Saturday, October 27, 2007

When You Know That You Know What You Know That You Know

I had an interesting discussion with a Deacon in our church a few months back; he was upset at the fact that the biggest percentage of folks don't really get "into" worship. He knows I do, and remarked that it was a surprise that I was even still there. I told him I knew my 3 areas of calling .. teaching, heading the "prayer team", and my involvement in the counseling ministry. I said that the involvement of others in the worship services, no matter whether great or silent, had no effect on me and why I was there. He remarked that he didn't believe me ... that one HAS TO react to things like that, and I told him no, I really didn't.

He didn't believe me. He said he absolutely thought I was not telling the truth; that I literally had to be affected by the attitudes and demeanor of those around me.

Now, it would be different were I in some position of authority and had responsibility for the Spiritual condition of the flock, but beyond my sphere of responsibility (SS class and the Prayer Team), I'm not. So the worship involvement of the flock is their business, and perhaps that of the Elder of the flock.

I think one thing that upsets folks is when someone really knows what they know. When they are emphatic in their thoughts. Consider two scenarios:

1) Someone is emphatic in what he knows and will vigorously state his opinions, but is not much shaken when others differ, or don't like it. And is perfectly agreeable in disagreeing with others. They're normally nice, perhaps because differing views don't threaten their beliefs. They respond to information with information.

2) Someone has sound beliefs and will defend them but may retreat a bit when challenged. They may be somewhat disagreeable, even. And when disagreed with, they can be hard to get along with. Folks like that may smile, but have an easy "attack" mode. They may not simply respond to information with information.

There are, of course, other varieties, but these make a lot of sense to me when I see what I see.

I think Jesus was a hale and hearty Man, Who was a blast to be around. I don't think the classic Sallman head we see so much is anything like what He was really like. And I think He was of the #1 sort.

For one thing, He was invited to the wedding feast at Cana. That's no place for a wet blanket, or a "condemner", or an attacker, and I don't think He was one of them. At all. I mean ... folks were expected to get all blotto (to the point they couldn't tell the difference between the good wine and the cheap stuff), then keep on guzzling it down. And they invited Jesus to the hootenanny, and He went.

Also, I think He was a terrific specimen of a man in perfect physical condition. Body unmarred by sin, and never suffering under the natural results of the sin that blurs our eyes and pads our tummies and grays our teeth. Perfection, in the flesh.

IN addition, I think He knew what He knew more strongly than anyone else ever has, and when He stated something, it was authoritative and emphatic so that no one doubted where He stood. Yet He was supremely accepting of others, except those who misused the temple, directly (moneychangers) or indirectly (Pharisees, et al).

That got me to thinking, and it surfaced bigtime when I perused the comment thread on Wade Burleson's blog, the one following the Corbaley letter; it brought up something I realized about Rev. Burleson that I admire, but may cause some folks problems.

I've heard him preach several times, have been in meetings with him more than once, and have had meals with him and others a number of times. He's one of the most emphatic people I know, and sure of what he believes. And he's perfectly at ease with those who disagree with him over this or that. When he preaches, he is as emphatic a person as I've ever heard, in thought and delivery.

I recall a time when someone criticized me over the fact that I knew what I believed and said so. I was telling them why I was secure in my faith, and they said I was being arrogant. I wasn't, but it helped me to see that someone who knows that they know what they know ... in my case, it's what God has done in me and for me and the security I have in Him ... can be seen by others as arrogant. Perhaps that's a reflection of the fact that we all acknowledge security of the believer, but far fewer of us have security in the believer.

Let me add that many people who differ with Rev. Burleson on this or that do so, most agreeably. But there are far too many who attack.

CB Scott is another man who knows that he knows what he knows. He's a little less emphatic in delivery, when I've heard him preach, but he shares the trait that lets someone disagree agreeably. And there are things over which CB and I don't see eye-to-eye, but I don't have a better friend in the world. And if there's other stuff over which we don't agree, that I'm not aware of, I just couldn't care any less.

When I look about and see folks criticizing Rev. Burleson, and more particularly questioning his motives, I have to wonder why. Why? Why the attacks? He states facts concerning actions and they question his motives. Well ... I heard a saying about the law that might apply here:

When you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. When you have the law on your side, argue the law. When you have neither, attack your opponent.

Amen. I think that explains a lot.

