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Here at a Baptist Seminary, people are passionate about different things. Much of which I am not so passionate about, but I digress. One of the things people are passionate, as you might expect at a Baptist Seminary, is baptism. There are many different beliefs about what baptism is, but one grand assumption is that infant baptism is not a real form of baptism. This is where I tip the golden calf of Baptists Seminaries. Let me proceed.

The first question we have to ask is, what does baptism effectually accomplish? Many catholics would explain it is a means of justification by entering into the church. As long as someone does not die in mortal sin, he is somewhat okay. Protestants believe that it plays no part in salvation, but it is important. Among most coherent denominations, it breaks down into two beliefs. First, some believe that baptism is the first step a believe must take in salvation. This separates it as a saving work and makes it a fruit of salvation. I am not sure that we can scripturally make the statement that this is to be a fruit of salvation. The fruit that God is working in you is sanctification itself.

The second approach is that baptism is a symbol of associating with the people of God. Where we publicly show that we are among covenant believers called the church, among where we find the means of salvation. This seems to be Paul’s belief in that he associates baptism with circumcision. Circumcision was the physical mark that God gave to the people of Israel to associate themselves as the covenant people of God. This is a great picture for us in terms of understanding what baptism effectually accomplishes. In baptism, we are entering a relationship with God’s covenant people.

If we are saying that baptism is a statement of association to the people of God, then who is it for? The answer is simple, it is the church, right? The answer may not be so simple. In many baptist churches, we see that the church is only those who profess Christ as their Lord. Children who have not professed Christ as their Lord are not allowed admittance to the church. They say this because children are in, what they call a state of grace. That children are born in a state of grace in that they are innocent until they reach this magical age of accountability. I only have one problem with this; it doesn’t appear in the bible. That isn’t true, I have more than one problem with this. It causes us to see salvation only in terms of a crisis of belief. This does not follow church tradition and is not the only model given to us in scripture. More consistent is that God does work in men in many different ways.

This takes me back to children in the church. Can those who are not in covenant with God be included in the church? Scripture seems to lead us to believe they can. In parables Jesus looks to the covenant people of God and says that God will separate them into two distinct groups, sheep and goats. Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell. The sheep and goats aren’t in question here, it is that Jesus is talking to the covenant people of God, and some of them go to hell.  Paul made the same argument in Romans 9. He states that there are those among the covenant people of God and those actually in covenant with God. He calls them, children of Abraham, and children of the promise. All who were descended from Abraham are Abraham’s children; but there is a group of Abraham’s children that are also children of the promise. In Revelation, the writer writes seven letters to the churches. He starts the letters addressing the churches, then somewhere in each of the letters he changes the audience to “those who overcome”. All were the church, but not all will inherit the reward of heaven.

In this case, if we define the church as those who gather together to study and worship God. Then this model can include both children and lost people. They are associating themselves with the covenant people, of which there are benefits, and salvation may be found. (Not by membership, but by the church being the means of sharing the gospel) We know that all those who profess Christ and are members in our church are not going to heaven. So why not believe that the church is the larger group of people familiar with God of which the bride of Christ is in and amongst her. The church is to be about teaching the gospel to its members so that they may see Christ as wholly sufficient and put their trust in him. THose who walk away from this have no hope, those who persevere have all hope.

When many protestants baptize infants, they are making a public declaration that this child is a member of the covenant people of God, and therefore making a statement to the church that it is responsible for the teaching and training of that child in faith.

I am okay with infant baptism as I am okay with believer’s baptism. I am not sure what this makes me, but I am okay with that too. (Though, I must keep my scholarship)

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Waco Bound

If you frequent my blog at all you will know that my wife and I rarely go the easy route on anything. Not that we are always looking for the road less traveled, but that all routes lead to torment. (At least for the past five years) That is why I am scared to death, because everything seems to be working out for us lately. Let me fill you in as to where we are,

– We put our application is for Truett at Baylor, thinking it was going to be Spring or next fall. We got excepted within a week.

– We needed to find a job for Amanda and I, Amanda has two offers on the table, and they are basically bidding for her. I have a second interview planned at one place, and a first interview at another.

– Finacial aid needed to go through of which the deadline was last March. (Six Months Ago) It went through in a couple of weeks and I also recieved a scholarship paying for most of it.

– We needed the house in Commerce to be taken care of. It was not selling, so we went to eat one night and talked about the possibility of renting it. We have lived in Commerce for 5 years and have eaten at the resturaunt for all of those five years. The owner never spoke to us until that night. He asked if we were renting our house, and said he had a daughter and son-n-law wanting to rent. She came by that night and loved it, she is showing it to her husband on Saturday.

