Thursday, October 30, 2008

I Went For Lunch; What I Had Was Church (II)

Peg fixed lunch today and, when she called me to the kitchen, this is what I sat down to. Well, most of it, anyway. As you can see, I'd already done serious damage to the Hamburger. And the Black-Eyed Peas and Okra & Tomatoes.

Hey .. gimme a break .. we live in Alabama.

But what struck me today was the plate on which the food temporarily (VERY) rested. And therein lies the tale...

The plate was originally the property of the Lebanon, Indiana, School District. When they got to a certain state of wear, they'd get new ones and give the old ones away (or toss them, if nobody wanted them). Peg's mom was a cook at the Lindbergh School in Lebanon, and took some of the rejects home. She was really poor and needed all the help she could get...

Peg, in fact, ate off just such plates as these, when she was in School in Lebanon.

That got me to thinking that the dietician .. de jur or de facto planned the menus and prepared the food, so that the kids would get a good and nutritious diet. Then the food was measured out and given to the kids on these plates. Now ... kids being kids ... I'm pretty sure that some of them were picky eaters. Finicky. Didn't eat what they didn't like. Wanted only the stuff that was tickling to their palates. Ignored what wasn't.

Sure, some .. like Peg .. had been taught to clean up their plates. That food was good but its design was to grow and nourish them, not just make their taste buds happy. So I'm sure some ate what all came their way. But I'm guessing a lot, didn't.

Some, if their school was anything like the ones I went to, even misused the food. Got into food fights. Traded the good stuff away for candy.

I've seen many a piece of chocolate cake slipped under some guy's derriere' just as he sat down, with expected, and embarrassing, results.

The plates are also interesting, in that they're divided into sections so the food can keep its identity and is easy to access. Not just a jumble that is hard to discern, but separate and discrete.

If Peg's mom was typical, the folks who prepared the food did so, with the welfare and the best interests of the kids in mind. They didn't work from their own preferences, but they put the interests of the kids first. And they really like them, too.

Some kids liked and appreciated the cooks, I'm sure. Some probably didn't.

NOW ....

We have this Heavenly Dietitian, see ..... and ....... and .....

Hmmmmm....

Like I said: I had church.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Amazing Grace / Amazing Bass

I DON'T USUALLY DO STUFF LIKE THIS, BUT........

You gotta see this.

I first saw Victor Wooten when he played an amazing solo on TV, with Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, at a Jazz Festival somewhere. I happened to see it, and recorded the various sessions as there was some pretty good jazz going on. Then Fleck came on and I almost stopped the recording, since I like the banjo, Fleck's instrument, but not jazz banjo, which he plays. The song they did there, that day, was "Sinister Minister", and I'm glad I let it record.

I think Wooten's a believer; he's done some praise albums from what can I see online.

Anyway, talk about reaching folks with a gospel song .. a different crowd from what hymnals & pipe organs would reach. I have no idea where this was performed, but check it out & you'll see a remarkable artist play a remarkable solo.

Of a remarkable song.

With a Remarkable Message.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Do You Suppose God Really MEANT It?

I saw a comment on another blog that gave me cause to pause, as it were. The comment referred to someone who claimed to be evangelistic, but tended to stay at his job, rather than going out "witnessing". That seems to suggest a misunderstanding of how this "body" is supposed to work.

I figure God wouldn't have said all that stuff about our being a Body ... the Body of Christ, in fact ... unless He intended for us to act like one.

One of the tendencies I've noted among different Christian workers is to trot out the scripture that (presumably) spoke to them, and use it to prompt others to do those same things, too. Sam Neugent, who used to be our Worship Leader at FBC Pelham, has joined a missionary organization which plants churches in foreign countries. I've heard him quote the Great Commission, saying that passage tells the listeners that they, too, should go to a foreign country to witness, to people. And that point, I disagree with.

I have to ask myself to whom was the Great Commission spoken? If it was spoken to Jesus' disciples, then they didn't do what He told them. They failed. Unless each one of them actually went into all the world! And I don't think any of them did. In fact, I don't think the disciples collectively traveled to every country on earth. BUT ... if the command .. the Great Commission ... was given to the church, rather than the individuals, then the command has, indeed, been followed.

I really don't think that's a lot different from God's command to Adam and Eve, to multiply and fill the earth. There are several billion people on earth now, and I'm pretty sure they weren't all born to Mrs. Adam. So, I'm guessing that order was given to mankind, not just the two people.

So it is, I think, with the Great Commission and the church. It's the church's responsibility to see that it happens. And that can have practical implications ... including discouragement ... if it isn't understood.

