The Funny Side of Water Baptism

Sometimes hilarious things happen during water baptismal services.

I had a friend who pastored a small church that didn’t have a baptismal tank. They needed to baptize some new believers so they borrowed the baptistery of a nearby church. The service was scheduled at the borrowed church.

That baptistery hadn’t been used in a long time so my friend went the day before and cleaned it. That proved to be wise because it had been a while since the pool had been used and it was dirty.

Did I mentioned that they killed a scorpion while cleaning? 

Baptism day arrived and it proved unforgettable. A little lady entered the baptistery with him. He plunged her into the water and as he was bringing her out he noticed something big and hairy next to his foot.

Shock rippled through him. His cleaning experience from the day before caused him to see a giant tarantula or some other malevolent creature. He wanted to jump out of the water but with Spartan discipline he held steady like a good soldier of the Lord.

Then he glanced at the lady he had just baptized and realized something was different. He looked at the harry ball in the water again. That was no spider next to his foot. The lady had left her wig in bowels of the baptistry.

Strange things happen when you baptize people.

Baptism Represents Change

Lots of things happened when we were baptized into Christ. When we were plunged into the water, it symbolized our death to ourselves. That’s what repentance is all about. We confess our sin and God forgives us.

When we came up out of the water that symbolized Jesus‘s resurrection. It symbolized ours, too. Baptism reminds us that we have a brand-new life in Jesus and the potential to defeat sin is there.

When Jesus came into our heart we moved into a new world and became a new person. (2 Corinthians 5) Jesus is, “…able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25, NKJV)

Forgiven. Washed clean. Full of the life of Christ. Declared righteous before God because of Jesus. God’s children. Full access to the throne of God’s grace. The spirit of God dwelling within us.

New creatures.

And this life principle continues to work in us each day of our life.

We choose daily to die to what doesn’t please God in our life, to hurting other people. And His Spirit dwelling within us gives us power to live for the Lord to serve and add value to other people’s life. 

We choose to live in Christ. We talk about the crucified life, and that is good. It just doesn’t go far enough. We need to live the resurrected life. You’d be useless if you had stayed in the bottom of the baptistery. Dead even.

The Resurrected Life

We are new creatures in Jesus. We live to do his will. Yes, we fight against the dead man. Yes we fight against temptation to sin and selfishness. But we have the power of the Spirit of God in us, enabling us to live like a new man or woman. God’s man and God’s woman.

“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

“It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!

So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

15-17 This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. (Rom. 8:11-16, The Message)

Hmmm …

But there’s one nagging reason that keeps many of us from moving ahead in life. It’s our thoughts: those seemingly insignificant sentences that pass through the mind, greatly influencing everything we say and do. From our thoughts, we hear messages that can propel us toward great accomplishments and positive change . . . or drag us into a negative spiral.” H. Norman Wright

Image: Image by alexramos10 from Pixabay

Which Direction Do You Aim Your Prayers?

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This is going to sound weird but when we first went to language school in Albertville, France many years ago, I was confused. I couldn’t figure out which direction God was when I prayed.

I never really thought of it before but when I prayed back in the good old USA, I just had the sense that God was there. I couldn’t have pointed to the direction but my heart knew where He was.

In those majestic mountains of France, I couldn’t get oriente, though. That might have been because we lived on the side of a mountain.

My experience seemed out of whack because when you leave all to follow Christ you’re supposed to have a joyful sense of God’s presence 24/24. A free pass into His presence.

Right? Well, I didn’t.

Change Can Disorient Us

I know now that a lot of it had to do with changes that were going on in my life. Tough challenges faced Phyllis and me and our three small children. Spiritual changes, physical changes, psychological changes, ‘positional’ changes.

They taught us about culture shock in missions school but mine was more of a “positional shock.” My superstructure had been dismantled. Family left behind. Hobbies. Church. Au revoir.

From an important leader in the church I pastored, I had sunk to trying to formulate sentences in French that a kindergartener could say. “Où sont les toilettes?” for example.

