Friday, June 27, 2008

I Got Your "Flip" Right Here, Pal......

Take a look at the house shown on the right. It's located at 1017 West Main Street in Lebanon, IN. What makes it special is that Peggy's Mom and Dad (her stepfather, named George). spent their last 20+ years owning, and living in, that house.

The story of how Peg's Daddy, with failing eyesight and generally poor health, cared for, and took care of, Peg's Mom as she endured the ravages of Alzheimer's, is a touching story in itself. But this post is about the house, not about them.

They bought the house for about $2,000.00 in the early 1960's, and remodeled it as best they could. We took them to Indianapolis and helped them pick out some cabinets on sale, and George and I installed them in the kitchen. We then got some tile and I tiled the floors in the bedroom, kitchen and bathroom, and helped some with the plumbing.

The house then served them well through their twilight years.

When Peg's Mom got too bad for George to take care of, she had to be put into a nursing home, where she passed within a couple months. George moved out in 1994 and the house was sold, while George lived with a daughter his last few years.

We went past the house while we were in Indy for the SBC Convention, and saw that folks were working on it, having already put all new siding on it. Interesting, we thought, but then the house popped up on a realtor's website, complete with pictures showing an all-new and improved interior, new kitchen, new carpet, appliances, even some new walls.

It hardly looked like the same house. It's now on the market for $89,900, and from the photos, it's worth it.

God's a lot like that, you know. He sees us in our dilapidated state, moves in, renovates the place, and turns the $2,000 life we give Him into a treasure He can use to change whatever part of the world He cares to change.

Sure .. the shape is the same. It's in the same place. And of course one would notice new siding , and all, but when you look inside, you realize that all things on that street, in that house, have indeed become new.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."

I hope the guys flipping 1017 W. Main Street do well with their flip. I also hope ... and pray ... that the Great Master Flipper Who took over my fleshly abode does as well with His.

After all, He's had to do a lot more than the guys did at 1017 West Main St, Lebanon, IN.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Amazing Grace? Indeed. Amazing.

Check out this video and then tell me how the theology of the guy doin' the baptizing could possibly change what happened there, in that pool, to the gentleman who was baptized.

A couple months ago, Hank and Eva Johnson joined our church. As you can see, Hank requires a walker to get around, and even then, with difficulty. So, when Hank wanted to be baptized, Brother Mike simply said let's get ourselves up to the YMCA and git'er done.

So they did.

Please pay particular attention to Hank's expression after his immersion, and then look back into your memory at the last few baptisms you witnessed, and then tell me when there's ever been one more meaningful. And more in obedience to the biblical commands. And more evidential that there's more to baptism than just getting wet, or how much of us gets wet.

I fear many baptisms for church membership may fall far short of what they could be, if they're supposed to be real spiritual experiences.



Peg and I both cried when we watched this.

Bet you did, too.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

And SOME Say Miracles.........

Don't happen any more. Well, let me tell you about the one that entered my space ... actually it simply emerged from the fog of my fleshness ands became visible ... 10 minutes ago.

That's when Dr. Burrus called to give me the pathologists' report on my recently-departed and somewhat-cancerous prostate. He told me that the cancer, on the Gleason scale, was 3+4=7 (vs an early 3+3=6) and still nothing upsetting. And the margins were all clear so in his studied opinion, and based on the evidence, they got it all. But now for the kicker:

He originally took 12 samples ... needle biopsies ... for scrutiny. they found the cancer in two of them, or 16% When they got the gland out and tested it all, they found cancer in 60% of it.

SIXTY PERCENT!

That's a lot more than 1/6 and it occurs to me that, as 10 out of 12 samples were non-cancerous, it's not at all beyond reason that the other 2 would miss it, too.

But they didn't.

You'll never convince me that God didn't intervene with a little guidance in the biopsies, and purposely caused most of them to miss it, to show how much in control He really is.

Praise God! I'd get up and jump up and down and shout and yell and stuff, but .... well. ... uuuhhh ..... you know.


(If y'all want to fill in for me there, I'd appreciate it.)

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Monday, June 23, 2008

It's Hard To Call This A "Changing Paradigm"...."

Isn't it? Or, for that matter, anything similarly esoteric.

I grew up about the time WWII ended and the Cold War ... and the Iron Curtain ... grew. I used to listen to bombers flying over Chicago and wonder if they were Russians. Needless to say, I was not fond of the USSR; that was all shot out of the water when I went on mission trips to Russia and Latvia about 10 years ago.

I've already blogged a bit about that, here.