A LOT.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ichabod. And I Don't Mean Crane.

I feel a lot like the kid who asked his mom where babies came from. She said "Ask your dad .. he's a doctor and he delivers babies". The boy said:

"I don't want to know THAT much."

When I first wrote Wade Burleson in early 2006, asking if he thought I ought to go to the convention in Greensboro, I had one picture of the SBC. As I've come to learn in the last 18 months, that SBC was like the Yeti, the perpetual motion machine, and altruistic politicians.

None of them really exists. And I didn't want to know THAT much about the SBC.

The second motion I spoke to at the 2006 Convention was Wade Burleson's motion requesting the Executive committee to investigate certain goings-on, including on the IMB Board of Trustees. That motion was referred to the IMB to investigate (which seemed to me to be about like asking the class bully if he's the class bully), which Wade actually supported (the referral). I spoke in objection to the referral, saying I thought it essential that the SBC as a whole .. through the EC .. check out what he alleged, and take immediate action. In my argument, I pointed out that King Saul had learned that kinging thing so well that, when God withdrew His Spirit, Saul kept right on trucking as king. And we all know how THAT ended.

I said that the allegations in Wade's motion were serious enough (the "given" was "in the King's work that we're about down here") that the SBC should do something immediately, if not instantly, and that we could not pass the buck. See .. if the charges were true, it was a very serious matter in God's work. And, if they weren't true, it was a very serious matter in God's work. Either way, if the SBC did not address them directly and swiftly, I said, I fear we might come back next year and find the Spirit had departed.

Apparently my logic was up to my usual standards, as my arguments were to no avail.

And, in response to the referral, the IMB BoT renamed the "rules" the "guidelines". Beyond that, business as usual. Just as was expected.

Now, Dr. Jerry Corbaley has send a 153-page letter to IMB BoT members, doing what I can only term "assailing" Wade Burleson. I'll let that one stand on its own merits, both as to content and to the fact of its writing in the first place, but it's going to be very interesting to see the BoT's reaction thereto. That may tell more than anything, what's what with them. But .. it did bring back another attack that I think it's time I shared.

Let me start with as honest a statement as I can possibly pen; that I hold no animosity for the trustee I'm about to refer to. I wouldn't mind having him as my pastor. But what happened, happened, and may well be (IS, in my mind) indicative of problems with the IMB BoT. What I'm about to post happened immediately after I'd spoken to the convention about Wade's motion.

Peggy and I had gone to the Sheraton, the Convention Hotel, after the business meeting. As we were approaching the front door, I was set upon by a man who identified himself as an IMB trustee. The details follow this paragraph, with the notation that the atmosphere was such that when I was first approached, Peggy ducked into the hotel, knowing what was likely coming. She went in there to pray. She's pretty perceptive that way. Also note that I wrote Wade Burleson, who I knew only distantly at that time, that very night as he'd providentially happened upon our "discussion". What follows is what I wrote Wade on June 14, 2006, the afternoon following the meeting, after an exchange of emails concerning whether I should pass the information along.

"As we approached the entrance to the Sheraton, a man said "Hey .... aren't you the one who made the motion?"; his wife said yes, that I was the one. I immediately told (the trustee) that I hadn't made a motion, but that I had spoken against the motion to refer.

He launched immediately into a diatribe against you. He said, and I think I recall these words precisely "Let me tell you about this trustee.." The words "most disruptive" and "impossible to satisfy" were used. It was quite a flurry and I thought very unnecessary. He even went so far as to state that the vote to remove you "was overwhelming .. it wasn't even close".

He also said that he was the man who'd come after you, as he was leaving that infamous BoT meeting, shouting "What's if going to take (to get you to resign)?"

I stopped him after just a few seconds and said "My position had nothing to do with Wade, or with his motion". I went on to explain (I don't know if you heard all that I said) that my concern was for the SBC, and I told him that they could NOT escape their responsibility by sweeping it aside and referring it to the IMB. I told him that was tantamount to saying "You aren't doing that stuff, are you?"

Despite my explanation, he said "But you need to have the background on him" .. and he repeated most of what he'd already said. I again stated that he missed my point; my concern was with the SBC.

