Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> EAGLES' REST: April 2013

Thursday, April 18, 2013

IT IS FINISHED. YES, IT IS.

One of the last things Jesus said, from the cross, was "It is finished". After that, the only words I recall being reported were His commending His Spirit to His Father.

Then, He died.

In God's sovereign plan, it was Jesus' death, for my sins, that completed the salvation which I came to, by simply believing Him, many years later. I was still a sinner, per Romans 5:8, when Jesus died.

Now, we can get into a long discussion about election, predestination, who did the choosing, etc, but that's not the point that occurred to me this morning. Which is why I quit working in the shed and came in here to write.

In my experience, everyone's opinion seems to be that the Roman guards didn't actually kill Jesus. They crucified Him, but He was still in control of the situation. And it was He who decided when His death should occur.

Jesus said, as far as I know, two reasons He came to earth. One was that we might have life, and have that more abundantly. Now, we can play around with the word "Life" and "Abundant", too, but that isn't my point here. My point deals with His other reason: that He might seek and save that which was lost.

Me. And if you're reading this, probably you, too.

I'm thinking His experience at the cross was about my salvation, pure and simple. Making my life abundant would come, IMO, when the tomb cropped up empty on Sunday morning; that's when He revealed that He even had control over death and life, and it validated all that He'd said about fixing up a place to live after we die. Which will then, naturally, confirm He'll come get us, somehow or other.

If the playing out the cross experience was indeed about saving my soul from hell, I have to ask when the deed was accomplished. That must have been at the point of His death. That would explain why He said "It is finished" and then died. I'm sure He'd, from a personal comfort standpoint, prefer to have been in Heaven than on the cross. But He couldn't let Himself go there until He was finished with my salvation.

Which was finished when He said it was. Only then could He allow Himself to die.

Of course, He came back, which speaks to me of God's affirmation of all that Jesus  did and said while here. Including all His promises. But that speaks to my security here and hope of life after I'm not. And that's another story.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Most Amazing Weekend of My Life

We've been to Jamaica a number of times. It's probably around a dozen, but I've lost count. Every time we've been there, mostly on Mission Trips, we've gone to church at Red Hills Baptist Church, in St. Andrews, just outside Kingston. It's my favorite church in the whole world.

Our vacation in January 2001 was exceptional in every way I can think of. We'd rented a house there ... that's it up there ... and we were accompanied by our friends Neal & Debbie Blackwelder, and we got to go to the church at Red Hills .. perhaps 1/2 mile from the house we'd rented. But it was a series of seemingly unrelated events that made it so special.

First, I arranged to rent the house through a friend in Kingston, and I met with the owner the morning we arrived in Kingston, at the house we were renting. While we were sitting and talking, after I'd paid him for the week, I brought up the Lord and we chatted a bit about him. He wasn't a Christian, but seemed a little bit hesitant to discuss it with this white dude from America. So I asked him if he'd like to discuss Spiritual matters with someone from Red Hills. He said he'd like that.

OK. Hold that thought. 

The house was a duplex .. we had the left half. There was a couple in the other half, but we never saw them. We heard their car leave, some mornings, and likewise in the evenings, we heard them come home. Aside from that, the house being concrete, we wouldn't have known they were there. 

Hang onto that thought, too.

We had arrived there on a Friday night and had stopped by the church, and saw Pastor Calvin Matthews, whom I'd known since 1991. I'd mentioned to him that a message had been running through my head, I'd been preaching it to myself for a month or so, and when that happened it usually meant that God was going to want me to present it somewhere. He then asked me if I'd preach for him on Sunday. That would also give him the opportunity to preach at Cypress Hall church, a sister church to Red Hills, perhaps 3 miles (but 15 minutes) away). So we agreed that's what would happen.

Yup. Hold that thought, too.

