Why Baptize?

Why was Evalise baptized? The most obvious reason is that she is being raised by faithful Christian parents, attends a Bible-believing church, and has a basic understanding of what Jesus did for her, and why. Perhaps a better question is why should anyone be baptized, and how.

Many would admit that baptism is a good thing, and that every believer should do it. They may not think it’s essential for salvation, but do think it’s a good way to demonstrate your faith. And they seldom think the way you are baptized is all that important. Obviously I disagree.

After being confronted with their sin, and asking what they should do about it, the hearers of the first gospel sermon were told to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. (Acts 2:38) After being blinded on the road to Damascus, Saul was told to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins. (Acts 22:16) And after Philip was sent by an angel to tell an Ethiopian about Jesus, he was baptized along the road in a pool of water. When they came out of the water, he went on his way rejoicing. (Acts8:39)

The bottom line reason for baptism is found in Peter’s first letter. After making it clear that Christ died for everyone’s sin, he focused on the flood and how Noah’s family was brought safely through the water. How they were the only people on earth to obey God and get on the ark built according to God’s instructions.

He also noted that Jesus went to those who had been disobedient in Noah’s day. What He declared to them we’re not told, but I assume it dealt with their refusal to believe what Noah had told them, and their refusal to get on the boat God designed.

I guess it’s possible that when they saw what Noah was building, they thought they ought to make a boat of their own. If they did, it didn’t float. I’ll let you make the connection between that supposition and alternate forms of baptism.

Peter did make it clear that baptism has nothing to do with physical cleansing, but is an appeal to God for a good conscience. And he explicitly stated that baptism saves us. That’s why we do it, and why we do it as instructed.

God Bless, Rick

Living Life Backward

There is little doubt that we will still live in a strange new world as we enter 2023. Trying to understand that world, however, proved to be more difficult than we thought.

We did our best on Sunday nights to explore how the thinking of philosophers laid the foundation for the strange gender confusion we are currently experiencing, and we affirmed a biblical understanding of who we are and why God made us the way He did. I do have to admit, however, that we stopped mid-stream.

We covered the historical thinking, but decided to simply summarize how that thinking has gone main-stream today, and encouraged the class to read the second half of the book on their own. Hopefully those who are doing so will be even better equipped to answer the questions that are bound to find their way into our homes.

Having confessed that we stopped mid- stream, and acknowledged what has gone main-stream, I feel a need to swim up- stream and admit that sometimes you can’t even lead a horse to water, let alone make it drink.

Back in October I reviewed Living Life Backward by David Gibson in detail. I was convinced everyone would benefit greatly from reading it. But since no one asked for a copy, I’m going to try once again to lead you to it. In fact, I’m going to actually help you drink it in. Yes, Living Life Backward will be our Sunday evening adult study for the new year.

If you don’t want your resolutions for the new year to end up in vain, this study of Ecclesiastes will get you started in the right direction. Instead of setting your sights on a future that is unsure, and a path through life that is guaranteed to end with you crying out “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity”, you’ll learn how to live a successful life by living it backward.

Unlike our previous study, this book is an easy read. You could wade in by yourself without danger of drowning, but if we swim through it together we’ll make some good waves and really stir things up.

Dive in with me at 6:30 on the 8th, and you’ll be glad you did.

God Bless, Rick

Faithful Stewardship

As the elders reviewed the past year, and looked forward to the new, one thing really stood out. Your excellent stewardship!

It has long been our desire to give around 25% of our tithes and offerings to missions, and when we project our financial needs for a year we set the giving to missions accordingly. But even after adding support for Zach’s internship with Encounter mid-year it became obvious that your giving would far exceed our expectations, and that to keep the percentage around 25% we should give an additional $10,000 to missions. And, as God always does, He made it clear to us that there were a couple of mission needs that we could meet.

After Jesse Yangmi’s death it was announced that Asian Christian Mission would be disbanded. But Ati, his widow, continued ministering to the people of Thailand, and the mission was reorganized. When we then learned of her desire to take water filtration systems to 15 villages in 2021, we sent $5,000 to make it possible.

