For the past two weeks we’ve had something at church that hasn’t happened during service for a long, long time. In fact, except for the inaugural service 9 1/2 years ago, I’m not sure that we’ve ever closed a service this way.
We’ve had baptisms at each service.
To be fair, as a church without a building, having baptisms at service is generally challenging. We’ve met mostly at hotels and some at the two student unions at Ohio State. That makes baptisms at service a bit challenging. But our current meeting place, a middle school, has agreed to let us bring in a baptistery (agricultural feeding tub) so we can have them at church and it’s been amazing. In fact, this year already we’ve exceeded the baptisms for last year at 6 (I think), 3 in the past two weeks all 3 of them at church.
Two Sundays ago we had two, and what a contrast. A short, white, blond single Mom of an adopted boy and a tall, skinny black teenage boy. Yesterday it was a young, single white woman who’s boyfriend was baptized last month. Two other single folks were baptized in January as well.
The best thing about this sudden upswing in conversions is that we didn’t go seeking them. Oh, of course we’re looking for folks to get saved, that’s always the case. What I means is these conversions have not come from a focus on evangelism or some campaign to grow the church. That’s been our past means of doing business, grow, grow, grow, evangelize, evangelize, evangelize. That’s what we talked about, that was our point of existence.
But that’s not what we’ve been talking about lately at all. Instead we’ve been talking about true biblical repentance (metenoia), loving each other and the heart of God. We’ve taken a hard look at ourselves, our church, our God and the vast gulf between us & Him. No push to share. No call to evangelize. None. Yet people are getting saved, and in increasing numbers.
Imagine that.

Romans 11

Romans 11:4-6 – Does this mean, as it seems to imply, that God picked out some folks back in Elijah’s day an kept them from sinning? And that, in Paul’s day, God had picked out some Jews to be ‘His’? The implication, at least in my mind, is that perhaps even those who had been picked didn’t even know they had been picked. I guess that’s not necessary from the text, just my mind’s interpretation. Still, it seems to say that God sort of said “Just in case, I’ll set aside these folks to be my people.” I have to remember, though, in these passages that God sees the entirety of time in one viewing. He can look & know who will respond and choose them before they actually do. I also have to remember that Paul’s point in Romans was not to explain God’s choosing us and how that happens, but to explain that Jews and Gentiles are alike and that we are saved by God’s grace. Still, trying to sort out God’s choosing and man’s choosing makes my head spin.
Romans 11:7-10 – I think that this can apply to all of us. If we are not earnestly seeking God, anywhere and in any way, our eyes may not be able to see Him or our ears hear Him, for our preconceived notions about who He is or where He is will blind and deafen us. I certainly think that my believing that I had God all figured out has blinded me to a greater vision of His being and His glory in the past.
Romans 11:17-24 – These verses clearly show that our choices influence God’s choices in grafting us to cutting us off. God has not made it purely His choice alone, He has left it to us as well. The bottom line remains – had God not chosen to reach out to us, we would be doomed.
Romans 11:29 – “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” – ESV. How cool is that!

