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!

Domino Effect

The Domino Effect

During my time of reading this morning, I came across an interesting story about a vineyard. In 1 Kings 21, we’re introduced to Naboth the Jezreelite and reminded of Ahab, king of Samaria. The text says that Naboth had a vineyard that was beside Ahab’s palace. It must’ve been in a great location because Ahab wanted it, a lot. He wanted it so bad that he decided, one day, to ask Naboth for that very vineyard in order that he might use it for a vegetable garden. Unfortunately for Ahab, Naboth turned down his offer. Seeking to get possession of the vineyard, Ahab spoke with his wife, Jezebel, who would help him carry out an elaborate plan that would make the vineyard his. They sent letters to the region and told the town to elect Naboth as head over them. Then, Jezebel sent a couple of men in to stir up false accusations against Naboth. These accusations were so serious that Naboth was carried out and stoned to death.

At one point or another, we’ve all been to the point where we’ve looked at something and have coveted. Maybe it’s not the neighbor’s vineyard. Perhaps it was their shiny new car, or their grill, or even their house. The point is, we all do it. We all see advertisements for something and yell I want! Unfortunately in my study throughout scripture, I’ve come to the conclusion that covetousness always opens the door for all other sins. In Ahab’s case, he first wanted his neighbor’s vineyard, but this covetousness quickly became a murder scene. In my post today, I wish to shed some light on the most popular Biblical stories of this domino effect in action, and give an appropriate response in solving this covetousness.

 

In Eden

God had spent 6 days creating everything from nothing. He made his finest creation yet, Adam and Eve. They were given commands to have dominion over the garden, to be fruitful and multiply, and to fill the earth. They were also told one thing that they couldn’t do: eat from the tree in the middle of the garden. They had the freedom to do just about anything. There was just one tree they had to stay away from. Adam and Eve wanted what they couldn’t have. They saw the tree and they coveted. The serpent persuaded Eve to eat from the forbidden tree, who in turn convinced Adam. Once God came along to assess the situation, Adam and Eve ran like children in an attempt to hide from God. Their covetousness led to an attempt to deceive God. The first sin of Eden was the sin of covetousness, which led to a domino effect of sin.

 

In The Promised Land

Israel had spent years wandering about in the desert after their Exodus from Egypt. It was finally time for them to enter the land God had promised them long ago. Jericho was the major city that was standing in their way. After a long drawn out plan that God had revealed to Joshua, God brought the city walls down and delivered Jericho into their hands. The Israelites were told to leave all the spoil (all the silver, gold, bronze, and iron) for God. They were to put all of it in the treasury of the Lord. Unfortunately for Israel, there was one who didn’t listen. Achan saw among the wreckage a beautiful cloak, some silver, and a bar of gold, and said, I want. He coveted the material and the money and decided to keep it from God. In order to keep this a secret, he buried his loot in a hole underneath his tent. Achan’s covetousness led to an attempt to deceive God. The first sin of Israel was the sin of covetousness, which led to a domino effect of sin.

 

In The Early Church

Jesus had spent a few years doing ministry and just like that he was gone. He died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead so that we could have life. This Gospel, or good news, was spread through the region like wildfire because of the passion of the early church. One member of the church, Joseph, was blessed by God. He was impacted so much by the Gospel, that he felt called to sell a field that belonged to him and return the profits to the church. After doing so, Ananias and Sapphira saw a higher spiritual status and said, we want. They too decided to sell a piece of land, but kept back some of the profits for themselves. Instead of being honest, they made it seem like the profits they were giving were everything. They were quickly discovered and killed. Ananias and Sapphira’s covetousness led to an attempt to deceive God. The first sin of the early church was the sin of covetousness, which led to a domino effect of sin.

 

Like what happened in Eden, in Israel upon entering the promised land, and in the early church, covetousness always opens the door for all other sins. We need to stop saying, “I want”, and instead focus on what we already have. When covetousness comes your way, count your blessings. Memorial Day was this past Monday. Memorial Day is a great time to remember those that have died defending the freedoms and rights we have in this great nation. We have so much that others don’t. When covetousness comes your way, remember those less fortunate. I’ve been blessed with the ability of serving on several foreign missions trips. It’s during trips like these that I am pushed to remember how fortunate we really are. Most importantly, when covetousness comes your way, remember the gospel. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. The price that we were supposed to pay was paid in full. Like that’s not enough, he then was raised from the dead to show that through faith in Him we can have life. We’ve been given the greatest gift of all. What else should we ever covet?

