Sunday, June 27, 2004

Skeptic In Training

I have been told my many people that I am very trusting. I always seem to think the best of those around me (at least most of the time). I like to think that everyone wants to do the right thing and that motives are somewhat pure.

Maybe it's the logical part of me. I think "why would someone think that way?" or "that just doesn't make sense, there must be something we are not taking in consideration...?"

Over that last few years, I have come to the hard conclusion that sometimes, satan just works in the lives of people and that he takes over. I am certainly not immune to this, I have done some pretty stupid and downright spiritually embarassing things in my life. I have been pretty hard on some people that were probably just doing their best in the past. That was satan working in me.

Call it recognizing satan, or call it skepticism, but either way, things are changing in my head. I am tired of witnessing grown men, protect power in the name of preserving righteousness, cowtow to immature grumbling (from young AND old) in the name of peace, sit and do nothing (stand immobilized) in favor of "rocking the boat" with fresh ideas. Fear has gripped our leadership, fear of the unkown future and a lack of faith that God will bless us more than we can ever imagine if we just trust him and follow him into the unknown.

Our leadership are unwilling to shepherd people. They are afraid to tell someone in their flock that they are acting immature and lacking in faith when they resist ANY change to the traditions that they instituted years ago. Even though there is an insurmountable amount of data to convince those with an open mind that we have to adjust to our environment to keep God's Church alive. That over the ages and throughout the Bible, peoples and places and Churches changed over and over again to be RELEVANT to the current times. Some just want to hang on to the Church of the 50's.

I'm going to call it what it is...sin. My skeptic mind says that it is true sin, while my old self says that it's just ignorant error. I'm hoping for the latter.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


My wife asked this question the other night during a long discussion with some friends. "Have we outgrown the name 'Church of Christ'?" She went on to explain that she wasn't suggesting becoming something else (going to a denominational Church or some other established Church), but that she was pointing out that the "Church of Christ" has "baggage" that cannot easily be cast aside.

As we started to talk more about what she said, we all agreed that the name "Church of Christ" seems to bring negative connotations to those we talk to in our daily lives. For one thing, we have never completely shaken that generalization that "we are the only ones that are saved". That is not as common as in the 50's and 60's, but it's still there, brewing... However, today, more of what we get are those that know we harp on things that just don't matter to many "believing" people. Things like. "aren't you the ones that don't believe in instrumental music?" or "what does non-denominational mean?". During our discussion, I came to a conclusion that ALL faiths have some sort of stagmatism associated with them and that they have to deal with.

In the end, we should "... become all things to all men so that by all possible means...[we]...might save some." (I Cor. 9:22). I believe that the name "Church of Christ" is a good name for a Church and that is one that Christ, it's maker, accepts as worthy (see Romans 16:16). I can think of no other name (Christ's name) that I would want. However, what is inside is much more important than what is on the sign in front of the building (read 2 Cor. 4)

So, "Have we outgrown the name 'Church of Christ'?" . That is yet to be determined, however, I have stopped worrying about what other Churches of Christ think about what I am doing and I am looking to the one and only yardstick that matters, God's word.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Inactivity and Faith

Real faith requires action. Remember the scene in "The Last Crusade", where Indiana Jones has to step out into "nothing" to save his father? He had to believe that the bridge was there (even though he couldn't see it) and then step on to something that he could not see. That's just a movie, but it illustrates a great point.

We often equate sin with actions. Someone abuses their body, steals from the grocery store, gossips about a friend, speaks harsh words to someone... These are sins of action and we see them all too often (in our own lives).

What about the sin of inaction. When we lack the faith in God to step out of our comfort zone and do something amazing. To follow him into adventurous territory. I think about people like Abraham, Moses or David (just off the top of my head). They were not perfect men by any measure, but they trusted in the Lord and followed him into unknown territory.

I am tired of our leaders being immobilized by fear of what might happen, about starting somethng they cannot control, but upsetting those around them even though they believe that change needs to happen. Days, weeks, months and years go by and our leaders continue to maintain that which they can control, peace.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Garbage In, Garbage Out

As I am exploring the "wonderful world of blogs" I run across all kinds of stuff. I haven't looked that much, the reason is that most of it is garbage. Complete, utter, garbage. Now, I embrace the idea that everyone has a right (I don't use this term in the truest sense) to say what they want and think what they want, but give me a break.

Before I go on, I have no crazy ideas that what I am recording here is literary genius, far from it. It's just what's jumping around my head, some of it may make sense, but a lot of it may only make sense to me.

