True Baptism

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Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm 25:1-9 
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15

The reading of Peter’s first letter for today would better begin with verse 8.

You should all be of one mind living like brothers with true love and sympathy for each other, generous and courteous at all times. Never pay back a bad turn with a bad turn or an insult with another insult, but on the contrary pay back with good. For this is your calling—to do good and one day to inherit all the goodness of GodPhillips

Not everyone is born with the gift of empathy. The ability to completely understand another person was one of Jesus’ gifts, but one none of us have. Yet, many can detect the signs we all display of our true feelings. Empathy is not only understanding a person’s pain but wanting to do something about it.

We too often think we know another person and try to make their lives better and end up making things worse because we missed the real signs. There is little substitute for getting to know a person before presuming we can solve their problems.

For: ‘He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking guile: let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil’Phillips

Turning from evil is truly difficult. We live in an evil environment alongside evil people. That’s a little strong. Yes, everyone commits evil acts, but that does not necessarily mean they are evil in God’s eyes. Yet, we see and do evil every day despite our good intentions. As a high school teacher, there were many ‘slips’ on my part. Out of frustration one day, I gave my wheeled cart/lectern a strong push. It hit the wall causing the coffee mug full of pencils to fly off and break. As far as I could tell, the only things that accomplished was to make me look worse and it gave several students a chuckle. I often said things I thought were cute, smart, funny, etc., only to realize it was harmful to some.

After all, who in the ordinary way is likely to injure you for being enthusiastic for good? And if it should happen that you suffer “for righteousness’ sake”, that is a privilege. You need neither fear their threats nor worry about them; simply concentrate on being completely devoted to Christ in your hearts. Be ready at any time to give a quiet and reverent answer to any man who wants a reason for the hope that you have within you. Make sure that your conscience is perfectly clear, so that if men should speak slanderously of you as rogues they may come to feel ashamed of themselves for libelling your good Christian behaviour. If it is the will of God that you should suffer it is really better to suffer unjustly than because you have deserved itPhillips  

If someone is giving you grief about your behavior, you can’t say, ‘but you do that’ or ‘John does that.’ You must look at Jesus. How did he act in those situations? The old WWJD. There is no other yardstick for us to measure ourselves against.

If you are sure, repeat, sure, you were walking with Jesus, then forget it. Let the words slide off like rain on a duck’s feathers.

Remember that Christ the just suffered for us the unjust, to bring us to GodPhillips

When we look at Jesus, we should lose the right to complain about how others treat us.

That meant the death of his body, but he came to life again in the spirit. It was in the spirit that he went and preached to the imprisoned souls of those who had been disobedient in the days of Noah—the days of God’s great patience during the period of the building of the ark, in which eventually only eight souls were saved in the floodPhillips

The imprisoned souls is the closest any scripture came to saying that Jesus died and went to Hell where he preached to the lost. By lost, we mean the dead who ignored God. We read in the Gospels that Jesus died on Friday and returned from the dead on Sunday. What was he doing for three days? It seems he was in Hell because he carried all or our sins on his person. He had to answer to Satan for that. Oh, yes, and defeat the Evil One, and Death while he was at it. Not bad. And what did you do this past weekend?

And I cannot help pointing out what a perfect illustration this is of the way you have been admitted to the safety of the Christian “ark” by baptism, which means, of course, far more than the mere washing of a dirty body: it means the ability to face God with a clear conscience. For there is in every true baptism the virtue of Christ’s rising from the dead. And he has now entered Heaven and is at God’s right hand, with all angels, authorities and powers subservient to himPhillips

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Long Road to Mercy

This is my first read of a Baldacci book. I was taken in by the Atlee Pine character. She is an FBI agent running a single agent office in Arizona. In the first chapter we get the back story that tells us why Pine is so tough. Atlee and her twin sister Mercy, age 6, were awakened in the night by a strange man who decided to take Mercy. She was never seen again.

As an agent, Atlee intends to find her sister.

Meanwhile, she is called to the bottom of the Grand Canyon to investigate the death of a mule. Yes, it is a matter for the FBI. Killing an animal in a National Park is a federal crime. Needless to say, the mule was only the beginning, but you will have to read a number of chapters to get to what is really going on. Long before that, Atlee receives a call from the Deputy Director in DC who warns her, ‘watch your back.’ The mule ceases to be important to her investigation.

This story is not a FBI procedural. In fact, Pine has to go off grid to find out what is really going on.

It is a good read by a man who has written over sixty books, three already in the Pine series.

Mike Lawrence