My Personal Battle with Truth and Fiction

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I’ve heard it said that truth is stranger than fiction, but I was never certain as to whether or not I could really believe it. Truth and Fiction are so similar that it’s sometimes hard to distinguish between them. Many times, in either classification, people are simply telling stories.

Don’t misunderstand me. I love stories. I always have. There’s something about the ebb and flow of the introduction of characters, the unfolding of the setting, the emergence of conflict, the buildup of relational tension, and the joy of resolution that grips me down deep.

Stories teach. Stories heal. Stories whisk us away to other lands and somehow through the mental break and moral lessons they provide, we emerge from them as better people, much of the time at least. Stories impact our lives and change us.

When I was eight years old, a preacher came to my house and shared with me, what I was told, was the greatest story ever told. Knowing it was only a story, I repeated his prayer and two weeks later I was baptized on a Sunday night.

Suddenly, my story changed, at least in theory. For you see, to the world I was a Christian, living a life dedicated to my Lord Jesus and striving to be free and separated from sin.  The truth however, is that even though I was a card-carrying member of a church, that I was living a lie. I was telling a story. I thought that the Bible stories that I heard at church and at home were simply stories, no different than the stories of Curious George, Spiderman, Santa Claus, and the Engine That Could. I loved all of these stories, but understood that honestly, they were simply moral lessons designed to teach me to be a good boy.

But then, as a teenager, a conflict arose within me. Suddenly, I became both protagonist and antagonist making major plot decisions in how my life’s story was going to play out.  I realized I was standing at a major crossroads. The decisions I was about to make would not only determine the next chapter of my life, but it would be instrumental in defining my journey’s end.

Honestly, I thought about abandoning stories altogether. It didn’t matter if it was Truth or Fiction. Both seemed to be getting stranger by the day. A whirlwind of stress and confusion caused the tension within me to swell to the point of explosion, when I realized I was wrestling with an unseen character.

This new character was dynamic and powerful yet peaceful and controlled. This character had the power to transform my story forever. This character was the Author Himself. He stepped into my story and helped me realize that it was His story all along.

That’s when I realized that the stories I had learned as a child about the Lord weren’t stories at all. They were real.

It was then that I joined His story as a willing participant, honored to be included as a character in His book forever.

I’ve heard it said that Truth is stranger than Fiction. That may be true, but at least it’s real.

Baptism vs. the Brain-Eating Amoeba

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This summer, the campuses of the church where I serve have been emphasizing the importance of baptism. As a result, we’ve seen an overwhelming amount of people respond with a desire to be baptized. However, in order to continue our emphasis at one of our campuses, we had to go to war against a brain eating amoeba.

Recently, the residents of St. Bernard Parish have been undergoing a 60 day chlorine flush in their water system because of a dangerous amoeba found in the water. As you can probably imagine, this created a huge problem for campus pastor Patrick Eagan. How could he immerse people in water when there could possibly be a poisonous amoebe in the water? This problem was heightened by the fact that parish officials had warned St. Bernard residents not to let the water go up into their noses.

So, Pastor Patrick had to make a decision. He had scheduled baptisms for Sunday. He didn’t want to prevent people from taking their next step with Jesus, so, knowing he would have the full support of our church, he purchased 102 gallons of Kentwood water to fill his baptistery, plus a few more for coffee and public consumption.

That same Saturday evening in St. Bernard, a man came to the service and said, “I’m tired of being a Jesus Fan. I’m ready to be a Jesus Follower. Can I be baptized tonight?” He was baptized that very day in pure Kentwood water.

I’m proud to be a part of a church where creative solutions can be found to help people take the next step in their faith development.

Beirut Baptism

IMG_8011This blog post is from a friend of mine who serves as a missionary in Beirut, Lebanon.  Her name has been changed for her own protection.

Here in Lebanon and in all of the Middle East, your religion is considered as more of a family or genetic characteristic. The mindset is that you are born a Muslim or a Christian. You can’t or shouldn’t change that just as much as you can’t or shouldn’t change your race or your family. This comes from the Koran which states that the son of a Muslim father is a Muslim.
Your religion is a legal matter here…it determines who and where you can marry and where you can own property and do business. It is listed as one of the characteristics on your driver’s license or government ID.
So…when you put baptism in the equation as a sacrament of the church that is a confirmation in most churches that you are indeed a Christian and a public statement that you are a part of the Church-body as a whole and even the local body of believers….it has not just the spiritual ramifications that it has for us in the US but here it has real political, legal and social ramifications. (Interestingly enough, quite like the early church.) The main resistance to conversion when ministering to Muslims here is not saying the sinner’s prayer or confessing Jesus….it is church membership and baptism because this is what would change their life in terms of their family, legal status and social status.
Ruth is a young woman who came to the church about a year and a half ago. She is Jordanian and a year before coming, really escaping, to Lebanon, she accepted Christ through a Christian television program. For a year she lived as secret Christian. About half way through that year, her husband discovered her secret and began to beat her everyday and make her say Muslim prayers. Finally, as she realized her life was in danger, she fled her home for Lebanon. She was forced by her husband to leave behind her 3-year-old son.
Upon arriving in Lebanon, she came to the church seeking refuge. One of the first things she did was remove her headscarf and ask where she could throw it away. The main thing she desired was to know more about the word and to be baptized.  During her year as a secret Christian, she said that she would literally have dreams of being baptized. She said that she read about it in the Word and longed for the day when she could publicly and boldly show her love for the Lord in this way. She knew that for her culture this would be an undeniable way of identifying with Christ and it would be a sign from which she could not turn back.
She was so excited on the day of her baptism…the time had finally come. She shared her story with the congregation and was baptized during the service. Ruth said that it was such a great fulfillment of her dreams from when she first became a Christian and that she felt a new level of boldness in her relationship with Christ and her authority in Christ. She was now known as a Christian publicly with all of the joys and risks that entails as a converted Muslim.
Shortly after being baptized, Ruth was sent to jail as her husband sent word from Jordan that she had converted and was running from him. Through the help of Christians here and favor with the government she has been released. She has now applied for asylum and we believe she is being relocated by the United Nations. She is no longer able to contact us at the church as the procedure is to give her a new identity and passport documents because her life is endangered. (Similar to a witness protection program)

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It is so easy for us in the United States to take baptism for granted. We don’t have the threat of jail, persecution or death. But Ruth’s story is just one of thousands, where Christian converts risk their lives to follow in obedience the command of the Word to be baptized and to identify publicly with the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.