Relationships

Baptism: The Ace of Grace

Posted on August 24, 2012. Filed under: Culture, Relationships, Spiritual Growth, Theology | Tags: , |

If you’re into Swedish Rock or 90’s pop, then chances are you’ve memorized  “The Sign” by Ace of Base.  “I saw the sign, and it opened up my mind, I saw the sign…” Sorry, that will likely be in your head now.

At it’s core, that’s what baptism is for many Christians, including yours truly. A sign, not a Swedish Rock band, in case you were confused. When God gives us a covenant, he marks it with an external sign.  The sign of the old covenant was circumcision, and the sign of the new covenant is baptism:

Paul writes, “When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead” (Colossians 2:11-12).

Christians are not set apart physically, instead we are differentiated from others by our faith in Christ. Baptism is a marker for this faith and a sign that points to a new life in Christ. Though the sign of the new covenant leaves no physical distinction, there are still outward indications a person has faith in Christ through their works (James 2:14-26).

I acknowledge, not everyone would agree that baptism is simply a sign. Some denominations even believe it is required for entry into paradise (bummer for the thief on the cross). Indeed, there’s a lot of controversy surrounding baptism because it’s something people take seriously, and rightly so. A red flag should go up when people don’t take committing (or recommitting) their life to Christ seriously. But I don’t think we should get so hung up on the details that we lose focus on what’s important, celebrating a brother or sister coming into the Church.

With that being said, this is my blog so I’m going to explain where I come down on the issue: baptism is a public statement indicating a faith in Christ and marking the beginning of a life in him.

Without rehashing the Protestant Reformation, I believe that faith in Christ is the cornerstone of Christianity and that it is only by faith that we are justified with God (John 3:16, Romans 3:22, Ephesians 2:8). Because baptism is a sign of this faith, my husband and I chose not to baptize our children, after all, they have no faith in Christ yet (or any concept of faith at all). We’re working on potty-training for now. We pray with every fiber of our beings that one day we will witness their testament to faith in him, but we believe that is their choice, not ours. Sprinkling them with water won’t change this.

That being said, there is biblical precedence for parents attesting that they will raise their children to love God and for dedicating children to the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:7). For that reason, we have chosen to dedicate our sons in front of our church so that our brothers and sisters can hold us accountable to raising them in the faith.

There are lessons I take from Christ’s baptism. Not only was he a man (rather than an infant), but he made a public declaration. The thing about public statements is that they have a way of holding you accountable (assuming of course your witnesses hold you accountable). For that reason, I think it’s important for baptisms, dedications, and weddings to be done publicly.

Secondly, when Jesus went down to the Jordan River, he was likely submerged by its waters rather than getting a little sprinkle on the forehead (the Greek for baptism actually means ‘to submerge’). I think there’s something symbolic about being completely washed by the waters, after all Christ takes away all our sins, not just a few. But I also contend this is not, and should not, be a sticking point of baptism.

So that’s it for my personal beliefs: a public statement of faith, preferably with a lot of water. I realize not everyone agrees with me, and I recognize some good arguments for the opposing views which I hope you will share in the comments.

If you’re exploring “the sign” for yourself or your children, I hope you take your decision seriously. After all, as some wise Swedes once said, “No one’s gonna drag you up to get into the light where you belong.”

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Don’t Wait for the Storm, Toss the Baggage Now

Posted on August 14, 2012. Filed under: Culture, Relationships, Spiritual Growth | Tags: , , , , , |

Our church is currently studying the book of Jonah, which is actually one of my favorite books. It’s not just because like every child of the 90s, I have a soft spot in my heart for whales (if that kid could train a killer whale, anyone can). The book of Jonah is great because it’s short, easy to understand and full of satire (obviously my favorite literary technique).

As I was reading through the first chapter, this verse stood out to me:

“Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship” (Jonah 1:5).

