Monday, August 21, 2006

PAUL MAY HAVE SOLD INSURANCE

I'm an insurance broker. Well .. semi-retired. I have a pretty good client base, and a capable Customer Service Representative who handles most of my clients' ongoing needs. So, I don't have to spend a lot of time at the office.

And a check from Social Security (thanks, folks) helps a lot, too.

I took a lot of sales training in my Insurance Career. I learned that sales presentations need to be tailored to the client, not only in style but in content. For example, a dynamic businessman may be oriented at risk-taking, and hence be willing to assume more risks in exchange for lower premium. On the other hand, a law firm administrator may be more interested in ultimate security and the elimination of all the risk possible.

Also, an entrepreneur will probably be outgoing. But a corporate comptroller may be accounting-oriented and somewhat of an introvert.

The point is, that no salesman worth his salt would handle those people the same. One presentation wouldn't work for everyone, and any decent salesman knows that.

Now, when it comes to spiritual matters, we change gears. We seem to want to forget about the person we may be talking to, and concentrate on the "presentation". I will never, ever forget a F.A.I.T.H. visit in which I was asked to present the outline as to how to be saved. I started to talk about F - forgiveness, and noticed the young lady was crying. That wasn't a time for an outline. She needed to be talked to. So I did.

It was one of the neatest conversions I've ever seen. We all walked away thunderstruck.

NOW: We look around at unbelievers and what we DON'T want to admit is that God may want to use someone who is NOT like us, to reach them. We seem to think that folks ought to agree with us in lots of peripheral issues, that just don't matter in salvation. How absolutely egotistical of us! When we get to lobbing salvos at others, because they differ with us, or refusing to cooperate with folks who meet the definition of "Christ-Honoring, Theologically Concervative Evangelical", I think we're playing the "It's my ball so it's my ball game" .... with GOD!

Jesus, Himself, told His disciples .. guys who had authority over sickness, who had walked on water, who had cast out demons .. that their attitude should be "we are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty". It sure doesn't seem as if we're doing a lot of comparison of our unworthiness, in all this.

Walking through the airport in Nassau, I heard a baggage handler talking to a man in a suit. The man in the suit was witnessing. I stopped, in light of what was being said, and eventually chimed in. I shared a "point-blank" plan of salvation and asked the man if he wanted to be saved. He asked 2 questions, which I answered, and then he prayed and asked Jesus to save him.

The thing I want to point out is that I have no earthly idea where the man in the suit stood on any of the "peripheral issues". He may have been sprinkled. He may think he can be lost after he's been saved. He might be a raging Calvinist. But what I DO know is that, in that place, at that time, we were brothers concerned about the soul of a baggage handler.

Paul said he wanted to be all things to all people so that by all means, some may be won. He'd have done well in insurance. And how can we adopt that attitude without granting the application of that thought to other believers?

As I pointed out once before, this isn't about us. It's about lost mankind. We need to stop acting like it's about us.

It simply isn't.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

DENOMINATIONS: WHO NEEDS THEM?

For about as long as I've been actively Christian, which is 42+/- years, I've heard denominations denigrated. More people that I can count have said "I'm (fill in the denomination) but I prefer to think of myself as a Christian." As if there's something wrong with being a Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, AoG, etc.

And then when we get into serious discussion, people lament that there are so many denominational differences. Count me in on that, too, bigtime. Until I figured out that Christianity and God's work wasn't about me. Or about you, Brother or Sister in Christ. It's about hopeless, lost, mankind.

There's so much discussion now, and I enjoy chiming in, and the blogs get me to thinking when someone like Wade Burleson or Rick Thompson or Kevin Bussey (sorry, all the ones I didn't mention) tosses out a question about "Why Church Membership" or the "Definition of a Christ-Honoring, Theologically Conservative Evangelical". They make me think of the answer, and also about me in the process.

Painfully, at times.

We act as though God attaches some importance to the purity of our doctrine. NEWS FLASH: the best of us is way off. We see through a glass darkly, remember? How can we ever have perfect doctrinal positions, when that's the case?

