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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Few Thoughts About SWBTS and Dr. Patterson

If you're not familiar with all the newsworthy events that happened recently, concerning Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and its leader, Dr. Paige Patterson, I'd recommend Googling it. It's quite extensive.

In brief, the Seminary's Board of Trustees voted, in a meeting yesterday, to remove him as President and name him President Emeritus.

Now: There are many of us who would like to have seen something more drastic, but a couple of points come immediately to mind:

  1. His role in the Conservative Resurgence was/is unmistakable. Without Dr. Patterson and Judge Pressler, it'd likely not have taken place. Some might argue is was a militaristic reaction to a Spiritual problem, but still ...
  2. The Conservative Resurgence was a good thing for the SBC.
  3. The charges against him are real (from what I read), and certainly warranted action by the Trustees.
  4. Man's nature may well lead people to desire Dr. Patterson to have been disgraced and simply thrown out. But I dislike that natural leaning.
  5. God was in control all along. Last week's sermon at FBCP had many points about God's sovereignty. Why we'd think SWBTS was out of God's control, during the "Patterson Era", is beyond explanation.
  6. Psalm 37:4 states that, if we will take our delight in the Lord, He will feed our desire ... the ones He wants us to have ... to our hearts.  
  7. God said vengeance was (exclusively) His, and that He will repay. It is NOT our job!
  8. Jesus shut off all the shame and dishonor, in the case of the woman caught in adultery.
The Trustees of SWBTS have addressed and resolved the problem at SWBTS.

Let us rejoice in that, in God's promise to handle such things, and in the fact that He did just that.

Yesterday, at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Monday, April 23, 2018

We Don't Really Believe it. Apparently.

The biggest "hue and cry" I'm hearing, concerning the upcoming SBC Annual Meeting in Dallas,  is about evangelism, and one or another SBC Presidential candidate's attitude about it.

Once again, we are focusing on symptoms, not on causes. If you would not accept that from your doctor, why are we, as respects SBC matters?

I'll tell you why. If the real problem is one of discipleship and not one of evangelism, that would likely mean that the pastors of the local churches are the most responsible parties. And since most of the delegates to the Annual Meeting are pastors, I think it unlikely they are going to want to deal with that. With their own responsibilities for the current conditions as respects conversions, baptisms, and other numbers we use to diagnose church and denominational health.

What we don't really believe is 1 Corinthians 3:7&8, and the logical outcome of ignoring it.

Quoting: "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow."

Did you catch that, God makes things grow. I suspect that includes the church itself.

The diagnosis is really simple, to me: The Great Commission is to make disciples. To teach everything Jesus commanded. And with attendance that hovers around 33% of membership ... attendance including visitors, children, and other non-members ... I do not see any way we can claim that we are making disciples of the people God has already sent us.

You may think that those who visit our churches, later to join our churches, are there because our programs have drawn them in. Me, I don't believe I'd say that, in view of the plain statements in 1 Corinthians 3!

The SBC had a hard time passing a call for churches to affirm for themselves that they had a regenerate membership, a few years ago. Again, that would call for pastors to act on the idea that they might have unregenerate members in their local church.

So ... Drs. Hemphill and Greear, please please PLEASE make your focus discipleship ...  not evangelism.

The future of a lot of churches, and of the SBC itself, may just be at stake.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

I Think I Learned Something....

... something important today. And at 79, nearly 80, that's not a common occurrence. Here's what happened:

I climbed the stairs from our garage to the house. 14 of them.

I'd gone downstairs to show the plumber where some stuff was that needed fixin'. And, after, I climbed the 14 stairs up to the "main level" so we could have lunch.

Now, what really surprised me was that I didn't remember climbing them. I chalked that up to my lousy memory, but with the aforementioned age, and arthritis in my hips, back and shoulders, stairs are normally my local personal torture chamber. So I got to wondering why they weren't, about noon today. And .... TADA .... I figured it out!

I wasn't focusing on the stairs! I was thinking of the plumber and the valves and pipes and things! So the climbing was no bother at all!

And THAT got me to thinking about other things. How about ...

  • Giving your personal testimony before others. If you're thinking about speaking in public, you're focusing on the wrong thing! 
  • Going on a mission trip. If you're concerned about heat, dust, witnessing, strange food, or any of the other things with which you're not familiar, you're focusing on the wrong thing!
  • Ministering to others. If you're wondering whether you can help, whether God has equipped you, if your experiences can help the other person, you're focusing on the wrong thing!

I'm sure you can think of some other things, too. But if you're wondering about those things I mentioned above, then you're not thinking about what God can do with what we say and do .... polished and eloquent or not. God says neither the planter nor the waterer produces any results at all. The increase comes exclusively from Him. After all, He started with nothing at all and produced the universe, so when you focus on Him and on what He can do with what you do, then those things you dread may just become like those stairs I climbed today. You won't think of what you are doing, just the outcome.

Just look at Moses. When he stood before the burning bush ... the one burning with the fire of God, which never burns out ... he raised objections to God's planned use of him ... Moses. Well, when God answered his objections, Moses finally asked who God was. Turned his focus from himself to God! After that, Moses became the great leader he was. That God knew about all along.

