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

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Capital Punishment. Why I've Changed My Mind

I know what the Bible says about putting to death those who would lie in wait to kill another person. And I don't know any reason why that instruction isn't valid, yet today. But I've noticed something in the last year or so that has changed my personal opinion .. my personal preference .. as respects capital punishment.

I don't think our justice system, with all its safeguards and procedures that are built into it, is equipped to handle it. The problem isn't with capital punishment .. it's with our system.

And I don't think it can be fixed.

I read an article today about a man out West who'd given up his appeals and said he deserves death, for the murder of a young girl that he killed 22 years ago. Now, I don't argue with the punishment, but I think the man is in his early 40's now, whereas he was in his early 20's when he committed the crime. Therein lies the problem.

We hardly ever execute the same person that committed the crime. Aside from legal technicalities that might have arisen in the original trial, there's nothing in the criminal's life that can be taken into account in modifying the original sentence (as I understand it), once it's pronounced. There's no chance for redemption.

Think about it a minute. Think about God operating on that basis. Your first sin earns you the death sentence. Then along comes John 3, that says you're condemned already without Jesus. Since most of us don't get saved until after we've already committed that first sin, and received the death sentence, redemption for the Christian must necessarily come after the crime, so to speak. I'm glad God made provision for us, for our redemption, but the law makes no such provision.

God can rehabilitate us, but just as the Old Testament Law had the same shortcoming, our laws today cannot rehabilitate us when it comes to capital crimes.

Since we don't have any omniscient humans around, we cannot really know whether such criminals on death row have had genuine conversion experiences. But just last week I saw a man already serving life for a killing .. gang-related .. confess to 27 additional murders in California. He was a broken man. If I've ever seen a man under conviction, it was him, so I have no doubt the Holy Ghost was working on him. I'd seen the show previously and had made an attempt to locate someone to go witness to him .. to no avail (within my knowledge) .. but one thing I know: that wasn't the same man, sitting there, that had killed those people.

I also recall seeing Karla Faye Tucker weep for the others in prison that she'd not be able to reach for Christ, in light of her forthcoming execution. She even moved me to tears, myself.

I know of  no humanly-possible way that man could ever assemble a system to discern when people had been "rehabilitated" after committing a capital crime, or a way of assessing whether we were truly executing the same person who had wantonly taken the life of another. I think it's a camel/needle deal: impossible for man to accomplish.

For God? Doable. For man? Not.

In view of what I've seen in the last couple of years, I admit I'm troubled by capital punishment, now. Yes, the Bible says  it. So I must defer to the Bible. And maybe it's like the first execution after the Supreme Court lifted the moratorium on capital punishment, in 1976. I woke up in a hotel that morning, hearing that Gary Gilmore had been executed by firing squad, and I recall a profound sense of sorrow. And it surprised me. I finally concluded that, perhaps, that was the proper reaction. Necessary, but sad.

Over the past year or two, all I can say is that it's gotten sadder. And I have to wonder if God has a better way.

If He does, I sure hope He shows me. I don't like uncertainty on something like this....

Monday, October 22, 2012

ALL RIGHT, ALL YOU YOUNG WHIPPERSNAPPERS....

If you're fortunate enough to live long enough, then one of these days you're going to be old.

Make that OLD. Like ME.

74.

I don't mind referring to myself as old. Hey, if I can't be old at 74, when can I be?

My Dad always had an aversion to that word ... old ... and I sort of made up my mind that I wasn't going to object to it. In fact, the Bible speaks highly of old age, and even says we're to honor the white-haired among us. It even equates age with wisdom, so I find absolutely no reason to object to references to age, old, etc.

When you're young, your life is much more controlled by hormones. Speaking on behalf of men, I know we're driven to do a lot of the things we do .. win arguments, make sales, beat opponents, see our football teams win, etc. That's what causes the joked-about scene where, on a vacation, the wife wants to stop and smell the roses (as it were), while hubby wants to stay behind the wheel and kill some more miles.

Well, when men go through that midlife thing, when hormones lose their grip on the male psyche, and men realize what it is that was going on, men gain the ability to do the right thing simply because it's the right thing, and not because of any inner need to be right, win the argument, make the sale, beat the opponent, or anything of that sort.

In most cases, with age comes experience. If guys are alert, and collect their memories, then their experiences, both wins and losses, become tremendously helpful. But in our human limitations, we also become tired of many of the things we do. Then, when the limitations of age catch up with us, many of the things that occupied our time fade into insignificance, as we gain age, maturity, and perspective.

From the viewpoint of 53 years' experience at being over 21, let me offer a couple of observations. First, I have traveled much more than I would ever have believed, had you told me, all 53 years ago. There's a Facebook program that will keep a total of the cities and countries you've been in, and I think it shows something like 1,200 cities, 45 states, and 23 countries.

Peg and I have had some indescribably beautiful vacations. From Germany to London to Hong Kong, to several places in the Caribbean, to Alaska .. we've visited enough wonderful places that vacations pose a particular problem for us now.

