Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> EAGLES' REST: May 2014

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The True Colors of the Church

The true colors of the church ... including a church in particular ... don't show up so much when attendance and offerings are up. When things are going swell. No, they're more apt to show forth when times get tougher. When change occurs. When the future becomes less predictable; predictable in our minds, at least.

When the status becomes less quo, so to speak.

FBC Pelham is facing such a time right now. I'm trusting all is and will be well.

Last Sunday was the last sermon Dr. Michael E. Shaw will ever preach as the Pastor of FBC of Pelham. He's retiring as of month's end, after 35 years as our Pastor.

Peg and I have been there for 33 of those 35, by the way.

The "success" of the church in persisting in its duties and its calling during the coming months while we experience well-qualified preachers bringing God's word as "pulpit supply" for a time, followed by leadership by an excellent interim pastor, will depend on the church itself. The people called to the assembly.


1 Corinthians 12 has a lot to say about this. We are a body, assembled with people God has placed in our midst, each one gifted to the task God has in mind for them. What happens over the next few months as our Pastor Search Committee labors to connect with God's man for our pulpit, will depend on how faithful our membership is to fulfill its God-ordained responsibilities.

I've always found it funny ... what the Bible mentions as the first "Spiritual Gift". It's not what I would have expected. As Exodus 31 says: "Then the Lord said to Moses, "See, I have chosen Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled Him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts....."".

Hmmm .. arts & crafts, a Spiritual Gift? Makes sense to me if you consider the task of the "church" at that time ... to build the Tabernacle. All those skills would be needed. So I am confident that whatever our church needs to prosper Spiritually during this time of new directions has already been lavished on the people who fill our pews. It's up to each of us to see that the work of our assembly continues uninterrupted. And even to prosper.

Incidentally, I refer to Bro. Mike as our pastor. Not Lead Pastor, Senior Pastor, or anything of the sort. As my best friend once said, a church has one pastor. Everybody from the oldest to the youngest should know "He's my pastor....".

I look forward to FBC's next pastor. Here's hoping we'll be ready for him.

Monday, May 26, 2014

CB Said It But It Needs To Be Said Again

My best friend in the world ... family excepted ... is CB Scott. He's been that, for nearly 8 years now.

He wrote a post that's just been put up at SBC Voices but it needs to be repeated again and again. Herewith is CB's observations on Memorial Day: 


America is at war. As of yesterday, 05-24-14, the number of men and women of the American Armed Forces who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan was 6,805. It is highly possible that before anyone reads this post another father or mother will be notified that their daughter or son will not be coming home. Another young wife or husband may get the news that his or her spouse paid the ultimate price. A little boy may learn that his daddy will never coach him in Little League again. Some little girl may come to the realization that when she gets ready to go to her high school prom, her mother will not be helping her pick out her dress or help her put on her makeup.

Yes, America is at war. However, that should not be a surprise to any of us. Truthfully, there has never been a time when either a great number or a small group of Americans were not engaged in a combative posture with an enemy of this nation we call The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. There is no glamour in war no matter the size, no matter the cause.

Nonetheless, it is my opinion that war does become necessary in the human experience. War is necessary to maintain the kind of freedom such a nation as ours has enjoyed from the time of its birth.

Freedom is a very costly commodity. Therefore, I believe it to be proper and right to take a day and remember those who have given their lives to keep America free-to protect our way of life. I thank God for every man or woman who went into harm’s way and gave their lives. I thank God for those of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marine Corp who have paid the highest price for freedom. And yes, I thank God for every American Operative, Contractor, and Mercenary who fought and died in places snakes and dogs won’t crawl that will never be reported or have their names written on a wall or monument to protect the interest of this country and the freedom if its citizens in foreign lands.

I am an American and I am not ashamed to be one. I will never back down from flying Old Glory, pledging allegiance, or singing God Bless America in church on Sunday morning in honor of our sons and daughters who gave their all for this country. By the providence of Holy God I am blessed to have been born here and I will never cease to thank Him for all He has given me as a citizen of this nation.

