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 guy 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.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

My Other Brother Art

The guy in the photo over there is Art Rogers ... and wife Bonnie ... who I met during the 2005-2006 Blog wars ... the ones that eventually contributed mightily to Frank Page's election as 2006-2008 President of the SBC. He was pastor of Skelly Drive Baptist Church in Tulsa, and of late had pastored Redemption Tulsa, a new church plant.

Now, my only sibling, growing up, was my brother Art. He was a couple years older than I, and we were pretty much typical brothers.

I got saved as a youngster, and got active in church again when my sons were still pre-school. Sadly, my brother never did profess Christ .. that I know of ... and died a converted Jew.

Earlier today, my friend Art Rogers died. Sadly, he suffered from the same illness that claimed my sibling, namely metastatic esophageal cancer.

After I heard the news about my eternal brother's death this morning, I felt moved to write a poem for him and his family. Specifically because of the nature of his illness and the freshness of the memories of my sibling brother, albeit he died in 2000.

Bonnie, Art Rogers' widow, kindly is allowing me to post the poem here, for any who might have known Art, and might be interested.

Herewith:


ETERNAL BROTHER ART


I lost another brother today

His name was also Art

Unlike my sibling who went away

We’re just, for a while, apart

For the Art named Rogers who left this earth

Had served the Lord while here

Through a life of acts of Heavenly worth.

For people he held so dear.

His faith was strong, for all to see

Right up until this end..

That punctuates our time on earth

When we must lose our friend

But lost is not the word to use

For when a thing is lost

We know not where it is right now 

Despite its earthly cost

That’s not the case with Brother Art

For we know where he went

And where he is, we too shall go

For life, here’s only lent

To us to get to know the One

Who saves us from our sin

And waits beyond the Heavenly gate

One day to show us in.

To where Eternal Brother Art

Has found a glorious home

Away from smog and sin and all

We see as earth we roam.

For now we say “Auf wiedersehen …

We’ll see you then, one day

When our Heavenly home we gain

You sure showed us the way”.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

A SIMPLE PLAN

Peg and I were sitting on the back porch/deck this afternoon. I was finally finished putting some new boards down on the shed entrance, and I was dog tired. But not too tired to notice something important.

I think.

I recalled when Brad and I built the deck and the roof over it. It was 1993, just about the time of the big Birmingham Snowpocalypse ... two feet of snow are not well received by folks in Central Alabama ... and it posed the first test for our building prowess. We had one side of the roof deck on, while the other side was just the rafters. So we had two feet of snow (which weighed a bunch) on one side and nothing on the other.

Thankfully, it didn't budge at all. And even at that, I added 50% more to the central beam.

So the deck and its enclosure has been there for a couple dozen years, and we've enjoyed it immensely ... especially since we have retired. And we built it years in advance of the bulk of our use thereof.

1993 was also around the time we started saving for retirement. Our employer started a "Simple Plan" ... a simplified retirement plan, per the IRS, in which  the employer can match certain amounts of the employee's contribution ... and we jumped in with both feet. Or wallets.

The Simple Plan has performed wonderfully and contributed much to our years of retirement.

NOW: That got me to thinking of faith.

There was a certain sense of security in preparing for retirement. In knowing we were being prudent in the handling of\ our income, so we'd be able to retire without worries about income. So that part of the preparation was enjoyable, from that perspective.

And now that we're actually retired, we're benefiting from what we did back then.

The same can be said for our deck. It was fun to build, and it was nice to have in the following years. But now that we're retired, we can go out there most any time.

That's where the Spiritual comes in. It's nice to know that, when my time here is up, and I keep that appointment specified in Hebrews 9:27, I have nothing to fear. Plus it's really enjoyable living as a Christian in this foreign land of E.A.R.T.H.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

STUFF WE LIKE TO HAVE ....

That's a picture of my shoes. Most of them. They sit on a rack in the closet off our bedroom.

I've got two pairs of black loafers and two pairs of brown loafers. I have found that, for me, two pairs last well over twice as long as one pair, kind of spreading the wear around.

I have another pair of MBT black loafers that have a problem, about which I've written the manufacturer.

Without results.

I also have 2 pairs of lace-up athletic shoes, one of which is on my feet right now. I bought the second pair after my second knee replacement forced me to get $900 of orthotics, in an attempt to correct some difficulties caused by the replacement.

Orthotics I no longer use, as they physically injured my right foot about a year ago.

I have a pair of loafers for around the house, which I do usually wear, when I'm not wearing those white ones around the house. Plus those boots up top, which I last wore in 2000, I think it was.

Not counting sandals ... 2 pair ... on the top shelf. I last wore a pair of those on a mission trip to Nassau, in the early 1990's. And that's net of the 2 pair I already gave away.....

I have space to keep them, so I just do. I suppose it's kind of nice just having them.

And then there are tools. Oh my. I could go on forever about my tools. I have an engine crane I used when I replaced the dead 4-cylinder in the '79 S10 I bought from my grandson, with a really healthy 350. Maybe 10 years ago, and now at 79, I doubt I will be personally replacing any motors in any trucks.

