Thursday, June 27, 2013

Abundance. In Abundance.

It's getting more and more puzzling to me, why most church members aren't more open about their faith. I figure it's mostly the usually-expressed reasons ... fear of failure, fear of being asked something they don't know, a feeling they don't know enough about their faith to express themselves properly, etc. Perhaps fear of being a poor witness.

I've been around quite a while, and have traveled around quite a bit, too. And I can count on one hand the number of times someone I've been around .. someone I didn't know .. has ever mentioned their faith. And that covers half a century! So, thinking we should be a lot freer to express our faith, than that, I frequently bring up things in my Sunday School class, or in a Bible study, to make it easier for ordinary folks to bring up Spiritual matters. To discuss their faith. To ask others about theirs.

As a side note, I'm starting a class in October called Conversational Jesus, designed to remove those invisible unnamed fears from folks' hearts, so they can feel free and confident to bring up the matter any time they'd like to. Which I'd hope, among church members, would be frequently.

One of the things I've done is to ask a class member about, say, their house. They'll give me a description of it, and I'll ask about anything they omit, like is it brick, do they have a living room and a den, etc. Then I will pop a question like how many nails, or bricks, or board feet of lumber there are, in the house. When they answer that they don't know, I'll point out it's OK that they don't, and point out that lack of knowledge about nails or bricks or board feet of lumber didn't keep them from telling what they did know about it.

They usually get the point. What we don't know shouldn't keep us from telling what we do know.

I've put a few pictures up on Facebook, showing servers in restaurants we've visited, for whom we'd prayed (after asking if we could pray for something, on their behalf). That has gotten to be a real joy for us, kind of exemplified by our experience in Houston, at Pappadeaux's Restaurant, when 7 of us from FBC Pelham prayed for the delightful Alyssa. Which I also reported on, via Facebook.

Well, the guy in the picture above isn't a server. He's a salesman for AT&T's U-Verse. And, in a coincidence of coincidences, he lives in Tuscaloosa and his name is Paul Bryant.

Really. Paul Bryant.

U-Verse wasn't the deal for us, so the presentation didn't last too long. But I pointed out a few things about selling, that I thought would be profitable for him. And then it got interesting.

I asked if he was a student, or what, and he replied he'd graduated from The University of Alabama, and was trying to earn money to go back and finish his MBA. I asked him if that was common in his family and he said no, anything but. We talked then about why he had this drive .. this clarity of vision .. this determination .. when that was far from the norm in his family. That, eventually, led to a chat about his desires coming from God, a gift from the Maker of the universe, to him. And we talked about why him? In a family in which that was highly unusual.

That led to a discussion about church. He went to Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, but he'd not been attending lately, as he traveled every day from Tuscaloosa to Homewood, to start work, and he had been out of church for some time (though he doesn't work on Sundays).

We talked about what God gets out of church services ... namely, our worship. And that he needed to be in church worshiping on Sundays. And that he has obviously been given a gift, which somehow God is going to want to see used in the Body of Christ ... "for the common good." as Paul put it, in 1 Corinthians.

We finished up with a prayer time, that God would show Paul how He wanted to use him, and yes, when I asked him his name, I did tell him that, in itself, was interesting.

Paul.

I have to wonder why everybody doesn't want to talk about their faith at times like this. The whole episode, perhaps 45 minutes, was thrilling. It was a blast.

It was abundant.

So come on in! The (Living) Water's fine!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

We Could Learn A Lot From Genesis 6:5.

Perhaps it is that we've been misled. Sure, we believe the rapture is probably coming, and that Jesus is going to show up here in the flesh (of some sort). But there have been so many prosperity preachers, and guilt-based sermons from others saying that we can "win the world", that we may just believe the world is going to get better because we .. make that some .. are doing their best to "win the world".

Trouble is, that's not what God says is going to happen, in His best-selling book, The Bible.

As Matthew described it, quoting Jesus Himself:

"As the days of Noah were, so will the coming of the Son of Man be."

So maybe we can catch a glimpse of how things were down here amongst us, if we look at how things were going when Noah was still here.

 So .. how were things, then?

"When the Lord saw that man's wickedness was widespread on the earth, and that every scheme his mind though of was nothing but evil all the time, the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart."

