Month: December 2009

Prayer ministry adopts deployed Fort Hood soldiers

KILLEEN?Many churches support American troops fighting overseas, but Skyline Baptist Church in Killeen is putting feet to their support through an innovative prayer ministry that is changing lives and hearts.

The church, located near Fort Hood, participates in an interdenominational prayer ministry called Pray FAST?an acronym for Pray For A Soldier Team. The program recruits local congregations to pray for soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan then assigns each willing “prayer warrior” three soldiers for whom to pray by name during their tour.

All soldiers deployed from Fort Hood are asked before heading overseas whether they would like someone to pray for them by name. Those who request prayer fill out cards with their personal information and prayer requests, and the information is passed along to their prayer warriors.

“Our church has a big heart for the military because we are very close to Fort Hood,” Skyline pastor Kenny Rawls said. “In fact, I would say that just by guesstimate, one-third of our active membership are active duty at Fort Hood. So we have a tremendous number of spouses who attend our church whose husbands are away fighting in Iraq or in Afghanistan.”

Such an intimate connection with the Army led naturally to fervent prayer for the troops.

“I feel very helpless as a civilian,” Rawls said. “We’re at war. What can we do? This is just one way that we as American citizens can get involved with this war.”

Many Skyline members know firsthand the benefits of prayer because fellow believers interceded for them when they were deployed overseas. One is Sgt. 1st Class Wally Northam.

He served three tours in Iraq and was on the prayer list at his mother’s church in Collinsville, Miss., each time. Church members would mail him cards expressing their prayer support, and Northam would look through them before he went on missions.

“You leave out of the gate everyday and you are constantly fearful,” he said. “You don’t want to put on a false front, but you can’t let your subordinates see that you’re scared or else they become scared and then nobody can actually perform when they have to. So what I found with these cards was that the more of them you read, the better you felt.

“So it kind of became an addicting feeling so that you weren’t just putting up a false front. You actually weren’t scared anymore, and your subordinates weren’t scared anymore. So they saw you confident and they were confident.”

When Northam’s fellow soldiers saw how prayer benefited him, they wanted people to pray for them too. The desire for prayer led to the platoon saying the Lord’s Prayer together before each mission.

In fact, a similar desire for prayer has spread throughout the military so that today, as many as 85 percent of all soldiers deployed from Fort Hood request a prayer partner.

“I would go so far as to say I don’t know if I would be alive if I didn’t [have people praying for me],” Northam said.

A RENEWED FAITH

<P style="MARGIN: 0in 0in

Being a pro-life church

Is your church pro-life? I mean really pro-life?

As a body, are you encouraging each other to not only think in a pro-life way but also act in a pro-life way? Undeniably, Christians have been the backbone of the pro-life movement since its inception. If more churches would harness their membership and organizational power on behalf of pro-life causes, however, perhaps the tide could be turned in America and we would once again live in a society that values every human life. Let’s think about some practical ways your church members can be pro-life:

Remember senior adults

“You are to rise in the presence of the elderly and honor the old (Leviticus 19:32).”

The aging Baby Boomer generation coupled with advances in health care have produced a growing senior population. Ministry to the senior adults in your area will be a blessing to all involved. Make an effort to connect the younger families in your church with senior adults. Encourage them to keep in touch, help with household tasks and errands, and share special days together.

Teach your children

“Impress these words of mine on your hearts and souls . . . teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19).

Explain to your children from an early age why human life is sacred. Impress upon them that humans are made in the image of God, who loves and has a purpose for every person. In age-appropriate ways, prepare them to defend the pro-life ethic.

Pray for a pro-life ministry

“In everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

The pro-life ministries in your area covet your prayers! Pregnancy care centers,

Baptist children’s homes, Christian nursing homes and adoption agencies are just a few of the pro-life ministries that depend on God’s grace and the prayers of his people. Most will joyfully provide you with a list of their prayer concerns.

