Our First Baptism Of 2023!

Jesus said, ‘…I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’ 

John 10.10

Last weekend we had the pleasure of having a Sunday Celebration focused around baptism. We had two members of our church family get baptised, Joe & Hayley. We also had a family who had expressed wanting to baptise their son a few years ago, but for whatever reason, didn’t go ahead with it at the time. Then last week when they heard we were having a Baptism Celebration, not only did they want their son to be baptised, but both parents wanted to as well! Where, as a church family we have been praying to see God move, which in many cases, we won’t see the fruits of that labour due to personal relationships with God, Sunday really was the epitome of God calling His children closer to Him and it was a beautiful thing to be a part of and witness.

What is Baptism?

Baptism marks the beginning of a journey with God which continues for the rest of our lives, the first step in response to God’s love. It is a joyful moment when we rejoice in what God has done for us in Christ, making serious promises and declaring the faith. The wider community of the local church and friends welcome the new Christian, promising support and prayer for the future. Hearing and doing these things provides an opportunity to remember our own baptism and reflect on the progress made on that journey, which is now to be shared with this new member of the Church.

The service paints many vivid pictures of what happens in the Christian way. There is the sign of the cross, the badge of faith in the Christian journey, which reminds us of Christ’s death for us. Our ‘drowning’ in the water of baptism, where we believe we die to sin and are raised to new life, unites us to Christ’s dying and rising, a picture that can be brought home vividly by the way the baptism is administered. Water is also a sign of new life, as we are born again by water and the Spirit. This reminds us of Jesus’ baptism. And as a sign of that new life, there may be a lit candle, a picture of the light of Christ conquering the darkness of evil. Everyone who is baptised walks in that light for the rest of their lives.

As you pray for the candidates, picture them with yourself and the whole Church throughout the ages, journeying into the fullness of God’s love.

To me this beautiful sentiment reminds me of a worship song that I’ve had on repeat recently:

I have decided
To follow Jesus
No turning back
Oh oh, no turning back

No Turning Back By Israel Houghton

Testimonies

Other than the actual ‘act of being dunked under water’drowning’, my favourite part of the Celebration was when each candidate got asked:

“Why do you want to be baptised?”

To hear the stories and reasoning behind them, especially from 11 year old Frederico, who had been asking his parents for years to be baptised, it was really special!

Below are Joe & Hayley’s testamonies that they were happy to share:

Joe:

Most of my life I’ve been a plonker, I’m not going into too much detail of the things I did, they are best forgotten, I’m a new person now with Christ, but I will give you a small insight.

I started drinking at the age of 13, I enjoyed being drunk, it would allow me to be that person that I thought I wanted to be.
I would carry a knife and threaten my peers, I would lie, cheat and steal.

When I was 14 I got caught in school dealing drugs.
I would use my mums house to weigh out and cut the drugs we could sell.
I would pick up drugs with a gun in the car.

I would make sure that I was drunk everyday.
After sessions of drinking and getting high, I would regularly pass my daughter walking along the road on her way to school.
I’d drink so much that I’d black out.
Most of the things that happened in those days I can’t remember.
I bump into people from time to time that tell me stories of the things i did, and I have no recollection of a lot of the events.
I was a bully, a liar and a thief. You wouldn’t believe the stuff I stole, that was my life in a nut shell, pretty much fuled by booze, drugs and poor decisions.

After a few years living this way.
I ended up in hospital with what I thought was a heart attack, I got sent home.
A few days later the doctor called me, he said to me I needed to stop drinking or be faced with liver failure. That was a tough choice for me, I liked to drink, it was who I was, I couldn’t even imagine my life without booze.

I made the difficult decision to try and stop drinking.
After a few days of detox (which was horrific), I was struggling without the drink, and struggling to step away from my friend group.
I was looking for help, and through Jesus, God provided that help, I picked up a bible and starting to read 1 Corinthians, I don’t even know why I chose that book.
What I was reading made sense where it didn’t before.
I could see my condition and the condition of the whole of humanity written within the pages.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.””

