Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Real Problem

The issue of abortion is that of convenience and pleasure over the rights of people who have no ability to speak for themselves. On the news the other day, they showed a woman who had gone in for an abortion. The doctor showed the woman the ultrasound, but the woman said it didn’t make any difference in her decision. I asked myself, “How does that make sense? How can she see the images of that child growing within her and not be moved with compassion?”

I’m sure there are women who see the ultrasound images and make the decision to not go through with the abortion. That is what the people who crafted the law hoped, anyway. But many don’t. The problem for these women isn’t that they don’t know they are carrying a living child. If that were the only issue, perhaps they would be concerned enough to let the baby live. But is never just about the baby.

The women who go in for an abortion are in a situation they don’t want to be in. Perhaps they don’t like the discomfort of pregnancy. Perhaps they don’t want certain family members finding out. Perhaps their boyfriend doesn’t like that they are pregnant. It isn’t so much an issue of choice because they had the option of not having sex in the first place. Some people don’t think that is when the choice should be made, but it is still true that she had a choice then. But the woman wants out of the stressful situation she is in and abortion appears to be the quick way out. It is like the bank teller who needs more money for the house payment, so she takes some money from the drawer. She knows there’s a risk of being caught, but her desire to get out of the bad situation overpowers logic.

I believe that abortion should be illegal, but it is more important that we teach the women so that they will make the right decisions. If they had learned to handle tough situations well, they wouldn’t be looking the ultrasound in the first place.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Customer Service is Dead

The art of customer service is dead. It used to be that you could drive up to a service station and the sound of a bell would bring someone out to pump your gas, check the oil, and wash the windshield. These days, you pump your own gas and you’re lucky if you find a squeegee in good enough condition to clean off the bugs. But it’s not just there. There was a time when writing a letter to the company would result in a nicely written response with a couple of coupons in the envelope. Often, one of them would provide you with a free replacement of the product you were writing about. These days, writing a letter won’t gain you a form letter response, much less coupons. Over the past couple of years, I have written a few letters to various companies. Typically, they were letters expressing dissatisfaction with one thing or another. Some of these letters were e-mail. Some of these letters were handwritten. Many months have passed since I sent some of these letters and in many cases, I have received no response.

Authors often complain because literary agents don’t respond to queries. Literary agents counter by saying, “you aren’t my customer, so why should I respond?” These too is an indication that the art of customer service is dead. Customer service is not about putting a statement in your advertising that says you have good customer service. Customer service is about respect for people. How you treat people when they aren’t your customer or when they think they don’t want to be your customer is more important than how you treat people when they are satisfied with you. If you treat people with respect when you aren’t sure they will ever bring you money, you are much more likely to win them over and they will begin to help you. So many people just don’t seem to get that.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Do I Have to Know When I Got Saved?

Does a person have to remember the time and place they were saved in order to be saved? I recently read an article by a preacher who told of the time and place he was saved, but then he said that not all people who have been saved have had that experience. In fact, he said that it isn’t typical. [1] It isn’t? Why then do so many people tell of that experience? He also indicates that some people may come to saving faith so gradually that they don’t know at what point it was that they went from not believing to believing.

I’ll admit, that sounds good. I’m a preacher’s kid, so I was going to church before I was born. I knew more about theology than many people ever do before I started school. I knew about heaven and hell, Jesus, the cross, and salvation. I believed they were all real and that without Jesus I would go to hell. At first, I believed it because my parents told me so. Could it not be that I could gradually move from that kind of knowledge to saving faith? It seems logical, but like Russell D. Moore, that was not my experience. For many weeks, I struggled with my lack of salvation, but there was a night when I asked Jesus to save me. It was the Sunday before Vacation Bible School and I was lying in my bed. That memory is etched into my mind.

