Strict//EN" ""> EAGLES' REST: August 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

He Is Not Ashamed

Interspersed among the following paragraphs are some pictures I took recently, while visiting one of the myriad of doctors who've labored over my body from time to time. I thought you might like to see them.

As it happens, my family physician is a Christian. That's how we came to know him, in fact; we went to church with him and with his wife. His wife's name is Peggy, and his Peggy and my Peggy became very good friends over the years.

But this post isn't about him. It's about Dr. Robert Gordon Sorrell .. the Orthopedic Surgeon who did my knee replacement in April 2006. I went to him on the recommendation of my son Brian, who had worked for an Orthopedic Surgeon, and who stated Dr. Sorrell's skill set was the leading one in this area, when it came to knee replacements. As I recall, Brian also mentioned that Dr. Sorrell is a Christian.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13, TNIV

I also like him because I can remember how to spell his first and middle names. They're the same as mine.

We mentioned we were believers, when we first visited him, and he did, indeed, pray with us before the surgery. But that doesn't seem to be a pushy thing with him .. he hasn't prayed with us since (which is OK), but he's the most unashamedly Christian doctor I know.

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life...
Matthew 7:14, TNIV

In every one of his patient exam rooms, there are pictures of his family .. mostly his daughters .. and they are all laced with scriptures. While the photos included herein may not be the sharpest .. I took them with my cell phone camera .. they do reveal how "connected" with scripture he is. And, as I posted about previously, he connects the ways of his family with scripture, in a wonderful example of just how meaningful Proverbs 3:5 and 6 really are.

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered ...
Luke 12:7a (TNIV)

Dr. Sorrell and his family aren't Baptists. I don't recall for certain, but I think they go to an independent church. I don't know if he's a partial preterist, a supra- or infra-lapsarian, holds to any of the points called calvinist, whether his church has open or closed communion, or much else about the finer points of him belief system. But I do know this: He's sure not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ .. the one that's the power of God, unto salvation!

You got to love a doctor like that. And, while he's a great physician, I figure he's also in touch with The Great Physician in a way that makes me really comfortable being treated by that Partnership.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Detachment. Reattachment. Freedom. Praise.

A fellow blogger used the term "Roller Coaster Ride", for what her life was about to resemble in light of her plans. Well .. I have been on one of those for forty-plenty years now. And something just jelled in my mind, mostly in reflection on Wade Burleson's post concerning the suicide of one of Emmanuel's members, and, considering I haven't thought all that much about the germ of an idea that invaded my brainspace, I'll be interested to find out what I have to say.

That happens a lot, particularly since I have gotten older.

I struggled a lot, with a lot of things, when new at the Christian thing. I'd been saved at 7 or 8 or 9 ... at whatever age one went to VBS back in the 1940's ... and God had finally lassoed me and dragged me into the active church thing in the early 1960's. And I've been at it ever since.

First, I struggled with whether I really believed or not. Whether I believed all the right stuff. Whether I'd done what I was supposed to. But then, one day, God pointed out to me that the very fact I was struggling with what I believed, and not with whether the Bible was true, Jesus was the only way, repentance over sin, etc, was itself proof that A) I knew Jesus was the only Savior, and B) I had to stop trusting in whether I got it all just right, and start trusting the One Whom I knew to be the only Savior I could ever have.

So, must of the hugga-mugga that's gone on since then has been trying to get it all right, here. Do what I should. And that's OK, but it's endlessly frustrating to see all that goes on around me, all that doesn't happen in my own life, and think of just how good God is at what He does, and just how good Jesus is at what He did, and just how good the Holy Ghost is at what He does today .. and then compare that to what happens here.

I am glad I'm not God.

Perhaps it is that we still don't comprehend the sovereignty of God. Perhaps we don't understand how He could that He WILL weave this all together. Perhaps we don't understand that all we can do is to do our part, and ... thinking of the old thought "means to an end" ... we have no dominion over the end. God has given us the means, we have no control over the ends, and every time we proclaim we're claiming a community for Christ, or demand God "give us the nations", we're setting ourselves up for failure.

And setting ourselves up to fail again, for what we've proclaimed we're going to do vs. what any observer could see happening.

For 20 years or so, I've shared Proverbs 3:5-6 with new Deacons, during our ordination services. I'm not sure I understood it all that time, as I understand it now, which is as follows;

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." (NIV)

I am nowhere near a scholar in any language, but I know how to get Strong's definitions, and the word "acknowledge" is, in the original, yada, which means "to know, properly to ascertain by seeing...".

