Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> EAGLES' REST: December 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

You Pick A Caption



I don't often put up this sort of post, but when I stumbled across this snapshot in my file of some 18,000 pictures on my computer, I couldn't resist.

This is our older son, Brian, on the occasion of his first birthday. We lived in Indiana at the time, and winter was approaching, so we (either Peg and I, or Mom and Dad) bought him a coat for winter.

Peg strapped on the hood, and I snapped this.

His next birthday will be #49. As if being 70+ isn't enough, contemplate having a kid almost 50.....

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Monday, December 22, 2008

CARDINALS? "PRESBYTERIAN COMEBACK"?


If I hadn't lived in Muncie some years back, I'd have thought there was a major upheaval going on in the Roman Catholic Church. I mean, I used to be a Presbyterian .. 3 different varieties, actually .. and I really couldn't see them adopting the Catholic hierarchy in their denominations.

Any of them.

So, it was an eye - opener for sure, when I read this spot on Indianapolis' Channel 13 website this morning.

"Cardinals" rang a bell, because we used to live in Muncie, Indiana .. from 1971-1975 .. immediately before moving to Birmingham. Thus I knew that "Cardinals" was the nickname of the sports teams of Ball State University in Muncie.

It took a bit of poking around [HT Google] to find it, but "Presbyterian" is simply Presbyterian College located in Clinton, SC.

And I have no idea where their teams got their nickname.

On second thought .. I've always heard of the College of Cardinals; this is the first time I've heard of the Cardinals of College whuppin' up on the Presbyterians, though.

Hmm......

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Irresistible Grace Sin

I've been a Calvinist for 30-some years, since I joined Westminster Presbyterian Church In Muncie, Indiana, and started studying what it was I was supposed to believe.

When you take the 5 foundational points of Calvinism as a package, they make a lot of sense; hence, I had no problem with the doctrine of Irresistible Grace, and haven't, to this very day. But something invaded my brainspace a couple weeks ago that has moved it from a well-reasoned display of how God operates, to a real gut-level conviction.

I'll try to explain:

I had occasion to look at the Baptist Faith And Message last week, and I noticed something that I had never seen before. It was the following statement, under the Statement about Man:

"Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation."

So .... sin, as described in the Baptist Faith and Message, seems to be described something we must do ... that we cannot simply resist ... as irresistible. When that thought hit me, I immediately thought that it must, then, take irresistible grace to pry us away from irresistible sin!

How else could that lost person, when faced with the truth about his lostness, and about the saving grace of Jesus, NOT sin in his decision? How could anything less than a grace which overpowered the irresistible nature of sin, bring us to the point of even being able to choose Jesus?

WOW!


That thought brought with it, to me, a soul-deep conviction, replacing what I previously saw as the most logical process, scripturally; one which attributed the highest level of sovereignty, to God. Oh, it still is, and does, that, but it has brought to me a new appreciation of the absolute unsearchable love and grace of God, and my complete inability, on my part, to realize and appropriate that short of His miraculous move in my life.

A move I could not resist.

If perchance this is true, if it does take the irresistible draw of God to pry us away from the previously-irresistible draw of sin, then one of three conditions must exist between mankind and God:

  • God irresistibly draws everyone. Lots of verses tell me that doesn't happen.
  • God irresistibly draws no one. That one isn't true, either.
  • God irresistibly draws some.

Like, I wasn't already Calvinistic ENOUGH!

AND THEN.....

I got to noticing something else about the Baptist Faith and Message: there was a change I had not previously heard about, from the 1925 version, to the 1963 version. Note this:

Whereas the 1925 version says of man, "He was created in a state of holiness under the law of his Maker, but, through the temptation of Satan, he transgressed the command of God and fell from his original holiness and righteousness; whereby his posterity inherit a nature corrupt and in bondage to sin, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors." ....

The 1963 version says "Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence; whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin, and as soon as they are capable of moral action become transgressors and are under condemnation."

Somehow, apparently, in the 38 years between the two versions, man was relieved of any condemnation which might result from original sin.

Well, THAT'LL come in real handy, won't it? For one, it'll simplify explaining what happens to children who die before the "age of reason" ... which nobody seems to define, but which I DO see in scripture ... rather than tackling the issue in terms of the truth about Jesus and what the Bible affirms to us, about Him. And, by faith, trusting HIM instead of our reasoning ability.

