Saturday, November 21, 2015


1) I'm getting old.

Now ... there are several other points I've come face-to-face with, in the recent past. In addition to the obvious thing of age ... I'm 77 ... there's also arthritis, titanium knees, and a host of other vagaries that come with advancing years.

But there's also another factor to consider. From 1975 to 1984, I traveled extensively, on business. The four corners of the country and lots of places in between. And regularly to London.

Plus, Peg and I traveled somewhere special every year, generally March 13th to 20th. The 13th is our anniversary and the 20th is her birthday, so that was a handy way to cover both with one trip.

We went to Cancun, St. Thomas, St. Martin, Jamaica, Germany, and probably some other places I've forgotten. When I add them up, I've been in 126 airports on 3 continents!

So .. the elephant I faced this last week was that I really don't want to travel, for pleasure. Which it isn't, any more, anyway. I came to this realization while at the Alabama Baptist State Convention's annual meeting, this year in Daphne. I decided this mainly because we had an ideal hotel, 3 minutes from the meeting site, and I still did not enjoy the trip one bit. Oh, I saw a few good friends, but they're mostly local and I can see them here in town, much more easily than I can, after traveling 200 miles.

I don't like travel any more, unless it is for a purpose. Such as being part of the State or National SBC, which I have done several times. But which brings me to the other point.

2) I've already said it.

But the SBC leadership won't face it. Their elephant is the failure of the churches, for the most part, to make disciples. Which happens to be ... hello .... the Great Commission.

I say that because, according to numbers published in The Alabama Baptist a few years ago, attendance in SBC churches, in the 6 big population areas of Alabama, is 33.28%. When you consider that attendance includes pre-schoolers, children who aren't counted as members, and other visitors, I think it's safe to assume that fewer than 3 out of 10 members are in church on any one Sunday.

Oh ... just by way of information, other reporting denominations' attendance is 53.97% of membership. Hmmm .... so much for the SBC's collectively being the "crown jewel of God's plan to evangelize the world." Which, yes I did, I heard someone say about the SBC.

Ask yourself what would happen, to your employer, if 3 out of 10 employees showed up for work, except maybe the days before holidays (so they could get holiday pay).

I have also asked Sunday School Teachers, Deacons, individually and in meetings, why you have to be baptized to join a Baptist church. No one, in 6 years, has ever given me the right answer!

I see absolutely no evidence, nationally, that our churches are effective at making disciples.

The IMB cutback raised a mighty uproar, mostly concerned with we ought to be ashamed. That churches ought to give more. But what I have heard no one, at any level, say is that God is our source of supply! 

And He still does pay for what He wants done!

Not only is God our financial source, but He also has supplied us with every person who has ever walked through our doors, down our aisles, into our baptistries, and onto our membership rolls. And I've already stated what we seem to be doing with them. 

Or not doing. And remember ... God sent them to us ... every one ... to make disciples!

I said as much from the floor of the Convention, when we were discussing the "alternate descriptor" ... "Great Commission Baptists".

I also said this, personally, to people in the highest levels of management within the SBC. Again, both Alabama and nationally.

Add it all up and I think the plain fact for me is that, unless something new arises, on some other front, which indicates to me that I should attend the conventions again, that my tour of duty in all things SBC, has come to an end. I want to concentrate the energies and ideas I do still have, on the mission field in which God has placed me. 

Right here at home.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015


I am almost always amused, but (sadly) no longer surprised, when I hear church folks talking about the "vision" for the church. It is almost always based on the perceived needs of the community surrounding the church.

I think we get it backwards.

Go back to the Exodus and ask yourself how much of what Israel did was based on the needs of their surroundings. I think you'll conclude that it wasn't, much; God had other ideas for them. He spent quite a bit of time ... and in the Bible ... a number of chapters ,,, explaining how their task was to build the Tabernacle. Of course, the people in the pews, so to speak, didn't have a clue; they were down on the flatlands celebrating a golden calf.

The most interesting part is that Moses had been given a ton of instructions about wood, fine cloth, various metals, precious stones, and all manner of finery. Which would take skilled craftsmen to develop and turn into the altar, poles, drapery, rings & things, and all the other stuff that made up a portable Temple.

