Strict//EN" ""> EAGLES' REST: February 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Theology from the Maximum Security Wing

I'm still writing my observations about the GCRTF Report, but something on the National Geographic Channel smacked me in the face today .. I have a TV in the garage, where I was messing with my truck .. and the minute I heard it, I knew I'd have to write about it.

They specials this afternoon, on the NatGeo Channel, were about people in prison. There were several programs about it, in a row, and I think this was a bit from "San Quentin Unlocked". They were interviewing many of the prisoners, up to and including lifers, but no one on Death Row.

I'm glad for that.

They interviewed two men in a row, both lifers. The first had been a "good prisoner", and they showed how he'd customized his cell, Some cabinets, some kitchen-type stuff so he could fix snacks, pictures on the wall, things like that. He said he'd done that to make his time there .. likely the remainder of his life .. as home-like as possible.

The very next inmate interviewed was also a lifer, but he told why he had left his cell the way it was when he got there. He'd added nothing that I could see to the bare sort of Maximum Security facility you'd expect. I cannot remember his exact words, but I sure do remember the ideas. He said something on the order of:

This place isn't my home. I'm just passing through. I don't want to do anything to make it seem like home to me.

Wow. Just .... well .... WOW.

Peg and I have talked about how much we are enjoying retirement. Enjoying our lives, as we are and where we are. And, thankfully, we're not doing all the things I suppose folks "dream of" upon retirement. Most of our jollies here are from Spiritual stuff we're involved in, and for that I'm thankful. But still .. from a lifer in Maximum Security.....

I don't want this to seem too much like home.....

Thursday, February 25, 2010

We Interrupt This Series of Posts.....

For something that just hit me. It was actually an echo of a real "WOW moment" I had during Sunday School this past weekend.

We were studying Jesus' praying in the Garden at Gethsemane, when His guys kept dozing off. The part that finally came together Sunday:

He earnestly asked His Father to let what He knew to be coming, pass from Him. But He added that He wanted God's will, not His own.

But wait a minute. The Bible tells us Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world! Why the request to God?

Because it had to be voluntary!

SO. I've been a Calvinist longer than I've been a Baptist, and one of the bigger sticking points on that for Baptists seems to be disputing how they could be predestined to be a Christian, when it was their decision to be saved? The answer it is simple.

Because it has be to voluntary!

Just as Jesus death on the cross had to be voluntary .. despite the fact that He was "slain from the foundation of the world" .. salvation, for us, must be voluntary, despite the fact that we may have been elect "from the foundation of the world".

WOW. Such a beautiful symmetry there.

TONIGHT'S DEAL: Isn't that what God wants from us? Voluntary service? Voluntary giving? Voluntary devotion? Voluntary sacrifice?

Isn't that the essence of "Bondservanthood"?

Isn't that "Embracing the Grace"? Abandonment of self, and abandonment to Jesus?

I think so. Goodbye, law.

Hello, freedom! Hello, joy!

Good Is Not Poorer

I'm reading through the Report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force as I type. I won't have to digest the whole thing at once that way.

Sort of like the way say you can eat a whole elephant.

However I would like to start with one basic premise. God is our source of supply. When I hear preachers tell their congregations that they should tithe of their income, to the local church, I hear them tell that God will supply their needs if they will do that. That they can trust God to provide.

Can't the SBC? I do not happen to believe that I am under a command to take the tithe to the "Storehouse" .. meaning "your local church". I do, however, believe that God said the tithe was Holy unto Him, and that He established a principle in that Old Testament command. So we do give 10% of our now-limited income, and we give it to our church. We don't want to be choosing "what we want to do with our money". But we are not doing it because God commanded the nation of Israel to do so.

First time I ever addressed the SBC Convention, was over the EC's desire to put a percentage in the request for churches to be more faithful in their giving to the CP. I won't mess with details, but I did tell the assembly (nervously) that GOD, not the churches, was their source of supply, and if they were not "receiving as much money as they thought God should give them, they ought to talk to God about that". The idea is that God pays for what He wants done, and if they think they need more money than they're getting, they're doing things with money that God doesn't want them doing.

I still believe that. And I still don't believe they realize it. the EC, or the GCRTF.

Another premise: we've talked to death .. but that's all we've done about it .. the fact that something like 9 million SBC church members have walked our aisles, joined our churches under our rules, placed themselves under our churches' authority, and are not disciples. I mean, they've disappeared. Plus, I find a small percentage of Southern Baptists who know what we believe, as Baptists. They know what they believed to get in the door, and generally not a lot more.

