Tuesday, May 24, 2011

When Will We We Ever Learn?

We went to pay our respects to a friend of ours, who died recently. His life, lately, had been a real testimony to God's power, as Peg had known him many years ago .. they worked together in the 1970' .. and God had done remarkable work in Marvin's life.

His visitation was at the old building complex of Gardendale First Baptist Church, so our trip out there and back took us along the edges of some areas that had been hit by the April 27 tornado, and for some reason, I was struck by the immensity of God's power. That the storm was a mere breath from God's nostrils, so to speak. That Jesus could have spoken "Peace" to the storm and it would have ceased.

When we got home a few minutes later, the TV was showing clips of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. And that God had said there'd be some of those, which further leads me to believe He has something to do with those things, too.

I was again speechlessly thunderstruck at the awesome nature and power and presence of God.

My thoughts then turned to how we relate to Him. First in the thought process was the seemingly common thought that "Abba", which Jesus used in a statement concerning His Father, is the same as "Daddy". A term of familiarity. I tell you, that thought has always frightened me, as I don't believe I could ever be "familiar with" God. He is GOD.

G.O.D.

And considering His record and achievements and abilities and nature, I want always to hold Him in reverence. Here's what my Thayer's says:

"father, customary title used of God in prayer. Whenever it occurs in the New Testament it has the Greek interpretation joined to it, that is apparently to be explained by the fact that the Chaldee "ABBA" through frequent use in prayer, gradually acquired the nature of a most sacred proper name, to which the Greek speaking Jews added the name from their own tongue."

Whereas, my Computer Bible Strong's says:

"Of Aramaic origin, father (as a vocative case)."

The vocative case is the case of a noun used to identify the person addressed. For instance, I am father, but only my own sons can call me "Father" in the vocative case. So what we're told in Romans and elsewhere is that we can address the Heavenly Father is "my Father". Not daddy, ol' buddy ol' pal.

Even as our Father, he's still God. And He's always God.

On the way home, I thought of the ramifications of this. How should this regard for God be manifested in our life?

Every way conceivable.

When I taught Sunday School, my objective was to be the best SS teacher in the world. Now I know I cannot ever attain that, at least not as long as Elwyn Stafford is still around. He is the best. But I figure if my aim is less than that, then those sitting under my teaching are going to get short-changed.

There's an old adage that says "If you settle for less than what's coming to you, you'll get even less than you settled for! I kind of figure that applies to Spiritual things, too .. if I settle for less than what God has in mind for me, I'm going to get less than I settled for. And if I settle for less than being the best teacher I can possibly be, I'm going to fall short of what I did settle for.

This post has kind of been languishing in my draft column, waiting for me to finish it. But now, as I sit typing this, I'm listening to the live TV broadcast of the tornadoes in Oklahoma. And I am reminded of what all happened in Alabama in April, and that all those storms were the merest breath of air from God's nostrils.

The quake in Japan, and the resulting tsunami, were the merest twitch of God's incalculable muscle. And His ultimate control over all that He spoke into existence all those years ago.

And we take Him lightly. We show up late, we stay home, we speak to brothers and sisters, completely ignoring Jesus own commands to love one another as He has loved us, and paying no attention to the admonishment that the hallmark of those who follow Him will be the love we show one for another.

I'm not going to argue about whether God allowed, or caused, all these storms. To me, whichever is OK with me, and doesn't change Him or His nature, one bit. He is SOVEREIGN, folks, and He can do as He pleases, when He pleases, however He pleases, wherever He pleases.

In fact, He is.

Even now.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Not Every "Widow's Mite".....



...comes from a widow.

For instance, this envelope contained one that didn't.

I mentioned previously, here, that Dr. Sheri Klouda was going to send me some money for the tornado disaster recovery here in Alabama. Her husband, Pinky, had set some dollars aside for just such a purpose, and God told him this effort was, indeed, the purpose. The envelope, copied above, contained the check, which she made out to me, and was noted to be for the disaster relief. We got it Saturday afternoon, and this morning, I endorsed it over to Westmont Baptist Church and delivered it to CB & Staff.

