Who Am I – Baptised

Who are you, anyway? If someone asked, what would you say? Recently I pulled out a copy of my family tree, because it needs updating. Looking at the list of names there I see a long story, dating back to the 1400’s. All those names. And their stories – that’s part of who I am.
As are the places where I’ve lived, and the people with whom I’ve been so fortunate as to live and work and play alongside them. They are part of who I am. There’s way more, of course. As there is to whatever answer you’ll pull together for that question, “Who Am I?”

Over the next few weeks we’re going to take a journey at Kemptville Christian Reformed Church, a journey of seeing our identity as God would see us. We’ll wonder how the Holy Spirit might answer the question about who we are – each of us individually, and all of us collectively.

You’re invited to walk with us as we explore the identity we have as believers in and followers of Jesus. This week’s session is:  “Who Am I – Baptised” and takes us to the Jordan River, watching and listening as Jesus is baptised. It’s recorded in Matthew 3. Go ahead and find a bible, either print version or online or app. Then download the podcast and the study guide and dig in.

Please note – those of you using a mobile device may have to set your browser to “desktop mode” to access the download button (a glitch with our site – sorry about that).

Here’s the podcast……..

Who Am I – Baptised

And here’s the study guide:

Who Am I – Baptised: The Study Guide

As always, feel free to pass this stuff around.  You can also find this, and other messages online at the KCRC website under the tab “Sermons And Stuff.”

We’d also love to have you join us live for worship.
We gather each Sunday at 10am.
Don’t worry about getting all gussied up.  Just come as you are – we’re a church full of imperfect people.
And we’d be glad to have other imperfect people, like you, along for the ride!

Remembering… And Thankful

I heard it again this week in an online talk – “Remember your baptism.”

Say what?
Yes – Remember.

Do you?
Consciously remember that you were baptised?

What’s that about, anyway? Why make a big deal about baptism?

Well…..
God made a deep, strong, eternal promise of love to me.
Which is called “covenant.”
He made a “covenant” with me that is centred on Jesus.
And that covenant was marked/sealed/confirmed when I was baptised.
God will NEVER go back on that covenant promise.
That is, as a matter of fact, a HUGE big deal.
Worth remembering!

I am baptised – God claims me
I am baptised – my life is not my own
I am baptised – there’s an incredible, eternal future ahead of me
I am baptised – between now and then, my Father In Heaven will care for me
I am baptised – always, always, always, Jesus is praying for me
I am baptised – the Holy Spirit goes with me
I am baptised – I am part of something WAY BIGGER than just me, my house, my job/school/friends

Remember that….. give thanks for that….. and let that shape your life all week long:
how you speak
how you spend your money
how you choose to have fun
how you work
how you love
how you listen….

I don’t know about you.
I was baptised when I was just a few weeks old. My parents, believers in Jesus, brought me to church and having heard Scripture’s promises of care to believers and their children, presented me for baptism.
There – marked!

And then other baptised believers kicked into action:  Attendants in nursery, teachers in Sunday School, leaders at boys’ club, youth group leaders, elders, deacons, pastors…. I can’t even count, any more, how many people came alongside my parents over the years to help nurture me and model for me what it means to live under the shelter of God’s promise of grace and care — that is, what it means to live a baptised life as a follower of Jesus.

I wish they could all read this.
So….. a SHOUT OUT to them all……
THANK YOU!
THANK YOU!
THANK YOU!

You didn’t quit on me. Or my family. You haven’t. You won’t.
Because, well, you remember baptism. Yours and mine.
You remember the Faithfulness of our Covenant God.
And you choose, deliberately, to follow and reflect that faithfulness in your lives.
And to remind me that it IS a big deal!

Thank you for your faithfulness.

Lord, grant that I may also remember baptism.
Mine. And that of believers you allow me to connect with.
So that I can pass along the nurturing and modeling that was shared with me by others marked in baptism waters, marked with your covenant seal, claimed by you.

Thank you for sending these brothers and sisters into my life.