So the second premise: SBC churches have done a lousy job making disciples. And that is the real command of the "Great Commission"! Peg and I often mention the fact that we did much more "discipleship-oriented" studying .. year for year .. while Presbyterians, than we've done in our years as Baptists.

Another premise: it's God that sends us people. Personally, I think God sends us the people He can trust us with. If we were to do a good job with all the people He's sent our way, I believe He'd send us some more. It's a little like a conversation I had with our pastor 15 years ago: I'd remarked that we prayed for great moves of the Holy Spirit in our services, but when he gave the invitation, he stood by himself in front of the congregation as if he expected folks to come down one at a time.

I don't think the SBC is handing all the people, by millions, God has sent us. Why would He want to send us more?

Another premise: The SBC is "taking the easy way out" on too many issues. Why there is not a database within the SBC of convicted sex offenders in the SBC .. and perhaps credibly accused ones .. I have no earthly idea. But if the case of the ex-IMB Missionary ... who embezzled on the field, but had it covered up in the hopes he'd pay the IMB back, which left him free to get a job in Alabama to swindle a lot of people out of a lot of money ... is at all typical of the SBC mindset, I'm guessing the SBC just wants to avoid a "black eye".

Regardless of the cost.

A conclusion or two: the GCRTF does not see God as their source of supply. Hence Ronnie Floyd's statement that all of us sinners out here need to repent of our failure to obey that Old Testament command to bring the tithe into the storehouse. The way I figure, if the Task Force admitted that God isn't supplying the money the leadership of the SBC thinks it needs, then they'd be forced to admit that the problem isn't in the pews.

And say ... if the problem isn't something in the system, then why aren't the Seminaries turning out preachers who preach the gospel and thus motivate .. if their thinking is right .. to "storehouse tithe"? Who do they think is doing the preaching in the SBC? If tithing is New Testament Gospel, and SBC Seminaries trained the preachers, then why aren't the people tithing?

I have heard when you have money problems, in the sense of churches and church-affiliated ministries, that the problem is spiritual, and not financial.

That was while I was a Presbyterian, but I believe it more now, as a Baptist, than I did back then.

This sure is getting long. I'll do some more tomorrow, and tie it to some of what Chairman Floyd said.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Initial Reaction to the GCRTF Report

I've downloaded the report, scanned through it, and printed out the "Components" thereof. I want to study them a little more before I study the rest of the document further.

But I have a couple of observations right off, so I can set out making a fool of myself immediately instead of waiting until after I'm done reflecting on it.

Thought One: the most glaring failure in the SBC carrying out the Great Commission has to be that of failing to make disciples right here where we are! If we can't be trusted to do that here, why would God trust us with more people around the world? It's kind of like a hospital losing 2/3 of its patients .. which roughly equates to the members we can't find .. and the hospital saying they need to drag in some more people to solve their problems.

Thought Two: why on earth change the CP .. to include extra-CP giving? So we can cater to those who just don't want to give to the CP?

Is it possible that some of the Task Force members don't?

There's some other stuff, but I'll read the rest of it more closely first.

Oh .. I guess I need to mention that the report seemed more attuned to "soul winning" than "disciple making".

Oh well. More later.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Because I Still Don't Know Any Better, That's Why

And, besides, the News media are jumping all over Tiger Woods' apology, so why not me?

Fox News shows a nice article, which seems to present a reasonable approach. But they also stuck a poll right in the middle of it, as to whether folks thought his apology was enough. Like we have to do something in reaction to it.

CNN, from whom I swiped the photo above, is a little more in-your-face about it, and titles their article with the question "Does Tiger Woods' apology hold weight?"

I'd like to say some things about this whole apology deal. First thing is it sure seemed heartfelt, to me. He really didn't have to do that, did he? How many other famous folks have trod the same path and never said boo to the public?

I can think of White House residents who've done as much or more, and said less.

Another thing is, I'm not sure he even owes me an apology. I never idealized him, or idolized him, and I guess I expect rich famous people to act like .. well .. rich famous people. And on that score, if folks out there held him up as a role model or hero of some sort, they shouldn't have!

Then, is his apology "enough"? On this one, I really have an opinion.