Here's my problem. What is so great about swearing? There is A LOT of it in blogs. It's like all of these people are saying all of the swear words that they couldn't say at home, school, church and in other such public places. Hiding behind the relative obscurity (I have no dilusions that someone could figure out who I am if they put their mind to it) of a blog, they feel like they can be crude and vulgar and that every other word can be..."descriptive". When I read that stuff one thought goes through my imagination.

How much imagination does it take to keep a reader interested if all you do is spew obscenities like an overflowing sewer? Yeah, I might stop to look at that for a second, but I am quickly grossed out and move on to something more fulfilling.

Don't let me mislead you into thinking that I have not and do not swear on occasion. In fact, my closest friends and I have had discussions about this subject. We have agreed that a swear word can be appropriate in some situations (notice I didn't say correct). But when the f-word get's used as much as "the", it loses any "value" (the little it had to begin with) it had.

This is not a plea to stop such swearing because I recognize that it would go on deaf ears, however it's a plea to use the imagination that God gave each of you and see if you can express yourselves without reverting to sophomoric phrases (look it up).

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

"Holy Hands"

1 Timothy 2:8 - "I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing."

Lamentations 3:41 - "Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven."

When I first saw someone with my own eyes lift up their hands during a worship service (I don't remember where it was) I will admit, it sort of "freaked me out". I didn't understand it, I had never seen someone at a Church of Christ do that! "They only do that on T.V.!", I thought.

Other things went through my mind. Generally, I thought that they were just "showing off" to call attention to themselves like, "...look at me, I'm REALLY into this, why aren't you?..." Another thought was, "...I'm going to shove this in your face, and make you feel uncomfortable because I think that we all need to do this...". The really paranoid part of me said, "...Ok, what's next? Are they going to start 'speaking in tongues'?"

Over the last few years I have come to grips with the fact that these were irrational thoughts. I can no more tell what another person is thinking than I can tell you the next time the Detroit Tigers will win the World Series! Also, after considering this practice, recalling my past studying of the Bible and doing some more studying I think I can honestly say that there is nothing scripturally wrong with it. The opposite may be the case, there may be biblical precedent for practicing it.

So the obvious question is, why DON'T we "raise holy hands"? Another question to be answered is why does it make us so uncomfortable? Still another is why is it being so strongly opposed by the "main stream Churches of Christ"?

I can only respond from my personal experience at this point, but I intend on discussing this with my friends, peers and Church leaders as I get opportunity. I believe it has to do with the dreaded word which I will probably bring up time and again...IDENTITY. We identify that kind of act as something that "those people" do, you know people like the "faith healers" on T.V., the T.V. evangelists, the Pentecostals... "They are just out of control", is what we might say. People are just afraid of starting down that "slipery slope" and never being able to get back up. From my view, (from the cheap seats) I believe that is where we must have STRONG, FORWARD-THINKING, PRAYERFUL, and BOLD LEADERS. It is the job of our elders to guide us down the right path prayerfully considering what is best and pleasing to our God.

Personally, in the past, I have felt funny about it. I think it often looks rehearsed or fake. However, there are moments when it's done at the right time and in small doses that it seems appropriate. MY spriritual life is going through a change, a re-birth, if you will, that has brought about many emotions that I have not felt for a long time or have never felt before. Although, I have never "raised holy hands", as of late, it has crossed my mind. I think this is a good thing, I think it means I MAY be on the right track.

I'm still not conviced that I will do it (and I readily admit that a prominent reason has to do with COURAGE), but don't be flabbergasted if at some very special point in an especially good act of worship you see my hands...slowly...carefully...go...up.

2 Corinthians 3:7-12

"Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, Will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold."

Monday, June 07, 2004

"Church Music" - Part V - "Corrective Lenses"

OK, it's time to finish this (at least for now). Let me just say this so I can make myself clear and so that there can be no misunderstandings.

I believe in ACapella music for corporate worship. I base this on MY PERSONAL HISTORY, I like it's simplicity, it is harder (certainly not impossible) to let material things get in the way when we are praising God this way. As of today, I have no intention of making a practice of worshipping God by singing songs of praise with instrumental accompaniment. However, I don't think that non-ACapella worship is unscriptual, unacceptable praise to God and worth our gargantuan efforts to stamp out. If a friend of mine invites me to worship with him (or her)and they use instruments as part of their heart-felt praise to God, I will join them. I will no longer cringe or concern myself that I am doing something terrible (trust me, I've done MUCH WORSE things), in fact I will try very hard to worship HIM in spirit and in truth.

