Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> EAGLES' REST: August 2015

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Lessons From Insurance. And Salvation.

That's a really old insurance policy over there. Fitting, as my insurance experience started in 1958, and ended in 2008. So my knowledge may be a bit out-of-date. But, insofar as it pertains to principles, I don't think it is.

By way of background, I taught 3 different insurance courses, in the evenings at Earlham College ... non-credit, working toward Insurance Institute recognition ... for several years. Like, 40 years ago.

Nonetheless, a few principles still apply, even if occasionally violated these days.

One principle is that whatever you're insuring against must be fortuitous. Accidental from your perspective. In fact, most insurance policies exclude (or did) wear & tear and gradual deterioration. Which ought to tell you why I disapprove of the insurance-company-based "extended warranty programs, which purport to pay for just that. As well as some other things.

Another principle is that what's insured against must be pure risk, as opposed to dynamic risk. Pure risk is that chance of loss only.

Think of it this way. If you own a house, it may burn down tonight. If it does, you lose. If it doesn't, you will be in the same position tomorrow as you are today. There's no corresponding "gain" by its not burning down. You might also walk across a floor. If you fall, you may lose; if you don't, there's no particular profit.

Unless you're trying to get out of your burning house.

Similarly, you cannot insure against gambling losses. The problem with gambling is that it's not a static risk. The act of betting,creates the risk of loss, and simultaneously the risk of gain.

The same is true against insuring a business against losing money ... which is married to the chance of making money.

Another principle is that the chance of loss must be high enough to cause enough people to want to insure it, to make the numbers work out. I mean, you would not expect your insurer to insure the loss of an ordinary lead pencil. Conversely, it must be low enough to eliminate the probability that all units in the group, or even most, may be lost in one fell swoop. That's why conventional policies exclude war, nuclear occurrences, flood and the like (the Government handles those things, if at all).

Which brings us to salvation. First of all, we're all going to die. Unless we're here for the Rapture, which will bring with it a new set of rules.

In that sense, death is a pure risk. You either die, in which case you lose (in the conventional sense). Or you live, in which case you stay right where you were.

But you'll still die some day.

And the chance of loss is certainly high enough to warrant doing something about it. And although we're all going to do just that, it's unlikely that a singe event will take us all out.

Consider another aspect of insurance. Would you sleep real well tonight if you did not have any insurance on your house?  I know I wouldn't, even though ours is paid for.

I could not afford to deal with the results of an uninsured fire. Or tornado. The minute after it hits is too late to deal with it.

Same is true with your life. You'\re going to die, and after you do, is too late to make arrangements. See Hebrews 9:27 for details.

And the "other aspect" I mentioned above. I would not sleep well, if at all, this night were I not certain of my salvation. Certain of eternal life. And I certainly would not want to live a lot of years with that thought, either.

But that's precisely what a lost world is doing.

My personal thanks to the Holy Spirit for convicting me of sin,  of righteousness, and of judgment. 

Had He not done that, I don't think I'd be sleeping well, tonight. 


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Lessons from Leaves and Limbs

Sitting at the kitchen table the last few mornings, I noted something about the trees in the front yard.

Actually, that's a mis-statement. It's not a yard .. it's what's left of the forest into which the builder set our house. I should note that, whereas I love summer and hot weather, I do not like season changes. Particularly since I don't like winter.

Nonetheless; I noted, and will point out, several things in this picture. Point #1: note the leaves in the middle of the picture, that have already begun the withering and dying process. They belong to the dogwood tree on the right.

Point #2: Note the dead branches on the tree nearest the house.

Point #3: If you look closely, just above the leftmost yellow leaves, you'll see a few new leaves sprouting from one of the previously-dead branches.

All that got me to thinking. Point #1: The yellow leaves are in the innermost part of the little jungle out there, sheltered from what's outside. Like sunlight. And rain. Does that remind you of anything?

It does, me. It reminds me that my faith is not to be hidden among other "trees". Among other Christians. My faith needs exposure to the Spiritual sun and rain. It needs not to be sheltered.

Point #2: The dead branches. They were the most hidden in our little forest. Right up against the house and shaded by not only the other trees, but the house itself. It got the least sunlight. So the same thing happened, some time back, that is now happening to the dogwood branches.

When they stopped being productive, the branches died. Oh, as you can see, they're still branches, but they don't count for much.

I have to wonder if that happens to us when we are not "productive" in the Great Cause of the Great Commission. And, by that, I DO NOT mean we all have to be "soul winners"  .... which we really cannot do anyway ... but I DO mean we can all do our part as a member of the Savior's army, out here in the world.

Check 1 Corinthians 12. Read how you're gifted to do that which God intends for you, in the advance of the Kingdom which exists on earth.

