Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> EAGLES' REST: June 2012

Saturday, June 30, 2012

OK. I Give. It's Pet Peeve Time.

I have a secret to confess .. something I haven't mentioned here before (but I am old, and I may have before, but I'm too lazy to look through all my prior posts....).

Whenever I go to church where we have a special guest there .. author or musical performer, and they've set out books, tapes, CD's etc for sale in the lobby, I turn around and go home.

I won't stay when they sell stuff in the lobby. And we've had some famous guys I've missed out on, by doing that, too!

The picture up there portrays what's commonly referred to as Jesus' "cleansing the temple". It's reported in all the gospels, but the version I'm thinking of is the report found in John's gospel, chapter two. There, verse 12 says:

"To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!"

Now, as I understand it, doves were sold there, to worshipers who'd come to the temple with no proper animal to offer as a sacrifice. So in that sense, they were selling something there, that was necessary to worship there, in the manner God had prescribed.

Apparently selling the stuff there was not what God had prescribed.

What makes our churches different today? We have lettering over the door to our sanctuary which says "My House Shall Be Called A House Of Prayer". How does selling books and CD's and DVD's fit into that? How would that be less offensive to Jesus than was the selling of doves, back in the days when a dove (or similar sacrifice) was indeed necessary for proper worship?

We hear the explanation that, by buying the materials, we are "having a part in their ministry". If that's needed, there can be offerings taken for such purpose. I believe Paul mentioned that sort of thing going on to support his ministry. And what with the internet, performers can sell their materials easily, without resorting to turning God's house "into a market".

It just seems to me that setting those things out for sale within the church building, regardless of whether it's before, during, or after a service of worship, would be just as egregious to God, today, as it would have been to Jesus, 2000 years ago.

He was pretty clear how He felt about it, then.

Apparently we don't share the feeling, today. I think we're missing something.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mighty Old But Mighty Good.....


I went downstairs Sunday to check the furnace filter, to see if it needed to be changed. We have one of those combination electronic & pleated paper filters, with a humongous filter that needs to be changed once or twice a year, and I frankly never remember to either when I changed it last, or even to write down when I do.

Well, it didn't need changing, but while I was rummaging around in the utility room, I happened across the scissors/letter opener set pictured above. I remembered I'd gotten it for teaching in insurance class on behalf of the Independent Insurance Agents of Indiana, and when I turned it over I found out the details. On the back, I'd written my name, and "IIAI Basic School, 5/10/67". And, since I keep losing letter openers off my desk, I brought the set upstairs.

It's been around a long time. People have designed things they thought were better, I'm sure. But I still have this, and I'm going to be using it. It may not be the prettiest around, but it works.

What struck me about the set was that I could misuse it, too. I could used the scissors to cut wires when I'm working on my car. I could use the letter opener to stab someone. Or as a can-opener. Or I could try to open a corrugated cardboard box with one or the other, or dig a hole for flowers, or some equally inane thing. But I didn't, and for their proper use, they work just fine.

Don't try to convince me otherwise.

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You might have noticed I don't normally blog about desktop implements, but I have a reason this time. A couple months ago, a well-known Southern Baptist preacher cast aspersions on "the sinner's prayer". He called it, among other things, "superstition".  That prompted, eventually, a resolution passed overwhelmingly by the SBC this past week, affirming the use of what we term "the sinner's prayer" in leading someone to saving faith in Jesus. Although I am not one to used any sort of "canned prayer" or "formula" when that occasion arises, I cannot assume that the lost person whom I am talking to, about saving faith, knows better what they should do, than I do. And if I can't depend on the Holy Spirit to lead me in a time like that, I have no business talking about faith at all. Whether I tell them the gospel and tell them they need to conform to what the gospel says is necessary, or simply lead them through simple questions (the most awesome conversion I've ever witnessed .. to me .. occurred in such a case), or tell them what they need to tell God and what they need to ask Him and what they need to agree to ... we all know what they need to do. Their doing that is the objective, not my words.

I don't think anybody that's not there can put the exact words in the witness's mouth. 

