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 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.