 

(Photo by Flickr user: Bruno Cordioli)

baltimore-hands

Baltimore Burning

The community of Baltimore has been in the spotlight this week due to a recent outbreak of violence. Beginning early this week, several riots turned ugly and ended up spawning into arson, burglary, and even theft. The national guard was dispatched, and police in riot gear attempted to calm the crowd. Several nights of mandatory curfew were put into effect.

Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles club decided not to open up their game to the public on Wednesday afternoon. This game went down in the history books as the first ever baseball game with an official recorded attendance of 0. Several groups have tried to explain away the actions of these individuals. Some believe that these events were the results of a racism problem that’s crippled Baltimore since the 1960’s. Others have concluded that it was a viral social media message that pushed individuals to act out in a malicious fashion. Either way, we can learn a few things from the recent events of Baltimore.

 

Stirring the embers of sin with sin.

Sin is like a bag of your favorite chips. You never stop with just one. For example, one little white lie always leads to many, many more. In the Baltimore situation this week, one sin was stirred with many more sins, leading to an uncontrollable mob of sinful people taking part in sinful actions. Satan likes taking sin viral. Unfortunately, in today’s world that’s not hard to do. We need to be different. We need to be set apart, and take a stand against sin before it spirals out of control.

 

A Jesus response.

Free speech is a great thing, but when your free speech turns into looting, arson, and theft, then it becomes a problem. Jesus was a proponent of peaceful, free speech. He also gave us several fruit we should strive to live by in every situation; whether good or bad. We are to live with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Paul gives us this list in what we call the fruit of the spirit. If you’re upset, if you’re anxious, our response to any situation should be filled with these fruit. No matter what, our mission in life isn’t to live for ourselves, but share the most important message of all: Jesus.

 

So what can we do for Baltimore? Pray. Pray for peace. Pray that the people would be able to find comfort and hope in this time of uncertainty, confusion, and anger. Pray for the law enforcement of the Baltimore area that they might continue to serve faithfully, for their protection, and for their spirits. Most importantly, don’t forget to pray that the people of Baltimore would remember to honor Christ instead of stirring the embers of sin with more sin.

 

(Photo Credit: Reuters/Jim Bourg)

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What are your thoughts on Baltimore? Leave them in the comments below!

Broken Church

A Broken Church

Looking back at the early church, or the church in the book of Acts, you can easily tell that church today is different. Most of the time, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the church is broken. First, let me clarify something. When I say church, I mean every believer on the planet. I don’t mean the church I’m working at, or the church you’re currently attending, but everyone who believes in Jesus.

If you haven’t read through the book of Acts, I encourage you to do so. Look at how those early believers had passion. Look at what they did. Afterwards, it’s easy to tell that today’s church is broken. We’re not as passionate as those early church believers were. Today’s church is more opening accepting of sin. Somewhere along the way, something went wrong. But what? Here’s what I think is wrong with today’s church.

 

Lack of Trust

God has called us to action. He’s called us to step out on that call. Today, Christian’s lack the trust to step out of their comfort zones and act out on that call.

 

Lack of Passion

What happened to the passion, boldness, and zeal that the early church had in the book of Acts? Did we lose it somewhere along the way? Are we missing something?

 

Tradition/Ritual

Tradition and ritual have chocked out the truth. We’ve completely forgot about the function and reason behind these practices, and put the importance on the tradition or ritual itself.

 

Acceptance of Culture

We’re growing more and more adapt to the society of sin. Tolerance has turned into acceptance.

 

Lost Love for God’s Word

We are growing a generation that’s prone to be Biblically-illiterate. Christian’s have lost sight of our God-breathed privilege.

 

Lost Love for Christ

Jesus loves you. It’s time we start loving him back.

 

The worst part is that these problems are only getting worse. There’s no question that today’s church has completely missed the markThe good news of the story is that there’s still hope. Check back soon for my answer to this problem of epic proportions.

 

NOTE: This post is a remake of an original post, titled “What’s Wrong with the Church” that was posted on February 3rd, 2012. The original post, and it’s content also makes an appearance in my upcoming book, Wake Up.

 

(Photo by Flickr User: Paxson Woelber)

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What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below!

Love

Fight Sin with Love

Let’s face it: life is a battle. Every day is a journey filled with many obstacles to overcome. In the Bible, God describes an even larger battle that’s ongoing. It’s the battle of good against evil. In the beginning, sin entered the world through Adam & Eve. We’ve all done it. We’ve all sinned. At one point or another, we’ve chosen to satisfy our own selfish desires instead of following God. In the battle of life, sin is on one side of the battlefield. What’s on the other side though?

