Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Matt, Jake, and my new sermon on heaven...

Mommy (our daughter Julie) : "Jake, do you know Matt, the boy at church in the wheelchair?"

Jake (our kindergarden grandson): "Yes, Pops takes me to say hello to him."

Mommy: "Matt went to heaven last night."

Jake: "Mimi reads to me about heaven. Matt is with Jesus and he is not in his wheelchair."

Mommy: "We need to pray for his family. They miss him here."

Jake: "OK. But Matt is happy."

Best sermon on heaven I may have ever heard.

Thanks Matt for being enough like Jesus to talk to a Kindergarden kid.

Thanks Mommy, Dad, and Mimi for teaching Jake about Jesus and heaven.

And thanks Jake for the sermon about Jesus people who die:

Matt is with Jesus. Forever.

He is not in a wheelchair. The bad things of this life are over.

He is happy. Yep. That's why we grieve, but not as those who have no hope.

I believe that will preach.

Even more -- as Matt proved -- that will live. Now and forever.

Monday, January 30, 2012


My hero Matt went home last night...

Matt Phillips passed from this life to real life last night just before midnight. For our Southern Hills family, everyone will know who Matt was. If you don't, you should. He was a teenager who lived all his life with brittle bone disease. Everyone had to be careful when they hugged or touched him. Had to be in a wheelchair.

My standard greeting to Matt was "How's my hero?" And he always answered. "Great. How's my hero?" But here's the thing. I meant it. Matt was my hero. Still is. Faced a lot of tough times with grace and humor. Life dealt him a hard blow, and he lived with courage and faith.

I loved seeing him cheer for his sister Allison at the Wiley volleyball games. Loved hearing how he won spelling bees. Loved talking sports with him.

I vividly remember the night his Dad Mark baptized him into Christ. He carried him down into the water and ... well, let me just say it is on my faith hightlights reel. I got to lead a shepherd's prayer of blessing afterward. Prayed for his protection from Satan. Prayed for the great witness he would be in this world.

And I nailed it. God did exactly what we asked. Matt fought his battles and stayed true to God. He was a living witness of how God's people live in a fallen world.

I've know Mark and Laura a long time. They were exactly the parents Matt needed. Allison was exactly the big sis he should have. The Southern Hills youth group was the ideal faith community. And our church was the right church. Loved a room full of elders, wives, and families that love the Phillips gathered at midnight at a hospital room. Because of Matt.

And now I have another link to heaven. I think Matt's running in heaven's fields... and for the first time ever... he can fall to his knees and not be broken.

See you soon Matt.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Don't rush baptism

Reasons why I do not believe in infant baptism:

Baptism is an act of faith. It is something you choose, not something chosen for you. Adults can choose. Babies can't.

Baptism is a conscious decision to choose the Holy Spirit lifestyle as opposed to the spirit of flesh lifestyle. Adults understand the battle between good and evil. Babies do not even know good and evil.

Baptism is being crucified with Christ. It is the ultimate denial of self to follow Jesus. Adults can process that decision. Babies cannot even understand selfishness vs. selflessness.

Baptism results in a new life free from the guilt of sin. Adults know they have made conscious sinful choices. Babies cannot process intentional and deliberate choices.

I should make it clear that I do not believe in original sin. I do not believe that babies are born unsaved due to the sin Adam. But if you belive that, and you realize that Scripture teaches baptism for forgiveness of sins, you would baptize your babies. And that is your church history lesson for today. Emphasis on forgiveness and be saved part of baptism, not on the faith decision to follow Jesus as Lord part.

So I believe in adult baptism and not infant baptism. What does that have to do with the question of baptizing our kids? Our kids grow from babies to adults physically, emotionally, mentally. Good parenting recognizes that there is a growth process to make decisions in those areas as they mature. It is true spiritually also.

So we need to be wise, prayerful parents as we mature our kids spiritually to be able to make the one great decision of their life. And that decision is what they will do personally about Jesus.

Remember that your kids are holy because of your faith, so do get overly stressed with the whole forgiveness of sins. Don't let them make a decision they are not yet mature enough to make.

Friday, January 13, 2012


So what's the big deal about my kid getting baptized

I shared in my last blog that I beleive children of believers are holy. so if they are not lost, and if they really do not have a major conversion experience, what is the big deal about baptism?

I think part of our angst and worry over our kid's getting baptized stems from an over emphasis on one aspect of baptism. We have strongly stressed the forgiveness of sins almost to the exclusion of everything else. Because we have often failed to realize that our children are holy because of our faith in Jesus, we stress over when they will be baptized and have their sins forgiven. Which leads to very young children being baptized because they know they do wrong things and they know Jesus died for our sins, and they know baptism is for forgiveness of sins... so they get baptized.

I do believe my kids sins were forgiven -- past and future sins -- when they were baptized. That forgiveness is now based on their relationship with Jesus and not their parent's relationship with Jesus. But there is much more to baptism that is virtually impossible for a young child to process.

I believe baptism is an act of faith. And of course the faith of children is greater than ours in so many ways. But the faith of a child is also innocent. Life is good and things always turn out good. Mature faith sees a hard world and says that I believe God works anyway.

But baptism is also where we are crucified with Christ. It is a death and resurrection. It is an act of self denial and a pledge to God that our life is now His. This is a difficult proposition for a little child to process, much less buy into. It is hard for we adults to live out this concept, but that is a different task than understanding the concept.

Baptism is where we recieve the Holy Spirit to help us in the process of moving from a life of slavery to sin to slavery to righteousness. There has to be some ability to process that.

The big deal about baptism is for a child growing up to move away from the spiritual walk of their parent's and set out on their own spiritual journey. It is more than knowing the facts. It is more than loving Jesus. It is more than wanting to always live for him. It is being able to process to some extent what that means in life.

