Archive for August, 2009

Spurred on by Joe C. and his “finding truth anywhere” post and encouraged by the dialogue as of late I’ve decided to start a new series called “Whaddya think?”

Each week I’ll throw out a different quote and see where it lands.  The quotes will be from everywhere and will be controversial so as to engender dialogue.   So let the games begin:

I have been thinking about the notion of perfect love as being without fear, and what that means for us in a world that’s becoming increasingly xenophobic, tortured by fundamentalism and nationalism.   Bell Hooks

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Roll it in to tomorrow’s day if you like, because this one’s coming to you late!

Since I’ve been on a ‘finding Truth wherever you find it and using it’ kick for a bit, and since I recently wrote about quoting from non-Christian sources if it’s relevant, I thought I’d give you this to think about:

Perhaps it’s impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be.” From Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Is there a point in being like those you seek to win (1 Cor. 9:19-23) that goes too far and ultimately corrupts you? If so, how would you know? Where’s the line?  How far would you go to relate and be relevant?

Someone once told me that the clean sock doesn’t make the dirty hamper clean by being thrown in to it, the clean sock just gets dirty.

What do you think?

I hope all of your days go awesomely tomorrow


Joe C

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The main problem underlying the modern confusion on baptism thus is not paucity of Biblical material, but rather an a priori commitment to certain theological presuppositions. It is so extremely difficult—some would say impossible—to be objective when we try to interpret the Bible. We tend to read it, especially its references to baptism, with preconceived ideas of what it ‘must really be saying’ or what it ‘surely cannot mean.’ (Jack Cottrell, Baptism, 7)

I think there is a good chance at this point in time that most of you know I am no longer serving in the paid ministry. I have been on severance pay for four weeks now, and I have two more to go before I have to figure out how to pay bills again. (Although I’m currently working on it in a variety of ways.)

It is an uncomfortable position that I am in right now. I haven’t been on the other side of the pulpit since 1993 (I include my student preaching days in college). I am having to relearn what it means to be a congregant in that sense. It’s weird, to say the least. Now I sing along instead of leading, bow my head when told, and turn the pages in my Bible at the preacher’s speed instead of setting the pace. Strange, it is, but I am working on it. (I have blogged my first two experiences here and here.)

The purpose of this post is to invite you to help me with a question that has been on my mind since I was asked to resign from the church I served for nearly 10 years. It is a hot-button question we have discussed in one thread or another here, but it is one that I am searching Scripture on right now. I’d like to have a serious, adult conversation about this subject and I promise to read every single comment that is posted in response to it. I am asking you because we all come from different backgrounds and I’m sure to get many different responses to my query.

My question involves baptism. I know this is a contentious issue and one that has divided the church forever. I would prefer that it didn’t divide us and I would prefer that your comments stick to the issue and not devolve into an angst ridden dispute about one another’s salvation.

I have been a member of the Church of Christ/Christian Church (not a cappella) since I was 13 or so (I have been attending since I was 8 or so). Prior to the age of 8, I was a Methodist. I was christened as an infant in the Methodist church. When we moved from one town to the next, we began attending the First Church of Christ and when I was 13 I was immersed (the mode of baptism practiced by the Churches of Christ). You might say I have all my bases covered having been sprinkled and immersed.

Please make no mistake about my own convictions here. I do believe that baptism is very important, bordering on some sense of necessary to conversion if not salvation. I have heard it said, “For some, baptism is the last step in conversion [most Churches of Christ] and for others it is the first step of obedience”. I will also say that I am not a covenant theologian. But I will also say this: I’m in a pickle right now.

I have been to three different denominations in the past three weeks. At all three congregations baptism has been mentioned at some point during the worship.

At the first, a semi-Pentecostal congregation, baptism was mentioned like this: “In two weeks we are having our annual church picnic. This year it will be at such and such a lake. We are happy to be at a lake this year because we can have a BBQ’s, play corn-hole, and so we can get back to baptisms.” Baptism is another part of a picnic.

Last week, we attended an Anglican church. The worship was fantastic and at the end, the pastor said something like, “Next week we will be having some time for baptisms. If you want to be baptized, just let me know and we’ll include you in the schedule.”

This past Sunday, we worshiped again at a Church of Christ. At the end of the sermon, the preacher flowed very naturally into his invitation which included baptism by immersion. It was evident from his invitation and the large tank of water behind him that baptism is a significant part of the liturgy at the church.

