Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> EAGLES' REST: November 2007

Friday, November 30, 2007

Maybe It's OUR Fault.....

I got to reflecting on things the other day. Actually, about 5 minutes ago (as I start this), and I happened to have my laptop at hand, so here goes.

This was in connection with the upcoming Conference on Bridgebuilding that CB Scott and I are going to attend (along with a crowd of others, so I hear). I was pondering God's sovereignty, and why we have something like 60% leakage of people, names, etc in the SBC. Since I figure God's pretty good at what HE does, and we are less so, and since I also figure He didn't save folks so they could stay home on Sundays, then I also figure somebody else must be doing something wrong down here.

Does anyone beside me think there's something wrong when we look at the church in Acts Two, and then look at our churches here and see people joining by (presumably) getting saved and baptized, or maybe in a different way, and then turning their back on church, and any involvement therein? That doesn't seem to have happened in Acts Two, and I know God hasn't changed. People, and their Spiritual needs, haven't either, so I have to believe the difference is in what WE are DOING now, that's different from a couple millenniums ago.

Thinking of all this, I came to a conclusion: Church is not the business of the church.

Let me repeat that.Church is not the business of the church.

I don't see anywhere in the Bible that leads me to believe that lost folks are supposed to come to church. I heard "forsake not the assembling of yourselves together...." preached for 35 years as one reason folks ought to feel obligated to go. That instruction was written to the church, not to unbelievers, and that's not how I read that passage anyway.


"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near." (Hebrews 10:23-25, NAS)

As I read that, we're supposed to be about the business of encouraging one another to love and good works, and in the process of THAT, we're supposed to get together. I don't see that as an admonition for the preacher to goad or shame us into doing things, but I see that as instructions for each of us to use what we've been given, to accomplish that. We don't go to church to get, we go to GIVE. To stimulate. To sharpen. To contribute. Paul said it thusly:

"As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:14-16, NAS)

This follows a dissertation on how God gives each of us differing gifts, so the body can all fit together and act like a body. This passage tells me that I'm there for what I supply as a "joint"; namely, mobility. I'm not the head (direction & leadership), or the muscle (the power). God provides those things, and I'm there to give them movement. And it's what we all bring to the table, that holds the body together (don't get proud there .. it's talking about gifts, remember, and we didn't give them to ourselves).

Can you imagine a body with a giant brain, huge muscles, and no joints? It'd be impressive, at least until you wanted it to actually DO something.

I suspect there are a some churches that are like that......

The church in Acts Chapter Two must have been a hoot to belong to. I used to look at that passage and think "I sure hope I don't have to sell everything and give it to those in need." That feeling has been transformed (by a renewing of my mind?) into a hunger for whatever they had that caused them to WANT to do that. That reminds me of the great line from the restaurant scene in "When Harry Met Sally" in which the lady at a restaurant, after seeing Meg Ryan do her incredible impression in front of Billy Crystal (if you don't know what that was, ask somebody), and the lady said to the waiter "Uhh ... I'll have what SHE'S having."

Well, when I see that passage in Acts Two, I want to say to God "I'll have what they were having."

It's interesting to me that the church then was probably comprised mostly of folks who surrendered to the Savior as a result of the first sermon ever preached under the current plan; a crucified, dead, buried, resurrected and ascended Savior, a sent, received, and indwelling Holy Ghost, and salvation by faith alone. And what were the instructions to those who wanted to be saved?

Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.

How does that contrast with current practices of evangelism? Mostly, we seem to knock on doors, do a spiritual survey of some sort (which is deceptive and I never do that), and then explain to them about our faith. We tell people we've just met that we can't get to heaven in our sinful state, and the only remedy is repentance (meaning turning away) and acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior. That's true enough, probably, but I wonder how it compares to "repent and be baptized". Last time I checked, that word "repent" meant "metanoeo",to think differently or afterwards, i.e. reconsider (morally, feel compunction). That seems like a whole lot more than something we need to give a nod to so we can have the promised wonderful, and abundant, life.

Even inside the church, it's rare that I see any "heart evidence" of repentance when people walk the aisle. I don't see all cases, though, but is it possible we've nonetheless relegated repentance to a "step in the process" rather than the genesis of it?

Then there's this:

"When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you shall surely die,' and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. "But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your life. (Ezek 33:8-9 NAS)


Seems to me that the only way we can know God has spoken to the wicked man, is when they evidence conviction around us. That happens lots of ways, and when someone shows us their spiritual need, we're required to share Jesus with them, IMHO. Could it be that we lead too many people in the sinner's prayer without ever seeing evidence of conviction or repentance?

If that were the case, what would the effects be? High dropout rate? Lack of congregational participation in the work of service? Shortage of tithers in the local body? Lowest attendance of any services, in the prayer meeting? Attendance suffering when the pastor is out of town? Members uninterested in anything beyond the local services? Members thinking worship styles must suit their individual tastes?

Lay up treasures for yourself in heaven, where all that bad earthly stuff doesn't happen. We're supposed to do that, but you know, nobody ever told me how to DO that. The only times I ever heard that preached was in connection with giving money. Normally to the church. It took one of our youth saying we do that by investing something .. time, money, spiritual gifts, attention .. something, in something that would actually GO to heaven. And that is ONLY souls. People. I have to wonder, and ask pastors, what percentage of the local body is actually DOING that?

He that winneth souls is wise. Again, I've always heard that in the context that, if you're a "soul winner", you're wise. No argument there, but in my mind, no one can "win" a soul but Jesus. He told us that, if He was lifted up, HE would draw people TO HIMSELF. So I cannot BE a soul-winner, but we sure seem to have a lot of "soul winning programs" around.

Hmm....

Well, I got to poking around Strongs the other day. Here's what I found. Looking at the NAS, I found that Proverbs 11:30 says "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins souls."

Wise .. chakam: wise, (i.e. intelligent, skillful or artful): Guess we're supposed to use our brains, our abilities, our intelligence to do this stuff.

Wins .. laqach: to take (in the widest variety of applications): KJV-- accept, bring, buy, carry away, drawn, fetch, get ...

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

COULD IT BE ... that we can evidence wisdom if we use our intelligence and our ability to befriend .. to win .. accept, draw, fetch, people .. living creatures with vitality, to ourselves; to become friends and neighbors and helpers and the like .. that THEN they would be receptive to us when we see evidences of conviction in them .. and that they would want some of what it is that WE have?

Would that make sense of the biblical statements that the church as a body is to build us up for the work of service? Would that put some weight behind the thought that our work is not in the building, but rather in the world?

