Monday, April 21, 2014

SBC 2014. Why I'm Not Going

Yup.

Right. I won't be going to Baltimore.

Three main reasons why:

First ... not necessarily in order of importance ... it costs a bunch of money. We're retired, living within our Social Security income (thanks all you taxpayers), and the Annual Meeting puts a fair dent in our budget. So, we'll be doing something else with whatever funds we'd have spent in travel, lodging, and meals.

Hopefully something more productive.

Secondly, travel is increasingly difficult. I flew so much from 1975-1984 ... 100 airports in that time alone ... that I really do not like air travel. And that was when I was in my 50's, as opposed to my current 75.

I've also spent more time in hotels than I might have preferred. I averaged a week per month in out-of-state travel during those nine years, and even the nicest hotels get old after a while.

I'll never forget one time, Peg and I were driving to Indiana on a Friday night. We stopped at Bowling Green ...  we'd left after work and wanted to get to Indy reasonably fresh on Saturday morning ... and checked into a motel. When I opened the door to the room and let Peg precede me inside, I thought "Another dreary hotel room that smells like Lysol". At that moment Peg said "This is going to be such a treat!". I fell on the bed, laughing.

That's about how travel had gotten for me. And, unless it's a vacation to someplace I REALLY want to spend some time, and enjoy just being there, I'd rather stay home.

Last, there's the fact that I do not think I have anything else to say to the Convention, that God wants me to say. My personal opinion is that the SBC has built itself into whatever it is, today, and that's fine with me. I know in the past few years I've addressed directly, from the floor, the SBC's self-pride evident in "adopting" the designator "Great Commission Baptists", and how egregious that was to me in light of the cold facts of membership, attendance, and other objective evidence. I've also addressed the attempt by some to restrict what it means to be Baptist, in their taking a stand against certain sovereignly-bestowed gifts of the Holy Spirit.

And I have witnessed the Convention's reaction to those things. So I'm done with that. All my energies will be used within the local church to which I belong, and the personal ministry of those with whom I have such contact.

And travel? Only to places I want to go, to see people I want to spend time with.

The SBC has made itself into what it is, today. Whatever favor or disfavor that finds with God, is fine with me. I simply won't be involved ... as I see it now ... beyond whatever activities God puts on my plate, here where I am.

10-4, good buddies. Over & out.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Keep Your Tools Ready, Guys

You never know when you'll need them. I offer the two on the right, as evidence for the prosecution.

The one at the top is, or course, one of my Bibles. An HCSB that was given out, gratis, at a B21 Meeting during the SBC Convention in Louisville (thanks, Lifeway).

The gray one that's all dusty, at the bottom, is called a "RotoZip". It's sort of a mini-router, designed to let you "plunge cut" and saw things without a big blade whirring away. It came with various semi-drill bits, which you chuck into the business end and then run'em up to 20,000 rpm, if you want.

I needed it today as I wanted to take the baseboard up in part of the basement and check to see if the bottom plate (the 2X4 fastened to the slab, that the wall's nailed into) was dry.

It was. But to get to it and check, I had to remove about 1-3/4" from the bottom of the drywall. I went and got the RotoZip, as it was perfect for the task. I even had the clear plastic attachment that the vacuum plugged into, and when I cut 1-3/4" of gypsum board there was no dust whatsoever. It was really cool!

Now: the cute part about all this is that I bought the RotoZip maybe 15, maybe 20 years ago in a fit of weakness and under a barrage of heavy TV advertising. I bought it and brought it home but I didn't actually use it. Well, I did a couple of really small things like punch a hole in a piece of plywood, but nothing approaching slicing through 12' of drywall. Which took about 20 seconds.

I was really glad I'd bought, and kept, it.

While I was pondering the wisdom of keeping my tools ready, I was reminded of an episode from 40+ years ago. It involved some Discipleship Training, 4 weekend retreats under the tutelage of Doug Snider, founder of Shamgar Discpleship, as it is now known. I believe we were the 6th training class he'd held, and he came to Indiana to put them on for 12 of us, in a Southern Indiana Methodist Campground.

During Shamgar, we learned a particular method of presenting the Gospel in a story-telling, non-threatening way. The method generally involved the verses in Billy Graham's Tract "Steps To Peace With God", although we memorized them and did not use the tract as a presentation. The idea with Shamgar was to equip believers to use whatever they had in their hand .. whether a cocktail napkin on an airplane, or just a conversation on a street corner, to promote the gospel.

I'd learned the program pretty well, and in fact, presented it to a Sunday School Class at a Boy's Prison, before the Shamgar Sessions were even over, and 6 kids prayed to trust Jesus.

Our last Shamgar Session was May of 1971.

Cut to June 1991. We were on a Mission Trip to Nassau, and were leaving to come home. When we went to the airport to return home, Sam Neugent, our leader, asked me to stay behind with the luggage and shepherd it through the Departure process, which he'd pre-arranged. I did that, and when I got through Customs, Immigration, or whatever department oversees all that, I walked down to the gate. The rest of the crowd was already there.

As I walked past an empty gate adjacent to, but across the hall, from our gate, I heard someone in the gate say "But love is love...", to which another voice responded "But if it's not the love from God, it doesn't count". This got my attention, so I backed up two steps and glanced into the waiting area.

I saw two gentlemen .. one in a suit and one in a Baggage Handler Uniform ... talking. It was obvious that the guy in the suit was witnessing to the Baggage Handler. So I walked over to them and said "Excuse me ... do you mind if I listen in?" They both said they didn't mind, and continued talking.