When he'd said a few more things, I told him that:

1) I had not been at any of the BoT meetings, so I could not form judgments on any behaviors, but issues and facts were all that I could deal with. I explained to him that, if I were to want to form judgments about your behavior, i would also have to set about getting information about HIM, so I could do likewise with him. And I would not do that."


More followed, in the discussion, but that was the part that pertained to Wade. The rest was about the reasons for the IMB BoT actions.

Now I have two reasons for dredging up all this stuff now:

1) Apparently, some if not most trustees feel that such behavior is OK for one trustee, to a man that trustee had never before met, and who had no involvement in SBC/IMB matters.

2) It was about this time that Wade happened upon our happy little confrontation. Although I suspect he may have known what was happening there, or perhaps had heard some of what this trustee was saying, his demeanor was as Christlike as I can imagine. Wade shook his hand, put his arm around his shoulders, and said "We're going to work through this, brother".

So, the only trustees with whom I have had direct contact (other than a phone call to Dr. Corbaley early last year .. and now his letter to the IMB trustees), are Wade Burleson and this particular trustee. And there is simply no comparison as respects their behavior. I've seen Wade in adversity, and I've read all his blog posts ever since, and probably most of the comments on the blogs we both happen to read. I think I know the demeanor and the manner of the man that Dr. Corbaley attacked in his letter, and there's no doubt in my mind he (Dr. Corbaley) is dead wrong.

Note that I originally included the trustee's name in this post, but then decided it wasn't relly relative. If you think I'm making this up, drop me an email and I'll tell you who it was.

I don't think I can be silent any longer about that.

So how about the SBC? Well, if I was right about God writing Ichabod over the door of the SBC, how would we even know it? Consider the following:

A) One thing we cannot do is to point out conversions here or on the mission field, or baptisms, or any other result of the SBC work. Those things happen as a result of God's love and concern for lost souls, and not out of His love and respect for the SBC.

B) A young acquaintance of ours, who spent two vacation periods on foreign mission fields with the IMB, reports that several missionaries had resigned in between the two, over real, substantive issues with the IMB.

C) I personally know more of than one missionary who has, or is about to, resign from the IMB over just such issues as Wade has been highlighting for 18 months now.

D) The SBC in its annual meeting has twice rejected a motion calling for honesty in membership. HONESTY. Rejected by the SBC.. (Note to Wade: I really, REALLY wanted to use an exclamation mark right there).

E) One seminary President has refused to divulge FTE's and other numbers for the seminary he heads, as required by the SBC constitution (I think it is). The same man whose new portrait for the seminary is 5'2" high and 4' wide. I surmise that it was simply ordered bigger than his prior presidential portrait, which was only 4'4" high and 3'6" wide. What do those two facts .. the refusal, and the humongous portrait .. teach seminary students, I wonder.

F) The SBC adopts a statement that the BF&M 2000 is an adequate guide for various entities and at least two entity presidents tell the SBC to buzz off .. that THEY know how to run an institution, we don't.

G) Dr. Corbaley's letter refers to "slander" at Wade's hand (actually, the written words wouldn't be slander, but I'll ignore terminological inexactitudes). I've seen Wade, over the last year and a half, repeatedly ask for examples of that. I have yet to see any. Yet that seems acceptable behavior by a trustee, again, to the IMB.

H) Then there's the whole Klouda matter. 'Nuf said. Side note: lots of flap about whether Dr. Klouda should have resorted to a secular court system. But I must ask: if God can use the Babylonians .. see Habakkuk for details ..to bring justice to Israel, why can't He use a secular court to bring justice to the SBC?

I) Dr. Corbaley posted a story on his blog during the 2007 SBC Convention, purportedly about his speaking in unintelligible speech and subsequently interpreted by an older lady. As it happens, it was really about his infancy, with his mother interpreting his cries as being that of his hunger, the need for a diaper change, his being in pain, etc. It was intentionally misleading. I find, personally, that intentionally misleading people, even with the truth, is another form of lying. I find it disgusting behavior, and perhaps even poking fun at a legitimate gift from the Holy Spirit. You can guess the conclusions that line of reasoning might develop.

In retrospect, I may have been wrong in my statements about King Saul at SBC 2006. The word may already have been written. Maybe we just didn't see it. Maybe we were too busy looking at ourselves.