But two similar experiences don’t define a rule. What is important is what we find in the Bible. The Bible never tells us exactly what the experience will be like. The writers recorded the experience of several people. Gradually coming to know Jesus is not one of those experiences. Instead, it tells of people like the woman at the well, the jailer, Paul, and others. Always, there was period of them learning over a period of years, weeks, or even minutes, but it all culminated into a moment of salvation. Still, we can’t take the lack of a gradual acceptance as proof that it couldn’t happen. Russell D. Moore seems to think Timothy’s experience was like that. But the Bible doesn’t say that is that case, only that his mother and his grandmother taught him.

Something we should not miss when we look at the experiences recorded in the Bible is the fact that salvation and baptism were so closely tied together. There is enough evidence to show that salvation always came before baptism, not as a result of it, but when we look of the Ethiopian eunuch’s salvation, we see that when he reached the point of belief he was ready to take the action to be baptized. These days, we get this idea that we need to get people saved and then with any luck we can persuade them to help out in the nursery or help mow the church yard or something useful. But in the Bible it appears that the people getting saved saw it as a commitment to go to work for the Lord, to join the church, and a number of other things. Why is that?

With salvation comes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. If anything tells us that there is will be an experience when salvation takes place, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit ought to. Now, we aren’t likely to see the Spirit sitting on people’s heads like flames of fire when they get saved, but we ought to be shocked to think it is possible for a person to go from not having the Spirit living within them to having the Spirit living within them without knowing it took place. What’s the saying? That’s the elephant in the room. God is too big and too powerful to go unnoticed.

As Russell D. Moore states, the Bible compares salvation to a new birth. Forget the fact that we know when we were born because someone told us. I happen to know a person who can’t remember when she was saved because an accident caused her to lose her memory when she was fourteen. Lacking the memory of an event is far different from the event being gradual. There’s nothing gradual about birth. Labor may take a while and there are those nine months before it happens, but the birth itself is a moment in time. The baby is in the mother’s womb and then he is out. He goes from not needing to breathe to needing to draw in air every few seconds. You never hear of someone who says, “I don’t know when I started breathing. I didn’t for a long time. I knew I needed too. Then one day, I realized I was breathing and I had been for a long time.

While every experience of salvation is different and knowledge of the exact time of salvation is not one of the proofs of salvation the Bible gives, I just don’t see a gradual salvation as possible.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Three? Four? Does It Matter?

Last Saturday was Saint Patrick’s Day. I saw an article in which a preacher expressed displeasure about the way things are going. I’ll admit that I think it’s ironic that some people celebrate the life of a man who may have been a Baptist preacher by drinking green beer, but his concern was something else. His concern was with the shamrock. He had noticed that the four leaf clover is replacing the three leaf shamrock as the symbol of Saint Patrick’s day. He wrote of how is mother had taught him that the three leaves represent the trinity, but people are beginning to think more about the luck of a the rare four leaf clover instead.

He does have a point about people turning to luck instead of to God. I’m just not sure people are really thinking about luck as much as they’ve heard the term “four leaf clover” so much that they assume that’s what we should be using on Saint Patrick’s day. But I question whether we should be concerned because the three leaves represent the trinity. Granted, the legend of Saint Patrick says that he used the leaves of the shamrock to teach about the trinity, which is why the three leaf shamrock is the symbol of Saint Patrick’s Day to begin with. Who knows, maybe I’ll change my mind in the future.

The thing is, God makes four leaf clovers, just like he does three leaf clover. I’ve never seen anything to tell me that God made clover with three leaves because he wanted it to represent the trinity. Saint Patrick may have used it as a teaching tool, but God never told us that was why he made it with three leaves. He also made poison ivy with three leaves. Does it also represent the trinity? What about the four leaf milkweed? It naturally has four leaves. What does it represent?