Saturday, I drove around a bit and went up to the road above the rental house, to get a decent picture of it. While I was up there, my good friend Merrick Bethune happened by in his car and stopped to talk.  He's the Dad of Keri-Ann, who I blogged about here. We talked a few minutes and then he mentioned that he knew he needed to get closer to Jesus ... to do more in the Kingdom work ... and that he just knew God had more for him. I told him I agreed with him, and I think I recall praying with him.

Hold that thought. I promise, we're going somewhere with this.

Debbie Blackwelder had brought along a book to read, which she'd read on the airplane. When I saw it on the coffee table at the house, I picked it up and started reading. It was "Fresh Power", by Jim Cymbala. In it, one thing he said really, really struck me. It was that we need to be more like the disciples in the "upper room" ... we needed to hear from God. See, Cymbala said, nothing happens Spiritually, unless God sends power from on high, to accomplish what He wants done here. And that thought really stuck with me.

Hold that thought, too. Let's see ... so far we're up to the Landlord, the Couple Next Door, Pastor Calvin asking me to preach, Merrick Bethune saying he needed to be more active in his walk with the Lord, and Jim Cymbala's thoughts from "Fresh Power".

Finally, Sunday morning rolls around and we drive the half mile or so to the Red Hills Church. While they were taking up the offering, just before I was supposed to speak, I went into a hallway behind the pulpit area, and prayed for God to send power. I knew I needed something from above. God then placed this in my head: "If you were back home, you'd be on your face, worshiping and praying.

We had an hour before our service when a small band of us got together in the sanctuary, put on worship music, and just got with God.

I said to God "But this floor is really dirty and I have black slacks on". God did not respond. But I knew what He meant, and I got on my face in the hallway and asked for something from on high. Then I went out to preach. I even told them, first thing, that nothing was going to happen there unless God sent something down from Heaven.

The message was simple. It's why I think these are the end times. And it has nothing to do with earthquakes or wars. At the end of the sermon (and I call it that reluctantly), I turned the service over to one of their more visible, Spiritual and involved members, Alphonso Blake (Google the name some time ... he's now a well-known Caribbean artist), to extend the invitation. And he did.

After a couple of choruses of whatever hymn it was, nothing was happening. So I went to Merrick Bethune, who was standing in the front row, and asked him if he'd meant what he'd said the day before. He said he did, and I asked when he was going to start. He said "Right now, I guess". And he went to the altar.

Wow. That started a flood of responses. The altar filled ... perhaps half the people there, went forward.  I was completely devastated and went to the pastor's office, in the back hallway, to pray. After a few minutes, someone brought me a young man who wanted to be saved. The invitation went on for about an hour.

I could not speak. It was just overwhelming, and we spent another 45 minutes there fellowshipping and rejoicing. But the best part came later in the afternoon.

We were sitting in the living room, at the rental house, and the phone rang. Neal Blackwelder answered it and said who he was, and then said something like "Yes it was. He's here .. do you want to talk to him?" Apparently they said yes, as he handed me the phone.

It was the lady who lived with her hubby next door ... the folks we had not seen. She said ... and the words are burned into my memory: "We were at the church in Red Hills this morning and heard you speak. And we have come to the conclusion that our lives do not count unless we are pointing people to Jesus".

Wow. I told her that was surely a message from God, because I had said nothing remotely like that, in my talk!

And I hadn't!

Then the light bulb finally lit in my brain, and I said the following: "Are you ready for your first assignment?" She said "YES!"

I said "Well .. talk to your landlord!" And I explained my conversation with him, the previous Friday evening.

In looking back on that for a dozen years, I was outside my comfort zone, knew I had nothing going for me unless God sent down the same Holy Spirit that took those guys out of their comfort zone at Pentecost, and I simply delivered the message God had put in my heart to deliver.

He took care of the rest. I think He still does that when He wants to prove a point and call some people to Himself.

Do it again, Lord, Do it again!





Thursday, April 11, 2013

Brief Thoughts on Unspoken Prayer Requests

I'd never heard of an "unspoken request" before I joined a Baptist Church. I was three different varieties of Presbyterian, and one kind of Methodist, before I stepped into the maelstrom that is the SBC. That was, by the way, nearly a third of a century ago.

