Baptism

What’s The Deal With Baptism?

Summer is in full swing. If you’re having a summer that’s anything close to mine, you’re drowning right about now. It’s a busy season at Hillside Bible Church. We just finished our summer vacation bible school program (we call it Camp Hillside…it’s cooler), began our summer youth events with our annual Messy Night, and are busy making plans for our fall kickoff. So far this summer, we’ve seen 18 people come to know Christ! This past Sunday was exciting as well. Like we do every year, we had our worship service outside at our church property. It is always a beautiful experience to worship the Creator in the midst of His creation. During that worship service, I had the honor of doing a couple of baptisms as well.

Baptism can be a confusing thing, but it doesn’t have to be. Today, churches and denominations differ on who to baptize, how to baptize, and when to baptize. Churches will even have different positions on why they practice baptism in the first place. Some christians place too high importance on baptism, and some too little. In light of this present struggle I decided to post a few thoughts myself on the subject of baptism.

 

Baptisms aren’t magical.

When I was younger, I attended a local vacation bible school program. It was during that week long experience where I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. Like the good little baptist boy I was, I was soon thereafter dunked into the baptismal waters. For me, expectation was everything. I expected to go into the waters “Scott v.1″ and come out of the waters “Scott v.2″. The problem was I didn’t feel any different. After being baptized, I still struggled with my sin nature. After my baptism, I still felt like the same old Scott I was. Baptism wasn’t the magical water that I had expected it to be. Churches need to stop sending mixed messages. Baptisms aren’t magical. The water isn’t anything special. It’s just water.

 

Baptisms aren’t a means of salvation.

Baptisms aren’t magical, and they won’t save you either. Just like Jesus said, there are churches and pastors today that preach and teach a message that’s different from the gospel. The good news of Jesus is the news in which we were lost but now we’re found. From the beginning of time, our sin nature got the best of us. And because we’ve sinned, we had a price to pay: death. Jesus came and died for us. He shed his blood on the cross as payment for our sins and then he rose again proving that if we just have faith in Him, we can have life! Salvation is found in Christ alone. We can’t earn our way to heaven. We cannot spend enough, work enough, give enough, pray enough, to earn our salvation. Baptism won’t do it either. The thief on the cross hanging next to Jesus wasn’t baptized prior to his death, yet he joined Jesus in paradise that day. Baptism won’t save you, only Jesus will.

 

Baptisms are a celebration!

Baptisms aren’t magical, and they aren’t your way to salvation either. So, what are they? What is this thing that so many churches practice? Baptisms are simply a celebration! The gospel, or good news, is the best news of all history. We were dead in our sins. Because of our sin nature, we had a price to pay: death. And because there was nothing we could do about it, we were doomed to be eternally separated from God. That is, until the Word became flesh. The Son left his place of glory with the Father and dwelt among us. Jesus lived a sinless life, but died a sinless death. He alone was the perfect sacrifice that we so desperately needed. Once you realize that Jesus loved you enough to die for you, your life changes. (Mine did!) This news, this gospel, is so life-changing, you’ll want to share it with the world. And, that’s where baptism comes in. Baptism is one way followers of Christ can share that message with the world.

 

Maybe this is the first time you’ve realized the power of that sacrifice Jesus made on the cross and you want to start a relationship with Him. That’s exciting! Don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d love to pray with you. Maybe you’ve been a follower of Jesus for some time now, but have yet to be baptized. Go celebrate the Son. Show the world how Jesus has changed you. Find a church and get dunked! Just don’t forget, baptism isn’t magic. It’s not going to save you. Baptism is just a celebration of Jesus!

 

 

(Original Baptism Photos By: Tom Harpootlian)

 

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Questions? Comments? Leave your thoughts below!

Walk on Water

Walking On Water

A good friend of mine approached me yesterday and reminded me of the story of when Jesus walked on water. It’s such a great story! Jesus had just fed 5,000 people with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. He figures it’s time for some alone time, so Jesus sends his disciples in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. Just a quick note on this sea. It’s not your typical backyard pond. It’s huge! It is about 13 miles long and 8 miles across, and the waters can get rough sometimes. The disciples begin their quest to cross the sea, but Jesus stays back to pray.