When we're not hooked into the Source and being fed that sunshine and rain, I guess we can expect our leaves to wither sooner, and our Spiritual lives to crumble under the weight of Spiritual gravity. Oh, we'd still be branches, but looking like the Spiritual equivalent of the dead branches on that tree.

Which brings us to Point #3: Even when the branch dies, it can still be brought to life. See ... there was a tree immediately to the left of that tree, a huge one, that was dying last year. So, while the tree trimmers were here taking care of some other things, and facing winter anyway, we had them take that big tree down. And that let more sunshine, and perhaps more rain, get to the tree with the dead limbs.

They came back to life; arboreal evidence, in practical, down-to-earth terms, of the truth of Jesus' statements about vines and branches!

Our faith was never designed for our comfort or to be hidden from the outside world. To be cloistered quietly from the world's storms. The roots of our faith are more than sufficient to guarantee we will stand among the storms of life. There's no reason not to share that faith, and every reason to do that, outside the shelter of the walls of our buildings.

If you see your faith withering, put it to use. If you're hiding inside those walls, afraid to share your faith, I think Jesus' words to you might echo what He said to Lazarus:


COME FORTH!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

IMAGINE A MILITARY.........

IN WHICH the new recruits go through basic training ... "Boot Camp" if you will ... as follows.

They spend several weeks sitting in a classroom and learning things. They study how to fly a plane, steer a battleship, fire a cannon, all those things the military does to defend and protect the USA. And then, after the final class, tell them "OK .. there's your battleship (or artillery or airplane or helicopter, atomic bomb, or whatever). Go use them somewhere.

That wouldn't make much sense, would it?

It wouldn't, to me, either.

But that is precisely what happens in most churches! We attend on Sunday mornings (and evenings, if we have services then) and we attend on Wednesday nights, and that's about it. Oh, we do occasionally have "confrontational witnessing programs" in which we teach people a system and then go out knocking on doors, and take a "Spiritual Opinion Poll". Which it really isn't, only serving to get us talking to people about Spiritual matters.

When I look at the trends in the church ... particularly SBC churches ... over the past few years, it does not seem that our system is working any better than the hypothetical Boot Camp I mentioned above. Which, incidentally, no military I know of would ever do, as it is ludicrous on its face.

Add to that the fact that churches are eager to send people to foreign lands on mission trips, to witness to folks over there. They're motivated by the Great Commission, to go into all the world. Well, it occurs to me that we are already in all the world, and that where we live is already the "uttermost part" referred to in Acts 1:8.

When the Great Commission refers to "Go...", the applicable word  in the original language is   "poreuo", which translates as:

  • To lead, carry over, transfer
  • To pursue the journey on which one has entered, to continue on one's journey
  • To follow one, that is, become his adherent, to lead or order one's life

That sounds as if we're supposed to do whatever is instructed where we are .. where we're going. Not necessarily to travel to "the uttermost parts of the world". Fact is, we're already there!

But when I look around the church, I don't see a lot of programs designed to teach people how to speak of Jesus to folks they are already talking to. And I can see some reasons why people need to be taught that!

For one thing, there's the fear of failure. I don't think that's a big hindrance, since most folks know .. at least I hope they do ... that when someone rejects our witness, they're really rejecting Jesus and not us personally.

The other thing, and perhaps even bigger, is that people fear success. For one thing, if you tell someone how Jesus saved you, and they say "Tell me more", we really ought to be prepared to tell them more. And that requires that we be taught.

Just think: If you prayed over someone in the hospital, and they were miraculously healed, wouldn't that change your life? I mean, how could you refuse to go pray, the next time someone you know is hospitalized?  If you tell someone about Jesus and they are saved, how could you not tell the next unsaved friend you meet?

Yes, "success" in Spiritual matters carries with it some obligations.

Add to that, the fact that the devil will always whisper in your ear, later, and it's not unexpected that folks would be reluctant to carry on. When the devil asks you if you are certain you told them right, or enough, or whether you're sure the person actually meant it, it can raise red flags in your mind.

Unless you also recall what the Apostle Paul said:

1 Corinthians 3:6 & 7: I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God Who causes the growth".

So we have a couple of choices. We speak of Him, in which case God may give growth. Or we don't speak, in which case we cannot expect anything to happen. It's our choice, and the lack of "credit" for what happens should be no more discouraging in our journey than that fact that we're not flying the airplane would kill the pleasure of flying over the magnificence that is the Grand Canyon.

What do we need to do? Simple. Train people. The same way the military does. Hands-on. Practice. Make our instructions .. the actions we need to take .. as second nature to us as they would be to an Army Ranger.

We are, after  all, in a battle. God said so.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

YOU CAN'T TEACH THE GREAT COMMISSION .....

WITHOUT, that is, also teaching 1 Corinthians 12. Well ... you can ... but you risk badly misleading people.

I recall a lively discussion about this, one day, in Sunday School. The message seemed to come across as we all need to be making disciples. And that's the part I disagree with.

The Great Commission, of course, is to go into all the world (really to every society or people group) and make disciples ... learners ... pupils ... and to baptize them and teach them everything Jesus commanded. When the teacher said that it was every believer's responsibility, I asked for a show of hands among the ladies in the class, showing how many of them had baptized someone. Nobody raised their hand, and the teacher remarked that he hadn't baptized anyone, either.

I then asked if they were being disobedient to the Great Commission.

The point is, IF the GC applies to each and every believer, it would have started by applying to each individual Apostle, too. And I wonder which of them went to Europe or South America. They're part of "all the world".....

And if that individual applicability holds true, then everyone has to teach, too. That does not seem logical when we consider that the gift of teaching does not apply to everyone. 1 Corinthians 12 rules that out via a pointed series of rhetorical questions.

So ... what IS the deal?

Go back to Genesis, and God's command to multiply and fill the earth, and subdue it. Did God tell Adam & Eve to personally have several billion babies? I doubt that. But if you view the command as applicable to mankind, it seems reasonable. We've kind of done that over the last few thousand years.

Maybe not very well.....

Let's put that thought on the Great Commission. If it's to each individual, then it conflicts with other scriptures and fails miserably as I don't think anybody can go into all the world. And for sure not everybody. But if we recast it as applying to the church ... the Body of Christ .. then it makes sense. Particularly when coupled with 1 Corinthians 12.

That chapter describes the church ... the ekklesia...  as the Body of Christ. The flesh & blood He uses when He wants something done here on earth.


  • He wants the Bible preached to some folks, He confiscates the flesh of a preacher. Someone gifted with that.
  • He wants some folks ministered to, He appropriates the body of someone gifted in that.
  • He wants Bible teaching, He grabs a gifted teacher and uses him (OK .. or her).
  • He wants some healing or managing or interpreting done, He's got folks available to use those gifts, too.

I believe that's the secret of Communion ... the "Lord's Supper". He wants us to take His flesh and His blood into our bodies where it will survive and be available to Him when He needs to commandeer some flesh to give that cup of cold water in His name.

Makes sense to me.

Romans 12 says we're to think of ourselves with sound reasoning .. with sober judgment. That ought to include areas in which God has sovereignly gifted us. If He has given us the gift of teaching, we should be able to simply say so. It's not a matter of pride, since it was a gift and not of our own doing. And the same applies to all the other gifts which the Holy Spirit bestows, as well. His service is no place for pride, or for false humility.

OK. So the Bible carefully explains that the church is a body, made up of different and diverse parts, each gifted for a particular task or tasks. For a human body in which each part did not know how to perform as it was designed, it would be a huge problem. But evidence I see in the church is that most parts don't know what they were designed to do.

Folks always seem surprised when I ask the first "spiritual gift" mentioned in the Bible. Nobody's ever known, so I always tell them to check Exodus 31:

1 The Lord also spoke to Moses: 2 "Look, I have appointed by name Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. 3 I have filled him with God's Spirit, with wisdom, understanding, and ability in every craft 4 to design artistic works in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 to cut gemstones for mounting, and to carve wood for work in every craft".

Really? Arts and crafts as a Spiritual gift? Sure. The task of the church .. Israel .. at the time was to build the Tabernacle. So God placed people in their midst who were gifted to accomplish the work God had in mind for them.

I wonder if we have that attitude today? That God has placed in our midst the people gifted to accomplish the tasks God has in mind for our church. And for yours. Or could it be that leadership looks out the window, at the community, decides what they need, and then enlists volunteers to do those thing.

Specifically thinking of the Great Commission, every member should know their gifting, what God has prepared for them to do, so they can do their part in the church's fulfilling of the Great Commission. If a member's gift is caring for infants or pre-schoolers, then it's important. Without that, mom & dad will not be in Bible Study, being discipled.

Trying to determine the relative importance of gifts in a church is like trying to decide the relative importance of the right and left wing on an airliner. I don't suggest you ask a pilot which wing he consider to be the more important....

If you don't know what your Spiritual gifts are, find out! God wouldn't have gifted us if He hadn't intended us to use them, and it seems to me that doing just that is one of the biggest keys to leading an abundant life.

Take it from someone who is old enough not to need any more "stuff" and who has been to enough states and countries that he doesn't want to travel any more .... doing those things does not constitute an abundant life. That abundance lies in serving the God Who will, one day, reveal what all He accomplished through the things we did in His name and His service. When that happens, we'll really understand what Jesus meant when He said that He came so that we might have abundant life.