I’ve Succumbed

Despite all the good, sound financial advice to the contrary, I bought a new car. I admit that this was at least 90% emotional and maybe 10% practical, but I now have a new 2005 Mazda3 5 Door. I was able to get the finances arranged so that we still have only one payment, it’s about the same as the van payment was and we’ll be done paying about the same time as if I had waited until the van was paid off. It’s a load of fun to drive, easy on the eyes, quick, taught and did I mention a hoot to drive? This car is everything the old Escort (sheepishly hiding behind the newcomer) was not. Hopefully this one will also be quite a few things the Escort was – pretty frugal, reliable and dependable. Being a 2005 meant a little more room to negotiate the price, but having a friend working in the marketing department of the dealer didn’t hurt either. In fact, he did all the bargaining for me, playing hard nose with his own co-workers on my behalf!
It’s got only two options, a CD changer and the ‘Appearance Package I’ which includes those add on things at the bottom corners of each bumper (look again, they’re there). I didn’t care about either, what I did care about was it being a stick shift. This was the last 2005 stick 5 door in the state (I looked). The 5 door Mazda3 only comes in the high end S trim, so it comes with a bunch of stuff anyway, power windows and locks, keyless entry, steering wheel controls, AC, a CD radio, etc. Plenty of goodies.
The most important stuff, thought, is the bigger 2.3 liter 4 cylinder engine putting out 160 HP and the independent suspension and the 17″ wheels and tires. They add up to go-cart like responses and a fun snarl when driven hard. I’ve been longing for a car like this ever since I traded my fun loving, but junk, Nissan Pulsar NX on that Escort. I feel as though I’ve done my time in the economy car, now it’s time for some fun.
I’m not a new car kind of guy, in fact this is my first new car. I subscribe to the “let some other guy take the depreciation hit” theory. But these Mazdas hold their value very well, so that’s not as big an issue with this car as it would be with others. It being new will also give us some more breathing room when it’s paid off to stretch our van a few more years if we want.
It was a good weekend..

Let Down By a Faithful Old Friend

As I’ve written before, my old Escort has been a very faithful, if boring, friend for over 10 years. She’s served me well, doing her job with few complaints. Nearing the end of her life, she just keeps on going, like a big, rusty, 2,500 pound Energizer Bunny.
That is, until yesterday.
After work as I turned into my neighborhood, I attempted to downshift into second gear. I say attempted, because it just wasn’t having any of it. No amount of clutch pumping and shifter shoving was working. I managed to get it the remaining few blocks to my driveway. Later, I tried to run an errand and found that it wasn’t going to go at all. It was stuck in reverse and when I did get it into neutral and started, the clutch was simply not going to let go. All atempts to get it into gear was left with the sounds of coffe beans being ground.
So there it sits and I have a decision to make. It’s just shy of $250 and a full weekend in the garage to fix the clutch. I’ve got only 10 payments on my van left, when I had planned on putting the old Escort out to pasture. That’s really too many to feel comfortable about getting a new vehicle, but few enough to make replacing this clutch a painful choice. Still, it’s less that one of those 10 payments on a new car between now and owning the van free and clear, so it’s likely the right choice. I’ve tried real hard to find a way to make it the wrong one, trust me.
Anyway, I’ve got more substantial stuff to write, but I think I’ll be spending my time under the car for the next few days.

Be Like Angie

Angie is one of our teen leaders, working with the teen girls. A year or two ago, we only had one girl disciple in our teen ministry. There were other teen girls, but only one had yet made the decision to follow Christ. Last year, through much prayer, faith, love and God’s working on their hearts, three more girls were baptized.
Angie reminded them that they were the begining of something new in our church. That meant that they had the chance to build the ministry that they want, to lay a strong foundation. Something for them now and for their younger siblings to look forward too. Something that will honor God and that will be fun to be a part of. Angie says that when she said that, their eyes brightened. I can imagine that the whole range of possibilities flashed through their mind. Possibilities that maybe they had longed for and dreamed about, but had perhaps didn’t think they were up to.
Since then, the girls have made plans, goals and dreams for a teen ministry that will last and honor God. They are working together, building lasting relationships and planning their own times of fellowship and sharing their faith. Angie says she tells them that she is not here to tell them what to do or how to be. Rather, she wants to know what they want to do for God with what He’s given them. If they’ll tell her where they want to go, she’ll help them get there. Two of them love to sing, and in December they performed a duet for the church. They made it a goal to connect with other teen ministries with our sister churches throughout Ohio by hosting an event here in Columbus, which they did in October. They’ve said they want to mentor the pre-teen girls and help them find their way, so they’re working that out. Recently, they decided that this year they want to make birthday cards & cookies for everyone in the church. (Angie says they’re going to do that with the pre-teens, killing two birds with one cookie, if you will.) Two of the teen girls are serving as ushers now and when you get to church they greet you with the biggest smile ever as they open the door.
Even to one, like me, outside the teen ministry, the change in these girls is obvious. They stand a little taller and smile a little bigger. They’ve been transformed, not by focused teaching and specific instruction (although I’m sure there was some of that), but because Angie believed in them, inspired them to dream their own dreams as big as their God and helped them to live them out.
Angie has proven that if you give folks vision and hope and get out of their way, they’ll do far more than what you could have thought to tell them. She’s moved to Philly this week to take a new job with HOPEworldwide. She will be very much missed (especially by those girls and their parents), but thankfully she’s left four little pieces of herself behind.
Maria and I have just taken on the role of leading a small group in our church. As I look to this new leadership role, I want to be like Angie.