And, Lord – thank YOU, most of all, for YOUR faithfulness, YOUR love, YOUR wisdom, YOUR truth, YOUR gracious covenant care and presence in my life and theirs!

*************************

ps – if you want to read another reflection, where I post some tips on how you can remember baptism, head to the PKN blog and check out a Q/A posting from May 13 – 

http://pastorkensnotes.com/2014/05/13/remembering-my-baptism-identity-qa-thoughts-from-the-kcrc-community/

My Life In God: Q&A from Sunday’s Teaching

Someone brought this question/comment up a week ago in response to the overall theme of our present sermon series about living the baptized life. The question has to do with “remembering your baptism.”

This person said, “I don’t relate to that. I don’t relate to my baptism (as an infant)” and went on to say, “I don’t like my early life, my childhood, my youth, nor adult life until there was a turnaround nearing age 40. I has many regrets. I was miserable and brought misery to my family. Not anyone else’s fault. My fault alone. But because baptism was part of that early misery, I REALLY don’t like to go back there. I want to move on.”

Leave the misery behind – that’s the big theme I hear. And that’s a good theme. Not easily done. The devil so often wants to bring the regrets and pain back to the fore. He wants us to get stuck in that stuff. And that’s the LAST thing that our Saviour and Lord wants for us. God’s gift of salvation is the gift of new beginnings. It is the gift of freedom from sin, guilt and condemnation. It is the gift celebrated in Psalm 103 v.12, “As far as east is from west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” So – YES, as you are granted release, leave that past behind, and DON’T let it chain down your future. God forgives, and hard though it may be, we learn to forgive ourselves, too. YES, move forward!!

Does that mean, though, you will need to leave everything in the past behind, including baptism? If the baptism is tied closely to the misery – if the misery was acted out, somehow, in part in a way that is connected to your baptism, then that is something to be explored with a trusted Christian mentor, counselor or pastor.

But let’s try this on: What if, just say, baptism was there, all through those terrible years, as a little light in a difficult and dark time and place? What if baptism somehow was the whisper of the Holy Spirit, “I’m here, anyway. I won’t let you go. I haven’t forgotten you. No matter how far you run, I can run further. You are precious to me, anyway.”

Could it be that the life of faith, and repentant new beginnings, which you are living today is the blessing of the seed sown way back (no matter how imperfectly) in your baptism? Could it be that while you were wandering in the proverbial desert, or even down in the valley of the shadow of death, that the Good Shepherd STILL laid claim to you?

Then, maybe (could it be?) you can look on that baptism as a sign and seal of hope. It becomes a beacon of security.

This can be possible, you see, if we are willing to start with Baptism as being an event where God speaks first. Where he lays claim to us. Where he announces his love for us. Our response is often years in the making, and it is by far secondary to his grand, divine, powerful proclamation.

There may be much in our past that we want, and need, to toss into what Corrie ten Boom called “The deep sea of God’s forgiveness, where at the edge he has posted a sign that reads, ‘No Fishing Allowed.’”

But let’s also be willing to look back for hints that God’s relentless, stubborn, faithful presence was there chasing us all along. And baptism is perhaps one of the biggest signs of that.

This question was submitted as a response to the teaching on Sunday:
2. You listed “Love your enemy” as one of the disciplines to be worked in a Jesus-following life….
a. Please define “love your enemy”
b. Are you asking us to forgive, for – if this is done – won’t what they did be repeated? (eg rape, murder, etc)
c. Is it asked of us to discipline our enemy as a loved one?

We said that the disciplines which we choose to follow are actions & attitudes that deliberately seek to model the life of Jesus. And that by focusing on them, and prayerfully practicing them, we pray for the Holy Spirit to shape us, more and more, into people whose character reflects that of our Lord.