Sometime later, Jesus decides to rejoin the disciples. But there’s a problem. The boat is far out at Sea. Jesus is nowhere close to the boat. For Jesus, the solution is simple: walk on water. Once he approached the boat, the disciples were stricken with fear. They thought he was a ghost! Peter, being the most outgoing disciple there was, asked Jesus to call him out on the water. Jesus does just that, and Peter walks on water with Jesus. After reading through the story, and reflecting on this passage last night, I’ve found two things we can take away from the story that I wanted to share with you today.

 

When God Calls, Listen.

Jesus called out to Peter. He told him to come to Jesus on the water. Peter did just that. After hearing God’s call, Peter acted. How many of us have heard God’s call, but haven’t acted? Maybe you know that you’ve been given the gifts in order to work with children? Maybe you’ve been called to join a small group? Maybe you’ve been called to help the less fortunate? Maybe you’re doubting God’s push on your life to begin a relationship with him? God calls us for several different reasons. Personally, God has called me into ministry. God doesn’t do that for everyone, but he does call everyone into something. What is God calling you for? Have you listened?

 

When God Calls, Don’t Doubt It.

Jesus called out to Peter, and Peter walked out on the water toward Jesus. He was doing fine, until he began to see the wind and the waves. Peter doubted God’s call. How many of us have heard God’s call on our lives, but ended up doubting. May you’re saying, I’m not good enough to do that for God? Or maybe you’re trying to tell yourself that, you’re not gifted enough to act out on God’s calling? God doesn’t call you into ministry to be the next Billy Graham. He doesn’t call you to become a surgeon in order to be the surgeon general. He won’t call you into teaching in order to be the greatest teacher in history. He calls you, so stay you! Never doubt God’s call on your life. Hear it, and do it!

 

Are you struggling with finding God’s call on your life? Maybe your wrestling with the idea of being called to have a relationship with God? I’d love to talk with you. Simply connect with me.

 

(Photo by Flickr User: the_tahoe_guy)

 

 

Stuff

Lose Your Stuff

Over the last couple of days, my wife and I have been preparing for an upcoming garage sale. Going through old items can be a fun time to remember long lost memories. It can also be a great reminder of how much junk we collect throughout the years. I find myself saying things like, “Seriously? Why did I keep this?” While I was sorting through the piles of trash (or treasure…I guess it’s all about perspective) I was reminded of a passage in Luke 9:1-3.

Jesus gathers his disciples together and empowers them to go out and do ministry on their own, in order to continue the legacy that Jesus left. Think of this as an internship of sorts, where they’re finally sent out to do the work that they’ve been learning about for the past couple years. After giving a little pep-talk, Jesus sends them on their way, WITH NOTHING. The real question is why? Why does he tell them not to bring anything? I think there’s a couple of reasons.

 

Stuff doesn’t fulfill our needs. God does.

Our worldly possessions don’t really fulfill any need. No matter how new our stuff is, no matter how advanced, we’re still going to have a longing for something more. I believe we’re designed that way for a purpose. Think about it, when’s the last time you bought a new phone? How long did the initial excitement last? Probably a week at best. How long was it until you wanted something else? I’m going to guess you’ve felt this feeling at one point or another. This is how we’re built. Stuff doesn’t fulfill our needs, but God does.

 

Stuff gets in the way of God’s purpose for our life.

Like his disciples, Jesus has called all of his followers into ministry. We all are to take part in that internship program that the disciples went through. Every believer is do act out on the Great Commission, to share the Gospel. Unfortunately, not many do. Stuff can be a reason why we don’t. Why go talk about Jesus, when we can play video games, or watch television? Why spend time in God’s word, when we can spend time on social media? Stuff can be distracting. Jesus didn’t allow his disciples to be distracted from their true purpose in life.

 

Don’t get me wrong: Jesus isn’t saying to sell everything. Not everyone is called to do that. What he’s saying is that when your stuff is getting in the way of you discovering and acting out on your purpose, then ditch it! Never forget that your worldly possessions won’t fulfill your needs, but God does. Lose your stuff. Find Jesus.

