Wednesday, August 30, 2006

An Open Letter to the IMB Trustees

Dear IMB Trustees

I would like to express my sincere gratitude for your labor of love for the kingdom of Christ. I know you have been under heavy scrutiny for the past year and have received unwarranted critiques and unsubstantiated accusations by some in the Southern Baptist Convention. While there may have been a vocal member who has placed you in the spot-light of convention politics, and in so doing contributed, in no small way, to the fallacious characterizations you have received, please know, I do not believe these characterizations nor do I believe much of what I read on blogs concerning you.

In fact, I believe you are men and women of God who love Him and desire the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth, while maintaining accountability to the convention and the BFM 2000. I believe you have done your best to seek God’s will in all you do and have labored for the glory of God in the midst of undeserved criticism. I believe your motives have been pure and your example of turning the other cheek, impeccable. I have oft wondered why you have not publicly corrected what I believe to be misstatements and misjudgments of you, but your passivity is reflective of the spirit of Christ. There may come a day when you need to correct the record for the Kingdom's sake but I trust your wisdom in this.

In conclusion, I want to let you know that there are many who do not believe every thing the blogs say concerning you and who have full confidence in both the Trustee system and in you. Again, Thank you and may God bless your labors.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Blinded by our Sight

In the movie Jurassic Park the great hunter turned Game Warden Robert Muldoon is blinded by his sight. Muldoon finds himself totally focused on a “raptor” he has been hunting and is about to pull the “trigger,” when another raptor pokes it’s head through the bush next to him.

His focus had caused him to lose sight of his surroundings. This is an all-too often occurrence amongst the human species. I know I have done it many times myself. Perhaps one of the trustees of one of our Southern Baptist institutions has also made this error.

How would you council a fellow Christian who shared the following scenario with you:

He felt an organization that he had been a part of for years was headed in the wrong direction. A few years back the organization passed some guidelines for its employees and institutions. Your Christian friend tells you he thinks the essential parts of the guidelines are good but disagrees with what he calls non-essentials. However, he is asked to be a Trustee for one of the institutions, he agrees and signs his name affirming ALL the guidelines (essentials and non-essentials), without telling the organization of his reservations. He did this, because he felt it was what God would have him do to bring about changes. Moreover, his motives are pure.

He then tells you that the organization passed a resolution by an 85% majority. He disagrees with the resolution and speaks out publicly against it. The current and the past Presidents of the organization affirm the resolution whole-heartedly. In his disagreement he implies that all who affirm this resolution are not abiding by the Bible of the organization.

I don’t know about you, but I would council him to resign his position and seek to work the changes he desires from a different position, which does not require his signature on a document he cannot TOTALLY affirm. Furthermore, I would suggest that he is not representing the individuals who entrusted him with such a position if he speaks out publicly against a resolution they overwhelmingly passed and one, which is affirmed by the current President.

If I were the one in his position I hope I would be aware of my surroundings enough to see the integrity and authority issues which would demand my resignation.

We have such a Trustee in the SBC. We passed the BFM2000 years ago and this Trustee signed it last year. However, I did not hear of any reservations at the time of his signing. This causes no small concern with his current statement: “since (the BFM2K) is not inerrant and infallible then you can disagree with it in some areas, but still affirm it where it speaks to major, foundational issues of the faith --- which I do.”

Moreover, the SBC overwhelmingly passed a resolution which, in part, says “RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, June 13-14, 2006, express our total opposition to the manufacturing, advertising, distributing, and consuming of alcoholic beverages; and be it further_RESOLVED, That we urge that no one be elected to serve as a trustee or member of any entity or committee of the Southern Baptist Convention that is a user of alcoholic beverages.” Dr. Frank Page, Dr. Bobby Welch and numerous other leaders of our convention have publicly agreed with the 85% majority on this issue of abstinence. And yet this Trustee in a post speaking of alcohol says “The Bible is authoritative when it speaks to Christian faith and practice. Your traditions are fine, but if you can't support them from Scripture then you better not get angry with those in your convention who don't hold to your traditions --- you taught us to believe the Bible.” I think the implication is obvious concerning our present and past Presidents as well as 85% of the messengers at this years SBC.