And in a future post, I'll share more about how to -- and not to -- help your child know when to make the decision to be crucified with Christ.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Your kids are NOT lost...

Children raised in a Christian home are different. They really do not have conversion experiences. I don't believe they go from darkness to light. I do not believe there is a moment when they become a believer. I do not even believe children in Christian homes go from saved to lost to saved again.

I was raised in a Christian home and I do not remember learning about Jesus. I always knew about Jesus. I don't remember a time when I did not believe in Jesus. I have always loved Jesus. I acknowledge that I have matured in my faith. I have grown in what it means to love Jesus. But I hope those things are still going on in my life. But my spiritual insights and life altering experieces all came as someone who loved Jesus. Not someone who discovered him.

I think this experience was true for my kids and I see it happening with my grandkids. I think this pattern is generally true for everyone I know raised by Christian parents.

I believe children with Christian parents are holy because of their parent's faith. I believe this because it is what the Bible teaches. In I Corinthians 7 Paul talks about Christians and marriage. He explains that if one spouse becomes a Christian, and the other does not, that the home is still sanctified. It is a Christian home. I do not think this means the non-believing spouse is saved, but the home is sanctified. In verse 14, he mentions that the children are holy. He does not say sanctified. He says holy.

But what about sin? You may accept this with innocent babies, but what about when my child starts knowing right from wrong and does the wrong? They are holy. Those sins are forgiven just like yours. Holy. You are holy because of your faith in Jesus. And that extends to you kids.

So I am convinced children in Christian homes are holy because of the parent's faith.

Which leads to two more questions. When does this change? When the child leaves home ... or arrives at the stage of life where they are adults. In a later post, I will talk more specifically about this.

So what does this mean for my child and their baptism? What about sin and forgiveness?

There comes a time in our children's growing up when they will make their own decision to follow Jesus. When that time comes, their sins are forgiven, they are saved, they are holy because of their faith in Jesus. Before they are forgiven, saved, holy because of the faith of Mom and Dad.

The destination is the same, but now it will be a path they choose to follow and not just the one that their family has chosen. Saved by the faith their parents have in Jesus. Then saved by the faith they have in Jesus. They are not lost in between.

So children's faith developement is a safe, joyful experience. Not one full of angst, worry, and panic. They are secure, safe, and holy. Just as you are. Your job is not to "save" them. It is to transition them from your faith to faith of their own.

Monday, January 09, 2012


Jake is 6 today...

Today is Jake's birthday. He is Julie and Bobby's oldest, my second grandchild (Anna beat him by five months), and my first grandson. Every grandparent loves their grandkids and are proud of them. But I think it is important that they know some of the reasons why we love them and are proud of them. So here goes...

Jake loves God. He likes going to church. He wants to give his own money to help kids around the world. He memorizes Scripture. He sings praise songs. He wants to tell people about Jesus. He prays for all of his family but especially for Pops when I am out preaching.

He loves his family. I don't just mean his parents and grandparents, but he loves his great grandparents. He talks about them and prays for them. He loves his cousins. Anna is his buddy and he talks about how important it is to teach Andrew and Austin about how to be a big boy.

He adores his sister. We told him we would take him out to eat for his birthday. His first question was if Avery could come too. He is protective of her. I love that when I asked him what he wanted for Christmas, he said he wanted to buy a present for Avery.

I love that he wants to help Ms. Rita who lives down the street. She goes to church with us and he reminds me that she needs him to be her friend because her husband, Mr. John, has already gone to heaven.

He likes to shake hands with Mr. Don at church. Mr. Don has the land behind Jake's house.

He likes to high five Ms. Joyce and the ladies that sit behind us at church.

So he has good people skills, he really likes people, he treats everyone well, and he loves God.

I think he will help a lot of people to know Jesus better. Including his Pops.

So Jake I love you and I am proud of you. God is going to do amazing things thru you.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


Children and the kingdom...

I have been doing a lot of thinking about kids that grow up in Christian homes and how they come to be believers. I was raised in a Christian home and went to church all of my life. I do not remember a time I did not love God and Jesus. I could even process at a fairly young age what to do to become a Christian. I remember vividly the Sunday morning I realized that Jesus died for my sins and that it was time for a personal decision. I talked to my parents after church and was baptized that night.

I have raised two children in church. I prayed for their spiritual development and had the honor of baptizing them both into Christ. I still remember the discussions we had about that decision. I also remember being asked about it when they were much younger. They are both faithful Christians today. I am watching them raise my five grandkids and seeing how they manage their spiritual growth.

As an elder, I get asked a lot of questions about kids and their spiritual developement. Here are some of the questions I get and some of the thinking behind them.

My child is asking about being baptized. If I say no, what if they never ask again? What is too young to be baptized, especially since they know the reason for being baptized? And at what age should I start worrying if they have not been baptized?

Which leads to questions about sin and the "age of accountability". Are our kids saved, then lost, and then saved again? And what do they have to know and believe to be baptized? Is it enough to know some basic facts about Jesus and baptism -- facts which most five year olds raised in church can recite? What about baptism as a death? How about commitment? Is it enough to just love God (which most little kids do better than most adults in some ways)?

Can my son lead a prayer at church before he is baptized? Is he just like the non-baptized adult in our services?

How about communion? Is it just for baptized people? Is it anything but crackers and grape juice if you are not a Christian?

If you become a Christian by being baptized into Christ, and thus a member of his body, are non-baptized kids saved? So you can be saved outside the church?

How can you as an elder refuse to baptize my child?

I am going to spend the next few posts looking at some principles that I think help answer some of these questions.

I will look forward to your input.

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