Strict//EN" ""> EAGLES' REST: March 2014

Monday, March 31, 2014

Stewardship ... Part One-Half

I taught our Sunday School Class a lesson on Stewardship this past Sunday. March was "Stewardship Month" at FBC Pelham, and all the adult classes were asked to have such a lesson.

Our Ed Min even furnished 4 sample lessons, but I read through them and did not care for them. At all. They had what I considered unacceptable errors. So I prepared my own.

I must say it was the most fun lesson I've done in a long time. I am certain the Holy Spirit was in it, because, when I sat down to begin preparation, the outline came out clear as a bell and I knew immediately what I wanted to discuss.

And it was, in fact, a discussion. The class was exemplary, IMHO.

The outline that popped out all of a sudden was this:

  • What kind of giver is God?

  • What does God say about giving?

  • How does God feel about giving, and about those who give?

  • Who is to be our pattern for living?

  • What is good stewardship not?

  • What's involved in being a good steward?

I had seven pages of outlines and notes, so I don't think I'll try to explain my thoughts in one sitting here. My carpal tunnel doctor would probably plan a room addition to his house, if I did. But I'll share some, now, and maybe some, a bit later. 

 FIRST: What kind of giver is God? He's a pretty good one. The best that ever was, in fact. He created the earth and all that's in it, and gave it to man to dominate and subdue. And God didn't ask for us to DO anything in return. He simply instructed us not to do one thing He didn't want us to do. And it makes a lot of sense that He did that, as taking that first bite of forbidden fruit was arguably the worst thing any mortal ever did. The conclusion then would be that instructing us not to do that would be an act of love, not one of cruelty or deprivation or tyranny.

 Even after that first sin, He left us here, albeit not in the Garden. But I've seen a lot of the world in my life, and I can tell you God left us in charge of a pretty terrific place. And if the whole "some plant and some water but God gives the increase" thing is true, then it's God who causes crops and herds to grow, too. So He's still giving, today.

Ephesians 2 says: "Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus." And the word used for "riches" seems to apply to earthly treasures as well. So God indicates his grace shown to us in salvation, is as precious ... and moreso, really ... as all the wealth the world has to offer. He give us not only the world, but something He considers precious to Him: Grace.

 Matthew 7:9 ... Jesus speaking ... tells us: "What man among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" 

Point blank, He tells us that God gives good gifts. And He gives them.

1 Corinthians 4:7 "For who makes you so superior? What do you have that you didn’t receive? If, in fact, you did receive it, why do you boast as if you hadn't received it?"

Some of the Corinthians seem to have been proud of their gifts, and Paul is reminding them that they didn't have anything they weren't given..I made this point to the class by asking if they knew anyone that worked harder than they did, but had less than they do. Or anyone who was smarter than they, who similarly had less. When they said yes, they did, I asked them "Then why you?". I think they got the point.

I'll pick up next time on how God says, and feels, about those who give.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

When Enough Good People Do Nothing ...

You've probably heard of the buildings that blew up in New York City ... East Harlem ... yesterday morning. That's them in the picture, up there.

They are now completely a pile of debris. Looks like a landfill with building rubble dumped on it.

What's staggering is that several people living there and in the adjacent building reported having smelled the odor of gas, the night before. But there are no records of calls to the authorities, and no one has said they reported it.

Related: years ago, I read a study, in Reader's Digest I believe, designed to test how likely people were to report a problem, based on the perceived size of the audience. In the experiment, the subject was in a soundproof booth participating in what he or she thought was an anonymous group, sharing their inner demons ... fears, problems, limitations, etc. ... to see if the act of sharing them would help them deal with those "demons". The first person to share always told his story, got gradually more and more upset, and eventually screamed he was having a heart attack. The hoped-for response was the "subject" would come out of his soundproof booth, yelling for someone to help that person he thought was having a heart attack.

What they found was this: when the "subject" thought he was in a group of two .. just himself and the guy with the heart attack, he ALWAYS came out of the booth. But when he thought he was part of a group of three ... him & #1 and somebody else, the "subject" only came out of the booth one out of four times!

When the "subject" thought he was part of a group of five or more, he never came out!

Thought #1: When I read that, I resolved to never be that guy that never came out of the booth, since I now knew I couldn't count on others in the situation. That has led me to second more motions in meetings, when everybody else was sitting around with their teeth in their mouth, not doing it.

Thought #2: I don't know how many people smelled the gas that eventually turned those buildings into rubble, but apparently not a one of them took action to notify authorities.

Thought #3: The SBC has a lot of problems right now. By every objective standard I've seen, we're in decline. And if you look at population over the past 10 years, percentage of members actually attending church, baptisms, giving compared with inflation, it should be obvious that something's wrong.

Take the matter of attendance. A couple of years ago, The Alabama Baptist published a bunch of statistics for Alabama, by county, showing the membership and attendance of churches in Alabama, both for all reporting churches, as well as for Southern Baptist churches. The volume of numbers was a bit overwhelming, but it was a simple matter to take the 6 big population centers in the state  ... Jefferson County, Montgomery County, Mobile, Shelby County, Madison County (Huntsville) and Tuscaloosa ... and do a spreadsheet figuring the percentages of attendance for the Baptists, and for everybody else. What they revealed, in terms of attendance as a percentage of membership, was ......

Baptists: 33.28%
Others: 53.97%

Against a setting in which the prime directive ... the Great Commission ... is to "make disciples", even I can deduce that something is radically wrong, in the SBC, in what should be as Southern Baptist a state as there is.

Yet I hear very little about this from the higher ups ... the people with the prime responsibility to see problems and find solutions ... and it's painfully obvious that something is also terribly wrong with THAT!

I wonder how long it'll be until the SBC looks less like the picture above, and more like THIS.....  

All it'll take is for enough of those good people........