Maybe we still are.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

EJ


I was going to write a post about things I didn't understand about all that's going on, and parts of it (in my mind) brought back a conversation of perhaps 25 years ago, among Peg & I and Dr. E.J. Leverett Jr., head of the Department of Insurance of the University of Georgia. His wife was there, in the conversation, too. It surrounded the gift of unknown tongues, which had not yet been manifested in my life. EJ and his wife both said what an empowering and uplifting and edifying experience it was, for them.

Not its onset in their lives, but its exercise when appropriate.

Well, I didn't like it a lot; I'd prayed for the gift many times and had then simply given it over to God and said He'd have to do it 'cuz I wasn't gonna try no more. Praise God, He did drop it into my life many years later, and I never did tell EJ that it's happened.

So in preparing for the post I had in mind, I did a little Googling. I learned that EJ had died, in August of 2007. Somehow I felt a pretty big sense of loss, even though I hadn't seen him in about 24 years..

I'm going to have to wait to tell him, now, that he was right. Hopefully, a long time.....

EJ was one of the major factors in the formation, by Ken Williams, of Marketing Management Inc., the company I moved to Alabama from Indiana, to go to work for. Whatever I am, as a businessman, today, I owe to Ken Williams, and my experience working for him at MMI for about 9 years starting in 1975.

So, to the extent that EJ contributed to MMI (and Ken would tell you he wouldn't have started it without EJ), and alerted me to certain Spiritual gifts, I guess I owe him. Bigtime.

But I noticed something else in poking around Google that brings up a good point. I read testimonies from former students of EJ as to how he'd impacted their lives, as a professional friend, teacher and mentor. Unrelated to things Spiritual. They noted that he had a terrific sense of humor, and they were sure right about that. I recall one time when we were all at a meeting, and Ken Williams gave a dynamic speech, very direct (I recall it being about problems in our industry but my memory ain't so hot). EJ remarked to Ken a few minutes later "You sure put the corn down where the hogs could git at it".

That was EJ. A genius in insurance, from other tributes I read a wonderful Christian and church member, and funnier'n a crutch (as my Mom used to say).

Which brings me to another point. "He that winneth souls is wise".

The normal admonition that comes with that verse has always troubled me. As an ex-Presbyterian, I've known all along that WE cannot win a soul. Only God can do that, and that's most often (I suppose), done when we tell somebody about Him. But the telling is not the winning. SO ... to appease my curiosity, I went to my computer Bible; what I found was this:


Winneth: laqach; to take (in the widest variety of applications):

KJV-- accept, bring, buy, carry away, drawn, fetch, get, infold, X many, mingle, place, receive (-ing), reserve, seize, send for, take (away, -ing, up), use, win.

Souls: nephesh ; properly, a breathing creature, i.e. animal of (abstractly) vitality; used very widely in a literal, accommodated or figurative sense (bodily or mental):

KJV-- any, appetite, beast, body, breath, creature, X dead (-ly), desire, X [dis-] contented, X fish, ghost, + greedy, he, heart (-y), (hath, X jeopardy of) life (X in jeopardy), lust, man, me, mind, mortally, one, own, person, pleasure, (her-, him-, my-, thyself-), them (your)- selves, + slay, soul, + tablet, they, thing, (X she) will, X would have it.

Might it be that the verse tells us that he who is winsome, who attracts people, who befriends people, who receives people, is wise? Gee .. that sounds like a great thing to do on so many fronts that it gives me the feeling I am surely wrong, or else everybody'd already know that. But if I'm close to right, then we really have Witnessing Programs, and we train to witness to people.

So why do we refer to it as "soul-winning"?

EJ was all of the above. He was friendly, a man of wonderful humor, common as an old shoe besides being one of the world's best in the insurance industry. And last but not least, responsible at the human level for lots of rejoicing in the heavenlies when souls were added to the Kingdom.

In my first-ever Spiritual training, I heard "If you would win some, be winsome". EJ was, and did.

So long, friend. I'll see you later.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"More Than Often..."

It's certainly no secret that Peg and I love Jamaica. We've been there many times, a half dozen or so mission trips, another 5 or 6 times on vacations, once stopping over on a cruise. And, as with the more interesting places we've been, we've accumulated a cadre of friends whom we love, there.

