Thursday, September 27, 2007

I Confess. I Don't Have It. The Burden.

I've heard it tossed around for years and years (and trust me .. for ME, that means something....). We need a burden for the lost. If we're not burdened for the lost, something's wrong.

Well. Something must be wrong, then. I'm not.

That always bothered me. I've done all the witnessing programs, E.E., F.A.I.T.H, even one using a Billy Graham tract called "Steps to Peace With God", The 4 Spiritual Laws, etc. Lots of them. And I've gone out, witnessed, passed out tracts, etc. We've even gone to Haiti on Witnessing Crusades, twice.

By the way, that's not braggadocio; in 40+ years as an active and involved believer, you eventually come to the place that you've done a bunch of stuff.

So why no burden for the lost?

I think I've finally figured it out. Actually I think God pointed it out to me yesterday. I'm meeting with a few men from my SS class on Monday nights. Their wives are in Peg's home Bible Study that night, so they asked if they could come along and spend some time with me and I said sure. Two of us met a half-dozen weeks last Spring, and we studied the BF&M.

Hey .. I figure folks ought to know what they say it is that they believe.

This fall we're spending 8 weeks (maybe more) going through Ken Hemphills' study course "Serving God .. Discovering and Using Your Spiritual Gifts". It's a wonderful course which I've taught 8 times before in the church, and is the best I've seen in equipping people to do that for which God has gifted them. As I was mulling over what we'd discussed Monday, I hit upon what may be (for me) a real re-orientation of my thinking. Here's what I concluded:

My passion (I don't like calling it a burden, as only God can give burdens ... hence I don't think anyone can tell me what that ought to be)is for God. For Jesus. I want to serve Him. Personally.

He says we can do that.

I've always heard the word "passion" and Jesus linked together. Originally in things like the "Passion Play" and later in the motion picture ... and the thought that what drives the whole thing is Jesus' passion for people .. specifically lost people! That passion, that overwhelming drive, caused Jesus to lay down His carpentry tools and walk out of the shop. I don't think He could have stood the cries of lost souls, across the centuries, any longer. That's what finally hit me the other day.

And HIS passion drives ME.

What also clicked together is that He's told us plainly that He assembled us into the "Body of Christ" as He has seen fit, and did so for what each of us brings to the table. The KJV says it thusly:

Ephesians 4:16: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

We, as "joints", supply mobility to the muscles .. the power .. which comes from on high. And God gifts us for the task to which He appoints us.

WOW. If my passion is to serve God, He'll place the task before me. And He'll gift me for the job. And in my case, that's happened. My passion, my real "burden" if you will, is to see young married people take their relationship with God seriously and let Him reign in their lives.

That's why I teach the Couples for Christ Class at the 9:15 hour at First Baptist Church, Pelham, Alabama. I teach it because I love it, and I love it because God dropped a burden in my heart, and a passion for, those folks.

For a long time in the church, I walked around with guilt feelings because I wasn't burdened the way I'd been told I should be. When I finally figured out that God was chairman of, and the only member on, the Burden Assignment Task Force, the guilt evaporated.

In my opinion, we need preachers to stop telling the congregation what they should have a burden for, and start enabling them to find out what God has gifted them for.

Once they find out, the passion, the burden, will follow.

Let your passion be for God. Don't settle for anything less.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tooze Daze R 4 Foe Toes


Everybody else seems to be putting up photos, so why not me?

So pick a caption already, or maybe even a title. Or whatever. You can even guess when & where & who if you want. I'll tell you that stuff in a couple days in the comment section.

Have fun......

Friday, September 21, 2007

Walking (Perfectly?) In The Light

I'm getting a little tired of the ongoing argument concerning Baptists, Presbyterians, AG's (etc), and "unrepentant sin". Wade Burleson and Les Puryear have both posted about this, today. Not minding stealing ideas for posts, I thought I'd chip in.

Some years ago I studied Henry Blackaby's Experiencing God study course and had a life-changing experience as a result (sorry, F.A.I.T.H. proponents). One morning the assignment was to take a 20-minute walk with God. At the time, I was getting up at 5am to do the study, so I dressed and went out into the 30 degree morning air. Being February, it was dark.

