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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Good Enough To.... give away.

Those are a couple of side tables that my Mom and Dad had, when they lived in their Condo in Florida. They may have accompanied them in the 2 prior homes in Florida and maybe even in Pennsylvania before their retirement.

Although they were well taken-care of for all those years, they were approaching a half century old. Hence, time to refurbish.

Trouble is, we don't really have a place for them any more, primarily owing to our getting some new furniture over the past few years. Nonetheless, I forged ahead and started a round of sanding and spraying on new paint.

Now, the tops were Formica, so we had to get some special primer so the new paint would adhere to the tops. God bless Peg ... who has turned into a real computer/internet whiz ... she found us some at one of the big stores that carry enough stuff to plan, build, finish, and tear down your house. Which is where we bought it.

The job was fraught with all sort of little wrinkles, but one day I'd finished the tops with a brownish-gray hammered finish,  and the sides with the gloss black. Peg pointed out a couple of drips and runs on the sides, and I responded nobody would really ever see them, and besides, I didn't even know where we would put them. She said that others would as we would probably not keep them.

Seems our granddaughter had seen them when they were in our ground floor apartment, and mentioned if we ever got rid of them, she'd like to have one ... for her office at church.

She's as Assistant to our Youth Minister there. And it seems someone else had expressed an interest in perhaps taking one of them.

Well now. They were going to someone else, and now ... suddenly ... I am more concerned how well finished they are.

I have to wonder if I am always mindful that what I do in the Kingdom work is not for me. And it's not for the folks I am teaching or ministering to ... it's being done for Jesus. After all, the absolute best work anybody ever did, anywhere, any time, was done at Calvary ... by Him ... and for us.

Shouldn't our work for Him be our very best? After all, His was, for us, 2000 years ago.

Monday, July 09, 2018

How Many ..

.. nails are there in your house? How many shingle tabs on your roof? How many cubic feet of insulation in your attic?

I'd guess you don't know. I don't know those things about my house, either, and I likely know more about my home than most folks do about theirs. And it's OK  that I don't.

There is such a plethora of witnessing "plans" floating around ..... so many books have been written inviting you to read them .. so you can witness without fear ... that folks may be under the impression that there's something else they need to know before they can witness properly. And that thought is simply wrong. The thought that there is anything to fear in witnessing for Jesus.

The one part of your salvation experience that no one can argue with is what actually happened to you. Joseph Garlington, IMHO, spoke well when he said "A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument." As long as it passes the test of Scripture ... hey, we don't always get it right, you know ... then you know what God has done in your life! 

In my case, I know what happened when I was 11. When my dad reminded me of what I had learned in VBS ... that if you believe in Jesus, you go to Heaven when you die ... and I care not how many atheists line up to tell me otherwise, it would not change one bit of what happened to me then.

Or the miraculous things God has done in my life, since then.

When we're talking about witnessing about our faith, in church or Sunday School, I'll frequently ask folks to describe their homes. We'll usually hear about square feet, bedrooms and baths, siding, garages, all the usual things. After that, I'll ask about nails, shingles, furnace BTU's, feet of piping in the plumbing system .... stuff like that. Folks normally say they don't know ... my usual response is that I don't know that stuff about my house either, and it doesn't bother me that I don't.

My big point comes last: that I would never let what I don't know keep me from telling what I do know! Just like they didn't let what they didn't know about their houses  keep them from telling us what they did know.

Why would we let that happen, with reference to telling others about our faith, when what we do know  ... what has happened in our own lives ... is the part others cannot really dispute!

Especially when the things we do in the Kingdom work are the only things we will still have, when we get to Heaven?

Monday, June 25, 2018

Earthly Awards ...

... can have unintended consequences.

The picture shows a Ribbon I won in 1952, when I was an Eighth Grader. Spelling and Arithmetic were about the only things I was good at. And I was really good for my age.

I recall a morning in Kindergarten, when the teacher had to leave the room for a few minutes. She asked me to lead the other children in counting from One to One Hundred, since she knew my parents had already taught me that. So I did, and I recall it was the first time I ever felt good about myself.

We lived in Thornton Fractional Township, and as an Eighth Grader, I entered the Township Spelldown. T.F.T. was a very populated area, so there were hundreds of kids in the Spelling Bee.

And I won!

They gave me the ribbon at the conclusion of the Bee, and I took it home. But the principal asked me if I would bring it to school the next day, so I did.

They had an Assembly in the early afternoon, and in it, the Principal formally presented me with the ribbon in the picture. So I felt pretty good about me, again.