Romans 10

Romans 10:2 – I always read this passage with self justification of my judgment and criticalness of others’ faith. Their zeal is not based on knowledge. But reading it and considering it in context, Paul is almost making excuses from the Jews. “I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God” he says, if it were only based on knowledge.
Romans 10:3 – “Ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own” Wow, that hits home. I have felt that I have attempted to become righteous on my own terms, in my own way. I need to pay more attention to God’s way.
Romans 10:6-10 – Don’t worry about who is or isn’t going to heaven, who is or isn’t saved. Worry about yourself, if you do that and you follow Jesus as your Lord with faith you’ll be saved. Although this does give a sort of overview of salvation (faith and submission), it is by no means an check list of how to be saved. There’s no mention of repentance, baptism, love. Yet so many in Christianity use it this way – “all you have to o is believe and say you do.” Of course, the COC and ICOC have used Acts 2:38 (“all you have to do is repent and be baptized”) and Matthew 28:18-20 (If you’re not making disciples, you aren’t a disciple and aren’t saved) in much the same way. This simple, one verse type of salvation is contrary to the design of the scriptures, I think. The Bible is not a How To book, nor does it contain a How To list on becoming right with God. I think God wants us to seek and to study to find Him and I think as we teach others, we would do well to teach them to search and study.

Letter to NPR’s Morning Edition

On Monday morning I heard a report on NPR about the coming report (it was released on Wednesday, I think) detailing governement failures in the response to Katrina. They reported that it detailed “failures on all levels of government”. After the report there was commentary on the “political impact of the Katrina report”.
NPR takes a bit of flack from conservatives, mostly, acused of being liberalin their reportting. I don’t dobut that much of te NPR staff is more liberal than conservative, but their reporting is usually fairly ballanced. Every now and then, however, they let their biases show, and this was one of them. They report on failures at all levels, then their comentary on the fall out Katrina report talked only about the President’s problems. And they didn’t limit is just to Katrina, they talked about the leak investigation, the lobbying scandal and even Chney’s hunting accident under the guise of fall out from the Katrina report.
I’m not useually the ltter writing type, but I decided to call them on this. THey read letters on Morning Edition on Thursdays, but they didn’t think mine was worthy. Here’s waht I wrote:

I was disappointed in the commentary following the report this morning on the Katrina Report due out this week. The news story told how the report detailed failure at “all levels ” of government, but the commentary on the political fallout focused like a laser on the President. What of the failures at the state and local levels? If the failures were at all levels, why is the fallout only at the top? What is the fallout for the failures of Mayor Nagin or Governor Blanco?
I was then further disappointed when Cokie Roberts went into a litany of issues plaguing the president, the investigation into leaks, the lobbying controversy and even Mr. Cheney’s unfortunate hunting accident. What did all of this have to do with fallout from the Katrina report?
Many people, conservatives especially, like to paint NPR as a liberal organization. However, I find that your reporting is usually pretty even handed, but occasionally you let your colors show. This was one of those instances, where failures at “all levels” was turned into a focus on one. You can do better.

BTW – This post, in all its glory and creativity marks 400 posts here at Too bad I didn’t have anything more meaningful to say.

Easy Comments Are Back

One of the things lost on my recent upgrade to MT 3.2 was EasyComments, the comment formatting buttons and real time preview. Well, I took some time this week and put them back in, with some tweaks.

