Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Simpler Times - Shall We Gather at the River


by Cindy Hester



My Grandfather, Bro. C. L. Moore, after
Baptizing Three New Members
of Bethel Baptist Church, Bold Springs



Long before baptisteries, new Christians who wished to follow Jesus’ example of believer’s baptism experienced that baptism in a river, creek, or pond. I will always remember my baptism which was performed by my Dad in a lake near the Chesswood Baptist Church, Livingston, Texas.

Dad had felt a calling from God to form a mission church on the south side of town near Chesswood Subdivision. He stepped out in obedient faith, and serving as a local missionary of the Polk County Missionary Association he began and organized the Chesswood Baptist Church where he pastored for 29 years before "retiring", then serving as Pastor of Soda Baptist Church for 15 years. The charter members of Chesswood Baptist Church originally met and worshipped in homes until they were able to lease a small hamburger “joint” (as Dad used to call it.) Sunday school classes met anywhere from the walk-in freezer to the outdoor awning of the small restaurant.

There were many sweet days of fellowship in that little restaurant. I laugh whenever I think of my mother teaching the Sunday school class in the walk-in freezer. We had a few mischievous boys whom she was terrified would someday lock her and the class in it. She would teach that class with her chair sitting in the doorway. If anyone was going to close that door, they were going to have to move her and her chair to get the job done!

Home-made pews filled what used to be the main dining room of the restaurant, and an old, slightly out of tune piano filled the building with hymns. A couple of the keys stuck every so often, but it did not matter. The spirit flowing from that musical praise grabbed the heart and soul in a way that only divinely inspired worship could.

Dad had a heart for lost souls. He knew what God’s love could do for them. He knew what God’s love had done for him. It was his mission, his very heart to spread that message. Those charter members felt that same calling. It was a wonderful place to be, and I always looked forward to Sundays and Wednesdays there. God was at work in ways that left a lasting impression on my life.
  
Chesswood Baptist Church as it Looks Today

The church grew and was able to purchase prime property on Highway 59. It was in the original sanctuary on the new property that I came face to face with my Heavenly Father. The congregation was singing “Just as I Am” and my feet would not stay planted in that pew. It was uncomfortable for me as a child to walk that aisle to the alter in front of everyone, but it was even more uncomfortable to stay put. I walked to my Daddy’s waiting arms crying the entire way. My heart was stirred and in awe of something far greater than I could understand at the time. He talked with me to ensure I understood the step of faith I was taking. He then presented me to the church as having asked Christ into my heart and wanting to follow Jesus in believer’s baptism. It was one of the most profound moments of my life.

Once we got home, he called me back to a quiet room, sat me in his lap and talked more with me about this decision. At the time I was a young child of 5, and he wanted to make sure I fully understood the plan of salvation. My heart overflowed with love as Dad held me close reading from the Bible and praying over my life and for continued understanding of God’s plan for my life. I later reached an age of greater understanding of my need for a Savior. It was at this time I was baptized in that lake with those dear souls singing “Shall We Gather at the River.”

I cherish the days I attended baptisms watching my Dad and grandfather walk out into the water carrying a pole or stick ahead of them to ensure there were no sudden deep drops in the bottom of the pond. I treasure the remembrance of the sound of katydids and frogs breaking the reverently quiet air as new Christians followed into the water to publicly demonstrate a symbol of their faith. I value what that symbol represents. Troubles did not magically disappear, and sudden perfection had not been reached. Through salvation, however, an Omnipotent Power had arrived, and an all-sufficient supply of grace and mercy had become available. Through baptism, a beginning act of faith and obedience was acheived. Thank God for His power, mercy, and grace to continue drawing us to a life of faithful obedience.



My Dad, Bro. Frank E. Hood, baptizing my little brother, Andy Hood,
at Chesswood Baptist Church, Livingston, Texas.


Matthew 3:13-17
New International Version (NIV)
The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.
14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”



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