A. So – “Love your enemy.”
Jesus himself calls us to do so. Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

There it is.
While on the cross Jesus did precisely that, praying for those crucifying him, “Father, forgive them.” (Luke 23:34)

What is it to forgive? Primarily, at its core, forgiveness is being willing to release our desire and right for revenge, and letting the person go into the hand of God for him to do, in divine wisdom, what he deems to be best (Romans 12:19-20). Forgiveness can be a complicated, challenging, long-haul piece of work to be done in the deepest places of our souls. The deeper the wound, the more challenging forgiveness becomes. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to get there. We let God deal with them. We drop our desire to “let ’em have it” or “let ’em rot.” Maybe, just maybe, we even get to the place where we can pray for a blessing to come into their lives. And maybe, sometimes, we can even share a piece of life with them again.

The biggest one who benefits from forgiving is we that have been hurt. For otherwise the hurt can fester and become “infected. Anger turns to bitterness and perhaps to despair. It begins to poision us from the inside out. Forgiveness gives us room in our souls to find healing for ourselves.

Forgiveness also is one of those pieces of inner work that often needs good spiritual coaching. Rarely can major forgiveness be done completely alone.

Love your enemy is an extension of forgiveness. It desires good and right for that one who desires your harm. It also is the determination NOT to let darkness take root in your own soul, no matter how deeply it has settled into the soul of the other person(s). Perhaps you can act on that desire. Perhaps, because of circumstances, you can act no further than to pray for the person’s well-being.

B. One of the biggest parts of loving our enemy is wanting true, deep, eternal good for them. And that does NOT mean allowing them to repeat and perpetuate the wrong they do. True love sometimes says “No” and sometimes closes a door. Love does not allow one to wallow in a lifestyle or action that runs contrary to God’s will. We don’t love someone by letting them take advantage of us or abuse us. It degrades not just us – but them, too. We don’t love someone by remaining silent while they offend. That merely lets sin sink deeper into their heart. We challenge it. We cut it off. We call the authorities. We shine light into dark places. That is true love. Meanwhile praying, “Lord, keep us from the darkness of hatred and malice. Vengance is yours, not mine.”

C. Do we discipline our enemies? I tend to think, “No.” True discipline requires a relationship. Hebrews 12 speaks of God disciplining his children as a father disciplines a son. That is, the father out of his love relationship seeks to set the son on the right path of life. If there is no relationship, there can be no real discipline. When we have someone who truly desires to do us harm, it seems to me that any such relationship is flawed, maybe even totally broken. And we cannot effect true discipline in their lives. Such will have to be left to others to do. And perhaps our task is to be praying for the Lord to bring such people into the enemy’s life.

Thanks to those who contributed to this conversation in faith.
And to all of you for tracking along with our faith journey at Kemptville Christian Reformed Church.
We will pick it back up again next Sunday, June 8. Hope you’ll be able to join in – either in our Sunday 10am worship service, or via the podcast that’ll be posted on here on the PKN blog.

Living In The Divine Embrace: Christ’s Life In Me

This past Sunday we continued to wonder about our identity as baptized followers of Jesus.  Particularly: how does that baptism show itself in our lives?

It continues our series, based on Robert Webber’s book “The Divine Embrace.”  Bob had a wonderful way of sharing the overarching narrative of God’s saving work for Creation, humanity, and me.  Glad we have time to explore this together as a church community.

The Scripture we used on Sunday was Ephesians 2:1-10.  We considered how “spirituality” is viewed, in our culture and in scripture.  We wondered about dimensions of baptismal spirituality.  And we reviewed some tips to protecting the health of a holy baptized life.

