Strict//EN" ""> EAGLES' REST: April 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Grandparents' Pride. And Grandparents' Fear.

Yeh, that's our granddaughter there.

Pride. In the obvious. Of course I know what the Bible says about pride, but I'm actually talking about what a blessing our grandkids are here.

Fear. Sure I know what the bible says about that, too, but look ... she might actually want to USE some of that theology in a place that hasn't received the SBC papal blessing, so to speak.



Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spiritual Discernment ... are we supposed to have it, or something?

EDIT NOTE: I posted this yesterday, and today Ed Stetzer ... you know who he is ... put up a post which stated that this is now The End of the Beginning. You might check it out before reading further.
The Bible seems to be liberally salted with verses that say the Holy Spirit resides in believers, and that He reveals stuff to folks so they can fulfill their role in the Kingdom work. I wonder if that includes a Spiritual sensitivity .. a Spiritual perception, via which believers can discern what God wants them to perceive about others. Particularly those in Spiritual authority here, with a role in guiding and guarding the flock, with reference to those the leaders will be called to give an account for.

Hebrews 13:17 says something that one pastor remarked "...makes me tremble as a Pastor." The verse says we're to obey our leaders, as "They keep watch over you as men who must give an account." (NIV).

Wow. They'll give an account.

Now I believe that God would gift those people to realize the Spiritual condition of those over whom they keep watch. Wouldn't He? And if that's the case, wouldn't it behoove pastors to take steps to discern that? And wouldn't (or shouldn't) that include more than just watching actions?

I've had enough episodes in my life, where I sensed something about someone, or knew to ask a particular (seemingly off-the-wall) question, when that was exactly what the folks I was talking to needed to hear, that I think God does gift people in that way while about His work.

Well ... if we don't expect that, or look for that, or don't have it for some reason, we're naturally going to list rules to which we must conform, as some sort of evidence of Spirituality. But I don't think that works.

Our family was part of a group that started a church here in town about 30 years ago. It's still around, going strong, and is a vital evangelical work (albeit not baptist). When we established requirements to join, it included a confession or affirmation of faith, followed by a social gathering with the elders in which we would discuss their salvation experience and subsequent walk, with the candidates. I really liked that approach.

At least the folks who will be called "to give an account..." had done all they knew to do to determine the validity of their salvation experience, and the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

As Southern Baptists, we don't do anything like that, that I know of. I know FBC Pelham is about to implement a 4-week (I believe it is) study course for membership candidates, including a survey of Spiritual Gifts, all oriented to preparing the candidates for immersion into the local body. With a place of service in mind.

I applaud that.

But .. what about the others in the church? I know that we have approximately 2500 ... I've heard 2600 .. members, and Sunday School attendance is usually in the mid-900 range. But that includes children and visitors, and those usually number close to 300. So if we were generous, we might say 650 members there on Sunday, and 1850 not. And incidentally, Allen and Arden Taylor were with us a couple years ago and had folks counting worship attendance, and I recall it being no greater than Sunday School.

Now ..... if we continue to reduce Spiritual things to man-made rules, and are looking to their enforcement to check on members' spirituality, we're effectively denying that the Spirit will empower the church to be and do what it should .. that the Holy Ghost will enable discernment by those spiritually responsible for us. To me, that spells Spiritual failure, even where there's financial "success".

Well I started to write out a litany of things I've seen among the ordained in Southern Baptist Churches. It was so disturbing to me that I erased it all. Suffice it to say that I've seen entirely too many things which call the matter of Spirituality into serious question.

I wish it were not so.

But, if it's more the rule than the exception in the SBC, well, that'd account for a lot.

I think it was Max Lucado, but maybe Jim Cymbala .. hey, I'm old ... that said Attendance, Building Programs, and Collections have become the ABC's of church growth. Sort of a new trinity of sorts. And we sure do measure stuff, but where's the measurement of the spirituality of the membership? I know 2 Timothy 3:16 says "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.... (NIV), and I see teaching going on, and training in righteousness. but where's the correcting? With 2/3 of our "members" missing, I'd think there'd be a lot of that going on. But two years in a row, the SBC has refused to even recommend the local churches do something about it!