There's been a lot of banter about getting back to our Baptist roots.. Just look at the plethora of citations of writers from the 1700's and 1800's as evidence of how we ought to be, now.

The condemnation under which we are born, which flows from Original Sin, apparently isn't one of the roots we want to get back to....

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

20/20 Blindness

That title just popped into my mind as Peg and I were driving out of our driveway to go to my treatment, yesterday. I liked it so much I figured I'd write something to go along with it. :)

Seriously, I'd been contemplating all the wrangling that's been going on in the Wonderful World of Blogs lately, about nearly anything and everything you can imagine, and a really "WHOA" thought struck me.

I shall try to put it down in electrons.

It seems to me that, particularly with the better-known bloggers, anything they write about can (and usually does) start a brouhaha. Complete with well-defined presentations of views pro and con, with sarcastic remarks too frequently, and with recriminations, criticism, name-calling, and occasional condescension. Plus all the other factional and divisive stuff that I'm sure you've seen, by now.

I first got drawn into this via reading Wade Burleson's blog, commenting thereupon, starting this little blog of my own, emailing Rev. Burleson, and then getting involved in the SBC itself. By actually going to Greensboro.

The first time I got any attention beyond the local church and the blogs, was the Sunday preceding the 2006 Convention. A reporter had gone to the church where Wade was preaching, to interview him. Peg and I had gone there to meet him and hear him preach. So, when the reporter asked Wade what sorts of people read blogs, he directed her to me, saying I was a frequent commenter. I said a couple controversial things when she asked me about some stuff, and then I observed that I was really curious why the SBC hadn't seen the blogs as a media they could use to keep SBC members informed about stuff that was going on. I recall saying it would be super if the Big Leaders could have a Town Hall Meeting in every church every week; they'd be hailed as heroes. So along comes the internet, and the emergence of blogs has provided the SBC a medium where they could, in effect, do just that.

But .. in their infinite wisdom (right....), they decided to shun them. One leader, I even saw refer to blogs as "internet porn". Yet, despite their scorn of the blogs, Rev. Frank Page was ostensibly elected SBC President owing largely to the influence of the Blogs.

I'd think the Powers Who Be would have learned from that, but apparently not.

Over the last couple of years, the divisions (or make up your own name for it) have grown; at least it looks like it to me.

A few SBC leaders have blogs, but I don't see any concerted effort among them, along lines which I shall explain: To my way of thinking, the BlogBog has not caused any divisiveness, or rancor, or any of the other stuff we decry. All the qualities in all the people out there, who are seen spouting wisdom, or sarcasm, or divisiveness, or contempt, or humor, or reconciliation, or whatever ... those qualities (good AND bad) were all there before Blogs were invented. Blogging has merely surfaced all that stuff, for all to see.

Here's the blindness part: Leadership in the SBC had at least two possible responses, that I can see. One would be to read, huddle, and conclude "There's some problems out there in the ranks, and we need to address them". Get some education, ministry, reconciliation, etc going.

One example comes to mind ... Ed Stetzer & Co's revelation that a majority of SBC pastors believe that "Tongues" is a valid gift, today. SBC leadership had pooh-poohed that idea forever, and had said only a tiny minority believed it. BUT ... the upshot of that revelation seemed to be SBC bigwigs criticizing the survey techniques ... "let's shoot the messenger.."

Followed by what seems a complete lack of action; say, requesting Lifeway to address the issue via education, research into scriptures, and a display of the evidences on both sides of the issue.

So, what could have been an opportunity to further the cause and unite two sides, using the same methodology and entity that brought it into focus, was simply ignored. At least that I can see.....

That seems to be the other possible response: circle the wagons, in defense of the status quo.

Doesn't Nashville realize that every time they set up one of these criteria, measuring sticks, something we're supposed to agree with (like signing the BF&M), they're setting up some more of the "Us & Them" attitude that can damage what's supposed to be a body? Kind of like your left side resenting your right side, and not wanting to cooperate in walking, working, etc....

Why hasn't the SBC recognized the communicational nature of the blogs to analyze these divisions, as well as address them? Why did Tom Ascol and SEBTS have to put together a conference to try to bridge THAT one particular gap? And why was it seemingly (to me at least) countered by one bent on shooting down the conference that tried to build those bridges?

Someone referred to Tom Ascol's church as being "outside the confessional mainstream of Southern Baptist life."