– We needed housing in Waco. A friend called us to say her friend in Waco is moving out of their rent house and wondered if we were interested. We are going tonight to look at it. The job interview I have tomorrow has a house that comes with it.

This scares us because it is so not our experience for the past five years. All this comes on the heals of God dealing with me about my anger towards him. That anger was based on me not liking where I was and not trusting him. I resided to love Jesus and not what he did for me. My anger diminished and I found contentment. (at least as much as I think possible in this breath of a life) I see God’s hand all in this. I want to continue to love Jesus more than my circumstances. (School may help me in the process) Thank you guys so much for praying for us. Please continue, and know that we are praying for all you guys.

Much love,

Jason

So my Summer is offically over with. I came back from Super Summer this past Friday. It was a good camp all in all. I met some new people, I got to teach about Jesus, and laughed quite a bit. I have had such a busy Summer so far, and I would like to think that it will slow down.

Two years ago, we traveled back from a camp to find out that I lacked the communication skills to attend a popular Dallas Seminary. The fact that I was not going to this school didn’t offend me, but the thought that I had been rejected based on the fact that I had no communication skills really confused me, especially when we never actually communicated. I went into a downward spiral after that. I had very little drive and direction but lots of anger. You all know, if you read my blog, that God has been dealing with the anger, and Friday when we came home to our kids we found that our mailbox had another letter in it. This time it was from another Seminary in Waco Texas. Evidently my communication skills have improved over the past two years because I was accepted in the Master of Divinity program. I have not yet sent all my stuff in, but I have officially been accepted. Amanda has n interview down in Waco for a job and I am going to spend a good portion of the day looking for employment down there.

For those of you who are prayer warriors, please pray that our house sells quickly and that I can get a job. Amanda has multiple marketable skills, whereas, I have only a handful of them. I am excited to be moving a direction, I am working hard not to get my hopes up too soon. Pray that things continue to move that way, God willing.

There are so many possibilities that have come up over the past few days. I feel somewhat overwhelmed, but I am glad to be so. In order to begin to move forward there are a few key things that need to happen. Please pray for my family in these areas.

1. Our house needs to sell.

2. I need to get accepted into school.

3. Amanda and I need new jobs.

4. Guidence to where we are to proceed.

I know God has it all worked out. Our house is the biggest concern at present. There is a chance I can get into school by this fall. I have know idea how this is going to happen, but if it is what God wants it will happen quickly.

Thanks,

Jason

To those of you who read my blog: (Both of you)

Last night I went to a friend’s house to eat and fellowship. We had a good time but I stayed up way too late for a guy who gets up at 4:30 to go to work. We spoke of struggles we are having, and things that we long for. This friend has proven to be very wise counsel to me and last night he put into my head the idea that I might actually apply for seminary again. Even saying that sounds utterly crazy to me. I am 33 years old and I am thinking about going back to school.  Why not try to letter in football while I am at it. The thought of four more years of school does not thrill me in the least, but the idea that something is moving forward brings a glimmer of hope to what has been a spinning of wheels for the past 4 years.

I have been frustrated at where God has had me for about 4 years now. Truthfully it has been longer, but the past 4 years it has been right in front of our eyes. Six years ago Amanda and I both agreed that if I were going to do ministry full time, I was going to need to finish my degree. We made a lot of sacrifices and got me back into school. I had about 3 semesters to go when God completely changed my heart about what ministry really was. I had grown up in the system that believed if you have a good solid program; people will come and be ministered too. Since then, God has shown me that covenanting to the bride looks completely different than what I have believed it to be. 1 Thessalonians 4 tells us that the will of God is our sanctification, not the world’s justification as I had always believed. In doing so, God shaped in my heart a longing for true community based on proper doctrine. All games aside. This made me quite inadequate for most traditional style churches what are number driven.

I did not know what to do, so I began to travel and teach. I enjoy this, but it did not give me opportunity to connect with the bride in covenant. I would blow into town, preach and blow out again. There was no giving myself to the bride, there was no commitment to those people I preached too. There was a definite disconnect from what I was doing and what my heart longed for.  I set out to find what would fill that. I enjoyed opening our house to people and engaging their lives one on one. I spoke with some friends and they said they pastoring is a great fit for what I longed for. I knew at that moment my friends smoked crack. I would never be a pastor. Number one, I cringe at the thought of what American church has made the pastorate. It is an administration nightmare with a little bit of ministry thrown in when the people don’t mind. Second, I was not born with a stick up my butt and did not know how I would fair in that position.