Back to denominations. If all denominations were just like ours (or the one we were saved in), then mostly folks like us would get saved. And probably not many folks who don't like so much of this or that, or want more of something or other, than we.

Think about it: God's purpose is the redemption of lost mankind. Do you think He's going to toss out one kind of bait?

I think not. I think God is saying something like "You want happy clappy ... got it right here! ... You want introspection and intellectually oriented study, step this way! ... You like tradidional hymns and hymnals, have I got a spot for you!" Remember the premise of all this: It is GOD reaching out to us ... not us reaching out to him.

I am all for good doctrine. But the best I have isn't nearly good enough. Maybe it's enough for God to use ... or more correctly, maybe what I do know will make me willing to serve, so then God can reach down and do some things through me.

What I learned from Wade Burleson's blog was that someone can be a "Christ-Honoring, Theologically Conservative Evangelical" and still be a whole lot different from me. And there seem to be a lot of people who wouldn't cooperate with someone who fits the definition.

Our church started the Riverchase Baptist Church, about 20 years ago. I was involved to the extent that (a) The church started as a Sunday School Class within our church, which I taught, and (b) When the church became a mission, I went with them for a year and was their Deacon. Riverchase Baptist Church is now a fine strong Southern Baptist Church and have won a goodly number of people to Jesus.

They have women deacons. They used to have a woman as an Associate Pastor. What, am I supposed to be ashamed of that? Should I avoid fellowship with them or the folks they've won to Jesus? The plain fact is that the fairly Happy Clappy FBC of Pelham didn't attract the folks who live in the Riverchase (upscale) community. But Riverchase Baptist did. RIVERCHASE BAPTIST CHURCH ISN'T WINNING FOLKS IN THEIR COMMUNITY ... GOD IS.

ANOTHER NEWS FLASH: GOD USES FOLKS THAT DISAGREE WITH YOU, TO WIN PEOPLE TO HIMSELF!

I somehow get the feeling that God likes for us to discuss and argue our beliefs. I also get the idea that He is getting fed up with Christians criticizing other Christians.

Remember this: We are a body. The Bible plainly states that. And when one part of the body criticizes another (which is tantamount to rejection), then the same thing happens in the church, that happens in a body, when there is organ rejection. The whole body suffers. And, occasionally, dies.

Jesus isn't going to let HIS CHURCH die. Not even the gates of hell is going to do that.

Your church is another matter. And it may depend on you.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

BOBBY W SAID I WAS IT, SO I GOT TAGGED

I've been book tagged by Kevin Bussey:

1. One book that changed your life: Fresh Power, Jim Cymbala
2. One book that you’ve read more than once:Other than the Bible, Six Hours One Friday, Max Lucado
3. One book I’d want on a desert island: Other than the Bible, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers
4. One book that made me laugh: Cooking with Hot Flashes, Martha Bolton (All right, all right, it's my wife's but she left it in our bathroom magazine rack)
5. One book that made me cry: My Checkbook, Premier Check Printers
6. One bookthat you wish you had written: Mover of Men and Mountains, Robert LeTourneau .(I know it's an autobiography but I loved it).
7. One book you wish had never been written: Splinter Cell, Tom Clancy ( I bought it in the airport at St. Maarten to read on the way home and I hated it)
8. One book that you are currently reading: The Case for Character, Drayton Nabors (Alabama's new Supreme Court Chief Justice)
9. One book that you’ve been meaning to read: Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis (I started it and spent 3 years thinking about the first 3 chapters)



I am tagging the following people: Wes Kenney, Nancy White Kelly, Kyle Ray, Scott Hodel

Sunday, August 06, 2006

COMMANDMENTS, TEACHINGS, AND SALVATION

We seem to have a lot of "onlies" in Christiandom. Some of them may even be true.

I shudder when I think of "Easy Believism". The objective seems to be to induce the aisle walk and the "sinner's prayer", when the great commission says we're supposed to make disciples, and teach them to obey all things Jesus commanded. Well, maybe "objective" is too strong a word; perhaps that's just the way it works out in practice.