We believers are under instructions from God to forgive folks. God doesn't even mention waiting for an apology, and He usually links the instructions to cases where somebody wronged us personally. I'm not sure Tiger did!

For anybody who might stumble in here and read this, who's not a believer, let's think of this: have you ever apologized to anybody for anything? If you have, then you don't have a choice but to accept the apology. That is, if you ever want to be forgiven for anything you've ever done, yourself.

Brit Hume said a while back:

"He's said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith."

Well, he's right as far as he goes. Tiger needs more than forgiveness and redemption, though; he needs to change. And no set of rules or laws can offer that. What it'll take is the power of the Holy Spirit, indwelling in a believer, to make that person into a new creation in Jesus. That's what Christianity offers that no other religion does ... a Living Savior Who can change our hearts.

I think it takes a Living Savior to save and guide a living person. And we've got One. I hope Tiger finds Him.

I know Jesus would like to find Tiger.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nothing in This Life is Perfect

Peg bought me a cup some months ago, just because she saw it in the Gift Shop at Shocco, and she liked what it said. Here it is:

When she brought it home, she came into the den .. that's where my computer is, so goodness, she knows that's where I'll be .. and gave it to me. She said she'd bought it because she wanted to remind me of what it said ... "Bless your heart for the happiness you put in mine".

It would probably have been more touching if she hadn't been laughing when she gave it to me.

That sort of thing does cause one to wonder, so I asked her what was so funny. She said I'd find out soon enough. So I thanked her and read the inscription, which was quite moving.

Then I turned it around.

Peg went on to explain that she'd only looked at one side of the cup before she checked out. As she was carrying it in, she glanced at the reverse side. Namely, at this:

I don't think I need to mention that (a) it says "Daughter", (b) we have only the two sons and no daughters, and (c) if we DID have a daughter, I doubt it'd be ME.

Isn't that life? We're surrounded by a lot of good stuff. But none of it is perfect. So we're constantly putting up with some bad, mixed in with hopefully predominant good.

Same for people. For bloggers. For commenters. For seminary professors and preachers and institution heads. Presidents. Folks in the pews. Not to mention ME. And YOU.

So next time we run across something somebody says, that we don't like, let's try to think of all those times we've said something somebody else didn't like, and also recall that they were as right in not liking what we said, as we may be in disliking what they said.

We're all a mixture of good (God's image, remember?) and bad (sin .. no need to remind you of THAT).

After all, the only thing perfect about me is the righteousness Jesus wrapped me in when I put my faith in Him to save me. And that righteousness .. that perfection .. is only visible to God, when He sees me through what Jesus clad me in. And when it comes to opinions, God's is the only one I'm really concerned about.

I heard years ago .. when I was in charge of the monthly program for an Insurance Association in Indianapolis .. that a good way to have a bad meeting is to get a speaker in who thinks you're all swell. If you want a good meeting, get some guy in that doesn't like the way you do things. Out of such gatherings, you'll frequently see some creative thought flow. Hence, I thank God for disagreement and the like.

So .. anyway .. the cup is big, it keeps coffee hot, and it reminds me my wife loves me, despite our imperfections.

Hey. Maybe is is perfect, after all.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

A Testimony 53 Years in the Making

Ran into an example this morning about how God works all the time, whether we see it or know about it or approve of it:

The pictures above are envelope I used to mail a letter, and page one of the letter itself. I sent it to Mom & Dad, while they were vacationing in Colorado and it tells a tale which ultimately proved funny, and extremely providential.

I did a lot of math in high school, and also did quite well at physics. I didn't have any idea what I wanted to do as a career, though, so when my friend Mickey Meese suggested he was going to study Electrical Engineering .. with a major in Electronics .. I said that sounded neat, and registered at Purdue University.

When Mom and Dad took me up there mid-summer for entrance exams, I had a free hour "hole" in the middle of the schedule, so on a lark, I took the chemistry entrance exam. I had a blast doing it, more as a joke than anything, and just guessed at most of the answers.

I had never studied that first minute of chemistry in my LIFE.

Well, it backfired. I scored well enough on it, and very well on mathematics, that they put me in Advanced Chemistry. The first week in class, they were talking about Ionic and Covalent Bonds (something to do with molecules, I think). I was hopelessly, and helplessly, lost.

I appealed to the Dean of Men, personally. He said the equivalent of "man up and do it".

I appealed again, completely clueless, after 6 weeks. He repeated the message.

