Tuesday, July 25, 2006


I do have to confess that I like to make up words, especially while I'm preaching. This word, however isn't a word that I made up, it's real. Read on ...

One of the greatest delights of my job is baptizing people who have become Christ-followers. This past Sunday we baptized these 4 beautiful people in the San Marcos River. There is something special about baptizing in the river, something very New Testament, something refreshing and something very fun.

To make things more fun, count on my son. When Jacob was watching us walk down into the freezing cold river, he looked up at his Mommy and said, "Mommy, why is Daddy going to appetize those people?" I more than chuckled at his attempt to repeat words that make sense to everyone else, and I trusted that he didn't really think that I was going to consume any of my friends in the river. We've told him it's "Baptize", but he's still got his heart set on "Appetize". So, according to my almost 4 year old, we had an "appetism" celebration on Sunday.

As usual, the apparent randomness of my kid teaches me the grace of God. In many ways baptism is appetism. Before you dig into the main course, you whet your appetite with an appetizer. As you begin your journey as a Christ-follower, the first thing the New Testament asks of us is to be baptized like Jesus. It is the beginning, the diving in point, the whetting of the appetite that makes you hungry for more. My heart breaks for those who arrive at baptism and see it as an end. It's truly a beginning, a Genesis moment, the start of a journey with the Lord. It's an appetizer.

Another way my son's brilliance (I know that I'm biased, but he's freakishly smart even if he is too stubborn to poop in the potty) shone through is how appetizers affect others. Even when I'm not hungry for an appetizer, if someone at the table suggests it - I'm in. Or, if another table orders it and it catches my eye, I want it. It was truly delightful to gather with most of our church on the banks of one of the most popular swimming holes in our town, in the shadow of Joe's Crabshack, for a celebration of new life with Jesus. As I dunked each Christ-follower, the people screamed, clapped, whistled, and yelled in celebration as others who were just there to swim were drawn in by the experience. Maybe they saw that following Christ is exciting and fun, not boring and mundane. Maybe they saw that we rejoice with those who rejoice. Maybe they longed for something they don't have. Maybe appetism is something they will desire for themselves some time soon. That's my prayer anyway.

That's my blog this time around. Thank you, Lord, for my son who continues to teach me and make me laugh. May his life continue to be lived for Your glory!

Monday, July 03, 2006

In Defense of the Bride...

I have to confess right now that I'm angry. Actually, I don't really need to confess it because anger is not a sin, but I just thought I'd start there to explain the intensity of the following rant.

I just read a blog that was very disturbing to me. It's the same song, same verse that gets sung all the time. Church sucks. It's boring. Everyone's fake. Nobody cares about me. It's all about religion, a checklist and routine. Why can't I just be myself? Why won't they play music that I like? Why do I not feel better when I leave? Why can't it be more like a rave? Why can't we just drink beer, smoke weed, and talk about God and spiritual stuff?

The common theme is always the same... someone who doesn't put anything into the church but expects a whole lot out of it. Someone who is so consumed with their own wants and desires that they miss the whole thing. Someone who wants to experience God, but doesn't want to obey His Word. Someone who is all of the sudden a music critic b/c they can't get beyond their own preferences.

