Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Watermelon Seed

William Jennings Bryan was a lawyer/politician of the 1800's, even ran for president a couple of times. The article that follows is from him and shows his understanding of the "mysteries of the Bible".

Once when I was going to Columbus, OH I stopped to eat in a restaurant and ordered a slice of watermelon. I took the seeds home with me to plant in my own garden. That night a thought came to my mind. How many watermelon seeds would it take to make a pound? The next day I weighed them and found that it would take about 5,000 dried seeds.
A few weeks later I planted just one of the little seeds. Under the influence of sunshine and shower, that little seed had taken off its coat and gone to work. It had gathered from somewhere two hundred times its own weight and forced that enormous weight through a tiny stem and built a watermelon. On the outside it has a covering of green and within that a rind of white and within that one of red, and then it had scattered through the red many little seeds, each one capable of doing the same work over again.
What architect drew the plan? Where did the little watermelon seed get its strength? Where did it find its flavoring extract, and its coloring matter? How did it build a watermelon?
Until you can explain a watermelon, do not be too sure that you can set limits to the power of the Almighty. The most learned men in the world cannot explain the watermelon, but the most ignorant man can eat a watermelon and enjoy it. God has given us the knowledge necessary to use these things, and the truth that He has revealed to us is infinitely more important for our welfare than it would be to understand the mysteries that He has seen fit to conceal from our faltering view.

Think about it. Tol

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Doing the Impossible

As I begin let me admit that, yes, some things are impossible. As a true blooded Texan that is hard for me to say, but it is true. The Lone Star state was built by people who believed they could make something out of sand dunes and prairie grass and the funny thing is they suceeded. True, they had to raise sheep and goats rather than cattle and today many ranchers in West Texas make more from leasing their land for deer hunting than anything else, but a little flexibility goes a long way to overcoming obstacles.

I have noticed through the years though that many people don't have this attitude. I'm thinking particularly among brethren. You know him (or her)--no matter what is suggested they quickly trot out all the reasons it can't be done or why it will fail, even if you can do it. I am confronted frequently with such brethren and it's amazing how much some spend telling you why it can't be done, and more especially why they can't do it. Such pessimism simply feeds upon itself--since nothing can be done, why even try? We hear, "Nobody wants to hear the Gospel today" or "Nobody cares about 'truth' nowadays". Believing this what few efforts they make to talk to others are half-hearted or their lack of confidence is so obvious that they make no progress, which only reinforces them in their belief that "nobody cares about God"--you fill in the blank with "today" or "in this area", etc. Such attitudes can stifle a church really fast, leading to a slow death in many churches.

On the other hand there are brethren who live in a fantasy world, where anything can be done. If you're over the age of 25 you've probably figured out this world is not real--there are way too many people who seem to think their purpose in life is to stand in your way. Customer service is variable once you leave the South. When we first moved to the Caribbean I used to argue with cashiers at KFC--"why can't I have fries instead of mashed potatoes?" but soon learned it was futile. If the picture shows mashed potatoes and corn on the cob, that's all you can get, period. Yes, some things are impossible--in my humble opinion food choices shouldn't be one of them, but what do I know?

Brethren, if we would spend as much time thinking about how something could be done as some do in finding/making up reasons it can't be done I think we would be amazed at what the Lord can do through us. Yes, anything worth doing is likely to be hard, or at least have hurdles to overcome, but with the Lord's help we can do it. The apostle Paul had a thorn in the flesh that was a hindrance to his work. He begged the Lord 3 times to heal him, but the Lord's reply was "my grace is sufficient for you". Rather than spend his time lamenting what he couldn't do because of his "thorn", or always looking back at what he used to do "before he had the thorn" Paul relied on God and found ways to overcome it.

There is a world of people who need salvation--what are you doing to reach them? Yes, it is impossible to save everyone--they won't let you, but some of them can be saved. "But I've tried, and it hasn't worked." If one method hasn't worked, then sit down and think about what might work, then give it a try. Gospel meetings in most places in the States don't bring many non-Christians out to hear the Gospel anymore. I believe Gospel meetings serve a very valuable purpose--strengthening and encouraging the local church, if nothing else, but if they don't serve as a point of contact with non-Christians then we need to think about what will.

Instead of lamenting over what doesn't work, don't give up--sit down and think. Certainly the things some churches do are wrong--unscriptural and we can't follow in their footsteps, even if they "seem" to work. The wrong road will not take you to where you want to go, no matter how easy it seems to be. But there are things that we can do--talk to others, brainstorm, in short look for ways around the obstacles, don't just give up because there are obstacles.