Would that be ...
  1. the stream that's produced 40,000+ churches of which XX% (sorry I'm not up on all the percentages) didn't baptize anybody next last year (whoops .. well, I AM a Calvinist..)?
  2. the stream of churches which can't find half their members?
  3. the churches that are playing the leading role in a denomination that's shrinking?
  4. maybe the churches that have as many of their members divorcing as unchurched folks?
  5. maybe the stream that loses 80+ % of their 18+ kids?
One of two conditions must exist. Either we're not doing what it was that grew the SBC into a (once-) strong denomination, or what we did before doesn't work any more. Based on what I've seen in our church, particularly in Sunday School, what we've done IS what we're doing, and when the numbers start lagging, we beat the Sunday School over the head to do MORE of what it was that largely produced 1 thru 5, above.

I'm guessing that the attitude of "come to us" had best give way to one of "go to them". And more than just going to them to ask them to "come to us".

One thing I'm sure of. In the past couple of years, the Blogdom .. along with the other communication avenues available now, that weren't 25 years ago .. put up an ample display for one and all, of the problems in the SBC. And the SBC seems to have ignored them.

My daddy told me that even the worst of us has one good point: if nothing else, we can serve as a really GOOD "bad example". So, I'll give THIS to the SBC:

The blindness, to what was already there, is a good'un...

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What's All This Baptist Identity Garbage?

I confess real amusement over this issue, but I swear, I just don't understand it.

Up front: I don't have any problem with folks who are concerned about it, or with folks who aren't. To each his own. But, while I'm not a life-long Baptist like seemingly everyone else ... well at least a lot of others act that way ... I've learned some stuff about being Baptist, particularly Southern Baptist. And I think I'd like to show my twisted take on some of the stuff I've learned.

Most of the upset seems to be coming from folks who don't like what somebody else is doing. I guess I understand that, but my pastor finds it amusing whenever I bring up the stuff I see going on in the BlogBog (it doesn't seem organized enough to call it a BlogTown .. or clean enough, either); when I bring up some of the stuff .. the Family Worship thing ... ESS ... the BI thing ... he just says that none of that stuff affects our church, that we're autonomous.

And he says it like NONE. And PERIOD.

Nonetheless, I find one aspect of the B.I. thing (controversy, mess, movement, you pick a descriptive term) really amusing. Follow my disjointed thoughts, if you would.

First, our common confession of faith is the Baptist Faith and Message. 1963 or 2000. And it says, for instance, that ....

"A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers...."

and ....

"The Lord's Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming."

It also says: "Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

SO ... we have the open/closed communion controversy, with some viewing the closed variety as applying only to members of the particular congregation. I've seen some of those discussions get pretty, shall we say, enthusiastic. There's the question as to whether a church should allow communion participation to someone who has not been baptized, or should restrict it to people who have been immersed but not sprinkled, or might even share communion with members of churches which practice sprinkling, like Methodists or Presbyterians. And some folks seem to go beyond describing what their own congregations do, and want to indicate how a Genuine Southern Baptist church ought to view it. Which brings me to the other part of my thoughts....

All that stuff the BF&M says, I like. I agree with it. But I also agree with the other stuff it says. Including the Preamble (which seems to set the ground rules for the whole thing; otherwise, why have a Preamble at all...). And that says, in part:

  1. That they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us. They are not intended to add anything to the simple conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament, viz., repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.
  2. That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future, Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time.
  3. That any group of Baptists, large or small, have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so.
Now I'm sure everyone has read that before, as I have, but I just noticed something I hadn't really honed in on, before. #1 says this is a consensus statement of the body assembled for that purpose, but #2 and #3 go on to say that Baptists can (apparently) disagree on some point or other and publish their own statements of faith, as Baptists! I don't see a statement in the Preamble that says you have to agree to every point in there, no exceptions, or you can't be Baptist. Or that you can't cooperate if you do disagree and publish your own statement of faith.

I fail to see why it would be objectionable to one church for another to allow non-immersed Christians to take communion. I don't see why a church which allowed non-immersed people to join ... people who sincerely believed they followed the command by being sprinkled ... and trusting the Holy Spirit to lead them to a desire to be immersed as Jesus was ... a church which allowed people to take communion where they'd just been saved and hadn't yet been baptized ... would meet with disfavor with other churches who seem to think they have a lock on the One True Meaning of the BF&M.

I just don't see where the BF&M doesn't allow such freedom in a local body.

