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

Sunday, August 26, 2012

It's Us or Them, Right?

I think if I were a new convert, serious about Jesus and the Bible, and studying denominations with which I might align myself, I doubt I'd pick Southern Baptist.

I mean it. I've never seen such an "Us vs Them" mentality, and "Us vs Them" combat, in all my years in churches, as what's going on in the SBC right now. And I've been a member of six different denominations ... and active in another ... too!

People are criticizing a new Sunday School curriculum strictly on the basis of who wrote it, not on what it says. And they are lying about what those who hold other biblical views believe and say.

Yes, lying. See, I was a Presbyterian for 12 years before my 31 years .. thus far .. as an SBC member began. And, at that, I've been well studied in what both believe. Unless things have changed drastically among my Reformed Brethren, they never do throw rocks at what Baptists believe, but look at what Baptists have been saying about Calvinists!

I must say that the Reformed folks come out 'way ahead in that comparison!

Shame on us, SBC folks! We ought to be more repulsed by our SBC rock-throwers. Vocally so.

Jesus commanded us to have unity among us. To have, and show, love for one another. I doubt He had in mind denomination-by-denomination, congregation-by-congregation, etc. I'm pretty sure he meant among all the brothers in the faith. I think we're failing at that, and I suspect I know why. We've built our own little idols to worship. Mode of baptism. Instruments in worship. Open communion. Free will. Election. Predestination. Regeneration and its timing in the salvation process. But those things seem to fly in the face of something else Jesus said.

He said if we don't come to Him as little children, we don't even get to see the Kingdom. It occurs to me, in light of this, that our unity must stem from something a child can understand. Our sin. His righteousness. Trusting Him for salvation. Things He promised the Holy Spirit would convict the world of, when He came.

That makes a lot of sense. It makes the focal point of our fellowship the Man .. the God-Man .. the real, living Savior. The Person of the One Who died for us, and yet still lives in us. Maybe if we saw a little more of Him in our activities .. you know .. where we Baptists actually get together .. we'd have less of the acrimony that keeps cropping up when "Us" go after "Them".

That seems borne out by experience, too. The real highlights of the Annual Meeting this year were times of fellowship and personal interaction with friends, including ones I'd just met. When it was "Him and Me" as opposed to "Us and Them". PLUS: we'd all do well to remember that "Them" is really just a collection of "Him's".

Maybe we should try saying everything, including what's said in the blogosphere, as though it were said one-on-one, over coffee.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What's This "Commitment" or "Decision" Nonsense?

We hear a lot of things in church that make me wonder. Wonder if we're trying to "sell" Jesus, as though He were riding around in the back of some Snake Oil Salesman's cart. Frankly, the term "invite Jesus into your heart" is one of them, as though our little children understand what that term, in the Bible, means.

Well, two of my all time favorites are shown up there at the top. "Making a decision for Christ" and "Making a commitment to Christ" are the ones. As though our intelligence enables us to decide on something that will save us, or our sheer force of will is going to enable us to lead a life of followship that will get us beyond the Pearly Gates.

What kicked this rant off, in my mind, was watching a show about gangs in prison. Actually, it was about men in prison, and the problems that gang-relations and ex-gang-relations were causing them. And prisons were dealing as best they could with the problems, and were reasonably effective, just about as far as they could be without having every prisoner in his own private isolation cell 24/7.

I've seen a lot of TV shows and movies about prisons, but there's one scene I've never ever seen: a judge, or a prison guard, or a policeman telling a convict that he's going to be asked to make a decision for prison, or that's he's to make a commitment to confinement.

Never gonna happen. If you don't surrender, they're going to come get you. And for some crimes calling for the maximum penalty, they're not going to stop until they get you.

And until you surrender. Until you give up your rights to control your life.

I am by no means an authority in this. It may well be that those who make an earnest "commitment to Christ" then become God's responsibility, Who will then take care of them forevermore. I honestly don't know. But just in the Southern Baptist Convention, where commitments and decisions seem to be the order of the day, it appears the majority of the folks who've made commitments and decisions aren't in the church any more.

Is that evidence of something? I have to say yes. I'm just not sure what. And is it serious business?

You bet! Check the following verse, directed at us:

Hebrews 13:17: " Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account."

That sounds to me as if our leaders .. those appointed by God to Spiritual authority over the Ekklesia .. the church .. will have to give an account for us. I have to believe that's a very serious matter, and one which may cause many church Spiritual leaders a great surprise when they depart this life and reach the next.

Perhaps God is OK with people who "make a decision" and then go back to business as usual, and fall away from church. Maybe He would rather have them do that, than not. But when I examine Bible stories of Jesus Himself telling a would-be follower to "Let the dead bury the dead", or to "Sell all you have and give to the poor", it casts serious doubt, in my mind at least, on the veracity of such casual "salvation experiences".

Can we afford to play it casual. In sermons, in Sunday School lessons, in Bible Studies, in any sort of discussion concerning our faith and it implications?

I don't think so. Not that we have to be some sort of "hammer" in the hand of God, but I do think we need to be abundantly clear that the matter of salvation, surrender to the Lord, and obedience to Him is the last thing in the world we want to treat casually.

There's also the  matter of abundant life. Jesus died so we could have one, and I rather think He not only wants us to have one, but He also wants us to want to have one.

Complete surrender .. not that I can ever do that with any perfection .. is the only standard I know to shoot for, to have that.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Adoption

I'm not normally one to "pile on" someone who messes up, but what Pat Robertson said concerning adoption, in yesterday's broadcast, was so outrageous to me, that I cannot help but speak. For those who have not heard of it or seen it, you can see it here.