Monday, June 08, 2009

A Beautiful Facade

A couple of weeks ago the brethren in San Pedro de Macoris put us up in the Hotel Macorix. It's an imposing structure and the entrance is what you would expect of a grand hotel--a wide lobby with a marble floor, massive dark wood reception counter, 3-4 bellboys standing around. It opens up on to the olympic size swimming pool and on the other side a view of the ocean.

As you continue inside you see the grand staircase with the same dark wood bannister, but there is also an elevator just beyond that. Our room was nicely furnished with rattan furniture; 2 beds, small table and 2 chairs and sliding glass doors that overlook the Malecon and the sea. But don't look too closely now: the sliding glass doors don't meet the wall on either side and the only light is a small lamp that won't work. The bathroom floor had a stash of hair in one corner, the counter top has cigarette burns, the door has lost most of its stain. One the ceiling tiles is missing and the one next to it is not on the grids, etc. This is a hotel that has been, but is no longer in vogue. The factories are closed now and the new, all-inclusive resorts are 30-40 miles down the road.

This hotel reminded me of the church in Sardis--"you have a name that you live, but are dead". Haven't you been in some of those church buildings? The facade is impressive, usually along classical lines, with 5-10 steps up to the grand entrance. As you enter the lobby you can see the plush carpet in the auditorium as well as the many pews. As the brethre begin to arrive it becomes apparent that this church is not what it used to be--less than half of the pews are used, there are few younger people and even less children. There was a time when the building was full and bustling--children running, babies crying, brethren visiting, but now it is quiet. You don't need the gift of prophecy to see where this church is heading. It may have been very active in years gone by and may still be supporting a number of preachers, but it is well down the road to disappearance.

There is another type of church that seems to be alive, but is really dead. This one may not be so imposing and at first glance you don't realize that it's dead or dying. They probably began as a small group, perhaps having to leave another congregation when they left God's plan. Little by little they have built up, always standing for the truth and have grown large enough to have an adequate bulding, support a preacher, etc. There is lots of activity but it produces little spiritual growth. Maybe the real emphasis is on social activities, maybe the Bible classes tend toward "intellectualism"--learning just for learning's sake, or maybe they're just going through the motions. It may take awhile, but eventually you realize they are just as dead as the more obvious ones.

Brethren, it is easy to become content and quit. The purpose of Bible study is to learn, then make application to our lives. Eph. 4 says the purpose of the spiritual gifts was to equip brethren for the work of service. If that purpose is not accomplished a church is somewhere along the road to death--sooner or later it must die.


Monday, May 18, 2009

A service of Thanksgiving

I arrived in the Dominican Republic yesterday at 3:45 and was outside with luggage in 5 minutes-a minor miracle. From there we traveled 30 minutes to Guerra, where one of the sisters was having a service of thanksgiving at her home. They were alreay singing when we arrived--between 65 & 70 people and after a couple of songs I preached to the group. Most of the brethren from Guerra (25 or so) were present, which means there were around 40 visitors, so my theme was the importance of knowing God´s Word, encouraging them to ask the local brethren for help. One of the "problems" here is that close to half of the older men can´t read but are ashamed to admit it, so anything that might reveal this "weakness" they shun. Studying the Bible can be very embarrasing because they are asked to read, so I dealt with that a little.

After the service was over all were served juice, snacks in a small styrofoam box and what you would think of as a birthday cake.

The ocasion for thanksgiving was the new block house the family had. The sister is probably in her mid 30's, with 3 small children. She is a widow--her husband was killed in a car wreck about 3 years ago, leaving her with no job, 3 babies, and a small wood house (in the VI wood houses are called temporary houses--the first hurricane will destroy them). The company he worked for had pity on her and began the construction of the concrete block house and neighbors & family helped with the labor, a few pesos, etc. and she now has a 2 bedroom, 1 bath house with kitchen & living room (around 1000 square feet). She wanted to first thank God for her new home, then family & friends who helped, also taking advantage of the ocasion to let the Gospel be preached to them.


Monday, May 04, 2009

Going up to Glory

Yes, I was in Glory yesterday. I wasn't snatched up as the Apostol Paul was; we drove up the mountain to this neighborhood about 45 minutes from Ponce. It was glorious--the hills around us were lush & green with rain clouds on top. The yard of the house we were meeting had fruit trees, coffee trees and lots of flowers.