So, when I prayed, this strange question haunted me: “Where is God?”

I am glad to report that I found him, or maybe he found me. But you know what? Sometimes I still feel like God is lost. Or more likely I am lost. Where can I find him at times like this because I sure need Him?

Others Lost, Too

Can you believe it? I’m not the only one who has ever had this problem.

“Their taunts pierce me like a fatal wound; again and again they scoff, “Where is that God of yours?” (Psalm 42:10, Living Bible) And the man after God’s own heart cries out, “O God, my God! How I search for you! How I thirst for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. How I long to find you!” (Psalms 63:1, LB)

Today some of you may feel like you don’t know where God is. I’ve got good news for you. He’s there with you. You may not sense His presence. You may not see him. But he’s not leaving you. He loves you too much. He is working for you. He is your Father, and you’re his incredibly loved child.

You say, “David, I’ve screwed up. I’ve sinned.” Repent then. God will hear your prayer (1 John 1:9). Often sin isn’t the problem, though. Life is.

We all have times when our emotions either don’t work or they betray us and join our enemies.

What God Has To Say About It

Is God still there? Before you consult your feelings, consult something much more reliable—God’s Word.

–He promised to be with us in the Covid-19 epidemic, even when we can’t get to the hairdresser. “I will be your God through all your lifetime, yes, even when your hair is white …” (Isa. 46:4 LB) (Sorry, I’ll get serious again).

–“For God has said, ‘I will never, never fail you nor forsake you.’ That is why we can say without any doubt or fear, “’The Lord is my Helper, and I am not afraid of anything that mere man can do to me.’” (Heb. 13:5, 6 NIV)

–God revealed Himself to Ezekiel and His people by the name, “Jehovah Shammah,” the Lord is there. (Ezekiel 48:35) He’s not the “way off God.” He’s the God who never leaves the side of His people.

–“Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20, NLT)

When we hang onto to the truth of Jesus’ presence in tough times we get reoriented. We know “where” to pray. If you feel like you’re spinning round and round inside, give it a try. Cry out to Him, expecting Him to hear you.


Hmmm …

“In short, God will either give us what we ask or give us what we would have asked if we knew everything he knew.” Tim Keller

Smile

Life is short … pray hard!

Healed of Blindness

Shirley Young Potter

This grandmother shares how God gave her 20/20 vision in her left eye after having been legally blind.

I was living on top of the mountain.  I had a great job. Lots of travel, good employees, just returned from a special assignment in Washington DC, and was where I wanted to be on my career path.  

I had to work long hours, even some weekends, but I still believed in God, read my Bible on occasion and said my prayers. 

You know how life is, so many things pull at our time.  I reasoned that any free time I had on the weekends I deserved the rest.  I could always catch up later with God.

Blindness Strikes

On the morning of November 18th, 2004 my life changed forever.   I woke up and could see only a gray mass.  By using side vision I was able to find my phone and call for help.   I went to my optometrist.  He said he saw severe bleeds on both eyes and sent me at once to an eye specialist.  I was diagnosed with wet macular degeneration in both eyes.

At that time the only treatment available for bleeds was laser burns, so I began weeks of burns to stop the bleeds.  Each time my doctor thought he had the bleeds stopped I would have seepage the next visit, requiring more burns.  After weeks of burns my doctor had all the bleeds stopped.   I was told to go home, let my eyes heal until my next appointment.

I went to stay with my daughter, since I could not take care of myself. This was the most humbling time of my life.  I had always been a person that took responsibility for my life. 

Sure, I would talk to God about problems, even give it to Him to handle. If I did not get a response from God right away I was bad about jerking it back, thinking God have you thought about this?  How could I have been so arrogant?   This was a battle I could do nothing about. 

As I waited for my eyes to heal I could see only a black circle surrounded by color.  As I looked at the faces of my family I would see the black circle instead of their face. If they were far enough away I would be able to see their hair, but never their facial features. I could not see TV, no matter how large the screen. I could not match my clothes, cook my meals, go as I pleased, or even enjoy looking outside.