Hmmm ... let's think of how it must have been, then and compare it with how things are, today. Especially since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the "Defense of Marriage Act".

Sound familiar?

When that Court is supposed to uphold the Constitution, and the Constitution acknowledges that inalienable rights flow from our Creator, how on earth does the Court rule that an activity specifically forbade by the Creator is now OK with our country?

Easy. They are, collectively, described in Genesis 6. As is, collectively, our nation.

Perhaps you've thought there will be a big end-time revival. Well, if there is to be one of those, it seems to be described in Joel 2:

"I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old and your young men will see visions."

That seems to be happening now. 

I didn't expect the Court to do anything other than what they did, and I don't expect God to do anything other than what He's promised He will do.


Friday, June 14, 2013

SBC13: Mostly Good

It's Thursday and we just got back form Houston. Random thoughts, in no particular order:

Wow am I tired. And my feet hurt. IAH is enormous and the signs on how to get to the Rent-A-Car Shuttle aren't done real good. I got patted down in BHM and radared in IAH, so I got the best of both worlds, sort of. Houston traffic stinks. Our rental Ford Focus had a very strange power band. And I couldn't find the headlight switch until we were taking the car back this morning. That's most of what wasn't so hot .. albeit that term doesn't apply to the weather, which was. 4,000+ Messengers in a hall that seats 12,000 doesn't make an impressive crowd. 684 total votes, in one election, out of 5,066 messengers does, however, make an impression.

Somewhere in the middle of the road, Resolution #6 as presented to the convention was very good. It dealt with the Boy Scouts of America's recent decision to allow homosexual members (albeit not adult leaders). The resolution as presented did 3 things I thought appropriate:

  1. Expressed the SBC's continued opposition to the recent reversal of the position on homosexual members.
  2. Affirmed the right of families and churches to continue affiliation with the BSA.
  3. Affirmed the right of families and churches which choose to sever ties with the BSA.
Unfortunately, some messenger moved some parts of the "Resolved" section supporting churches and families electing to continue with the BSA be stricken; that was subsequently amended, and I am not sure what the final overall resolution ended up saying. But it disappoints me to think that the SBC is "encouraging churches to sever ties with the Boy Scouts".

That was stated on a local newscast I saw, that same evening.

I could write a lot about that. Already did, in fact, in a prior blog post.

There was a Resolution .. #7 .. "On Tithing, Stewardship and the Cooperative Program" that passed, which I voted against. Reason: its statement that the convention "...exhort all Southern Baptists to tithe cheerfully to their local churches". I disagreed with that, as the Baptist Faith and Message states:

"According to scriptures, Christians should contribute of their means cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionally, and liberally for the advancement of the Redeemer's cause on earth."

I disagree that the Messengers should contradict the Baptist Faith and Message, on a matter specifically addressed by the Baptist Faith and Message. But since I knew it was going to pass anyway, I was a long way from a microphone, and my feet hurt, I let it go. But I'll continue to stand on the Baptist Faith and Message.

Resolution 9, entitled "On Prayer For The President And Other Political Leaders": One messenger seated right in front of me, voted against it. I wonder what translation of the Bible he's using.

I liked (a lot) the resolution addressing "..The Danger Of Age Discrimination In Healthcare Rationing". It passed.

Can I get a "Hallelujah!"?

Resolution 12 dealt with the growing American prison population, and ministering thereto. Good resolution, but someone who was involved in prison ministry added some wording to the effect that we encourage law enforcement officials not to be a hindrance to that ministry, which he happened to be involved in; further, that they "come alongside us" ... as I recall his words ... in this effort. I wondered at the time how they'd feel about the government asking the SBC to come alongside them, in law enforcement.....

I was perhaps 75 or 100 yards from the nearest microphone that time, to rise in objection to that amendment, and it passed.

Can I get a "Hypocrite!"?