There's no place we want to go badly enough to climb on an airplane to get there.

THEN ... add to that the other stuff that comes with age. Arthritis and its joint pain, fairly frequent sleeplessness, enough doctor's appointments to keep us close to home, and our lives settle into a boring-sounding regularity. Thank God He has given us a home we enjoy very much. But, of course, being human, we're used to it. Enough so that it usually takes someone else pointing out how nice it is, to wake us up to reality once again.

There is, however, one thing that never, ever has .. and I'm convinced never will .. lose that "first time in Disney World" sort of thrill. It's the Spiritual side of what we do.

When I look back over a week of "same old same old", the things that leap out of my memory are praying for our servers when we eat out ... leading last night's study session on the Baptist Faith & Message ... last Wednesday studying Matthew's Gospel in our small group ... worship at FBC yesterday, when Stephan Reach visited with us (he's CB & Karen Scott's younger foster son, who enjoyed the service and is coming back) ... and most especially having the folks last night at the BF&M study .. which we've completed, say they'd like to continue meeting on Sunday nights.

Wow.

I think it has something to do with abundance of life. You know, Jesus stated there were a couple reasons He put on the human suit and came to earth. One was to seek & save that which was lost. the other was that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. Strong's Online says "abundantly" means:

1) exceeding some number or measure or rank or need
a) over and above, more than is necessary, superadded
1) exceeding abundantly, supremely
2) something further, more, much more than all, more plainly
b) superior, extraordinary, surpassing, uncommon
1) pre-eminence, superiority, advantage, more eminent, more remarkable, more excellent

Having done all the stuff we've done, and been all the places we've been, and had all the stuff we've had, I can tell you those things, while nice, and certainly a blessing, aren't what make life abundant. As the "money line" from the film "A Family Thing" said, "Happiness ain't nuthin' more than havin' somethin' to look forward to". I can attest to that being true, and it's not a new house, car, trip, or anything else of the sort.

Folks, back to my first statement. Some day, you're going to be old, too. If you're really, really blessed, you're going to find that the Spiritual part of your life is the part that thrills you most, too. If you do what you can to make that the case now, when you're young, just think how far ahead of the game you'll be.

If it can happen to ME, it can happen to ANYBODY.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Too Many Programs, Perhaps?

We have a lot of witnessing programs in the SBC, and a lot more in other church groups, too. Sometimes I wonder whether the number of "programs" we have isn't a hindrance to people simply bearing witness to the saving power of Jesus.

Consider the definition I found online, for the word "witness":

wit·ness  (wtns)
n.
1.
a. One who can give a firsthand account of something seen, heard, or experienced: a witness to the accident.
b. One who furnishes evidence.



Think about it  for a moment .. someone is called to a courtroom to give testimony  They're asked questions about what they saw and heard. They testify (hey .. ever heard that word used in a religious context before?) about what they personally saw and heard, not about other people's experiences.

They're not expected to know what they don't know.

When the police are investigating a case, they talk to witnesses. People who saw something. If those folks didn't see enough, they find out who did, and then go talk to them. They don't get mad at people for not knowing what they didn't see.

The authorities, do, however, get upset with folks who did see or hear something, but are unwilling to divulge that information. Hmmmmm.... ponder THAT for a minute.  

I personally believe that, as Christians, we're under direct orders to always be ready to give an explanation for the hope that is within us. Namely, Jesus and the hope that comes through faith in .. through trusting in .. Him. My personal belief is that we are not all called to "go into all the world and make disciples..."; I believe that command was given to the church. But we're surely instructed to play the part in the Body of Christ which is assigned to us, and revealed by the Spiritual gifting God has bestowed on us via the Holy Ghost.

The essence of "giving the reason for the hope that is within us" is neatly displayed in the definition of "witness": give a firsthand account of what we have seen, heard, experienced. And it strikes me as odd that so many people are reluctant to do that really simple thing.

UNLESS it be true that folks have been somehow misled .. unintentionally .. as to what "witness" means. And here's where all the programs come in. I'm wondering if our explaining all the things we ought to do when we "witness" or "give testimony" don't mislead folks as to how much you have to know to do that. Perhaps people get the feeling there's always something else to know before they can "comfortably" tell someone what happened to them. 

Once while filling in for our SS teacher, I asked some folks questions about their house, their wedding, their job, etc. For each one, I tossed in one last question I knew they wouldn't know. Like how many nails were used building the house, who built the organ at the church where they were married, what was the total monthly FICA contribution by their employer, etc. I always added, when they said they didn't know, that it was OK they didn't. When I was done, I pointed out that they were happy to tell me what they knew about their job, their house, their wedding, even though they didn't know everything there was to know. Even though I might have questions they couldn't answer, and that it was OK that they couldn't. 

Could it be that the plethora of "evangelistic/outreach programs" in our churches has inadvertently led our folks to believe that there's so much stuff they need to know about Jesus, that they're afraid to bring it up? That someone's apt to ask a question they can't answer, and we ought to know all the answers?

