Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Big Deep Breath...

The first time I ever rode a "real" rollercoaster was just a few years ago. I have always been fascinated with them (mesmerized, more like it), but I just could not make myself step on one. One day, just a couple years ago, I finally did. I screamed like a little boy the whole way, literally flooded with raw excitement, fear, exhilaration, emotion and joy. When it was all over, I wanted to go again...right away. But first, I took a big deep breath...because I hadn't breathed through the whole thing (atleast it felt that way).


Now that the excitement of the last few weeks are subsiding for a bit, my mind has started to really process it all. Not unlike the first time I rode Top Gun (just this summer). I always thought that I would process each and every turn, loop, drop and twist as it came, but that's not what happened at all. It was all a blur until later. After making the decision to get on the thing and feeling confident that I would walk off of it in just few minutes I pulled the harness over my body and locked it in place and then just held on. The ride happened and I walked away...elated (and dizzy).


The rollercoaster took off and I held on for the ride. It started months ago when I realized during a choir practice that we were starting to practice for some "Christmas thing". Christmas was "months" away, I just sang along. As the months turned to weeks, I realized that it was coming.


I have been flooded with waves of emotion. One moment confident that this is where God has led me and I need to follow him without hesitation. The next moment weighed down by doubt, remembering all those years that we looked down our noses at those that put so much effort into celebrating Christ's birth when his whole life and existence was about his death! What am I doing?!? The next moment being moved to tears by the music and words of the songs I am singing. The next moment thinking about all those people that have been so much a part of my life for so long and how they would look at me now, standing here making such a big deal about Christ's birth...joining in with the rest of the world.

What brought it home for me was a song we sang this weekend called "Unto Me". It's an adaptation of a traditional Christmas song, but it brings in the chorus of the song "Blessed Assurance" and takes the message of Christ's birth and makes it mine, proclaiming
"...this is my story, this is my song...praising my savior, all my life long".
The demons and baggage from my past are clinging on to me like an old dryer sheet hangs on to your clothes in the winter time. I'm going to shake it, but I'm still working on it.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

1 Corinthians 10:23

"Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive.

My "poor man's version" of this passage is "Just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you SHOULD do it." I know there is a lot more to this passage and that I am pulling it out all by itself, but I think it's a good "life saying". Basically, use your common sense and THINK before you act. That's a tough one for me.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Amazed, and brought to my knees...again

When will I ever learn? I'm starting to wonder how God will ever mold me when I'm filled with concrete...

I want to share this story, but I'm going to be vague with the details because it's just plain embarrassing.

OK, so I'm in deep again. I have worked myself into a situation that I just don't have any answers for and I know I'm running out of time. The weight of this is about to break me. Yesterday I was walking around in a fog, it was all I could do to go on with the the busy Sunday in front of me without falling down and losing it. My mind was very occupied with this problem. All day, I was praying to God, but often my heart was not in it because I felt I have disappointed him again...why should he help me out AGAIN? But, I pitifully asked again and again.

Yesterday afternoon I had a 3 hour practice for the upcoming Christmas concert at my new Church. I welcomed the opportunity to try to forget this and get it of my mind for a bit. However, during the practice my mind would occasionally wander back into the pit and my spirits would descend....

A couple hours into the practice I had to be out in the pews waiting for something on stage and my mind wandered again...actually it just collapsed and so did I into a pew and just laid down for a bit trying to squelch this depression. I went to God again, "I'm out of options, I need you to figure this out for me...please". I was just laying there and on my phone I get a text message from my wife, three words... "[they] just called". The very people I was trying to forget about for one day just called! Now what? They called on Sunday...this can't be good.

I was wrong...again.

When the practice was over I called my wife and she gave me the number and the name to call. I called. The man that answers tells me that he has some options for me and the he wants to help me through this....

As I'm driving, I just about pulled off the road as I told him that he was my new "hero". I have since talked to this new "hero" a couple times and we are going to work this out and I believe things will be much better than before.

He did it again. Why do I doubt? Why do I allow myself to get all worked up and allow it to negatively affect my life? HE IS ALWAYS IN CONTROL!

"But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift
up my head. To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy
hill...I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me."

Psalms 3:3-5

Lord, forgive me for being stupid and not trusting in you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Leap of Faith...

Remember in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" when Indiana had to just step out into nothing? I remember the first time I saw that on the big screen. I was still deep into my fear of heights (which I have since come a long way with) and just watching him do that made my skin crawl and my hands sweat. He knew what he had to do, he knew that something good was going to happen, he knew that it was the right thing to do...but that didn't make it easy on him.

Imagine that moment just after he made the decision to actually do it, he was falling and there was no looking back. That instant when he was too far to step back and not yet on solid ground.

