FROM THE SEMINARIES: stories from NOBTS, SWBTS, MBTS

Baptist Press
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Posted: May 11, 2011 4:52 PM
FROM THE SEMINARIES: stories from NOBTS, SWBTS, MBTS
EDITOR'S NOTE: "From the Seminaries" includes news releases of interest as written and edited from Southern Baptist seminaries.

Today's From the Seminaries includes:

NOBTS (3 items)

SWBTS (1 item)

MBTS (3 items)

Platt headlines 'Jesus and All that Jazz' week

By Frank Michael McCormack

NEW ORLEANS (NOBTS)--David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., which hosts the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) extension center in Birmingham, headlined the first day of the seminary's annual "Jesus and All That Jazz" week in chapel April 26. Platt is an NOBTS alumnus and served as NOBTS Dean of the Chapel. The author of the best-selling book Radical, Platt has recently released a second book, Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God.

"Jesus and All That Jazz" at NOBTS coincides annually with the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Along with well-known speakers, the two chapel services take on a distinctly New Orleans flavor with a jazz ensemble playing renditions of both classic hymns and contemporary choruses.

NOBTS President Chuck Kelley said Platt's ministry while in New Orleans was similarly seasoned with the flavors of the Crescent City.

"Through my 35 years of living on this campus - first as a student, then as a professor and now as president - I've observed there are two basic reactions students have to the city of New Orleans," Kelley said. "One, they're scared to death and they try to take in as little of the city as possible and to spend as much time as possible on the campus here. They get their education and they move on. But there's another kind of student that comes here."

Kelley said the second kind of student determines that one of the reasons he or she has come to New Orleans "is to develop spiritual muscle by interacting with the city where Baptists are not popular and the evangelical way is not well known."

"That is what Dr. David Platt did on campus as a student," Kelley said, noting Platt's involvement in the local church and in ministering to the homeless.

Platt continued that theme of calling with his sermon, which he drew from the account of the prophet Isaiah's call in Isaiah 6.

"You come to Isaiah and you see a man who willingly, gladly, joyfully, and at some points painstakingly endured isolation, imprisonment, pain, persecution," Platt said. "What did he know that would cause him to joyfully endure anything and willingly sacrifice everything for the glory of God? That's the question that drove me to a fresh look at Isaiah and, in particular, this passage."

Platt said he gleaned four concepts key to Isaiah's experience with God from Isaiah 6, the first of which is "We have an infinitely great God."

The political setting of Isaiah 6 is King Uzziah's recent death, which brought about a significant change in the political landscape of Israel. Uzziah reigned for more than 50 years, making him the only king many of the people would've known. In his early years as king, Uzziah had seen the Northern Kingdom fall and the King of Assyria audaciously threaten attack on Jerusalem. God, though, vowed to protect Jerusalem, saying, "I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant" (Isaiah 37:35). The Angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 Assyrians encamped near Jerusalem.

"Throughout history, kings have come and kings have gone. Lords have come and lords have gone. Presidents have come and presidents have gone. Dictators have come and dictators have gone. One King always remains. He is always, every moment, seated on the throne, ruling and reigning over everything," Platt said.

But in the sight of God "high and exalted, seated on a throne," Isaiah identified a second key concept, Platt said: "We are a sinfully depraved people."

"If you go back to Isaiah chapter 6 and walk with Isaiah who responds to this vision, his response was not 'wow,' it was 'woe,'" Platt said. "'Woe is me. I am ruined.'"

Platt said he suspects that at least some who read the account of Isaiah's vision and his "woe is me" response may think, "Look, Isaiah aren't you overdoing it a little bit? You're one of the good guys."

Platt then named some instances in Scripture where people sinned against God, and their sin was met with extreme punishment - i.e. Lot's wife became a pillar of salt for her glance back to Sodom (Genesis 19); the man who reached out to prevent the Ark of the Covenant from falling died instantly (2 Samuel 6); Ananias and Sapphira died for their dishonesty regarding their offering (Acts 5). But Platt said the issue is the occurrence of sin, not the degree of sin.

