Wednesday, June 28, 2006

MR. SCOTT, YOUR PUBLIC IS CALLING


A brief pause to update one and all about lunch today; I spent two most enjoyable hours breaking bread with C.B. Scott. He'd dropped me a note last week suggesting we have lunch, and this was the result.

We're somewhat kindred spirits, being senior but not choosing to think like it. At least I know I don't, and C.B. sure doesn't seem to, either.

In case you don't recognize him, the man on the other end of the cell phone is none other than Benjamin S. Cole, who happened to call C.B. while we were eating lunch.. I didn't have the chance to meet Ben in Greensboro, but I did chat with him for a few minutes (on C.B.'s nickel).

God crossed our paths for a reason. It's going to be fun seeing what it is.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I'M BORED; LET'S TALK ABOUT TONGUES

In the late 1960's, I worked with a lady who belonged to an Assembly of God Church. The topic of unknown tongues came up one day, and we discussed it briefly. She stated that the bible said that gift would follow all believers around, so we should all have it.

I talked to my mentor at the time, and he cited the passage. It was Mark 16:17-18. A couple days later, I asked her if that was the verse, and she said it was. I then asked if she also drank poison, and if she was also snake-proof. She said "Oh .. we don't believe THAT". Since I figured the two verses were equally true, or not, I disregarded the entire matter. I did, however, envy how she said she felt when God manifested that gift.

Then, in the early 1970's, I was traveling around central Indiana every day, and I listened to Christian radio stations. I enjoyed hearing Jimmy Swaggart, and normally heard him 2 or 3 times a day, on different stations. One day he was talking about unknown tongues, and I pulled off the side of the road amidst the cornfields between Eaton and Dunkirk, Indiana, and asked God for that gift. As earnestly as I knew how.

Nothing happened, so I told Him I'd not mention it again, but if He ever reconsidered, I'd sure like to have that one.

In the summer of 1994, our church had a mission trip to Winfield, Missouri. I went along as a Backyard Bible Club "overseer" and we had a wonderful time. Our men worked repairing flood-damaged homes, and then we all put on "Block Parties" in the evenings. On the last night, we had an exceptionally spiritually-charged evening, and at the close, Sam Neugent led us in a group prayer. After a few seconds' silence, he said "Lord, words fail us....". Thats exactly what was going through my mind, and when he said it, I began speaking syllables I did not understand. Since I had no intention of doing that, it shocked me, and I stopped after perhaps two seconds.

I was flabbergasted. I thought "Was that what I think it was?" Since I had no one to review it with, I said nothing. But I could not forget it.

About 2 years later, we were in Jamaica on a mission trip. In a morning prayer time, the man across the circle (Baptists love to stand or sit in a circle and hold hands while praying, which I don't like to do) said "Lord, fill me". I shook loose and walked to him and laid my hands on his head and began to pray for him. But what came out was some unknown words ... not gibberish .. but words I could not understand. This time, I didn't stop myself. After 20 seconds or so, I sat back down in the original chair, and placed my hand on the man next to me, asking God to cure his bad back (he'd announced he couldn't work that day as he was in great pain).

After the prayer time, the man with the bad back asked what I'd done to him. I told him, and he asked "Did you feel it?" I asked feel what, and he stated "When you put your hand on my back, the pain turned to heat and flowed out through your hand". Needless to say, I was dumbfounded. As I was standing there trying to collect my thoughts, the first man came to me and asked "What did you do to me?"

I told him I'd heard his prayer and wanted to pray for him. He responded that he'd said that because he had a terrible headache, from a bad disc in his neck. He then said "When you put your hand on my head, the pain turned to heat and flowed out through your hand". He had several other questions as to what had happened, which was understandable. I had a bunch of them myself.

What was obvious was that I hadn't known what He needed, but God did. God chose that time to manifest the gift, again, in a manner I couldn't ignore. And He affirmed it by miraculously paralleling it in the second man, who also needed healing at that time.

So ... let the Cessationists rationalize as they wish. I know better. I KNOW my God can do anything He wants, any time He wants, anywhere He wants, any way He wants, to anybody He wants.