After perhaps 5 minutes of back and forth, I asked if I might say something. They said yes, and I said "You know, all this is baloney". They looked a bit surprised, and asked why, and I responded, to the Baggage Handler,that the only thing that really mattered is, "If you died tonight, do you know where you'd spend eternity?"

He said he wasn't sure. I said if he wasn't, I WAS. I asked him if he'd like to change that, he said he would, and I launched into the "Shamgar Presentation" I'd learned 20 years before. Now I have to say I most likely could not have recited it 15 minutes before, but I didn't need it then. When I did, God brought it back clear as a bell. At the end, I asked him if there was any reason he would not want to be a Christian; he asked me two questions, and after I answered them, he said he'd like to become a Christian.

We prayed a prayer, and then I said "Wait here a second" and I ran to the next gate and asked one of our youth for two of the tracts we'd used on the trip. When I got them, I ran back to the other gate, gave one to each man and said "Here's what you just did". I then spoke to the guy in the suit and said "He's yours, brother .. see that he gets into a church and gets fed." He said he'd do that, and I ran back to our gate and got on the plane, the flight having already been called.

As I was sawing the wallboard this morning, my mind went back to the airport in Nassau, and I reflected on how wise it is to keep your tools ready, because you never know when you're going to need them.

God certainly knows how to set that up.  And, sometimes, it's right now!

And it's just YOU.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Living the Christian Life is Hard. Not.

Our lesson in Sunday School was interesting, Sunday. It concerned the story of Israel's grumbling against God, God's serpenticious (if that's a word) response, and Moses lifting up the bronze replica of a snake, on a pole. But it turned into something else.

Among the other things we discussed, the thought arose that some may have been skeptical about the effectiveness at looking at a bronze model of a snake on a pole. I mean, venomous serpents were biting people and they were dying, and how does one negate the effects of that by simply looking at something?

Well, specifically, it's what God said to do. But it was just so simple, you know? 

Now, the Bible is silent as to whether anybody didn't go and look, out of skepticism, but then Scripture doesn't say everyone was made well, either. So, human nature being what it is ... and was ... I'm guessing some know-it-all who knew better, woke up the next morning dead.

Anyway, we then discussed whether anyone had done anything that seemed so simple at the time, but yielded results all out-of-proportion to the effort involved. That's a frequent thing in God's work, where we are serving the God that we do. And it's one of my old mantras with the class ... I'm sure they're tired of it by now ... that it's not what we do in advancing the Kingdom, but rather what GOD does WITH what we do in His service. One of our members shared a very moving story of her mentoring ... which really started out as just a friendship ... with a teen in FBC Pelham that ended with the teen growing into a fine young lady, marrying into a very well-known family, and starting a nationwide ministry that she'd dreamed of for years. Our member was very moved even in the recounting of the story, and was in awe that God would use something so simple to produce such awe-inspiring and eternity-impacting results.

I also recalled suggesting to our pastor that we start a Sunday School Class for folks in the nearby Riverchase community ... after 3 failed attempts by folks to start a church there ... and the eventual result of the Class was the Riverchase Baptist Church.

That was one of the most awesome and humbling things in my own life.

Anyway, I'd started the class by asking a number of questions (as I always do) and I had asked them if they knew how you eat an elephant. They did ... it's "one bite at a time" ... and also if they'd ever assembled any IKEA furniture. I showed them an instruction sheet, in fact ... the one up in the corner. It's step #21 on Page #17 of the instructions. And there were a couple pages following, too!

The bottom line, and hopefully the real takeaway point in the whole lesson was that the Christian life is like assembling an IKEA bookcase, or eating an elephant. You do it one step at a time. In fact, until you do the next thing, you cannot do whatever follows.

I've heard for years that living the Christian life in "this modern world" was a hard thing to do. It's not, if you want to. It's become obvious to me that the things which are difficult for us are the things we don't want to do. It may be hard to get up at 4 a.m., but if someone gave you an around-the-world vacation, and the plane left at 4 a.m., you'd probably not have much trouble being there on time.

Side note: they were saying that living the Christian life in "this modern world" was a hard thing to do, in our Sunday School class 50+ years ago! Go figure......

The idea in following Jesus is to do the next thing. Do the next thing! We're so accustomed to advance planning, long-range goals, and cause/effect, that we lose sight of the fact that Jesus is building His church, and if the "Gates of Hell" ... whatever they are ... cannot stop it, neither can we. You don't have to concern yourself with visiting the widows and orphans in their distress, while you're next door delivering a cup of cold water.  Nor do you have to worry about using the gift of administration when you're turning the other cheek after an insult, or turning away wrath with a soft answer.

We also had a brief discussion as to whether living the Christian life, according to what the Bible says, is any different from doing what the local church tells us to do. The class came up with several things ... they expressed that the Christian life should be earmarked by the Fruit of the Spirit ... love, joy, peace, all the others, and also marked by the characteristics mentioned in the Beatitudes, whereas the church seemed more to focus on church activities than that. Did you go on a mission trip? Did you bring your Bible today? Did you go to Sunday School? Are you tithing?

Perhaps it is that the church, with its collective desire to see its people doing things, is more focused on seeing the people involved in something they can count and report, than in developing people into what they should be, living how they should live.

Someone once said it's amazing how much you can do when you don't do anything else. If our focus is on being what we are ... followers of Jesus who are happy that's what we are ... and doing the next thing God puts in front of us to do, I think we'll find out how much God can do in our lives.

God specializes in doing extraordinary things in the lives of ordinary people, who seek the abundant life for which Jesus came to earth. And act like it.

While they're doing the next thing.