Strict//EN" ""> EAGLES' REST: May 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Truth May REALLY Be Ugly

The gentlemen (some might argue with my choice of words, referring to either) in the pictures over there are Jacobus Arminius at the top, and John Calvin beneath. They are generally acknowledged as the fathers of what we refer to today as "Arminianism" and "Calvinism".

You ... stop making faces!

There's been a lot of debate in the last couple of years about just what the presence of the Calvinistic element is doing within the Southern Baptist Convention. At one end of the scale, we have folks who point out that we trace our roots to the Anabaptists, who were themselves, Calvinistic in their teachings.

At the other end of the scale, we have some folks who have said that the biggest problem in the SBC today is the damaging effects the Calvinistic teachings of some are having on some SBC churches.

Generally speaking, Arminius said anybody can be saved, merely by deciding they want to be saved. Repent of your sins and decide to believe. He also said you can be lost subsequent to salvation, should you decide you no longer want to believe, trust, etc. In that sense, Baptists aren't Arminians, but I don't know any other simple one-word term  (except maybe noncalvinist) that would apply to Baptists, or anybody else, to designate folks who aren't Calvinists.

Calvinists hold another system of doctrine, in which only the elect will, or even can, be saved. And, to those who are follow this soteriology, it's really OK, since if you're not elect, you'll never want to be saved, anyway.

The picture of someone who wants to be saved but never can be, because he's not elect, simply isn't valid.

So .. why all the upset? Why is it that some folks who seem to know what's what in the SBC see Calvinism as such a threat to the Southern Baptist Convention? I haven't really seen any evidence that it is, but let's presume for a second that they are correct. Let's explore why that might be.

Let's say that certain pastors come into certain Baptist churches and begin to preach "Calvinist theology". And the people begin to accept it and become full-fledged Calvinists. What do you suppose would be the reason they switched their soteriological view from "Arminianism" to Calvinistic soteriology? Do you think my pastor would change if he listened to those same sermons?

I think not. But I know the reason why.

He knows what he believes.

I do not think the average Southern Baptist does. See, I've been thinking the nickname "Great Commission Baptists" doesn't really fit the SBC on the basis that about 70% of the people God sent down our aisles are not in church on Sunday, and are thus not being discipled. Now, the thought that struck me today was that we're not discipling the people that ARE coming to church!

I've mentioned it before, but I'll say it again, here. I've asked people for a couple of years why we have to be baptized to join a Southern Baptist church. I've asked members, I've asked Sunday School Teachers, and I've asked the Deacon Body (assembled). I even asked a table with 2 pastors sitting at it, while at a meeting the other day.

Nobody has ever had the right answer. NOBODY!

If it's true that Calvinism poses a threat to the form of "Arminianism" found in Baptist churches, it's no wonder. We've failed at teaching our regularly-attending members what we, as Southern Baptists, believe.

Great Commission Baptists? You can call us that, if you want.

Not me.

Oh, yes. I almost forgot. I was a member of three different Presbyterian Churches over about 11 years. They're Calvinists, you know. Two things I recall most clearly about them. They were much better at making disciples there, than I recall among Baptists. And, I don't ever recall any Calvinistic preaching or teaching. They simply taught the Bible, without emphasizing anything other than the passages in the book they were teaching. Nobody was ever "pushing" Calvinist doctrine.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

To Test or Not to Test?

The pronouncement this week of the "Government Task Force" (have you learned to say "Obamacare" yet?), that men should not be tested for their PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) level, is the most outrageous thing I have yet heard from the Obama Government and the consultants they seem to have hired.

And, scarily, trust.

I am a prostate cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer in April of 2008, and had a prostatectomy in June of that year. The PSA only went down a little thereafter; subsequent tests found an enlarged lymph node close to the original site. That was treated with 39 radiation treatments via Tomotherapy, a form a radiation treatment.

My PSA has been generally zero since then albeit it has crept from 0.01 in December 2010 and December 2011 to 0.05 in April of 2012. We will be following up soon.