To this day, I do not "get" unspoken requests. I've never offered one, and I cannot honestly say I've prayed for any, in any way that was meaningful to me.

I have this strange picture in my mind of someone asking me to pray for two unspoken requests. I say "I only have time to pray for one .. which one do you want me to pray for?" Hmmm.....

What's more, I don't think it's Biblical to ask for, or to pray for, such requests.

(***GASP***)

Yes, that's what I meant. Consider the following simple thought:

1 Corinthians 14 has much to say about those who speak in an unknown tongue. In one verse, referring to someone praying or praising in an unknown tongue, Paul writes:

"Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since they do now know what you are saying?

Apply that to prayer requests: if I don't know what you're asking me to pray for, how can I "Amen" that, by interceding for whatever your request is?

To my knowledge, God has stated that one particular kind of prayer will "avail much". That's fervent, effectual prayer.

On a wholly human level, I cannot understand how someone would ask another to pray for them ... for something specific ... which really is a Spiritually intimate thing ... yet withhold knowledge as to what it is they're being asked to pray for.

I just don't get it.


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Friday, April 05, 2013

Handsome, Pleasant Wolves In Sheep's Clothing

Just finished up a visit with a couple of folks from a certain group that regularly sends members to visit people in their home.

I'm sure you can figure it out.

We've had many such visits over the years, from this and similar groups. Personally, I enjoy the dickens out of them. It's fun, and I also believe it serves to sharpen the iron, so to speak.

I've never detected any sort of "canned pitch" opening. In this case, they began speaking of the conditions in America and the like. Presumably because that's what one of their handouts dealt with. They gave them to me immediately and I took them and set them aside. After a couple minutes of their presentation .. they would not sit down .. I inquired as to whether I might as a question. They said certainly, so I asked:

"Am I going to go to heaven when I die?" 

They started talking about 144,000 in the Bible, although I never did get that point. I said that number was, indeed, mentioned in Scripture, but it sure didn't say it in that context.

They moved on to talking about Jesus and mentioned how He wasn't God. I asked them to read John 1:1 from their "Bible" and he started referring to some other passage, so I told them their book said "In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the word was a god." If I had it correctly. He showed me his book and that's just what it said.

I reminded them that they had added "a" in referring to Him, so as far as I'm concerned, they didn't really have the Bible. They protested that there had been a lot of translations, etc etc.

I asked them again if they could please address my question about going to heaven, and the possibility of being certain of that. And that's when they decided they had to leave. Hurriedly.

There's no question about John 1:1, by the way. The word "God", used twice in the one verse, is "Theos", both times, and there's absolutely no modifier like "a". 

As they were walking out the door, I again asked them if I could know I was going to heaven. One said something about enduring to the end, and I asked if he'd ever read 1 John 5:11-13. Walking down the steps he said "Yes" and the other gent said "We'll see you in Heaven and we can work it out, there", as he was walking down the sidewalk. 

I told them "Well .. I'LL be there...."

Nice guys. Out there working for their kingdom work. We should all be so zealous in our faith.

If only they were promoting the Truth.......

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Thursday, April 04, 2013

WHO ARE YOU HOPING TO SEE?

I watch the news quite a bit, so naturally I'm in touch with the crime that goes on about us. In fact, I just now saw a story about a guy that kidnapped a young girl, maybe 2 or 3 years old.

She's safe now, the guy got away, but you can imagine my internal reaction to that.

Clear at the other end of the spectrum, I recall a lot of people I've met over the years, that I really really liked. That would include some that I got pretty close to, many years ago, when I wasn't much interested in Spiritual things. One of those was my "Aunt Jessie". That's her, on the couch, in the red dress.

Incidentally, also in the picture are my brother Art, his 1st wife Joan, Aunt Marcella's son David, Art & Joan's son John, my Mom, and my Grandmother Cleveland. All are gone, now, except Peg, John, and Joan.

