Friday, May 28, 2010

Let's HOPE They Don't.......

The Westminster Confession of Faith has one extremely interesting statement in it, with which most Baptists would disagree. At least it seems that way to me.

The statement:

IV. Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved: much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the laws of that religion they do profess. And to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested.


NOTE: We Baptists don't believe that, in general, yet we all-too-often see someone who is just the best Baptist ever, who leaves that faith, or does something else so egregious that we're apt to say they never really were a Christian, anyway. In effect, we're saying the same thing, but we're claiming it's their fault, and not God's.

The part that gets my attention is the first part .. about folks who are called by the ministry of the word. What I can envision is that some folks see how Christians live .. at least how we're supposed to live .. see that as an attractive life .. desire to have that kind of life .. equate that with "church" .. and go join one. Oh, they may agree with the requirements .. agree they are sinners .. agree that they need to repent .. and agree to stop sinning. But all of that can be done without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, and the conviction of sin.

Frankly, I'm afraid that, all too often, that's what we do. We get people to agree with us about sin, and agree with us about repentance.

Jesus said plainly that it'd be the Holy Spirit Who convicts of sin. We don't get to do that, ourselves.

Without Godly conviction, there's no Godly repentance (which means changing your mind .. thinking differently, anyway). I recall about 25 years ago, an acquaintance at work got saved and her department manager said "Of course .. look at the life she led .. who wouldn't want to stop living like that and join a church?" That department manager equating Christianity with a good way to live; better than what this person had lived up to that time.

Some time back, I put up a blog post called What The World Needs To See. My thought, in that, was that I didn't just want to "show how" a Christian should live. I wanted to actually be how a Christian should be .. and there's a big difference.

Recently, I saw a comment on a blog in which the comment stream had been rather heated. The comment lamented what might happen if the "lost world" should see how believers were acting on the blog. That we weren't living "attractive lives" in our writing. And that thought spurred this thought in me: I hope people aren't attracted to "Christianity" by how I live. Certainly, my life cannot, and I repeat cannot, contradict what the Bible says. But what needs to attract people to Jesus is their own sinful state, and the condemnation under which they are living if they're lost.

Christianity is not about happiness, or having good friends, or even about fulfillment. It is about sin, the horrible condemnation brought by our sin, and the loving remedy offered us by God in the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Who died an ugly, painful, bloody death, on Calvary. In your place, and mine.

It was not until I felt my personal guilt for that, that I could even say I loved Jesus. Because the realization of my own guilt was what put real meaning in the forgiveness and restoration He promised to me.

He keeps His promises.

Let us not make any promises of our own, about being a Christian. Let us promise only what Jesus does, to those who repent under the unbearable weight of their sin, and turn to the only One who is able to take over that weight.

May it never be said that someone decided to "make a commitment" because they found my life attractive.

When International News Gets Personal

The picture there shows police and citizens standing around after a prior night's fierce gun battle. The subject of the battle was Christopher "Dudus" Coke, a reported drug baron and somewhat of a "Robin Hood" character, from the Tivoli Gardens section of Kingston, Jamaica. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, that distinctive rock wall in the background is one I've seen many times, as it's at the intersection of Sterling Castle Heights Road, and Red Hills Road. It's under half a mile down the hill from Red Hills Baptist Church, where we've been many times.

The name of the picture, which I copied from the Jamaica Gleaner article about the battle, is "SterlingCastleN20100527NG.jpg"!

My good friends, the Bethunes, live on Sterling Castle Heights Road. So that would e scary enough. But check the chilling email I received from Keri-Ann a couple nights ago ... here's what she said:

"hi....guys. We in Red Hills have come under fire.....gun men and police are having a shoot out. It is believed that men from Tivoli are now in the area in an unfinished house up here. Right in my area!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!houses away.

I am on the floor typing!!!!!!!!!!!Pray for us"


It's not enough that I know her .. she's a dear friend, and has been since she was 10 years old. I blogged about her, in fact, here.

Needless to say, I prayed.