I was so demoralized that I lost interest in even trying. I had lousy study habits anyway .. I'd not had to study a lot in High School to make honors .. and my helplessness in Chemistry took all the attractiveness out of even pursuing engineering. And when the next set of grades rolled around, the Dean called ME in and asked what was wrong. I reminded him of our prior conversations and he said the equivalent of "If that's the problem, we'll fix it." And he put me in Beginning Chemistry.

They were, by that time, talking about Ionic and Covalent Bonds.

My first year at Purdue was a disaster, and although they said I was welcome back, I wouldn't be welcome in the Engineering School.

That set in motion a chain of events culminating on my giving up on college altogether the following Spring, and going to a Job Agency seeking "any kind of job I could turn into a career". And the following week, I started as a Mailboy's helper at an insurance company.

49 years and 10 months later, I retired from that industry, which I loved. I wouldn't trade that career for anything. It had me eventually traveling all over the country, speaking to groups from 25 to 1,000 people, making several trips to London on business, and even to meetings in Hong Kong and Monaco.

I wrote that letter to Mom and Dad right after I'd found out about the Chemistry thing. And when I read it again, I realized that I'd known, down inside, something was wrong. I really should have called off the enrollment at Purdue and gone to a local school .. Butler. But if I had, I might have found a more conventional career in a more purposeful manner, but I wouldn't have been a Mailboy at Wabash Fire and Casualty Insurance Company.

Where I met, dated, and married, Peggy. The love of my life.

Who shamed me into following through on a promise to go to Sunday School with a neighbor.

Which got me interested in church.

Which led into Van Veld's Bible Study.

Which made me realize God had something in mind for me, which led me to decide that's what I wanted.

If it hadn't happened as it did (humanly speaking) we'd not be in Alabama, at FBC Pelham.

I cannot thank God enough for tending to His business, when that was the furthest thing from my mind.

God does, indeed, work in mysterious ways. I could think that He just tagged along, cleaning up my mess as I stumbled along, but I'd prefer to think God knew all along, what He had in mind for me. I couldn't have planned a more wonderful life than I've had, and I'm sure not up to having ordered all this, myself.

SO ... thanks, God. I owe you.

Do I EVER......

ps ... Oh yeah ... Dotty was our dog, who lived in the garage.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Irony of the "Haiti Hostages"

Fox News reports that the Judge in the "Idaho Baptists - Haitian Government" affair, has recommended that the 10 folks from Idaho be released. One can only assume that they will be, which will end the current controversy over their actions.

It's been interesting to watch the evangelical reaction to the detention of the "Baptists from Idaho". It's made me wonder whether it was evangelicals in general, or just us Baptists (who were authors of most of the comments I saw).

The heat seems to be off, now that the judge recommended they be released. But whatever impressions were made, by our public reactions, will remain, I'm afraid.

What I heard mostly was an outcry that their motives were good so they shouldn't have been arrested. Forget the fact that they were in a foreign nation, one that everyone seems to think/have thought was corrupt, and that they violated that nation's laws; their motives were OK so let them go. And on more than one blog comment stream, and article, I pointed out that, had they been some foreign nationals invading a U.S.A. slum, trying to take 30 children out of our nation to "give them a better life", we'd expect our government to step in and stop it. And throw the book at the offender.

As far as I'm concerned, we'd have been a bunch of hypocrites, too. And nobody wanted to even touch that thought, that I saw.

As Jim Cymbala pointed out in "Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire", early Christians didn't petition Rome for relief from persecution at the hands of the religious "establishment" ... they didn't wail and moan about unfairness of others ... and they didn't complain about others questioning their motives. Or pass notes to others pleading for help from outside. And one of the results of their not doing those things was Paul and Silas having a "praise & worship" time in captivity, that shook the foundations of the prison. And brought a prison guard to faith in Christ.

I peruse a lot of blogs, and read various Baptist media, and the only folks I saw who said that the Haitian government was justified in their actions were Wade Burleson and Marty Duren. Kudos to the both of them, and to those unseen folks who agreed.

The irony I see in this is that someone might read the reports and liken them to someone standing before a Holy God, on judgment day, and think that purity of motives will excuse their sin. Before a Holy God, the only hope I have, or ever will have, is mercy. Yet time after time, people with a public voice have complained that justice wasn't being done in Haiti. Plain fact: they didn't want or need justice. They needed mercy!

