Things to Be Thankful For…A Record-Breaking Year at SBC Voices

We don’t publish our page-views, which is the easiest way to judge traffic on a blog, and I am not going to do so here. But we have had an amazing year at SBC Voices, judging by our page views.

Thank you for being a part of it.

Last year, 2017, was actually down a little. We were running the Pastors’ Conference and tended to ignore the blog and then after the conference, we were all kinda burned out. If it weren’t for William Thornton’s consistent contributions we’d have shrunk to nothing.

But this year we broke pretty much every traffic record our Jetpack stats track – except for the one-day record. Some of the controversies in the SBC played a huge role in that of course – no doubt about it. We just about doubled our monthly record in June. By late September or early October, we had already had our busiest year ever!

I am grateful for all the contributors and those who help to administrate and moderate the blog. We are still struggling with what to do about commenting, of course – we ignored and de-emphasized commenting for much of the year, even as our traffic grew.

There are some major changes that will be coming to SBC Voices in 2019, changes I hope will improve things, of course. We still hope to figure out a better system for moderating comments and facilitating discussion. We vacillate from doing away with comments completely to just letting them go with little moderation to having comments with strict moderation. We keep batting it around and never come up with a complete idea for what to do.

But thanks for reading what we write. We appreciate the privilege of being a part of this site and hope to continue to make it better.

Giving Thanks – Embracing the Cross

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, filled with family, food, and football, a uniquely American celebration of our prosperity and all that we have to be thankful for. And let’s face it, with all the problems that we often bemoan, we have a lot to be thankful for, don’t we? We live in a great nation. Regardless of our political foibles, this is still a great place to live. If you are tempted to criticize America harshly, travel. I love Senegal, but I am always glad to set foot back in the USA. I feel privileged to have spent time growing up in Taiwan, but it is not the land of my birth. Israel inspires me but I still love the red, white and blue. We have peace, prosperity, stability, and many amazing blessings to for which to give thanks.

But if all we give thanks for is our homeland and the things that money buys, we have missed the point of biblical thanksgiving. There has to be something more, something greater. God owes us none of these things. Job had all the blessings of life taken away because of a cosmic battle and was put to the test. Would he still love God when all the things God gave him were gone? Even in his pain, he said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Israel saw its homeland destroyed but the prophets told the people to continue to turn to God for solace and to give thanks.

There are people who seem to tap into something more – they give thanks when life falls apart, when circumstances are bad.

In early 1980 a doctor told my dad he had 3 months to live. Dad had been preaching about giving thanks in everything and the doctor had been at an associational meeting where he had delivered that message. He looked at dad and said, “You have been telling people to thank God for everything in their lives. God is giving you a chance to practice what you preach.” Dad had a long drive home that day and pulled over to the side of the road there in West Palm Beach and gave thanks to the sovereign God of heaven for everything, even this terrible news that he did not want to hear, didn’t understand, and was devastated to consider. He declared his faith in God’s plan for his life and his thanksgiving for a God whom he could trust no matter what.

Had he lost his mind? He was a 51-year-old pastor who had been told he had 3 months to live and he was thanking God? We’ve developed workarounds for the scriptures that command us to give thanks in everything and for everything and we don’t practice this. Dad did. He cast himself fully into the plan of a merciful and loving God and said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord” even when the will of God did not seem to be anything he wanted to hear.

Let me tell you, briefly, the rest of the story. Dad returned a week later to this renowned doctor for a follow-up exam and the doctor came out shaking his head. “Lew, last week you had terminal cancer and this week I can’t find a trace of it.” I guess we won’t know until heaven what really happened – whether God healed dad miraculously or whether the doctor made a mistake that God used to test my dad. But he practiced his sermon and gave thanks when things were not what he wanted. He gave thanks in everything! On his next birthday, he will turn 90. Three months has become nearly 40 years.

Is it possible that there is more to life than we’ve often practiced? Should we give thanks for our homes and our prosperity and our physical blessings? Daily! But true thanksgiving goes far beyond our circumstances. Christians are not reactive – we do not react to our life’s circumstances. We are not even “proactive” – determining our own way based on our decisions and feelings. We are Christ-active. We live based on what Christ has done for us. We love because he first loved us. We rejoice because of the joy of Christ within. We are at peace because of the Prince of Peace who is our Lord.

Let’s admit the truth. Christianity be crazy! We do not live by the world’s logic. The world tells us that you should be happy about good things, sad about our troubles, and angry about injustice. Jesus told us to love our enemies, to rejoice when we are mistreated, to have peace in the midst of the storm, and to live above our circumstances. The world views that as nuts. We have been called to be crazy! (Some of us have a head start, don’t we?)