Beyond thanking God to be an American, I thank Him for Jesus who rescued me from the wrath I so greatly deserve. I thank Jesus who gave His all that I might have life and life eternal. There is no greater freedom than that freedom wrought by the blood of the Lamb. Today, I sang God Bless America and I thanked God for those who died to keep my nation free. I also sang Amazing Grace and I thanked God for the Soul Cleansing Blood of the Lamb. The day will come when there is no America for which to thank God. However, there will never be a time to cease thanking God for the ultimate sacrifice, that of His Only Begotten Son. “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I see. ‘Twas blind, but . . .”

In Christ Free,

cb

Amen, CB; Brother, Friend.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

When Heaven and Earth Collide; A Review of a Book and a Pastor

I just finished reading "When Heaven and Earth Collide ... Racism, Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus". Its Author is Alan Cross, a pastor in Montgomery, AL, who happens also to be a personal friend. But before my observations of what I saw in the book, a few notes about the author.

I met Alan in 2006 or 2007, as we were involved in some mutual projects involving Bloggers and the SBC. Shortly after, in February 2007, Alan slept on a cot in our hotel room ... at a Baptist Identity Conference at Union University ... that CB Scott and I had reserved. Alan had gotten there late and found there was no room in the inn.....

Not long thereafter, my nephew John, from Indianapolis, mentioned he was going to be spending many months at the Command & War College at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, and asked if I knew a good church he could attend while he was there. I told him about Alan and Gateway Baptist; he soon went to Montgomery to see if he could find an apartment, and visited Gateway.

The next day, he signed a lease on an apartment a block from Gateway, and became an integral part of the church for over a year. In fact, John had been in an AG Church, and was amazed at the love and grace he found at Gateway. It changed his life.

Alan and I have visited any number of times, we've been to Gateway ourselves, and I can tell you with certainty that, despite his youth, he's the real deal.

His book was prompted because he's a pastor in Montgomery, a place most important in the reforming of race relations in the USA, and the longer he was exposed, the more he wondered how the Evangelical community there could have stood silent in the face of many of the things ... both reported and unreported ... of which he kept learning. Hence, in 2010, he started writing about it.

The book itself: Divided into two general parts .. "Part 1: Earth; The Story" and "Part 2: Heaven & Hope: The Kingdom of God".

Part 1 begins with the story of the Freedom Riders coming to Alabama, and the things that took place immediately. It is, frankly, uncomfortable reading about some of those things, perpetrated by folks who were ostensibly in their own churches the following Sunday. And as evidence of the scope of the book, I offer the Chapters themselves:

  • Part 1:
  1. Freedom Riders
  2. Evangelicals and Southern Civil Religion (and yes the title is accurate)
  3. The Subversion of Christianity (again, accurate)
  4. Southern Religion: Greek Philosophy or Christianity (an eye-opener)
  5. Civil Rights: Broken Trust and Missed Opportunity
  6. What If the Church Had Been Different?
  7. Five Cultural Platforms
  • Part 2:
   8: What Would Jesus Have Done?
   9: The Better Way of Jesus
  10: The Church

There's also an Epilogue, "Freedom Riders and Praying Christians, Fifty Years Later", and also a Foreword by Dwight McKissic (which ought to tell you something).

In general, the book is extremely interesting. It sheds so much new light on old problems that it took me some time to plow through it and make all the connections.

Also, Part 1 is very "dense", packed with an abundance of information I hadn't known, before reading the book. I'd sit down to read and find that I'd read 4 or 5 pages and then have to put it down and just ponder it for a while. Reason: I simply could not proceed without examining my own life, my church involvement, and compare it with the truth revealed in it.

More specifically, Chapter 1 was pretty much a news report on the events associated with the Freedom Riders, but was punctuated with the 2 separate realizations: that white evangelical (supposed) Christians were in the mob trying to exact blood from the riders and their protectors, and: the Church ... the Body of Christ ... stood by and largely did nothing. I'm ashamed to admit I'd never thought of that, before.

Chapters 3,4, and 5 explain, in plain English, how that happened. And in the doing, largely explain what's wrong with the Church today.

The SBC leadership would do very, very well to read this book. It'll be a tough row to hoe, trying to "fix" the SBC with its declining baptisms, unless we know what's really wrong with the whole society, and the whole societal church in general.

Chapters 6 and 7 set forth how things might have been, and still should be, done.

