Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Keeping The Most Important Thing the Most Important Thing

Colossians 1:17 tells us something interesting. Speaking of Jesus:

"He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."

My curiosity about why God makes these statements leads me to conclude a couple things. One is that the Scripture says that Jesus is before all things. Not was. I figure that's because Jesus existed before God created time, so there's no past tense where time did not exist.

Also I looked up the words in the original languages, and they tell me that it all means exactly what it says. 

He holds any, every and all thing(s) together. Today. Right here.

I don't draw a breath ... in fact, there's not even any air ... unless He holds it all together.

Ponder that for a moment. And when you do, consider how dependant you are, on Jesus.
Whether you know it or not ... whether it's in your conscious thought ... even whether you are a believer ... we are totally dependant on Him. Each of us needs Him as badly on our best day, as we do on our worst.

Holding that thought for a moment, let's go on to the living of your life. Hopefully, you won't shuffle off this earth via some tragic instantaneous occurrence like a big accident or an atomic bomb, and you will grow old, able to contemplate your future. That happens to be what I am doing at present. And I am struck by one growingly important thought:

One day, I will wake up and it will be the last day of my earthly life.

Yup. I'm going to die. And that's the word; God says it's appointed to me once to die ... see Hebrews 9:27 for details ... and that's how I'm going to describe it.

So ... the day after my last one, don't go saying I have gone to my eternal reward, gone to see my Savior, or any other euphemism. Please use the word God used. In His Word.

Anyway, I figure on that ultimate day, the most important thought in my mind ... and in my life ... will be my faith in my Savior. My reliance on Him. And I intend to practice that every day I have here on earth.

I want it to be a fait accompli.

Now. If it is going to be the most important thing to me, then, shouldn't it be the most important thing to me, now? Thankfully, at my age, it is. Resting in His grace. Sure of my future.

My eternal future, that is. We're all going to be here 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 years, or some such; we're going to be somewhere else a whole lot longer than that. So, do the math.

I'm not talking about doing something ... some sort of works ... to bolster my faith. I'm talking about faith being so important to me that my life becomes a living representation of it. Doing everything I do in accordance with it.

God said whatsoever is not of faith is sin. I want my life to be 100% "of faith".

The bonus: as God says, it's abundant! 

Who'd want anything less?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Something the Whizzes in Washington Probably Didn't Think (THINK?) Of

I blogged about this in 2013. What with the recent announcements of insurers pulling our of "Obamacare" markets, I thought I'd re-post this now, as a testament to just how stupid the Affordable Care Act really is.

Anybody who'd spent much time in the insurance business could see this coming three years away....

So our fedd'l gummint is starting some new insurance plans. Well, having been with a company which was in that business, there's something I am sure they have not thought of. And somebody had to at least think about something, like maybe stock in Paper Companies, before they cobbled together that umpteen-thousand page monstrosity commonly known as Obamacare.

I'll try to simplify a complicated process.

Let's say you want to start an insurance plan. So you print the paper, prepare the website, and open for business. Who's going to sign up first?

  • People with pre-existing conditions. Hey, you've been bragging about that, so when you build it, they'll come.
  • People whose health has been generally poor, and they didn't want to pay the market price under those conditions, for coverage they COULD HAVE purchased on their own.
  • People who just would not buy coverage on their own.
  • People who worked for an employer who didn't provide coverage, and chose not to buy coverage themselves. Who would rather have a car payment than health coverage.
On the whole, you might guess that such a mix of people might produce a huge exposure to claims. And you'd be right ... certainly more than the average of all Americans.

Second unanticipated, but nonetheless real, snag: The first year this plan is up and running, they're only going to receive and pay 9 or 10 months of claims. When you buy this thing, you then get sick, and finally go to a doctor or a hospital, stay a while, after which a claim is sent to the company. There it is processed and eventually paid. By the time it's open 3 to 6 months, say, the process is churning along and claims are being steadily paid.

So after the first year, losses look pretty good. They should ... you got a year's premium but only 9 months of claims to pay. So rates stay the same.