No wonder.

And again as a gentle reminder: any "success" the SBC and its related entities can point to, in the carrying out of its mission, are NOT because of God's regard for, or admiration of, the SBC. Souls won and disciples made are a result of God's love and compassion for mankind. We just get in on some of the joy, but none of the glory.

The more rules (you can say "laws" if you want) we have, the less we rely on the Holy Spirit to save, preserve, and enhance our efforts here in His service.

And, it seems, the less He does.


You Just KNOW You're In Alabama........

... when your wife brings you dessert and it's a DALE EARNHARDT Collector's Edition Hershey's bar.

Like ... where ELSE would somebody collect CHOCOLATE? Even with The Intimidator's name on it (yes ... the candy bar had his name molded into it, too...)?

I do have a collection of 110 +/- model automobiles and maybe 30 stuffed animals and I can guarantee you I ain't ever even THOUGHT ABOUT eatin' none of them!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

AND ... If You've Been Wondering......

What our worship leader and her whole team did for Easter, here's the Choir, Praise Team, and one of our Dancers (God calls it that, so I do, too) and the morning's special.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Maybe. Just Maybe....

.... we don't really believe it. Maybe we talk a good game, but when the rubber meets the road, well, no thank you.

I'm talking about the most cherished SB belief .. you know ... competency of the soul ... priesthood of the believer.

I've been following along with the string of comments on Wade Burleson's blog, with some interest. On the one hand, I appreciate all those educated folks who know what all the original language tenses and cases mean, and appreciate brilliant analyses of scripture; on the other, I wonder why we believe in "priesthood of the believer", if it takes a genius to figure out what the Bible really means. That seems to run a bit counter to what's acknowledged as the fundamental baptist distinctive.

At least that's what Herschel Hobbs said it was.

Anyway, here are some random thoughts, after which I will post my conclusion. I say random because I'm not sure what they are, yet, and I'll post my final thought as the conclusion rather than starting with it as a premise. That's because it might change before I get done.

Who knows...

Anyway, I'm assuming the Bible was written to communicate with people. I've always looked at the Revelation as being the hardest book to understand, but even that book is named Revelation, indicating God wants to reveal something, to show forth something; it isn't named Concealment, which would indicate something is hidden from view.

My Dad told me to use all the brains I had, but all I could borrow, too. So I like to read commentaries, and the opinions of others, including the brilliant exegesis of learned folks (I didn't even know what exegesis meant before I read Wade Burleson's blog that first time, but then I didn't know what Arminian, hermeneutics, eisegesis, expository, antinomian, or any of the lapsarians meant. Or lots of others I had to look up whilst reading blogs). While they may help me to understand some nuance of scripture, it does cause some friction with that priesthood of the believer thing, in that it's easier to subscribe to what some Brilliant Person hath said, than to settle all this stuff in my own mind via my spirit listening to His Spirit.

Interestingly, it was a lot easier being a Presbyterian. We could point to the Westminster Confession and say "That's what we believe", and that would pretty well cover it. But try that with the BF&M, and the response ... from non-baptists ... will likely be "OK, but what about miracles, Spiritual Gifts, women teachers, predestination..." or any of the other theological points on which we as baptists have freedom ... whereas folks in most other denominations don't. So ... what if it were true, that we're not really all that comfortable with having that responsibility ourselves, and would rather have some Priest tell us what to believe?

Even if we don't call them "Priests"?

If we acknowledge the priesthood of the believer, we have to acknowledge that God communicates His truth to people via the witness of the Spirit. I buy that totally, or else we'd all believe the same things about all things, like career, eschatology, whether wives should always stay home with the kids, etc. But with that "priesthood" comes responsibility for getting it right, in a manner of speaking, and we really, really want some agreement from others, since that'll make us feel more secure in our beliefs.

Those two set up a dichotomy which will always exist where dissent is allowed.

How does that play out in SBC members, particularly those who participate in the process?