Peter Lumpkins had submitted a resolution condemning child abuse, specifying "Southern Baptist congregations, churches of other denominations, and other Christian ministries". There has, after all, been a lot of press about that, lately. The Resolution, as it came out of the Committee on Resolutions, resolved "The we remind all Southern Baptists of their legal and moral responsibility to report any child abuse to authorities....". I rose to that, moving an amendment to change its language to "..responsibility to report accusations of child abuse to authorities". The Committee agreed with the change, and it was incorporated into the resolution with out objection, and the resolution passed.

Reason: the church isn't the Investigative body to determine whether abuse has occurred. That should be done by the authorities. And Peter Lumpkins, by whom I was standing at that time, agreed.

I was especially pleased at that. Now, if there's a report of abuse in a church, how can they not call the authorities immediately? Imagine they check on it themselves and decide it didn't really happen, and they're later proven wrong ... how can they defend that in court, when their own denomination went on record saying the cops, not the church, should investigate?

OK .. I got a good night's sleep so maybe I can wrap this up today .. Friday.

There was a case here, locally, involving people we know and the school system. An incident of inappropriate touching by a teacher was reported to the police, who investigated and requested a Grand Jury be convened. The Jury considered and investigated the matter, concluding there was not enough evidence to prosecute. The School Board met and decided that, since the Grand Jury had ruled thusly, they could not fire the teacher.

Unfortunately, the accusations were true, and he went on to abuse others for quite some time, subsequently. When the truth came out, the School System then had the defense that they had done all they could in the matter.

Imagine all that happening in a church, had the church not reported the accusation. Particularly after Wednesday's Resolution, they'd be defenseless. So .. how can they not report accusations, now?

Resolution #5 was entitled "On Mental Health Concerns and the Heart of God". A well-known California pastor moved to amend the Resolution, adding that the Bible be considered the sole authority in mental health issues. That motion was not well received, and I spoke against it. I suggested that Mental Illness is Illness, and if we followed the amendment to its logical conclusion, we'd all be Christian Scientists. I mentioned that mental illness needs to be brought to the table and dealt with as shamelessly as any other illness. Fortunately, his amendment failed.

Someone subsequently asked me about why the Bible wasn't the authority on mental illness, and I responded it wasn't, any more than it was a handbook on automobile repair. I didn't say it, there, but I'm a good friend of our church counselor, and I know that it takes more than Biblical advice to solve mental health, and even general, counseling.

Even at that, I know several other reason for my statements.

We cannot simply talk people out of mental illness.

There's lots of other stuff I've forgotten, which I'll probably remember later. Oh. One of them was that Eric Hankins had the best observation .. idea .. of anybody on the panel at the Gospel Project breakfast. And I told him so. Right after I told him I was a rip-snortin' Calvinist.

He had correctly observed that the meanings we get from Old Testament passages, when we read them Christologically, do not in any way negate the meanings that readers of that era got from those passages, at the time. The discussion up until then seemed to indicate that we should ignore what OT readers, back then, might have gained from an OT truth.

That little chat with him, reminded me again: those who disagree with me on one issue, or even several, don't have horns and a tail. And are even nice guys.

OK. Last. We ended our final convention day with all 7 of us from FBC Pelham, having dinner at Pappadeaux' Seafood Restaurant, where Alyssa served us some of the best food ever. I put Alyssa's picture on Facebook, as she's the only server who has ever asked if she could pray for us, too, and then stood there holding hands with the circle, as we prayed over the meal, and her.

A great way to end a pretty good time in Houston.
  






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Friday, June 07, 2013

Would Somebody Please Explain THIS?

One of my earlier mentors in the insurance business ... and I'm talking about 1959 here ... once told me "A man's position on most issues depends on which set of proven facts he chooses to ignore". I guess a variation of that, or perhaps a good illustration, might be that regardless of how well-thought-out, studied, prepared, and right a thing might be, there will always be somebody who'll be willing to argue, disagree, disapprove, or criticize you.

Man, has that ever proved out in the half-century or so, since George told me that.

Maybe the same is true in Spiritual matters, too. By way of explanation, before becoming Baptists, we belonged to 3 different Presbyterian denominations ... all in sound, evangelical churches. Plus, we've always tended to study the beliefs of whichever church or denomination with which we were involved.

