Today's BP Ledger includes items from:
Baptist Messenger (Oklahoma)
Renewed minds crucial for Christians, Luter tells Union students
JACKSON, Tenn. (Union University) -- Christians must have renewed minds if they are to overcome temptation and live godly lives, Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter told Union University students Sept. 26.
Luter, senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, La., spoke in a chapel service in G.M. Savage Memorial Chapel. He said that all Christians - pastors and laypeople in every stage of life - experience temptation by Satan.
"How can we as sons and daughters of God be victorious against the tempting tactics of the enemy that come against our mind every day of our lives?" he asked. "How can we win more than we lose?"
Bible passages such as Philippians 2:1-11 and Romans 12:2 indicate that a renewed mind is the answer, Luter said, because it focuses Christians on Christ, makes them think about their life choices and reminds them of the cross.
Luter said Christians will be spurred on to live a holy life by recalling that Jesus resisted temptation, met people's needs on earth and made a way for people to be reconciled to God.
"Even though (Jesus) was fully God, he became fully man and gave his life for you and ... me," Luter said. "Oh, how can you not want to win for him? How can you not want to be faithful to him?"
Luter named several instances recorded in the Old Testament where God's faithful servants failed because they made decisions without the goal of glorifying God. Unlike those men and women in the Old Testament, however, Jesus' every decision glorified God - and Luter said a renewed mind causes Christians to reflect Jesus by carefully considering their choices, he said.
The Christ who suffered, died and rose victoriously three days later has every right to demand a devoted life from the people he redeemed, Luter said.
"It was all possible because of the cross," he said. "That's why, ladies and gentlemen, our minds should be renewed — so we can walk right, so we can talk right, so we can live right, so we can preach right, so we can sing right."
Following Luter's address, Union University President David S. Dockery inducted him into Union's R. G. Lee Society of Fellows.
The induction, one of the highest honors the university gives to pastors, acknowledges Luter's leadership in Southern Baptist life, Dockery said. The Society of Fellows exists to enhance and encourage the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Video of Luter's address is available at new.livestream.com/uu/chapel.
In the heart of East St. Louis,
Christian Activity Center offers hope.
By Meredith Flynn/Illinois Baptist
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (Illinois Baptist) -- In the middle of what some say are the seven most dangerous miles on the planet sits a sanctuary -- a somewhat noisy one. In this place, an 8-year-old may greet you at the door of her classroom wearing a sparkling evening gown over her school uniform and ask if you'd like some tea. Boys play basketball or foosball or piano, whichever they choose. And kid-created, good-natured chaos in the hallways meets the quiet, studious environment of a computer lab.
It's all in the same place, on the corner of N. Sixth Street and Summit Avenue in East St. Louis, where Southern Baptists have ministered since 1950. Known as the Christian Activity Center (CAC) since 1980, the school-like facility (outfitted with a gym, small cafeteria, classrooms and offices) is a familiar place for Baptist volunteers, and for 670 kids who attend the center's after-school program on a regular basis.
"Hope is often hard to find in the inner city. The CAC brings the hope of Jesus Christ and practical solutions to real life problems of children, teens, and their families," said Rex Alexander, IBSA's liaison to the center.
On a recent visit to the CAC, North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell and Al Gilbert, head of NAMB's ministry evangelism area, also recognized the center's long history of success and aggressive approach to bettering the lives of people in East St. Louis. They presented the center with a $300,000 grant to further its ministry.
"They were looking for a ministry center that could serve as a role model for other metropolitan locations," Alexander said, "and they were encouraged with what they saw at the CAC."
When kids walk into the center, they're entering a very different place than the world outside. East St. Louis has sky-high crime rates, dilapidated buildings, and residents who don't see much way out.
Afternoons at the CAC usually start with a hot meal, prepared in part by Miss Phoebe, who's been volunteering at the center for 60 years. Then, it's playtime or homework time or Kids for Christ club or a special class, like karate or drama.