Having seen Him do just that, I long to see more of it.

ps: My overall view of unknown tongues seems to be contrary to the accepted wisdom of the church. And I mean ALL of it. I'll write about that next time.

Monday, June 19, 2006

MY PASTOR WAS HALF A PROPHET

Owing to Wade Burleson's encouragement to come to the convention in Greensboro, followed a couple hours later by Pastor Mike Shaw's encouragement over dinner, Peg and I went to the convention. Unbeknownst to me, Mike stated to a friend that if I went, I would (1) be quoted in the newspaper, and (2) speak to the convention from the floor.

He was half right. I did both, but twice. Each.

I covered the newspaper quotes previously but I need to share the floor comments, as they flow from my convictions.

The first was relative to a motion to amend the Executive Committee Report concerning the Cooperative Program. The report encouraged the States to conduct programs encouraging local churches to regularly increase giving to the Cooperative Program. A motion came from the floor to amend the report, to insert a 10% recommendation as a level of giving for local churches. I spoke against that amendment.

There had been considerable discussion about percentages, previously. The Executive Committee had deleted the percentage reference, which I think they should have. The point I raised was two-fold.

First, the task of the local church .. its vision .. is that which is brought about by the giftings of the local membership. That's what God provides to the church to work with, and that determines what God has in mind for the church to do. I said no one, outside the church, can determine what that is. The tithes given to the church are really given to God, not to the church, and it's the church's awesome responsibility to determine where God wants them to spend His money.

I also said that the CP leadership needed to realize that God is the source of their supply, and not the local churches. If they don't think they're being funded as they should, they need to ask God why He is not providing them with as much money as they think they need.

Thankfully, the motion to amend failed. The report, Part I, was adopted as presented.

The second time I spoke concerned the motion brought by Wade Burleson, in the first morning session that day. He'd moved that the Executive Committee be authorized to investigate controversies at the International Mission Board. The Committee on the Order of Business subsequently recommended that the motion be referred to the IMB, for a report to be presented to the 2007 Convention. They also scheduled discussion on that referral for the Business Session at 7:40 that evening.

When that time came, I stood to oppose the referral, and pushed the "Against" button on the #8 microphone stand. The Chair recognized microphone #1, speaking for the motion first, and it was Wade Burleson himself! He stated his acceptance of the decision of the Committee on the Order of Business, and that he'd work with the Board of Trustees of the IMB to resolve things.

That was a testimony to Wade's character, but it left me sort of perplexed as to how to proceed. But God reminded me that He'd not shown me what I'd realized so I could find a reason not to say it. So I did. The facts I pointed out were as follows:

Saul didn't know how to be king when God selected him, so God had to train him. Saul apparently learned well, as even after he'd turned his back on God, and God had taken His Spirit away from Saul, Saul went right on with what he'd learned about being king.

The SBC has done a wonderful job carrying out the great commission. But that was a commission from Jesus, to carry on His work. And He Himself had said He didn't do any work on His own, but could only do His Father's work. In fact, that was His "meat" .. His very subsistence. That means we are doing God's work, under commission from Jesus, which mandates we do it the way He'd do it, were He here.

I said the IMB, and the BoT are under an obligation to carry out the work that way, but the SBC Leadership is obligated to see that they do. They cannot avoid their responbility to see that the IMB, and all other entities, conduct themselves that way. If leadership fails to do that, we may well come back next year and find that the Spirit has departed, and we'll just go on doing what we've learned to do.

Just like Saul.

I cannot tell you how strongly I felt about the words I spoke, both times. In retrospect, I have trouble believing I actually said what I did. I certainly don't have any educational or theological qualifications to do that.

God told me He didn't much care about that.

So ... if Brother Mike gets to telling folks what you'll be doing, listen up.

Twice.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

NEVER CAN FIND A PIRATE (WHEN YOU NEED ONE)

Except, in this case, we found one. We had to fly to Greensboro NC to do it, but by golly we did it.

The tall handsome pirate in the picture is none other than Mr. Brett McArdle, a member of the Sunday School Class I'm privileged to teach. Brett's on staff at the Women's Missionary Union here, and was at the Convention as an employee thereof.

