By / Feb 24

On this episode, Brent Leatherwood and Lindsay Nicolet discuss the SBC Executive Committee meeting and several noteworthy developments, including the “Ministry Check” website and six churches deemed not in friendly cooperation with the SBC. They also reflected on the one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine. 

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By / Feb 24

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. On Feb. 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion into Ukraine, saying the “special military operation” is aimed at “demilitarization” and “denazification” of the country to protect ethnic Russians, prevent Kyiv’s NATO membership, and to keep it in Russia’s “sphere of influence.” Western nations pushed back, saying that it was an illegal act of agrression against a sovereign nation. 

Here are some of the most notable events over the past year related to the invasion.

March 2022: Russia accused of bombing a children’s hospital

A few weeks after the invasion, the Russians proposed a 12-hour ceasefire to provide evacuation corridors from select cities such as Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, and Mariupol. But during that period, Russian forces reportedly bombed a maternity and children’s hospital in Mariupol that killed three people, including one child. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said the bombing was “proof of a genocide.”

March 2022: Governments and corporations impose sanctions on Russia

In March, President Joe Biden announced a U.S. ban on imports of oil, natural gas, and coal from Russia. (U.S. imports from Russia account for only 8% of America’s energy, of which only about 3% was crude oil.) The European Union also cut gas imports from Russia by two-thirds, and the United Kingdom said it would phase out “the import of Russian oil and oil products by the end of 2022.”

The U.K. has also frozen the assets of seven Russian oligarchs, including one that owns an English soccer team. Additionally, the U.K. has made it a criminal offense for Russian aircraft to enter British airspace. A number of international companies also imposed voluntary sanctions. The list of companies includes Apple, Disney, Ford, MasterCard, McDonalds, and Visa. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo announced they would be pulling some products from the country.

April 2022: Russian troops kill hundreds of civilians in “cleansing” operation

After Russian troops retreated from Kyiv, the bodies of hundreds of civilians were found on the streets of the town of Bucha and in mass graves. News agencies discovered that in an attempt to neutralize resistance and terrorize locals into submission, the Russian military had ordered “zachistka”— cleansing. “The results of the criminal evidence we’ve gathered so far reveal that it wasn’t just isolated incidents of military personnel making a mistake but a systematic policy targeting the Ukrainian people,” said Taras Semkiv, Ukraine’s lead prosecutor for these war crimes.

June 2022: Claims of torture in Russian-occupied territories

By June, the BBC had documented numerous allegations of civilians being tortured by Russians in the region of Kherson. The claims included acts of rape, electrocution, beatings, strangulation, and burning—including on people’s hands, feet, and genitals. A doctor who claims to have treated such injuries says, “They were tortured if they did not want to go over to the Russian side, for being at rallies, for being in the territorial defence, for the fact that one of the family members fought against the separatists, some got there randomly.” Within the first four months of the war, ​​Ukraine claimed that around 15,000 suspected war crimes had been reported, with 200 to 300 more reported daily.

June 2002: SBC messengers adopt resolution on the war in Ukraine

At the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California, SBC messengers voted to adopt a resolution strongly condemning the actions of the Russian Federation in her declaration and acts of war against the sovereign nation of Ukraine. The resolution also called upon Putin to cease hostilities immediately, withdraw the Russian military, and end this war of aggression against Ukraine and her people. The messengers also noted that the SBC stands in “solidarity with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in Christ as well as the people of Ukraine who have endured these atrocities and who have witnessed the horrors of war firsthand while seeking to defend their country from an invasion by a hostile army.” 

September 2002: Ukraine retakes much of the northeastern region; Putin calls up reservists

In September, Ukrainian forces launched a surprise counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region which forced Russian troops to pull back from areas that had been seized for months. In response, Putin ordered the mobilization of 300,000 reservists. The move was unpopular within Russia and led hundreds of thousands of Russian men to flee to neighboring countries to avoid recruitment.  

December 2022: Ukrainian President Zelensky addresses a joint meeting of Congress

In his first visit outside of Ukraine since the Russian invasion began, Zelensky visited Washington, D.C., to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress. In the speech—given two days before Christmas—Zelensky said:

We’ll celebrate Christmas, celebrate Christmas and even if there is no electricity, the light of our faith in ourselves will not be put out. If Russian – if Russian missiles attack us, we’ll do our best to protect ourselves. If they attack us with Iranian drones and our people will have to go to bomb shelters on Christmas Eve, Ukrainians will still sit down at the holiday table and cheer up each other. And we don’t, don’t have to know everyone’s wish as we know that all of us, millions of Ukrainians, wish the same: Victory. only victory.

February 2023: U.N. says 8,000 non-combatants killed and 8 million people have fled Ukraine

The UN human rights office (OHCHR) reports that at least 8,000 non-combatants have been confirmed killed and nearly 13,300 injured since the Russian invasion. But the true number is likely to be substantially higher, OHCHR staff have said. More than 100 cases of conflict-related sexual violence had been documented thus far.

Additionally, more than 8 million refugees from Ukraine have been recorded across Europe, according to the U.N. refugee agency. Poland has seen the largest numbers of Ukrainian refugees (around 1.5 million), followed by other European countries like the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia.

