Preparing Yourself for Water Baptism

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“Those who accepted his message were baptized.”

Acts 2:41 

 “Repent and be baptized.”

Acts 2:38 

 “Having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your  faith in the power of God.”

Col. 2:12 

Perhaps the most significant decision we’ll make is to follow Jesus Christ into the waters of baptism.  This is just obedience to the Lord’s command to be baptized. Discipleship begins when we appropriate baptism into our faith. Ideally, it will forever alter your life. At least that is the Father’s intention.

Baptism becomes a public pronouncement or declaration to the physically seen world and to the invisibly unseen world of the Spirit. 

It takes faith to be authentically prepared for baptism.  You will be taking a stand. By faith, you’re making public your allegiance to Christ. It is an important and critical step.

“Baptism was to put a line of demarcation between your past sins when you are buried with Him by Baptism–you are burying your past sins–eradicating them–putting a line in the sand saying that old man is dead and he is no longer alive anymore and I rise up to walk in the newness of life.”

T.D. Jakes

I suggest that you prayerfully attend to the process listed below.  You’ll find there’s a big difference between truly being baptized, and just getting wet!

The interrogative process can be used to solidify the faith before man and in front of His people. In a sense, it’s much like the vows made by a husband and wife in the vows of marriage.

I.  A series of questions are asked, to which the reply is always, “I renounce them.”

  1. Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
  2. Do you renounce the evil powers of this world that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
  3. Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?

II.  The second half also must be asked, to which the reply is always, “I do.”

  1. Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?
  2. Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
  3. Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?

III.  The Apostle’s Creed can be recited publicly (or privately in prayer).

This is our faith boiled down to its core essence. This declaration helps set us apart from the World, the flesh, and the devil:

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, who was crucified, died and was buried.

He descended into hell. and on the third day, He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church,  the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”

This needs to be understood and accepted. We will need to develop these into a living discipleship; you’ll see that water baptism is analogous to a master key that opens the door to a special joy. Obeying the command to be baptized pleases Jesus. And that is what we long to do.

“Indeed, baptism is a vow, a sacred vow of the believer to follow Christ. Just as a wedding celebrates the fusion of two hearts, baptism celebrates the union of the sinner with the Savior.”

–Max Lucado

“Baptism is an outward expression of inward faith.”

–Watchman Nee

“Baptism separates the tire kickers from the car buyers.”

    –Max Lucado

A special word to “older” believers: There may come a time when you feel that you would want to be baptized again.  I believe that this is not only allowable but commendable.  You may have not had a good understanding of the baptismal process, but now it makes sense.  I would encourage you to follow your heart. God will honor your rededication. Ask your pastor or elder what they think.

 

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Kissing Crooked Lips

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“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”

Luke 7:34

God in some profound way, accommodates Himself to your ‘sickness.’ He will turn away from you.

We find that He has this beautiful quality about Him–He becomes quite tender and gentle around any spiritual disease. He gravitates to the broken ones. His love for sinners is a well-established fact we must consider frequently.

In his book Mortal Lessons (Touchstone Books, 1987) physician Richard Selzer describes a scene in a hospital room after he had performed surgery on a young woman’s face:

“I stand by the bed where the young woman lies. . . her face, postoperative . . . her mouth twisted in palsy . . . clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, one of the muscles of her mouth, has been severed. She will be that way from now on. I had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh, I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had cut this little nerve. Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to be in a world all their own in the evening lamplight . . . isolated from me . . private.”

“Who are they? I ask myself . . .

“He and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously. The young woman speaks. “Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks. “Yes,” I say, “it will. It is because the nerve was cut.” She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles. “I like it,” he says, “it’s kind of cute.” All at once, I know who he is.”

“I understand, and I lower my gaze.”

“One is not bold in an encounter with the divine. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers. . . to show her that their kiss still works.”

This is who Jesus has always been to you!

