Even a Dictator Went All In
October 12, 2017
This weekend, October 14-15, is shaping up to be a weekend of unprecedented response at Journey Christian Church, a weekend where many people will go All-In for Jesus by going All-Under in baptism.
If you are a member of Journey, would you pray right now for this weekend? Pray that God will open hearts and open eyes for people to see Jesus perhaps as they never have before and receive Him as their Savior and Lord. We will be ready at both the Apopka and Mount Dora campus to baptize people, and we are praying for at least 150 people to be baptized this weekend. That would be the largest baptism weekend in our history by far, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate 15 years of ministry as Journey Christian Church!
We will also be receiving a special 1-5 Offering that is a financial gift above our regular giving. We have suggested that people give a gift that begins with a 1 and a 5 in recognition of and appreciation for Journey’s 15 years of ministry. Our goal is to see at least $150,000 given through this special anniversary offering. It’s easy to give online, through the Journey Christian App or you can do so in person this weekend at one of our worship gatherings. I am praying that a wave of generosity overflows from this offering just as the waves of baptism will overflow the pools!
My best buddy, David Vaughan, passed along the following story to me recently. It is a letter from Joe Garman who has a ministry named ARM, which stands for American Rehabilitation Ministries. They provide portable baptisteries for prisons. Garman recently shared the incredible All-In story of General Manuel Noriega in a letter from ARM:
President George H.W. Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in December 1989 for the purpose of capturing General Noriega on charges of massive drug trafficking. Noriega was incarcerated for 17 years in a federal prison in Miami, France, and Panama.
In January 1990, a Spanish New Testament came into the notorious prisoner’s hands. Ten days later, Clift Brannon, a former attorney turned preacher, received a letter from Noriega expressing his appreciation for the copy of the scriptures. Brannon immediately applied for a visitation permit. In May, Brannon and a Spanish interpreter, Rudy Hernandes, were allowed to visit Noriega for a total of 6 hours.
In July, Brannon requested Spanish Bible correspondence courses be sent from American Bible Academy. In 1991, the former drug lord requested permission from the prison authorities to be baptized. But his requested was denied upon the advice of his attorneys. In September 1992, the Honorable William M. Hoeveler, United States District Judge in Miami granted permission for Noriega to be baptized.
And so it was on October 24, 1992 (United Nations Day!), an American Rehabilitation Ministries’ baptistry arrived at the back door of the Federal Court House in Miami. A Deputy Marshall supervised the baptistry as it was transported into the courtroom and filled with water. That was a first. We were told this had never taken place in a federal courthouse before. Security was tight as Noriega was led into the courtroom.
Surrounded by 12 guards, Noriega, wearing civilian clothes, took off his jacket and shoes, and got into the baptistry. Brannon preached on the meaning of baptism as Hernandes interpreted, followed by prayer. Then Brannon immersed Noriega in Christian baptism and raised him up again (Rom. 6:4).
Rudy had an accordion, and began singing Amazing Grace, first in Spanish and then in English. The music reverberated off the marble floor. One of the guards later said, “At one time he was Public Enemy No. 1, but now he is my brother in Christ.”
Manuel Noriega died on Monday, May 29, 2017 in a hospital in Panama City. He was 83. In his last correspondence with Joe Garman he wrote: “GOD BLESS CLIFT, RUDY AND YOU WITH PHYSICAL HEALTH AND SPIRITUAL WISDOM. PLEASE KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! I AM CONTINUING TO WALK WITH CHRIST.”
I love it! General Manuel Noriega did what I will be asking many to do this weekend. Take off their jacket and shoes, and go All-In by going All-Under in the name of Jesus!
Why should you be immersed this weekend? Let me give you 10 reasons:
- Because that’s what the Bible says to do.
- Because Jesus was.
- Because every single person we read about in the New Testament who accepted Jesus did.
- Because it has been the pattern of the church from its beginning.
- Because you have never been immersed.
- Because you were baptized as a child but never really understood why you were.
- Because you really always wanted to.
- Because God has been whispering to you to do this for a long time.
- Because it would cause a cosmic celebration to occur.
- Because it’s the next step in your life-changing journey with Jesus.
I know many people are thinking and praying about it. Don’t let anything or anyone talk you out of this, even well-meaning people. A respected, sincere, religious family member (John the Baptist) tried to dissuade Jesus from being baptized. John didn’t think it was necessary for Jesus to be baptized, but Jesus felt otherwise and said to John, “This is the right thing to do.” You may have had a sincere, religious person or family member tell you that baptism by immersion isn’t important or necessary, too. But you should respond the way Jesus did and do the right thing anyway!
All will be ready, friends. The tanks will be filled, the water will be warm, the All-In T-shirts (which we’ll give to everyone who is coming for baptism) are printed, the towels are stockpiled, and dozens of volunteers stand ready to serve.
There’s really not much more I can say other than it’s time. “Now is the acceptable time, today is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2 NRSV).
Are you ready to go All-In?
Please know that I and many others are praying for you and are expecting God to do something that we will all be in awe of at both Journey Apopka and Journey Mount Dora this weekend!
Loving the 1-5 Journey!