February 2023: President Biden visits Kyiv

Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv on Feb. 20. In meeting with the Ukrainian president, Biden showed that the U.S. was in solidarity with our Ukrainian allies. The U.S. president announced a half-billion dollars in new assistance, including a variety of military equipment, and the imposition of new sanctions on Russia. “One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands,” said Biden.

By / Feb 24

Exactly one year ago, I was about to deliver remarks to a Southern Baptist meeting, when the news alerts lit up my phone. The long-predicted Russian invasion of Ukraine had commenced. Russian troops had initiated a new incursion deep into Ukraine’s heartland.

After I announced the development to the room, you could sense the audience was contemplating what this might mean for our nation, as well as what it meant for missionaries serving there and our Baptist national partners on the ground.

Points of clarity 

Twelve months later, many of those questions remain, though we do have clarity on several fronts. 

First, Ukrainians have made a valiant stand against their Russian aggressors. While they have sustained a barrage of attacks that have taken numerous innocent lives and demolished infrastructure throughout their country, many analysts have said the Russian military has taken far greater losses. Backed by an impressive array of support from America and European allies, Ukraine has been able to beat back an initial threat to its capital, Kyiv, and has even  retaken ground lost in its east. Few would have predicted this kind of result a year into the conflict.

Secondly, the Southern Baptist Convention has been engaged from both a ministry and advocacy standpoint throughout the year. Send Relief, the SBC’s compassion ministry, jumped into action to help Ukranians who flooded across national borders, fleeing from the war zone. They provided basic necessities and connected them with partners who could provide shelter. Estimates from Send Relief put the number of displaced Ukrainians around 15 million—the largest such crisis in Europe in generations. To meet the demand, Southern Baptists and our partners have given over $12 million through Send Relief.

Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board, has made several trips to the region during the war. He’s visited Baptist churches in Romania and met with our missionaries who have offered input about what support is needed. In the U.S., the ERLC has advocated for Ukrainian refugees before the federal government to ensure they receive the support and asylum they need from the horrors back at home.

None of this response should be surprising. Baptists have long felt a calling to bring the good news to Ukraine and partner with the many Christians who call the nation home. As a result, an impressive network of Baptist churches, associations, and institutions are spread across the country. In some respects, a gospel bulwark has sprung up in Ukraine against the encroaching lostness that plagues so much of Europe. The solidarity and support expressed for the nation from Baptist communities in Romania, Moldova, and other nearby countries also demonstrates the key role Ukraine plays in the region.

Finally, this conflict is clearly driven by a vision to recapture the influence once held by the USSR and the appetite for conquest of one man: Vladimir Putin. The valiant stand of Ukraine and the incredible outpouring of support should not obscure the fact that the last year, under Putin’s direction, has been nothing short of hellish for Ukrainians. A bipartisan majority of American officials, reminiscent of the kind seen under the Reagan Doctrine—from President Joe Biden to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—have rightly said Russia’s illegal and unjust invasion must be opposed and stopped.

Our European allies have resolutely said the same, knowing that a successful takeover of Ukraine by Putin won’t end there. Who knows how far he will go to restore a Soviet-like domination of Eastern Europe? We would do well to remember he has called the downfall of the USSR the greatest tragedy of the 20th century

Thinking about year two 

So what does this mean for us as we begin a second year of this war?

Unfortunately, as NPR put it in one of its articles this week, “more misery” is ahead. Russia seems unlikely to relent, and so Ukraine, justifiably, will continue fighting for its survival. Those of us outside the immediate theater of war will continue to feel ripple effects in terms of a refugee crisis and unexpected swings in the international economy. 

Western support, especially America’s resolve, will be tested in the coming months. At this point, the U.S. has provided $110 billion in military and economic aid to Ukraine, according to The Wall Street Journal. A number of voices, particularly in the political realm, are beginning to question the wisdom of providing that aid or whether it is being used properly.

As a matter of principle, I’m not opposed to scrutinizing how taxpayer resources are utilized. I’m a conservative in my philosophical and policy views. But in this instance, we know the answers. The Journal also indicates that the U.S. Inspectors General have assigned 177 auditors and investigators to track how these funds are deployed. Far from a “blank check,” these funds are being monitored closely to ensure they go to their intended objectives. If Putin accomplishes his aims and become an even larger threat to Europe, the long-term costs would be far greater. 

On a personal level, I have had individuals tell me I am taking an unbiblical view in my support for Ukraine, citing Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers.” I understand their critique. My response is, “Absolutely, I want peace. And, in this situation, I want an aspiring autocrat who attacked a peaceful democratic neighbor to pull back his forces.”

Given Putin is unlikely to be persuaded by such a statement, I believe our next best option is to support Ukraine’s defense while continuing to work all diplomatic avenues that lead to a resolution respecting Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty. This route promotes peace (Rom. 14:19) in the region while also ensuring innocent lives have the resources and support needed for protection.