I think Moses knew that, and I think God knew that Moses knew it. So, God spoke the words of Exodus 31:

1 "Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. 3 I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, 5 and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship. 6 And behold, I Myself have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, that they may make all that I have commanded you: 7 the tent of meeting, and the ark of testimony, and the mercy seat upon it, and all the furniture of the tent, 8 the table also and its utensils, and the pure gold lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, 9 the altar of burnt offering also with all its utensils, and the laver and its stand, 10 the woven garments as well, and the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, with which to carry on their priesthood; 11 the anointing oil also, and the fragrant incense for the holy place, they are to make them according to all that I have commanded you.”"

Filled Bezalel with the SPIRIT, and gifted him all all sorts of crafts. Sounds like the Bible's first specific instance of Spiritual gifting, to me.

 Hmm .. I have to think that God knew the purpose of the ekklesia at that time, and had already put the people in their midst, who could carry out the vision. And the "people" didn't include the preacher, other than to deliver the message.

 I have seen many instances of a church announcing a "vision" for the church, and I'd hazard a guess that they were based largely on leadership's perception of the needs of the community, observed looking outward from the church. But back in Moses' day, the vision wouldn't have had much to do with sand & rocks. It had to do with the enabling of worship as God desired.

For the perceptive among them, they might have known that, by the presence of Bezalel and Oholiab.

Oh. That's right. God had to reveal that, and The Holy Ghost wasn't here yet. Hence, direct prophetic revelation.

Fast forward to today. Might it make sense that the "vision" God has for the local church is hinted at by the people God has placed in our midst ... see 1 Corinthians 12 & Romans 12 for details ... rather than by what church leadership sees when they look out the windows, at the community?

It does, to me. But I have never seen a church's "vision" based on the discerned and discovered giftedness of the individual members.

You'd think we'd learn ... some of the most beautiful ministries I know of came from the rank & file, when they had a holy concern for an area that wasn't being addressed.

Maybe it's time for some inward examination, and seeing a vision of more than 15% or 20% of the church's attendance using their gifts in the Kingdom work.

Maybe discipleship is needed among the membership, and maybe moreso among leadership.

I think so.

Monday, October 19, 2015


  1. Why I really haven't had any ideas that "coalesced" into a whole Blog post, for a longer while than usual.

  2. This............... from my good friend Wade Burleson, pastor of Emmauel Baptist Church, Enid, OK.

Jesus Is the "New Israel" in God's New Agreement

Orthodox Jews and evangelical Christians have very little in common. The English usage of the adjective Judeo-Christian may make a person think that evangelicalism and orthodox Judaism are similar. We really aren't. Admittedly, Judeo-Christian sounds more pleasant to the ears than Islamic-Christian to most American Christians, but there's about as much in common between religious Muslims and evangelicals as there is between religious Jews and evangelicals. Yet, for many wrong reasons, some Christians believe it is "of God" to support Jewish attempts to extricate Muslims from Jerusalem, tear down the Dome of the Rock -  a major Islamic shrine - in order to  rebuild the Jewish Temple, re-institute Old Covenant blood sacrifices, and re-establish Old Covenant Festivals outlined in The Law (the five books of Moses).

I don't get it.

"Kiss the Son..." (Psalm 2:12) is the instruction of God for all peoples during these New Covenant times, both Jew and Gentile. It matters not if you are born in the land of Israel, a Muslim land, a secular land, or even a so-called "Christian" land, every single human is instructed by God to embrace Jesus Christ. To come to Christ by faith, and to declare "I have no righteousness except Him" is the essence of "good news," and it is the only way by which anyone will ever experience right standing with God and eternal blessings from God. Orthodox Jews oppose the proclamation of faith in the Person and work Jesus Christ as much as Muslims do.  For evangelicals to support the re-building of a Jewish Temple, the re-instituting of Jewish institutional sacrifices, and the re-establishing of Jewish annual Festivals -- all of which Jesus Christ caused to disappear (Hebrews 8:13) -- strikes me as anti-Christ.

God established a New Covenant (agreement) with the world through the obedience of His Son. The Old Covenant was made with one nation (Israel) and is now gone (disappeared).  Whereas in the Old Covenant, the nation of Israel experienced God's blessings through their obedience to the Law, as well as God's wrath for their disobedience to the Law, in the New Covenant God's blessings are only received through not being ashamed of "the Christ of God" (Luke 9:20) and putting one's trust in Him. This why our obedience to God in the New Covenant is called "the obedience of faith" (Romans 16:26). We believe in Jesus Christ, embrace Him, refuse to be ashamed of Him, and claim we have no righteousness of our own, but only that righteousness which is found in Him.

