Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I Bought The Car; Life Sold Separately

When we retired in February of 2008, we saw the need for a more economical car. Being a car freak and somewhat of a fan of hi-tech cars, we bought a Prius. It served us faithfully for nearly 7 years, over 50,000 miles, and the mileage all the way was excellent.

Now, seven years on, we're more comfortable with retirement, and living within our retirement income, so a more "normal" car became a feasibility. Made even more feasible by the Prius doing some strange uncooperative things recently, when either my elder son or my wife was driving it.

I would never stand for my car being unpredictably reliable when Peg goes shopping in it.

Our younger son had bought a new VW Jetta a couple months ago, so that's the first place I went. Second trip there was to buy a car, but they just wouldn't get anywhere near my number. Then after looking at a couple other makes, I stopped by the local Ford dealer. Two hours later, having picked up Peg at home, we picked up our new Ford.

It didn't hurt that the salesman was a friend of many many years' standing at church.

I told him I wanted 4 things, specifically: Leather, backup camera, smart key, and one-touch up & down windows. He had an absolutely gorgeous silver-gold one in stock, and hence the speedy deal. But the really neat part didn't come until I already had the car.

I keep discovering nifty things about it. For one thing, the headlights are completely automatic. They turn themselves on and off, and dim themselves for oncoming traffic. And they even dim themselves when they see taillights ahead!

Then there's the Lane Keeping System. The camera in the car .. the same one that sees headlights & taillights ... sees lane markings and warns you when you get close to one side or the other. Too close and it puts a little pressure on the steering wheel to drift you back into your own lane. Once I was cruising down the road and the car was running straight so I ease off the wheel and, when the car drifted slowly to one side, the steering magically corrected itself. And a big red warning light flashed on the dashboard display tell me to "PLEASE KEEP BOTH HANDS ON THE STEERING WHEEL AT ALL TIMES!"

Yeah ... the new car even chewed me out.

There are many other things that seem like magic on it, but the real crux is that I bought the car for a few things I wanted, and after I had it, I discovered a lot of things I didn't know were there.

That's a lot like the Christian life, you know.

We get into it, ostensibly, because we are lost and don't want to spend eternity in the wrong place. But after we get into it, we discover there's a lot more to it than just relief from the ultimate Heat Wave. And I guess that's to be expected.

There's the fellowship. I tried to tell my lost brother how the fellowship of  believers transcended friendship in ways I couldn't explain. I recounted a time I gave a speech to a meeting of Real Estate Appraisers in Miami. A few of the Appraisers lined up to ask me questions afterwards, and one of them seemed to have trouble finding words. Suddenly he said "AHA.... that's IT!!" and pointed to the fish pin on my lapel. He said "You're a believer!". He said there was something different about yours truly and he just wanted to find out what it was.

I recounted that and several other instances where there'd been brief meaningful interactions with other believers. But his response was he had the same thing with teachers.

Well ... I'd met lots of other Insurance Underwriters and Insurance Brokers in my many years' insurance experience, but there was never the sort of instant fellowship I experience with fellow believers.

The truth finally dawned on me .... the fellowship of believers is a Spiritual matter. And my natural-man brother couldn't comprehend that. Any more than he could comprehend how, at my age and with my experiences, the only really thrilling things in life are all gathered around the common core of Jesus Christ, and His living in us via the Holy Spirit. And, the things He uses me to do here in this life.

Some of the steps in being a successful salesman concern being able to discern the prospect's problem, and addressing that problem with a solution that he can comprehend. Good salesmen will avoid getting entangled in explaining other things that do not concern the prospect. Taking a cue from that, there's not a lot of use in trying to convince a lost person how wonderful the Christian life is, when they're already leading what is, to them, a comfortable rewarding life.

There are some benefits to being a Christian that you won'r ever understand until you have already accepted eternal life.

AND another things I just thought of. I recall a story about a young lad of 3 or 4 who kept falling out of bed. They did sleep studies and monitoring and all, but could not figure out why he did that. When they expressed their bewilderment to the mother, the child spoke up and said "Maybe I just sleep to close to where I got in?"

Makes sense to me, and is akin to me, not reading the Owner's Manual to find out about my car and its features. I would've missed out on a lot.

As do, I fear, entirely too many members of today's church.

For the same reason.    

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Isaiah 55:11: Sometimes It Returns With Dividends

The picture over there is the fly-leaf page of a Bible belonging to my nephew Kevin. The backstory is fascinating, but then, so's the update.

My parents' 50th wedding anniversary was March 6th, 1981. In honor, we had a nice dinner here for them, and invited all the family. That included our kids, who were 20 & 18, and also my brother, wife & his boys, who were about a year older, each.

Kevin was the older of the two.

After the dinner, at which we'd given mom & dad a cruise to the Bahamas, we were all sitting around in the living room and chatting. My nephew Kevin remarked about a red bible lying on a table and said he'd always been interested in it. I asked him if he'd like to know more, and he said yes, so we went downstairs to our den and spent some time talking.

Bottom line: he prayed to become a Christian. Knowing that "baby Christians" needed Spiritual food just like babies need food, we told him we'd buy him a Bible. And this is it.

I was chatting with him on Facebook a bit ago, and we started talking about some old times. We reminisced about his dad, of whose salvation we're just not sure, and about some other things, including his childhood. Then, suddenly, this picture pops up on my screen.

He still has the Bible we bought for him, a third of a century ago!


Kevin drives his own fuel delivery truck, as he has for many years. And shortly after that picture popped up on my screen, he said this:

"This is the Bible that has been with me in my semi trucks 
over all of the years within reach from the seat always."

Wow. Just WOW.

He's a strong, open-about-his-faith Christian now, and I cannot begin to describe how that warms my heart. But that wasn't all. A few minutes later, up pops this one:

He noted "You shared this from Romans that day and it was the best start ever".

Now I can flat guarantee you that what I said did not produce any fruit that day. Were that the case, then the same result would always come about when I shared my faith with someone. But we all know it doesn't. 

As is the case with teaching a Sunday School Lesson, Preaching a Sermon, sharing your faith, giving a cup of cold water to someone, or anything else we do in His service, it is the Holy Spirit Who brings about results.

Putting it another way, the Apostle Paul said that he'd planted and Apollos had watered, but God gave the increase. He further said that neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but GOD who gives the increase. Who produces the results.

The great tragedy, I think, in modern Christendom, is that the Foot Soldiers have all gone home and left the battle to the Generals to fight. They don't seem to comprehend that God's promises are true. They're "yes and amen". And they're worth whatever we can do, here.

Even when we do step out and share our faith, too often we have doubts, later. Particularly if someone doesn't pray right then. Well, if that's ever been the case, I have a News Flash for you:

God said His word would not return void. And He meant it.

YES AND AMEN.





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.