I have little patience for this way of thinking. Believe me, I've experienced ritualistic worship in a traditional church. I've watched with broken hearts as people just sing words off a page with no expression, no emotion, and certainly no excitement. I understand you can make an argument that emerging churches can fall into a pattern that is comfortable for them. I even understand the parallels between the traditional forms and emerging forms. This is what I don't understand. What gives any one the right to show up once or twice a month just to give the church a rating? The church doesn't exist for the satisfaction or joy of any man. It exists for the glory of God. The moment we criticize an honest service of worship that has been put together by pastors or leaders who have prayed to God for direction and led by volunteers who have sacrificed their time, energy, and talents for a greater good, we place ourselves on the throne and focus our worship there. Nowhere does scripture teach that worship is supposed to make you feel good. Though experiencing the presence of God is what we were created for, and it does bring us joy in a way we can't understand, the reality is often when biblical characters actually experienced the presence of God - they were afraid for their lives. The bowed in honor and reverence. They prayed for others. They ministered. They were used by God to bring about life-change in others. They experienced the supernatural in their very lives because they were focused on God and not the songs, or whether or not anyone talked to them, or whether they liked the sermon. They showed up every day in excitement of what God was going to do. That's right every day. Scripture tells us not to forsake meeting together. It also tells us they met together daily to be sharpened by each other. Proverbs says that as iron sharpens iron one man sharpens another. When iron sharpens iron ... sparks fly. I've experienced this in my own life more times than I would care to admit. When I need to be sharpened, my sharpening experience doesn't always make me feel good, but knowing that I'm being molded and shaped and stretched is good. Worship has that same potential - sometimes - a lot of times what's more important is that it hurts good not just feels good. Look at the people's reactions to Jesus' teachings. How do you think the pharisees felt when Jesus told them they were sons of their father the devil? I'm guessing that didn't make them feel good. The old adage that the truth hurts is true. But it hurts good. When I put on my critic hat, which by the way I'm very quick to do when I attend churches other than my own, I become the object of my worship.

Now, is there any excuse for Christ-followers to not grow in community with other Christ-followers? No. Is there any excuse for not being missed? No. Is there any excuse for exclusivity? No. However, in my experience the people who complain about that intentionally avoid contact from others. Intentionally don't initiate conversations. Intentionally don't let anyone know what's going on with them. Intentionally leave without telling anyone just to prove that the church has failed. Community is two way. The root is the same as the word communication. It is impossible for communication or a lack of to depend on one party. It's always both. Not "feeling" part of a church is never one party's fault. It's both. However, if your worship experience is dominated by feelings of "I dont' really like that" or "these people are all fake" or "I'd be better off on my own" you're more focused on yourself than what Scripture teaches us about church.

I think it's tragic that people complain about how pastors like me expect people to come to church. The collective church is the bride of Christ - the very people that Christ died for. It crawls all over me - just like if someone talks bad about my wife - when people attack the church either generally or specifically. The bible talks about those attacks too. Be careful about pointing out the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye when you've got a plank in your own. In humility, having someone pull your plank out is going to be painful, but necessary. It's time to come to church in humility with brokenness, with an open heart and mind, with a desire to plug-in, with a desire to serve others and consider them more important than yourselves. It's the bride of Christ, not of ourselves. It's not for us to talk bad about another man's wife - especially Jesus'. It's our job to get to know her, spend time with the bride and the groom, and grow in love and respect for them both. The epistles say that the two become one. So, when you trash the bride, you trash the groom. It's ironic that people say "I like Jesus but hate the church". It's impossible. The two are one. It's time to see the church for what she will become, not for all of her faults. Thank God Jesus doesn't look at us like that. He takes us as we are, reconciles us to Himself, and spends the rest of our lives sanctifying us, perfecting us, making us more like Him. The church is by no means perfect. There are faults, there are problems, but she's still the bride. Still one with Christ. Maybe it's time to stop hopping around from church to church and finding all the problems and time to plug-in and be a part of helping them to be what God is leading them to be.

I'm tired of "Christians", religious or non-religious, blaming the church for all their problems when all the church desires to do is provide them with an opportunity to connect with God. It's time to take ourselves off of the throne and remember what church is about - for the glory of God not the glorification and enjoyment of ourselves. Lord help us that we think it's too hard to follow you in modern day America and that we have good excuses for not commiting to pouring our lives out as a drink offering for the greater good of mankind. May you break our selfishness and pride.

I told you it was a rant.

May the Lord have mercy on the critics of His bride and pastors who are caught in the middle of a God who loves His creation, and a creation who loves darkness more than light.