Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fifty Shades of Something

There's been a lot of press, both within and without the Evangelical community, about the film. Mostly lamenting its existence, the fact that people are going to see it at all, the fact that some believers are probably going to go see it, why we shouldn't, and that society made it at all. Well, I have a couple of opinions.

The first is, and I already posted about this, does anybody really doubt we're in the end times? That these are really the "end times"? The signs all seem to be here.

Like everybody doing what was right in his own sight, which so sickened God that He drowned everybody except the half dozen righteous folks He found....

Second, perhaps we have bought the lie perpetrated by too much of the Evangelical community, that we can "Win the world" if we'll just get off our haunches and go follow one of these foolproof plans we've formulated.

Far as I know, that Gospel plan is to lift up Jesus and let Him do His work of drawing people unto Himself. And then focus on lifting Him up and letting Him do the work of drawing people.

John 12:32: "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."

Perhaps in our hearts, we know we're not doing that and not relying on Him. And trying to make up what we see as the slack by shaming lost people for acting like lost people.

Speaking of lost people, do we think they'll be better off if they simply respond to our admonitions against seeing the movie? I don't think they will. And if they think they're "better off" with God, we've done them a terrible disservice by leading them to that conclusion.

Speaking of saved people, the extent to which we feel we must mention the film to them, reveals what we really think about our efforts to make disciples instead of making church members.

I recall once, perhaps 50 years ago, serving as a counselor at a Bill Glass Crusade in Indianapolis Bill had been a standout pro football player, and became an Evangelist. For the past.40 years or so, he seems to have focused on prison ministry.

Good for Bill.

What I recall most is his admonition to us that, if someone comes forward to pray about ongoing sin in their life, do NOT talk to them about the sin. Talk to them about their personal relationship with Jesus.

A strong relationship with our Savior is the only hope we have to overcome the sin that besets us. He is the One and the Only One who will provide us the "way of escape" from temptation, mentioned in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

So ... if church folks flock to the movie, there's no use talking about the movie. Focus on their standing with Jesus, and how little they may well be settling for in it. And then re-examine our church programs and see if our real goal ... and the  focus of our efforts ... has been on making disciples.

It's been said that, when you settle for less than what's yours, you'll get less than you settled for.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sometimes TBT Is Throw Back Tuesday.

More about the picture in a minute......

I happened across .. make that I searched for and found ... a song on YouTube that took me back to my childhood in a way that I'm not sure anything has, before. It's a video of the Ted Weems Orchestra's rendition of "Heartaches". There are several reasons for that.

First, I remember when it became popular in the late 1940's. In fact, I still do have a 78rpm record of it, in my collection downstairs.

There's also the fact that my Dad told me a story about the recording; I think the only such story he ever related. He said that the Ted Weems Orchestra had recorded the song but it hadn't done well at all. He said in searching for a way to increase its appeal., someone suggested they play it in double-time. That seemed to have done it.

Please give it a listen, here. And, as it happens, it was recorded the year I was born.

I liked the song when I was a kid, and I like it now. Even moreso because of my High School experiences.

One of the highlights of the last 3 years at Broad Ripple High School was membership in the "Dance Band". We'd call it a jazz band, now, I suppose, but most of what we played consisted of Big-Band songs and arrangements, from the Big-Band Era.So I kind of grew up loving the Big Band Era, and Big Band Music.

Come to think of it, we were a "big band" ourselves, we had 5 or saxophones, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, an excellent drummer (who went on to be Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Colorado), a string bass, pianist, female Violin trio, a female vocal  trio, plus male & female soloists. And what really connected me to Ted Weems was the fact that a Talent Scout, who had worked for Ted Weems, heard our Dance Band while we were playing a dance at Butler University. He told our director that we were the best band he had ever heard, in Indiana.

Not just high schoolers. The best of ANY.

When I heard the song, after all these years, it made my eyes sweat. Or something. Maybe because it took me back to some old-time heartaches. But it took me back to a lot more old-time Joy.


Friday, February 06, 2015

I'm Beginning To Doubt We Really Mean It

You know ... longing for Jesus' return.

The shout & the trumpet. The rapture (which most would prefer, to death....).

The End Times.

Do we really know what that means? Are we going to be discouraged when we see the signs? Or are we going to throw a fit when we don't get our way?

I fear it's the latter.

Jesus went to some lengths to explain some of the signs we'd see. Earthquakes in various places. Heard of any of those, lately?

Wars and rumors of wars. ISIS, anybody?

Nation rising up against nation? Russia and the Ukraine spring to mind.

