The Importance of Sacraments

RCC Baptism In Progress

Another oldie but goodie from my studies on the sacraments.

Can the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper be overstressed? Of course they can. It’s apparent in the beliefs that center on Baptism being salvific or regenerative or in the Supper that implies the actual physical consumption of Christ’s blood and flesh. The list of extremes goes on a bit from there but I’ll hang my hat at this point. Also, I’m not going to go all through the details of baptism and the Supper – that’s not the point here, so when I speak on the importance and meaning of these two, I am not including all that is implied in the Reformed view of the sacraments.

On the other hand, is it just as possible to under stress them? And if so, which is worse? Overdoing it or minimizing the importance sacraments? I’m leaning toward thinking the greater of the two evils is putting  Baptism and the Supper down at the bottom of importance. I’ll qualify that by remembering Baptism doesn’t save, which hopefully isn’t easy to miss in previous posts here at LAH.

Take a look at this, from a church in Wichita, Kansas: Lord’s Supper Fallacies.

And this is from the Southern Baptist Convention’s Basic Beliefs:

Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water. …It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus.

I think responses to the overdone Roman Catholic idea of baptism (as well as perhaps that of the Pentecostal idea that the H.S. indwells at baptism) have some responsibility for the loss of sacramental weight in the church. In addition to that, superficial study of the Scriptures certainly could lead to conclusions that make the sacraments to be little more than obedience and memorial. I’d rather deal with someone over-dosing on grace than to lose it altogether. Therefore (at risk of my own neck, theologically speaking), I’ll hazard that receiving the sacraments as a phased imparting of grace is safer than the dead works of cold obedience.

RCC Communion In Progress

Here are some references via Biblos, one of my favorite online resources: Baptism Occurrences.

I’d like to mention what convinced me of the inaccuracy concerning ordinances of my youth in the church.

  • The heavy weight of coming to terms with infant-baptism demanded much reading and thinking.
  • My family and I were joining a church that greatly stressed the importance of the sacraments.
  • In reading through historical Christian works, I kept encountering well developed indications that there has always been more to baptism and the Supper than I’d been taught growing up.
  • It just seemed difficult to really accept that the two ceremonies instituted by Christ should mean so little to individual and corporate Christianity.

One big thing I’ve been thinking about lately is assurance. The sermon series in the evenings at our church is working through Acts. There is plenty about baptism in Acts and so plenty of opportunity to think about the point. Our pastor has banged away at this over and over again: we have these sacraments not just as memorials and rituals of obedience but as concrete assurances. We are certain that God is for us, loves us and cares for us by the promises in baptism and the Supper. We can look back to our baptism as God’s claim on us and look forward to the fulfilment of His claiming us at the End. We can put our trust in Him as He never fails to provide the Supper for us, a (weekly, in our case) meeting place where we commune with Christ.

There is hope and assurance in these ceremonies which, though they do not save or make us more holy, do serve to keep us – preserve us in our memories and hopes and present state.  To reduce baptism to a simple act of obedience makes nothing more than a new law and it is neither not redemptive nor representative of the Gospel. Conversely, if we switch views around and see that God, through His minister and the Church, is baptizing us into Christ’s Church and marking us with the promises (covenant) that He makes, is that not grace? The first version leaves the burden on us — we have gained nothing through baptism. In the latter, we have gained everything — the promises, place and hope of the Church and redemption.

The same situation goes for the Supper. If we deny everything but the tombstone memory of a Savior broken and slain for our sins, what does that for us? We don’t need a ceremony for that — there are hymns and Scriptures for that. Why not just read the crucifixion for 15 minutes every Sunday. If we switch views as with baptism, why not see God the Father, through His minister and the Church, bringing us to the Table with our Lord and Savior to fellowship in spirit (through the Spirit) over the grace and mercy we have in Him as Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father? Is that not grace when we are assured that we have a place waiting for us?

I believe that these themes are especially important in this age of electronic mist and passing information. The physical world is becoming less and less important to many (if not most) of us. Because of this, we show up in church on Sunday to consume data, regurgitate a few disposable MP3 songs together and then file it all away until next week. We go home no more confident in our God’s promises than 6 months ago or a decade ago. Unless the mind and spirit, the intangible realm are brought to us in the physical through some medium.


Rings… A look at Baptism

wedding-rings-on-bible_2592353This is an elderly post I thought to put back up in lieu of a new one I’m currently working on. Enjoy.

