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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Communion. Maybe there's More.

We take Communion at FBC Pelham, usually on the 5th Sunday of the month. Which makes it roughly quarterly. And I've heard countless explanations on the meaning, and representing the Body and Blood of Jesus. Commemorating His crucifixion and celebrating His sacrificial death, and His sacrificial life.

But there's another meaning that occurred to me some time back, that I've never heard anybody say, which I can only attribute to our mutual friend, that Author of some renown, none other than Mr. Holy Ghost.

As Joseph Garlington said, He's the Author of the oldest book in the world whose Author is still alive.

First, a little background. I've maintained for some years that Romans 10:9 & 10 are the great verses in the Bible telling us how one must be saved. They're written to a wide audience as a commentary, and not rifle-bore in the context like the statement to the jailer on what he must do to be saved. In fact, these verses were the highlight ... the finale ... in a sermon I preached some years ago in Jamaica, in which God so moved in the invitation time that it lasted an hour and fifteen minutes. 

Here's the thought: those verses mandate that we confess Jesus as Lord, to be saved. Now, "confess" is "homologeo", which is to agree with someone .. to say the same thing as they do. That would be an agreement with everything God has said about Jesus. Now I am no lawyer, but I understand that, to have a valid contract with someone, there must be a "meeting of the minds" ... a speaking of the same thing. I cannot promise you a new car in exchange for a year's lawn service, and then try to fulfill that with a Hot Wheels model. So, if that's correct, then Jesus must really BE our Lord, to actually have made an agreement with God.

Then, "Lord" is "kyrios" ... "he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master, lord", and further "the owner; one who has control of the person, the master". So the question becomes ... is Jesus the ultimate authority in your life? That seems to be essential if Romans 10:9 and10 apply to us. If that's the case, then we have things we need to do, that are explicit in Scriptures.

You can read 1 Corinthians, Chapter 12, for verification as to how the Holy Ghost ... in fact, the whole of the Trinity is involved ... is preparing us for what He wants us to actually do here. Jesus said, in John 6, that we are to eat of His flesh and drink of His blood. And I always accepted that as a symbolic thing ... like at the "Last Supper" when He said "this is My flesh..." and "this is my blood...". Notwithstanding those denominations which hold to transubstantiation, that had to be symbolic, since we know His flesh and blood were at the table and speaking to the men.

SO .. what does it symbolize, then? Hold on .. I think it is more than symbolism.

All through nature, and even in man-made hierarchies, promotion or elevation has to come from above. The mailboy cannot promote himself to VP, for instance.

Then consider, for instance, dirt. No matter how much the dirt wants to become grass, it cannot do that. But the grass can send down roots and make part of the dirt part of the grass.

Same things for grass and cows. The cow eats the grass and makes part of it part of the cow. Ditto for a cow wanting to become man. It cannot, but the man chops up the cow, eats it, and presto! Some of the cow becomes some of the man.

And the same reasoning applies to man, wanting to become one of, or right with, God. Thus Romans 5:8....

Then, all of a sudden, Jesus tells us to consume His flesh and blood. Could it be the real symbolism is that He needs to become part of us? Makes sense to me ... after all, many of the things He wants to do here, require flesh and blood and bodies down here. Things like visiting the widows and poor, those in prison, handing out a cup of cold water, stuff like that.

When you take Communion, remember this: Jesus wants to take over your body and do some things that will bring Himself glory, and He wants to use you do do it!

Don't think of that as work! Think of it as an opportunity ... one of the few things you can do that will lay up treasures in Heaven.

And be a privilege in the process!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Ripples and Waves

I went to the YMCA again today, and walked for 20 minutes in the indoor swimming pool.

No, I don't walk on water or anything, but as the pool is 4 feet deep at the shallow end, and 5 feet deep at the deep end, I can walk around in it just fine.

I was there earlier today, just walking some laps in the pool, which is 82.2 feet long. And part of the time, I would just run in place or do other exercises of my joints to combat the arthritis.

By the way, it works. It really does!