Support a pregnancy care center

“Rescue those being taken off to death, and save those stumbling toward slaughter” (Proverbs 24:11).

Pregnancy care centers typically have a paid director and some paid staff, but they could not function without an army of volunteers. If your church members have skills such as nursing, sonography, counseling, fund raising, graphic design, etc., your local pregnancy care center probably needs their help.

Establish a mentoring organization

“Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me does not welcome me, but him who sent me” (Mark 9:37).

The National Fatherhood Initiative reported that in 2006, 23.3 percent of children lived in single-mother families. Many single parents are eager to ?nd Christian role models for their children. In the past, parents looked to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America; that organization now requires that every local af?liate accept homosexuals as mentors. You could establish a Christian mentoring organization within your congregation, being diligent to implement measures to protect the children from abuse.

Express your opinion

“You are the light of the world . . . let your light shine before men” (Matthew 5:14, 16).

Issues regarding the sanctity of human life are constantly being debated in the media and in local, state, and federal go

Given slim hope, burn victim beating odds

FORT WORTH–Dallas Wiens sat on an old wooden church pew in his grandparents’ living room in Fort Worth, Texas, legs crossed like a gentleman scholar, spewing forth wisdom typically earned in proportion to one’s gray hairs. One year ago, he’ll tell you, he didn’t see clearly. He does today. Never mind the blindness, injuries and proverbial mountain climbing. He wouldn’t take it back if he could.

“We find ourselves through trial, turmoil and pain,” Weins said with a stubborn resolve. “You don’t see God when you are handed a million dollars. You see God when you have lost everything.”

Through it all, his relationship with his dad was renewed, and with his Heavenly Father too.

These days, his 24-year-old face is draped in skin and muscles painstakingly transplanted from his calf, thigh and back in a surgery the scale of which had not been done before at Parkland Hospital in Dallas. Wiens is a work in progress, doctors say. Word is that his burns were the worst the world-renowned Parkland Burn Service had seen in 30 years.

Last Jan. 6, plastic surgeons took the first step in restoring Wiens’ devastated facial features–the result of his coming in contact with a high-voltage electrical wire. As he approached his third month in a medically induced coma, physicians from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas worked their precise craft for 17 hours, then 19 hours the next day, connecting skin grafts and muscle flaps under a microscope using thread the diameter of a human hair.

When it was over, the relocated muscles and skin were contoured around facial bones and skull, covering where Wiens’ eyes and nose once protruded. His hairline is pushed back for now. The goatee he now sports is slightly off-center, but osteo-integrated implants will fix some of those issues in future surgeries, surgeons said. His speech is remarkably clear considering his family was told early on he likely wouldn’t talk again.

“In that kind of surgery, the first 72 hours present a very touch-and-go situation,” said Stephen Matthew Becker, the plastic surgeon who along with Jeffrey Janis, Parkland’s chief of plastic surgery and director of UT Southwestern’s plastic surgery residency program, conducted Wiens’ operation. “Ten to 15 years ago, this would have been a lethal injury.”

“Dr. Janis really saw the challenge of this operation and had the foresight to say ‘you’re going to need to do this and this as well,'” Becker commented. “He didn’t back down from the challenge and has been very instrumental in coordinating a plan for Dallas’ continued care.”
Becker, now practicing in Knoxville, Tenn., after finishing his residency at UT Southwestern, said Wiens is a work in progress medically speaking, but his evident faith was the intangible that lifted him across barriers.

His former Sunday School teacher, Darla Mahan, said while sitting across from Wiens as he recounted his journey: “I wrote a letter to his parents after he left the sixth-grade class telling them that God had something special in store for Dallas. I had never written that about any of the children I had taught, and never did again. It was just obvious that God had his hands on Dallas.”
Wiens is sure of that much.