So, we have seen three different congregations, three different preachers, three different denominations and three different approaches to baptism. It is quite confusing because those I worshiped with have no doubts about their own peculiar approach to baptism and what it means or doesn’t mean for their pilgrimage in Christ—nor, for that matter, do I (or I wouldn’t have chosen to worship with them to begin with). All three believe it is important in some way. All three practice different modes (immersion, sprinkling, pouring) of baptizing. All three have different mediums (lakes, tanks, fonts) for containing water.

Here’s the trouble I’m having currently. Since I am no longer employed by the Church of Christ as their preacher, I don’t really want to go back. The other churches around my hometown are far too close (one gave birth to my former church, my former church gave birth to a third) to my former employer for me to feel comfortable or they are too far to travel for us to feel like we could be involved in any significant way. Furthermore, we really like the local Anglican Church (second one we visited) and we want to make it our home. The theology isn’t that much different, I am very close with the pastor, and it is close to our home so we can be involved in the ministry. And, if I might say so, the people of that church love Jesus Christ. They really love Jesus.

The problem is, however, that the mode of baptism practiced is different (sprinkling) than what I have traditionally practiced, the reason (s) for doing so is significantly different from what I believe (at least this congregation is more covenant driven in their theology), and, for good measure, it is different from what I have been taught, believed, and preached about baptism in my own ministry. I don’t know how much of a spike this will be for my conscience if we decide to worship with them and make them our church family—which we very much want to do.

So here’s my question to you: What do you think? I’m not selling my church membership. All I am asking is for other thoughts on the subject of baptism.

Can I worship with a congregation and support them financially and otherwise if they don’t happen to believe the way I do? I am sure we would be accepted as members the way we are (we wouldn’t have to undergo another baptism or anything). I am sure that these folks love Jesus Christ and serve him only. We love the congregation and they have already demonstrated to us that they love us (through their pastor’s undeniable and unconditional friendship and love shown to me).

I have been a member of the Church of Christ/Christian Church since I was 13 and I am 39 now. I took a degree from one of their colleges. I have preached in their churches for that last 17 years or so and received payment in one form or another. My dad is an elder in the church. I love the church and there are many good people in the church. But after my most recent experience in the church of Christ, I don’t want to go back. The worship at the Anglican church is alive, full of life, full of the Spirit, full of Christ, Christ-centered; offers weekly communion; prayer is prominently featured, Bible teaching is the norm, and everything that I value and teach my sons and wife about Christ is the creed of this church. We already love the saints that gather to share their weekly pilgrimage with one another.

I’m tired of the legalism. I’m tired of the desert-dry worship that defines the churches of Christ in my part of the world. Frankly, I’m tired of baptism being the last step in conversion and thus being the last step in Christ at all—you know, “I’m baptized so all I have to do is show up and do my duty on Sundays and all will be well.” Theologically, it may be the last step in conversion; practically, it has to be the first step of obedience. It has to be both. I believe I’d rather worship with a congregation full of sprinkled, covenant theologians than a room full of fully-immersed, hard as rock, Sunday morning doing their duty people. I’ve seen too many people buried with Christ in baptism and never raised to walk in newness of life.

My wife and I want to be around people who are living their faith, practicing their baptism, walking with Christ. We believe we have found those people.

But we are stuck at this point of baptism. As my wife and I pray over this matter, I’m asking for your input and advice. What do you think? What is your opinion? Can this difference be overcome? Does it matter if they sprinkle?

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It’s been a long time since I posted any Bible studies on  I could say lots of things have been going on recently that have been preventing me from posting, like deployment, returning from deployment and getting used to stateside again, blah blah blah.  But in all reality I’ve just not made any time to post Bible studies and other thoughts.

I figure another contributing factor to my writer’s block might be related to a funny story:

Recently a good friend of mine decided it’d be an awesome idea to break my wrist with…wait for it…A SOCCER BALL.  When I told the Doctor this he exclaimed “Really? A soccer ball? I thought you weren’t allowed to touch the ball with your hands?”, to which I replied, “Unless you’re the goalie, Doc”, then he said, “Pretty crappy goalie neh?”, “Well I stopped the ball at least, that counts for something, right?”, “No,” he said, “it doesn’t, but what you can count are the four weeks I’m going to make you wear this cast for…”  Awesome. So needless to say, typing this is quite a chore, so you got to figure, why choose NOW to post something, I mean I haven’t posted anything since before I deployed, what’s another month?