You may recall the post I did some time back about Keri-Ann Bethune. I met her and her daddy, Merrick, on my first trip there in 1992, and have known and loved them ever since. Keri-Ann was a little child when I met her and now she's a computer trained math teacher in a High School there. She's also the Youth Coordinator at Red Hills Baptist Church, and Merrick plays guitar in the church services. They've taught me more than I'll ever be able to repay.

Mostly about me.

There are others, too. Jasmine, a single lady who opens her small cliff-hanging house to us when we're there and serves the best fruit punch and soursop drink in the world. And has a constant heart-warming smile.

Alphanso Blake, now a noted Jamaican artist whose work can be found on the internet. He is a terrific drummer, too, a good worship leader and can pray like no one I've ever heard.

The list goes on.

More than often: that's a remark made by a police officer on a series of videos I just finished watching: Gangs In Jamaica. It referred to the frequency of murders like the one he was investigating.

****EDIT NOTE: YOUTUBE HAS DELETED THE VIDEOS FORMERLY LINKED TO HERE. IF THEY BECOME AVAILABLE IN THE FUTURE, I'LL MODIFY THE LINK ACCORDINGLY****

The video was done by a British reporter, Ross Kemp. Keri-Ann sent me the link and said I'd find it interesting. I did .. it's been a while since something like this moved me to tears.

This one did. Those are my friends. I love those people. And despite the ugliness and horror you'll see if you watch them, there's a beauty and potential in those folks that my heart cries out to find a way to tap. They can be professional people like Keri-Ann, they can be accomplished artists like Alphanso, they can have their own little home like Jasmine. Or they can be a brickmason providing for their family, as did my friend Deacon Percival Douse, one of the finest gentlemen of any color I've ever met.

Deacon Douse, now that I brought him up, is such an inspiration. He's a pillar at Red Hills, living about 2 miles away. Not only is the church atop a high hill, but the road running down to Deacon Douse's home is all downhill, too. He has no car, but he's at church Sunday morning & night and Wednesday night, too. And for meetings when required.

He walks. And did I mention he is perhaps 70-75 years old?

It is out of the same culture that produced what you'll see in the videos, that Red Hills Baptist Church was raised up. A testimony to the power and love of God, and one which has so many answers for the hopelessness and fatalism reflected in the video.
And the same culture produced the Jamaica Baptist Union which last year had 25% of their MEMBERS at their annual meeting!

More than often: it really, really is. In this case, it means one murder every six hours!

Six hours! Four times a day, every day, some potential teacher, computer whiz, brickmason, takes an unexpected trip to eternity. Most likely, to an eternity in torment. Despite the best efforts of good people like Keri-Ann, Jasmine, Percival, Alphanso.

Tragic.

If hell isn't worse than what you see those folks on the video living, it'd be bad enough that no one ever should want to go there, if even for a moment.

Certainly not for eternity.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Well, They Sure Got THAT Part Right...


Confession time again: I used to be a Presbyterian. 3 different Denominations' worth, in fact. What's more, I'm still a Calvinist.

I'd say 5-point Calvinist, but there isn't any other kind.

One interesting thing, to me, is that going from a (studying, know-what-you-believe sort of) Presbyterian to the same sort of Baptist is no problem. I didn't have to unlearn anything, or anything. And don't bother pointing out mode of baptism, or paedobaptism .. I didn't agree with that then, either. But it seems that Baptists have some sort of mental block about ever becoming a Presbyterian. Oh well, that's ok with me.

I'll toss in that I'm charismatic, too, which might have eased the transition were it not for the fact that I was already a Baptist when that happened to me.

But none of that is what I'm talking about. I had a Calvinistic friend who told me why he was a Calvinist, one time many years ago. He said Calvinism seemed, to him, to be the system of beliefs that granted the greatest sovereignty to God. That wasn't why Peg and I were there, but I liked that statement enough to steal it, anyway. And that statement hits on the part I really agree with.

God's sovereignty.

God has the absolute right to do whatever He chooses to do, with His creation (and His creationS). And what was strange about my pondering that, yesterday, was that I was sitting in my doctor's office, waiting to have my annual (meaning once every few years) physical. Here's sort of my train of thought process as I sat waiting.

First question: I wondered why God put it in man, the desire and the ability, do to what they've done in modern medicine. I've taught for some time, in SS, that I don't really think we're all that smart to do all this stuff, unless God reaches into some lives and turns some switches or other on and grants them the ability. So I decided that the wonders of modern medicine were God's idea, not man's.