I think we get to hung up on the memories of our youth sometimes. If our mother taught us about the trinity using clover, I can understand us wanting to hang on to that memory and not letting anyone mess with it. But how well does clover work as a teaching tool today. How many kids commonly recognize clover? Since fewer people are feeding cattle, many people just see it as a weed in their yard. Would it not be better for us to look for other illustrations that kids are more likely to identify with? Yes, the shamrock has three leaves that are part of one plant, but kids won’t be reminded of the story every time they see clover, if they rarely see clover. For all they know, clover has four leaves. Let’s move forward with new teaching tools rather than trying to hang on to those of the past.

Monday, March 19, 2012

More Than I Expected

I started on a woodworking project this weekend. It’s been a while since I’ve made anything and I need a new bed, so I figured I might as well make one. I’ll let someone else make the mattress; I’m just making the frame. I spend most of Friday and Saturday working on it. So far, all I’ve got to show for my work are some sore muscles and four bed posts. I really expected it would go quicker than this. I’ve still got the bulk of the headboard and footboard to cut. The sides are simpler, but not without their challenges. What I thought was a two weekend project may take me more than a month by the time it’s all said and done.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Who Is That?

I saw a picture of my dad and three other preachers on Facebook. It was a little strange looking at it. I’m not sure how old it was, but he looked so much younger. I remember him from back then and yet he looked almost like a different person than he does now.

Life is such a strange thing. It changes us, but we don’t notice how much. Then we look back at the person we used to be and we don’t recognize ourselves.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

When Death Comes

Happy Ides of March, and be thankful you aren’t Caesar. Supposedly, Caesar was warned of his death. I wonder what it would be like to know the date of you own death, before it happens. None of us can be completely certain of when we will die. Even those on death row may die of natural causes before the day of their execution. But many live right up to their scheduled time.

How strange it would be to think about the future and know that death will come before some event. This is the year of the Olympics. I anticipate that I’ll watch some of the events on television, but wouldn’t it be strange to think about the upcoming events and realize you won’t be alive to watch it?

I think I’m glad I don’t know when I will die.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Is God Fair?

Is God fair? I suppose that depends on what you call fair. People often think fair means that you get what anyone else gets. If John gets a dollar for cleaning his room, then “it isn’t fair” if Sue gets a dollar for doing nothing at all. Sue, on the other hand, would think it isn’t fair for John to get a dollar and her not, since her room is already clean.

Our problem is that we want to define fair in terms of what we get. In actual fact, we are lacking in the ability to define what is fair and what is not. God is the only judge with complete ability to define what is fair. Not only is he fair, but he is such a stickler for being fair that he sent his son to die on the cross for our sins. Think about it. If God wasn’t fair, the plan of salvation would be different. He could have said, “I’m just going to forgive everyone for their sin because I don’t want to send them to hell.” But that isn’t his nature. Instead of changing the rules, he provided a way for us to follow the rules and have fellowship with him. The rules say that sin requires death. So God became man and died in our place.

We are not fair. When we see a child break a rule, we are quick to say, “I’ll let it slide this time, but don’t let it happen again.” If we were more like God, we would not do that, no matter how much it breaks our heart. But God always does the right thing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

God or Nature

While watching a television show I hear someone say that because a particular species had evolved a certain way, it provide a certain resource for people trying to survive in the wilderness. The person on the show went on to say that Mother Nature provides many of the things we need, if we would just learn to look for them. But rather than thinking so highly of Mother Nature, I thought about what the Bible says about God feeding the birds. We know that the birds go out and find the food they eat, but God says he provides it.

I began to think about a difference in perspective. One person looks at all that is in nature and is fascinated by how much is available, if we just would open our eyes. But another person looks at it and says, “look at all God has provided.” In a sense, both are correct. If we find water in the desert, it took a long time flowing through the rocks for us to find on the day we need it. Or we could simply say that God knew we needed it and he provided.

Though both correct, how different those two perspectives are. The person looking for nature to provide has no assurance. Nature is thoughtless. If water is there, or if it isn’t, that’s just the way nature is. Nature is like a machine that cares nothing for us. But if we see God as being the one who provides, it is very different. We find water in the desert because he knew we needed water. If we are having trouble finding water, we can seek his guidance. And most importantly, we can be sure that we will not die until he is ready for us to die.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Why Does Jesus Need Keys?