Ultimately, that is my main concern. Putin’s invasion is nothing short of a grave injustice being perpetrated against those made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27). Over the last year, we have witnessed the pummeling of a society and annihilation of innocent lives. Our hearts should break with every destructive blow. At a minimum, we should all pray for the Lord to turn Vladimir Putin from this wicked war and for his salvation. We should seek a day when the bombs, rockets, and artillery would fall silent. If our nation’s support for Ukraine helps make that a reality, we should, as the Baptist Faith and Message puts it, “do all in (our) power to put an end to war (Article XVI).”

By / Feb 23

In 2021 and early 2022, International Mission Board missionaries serving in Ukraine heard rumors of war, which led to an overland evacuation. Looking today in the rearview mirror, they realize they couldn’t have guessed the trauma about to mushroom from the east.  

Less than one month after the missionaries’ exodus, war made a forceful entry into the country they’d come to call home. The war ripped the life from the bodies of more than 7,100 civilians, tore husbands from wives and fathers from children, decimated towns and cities, stole childhoods and livelihoods, and wrought immeasurable havoc on the eastern European nation. 

That the war continues one year after the invasion comes as a surprise to many and is a testament to the interminable resolve and resilience of Ukrainians. That the Ukrainian church has grown, despite the upheaval and chaos, is a testament to the power of the gospel and the perseverance of the church. The church’s growth ballooned out from the country’s borders, following like a parachute to the cities and towns where refugees found welcoming hearts and arms.  

Ukrainian Christian refugees brought the light that could not and would not be extinguished to countries with significantly lower populations of evangelicals. Ukraine is home to the highest percentage of evangelicals in Europe. 

Their dispersion meant the gospel was also dispersed. 

Responding to the needs of Ukrainians

IMB ministry to and among Ukrainians has not halted in the year since the war began. Although IMB missionaries cannot currently live in Ukraine, they remain emotionally and relationally present with Ukrainians. Through Send Relief and IMB missionary presence, Southern Baptists continue to respond to the needs of Ukrainians.

What does it mean for IMB missionaries to be steadfastly present in a time of war and exile? It means:

  • loading a truck and trailer with provisions to take to physically and mentally disabled people in Ukraine, 
  • singing praise songs in a community center-turned-church and leading small group Bible studies in church basements, 
  • driving a van across the countryside to host mobile medical clinics, 
  • continuing to provide theological education for Ukrainian pastors, 
  • and making daring trips into Ukraine to oversee disaster relief projects. 

The world’s greatest problem is still lostness. IMB missionaries and their national partners are still running the race the Lord has set before them—a race to share the promise of the gospel with Ukrainians in their hour of greatest need. 

Looking back 

In the first few months of the war, IMB and Send Relief efforts centered around providing food, supplies, access to shelter and emotional and spiritual care. IMB missionaries, European Baptists, and Southern Baptist volunteers met refugees fleeing across the border and met them in the cities where they landed.  

As the days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to months, churches in multiple countries continued to take in refugees and welcome them into their congregations. New congregations of war-weary refugees formed. Refugee children attended Christian camps and reclaimed some of the childhood they had lost. IMB missionaries invested their lives in the refugees living in their cities and made trips back into the country to visit national partners. Missionaries and their national partners hosted Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas parties, which provided much-needed time for community and celebration. 

The poignancy of the gospel and the generosity of Christians led to changed lives.  

Send Relief has facilitated 98 Ukrainian relief projects since February 2022. These projects centered in Ukraine, Poland, Romania and Moldova. Volunteers with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief made the trans-Atlantic journey to serve on the border of Ukraine. While there, they provided relief in many forms. 

Southern Baptist generosity knew no bounds. Gifts to Ukraine relief thus far have totaled $12.9 million, with $10 million given to Send Relief and $2.9 million given to the IMB. 

IMB missionaries developed digital engagement strategies to reach Ukrainians both inside and outside the country. The reach has been astronomical—22.5 million people visited a website created as an outreach tool.  

Looking forward 

Dan and Lori Upchurch served with the IMB in Lviv, Ukraine, before evacuating ahead of the Russian invasion. They now serve Ukrainian refugees in Poland with their teammates, Sarah and Kanoot Midkiff. They helped facilitate a relief center to meet the physical needs of refugees and planted a church with their national partner. They lead small-group Bible studies and partner with Ukrainian church planters. Dan continues to teach classes at the Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary, first online and now by traveling back to Ukraine.  

After evacuating Kharkiv, Ross and Kasey Lewis and Linda Gray, joined later by Journeyman Harrison Martin have invested their lives ministering to Ukrainian refugees in Romania. They minister in refugee centers and now host mobile medical clinics throughout the region. They recently purchased a van and ultrasound machines.  

Mike and JuliAn Domke took up temporary residence in Hungary, where they minister to Ukrainian refugees. Mike also oversees 20 Send Relief projects in Ukraine and makes frequent trips there. 

IMB missionaries who serve across Europe have added ministry to Ukrainians to their ministry routines. 

David and Shannon Brown and Ayden and Lorelei Klarke serve in Moldova and partner with the Moldovan Baptist Union to serve the many Ukrainian refugees who crossed the country’s eastern border.  

Only the Lord knows how long the war will last. Kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but there’s something about Jesus’ name—the name that extends past rumors of war. 

Send Relief is the joint compassion ministry of the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board.

This article originally appeared at IMB.org. Read past stories from Ukraine of God’s work through Send Relief and the IMB. Look for more stories coming in the month ahead.