I recall a girl in Michigan that I used to chat with, some years ago, on the old Prodigy network. She found me on my blog, perhaps 15 years later, and told me that I'd kept her alive by chatting with her! She been suicidal, but I didn't know it.

So be on the lookout for things God puts in your path, even when they might be uncomfortable for you. He may just want to take those ashes and hand you some beauty.

Wouldn't that be just like God?

Friday, March 30, 2018

Warning Lights

Our car ... a 2015 Ford Fusion ... is a marvelous machine. It has automatic lights, automatic wipers .. yes, they turn on and off automatically ... ditto for the headlights, which also dim themselves when approaching other cars from either direction ... a lane keeping system that turns the wheel a tad when I'm too close to the lane marking stripes ... and a bunch of other things. Such as the photos over there show.

The top one shows the Remote Key Battery needs to be replaced. Something about losing power. Would make it tough to get in. To start up.

The bottom one says the windshield washer fluid is low. That might well make it hard to know where to go .. which way to turn .. in event of storms, dirt, and things of the sort.

These days, in Alabama, POLLEN.


This got me to thinking: Wouldn't it be nice if God would give us "Warning Lights" for our walk of faith?

Oh. Wait. Maybe He does.

A few come to mind:

WORRY: It's really natural to worry about things .. mostly the future and what might happen. That seems, to me, to be a reflection of the degree we trust God. The less the trust, the more the worry. And vice-versa.

ANGER: A lot of the principles above would apply here also, plus God tells us to put away all anger, malice and guile from us. Seems to me He would have said that if He knew we will struggle with anger. And the principle here is that, if God tells us to do something, it must be within our ability to do so. And maybe He knew that we would want to be angry at times, and that anger would be bad for us. This one is near and dear to me, as I decided over 50 years ago that I would never get angry again.

As if confirmation from a "professional" was needed, the Shelby County Mental Health Officer told me many years ago, that if everybody had my attitude, he'd be out of a job...

LOSS OF INTEREST IN CHURCH: You know what I mean here ... if going to church to worship God isn't important to us, we're ignoring some things God tells us are important. Worshiping Him ... which is really what God gets out of our services, anyway ... and our praise, which He both deserves and enjoys.

There are other things, too, and I'm sure you can think of some.

Jesus said He came so we might have an abundant life. And the original word ... "ZOEY" describes a wonderful, terrific life as respects God and our fellow man. And that we might have that sort of life more abundantly! So perhaps when we don't pursue that at every opportunity, we're simply settling for less than Jesus came and died and rose, to bring us. And, at that, when we settle for less than what's available to us, we generally get less than what we settled for.

If we're not hungry to do the things necessary for that, perhaps that's another warning light....

Anyone ever buy a present for a child or grandchild, that the kid didn't really want? That he or she just kind of ignored? That'd be really disappointing, and just imagine Jesus thoughts when we're not really interested in what He came and died to provide for us.

Personally, I want all the zoey I can get.

I really, really don't want to disappoint the One Who was in a tomb 2018 years ago today, but wasn't, 2018 years ago the day after tomorrow.




Friday, February 23, 2018

THE FIRST DAY OF FOREVERMORE

Many years ago, a virtual friend ... via the old Prodigy Network ... said she'd lost her brother and her husband in the then-past December. I suggested that I ought to write a poem about that, and she responded she'd really like to have a poem about her brother.

Although she lived in Canada, she'd been raised in Orlando. She said her brother used to wake her up at daybreak and they'd sneak out of the house to a lake, about a block away. Sitting there and watching the sunrise, he'd show her all the little animals waking up, birds feeding their babies, etc. She said she'd like, just one more time, to sit with him there and watch daybreak.

That prompted the following, which I wrote and sent to her. In that poem, the phrase "... as I try once more, in the first day of forevermore....." appeared on my screen as I was typing. It fascinated me when I wrote it, and I couldn't rest until I had written a poem about that day ....

It follows.

THE FIRST DAY OF FOREVERMORE:

The first day of forevermore
Is a day of peace, a day of war
As I seek God's will where'er I go
To tell those near the things I know
That God is good; his love is near
To those who seek, to those who'd hear
The voice of God through folks redeemed
When hope was gone for them, it seemed
And hoping that they move from there
To places bright, to places fair
Where God is close and love is strong
And people filled with love lifelong.
Though sadly, though, I must admit
For some in need will surely quit
Before they cross that chasm wide
And find they're on the other side.
Where once they dwelt alive, unknowing
Though they denied it, they were going
To hell to spend those years  ... Forever
Where fires burn and they will never
Once again know love that's real
And never have a chance to steal
A soul from hell... Not theirs nor others
And bring unto the Lord their brothers
And their sisters in the spirit.
For rest assured the Lord would hear it
Should we tell them and they answer
Forever losing satan's cancer
Of unbelief and scorn and pain....
So much to lose, so much to gain
But once again I gain my wits
And once again my soul admits
That I can save no one from hell
That love, for me, is but to tell
Of one who sees me through this life
Its beauty, love; its pain and strife
And walks with me through every door
'Til the last day of forevermore.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Bennett Got It Right ....