And if you think you are getting to be a great kisser or are looking desirable, I feel sorry for you. For it’s He who wraps himself around our hurts, our brokenness, and our ugly, our ever-present sin.

Those of you who want to draw big, dark lines between my humanity and my sin, go right ahead, but I’m not joining you. And I don’t really understand.

I need Jesus so much to love me like I really am: brokenness, memories, wounds, sins, addictions, lies, death, fear….all of it. (Take all it, Lord Jesus.) If I don’t present this broken, messed-up person to Jesus, my faith is dishonest, and my understanding of it will become a way of continuing the ruse and pretense of being “good.”

God truly loves the unlovely.

He is wildly passionate about those who have been disfigured by sin. Those who turn with pretense find a sort of ‘spiritual Botox’ that can only hide their blemishes. But by coming to him with all we can muster we’ll find healing and acceptance.

You see, you’re the young woman in this story. The kisses of your Savior are yours. Unconditionally. And forever.

For some reason, He delights in kissing crooked lips.

Learning Pain. Ten Steps.

How do you handle the pain as a believer–the physical kind especially? What do you do when you want to curl up in a ball and just want to disappear? Please understand that pain isn’t in God’s original plan, it’s entered our world through human rebellion and sin. We who hurt must be aware of this.

Pain isn’t normal, but yet–it’s very much real. Too much. There are 10 things you really must consider right now.

First, I need to tell you this. There is pain that at times you can’t even imagine how you are going to handle another day. And the doctors have the audacity to tell you point blank, that you need to get used to it because it’s never going to get better. So now you must sort things out–as outside of a miracle, it’s only going to get worse.

Often there will be little help or counsel from other Christians. What do you do as a believer in Jesus? What will your discipleship look like now?

Here are ten thoughts that come to my mind. They’re not in any order, so don’t look for one.

One–Treat false humility as a worse disease than you’re facing physically. You’ll be very tempted to milk out your pain for all its worth. You’ll try to take advantage of others, and you’ll want to complain, and put yourself in the best possible light. But pain and ego were never meant to mix–especially as a disciple of Jesus. Renounce it now. Turn from it constantly. It will always be an issue, to one degree or another.

Two–Never find fault with God. He’s not to blame no matter what the evil one tells you. The Father loves you, and he will carry you all the way through this. Satan always tells lies. You must take a stand against him. Put on your armor! Super-glue Ephesians 6:19-18 into your thought life–and never let go!

Three–You can never lose track of eternity. My special verse is Revelation 21:4, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Please keep this front and center. It will help!

Four–You’ll start to learn to see others differently. There’ll always be another believer who has it worse. Think about them, and all that they must deal with. It helps a lot. Also, you’ll discover that your pain will be like new glasses for spiritual astigmatism. You’ll see things much clearer now.

Five–Your walk will deepen. You will learn to be joyful when all you want to do is cry. The littlest things become a cause of great joy. God values your singing more now, especially when you’re singing out of excruciating pain. Your songs are now more precious to him. The Word, and worship music, seem to be more meaningful. Surround yourself with music (and preaching too) that builds you up.

Six–You will discover the art of blending pain into your discipleship. Sleepless nights become diving boards for prayer, reading, and worship. You’ll change and deepen, and that’s always good. There’s something that can only be burned into you by pain. Also, be open to brand new ways of ministry now. Look for doors to open up. They are maybe different than you think.

Seven–You’ll discover that there can be solace in medications and treatments. I know that this is something really practical, but a handful of Motrin or other pain meds will become a special delight and something to look forward to. Also, listen closely to your doctor and therapist. Pray for them, pray they’ll have special wisdom for your situation. (And let them know you are praying for them. They need your encouragement too.)

Eight–You start to see that you’ll never be able to do this alone (and man, do you know it). God is giving you a gift. He’s designed to connect this way with others. You’ll also start to see people less in terms of their giftedness or ‘rank’ and more in the light of what they’ve had to endure. As you begin to see pain and sorrow as special friends, they’ll often show you who your true brothers and sisters are. They may come from unexpected places.