There is one thing that changes the dynamic of life and makes all of this possible _ the Cross of Jesus Christ. How crazy is the cross? It was brutal torture designed to inflict the maximum amount of pain and shame over the longest period of time. Only the worst of the worst faced the cross. And we celebrate it!

The suffering of Jesus was the most horrible moment in human history as men put their hands on the Son of God, as they beat him, spit on him, ridiculed him, and finally nailed him to the tree. It was the low point of human history and yet Paul says something strange in Galatians 6:14.

But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world.

We boast in the cross – it is our glory. What a shocking statement.  Why would this awful moment be the treasured moment of anyone’s life?

There are many reasons to boast in the cross. I could turn this into a typical 2500 word post, or even go to 3000 or 4000 words, just listing the things that Jesus did for us at the cross. But this Thanksgiving season, we need to remember that God’s love for us was once and for all settled at the cross. Whatever happens in this world, whatever the circumstances of life are, the ultimate reality of my life and yours is the cross of Christ. The cross of Christ shapes me when things are good and it is still my guiding truth when the world is falling apart.

When my dad was told he had only 3 months to live, he could give thanks because he could say, “My sin, o the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, oh my soul.” The reality of the cross doesn’t change when you are healthy or when you are dying. Jesus’ death and resurrection is just as real when business is good and when it bad. The cross is just as powerful when everything is falling apart as it is when everything is going great, when people are treating you well as when everyone is abusing you. When your life is centered on the cross, when you are “Christ-active,” you are not enslaved to your circumstances.

So, yes, this week, you should give thanks for every good thing that you have in life. But you should also give thanks for everything, knowing that Jesus Christ is at work in whatever circumstances are happening in your life to produce his glory and your ultimate spiritual good. You can give thanks because nothing in this world, even death, can touch the love of God that is yours in Jesus Christ.

Can anyone shout glory?

There was a scene in the Passion of the Christ that moved me deeply. On the road to Golgotha, Jesus was near the end of his strength and began to crumble under the weight of the cross. He tripped and fell, in agony. What happened next is not a biblical truth but it is symbolic of everything Christ did. He crawled over to the cross and he embraced it. Jesus embraced the instrument of torture that would end his life. He embraced the cross! That is precisely what Jesus did. He embraced the horror of the cross to redeem sinful humanity. He hugged the cross.

And that is what we should do this Thanksgiving week. Embrace the cross! It is our hope in dark times, in times of suffering and sorrow, in good times and bad, in prosperity and want, in happy days and hard times. We can hug the cross of Christ and never again be enslaved to the circumstances of life.

Embrace the cross and give thanks!

Holiday Rules at SBC Voices

I have family in and am in the countdown to my third (and hopefully last) surgery of the year – next Monday morning.

It’s Thanksgiving and I hope you have better things to do this week than blog!

If the mood hits I might write something. If any of our writers get inspired and want to write, or if something huge happens, post ’em when they are ready. Give about 5 hours to a post before you post – more if you can. If there is breaking news…that takes precedence.

I don’t plan to be moderating comments unless some of you Reformed guys get into the alcohol and go wild.

Things have calmed down around here after a record-breaking year. Enjoy your Thanksgiving.

I talked to a doctor last week who let me know that my surgery next week (cleaning up from previous surgeries) is going to be more extensive than I had previously thought. I will likely be on the disabled list the rest of the year – or at least under the effect of strong narcotics. My family says I’m a lot of fun on narcotics. Maybe it will improve my blogging.

 

IMB Trustees Elect Paul Chitwood President by Unanimous Vote

It is not surprising that IMB trustees elected Dr. Paul Chitwood as their next President yesterday. It is somewhat remarkable, I think, that he was elected unanimously. Every single trustee at the IMB supported his election. I looked back at previous articles announcing the election of David Platt from 2014 and they did not mention a unanimous vote. I assume they would if the vote was unanimous (I have been informed by an authoritative source that Platt had ONE no vote). I do not know of a search committee recommendation failing but I do know of some that engendered significant resistance among trustees.

That the IMB trustees are united behind Dr. Paul Chitwood is a good sign from the start.

Here is a link to Dr. Chitwood’s statement after his election. He makes five significant statements about his philosophy of ministry as IMB president.

Another link to the IMB article about the election.

Addressing Field Experience

He has addressed one of my chief concerns already (a concern shared by many, of course), that he did not have field experience as a missionary. He’s been on many short-term missions trips but never served. He’s been on the IMB board, of course, and served as chair, but that is not the same as serving as a full-time missionary. He has stated that it is his intention to hire an Executive Vice-President who is an experienced field missionary to assist with that side of things. The word that was circulating before Dr. Chitwood’s announcement was that such a man had already been chosen and would be announced at the same time as Dr. Chitwood’s name was announced, but that did not prove to be the case. But we assume the announcement of the EVP will be forthcoming soon.