Just to refresh your memory, the book begins with the prophet Jonah running from God.  Jonah was commanded by God to warn the Assyrians living in Nineveh to repent or be destroyed. Historically speaking, the Assyrians were pagans; and not your tree-hugging, Green Peace types; they were the skinning people alive and washing them down with a nice Chianti. Naturally, Jonah was worried he would become man-stew or man-jerky, so hopped on a boat, and went as far as he could in the opposite direction (Tarshish is in modern-day Spain). Unfortunately, disobeying a direct order from God may induce hurricane force winds as a side effect. While the storm was raging, the non-Hebrew sailors began tossing things over board to lighten the load and avoid sinking.

Why do we wait until we’re in the middle of a storm to toss out our extra baggage? Though the sailors may have thrown over some valuable belongings, they would have kept the items that they needed for the trip, the things that were irreplaceable. Only those items that were needlessly occupying space and weight would have been abandoned (thus, Jonah had to go).

I think we’re all guilty of carrying around too much baggage. For some of us, the baggage is extraordinarily heavy and burdensome, possibly past mistakes, relationships, or life choices that are still weighing us down.

But baggage doesn’t always have to be one heavy load, it could just be a bunch of small stuff that adds up. I realized my ship had a few too many fillers in it, like endlessly scanning status updates on Facebook and being too interested in the news cycle. Neither of these are bad by themselves, but they aren’t exactly life-enhancing either.

Psalm 90:12 reads, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” Extra baggage demands time and energy that we too often take for granted. It keeps us from living life and loving others to the fullest. Life doesn’t employ the TSA to inappropriately grope you or screen your luggage to ensure you aren’t carrying something you shouldn’t be. Sadly, it usually takes a storm in our life for us to realize we’ve been hauling around too much.

What nonessential cargo are you guilty of storing? Is anything keeping you from connecting with others or connecting with God? Perhaps you just need to play a little baggage Tetris by setting priorities. But you might also realize there are few things you should probably toss overboard before a storm forces you to do so. But I’ll bet after a little time, you’ll find you don’t really miss that extra baggage anyways.

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Olympic “Lawn Care”

Posted on August 4, 2012. Filed under: Culture, In the News, Relationships, Spiritual Growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

What’s your favorite summer Olympic sport to watch? I’m pretty cliche enjoying gymnastics, swimming, and track. I know everyone says it, but what these people can do with their bodies is incredible. Obviously they’ve been given certain talents, but the dedication that they have to developing their skill is mind blowing. I just want to be able to consistently catch a frisbee.

This got me thinking about my lawn. Stick with me, this is going somewhere. The first thing I notice about a house is the lawn, which can tell you something about the tenant. For example, lawn gnomes usually indicate someone has an unhealthy fascination with Tolkien books. But if it’s freshly cut, edges are trim and clippings have been blown away, someone takes a lot of pride in their work. Like olympic athletes, a person who takes care of their lawn dedicates their time and energy for a higher purpose.

Ok, so not exactly the same thing. But both do require time and dedication to achieve the maximum desired outcome. In fact, almost everything in life is like this. Going to the best college requires dedication throughout high school.  Getting promoted means dedication in the workforce. Having a great marriage means dedication in your relationship.  In effect, you reap what you sow, whether its your garden or throwing a javelin.

The Bible says, “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit” (Galatians 6:7-8).

Decay and death? Isn’t that a bit too extreme? Not really when you think about it. Why do marriages end in divorce?  Why are so many of us carrying a few too many pounds? Why do we go through highs and lows in our walk with God? Because we allow it to happen.

Whether it’s relationships, our health or our careers, things falter and eventually ‘die’ because without willful thought, we’re always going to turn inward, seeking to gratify ourselves. We naturally neglect what we shouldn’t, letting life simply happen to us and to our relationships. Instead, we need to invest time and resources to that which matters most. Take time to pray. Have an uninterrupted conversation with your friend. Read a book on improving your marriage even if it’s going great. Practice hand-eye coordination with your toddler…

Craig Groeschel wrote, “When the grass is greener on the other side, it’s time to start watering your lawn.”  The next time you’re admiring an athlete’s skills, another couple’s intimacy or maybe just their lawn, ask yourself, “Am I sowing what I expect to reap? Is it time I water my lawn?”