Kind of like denominations.

Then I thought about miraculous healing, and the fact that God seems to do that, occasionally, but it seems less commonplace than it was when Jesus and the Apostles walked the earth.

That prompted the thought that there doesn't seem to be much of that in the Old Testament. Maybe it was that being "gathered with your fathers" was an OK deal for them, I don't know. But I know that a lot of folks lived into the hundreds of years. But I don't recall that in the New Testament.

BUT .. in the NT, we see Jesus, and some of the guys He commissioned, healing folks. I wondered why He did that. What I finally hit on was that, since God IS love, it may well be true that He healed folks not to put on a show, or to prove anything, but rather because HE loved them!

Hmmmm. Well, I wondered, why doesn't He miraculously heal folks a bunch today? There are plenty of sick Christians around who could stand that, aren't there? And then it hit me: that's why He raised up the medical profession, today! Modern medicine isn't a triumph of man's curiosity, diligence, skills, or anything else man-made. It's a result of God's sovereign move in the hearts and lives of men! And it was motivated by the same love that Jesus showed to all the folks who were healed by His personal touch, or by the touch of those to whom He passed that gift.

Now: He does, of course, heal people today, and miraculously so at times. I don't have a clue as to why, when, where, etc. despite the fact that I've seen that happen (occasionally in response to my prayer). But it adds a whole new dimension to figure that, whether you or I realize it, whether the doctors, realize it, whether the medical profession will admit it, there He stands .. behind everyone responding to treatment, recovering from surgery, learning to walk with that new prosthesis, or finally receiving the desperately-needed dose of that new wonder drug.

All of which He brought about.

Because He loves us.

I think He's smiling.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

I'm a HUGE Fan of the S.B.C.

Yes I am. I think the S.B.C. is the best ever. It's the best ever on several fronts.

A) It's done what it's doing longer than any other entity I know of.

B) It's affected more folks like me than any other similar thing in the world.

C) It's accessible to, and serves well, more of us common folks than any other of which I'm aware.

D) It's undergone a few changes over the years, but none other has really come close to its accomplishments.

E) I've been involved with the S.B.C. for many years, albeit I was bigger a fan of others, initially. Several others, but the S.B.C. has won me over, at least until something better comes along.

F) The S.B.C. has had an impact around the world. Converts abound. But still, I think the biggest impact is here in the USA.

G) Common people, when they benefit therefrom, can still use their own skills and abilities to improve things.

H) The S.B.C. has undoubtedly carried more folks to victory than any other I can think of.

I) There's power, real POWER in the S.B.C. Despite the occasional problem, which is normally corrected when diagnosed, it's still a wonderful source of power. Particularly for those who know how to tap into it.

J) It's extremely flexible and is effective in a wider variety of situations and conditions than most.

K) There's a TON of instructional material readily available.

L) I've been actively and steadily involved for about a year, and it's most rewarding to see one's efforts produce some results.

There's more, but you get the idea. I'm simply a fan, and probably always will be .. unless God points me in another direction.

If you'll check the photo below, you'll see my latest episode of tapping into the power of the S.B.C. It's probably the outstanding example of that, in my life.





p.s: For those of you not familiar with the jargon, S.B.C. is Small Block Chevrolet. A 265-283-302-327-350-400 V8. That's one in my 1989 S10 pickup, in the picture. Edelbrock alumimum heads & manifold, Holley carb, Competition Cams Hi-Energy camshaft with roller-tip rockers, etc. I've been messin' with it about a year and it's about done.

Oh ... wait ... were you thinking of that OTHER SBC?

Uhhh... I like that one, too.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Our Burden Chore Task Privilege

Please, dear reader (if any), read this in the context of ALL glory being God's ... of my bringing pond scum to my first meeting with Jesus, and of anything other than pond scum in my life today .. and ever since .. belonging to Jesus. But I believe we should be open about our experiences when the occasion calls for it, as I'll establish later. I believe in the priesthood of the believer, but also the humility of the believer. After all, we have a LOT to be humble about.

I've got a lot of neat stories that I love to tell people.

When I was 15, we moved from Calumet City, Illinois, to Indianapolis, Indiana. To the house in the picture. This first vision I had of it, as Mom & Art & I pulled up in front of it, was Dad cutting the weeds in the front lawn with a 2-wheel garden tractor. There were several little saplings about an inch in diameter lying on the ground, and Art and I helped him dig holes that afternoon and plant those trees.

