Friday, July 27, 2007


July 27, 2007

How could such a simple child's game get me into so much trouble so often? Growing up in a small town in Idaho in the "BT" years (before television) required being creative in a child’s search for entertainment. There were always plenty of places to explore…farms, river banks, forests, old barns...and what better way was there to go exploring than to play "follow the leader?" My oldest brother, Donny, would lead (age carries such enormous responsibilities). Next in line would be my brother, Davy, younger than Donny by three years (second place carries the benefit of learning from the mistakes of the leader). Last (and always least) would come me, younger than Davy by four years and continually struggling to keep up with the longer legs of my older brothers (there is no glory in third place).
One day while exploring the farm of a family friend we came to a weed-infested irrigation ditch. Donny jumped over the ditch; Davy jumped over the ditch; and I (with a ton of determination and an ounce of size) jumped halfway over the ditch. Fortunately, the ditch had long been dry. Unfortunately, I landed on a nest of very angry hornets. Amazed at how high I could jump and startled by how loudly I could scream my brothers carried me to the farmhouse where mom and dad comforted their hurting third child, icing the world's stings and hugging away the tears.
Another day while exploring a forest in which our family was camping, we came to a flowing brook. Protruding out of the water several feet apart were some large boulders forming a disjointed bridge across the stream. Donny bounced across the boulders and landed safely on the opposite bank. Davy followed close behind and was soon standing safely on the other side shouting encouragement for me to join them. And I (you guessed it) made it halfway across before slipping on a rock which had been sabotaged by the muddy shoes of my predecessors. Fortunately, the brook was only knee deep. Unfortunately, I fell head first and was thoroughly drenched with ice-cold water and covered with cuts and bruises. Again my brothers carried their screaming sibling to the camp site where mom and dad warmed me by the fire, bandaged my wounds, and buried the disgrace of their hurting third child in their hugs.
Near our modest home was a large elm tree in which my brothers had built a club house. Entry into the tree house required climbing up a series of wooden 2 x 4's nailed to the trunk of the tree. When I announced I was old enough and it was time for me to join the club, the three of us headed for the tree to prepare for the initiation. Donny climbed into the tree house; Davy climbed into the tree house; and I (You're way ahead of me, aren't you?) climbed up halfway before succumbing to the inevitable outcome resulting from tiny fingers, short legs, and gravity. Fortunately, I was only about four feet off the ground when I fell. Unfortunately, I scraped against a 2 x 4 on the way down and opened up a large cut on my stomach. Once again Donny and Davy carried their bleeding, screaming brother home where mom and dad applied the first aid and the faithful love needed to heal their hurting third child.
Looking back on all the trials of being third in line, I've discovered a few profound axioms concerning our struggles to grow up which can be applied to individuals of any age as well as to churches of any size.

1. Make sure whoever you follow is heading in the right direction. Before following the crowd and lining up behind the latest charismatic author, dynamic speaker, or spiritual guru, spend some time comparing what is being espoused with what has already been laid down as the truth in God’s Word. Pay attention to the ones who have their focus on Jesus and ignore the others. Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ. - 1 Cor. 11:1.
2. Better yet, just follow the true leader, Christ Himself. Even though He may occasionally lead us into a nest of angry hornets (persecution), or through a stream of icy water (man-made or natural disasters), or allow us to fall from the tree house of our own sinful desires, He always has our best interests in mind, He promises never to leave us, and He will never lead us astray. If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. – Lk. 9:23. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith… -- He. 12:2.
3. Make sure the course you choose to follow matches your stride (or the ministries you pursue match your gifts). But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. – 1Cor. 12:18-19. ...let us run with endurance the race marked out for us. -- He. 12:1.
4. Growing-up, maturing in Christ, and growing a ministry rarely progress according to our own time table. Growth is a God thing. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. – 1Cor. 3:6-7. ...the whole body...grows as God causes it to grow. -- Col. 2:19.
5. Growing-up, both physically and spiritually, is best when done within a loving, caring family. From him (Christ) the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. -- Eph. 4:16.

