Sunday, September 30, 2007

Annoucement: Blog Closed & Moved

I would like to take this opportunity to announce the close of this blog and the introduction of my new website and blog.
If you have been reading my blogs you may have noticed a progression over time.

The first blog that I started I kept from March 2003 to September 2004. It wasn't necessarily public, but just something I shared with family and friends. Back then I tended to write about the everyday things that were happening in my life, mostly whatever project was distracting me at the time - playing and recording music, writing novels, and marathon training.

It was at the end of the September of 2004 that I began to have a spiritual awakening which lead to my being born again in 2005. During this time I didn't really keep a blog, save for a few scattered entries.

When I picked up blogging again in August 2005, the subjects I would write about reflected this change in my life. I occasional still spoke of the everyday things of life but began focusing more in more on what I was reading and learning in Scripture through the Holy Spirit.

At that time I will still active within the Jehovah's Witnesses organization, the religion I was born and raised in. Because I had been tipped off that the congregation elders were monitoring my blog to make sure my views were invariance with the official teachings of the Watchtower's governing body I tended to censor myself somewhat and to be careful at how I worded things.

Despite my care, eventually my blog did become part of the evidence that lead to a judicial committee (religious tribunal) being brought against me. Incidentally, it was the statement from the February 26, 2006 entry Rock or Sand? that was seemed to be the problem:

"We recognize that the brotherhood that we love so much does not belong to a legal body or any men taking the lead among us; but rather it belongs to Christ who is the head of the congregation."

After being disfellowshipped from the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses in the Spring of 2006 I had more freedom to express myself and the things I was learning. Since then began to write less and less about the everyday things of my life and more about Bible topics of Christian spirituality.

Now as I look back that the older parts of this blog I don't feel that it really represents where I am right now so much as the path I've taken. At first I thought about closing and removing this blog entirely. However I discussed this with a friend and they suggested that I keep it as perhaps some may benefit from reading through this progression. I'm inclined to agree.

For what it is worth while I will no longer be posting anything new to this blog I will be leaving it up. Additionally, I have added most of the contents of my previous blog that has been off line for some time. (All entries prior to August 2005)

I plan to continue blogging at my new home at It will continue the general format of the last few months - though with less focus on my personal life, unless it specifically relates to my discipleship and life in Christ.

Yours in Christ,


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Simplicity is Beautifully Deep

It was on the drive back from the creek where I was baptised that I reflected on the simplicity of that act of immersion. You simply go under the water and you come back up.

When I wrote to my friends and family to tell about my baptism my sister wrote back, "Looks like all those years of practicing at Sugar Shack paid off."

"Sugar Shack" was what we called my grandparents' cabin in rural Missouri. It had a creek nearby where we would swim and play. How many times have I went under the water at a creek playing baptism?

Baptism - so simple a child could emulate it.

It is the same with the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. The elements are common table items, bread and wine. The breaking of the bread, the passing of the cup - these were something that Jesus' disciples had done numerous times before. Yet this is what Jesus gives them to remember his sacrifice and his coming. Something old. Something new.

But these simple acts unfold to have a depth of meaning.

How deep?

So deep that 2,000 year later I still don't think we have the complete picture. It seems we can meditate on the symbolism and the meaning endlessly. And maybe that is why religious denominations have felt the need to dress these simple acts up with a bunch of pomp and ceremony. But really that is not necessary.

Regarding the Lord's Supper, Paul says, "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; ... and in the same way took a cup" - 1 Cor 11:23

The apostle gives just as he received and felt no need to add decoration and tinsel. It is already beautifully simple and simply deep.

One of things I have recently begun to appreciate about the Old Testament scriptures is even in the everyday accounts and stories of people there is so much symbolism. People back then were just living their life but fast forward thousands of years and we see all these little things point to bigger realities (or perhaps the bigger reality, Jesus). In the OT Jesus' is found in the most normal of places. He is in people watering sheep and feeding flocks and growing grain and making tents and kneading bread and fighting battles and getting married and ...

A friend once jokingly asked, "Why do we need to know that Esau was a hairy man and Jacob was a smooth man?"

Because it means something.

