Thursday, May 31, 2007

So Try Not Understanding THIS

Wade Burleson put up a post some time back, about something he didn't understand. Well, there's something I don't understand and I think I'll write about it. Doing things I don't understand has gotten me this far, so why not....

The whole soap opera "The Bloggers and the Ex-President" is one of them things I don't understand. We're told to go and make disciples of all nations. Presumably that includes the USA. And, we're told it's not a lot of use to say "Be warm" or "Be well" or "Be fed" or some such, without being willing to do something about the heat or health or diet or whatever, of the listener.

Now, the stated purpose of the NBC is to address issues of poverty, social injustice, and stuff like that. Those seem to fit into what James said we ought to be doing. Oh, I know the naysayers will proudly point to all the things SBC'ers do, and I'm glad SBC'ers do all that. But apparently there's some other stuff that's not being addressed at present. So I can see the rationale of the NBC.

I'm no genius, but it seems to me that the brouhaha being played out on this will not in any way contribute to the population of heaven. If the injustice or poverty within church membership rolls were the problem, local churches should address that. If that's the case, shame on us already. But if the NBC is aimed at society in general, including lost folks, then how can we say the **** with THEM and stand on some purity of doctrine as an excuse not to be involved.

What on earth are we so proud of? I don't think anyone gets a real picture of the SBC unless you've been in another denomination. I've been in plenty of them and I'm aware of what the image is, out there, of Baptists. And I have to wonder what effect on that, involvement in the NBC .. without compromising our message ... would be. I don't think it would be detrimental.

On the other hand, what effect would our refusal to be involved, be? I don't think it would be helpful.

Now don't go getting in a pre-emptive uproar. I'm speaking of the image among the poor and disenfranchised who look at us now and see mostly big red brick buildings with manicured lawns. The ones we're trying to reach.

If we're even trying.

Jesus' first miracle was at a wedding feast. A party. And it was one at which folks were expected to get drunk! Sure they were ... how else do you explain the master of the banquet saying "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now." (John 2:8-10, NIV)

Jesus also ate with tax collectors. All the legalists of the day pounced on Him about that, and it kind of reminds me of......

I'm no theologian. I'm no pastor. I'm no professor nor scholar. Maybe those folks understand all the uproar.

I don't.

Friday, May 18, 2007

What Goes Around, Comes Around


"He drew a circle that shut me out
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout
But love and I had the wit to win
We drew a circle that shut him in."

I don't know what to call it, but like a pretty woman or a smart politician, it's easy to spot but hard to describe. What it is, is whatever those folks in Acts had, when they were living in one place and nobody much held onto what they had if somebody else needed it.

For a lot of years, I read that passage and then hooked that to the "sacrificial giving" churches always seemed to be recommending, and that whole dying to self thing, and I thought "Ain't NOOOOO way I'm ever gonna be able......" And we were, of course, encouraged by pastors who never really explained why we ought to DO that in any sort of practical way except "Cuz you love Jesus". And I never felt anything toward Him .. I mean FEELINGS sort of "felt". So I went on my merry way as a Good Little Church Member.

It didn't help any that I was in a Methodist Church and goodness knows they weren't much into the "Oh WOW" sort of miracles, and if that wasn't bad enough, we went from there to the first of THREE Presbyterian Denominations where we learnt what "cessationism" was REALLY all about.

Then, in 1981, we fell into the SBC and so, after 20 years or so, I still didn't get why those folks were so selfless a couple thousand years before. Now, I still don't know what it was, but I'm beginning to pick up a few telltales. In no particular order:

First things first: whatever they had, whatever made them feel like sharing everything they had with those in need, whatever that was, we ain't got much of it today. If any. They felt like that, then, and I see no evidence that we feel like that today.

Consider how many people tithe. And at that, I still hear "gross or net?" If we won't give God what He says is holy unto Him, I wouldn't wonder that we wouldn't give each other what they need, that we have. They felt something, and acted on it, and it's something I seldom see today.

Second, whatever it is, our churches today aren't "carriers" of it. I suppose all the preachers can do is to tell us what they did back then, but maybe they ought to figure out why we don't feel like those folks did, today.

What did those folks have, back then? Well .. a couple things I can think of, that we don't. First thing is that some of them had probably met Jesus. Personally. I'd think that would put a stamp on your spirit, bigtime.

Then, they were led by leaders, at least initially, who'd been with Jesus for several years. There was undoubtedly a fire burning in them, which has somehow, largely, been extinguished over the years. I see that fire now and then, now, but it's not common.

So, what didn't they have back then. Well, for one thing, the Bible as we know it. They were, indeed, living the things that became scripture, today, and nowadays we spend a lot of time trying to coax people into doing the same thing, despite the fact that we have the whole New Testament in everyone's hands, now.

They also didn't have big buildings and big mortgages (there seems to be no evidence that they did in scripture and I cannot imagine it wouldn't have been mentioned if they did). They also didn't have scripture (what of it they had) in everyone's hands, and no professionally-produced programs for teaching, outreach, taking attendance, busing people around, etc. None, that we know of.