Everybody else's rates go up a little, owing to inflation, but yours stay put, in light of the prior paragraph here.

NOW ... at the start of the third year, the plan has paid a whole year's claims, and finds the premium wasn't enough to cover it all. So ... BOOM ... a big rate increase. Then, those who can get coverage elsewhere cheaper, do so, and they were the healthier folks in the group! And that's when the plan goes sour.

There have been some of these sorts of plans that were backed by an insurance company. So, shortfall comes out of their reserves, called "surplus".

There have been some of these sorts of plans that were self-funded ... uninsured ... enabled by ERISA some years ago. They usually simply fold up, leaving kazillions of sick people uninsured.

Then there's the government......

And while we're on the subject of "pre-existing conditions" ... let's say you're in charge of a big checking account. Guys who own cars put some money in every month, and then when one of them bends a fender somewhere, he brings you the repair bill and you pay it out of the checking account. You could call it sort of an "insurance exchange". In fact, there are some of those, all over the country.

Then one day a guy comes in with a car that's already smashed up. Says he wants to join the plan, pay the first month, and you pay to fix his car. If you were in charge, would YOU do that?

I didn't think so. But that's what health plans that agree to insure pre-existing conditions do. (Note there are some exceptions to this, in very large groups and particularly where you're leaving one insurance plan that covered the illness, and joining another one that would cover it. That's called "no loss - no gain".)

Insurance companies have to hold what's called "statutory reserves" as a hedge against unexpectedly high claims payouts. Then it has to have surplus .. undesignated money over and above their capital. Since our government is broke, what do THEY do when year #3, say, of the health plan turns sour?

Can you say "Higher Taxes"?

There you have it, folks. The whole mess is JUST THAT STUPID!

IN ALL YOUR WAYS

Had a bit of an epiphany this morning. Big enough, in fact, that I knew I had to write about it.

That's really a big deal, seeing that I have not been inspired to write in something over a month.

It all hinged around Proverbs 3:5 - 6......

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."

This is, incidentally, what I share with Deacons being ordained at FBC Pelham, and it's one of my favorite passages.

Anyway ... I  studied the verse long ago, digging into the original. I wanted to know how we could acknowledge Him in all our ways. What I found was ... according to this untrained guy in a pew ... the word "acknowledge" was "yada", meaning to perceive and see, to discern. And "ways" means our journey, the course of our life.

That's exactly what happened this morning when Kami ... our granddaughter-in-law ... dropped Mac off at our house so we could do a little baby-sitting. It struck me, as it always does, how much love she shows for Mac, in everything she does when she's around him. Peg and I have talked about that many times, in fact, what a good Mommy she really is.

What occurred to me this morning was that I have never heard Kami say that she loved Mac! But it is as obvious as anything can be that she does.

You can tell it by how she treats him! And how she goes out of her way to be prepared to treat him out of love. Always being prepared, always ready to feed, nurture, interact with him. To see to all his needs.

What really screamed at me this morning was I could see her love in all her ways, and this is the heart of Proverbs 3:6, for me ... that our love for God would show in everything we do in our relationship with Him, just as Kami's love for Mac shows in everything she does in relationship with Mac.

So the big question for me is: How do I discern Him ... perceive, see, discern ... Him in all my ways? That's certainly what I desire, as it's part of the abundant life which cause Jesus to come down here and live & die for us. Fortunately, He left us some clues as to how we can do that.

For instance: "If you love me, keep My commands". That's John 14:15.

Or maybe "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching".  John 14:23.

Commands and teachings. I see them as a bit different ... one instructs us what to do or not do, while the other goes to who we are and how we're to act. And to do the things we're instructed to do.

That seems pretty comprehensive. And the interesting part is He's not telling us to say how much we love Him. 

We get the lingo down pretty good. But it seems to me the mouth isn't the first place our love for Jesus shows up. Just as everyone, regardless of their faith, could easily see Kami's love for Mac, so anyone, regardless of the setting, should be able to see ours for the God Who has done indescribably precious things for us.

I want to "yada" His presence in all my ways.

May it be so in my life....