There was nothing in the news about anyone I know being killed or injured, so I'm trusting that God protected Keri-Ann and her family. But I know that, whenever I read news reports about violence anywhere, it's going to be a little more real to me, knowing that there are people there who were experiencing what Keri-Ann did, the night violence came to Sterling Castle Heights.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Maybe The Church Needs Rehab...

I took this picture this morning, after I'd finished my rehab session. My Cardiac Doctor .. the one who did the angiogram, angioplasty, and stent, arranged for me to try to survive take 36 torture rehab sessions at the center in the picture, spread over 12 weeks. This is my 4th week, and I'm up to 8 minutes each on a hand-crank thingie, steps (up & down 2 steps), and an elliptical machine .. kind of like a recumbent bike (twice on that one, for 16 minutes total).

Now those exercises don't require a lot of deep thought, so my mind wandered & pondered while I was exercising. What I noticed most was that there were about 8 of us there, and all of us where doing what we were supposed to be doing. Treadmills, ellipticals, hand-cranks, steps, everyone was about his assigned task. And the therapist ladies .. 4 total .. were all behind the desk there, tending to their paperwork. They weren't even paying attention to us (so it seemed to me)

Well, that'd be OK, I guess. We hadn't gone there so we could not do what were supposed to.

They measure us, take BP readings, oxygen saturation readings, and pulse rate, first thing when we get there. They want to know how we are/were "out there" before we arrive. Then, after we've done the exercises, we sit down and they come (after a few minutes) and measure those things again. Like the 2 guys sitting in the photo above.

They want to know how we were "in here", as a result of what they had us doing .. after our exercises .. and they keep track of it all, too.

I chatted with the young lady kneeling on the chair in the photo, after I was finished. I asked her if everybody who was assigned to them actually came, and she said no. She said that some folks just don't want to get started, and they have to coax them to begin; convince them that they will profit from doing what they .. the patients .. have been assigned to do. She said that they have had people come in walking with a walker, and leave 12 weeks later, walking normally and without assistance.

Some never start, so they do take them off the roll. They're disappointed when they have to do that, but for the vast majority who do come and do exercise, do follow instructions, they feel very rewarded when the patients complete their roles and show improvement.

You should have seen her face when she told me about the folks who come with walkers, and leave without.

Then I got to thinking about how our churches .. the ones with whom I am familiar .. operate. How our "members" attend .. or don't. How our leaders can .. or can't .. rest easy and tend to other things, secure in the knowledge we're out there "doing our exercises".

The mind boggles.

I go on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. They increase the time at each exercise by a minute a week, so I was really dreading going there this morning. I knew they'd bump me up to 8 minutes walking up and down those steps, which gets to be real torture. Well .. guess what .. 8 minutes was easier, this morning, than 7 minutes was, last Thursday.

I repeat .. the mind boggles ..

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Simple Premise

Namely, Jesus is building His church, here on earth (and maybe elsewhere, too, like Heaven).

That's it.

Jesus is building His church.

Now, God has said He hates lying lips. In light of that, I am a bit reluctant to believe Jesus would use lying lips to build His church. Now, I know we've all told a lie here or there in our lives, and hopefully we've repented, confessed, and been restored. Which brings me to the premise mentioned first.

If Jesus had a resume, would it contain any misrepresentations? I doubt it, as misrepresenting something is referred to, in the Bible, as lying. And when someone disagreed with Jesus' credentials, would He have waffled, or tried to hide what He'd previously said?

I don't think so. And when people went looking for evidence as to what He really was, and what He'd really done, would all evidence point toward His genuineness?

I don't think God would use misrepresentations about anything, to build His church. Those are lies, and we know who fathers all of them.

This is the King's business we're about down here. We're not just preaching sermons, teaching classes, running schools, or singing in choirs. We're involved up to our necks in the building of God's church. Jesus' church. And how dare we do it in any manner of which Himself would disapprove? A manner in which He would not participate?

