The Unbaptized Heart

Nineteen years ago our world changed forever. In a modern day Pearl Harbor event, America was attacked and we watched with horror as the Twin Towers fell, a plane plowed through Pennsylvania farmland, and the Pentagon, the symbol of our military strength, was partially decimated. We know families who lost loved ones. We all lost our innocence that day. But America rose up from those ashes. People turned to patriotism and prayer.

Today is a good day to let a Psalm calm those memories and visions. It is a good day to remind ourselves that it is God who delivers us. With his right hand and his holy arm, he brought victory. It is a good day to sing to the Lord a NEW song and tell of his marvelous works. It is a good day to study Psalm 98.

There is an old “preacher story” that has made the rounds in churches that tells about Ivan the Great and his baptism into the Greek Orthodox Church. He desired to marry the daughter of the King of Greece, who required that he be baptized. Ivan’s entire army was also to be baptized, but there was a problem: they would have to resign from fighting, as the church did not permit its members to commit bloodshed. This was a huge issue for the 500 soldiers, but a compromise was reached. They would withdraw their swords as they entered the water for their full-immersion baptism and hold that arm above their heads as they were immersed. Thus the arm and its sword were “unbaptized” and could be employed in fighting.

If you are sitting there scratching your head, you are in good company. How can one truly withhold a part of themselves in a baptism? How could one part of a person be reserved for bloodshed while the rest of the body is being cleansed by the blood shed by Christ?

But before we get too judgmental, ask yourself this: are you raising your arm with something clutched in your hand and keeping it from God? Your time, your talent, an inappropriate relationship, your worship, a destructive habit, your resources, your tithe, your energy…can you say that you have given God a full immersion of your heart?

God shows us by his own example that victory can only come when all of us, including our arms and clutching hands, are holy and wholly engaged in his work.

Psalm 98 (New Revised Standard)

O sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
    have gotten him victory.

You see, when God was fighting for the Israelites, he was ALL IN. He withheld nothing. He raised his right hand and lifted his holy arm in their defense. He remembered his steadfast love for the house of Israel and brought them back to himself.

The Lord has made known his victory;
    he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
    to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
    the victory of our God.

Every nation was made aware of God’s complete love for his people. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for them…including sending his only son to die on a cross so that they might have an eternal home with him.

Are you holding back? Are you holding out on God? Is there something you know you should be offering that you have resisted?

History proves that God will always be there for us. Will we be there for him?

When the people gave up their sinful ways and repented, they returned to God and he restored their nation. The breaking forth of joyful praise was heard everywhere.

It is nineteen years since our nation’s horrific day and we remember the cost of freedom and how God was with us. As we dwell on this today, let us remember to make a joyful noise for God’s presence in our lives.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
    break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
    with the lyre and the sound of melody.

Break Forth by Bonnie Bennett

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