I noticed several things on the walk. The first thing was that most houses were dark, and they presented a really dreary, almost spooky, presence. Darkness. No life. Couldn't tell if anyone was there. On the other hand, a few had lights inside. They projected warmth and life. They affected my view of the homes. And I connected those two things to my Spiritual life; the Light of the World does the same in my soul. But that wasn't the big deal.

I noted that, in the darkness ... I think darkness may start here in the evening and spread to the rest of the world ... my only light was the streelamp every so often. And what I noticed was that they did not light up the world .. they only lighted up my path far enough to get the the next light.

WOW. I immediately thought of my Spiritual journey, and God immediately told me that was precisely what He's been doing for about 40 years. He gives me just enough light to get to the next light.

I was walking around a street-loop that was about a half mile long. I knew I'd wind up back home if I just followed it. But I noticed that, as I walked, I passed several side streets, and there were lights down there, too. But if I went to those lights, I would be taken further from my goal. So I had to remember what the destination was, so I could avoid following the wrong light.

WOW again. God then said (of course)that the same thing has been happening in my Spiritual walk, too. If I lose sight of the goal, it's easy to follow the wrong light. And that takes me further from my goal, and requires that I back track to even get to where I'd already been before I turned aside.

WOW again. Let me add that the walk lasted a little over an hour......

So I have to ask myself this: what's the destination? Perfection of doctrine? Purity of approach? Orderliness of presentation? Compliance with requirements? Or is it to shed abroad the love of God in our hearts? Or is it to manifest God's holiness and love and compassion and love and righteousness. And love. What IS it? What are we about?

We seem to have reduced ministry to the status of welfare, and excluded loving people .. remember I live around the corner from two of them....from sharing that love. In the name of perfection of doctrine.

On another personal note, I'm glad I'm not a graduate of anything beyond High School. I don't have some of the baggage that seems to have been produced by folks who've lost sight of the destination.

Some of the current controversy seems to come from folks who believe the light in which they walk lights up the whole world for them. Maybe it does.

The light in which I walk, doesn't do that for me. And I don't think I want it to.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

At Least We're Not Alone


Baptists aren't the only ones who play politics and get all at odds with one another.

A Birmingham News article sets forth a squabble involving the Alabama State Attorney General, and the association of (and some individual) District Attorneys in Alabama. The case concerns two youth who shot and killed a pawn shop owner and one of his employees, some years ago.

What makes this interesting to me is that I knew John Burleson (the pawn shop owner, and no relation, per Wade) personally. I'd been a reserve police officer here in the late 1970's, and talked to John many times when he'd bring information to the stationhouse (about firearm sales, etc). I'd have been interested anyway, I suppose, as John had a shop right by city hall, and another a few miles away, where he was murdered.

I've talked to folks who claimed to have seen the surveillance video. The two were tied up and the robbers had left the store, but came back a few seconds after leaving and shot them execution-style. My friends said it was horribly cold-blooded.

One of the men was taken off death row; the linked article describes the circumstance as to why. Then, last week, the DA here in Shelby County spoke on the other killer's behalf, and asked that his sentence be commuted to life imprisonment. I'd imagine that cost him any future political dreams. I don't think the public liked that.

The rub: the State AG has stepped in and taken the case away from him, and the DA's association and some individually have come out condemning his involvement. They're claiming "playing politics" and stuff like that.

Gee, where have I heard THAT before, huh?

I personally don't see how the absolute injustice, IMO, of letting one man off death row because of what the US Supreme Court said about cold-blooded murderers under 18, is reason to give the other criminal a pass on the ultimate penalty in the name of "fairness".

I'm not talking about the appropriateness of the death penalty here. I just find it curious that the Association has become involved in the squabble. I'd think they'd find more beneficial things to pursue than the protection of a man who was involved in the cold-blooded murder of a friend.

BUT: I must also ask myself if I'd be posting about this, had John Burleson not been a friend of mine.

Oh, well .. I guess the old adage applies. People are only human.

