A Time to be Thankful

“Praise the Lord!  For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”

(Psalm 147:1 (ESV)

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, and what great timing!  The election is over, and regardless of who you supported, I don’t think anyone is completely satisfied with the election.  The money spent by each campaign was disgusting, the lies and falsehoods, scandals and cover-ups, were shameful.  The election revealed that we are a nation evenly divided.  There are wars and rumors of wars around the world, but political correctness and expediency keeps us from protecting and defending our allies.  Economies are crumbling, and those who have been elected to lead us lack the courage of their convictions to do what is right and necessary.  If ever we need a time to be Thankful, this is the time.

In spite of all that we see around us, let us never forget the blessings we have received from the hand of our Heavenly Father through the grace and mercy of Christ Jesus our Savior and Lord.  The blessings are innumerable, immeasurable, and incorruptible.  As the apostle Paul wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:3).

To this end I share with you the Proclamation of a Day of Thanksgiving, presented by President Lincoln on October 3, 1863.  In commemoration of the Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, but also the turning point in the war, Lincoln called the nation to a time of prayer and thanksgiving for the blessings and mercy that come in the midst of God’s dealing with our sins.  May this serve as a reminder of all those things for which we are thankful.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

May you have a truly blessed day of Thanksgiving!

SDG

An Elegant (and Innovative) Baptism?!?

“Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer
and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire
before the LORD, which he had not commanded them.
And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them,
and they died before the LORD.”

(Leviticus 10:1–2 (ESV)

Something’s got my dander up.  I had a friend post something on Facebook, a little video clip from a show called “Big Rich Texas,” in which someone is describing a “stylish, at-home, baptism.”  While not really wanting to promote the video or the show, I’ve embedded a link below – but be prepared, it might make you want to throw up.  Once you’ve watched it, read on.

There are so many things wrong here that I cannot cover them all, but I thought it would be helpful to give a brief list of some of the more egregious errors, and if there’s time, touch on some of the underlying problems. Here goes…

  • Elegant/stylish adult Baptism – I’m all for beautiful expressions of worship, but is elegance and style what a baptism is all about?  Does opulence add to or detract from the glory of God?
  • “It is appropriate to have a Baptism anywhere” – Is it?  If that’s the case, would it be appropriate to have a baptism in the commode at the nearest international airport?  Anywhere?  I would think that a baptism should be held wherever the body of Christ can gather as witness and to hear the witness of the one being baptized, but certainly some discretion should be given to the appropriateness of location.
  • “You could actually have it in a church, sometimes that’s more traditional” – Sometimes?  Thanks for reminding us that if the Moose Lodge is booked, the church is still an option.
  • “I prefer a beautiful swimming pool; it’s more controlled and its cleaner.”  Ah, nothing washes away my sins like the chlorinated waters of baptism.  I think we get here what’s at the heart of the problem in this video – control.  While there’s a shot of a robed woman “performing” the baptism, I wonder if the robe was only there to hide the brace she must be wearing to make up for her missing back-bone.  I’m sure the decision process for this “baptism” went something along the lines of… “Money, Television time, and an Open Bar – where do I sign?”
  • The Baptee wears white to signify purity, but you also need an after outfit, because you don’t want to drip.  First off, what the heck is a “Baptee.”  And while the pictured baptismal dress and after dress may signify purity, what they scream is $$$$.
  • As the Godmother, wear something classy, classic and tasteful.  Well that’s the only sound piece of advice given so far; but again, as stated at the very beginning, it’s all about appearances, isn’t it?  She goes on, “this is not a time to be ‘boobalicious’.”  (Okay, I just slammed my hands in the desk drawer, because I had hoped I’d never have to write anything as ridiculous as that.) Kudus, Godmother, for realizing that a Baptism is a time for, shall we say, modesty.  But let me ask you this; as a Godmother, when would it be appropriate to be “boobalicious?” (Again with the hands in the drawer.)
  • The Cake is the Centerpiece of the Baptism – of course it is – we wouldn’t want anything like that bloody Cross, nor the one who was on it, showing up at something so elegant.
  • A stylish ending – doves.  Nothing says style quite like doves.  (Unless its big giant dancing puppets in worship, or rainbow stoles and tablecloths.  Put them all together – death by style.)  Releasing doves signifies the purity and commitment to live a better life.  You mean it gets better than a mansion, swimming pool, and mimosas?  At least there’s no talk about dying to sin and living with Christ.  Rock on, party girl – what a stylish baptismal affair.

What’s really at stake here is the very understanding of what baptism means and signifies.  There is no mention of the preaching of the word, of the significance of being united with Christ by dying and rising with him.  This baptism was merely an opportunity to flout excessiveness and style.  Baptism is always a response to the grace of God that has awakened us to our sinfulness, and drawn us to salvation in Christ through the power of the Holy  Spirit – how was that signified in this service?

I don’t pretend to know the sincerity of the faith of the one being baptized, but by all outward appearances, this is vanity in its highest form; an empty ritual devoid of all health, life, and spirit.  Where is the church, the pastor, the elder, teaching and leading in this baptism about the true meaning and form of worship?  Where is the shepherd to guide the sheep through the dangerous waters of relativism, individualism, and success?  After getting really mad at the idiocy of the video, I’m even angrier at the impotence of whatever church/pastor let this atrocity happen.

Normally some obscure video from a show very few actually watch would not get under my skin like this, but I just heard at a Presbytery meeting that one of the reasons why the church is losing members today is because we have not had any innovations in the past 50 years.  Really?  I thought the progressive/liberal leadership of the church had brought a whole new world of innovation in theology and church life, but apparently it hasn’t been enough.  Is this kind of baptism the next innovation for the church?

Calvin once wrote, “Men can do nothing but err when they are guided by their own opinion; and those who introduce newly invented methods of worshipping God really worship and adore the creature of the own distempered imaginations.”  Amen, brother John.  Would you like some Baptismal Cake?