No Improvement

Finally the day came for my checkup.  I was excited because the black circle had faded and I was able to see some color.  As my son drove me to my appointment, I was so excited to be able to identify the colors of 18 wheelers.   I just knew my eyes were getting better, “just give them a little more time.”

When I went in to see my doctor, he ran a long series of x-rays and exams.  Looking at the eye chart, I could not even see the big E at the top of the chart.   

Legally Blind

Finally the nurse called my son and I into the doctor’s office.    He told me this was the best my eyes would ever be and made the diagnosis: “legally blind in both eyes.” 

His nurse took us to the top floor where there were different items that would help me handle my handicap–talking clocks, a huge contraption that looked like an overhead projector to greatly magnify things, Braille books, books on tape. The place was filled with aides. 

It was an awful experience, I had no idea how I would adjust.

My faith in God had grown so much during this trial. I went to church regularly with my children, listened to tapes of the Bible, and prayed.  I could not accept the concept that I would be blind the rest of my life. I truly laid all my fears at the foot of the cross.  

There was no taking back this time. I knew only by God’s grace would I be able to endure the challenges I faced.

God Makes a Promise

Then the Holy Spirit spoke to me.   I will never forget where I was, the position of my body and the sound of His voice.  He told me I would see again!   This was in 2005. I clung to that promise, holding it near to my heart. 

I didn’t speak of my experiences often because of people’s reactions.  People, ever those that attended church regularly, would just give me this pitiful smile, nod and walk away. They seemed to think that God was no longer in the miracle business.  But I knew, and I believed in my heart that I would see again.  

God keeps His word.

I had to quit my job, move in with my son but I grew stronger in my faith daily.   The years rolled by, no improvement in my eyes but no more bleeds.  My faith did not falter!   I knew what my Savior had said, I would see again.

In July 2011 I woke and knew right away my left eye was hemorrhaging.  Called my doctor.  I was told my doctor was on vacation but there was a new doctor on staff and he could see me at once. 

After I was examined I was told there had been a new drug approved by the FDA and just released the month before.  My clinic had just received their first shipment.  It was a shot that would be given in the upper part of my eye. It would stop the bleeds and replace the treatment with laser burns.  

I went home that afternoon to decide if I wanted this treatment.   I made the decision to get the shot; what did I have to lose?   I went back the next day, received the treatment, and once again, was sent home to heal. This was 6 years after the Holy Spirit told me I would see again. 

Vision Returns

I did not see right away, but over the next weeks as I healed my vision slowly, very slowly returned.  When I went back for my checkup I was so excited to share this miracle with my doctor.  However, when I told him I could see with my left eye he just shook his head.  

He said that because of the number of burns I had, every bit of my macular was covered in scars, no way could I see. But I knew the truth, I could see.  I told him to put the eye chart up and let me show him.   He gave me that pitiful smile, “Sure Shirley,” and turned on the chart.    I was able to read out of my left eye with a vision of 20/20. 

Doc could not believe it!   “But how,” he mumbled. 

I said, “By God’s Grace.”  

So they sent me back for more x-rays, because this could not be happening. Then my son and I were once again called into the doctors office.  

He had found a tiny spot on my eye that was not covered with scars, a spot so tiny he had not seen it until he went back and looked again. 

Only by God’s Grace.

God took six years to keep his promise to allow me to see again.  He always keeps his promises and they are fulfilled in His time, by His will and in His way.  God is still in the Miracle business.

Powerful Word Springs From Covid-19 Outbreak

Samuel Peterschmitt is the pastor of probably the largest evangelical church in France, La Porte Ouverte of Mulhouse. Before everyone was quarantined and people realized the danger of public meetings they had a conference in their church.

Many people were infected with the Covis 19 virus and several died. Pastor Samuel was also hospitalized and had a real physical trial because of the virus. He is recovering and recently appeared on the Internet program, “On est ensemble,” (We are together) with the host, Eric Celerier.