Take a look at the following picture. It introduces another note of irony in light of the Government's announcement this week.

The gent with me in the picture up there is Charlie Spicer, arguably the most important earthly man, to me, spiritually, that I've ever known. I refer to him as my first, and most important mentor.

The picture there was taken in July of 2003, on a trip to Indianapolis, in which I'd set aside a day to visit several men who had made specific important contributions in my Spiritual upbringing, over the years. Charlie, Gene Bertolet, and Elwyn Stafford were three that I saw that day.

Charlie was late for our appointment, at his office. He was late because he'd just come from his doctor's office, where he'd been told he had Stage 4 Prostate Cancer.

He died in December, 2005, a bit over two years after the diagnosis.

And this panel of so-called "experts" tells men they shouldn't even be tested any more?

America, be warned: this is where your government is leading you.

Government, be warned. We're going to vote again. Soon.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Precious Memories and the Smiles of Our Forebears

It all started with the wrench over there. It's one I inherited from my Dad, as he'd inherited it from my Mom's Father in 1951. I presume my Granddad got it new, and may have even used it back when he worked at the Duesenberg plant in Indianapolis, nearly 100 years ago.

If there is such a thing as an unbreakable wrench, I'm pretty sure that's it.

I was using it to do a little plumbing today; specifically to loosen the large retaining nut on the end of the water pressure regulator on our domestic supply line for our home. I've got a lot of newer wrenches in my tool box(es) I could have picked, but when I saw Grandpa Tanner's old Trimo sitting there, I just grabbed it and decided toput it to use after all these years.

I don't remember a whole lot about Grandpa and Grandma Tanner. They lived in Indianapolis and we lived in Chicago. We have a couple Aunts and Uncles plus Cousins in Indy, so we'd visit them and the Grandparent once or twice a year, but that's not a lot when you're a kid. And kids are not really into sitting and getting to know grandparents; getting to know them  as people. But one thing I really do recall  is sitting in front of their pot-bellied stove, in their little rented duplex, reading Craftsman Tool Catalogs. Tools just always interested me, Granddad always had a stack of catalogs there, that he'd let me read.

During the time I knew him .. he died when I was about 13 .. he wasn't in good health. He had a bad heart, and he mostly stayed home, The only job I recall his ever having was custodian at Victory Memorial Methodist Church in Indianapolis.

Grandma Tanner, on the other hand, was the perfect picture of a Conestoga-wagon-ridin' frontier-bound homestead wife. She just looked like one, and I can't explain it beyond that. She was also a bookkeeper at Lane Bryant Company, which in itself is ironic. They make plus-sized clothing, and she was thin as a rail.

I think she had to run around in a shower stall, to get wet.

Anyway, those memories came flooding in when I picked up that wrench, today. I wondered if Grandpa would be happy if he was aware that I'd chosen to use that old wrench of his, instead of the new chrome-plated lifetime-warrantied computer-designed wonders from my toolbox. That the wrench had brought fond memories of him, and of a happy childhood, when I picked it up.

Thinking of it from a Spiritual standpoint, I'd hope he'd find some pleasure in the fact that his presence on earth still had meaning, echoing across my mind decades later, as I picked up a century-old Trimo wrench and silently thanked my Grandpa .. and my Father .. for having passed a carefully old crafted hunk of steel along to me.

The other picture is a Bible (obviously). It belonged to Grandma Tanner; from what I can glean from reading the entries Grandma wrote in it, he gave it to her as a wedding present, close to the turn of the 20th century. One of the first family entries is that recording the birth, and subsequent death at 20 days, of their firstborn son Virgil Lowell Tanner.

Our younger son Brad has developed an extensive family tree over the last couple of years. We gave him all the information out of Grandma's bible when he started up, and he's done an absolutely amazing job since that time, with online ancestry resources, even to the point of finding ship's registries, immigration papers, census forms from several centuries, all  via the internet. But some of it came from Grandma Tanner's careful cursive handwriting in the old KJV that was simply inscribed:

Viola R
 James M.

