I had a good night's sleep, so it's time to reflect on those presentation notes I posted last night...
Jesus stands before you now asking you for your Caesarea Confession. Who do you believe Jesus is? Write out your response in detail. Why do you believe this?
Alexis and I have been discussing the concept of baptism and what it means: the fact that it symbolizes the washing away of a person's sins and rebirth as a follower of Christ. Alexis wondered if she was required to understand certain things or have passed a certain level of education in the church before being baptized. Some denominations hold confirmation classes, and confirmation is a milestone in the person's life. For some people, this kind of rigor can be difficult, and I will post more about this in another entry.
I shared with Alexis that we don't make decisions about baptizing people for the sake of church membership, and we don't baptize infants because we believe that baptism is representative of the person's own choice. Because of this, it depends only on the person's ability to make a decision about following Jesus, not on having reached some particular level of education. I've known children as young as six to be baptized.
That surprised her. So this led to a discussion about my own experience. I was 12.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
One morning in July, 1984, I stood out in the garage having a typical argument with my sister. Mom was inside looking for her keys, and we were arguing over who was going to sit in the front seat during the trip to day care and summer camp. My sister climbed into the front seat while I stood outside the door, holding the towel I would use after my daily swim at summer camp. I was not to be outdone. I sat on her.
She finally decided she was "going to tell". I waited and braced myself for the inevitable lecture about how we should respect each other and work it out nicely. Once, Mom had even made us both sit down and read 1 Corinthians 13, and I didn’t get out of it since I had a New Testament in braille.
As I waited, my brain provided me an image so clear that it could almost be a memory—although I knew that this one was not representative of anything in the physical environment. I saw a face with tears streaming down. It's probably the only face I've ever seen clearly. As I looked, I heard a voice gently saying, "You know it doesn't please me when you do that."
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
I got into the car, sank into the back seat, and covered my face with my towel. I had seen the face and heard the voice of God, and I knew that I could never please Him. I had tried for years to control my responses to my sister's words and actions. I couldn't do it in my own power. Every time I fought with her, I hurt God. The only way I could please God was by believing in Him and in His son, Jesus Christ. I had spent my lifetime going to church and learning about Jesus, but the things I had learned had been only stories to me. They couldn't be stories now. Believing them meant the difference between pleasing God and continuing to watch the tears fall down His face.
I was baptized that summer as a confession of my faith, and I began to think about what it meant to have a relationship with God.
Just two months after I had made my decision, my parents took me to see Sandi Patti in concert. At the end of the concert, she sang a song about Jesus coming back to earth and how we will see him as he is, not as just a man but as a glorious being from Heaven who is the One who saves people from sin. I suddenly understood fully that Jesus filled the gap between me and a God whom I could not please by my own efforts. I remember distinctly that I wept for about two hours after the concert was over. From that moment on, the connection between music, emotion, understanding, and faith was sealed for me.
My understanding was very elementary, and I have spent the 22 years since then building my understanding as well as my faith. It's a maturing process, and the point of "conversion" represents only a beginning. This is why baptism represents a new birth. I truly was a spiritual baby; and I should not be that baby at this point in my life.
Who do I say that Jesus is? Unfortunately, I must confess that there are some areas that I still have a lack of understanding of my own belief. What I do know is that to say anything about who he is requires the revelation of the Holy Spirit. It isn't a belief I can manufacture on my own or come to by understanding enough truth. Looking at the life I have led in my past, I have said that Jesus was Lord. I need to return to it with all my heart.
Are you willing to accept Jesus’ paradoxical teaching of losing your life to find it? How have you been living this already?
Are you willing to deny yourself and put Christ first for the sake of this message and the gospel? Why or why not?
I have been very good at talking this talk but not walking the walk. I've wanted the benefits first before I would get up and do anything about what God called me to do. It never works this way, and I'm very good at talking this talk. This is the thing that stirred the first bit of seminary decision in me...
Why is anxiety created when we allow treasures or personal needs to take the first place in our live?
What is that thing or mission God has asked you to give attention to in your life but you have failed to even begin the journey? What is keeping you from
I've been waiting for God to provide for me, arguing with Him about it all these years. The result has been that He has stepped back and is waiting for me, and I am growing lukewarm. It's time for me to step up to the plate or get off the road. Getting off the road is not an option I'm willing to consider.
We have all been blatantly disobedient regarding something we believed God prompted us to do. How did this occur in your own life? Why did you disobey what
you believe God prompted?
This is a very painful thing for me to reveal; but I think it's also important. I transferred out of AU in 1992. Why? I said it was because of lack of financial aid. I went to Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas. Something inside me had always screamed, "NO!" about the prospect of going to SFA. There was no reason. AU was just "home." I couldn't explain it. I had wanted to teach blind children since I was eight years old, and SFA had a degree offering in this area. I ended up changing my major to Christian ministries at AU for a number of reasons. One was that I found working with the elementary education department difficult. The other was that I knew even back then that I wanted to do exactly what I'm trying to do now. I had the vision for it. I remember writing in my journal that I wanted to sing but I also wanted to give seminars and help families of children with disabilities. I didn't see how it could work, but I thought that a Christian ministries major and a music business minor would help me run it. Who knew then that the Internet would be around and I would be running the thing in just a few short years!
I was right. And if I had stayed the course, I would be in a lot less debt than I am now. However, transferring out and staying the course at SFA for the sake of becoming employable rather than doing what God was calling me to do has cost me dearly.
David brought up the story of Jonah during the presentation last week and talked about it being an example of blatant disobedience. It's very common for people to say that you can't go back and redo your past. No, I cna't go back and redo my B.A. at AU. But I can go back and redo something. Jonah's road led him back to Nineveh. If the real point of being at AU was to have been for me to obtain ministry credentials, I can't keep running away from that. Somehow, God will take care of the debt problem.
Do you believe God is the Lord of all things impossible? How have you acted on this? Are you stuck at introductory faith, hovering with skepticism
at the fringe, or are you living a mustard seed, God empowered faith? Why or why not?
This is the final thing that forced me to make the decision. Is God the Lord over my debts, or not? Is He the Lord over what happens after seminary? I either believe it, or I don't. It makes a difference in whether I act; and I have been living a life of unbelief.
Are you staying awake through discernment, endurance and by relying on the power of the Holy Spirit? In what ways? Describe how you are staying awake? Read the garden passage noted at the beginning of this chapter. Will you have an answer for Jesus about whether you are awake or sleeping? What will you say to him?
We are to be wise in these days before Christ’s return (Ephesians 5:15-17). How can we remain wise? What are you doing to remain vigilant and alert? (i.e., through your prayer life, practice of spiritual disciplines, participation in corporate worship, diligent study of scripture, etc)
I do a lot more sleeping than I should. This is part of the reason I needed to start this journal. I need to wake up, and I'm hoping it will help me remember to stay awake.
Do You Really Love Me? (John 21:15-19)
This is a very convicting question. When a person asks me this, it's often a cue that he/she is about to upset me or ask me to do something I don't want to do. A couple of my friends do this on a regular basis, and it irritates me greatly. I want to say, "Just ask for what you want and please don't bait me!" And here is Jesus, confronting Peter with that question--not once, but three times.
"Feed my sheep." I have to confess that I'm sort of ok at feeding myself--if I'm starving--but I'm not very good at feeding anyone else. I can't imagine neglecting the feeding of an animal or child because I'm too busy or don't know how; but this is what I often do spiritually. It's time to stop making excuses.