We had about 25 people for the service, including 10 or so from the church in Ponce. There are at least 7 brethren who live in this neighborhood who, although they have not regularly attended any congregation live "good" lives, read the Bible, etc. There are even more who didn't come--like everyone else today they "don't have time". Brethren from Ponce used to come up and "hold services" here, even though some of the brethren have been Christians for close to 30 years and most of them for more than 25. Yes, the brethren from La Gloria lead prayer, the Lord's table, perhaps a song but the preaching and teaching was done by those from Ponce.

I was told yesterday that they had not met together for 13 years--a few of them would go to Ponce from time to time to worship with the church there, but most didn't. How did a church like this get to the point that they just quit meeting? I don't know all the details, but it seems that they were dependent on those from Ponce, so when they stopped helping the work quit.

When Christians are new they need help, but as time passes they should mature to the point that they need less and less help. Too often though, brethren become dependent on others--brethren from another congregation, the preacher, etc. "They/he can preach much better than I can, so why should I try?" "I don't really know what to say to a non-Christian so I'll just let Brother _______ talk to them."

God commands each Christian to grow, to whatever level they can. If they don't grow, not only will the church not grow: it will eventually die.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Getting accustomed

The fact that we live in a city of 224,000 people, on the edge of two other cities that together total about the same limits the wildlife we see, even though we are in the Tropics. Because our house backs up to the drainage canal we do see iguanas fairly regularly, plus the smaller lizards that predominate on the islands. We hear a few water birds as well the coquis (tree frogs) but haven't seen many birds other than doves. About a month ago we started seeing a couple of bananaquits (the "yellow bird" of the well known Jamaican song), which was nice. They've since built their nest less than 5 feet from our front door. Dana was sure they wouldn't even complete the nest--after all it's right next to the front door, but they did and seem to preparing to raise a family.

I'm a little surprised they chose our house, but they don't have a lot of choices in this area. They seem to be accustomed to our coming and going--they don't leave the nest most of the time. Of course this could lead to their capture and/or death over time--the more they're in close proximity to people, the more accustomed they become. The more accustomed they are, the less they perceive the danger.

Lot was like the bananaquits--he moved his family into Sodom. 2 Pet. 2 tells us that he was a righteous man who was vexed by the wicked conduct of his neighbors. Rather than becoming accustomed to their immorality it disturbed him. One has to wonder about his family, particularly his wife. Did she become accustomed to these things, so that in spite of the angel's warning not to look back, she looked back anyway? And what about his daughters who decided the only to preserve their Father's seed was to get him drunk and sleep with him? His family became so accustomed to the immorality of their neighbors that they repeated it.

We live and work and study in an increasingly immoral society. Immorality that used to be "in the closet" is now paraded down the street, literally. In the interest of "not hurting anyone" society at large at least pretends that however people live is okay, "who am I to judge?" If we're not careful this attitude rubs off on us and rather than call sin what it is--sin, we choose to ignore it. While this may not affect us, it does affect others--others who are looking to you for moral guidance. There is no justification for crude, rude comments about the sins of others, but speaking out against such may be the only time some around you hear that such action is wrong. By keeping silent we assist in society getting accustomed to sin.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Caesar and God

Today is April 15th, the dreaded day. Everybody here in Puerto Rico is in the midst of getting it done, including me. We have to pay some this year, which brings us to the point of this blog--the relationship between God and government.

In the States we have lived without government interference in religion since almost he beginning. But as government seeks to intrude more and more into every aspect of our lives it must meddle in the churches as well. The first area has been in the marriage/divorce arena. In the 1980's we went through a spate of lawsuits against churches for publicly marking members, particularly in regards to divorce & remarriage. Those seemed to end when one "victim" lost and paid not only her lawyer fees but those of the church as well (her lawyer also went before the bar).

It seems that "hate speech" will be the next likely area of conflict. Is homosexuality a sin? According to the Bible yes. Is it "hate speech" to say this? NO! If you go to the doctor and he tells you you have cancer, is that "hate speech"? Do you want to hear that you have cancer? No, that's one of the most frightening words in the English language, but better for him to tell you the truth, even if there's nothing that can be done about it, then lie to you to "spare your feelings".

In the same way, we need to call sin sin, so that those in sin may recognized their need to change before it is too late. Will sinners reject such teaching? Most of them will. Do they like to hear it? Obviously not, but again who wants to be told they have cancer? We might argue there's a way to say it and that some brethren are crude about it, but that doesn't change the truth. A doctor with a poor bedside manner doesn't change the fact that you have cancer--could he have been kinder in the way he said it? Probably, although there is no nice way to give someone a death sentence.

God's truth doesn't change to fit the wants of society, any society of any time period. Neither can we change the truth to please those around us, even the government.