sins. David came clean and quit harboring sins in his heart. And no sooner had he declared his intention to fully confess than he was forgiven! God's forgiveness was immediate, as David declared when he simply wrote, "And You forgave the iniquity of my sin." How ready God is to forgive us our sins! As David wrote in another psalm:
NKJ Psalm 86:5 For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.
We, too, should be ready to confess our sins, since our heavenly Father is so ready to forgive them!

IV. True Happiness is Contagious Among God's People

This truth is stressed in verses 6-7:
NKJ Psalm 32:6a For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You in a time when You may be found;
The words for this cause may mean “because of this everyone who is godly shall pray to you,” meaning that because of the happiness he has found through repentance and forgiveness others will also be led to do the same. David – as the King of Israel – is conscious of the example he sets for others.

It may also be translated as in the ESV: “Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you....”  Understood this way, David is calling directly upon others to follow his example. The main point is the same, however, namely that someone who has found such happiness becomes contagious, and he wants others to have the same happiness!

David's experience should encourage others that God is ready and willing to forgive them even now. But the phrase in a time when You may be found also indicates that a time may come when God may not be found! So, David doesn't want anyone to put off seeking the forgiveness of the Lord. Recall in this regard to words of the Prophet Isaiah:
NKJ Isaiah 55:6-7 “Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.”
With this in mind, let us return to the text of Psalm 32:
NKJ Psalm 32:6b-7 Surely in a flood of great waters they shall not come near him. 7 You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround [sāḇaḇ, סָבַב] me with songs [or shouts, rōn, רֹן] of deliverance. Selah
First, notice that with forgiveness comes a confident assurance that God will protect and preserve from harm. Although David had before experienced great pain due to unconfessed sin, he now looks forward to peace and assurance in even the most difficult of circumstances!

Second, notice that David speaks of the songs of deliverance that will surround him. I take these to be the songs of the others that he has expected will also seek God's forgiveness. Thus David has spoken expectantly of the way in which his testimony will impacts others, and now he thinks of the way in which their testimony will impact him in return. And David clearly sees this encouragement as one of the ways in which God will preserve him from trouble.

Question: Do you and I have such a contagious joy that comes from a deep awareness of our sins and of how much God has forgiven us? Are we moved to share this joy? If not, consider the additional words from David in Psalm 51:
NKJ Psalm 51:7-13 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice. 9 Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.”
Let us not be like the one who “is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:9). Instead, let us seek a deeper appreciation of God's forgiveness and a more ardent desire to share this message of forgiveness with others.

V. True Happiness Includes God's Guidance for the Repentant Sinner

We find this truth in verse 8-9:
NKJ Psalm 32:8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.
This last part of this verse may be translated a slightly different way, as in the NASB:
NAU Psalm 32:8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
Here David tells us more about God's response to his confession, which is not only forgiveness but also a promise to guide and teach him in the future, so that he may avoid getting into such a fix again!
NKJ Psalm 32:9 Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you.
If we are to receive God's promised guidance and teaching, we must not be stubborn – as David had been before the repentance he has recorded here! God desires us to be teachable before Him. We must not be like those who will only respond when they are forced to, but we should be like those who come near to God willingly and with eagerness.

VI. True Happiness Comes Through Trusting God and Experiencing His Love

This truth is found in verse 10:
NKJ Psalm 32:10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the LORD, mercy [ḥeseḏ, חֶ֫סֶד] shall surround [sāḇaḇ, סָבַב] him.
David has left the sorrows of the wicked behind and now looks forward to the continued experience of God's grace, which shall surround him just as we have seen that the songs of deliverance would surround him (vs. 7). The repetition of the same Hebrew word here shows that for David there is a connection between the two. We are always a part of a community through which God desires to work in our lives.

VII. True Happiness is Expressed in Worship

This final point may be seen in verse 11:
NKJ Psalm 32:11 Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; and shout [rānan, רָנַן] for joy, all you upright in heart!
First, observe that the righteous here are not those who have not sinned, but those who have been forgiven their sins by the grace of God and who by faith have not had their sins imputed to them (recall verse 2).

Second, observe that David had earlier spoken of his expectation of being surrounded by songs [rōn, רֹן] of deliverance, using the noun rōn to refer to these songs of worship. But now he uses the related verb rānan to encourage the shouts/songs of worship to begin. Just as there is no time like the present to seek God's forgiveness (“in a time when [He] may be found” vs.6), so there is no time like the present to get started praising Him for His marvelous grace!

David's wonderful experience of God's grace toward him again overflows in worship that is contagious. Anyone who has truly known this deep and complete forgiveness of which David has spoken cannot help but worship. And they cannot help but desire that others share this forgiveness and join them in worshiping the LORD.