During some training in the late 60's, I heard today's church (well, the one 35+ years ago) likened to an army in which the troops assemble for training once a week and then go back to the barracks and leave the waging of war to the Generals. That wouldn't be much of an army; I wonder how today's spiritual equivalent looks to God. And, when I look at the New Testament, and at the church today, I wonder how that happened.

Could it be that the church has made church its business? Have we let the army go home for the week?

Could this be one reason for the illogical need to assure ourselves of a regenerate church membership?

Could this explain 8.5 million members MII (Missing In Inaction)?

Could it be OUR fault?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Welcome Pioneer Woman Fans

A VNL (Very Nice Lady) named Kelly Jean, with whom I share the common bond of laughing ourselves silly over at Confessions of a Pioneer Woman, written by an unnamed lady by the name of Ree, the Pioneer Woman. She tagged me in one of them MeMe deals in which you're supposed to tell seven interesting facts about yourself, and then tag some others.

Since I only get things half right anyway, and since I can't figure out how to tell you 3-1/2 things, I guess I'll tell you seven things and skip the tag thing.

Besides, I don't have seven friends that I can remember.

Fact #1: I was asked preach once, first time ever, and it was in Haiti. Atop a mountain. Through an interpreter.

Fact #2: The first time I met my sweetheart (Peg), I turned to the man who introduced us (after she'd walked away) and said "I'm going to marry her."

Fact #3: I did.

Fact #4: I once gave Paul Newman an autograph. You'll have to ask if you want to know about that one.

Fact #5: I nearly died when I was 18 mos old (that was in 1939). 106 degree temp, mastoid infection, pneumonia. Doctor gave up and said they couldn't do anything else. Mom called a friend who was a Christian Scientist (which means that's the church she didn't go to); a reader came, was alone with me for an hour, came out at 10:30 and said to look for improvement "tomorrow". I woke up from a coma at midnight and asked for ice cream.

Fact #6: I am my own second step-cousin. Once removed, I think. Ditto the instructions for #4.

Fact #7: I once built a car. In my garage. Took a year. Prettiest car I ever saw.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sitting In The Booth: An Explanatory Memorandum

This started as an email I sent to a friend. The intention was to explain why I do some of the stuff I do, particularly in light of the fact that I am, by nature, shy.

OH STOP IT. I really am, along with insecure and high strung. At least that's what this guy with initials after his name, an Industrial Psychologist, told me some years back.

My friend answered, and referred to it as a "good post". I hadn't intended it as that, but hey, I'm lazy so why not?

Anyway, here's what I told him:

Sounds official, right?

Actually I wanted to explain what logic I use in some of the stuff I do. I heard of a study once, about 40 years ago, in which people were put in a sound proof booth from which they could anonymously share their fears, hangups, secret vices, etc. The stated purpose was to see if sharing those things, completely anonymously, would help them realize they weren't alone, weren't freaks, etc. Some were part of a group of 2, some 3, some 4, some 5, up to 10. They'd get a number, go to an individual private booth, put on headphones and a mic, and wait their turn. Man #1 was always a guy who told a tear jerker which ended in his screaming that he was having a heart attack, which was followed by a thud, and silence.

What they REALLY wanted to know was whether the others in the booths would come running out screaming for help. The kicker was that there was ever only ONE subject in a booth. But they THOUGHT they were in groups of from 2 (them and #1) to 10 (them, #1, and 8 others). What they found out was this, to the best of my memory:

1) When they thought they were in a group of 2, they came out of the booth EVERY time. 100%

2) When they thought they were part of a group of 3 ... them, #1, and one other guy .. they came out of the booth one out of FOUR times.

3) When they thought they were part of a group of 5, they NEVER came out.

Well, when I read that, I knew that just having that knowledge meant I could no longer be the one to "stay in the booth", regardless of how many others are in the booth. I know that most others WON'T, unless it's a really small group.

That played out when we started Riverchase Baptist Church. When it was 20 of us, someone brought the donuts, somebody made coffee, somebody watched the kids, somebody took up the offering. Nobody had to ask anybody to do anything. When we got a mission pastor and he organized things, at which point we'd grown a little, they had trouble getting people to even DO the things they hadn't even had to ASK someone to do, before.

I also did some stuff I figure no one else did. I heard Lester Roloff make an unbelievable statement in the late 70's I think it was. I wrote him a letter. He'd used the phrase "Lord have mercy" in a tirade against someone and I told him I knew the Lord did, but asked if Lester Roloff did. I never heard any sort of answer or response.

I also wrote Jimmy Swaggart when he took his church out of the AoG, rather than submit to their discipline. I said I figured lots of folks would say what the flesh wanted to hear, and lots might even unload on him, but I thought someone should at least point out the obvious potential of not submitting to God-ordained authority. Again, no response.

Well, I didn't really care if I got one in either case, and in both cases I enjoyed their ministry and was sad at how they eventually ended up.

Incidentally, some more of my steam comes from the fact that Peg and I drove around Jimmy Swaggart's entire layout in Baton Rouge a few years ago. Still a church, but what a sad, sad sight.

As I mentioned one day some months back, I'd really rather not be vocal and visible; that's not really my nature. But God told me a long time ago that He didn't care about my nature, He wanted me to do what He wanted me to do, regardless. So.............

I hope the current "reformation movement" changes the direction of the SBC. I really do. I do not EXPECT IT, though, and in that I hope I'm wrong.

I just want my hands to be clean in all this, and to be found having been faithful.

Hence the posting of my latest post. We all view Indy as being important and I had thought about waiting until after SBC 2008 to post that. But I don't think my post will have any negative effect on what many folks are trying to get done, and at least what I see as the possible outcome of collective disobedience is now out there for all to see. If parts start falling off the wagon, they will have been at least warned, and my hands will be clean.

Ezekiel 3:18-19: "When I say to a wicked man, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself". (NIV)

I'm not saying anyone is wicked, but if there's a principle there, maybe it applies. I don't control whose hands the "blood" will be on, other than making sure it's not on mine.

Also, I happen to think it's more important what the laymen do, than what the preachers do (as far as everyday activities are concerned). Pastors are paid to speak up, etc. We're not. The only reason laymen have for being involved is that they really believe what they're saying, and in the importance of saying it. I can honestly say that the past couple of years have been the most rewarding of my Spiritual walk, and I think it's because I've been speaking up when I had something to say (and occasionally at other times, too).