Anyhoo, not only did I meet folks in Russia and Latvia that I came to love quickly, there are now emerging, in Russia, and concerning Russians, things I would never have dreamed possible.

This video on YouTube is an example. If you search on "Leningrad Cowboys" on the site, you can even find longer and more inclusive versions of the same song, "Sweet Home Alabama". Naturally, being from the Birmingham area, it's of interest to me; but couple that with my childhood, my preconceived notions about Russians, and the inclusion of the Red Army Choir (yes, that's really what it is, or was) along with the Finnish rock band, it points out the changes in the world today as little else does, for me.

And the fact that I can even watch it.

What struck me this time as I viewed it was that people are people everywhere. Those folks behave about the same way us jenn-you--whine Americans would. Only maybe better (at least better than a LOT of us). They play the instruments and express themselves just about the same way folks from other countries do.

Others have posted about this video, but I'm sitting and recuperating and don't have a lot else to do. Besides, I like watching it.

I hope you do, too, so go check it out.


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Friday, June 20, 2008

" I Feel Your Prayers?"

Among the plethora of things that I don't get, that's one of them. I've never known what it meant to feel someone else's prayers.

Don't get me wrong. I covet folks' prayers. And in a recent bout with the realities of being 70 years old and a guy, I've appreciated every one offered up on my behalf. But what I might speculate is the effect of the prayers of friends, is what I didn't feel. Namely fear, uncertainty, insecurity, stuff like that.

And I've felt none, to this very date. Which is Monday the 15th of June, three days prior to my planned trip to Baptist Shelby Hospital where I'll say a permanent good-bye to my prostate gland.

I prefer not to have cancerous parts in my body. And that's what it is.

So, thanks to the good Dr. Jason Burrus .. who's been described as the king of robotic surgery ... and a wonderful piece of technology called the De Vinci (machine, appliance, gizmo, whatever...), I'm about to say good-bye to what is rarely a friend to a 70-year-old man, anyway.

NOTE: No .. that's not a picture of a prostate gland up there in the corner. It's a picture of a walnut, which is supposed to be about the same size. I couldn't bring my self to put up a picture of my, or anybody else's, actual body part. Sorry.

I know, I know. Folks raised when I was, (namely back when a ladies' undergarments were called unmentionables, and actually were unmentionable. And invisible.) don't talk about stuff like prostate glands in polite company.

So? Who said I'm polite company?

It's been an interesting trip to this point, starting with a somewhat elevated PSA level 7 months ago, followed by a more elevated level, above the level of concern, a month ago. Well, it was interesting except for the biopsy, which is best left undescribed, out of consideration for folks sensitive about the abuse of bodily orifices. I don't suppose it would be nearly as interesting if more than just two of the twelve tissue samples had cancer cells in them; thankfully that's all there was. And the doctor said, of this particular cancer, "If you have to have cancer, this one's a pretty good one to have".

So it's off to Baptist Shelby Medical Center Thursday morning, June 19th, at 5am (which will hopefully be the biggest OUCH of the day ... 5 in the morning!).

I'm setting this up to drop at noon on Friday. If this doesn't show up on the blog and you don't read this, then you have my permission to worry.

I'm not planning on doing that, myself.

AND.... the followup edit: I'm back home, and in a nutshell, the surgeon says it was a "textbook operation". In the time before and since, I've had just enough ... just enough pain to remind of of what Jesus went through for me ... and just enough dark moments to remind me how utterly I must depend on Him ... but also more than enough ... far. far more than enough assurance and faithfulness and goodness of God.

I am, among all men, most blessed. Regardless of what body parts I may not have any more.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

What On Earth.........

..is going on here?

Folks seem to be all giddy about what went on in Indianapolis last week, but frankly, I don't get it. Let's examine a couple of facts here.

First fact: 1/3 to 40% of the messengers voted against that addition of the "repentance clause" .. mild and non specific as it was ... to the Regenerate Membership Resolution submitted by Dr. Bart Barber. I can only assume that those people did not think repentance was called for. Now, we all know the membership number thing .. in the church I attend, we have a stated 2500 members but have weekly attendance the last 3 weeks of 643, 896, and 840. IF that sounds OK, remember that number includes visitors, and preschoolers and children. Taking only Pre-school and children out, as most of them are probably not members, the numbers are 453, 607 and 582. Sure, some kids may be members, but that's probably offset by visitors, so the numbers are likely pretty close.

Out of 2,500 members! And the other folks I talked to at the Convention indicate this is pretty typical for SBC churches of our "size" (whatever that is).

Maybe it's normal, but the point is, we still report all 2,500 as members, whether they've attended the church in the five years or ten years, or not.