That's why evangelicals who spend their time attempting to explain why it's necessary for Jews to re-institute the rituals of Old Covenant, constantly promoting the religion of orthodox Judaism -- while at the same time denigrating orthodox Islam -- may have completely missed the beauty of Jesus Christ and the good news (i.e. "gospel").

Jesus Christ is the New Israel

Most evangelicals read the New Testament and come across the phrase "the last days" and think it has to do with "the last days" of this world. Not true. The New Testament writers, all of whom were Jews, wrote of "the last days" of the Old Covenant! God was bringing to an end covenant He made with Israel. Through His Son, God was launching a New Agreement (Covenant) with the world (Hebrews 8:13). The Twelve original disciples of Christ knew they were in "the last days" of the Old Covenant, and this is why the Apostle John wrote in I John 2:18 that he was indeed living in "the last hour." Peter, when preaching on the day of Pentecost, quoted the prophet Joel and said Joel's words about "the last days" were then (in Peter's day) being fulfilled (Acts 2:17). Other passages like Hebrews 1:1–2 say the early disciples were living in "the last days,"  and that the "consummation of the ages" was "now" (the time of the early disciples) (Hebrews 9:26). Paul said the early Jewish followers of Christ were the people "upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (I Corinthians 10:11).  All the New Testament books were written prior to the collapse of Old Covenant Jewish worship (A.D. 70), and the early followers of Jesus - most of whom were Jewish - were prepared by Christ to anticipate the destruction of their Jewish way of worship "in the last days."

In A.D. 70 God brought the Romans to Jerusalem to destroy the Jewish Temple, end the blood sacrifices, and scatter the Jews, similar to the way He brought the Assyrians to Israel in 722 B.C.  to end the northern kingdom of Israel, destroy the false idols they'd built in the groves, and scatter the ten northern tribes. The judgment of God wrought in AD 70 was also similar to the manner in which He brought an end to Temple worship and the desolation of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. through the army of the Babylonians. Believing God ended the Old Covenant age A.D. 70 doesn't preclude a belief that Jesus Christ is returning one day to raise the dead, judge the wicked, give His followers the rewards He has earned for them  (i.e. "we are co-heirs with Christ"), and usher in eternity - all of which I believe. But what a proper understanding of the New Testament "last days" will do for you is help you put more of an emphasis on the Person and work of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom now rather than a nation whose covenant with God (the Old Covenant) has disappeared.

I support "national Israel" today because they are the closest thing to a democracy in the totalitarian despotism of the Middle East. I, like you, watch the news and feel sympathy and support for Israel because of the despotic enemies that surround them. However, to support "national Israel" because of a belief that God desires the re-establishment of an Old Covenant agreement with Israel is  - forgive my expression - to spit in the face of Jesus, the Christ of God.

Jesus is the new Israel in the eternal New Agreement that God has made with the world. God is now only concerned with whether or not people everywhere embrace His Son. That's why you can talk about your religion (i.e. "How you serve God, worship God, obey God, etc...") and the world will leave you alone. But the moment you begin to talk about Jesus Christ, all hell breaks loose. Jesus is the Christ of God, and even the demons of hell know you must embrace Him or face the wrath of God. When you promote national Israel over the New Israel (Jesus Christ), you are no different in your religion than any other anti-Christ religion. Faith that saves is Christo-centric. Faith that saves is "Christ centered" and not Old Covenant national Israel centered.

"This Is My Son, in Whom I Am Well Pleased"

Let me show you how Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the new Israel in the new, eternal agreement that God has made with the world.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, his parents took Him to Egypt to avoid the murderous plot of King Herod. Later, Jesus left Egypt with Joseph and Mary and settled in Nazareth. When Matthew recounts how Jesus was "called out of Egypt" (Matthew 2:15), he says that Christ coming out of Egypt fulfills the statement of Hosea 11:1 - "Out of Egypt I have called My Son."

Wait a minute! That Hosea 11:1 passage says:

"When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son."