"This is where we realize that the gravity of sin is determined far less by how big or little we might see it. The gravity of sin is shown by the greatness of the One we sin against," he said.

But Platt said Isaiah's realization of the gravity of sin led to his third key concept: "We have a scandalously merciful Savior."

After Isaiah declared "woe is me," one of the seraphim flew over, touched a live coal to Isaiah's mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for" (Isaiah 6:7). This great mercy, Platt said, connects well to Isaiah 53, the messianic passage which reads in part, "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).

And it's important to realize, Platt said, that Jesus did not just take the payment for sin upon himself. He also took the payment of sinners upon himself. Platt said too often people think of sin as something exterior, while Scripture describes sin as something at the very core of people. And so, Platt said, Jesus is "not just taking payment of sin upon himself. He's taking the payment of sinners upon himself." And therein lies the scandal.

"Just think that the holy God of the universe looks upon your life and mine and says, 'I have absolutely no record of anything ever having gone wrong,'" Platt said. "And it goes deeper. 'You are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. I have record of everything having gone right in your life.'"

And as a result, Isaiah made a fourth realization: "We have an indescribably urgent mission." Isaiah heard the Lord ask, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" His simple answer was "Here am I. Send me" (Isaiah 6:8).

"This gospel does not demand your intellectual adherence or church attendance," Platt said. "This gospel demands total abandonment."

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Gordon Fee donates specialized library to New Orleans Seminary

By Staff

NEW ORLEANS (NOBTS) -- After a half century of service to the church and the academy, renowned New Testament scholar Gordon D. Fee has donated his specialized textual studies library to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS). Designated as "The Gordon D. Fee Collection on the New Testament Text," this significant donation contains books that Fee amassed in his half century of textual studies as well as extensive files with Fee's notes and data for textual projects realized over the years.

An internationally acclaimed textual scholar and passionate evangelical, Fee has contributed significantly to ensuring the accuracy of the New Testament text. His studies led him to oppose various viewpoints in the field that he saw as inadequate for explaining the history of the transmission of the New Testament text. Two such examples were his opposition to those preferring the less well-attested texts and those overplaying the role of theological motivation in explaining the rise of variant readings. His methodological contributions to the study of the New Testament text in the writing of the Church Fathers have paved the way for many advances in that field, and the text-critical notes in his articles and exegetical commentaries have impacted the field repeatedly.

Fee is acclaimed for his studies of individual manuscripts such as the Bodmer papyrus P66, one of the earliest copies of the Gospel of John, and the fourth century manuscript Codex Sinaiticus, one of the most celebrated of all ancient manuscripts. Fee served as editor of numerous publications and as a key committee member of the International Greek New Testament Project. He also was part of the translation committee of the best-selling New International Version English Bible. He is currently working on a revision of his acclaimed 1 Corinthians commentary in the New International Commentary on the New Testament series, of which he is the editor.

The collection will be used extensively by scholars and PhD students at the seminary's H. Milton Haggard Center for New Testament Textual Studies (CNTTS). CNTTS has produced its own extensive apparatus of the variants of the Greek New Testament (available in BibleWorks and Accordance software programs). Recently, work has commenced on a 10-year online textual commentary project that explains the exegetical significance of the manuscript readings, with the first results to be available in early 2012. CNTTS also cooperates with other international projects in the study of biblical manuscripts.

Given Fee's integration of faith and learning, and mutual commitment to church and scholarship, the donation of his library to a theological seminary with a textual studies center was not unexpected. However, the donation of his library to NOBTS speaks greatly of the research underway at CNTTS. Reflecting similar values, CNTTS director and New Testament professor Bill Warren not only researches biblical manuscripts but also serves as the founding pastor of a new church plant in Pass Christian, Miss.