So, I put up the last post before this one. I hope it wasn't precipitous, but I figure there are other folks out there who are thinking they can never make a difference, there's no use speaking out, etc. Well, take it from someone who's been drug further into these things than I ever could have imagined: your voice is important, and you CAN make a difference. What you think, is important to God, and I think it's important to God that you say it. And God'll never use you if you won't ever do anything.

So get out of the booth already.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

WHAT IF?


VAT. The Value Added Tax. That's a tax in which the entire manufacturing process, sales, distribution of a product, and sometimes service, is taxed via a levy on every exchange in the chain. It's different from a sales tax in that it's more or less built into the cost, all along. It seems logical, as value is added when the distributor finds someone to sell the product in different areas and arranges the sales, as it is when the wholesaler finds the local marketer to sell the product, and gets it out to them.

Lately, the internet has caused conventional industry to examine their ways, to assure themselves that they're actually adding value along the manufacturing & distribution chain. I recall buying a range hood for the kitchen directly from the manufacturer once, via the internet, for a bit over half the local prices. Judging by the figures I see for internet sales, I'd say that's going on a lot at present. And I can only guess it'll get worse.

To paraphrase Jerry Grace, esteemed publisher extraordinaire of SBC Outhouse, they ain't puttin' THAT genie back in the bottle.

Which causes me to wonder if the Resident Geniuses of the SBC and its related entities have really considered the ramifications of this. I mean, the end results of this boggle the mind. If you think the status quo is going to stay quo'ed very long, I suggest you go watch this.

The SBC needs to take a long hard look at whether they're, in every entity, adding value in their operations. Is all that hierarchy in NAMB and IMB really, really adding value that makes it prudent to funnel all that money through them? Could it be, in this world today, there are better ways to do it without what it costs to have a hierarchy? I attend church with a man who works for a "Virtual Company" ... namely people with laptops and cell phones, and they're a powerful force in their industry. That could never have been done 25 years ago, but it is fact today. They have no office, anywhere.

Isn't our collective duty to be as effective in the Kingdom work as we possibly can? Shouldn't we be the best stewards of God's money that we can, in doing that?

We already have examples of what happens when the SBC refuses to change, to adapt, to innovate. Local churches and associations taking action on Integrity of Church Membership is but one example of that. But, even more important, local churches have been doing marvelous things on the mission field, here and on foreign soil, without the guidance or help of the SBC or any of its entities. Perhaps the SBC et al is closer to that "Corner of Irrelevance" than they realize. And with what's happening in local churches, and the real world today out here where study committees aren't blocking the view, I think the bell may be tolling for NAMB, the IMB, and other SBC entities already.

Our church, FBC Pelham is a pretty good example of this. We've sent several mission teams to the Gulf Coast, we send a mission trip to somewhere here every summer (Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, West Virginia, Missouri among others) and have even sent teams to Nassau, Jamaica, Latvia, Russia, and even bought and delivered an ambulance to Central America some years back.

All without SBC involvement. Sure, we send the CP 10% of undesignated offerings, but sooner or later someone is going to ask if we couldn't spend that money better ourselves. For instance, last year our Lottie Moon offering was a bit more than enough to support a missionary couple on the field, all by our selves. And our CP giving could support a whole mob.

I don't think we're alone in this, and I wonder if the SBC et al has considered all the ramifications of this. Consider the following:

What if a local church decided its obligation to carry out the Great Commission extended beyond sending some money to the SBC Cooperative Program ...

What if more than one local church decided its obligation extended thusly ...

What if local churches came to the realization that their congregation and leadership, themselves, were under a mandate to determine how God would have them spend HIS MONEY, which He'd entrusted to them to use in HIS work ...

What if one or more of those local churches listened to the Holy Spirit as He illumined the gifts He'd placed in their congregations, and decided that giftedness was indicative of how He intended for them to fulfill their role in His plan for the redemption of man ...

What if churches began their own programs of making disciples of all nations, as the Spirit led ...

What if local congregations around the country saw this happening and realized there might be an opportunity for them as a body, and for them .. as individual believers .. to be involved in works around the entire world, which works lined up with their passion, their giftedness, and their interest ...

What if the experience and giftedness of one church could become available to other churches to help them realize their seemingly unattainable dreams of involvement in real, heart-level missions around the world ...

What if members with particular interests, in one church, could tap into the interests and abilities of another church's members, to help them fulfill the Spiritual giftedness and passions of both, for God's work ...

What if such synergistic outreach could happen without hierarchy, with diversity of views by Bible-believing obedient believers who face exclusion (and indeed derision) at the hands of denominational leadership who have been producing, and continue to produce, a growing list of questionable reasons to exclude good people who do not change their views to match those of the rule-makers ...

What if this happened, and people decided they did not need buildings, salaries, automobiles, mansions, advertising, lawyers, press releases, or any of the other trappings which sap resources, time, etc ...

What if local believers who want to spend time or money or giftedness in world outreach could do so, with their own hands, in an atmosphere of welcoming openness and freedom ...

What if all the things above could be done by Southern Baptist Convention churches who value the SBC but value the Great Commission more ...

What if those things could be done by Southern Baptist Convention churches who have no intention of leaving the Convention that they still love ...

What if those things could be done by Southern Baptist Convention churches who have no intention of leaving the Convention that they still want to love ...

WHAT IF, indeed.

Note: I first wrote most of this some days ago, after an hour spent talking to a good friend, a pastor, over coffee at Starbucks. This was actually in comtemplation of my hopes for the SBC 2007 Convention, but since then, I've become convinced that I should post it now. Add to that the fact that 500 people have reportedly signed up for the Conference on Building Bridges between Baptists and Calvinists, just shortly after the IMB BoT apparently did NOT want to take the bridge between a trustee standing on principles and encouraging openness and honesty on all things, and themselves as a body. I figured I'd better get this up now.

Shouldn't we be going about our tasks in the most Christlike manner possible? Aren't we obligated to do HIS work HIS way?

This post may be the ramblings of an old curmudgeon, or it may be fair warning to the SBC.

That's not mine to say.

Friday, November 16, 2007

IMB BOARD OF TRUSTEES NEW LOGO?

I envision the Board of Trustees of the International Mission Board, of the Southern Baptist Convention adopting a new logo, in an effort to put a positive face on all that has transpired in the past 10 days. I suggest the logo shown over to the right.

Gears run a lot of what we do. Vehicles have a kazillion of them, as do escalators, elevators, clocks, wrist watches (well, non-digital ones, anyway), trucks, buses, planes, trains, electric drills, the one-ton crane I suppose they used to hoist the latest well-publicized Presidential Portrait into place. Electric mixers, computer hard drives, lots of things. So why shouldn't a new IMB/BoT logo have some?