You are invited to listen in  by right-clicking on the sermon title, and choose “save link as”  to download the podcast to your mp3 player or ipod:

Living In The Divine Embrace: Christ’s Life In Me

Or use the built-in web audio player below:

 

You may also download the study guide as a pdf:

Christ’s Life In Me – Study Guide

Remembering My Baptism Identity: Q/A thoughts from the KCRC community

This past Sunday we wondered together about our identity; who am I, anyway?
What defines that identity?
And, bottom line, we discovered our identity rooted in our baptism into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Three great questions were submitted – two during Q&A, and one later via email.
As well, some of you fed back some interesting and helpful responses through comments and emails.
1.  “I was reminded of the phrase, ‘The Spirit hovered over the waters’ from the story of Creation (Genesis 1:2).  Is this an image of the Holy Spirit hovering over the re-creative waters of baptism?”
Thanks for raising this.  You are definitely following along the lines of thinking and imagining presented by Tertullian, the ancient Church Father, and his baptismal teaching & praying. Recall how he understood the use of water for baptism to re-present God’s life-giving creative action as in the first creation, the flood, crossing the Red Sea and the Jordan, and more.  Baptism is more than just a human testimony and action to a decision and commitment that I make.  It is a powerful sign and seal of God’s saving work in me, us and Creation.  Life is in him – alone.  His power.  His care.  His grace.  Alone.
        The Spirit hovered over the chaos and void and “birthed” Creation order and beauty.
        The Spirit hovered over Jesus as he descended into the baptismal waters of Jordan, empowering him for ministry.
        And, yes, I believe the Holy Spirit is hovering, filling, empowering the action of baptism with sacred presence and grace so that we may grow and live within the holy embrace of God as followers and siblings of Jesus.  It is sacred action, filled with Sacred Presence.
        Can we rebel and resist?  Of course!
        Does the act of baptism effect the change within our hearts and lives?  No.  That is the mysterious, sacred work of God’s Spirit.
        Is regeneration automatic?  No.  As all through Scripture, believers are called to dedication and response.  In Old Testament Israel believers were called to “circumcise their hearts” (eg Deuteronomy 10:16)  That is, accept and believe what the outer act on their bodies symbolized.  So also we are called in Romans 6 to live out what our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus symbolizes.  Our whole life.
        Which drives us to our knees, praying daily and desperately for the power and presence of the  Holy Spirit to pour like living water into our minds and hearts every day, re-creating us more and more into image bearers of our Lord.
So much we could say on that – THANKS for raising that thought!
 
