Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> EAGLES' REST: March 2009

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Dichotomy of Technology: Just When I Thought I'd Heard It All..

I can't wait to see what I write. I don't see any way to tie this to Spiritual things, but who knows? Perhaps God will drop something into my brainspace.

I just heard a commercial (as I start this..) advertising a Website you could go to, and book a tee time at any one of scads of different golf courses around the USA. OK, technology; no big deal. But, the last line the announcer spoke really, REALLY got my attention:

"Booking a tee time is now as easy as booking a flight".

HUH?

Well that was my reaction, at least. And then I recalled how easy it is, now, to book a flight. But my initial reaction was completely different; here's why:

From 1975 to 1984, I traveled all over the country almost all the time. 9 years, 100 airports, 30-some states, 3 countries. And that was long before the internet, E-tickets, or any of the wonders that have become so routine they are now just "conveniences".

We complain about having to walk up to a machine at the Terminal, sticking in a credit card, and having it print out our boarding pass and luggage tags for ourselves. Well, I was raised in traveling in a time when you called the airlines and made your reservations (unless you wanted to use a travel agent), and in those times, it was certainly more difficult to book a flight, than what it is, today.

In fact, we subscribed to the OAG .. the Official Airline Guide .. a humongous book they'd print and send our company every few weeks. It listed all the flights that there were, city by city, and it was an easy matter to find where you wanted to go, find the flights you'd need to catch to get there, and make the arrangements. Using it, we could build flight connections that didn't depend on the airlines to establish, and we could usually get where we wanted to be, when we wanted to be there, with minimal layover time, etc.

But it did take a bit of use, and a bit of time.

NOW ... I'm told that I can book a tee time at some golf resort in Tucumcari, New Mexico, as easy as I can book a flight? THAT'S the standard for ease, now?

Yup.

Wow.

I wonder. When Jesus approached the guys hanging around the waterfront .. the fishermen .. and told them to follow Him, He seems to have made it a bit difficult. Some said they wanted to bury relatives; some wanted to tell them goodbye. He was particularly hard on those guys. And He also told them that animals had places to call their own, but when you went with Jesus, you wouldn't. He was going to be pretty much it.

We know now, that when you are down to just Jesus, you're going to find He was what you needed all along. But back then, how did they know that?

How could they know that?

Nonetheless, some saw, and some followed. And as a result, you and I are followers, today.

When I look at the church today, I have to wonder: have we made it as easy as "booking a flight"? Is there any sense of leaving something behind when someone "makes a commitment", or "invites Jesus into their heart"?

I don't know. But when I see the church in Acts, and the churches for which Paul, Silas and the others endured such hardships and went to such lengths, I'm prompted to look at the church today. And you know the statistics ... 16.4 million members ... 5-6 million actually here ... 80/20 or 85/15 ... trouble finding enough nursery workers or VBS teachers.

You've heard them all, too, I suspect.

Does that sound like the guys who got up off the sand and left their boats behind? Or like the ones gathered in the upper room (if that's what it was) when the Holy Ghost dropped by and set the world on its ear? The ones that caused such an uproar that one of their guys ... Peter ... stood up and set out a couple minutes' dissertation on their condition, and Jesus, resulting in several thousand wanting to be saved? At a time when people were scared .. even one noted disciple .. to be identified with Jesus?

Come to Jesus ... as easy as booking a flight? Or getting a Tee Time at some golf course, somewhere?

I think not.

I really think not.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Blogs, Baptists, and Dr.Paige Patterson

There is something that has bothered me for a couple of years, and I think it's time I vented about it.

There is much about Dr. Patterson with which I disagree:
  • After spending several hours visiting with Dr. Klouda in her home, last summer, hearing her entire story first- hand, seeing in person the toll that her dismissal has taken on her and her family, and searching the scriptures and my own heart, I think what happened to her was beyond an outrage and I have had to fight the effects that has had on my thinking about Dr. Patterson.
  • I listened to his dissertation on why he is not a Dortian Calvinist ... that was the first SBC function I ever attended .. the "debate" with Dr. Mohler in Greensboro, 2006. Sure wish I could've debated him; he said some things that really upset me.
  • I've talked personally with Dr. Ken Hemphill, and I've heard enough about the events surrounding Dr. Dilday's dismissal at SWBTS, to have formed opinions about the things Wade Burleson outlined in his book as attributable to forces led by Dr. Patterson.
  • I see the "Conservative Resurgence" as a military/political (not to say subversive) solution to Spiritual problems, and from the perspective of years, it's not difficult to see the collateral damage that was done.
So, let's just say I might not be personally fond of Dr. Patterson. But Dr. Patterson is who he is, and he has done what he has done .. good and bad, as is the case with all of us. Every one. As far as I know, he earned that doctorate and he has earned the respect of the position, and he should be referred to as Dr. Patterson.