He shares some powerful truths and I believe has a prophetic word at the end. Keep in mind, this is a church which has seen many miracles of healing. This article is from notes that Francois Ranvier made of the appearance.

“So I will be honest there are times when I was so badly (sick) that I could not even pray, or even read my Bible anymore. This is where I also became aware of how faith is not only this theology where we proclaim that we are strong, where we go forward. It also manifests itself in weakness.

“Faith” That Reduces God To a Performer

“…I must say it, on that night when God raised me, on this famous night, it was not the result of this manifestation of faith as we understand it. (This kind of faith) which is sometimes, forgive me, arrogant. It seems to me to reduce God to simply being performer.

“No, it is the faith that makes us dependent on Him, entirely dependent. And if I’m here today, I have no more merit than my friends who died; they had the same faith as me.

“There is an approach to faith today that seems presumptuous and which for me is clearly the result of a lack of knowledge of who God is. I told a friend of mine I feel like I have had a second new birth. (I feel I) know God so differently.

“Job said : “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.” (Job 42: 2-3, NLT)

“I discovered God in another dimension and realized that always wanting to provide answers leads to wrong conclusions.

“…I was surprised you know, I was in the hospital I was crying because all of a sudden I saw all kinds of people who wrote: ‘why did the Coronavirus hit us? Why did the curse come on us?’

“Videos were made … It was for the first time that I had the feeling of being the wounded on the way to Jericho next to which the Pharisee and the Levite pass without considering him but just looking for explanations for his situation.

Lord, you know, you know

“It was extremely trying for me and I said ‘Lord but you know, you know …’ And that’s why my faith was not shaken. Far from it. We have to come back to a lot of humility … We have been too often presumptuous, we speak of God as if we had studied him, as if we had walked around him, when it is He who knows us.

“We are very small, we have to come back to a lot of humility. I understood what it meant to be led to the desert and to listen. You know we sometimes preached on subjects but when we did not experience them from the inside; we realize how much we talked about things that we did not understand.

“And the fact that we don’t understand them, we made theories of them and sometimes with our speeches we crushed people, we made them feel guilty, we asked them things they couldn’t do, we sometimes been tough and demanding. May God forgive us, God forgive us! May God help us !

“Jesus said ‘Happy the poor in spirit. In other words happy are those who know they are dependent on Him, happy are those who know they know nothing, happy those who know that every day they need Him, happy those who are not seated in their certainties and on their throne of knowledge, happy are they because the kingdom of God is theirs.

“It blew up in my face. We have to learn to know God again, we have to discover him in a whole other dimension, we have to come back to humility. I bless God for this confinement. The church is forced to return to simplicity.

Back to Simplicity

“Not that the platforms and lighting are not necessary but we come back to this Christ who taught aboard a boat in the middle of the Lake of Galilee. There are no more frills, all the frills fall, all that is useless falls. There is no more gospel spectacle. There is just the Word and may God be blessed for these times of confinement.

“I have heard a lot since this crisis. I was impressed by the number of prophets, I just wish they had been there before. I just wish I had heard clear prophetic voices to warn us.

“Today there are a bunch of prophets who make friendly comments who prophesy nothing. I believe that in this area too, the fear of God must return so that we do not speak in His name lightly.

“Do not trust everything you hear (or) pay attention to everything that is said. Here’s what I believe: I don’t believe it’s the end, I don’t believe it’s the apocalypse.

“Everyone said in the last war that it was the end and then the war ended and life went on… life will go on simply because many men and women are not yet saved.

A sign of the end… not the end

“It’s a sign of the end of time but it’s not yet the end of time. Many men and women will come to a real awakening. All those who today are asking themselves existential questions, who realize that what they have invested in can collapse in a day, will seek what remains.

And I also address Christians: so many Christians have invested in the land. Jesus said “seek first the kingdom of God and its justice and all things will be given to you.”