  • First, I put the real time preview next to the comment entry box so you can more easily see it when you type. The old preview was below the entry box and got lost under the bottom of the window.
  • Because of the narrower box, I simplified the buttons a bit. I changed the button text to be shorter and eliminated the ‘close all’ buttons to make each row shorter.

I enjoy this stuff because I have to play around to figure it out and therefore I learn some HTML and CSS along the way. Fun.
If you want EasyComments for your blog, you can grab a zip file of EasyComments 0.2 (that’s just like the old version with all the buttons), here. It’s made with Movable Type in mind, but it really should work on any web page with a comment form. Your mileage may vary.
I may refine it some in the future, so if there’s something you’d like to see it do that it doesn’t, let me know. The one thing I’m thinking of is figuring out how to make it more intuitive for folks who don’t know HTML, especially the lists. That would require learning a bit more java script so I really understand how this works

Romans 9

Romans 9:3 – I cannot imagine saying this. I guess I can imagine the longing to have those you love know what you know, but to wish to be cut off?
Romans 9:13 – Was this God speaking about Jacob and Esau? Did God say he hated Esau?
Romans 9:14-24 – I have to admit that a plain reading of this passage seems to support the idea of pre-destination. I can’t wrap my mind around this and I am only reading Romans 9 in isolation, but it seems that Paul is saying God chooses. Some, like Pharaoh and Esau, are chosen to be objects of God’s wrath, others are chosen for higher purposes. I can’t bring myself to believe the Calvinist position of predestination, however. I’m still not sure what to make of this.
Romans 9:30-31 – This verse and verse 24 remind me that the greater point that Paul was making is that Jew and Gentile are alike, both in sin, both justified by faith. So, if it is our faith that will save us it is not simple God’s pre-destination, right? That still, unfortunately, doesn’t quite explain the previous section! Another question to ask the Master when I get there. 🙂

Romans 8

Romans 8:3-5 – We “who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Remembering the context of Romans 1-7, and my recent study of repentance (metanoia) I see this in a new light. It is not an oppressive command or expectation, to do all the right things, but is a new mindset, a new outlook, a new & very different way of looking at life. Living not in the way of the flesh, or the world, but in God’s way, the way of the spirit. In that way, as it says in Romans 8:1, “there is no condemnation”. That’s the opposite of the traditional view, or at least, my traditional view, of this passage (and others like it). In that view, living the right way, full obedience, is evidence of being in the spirit. If you were in the spirit you wouldn’t do that,brother. It’s a twisting of Paul’s admonition to the Romans to live as f they understood the glorious truth of how separate (holy) they are from the world around them. Not a command to do the right thing, but an observation that your life tells me that you don’t really understand what you are a part of.
Romans 8:12 – I like the ESV translation here. In the NIV it says we have an “obligation”, in the ESV it says “we are debtors”. An obligation sounds oppressive and demanding, where to be indebted to someone means you have received something of great value from them. Seems to describe the situation between us and God better.
Romans 8:18 – What would you endure for $100,000,000? Think about Survivor or Fear Factor. These people endure pretty amazing things for money. How much more should we face spiritual challenges in the face of what has been promised us – eternity with God? When you think of it, it seems so silly to compare them. This is why complaining is of no value.
Romans 8:23 – I have felt this at times, a longing to be done fighting against the onslaught of the world.
Romans 8:34 – I love this verse! Didn’t Jesus say that it would be His words that would judge in the last day. You could say that Jesus, although not directly but indirectly, is him who condemns. Paul is saying here, who would condemn us? Oh, that would be Jesus who’s job it is to condemn, through His word, and He’s on our side!
Romans 8:37-39 – What a list! I wonder, do I really understand how close I am to God? Nothing can separate me from His love. Not my sin or anything. I sometimes ‘feel’ that He is distant, but nothing can separate me from His love. What will it take fro that to sink in for me? I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad, Paul had to drive this point home for the Romans too.

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