Monday, December 12, 2005

Humble Circumstances

"The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position." James 1:9

I’ve been filling in for the Sr. High Sunday teacher for nearly four weeks. Students do very few book studies so I felt it to be worth while to study the book of James. A phrase has remained on my mind from the first study. It says that believers should take pride in their humble circumstances. It would appear that the original intent is a matter of economics; social classes of the wealthy verses the poor. But as an “associate minister I’ve taken a different approach.

My expectations of the church and ultimately students have been lowered a great deal. Maybe I expected too much. Maybe I’m being too idealistic. On the other hand, God can make the impossible possible. God has called us to be something for greater than what we are. It has been a struggle to except the way things are or when to be a prophetic voice to remind the collective Body that it is capable of much more.

This verse in James continues to speak to me because I am just the “associate” and self proclaimed youth minister. I’m not the Sr. minister. Like it or not, the Sr. Minister is the one that dictates the life of the church. His attitude becomes the church’s. His expression of faith becomes the expression of the church. He is the captain of the ship and it goes no where without his leading. I find this to be highly aggravating.

According to James, I should take pride in my “associate” status and be humble in the process. I know that my influence is minimal yet I continue to raise controversial issues than bear not fruit other than division. I’ve done this at two churches. The first church fired me. There’s been a time or two that some at the second wanted to.

So this is my dilemma. As an associate minister whose call is to raise the standard of faith of young people, should I remain silent of matters that do not pertain to youth? That would certainly make life more peaceful. But would I be doing God a disservice by refusing to talk? It is difficult to discern.

In the mean time, I must learn to take pride in my low position of leadership. At this point in time, most of the short comings are out of my control.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Personal finances have been on my mind lately. It started when my friend Ruben began talking about his own situation. He uses Quicken to help manage his money including paying bills and budgeting. He really lead me to think about my own finical well being.

I’m not broke by any means. I’ve been blessed with the discipline of saving weekly. I give beyond 10% to the Kingdom. I have a good foundation but I’m not where I need to be. Too much of my money is wasted and I am not sure where my money goes.

My house in Crawfordsville has had difficultly in selling and finding tenants. (I think I have found someone to rent it on a 6 month lease.) A mortgage to pay with no rental money coming in is a huge concern. I started an IRA four years ago but haven’t placed anything in it since. I pay off my credit card bill every month but I amazed how much I have spent. My pocket cash seemed to disappear from the numerous trips from dinning out. I handle my money fairly well but it could be much better.

A part of my weekly routine is to listen to sermons online. Andy Stanley is in a six week sermon series on money. I clicked on a sermon titled “The Theology of Plastic Surgery” by Rob Bell of the Mars Hill Church. Little did I know it was about money! I knew God was talking to me then.

Until the house is sold there is little I can invest in but I can learn to do without. It will sell. It’s just a matter of when. A few weeks ago I began to use software to help mange my money. I can tell it will help track my spending. I even began to use online bill pay which helps saves on postage and eliminates the chance of late fees.

My investment of a house has cost me thousands but God is using this unfortunate decision to teach me to better handle my recourse. I will be better off in the long because of the lessons I am learning now.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

2+2=5, A Weak Argument for Leadership

Gal 3:26 "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."

Can women preach? If I were forced to give an answer it would be yes. I am not comfortable with my position but there are too many women preachers to deny God the possible that He uses female to preach the Gospel.

I have often heard Galatians 3:28 used as a verse to support women in ministry; “Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The argument sounds convincing. It even casts doubt to the traditional interpretation. However, upon review this teaching is out of it’s original context. Galatians 3:28 has more to do with belonging to Christ, being sons/daughters of God, and a part of the seed of Abraham. I fail to see the jump from belonging to the family of God to women are the same as men and can now preach, teach, and be leaders within the church.

My loyalties do not lie with any doctoral position. I am not bent on keeping women out of the pulpit. Likewise, I’m not trying to put them in either. My top priority is to be honest to the Scriptures. Despite my feeling that women can preach I’m not willing to take a verse out of its proper context so it can support my feeling.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

2+2=5, Why The Sudden Change?

"A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." 1 Timohty 2:11

When it comes to women in ministry, more notably women in the pulpit, these verses should plague both sides of the argument. Those who are in favor have to ignore Paul’s teaching or explain it away by using well though out assumptions that could hardly be classified as authoritative (in my opinion).