Photo details: IMB missionary Dan Upchurch leads a Bible study for Ukrainian refugees in a Polish Baptist Church. The church has been actively involved in meeting the needs of refugees. Upchurch shares 2 Corinthians 4:9-10 and talks about how God does not leave his people in times of persecution. IMB Photo

By / Dec 29

In the modern era of the 24/7 news cycle, it’s easy to begin each day looking for the latest breaking tidbit. The amount of information we all digest is unimaginable to previous generations, and much of what we take in we simply forget. But the people of God are those who are called to ponder and discern (Psa 101:2; Rom. 12:2). As we close the book on 2022, some of the ERLC staff have reflected on the stories that they don’t want to forget because of their significance. Whether they mark truly historical moments, consider important ethical questions, or reflect the priorities of a particular season of life, all are meaningful and help us recognize our deep need for our Sovereign God. May this exercise encourage you to prayerful reflection and humble dependence on the Lord, as well. 

“The invasion of Ukraine is what stands out for me in 2022. A good college friend of mine has served as a missionary there since 2005, so I watched news updates with a personal lens. What I remember being struck by is how it felt like history books had come alive. Studying history you read about past wars and which country invaded who, but you don’t expect (or at least I didn’t) to see that happening in real time. And however doom and gloom the news seemed about Ukraine, there was always an element of hope that sprung up. Whether it was watching Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy post a video on social media about his commitment to stay and fight or a pianist playing her piano in a bombed-out home, hope seemed to remain, despite all the tragedy. This is exactly what I want to focus on as we approach the end of 2022 and the holiday season: hope brought by an incarnate Savior 2,000 years ago will always reign supreme.” – Julie Masson, Director of External Engagement

“One of my favorite stories from the past year has been the emergence of a number of pro-family policies from lawmakers in the wake of the Dobbs decision. That was such a historic moment and the culmination of decades of dedicated advocacy, but it also really opened the eyes of many to the gaps in support for vulnerable women and families. To that end, this summer at the SBC annual meeting, messengers affirmed ‘pro-life and pro-family policies that serve and support vulnerable women, children, and families.’ Over the fall, I worked to develop some guiding principles for ERLC’s engagement on this issue, and I was able to lay out those principles and make the case for our support in this article of ERLC’s Light Magazine, ‘A vision for a pro-family world: Why policies that help families foster a pro-life culture.’”Hannah Daniel, Policy Manager 

“Earlier this year, I had an opportunity to talk with Gretchen Smeltzer who founded a ministry called, Into the Light, that combats human trafficking. This issue is one that we don’t like to think about and often feels far removed from us. But in reality, many in our country and abroad are being exploited and abused by predators in this horrifying industry. I don’t want to lose sight of the important calling God has placed on our lives as believers to protect and advocate for the vulnerable among us.” – Elizabeth Bristow, Press Secretary

“My daughter was in speech therapy this year because of a delay, so the story, ‘“Parentese” Is Truly a Lingua Franca, Global Study Finds’ hit me at the right time. It says that across the world people, no matter their language, speak to babies in the same kind of cadence and tone. It reminded me of the truth that children are a universal gift from God, and that parenting and the family are a universal feature of humanity.” – Alex Ward, Lead Researcher

“I think of two articles, ‘Is the Lesser of Two Evils the Right Question’ by Dana McCain and ‘What Makes a Vote Moral or Immoral? The Ethics of Voting’ by Jonathan Leeman. I commend them both along the same lines, that as Christians, our standard of righteousness must be weighed and measured by what God says in his word. All other scales of righteousness fail, and as Dana McCain says, ‘When we misrepresent our imperfect choices as truly righteous, we compromise our integrity and misrepresent our Savior before a lost and dying world. We make it harder for the people we’re called to evangelize to believe us about the most important thing—the gospel of Jesus Christ.’” – Mark Owens, ERLC Podcast Producer

“Every day at nearly every turn, we’re faced with new challenges as we are bombarded with content, entertainment, and messages that challenge a faithful understanding of the biblical sexual ethic. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed as we walk through what seems like uncharted territory. But no matter what we face in our ever-shifting culture, God’s design for human sexuality has never changed. The event, ‘Discipling Your Church for a World in Sexual Crisis,’ that we hosted back in June helped remind the Church how we can navigate these challenges with both the truth of God’s Word and design as well as the grace found in the gospel message. We all need to be reminded that our sexuality is not the defining aspect of our humanity, but it is central to what it means to be human.” – Jason Thacker,  Director of the Research Institute and Chair of Research in Technology Ethics

“I have spent many hours over the last year speaking with pro-life leaders in settings both professional and private. Yet, my conversation with Karen Ellison, founder of Deeper Still, brought to the forefront for me the millions of Americans, men and women, who are still dealing with the effects of an abortion years and decades later. She said, ‘There is a huge population of Christians who are abortion-wounded, and they are not talking about it.’ So many of those are anticipating judgment from fellow believers, and I believe the Church must grapple with this reputation. It is my prayer that our churches will do the hard work required to have both a culture of life and a culture of healing, so that they can welcome those in the depths of their brokenness and help them find freedom.” – Jill Waggoner, Content Editor