There was another tangentially-related item which got my notice; namely, an attempt to add an amendment to the "California Gay Marriage Condemnation Resolution". The amendment sought to encourage all believers in California to withdraw their children from public schools (as if a bunch of folks in Indiana would know what moms and dads ought to do with their kids 2,000 miles away). The disturbing part of that was that, whereas the Committee responded to that with the thought that the Church ought to be engaging the culture, not fleeing from it, the people suggesting the amendment said we were using children as "cannon fodder". They used terms such as the schools being mandated to "indoctrinate children" into "alternative lifestyles" and other inflammatory terms. Frankly, I've never seen a law calling for any sort of "indoctrination" at all; those things usually speak of education.

As you can tell, I don't like emotionally-based arguments like that.

The problem with that attitude is two-fold. First, I as a parent am responsible for my child's education, and just because a kid goes to a public school, or even a Christian school, that doesn't mean I'm simply supposed to let it rest at that. I cannot escape my responsibility by seeing they go to a good school, any more than I can escape the responsibility of raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, by taking them to church.

The second fold is that we are supposed to have the powerful word of God at our disposal, and the indwelling Holy Spirit to empower and enable, yet some folks indicate an attitude of fear and trembling in the face of public education.

This whole thought dove-tails nicely with a statement by a respected mom in our church, when we were looking for a new youth minister, that the church's youth program was "the only hope our children had".

We're about the King's business here. I have no quarrel with parents who send their children to Christian schools. I admire it, in fact, and my own grandkids went to a Christian High School. But when the church shows an attitude of fear instead of one of power, love, and sound-mindedness, I think we've forgotten Whom we serve.

And the excitement over the Barber motion: I don't get it. Sure, one of the amendments, which were added, acknowledged the fact that corporate repentance was needed. But the actions which produced the need ... the over-reporting of actual members ... wasn't done by the Convention corporately. It was done by the local churches, and I'm estimating 40% of the messengers voted against the addition of that amendment! So I guess 4 out of 10 pastors, or thereabouts, don't see anything wrong with the way we've been doing it. And in light of the old saw about what's everybody's responsibility is nobody's responsibility, I'm pessimistic about the Resolution making any real difference.

Except for this: IF the numbers show a similar slide next year, to what we saw in Ed Stetzer's report this year, there will be an all-too-handy explanation for it; guys are cleaning up their membership rolls (whether that's happening or not). Hence, we won't know for a couple-three years, IMHO.

Another elephant in the room ... make that the sanctuary ... is what happened to the 7,000,000 or 8,000,000 or 9,000,000 members who (A) Walked down an SBC church aisle, (B) Joined the church on terms dictated by the church, (C) Placed themselves under the Pastor's authority, preaching, teaching, DISCIPLINE, and then (D) DISAPPEARED.

IF... that were the performance record of, say, the HR Director of UPS or General Motors, the CEO would say there was something drastically wrong with pre-employment testing, with on-the-job training, or with direct supervision. But since this is the church, we seem immune to such factual observations about job performance by those in authority in the churches. Despite the fact that we profess to have the goods in our arsenal that can change people's lives when nothing else can.

Amazing.

There were also other things that troubled me some, but got big "amens". Like the prayer in which the speaker said that we .. believers .. are responsible for the condition of our country. Such nonsense. And Dr. Land's statement that if we (SBC'ers) repent, God'll heal the USA. That seems to be the same song but different verse, as the prayer I mentioned.

Whatever comes in the SBC over the next few years, won't much be affected by my opinions, and I probably don't know all that much anyway. But one strong impression I got this year is that we were a Convention of believers looking for some good news. So we all rallied around whatever things might be positive, and pointed to those things as evidence that the SBC is turning around. That reminds me, more than anything, of the old question about dogs: If you call a dog's tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?

The answer is four. Calling it a leg doesn't make it one. Any more than calling news good, makes it good news.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

NEWS FLASH!!! Famous People Are.........


People.

I bumped into a well-known individual on the skybridge from the hotel to the Convention Center in Indianapolis. In fact, he opened the door for me. He recognized me (which impressed me .. we'd met here and there) and I stopped him and asked him where he'd grown up. He smiled and told me; then I asked him what he'd wanted to be when he was a kid (I'm 70 and I can say stuff like that to young'uns). He smiled and said he guessed he'd always known he wanted to be in the Lord's service, but he didn't think God could use him.

How WRONG he was.

Now I'm going to be teaching Ken Hemphill's Spiritual Gifts course at CB Scott's church ... Westmont Baptist ... this fall and I asked this gent if I could quote him. I told him his statement proves one of the first and biggest points in the course. He graciously said of course I could.