Sometimes in the pool, I just float on my back. I'm blessed that way, as I can float for hours with my face out of the water.

This afternoon, there was one other man in the pool, swimming leisurely laps on the other side of the pool. And I noticed something about that, which rang another bell.

In that confined space, the ripples he produced swimming back and forth would bounce off the pool walls, and collide with other ripples headed their way. The result was that, every now and then, a wave would slap the wall, sounding like a big wave slapping at a seawall.

That also made floating on my back, just relaxing in the water, a whole lot more, shall we say, interesting.

As I was floating there, a huge thought swept over me .. the thought that a similar thing happens in our lives when take part in our local church. The things we do there cause ripples in the lives of others, which produce Spiritual ripples in their lives, and those surrounding them as well. And, like in the Pelham YMCA pool, they rebound off the walls and produce yet more waves.

I Corinthians 12 is pretty clear that God ... in fact, the entirety of the Holy Trinity is named ...  is active in gifting each of His children with a manifestation of grace for the common good! That tells me that we're not gifted so we can have  a Spiritual gift, but rather so that we can use such gift(s) for the building up of the body, for the work of service! 

Get that picture in your mind!

You do something in the church body that has a positive effect on someone else. They do things, as a result, that affect others, and the beat goes on and on. Eventually, the waves come back around to benefit you, yourself!

Now we hasten to point out that it's God Himself that brings any Spiritual profit to the equation. Check 1 Corinthians 3:6 for details about that. But isn't a thrill to be along for the ride? And to maybe do something that Jesus uses to build the church?

He said He'd do that. So, Study. Learn.

And do.





Thursday, October 26, 2017

Of Crooked Pictures and Vegemite

We just finished Revival services at FBC Pelham ... known this week as Pelham First Assembly of Baptists ... last night. This year, we had as outstanding a lineup of preachers, producing as outstanding a series of sermons, as have ever been seen or heard.

On Tuesday night, Dr. Robert W. Smith Jr. brought the message. I'd heard him preach twice before: once at our State Convention and once when he came to FBC Pelham. Our pastor, Daven Watkins, refers to him as his father in the ministry, having been a student and friend of his at Samford University's Beeson Divinity School, where Dr. Smith holds forth.

He preached about David's sending for Mephibosheth, and taking him into his home as family. One of the things he focused on was Mephibosheth's crippled feet; he focused on that in one portion of his sermon, stating how we tend to first notice what's wrong with people, rather than focusing on what's right.

This has already dug a big hole in  my soul. The next day, for example, I saw a lady at the desk in a doctor's office, signing out after her visit. She was riding in a motorized wheelchair, and I was surmising it was because of her size. Well, God got all over me ... and suddenly my thoughts turned to "There may be the finest mother and wife ever, and there might also be the finest Children's Sunday School teacher in all history." And more such thoughts.

We traveled around a bit that day, and I let my Spirit tell me about folks, rather than my judgmental eyes.

Wow. The difference was remarkable for this set-in-his-ways 70-year-old.

As to the picture up there: It's the wall in our dining room, one of two where we display a lot of family pictures. The ones on the wall are me & Peggy, and our two sons and their wives, and our two grandkids. The one in the center is a picture I had professionally done, of our two sons and me. It was a Christmas Present to Peggy, perhaps 10 years ago.

You may have noted that many .. if not most .. of the pictures are crooked.

Wanna know something? I don't care!

When I look at them, I see family. My most prized possessions on earth. (My most prized possession anywhere is Jesus, who doesn't actually live on earth, except through His appointed Representatives ... a-k-a you and me). I don't see crooked pictures, and I don't care if others do.

If you'll notice, there's some other stuff on the serving cart. Pictures of the grandkids and the spouses, among other things. And a little yellow-labelled bottle in the front. It's Vegemite.

Vegemite is a yeast extract that's made in Australia. I have absolutely no idea how or why anyone ever came up with that product, but all I have ever heard about it was that it tasted terrible. That it was a really-acquired taste. That and various derogatory jokes. So I, of course, had to try it.