THE ACCIDENT
On Nov. 13, 2008, Wiens, his oldest brother and an uncle were finishing a painting job at his home church, Ridglea Baptist in Fort Worth, just a few blocks from the house he’d grown up in. As Wiens recalls it, one moment he was looking up at the church precipice “and not being happy that I had to repaint it” after heavy rains had washed his work away a few days earlier.
The next thing he remembers with any clarity, he lay in a bed at Parkland Hospital, immobile and unable to see or speak. It was early February.

“I don’t even remember getting in the lift that day at the church,” recalled Wiens, who grew up under the tutelage of his devout grandparents and the watchful eyes of Sunday School teachers such as Mahan, who watched him grow from 6-year-old to a headstrong young man who veered from his godly upbringing.

According to eyewitnesses, Wiens was in an aerial lift, positioning himself to finish his painting job when the lift began to move and it, or Wiens, or both, made contact with a high-voltage wire. No one knows for sure how it happened. Wiens was care-flighted to Parkland where doctors were in awe that his survived at all and convinced he wouldn’t survive longer.

Forty-eight hours later, doctors gave the family slim hope, his grandmother, Sue Peterson, said. Hours passed, then days and weeks.

Bracing for the worst, doctors told the family that Wiens would likely be paralyzed from the neck down, would never speak or produce adequate saliva to eat solid food.

His head covered in bandages from extensive surgery, Wiens recalled hearing a woman tell his family of his likely prognosis, “and I remember that I didn’t like it and wouldn’t believe it.”

“Everything they told my family I wouldn’t do, I am doing,” said Wiens, teeming with satisfaction in stunning his naysayers. He told a doctor during his stay at Parkland the same thing, and the doctor challenged him one further: “Bet you won’t do pushups.”

“I proved him wrong. I’m up to 15 pushups,” Wiens said.

“I was blessed that we live in Texas,” he remarked. “Everything’s bigger in Texas, even medical care.”

Becker, the plastic surgeon, said Parkland’s burn center has been a trailblazer; the worldwide standard in burn resuscitation is known as “The Parkland Formula.”

Wiens remarked, “The nurses at Parkland in the burn ICU and burn ACU, they hide their wings in their scrubs.”

DADDY’S HANDS
As Wiens recovered in the hospital, he asked to see his daughter, Scarlette, who was 2 at the time, but hospital staff were concerned how she might respond to her dad’s condition and appearance. Over several weeks, a child psychologist slowly exposed her to the hospital environment, gave her a nurses’ outfit, let her play near her dad’s room, and showed her photos of Wiens.

When the time came, the family and the child psychologist were uneasy. Scarlette walked into the room, seemingly ignored the bandages that covered Wiens’ face and pointed his mid-section where his hands were resting.

“Daddy’s hand!” she cried. “Daddy’s hands!”

Chocking back joyful tears, the child psychologist left the room to bawl, Peterson recounted. Scarlette never flinched.

On visits to see her daddy and her great-grandparents in Fort Worth, she will inevitably spy a photo of Wiens before the accident and respond, “That was before Daddy got his boo-boo,” Peterson said. “Is Daddy’s boo-boo getting better?”

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL
“When I woke up in the hospital, I sensed the presence of God,” Wiens said. “If you pray and you wonder if God is listening, I guarantee you that he is.”

As he puts it, losing one eye and not having use of the other for the time being, “God has really given me a gift of seeing things.” What he can’t see by sight, he can hear in the emotional nuances of another’s vocal inflection—something he would have missed before, he said.

His new way of seeing, Peterson said, results from a decade of her and Wiens’ grandfather, Del, and others from their church praying for their grandson to return to God from his season of rebellion and anger over severed relationships.

“The Word of God will not return void,” Peterson said, explaining why she played the Bible on audio nearly the entire time of Wiens’ hospitalization.

As phone calls to friends, family and members at Ridglea Baptist Church were made, prayer notes and encouragement came from as far away as Germany. A women’s group at an Episcopal church in Escondido, Calif., sent a prayer quilt they had stitched for Wiens, Peterson said. “We don’t even know anyone in Escondido, Calif.”