So, we studied the Westminster Confession of Faith, privately and in Bible studies. See ... the W.C of F. has scripture to back up every point it makes, just as does the Baptist Faith and Message. And I recall that in the weeks before we joined FBC of Pelham, I stopped by the pastor's office and, after talking a while, left with a copy of the Baptist Faith and Message, and with Hershel Hobbs' book of the same title. And I studied them.

Hey ... we'd even gotten a copy of the Methodist Discipline, a book which sets forth both the churches' obligations, as well as their articles of faith. And I'd studied that when I was a Methodist, too.

So I know, without doubt, that George Whittier's advice can apply in the Spiritual realm, too: "A man's position on many doctrines depends largely on which Scripture he chooses to ignore. Or choose to explain away".

I was moved after seeing a friend's post on Facebook this morning, to respond by asking some questions. Well, maybe a couple.

Here's the scripture he commented on:

Romans 9:6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants. On the contrary, your offspring will be traced through Isaac. 8 That is, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but the children of the promise are considered to be the offspring. 9 For this is the statement of the promise: At this time I will come, and Sarah will have a son. 10 And not only that, but also Rebekah received a promise when she became pregnant by one man, our ancestor Isaac. 11 For though her sons had not been born yet or done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to election might stand— 12 not from works but from the One who calls—she was told: The older will serve the younger. 13 As it is written: I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau. God’s Selection Is Just.  14 What should we say then? Is there injustice with God? Absolutely not! 15 For He tells Moses: I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16 So then it does not depend on human will or effort but on God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture tells Pharaoh: I raised you up for this reason so that I may display My power in you and that My name may be proclaimed in all the earth. 18 So then, He shows mercy to those He wants to, and He hardens those He wants to harden. 19 You will say to me, therefore, “Why then does He still find fault? For who can resist His will?” 20 But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?”

Incidentally, so as to be a good Baptist, that's the HCSB version I quoted above.

Since someone is apt to mention John 3:16, here it is, too: "For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life".

If the United States Olympic Committee were to say that everyone who runs the 100 meters in 8.5 seconds will be on our US Olympic Team, nobody would believe that everyone in the USA could do that. But most seem willing to think that everyone in the world can "...believe in Him...". And, since 1 Corinthians 2:14 says that the natural man cannot perceive ... comprehend ... things of the Spirit, I'm led to believe that no everyone can believe in Him.

Unless God first does something to that person's nature. Until God does something ... regenerate, perhaps? ... God says man can't perceive Spiritual matters.

But then, 1 John 2:2 says "He (Jesus) Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world." We wrestled with this in a Bible study some months ago, and about the only thing we could really decide on was that it did not mean that everybody was going to go to Heaven. What all else it does mean, we'll just have to leave to the theologians.

I think I'd rather explain away 1 John 2:2, than all that stuff in Romans 9. But maybe that's just me.

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Thursday, June 06, 2013

When Our Knee Should Not Jerk

By now, I suppose everybody has heard about the Boy Scouts of America's decision to allow homosexual members of the BSA's local Troops ... albeit maintaining the ban on homosexual adult leaders. As a good'ol Southern Bible-believer, I am naturally against that decision. But there has recently been flap about decrying their decision, or perhaps distancing the SBC from the BSA, at the national level. Taking some action, perhaps non-binding, via resolution at the Houston Convention next week.

That, I am against.

I have two reasons for this. First is, whether to associate with a local BSA Troop is a decision for the local church. And the local church can view this decision one of two ... that I can think of ... ways.


  • #1: Awful terrible degrading thing they did and we can no longer be associated with them in any way except to pray for them etc.
  • #2: Since very few ... I know of exactly none ... local SBC churches have their own program of outreach and ministry to homosexual boys, this decision now enables the local BSA Troop-affiliated church to actively minister to homosexual boys. (We wouldn't go to them, so Hallelujah! ... God brought them to us.
If the SBC takes a formal national-level stand against the decision re: homosexual members, and recommends churches disassociate with the Boy Scouts, that ministry will ... it seems to me ... become immensely more difficult.

Can you imagine standing before God and hearing Him say that He arranged this to bring homosexuality among youth out in the open, so we could minister to it? And we "ran them off", so to speak?

God raised up the Babylonians to help whip Israel into shape; why couldn't He do this?