But the gospel writer (Matthew)  says that this statement from Hosea is fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ. In other words, Jesus becomes the new Israel in the New Covenant. Unlike Old Covenant Israel, Jesus fulfills the Law - every jot and tittle of it! There are some evangelicals who believe that "the church" has replaced Israel in the New Covenant. Not so. Jesus is the new Israel.

Notice how the life of Jesus as the new Israel parallels the life of Old Covenant national Israel.

(1). The King of Kings was born in Bethlehem, the very place where King David was crowned King of Israel during Old Covenant days.

(2). After Jesus was born, He went to Egypt, just as national Israel fled to Egypt during Old Covenant days to avoid death (see Genesis 46:8) .

(3).  Both national Israel and the new Israel (Jesus Christ) were "called out of Egypt" (Hosea 11:1).

(4).  God gave the Law during the Old Covenant on a mountain (Sinai) through Moses; and He gave the new Law on a mountain through His Son (i.e. "The Sermon on the Mount").

(5). God told Peter, James and John to ignore Moses and Elijah, the great Law-giver and prophet of the Old Covenant, and to listen to "My beloved Son!" (akoute auton - "Hear Him"!"). Because HE is the Christ of God. We are to listen to Him alone! (see Luke 9:28-36).

(6). National Israel has a history of disobedience to God and failure to meet the conditions of  the Old Covenant. The new Israel, Jesus Christ, fulfilled every "jot and tittle" of the Law (Matthew 5:18).

(7).  Since the Law promised "blessings" from God for full obedience, and punishment for disobedience to the Law, national Israel experienced punishments from God throughout the duration of the Old Covenant (ending in AD 70). However, Jesus experienced and felt the full pleasure of His father ("this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased") because of His perfect obedience.

(8).  Before Jesus entered into His public ministry of mercy and grace, He endured 40 days in the wilderness; so too, before national Israel entered into Canaan, they spent 40 years in the wilderness.

(9). Jesus Christ was baptized at the very location (Betharaba) national Israel crossed the Jordan to enter Canaan.

(10). Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law's Festivals (born at Tabernacles, died at Passover, in the tomb during Unleavened Bread, raised on the Feast of Firstfruits, and sending the Comforter at Pentecost, etc...).

Because Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law in His perfect obedience, and passively fulfilled the Law in His substitutionary death (i.e. He paid the Law's penalty for sin), the good news is that whoever forsakes trust in their personal obedience and places their faith in the performance and work of Jesus Christ, the gift given to them is life -- real life that lasts forever -- which includes God's forgiveness of every sin, the crediting of Christ's perfect righteousness to my account (i.e. "God sees no sin in His people"), and eternal rewards for Christ's performance ("the meek will inherit the earth when the curse is fully reversed").

In this New Covenant time period, we are fully blessed by God, totally pleasing to God, and the eternally loved, adopted, and rewarded sons of God (by adoption) because of the obedience of Jesus Christ (not our own) and our faith in Him! As it is written:

But whatever was to my profit (as an orthodox, religious Jew)  I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ. (Philippians 3:7-11)

In Jesus Christ we have true Rest.

So, before you get all caught up in the questions of what how a person should treat modern, national Israel, may I suggest that God is only interested in how you treat the new Israel - His Son, the "Christ of God"?  Christ fulfilled the Law whereas national Israel failed the Law, Christ is pleasing to God for His perfect obedience whereas national Israel experienced punishment from God for their persistent disobedience; Christ is "the Way, the Truth and the Life" for all those who put their faith in Him (i.e. "the obedience of faith," Romans 16:26), whereas national Israel has gone down a path "that seemed right to man, but the end thereof is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12).

I believe any evangelical more concerned with one's treatment of national Israel than one's trust in the new Israel, Jesus Christ, is doing a disservice to the Kingdom of God and missing the Gospel itself by mixing and confusing an Old Covenant, replaced by a New Covenant inaugurated by the performance of the New Israel (Jesus Christ).  I close with the words of the brilliant John Owen on why an understanding of the New Covenant and its corresponding freedom to those who embrace the New Israel (Jesus Christ) will revolutionize one's life and worship:

For “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty;” namely, to serve God, “not in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of the Spirit.”…And we may briefly consider wherein this deliverance and liberty by the New Covenant does consist, which it does in the following things:—

(1.) In our freedom from the commanding power of the law, as to sinless, perfect obedience, in order to obtain righteousness and justification before God…

(2.) In our freedom from the condemning power of the law, and the sanction of it in the curse. This being undergone and answered by Him who was “made a curse for us,” we are freed from it, Rom. 7:6; Gal. 3:13, 14.