Peterson recalled the encouragement she received from a nurse one day as she was distressed over her grandson’s condition. As Scripture played in the background, the nurse remarked, “You just keep doing what you’re doing. God has his hands on this young man.”

“As a public health nurse, she’s encouraging me to hang in there and keep trusting the Lord,” said Peterson, restraining tears as she recalled it.

WALKING AGAIN
By June after leaving the hospital, Wiens decided he would make short use of his wheelchair. By July 10, it was collecting dust in a storage shed, he said.

He went back to church last summer as well, and spends many of his days absorbing Scripture on audio. He has listened to Proverbs, Revelation, all four Gospels, Acts, Romans. One of his favorite passages is Ezekiel 37:5-6: “Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

His pastor at Ridglea Baptist, Scott Cox, said that while he had limited conversations with Dallas before the accident, the “transformation of his heart was undeniable. In talking to Dallas just months subsequent to the injury, it was like talking to someone who had been walking with Lord for years. There was a real wisdom and depth to his experience with Christ, which was evident in our conversations. It was like he had a crash course in Jesus.”

Said Becker: “I think faith plays an important role in my taking care of him as well. Parkland is a very demanding program. You get a patient like Dallas and you realize maybe that’s why you’ve gone through the difficulty—so that you would be there, exactly where you were intended to be, as the right person to take care of that patient.

“Any challenge presented before him he will meet and exceed the expectations. That’s just a drive that comes from believing that God has bigger plans for him.”

A donor has left an upper and lower eyelid for Wiens’ remaining eye, to which doctors believe they can restore sight after a surgery to open the flap covering the eye. Wiens and the Petersons are praying the procedure will occur soon. Meanwhile, Wiens is busy inspiring his grandmother and others who cross his path.

Mahan, his childhood Sunday School teacher, told Wiens, “I came here last summer hoping to encourage you, and you were the one who lifted me up. Do you remember that?”

Wiens remarked: “If you can’t laugh at life, then there’s no reason to live. There’s a difference between living and surviving. Every breath I take, God is responsible for giving it and he deserves the praise and the glory.”

“After the accident,” Peterson said, “Del and I really prayed that God would allow him to live and would use this as a transformation point in his life. He really has. Every day is a new day with Dallas, and we are so grateful.”

Wiens doesn’t qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, so one of his goals is to raise money for his future surgeries, and for the surgeries of others like him.

“God is still unfolding everything in his time, and it will be OK,” Peterson said.

New Year, new beginnings

Happy New Year! I pray God’s best for you, your family and your ministry in 2010. There is just something about Jan. 1 that makes it a good starting point for a new beginning.

Jesus made that possible for the believer when He paid the sin debt at the cross. His blood cleanses us from past, present and even future sins. All of our sins were future (chronologically) when Jesus gave Himself for us. Provided in redemption is a new start every day (1 John 1:7, 9). We don’t have to wait for the calendar to change to another year to have a new beginning.

Salvation begins at a once-in-time experience. Every person comes to Christ through repentance and faith (Acts 20:21). Repentance seems to be a lost doctrine in Christianity today. Holy Spirit conviction must come before a person can receive Jesus as Savior. Yet, conviction of sin is not conversion. A person must turn from sin or conversion cannot take place. This is repentance. I fear an easy believe-ism has filled our churches with people who genuinely have never been converted. True repentance is a full surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Repentance and belief are as inseparable as the two sides of a coin. Belief is a complete trust in the finished work of Christ for a righteous standing before God. Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross and His literal, bodily resurrection are more than facts. These facts present the living Christ as the One you must trust as Savior.

My new beginning started in April 1970. This allows me to have a new beginning every day. While heaven is secure because of His keeping power, I show my salvation by obedience to the truth. Daily when I sin, I find forgiveness through the same blood that gave me my new beginning almost 40 years ago. The grace of God is given in an incalculable amount to those who are saved.