Monday, September 10, 2007

It Started As An E-Mail To C.B. Scott....

But my feeble idea took root and started flowering. Since I don't get much of that any more, I figured I'd post it, instead.

I'd made a remark on Bart Barber's Blog and I referred to the possibility of his daughter preaching one day. That sparked a stream of consciousness which generated a thought: there's a big difference between Preaching, and filling the office of Pastor. Hence, I'd imagine there'd be a difference in the qualifications, too.

First, I don't buy the idea that the prohibition against women teaching men, in the Bible, is an absolute. I'm personally not comfortable in that setting, but I'm not all that dogmatic about it. And I do not deny that women can and and do have the gift of teaching.

OR preaching (Anybody who's been to church in Jamaica, feel free to say "amen!")!

But let's assume there are good reasons for not allowing women to "usurp authority" over men. That would preclude their holding the Office of Elder/Bishop/Pastor, of course. But that Office carries a lot more stuff with it than just preaching.

I confess I've confused preaching TO me, with having authority OVER me. I think the two are separate.

When I examine the Preamble to the Baptist Faith & Message, and focus on the section on Priesthood of (the) (all) believer(s) (choose your own option), I get the impression that I'm responsible before God for ALL that I believe.

Now, as our pastor Mike Shaw has said frequently, we're not to take him simply at his word, but we're to check him out in scripture, for ourselves. Thus, IMHO, the authority over me is scripture (and we know Who breathed THAT), and not he in his own self. In other areas than preaching, he DOES have the authority that his office gives him, again from scripture.

Incidentally, Brother Mike also says that anyone who stands behind our pulpit, whether preaching, teaching, or praying, or testifying, does so under his authority as Pastor, and thus not under their own authority.

Hence, for me, I do not view listening to a woman teach or preach as her "exercising authority" over me. She'd be using a gift that God gave her. Or perhaps NOT, but that's for me to discern for myself, regardless of whether the preacher is man or woman!

So, again, I may not be comfortable in listening to a woman teach or preach. But church is not about my comfort or happiness, but rather about holiness. And God can use anyone to work that into my stubborn life, that He chooses. That thought can be summarized in a teaching I heard over 40 years ago, but I've never forgotten: "Never let what someone is not get in the way of what God has in them, for me."

If God has a message for me, I dare not disregard it, or ignore it, simply because the messenger is not a man.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen, Let Me Introduce....

Sam Neugent. That's him in the picture, over there.

Actually, he was sitting in Cuenca, Ecuador, on a mission trip. For some 21 years and 3 months, he was the choir director and worship leader at our church (oh, cut it out, fundies .. of course I know the church belongs to Jesus .. but it's the one I go to, and probably not the one YOU do). Then, right at the end of 2006, he resigned and joined E3 Partners as a church planter. I'd tell you a bunch of stuff about the deal, but you can just click on the new link ... Sam Neugent ... over there on the right.

Sam is a fine, fine man and dear friend. It's tragic that the SBC lost his career services, but I don't think he'd have qualified under NAMB or IMB guidelines.

I learned how to worship on a 1993 mission trip to Jamaica, put together and led by Sam. In fact, the trip so impacted my worship that Sam told me, about 8 years later, he had to "explain me" to someone in the congregation almost every Sunday, once my hunger for worship finally spilled over into my hands and feet while singing in the choir. I still think that was one of the nicest things anyone ever said to me, about me.

There are many, many other lives in our church that were changed by their visits with the folks at Red Hills Baptist Church, there in Kingston, Jamaica, too.

I sang praises to God, next to Sam, in the University of Pskov (Russia) Convention Hall, in 1997, under a picture of Nikolai Lenin. Sam put together the trip, (with another local pastor who went there frequently). Other folks will tell you it was a life-changing trip, too.

I did an impromptu Bible Study with 6 "Bahama Mommas" who'd brought their children to our church mission trip's VBS at Nassau's Zion Yamacraw Church in 1992. They all invited Jesus into their hearts before the week was up. Sam made that trip happen, too.