Friday, June 17, 2016

THE "CONFEDERATE BATTLE FLAG"

Figured that might get your attention.

Did a bit of checking and found that the flag we see here was actually the flag of the Northern Virginia Army, and was used unofficially as the Confederate battle flag. There were several different versions as to number of stars, height/width ratios, etc, but nonetheless it's the one we usually visualize when the topic comes up.

Which it did, this week, at the SBC Annual Meeting in St. Louis. Well, everybody else seems to be expressing an opinion on the Resolution decrying the display of the flag, so I might as well jump in, too.

Translation: haven't had much to write about, lately, so might as well pick up on this one.

Personally, I like the flag. But remember .. I was raised in Indiana, so I view it through the eyes of my childhood memories, associating the flag with the South, Dixie, The South Will Rise Again, and y'all. And I like all that.

Even the banjo on my knee.

OK. What are the reasons for displaying the flag, nowadays?

......

......

Uhhh .... tradition? I guess. I can't think of any other reason to fly the thing.

What are the reasons for NOT flying the flag. I can think of one, which is really sort of two. Namely, the flag was born of the Civil War, which was brought about by the practice of slavery. To one extent or another. And slavery is a historical fact, so why shy away from historical facts?

Because American slavery was racially based, and those in the Black Community might well be offended by celebrating that in any way.

Think of it. The Ku Klux Klan is a historical fact, but do we celebrate that by flying their flag? Or how about the American Communist Party? Or the American Nazi Party?

I've been to Germany a couple times. You don't see any Swastikas flapping in the breeze over there. In fact, there are "Documentation Centres" around the nation, displaying graphically and openly all the atrocities of the Wars and the Holocaust.

Why?

"That this may never happen again".

So, why the necessity to fly the Confederate flag? I guess I could make an argument for the same reason, but there's a bigger one to consider for us, as Christians (not just Baptists).

I said it a couple paragraphs ago. Some may be offended by it. And there's no "IF" about it, anyway. Rev. Dwight McKissic, who brought the Resolution before the meeting, has stated that he and his people do find it offends them. And just last week, a young black lady ... a member of FBC Pelham and a good friend ... happened into (a name God sometimes uses...) a restaurant where Peg and were having lunch. I invited her to sit with us, which she did, and knowing the resolution would come up this week, I asked her how she felt when she saw the Confederate flag (whatever you may call it).

She said she understood it, but still had some misgivings about it. Some troubling emotions.

Bingo! I told her that her feelings alone would be enough for me to never display the flag again (which I've never done, anyway).

1 Corinthians 8:9: "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak."

OK then. Let's act like we believe that. And let's be open about it, so we know the world will see us and our transgression, should we violate our duty to act like we believe what we profess.

Maybe that's one reason some seem reluctant to jump on the "no fly bandwagon". The world will see, and the world will know.

Good. But that gives rise to a few other thoughts.

We firmly believe in the Great Commission ... to make disciples as we are going. And we get all proud when numbers are up, and duly chagrined when attendance or churches or baptisms are down.

Which they are, at present.

We pay a lot of attention to those numbers, and talk about them a lot. But some numbers I don't hear about much are attendance, and what the reveals when compared to membership. Last numbers I saw published in the Alabama Baptist showed that, in the 6 biggest areas of Alabama, attendance represented 33.28% of membership.

That means, on the average, 66.72% of our members aren't studying or worshiping on Sunday. And remember ... attendance includes infants, toddlers, children who aren't members, and visitors!

It's hard to say we're fulfilling the Great Commission when 2/3 or more of the people sent to us, by God, think it's OK not to be there. And they think that because it is. We haven't insisted on attendance, and we haven't disciplined non-attenders.

I have to ask which is more important. The flag, or making disciples?

The answer is neither. It's like asking which wing on an airplane is more important. So ... where's the attention on making disciples, or our lack thereof?

Let's not just settle for a win in what's obvious.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

I've Had It. I Need To Say This NOW.

I have always heard that the only way to solve a problem within a particular group, is for the group itself to address the issue and act on it.