I hope the answer is no. I fear it's yes, though. And I think it's a thought that needs to be explored and explained to folks. They're only responsible for what they do know. Besides, from personal experience, I know that, when they start talking about what they do know, they'll want to know more. And that's the perfect setting for learning more.    


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Wednesday, October 03, 2012

GO AHEAD .... Make (somebody's) Day!

That's Jeff Potter over there, in the picture. Peg & I bought his dinner tonight.

A word of explanation is in order.

Maybe a month ago, she & I were having lunch at a local BBQ place in Pelham, when a friend walked in. He's a young man (at our age, most other guys are...) and sat down with us. He was a friend of your younger son's, in High School, was an insurance client of mine when I was still working .. he owns a towing company .. and he has towed one or another of my cars to my house more times than I can count, over the years.

When he sat down, the waitress walked up to ask for his order, and laid our check on the table. He promptly scooped it up and refused to give it to me.

He bought our lunch.

Well, the guy in the picture works at Home Depot, and he's been singularly helpful to me on many occasions when I've been there looking for some obscure whatchamacallit or other. He rides around on a motorized cart like they have for customers with disabilities .. but a lot faster .. and I used one of theirs in the store, too, until I had my knee replaced. We often joked about drag racing them, etc.

This evening, Peg and I had gone to Costco to drop off one of my hearing aids, which needed fixin', and stopped at Walgreen's on the way back. As we were leaving there, I was pulling out through the IHOP parking lot to take a shortcut out the back way, and asked Peg if she'd like to stop there & get something to eat, even though it was only 4:30. She liked the idea, so we did.

We went in, sat down, ordered, and then I noticed Jeff sitting across a divider in the other half of the dining area, by himself, finishing his meal. After our waitress served us, I told Peg that I thought the Lord wanted me to buy Jeff's dinner, and she said "Well, go ahead..".

I told the waitress to add his bill to ours and then noticed he was taking his wallet out .. at which point she walked over to him and (apparently) explained what I'd said, as he simply put a tip on the table and put his wallet away. When she walked away he said "You didn't have to do that", to which I simply said "I know!"

He answered back "Today's my birthday".

Wow.

I went over and sat down and chatted with him for a bit, until my food came. I told him about my friend buying our lunch at Golden Rule, and thought God wanted me to do the same. I asked him about church and faith and he said he attended Kingwood Assembly when he could. I told him I wanted him to be sure his relationship with Jesus was straight, since we were both going to die some day and I wanted to see him in heaven, too.

The waitress was blown away by all this. She goes to Helena Methodist Church, where we've had many friends attend, too. She couldn't get over the fact that we'd simply bought dinner for a guy that we'd met while he was at work at Home Depot.

It cost us a bit under ten bucks. I haven't made very many $10 investments that brought me that much joy. But when I think of what ran through .. and may still be running through .. Jeff's mind, and the server's mind, I really have to do a couple more Spiritual cartwheels.

p.s.: We went from IHOP to church. In my small group Bible study .. currently in Matthew .. we read  "For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done." (16:27, NIV). WOW. I asked the class what their first thought would be if they got to heaven and found that was really, absolutely, concretely true. Their answer: "I wish I'd done more". 

Amen.



Monday, October 01, 2012

CB SCOTT, NEW DEAN OF ACADEMIC SUPPORT..

..at Brewton Parker College, Mount Vernon, GA.

That's right. My best friend, CB Scott.

It used to be that the definition of mixed emotion (the humorous one) was seeing your mother-in-law drive over a cliff in your new car. Well, for me anyway, that's changed. It's seeing your best friend move off to Georgia to take that position with Brewton Parker.

I am thrilled for him. Over the past 6 years that I've gotten to know CB, we've spent quite a bit of time together, a lot of it simply involving sharing our lives. From coffee in lounges at places like New Orleans (2012 Convention) or Union University (Baptist Unity Conference) or Ridgecrest (Building Bridges Conference), to many, many visits in their dining room after Sunday evening services at Westmont, to the kind of sharing folks do during a long car trip to Louisville or New Orleans or Jackson, we've built up quite a history of getting to know each other.

He's been my Go-To-Guy for several years now, and I've never had a better (non-family) friend in my life. I shall miss those chats ... even though relatively infrequent .. more than I can describe.

Peg has also become really good friends with CB's wife, Karen. All those times I'd visit Westmont on Sunday evening .. FBC Pelham doesn't have Sunday evening worship services .. I'd drop Peg off at their house and she & Karen would visit. They were really good times for both.

PLUS SIDE: I am  thrilled out of my socks for him, and the career facing him now. Certainly pastoring a church on the West side of Birmingham is a high and honorable thing to do, but I'm pretty well acquainted with CB's skill set by now, and I'm positive that he's going to, day-by-day, see the results of his efforts at Brewton Parker, and know in his soul the results those student they're preparing are going to produce when they go forth into a lost and dying world.

Westmont will find another Pastor, I'm sure. But me? I'm not going to find anybody to replace him, most likely.

I'm just glad I got a Prius. 7 gallons each way isn't so bad.

He and Karen are worth that.

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