Thursday, August 17, 2006

Baptism Letter

Congratulations on your baptism! Below are some thoughts about baptism and the Christian life that would be worth your reading and maybe even keeping in your Bible. This letter is a little long, but I just didn’t know how to make it any shorter.

Your baptism marks your decision to follow our God, to yield yourself to Him, to let Him make you like Him no matter the cost. It is a milestone along your journey back to God. It is not the culmination or end of that journey, but comes near the beginning of a life-long adventure.

The Christian journey is one of transformation, of being completely re-formed. We change from selfishness and fear toward other-centeredness and confident submission. Just as our God loves you, let Him change you into someone who loves others. While that idea seems easy and desirable, in practice it can be hard and frightening as you attempt to make the idea concrete in your every day life.

It is eternally imperative that you see your decision to follow God as absolute and non-negotiable. There will come times when others will hurt you, let you down, or embarrass you. At those times it will be surprisingly easy to become angry and mistreat others – sometimes even those who have not hurt you. There will be other times when you will be tempted to take advantage of, or ignore others. In those times you must remember your decision to follow our God. Your example must always be that of our Savior. Jesus submitted Himself to God’s will, and to the interests of others. When mistreated, He did not lash out. Rather, He responded with patience and blessing – even to the point of dying for you. Jesus’ death must be your example of care and ministry in this world.

You will not be able to do this alone. Our God is with you; He is in you. More so, God is in the church, His body, His people. In community with God’s people you will be challenged, you will learn, and you will practice ministry and blessing for all God’s creation. You will also find imperfect people like you on the same journey. These people may disappoint you, but they can also provide you example, encouragement, and strength to continue. Love His people, join with them, help them, and find comfort with them.

Our God is faithful and steadfast. His love for you will last forever. He will be with you although at times it may not feel like He is. At these times trust that He is faithful and that He is with you. Follow Him through whatever comes. Our God is steadfast and so you must be.

Your decision has placed you squarely in the middle of a stream of people that began thousands of years ago and will continue until our God returns. You participate with Christians today, those that have gone before, and those that will come after you. See yourself as part of this grand procession of our God and His people through history. Doing so will give you a broader picture of our faith and give you patience with your people.

Christians through the ages have practiced spiritual disciplines. There are many of them, but I want to introduce you to three. The first is simplicity. Our culture and even our friends almost demand that we chase the most, the best, and more of everything. It seems that we can never be satisfied; that we always chase the next best thing. Do not fall into this trap of wanting more. If you do, you will never be satisfied and the stress of chasing “stuff” or having to look successful, will make your life miserable. Learn to live simply. If you can, you will have peace and be able to bless others out of the abundance that God gives you. Cultivating simplicity will help transform your physical and spiritual lives into the likeness of our God.

Develop a consistent and ever-present prayer life. This may include a daily quiet time, but nurture it into a life lived in the expectant presence of our God. Speak with Him and trust He is with you. This ever-present God will help transform your spiritual life, give you spiritual strength, and lead you to see the world and others as our God sees them. To love them as He loves them. Practice His presence and He will give you confidence in the midst of trouble.

Read your Bible every day. Do this in two ways. First, read big chunks at a time. Whole chapters, or even books. This will help you gain a broad understanding of God’s story. It will help you connect ideas, and see how they fit together. You will come to see our God and yourself in a more complete way, and better understand the workings of our God in this world. Secondly, read small bits – only a few verses at a time. Read the verses several times, maybe out loud, and reflect on them. Listen for what God is telling you and how you can use that in your life. Both these approaches, used together, but not at the same time, will open the Bible and our God more and more to your understanding. The growing realization of Him and His love for creation will help you find your place in the people of God.

As you practice these and other disciplines, look and listen for the message of God. Don’t spend too much time on do’s and don’ts, because they are secondary. Instead, see the picture and hear the descriptions of our God. What kind of God is it that you follow, and how does seeing Him change your very being? Seek Him, study Him, submit to Him, and imitate Him until He forms you, becomes part of you, and you become one with Him.

Finally, as you continue to let God transform you, make your whole life a ministry of blessing and care for others – for your family, your neighbors, your co-workers, and the rest of the world. Look for ways to be God in this world, to learn more about Him, to show others the goodness of our God. Learn two passages by heart:

God so loved the world that He gave His only son so that those who believe on Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For He did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might by save through Him. (John 3.16-17)

He has shown you oh man what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? But to love mercy, act justly, and walk humbly with God. (Micah 6.8)

I trust that as you follow Him, our God will bless you with peace and patience beyond your imagination.

Welcome to the family! We love you and pledge to you our care and mentoring as we together live the lives we were made to live.

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