“I’m not sure how I could ever forget it, but the astounding pro-life victory in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is the story that stands out to me. The overturning of Roe v. Wade was almost 50 years in the making and a reminder that sometimes good, worthwhile work takes years. The victory magnifies the tireless and bold work of so many who were driven by their conviction that God created every individual, no matter how young and helpless, with innate dignity. It reminds me that nothing is too hard for the Lord and that our times are in his hands. It’s a shot of adrenaline in the arm of the pro-life movement that, by God’s grace, will sustain many, many more years of advocating for the preborn and vulnerable moms at the state level. Lest we doubt that our work matters, all we have to do is recall what wonderful things God did through those committed to advocating for the smallest among us.”  – Lindsay Nicolet, Director of Content 

By / Dec 27

Set against the backdrop of the Ukraine revolution against Russia in 2013-2014, I Will Die in a Foreign Land, by Kalani Pickhart, is historical fiction that provides a window into the past, present, and future battle over Ukraine’s freedom. The novel braids together the stories of four individuals caught up in the violent protests that culminated in a deadly confrontation at Independence Square in Kyiv and ultimately led to the Russian annexation of Crimea. It is a haunting portrait of a people who have been fighting a long time for the right to rule themselves and their land. 

Although the politics at play in the 2014 “Maidan Revolution” are complex and nuanced, the novel exposes the human cost of the centuries-old Russian-Ukrainian conflict. It is a must read for those seeking a richer understanding of the present war with Russia. I was left with a deeper appreciation for the strength and endurance of the Ukrainian people.

By / Aug 22

This past week, I opened my computer and logged in to Facebook. I read an article about a recent shooting, scrolled past a post about a new virus, and read someone’s account of living with long COVID (long-term effects from the infection). Moving on to Twitter, I skimmed through a heated argument about the Dobbs decision, read news about famine and war, and saw several death announcements. I decided not to move on to Instagram. 

I often feel heavy and overwhelmed after spending time online, and I know I’m not alone. Someone recently shared with me how much he had struggled after reading about the Ukraine war. He saw pictures of a family being separated and began to replay these images in his mind. Lying awake at night, he considered what he would do in a similar scenario. 

Another person described her struggle with anxiety and racing thoughts. She had watched a video of a recent school shooting and couldn’t stop thinking about it. She worried about her own children. She grieved the children who were lost. The thoughts would not relent. 

Constant online access has made us daily witnesses to the grief and trauma of millions of people. Each time we open our internet browsers, we encounter news that forces us to consider issues of political conflict, theological disagreement, global suffering, financial stress, illness, and war. Many people feel a sense of tension. We want to stay informed, but too much information can leave us weighed down with thoughts and emotions that feel too heavy to bear. 

What should we do? Should we attempt to carry the sorrows and burdens of the world? Or should we distance ourselves from other peoples’ suffering to protect ourselves? Perhaps it is some of both. 

Remember those who suffer 

Scripture suggests there is something good and holy about remembering other peoples’ suffering, even when they are physically distant from us. Hebrews 13:3 tells us to “remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” We honor people in their suffering by not forgetting about them. Instead of withdrawing from the world, we bear witness to other peoples’ pain and remember them in the same way we would want to be remembered in similar circumstances. 

Remembering often awakens a sense of compassion, which often leads to a desire to act. It might lead us to pray, give money, volunteer, speak up, or push for change. These are all good things. But too much remembering can lead to racing thoughts and anxiety. Overextending compassion can result in compassion fatigue. Giving to the point of exhaustion can lead to burnout. Absorbing too many stories of other peoples’ trauma can result in secondary trauma. That feeling of tension remains. 

Carry your own load 

We can break out of this tension by balancing wisdom from Hebrews 13:3 with wisdom from Galatians 6:5. A few verses after we are told to carry other peoples’ burdens in Galatians 6:2, we are instructed to each carry our own load. 

Recently, I realized that I was trying to carry someone else’s load. This person was experiencing a heavy struggle, and there were some practical ways I could help to carry her burdens. I could listen and ask good questions. I could sit with her in her grief. But I could not fix the problem. There was a depth to her emotional pain that I could not truly, fully understand. Aspects of her suffering could only be carried between her and God. I had to let go. I had to let her carry her own load. 

As we are inundated with stories of global suffering, we may be tempted to carry loads that do not belong to us. We may hold on to a false sense of responsibility that leads us to overextend ourselves in our care and compassion for other people. We may attempt to fix problems and over identify with burdens that were never given to us to carry. 

Cast your anxiety on the Lord 

The other day, after I closed out of Facebook and Twitter and went to bed, my mind remained filled with thoughts about what I had just read. What if I also get long COVID? What do I think about this or that debate? How should I respond to this person or react to that cause? 

Lying in bed, I used a strategy I often teach people who come to me for counseling. I closed my eyes and began to mentally list my concerns. I gave each concern a name and visualized myself writing it down on a slip of paper. The pandemic and fear of illness went on one slip. Images of hungry, displaced people went on another. A political post that frustrated me, a news article about a school shooting, and several death announcements each got a slip. I took each slip of paper and visualized myself placing them inside a box one at a time. I closed the box and remembered that God was right there with me. I handed him the box and prayed a short prayer, releasing my concerns to him. 

