Thursday, September 24, 2009

Owner's Manuals, Blueprints, and the Like.

I was having a conversation with Wes Kenney, on Facebook, a couple of days ago, and mentioned a post I was contemplating. He made an observation (about auto Owner's Manuals), that sealed the deal and prompted me to write some stuff.

My Toyota Prius has an impressive Owner's Manual. It has 508 pages, all oriented at making sure I know how to enjoy the car, and get the highest and best possible use out of it. And there are a number of pages printed for the seemingly express purpose of warning me against dangerous activities with the car, so that I'll be without excuse if I get it all wrong and hurt myself.

508 pages.

But wait .. there's MORE! There's a 24 page booklet called the "Scheduled Maintenance Guide", I'm guessing so I can take care of it to assure long life.

And even that's not all .. there's this 148 page book specifically on how to use the Navigation System, which will happily tell me how to navigate to my final destination. IF I learn how to use it.

There are some other things, too: there's a 29 page pamphlet called the "Quick Reference Guide" (I guess so I can skip the meat of the big book and just hit enough highlights to get me going...), a "2008 Navigation Quick Reference Guide" ... presumably for the same purpose, and then there's this 52 page booklet that tells me what my rights are, under the warranty.

All in all, the books are quite thorough, and came with the car. From the people who invented, designed, engineered, manufactured, delivered, and maintain my Toyota. The ones who want it to be a good example, so others will be attracted to Toyota.

Hmmm .. Designer .. Engineer .. Manufacturer .. Deliverer .. Maintainer .. Provider of Guidance .. sorta sounds like someone else I know.

Make that Some One!

From what I know, God Himself designed us, engineered us, manufactured us, delivered us, and maintains us. And guides us, in the process.

In fact, He seems to have used the entirety of His Person ... Father, Son, and Holy Spirit .. to do that!

The word of the LORD came to me, saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart ...(Jeremiah 1:4-5, NIV)


Unless that was a one-time-only deal, He did the same for me. Design. Engineer. Manufacture.

He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.(Psalms 144:2, NIV)

Deliverer, indeed.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. (Isaiah 46:4, NIV)

Sounds like my Maintenance Department, to me. Even providing Emergency Road service, apparently.

The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (Hebrews 1:3, NIV)

Hey, not just me, either. The whole world!

Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. (Proverbs 4:10-11, NIV)

Sounds like some great Guidance System, to me.

SO. The point that Wes made, in the chat, was that we're even one step more, like this, than I'd been thinking. His point was: Most people seem to leave the owner's manual in the glove compartment until something goes wrong, and then we drag it out but can't figure out how to use it.

So there we sit, broken car, too late to learn how to use the manual. Isn't that just like us?

In our own family .. Peg and I .. we've seen the results of studying up before something goes "boom". We've both had cancer, and as I told my Sunday School Class for about 8 years, the relationship .. the dependence .. we have to fall back on, in those times, is what we built up when we didn't "need it". Plain truth is, we always need to depend on the Lord, because we always do depend on Him, whether we know it or not. If we don't get familiar with Him in the good times, we're going to suffer for it in the bad ones.

Besides all the other things He did, and does, for us, Jesus also invented the term "abundant life". I'd imagine He knows what goes into one of them. And that He'd have left us instructions on how to have one.

He does. And He did. So get to know the Manual. You'll get to know Him in the process, far better than I'll ever get to know Toyota.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sometimes It's The Babies....

.... who do the throwing.

There's been a comment thread of interest to me, on another blog, about Anne Graham Lotz. It concerned an interview, with Ms. Lotz, published by Time Magazine, about how she'd stopped "going to church" some years ago. So I dug up the article, printed it out, and read it.

It's disturbing on several levels.

First, let us never forget: Church is not there to produce happiness in us .. it's there to produce Holiness .. holiness through teaching and building us up into a life of faith and obedience to Him.

Faith in God (in all His Persons), and obedience to Him .. made possible via the workings of the Holy Spirit .. are Jesus' Plan A for the redemption of the world. And there's no Plan B!

Ms. Lotz doesn't recount the trials and tribulations she experienced at the hands of church people, but they're referred to a number of times. And I can certainly sympathize with her (as a Pentecostal Calvinistic Southern Baptist, called to teach, I've bumped into a few of them .. but never from my pastor, I might add ..), but that's simply not an excuse for a decision to disobey clear scriptural teaching:

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:23-25, NIV)


That seems pretty clear to me. And when you add the various commands to the church as to how to conduct the resolution of problems which arise, within the Body, it'd be hard to rationalize that getting together with folks in the occasional seminar is tantamount to obeying that passage in Hebrews.

Ms. Lotz also states that "..religion can be one of the greatest impediments to finding God". I disagree; my dictionary says that religion is:

"...the state of a religious person; the service and worship of God or the supernatural, commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance."