Be clear on this: the gospel is that we're hopelessly lost in our sin, but if we'll repent of our sin and turn in faith to Jesus, asking Him to forgive us and be (lip service not allowed .. He either IS, or is NOT) our Lord, then He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If He'd wanted us to use a formula or canned prayer, He'd have given us one. But if there was any other way to get saved but via the gospel, repentance & confession, He wouldn't have shown us instances of that happening, so many times.

Sinner's prayers. Can they be "misused"? Sure. But if we're going to throw out everything that can be misused, we're going to have to toss out the scriptures, too. And I don't think we want to do that. 

Throwing out just the "sinner's prayer" would do enough of that.




Sunday, June 24, 2012

Is This Not Babylon The Great........

That's the thought that kept running through my mind this past Tuesday, as the messengers at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention were voting on the 'Name Change Committee" report. They had recommended that the Convention adopt a "descriptor" to describe what we do, rather than change our name. A name change would cost untold millions of dollars, but a descriptor would be something that any entity or church could adopt, to describe what Southern Baptists were, did, or stood for.

The descriptor selected by the committee was "Great Commission Baptists", and I rose to speak against that motion. To the best of my recollection, here's what I told the convention...

First, WE'RE NOT GREAT COMMISSION BAPTISTS! If we believe Jesus' statement that, if we'd lift Him up (exalt Him), He'd draw all men unto Himself, and if we believe we've been doing that, then we must also confess that the 16 million people we claim as members were drawn down our aisles and joined our churches on our terms, by Jesus, for us to make disciples of. And the best we can say for ten million of them, today, is that don't go to church.

THAT is NOT making disciples!

Also, I've been asking for TWO YEARS for people to tell me why we have to be baptized to join a Southern Baptist Church. NO ONE has ever told me the right answer. Not a member, not a Sunday School teacher, not ever the Deacon Body assembled. One of the most prominent SBC distinctives, and we haven't even taught it to those of our membership who DO come to church.

Then, I've been witnessed to by many people, during my 37 years in Birmingham, when I was out and about in business and leisure. But NEVER ONCE was that by a Baptist. EVERY TIME, it was by a Presbyterian, who was telling others about Jesus, perhaps from a sense of obedience.

WE ARE NOT GREAT COMMISSION BAPTISTS! 


I also said that I'd done a little research, and that I'd searched fifteen ... one-five (didn't want them to mis-hear "fifty") cities in the North .. from Indiana to Minnesota, from Nevada to New York .. and had found 3,099 businesses with "Southern" in their name. So, apparently, "Southern" wasn't the bad word we thought it was, in the North, and if we were looking for something to blame our perceived lack of "success" in the North, we were going to have to look elsewhere.

I ended by saying that, if the Committee had spent their energy in finding ways to help pastors to assimilate new members into the church, given them a suggested track to run on, to help them assure themselves that new members would actually be made into Disciples of Jesus, and not just church members, that perhaps that local pastors could actually go back to their churches and DO that, that God would take care of the numbers, and we wouldn't have to worry about our name.

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The motion to call ourselves "Great Commission Baptists" passed, perhaps 52/48. To me, it smells a lot like Nebuchadnezzar walking onto his palace roof and proclaiming "Is this not Babylon the Great, which I have built ..... ?"


Let's hope it doesn't smell that way to God.




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Friday, June 22, 2012

SBC2012: Race, and Race

There's a lot to say about the meeting, but I confess I don't really know what to say, so I'll start by quoting an old friend who emailed me. I'm not going to reveal his name since I haven't asked permission, but he said something extremely important in his email. Seems he'd seen me in one of my rants from the floor, and had written to tell me. In the email, he said the following:


"Fred Luter is an outstanding human being and a great pastor. He'll make a good SBC president, SO LONG AS HE STAYS AWAY FROM RACE."


I thought that was an extremely salient point. He may have been elected because he was a capable man, and for other reasons, but let his presidency be about his abilities, his servant's heart, his Spiritual wisdom and perception, his leadership abilities ... which he has demonstrated to and among people of all description in New Orleans, and perhaps his presidency will be about those things. And not about his race. If anybody tries to make it about his race, it will always be about this fine man's race and something else.


That ought not to be. But you can bet that every reporter, from CNN to the smallest newspaper, is going to ask about that, and let's hope Fred has the wisdom to steer clear.