One such incident surfaced a few weeks ago, in my Sunday evening class on "Serving God". A young lady, bright and intelligent, and actively engaged in the discussions. Toward the end, she expressed guilt that she wasn't out "knocking on doors" witnessing to people. She has been gifted by God in ways the Holy Spirit has decided He wants her to be gifted. She's a very giving and hospitable person, yet she felt guilty because she wasn't out "witnessing".

That may be a failure of the church. In fact, it may be one of the biggest ... the fact that the church does not seem to teach much about the Holy Ghost, and how He gifts us to take part in God's redemptive plan. So the church sort of lurches along, oft times with people in areas God never gifted them for, while folks whom God has uniquely gifted to do the job in that area, sit idly by, themselves. Or maybe those folks work in some area of the church they aren't gifted for, either.

But that isn't what prompted me to write this, either. I'm thinking of what happens to the human body when it rejects part of itself. Like organ rejection. That organ is severely compromised in its effectiveness, its life is jeopardized, and the life of the body itself is threatened.

When I think of missionary candidates who are rejected because God has given them the gift of unknown tongues (I'm sick of people calling that gift a "private prayer language" ... the Bible says it is "tongues", and I thought what the Bible says was supposed to be good enough for Baptists, but maybe it isn't...). or are rejected because their Baptism wasn't in an SBC church ... you know .. the kind that lies about membership numbers, and can't account for even the whereabouts of over half the members.

And need I even mention Dr. Klouda and her rejection at the hands of one man whom many still seem to hold in high regard? And if you feel up to complaining about that remark, I'm open to criticism from anyone who has spent three hours in Dr. Klouda's home, talking to her person-to-person. Others, I do not consider qualified.

Or maybe there's rejection in the form of ostracizing comments, ungodly speech, and intolerance shown on comments on a blog.

Or, or .. well, who knows how many ways we can find of expressing rejection amongst us Baptists. We seem to be pretty good at it, don't we?

We're a Body ... the Body of Christ. It's time we acted like it.

Remember, while the Body will be in Heaven, the SBC won't. And we won't be Baptists when we're there, either

Thank God.


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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Brush-On Gospel; Roll-On Church?

While Jason, Keith & Terry are waiting for the supplier to come up with some more of the siding needed to finish the house ... they seem to've run them slap out ... I've been doing a little painting. We have some windows on our screened-in deck, which we've decided to paint, as some of them are rough-sawn lumber and quite nice. There's also the doors, etc.

I like painting as it doesn't require a lot of brain power ... kind of like waxing your car ... so I get to think a lot while I'm slopping the stuff around. And my mind is always drawn to two painters, one of which prompted this strange dissertation.

One is my Dad, but he's not the one. He was a fine painter, although he made his livelihood in steel sales and management. I recall one time we had our little house in Calumet City painted & carpeted, and they chose a bright chartreuse enamel for the living room. The pros came out and painted it and it looked awful. Lap marks everywhere, so Dad called the decorator and the painters showed up the next day and re-did it. It looked the same, only worse, as there were now TWO layers of lap-marks.

Dad finally told them to give HIM the paint and a brush and a roller and he did it all himself. And it looked beautiful.

The other painter was the man who painted our house in Muncie, the last house we lived in before we moved to Pelham. The builder was the best in town, and we bought it after the annual Parade of Homes, it having been a show home. And the painter had done a fabulous job on it.

I talked to him later ... the builder was an insurance customer of mine ... and he told me something interesting. He said that he always painted with a brush, which was the best way to paint, as he could control the coat of paint, how much was applied, how it was spread, etc, better that way. Then, when he was done, he used a paint roller to get the texture he wanted!

He also said that he brushed it on, because the action of the brush literally rubbed the paint into the surface, rather than just laying it on top. He told me it was much more likely to stick and maintain the surface, when he painted it that way.

I'd never known there was so much TO painting a wall, myself. Live and learn....

So I was reflecting on that when I happened to turn my thoughts to the spread of the gospel. And the old debate about the ministry-based outreach, as opposed to the evangelism-based method. I have to think that the ministry approach is more like brushing on the gospel, as opposed to evangelism and the risk of just putting on a "coating of the gospel" that may, or may not, stick.

Judging by the rate at which High School grads drop out more-or-less permanently, and in light of 10 million or so church-members we can't even find any more, I'd say something .. make that SOMETHING .. is causing the gospel to come unstuck. Perhaps, even, more often than not.

And THAT thought brings me back to the post I did some time ago, about "soul winning". How we should be a friend, a good neighbor, minister to people, so that when the Lord convicts them, they'll have someone to talk to. And, being as open with our friendship, and reliance on, Jesus, as we are about any other friendship .. human relationship .. that we're only too happy to discuss with someone.