After much prayer I resigned to believe that God might want me to pastor a people. So I began to pursue what it would take to become a pastor. I had been in a frustrating point for a couple years at this point, and the advice I got was to wait. This was not what I wanted to hear. I got mad. Hell, I got pissed! Ultimately, it boils down to me getting mad at God. I did not like where he providentially put me. Unfortunately I took it out on people around me.

After a time I thought I should just go on to seminary and go through a more traditional type of system. Who knows how it happened, but I sent my stuff off to a seminary in Dallas and without any interviews I was declined admissions because they felt I lacked communication skills and ministry skills. This was a blow to what I desired. It turned out to be some bad references that kept me out. I spoke with the admissions advisor and after he realized I was calling from a church camp where I was preaching that week, he realized communication skills may not be as big an issue as he thought once might have been and encouraged me to reapply the following semester. I took it to be God’s plan that I not go there. But that left me wondering where to go next. I resided to get a job and wait on God and that is where I have been for several months now. I feel as if I was trapped in an interim stage and my wheels are spinning to try to find traction for my life. I am waiting because I do not know what else to do.

This is where my friend comes in last night. Between them and my wife they have my convinced to try another seminary and see what comes of it. This new seminary I am applying too would come with a change in location and a completely new set of circumstances. This rings fear, but also hope that if God does open the door for me to go there, I might actually begin to be moving somewhere. Sometimes taking the long way is easier to handle then sitting in traffic. So, I turn my blinker on to get off this blocked road and try to reach the feeder for a new route. Wish me luck; life has no turn by turn GPS.

Is Jesus enough?

A couple of years ago I was planning for a leadership camp I am involved in and the group I was discussing ideas with wanted to get through one major idea to the students. We landed on the idea of nothing. Not nothing in the sense that we were out of ideas, but nothing as the idea we had. Let me explain further. We decorated the room with streamers and balloons and posters and every possible decoration we could come up with. The students attending came in to a sort of shock and awe campaign. Then we dismissed them, after making a few key announcements, to their family groups to get to know one another. After they finished with their family groups they came back to find our meeting room completely bare. The only thing in the room was a cross. They were taken back a bit to find the big change, to which we added the question, “Is Jesus enough, or do we have to have all the extras?”

This idea might have been one of my best ideas ever. It worked well. Again, this was two years ago, and I just ran into someone this weekend who thanked me for using that theme because it still caused her to understand that Jesus was enough to satisfy.  I know this was a great idea, because it is a constant reminder to me that Jesus is enough. This is something to me that needs to be constantly reminded to me because I am so temporal at times with my perspective, though this is not a new problem for people.

In John chapter 6 Jesus is teaching his disciples, about 70 or so in number, and a large crowd of people show up, about five thousand men in the crowd, not counting women and children. This is quite an impromptu dinner party. Jesus, having compassion on them, wanted to meet a physical need; he used the lunch of a small boy to feed the multitude. Everyone was satisfied and went to sleep. In the night, Jesus puts his disciples on a boat and retreats back to the woods to have a one on one with his father. The disciples row all night and get no where because of the sea. They look up and see Jesus taking a stroll on the water and pee their pants just a little. Jesus tells them not to fear, as I am sure this worked and became call as could be, because after all it is just Jesus, WALKING ON THE WATER! Jesus gets in the boat and all of the sudden they are on the shore of the other side. Note here that they labored all night for results that they could not produce and Jesus delivered just by stepping in the boat. The next morning, the great crowd woke up and realized they were hungry. Not having anything they did what was likely the freshest thing in their mind, they began to look for Jesus. The heard the disciples went across the sea, so they headed around to the other side to look for Jesus. Upon finding him they said, “Jesus, this is so funny, we keep on accidently meeting like this!” Jesus said, “You are seeking me not for me but because you are looking for your next free meal. So here it is, me, eat up!” The crowd confused looked at Jesus similar to what I expect we all would when someone asks us to eat their flesh and drink their blood asked Jesus, “What must we do to be doing the works of God?” And Jesus responded with saying, “The work (singular) of God is that you believe.” The crowd being confused, Jesus expounded on this. “Your forefathers got some free bread too, it was called manna. And it was good bread. But it was just a symbol of a better bread to come, bread that would truly deliver nourishment for life. This future better bread is me! Here is the deal, be satisfied in me. Don’t be satisfied with bread that has to be given every day then spoils. Be satisfied in me that never spoils!” Hearing this, the crowd is discouraged. Not only did Jesus not provide a free breakfast, he caused us to loose our appetites by all this cannibalism talk. Then it says that his disciples, remember about 70 in all at the time began to gripe about it. Jesus turned to them and asked them if he was satisfactory to them. At this many of his disciples turned away. But when Jesus turned to the 12, he asked them if they were leaving too. Peter, moved by the spirit, said “where are we to go? You have the words of eternal life.”

