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

Monday, July 28, 2008

Maybe It's Supposed To Be Enough???

Hang on ... I'm about to show how much I may not know about a lot of stuff. But something struck me yesterday as I was preparing for the "Serving God" seminar I'm leading at Westmont Baptist on Sunday nights, and I can't shake the thought. So, despite the fact that my Dad always said "You can either keep your mouth shut and make people think you're an idiot, or you can open your mouth and remove all doubt", I'll say it anyway.

The thought is this: when God told Moses to build the tabernacle, He gave thorough instructions; subsequently, Moses instructed the people to bring in all the fine stuff .. gems .. fine woods .. cloths ... gold .. all that stuff to him so they could build the tabernacle as instructed. And, after some period of time, he told them to please stop, as they'd brought more stuff than needed.

Then, Moses called in the contractors and had the tabernacle built.

Much later, Solomon built the temple. I don't see the funding method chosen, but I figure it wasn't a 30-year Variable Rate mortgage. I figure God had already supplied the stuff, as Sol was fairly well off, as I understand it.

But, regardless, it was appropriate to build a temple, as that's where they met with God. That made sense, as the instructions to build the tabernacle ... that portable tent-thing ... came at a time when Israel didn't have a homeland. On the other hand, the temple was built when they did.

So along comes Jesus and says that the time was now here when people would worship Him in Spirit and in truth; that answer in response to a question as to where we were supposed to worship God. I believe the mountain ... maybe that was done in the tabernacle .. and the temple were both mentioned.

Where did the idea of big temples, now, originate? Was it with "the church" way back when, before the Protestant Reformation? Aren't they a link to the old non-personal relationship with the mother church, rather than with the Living, Personal, Risen Christ ... our only access to God?

Maybe so.

And I also wonder where is the NT example of building a NT version of Solomon's temple. I don't recall it, albeit my memory ain't what it used to be (and probably never was, anyway). So perhaps it's true that the huge buildings which we think "Glorify God" are our idea, not God's. Sure, we're commanded to assemble together ... my interpretation is for the purpose of prompting one another to love and good works ... but it sure seems that churches, when organized, immediately orient themselves toward building their own "temple". And I've heard some state that such a concept even works to the detriment of overseas missions, as we too often do some evangelizing and then build a building, which the overseas mission church may be ill-equipped to maintain, and may not help in their efforts to win people there, anyway.

I have been concerned about this for some time, check here, but I didn't really make the connection until yesterday.

So, a couple questions:
  • Is the clear statement of how the tabernacle was funded, supposed to be instructive, to us, as to how we should operate now? Should we, in fact, call on the church body to bring in what we need, and then confess that's enough for us to do what God wants us to do?
  • Is Jesus' statement about worshiping in Spirit and in Truth, given in response to a question about geography and buildings, instructive for us relative to building our modern versions of Solomon's temple?
  • Should we pay attention to the Biblical statement that the borrower is the servant of the lender, and question whether churches should be servants of Mortgage Companies?
I only know of a few churches that have purposed not to build a big building ... churches like The Journey, Mosaic, and probably some others. What I haven't heard is much commendation or admiration for them. In fact, I've heard The Journey roundly criticized for doing the sort of thing I can envision Jesus doing, were He here on earth. Stuff like reaching people in a brewery. Maybe they have some problems up there, but THAT ain't one of them.

I don't know. I really don't. But I do know that our church has indebtedness of over Nine Million Dollars, and you can imagine the financial impact of just paying the interest on that, let alone amortizing the debt. But one thing I'm pretty sure of: we didn't even explore the alternatives.

Seems we'd rather ask God for a big building, than merely for a place to meet.

Maybe we don't want to be limited to what God thinks is "enough".

**EDIT NOTE** Here's where I stick my foot in it. Here we have the modern-day church, speaking here of baptists, millions strong. Mostly, apparently having their money struggles (like 15-20% giving 80-85% of the money?). Now, to me, tithing is a simple biblical principle, yet few seem to be doing that. In our church, given the number of members, and if the average income were about what ours is .. and remember, we're retired .. then the gross church-member income would probably be somewhere north of $50 million. A tithe of that would be $5 million a year and we'd be swimming in money. But we're constantly under budget in income. As I mentioned at Westmont last Sunday, the church has plenty of money; it's just that most of it is still in the members' pockets. And I frankly I wonder why that is. Why hasn't the membership gotten the message?

