Monday, October 31, 2011

GPS Faith?

Peg and I were visiting with CB & Karen Scott today .. she's in the hospital for some treatment .. and we were discussing various things in our church, his church, the SBC, churches in general, and particularly those which link salvation to an event like an invitation.

My interpretation of those churches, by the way, is that they see the Great Commission as "Go therefore, and make believers of all nations...", without much emphasis on discipleship. Support for that thought comes via the obvious ease with which most folks can join a SBC church: Walk the aisle, say the prayer and take the plunge .. or say you've done that elsewhere .. and you're in. It's added to by the simple fact that 10,000,000 or 12,000,000 people we call "members", who are not even at church on Sunday, probably aren't undergoing much discipleship. Not to mention discipline (for non-attendance).

We were acquainted with that phenomenon from Peg's youth, in fact. When we first walked into FBC Pelham, under a mistaken impression, by the way, she said immediately she didn't want to join a Baptist church. She said she'd been saved at age 13 in FBC of Lebanon, Indiana, and that once she walked the aisle, said the prayer and was baptized, it was almost as if they forgot her. Sort of a "love'em and leave'em" approach. No discipleship, no development, nothing.

I know in our church, whatever someone comes forward to do, it has to be done in 2 or 3 or 4 stanzas of the invitation hymn. It's our custom to "present" those folks to the congregation before the service is over. I know that's customary in our church, and perhaps in most, but I can't for the life of me figure it out.

Perhaps it stems from the same place as the resistance to requiring those wanting to join our church, to attend "New Members Classes" to learn about the Baptist faith, our particular church, what Baptists believe, how they might be gifted, and where they might find a place of service in our fellowship.

The aim of salvation can't be only making it to heaven. That's the place dead believers go. The goal of the church ought to be to direct people to abundant lives, here and now. Jesus Himself said He came that we might have life, and have it abundantly. It seems to me it'd take some instructions on how to go about that.

When you buy your spouse or child or grandchild a present, don't you try to find something they want?. I'm sure you do, and similarly I think Jesus wants us to want an abundant life. Helping believers attain one of those seems a major part of discipleship, and not just a "whew .. that's over" acknowledgment of salvation.

My term for those non-attenders, and others who do not grow in the faith via involvement in the local church, was expressed as "GPS Faith". As in navigation systems, like the one above.

I've had a GPS system in one of my cars for a number of years, and when I'm going somewhere I've not been, or am not familiar with, I use it regularly. And what I've noticed is that, when I get to my destination, I know how I got there ... "Turn right ... turn left in 3.5 miles ... take the next left turn...", but I don't know much about the landscape. Can't recall much of the trip. As if I just left that all up to the voice in that little box.

In my Prius, it's a pleasant enough young lady, but in my Tom-Tom unit in my S10, it's something like an angry Jamaican Rasta. And hilarious.

We don't need a shortcut to the finish line. There are things to do all along the way, and we need to be doing them.

I'll use my GPS in the car. But I refuse to use one in my life. After all, the journey is the most important thing in my life.

It doesn't need to be flown on "automatic pilot".

Saturday, October 29, 2011

We Couldn't Be Happier....


...and she couldn't be prettier.

Ladies and Gentlemen, say hello to Kami Smith. Earlier today, our grandson Matthew asked Kami to marry him.

She said yes.

They've been seeing each other for about 2 years, and both she and Matthew are faithful members of SBC Pelham. Kami also teaches 4th Grade Girls' Sunday School, and she works full time in a Day Care Center. She's also come to lunch here after church on many, many Sundays .. that's a family tradition with us.

If I have any sensitivity about people at all, she's just as real and genuine as she looks in the picture, and she and Matthew will make a terrific young couple.

And, on another front, we have yet another reason to rejoice. The engagement ring she's wearing was my Mother's. Peg and I are really fond of Kami .. I guess it's OK to say we love her, now .. and will really look forward to having her formally a part of the Cleveland family.

Even though we're a pretty informal bunch.

Congratulations, Matthew. Congratulations, Kami. We're proud of both of you.

(Even if it does give rise to the possibility that, one of these days, Peg will be married to a GREAT-GRANDFATHER.)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Where The Rubber Meets The Road...

...Or maybe "Where The Steel Meets The Dirt".

The picture over there is my father, probably taken in the late 40's or early 50's, and I'm guessing at the Mesabi Iron Ore Range in Minnesota. I believe I recall him telling me about that.