You’ve heard it said that Jesus holds the keys. You’ve heard the song. Perhaps you’ve read about it in the Bible. But what does it mean? For that matter, what keys does he hold?

Some of the keys Jesus holds are those of hell and of death. But he holds more than that. The Bible says that he holds the key of David. He opens and no man can shut and shuts and no man can open. Does that mean that David had some special ability? No, I don’t think so.

Let’s think first about what it means to hold the keys. When I was in college, I spent a summer working in fire protection at a large manufacturing facility. One of the tasks that I and some other college students had was to collect fire extinguishers throughout the building and carry them back to the shop for maintenance. Most of the facility was wide open. The workers were trusted to leave most things that didn’t pertain to them alone. If they couldn’t do that, they were walked out the door. But there were a few doors with locks on them. The store, for example, had a lock. The office areas had locks. So as I went about my duties, I would come across a door that I couldn’t open.

Then one day, my boss gave me a key. It was a rather magical key because it would open nearly every door in the building. When I found a locked door, I no longer had to find someone to open it. I could slip the key in the lock, give it a turn, and the door would open. When my fellow college students needed to get through a locked door, they would come to me, rather than looking for someone else.

A key is a symbol of authority. They person who holds the keys has the authority to use them to open or close whatever lock they fit in. So when we think of Jesus holding the keys of hell and death, it is by his authority and his authority along that people die and go to hell. Imagine if you had that power. Would you send your friends to hell? Of course not. So it is with Jesus. His friends will not go to hell.

But what about the key of David? This is a different key. David never had the authority over hell and death. That is a different key. David’s authority was over the Jews. God’s plan for the Jews is not yet complete. The day will come when Jesus will sit upon his father David’s throne. But unlike David, the kingdom of Jesus will last forever.

There are more keys to consider. What about the keys of the kingdom in Matthew 16:19? As before, this is a sign of authority. I think it denotes God plan to use the churches to spread the gospel. Think about how audacious it would be for us to tell people “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” if we were not authorized to do so. And yet, there’s never been anyone that we told that to, who believe, and was not saved. We have the authority to extend the offer of salvation to people. But we also have the responsibility. There is no other plan than for us to share the gospel with the lost world.

The keys are a simple of authority. Jesus holds all the keys.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Another Saint Gone Home

It is with sadness that I say that my grandfather, Earl Fish, passed away this week. When I think back to my earliest memories of him, I think of a time at church. It’s always nice when your memories of someone involve church, but this was a frightening time for me. My grandparents were sitting behind my mother. I remember being lifted over the back of the pew. I must have been between one and two years old. Even with my mother only a few feet away, I suppose I thought I’d never see her again.

Despite the rough start, I have so many good memories. I remember helping him on various projects. He always wanted to pay me, and it was always more than I thought I deserved for the little work I did. I helped him build a house, hail hay, split wood, and feed the cattle. We went fishing. We built fences.

I don’t remember what the occasion was, but I remember staying with him at the cabin, just him and me, one night. He fixed soup. And I don’t mean he just heated up a can of soup. It was the first time I realized that he could cook.

When I got older, he got anxious to find me a wife. He wasn’t successful, but he tried. One time he got anxious for me to meet this gal who worked at the grocery store. One Sunday afternoon, when we were over at their house, he wanted me to ride over to the grocery store with him. I’m not sure why I went, but I did. In his haste to get me over there, he left his billfold at home. I met the girl, but he had to borrow money from me to pay for whatever it was he was picking up, and then I had to drive back to his house because he didn’t have his driver’s license with him.

We didn’t always see things quite the same way, but I think he was proud of me. I know that I’m glad of the fond memories we made together while he was here.

But I’m happy to say with confidence that the best is yet to come. I do not doubt the condition of his soul and the day will come when we will meet once more in the air.