How about that.

ps: If you're dying of curiosity, drop me an email. I'll tell you who it was.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Weighed and Found............?

What was otherwise referred to as the "Integrity in Membership" resolution introduced by Dr. Bart Barber was passed by the Convention this morning, as amended by Dr. Malcolm Yarnell and subsequently by Tom Ascol.

I am not encouraged, although I am hopeful. But hey, I'm still hoping for $1/gallon gas, so what do I know?

Here's what disturbed me: Tom Ascol's amendment called for repentance for past practices, which is kind of the inverse of praying for everybody everywhere. We want to repent repent repent, just not for specific sins (so it seems to me, anyway). In fact, Richard Land, last evening, brought out 2 Chronicles 7:14 and claimed if we'd repent, we'd see revival in the land. Referring to the USA. I have two big problems with that.

First, that verse follows verse 13 (like ... hellOOOOOO) in which God mentioned that WHEN He shuts up the heavens and there's no rain, and WHEN He sends locusts to devour the land, and WHEN He sends plagues upon the land, THEN..... He'll do the stuff He promises if we repent and do the other stuff. So: was Dr. Land saying that the CHURCH is in THAT sorry a state? Seems that's a pre-condition to verse 14!

AND that verse was spoken to Israel ... the people ... and they WERE a land at the time. It was NOT said to the USA, and there's no indication that God will clean up Washington DC if we Southern Baptists get all righteous. But following up on a Pastor's Conference prayer in which the pastor said that WE were responsible for the condition of the USA, the fog lifts on the underlying attitudes, and the mindset comes through.

When Tom's amendment came up for vote, I estimate maybe 40% of the messengers voted against it. I'm guessing they do NOT want to repent.

Of the following:

  • If the folks who actually attend SBC churches are only there 2 out of 3 Sundays, then there are about 9 million active members. We claim 16.5 million, so there are 7.5 million of what we refer to as "members" who do not attend.
  • Members do not phone in their numbers to Nashville for the ACP. PASTORS report them.
  • EVERY ONE of those 7.5 million "no-shows" walked down an aisle, shook the hand of a n SBC pastor, joined the church on HIS terms .. not their own ... and submitted themselves to his authority, his teaching, and the church's discipline. And disappeared.
  • Pastors still include them as members.
  • Pastors will say "choose ye this day whom you will serve...", and "seek ye first...", and "forsake not the assembling..." and "What good is it if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can THAT faith save him?". But they WILL NOT SAY those things to people who don't come to the church any more.
  • The excuses I've heard are two-fold. One is that we need to keep them on as prospects. That is an insult to the thought that the church is the Body of Christ. There's also the idea that folks will get mad if you remove their son from membership when he went away to college 12 years ago and never came back home and never joined another church. Or just fell off the face of the earth, seemingly. Well ... those pastors ought to think twice about ever preaching about tithing ... telling a struggling family to bring in the tithe and trust God to take care of them. If they don't trust God to take care of their own job and career and family, under those circumstances, how can they expect the church to?
Two years in a row, Tom Ascol's motion was shot down. By mostly pastors. The inescapable conclusion is that they DID NOT WANT to deal with it. This year, the motion came forth with0ut the call for repentance. It was added by amendment, but in a rather low-key sterile way. The convention does not seem to want to face the fact of what Dr. Patterson admitted was "Lying to ourselves and lying to the public" ... by including people in our membership numbers who no longer have any involvement in our churches.

LYING.

I was at a microphone when the amendment was offered, and had pushed the button to talk. Time for discussion expired on the amendment and the question was called. The relatively close vote was in the affirmative, and then the question was called on the amended resolution without further discussion. I had sat down by then and didn't see how close that vote was.

The overall effect, to me, was that OK, we'll repent, but not really OF anything WE did. Kind of like the "repent box" we need the prospect to check when we're trying to induce a recitation of the "sinner's prayer".

Which may, incidentally, be the one which produced the Army of the Lord, that's 50% AWOL.

So. It went as God planned. Time will tell which way the scales tip, as we observe what happens to our membership numbers. That'll tell the tale. After all, Ananias and Sapphira fibbed about some numbers, and God struck them dead........

I made that point to one well-known pastor and said I didn't know why God shouldn't strike the SBC dead over this. He said...

"Maybe He already has."

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I Got Your "Engage the Culture" Right Here, Pal

Monday morning, Peg and I drove (at 50 MPG, by the way.... ) to the West side of town and visited my brother's first widow. We came back about noon and grabbed a burger at Wendy's before returning to the Pastor's Conference for the afternoon session (which we left when a preacher said that WE were responsible for the "condition of the country").