This Communion thing has gotten all up in my face in the last few months. See, all through the "food chain", the lower cannot access the upper. Try as it might, dirt cannot become grass, grass cannot become cow, cow cannot become man, and man cannot become one with God, unless the entity one step up the chain sends down roots, eats the grass, eats the meat, or does something to clean up man and make him capable of unity with God.

What struck me about the ordinance of communion is that Jesus is reversing the chain! He tells us that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood, if we want any part of Him. I wrestled with the "why" of that for years .. when I bothered to think about it at all .. until it finally hit me: He wants to inhabit .. to indwell .. to commandeer .. our flesh!

He's told us to go do certain things in His name. Mostly, we seem to just hang His name on the end of a prayer, or tell someone for whom we're about to show some kindness or other, that we're doing it in Jesus' name. Well, that kind of bothered me a bit, particularly when I heard about things like an (in)famous California pastor who was praying imprecatory prayers. So .. I looked up the word "name". And here's what my handy-dandy computer Strong's Concordance said that word is:

onoma (on'-om-ah);
from a presumed derivative of the base of 1097 (compare 3685); a "name" (literally or figuratively) [authority, character]:

Now, if I view all those things as being true of doing things in His "name", I have to include doing things which are also in Jesus' authority or character. So while I suppose it's always good to mention His name, to give Him the credit for what we're doing, it seems absolutely mandatory that our work .. especially in building His church .. is done by our flesh, and in accordance with His authority or character.

If we prepare a resume with lies in it, that can hardly be deemed within His character, can it?

If we are caught in a lie, doesn't His character, which offers such grace and forgiveness, demand repentance, confession, with restoration to follow?

Is hiding previous "misrepresentations" within His character, which tells us that our sins will find us out?

Would Jesus, were He in our pulpit, ever say anything degrading about our fallibility? About our foibles? Would He joke about our shortcomings?

Would He preclude someone, to whom He had sovereignly given a particular gift, from missionary service, in a foreign country, in His name?

Would He berate me in a hotel entryway after I'd spoken to a motion, based solely on my speaking to a motion made by another of His children?

Were He to bring a message from one of our church pulpits, would the term "ministerially speaking", referring to His speech, be an implied wink at exaggeration? As an aside, what does it say about our alleged service to him, that "ministerially speaking" carries the connotation that it does, today?

Would He boast about 16 million members, when over half are not being discipled, or even seen, by the local church?

Or would He take the high road? The King's way? Unwaveringly, unflinchingly, and unfailingly?

I think He would.

It'd be nice if we would, too. Perhaps then, we could make claim to being about His business down here.

I'm not sure we are.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Groucho and Me

What with my Birthday coming up and all, and considering that my next post about the sorry state of mankind is weighing a little heavy, I think I'll post some true nonsense. (NOTE: this is at the suggestion of a Facebook friend, so take that, all you people who think Facebook is a waste of time. OR, don't blame me, it wasn't my idea anyway).

The story happened about 31 years ago, and is one of the funnier (haha variety) things that ever happened to me. Not at the time, but now....


In the late 1970's, I traveled around the country quite a bit. In fact, in 9 years in that job, I was in about 36 states, and 100 airports.

One of the trips I made was to Columbus, Ohio, for a three-day convention, followed by a one-day trip to Madison, Wisconsin, to meet with my Madison area representative. At the time, I was in charge of a nationwide insurance agency network .. some 250 agents .. and also responsible for client relations with our customers, the associations which sponsored our insurance programs. The trip to Ohio was to attend the convention of one such sponsor, the Ohio Licensed Beverage Association (i.e.: tavern owners).

The last night of the convention, the evening meeting was a “Monte Carlo Night”. Using play money, I played Blackjack for about 2 hours, and ran my $1000 stake up to about $50,000. Then, at the end of the evening, they auctioned off all the door prizes for the play money.

I'd spotted a soft-sided suede briefcase I liked, so I bought it. I didn't know it, but my chief competitor in the bidding was the wife of the Association's president, who came to me afterward and asked if we couldn't work a deal; she wanted it for her husband. Well, I thought magnanimity would be wise, so I said sure .. you buy that statue of Groucho up there, and we'll trade. It was a really neat caricature of Groucho Marx, about 30” tall, of plaster, just like the one in the photo above.