I ordered the smallest bottle I could find on Amazon. Suffice it to say it had to come from overseas ...  from the company headquarters of the Australian firm that manufactured it ... from Great Britain. It took the longest time to get here, of anything I have ever ordered from Amazon.

I happen to have a FB friend in Australia ... I'm not saying I've known her a long time, but she was, for some years, a friend in Prodigy network Chat Rooms. She told me several ways to try the Vegemite so the taste wouldn't be so off-putting. And I had those in mind when the bottle arrived, but I couldn't wait: I opened the jar, took a bit of the stuff on a fingertip ... imagine sticking your index finder in an old crude-oil slick and you'll get the picture ... and tasted it.

I LOVED IT!

Since then I have had Vegemite nearly every morning. Usually on toast. Sometimes with cheese, and occasionally on crackers. All of which Gabe from Australia suggested.

SO TELL ME: How do Vegemite and family pictures tie in to revival services? Simple:

  1. Do not base your thoughts about others on what your eyes see. On what you think is wrong with them.                                                                                                                                              
  2. Do not base your opinions of others solely on what others say. I dare say every friend I have is disliked by someone out there. And I refuse to let the opinions of others dictate my relationship with other people. Note I'm not saying to ignore the wisdom of others; just remember everybody out there is wrong about somebody.
SO ... try Vegemite, and you may like it. But try #1 and #2 above, and you will.

And so will God.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

You Got It. So USE it!

Even a casual reading of 1 Corinthians 12 reveals we are all gifted by the Holy Spirit ... in fact the entirety of The Trinity are involved in gifting ... and we are to manifest those gifts in the Lord's service here. But try this some time: count the adult attendance at your church ... then count the number of folks actually involved in the church's mission within, and in the community every week.

And do the math.

If your church is typical, the result is nowhere near 100%, which is what it ought to be.

The picture over there is the local YMCA, here in Pelham. It's about 1 minute from the entrance to our subdivision, and it's also the place at which the train of thought that follows, pulled into my station.

Here's the deal: for some years, I have been a member of what's called "Silver Sneakers". That's an organization which arranges for its members to have access to certain exercise facilities. The local YMCA is one of them.

So, for some years, I've been able to walk into our local Y and exercise, using any of their facilities that aren't marked "Female".  Or "Utility Closet", etc. The only drawback is I actually have to go there and do that.

Which is what I haven't done.

Now yesterday: Peg and I were in our cardiologist's office for a 6 month checkup, and to follow up on echocardiograms we both had a few weeks ago. They were fine, but the neat part was about something else.

He asked us if we walked much. I told him no, I didn't because the arthritis in my back brings big pain after I walk perhaps 25 or 30 steps. He said I was a member of Silver Sneakers ... it's automatic with Blue Cross/Blue Shield's Medicare Supplement ... and suggested I go to the Y and try something.

Namely, getting in the indoor swimming pool, which varies from 4 feet to 5 feet in depth, and just walk. He said being in the pool would take the weight off my back and get that exercise for my joints without the pain. So I tried that, today.

Man, oh man .... does it EVER work!

I spent about 15 minutes in the pool, and then sat in the Sauna for 5 or 10 minutes, and then dried off, changed clothes and came home. And walking has been easier, by a lot, than it was before the visit. So I'm planning on going 5 days a week.

Oh yes ... they have a therapeutic exercise class in their Therapy pool, which is heated, and I would never have known that unless I actually went there.

So I had this thing .. Silver Sneakers membership ... for years, and I never used it.

I have to wonder how many of our church folks are going through the same thing in their Spiritual life. They have a Spiritual Gift, designed for them by God and delivered by the Holy Ghost, and they don't use it. They either don't know, or are ignoring, the fact that God gives gifts to His people not to just have, but rather to use in His Kingdom work.

All have them, some use them, and some don't. In light of the fact that acting in one's area of giftedness is actually how we "Lay up treasures in Heaven", we really need to be on the right side of that equation.

That's for certain where I want to be....



THE LIGHT SOURCE: It's all-important.

