By Marilyn Stewart
NEW ORLEANS — Issuing a call to “run to the battle” and lift high the cross of Christ despite failure, setbacks, or difficulties, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary president Chuck Kelley presided over the Sept. 8 convocation that marked the official start of the academic year, welcomed new faculty members and recognized others for years of service.
The event came as the seminary community continues to mourn the loss of beloved professor John Gibson, who died Aug. 24.
“There is no sin God will not forgive, there is no difficulty he cannot take me through, there is no challenge he cannot overcome, there is nothing that unfolds in my life that is a surprise to him,” Kelley said. “I don’t make God worried about anything in my life, for He is God and I am in His grip.”
Drawing from Philippians 1:21-26, Kelley reminded the audience that Paul penned words full of joy though his life hung in the balance in a Roman prison. Paul knew that to live meant to rest secure in God’s care, Kelley said.
“Nothing that you did made you attractive to Jesus. It was by His grace that He saved every one of us and it is by his grace that you will be kept until the last day of your life,” Kelley said. “We are secure in Christ and no one and nothing can ever change that.”
God gave Paul a glimpse of heaven and he longed to be there with Christ, Kelley said.
“A day without a cloud; a morning without a night; a family without a feud; a church without a fight; laughter without crying; living without dying,” Kelley said. “All sorrow would be melted away in the presence of God.”
The glimpse of heaven was meant to equip Paul to do battle, rather than shrink from it, Kelley said. Believers are engaged in a battle to take the gospel to every person, but also to conform to the image of Christ, he added.
“And in battle, there will always be the wounded,” Kelley said. “Whatever the wound, Christ will be there to bind you up, to heal, to forgive, to strengthen, and to help.”
Kelley urged listeners to guard against thinking that stumbles and failures mean the end of a Christian’s usefulness, but to remember that Christ makes the difference in any life and any circumstance.
“Come. Do not be afraid of the fight for he told us the end of the story before he gave us the beginning,” Kelley said. “The far fields are calling. One day we’ll all be there, but in the meantime, Fight. Charge. Raise your shield. Lift high the cross of Jesus Christ and let us do what Christ has called us to do. No matter what our circumstances, no matter whatever unfolds in your life, it cannot stop the work of Christ in you or the work of Christ through you.”
Kelley also recognized faculty members for their years of service at NOBTS. Celebrating 10 years of were: Kristyn Carver, professor of psychology and counseling, Leavell College; Preston Nix, professor of evangelism and evangelistic preaching; Craig Price, professor of New Testament and Greek; and Kathy Steele, professor of psychology and counseling.
Marking 15 years on faculty were Norris Grubbs, professor of New Testament and Greek, Leavell College; Lloyd Harsch, professor of church history and Baptist studies; and Laurie Watts, professor of educational technology.
Bill Warren, professor of New Testament and Greek and director of the New Testament Center for Textual Studies, was honored for 25 years on faculty.
During convocation, new NOBTS faculty members signed the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, and continued the tradition of signing the NOBTS Articles of Religious Belief, a document drafted by the first NOBTS faculty soon after the school’s founding almost 100 years ago and prior to the first Baptist Faith and Message written in 1925.
Signing the documents were Ken Ellis, associate professor of Christian ministry and moral rehabilitation, Leavell College; Jonathan Key, assistant professor of Christian ministry, Leavell College; Bo Rice, assistant professor of evangelism and preaching; Courtney Veasey, instructor of Biblical womanhood, Leavell College; and Rick Yount, visiting professor of Christian education.