Friday, October 31, 2014

The Case for Infant Baptism and Practical Tips to Help Children Encounter Christ

1 Corinthians 12:3 -" one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit".

This is what the bible says and yet some evangelicals I've met do not agree with infant baptism. Not making the connection? How about this? These same evangelicals do not consider their children "saved" until, on their own, they can say Jesus is Lord and ask him into their heart.  Also, they are not seen as ready for baptism until they ask Jesus in their heart. However, it is by the Holy Spirit that we can truly recognize Jesus as Lord.

Catholics, Orthodox, and some Protestant denominations believe in infant baptism. As Catholics, we believe at the moment of baptism, when the water is poured over the baby's head, they also receive the Holy Spirit. I believe it gives them an advantage that unbaptized children do not have. I would dare to even say that since Jesus lives in their heart through baptism, they will probably be more predisposed toward the things of God.

Now, I have some wonderful evangelical friends who really encourage me in my walk with the Lord. I have heard some things however by others that have grieved my heart. One woman was talking to me about her 9 year old daughter who was not "saved" yet. Another woman told me how she was talking to her older children and a couple of them mentioned how Jesus lived in their heart. Her little 3 year old son then asked her if Jesus lived in his heart to which she responded, "Not yet." In all fairness, this woman was probably right. Her son had never been baptized so Jesus probably didn't live in his heart through the Holy Spirit.

These incidences break my heart and frankly I do not understand. Someone please enlighten me!

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me." - Matthew 19:14

Also, the Jewish people would never have thought of leaving their children out of the Covenant.

Isaiah 59:21 - "And this is my covenant with them," says the Lord. "My Spirit will not leave them, and neither will these words I have given you. They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children and your children's children forever. I, the Lord, have spoken!"

The attitude of expecting children to make a reasoned decision for Christ before being baptized and before Jesus can live in their heart also makes me wonder how evangelicals view disabled children who can not make that decision and children who die before they reach the age of reason and can make that decision. My guess is they would assume that child would still go to heaven. Then why not baptize them as a baby so they have that extra advantage?!

Personally I do not think we give our children enough credit. In the time when Tom and I were away from the Catholic Church and involved in evangelical churches, we encountered more than a few people who did not think their children were capable of having a relationship with Jesus much less sit through a worship service. It made me sad that at a typical Sunday morning service, the children would be dismissed before worship began and sent off to daycare or a classroom where they could be entertained for the next hour. They did get some instruction as they heard a bible story and did a craft but I think it would have been much more beneficial for them if they had the opportunity to worship with their family.

Little children are capable of more than we give them credit for. We should not hold Jesus back from them. Maybe it is because my children were baptized as infants, and the grace of their baptism has been nurtured, but my children definitely have a spiritual sense and relationship with Jesus. When my 4 year old was only 3, she had an experience where Jesus told her not to be afraid because he was protecting her from the monsters. My 6 year old recently heard Jesus tell her that even when my husband and I were not around, she did not need to be afraid because he was always with her. My 8 year old told me that since she received her 1st Holy Communion last year, she has been growing closer to the Lord. Even my 1 year old seems to have a spiritual sense and love for Jesus. Whenever he sees a crucifix or picture of Jesus, he exclaims, "Jesus!" He also does this when we drive into the church parking lot. I believe being baptized has a lot to do with them being drawn to the Lord. The Holy Spirit in them recognizes and draws them to Jesus.

I can also remember having experiences with the Lord when I was a baby. I have memories of lying in my crib and being surrounded with the peace, love and presence of the Lord. Unfortunately, when I was a teenager, and my "reason" was fully activated, I stopped believing in him and walked away. I believe it was partly because of the grace of my baptism that I ended up coming back to him. I am very thankful that seed was planted in my heart from the time I was a baby.

Children also have amazing, God given imaginations which can help them have an amazing prayer life. I have taught my children from a young age how to pray. I think it is important for us and our children to have time set aside everyday to encounter the Lord. There are a couple ways I have done this which has proven to be very fruitful with my children. One way is to have them picture a peaceful place in their mind (an ocean, a field of flowers, a shade tree, etc.). I have them picture themselves at that place. I then have them picture Jesus there with them. I tell them to be still and listen in case Jesus wants to show them something or say something to them. The other thing I tell my kids to do when they go to prayer is, seek Jesus' face. Both of these ways have been very powerful and my children usually have very profound things to share which I then have them draw or write in a prayer journal. It might start with their imaginations but then Jesus takes off with it. They also look forward to spending time with Jesus every morning using these tools. They are gaining a love for prayer. These methods were also used with my older two girls who love the Lord dearly and have a close relationship with him.

We should never say that children are too young to have a relationship with the Lord. We also should not just be preoccupied with their salvation and them making a one time decision for Christ. What is important is that they come to know and love Jesus. The grace given at baptism helps this to happen.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Poison of Pornograpy and the Effects it has had on my Life.

The use of pornography among men and even women is staggering! What is even more shocking is the use of pornography among Christian men! You can read more about that here.