Which, ironically, the evangelical community doesn't seem to have asked for, but a Haitian Judge seems to have given.

Perhaps this whole bad reaction I read is just a symptom of the sort of "imperialistic attitude" which has brought much of the world to dislike the U.S.A.

Let's hope it doesn't do the same for evangelical Christianity.


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

A Song That Changed The Course of My Life

I heard this song, first, in 1975. It set in motion a chain of events, aimed at letting me be a better Father, more involved with my sons, and my wife; it led to our moving to Alabama, later that year. That led to our eventually joining a Baptist Church.

Of course, I know it was God that arranged the entire matter, but still .. I recommend you Dads of children out there listen to the song. And take the idea to heart.

I cannot tell you the difference it has made in my life.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Embrace The Grace

There was this interesting post at Wade Burleson's Blog, concerning what's called Antinomianism, or the refusal to recognize "the law" (Vast Oversimplification Alert). You can read it for yourself, but the post led me to comment. When I did, the term "Embrace the Grace" just popped out.

It gave me cause to stop and ponder.

In my feeble attempts to walk the walk that I talk, I'm always kind of on the lookout for roadsigns that I'm pleasing God. That I'm somehow "getting it right". I suppose that's OK, but I think I may be diminishing God's grace somewhat, thereby. The plain fact is that I am saved only because He loves me and He drew me unto Himself. And He's ordering my steps down here on earth, for the same Love-reason. He wants me to have an abundant life .. He arranged the world's most startling sacrifice so I could have it .. and my desire is certainly in line with that!

This desire to get it right (if I may ascribe such to that) seems to be behind the law-orientation which seems common, to me. One of the immediate prior comment strings on Wade's blog concerned tithing, and whether the Christian was under the Old Testament command to tithe. Well .. Jason Kearney wrote an excellent piece some time back about our subjection to the OT law, stating that if we're subject to any of it, then we're subject to all of it. And, hence, shame on us for not stoning mom for cooking milk and meat in the same pot, or for wearing a garment of two different materials.

And goodness, the entire BBQ business would be shattered, down here in the Bible Belt! Real BBQ is pork, you know!

As I thought over the term "Embrace the Grace", it suddenly exploded in my mind and my heart. I can't quite describe what took place, other than perhaps it really sank in to the depths of my soul .. God wants me to rest in His arms of grace .. to realize that my desires really aren't the temptation to try to justify my salvation .. that I wasn't trying to "fulfill some obligation I "owe" Jesus" .. that I really have been given a desire to lead a life pleasing to God because I love Him .. in response to His love for me.

But whatever the reality, I know the term "Embrace the Grace" simply grabbed me and brought me to a standstill. I just don't know any other way to explain it.

Will I still pay 10% of our income to the church? You bet. I can't do a lot of stuff, but I can do that. I figure God likes that, and it'll be good for me to do that (it sure has been since we started doing that in 1970), and I just want to do it. Rest assured the "natural me" wouldn't want to!

Will we continue to do the things He mentioned in the 10 commandments? Sure .. I'm guessing He told us that stuff because it'd be good for us, is part of the abundant life (a term He invented anyway), and I sure want an abundant life. But certainly not because He commanded those things of ancient Israel.

I think that, in some ways, I've been "cowering in the corner" of grace, as it were. Perhaps feeling like I'm barely in. Saved by the skin of my teeth. Well, and all the more as I examine my life in the faith, I must conclude that I'm immersed in His overpowering and wonderful and abundant and overflowing and permeating grace.

I'm swimming in it!



Oh .. the picture. Well, that's mom and dad, taken in 1960, when they were on vacation in Colorado. Location isn't significant, but they are:

My dominant image of my mom and dad .. the one that pops into my mind .. is one of the very earliest in my memory. When dad would come home from work, mom would always meet him at the front door (she'd hear him open the screen door and walk across the porch). When she'd open the door, he'd grab her in a close embrace, and give her a big kiss. And them standing in that embrace is etched permanently in my memory, and is responsible for a large part of the love and security I felt .. deep down in my soul .. in my family.

I have a feeling that, if my embrace of God's grace is as fervent and loving as mom & dad's was, I'll be every bit as secure and loved, in my heavenly family, as that little kid watching his dad embrace his mom, in the front door at 241 West Waltham Street 60+ years ago.

Mom's name? Grace!!!