Or the transmission jack, used to lift a transmission back in place under a car. Doubt its future usefulness as well.

There's also some stuff like cylinder hones, piston ring compressors, ball joint forks and the like, facing a future non-fate.

And hand tools? I have two good-sized tool boxes full of wrenches, hammers and the like. One each in the garage and the shed. And that includes wallboard hammers, trowels for finishing wallboard, and 25 or 30 gallons of old paint.

In fairness: Old paint is really hard to throw away......

Clothes? Ahh .. there we have a minor victory. We bagged up about two dozen shirts I haven't worn in years, and gave them to a local mission here in Pelham. They were happy to have them and assured me they'd be given away and worn in the near future. Goodness knows I wouldn't have...

POINT ONE: I hung on to all that stuff just because I had it and it was kind of nice to have. But when the jammed closet makes it hard to get at the stuff I do use, it's time to do something.

If I get another pair of shoes that I do wear, I probably ought to get rid of one pair.

POINT TWO: My faith had best not be like this. Just something nice to have.

Like the "Johnny Carson School of Theology". I heard him say on his show, one night, almost word for word: "Of course I believe .. a man would be a fool not to believe ... if it's true, you're ok, but if it's not, it doesn't make any difference".

Like I said. Nice to have.

I don't want to have that kind of faith. I want the kind that fills my mind every day, points me to things God wants done, and in general controls my life. And understand I don't claim credit for that ... I think Jesus died so I could have that kind of faith, and I want nothing less.

The desire started with Him, after all.

And in my mind, THAT is the only kind of faith that's nice to have.

Friday, May 19, 2017

"ONLY ONE LIFE, 'TWILL SOON BE PAST......

" ... only what's done for Christ will last".

So goes a poem a friend once related. He said it had changed his life, and it had. He was the Field Director of the OMS Mission in Haiti, and we had dinner with him, and his family, one evening.

We were there on an OMS-sponsored mission trip, and had dinner each evening with  a different missionary family.

Dave told us he'd been in Agribusiness in Oregon when he read the poem, and it gave him immediate pause. And caused him to analyze his life and decide he needed to be full-time in his service.

HIS service.

Having been active with the laymen's arm of OMS, he gravitated to them and eventually became a full-time missionary. Which put him in Haiti, some years before. After a few years, his heart for the Haitians and his skills became obvious, and he was named the Field Director.

From what we saw, he did an excellent job in the position, which he held until his retirement a few years ago.

In case you haven't figured it out, the photo above is not that of Dave. It's Susan, our server at Ruby Tuesday's a few days ago. And she kicked off this train of thought.

We'd asked if we could pray for her, when we blessed our lunch, and she reacted wonderfully.

After we finished lunch, we stopped at Dairy Queen for a little dessert. While devouring a Peanut Buster Parfait, the following train of thought pulled into my mental terminal:


  • I have eaten many treats like the PBP.
  • I have visited many,. many places on earth. Something like 45 states and 35 countries. And done a lot of memorable things there.
  • Stood on Victoria Peak in Hong Kong and stared at the South China Sea.
  • Visited a village in China, and sat with a lady in her little house there. She showed us the picture of her, with Michael Jackson, while he was in China.
  • Ridden many miles at 110mph on the Autobahn.
  • Seen and touched famous race cars that Id' read about since a child, at the BMW and Audi Museums in Germany.
  • Walked the Formula One race course in Monte Carlo.
  • Shook Liberace's hand and got his autograph, while in Las Vegas. in 1974. He'd been playing the quarter slots there when we happened upon him.
  • Watched Killer Whales, while they were playing not far from the balcony of our room on the cruise ship, in Alaska.
  • All that's left of them is memories. 
There's more. A lot more (hey .. I'm 79 and have done a lot of stuff,,,,,), but this establishes the thought ... I think:

 I have a lot of terrific experiences in my memory bank.

But that's all they are. Memories.

As pleasant as they are, they're not what floods my mind when I am trying to drift off to sleep. Then, I tend to mull over.....

  • The time I delivered a "message" ... some might say a sermon ... at Red Hills Baptist in Kingston, Jamaica.
  • The impromptu Bible study with a half dozen "Bahama Mamas", who had brought their kids to our Backyard Bible Club at Zion Yamacraw Baptist Church in Nassau.
  • The time I interrupted an "F.A.I.T.H." presentation and just talked to a young lady named Kori.
  • The time I presented the Gospel to a Sunday School class at a Boy's Prison in Plainfield, Indiana.
  • The time this week that we asked Susan, who served us lunch, if we could pray for her when we blessed the food.
Those events brought about results which will last into eternity. And I think that, of just such things as those, Heaven's Treasures are made.

What we do here, good or bad, we will alway have done. And at age 79, there are two things of which I am absolutely sure:

  • There's only one life here, and it will soon be past.
  • Only what's done for Christ will last.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

GREAT PROOF, A GREAT EVENT, A GREAT DAY

Christianity as a faith is determined, differentiated, and declared by the empty tomb. The tomb borrowed from Joseph of Arimathea, on the day of Jesus crucifixion.