Random thought: in the business world, what happens when someone has a great idea that doesn't produce the desired results? Let's say the training program for a manufacturer produces folks who pass all the tests, but then only half of them show up for work. Or maybe the ones who do, half of them cannot actually do the work. What would management do?

You bet they would. They'd change the training.

Now, as Baptists, we've had CWT, and F.A.I.T.H., and myriad other programs, but year after year, we clone what we already have. Complete with 30% or 40% attendance, 80% of the giving coming from 20% of the people, ditto for the work, and percentages of divorce and teen pregnancy that look too much like the world. If that's ok, then so be it, but I suspect it's not.

One would think the Bible would address this, and indeed, it does. Most famous is James 2. I hear preaching and teaching on faith without works being dead, but I less frequently hear verse 23, which says a man is justfied by what he does, and not by faith alone!

Well, maybe "justified" isn't necessary to be saved, ok? So I looked it up. According to my computer bible program, that word means to be rendered, or regarded as, just or innocent.

Wow. Isn't that what salvation is? To be found innocent of our sin, because Jesus was found guilty?

OK .. but aren't commandments Old Testament stuff? I could say that ... but Jesus said some things that upset that thought, for me. In John 14, He made two separate statements that bear thought, especially together. One is that people who love Him will obey His commands. The other, a few verses later, is that people who love Him will obey His teaching. That paints a whole different picture in my mind.

The bottom line for me is that the only way I can know that I'm saved is if my heart is to obey what God commands, even down to all that Jesus has taught. And when I don't, my heart's desire is that the Holy Ghost would get my attention pronto, and make me conform.

I know this stuff is for personal application, and I try not to think of the Bible as telling me what somebody else is supposed to do. But when I see the actions, of some people in authority, that have been reported by Wade Burleson and Ben Cole, I have to think something is drastically wrong, somewhere.

What people do, and how they behave, is important! And that applies to everyone.

Jesus also said you'd know us by the love we show for one another. And love means LOVE, not "self-sacrifice".

Conforming to the image of Jesus is a life-long journey. But the trip is a hoot, and the destination's even better. I suspect it'll be worth whatever it takes.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

THE TOPIC WAS ABUNDANCE


Abundance, as in abundant life. That hadn't been my intention, but that's what happened anyway.

The lesson from the SBC Quarterly had been about the Ten Commandments, and I'd prepared the lesson as usual. But when Alex, our class leader, stood and made the announcements at the start of the class hour, he announced about Troy Smith's death. God immediately impressed on me that there were some things I needed to say, right then. The picture shown here was posted on the Bulletin Board, along with a poem which a member wrote about Troy.

The discussion lasted the entire hour. It wasn't me .. the Couples for Christ Class is very interactive, and we all shared. And God intervened, bigtime. But a couple of points really hit home during the hour.

I asked the class to describe Troy's faith. Words like "deep", "strong", "powerful", and "abiding" were mentioned. The point I then made to the class was that Troy's faith was just like theirs. The steadfastness and joy which characterized Troy's life until the very end, were the results of decisions Troy had made. Decisions any believer can make.

One such decision is to simply believe God. Period. No Exceptions.

Another is to act like it. That, of course, mandates that we want to do that. It's not hard to do what you want to do. Tithing is easy, unless you don't want to. Patience is easy to manifest if you want to. Treating people nicely is easy, if you want to. What's hard is doing what you don't want to do.

That's the other point. God can offer us abundant life, peace that passes understanding, and joy unspeakable. But we don't have to live abundantly, or be peaceful, or joyful. We have to decide to do that.

Troy wanted to serve Jesus. He wanted to reflect God's love, and His mercy, and His joy. And he did just that.

If the picture above was of a man who was killed a few days later in a traffic accident, the word would be tragic. But it's not. It's a picture of a man who died a few days later, of cancer, and who probably knew he didn't have much time left on earth. So the word is different.

It's victorious.