Besides, it's not about BSA organizationally. It's about the boys, and helping them grow up to be better men, better citizens, and better neighbors.

Which brings me to my other bone of contention with reference to churches and their affiliation with Boy Scout Troops. Within my knowledge, BSA is about training boys, and giving them the environment which will help them, to be better youth and adults. For a church to sponsor a group like that, which omits the only real way to become better boys and men, is unthinkable. Unless it includes the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the status of the natural boys & men as sinners before a Holy God. To lead folks to think they can be better off while omitting the Gospel, is, to me, unthinkable.

Same deal as the Masonic Lodge, which the SBC didn't have the gumption to address as they ought to have.

If the SBC wants to pass a Resolution disagreeing with the BSA's decision, fine. Just don't recommend that churches distance themselves from the local Troops.

Distance themselves from boys, who may now be admittedly homosexual.

If we want to be consistent about this, we'd have to study everyone with whom the church is in any way connected ... suppliers of churches' consumables ... the insurance companies with which Guidestone places coverages, annuities, etc ... the Utility Companies ... the hotels we stay at while at the Annual Meeting ... etc etc ... to assure ourselves that they all have the anti-homosexual beliefs and policies we want them to have.

Or run the risk of being hypocrites.  

Monday, June 03, 2013

ON BEING A SPIRITUAL "MOTEL 6"

I admit to somewhat conflicting views on "burnout", for believers who are actively serving God.

The first viewpoint is that folks do, after a while, get burned out after a long time of doing whatever it is they're doing. I know we all need occasional times away, but I think those should be pretty well covered by vacations.

However .. I'm not sure the "hurry up and do as much as you can in a week" sort of vacation does a lot of good ... how many times have you heard someone say they had to get back to the office, after their vacation, to "get some rest"?

Yup .. me too.

Perhaps it is that folks do get "burned out" in their jobs, but I spent 50 years in insurance and never felt that way at all.

The other idea, and the one I wanted to touch on, is one put forth by Ken Hemphill in his original Study Course about Spiritual Gifts ... entitled "Serving God .. Discovering and Using Your Spiritual Gifts". In exploring some of the meaning of Moses' encounter with the burning bush, he points out that Christians serving God are a little like the burning bush ... if we're motivated by the fire of God, then we're not consumed by that fire.

I agree with him. In my own case, I have taught Sunday School for a lot of years. For several years, I taught a newly-married couples' course ... I might add that some of those newlyweds now have kids who weren't even here, then, who have now graduated from college. I quit that class to teach High School kids when I found out they didn't have a teacher, and subsequently left that class when the minister of education and I reached, shall we say, an impasse.

I take solace in the fact that he was subsequently dismissed from his employment at the church.

Then from 2000 through most of 2008, I taught a class of 30-somethings; I had to give up that class about halfway through a long series of daily abdominal radiation treatments ... a follow-on to prostate cancer surgery. Those radiation treatments seriously sapped my strength, and had several other unpleasant and debilitating side effects.

But then, last December, some members of my former 30-somethings class asked if I'd be willing to teach again, and we formed a new class and jumped right in about 6 months ago. We meet in the Church's Library room, so we're known as "The Bookworms".

Here's the thing: operating in the teaching role is operating within the giftedness that God saw fit to bestow on me, and I'm actually propelled in it by the Fire of God. Jeremiah said it like this:

"If I say, "I won't mention Him or speak any longer in His name," His message becomes a fire burning in my heart, shut up in my bones. I become tired of holding it in, and I cannot prevail." 

You may have noticed the picture above, taken of our home last fall. Although it was taken on a sunny day, the "Dusk-to-Dawn Light" is on.

That's because it's always on.

After going through a couple of bulbs in the first 2 years we lived here, I figured it was during the heating up or cooling down that the lamps failed, so I painted over the electric eye that turns the light on. The next bulb lasted over 22 years, And it was still working when we had siding put on the house, which required them to take down and re-install the light. So I had them replace the bulb with a new one, and it's been there several years itself!

When it comes to serving God, I figure I'm a little like those light bulbs. Staying "on" keeps me energized, fulfilled, and burning. As far as it is possible, I'm going to stay lit.