Conclusion: As James Montgomery Boice reminds us:
This was Saint Augustine's favorite psalm. Augustine had it inscribed on the wall next to his bed before he died in order to meditate on it better. He liked it because, as he said... “the beginning of knowledge is to know oneself to be a sinner.” (Psalms, Vol. 1, p. 277)
Do you know yourself to be a sinner? If so, then I pray that you will also know the forgiveness of God that comes through repentance and faith. I pray that you may know the happiness that comes through the forgiveness that comes only through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.
NKJ Ephesians 1:3-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace ....

PPFA fights defunding; CMP fights felony charges

new - 22 minutes ago

PPFA fights defunding; CMP fights felony charges

WASHINGTON (BP) -- Planned Parenthood again finds itself in a battle to protect its government funding and tarnished reputation, while secret investigators who uncovered the abortion giant's latest scandal fight felony charges.

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote today (March 30) on a measure that would free states to bar funds for Planned Parenthood. The measure barely reached the Senate floor earlier in the day. Vice President Mike Pence broke a 50-50 tie in favor of a motion for the legislation to proceed.

Members of the House of Representatives, meanwhile, continue to consider what approach to take to slash federal money for the country's No. 1 abortion provider.

On the other side of the country, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced 15 felony counts March 28 against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, charging them with illegally recording or conspiring to record confidential communications. The undercover investigators with the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) secretly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood executives discussing their sale of fetal parts as well as their willingness to manipulate the abortion procedure to preserve organs for sale and use. The investigators also clandestinely recorded conversations with officials of fetal tissue procurement businesses that work with Planned Parenthood.

Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore decried the development.

"Planned Parenthood has been exposed as a gruesome human trafficking operation that exploits women and communities," said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). "What we saw on those videos demands justice, not politically driven revenge on those who exposed the truth.

"My prayer is that Planned Parenthood would be held accountable and that those who courageously shed light on the culture of death would be protected rather than prosecuted," Moore told Baptist Press in written comments.

Daleiden said in a written statement, "The bogus charges from Planned Parenthood's political cronies are fake news.... The public knows the real criminals are Planned Parenthood and their business partners ... who have harvested and sold aborted baby body parts for profit for years in direct violation of state and federal law."

Tom Brejcha, president of the Thomas More Society and a member of the defense team for the CMP investigators, said the efforts by Daleiden and Merritt advanced "First Amendment values and are clothed with the same constitutional protection that all investigative journalists deserve and must enjoy. Undercover journalism has been a vital tool in our politics and self-governance."

Planned Parenthood welcomed the indictments.

"Planned Parenthood has done nothing wrong, and the only people who broke the law are those behind the fraudulent tapes," Mary Alice Carter, interim vice president of communications for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), said in a written release. "We look forward to justice being served."

It is not the first time Daleiden and Merritt have faced charges after posing as representatives of a biologics firm to record the conversations. Harris County dropped charges against the pair in July stemming from their undercover work at a Planned Parenthood center in Houston.

Following the 2015 release of the first undercover videos, Daleiden spoke at the inaugural Evangelicals for Life conference -- which is sponsored annually by the ERLC and Focus on the Family -- in January 2016 in Washington, D.C.

At the time, Daleiden explained his ethical approach to the clandestine operation: "I think that undercover work is fundamentally different from lying, because the purpose of undercover work is to serve the truth and to bring the truth to greater clarity and to communicate the truth more strongly."

A day after the California charges were announced, CMP released its latest undercover video, which showed a former Planned Parenthood medical director explaining late-term abortions to procure body parts. Her description seemed to imply some babies were delivered alive in the abortion process but died outside the womb.

At a Planned Parenthood conference speaking to covert CMP investigators, DeShawn Taylor -- formerly medical director of Planned Parenthood of Arizona who previously performed abortions for Planned Parenthood in Los Angeles and was trained by a PPFA executive -- spoke of harvesting intact organs. "[I]t's not a matter of how I feel about [the baby] coming out intact," she said, "but I gotta worry about my staff and ... people's feelings about it coming out looking like a baby."

Taylor said on the video, "[I]n Arizona, if the fetus comes out with any signs of life, we're supposed to transport it -- to the hospital."

When asked if there were a standard of verifying "signs of life," she said, "Well, the thing is, I mean the key is, you need to pay attention to who's in the room, right?"

Congress & the states

In the Senate, the resolution to be acted on March 30 would rescind an Obama administration rule issued in December that effectively restricts states from prohibiting funds for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

The House voted 230-188 for the proposal, House Joint Resolution 43, in February.