Gears also direct energy, transmit power, lots of good analogy-stuff. I like it.

These three gears might even represent three different principles. Yeah .. that's it. That's the ticket.

One could be The Holy Spirit. Sure, that one ought to be bigger but my computer only has so much photostuff on it and I couldn't make that happen.

Another one could represent honesty, openness, forthrightness, cooperation. Things like that.

The third gear could be secrecy, closed door meetings, stifling of dissent, etc.

Those last two things do seem to summarize, for me, what's been going on over there in the BoT meetings. Them we can read about, but I cannot speculate about the Holy Ghost one, as I was not at the meetings. So we ought to at least look at a couple things God says about the last two, honesty & openness, and stifling of dissent.

"For this is what the LORD says-- he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited-- he says: "I am the LORD, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob's descendants, 'Seek me in vain.' I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right." (Isaiah 45:18-19, NIV)

Hmmm .. sounds like God did things openly and for all to see.

"I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus replied. "I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret.Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said." When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. "Is this the way you answer the high priest?" he demanded. "If I said something wrong," Jesus replied, "testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?" (John 18:20-23, NIV)

Gee .. sounds like Jesus avoided secrecy too, at least in what it was He was referring to.

"Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 2 Corinthians 4:1-3, NIV)

Wow. Paul said the same thing.

Well, maybe the logo isn't so good after all. They're not supposed to work that way at IMB and the BoT, are they?

WAIT. Look at that logo again. Uhhh .... there's no way it can POSSIBLY work. None of the gears can turn!

GOSH! If you try to turn them, ONE of them is going to get all chewed up by the others. You'd have to dis-engage one of them. Hmmmmm...

Wow.

So ... maybe it IS the right logo, after all, huh?

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

THE CORNER OF IRRELEVANCE

I've never seen it actually happen, but I'm thinking we're seeing it happening right now. I think the SBC and its entities are painting themselves into a corner.

I call it the Corner of Irrelevance. I don't know how rational my thinking is, but here's the rationale.

The Arkansas State Convention recently rejected a proposal to remove some old Landmark sections of their constitution; namely provisions calling for closed communion, and rejecting alien immersion. I heard the comment that many churches didn't observe closed communion anyway, nor did they require SBC baptism to become a member of an SBC church. Personally I agree with changing those things but I don't live there, so that's a moot point.

What definitely IS important, though, is that they acknowledge many folks aren't observing those things anyway, so why change them. That hints at irrelevance of the rules, and casts doubt on other, legitimate provisions of the constitution.

Doesn't it? Oh, don't worry about the rules ... nobody pays attention to them anyway.

Now, I don't know about you, but that doesn't seem very smart to me. Intentionally downplaying the importance of part of our structure of rules unintentionally calls ALL of them into question. Doesn't it? Sure seems to me it does.

I wonder if this same thought applies to the SBC. When we returned from last summer's Convention in San Antonio, our pastor updated the congregation on most of the noteworthy events. His comment as respects some of the items with which our church might not have agreed was that none of those things made any difference in FBC Pelham; we're an autonomous body and hence the views of the hierarchy really didn't affect our practices. For instance, we practice open communion, and our acceptance of baptisms from other churches is different from the widely-broadcast edicts of the SBC/IMB. And I don't know of better evidence of the sincerity of that remark by our pastor, than his acceptance of, and explicit love for, this old Charismatic Calvinist.

Even to having no problem with my teaching Sunday School.

In my opinion, FBC Pelham has the correct view of the SBC overall. They are useful, but not historically. There's no future in the past. What they do now, what they say now, the positions they take now, that's all that matters now. In that sense, I'm reminded of the football player who was somewhat of a media darling in college, and got a lot of press attention. He was recruited by a professional team and the coach called on him to do some exercises and run some plays, so he could assess the player's capabilities. The player griped after a few minutes and asked the coach "Haven't you read what all I've accomplished?"

The coach's response: "When some 325# tackle comes down on you like a freight train, scrambling for your life, you gonna show him your press clippings?"

So it is with the SBC, the IMB, SWBTS, SBTS, et al. Every time some inane pronouncement issues forth, and the local church leadership exercises their Southern Baptist prerogative and ignores what they say (can you say tongues, baptism, closed communion, cooperation, closed door meetings, women teaching men, prohibiting dissent, blah blah blah?), then the SBC runs the risk of every decision becoming irrelevant to the local church, in the local church's autonomy.

Even the righteous ones.

One danger I just thought of is this: in any area in which they exclude some group or other, they ought to be viewing it as a one-way street. If local churches decide to begin supporting other mission causes, wholly or partially by-passing the IMB and NAMB, those folks are never coming back. If you alienate a congregation, they're probably gone for good. Lose a raft of missionaries over some silly requirement, and you're not getting them back. And this may be the sort of thing, if it goes too far, that the SBC et al could never overcome after-the-fact.

We may well become the religious equivalent of Norma Desmond, living on the Sunset Boulevard of SBC life, no one wanting to see us any more.

I haven't been an active deacon for a number of years, now. So I'm not up to speed on all the current practices, but I recall our internal agreement to be open about things (except for the obvious) and if we disagreed with something, we'd still support the majority decision. Same way we do with business meeting votes. We weren't stifled from sharing our own views with anyone, but we did that from the standpoint that we might not have agreed with the conclusion, but we would support the body in its decision. Goodness, we'd never initiate division or dissension or strife. There's too much in the Bible about the stupidity of doing that.

Getting our say doesn't mean getting our way. We lived with it. But then, our deacons weren't the FBC news bureau, whereas IMB trustees are supposed to interpret and carry the news of what happens back to their folks.

BIG difference there.

I was raised with the admonition that, regardless of who we voted for (yes I know it's really whom), we'd support our president. That's the American way. Unity in diversity. Our say if not our way. And that fact in no way diminishes the value of having my say. But that's government.

The leadership of the SBC et al doesn't govern us. So while the government can never, in our national context, become irrelevant, the SBC leadership certainly can!

I wonder if that's happening right now. If so, it won't be you and I that did it, nor will it be Wade Burleson or any other person (including bloggers) who's insisting on openness and accountability and a continuation of the Baptist tradition of courteous dissent. If that's what's happening, they'll have painted themselves into that corner.

The Corner of Irrelevance.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

THE HOUSE DIVIDED

You be the judge.