When I got back to the classroom, I gave the ribbon to the teacher to keep in his desk. As I was returning to my seat, a Girl named Audrey said something sarcastic, like "Awww ... you're giving you precious ribbon to the teacher so it will be safe, huh?" Walking back to my desk, I mouthed "Nyah Nyah Nyah" at her.

Only trouble was that she thought I was really hurling some pejoratives at her, and the next thing I knew, she was along side my desk. And she slapped me roundly in the face!

Well, my Dad always told me to never hit a lady, but if a woman ever hit me, she wasn't no lady.... So, instinctively, I backhanded her across her face. She was so shocked that she stumbled back, hit the empty desk across from me, and fell head over heels into the next aisle.

On the plus side, if she'd gone out for the High School Gymnastics Team in 1952, she'd have had a head start on Backflips..... But on the minus side, 5 minutes after being formally presented with the big ribbon over there, we were both sent to the Principal's office. My first time ever, since I was really a model student.

After calling the dichotomy of my situation ... getting an award and then getting sent to The Principal's Office ... he sent us back to class. With the admonition for me not to slug any more girls.

It occurred to me that this was all a pretty good lesson to learn. So if you're a poor lost soul like me, whom Jesus drew to Himself and saved your soul, don't let anything the world awards you change or replace that realization. We may be referred to as priests and saints in Scripture, but we didn't win that award ... Jesus did. He's just graciously sharing it with us.

Thank God....

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Of Seminary Presidents and Babylonians

Because I don't know any better, I'm going to speak up about the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary deal. But first, a word about Habakkuk.

Habakkuk was complaining to God about all the evil in the land, and God answered him, in Chapter 1. God said:

"Look at the nations and watch - and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own.."

Catch that? GOD was raising up the Babylonians, to handle the injustice Habakkuk was complaining about. Hmm ... perhaps that gives a glimpse of just how sovereign and clever and way beyond us He really is! And it might also be a clue as to how He may work, these many centuries later.

Maybe, just maybe, the "Conservative Resurgence" was a subversive and militaristic solution to what was really a Spiritual problem....

Perhaps: most of the SBC as such viewed the architects of the Conservative Resurgence as the guys with the white hats. But maybe they were today's Babylonians.

Raised up by God to do His work here among God's people. Much as He raised up the Babylonians, so they could take care of some of God's business among His people.

Further on, in Chapter 2, God explains that the Babylonians had gotten puffed up, and their time would end. And would not be delayed.

As to the Conservative Resurgence, might it be that God repeated His plan that seems to have worked well, before? Could it be the the CR was not heading off a problem, but was His solution, via "Babylonians", to correct a failing among His people?

The Great Commission is not to make converts, it is to make Disciples. To enroll students or learners. If you examine the numbers over the last years, you see that the SBC is largely failing at that.

We cannot say, of the vast majority of SBC'ers, that they are being discipled when they're not there. Yet all the programs I have seen in recent years, are aimed at evangelism. How people can share their faith "without fear" (?!?!). I really really don't understand that. Unless  ... well .... unless ....

I don't really know.

And I still have yet to have anyone give me the answer to the question of why we must be baptized to join a baptist church. Other stuff set forth in the Baptist Faith and Message, our consensus statement of faith!

Ditto for what it says about gifts, giving, and stuff like that.

IMHO, the failure to make real disciples yielded a membership largely unable to recognize the nature of the problems in the SBC.

Maybe God raised up those who brought about the Conservative Resurgence much as He raised up the Babylonians. And maybe they got puffed up just as the Babylonians did.

Might that explain some things?

If there's any truth in this, I surely hope someone ministers to the people involved in the CR and in SWBTS.

It'd be the Christian thing to do.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Few Thoughts About SWBTS and Dr. Patterson

If you're not familiar with all the newsworthy events that happened recently, concerning Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and its leader, Dr. Paige Patterson, I'd recommend Googling it. It's quite extensive.

In brief, the Seminary's Board of Trustees voted, in a meeting yesterday, to remove him as President and name him President Emeritus.

Now: There are many of us who would like to have seen something more drastic, but a couple of points come immediately to mind:

  1. His role in the Conservative Resurgence was/is unmistakable. Without Dr. Patterson and Judge Pressler, it'd likely not have taken place. Some might argue is was a militaristic reaction to a Spiritual problem, but still ...
  2. The Conservative Resurgence was a good thing for the SBC.
  3. The charges against him are real (from what I read), and certainly warranted action by the Trustees.
  4. Man's nature may well lead people to desire Dr. Patterson to have been disgraced and simply thrown out. But I dislike that natural leaning.
  5. God was in control all along. Last week's sermon at FBCP had many points about God's sovereignty. Why we'd think SWBTS was out of God's control, during the "Patterson Era", is beyond explanation.
  6. Psalm 37:4 states that, if we will take our delight in the Lord, He will feed our desire ... the ones He wants us to have ... to our hearts.  
  7. God said vengeance was (exclusively) His, and that He will repay. It is NOT our job!
  8. Jesus shut off all the shame and dishonor, in the case of the woman caught in adultery.
The Trustees of SWBTS have addressed and resolved the problem at SWBTS.