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭1‬:‭18‬-‭19‬ ‭

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” ‭

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭1‬:‭25‬

I started praying and my addictions began to ease, I started talking to God and I found myself acting like my true self, and the meaning for my life was becoming clear. I cut ties from a lot of the people that I associated with.
I read the Bible for hours everyday, when I finished I started over again. I done this three times in succession. And I’ve recently realised I need to read Gods word even more.

I need Christ in my life, if I stray from God all my addictions come back to me.
Without Christ I am nothing, through Christ all things become clear and I gain peace in my life, there is no going back for me now, all I want to do is get closer to God everyday of my life.

“I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.”

Psalm 145
Hayley:

Growing up I knew a little bit about Jesus, I knew all the stories you learn at primary school like the resurrection and Jesus’ birth but I didn’t go to church or read the Bible. I was a shy kid and didn’t like to talk much because I have a lisp. But growing up I was surrounded by my loving family and a lot of wonderful times.
Moving on to my teenage years I struggled at school with the social aspect but I did enjoy studying. Around halfway into secondary school an incident happened with someone I called a friend, the way my school handled it couldn’t have been any worse and it ended up making the rest of my time at school a misery. I realised if I had an appointment with the school counsellor then I would miss my lessons so I used any and every excuse to spend as much time out of class, if anything this made me stick out more. I ended up becoming very lost and confused and I struggled a lot with my mental health.

I left school and didn’t even last a month in college before I dropped out. This only caused more stress in my life, I hated the college course I was on, it turns out I only liked to participate in sport not actually learn about it. I wasted away the days by lying in bed not going out and not even really talking to my family. I was depressed, anxious, I had no confidence or self-esteem and I was disrespectful towards my family, I didn’t look for a new college or any work. Looking back, I was selfish but so blinded by my own hurt.

I became angry all the time, I struggled to relax and sleep. It was a whole mess. I was at my lowest point. I can’t even explain the feeling, I just felt numb to everything. I decided I needed to leave the house at least once a week so after a week or so of God throwing some hints about this certain martial art, I joined Barking jiu jitsu and very quickly started training 5 times a week.

I was probably on the mats more than I was at home and Joe would often talk about Christianity and his faith to another team mate who was Islamic, they would talk about the similarities and differences and Joe would often preach the gospel and invite him to church. After a while the fact that I really knew so little about any religion interested me, and so I started studying Islam, I ended up deciding to stop studying Islam and start studying Christianity, but I was back and forth for about a year. I found a small Bible at home which I would read but I ended up having so many questions and no one to ask them to. Often, I would give up and then when I would wake up in the morning I would be unsettled and constantly thinking about Jesus and whether or not God is real. I would go back to studying and the cycle would begin again.

I remember thinking this isn’t working and so I decided to stop reading and start praying, I had no idea how to pray but thought it surely couldn’t be that hard. I just started talking to God out loud, I remember saying something along the lines of I don’t know how to do this or if I’m even doing it right but if you’re real I need help understanding. A few weeks later Joe asked if I wanted to Bible study before class started on Fridays and we started studying the sermon on the mount. Whenever I prayed, I felt valued and understood. I listened to Christian music 24/7 and watched countless testimonies. That was in 2019. My transformation wasn’t overnight it was a small burn but God changed my heart little by little whilst dealing with my frustrated prayers.

Now I have a desire to continue building a strong relationship with God. Jesus held onto me even though I resisted for years but He never gave up and I’ll be with Him for the rest of my days.

Prayers For Those Who Were Baptised

Lord, we thank you for the precious gift of baptism, that we can publicly declare our love and passion for you. Lord, we ask for your goodness and blessings to be poured out on your faithful servants. We pray that you would work deeply within their hearts and souls to renew and refresh them each day. Come guide their footsteps, give them a hope and a vision for the future.

As of Sunday, the past is gone. They stand free and whole, loved and forgiven within the kingdom of God. Father, cover and protect them now, encircle them with your promises and fill their hearts with joy. May this day be one they cherish and remember forever!

Amen

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