Today my oldest son was baptized. We honestly couldn’t have been more proud of him for this decision if we tried. Today in our services for Easter Sunday (April 16, 2017) 53 men, women, teenagers, and children (2nd grade and up) made the decision to publicly declare their faith and relationships with the ONE true God. Our church does an amazing job of celebrating this moment for the people who come forward. As they go into the baptismal we are on our feet, worshiping with the team (praise team, choir, orchestra, and the whole congregation), clapping to the music…and then as they come out of the water, we cheer. Loudly! We whoop and holler and clap and jump around. For this body of believers, we are rejoicing that this person, on this day, is telling the world that they have a Savior that has called them by name. Their name is written in the book. They have chosen to follow Christ and make him Lord of their life. Amen.
The services today were especially powerful because we were full to the brim with guests from near and far. We had family in town to support Blake in his decision as did all of the other people who were baptized. And….it was EASTER. This was the day that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and showed the world who He really was. He conquered death to pay the price for our sins. He paid a debt we could not possibly pay on our own. He offered His sinless life as a sacrifice so that we could someday be with him for eternity. As a follower of Christ, THIS is the day of all days. This day signifies the power, sacrifice, gift, and LOVE that God has for His people. He is RISEN!
But he’s not a baby….
But it also got me to thinking today….as I shared with others about Blake’s decision to be baptized, I was met with a few curious looks. I realize that a lot of our community believes that people are baptized as infants. This is simply what you do as parents when your baby is born and as soon as possible because it somehow *saves your baby. I will go as far to say that some believe that the infant’s baptism is indeed was actually SAVES their baby so that they spend eternity in heaven. This isn’t what I believe to be true. Let me explain….
In our family (Dan and I) when our babies are little, we choose to dedicate them. This looks similar to infant baptism in many ways. We dress them up in cute outfits (but they don’t have to be white), we gather family and friends to celebrate with us, we take the baby on stage, but there’s no water involved. As a family we stand up there and dedicate ourselves to the Christian upbringing of our child. The coolest part is that the congregation gets involved and THEY commit to supporting us in that effort. As we know….it takes a village to raise a child. Constant prayer support is one of those ways the village can help any parent.
We did this with our oldest child. We had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into and honestly, we had to learn on the job. Parenting is tough….but we want so much to raise our children to know the Lord. We want them to want it for themselves. Own their decisions. Faith in God is easy for kids though. There’s a reason the Bible talks about having faith like a child. For Blake, his faith came very easy. Honestly, sharing his faith with others has been pretty easy too. In 3rd grade he was bringing his Bible to school and reading it in his down time. He had friends from his class even join him! I thought sure we were going to get calls from the school or parents….but we didn’t. We have a pretty amazing community here. Blake asked Christ to be Lord of his life when he was 5 years old. Since then we’ve read a lot of Bible stories, said many prayers, gone to lots of church services….but the things that I think have been best for helping him in his walk have been things like helping out on service projects, serving meals to college students, attending VBS (and inviting people to join him)…the hands on things that create thoughtfulness and awareness on things other than ourselves.
Blake has been wanting to be baptized for a couple of years, but we asked him to wait. We wanted to make sure he was doing it for the right reasons and really understood what he was doing. We also wanted him to really own this for himself and not think he was checking a box or doing it for one of us. We really want him to know his own faith. His own relationship with Christ. I think he has that. I think he still has a long way to go….but don’t we all? I love this kid.
All of this leads me to my story….it’s similar to Blake’s actually. I was actually baptized as an infant although my parents didn’t believe that I was saved at that point. It’s just what the church did for babies at the time. I came to know Christ in a 5 day club when I was 5 years old. I remember because there was an altar call every day and I raised my hand to ask Jesus into my heart every day. The people who led the group (Doug & Sue Bernstein) told me that I didn’t HAVE to come back every day. That it “worked” the first time. Ha ha. But I just wanted to make sure I did it “right”. I just knew that I wanted what they described and I would do whatever it took to have that. Then I remember being in summer camp at 11 or 12 years old. I remember it was a particularly powerful message given that night and EVERYONE at camp felt the presence of the Holy Spirit there that night. I know that sounds a little silly to some of you, but it’s a powerful feeling to almost physically feel like a presence is in the room with you. That night I rededicated and confirmed my faith in God. I wanted so much to do the right things and follow Him in whatever path he wanted me to choose.
I chose to be baptized when I was 12 years old. I did it with a couple of friends from church and we went to a church in town that had a baptismal. We shared our testimonies, we got dunked, and we had a little gathering afterwards in church basement. Sound familiar to anyone?
After that I was active in my church youth group and another youth group in town. I went to all the church things, bible studies, camps, etc that I could. My search for knowing and doing right was a constant thing. So much so that I know that I really irritated some people in school with my “right-ness”. In fact, one of the things I regret most is how my being “right” may have turned people away from the Lord back then. I wasn’t very compassionate or understanding. Probably not a great listener either. I knew what I knew and you couldn’t argue with me (which I see in my kids now….ugh). I wish I would have offered more grace. Peer pressure was strong in our little town and my goal was to just stay out of trouble, in every sense of the word.
Success was a big drive for me. Success in school. Friendships. Faith. Family. I’ve always had a strong drive to be the best at whatever I put my mind to. I still struggle with this…sometimes I put too much of my own efforts into whatever I’m doing and don’t let God take the reins. That often gets me in trouble.
Parenting. Marriage. Relationships….lately I’ve had to learn that I can’t do everything on my own. I can’t rely on my own strengths to succeed. I HAVE to trust in God to cover what I can’t manage on my own. I do EVERYTHING I can and have to trust that God has the rest covered. For example, my kids faith. Their attitudes. The way they’ll be when they’re adults. It’s so hard! And scary! Especially now that we have an adolescent in the house (Lord, help me).
The real reason for this blog…
I think I started rambling in there a little bit. Here’s the point….what I believe is that God calls you to himself. You just have to be listening and answer that call. God made you. He wants you. He wants to know you and be known. He wants to LOVE you and wash you clean. There is NOTHING too bad for God’s grace and forgiveness. Nothing. All you have to do is confess that you are a sinner. That you can’t save yourself. Ask Him to forgive you. Ask him to be Lord of your life. That’s it you guys. It’s really that simple. Once you’ve made this decision we need to really follow Him. The way you do that is by getting to know Him….through reading your Bible, attending a church service to be in fellowship with other believers. Consider joining a small group at your church – this is awesome for accountability and growing your knowledge of God.
Seriously, I would love to answer any questions you have. This God….the One I know….He’s kind of amazing. The hope, love, forgiveness, grace, and truth is no joke. I’ve known Him for a long time and I still have a lot to learn. I love Him and He loves me.
“O Praise the one who paid my debt
And raised this life up from the dead”
The whole Sunday service was amazing today. I’d love to invite you to join us any Sunday! We’re at Bethel Church in Fargo (2702 30th Ave S Fargo ND). Services are at 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Join us anytime!! If you’d like to check out the services from this Sunday here’s the video.
*saves indicates that the person is a Christian saved by grace through Christ and will enter into eternal life in heaven with God