Chet Cantrell has served as the center's director for 23 years. In his small office, he recounted to the Illinois Baptist (IB) the CAC's approach and its place in East St. Louis, during the calm before the storm set to arrive at 3:30, when school buses begin to rumble down the street.
IB: How do you describe the CAC to people who aren't familiar with it?
Cantrell: We try to reach kids in a holistic way, because kids basically need what kids need. And so we try to give them stuff for their bodies and their minds and their souls, and raise them all at the same time, and help them with their emotions, and deal with trauma, and deal with success and deal with failures, and just help them engage life in a healthy way.
Knowing that a life best lived is one connected to their Creator, and so introducing kids to a God that loves them, and has a plan for their life, and helping them to see that, and have pieces of the plan right here.
IB: You talk about success and failure, and trauma and good things. At this point, do you run into more successes than failures?
Cantrell: As the years have passed, there are many more successes that outweigh the tragic, I guess. And so even though the tragic is a part of our warp and woof, now there are many more success stories than not.
IB: What do you attribute that to?
Cantrell: Um…time. And growth. I mean, we've been here long enough, we get to raise kids. And, so, change their world, and it's time with kids that impacts their lives. And so I try to put people in front of kids that give time, but are also very intentional about the kinds of time they give, the kind of messages that we send.
Kids are wired to hear what adults tell them, so it's very important that as adults we choose what we want kids to know, and how we say it, and we say it over and over again.
IB: What are some of the main points of that message?
Cantrell: Well, there are many, there are lots of categories of messages. But, you know, kids want to know two things when they come into the world: They want to be loved and cared for. And the other is who's in charge (laughing). And so that's kind of our umbrella.
Kids want to be loved and cared for, that means kids want to be seen. In almost every African dialect, the word we translate as love literally means "I see you with my eyes." And who does not want to be seen?
And so that's what my staff is charged with: seeing kids. That means knowing their names, knowing what they like for lunch, you know, just knowing kids, seeing them and welcoming them. And so the staff, its message to kids overall is that you are loved, you are loved by God, there's a purpose for your life, just over, over again.
IB: Education is a big part of the CAC's mission. How are you and your staff teaching kids the value of school?
Cantrell: Educationally, our mantra is "12 plus two," because a high school degree is no longer good enough. So it's 12 years plus two of something else toward a degree program of some sort to be marketable.
And you say that to kids, and then you live it out by having expectations about their performance in school, and then giving them the opportunities, too, to achieve and excel. And to be at places that take them farther than high school. We start getting kids on college campuses in sixth grade, and twice by eighth grade, and they need to be in a lunchroom having eaten lunch and gone a class by tenth grade…
We have a pretty intentional plan, and we tell kids this stuff, this is what we want you to do, and this is why. And kids buy it, kids buy what adults sell, if adults sell something.
IB: How do you compete? Because someone is selling something else outside of here, so how do you deal with that?
Cantrell: Um…you just be better, be better. And kids know. You give kids something good, they respond. And we sell it strong. Kids can see what squares, and what works, what doesn't work.
IB: I know you've seen lives change here inside the CAC, but have you seen the city change, too?
Cantrell: I've seen lots of changes in the city, some for better, some for worse. Our city is a city that experiences life in a very visceral kind of way … The economy has an immediate impact here (snaps fingers). And when the job market's down, people suffer here like you would not believe, because we're just a city of surplus labor.
During the 90s when the job market was better, crime was better. But when the economy's bad, things get tough - get desperate. Right now, East St. Louis is the seven most dangerous miles on the planet.
Cantrell: Yeah, passed El Salvador and Afghanistan. So that's where we are. (Smiling) But you don't need to tell anybody that because they won't come see us.
Now having said that, a neighborhood of people not your color is one of the safest places you could be. There's very little crossover crime.
IB: Is that right?
