Monday, June 27, 2011

Caesera Philippi

One of my favorite sites out of the whole trip was Caesera Philippi where Peter confessed that Jesus was Christ.  Jesus was known for doing things a bit out of the ordinary and coming to Caesera Philippi was one of those things.  Originally, the place was called Paneas in honor of the Greek God Pan, whose shrine was located there, and the whole region was especially known for their pagan worship.  But, Jesus did not care what the region was known for or who was being worshipped.  For me this would be like my accounting professor taking me to a company meeting at what was say, Enron, to learn about some of their accounting standards. 
            One thing we do not give our savior enough credit for is how he faced temptation.  He faced temptation so well that we do not even realize He was being tempted.  Jesus took his disciples to this region that was wicked and evil and He asked His disciples in Matthew 16:13 “…Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  Peter answered in verse 16, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 
            As we were sitting around doing our devotional at the foot of this cave where idols were for sure present, you got a sense of wonder at the grandeur of the rock around the cave.  The rock was massive, thick, and solid.  It made you feel very minute and inadequate standing next to the magnificent stone.  Right there, next to the cave where idols were worshipped and the last thing that was on people’s mind was God, Peter confessed that Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus told Peter in verse 18, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
            For me, this site was one of my favorites of the whole trip because it showed me just how strong Jesus was and is today.  As I stood next to and looked into the cave where 2000 years ago others worshipped false gods, I got a feeling of darkness.  Jesus was there in the height of existence of pagan worship and He stood stronger than ever.  He was not shaken and knew that wherever He was and no matter how much evil surrounded Him, His father was with Him at all times. 
          There have been and will be times for me where I might be near or even in a place like Caesera Philippi where all I can see is a black abyss.  But to know that nothing will conquer our Lord is comforting and powerful and aslo know that we serve a God who cannot be moved, that His rule wipes out all that is evil and wicked.  His love will prevail.  Sometimes we need to realize and confess who Christ is and get rid of the blackness in our life.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My baptism in the Jordan River

One thing I have battled with in my faith is my baptism.  I was raised Baptist and remember getting baptized like it was yesterday at my home church, First Baptist Church in Mont Belivieu.  I can recall going up to the front of the church and getting hidden in Bro. Glenn Howard’s arms away from the crowd at the time because I was so shy.  I told him I was ready to get baptized and I wanted to accept Jesus into my heart.  After the closing song Bro. Glenn announced my profession to the church!  I was thrilled, people were shaking my hand and calling me brother.  I was so excited and remember the next Sunday getting baptized. 
            I walked in, wearing my white robe into a hot tub of water and wondering if Jesus did the same thing.  I got submerged and at the time was not to sure of what that was about, all I knew was I that Jesus was real and was related to God.  I was also just 8 years old. 
            When I moved to Leakey, Tx I was 16 and started going to church at Concan Church of Christ and began questioning my commitment to God.  I doubted if God recognized my baptism at 8, because I did not fully fathom was truly happened and what my LORD did for me on that cross.  I talked to Coach Crafton about it several times who was taking me to church there and he told me to go for it.  The truth was, at Concan, on a good day had about 50 members 99% were all baptized.  I was nervous about going forward and telling people that I shammed God when I was younger, the guilt continued to weigh me down. 
            June 12, 2011 all the guilt I had was taken away.  I walked into the Jordan River like a young child, smiling from ear to ear; I couldn’t keep the grin off my face. The water was not as deep as it should have been for a 6’ foot man like me, but I got on my knees and looked to the heavens.  Mr. Austin, who is not related to me , but I’ve really grown to love as man of God, told me how proud he was of what I had overcome so far in my short life.  I have felt like I’ve battled through a lot in my life already and I know God is ‘holding every tear’ for me.  The LORD is so good to me and has always replaced a scar with a beautiful blessing.  Mr. Austin then submerged me in the Jordan River along with all of my doubts and sin, and I came up a new man. 
            There was no dove come down, but what there was a feeling of peace and calm I have never truly experienced.  I felt like I was with God and He was with me there at the Jordan like I had never experienced Him before. I got out of the water and knew that I was in the same body of water that Jesus Christ was.  While, it was not the same location it is still an amazing feeling to have that connection with Christ.  I am thankful for God’s love and the miracle of baptism and how you can truly be cleansed not because of special water, such as the Jordan, but because of Jesus’ blood shed on the cross.  I cannot fathom the land here in Israel, I can just thank God for the privilege He has given to me.  We serve an awesome God!