I know God has a plan for me. I know that he wants to use me for his service and that my life is a constant build up to better things in his service. Bad things happen, but He uses them to steel me into a stronger instrument for His use. Good things happen and they come from Him to charge my batteries and remind me of how awesome He is.

Either way, I want to follow him, wherever it takes me.

Just saying that sends chills up my spine...makes my skin crawl and my hands sweat. I have never had this feeling before. Following God has always been, in a word...safe. It's been the one thing that brought normalcy into my life, the thing that made me...stable. Now, things just feel different...and I have never felt more alive.

Let me see, has this happened before? I know that there were some fishermen that were going about their lives as good, God-loving men that probably never imagined that their lives were about to take a dramatic change in course. They were mere men, simple men, not spiritual giants...far from it, but God had a plan for them. I can only imagine that he had been secretly preparing them for this all their lives. He guided them to be who they were and put them in the right place at the right time.

When Indiana touched the solid ground of the invisible bridge his heart must have skipped a beat. My foot is free falling, I'm not looking back and I can't wait to make this step.

I know God is there and I have never felt more alive.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, November 21, 2005

"Rolling Boil"

Have you ever watched a pot of water boil? If you are going to, leave it for a little bit until it starts because it never will while you are watching.

What looks like a swirling bowl of chaos is really a collection of water molecules just doing what comes naturally. The surface of the boiling pot is a center of activity, constantly moving and in a state of constant change. If you stare at it long enough, you might notice that it looks completely different from one moment to the next.

The reason it keeps changing is a continuing stream of new molecules reaching the point at which they turn into gas and then coming to the surface. It's interesting that they don't all turn into gas at the same time (that would be called an explosion, the opposite of that would be stagnation). The chaos below turns into a fluid movement on the surface.

The surface is not where all of the work is done, but it is where the work is exposed. Millions of tiny molecules turning heating up and then rising to the surface to cause a consistent bubbling effect.

This occurred to me while I was sitting in the auditorium at church Sunday waiting for the service to start. Where I am now, each service seems so different, yet they all have an energy to them. One of the reasons that this energy is so consistent is that it's just the surface of work that is constantly re-energizing itself. If there was only one group that did everything, then you would see ebb and flow, up and down. Sometimes the energy level would be high when some effort was coming to it's fruition, other times the energy level would be low because they were regrouping. You see...One small set of people cannot keep on feeding the energy of an entire congregation without rejuvenation.

Another interesting aspect of this is that if you like something that you are experiencing or participating in now then don't get to attached to it because it will change, on the other hand if you are not crazy about it then it don't sweat it because it too will pass. Either way you look at it, the energy level is almost always high and the passion is strong. Also, we get to constantly push ourselves to try new things, open our minds and let God take us places that we didn't know about.

Just like a rolling boil on the stove, it just keeps coming. Pretty cool.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

"Sometimes a Rose is just a Rose"

Sometimes a Rose is just a Rose.

So, I'm listening to Relient K, my son loves them and I'm just starting to experience them. I run across this song called "I'm Lion-O" and I instantly love it. It has great energy, a really cool hook and awesome harmonies.

Now Relient K is some sort of Christian Rock group so I immediately think "what a great song, maybe it will give me some inspiration for a devotional or lesson". OK, it talks about a Lion, so the first thing I think about is David and I go from there. My mind takes off with it and I start thinking of themes...however. What is this part about the "Thundercats"? I have never heard about such a thing in the Bible. I start to do some research. I "Google" the song and find the answer very quickly.

This song is about a cartoon called the Thundercats (I thought it sounded familiar) and it is just for fun. One of the Thundercats is "Lion-O". It's that simple. Pretty cool...I still can't stop listening to it.

Sometimes a Rose is just a Rose...er...a cat is just a cat.

Friday, November 11, 2005

"Big Bang"...Revisited

Don't look in my previous posts for another "Big Bang" entry; there isn't one. When I was in college (a Christian College) I wrote a term paper for a Christian Evidences class about the "Big Bang Theory".

My theory about the "Big Bang Theory" was that it is a plausible, human description of what God did to create this thing we call the universe. Although I received a decent grade because of the work I had done, my teacher had some things to say about my "theory". I don't remember what the teacher said, but he was not convinced. Either was my father-in-law when I shared it with him.

Now, years later (OK, many years later) on reflection, I had it right, even though I'm sure that I would state the case differently now.

Think about it, you have a bunch of scientific types observing all things that are observable in the universe and trying to figure out how it all happened. They choose to only believe what they can see, hear, taste, touch or measure. What other conclusion can they come up with? The evidence is right in front of their faces and they need not look any further.

