Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> EAGLES' REST: August 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

High Attendance Sundays

Every Sunday, we assemble at FBC Pelham in order to stimulate one another to love and good works. Included in that is the efforts by the pastor and teachers, to edify the congregation for the work of service, via preaching and teaching the Word of God. And that's not the best work, in my mind.

That's worshiping the God Who spoke the universe into existence. Adoring our creator and His Son. Letting the Holy Spirit refresh our souls, to prepare us for a closer walk with God.

Loving the brethren. Fellowshipping and showing that love. Making our lives available for others.

But then, churches also have "High Attendance Sunday", in which awards are given for highest percentage attendance, etc. It is that "promotion" in which I will not participate. See, in my alleged mind, the reasons I stated that we assemble on Sundays are all Biblical, and are the highest reasons I can imagine for the assembly. To do anything that indicates that the 3rd Sunday or whatever of such-and-such a month, we'll have a special reason for attending, is demeaning the reasons God sets forth, and in my mind, demeaning to God.

I told the SS class I taught for some years that, if we somehow had so many people show up on a Sunday that we won some sort of award, certificate, or plaque, that one of the members would have to go get it, if they wanted it. I didn't want any part of it.

I don't mind that churches do that. I'm not on the Church Activity Appropriateness Commission. Just don't ask me to be involved, please.

I won't.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Alpha and Omega, Family Style

The China Cabinet over there is a pretty special piece. When Peg first graduated from High School and got a job as a typist at Wabash Fire & Casualty Insurance Company in Indianapolis, she bought the cabinet for her Mother, for her Mom's birthday a couple months after starting work. Her Mom had a decent collection of china, brought to her by her brother from Japan when he was there in the military shortly after WWII. Her Mom didn't have a good place to keep it, so Peg bought the cabinet for her. The first thing she was able to do for her parents, after she got a job.

When her parents had both died, and it came time to break up the household and distribute the estate, Peg got the china cabinet. Plus a couple of other items, one of which was the old chest of drawers I refinished a bit over a year ago. I blogged about that, here. Plus a Morris Chair which I re-finished and rehabilitated as a Christmas present for Peg, a number of years ago.

The coat rack .. I think some refer to it as a "hall tree", is at the opposite end of the spectrum. It was made by Peg's Daddy .. her stepfather .. George. As he advanced in age, his eyesight grew quite dim, and he could do less and less around the house. But, even though legally blind, he could still manage to make a few simple things in his workshop/garage.

The coat rack is the last thing he made for us.

George's was a triumphant life .. a triumph over a lot of adversities. Toward the end, Peg's Mom fell victim to Alzheimer's disease, and it broke our hearts to see George and how faithful he was to take care of his wife. And he did that, and did it well, even though legally blind. In this day of easy marriage and divorce, and commitmentless cohabitation, George & Mary and their devotion to each other was an inspiration to anyone who took the time to notice.

Two treasures. Two gifts of love. Alpha and Omega .. the first thing Peg could do for them, and the last thing they could do for us.

Peg and I are wealthy beyond anything the world will ever be able to measure. And my mind cannot even begin to measure the vastness of the treasure we have in God's love, but He is doing a pretty good job of showing it.

If we'll take the time to notice.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I Got Yer "Mysterious Ways" Right Here, Pal

That's our Granddaughter, Meredith, in the picture over there. She's currently studying the last few courses which will complete her Master's Degree, already having earned her Bachelor's in Theology at Southeastern Bible College here.

Last school year, she was the After-School Director plus Drama Director for Evangel Christian School in Alabaster, and enjoyed the job. But that job did not materialize for this school year, so she's been sending out resumes, "looking for a job". God seems to have had other plans.

Mer (sounds like "mare") has desired a career in ministry, for many years now. In fact, the picture is her and a kid from Kenya, and was taken when she was there on a mission trip. But nothing was materializing, and there didn't even seem to be anything much on the horizon.

Then, about two weeks ago, a young man who has been in our church for several years, and was part of the "youth group" of which Mer was also a part, was killed in a tragic accident in Homewood. Most folks in the Birmingham area, in fact, heard the news reports of the young man working for the Homewood Parks & Recreation Board, who was killed when a Lawn Mower turned over, fell off a retaining wall, and fatally injured him. He was known as "Edge" in the group, and Peg & I were friend of his parents, as well. As Mer had been a friend of Edge's, she went to the funeral at FBC.