In counseling, this strategy is called containment. In Scripture, we see this idea described in 1 Peter 5:7 as casting our anxieties on the Lord. It is a way to set aside thoughts, feelings, and images that feel upsetting or distressing so we can proceed with our day. The goal of containing our thoughts and giving them to God is not to ignore or downplay important issues. It isn’t being selfish, indifferent, or ignorant in the face of suffering. Instead, it is a way to accept God’s care for us. He invites us to trust him by releasing to him the fears, problems, and concerns we cannot solve. 

What people, causes, local issues, and global concerns weigh on you today? Sit for a moment and honor those who suffer by remembering them. Perhaps choose one or two ways to carry someone else’s burdens. But then, let go. Carry your own load, and let your neighbor do the same. Release your anxieties to God. The world is not yours to carry. 

By / Jun 17

Earlier this week, messengers to the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California, voted to adopt nine resolutions, seven of which were related to ERLC concerns, issues, and legislative priorities. Here is a recap of the ERLC-related resolutions:

On the Prosperity Gospel

This resolution states that the messengers of the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting:

  • Denounce the teaching of the prosperity gospel;
  • Affirm that God and God alone is our highest good and our supreme treasure, not health, wealth, or the removal of sickness (Philippians 4:10-13; Revelation 21:1-4);
  • Affirm that our confidence is in our eternal inheritance purchased through the work of Christ and is guaranteed by the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:11-14; 1 Peter 1:1-7).

On the War in Ukraine

This resolution states the messengers:

  • Strongly condemn the actions of the Russian Federation in her declaration and acts of war against the sovereign nation of Ukraine;
  • Call upon Russian President Vladimir Putin to cease hostilities immediately, withdraw the Russian military, and end this war of aggression against Ukraine and her people;
  • Implore the United States government to prioritize the admission of Ukrainian refugees into our country and provide resources for their support and resettlement;
  • Commend, appreciate, and affirm they will continue to support the ongoing relief efforts of Southern Baptists in Ukraine through the work of the International Mission Board and Send Relief, who are working diligently to aid Ukrainian refugees fleeing to other parts of Ukraine or to the safe harbors of neighboring countries;
  • Stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in Christ as well as the people of Ukraine who have endured these atrocities and who have witnessed the horrors of war firsthand while seeking to defend their country from an invasion by a hostile army;
  • Pray for Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary, like-minded institutions, and our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the country of Ukraine who continue to share the gospel, minister to the hurting, serve their churches, gather for worship, and exalt our Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of a warzone at great risk to themselves, their families, and their churches;
  • Pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Russian Federation and for all who stand opposed to this war of Russian aggression, speaking out against it at great personal cost to themselves, their families, and their churches;
  • Commit to earnestly and continually praying to the Lord, who is able to do all things, for an end to this war, for peace in Ukraine, for the presidents and leaders of both countries, and for the gospel of Jesus Christ to shine forth as a beacon of eternal peace, security, and salvation for all who will turn to him.

On Religious Liberty, Forced Conversion, and the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report

This resolution states the messengers:

  • Encourage Southern Baptists to decry the methods of forced assimilation and conversion, as well as the dehumanization of fellow image bearers;
  • Affirm that Southern Baptists stand in support of Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians—especially those who are a part of our own family of churches—as they process the findings of this report and discern next steps toward healing;
  • Affirm that Southern Baptists earnestly pray for the families of those targeted by the atrocities brought to light in this investigation (Psalm 82:3-4; Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 22:3);
  • Condemn any federal government’s policy, former or current, to replace “the tribal culture for its own” in an effort to ease their intent “to separate tribes from their territories.”;
  • Declare the atrocities done against these people in the name of religious “conversions” as reprehensible, betraying the Great Commission (and our efforts to reach all nations with the gospel (Matthew 10:14; Matthew 28:18-20; John 3:8);
  • Stand against forced conversions and distorted missiological practices as contrary to our distinctive beliefs as Baptists in religious liberty and soul-freedom (The Baptist Faith & Message, Article XVII);
  • Affirm we will place our confidence for salvation in God alone, which is “offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer” (The Baptist Faith & Message, Article IV; Romans 7:24-25).

On Support for Consistent Laws Regarding Pastoral Sexual Abuse

This resolution states the messengers:

  • Encourage lawmakers in every state to pass laws that would provide consistent definitions and classification of sexual abuse by pastors, as sexual abuse committed by pastors constitutes a clear abuse of authority and trust (similarly seen in the relationships in the aforementioned professional settings);
  • Encourage lawmakers in every state to pass laws that would empower churches by shielding them from civil liability when they share information about alleged abuse with other organizations or institutions;
  • Affirm that while we hold convictions about and celebrate ecclesial autonomy, we also believe that it is both important and biblical (1 Corinthians 14:33) to develop a culture of transparency and mutual responsibility between churches, so that it is clear that our churches are not places for predators to hide, as we, “contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death,” seeking “to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love” (BFM Art. XV);
  • Affirm that while in this world we must face the temporal consequences of our sin, such as disqualification, we joyfully acknowledge that there is no sin that cannot be forgiven and no person who cannot be restored to Christ (Psalm 103:12, Ephesians 1:7-8);  
  • Support actions that protect the innocent within the churches of the Southern Baptist convention from wolves in shepherd’s clothing and embrace actions that empower churches to be able to report instances of abuse to appropriate authorities without fear of civil liability.