As a Christian it's obvious to me and I need not look any further than
Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."
However, my feeble, human mind cannot comprehend how God can do that so I have to picture something. What the scientists miss is that MAYBE what God did may look like a "Big Bang", but he did it just the same and he spoke the universe into existence.

Maybe that's why it's still just a theory...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

"...something completely different..." One

OK, so I watched just about the entire USC - Notre Dame game. Neither are favorites of mine, but I consider a Notre Dame a "real" college footbal team, from real college football country, with real college football history and real college football fans and fight songs, etc...

I really wanted USC to lose...bad. Why? Because I want everyone else to understand what I have known for my whole life, it's easy to roll over everyone you play when you only have 1 or 2 big games a year. I'm sorry, but because you obliterate Hawaii 63-17 means nothing, zip...zilch, same with Arizona, Arizona State, Washington State, Stanford (should I keep going?). What a joke. Big woop.

Try being a typical Big Ten team (just pick one) and try going undefeated with the best team...you have at least 6 big games a year, maybe more. Every road game is war, win a few and even your home games are madness. Everyone wants to win at the Big House, at the Shoe, at Camp Randall, every rivalry is covered in mines, just waiting to be triggered no matter if the rival is 8-1 or 2-6.

Anyway, what a cheap win, the game was over and then it wasn't. I am no football expert, but a big footbal fan but I was literally standing in my living room screaming "Don't fall for it, they are going for it!". I was right. USC couldn't imagine the idea of losing in overtime or even playing an overtime game. They want to dominate or nothing. That's why they play 8 or 9 gimmies a year.

Then we got to listen to "surfer boy" talk about "not knowing how to lose"... When you play more than one or two great teams in one year and win we'll talk.

This concludes "something completely different".

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Full Circle

There have been a number of times in my life when I have thought to myself (sometimes out loud), "how did I end up here?!". One of those times was back in 1991 when I ended up in North Carolina after living my whole life in the midwest.

I found myself wondering the same thing the other night as I was practicing with the choir at my new Church, for the upcoming Christmas performance!!!


This same guy that 14 years ago would (and DID) walk out of worship service (with family in tow) because the song leader DARED to lead a song about Christ's birth during the holiday season. It's amazing how God molds us and shapes us, how he opens and closes doors and guides us where he wants us to go. I feel blessed that he has a plan for me and I am excited about it.

That doesn't mean that it doesn't scare me sometimes, as I look around and realize that I'm in unfamiliar territory.

Monday, September 26, 2005

"State of the Onion"

OK, a few days ago I had my first "encounter" with a family member that actually had the guts to confront me about the decisions I am making... It only ended because I stopped it. Maybe more on that later...

Afterward I started thinking and I talked through where I am in my thoughts.

I still believe that A Cappella music in worship is the best way, that has not changed. For me, it's less complicated and "purer". With A Cappella singing it is HARDER to get distracted (not impossible by any stretch) and more compulsive to participate...for me.

What has changed (the change started at least 12 years ago) is my understanding of the implications of instrumental music in worship. A Cappella singing is not explicitly commanded in the New Testament and worshipping in song with instrumental accompaniment is not rebuked or condemned. Whether or not we practice A Cappella singing or singing with instruments does not have salvation implications. Even if you could make an argument that the Bible implies that it is the best way, it does not condemn it (no more than it condemns someone for being paid to minister, even though it strongly implies it).

Given that it is not condemned or commanded, it is a preference...a choice. For the purpose of looking at a particular Church family to decide if you want to work with them long-term it now stands among other properties of a Church-body like:
  • Does it have a prison ministry?
  • Does it have a Youth Minister?
  • Does it have a dynamic preacher?
  • Does it have a strong senior's group?
  • Are they committed to foreign ministries?
  • Are there enough people there from your peer-group?

These are just a few examples, but you get the point. Some of these things will be more important to one person than the next. One person may not be very concerned that a congregation does not have a prison ministry, however another may be very excited about that fact that one does (maybe that person has a family member in prison). In any event, one or two of these things may not make a big impact on your decision to attend a Church body or not. However, if you add them all up, their sum makes a big impact.

The Church that I am attending now has so much going for it that it just makes sense to go, I want to be there, I want to be involved. Do I occasionally get uncomfortable about something that I see or experience? Yes. But that is no reason to dismiss it as wrong, inappropriate or unworthy worship! (see "We're not in Kansas anymore") I once wrote a lengthy letter to the elders of the congregation that I was going to a few years ago and in it a begged to "squirm in my seat", I want to be challenged and continually let God mold me into a tool for his use.