Let us rejoice in that, in God's promise to handle such things, and in the fact that He did just that.

Yesterday, at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Monday, April 23, 2018

We Don't Really Believe it. Apparently.

The biggest "hue and cry" I'm hearing, concerning the upcoming SBC Annual Meeting in Dallas,  is about evangelism, and one or another SBC Presidential candidate's attitude about it.

Once again, we are focusing on symptoms, not on causes. If you would not accept that from your doctor, why are we, as respects SBC matters?

I'll tell you why. If the real problem is one of discipleship and not one of evangelism, that would likely mean that the pastors of the local churches are the most responsible parties. And since most of the delegates to the Annual Meeting are pastors, I think it unlikely they are going to want to deal with that. With their own responsibilities for the current conditions as respects conversions, baptisms, and other numbers we use to diagnose church and denominational health.

What we don't really believe is 1 Corinthians 3:7&8, and the logical outcome of ignoring it.

Quoting: "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow."

Did you catch that, God makes things grow. I suspect that includes the church itself.

The diagnosis is really simple, to me: The Great Commission is to make disciples. To teach everything Jesus commanded. And with attendance that hovers around 33% of membership ... attendance including visitors, children, and other non-members ... I do not see any way we can claim that we are making disciples of the people God has already sent us.

You may think that those who visit our churches, later to join our churches, are there because our programs have drawn them in. Me, I don't believe I'd say that, in view of the plain statements in 1 Corinthians 3!

The SBC had a hard time passing a call for churches to affirm for themselves that they had a regenerate membership, a few years ago. Again, that would call for pastors to act on the idea that they might have unregenerate members in their local church.

So ... Drs. Hemphill and Greear, please please PLEASE make your focus discipleship ...  not evangelism.

The future of a lot of churches, and of the SBC itself, may just be at stake.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

I Think I Learned Something....

... something important today. And at 79, nearly 80, that's not a common occurrence. Here's what happened:

I climbed the stairs from our garage to the house. 14 of them.

I'd gone downstairs to show the plumber where some stuff was that needed fixin'. And, after, I climbed the 14 stairs up to the "main level" so we could have lunch.

Now, what really surprised me was that I didn't remember climbing them. I chalked that up to my lousy memory, but with the aforementioned age, and arthritis in my hips, back and shoulders, stairs are normally my local personal torture chamber. So I got to wondering why they weren't, about noon today. And .... TADA .... I figured it out!

I wasn't focusing on the stairs! I was thinking of the plumber and the valves and pipes and things! So the climbing was no bother at all!

And THAT got me to thinking about other things. How about ...

  • Giving your personal testimony before others. If you're thinking about speaking in public, you're focusing on the wrong thing! 
  • Going on a mission trip. If you're concerned about heat, dust, witnessing, strange food, or any of the other things with which you're not familiar, you're focusing on the wrong thing!
  • Ministering to others. If you're wondering whether you can help, whether God has equipped you, if your experiences can help the other person, you're focusing on the wrong thing!

I'm sure you can think of some other things, too. But if you're wondering about those things I mentioned above, then you're not thinking about what God can do with what we say and do .... polished and eloquent or not. God says neither the planter nor the waterer produces any results at all. The increase comes exclusively from Him. After all, He started with nothing at all and produced the universe, so when you focus on Him and on what He can do with what you do, then those things you dread may just become like those stairs I climbed today. You won't think of what you are doing, just the outcome.

Just look at Moses. When he stood before the burning bush ... the one burning with the fire of God, which never burns out ... he raised objections to God's planned use of him ... Moses. Well, when God answered his objections, Moses finally asked who God was. Turned his focus from himself to God! After that, Moses became the great leader he was. That God knew about all along.

I recall a girl in Michigan that I used to chat with, some years ago, on the old Prodigy network. She found me on my blog, perhaps 15 years later, and told me that I'd kept her alive by chatting with her! She been suicidal, but I didn't know it.

So be on the lookout for things God puts in your path, even when they might be uncomfortable for you. He may just want to take those ashes and hand you some beauty.

Wouldn't that be just like God?