The real issue here is not about the music issue it's about our LACK OF FOCUS ON THINGS THAT MATTER. To quote Paul Woodhouse from "Grace Centered Magazine", "Let's drop the instrumental music issue. It is irrelevant to the poor single mother, the aborted infant, the divorcee, and the prison inmate...It's time to get real and move on." There are so many other things that NEED our FOCUSED ATTENTION, immorality, the declining importance of family, abortion, depression, divorce, suicide and the list goes on. We should be lights...BEACONS for the rest of the world to find Christ, not enforcers of religious practices (does that sound like a....Pharisee?) If we took just 50% of the time and effort that is spent everyday defending ACapella singing in the Church of Christ IMAGINE WHAT WE COULD DO?!?!

We have lost our focus, it's time to get corrective lenses and get to work.

OK, I'm done (for now).

Meant to Live

Once again, my son is an inspiration to me.

We were talking a few days ago about a song that I had noticed and I asked him what he thought about it. The song was "Meant to Live" by Switchfoot. He told me that Switchfoot was a "Christian Band" (I recognize that his difinition of "Christian Band" is far reaching) and the next thing I knew we were at Best Buy with it in my hand (THAT is a BIG DEAL - I buy almost ALL of my CD's on Ebay, but I didn't want to wait for this one).

I just read the lyrics to "Meant To Live" and as I reached the end of the song I couldn't resist a smile and some goosebumps. Here's what got me.

"We want more that this world's got to offer... And everything inside screams for second life. We were meant to Live."

Here is a group of young people, with talent and fame and a bright future in front of them. Yet, they acknowledge that the things of this world are not what they were made for. This world does not offer what we need to live, however we can live if we recognize that life comes from somewhere else...Christ...inside us.

Take a look at the words of God through Paul in Philippians 3:12,14 ...I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Here's another one. Once again, Paul, this time talking to the Corinthians (and us) tells us that we should be longing for what is coming after this life. 2 Corinthians 5:1-6 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.

I want to thank groups like Switchfoot. I don't know much about them, I don't know their real morals, I don't know if they go to Church and especially WHAT Church they may go to. But I want to thank them for my son (and kids like him - and me too!) great MUSIC with a message that gives them hope. There is SO MUCH GARBAGE out there for our kids to get caught up in...and they do! I'm not suggesting this music as a replacement for Bible study, devotionals, worship and the like, but as an addition, and as a replacement of the other garbage out there.

I just have to smile. :)

Friday, June 04, 2004

"Church Music" - Part IV... our kids

I grew up, primarily, in the 70's and I really don't remember this being a big deal then. Yes, it was discussed, and yes, even then the Churches of Christ were distinguished by (among other things) that fact that we didn't have any instruments in our worship service (or our buildings). The difference between then and now is that, then we looked at the whole Instrumental Music in worship "thing" as insignificant. The kids of my day were not talking about it and our worship services (practically ALL of them throughout the mainstream Churches of Christ) were the same. It wasn't an issue because we all understood what was "right and good".

One BIG change between now and then (from my view in the cheap seats) is that our kids talk with other kids about Church, God, Religion and the Bible MUCH MORE than we did. They invite their friends to devotionals and teen outings like crazy. When I was a kid is was all well and good for US to invite THEM to OUR outings, but forget about going to THEIRS (why would we do that?). So, over the years, the youth of our faith have become more and more...accepting of other faiths.

Why? It's simple, their FRIENDS are from other faiths. We used to have our "Church friends" (those kids from OUR Church) and our "Other friends", which we did not mix together (at least not very often). Youth (and what you call "youth" can very GREATLY) look at all of their friends as one big unit and they cherish their friends that go to other Churches and regard them very highly. Why? Because they can be very good people!

So now, they are exposed to different views of their faith from a very early age and those differences are not keeping them up at night. Their discussions about spiritual things often take them down the same paths...they don't get caught up in the details.

Their friend (Chris, we will call him) is a Christian too! Even though they play guitars in their worship service and might have women preachers. Even though Chris doesn't go to the "Church of Christ" he is still a Christian. Why? "How can't he be? He believes the same things that I do, he just does a few things different. He has the same moral values that I do (sometimes higher). He is just as active in his Church as I am, and I enjoy worshipping with him (the few times I have gone) and he enjoys worshipping with me."