"Since we find the basis of our knowledge of Jesus in the Bible and have such a high view of its inspiration, we have a responsibility to be involved in the study of the manuscripts that undergird the text and the history of the textual transmission of the New Testament in as much detail as possible," Warren said.

In a letter expressing gratitude for the donation, seminary President Chuck Kelley wrote Fee, saying, "Textual studies is such a critical area of the church's knowledge. Thank you for helping us pass on what you have learned to those who will come behind."

James Leonard (Ph.D. candidate, Cambridge), the current CNTTS visiting scholar, was instrumental in the acquisition. Leonard served as Fee's teaching assistant and worked under him as his Exegesis Assistant at Regent College, Vancouver. Both Leonard and 2008 CNTTS visiting scholar Michael Theophilos (PhD, Oxford) studied with Fee at Regent College.

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Manuel Lecture: Tsuk lectures on water systems in the ancient Israel

By Gary D. Myers

NEW ORLEANS (NOBTS)--Modern people in developed nations take water for granted. Technology makes the procurement, storage and consumption of water relatively easy - not so in ancient Israel. While water was plentiful, collecting and storing water was difficult work.

Tsvika Tsuk, chief archaeologist for the Israel Parks and Nature Authority, spoke on ancient Near East water system development during the Manuel Archaeology Lecture at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) April 14. The presentation came just weeks before NOBTS students and professors return to Israel for a second season of digging in Tel-Gezer's rock-hewn water system. Tsuk is directing the dig along with NOBTS archaeology professor Dan Warner.

The Manuel Archaeology Lecture series was established by the Manuel family of McComb, Miss., and is hosted by NOBTS' Center for Archaeological Research. The lectureship presents current archaeological research and excavation data as it pertains to the biblical text and historical events.

"There was no lack of water in antiquity. The challenge was to construct a water system to divert water to a settlement - pumps were not available," Tsuk said. "The problem was how to deliver the water from the source to the cities."

The lack of technology in antiquity led to less water consumption. Tsuk estimates the average person in biblical times used about 3.5 gallons. In the Byzantine period consumption was up to 5 gallons per day per person. Modern people use exponentially more - close to 68 gallons a day per person.

One of the foremost experts on water systems in Israel, Tsuk's doctoral research and dissertation focused on water systems and he is the author of an influential Hebrew-language book on the subject. Tsuk also participated in the excavation of water systems at Beersheva and Sepphoris.

Drawing from his years of study and experience, Tsuk's presentation introduced the most common types of water systems used in Israel from 6000 B.C. until 1948 A.D. Though nine types were in use during that time period, Tsuk focused most of his attention on wells, cisterns, reservoirs, rock-hewn water systems and aqueducts.

Wells were the oldest water system used in ancient Israel, Tsuk said. One of the oldest wells ever discovered in the Holy Land was constructed around 5900 B.C. At more than 200 feet deep, the deepest well in Israel was dug in Beersheva. It is more than 220 feet deep and dates to 1100 B.C.

Cisterns, reservoirs and other systems developed between 3000 - 1800 B.C., Tsuk said. The water system type of greatest interest to the NOBTS group - rock-hewn tunnels dug to the water table -appeared in Canaan in 1800 B.C. during the Middle Bronze Age. These systems provided water inside the walls of fortified cities - a great asset during a siege.

Some of the oldest rock-hewn underground water systems are found at Tel Gerisa and at Gezer where the seminary is working. Similar systems have been discovered in ancient cities throughout Israel. Most, including the well-know systems at Hazor and Megiddo, were cut after 1000 B.C. By the end of the Judean Kingdom in 582 B.C., these water systems disappeared from use.

The NOBTS team working in Gezer May 21-June 11 will attempt to reach the water source and access a cave behind the water source.

"There is an assumption that the will lead to another entrance, but we are not sure," Tsuk said. "This is a big puzzle now and we hope to solve it this May and June."