Well, basically I’m stir crazy and I obviously think I have something interesting to write about.  So, enough of the bad personal anecdotes, and remember, when it rains it pours, so don’t hate me for the length of this post :)

16While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” 21(All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

22Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

24“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

29“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. 30In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

32When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33At that, Paul left the Council. 34A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.” Acts 17:16-34 (emphasis my own)

This past week I had been studying this section of Scripture, and the context surrounding it historically.  I had been reminded of it because of a conversation I was following in the comments section about an Anne Lamott quotation.  Somehow, whether because the conversation turned that way or the wheels in my head just started turning, it got me thinking about the veracity of using ‘truth’ wherever you find it.  That made me think of how we can relate and erm…be RELEVANT to others by using what we find along our way, or what ‘works’ for the situation, culture, or person.  It struck a note in my mind, I said to myself “Where have I seen someone do this before in Scripture?  I know there’s a good example…” which brought me to Acts 17, of course…

Read the rest of this entry »

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Truth in AdvertisingI don’t normally post the one-liners I hear, or am given, but this one is still making me chuckle due to its incredibly high truth and irony quotient…

“Apprising Ministries is to Ministry what Planned Parenthood is to Parenthood…”

-uncredited (though I will give credit if he/she wants it :) )

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A while back, I read this fantastic little book called Perspectives on Election: Five Views. It is a helpful book–who could imagine that humans could even invent consistent supralapsarian perspective on election, let alone teach it to people in the pew–and yet that is one of the five perspectives discussed in the book.

The view range from that just mentioned to infralapsarian election (a variation on the Calvinist doctrine) to Classic Arminianism to Universal Reconciliation and the Inclusive nature of Election to Divine Election as Corporate, Open, and Vocational.

The authors are varied and include: Bruce Ware, Robert Reymond, Jack Cottrell, Thomas Talbott, and Clark Pinnock. Each author wrote from his own perspective and then the other authors respond with criticisms of that position based on their own position. So, for example, if Robert Reymond wrote about the supralapsarian position all the other writers wrote a criticism of his position each from the point of view they adhere to.

It is a fascinating book and if  you are interested at all in such discussion, you should get it and read it. Today’s thought for the day comes from this book and in particular it comes from Thomas Talbott who wrote from, espoused, and defended the position of Universal Reconciliation and Inclusive Nature of Election (a point of view that I do not necessarily endorse myself). Still, his thoughts are worthy of consideration.

Consider first a mere awkwardness in the doctrine of limited election. If God has commanded us to love our families, our neighbors, and even our enemies, as the New Testament consistently affirms, then a doctrine of limited election carries the awkward implication that God hates (or simply fails to love) some of the ones whom he has commanded us to love. Jesus declared  that we are to love our enemies as well as our friends, so that (a) we might be children of our Father in heaven and (b) we might be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect (see Matthew 5:43-48); that is, we are to love our enemies because God loves them, and we should be like God in just this respect. So why should God command us to love some of the ones whom he himself fails to love? The reply that we can never know in this life who are not the objects of God’s love may seem to provide a practical reason for loving all, lest we fail to love a true object of God’s love. But such an answer hardly accords well with the words of 1 John 4:8, ‘Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.’” (Thomas Talbott, Perspectives on Election: Five Views, 215)

So just exactly who are we to love? And please, for the love of all that is right and good, do not dismiss Talbott’s quote simply because he is a universalist. Consider carefully what he has said, and have at it.

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As I continue to transition from the position of lackey to that of servant of God–that is, a Jesus follower unshackled from the ball and chainof a church signed paycheck–I realize how much I was missing for so long. I realize, more and more, how much of a legalist I was and had become and how it would continue to get worse as long as I was being paid to preach. It is sad. I realize that for the better part of my life I was fighting the wrong war, waging war against the wrong enemy, not realizing that the war was already fought and won and that I was to follow where He led.

A friend of mine came to visit today. He is a pastor. He served me communion last Sunday and put his hand on my bald head and prayed over me. I haven’t been served communion for a long time; the prayer was like rain. When our visit was nearing its appointed end, he, another friend, and I, engaged in prayer. Sweet fellowship and the Spirit’s refreshment. But when he prayed, he said something like, “Lord, help Jerry not to be planning.” I know what he means. Following means following not leading. It means waiting. It means not pressing my plans in order to hurry the Lord along. Resting. Waiting. Patience.

Following means learning to trust again. Following means that I don’t have to understand everything. Following means going in the path of someone else, doing what they do. Following means learning to love again.

Following means loving?!? I’ve complained to the Lord a lot about love because there are people I don’t want to love. Talk about war; it’s much easier to be a prisoner of war sometimes and growing accustomed to scarcity, brutality, unfeeling, emotionless, self-pity and mental anarchy. Much harder is it to follow the protocols of war and make it my first duty to escape. I heard in a song yesterday, “It’s true that love can change us, but never quite enough.” That might be skepticism; it might also be optimism. You can guess yourself.