Throughout my entire life there were many times when something happened during worship or otherwise that I did not care for or flat out did not like. Some examples are (15 minute long rambling prayers, negative sermons made to make non-Christians and people of other faiths feel stupid, song services that feel like death marches, unorganized worship services, cold and unfriendly people...) I can now only assume that this happens everywhere, and that is just the point. There is no such church as as the one made just for me, wherever I go, there will be some compromise.

I have come to the conclusion that this is a complicated issue for some and a non-issue for others. For me, I am pushing it off to the side for more important matters - there are plenty.

(Thanks to a friend that reminded me that I need to watch my words...)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Just one step...

And the LORD said to Joshua, "Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes
of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. Tell
the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: 'When you reach the edge of the
Jordan's waters, go and stand in the river.' "
Joshua 3:7,8

This was a different command than the one God had given Moses some 40 years earlier. Joshua and the Isrealites just new they were to go to the river and stand there, they didn't know what to expect. Now, even though it had been 40 years since the last time God had asked them to cross a river in a dramatic fashion, they remembered... History reminded them of how powerful God is, there were chariots at the bottom of the Red Sea to prove it. Even though they didn't know what to expect, they obeyed...through faith.

This is very difficult, in fact, the Isrealites "missed the boat" here many times. They had to be reminded of God's power and influence in their lives constantly. But this time they remembered!

We have to do the same thing. As I have said before, I am tired of being around leaders that constantly question God's power and influence by their inactivity (they would never do so out loud!). How many times has God given so much more than we ever imagined or expected? How much has he blessed us as a country, as individuals and as a Church? Time after time, he has provided when we need it, often in an extraordinary manner. Yet we are not willing to walk down to the river and stand in the water and anticipate his power!

Church leaders talk about faith, yet they are immobilized by fear, even when time after time, God has provided when we needed it. It is refreshing to see leaders that have not stepped into concrete and waited for it to harden, but stepped into the water of the Jordan river anticipating God's awesome power.

So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water's edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground. Joshua 3:14-17

Monday, September 12, 2005


Ok, so my arm as been numb, tingling and in pain. I always said that I thought it would eventually "wake up", the pain would subside and it would start to function normally.

Lately, I feel my strength being renewed. It's a wonderful feeling...exciting. My challenge is not to overdo it. When dealing with renewed strength, I think some restraint is in order, but not too much. I feel like a football player in those first few plays after a long time off from an injury. It's very exciting and I really want to get back in the game, but I need to test out the feeling first...

Monday, August 22, 2005

OK, maybe I am slow...

...but something just occurred to me.

Most of my life, I have been a Christian and I have attended a Church of Christ. An unwritten guideline in the mainstream Church of Christ has been something like this...

One of the main purposes for bible study with those outside of the
Church of Christ is to ultimately "convert" them to be a part of the Church of Christ.

As a "Church of Christ-lifer", this made sense. We had it right, so this was right and good. Even though this was an unspoken guideline, there was a logical conclusion that most members made from this.

A bible study with someone outside the Church of Christ that did not have as a goal to "convert" the subject(s) or one where you knew the subject(s) were not open to the idea was a waste of time and even dangerous.

I bought into this! Probably one reason is that it was easy to do so. To open my mind and subject my own faith to scrutiny was dangerous and "...who knows what might happen?". My whole life, I have been afraid to open the Bible with others that are searching for the truth just like I am, all the while being "spoon-fed" my faith from the pulpit.

Maybe I am slow, and I just got this, but atleast I got it.

I pray that I will act on it.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Am I an "Evangelical Christian"?

I don't know where the term "Evangelical Christian" came from, but it's pretty weird. Similar terms:
"Artistic Painter"
"Logical Mathmatician"
"Explosive Bomb"
"Athletic Football Player"
"Corrosive Acid"
"Musical Guitarist"

I think it's one of those terms that must have been conjured up by someone that is NOT a Christian. Tell me, have you ever known of a professional football player that you would not have considered an athlete? Every football player would consider themselves an athlete...why, because they are, by definition. The term "football player" assumes athleticism (among other things).

In the same way, a real Christian is also evangelistic. It is in our "contract", it's part of our agreement, it's part of who we are. The term "Christian" assumes evangelism (among other things). God commanded it and requires it of us. See my previous post about the Great Commission.