Now, we don't mind any of that stuff, since it's all happening overseas. So we "amen" it and continue on as is, in our churches. But then......


Now there's a game-changer!

I have to ask "why?" Why should we be surprised at this? Toss in drug abuse, political turmoil, gangs, crime, and all the rest, and isn't this the way it's supposed to be?

Jesus spoke some interesting words about what it'd be like:

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark;and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away."

Did you catch that? Just like the days of Noah? The time when God got so sick of the actions of the people that he wiped them all off the face of the earth, except for 6 who were OK with Him?

I kind of figure that's just about how it is, now.Of course, our position is that gay "marriage" is wrong, scripturally, and no laws or ordinances or court decisions will change that. But do we really expect non-believers to abide by scriptural principles? More than they did in Noah's day?

I don't!

Besides, if we could, as believers, rise up and smite the laws and the court decisions and browbeat the great masses into lining up against gay "marriage", we'd leave them no better off than they are now.

Right standing before God has nothing to do with gay "marriage". Solving the gay "marriage" situation leaves people as lost as they ever were. The answer is their standing with God  ... either righteous via faith in Jesus' redemptive sacrifice, or lost, right where they were before.

This is, indeed, a time for increased fervor and conviction in living happily as followers of Christ, and as happy to tell others about that relationship as we are telling them about our family or our job or our home.

Frankly, I see much more of a pall of sadness projected into the church, by abortion, gay "marriage", and the overall public acceptance of immorality, than I see of the church protecting an attitude of joy among the people. And if we can't show the world joy, something's vitally wrong in the church.

I choose to believe these are the End Times, and while I have no particular desire to miss death in favor of the rapture ... I mean, dying faithful is the ultimate act of trust in God, isn't it ... it is kind of exciting to see signs of the end times.

And not expecting mankind to just kind of "get all better".

That ain't gonna happen. God said so.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I Bought The Car; Life Sold Separately

When we retired in February of 2008, we saw the need for a more economical car. Being a car freak and somewhat of a fan of hi-tech cars, we bought a Prius. It served us faithfully for nearly 7 years, over 50,000 miles, and the mileage all the way was excellent.

Now, seven years on, we're more comfortable with retirement, and living within our retirement income, so a more "normal" car became a feasibility. Made even more feasible by the Prius doing some strange uncooperative things recently, when either my elder son or my wife was driving it.

I would never stand for my car being unpredictably reliable when Peg goes shopping in it.

Our younger son had bought a new VW Jetta a couple months ago, so that's the first place I went. Second trip there was to buy a car, but they just wouldn't get anywhere near my number. Then after looking at a couple other makes, I stopped by the local Ford dealer. Two hours later, having picked up Peg at home, we picked up our new Ford.

It didn't hurt that the salesman was a friend of many many years' standing at church.

I told him I wanted 4 things, specifically: Leather, backup camera, smart key, and one-touch up & down windows. He had an absolutely gorgeous silver-gold one in stock, and hence the speedy deal. But the really neat part didn't come until I already had the car.

I keep discovering nifty things about it. For one thing, the headlights are completely automatic. They turn themselves on and off, and dim themselves for oncoming traffic. And they even dim themselves when they see taillights ahead!

Then there's the Lane Keeping System. The camera in the car .. the same one that sees headlights & taillights ... sees lane markings and warns you when you get close to one side or the other. Too close and it puts a little pressure on the steering wheel to drift you back into your own lane. Once I was cruising down the road and the car was running straight so I ease off the wheel and, when the car drifted slowly to one side, the steering magically corrected itself. And a big red warning light flashed on the dashboard display tell me to "PLEASE KEEP BOTH HANDS ON THE STEERING WHEEL AT ALL TIMES!"

Yeah ... the new car even chewed me out.

There are many other things that seem like magic on it, but the real crux is that I bought the car for a few things I wanted, and after I had it, I discovered a lot of things I didn't know were there.

That's a lot like the Christian life, you know.

We get into it, ostensibly, because we are lost and don't want to spend eternity in the wrong place. But after we get into it, we discover there's a lot more to it than just relief from the ultimate Heat Wave. And I guess that's to be expected.

There's the fellowship. I tried to tell my lost brother how the fellowship of  believers transcended friendship in ways I couldn't explain. I recounted a time I gave a speech to a meeting of Real Estate Appraisers in Miami. A few of the Appraisers lined up to ask me questions afterwards, and one of them seemed to have trouble finding words. Suddenly he said "AHA.... that's IT!!" and pointed to the fish pin on my lapel. He said "You're a believer!". He said there was something different about yours truly and he just wanted to find out what it was.