But first, a word of explanation. Dad attended Depauw University for 2 years, and got what we'd likely call an "Associates' Degree" in Metallurgy. He then got a job as a Stock Records Clerk, at Holiday Steel Warehouse in Indianapolis. Cutting to the chase, he became one of the nation's more respected experts in metallurgy, including teaching Metallurgy at the Purdue University Extension in Hammond, IN, during WWII.

One of the things that set him apart from some of the more "academic" metallurgists, I suppose, was his practical, in-the-field knowledge of metals. That's probably why they'd called him to the field to see the steam shovel bucket pictured here; I imagine there was some problem with it, cracks, excessive wear, or some such, requiring my dad's expertise.

I recall one time a customer of Holiday threatened to return an expensive shipment of steel because of alleged defects. The customer's metallurgist told the owner they couldn't properly heat-treat (harden) the steel to fit the specifications they'd furnished Holiday. Dad went to the site, got the owner, the metallurgist, their best welder, a garden hose, and a piece of the suspect steel and went to the driveway. Dad asked the welder to heat the steel until Dad recognized the proper heat level, and then played the hose stream on it. He then told the metallurgist to go test it for hardness.

The driveway-treated steel exceeded the specifications, and the owner reversed his stand. He also fired the metallurgist.

There was a lot of money involved!

Dad also related several other instances where his kind of "rubber-meets-the-road" expertise got both his employer, and many a customer, out of a real jam.


*********************************************************************************


On quite another front, we've been studying a new course written by Ken Hemphill, about Spiritual Gifts. The course centers around 1 Corinthians, and in chapters 12-13-14 of that book of the Bible, Paul spends considerable time correcting the thinking of the folks in Corinth, about Spiritual Gifts, and what it means to be a Spiritual person. And that's what sparked the idea in my (alleged) mind when I saw the photo up there. I see a lot of correct theology and sound Spiritual knowledge floating around the blogs, and in the SBC meetings I've been in, but a sadly large part of it seems to omit what Paul states is the real mark of the Spiritual man:

Love.

Paul pointed out in 1 Corinthians, that whatever He did was little better than pagan worship, if it wasn't done in love. But I see a lot of things around blogdom, and done at conventions, that don't seem to be expressions of one Christian's love for another. And wasn't that what Jesus said would be the "identifier" of His followers? His disciples?

I've been an observer of SBC goings-on for about 6 years now, and unless I'm wrong, far too much of what goes on isn't done in that spirit.

For us mortal humans, that sort of love is reckless behavior. It can cost us. It can make us look like fools. But I don't think that's supposed to be a criterion, is it?

We're going to be around a lot of followers of Jesus, when we're in heaven. It'd really be nice if all the ones we'd known here were ones we'd treated with the kind of love that Jesus referred to in His "new commandment", which He gave His disciples at what we refer to as the "Last Supper":


“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another".


"As I have loved you ..". Wow. That's a tall order, but I don't recall His telling us to do anything that He didn't .. and doesn't .. also enable us to do.

I recall my "Aunt Jessie" .. not really my Aunt, by the way .. who was perhaps the most loving lady I've ever met. The dominant picture of her, in my mind, as I think of her is of her, sitting in her overstuffed chair in her bedroom (she was a semi-invalid), reading her Bible and listening to the local Christian radio station in Indianapolis. She had the "Sallman Head" picture of Jesus on the wall, and a picture of one of the DJ's on the Christian station .. to whom she'd written .. on her nightstand. And I never ever heard her say an unkind or unloving word about anyone else.

Fine theology is a good thing, but if it doesn't affect us down where the rubber meets the road .. or where the steel meets the dirt .. then it's nothing more than the resounding gong that Paul so aptly described.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Restaurants Aren't Just About Food

OR.......

Why wouldn't we, (part zweihunderd)?

At least, it wasn't just about food today. I'd mentioned a couple days ago I was hungry for fish, and as Bonefish Grille is one of Peg's favorites, that's where we found ourselves at lunchtime today.

The hostess mentioned who our server was to be, shortly followed by a young lady who approached us, mentioned the server's name, but said she could take our drink orders. So we gave them, and when she brought the tea & water, I asked what her name was. She told me it was Ambree, and after asking her to spell it for me .. it's a bit unusual, in case you hadn't noticed .. I said we were going to be blessing our food, and was there anything we could pray for, on her behalf?

Her mouth dropped open and she said something like "no WAY!!", and then explained that her pastor had told her, in church, that people were apt to ask her that, now that she worked in a restaurant. She told him "Nobody's EVER done that!" .. and she'd been there a bit over 2 months.