See, what Jesus did was decorate the room with provision. He feed them to their content. He got them to shore. Then just as everyone was ready to make Jesus King, he pulls a fast one. He grosses them out and says, “Be satisfied with me and not what I can do for you. If I was all you had, would that be enough?”

Again, I have said recently that I fight anger at God because of what God is doing in my life. Amanda and I have both been called to ministry, we have worked hard to pursue that, yet both of us live in a crappy little town working jobs we hate in corporate America. I am severely underpaid. I make half of what I did as a non degreed professional. Now that I have a degree my work load has doubled and my pay is half. I want to preach. I want to connect with people. I want to disciple people. I want to be able to focus on this full time. On top of that, I still am involved in ministry, and in doing so, I run into people all the time who are in the ministry. I fight anger when they ask me what I am doing now. I have to answer that I am working for a company. To which they reply, “Oh, well that’s good” Fully knowing that they don’t mean that. It is like I have forsaken God by taking the secular job for reasons of money. (If I did, I sure would like to know where the money is!) Though they would never speak it out loud, I know there is judgment there, like I have given up on ministry. I know it because I would have the same thought in my mind if I have not been on this journey. I am doing what I hate, and to boot, there are so many people I know who are very successful in ministry who had it much easier than I. Some of the guys, I counseled myself and discipled. These guys are now well established within ministry positions and looking at me as if I have gone astray.

It brings me back to my constant struggle, which is to ask, “Is Jesus enough?” If I never get to do ministry full time, is Jesus enough? If I never get to earn a living doing what I so desperately have a passion for, Is Jesus enough? If I work jobs I hate for the rest of my life, and work myself to an early death, will Jesus be enough to satisfy me? The truth is there are really rough days in which I can’t say it. I lash out at people who have the authority to help me get what I desire. I get very cynical at people who clearly don’t have any sense serving in the positions I am envious of. I kick and scream as a school child. But other days, days in which Jesus is gracious to offer more of his revealed self, I find that my answer is that he is enough. He is totally satisfactory. He truly meets my need. The honest truth is he always meets my need. I just get so consumed in my idolatry that I want certain things, and if I had them I would be happy, but since Jesus isn’t giving them to me I am mad at him for with-holding from me what would deliver my happy contentment. But Jesus knows he is the bread that truly delivers. And that is what I have.

So, this morning, way too early on a Sunday morning. I find myself at a job that I hate, getting underpaid to learn a lesson that Jesus is what truly delivers. I hate it. I wish I was struggling over how to communicate God’s word to a people right now, but I am here fighting the tendency to get angry with God for not giving me something other than Jesus. The truth is that all of God’s most faithful servants had a truly crappy set of scenarios. None of them really had it great. Most of them were martyred and betrayed. Peter, who stated that Jesus had the words to eternal life, was crucified upside down. Before he died, he saw his wife crucified. His response to her, before facing death was simply this, “Remember the cross.”

 

I found out something recently that completely disturbs me. It is what I am worth in the marketplace presently. Recently my job has changed drastically. I have taken on many duties that used to belong to two different individuals. So I am literally doing the job of three people. I am a hard worker. I have always been loved by my employers (baring the last church I was at, but that is a long story) I didn’t mind the extra work, it was a challenge. What upset me however is that I found out a few things about how I was being paid.

First, there is a new employee in our area who started Monday. He graduated from High School last year. All in all I am sure he is a nice guy. He must be because he makes two dollars an hour more than me. Yes, that is right, a college graduate make two dollars less an hour than a high school graduate. To boot, this extra work I am taking on, used to belong to his department, but for what they were paying them, they felt it was not right to give them so much work. So let’s give it to the college graduate who is making less and already has a full time job of his own. Corporate America!

Currently I am working through anger that a friend of mine lovingly pointed out to me, that I am mad at where God has sovereignly put me. This is true, I have to admit. I have never had it easy; Amanda and I constantly have to struggle for what seems to come so easily for many. We do our best to accept this, but it really is a fly in the ointment when I am already doing a job that I hate, getting worse every week, keeping me away from the body of faith, and away from much family time. Then to find out that my degree is worth less than a high school student for a job that I utterly despise causes me to try a little self meditation at work. I have 12 hours a day in this office of hell with no windows to stew in, and I am praying that God grants me a little peace in this extremely long process of waiting on him.