Is this yet another example of "easy believism"? Have we made this whole thing so socially appealing and attractive that we've completely lost whatever those folks in Acts 2 had?

That's my bet.

If so, who did THAT?

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Confessions of (Another) Baptist Charismatic

NOTE: I've never posted anything by a "Guest Author" but I can't help but post this one. Dr. Lynn Myers sent this to me and asked if I might post it if I found it fitting.

I confess I don't know Dr. Myers personally (alternate conclusion .. I've forgotten ... if so, I plead advanced age...), but NOTHING about this post is out of harmony with my own personal experiences, nor out of harmony with what I think God is ready, willing, and able to do, today... if and when He is willing and it will glorify Him. Hence, Dr. Myers, here y'go.

"Like many of you I grew up a cessationist, not because of any real deep study of the scripture, but because I was brought up that way.

Everyone said God could do special things nowadays, but we acted like he almost never did. We even offered all kinds of limp reasons why he quit doing miracles. We discounted any reports of miracles because they were not done in our church and denomination. Besides, they were claimed by people who were from "the other side of the tracks" ... those nutty, uneducated, wild, emotional Pentecostal people.

Then, my little son got a fatal disease, that my niece has died of and, as a physician, I had once unsuccessfully treated. There was nothing that medicine could do. Only God could save my little boy. What you do? After a careful study of the scripture, it seemed clear to me that God expects us to pray for the sick and have faith that many will recover. I sought God like never before. I sought God with all my heart and guess what? My son began to get better.

But then, a few days later, tests in my own laboratory (I am a pathologist) grew worse. My anxiety thinking of him dying was to the point of causing me pain. I could think of nothing worse. I thought of “deals” I could make with God, if he would only heal my son. I remember thinking that I would gladly trade my life for my son's.

I knew I needed the comforter ... I needed God’s Spirit. Some friends came and prayed for me. I needed God ...I was desperate. I didn’t think of theology, I thought only of my need to be touched and comforted by the Holy Spirit. Suddenly, to my complete surprise, I began to praise God and speak in a tongue I did not know.

It was more like a cry. I saw myself as never before. I saw how my sin hurts God. It felt that God was scraping sin from the deepest part of my soul. It was like God was scraping the bottom of an old rusty steel barrel that was my soul. It was painful, but at the same time, it was cleansing and good. Every time I opened my mouth to tell people what was happening, the tongue would start again.

I was amazed. I am still amazed many years later. My son went on to be completely healed by God. I learned God is not deaf. He hears our cries and is still alive and active just like we read in Acts."

NOTE: Look at the SBC today with its internal problems and its 60% or so invisible and unlocatable members, and then ask yourself if the church could use more or less of the sort of miraculous things Dr. Myers mentions.

PS: I just traded a couple emails with Dr. Myers. We've both been Methodist, Presbyterian, and now Baptist. Maybe THAT's the key to this Baptist-being-Pentecostal thing.


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Monday, July 21, 2008

Miracles, Signs & Wonders. Who Needs'em?.

For starters, maybe WE do.

Boyd Luter has been putting up some posts about his personal Spiritual journey, from the cessationist end of the spectrum, towards the continuationalist end. I'll let you read that, if you so choose, rather than saying much about that, here. It is, after all, his story. But it did give rise to some thoughts in my brainspace, many of which are admittedly stolen from some books whose authors, and even titles, I've long since forgotten.

One thought: the gift of tongues has passed away. Now, my view of that gift differs from, apparently, everyone else in the known universe, so I'll reiterate it here.

First, I Corinthians 14:2 says, in the NIV, that "... anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit."

Speaks only to God. From my own experience, I think that tells me my spirit is addressing the Holy Spirit, without my having to think of some words to say. And that seems, to me, to be a good thing.

