Friday, September 22, 2017

Am I Old Enough to be Baptized?

by Debbie Bumbalough

Bible class teachers and parents are often asked by young children, “Am I old enough to be baptized?” or “How old do I have to be before I can be baptized?” 

Because of the importance of this basic question and also the sensitivity of a child’s heart, our choice of words can have everlasting impressions. Because it is difficult to pinpoint an age when a child reaches the proper maturity level to make the decision to become a Christian, answering the question with a specific age would not necessarily be right or wrong. A middle of the road answer to the child might be, “When you have studied God’s Word, and talked the decision over with your parents or loved ones, then you’ll know when it’s time to be baptized.”

Because this is the most important decision any of us can make, further study on the question is needed. Statistics show that more than 80 percent of people make the decision to become a Christian before the age of 21. All of us know that the longer the decision is put off, the harder it is to make.

How do we know that a child is old enough to be baptized? What criteria can we use to measure when a child is ready to obey the gospel? How can we as parents and teachers encourage children to not make decisions based on fear or peer pressure?

Through teaching in the home, the pulpit and in the Bible class, each child is exposed to the Scriptures and to the belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. They learn to memorize the steps to salvation and quote verses about
baptism. But are they ready to make the commitment to a new life?

These guidelines may help you determine if a child is
ready to be baptized:

• Has the child moved from a literal understanding to more abstract concepts? For instance, a 7- or 8-year-old child would not be able to grasp the full symbolism of baptism, the blood of Christ, or even the Lord’s Supper.

As children mature, they more easily understand the meaning of Romans 6:3-4 that states, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (NKJV). By the age of 12 or 13, a child will better understand that baptism is not just a ritual. As LaGard Smith* says in Baptism, The Believer’s Wedding Ceremony, “The true significance of baptism is not what happens on the outside of the package. It’s what happens on the inside that makes the outer act important.”

• The child is actively participating in the worship service. Listening, singing, praying and being attentive during the Lord’s Supper are strong indicators that a child is maturing and wants to be a part of the body. Encouraging children from an early age to carry their Bibles, turning to passages and listening to the Bible reading are positive patterns for learning.

• The child repeatedly feels guilt when approached about wrongdoing. He also begins to understand forgiveness and reconciliation. Conversation reflects that he does not easily forgive himself of sins committed. Just as David felt the burden of his sin in Psalm 51:10,“Create in me a clean heart, O God,” so will a child begin to talk about the pain of guilt. For a child to fully understand the blessings of baptism, he needs to understand the depth of sin.

• The child understands the meaning of commitment. True conversion is a commitment to Christ and His teachings. Allowing a child to participate in other activities such as scouts, sports or a part-time job may indicate that he/she understands the meaning of commitment. If the child takes responsibility and follows through with these tasks, then he will have a better knowledge of commitment.

• Children at the age of 6 to 8 want to please adults.As adults we talk about baptism in a hopeful light. We tell them, “We hope one day that you will want to be baptized.” They overhear us say to others, “We are praying that [someone] will obey the Lord.” Children who grow up in the church absorb good feelings about baptism from other members. As a child grows older and matures, he has less need for adult approval. Because of this, a child at the age of 12 or 13 is less likely to be just pleasing his parents when he talks about being baptized.

Of course, we must realize that all children are different in maturity levels and understanding. We would certainly not want to discourage a child who was truly convicted in his heart to become a Christian, but at the same time we need to consider prayerfully each individual situation. Studying some of the books suggested in the editor’s note at left (below) may help parents determine a child’s readiness to be baptized.

Our hope and prayer is for the child to mature to the level where he does not need to ask the question, “Am I old enough to be baptized?” Rather, with confidence and conviction he can confess “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and I want to be baptized!” With joy, we’ll respond with a resounding, “Yes!” And just as the eunuch did in Acts 8:39, your child will go “on his way rejoicing.”

Editor's note: This editorial is by no means a thorough or complete study of baptism. After studying the Scriptures, you may want to consult these additional resources*:

Becoming a Christian by Wayne Monroe and Mike Peters; 
Baptism,The Believer’s Wedding Ceremony by F. LaGard Smith; Basic Training: A Manual for Teens by Randy Simmons; Good As New! A Child’s Guide to Becoming a Christian by Doug Gibson; Am I Old Enoughto Be Baptized? byJim McDaniel; Now That You’ve Obeyed the Gospel by Delton Haun; Now That I’m A Christian by R. B. Sweet;
and “Is Baptism Really Necessary?” by Dan Chambers.

The foregoing editorial article was written by Debbie  Bumbalough, while she was editor of the Gospel Advocate’s publication Ideashop. Note the License Agreement below.

*Disclaimer: Not having read those references, we cannot necessarily endorse the authors or the books recommended above (Betty Jackson).

Recommended Reading: 
Jackson, Wayne. What About the Baptism of Young Children.

Jackson, Wayne. Lagard Smith’s New Book, “After Life.

Please do not reprint/repost this article without obtaining permission from the Gospel Advocate.