Well, somebody has, now. And, by another stroke of luck (...), someone apparently noticed and she was assigned then as our server.

We had a delightful hour of food (courtesy of Bonefish Grille) and conversation (courtesy of Ambree). We found out she's studying dental hygiene now, with an eye toward eventually becoming a dentist. She also mentioned she's only 19, and that Bonefish Grille does not normally hire 19-year-old servers, but they made an obvious exception for her. She said she was one of five applicants for the job, they only hired two, and she'd really prayed that she'd get the job.

Does the term "God-appointed time" seem obvious here?

It was a great lunch and a great time of fellowship with a young Baptist girl .. she goes to Reno Baptist Church in McCalla, AL. And I just noticed their pastor is Roasco Kornegay; hmm ... wonder if he's related to Barry Kornegay, our FBC Deacon Chairman.

This talking about God and Jesus and prayer and church just keeps getting better and better!

So, if you're not doing something like this, I'll ask it again:

WHY WOULDN'T WE?


But it wasn't just about having a good time, either. The last thing she said as she was walking away with my completed & signed ticket was to thank us and say "You sure turned around my day!"

Wish I'd had the presence of mind to tell her it wasn't me .. it was the One Who sent us there. The same One Who sends you....

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

I BET YOU DO....

Do what?

I'll get to that in a minute.

We Americans are prone to accomplish things. We think in terms of cause & effect, and take a certain pride in what we accomplish. Building, going, doing, earning, etc. Sure, we acknowledge that our blessings come from God, when we are reminded of that, but still.....

On the other hand, we tend to ask "Why me?" when something bad happens to us. Or .. you know the old interrogatory mantra .. "Why do bad things happen to good people?". Well, that one's easy to answer: bad things happen to good people because bad things happen to people. And "good people" are still people.

It isn't as if God didn't warn us about that.

The picture up there is a sort of sign I spotted on Facebook, and immediately stole. It brought me up short, and I re-posted it on FB. But this morning, at 5:54 a.m. .. when I couldn't sleep any longer, I knew I had to write about it.

Actually, about something I've noticed for years.

The Bible is pretty clear that every good thing comes from God. That He holds all things together by His powerful Word. Yet, despite that, we ask "Why me?" when trials, illnesses, tribulations, tragedies and the like, come our way. But what we don't usually do is ask "Why me?" when good things happen to us. And that prompts me to ask the question I answered in the title:

"Do you know, or know of, anyone who works harder, is smarter, or is a "better person", than you, who has less .. who's less blessed .. than you?"

I do, and I bet you do, too. And that ought to prompt you to ask "Why ME?"

The answer to that question is that God loves you. And He is gracious. I cannot account for why He is the way He is, but I rejoice in it, every day. And you should, too.

If you have placed your faith in Christ in the manner described in the Gospel.

Coming on the day after I found out my PSA is still zero, and my abdominal CAT scan was normal, I'm aware more than ever: I ask way more than I thank. And I need to fix that.

Now.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Meet Megan

That's what we did, shortly before noon today.

We had to go out to our favorite home improvement (**cough cough homedepot cougncough**) store just before noon, and Peg suggested we stop at the Golden Rule BBQ here in Pelham. We hadn't been there in a while, so we did.

The young lady in the picture is Megan .. and I acknowledge I may be spelling that wrong, as we're not "with it" on all the current spellings .. who was our server. And she did an excellent job. She also stood in front of .. in the picture at least .. a sign for Joe's Italian Restaurant, our favorite Italian place, at least this side of Italy. Where we've never been anyway.

When she brought the food, I asked her for her name, and she told me. I then said we were going to bless the food and was there anything we could pray about, for her? She brightened up and said yes, she was starting Nursing School tomorrow. So we had a little prayer time, her standing right there, and asked God to bless her becoming a nurse, and some other stuff like that.

We chatted on an off for the rest of the meal, and found out she's got two little children, and goes to church at the Lutheran Church in Riverchase. Well, small world time .. that's the church that we'd arranged to meet in, 25 years ago, when we started the Riverchase Baptist Mission. Nobody came that day, so we re-grouped, started a Sunday School class in our church, for folks in Riverchase, and when the group got big enough, they rented some space in Riverchase .. a planned community .. itself, and off they went.

We had a great time chatting with Megan, and it kept putting that idea back in my head that's been rattling around ever since Dennis Nunn was here. Why wouldn't somebody want to just talk to folks like that?

I didn't, for too long. Thank God that time's over, now.

Seriously. Thank God.