This year, 2010, don’t make a bunch of resolutions that will disappear by the end of January. First, be sure that you have a living relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Second, pursue holiness. Holiness is what God wants from His people. Personal holiness is not keeping a long list of do’s and don’ts. It is knowing the will of God and doing it. Daily submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Find God’s will and direction for each day, month and the year. You will have a Happy New!

Disregarding distinctives

I’ve never quite got over my amazement when brother Christians cross major doctrinal boundaries in their search for a church home. One example I read of recently was a group of Episcopal nuns (who knew?) who hopped back across the Reformation River to become Roman Catholics. I guess if you want to be a nun you don’t have all that many options. While I understand their frustration with the doctrinal shenanigans of Episcopalians, and I do acknowledge that the river is pretty narrow at Episcopal Town, it’s still startling to imagine either their slight regard for their former doctrinal beliefs or their ignorance of their new ones.

Southern Baptists certainly have their own examples of this syndrome. Crawford Toy, a Southern Seminary Old Testament professor, was fired from his position at Southern in 1879 because he’d adopted a Darwinian hermeneutic of the book of Genesis and a skeptical interpretation of Old Testament prophecy. Professor Toy, by all accounts a brilliant scholar, ended his career at Harvard University, and as a Unitarian. Surely he could not have taught at Southern without at least claiming some allegiance to the doctrinal beliefs of Southern Baptists. Losing his job at Southern would understandably move him from our denomination. How could it move him to a church that denies the deity of Christ unless his doctrinal beliefs were never compatible with Southern Baptists?

We’ve all seen more contemporary examples in the aftermath of Southern Baptists’ 20th-century reformation. Several who claimed, while employed by Southern Baptists, to be centrist in our denomination ended up being right at home in the most liberal denominations of our day. It is hard to understand how they can lead a church or ministry within the Southern Baptist Convention at one point, and cheerfully affirm a shockingly different doctrinal view only a short time later. Can we say, with 1 John 2:19, that they were never “of us” denominationally?

On a smaller scale, most of us have acquaintances who leave our churches to join pedobaptist churches or those that teach that a redeemed person can become apostate. Sometimes they come back to Southern Baptists unaware that they’d ever crossed a doctrinal line.

Of course there is a difference between those who carefully consider the decision they’re making before changing denominations and those who are unaware that they are making a significant change. For one thing, the careful thinkers are actually converting and are unlikely to return to their former beliefs.

Truly, I’m not upset with people who change denominations or religions. It is often a good thing, a clarifying thing, when people visibly identify with others who share their faith and practice. At other times it is a revelation of just how loosely some of our church members are connected to the rest of us. The fact that we have all seen this happen should lead us to consider how we assimilate members.

First, we must own our own identity. I am not terribly worried about churches that call themselves “Community Church” or “Happy Church” or whatever. But if Happy Church (it’s a real church; I’ve been there) is also a Southern Baptist church, how is that conveyed to members? I’ve been a member of one church that slowly backed out of being called “Baptist.” In that church, our Sunday School class was full of fine and mature believers who had no idea that our church was Southern Baptist. Our Baptist identity was invisible in the budget, never mentioned from the pulpit, and no part of our missionary efforts. Denominational identity can also be neglected in nearly the same way by First Baptist Church of Anywhere, and I’ve seen that happen. People know that FBCA is “Baptist” but often have no slight idea of what that means. Regardless of name, church leadership must identify with and explain their church’s affiliations if that identity is to be of any use.

Second, we must make disciples of our members. An evangelistic church that is not investing heavily in developing mature believers is not a Great Commission church. If we believe that being a Baptist church is actually our best effort to apply biblical teaching to how we do church and missions, it’s worth teaching our people those biblical precepts with as much fervor as we promote attendance, worship, giving, or any other thing. The Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life reports that 55 percent of Evangelicals either don’t know (15 percent) or say that Mormons are Christians (40 percent). This may indicate a lack of knowledge about Mormonism, but likely also hints at a poor understanding of what Christians believe.