I guess people use it as a derogatory term. If you do, go right ahead and keep calling me an "Evengelical Christian" I can take it, in fact, I'll consider it a compliment...thanks!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Essentials VIII - Minister to those in need

We, as Christians, individuals and collectively must minister to those in need locally and abroad.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Essentials VII - Worship

Christians participate in true worship to God

This may seem overly simplistic, but it's very important. For years, I have been struggling in our worship services trying to figure out what we are really doing. Our worship services should be a time where we as individuals and as a group of Christians communicate with God, praise him and acknowledge all that he is. For too long, I have watched stifled praise, scripted and rote prayers, worship services that feel more like funerals (and songs that work better as dirges) and worship services that have a severe disconnect between those that lead them and the rest of us. We sing, pray and perform the Lord's Supper all in preparation for the lesson. The center of the service, the meat of the day, what we all came to see. Participation in services is not only NOT encouraged, it is practically discouraged.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Essentials VI - Elders

The body is lead by a group of forward-thinking, spirit-filled men of prayer and character that foster personal and collective growth.

1 Timothy 3:1-7
"Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an
overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the
husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable,
able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not
quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see
that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to
manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not be a
recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will
not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap."

The elders of the first century were pioneers, they were men that were not afraid to walk in faith. They were imperfect, God-seeking, prayerful men. Too long, I have watched elders speak of faith, yet afraid to practice it.

Essentials V - "The Great Commission" (Outreach)

We, as Christians, have a duty to reach out to the lost of this world and share the message of Christ with them where they are and however we can.

Mark 1615,16
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all
creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not
believe will be condemned."
1 Timothy 4:2
"Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke
and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction."
Read John 4 and the account of Jesus ministering to the woman at the well. This is one of my favorite accounts in the Bible. It's a model of how we should minister to those around us. This may not seem like a big deal to us, but it HUGE! Just read it...

Essentials IV - The Bible

The Bible is the word of God recorded through inspired men and is infallible and incontrovertible.

2 Timothy 3:14-17

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Essentials III - The Lord's Supper

We are commanded to remember the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on the first day of the week by participating in the Lord's Supper.

Acts 2:42

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."

1 Corinthians 10:16,17 "

"Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf."

Mark 14:22-24

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many..."

Essentials II - Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ is God's son, whom he sent to this earth do die for our sins. He set aside the old law and introduced a new covenant.

This is another easy one, for me. This is the message we have to get to the world. God loved us so much that he sent his own son down from heaven and put him to death on a cross so that we could be saved!

Matthew 3:16,17 states "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." God spoke these words immediately after Christ was baptized.

1 Peter 2:24,25
"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to
sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you
were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and
Overseer of your souls."
1 John 2:1,2

"...we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the
Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours
but also for the sins of the whole world. "

2 Corinthians 3:7-18

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! 0For 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. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 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[a] the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Essentials I - Baptism

Baptism for remission of sins by immersion is required for salvation.

For me, this one is a "no-brainer" and right at the top of the list. The New Testament is full of references to baptisms and tells us that we must be baptized to be saved. There is no getting around it and no getting into heaven without it. (Please, spare me the wild, extreme "what if's" that seem to come after a statement such as this).

Let's start with Mark 16:16
"Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not
believe will be condemned."
After Peter preached to the multitude at Pentecost in Acts 2, Acts 2:37-39 tells us that the people there asked "what shall we do?" and the answer was clear "Repent and be baptized". Paul went on to say that this was for "...you and your children and for all who are far off..." telling US that this commandment was for us.

Some might use the passage about Paul and Silas in prison in Acts to prove otherwise. Acts 16:29-34 asks the question "what must I do to be saved?" Paul says, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved", but what happens next? "...then immediately he and all his family were baptized..." Paul took them at that "late hour" and baptized them, they were baptized as part of their step toward salvation.

Enough said here, this is really basic. God requires us to be baptized, to die to our old self and come up new.


A WORK IN PROGRESS... I will be updating this list as I am studying.

OK, so my wife and I are "testing the waters" by visting a Christian Church. Decidedly, this is not the same as looking for a different Church of Christ congregation. When looking for another congregation we can assume some basics about a congregation. Some "common ground" consistent with other Churches of Christ. The other stuff we have looked for were things that (for the most part) were "nice to have".

Looking at a different Church as made us examine this in a whole different way. We have to start from the beginning. We have made a list of the things a that are "essential" and why. This is an "exercise" that we have not had to go through before, but I believe it will be very rewarding. In this series, I will document this list.

Should be interesting...


Monday, July 18, 2005

Reinvention II

What do you do when you realize you are at a cross road of your life and you know which way you need to go, but it's different than what you would have done before, different than your parents, different than (many of) your friends, different than the teaching of a hundred preachers you have listened to in 10,000 sermons...

...and you finally feel peace...

...you finally feel confident and more sure about your direction than in the hundreds of cross roads before it...

What do you do?

You take the first step and grasp God's hand like a child holding on to daddy's hand while taking those first steps, like you felt when mommy was pushing you on your bike for that first time...