2.  If one has not been baptized, but has made Public Profession of Faith, is that the same thing?
Great ask.
In short, “No!” they are not the same.
We profess Jesus publicly over and over.  When we come to Christ we profess Jesus, and then are baptized in response.  Then, over the years, we continue to re-profess faith in Jesus.  But baptism marks our membership in the holy family of God.  That seal is applied to us once, and only once.  Either at the time of conversion – or when we are born into a home of believers.
So, if we have professed faith in Christ but not been baptized, the next step would be to explore becoming baptized.  Why wait?  Why NOT receive the sign of our adoption into the Royal family of heaven?
3.  Having the baptismal font near the exit of the church building is a good reminder of our baptism as we head out into the world.  Any suggestions, though, for M/T/W/Th/F/Sat on what to do to remind ourselves of our baptismal identity?
Glad you pointed to the need for such reminding.  We’re only headed out the church building that one moment of the week.  The challenges and temptations that seek to derail our baptismal living face us all week long.
Martin Luther is said to have made it a habit to look in the mirror each morning to say, “Brother Martin, remember your baptism.”   We might do this – perhaps with the aid of a little sticky note on the bathroom mirror.  What else could we do?
Let’s begin by admitting that for many of us this is totally new turf.  Not sure about the rest of you, but I was NOT raised to think about my baptism.  Once in a while someone would ask when I did my first profession of faith.  But never about my baptism, and how that affected the way I viewed my identity.  Which is a shame, really, coming from a faith tradition that says it values the covenant between God and believers, and that the key sign/seal of that covenant is baptism.  Really, in my own little head baptism was something that new converts received, and the children of believers received.  And then, once done, we move on, leaving baptism on a dusty shelf in the recesses of the mind, whether baptized as adults or children.
What a shame!
We have much to learn and recapture in grounding our identity in baptism – in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus poured onto and into us, washing us, and re-birthing us! Please re-read Romans 6:1-14, which calls us to a life of obedient discipleship.  Notice the anchor point of that passage – baptism!
Were you baptized as an adult?  Remember!!  And prayerfully, submitting to the Spirit’s presence and power, recommit daily to live out that baptism identity your whole life.  If you are not intentional about it, one day the memory of that baptism will fade, and with it, your sense of identity in Jesus.
Were you baptized as an infant?  Remind yourself that you were baptized, at a time when you were helpless and unable to save yourself — just as in the helplessness of sin, Jesus rescued and saved you!  Recommit daily to live out that baptism identity your whole life.  If you are not intentional about it, one day the fact that you were baptized will fade from consciousness, and with it, your sense of identity in Jesus.
So….
Besides dipping your hand in the baptism waters as you leave the sanctuary on those Sundays when the font is at the entrance to the world, what ELSE can you do?
1.  Seriously consider the sticky note idea on your mirror.  Or on the cover of your laptop. Do like Luther.
Here are some other suggestions which you submitted:
2.   “I’m going to let the water run over my hand after I brush my teeth, and give thanks for Christ washing me.”
3.   “I remind myself of my baptism identity in Jesus when I come daily to God in prayer, study his word, and help our community – these things remind me that I am a child of God.”
4.  “Interestingly, a few days ago I decided that this summer I’m going to start out every day with changing the water in our bird bath instead of waiting until it’s scummy with algae!  Well, there’s something like a baptismal bowl about a birdbath.  I’m going to try to let this activity remind me of my baptism.”
5.  “If we didn’t have a dish washer now I’d try to think of my baptism every time I washed dishes.  It was in 1976 while my hands were in the soapy dishwater washing breakfast dishes that the Lord gave me a huge longing for his joy in my life and then he flooded me with it–a joy that lasted for months!  It was a taste of heaven. Maybe I should go back to washing dishes by hand again :-)”
6.  “For me it begins with grace said traditionally at meals – an opportunity to remember we receive all things from God, received with gratitude.  I tend to begin my meal first with a sip of the juice or water by my plate.  For me that is a remembrance that it all begins with the cleansing power of Jesus.”
Thanks to all who  contributed to this conversation in faith.
And to all of you for tracking along with our faith journey at Kemptville Christian Reformed Church.
We will pick it back up again next Sunday, May 18.  Hope you’ll be able to join in – either in our Sunday 10am worship service, or via the podcast that’ll be posted on pastorkensnotes.com.
In the meantime, if you have some thoughts to add to this conversation, love to see your comments on this blog post.

Living Deep: Q&A on “The Hard Work Of Spiritual Maturity”

Good evening, everyone.

A question came in after last Sunday’s message – the third message in our Lenten series on Spiritual Maturity, based on 2 Peter 1:1-11.

The quick summary of Sunday is, “As you seek to grow in spiritual maturity, remember your baptism.

2 Peter 1 begins by reminding us that we are in the strong safe hands of the One who called us and saved us – our Lord Jesus Christ.

He –
not us,
not people around us,
not some philosophy or system of positive thinking
HE gives us everything we need to make it through this life and enter eternity in safety and glory (vv.1-4).

Which is one part of what baptism means – that we are saved through the waters of Judgement by virtue of the grace of God that is ours through the accomplished work of Jesus in his death and resurrection.
So… remember your baptism.

Then 2 Peter 1 goes on to say, “All right, now that you’ve got this INCREDIBLE power and resource going for you, live with all the purpose and passion you’ve got – aiming to grow in these areas of life……” And it lists character traits and patterns of behaviour that are Christ-like.
Which is another part of baptism – we are marked as Christ’s. Don’t forget.
Remember your baptism – And live accordingly.

We had a fabulous “exhibit A” as a visual aid for this message – little Emmett John, who received the holy covenant sign and seal of baptism.

All of which prompted this question:
To what degree will Emmett’s baptism help secure his eternal destiny?