Note the postmark date. It's May 4th, 2011. That was the day before Pinky had his foot and lower leg amputated, owing to circulation problems. And that tells me that obedience to God may just hold a higher position in their lives, than their own current problems.

We're all going to run into a current problem that neither man nor money nor food can overcome, you know. I have to feel we'll be a whole lot better prepared for that one, if we start ordering our priorities while we're still able to, here.

All sorts of churches have joined the efforts here. Someone in the know remarked the other day that "Alabama's done more to help the recovery in one week, than the folks in New Orleans did in a year". And he mentioned that the churches were responsible for that. FBC Pelham, has contributed a lot to Westmont's effort, and we've also sent out work crews to help with the cleanup.

Westmont's better organized every time we go out there .. we were there Sat-Mon-Tues-Thurs of last week, and then again, today. Now, they've got food all sorted on tables, labeled for easy access, and have tables, around the perimeter of the fellowship hall, that have toiletries & shower necessities, diapers, and other non-food items that folks in the tornado areas would need. CB's obvious gift for administration (which we'd discussed many times over several years) has been working out there, now that the tyranny of the urgent, so to speak, has been overcome.

Here's a picture I took this morning. Some of the food has come in, in the form of canned goods and other packaged things like snack food, so they're all sorted and labeled so you can find them. There have been some folks stop by, from the hardest hit areas, who don't have any food and haven't been able to go back to work yet, so Westmont folks will fix them up with a sack of groceries.

Most, however, come to eat, and those needing groceries have been relatively few.

It's important to know that Westmont has about 150 folks there on a good Sunday. This isn't a mega-church, but they do have a mega-heart.

And they serve a Mega-God.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

People Don't Limit God

Many years ago, I read a Playbill posted on a temporary fence around a construction site, advertising a play soon to be appearing in Indianapolis. The play was named "Your Arms Are Too Short To Box With God".

The musical was loosely based on the Gospel of Matthew; I don't know how true to Scripture the presentation was, but man oh man, they sure got the Title right!

A few years back, when bloggers played a major role in electing Frank Page President of the SBC (over "establishment candidates"), a certain professor at an SBC seminary was reported to have said that there are no permanent relationships established in blogging, among bloggers. He's a fine professor, but he sure got that part wrong! Some examples, from this week, follow:

Alan Cross showing up at Westmont Baptist with a car full of stuff for their effort feeding people is a pretty good example, although not the most surprising one. Alan was one of the original cadre of SBC bloggers who worked for some needed changes in the SBC, back in 2005-2006, and he's also Pastor of Gateway Baptist Church in Montgomery. CB, Alan and I shared a room in Jackson TN, at a Conference we all attended a few years ago, in fact. My nephew John, an AoG'er from Indiana, spent over a year at Command Training at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, a couple years ago, and he liked Gateway so well that he rented an apartment less than a block from there (despite the fact that it meant driving clear across Montgomery to go to school, every day).

Alan's got it together as a pastor. He'd probably say he doesn't, which of course tends to prove my point.

But I have a couple better examples. Over the past couple of years, I've gotten to know a blogger from Orland, CA, named Laurie Lagrone. I've never met nor spoken to her, but we met electronically via The Pioneer Woman blog. Laurie has the same twisted sort of sense of humor I do, so my comments on her blog, Fooleryland, apparently struck some friendly chords.

Anyway, we've chatted a few times since the tornadoes struck, and I think she read my blog posts about Westmont's & FBC's partnership in Minor Heights. Then, I received the following email from her:


"----- Original Message -----
From: Laura Lagrone
To: Bob Cleveland
Sent: Tuesday, May 03, 2011 11:23 AM
Subject: Tornado Relief


Hey Mister Cleveland,

Finally had a few minutes to sit and talk with The Husband last night, and we decided we'd rather send tornado relief money to a person we trust who can get it to where it needs to go. Does your church have a donation fund going? Will you send me the name/address where I can send a check? It'll be small, but something. I can always give to the Red Cross or Salvation Army, but I suspect the people who live there can do the most good.