I don't think they had a lot of theologians or theological discussions about authorized baptizers, criticism of people going where lost folks were to tell them about Jesus, checklists to disqualify folks who wanted to hit the trail to tell folks about Jesus, screening processes to throw out teachers whose views on some biblical phenomena differed from "management", etc. They didn't have a LOT of stuff, back then.

We experienced a little of this about 4 years ago. We were planning a vacation in Jamaica and I found a 4-bedroom house we could rent for less than a hotel room. So, we rented it for a week and asked two other couples if they'd like to come too. We told them we'd already blown the money for the house and we always rent a car, so if they could just get themselves there, they could hang with us for free. We had a wonderful week there, and the only dispute was over who got to pay for what. We just didn't care. Note: I'm not tooting our own horn here ... we had spent more money on a hotel room, the last time Peg and I went there, so we would have had a bargain even if we'd been all alone.

I think they had a lot more zeal for Jesus, in those Biblical times, than they did for their work! They had more zeal and more love (that showed) for Jesus than they did for telling people about Jesus. The first and great command is to love Him; loving people comes second. And true love for Jesus shows itself in the form of wanting to do what He said.

He set out a couple examples of love for Him, that stand out clearly from 2,000 years. One was, He said that those who love Him would keep His commands. Shortly thereafter, He said that those who love Him would keep His teachings. That implies something radically different ... the fact that those who love Jesus wil not only want to follow instructions, they will want to incorporate everything He taught, into their lives.

That has less to do with our actions, and everything to do with what we are.

All the stuff we've been hashing over, arguing about, analyzing and complaining about for a year, has to do with being zealous for the work. Wanting to get it just right. Wanting to stop or prevent anything that might possibly be wrong, in the work itself. I suggest it has nothing to do with love for, enthusiasm for, or zeal for, Jesus. And every circle that we draw, shutting out certain people, shuts us in.

If it doesn't stop, if it isn't reversed, it's going to get pretty lonely in here.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Now Hold On Just a Cotton-Pickin' Minute...


Let's put'er in Reverse, back up a ways, and look at what we may have driven right past.

What's the purpose of all this stuff that's going on down here on earth, anyway? Is it just so we can live out history and leave some folks behind so they can live out some more history? Did God go to all that trouble creating all this stuff so we could have our 60 or 70 or 80 years of fun and then die? Is breathing all this oxygen and having all this fun that big a deal?

I don't think so. I think the real objective of everything here is eternity. Heaven. The perfection the Bible speaks of that will come one day. If that's true, there are some things that really don't matter one whit down here. A few pop into my mind right off.

One of them is precision in our interpretation and preaching. Sure, accuracy is required, but how far does that have to reach? Do we have to take a stand for or against every statement someone tosses out about how he or she views some passage or idea of scripture? Paul said that the doctrine of Christ, and Him crucified, was so vital that those who preached something else were to be accursed, but does that apply to all these issues that divide people?

I think not.

In Sunday School at Parkview Baptist Church last weekend, I asked just who the Bible was written for. Sure, I know that Paul wrote 1 & 2 Timothy to Timothy, 1 and 2 Corinthians to the Church at Corinth, etc. But who's it for, now? My personal opinion is that it wasn't written for theologians who can exegete all them original languages 'til the cows come home, it was written for folks who seek the truth and want to know God.

You and me, in other words.

So why does He want us to have it .. to know Him .. to allow our lives to be molded into Jesus' image? Personally, I don't think the objective is so we can be Spiritually neat. Whatever level of neatness we achieve here is going to be lost when we lose this earthly body and gain that new home in Heaven. I think the reason .. the motivation .. the objective, must be to impact the number of folks who get to Heaven.

Another thing that won't matter one bit in Heaven is whether the guy that Baptized us believed this or that about eternal security. The Bible teaches that we are to be baptized as an act of obedience after we're saved, and if we did that, I don't think the other details will be important in heaven.

I just don't think our perfection of doctrine will matter much, at all. We see through a glass darkly now, remember? I think that means we're stumbling around in the dark, with only the light He gives us to do the task He sics us on. That's enough for down here, but it ain't much when you contemplate eternity.

Prayer language? Hey ... we'll all be speakin' weird stuff in Heaven, if I'm right, and English or Greek won't be of much use anyway.

I know Monte and Janet Erwin. They're fallible human beings like the rest of us, but I have no doubts whatever that they were called to be the missionaries they were, first in the Caribbean and then in Latvia. Did their service there add to the Kingdom? I betcha it did. So I assume, allowing some reservations of course, that other called candidates have been disqualified or forced out some way or other, over similar (and in my mind) inconsequential issues. I ask you: does that positively or negatively impact eternity?

I think negatively.

We've been told to lay up treasures in Heaven, where those bad things won't happen to them, as opposed to here on earth, where everything's in peril. But the only thing I've ever heard from the pulpit is the comparison with that to giving. But I don't think there will be any money in Heaven. So how does one lay up a treasure in Heaven, in a practical down-to-earth way?

