“All In”

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”    Matthew 18: 18-20

Twenty years ago I prayed the most important prayer of my life.  I sat on the floor at a Christian rock concert as part of a youth convention I attended, and asked Christ to be Lord and Savior of my life.  I committed my life, promising to walk in faith and trust in God.  Today, two decades later, I finally took the step of obedience and participated in a “believer’s baptism”. 

I don’t “feel” any different.  I didn’t have any spiritual “awakening”.  Fireworks didn’t go off.  But, in spite of all that, I can’t help notice this sense of peace.  Something I haven’t had for a long time.

My decision to get baptized started about 8 years ago when a pastor at my church wrote a book about baptism.  I had been raised in the ELCA (Lutheran church) and was baptized as an infant, and confirmed in 8th grade.  So by the time I was in my mid-twenties, I didn’t know that there was any reason to question my baptism.  I was a believer, and I assumed that was all I needed to know.  I bought a copy of this book, and as I read it, I was introduced for the first time to arguments for and against infant baptism. 

Jump ahead a few more years, I began listening to conservative Christian talk radio, where many of the Bible teachers on the station were Calvinists.  Many had differing views on baptism, and two of the teachers even went so far as to hold a debate on adult vs. infant baptism.  Now, my curiosity was sparked, and I had to find out for myself if there was any reason why I shouldn’t be satisfied with my infant baptism. 

It took several more years before the “fear” of doing something so bold would subside, and by Spring of 2014 I was ready to discuss my own baptism.  The church we were attending at that time believed in adult only baptism, and was a very small congregation.  By the time I worked up the nerve to bring it up, the pastor and his wife announced that they were moving to another state.  Weeks later, I started attending a new church, one that my kids and I participated in during school year for mid-week Bible Study.  About the third week of attending Sunday Service, I saw an announcement in the bulletin that there would be an informational meeting regarding the annual baptism service.  I immediately felt a sense of conviction- I had to go.

The difficult part of following the conviction of the Holy Spirit is that Satan is ready to so whatever he can to slow you down.  In the months and weeks preceding my baptism, I had a number struggles and challenges that I can only describe as spiritual battles.  This included struggles in my relationships at home, at work, and with extended family.  It included a job loss.  I failed the licensure test for my new job three times causing me to have to seek different work.  I lost my unemployment benefits.  My marriage was falling apart.  I was even presented with the choice to read a book authored by a false teacher or insult someone very close to me.  I was accused of being unforgiving, I was accused of theft, and I was accused of self sabotage.  All the while I prayed, “LORD, help me to do what is right in YOUR eyes!” 

Today, I attribute this sense of peace to the work of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit.  I still have all these challenges to face- but the difference is, now I know I can trust God with the outcome.  I am finally “All In”.  Literally, and metaphorically.  I was “All In” when I was baptized today, something I feared for many years.  And I’m “All In” for the rest of my life.  I’m giving it ALL to God, to take control and move as He sees fit.  It leaves me with a tremendous burden lifted off my shoulders. 

My life has been full of compromising good for evil.  I won’t even begin to list all the things I’ve done that have gone against God.  In his book, “Living the Psalms”, Chuck Swindoll writes, “Compromising with wrong is allowing the slow-moving tentacles of evil to wrap themselves around us, squeezing the joys and rewards of obedience from our lives.  It happens so silently, so subtly, we hardly realize it’s taking place.  Like an enormous oak that has decayed for years from within and then suddenly falls, those who permit the eroding grind of compromise can expect an ultimate collapse”.  This was me for years.  I loved God.  But I did not give it ALL to Him.  That’s why I needed to make the decision to be “ALL IN”.

Habakuk 3:17-19 states, Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength;he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” 

God doesn’t promise to remove the mountains.  He does, however, promise to give us “hinds feet” in order to climb the mountain.  He equips us.  He strengthens us.  Regardless of our circumstances, God deserves our praise. 

I’m ready.  I’m “All In”.  How about you?

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.  Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.  So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.  My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips”  Psalm 63:1-5

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