EDITOR’S NOTE: BP Ledger carries items for reader information each week from various Southern Baptist-related entities, and news releases of interest from other sources. The items are published as received.
Today’s BP Ledger contains items from:
WORLD News Service
Attorney Bruce Kugler to present “God’s Courtroom”
at Southeast Arabic Christian Conference
WINNSBORO, S.C. (God’s Courtroom) — “You will one day stand trial in God’s courtroom. Are you prepared?” Attorney Bruce Kugler will be speaking on this topic at the Southeast Arabic Christian Conference at the White Oak Conference Center in Winnsboro, S.C., that will be held on Sept. 4-7, 2015. The conference is expected to draw people from South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, and Florida.
As Bruce Kugler, a lawyer for more than 25 years, read and studied the Bible, many legal terms and concepts began to catch his attention. He noticed that the Bible presented God as the Supreme Judge of the World and that everyone will one day appear before Him in His heavenly courtroom. He discovered that the Bible provides extensive information on this event which is an inevitable part of every person’s future.
Kugler stated, “I basically explain the Gospel from a legal perspective.” Surprisingly, he rejects the notion that good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell. According to Kugler, when people are tried in God’s Courtroom the standard for “not guilty” is absolute perfection. This is a standard that no one can achieve. “If that is the standard I would definitely be found guilty – there are no good defenses.” Kugler suggests that the only reason a person can enter heaven after they die is on a legal principle that Jesus Christ paid the death penalty on the person’s behalf. Basically, the person enters a plea agreement with God and accepts a pardon. “Only the guilty need a pardon – not the innocent,” says Kugler.
Mr. Kugler attended Valparaiso School of Law in Valparaiso, Ind., where he earned a Juris Doctorate. During law school, he received honors in scholarship and was a member of the executive board for law review as an articles editor. He is admitted to the State Bar of Texas and Illinois Bar and was formerly a trial attorney with the United States Department of Justice. Mr. Kugler is now a member of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists (COSBE) and resides in Illinois.
Bruce Kugler has spoken numerous times on the subject of God’s courtroom at churches and conferences. The presentation was also the basis of a documentary film that has been aired nationally several times on major Christian television networks including the TCT Network, NRB TV Network, and TLN Network. Internationally the film has been aired in India, Nicaragua, Argentina and Guatemala. Copies of the Arabic version of the film are being distributed by the Palestinian Bible Society in the West Bank and Israel.
The Arabic version of God’s Courtroom is also scheduled to be aired on the Aramaic Broadcasting Network (ABN) in September. ABN was the first Arabic Christian channel to be launched in North America to reach people in the Arabic language. ABN has air satellite in North America, Australia and New Zealand.
The film can be viewed in its entirety at www.godscourtroom.org. Individuals and churches can also request a free DVD of the English or Arabic version of the film by contacting Pastor Zohair “Steve” Hanna at (864) 907-8414 or [email protected]
Steve Russell’s journey
from Iraq to Congress
By Warren Cole Smith
WASHINGTON (WORLD News Service) — Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., is a fifth-generation Oklahoman, and he represents Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District in Congress. Before coming to Washington, Russell served four years in the Oklahoma State Senate. Prior to that, he served 21 years in the U.S. Army. His unit attracted national and international attention when the battalion captured Saddam Hussein.
WORLD News Service interviewed Russell in his office in Washington, D.C.
WORLD: Can you tell about your experience finding Saddam Hussein?
Russell: I had the privilege to command Task Force 1-22 Infantry in Tikrit, Iraq, in the Fourth Infantry Division, First Brigade, commanded by Col. Jim Hickey. I was one of his task force commanders, and we had the distinct privilege to be part of the units that were involved in the hunt and capture of Saddam. There were many units. I commanded one of the Infantry Task Forces.
WORLD: You spent a number of years in the military and retired as a lieutenant colonel.
Russell: I turned down full colonel and a Queen’s University fellowship to Kingston, Canada, for the War College. It was just time to come home and watch my kids grow.
WORLD: At your age, general would have been a very real possibility. I had several senior officers and generals that called me, to include current Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno, who was my division commander in Iraq. He said, “What are you doing?” He saw my paperwork hit the retirement desk in the Army G-1’s office and they sent it to him. … I said, “It’s not about anything, other than I need to do this. It’s the right time for my family.”
WORLD: What do you bring from that experience to the chair you’re sitting in today as a member of Congress?