I praise God for the spiritual leaders He provides for His Church. But I especially thank God for those special brothers and sisters in the Lord who encourage us to leap to new lengths of Christian service, to bridge the gaps in our spiritual understanding, and to reach for new heights of faith. I also praise Him for those spiritual siblings who lift us up and carry us back to the Father when we fall and who provide the healing hugs for all of God's hurting children no matter what their birth order. Oh yes, and check this out. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. -- Mt. 19:30. Perhaps being in third place isn't so bad after all.

Bill, a short-legged, highly beloved child of God

Friday, July 20, 2007


July 20, 2007

We had been standing in line for nearly two hours, slowly baking under the oppressive, Southern California sun. Our family vacation to Disneyland was not getting off to a good start. Thinking we could outsmart the less experienced tourists and get a head start near the front of the notoriously long lines of humanity waiting to enjoy the more popular attractions, we had rushed toward the best ride the instant the park was opened. Unfortunately, several thousand other tourists had the same idea. By the time we arrived at the entrance to "Space Mountain" the line was already backed up through a good portion of "Tomorrowland." There was nothing to do but wait patiently while we inched our way forward toward the goal of our quest...a high speed, turbulent, roller coaster ride through space.
We had all been looking forward to this particular ride for weeks ever since we began to plan our vacation. Now we would have to endure even more waiting. Once we got inside the building that housed the roller coaster our spirits soared in heightened anticipation as the front of the line slowly drew ever closer. In the distance we could hear the screams of delighted space travelers experiencing what we could only imagine.
Finally, with hearts bursting from excitement, we climbed into our spaceship achieving the good fortune of being placed in the best position, the front seat of course, where the thrills are the most intense. The safety bar was locked in place low across our laps and we reached for a firm handhold hanging on for dear life as our ship was launched into space. Picking up immense speed we began twisting and turning and falling through a course made out to resemble a ride through an icy asteroid. Since we were whirling through near darkness it was difficult to know in advance which direction the track would take us next. Often we would brace ourselves for going one direction only to be surprised by turning the opposite way. I found myself praying that I would remain in the spaceship and that it would remain on the track. Up and down, side to side, around and around we flew at breakneck speed, faster and faster until we passed through a spiraling tunnel of light, the brakes were applied, and the ride came to a screeching halt.
"Step this way, please," beckoned a young woman dressed in a space uniform.
Looking at my watch I realized the ride had lasted barely a minute. After weeks of planning and hours of standing in line the great adventure was already finished. "What a rip-off!" I shouted. "I can't believe it's over so soon. Let’s stay put and go around again."
"I'm sorry," said the attendant politely but firmly. "Others are waiting to take your place. Step this way, please."
As young children inching our way through elementary school, the intolerable wait for adulthood to arrive seems to take forever. When will the real adventure finally begin? The years crawl by at a snail's pace while we eagerly make plans for a future life that seems an eternity away. At last we find ourselves in high school where our spirits soar in heightened anticipation as graduation draws ever closer. With wide-eyed wonder we listen to the testimonials of older friends who have made it to the "great ride" and are experiencing what we can only imagine.
Finally, with hearts bursting from excitement, we don cap and gown, climb to the stage to receive our diploma, and launch ourselves into adulthood. The pace of life suddenly, dramatically lurches forward and we reach for a handhold, grasping for anything to hang onto to keep from flying off the ride. Faster and faster we go, twisting and turning and careening through a maze of life experiences. Odd jobs...different relationships...a new career...marriage...a baby arrives...another child...we buy a house...we get laid off from work. Just when we brace ourselves to go in one direction the ride turns the opposite way. We take the kids to their first day of the the emergency room for the "umpteenth" time...then to their own high school graduation. We wonder how this ride can possibly go any faster...but it does! College expenses...weddings...empty nest...the market goes up...the market goes down...retirement...major illness...spiraling tunnel of light...SCREECH!
"Step this way, please," beckons a young man dressed in white.
It suddenly dawns on us that after years of waiting and planning for life, the great adventure which just seemed to start yesterday has already come to an end. "What a rip-off!" we shout. "How can it be over so soon? Let’s stay put and go around again."
"I'm sorry," says the attendant politely but firmly. "Others are waiting to take your place. Step this way please."
For those of you who find yourselves dizzying over the incredible speed of life and astonished at the terrifying approach of the end of the ride, allow me to share the following amusement park theology gleaned from the roller coaster of life:
1. Life is frightening; dare to climb aboard. And while you’re at it, choose the front seat where the adventure is more intense. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. – He. 11:1. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. – Phil. 4:13.
2. Life is uncertain; make sure your handhold is secure. The lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. – Ps. 18:2. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. – He. 6:19.
3. Life is confusing; make sure you're on the right track. I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – Jn. 14:6.
4. Life is short; make the most of it. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. - Ps. 90:12.
5. Life is really short; take time to enjoy the ride. ...I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. - Jn. 10:10.
And here's the best truth of all. When you are traveling on a spaceship called "Jesus Christ," just when you think the ride is coming to an end, it's only barely beginning. Welcome to "Tomorrowland!"