The other race that mattered was the one for 2nd Vice President. The "Establishment Guy" .. Eric Hankins, of the "Anti-Calvinist-Manifesto" .. which seems to have been signed by something over 1% of the people who read it .. was soundly defeated by blogger Dave Miller, Editor of the SBC Voices blog. I'm particularly elated about Dave's winning, because I finally have seen an "Incoming SBC Officers" picture with a guy in it that dresses like I do and faces some of the same .. shall we say .. problems that I face every day. 


Good onya, Dave. But if you want to know where the concentration of voting power was, at the convention, I think we just found out. It was a bunch of bloggers and twitterers with cell phones.


There was also a somewhat pointless motion affirming what's known as "the sinner's prayer". You know .. where someone who's saved leads someone else in a prayer of repentance, confession, and asking for forgiveness and salvation. As I have heard it, a well-known preacher had tiraded against the use of such a prayer, calling is "superstitious and unbiblical", and I think this resolution was a reaction to that. I don't know what the preacher had in mind .. maybe that the poor lost sinner knew better what he ought to do than a believer, and didn't need any help in "gettin' saved", but I'd certainly not agree with that. In fairness, I do believe he softened his stance somewhat, hopefully not in an attempt to curry favor with the folks who rose up against what he'd said. 


The resolution went, in the normal course of business, through the Resolutions Committee, who rewrote it substantially. The original resolution contained some rather anti-Calvinistic language, which was removed (thankfully). One of the "protagonists" moved to amend the final resolution to put some of it back in, but the amendment failed, and the resolution passed.


Overwhelmingly.


I don't use "canned prayers" or anything like that. I prefer to simply lead them to do what the Gospel says is necessary to be saved. But the only time this stuff really means anything, anyway, is when a Spirit-filled follower of Jesus is talking to a lost sinner, and I don't think we want to start telling them what not to use to lead people to faith in Christ.


There were probably some other things that were big enough to report, but I was either asleep, or not smart enough to recognize them. But several things I would state most affirmatively.


  • The gathering of bloggers at the Cafe du Monde on Monday evening, which ran from maybe 9 pm (CB and I were there at 8..) until nearly midnight, was a blast.
  • Meeting some of the bloggers and Facebook guys that I've gotten to know electronically, since my last convention in 2009, was a real treat.
  • Being there for the election of Fred Luter as President of an organization which was formed something over 150 years ago, by slavery advocates and mostly over the issue of slavery, was by all accounts the most momentous thing I have ever witnessed. The atmosphere in that building simply cannot be described. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dad Wished ME A Happy Fathers' Day Today

What follows is a copy of the program handout for a musical our church choir performed, about 27 or 28 years ago. I happened upon it some months ago, in an old file folder, and stuck it in a mail sorter rack on my desk. This afternoon, I pulled it out and looked at it.

As a word of explanation, I have trouble remembering breakfast, but for some reason, I've always had a good memory for music. As a kid, when I played accordion, if I could perform the song, I didn't need the music any more. I could remember it. Same for the banjo.

When it came to cantatas and quartet numbers, I always put just a little work into them, and normally always did them without the music. Did that with narration, too. I really, really resolved to trust God to give me the grace to do those from the heart, and not have to read them.

He never failed.

Whatever work it was, to do that, was more than amply repaid when I read Dad's handwriting on the back of the program. I don't want to be proud of it; I just want to be happy that Dad apparently was.

Thanks, Dad.


Saturday, June 09, 2012

Could Others Be A Light For Us? Really?

Peg and  I were at one of my many doctors' offices yesterday, plotting the upcoming replacement of my knee. We happened to run into a couple who formerly belonged to FBC Pelham; they left some time back, for reasons which are irrelevant here.

I won't tell you what church they went to, or which denomination that church is part of, other than the fact that it's not Southern Baptist. But a couple of things we learned, while chatting, ought to make us sit up and take notice:


  1. I asked specifically what they had to do to become a member of that church. The answer was they had to attend several specific meetings, designed to be sure the prospective member knew what they were getting  involved in, and so the church could assure itself of the commitment of the prospective member. Those meetings were Sunday morning (in place of Sunday School), Wednesday night, then a session Friday night and all day Saturday, then a final Sunday morning session. Note that one of those sessions was devoted to a "Spiritual Gifts Test", as they termed it. After those meetings, they attended a dinner meeting with the Spiritual leadership of the church, and shared their testimony with them.
  2. This particular church, in addition to the normal community ministries, now even has an outreach specifically to "dying churches". Churches which are in trouble, and know it. And it's not limited to denominations, and this church applies purely Biblical principles to those local churches which need revitalization and renewal in order to be a vital and growing part of the local community and of the Church, worldwide.


