The walls have been hit with leprosy!

In Leviticus 14 we read that if someone comes to the priest and says, “Something like a mark of leprosy has become visible to me in the house”, that the priest should inspect it, quarantine it for seven days, and if it spreads, that “he shall have the house scraped all around inside, and they shall dump the plaster that they scrape off at an unclean place outside the city.”

If you walked the halls of the church last Sunday, I’m sure you know why I shared this interesting tidbit from Leviticus. It surely looks like the walls have been hit with leprosy! Let me assure you, however, that the thousands of spackle patches were put there intentionally to cover up push pin holes, as well as a variety of dings and dents and bigger holes, to get the walls ready for a new coat of paint and some upgrades to hallway accessories.

Yes, we decided to have the hallways painted before the new carpet is laid. And yes, we finally picked out the new carpet tiles that will be going in the hallways, offices, classrooms, and fellowship hall. We are also going to replace the beat-up baseboards with vinyl cove moldings, so those in the hallways will be removed before the walls are painted during the week of August 7th. But don’t despair, you’ll get a chance to be a mover and shaker and ripper-upper on August 13th.

Yes, the carpet is scheduled to be laid in the hallways and classrooms during the week of August 14th, and the fellowship hall the following week. To save over $2000, we’re going to move everything out of the classrooms and offices, and remove the remaining baseboards, before they begin. Then, on Saturday, August 19th we’ll move everything from the fellowship hall back into the classrooms. We are going to need lots of help to get everything moved out of classrooms, closets and nooks and crannies, but with your help we can get it done. For as they say, “Many hands make light work.”

And yes, while there will be a lot of heavy lifting and hauling, there will also be lots of light work for the kids to do. So plan on making it into a fun family time at church. We’ll plan on beginning around 3:00 on the 13th.

God Bless, Rick

Does baptism save us?

I recently got an email from Bill(y) Carroll, and yes he did sign it that way, which I loved! Anyway, he asked if I would write out a metaphor I had shared with him twenty-two years ago about baptism. He said he had shared it hundreds of times with people who had questions about baptism, and recently shared it with a leader in his church who is convinced that a person’s sins are not forgiven until the moment of baptism because it’s in that moment that you come in contact with the blood of Christ. He just wanted to make sure he hadn’t strayed far from the way I had said it. In asking for it, however, he actually stated it better than I remembered it, and when I told Marilyn about it, she said she’d never heard me say it. So, for Bill(y), Marilyn, and anyone else who might have wondered about the relationship between salvation and baptism, here goes.

As we noted in our study of I Peter last Sunday, Peter does state that baptism saves us, not by removing dirt from our flesh, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience. And at his conversion, Paul was told to rise and be baptized, and wash away his sins. He then explained in Romans 6 that we are buried with Christ through baptism, and if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, we shall share in His resurrection. There is apparently, therefore, a direct connection between baptism and the forgiveness of sins. In fact, I believe something even sacramental happens in baptism, because God does something for us in baptism that goes far beyond what we are doing. But to suggest that the moment before baptism a person is lost, and when they come out of the water they are saved, may be going too far.

I think when Jesus told Nicodemus that unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of heaven, He painted a picture of a process, and not just a singular event. It’s true that a birth is an event, but the baby is alive before coming forth from the womb. And Jeremiah’s call and John the Baptist’s leap indicate that the Spirit works prenatally. To suggest, therefore, that a person cannot be spiritually alive before baptism, in my opinion, goes against the picture Jesus painted.

I’ve come to believe that when someone comes to faith in Christ a spiritual conception takes place, and that that new life continues to grow spiritually “in utero” until the moment of birth. Baptism, then, is the birth, when the person is actually born again. He is alive in a “prenatal” relationship with Christ before that moment, but at baptism that relationship becomes “postnatal”.

I think this understanding avoids the pitfalls of baptismal regeneration on the one hand, and baptism as nothing more than a symbolic act on the other. It recognizes that baptism as a physical act saves no one, but when done in faith it assures the believer that they have indeed been washed in the blood of Christ and made acceptable in the sight of God.

At what point in the process of coming to life in Christ our sins are actually forgiven might be as hard to prove as when life actually begins in the womb. What’s not open for debate is that if you believe that Jesus died for your sins and you have been baptized into Him, your sins have been forgiven. The moment it happened is, in my opinion, of little concern.

God Bless, Rick

The Most Violent Book?

A question was recently asked in my adult class about the appropriateness of watching violence on TV. In responding to the question it was noted that the Bible contains a lot of violence, and now I read that according to computer textual analysis the Bible is more violent than the Quran. What are we to make of this?

The analyst, whose findings were published in the UK, said his findings cheer up Muslims and rile Christians, but the American Thinker author who was reviewing the findings made some very important points.

He began by noting that a raw word search in the U.S. criminal code would find all sorts of violence, but pointed out that that would not mean the code endorses murder and robbery and rape. He also noted that ancient Israel was a full-fledged nation with a military, surrounded by hostile nations that waged annihilation or near-annihilation warfare, and that if Israel’s neighbors had been peaceful, we wouldn’t find war verses in the Hebrew Bible.

The analyst also “discovered” that killing and destruction were referenced even more often in the New Testament than the Quran. The respondent agreed that the New Testament did have violence in it, but said recording that Jesus was crucified and Paul was beaten and stoned did not mean Christians should crucify or beat or stone people.

He went on to say: “There is simply no verse in all the New Testament that commands or even suggests Christians should form a militia or even a military to injure or kill people in the name of Christ. Rather, Peter and Paul hand the sword over to the state. This is where, once again, our Founders got things right. They separated the state from church, so the state does not meddle in church matters. Christians are called to preach the gospel that changes criminals to honest men, while the government is purposed to raise up a military and police force to protect the citizenry.”

He then notes that no Christian denomination today quotes the Old Testament to endorse or encourage violence, but the Quran is filled with violent verses that terrorists use to justify killing people in the name of Allah.

Just because a computer analysis suggests something is so doesn’t mean it is.

God Bless, Rick