Monday, June 29, 2015

A Day In Imfamy

June 26, 2015, is a day that will live in infamy.  The USA has now come under attack from inside its legal system, the very system which the framers of our Constitution setup to protect her citizens.  Year ago I heard it said that this nation would fall from the inside, without a shot ever being fired, and it now appears those "may be" prophetic words.  The Highest Court in the Land, presided over by 9 'NON-ELECTED' lawyers, accountable seemingly to no one, given specific powers in Article III of the Constitution to interpret laws that the "Congress" has passed, in one decision, has broken so many judicial rules, traditions, and principles laid forth in the founding papers and ensuing decisions, that a person could write for weeks (and many will) about their flawed action.
At the outset, as deeply as I believe this decision to be morally wrong, I also have a deep belief that the manner in which this decision occurred flies in the face of how the US legal system was designed to work.  This was an issue which the US Supreme Court should have deferred to the individual states as a matter of law.  There is no 'expressed right to marry' in the US Constitution and the 10th Amendment clearly affirms that "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."  While admittedly, I am not an attorney, the Constitution (at least in the early days) was deemed to have been written in language that didn't take a Harvard attorney to interpret or understand.  Those last 3 words if not the last two phrases seem to have been minimized or deleted in the minds of the 5 LAWYERS who have taken it on themselves to overturn the will and belief of the majority of citizens in order to defer to the minority.
However, in this case the stakes were so high that, in my opinion, at least 3 Supreme Court Justices were so willing to compromise the reputation of the Highest Court in the Land as impartial that they were unwilling to recuse themselves from these proceedings.  In lower courts across this land, as a matter of integrity and policy, judges are expected to recuse themselves from any case to which they could be seen to have a bias.  This is the responsibility of the sitting judge.  One of the checks and balances for the lower court judge is the appellate system.  If a judge does not recuse himself and makes a decision on a case in which he has connection, the next court can overturn his decision based on judicial bias.  However, the "Supremes" have no such accountability.  In this case, because these 3 justices wanted to make sure that what THEY WANTED to be law, was DECLARED to be law by legislating from the bench, SO they stayed in the case and ultimately decided this landscape-altering change in a less than 'fair' way.
As you can tell, what is striking about this landmark decision is that, as opposed to the findings of the majority as I am, I am as deeply troubled about the slippery slope on which this action places our system of jurisprudence.  You may support THIS DECISION, but what happens the next time, when this bias in a case goes against you and you don't feel the process was fair.  TOO LATE, precedent is set and precedent is everything in the legal arena. In his dissenting opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts concludes, "If you are among the many Americans—of whatever sexual orientation—who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it." (Emphasis Mine)
Having read most of the decision of the Majority (which is now, for the time being, the law) and having read the minority's report, I walked away with a clear understanding that the issues here are both moral as well as legal. Morally this decision places the USA on par with Sodom and Gomorrah as well as the WORLD in Genesis 6 where the Bible says, "God regretted He made mankind and was grieved in His heart." Beginning on 6/26/15, the door is opened for all sorts of Biblical Immorality and places Christian churches on notice about the 'exercise' of their faith when their faith collides with the intent of this decision.  
Noticeably absent from the majority's decision when speaking about people of faith is the word 'exercise.'  We can practice our faith and we can even teach our faith, but can we continue to exercise our faith and follow the instructions of Jesus?  Can you imagine how the courts are going to rule when those cases come before them where a church refuses to allow a same sex couple to become members or to use their facilities to marry?  The truth is, churches will welcome same sex couples to attend, worship, study, and learn just as the church welcomes every or any person.  However, the bar is raised for membership.  While some churches may conclude that 'same sex' is consistent with the Christian's life, many if not most, do not accept this to be an authentic Biblical view.  Very quickly this is going to get ugly for those of us who view the Bible, faith, God, and truth in the latter way.
It is true that many were heard cheering on June 26 all across the land, but it is equally true that this was not the majority of the population.  Knowing this truth brings into focus that this issue has many "moving parts."  Those who are cheering deeply believe that this drastic change in millennia of definition, tradition, and even understanding surrounding marriage is going to bring the fulfillment which so many people seek.  (Rarely, if ever, does a 'legal decision' bring about this type of change because these issues are matters of the soul)  Ultimately, these who cheer and adhere will become the broken people with hearts that will need a divine touch and divine love to recover from their deep hurt.  These broken hearts may not become apparent for years (should our Lord choose not to return), but it will happen.
Additionally and not articulated in the oral arguments before the court nor in any of the Amicus briefs which I have read, is a recognition of the laws of nature (God's designed nature) that, in the human experience, it still takes an "X" and "Y" chromosome to procreate.  Two of the same gender can not bear children, it is an impossibility.  At some point and from somewhere, there must be a contribution by the other gender in order for new life to form.
At the same time the cheering was loudly heard, flags were waved, and news agencies began the reporting in favor of this decision, within the majority of citizenry (which includes people of Biblical faith) tears were shed and prayers were uttered.  Not surprisingly, POTUS played to the crowd (not the majority, but the crowd) by saying, "LOVE WON TODAY."  For my two cents worth, such a weak leader continues his weak leadership by attempting to play to the crowd and there were definitely winners on that day, but it was NOT love that won.  True, he seems to be getting his way in most things these days, but his leadership continues to 'grease' the moral and legal slippery slope on which he's placed us.  However, I think I'll wait until later to write about this issue.