The youth of our faith are more accepting than we are or were when we were their age. That could be a big factor in why they are pushing our Church to update and try new things because they are being exposed those things and their positive impact on personal spirituality. Simply put, their world is bigger and the bounds of their Christianity are too. Singing with musical accompaniment isn't a big deal, they hear the arguments against it and they may even nod their head with understanding, but they also see the positive impact that their friends (their Christian friends that don't go to a Church of Christ) have on them. Furthermore, they can't believe that their friends are going to hell, they are strong Christians, so what if they sing with instruments!

Then we are surprised when they pull back from our faith and become "rebellious" when they are given a very rigid view of Christianity, one that excludes these people they look up to.

More later...

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

"Church Music" - Part III ... anyway....

Like I said, music has defined us. There are Instrumental and Non-Instrumental Churches of Christ (CofC). My guess is that (in general) those that worship at an Instrumental CofC would have little problem worshipping with those at a Non-Instrumental CofC, but that the opposite would not be true. It has become what we talk about, what we worry about, what we pray about and what we fight about.

Why does something discussed so little in the Bible take up so much or our time? Whole books, sermons and bible classes are devoted to it. Articles in Christian magazines put their "two cents" in. Over what?

Meanwhile, our kids listen, our members listen...our vistors listen. What many of them hear is "WE HAVE IT RIGHT AND THEY DON'T - THEY ARE GOING TO HELL". Yep, you just told the daughter that her mother who goes to the Church down the street is going to hell, the teenager that his friends as school are going to hell, that if someone brought a musical instrument into this building they would...well you get the picture. It's not very pretty, is it?

Meanwhile, we forget that we are bombarded everyday by images, words, lyrics and other forms of stimulus that have much more impact on our lives than whether or not there is a piano in our Church building or that someone clapped during a song. We are concerning ourselves with the splinter in our finger while the whole tree is falling on us!

Let's stop being so paranoid about instrumental music in our worship and start ministering to each other. We all hurt and we all just want to be closer to our God.

I think part of this is a generational thing, more on that in the next chapter...(did you think I was done?)

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

"Church Music" - Part II

One of the issues with music in the Churches of Christ has become a DEFINING one, and that's at the root of the problem. In other words, since when did we start defining who we are and what we do by telling others what we DON'T do?!

You wouldn't go to the dictionary and see something like this:

DUCK - An animal that does not look like an elephant, does not have fur and does not hang from trees.

Reading that definition of a duck would tell us NOTHING about what a duck is, nor after reading it would you be able to identify one EVEN IF YOU SAW IT.

I am tired of describing my Church by identifying the differences in it from other Churches. We should have only one identifying mark, that of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We have to start from there, BEFORE we worry about the other stuff. The other stuff is important (some, much more than others, like baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sins), but what good does it do to start off by telling someone about all the things that his or her Church DOES NOT do?

There will be a part III...

"Church Music" - Part I

I want to talk about a topic that brings fear and cringing to most Christians that attend Churches of Christ. Music.

Specifically ACappella vs. Instrumental. ACappella, is simply translated as "Church music", but has come to mean music without instrumental accompaniment. But, even that definition is not enough for some. For some, even a human voice (or hand or other body part) that mimics an instrument is no longer ACappella music. For such people, mimicking a bass or creating a beat (for example) defies the spirit of the idea of "Church Music".

On the other side we have something as simple as a Church that might use an organ or a piano along with congregational singing, then there are Choruses, all the way to full bands with electric guitars and drums. There is an organization here in our town that proclaims that they are "The Church That Rocks".

Speaking as someone that has spent his whole life singing ACappella music in worship to God, and in choruses in High School and College, at devotionals and even in a somewhat short-lived group, I feel uncomfortable with the idea of using an instrument (other than that which God gave me) to worship him in an assembly. For me, it's distracting and unnecessary, the human voice is beautiful and simple enough for our corporate praise to God.

The Church of Christ's stance (at least traditionally and generally) on this issue is that instrumental music is not commanded in the Bible, nor is there a New Testament example of any Church using instruments in their corporate worship. It's really that simple, the Bible doesn't mention it, so we don't do it. Actually, the idea of instrumental accompaniment is rather new, only for the last few centuries have Churches used instruments in corporate worship to God, so those that would try to use the Bible to explicitly show that we should use an instrument in corporate worship would be foolish, it's not there. It is truly a man-contrived addition to what God established....

However, so are song books...and, Nurseries....and, Bible Classes...and, V.B.S...and, "pew Bibles".

(I originally called this "Let's Get This Over With...", but I decided to change the name to reflect what it was actually talking about)
"...Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:7-18