I admit I may be a bit jaundiced in my view. Peg says she got a REAL light coating of the gospel when she said the sinner's prayer at age 12; she's described it as sort of a "love-em and leave'em" gospel. She never had ANY discipleship training until we joined the Presbyterian Church, in fact.

And then there's my experience of 25 years in the SBC, around folks mostly who know the doctrines of the Trinity and of "Eternal Security" and other SBC regulars like being against the lottery and against beverage alcohol, but whose knowledge is too often limited to a recitation of the conclusions of other people.

I've often asked people what the most important, the most to-the-point verse in the Bible is, and they usually say John 3:16. THEN I ask them who said it, and to whom it was said. I don't recall anyone even knowing that! You'd think, with arguably the most important verse in the Bible .. folks would know stuff like that...

Oh .. there's also that pesky 15%/35%/50% deal. You know .. 15% of the people do 85% of the work and give 85% of the money .. 35% give, and do, the other 15%, and 50% of the people give and do nothing. Come to think of it, that makes sense, as we cannot even account for the whereabouts of half the folks.

Maybe more.

For all the SBC has done right over the years, this sure looks wrong to me. I don't know .. maybe all denominations are like that .. but it sure looks to me as if we're putting just enough out there to get'em coated enough to get in the front door. But for sure, it's not lasting.

When Jesus did the painting, the coat lasted 2,000 years. I'm not sure ours will.

Hmmm ... could it be ... the prompting of the end times might be a result of the failure of the church as we know it?

Hmmmm.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

SBC: Stay Out Of The Vinyl Siding Business!!

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Keith and Terry. They're employees of the subcontractor that my friend (and fellow churchmember and fellow prostate cancer survivor) Harry has, installing new siding on our home. Since our son isn't painting, on the side, any more, and since I'm not about to fall off tall ladders (which would be the inevitable result of my trying to paint it myself), Peg and I decided to git'er done. And, after watching these two guys work together for 3 days, and after watching what's been going on in the SBC for the past 3 years, I've decided the SBC would have to learn a lot about cooperation first, if they ever wanted to side a house.

Keith is the guy up on the ladder, and Terry is the guy on the ground listening. When Keith needs something, Terry gets the piece of siding, lays it out, cuts it to fit, and tosses it to Keith.

Their employer, Jason Darty, was an insurance client of mine for about 6 years when I was still in the insurance business. It was simply my good fortune that Jason's the sub that Harry uses to install siding.

They are a beautiful team. In fact, one of the reasons I like doing things myself is that I know I can make it look like I want it to, and frankly, they're doing a much better job than I would do. It is simply beautiful, and they've gone way beyond what I expected in making the appearance absolutely first-rate.

Their communication is near-mystical. Each knows exactly what the other needs. I am in awe. When they're putting up the tall pieces of siding, Keith's up on the top walk-board, with Terry on the board below. Terry gets the siding, stands it up tall, they both snap it in place, and Terry fastens it from the top down, and hands the stapler down to Terry to finish. Without a word. Next piece, the fasten from the bottom, up.

It's beautiful to see how they work together.

This thought is particularly prominent in my mind, since I know Monte and Janet Erwin, two of the casualties of the great "Sign the BFM" war. Knowing the Erwins' hearts, I know that their desire was precisely what the SBC had in mind, on the field, and probably moreso, as they were there and dealing with real, live people. They weren't sitting in an office, looking at numbers like the folks back at the IMB offices.

I haven't the faintest idea what Keith and Terry know about anything beyond siding; I don't know where they live, how they drive, their favorite anything. All I know is what they think about what they do, which is evident in how they do it. And that, they do better than most of the things I do.

Because I know they care very much how my house looks when they're done, I'm not much concerned about seeing them do the work (although it's really fun watching skilled people work).

Shouldn't that be the criteria with the SBC/IMB? The objective? From all accounts I've seen, they are both in some trouble. Yet they continue to tighten down this and that, like municipal health inspectors. It's like, if they don't find something wrong, people will think they're not doing their jobs.

Now, I am fully aware that we need to assure that folks representing the SBC & IMB need to be of good character, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, stuff like that mentioned in the Bible. When we add a bunch of other requirements like we've seen .. where you're baptized .. what the baptizer believed .. how you pray .. which gifts God's given you .. it tells me that we're thinking more about ourselves than we are about the General Contractor who hired us to do the job.

He paid WAY too high a price for us, for us to be doing that.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Go See It.

Peg and I went to see the film "Fireproof" this past Friday. If you haven't, already, I suggest you do.

I think the film reflects a lot of the problem that Christian couples can really stumble and fall ... hard ... on, and it also explains, I think, some of the reasons why really successful marriages are the way they are.