(3.) In our freedom from conscience of sin, Heb. 10:2,—that is, conscience disquieting, perplexing, and condemning our persons; the hearts of all that believe being “sprinkled from an evil conscience” by the blood of Jesus Christ.

(4.) In our freedom from the whole system of Mosaical worship, in all the rites, and ceremonies, and ordinances of it; which what a burden it was the apostles do declare…
(5.) From all the laws of men in things appertaining unto the worship of God, 1 Cor. 7:23.
And by all these, and the like instances of spiritual liberty, does the gospel free believers from that “spirit of bondage unto fear,” which was administered under the Old Covenant.

Next time you experience a "spirit of fear" about the world's future, your personal failures, or the possibility of the loss of God's favor, you might check upon which Israel you are relying - the Old Israel which induces "a bondage unto fear" or the New Israel which brings life, liberty, and real happiness.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015


A little personal privilege, please. Trust me ... I'll get to something else in a minute.

I am the lucky recipient of arthritis, which is becoming worse as the years slip past. (Note .. I did not say the luck was good..) So there are lots of things I cannot do any more.

We put a new dusk-to-dawn light on the eave of the screened-in deck a couple months ago. It does a terrific job of lighting the driveway out back, where we normally park our car. Unfortunately, it also does an excellent job of lighting the back deck where we like to sit in the cool of the evening.

Brightly light, I might add. So now, sitting out there after dark resembles being in a police lineup.

Not good.

So I wheeled the 6' scaffold in, got some pieces of carpet to staple up in the strategic spot, to shade the deck. But, I discovered, while wheeling in the scaffold and ladder was pretty easy, climbing an 8' stepladder and getting onto a 6' scaffold was not. In fact, owing to the arthritis in my back and other various places, it was no longer in the cards.

In fact, it was our sons Brian & Brad, and Grandkids Matthew & Meredith, who'd put the light up there, in the first place.

Facts settle in. Instant regret, resentment and self pity along for the ride.. But thanks be to God, so do a couple other things, along with it.

For one: Peg and I are blessed with a couple sons and grandkids who can probably do that for us.  As Mitch Albom said in Tuesdays with Morrie ... quoting Morrie Schwartz .... "Some people are upset that they need help; others are happy that they have  help.

I choose the latter.

For another: Whereas I can't do some of the things I did 20 years ago, owing to the vagaries of age and the accompanying maladies, .there are still more things I can do than I'll ever have time to do, anyway.

I've gotten pretty good at making  Snoopies and Charlie Browns for our deck and mailbox, f'rinstance.

And perhaps even better .. make that much, much better, God has opened the door to minister to people in recent years ... more than ever before. In the past week or so, I have messaged back & forth with a couple people on  Facebook, of all places; folks who had trouble living up to the future vision they had for themselves, and who benefited from being reminded that we're to live today in the way we believe we should live today. It's the only day we're promised, and it doesn't depend on our assurance that we can change ourselves to be something else in the future. And they've told me it was helpful to them.

Reminder: as the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:6; some plant and some water, but God gives any increase.. Which reminds me of the incredibly Spirit-filled ride in an airplane 2000 feet above the Grand Canyon. It didn't bother me at all that I wasn't piloting the plane, but it was a huge thrill to be along for the ride! 

Such, it is, with ministering to people.

Tine to focus on what we can do.

I think the SBC and its entities and its leadership need to think of that, too.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Lessons From Insurance. And Salvation.

That's a really old insurance policy over there. Fitting, as my insurance experience started in 1958, and ended in 2008. So my knowledge may be a bit out-of-date. But, insofar as it pertains to principles, I don't think it is.

By way of background, I taught 3 different insurance courses, in the evenings at Earlham College ... non-credit, working toward Insurance Institute recognition ... for several years. Like, 40 years ago.

Nonetheless, a few principles still apply, even if occasionally violated these days.

One principle is that whatever you're insuring against must be fortuitous. Accidental from your perspective. In fact, most insurance policies exclude (or did) wear & tear and gradual deterioration. Which ought to tell you why I disapprove of the insurance-company-based "extended warranty programs, which purport to pay for just that. As well as some other things.