Seems to me this is like entering a room, seeing you there, and calling your name. That'd be acknowledging you. Seems, to me, we're supposed to ascertain God by seeing Him in all our ways! Maybe that's the essence of a Biblical wordview. See everything as though Jesus Himself were residing in a little leather box-thing on our forehead or left hand, so that everything we saw or did, we'd see Him right there.

Hmm .. He really is there, anyway, right?

Being an old Presbyterian (read 5-pointer), I'm accustomed to thinking in terms of God's sovereignty, as a starting point, and going from there. When I get all verklempt about my circumstances, it's normally because I've lost sight of that most fundamental of Calvinistic thoughts.

So: what hit me this morning is that idea that I've had to stop thinking of Spiritual matters in light of what's going on around me. I have to detach myself from viewing scripture in light of current events. And I have to latch onto the principal of always, always looking at what's happening in light of scripture. In light of a risen Savior. In light of a present and indwelling Holy Spirit.

What a freeing thought. What a cause of rejoicing! Of worship! Of praise!

Who could but worship such a God, Who .. regardless of what my eyes see around me .. loves me and wants to bless me, usually more than I want to be blessed by Him?

The world's full of the sort of ugliness that's typified by suicide. It's called sin, and I only wish God had told us just how pervasive and shocking and horrible and troubling that's going to be, as long as we're shuffling around earth.

Oh. Wait.

He did.

What a God!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

REVIVALS!!! .... and why I don't like them....

I was a Christian for a lot of years, before I became a Baptist. And, it wasn't until I became a Baptist that I ever went to a "revival".

Or was in a church that had one.

And, after 28 years, I don't like "revivals" .. at least not the approach Baptists seem to have, to them.

My firm belief is that the Christian who wants to follow his Lord, can do so. Certainly we have trouble with our old sin nature, as long as we are alive on earth. But, any way you slice it, "revival" indicates something needs to be revived. And to think that Baptists need to have their faith "die" in a manner that needs revival seems, to me, to be setting folks up for failure.

It's as if we expect folks to need to be revived once a year. Or maybe every other year, and all at once, apparently.

The verse that's cited is usually 2 Chronicles 7:14....

"...... if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (NIV)

On its face, if applied to the church congregation, it says that folks have turned from following Christ, to their old wicked ways, and need to get back to God. I'd wonder why the average pastor would tell folks in the congregation that he thought that. Unless they had, which doesn't say much for his opinion of his own preaching. But there's something else about that verse that makes me question its use in that situation.

The verse cited above comes after a comma, and what goes before is this:

"When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people..." (NIV)

So. When a preacher speaks forth 2 Chronicles 7:14, he's declaring that God has shut up the heavens so there's no rain, that He's commanded the locusts to devour the land, or that He's sent a plague among us. Or the Spiritual equivalent of that. Do we expect that to happen every year or so, in the average SBC church?

If it actually happens in a church, something would be drastically wrong, methinks. And doubly so if the pastor thinks that's happened when it hasn't.

Were I sitting around philosophizing about religions, I think I'd want one in which we really could walk with the Savior. In which conformity to the Image set before us, really is possible.

Of course I know we can never achieve perfection in our walk with Christ, and of course I know we'll need forgiveness every day of our earthly lives. Although perfection (as in Jesus' life) isn't attainable, it can surely be our goal. And the tools God has graciously shown us in His word ... prayer, meditation, forgiveness, teaching, reproof, correction, restoration ... all of them, seem to me to be sufficient to let us lead a life of devotion to Him. Without that need for annual revival.

NOW: on our first mission trip to Jamaica, our trip coincided with a week of "Evangelistic Services", which looked just like what we call "revival". They were just like they sounded, except they turned the loudspeakers around so they faced out the windows. And they had a fine harvest.

So, maybe we ought to call them what Red Hills Baptist Church calls them. What they really are. Evangelistic Services. And stop telling our people they're going to get all backslidden and need to be "revived".

Oh yeah .. is there anything weirder than praying for God to send revival ... next month?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

What If He Really Means It?

See, I was having this discussion, about various things, with my pastor a few days back. We were sitting on the front pew, after one of our "Revival services" where Ray Jones and his crew were leading.

It'd been an outstanding evening.

I was moved ask Bro. Mike "What if God really means what He says?" Then I explained I didn't mean "Yeah .. sure .. it's the Word of God"; what I meant was His saying exactly what He means, and meaning exactly what He says.

No "Yes .. but a loving God would never ...".

What if?

The case we were verbally dancing around was a couple facing the likelihood of divorce. What if God really really means that, if you divorce your wife for any reason other than marital unfaithfulness, and if you marry another woman, you really are committing adultery? And ditto for the person marrying such a divorced woman?