Those in the power structure seem to want to stifle dissent, sometimes by simply eliminating people around them, who disagree with their views on something. The dismissal of various professors and others in a position of authority stand as evidence of that.

Those not in the power structure will often line up with someone inside, someone whose views are widely known, and support them. Often vocally, sometimes adamantly, and occasionally even despite glaring inequities, obvious critical flaws, and blatant and outlandish behaviors.

One of the training things I went through, relative to witnessing, talked about sin. It poses the question: when we commit one sin, how many good sinless deeds would it take to offset that one sin? The analogy was made to offenses against criminal law; how many miles of driving at the speed limit does it take to offset busting a school zone at 70 mph? How many months of driving sober would repay one episode of drunk driving in which we ran over someone? How many times do we have to BUY something to make up for STEALING something?

The Klouda episode stinks to high heaven (which is really a contradiction of terms). One man's particular interpretation, and perhaps his simple prejudice against women, has torn up a family's life. THAT IS AN OUTRAGE! So how many years of good stuff does it take to negate that .. to make it OK for him to do that? Yet people will flock to his defense all day long.

We do that with priests.

I had a good conversation about these things with my pastor, Mike Shaw, today. I happened to stop by the office on some other matters, and he was there, so we kicked the dog round a little. We're probably the best example, of unity in diversity, that I know of. I'm a Calvinist. He's not. I speak in tongues. He doesn't. I've been Methodist, 3 brands of Presbyterian, and Baptist by choice at age 46. His mother was baptized in an SBC church while pregnant with Bro. Mike, and he grew up in the church. But we have this really neat unity because, quoting him, "When I look at you I don't see a Calvinist. I see a brother."

Maybe the great hypocrisy of our age isn't referring to 8 or 9 million people whose location we can't even account for, as "members". Maybe the greater hypocrisy is saying we believe in the priesthood of the believer, when we spend so much time acting like we don't.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

God Takes No Pleasure ....

... when bad things happen to people. Reading the Bible, that's not the sort of God I see, anyway.

Now .. I'm not talking about the results of our own sin, but rather than the sort of things that everyone faces in life. In fact, Christians may be at somewhat of a "disadvantage" in some ways, as we all put up a good front, and think that we're supposed to be above sadness, depression, etc.

Debbie Kaufman's entire family suffered loss this past week, unimaginable by anyone who's not suffered such loss. I know I haven't. Now, I'm normally at a loss as to what to say to folks at times like this, and this certainly isn't a time to prattle away about sovereignty or God's will. None among us knows how to make all that fit together and I'm certainly among the least able to make everything mesh. But when I was going through that "midlife crisis" .. you know, that thing I've heard preachers say doesn't exist .. twenty-some years ago, I had a lot of conversations with God about why I was so depressed and when was He going to do something about it, please. What follows is my rationale as to why God let me go through that. It was somewhat in the form of a conversation in my mind, and I'll recount it as best I can. Keep in mind that, at my age, I can remember things whether they happened or not. That ability comes with age, you know.

Herewith, the "conversation".

Did God love Jesus when Jesus was on the cross?

Well, I ... well ... yes.

But God let Jesus die anyway, for me (and you, him, those guys over there, etc).


SO ... does that mean that God loved me more than He loved Jesus?

Hmmm. I wrestled with that one a while and finally concluded that there's never been a love anywhere like the love of the Father for the Son (and vice versa). So, No.

OK. Now, that doesn't make sense. That He let Jesus die, when the only beneficiary was me. That's a mystery I'll wrestle with forever (which might be OK, but ... but .... ).

But then, the following question popped into my mind: What if there was some "benefit" to Jesus', in His death, that equaled or exceeded the benefit to man? Would that make some sense of some things? Yes. But what benefit was there to His dying?

Next question popped up: How many people had Jesus "saved" on Thursday, the day before He died?

Uhhh .... none.

Then, how many people had He saved, the day AFTER He died?

Wow. EVERYBODY that will ever be saved. Untold numbers!

So then .... Jesus' death made Him Savior! And I know there was no other way to accomplish that, because Jesus asked His Father to find some other way, praying in the garden, and God didn't.