Bill, a child of God enjoying the adventure

Friday, July 13, 2007


July 13, 2007

I stood at our second story bedroom window shortly after midnight stunned by what I saw in our backyard. In the dim light of a distant streetlight I could just barely make out the form of a large animal standing next to our apricot tree. Grabbing my flashlight I gently woke up my wife, Babs, and whispered excitedly,
“You’ve got to come see this!”
Leading her to another bedroom with an open window I shined the flashlight down into our backyard illuminating the area around the apricot tree.
“It’s a deer,” she proclaimed suddenly wide awake.
“A buck,” I added, “with a full rack and three, no four, points on each side.”
“How did he get in here?” Babs asked. “Did he jump over the fence?”
“I don’t think so,” I replied. “That fence is way too high, even for a deer. He must have come around the side of the house from the front yard through the place where we don’t have any gate. The drought has probably driven him down from the hills.”
We watched the handsome creature for several minutes until I began to get a little irritated at all the apricots he was consuming. Confronting the deer in the backyard I managed to shoo him away from the fruit and chased him back around the side of the house where he promptly disappeared down the street. The very next night, however, he returned apparently hungry for another meal from our apricot tree. Perturbed by the repeat visitation I erected a barrier on the side of the house using our trash bins hoping that this would discourage the persistent thief. So far my defense has worked perfectly.
If only the rest of our apricot woes were as easily fixed. Ever since we first moved into our present home eleven years ago and inherited a backyard orchard we have looked forward to a bountiful harvest of fruit. Our apple tree, lemon trees, and plum trees have fully met our expectations. The apricot tree, unfortunately, is another story. Between the birds, squirrels, insects, and now deer, we have enjoyed precious little fruit. For whatever reasons, the tree has never produced an abundant crop.
But this year it looked like our fortune had finally changed. A few months ago we rejoiced to discover that the apricot tree was loaded with little green fruit. As the fruit ripened and began to turn a bright orange we could see that the tree was completely covered with apricots. Our joy soon turned to dismay, however, as the growing fruit began to significantly weigh down the branches. We grabbed some old lumber and tried to prop up the limbs as best we could but soon the branches had sagged all the way to the ground. Then, tragedy struck. One of the branches broke off and hundreds of immature apricots were ruined.
I had intended to prune the tree last winter but a busy schedule and then a broken arm combined to postpone the work until it was too late. Now we were paying the price for our neglect. In the worst of timing, nature was doing the job I had procrastinated. We can only hope that the apricots will ripen quickly before any more branches break. There have been, however, a few benefits coming from our apricot tragedy concerning some valuable lessons I have learned, about procrastination and raising fruit to mention two, but also about the church. What follows is wisdom gleaned from nursing an over-burdened fruit tree and an unfruitful experience in trying to compel a mid-sized congregation to grow.
No matter what statistical analyses you consult, the future of the institutional church in this country looks bleak. (Check, for instance, The Present Future by Reggie McNeal.) At the same time, interest in spiritual matters is on the rise. Clearly, people are not rejecting spirituality. They are abandoning the traditional church in this culture. Why is this phenomenon occurring? Perhaps our apricot tree has a few clues.
For years we have measured success for the churches in this country by the size of their Sunday morning attendance. Regrettably this has precipitated an unbalanced focus on the numbers of individuals warming our pews as opposed to a focus on whether or not all that “fruit” is actually maturing. The problem with the church in this culture is not that our congregations are too small, but rather that they are too large. For someone, like me, who attended seminary during the height of the church growth movement of the last century, this last statement may seem like heresy. But my own experience and our prolific apricot tree has taught me the truth of that assessment.
When we try to grow too much fruit on one tree, or cram too many believers into one church, several negative consequences will eventually become evident. Too many apricots usually mean the fruit that is produced will be smaller. There are only so many nutrients to go around. In the church there are a finite number of pastors and teachers available to equip the saints. Equippers are easily overwhelmed and congregants suffer unless leaders are taught to multiply themselves allowing for more “nutrients” to reach the flock. Unfortunately, many pastors are not too keen on training up others to share their job. It was he who gave some to be…pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. – Eph. 4:11-12.