You hang on and take the first step, looking forward, knowing that God is holding right back. You feel his warm, strong, secure hand and you know that he knows EXACTLY where he is going and that he will not let you go the wrong way. Just like your dad, expertly moving through a crowd holding your hand, leading you through what seems to you as utter chaos to the right place. As long as you hold on to his hand.

The questions from friends and family will come later, but you already know the answers...


Sunday, June 05, 2005

Full Circle

So, the other day I'm in the theater and "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith" is starting on the screen. The big "Star Wars" comes on the screen and the text is moving up the screen setting up the story...and I get goose bumps...

But, not necessarily for the reason that George Lucas had in mind. You see, it was then that it hit me that 29 years ago, I watched the same opening for the first time as a 13-year-old. It was amazing then and it was amazing now...because sitting next to me was my 9-year-old son and my 16-year-old son. Wow...

As the movie went on and all of these "loose ends" kept on tying themselves up in my head (like, how Leah ended up in the middle of the Rebels and how Anakin ended up in a big, black suit) I kept thinking that the movie and my Star Wars experience has come full circle. I started it alone as a very young and overwhelmed teenager and ended up a 42-year-old father of two boys. The last experience was just as cool (or more so) than the first.

Full Circle.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Suddenly, skydiving doesn't seem so scary...

I'm almost 42 years old and I have done a lot of things in my life. Over the past few years I have even pressed the percieved bounds of my own inhibitions to try some pretty cool stuff. Besides whitewater rafting (which I didn't blink an eye at), I have (seemingly) shaken my fear of flying and heights are no longer the terrifying to me and I now love rollercoasters.

Now I have another life experience to contemplate as I grow older. Another thing that as I was doing it I wonder if I was going to die.

It seemed simple enough, my son and some friends wanted to go see "Three Days Grace" in concert at the Speed Street 600 Festival in downtown Charlotte. I like their music and thought it would be fun. It was, but I had no idea...

It wasn't until we actually arrived at the stage area and we started to make our way towards the stage that the first "pangs" of wonder started to appear in my head. The kids wanted to get close to the stage while the act before Three Days Grace was playing, so we started that way. We ended up about 15 feet away from the stage...CENTER stage. I really started to wonder when my son said to me "we may not be able to stay here". Huh?

What I saw all around me for the next 2 1/2 hours was hard to believe. I knew about this stuff, but never thought I would actually see it up close. I'm honestly shocked that no one was killed or severly injured. When you "surf" the easy part is getting up and getting passed around (I didn't DO this but saw a lot of it) it's when you fall...about 7 feet straight down, usually on your head.

When the band started playing and the crowd behind us started surging (actually, shoving) their way forward I thought we would be crushed. Luckily, between me and few other big guys we held them back long enough for them to loose interest in it.

I've been to a lot of concerts, but this is REALLY loud. It was still fun, very exhilarating and a bit scary at moments. In the end I was soaked in sweat and my ears were ringing for about two days. But I was glad that I went.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Our friend, Greg, has told us for months about this thing called "Contra Dancing" and said that he needed to get us to one. Last night we relinquished. I'm glad we did.

OK, I was decidedly tentative about it. I kept asking him how it was different than square dancing (Bluegrass and country music come last on my list of music types right behind opera and ganster rap). However, I've never square danced, either, so I really had no reference point.

Minutes after we got there, they gave a quick workshop for all of first timers (there were more than a few). A few minutes later the band was playing and we were dancing. What a blast!

It was challenging, fun, playful, and social. It makes you dizzy and makes you sweat like crazy. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to explain what it is, you have to see it.

Best of all, it brought my wife and I close together for the evening, laughing and collapsing on each other at the end of each dance so that we wouldn't fall over (from being tired and dizzy).

Fun, fun, fun!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Lightbulb! (or "Church of Christ Glasses")

In cartoons, when someone has an idea they get a lightbulb over their head shining with inspiration or revelation. That happened to me Sunday morning during Bible class...I just wish I could say that it was inspiration that prompted the light.

In this case, it was revelation...

The teacher (which happens to be one of our evangelists) was leading us in a study of 1 Timothy 2:9-15.

"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.

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. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
He read the scripture and then asked for comments. A man behind me said something to the effect of; women were new at this. They had not been able to participate in worship and Paul was instructing them on how to conduct themselves as they did it. I added that Paul, throughout his ministry, was a major advocate of freeing women of spirtual bondage. I also added that women of that time could be married or sell themselves, those were their options. They were not allowed to even speak to men in public. Women, unlike men, did not have experience in public worship, Paul was telling women the same thing that men of that time already knew.

The teacher quickly, (and politely) told me he did not agree with me. He re-read the scripture and just stated that women were supposed to be silent in public worship. He even agreed that the Bible tells us that women prayed and prophesied in the name of the Lord, but that this passage tells them to be quiet in worship.

