My Ultimate Heresy?

I don’t believe my desktop Bible is verbally inspired, inerrant. The Universe created just 6,000 years ago? God commanded people to slaughter every man, woman, child, and beast in a village and dash children’s heads against a stone? Two million people plus animals wandered 40 years in the barren Saini? A six-mile-deep flood floated a handmade boat carrying a million pairs of fauna (number extant today) for ten months?  My Bible says all that happened. We need to take another look at God’s revelation.

I firmly believe the Bible as God gave it. I believe the Bible means what it meant to its first hearers few could read).  A coming Messiah Redeemer was the Old Testament’s central message. Jesus fulfilled that promise. The Bible teaches inerrant truth.

Consider the Bible’s history: Forty or more souls writing in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek on leather scrolls or fragile papyrus produced 60-plus manuscripts, every word written and repeatedly copied by hand. Johann Gutenberg’s Latin Bible appeared in the mid-1400s—history’s first printed book. The King James Bible appeared in 1611. Since then, reports Wikipedia, the full Bible has been translated into 670 languages, the New Testament alone into 1,521 languages, and Bible portions or stories into 1,121 other languages.

Thousands of learned men and women have wrestled with the Scriptures for over the centuries, offering endless interpretations. God’s written truth can never conflict with truth built into his creation. Galileo fought to establish that principle, and you know what happened to him.

I love my Bible. It tells me about Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life, the possessor of all authority.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

New Faith in Old Age

After 90-some years of pondering, I have boiled my faith down to three tenets. Can I prove I’m right? No, you can’t prove faith stuff. But I am content.  What if I’m wrong? I’ll leave that to the Judge. Meanwhile, I enjoy a freedom I never knew following the old way.  Here is my creed:

  1. Mystery: Everything my mind cannot grasp: eternity, infinity, deity, trinity, heaven, hell, foreknowledge, etc., things Christians fight over.
  2. Sovereign Grace: My faith is an unqualified gift from God, reaching far beyond mere mental assent.
  3. Incarnation: Jesus was/is who he claimed to be—Creator God yet fully human. He possesses all authority, not the Bible.  A whole other issue.

I spent my first years living off borrowed faith. I now have a faith of my own. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841 – 1935) put it this way: We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe; the record may seem superficial, but it is indelible. You cannot educate a man wholly out of superstitious fears which were implanted in his imagination, no matter how utterly his reason may reject them.

Our faith is not superstition, but Holmes’ words apply. Departing the fold raised fears. I was God’s child then, I’m God’s child now, but my new faith shapes everyday life far differently.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

My Tribe is Better than Your Tribe

 

Bob Snyder, MD gives me a lift each week in his Lessons Learned on the Journey devotional.  His March 8 column spoke to the third tenet of my personal creed: Mystery, Sovereign Grace, Incarnation. Jesus did not come to run an errand for the Father; Jesus came as Creator God.

I view the Persons of the Trinity as functional rather than personal. The Father: God beyond us; the Son: God among us; the Holy Spirit: God within us.

Bob wrote: One of my wife’s favorite verses describes how the world was made and was intended to operate. Speaking of Jesus, Paul says: All things were created in him. He created everything in heaven and on earth. He created everything that can be seen and everything that can’t be seen. He created kings, powers, rulers and authorities. All things have been created by him and for him. Colossians 1:16 NIRV

Bob continues: I must admit, I often commit “spiritual plagiarism,” acting as if my life is created by me and for me – as if I am the author of my own life and that my life is for my purposes, not God’s. So how do I change the paradigm of my thinking? Look at Jesus! What does that old hymn say? Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.  As I focus on Jesus, I realize more clearly that I was created by Him and for Him.

Right on, Bob. All religions (denominations) big and small express what some person or small group claim to be true.  Jesus is not beholden to any of them, nor should we be. Yet tribal teaching drives us. My tribe is better than your tribe.

I chuck all unknowables in the mystery bin, gratefully accept God’s gift of life and watch as Creator-Sustainer Jesus works out his plan—for me and his universe.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Goodbye Al Mettner

Another old friend gone home. We said goodbye to Al Mettner Saturday. He made it to 92.
 
It was a day for remembering. Al’s older brother Keith was my best buddy from grade school through high school, even though he stole my sweetheart Barb when we were 15. My revenge came 70 years later. I found Barb in a nursing home and threw a geezer prom for her and didn’t invite Keith.
 
I hugged dear Liz, Al’s long-time wife. She stood by patiently as he lived out his years in memory care, as did Keith. Watching loved ones drift into that gloom stirs me to profound gratitude. I can still trace my days from age three on. Sure, senior moments come, and loss of balance weds me to Matilda my walker, but I get where I want and do most of what I want to do.
 