The picture over there features our kitchen wallpaper. It's been there ever since we bought the house, in 1983. Oh, we'd have replaced it long ago, when it started showing wear and tear, but we haven't found any we like nearly as well as our third-of-a-century-old stuff.

Funny thing is, it still looks just fine. When we have the normal lights on, that is. The exception is early in the mornings, when the sun comes in at a really low angle, like this morning. Shine the light on the wallpaper from that low an angle, and every little imperfection shows up.

If you'll notice, there are some indentations, caused by chair backs hitting the wall as people scooted back from the table. That used to be a little upsetting ... at least until God pointed out that people enjoying our company and our table was a whole lot more important than the condition of our wallcoverings.

There are also some faint vertical lines here and there, no doubt caused by imperfections on the wall surface during installation. That "third of a century" ago. Let's just say we've grown accustomed to their face....

What has struck me recently is how closely this mirrors us in our Christian walk. Yeah .. it does!

See, when man's light shines on our lives, we look pretty good. It lights up our dress, our house, our family, our cars, our jobs, our retirement account ... all the things it can illuminate. And those things are important.

To the world.

When God's light shines on us, however, it shows up things the world cannot appreciate. Our sin, our forgiveness, our obedience, our conformity to Jesus' image. All the things the world may not, or cannot, see. And what it seldom appreciates.

But that's OK. I'm not out to please the world. Oh, they might appreciate our accommodating attitude in the things that God appreciates .. think charity, etc ... but they can't see Christlikeness for what it is.

They don't always like it when we do God's will. But we really, really need to, anyway.

Think Matthew 7:21....

The good thing about all this is that God is ready, willing, and eager to show you all the things in your life that the world cannot appreciate. If we will but meditate on His Word. And act on what He has shown us.

So let His light shine on your life. And on your feet, too. So you can follow the path He faithfully illuminates for you.

We sing about it. Shouldn't we walk in it, too?

Friday, October 13, 2017

BEING THERE. And some other stuff....

God interrupted some stuff I was doing today, and I figured I ought to write about it.

First, a little background (hang on, it really is related..): I have suffered from IBS for 50 years or a bit more. If you don't know what that is, Google it. I have too much regard for those who might read this, to describe it here.

So I have lived with it for roughly half a century, including the year or two lately when I had a magic pill that would stop it.

Hold that thought for a moment, please.

I have taught Sunday School for the majority of the last 40 years. And all that time, I've wrestled with the regular barrage of IBS and its unpleasant effects. But that went completely away about 18 months ago, when we went on an 11-day cruise.

Although I had taken those magic pills with me, not once during the cruise, did I have an attack. Peg said the diagnosis was really obvious to her: eliminate the stress, and the IBS goes with it. So I came back from the cruise and announced, the next Sunday, I would no longer be teaching.

Say goodbye to the IBS, and with it, one church activity for me.

Shortly thereafter, I was having lunch with Dr. Daven Watkins, our pastor at FBC Pelham. We'd been having lunch together, occasionally, in the 2+ years he's been here. I just happened to ask him if there was anything I might do to help him. His answer: "You're already doing it".

I replied you mean just being here? He said "Yes."

Peg and I talked about this that evening and she completely agreed. And before the day was done, I'd spoken to a friend in Texas about Spiritual gifts, and also spoke with a man in a different Texas town ... a young man I have been witnessing to for 6 or 7 years.

299 pages of Facebook Chat info, let's put it that way.

I talked about what had been happening, with Peg. She said it seemed to her to be affirmation that Being There was, indeed, what God had in mind for me. And since then .. in the 3 months or so since that lunch with Daven, God has affirmed that many times. One such example:

I spent the day yesterday, having tests run at our local hospital's Diagnostic Center. And I chatted with folks in every waiting room I sat in. One such involved a half hour's conversation with 3 solid Christians from a neighboring county. They were country folks, and we had a delightful conversation for 30 minutes or so. It sure encouraged me, and I hope it did, them. But I really hope the other man sitting in the room .. small for a waiting room ... caught some of what we were talking about, and realized the universal appeal to folks.