Then there is the traditional conservative interpretation to take this teaching literally thus denying a woman to teach, preach, or have any authority within the church. What puzzles me about this interpretation is the sudden change of hermeneutic. Verses 11 and 12 is treated as literal, applicable for today. The two verses before that lead to this literal interpretation is treated much differently. It reads…

“I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. “

The traditional conservative interpretation is to treat “braided hair or gold or pearls, or expensive clothes” as a cultural issues limited to the first century and does not apply for today. What accounts for the sudden change of hermeneutic?

Since I Timothy is short letter is seems that the hermeneutic must remain the same to be honest to the text (or to be “obedient to the scriptures”). To simply change the hermeneutic in the middle of Paul’s thought (like vs. 9-12) is not being true to the text. If denying women the opportunity to speak is to be the literal interpretation then all golden wedding rings are to be removed, flashy jewelry is not to be worn, and hair styles must be monitored upon entry of the worship service.

This line of thought seems silly and fruitless but how can the traditional interpretation be considered honest?

Neither side sits well with me. Both arguments do not add up.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


I asked a question during an elder’s meeting that prompted a conversation about woman’s role in the church. It was a civilized dialogue but basically fruitless. Predetermined positions where gently given and a minimal amount of consideration was given to opposing points of view. I walked out of that meeting basically hearing, “Don’t intentionally rock the boat for some will find it unsettling. Let’s try to keep things the way they are.” Such answers will never sit well on my theological conscious but they are elders and will submit.

My question received a response that was less than favorable but I did gain new insight on the subject of women leadership in the church. No position will work in harmony within the Scripture and church practice. Our agruements do not add up.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Baptism Kick

I’ve been on this baptism kick for some time now. My new Christian's class is nearly to an end so I'm sure my thoughts will move on to other topics. Some might ask why bother addressing the issues I have raised. I bother because I believe it is important to refresh our thinking on old topics from time to time. I bother because I think some of our views on baptism is misguided and over emphasized. I have listed some statements that I have heard throughout the years that are worth reexamining the issue of baptism.

•“Without baptism, I am uncomfortable with the “accepting Jesus into your heart” approach to salvation.”

Concern: Can we truly accept the grace of God if we think we have to do something like baptism to attain salvation?

•“You are old enough to be accountable for your sins and if something unfortunate where to happen…." (Implying they would go to hell.)

Concern: What kind of foundation is laid when new believers are told God loves them but will send them to hell unless…. How will this shape their view of God for the rest of their Christian life? What does this say about our view of God? Does God want the fear of hell to be the first block laid for discipleship?

• “I once told a child they were too young to be baptized. I often wondered what the Spirit could have done in their life if I had baptized them.”

Concern: Have we limited the Spirit to work exclusively in those who are baptized? Will God not fulfill his purposes regardless of what we do?

• “We know how to baptism them; we don’t know what to do afterward." (In other words, we are not very good at training new Christians.)

Concern: It seems that we are more eager to baptize than we are at training. Maybe if we placed more efforts on training disciples we would "know what to do with them."

• “I can’t be baptized unless my family is there to watch.”

Concern: If a person delays taking action for the service of God (even for family) then are they fit for baptism? (See Luke 9:61& 62)

• “I’m too embarrassed to go forward during the worship service. I want my baptism to be done in private.”

Concern: If a person is unwilling to declare publicly their faith publicly then I question if they ready for baptism? Secondly, “going forward” is more than go up to be baptized. It’s an opportunity for introduction to the church of a new member to The Family. Baptism in private communicates to the new believer that the church is optional. The new believer begins an inadequate understanding of the minstry of the church.

These issues are not intended to be heard by new Christians. It would only confuse their fresh new mind. I have no intention of addressing these issues head on with church leadership. It would create unneeded debate. Perhaps by having my own thoughts in order I can address each issue as it naturally presents itself in the course of service. Perhaps I will learn that my concerns are an overreacttion or a part of a much bigger issue.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Question on Baptism

Is baptism a part of God’s plan for salvation? In other words, can a person be saved without being baptized? I asked myself this question after Andy Stanley said it was not. (I was not there when he said it but I heard it online.) He used the thief on the cross as an example. The thief simply said, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong…remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Lk 23:41ff).

“What must I do to be saved?” the jailor asked. Paul and Silas give the most simple of answers, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” (Acts 16:30ff). The jailor was soon baptized afterward but baptism was not a direct part of the answer to the question.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works…” (Eph 2:8ff). Baptism is something we do; a work.

