Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Just Watch and See!

Mark 16:16 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Without reading that again, do you believe that means you must be baptized to be saved?

Ok, read it again. What if you believe but aren’t baptized? Are you saved or condemned?

Next question, what do you picture in your mind when you think of baptism? Infant baptism or believer baptism? Sprinkled, poured, immersed? Bathtub looking thing in a church, a swimming pool, a lake or river? Maybe speaking in unknown languages, healing services, snake handling. (If those last few are a bit too charismatic for you, please read the verses following Mark 16:16.)

The Bible can be tricky when we try to read it as an instruction manual. What if we read the above scripture as an involuntary act of human existence?

John the Baptist is quoted in Luke 3:16 saying “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”

When Jesus was baptized, Luke 3:22 tells us that the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. Have you ever seen that happen when someone gets baptized today? I haven’t. I haven’t even sensed a significant moving of the Spirit at a water baptism. There may be a warm fuzzy feeling. Maybe even shouts of joy. But not the Holy Spirit descending in bodily form like a dove. That would be cool. If you’ve seen that, please let me know.

John 4:2 indicates that Jesus didn’t baptize with water. Only his disciples did.

Perhaps Jesus is simply informing us in Mark 16:16 of something we can observe. When someone believes in him, the Holy Spirit comes upon them – they are changed through the immersion of the Holy Spirit into their lives. It is a natural response to believing in Christ. The natural response to not believing is being condemned.

So we don't need to discuss whether someone should or shouldn't be baptized. We should be able to watch and see for ourselves. Forms of water baptism may be outward signs of inward experiences but unless a dove shows up at a water baptism, it could just be someone playing follow the leader.

Just so you can rest assured that I’m not totally off the wall here – or at least I’m not alone, here’s a note from http://www.crosswalk.com/ The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon for Strong’s number 907 Baptizo which is the word translated as “baptized” in Mark 16:16.

Not to be confused with 911, bapto. The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be 'dipped' (bapto) into boiling water and then 'baptised' (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a permanent change. When used in the New Testament, this word more often refers to our union and identification with Christ than to our water baptism. e.g.Mark 16:16. 'He that believes and is baptised shall be saved'. Christ is saying that mere intellectual assent is not enough. There must be a union with him, a real change, like the vegetable to the pickle! Bible Study Magazine, James Montgomery Boice, May 1989.

It seems to me that God sent his son not to show us how to obey laws but to allow us to live in the Spirit. Because of Christ, we are given the Spirit to do his work until he returns.

“No one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. And since you don't know when they will happen, stay alert and keep watch. The coming of the Son of Man can be compared with that of a man who left home to go on a trip. He gave each of his employees instructions about the work they were to do, and he told the gatekeeper to watch for his return. So keep a sharp lookout! For you do not know when the homeowner will return – at evening, midnight, early dawn, or late daybreak. Don't let him find you sleeping when he arrives without warning. What I say to you I say to everyone: Watch for his return!”

Mark 13:32-37

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

What if...

What if, God didn't send His only begotten Son because He wanted us to be prepared to pay the price for sin?

This was one of many in a list of “what ifs” I received in an email today. Here’s one of the nearly 800 website that has the poem posted in its entirety http://www.fpcwcho.com/InspirationIF.htm.

All the statements were thought provoking. But the one above really hit me strong.

It is my hearts desire to show people – especially those in my family – the freedom and joy that comes from focusing everything in my life on Christ. It’s hard for some to understand what I mean when I say I live for Christ because there is no other reason to live.

Without Christ I am nothing. I cannot love my husband or my children all the time, unconditionally, without focusing on Christ. He is life. And he is the source of life in me. I’m a very pathetic person without him. I’ve been there and don’t wish anyone to ever see me that way again. It’s morbid.

So, what if God didn’t send Jesus to die for us? How would your life be different? Or would it?

He must become greater; I must become less.
John 3:30

Thursday, April 13, 2006

What's love got to do with it?

My mom instilled herself into us through phrases she repeated often. One phrase I remember most was “People are more important than things.” That was also the name of a song on a children’s album I had. Mom made it a way of life.

That phrase came to mind this week when my high achieving son brought home a report card with some not so high marks in “Personal Growth & Social Development.” Even at just eight years old, my son is a bit of a perfectionist and he expects everyone else to be the same. This attitude can create friction in a classroom team project.

As I was once again talking to him about my phrase “enjoy the process because the process is more important than the end product.” I was led to read 1 Corinthians 13 to him from the New Living Translation.

It was a surprising moment for both of us. He seemed to realize for the first time that the relationship with people is more important than getting things done a certain way. Prior to this, his childlike understanding of the importance of people may have meant it was his responsibility to get the people to do things right for their own good. [laughing here – that last statement may only make sense if you know my son.]

