The Witness of Baptism

Tim, Jessie, Emily Sara Provide Baptism Music 0002Ivan & Rich Baptize John, Greg & Adrian 0014

This past Sunday after worship three men (from Wayside Cross Ministries in Aurora, IL.) publicly confessed Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior with baptism (the center three men from the left: Adrian, John, and Greg – Rich Degroat and myself on the outside who baptized them). In front of their new church family, Grace Community Church, they acknowledged their need and desire for their sins to be forgiven (Acts 2:38), their old man in sin put to death, and to have a new life in Christ (Rom. 6:1-11). They submitted themselves publicly to the Eldership of a local church (Heb. 13:17), becoming united to a visible body of believers in Christ (Acts 2:41, 20:28). Baptism is not their salvation but is evidence of it (Matt. 28:19-20). And now? A life of discipleship that lives out what baptism professes – death to sin and life to God in and through Christ! To Him be all the glory for all the great things He has done.

It was a great day!

How Great I Am?!

The disciples were jockeying for who would be greatest in the kingdom of God. Knowing their thoughts and their hearts, Jesus said, “whoever would be great among you must be your servant” – (Matt. 20:26). Jesus never once rebuked their ambition for greatness only their path, their motivation, and their role model for greatness and distinction.

What is ambition? It’s the instinctive desire to aspire to things, to make something happen, to have an impact, to count for something in life. Whether you realize it or not we are all ambitious creatures because we are all pursuing something that we love. Whether it’s the corner office, Mr. Right, well-behaved kids who are smart and athletic, admiration from peers, financial security – or just a long afternoon nap – we are ambitious – and it all matters to God. But what matters most to God is not only the object of your ambition but the reason behind your ambition. It’s why you want what you want.

But it is true: Whether it is to conquer a nation or control the remote – we are hard-wired to be ambitious. Dave Harvey wrote an excellent book called, “Rescuing Ambition.” He comically helps us to see ourselves as Jesus sees selfish ambition.

Ivan the Occasionally Great. Who is this? This is Ivan who has his moments. He’ll do good things for others – sometimes. But he can’t keep it up all the time. Greatness is hit and miss.

Ivan the Great-In-His-Own-Mind. This is Ivan who thinks great thoughts – about Ivan. He’s ready to offer his more-than-valuable opinion like candy from a parade boat.

Ivan the Potentially Great. This is the guy who could do something great if only he put his mind to it. But, because he fears man more than God – he never really attempts great things for God because he can’t stand the risk of failure.

Ivan the Formerly Great. Ivan has been there and done that. He remembers when things “were great” under his watch. But he has selective memory – he’s got amnesia of his own failures but can easily recall all the right things he’s done.

Ivan the Comparatively Great. This Ivan is always found in the upper class – not the top of the class, that would be too self-centered. Not perfect but better than the average joe. He’s competitive in all that he does. Tries to stay ahead of others. Is jealous that others get promoted over him. Loves to win, hates to lose. Prone to self-pity. Shifts the blame. Accusatory.

Ivan the Tomorrow-I’ll-Be-Great. This guy is up to something. He can just feel it. He just needs a little more time, a little more organization, a little more rest, a little more money. Ask him why he still hasn’t done what he said he would do . . .he’ll give you one excuse after another.

Ivan the If-Only Great. This guy just can’t catch a break. If only people understand. If only others would not hinder. If only others were more predictable and more helpful. If only others would notice his talents and what he has to offer. It feels good that God notices him but it would feel better if others did.

Ivan the I’ll Be Great If IT Kills Me. Doesn’t take no for an answer. Failure is not an option. If you’re in his way you’ll get ran over.

Apart from God, our quest for greatness is often a search for approval. I want to be applauded and esteemed. I live for praise. I attempt great things, even for God, because I crave being celebrated. But in Christ – my search for approval and greatness and distinction is over. In Christ – I am great, in Christ – I am distinct, in Christ – I am approved, not because of my ambition but because of His. All the time and energy that we waste trying to be liked or praised or to achieve something to validate our existence can now be redirected toward ambition for God’s glory. By grace, our hearts are redirected from How Great I Am to How Great Thou Art. 

 

The Secret to Happiness is Not Seeking It

Jesus said, “Whoever wants to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25). Which means, if you seek your own private happiness for your life, you will lose your life – and their goes your happiness. But if you give up your life for Christ, you get to keep your life – and as a consequence, find real joy. C. S. Lewis said,

“Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making . . . give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it” – Mere Christianity, pg. 190

If you are easily angered and offended, have routine episodes of self-pity, are hypersensitive and wear your grievances on your sleeve, you are seeking to be happy and unwilling to serve others. You will never know true happiness until you stop seeking it. Forget yourself and give your life away. You’ll be surprised how happy you’ll be.

Why do we need sad songs?

On the way home from WV last week, I put in my “Best of Fleetwood Mac” cd after Joseph woke up. He just turned 2, mind you. On disc one, tracks #14 and 15 played “Landslide” and “Songbird” respectively. As Christine McVie began to sing “Songbird”, Joseph commented, “. . . sad song . . .” Even a two-year old can hear the difference between happiness and sadness – his life already contains both. Here are the two songs that we listened to and they both speak about getting old and dying, and losing someone you dearly love, and the sadness of it all. After the songs, I have a few things to say.

 

Here are a few reasons why we need these songs:

1. Because we need others to know when we’re sad. When someone writes a sad song we are comforted by their empathy – they also know the dark days and they know that you have them too.

2. Because it’s ok to be sad. If you are never sad it’s because you refuse to take an honest look at life. So much of our culture does not permit deep sadness, but fills up the days with more and more silliness as a distraction. This is not healthy for us.

3. Because we need to cry. It’s good for the body and the spirit. It’s part of what it means to be human and it’s part of what it means to be an emotionally, healthy person.

4. Because we know that happiness has an opposite. When someone is hurting you do not laugh. You cannot eat popcorn at the side of a hospital bed. Tears are the only appropriate response to many things in this life, and it is dishonest and unloving to rejoice with those who weep.

5. Because we instinctively know there is something seriously wrong with our world. Sadness works like a billboard for our minds – it tells us that this is not the way it’s supposed to be.

6. Because we long for a time and a place where there will never be things that draw out tears again. Which is why I’m not going to trust anyone else other than Jesus when it comes to my future happiness and joy. I don’t trust Charles Taze Russell or Mary Baker Eddy or Confucius or Joseph Smith or Tom Cruise or Dr. Phil or Dick Clark or Johnny Carson or Joel Osteen. Christ alone and those who faithfully represent Christ have the only answer for my sadness (Psalm 42 and Revelation 21:4)

I am very thankful that this sad song has been mercifully postponed by the Lord, for now.

I love you dad!