Tuesday, July 31, 2007


More good ideas taken to an extreme...

It is popular in some circles to make fun of the church of Christ. Usually this is done by "our people", preachers or those raised in the church. You would almost think that we never have done anything right. But we have. One of our great contributions to the religious world has been our strong position on baptism. We have been right to emphasize it as a response to Jesus. It is Biblical and it is clear. It is an act of love, it is a statement of commitment, it is to die with Christ and be resurrected to new life. It is when our sins our forgiven and when we receive the Holy Spirit. It is where we claim God's amazing and wonderful grace.

But I have been worried lately about how we may be taking it to an extreme. Christians want their children to become Christians. Because we believe in baptism, we look forward to the day our children make that decision. Sometimes we so want it to happen that we take a good thing to a wrong extreme. We sometimes emphasize the response to the gospel without really communicating the gospel. So we baptize 90% of our kids and less than half of them stay faithful.

I worry about the trend lately to baptize children at a younger and younger age. Just because they love Jesus does not mean they are ready to become a Christian. When they cannot sit still in worship, when they have no real concept of sin and forgiveness, when they cannot even process the idea of dying with Jesus... then I am not sure they are ready to be crucified. Do we really think 6 and 7 year olds are in danger of being lost? Is our grasp of grace and salvation so narrow that we are afraid our little ones are not secure? Are we truly so legalistic that we are in a panic until they are immersed?

Why not just baptize all of our babies in the delivery room? Of course, if you still think baptism is for forgiveness of sins you will have to develop a theology of original sin. Oh wait, I think that already happened in church history. Baptism is for believers ready to die with Jesus.

And yes, we will all learn more and more about what this death to life means as we mature as Christians. I understand it so much more now than I used to...and I will understand it even more in the future.

But let's at least let our babies grow up enough to process some of this.

Your thoughts are welcome.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Taking things to the extreme...

It is amazing to me how many bad things evolve out of good intentions. You know what I mean. Have you ever started on a remodeling project and ended up in a mess, over budget, and ready for divorce? How about a desire to lose weight that descends into bulimia? We do it in church also. Have you ever wondered why we fight so much about doctrine and the meaning of various passages?

I think it is because we care so much about what God says. After all, why fight about something that doesn't matter. But if you have a real conviction that the Bible is the word of God, you are going to be more intense about what it says. You don't see debates over God's Word in churches that do not place high value on Scripture.

But that view can push doctrines to the extreme. When I was young I remember a group of preachers who vehemently argued that the Holy Spirit worked only thru the word, the Bible. Talk about extreme (and not consistent with Scripture). It was, however, a view rooted in the importance of Scripture.

I have a high view of Scripture. I believe it is the Word of God. So sometimes I get pretty intense talking about what it says and/or means. I appreciate my church heritage that put such emphasis on knowing the Word of God. I hope my kids and grandkids keep that same appreciation.

I just don't want to take a good, healthy commitment to such an extreme that I let the Bible become the Word of God as correctly interpreted by Steve (or any preacher that agrees with Steve). I want to be clear where it is clear, open to study and discussion where it is not so clear, and have wisdom to know the difference.

Friday, July 20, 2007


What a great day...

Wednesday was one of the greatest days of my life. Avery Grace Gilbreth arrived at 9:35 that morning. Julie came thru in good shape, Bobby did well, and Avery Grace is beautiful. She is tiny (7 lbs., 10 oz. and 21 inches long, but compared to Jake that is tiny) and absolutly perfect in every way. God just continues to pour blessings down of us. Mimi and Pops have been keeping Jake. Lots of fun.

Right after the birth, I went to conduct the funeral of Bob Oetting. Some people think that is going from joy to sorrow, but they don't get it. Bob was a believer. His funeral was a celebration. He was born again almost 40 years ago so we were celebrating his life. Sure his family will miss him, but they will see him again.

I did the funeral with Phil Ware, one of my best friends. In fact, he had my notes with him in case I couldn't leave the hospital. Some think that is odd, leaving your notes with another preacher. Phil and I are close enough, he probably didn't need my notes. And we have filled in this way before. Nice to have a "just in case" preaching buddy.