What I can take heart in is this, "The Throne in Heaven is Still Occupied!  Jehovah still governs in the affairs of men."  Life as we have known it in the USA may have been changed forever (OR until Congress calls the hand of the "Supremes") or until our Lord returns for those He has redeemed, but the words of Jesus still ring true.  He says, "I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life, and NO ONE comes to the Father except through me."  My prayer is for our nation to not take the path of ancient Israel who abandoned God and lost their identity, His blessing, and their land. 
Whether you agree or disagree with this decision, not only has the morality of our country been changed as of June 26, but also the legal nature of our court system.  It is indeed a DAY THAT WILL LIVE IN INFAMY.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"Sad Day" - FINAL CHAPTER

After my post yesterday entitled "Sad Days Among the SBC", someone pointed out that "State Conventions at their annual meetings were voting to decrease the percentage of CP money which remains in the state" and then they asked, "WHY?"  This is my response to that question and statement.  Let me be clear.  I do not perceive this person to have responded in a mean-spirited way and I do not respond with animus in my heart.  Rather, it is with a deep love for Southern Baptists, with all of her facets, that I respond (and I do not question the love for Southern Baptist of the one I am responding to).  However, as Forest Gump might say, "That's all I have to say about that" (for now).  So I will move forward as there is much Kingdom work to be done.  Grace to you.