We then began supporting Ati on a monthly basis in 2022, and have been excited to be a part of what she is doing. In her summer newsletter she shared how, among many other things, she had sent four teachers from village churches to a program to train Sunday School teachers, and hoped to send 50 high school and university students to an intensive 5-day training program to equip them to share their faith with their non-Christian friends next April. The cost for the training, housing, food, and transportation will be $8,000. Due to your faithful stewardship, we have already sent a check to make this possible.

On the local front we just learned that the campus ministry at UIS and LLCC was in need of additional funds to meet their budget for the current fiscal year. We have therefore sent them an additional $2,000 to help meet their ministry needs for students here at home.

With all the dire financial news we hear about today, and even experience, I can’t express the gratitude I feel for the way you continue to support our church and the ministries that God sends our way.

God Bless, Rick

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Last month I told you that Matt and I were going to attend the Touchstone conference, Something Wicked This Way Comes. The subtitle of the conference was “Diabolical Fantasies & the Mystery of the Real”, and it was indeed a fantastic conference that exposed the mystery behind the all too real challenges we face in the world today.

The schedule included nine thought provoking papers and presentations that examined occult, technology, philosophy, family, literature, law, politics, ethics, and culture. The first session made it clear that the rise in occultic practices that was witnessed in the 70s and 80s has not disappeared. It has simply gone mainline and is no longer noticed.

Next we were warned how technology has made possible a new totalitarianism that seeks to remove everything that doesn’t fit the progressive world-view. We then learned how the proper use of hierarchical structures lift people up, while a push for egalitarianism leads to oppression by those in power. This was confirmed by the demise of families, and foreseen in literature that was written 100 years ago.

An interview with Jack Phillips, who was at least partially vindicated by the Supreme Court for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex marriage, was a testimony to the danger facing those who refuse to celebrate sinful behavior. And the heresy of identity politics was revealed as an attempt to rid ourselves of a debt of guilt, something only Christ can do.

Carl Trueman, the author of the excellent book we are studying on Sunday nights, demonstrated from history how evil is made to look good. And Rod Dreher, who has sounded an alarm for the need to prepare for future persecution, challenged us to find encouragement by constantly looking for God’s activity in the world today.

It is true that wickedness is all around us, and we’ve got to be ready to deal with it. But it is also true that God is still on His throne, and if our security is found in the cross of Christ we will be secure for all eternity. And, by His grace, we still have much to be thankful for. Even now.

God Bless, Rick

Living Life Backward

Last month I wrote about discovering a literary gem on the ski slopes of Colorado, told how it had been received as miraculous by one of the first persons I gave a copy to, and said I had a couple of copies if you wanted one. The day after the article was published I received a phone call from an elderly friend who said she wanted to buy a copy. I told her I wanted to hold on to the copies I had until after Sunday so I’d have one if you asked for it. She said after what I had written everyone would want one. I told her she was more optimistic about that than I, but assured her I’d get a copy for her. When no one even mentioned the book, or the offer, I took her a copy on Monday.

I do hope the lack of response was due to the poetic nature of the book, and not my track record of recommending movies that few seem to enjoy as much as I do. The response to our Sunday night study of Strange New World does give me hope. I was encouraged to keep trying by your willingness to tackle a book that, while not as scholarly as the book from which it originated, is still not easy to wrap our heads around. I really think Carl Trueman understands what has happened to our culture, and his observations will enable us to more effectively address the problems that surround us. In fact, Matt and I are going to hear him speak at a Touchstone Conference in Chicago next week, Something Wicked This Way Comes.

It’s with mild trepidation that I’m going to plunge ahead and recommend another book. Duane gave me another winner, Living Life Backward by David Gibson. It’s the best book I’ve ever read that gives insight and understanding to a book few seem to comprehend or understand. And no, I’m not talking about Revelation. It’s subtitled “How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us To Live in Light of the End.” One copy has already gone to Wisconsin on a fishing trip. There’s only one left.

God Bless, Rick