Another young lady, about Mer's age, who'd been in the group and a friend of Edge's, also came to the funeral, from her home in Tennessee. Her name is Amanda Grantham Sekulow.

Yes, that Sekulow. Her father-in-law is head of the American Center for Law and Justice .. the ACLJ .. and is involved in several other ministries also. And, she and Mer had talked since their youth days, about being in the ministry.

Mer and Amanda got to talking at the funeral: Mer said she needed a job, and Amanda said they were looking for an employee. One thing led to another, resulting in her driving to Franklin, TN, to interview for a job.

Mer made the trip last Thursday, interviewed, stayed with the Sekulows that night, and came back home the next day. The deal was made, Mer spent some time looking for an apartment, and she'll be moving there right after Labor Day.

So, folks, let me introduce you to Meredith Cleveland, VP/Director of Special Projects, working in G.L.A.M. .. Godly Leadership in Arts & Media, and also with the "Silver Screen Church" ministry there. Just today, she blogged about it, here.

Meredith went looking for a job. What she found was the Hand of God.

I love it when that happens.

Monday, August 15, 2011

So .. WHO CARES?

As Christians we're blessed, in many ways. And, as a Christian, one is expected to share that blessing with others around.

I've often used the illustration of a leaky tank. If the pressure inside the tank is higher than the pressure outside, then what's inside is apt to come leaking out. IF, on the other hand, the pressure outside is greater than that, inside, then what's outside is apt to come leaking in.

Case in point: Christians. Followers of Christ. If the pressure of your faith .. your allegiance to Jesus .. your dependence on Him, is greater than the pressures around you .. the pressures of the world, the family, the job .. then Jesus is going to ooze out from you. But, unfortunately, the opposite is true here, too. If your faith-pressure isn't very high, then the world is going to come flooding in. And that can hurt your faith-walk with Jesus.

FBC's Dennis Nunn-led revival was all about our lifestyles. How we live, and what we live AS. See, Jesus said a couple interesting things, just a few seconds apart (seemingly). Check this, from John 14(NIV):

"21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them."


Catch the difference? It seems to me that following His commandments is a matter of do's and don'ts, but following His teachings concerns who we are. What we let Him do in us. How we live our lives, from our hearts, not just our minds and their recollections of a set of rules.

In other words, whether we let the Holy Ghost have His way with us.

We all have our own lives to live, complete with our own set of troubles. But maybe if we live as we ought, from a heart made new by Jesus, just maybe God will use us to impact the lives of those around us.

Dennis Nunn told us how we could share with our servers in restaurants. As my Grandkids did last Wednesday night at a local restaurant, when they blessed the socks off a server named Chan. Well, Peg and I went to Applebee's today, as she had noted they had a pretty good "twofer" for lunch. When our server Mari brought our drinks, I looked up at her .. feeling all the shyness that's been part of me as long as I can remember, along with all the hesitancy Dennis mentioned .. and I said "We're going to give thanks for our food. Is there anything we can pray for you, for? Anything in your life?" She brightened up, in a serious sort of way, and said "Oh yes .. there's so much going on now.."

We chatted a few seconds and she shared that she was from Mexico originally, and was raised in Washington State, about 50 miles from the Canadian border. We then told her we'd pray for her, and she left.

We did give thanks for the food, and prayed for Mari.

When she brought us the check, she'd written some stuff on it. I asked her if she wrote that on all the checks and she said "Oh, no ... I did that for you".

I think she meant it, and I'm betting you're surrounded by folks every day, who have just as much going on in their lives, that need prayer, as Mari did. So the question I'd pose is this: do you care?

I'm not holding myself up as any sort of model, but when I read what she wrote on the check, I'd have to be either a fool, or a masochist, or maybe both, NOT to want to be "bringing some light" to the days of folks around me, as Mari indicated happened today.

I repeat: WHO CARES?

I do, and hopefully, so do you.

Here's the check:



Thursday, August 11, 2011

How To Use A Tract You Don't Have

Dennis Nunn just concluded a 4-day, 5-meeting “Every Believer a Witness Revival” at FBC Pelham. It was terrific, on more than one front.