I've not been involved in much of the SBC, beyond the local church we belong to, other than the past two years. But I've seen a number of things during that time which give me cause to wonder if the SBC is doomed to fall. And, in case you wonder where I'm coming from as a local church member, and how I get along with my Pastor, I posted about that a while back, here.

The first thing of which I became aware was the issue of the Board of Trustees voting, over minority objection of Wade Burleson and others, to reject IMB missionary candidates to whom God had sovereignly given the gift of speaking in an unknown tongue. That decision efficiently and swiftly established an "us and them" mentality. Folks now faced an additional and totally unnecessary division, over whether you did or did not believe in that gift's modern-day credibility. Lifeway's survey unearthed the fact that a majority of SBC'ers believed it to be valid, but we were told quite the opposite, and told it as established fact.

There is no room in God's work for that sort of misrepresentation. Period. And if you wonder if it was intentional, just ask yourself ... where's the apology for that gross misrepresentation? All I recall seeing is complaints about Lifeway's survey. In my opinion, that is the height of arrogance and self-centeredness. And it is unthinkable for people in leadership roles.

AND THEN ... Rev. Dwight McKissic preached a sermon in the Southwestern Chapel, widely publicized for its removal from the seminary archives for its potentially damaging effect. So, people could not go to the website and view the sermon, but in a masterstroke of hypocrisy (according to reports I heard), you could send them some money and buy it. Apparently it was only misleading and injurious if it was free. Or, better yet, perhaps Southwestern Seminary had adopted the ancient Roman Catholic practice of selling indulgences.

Continuing the spread of division, SWBTS trustees then reacted by saying that, if a professor merely believes that gift is valid today, then that professor cannot teach at the seminary. If the sermon wasn't their motivation for the change, then I presume they discovered they'd cranked out a class or two of pentecostal preachers, and couldn't live with THAT any longer.

Then there was the matter of baptisms. The rules for that were made so restrictive that, were a candidate not baptized in an SBC church, they'd likely have to be re-baptized in order to serve. That said to me that a person could have been baptized in obedience to Jesus command, by immersion, and still not be "good enough" in that respect to serve. More "us and them" thinking in the Body of Christ, even among valid members of SBC churches now made ineligible for service by that decision. That, despite the fact that Jesus commands us to seek unity.

Apparently we cannot have unity with anyone who doesn't look just like us. I cannot imagine Jesus approving of that, in light of the fact that the early church came from a widely varying background, and I doubt seriously that specific rules had been formulated and disseminated to all the areas in which the church was found.

Is there any evidence that the churches in Galatia and Ephesus and Rome were familiar with, and teaching, the doctrine of eternal security? They were already a church when the New Testament epistles were sent to them, weren't they? Weren't they already baptized believers?

I was blessed to stumble into an exemplary case of the "us & them" matter. Shortly after Wade Burleson's first encounter with those issues, The Alabama Baptist ran an article about the resultant uproar, and the IMB BoT's motion to remove him from their midst. I read that and then wrote a letter to the Paper, telling them of my personal experience with that gift, and stating my displeasure with their action. A few days after the letter was published, I got a call from an SBC pastor not far from me. He told me his wife had read the article about Wade and the BoT and had been tremendously discouraged. He said she had a private prayer language, and had felt disenfranchised, and even alienated. But then, she read my letter and realized she was not alone, and the pastor looked me up in the phone book, called me, and thanked me for helping his wife to realize that.

I can only speculate as to how many other stories there are, out there, just like that. Only without any such resolution. And they would all have come about as a result of action taken by the IMB, through the BoT, NOT in response to any unresolved problems on the mission field (according to reports I have seen).

Let me give the IMB/BoT the benefit of the doubt and say they may have done it to "protect the work". If that is the case, if the decision was not to resolve an unresolved problem, then I believe that to be evidence that they did not trust God to protect the work. That is tragic; all the more so because those folks are supposed to be leaders, and examples, of the faith.

In the early times of the church, we see instructions like "Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins". That seems to have worked; I don't recall a lot of other rules. Perhaps it is, then, that the ONLY thing we're to unify around is the Lord Jesus. And in that context, Benjamin Cole's action at Parkview was remarkably consistent with one seeking true unity, the unity of the Cross.

He took down the American flag in the sanctuary.

I don't suppose there's anything wrong with uniting together as American Christians, but there's something outstandingly RIGHT about uniting as Christians, and just as Christians. And I think that's what we're supposed to be doing when we assemble ourselves together, isn't it? We do, of course, understand that some sub-sets want to emphasize this or that, or worship this way or that way, so we form other groups like Baptists or Presbyterians or Methodists, and that's really OK with me. But then the "Nose Doctor Syndrome" sets in.

Oh. Haven't heard of that? Two guys were talking one day about how specialized medicine has become. One said they even had doctors now who dealt only with the nose .. not ENT guys .. but REAL specialists. The other guy didn't believe him and was challenged to see for himself; just call a hospital and ask to speak with the doctor in charge of noses. So the guy grabs a phone, looks up a hospital, calls it, and asks the operator if he might speak to the doctor in charge of noses. Her response:

"Left nostril or right nostril?"

As to the current controversy: what's up with THAT? What is someone trying to accomplish?

If it's Wade Burleson, it seems that he's trying to keep the right to dissent, courteously, open and allow cooperating Southern Baptists to continue what I've noticed to be the strongest characteristic of SBC life ... the competency of the soul. Are we to assume that we're only competent to agree with those in power? That implies we are otherwise incompetent.

Are we to believe that's only in the eternal sense? That we're competent to stand before God, but not before men? I refuse to believe that.

Now, some people question Rev. Burleson's motives. Those people, in my knowledge, are those who do not know him. So, without dominant and persuasive evidence, I will believe his motives are what he says they are.

Now as to the BoT: it seems they are trying to keep anyone who disagrees with them, from the inside, from saying so. Perhaps they believe that is the best thing for the work, although I'd surely disagree with them over that. And history is filled with instances, both in things church and in things governmental, indicating that is as unwise as unwise can be to stifle dissent. Our COUNTRY was founded on freedom of speech. Should the SBC adhere to less than that (except in matters of National Security in the one case, and Personal Safety in the other)?

Courteous, loyal dissent has always been a welcomed fact in SBC affairs. Ironically, until (apparently) the conservative resurgence.

Yet the self-evident intent of the 2006 rules change is to stifle dissent. To keep people from speaking what they see to be the truth ... just look at the 2006 rules change. That's explicit. And that is the highest and most noble motivation I can attach to it! The other one is rooted in power and its corrupting influence.