Tsuk said the water system at Tel Gerisa has yet to be excavated and hinted that he is interested in seeing NOBTS involved in that project. "Maybe after Tel Gezer, we can go there," he joked.

The final water system type Tsuk spoke about was the aqueduct. Aqueducts gain prominence in Israel during the Hellenistic Period and received extensive use in the Roman and Byzantine periods.

"Typology of ancient water systems can give a general picture on the subject in each region," Tsuk said. "The research is just beginning and needs to be continued."

NOBTS is working to heed Tsuk's call for continued water system research. Warner believes the seminary's work at Gezer will yield vital information.

"Our renewed excavation at Gezer is critical to the discussion of understanding how these system functioned, especially since Gezer seems to be one of the largest if not the largest water system in the Ancient Near East," Warner said. "Our knowledge of how these tunnels were dug, how the builders knew where to find water, and the possibility of a secondary uses like a secret escape hatch leading outside the city in case of a siege can be greatly increased."

Tsuk presented a second lecture about his excavation work at Nahal Qanah Cave in the 1980s. After the cave was discovered by an acquaintance, Tsuk and several others explored the site to see the stalagmites and stalactites. On his first trip he found a few pot shards.

Tsuk and Avi Gopher returned several times and discovered many ancient artifacts. Ultimately, after 17 days of exploring spread over several years, the teams found pottery and other items dating to the Chalcolithic Periods when the cave was used as a burial chamber. The most important find - eight gold circlets (rings) - is the earliest gold discovered in what is now Israel. The original purpose of circlets has not been determined.

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New book examines great women behind every Moses

By Keith Collier

FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS)--When expectant mothers look through the Bible for possible female baby names, they often gravitate toward ones like Hannah, Sarah, and Rachel. Names like Jochebed, Puah, Shiphrah and Zipporah—all women instrumental in the life of Moses—often go unnoticed, as do these women's impact on Moses' life.

In her new book Touched by Greatness: Women in the Life of Moses, however, Dorothy Patterson does not overlook these and other women in Moses' life but instead offers them as shining examples of biblical womanhood. Patterson, whose husband Paige Patterson serves as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, explains in the book's preface that the women of the Bible have always intrigued her.

"When my husband was asked to be a consultant for the movie Moses, Prince of Egypt, I was again drawn to the women who lived in the shadow of the great lawgiver, who was marked by human weakness and yet empowered by divine calling and guidance," Patterson says.

"Through these resulting historical vignettes, my prayer is that women will be encouraged and edified, as well as challenged and motivated, to offer themselves as vessels to be used by the Lord, whether for a task as lowly as watching a basket float in the river or one as lofty as leading a host of women in praise of the one true God."

Each chapter of the book examines a woman or group of women in Moses' life, offering insight into their lives and how they influenced his life. At the conclusion of each chapter is a prayer followed by resources for further study, including facts, exegetical notes, teaching outlines, inductive questions, a "Dorothy's Dictum" truth or principle, and a statement about how the woman fits in God's overall plan of redemption in the Bible. The additional resources make this a perfect book for individual and small-group book studies.

Patterson, who serves as professor of theology in women's studies at Southwestern, is author of numerous books, including A Handbook for Parents in Ministry, A Handbook for Minister's Wives, and BeAttitudes for Women: Wisdom from Heaven for Life on Earth. She also served as editor for The Women's Study Bible and co-authored the newly released, two-volume Women's Evangelical Commentary: Old Testament and Women's Evangelical Commentary: New Testament.

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Women talk service, serve at Hester Conference

By Katie Brosseau

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (MBTS)--Girl-talk and story swaps were not in short supply as women gathered at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for the annual Carolyne Hester Conference on April 8. The event is named after the influential wife of a former seminary vice president, and this year's theme, "A Servant's Heart," focused on wives' becoming support systems and helpmates for husbands in church leadership roles.

