Showing posts from July, 2009

Campus Ministry conference

I'm writing from Atlanta, host to this year's National Campus Ministries Seminar. It's been an enjoyable couple of days -- especially the rain that's falling. This is the 53rd annual seminar. I've been on the planning committee for several years. Though I have enjoyed the stimulation of working with other campus-minded people, I anticipate stepping off the board at the end of the seminar. Since I'm no longer in full-time campus ministry, I'd prefer to make space for some of our young, talented campus workers.

Book Review: Gilead (by Marilynne Robinson)

Everyone is talking about The Shack, but I'd like to introduce a different book that you might enjoy reading. This one is a Pulitzer Prize winner.
Marilynne Robinson's Gilead is about a 4th-generation preacher in the Midwest who is quickly approaching the end of his life. The preacher, John Ames, begins to pen a series of letters to his 6-year-old son. Ames is fearful that his only child will never know him and will only recall a feeble, old 76-year-old dad who couldn't play ball with him.
Through Ames' letters, we see the passionate faith and rigorous commitment of a man who has devoted his life to the Lord's service and to his church in a small Iowa town. He is a devoted scholar, carefully writing and saving every sermon manuscript. At one point, he notes that he has written as many words as the great Augustine of Hippo. I couldn't help but pick up on the self-sufficiency and piety of Ames, just like many Midwesterners and Protestants alike. Even as a dying o…

Settling in

A quick personal post.

We are settling into the new house little by little. Julie is the primary unpacker. You can follow most of house progress on her blog (link below). It's going to be a while before we feel like we're at home.

My biggest success of the weekend was assembling our new grill. It's a beauty and solid as can be. Too bad I didn't assemble it where we eventually want it! Oh well.

More tomorrow...

Tom Wright's Piece on Christianity & Homosexuality

In a recent blog entry by Dan Kimball, he pointed to Tom Wright's July 15 editorial in the Times of London. Tom (or N.T. as he is known by many readers) is an Anglican bishop and one of the most widely read authors of Christian books today. He's not a pop-Christian author. His stuff is deep and based on serious scholarship.

As an Anglican, he is intimately aware of the turmoil in the American Episcopalian Church, an official branch of the Church of England. Interestingly, he is referencing decisions made here locally in our neck of the woods. His editorial appeared in the Times online, and I am posting it below for you to peruse. His words are not politically correct and in opposition to mainstream media and culture. I think you will find his comments insightful and biblical.

Blessings! jason
The Americans know this will end in schism
Support by US Episcopalians for homosexual clergy is contrary to Anglican faith and tradition. They are leaving…

Baptism as Entrance into God's Great Ball

One well known voice in Churches of Christ -- who is less well known today than 10 years ago -- once talked about believers baptism as the "front-door entrance" into the Kingdom of God. He compared the Kingdom to a great ball and baptism to the festive entryway where guests are announced as they enter the ballroom. This, he proposed, is how God conceives of entrance into his glorious Kingdom.

He went on to say, however, that we would be wrong to assume that believers cannot enter through side doors. There are ways of entry (the side doors), he went on to say, that are less glamorous and less rewarding, but that nonetheless gain them entrance to the ball. Those who enter in this manner are still in the Kingdom. We know this by the fruit of the Spirit's presence in their lives and by their discipleship to the risen Lord.

What this group of side-door entrants has missed is not eternal life but rather the power of a meaningful transition. What is missing is not salvation but r…

Jimmy Carter & Southern Baptists

The following editorial appeared in the July 12, 2009, edition of The Observer, a Sunday paper that is a sister to The Guardian, one of Britain's most respected papers. (You may notice the British spelling of words like "practising" rather than the American "practicing.") Former president Jimmy Carter wrote this piece to explain his decision to sever ties with the Southern Baptist Convention. It is all the rage in the blogosphere. Not to be outdone, I am posting it here to see what you think.


The words of God do not justify cruelty to women

Discrimination and abuse wrongly backed by doctrine are damaging society, argues the former US president
"Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status ..." (Article 2, Universal Declaration of Human Rights)…

Baptism and Entrance into God's Kingdom

I'm not yet done with my comments on baptism. Hopefully, you're not tired of this or done with your comments either. Some of your insights are probably far more profound than mine.

I find this discussion fascinating for at least two reasons: (1) believers baptism is a key characteristic of our heritage in Churches of Christ; (2) believers baptism is experiencing a revival of sorts in the broader Christian world today just as it is waning in some of our churches. I hope to talk about #2 in a couple days. But now for #1.

I'm not proud of the way we have at times made baptism a heaven or hell issue. Now hold on before you leap ahead of me & think I am dismissing baptism!

What I'm not proud of is this: in Churches of Christ, we reduced baptism to bar-code status. Either you had it or you didn't. If you didn't have it -- and by "it" I mean the right baptism for the right reasons -- then you were destined for hell. Many people were guilted into the water, …

One Comment on Church Stagnation

Here is a comment that someone tried to post but couldn't. I thought it was insightful:

The reason many are not growing is because churches are simply dunking or just having people accept Jesus at their seat privately and not following up with discipling those new believers. They are just left to flounder on their own. The Bible says to go make disciples, not to go dunk and leave them alone. Or what most do... go dunk and now what job do you want to do on Sunday or Wednesday. In our society people are too busy to invest in discipleship thus leaving a very sick church body who can't help, teach or train each other.

Baptism and Sectarianism within Churches of Christ

Churches of Christ have begun to fragment in recent decades.