It was human nature that produced the Inquisition, and that same human nature is at work today.

If you want my personal take of how all these differences in Baptist viewpoints come about, and how we can still all be SBCer's, you might check this out.

The folks in various corporate capacities are supposed to be "Spirit-led". All of them. Even the simplest look at the IMB/BoT-Burleson matter indicates to one and all that they cannot BOTH be right. I simply CANNOT attach pure undefiled motives to BOTH sides of the debate, or that the Holy Spirit is on both sides of this division.

Look at the facts. Discount the personalities. Hear what they've said. THEN decide who's dividing the house. Who's listening to the Holy Spirit.

ALL the changes above seem to have been instigated by the Board of Trustees of the IMB, or by the leadership at SWBTS. And I have to ask myself why the changes were made. Why? It wasn't because of problems that weren't being resolved in individual cases, and the only thing I can discern is that they were made to bring the beliefs of others in SBC life into line with what "leadership" wanted them to believe. And that, in matters inconsequential to what it has meant, for more years than I've been alive, to be a Southern Baptist. The only thing I can think of is that marching to every drum of the leader soldifies that leader's power. Or, that the only way those leaders can be comfortable and assured in their positions is to assure themselves that everyone "under them" agrees with them in all things.

Either is scary.

People like Wade Burleson or (insert your favorite controversial blogger name here) haven't been dividing the house. They can be ignored and left to their opinions. But those in power, in the SBC institutions, cannot. And they're the ones doing the dividing.

Wow. A good friend just said to me: "Where Christ is the Head of the Church, there are no divisions."

We KNOW what happens to divided houses, and let's face facts.

We're living in one.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Jesus, You & Me, and Leaky Tanks. And Lions.

Admission: I have no idea where this is going but that never stopped me before, so.....

LEAKY TANKS:

More than once, I've used the leaky tank example in my SS Class. The idea is that, when you have some sort of tank holding air, or some other substance, if the pressure inside is greater than the pressure outside, whatever's in there is going to leak out. If, however, the pressure outside is greater than that inside, then what's outside is going to leak in. That's just 12th grade physics, one of the few classes I really aced. In 1956.

I know that because that's what it says on my 1956 Riparian from Broad Ripple High School, and my picture is in the Senior Class Section and that's when I took Physics.

LIONS:

If you have a lion in a cage at your place, you'll identify with this. I don't but it still makes sense. If you have a lion in a cage, and the neighbors come by and taunt it, poke at it with sticks, call it a liberal, you know .. just be mean to it ... how would you defend it? Fences? Isolation? Armed guards? ASPCA? PETA?

Hire Ben Cole?

Answer: You wouldn't. You'd just open the cage and let the lion out. Turn Him loose. Lions are perfectly capable of defending themselves.

Well .. how do you turn the Lion of the Tribe of Judah loose? Simple. You respond to those who would do Him harm, the same way the Lion would. With love. With kindness. Meekness. Certainly there were times He showed real strength, but normally He was strong, courteous, and loving.

Aha ... you're thinking about the profaners of His Father's house, or maybe His reference to Pharisees as a nest of snakes. Or freshly-painted tombs. That's probably because we read into what HE said, the emotions WE would have, if we ever went far enough over the top to actually SAY what we THINK about folks we see as their modern-day equivalent. But maybe ... just maybe ... those reactions on our part are the pressure of sin in our lives, overcoming the pressure of Jesus in our souls.

See .. Jesus was not under any constraints as to what He saw to be His duty. He simply did the right thing, all the time, every time. I've seen lots of people selling their wares in the church, before & after services, which was when the moneychangers and dove-sellers were plying their trades, and they were selling something the worshipers HAD TO have for their worship. I don't HAVE TO have that CD or book on the table in the lobby for what I'm going to do in the sanctuary, but it's OK with us for them to sell the stuff anyway. Well, I don't buy it.

Nor do I buy the conventional wisdom that says the issue was inflated pricing practices of the merchants. Jesus interaction with the folks who set up shop in the lobby:

"So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!" (John 2:15-16 NIV)

That word "market" is the word from which we get "emporium" [HT: Strong's] so apparently Jesus objected to their selling merchandise in the church; even things the worshipers needed for their worship. Yet it's fine with us, even with things we DON'T need for worship.

(Sorry ... chased a rabbit there ... didn't mean to.)

Maybe the pressure of pleasing people, making it "convenient" to buy stuff, exceeds that pressure of Jesus' stated thoughts on the matter.

BACK TO TANKS:

If the pressure of the Holy Ghost in us, is higher than the pressure of the world around us, then our faith ought to leak out. It ought to permeate all we do and say.

David said it thusly:

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."
(Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV)

The word "acknowledge" seems to be "yada", or to know, to ascertain by seeing. Wow, that's a tall order. But we ARE supposed to be able to do that, which would require obedience and perceptiveness. And I think it's going to be tough seeing Him in all our ways, when we're not acting in a manner typical of Him.

Now, if the pressure of the world is greater than the pressure of the Holy Ghost within us, then the world is going to leak in. And stop the outflow of the Holy Ghost. That oughtn't to happen. Ever. If so, and something DOES leak out, then, it's apt to be tainted by as much of the world as leaked in. And it doesn't take much.

Flashback Alert: I recall waking up November 1, 1963, hearing a radio newscaster reading a long list of names. After a couple minutes, he announced that these were the known dead in an explosion at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum the previous evening. 74 people were killed, including some acquaintances, and what really piqued my interest was that I had the insurance policy files on my desk at the time (I was an underwriter for the Insurance Company that handled their insurance). That became a very, very famous case in insurance annals, so I'm well familiar with the effects of accidental leakage in the wrong place.

I think Jesus' faith was unparalleled in human history. That simple fact leads me to believe that His faith was constantly visible, permeating every action, every thought, every spoken word. Even the tough ones spoken to the unwilling. If we don't see that, I think it's because we attribute to HIM, the sinful reactions of US.

That's backwards.

So. What's my task? Simple. Fix the rust so nothing that comes out is accidental, and then open up the valves, like maybe a wineskin, and let the contents out.

We ARE vessels of the Holy Ghost, right?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

An Argument From OF Silence


Heard a story ... actually read it in "Humor in Uniform", Readers' Digest, maybe 40 years ago. It concerned a General playing cards on a train with several aides, in the dining car. The General and one aide got into a lengthy discussion about who should win a certain hand. The other aides sat in silence during the uproar.