 

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Why I’ll Be Getting A Rock For My Anniversary

Posted on August 1, 2012. Filed under: Culture, Relationships, Spiritual Growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

This time of year is very special to me or a few reasons. My husband and I were married August 4th, our son was born August 11th (no, not the same year), but more importantly for my readers, I started The Renewed Way on August 1st last year. It’s our one-year anniversary! And you know what that means – its time for a rock. A really, really big one.

Unfortunately for the men, rocks are biblical gifts. Unfortunately for the women, I’m not talking about diamonds. I’m talking about the sedimentary kind (the most emotional of the 3 types of rocks).

After Moses died, Joshua led the Hebrews into the land of Canaan, but before doing so had to cross the Jordan River (a mile wide in flood stage at the time). Miraculously, God dried up the river to let the Hebrews pass on dry land. While God seems to be a fan of water, it appears He’s not so much a fan of getting wet. When everyone had finished crossing, the Lord commanded one man from each of the 12 tribes pick up a stone from the river bed and place it where the Hebrews camped that night. So Joshua told his 12 leaders:

“Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever” (Joshua 4:4-7).

God wants us to commemorate the important events in our lives, and it would appear marking these events with inanimate objects as a reminder is biblical (provided you aren’t financing it, of course). We are to share the celebration with others so they too know how awesome the achievement is. But most importantly, we need to remember that the achievement isn’t about you. It’s about your wife. But seriously, it’s about God and what He has done in your life.

Notice Joshua didn’t say, “Yeah these stones are to remind your kids that I was an awesome general” or “These are to reaffirm that I’m still committed to sharing the next X years with you” or “Here’s a nice stone to buy me some wiggle room for a little while.” He gave all attribution, rightly so, to God and the miraculous work that He had done. Anniversaries shouldn’t be about all that we’ve accomplished over a period of time; they should be about all that God has accomplished in our lives.

The Lord has blessed me with 5 years of marriage to an amazing husband and through this relationship He has taught me a bit about patience, faithfulness and of course, love. Through motherhood, He has given me a whole new appreciation for patience, gentleness, and certainly plenty of joy (Galatians 5:22-23).

As for this blog, over the past year God has blessed me more than I ever could have imagined, and it’s my prayer that some of my posts and maybe a few of my bad jokes have blessed you as well.

PS – Mike, you can get me a rock for our anniversary as long as it’s one so big you have to carry it on your shoulders.

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Marriage Expectations

Posted on September 10, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Jane Austen

Image via Wikipedia

A reader recently recommended a topic for me to address: what to expect in marriage. Entire blogs and books are dedicated to this topic, but those usually unnecessarily beat up on men. I’ll try to make this one different.

Marriage in one verse: It is good for a man not to marry ( 1 Cor 7:1). There – done. I write that in jest but in all seriousness, I believe Paul wrote that because marriage is hard, but especially so if you are a Christian.

Why do people get married? Because we fall in love? Because we find someone we just cannot live without? Someone who makes our heart skip a beat and looks really good in a dress. I’m pretty sure one of the reasons my husband married me was so he would never have to unload the dishwasher. But as much as he loves this perk, we know that as Christians (and Jews) we are called to marry to become holy. It is an institution that God, not a priest, a judge, or Jane Austen created in which man and wife become one in spirit and in body (Mat 19:4-6).

And here lies the problem. From the onset, we are reminded that contrary to everything our culture tells us about marriage, it is not about us – it’s about Him. While men and women look for any reason under the sun to break this bond from ‘falling out of love’ to ‘I deserve better,’ the only reason Christ defines as acceptable for divorce is adultery (Mat 19:9).  After hearing this, the disciples conclude that it’s better for people not to marry all together (Mat 19:10), which may be where Paul was coming from too.