Nine–You’ll understand the Father’s love in a new way. Like an old-style pharmacist, God carefully measures out exactly what we need. He never gives you a single ounce of medicine more than is necessary. He’s exceedingly careful and very conscientious. Trust him. All that happens to you has come through nail-pierced hands. He understands pain. He understands you.

Ten–You must learn to laugh again. Little things become a source of real joy. The smallest things will make you laugh again. (Weird, I know.) Get a joke book, that may help, especially when you get sour and withdrawn, and maybe even mean. “A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom will leave you bone-tired” (Proverbs 17:22, MSG).

Definitely, this list is not complete. I apologize, there are many others that really should be added, but maybe this is a start. If I’m missing something fairly critical, let me know.

We must be aware that our pain allows us access to His ‘careful’ grace. Our trials, properly received, endow us with special abilities. I’m serious. They are now our new ‘superpowers.’

(So, move over Batman!)

You must, you must learn to embrace your pain and your sorrows. They come to us at too high of a personal cost. Don’t waste them! They’re precious and far too valuable to neglect. Squeeze them and extract all that they can give.

Also–just one more (number 11?) Be easy on yourself. You’ll find that you’ve much to learn. And that’s ok. That’s very much ok.

Here’s a quote that has always sustained me. It’s really good to remember–

“Some Christians are called to endure a disproportionate amount of suffering. Such Christians are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed, and cause us to ask, like Moses: ‘Why is this bush not burned up?'”

–John Newton

A good site is Joni Eareckson Tadas. She’s a believer who has suffered a great deal and has a ministry to the afflicted, Joniandfriends.org.

Also, brokenbelievers.com has an older teaching post that may help, check it out if you want to go deeper into this–“Suffering Intelligently.”

Jesus is My Apple Tree

apple-tree

“Like the finest apple tree in the orchard
    is my lover among other young men.
I sit in his delightful shade
    and taste his delicious fruit.”

Song of Solomon 2:3, NLT

Jesus is my apple tree. He keeps my dying soul alive.

He is the subject of many different metaphors. We know him as a shepherd, a door, and bread. There are many other ‘pictures’ in Scripture, that speak of his ministry and life. There is one that strikes me today, that of Jesus Christ as a life-giving tree– an apple tree. Song of Solomon 2:3 and Revelation 22:1 are the ‘roots’ of this wondrous thought.

“On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.”

Rev. 22:2

To think of Jesus as ‘the tree of life’ or an apple tree is both an honor to Him and a strength for us. We can swirl metaphors around all day and never exhaust their truths. Jesus (a.k.a. “the apple tree”) is seen imparting life and healing through his fruit. He is the source of everything good and grand in our lives. Eating his fruit is not only significant but encouraged. (Like most things in God’s Kingdom.)

The young maiden in Song of Solomon has given us her take on Jesus— her shepherd, lover, and king. She sees him as the finest in the forest. He provides shade to her, as she eats the fruit of his branches.

Oh, what a worthy picture of Jesus our savior. We can look at this all day. As we come to him we can see the One who is gifting each of us his blessings. We do well to consider him this way.  The first few lines set the tone for us.

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.”

The song, based on an anonymous poem, first appeared in a New England hymn collection by a New Hampshire preacher in 1784, so it has a history. Many people sing this as a Christmas carol, although there is nothing in the words that refer to Christmas. Go through each stanza. See if it fits you. Perhaps it will cause you to see Jesus in a new way. Here is the poem in its entirety:

Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

“Consider Jesus. Know Jesus. Learn what kind of Person it is you say you trust and love and worship. Soak in the shadow of Jesus. Saturate your soul with the ways of Jesus. Watch Him. Listen to Him. Stand in awe of Him. Let Him overwhelm you with the way He is.”   

John Piper

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