It is fair to say that Sam had as big in impact on me, in the over-20-years we were fellow laborers at FBC Pelham, as anyone. I owe him (He'd be the first to say it was all Jesus' doing, but you know what I mean).

Whether E3's methods would get the "SBC-eal" of approval, I have no idea. Frankly, I don't care. And neither do the hundreds and hundreds of folks coming to Christ on Sam's trips, either.

Go click on the link and check his blog. Leave him a note. He's a good guy to have as a friend.

Even if he IS a World-Class Snorer.

ps: He's holding a bag of peas in the picture. They were a present from a poor lady there in Cuenca, whom he'd led to Jesus (and, later in the week, her daughter and grand-daughter). The sack was probably about all the food she had. Something about the widow's mite, I think.....

Friday, September 07, 2007

Security Guard. .. or CEO?

I remember when we first joined a Baptist Church, hearing folks pray a little differently from the way folks prayed in the Presbyterian church. Sort of more personally, and less stilted.

One of the phrases I heard frequently was referring to the Holy Ghost, thanking Him for always being there "when we need You...". I'd never really given much thought to the power and presence of the Holy Ghost before those times. Religion seemed more organized and less personal, before then.

Strangely, we hear (or at least I'd heard) that we need to downplay our experience in religious matters, and emphasize God's Word; it was almost as if real gut-level experiences were not to be enjoyed or relied on for anything. Well, some experiences in the last 20 years or so ... while a member of FBC Pelham, have certainly changed that.

Bigtime.

I'm sure those prayers referring to the Holy Ghost were well-intentioned. But they hinted at a mindset which says we're to go about our daily tasks and He will intervene when we go astray, or need a little additional help in what we purpose to do anyway. That's sort of the same attitude Nicodemus displayed when He reacted to Jesus comment that you must be born again. Nick's comment suggested that he expected Jesus to fit into his life, rather than Nick fitting into Jesus' life.

My take is, that's backwards! Jesus said He looked around to see what His Father was doing and joined in that work, rather than doing "His own thing". I think we're supposed to do the same thing in our lives. I believe every morsel of our lives is part of our "faith walk", and can be done in the power and presence of the Holy Ghost.

I'm not a scholar in old languages, but my computer Bible has Strong's, Thayer's, et al built into it, and I use them all the time. When I do that to Proverbs 3:5&6, I get some interesting results.

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (KJV)

Those guys tell me the word "acknowledge" means to know, to ascertain by seeing, to perceive. WOW. That means I am to be able to see the Lord in all my ways. All my actions. And to do that, I'm going to need His divine help in all my actions, because there's no good thing in my carnal man, that would generate actions reflecting Jesus!

I also looked up the meaning of the word "Lord". It seems to mean "He to Whom a thing belongs ... supreme in authority". That doesn't describe a Pinkerton's employee, to me!

Security guards are essential in many types of businesses. They watch what's going on, alert for problems, and react to preserve what's supposed to be happening.

CEO's, on the other hand, are in charge of everything that happens in the company. No, they don't DO it all, but they are responsible for everything nonetheless. And, if they mess up bad enough, they're gone. They are to anticipate and accommodate all the external forces which threaten their operations, and insure their corporate objectives are met. They are also to see that performance of employees and representatives is up to par, so that the company's long-term goals are achieved.

We hear a lot about "guardian angels". Personally, I don't think we have them. If we do, they don't seem to be very effective, as Christians seem to be killed in auto accidents, die from diseases or fires, and lose money on their 401k the same as non-believers. Sadly, they seem to divorce at about the same rate, too. And if we DO have guardian angels, then non-believers have them (or something like them) too, as they have near-misses and close calls just like Christians do.

My personal take is that God is personally involved in all my life (hello .. can you say Henry Blackaby? ) and will not allow anything He wishes not to happen to me. That's one (of many) messages courtesy of Job.

It's to be God Who wills and works in my life (of course, there are some caveats with that...).

So ... where has your personal Department of (Super-)Human Resources placed the Holy Spirit in your life? What position is He filling, for you?

If He's not the CEO of your life, give Him a promotion right this minute. He earned it, and deserved it, 2,000 years before you were even born.