We're told to love one another. We're told one of the real external evidences of our relationship with Jesus is the love we SHOW for one another. Yet week after week, I see people referring to Dr. Patterson as "Paige", "Patterson", "PP", or perhaps other non-specific but highly pejorative terms.

He is DR. PATTERSON and he should be referred to as such, and certainly, most particularly, by those who are not personal friends of his.

We claim to be Christians and followers of Jesus and yet we show disrespect, which certainly reflects a lack of love, to those with whom we disagree. Are we to love, and show respect for, only those with whom we agree; those of whose actions we approve?

It'd be a pretty poor church if that were the case.

I'm not for giving objectionable behavior a "free pass" .. but holding people accountable for their actions should be done by those in a position to do so; Trustees, Elders, Officers and the like. Me sitting at my keyboard is not one of them, and the difficulties in the system which have generated much of the content of, and the need for, HARDBALL RELIGION may never be changed. But God, in His wisdom, prescribes for us the means we are to use. The ends, those are beyond our control and we get into trouble when we depart from His means to try to cause the "end" we want to see.

Paul speaks of crucifying the flesh. To me, that means rejecting the tendencies of our nature, toward sin and self-centeredness, and treating others they way Jesus would have us to do. And that includes all the references to loving others and showing it, as well as Romans 14:4: "Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." (NIV)

This isn't just about Dr. Patterson. It's about the lost world ... hellooo ... the ones you and I are supposed to be reaching ... and what that lost world sees as being the church. And that, friends, is you and me!

Wondering why all the problems in the SBC? Let's all start by looking in the mirror. It might just take a while to work our way up to "Leadership".

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Book Review: HARDBALL RELIGION: Feeling the Fury of Fundamentalism

THE BOOK: Hardball Religion .. Feeling the Fury of
Fundamentalism


THE AUTHOR: Rev. Wade Burleson, Pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid, OK

THE PUBLISHER: Smyth & Helwys, Macon, GA

In "Hardball Religion", Wade Burleson recounts the story of his involvement in, and how he was treated as a member of, the Board of Trustees of the International Mission Board; treated by those in positions of authority on the Board, as well as by fellow Trustees. His original differences with the Board concerned the "narrowing of parameters" for qualification as an IMB Missionary, and all the ramifications Burleson sees as flowing therefrom (i.e.: requiring re-baptizing of candidates whose baptism met their SBC churches' standards, but not the IMB's new standard, which Burleson sees as an infringement on the local churches' autonomy).

The format of the book is the simple telling of his story, from the run-up to his appointment to the IMB BoT, through to the time following his censure and resignation. And, it is interspersed with observations as to other symptoms of, and the effects, in human terms, of the restrictive changes made by those in leadership positions of the institutions involved.

One of those inclusions is the trail of events which, taken together, speak of an organized effort to oust IMB President Jerry Rankin; another is the concerted efforts to get rid of women in positions which some people, in positions of power, want to fill with men.

A FEW OBSERVATIONS:

CREDIBILITY: This, frankly, may be a hindrance to some folks who read this book. Those who oppose the "Landmark characteristics" of the new guidelines of the IMB, or who differ with the opinions of those identified as "B.I" people, will tend to agree with the story in toto; others will probably disagree with Burleson's more subjective observations, such as the motivations or intentions of those opposing his efforts, and what those people are trying to accomplish.

As for me, I find his story credible. I say that for more than one reason. EXAMPLE: In Chapter 18, Burleson recounts his presentation of a particular motion at the Annual Convention in Greensboro, NC. His motion called for an ad hoc committee of the SBC itself (not just the IMB) to investigate certain practices at the IMB, and their BoT, including (among other things) practices in appointing trustees hand-picked to alter the directions of the involved organization. The Committee on the Order of Business simply referred his motion to the IMB, to investigate and report back next year (I said at the time, that was like asking the class bully if he's bullying people). As I recall, someone moved that Wade's motion be acted on by the convention as a whole, so it was scheduled for discussion in the evening session.

