Today's BP Ledger contains items from:
U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom
Baptist New Mexican
Florida Baptist Witness
President Obama announces intent to appoint James J. Zogby to USCIRF
WASHINGTON, D.C. (U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom) -- President Barack Obama on August 30, 2013 announced his intent to appoint James J. Zogby to the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
"USCIRF warmly welcomes Dr. Zogby as our newest incoming Commissioner. My fellow Commissioners and I eagerly await Dr. Zogby adding his voice to ours in support of humanity's first freedom," USCIRF Chairman Robert P. George said. "Given his knowledge, experience and commitment, I am confident that he will make significant contributions to our work on behalf of the cherished right of freedom of religion or belief and its fuller integration into U.S. foreign policy."
Zogby is President of the Arab American Institute, which he founded in 1985. He is also Managing Director of Zogby Research Services, and a Visiting Professor of Social Research and Public Polling at New York University in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. In 1982, he co-founded Save Lebanon, Inc., a non-profit relief organization which funds social welfare projects in Lebanon. Earlier in his career, Zogby co-founded the Palestine Human Rights Campaign and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. He is the current Chairman of the Editorial Advisory Committee for SkyNewsArabia News. He has hosted various television programs, including A Capital View on MBC from 1993 to 2001, and Viewpoint with James Zogby on Abu Dhabi Television from 2001 to 2011. His column, "Washington Watch," is currently published in 14 Arab and South Asian countries. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Zogby received a B.A. from Le Moyne College and a Ph.D. in Comparative Religions from Temple University.
Comprised of nine members, USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission that monitors the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad and makes policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and House of Representatives.
A Message to New Mexico's Christians
By Russell D. Moore
NASHVILLE (Baptist New Mexican) -- After counties in New Mexico began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in late August, the Baptist New Mexican asked the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Russell D. Moore, if there was anything he would like to say to New Mexico Baptists. Below is his response.
New Mexico is in the center of the cultural tumult over marriage these days. The New Mexico court decision penalizing a Christian photographer with conscience objections to shooting a same-sex union was followed quickly by news that some localities in the state were issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite the fact that New Mexico hasn't approved same-sex marriage. How should churches in New Mexico think about these developments?
First of all, recognize that you are on the front wave of changes that will soon confront all states and localities. The redefinition of marriage is coming to every place, and those who think there is a "safe" Bible Belt cocoon to hide from such changes are simply wrong. Congregations around the nation will be watching New Mexico to see how you navigate these changes.
My primary counsel to you would be to remember the words of the Apostle Paul to the church at Rome: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21 NIV). Both aspects of this biblical mandate are key.
The Bible tells us not to be "overcome by evil." There are some Christians who simply wish to avoid questions of justice, especially when those questions are controversial. Think of how many churches, shamefully, failed to address previous matters of family dissolution, such as the divorce culture. As citizens, you are to speak to those things best suited for human flourishing, and the recognition of marriage is one of those important things.
Even more important than our very real responsibilities in the public square are our responsibilities in our churches as embassies of the kingdom of Christ. Let's make sure that we are not just assuming that the people around us, or in our pews, understand marriage. Let's teach why marriage is important, because it is the icon of the union between Christ and his church (Ephesians 5), and let's do so not starting at premarital counseling but starting in children's Sunday school as we teach our boys and girls what it means to be husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, and what it means to live chaste lives for those who are called to singleness.
But the Bible also tells us not to overcome evil with evil. When we feel as though we are under cultural assault, we're sometimes tempted to fight like the devil to please the Lord. We are tempted to match outrage with outrage, insult with insult. But we have no reason to be frantic or panicked. Jesus is alive, and even the gates of hell won't prevail over his church—much less a Supreme Court or some county clerks.
Let's speak the truth -- including what Jesus has told us about a Christian sexual ethic. But let's remember that the Son of God did not come into the world to condemn the world but to save it (John 3). Even as we speak of the righteousness of God in marriage and sexuality, let's always remember to offer mercy and forgiveness to those who repent and believe. Let's keep gospel reconciliation, not personal vindication, as our primary goal. Let's speak to our neighbors who disagree with us, not as enemies but as fellow sinners who just might, by the grace of God, soon be our brothers and sisters in Christ.