The festivities began at Midwestern's chapel with smells of barbeque and lemonade wafting through the air, as 80 women filled the auditorium with chitchat and eagerness to hear wisdom from the event's speakers. Women filled their plates and caught up on the latest news in each other's lives.

Soon the crowd quieted as Jagee Melton, a singer, songwriter and mother of four led the group in a time of worship. As a minister's wife from Arlington, Texas, Melton added some southern charm to the evening with tales of God's sense of humor in calling her to a life of ministry.

Melton also shared testimonies about some dark and desperate times, recalling how, after her dad was fatally wounded in a car accident, she felt unable to express her tremendous sadness because of the pedestal she had created for herself as a minister's wife.

"During that time, things became very dark… and I was embarrassed by the emotions that were taking place," Melton said. "But God said, 'I'm not afraid of your emotions, I gave them to you.' God gave me permission to be real."

Even though Barbara Walters wasn't present, a self-proclaimed "Real View" panel comprised of four tell-all conference speakers then took the stage. Willa Ruth Garlow, Diana Moody, Dr. Jeanne Burns and Linda Brewer - all ministers' wives - comprised the candid panel. Dr. Morlee Maynard, MBTS assistant professor of Christian education, facilitated the discussion of topics, which ranged from servanthood to the responsibilities of ministers' wives.

Hilarity ensued as the been-there-done-that group shared how they overcame the stereotypes and struggles often associated with the "perfect" minister's wife. The panel first addressed the makeup of a servant's heart, particularly for women in ministry and for the wives of husbands serving in a church. "Being a minister's wife is not really a choice we make," Brewer said. "It's who we ought to be. As ministers' wives, we better have it: humility, self-denial, putting yourself aside."

The panel was quick to point out that despite needing a servant's heart in ministry, saying "no" sometimes is an essential component of maintaining a healthy balance for an individual and her family.

"How can you teach your children to love the Lord when you're so wrapped up in church?" Burns asked. "Your first ministry is to your family. That is the first institution God created."

The evening concluded with seminary professors' wives leading topical discussions at each table. The women had in-depth talks about overloading themselves with ministerial work. "How many places are you jumping into?" asked Beth Sowers, doctoral student at the seminary. "If your heart isn't in (each ministry), you're not even being a servant."

The panel recommenced on Saturday morning after the wives of Midwestern's professors served brunch. Women settled in with their coffee and Bibles as the Real View answered the questions posed the previous night by audience members. Words of caution and support were offered for many women who sought council and wisdom for their roles in church.

For Ashley White, the wife of a seminary student, the conference provided a refreshing time of fellowship and enlightenment. "It's encouraging to be with a group of women going through the same things," White said. "The panel reminded me that our ministry is not about me, but about God using my gifts for His work."

Following the theme of servanthood, the women dedicated the rest of Saturday morning and afternoon to the Patricia's Project. The organization, founded by Glenda Wylie and her daughter, sews together washable feminine products for women in Africa. The Koehn-Myers Center was filled with scissors, sewing machines and donated fabric for the project.

Small clusters of women formed around various tables, each purposed for different stages of the creation process. Some women traced patterns on towels and then sent them to the next station to be cut. Then being paired with fastening layers, the items were sent to the sewing machines. A few rapid stitches later and the hygiene products were complete and ready to be sent to an African woman in need.

A young adolescent or a woman in Africa who does not have adequate care in this area is often confined to her bed for a week. As a result, many girls miss so much school that they are forced to drop out. Mothers of young children are unable to complete necessary household and community obligations, putting the burden on friends or other family members.

Despite having a way to get the hygiene kits into Africa for distribution, Wylie said she balked when the people who originally committed to bringing the packages with them told her they wouldn't allow Gospel tracts in the kits.

Through a series of God-orchestrated events, Wylie met Beth Cecil, a nurse practitioner headed on a short-term mission trip to Uganda. Cecil and her husband immediately agreed to bring the packages.