In 1 John 4:8, we see that whoever doesn’t love, doesn’t truly know God. In the last part of that verse, we read that God is love. In this battle of life we speak of, sin is up against it’s nemesis: love. These two are like water and oil. They simply don’t mix. It’s a battle out there. Here’s why…

 

Selfishness is the Root of Sin

Sin comes in many shapes and sizes. We’ve all been there at one point or another. We’ve all fallen short. We’ve all stolen the cookies out of the cookie jar when we shouldn’t have. Everyone has lied, cheated, or taken unethical shortcuts. The truth is, nobody is perfect. We’ve all sinned because we want to satisfy our own selfish desires. We’ve taken the cookies because they seemed desirable at the time. We’ve lied because it seemed to be the best thing to make ourselves look good. Selfishness is behind all sin.

 

Humility is the Root of Love

A constant theme of scripture is the idea of humility. We’re told to have a realistic view of ourselves. We shouldn’t think too highly of ourselves, and at the same time we shouldn’t think too less of ourselves. No matter how much you don’t want to hear it, you’re not God. At the same time, you aren’t dirt. You’re somewhere in between. As followers of Jesus we’re called to love just like he did on the cross. Jesus paid our price on the cross. He didn’t shed his blood for any of his own purposes, but for our benefit. He was humble and he did it because he loved. Love humility in action.

 

Love is a Direct Attack on Sin

Life is a battle. It’s sin against love. Satan is pushing for sin. He wants to push you and me into a lifestyle of selfish pleasures. God on the other hand is pushing for something more. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, paid our price in full, so that we could live. He wants us to share this good news of love with the world, by speaking words of love and living a life of love. He wants us to fight sin with love!

 

Everyday we have a choice. We can either satisfy the desires of the flesh, or we can choose to put others before ourselves. Today, I choose love. I hope you do too. Join the fight. Let’s destroy sin with love. As always, don’t forget to comment below and subscribe to occasional email updates.

 

(Photo by Flickr User: photosteve101)

Locked Door

Locked Doors

Recently, I read a passage found in John 20:19-23. It was evening on the first Easter Sunday. The stone had been rolled away, and the angels had told the Mary’s, “He has risen“. Unaware of what had happened at the tomb that morning, the disciples had locked themselves in a room in fear that the Jews would come for the disciples next.

Christ’s disciples just saw what had happened to Jesus. They saw him die. Some of them even helped to prepare Jesus’ body and lay him to rest. They witnessed the stone being rolled to seal up the grave. They saw it all go down. It was over. What the promised Messiah was supposed to bring to Israel, a physical Kingdom on earth, was now lost. Jesus was dead, and the disciples figured they were next.

The doors were locked, but according to the passage, Jesus just showed up. Today, let’s take a look at that locked door passage and learn a couple things about Jesus.

 

Nothing stands in the way of Jesus.

As much as you think it is, your sin isn’t too big, and your past isn’t too dark for Jesus. No matter what you’ve done with your life, you haven’t screwed up enough to the point where Jesus cannot come into your life. The price for our sins has already been paid, and it was paid in full. Jesus died on the cross that was for us. We were the ones with the death sentence. He simply took on death and sin so that we wouldn’t have to. We’re good now. Our slate of wrongdoings has been wiped clean. It’s now ‘white-as-snow’. No matter what you’ve done, or how bad you think you’ve lived your life, stop lying to yourself: nothing stands in the way of Jesus.

 

Jesus meets us where we are.

In the first time Jesus meets with his disciples after his resurrection, Jesus didn’t go to the door, knock, and wait for them to come to him. He didn’t come to the edge of the house and call out for them. He didn’t come to the edge and wait for them to find him. He came and met them where they were. Jesus does that with us today as well. He meets us where we are. I’m not taking about simply your physical location but everything else too. Not only can Jesus find us at any address, but he can go where no other doctor can go. He can love when nobody else can love. He can counsel where no other counselor can. He can meet you, wherever you are, and whatever your situation may be.

 

Maybe you think that your past is too dark, too sinful for Jesus to come into your life? Maybe you’re in a painful situation or a time in your life that you simply need help. Nothing stands in his way. Jesus can meet us where we are. All we must do is start that relationship with him. If you haven’t done so, I encourage you to read the gospel message in full. See what God has done for us, and how you can start that relationship today. As always, don’t forget to leave a comment below about how Jesus met you where you were.

 

(Photo by Flickr User: bulletsoul23)