I really wanted to put up a discussion on the pyramid scheme of Christian life, but it is a lesser discovery and needs more work anyway. Instead, it’s pressing on my mind that I should work out some discussion of baptism. The last year of studies, especially the last two months, have led me deeper in my understanding of the faith. Studying baptism alone has  really worked me over. Romans 11:33

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Of first importance, I have to make a summary statement that I most hope will drive the point home.

Understand as much as you can of baptism and you understand the Gospel, its implications and God’s promises. And vice versa.

What baptism is not: Baptism isn’t just a public statement of a private arrangement with God. It’s not analogous to “coming out of the closet.” It is also not salvific, meaning it does not add to salvation nor, if not performed, does its lack take away from salvation. It is not analogous to applying a waterproof seal over a finished surface.

What baptism is: Baptism is God’s public claiming, through the administration of the church, of His people. In essence, He is saying “These are Mine, with all the rights, responsibilities, privileges and benefits of being members in My kingdom, being My children, being the brothers and sisters of My Son, soldiers in My army, priests in My church, My disciples, My emissaries and ambassadors, the bride of Christ.”

Baptism is identification with, declaration of, alignment with, ceremonial purification of, pledging of/to and accepting of.

I’m gonna lay off the details for this post. There’s SO MUCH I want to say but by way of introduction, here’s how to look at the whole thing in a nicely packaged imagery.

I have to thank Bill Shishko, who doesn’t even know me, for spending over 23 hours of lecturing to encapsulate masses of information most of which I never even considered, confirming much of what I suspected and tearing down presupposition after presupposition I was clinging to. I have a number of other thank-you mentions, but gotta start with the source for today’s illustration. In wanting to get this out today, I’m putting the Scripture off till the next post. I have backing for all of it, and want to treat that with care and accuracy. So without further…

Baptism is like a ring. One that signifies a  continuing past, present and future for us. The ring image contains the already-not-yet idea of the kingdom, marriage supper of the Lamb and our perseverance. So I look at this from the perspective of what has happened in my life, what is progressing now and then what the final pieces are when all is finished.

A wedding ring that signifies union, unity, faithfulness, purity, separation, promise.

When we wear our baptism, we are reminded of our relationship with Christ. We are in Him. We have pledged to be faithful to Him in all our doings, for He is with us in all that we do. We are to maintain our purity, our intimacy belonging to Him. We wear our promise to belong to Him. We are ready to love our Lord and protect His name and die for it when the time comes.

An engagement ring that signifies dedication, chastity, honesty, purpose.

When we wear our baptism, we are reminded of our betrothal to Christ. We will be joined with Him. We have pledged to consummate our work and fidelity with a loving, committed union with Him. We have sworn to be intimate with none other than Christ and with expectation that our intimacy will be full, complete, thorough. We have taken on the duty of honesty so that every betrayal of our fidelity is to be brought to Him for our restoration. We are filled with a purpose of finishing the betrothal with finality.

A royal ring that is a seal that signifies status, responsibility, authority, sonship.

When we wear our baptism, we have aligned ourselves with a state that is above all others. We are representatives of that kingdom. We are under its laws and customs. Moreover, we are heirs of that kingdom, possessing it and sons of the greatest king in history. We have authority to proclaim the law and good will of the king and to seal, with His signet, the rulings of His kingdom. We are willing to die rather than betray the honor and worthiness of God’s kingdom and His name.

A class ring that is a memento of where we were, the infancy of our introduction to understanding, knowing and fearing God.

When we wear our baptism, we have a constant reminder of our studies, that we’ve graduated to a level above our pagan origin which knows not God’s law or Gospel and are partakers in the benefits of both of them. We know the Gospel, believe it and orient our lives to coincide with its implications. We’re reminded of our commencement, our apprehension of the truth, our conversion and entry into being disciples of our Master.

A trophy ring that is commemorative of our striving and warring, training and ultimate victory.

When we wear our baptism, we have the promise that the conflict of this age is going to come to an end. We know that it ultimately has already been won. We are shown the promises God has made regarding our election, preservation and the victory which progress through our lives. We’re minded of our team and the hard work together both in training and in combat which is aimed solely at glorifying the King, our Commander in Chief.

