Category Archives: baptism

kingdom momentum

For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth.” –Genesis 7:17

It happened yesterday … the earth’s baptism became ours. Let me explain.

We’re twenty-three days into the academic year. Each morning, we begin our day with pledges, prayers, and a time of meditation in God’s Word. Thus far, while our sessions have been lively and often full of questions, I haven’t felt a building momentum within my students’ hearts for the masterpiece that is God’s Word. Certainly, they’ve been willing to receive it, but absorbing it at a deeper level—the level where the Holy Spirit turns the key in the lock to open up the secrets of the kingdom of God? Well, I’ve been waiting. Yesterday, I saw it … felt it for the first time … in their eyes and in the temperature of the classroom.

We’ve been building up to the story of Noah – a story so familiar to most that the wonder and mystery often gets buried in translation. In the past four weeks, I’ve talked often about the issue of “movement” away from Eden – God’s original home for his original people. In that discussion, we’ve drawn a conclusion together: the further the people moved away from Eden (both in time and distance), the more wickedness there was in the world. By the time Noah arrives on the scene, sin abounds. Gone are the days of perfection; come are the days of deep iniquity.

“The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth – men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air – for I am grieved that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:5-8)

And so God’s flood—rains falling from the sky and waters rising up from the earth to fully engulf all that had “the breath of life in its nostrils” (Gen. 7:22-23). Indeed, how it must have grieved the Father to bring this judgment so early in those beginning days, to wipe out his image-bearers and to (in a sense) begin again with fresh brushstrokes on a re-created canvas.

At this point in the telling of the story, I asked my students a question. In doing so, I felt the shift in my spirit and in theirs. I hadn’t planned on the shift – it simply and profoundly arrived, begging my participation.

“Kids, can any of you identify one of this week’s spelling words that might best describe what God was doing to the earth at this point in history?”  

A few of them grabbed their spelling books to peruse the list. One of them, however, caught it immediately. With eyes as big as saucers and a light exploding therein, she dispensed with the hand-raising formality and blurted out …

“Baptize. Mrs. Olsen, he was baptizing the earth!”

And they got it – all of them. It was probably only a moment of stunned silence, counted in seconds rather than minutes, but it felt like more than that, like time stood still as this eternal truth took hold and embedded itself deeply within the soil of their souls. The earth’s baptism became ours, and I’m thrilled to report that spiritual momentum has arrived for the fourth grade!

That may not mean much to you, but it means everything to them … to me. Folks, there needs to be some depth to what we’re doing, how we’re spending our lives. Regardless of where God has you in this season of your life, every now again, you need to feel that momentum—that shift in your spirit that validates your station in life, your purpose for being here. Too often we lose that sense of purpose; we muddle through our existence because we have to without realizing that, along the way and as we go, we can build momentum for the kingdom of God. With our attitudes, our obedience, our words, and our willingness to authentically live therein, we can move the kingdom forward.

I’ve waited four weeks for momentum to take hold in young hearts; some of us might have to wait a bit longer. But in the obedience to dig for it and to prayerfully expect it, when it arrives we understand that it wasn’t an accident. Rather, we know it was and is an intentional work of grace by and from the Holy Spirit. God, the Creator of everything that has life and breath in its nostrils is faithful to baptize our hearts and the work of our hands with the fresh wind of his Spirit as we are faithful to bathe our lives (and to live our lives) in the truth of his Word.

So in gratefulness, and with expectation, I pray …

Let it rain, Lord. Not just in me, and not just in the fourth grade, but let your rain pour down into us and within us, baptizing us with newness of life and with a fresh revelation of your presence and your purpose for our tomorrows. Cleanse us from the wickedness that seeks to strangle us and that keeps kingdom momentum from accelerating in us and through us. Lord, we long to be part of your plan, to surrender our lives for your many good purposes and to know that our obedience is yielding a fruitful harvest. We applaud your faithfulness. We honor your Lordship. We delight in your companionship. We welcome your baptism. So rain on us, Lord. Humbly we wait for your waters today. Amen.  