A few examples come to mind:

Racial prejudice in the white community. It's for sure that the black community does not have a way to solve it. That change of heart can only come from within the individuals in the group, and from within the group itself.

Having spent about a half a century in the insurance business, one fact is grounded thoroughly in my mind and heart: the observable generalizations about a group NEVER apply to any one individual in the group. While that might not apply to ISIS, it certainly does apply to people of any one race, people in any one profession ... with a few exceptions ... or people in any one religious group.

I've been a Southern Baptist for 35 years, but I'm also described as Calvinistic and Pentecostal. So go figure.....

Anyway, your skin color or your accent are irrelevant to me.

Similarly, the white community cannot solve the black-on-black crime problem, either. That will take movement from within that community, to train and raise their youth with respect for the lives and property of others. Now I know the black community's youth has a tougher time getting jobs, etc, but that can only be changed by changes in the youth ... not changes in the job market.

Every successful black citizen I know proves that it's possible.

But enough about racial prejudice.

I'm sure you can think of some other groups to which this thought applies. So, on to the topic at hand.

In the USA, and involved in this upcoming Presidential election, we have two groups I'm talking about.

The Evangelical community, and the Political community.

Problems within the Political community will only be addressed by those within the Political community. And I must believe that those folks will never be mostly devoted Christians of the Evangelical community. God said so, indirectly, when He said that the way that leads to life is narrow, and few would find it.

Few, as contrasted with many. Little, small, few ... vs ... many, much, large.

The voting public .. the political community ... is never going to vote for people who represent the Evangelical community's values. And, since the Evangelical community isn't electing a Pastor-in-Chief, but rather a Commander-in-Chief, I doubt that they're going to, either.

The Evangelical community trying to influence an election in the Political community should be as acceptable to me, as a believer, as the Government trying to influence the upcoming elections in the SBC.

I've said it as a status on Facebook, but I'll say it here, too: The task of the voter is to decide which of the two candidates is going to do the best job leading the nation, as Commander-in-Chief, and then exercise their privilege to vote. And to lose the sense that failing to sway an election or influence the choice of candidates in no way reflects on the Evangelical community and any perceived failure to "Win the World". (Nation, State, whatever)

Despite what too many pastors have said within my hearing.

Friday, April 22, 2016

"My Take On Trans-Gender"






Genesis 1:27: So God created man in His own image; he created them in the image of God; He created them male and female.

If someone claims to be something else, it wasn't God that did it. I have a guess as to who did...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Deep Dheep Discussion

The fellow over there in the picture is a gent I met on our recent cruise. His name is Dheep, and he hails, originally, from India. Currently, he lives in Canada, where he is a teacher of internal combustion engines.

I'd done what I did several times on this cruise; namely to sit down at a table where someone was alone and ask them where they were from. Without exception, folks were always most cordial, and we usually found lots to talk about.

Even including a 70ish lady on her "honeymoon cruise" .. she'd been married about 10 months ... whose husband had been denied boarding because he'd forgotten his passport. She told him "Well, I'm going anyway!"

In Dheep's case, I eventually asked him if, being from India, he was a Buddhist or a Muslim. He answered that he was "more of an atheist".

Man, I love to talk to atheists! I told him that, personally, I did not have enough faith to be an atheist. To answer his quizzical look, I then said "atheism means someone is thinking they know every possible form in which God could appear, they know everywhere in the universe He could possibly be, they can see all those places at the same time, and that they can guarantee God is not there.

His response, after some thought, was there was certainly some higher power out there. I then asked him if he thought that "higher power" would want to let us know of his existence. To communicate with us in some way. On that point, Dheep became very evasive.

 He then asked how there could be so much misery and evil in the world, if there was a "God" Who was good. My response to that was: if he saw a bunch of men with long hair down to their waists, and it was dirty and unkempt, would he believe there must not be any barbers in the world? He said no, and I remarked of course ... you'd simply think those guys had not been to one of those people who could solve that problem. He nodded affirmatively, and I said that was the reason behind the evil and misery he saw ... those folks haven't been to the One Who could help end it.