Perhaps the president, an able administrator and a committed Southern Baptist statesman, working in close partnership with a career missionary who understands life in the trenches, will be the best of both worlds. Our hope and prayer is that our missionaries, many of whom felt their needs were neglected and ignored in the past, will feel that the IMB is, as Dr. Chitwood put it, “washing their feet,” and serving them as they serve the Kingdom of God.

The IMB Policy Controversy

My second concern has not been addressed to the best of my knowledge. Dr. Chitwood was on the board and involved in the crafting of the policies that were so divisive in the SBC during the late 2000s. They were policies that were seen as an attack on the sitting IMB president and went beyond the BF&M in setting up doctrinal parameters for our missionaries. Candidates from fully cooperating Southern Baptist church who adhered fully to the Baptist Faith & Message would be excluded from candidacy because of these policies.

It led to an ugly time in the SBC, blog wars where there were few heroes and a lot of sin committed. I was ashamed of the behavior of the side I supported as much as the behavior of the side I opposed! I have no desire to reopen those wounds or refight the Battle of Baptist Identity. Actually, some of the guys I used to wage warfare with back then are close friends of mine now. I do not think that being on “my side” made you a good guy or being on “their side” made you a villain. There was plenty of sin on both sides.

But I have a few questions I hope will be answered by Dr. Chitwood at some point. He may have hinted at an answer in his open letter yesterday when he said, “I will enthusiastically support and implement the policies adopted by this board and will count on the support of the board.” David Platt got the policies reversed during his term and perhaps Dr. Chitwood was signaling that he was willing to abide by the new policy and not attempt to reinstitute the policies of days gone by. His first point was that he would not seek to bring a new vision and his second was that he would work under the authority of and in partnership with the board. These are hopeful signs. I would like more specific answers to these questions.

Dr Chitwood: are you planning to continue the board’s policies on PPL that Dr. Platt established that reversed the policies established when you were on the board, or will you seek to reinstitute the more restrictive policies? 

Dr. Chitwood: are you content with the Baptist Faith & Message as the doctrinal confession for IMB missionaries or will you establish policies and selection procedures based on doctrinal parameters that go beyond our common confession? 

Dr. Chitwood is entitled to his beliefs on Private Prayer Language and on tertiary issues related to baptism and in churches he pastors or is a member of to advocate for policies that are in line with those beliefs. But I would like to know what he plans to do in terms of these policies. A simple statement from him that he intends to work with the policies that exist is all I need.

Let me make my view clear. If Dr. Chitwood seeks to reinstitute the policies (I do not think he will, but this is hypothetical), I will speak against it strongly. I will attempt to express my opinions better than I did the last time and avoid some of the strife that arose. But I will speak. I will continue to support the IMB and Dr. Chitwood regardless of any disagreement that might arise on a matter such as that, will continue to work in Africa (as my health allows), will continue to support Lottie Moon and CP. I will fight the policies but my support of cooperative missions will not change.

I would just like to know what his views are.

Endorsing Dr. Chitwood

When Dr. Chitwood’s name began to circulate as the primary candidate at IMB about 6 weeks ago, many of us were a little baffled. Perhaps we’d considered him a frontrunner for one of the other open jobs, but the IMB search team picking him was a total shock. I have never met him but many of my friends have and I’ve received testimonials from several sources. Throughout the years I’ve heard nothing but great things about his work at the Kentucky Baptist Convention and I heard from pastors in Kentucky that he is the best executive they’ve ever had in any state convention.

My initial tepidity has turned to optimism about Dr. Paul Chitwood at the IMB, especially as he partners with an experienced missionary as Executive VP.

  • He is a Southern Baptist statesman – a no-doubt SBC Cooperative Program-supporting leader.
  • He is an able administrator.
  • This is personal, but I’ve asked several people privately if he’s a Calvinist and no one seems to know. To me, that is high praise. He’s not a Reformed soldier nor an anti-Calvinist crusader. To me, that is a plus.
  • He realized that his lack of field experience is an issue and is hiring an EVP to assist him. That demonstrates a lack of hubris that will be helpful.
  • He seems to care genuinely and appreciate the work of missionaries.

I said this often privately, that the IMB needs to hit a home run with this hire. I am cautiously optimistic that they have done so. Time will tell. For what it is worth, Dr. Paul Chitwood has my support.

Congratulations.