Of course I understand what she's saying; that false religion, mean-spiritedness, slavish insistence on tradition which may no longer be relevant, things of that sort, may be more of a hindrance than a help. But those things in and of themselves are hardly "religion". So let's call them what they are, rather than turning folks against religion itself, which I'm sure will happen (given the likely readership of Time Magazine, and the more-or-less universal appeal of the Graham name).

She also said that church is supposed to be a community of like-minded people who encourage and strengthen each other. And, as she observes, that's not always how it works. While I believe she's correct in those statements, it's hard to prompt folks to love and good works, when you just leave. Leaving will surely mislead more people than just those who read the magazine.

Check this:

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." (Matthew 5:11, NIV)


When I find myself subjected to anything approaching persecution, the first thing I must do is to follow Romans 12:1-3, and examine myself with the soundest judgment I can muster. If I cannot find anything wrong, then I must confess I am blessed. And I fail to see where that's any excuse to flee the very venue in which God has chosen to bless me.

Another statement that troubles me is the statement, referring to people in the church .. "When they're hurt by the church, they feel hurt by God as well. And so sometimes their tendency is to reject God as well as His people". But isn't that what she did, herself, and shouldn't people in leadership positions be modeling what followers of Jesus should be doing, rather than that which is "natural" for folks to do? Isn't rejecting the assembled church, rejecting the assembled Body of Christ?

Ms. Lotz may know more about the Old Testament than I do, but I don't agree with her assertion that Abram "..rejected religion in order to pursue a personal relationship with God". That may be the case, but I don't recall seeing it in scripture.

He's held up as a model for us, not because he gave up religion, but because he believed God, and evidenced that by his obedience to what God told Him to do.

Ms. Lotz also states that she was, to an extent, alienated from her parents when she started the Bible Study Fellowship. I've always thought that, when events God told us about in advance (as He has, in Matthew 10:34-36) occurred in my life, it was a encouraging sign. So I really don't understand why it was brought up as another "downside" of going against a family tradition, or of rebelling against God's chosen vessel for His Kingdom work, the church itself.

Perhaps it was all part of God's plan. As a Calvinist, I smile and say "Of course it is...". That causes an immediate observation that God will even use our sin .. just as He used Pilate's mocking sign he'd prepared, and placed on the cross over Jesus' head, to (apparently) point a thief, on an adjacent cross, to the Kingdom of God.

I suppose that, from time to time, we all tend to throw out the baby with the bathwater. But sometimes it's the baby, itself, that does the throwing.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Wood, Concrete, the CP, and My Power Mate

Yeah .. a bunch more off the top of my head.

First, we built a deck in front of our house about 20 years ago; there was no way to get from the driveway to the front door, so we built a walkway/deck up through the woods, to the front stoop. Naturally, I painted it when I built it, and now it's time to paint it again. I figured I'd use the Pressure Washer on it, rather than sand or wire-brush it, to prepare it for new paint. And I noted several things of interest when I did.

First, I had to be careful how close I got the nozzle to it. No paint could stand up to such direct contact, and it would even damage the wood, if all that power.. 3500 psi .. got too close to the wood surface.

And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live." (Exodus 33:19-20, NIV)

Second, I bought the wood from two different places, and I noticed today that the paint held firmer to the deck floor, than to the wood on the handrails. Same kind of wood, but apparently it had been prepared differently. So I had to use the pressure washer a bit differently, with each kind, but in the end, the outcome was the same.

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23, NIV)

Then I got to the sidewalk. I had a plastic border along the edges, and in cleaning the whole walk, it got pretty messy. Got me pretty messy, too, but in the end, it gave up all its dirt. And a little water from the same source, when I'd finished, cleaned me up just fine, too.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7, NIV)

The pressure washer weighs a ton .. well, maybe 300# .. I mean, it's got a Subaru Engine fer cryin' out loud .. and I didn't want to have to even try to get it up to the uphill side of the house. It's about 10' above the downhill side .. where the lower drive is .. so we went out last night and got us a 50' extension hose. Now, it's made by someone else (DeWalt vs Coleman) and it's constructed differently .. rubber-covered vs nylon .. and I wondered if it'd work. But it hooks up the same, and it's the same inside, so it worked just fine .. and the Power Mate didn't know the difference.

Except the DeWalt hose is a whole lot stiffer and unwieldy than the Coleman hose, so tomorrow I'm going to hook it to the PowerMate and then hook the more flexible hose to it, which will make it easier wielding the wand.

The results at the driveway level will be the same either way, but the job'll get done better that way.

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.. (Ephesians 4:11-12, NIV)

Speaking of the GCRTF (OK so I know we weren't) ... their members and their churches' participation in the CP: I have a real beef with a lot of the guys.