On Lament and Repentance for Sexual Abuse

This resolution states the messengers:

  • Denounce in the strongest possible terms every instance of sexual abuse, those who perpetrate abuse, and those who seek to defend or protect these perpetrators;
  • Affirm the Bible’s teaching to seek justice for those who have been harmed, protect the vulnerable, and honor the dignity and worth of survivors of sexual abuse (Genesis 1:26, Psalm 82:2-4, Isaiah 1:17, Micah 6:8);
  • Publicly lament the harm our actions and inactions have caused to survivors of sexual abuse;
  • Publicly apologize to and ask forgiveness from survivors of sexual abuse for our failure to care well for survivors, for our failure to hold perpetrators of sexual abuse adequately accountable in our churches and institutions, for our institutional responses which have prioritized the reputation of our institutions over protection and justice for survivors, and for the unspeakable harm this failure has caused to survivors through both our action and inaction;
  • Publicly repent and acknowledge our need for comprehensive change in caring well for survivors of sexual abuse;
  • Affirm that amid our failures, we express our hope in Christ, who never fails to care for those who have been harmed, that he watches over the vulnerable members of our churches, that he can bring healing to survivors of sexual abuse, and that he can bring both retributive justice to perpetrators of sexual abuse and restorative justice to survivors of sexual abuse;
  • Affirm we will prayerfully endeavor to eliminate all instances of sexual abuse among our churches;
  • Commit to the ongoing moral demands of the gospel in relation to sexual abuse, observing the command of our Lord to “teach everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20), including the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27, 34-35);
  • Call for churches to teach the importance of honoring one another and treating one another virtuously in the area of sexuality so churches can become safe places that protect the vulnerable;
  • Call for Southern Baptitsts  to give of our time and resources to bind the wounds of the broken, hold accountable perpetrators of sexual abuse and those who seek to defend them, and care well for survivors of sexual abuse; and be it finally
  • Recognize and appreciate the work and advocacy of sexual abuse survivors, repent of our resistance and neglect of their efforts, and unreservedly apologize to survivors mentioned in the report, including Christa Brown, Susan Codone, Megan Lively, Jennifer Lyell, Anne Marie Miller, David Pittman, Tiffany Thigpen, Debbie Vasquez, Hannah-Kate Williams, and Jules Woodson, for our not heeding their collective warnings and taking swift action to address clergy sexual abuse sooner. (These are the survivors mentioned in the report who have given their consent to have their names listed.)

On Anticipation of a Historic Moment in the Pro-life Movement

This resolution states the messengers:

  • Encourage all Southern Baptists to pray for the overturning of the disastrous precedent set in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey;
  • Commend the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s frontline work on the pro-life cause and urge all Southern Baptists to continue our faithful pro-life advocacy by partnering with local, state, and federal governments to enact pro-life and pro-family policies that serve and support vulnerable women, children, and families;
  • Implore Southern Baptists to continue and increase their efforts to serve and support local pregnancy resource centers, pro-life organizations, churches, foster care and adoptive families, doing invaluable and often under-recognized work in the care of women and children at every stage of life;
  • Commit to standing with and praying for abortion-vulnerable women, to eliminate any perceived need for the horror of abortion, and to oppose Planned Parenthood and other predatory organizations or institutions who exploit vulnerable women for profit;
  • Urge the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn the precedent set in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and urge the state legislatures to enact pro-life policies that uphold the dignity and value of every human life, including both vulnerable women and children.

On the Imago Dei and the Helpful Content Submitted in Several Resolutions

This resolution states the messengers:

  • Encourage all Southern Baptists to affirm the dignity and value of every person as created in God’s image and to proclaim the fullness of the Christian ethic throughout our churches and in the public square as we seek the flourishing of all people in accordance with God’s good design for humanity;
  • Call Southern Baptists to uphold the beauty of the Christian sexual ethic in a world that promotes dangerous and dehumanizing ideologies such as those within the LGBTQ+ movement and other sexual perversions including abuse, pedophilic behavior, and the use of pornography, all of which are fundamentally at odds with God’s design for human sexuality;
  • Call Southern Baptists to seek to love our neighbors as ourselves, standing firm on God’s created order which recognizes that any sexual desire or attraction outside of God’s design for human sexuality is sin and is disordered regardless of whether or not it creates feelings of guilt, shame, or anxiety on the one hand or pride on the other hand;
  • Call Southern Baptists to seek to proclaim to the next generation God’s love for all and his good design for human sexuality, modeling how to faithfully engage others with both truth and grace, and redouble our ongoing efforts to cultivate a heart of wisdom and discernment in the next generation especially in regards to various forms of entertainment and social media;
  • Reaffirm our 2018 Resolution “On Gun Violence and Mass Shootings” and earnestly pray for our local, state, and federal leaders to recognize the seriousness of the ongoing threat of mass shootings throughout our society and to take concrete steps toward solutions that uphold the dignity and value of every human life, especially the most vulnerable among us, and to minimize the threat of gun violence throughout our society;
  • Affirm that the worth of every human being, including those affected by disabilities, is found in Christ, the true Imago Dei (Colossians 1:15-17), not in people’s fallen perceptions of worth or abilities.
By / Jun 10

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay discuss the milestone of 100 days of war in Ukraine, the threat toward Justice Kavanaugh, and Boris Johnson’s narrow vote of confidence. They also talk about the beginning of hearings regarding Jan. 6 and the recall of the district attorney in San Francisco. 