God's next response was to raise Jesus from the dead, with a life that cannot ever end, and to subsequently take Him to heaven. Only now, not as a Suffering Savior, but as the King of ALL Kings and Lord of ALL Lords.

NOW: What if it were true that God is just as purposeful, just as loving, just as consistent in that love, now, as He was then? What if EVERY event in your life that He causes or allows is just as preparatory in your life, as the crucifixion was in the life of Jesus? That He has things in store for you, that He wants to use you for, here in this life, that He can only accomplish in you by allowing you to experience what seems so painful and unpleasant now?

Maybe we acknowledge that God wants to bless us in heaven, but have trouble appropriating the fact that God wants us to be blessed here? Does Jeremiah 29:11 come to mind? Only trouble is, we can easily equate "blessing" on earth with the absence of the sort of pain that the Kaufman family feels now. And while the pain certainly isn't something we want to seek, it can produce in us qualities and abilities that could never be ours, save for the experience which invaded our life.

I was lucky [HT: John Calvin] in my experience. A few weeks after I began to emerge from deep depression, someone mentioned that one of the younger ladies, who'd been missing from church a few Sundays, was in deep depression. I remember as though it were yesterday, going to her home after church and telling her what I'd found out about depression. She's said many times, since, how much that helped her in her depression.

God's also used my experience of depression, more times than I can count, in the lives of men who've been going through the same thing.

So, for those experiencing loss for which no words can really help, the only thing I can do, past just loving them, is to share my experiences, and the faithfulness of God. And that, when we're going through hard times like these, we need to keep our eyes in the prize, now more than ever. God has something in mind for you, which will bless your socks off, and He can't accomplish it any other way, any more than He could save you without letting Jesus die.

As someone once said: when you're down to nothing, God is up to something.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Chickenwire Cages of Prejudice

I posted some of this as a comment on another blog, but thought I ought to say it here, too.

I was raised in all-white areas of the North; specifically Calumet City, Illinois, And the suburbs of Indianapolis, Indiana. Through my freshman year in High School, I do not personally recall talking to non-white person. In fact, one day I was sitting on my front porch with our 6-month old puppy, who was very friendly. Folks would walk by on the street all the time, and the most threatening thing she ever did was to go lick them half to death, and to want to play.

But then one day, a maid walked by on her way to help an elderly lady. The maid was black and my dog Dottie had never seen that. The hair on her neck stood up and she barked herself nearly hoarse, until the maid entered the home 3 doors down. That's where I was raised.

We moved to Indianapolis after my freshman year, and my Dad found a loophole in the latest School District Rules (loooong story), which allowed me to go to Broad Ripple High School, virtually all-white, as opposed to Shortridge High, several miles further away and nearly half black. I didn't know he'd done that until many years later, although I doubt I'd have protested at the time. Note .. no rocks at Dad ... he was doing what he felt to be best for me and he'd go to any lengths to protect his family. Just ask the would-be intruder who was hit on the leg by the axe my Dad hurled at him when he tried to grab my Mother through a screen door.

One of the things that happened to me, which changed my mind about race relations, was my seeing a TV special .. I believe it was 60 Minutes .. showing an Alabama nursing home in which elderly ladies were literally kept in chicken-wire cages, on shelves. They were little bigger than just enough to lie down in, and similar to the cages shown above (but not nearly as clean .. I mean .. the ones above are for dogs). That show broke my heart; it was in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement and I was caught between family values, separate but equal on the one side, and what I could see, on the other. I was moved to tears, not common for a teen-aged boy.

A subsequent business-related friendship, years later, with a lady in the insurance industry, a minority herself, with whom I could openly discuss these things helped me a lot, too.

Then one day something happened, at my job, that really, really got my attention. An insurance-company-employee friend drove down to the agency I was working in, to have lunch. When he got out of his car in front of our office, he bent over and looked at his right front fender. I walked out and found him examining a small scrape, there courtesy of an elderly black gentleman who'd mover over on him in traffic.