They seem very self-righteously (if you can say that when they're presumably speaking on behalf of their churches..) proclaim that you have to look at all their outreach giving, and spending, and not just at the CP giving. Well .. I'm betting that many of those pastors and leaders got their education at SBC institutions of learning, and I understand that those tuitions are heavily subsidized by the Cooperative Program. So here they graduate, get into their SBC churches, and proceed to lead them away from continued support of the trough form which they fed, those years before. Does anybody else see a problem with that?

The next line of ministry to the local church, behond their own members and their local association, is the state associations. And if they're not getting value, why aren't they demanding it? We know where the state associations get their support, and their input, and it just doesn't seem right to cut them out of the loop.

Frankly, any more right than a local churchmember sending his tithe somewhere else. And I doubt any GCRTF members would think highly of that.

For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned? (1 Corinthians 9:9, NIV)

Does all this SBC stuff really have to be so utterly predictable? Last I heard, God wasn't, and neither was the Holy Spirit.

Say ... maybe there's a connection ...



Sunday, September 06, 2009

Lessons From A Driveway? And A Dictionary?

One of the problems in our modern mechanized, automated, streamlined and computerized society may be that some of the olden days' chances for lengthy times to think, have evaporated.

Guys used to wash and wax cars regularly. By the time you got out the hose and mitt, washed and chamoised it off, then turned to the cleaner to remove the oxidized paint (yes .. you had to do that separately in the 40's, 50's and 60's), and finally applied the paste wax and buffed it to a shine, you'd spent 4 or 5 hours at it. And since it didn't require a lot of thought, that was a good time to reflect, ponder, consider, and decide.

Nowadays, car paint shines forever, and we run'er thru the automated deal at the gas station every couple of weeks, and we're probably talking on the cell phone when we do. So not a lot of time for creative thinking.

We have to set aside time to do it.

And the kids? How do they learn that? Instead of creating playthings out of cardboard boxes, or building dams out of dirt in the firebreak around the fields we used to play around when it rained, kids play video games or go to little league or dance class or martial arts this or that.

It's a changed world, and not all the improvements have made us better.

Not the case this week, at Chandapine Circle. No siree .. I've been pressure washing the driveway. After a little creative thinking got the thing started ( I hadn't used it in 18 or 20 years..) I've been sitting or standing around, blasting yards and yards of concrete with 4 gallons of 3500 PSI water, every minute. It's pretty spectacular. And boring. But I've learned some interesting things, which may have spiritual overtones (like I said before .. I like Proverbs 3:5-6).

F'rinstance.....

I did half of the apron by the garage doors on Tuesday. Did the other half today, and I noticed that what was clean Tuesday, had accumulated some more dirt already. And, no matter how many times I went over the concrete cleaning it, there was still some more dirt. It was like .. the more I cleaned it, the more dirt I found.

Hmmm.

Once I started cleaning it, I couldn't believe how dirty it was. The bigger the clean patch grew, the worse the rest of it looked. So I knew I was going to have to keep at it until I was done. The job just won't be finished until then. Now, I know it's not going to be done all at once, and while the machine would run until it was all finished, I probably wouldn't.

I'm dedicated, but not that dedicated.

I noticed another thing, too. Some of the stains had been there so long that, even after I'd thoroughly removed the offending substance, it still left a mark. Hmmm....

It wasn't that my driveway was any worse than anyone else's. It looked as good as anyone's, but I'd bought this Pressure Washer 20 years ago, and hadn't run it after I got things clean way back then. It wasn't hard to see it was dirty again, but I didn't do anything about it until I felt guilty for having this swell machine and here my driveway was still dirty.

I guess if I want to be a truly baptistic driveway owner, when I'm finished, I'll have to go knock on all my neighbors' doors, and tell them their driveway is dirty. I'm sure they can see my driveway and how clean it is, but I don't think we're supposed to wait until some inner conviction comes upon them, are we?

On the other hand, maybe I should be a good neighbor, and love my neighbors, and maybe they'll want to know the reason why my driveway is different from theirs. Maybe I should always be ready to give a reason .. when that inner conviction does come upon them.

Perhaps I should re-read all the instructions that came with the pressure washer. It might be covered in there somewhere.

Speaking of my 13.5 horsepower Subaru-Engined Coleman pressure washer, I noticed the model name while I was using it. It's a Powermate. I haven't looked it up, but let's see what M-W online says about that. There might be some spiritual analogies, or something.....

Main Entry: 1pow·er:
1 a (1) : ability to act or produce an effect.....
2 a : possession of control, authority, or influence over others ....
3 a : physical might ....


