1. New Life in Christ, by Paul Kroll
It’s easy for those of us who live in democratic and nominally Christian nations to take our Christianity for granted. More than half of Americans call themselves Christian. Some even consider the practice of Christianity be patriotic. It seems easy to be a Christian. We may not be forced to face human tragedy and madness in the profound way Bonhoeffer and his community, the Confessing church, did. But we can be overcome by the world in more subtle ways. For this reason, we all need to ask ourselves a basic question: What is Christianity? When we say, “I am a Christian,” what do those words mean for us who were born into a Christian world?
2. Coming to Know God, by Norman Shoaf
Family. Home. Close, tender relationships. People who really care. Embracing those we love, and never having to part. Aren’t these the blessings that all of us desire most? But, search as we might, many of us never find them. And no one enjoys them all the time. Relationships break up. People move away. Families lose contact—or never make it in the first place. There are no perfect homes, at least in this world. Whoever we are, wherever we live, we find ourselves always searching, searching—but searching for what? Loving relationships that last. This is exactly what God invites us to—an eternal place in his loving, spiritual family. That’s what the gospel of Jesus Christ is—an invitation to come into an intimate, lasting relationship with the perfect parent, brother, friend, provider, teacher and protector.
3. Do You Believe? by G. Albrecht
Jesus and his disciples left Jerusalem and Judea because of continuing threats on the life of Jesus. Now the small band was in the region of Perea, close to Jericho. But even here they could not get away from death. The news came by a messenger: “Lazarus is sick, and near death.” But Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary, lived in Bethany of Judea, just outside of Jerusalem. For many of the disciples, it seemed foolish to even think of going into such a dangerous area. Jesus waited two days before announcing that they would go back to Judea. Thomas, not known for his cheerful and positive outlook on life, responded, “Great, let’s go back into Judea and we can all die with him.”
4. He Lives Within Us, by Paul Kroll
“God the Father makes perfectly good sense to me,” the student said, “and God the Son I can quite understand, but the Holy Spirit is a gray, oblong blur.” Indeed! Certainly not the presence of a personal and powerful God. Such incomplete perspectives are partially due to the fact that the Holy Spirit is just that—spirit. He is like the wind and isn’t seen. Those who are led by the Holy Spirit are God’s people, said Paul. More than this, they are sons and daughters of God, who are able to call him their Father. By being filled with the Spirit, God’s people are able to live in spiritual freedom. No longer enslaved to the sinful nature, they live new lives of impassioned inspiration and oneness with God. This is the radical change the Holy Spirit creates in people at their conversion.
5. Yes! God hears, by Norman Shoaf
If we’re concerned about something, God is, too. Scriptures such as 1 Peter 5:7 urge us, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Thanks to the risen Christ’s work as our High Priest, we may develop a fuller relationship with our Creator through prayer. “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it,” Jesus told his disciples (John 14:14). Just as human friendships deepen through ongoing communication and shared intimacy, we draw closer to our Savior when we invite him into all we do. Here’s a look at prayer.
6. Baptism: A Commitment to Christ, by Paul Kroll
Baptism pictures the drama of our union with Jesus Christ and all that he represents in our salvation. In baptism, we respond to the commitment that Jesus made to us, in his death and in his life as our Savior. Those who request baptism are saying they want to be associated with Jesus Christ in a personal and intimate way—to belong to Christ. That’s what it means to be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Believers share in the life of Christ. As Christ died, so do the believers. As they share in Jesus’ death, they also have a share in his resurrection and eternal life. Believers who are baptized are stating that they, by God’s grace, are included in the greatest events of salvation history. This includes the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They dramatize their acceptance of God’s gracious offer of salvation.