Another principle is that what's insured against must be pure risk, as opposed to dynamic risk. Pure risk is that chance of loss only.

Think of it this way. If you own a house, it may burn down tonight. If it does, you lose. If it doesn't, you will be in the same position tomorrow as you are today. There's no corresponding "gain" by its not burning down. You might also walk across a floor. If you fall, you may lose; if you don't, there's no particular profit.

Unless you're trying to get out of your burning house.

Similarly, you cannot insure against gambling losses. The problem with gambling is that it's not a static risk. The act of betting,creates the risk of loss, and simultaneously the risk of gain.

The same is true against insuring a business against losing money ... which is married to the chance of making money.

Another principle is that the chance of loss must be high enough to cause enough people to want to insure it, to make the numbers work out. I mean, you would not expect your insurer to insure the loss of an ordinary lead pencil. Conversely, it must be low enough to eliminate the probability that all units in the group, or even most, may be lost in one fell swoop. That's why conventional policies exclude war, nuclear occurrences, flood and the like (the Government handles those things, if at all).

Which brings us to salvation. First of all, we're all going to die. Unless we're here for the Rapture, which will bring with it a new set of rules.

In that sense, death is a pure risk. You either die, in which case you lose (in the conventional sense). Or you live, in which case you stay right where you were.

But you'll still die some day.

And the chance of loss is certainly high enough to warrant doing something about it. And although we're all going to do just that, it's unlikely that a singe event will take us all out.

Consider another aspect of insurance. Would you sleep real well tonight if you did not have any insurance on your house?  I know I wouldn't, even though ours is paid for.

I could not afford to deal with the results of an uninsured fire. Or tornado. The minute after it hits is too late to deal with it.

Same is true with your life. You'\re going to die, and after you do, is too late to make arrangements. See Hebrews 9:27 for details.

And the "other aspect" I mentioned above. I would not sleep well, if at all, this night were I not certain of my salvation. Certain of eternal life. And I certainly would not want to live a lot of years with that thought, either.

But that's precisely what a lost world is doing.

My personal thanks to the Holy Spirit for convicting me of sin,  of righteousness, and of judgment. 

Had He not done that, I don't think I'd be sleeping well, tonight. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Lessons from Leaves and Limbs

Sitting at the kitchen table the last few mornings, I noted something about the trees in the front yard.

Actually, that's a mis-statement. It's not a yard .. it's what's left of the forest into which the builder set our house. I should note that, whereas I love summer and hot weather, I do not like season changes. Particularly since I don't like winter.

Nonetheless; I noted, and will point out, several things in this picture. Point #1: note the leaves in the middle of the picture, that have already begun the withering and dying process. They belong to the dogwood tree on the right.

Point #2: Note the dead branches on the tree nearest the house.

Point #3: If you look closely, just above the leftmost yellow leaves, you'll see a few new leaves sprouting from one of the previously-dead branches.

All that got me to thinking. Point #1: The yellow leaves are in the innermost part of the little jungle out there, sheltered from what's outside. Like sunlight. And rain. Does that remind you of anything?

It does, me. It reminds me that my faith is not to be hidden among other "trees". Among other Christians. My faith needs exposure to the Spiritual sun and rain. It needs not to be sheltered.

Point #2: The dead branches. They were the most hidden in our little forest. Right up against the house and shaded by not only the other trees, but the house itself. It got the least sunlight. So the same thing happened, some time back, that is now happening to the dogwood branches.

When they stopped being productive, the branches died. Oh, as you can see, they're still branches, but they don't count for much.

I have to wonder if that happens to us when we are not "productive" in the Great Cause of the Great Commission. And, by that, I DO NOT mean we all have to be "soul winners"  .... which we really cannot do anyway ... but I DO mean we can all do our part as a member of the Savior's army, out here in the world.

Check 1 Corinthians 12. Read how you're gifted to do that which God intends for you, in the advance of the Kingdom which exists on earth.

When we're not hooked into the Source and being fed that sunshine and rain, I guess we can expect our leaves to wither sooner, and our Spiritual lives to crumble under the weight of Spiritual gravity. Oh, we'd still be branches, but looking like the Spiritual equivalent of the dead branches on that tree.