Perhaps Grandma might be aware that the old bible that her husband had given her so long, long ago had served a useful purpose in a distant century. And maybe it brings a smile to her grandmotherly face, and a bit of thankfulness that she'd taken good care of it so long ago.

As I contemplate our lives today, and presuming the Lord doesn't return in the next century or so, I'm wondering if our descendants in distant centuries will  look back and have similar thoughts, and maybe some of the same sort of fond memories, about us. And perhaps we'll look across eternity, and be glad for some of the things we'd done here, and see what God had done with the earthly rubble we'd left in our wake.

Perhaps the most intriguing thought, for me, though, is this: what would Paul, feel when he sees a young couple read through 1 Corinthians, adopt its mandates into their family, and heal their broken home? Or how David might feel when he sees a family take comfort in in David's promise of the comforting presence of the Lord in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, as I did in the most real way I have ever seen in a family standing and looking at their teenage son and brother who'd just shot himself in the head. 

I'd bet Peter would feel pretty good if he saw a young wife who'd kept a calm and  peaceful spirit, and a submissive attitude toward her husband, who was then won to the Lord without words. 

I bet when we submit ourselves to the Word of God and live lives which set the stage for God to do those things for which we're so thankful, we bring smiles to the faces of all those whose labor of love and obedience brought us the Word of God today.

We've inherited the tools, the Word, and the opportunity. 

Let us set our sights on things worthy of remembrance.  

It's Different When You Know Them.

Occasionally, we get to know a missionary. We got to know some M's 40+ years ago, when we moved pracically next door to Oriental Missionary Society in Gteenwood, IN (now One Mission Society), and went on a couple crusades to Haiti with them. We stayed, there, in Missionary homes, in fact. Then, many years later, via involvement in SBC matters, I've gotten to know a few current and past IMB M's, not the least of which are neighbors Monte & Janet Erwin, who are now good friends. But the folks I'm talking about today are quite the opposite. The cast of characters: Paula Kornegay, first up on the video, is our worship leader. She's terrific; I firmly believe she should be ordained as our Minister of Music/Worship/Something-or-other. She's a terrific Spiritual Heavyweight. You'll also see Barry, her husband, who's a Deacon at FBC, SS and Discipleship Teacher and is an Ordained Minister as well. Liv Meany is their daughter, and they've all been missionaries in Africa, and Liv and her husband Brian are launching their own minstry .. Anza Imani .. themselves (with the help of all the other folks seen, unseen, and named in the video). Tara's familar in the church, Brian's sister Lauren has been in my Discipleship classes on & off for years, and all in all, these are people I've rubbed elbows with on & off for years. This isn't a bunch of folks we've all just read about someplace, or seen interviewed. They're real flesh & blood good people, like you go to church with, too. They've just decided God meant what He said, and are going to take Him up on it.

Check out their excellent 5-minute video, here.

Who knows .. you may be part of the deal.

Incidentally, Bright Bulb Entertainment is part of the organization for which our granddaughter Meredith works .. since she and Liv are best of friends, I suspect she had something to do with this.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Don't Expect Me to Say I've Been Praying For You

When our church had regular prayer meetings .. in the church sanctuary .. there'd be a little table out in the narthex, with prayer cards on it. Folks who attended the meetings would stop by and sign the cards, and the church secretary would then send the cards to those who'd been mentioned in the prayer meeting, to let them know that they'd been prayed for in the fashion that our church prayed for folks in that weekly meeting.

I'd always felt a little uneasy about that, for some reason I couldn't really pin down.

Then, perhaps 14 or 15 years ago, in preparation for our move to the church's present location, we formed a little prayer team. We figured that, if we were building a new building and designing the front of the sanctuary area (I don't call it an altar area, as Ed Stetzer says it isn't one unless we have table there upon which we're slaughtering animals) for people to come and pray, that it'd be nice if those folks didn't have to line up to pray with the pastor, and if we were going to have people praying with those folks who came forward, by gosh they'd best be prepared and instructed on what to do, and what not to do.