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Culture

  • Washington Post: Threat against Justice Kavanaugh 
  • Baptist Press: 100 days of war in Ukraine
  • CNBC: Boris Johnson survives vote of confidence
  • Yahoo News: Jan. 6 hearings begin
  • CNN: San Francisco voters recall District Attorney Chesa Boudin

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  • Dobbs Resource Page Prayer Guide | Many Christians are aware that an important case about abortion is being decided at the Supreme Court this June. It’s important for us all  to pray for this landmark case and begin preparing our churches to serve vulnerable women and children in a potential post-Roe world. Download our free prayer guide at ERLC.com/Dobbs
  • Sexual Ethics Resource Page | Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of entertainment and messages that challenge the Bible’s teachings on sexual ethics? It often feels like we’re walking through uncharted terrority. But no matter what we face in our ever-shifting culture, God’s design for human sexuality has never changed. The ERLC’s new sexual ethics resource page is full of helpful articles, videos, and explainers that will equip you to navigate these important issues with truth and grace. Get these free resources at ERLC.com/sexualethics.
By / Jun 3

Today is the 100th day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Although there has been an ongoing war since 2014, the conflict escalated significantly with the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, 2022. Here is an update on what has recently happened in the war. 

Russia currently controls 20% of Ukraine territory

In a recent address to the parliament of Luxembourg, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russia now controls about 20% of his country’s territory (between 2014 and 2022, Russian had controlled about 7% of the country). The total square miles captured by the invading army—48,260 sq miles—is larger than Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands combined. 

Claims of torture in Russian-occupied territories

The BBC has documented numerous allegations of civilians being tortured by Russians in the region of Kherson. The claims include acts of rape, electrocution, beatings, strangulation, and burning—including on people’s hands, feet, and genitals. A doctor who claims to have treated such injuries says, “”They were tortured if they did not want to go over to the Russian side, for being at rallies, for being in the territorial defence, for the fact that one of the family members fought against the separatists, some got there randomly.”

Overall, ​​Ukraine claims that around 15,000 suspected war crimes have been reported since the war began, with 200 to 300 more reported daily. 

Western nations continue to arm the Ukrainians 

The U.S. recently agreed to ​​send a new weapons package that would include four M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS). The HIMARS can launch multiple precision-guided missiles at targets as far as 45 miles away, which far exceeds the current reach of Ukrainian artillery. The arms from the U.S. will also include helicopters, anti-tank weapons, tactical vehicles, and spare parts. Germany has also agreed to send Ukraine new rocket launchers, along with a tracking radar which is capable of detecting enemy howitzers, mortars, and rocket artillery. EU foreign policy chief has also said, “The flow of arms going to Ukraine continues at a high pace. We can increase this – everything can be increased – but I don’t see any problem with the supply of arms to Ukraine.”

Russian sets its sights on the Donbas region

Early in the invasion, Russia attempted to capture the capital Kyiv and second city Kharkiv. The Ukranians thwarted that plan and have forced the Russians to look for a military victory in the eastern region known as Donbas. Russia is now in control of around 70% of the key eastern city of Severodonetsk, according to the governor of Luhansk, one of two areas that make up the Donbas. It’s unclear what the Kremlin sees as the objective in expanding their presence in that territory. As Russia studies analyst Michael Kofman says, “In my view it is too early to make predictions on how the battle for the Donbas will go. Ukraine may lose territory in the short term, but Russia faces major problems with sustaining its military effort in the long term, or holding on to gains. The war could become protracted.”

The death toll increases on both sides of the conflict

The Ukrainian government claims that 30,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since the invasion began in February. This total would be more than overall Soviet casualties during the war in Afghanistan in 1979–89, and the two Chechen wars in 1994–2000. Russia has only given details on about 1,300 deaths in Ukraine, but an investigative news outlet collected open-source data to identify and verify the deaths of 3,043 Russian servicemen, using social media, news reports, or confirmation by relatives. British intelligence puts the number of dead Russian troops closer to 15,000.

Ukraine has not shared its own military casualty information, but in April Zelensky told CNN about 2,500 to 3,000 soldiers have been killed. Additionally, the United Nations estimates that more than 4,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed during Russia’s invasion of the country, though it says the real number is likely to be “thousands higher.” 

The temptation to forget about our neighbors across the world becomes stronger as time passes and other tragic events happen on a seemingly daily basis. And though we cannot bear every burden that we hear about, we can cry out to the One who can on behalf of those thrust in the midst of war. Let’s pray that the light of Christ would brins hope and help through his people, his Word, and his mercy in the midst of darkness.