This is going to be a very simple comment on what Mr. Robertson said. If Jesus and His Heavenly Father held the same attitude toward us folks on earth, there wouldn't be any of us saved, today. We're the most diverse, problem-laden bunch imaginable, and God loved us while we were still sinners.

 I read a blog post from a young lady this morning, who'd adopted into her family, three children from foreign lands. One of the children, still an infant under a year old, is mentally handicapped, yet seeing that child with the other children spoke mightily to the joy she'd brought to their family. And to hear Rev. Robertson speak ill of that rankles me, and makes me wonder how a minister of the gospel, with any understanding of God's unmerited love for us, can cast any aspersions whatsoever on folks who want to love children from other lands in the same manner.

 I don't know, maybe we all have a hand in creating the pseudo-Christian atmosphere that makes this whole religion thing about us and our happiness, and not about the desperate and hopeless condition of mankind apart from Christ. I heard it said a long time ago, and I've never forgotten it: Jesus didn't come to make us happy, He came to make us holy.

 I'm afraid Rev. Robertson didn't show much of that, to me, in yesterday's broadcast.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

He Knocks My Socks Off...

Miracles. You never know what they're going to look like. And when they're going to show up. So, a couple days after telling one and all that my knee surgery sapped all my creative juices, as well as my ability to sit still long enough to write a blog post worth posting, I find myself compelled to write what may well be the longest post yet.

It's about miracles. Two rather unusual ones right here in my family.

The first one is my leg. And the knee replacement surgery thereupon, performed July 9th. Now, I hasten to mention that wasn't my first rodeo, so to speak. I'd had my left knee replaced April 6, 2006, same sort of apparatus by the same (fine Christian) surgeon, at the same hospital. In 2006, the surgery was performed on a Thursday, and I went home on a Monday. Therapy began a few days thereafter, and I honestly do not know how long it went on. I do know that I walked first with a walker, and then subsequently with a cane, and was mobile enough to attend the SBC Annual Meeting (our first), two months later in Greensboro.

It was at that meeting that I finally decided I could walk better without a cane; that trying to utilize the cane was slowing me down and I was better off walking along the walls, keeping a hand hear the handrails, etc, for stability. Everyone remarked, at the time, that I had made remarkable progress, particularly for a guy that was 68 years old.

Skip forward 6 years. Now, the 68 year old guy is 74, and has the other knee replaced. Same surgeon, same apparatus, same hospital, same therapist. Surgery Monday; on Wednesday the surgeon says he doesn't see any reason to lay in a hospital bed any more and sends me home. I start therapy the next day, a week ahead of what had been expected.

This time, it didn't take a bit over two months to progress through the walker and cane, to walking unassisted. I stopped using the cane in a little less than two weeks. I don't know any other adjective to use to describe that, than miraculous.

As in miracle.

Thank you, God. I sure didn't do anything to deserve it.

Now, on an entirely different front, our older son Brian had a melanoma about 20 years ago. It was removed, clear margins were seen, and there were no recurrences. All was well. Until about a year ago, that is. He had a dark spot on his head arise, which he showed to his physician, who said they needed to watch it for a year or so, as it didn't seem to be anything to worry about at the time. But then, a couple weeks ago, something must have happened, as Brian asked his mom who my dermatologist was. It seems he'd become concerned about the spot on his head, and had called every dermatologist he could find in Birmingham, and the earliest appointment he could get was August 11th.

Frankly, that made me angry. That was July 23rd, and that seemed like an awfully long time to wait, so I resolved to call my own dermatologist, that I've been seeing for about 20 years, the next day, to plead the case. I've had a family history of moles and the like and I'm basically a chicken, so I'm careful with that; I thought that I might be able to persuade my Doctor to see Brian earlier despite the fact that he'd been told she didn't have anything available for about a month.

Well, I didn't have to use my debating skills that time. I called the office the next morning .. the 24th .. and told the secretary who I was, that my son had a history of melanoma and had a spot that worried him; I no sooner had gotten the words out of my mouth than she said "Tell him to be here at 1pm tomorrow with his insurance information".

Wow.

He was there at 1pm, they saw him first, and the doctor removed the growth and sent it off to pathology. The report was back the next day, Thursday: it was melanoma, but she'd told him the backside of what she'd removed wasn't pigmented, so he'd probably "dodged a bullet".

One week later, August 1st, he went to another specialist who removed a larger section; the pathology came back the next day and once again, they reported there was a clean margin.

All 10 days earlier than he'd originally been able to get an appointment.

Now. I want to point out two things about these two occurrences. God intervened both times; I didn't cause anything. He gets the victory. All I did was to do what I could; in one case, do the rehab exercises that I was told to do, and make one phone call in the other. But I've taught for years that the real secret to what happens in the Spiritual side of our lives is not dependent on on what we do, but what God does with what we do. And we may be too often guilty of expecting a miracle from God when we are not willing to do anything ourselves.

Talk to someone about Jesus. Tell them of their lostness.

Pray over someone who's "hopelessly" ill.

Take an unpopular stand in a Godless world.

Expect God to do something when the world doesn't.

Next time you're in a tough situation, do something. I think God loves to take our feeble efforts and knock our socks off. He sure has, over the last month, with me.

Friday, August 03, 2012

The Look of Silence



For either of you who regularly read Eagles' Rest, and might have wondered about the 30 days of silence, here's the reason:


That's it. A total knee replacement now residing in my right knee. I don't know whether it looks just like the one in the X-Ray, but that's the kind of thing we're talking about. Not only does it do something to creative juices, but it also interjects a level of discomfort into sitting at a computer keyboard, composing anything longer than this brief message, which I am stopping right now.