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TRIP AROUND THE SUN

 

38 of 52 – North County Baptist Church

 

Thoughts during the week:

 

I did remember something else from last week with the Jews – that was most interesting. One of the opinions (Well – it was more like an opinion of a possibility – not necessarily believed but thought possible) – was that the killing of the firstborn may not have been the kind of killing we usually envision from that word. We’ve heard the word used in sentences like, “That killed that idea,” etc. The position of a firstborn was so very important in these societies – among the Jews – and among their enemies as well. There was lots of competition for this position – and in particular, when a second born was more powerful than the firstborn, he would sometimes try to make it believed that he was the firstborn. The father and mother who knew for sure were often already dead by the time the issue came up. Amidst this great confusion – growing and growing – it became so confused that the “firstborn” were destroyed in large numbers – not “killed,” in the normal sense, but killed by loss of their position. Amidst this confusion, the escape was made. No one knew who the leaders (firstborn) were, and while they were fighting amongst themselves, the Jews took their leave. Sure – wouldn’t you?

 

And when this was said, there were others who said, “yes – maybe this could have been.”

They often said “A’mein” – pronounced ah mane – and I supposed this was our “Amen.”

(Writing stories later – referred to last week as “folk literature” right in our copy of the Torah – literature which made it into actual words of the Torah – well – we all know how the story was put together – it makes a great movie – perhaps one of the greatest movies ever made.)

 

 (Again – this is not viewed as in our great biblical sagas on the screen – but probably many fewer slaves – and probably without the great accomplishments of building cities and buildings the likes of which Vegas is made.)

 

Opinions and possibilities “outside the square” are not threatening, but enlightening to these people. If we had the freedom (not agency – but real freedom) to bring up opinions and thoughts – even when they are felt with some emotion – we would learn and grow (change) much more effectively. These intimate discussions have been a delight for me one-on-one often in the Church – but in groups, they are discouraged. When an emotional thought is brought forward – an objection to doctrine or the possibility of a new change of doctrine – the process usually is to change the subject. Whatever the subject is, it is changed to a discussion on “Contention.” As a result, we know so much about not having contention and so little about evolution as a great miracle – and perhaps more important – so little on how to proceed to improve the Church. Among false Satanic doctrines, perhaps one of the worst is the one which opines that God, our loving father, would strike down dead a servant who tried to “steady the ark.” God would recognize this man as one of His friends. The more sacred the thing saved, the more important to recognize the exception to the rule “do not touch.” A view that God is stupid is just nonsense. A husband and wife who cannot “contend” with one another – and cannot value the learning that comes through it – cannot be so intimate as a pair who can do these things – and who enjoy it – and who love it that their companion can think differently from them. The same is true in the Church – we rob ourselves of great pleasure and learning – and from the option of efficient progress. A doctrine excluding a whole race from the priesthood could have been corrected in minutes, but took a century and a few decades instead. I cannot imagine a truly open and honest discussion on the topic among the leaders of the Church without the needed change becoming obvious as a result – so long as each one could really speak his mind and heart. Brigham stopped the discussion with a swoop. “That is the end of this discussion – with so much as one drop of Negro blood – no priesthood.” I always liked Brigham – but open discussion was not his long suit. For Joseph before, it was different – and for John, who followed after. We get to study John this year – it would be good to bring in material to paint an unfettered picture of this great personality. He was strict, to be sure – but he also believed in great personal freedom of thought.

 

The Visit:

 

North County Baptist Church

 

Leona likes to take family members by this church at Christmas time, and she refers to it as “The church with the lights.” On their programs and on their literature is printed:

 

NORTH COUNTY BAPTIST CHURCH

 

“The Church With The Lights.”

 

I drove by last week in the hotrod – and a man came rushing out as I slowed in front – his name was Paul. I asked Paul what kind of Baptist church this was – you know – Southern Baptist – Hard Shell Baptist – First Baptist – or just plain old Baptist?

 

Paul said, “Well – we don’t like to put a label on it – we’re not really Baptists.”

 

“But,” I said, “the sign in front says North County Baptist Church.”

 

Paul said that when the preacher came and decided to buy this church – that nice sign was already there – so we kept it. (ha)

 

There’s something about this that I like. It’s ok if it says Baptist – we don’t care – but we’re really just Christians. The term “born again” didn’t come to the conversation, but I learned more later. They do think a Christian must meet certain criteria.