Russell: The discipline to solve a problem, to work every angle, to have backup plans and reserves, to be able to quickly think through a situation, has all served me well in my political life. I never would have imagined I would have had a political life. This is something that I did not ever see me doing, being a congressman.
WORLD: How did you transition into politics?
Russell: I was holding a rally for the troops, to support them while they were in Iraq. I was tired of all of the rhetoric. Having recently retired from the service and just come from there, I knew that the stories that were on the news were not the case, that the soldiers could turn it around. It really largely became a political issue. We turned out a thousand people at a big rally in Oklahoma at the state capitol in the plaza, and people asked, “Wow, who put that together?” We did it in 2 1/2 weeks, and the state party chair, Gary Jones, at the time — he’s now our state auditor in Oklahoma — he approached me about running for the state legislature. I initially was not interested at all. But the more I got to thinking about it … I thought, you know there’s a couple of things I’d like to do: Maybe a soldiers relief act, which would make soldiers tax-exempt, work on some adoption reform, do some other things [on] Second Amendment rights.
WORLD: You’ve got a personal interest in adoption, don’t you?
Russell: Three of my five children are adopted. We adopted three orphan siblings from Hungary when they were 5, 6 and 8. It was a very personal decision. We have two other children as well. I was in the service at the time. … It is a burden that … unless you’ve been through it yourself, you don’t really understand all of the additional challenges that come with integrating a family.
WORLD: Were you able to accomplish things in the state legislature to help adoptive families?
Russell: I was. We worked very closely with the district attorney, David Prater, in Oklahoma, with Jason Nelson in the state House, and we formed an adoption task force to look at some human trafficking issues and to do some reforms. After about two years of hearings and other things, it was kind of a mess, but we eventually adopted some laws that finally got all of that tightened up. There were some loopholes allowing people to profiteer … and we were able to put an end to that.
WORLD: While you were in the state legislature, you owned a company that makes guns.
Russell: Still do. To my knowledge, I’m the only arms manufacturer in the Congress. I own a company that makes replicas of Iraqi firearms. I was mad I couldn’t bring a souvenir home from the war, [so I] altered an existing rifle to look like an Iraqi rifle. Several of my friends liked it, asked if I could do that for them, and after a while I realized there might be a market for it. We founded Two Rivers Arms in 2010. … Our rifles were featured in Clint Eastwood’s movie American Sniper. We made six rifles for the film: Two sniper rifles and four Iraqi AKs.
WORLD: Talk about your faith, especially as it’s lived out here on Capitol Hill. Is it hard to be a Christian here in this building?
Russell: There are a number of deeply devout people in Congress. I think that was one of the surprising things. We have a lot of ministers that are congressmen. [In] the freshman class that was just elected, we had three Republican ministers that were elected. I think it reflects a trend we’re seeing politically, where people are voting to put physicians, soldiers, ministers and others into political office because they want to vote for somebody they can trust. … My own faith, I’ve never tried to conceal it. I think it is important. The First Amendment we absolutely must maintain. We hear so much about the establishment clause of the First Amendment, but it’s followed by the free exercise clause. I fought for my constitutional rights, I plan on using them, and I have.
WORLD: When you’re in town on a weekend, do you go to church?
Russell: I do.
WORLD: Do you mind saying where?
Russell: It’s Capitol Hill Baptist. I am Southern Baptist in faith. Being from Oklahoma, that’s not unusual. [The church] was recommended by my pastor, Shane Hall, and I can see why. It’s packed. If you don’t come a little early, you’re going to be in the overflow.
WORLD: What do you want people to say, whenever that time comes, when we’re standing around your grave?
Russell: I’ve often thought what I want on my headstone. I think it would be this: “Having a great time, wish you were here.”
Lawless launches blog
for church leaders
By K. Allan Blume
WAKE FOREST, N.C. (Biblical Recorder) — Chuck Lawless loves the local church and those who lead her. In an effort to build stronger churches and leaders he has launched a blog, chucklawless.com, that he hopes will be encouraging and practical.
“I want the blog to be practical, simple, helpful resources that a local church leader can pick up and read in a few minutes and grab a nugget to take with him for the day,” he said. Response to the blog has been “unexpectedly strong.”
As a seminary professor for 19 years, a pastor for 14 years and a consultant for the International Mission Board, his typical readers are seminary students and missionaries. But he sees the need to reach a broader audience.
“I particularly want to encourage local church pastors and lay leaders – perhaps those folks that may not have opportunity to go to conferences or get additional training,” Lawless said.