I recounted that and several other instances where there'd been brief meaningful interactions with other believers. But his response was he had the same thing with teachers.

Well ... I'd met lots of other Insurance Underwriters and Insurance Brokers in my many years' insurance experience, but there was never the sort of instant fellowship I experience with fellow believers.

The truth finally dawned on me .... the fellowship of believers is a Spiritual matter. And my natural-man brother couldn't comprehend that. Any more than he could comprehend how, at my age and with my experiences, the only really thrilling things in life are all gathered around the common core of Jesus Christ, and His living in us via the Holy Spirit. And, the things He uses me to do here in this life.

Some of the steps in being a successful salesman concern being able to discern the prospect's problem, and addressing that problem with a solution that he can comprehend. Good salesmen will avoid getting entangled in explaining other things that do not concern the prospect. Taking a cue from that, there's not a lot of use in trying to convince a lost person how wonderful the Christian life is, when they're already leading what is, to them, a comfortable rewarding life.

There are some benefits to being a Christian that you won'r ever understand until you have already accepted eternal life.

AND another things I just thought of. I recall a story about a young lad of 3 or 4 who kept falling out of bed. They did sleep studies and monitoring and all, but could not figure out why he did that. When they expressed their bewilderment to the mother, the child spoke up and said "Maybe I just sleep to close to where I got in?"

Makes sense to me, and is akin to me, not reading the Owner's Manual to find out about my car and its features. I would've missed out on a lot.

As do, I fear, entirely too many members of today's church.

For the same reason.    

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Isaiah 55:11: Sometimes It Returns With Dividends

The picture over there is the fly-leaf page of a Bible belonging to my nephew Kevin. The backstory is fascinating, but then, so's the update.

My parents' 50th wedding anniversary was March 6th, 1981. In honor, we had a nice dinner here for them, and invited all the family. That included our kids, who were 20 & 18, and also my brother, wife & his boys, who were about a year older, each.

Kevin was the older of the two.

After the dinner, at which we'd given mom & dad a cruise to the Bahamas, we were all sitting around in the living room and chatting. My nephew Kevin remarked about a red bible lying on a table and said he'd always been interested in it. I asked him if he'd like to know more, and he said yes, so we went downstairs to our den and spent some time talking.

Bottom line: he prayed to become a Christian. Knowing that "baby Christians" needed Spiritual food just like babies need food, we told him we'd buy him a Bible. And this is it.

I was chatting with him on Facebook a bit ago, and we started talking about some old times. We reminisced about his dad, of whose salvation we're just not sure, and about some other things, including his childhood. Then, suddenly, this picture pops up on my screen.

He still has the Bible we bought for him, a third of a century ago!

Kevin drives his own fuel delivery truck, as he has for many years. And shortly after that picture popped up on my screen, he said this:

"This is the Bible that has been with me in my semi trucks 
over all of the years within reach from the seat always."

Wow. Just WOW.

He's a strong, open-about-his-faith Christian now, and I cannot begin to describe how that warms my heart. But that wasn't all. A few minutes later, up pops this one:

He noted "You shared this from Romans that day and it was the best start ever".

Now I can flat guarantee you that what I said did not produce any fruit that day. Were that the case, then the same result would always come about when I shared my faith with someone. But we all know it doesn't. 

As is the case with teaching a Sunday School Lesson, Preaching a Sermon, sharing your faith, giving a cup of cold water to someone, or anything else we do in His service, it is the Holy Spirit Who brings about results.

Putting it another way, the Apostle Paul said that he'd planted and Apollos had watered, but God gave the increase. He further said that neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but GOD who gives the increase. Who produces the results.

The great tragedy, I think, in modern Christendom, is that the Foot Soldiers have all gone home and left the battle to the Generals to fight. They don't seem to comprehend that God's promises are true. They're "yes and amen". And they're worth whatever we can do, here.

Even when we do step out and share our faith, too often we have doubts, later. Particularly if someone doesn't pray right then. Well, if that's ever been the case, I have a News Flash for you:

God said His word would not return void. And He meant it.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Mr. Obama's Unilateral Actions

By now we've all heard of the speech given by Mr. Obama last evening. I have two reactions to it.

One of them is what I would have said a year ago. The other is what I think, today. And they differ.

A year ago, I would have ranted against it, on two different grounds. One is, it's an abuse of power by Mr. Obama, and should be cause for impeachment. Today, I heard on the radio, perhaps a dozen recordings of statements he previously made about "Executive Order", and about the role of the President in upholding and enforcing the laws of the land. The other reason is I was against ... vehemently so ... granting any official legal status to those who broke the law to get here.

