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June 2008

 
 

pastor's page

June 2008

June 1, 2008

Sometimes life is compared with a journey, somewhere in between the starting and ending points, peppered with all kinds of joys and sorrows. In Acts, Paul is taken by ship and under the escort of the Roman authority to be judged by Caesar. The road to the empire's capital city proved to be long and filled with trials, and Paul's life and that of the other 275 travelers was often in danger. The ship that they traveled in had sails and was pushed by the force of the wind- reason for which a strong wind was needed. It is strange to note that the wind, which generally was the number one ally, became the number one enemy, because it was transformed into a very powerul storm that lasted two weeks and nearlly killed everyone on board.

In verse 13, the writer remarks the good spiritual state of the captains and of the sailors, because the boat was pushed forward by a gust of wind, so it was moving swiftly towards the destination, so they felt like they had the situation under control. There are moments in life when the wind blows gently and in the desired direction, when things go well and well feel in control. The bad part about this kind of attitude is that we easily become imprudent, we neglect the risks, hoping that the wind will never bother us. This is the nice and easy part of the trip of life, when all goes well, we rejoyce in God`s blessings, our self-value improves, we become known, our resources grow and we might be overwhelmed by a feeling of superiority as we see and hear about other ships that do not manage to get out from under the storm.

Continuing the presentation of the trip, the writer says in verse 14 that while the ship was peacefully sailing towards the destination, out of the blue, a terrible storm unleashed and in a moment, the gentle, friendly wind became threatening, menacing the very life of the travellers. Paul had anticipated the worsening of the weather and the danger of a sea trip at the beginning of wintertime, but the sailors were absent-mined and disobedient, so they had decided to set sail.

Caught in the middle of the storm which was furiously unleashed, almost as if it was taking pleasure in the fate of the imprudent victims, the ship was carried back and forth by the waves. In their desperate attempt to save their lives, the travellers threw overboard the load and the tools on the ship, hoping that this would give them some control over the shit that was about to sink. The writer mentiones that the storm became so strong, that the sailors lost all hope of survival. the darkness was so think, that for several days they could not see the sun by day or the stars by night. Fear paralyzed everyone, leading them into a state of inability and total despair.

This is the hard and unpleasent part of life`s journey, when the consequences of disobedience and absent-minedness appear, the sun and the stars disappear, and so do any points of reference of the day or night. Food is tasteless and becomes useless, sleep is not necessary anymore, fear is overwhelming, remorse becomes tormenting and death is a step away. The sailors were overwhelmed by the situation. the ship was covered by waves, the travellers were desperate, their sailing techology became useless, the soldiers were terrified.

In this awful circumstance that seemed to have no way out, God`s mercy and goodness intervenes and Paul proclaims the message of salvation in the name of the Lord. Is there any salvation left? Yes! There is salvation because there is God. For as long as there is God, there is also mercy, kindness, hope, and forgiveness. In such a terrible storm, is a dead-end situation, is there any hope left? YES, there is hope because there is God. God`s mercy intervines in this circumstance affected by human error, by negligence, mistake and too much self-confidence. God`s mercy and help is not offered to the people who are strong and in control, but also to the weak and fallen, to those who would perish without the intervention of the divine love.

After two weeks of horror, God`s saving hand intervines and Paul calls the travelles and the sailors to repentance, to prayer, to have a meal, to have hope in God. It is true that they paid the price of being greatly frightened, and of their ship and its load being lost. The only part the Creator saved was the creation - the people. If today you have good weather, rejoice in it and be careful. If you ure under the storm, repent, pray, eat, and trust in what you do not deserve - the Lord`s mercy, kindness and help, for He gave you life.

June 15, 2008

After finishing the creation of the world, God declared five times that all things were “very good”. The only exception was Adam`s loneliness. The Creator`s solution was to continue the process of creation. Thus, He brought the woman, Eve, into existence. Now it was Adam`s turn to superlatively appreciate God`s solution which brought his loneliness to an eternal end.

If family, as well as the rest of the creation, was a very good thing, how is it possible that today there are so many failures, unhappiness, tears, and pain? The answer to this question was sought by sociology, psychology, theology and many other fields. Yet, the portrait of today`s family life is gloomier and gloomier. This reality has a negative impact upon the young generation, discouraging it from dreaming to a happy family life. Marriage is easily mistaken for and replaced with concubinage, cohabitation, or fornication, which brings similar results. What is the secret of a successful family life – is it a myth, a mystery, a miracle, or the result of work and mature thinking?

The United States` and Europe`s statistics regarding family life are saddening and discouraging. Thousands of children are born not knowing who their father is. Other terrifyingly and powerlessly witness their parents` violent fights and maybe even divorce, thus for ever losing the right to hope for a fulfilled family life. In Europe, every 30 seconds a family ends up in divorce or a child is murdered before being born.