 

Sunday school is scheduled to begin at 9:45 – then church at 11:00. I arrived on Sunday at 9:30. Paul was there in front waiting in hopes I would arrive as I had indicated I would. He had no trouble picking me out – must have been my unforgettable look – or maybe the hotrod tipped him off.

 

There were two adult Sunday school classes – one in the chapel with the pastor as teacher (speaker?) – and another in the kitchen area – discussion style - for seniors. I attended the one in the kitchen area.

 

Sunday school:

 

Friendliest group I’ve ever met. I think every single person (about 40) came up to meet me personally – with big ole smiles, enthusiasm – like I’d just become each one’s best friend. That is fun, and I don’t think it’s insincere – even if a little exaggerated for the effect that has. One would greet me – then turn to introduce me to another – and on and on. Each one acted like they couldn’t wait for their turn to come.

 

They started with a song – sung by memory – melody only – no accompaniment – no hand leader. “Thank You Lord for Saving My Soul.” These people have been taught to sing out without fear – and they do it with gusto.

 

The lesson was on “grace.” (Surprise)

 

It definitely was not a discussion. I asked the one and only question – and was asked to wait ‘til the end for an answer. When the answer did come – it was not discussion formatted – but an answer “you’d better accept because it’s in the Bible.”

 

They then took requests for prayers – or testimonials for Jesus. An elderly lady (everyone in the class except the teacher were seniors – maybe 55 to 95 – this nice lady was one of the elderly – got up to talk. She said her legs wasn’t working Wednesday – but Thursday, she got up and they were both working. She said she had “Two, maybe three prayer warriors.” Everybody clapped. Another said, “Mom is 98 – she wants to make a hundred and be on Willard Scott – she says please pray for me to make a hundred.” But she added, “That’s if I don’t get cranky – If I get cranky, I’d rather just come on home.”

 

Another: “We have one son who is an atheist – pray for him to find Jesus.” (You have to appreciate what they believe will happen to the son they love if he doesn’t “find Jesus,” to understand how important they feel these prayers are.)

 

There were several others as well. The teacher then led us in prayer – praying for all the above – and finishing with the son who had not found Jesus – and declaring that this prayer was more important than all the rest. That again brought applause.

 

The subject was titled, “What is the gospel?” The teacher said it meant “Good News,” but that this definition alone was not clear. When I get a paycheck in the mail, that’s good news – but that’s not the gospel. The gospel is the good news that we don’t have to earn our way into heaven – it’s a free gift – by grace from Jesus Christ. All we have to do it “accept” it.

 

I asked my question: “What about all those in the Old Testament times? – Adam – Abraham – Noah – Moses and all his people? And what about all those in the world today who live their whole lives long and never so much as hear the name of Jesus?” I was asked to wait until the end for an answer.

 

The teacher read in Corinthians about the “manifold” blessings. He used the hotrod as an example – talking of the two different kinds of manifolds. The exhaust manifold collects from four cylinders and puts them into one exhaust pipe on that side. This is like, he said, taking all his blessing and putting them through Christ. The other manifold, the intake, takes air in through one carburetor – and distributes the mixture to eight ports serving each cylinder – the savior sending his “manifold” blessings to us each individually.

 

“When you look at the stars at night, do you know that they were all made for you? All of it, the entire universe – is all for humans – God’s favorite creation.”

 

(My my – here we are at the center of it all again – even now that we know the Sun does not revolve around the Earth. – And the entire universe? – All for one particular mammal, Homo sapiens? Doesn’t anyone know how small we are? Is this humility? Or is it pride? Either way, it is not a logical conclusion from the data available. If all humans ceased to exist today, it would be a miniscule event in the scheme of things.)

 

“He does bigger and better things than we are capable of thinking.” (AHA!)

 

(I thought – if only he knew what he had just said. This puts it beyond our ability to define things so well and so sure. Perhaps even grace is bigger and better than we can conceive.)

 

Then he got to the answer to my question. “Those in the Old Testament days expected Jesus – but they did not have Him – they cannot be saved ‘in Jesus.’ We may not like it – but that’s the way it is. The Bible has no error.”

 

“You should all be thankful that you were born when it is possible to be saved.”

 

This would be like being thankful to be rich while others are poor – or healthy while others suffer. Can’t we catch on that “No man is an island?” If the bell tolls for all those others who will burn – it tolls for me. (I would hate such a father – so burn me baby burn – you ain’t no friend of mine.) I can’t believe this speller thinks ain’t ain’t a word. Is Microsoft that out of touch?