By way of explanation, it's necessary to include herein the fact that I spoke to that motion. I told the convention that the allegations (narrowing parameters, "stacking" boards, etc) were so serious that, if the SBC itself didn't address them, and do it now, that we're apt to come back a year later and find that the Holy Spirit had departed (much as He did King Saul, who went right on being King, since he'd "learned how"). I said Burlesons's allegations were such that, if they were true, there was a BIG problem, and if NOT, there was still a BIG problem!

The motion to bring it back out for a vote failed, and that was that.

After the meeting, my wife Peggy and I went to the Convention Hotel; as we were approaching the door, someone shouted "Hey ... isn't he the guy that spoke up for Wade?" That was, in fact, IMB Trustee Bill Sutton, a pastor from McAllen, TX, prominently mentioned in the book. I told him yes, I'd addressed the motion, and he proceeded to lambaste Burleson in a manner I thought reprehensible for any Christian, let alone a pastor!. And he divulged factual, behind-closed-doors information that he never should have said to a stranger from Alabama.

During the encounter (Peg had fled inside the hotel, to pray), Burleson walked up behind Sutton. Although I'm sure he'd heard some of what Sutton had said, Burleson was completely friendly and irenic, putting his arm around Sutton and saying "We're going to get through this, brother..". Unfortunately, Sutton did not return the friendliness, that I could see, and in fact continued his attacks after Burleson had gone on into the hotel.

That's necessary to explain, as it validates, for me, Burleson's statements about Sutton's actions (Sutton had even verified to me, what Burleson reports Sutton said to him in the hallway). And Burleson's demeanor in that personal encounter also leads me to believe that Burleson actually did conduct himself in a gracious courteous manner in dissenting, which he claims to have done.

My thoughts are also supported by what I have seen and heard, from many of the friends I've made in the SBC, since my first involvement in 2006, at Greensboro.

BOTTOM LINE: For me, the book is credible. Hence, the allegations are believable.

READABILITY: It was an enjoyable read, almost like Burleson sitting there telling a story. I think readers will find it interesting, if only from the standpoint that surprising and outrageous behaviors .. especially for a bunch of religious folks .. seem to keep cropping up every few pages.

PERSONAL OPINIONS:

I AGREE WITH BURLESON'S PREMISE .. about the narrowing of what it means to be a Southern Baptist. As a Baptist who holds to the doctrinal system described as "Calvinistic", and one who also has what's described as a "Prayer Language", efforts to achieve "extra-BFM" uniformity are objectionable to me. Burleson's ideas on principled dissent also seem correct and appropriate, to me. And I've personally talked to people whose lives have been affected, not to say devastated, by the trends and actions Burleson decries.

IS THE BATTLE WORTH FIGHTING? Not mine to say. One of the cornerstones of my Calvinistic leanings is that I'm not responsible to bring about the results of my efforts: that's up to God. I'm not supposed to teach or witness based upon my estimation of whether those around me will learn or get saved. So I cannot deny the appropriateness of Burleson's actions, as described in the book. His seems a noble battle in these matters.

HAS HIS ADDRESSING THESE ISSUES HAD AN EFFECT? This one's easy. Peg and I and another blogger were sitting at a restaurant at Riverwalk in San Antonio. during the 2007 SBC Convention. We were approached by two young people who called me by name; they'd recognized my picture from my blog, and had read it, as well as seen my comments on Burleson's blog. They were IMB missionaries, and said they wanted to thank us for what were were doing .. that we were, in our blogging, helping their cause!

DO I THINK THE REFORMS HE SEEMS TO SEEK .. THE GOALS HE SEEMS TO PRESS TOWARD .. WILL HAPPEN? No, I don't think so. And for my reasons, consider some of what I see as some of his "money quotes".
  • Page 19: "Sadly, many times the majority simply doesn't care about the integrity of its leaders".
  • Page 57: "The Southern Baptist Convention needs and demands transparency, the free flow of information, the ability to dissent, and cooperation in the midst of differences on tertiary issues".
  • Page 69: "I still cannot understand why the average Southern Baptist, not to mention pastors and leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, are all remaining silent as they watch a small nucleus of Southern Baptists rotate from one trustee board to another -- all placed there by an oligarchy of Southern Baptist leaders led by Paige Patterson."
  • Page 77: "If we're not careful, we are going to lose a younger generation of pastors that are disillusioned with the SBC because all they see is the continuing narrowing of the parameters of fellowship within our convention".

Taken as a whole, therein lies the tale. The Convention needs openness and transparency, but the pastors in the pulpits, and the people in the pew, don't seem to care. So they deal with their own monsters where they are, and send their money off to Lottie and Annie and the CP, and "leave well enough alone".