Part 2 is an easier read, as he paints a picture ... accurate, to me ... of what Jesus would have done and how His way was, and certainly is, today, the Better Way mentioned in the title. And if many readers are like me, they're going to think "How on earth do we get there from here?"

On a personal level, I have asked one of our key Sunday School leaders ... a bright young black lady ... to help me start some sort of outreach program to the black community, for people who might find our Bible Study interesting. In reading the book, I was convicted that I could scarcely criticize the abuses perpetrated by the white Southern Evangelical community, if I wasn't willing to do something ... something ... myself.

As they say, all that's necessary for evil to triumph is for enough good men to do nothing.

Personally, I believe every Pastor should read this book, Southern or not. It reveals so many things about the church and its condition today, that will be mandatory to know, if those guiding the church ever hope to fix what's wrong today. Including the things they don't even know are wrong.

I'm not a professional critic, or analyst of journalism. But I've read a fair number of books in 76 years, and can tell you I don't read many of them twice. This one, I will.

Density and all.

**************************************

"When Heaven and Earth Collide .. Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus", by Alan Cross, published by New South Books, Montgomery; The book may be ordered from Amazon or direct from New South at http://www.newsouthbooks.com






p.s.: Read this book and you'll probably never say, hear, or read the "Lord's prayer" the same way, again.

The Word Is "Dead"

Way back when we first joined FBC Pelham, perhaps 32 years ago, I recall something our pastor said, as if it were yesterday. He said it on the occasion of the death of one of our best-known members, in a tragic accident caused by a drunk driver.

He said that the police had contacted him for the family notification, and he'd gone with the officer. The widow knew something was drastically wrong, as they rang her doorbell close to midnight on a Friday night. What Brother Mike said that struck me was that he had told her that her husband was dead. Not gone to heaven, not with Jesus now, not gone to his eternal reward, but dead.

He said it is very important that they hear, and deal with, the fact that someone has died. That he is dead.

Ever since that day, I've been particularly alert to the euphemisms people say ... those in the Christian community ...when someone dies. I'm sure you've heard them all.

When I got to pondering the issue, I decided I'd prefer to take the view that God does, on the matter of death. And particularly so, in light of the fact that about the third verse I ever memorized, in 1969, was Hebrews 9:27-28:

"And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him."    

So God says that He has set up, for us, an appointment to die. And in the context of the two verses, He did that for people He loves.

If He says "die", I think I will, too.

Then there's always Psalm 116:15:

"Precious in the sight of the Lord, is His Godly ones."

God says our dying is precious to Him. He doesn't call it something else. And if He doesn't, then His language is fine with me. I mean, why would be even want to call it something else?

Perhaps it is that, despite all our talk about faith and the assurance of Heaven, with all the promises of what a ..... well, heavenly .... place it will be, we really don't want to think about it. Don't want to use that word. 

I think that may be the case. And I may be in a little different situation than most. I wasn't saved over conviction of sin, or the promise of a terrific life and relationship down here. I got saved because I was afraid of dying.

Picture the end of WW2. Russia had the bomb, we knew it, and we lived in a suburb of Chicago. Small house, no A/C, the middle of summer, and Air Raid Shelter signs up all over. Newspapers saying the best place to be would be ground zero, since the suffering would all be over for you. Casual remarks from adults like "Nuthin' sure but death and taxes", often followed by laughter.

And then me, lying in my bed at night, listening to the sound of bombers flying over Chicago, apparently very high. Wondering if they were Russians coming over to kill me. Feeling relief only when the sound began to fade. And wondering what it would be like to die.

That fear ended in about 1948, when I was about 10. Dad asked me what was wrong, as he'd seen me moping around, poking at my food, etc. When I said "I'm afraid of dying", he said "Don't you remember what you heard in Vacation Bible School ... if you believe in Jesus, when you die you go to heaven".  Instantly, the lump in the throat and the hollowness in the chest went away, and I ran outside to play.

By the way, it took a long time to realize that was actually when Jesus had saved me ... the moment I first trusted Him.

Ever since that day over 65 years ago, He's had me like a fish on a stringer, reeling me in when He wants me.

I always figured the best way to overcome fear of something was to face it. Talk about it. Get used to it so it wouldn't be a bother. And guess what ... it's worked. 