Sure enough, she bought it and we traded. They packed it up in a big box full of little white plastic cheese curls, and I took him with me on the plane to Madison, Wisconsin.

The rub: no machines in the Columbus Airport. So, when I went to the gate, they opened Groucho, sifted through all the cheese curls, and taped him back up inside the box. But when I got to the gate, there was no place to sit, and the flight was delayed. So I went back into the terminal.

When they called the flight, I went back to the gate to board the plane.

Unpack Groucho, Sift cheese curls. Re-tape package.

After a good meeting in Madison, I went to the airport. It was snowing. Bad. So I went to the gate to board the plane as early as I could (had to stash Groucho in the overhead).

No machines. Open Groucho. Sift cheese curls. Re-tape Groucho.

And hour later, we finally boarded the plane. We then flew 6 hours through blinding snow (it was 90 miles to Chicago) and were on final approach when they announced that lightning had nit the tower in Chicago and knocked out the GCA; since we'd been flying so long, we had to go back to Madison to refuel.

Yes, we flew 6 hours from Madison, Wisconsin, to Madison, Wisconsin.

When we landed, they said they were canceling that flight, and we need to go to the counter in the terminal to have our tickets “stuck” for the new flight. Which I did, and then went back to the gate to get on the new flight (same plane).

No machines. Open Groucho. Sift cheese curls. Re-tape Groucho.

We boarded the plane and sat there for an hour or so, at which point we were told there was a weather delay, so we should to back to the terminal and wait, which we did. An hour later, they called the flight, so we went back to the gate and boarded.

No machines. Open Groucho. Sift cheese curls. Re-tape Groucho.

We got to Chicago about 3am, and walked across the concourse to the next gate, and immediately got on the (previous day's) 7pm flight to Atlanta.

Got to Atlanta in time to catch the 7am flight to Birmingham (after one more episode of opening Groucho, sifting cheese curls, and re-taping Groucho).

I called Peg and she came to the airport to pick me up. When I'd gotten there, I'd ripped open that #%$@!$# box, and thrown it and all those !@#!**$& cheese curls into the trash can. So Peg rolled up to a mostly deserted airport to see me and Groucho sitting on the curb.

It took some explaining.

As a sidelight, the statue is now worth a WHOLE LOT more than the briefcase would even be, now, new. I kind of wish he hadn't fallen off the case where he was sitting, a few years ago, and turned himself into little grainy pieces of plaster.

Monday, May 03, 2010

At Least The Executioner Is Pretty

I watched the whole video of the GCRTF Report, earlier this afternoon. If I can afford to buy enough paper to feed my printer for an hour or so, I'll probably download and print it, so I can make some notes thereupon, but I must say it was well presented, artfully told, and worthy of some sort of Academy Award or other.

However, I think the content is more important than the delivery.

Mostly, the report seems a re-statement of what was revealed in the preliminary report, with a few changes. Thus my original thoughts still apply, though I do acknowledge their nod to "Regenerate Church Membership", which will presumably accomplish about as much as the motion, on that same topic, that was somewhat begrudgingly passed in Indianapolis a couple years back. BUT .. there's one thing that's been bugging me about the original and final reports, and I think I figured it out.

Both reports refer to the SBC "Celebrating the Great Commission Giving" of SBC churches. including CP funds, and designated funds and direct expenditures on missions!

For a moment, let's disregard the fact that some Task Force members didn't give very much to the CP in years past, and that perhaps the whole idea is a "palliative" for those who don't like how the CP distributes "their money", and by golly we'll show them, and take our money elsewhere. Let's just ignore that. But, consider the following Scripture:

"Would He thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty." (Luke 17:9-10, NIV)

Where do we get the idea that we are to "celebrate" what the churches do?

I don't get it, unless it's just a way of phrasing it to get the idea onto the table.

Maybe that's just indicative of the problems in the SBC. But, I repeat, what do I know?

Not much, apparently.