Aunt Jessie wasn't really my aunt. She was the mother of my mom's sister Marcella's husband. And it isn't that I was all that close to her, then. She lived with my aunt & uncle, who lived across the back yard from us for some years in the earlier 1950's. I'd go over to their house fairly frequently and would many times see Aunt Jessie standing in her walker, doing dishes, cleaning up, etc. But most of the time, I'd see her sitting in her room, and that image has 3 distinct remembrances. One is that she always had a Bible open in her lap, and another was there was a "Sallman Head" .. the common picture of Jesus, on the wall behind her chair. The last part is that she had a little radio beside her chair, always playing and tuned to the local Christian radio station.

That was Aunt Jessie, and man oh man, do I ever look forward to talking to her in Heaven.

Another I hope to see there is Mickey Meese, my best friend in high school and, in fact, my first best friend ever. I blogged about him, including the Spiritual component, here. I hope to see him in Heaven, too, and have some reason for that hope.

I'd like to see my brother Art there, too. He died a professing Jew, and rebuffed .. nicely .. every attempt of mine, to witness to the saving power, and the exclusivity of, Jesus. I don't have the same hope as I do for, say, Mickey Meese.

There are lots of other folks I won't name here, that I was really rather fond of in years gone by. I have no idea about them, but still ....

Then there's this tendency to want to see some folks consigned to eternal punishment. Pedophiles, murderers, leaders of countries who threaten to annihilate us, etc.  But then I read a blog post last week .. I confess I cannot recall which blog .. which talked about someone who had a miraculous conversion on their deathbed. And I do believe those things can happen, principally because I believe God can do that. And that, this morning, got me to thinking.

What if we got to heaven and discovered that Hitler or Stalin or Mao had, somehow had a genuine conversion to faith in Christ, before they died?

First reaction is normally bad, for me. But Max Lucado coined a term in one of his books: "The insult of the Gospel", referring to the fact that those who are saved late, perhaps out of unspeakable evil, spend eternity in Heaven, as do folks who were saved early and served faithfully. I believe that thought serves to highlight how unworthy we all are of salvation, and that it takes as much grace and mercy to save us as it does anyone.

From what I've heard, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz and Manuel Noriega all experience God's abundant mercy via faith in Jesus' substitutionary atonement (just threw that in to pick a fight with the General Atonement subscribers....). And I hope that's the case. What a thrill it would be to talk to one of them .. or all of them .. about their appreciation of what Jesus had done for them. What a heightened awareness of Him .. although we might not need that when we're actually in Heaven .. that would bring.

Wow.

No. I don't want to see anyone go to Hell. But I'm not in that department, and I am certainly in no position to second-guess The One Who is....



Monday, April 01, 2013

HOW I GOT SAVED AND DIDN’T EVEN KNOW IT

Some years ago, I wrote a "book" .. I simply sat down and typed everything that came to mind. Adventures, misadventures, stuff about my family, etc. One of the chapters detailed how I came to be a Christian and how God had made me into a disciple. It was all a bit out of the ordinary, and some folks (one of the two of you who read my blog...) might gain something from it. 