Peggy and I had a discussion a few days ago about this very matter. I told her when I die, I don't want any of those euphemisms flying around. She rather enthusiastically agreed with me, about herself, too! 

So, when one of us dies, expect to see something somewhere that says we're dead. If it's precious to God, and to the folks already in Heaven........ let it be precious to us, too.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

We Sit In The Shade Of Trees ....

... planted by others.


So said Dr. Andrew Westmoreland, President of Samford University. He was in our worship services today, for a presentation to Brother Mike Shaw, our pastor, who is retiring at the end of this month. He was commended by the Trustees, formally, and by faculty and many others associated with Samford for his many years of faithful service to God, the churches he's served, and many entities of the SBC.

During his presentation, he spoke the words above; "We sit in the shade of trees planted by others". That reflects the long-range effects of the things we do, and applies to positive as well as the negative things, a fact I feel may not be adequately ingrained into our youth today.

But what Dr. Westmoreland said stirred a memory in my mind. It was the first time Mom and I drove up to 7902 Barlum Drive in Indianapolis. We were moving there, from a suburb of Chicago, the first week of May in 1953. That's the house in the picture above, taken a couple years later.

When we first drove up on the house, Dad was mowing the (mostly weeds) front lawn with a garden tractor with a sickle bar on the front. Lying up by the house were several five or six-foot-tall saplings, about as big around as your thumb. I helped Dad plant them that day or the next.

We lived in that house for several years; we thought we'd "died and gone to heaven", as it was about three times the size of our house in Calumet City, where we'd lived since I was born.

Now: with the addition of "Street View" to Google Earth, I thought it'd be fun to go back and check out some of the homes I've lived in over the past 75 ... it'll be 76 years when tomorrow rolls around ... just to see what they looked like, and looked like to me now. Well, here's the Barlum Drive house, today:





They've made a couple changes to the house itself ... added a garage at the other end, and closed in the old garage and re-purposed that space. The driveways are, of course, all new. But that's not what really struck me.

I've often used the line, referring to my advancing age, that "I'm older than some really big trees". But I don't say that, now. It's not funny any more; it's simply true. I was already 15 when we planted the trees!

And that got me to thinking about more important matters than the size of trees or the configuration of a house. It caused me to reflect on the long-range effects of the things we do here, particularly in His service, and what may come, some day, from our efforts.

In this hurried-up results-oriented society we live in, we're used to measuring the importance of what we do by the results we can see. When we send folks out witnessing, we want to know how may contacts, how many testimonies, how many prayers, etc. We like to tally results, track the people, and modify what we're doing to get the results we'd like to see. But that ignores a couple of things.

One of them is that we're not responsible for the results of what we do. That part is God's exclusively. I've been harping on this in class for a long, long time; it's not so much what we do, as it is what God does with what we do. He tells us about that, plainly, in 1 Corinthians 3:

"What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants not the one who waters is anything, but God Who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor."

Besides, when we're about His work, we're not the only folks on the scene, at work. As Paul explains further:

"For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building".

Sometimes, God is grateful to "lift the veil" as it were, and let us see the results of what we do here. But that's really "icing on the cake", since our victory is in the doing, and not in the results. The results are exclusively God's, and I for one am supremely grateful it's His team we're on.

I heard a story attributed to Billy Graham, many years ago. It may be apocryphal, but it does have a ring of truth about it. He was asked to name some of the folks who'd been important in his Spiritual life; one person he put on the short list was a Sunday School teacher who'd taught him for 3 years of his youth. She was the prototypical grey-haired little old lady who taught him, prayed for him, called when he missed a week, visited when he was sick ... all the things we attribute to an exemplary Sunday School teacher with a children's class. But the real kicker, in the story I was told:



Billy was her only student!


Just think of how many people, over the past half century or more, who have "sat in the shade of this tree she planted"...

Such a deal! We serve a God Who tells us that He'll handle the results, if we'll just tell the story. And unless we can guarantee that the folks to whom we're ministering will absolutely not be the world's next Billy Graham or Charles Haddon Spurgeon or Adoniram Judson, then we have no guarantee of how many folks will some day find that special place of comfort in the shade of a tree we planted.

Just remember who's running the team we're on.