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A Matter of Inches

Last spring I was working at home when I received a call from a number that I did not recognize. I let it go to voice mail. The same number called again so I decided it might be important and answered. On the other end of the line I heard a strange female voice asking me if I had a daughter, who was an Indiana University student. When I answered in the affirmative, the voice told me that my daughter had been run over by a car while walking on campus and that she was going to the hospital in an ambulance.

Why We Sprinkle

A number of years ago a new family in our congregation had just completed the membership class and was preparing to join the church. They were planning to present several children for baptism. Having heard me say in the membership class that for us the mode of baptism is not essential, the father requested immersion for his kids. Somewhat embarrassed, I had to explain that, although we accept any baptism done with water in the name of the Triune God in a true branch of the visible church (whether by immersion, dipping, pouring, or sprinkling), we practiced sprinkling. He was a bit disappointed that we were not a “full service” operation, but agreed that his kids would be sprinkled. That incident prompted me to be much clearer about our position on the mode of baptism in subsequent classes. Although the mode of baptism is not essential, we practice sprinkling. And we practice sprinkling, not because we are too cheap to install a baptismal Jacuzzi or to rent a local swimming pool. No, we practice sprinkling because it is biblical and because it seems to pick up the Old Testament symbolism of ceremonial […]

Doctrine and Evangelism

Several months ago I received the following email from a former student at Indiana University.

“You do not remember me but I was in one of your Biology classes at IU. I teach science and frequently integrate information from your class. Before I joined the Army, you loaned me a book from your church. As I was unpacking at our new house I found it. I cannot tell you how influential you were for me but years ago, as I was reading it, I was saved and baptized while serving [in the military]… Anyway, I would like to return the book to you if you wouldn’t mind giving me the best address to do so. I am truly sorry I have kept it so long!”

This was a student I taught nearly 15 years ago, who was prompted to join the military in the wake of the 9/11 bombings. In nearly 20 years of college teaching, I’ve had numerous opportunities to minister to students in various ways. I’ve given out a lot of books. I could remember this student, but I could not remember what book I’d given out. What book would I give to a young […]

He’s Invested Too Much

Last month the Chicago Blackhawks won their sixth Stanley Cup Championship as a professional ice hockey franchise. More impressively, this is their third title in the last six years. Given the team’s recent dominance, it might be tempting to conclude that winning was easy. It certainly was not. The team battled injuries throughout the regular season and entered the playoffs with the third seed in their division. In the conference finals, Chicago trailed in a best-of-seven series, three games to two. At a particularly low point in that series a television interviewer asked Joel Quenneville, the coach of the Blackhawks, whether or not he had considered pulling his starting goalie. Quenneville’s answer got my attention. To the in-game interviewer Quenneville said, “No, not at all.” And then he gave his logic: “We’ve invested too much to do that.” Quenneville was communicating that he stood behind his all-star goaltender, Corey Crawford, and that he was not about to introduce an element of uncertainty or doubt at a point in the season when everything was on line. The coach and the team were “all-in” and Crawford was their guy. Crawford […]

Baptism and the Burden of Proof

Who bears the burden of proof in the argument over infant baptism? The New Testament (NT) neither explicitly commands the baptizing of infant children of believers nor forbids it. Sometimes what is NOT said speaks loudly to us. In this case, the absence of a direct command regarding infants and baptism strongly supports one position on this issue over the other.

Given that the people of God in the Old Testament (OT) had been putting the sign of the covenant (circumcision) on their infant children for nearly 2,000 years when Jesus arrived on the scene, it is logical to infer that NT believers, who were overwhelmingly Jewish, would have assumed that the NT sign of the covenant (baptism) would be applied to their children as well. The absence of any prohibitions on baptizing the children of believers or even any discussion of this as an issue in the churches to which Paul wrote suggests that this was NOT an issue in the early church. The only way it could be a non-issue is if there was no fundamental change in the way the sign was applied to the children of believers.

While there is […]

Represented, Sealed, and Applied

Last Lord’s Day our congregation had the pleasure of witnessing the baptism of a covenant child born into one of our families. When infants are baptized, parents take vows. We understand the obligation baptism places on parents, who present a child for baptism. But how does baptism make a difference in the child’s life?

Rejoicing in Lament

Earlier this week I gave a public lecture on the subject of living with cancer. One of the observations I made was that God has used my experience with leukemia to help me appreciate His word more fully. In God’s providence, I had just started working through the book of Psalms in my regular Bible reading when I was diagnosed with an incurable blood cancer about two years ago. The first book of the Psalter contains many psalms of lament in which the psalmist is crying out to God for help, often in a state of anguish. I had read those psalms many times before and, frankly, did not find them particularly meaningful.

A Professional Ministry

A number of years ago John Piper famously wrote, “We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry… The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake” (Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, 2002). The subtitle of the book explains his thesis: “A Plea to Pastors for a Radical Ministry.” A desire to be comfortable and to have a nice career is incompatible with the radical call to follow Christ. While this advice is good as far as it goes, it misses the point that ALL Christians have a radical call to follow Christ and seek His glory instead of our own comfort (1 Corinthians 10:31; Matthew 16:24-25). It also fails to address the fact that, at some level, professionalism in the ministry is a positive good!

Most evangelicals do not go into the ministry to be comfortable.

Threats Real and Perceived

Humans have an incredible capacity to fear. A certain type of fear is actually a gift to us in a fallen world because it enables us to sense and avoid danger. The problem with fear, however, is that the parts of the brain that control our fear response are not the same ones that control our ability to reason. In other words, to be effective, our capacity to fear has to operate very quickly, and the cost of a rapid fear response is a sometimes irrational fear response. People, who want to control your behavior, are quite adept at appealing to your fear response in order to get you to take some action that benefits them. Tune in to this news outlet and follow their “breaking coverage” of some tragic event. Support this or that environmental cause before the planet is destroyed. Buy gold before the next stock market crash. Buy survival supplies before the coming societal meltdown. Enroll your kid in a special program before it’s too late and she falls behind the other kids. The list is virtually endless.

Sadly, Christians are often motivated by irrational fears just like everyone else. A particularly troubling example of this is the […]