And here is a secret -- your life means something too. If we could teleport thousands of years into the future and look back at your life . Yet if our eyes are open today,I know that God can give us peeks. In looking back at my own life I have seen the greater realities of things that seemed insignificant at the time.

What happens when we keep our eyes open to find God in the simple things of everyday life? We make interesting discoveries. Such as --

The Kingdom of Heaven is like scrambled eggs.

My friend had that revelation in a cabin as we were making breakfast. As she explains it:

"First he break us out of our shells. Then whips us together. The yolk of spirit overwhelms the egg white flesh, and colors our live. He applies heat, and we become a mixture of cooked and partially cooked. The longer the heat is applied, the more even and of substance we become. All the seperate eggs, are now of one body, one existence, a new creation."

It may sound crazy but Jesus was constantly using little things like dough, scattered seeds, and fishing nets to explain big concepts like the Kingdom.

Once Jesus told this parable:

"Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search thoroughly until she finds it? Then when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.” - Luke 15:38

Think about a woman that actually had this happen to her. When she was busy sweeping the floor searching for her coin she didn't know that secretly she was acting out a divine truth about God's nature. How often in your life are you simply going about your simple business unaware there is a grand mystery in what you are simply doing?

Your life is a parable.

Paul is aware of this fact. To the Ephesians he begins by giving what seems to be advice for marital relationships between a husband and wife but then concludes by saying, "It is a great mystery ... I speak concerning Christ and the church." - Ephesians 5:22-32

Imagine that. Humans had been getting married for ages completely unaware that the everyday concept of marriage concealed a great mystery about Jesus and his congregation. This is just a small bit of a larger whole because as Christians everything in our lives has spiritual meaning. Our whole life becomes a sacrifice and an act of worship and even in simple everday things like eating and drinking we can glorify God.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship." - Romans 12:1

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:31

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Look A Body Of Water ...

It is my joy to say that I underwent water baptism this Sunday. Before I speak about it I would like to talk about what brought me to this point in my life.

It was actually the second time I have been baptised by water. I was originally baptised as one of Jehovah's Witnesses as a young teenager. When your parents are Jehovah's Witnesses typically there is subtle pressure for a young Witness to get baptised, around the age of sixteen, if not sooner. This is particularly true when the father in the family is serving as a Ministerial Servant (Deacon) or an Elder. If their children do not take a public stand of faith by baptism the congregation may view the parent as not "presiding over his household in a fine manner" and thus they may be pressured to step aside from their congregation responsibilities. There is also pressure in a peer group. It is not unusual that if one teenager in a congregation decides to get baptised that his friends will follow. Again, sometimes this segways into parental pressure. If a Witness youth puts off baptism they may begin to be viewed as "bad association" and their peers in the congregation may be discouraged from spending too much time socializing with them.

Personally, I recognized that there was an expectation for me to get baptised. A few of my friends had already taken that step and because my natural father was the Presiding Overseer of the congregation there was always the undercurrent that we, his children, had to set an example. Though, I can't say that I really felt pressure to get baptised. Since I was raised as one of Jehovah's Witnesses I always assumed that at some point I would get baptised sooner or later. What really motivated my decision to do so was actually a bus trip.

Jehovah's Witnesses are often encouraged to make it a point to visit the religion's world headquarters and printing facility, called Bethel, in Brooklyn, NY. Because of this congregations sometimes will arrange bus tours to visit Brooklyn Bethel. One such occasion there was a bus trip coming up and a couple of my friends were going and I was really wanting to go too. However, the tour group organizer had set the stipulation that only baptised children would be able to go on this particular trip. This prompted me to go ahead and get baptised. Again, I always assumed that I would get baptised and this trip only provided the impetus for me to go ahead with it. At that time I had a love for God and felt that baptism was the right thing to do.

Witnesses have three large gatherings annually, called assemblies and conventions, during which there is time set aside for public baptisms. The majority of those getting baptised will be Jehovah's Witness' children along with a few converts from their "door-to-door" ministry work. Before being "approved" for baptism, a baptismal canditate will have undergone a series of meetings with congregation elders to go over a set of questions. The questions are arranged to make sure that any one getting baptised into the religion will have a general knowledge of the moral and theological teachings of the Jehovah's Witness religion. At the assembly or convention they will listen to a talk about their baptism and then will be asked to rise and publically affirm their faith by answering "yes" to two questions. Since, 1985 the questions have been as follows:

On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?

Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah's Witnesses in association with God's spirit-directed organization?

I got baptised at a circuit assembly in St. Louis, MO that would have had an attendence of about 700. On my baptism day, I was surprised to find that my natural father was giving baptismal talk, a secret that he had kept. At the appointed time I rose and answered "yes" to the two questions not knowing what the ramifications of such would later prove to be.

It would be about fifteen years later that the second question would come back against me. At that time I was undergoing a judicial committee (religious tribunal) under the charges of apostasy. In a private discussion with a couple of congregation elders I had revealed that I didn't believe some of the religion's teachings on matters of organizational arrangement and prophecy. This set me up to the potential of being disfellowshipped (excommunicated) from the religion if I did not repent during a judicial meeting.

It was during this judicial meeting and the subsequent appeal meeting that I was continually told that by disagreeing with "God's organization" I was reputiating my baptism and the second question that I had publically said "yes" to. I tried to explain that I was just a child and that I thought my baptism was simply out of love for God and that I didn't recognize that it would legally bind me to the religion and its ever-changing beliefs and prophetic interpretations.

I was disfellowshipped and in the aftermath I really had to give thought to my baptism therein. In the eyes of the religion and those in it my baptism was into an organization - an organization I was no longer a part of and had no desire ever to be a part of again. I did some study on baptism and compared what I was seeing in Scripture and Christian history to what I had raised to believe. These studies were written up into the following blog entries:

Into Who or What are We Baptised?
Is Baptism a Symbol of Dedication?
Is the Baptism of Children Scriptural?

What I've found is that many former Witnesses in my situation have gone back and questioned their baptism - particularly if they were baptised since 1986. (Prior to 1986 the second baptismal question focused on the holy spirit but afterward it was changed to the "spirit directed organization") I was no different. I thought about it from time to time; but, I wasn't moved to be re-baptised. I reasoned that since I had since been baptised in Holy Spirit that there was no need for me to have a water baptism again. But even then I always left open the possiblity that I might sometime have a "look a body of water" moment.

(This is in reference to the Ethiopian eunuch of Acts 8:26-40. In the account this Ethiopian eunuch is in a chariot, leaving Jerusalem, and reading from Isaiah. The spirit moves Philip the evangelist to join himself to the eunuch and strike up a conversation. Upon hearing about Jesus the eunuch believes and seeing a body of water he asks, "look a body of water! What prevents me from getting baptised!" Philip agrees and baptises him in the name of Jesus.)

Recently a friend and I were looking at baptism again and she was speaking about her desire to get rebaptised in the name of Jesus. I shared my feelings about how I had received the spirit baptism and she pointed out how Cornelius and his family received the baptism of the spirit before being water baptised. This stirred my thinking and over the next few weeks I continued to get that spirit "prod" about water baptism.

So just Sunday I was happy to get baptised with my friends - of course they are more than friends and are really my only family. We went out to the country and after traveling down rock roads we found a spot a deep spot in a creek and took the plunge. It was a beautiful, wonderful experience. In looking at the pictures I doubt we could have bigger smiles.

Later that night Rebekah was questioning me about my feelings. She knew that up until a month ago that I wasn't really considering baptism. She asked if I felt different, more complete. I said mostly I just felt happy and at peace. But, I think there was something more to it for me.

I think about those in the first century that had been baptised by John the baptist; but, later got baptised in the name of Jesus. Was my first baptism a symbol of something? Yes - love for God, a dedication to him, and as much repentance as a child can manifest. However, in the Scripture baptism in all about Jesus and honestly I didn't even consider him in my original baptism. But this baptism was completely about him and my death and life in him. My first baptism was into a religious organization and my second into the Son of God. And in this way it feel likes a "rite of passage". I feel that just as my first water baptism was into a religion my second baptism was out of it. In truth, although I've been officially out of the Jehovah's Witnesses religion for over a year there was something that changed when I went under that water. I feel like that former life is finally behind me and I'm happy for the future.


I wasn't the only one to get baptised that day! My friends' account are here and here.