Archive for June, 2008
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to state deliberately and unequivocally the basis for one’s belief, a person, an organization, a nation, or people must make a Declaration. Thus, all people know exactly where we stand in relation to all others. In doing so, it must be acknowledges and accepted that some will offer affirmation and others will find fault that cause them offense.
American history is anchored with such an event that took place on July 4, 1776.
Today I make my personal Declaration of Dependence.
I believe in one God, His son Jesus, and His Holy Spirit. Who since before time began, offered His creation an avenue to be made worthy to be with Him forever.
I believe that God is creator and we are His creations; that Jesus is Messiah, our Savior; and our dependence is completely upon them.
I believe that it is God’s task to add to His church and determine who goes to Heaven or Hell, not mine.
I believe that God’s directions are in His Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
I Believe that being Christ-like begins with understanding that by ourselves we are unworthy; that repenting of our sin is both attitude and action; that baptism is the acknowledgement of obedience to Jehovah and telling others of Jesus is an opportunity and responsibility.
This Declaration of Dependence is the continuation of my journey and not the end.
Most of us are hesitant to make a public statement of faith, but isn’t about time that some of us do? What would you include in your Declaration of Dependence? Why?
A friend of mine recently became a citizen of the United States. After living in this country for a number of years, she decided to become a citizen. She filled out the necessary forms, took the tests, made the pledge of loyalty to this country and, of course, paid the required fees. It’s quite a process.
I did the same thing in a much simpler way: I was born a citizen. No forms (at least not filled out by me!), no tests, no pledge, no fees. All I did was be born in the right place. My children did me one better. Not only were they born citizens of the United States, they were also born Argentine citizens. Two kids, four passports.
They’re not the only ones with dual citizenship, however. Even though I don’t have the passport to prove it, I am also a citizen under another jurisdiction. I’m a citizen of God’s kingdom. I’m not a naturalized citizen; I was born into that kingdom. In fact, there are no naturalized citizens in God’s kingdom.
During Jesus’ public ministry, a man named Nicodemus came to see him. While talking with Nicodemus, Jesus told him, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). It takes a second birth to become a citizen of God’s kingdom, a birth involving water and the Spirit. The apostle Paul talked about this new birth when he wrote: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4). When a believer in Jesus is baptized, he is buried under the water and comes out with a new life. It’s a new birth. In writing to Titus, Paul called this act “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Rebirth… new life… born again… it’s all the same concept.
Years ago I was born into this world, becoming a U.S. citizen. Almost 13 years later, I was born a second time, when I was baptized, becoming a citizen of God’s kingdom. Despite my lack of a passport, my second citizenship is every bit as real as my first one and much more important. Long after all passports have turned to dust, I’ll still hold my heavenly citizenship.
If you want to become a citizen of God’s kingdom, there are no tests to take, no forms to complete, no money to pay. There are no naturalized citizens in God’s kingdom. The only way to enter is to be born again, born of water and the Spirit. Want to know more? Just [firstname.lastname@example.org]drop me a line.[/mail]
Grace and peace,
It was a duck hunting trip gone bad. It happened one Thanksgiving several years ago. Mark, a close family friend, my son (then around eleven years old), and I were hunting on land owned by some of Mark’s family. It was full of creeks and sloughs, and Mark had hunted on it for years. It was a fairly warm afternoon when we started out, and we were able to shoot several ducks. It was late afternoon when the storm blew in: torrential rain and a rapid drop in temperature.
I had not thought much about that day in several years. But when Mark called the other day and mentioned it… all the memories came flooding back. I remember how dark it immediately got, and how wet we were. I remember worrying about how cold we were getting. The creek quickly overflowed and in just a few minutes, we were in trouble. We had gotten lost. Darkness took away the landmarks, rain obscured everything, and the overflowing water all looked the same.
We had decided that if we could not find the trail back to camp, we would dig in under some leaves, put my son between us and hope to survive the night. We thought we were close to finding the way out but it was too dark and too hard to see. We had just decided to give up and try to ride out the storm when a lightening bolt split the sky. And there it was… the trail was not fifteen yards in front of us. We still had a rough time getting out; we had some creeks to wade, and a hard walk… but we made it out alive and we survived.