But how about that widely-held belief that the unknown tongues reported in Acts 2 were known languages with a gospel message? Well, for starters, I don't believe it. For several reasons:
  • FIrst, there seem to have been 15 or 16 different languages ... actually dialects ... heard by the listeners. Ask yourself this: if you had a bunch of believers in a room (either 12 or 120, depending on how many you interpret as being there .. I lean to 120 as it would be hard for 12 to speak 15 0r 16 languages), what would you hear, standing outside? I seriously doubt you would say you would hear them (plural) speaking your language (singular). But that's what the listeners, who "got it", said. You'd more likely have heard an unintelligible uproar.
  • Also, the mere fact that the listeners each heard all of them speaking one language tells me something other than discrete known languages was being spoken.
  • Also, it doesn't make sense that God would institute the gift of unknown tongues, unless He also manifested the gift of interpretation; that seems to have happened to those who said they were declaring the wonders of God.
  • Acts 2 is the only episode I know of in the Bible, where tongues occurred and there was an immediate description of what the speakers were doing (i.e. prophesying, praising, worshiping, etc). And it's described as declaring the "..wonders of God" (NIV). Nowhere else that I know of, is the substance of the gift described. UNLESS .. you include the 1 Corinthians 14:2 reference, which seems to support my theory. Might that all have been speaking only to God? You bet. Don't we do that when we praise and worship God?
  • If that episode ... Acts 2 ... was evangelistic in nature, why did it take a follow-up sermon by Peter, to point them to Jesus, and their subsequent inquiry as to how to be saved, to get that message across?
  • If, when the Corinthians got together for (what I guess we'd call) worship services, doesn't it make sense that folks who dominated the meetings expressing this "miraculous" gift in praise, would be called down and admonished to yield to those with a prophetic message from God? Those guys were living out what became the basis for much of the New Testament and they needed to hear from God, not just revel in praise.
  • If tongues in that case was a prophetic message, why the instruction to cut it off at 2 or 3, and then let the prophets prophesy? That doesn't make sense, albeit I know God doesn't have to make sense to me.
  • I know that gifts are given for the edification of the whole body and not just the "lone-ranger" recipient of the gift. But I also know that, when the gift of the unknown tongues manifests itself in my prayer life, my cognitive prayer becomes more meaningful .. in my mind at least, and wouldn't more "effectual fervent prayer" be edifying to the body overall?
There's more, but I think you can discern my stance on that gift. And if you put all the evidence together, it's plain (to me, anyway) that ALL episodes cited in Scripture are folks talking only to God.


Then you can add other miraculous manifestations of the power of God ... and I don't mean just the fact that it's a miracle of God when someone gets saved ... like healing, interpretation, words of knowledge or wisdom, etc.

So .. ask yourself if the church simply doesn't need that sort of thing any more. I mean, we have the canon of scripture, so why do we need all that mumbo jumbo, or unexplained moves of the Spirit? Well, I know it's the gospel that's the power of God for salvation, but that was written when there were tongues in evidence, and the tongues were a sign for UNbelievers, NOT for believers. Ask yourself if we need some signs for unbelievers today? If they showed something 2000 years ago, to unbelievers, wouldn't they show something to them, today?

Wouldn't they even show something to 10 million, or thereabouts, Southern Baptists who've gone missing in direct violation of biblical commands? And wouldn't they show something to pastors who feel more compelled to report folks who've been totally missing and unaccounted for, as being members, than to run the risk of upsetting some active members who are so proud of all their relatives who are still "members" ... despite no interest, or attendance, in years?

14 years, in the case of one family who moved 1000 miles away but were still on our membership roll, and included in our ACP all those years.

And how about healing? Is the church LESS in need of that, now, than 2000 years ago?

My pet theory is that "organized religion" want to be able to control itself. We CRAVE that Sunday Morning Bulletin, which says in detail what God is going to do in the services, and only rarely do we see God interrupt our well-rehearsed program with something direct from Him. It's a scary thing, I guess, to be "out there", depending on Him to come through; it's as if we won't know what to do if He doesn't, so we nail it all down in advance. And then, if we want to be radical, we'll "give the Holy Ghost permission to interrupt the service" if there's something He wants to do.

How arrogant .. to think He needs our permission. We can't give permission for anything we we can't prevent. And we sure can't prevent the Holy Spirit from invading our space.

We do, however, seem well practiced at discouraging Him from doing so.

Anyone remember this? "And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor." And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith." (Matthew 13:57-58, NIV)

Like I said ..we like to be in control. To be in some sort of "comfort zone".

How much faith does THAT take?

Personally I am delighted to be part of a local assembly that permits me to hold these views and yet teach Sunday School and have a prayer team of sorts. That evidences to me that FBC Pelham seems to have a handle on being Baptist. At least, until some "Lower-Ups" engineer a change in the definition, in which case we'll probably stand on the Preamble to the BF&M, and keep on keepin' on.