Does that sound like a good thing to you? Rest assured I'm not playing any word games here. The church I'm not naming is a solid, Biblical, Christ-honoring Christian organization/organism that I, personally, would be happy to be a member of. Except our ministry isn't there .. it's at FBC Pelham.

Big reason for this post, on top of a couple other recent ones? How would you compare this church's discipling of people with the average SBC church's? Further, considering their outreach to dying churches, how would you assess their impact on the larger church, outside their own walls and their own system of beliefs?

At this church, there's no walking down the aisle and completing the transaction by the end of the third stanza of a hymn. This church is going to be sure that the prospective member is a follower of Jesus, is actually a disciple of His, and will be a church member who uses their own "Manifestation of the Spirit, for the common good" mentioned prominently in 1 Corinthians 12.

From all I've seen, that's actually happening.

We in the SBC should be doing so well. I just haven't seen it yet.

If it were, do you think we'd be worrying about our name?

Friday, June 08, 2012

I Have A Question

We have often, in the past, discussed "free will" in our Sunday School Class. When someone wanted to challenge my views on the matter, I'd always invite them to come to the front and say something like "If one of us is going to get embarrassed, it should be up here....". Everybody would laugh and they'd always walk up front.

Then I'd ask them if he or she did have free will, to which they always answered that they did. So I invited them to float two feet off the floor like a butterfly, or hummingbird. Everybody would chuckle, including my victim, and I'd say I understood.

 Then I'd ask them to accompany me down the hall to the bathroom, where they could stick their head into the toilet and breathe water like a fish. I'd say I mean, you have free will, right? They'd admit they didn't have the free will to do that. At least not do it twice.

 So we'd formulate some sort of new statement, to the effect that they had the free will to do anything that was in accordance with their general nature as a human being, with the requirements and limitations thereof. To that, everyone would agree.

 Then I'd tell them the Bible states "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." (1 Corinthians 2:14, NAS) As I read that, man's human nature, in and of itself, does not allow him to comprehend the necessity of, or the means of, salvation.

 Then I'd move on to "Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is accursed"; and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit." (1 Corinthians 12:3, NAS) This seems to say that no one confesses Jesus as Savior, unless that person possesses, or more correctly is possessed by, the Holy Spirit. And that does not describe a natural man. Sounds like God must first regenerate our nature, from the natural, to a new Spiritual nature, which can comprehend things of the Spirit, before we can confess Him as Savior by the Spirit.

 Hence, my question: How can regeneration not precede salvation?

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

My Take On "A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”

My opinion:

If they had simply stated their beliefs, it'd be one thing. But every sentence that starts with "We deny..." serves only to foment strife and cause divisions. It is obviously aimed at those who believe in the system of doctrines we term "Calvinism".

That's one thing that's been appealing about The Baptist Faith & Message, to me. And hence, about the Southern Baptist Convention. Given the stance on the Priesthood of the Believer, setting forth what we believe ought to be sufficient. If our beliefs are solid, then our followers should be able to detect false doctrines.

Are the framers of this latest statement saying that Southern Baptists, on the whole, are incapable of reading and discerning Biblical truths for themselves .. for actually being the "Priests" we've so long claimed?

If they had omitted all the "We deny" statements, it'd be a nice statement of faith. As it is, I think they should be ashamed of themselves. Telling a good percentage of Southern Baptists they shouldn't believe what they believe.

Several capable people have pointed out all the straw men, and false implications, in the statement, so I won't debate it here. Except to say that (A) blaming our declining or sagging numbers on our name, and now (B) attacking the beliefs of a goodly number of our members, including some of our own leadership, does not speak of a healthy organization.

I went to a "Building Bridges Conference" some years ago. I guess the drafters of the document have decided they'd rather burn them.

Note: If you haven't yet seen the document, you can download and view it here.