The girl from 313 often brings up my memorial service. Where, what? I tell her I’m not sure anyone who knows me will still be around when that time comes. A large booth at Bridgman’s will probably do. A single red rose, hot fudge sundaes all around, and maybe a mention in conversation.
 
How blessed that we can joke about death, as inevitable as sunrise. I love my life and don’t fear dying. I pray as I contemplate the valley of the shadow, Lord, make me useful for whatever days remain, and please don’ let me outlive my brain.
 
Old Grandpa Lloyd

Joe and the Gypsy Fortuneteller

The year following the Gypsy fortuneteller encounter, Center Lake Bible Camp near Cadillac, Michigan hired Joe to direct the summer program. I filled a utility staff role for junior high week. My  duties included evening campfires. Eager to open with a bang, I recalled the Gypsy. Joe and I plotted.

A waning moon lit the sky as the campers around a huge fire on the hill overlooking the lake. The kids and younger staff on the grass, circling the fire. Folding chairs accommodated older staff and visitors, a white-haired grandmother among them. Joe stood just outside of the circle, the fire between him and me. I launched the story, telling about our visit to Dells and the Gypsy.

Then history faded. I pictured me and Joe with tourists at the fortuneteller’s booth, too open in our skepticism. The Gypsy  glowered at us, growing increasingly irritated. Suddenly, she ripped a page from her notepad, scrawled hasty words, and strode toward me, pressing her face close to mine. “You shall see! You shall see!” She thrust the crumpled note into my hand.

I paused to fish out my wallet, extracting a crumpled paper. “Come to think of it, that happened exactly a year ago today!” I smoothed the paper, pretending to study it by firelight. “I don’t know why I kept it this. I don’t believe in fortunetellers. Ridiculous! Joe and I are the best of friends.”

A camper called out, “What did she write?” I read slowly: “On this very day another summer, one of you will slay the other.” That was the cue. With a frightening yell, Joe leaped camper circle and fire, heading for me. I hurled myself down the hill into the darkness, Joe close behind.

We lay in the tall grass stifling laughter, but back at the campfire, panic. The grandmother came close to a heart attack. Staffers grew angry. Joe and I strolled in laughing, expecting applause for a masterful performance, but our laughter turned to chagrin. How could you!” said one stern soul.

 Good question.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Old Friend Gone Home

Another friend from years far back made it to heaven before me. Joe Burkhardt died October 3 in Springfield, California.

Joe moved to Muskegon, Michigan in 1953, a year after I began serving Wayside Baptist. He came to teach at Lincoln Elementary across the street from the church.  Joe, wife Julie, sprightly daughter Cindy, and Joe’s wise, gentle mother became part of Wayside. Joe and I hit it off. We shared a love for camping, fishing, and kids. We both had Scouting experience.

Sensing a need in our upscale community, Joe and I worked with the school to launch a Boy Scout troop with Joe as Scoutmaster. I volunteered as chaplain, attending most troop meetings. A gangbusters committee formed; and within a year, we had 60 boys.

Each June, Joe planned an extended camping trip. In 1956, we would circle Lake Michigan. The committee refurbished   a used school bus and right after school let out for the summer, the bus rolled north, 16 boys and four men aboard.

We explored five days around Imp Lake in Michigan’s U.P. then worked southward through Wisconsin, setting up camp at the Dells, a popular tourist attraction. We turned the boys loose—we had good kids, allowing the men to become tourists. Joe and I joined a small group clustered around a Gypsy fortune teller, not hiding our skepticism.

That’s where the story began to form I will tell next time we get together.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

 

 

Texas Joe

I’ve been mulling over Bible inerrancy lately, along with Bible interpretation, wondering how Joe Christian sees them.

Speaking of Joe, friend Joe Grove from Texas sent me a four-page article he wrote. The man is channeling me! We agree on every point. “Claiming inerrancy for scripture is a moot point and any claim for a literal interpretation is just plain ludicrous.”  His article explains why with lucid paragraphs.

Recently, Joe Christian responded to something I wrote: “I don’t mess with scholar stuff like that; I just believe the Bible.” I appreciate being mistaken for a scholar, but the dear man has no idea how the Bible reached us. I suspect that’s true of most folks in the pews.

Inspiration, inerrancy, translation, interpretation: not simple issues. When you consider your position as absolute truth, proof texts will pop up all over, never mind context. Literal Noah? Kangaroos could hop to the ark from Australia because the continents hadn’t yet separated. Really?