To be blunt, I think there are a lot of people who were baptized NOT out of obedience to Jesus command, but simply in conformance with the local church's requirement for membership.

I wish more folks would act like we believe what the BF&M says.

Some folks have expressed the thought that God might not like the arguing going on now in the SBC, over various issues. Perhaps it is, that the arguing and infighting is actually a result of God's dislike for things that have gone on in the SBC, in past years. The CR and the way it was handled, the firing of professors (male and female), the embezzlement from the IMB and the terrible judgment (in my opinion) on the part of trustees in covering it up, the firing of certain seminary employees who dared point out questionable financial (or maybe I should say automotive) transactions; perhaps all these things are less indicative of problems in the SBC, and more indicative of God's having left the house.

I think maybe He wrote something over the door when He left.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Rendering Unto Caesar

Jesus said something pretty neat when the Pharisees tried to snare him with their question about paying taxes. He did that coin trick thing and then said they were to render unto Caesar, that which was Caesar's, and unto God, that which was God's.

I wonder if that applies to rendering a thief .. and embezzler .. to the Criminal Justice System of our country. Do you suppose we're to render a thief to them, if he's stolen from us?

I remember a well-known TV Preacher who told a story of being asked by a member of his church, to pray with her about her starting to tithe. He said "I will NOT!!".

Surprised, she asked why.

He replied "If you're not tithing, God says you're ROBBING HIM .. and I'm not about to close my eyes and bow my head standing next to a THIEF."

Well, that's a bit strong, and perhaps it was an instance of "ministerial speaking" .. a term which always strikes me as ironic .. but it does convey a point.

So .. I was really shocked when I heard about the Gray Harvey case. Not only have I been active in churches for 45 years or so, in the SBC for 27+ years, but I spent 50 years in the Property & Casualty Insurance business, which is the line of business that covers stuff like employees stealing. So I know a bit about that.

For one thing, I doubt that the SBC insured employee theft. If they had, they would have been reimbursed for Mr. Harvey's theft, and I figure the insurance company would either have collected from the malefactor, or prosecuted. I DON'T figure they'd have let it die a natural, peaceful death.

The second thing I know is that most employee dishonesty policies have some sort of clause in them, which limits or eliminates any coverage for someone who's been convicted of stealing from an employer, someone who has ever had a claim paid on their behalf, or various other terminologies.

The guy who trained me up in that insurance discipline referred to it as the "Once a Thief, Always a Thief" clause.

Bottom line: Since Mr. Harvey admitted taking the money, in his contract to repay, there's a very serious possibility that the Starfish Agency's insurance may not cover what Mr. Harvey stole there. And, as I know what the profit margins are in a P&C agency, I figure there's no way they can ever repay the losses out of their own pocket. In my mind, there's a good possibility that the agency owner will have to sell it to pay off the debts. And, undoubtedly, the "book of business" would have lost value; perhaps a lot.

Tragedy upon tragedy. And in MY mind, it all came about because the IMB Trustees .. and Officers .. decided to:

A) Trust the word of an admitted thief that he'd repay hundreds of thousands of dollars to them. WHAT ON EARTH DID THEY EXPECT? That they'd keep it quiet so nobody else would know he was a thief .. so some unsuspecting employer would give him a job .. where his skillset was apparently in BOOKKEEPING (!!!) ... so he could make an HONEST living and pay them back? What kind of IDIOTIC thinking is THAT???

Which confirms, referring to the IMB BoT/Management, the saying on one of my favorite "Despair.Com" posters ...

"None Of Us Is As Dumb As ALL Of Us".

B) NOT render unto Caesar ... the government ... what was Caesar's to prosecute according to the law.... It seems to me they violated some scripture there; isn't the failure to report such a one tantamount to withholding from Caesar, that which ought to be rendered?

And THAT is the same BoT that didn't want Wade Burleson to talk about what he'd seen, that he objected to. Apparently the objectionable things ran far beyond the qualifications for being an IMB missionary.

If I was somebody like Sam Walton, and this sort of shenanigans had gone on in MY company, I'd fire the lot of them. But we're not supposed to compare how businesses are run, to the Lord's work.

Even when the businessmen are doing it a lot better and more honestly than the SBC.