Simple. You invest in something that's going to go to heaven. And that's people. Souls. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING that's going on down here must drive toward that ultimate goal. And when we see people issuing new rules or standards or prohibitions, I have to ask if that adds to, or subtracts from, that goal.

Not does it contribute to purity of doctrine, not does it honor our heritage, not will it be popular with this or that group, not will it be politically correct. Will it contribute to the church's task of adding (in our sight) to the population of Heaven in eternity?

One thing that'll do it for sure, IMO? Unity and love shown by the church. Of the sort shown recently in Arlington. Folks who disagree agreeably are apt to get some attention, as that's not a normal human trait.

You know, I can't think of any reference in the Bible that the end times will come, that Jesus will make that trip down here, when we get our doctrine to a pre-determined level of perfection. When we understand this or that. When we finally get church "just right". I seem to recall His saying He'd come back in the fullness of times. I also recall someone saying that means when the work is finished and all are won to Christ, that will be won.

Shouldn't that be the first and last things in our mind?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

3 Pounds of Walnuts in a 2 Pound Sack


That's just about what the Conference on the Holy Spirit, in Arlington, was like. More stuff crammed into 3 days than you could cram in. But it sure was gooooooooood.....

Many other bloggers I've linked to have done a swell job of setting it all forth, and even summarizing it, so I'll just set out a couple things I noticed, in no particular order. And whatever comes to mind as I type.

Hey, it's my blog.

First, as I've said for several years, on any Sunday morning you care to pick, I'd rather be at Red Hills Baptist Church in Kingston, Jamaica. I love that place intensely, and have so many friends, and fond memories, there. Well ... I got the same feeling worshiping at Cornerstone Baptist Church that I get when I'm at Red Hills. And it's the first church, other than Red Hills, that has ever given me that feeling. I am amazed. The people are just incredible and welcoming and so intent on showing what I need to see, that I cannot describe it.
Further, I've heard it said that an institution is the lengthened shadow of one man. Sure, that's earthly, but it's true there. Rev. Dwight McKissic casts a giant shadow there, in his spirituality and his humility, and in the love he absolutely exudes. I've been a lot of places and seen a lot of things and met a lot of people and it takes a lot to really impress me.

Dwight McKissic does.

Another, overall, impression emerged from the conference that I cannot shake. It's one that all this church activity stuff going on is NOT about us ... the church ... it's about mankind. Lost mankind. And if all this stuff is going on to cast a proverbial net over mankind and catch all we can, it makes sense that there'd be every kind of church out there, that you can imagine. That thought means that varying churches aren't doing it "right or wrong", but that they're out there to reach and teach different sorts of folks. In other words, their tasks are different because their people are different.

God IS a personal God, isn't He?

The only part of this that doesn't compute is when someone takes a stand that "If I'm right, then you must necessarily be wrong". I've heard those on every side of any controversy imply that, but I never heard anything of that sort at this conference. And I was most impressed by Dr. Bart Barber's presentation, which seemed to me to deal with historical records as to what happened a long time ago. Frankly, I don't care whether God manifested certain things way back when, or not. I'm only concerned with what He's doing now. I mean, like NOW is the only time I'm living, and try as I might, I can't do anything in 1452 or some such.

The sermons that really impressed me, and I guess it's because I know these guys, were those of (alphabetically speaking) Wade Burleson, Ben Cole, and Sam Storms. I've been around a while, have been a somewhat active believer for longer than most attendees have drawn breath, and I've heard a lot of sermons. There aren't all that many sermons that impress me, and theirs did. And, that includes Ben Cole's on Sunday, as we attended Sunday School and Worship Services at Parkview.

Some other stuff: I got to meet Alyce Faulkner and Debbie & Merrill Kaufmann and had terrific fellowship with them. And, I got to (finally) meet Dorcas Hawker. I so enjoy her writings, and she's just as loving and kind in person as I'd guessed she'd be.

Dr. Bart Barber and Dr. Boyd Luter both approached me and introduced themselves, and I was immediately won by their graciousness, and the fact that they're both interested in ordinary folks. I'd also bumped into Robin Foster at breakfast on Friday and he'd recognized me. In fact, he actually thanked me for pointing out sediment vs. sentiment on a comment string. We laughed about that, which lent a LOT of credence to his statement in the conference that he doesn't take himself too seriously. And he's big enough that, if he ever leaves the ministry, he could easily get a job as a bodyguard. His momma raised a big boy, there.

Robin Foster and Dr. Barber and I will probably never be on the same side of some issue or other. I just don't care, and I doubt they do, either. I like and respect them.

I tried to get Dr. Mike Shaw, my pastor, to attend the conference. He had some local ministry things to attend to and could not go. I told him the two of us needed to be there because we're good examples of how things ought to be. See ... I'm a charismatic Calvinist and he is neither. And I teach a SS class for young married couples (couples all the way from pregnant to having kids 5 years old) and my teaching is fine with him. I mentioned that to him the Sunday before we went, and he said "You know why that's OK with me?" I asked why and his response was:

"When I look at you, I don't see a Charismatic or a Calvinist. I see a brother".

Selah and amen.