It’s tempting…

Esther's Petition

  • That lovely slice of pecan pie, the last one left in the pan, the one you’re supposed to be saving for somebody else.
  • That gorgeous outfit on sale “One Day Only,” so absolutely right for you but not for your budget, sale or no sale. Or those cute earrings, nobody’s watching, the store can afford it, it’s not all that bad to shoplift those cheap little things, is it?
  • That temper tantrum against your children or your spouse, the one you’ve been resisting but now feel absolutely justified in throwing, “I’ve had it, they’re really going to get it!”
  • Those ugly, fuming thoughts and words, turning into ugly, fuming deeds because after all you’re right and they’re wrong, people who had the audacity to question your – (fill in the blank, your truthfulness, your honesty, your integrity, your motives, your actions. Even your faith.)

We’ve all been tempted to think…

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Wilderness training

Esther's Petition

The New Testament has lots of military words and phrases, although they aren’t obvious in most English translations. Thinking about that fact, I started meditating on the way most of us think about “wilderness experiences.” Negative, bad, depressing, to-be-avoided, painful, stressful, faith-stealing, etc., etc.

Soldiers go through weeks and months of necessary training, some of it in wilderness areas. Like it or not, we’re soldiers ourselves.

What is a wilderness? Webster’s dictionary defines it primarily as a place that is uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings. Not that it is suitable for cultivation or habitation and no-one chose to do it — wilderness is a region that is not really suitable for cultivating crops or building cities and towns. The New Testament Greek word for wilderness means “solitude,” and is used in a variety of applications. I like that.

What is missing in a wilderness? Distractions. Normal food and shelter…

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With Beasts and Angels

Excellent article by Steve Beckham and an excellent reminder.

Thoughts Along the Way

Mark 1:9-15

The first time I ever slept out under the stars I was in Cub Scouts.Scouts go camping.It’s what they do.So when our little Cub den was still brand new, it was decided that the dads and the boys should go on a campout.I think the moms were the ones who decided that.And so it came to pass that one Friday afternoon in mid May a gaggle of excited boys and their job-frazzled dads made their way to O’Neill Regional Park in the wild foothills of Orange County.

The dads, in their wisdom, had decided that, since it was May and there was no rain in the forecast, tents were not necessary.So when it was time for bed we simply rolled out our sleeping bags on top of tarps and climbed in.The boys, of course, were sent to bed before the dads who stayed up for quite a while…

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Give us our daily plans

Esther's Petition

Collage02Jeremiah 29:11 is a familiar verse to many of us: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” saith the LORD, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (KJV)

The NIV translation reads, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Reading those two versions, the words thoughts (KJV) and plans (NIV) stood out. I can certainly have thoughts that aren’t plans. Like, it’s chilly today but considering the time of year, that’s normal. Just a thought. Not a plan, unless it’s to wear a sweater.

However, in this verse the Hebrew word is “machashabah” (pronounced ma-hash’-a-va), translated thought, device, plan, purpose, or invention. That’s quite a variety of meanings.

This word is translated “cunning device” in many places, such as…

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What is the Baptism that Saves? by Paul Ellis

(Excellent article, excellent explanation by Paul Ellis on his website, Escape to Reality. Shared with his permission. Bette)

If you wish to start an argument among a group of Christians, all you need to do is ask this question: “Is water baptism essential for salvation?”

Baptism has historically been one of the more controversial issues debated in the church. Is baptism essential? The scriptures are clear: You are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). You are not made right with God by water. Only the blood of Jesus makes us clean.

So why does Peter refer to the baptism that saves you?

Baptism now saves you… (1 Pet. 3:21)

Apparently baptism saves us, but which baptism? There are several types of baptism including:

– John’s baptism of repentance (Act 19:3–4)
– water baptism done in Jesus’ name (Act 10:48, 19:5)
– Holy Spirit baptism (Act 11:16)
– Jesus’ baptism of suffering (Matt. 20:22)
– baptism for the dead (1 Cor. 15:29)

So many baptisms! It’s no wonder people argue. But in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul said there is only one baptism:

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph. 4:3–6)

What is the one baptism?

Theologians will tell you that Paul is referring to some rite undertaken by new believers, but which one?

“It’s repeating the apostle’s creed.”

“It’s water baptism.”

Arguments about baptism lead to strife and division, which is the exact opposite of what Paul is calling for here. “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit.”

The one baptism is not water baptism or any outward act. It is the baptism that happens to every believer when they are put into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit.

For even as the body is one yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:12–13)

The moment you came to Jesus, you were baptized or placed into his body by the Spirit.

What does it mean to be baptized?

To be baptized means to be dipped or immersed. To use an obscure word, it is to be whelmed.

To whelm something is to bury it in dirt or sink it in water. It is what happens when a ship goes down in a storm or a skier is hit with an avalanche. To be baptized or whelmed is a dramatic and catastrophic event.

And it happened to you.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death? (Rom. 6:3)

Your old self has been scuttled, sunk, and sent to the bottom of the sea. This did not happen when you were water baptized; it was done to you by the Holy Spirit the moment you said yes to Jesus.

You: “Yes, Lord.”
Holy Spirit: “Bam!”

“You have been baptized (read: whelmed) into his death” (Rom. 6:3b). Do you realize what this means? The person you used to be no longer lives. Which is wonderful news when you think about it.

Your old self had issues that you could never resolve. The Holy Spirit’s solution was not to patch up your old self but to whelm him or bury her in the ground with Jesus. This is what it means to be baptized into his death. Your old self is history. He’s done and dusted, dead and buried.

Of course, that is only half the story.

Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:4)

The Holy Spirit didn’t leave you in the ground. Just as he raised Jesus, he raised you.

Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Rom. 6:6–7)

Because of that One baptism you are now free from sin. Sin is no longer your master.

Which is pretty good news, wouldn’t you say?

What is the baptism that saves?

Peter and Paul were talking about the same thing. The baptism that saves and the one baptism are the baptism that happened when the Holy Spirit placed you into the body of Christ:

Baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to him. (1 Pet. 3:21–22)

The only thing that can give you a good conscience before God is the cleansing blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:22). So again, it’s not water that saves you but the blood of Jesus.

The moment you put your faith in the risen Lord, you receive the baptism that saves. Your old man is buried with Christ and you are instantly raised and seated with him in heavenly places. In that moment, you are as saved as saved can be.

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Gal. 3:27)

The old has gone, the new has come. The life you live, you live by faith in the Risen Son of God.

When you get this revelation, it will free you from the curse of trying to rehabilitate the old self. (He’s dead.) It will liberate you from your struggle with sin. (Reckon yourself dead to it.) When you know you have been baptized and raised by the Holy Spirit, it will empower you to truly live.

So why get water baptized?

…in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also… (1 Pet. 3:20–21)

Peter is not saying we are saved through water baptism; he’s saying water baptism symbolizes the baptism that saves us – the baptism done by the Holy Spirit.

Water baptism is a powerful demonstration of faith because it reenacts what the Holy Spirit has accomplished. We don’t go into the water to save ourselves or to complete some process that Jesus started. We do it in response to what the Spirit has done.

Water baptism is an outward act testifying to a supernatural reality.

You may have been baptized as a Catholic or a Lutheran or even a Baptist, but there is only one Body of Christ and there is only one baptism. If you are a believer, you have been baptized by the Holy Spirit into that body. He did it all.

With that in mind, let us put off strife and dissension. Knowing there is only one baptism that matters, let us “be humble, gentle, and patient, bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:2–3)