They had a career day at school recently which may have helped when I explained to him that he could be the smartest guy in the world but it would be meaningless if he were not able to get along with people. Reading 1 Corinthians 13 made this clearer to him.

Tina Turner asks a good question: “who needs a heart when a heart can get broken?” In this high achieving, feel good, success driven cultural, we attempt to ignore that we do have a heart and so do others.

It’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of the physical and the logical steps to success. We ignore our heart thinking it is for our protection to do so. In reality, the physical and whatever “success” is achieved feels very meaningless without love.

Whether it’s in an elementary school classroom, at work, or in ministry;

If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but didn't love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn't love others, what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would be of no value whatsoever.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Friday, April 07, 2006

Faith, Hope, and Love

Yesterday I wrote about the why of love. I ended with questions that led me to more questions – normal for me. Today I’m pondering the how of love. How am I able to love at all?

In Reliving the Passion, Walter Wangerin Jr. writes about Peter’s insistence that he loves Jesus and would never deny him. Wangerin goes on to say that Peter does love Jesus – “as many Christians do! But great love risks a greater pride. For the very strength of their loving sometimes dazzles and flatters them – until they trust that love more than its Lord.”

Several years ago, I spent a lot of time with a dear friend who was struggling with her faith, with love in her marriage and seemed to be spiritually dying for lack of hope. We met together often to pray and had some unbelievable experiences in the presence of God.

After several months she finally seemed to be very near to hitting bottom. I knew there was nothing more I could do. I had nothing to offer her of myself. As she lay prostrate weeping to God, I sat a little distance away crying out to God myself. Honestly, I was tired of it all. My prayer was very self-centered. In frustration I asked “God why can’t she just have faith like I do?

Warning: be prepared for correction when you ask God a self-centered question.

God instantly reminded me of a time in my life when I was without faith, hope and love. I struggled for nearly seven years searching to acquire it for myself. Then one day, I asked God to give me hope because I was giving up trying to create it within myself.

In the matter of seconds that it took to verbalize that prayer, God removed all my doubts and gave me hope, faith and love like I’d never had before.

I wanted my friend to have that but I had forgotten how I came to have it. It wasn’t from within me. It was a gift from the author of faith, hope and love. I couldn’t give it to her and she couldn’t acquire it on her own. A gift is received only after the giver presents it.

Perhaps God doesn’t allow us to grab it out of his hands because he knows we will trust the love more than we trust him. Love in our control, fails.

What does failed love look like? It’s a love that measures who is worthy of being loved or how much love they should receive. Unfailing love does not measure. It cannot measure because it is infinite.

I Corinthians 13 talks about the many things that look like love and many things that are good but only three things are eternal. They are faith, hope and love. Mortal man cannot create or control the immortal. Only the eternal God can create and give eternal gifts.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthian 13:8-13

If you will call your troubles experiences, and remember that every experience develops some latent force within you, you will grow vigorous and happy, however adverse your circumstances may seem to be.

- John Heywood

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Because He first Loved Me

…The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. 'There is no commandment greater than these.

Mark 12:31

Just before my kids headed out for school this morning, I asked them “who loves you?” My son quickly answered “God does.” Ah, good answer, my church raised boy. Then I asked “who else loves you?” My daughter gives an answer that was as authentic as she is. She said “I love myself.”

There have been times in my life when I didn’t love myself. In reality, “love your neighbor as yourself” is not just a great commandment; it is a statement of fact. I generally treat others with the same amount of love I have toward myself.

My husband and I have been discussing the humanity and deity of Jesus a lot lately. Comprehending either one of those can be an interesting topic. Comprehending both at the same time is a bit more difficult.

In Mark 12:29-31, Jesus is quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 in the Old Testament. The scripture in Mark and Deuteronomy begin with “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Footnotes in my Bible and online commentaries tell me that phrase is recited as part of the Jewish confession of faith.

Now look at John 17:22 Jesus says “I have given them [all believers] the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.”

Whoa. Do you believe that God the Father and God the Son (Jesus) are one? Do you believe Jesus loves the Father? And Jesus loves himself?

Jesus desires that we love each other and are one just as he and the Father love each other and are one.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8

How much do I love God? Truth is, it is revealed not in my behavior but in my attitude towards myself. Do I love because I want to be loved or do I love simply because He first loved me?

the mission:
PROCLAIM the good news; HEAL the sick and oppressed; BRING JUSTICE
~ Luke 4:16-20

Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing (John 14:12)
~ Jesus 

Copyright 2005-2010 Lisa Biggs Crum
Email LisaCrum@Grow2Sow.org for reprint permission