At this point, if I were a cartoon character, the lightbulb would have appeared over my head.

All of my life, I have used the Bible to prove what I have been taught at Church. Whenever I opened it up I corrupted God's message by reading it through "Church of Christ Glasses". If I could read a passage and prove something that someone had told me in Bible Class or at Church then it must be true! The teacher was just doing the same thing. I shouldn't be upset (even though I was a little) or mad, but try to help him by influencing him over time. I was were he was for a long time.

It comes from years of practice and has been honed to a perfectly tuned machine.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Hump Day...

"Hump Day" is bittersweet. It's the middle of the week and it's either half over or there's half left, depending on your mood or the week. As a Church of Christ "lifer" (that's not a great term, but descriptive nonetheless) I am used to going to Bible Study on Wednesday evenings.

Now, in the bible, you won't find any reference to Wednesday evening Bible Studies. However, in Acts 2:46, we read that "Every day they [the early Christians] continued to meet together in the temple courts." Wednesday night Bible Studies have always been an opportunity to get a charge during the week to prepare yourself the rest of it.

However, over the last 5 years or so, I have come to just about dread them.

Why? There are a number of reasons, but it comes down to the fact that they just don't charge me up anymore.

To start with, just about every congregation I have been to attempts some sort of "devotional" before or after the Bible classes. This sounds like a good idea, but it ends up being so devoid of emotion and praise that it's depressing and embarassing. Everything is by rote and our minds are no where near where they should be. We walk through these cursory devotionals like zombies.

Inevitably, there is some diatribe of announcements and prayer requests. The really interesting part of this habit is that the people that attend on Wednesdays, are typically the "core members" (those that you see the most and try to be at the building when the "doors are open"). They already know 95% of these announcements because they are up to their necks in these events. We are "preaching to the choir", so these announcements become even more repetitive and boring than normal.

When we finally get to class, the problems are just starting.

The participants (especially kids and teenagers) are so distracted and tired that studying anything with the slightest bit of meat in it is frustrating at best. When I was teaching middle-schoolers I used to ask them for "20 minutes". What that meant is that I only expected 20 minutes of their attention, more than that was just not going to happen. I stopped trying to prepare lessons with any level of complication, they just couldn't (or wouldn't) handle it.

Even if you have a group of people that really want to study and dig into God's word, you get about 30 good minutes, by the time everyone has entered the classroom and is good and ready to get started. There are almost always more announcements and then chit-chatting and more prayer requests and then...

Lately, I have had to just about drag myself to Wednesday Bible study.

I wonder if we should just make it a social event with a decent devotional. Atleast, people could do what they really want to do (talk and relax) and we could come away refreshed and ready for the rest of the week...what an idea!

Friday, February 11, 2005

Amazed, Stunned, Awe-struck

I believe in the power of prayer, just when I start to forget why, God reminds me of his awesome power, understanding and love.

Lately, I have had to travel quite a bit, which is unusual for me. In some ways it has been good for me, but in many other ways it has complicated my life. Over the last few weeks I have been working on a "travel schedule" so that everyone at work knows when to expect me and, more importantly, my family will know when I'll be out of town.

After I was done, the schedule looked tight...very tight. I had to squeeze all that I could out of it and still in the end I felt guilty that I would not be at the client location enough and more importantly that I would be away from home more than I wanted to be.

To make matters worse...

This week, the client that I am working with just won two large accounts that will more than double their workload. This fired off alarms in my head. How am I going to squeeze some more time away from home when I'm already gone enough?!? I had reserved myself to the ominous reality that I would have to revise my schedule again to spend more time away from home, but how?

Last night on the plane I spent some extra time praying to God before the flight took off (I always pray before each takeoff). Among my normal pleadings for a good flight and to take care of Stacy and the boys I asked God to show me what to do. Not just guide me in the right direction, but to pick me up and carry me to my next destination to take my hand and drag me so that I could make all of this work. I told him that I didn't have any good answers.

He did.

Today, due to a "knee jerk reaction" from someone some levels above my head here at work, my scheduled travel was terminated. Just like that. There are some stupid reasons behind it and someone really isn't thinking. It was really a fluke, a vice-president saw me up there a few days ago and thought that my time would be better spent down here.

At first this made me quite angry. But, after I had some time to cool down and while I was driving to lunch, it hit me in the face...

I asked for this! I ASKED FOR THIS! How on earth could I have forgotten so quickly?...I asked for this!

I asked God to grab my hand and get me out of this...and that is exactly what he did. There is no other explanation for it. He listened to my cry and he reached down and snatched me out of the situation I had ended up in.