He then told me of his son, who was diagnosed as bipolar at age 17. He got married in his early 20's, but then took his own life at age 30. He further mentioned that his son had become a Christian. His daughter-in-law, and his own wife had become Christians, as well!

We talked about that a while, and about the Bible. He was somewhat resistant to it, saying "there was still research going on about that".

In light of his hesitancy about Scripture, I left him with a challenge. I told him I was aware that he had studied many books to allow him to teach about things like the Otto Cycle, compression ratios, oversquare vs undersquare, 2-cycle vs 4-cycle, and all the rest of the things he taught. When he acknowledged that he had done that, I challenged him to study the Bible on the same basis. When he came to something he questioned, check it out, just as he had in reading about compression-ignition engines. Maybe get someone else to explain something he didn't quite "get".

 I suggested he get one of the Bibles his now-deceased wife had used, and study the New Testament. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and then go on from there.

Now: we all love to see "conversions" ... people saying that prayer ... but I doubted that was going to happen at that table. So I was content to have made the appeal that I did. Besides, I know that any increase ... in him ... will come from the One Who gives all increase.

As we parted, I asked if I could take his picture. He said "Sure", so I took the picture above. I then told him my name was Bob, to which he responded "I am Dheep". And added "not deep, like the water out there ... that's D-E-E-P. I am D-H-E-E-P which means, in my language, "teacher"

I told him that rang a bell with me ... that, if he finds something which speaks to him in the books I challenged him to read, he may, indeed, have much to teach people in the future.

 May it be so.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

I SUSPECT REV. BURLESON GETS IT


Wade Burleson has just finished a new book, entitled "Radically New ... The New Covenant Will Change The Way You Think And Live". I got it on Amazon, and read it last evening and this morning.

Yeah .. I know it's Sunday and folks will say "You should have been in church!!" but I'm coming off a bad cold and a full day of travel, and neither Peg nor I was up to going out this morning.

It's also ironic ... and probably providential ... that I'm writing about Wade's new book under these circumstances. Ever since I've been active in churches, I can recall being admonished about sin, and about "ought to's". What we ought to do and what we ought not to do. About something, almost every week.

Then I read somewhere that John 8:32 promises freedom to those who know the Truth. And, since Jesus said HE is the Truth (and the Way and the Life), I've wondered what we're set free from. Some have said we're free from the eternal consequences of our sin ... free from hell, but frankly that's a promise made to dead Christians. I've wondered what about now? What's the freedom for living Christians?

Rev. Burleson effectively answers that in this book. He proposes that operating as one freed from the Old Covenant ... the one that was offered to Israel through the Mosaic law ... allows one to live free from the "ought to's" that we're always hearing about.

Jesus plainly tells us that the mark of the Christian will be the love we show one for another. And that we're to love our neighbors as ourselves. And that mandates we love ourselves. Plus, He told us we're to love each other as He has loved us! And the language tells us we're to love one another and love our neighbors just as, or to the same degree, as Jesus loved us. And we can't do that unless we love ourselves the way Jesus loves us. Despite our flaws. Despite our failures. Despite our shortcomings.

So bundle up all the actions that "churchy people" have told you over the years .. the things you have to do in order to justify your position as a follower of Jesus ... and leave them on the ash heap from one of those burnt offerings of the past. And exercise your privilege of loving people the way Jesus loves you, and the way He has in mind for us to love others.

It's called abundant life, and it's one of the 2 reasons Jesus, Himself, gave for coming to earth.

I haven't tried to go through and address each point Wade makes in Radically New..", for to do so would require I write his whole book here. But, trust me, he makes a very effective case for moving from the old, works-oriented, action dependant working out of our salvation, to loving ourselves as Jesus loves us, and passing that love along to one another and to the world.

If there are any of the commandments in the Old Covenant ... including what we refer to as the "Ten Commandments" ... that nag at you, then you need to get, and read, this book. Once you see how Wade has woven scripture together to substantiate each point, The book will live up to its title, and up to its sub-title.

Radically.

"Radically New ... The New Covenant Will Change The Way You Think And Live", available for $4.99 through Amazon. And well worth it.