Jesus didn't own much beyond His robe and gown ... if you ignore the fact that the whole earth and, everything in it, belonged to Him ... so His followers had to borrow a tomb in which to lay Him.

One might suppose that they knew He wouldn't be gone for long, but were that the case, I doubt they'd have prepared Him for burial in accordance to Jewish traditions. Spices, burial cloths etc.

Interestingly, the person who brought the spices with which to wrap Him, was Nicodemus, the Pharisee to whom Jesus said "You must be born again" ... in the first recorded use of that term.

We're all familiar with the story of what happened on "the first day of the week...". After just a couple of encounters, word got to the followers that Jesus was, indeed, no longer in the tomb. And, after a few hiccups along the way, things got back on track for Jesus' continuation of the building of His church.

There have been a number of things offered, as proof that Jesus really did rise from the dead. First, of course, is that the Bible says so. And that really ought to be enough. But there are folks who tend to want to explain away what Scripture says, by saying it really means something else. Well, I don't buy that.

One evidence is the persistence of the church to this very day. That in itself is pretty strong evidence that something supernatural has been going on. There's no reason why a supernatural resurrection wasn't part of that. Add to that the persistence of Scripture, coupled with the miraculous way it all came together, and we just know that clever men could never accomplish something like that.

I've also heard that contemporary historical accounts also tell of the prophet who came back from the grave.

There's also the fact that most of His Apostles died an early death at the hands of the enemy. One does not do that for even the biggest of lies. So we know the Apostles were convinced of the truth of the resurrection. But, to me, the greatest proof of all is contained in Scripture itself, and not just what it says about the resurrection.

Matthew's Gospel, 28th chapter, beginning at verse 11, reports "While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, the gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them "You are to say His disciples came during the night and stole Him away, while we were asleep."

I am convinced that you do not bribe someone to tell the truth. This leads me to believe the elders and chief priests we convinced, as were the guards, that Jesus had been resurrected.

Wow.

It's been said that, when the devil tries to intervene, he invariably shoots himself in the foot. For instance, the sign Pilate painted, stating "The King of the Jews", and which hung over Jesus' head, told the thief on the cross that Jesus was a King. I don't think Pilate intended that, when he painted the sign, and even refused to change it when one of his soldiers challenged what he wrote.

Then, of course, there's Joseph, and what eventually came from his brothers' jealousy and hatred.

Of course, the ultimate example is the Crucifixion itself. What the devil surely meant for evil, God intended for our good!

Maybe that's what happened with a certain lie concocted by the elders, chief priests and a few guards on a certain Sunday. They proved that which they would not admit, even to themselves.

For me, that's the checkered flag at the finish line. The "amen" after the prayer. The gavel at the close of the court case.

Case closed.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

You think YOU Have Experienced Tension?

I have little doubt that the day after The Crucifixion was the most tension-filled day, ever.

Consider:

Jesus had been with them for a little over 3 years. He had performed many miracles in their sight, so they knew something was extremely special about Him. More special than anyone they'd ever seen, I'd guess.

They also saw Him as a Human Man. He ate with them, slept within their sight, prayed to His Father ... albeit differently from what they did.

He always prayed a little way away from them ... far enough that they could not hear His prayers. That's why, IMHO, they had to ask Him to teach them to pray like He did.

They knew there was something special going on there, and they wanted some of it.

But they did not have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Hence, they could not have understood the Spiritual truth that Jesus and His Father were, in fact, One. I doubt they could have understood the truth that Jesus had the authority to lay His life down, and to pick it up again.

They knew He had authority over death, but now He was dead. He wasn't there, so they could never have understood that He ... His Father ... could bring Jesus back to life.

If you think about it, the Disciples weren't just biding their time on the day after the Crucifixion. They were huddled in fear, Leaderless. And when the women went to the tomb on Sunday morning, it wasn't to greet a Living Savior, it was to anoint a dead body. They had so consigned Him to death that they did not ever recognize Him when they first saw Him.

If they'd have realized ... connected the dots ... that Jesus said He was going to be killed one day, and would come back to life 2 days later (as we celebrate it), they would have seen that the entirety of their faith was on the line, that day. Either....

  • He doesn't rise from the tomb, meaning their faith was in vain, what Jesus said was all untrue and hence He was either a liar or a lunatic, And certainly not a Savior... or ... 
  • He rises to life, meaning He was what He said He was, He really did make the atonement for all the sin of His followers, And God was putting His seal of approval on everything Jesus did and said. 
So there it all was. Pass/Fail. Go/NoGo. Life/Death. Win/Lose.

It was ALL on the line. What a day it would have been to be there, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, just waiting in anticipation of the greatest event the world will ever know.

I think that's why we're reminded, in Hebrews 9:27, that it is appointed to us to die. There will be a day in our life when it'll be Pass/Fail ... Go/NoGo ... Life/Death ... Win/Lose.

I am thankful I'm on the winning side.