Stanley said that baptism is symbolic of what takes place on the inside of one’s soul. Major themes of the Sermon of the Mount were that thoughts and the attitude of the heart (the inside) are more important than our actions (the outside.) It’s difficult to imagine God ushering anyone, whose life was beautiful expression of faith, into the gate of Hell because they where not baptized. That’s not grace nor just (but I am not Judge so perhaps I should refrain).

I wrestle with this question because the theological tendency of my tradition is to include the conjunction but with these Biblical accounts: “but the thief was a rare exception, but the jailor was soon baptized, but there is more to being saved than grace.” It’s as if we can’t accept the simplicity of God’s amazing grace without making sure we do something to help God in saving us.

Is baptism a part of God’s plan for salvation? Until something is revealed to me from the scriptures, my answer to will be simply it is not. At time point I view baptism as the starting point of discipleship. My answer rests firmly in the grace of God for which I am saved.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

"The Angels Rejoice"

“I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10

This is a section of scripture that is commonly referred too at my church after a baptism. It is a verse that is in the rankings of John 3:16: many know it by hearing, few have read it, and fewer have considered how it is being used.

It is a wonderful thought, to have both heaven and earth celebrating the public declaration of Christ at one’s baptism. Something is troubling however; this is a passage about repentance not baptism. This is concerning because it adds another piece of evidence that my tradition believes repentance and baptism are one in the same.

Perhaps I am being too critical. I am certainly not trying to minimize the joy we share at one’s baptism. Maybe I am overreacting to my concern that many people who are baptized have not repented from their old way of life(the younger they are the more likely this is to be true). Yet through the teachings and actions of many in my fellowship, baptism is treated as a ticket into heaven and repentance is an assumption.

I believe there is a close relationship between baptism and repentance but that does not make them equal. They are two distinct acts. Maybe the angels do rejoice at one’s baptism but the celebration should not be limited to the baptistery. The celebration takes place every time we stop living a lie of the world to live a truth from God.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Boxes by Brian D. McLaren

We like things boxed. Cereal,
Candy, soap, gifts, and corpses.
They seem safe when boxed, as are
We. As is God and other
Potential dangers. So we
Sleep in a box, awake in
A box, shower in a box,
Refrigerate food, store knives,
Drive to work, work for hours, where
We stare each day at boxes,
In boxed lives. Boxed-in we live.
Through boxed windows we look out, in.
God, once boxed, broke out, broke free.
But we keep pushing God back,
Our Jack, popping out on cue,
To music, though it’s not fair.
Nests have birds. Dens have foxes.
God will have none of our small
Boxes. God is free, and we
Are too.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

New Christian Class #3 - Questioning the Formula


Act 2:38 is the theme verse of baptism in my tradition. “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” Our modern way of thinking has created a formula that helps explain this teaching. The formula is…

Repent + Baptism = Forgiveness of Sin & Gift of the Holy Spirit.

Act 2:38 proves this formula to be true. However, other parts of the Bible would suggest there are exceptions.

Simon the Sorcerer was one of many who were baptized after hearing Philip preach the “good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:12). Yet those baptized did not receive the Holy Spirit. Peter and John where sent to place “their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:17). Simon wanted to pay Peter and John for the ability to give the Holy Spirit. Peter rebuked Simon for trying to buy of the gifts of God with money. Peter said, “You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” (Act 8:21-23).

Simon was baptized without repentance therefore he did not receive forgiveness of sin or the gift of the Holy Spirit. However, no explanation is given to why the other who were baptized did not receive the Holy Spirit.

To another example, Peter was at the home of Cornelius (Act 10:44-48). When Peter was speaking “the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.” The gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out but not in full. Peter knew these people should be baptized so that they could receive the Holy Sprit just as he had received.

The point of interest was that the Holy Spirit was given without being baptized however, was not given in full until baptism.

I believe Acts 2:38 should not limit God on how he acts to “save” people. God works beyond the formula of Acts 2:38. God can give the spirit to those who are not baptized. Being baptized does guarantee the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 should not be the foundational teaching of becoming a Christian like so many have done.

I fear that when new Christians hear this teaching they assume they are forgiven of their sins and they receive the full gift of the Holy Spirit just because they are baptized. The “decision to except Christ” is not the same as repentance. Repentance is a process that takes a life time to replace the lies of the world with the Truths of God. We do not repent once and for all. We repent a lifetime.

As a youth minister I will gladly baptize any student who believes Jesus is the Christ. This baptism is once and for all. It’s serves as their symbol of the faith. But I can not tell students they are “saved,” forgiven of their sins, have the Holy Spirit, or that “angels are rejoicing” after baptism. These take place within conjunction of baptism and repentance. They are two different and separate acts.