I have personally been affected by pornography because of the loved ones in my life. I was first introduced to it when I was a little girl. A close family member would look at pornographic magazines right in front of me. Unfortunately this family member was also a workaholic and paid little attention to me. Naturally what I subconsciously concluded from that as a little girl is that men were superior to women and the only thing women had to offer of value was their bodies. This was reinforced to me when at the age of 6, I was also molested by an older boy. This sent me down a road of sexual curiosity and I would often sneak the pornographic magazines that were in my home along with my friends and cousins. It is hard to put into words how damaging this was.

At the age of 19 I discovered God's love and I gave him my life. Through his grace, I underwent several years of inner healing of these past memories. When I was 23, I got married to a man who was 21. We were so very young and also immature. Those first years of marriage were very tough and stressful. My husband would shut me out and I felt all alone. This was compounded by the fact that I got pregnant on our honeymoon and it was a very difficult and complicated pregnancy. I later found out from him that the reason he shut me out was because he had a problem with porn. Especially when he was stressed, he would turn to pornography. He also had a fear of intimacy which would cause him to turn to porn instead of me. You can read more of his story here.

My husband has worked hard to overcome his addiction. He has taken advantage of the Sacrament of confession and has allowed God's love and grace to transform him. He is a different person than the one I married. He is better able to love me and be emotionally available to me. It has taken me a while however to be able to receive his love and let him love me. All those years took a toll. I have had to work through a lot of anger but haven't had anyone to talk to about it because I didn't want to make him look bad. I also put up walls to guard my heart and got used to it being just me and Jesus.What I am now realizing is it didn't need to be up to me to guard my own heart. Jesus would have been more than capable of guarding my heart for me if I would have fully entrusted it to him. As he is calling me to a higher level of surrender and I am letting go, those walls are coming down. I am finding healing and a greater level of freedom. Jesus truly is able to redeem anything especially when darkness is brought into the light. I am very proud of my husband for sharing his struggles. I trust that God will restore the years the locusts have eaten and I look forward to what the future holds with my love!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Discernment and Being Used in the Area of our Greatest Weakness

The gift of discernment is a much needed gift right now especially with the times that we live in. There are several types of discernment that is important for members of the Body of Christ to walk in. There is the supernatural gift of discernment, where through the Holy Spirit, you know something about a person or situation that you wouldn't otherwise know. There is discernment that comes out of a relationship with Christ, enabling a person to recognize what the Holy Spirit wants to do and say in a given situation. And there is a natural discernment a person acquires from life experiences. When a Christian walks in all these dimensions of the gift, rooted in love, it can be very powerful!

The supernatural gift of discernment enables certain Christians to clearly recognize and distinguish between the influence of God, Satan, the world, and the flesh in a given situation. Through this gift one can warn believers in times of danger or keep them from being led astray by false teaching. If the gift is not rooted in love, it can come across as judgmental. An example of Jesus operating in this gift is found in Mark 2:8:

Immediately, Jesus knew in his Spirit that this is what they were thinking in their hearts and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things?" 

Jesus was able to say this because he had a mature character and acted out of love. When I started following Christ at the age of 19, I would discern a lot of things about the people I would come in contact with on a daily basis. However, I did not yet have the character to act on it or the level of maturity to be able to handle the things I was seeing.

One of my biggest character flaws has been in the area of my speech. One of the Saints I have been able to relate to most since my conversion in 1988 is St. Peter. From what we know from scripture, it seems he was always putting his foot in his mouth and sometimes saying inappropriate things. It is very encouraging that the Lord ended up appointing him as the leader of the Church. Out of Peter's love and relationship with the Lord he finally learned to to discern who Jesus was and what the Holy Spirit was doing (Matthew 16:17) and the Lord ended up using him mightily.

Part of the reason I believe I struggled in the area of my speach is because growing up communication was something my family was lacking in. When I was a kid, instead of being told that I was saying something out of line or inappropriate, I would receive dirty looks. I did not always know however why I was receiving dirty looks. This may sound odd but it got to the point where I would purposely say inappropriate things just so I would know why I was receiving the dirty looks. After my conversion 26 years ago, this is the thing I struggled to overcome the most. I always found myself saying inappropriate and wrong things.  One of my main prayers was that Jesus would give me discernment in this area and that he would help me be socially appropriate. What I have learned over the  years is that discernment doesn't always miraculously drop into our mind. As I have learned to lean back, rest in Jesus' love for me, and surrender to his perfecting love and transformation, I have learned to better discern and make decisions based on love. For example, before speaking, I now first naturally ask myself the question, "If I say this, will it edify and encourage those I am speaking to?." "If I say that, will it make someone else look or feel bad?" This has also helped me to know when I am crossing the line into gossip.

God can use anything from our past for his purposes (Romans 8:28)! Some ways my dysfunctional childhood helped me in the area of discernment and how the Lord is using it is that I learned to pick up on body language and words not being said or the meaning behind words. I can often tell if someone has ulterior motives and can not be trusted. I can also usually tell if someone is being genuine which has also helped me be more genuine; after all, if I can tell this about others, maybe they can tell this about me. 

I write this post in hopes that it will encourage someone. The Lord is starting to move me out in ministry. Lately my husband and I have been given opportunities to speak and minister. If the Lord could use someone like me, he could use anyone. I love how the Lord often uses us in the areas we are weakest so his glory is then displayed the most!