The professor of evangelism and missions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, said, “Frankly, I reached the place in my life where I am beginning to ask, ‘How do I maximize my time, my efforts and my training to try to help people in local churches reach their neighbors and the nations?’
“Using this blog allows me to speak to a larger audience. It gives me an opportunity to speak to a broader world for the sake of the gospel. I’ve just come to the place where I want to maximize that, and the internet allows me to do so.”
The content of the blog is aimed at helping pastors and church staff because “that’s the world I work in,” he said. “But I also want to help lay leaders, who mean so much to our local churches. I want to help them think about, ‘How do I walk with God, how do I use my abilities to help my local church?'”
The first of the blog’s three goals is to provide practical resources for local church leaders. “If someone has a question about how we get more prayer into the local church, they can at least come to the website to see if there are any resources that might help them,” said Lawless.
“My primary focus is to help them think about, ‘How do we reach our neighbors; how do we extend the gospel to the nations, and how do we become the healthiest churches in order to do that?'”
A second goal is to encourage church leaders. He said, “I think sometimes church leaders are beaten up. I don’t want to do that. I want people to come here, read, and walk away saying, ‘I’m glad the Lord called me to do this ministry.'”
The third goal is to encourage all believers to read the scripture regularly, so a daily devotion will be included on the website and readers are invited to subscribe. “I know there are an awful lot of folks in our churches that want to read the scripture,” Lawless added. “But they don’t know how, or they don’t make the time to read the scripture. I want to try to walk with them and invite them to read the daily post with me.”
At the end of the day, Lawless said he wants to see church people in love with Christ, loving their neighbors and the nations, and being part of Great Commission minded churches.
He believes churches should evaluate their health not only by reaching their local community but by reaching beyond themselves. Churches should ask themselves, “Are we thinking about the nations as we think about our neighbors?”
Very early in his pastoral ministry, “The Lord just grabbed my heart for the nations,” he said. It began with a WMU leader who asked him to teach a foreign missions study. “I told her I would be happy to do it, but I had never heard of a foreign mission study.”
She was not at all pleased that her pastor had not heard of a foreign mission study. “She strongly encouraged me that if I was going to be the pastor of that church, I was going to have to think about missions,” Lawless said. “She was right. The Lord started grabbing my heart.”
His passion for the nations has only increased as he traveled to dozens of countries and witnessed the “depth of lostness,” he said. “You can’t help but be impacted when you get off the plane and see millions of people and very few believers in nations around the world.”
He hopes international missionaries will be engaged with his blog, also. “I’ve seen missionaries around the world who simply need encouragement. They need somebody to walk with them and pray for them. I want to help do that.”
Lawless’ 14 years’ experience as a pastor in Ohio instilled in him a love for the local church. “I have a great deal of respect for the pastoral position,” he said. “I love what God does when He puts the church together.
“Often the church is messy and hard to lead, but there is still a beauty in the church, and it is an incredible privilege to be a leader in a local church. I want to help my readers fall in love with messy churches and know they are not walking this road alone. I want them to know that there are people praying for them and standing behind them and beside them.”
Guest bloggers will be invited to write for chucklawless.com. Some will be church planters in North America, he added. Missionaries will write about how to connect with international missionaries and how to pray for them.
He also recognizes that many church leaders are struggling with ministry, but not reaching out for help. Some hesitate to ask for help because they think they are imposing, Lawless said. “I strongly encourage pastors – young or old – to ask for help when you are hurting and struggling. We’re not supposed to lead churches on our own. We need to recognize the value of the body of Christ.”
It is risky and dangerous to try to lead church ministry on our own, especially when we are struggling, according to Lawless. “We wind up fighting battles by ourselves, and that makes us only more vulnerable to defeat. I would strongly encourage pastors, if you need to talk to somebody there is nothing wrong with doing that. In fact it is almost more arrogant to keep it to yourself, to decide you can handle it on your own. That just gets us into more trouble.”
Lawless welcomes ideas from local church leaders who offer insights or want to suggest topics for discussion. He invites readers to contact him through the website. He added, “Please contribute to the blog by asking, ‘Have you thought about writing about this?’ or ‘I need some help with this.’ I am very open to hearing from others.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Chuck Lawless is Dean and Vice-President of Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, where he also serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions. In addition, he is Global Theological Education Consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Previously he was a professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a pastor in Ohio.