Cantrell: Absolutely, 93 percent of all crime is internal … because if I don't like who I am, who I attack is somebody who looks like me. So you're in more danger at the shopping mall in Springfield than you are right here in this neighborhood. You could walk out there and everybody would say, 'Hey what are you doing here? You shouldn't be walking around this neighborhood by yourself…' They'd look out for you.
IB: So, for the kids that are here, what's the biggest threat outside of these walls?
Cantrell: Without a vision, people perish. And so you have to see something bigger than what you can see with your eyes, and believe in something outside yourself. And the danger is not being to do that because you're hurting, you're hungry, you're scared. That's the biggest danger, that you lose yourself to things children should not lose themselves to.
So our job is to minimize that, so kids can experience life and God and themselves in a different way.
Visit the Christian Activity Center's website, www.cacesl.org, for more about their ministry, and how to get involved.
OU quarterback gets a hand in ministry
By Dana Williamson/Baptist Messenger
NORMAN, Okla. (Baptist Messenger) -- Landry Jones and Whitney Hand, who were married July 6 in Fort Worth, Texas, make a powerful sports couple. But more importantly, the University of Oklahoma quarterback and a guard for the OU women's basketball team, want to be a strong testimony for what the Lord is doing in their lives.
"We want to serve the Lord together," said Hand. "We think we are stronger together than we are apart. We believe in what each other does and stands for."
Jones and Hand both come from strong Christian families. Jones grew up and was baptized at First Church in Artesia, N.M., where he was a three-year starter at quarterback, amassing 12,379 yards and 93 touchdowns—and was named New Mexico player of the year.
Rick Sullivan, pastor of Artesia, First, said Jones and his family were very active in the church, always there on Sundays and Wednesdays.
"Football was the driving force for Landry, but he was a kid who was always in the right place doing the right things," Sullivan said. "He returned to speak in our church after the season a couple of years ago, preaching on Sunday morning."
Sullivan said it was obvious to him that Jones loves preaching.
"He definitely has a call," observed Sullivan. "I don't know if he's defined that call yet. God has given him football skills, and I'm sure he wants to take that as far as possible, realizing it gives him a platform to be God's person wherever he is."
Hand, who also grew up in a Baptist church in the Fort Worth area, was saved when she was 7.
"I went to a Christian school my whole life, and transferred to Liberty Christian School my junior year in high school," said Hand. "That's when I really began to serve the Lord."
Jones said while he grew up in a Christian family with great parents in a relatively small town, like many teenagers, he had a sense of invincibility.
"While there were certain things I was doing that I realized were maybe leading me astray, I really didn't truly feel a void in my live until I arrived at the University of Oklahoma," Jones said.
He graduated from high school early so he could enroll early at OU in 2008.
"In high school, I was surrounded by a pretty close-knit community," he acknowledged. "When I arrived at OU, it was a lonely experience. There aren't a lot of students who arrive at the semester break, so I really felt lonely for the first time in my life. I eventually came to the conclusion that there was only one true thing that could help me feel fulfilled, and that was my faith."
Jones commented on the video "I Am Second" that his identity was wrapped up in football, and when he came to OU and didn't play immediately, he became depressed until God spoke to him and he realized he wasn't Landry Jones, the quarterback, but he was Landry Jones, a son of God.
Hand may have had a "hand" in that realization as the two became friends early in their college careers.
"Landry and I met our freshman year," Hand revealed. "We were living in the same dorm (building), had the same friend group, were in the same circles, became really close and started dating a few months later."
Jones admits that meeting Hand and witnessing her faith and her great inner spirit further awakened him spiritually.
"In many respects, my life really became more fully enriched here at OU, and I have grown in so many aspects of my life," Jones said.
Chris Bennett, the couple's pastor at Antioch Community Church in Norman, confirms that Jones' identity is not in being the OU quarterback.
"His identity is absolutely identified as being a son of God," Bennett said. "That's what he lives for. Landry and Whitney are both very intentional at investing in their teammates. They have a lot of favor, not just because of their athleticism, but because of the consistency of their lives. They practice what they preach."