And why would we think that we won't have to stand personally before God and answer for that, some day ("Payday Someday", anyone...?) ... or answer for telling someone that "under their circumstances", it's "OK" to go ahead and get a divorce?

During our discussion, the term "biblical grounds" (for divorce) came up. I question that; I'm not at all sure that marital infidelity gives us someone a "pass" to divorce the guilty spouse. The passage we were discussing dealt only with marital unfaithfulness, and its effect on whether the parties would be committing adultery were they to marry later. That passage simply does not address Jesus' own statement of "let no man put asunder...", nor does it seem to indicate God doesn't hate divorce, even in those cases.

Maybe one reason we're not seeing the sort of power so easy to spot in Acts 2 & 3 is that we're taking His Word lightly, in deference to the preferences and urges of man.

Sinful man.

Then I read Psalm 23 and see that we need fear NO evil. And I also think back to years of prayer requests from people who have an appointment Monday morning to get the results of their tests, and they are fearful of the results. Yeah .. I do it too .. but all the time reminding myself of what God says, and acknowledging that any fear I have is a result of my sin, which keeps me from trusting God fully in such matters.

Make that in all matters. He did say ... in Proverb 3 ... that we should trust Him with ALL our hearts, didn't He?

I think that means ALL.

What if He really means some of the other stuff He says in the Bible, when He says....
  • that He really does hate divorce ...
  • that, when someone re-marries with their ex never having committed unchastity, that they really are committing adultery ...
  • we can ask forgiveness as we forgive those who sin against us....
  • That we really aren't forgiven when we carry grudges or nurse old wounds ...
  • that Deacons really must lead their families in a Godly way ...
  • that our tongues really are set on fire of hell when we gossip ...
  • that we really are in danger of hellfire when we call someone a "fool" ...
  • that God really is working for good, in all things, for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, and we sit here whining about the stock market, housing prices, or thre job picture ...
  • that those with the faith of mustard seeds would see mountains move, and here we sit debating (sometimes heatedly) whether this or that "gift" has passed, usually because we think that, if God hasn't done it for us, then He doesn't do it for anybody, any more.
  • that those who would be first, had best be the servants of all, while here?
I guess I could go on, and I bet you could, too.

What if He really does mean everything He's told us?

What if.......

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The GCRD Task Force: A Personal Rant

I'm all for doing things well, and even for stopping your wood-chopping, from time to time, to sharpen your ax. But there's something about the GCRD Task Force that I really don't get.

First, I'm guessing the impetus behind it is the trend we're seeing in several "key indicators" across the SBC. Things like seminary enrollment, church growth/attendance, baptisms, shortage of money almost everywhere, and statistics on divorce etc, which rival the unchurched. I'm sure you can add other things to the list.

If that's the case, I have to ask how SBC entity structure has a lot to do with that. I have to ask whether the organizational structure of NAMB and IMB affect the local church's effort to evangelize the lost, and to encourage their membership to be faithful in their giving and their daily actions as Christians.

On the matter of Baptisms: that seems the responsibility of the local church. The church ... not the SBC/IMB/NAMB/SWBTS, etc etc ... and the responsibility stems from Bibical instructions to the local church. Hence, I fail to see where the greater entity can bear responsibility for local members reaching neighbors, local preachers preaching the gospel, and souls being led to faith in Jesus, locally. AND being discipled as to how they are to live their lives as Christians.

As to membership vs attendance: doesn't that say something about what's happening from the pulpits? And in church discipline? And about "membership requirements"; i.e. how the churches are receiving members?

As to giving, the CP, all that: if we really believe what we preach about God being our source of supply, shouldn't we view the whole money thing as being a reflection on how the local churches are discipling people, etc.? Which might well have a direct effect on God's favoring the local work with the money it thinks it needs to carry out its task?

If those things are true, what does the "denominational structure" of the SBC have to do with it? It seems to me that a key to all this is what the SBC expects of its member churches, and I think Les Puryear is onto something (in a roundabout way) in his dissertations about the scarcity of small-church leaders' involvement in the high profile boards he's been blogging about. While I think there is ample good reason to choose larger church pastors (that'd be another blog post, though), the tendency to appoint those from the larger churches speaks to me about what the SBC expects of its' member churches.

Grow and get big.

Methinks the GCRD and the Task Force, with its projects in hand, is a lot like the rocking chairs in front of Cracker Barrel (or, as Ed Stetzer puts it, the Garage Sale with Food...): they're going to give some people something to do, but they're not going to take anybody anywhere.