Too many apricots on the tree mean that there will be a few near the top soaking up all the sunshine and consequently maturing quickly, while others on lower branches are shaded from the sun and grow much more slowly. In any type of top-down leadership structure, the more the institution grows the less approachable the leadership becomes. They are too high above it all, inaccessible, spending a majority of their time administratively rather than serving others. In a church this becomes tragic when lower fruit are convinced that only a few highly gifted individuals are actually called to pastor or lead a congregation. The gifts of others remain undiscovered, undeveloped, and unused. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. – Jn. 10:11. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. – Mk. 10:45.
Too many apricots on the tree mean that some will be hidden by leaves and other fruit. These neglected fruit may never ripen and may never be picked because they can’t be easily seen. Our churches are filled with neglected saints who remain hidden in the back pews, whose fruit never ripens and who never get picked to serve in any ministry. It is no great mystery why these individuals eventually fall away from the tree and are consumed by pests or simply rot away. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me… - Jn. 10:14.
Too many apricots on the tree mean that some fruit will become more susceptible to various unwelcome pests like birds, insects, or even deer. The sheer numbers of fruit involved will mean no one will miss a few dozen here or there. But in the church, Christ makes it clear that every soul is precious and it is the duty of the shepherd to guard the flock from predators and go after those who are lost. Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? – Lk. 15:4.
Too many apricots on the tree mean that some branches may become so overburdened that they will break off from the main tree and their fruit will be lost. For years we have witnessed this phenomenon taking place in our churches bemoaning the pain of broken fellowship that occurs and the souls who are lost to the world. Our only answers seem to involve dreaming up more programs to prop up our sagging, overloaded ministry. But when such a split becomes evident more programs will be unlikely to solve the problem and may actually do more harm by requiring additional man-hours for those who are already overworked. The real solution involves pruning the branches at the proper time, before they become weighted down by too much fruit.
What do I mean by pruning? Am I suggesting we actually cut off members of our congregations when our gatherings reach a certain size? No, of course not! But I am suggesting we instill in our churches the value of growing smaller, not larger; of forming a plurality of less weighty gatherings rather than insisting that everyone attend one mass assembly in one location; of teaching that every believer in Christ is gifted and called to ministry; of showing by example that leadership in the body of Christ is servant oriented—bottom-up, not top-down; of affirming that every attendee, no matter their worldly or spiritual status, is vitally important to Christ and His body and should be given every opportunity to grow and encouraged to bear fruit. No Christian believer should be allowed to go to their grave with their fruit still green. We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. – Col. 1:28. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. – Jn. 15:16.
I am advocating that we equip our members to minister and then send them out to do exactly that, giving birth to new ministries, planting new churches, and bearing fruit wherever God leads them. Insisting that they remain firmly connected to our particular “tree” is endangering all the other fruit and only serving to inflate our own egos. Jesus was not much of a gatherer. He was, however, a great sender, a great commissioner. He often tried to avoid the crowds opting instead to spend time with a select few of His disciples. He sent out the twelve. Later He sent out the seventy-two. Then He sent us all out. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations… - Mt. 28:19.
We need to tear down the defensive barriers we have erected between the church and the world, not to allow the world to infiltrate the church, but to allow the church to invade the world. A fruitful orchard grows not by trying to produce the largest tree, but by planting more trees and keeping them carefully pruned. The church grows not by congregating in the largest gatherings possible, but by equipping the fruit and casting them out to plant more churches. As I’ve said before, the goal of the apricot tree is not to produce fruit, but rather to produce more apricot trees. Bearing fruit is just the natural by-product of progress toward the main goal. And that goal will never be reached unless the fruit falls from the tree.