Another case: the Diagnostic Center was several hundred yards from the testing center, through a real labyrinth of doors and hallways. Owing to my arthritis, I cannot walk that far, and (as they did for most patients there for tests) they had someone from "Transport" come get me in with wheelchair. First time it was a very nice lady and we talked the whole way there.

I told you the place was big ... big enough to have a "Transport Department" to deliver folks around!

The second time it was a young man who pushed me around. And he was accompanied by a young intern, pushing an empty wheelchair and "learning the ropes." He was obviously not enjoying it, from his attitude, his posture and expressions, and from things like standing in a doorway as we were trying to leave. I finally said to him "You're a bad advertisement for this hospital". He asked why, and I told him. When that test was done and I was being shoved back to the waiting room, the young man came up and shook my hand, and thanked me. And finally, my human propulsion man said to me "That was wise advice you gave him".

Now I ain't all that smart, folks. But I figure ... going back to the 2006 SBC Convention in Greensboro ... God doesn't show me stuff so I can sit down and be quiet. And then, a really important realization swept over me on the way home, yesterday. Follow along...

Henry Blackaby's Study Course "Experiencing God" teaches that, when God shows you what He's doing here, it is His invitation to get involved. What hit me yesterday was that, when we show ourselves faithful in getting involved, He's apt to show us more things He wants us involved in. And, ironically, it is the involvement that prepares us for further involvements.

And further "revealings".

Riding home in the car, a tremendous wave of "it's all right-ness" swept over me. Despite just having tests run to find the cause of a rise in my PSA, I was simply overjoyed by what God had sent my way.

My advice: be relentless in finding what God wants from and for you. Use all the brains ... and wisdom ... you have and all you can borrow. Too many Christians settle for less than the sort of life Jesus came to bring us, and it is axiomatic that, when you settle for less than what's yours, you will get less than you settled for.

Jesus died to bring us this marvelous life. Please don't disappoint Him.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Heaven? Hell?


The events being reported today ... the mass shooting and killing of so many people in Las Vegas ... interrupted a post I was working on. Interrupted it with a whole flood of thoughts.

One of them was a question I'd like to have asked the shooter just before he killed himself:

"What makes you think it'll be better after (after you kill yourself)?" 

That got me to thinking of what it will be like, for him.

Of course, we're all familiar with the Bible description of Hell: the lake of fire, constant torment, etc. Just about the worst things we can think of, and surely the worst things people could have thought of, when the Bible was written!

People would not have been fearful of no wi-fi, no cell phone service, no cable TV, or anything of that sort. So the Bible described hell as a place as bad as possible, in terms meaningful to people 2,000 years ago.

Surely not a place they ... or we ... would want to live in perpetuity.

And heaven? Golden streets, pearly gates, jasper, all that sort of thing? But is that really its composition?

I've often jokingly said that it wouldn't be heaven if I didn't have a Ferrari there, and gold would make for lousy traction as a paving material.

Nonetheless, I think that God, and the Book He wrote, are quite clear on the matter. Heaven and hell are as good, or as bad, as we imagine. And they are even better, or worse, than what we can imagine.

Which brings us to Mr. Stephen Paddock. The shooter in the massacre in Las Vegas. And to what it's like for him, right now.

Taking a bit of a side trip here, let's imagine that when we die, we are basically just a spirit, without a physical body. Without that sinful flesh which leads us to sinful acts, like shooting into a crowd. If that's the case, he is now somewhere and fully aware of what he did. Without the sinful mind to fog his thinking, and without the urge to commit evil things. And fully aware of every sin he ever committed, including shooting all those people. And now appreciating the misery and suffering caused by every sin he ever committed. Plus unable to do anything about it ... and never getting "used to it". Plus, add to that a new physical body incapable of ever dying. Incapable of ever ending the suffering.

Sounds like hell, to me. Intolerable, never-ending suffering.

Now: Let's apply those thoughts to an unnamed Christian who died about the same time. He is fully aware of every sin he ever committed, and the results of each one. But with the knowledge they are ... every single one ... removed as far as the East is from the West, from him. And that God has promised never ever to bring them up. Not a one. 

