Marriage Tuesday

marriage 2weddings and baptisms.

i’m going to go out on a limb here.  i believe in baptism.  i believe the example of jesus being lowered into the water by john the baptist is more than a cool story.  i believe his example in the water is an example we are to follow.  i believe the response of the ethiopian eunuch to the message of the apostle phillip in acts 8 is the same response we should expect of anybody who comes to faith in jesus: find some water, get in it and get baptized.

too cut and dried?  too literal?  too demanding?  too bad.

i believe when the apostle peter was asked by people what they should do if they believed the story of jesus’ death and resurrection, he gave a very clear and undebatable command:  repent and be baptized…everyone of you.

i’m not much on the infant baptism thing, either.  the picture painted in the new testament is of people coming to faith, repenting of their sin, making a public confession and then being immersed for everyone to see…as an act of the will… and often at great risk of persecution.

baptism was the public declaration of commitment.  it showed the other followers of jesus you were in it with them.  it was that place that made the intent of the heart more than just an idea.  it was the event that made it real in the eyes of everyone…to friends…to family…to enemies…to authorities…even to god.

without the public ceremony, the decision could never be fully held accountable…because nobody would ever know for sure.

the same is true for marriage.

a marriage is, first and foremost, a decision of the heart.  without hearts being united and energized by a shared commitment, a wedding ceremony will be meaningless…nothing more than a charade and a self-centered spectacle.  i get this.

but just like the public declaration of obedience and fidelity in baptism,  i would suggest a marriage without the public sharing of vows and the making of promises for the community to hear and hold accountable, is a union lacking it’s most essential ingredient.

we walk in the footsteps of people of faith through the centuries.  ceremony and symbolism are more than just meaningless traditions or empty rituals.  the passover meal means something.  bread and wine means something.  baptism means something.

and a marriage ceremony means something.

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Back from vacation

last monday i took a vacation.

i stopped reading my twitter feeds.  i stopped reading facebook.  i limited my blog reading to sports and humor sites. i’m sure i missed a lot.  i heard it was pretty chippy out there in the interspace.  i think i’m just about ready to start poking around again.  this was not a permanent vacation.

i also took a break from writing.  i wonder if anybody noticed?  my guess is not a lot of sleep was missed worrying about whether my thoughts were ever going to reappear again…

but here they are anyway:

i’m struggling with concentrating this morning.  i’m listening to two (maybe more) squirrels trying to chew an entrance into my attic on the back side of my house.  again.  my liberal, left-coast, tree-hugging, whale-saving leanings have gone by the wayside when it comes to squirrels.  if i had a gun, i would blast their cute little noggins into the texas sky.

sunday at north point was definitely a “full house hangover” day.   maybe people were afraid to come back.

i taught on baptism yesterday.  i’m pretty sure baptism is one of the most divisive and opinion-expressing topics in church history.  having been raised  in a “water regenerationist” heritage, it has been even more volatile for me.  i’m not sure if my theological forefathers would have been completely happy with my exegesis of scripture yesterday.  but it’s where i’m at now.

it’s a command.  do it.  i’ll teach you why i think it’s important.  we’ll continue to try to do it the way they appeared to do it in the book of acts (dunking, right after a person expressed their faith and loyalty to jesus, no infant sprinkling).

what if a person believes, but hasn’t been baptized?  will they go to hell?  gosh.  i hope not.  i’m pretty sure there are more than a handful of things i’m probably wrong about…and i’ve just gotta believe that god’s grace is deep and wide enough to cover my interpretive shortcomings.  i hope that would be true of others, also.

what if a person’s motivation for baptism…or understanding of the purpose of baptism…is faulty or incomplete?  will it make the baptism ineffective?  i seriously doubt it.  i’m sure there have been a lot of baptisms that were done to please parents…or to purchase fire insurance…or to impress a fiance…or to secure membership in a church…or to get to eat the sunday morning snacks.  i’m sure a lot of those baptisms have missed the point altogether.  is god big enough to see through our limitations and adopt us into the family anyway?  i sure hope so.

it was pretty cool to baptize my friend jackson yesterday.  even more cool to be friends with his whole family and to know that his baptism wasn’t just a sappy little church ritual.  there is no doubt in my mind that jackson pledged his allegiance to jesus.  no doubt he understands his old life was buried and his new life was handed over.

lots to do this week.  lots of people to contact.  lots of studying to do.

our country is violently divided right now.   my sadness is great.  i wish i could say the church will be part of the cure and not continue to be part of the problem, but i can’t yet.  time to read the sermon on the mount again.

looking forward to advent conspiracy picking up momentum.  lots of needs in our community and around the world to respond to.  it’s time to focus on others.

congrats to cowboy fans.  you staved off death for another week.  can’t say the same about the chargers.

i’m definitely an A&M bandwagon fan.  i think it’s the maroon.  but i hate the SEC.  oh the conflict.

bowling season is almost over.  i think we’ve avoided last place with our team effort last night.

while i’ve been writing, the squirrels made it into the attic.  i hear their happy little feet doing a dance above my ceiling.  their partying will be short-lived.  let the bloodlusting begin.  or the fox urine.  (more to come.)

time to get busy.  have a great week.