Bill, a fruitful child of God

Friday, July 06, 2007


July 6, 2007

“Raise your right hand and repeat after me, ‘I (state your name) do solemnly swear…’”
A chorus of voices echoed the words of the mayor as over a hundred police officers, civilian employees, and volunteers of the San Ramon, California, Police Department were sworn in. The carefully choreographed ceremony took place in a middle school gymnasium packed with proud family members, local dignitaries, and well-wishers from the community. The official “swearing of the oath” provided a dramatic finale to the lengthy program which included a grand processional by all those in uniform, a presentation of the colors, speeches from the mayor and the chief of police, and the awarding of badges and service pins to all those being sworn-in. It was a great deal of pomp and circumstance for a small-town police force, but the pageantry was a long-anticipated kick-off to a new era of law enforcement for this bedroom community located in the East Bay Area of San Francisco.
So why was it necessary to go through all the trouble and expense of holding such a swearing-in ceremony? Were not these dedicated officers already at work patrolling the streets of the city? Had not the civilian staff and volunteer force already been hard at work serving their community, some of them for many years? Yes, all that is true. But this ceremony represented much more than just a glitzy program and another opportunity for politicians to spew profundity.
For the last twenty three years the City of San Ramon has contracted with the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office for police services. It was an arrangement which worked fairly well until the town began a substantial growth spurt in recent years. As of the first of this month the community now has its very own, first ever, dedicated police department. Such a milestone needed to be celebrated and those who comprise this foundational force of servant-hearted souls needed to be given the opportunity to pledge their faithfulness to the community, the state, and the country. A swearing-in ceremony allows the participants to publicly declare their commitment to serve. It is a morale-boosting, loyalty-igniting, unity-building, faithfulness-generating, and support-inducing celebration which is well worth the hassle of donning dress uniforms, sitting through political speeches, and enduring all the tradition and formality of such a solemn occasion.
As a volunteer chaplain for the community I was honored to participate in this auspicious event. It did get me wondering, however, why other occasions just as momentous if not more so, do not always engender the same amount of desire for ceremony.
Take, for instance, marriage. If ever there was a cause for a “swearing-in ceremony,” a solemn, public declaration of commitment, certainly this would be it. Of course modern weddings have carried pageantry to the utmost extreme giving rise to an entire industry surrounding what used to be a simple, yet profoundly meaningful event. I can certainly understand why many couples, wishing to avoid the anxiety and incredible expense involved, would opt out of any ceremony whatsoever choosing instead to save their money toward the purchase of a home or other more practical pursuit. Yet those who so choose miss out on the many benefits which come from beginning their life together with a public exchange of vows.
Declaring one’s faithfulness and undying commitment in front of many witnesses, including God Almighty, has a way of preventing a hasty exit from a relationship at the slightest sign of turbulence. There’s something about saying “I do,” declaring, “’till death do us part,” exchanging rings, and signing on the dotted line that makes one think long and hard about dissolving such a sacred union. The Church has long frowned upon those who would cohabitate before the official wedding ceremony, and rightly so. Such behavior diminishes the wedding vows, decreases the level of commitment between partners, and increases the likelihood of failure in a relationship. That which is easy to come by is often not highly regarded.
So tell me, if we can make such a big deal out of two lives coming together to form one or place such a high regard on a swearing-in ceremony for police officers and community servants, why do we approach the new birth of a Christian believer with as little pageantry as possible? Is this not the most important commitment an individual could ever make? If so, why have we relegated the “swearing-in ceremony” to an option, a take-it-or-leave-it event depending upon whatever is most convenient for the new believer? I’m speaking, of course, of the Biblically commanded, Christ demonstrated, apostolically practiced ceremony of baptism.
