BT Irwin Posts

A blog about looking for the Way of Jesus Christ in 21st century America

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Grace raises our failures and sins from the dead and transforms them into wisdom

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My dad is 72 today (March 9, 2022).

I imagine that 72 is a happy birthday. That’s a long life! That is a lot of years in which a man can find so many reasons to be thankful.

I imagine that 72 is also a hard birthday because, well, a man has to wonder how much time he has left…and how much harder it will get to keep on living one more year.

Seventy-two is not what we call a “milestone year,” but it is one for Dad. Last year–not long after his 71st birthday–cancer cast its shadow over him for the second time in his life. The doctors told him that with this cancer, it is not a matter of “if,” but “when.”

So 72 is a milestone, as every birthday will be for Dad from now on.

Dad and I are different in a few ways. One of them is that Dad has what we in our family always called the “heebie-jeebies.” He is always doing something or looking for something to do. None of us ever knew Dad to...

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I was baptized 35 years ago today. Here’s what that means to me now. Here’s what it means to you, too.

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Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

My dad baptized me “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” on March 4, 1987–35 years ago on the day of this writing. I was 11 years old.

I keep a reminder of this anniversary in my calendar along with reminders of other anniversaries, birthdays, and milestones.

My baptism is worth remembering and thinking about each year.

If you’re not part of my faith fellowship–the Church of Christ–and its traditions, please let me fill you in on a few things about the way we “do baptism.” This is strictly FYI before I get to the point of this post.

First, we are those Christians–the ones who call themselves “born again.” This comes from something that Jesus said: “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above” (…or “born again”, as some translations of the Bible put it) (Gospel of John 3:3) and “no one can enter the...

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What to do when we’re teetering at the end of the world

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Photo by Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash

Last night, I tossed and turned for hours thinking about something that Fiona Hill said in an interview I read yesterday: “We’re already in [World War III].”

Imagining where all of this will lead is scary enough. Last night, I had to lie to my nine-year old about the danger in the world right now. I told him that “the bad guys” could not get to us here, but you and I know that is not true. It turns out that, sometimes, parents have to lie to their kids to keep them safe from their own imaginations.

Since I do have a nine-year old, I keep thinking about all the dads and moms with nine-year olds in Ukraine. In places like Kyiv. I think about them trying to comfort and entertain and explain and feed and protect their nine-year old kids in bomb shelters and subway tunnels. I think about them holding their nine-year olds close in the darkness as the...

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Back at the YouTube Church of Christ

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Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

This may be the official first post of my old age.

It’s Sunday morning and I’m in a quiet hotel lobby in Louisville, Kentucky. My son and wife are still asleep upstairs. In a couple of hours, we’ll get back on the road to finish the last leg of our trip to visit family in Tennessee.

When I was a kid, we didn’t travel on Sunday mornings. Or, if we did, Dad and Mom looked up the Church of Christ closest to our route and we stopped to worship there.

This morning, we will listen to our congregation’s livestream on the speakers in our car as we cruise down I-65.

This will not be much different from what we did last week or the week before. Since the COVID pandemic started, we “watched church” from home at least five times as often as we “went to church” in person. When the Omicron variant started to burn in our region, we went back to “YouTube...

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Don’t believe the news about disunity

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Photo by Koshu Kunii on Unsplash

In a few weeks, I will stand in the pulpit of a small Church of Christ congregation that invited me to bring them good news.

I asked what kind of good news they want me to bring.

“Unity,” they said.

The good news is that I have some good news about that:

For [the Christ] is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it (Letter to the Ephesians 2:14-16).

Parenthetic paragraph: If you can’t make it to hear the good news I will announce to that little congregation in a few weeks, just stop reading this...

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The mistake that is causing churches and their ministers to collapse

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Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash

This is what they call a “long read.”

It’s about church stuff.

Church leaders (and people who care about church) may get the most out of this post. I think, however, that anyone who leads a mission organization may get something from it, too.

I couldn’t stop thinking about something my dad, a lifelong minister (or what you may call a pastor in your circles), said to me a couple of weeks ago.

So I started writing and it turned into this.

You’ll find three parts in this post.

The first part is the story Dad told me about how he made a big mistake that led to his personal collapse and, perhaps, the collapse of the congregation he served for 22 years.

The second part is my take on Dad’s story and how I think many American congregations and their ministers make the same mistake that Dad made.

The third part is a personal story about how I...

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Friends with “repugnant” opinions

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Photo by DJ Paine on Unsplash

This morning, I had a random thought about an old friend who came through for me at a time when I needed all the friendship I could get.

I don’t know why I thought of her this morning. Maybe it was the snow falling outside the window. I have good memories of the times she and her roommates hosted me in their home on winter days like this one. They were so generous and kind that I still feel warm all over when I think of them.

Like many friends from long ago, I only keep up with this one through Facebook. Once in awhile, I see her post something about her family and her life and what she is up to these days.

Once in awhile.

Most of what she posts, however, is what I will call passionate opposition to the precautions many people are taking against COVID. She is vigorous in her hostility toward any kind of mask and vaccine mandates.

I do not agree...

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What–and who–white Christians believe (MLK Day 2022)

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I woke up this MLK morning with insides buzzing, tense skin, and tight chest.

As I ran through all of the things that could be causing these feelings, I came down on one: I really wanted to publish a post on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. A week ago, I started writing and revising several posts in hope that the Spirit of God would fill the sails of one of them and carry it to you.

That did not happen.

It may be for the best. A lot of people will publish or share thoughts on Martin Luther King, Jr., today. Maybe it is not God’s will that I be one of them this time. Maybe my blog is not the medium God chooses for the message he has for the world today.

The pressure to write on MLK Day does not come from needing to prove that I am one of the good white men. As a Bible-believing Christian, it is a foregone conclusion that I am not good. As a Bible-believing Christian, I admit that...

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We Christians are looking at the darkness when we should be looking at the light

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The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!–Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Matthew 6:22-23.

The problem these days is not the darkness in the world.

When has the world not been dark?

The Christ taught his apprentices and students to choose light, not to fixate and focus on the darkness of the world.

We are to choose what we see, which is another way of saying that we are to choose what we believe.

We can choose to see the darkness in the world. When we choose to see that darkness, we also choose to believe in the darkness. To believe in the darkness is to attribute power to it, to have a relationship with it, to let it take up space in our minds which leads to it taking up space in our...

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An opportunity for you to feed some friends who feed others

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L'Oreal Hawkes-Williams can tell you exactly how, when, and where her life–her purpose in life–changed.

Some of us would call it her “Aha!” moment. Others would call it her epiphany, her “Damascus Road,” or her stroke of genius.

Whatever anyone calls it, a new vision lit L'Oreal while she was in the middle of doing the most ordinary thing: Making supper for her kids.

At that time in her life, she was a full-time mom and part-time grocery store cashier staying in her native Detroit.

It was just another weeknight. The TV was on in the background as L'Oreal cooked supper for her family. All of a sudden, a news report caught her attention. She stopped what she was doing to watch.

The Food and Drug Administration had issued a national recall on lettuce for E. coli. L'Oreal’s first thought was about whether she had any of the bad lettuce in her refrigerator.

Then she had another...

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