My heart’s been moved again by the story of Philip and the Ethiopian as found in Acts 8:26-40. This encounter unfolds like a series of rapid succession snapshots, sort of like living a narrative through the lens of a view-finder. Remember those? Philip’s story is a faith-stepping one; it has a lot to teach us about the seasonal work of faith in our lives. Imagine with me for a few moments. Perhaps, like me, you’ll find yourself somewhere in the script.

Philip steps forward. “Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. So he started out, …”. (vs. 26-27)

A life of faith is initiated and directed by the hand of God. A saint steps forward (even to a desert road) when God shouts “Go!”.

Philip steps near. “The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’ Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ Philip asked.” (vs. 29-30)

A life of faith is often lived out alongside the questioning soul. A saint steps near the questions and isn’t intimidated by the pace of the chariot.

Philip steps up. “‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone explains it to me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.” (vs. 31)

A life of faith rises to the occasion. A saint steps up into the chariot to tell the truth . . . to give a reason for the hope residing within.

Philip steps down. “As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?’ And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.” (vs. 26-38)

A life of faith understands that life truly begins in the baptismal waters of grace. A saint steps down into the river to pour life into others, even it means getting wet in the process. With God, a little wetness is all the more and then some. How long has it been since you’ve stepped down into those waters of grace?

Philip steps out. “When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on rejoicing.” (vs. 39)

A life of faith is characterized by seasons. A saint steps out of the scene when God shouts, “Go!”. Some faith-assignments are lengthier than others, but most always they are limited to a time-period. Wise are those who know when to linger and when to step out of the scene.

Philip steps on. “Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.” (vs. 40)

A life of faith keeps moving forward beyond the “stretches and strengthenings” of the soul. A saint steps on to walk the path and do the work of kingdom building. Faith doesn’t end where the last baptism took place. Faith journeys forward to new waters and new chariots in order to dispense the familiar grace from an old, rugged cross.

Thus, faith . . .

  • Steps forward.
  • Steps near.
  • Steps up.
  • Steps down.
  • Steps out.
  • Steps on.

Where are you stepping today, friends?

Step always in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. This road is coming to an end and one day soon, our faith will be our eyes. Until then, keep stepping. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

on "going public" with Jesus…

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:16-17).

Today we celebrated “the Baptism of the Lord” in our worship service. I didn’t know that this particular event in Jesus’ life received a Sunday all its own, even though I’ve been doing this “liturgical” dance with the Methodists all of my life. Christ’s baptism certainly is worthy of remembrance as are all his moments, but this one in particular marked the beginning of something special.

It marked Christ’s beginning journey to the cross—his public ministry on this earth. What began in the Jordan would climax at Calvary. When John baptized Jesus in keeping with the fulfillment of Scripture, God introduced his Son to the world with a few words of sacred commendation. With his affirming love and with his “well-pleased.” The Holy Spirit lighted upon Jesus in the form of a dove, empowering him to walk the earthly road assigned to him.

Today, my preacher (a.k.a. “my man”) admonished us to “remember our baptism” as well. To acknowledge that moment from our past when we first “went public” with the grace of God. My public moment came as a young adolescent, kneeling at the altar railing of the Wilmore United Methodist Church. Dr. David Seamands spoke the moment over me. I remember my white dress, the one I desperately searched for because it was so very important to me to look pure—to be adorned in white raiment in keeping with the sacred occasion. A few friends joined me at the altar that day. They other details have long since faded from memory, but I do remember thinking that this occasion was something more than in keeping with religious protocol. It was a day that marked the beginning of something bigger in my own journey… a walk to the cross of sorts, where my heart and life identified with the heart and life of Jesus Christ at a deeper level.