Then that night, I got to baptize Travis McClure into Christ. Another birth. Some things had happened in his life to make him seek Jesus and we have been studying for a few weeks. He'll live forever too.

And the cycle goes on. Julie and Bobby will teach Avery faith, and someday she'll join the rest of her earthly family in the family of God and we will all live together forever. With Bob and Travis and others yet to be born.

What a great day.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


The devil has a plan...

I am becoming more and more convinced that Satan is a master strategist. It is not just that he wants us to sin, but I think he takes advantage of the timing of our sin. For example, he will always increase his attacks on God's leaders when great things are happening for the kingdom. So if you are a leader in a group doing amazing work for the Lord, then be on you guard. I think Satan looks for the opportune time to tempt us. He watches for signs of weakness. He looks for when you are vulnerable. He watches for when we are tired, lonely, distracted, or busy.

I have even seen marriages ruined by timing. I know of spouses who have forgiven, and forgiven, and forgiven. They have gone the extra mile and tried to make a bad situation work. Then one day they have had it. They can't go on, they quit trying, they can't take it any more. The marriage is over. And then their spouse repents. This time they really start to change. They began to reshape their life in the image of Christ. Too late. If any of the other dozen times over the past twenty years they had really changed then it might have worked. Is it a matter of timing?

Or you try to talk to someone about Jesus. They are not responsive, they don't care, and they are not interested. Finally, you give up. You move on, you "shake the dust off you feet", and you leave them alone - just as they wanted. Then something changes in their life, a door opens, the window of opportunity is there for a moment. But we are not.

I think Satan is happy for any evil he can do. He would rather us never repent, but better later than sooner. He would rather you be a faithful parent when your kids are grown than when they are young.

So how do I defeat this strategy? Don't grow tired of doing good, stay focused, and start now instead of later. And remember that with God, it is never too late.

Have you ever seen Satan use a timing strategy? How did you combat it?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


The Pope is at least honest...

I admire the Pope's honesty, even if I disagree with his theology. The Pope has admitted what Catholic theology has always maintained: they are the only true church. I admire his honesty. He is being true to his theology. He will not be popular. He will be attacked for being exclusive. He will be reviled for not promoting Christian unity. But he won't care. He is being true to Catholic theology.

I disagree with that theology. I do not believe Catholic theology will stand up to Biblical theology. I do not believe in Papal infallibility. I do not believe in original sin, nor in infant baptism. I do not believe I need someone other than Jesus to have a relationship with God. But I admire lots of religious people who I think have wrong theology.

I wonder if we ever wrestle with our theology versus popularity. I don't like it when people think I am exclusive or "anti-unity". I believe Jesus is the only way to God. That cuts me out of some circles. I believe baptism is how you are crucified with Christ. I believe that is when you receive the Holy Spirit. Some think I am narrow minded about that.

That's OK. No one else even has to agree with me. And God can certainly save anyone He chooses. That is His business, not mine. But as best I can tell from what God said...baptism is the way into Christ. I believe I am faithful when I preach that and when I teach it. That is what matters to me. After all, I value God's view of me much more than that of any person.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Worship Performance...

I have had several conversations recently about "performance" in worship. The conversation is usually a reaction to something seen in worship from the leader or the praise team. Or it is a reaction to a criticism. So here are my quick reactions...

How do you tell the difference between personality and performance? Should people "tone down" their personality so it doesn't seem like a performance? Or, should they "ramp it up" so we don't die of boredom?

Is it judgmental to view someone leading worship as a performer? Am I that sure I know their heart?

Different congregations or audiences have different personalities.

I have always known song leaders who seemed to be performing. I have heard prayers that sure seemed like a performance. I know lots of preachers who perform? Or maybe I am too judgmental.

As someone who has had lots of experience leading worship in lots of different ways. It ain't as easy as it looks. Maybe none of us should criticize until we have led the same group as the one we want to criticize. You try singing on the praise team and see how easy it is.

And the bigger the congregation or assembly, the tougher it is to hit the mark for everyone.

If I like it, it is meaningful worship. If I don't, it was a performance. Surely none of us are really that shallow, are we?

By the way, my personal test is the mirror test. If I can look in the mirror and feel good about why I did what I did...then OK.

God is the ultimate audience for our worship, and He sure knows the heart.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?