Some of us FBC'ers had been attending Kingwood's prayer meeting, and they kept pretty good control on who they'd let pray with others at their "altar", so as to assure that no Mormons, Jehovah's Witness, or any other religion they'd consider apostate would "infect" their prayer life within their church.

As part of our process, we started meeting on Sunday mornings, before church. Those meetings got so "heavy", we started meeting on Thursday evenings, too, and the church responded by putting prayer cards in the pew racks. Suddenly, we had a little basketful of prayer requests to pray over, every Sunday morning and Thursday evening. Someone then suggested that we send cards to folks we'd prayed for, telling them that we'd prayed for them that morning or evening.

I said "no".

It had finally occurred to me why: I don't want people to comforted by the knowledge that someone is praying for them. If there is any comfort, it should come from God's presence. The glory, the thanks, the credit .. they are all, and exclusively, His.

I have heard people say .. for longer than I can remember ... "I can feel your prayers". Frankly, you will never, ever hear me say that. Just think ... the bright promise of Psalm 23 is that His rod and His staff .. which are in His hand .. in other words, His very presence .. comfort me! And someone wants to give credit to somebody else? May it never be.

If you pray for me, thank you. But I won't feel it. If I feel anything, it'll be the presence of Almighty God, and His Eternal Son, Jesus Himself, in the Person and Presence of the Holy Spirit. And He's going to get all the praise I've got.

And all the credit, too.

I wrote a book about me, once. I just wrote everything I could remember, about 6 years ago, about me (mainly so all my memories wouldn't die when I did). I called it "In the Foreword of the Lamb's Book of Life". I'd noticed that I'd never seen research assistants, stenographers, editors, publishers, etc giving themselves credit for publishing books. That was normally done by the authors, in the "Foreword", or "Preface". I'd decided, when I noticed that fact, that I didn't want any credit, or praise, or thanks, for the things I do for Jesus, here on earth. If there's any of that to be had, let it come from the author. The Author of the Book of Life.

That'd be more than enough for me. In the foreword of the Lamb's Book of Life.

Friday, May 11, 2012

OK ... YOU Do The Math.

The church, described as the ekklesia  .. the called out body, the Body of Christ, is an interesting place. It's comprised of all believers.

According to the Baptist Faith & Message, a church is a local assembly of baptized believers.

Incidentally, for those who've read a previous blog post of mine in which I mentioned that nobody had ever answered correctly my question as to why you had to be baptized to join a Baptist church, that's your answer. That's what the local church is defined as, by us Baptists.

Now, the Bible does seem to set forth some standards for the believers as to how they should relate to the local body, and also how the local body should related to its members. Check 1 Corinthians 5 for some harsh details as to a couple of particular areas of discipline. But I'd like to look at it sort of in reverse ..the involvement of the members in the operation of the body.

First, are all members to be involved in the operation .. the activity .. the building up .. of the church? consider the following, from 1 Corinthinans Chapter 12:
  • There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone(I) it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
That certainly seems to say that each one .. and I don't see how any church member could fall outside that group .. has been gifted by the Holy Spirit, for the benefit of the entire body.

Hold that thought for a minute.

Now, think of your own church, and then we'll talk about "typical churches".

The last statistic I heard from the SBC was that weekly attendance in all SBC churches totaled approximately 37% of membership. The only hitch in that fact, though, is that I'm quite sure that represents everybody in the house, so to speak, including infants, toddlers, and children too young to be members. Our church is the most typical SBC church ever, and our Sunday attendance is usually 20% non-members, or more.

Think of that being true in your own church, and then take a guess as to how many people are actually involved in the operation of the church on Sunday morning (I pick on Sunday because folks involved on Sunday night or Wednesday are probably there on Sunday morning, too). Even if you throw in the choir, I think we'd be hard pressed to find 20% of member attendees actually active in a role such as teaching, leading, tending the nursery, or ushering on Sunday. My best educated guess is that perhaps 6% to 7% of church membership is actually using their gifts and talents for the benefit of the body.

