BP Ledger, March 14 edition
EDITOR'S NOTE: BP Ledger carries items for reader information each Monday from various Southern Baptist-related entities, and news releases of interest from other sources. The items are published as received.
Today's BP Ledger includes items from:
Arkansas Baptist News
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
Louisiana Baptist Message
Franklin: Revival requires us to 'Get things right' with God
By Lisa Watson
SHERWOOD, Ark. (Arkansas Baptist News)--To experience revival and reach youth for Christ, John Franklin believes Christians need to "get things right" with God.
Franklin, author of several books on prayer, including "And the Place Was Shaken," spoke to a packed house during the 2011 State Conference on Evangelism and Church Growth at First Baptist Church in Sherwood, Ark.
Referencing the conference's "Reaching Generation Now" theme, Franklin said "we have come to … the point in our nation that we recognize we are losing our youth."
But God historically impacts youth between the ages of 15 and 24 when He restores a nation after rebellion because they are more receptive to Him, Franklin said.
Christians have "absolutely no hope" if they keep trying to reach youth using past methods, Franklin said. "We have got to … stop trying to manufacture more of the same and we've got to return and drill down to the foundations and get God's perspective."
Franklin said he is convinced Christians have lost the "fundamental, basic understanding of the nature of God," and there is no revival because people do not know there is a problem with their relationship with God.
God's holiness requires an accounting of sin, Franklin said.
"If people say God's going to judge America, you need to correct them. He's not going to; He already is. He is already in the process."
Signs of this judgment, he said, include a lack of wisdom and spiritual power; inability of the church to make a life-changing impact; and natural disasters. "When God wants to destroy a nation, He begins to take away its ability to spiritually understand and know what it's supposed to do because it's been rejecting Him," he said.
Franklin believes the American church has lost its power. He said American Christians are being defeated in every moral battle waged, including those against abortion and gay marriage because God is turning His people over to their enemies.
God is using these defeats to get the attention of the American church. "I'm afraid that we have not understood the fear of God, and because of that, we have not understood that judgment begins with the house of God," Franklin said.
When Christians begin to see the signs of judgment, Franklin said they should petition God for help, asking themselves, "How did this happen on our watch?" and "Where did we depart from You?"
If believers fail to do this, it has a dramatic affect on youth, he said, citing Hosea 4:6, in which God's people reject His knowledge, and He not only refuses to allow them to be His priests but He says He will also "ignore" their children." Franklin also cited Malachi 2:1-2, which says if God's people do not honor His name, He will curse them and rebuke or "forget" their children.
God is reducing the American church's sphere of influence because believers have not responded to His call and have not held to His standard of holiness.
However, it is not too late for this to be reversed, said Franklin. When Christians are pleasing to God, He will begin to reverse things, noting that focusing on reaching youth and children is the "right thing" to do. "I believe it is a heart cry from God, saying to His people, 'Come in My presence and hear Me. I am concerned about your youth and your children. You are doing the right thing,'" Franklin said.
The key to reversing the judgment of God is to "get serious about prayer," said Franklin.
"We're going to have to get desperate in His presence. We're going to have to fall on our face(s), and there's going to have to be tears in our prayer service(s) once again."
When Christians do this, he said, "It's going to be amazing what He does to generate drawing people to Himself.
"And then the transformation comes. Then our youth will be saved."
Other speakers during the Jan. 24-25 conference included David Uth, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Orlando, Fla.; Junior Hill, longtime evangelist; Robert Smith, professor of Christian preaching at Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, Ala.; Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif.; Thomas Hammond, interim vice president of evangelism at the North American Mission Board; and Gary Hollingsworth, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, Little Rock, Ark.
Lisa Watson is associate editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.
Vietnam: USCIRF Notes Release of Nguyen Van Dai and Urges Father Nguyen Van Ly's Unconditional Release.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (USCIRF)--The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom March 8 noted the release of human rights lawyer and religious freedom advocate Nguyen Van Dai after serving his four-year sentence and urged the government of Vietnam to lift his administrative or "house arrest" sentence. USCIRF also advocated the unconditional release of Father Nguyen Van Ly, whose medical parole ends next week, after which he could be returned to prison.
"Nguyen Van Dai and the many courageous young advocates like him are Vietnam's future. It is unfortunate that the Vietnamese government still views them as a threat to its security and stability," said Leonard Leo, USCIRF chair. "Father Ly should be unconditionally released. His arbitrary detention and that of others are utterly unjustified, and have needlessly complicated U.S.-Vietnamese relations for over a decade."
The Commission met with Nguyen Van Dai and Father Ly in May 2009. At that time, both advocates said that they had refused an offer of reduced sentences if they signed a letter confessing to crimes they never committed and vowed to keep working peacefully for freedom and human rights in Vietnam. USCIRF has visited Vietnam four times since 2003 and testified many times before Congress about its findings. USCIRF wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in January 2011, urging her to redesignate Vietnam as a "Country of Particular Concern" (CPC) for its systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations.
There continue to be many individuals detained, in prison or under administrative sentence, in Vietnam for their religious activity, religious freedom advocacy, or legal defense of religious communities and individuals including Hoa Hao, Khmer Buddhists, Cao Dai, Montagnard Protestants, Le Cong Dinh, Cu Huy Ha Vu, Venerable Thich Quang Do, Father Phan Van Loi, Le Thi Cong Nhan, and Nguyen Thi Hong.
