I'm preparing to counsel another family before the Baptism of their children, and so I figured I'd share on here the three documents I give every family I counsel. Baptism is one of 2 sacraments (The Lord's Supper is the other). For something to be a sacrament, it must have been instituted and commanded by Jesus in the Scriptures. Many other practices are beneficial, but these two actions are special, and visualize the gospel in a unique way.
An Intro to Baptism – An Outline of Scripture
This document traces what the Scriptures say about Baptism and boils it down to three main points about water.
1.) We use water for washing - so in baptism we celebrate that all our sin has been washed away by the blood of Jesus.
2.) We use water for burial (either to prepare or burial at sea) - so in baptism we celebrate that we have died with Christ and been raised to new life. We are new creatures, the old is gone and the new has come.
3.) Water breaks during childbirth - We are reborn or born again when we put our faith in Jesus, and when a baby is born they become part of a new family connected to people they did not choose. So too in baptism we are made part of God's family the church, called to love these people as family.
Baptism by Francis Schaeffer
This document helps explain and reproof mainly commonly held misconceptions about infant baptism. Francis Schaeffer, one of the leading evangelical preachers of the last 100 years, argues that Infant Baptism is Biblical. I find it especially important for families who grew up in churches that believe baptism is only for believing adults and by total immersion.
Most of you know that I went on vacation with my family earlier this month, and it was great. I needed a week out of the pulpit to recharge and to study God's word without the immediate need to teach it, when all I was doing was enjoying it. I loved getting to witness the beauty of God's creation first hand in fish, otters, sea turtles, a manta ray, dolphins, and birds, birds, birds.
Still, I know that I often idolize vacations. I look to them like a week of salvation, a week that will fix every problem, that will calm all my anxieties, that will restore my soul, that will restore my sanity, that will rejuvenate my sagging will, and will automatically make me more joyful and content. But like all idols, Vacations are a great thing, but they make terrible gods. I still remember my first vacation after becoming pastor at Oakland. I expected a week at the beach to do all I listed and more. I looked to it for salvation from compassion fatigue and mental fatigue and faith fatigue. I went on vacation like a worshipper travels to a shrine, and I found a dead god. I spent little time in prayer that week and littler time in the Bible. I wanted to completely disconnect, and in so doing, I willfully disconnected myself from God.
I came back more exhausted, more overwhelmed, more baffled, and more desperate for rest than I did when I went. My vacation was actually vacuum. And I have heard many of you say some form of the sentence, "I need a vacation to recover from my vacation." Sometimes your joking about doing too much on vacation, but I still cannot help wonder if it is indicative, that we as Americans (and especially country music listeners) are prone to idolize Vacations.
This summer, I tried something different. I went on vacation in much the same spot - tired. But I intentionally tried to stay connected to God, to rest in God, to rest in his unchanging assurances. I did take a break from heavy reading or spiritual self-help books or church-development books. I did let myself sit and listen to conversations or silence rather than try to think of the next right question a real pastor would ask. But I didn't disconnect from God like last time. I didn't look to food, sun, and saltwater to fix me, but I thanked God for each of them, and I spent a lot of time just trying to be awe-filled in this awesome universe.
I got back and listened to this sermon, and I think it summed up much of what I was trying to practice. Maybe as you go on vacation it will help you to find retreat rather than idolatry.