Within Christianity there is a common thought that denominations divide rather than clarify. Sadly, this is true when denominations o

Evangelism Conference Feb. 15-17 in Arlington

ARLINGTON?The annual SBTC Empower Evangelism Conference Feb. 15-17 at the Arlington Convention Center will include a speaking and musical lineup that spans a wide age-range and geographical range.

This year’s theme is “Awakened by His Glory,” based on Exodus 33:18: “Then Moses said, ‘Now show me your glory.'”

This year’s preachers include:

TOM JOHNSTON

Johnston, associate professor of evangelism at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., as well as founding director of the Midwestern Evangelistic Teams (MET).

Born to missionary parents in France, he attended Wheaton College, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Southern Seminary. Following seminary Johnston went into teaching and pastoral ministry in Quebec, Manitoba, Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri, also teaching in the Netherlands and Russia.

As a result of the eight-year ministry of the MET teams, the group has worked with 51 local churches and recorded 478 decisions for Christ.

JUNIOR HILL

Hill began his ministry at age 19 and served as a pastor for 11 years in Alabama and Mississippi before entering vocational evangelism in 1967.

A native of Hartselle, Ala., he is a graduate of Samford University, Birmingham, Ala., and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans, La. He also holds doctorates from Liberty University and Covington Seminary.

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary honored him as Distinguished Alumnus Of The Year in 1995.

He has conducted over 1,500 revivals and numerous foreign crusades and is a frequent speaker at pastors’ meetings, evangelism conferences, seminaries and state conventions across the country.

JOSH SMITH

Smith became pastor of MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving in 2006, previously serving as the teaching pastor at The Summit Church in North Little Rock, Ark., where he preached about 23 Sunday mornings per year and developed church missions and evangelistic strategies.

A graduate of Liberty University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., Smith’s ministry has taken him from street ministry in New York City and Russia and two years as a missionary in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Serbia.

For a full lineup of speakers and musicians at the 2010 Empower Evangelism Conference, visit sbtexas.com/evangelism.

Austin board: County taxes will continue funding abortions

AUSTIN  Bucking the pleas of nearly 10,000 local petitioners, the Travis County Board of Central Health in Austin unanimously approved a renewal contract worth about $450,000 to fund abortions for poor women with county property taxes.

The special meeting of the board drew an overflow crowd of about 200 people who were “easily two-to-one in our favor,” said Jonathan Saenz, Austin-based legislative affairs director for the Free Market Foundation, who spoke against the funding for three abortion providers: Whole Woman’s Health of Austin, the Austin Women’s Health Center and Planned Parenthood.

Free Market Foundation was among a coalition of Austin pro-life groups that held a press conference on Dec. 10 urging the health board not to renew the funding.

“We think the outcome of the hearing last night is the height of bad government,” Saenz told the Southern Baptist TEXAN. “Essentially, Travis County Central Health bowed to the pressure of Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby and totally ignored the outcry of nearly 10,000 Travis County residents.”

Travis County is the only Texas county that funds abortions with public money. Texas law forbids state public money from paying for abortions, and the Hyde Amendment has provided similar protections at the federal level, with pro-life groups closely watching the federal healthcare bill to see if such protections survive.

“Going forward, what’s encouraging is that in less than two weeks we were able to get the petition circulated and gained the support of 10,000 residents, so imagine what could be done with more time. We are encouraging people to continue signing the petition. We’ll have a link to it at our website (freemarket.org). And we encourage people to educate their friends and neighbors on why this is a misuse of taxpayer money so we can stop this from happening in the future.”

The members of the Central Health board are appointed by the elected Travis County Commissioners, Saenz noted.

“This issue has opened the eyes of voters. You can expect that people will make their voices heard at the polls with their disapproval and disappointment of this vote,” Saenz said.

