Today was an awesome day! It was a good morning! We started worship with “Hold Us Together,” singing the words, “This is the first day of the rest of your life.” I looked onward and considered that today’s the first day of something special for three young girls, one who was confirming her baptism, and two who were scheduled to be baptized. Yes, my eyes began to tear up. One of the three girls was my daughter—the other two were two precious sisters who I have watched grow through the years—former students, considered family in my eyes. Oh what a wonderful morning!
As the three girls were before us I continued to pray for each one of them and I thanked God for His great plan for each of their lives. After the ceremony had finished, I made my way to the bathroom. I heard the words, “Good morning.” I looked around. No one was in the bathroom. No one was in the lounge. No one was anywhere near me. And I said, “Yes God, it is a good morning.”
Every day someone accepts the Lord as their Savior, it is a good morning. Every time someone becomes a brother or sister in Christ, it is a good morning. Heaven rejoices. We rejoice. God wants all of us to come home. Each one of us. Read 2 Peter 3:9. Today, it was a good morning. Three people very near and dear to my heart had the most important day of their lives. Join me in praying for each of these girls. Pray also that those who have yet to have their “good morning” will open their eyes and ears to what God has for them—the beautiful free gift—and give themselves as a living sacrifice. Thank you Jesus!! Oh what a beautiful day!
I wrote three verses in each of the books for the girls. Here’s one I wrote for my daughter:
“For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” – Zephaniah 3:17 [NLT]
Jacob wanted to build an altar to God. An altar represents the presence of God—it was how one would have an encounter with God. He recognized the need to be clean before a holy God. He commanded everyone to toss out all of the other gods. They were to rid themselves of anything and everything that was not God the one true God. Then Jacob commanded that they take “a good bath and put on clean clothes.” They were purifying themselves. This was an outward display to signify a change of heart—a ceremonial cleansing.
Many scholars see this bathing as a likeness to baptism as this washing was done to signify their choice to serve the one true God. Baptism is an immersion into water or sprinkling of water which signifies purification. It is the ceremony people participate in when they accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. In doing this, people choose to give their lives to the one true God. By doing so, you receive the Holy Spirit and therefore have the presence of God within you.
You may have already been baptized, but you might not have tossed out all of the alien gods in your life. Something might be pulling you away from the presence of God. Evaluate where you are today and see if anything is taking the place of God in your life. He should be first always. Today is a good day for a cleaning. Let us put on clean clothes and walk forward in His presence.
“Jacob told his family and all those who lived with him, ‘Throw out all the alien gods which you have, take a good bath and put on clean clothes, we’re going to Bethel. I’m going to build an altar there to the God who answered me when I was in trouble and has stuck with me everywhere I’ve gone since.’”
-Genesis 35:2-3 [MSG]
Today was my graduation. When God first called me to return to school for ministry, I will admit I was hesitant. As time passed, I understood that He would see me graduate but I never considered that I would be given the title of Salutatorian and would have the opportunity to give the Benediction. As Ephesians says, God provides immeasurably more than we could ever imagine. God continues to amaze me.
Don’t underestimate God or limit what God can do in your life. Remember that He promises immeasurably more than we can imagine. I went from not considering returning to school, to applying and getting accepted, to considering if I could graduate, to considering what to write for the Benediction and what to wear for graduation. We don’t stay right where we are at–there is always change happening. We are either moving more toward God and what He has for us or we are moving in the opposite direction. Keep moving toward Him and be expectant of Him working in incredible ways in your life.
Here’s the Benediction I delivered at the Commencement Ceremony today. It is my prayer that you will make this prayer your own. You will also find a video clip containing the Benediction as well.
Commencement Ceremony Benediction
Let us pray.
Thank You Father for bringing us to this very moment,
which is not an ending but a new beginning.
Thank You for Your goodness, for Your promises,
for Your faithfulness, for Your Word.
You hold all things together.
Thank You for providing us all that we have needed to make it here today
May Your grace shine upon my fellow graduates.
May You protect those who have gathered here today to celebrate with us.
May You continue to make Your Presence be known among us.
May our hearts be open.
May our eyes be focused.
May our ears be listening to Your voice.
Lord, continue to use each one of us for Your Kingdom.
Where there is hatred, may we bring love.
Where there is darkness, may we bring light.
Where there is error, may we bring truth.
As You lead us forward on another journey
Remind us of what is good.
Help us to seek justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly with You Lord.
Now, may we move onward in peace.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
To Him be all the glory.
In Jesus’ name.
[Note: see St. Francis of Assisi, Colossians 3:17, Micah 6:8]