That chapter follows....
When I was about 7 or 8 or 9, I got to thinking about what it would be like to die. To not exist any more. That's an extremely depressing thought, and I was very troubled by it.
I recall it was summer and just after suppertime. I hadn't eaten much, as I had this big hollow feeling in my chest, and seemed to have a weight on my shoulders. Dad saw that, and that I was moping around, and asked me what was wrong. I remember saying "I'm afraid of dying". He responded "Don't you remember what you heard in (Vacation) Bible School .... if you believe in Jesus, when you die you go to heaven?" I remember as clearly as anything I recall at all ... instantly the hollow feeling went away, and the weight literally lifted off my shoulders. I said "Oh YEAH!!!!"
I went outside and played.
A word to all those who labor in teaching little children, particularly when nothing big seems to be happening. I thank God for the ladies who taught me how to make little loaves of bread out of flour, salt and water, and paste them to a little wooden plaque with alphabet macaroni spelling out bible verses on it. And playing with me in game times. And telling me stories out of the bible. Occasionally, God is gracious to show us the results of our labor (I call those times “God’s little gum-drops”). Mostly, though, we just have trust Him to bring results to our efforts.
Fast Forward to about 1963. Married, living in Carmel, Indiana, on Oswego Drive, kids age 3 and a few months. We were playing Pinochle on Sunday afternoon with Bill & Louella Brown, who lived next door. Bill said "Bob, you ought to come to Sunday School with us next Sunday, You'd really like the teacher". I agreed; I'll agree to do most anything a week ahead of time.
Next Sunday, I was reading the paper and Peg said "You'd better get cleaned up  ... you agreed to go to Sunday School with the Browns". I responded that I'd rather stay home, and she answered "If they were nice enough to ask, we should be nice enough to go". So we went, more out of shame than anything else. Surprised, I enjoyed it. We talked about teenagers and how bad things were getting. I even got to talk and people seemed to respect my opinion. We went back, the next week, and stayed for church. I liked the way the preacher prayed the Lord's Prayer; he actually put some feeling into it. So, the third week, we joined the church.
I'd been sprinkled as an infant at the Evangelical United Brethren Church in Hammond, so I was all set. I was in church, and I got there without anything noticeably Spiritual happening. It wasn't until much later that I realized that God had set the hook, so to speak, when I talked to dad as a little kid, and had just been letting me run until He was ready to move. Bill Brown's invitation was His way of reeling me in.
We got really churchy. I started singing in the choir, and Peg started teaching 4-year-old kids in Sunday School. The pastor noticed our activity and asked me to be the Chairman of the Commission on Membership and Evangelism. It's interesting in that I did not even know the meaning of the word "evangelism".
Shortly thereafter, we moved to Southport. We joined Greenwood Methodist Church, and got active there.  We also joined a Bible Study at the home of a man named Bill Mize. I suggested we use the Methodist Sunday School Material, as it was designed for group discussion.  The only problem was that it wasn't really scriptural, and within a couple of weeks, people stopped coming.
After choir practice, when we normally met, Bill showed up at the church and said no one had come, so let's go sit in on the Van Veld's Bible Study. We went there and found about 15 people sitting all over their living room, just reading bible verses and talking about it. I was instantly hooked, and shortly became best friends with Dave Van Veld, who was Band Director at Greenwood High School.
There were many big revelations in that study, which went on for a couple of years. There were even Missionaries from the Oriental Missionary Society (now OMS International) who'd visit with us when in the USA on deputation. Friendships were formed there, that are still strong nearly 40 years later. More about that later.
Dave and I wound up teaching the High School boys. The Methodist material really did not appeal to us as being effective with the young people we were teaching; so much so that Dave and I refused to teach it. We went out and got some David C. Cook material and taught that for about a year. Eventually, through a series of providential circumstances, the Pastor ordered us to start using the Methodist material. We'd set out a fleece, and that was the answer. The Van Velds and the Clevelands left the church.
It felt as though we'd been set free. Both families eventually joined Southport Presbyterian Church, where I met my mentor and teacher, Elwyn Stafford.
Elwyn is and was an ordained Baptist preacher, teaching in a Presbyterian Church. If you want a real treat, visit him some time. He lives in Southport, and still teaches at Southport Presbyterian. 
Ed. Note: Elwyn has, since I first wrote this, passed away. Precious to God, but sad to me.
A lot of other things happened, but the bottom line is that I simply decided one night, lying in bed in the house in Southport, that I would believe, and trust, God. Period. No exceptions. The ride since then has been a real thrill.
I had to study and learn and read a lot before I came to realize that the moment, at age 7 or 8, that I'd trusted Jesus to take me to heaven when I died, was when I was born again. Everything since, has been His doing. 

Oh .. by the way .. one of the popular "soul-winning" programs features the line "I had a life-changing experience." Unless that phrase can include 20 or 30 years, it doesn't apply to me.