I stand here completely and utterly amazed, stunned and awe-struck...once again.

Jonah 2:1,5-7

"In my distress I called to the LORD ,
and he answered me.
From the depths of the grave I called for help,
and you listened to my cry...

The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.

To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you brought my life up from the pit,
O LORD my God.

When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, LORD ,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple. "

Monday, January 31, 2005

"Something to Someone"

We all want to be “someone”, to stand out in a crowd and make our mothers proud. However, it doesn’t always work out that way. We get lost in a sea of humanity and become just another person, a number. We look around at celebrities, movie stars, and professional athletes and we have a hard time measuring up. Even ones we love hurt us and make us feel bad or use our weaknesses against us.

We just want to be something to someone, as we age, we look back and wonder what happened to all of our dreams and aspirations and we get frustrated. We want to leave our mark on the world and for people to remember us when we are gone.

We are someone to Christ, he loves us unconditionally and completely. He loved us before we were born, before our parents were born, he loved us enough to give up everything precious to him, most importantly being with his father. He loved us first and he will be there when it’s all over, HE will remember us when we leave this place and HE will stand side by side with us at the judgment and speak for us.

Phillipians 2:6 – “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…”

Romans 5:7 – “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Friday, January 21, 2005

Learning to Fly - Part 2...Transitions

As I was flying just last night (again) I was reading. It has become easier to read (and rest) as I get more and more used to flying. When I first started this adventure even reading a magazine was difficult, not only was it hard to concentrate on any thing that was written, but my hands would get the pages wet.

In the last couple of flights, I have found that I can actually read pretty well (and fast) on the plane - it seems to calm my nerves and distract my mind from wandering and going somewhere irrational. Last night I was reading "Ten Lies the Church Tells Women" by J. Lee Grady (a book that I hope to "review" here soon - I wasn't overly impressed) and as I was reading about a great number of women that have been terribly mistreated through time because they exerted themselves and their ideas something occured to me...as I remembered that I was flying.

Something that I have noticed about flying is that things are most unpredictable and stressful during periods of transition. Obviously, take-offs and landings are periods of extreme transition. During take-off, a huge, heavy (I wonder how heavy?) plane is being coaxed into going from sitting on a runway to flying in the air at high speeds.

Landing is equally stressful. Now you have to get a huge, heavy plane to SLOW DOWN and land without hurting anyone (can you say "controlled fall"?). I have also noticed that you can pretty much count on some sort of bumping or turbulence when entering and/or exiting clouds or when going over mountains or when the pilot is trying to slow the plane down for landing (nicely, a plane is made for flying smoothly at high speed, not so much for flying slow with flaps open and landing gear down). Sometimes the pilot turns the plane while doing one or more of the above which is when things can get really interesting.

It occurs to me that transitions during flight...and life...are difficult, stressful, taxing - but can be ultimately fulfilling. The book I was reading told of women that had been tortured for doing things we take for granted today. Things like just stating that they may not agree with someone in authority or even for things they had no control over. Over time we have worked through transitions that have made huge impacts over large portions of our world and there have been others that only affect a few, but they all seem to have an accumulative effect. However, we still don't learn from the past.

Transition still seems to be painful, maybe that's just our nature. We like things the way they are and changing them makes us uncomfortable.

Did I use that word? Change? I guess I did.

Friday, January 14, 2005

A VERY Thoughtful Present

Do you know what Myrrh is? All my life, I have been told that it was an expensive perfume. While studying this week I learned that it IS a perfume...for the dead.

Myrrh is a bitter, gum-based substance with a very strong odor, typically used in embalming the dead to slow putrefaction. Yes, Myrrh is a precious substance that was kept for long periods of time and most likely traded for other things, but it's primary use was for the dead.

Why then would a Magi, traveling many miles, bring Myrrh as a gift to BABY Jesus? Gold makes sense, gold was a very common gift, especially to Kings. It would make sense to bring gold to Jesus to recognize his "sovereigness". Frankincense also makes sense - it was a very valuable fragrance and it addresses Jesus as our High Priest.

But an embalming agent?

Wouldn't it make more sense to bring a child something he could use like some type of farm animal there are many uses for these animals when a baby is around (milk, food, clothing). Maybe silver or some instrument created abroad (these men came from far away). Why bring a baby something he didn't seem to need?

Myrrh recognizes Christ's eventual suffering and death on the cross. Christ has identified with us in our pain and sorrow and the Myrrh that covers up our eventual decay makes a perfect symbol of the sin-covering love we get from our Lord and Savior. The bible doesn't tell us if the Magi were lead or influenced by God when they chose their gifts, but you would have a hard time convincing me otherwise...
"...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