I can certainly see where that question came from, and am so glad that someone asked it.
Because in virtually EVERY religious system on earth, the adherent’s spiritual state and certainty depends on what THEY do…. How closely they can keep the laws handed down by the priests and gurus; how carefully they follow the religious ceremonies and rituals. Each piece of obedience climbing them one rung up the ladder towards their god, one step closer to appeasing and maybe even (hopefully) pleasing the deity.

If the Christian faith were like that, baptism becomes a crucial link. It must be practiced. Skip it at your peril – you might/will fall off the ladder to glory. Get your child baptised as absolutely SOON AS POSSIBLE!!! Their eternity is in jeapordy until you do.

BUT

BUT

BUT

That is absolutely, totally NOT the way it is.

It is NOT about us clawing, scratching, climbing, our way up to heaven.
It is FULLY AND TOTALLY that God has, graciously and lovingly and compassionately, come down to earth from heaven.

We don’t carve the path to him.
He carves the path to us.

We don’t, first of all, hold on to him.
He holds, eternally and strongly, on to us!

It is NOT about us doing various rituals (including baptism) correctly.
It is about HIS cry, “It is finished!”

Check out the text of Sunday (2 Peter 1:3-4) – we are in the strong hands of Jesus. He has given us all we need.
His work is sufficient.
His work is complete.

Baptism is but the reminder of that.
It is the strong beautiful seal and sign that this completed work has been counted to our credit.

Which is why we never want to miss out on it.
And, which is why for our whole life it is so important to remind ourselves and each other that we are baptised – we have been sealed as “Property of Jesus.”
That, then, gives us courage to live a life of thankful response.

So – remember your baptism!

Now, the text DOES speak about making our election sure by living lives of faith and excellence and knowledge and self-control and perseverance and godliness and brotherly affection and unselfish love.

Here, as we scratch our heads about what this might mean, we can turn to Matthew 7:24-27, the parable of Jesus about building on rock or sand. A life of faithful obedience, DOING what Jesus teaches, is like building on rock. During the hard times our faith remains strong and our lives don’t collapse like a house of cards. If we confess faith but don’t apply it to how we conduct business or raise our kids or spend our money or make love then, when hard stuff happens, we’ll discover our lives falling apart.
Please note that this parable is NOT about going to heaven or hell. Rather, it is about how meaningful and significant our lives are. Lives of practiced faith are deeply meaningful. Lives that are rock solid; that don’t crumble under adversity.

Baptism is a big, big part of this kind of significance-filled, rock-solid living.
Baptism is a hugely important touch-stone for our faith; a reminder of who we are and whose we are.
Baptism is like a wedding ring to a married person – a reminder of the covenant within which they live. The ring doesn’t make them married. But it is a strong reminder of the vows spoken, and the love shared. It goes with them everywhere. They wear that ring until they die.

We carry the mark of baptism as an invisible seal of our covenant with God, that is secure in Christ.
Honestly, though, I don’t think that traditionally we’ve done a very good job in the Reformed tradition of staying connected with that invisible mark of our baptism as a living part of our spiritual memory. In fact, some have told me that this is precisely WHY they’ve been rebaptized as adults – to have a baptism they can remember. Sad testimony to our heritage!

And so, while I don’t recommend rebaptism, a. because scripturally and historically I don’t think it is the best approach, and b. it is not necessary –
what I DO recommend is that we as Reformed believers pull up our collective socks and think carefully about ways that we collectively can better remind ourselves of our baptismal “birthmark.”

The moving of the font to the landing on Sunday, and encouraging you to prayerfully dip your fingers into the water, was one small attempt in that direction. (By the way – I noted with interest how some of you came close to the water, but you couldn’t bring yourself to touch it. Others reached right down and in. I’d be interested to hear what was with that. Drop me an off-line note and share what your experience was – either wet, or dry).

That said, can you think of other ways we can deliberately remind each other of our baptism? I’d love to hear your suggestions and will share them here.
Some of you might want to go to the CRCNA’s web site. Search out the Faith Formation Committee’s various reports. They’ve done some careful thinking and good work on all this.

Feel free to comment here.    Or connect with me via Facebook, email, telephone or in person.