 

I tried to ask again about those who don’t ever hear His name in today’s world – essentially stopped – but assured that no one who does not accept Jesus can go to heaven. There was not opportunity to ask what their eternal lot then is instead of heaven – though you can be sure – it is nothing in which a loving father would have any interest.

 

As the class exited to go to the main meeting, the teacher wanted to talk with me. It was an interesting conversation – obviously one they do not want to have with the members of a class. He said that the Bible is the word of God – and has no errors. I asked, “What version?” He said it was with respect to the original version – but that they used the King James. “Ok,” I said, “in the King James version a verse declares, “No man hath seen God and lived.” Yet there is also a verse which reads, “And Jacob called the name of the place Penial, for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” Which of these is correct? His answer was that if we read it right, there are no contradictions. “Ok – then if I read it and say the first is correct as written and the second is poetic – and you read it saying the first is poetic and the second means what it says – how do we decide which of us is correct?”

 

If I tell you what it means, and you tell me what it means, and we don’t agree, how do we measure who is right – or whether either of us are? You start with the assumption that the Bible is without error – I start with the assumption that God does only good. Who has made the proper assumption, you or I? Or are neither of them proper? Your assumption allows God to kill babies; mine does not. Who is correct – or are we both wrong? It really doesn’t matter whether the written word is correct or not – but what we make of it – that’s what needs to be right. It’s not what’s written but what’s received that counts.

 

(I remember in the movie with our National Rifle Association President as Moses – Pharaoh and his men kept saying “So let it be written; so let it be done.” Finally, after Moses is given his death sentence, Moses himself said, “So let it be written.”)

 

It’s that “done” part that matters – not that “written” part.

 

Error could come from several places – from the original writing – from translations – from our interpretations, etc. I pointed out that something he (the Sunday school teacher) had said during the “discussion” was interesting to me – when he said, “He does bigger and better things than we are capable of thinking.” Is it possible then – that grace could cover more than we think? Is it possible that it covers before and after – through all time – and all of God’s children – no matter what their errors – even if the error is (shudder) not hearing about Jesus?

 

(I was baiting a little – because I know they believe it requires no works at all.)

 

So he said, “No – it requires no works at all.”

 

So I asked, “Well, then – one who does not accept Jesus is still covered by grace?”

 

“No! You must remember – the main thing about God is not love – but holiness.”

 

“But God does love all of us, right?”

 

“Yes, He does.”

 

“People do not burn the ones they love,” I said. “Unless God’s love is inferior to people’s love, then He also would not burn those he loves.” It’s based on a different assumption. “God is good.”

 

(I always thought holiness should be beautiful – and very consistent with love.)

 

Then at least this “work” is required – to learn of Jesus and to make a decision. Also the work of others to make Jesus known is required – without these human works – no hope?

 

The main meeting was well under way – and the singing could be heard from at least as far away as we were. It was a different building. I said, “Let’s go,” and we did.

 

(The truth is – by the accounting of these folks, who I believe have never done the math, all the Jews will burn in Hell; All the Muslims will burn in Hell; All the Buddhists will burn in Hell; All those who do not know the name of Jesus will burn in Hell; all those who know Jesus – but regard his father as separate and therefore another God will burn in Hell – the math makes this nearly everyone will burn forever and ever without being consumed. And all this from a God who loves us dearly? Is this a beautiful religion?)

 

(I would like to think that we are all here to learn as much as we can – and then to use that learning in the next life for continued progress – that none are forced to be lost by their error – that error is only for learning. We have a big problem with so-called moral error – thinking it different from other error. I don’t think it’s different. Error only exists because of a plan that specifically makes it possible – why – because it is good to have it available for learning from. That doesn’t make it wise to continue in error once the lessons are learned.)

 

(How can people be so friendly and at the same time so accepting that 99.99% of all humans will burn forever in Hell? I’ll answer it – they haven’t a clue concerning the math. It’s like a little child who believes in Santa Claus – and has no concern at all for the miles to be traveled in a single night – and the impossibility of it all.)

 

The Main meeting:

 

Subject – Grace (Surprise)

 

But this is not what was listed as the subject – it was “How Not to Blow It.”

 

Music was by four electric guitars and a “steel” guitar (also electric, of course.) Also there was an electronic keyboard – and a full set of drums – and a choir of about 15 pieces. There was a large shiny black grand piano, but it stood passionless.

 

“How many of you know that God is perfect?” “Amen!”

 

“How many of you know that God has never made a single mistake?” “Amen!”

 

“Jesus didn’t come for the religious crowd.”

