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 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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When Angels Stand Amazed

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“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”

~Barbara Bloom

Just a short word of encouragement to all my suffering brothers and sisters. 

I believe God loves you (it’s not a cliche) and has a tremendous plan for you.  Scripture tells us that we will reign with Him (and the last time I looked, there is no disqualification for being mentally or physically ill). 

Having suffered through your whole life will be just an enhancement, a bonus when you finally are held by Jesus, in His arms.

Those of us who struggle with depression, mania, and paranoia know a lot about cracks and brokenness.  Mixed states, anxiety, and social withdrawal all have taken their toll. Some of us hear voices. Addictions and suicide attempts have made up our past life (and even sometimes try to intrude on the present.)

Some of us have physical disabilities. We come to worship from our wheelchairs and walkers. Some of us are deaf, and others are blind. But we come still. Our hope is in the coming King who promises us a new and fully redeemed Kingdom. There will be no more pain.

I have a dear friend with advancing Alzheimer’s who understands little of what is happening to her,  but she still worships God with the rest of the congregation. Before dementia, she was a spiritual marvel.  Without a doubt one of the astonishing women I had ever met.

Now however, when she raises her hands, I believe the angels step back in a deep awe. 

I just realized this–the angels understand worship, they really do. Praise seems to be their specialty. Each angel that surrounds the throne has a PhD in “worshipology.”

But you know what? They really don’t understand our worship out of our pain, weakness, and brokenness.

Let us worship God with our cracks and brokenness.  In John 12:1-7, a woman breaks open a jar of nard on Jesus’ feet, while the other disciples hang back and complain. 

But always remember this dear one–it is only by being poured out that one can release the perfume.

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Oh How He Loves You!

Martyrdom Maybe?

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Believers must consider the issues of being salt and light in a pagan culture who refuses to claim Christ as Lord.

The Words of Jesus demand our complete response to the Gospel. The temptation is often reducing the call to something easier and more comfortable. We don’t really want to give up the world’s system for all that the Kingdom of God declares to be true.

It’s imperative as disciples that we fully understand that Jesus is Lord, not a political leader–not a nation or a political party. We’ve become citizen’s of something that is superior to a patriotic physical reality. We don’t fit. (Philippians 3:20 and Ephesians 2:19.)

Steps to faithful living as we seperate ourselves from the World’s way of doing things really must be considered:

In order to do this must make the choice:

  • To be true. Endure. Continue to pray and witness. Be faithful to Him.
  • To be prayerful. At least working on it. I know prayer is supremely powerful, linking my inadequacy with God’s capability.
  •  To be joyful. Sing often. Thanksgiving all the time. Our tormentors hate joyful hearts. It seems to disturb the darkness that is part of sin and rebellion.
  • To be real. Being faithful to Jesus. No lies, no illusions. Every aspect of our lives is to be the truth. We understand that Jesus is alive, and He is Lord.
  • To be giving. Time or talent, it’s a stringent test of a believer’s maturity. Money is secondary. We serve Jesus with an open hand.
  • To be convinced. We need to become fully convinced of the message of the gospel, and to be sure of His love. Not easy, but always needful. 

In the time of ancient Rome, Christians were in the limelight, it seems, but only as martyrs. Believers made a definite decison to die rather than renounce their faith. Often faithfulness was especially hard–one had to count a cost to follow.

It’s good to understand the world never burned a casual Christian at the stake.

The lions in the Coliseum made quick work of the Christian’s faith. Thousands of believers were burned at the stake. But these martyrs succeeded in reaching many by their witness, and a pagan empire was brought to Christ, en masse!

Someone said that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

Perhaps martyrdom will be our path to reach America with the Gospel.  The New Testament word for “witness” is martyr.  It very well may be that our blood will be the seed for a new generation of believers. It should come as no surprise. 

martyrdomI preached once on the UC Berkeley campus.  It’s a  challenging place; a condensed stronghold of a godless ‘intellectualism’ (if you can imagine that).  There is always a few people that for the most part bright and engaging. 

But as I got ready to leave, I met a university professor.  He looked at me in his tweed jacket and sweater vest and said something I will never forget.  “Too bad we can’t feed you to the lions”.  That’s all he said. When he spoke to me it was was a flat-calm statement–terse, cold and frightening–it was eerie and quite weird– mostly because I knew he meant it. 

In this ‘enlightened’ campus, there was a coldness–a hatred that I never encountered in the areas of inner San Francisco–Polk Street. or the Tenderloin’ where I preached also.

True, the Haight/Ashbury neighborhood in SF can be a little ‘rough’ at times, I once was punched in the face while preaching by an angry ex-believer, but to be honest, nothing compared to ‘Berzerkeley‘ (that’s what we called it.)

In three years of full-time evangelism I never met another man that was as hateful to the gospel of Jesus Christ as this professor in Berkeley. This incident was a brazen and deliberate calculation against the Gospel. Perhaps persecution by hardcore intellectuals will become the catalyst for our martyrdom to come. (?!).

No matter what happens. We are in God’s hands. Period. 

Our obedience to Jesus should be a decision we must make right now.  We can’t just hope to stand, or hope to be faithful. We must actively plan for persecution. This could very well be our time. It’s coming. And please get ready, you must watch and pray.

“But others trusted God and were beaten to death, preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free—trusting that they would rise to a better life afterwards.”

Hebrews 11:35

 

Post art “The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer,”  by Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904)

Number Them

 

          “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” –ESV

 
“Teach us how short our lives  really are so that we may be wise.” –NLT

 “Oh! Teach us to live well!
      Teach us to live wisely and well!”– MSG 

Psalm 90:12, three different translations

Growing up we must learn different things.

We’re taught the alphabet, how to brush our teeth and use deodorant.  We need to be educated, or tutored into many different skills.  Our teachers direct and guide us, they provide for us an understanding of the skills we need to acquire.  As we advance through their instruction, we grow in proficiency.

The Psalmist comes to the realization that he needs to develop a particular skill.  He desperately wants to craft his life to be honorable and obedient.  He turns to God and seeks His aid.  The psalmist seeks a ‘teacher’ who will instruct him.

Our own lives are often chaotic and foolish. 

We live in a great deal of ignorance, strained relationships and bad decisions.  Most definitely we are ‘saved by faith,’ but the course of our lives can still be difficult. There is much to be learned in the spiritual world. We’ll make many mistakes.

The author of Psalm 90 doesn’t want to continue doing stupid things.  He has a need, and he is pretty adamant that God will help him.  Part of what he understands is that he needs to get ahold of the reality of the ‘shortness’ of his life. That’s a good start.

He must understand that he has a limited lifespan–an expiration date. 

He refuses the deception that life will just always continue unfolding.  He doesn’t buy it.  He counts on God to pace him, and to keep him from recklessly wasting his life.  He is asking for restraints. He must learn to say “no” and say “yes” to many things.

I encourage you to consciously make this step.  Be deliberate in this.  If we lack wisdom, we need to ask Him for it.  Apart from His presence, our lives grow increasingly irrational.  Living without restraints will lead us into more foolishness and despair. We must learn to say “no.”

“Making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

Ephesians 5:16, ESV

 

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