...Nearly 30 years ago. And ... man oh man ... was he ever right!

Talking about Ink and Airwaves, there's a lot of them, these days, about occurrences such as terrorism, mass murders and the like. Every time I check the news, it seems that there's something like yesterday's shootings at a car wash in Pennsylvania, the sniping attack in Las Vegas, the random killing of worshippers in Texas ... and the list goes on.

Some blame the news media, saying we simply hear about them more and sooner than 50 years ago, but I disagree. There is obviously less regard for the sanctity of life, than we saw a half century ago. I was alive, watching news, reading the papers, seeing newsreels most weeks, at the movies, and I know things in that regard are much, much worse now, than they were then. And ... do I even need to mention abortions?

So ... what's the difference?

I think Bill Bennett, President Reagan's Secretary of Education from 1985-1988, nailed it in a talk, in 1989. Just after leaving his post in Washington, he spoke at the Alabaster Rotary Club meeting. I was a member there, and listened with great interest in the points he raised.

After the meeting, I had the opportunity to speak with him for a few minutes. He was just as nice and as personable as he seemed on TV, and as he appears to be, in the picture up there. I asked him specifically what caused the seeming decline in education we were seeing. He told me the following:

"When they banned prayer in school."

So, I asked him why a one or two minute prayer in the mornings would make that much difference. He said:

"When we start with a prayer, we are acknowledging authority." 

He went on to say that anyone with access to enough statistics could see where the loss of respect began almost on the very day prayer was outlawed.

Stop to think about it. Ask yourself what's the difference between the worst crime area in your city, and a modest but comfortable suburb. Houses, streets, geography? I seriously doubt it.

I was born and raised in a distant suburb of Chicago, in a house of perhaps 900 square feet, located on a 40' wide lot ... including a driveway on one side of the house! Modest by any account, yet we rarely heard of crime. People of middle class or below, yet the kind of place where 1st and 2nd graders could walk 7 blocks to school. Without fear. Where kids could play in the street and be greeted by smiles and waves from drivers. Not horns honking and obscene gestures. So .... what's the difference?

The people!!

Could we believe that there has been a loss of respect for others, among far too many people, these days, as opposed to a half century ago?

YOU BET!

God doesn't tell us the stuff He does out of cruelty, ego, a mindset of superiority ... which He would certainly be entitled to, should He choose that ... or any other motive too easily attributed to someone by us fallible humans. No, He tells us what He does out of love. A love so far exceeding ours that we have to be told over and over about it.

Some day it'll sink in. Perhaps in Heaven, but hopefully before.

Grudges: They are really bad for us in about every way I can think of. So God tells us to forgive. Check Matthew 6:14.

Anger: I cannot think of a single thing we can do better or more effectively while angry, than while calm. So God tells us that he who rules his spirit is better than he who conquers a city ... so says Proverbs 16:32. And God also tells us to let anger be put away from us, along with several other counterproductive attitudes. See Ephesians 4:31

Patience: God tells us that waiting on Him will allow Him to strengthen us. At 79, I need all that I can get!  Read Isaiah 40:31.

Soft answers turn away wrath: So said God, in Proverbs 15:1.

This one is written on my heart like the 10 Commandments were written in stone. One day in the mid-1960's, I decided I would never become angry. That I would never allow someone to control my emotions in that way. Sure enough, the next day I was really tested. I field rep for the insurer for whom I worked, came to my desk to argue about a decision I had made. I just sat there and calmly replied, told him I was simply doing my job, etc. The more he talked, the madder he got. Clenched fists, purple face and all. Finally, he simply turned around and left.

One by one, other people who'd witnessed his tirade, came to my desk and complimented me on how I had behaved. I thanked them, and made a mental note that keeping your temper really was the best thing to do. And better yet, those folks calmed my insides, as I really was tempted to smack the rep in the face. But that really did affirm my decision to refrain from anger. And, as if a sign from God Himself, the field rep came to my desk a couple hours later, and apologized profusely.

Several years later, I was scheduled to speak to adults in a non-credit evening class at Pelham High School. There was also a CPA to discuss taxes, and the Shelby County Mental Health office, to talk about mental health.

Only problem: nobody showed up! So we 3 would-be instructors stood in a hallway chatting. Somehow the topic of anger cropped up, and I stated my views, more or less what's above. The CPA said "You can't keep all that bottled up inside", to which I replied "You can if you don't let it in!".  Whereupon he said to the CPA "You can't really live like that, can you?". The Mental Health officer's reply:

"All I know is, if everybody had his attitude, I'd be out of a job!"

The issue isn't really prayer in schools, though. It's loss of respect for others. God tells us, in many ways, to respect others. And if you want proof of that loss of respect, just read the news.

I keep hoping that mankind will learn, but I also realize it's simply not going to happen on earth. Until that day of every knee bowing and every tongue confessing...

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Communion. Maybe there's More.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And be a privilege in the process!