Sensitivity Censor… er… Reader

Censorship Sensitivity reader services just popped onto my radar screen today. I must admit, it’s only a little troubling.

Hey! Let’s ban books before they get published! That means we won’t have to maintain the list anymore and nobody will ever get the chance to read any of these seriously dangerous pieces of literature.

This from NPR

Lord help us, the ability to publish garbage is like an inalienable human right! Hasn’t it been for all time? Shoot, Marcion could get published with his heresy. So could Aleister Crowley (witchcraft) and Hitler. I’m pretty sure the masses are what determine bad work from good work, and.. get this… the opine of the masses changes! Look at the Victorian Era serials, a glut of writing that people gobbled at the time, yet if we look  at some examples today, there is little but wonder at how such linguistic architecture even passed for literature. Keep in mind, the serials were frequently paid for by line as well as piece, so if you could jam some big fatty $20 terminology and couch it with $12 flowery descriptives, you were in the money.

Even the Bible, offensive as it is to the majority, survives not by the will of the critics but by the consensus of the masses over millennia.

Can you imagine if Shakespeare, Jack London, Heinlein or (insert pre-2,000’s author here) was pre-screened by a sensitivity reader? Oh, by the way, had they done so at the time, mores and philosophies have changed. You depend on an individual specialist today, you’re obsolete tomorrow. Better to simply write the best quality, carefully and responsibly, leaving the finished work to the masses. Bob the equality expert is a voice in the wind, likely less of value than even your worst attempt at literature.



The Hobbit Via Storywonk – The Other Side

I’m a huge fan of the Storywonk seminar on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books. I’m a huge fan of the books themselves and just about anything Tolkien ever wrote.

Here are some observations I made from the session covering the flight from the Eagles’ Eyries to Beorn’s house, Chapter Seven “Queer Lodgings. These are short and not in my typical flowery language, but they’re here for a start. Maybe as things progress, I can write some articles in response to the TABA(tm) discussion.

  1. Of course, Gandalf didn’t tell the true reason for the mission. Since even the dwarves didn’t know. The removal of the dragon was instrumental in the grand design to defeat Sauron himself.
  2. Beorn seems like an Adam figure who is in dominion as in the Christian Eden. How remarkable. Another gate to the East.
  3. The eagles in LOTR and the Silmarillion were certainly a transcendent package. They were far more than eagles. I wonder that the 2nd and 3rd age animals were more prototypical of the more mundane we have today. Intentional? Like near-post fall nature?
  4. Beorn suddenly appears to me, in this session (thanks, Alastair) to be a sort of Adam from Eden. He is pared down, simply human without sophistication, exercising dominion over nature just as the First Adam would have. The company has stumbled into another Eden that is facing East for them. All the things they see are new in some way, from the animals to the un-named garden plants. This is quite interestingly analogous to the idea that the Shire is a sort of Eden. In fact, Beorn’s holding is more so like Eden. What we miss in both is the simple partnership of man and woman, which stands out to me, but doesn’t shatter my impression that Tolkien might well be influenced by the primal Biblical concepts.
  5. Very odd that Beorn hadn’t (apparently) knowledge of the Wood Elves’ presence on the eastern end of that little-known forest path. Highly unlikely that knowledge of such a path didn’t include its nether end.

These Are A Few Of My Horrible Things

During the course of a good conversation with a dear friend today, I was reminded that I do not regret the years I spent in witchcraft. On the contrary, I believe that one thing Wicca had then, which I’d not found prior, was a belief in and connection to the vitality which is Creation and the Creator who made it all.

I battled intensely through my 18th year of life, not really knowing what it was I was missing, with the truth of Scripture, my belief and my salvation. Call it a Luther-type period of wrestling. I did not know until years later that I was battling a christian upbringing that was practically dead; which denied the very truth about the means of God’s grace, His sacraments and even more, the truth about our spirits’ and bodies’ interconnectedness.

Needless to say, I am most grateful for the battle, the departure from mainstream evangelical baptist theology and even the years in witchcraft. Glory to God for how all his works, while mysterious, are good.

A short caveat so people don’t get the wrong idea: The Gospel was preached and the church was still the Church as I was growing up. The marks were there (Word, Sacrament, Fellowship, all that). The lack was most of all a deep love of the physical and mystical implications of Christianity. There was a weakness, a tiny, yet tidy, works-oriented, soul-denying process to salvation and the Christian life that I could not come to grips with. Roughly, it’s like not taking your kid to the doctor because you believe God will heal him.