I never got to the WMU booth, so I have no idea what the theme was, or why it called for a Pirate. But it did, and Brett was the logical choice to be the Guy in The Costume.

Brett made the mistake of telling that to the class, the week before the convention. That, of course, did it. I was alternately bombarded with (A) Advice to act like I didn't know him, and (B) Be sure to get a picture so we could embarrass him further. I chose the latter.

Unfortunately I forgot to print the picture and take it to class this morning. Not wanting to deprive the class of this glorious sight, I told them to check the blog this afternoon.

That's him, in all his glory, trying to hide behind Peg.

Thanks, Brett. You done good. It may not be much in line with your personality, but you got into that one with both feet. Well done.

And yes, my timbers DID shiver.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

THE (UN)CONVENTION(AL)

The convention was most interesting, for me. It began Sunday morning, when I visited at Calvary Baptist Church at McLeansville, about 10 minutes east of here. I'd read that Wade Burleson was preaching there on his blog, and Peg and I went. We had a terrific worship service (LordSong .. a trio .. sang and it was wonderful) and had a lot of fun meeting the Burlesons. Wade's wife Rachelle is beautiful and an intense lady. Wade, himself, is soft-spoken except when he's preaching, and is an admirable and principled man.

The Religion reporter for the Greensboro News & Journal was there that morning, as Wade has gotten a lot of attention for his blogging. She talked to him afterwards and when she asked him about bloggers and those who read and commented on them, Wade told her I was a regular commentator. So she came and interviewed me.

We talked about a number of things, most particularly about the IMB BoT rulings against tongues and the controversy abvout Calvinism. I told her that folks who held calvinistic views, and folks who had a prayer language were a lot like beer drinking among baptists .... they've both been going on for years, but nobody wants to talk about them.

In talking about blogging in general, I said: if the SBC had started having "town hall meetings" everywhere there were baptists, and had SBC personnel there to discuss SBC concerns and actions, and get opinions from the laity, they'd have been hailed as forward-thinking and progressive. I said that's all that the blogs really are, and why didn't the SBC do that, themselves, years before?

Lo and behold, when I read the paper Monday morning, there was an article about Wade, and the reporter quoted my comment about blogs. We met the Shaws & the Moores for lunch, and Brother Mike good-naturedly razzed me about showing up for my first-ever convention and getting quoted already in the press (Sunday & Monday was the Pastor's Conference ... the Convention itself was Tuesday & Wednesday).

We haven't seen the Shaws since, but I can't wait to ... I was quoted Tuesday, too, for my remark about tongues & Calvinism. Oh, boy. I understand that generated, shall we say, a stir at FBC Pelham, from folks who wondered why this "messenger' .. which I wasn't as the convention didn't even start for 2 more days .. was saying unconventional things. Such is life.

The convention was conventional in most respects, except for the biggest news. The candidate of the"establishment" was viewed as being Dr. Ronnie Floyd of FBC Springdale, AR. He was somewhat of a lightning rod, as his church gives something under 1/2 of one percent of undesignated offerings to the Cooperative Program. (FBC Pelham gives 10%). That raised a great controversy on the blogs.

The second candidate, the "new young leaders' candidate" was Dr. Frank Page, and the third one announced was Dr. Jerry Sutton. Some viewed him as a "ploy" by the "establishment" to draw votes from Dr. Page.

Sutton was interviewed very shortly after announcing, and he stated, with reference to Dr. Page's conservatism, that there was a 'suspicion and a concern there". That, properly, drew a lot of fire.

The biggest news of the convention was that Dr. Frank Page won the 3-way election outright on the first ballot! For observant folks, that's huge. The information about Dr. Floyd's church, and Dr. Sutton's remarks, was principally disseminated via the blogs! In my mind, that's a stinging rebuke for the "establishment"

That was the biggest news.

I did have occasion to speak to 2 different motions, in the general sessions. If you've never raised an objection to what would be viewed as "establishment motions", on a live microphone in front of 10,000 or so people, with 3 giant TV screens in your field of vision with your face on them ... well, you really, really have something to look forward to. I'll share the substance of what I said in a later post.

I had some opportunities to minister, too, and I'll also share them later.