Long before I ever felt the “wetness” of Dr. Seamands’ hands upon my head, God’s grace was working on my behalf. There has never been a time in my life when Jesus wasn’t real to me. He’s always been present; always been part of my thoughts. He began the sacred conversation with my soul at the earliest of ages. It continues to this day, and I cannot imagine my life without him.

I suppose there have been seasons when I tried… tried to live free from him. Times when I deliberately chose flesh over faith, but even in those moments of willful rebellion, the conversation continued. Muffled some days because of my freely chosen decisions, but present nonetheless. Jesus Christ has kept me, friends, all the days of my forty-three years. He is the reason I have peace in my heart. He is the reason I gather with the saints on a Sunday morning to reflect and remember, rejoice and relive the single truth that has claimed me and transformed me.

Today I remembered Christ’s baptism. I remembered my own. I dipped my hand into the water and clutched remembrance to my chest. I knelt at the altar again and considered my “long ago and far away.” I considered Christ’s as well, and I was thankful for his “entering into” that Jordan River so that I could, one day, enter into my very own moment of “going public” with God.

Please don’t misunderstand me. Baptism, for me, exceeds religious practice. I understand the huge denominational divide that separates our views along these lines. I simply don’t get hung up on it. God’s grace and his Son’s moment at the Jordan are too big to allow me to linger in my limited understanding therein. Some of you are dearly devoted to Jesus Christ and have never had a moment of “going public” with your heart. No water has sprinkled its wetness upon your head; your body hasn’t been submerged in a baptistery, much less the Jordan River. Let me assure you of this…

You are no less precious in our Father’s eyes. If Christ has entered into your broken and weary estate, if you have received him as your Lord and Savior, then you have “gone public” with your Jesus. You have been baptized with the renewing power of his Holy Spirit. When it comes to the matter of our hearts, we answer only to One. And if your heart belongs to the King, then all of heaven rejoices and bends low to offer their chorused applause. Your wetness on the inside far exceeds any public display of “wet” on the outside.

Does that mean that “baptism” is nothing, that it accomplishes nothing, isn’t important or not an appropriate response to the working of the Holy Spirit within us? Not at all. Baptism is an outward and visible sign of an inward working of grace. It is one of the ways we “go public” with our Jesus and our profession of faith. And I happen to believe that “going public” with Jesus is always in keeping with his plans for the crucified life. A life that identifies, in part, with the Savior who went public with his commitment to the cross so that you and I could better walk our commitment accordingly.

Today I remembered my baptism, I remembered Christ’s as well. Tomorrow I pray to remember the same—to never walk a single day without the grace of Calvary pulsing through my veins. I want my life to be the lavish expression of the life that he lived and breathed and walked and surrendered some 2000 years ago on my behalf. To offer any less to him, is to live less. And the last time I checked, “less” didn’t fit with God’s agenda of more.

It’s been a long time since my “long ago and far away” moment of “going public” with Jesus. There are few remaining persons in my life who actually remember that moment. I don’t imagine they think on it very often. The water that poured down my head has long since dried up, and the godly man who put it there? Well, he walked home to Jesus not long ago. But there is One who thinks on it very often. His memory is clear, and his rejoicing still resounds throughout all of heaven to announce that I am his, that his working grace continues on my behalf, and that the indwelling power of his Holy Spirit has found a good and spacious rest within my soul.

I am the living temple of God’s living Spirit. So are you. In wearing him, we wear our “going public” display of his witness for all the world to see.

Wear your baptism this week, friends. Remember it well, and walk it into a world that needs the pulse of Calvary moving through its midst. As always…

peace for the journey,

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PS: Friends, please refrain from allowing our comments to become a heated debate regarding the practice of baptism. This is not my intent with this post, but rather to allow us remembrance and reflection regarding the importance of wearing our “baptism”–whatever that has been for us–as a living witness to the world. Shalom.

Copyright © January 2010 – Elaine Olsen

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