Tag Archives: savior

Whose Open Tomb?

With two upcoming baptisms just around the corner, I think it’s only appropriate to reflect on what it means to be baptized. What does it symbolize? And why should baptism be celebrated?

Just as a wedding is a ceremony representing a commitment between husband and wife, so is a baptism a ceremony representing a covenant between God and man. Baptism is such an important public declaration of commitment to Christ that Jesus commands it in the scripture many refer to as the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus says:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

If Jesus commanded his disciples to baptize, he wants the same for you and me. He wants us to proudly proclaim that he is our Lord and Savior.

The act of baptism symbolizes Jesus’ death for our sins and burial in the tomb, and his miraculous resurrection on the third day. This is why so many prefer to be immersed in water versus the “sprinkle” baptism. The symbolism is perhaps better experienced in the immersion baptism.

So if the idea is that we die to our old lives of sin, and experience a “spiritual resurrection” when we emerge from the water, then is Jesus’ tomb the only empty grave? If we are truly made new, no longer spiritually dead in our sin, and alive through the cleansing/forgiveness of our sins, then aren’t our graves just as empty as Jesus’?

Visualize this, on the day that you take your last breath on earth, after that breath, you are in a garden, your body has never felt more alive, your skin is flawless, your conscience clear, all you concern yourself with is praising the Father for who he is, not just what he’s done. You look up from your prayer and praise and see your friends approaching a grave. As you look closer, you notice that your name is engraved in the headstone, the date is today. How can you be seeing your own grave, covered in fresh soil, flowers tossed on top? How can it be?

Then you remember that day you decided to give your life to God. You remember the day you were baptized, the symbolism the pastor described. You are taken back to his words, “When she emerges from the water, it symbolizes Christ’s resurrection. Like Him she is made new, alive again, born again, adopted into Christ’s family, a child of God.” You immediately know why you are looking at your grave. There may be a body inside, but your spirit was resurrected the day you accepted Jesus as the forgiver of your sin. You proclaimed it through your baptism, and now you have a first class seat to seeing it completed. You realize how faithful the Father is, how you had taken this step of faith for granted all those years ago, but now you see the reality of your decision to make that covenant with Christ. Do you think you’d have any regrets?

Whose tomb is empty? Is it yours? If it isn’t, do you want to invite Jesus into your life, accept him as your Lord and Savior, forgiver of your sins? You can make that decision now. Just talk to Jesus. Tell him you want to make a covenant with him for eternal, forgiven life as a child of God.

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When the Hungry Cry Out

Last Friday while preparing my lunch I saw that I had way more fruit than I could possibly eat, so I packed it into a bag with some other unwanted snacks and set off for work. I thought about giving it to my coworkers, but then I remembered the group of homeless people that sleep outside the work parking lot. Perhaps they would want some fruit and crackers.

When I arrived to work I was surprised to see that the group I normally see was gone. That’s unusual, I thought. After work I gathered my purse and the bag of food and wondered if the group would be back that evening. I wandered out another entrance and immediately came to a couple of disheveled men chatting. Not sure of whether they would be offended by my offering, I started unpacking my bag a few feet away. They looked up with hopeful eyes, as if wondering if I would share with them. When I saw their glances I explained that I had bought in bulk and had too much food to eat myself. In their gratitude they offered me a newspaper, the kind that the city provides for the homeless to earn money for meals.

As they handed me the paper, they began explaining to me why things are the way they are for the homeless, basically covering the topic of the paper. To my surprise, the older man revealed that he was recently diagnosed with cancer and that he is afraid of what will happen if he needs chemo or radiation. How will he care for himself as someone without a home. His resources are so limited. I listened quietly until he said, “But I believe my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can heal me!” I think my eyes widened. I didn’t expect to hear that through the cloud of pot smoke that was forming around us. You see, the other man had been smoking the whole time. Then he, the guy who was smoking, started telling us about a prayer ministry he was a part of in L.A.

It goes to show God’s children come in all shapes and sizes. After they were done sharing I offered to pray and the older man grabbed my hands and said, “You pray first.” I prayed a short and simple prayer asking God to be with them and keep them safe and for the older man to be healed. By this time we were on a first name basis. When I finished praying the older man looked up, eyes wide and said, “Wow! That was a powerful prayer.” Then the other man started praying, and boy did I feel the Holy Spirit…or maybe it was a contact high (just kidding). At the end we all said Amen, and the older man exclaimed, “I am healed! I believe I am.” The other man kept proclaiming, “You are healed in Jesus’ name.”

A few minutes later the younger man asked the older man, “Are you sick?” Through a frown the older man said, “Yes…” to which the younger man responded, “But you just said you were healed?” The older man laughed, “Well, I forgot. I smoked two bowls before we prayed!” We all burst into laughter, and I truly believe the joy they felt was not just the influence of marijuana but the joy of the Lord upon them.

God is good, and He does not discriminate. He blesses those He wants to bless whether they are stoned or sober. I praise God for putting those two in my path that day. Who knew that on the streets of Berkeley in a cloud of smoke I would meet two of my Brothers?

The things that have grown my faith more than anything else are those instance just stumbled upon, interactions with strangers on the street. God uses all kinds to teach our busy minds and hearts to love.

Saving Mr. Banks…and Mrs. Jones

Last night I watched Saving Mr. Banks. It is a touching film about Walt Disney’s persistence to purchase the rights to P.L. Travers’ book so he could produce the movie Mary Poppins. It’s been so long since I’ve seen Mary Poppins that I don’t recall the whole plot, but from what I remember Ms. Poppins was quite the relief from what the children were used to. In the movie Saving Mr. Banks you get a new perspective of what the story of Mary Poppins is really about. The true story really isn’t close to what Disney brought to the big screen. Disney brought the ending that every child dreams to have, an ending of love and reconciliation.

The reality is that many of us don’t reconcile with our parents the hurts of our childhood. We don’t have a magical nanny to come rescue us and bring unity back into our broken, dysfunctional families. As I watched Saving Mr. Banks I thought to myself, ‘Why don’t I have a tremendously dysfunctional family? We’ve all done and said things to hurt one another and yet we still spend time together, call each other often, etc. Why didn’t I need a Mary Poppins when my childhood had its rough times as well?’ We all need a Mary Poppins sometime in our lives. The answer is that my Mary Poppins was more magical and mysterious, more fun and exciting, more supercalifragilisticexpialidocious than Ms. Poppins could ever be because my rescuer, my protector, my encourager was Jesus Christ.

Fortunately my mom talked to me about God when I was a kid, even before we started going to church or calling ourselves Christians. Later on we went to church where I learned a lot about Jesus and all his power and might. I learned from a very young age that God was the place to run when I was scared, whether I was scared of the dark or scared of how things were going. He was always faithful.

So while it’s cute and fun to believe in this magical singing nanny, Ms. Poppins is a far cry from our true Savior. I don’t want to ignore, however, that God uses people like nannies or friends or strangers or pastors to speak truth and life into us, but I just want to point out that without Jesus our human strength falls short of the redemption and deliverance we all yearn for. I know you yearn for it too because you were born to yearn for Him. So while Mary Poppins saves Mr. Banks, Jesus saves all who believe.Image