New Mexico's Christians, it seems, will be pioneers of what it means to bear Christian witness in post-Christian America. In that sense, you are finding yourselves where most Christians throughout the history of the church have found themselves, and where the rest of the American church will soon be. As you move forward, do not be afraid. Speak with conviction. Speak with kindness. Don't be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Sen. Rand Paul visits Campbellsville Univ.
By Joan C. McKinney
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. (Campbellsville University) -- U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) visited Campbellsville University Aug. 28 and spoke with various ministers and CU students in a dialogue in the Chowning Executive Dining Room.
About 65 persons attended the discussion during which media asked questions about employment, health insurance, education, immigration, Syria and the possibility of Paul running for president.
Paul said he believes Congress should have to review and approve any military action against Syria rather than the president making the decision on his own.
Paul said he is contemplating running for president by having discussions with his family. He said higher education is costing more and pay is not rising. He said "we need to leave more money in Kentucky" and "jobs need to be filled."
He said immigration reform needs to be done, and health insurance needs to be studied.
The dialogue featured a welcome from Michael V. Carter, president of the university, and; an invocation by Mike O'Neal, senior pastor at Campbellsville Baptist Church.
John Chowning, vice president for church and external relations and executive assistant to the president, also gave comments and served as moderator of the dialogue.
Taylor County Ministerial Association officers spoke including Michael Caldwell, pastor of Pleasant Union Baptist Church, president of the association; James Washington, pastor of New Zion Baptist Church, secretary of the association; and Michael Goodwin, pastor of Salem Baptist Church, vice president. John Hurtgen, dean of the School of Theology, also spoke to the audience.
HSU announces largest gift in university history
ABILENE, Texas (Hardin-Simmons University) -- More than 1,500 people jumped to their feet with a standing ovation during Hardin-Simmons University's convocation ceremonies in Behrens Auditorium.
"This is the largest gift commitment in HSU history," Lanny Hall, president of Hardin-Simmons University, told students, faculty and staff, alumni and community leaders.
Standing on stage in the midst of the excitement was Will Wilkins. He and his wife Janice are the donors of the historic $16 million gift and the family leading the charge in the largest fundraising campaign in the university's history.
The official opening of the 2013-2014 school year began with the announcement of the aptly-named fundraising campaign, TRANSFORMATION 2020, which seeks to realize gifts of $60 million to complete the first phase of a master plan that will dramatically alter the face of the Hardin-Simmons University campus.
"We hope within the next three years - by HSU's 125th birthday - we will raise an unprecedented amount of money to meet our needs for the future," said Hall.
Will Wilkins, a 1961 graduate and member of the HSU Board of Trustees, is the chairman of the TRANSFORMATION 2020 capital campaign as well as the patriarch of the family providing the leveraging gift.
The announcement featured a video of the master plan that laid out a series of new buildings, renovations, and additions to the present campus, with a focus on the two most immediate additions, a wellness center and a spacious education building, both to be constructed on the west end of the central campus.
"In recognition of the magnificent generosity of Will and Janice Wilkins, the wellness center will be known as the Wilkins Wellness Center," Hall said. He drew a round of laughter when he immediately quipped, "I predict that the students will quickly name it the WWC!"
Hall explained that the Wilkins's second naming gift, which will house a portion of the Irvin School of Education, will be called the Christopher Education Building, the last name of Janice Wilkins' grandparents, and honoring the role the Christopher family has played in public education.
"Because of their commitment of resources, we will be able to move forward on the detailed architectural planning on both projects and proceed toward groundbreaking and the beginning of construction in 2014," Hall advised.
Hall said gift commitments to TRANSFORMATION 2020 have already reached $27,950,443, which is 46.6 percent of the campaign's first phase goal.
Restoration after devastation: Former pastor says there is healing in God's arms
By Mark Heath
ORLANDO (Florida Baptist Witness) -- Mark Matheson, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Windermere, Fla., survived ministry burnout, separation from his wife, and finally her death before he finally practiced what he had been preaching for so long.
David Uth, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, introduced Matheson who shared his story of restoration during worship Aug 11.
"How many of you have come in and your life looks just like this?" Uth said, holding up a piece of broken glass. "You've come to a great place on a great day, to hear hope and restoration, and the testimony of Mark Matheson."