The younger generation? I don't think I have the time to count the ones who have checked out.

So who's left to care? Read the book, and get acquainted with a few.

Including a too-lonely pastor from Enid, OK.

NOTE:"HARDBALL RELIGION; Feeling the Fury of Fundamentalism" by Wade Burleson is now available for purchase: you can order a copy direct from Smyth & Helwys HERE.

Eternal Submission of the Son?

There's been a lot of back & forth in Blogdom on the subject of "submission" lately ... eternal submission (or subordination) of the Son, to the Father. I think I'd like to weigh in on that, albeit I'm speaking only as a layman who doesn't like "canned answers".

It seems that some want to use the Biblical reference to God being the Head of Christ, and the reference of the man being the head of the woman, to cause a general drift toward some perceived biblical mandate that women be eternally submissive to men.

As a totally gratuitous aside, good luck with that, guys; sounds to me like a pretty good recipe for CELIBACY!

I am nowhere NEAR educated enough, qualified, or smart enough to exigete, or parse(if one of those is the right term) the word "head" in that passage, and besides, Paul Burleson already did a good job of that. Well, come to think of it, my saying that about Paul's dissertation is about like my saying Alabama Power's Farley Nuclear Plant is in good working order. But it looks good to me, anyway, and this much I do know:

1) Jesus' will .. as a man walking around Earth, in human flesh, was NOT to die. Not to go through the crucifixion and the "separation" He knew would follow. He asked His Father to let that cup pass Him by, but then He denied His own will by saying "..not My will but Thine."

The Baptist Faith and Message says, of Jesus, that He "....(took) upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin." If, in His human body, He'd wanted to die, I don't see that as identifying completely with mankind.

2) It seems to me that, for me to submit to your will, my will must be different. If you were to order me to eat one of Peg's BBQ Corned Beef sandwiches, I'd do it, but I wouldn't be submitting to YOUR (or ANYBODY'S) will ... I'm ALWAYS ready to do THAT! But, if Peg asked me to eat a mountain oyster sandwich, doing so would be a REAL act of submission.

3) The way I see it, Jesus is in heaven now, and the crucifixion is over. He said it was finished, and I believe it. So ... I see no way His will would be different from God's will, now; lacking that, where's the subordination?

4) In Hebrews 1:8, God calls Jesus "God". The word is Theos. I think that means Jesus is GOD.

Hence, I don't see any way Jesus The Son must be "eternally submissive"... or subordinate ... to the Father. And there is simply no need.

What I can see, though, is why men would certainly like to see that in scripture. But I don't buy it.

ps. If my logic is all wacko, please refer to the above link to Paul Burleson's blog, with this thought in mind:

What he said.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Faint Memories. Thundering Echoes.

It was the spring of 1970. I'd been invited by my mentor, Charlie Spicer, to take part in a group of 12, desiring to receive training on how to be more obedient to God in our lives. The Course was called "Shamgar", named after the son of Anath, mentioned in Judges 3:31.

It seems Shamgar had slain 600 Philistines with an oxgoad, basically a pointed stick, and the Bible says that he, too, delivered Israel. The idea was to train us, as businessmen, teachers, contractors, to use whatever we had in our hands, in God's work. To slay some modern-day Philistines, as it were.

We went away to a Campground in Southern Indiana, one weekend a month. On the third weekend .. April, 1970 .. we had a directed study in which we were given ordinary words, and told to look at them with Spiritual eyes. My word was "Engineer".

I went to a cabin and sat on the steps, overlooking a beautiful valley. I could hear cows and churchbells in the distance. After taking it all in, I looked at the word and began to write. The following is, verbatim, what I wrote that Sunday morning.

"ENGINEER:

Credentials: Degree
Man's science
No appreciation .. detachment
I see no part of what man has done that I wouldn't change
All man's works have added not one bit. Even the fantastic cathedrals"

"Birds - Dove - Crow - Bluejay - 9 other identifiable
Terrain - birds flying - Trees - leaves - purple bushes - grass - flowers
Appreciation - Blue Sky -
Sunlight - Surely God is close.
Sound of bells. Breeze - Invigorating
Cool------------
The Master Engineer"

"Why would this be beautiful - invigorating - inspiring - except that God made us and chose us-------"

"An engineer:
  1. Receives education
  2. Places himself in a service situation
  3. accumulates data on the existing situation
  4. Accumulates data on the desired product, relative to its purpose and its performance
  5. Analyzes and prescribes procedures - computer utilization - necessary to assure the product's compliance with standards
  6. Today's professional standards require him to follow through and insure that procedures are followed and that the product will meet standards and can be used for the job
A Christian:
  1. Receives spiritual food from God's word and meditation
  2. Offers his whole self to God's service
  3. Sizes up spiritual conditions - personal - community, etc -
  4. Compares them with God's plan for the community and the individual
  5. Analyzes - using God' s computer - The Holy Spirit - the necessary procedures to attain the gal - education, prayer, witnessing
  6. Follows up . he gives God his legs, etc."