Stop looking for things from the earth. Stop putting your priority on what will collapse and what you will have to leave. Invest in the Kingdom and all these things will be returned to you. Seek God.

Image par pixabay.com/MiroslavaChrienova

Why God? Why!

As the death toll from Covid 19 soars, the old question that always surfaces in hard times makes a comeback: “Why does God allow something like this pandemic? Is God the author of hurt and pain?”

Let me say two things. First, the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus came that we might have abundant life. (John 10:10) The thief (the devil) thrives on our hurt and pain. He’s licking his chops. God hurts at times like this. He loves us and He suffers as He sees His children and others suffer.

But, the second thing that touches me is this: “Do we have any right to accuse God? Has the world been living in a way which pleases Him? If He has removed His protecting hand for a moment is it because He hates us or because so many have said, ‘Leave me alone. I want nothing to do with you or your way of living, God.’”

And God gives men what they want, but they never realized how terrible this world would be if God completely removed His hand of protection and blessing. As the Lord bore our sins, pains and suffering on the cross, we Christians sometimes share with the pain that comes on this world.

Make no mistake about it. God isn’t hiding, neither is He insensitive.

No Explanation

Several years ago the son of some of our friends in Belgium committed suicide. I’ll admit I had a hard time digesting this. These people had sacrificed as missionaries in a tough country then came back to a hard spiritual corner of Belgium and faithfully served the Lord as pastors.

Their son had used drugs and began to have problems with serious depression. One day his dad and his brother found him hanging from a tree in the woods.

I couldn’t imagine anything that would hurt worse than that. And I had some real, “why?” questions. I’m not sure we will ever have all the answers this side of eternity. Job and his buddies spent more than forty chapters trying to figure out why all those calamities fell on him.

At the end God never told him why. He gave Job a new revelation of Himself and when Job saw that, he didn’t have to know why. “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5, 6 NIV)

After lots of thinking (and hurting) I’ve come to at least five conclusions. In times of pain these seem counter-intuitive but I’m convinced they are true:

God is good.

God is faithful.

God will do what is right.

God is working all things for our good.

God loves us with an everlasting love.

I heard a country song one time that made me smile. A fellow had been in love with a girl when they were both very young. He prayed that she would be his wife but it didn’t happen. Twenty years later, by chance he met her one evening at a hometown football game. And he sang …

“I thank God for unanswered prayer.”*

In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done,” before we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

To pray with faith, you first have to honestly say, “Your will be done in me and in this situation, just like your will is done in heaven. Even if it’s not what I think I want.”

Prayer

Let me pray for us. “Father, you’ve got this. We feel like we do just before we start a roller coast ride, but You’ve got us. Come. Teach us what You want us to know in this. Thanks for stopping our mad rush left and right. You slow us down to hear your voice. Give us the ability to hear. Reveal Yourself to us in a way we’ve never seen You before. Please. Give us a heart to say, ‘Yes,’ and then obey.

“Change us so that when all this is past we’ll be different. We’ll know you better. Our hearts will be delivered from addiction to the adrenalin rushes of this world and plugged into the your current from heaven.

“Send revival Lord. Come fill this longing in our hearts.”


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Hmmm…

“My friend Gary Thomas frequently challenges me to grow spiritually through his insights that probe beneath the surface of my faith. He writes, “I learned that faith isn’t tested by how often God answers my prayers with a yes but by my willingness to continue serving him and thanking him, even when I don’t have a clue as to what he is doing…”

“I found peace in knowing that while I cannot control how long I live, I can control how I live. One of my mottoes is “Control the controllables and leave the uncontrollables to God.” I don’t get to determine the length of my days, but I can determine the quality of the days given to me. I wanted “gold”—character—to be produced from my fiery suffering.” From Dangerous Surrender by Kay Warren.

Image by sumanley pixabay.com/fr/

Songwriters: Garth Brooks / Larry B. Bastian / Patrick Alger/Unanswered Prayers lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group