Sunday, July 28, 2013

Dream your dream

Dreams are interesting.  In the Bible, we see that God used dreams to forewarn, to provide instruction and correction and provide spiritual enlightenment.  Another definition of a dream is also to hope or to create a future and alternative vision for yourself.   When we sleep and dream, some but not all of these dreams are from God.   In the same way, when we are awake and something inside us is causing us to hope and dream, that something inside could be from God.

Why does God give us a dream? Perhaps, God will give us a dream in order to shape us and motivate us. Perhaps it to show us what could be, an alternate reality that God wants for us.

All of us have non-utilized potential.   Dreaming the dream, identifying the opportunities that are all around us harnesses this potential that has the

Every ministry, every new church, every new nonprofit that establishes itself, recruits resources in order to go and make a difference starts with a dream.

Every new school, every new educational opportunity, every new food program, every new clothing program, all new training program, every hospital, the new water wells in Africa, new drug rehabilitation programs all start with a dream.

All new Christian parenting programs, ministry to singles, every new student ministry program, recreational center, sports ministry and every outreach program to single parents all start with a dream.

Don’t give up on your dream.  Regardless of where you are serving, what stage of life, your economic situation or present place of residence, God can use the dream He has given you to build you up, to strengthen you and to change lives.

And these changed lives....don't be surprised when yours is the first to change!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Baptism in the Early Church

The history of Baptism in the Church is interesting and likely one of the most controversial topics. Today there is a great deal of emphasis in many denominations on Baptism and many different ways that people have been baptized.  

The Bible actually has a lot to say about Baptism.  We see in Matthew, Chapter 3 John the Baptist, a first cousin of Jesus, calling people to repentance and baptizing them in the River Jordan.

The word “baptize” is from the Greek word "baptizo" and means to dip or immerse under water.  The word was used for example in the way that cloth was dyed by being immersed under the water with pigment; or a blacksmith would baptizo a piece of hot iron in water to cool it quickly and therefore make is stronger.

The Jews that John the Baptist called to repent already knew a lot about baptism. In the Jewish culture ritual washings or baptisms were used for purification and consecration.   It was also one of the final steps for Gentile converts to Judaism. They would be baptized (called a mikvah) “into Moses” by symbolically recalling the crossing by the Israelites of the Red Sea.

In the early church people that were converted ‘into Christ” were baptized by being immersed in water.  We know this because we have historical evidence from the time of the Apostles including excavations of baptismals similar to the one pictured above that are deep enough for an adult to be fully immersed.  We also know from first century writings that permission was granted for water to be poured only if there wasn’t sufficient or deep water available.

During the first few centuries new Christian believers would receive special instruction for an entire year.  These new believers were called ‘Catechumens’ and after a full year of instruction the church would have a huge celebration typically right around Palm Sunday where these newer believers were baptized, given white robes and became full members of the church.

At that time, Baptism was a rite-of-initiation with great symbolic meaning but was not directly tied to the forgiveness of sins.  Many Catechumens for example that were not yet baptized went to the Roman coliseums and faced martyrdom confident of their salvation.

However by the 4th century, Christians started associating baptism with the forgiveness of all sins.  As a result many people would delay their baptism to gain maximum effect and wash away many years of sin. The Emperor Constantine the Great for example, delayed his baptism until his deathbed.   The leaders of the church saw a great moral danger in delaying baptism and fortunately for them another teaching that baptism was necessary for salvation became popular.  Saint Augustine (AD 354-430) had written, “How many rascals are saved by being baptized on their deathbeds? And how many sincere catechumens die unbaptized, and are thus lost forever!”

As a result of this dilema and Augustine's teaching, two new Catholic doctrines --the doctrine of necessity (that baptism is necessary) and the doctrine of forgiveness (that baptism forgives original sin) officially emerged.   Since the mortality rate for infants was very high, soon babies were being baptized within a few days of birth.   By the end of the 4th century Baptism, the official step of membership into the church split into two sacraments: Baptism via water for infants and then a later Confirmation via oil for adolescences.  In the Eastern or Orthodox Church babies are still baptized by immersion rather than being sprinkled or by having water poured over their forehead as is the custom in the Western or Latin Church. 

By the 16th Century many of the reformers began to look at infant baptism in light of both early church history as well as the teachings in the Bible and encouraged each other to be ‘baptized again’.  These Anabaptists as they were called,  are the forerunners of what we know today as “Believers Baptism” that is practiced in many of our Evangelical Churches.

Not all Christians baptize the same way nor do all Christian denominations recognize each other’s baptism. However, many Evangelical Christians believe that water baptism identifies the believer with the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit as we are commanded in Matthew 28:19 to “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” 

Further, water baptism identifies the believer with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.  "All of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?   We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:3-4). 


Baptism while symbolic is also one of the two commonly recognized sacraments of the Church.  Historically sacraments were viewed as 'an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given to us, ordained by Christ himself'.  Baptism is  the manner by which the church fulfills the commandment of Jesus to "make disciples.....and baptize them" as well as for the believer to identify themselves with their new life in Christ. 

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