Churches of Christ used to be extremely uniform in their practices and beliefs back in the 50s, 60s and 70s. If you were to visit churches in California and New Jersey, you would not be able to tell much difference between the two services. The order of worship would have been the same. The songs would have been familiar. And the sermons would have put forth similar ideas. On the surface one would have thought that someone somewhere was controlling all this and that all churches were incredibly unified. Looks can be deceiving.
There were actually many tears in the fabric of uniformity among Churches of Christ from the very beginning. Powerful journal editors (Gospel Advocate, Firm Foundation, etc.) were especially adept at stamping out all signs of disagreement and variety. The torn fabric became too great to hide, however, in the 70s when differing conclusions on issues like divorce and remarriage were not easily dismissed. C…

The Practice of Baptism within Churches of Christ

To exactly describe the practices and beliefs of all Churches of Christ is impossible, since each congregation is officially independent. No governing body tells other churches what to do or how to think. Strong circles of influence push churches and church leaders in directions that seem to compete with one another on many issues. Unifying ideas about baptism, though, still generally carry the day within all Churches of Christ.

Here is the generally accepted belief: A person receives salvation and membership in the Lord’s body by baptism (immersion) into Christ. Many individual Christians have gravitated toward evangelical views on salvation (i.e., that baptism is purely symbolic and therefore unessential), but I know of no instance within our fellowship of churches where the practice of baptism has been replaced by the sinner's prayer or something similar.

We acknowledge that grace comes through faith, but the general moment of salvation is considered to be the moment of immersion…

More Than a Fire-Insurance Policy

All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).All of us are in desperate need of God’s mercy and salvation.Our sin results in death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:23).The path to salvation is through receiving the grace of God by faith (Eph 2:8).We demonstrate our faith through the submissive act of baptism in the name of Jesus so that our sins are forgiven and we receive the gift of the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).The Holy Spirit is the pledge of our inheritance -- being redeemed as God’s own people (Eph 1:14).

The above paragraph contains biblical truths about the path to becoming a Christian.If these are new to you, I invite you to converse with me them.Baptism is a powerful act.It has the ability to transform and shape a person’s life.
Some people, however, tend to see baptism only as a “fire-insurance” policy -- protecting one from the fires of hell.A person who thinks this way isn't completely wrong. Sin se…

All the Families of the Earth Shall Be Blessed

The ancient promise to Abraham reads like this: "I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great" (Gen 12:2). This is the beginning of the journey toward creating the people of Israel. This great saga originates, however, with a simple promise to Abram (later changed to Abraham).

Why does God choose to bless Abram?

(1) So that Abram will learn that God is faithful and that he provides. God asks Abram to venture out on faith into the great unknown. Abram doesn't know where he is going or what life will be like when he gets there. He must give up "home" and wait for a new home provided him by God. A leap of faith is required, but God promises to be with Abram and care for his needs. Abram is willing to take the risk.

(2) So that Abram will pass God's blessings along to others. God's blessings are always meant to be shared, not hoarded. God's economy does not work like our economy. The more we share his blessings with other…

Sleeping in the New House

Home is where my bed is. Or for some people, home is where their pillow is. Or for others, home is where their heart is. For me, my bed seems to make the difference.

I've been sleeping well in our new house. That's a good thing since I've been so exhausted. Sunday was our first night of sleeping there. (Though Jericho slept there Saturday night.) We had a good night of sleep that night and Monday night.

The next two nights were not so great. Tuesday night was terrible. Our power went off at 5:00 pm and came back on at 1:00 am. Opening the windows doesn't help much when the temps are still mid-80s. As Jacob told me, it sure makes us realize how much we depend on electricity. It would take a long while to get adjusted to life lived otherwise.

And Wednesday night was short because I was stupidly trying to figure out Jericho's new MLB game for the Wii. I got stuck in a 20-inning game till midnight. Pitching is not that difficult, but scoring runs was a problem -- even aga…

Sheriff Allswell & Vacation Bible School

I had heard that the College Church puts on an amazing production for Vacation Bible School. People had told me that Doug Baker is fully in his element during the production of this week. Big work crews were legendary for their transformation of the auditorium into an aircraft carrier or some such unbelievable set to provide the backdrop.

Now, I have seen and experienced it for myself. All I can say is, "Wow!" What a fun week! Our auditorium has disappeared, only to be replaced by a Western frontier town. This could easily be the set for a college play -- it's that good! And our technical crew amazes me with all the sound effects & special effects such as a cannon to shoot candy out into the crowd. And the stations and classes are top-notch as the kids are challenged to think about where their home really needs to be. It's a tough concept for little ones, but I am certain they are learning something good this week as they see us adults having a blast as we bring t…

Welcome to Warwick Avenue

The house at 718 E Warwick Ave has new tenants. We have taken up residence there! And so has all our stuff. The house looks a wee bit hectic and messy for now -- and will be for some time -- but we have a place to call home. So begins the hard work of settling in, decorating the house and getting rid of things that don't fit.

Luckily, we had mild weather on our moving days. It was only 107 on Sunday and 109 on Monday. That made us appreciate our new pool.

I don't how we would have done it without help from our good friends here at College Church. The Watsons, the Paffords (sr. & jr.), and the Morrises were a huge help, and their chiropractors thank us for the business. Jim & Margie York lent us their pick-up for the long weekend. And our friends Anne & Emily Sausen from WV pitched in to help as well. I know that others would have helped if given the chance -- which is why we are so appreciative of this church.

What a blessing it is to be at home! We look forward to ma…