In recent years, at least 12 states have cut money for Planned Parenthood. Courts have blocked those actions in some cases, thereby enabling the organization to continue to receive government funds.

Congressional foes of funding Planned Parenthood had hoped to cut money for the organization through passage of a proposal to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law. House Republicans, however, were unable to achieve enough votes for passage March 24. If no health care bill is forthcoming, supporters of defunding PPFA could use another procedural process to reach their goal.

Planned Parenthood affiliates performed 323,999 abortions during 2013-14, the most recent year for which statistics are available. PPFA and its affiliates received $553.7 million in government grants and reimbursements, according to its latest annual financial report (2014-2015).

The ERLC is conducting an online advertising campaign to rally support for the congressional effort to slash federal dollars for Planned Parenthood. The effort is the first of its kind by the ERLC and includes a digital petition for delivery to congressional leaders. The petition is available for signing at

N.C.'s repeal of restroom bill called 'a loss'

new - 24 minutes ago

N.C.'s repeal of restroom bill called 'a loss'

RALEIGH, N.C. (BP) -- North Carolina legislators have repealed a controversial law that required individuals in state buildings to use restrooms corresponding to the gender indicated on their birth certificates.

The repeal of House Bill 2 today (March 30) marked a compromise between Democrats and Republicans and culminated more than a year of contentious debate since the bill's passage in April 2016.

North Carolina's senate passed the repeal 32-16 following brief discussion. The house's 70-48 vote to repeal HB 2 followed more than two hours of debate and came some 90 minutes after a noon deadline set by the NCAA for the Tar Heel State to overturn its restroom bill or lose the opportunity to host championship events in 2018-22.

The NCAA previously pulled seven championship events that were set to occur in North Carolina during the 2016-17 academic year, including first- and second-round games in the Division I men's basketball tournament.

The repeal drew criticism both from social conservatives, who argued it endangered citizens' privacy and safety, and from advocates of so-called homosexual and transgender rights, who argued it did not go far enough in defending civil rights.

Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, told Baptist Press the state "has had a great opportunity to lead the country in the preservation of the definition of gender. [Lawmakers] are now forfeiting that opportunity. I think this is a loss for the state of North Carolina and ultimately a loss for the country."

HB 2 was "the best privacy and safety bathroom law in the country," Creech said. "It's been a model for the whole country," with similar legislation introduced in 17 other states.

The repeal bill, HB 142, contained three main provisions:

-- A full repeal of HB 2;

-- A ban until 2020 on acts by state government -- including universities and local boards of education -- to regulate "access to multiple occupancy restrooms, showers, or changing facilities, except in accordance with an act of the" state legislature;

-- A moratorium until 2020 on ordinances by local governments to regulate "private employment practices" or "public accommodations." Those responsibilities are left to state government.

In debating HB 142, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, a Republican, said, "Compromise sometimes is difficult, and this bill represents a compromise. I don't know that there are that many people that are extremely happy about exactly where we are ... However this is what I believe, and what I hope you believe, is good for North Carolina at this time."

Gov. Roy Cooper -- a Democrat who made HB 2 opposition a major feature of his campaign last year -- said in a statement on the eve of the vote, "I support the House Bill 2 repeal compromise that will be introduced tomorrow. It's not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation."

Cooper had argued previously that HB 2 was discriminatory and bad for North Carolina economically. The Associated Press estimated in a March 27 analysis that HB 2 would cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost revenue over a dozen years from companies withdrawing business in protest.

Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, said in a statement, "These chambers were filled today with men and women who have been under a full-court press by the NCAA and the business community for months, and today, the leaders of our state have let the people of North Carolina down. The truth remains, no basketball game, corporation or entertainment event is worth even one little girl losing her privacy and dignity to a boy in the locker room, or being harmed or frightened in a bathroom."

Fitzgerald, a trustee of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, expressed gratefulness "for the lawmakers who remained steadfast to these principals and the thousands of coalition members that today urged them to vote against the repeal."

"Today's repeal vote," she noted, "maintains separate facilities for men and women and leaves regulation of multi-occupancy facilities to the state; however, it leaves the state without a statewide public policy on privacy and safety in bathrooms, locker rooms and showers and simply kicks this debate three years down the road."

Pro-homosexual and transgender rights advocates argued the replacement bill did not go far enough.

Cathryn Oakley of the Human Rights Campaign told The New York Times HB 142 leaves the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community "boxed out of nondiscrimination protections." Chris Sgro of Equality North Carolina told The Times the repeal "keeps North Carolina as the only state in the country obsessed with where trans people use the restroom through law."

At least two previous attempts to repeal HB 2 failed, one in December and another earlier this month.