Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Absolutely Stunning Love of God

We had our small group study last evening. We were there about an hour and a quarter, and had a great discussion. We started this thing a year ago, with 4 guys studying Ken Hemphill's Serving God course, which took eight weeks; we went from there into a study of the BF&M .. 2000 vs 1962 vs 1925. That lasted until June.

We then jumped into Romans; one of the guys had asked if we could go through it. In the last 6 or 7 weeks, God has grown the group to a dozen or more. Our format is that we chase all rabbits and answer all questions, and nobody prepares. I just read some verses, and then lead a discussion. Last night, we spent the time on one verse. This one:

"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus ... (Romans 15:5; NIV)

Man, did we have fun with that! Some of the things that struck me, that I'd frankly never paid attention to, before:

  • "...gives endurance..." We talked about why he said that. Only reason we could see is that God knows how trying life can be .. He did tell us that .. and He wants to sustain us when we get tired of it all. That tells me that nothing's wrong when that happens to me, and God does want us to get through times when we want to give up. And He wants to strengthen us to do that.
  • "...gives encouragement..." Here again, God knows we're going to get discouraged, and He wants to encourage us when we do.

I think He does that because He loves us. And He wants us to have an abundant life. Since He designed us, engineered us, manufactured us, and maintains us, He knows what an abundant life consists of. And He left us instructions.

Oh .. He also, via His Son, invented the concept of "abundant life", so He defines it.

His giving of encouragement and endurance is part and parcel of the abundant life, and He goes on here to described another factor of that sort of life: Unity.

  • "...give you a Spirit of unity among yourselves...". Well. I have to say I see a lot of some other spirit besides unity in the SBC today. Not that folks aren't clinging to bible passages in all they do .. I mean, the Calvinists can justify every point of their system of faith, with particular scripture, just as well as BF&M justifies its positions. I figure God knew that sort of thing would arise, and it must be true that we can have unity ... real unity in our diversity. But since I'm guessing it's natural for us to divide over things, unity is going to take a particular Spirit, and it'll be a gift of God when we reach unity. Maybe we're not asking God to give us that Spirit .. maybe we're really asking God to give others a spirit of unity with us. I doubt that's the idea.
  • "...as you follow Jesus Christ ...". Wow. Could it be that, when we demonstrate a lack of unity (I don't mean uniformity), that we're not really following Jesus? I don't know, but if that's how we're supposed to do it, then we're sure wrong when we don't.
I talked about how I'd worshiped in many places; different countries, different denominations, different languages. And how there'd always been a wonderful sense of unity. That has to be a supernatural thing, as there's nothing about me that would prepare me to pray with folks (whose language I neither spoke nor understood),in a pentecostal church in Latvia, and feel as much a part of the body as I do at home.

After 75 minutes, I finally read verse 6:

"... so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ". (Romans 15:6, NIV)

There's the bottom line. If we are encouraged, if we endure, if we do have .. and show .. real unity, then our hearts and mouths can glorify God. Think of that ... mortal, sinful, frail man can actually do something that glorifies God, Who, it seems to me, has no need of anything we can do.

To top it all off, God says that the reason Jesus' name is above all names, and the reason why every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, is that He was obedient to die for you and me. When He'd rather the Father had offered Him another plan.

The magnitude of God's love leaves me speechless. I hope it always does.

Monday, October 19, 2009

In Light of Impending Obamacare:


(Photo stolen here).

It might be wise to listen to this.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

The Best Part Of The Meal Was......

Peg and I went to the Catfish Landing for lunch, today. I was hungry for catfish, and Peg likes Chopped Steak .. their Friday Plate Lunch Special .. so off we went.



Annie was our server. We'd been there before, but I don't think she'd ever served us. But when she said she'd keep bringing Hush Puppies and Slaw until we told her to quit, I knew she was my kind of server. Here she is...



When we said we were done, she brought the check. Here 'tis....




When I saw what she'd written, I asked if she meant that. She said she did, and I told her:

"That's the best part of the meal."


And it was. I asked her where she went to church, and she mentioned a Church of God of Prophecy, about 20 miles away. She said she lived in Chelsea, but it was worth the drive to go to her church. I told her I understood that, and we'd driven 20 miles for the catfish!

I don't know much about the C.O.G.O.P., don't know much about their doctrine, membership vs attendance, views on Sunday School, or anything else. But I know this was a lady, working for a living, not ashamed to just be a believer, and act like it. Since I told my SS class for years and years that we need to live our lives as believers, as open and happy about that as our career, our marital status, or anything else about us, Annie really resonated with me.

Thanks, Annie. You made my day. And despite how good the catfish was, the check really was the best part of the meal!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Of Baptisms and Discipleship .... or ... At Least One Editor "Gets It" ... Again

In last week's Alabama Baptist, Dr. Bob Terry posted an excellent editorial. You might want to read it here. His point (or one of them): maybe we're hot to trot for Baptisms, but not so hot about the command, in the Great Commission, which follows immediately: the teaching.

Check the average SBC church attendance; then check Sunday School attendance, subtracting the number of little children too young to be included as members. Then compare again to total membership.

That is how many folks you're actually teaching. Well, if you don't count the fact that a church's laxity in requiring, expecting, or mandating church attendance and involvement, of our members, does in fact teach the non-attenders a lot about the church. I don't think that sort of teaching is what Jesus had in mind when He spoke the first part of the Great Commission, the part about making disciples.

It's also good to remember that every one of that "total membership" number walked down our aisles, presented themselves for membership on our terms, and then placed themselves under the oversight of our churches' leadership.

Someone said our church has about 2,800 members now, and attendance of just under 1,000. At that, the attendance figure includes something on the order of 250 preschoolers, and I'm pretty sure that very, very few of them are included on the membership roll.

Do the math. Then consider what church silence (and inaction), over non-attendance, teaches the non-attenders.

What's that? Non-resident membership? I wonder who said it was OK to join a church, move away, and then just leave your membership at "Back Home Baptist Church". We seldom speak highly about folks who have their "membership" there, but our own church has (apparently) hundreds of members for whom FBC Pelham is "Back Home Baptist".

I'm not throwing rocks at FBC Pelham, by the way. We have a real heart to do all the right stuff, but I think examining the numbers reveals just how easy it is to slip into the pattern that seems to beset the SBC as a whole.

As to the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, I have a question. Isn't making disciples the primary instruction of the GC, and isn't that responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the local body?

I guess if you look at the whole thing, you might conclude that, if the local churches .. collectively .. don't carry it out, then God is going to move someone else into the gap, and get the job done. Maybe the GCRTF is just that .. a reflection of God's opinion of the current condition of the local SBC churches.

And, of course, I am aware that all generalizations are false, including this one, so any one church may be getting it right. But look at the SBC numbers, and it'll be plain that more people .. souls .. seem to have fallen through the cracks, than have stuck with it and have become disciples. And it might only be our collective pride that keeps us from admitting that.