Marriage Tuesday

when i was a young youth minister,  i felt like it was my responsibility to make sure the kids i baptized stayed faithful to their commitment.  when a kid walked away from the promises they made to god, i felt like a failure.  i wanted to make sure that if i baptized them, they would stay the course.

as i grew older,  i began to understand this was just another example of my own personal messiah complex.  

nowadays, although it makes me sad,  i no longer assume the blame for the choices kids make.  whether they hold true to the decision they make to follow jesus is on them, not me.  (or on god, if you are one of my reformed bros…)

the same has been true for marriages i performed.  i used to take it pretty hard when couples that i married broke up.  like it was due to something i had done wrong.  i no longer feel that way.   the success or failure of their marriage is on them,  not me.

i will always do everything i can to help people have the strongest and healthiest marriage possible…both before and after the ceremony.   but i can only give suggestions.  the decisions to follow through are on the couple.

and just like i said yesterday,  your marriage is as good and healthy and deep and loving as you want it to be.

stop making excuses.

stop blaming your partner.

stop holding on to past destructive behaviors or baggage from your upbringing.

you say you want a better marriage?  prove it.

Baptism and interpretation

great day at north point.   just what the weekly family reunion is supposed to be!

there is no question that preaching on matthew 28:18-20 is an awesome privilege.   it is one of the most treasured texts of the new testament and the defining call to the mission of the church directly from heart of the master.   yup.   awesome privilege.

…Therefore, as you go, disciple people in all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you… Matthew 28:19

the command to his twelve apostles to make disciples of all nations is a profound one.   i can almost hear jesus say to them,  “now go and do it!”   the same is true for all of us.

in my study,  though,  i found something that really bugged me.   i studied through a bunch of commentaries,  sermons,  and study helps…and in my pursuit of an accurate interpretation of this passage,  came across a pastor who gave this insight on his blog:

The command in this verse is to make disciples or to disciple all nations.   We accomplish that by (1) baptizing them and (2) teaching them.   Let me offer an explanation about the instruction to baptize.  Baptism is in no way necessary for or a pre-requisite to salvation. However,  in Scripture baptism is assumed for the believer.   As a result,  baptism is many times connected to salvation as a direct and immediate result of that salvation.   Baptism was the sign of their conversion.   So when this passage instructs us to make disciples by the sign of baptizing them, we can understand that to mean that we are to make disciples (1) by seeing them converted to Christ and (2) by teaching them.

as a point of reference,  the passage says absolutely nothing about people being converted to christ. the words of jesus are to simply make disciples by baptizing and teaching.   remember…this is my point of reference.

i’m going to admit it right here.   i grew up in a theological environment that was often accused of placing too much emphasis on the act of water baptism.   there are people in my heritage who have been called water regenerationists (meaning that they believed the water,  itself,  had the power to save).

i have listened to preachers infer that as long as somebody had been immersed in water,  they were good to go for the rest of eternity.   i’ve even met a few people who believe that if a person were to die on their way to the baptistery,  it would be,  er,  too little – too late.

even though i don’t buy any of that kind of extreme doctrine…and don’t see any evidence of that kind of teaching in the bible,  i will admit to being a guy that sees baptism as significantly more than a theological afterthought.   i also prefer to let scripture speak for itself.

there are many groups of jesus’ disciples out there (both now,  and throughout history)  that want to make sure… aggressively sure…that people know that baptism is not important in the salvation process at all,  and that it is nothing more than a non-essential,  purely symbolic ritual that can be done…or not done…if a person ever feels a need to do it.

they teach that baptism is nothing more than an optional personal decision that bears no eternal consequence…on a par with bible reading,  church attendance,  or doing sock puppets in children’s church.

frankly,  even though i don’t hold to that interpretation,  i can still serve side-by-side in kingdom work and fellowship with those that do hold it.   what i do struggle with is people who take the clear and simple words of jesus and disregard or minimize them to support their own position.

the preacher quoted is one of those people.

in his  zeal to make sure his readers know that baptism is not necessary for salvation,  this is the kind of over-statement that is made.   “let me help you understand what jesus is really trying to say…”,  as if he needs our assistance to become more understandable.

newsflash.

what jesus is really saying is “make disciples by baptizing them and teaching them”.   don’t put words in jesus’ mouth.   leave his words alone.   they can stand by themselves.

he’s the messiah,  for crying out loud.

Surprise!

i was answering an email this morning from a guy who found north point online.  he had a question regarding our position on baptism.  definitely a fair and important question…especially in the bible belt, where there’s a church on just about every corner…and each with their own particular slant on baptism.

as i was writing back to him, i had a thought and want to see if you agree or disagree:

“nobody will be surprised that they make it to heaven when they die.  i’m afraid there will be plenty of people surprised they don’t, though…”

what do you think?