We must leave room in our theology that people can be baptized without repenting of their sins. Baptism is not “being saved.” Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Final Thoughts On Backpacking Trip '05

I have a few more pictures to come in but my trail journal is finished for the most part. Go to or click on the link “Trailjournals” to the right of this blog. Once there, find the journal for October 25. The next six days cover my trip. Be sure to click on “photos” on the left of the screen to see some great pics.

I thought I would be best to withhold my closing thoughts until the journal was completed. It was a great trip. I thank God for giving me the ability and resources to go on such an adventure. The highlight of the trip was having my friend Ruben with me the whole time. I typically hike by myself but having a good friend with me made the experience a thousand times better. Ruben, thanks for hiking at my pace and for putting up with me when I was a grouch.

Some life lessons learned:
• Pain should not stop you from pursing your goals. Things hurt but you have to keep going.
• Go at my own pace. People might beat me to the goal but I will make it there eventually.
• The less baggage you have the more flexible and enjoyable life becomes. Things weight you down. Learn to do with less or without. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Go to

My backpacking trip was remarkable. The trip lasted from October 25-30 and we hiked nearly 50 miles. There are more details than I care to share on the blogg but if you are interested in reading my journals then click on the link Trailjournals to the right of your screen and you should find it.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Heading to East TN #2

I had a great start to my drive to East TN. I woke up early and was out of Mom and Dad’s by 6:00. I flew through Louisville & Lexington, KY and stopped for gas in Corbin. The weather is getting cooler. I’m concerned the clothes I brought will not be warm enough. Plus, sleeping in a tent in cold weather is not the best situation. It looks like rain from hurricane Wilma will barely miss East TN but a strong wind surge from the south might make my week very wet. The highlight of my day was an older lady working at Arby’s. I sat down to eat and she brought me a fresh order of fries. I told her I already had mine but she said those were cold thus, giving me new fries for nothing. That made me smile. It felt odd passing up all the Knoxville exits. Even more odd was passing the JBC exit. For the first time I had no need to stop by. Had I know the location of Grandpa William’s homestead I would have attempted to find it. I grew tired of driving the interstate so I took a back way on TN St R 11E. Johnson City is a beautiful place. It’s more in the mountains then Knoxville. I drove through the campus of East Tennessee State University. I found Ruben & Emily’s apartment with little problems thanks to the GPS. They have a nice apartment that’s perfect for a newly wed couple. Ruben & I went out for supplies. I needed packs of Snicker candy bars. Thanks Ruben and Emily for putting me up for the night and for a killer pizza.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Heading to East TN

My typical routine when driving to TN is to stop at Mom and Dad’s. It’s nice to have the extra 100 miles behind me plus I spend time with the family. Mom and Dad are leaving for Japan this Thursday (Oct. 27) so we took Brock out for a early birthday dinner. His restaurant of choice was Red Lobster. On the way home we stopped at Scott & Jamie’s to see Mya. I hadn’t seen her since the day of her birth. She’s a cutie. Scott continues to work on his house. He added a front porch. When Scott told me of this project, I though it was a little excessive. Heck, he only remodels every room in his house. But now that I have seen it, I can see it makes a big difference to the over all look of the house. As I sat in his house I thumbed through Scott & Jamie’s wedding pictures. It’s hard to believe they’ve been married for over a year. Scott has done very well for himself. He’s worked very hard for what he has and I am proud of him.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

New Christians Class #2

Last night during youth groups I had my second “New Christians” class. I used the Apostolic Creed as the basis of my teaching. I told students that Christ is our foundation but more is needed to build faith. The Apostolic Creed offers twenty “blocks of knowledge.” These truths are universally accepted in nearly all corners of Christendom. Yet despite the universal acceptance of these truths I am very aware I have opened myself to criticism by using a “creed.” One of the fundamental teachings of my church tradition is no creed is needed other than Christ. “No creed but Christ” sounds very convincing but I doubt if it has any significance to a new believer. Besides, by the time you flesh out “no creed but Christ” you essentially have an official creed on your hands.

I started the group discussion with my favorite story on baptism, Philp and the Eunice. Then we split up twenty scripture verses between eight students. Surprisingly, none of the students had a problem looking them up in the Bible (which will not happen every time). Then we went through the twenty points of the creed as students read the scripture that backed them up. I had hoped than after going through the creed, students would respond by saying like the Eunice, “Look there is water. Why can’t I be baptized?”