Just a few of the horrible things I’ve learned in the past six or so years.

  1. Baptism is NOT a profession of faith.
  2. The Lord’s Supper is NOT a memorial.
  3. The Church is my mother.
  4. Theologians are good.
  5. Church Fathers are VERY GOOD.
  6. Sola Scriptura does NOT mean everything else is a false teacher.
  7. Prophets are on the pages of the Bible, not here with us today.
  8. Calvin’s Institutes, the Westminster Confession and Catechism and the Three Forms of Unity are NOT substitutes for Scripture, but if you argue with them, you’re on thin ice.
  9. Nobody, not NOBODY can say “don’t listen to those other guys – you gotta interpret the Bible for yourself!.” – See #6.
  10. Confession, The Confession of sins, corporately, and the absolution that follows is AWESOME!. One part of Roman Catholicism that should’ve survived.
  11. Body matters. Your posturing in worship, the Pastor’s animation, singing and being AWARE of the Body is essential.
  12. There are only 10 commandments. Movies, dating, beer, dancing and parties are NOT in the decalogue.
  13. A.D. 70 was prophesy. The coming rapture and tribulation are not. Jesus only comes back once. (Thank God I no longer tremble in fear when the house is empty, thinking maybe I missed the rapture).
  14. Church tradition is ESSENTIAL.
  15. If you write your own statement of faith for ordination (or for your church, for that matter), U R Doin’ it wrong. Somebody already did it for you. CREEDS and CONFESSIONS are ESSENTIAL.
  16. Young Earth Creationism is not a commandment. Nor is it a test of saving faith.
  17. My testimony is not a test of saving faith. Nor of the degree of my faith.
  18. Children’s church may be one of the worst modern inventions ever. It’s like divorce.
  19. Arminians don’t get a say about orthodoxy, sorry. Election is a fact. You don’t choose your Savior.
  20. Altar Calls are tantamount to Mom passively aggressively guilting you into eating your broccoli. Shameful.

The Poetry of Paper Screams


I’m having a blast writing again. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so prolific. The response to a number of the poems on Paper Screams is very encouraging. Since I’ve connected my media output to FB, Instagram and Google-Plus, a number of new readers have connected to me and they’ve begun to follow and comment. I’m really happy about that.

What I love most is being able to step out of my old wrangling with self and emotion to reach into imagery and stories about the things I love and dream about. I’ve captured the West, the desert, scenes of Europe and places that inspire me; rambling, I guess you could call it.

Having an audience is wonderful, of course, but I’ve found that reading through these considerably less introspective (and intense) pieces of work is pretty therapeutic. As always, my poetry exists as if I, myself, didn’t really write it. Each time I go back and read my own, I feel like I’m reading something from the outside of me. It’s true of my spiritual and emotional stuff, too, but the new things like the Lost Chalks Sessions really are fantastic to revisit.

As I’ve said a number of times in the past, I’d love to bookify my poetry. This time, I may be closer – there’s some real material to harvest from Paper Screams that could produce a couple of volumes. Maybe I’m not worth money, but for me, even if I’m the only interested owner of a couple of hardback Paper Screams anthologies, a couple of books would be something to hug myself over.

Instagram is important here, because I’ve been enabled to include images with my words, something I’ve toyed with in the past, but now finds a real medium in which it’s worthy. And to do a book with the same format sounds really cool. I’m inspired by Louis L’Amour’s Frontier, done with David Muench and other older books like Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland and the Oz books that have images. The purist “no pictures” bunch is missing a valid point in the experience department. Words are great, but there’s a whole lot more when you can emphasize your message with a well-selected and placed image.

Either way, that’s where I’m at these days. Nothing big, just a few words on my old favorite subject.

The Willis Project


I’m starting a new project over on Paper Screams. It’s focused on my Grandfather, Willis Hickok.

I have a small collection of memorabilia from his life. Some drawings, artifacts, tools and such. I plan on writing, mostly poetry, but some prose, on these things and memories. Obviously there will be pieces of work including Grandma and others who are tied to this.

I’m soliciting anecdotes, photos or whatever else may be relevant in support of this project.

This will be an off-and-on, running theme for a long while, I suspect. But it’ll be good. There’s a lot of funny, emotional and historic stuff to work from.