Which brings us to Point #3: Even when the branch dies, it can still be brought to life. See ... there was a tree immediately to the left of that tree, a huge one, that was dying last year. So, while the tree trimmers were here taking care of some other things, and facing winter anyway, we had them take that big tree down. And that let more sunshine, and perhaps more rain, get to the tree with the dead limbs.

They came back to life; arboreal evidence, in practical, down-to-earth terms, of the truth of Jesus' statements about vines and branches!

Our faith was never designed for our comfort or to be hidden from the outside world. To be cloistered quietly from the world's storms. The roots of our faith are more than sufficient to guarantee we will stand among the storms of life. There's no reason not to share that faith, and every reason to do that, outside the shelter of the walls of our buildings.

If you see your faith withering, put it to use. If you're hiding inside those walls, afraid to share your faith, I think Jesus' words to you might echo what He said to Lazarus:


Wednesday, August 19, 2015


IN WHICH the new recruits go through basic training ... "Boot Camp" if you will ... as follows.

They spend several weeks sitting in a classroom and learning things. They study how to fly a plane, steer a battleship, fire a cannon, all those things the military does to defend and protect the USA. And then, after the final class, tell them "OK .. there's your battleship (or artillery or airplane or helicopter, atomic bomb, or whatever). Go use them somewhere.

That wouldn't make much sense, would it?

It wouldn't, to me, either.

But that is precisely what happens in most churches! We attend on Sunday mornings (and evenings, if we have services then) and we attend on Wednesday nights, and that's about it. Oh, we do occasionally have "confrontational witnessing programs" in which we teach people a system and then go out knocking on doors, and take a "Spiritual Opinion Poll". Which it really isn't, only serving to get us talking to people about Spiritual matters.

When I look at the trends in the church ... particularly SBC churches ... over the past few years, it does not seem that our system is working any better than the hypothetical Boot Camp I mentioned above. Which, incidentally, no military I know of would ever do, as it is ludicrous on its face.

Add to that the fact that churches are eager to send people to foreign lands on mission trips, to witness to folks over there. They're motivated by the Great Commission, to go into all the world. Well, it occurs to me that we are already in all the world, and that where we live is already the "uttermost part" referred to in Acts 1:8.

When the Great Commission refers to "Go...", the applicable word  in the original language is   "poreuo", which translates as:

  • To lead, carry over, transfer
  • To pursue the journey on which one has entered, to continue on one's journey
  • To follow one, that is, become his adherent, to lead or order one's life

That sounds as if we're supposed to do whatever is instructed where we are .. where we're going. Not necessarily to travel to "the uttermost parts of the world". Fact is, we're already there!

But when I look around the church, I don't see a lot of programs designed to teach people how to speak of Jesus to folks they are already talking to. And I can see some reasons why people need to be taught that!

For one thing, there's the fear of failure. I don't think that's a big hindrance, since most folks know .. at least I hope they do ... that when someone rejects our witness, they're really rejecting Jesus and not us personally.

The other thing, and perhaps even bigger, is that people fear success. For one thing, if you tell someone how Jesus saved you, and they say "Tell me more", we really ought to be prepared to tell them more. And that requires that we be taught.

Just think: If you prayed over someone in the hospital, and they were miraculously healed, wouldn't that change your life? I mean, how could you refuse to go pray, the next time someone you know is hospitalized?  If you tell someone about Jesus and they are saved, how could you not tell the next unsaved friend you meet?

Yes, "success" in Spiritual matters carries with it some obligations.

Add to that, the fact that the devil will always whisper in your ear, later, and it's not unexpected that folks would be reluctant to carry on. When the devil asks you if you are certain you told them right, or enough, or whether you're sure the person actually meant it, it can raise red flags in your mind.

Unless you also recall what the Apostle Paul said:

1 Corinthians 3:6 & 7: I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God Who causes the growth".

So we have a couple of choices. We speak of Him, in which case God may give growth. Or we don't speak, in which case we cannot expect anything to happen. It's our choice, and the lack of "credit" for what happens should be no more discouraging in our journey than that fact that we're not flying the airplane would kill the pleasure of flying over the magnificence that is the Grand Canyon.

What do we need to do? Simple. Train people. The same way the military does. Hands-on. Practice. Make our instructions .. the actions we need to take .. as second nature to us as they would be to an Army Ranger.

We are, after  all, in a battle. God said so.