We flew through the creed in less than 25 minutes then I closed by watching a live performance of Rich Mullins playing the song “Creed” on DVD. Our time went by very fast. Too fast. I didn’t give students an opportunity to think about what they were learning. The best thing I did, however, was create a hand out of the creed with a scripture reference for students to take home. I challenged them to put it somewhere they would see it every day, read it out loud twice a day, and to look up the scriptures listed if they had time. If any fruit comes from the use of the creed it will be through the daily repetition as students make the effort to grow in their faith.

When I made the decision to use the creed, a thought came to me that would appear to have contradicted a statement I wrote on Oct. 6, 2005; “The five finger exercise, in all practical purposes, is a check list to agree with before being baptized.” It would appear that by introducing the Apostolic Creed, I generated a check list of twenty items that are to be agreed upon with before a believer's baptism. Did I make matters four times worse? Time will tell. But for now, I think the Apostolic Creed can help build more faith in God, Christ, the Spirit, the Bible, and the Church than the “five finger exercise.”

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Dance Went Well

It’s Sunday morning and I have some time on my hands before Sunday school begins. Last Friday’s school dance went very well. The students were very appreciative of our efforts however, they could have used a little more Green Day. I am very appreciative of Nick F. and Casey McV. Their musical talents make a hack like me look far better than the talents I actually possess. It was a lot of fun. The matter I am most proud of is that three Christian guys helped high school students have fun at a dance without it being too “churchy.” Those are words that are typically not associated with each other: Christian, dance, fun, not churchy. Hopefully, our efforts displayed that being a Christian is not a life sentence to stand against the wall to watch everyone else dance. I wonder how Christianity and dancing grew to be opposing forces anyway?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Moving Past the Check List

Within the last month, two concerned church members came to me requesting I approach their child about the matter of baptism. Sensing there were more in the youth group, I spent two weeks promoting a special breakout group for anyone interested in exploring baptism. Last night was the first group meeting. Eight students voluntarily attended.

I’m shying away from the traditional Christian Church five finger exercise (faith, repentance, baptism, remission of sin, and the gift of the holy spirit). I was taught this as a child, trained in Bible College, and seen is used at both churches I have worked. It is a time test method to teach new believers. But as McLaren wrote, “Learning isn’t a consequence of teaching or listening…but a consequence of thinking.”

Christendom has too many unwilling to think about their faith. As a result, they are unsure of what they believe, therefore, are “[un]prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks [them] to give the reason for the hope that [they] have” (I Peter 3:15). The five finger exercise, in all practical purposes, is a check list to agree with before being baptized. It maybe a “good foundation” to start off with, I question if students build upon what they have been taught. I believe there is a way to foster critical thinking, to present the message of salvation so that students will “have tasted that the Lord is good.” (I Peter 2:3), and as a result they will come to Jesus (I Peter 2:4).

I do not judge those who continue to use this method (though I am sure some will find my questioning as a form of judgment) but I cannot continue this traditional method in good conscience. I desire students to think about their faith not just agree with what I tell them.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Lame but Foolish Not To

Three weeks ago a small group of us from church play at a community festival for a variety show (see pic in bio). We were the equivalent of Paul Schaffer & Kevin Eubanks. We played four covers and two patriotic songs for people to sing along. Someone from the high school saw us and asked if we would play at a school dance in just a few weeks. I've been scrambling to get a song list together that I could musically and vocally pull off which was no easy task. I know hundreds of worship songs by heart but only a handful of tunes that students would dance to. I stayed in the office late last night to knock out the final set list. We will have a short practice tonight and the dance is on Friday. It will good to get things over with. The $50 I'm getting is a joke considering the amount of time I've had to put in but at least this project has got me out of the "praise chorus" rut I've been in for the late five years. It’s somewhat lame that a 28 year old guy is playing at a school dance but when a youth minister is asked to do something for the school it would have been foolish to pass up.

For a good laugh check out
then click on Biff Hangs With the American Chopper Guys (09/19/05). (An appreciation for David Letterman and the show American Chopper would be helpful.)

Monday, October 03, 2005

I Have Arrived

“Blogging” was revealed to me just six months ago. It seemed like an interesting concept but I saw no practical need to post my person thoughts for the whole world to see. The first blogs I read were leaders from I stumbled through a few others without giving consideration of one for my own use. Then I came across the blog of Chris Holohan, a college friend, who is currently in South Africa. Then I came across a blog from the guys in the David Crowder Band. It was the sum total of these e-encounters that motivated me to created a blog for myself. I have no idea if others will read it. However I am confident that I will benefit from recording my own thoughts. At least I can say that now my moment has arrived. I have a blog.