Empty Houses and Bobbed Hair
Our long time minister, Jerry Tallman, is selling all his stuff and going on the road full time to do evangelistic seminars. He is a brilliant evangelist and we are all proud of what he and Connie are doing. This last week he sold off his books and paintings -- a bittersweet moment, to be sure. I went through his books, promising myself that I wouldn't buy until others had a chance to get the good stuff, when I came across a book that I bought merely because the title was too good to pass up. Ready for this? Are you seated comfortably? Have you taken all appropriate medication, with food? Okay.
"Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Women Preachers" by John R. Rice, DD. I mean, c'mon, who could pass this up? I've been looking for new sermon material anyway (just kidding!) so I grabbed it and ran back to my office to peruse my new prize. Inside the front cover is a photo of Rice with his wife and six daughters. No sons, just daughters and lots of them. I am sure they all were sweet people (this was published in 1941) but the women in the photo had that strange look about them that screamed out "Lizzy Borden and the Bordenettes." I couldn't help but wonder how you could grow up in a house ruled by the iron fist of John R. Rice. I decided I needed to do some research.
It seems Rice left the Southern Baptists over their liberalism and wrote over 200 books while serving as Editor for "The Sword of the Lord." I went over to www.swordofthelord.com and found out his group is still going (with a 27 point statement of belief) and that this precious little volume is still in print! (only $4.95) According to the website all of his daughters grew up and married men with the same teachings as their dad and served in the same fields. Maybe they were happy after all. I mean, who am I to judge such things?
Other gems by Rice are (and I am not making this up) "Wild Oats in Dallas -- How Dallas people sow them and how they are reaped" and my personal favorite, "The Dance -- Child of the Brothel, Sister of Gambling and Drunkenness, Mother of Lust and Road to Hell!" (exclamation mark in the original) Say what you want: the man knew how to craft a catchy title.
While his group is still very active on the web and has quite a few churches that continue his teachings it is obvious that most of us have moved on. We love the Bible, read it, treasure it as the Word of God, but, search as we might, we cannot see God getting as heated up as Dr. Rice on most of these matters. It gives one pause to wonder: what arguments do we live for, promulgate, disfellowship over, and write viciously against? Will they seem this silly in fifty years? A hundred? Are we willing to kill (reputation, character, profession) over matters that will be laughed at by our grandchildren?
Sure, some things are permanent and we can, rightly, argue about what those are. The seven ones of Ephesians, the supremacy of love in Corinthians, the person and lordship of Christ -- there is enough in scripture to keep us busy without us having to get bogged down in cultural and political arguments that will not long outlive us.
Have you ever driven down the road in some rural area and seen, far off in a field, surrounded by brush and scrub trees, an old, broken house. At one time it was a beautiful home. Kids played on those floors and its walls witnessed births, deaths, laughter, and tears... but no longer. Once, people dreamed about this home, bought and cleared the land and then built their dream, but that dream no longer lives in any human heart. Did they die without heirs? Did their kids fight over the inheritance until no one could have it? Why did the dream die when it had enough strength, once upon a time, to come to life?
What are we doing with God's dream for us? Will He leave heirs on this earth? Yes, Jesus said so, so let's rephrase this: "Will we be among those heirs?" Only if our dreams are His dreams. Only if we put the energy into maintaining that dream and keeping it alive. And only if we don't destroy that dream by fighting over bits of it among ourselves until no one lives here anymore. The dream of Christ probably had little to do about bobbed hair, so perhaps we should be at work in discovering His dream, building more, and fighting less.