Cecil said the reaction of the Ugandan women to a Patricia Project kit is life changing. "They were in tears. They jumped up and down, screaming, saying 'Praise God, praise God!'" she said. Cecil's excitement for the service project spread throughout the conference's makeshift workshop as women spent a few hours putting their skills together for those in need.

According to Wylie, the participants of the 2011 Hester Conference formed the largest group to work on the Patricia's Project at one time. At the end of the day, the vision of the conference coordinator, Leslie Umstattd, seemed to have become a reality. "I just want women to leave this conference changed and refreshed," Umstattd said. "That's what is really exhilarating to me."

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Criswell president exhorts students; MBTS president honored at chapel service

By Staff

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (MBTS)--Dr. Jerry Johnson made a return visit on April 19 to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, delivering a chapel sermon in which he encouraged students to "know the Gospel." Johnson, the former MBTS dean and vice president of academics, left his position in December after two years of service to return to the top position at his alma mater, Criswell College in Dallas.

Prior to the message, the filled-to-capacity chapel was blessed with special music presented by international concert pianist Huntley Brown, who astounded the audience with his powerful rendition of "How Great Thou Art." Brown, a native of Jamaica, previously ministered alongside MBTS President Phil Roberts when the two were in Hong Kong on a ministry trip.

Speaking of his humble background, Brown said he learned to play as a young boy on an instrument that cost 50 Jamaican dollars. After being convicted by the Holy Spirit in 1984 while playing in bars and clubs, Brown said he gave himself and his gifting of music to the Lord, and he now travels the world sharing the blessing of his piano playing.

At the start of his message, Johnson, who was also on campus to celebrate Roberts' 10-year anniversary as the Seminary's president, took a moment to mention how God had blessed the leader and consequently the seminary. "God has blessed Dr. Roberts in many ways. This school - under Dr. Roberts' leadership - has doubled in student head count, doubled in full-time equivalent hours, constructed new campus housing and this new, beautiful chapel," Johnson said. The Criswell president went on to say that he believes Dr. Roberts is blessed because of the constant emphasis he places on the Gospel.

During the hour-long service, Johnson exhorted students to know the message of the Gospel well, referencing 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. "In a world of theological confusion and compromise, we must declare the Gospel, define the Gospel and defend the Gospel," Johnson said.

"There are a lot of people standing on different things," he continued. "Paul says to stand on the Gospel… not our works, not our church membership, not deacon identification, not the messianic lodge, not, 'I turned over a new leaf,' or, 'I am living a good life.' If we stand on anything else besides the fact that Jesus died for our sins and rose again, we are standing on sinking sand."

Johnson said that in order to proclaim the Gospel, we must first be able to define it. There are four parts of the Gospel that should be emphasized, the chapel speaker said: Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, was raised from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures and appeared to others.

At the service's conclusion, Roberts and his wife, Anja, were presented a portrait of themselves for their home. The presentation was made by trustee chairman Wayne Lee in commemoration of Roberts' 10 years of service to the seminary. The portrait's artist, Mitsuno Reedy, was also present for the ceremony.

Additionally, Dr. Jerry Sutton was officially recognized during the service as the new dean and vice president of academics. Coincidently, Sutton had replaced Johnson for an interim period earlier this year until being voted into the position unanimously by the Board of Trustees the previous day during their spring meeting.

To hear Johnson's message, or to keep up to date with the latest events at MBTS, go to www.mbts.edu.

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Land examines the "Christian's obituary" during celebratory chapel service

T. Patrick Hudson

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (MBTS)--Amidst a tone of celebration for the president's 10 years of service and the honoring of a dedicated volunteer couple during the April 20 chapel service at Midwestern, Dr. Richard Land, president of The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, delivered an upbeat message on a topic that many find little comfort in - death.

