Monday, November 16, 2009

New believers and new church members

In recent weeks I've had the privilege of participating in several baptisms.

Traditional Taiwanese culture places great significance on rituals. [You can listen to a sermon I preached in January of 2008 about how Christian rites are different from those of traditional Taiwanese religion.]

As new Taiwanese Christians come to faith, we spend time explaining to them about Christian baptism, how the water is not magical, but instead simply acts as a sign that points to the fact that we are all called to look in faith on Jesus Christ who died to cleanse us of our sins. In celebration, we often sing the song "Nothing but the Blood of Jesus" when we have baptisms at New Hope.

One young mother, a reader of Judy's infant care book, began coming to New Hope and she professed her faith and was baptized on October 25, 2009. She is the first Hakka believer whom Joel has had a chance to baptize.

You can hear her testimony here, or click below:

Carol Huang was baptized by sprinkling with water.

Sprinkling with water points to the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and the sprinkling of His blood to purify us from all sin. The mode of sprinkling is probably the most attested to in Scripture, e.g. in Hebrews 9:10 referring to the temple ritual washings (in the Greek - "various baptisms"...) in which things were sprinkled with blood or water mixed with the ashes of a sacrificed heifer.
"The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" Hebrews 9:13-14

Through the prophet Ezekiel, God uses the imagery of these temple purifications to teach us about how our hearts can be clean of sin by God's work of grace, sending the Holy Spirit to give us a new heart to come to repentance and put our faith in Jesus Christ.
"I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NIV)

We are so delighted that God gives us a part in bringing new believers into the church to begin a life of serving the living God.

One young doctor, Thomas Chu has been coming to New Hope for about a year now. You can hear his testimony by clicking on this link, or simply playing the following:

I baptized Thomas Chu on November 1, 2009. He requested the pouring mode of baptism. Using the method of pouring reminds us of justification by grace through faith, and particularly points to the "washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit," the fact that our faith was brought about by Holy Spirit's work as God poured out His Spirit on us to apply the redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ. Joel 2:28, Titus 3:4-7

On that Sunday, during the middle of the worship service, most of the New Hope congregation joined us out in the courtyard to witness Thomas' baptism before heading back in to listen to the sermon.

During Thomas' baptism, it started raining so the rest of us got wet as well.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Children are a blessing from the Lord.

Judy meets many moms because of her infant-care blog and some of them have come to New Hope church in Taipei. On the last Sunday of October, Joel got to baptize one of the mom's who had begun coming to New Hope and became a Christian and joined the church. Please pray for that many more parents will become Christians.

We are so happy to also get a chance to show how much children are a blessing and valuable in a nation that has the lowest birthrate in the world (because children are often thought of mainly as trouble).

After reading Judy's book on infant care, some of the parents have been encouraged to go on to have their second or third child.