During the meeting, health board members admitted that in 2004 when the contracts were first approved with the clinics, they didn’t know the money would be used for abortions. “But having said that,” Saenz said, “they still felt like they had to continue the funding.”

According to the Austin American-Statesman, 621 women received abortions through the county funding last fiscal year at a cost of $251,180, or approximately $400 per abortion.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey conducted in November showed 61 percent of respondents disapproved of public funding of abortion for poor women, while 37 percent favored it.

Austin pro-lifers vie to stop county from funding abortion

AUSTIN, Texas ? A coalition of pro-life groups in the Austin area are hoping to sway a county health board from renewing an agreement to use local property taxes to fund abortions.

For four years, the Travis County Health District has transferred property tax revenues to fund abortions at two Austin women’s clinics. Tonight, the nine-member health board is scheduled to hear public testimony in a special meeting about whether or not it should renew a contract earmarking $450,000 for the two abortion clinics and possibly a third clinic run by Planned Parenthood.

“No taxpayer should be forced to subsidize someone’s abortion,” said Jonathan Saenz, Austin-based legislative affairs director for the Free Market Foundation. “With the economy struggling and people concerned about losing their homes, they are wondering why their tax dollars are being used to pay for a procedure that is not necessary.

“Travis County is completely out of step with sound fiscal policy as well as laws preventing federal and state taxes from being used for abortion. Travis County is the only county in the state of Texas that uses its tax dollars to fund abortion.”

Saenz cited a CNN poll last month that showed 61 percent of Americans are against using tax dollars for abortion while 37 percent favor it. Federal law prohibits federal tax dollars to directly fund abortions, though Planned Parenthood, for example, receives millions in taxpayer money for its other services.

Whole Woman’s Health and the Austin Women’s Health Center are the two clinics that have received previous county funding. Saenz said he understands Planned Parenthood has requested part of the proposed $450,000.

“Our early impression is there is support for this [on the health district board], but there has been a lot of questioning from the public. We’ll see what happens tonight. We are encouraging people to stand with us at the meeting even if they choose not to speak.”

A signup for public comment was to begin at 5 p.m. at the Ned Granger Building, 304 W. 11th Street in downtown Austin. The meeting was scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

Solomon’s kingdom existed, renowned archaeologist argues

FORT WORTH?Contesting the views of revisionist scholars, world-renowned archaeologist William G. Dever recently defended the existence of an Israelite state in Palestine during the 10th century B.C., the biblical era of Solomon’s reign.

Dever, who has been a leading figure in biblical archaeology for nearly half a century, was the guest speaker at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Biblical Archaeology Lecture, Nov. 3. The lecture was sponsored by the seminary’s Charles D. Tandy Archaeology Museum and Tandy Institute of Archaeology.

“Tonight, I want to talk about the age of Solomon, but before I do that, I want to set it up by telling you something about a school of European biblical scholarship,” Dever said. “These people call themselves revisionists because they are rewriting the history of ancient Israel, but when they finish, there is no history. They call themselves revisionists. I call them nihilists.”

According to Dever, these revisionist scholars deny that an Israelite united monarchy, like the biblical kingdom that flourished under Solomon, ever existed. Dever contested this claim, arguing that the archaeological evidence confirms the existence of a centralized Israelite state in 10th century Palestine.

According to a “wonderful, detailed description” in 1 Kings 9:15-17, the Egyptian Pharaoh attacked and destroyed the city of Gezer, Dever said. The Pharaoh then gave the city as a dowry to his daughter when she married Solomon. The passage then states that Solomon fortified or refortified four sites: Hazor, Megiddo, Gezer and Jerusalem.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had archaeological evidence from those sites for an early stage? Well, we do,” Dever said. “And what do you suppose the revisionists make of this evidence? They just ignore it, because it is inconvenient for their theories.”