I know. Some are afraid we're going to get away from the Bible. Well, for a denomination (I know, I know) in which I've heard an SBC-paid Chaplain say "I don't believe all the Old Testament .. I can't believe a loving God would slay the prophets of Baal" ... and in which I've heard a well-respected Pastor preach a sermon entitled, and enumerating, "Five Things God Doesn't Know", I think we've already done that. Certainly more than we should, and assuredly when we forbid the speaking of tongues, and then rationalize away our actions in a manner remarkably similar to those, in Acts Chapter Two, who claimed that the folks first exhibiting that gift were drunk.

I guess what's happening in the SBC isn't so surprising after all.

Nor is what's happening in places they still believe God for what He's done in the past. Regardless of what our well-educated, well-presented, well-polished naysayers may claim isn't really happening.

Could it be that the "average SBC church" doesn't think it needs anything like that (miraculous manifestations)?

Or do they just not want it?

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

You Pick The Caption

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sow the Seeds, See the Harvest

After teaching my SS class at FBC Pelham yesterday, Peg and I hurried across town and attended worship services at Westmont Baptist Church. That's the one Pastored by C.B. Scott. We spent the afternoon visiting in CB & Karen's home, and then went back for the evening services.

It was as memorable a day as I can recall. And not just for the fellowship with the Scotts.

The bulletin, shown in the picture, hints at the reasons for the wonderful nature of the day. First, if you look just under the church name, you'll see hashmarks. I put them there, my way of counting the number of people who were baptized yesterday morning. When I saw how many were coming through the waters, I turned around and asked Karen how long it'd been since they'd baptized folks there, anyway. She said "three weeks".

But that's not the part that really gets me. It's that these folks weren't saved as a result of some "soul-winning program", nor of some evangelistic outreach on the part of the church, nor even of inviting folks to come to Sunday School and then stay for the sermon. CB had simply gone to a nearby halfway house, of sorts, and asked them if they had a bible study there. They told him no, but they'd be OK with his starting one. So he did, and goes there every week to lead it.

Now, there was no confrontational witnessing. Just a study of God's word, and an exposition of the promises of God. And, he didn't give any sort of challenge to immediate commitment (like a mini-"church invitation"), but simply named a couple of people there that they could talk to if they felt a need to.

The results speak for themselves. And, it's worth noting, these were the "purest" form of Baptisms you'll ever see. They weren't Baptized into membership in Westmont .. they were Baptized into a far greater fellowship than that.

Last evening, the church service was led by a local branch of Teen Challenge. CB knew of the center, and went and asked them if they'd like to have a Bible Study there at the 12-month-resident facility.They gladly accepted his offer, and again, he simply goes there every week and teaches the Bible. Not your typical outreach designed to bring people in to "the church".

There were 29 resident participants ... and leaders, who were also ex-participants ... there last evening, several of whom gave testimonies and sang. And they also performed several "human videos". Now, we do those things at FBC Pelham, but our church is mostly people saved in the conventional manner, where we've had to educate members as to the seriousness of their pre-conversion sin. And, I fear, there may never be a real gut-level appreciation of the awful nature of the sin of those leading "the good life" before conversion. But I'm here to tell you that those Teen Challenge folks are under no such limitation, in their faith. As Teen Challenge is designed to provide a faith-based treatment for those caught up in the drug problem, their residents KNOW what they've been saved from.

All I can say is WOW. Isn't it ironic that I drive across Birmingham to see the manifest power of God, displayed in a manner where nobody has to point out the magnitude of what God has done in these lives. In an old church, in a somewhat distressed and transitioning area, of the sort which lots of people are spending a lot of time and ink trying to tell them how to make their church count for Christ.

And their testimonies and human videos were moving, very very much so, not only for those watching, but for those sharing and involved in the videos, themselves!

It's been awhile since I've been so blessed as I was yesterday.

Eat your heart out, Moses. All you got to do was part the Red Sea and lead a few million people around the desert for 40 years, seeing them fed, etc. I got to see a lot more than that, yesterday.

P.S.: Westmont is the church at which I'm leading the "Serving God - Discovering and Using Your Spiritual Gifts" Course on Sunday nights for next 2 months. For probably as many folks as we've had total, all the times I've taught it at FBC over the years. What a wonderful bunch of involved, interested, self-sacrificing people.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Proverbs 3:5-6, Live Version

This is a photo of Peg .. my wife of 49 years ... my sweetheart ... you know the euphemisms I use for her. The photo was taken at dinner on the cruise we took in January, in advance celebration of my retirement February 1st.

We had a great time on the trip.

I wrote about meeting her once before, here, including how I knew the minute I met her, that I'd marry her one day. But in the midst of recuperating from my recent prostatectomy, another fact came invading my brainspace and I thought I should write it down before I forget it. So I am.