Hope you're well and safe, and your whole family, too.

Laurie

--
Reporting live, or close to it, from Fooleryland
"So much foolery, we had to start our own country.""

I immediately wrote her and told her what to do, and she's mailed off a check in response.

Then, some of you'll recall Dr. Sheri Klouda, prominently mentioned in Wade Burleson's blog, a few years ago. We've visited in the Kloudas' home a couple of times, and have kept in touch ever since that whole mess a few years back. Well, last weekend, during a Facebook chat, the following popped up on my screen:

"Sheri Klouda I am sending a few dollars from Pinky to help. He has had it put by for something like this. He promised it to God."


Wow. They haven't had it the easiest since she left SWBTS, but they have managed to get it together and buy a small house in Upland, IN, where she teaches at Taylor University.

But there's something else you need to understand ... Monday, on Facebook, Dr. Klouda posted the following:

"Hi Everyone; my husband Bill is going to have major surgery on Thursday afternoon when they will amputate his lower leg and foot. Today he received a card from a neighbor and really liked it. It is going to be a long recovery and your good thoughts and wishes would mean a lot in the next week or two. He will need a great deal of encouragement."

Wow. I think Bill .. friends call him "Pinky" .. and the widow who gave the two coins, are going to have a lot to talk about in Glory, some (hopefully distant) day.

I met C.B. Scott via blogging. I met Alan Cross through blogging. Ditto for Laurie Lagrone. Blogging introduced me to Dr. Klouda.

Methinks that, sometimes, Professors have a lot to learn.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

FBC Pelham: Here's Who You're Feeding

It's a good thing to be part of a program that feeds folks, which is what FBC Pelham .. along with some other folks, some of its individual members, etc .. has been doing since Saturday afternoon. Check my prior blogpost here for details.

But it's another matter when you put details .. images .. facts .. with it. So take a look at the picture above .. it was taken by a Westmont Baptist member, of an area where some relatives lived. When Sara showed me that picture today, it stopped me cold. The area is McDonald Chapel, the area South of Westmont, which was devastated by last week's tornado.

Imagine coming home to your neighborhood, from, say, a vacation, and finding what you see above. Imagine the shock, the questions, the fears, the concerns you'd have. Well, every one of those used-to-be homes you see, up there, represents several folks who feel just like that, now.

But they know one thing. They know that they can have a hot meal once a day. A little bit of normalcy among the chaos. And that's courtesy of the folks at Westmont, at Katherwood .. a Baptist church in McDonald Chapel that was also devastated by the tornado .. and the good folks at FBC Pelham.

When they sit down at the table in Westmont's gymnasium, or when they open their to-go box to eat, they also find this:


That's the closest they come to evangelizing people. Their approach is to feed folks in Jesus' name, and build relationships with them. And I might point out that the biggest baptismal service I've ever attended was at Westmont, last year. Between one and two dozen people, as I recall, were baptized!

It also helps to bring it down to the personal level. Take a look at the following:



The occupant of that home is a 91-year old lady. One of Westmont's members told me that, when her sister finally found her in the house on Friday, they were rejoicing and celebrating for all their worth!

I wonder if I'd want to celebrate anything if that was my house.....

One thing I will most definitely celebrate, though, is seeing, and participating in, one local body of Christ reaching out to help another local body give out a cup of cold water in Jesus' name.

Or a hot meal.

Or 220+ hot meals, a day.

Incidentally, this Baptist Church is using Catholic & Methodist freezers to store the food, and is housing a Presbyterian team of disaster workers, headed by a guy from Texas.

Jesus has got a big Body....