That's them in the picture! Note: I no longer say I am older than some really big trees. I really am!

A couple years before, when I was an 8th grader (1951), I met a man who was 100 years old. He'd met President Lincoln! Imagine .. I'm in a generation which is that close to such history.

In a related item, my first job was holding dogs for a veterinarian, who was in his 70's at the time. HIS first job had been tending the firehorses for the Indianapolis Fire Department, before trucks had been invented.

I ran into Liberace in the casino at the Las Vegas Hilton in 1974 and got his autograph.

One of my peak experiences in life was standing under a picture of Lenin in the Pskov (Russia) Community Center and singing praises to God. Another time there, we sang "Because We Believe", the last chorus in Russian, and the audience stood as one and shouted and praised and lifted their hands in praise when we broke into their language.

I fell in love with Peg the instant I saw her and told the man who introduced us, then and there, that I was going to marry her.

I'm retiring shortly after the first of next year. I don't know what I'll be doing, but God has enabled us to retire from the workplace and be available if God has anything in mind.

One of my grade-school friends, Carol Browe, and her eventual husband, founded and own Crate & Barrel. I still have all my Grade School class pictures, too!

Another school friend, Bess Montagno, was one of the hostages in the Embassy standoff in Iran during 1979-1980.

Another friend, Larry Pierce, was a coach on the Olympic Figure Skating Team, who was killed with the team on the way to the Olympics in a plane crash.

So why do I say all this stuff about me? Simple: I've been privileged to do and see and experience these things, and I'm not at all reluctant to tell these stories to someone if there's any relevance in a conversation.

I'd guess you're not ashamed to share the stories of your life, either.

BUT.............. when it comes to Spiritual matters..........

Why are we in the least bit reluctant to tell our stories? Are they not that important? Are we not that certain we're right? Do we think there's some "model" we need to be "up to" or we're somehow deficient? Do we think our story isn't interesting?

Peter and John were called before the Elders, Rulers, Teachers, and the High Priest to account for the radical stuff they'd been saying. Their response was a classic indication of the first thing I need to keep in mind when I'm out & about:

" ...For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:20,(NIV)

Here's what M-W Online's Dictionary says are the first 4 definitions of the word "Witness", which Jesus said we're to be:

1: attestation of a fact or event : testimony
2: one that gives evidence; specifically : one who testifies in a cause or before a judicial tribunal
3: one asked to be present at a transaction so as to be able to testify to its having taken place
4: one who has personal knowledge of something


***Edit Note*** Did you catch that? I didn't, at first (or second or third). Look at #3 again ... one who has been asked to be at an event so you could give a first-hand report, later! For all the Spiritual things we've been involved in, maybe one of the reasons we were INVITED was so that we COULD "testify to its having taken place"!

WOW! ***End Edit***

Isn't that what Peter and John were doing, and what Jesus said we were supposed to do? And be? Isn't the fact that Jesus thought enough of you to invite your participation in the work God started, then continued in Jesus, and then passed along to you and me (comprising the church) enough to move such testimony from burden to privilege?

I'm not burdened to tell you the stories of my life. I'm privileged to do that. I get a kick out of remembering what all God has arranged in my memory bank. So .. when I somehow feel that the wonderful salvation and abundant life that Jesus showered on me is less exciting or interesting or relevant to life than those other things, I have to ask myself what's wrong in me that brings that about.

I was standing on the end of a pier in Port Royal, Jamaica, looking across the harbor, at the lights of the city of Kingston, on March 20, 2003 ... our 44th anniversary dinner there with Neal & Debbie Blackwelder. My younger son Brad called my cell phone and said that the US Government had just invaded Iraq, and they'd also invaded the HQ of HealthSouth Corporation here in Birmingham. I'll never forget that moment.

As I was walking back to the table to tell Peg & the Blackwelders, 3 men sitting at the head end of the dock said hello. We chatted for a few minutes and I told them why we were there, and about Red Hills Church. I then shared the gospel, and the Dockmaster at Morgan Harbor's Hotel prayed to become a believer that night.

Two more interesting stories. But the question pops into my mind: which one am I likeliest to recall?

Which am I more excited to tell?

How about you?