It was entertaining .. Dennis is that sort of speaker .. and it gave us a lot of useful thought as to how to start a Spiritual conversation; practical ways to go about it. But what convinced me it was something special was a couple bunch of happenstances that weren't on his program.

Have you ever noticed that God does that, sometimes?

I talked to Dennis several times during the revival, as we'd previously met on blogs, including this one, and we'd spent a couple hours chatting in the coffee shop at Ridgecrest a few years ago, he and CB and me. I'd gotten a brochure from him and had left it with our pastor. When I left last night, I told him I was going to blog about the experience.

Now, I'm a cautious sort, so I emailed a friend who is a pastor of a church where Dennis mentioned he'd held a revival. I asked him for his thoughts about whether his message had a lasting impact. Here's his response:

"The lifestyle and intentional verbal evangelism approach advocated and taught by Dennis Nunn is a continuing blessing to our church. When it becomes part of the church DNA sinners are saved throughout the community. We will be baptizing over 100 converts to Christ for the 5th straight year and we do not have "altar calls"."

Hmm .. I estimate that church is about the size of FBC Pelham. Hmmm ...

One of the "happenings" that appealed to me was that the general “pattern” for telling your story, which he recommended, was Paul's testimony before Agrippa. What makes that “special” to me is this: in 1970, I took part in a 4-retreat training program called “Shamgar”, named after the guy mentioned in Judges 3:31. The idea was to equip us to be witnesses for our Savior without needing a Bible, a tract, or any other external “aids”. Like Shamgar, who slew 600 Philistines with a oxgoad .. a pointed stick .. our objective was to learn to use whatever was in our hand, for Him. And the testimony “pattern” we learned was Paul's testimony before Agrippa!

41 years ago!

Some coincidence, huh?

One of the options Dennis suggested was to carry tracts with you, and give one to someone when it seemed appropriate. He had quite an assortment of tracts, with varying themes, and he shared several ways to give one to someone. And he actually demonstrated by walking around the sanctuary, giving some out to the congregation. The one he handed to me: Billy Graham's booklet “Steps To Peace With God”.

Guess which one we used in Shamgar … the one we memorized so we could draw it out on a cocktail napkin at a dinner meeting, or whatever, when the occasion arose.

Yep. Billy Graham's “Steps To Peace With God”. Those same verses, in fact, that I used in the Nassau Airport, which I talked about here.

One of the things Dennis did was to ask us to commit to telling our story to someone the next day. The next day, he asked us to commit to giving one tract away the next day. So I picked up some of the latest Billy Graham tracts, to hand out the next day (Wednesday).

The next morning, Peg and I went to Home Depot to buy some stuff to finish my patio door project. When I went to get some nails for my nail gun, there was a man there looking at framing nailers. I put a box of the nails I needed in Peg's shopping cart, and she headed for the lumber aisle for some trim I needed. I struck up a conversation with the guy looking at nail guns.

I told him "For what it's worth, I have a Porter-Cable, and I love it". That led to a discussion about nailer angles, nail types, etc. After a few minutes of that, I rode off toward where Peg was.

When I got to the end of the aisle, I didn't even slow down .. I flipped a U-Turn, said "Wait here a second..." and went back to talk to the nail gun guy. I told him "Hey .. we got this thing going on at church and I was supposed to hand out a little booklet today, but I forgot to bring it, so I guess I'll just have to tell you how I came to trust Jesus."

I then shared my testimony with him and asked him where he was going to go, when he died. He waffled on the answer, so I said "You can do one of two things ... you can fix it right now .. I'll help you .. or you can go away and think about it". He said he'd like to think about it and I told him OK. I said "That sort of thing happens only when the Holy Ghost convicts somebody of sin, righteousness and judgment. And I can't do that .. it's not my job".

He did seem to understand what I was telling him. I stuck out my hand, shook his, and told him I was "Bob with one "o"" .. he laughed and said he was Claude, and that he was in Home Depot all the time and would probably see me again. That, in fact, he recalled seeing me before.

It was a neat time, and I got to share it Wednesday night at church.