Okay, I’m certainly aware that ever since the days of Martin Luther the prevailing cry of the Church has been, “Salvation by faith alone!” And I am certainly not suggesting that any outward ceremony can save us from our sin. I am, however, endeavoring to point out that over the centuries since Luther we have perhaps swung the pendulum of faith vs. works in the opposite extreme. By pushing the actual “swearing-in ceremony” into the optional background, no matter how well-intentioned our motives, we have done new believers a terrible disservice. Rather than providing them with an opportunity to publicly swear their allegiance to a new Sovereign, we have made coming to Christ as easy as reciting a few short sentences or offering a silent prayer.
Again, I’m not suggesting that those who have accepted Christ through repeating the “sinner’s prayer” are not truly converted. Conversion is, after all, a matter of the heart, and only God knows what has truly taken place in our hearts. I’m just wondering what has happened to the swearing-in ceremony.
In Biblical times all covenants were initiated by an oath swearing ceremony usually involving the death of an animal by cutting it in two, lengthwise. The parties of the covenant would stand facing each other on either side of the sacrifice. They would exchange their outer coverings symbolizing the putting on of each other’s identity. They would exchange weapons swearing to defend each other. They would declare all their earthly belongings stating that it was all now mutual property. Then they would walk in a figure-eight pattern through the halves of the animal pointing toward heaven saying, “May it be done unto me…” and then pointing down toward the sacrificial animal saying, “as it was done unto this animal if I should prove unfaithful to this covenant.”
They would often take a knife or flint stone and make a cut in their hands. Then they would clasp their hands together to symbolize that their blood was intermingled. Reaching down to the ground they would take some dirt and rub it into the cut on their hands to make sure a scar would remain and serve as a reminder that a covenant had been made between them. They would sit down to a covenant meal where they would serve each other bread and drink wine from the same cup to symbolize that their bodies and blood were now one.
This is exactly what our Lord did when He initiated the Lord’s Supper on the night before He was crucified. The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ – 1Cor. 11:23-25. His death on the cross represented the slaughter of the covenant sacrifice, and as our covenant partner He forever bears the scars of the covenant upon His hands. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. – He. 7:27. The Apostle Paul refers to this “swearing-in ceremony” and equates Christ with the sacrificial animal. Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? – Ro. 6:3.
In baptism, the immersion in water of a believer in Christ, we have the dramatic portrayal of a covenant oath-swearing ceremony where we literally pass through the death of the sacrificial animal (Christ). In so doing we are pledging our allegiance to Christ and swearing our undying faithfulness to Him. It is a public demonstration of the sincerity of our faith. It is a morale-boosting, loyalty-igniting, unity-building, faithfulness-generating, and support-inducing celebration of our commitment to serve the Lord. It is a dynamic demonstration depicting the death, burial, and resurrection of a new believer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! – 2Cor.5:17. It is a beautiful portrait of a believer’s union with Christ. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. – Ro. 6:4. And every time we participate in the Lord’s Supper it is a reminder of our Lord’s sacrifice and the day when we swore the oath of faithfulness to Him.
So why would we downplay the importance of our swearing-in ceremony, and relegate the Lord’s Supper to a once-a-quarter event (if we happen to have the time)? Given the lack of commitment emanating from so many Christians today I wonder if we have propagated a lackluster faith by declaring baptism to be totally unnecessary? We have made becoming a Christian a matter of joining a church rather than enlisting in an army; signing up for a one hour, once a week lesson in life rather than a 24/7 adventure in life transformation; supporting others to do the work of the ministry rather than discovering our own ministry gifts and putting them into practice; looking forward to an eternity in heaven rather than faithfully enduring hard work, trials, rejection, self-denial, and persecution in this life; accepting a Savior rather than surrendering to a Lord. That which is easy to come by is often not highly regarded.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German theologian and Christian martyr, puts it like this: “The cross is laid on every Christian…As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” This sounds to me like an invitation to a swearing-in ceremony.

Bill, a duly-sworn child of God