The honest reasons that I blog so little are many. First, I really don’t have the time to sit in front of a computer and type all day. Second, I don’t see the ‘positive’ impact from it….GRIN….that being said, I just happened to open this up again this morning so I will respond to the statement that “States are voting to cut percentages” and to your question of “WHY?”  After that, I’ll probably move on to the other things my day demands.
You are absolutely correct that state conventions (those assembled once a year) are voting to cut percentages. The reason, as I see it (everyone will not agree), is because the State Execs and their Staff are leading their Finance teams to respond to the GCR (Grand Currency Redirection, oops no, The Great Commission Resurgence – sorry) that was voted on in Orlando. The reason that the process is so slow is not because they are being ‘bull-headed’ or ‘uncooperative’ but rather, the leadership is trying to do this in such a way as to give the staff members, who are to be eliminated by the change in the financial structure, time to make a natural transition to another position. This has happened many times already in the state where I reside (this is an observation from the outside as I have no inside knowledge). These cuts are being proposed by the leaders who are attempting to cooperate.
Sincerely, I have heard no one, in the groups I’m a part of, believe that the this redirection of money is in the best interest of the Kingdom over the long term. Certainly, it may help IMB & NAMB in the short term (but I believe, that will be short lived). The general consensus among people I speak with (admittedly not in the thousands, but perhaps a hundred or more) is that as the states are weakened, the CP will become weaker and weaker which will make the “PIE” (gifts to the CP) become smaller and smaller. All of us know that the CP giving is down – this is a matter of record. However, if we continue withdraw the one place (State Conventions) that ‘fertilize’ (as it were) the seed of CP giving, the pie may well disintegrate completely. And we would return to where we began as a denomination, with Societal Giving. The very thought of this gives me a headache. Call me an ‘old-fogey’, but we already have too many Sundays where we are asked to place the emphasis on something else other than the God we are supposed to WORSHIP. (I.E Memorial Day, Independence Day, Right to Life, Mother’s Day, Father’s day, groundhog day {okay, maybe that is over the top - LOL}, etc)
Sincerely, I do not believe that you nor the majority desires to KILL STATE CONVENTIONS, but what I DEEPLY believe is that the ongoing de-funding of these entities will ultimately deploy “The Law of Unintended Consequences.” Recently, I read an article in the Alabama Baptist that one of the changes which are being made (on a year’s trial basis) is that, beginning July 1, the Evangelism Department will be entirely part-time. The leaders have thought it through, have a plan, and are attempting to work the plan so that we have a ongoing, vibrant, & consistent evangelistic emphasis in the state and they are to be commended for such work. To me, this is Exhibit A of what I call “Unintended Consequences.”
You may ask, “Jerry, what is the answer?” My response, “Systemically, I don’t know.” I offer that no ONE person holds the systemic answer to our difficulty. It will require a team effort of people who see the value in every facet of Southern Baptist Life (I.E National, State, Associational, institutions & entities) coming together, praying it through, & offering a comprehensive resolution.
That said, “I know” what “you know”and what we both deeply believe. The real issues which confront us – are not systems, programs, or even theologies. The real issue is a spiritual one. When persecution (Like we are seeing at the hands of ISIS) makes it way into this country, into our communities, and walks into our church buildings, we will be forced to face up to the true spiritual issue. I fear when this comes, CP, IMB, NAMB, and the SBC will be the least of our worries. Call it a colloquialism, but what we need is real, authentic, heaven-sent, landscape-altering REVIVAL in GOD’S CHURCH. We need a “Pentecost” among God’s people. Then these discussions will be moot.
Thanks for hearing me out. I pray that each of us will keep our eyes on the ‘prize’ and finish the race “HE” set before us. Grace to you.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sad Days Among the SBC


After reading a 'national blog' (whatever that is), this was and is my response.  For me, these are sad days among Southern Baptists.  At a time when we need to expand our 'cooperative spirit', it seems the divisive nature of mankind is running rampant among us.  Grace.