"Unfortunately, Nguyen Van Dai's release is hardly a sign of religious freedom improvement in Vietnam," said Mr. Leo. "Too many severe violations continue, including violence against religious communities, new detentions of religious leaders, harassment of legal advocates, ongoing restrictions of religious practice, and the outrageous beating of a U.S. Embassy official attempting to visit Father Ly. We continue to recommend that the U.S. designate Vietnam as a CPC, a designation that previously produced unmistakable improvements for religious communities without hindering bilateral relations between our two countries."
USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives. USCIRF's principal responsibilities are to review the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress.
Indonesia: USCIRF Urges Protection of the Ahmadiyah
WASHINGTON, D.C. (USCIRF)--The U.S. government should urge the government of Indonesia to protect the embattled Ahmadiyah religious community and to repeal laws prohibiting the Ahmadiyah community from manifesting their faith, said the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today.
Since 2008, a joint ministerial decree prohibited Ahmadis from spreading their faith and promised protection of their communities' worship activities. USCIRF's statement comes as three Indonesian provinces issued decrees that prohibit the Ahmadiyah from publicly manifesting their faith. Provincial governments in West and East Java and South Sulawesi issued their decrees following a mob attack that killed three Ahmadiyah followers in Banten almost one month ago. The Minister for Law and Human Rights and the Minister of Religious Affairs have supported the provincial decrees claiming that they are necessary to maintain public order. The provincial decrees appear to violate Indonesia's constitution, which guarantees religious freedom. President Yudhoyono has not yet called for the decrees to be repealed, though he did call for the protection of Ahmadiyah followers, the arrest of perpetrators of violence, and an investigation into whether police provided sufficient protection for the Ahmadiyah community of Banten.
"The Obama Administration is right to commend Indonesia's tradition of tolerance, but it should condemn the enactment of these discriminatory laws and other recent trends that threaten the country's stability, pluralistic culture, and democratic future," said Leonard Leo, USCIRF chair. "The banning of a peaceful religious group in three provincial areas contradicts Indonesia's reputation for religious tolerance. The Indonesian government needs to protect, not ban, the Ahmadis."
USCIRF traveled to Indonesia last year and wrote to President Obama asking him to raise the issues of protection for religious minorities, the existence of anti-Ahmadiyah and blasphemy laws, and the ability of militant groups to use violence with impunity. USCIRF also urged the Administration to emphasize religious freedom in bilateral engagement, given the prominence religious organizations, actors, and political parties play in politics and civil society.
"Extremist groups were repudiated at the polls, but continue to seek power by spreading violence and hate," said Mr. Leo. "The Indonesian government should get tough on militant groups that use violence to intimidate religious minorities and swiftly prosecute those who carried out the gruesome killings of Ahmadis in Banten. Indonesia's government should see its blasphemy and anti-Ahmadiyah laws as breeding sectarian violence, not social stability. These laws should be repealed if Indonesia is to remain true to its long commitment to religious freedom. As has happened in Pakistan and other places, sectarian violence will continue as long as militant groups expect the government to enforce their version of orthodoxy, instead of religious freedom for all."
Green Acres is the place ... for LC?
College enters agreement to produce movie
By Al Quartermont
Special to the Baptist Message
PINEVILLE, La. (Louisiana Baptist Message)--"Green Acres is the place for me...."
It was those words that Eddie Albert sang at the beginning of every episode of the hit 1960s television series.
And now it could be that Green Acres will be the place that launches Louisiana College into the movie industry.
During a campus visit by Green Acres actor Tom Lester (Eb Dawson) and Beverly Hillbillies star Donna Douglas (Ellie May Clampett), LC Vice President of Institutional Advancement, Tim Johnson, announced that the college, which is also actively pursing the development of a film school, has entered into an agreement to produce and market "Green Acres, The Movie," a feature film adaptation of the original comedy series.
"We are concerned about the culture," Johnson said. "We believe that if we will ever impact the culture, we will do it through the media."
That message struck a chord with Lester, now 72, who has seen the entertainment industry change dramatically since the abandonment of the Motion Picture Protection Code (also known as the Hays Code) which governed the industry until the late 1960s.
"So many times when I talk to people, they ask me why we don't have any clean entertainment anymore," Lester said. "The great thing about Louisiana College is that it has that vision that America needs to make America great again."
Lester, who grew up and still lives in Mississippi, was drawn to talk with LC when he heard about the college's pursuit of a film school. During a meeting with Johnson and LC President, Dr. Joe Aguillard, Lester asked if LC had any specific projects in mind. When the two of them told him they had nothing concrete, Lester suggested the Green Acres movie script.
That script is currently under the ownership rights of long-time Hollywood director Richard Bare, now 97. Bare, who directed all 168 episodes of Green Acres, acquired the creative rights to the show from the widow of series creator Jay Sommers. Lester is now involved in helping to finalize the script along with an editor /writer who also worked on the TV show.
In its most ambitious timeline, the Green Acres movie would begin shooting this summer with outdoor scenes shot in Central Louisiana, indoor scenes filmed in one of the studios in Shreveport. Lester said that Louisiana College students would be used to help film produce the movie and that "extras" would be selected from the area as well. Johnson noted that the movie would need to be filmed and edited in Louisiana to take advantage of the state's aggressive tax breaks for filmmakers.
There is one major factor before all this can become a reality: money. According to Johnson, the film project will cost $10 million, what he admits is an "ambitious goal."
"We're getting a lot of verbal support," Johnson said. "We have not been quite as successful with the financial support, but we have talked with many people who have expressed an interest, and we are optimistic because of the history of Green Acres."
And Lester noted that LC would have a distinct advantage in the marketing of the movie – the fact that the Green Acres name would already sell itself.
"The potential is incredible for Louisiana College," Lester said. "The have the room, they have the vision, and God is blessing this college. If it's God's will for this to work out, there's no telling what could happen."