His explanation was full of racial slurs and profanity and I was instantly repelled by what this normally mild-mannered man was saying. I could hardly believe my ears!

As an aside, I'd been struggling for some time to prove to myself I really was a Christian. When I read Revelation 3:20, I was understood we were to have fellowship with Jesus, and I personally wasn't feeling any of that. I was worried if I really did and believed just the right things, fit all the qualifications, etc.

SO .... when my friend laced into this guy, I was struck by two simultaneous thoughts:

  • I thought "What anger me must have toward black people, to say such filth about that man" ... and ... "Such profanity!"
  • Immediately I thought "But I used to feel that way about black people, and I had a royal potty-mouth too...". At that point, I knew that something was changing in me.

Then it occurred to me ... if it's true that the Holy Spirit makes us new creations in Jesus Christ, and the old things pass away ... well .. if this wasn't THAT, then I don't what it COULD have been. That realization was one of the two HUGE realizations that God used to throughly convince me that I was as saved as I was ever going to be. And that HAD been a problem for me, up until that point.

In the late 1990's, we were privileged to visit Germany two times on vacation. The first time, we went to the Nazi Prison Camp at Dachau, now a museum. The second time, I went to the Nazi Documentation Center in Berchtesgaden, just down the mountain from Hitler's Eagle's Nest .. the Kehlsteinhaus .. which is now a museum and restaurant. The upshot of those two places was that I understood the holocaust as being nothing more than prejudice against a certain class of people, by one man. It was played out to the extreme, but it was rooted in Hitler's racial prejudice against, and hatred for, people whose only fault was they'd been born Jewish.

This brings me to the current state of affairs and the debate over women in the ministry, in the SBC. And no I am NOT making any comparisons between ANYBODY and Hitler .. don't even go there .. but I DO see where "prejudice" in one of its forms can lead, which has given me a very, very bad taste in my mouth for ANY form of prejudice.

My M-W Online gives a definition of "prejudice" that seems to fit:

1): preconceived judgment or opinion (2): an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge b: an instance of such judgment or opinion c: an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics.

Maybe all the words don't quite "mesh", but the exclusion of someone from teaching Biblical languages to Seminary students, simply because of gender, sure looks like that to me. The argument of what Paul told Timothy that HE, Paul, didn't allow A woman (particularly a wife, per Strong's) to do where he was. And the really thin analagous inference that to TEACH students who would be pastors, you have to personally be qualified to BE a pastor. ME, I think that's rubbish, which we would nowhere else apply to much of anything. I mean, I've heard the best piano teachers in the world don't necessarily know how to play the thing, themselves.

It seems to me that the way we've treated Dr. Klouda and others that have been similarly excluded, is spiritually little better than putting people into those chicken-wire cages.

It's ironic that one of the adjectives used on people who exhibit good taste in things, who make wise judicious choices, is "discriminating"? We all discriminate in areas of taste, and things of the sort, or else we'd all have the same color houses, eat at the same restaurants, etc. But when such personal preferences slop over into our treatment of others, into what we will and will not grant in other people, something has come off the tracks, so to speak. And there are few places that is as obvious as in the SBC attitude toward, and treatment of, women in the ministry.

So .. what are we afraid of? Could it be that the same tendency of prejudice to advance, never satisfied for where it's gotten, always pushing to take over more and more the way it did decades ago, still lurks in the hearts and minds of men today? Even those in high Christian-vocational areas where that should never happen?

Someone asked the other day if Lifeway was going to give refunds to any men who bought Beth Moore Study material. Do we restrict availability of the online studies to women only?

I've seen some upset at Wade Burleson's blog, over using a picture of (apparently) Muslim women at sewing machines, presumably over their thinking it was demeaning to show that. I am not sure how, as the photo doesn't indicate any demeaning of women; if there's any of that, going on, it's not the use of the photo that brings it about. But the photo is indicative of a culture whose view of women is different from that which we see as biblical. And the photo itself is certainly not as demeaning as would be refusing to let a SWBTS-educated Dr. of OT languages teach, merely because she's a woman and most students are men.

Oh wait .. we're already doing that.