Setting Yourself on Fire

Difficulty and pain sometimes come from others, and challenges to the Lordship of Jesus often come from our unique circumstances.

But what if it was something we’ve done?

I remember the classic picture of a Buddhist monk who sat in the middle of a street. He was serene as he soaked himself with gasoline, and lit himself on fire as a protest against a war he believed was wrong and evil. He burned himself in front of the cameras.

All too often we’re pretty much responsible for our own self-immolation. It is we (and we alone) that set ourselves ablaze. Sin affects our minds and hearts. We set ourselves on fire.

When we sin– when we walk in ‘known’ disobedience we always put ourselves in an awful place. We love it but learn to hate it too. But we continue to do it regardless of the awful death that ensues.

God promises to forgive us. Out of our ashes, He keeps bringing us life and hope.

You can be forgiven. You can find life again, even if you’re fully responsible for the evil we’ve done to yourself. Yes, we all sin, and yes we walk in our own personal rebellion. But Jesus knows it all. These awful things we’ve all done can be forgiven.

As a man and a preacher of the Gospel, I realize that I often choose to sin. In spite of all I know and teach I realize that I can live in the ashes of my own making. As one who also struggles with bipolar, I understand that I’m even more susceptible to doing awful things. I understand that I choose darkness even though others will call me “a man of God.”

As you read this I’m praying that you find His forgiveness and mercy. You’ve come a long way it seems, but you must see His blood that was ‘released’ from His veins and arteries for you.

He desperately loves you–even if you’ve set yourself on fire, and sit in the ashes of your doing.

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

Isaiah 61:3

Preparing Yourself for Water Baptism

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(You may copy and distribute this teaching freely.)

“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 will find there is 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 really needs to be understood and accepted. I suppose we will develop these into living discipleship; you’ll 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 sinner with 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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Avoiding the Cul-de-sac

“Then God said, “You’ve been going around in circles in these hills long enough; go north.”

Deuteronomy 2:3 

I believe that there are cul-de-sacs in a broken believer’s walk. There are times when we seem to walk in circles and our path seems to take us around and around. It can be a real cause of frustration–we know deep down that there must be something more.

For city planners, a cul-de-sac solves many problems. Homes built there can be off the beaten track, kids can play without too much concern about traffic. The idea can be very appealing.

But a spiritual cul-de-sac can be dangerous.

The children of Israel are free from the profound bondage of their Egyptian masters. They now know freedom, but… (you know).

The children of Israel wandered. They turned an 11-day journey into 40 years! Although one can learn things going nowhere, it really isn’t what the Father wants.

The scenery never changes (“what? didn’t I see that cactus before?) The journey becomes one of repetition. Around and around, dealing (and seeing) the same old stuff, over and over. We really don’t see anything new. We really don’t hear His voice.

This really isn’t what God intended for you.

Perhaps going in circles is a real issue for those with physical and mental issues. We feel trapped by our illnesses, hemmed in by these difficult things. We wander and continue to take another trip around the mountain. Instead of having a ‘straight’ walk, ours is crooked.

Our journey needs to be ‘linear,’ not circular.

I know all about these dead-ends. I’ve been there. I guess if I was to explain my own walk it would be one word–stagnant. I wandered in circles dealing with the same ugly stuff over and over. It seemed like I never went forward. My life was caught in some kind of spiritual loop.

Quite often we get trapped through sinful habits.

Sometimes we can’t break out of this vicious cycle without the Father’s helpful discipline. We must understand that the Lord will “rock your world” if you keep choosing to sin.

He will not allow you to continue in rebellion or disobedience.

I saw others on their straight path. Yes they sinned and struggled, but they seemed to be going forward, and I wasn’t. There were my issues, Bipolar and chronic pain (what a mix, huh)? I knew I was trapped and I never could break this on my own.

The spiritual scenery never changed for you.

God really does love you. You must become utterly convinced of that. If you’re stuck in a cul-de-sac you must know this. Condemnation never comes from Him. Never. I suggest that you call on Him (get on your face) and ‘beg’ to be with Him.

I Came to Love You Late [Regrets]

regret

Regrets are a funny thing.

You really start to gather them when you get into your fifties. They are a bit sticky, once you have them, they’re hard to get rid of— (kind of like dog hair on a nice jacket.) I’m 61 now and am surprised by the memories of things gone by. I guess this is one of the job hazards of getting old.

Why do we remember the bad things– surely they weren’t all mistakes?

God’s Word gives us fresh insight into this state of mind of regretfulness. What it gives is akin to instructions to disarm a bomb— it’s ticking, and ready to explode. There are some who have been severely wounded when a regret goes off. Out of the blue–whammo!

But what really bothers me is all of the missed opportunities.

I wonder what life could have been like if I had accepted Christ at a younger age. A lot of pain would’ve been averted and perhaps I might have loved Jesus deeper than I do now. Some of us come to love Jesus late in life. There is so much time frittered away.

I regret the years spent in rebellion and disobedience. I remember the words of a 70-year-old man who had just received Christ, “Why did I wait so long for this to happen?”

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

Philippians 3:13-14, NLT

Paul learned to adjust his vision. He no longer let regret define him, choosing rather forget the past and press into the future. The solution to regret is to focus on what lies ahead. Heaven is our destination–it is our calling, it’s really where we belong.

And Peter tells us that our past sin was enough. We have wasted enough time doing evil. I don’t know about you, but I had a bellyful of sin, and it’s time to lay all the foolishness and rebellion and live instead for God. Enough is enough.

3 “You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.”

1 Peter 4:3

There is a sorrow that leads us to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10), and since it affects me I should make full use of it— not knowing when it will leave. I have regrets like anyone else, but there is also the joy of having my sin forgiven. They both mingle and at times I rejoice, but the sadness comes and goes as well. David, that great sinner-king, understood the joy of forgiveness.

Oh, what joy for those
    whose disobedience is forgiven,
    whose sin is put out of sight!
Yes, what joy for those
    whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
    whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

Psalm 32:1-2

“Maturity comes from obedience, not necessarily from age.”

    Leonard Ravenhill

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