 

Now the four tips on “How to Not Blow It.”

 

(These are interesting, because they are not about grace at all.)

 

1.     Be Ye Steadfast – and the material was as we would expect.

There was a line in here perhaps off the subject: “I know I’m going to be re-united with my saved loved ones.”

 

2.     Be Un-Movable. – About the same as the first one – hard to tell what the difference was.

 

      3.   Always abound in the work of the Lord.

Here the minister talked of Eyore and Tigger. Eyore says slowly, “Ohhh nooo – did you have to start eh work when I was sooo tirrred?” And Tigger says, “Oh boy! Oh boy! Give me the biggest job – oh please! Give it to me. Give it to me!”

“Be a Tigger for Jesus !”

 

3.     Know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

 

All of this is about works – and I wondered what “Blow It” meant. Blow what? I think these narrow defining “grace” churches have to come to grips with reality and talk of works in order to stay afloat. They continue to insist, however, that one’s salvation is secure entirely without works. When pressed, however, it’s amazing how many “works” requirements are on the list – and not recognized as works. Decisions – things to learn – positions to take, etc. Get these wrong, and you won’t make it.

 

“Quit Poutin’ and start Shoutin’!”

 

He invited us line by line to say the following prayer:

 

“I know I’m a sinner.”

“I’m sorry for my sins.”

“I want to be forgiven.”

“Please save me.”

“I trust only you.”

“I do not trust my works.”

“Be my savior.”

 

He asked for everyone to stand who has said the prayer along with him. Seven people stood.

 

He closed his eyes and said, “Thank you for saving these seven. Their sins are forgiven.” Then he asked the seven to come up front. They all did, and there was one very pretty young woman who had been introduced as a visitor – whose husband had just gone off on one of our ships. She was visibly touched by all of this, and a woman came to her – talked a little – and the two left out the side door.

 

Then the minister said, “All count to ten – and we’ll be excused.” Someone came to the minister to say something. The minister said softly – “Then there’s a baptism?” The other man said, “Yes.”

 

The minister then announced – there is going to be a baptism – I’ll go get ready. Then he and this very pretty young woman appeared high above the stage – in the now familiar baptismal font. The minister appeared to have simply rolled up his pants – still dressed as before in his suit and tie. The young woman was dressed in a special robe. He asked her if she had accepted Jesus, and she answered, “Yes.” He then baptized her in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” She came out of the water obviously enthused – and hugged the minister enthusiastically and unabashedly.

 

When Pastor Clint was back on stage, it became known that there were two more to be baptized. A young black boy – about 8 – and his mother. An assistant minister then baptized these two – asking each if they had accepted Jesus, and receiving the affirmative reply, he said, “Then I will baptize you,” and proceeded.

 

Then we were excused – and invited to go to the “snack bar” for a hamburger or cheeseburger and other goodies. I did – and had their version of Orange Julius, which they called by the trademark. It was better than Julius is today – but not so good as Julius was when I was a boy.

 

Almost the whole congregation was out front and around the snack bar. The hotrod was receiving quite a crowd. Pastor Clint asked me, “Is that your car?” “Yes.” “Could I please have a ride in it?” “Sure.” He and I got in – and the whole crowd was looking on with great interest. He asked me if I could honk the horn – so that others would come to see also. I told him we didn’t need a horn, and started the car. I gave him a gustovaceous bit of acceleration, and he shouted, “Be a Tigger for Jesus!” After rounding the block, as we were returning, a young boy (teenager) was waiting at the parking spot. It was obvious to me that he wanted a ride, so I asked him. He looked to Pastor Clint for approval and approval was given. I took that boy around the block a little slower – but enough for a noise. It turns out he was the pastor’s boy.

 

Then I left – with the whole congregation waving.

 

It still puzzles me that it is often the case that the most friendly of church goers have the unfriendliest underlying doctrine. Is it an attempt to “make up” for something that is actually foreign to their own private feelings? I found this quite a lot in West Virginia. They would say, “Stay all night,” as a greeting when you left – even if they had just kicked you out, and even if they believed you were going to burn in Hell.

 

I sometimes look over these reports and wonder if I’m being too harsh – but I’m not attempting to be harsh or gentle either one – just to put it down as I’ve felt it – or as I’ve observed it – both are part of the Trip Around the Sun. I try not to over edit. As I drive around Escondido, I find I love lots of people. I will someday count it as one of my finest years.

 

 

38 of 52 – North County Baptist Church

 

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