The Body of Christ? When 100% are gifted to serve the Body?

Am I wrong in this assessment? Is your church different? If my assumptions and/or analysis is anywhere near correct, might this explain anything that we're observing in the SBC?


Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Divisions In The SBC (and probably elsewhere, too)

We all want to be right. And I suppose that's particularly true when considering what we believe .. our faith. Sometimes, when someone disagrees with us regarding our soteriology, ecclesiology, pneumatology or theology, it can threaten our own beliefs. And we don't like that.

This seems particularly true when it's a whole bunch, particularly an organized one, that disagrees with our position. And even moreso when they back it up with scripture.

Personally, Peg and I have been members of Methodist churches, Presbyterian churches, and now a Southern Baptist Church. And we've spent a reasonable time hanging around the AG, too. Enough to know that they all base their beliefs on scripture.

I frequently go a few rounds with my pastor, Mike Shaw, and with CB Scott, too. They both know I'm what I'd describe as a Calvinistic Pentecostal Southern Baptist, but neither I nor they care that my faith is somewhat **ahem** different  from theirs.

Certainly it's not in the Christian, nor really in the Baptist, distinctives.

Never once have those guys and I come to any sort of division. That, I attribute to our all being secure in what we believe, and not threatened by opinions on these matters which differ with the others'. In fact, I told my pastor that he ought to come to the Conference on Baptist Unity that I went to some years ago. I told him that we were the best example I knew of, of two people who differed on some of these points, and had such a fine relationship (and friendship). I told him I thought it said something good about him as a pastor that he'd let a Calvinist teach in Sunday School. I'll never forget what he said:

 "When I look at you, I don't see a Calvinist. I see a brother".

Oh, that such were the case in all our SBC churches.

In the context of making disciples, the SBC, and the SBC churches with which I'm familiar, are not at the top of my little list. That'd be the RPCES, followed closely by the PCA (which is now merged with the RPCES). I really think the folks I went to church with there were more thoroughly schooled in what they believed, than most SBC'ers that I've met. And the Westminster Confession is a whole lot bigger a study than is the Baptist Faith & Message.

In fact, for some years now, I've asked people in our church if they knew why baptism by immersion was a prerequisite to joining a Southern Baptist Church. I even asked the entire Deacon Body, on one occasion.

No one .. not members in general, nor Sunday School teachers, nor Deacons .. has ever had the right answer.

I'd think folks would be a least casually familiar with our denomination's consensus statement of faith, and what it says about that.

I really think that's the best explanation for the divides that crop up. At least I hope it is, as the next logical reason is even worse. That folks who stand on the edge of a divide think everybody should agree with their views, and are upset that they don't. It's almost as if the Bible doesn't say we see through a glass, dimly, while we're wrapped in this human suit of flesh.

I particularly think my reason #1 is at the heart of  the Calvinist vs Whatevertheotherguysarecalled debate. It has to be the stupidest controversy I've seen in the SBC. I mean, if Calvinism .. the points generally alluded to by TULIP .. isn't Biblical, why would we be afraid of it? If they don't have scriptural backup for their beliefs, I doubt it'd succeed among people who claim Jesus as Lord (which Paul said could only be known by those with the Holy Spirit to reveal it to them). If we measure the folks who are termed "Calvinists" against the Baptists who aren't Calvinists, on the average, there's no doubt which would fall higher on the Know-What-You-Believe scale.

Perhaps that's at the heart of the controversy over Calvinism, that's currently got folks calling other guys names in the SBC. Baptists having done a lousy job making disciples, and perhaps leadership fears that simply explaining the tenets of Calvinism will move Baptists away from where they are now.

Two people well schooled in their beliefs can discuss these things to their own profit. Folks not well schooled .. discipled, if you will, can't. One side or the other is going to get upset.

I think I know which side that normally is, in the SBC...