Thanks for the question.
Thanks for tracking along with all this.

Living Deep – Spiritual Maturity Takes Effort

Christian maturity – it’s our theme at KCRC this Lenten season.
I’ve wondered about it while preparing for a baptism of one of God’s covenant children.
I got to thinking of all that this little fella is going to have to learn and master in years to come to be a happy, healthy adult. Mind boggling!

And thinking of that got me thinking about spiritual maturity and all that we are called to learn and master during our few short years on earth.

2 Peter 1:1-11 is like a coach’s pep talk to spiritual maturing people.

It begins by reminding us that fundamentally, and HUGELY important, our life and death as followers of Jesus, and the yes/no of if we are in/out of God’s family doesn’t hinge on how we do at this project of maturing. All of that is sheer grace, a holy gift to us from our Father in Heaven.
He calls us. He claims us. He holds us. He brings us home to glory in his eternal love.

Our part, though, is the trip between now and then.
That huge, wonderful opportunity called “Life.”

We could, I suppose, just sit back and let things slide. Nice ‘n easy.
But that doesn’t sit right, does it?
For a start – I can’t think of too much in life that will even stay the same when we let things kind of slide. It always seems to go backwards.

My fruit trees – let ’em slide and they become a tangled mess, with poor quality fruit.
My body – let exercise slide and I get jello gut and feel sluggish.
My relationships – let connections slide and we find ourselves growing apart.
My marriage – try a “ah, whatever” approach and the shine wears off.

So, no, that probably is not going to work for my faith life, either.
I’ll become more distant from my Lord.
Less of his joy.
His voice and leading less clear.
A sense of purpose in living growing more dull.
I’ll be less productive in his service.
Any hope of experiencing the sort of nearness to God and power in life that Jesus displays, or his disciples for that matter, grows more remote.

If “let ‘er slide” isn’t an option what is?
And here Peter challenges every believer to a series of life drills.
Practice them, with the secure knowledge that the final outcome is settled.
Meaning – if you mess up, it won’t mean you are ejected from God’s team.
You are forgiven is what you are.
And encouraged to get back up and try again is what happens.

To try what again? Coach Peter says, “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ….. be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fail.”

Quite a list, eh?
Beginning with faith, and ending with love.
The whole journey, of course, begins with faith – but it seems that we can grow that faith more and more during our life.
And love – well, selfless and serving love is the bedrock of the whole Christian life; it drove our Saviour to come to earth, and drives us into each others’ lives.

In between? I see all the other elements as examples, not an exhaustive list.
They are samples of the sorts of threads that weave together a Christ-like character.
Look to Jesus’ life to see how he pictured each of them.
Then, prayerfully, asking for His Spirit’s encouragement, try to do the same.

It’s not about one before the other; that you perfect one before trying the other.
Rather, each complements the other; supports the other; needs the other.

I was reading an article earlier today.
Written by some Psychologist who said, “What you spend time thinking about, and what you spend energy wanting, will eventually reveal itself in you.”

Coach Peter must have read the same textbook as this Psychologist.
He’s calling us to take seriously the life and character traits of Jesus.
And trust that it will reveal itself in us.

His final promise – “You will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

And, oh yes, don’t think that means only when you get to heaven. Yes, there too! But I’m sure he means that we will experience a welcome into the experience of the God-right-with-us life and peace, that will ultimately be ours in the New Creation, ALREADY NOW – right here in this trip through life!!

What more could we want than that?
How much better could it get?
The welcome of heaven right now.

Do you believe that’s possible?
Enough motivation to take a stab at “Christian Maturity Boot Camp”?

I pray your answer will be a resounding “YES!”

Living Deep: The Hard Work Of Spiritual Maturity

One of the BIG goals of any church community is helping to move people forward towards greater spiritual maturity. Two weeks ago we recognized that growing into spiritual maturity is a process.  AND that it is a process which has, as its goal, growing towards having a character and soul that resembles the character and soul of our Saviour, Jesus.