Non-Exclusive License Agreement

This License Agreement ("Agreement") is dated May 18, 2017, by and between Gospel Advocate Company ("GAC") and Betty Jackson ("Licensee") (collectively, the "Parties").
GAC hereby grants to Licensee and Licensee accepts from GAC, a nonexclusive, non transferable, and non-assignable right, strictly subject to the terms and conditions set forth in this Agreement, to use the Licensed Work (as that term is defined below) solely in connection with the Manner of Distribution, in the Territory, and for the Duration, all of which are defined below.  GAC retains all rights pertaining to the Licensed Work except as specifically granted to Licensee hereunder.

LICENSED WORK (See also Exhibit A and incorporated herein by reference): The literary work entitled "Am I Old Enough To Be Baptized" from Ideashop Jan 2003.
TERRITORY: Soley in the city of Jackson, Madison County, state of TN.
DURATION: The time period from May on 18, 2017 to Aug on 18, 2018.
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COPYRIGHT NOTICE 2003 Gospel Advocate Company. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Securing Their Hearts #4

What About Discipline? 

by Betty Jackson

In the mind of some, discipline is simply about punishment. A simple study of how the word is used in scripture will show it is much more. Limiting discipline to punishment is to miss its purpose.

The Greek word (paideĆ­a) translated discipline in Hebrews 12 and 2 Timothy 3:16 in some versions, is also translated as instruction or training.The purpose of discipline, whether it is by some kind of punishment, verbal reproof or instruction, is not to be characterized as revenge.

The Lord expects us to train our children. Ephesians 6:4. Paul prefaces his instruction about discipline with the word “nourish” or “bring up” This word is also used in Ephesians 5:29. There is a warmness or gentleness in the word. In contrast to the brutality common in the then ruling Roman Empire, fathers are to wisely train their children in the Lord. 

How important is discipline? Scripture explains, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11). The purpose and the fruit of discipline is clear: training and righteousness. 

Failure to properly discipline our offspring, jeopardizes the “peaceable fruit of righteousness.” (cf. Prov. 29:15.) Self control is as important as an honest heart wherein truth has been deeply planted. It is only by training and teaching the scriptures will our children learn to be the master of themselves.

Every child needs to be trained, in harmony with his age, understanding and temperament. As we rear our children, we may question others about how to discipline our children. It may be daunting when we realize that Baby has his own personality and will. As he grows older, we learn he isn’t as easy to mold as we may have thought. And especially is this true of a stronger-willed child. Respect for authority is paramount. There will be a battle of wills. But deep affection with a dedication to loving chastisement will instruct our kids about authority, love, and self-mastery.

The scriptures have a lot to say about training children. However, one cannot lead where one will not go! Effective discipline begins with parents who are self-disciplined. Personal and honest evaluation of oneself may include asking: Do my spouse and I constantly bicker and hatefully disagree, even on unimportant things? Do I lose my temper and “throw a fit” when I need to hold my child accountable? Do I constantly criticize or “harp” at my youngster when correcting him? Do I try to say yes to my child’s requests, when I can; or do I usually say no? How do I go about my work? Am I haphazard, always leaving things to be done at the last minute, or always late! Am I always tardy for worship? What about the state of your home. None of us can have a perfectly kept home all the time. Life happens! But if it is always slovenly, it is a shame ( cf. Prov. 10:3-5; 12:23-24; 13:4). Are we inclined to be like the world in our habits, dress, and recreational pursuits?

Taking an honest inventory of our lives will be be a good indicator of how well we are training our children. 

Youngsters will be exposed to all kinds of temptations. When they are little the temptation to lie will be common. Their little hearts must learn honesty, by gently, firmly teaching that lying is wrong. The very young have little idea of what all this means. They will respond to a sharp word with a lie, not even realizing that they were caught in wrong doing. It is important not to set a child up for a lie. if you saw her take the cookie, don’t ask if she did! As they get older, when they understand what lying is, they must face more significant consequences for not telling the truth.

“For whom the Lord loves He reproves. Even as father corrects the son in whom he delights”(Prov. 3:12). If the Lord loves us enough to reprove us, surely if we delight in our children, we will do all we can to train them in God’s way. When we are weak parents, we create an environment for our children to become self-centered and rebellious. Correction must be followed through. Promising discipline, whether it is a spanking or loss of privileges, then forgetting or unwilling to carry out the necessary measures is simply wrong. Under some circumstances, mercy might be extended, but not every day!

Peer pressure will become more real as children get older. They will be prompted to dress in a way that is provocative. Going to the beach is popular in many parts of the country. Is it alright to wear a bikini at the beach, but at a ball game or the grocery store it would be considered immodest? Why is it alright to wear a strapless wedding dress, yet immodest to wear a similar garment to worship or a party (or is it!)?

There are so many issues that will face our children. If they have not developed confidence in their parents to lead in righteousness; if their hearts have not learned honesty, and self mastery, they will yearn to be like their friends and the world. They will dress (or undress) like the rest, behave like unbelievers. Without honest hearts that are under control because of love for the Lord, they will sink into sin that is ever knocking at the door.