Bennett added that it has been fun to see the way God has used them individually on their teams, and now to see them come together so powerfully.
"And it's going to be even more powerful as Landry goes to the NFL," he commented.
Bennett said for the last three years, he and Jones have met weekly to go through the Word together and pray for his teammates.
"Landry also meets with several guys on a weekly basis to invest in them," Bennett revealed. "He's probably led eight to 10 of his teammates to the Lord in the last three years. And he tries to disciple them, sitting down and going through the Word with them and praying with them. He's very faithful to those kinds of things."
Bennett, who officiated at the couple's wedding, said Jones' dad, Kevin, told him that in all the years Landry has played football, he has never called him after a game and told him how many yards or how many touchdowns he threw for.
"He said, 'He'll tell me about a teammate he led to the Lord or what God is doing on that team,'" related Bennett.
Bennett noted that the couple's personalities are different.
"Landry is very laid back, and Whitney is much more vocal as a leader, but together, it is very powerful," he noted. "They are both leaders in their own ways."
Hand, Big 12 Freshman of the Year, averaging 9.2 points per game, went on a mission trip with the OU women's basketball team to Haiti her sophomore year. The next year, Jones and several members of the OU football team joined the group going to the earthquake devastated country.
"The mission trip was affirming," said Hand. "It affirmed what we were trying to do in our ministry together as a couple."
Jones, who is named after legendary Dallas Cowboy coach Tom Landry, has said he will be in the ministry someday, whether it's as a pastor or a chaplain.
His former youth director in Artesia, Chris Fields, now youth minister at Del City, First Southern, said Jones was involved in a new college ministry at First Southern when he first came to OU. His parents were also members of First Southern, but now attend Antioch Church with their son and his wife. Fields added, in talking with Jones, he believes he has been called to be a pastor.
Hand says she also feels she's been called into the ministry in some way.
"I'm not really sure what that looks like right now, but Landry and I are both very involved in our community and our church."
Jones, who has a chance to become OU's winningest quarterback, breaking numerous passing records, will almost certainly be drafted into the National Football League.
He said when he tried to make the decision on whether he would leave or stay for his senior season at OU, he went back and forth.
"After the bowl game (Insight Bowl, OU-31, Iowa, 14), I prayed about it and felt that the Lord wanted me to come back and play my senior year—just to be a senior and get to be with this team one more year and go after a national championship," Jones disclosed.
Hand, who said she always had a goal of playing college ball, indicated she is taking playing professionally as it comes.
"I wouldn't say that's my end goal, but I would do it if I get the opportunity," said the health and physical science major, who is currently working on her master's degree at OU.
"I'm probably going to continue going to school wherever Landry goes," she said. "Since we're not sure where that is going to be, it's not easy to say what I'm going to do, but right now, I would say it will be something along the lines of physical therapy."
"I know Landry loves the Lord and wants to do what God has called him to do," said Fields. "God is using him in the lives of those football players. He's more than just a quarterback, he's a spiritual leader of the team."
In a recent interview, Jones said whether he's a pastor or a chaplain, whatever God calls him to, he's going to do it.
"But right now," he said, "my job is as leader of the OU football team."
Jones added that he knows God has called him to make an impact in the NFL for a season of time.
"I have a heart to see players come into an authentic, personal relationship with Jesus and to make disciples of them," he said. "After football, I don't know exactly what it will look like, but I am excited to see God's plans unfold for me and Whitney in some form of ministry together."
Hand, who also will be playing her senior season this year, said she believes the platform God has given her and her new husband through sports is going to be huge.
"I don't know if that means a job per se in ministry," she said. "It may in the future, but right now I think it means giving God positive attention in our culture and entertainment society where it is not that prevalent. It is giving people examples of what loving God looks like and what that kind of lifestyle looks like."
Jones said his faith takes on more importance as he looks to the future.
"I can't imagine facing the challenges, opportunities and obstacles that I'll be confronted with without having the comfort and peace of the Lord and my loving wife Whitney at my side."
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