I applaud him for standing by his convictions, however, I am very concerned about these issues and about how broad he apparently desires to take our convention as illustrated in his critique of the resurgence. It may be, that he has been blinded by his sight.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What happens when I die?

The Bible teaches that everyone has sinned. That truth is evident. The Bible also teaches that when we sin, we break God’s universal law and offend our Creator. In so doing we have defied His authority and declared ourselves lord of our world. We have, in essence, become God’s enemy.

Since God is perfect, He cannot be in the presence of sin; He cannot be tainted with it. He is, in a very real sense, allergic to sin.

He has created a place for sinners, where His presence is not. The Bible calls this place hell. It is an eternal lake of fire, a bottomless pit, and outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. The Bible further teaches that the soul of man is everlasting. Therefore, without intervention on God’s part our soul, at death, enters an eternal hell.

And yet, the Bible has been called “God’s love letter to man.” Although God is holy and cannot be in the presence of sin, He does love the sinner and desires to have a relationship with him/her. Therefore, in order to provide a way for such a relationship, while maintaining His essence (His Holiness), the triune God devised a plan in eternity past. In this plan the second person of the Godhead, the Son - Jesus Christ, at the appointed time would leave His heavenly dwelling and come to earth to be born of a virgin, to live a perfect life (as a man), and to pay man’s penalty for sin. Jesus did so. Born of the virgin Mary, Jesus lived 33 years without sinning. Then in six hours on the cross He paid the eternally penalty for all men. Only an infinite God could do so, only man could die for man’s sin. Thus, the God man Jesus Christ.

A story from history helps to illuminate this amazing work of Christ.

At the turn of the 19th Century in a small one-street town in Arizona there lived a Blacksmith: a loner, who was avoided. One holiday, the entire citizenship, except for one man, had a celebration. The Blacksmith stayed in his shop, at the opposite end of town. During the festivities a child strayed near the shop. A lady looked toward the child and shrilled in terror. A coyote was eyeing the young lad. Everyone knew that a coyote this close to town, at mid-day, meant rabies. The coyote sprang for the child yet was snatched in mid-air by the Blacksmith who immediately broke its neck; yet the damage had been done as the unsung hero drew back his bloodstained arm. The blacksmith died a slow, painful death.

He had taken the lad’s place, just as Jesus took ours.

One might ask, “If Jesus died for every man does every man go to heaven?” No. If you were dying of thirst and I purchased water and offered it to you, you would still have to accept my gift.

The Bible teaches that in order to accept the free gift of salvation one must trust his life totally into God’s hand. It is not enough just to believe that Jesus dies on the cross for one’s sins and arose from the dead. One must believe that truth to the extent that he/she trust his/her live into His hand.

Not long ago a prisoner and a jail deputy developed a relationship. Her love for him prompted her to trust her life into his hands. She resigned as a deputy, married the inmate, and within a year her entire life had changed because of her faith in him.

This former deputy showed up at the courthouse one day where her new husband was being transferred, she shot two of her former colleagues and freed her husband. Soon they were caught, but the story of George and Jennifer Hyatte is an example of how much we must trust a loving God with our life. His Word must become our guide. (While George was evil in his request of his bride our God could never be.)

So, “what happens when I die?”

It depends. The Bible teaches, the moment we breathe our last breath our spirit will immediately go to one of two places. Either an eternal hell or an eternal heaven.

If it is your desire to go to heaven, then trust your life into God’s hands. It is as simple as accepting His gift and trusting Him. It can be done, by saying “God I confess that I am a sinner, I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, I believe that He appeased your anger, removed my sin and took my place, I believe He arose from the dead. Jesus come into my life and be my Lord and Savior. In Jesus name, Amen.”