Plus: That Christian will also be aware of every deed he did in Jesus' name ... from teaching, witnessing, leading someone to faith in Jesus ... right down to that cup of cold water he gave to a thirsty stranger. And aware of the eternal consequences .. all the "ripples" that went out ... of his righteous acts.  And don't forget to add that he'll never ever get used to the joy of seeing all the things God did with what he did.

Perhaps we will recall all the things we never did ... the opportunities we passed up for one reason or another ... which might grieve us. But Revelation 21:4 tells us Jesus will be there to wipe away every tear.

Sounds like Heaven, to me!

God tells us to lay up treasures in Heaven, but in that verse ... Matthew 6:20 ... He doesn't instruct us just how that's to be done. 

Peg and I put money into our company's retirement plan for 8 or 9 years. Those funds now enable us to do some things we'd otherwise not be able to do. It brought us no joy at the time, but it does, now. Knowing we were prudent to that extent. But what it brings us, here, we can get accustomed to.

Laying up those treasures in heaven is different, though. It brings us joy while we do that, down here. But after we die?

Good golly! Can you spell H-E-A-V-E-N?


Friday, September 08, 2017

You Don't Want To.....

"You don't want to buy any Life Insurance, do you?

That sentence was spoken to me by a Hartford Life Insurance Field Rep, one day in the late 1960's. He had called on the Insurance Agency in which I was employed, as we represented the Hartford ... the guys with the stag in the commercials. Most Property - Casualty insurers have what's called a "life insurance pup" ... a subsidiary company to sell life insurance. The theory is that, since P&C agents have all those hundreds of clients buying homeowners and car insurance, and all those folks need life insurance, it'd be a natural tie-in.

It really isn't, but I figured I'd give it a shot and started asking customers that question. And I sold about a million dollars of the stuff in the next 90 days.

Then I moved to another city. But the point stuck with me.

What John had told me, that got me interested, was this: That question ... "You don't want to buy any life insurance, do you?" ... was the worst possible way to get someone to talk about life insurance. Well, other than not saying anything at all. But, if we asked it, at least they'd know we could talk about it, if they happened to be interested.

Boy, did it ever work!!

Now: I took some training in witnessing ... and living as a Christian in general ... in 1970. In it, we learned a new ... for us ... way to start a conversation about Spiritual matters. It involved certain questions, followed by a presentation of a few scriptures in a certain effective manner. And it was sure effective! The first time I shared the scriptures, it was before a Sunday School class in a Boy's Prison, and 6 young men ... teenaged felons ... prayed to be saved.

In the presence of 20 other felons who didn't! AND we were supposed to be sharing the plan that month with believers, as we hadn't yet been told what to do if someone wanted to be saved.

SOOOOO: In a world where Christians are largely reluctant to share the Gospel, I wonder if the same sort of question wouldn't work, for witnessing, too. Plus, I think what God holds us responsible for is what we have seen and heard.

After all, the definition of a witness is "A person who has had a first-hand experience, about which they are called upon to give direct testimony".

And witness Peter and John, as reported in Acts 4:20. After numerous threats by the Pharisees, and being told not to speak of Jesus, they responded:

"As for us, we cannot help but speak of the things we have seen and heard!"

So, back to my statement. What we're responsible for is what we know ... which is what we've seen and heard. Now it may be true that the plethora of witnessing "plans" has too many Christians feeling like they don't know enough to share Jesus with a non-believer. But consider Peter and John ... they had no Bible, only a personal experience, and they were happy to talk about it.

We have more than they had. We have the same Spirit they had, and we have the written Word of God. And a ton more resources than those guys could have dreamed of.

I have to believe the same question would work, as respects Spiritual matters, that worked in selling Life Insurance. I mean, the "Life Insurance" of eternal salvation is WAY better than anything Hartford Life Insurance Company ever sold!

Next time you're confronted with an opportunity to speak to a lost person, why not ask the question:

"You don't want to talk about Jesus, do you?"

Unless, of course, you are the one who doesn't.