My only beef with the film? They keep referring to "Firemen". Having had one of their profession in my immediate family for almost 30 years, I can tell you one of the explanatory sayings I've heard from their profession:

"FireMEN ride on locomotives;
"FireFIGHTERS ride on Fire Trucks."


Amen.

p.s.: One of these days I'm going to start posting some of my other poems here. Hey .. it's my blog .. and I can cut & paste, which will be greatly appreciated by Dr. C. (for Carpal) Tunnel.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

NEWS FLASH! We Didn't Write The Bible....

...but, judging by the comment string on Wade Burleson's Blog, you'd think folks like you and me did.

Some seem to think that we have authority over the Bible, and not vice-versa. Isn't that what got Adam and Eve in trouble, in the garden? Not wanting to simply trust and depend on God, but to know, themselves?

I heard one time that what the Bible discloses, is ours to know, but what it doesn't, isn't. Put another way, it says to me that the Bible says what it means to say, and it says enough. Every time I hear lines like "Jesus was fully man as though He were not God at all, and fully God as though He were not man at all", I cringe. I haven't ever seen that line in the Bible .. I may be wrong, of course .. but I wonder why saying what the Bible says isn't enough.

The comment string on Wade's blog had a lot of comments, questions and the like about whether Jesus was/is eternally subordinate to God's will. Now I ain't no word expert, but I know a few things about what the Bible does say about Jesus. Like....

Jesus was, and is, God. Consider:

Hebrews 1:8-9:
But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy."
(NIV)

Wow. God calls Jesus "God". Even explains it further in verse 9!

Well, if He'd just been God, I don't think He could have died, unless He .. Jesus .. did something about it. So we have that whole being made as a man, like:

Philippians 2:5-8: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! (NIV)

So, Jesus was equal with God ... was, in His very nature, God .. but He chose not to grasp that equality. So He walked around here as a sinless man, and was tempted as we are. That means something, to me, only so long as He didn't grasp equality with God.

But that doesn't mean He wasn't still God.

Now, how about His will. Did He even have one, apart from God's will? I think so .. otherwise His comment about "Not my will, but thine", in the garden, would have been meaningless. He had to have a will of His own, then. But He consistently bent His own will to His Father's desires.

Any evidence of that? Sure:

John 5:19: Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (NIV)

Then, I have to ask: what is it that might be God's will for Jesus to do, now, that would require Him to "subject Himself" .. or be "subordinate to" .. God's will? I know that one of His ongoing activities, now that victory over both sin and death have been accomplished, is:

Roman 8:34: Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-- more than that, who was raised to life-- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (NIV)

No theologian here, but I kind of doubt that Jesus would have to set aside His own will, or His own authority, to intercede on behalf of those whose cries of our souls' lostness, across the centuries, were enough to make Him walk out of the carpentry shop and into the jaws of a world that mostly hated Him.


There's a lot of other stuff He said, and that was said about Him, of course. But those verses paint a picture of a God Who became man, here on earth, then denied Himself some of the qualities of being God while He was here, so He could live the Life and die the Death required to purchase my salvation. And yours. And that is tremendously encouraging to me on a couple of fronts.

He understands what it's like to be powerless here; in His case, He had perfect sin-stain-free communication with His Father .. He could discern His will perfectly, hear His Father clearly, and do His will perfectly. That tells me that God has power available for use here, in His work, beyond that which I ever dreamed. Unfortunately, much of the time I miss out on it, as my communication and understanding is worlds removed from the perfect sort that Jesus had.

People wronged Him as they had, and have, never wronged anyone. He forgave them. That tells me I can forgive beyond that which I have ever dreamed I could. And certainly beyond that which, in my sinful state, I've ever dreamed I'd want to.

Those things seem to be Biblical to me. And, in my life, God 's shown me their truth. I've forgiven folks who've wronged me, that I cannot dream of having forgiven 40 years ago. And God has done things in my feeble attempts to serve Him, here, that pretty well define the term "shock & awe", to me. Even, in some cases, 10 years and longer since they happened.

"The problem" exemplified on Wade's blog rears its ugly head when we start adding to what the Bible does say. Things like asking ... or telling ... about Jesus being subordinate to the will of God. Or to God. Something about lesser in power or rank. Such nonsense! Why do we need to even say that? To prove our superiority of knowledge? Or, worse yet, to draw some self-serving analogy to support our position on the subordination of certain people to certain other people? What a shameless way that would be, of self-aggrandizement or self-promotion.

Someone once said that no one had ever lost money underestimating the common sense of the American people. Apparently that applies to the common sense of some Baptists, too.

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