The prayer does not save you, but rather the trusting of your life to God. If you did trust God with your life, please, leave a comment. I will get in touch with you and share what to expect with the wonderful changes God has begun in your life as well as some material to help you in your new relationship with Christ.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Bloggers Who Cried Wolf!

There once was a shepherd boy tending his flock. One day he decided to cry, “Wolf” when there was no wolf. To his delight he received much attention. The town heard his cry and the people came to help him. However, they were frustrated when they realized it was a false alarm. Later, he cried wolf again when there was no wolf. And once more he received attention as the townspeople came to help. After they left the second time the boy really saw a wolf. With all of his energy he cried, “Wolf,” but this time no one came. He had lost his integrity and could not be believed.

I have always enjoyed the lessons contained in Aesop’s Fables. But the lesson of the boy who cried wolf is only a shadow of the tragedies that occur when one cries fowl erroneously. Let’s look deeper at these tragedies.

There once was a great town, which maintained a lighthouse for lost ships. A group in the town sought to extinguish the light. However, the townspeople rallied behind their leaders and rose victoriously through civil strife as they dismantled the heretical group of light-haters. The town lived in harmony for many years after this incident.

In time, a new generation of townspeople arose. This generation had not fought in the civil strife and yet they were preparing to be the next keepers of the light. One day a small group of bloggers within this generation decided to cry warnings of improprieties about the leadership of the town. “WOLF!” They cried. They received much attention. Their buddies applauded them, light-haters encouraged them, conspiracy theorists believed them and the townspeople listened. However, as their accusations were checked for validation they were found wanting.

For whatever reason the bloggers decided to cry wolf again. And again: applause from their buddies; encouragement from the light-haters; belief by the conspiracy theorists and; concern by the townspeople. However, like before, their cries were unsubstantiated.

Who knows what prompted these bloggers to continue to cry wolf…but they did. And their cries received the same reaction from many. However, in time their unfounded claims caused them to lose credibility with more and more townspeople. Furthermore, their legacy became one of tainting the town erroneously.

Obviously, this is a story of the SBC and yes this is about the bloggers who are crying fowl concerning our leadership. The unsubstantiated claims and implications continue to be voiced to the applause of buddies, the encouragement of liberals, and the belief by conspiracy theorists.

Those who are doing the crying would have us believe they are really concerned about the SBC and there are no more liberals amongst us. The validity of the first I cannot speak to, however, I assure you, there are liberals in our convention.

My grandparents were members of First Baptist Church of Richmond, Va. Their last shepherd before they passed was the current pastor Rev. Jim Flamming. I remember one weekend when I was a student at Southeastern I went to their house in the fan district of Richmond. My grandmother asked me if I really believed all the miracles in the Bible. Immediately, I replied yes. She said, “Do you really believe a fish swallowed a man, spat him up on a beach, and then, the man preached?” I said, “Yes.” She replied, “but that is scientifically impossible.” I said, “If God can create the universe by speaking it into existence, then I believe God can have a whale swallow a man, spit him up, and then, have the man preach.”

I truly believe my grandparents were saved and are now in heaven. They both believed in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and had professed him as Lord. While their erroneous beliefs about some of the miracles in the Bible concerned me deeply, I was more concerned with whoever was teaching them such heresy.

Fellow Southern Baptist to assume there are no liberals amongst us is a most naive and dangerous assumption. There are. And they would like nothing better than for us to lower the standard of inerrancy under the guise of widening the tent.

I am convinced our President Frank Page would never allow such a lowering. And I am grateful for him and his leadership. I also feel many of the bloggers would not lower the standard, but there are some amongst us who would, and they are enjoying the bloggers crying wolf.

Perhaps our wolf-crying brethren would be better off masticating on God’s Word (Proverbs 6:16-19) than castigating God’s children.

My great-grandmother used to say, “the more you stir manure, the more it stinks.” While some may enjoy such an aroma producing activity I do not, however, I do desire to scoop it out.