What have you done to help your children be pure and holy? Have you a laissez+faire attitude? Do you take the position that all will end well, no matter what you do? Have you encouraged your children to dress in a way that is provocative? Do you dress in clothes that leave little unrevealed? I do not understand mothers who wear those low necklines before their sons and daughters. In spite of the your own immodesty, would you be insulted if someone made a lewd comment to your nearly naked daughter or son?

Mom’s need to set the right example in dress and behavior. Shorts are a problem these days. Even if they are knee length, gaping big-legged shorts reveal more than anyone needs (or wants) to see. Fathers, need to dress modestly too! They need to have the moral courage to correct their wives and children concerning the way they dress.

Do you watch movies that are filled with excess violence, sexual innuendos, and foul language? Do your children?It should be no surprise when our children become involved in bad behavior with sad consequences, when we fail to teach them honest, pure, and self disciplined living.

When Nathan approached David for his sin with Bathsheba, he said, “Thou art the man!” As good as David was, he let his eyes fill with lust. He lapsed in self-mastery and sinned, bringing grave consequences into his own life and that of others.

Concerning Joseph, Reuben said, “Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? …” (Gen. 42:22). Have you sinned against your child by failing to train him in the Lord. I hope not. The church is filled with broken-hearted parents whose children have lost their way. May we not hear words such as “Thou art the man, woman!” for our lack of self-discipline. If we fail our children, we fail the Lord and the church. Some churches have dwindled in part because many parents have failed.

“‘Contrary to popular misguided cultural stereotypes and frequent parental misconceptions, the evidence clearly shows the the single most important social influence on the religious and spiritual lives of adolescents is their parents.’” “Parents are the most important determinants of their children’s spiritual life—or lack thereof.” (Sax, p. 183).

 Researchers have learned exactly what Scripture has taught from the days of Moses. We can lead them in the Lord’s way. The general principle is “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). Let us live right, and love them right by setting examples and giving instructions from the Holy Bible.

Recommended Reading
(Some works are not recommended nor approved of in entirety. Certain writers do not make logical conclusions or their books may contain doctrinal errors. They are used for the research contained therein.)

Sax, Leonard, M.D.; Ph.D.Girls on the Edge. 2010. New York, NY. Basic Books. p.283 (Sax quoted: Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching. 2005. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 261)

Vaughn, David and Diane, The Beauty of Modesty, 2005. Nashville, TN: Cumberland House Publishing.

Copyright: <a href=''>balazschristina / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

A Personal Note

The past year has been filled with changes. Life is that way, is it not? 

For us, those changes involved some decisions about our future. In September of 2016, Wayne underwent surgery to remove a small malignant tumor from his neck. This was a reoccurrence of thyroid cancer. He recovered from that circumstance. He still has times of not feeling well. The multiple surgeries he has endured have taken their toll on him.

About the same time, we came to the full realization that we needed to think about our remaining years. Wayne had retired from public teaching (though he continues to write.) So we considered our options. California is an expensive place to live. With our son, Jared and his family in Tennessee, with our daughter,  Joy and her husband, George, only a few hours from them and Wayne’s sisters also residing in Tennessee, we decided that we would leave California.

This decision was not easy. We love the church family we had been a part of in Stockton for over five decades. We did not want to leave our youngest son and his family. That was heart rending. But we knew it was the best. As most preacher’s families know, congregations are usually unable to contribute to a retirement plan. Wisdom dictates that ministers of the gospel figure out how to take care of themselves in old age. Therefore, living in a less expensive area is the careful thing to do; living closer to more family to encourage us in our challenges of age is paramount.

So we began making plans, purchased a house in Jackson Tennessee just behind Jared and Sandy. Packing seemed endless for weeks. Before that paper was sorted and files cleaned out. With the help of our kids and friends we loaded up the truck, and George and Joy drove our car to Jackson. On March 17 we flew out of Sacramento, for likely the last time. 

Now we are here trying to get settled. More paintings, pictures to hang; cleaning, and organizing goes on. It will be a couple of months before everything is done. Then, I can get back to writing and keeping up with proof reading for Wayne. I have hopes of getting on a regular schedule for my Facebook page We Believe Because, and the blog Women of Hope. I had a final article written in the series, Securing their Hearts. However, there was so much I wanted to include. I couldn’t settle into “re-writing” while packing hours and hours at a time.

It has been a blessing to be here near Jared, Sandy, and Matthew, and Nicholas when he is home from college. George and Joy were here a few days to help us. We were blessed to be able to attend our eldest grandson’s wedding nearby the last of March.

We are anxious for a visit from Jason, Jill, Natalie, Kara, and Allie. Natalie plans to begin her first semester at Freed-Hardeman University. We expect to see her as often as her school schedule allows. My sister and her husband have plans to see us this summer.

I will be posting the last article in the series “Securing Their Hearts.”

While some events of the past years have challenged our hearts and our energy, we are confident in the Lord’s love and the hope we have in Him. May we all be diligent in our service in the kingdom.

And may God bless each of you.