In spite of all these saddening realities, the people offer various explanations and justifications to these facts, trying to exculpate themselves. This happens to such an extent, that eventually, no one is guilty anymore and this abnormal life becomes the normal standard. Some blame the poverty, but the roads are filled with cars; others blame the lack of education, but we abound in diplomas, men blame Eve, women blame Adam, and both blame the serpent. What is the truth, after all? No one wants to think in a Biblical way about God, about the Creator who was betrayed in the garden, about our Maker whom we`ve abandoned in Eden, about this painful process and about its consequences. No one has the power anymore to hope in God`s redeeming solution, no one thinks anymore about “the woman`s seed” that was about to come, no one is interested anymore whether He came or not. We try to find answers in books, in pleasure, in money, in vacations, in adventures, in coalitions, in technology, and we reject the answer dwelling in our heart, calling us to God every day.

Family life cannot be a happy one if the two spouses are not happy; it cannot be holy if the two are not holy. Family life is exactly like that of the two partners, it is the expression of their character and personalities. Before anything else, man needs God, he needs a restoration of his relationship with the abandoned Creator. Man needs to accept His solution offered in the holy Person of Savior Jesus Christ.

How much light does our generation really have, if it cannot see a 2000 year old solution, while trying to reinvent it? Family life was invented by God and it must function according to His principles. The Bible is the User`s Guide, and it talks about repentance, righteousness, about confessing and abandoning sin. The young generation has the right to hope for a happy family life only when putting their lives and their destinies in God`s hand, only when they start praying and reading the Bible. Modern technology can manufacture planes, high performance cars, but God is the only One who can give happiness, peace, comfort, joy, and a fulfilled family life. He has been calling people, through Christ, for the past 2000 years, inviting them to accept His happiness both in this life, and in the eternal one. The future and happiness of mankind, of the family, lays in turning to God, in repenting for sin and having faith in God. This gives strength to the family and insures its happiness when the spouses live with God and follow His commandments.

June 22, 2008

Baptism in water is the exterior sign of an interior change that God has done through the Gospel and through the Holy Spirit. It is the public testimony of a person]s faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and of that person`s dedication covenant for God. Baptism in water must be performed for the persons who answer with repentance to the Gospel, by voluntarily and consciously accepting the responsibility of serving in the Kingdom. This baptism is a necessity because it was instituted by God the Father, it was performed by God the Son, by His apostles, and by all Christians throughout the ages.

Tertullian, who lived between 160-220 AD, wrote in his book titled “Patrologia Latina”, volume 1: “Children cannot be baptized except after receiving Jesus and after asking for salvation.” Also, the Orthodox Pathology states, in Apologia, volume 1: “Baptism was administrated to those who believed and were convinced by the Christian truths, who promised to live by these truths, who fasted and prayed for the forgiveness of their past sins.” If baptism in water can only be administrated to the persons who believe and repent, than children cannot receive this baptism because they cannot confess their sins, nor can they be taught about God`s eternal truths. If in the Bible the new converts were baptized immediately, today, most of the time, the candidates for baptism have to first learn the fundamental teaching of the Christian faith, before they get baptized. This happens because of several reasons:

• First of all, during the Early Church years, Christianity was banned and persecuted by the law, so there was an imminent possibility for martyrdom. That is why baptism was administrated immediately.

• Secondly, due to the fact that the churches were illegal, the Christian secretly gathered in caves and forests, so there were no public services during which they could have taught a Bible study.

• Thirdly, because the apostles were mostly involved in evangelization, so there were very few teachers and very many new converts.

• Then, many of the new converts were slaves of soldiers, so they were under someone else`s authority, which did not give them the necessary time for such a Bible study.

• Lastly, because many of today`s baptisms are barely formal, performed for the sole purpose of marriage or because of a momentary emotion. This reality makes the necessity of spiritual instruction even more important.

Origen, who lived between 185-254 AD, used the method of catechism. In his book titled Homily 221, he writes: “Catechumens, repent and receive the baptism!” Even if baptism in water is very important it does not save, rather, it is administrated to those who are already saved. Salvation is received through faith and repentance, and these two experiences precede the baptism. Apostle Paul makes this aspect very clear when he writes that baptism is “the pledge of a good conscience toward God” (1 Peter 3:21). Human consciousness cannot be washed from sin except through the blood of Savior Jesus Christ, after repentance from sin and faith in God. Thus, when a person gets baptized in water after having been through these two experiences, he or she has a clean consciousness. The baptism in water is the covenant of spiritual union, it is the act of obedience towards the commandment of Jesus Christ who wants us to make public our spiritual identity and our commitment to follow and serve Him.

Sometimes, there are serious barriers in the way of fulfilling the Savior`s commandment of getting baptized – family members, misunderstanding the Bible, or other circumstantial difficulties. Something similar happened at the baptism of the Lord, who, though discouraged by John the Baptist himself, answered firmly: “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15) For the Son of God, the baptism was something He had to fulfill and He did it in spite of all barriers.

My dear friend, I respectfully invite you at Bethany Church on Sunday afternoon, to witness the baptism of the 17 candidates whom nothing and no one could stop from getting baptized.