Dever reported that excavations, especially at Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer, have uncovered “monumental architecture” that cannot be explained without reference to a centralized government. The architecture of each of these cities is adapted to topography for strategic, military advantage, but all the cities show the same structural patterns: for example, six-chambered gates, double or casemate fortification systems, similar palace structures and Phoenician masonry (According to 1 Kings, Solomon utilized Phoenician craftsmen in his building projects).

These architectural structures can be dated to the 10th century B.C., Dever said, with reference to stratigraphy, ceramic typology and ancient Egyptian chronology. This process is aided by the discovery of destruction levels, filled with rubble and showing evidence of fires “so fierce that it melted the limestone and it flowed down like lava.” According to Dever, the destruction can be attributed to the military invasions of the Egyptian Pharaoh Sheshonq, that is, the biblical Shishak (1 Kings 14 and 2 Chronicles 12).

“At one time, there stood a monumental Egyptian inscription at the site of Megiddo celebrating the destruction by Shishak,” Dever said. Shishak was the first Pharaoh in the 22nd Egyptian dynasty, and archaeological evidence shows that he raided Palestine in the late 10th century B.C. Amid the rubble of destruction levels, archaeologists have also discovered the hand-burnished pottery that was characteristic of the 10th century. According to Dever, this implies that the monumental architecture that Shishak and his army destroyed “must have been built a generation or so earlier, and that places us precisely in the middle of the reign of Solomon.”

“Of course, the revisionists argue that, ‘Well, you’ve never found anything from the 10th century, nothing monumental in Jerusalem.’ That’s true, because we never were able to excavate (in Jerusalem),” Dever said. Jerusalem was the fourth city that Solomon refortified, and it was the center of his kingdom. Despite the lack of access to the archaeological evidence that lies below modern Jerusalem, Dever argued that biblical descriptions of Solomon’s temple resemble other 10th century temples in the Middle East.

“All the descriptions in the Hebrew Bible,” Dever said, “make good sense in the light of what we know about ancient architecture.”

Revisionist scholars also contend that a centralized state could not have existed in 10th century Israel because literacy was not widespread, and the knowledge of reading and writing is necessary for the administration of a kingdom. Archaeological evidence like the Gezer calendar, however, has shown that even in rural areas young boys were learning to read during the 10th century and earlier, Dever said.

SWBTS’s Gezer project

Encouraging Southwestern to remain involved in biblical archaeology, Dever said that the seminary’s ongoing excavations at Tel Gezer would play an important role in affirming the existence of a united Israelite monarchy in 10th century Palestine. Southwestern Seminary has led excavations at Tel Gezer under the supervision of Steven Ortiz, professor of archaeology and biblical backgrounds, since 2006.

While Dever affirmed the importance of ministerial training, he encouraged students to study archaeology and urged Southwestern to train biblical archaeologists who can challenge the skeptics in the field. Biblical archaeology, especially in the United States, is in “disarray,” he said. Many academic programs are floundering, and some have been shut down or replaced by academic programs emphasizing modern Middle Eastern studies.

“I always say to my Israeli colleagues, ‘The archaeology of Israel is too important to be left to you alone. This is our Holy Land, too.’ So we h

Merry Christmas! More than a greeting

Merry Christmas! Yet, it is more than that. It is the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is the recognition that the infinite God came in the form of a human baby in Bethlehem’s manger. Yes, Merry Christmas is more than a simple greeting at a retail store counter.

This Christmas think about giving something to honor the One whose birthday we observe. You can make a check out to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for Southern Baptist Convention international missions. You can take the time to serve at a food bank or a homeless shelter. You can invite your neighbors over for a brief but meaningful reading of the Christmas story while enjoying refreshments (June and I did this for eight years where we live in Keller).


“Missional” is a familiar buzzword. Touching lives for Jesus is being missional. Anyone can say “Merry Christmas” but showing it in deeds reinforces our joyful greeting. “Merry Christmas” can be transformational for us and for others.


June, Nathan and I pray that you experience the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in your life, home and church this Christmas season. Merry Christmas!