Uth, who has been a friend to Matheson through much of the devastation in his life, shared a conversation they had several years ago.
"Dude, I burned out," Uth recalled Matheson telling him. "I crashed. I hit the wall."
The senior pastor painted a picture of a fellow pastor who had left the ministry to start his own company, slowly rebuilding his life.
And just when his professional and personal life was on an upswing—and he could finally start to focus on the future—he was blindsided by the unconscionable.
He and his wife Carla were involved in a jarring, head-on collision in July 2012. Matheson, who was driving, was badly injured. Carla died in her husband's arms.
"The last memory I have of her is holding her in my arms, praying, 'God no, not this.' Matheson told those gathered to hear his story.
LIVING THE MESSAGE
Preaching from Numbers 13, Matheson said Caleb exhibited the characteristics of courage, humility and faithfulness—those traits he believes are required for creating a solid legacy.
The passage took on a special meaning for Matheson, who said he had never before fully realized how much would be required of him.
"I've preached this stuff for 25 years," Matheson said, "now it's time for me to live it."
Matheson looked to Caleb, who the Bible records as being a faithful preacher, even at 85 years of age, as an example of how to pass on a good legacy.
"Caleb showed courage, responded in humility, and recognized God's choice of Joshua as the leader," Matheson went on, "God wants us to be faithful. Caleb was."
Matheson borrowed some of Caleb's courage when in a courtroom one day he finally came face to face with the 17-year-old who was traveling 60 MPH in a 30 MPH speed zone when he caused the accident.
"He came up to me and said, 'Mr. Matheson, I'm so sorry. Would you please forgive me?"
On the way home, Matheson said he called his father-in-law. "We've got to forgive this kid. That's what Carla would have done," he recalled telling him.
Speaking of Jesus on the cross, Matheson said, "We're Christians. Our flesh is on Calvary. What kind of legacy are you leaving this morning?"
LEAVING A LEGACY
Holding up a blue baton, Matheson said leaving a good legacy is much like passing a baton during a sporting event.
Recalling that during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China the U.S. men's and women's 400-meter relay teams were favored, Matheson said "neither one of them made it. Both teams dropped the baton."
Matheson pastored churches for 25 years before he experienced a burnout in ministry. Since then he has served as a consultant to corporate executives.
"Start living today, not tomorrow." Matheson said. "How we live every day is going to determine the kind of legacy that we are going to leave."
In Uth's introduction, he shared another difficult conversation he had with Matheson more recently on a special cruise in the middle of the Mediterranean, retracing the journey of the Apostle Paul.
"I'm almost back," Uth recalled Matheson telling him.
"Man I pray you get back, because you have a message to share," Uth said he told Matheson.
"Brokenness in your life doesn't have to be the last chapter," Uth said. "God wants to change the end of the book."
In the years before the couples separation and their subsequent reconciliation, Matheson said he had been dealing with more than just burnout, however.
"I found out I had a chemical imbalance that I didn't know about," Matheson said. "It caused me to respond to some stress. I just didn't handle it that well."
At that point Carla moved back to North Carolina to live with her parents, Matheson said. Her mother was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Matheson and his wife had been separated for nearly two years before she died. Still, they never ended their marriage.
The couple reconciled just six weeks prior to Carla's death.
In May 2012, Carla's mother died of complications related to Alzheimer's. Then Carla went home to her husband. "It was so good to have her back," he said.
Forgiveness flowed as his wife pardoned him for his indiscretions, he said.
"God was healing us," Matheson said. "We were so excited about the future that God had given us."
Then just the day after they discussed how they would spend the rest of their lives together, Carla was gone.
"We only had six weeks, but because of that decision we made, it's going to impact our kids and grandkids," Matheson said.
GOD BRINGS RESTORATION
Drawing on the same illustration Uth began with, Matheson said it takes time to heal, but that God is faithful.
"I was that broken piece of glass." Matheson said, referring to Uth's illustration. "Pastor David asked about a word for the year; my word was restoration.
"It just takes a little courage to ask for a little help, and in humility to receive the help," Matheson continued. "And then the faithfulness to start walking with God every day ... he time to start is today, not tomorrow."
Florida Baptist Witness managing editor Joni B. Hannigan contributed to this story.
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