When the RSV appeared in the 50s, a loyal King-James-Only pastor submitted a lengthy piece to our small-town weekly pointing out RSV flaws. I had not seen the RSV, so I asked the preacher if I could borrow his copy. He admitted he didn’t own one. When I asked where he had borrowed the copy he reviewed, the pastor confessed he had never actually seen an RSV. He simply rehashed comments floating around his circle of friends.  A common malady.

That was long before Adam Nicolson wrote God’s Secretaries, The Making of the King James Bible. Do you suppose the English language might have changed since Shakespeare’s time?

You can’t do theology apart from history; and you can’t do Bible apart from semantics–how words work.

Is that a fair statement, Texas Joe?

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

The Three-hour Typewriter Stint

It was 1961. I was serving a small mission congregation in Anchorage, Alaska, fully content with my lot. In August, Lawrence Swanson, our denominational Christian Ed director, flew in for  workshops among our four churches. I met his plane. He looked poorly.

Lawrence admitted he was off his feed, and a deadline bugged him. He had to write a piece for Tips, his department newsletter. The topic: using nature in the camping program. I don’t know a thing about that, he said. That was like tossing red meat to a wolf. I offered to skip the workshop and crank up the typewriter.

The piece appeared few weeks later bearing my name. Magazines reprinted it. It became a award-winning, stand-alone monograph. That fall, facing another need, Lawrence offered me a headquarters job. I would direct camping and boys work, and write. Camping Guideposts was the first assignment.

The job put me in the group that formed Christian Camping International, now a worldwide movement. Christian Service Brigade, our denominational boys’ program, invited me to its board of directors. I became Cap Matt to several thousand readers of the Brigade magazine. Occasionally, some old guy will remind me of Over a Coke at Cap’s House.

Two dozen books followed Camping Guideposts with translations into six languages I know of, including South Korea’s Christian Camping textbook.

So, does God micromanage us? Maybe, his mysterious way. I didn’t seek of pray for one facet of the scenario that unfolded from that three-hour typewriter stint nearly 60 years ago.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

How Come God Doesn’ t Tell Me Things?

How come God doesn’t tell me things?  I hear friends say, “God old me…”   Only once did I get a clear word from God, and I could attribute that to delirium. It seems God lets me figure things out on my own but fits me into his big picture

Susan Kline affirmed this in a recent Fresh Start devotional, leaning on Proverbs 16:. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” I have abridged part of Susan’s good piece for my purpose

We all make decisions and choices: career path, if or whom we will marry, how many children, what type of home, what city, what church. We plan a course for our lives, but as some know better than others, life doesn’t always go according to our plans.

Take the young college-bound woman. She plans a short-term mission trip to Africa after H.S., planning college in the fall. She goes on the trip; she enters college. But something drastically different happens. The Lord has been working in her heart and all she can think about is returning to Africa to reside among the needy people permanently. It wasn’t her plan, but God determined her steps.  

If God has other things for us, why plan? If God created us to do the good works he prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), why not just wait for Him to show us those good works? The answer: He gave us the gift of “choice.” He doesn’t intend us to just sit around waiting for a note in our lap.

Right on, Susan. I’m a case history, as Epilogue in the Story Tree site reveals. I toss Romans 8:28 in the mix: “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We’re not micromanaged: more is going on in our lives than we know. So I don’t fuss about guidance; I just keep walking, doing what seems useful.

Would you believe one simple kindness for an ailing friend could set a man’s career? I’ll tell you the story.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Jimmy Comes Home

Through the years, I have met people and heard stories that warm my memory. Among them are John Ashmen, his father Charlie, and Jimmy Comes Home. Charlie is long gone. John is now president of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, recently renamed Citygate, headquartered in Colorado Springs.

John was a sax-honking teen when I first met him. I was visiting Camp Haluwasa in New Jersey, founded by Charlie, a mechanical genius loaded with wit, wisdom, and stories. As he approached retirement, I worked with him on a small book, Charlie’s Shop Talk, The Ministry of Machines and Maintenance. Charlie retired during the process and John, his oldest son, now a gifted young man, was chosen to direct Haluwasa.

John and I were wrapping up book details when he told me a story that had to be in the book. I called it Jimmy Comes Home. Someday, I’ll hang it on the Story Tree. Here’s how the story concludes:

It was Charlie and Nellie’s 40th wedding anniversary. John handed them a gift. Charlie opened it to find a grubby manual for a 1950 GMC panel truck, model 250. Puzzled, Charlie flipped the pages and came upon notes he had scribbled 30 years earlier! “Where on earth did you find this?” Charlie had sold the truck in Colorado. “In the truck where you left it,” John replied. “You found Jimmy?” Charlie exclaimed Who owns it now?” “You do,” John said, and handed him the keys.

Old Grandpa Lloyd