Hmmm ... looking further:

  • Main Entry: 3as·so·ciate
  • 1 : one associated with another: as a : partner, colleague b : companion, comrade

    • Main Entry: 1com·pan·ion
    • 1 : one that accompanies another : comrade, associate; also : one that keeps company with another

    Thanks, Merriam-Webster Online; this thing just keeps getting better. And my personal Power Mate keeps getting more to clean.....

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Off The Top Of My Head

Well, I had a stress test this morning. The medically-induced kind, where they shoot me with something that dilates the veins, lowers the BP, and stresses the heart that way. Kind of a long procedure, as they first shot me up with some radioactive stuff and let it circulate a bit (you might want to scoot your chair back a little...), took 12 minutes worth of pics with a Gamma Camera (gotta LOVE that name), then a little wait, followed by the vaso-dilator, accompanied by an EKG.
After that, they gave me some more glow-juice and let that swirl around the bod for a while, then shot 12 more minutes of film with the Gamma Camera (still LOVE that name).

Then Sprite, Peanut Butter Crackers, and we came home. I suppose everything's ok for now, as the followup appointment isn't until the 21st. Unless, of course, the doc calls and ask how soon I can get there....

Ironic part (#1): the cause of this was some mild chest pains, ongoing for some 4 months or so (despite a normal EKG), accompanied by mild hot flashes. So, Monday, I googled around with "Nasonex side effects" and guess what .. it says up to 5% have headaches (I've had more lately...), and "muscles or bone pain" .. that's where the chest stuff was happening .. in the muscles .. plus some undescribed percentage getting chest pains. Well, since momma didn't raise no morons, I stopped using Nasonex Monday.

Yup. You guessed it. Pains have tapered off greatly since then (a lady in my small group is a pharmacist and said it takes several days to get all steroids ... like Nasonex ... out of one's system).

Ironic part (#2): I couldn't take any of my meds before the test this morning .. so no BP pills since last night .. and when they checked the BP at 10:00 a.m., it was 120/70.

They let me walk out, so my guess is that, as someone once said, there may be a whole lot less there, than meets the eye.

Had lunch with my friend, Monte Erwin, yesterday. That's always a great time, as Monte and I kind of sharpen each other's iron. We're just good for each other, kind of like CB Scott and I, are. Just one of those God things, and during the threshin' session over lunch, God connected some dots for me. We'd gotten to talking about the idea that "your faith has made you well", which Jesus said to the lady who'd touched the hem of his garment, and had been healed right then. Well ... I'd always wondered how that really worked, as she plainly had that faith from the moment she decided to crawl over and touch Him! So .. if it was the faith, why did she have to complete the crawl and the touch? But then it hit me ... faith, without works, is dead! So, when she put her works with her faith, the result was her healing.

When the best in that business, at that time, couldn't help her.

Wow. I wonder if that applies to folks who walk the aisle, shake the hand, say the prayer, and take the plunge? Is there something they must subsequently do to secure their salvation? I honestly don't know, but I do know that one verse we used to use for assurance of salvation might just indicate that something else is needed. It's ...

"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God..—" (John 1:12, NIV)

(The emphasis is mine, to highlight the fact that it doesn't say that we become children of God when we receive Him .. when we believe in His name .. but that we receive the right to become children of God.)

Wow, again. I have to ask if we make it too easy to "give your heart to Jesus", or invite "Jesus into your heart" (terms I don't find in scripture, anyway). Well, I'm not about to try to change the course of churches, but I can certainly make sure that my teaching, my discussions, all follow the Biblically-recommended course of repentance, confession, salvation, and discipleship. And working out our salvation with fear and trembling.

Just as I was walking into the classroom at church, to prepare for my small group last night, C.B. Scott called. He said he'd meant to call me earlier in the day, but hadn't (he's the busiest pastor, at pastoring, that I know). He said they were Baptizing 17 folks at Westmont, last night! And they were not folks from Westmont Baptist church! They are all young people from a local Teen Challenge Center, where C.B. leads a weekly Bible Study.

Here comes another wow. The church acting like the church! Not bound by either a) the four walls of the building, or by b) somebody's idea of a "program". That's just the coolest thing!

I mean .. come one now .. how many times does Jesus have to tell us to minister to "the least of these" .. or to visit those in prison .. or to feed the hungry .. or tend to the widows .. for us to finally get it?

I've given up teaching my Sunday School Class. Been at it for 8 years or so, and God just kept stirring something in me that said "take some time off from that". It's weird, but what's even weirder is how much more crystal clear and "connected" scripture has become, since I made the decision, the announcement, and the arrangements.

So I'm really looking forward to beginning a new Sunday night class on Spiritual Gifts, the Baptist Faith and Message, and whatever God lays in our laps to study (after those run their course in a couple months). I've done those before, but something tells me that it's going to be better the next time.

I can hardly wait.

Stay tuned.