Humans, but especially Americans, are into themselves. It’s all about me. Sometimes that works well for us. It created a society focused on individual rights, the freest nation in the history of the world. It created a market place full of products to meet even the most obscure individual desires – the shake weight, really? But in a marriage, this attitude is destructive. We’ve all heard the statistics that about half of marriages end in divorce, even among Christians. But of those that don’t end in divorce, how many marriages would you actually call ‘happy,’ even less ‘holy’?

In Malachi, God reminds us that we are all tempted to break faith with our spouse, even while we are still married (Mal 2:14-16).  Break faith – what does that mean? Maybe ‘forgetting’ list of things she wants you to do around the house. Perhaps convincing yourself that you ‘deserve’ a husband who will ‘want’ to (insert chore/task here).

Breaking the faith, I believe, means feeding that self-centered desire we have to get our way and make ourselves happy. Keeping faith with ourselves rather than our spouse. Forgetting, or worse ignoring, the fact that God has united us with one individual to make us happy, holy, and whole.

So, what to expect in marriage? Expect to learn what real love is, to be awed, and gain insight into our Lord. But expect to find challenges, especially when your expectations are focused on yourself. Jane Austen may have written some ‘lovely’ books about the perfect love, but she had no idea what she was talking about. After all, she was never married.

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Eye Contact or iphone?

Posted on August 17, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

iPhone vs. iPhone 3G

Image by Ricky Romero via Flickr

Is staying connected keeping you from connecting with others? According to a survey I recently read, 26% of smart phone users admit to regularly using their phone while at dinner. I don’t think it’s because they are making phone calls. Nope, I’m pretty sure that this is evidence that more and more Americans desire to stay connected with the digital world. The exclamation point and the word “you’re” aren’t the biggest casualties of social networking; our social lives are.

Would Jesus use email, Twitter, and Facebook (cause let’s face it, He wouldn’t be using MySpace)? Sure, why not. But I don’t think He’d be using His smart phone to check for Lazarus’s latest tweet during the Last Supper. Instead, I think He’d be focusing on whom He was with, giving that person His undivided attention.

At the end of Chapter 10 in Luke, Christ and the disciples went to the home of Martha and Mary. While Martha was busy with preparations for the meal, Mary sat by the Lord, soaking up the time she had with Him. Naturally, Martha protested that Mary should be helping her instead of relaxing while Martha did all the busy work. Jesus gently corrected Martha (don’t want to upset the chef before meal time) by proclaiming that Mary was in the right and that Martha had lost sight of the most important part of hosting: the guests.

Okay, so Martha wasn’t exactly texting while JC was telling the latest parable. But if something as understandable as preparing for the Son of God to enter your home is considered obsolete, how much more would emailing work be? Let’s face it; no matter how important we think we are, we aren’t that important (Gal 6:3). When we start to believe our lives are more important than spending quality time with our “loved” ones, there will be consquences.

The Parable of the Great Banquet in Luke’s chapter 14, tells the story of a man who prepared a great banquet (as opposed to a lame one) and invited all his favorite people. One by one his guests gave the man a seemingly legitimate excuse for why they couldn’t come. The man became angry and decided to invite the not so great people who would appreciate him to the banquet instead. While this is a parable about the Kingdom, I believe it still speaks truth to our subject at hand. If we would rather stay attached to smart phones and work emails rather than connecting with those in front of us, we shouldn’t be surprised when they “de-friend” us.

The friends’ latest work out of the day can wait. The text message will be there in an hour. The political junkie will put up another rant in 17 minutes (I promise, I will). So let’s free ourselves and our company from the iphones, droids, and blackberries. After all, which banquet guest would you rather be remembered as: the guy who missed out on the greatest feast in town because he was busy with his ox (Luke 14:19) or the blind guy sitting at the head of the table with the drum stick?

PS-Please post this blog to your Facebook status

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