Even a Dictator Went All-In!

This coming weekend is the one a lot of us have been waiting for! Our All-In baptism Sunday. Please pray. We will be baptizing at both Sunday services and this has the potential to be the largest All-In experience in our history!

We have been welcoming hundreds of unchurched and dechurched friends over the last few months to our services. (I understand that we had over 608 guests attend Family Fest at Stricker’s Grove two weeks ago!) It’s time for us to invite them (and perhaps even you!) to go All-In.

This Sunday we are going to talk about a guy in the Old Testament named Naaman. He had leprosy – an incurable disease. And even though he was a military commander, he followed instructions from the prophet of God to go All-In and All-Under the water, and he was cleansed of that disease. It wouldn’t be the first time an army general was immersed in water.

Joe Garman has a ministry named ARM – American Rehabilitation Ministries. They provide portable baptisteries for prisons. He shared recently the 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 Sunday. Take off their jacket and shoes, and obey the Word of the Lord by going All-In.

Why should you be immersed this Sunday? Let me give you 10 reasons:

  • Because that’s what the Bible says to do.
  • Because you have never been immersed.
  • Because you always wanted to.
  • Because dozens of others are.
  • Because God has been whispering to you to do this for a long time.
  • Because Jesus was.
  • Because it would cause a cosmic celebration to occur.
  • Because hundreds are praying for you to do it.
  • Because it’s the next step in your spiritual journey and story.
  • Because every single person who accepted Jesus in the early church did.

It’s time. I know some of you 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. He didn’t think it was necessary. You may have had a sincere, religious person or family member tell you that immersion isn’t important or necessary, too. But you should respond the way Jesus did to that suggestion: do it anyway!

All will be ready, friend. The tanks are filled, the water is 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. (Huge shouts out, by the way, to those serving this coming weekend in non-Worship Center areas like Harbortown KIDS and Guest Services who would love to see everyone go All-In at each service, but will be at their post.)

Not much more I can say other than it’s time. Are you All-In? My staff team and I are here to assist you in this simple, obvious, and powerful next step in your faith journey. We would love to talk with you about this and answer any questions you may have.

See you in the water this Sunday! I’m praying for you.

P.S. Many commented how great the video was last Sunday from Mark Kreimer (Bier Haus proprietor) about giving to the ‘Big Boss.’ Here it is: