Friday, November 21, 2014

Mr. Obama's Unilateral Actions

By now we've all heard of the speech given by Mr. Obama last evening. I have two reactions to it.

One of them is what I would have said a year ago. The other is what I think, today. And they differ.

A year ago, I would have ranted against it, on two different grounds. One is, it's an abuse of power by Mr. Obama, and should be cause for impeachment. Today, I heard on the radio, perhaps a dozen recordings of statements he previously made about "Executive Order", and about the role of the President in upholding and enforcing the laws of the land. The other reason is I was against ... vehemently so ... granting any official legal status to those who broke the law to get here.

But that's changed; here's why.

The USA is culpable in the "Illegal Alien mess" we have here, now. And yes, I refuse to call them "undocumented immigrants" or any other politically correct designation.

They are aliens ... foreigners ... who are here illegally.

But the fact is that we, as a nation, have stood by and watched this going on for years. For decades. The people who risked so much to get here via routes you and would never dare, had good reason to believe that, once they got here, they would be welcome. That they would be accepted.

And it matters not what most people think of the mess, either. The national actions ... or rather inaction ... may not have been done by the man on the street here, but he's the same guy that went into the voting booths and elected the slate of ne'er-do-wells we refer to as the Congress and the Executive Branch. And they, and the guys they hired to do the grunt work, are the proximate cause .. by their action or their inaction ... of the mess we've got now.

I recall the day in 2007 that my best friend ... his last name rhymes with "Scott" ... said that Barack Hussein Obama was more dangerous to the USA than was Osama Bin Laden. He was widely derided for saying it, but time is proving him correct.

Anyone with a lick of sense could have seen that after 4 years, but our populace voted him back in anyway.

Back to the immediate problem: Illegal aliens. What Mr. Obama is attempting to do via Royal Proclamation Executive Orders is exactly what should have been done by the great swamp on the Potomac ... AKA "Congress". But wasn't. There is absolutely no reason that smells anything like serving the people, that they didn't, long ago. Shame on them.

 There's a principle in law called "estoppel". The definition, according to one of those on-line dictionaries, is: 

  "...the principle that precludes a person from asserting something contrary to what is implied by a previous action or statement of that person or by a previous pertinent judicial determination."

In light of that definition, and of court cases extending a variety of privileges to Illegal Aliens, how can we now say "We didn't mean it....", and remove those here illegally?

I don't think we can. 

Nor do I think we should. And I'm  not even considering the Christian duty many of our citizens have, toward the sojourners in our midst.

No, Mr. Obama just did what I think Congress should have done, years ago. But, as my former Pastor, Mike Shaw, said many times: "It's never right to do wrong, to do right".  

Amen.

Monday, November 03, 2014

She Thought She Died Well. But I Disagree.

That's Brittany Maynard over there .. the young lady who legally ended her own life, this past weekend, in Oregon. She'd recently moved there because physician-assisted suicide would be legal for her, there.

I have no knowledge as to her faith. Nor do I know how it feels to have a terminal and inoperable brain tumor, albeit I am living with prostate cancer which has metastasized to my lymph system. It's currently being held in check by a drug I take each 6 months, but how long its forestalling effect will last is unknown.

Actually, if you have to have a slow-growing cancer that's being (presumably) temporarily held in check via Trelstar injections, age 76 isn't a bad time for it.

As for Brittany, her death is a tragedy regardless, and I have no idea whether it took more courage to end her life as she did, or let the disease take its course. But for someone like me, it seems that the last good thing I can possibly do on this earth, to glorify God, to show forth His grace, is to die well. to die unafraid, proclaiming His goodness and His glory.

That'd be a bit tough to do were I to pull my own plug, telling God by my actions that I don't trust Him. If I don't trust Him in everything ... and I mean EVERYTHING ... then everything ... and I mean EVERYTHING ... is futile.

But it's not.

I would hope she'd trusted Jesus for her salvation. If that would happen to be the case, I believe she'll get to Heaven, and will hear something like the following, from the Savior: "You have NO IDEA what I had in store for you, had you let me handle it...". 

Her story brought to mind, and did so when I first heard it, the story of my friend Troy Smith. He died some years ago of metastatic breast cancer, after a long and courageous battle.

I happen to have been involved with the family, perhaps more than most at church, because of my informal association with the Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation, and also with putting together the 2-week Disney Cruise/Disney World vacation for them when his cancer came back. To this very day, I have a wonderful relationship with the family he left behind, I suppose none more vibrant than with his daughter Hannah Grace.

You can see the poem I wrote about Hannah, here. Still a sweet young girl, but now a sweet young teenager.

I wrote about Troys death on this blog, years ago. I did it to show forth the sort of legacy I'd like to leave behind, and you can read it  here. Be sure and read the comments, too, as many were from friends who spoke more eloquently than I.

We can learn a lot from death. For one thing, we're all appointed to do that, and we have plenty of warning it's coming ... no matter how "unexpectedly" it arrives.

We can also learn a lot from those around us, as well.

Be it positive .... or negative.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Perhaps the Greatest Tragedy of the SBC

I have no idea how long this post will be, but I sure do need to write it. It was sparked by a conversation on Facebook. In no particular order:


  • The church is a BODY. It's made up of lots of different parts, each one of which has a duty. Perhaps a unique duty within the body.
  • All the parts are equally important. Some are more high-profile than other, but all are equally important. 
  • Example of previous point: if there's not the right kind of gifted person watching children in the nursery, mom & dad are not going to be upstairs in Worship Service, or over there in Sunday School. Asking which is more important is like asking the pilot of an airliner which wing is more important.
  • Every person in the Body of Christ is gifted by God, for the task God has in mind for that person.
  • Those gifts are for the good of the body, not for the good of the individual.
  • In the churches with which I am familiar, only a small percentage of the members are even in the church on any given Sunday.
  • Of the members who do attend, only a small percentage of them are involved in the actual work of the church.
  • 100% of the members on the rolls are gifted for the common good of the body, yet pitifully few of them are doing what they are gifted to do within the body.

Universality of giftedness: Speaking of gifts in 1 Corinthians Chapter 12, verse 7, God says: "now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good". This follows on the heels of an explanation that there are different kinds of gifts and different kinds of service and workings, but there is one God who works in them all. Can you imagine what the majority of church members are missing, by not using their giftedness for the common good? 

In my experience, not many members can respond logically and knowledgeably to the question "In what ways has God gifted you Spiritually, for the work of service?" And how can a local church know what task God has in mind for that Body, if it doesn't know the giftedness of the people God has placed in their midst, to carry on that Kingdom work?

I think it significant that the first mention of spiritual giftedness is found in Exodus, in the story of Bezalel. One could probably figure out that their task was something like building the Tabernacle, just by the fact that God had place a guy in their midst who was skilled ... gifted ... in working with gold, silver, bronze, gems and wood.

If every single task needed within the local body were not equally important, how could the same recognition be given to offering a cup of cold water as is given to more grandiose things to which we aspire?

Percentage of involvement: In the latest membership and attendance numbers published by The Alabama Baptist, attendance in the 6 largest population centers in Alabama was 33.28% among SBC churches, compared to 53.97% among the other reporting denominations. When we consider that attendance includes visitors and children too young to be members, those percentages surely err on the high side. And they're pitiful.

Our church looks something like 3,000 members, 750 attending, and perhaps 100-150 actually involved in the work of the church, most particularly on Sunday morning.

You get the idea. Most of what can be observed by driving past and looking is an imitation of the real thing ... people assembled in unity, using their giftedness to build up the Body.

Kind of like in the book of Acts.

To me, the abundant life consists of doing what God has instructed, and gifted, us to do. Can you imagine.....

  • The abundance that is being missed within the Church Body, by people failing to realize and utilize their abilities and gifts in the building up of the Body of Christ, and....
  • The good work of the Body that's not being done by folks who don't know what their purpose in the church is, or are unwilling to step up, learn, and get involved?

The mind boggles......   

Monday, October 27, 2014

OF ABANDONED HOUSES AND RUINED LIVES

I happened upon an old blog post a bit ago, and although I've never recycled an old blog post before, I thought I'd do that with this one. Methinks the thoughts I had in June 2009 may still be relevant, today.

Abundance of life is missed far too often.

Two completely different ideas have collided in my brain and I want to write about them.

First, the house: this is a little duplex located at 1920 Minnesota Street, at the corner of Villa Avenue, in Indianapolis, Indiana. My maternal Grandmother and Grandfather lived in the left half of that house when it was first built. I was really young at the time, but I think it was the middle-late 1940's. My Aunt Marcella and her husband had them move to that house, as it was just two blocks South of their house, up at the corner of Villa and Pleasant Run Parkway.

It was built in the "shotgun" style, with the living room in front, the kitchen (with eating area) behind, then the bedroom and bathroom in the back.

I recall falling asleep in the living room, many times, on the floor. Grandpa Tanner had a stack of Craftsman tool catalogues and I used to love reading them, lying on the floor. There was a pot-belly stove in the living room, and a nice maroon rug on the floor, and it was a great place for a nap.

Only trouble was, every time .. without exception .. I fell asleep there, Mom would wake me up and say if I wanted to take a nap, go lie down on the bed. I always did, but never once did I ever fall asleep again after she made me move.

I guess if Mom had ever taken a nap there on the floor, she would've let me sleep.

They lived there until my Grandfather got up in the middle of the night, had a stroke on the way to the bathroom, fell and hit his head on the dresser, and never awoke from the coma that followed. Grandmother's mind "snapped", she never cried or smiled again, and began a rapid descent into total confusion. In fact, they knew something had to be done just a few weeks later when she'd get lost walking 2 blocks up the street to Aunt Marcella's house. They'd find her standing half way, not knowing which direction she was supposed to walk.

Said all that to say what a depressing sight it was in 2003 when, on a visit to Indianapolis, I drove by and took this pictures. So many nice memories, and now it's all neglected and overgrown. But when I thought about it, it occurred to me that the memories all had to do with life there. With the life now gone, the sight was most depressing.

I'd stumbled upon this picture a few hours ago, and then as I type this, the TV was showing a program about women behind bars; specifically about one young girl in prison for 3 consecutives life terms plus 25 years. That amounts to a death sentence, as a guard said; it'll just be a while before they carry her out in a box.

And then the universality of the life of Christ came crashing down on me and I knew I had to write. See .. if she'd found Jesus, and walked to the beat of His drum ... make that the beat of His heart .. she'd likely not be where she is today, expressing such hopelessness. Similarly, if she were to find Christ now, and devote the rest of her days to serving Him, where she is, she could find purpose and joy and a reason for being, despite her circumstances.

The two dozen or so men who got a degree from a seminary while in prison in Mississippi come immediately to mind.

Jesus said He came that we might have abundant life. Now, since He both designed and manufactured us, and since He is the One Who defines life, I think He knows better than anyone what abundant life is for us. And He's left the world's most complete set of instructions, for anything, just for us. On how to have that abundant life.

Wherever we are.

What was missing, at 1920 Minnesota Street, was life. What was missing, in the young lady in prison, was purpose and hope. I thank God for the indescribable gift of His Son, who can and does give us all three, wherever we are.

My hope is that my life reflects the life of Jesus .. with its purpose and its hope.

The world needs to know and, besides, I don't want my life to look like 1920 Minnesota Street.

Ever.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

It Seems To Me.

I got into a very interesting discussion on a form of Social Media a day or two ago.

I've just always wanted to say Social Media, but haven't, until now. Frankly, it wasn't that much fun.

Anyway, the point under discussion was whether there was something wrong with our being more concerned with people crossing our borders into our country ... illegally ... than we are with crossing them ourselves, to go to them in Jesus' name (ostensibly the reason). My position was that we all should be concerned about the protection of our nation, but not all will be concerned ... the exact word used was passionate  ... about going on missions. And everything was OK. Until I actually expressed that opinion.

Katy, bar the door! 

Before I attack that thought, let's talk about valuations. Let's say you're in a minor rear-ender, and the doctor tells you that you should rest in bed for a week. I know what would happen.

Day one, you'd stay down pretty much. Up for the usual necessities.

Day two: you'd stay in bed a while, but probably move to the couch and lie there watching TV.

Day Three: probably in the recliner as long as it didn't hurt. Maybe up in the afternoon doing some light stuff as long as it felt OK.

The rest of the week, you'd take it decreasingly easy.

Hold that thought.

Change the scenario: the rear-ender was worse than most, and the doctor tells you there's this sliver of bone up against your spinal cord, and if you get out of bed in less than 7 days, you'll never walk again! 

Chances are pretty good you'd stay in bed for 7 whole days and maybe an extra or two, just to be safe.

Why the difference? Same instructions, different outcome. Well, I'll tell you.

Second case, you'd see the value. You'd see the importance of doing what you were told.

Now, back to the Social Media "discussion". To me, the Bible is abundantly clear that (A) The church .. the ekklesia ... is a body. The Body of Christ. The flesh He wants to commandeer when He has something He wants done down here, and (B) Every member of the Body down here has been gifted specifically for the purpose that God has in mind. For the Kingdom work that God desires us to do, and (C) That message has not been effectively impressed on the minds and hearts of church members, in light of the pitiful percentage of members who actually participate in the work of the Church ... the Ekklesia. Let alone the equally pitiful percentage of church members who actually come to our Sunday School Classes and Worship Services.

In our church, Sunday School attendance approximates 25% of membership. And, as I suspect most churches are, the percentage of members actually participating in the work of the church is much lower. Pitifully so.

I don't respond well when someone tells me what my passion should be. God said, in Psalm 37:4, that HE will give me the request .. the petition .. the desire of my heart, if I will delight in Him. The things I'll desire .. the things I'll petition Him about ... the subjects of my prayers.

And I don't think God is subcontracting that job out to anybody that I've heard of. Or I think He'd have said that.

Back to the percentages. I think our doing what God has placed in our hearts ... what He's gifted us to do, is the very heart of the abundant life. And if that's the case, why do so few seem to want that?

Personally, I believe it's because, collectively, the leaders in the local church have not done a good job of leading their people to understand the value of leading an abundant life. That could be related to preaching, to teaching, to how we take members in ... as in admitting as members people who have no intention of being actively involved. I don't know. But somebody ought to be able to find out, and I think it'd be important.

Some time back, I blogged about the Jamaica Baptist Union, here. Last I heard, they have 330 member churches, led by 122 ministers, with 40,000 church members. And they have around 10,000 attend their annual meeting. I know a lot of the folks in the Red Hills Baptist Church there, and almost all of them are eager to be, and are, involved in the work of the church.

Most of them walk uphill to church. Either three of four times per week.

What's the difference here? Perhaps Proverbs 6:10-11 gives some indication, if there's a spiritual meaning to it..... "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the arms to rest, and your poverty will come like a robber, your need like a bandit.

I hope the SBC is doing a better job overseas than it is domestically. The numbers are pretty sad. It seems to me that, before we can really focus properly on leading overseas operations, we'd want to get things in our own back yard straightened out.

It seems to me.




Monday, October 20, 2014

It's A Lot Like The Old Trick Question .....


You know the one ... "If God is all powerful, could He build something so big He couldn't move it?"

Well there are a lot of funny answers, like "yes, but it'd take forever to build". But the plain truth is: There is no such thing.

Same thing goes for everything that pertains to what God can or cannot do. Like saving what we view as the most despicable of human beings.

There has been a murder trial going on here in Shelby County which has gotten a lot of attention around here. It concerns the murder of three young men in a drug deal that eventually went bad.

REAL bad. Three murders over $40!

One reason it got so much attention here is that it happened about 2 blocks from our home, right in our subdivision. It's a twisty subdivision, though, and the house is probably less than 200 yards from our house.

If you think that's frightening to us, fear not. We're used to it. There was a quadruple murder 17 years ago, even closer to our house.

The picture up there is Mr. Jon Staggs, Jr, the suspect in the case. And, as of this afternoon, officially the murderer of those three young men.

The jury has found him guilty.

First reaction? He looks like a bad guy. Second reaction, he looks guilty.

Also, he was found guilty of multiple counts of Capital Murder, which qualifies him for a ticket to a ride on "Yellow Mama", the infamous yellow electric chair at Kilby Prison here in Alabama. My reaction to that was "More power to the guy".

Thankfully, those were very brief reactions, and were followed immediately by a flood of other things; knowledge and reminders of things more important than Mr. Staggs.

Foremost was Dr. Charles Carter's sermon yesterday about God's will that people be saved. He pointed out that nobody in Christendom back in the early days would have wanted Saul to be saved. Breathing murderous threats against believers, standing by and approving while a mob killed Stephen, and on his way to persecute another bunch of followers when God interrupted his plans.

It likely wasn't anybody else's will that Saul get saved that day, but it was God's.

Then there's David Berkowitz, the "Son of Sam" killer from New York. I've seen and heard testimonies about him, and seen some of his recent writings .. which definitely didn't come from a lost person.

God's will, interrupting things once again, in ways we'd never have expected.

Then there's Ted Bundy. Focus on the Family's Founder James Dobson interviewed him in his later days in prison, and told of his wonderful Christian testimony. You can see that interview here, starting at the 12:00 mark.

And run-of-the-mill ordinary citizen murderers aren't the only ones. Manuel Noriega, a former Head of State of Panama, had a big-time down-front conversion experience in prison. It's said that he is serving God faithfully, even though still in prison in Panama.

I believe it was Max Lucado who called this aspect of salvation "the insult of the cross". The fact that God in His unfathomable love extends the same offer of salvation to people we somehow think ought to be beyond redemption. Some folks do seem to be upset that certain people they felt were beyond hope get miraculously saved, and after having lived such detestable lives, are saved and inherit the same Heaven as servants faithful nearly all their lives.

Remember Madalyn Murray O'Hair? The famous, or infamous, atheist? In 1960, she filed suit in Baltimore, against the School Board, claiming that the schools' forcing her son William Murray, to endure mandatory prayer at school, was somehow violating his civil rights. That suit was successful and, after being affirmed by the Supreme Court, effectively ended prayer in public schools in 1963.

I don't know, but I imagine there was a lot of resentment and angst caused by, and directed toward, her son as a result of that case.

Today, he's still William Murray, but he became a Christian in 1980 and now heads an organization he founded, the "Government Is Not God Foundation". They are devoted to defending the rights of Christians in the USA. You can read about him and his foundation here. And I would note that he's genuine, too, as he was first called into the ministry while at a church pastored by a good friend of mine, Paul Burleson.

That last thing his momma would have wanted was for her son to be saved. But her wishes didn't stand a chance against God's will.

Which brings us back to the convicted murderer from my neighborhood, Mr. Jon Staggs, Jr. And my reaction to him, his picture, and his conviction. The reactions are, of course, entirely of my flesh. And I guess it's OK with me, as those reactions force me to decide that I must .. and I really want to ... have the same attitude toward him as Jesus would. Have the same view of him, as a sin-sick soul in need of redemption. In need of a Savior.

We might see him as beyond that. But I guarantee God doesn't.

A soul beyond redemption is like that object too big for God to move. It just doesn't exist. And I am glad of that.

Otherwise, I'd still be lost.

So would you.

Correction: My pastor tells me Yellow Momma has been retired in favor of lethal injections. So change that part to "an appointment with a sterile needle.....".

Friday, October 17, 2014

Respect. We Need Moore.

That guy in the picture is Dr. Russell Moore, President/CEO of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He's a man I respect, for more than one reason.

He has all the credentials , of course, and from where I sit, he's doing a terrific job. But there's another reason.

After he'd been elected to the position, but before his inauguration, he had occasion to come and preach at a Samford Chapel Service. I learned about it, and Peg & I went to see & hear him.

After the service, I walked over to where he was, and he called me by name. That wasn't surprising, really, as I've spoken from the floor at the convention, a number of  times, and I wouldn't doubt that there are more folks that know who I am, than folks I know myself.
What gave me cause to pause was that he called me "Mr. Cleveland".

I'm not really used to that.

Same scenario at the next SBC Annual Meeting; we saw each other in the hall and spoke for a few minutes.

I called him "Dr. Moore", for the same reason I call Sheri Klouda "Dr. Klouda" when addressing her. There are some people that I simply want to know I respect their position and their accomplishments, every time I see them, and it's also my way of reminding myself of those things.

Now: Dr. Moore could certainly call me by my first name, and it would be completely OK if he did. And I figure, at my age, I could probably call him by his first name, too. But I don't want to.

Respect ... demonstrated ... is an endangered commodity these days, and there's something so ... so .. just so right ... about showing that, in how we address each other ... when we're not everyday "buddies" ... that I have no desire to give up that little bit of that endangered commodity, Especially when addressing people of substantial accomplishment and position.

When I was an insurance broker, I had a client who operated a Child Care Center. I always addressed her as Mrs. Johnson, and she always addressed me as Mr. Cleveland. With real emphasis on the "title". Now, we got to be really good friends over the years, but there was just something so right about how we addressed each other, that I had no bit of a desire to change that. Not one bit.

If any of my friends from church, or members of my SS class read this, don't think I have any desire for anyone to address me differently from how they already do. That's not the point.

Respect is the point. Simply being respectful is Moore To The Point.