I've been a bit of an invalid since the surgery; first a catheter and then rediscovering the joys of a dry diaper (while some seriously insulted muscles re-learn how they're supposed to behave) will do that to you, you know. When I left the doctor's office last time, I asked him "What should I wear ... boxers or briefs". He responded "depends".

But don't feel sorry for me ... it's the closest I've felt to being a kid, in YEARS.

Anyway, my bride of 49+ years has taken absolutely wonderful care of me these couple of weeks following surgery. She is understanding, accommodating, encouraging, and tolerant of my whiny backsides, and generally does that Proverb 31 thing in real life. But the thought that interrupted my general stupor so recently was this: if you read the blog post, you know beyond a doubt, that she was absolutely a direct and dramatic gift from God, coming at a time when I had neither the Spiritual eyes nor the common sense to realize it. Well, I cannot imagine a more loving gesture/gift/provision, from the hands of a loving God, than Peg has been, and certainly is now.

The money quote: The way Peg is loving me through her attitudes, actions, and encouragement is a very real manifestation of God's love for me. I've heard God loves me in sermons, for more years than I can really recall, but there's been somewhat of a shortage of real connection of that thought to things in my life that get me where I live.

You all know Proverbs 3:5-6. Says we're supposed to trust in God, and not try to be the brains of the outfit ourselves. And it also says we're supposed to "acknowledge Him" in all our ways.

I figure all means all, too.

Now ... I think we do the same thing in this area we do with the "in Jesus' name" thing ... that if we mention His name at the end of a prayer, or at the end of some pronouncement or other, that we've done that "in His name". But I don't think so.

I'm certainly no scholar in whatever languages the Bible was originally written in, but I can press the "I" button on my computer, which calls up Strong's (or B-D-B or Thayer's) and when I do that to the "in His name" thing, I get:

onoma: A "name" (literally or figuratively) [authority, character]

Now THAT makes sense to me. I'm not free to name and claim a lot of stuff, but when I'm about His business, operating in His authority and in accordance with His character, then I'm really about His work. And some promises then emerge, depending on my own limited ability to even recognize His work, and that even explains some rather extraordinary things that have happened in my life.

What's that got to do with Proverbs 3:5-6? Just this: the word used in that passage for "Acknowledge" (Him) in all our ways doesn't mean to name Him. Strong's tells me it means:

yada`: To know (properly, to ascertain by seeing); used in a great variety of senses...

Wow. Not only does God seem to want to bless me and provide me and love me, but He wants me to see it and know it! So how can I NOT tell this story of how God has been lovingly providing for me, since before I even knew I needed it?

And is still doing it, to this very day.

I saw a bumper sticker once that said "I don't believe in miracles .. I DEPEND on them".

Amen. Especially that "DEPEND" part.


I Got Your "Engage the Culture" Right Here, Pal ..... Part II

If you're not real big into identifying people by their feet, I'll give you a little clue. That's one of my grandkids over there in the picture.

If you said Matthew, I'm personally coming to get you. Which leaves my 22-year old granddaughter, Meredith.

She's the one that recently got her degree from Southeastern Bible College. She's going to be pursuing an advanced degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, taking classes at the campus of Union University in Jackson, TN., starting this fall.

NOTE: This is assuming she's admitted; she's sent all the information they require, and she's waiting to hear. Might pray about that if it crosses your mind, please.

Her goal is to go into Children's Ministry.

So ... when she stopped by the house this morning to see Peg, she showed off her latest personal acquisition, a tattoo of the fish sign, with the Greek word for "faith" in it. In Greek. She's been at First Baptist Church in Milan, TN, for the summer (her 3rd 4th .. she just corrected me...) as a Children's Ministry Assistant, and took advantage of the long holiday weekend to stop in and say hi.

I'm not a big fan of tattoos, but I suppose that's why I don't have any. And I know all the arguments about doing this or that to your body so I don't care to hear them again. But I have to ask myself if this will aid her ministry. Will kids think it's cool? Will she profit from seeing "FAITH" every time she puts on her shoes (or flipflops, sandals, gators, etc...), and is reminded that she is, indeed, walking by faith?

I think the answers are yes. But her reasons are good enough for me, anyway.

That's my idea of how it ought to be with family. And friends. And I can tell you that includes my blogging (and ex-blogging) friends, too.

Have a nice 4th.