 

(Photo by Flickr User: JD Hancock)

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Selfie

I Took A Church Selfie

If you don’t know what a selfie is, I’m not sure where you’ve been the last 10 years. Probably under a rock somewhere in some far-off corner of the globe. In the slightest chance you haven’t heard of them, they’re pretty simple. You hold your phone up, aim it at your gorgeous face and say cheese! Estimates have shown that there are over 1 million selfies taken every day. That’s a lot of selfies.

Selfie1

Something as simple and as fun as a selfie can be a useful teaching tool. For example, to a lot of people’s surprise, I actually used the idea of a selfie in my previous sermon last Sunday. I told everyone to take out their phones and take one during service. I even took one myself while I was preaching. For all you doubters, I’ve even included proof in this post. The selfies were snapping on Sunday. Here’s why…

 

A snapshot of your life.

When we take a selfie we’re taking a snapshot of our lives. It’s something to remember a moment with. It’s a way to highlight a time or season. But it’s even more than that. A selfie is a snapshot of you. That one picture, in a way, captures who you are as a person. It’s a snapshot of our life that we show the world. The real question is what are you showing? What do people see when they see your selfie?

 

Selfie2What do people see when they see your selfie?

When the world sees your selfie, what do they see? I’m sure they see the best of the best, because it’s not very often you find someone snapping a selfie during the rougher times in life. Similarly, what do people see when they look at your social media presence as a whole? Are you giving an honest picture, or are you just highlighting the best of the best? When taking a selfie, how do you want people to see you? What do you want people to see when they look at that selfie? What’s important to you?

 

In your selfie, do people see Jesus?

Today, people will claim to see Jesus in weird places. Don’t be confused. I don’t mean that we should literally look for Jesus in selfies like they’re some sort of Where’s Waldo? book. People should see Jesus in your selfies in a different way though. Like I said in a prior post, we’re all called to be witnesses for Jesus. Moments before ascending into heaven, Jesus left us with a command to be his witnesses to the world. He told us to go out and share the gospel in order to make disciples. We’re called to represent Jesus to the world. The question is: are you? In your selfie, or your life snapshot, do people see someone that’s living for Jesus, or do they see someone that’s living for themselves? What do they see in your selfie?

 

This week, I have a challenge for each one of you. Go out and be witnesses for Christ like we’ve been called to be. Let this calling define who you are this week. While you’re at it, don’t forget to take a selfie to leave in the comments below.

 

(Photo by Flickr User: *Passenger*)

Photo by Flickr User: TenSafeFrogs

Ebola, ISIS, & More Ebola

You don’t need to turn on the T.V. or read the newspaper to realize which direction our world is headed. It’s quickly falling apart. First, the Ebola virus is everywhere. It’s coming soon to a neighborhood near you. (Well, hopefully not!) Thousands of people have been pronounced dead due to this deadly illness, and there seems to be no end in sight. While that’s happening, the terrorist organization ISIS is killing Christians on the other side of the planet. They’re engaged in an all out war with America. Similar to the Ebola outbreak, there’s no end in sight for this confrontation.

A couple weeks ago, I taught a class on Acts 5. (Specifically Acts 5:12-42.) In this passage, we see the early church doing great things for Christ. They’re teaching, they’re healing, they’re sharing the good news of Jesus. Unfortunately, all this comes to an end once the Sanhedrin (Jewish Supreme-Court of the day) find out what they’re up to.

The Sanhedrin become jealous of the apostles newfound authority, and immediately throw them in prison until they decide what they should do with them. The apostles receive a little divine-intervention and are visited & freed by an angel. Instead of fleeing, they decide to go back and do they work they were once doing.

Again, the Sanhedrin notices that they’ve escaped and are angered. They agree to give the apostles a severe talking-to, accompanied by a painful flogging. Upon their release, the apostles again decide to go back and do the work they were once doing. Get the picture?

Sure, Ebola is getting serious, and yes, ISIS is a serious threat; this shouldn’t stop us from doing the work we should be doing as Christians. Our world is falling apart, and Christians are constantly under attack, but we must remember that Christ has called us to be greater. It’s time we have the mindset that the apostles had when their world was falling apart:

“Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.” -Acts 5:42

 

 

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