Finally, the General asked the porter if he'd heard the details and was told no, he hadn't. The General remarked that was too bad as he wanted to ask him for an opinion as to who was right and who was wrong. The porter immediately responded:

"You're wrong, General".

The General asked how he could know that since he even said he did NOT know the details. The porter said:

"If you were right, every other aide would have been arguing on your side".

Well. We know some things about Wade and his blog. One is that many missionaries read it. I mean, Peg and I were sitting with Dorcas Hawker having dinner in the River Center during this year's convention and two folks approached us and thanked us for what we were doing in blogdom. They expressed appreciation for what we were saying. They were IMB missionaries who were reading the blogs, but had never commented. They also mentioned other blogs they read, and they included Rev. Burleson's, among others.

They also said that other missionaries read them too. Goodness. If they're reading MY little old blog, you gotta know how much more those folks are reading Rev. Burleson's.

Now, I figure that there may be a lot more Missionaries who read and don't comment, and probably not any that DON'T read the blogs but DO comment. And, as respects Grace and Truth to You and missionaries, the comments I have seen are all favorable (according to my inadequate memory).

Hmmm....

IMB Missionaries lives' depend on the IMB, and indirectly the BoT. Were I an IMB missionary, if I agreed with the BoT decision, I'd be all over the blogs praising them and thanking them for putting a malefactor in his place. 1) If i were altruistic and brotherly, I'd stand up for them. 2) If I were a (HT: CB Scott) baloney-eating boot-strapper (which I don't think there are any of amongst IMB missionaries, anyway), I'd be all over the blogs praising them and thanking them for putting a malefactor in his place.

Hmmm ... perhaps it is, in this case, that the silence of Missionaries, other than the ones who support Rev. Burleson, speaks more for against the BoT than anyone could ever say for them.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A Word For Rev. Burleson: See, Hear, and Speak

An open message for Wade Burleson:

"All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you. " (John 16:1-4... NIV)

Nothing about the IMB Trustees' action is surprising. Nothing.

I didn't learn a thing by their actions. Nothing.

I had hoped for something vastly different. But I did not expect it (and don't bother going to that self-fulfilling expectation thing). Big difference between hoping and expecting.

A lot of people are disappointed, or even outraged, at what they've done. Strangely (not really), those people are the folks I respect and have respected, most.

The thing you're being excoriated for is the letting of light into the tent of meeting of the BoT. And, much of the SBC has been illuminated by the same light. And they are outraged that they look bad in the light. Don't they realize that it's their actions that make them look bad, and not the light?

AND WHILE I'M AT IT.....

What on earth are the afraid of over at the IMB? They act is if ruling out candidates who pray in an unknown tongue will help to assure the continued "purity", or baptisticity, of the work. Gosh, if that's important to God, wouldn't HE do that? He said HE would build His church and nothing was going to stop Him. Do they think that a missionary praying something they don't understand will accomplish what God says the gates of hell can't? Note to Dr. Patterson: was THAT what you were thinking might happen re: Dwight McKissic's sermon in the chapel service, huh? A 20 minute sermon's going to do what God said wouldn't happen?

My conclusion is that, since God said He would unstoppably build His church, and the trustees of IMB (and maybe SWBTS) don't think He can do that unless they run interference for Him, then they don't view IMB or SWBTS as falling under that Godly protection of the work of the church. Saaaayyy .. I wonder how THAT will play in Texas courtrooms.

Tip for the IMB BoT: Next time you look around for a scapegoat, pick one that's not transparent and unassuming. Maybe someone like that will have followers who are not discerning.

And an audience that isn't, either.

And another thing: I'm no theologian, but I have to note that, throughout the Old Testament, God used Prophets and then judges to warn Israel of the error of their way. Guys who were on THEIR side. When they simply would not listen, eventually He sent folks like the Babylonians to exact His justice. Well, God put Rev. Burleson on the IMB BoT for a purpose, and I firmly believe he's been about that. As they will not listen, and as the SBC would not handle the problems last year, and the BoT will not face the plain truth about what they've been up to, I fully expect to see God intervening, and with forces not friendly to the IMB.

They, like Israel, were told. They, like Israel, would not listen.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Haiti (plus Chrysler, Ford, GM, and the SBC)

The first really serious thing we did in the religious (I was too much of a neophyte to know folks are NOT fond of that word) arena was to go on what was called a "Witnessing Crusade" to Haiti, in 1970. It was a family crusade but our kids were too young, so we went back in 1974 with Brian and Brad in tow. The trips were eye-openers, and self-educators, on several fronts.

One front was the effects of not being able to see beyond the end of your nose.

In 1970, when we rode in a seemingly indestructible Bluebird School Bus owned by the OMS International mission there, we saw vast fields of sisal growing, full of weeds. Dave Graffenberger, the field manager, told us that had always been a big industry for the Haitians, but Dupont had invented nylon rope a few years before, and folks had long since quit buying their sisal to make rope. They were apparently a bit slow to react, down there.

In 1974, we took the same bus trip from Port-au-Prince to Cap Haitien, through the same fields, now overgrown and full of weeds. The sisal had died off and the fields were fallow. The only trouble was, there'd been an oil crisis in the interim, and sisal was now VERY much in demand, but the Haitians hadn't figured that out yet.

Even though it had been a couple years.

For the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, that was a real tragedy.

Now: there's only so much of that oil down there beneath our feet, and somebody once told me that when you're running out of something, the price is going up. So I figure that gas is going to get about as common as booze in a parsonage one of these days, and that automakers would probably notice this and prepare for it. Aside from an electric car "experiment" by GM ... they worked fine but they called them all in and shredded them ... and a 1960's stab at making small economical cars, it's been mostly the furriners that have figured out the deal and made small cars. And hybrids.

Oh, and in the meantime, Toyota passed Ford And Chrysler in sales in the USA. Right here. What's worse, they came over here, built plants, and made cars using American labor in the process. Hmmm .. I wonder if that's like an IMB missionary resigning and pursuing a different ministry under different auspices, and prospering. Hmmmm....

In the meantime, here sits Detroit ....

See, a lot of years ago I looked at Kia and Hyundai and projected an early demise. I was right, partially, except it was Plymouth and Oldsmobile that bit the dust, not the Korean brands. And now we have the American automobile industry, laying off people and bleeding billions, struggling to turn their ships around and adapt the products to what the people need and will buy, instead of the other way around.