Last week we looked at what can easily get in the way of forward progress – a continual compulsion to look back over our shoulder.  Pride makes us do that.  As does regret.  The latter being more common than the former.  We considered ways to deal with regret.

This week we hear from 2 Peter 1:1-11, about stepping stones towards spiritual maturity.  It’s a special service in this series, as we baptize one of God’s covenant children.  We consider how this little child will be growing in all sorts of ways, and wonder how spiritual growth will fit into the picture?  Our call this week – “Remember your baptism!”

This is the third in a six-part series on spiritual maturity, known as “Living Deep.”  We hope you can track with us for the entire series.  It was shared at KCRC on March 16, 2014.   You are invited to listen  by right-clicking on the sermon title, and choose “save link as”  to download the podcast for listening on your mp3 player or ipod:

Living Deep:  The Hard Work Of Spiritual Maturity

Or use the built-in web audio player below:

 

You are also welcome to download the study guide that accompanies this message –

Living Deep: The Hard Work Of Spiritual Maturity Study Guide

Baptismal Commentary – from a three year old

Good afternoon, everyone –

Normally today’s email would be Q&A time.
But, since I didn’t preach this past weekend, nope.
Instead a reflection on something I experienced.
As many of you know, we were in Ottawa this weekend, participating in the baptism of one of our grandchildren. Grandpa here was privileged to have been able to administer the sacrament.
Afterwards this ol’ man pulls aside the little fella’s big brother (age 3) and says, “So, what happened to Seth this morning?”
His response….
“Hee hee, we dumped water ALL over him. Water was EVERYWHERE. And it made a MESS.  There was even water on the TABLE!!”
Which, in fact, is exactly what had happened.
And that was his “take away” from the event.
You know, the more I thought about it, the more I LOVE his response.
And want to hang on to it as my “take away” too.
Here’s the deal –
I have a “baptism-replaces-circumcision-as-a-sign-of-God’s-covenant” approach to the sacrament.  And I have some very dear believer friends that think I’m “all wet” for doing so (baha).  But, I do.  Without apology.
That theology says that God comes to us and claims us when we are weak, defenseless, small.  Like babies.  So with circumcision in the Old Testament. And then, as we grow, parents and the community of believers call us to respond to that act done to us by appropriating it inwardly.  In Old Testament language – “circumcise your hearts.” (check out Deuteronomy 10:16; Deut 30:6; Jeremiah 4:3-4).  In other words, surrendering to God’s gracious and strong claim on us. Surrender from the inside out of our lives.  Remember that our eternal identity is in our baptism, and live accordingly.
OK, that’s getting pretty heady. Enough of that.
Back to the three-year old.
Water, water – EVERYWHERE!!
God’s gracious love splashed all over the place.
Onto us.
Around us.
Nothing we deserve.
Think baptism – what claims of deservedness can an infant make?
What good have they done?
What strength can they bring to the table?
Sure, they’re cute (mostly). But they burp and poop. A lot.
And wake you up at night. Even more.
And demand all your energy as a caregiver. Totally.
Yet, there is God’s claim on them.
All grace.
Grace – poured out all over them.
Grace – splashed all over the place with reckless abandon.
Grace – landing around them, even on the furniture.
That’s God’s grace – beautiful, plenty, all over.
Little babies get it.
And the three year old noticed.
Do we?
Notice, that is?
For that grace flows on big people as well as ankle biters.
Big ones – who deserve it as little as the babies do.
It’s just that sometimes we get mixed up and THINK we have God’s smile owing to us.
Grace – splashed all round for our lives.
Lord, let me see it rain down into my life.
Let me feel the “wet.”
Thank you for it.
Thanks for not being stingy with it!
Thanks that it goes into places I might not think of splashing it.
 
I receive your mercy.
I receive your grace.
 
Thank you!
 
Now  please – help me be generous & reckless in splashing that mercy and grace round into the lives of those I encounter and rub shoulders with.
 
For Jesus’ sake.