So I have been, as I have found myself doing much lately, thinking and wondering if love has truly changed me–realizing that for all of my 39 years I haven’t grown all that much. Then I just happened to find this.

I heard my pastor say once, when there were only a few of us standing around, that he hated Bill Clinton. I can understand no liking Clinton’s policies, but I want my spirituality to rid me of hate, not give me a reason for it. I couldn’t deal with that. That is one of the main reasons I walked away. I felt like, by going to a particular church, I was a pawn for Republicans. Meanwhile, the Republicans did not give a crap about the causes of Christ.

Only one more thing that bugged me, then I will shut up about it. War metaphor. The churches I attended would embrace war metaphor. They would talk about how we are in a battle, and I agreed with them, only they wouldn’t clarify that we were battling poverty and hate and injustice and pride and the powers of darkness. They left us thinking that our war was against liberals and homosexuals. Their teaching would have me believe I was the good person in the world and the liberals were the bad people in the world. Jesus taught that we are all bad and He is good, and He wants to rescue us because there is a war going on and we are hostages in that war. The truth is we are supposed to love the hippies, the liberals, and even the Democrats, and that God wants us to think of them as more important than ourselves. Anything short of this is not true to the teachings of Jesus. (Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz, 131-132)

So there has been this cosmic shift of worldview in me. It’s not that I find everything that certain groups do appealing or something I can sign on to. It is that it doesn’t matter if certain groups do everything to suit me or my opinion. It means that because Jesus matters, everyone matters. It means that because of the cross, there are no insignificant or unlovable people. It means that the “best way to change the world is to change your mind…you find energy to do something you hadn’t expected to do” (Anne Lamott, Grace (Eventually), 252).

It means that love has changed me, but not enough. Self-examination is never the easiest thing to do–it’s ugly in there. But love.

It means that today, starting today (or starting three weeks ago when I was informed that my ministry was over, or just beginning), I am in the business of finding new people on earth to love.

I don’t need any more people to hate. I do not need a spirituality to cause me to hate. I don’t need a worldview that is filled with hate. There’s enough hate in the world and in the church. I’m done with hate.

Hello Love.

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I’ve played in various worship bands over the last ten years or so, and because of that I find myself in the position of knowing a lot of worship songs that I don’t particularly care for.  It’s not that I find myself disagreeing with them, really, or that I think every song needs to be theological treatise.  It’s just that good songwriting is somewhat of a rarity both in the Church and outside of it.  So when I do find a worship song or album that is exceptional, I think it’s worth pointing out.

I picked up Ten Shekel Shirt’s newest album, Jubilee, this week, and I have to say it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite worship albums.  I think the thing that sets it apart from other albums is that the groups principle songwriter, Lamont Hiebert, made a choice on this album to get away from songs that are just about “me and Jesus” and focus on some larger themes of injustice, slavery, redemption, and deliverence.  It also doesn’t hurt that the instrumentation is well done.

The one song that I can’t get out my head is called “You Rescue”.

YouTube Preview Image

You Rescue
Ten Shekel Shirt

Some choices I have made brought pain
But you will never stop restoring what’s been lost
So I will boast of Your saving deeds
And I will rave of Your glory

‘Cause You rescue
You redeem
You save
You intervene
You rescue
You redeem
Our lives’ stories

Damage done to me was not Your dream
Innocence has died but is risen from the dead
So I will boast
Of your saving deeds
And I will shout of Your glory

‘Cause You rescue
You redeem
You save
You intervene
You rescue
You redeem
Our lives’ stories

Come rescue
And redeem
Come save
And intervene
Come rescue
And redeem
Our lives’ stories

I pray that this song is a blessing to you, and I pray that we will remember that our calling is to join with God as works to bring beauty, restoration, and redemption to a fallen world.

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As one unpacks this “gift” from ??N to some group known at the outlaw preachers one must wonder if the writer and the one quoted are saying that Jesus was a false teacher. Here’s the “gift” from John MacArthur:

False doctrine cries the loudest about unity. Listen carefully when you hear the cry for unity, because it may be the cover of false doctrine encroaching. If ever we should follow 1 Thessalonians 5, and examine everything carefully, it’s when somebody is crying unity, love, and acceptance. (Online source)

Here’s a prayer from Jesus as taken from the 17th chapter of John:

21I want all of them to be one with each other, just as I am one with you and you are one with me. I also want them to be one with us. Then the people of this world will believe that you sent me.

Please note that I am not saying I agree Theologically with this group of Outlaw preachers, but I do find it interesting that those who scream the loudest about Sola Scriptura often fail to use the whole  of Scripture.

(Hi Ken)

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My two Cents

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

– C S Lewis

[HT: Brendt]

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