At the outset of the filled-to-capacity service, the audience's mood was turned to glorify God during a rousing piano piece played by Jamaican concert pianist Huntley Brown. The group watched attentively as Dr. Phil Roberts presented chapel project volunteer John Humphrey with the President's Medallion - the highest honor bestowed by Midwestern Seminary. Humphrey, according to the medallion's accompanying certificate, "answered God's call to serve as volunteer coordinator and site representative…John's outstanding professionalism, sacrificial Christian service, and construction expertise have brought enormous value to Midwestern's chapel building project, and his congenial spirit has engendered Christian unity, humility of service as well as a mind to work with all diligence among contract workers and over 1,500 construction volunteers from around the U.S. John has exemplified outstanding Christian devotion and a stellar work ethic in every aspect of this construction process."

Roberts lauded the Humphreys by calling them his "heroes for their example of dedication and service." Joining via Skype in the honoring of the couple was their home church pastor, Johnny Hunt, of First Baptist, Woodstock, Ga. He called the Humphreys the "epitome of the best of the Woodstock family," using words such as character, integrity, godly, commitment, compassion, dedication and service in describing the couple's ministry throughout his 25 years as their pastor. When asked to say a few words, John simply replied, "Thank you."

As the service continued, the MBTS president, also received congratulatory notes for his decade-long service to Midwestern from a number of Southern Baptist leaders including Hunt, Dr. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary, Dr. Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Seminary, and Dr. Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Seminary.

In stark contrast, stepping into the pulpit, Land turned the attendees' attention to the topic of death, saying he reads five newspapers daily and one portion he pays particular attention to is the obituaries. He added that most people think of death in terms of sadness, loss and grief. However, in light of Psalm 116:15, which says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints," Land said Christians should re-evaluate this morose thought process.

"In reality, death means a change of nature. It means a change of environment. We are altered, and if we are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, that change of nature and environment is a huge, vast improvement thanks to the events that we're going to celebrate this Sunday (Easter)," Land said. The Oxford University scholar added that, because of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the grave has lost its sting and death has lost its victory.

To illustrate his point, the ERLC leader spoke of a relative who fought in Vietnam and was involved in a very difficult battle. The soldier's mother fasted and prayed for her son's deliverance from harm and danger. The soldier was, in fact, delivered, and upon returning to America his family rejoiced. Speaking of believers, Land said, "When we die, we are delivered from a place where bad things can happen to us. We are delivered from a place of danger both within and without. To be absent from the body means we're in the presence of the Lord!"

Referring back to obituaries, Land noted that such a remembrance of a Christian is very truncated because it doesn't tell the rest of the story - either before the person was created or after his departure from earth. He used passages from Jeremiah and Psalm 139 to denote that God knew each person before his life began, and that He formed a clear plan for each of His children's lives. "We may have been a surprise to our parents, but we were not a surprise to God," he said.

"The obituary of a Christian starts in eternity past…and it doesn't end with the date of our death either, does it?" Land asked. Quoting Hebrews 2:14-15, the chapel speaker read, "Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through His death he might destroy the one holding the power of death - that is, the Devil - and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.

"Why are people afraid of dying?" Land asked. "We aren't going to die until God's appointed days for us are done. Why should we want to cling to this life and remain imprisoned in this life? But it doesn't end there, does it?"

Revelation 21:3-7 provides great encouragement on the subject of death, Land said. Death will no longer exist; there will be no more grief, crying or pain in the life to come. Verse 7 says, "The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son."

"This passage goes from the corporate to the personal," Land stated. "In the new heaven and the new earth, He's going to be your father and you're going to be His child. First person, face-to-face, it's going to be as if each one of us is His one-and-only. There will be enough of Him to go around. So, as we look at the obituary of a Christian, this life is but a tiny, momentary interlude."

To listen to Land's sermon, go to www.mbts.edu and click on either the video or audio podcast for April 20.

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