We were asking God’s help and protection. And we give God the credit for the lightening bolt that showed us the way home. I believe it is by His mercy that we survived. But there are lessons I need to remember about my relationship with God that I learned in that storm. There are lessons about life I need to remember.
It was my fault we got caught in that storm. I did not check the weather report, we did not dress appropriately, and I did not have matches, compass, or flashlight. Life is like that sometimes. Storms come when we do not expect them. And they come when we are not prepared for them. Many times I have to face the fact that the storms of life are my fault. I don’t always think things through, I am not always prepared, and I do not see trouble coming.
Yet God delivered me. He did it on that day, but even more amazing, he has delivered me in life. I have hope, joy, peace, and purpose because God has chosen to save me. Storms still come in my life, just like they do in yours. I face them with confidence because I trust God to deliver me safe. He has before, and He will again.
So how about you? Do you have questions about how God’s deliverance works? Have you seen it in your life? Let me hear what you think.
I was about 9 years old. I was taking Red Cross swimming lessons at our municipal pool. The day had arrived when I was to be tested to see if I could advance from the Advanced Beginners class to the Intermediate class. Approximately fifteen of us were to take turns swimming from one side of the pool to the other and back, doing various strokes and exercises along the way. I watched as my classmates one by one tried and failed to pass the test. Then it was my turn to fail, I mean, my turn to attempt to pass the test. I got about halfway across the pool when I felt that burning sensation you feel when chlorinated water enters your nose. I immediately stopped and grabbed the side of the pool, ending my test.
One of the instructors was standing above me, a scraggly-haired college student. “Why did you stop?” he yelled, in a less-than-compassionate voice.
“I got water in my nose,” I explained.
That’s when this scruffy college student taught me one of life’s great lessons, even if he probably never realized he was doing just that. Bending down, he shouted, “So?”
So? The question took me aback. It had just seemed logical to me that the answer to pain was to eliminate the thing causing the discomfort. My 9-year-old brain had not latched onto the fact that a valuable goal is worth achieving even if we have to go through discomfort to get there. Recognizing that, I wasn’t sure what would keep me from completing the test. In fact, I did it rather easily on my next attempt. Seeing me pass the test, almost all of the others did so as well.
At times I think Jesus lovingly says “So?” to so many of the things that seem important to me. The obstacles, the hardships, the barriers that appear along the way can’t be compared to the goal that waits at the end. We have to focus on the final destination, not the bumps in the road. The apostle Paul wrote: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). God’s plan for us is not to eliminate suffering in our lives, but to teach us to look past it. When Paul and his companion Barnabas were visiting churches they had started, they told them, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). The night before the crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
If you’re not a Christian, it’s only fair that we warn you that the road won’t always be easy. But I can assure you that the goal is more than worth any difficulties we might face along the way.
Grace and peace,
He was a great athlete: all state in football and recruited to play baseball at a major university. He had been around Christians and church all of his life but never really connected. While in college, he had some injury problems that resulted in reliance on medication that eventually led to substance abuse. He returned home a shell of the man he used to be. He was a wreck physically and emotionally.
Someone suggested that he come visit with me, and he did. Over time, I shared the good news of Jesus with him. We talked about the God who made him and loved him. We talked about what a mess his life was…right after we talked about how I had made a mess of my life. I shared the amazing story of God’s own Son coming to live among us. I told of the sinless Savior who died for our sins. We talked about the relationship with Jesus that brings us into the family of God.
I shared the call of Jesus to come and die with him, to share in his death and resurrection. But he was not ready. He spent almost one year processing the good news of Jesus. He had to realize he could not make his life work on his own. He began to watch his own family try to live out their faith. He started dating a Christian woman. He visited worship often.
Then one night it all clicked. I wish I could tell you it was my preaching, but I think it just all finally made sense. He decided to give his life to Jesus in baptism. He got ready, and then couldn’t get in the water. He could not go through with it. After about one hour, we got to the root of the problem. He just could not accept the fact that God could forgive someone as who had messed up as much as he had.
And that was when I knew he was about to get it. That is why it is good news…and it is true. It does not matter what you have done, or how bad you have been. No one is good enough to save themselves anyway. So Jesus did it for us.
So what do you think? Is it too good to be true? Have you ever wondered about it? Why is it so hard to accept?
And by the way, this young man did get it, we did baptize him, and he is my brother.