The Time Has Come

“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “to talk of many things; of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and of Kings and why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings.” – Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass.

The time has come – time to move from this leaky house which God so graciously provided in August 2004. Many thanks to the United Methodist Church of Hedrick, IA for renting me their unused parsonage for a cost far less than market value. In so doing, they have subsidized my ministry for the past 7+ years! Now they’ve sold the house and it’s time to move on.

Talk about a lot of things! The house I’ll be moving to won’t be ready for several weeks but it is about one-third the space. I’ve spent hours sorting, purging, and paring down. Trying to determine what is a true priority. And some of the discoveries have brought back sweet memories of Lois and the 34 years of God-directed partnership.

Shoes, ships, and sealing wax.  Yes, I’ve found shoes hidden away – even a pair of wooden shoes from my Dutch ancestry – a string-art ship, and a box of Gulf sealing wax used in canning many years ago.

Cabbages. Trying to figure out how to deal with perishable food . . .

Kings. Although things have a tendency to become kings, packing and sorting has been a good reminder that things don’t rule me nor do they occupy a place of honor in my life.  Christ is King – Lord, Master, and Leader of my life.

I wish the sea were boiling hot. Instead I woke to several inches of snow this morning. Moving on Saturday will be a mess.

Pigs do have wings. Sound impossible? But sometimes we do the impossible. I am getting ready to take apart computers, shut down the internet connection, turn off the land-land phone, and live out of suitcases for the next month. Impossible – but it’s still going to happen!

The toll-free number will be discontinued and the only phone number I will have will be 641.799.0010 – the one most people have been using for several years. I do see email on my smart-phone. My new snail-mail address is: 13975 247th St., Delta, IA  52550.

Majority Rules?

This past Sunday I was privileged to sit in on a church business meeting where they were considering a couple of serious questions involving both staff and finances. The moderator stated at the beginning that he had carefully read the by-laws and understood that one of the decisions would require a two-thirds majority in order to pass.

The moderator then asked, “Is a two-thirds majority enough? Shouldn’t God’s people be ‘of one mind’?” It’s a great question. (The motion requiring the super-majority was voted on by ballot and was approved 21 to 4. A clear decision but not unanimous, which is what the moderator would’ve preferred. )

Is majority rule the Biblical model for how a church should make decisions?

Church history records “congregation voting” in the London Baptist Confession of Faith from 1689 where it indicates that elders “. . . be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage (vote) of the church itself” (chapter 26, article 9).  So churches have been voting for at least 320 years but that’s less than 16% of the time since the resurrection. Does that make it right or best?

How does Philippians 1:27-30 relate to church governance? Paul writes, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.”

Being of one mind seems to be early church model for decision making in the household of faith. That idea was previously illustrated in Acts 6 when leaders were chosen for food distribution. The account points to consensus, not a vote, when the proposal “pleased the whole group.” Acts 6:5

I used to think that voting was how they determined the consensus in Acts 6 but the passage doesn’t indicate that. Rather, the Bible seems to be conspicuously silent on the issue of majority rule except for some severe cases where it went badly. For instance, when the Israelites demanded a king and God directed Samuel to honor their wishes but also issue a warning that kings would eventually bring about their own destruction.

Voting wasn’t part of the cultures of either the Old or New Testaments; although Scripture gives plenty of instructions about a multitude of other subjects. Is it possible that voting is more a tradition that comes from a Greek/Western mindset and not from the Word of God?

What do you think about this? Is voting the best way to make decisions in the church?

Near Miss

The other day I was in my car praying as I drove. I wasn’t praying about driving, road conditions, or the truck in front of me. I was praying about a place to live and letting God know how frustrated I was. The house I’ve rented since August 2004 was now sold and had to be vacated in seven weeks. I didn’t see any reasonable options. I was at mile marker 89 on I-35 in Missouri when the Holy Spirit reminded me of an old story. You might remember this one:

There was once a man whose home was about to be flooded by a rising river. His neighbors urged him to pack up and get out. He said, “I am trusting God to rescue me” and refused to leave. A few hours later the Sheriff came by in a four-wheel drive and the water was up to the wheel hubs and he attempted to get the man to leave his house. But the man refused and reiterated his faith in God to save him from the flood.

Six hours later the man was now on the second floor of his house hanging out a window when the State Patrol came by in a motorboat. They pleaded with the homeowner to leave his house. The man definitely answered, “My God will rescue me” and rejected the offer of a boat ride.

The sun had set and darkness was just minutes away. The man was now sitting on the roof of his house surrounded by water when the National Guard helicopter hovered over him. The soldier’s voice shouted through the noise instructing the man to grab the rope ladder and climb to safety. But the homeowner rejected the offer and yelled back, “This is a test of my faith. Surely God will rescue me.”

The man drowned when his house was swept away in the flood.

Upon arriving in heaven, the man indignantly demanded an explanation from God as to why he wasn’t rescued. God replied, “I answered your prayer! I sent your neighbors, the Sheriff in a truck, the State Patrol in a motorboat, and the National Guard in a helicopter!”

Obviously, the man in the flooded house expected something different.

Ouch. That was exactly the situation I was in.

Here I was praying for God’s provision of a place to live but He had already provided.

I nearly missed the answer to my prayer because it wasn’t what I expected.

A year ago Joy and Tony bought some farm land that included a house. (We are calling it the Herrick house after the former owners who lived there for more than 50 years.) It’s located just six miles north of where my grandkids live and is actually closer to the nursing home where my Mom is a resident then where I now live. But it wasn’t what I expected. I don’t know exactly why, but I didn’t see the Herrick house as a solution. The only thing I could see was its rural location and run-down condition.

My hypocrisy was self-evident. I was praying for a house and telling God I would go anywhere and live anyplace but turning down the generosity of my family. I guess I was expecting God to provide some other way.

The rest of the drive home was a time for me to acknowledge before God that my willingness to be obedient turned out to be conditional. The next day Tony and I met with a contractor and work began immediately. The core of the house dates back to 1887 and its had at least four additions. But the structure is solid and its worth too much to just tear down.

There is a lot of work to be done: new roof, new wiring, new plumbing and new HVAC. There will be a totally new kitchen and bathroom. Pray for Travis Sines and his crew; they are determined to get things done so I can move in when I have to be out of my current house. Some mild weather is especially important so the new roof can be installed.

The scary part? I wonder how many answers to prayer I’ve missed because they didn’t fit into my preconceived idea of what the answer would look like.