But that's changed; here's why.

The USA is culpable in the "Illegal Alien mess" we have here, now. And yes, I refuse to call them "undocumented immigrants" or any other politically correct designation.

They are aliens ... foreigners ... who are here illegally.

But the fact is that we, as a nation, have stood by and watched this going on for years. For decades. The people who risked so much to get here via routes you and would never dare, had good reason to believe that, once they got here, they would be welcome. That they would be accepted.

And it matters not what most people think of the mess, either. The national actions ... or rather inaction ... may not have been done by the man on the street here, but he's the same guy that went into the voting booths and elected the slate of ne'er-do-wells we refer to as the Congress and the Executive Branch. And they, and the guys they hired to do the grunt work, are the proximate cause .. by their action or their inaction ... of the mess we've got now.

I recall the day in 2007 that my best friend ... his last name rhymes with "Scott" ... said that Barack Hussein Obama was more dangerous to the USA than was Osama Bin Laden. He was widely derided for saying it, but time is proving him correct.

Anyone with a lick of sense could have seen that after 4 years, but our populace voted him back in anyway.

Back to the immediate problem: Illegal aliens. What Mr. Obama is attempting to do via Royal Proclamation Executive Orders is exactly what should have been done by the great swamp on the Potomac ... AKA "Congress". But wasn't. There is absolutely no reason that smells anything like serving the people, that they didn't, long ago. Shame on them.

 There's a principle in law called "estoppel". The definition, according to one of those on-line dictionaries, is: 

  "...the principle that precludes a person from asserting something contrary to what is implied by a previous action or statement of that person or by a previous pertinent judicial determination."

In light of that definition, and of court cases extending a variety of privileges to Illegal Aliens, how can we now say "We didn't mean it....", and remove those here illegally?

I don't think we can. 

Nor do I think we should. And I'm  not even considering the Christian duty many of our citizens have, toward the sojourners in our midst.

No, Mr. Obama just did what I think Congress should have done, years ago. But, as my former Pastor, Mike Shaw, said many times: "It's never right to do wrong, to do right".  


Monday, November 03, 2014

She Thought She Died Well. But I Disagree.

That's Brittany Maynard over there .. the young lady who legally ended her own life, this past weekend, in Oregon. She'd recently moved there because physician-assisted suicide would be legal for her, there.

I have no knowledge as to her faith. Nor do I know how it feels to have a terminal and inoperable brain tumor, albeit I am living with prostate cancer which has metastasized to my lymph system. It's currently being held in check by a drug I take each 6 months, but how long its forestalling effect will last is unknown.

Actually, if you have to have a slow-growing cancer that's being (presumably) temporarily held in check via Trelstar injections, age 76 isn't a bad time for it.

As for Brittany, her death is a tragedy regardless, and I have no idea whether it took more courage to end her life as she did, or let the disease take its course. But for someone like me, it seems that the last good thing I can possibly do on this earth, to glorify God, to show forth His grace, is to die well. to die unafraid, proclaiming His goodness and His glory.

That'd be a bit tough to do were I to pull my own plug, telling God by my actions that I don't trust Him. If I don't trust Him in everything ... and I mean EVERYTHING ... then everything ... and I mean EVERYTHING ... is futile.

But it's not.

I would hope she'd trusted Jesus for her salvation. If that would happen to be the case, I believe she'll get to Heaven, and will hear something like the following, from the Savior: "You have NO IDEA what I had in store for you, had you let me handle it...". 

Her story brought to mind, and did so when I first heard it, the story of my friend Troy Smith. He died some years ago of metastatic breast cancer, after a long and courageous battle.

I happen to have been involved with the family, perhaps more than most at church, because of my informal association with the Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation, and also with putting together the 2-week Disney Cruise/Disney World vacation for them when his cancer came back. To this very day, I have a wonderful relationship with the family he left behind, I suppose none more vibrant than with his daughter Hannah Grace.

You can see the poem I wrote about Hannah, here. Still a sweet young girl, but now a sweet young teenager.

I wrote about Troys death on this blog, years ago. I did it to show forth the sort of legacy I'd like to leave behind, and you can read it  here. Be sure and read the comments, too, as many were from friends who spoke more eloquently than I.

We can learn a lot from death. For one thing, we're all appointed to do that, and we have plenty of warning it's coming ... no matter how "unexpectedly" it arrives.

We can also learn a lot from those around us, as well.

Be it positive .... or negative.