***EDIT NOTE (SOME MORE RANTING)***

When I first saw about this on Wade Burleson's blog, it was stated that there were three reasons why it wasn't prudent to make the whole thing public, which would be the result of prosecuting Mr. Harvey. Quoting Wade's blog:

"First, it would possibly compromise our missionaries if prosecution occurred in the country where Gray lived when he took Lottie Moon and Cooperative Program monies. Second, we were about to begin the 2005 Lottie Moon emphasis, and negative publicity would hurt the offering. And, finally, an agreement had been reached that Gray Harvey would repay the IMB."

In order:

Compromise our missionaries in the country where Gray lived. He was an accountant in Istanbul. Is that a dangerous area for missionaries? Were others really in danger, if they'd taken him to court there? If they had to take him to court there? I really don't understand.

Compromising the Lottie Moon Offering, etc:

WHAT!?!?!? Don't these people realize that The Lottie Moon Offering and/or the CP are NOT their source of supply? Those dollars are all from money given to GOD (or else all that preaching about "render unto God..." is so much rhetoric). It's GOD we're supposed to please, not the churches! Apparently the IMB Trustees and Management People didn't trust GOD to supply their needs if they did the right thing. I could understand their actions a lot better, but I know that I, for one, TOLD THEM that in the 2006 Convention (with quivering voice and shaking knees); and I figure I must have uneathed the proverbial buried turnip, judging by the number of pastors who affirmed, to me personally, what I'd said. I cannot IMAGINE that the IMB does not know that God is their source of supply.

Finally, they had an agreement that he would repay them. So crime is ok as long as you pay it back. Or agree to. I don't know how long it was until he defaulted and they took the agreement to court to get a judgment against him .. could it be that he stuck with it just long enough to let some statutue of limitation, if there was one, expire? But trusting an admitted thief to repay? The longer I think about that, the more it smacks of terribly poor judgment on the part of the people who are supposed to be providing wise leadership and direction to the IMB.

Wow.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Just a Rehearsal for Sunday Heaven

In a previous post, I related the story of how the three outstanding Worship Leaders ended up having church with me & the Stepanov family in that apartment in Pskov. That happened on the last night of the trip to Russia, and whereas the rest of the FBC & LWC folks got on a plane and came back home, I drove back to Bauska, Latvia, with Aivars Berinski. That was on Saturday morning, and we had a terrific time of fellowship on the way .. both ways, in fact.

I even saw, and filmed, some actual storks in their nests atop power poles. I don't recall ever having seen any of them before, I suppose because I wasn't in the delivery room when our sons were born.

Since Friday had been Aivars' birthday, his choir/praise team had a party for him, in Aivars' & Nadia's apartment, Saturday night. I went along and they had an impromptu run-through of the music for the next day. I filmed a bit of it, and there was a "spine-tingling moment" about 45 seconds into the song, which I thought I'd show you.

What happened was, they started singing this praise chorus, and it was just, you know, singing. Quite lackluster. You can see that on their faces. But then, after 45 seconds or so, I panned the camera to the right, and you'll see a guy in a maroon shirt .. Normund Burmistrovs .. tap a guy next to him on the arm. In that instant, something changed in the room. It felt to me as if the Holy Spirit shifted gears .. it became more than singing, and turned into praise. I know it raised goose bumps all oooooover my booooooody, right then.

Check it out:



I'd gone to Bauska on a Friday, the 16th, and stayed a few days with the Stikuts. The night I arrived, they met to rehearse, at the church. Went along and took my camera with me, and am I glad I did. There are three little videos I'd like to show you. The first is rehearsal of one of the choruses, but rather than just play & repeat, Aivars will occasionally just play the chords and the rhythm, and let the singers just "sing a new song" .. just sing praises, worship, etc. I cannot describe the feeling present at those times.

The first session shows some of the singing interspersed with the times of worship. I think you can hear me in the background a couple times .. I had to hold the camera, but I just cound't keep still. So .. check it out:



The next one is mostly just "singing unto the Lord" .. and it blew me away, too.



You may have noticed, toward the left side in the prior 2 videos, a young lady in white slacks and a black coat. Her name is Karina Krasnova (now Burmistrovs; she subsequently married the guy in the maroon shirt from the first video), and you can tell she's really into worship. This time, while they were singing the song, not the impromptu stuff, she got on her knees to worship. I rarely see this much church, at church, and this was just a rehearsal! Check it out:



I'll put up a post about folks with whom I built those treasures of relationship, but I thought you might enjoy seeing these somewhat different "practice sessions".

For Heaven.

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