Well, that leaves the SBC. We drop by their showrooms on Sunday morning ... often the only time they're selling their wares ... and see everything is OK. But we check the numbers and find the ghost of Ken Lay keeping the membership rolls, and we say all's well in the camp. And if we're really on top we look across the Pond and say gee, the going's real good over there, ignoring what's happening at the hands of others on foreign fields. See ... there's this excitement ... the expectation of the miraculous, among a lot of others, and I don't find much of that in the SBC and related entities. Sure, we can remember that it took a miracle to save ANY soul, but we don't see many miraculous healings, lame folks getting out of their wheelchairs, deaf-mute folks hearing & talking, or miraculous knowledge popping into SBC minds. And in the meantime, folks who DO believe in all that are seeing just that.

There was a line in the movie "A Family Thing" that has stuck with me for years. It's a long story, but the statement was this: "Happiness ain't nothing more than havin' something to look forward to". I wonder what we have to look forward to, in the SBC.

More of the same?

Continued or increased denigrating of certain gifts?

Continued declines in numbers?

Seminary Presidents continuing to defy the reporting requirements, and continued shaking of their fists at the convention as a whole?

Continued select individuals telling us what else Baptists can't do or have or believe?

Continued misrepresentation and misleading in numbers reporting (the sanctified lie)?

Continued indifference toward the topic of regenerate membership?

Continued dismissal of tenure track professors for gender issues? I've heard of ethnic cleansing. Is that gender cleansing?

There are plenty of good, solid universities and seminaries out there. There's plenty of good Sunday School material around. Ditto for researchers, independent mission boards, etc. So, while the SBC simply cannot exist without the local churches, the local churches can be as baptist as they want, they can teach Sunday School, send and/or support missionaries, and more, and do all that without the SBC.

I DO know that some local folks have decided they won't wait for the SBC to ... oh ... say ... LEAD in the matter of regenerate membership, and they've started adopting resolutions locally. I can't help wonder if the local church would be more or less excited about the future, were they plotting their own course and responding to God's call under the direct guidance of the Holy Ghost, without the involvement of the SBC. And whether they'd be more likely, or less likely, to believe God for all He's capable of doing in our midst, without the SBC.

One thing in all this that's troublesome is that, not only are we a tad short on the sort of stuff Paul & his cohorts saw in the NT times, but we now seem to denigrate those who do expect to see it. Who are the guys who DO see it. We won't even let our IMB folks cooperate with the folks who do (if what I hear is correct), and you'd better be careful what you expect God can still do or they won't let you teach in some places.

I think one of the key stories in this is Jesus taking only Peter, James and John to Jairus' place when He was sent for. Even after He got there, He chased all the skeptics away and wouldn't let anyone who didn't EXPECT a miracle to go in there and SEE one.

The same may be true today. I really feel that SBC'ers have lost our collective expectation of the miraculous. Or maybe we've been led to do that.

Note that I'm not in favor of a non-existent SBC. Not at all. I'm in favor of a believing one, an expectant one, and an excited one. But I've only been a Baptist for about 25 years, and I haven't seen one of them yet.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

"But First You Have To Love Yourself"

The occasion of that gem was my driving Peg to the office this morning, and our passing by the sign at the Golden Rule BBQ. It's one of those that has little movable letters in it, and it said simply ROMANS 13:9. Something about loving your neighbor as yourself. Peg had grabbed her bible and looked it up, read it, and then said "But first, you have to love yourself".

Hmmm .... I told her she'd flung a craving on me and I was going to have to write about it.

For more years than I can count I have heard things like the couple which follow, which were bandied about as truths:

1) We were to love others with "AGAPE love", which means self-sacrificing.

2) We have to love folks but not necessarily like them.

Now the effects I saw, in the church, of those two goodies were that folks would go out of their way to do something for someone who needed it, but frequently avoid them otherwise. And do that while smiling through gritted teeth. Well, I don't think that's what God intends at all. We somehow feel that, if we can sacrifice (which word, I think, means nothing more than taking something you have that you can use for your own purposes, and use it for someone else's, instead) for someone, that we're loving them with Agape love. I mean, otherwise, how could we gossip about people we're supposed to show love for, say after we've done something for them that we think is a sacrifice, especially when it's a juicy bit we're propounding? Is that agape love?

Nope; I don't think so. So I went to my computer Bible and checked the word "love" in that passage and here's what Strong and Thayer said it meant:

Thayer: agapao-

1) used of persons: to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly
2) used of things: to be well pleased, to be contented at or with a thing

Strong's: agapao-

perhaps from agan (much); to love (in a social or moral sense):

So I got to thinking ... Thayer's saying it's involving the heart ... be fond of ... Strong's saying (my conclusion about that social or moral sense phrase) it's the sort of love that carries with it obligations. But it is still LOVE and we KNOW what that means. Unless, that is, we're re-defining it to fit our preferences as to who we want to like or dislike.

Well now. I can identify with that. I feel that way about my family. Loving, and I'll do whatever it takes to protect and serve and help them; more than I'd do for any other hooman beens walking around earth right now.

So preachers listen up: if you see me around and you want to preach about loving your neighbor, meaning we do if we simply are willing to help them, you're in for an argument.

LOVING BUT NOT LIKING: I don't want Jesus to feel that way about me, so I cannot live that way down here. Or tell somebody else it's OK.

SO: Loving yourself. Hmmm ... what does THAT really mean? My take is that we really, really have to come to grips with what we're really like, what Jesus is really, really like, and then replace our view of ourselves with the view Jesus has, of us.

That's a tall order. But God likes tall orders, and stands willing to fulfill them in our lives if we're willing. Occasionally even when we're not.

God's (and Jesus') view of us is exactly what is told in the Bible. On a personal level. Individually. Not like the Rock Star shouting "I love you guys" to thousands of fans. Nope, Jesus' love is up close and personal. And it is that, transcendent of our shortcomings. Love regardless. Love unconditional.

How else could He willingly have died for me while I was yet a sinner? He sees us a singularly undeserving of His love, but He loves us anyway. That's not a fact to be checked off in our self-evaluation, it's a real truth to be embraced by your heart. For only that way will we ever be able to let that love show through us, to others.

When we comprehend that and make it more than just a knee-jerk mantra that pops out when called for, we have a chance of seeing ourselves through loving eyes. And perhaps then we'll be able to love ourselves as Christ does.

In fact, maybe we'll even be able to love ourselves as we love our neighbors.

Disclaimer: I did a lousy job explaining this as I am having difficulty putting what all is chasing around in here down in words. Just meditate (ponder) what that sign said, though, and what all that means in your life.