"I continue to read, with interest, the ongoing disrespect and disparaging which goes towards the State Conventions.  For me (no I am not a YOUNGER GEN person) it is indeed sad.  It is sad that we feel like we have to 'tear down' that part of the SBC structure which has built us up.  
My experience only extends to the last 40 years, but in this time I have watched as the staff of state conventions have given unselfishly of their time and giftedness to extend and expand the Cooperative Program and thus, the Kingdom of God.  They have spent a great deal of time away from their families to assist the local church.  They have worked tirelessly to educate and inspire member churches to 'cooperate' (hmm, what a word) together for both ministry and mission.  These State Missionaries have been a resource for churches, small & large.  Many of these state missionaries received 'pay cuts' to assume these responsibilities which they felt 'called to.'  And they approach their task at the state level with a sense of 'divine call.'
Has some money (the christian word, 'resources') been wasted along the way?  Surely it has, but I would submit 'very little'.  But what church ministry has not done the same?   I submit that it is the State Conventions, given the task of promoting the CP, that have done a pretty good job.  
Additionally, I know personally of two state conventions who now are operating at less than 50% of the personnel than they used to have.  Have they cut any of the services and help to the local churches? Probably, but more often than not, the answer is no.  Has their service became a life-saver for many churches?  I would answer 'YES!'  So rather than 'cutting the ministry to the local church', the other staff is now attempting to assume the responsibility of 3, 4, or 5 people.  
(Expecting a vicious attack to my words) I expect some will counter: "If they can do this, then the other people were not needed and this reduction of state missionaries is good."  Problem is, our state missionaries are relegated to doing their jobs 'okay' instead of 'well.'  Yet, the States and their Missionaries are still forging ahead with plans to help the local church because they know that the greatest mission field in the world today, is the USA.  This begins in what we affectionately call, "THE MAINLINE STATES."  I live in one of those states and while the darkness pervades the culture, our state missionaries are 'on point' trying to assist their churches in being revitalized, reinvigorated, revived & on mission for our Lord.  
The one thing which has not been said about the State Conventions is that they helped to build the 'base of support' so that there is a 'larger pie' of money to fund needed ministries and missions.  Let us not be surprised if, as we starve the states, the CP suffers more and more.  I have little interest in arguing the 60% or 50/50 or any of the rest BECAUSE, I trust those in leadership.  I am privileged to know close to a half-dozen of the State Execs personally.  Each one of these men is doing his best to make the best Kingdom use of God's money given through the CP.  Each Exec is highly-aware that the organization he leads is funded by "God's Money." What a responsibility!
Sincerely, in my humble opinion (and sincerely, I mean all of my remarks in a humble way ), I tell a story to illustrate what I feel is happening among the SBC.
A farmer told his neighbor, "I'm going to ween my mule off of food."  The neighbor express his doubts, but left the farmer to his plan.  Three months later they ran into each other at the feed store.  The neighbor said, "Well, did you get your mule weened off food?"  The farmer said, "You know, I tried to do this gradually.  The first week I gave him half of what I had previously fed him.  The second week I halved it again.  The third week I did the same.  The fourth week I had him down to almost nothing & was so proud."  "Yea and then," asked the neighbor?  "Then that mule up and died on me."
Killing State Conventions, I believe, will not strengthen the LMCO, Missions, or the CP.  On the converse, I believe it will ultimately kill the SBC.  It will not be quick or easy, rather it will be slow and painful.  THE IMB and NAMB may get a bigger slice of any pie that is left - but I deeply believe, it will be a very small pie."

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

NEW BOOK

This is a little eerie.  Yesterday I posted the writings of another pastor's blog entitled "10 Ways to Kill a Church" and the same day James Schupp's book, "Who Killed My Church" arrives in the mail.  James and I now have a friendship which has begun and continues 'online'.  He lives in Texas and after years of Pastoring, is now planting a church.  I say that to express that, over the years, he has accumulated some knowledge about the state of and reason for a 'dying church.' 
His book, "Who Killed My Church", is an easy read that is packed full of truths and EVERY FOLLOWER OF CHRIST probably needs to read it.  I had the privilege of reading the manuscript several months again as it was being prepared for publication.  Here is the link. It is worth both the money and the time.

Monday, June 01, 2015

10 Ways to Kill a Church

Wishing I had more time to read and stay up with the modern day 'politics & problems' of our nation, but realizing that I have to choose and pick what I study, the Church of the Lord consumes more & more of my time and reading.  From the Bible to other books and then to 'blogs.'  I try to be 'choosey' and glean the best.  Sometimes I accomplish this and sometimes not.  I just read this blog by a brother who just happens to be an African-American Pastor.  His grasp of the church is good so I offer you HIS WORDS (which I believe to be RIGHT ON POINT).. Maybe someday I'll have the opportunity to sit and talk with him. 

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