"I feel like writing.

I am consumed by the absolute beauty, harmony, and peace of God's Kingdom in nature. The trees - birds - flowers - sun - sky - terrain - leaves - obviously planned by the absolute Master.

I am startled to realize that I appreciate this. That it gets down inside me and consumes, engrosses, pulls, enraptures, and amazes me.

I feel disgust for what natural man does because I see no evidence of what man has done, that doesn't need re-doing, revision, upkeep, or removal. The air becomes polluted because of man's misdirected attempts to "better" himself. The steps on which I sit need paint and are neither level nor comfortable (though that's not really relevant). Building sag, door's won't close, paint peels, pavement crumbles, all need removal, repair, replacement etc.

God's life goes on, inter-reacts - inter-feeding - reproducing. It is glorious.

3 years ago nature did nothing for me. I was Hot Rod Magazine, Slot Racing, movies, concrete pavement, Room additions.

2 things are necessary for me to feel so engrossed by what God has done ---

  1. I am a product of God. His design.
  2. HE has chosen to awaken me. Oh, God.......
I hope I can live up to what God has for me. I pray for the strength, guidance, love ----

Oh God, may I always be this close to You."

"THE BIBLE FALLS OPEN TO REV. 2:19. "I KNOW YOUR WORKS; YOUR LOVE, AND FAITH AND SERVICE AND PATIENT ENDURANCE. AND THAT YOUR LATTER WORKS EXCEED THE FIRST."

"OF COURSE - LOVE & FAITH ARE GIFTS --- SERVICE AND ENDURANCE ARE WHAT WE DO WITH THEM.

PRAISE GOD.

LET'S GO!"


39 years later, I am still amazed. Now more than ever.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Simple Majesty

We had a visitor in our neighbor's yard a few minutes ago:


Peg alerted me so I grabbed my camera and snapped some photos. Then I downloaded them to my computer and had a look at this one. I was immediately struck by the simple majesty of God's creation. It was just as it came into the world ... no theology ... no discussions ... no disputes ... no political correctness. It was simply what God had made, the way God had made it, and it was glorious.

That got me to thinking of a couple other creations God made. One was the earth:



We all know how beautiful it is, despite man's best efforts to foul the landscape, the air, and the water. But if you think it's messed up, fly over the Grand Canyon, at 5,000 feet, on some sunny day. Or get up at 5:30 a.m. in Puerto Jimenez and watch the sun rise over the Costa Rican mountains. Or even stand at the overlook on Red Hills Road in Kingston, Jamaica, and see how a city .... even the world's murder capital ... can be beautiful when bathed in moonlight.

One really strange thing is that the world was made for man:




Man wasn't made for the world. Yet the messes we see on earth, which hide the beauty of what God made, come mostly from man. One can only imagine how beautiful Adam and Eve must have been when God first created them. I know a lot of beautiful people here on earth, but the thought that mankind has messed up a lot of the beauty, via our sin, makes me wonder just how beautiful man must be when the results of sin, in our earthly bodies, are gone.

God is pretty plain that His crowning creation was man. Perhaps it is, that only in heaven, sin but a memory, will we see the extent of, and the real beauty of, men and women.

The majesty of God's creation: if we can see it in a bird, how much more will we see it in man?

ps: We can get a hint of it by seeing how much more beauty we see in people as God applies the Word to their lives and their beings, and causes them to look more and more like the WORD Who became flesh.


Sunday, March 01, 2009

Kids Playing in Snow Can Be SOOO Cute...

As you can see from all the pics up everywhere, we had some snow this morning. Now, I confess that I was in Syracuse about 30 years ago on business and they had MORE snow one evening while I was at dinner, and they didn't even MENTION IT on the 10pm News. Not even in the Weather Segment!

Anyway, there was 4" or so of the fluffystuff lying around on the ground when we got home, so my kids went out and made a snowman after dinner. You don't see many, often, around here, so it's worthy of a post.




Did I mention my kids are 45 and 48? At least my grandson was there, too. He's only 24.