Yeah, like well people are responsible for sickness.

Anyway, the shy young lady in the picture waited on us. I snapped her picture, as a germ of an idea interrupted my non-thinking auto-pilot hamburger-buying system. Here's what came to me:

This young lady, with her precisely-colored black and blood-red hair, fits quite well into her culture. The place in which, and the people with whom, she lives. And I had to wonder whether it'd be the red bricks and white columns, or the white shirts and red ties, or the white choir robes and blue sashes, or the NIV (New International Version) vs. HCSB (Hard Core Southern Baptist) debate that would most interest her in the typical SBC church. Would most appeal to her there in her cultural setting.

Well, after I'd pondered it for a couple days, I believe I have discerned the right answer.

That answer is no. They wouldn't.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Proverbs 3:5-6 Redux

Ladies and Gentlemen, say hello to Autumn. She's a server in a little restaurant we went to for some dessert after a day messing around in Indianapolis. And at the praise time before the evening session of the Pastor's Conference.

A little background: I lived in Indianapolis ... while we were cynical youth, we referred to it as "End-A-Noplace" ... from age 14. Finished high school, flunked out of college, knocked around odd menial jobs, got a serious job that started a 50-year career, met Peg, had kids, got serious with God, and then finally moved away. So .. I asked Autumn where she went to high school and she named a school near my sister-in-law's house, the one where my nephew John lives. He's the radically-saved sold-out forty-something that's at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery Alabama, finishing up a year of training. Autumn also mentioned an AoG sponsored school in downtown Indianapolis.

When she mentioned the Assemblies, I asked if she'd ever been to Lakeview Assembly, where my nephew works with the youth. She said yes, Lakeview was the mother-church of the one she attends now, and used to go to Lakeview herself. When she said that, I mentioned my nephew worked with young people there and she asked who he was. When I said "John Cleveland", her jaw about fell off her face and she asked if I was kidding or something.

She knows him!

What made it so special (read: ironic) to me was this: she mentioned that Lakeview people were the ones that reached out to her, in her words, "while I was sitting in Juvie". Here we were, in the middle of THOUSANDS of Baptists, with SBC'ers all over the restaurant, and it was a bunch of Pentecostals who'd gone to see her, told her about Jesus, and kick-started what is now a happy, spirit-filled life, in an adorable young lady.

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)



Scripture is SOOOOO much more engrossing when you see it playing out in life. The word "acknowledge" in that verse is "to ascertain by seeing", and that's precisely what happened this evening when we only THOUGHT we were just going to get dessert and coffee.

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Respect. LOTS & LOTS of Respect.

Peg and I drove to Upland, Indiana and visited Sr. Sheri Klouda, yesterday. We spent a delightful 3+ hours in their living room, just chatting.

I am enormously impressed, as is Peg. Dr. Klouda is a warm, personable young lady and a delight to talk to. She shared her life story with us, how she put herself through school, and lot of other history too. It's her story so I shall leave it at that, except to say how fond we are personally, of her, and how much we respect and admire her.

After all, she can have any admiration and respect I used to have for Dr. Patterson and the Trustees of SWBTS. They used to have some, but they don't, any more. Given the published reasons for her dismissal, and the quality and genuineness I saw in talking with her, those SWBTS people no longer deserve any. So, Dr. Sheri Klouda gets it all.

Even that's not enough.

Saturday Edit: The above was a quick post, as I knew we needed to get to bed last evening, and see some cousins this morning in Shelbyville before heading down to the Convention Hotel (where we are, now). So let me add this: Dr. Klouda is a terrific lady who likes to walk barefoot in the grass in her yard, which she did while she showed Peg some flowers she'd planted there. And she laughs at funny things and cries at sad ones, and is the sole support for her family (including a disabled husband and a 17-year-old daughter). She, among my acquaintances, is likely the one most dependent on God to supply her needs. There are probably not many pastors, (if any) in the SBC, who couldn't learn from her.

I know I did, and I absolutely don't care who doesn't like that.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Off AGAIN?


Yup .. this time to Indianapolis. I was raised there, so this'll be a good'un.

(I know where some really good restaurants are...)

THURSDAY EDIT ... Got to Indianapolis via London, OH, where we visited Peg's sister Millie for a day. Also ate at Der Dutchman Restaurant in Plain City, OH while there. INcredible! We're now in Lebanon, 20 miles NW of SBC 2008 Ground Zero; we'll be doing some more visiting 'til Saturday.

Stay tuned. This could be interesting.

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