What really iced the cake, though, was at lunch today. We struck up a conversation with our server, when she brought the bill and my credit card back, and she asked for my ID (that's written on my card in the signature line). When I showed it to her, she said ... "Cleveland .. hmm .. do you have any kids or grandkids?". We said we sure do, both. She got kind of animated and said our grandkids, Matthew and Meredith (and 4 of their friends from church) had been in the night before. They'd told her they were going to give thanks for their food and asked her if there was anything in her life, they could pray for!

That's one of the things Dennis suggested we do!

WOW.

Thanks, Dennis.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Rededication? Huh?

There's one thing .. well maybe several .. about Southern Baptist practices that really bugs me. The one I want to talk about, for anybody who hasn't figured it out from the title, is "rededicating your life". And I think it really may be about more than just words.

We do play with words, you know. I've heard repentance defined as "turning around" .. changing your ways .. I've even seen preachers walking across the stage (it's not an altar, per Ed Stetzer) and suddenly stopping and going the other direction. They say that's repenting .. turning around. Well, we got into a minor brouhaha on another blog .. SBC Voices I think it was .. about the meaning of repent. According to my Strong's Concordance, the word is metanoia, which means a change of your mind. Thinking differently about something. SO, a verbal nod agreeing not to sin any more just doesn't get it, in my mind. It takes a change of mind, which brings about a change of will. And of actions.

We play the same game with "joy" and "love", too. We define joy as something like knowing God is in charge and is working things for our good, whereas the definition I see for "joy" in Strong's is Chara .. joy, gladness, or Chairo ... rejoice, be glad, rejoice exceedingly, or Charis .. joy, pleasure, delight. Now, when I look around the church and don't see a lot of that, I figure someone is going to come up with an alternate definition for that word. Well, no thanks, I'll take the real stuff, please.

Love? We define that as agape, meaning self-sacrificing love, and when we see a shortage of love in the church, we point to folks who do for others as being sacrificial, thus demonstrating love. I've done that myself, and have come to realize that love expressed through gritted teeth isn't love at all. And when I look at Strong's, again, I see Agape: "1) affection, good will, love, benevolence, brotherly love, and 2) love feasts". That seems like the sort of love God shows, and which drives the one with that sort of love to act for the good of others.

Being old and curmudgeonly, I've decided to stop misusing words to please others' preconceived notions. That sounds too much like catering to itching ears, to me.

Which brings me around to two of my favorites to harp on: "Backsliding" and "Rededication". I think they're like lipstick on a pig.

Or, better yet, like the old line about "If you count a dog's tail as a leg, how many legs would the dog have"? Well, the answer is four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.

And calling sin "backsliding" and short-circuiting the Biblical remedy for sin by a follower of Jesus, namely repentance, confession and restoration, but wrapping it in the euphemisms of backsliding and rededication certainly doesn't do the believer involved any good.

It's kind of analogous to a husband or wife allowing a parent to come between them and their spouse, in a misguided interpretation of "honoring" your parent. Allowing a parent to interfere in a relationship that God has likened to that existing between Jesus and the church, can hardly be called "honoring" that person.

Same way with us poor sinners. If one of us turns our back on God and sets our sights on sinning ... and here I've heard that state as like being in a storm on a lake, when the only way to get off the lake is to aim for one safe spot on the shore and direct yourself exclusively toward that ... then the fact is we are sinning. And the bible is clear on how to deal with that.

Repent (change your mind, letting that new mind change your actions).

Confess (call it what God calls it) to God and sometimes to one another.

Be restored (by a body which realizes that is the only action they can do and be obedient to God).

Not talking about the sorts of "missing the mark" which we all stumble over, and repent of, daily. But how about such things as folks who join a church and then don't attend for five or ten years? If we take seriously the command to prompt one another to love and good works, assembling together in the process, then wouldn't discipline in that matter be pretty well required of the church? Particularly when the Great Commission is not to "lead people to Jesus", but to "make disciples" and "teach"?

Maybe the matter isn't the backsliding believers. Maybe it's the backslidden church. Come to think of it, the only time I've seen that term used in the Bible, it refers to Israel, and the modern equivalent of that would seem to be the church.

Frankly, I doubt the churches of the SBC can do that, particularly in a "denomination" which seems to desire powerlessness over its members.

And don't gripe about our not being a "denomination" .. the SBC website uses that word about the SBC ... check the second paragraph here ... so I believe I will, too.