Start With the Ending

David Wilcox has a song called Start With the Ending. The song speaks about how relationships would work so much better and be so much more exciting if we could break up at the very beginning. We could be completely honest with one another because there’s no fear of it ending. There’s no need to pretend to be something you’re not, no need to defend who you are, no need to bite your tongue when you’re missing something.
At the end, the expectations of what will be are stripped away and all you see is another human being who is changing as life goes on just as you are.

There is an anecdote he tells that goes along with the song. He imagines what life would be like if we started with the ending. We would die first, get it out of the way, then we would be able to really start living our lives. The anecdote goes on to tell how nice it would be to live out our whole lives backward until we go out “as a glimmer in someone’s eye”.

Imagine how amazing life could be if we weren’t afraid of death because we had already experienced and dealt with it! How much sweeter would each moment be and much more exciting. There would be no fear of doing the things that once held you back. It would be so completely different from the lives we live now that one could say that it is a completely new life.
How powerful it is, then, that Jesus says “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (Lk 17:33) God calls us to die first, and get this dead body out of the way so that He can breath his wonderful life into us.

The Cracked Pot

There once was a Japanese servant who had two large water pots he carried at the ends of a long pole. One pot was whole and very beautiful, the other was cracked on the bottom and leaked water. Everyday, the servant walked a long distance to retrieve water for his master, the Emperor. As the servant returned, the cracked pot leaked water onto the roadside and was always empty by the time they arrived back at the palace. This went on
for many days. One night, as the servant was lovingly cleaning the pots, the cracked pot confessed that it was flawed and asked the servant why he didn’t discard it. “Oh, beloved pot, I have always known you were cracked. That is why I planted flower seeds on your side of the roadway, knowing that when I returned with water, you would water the plants for me and in their season, I would then have fragrant flowers to set before my master.”

Sometimes I forget that I’m a cracked pot and there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s amazing to me that God is able to use our screw ups to bring about good things, even when those good things can’t be seen immediately.

NC Baptist Convention

WORLD MAGAZINE

The NC Baptist Convention voted last Tuesday to cut ties with congregations that openly approve of homosexuality. There’s been an uproar of backlash from all kinds of people and what I have to say is this. I applaud the convention for taking the Biblical stand on a divisive issue.

They mentioned something in their statement that I had not thought of before but it is a striking reality. Homosexuality is the only sin with its own advocacy group. While there are plenty of other hate-mongering groups (KKK, Skin-heads, etc.), GLBT organizations are the only groups that have moved themselves into public acceptance.

Part of the problem, as I see it, is that a person with homosexual desires identifies himself so strongly with them that the Church’s position of “love the sinner, hate the sin” seems to be a false dichotomy to them. They cannot disassociate themselves with homosexuality. Yet this is exactly what the Church is saying must happening.

In I Corinthians, Paul writes to a church that is flagrantly allowing sin in its presence: “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”

It can’t get spelled out much clearer than that. But look at all the sins listed there. Revilers/Partiers? Covetous? Effeminate(I’m not sure what this means but I’m pretty sure it has to do with something perverted rather than simply being a woman). I have been covetous plenty of times. I still party at times and slack off on more important things. This list doesn’t mean I’m going to hell now, does it?

The next verse reads: “SUCH WERE SOME OF YOU; BUT YOU WERE WASHED, BUT YOU WERE SANCTIFIED, BUT YOU WERE JUSTIFIED IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AND IN THE SPIRIT OF OUR GOD.” That junk is no longer our identity! I still make mistakes and sin! I have a sin nature and it’s in my blood. But the important thing is that the sin is no longer part of who I am because I have been justified in Christ.

The Baptist Convention is simply saying that they will not tolerate members in their congregation who identify themselves with anything other than Jesus Christ. The Church has a higher divorce rate than the rest of America. It’s not something anyone is proud of, but it’s the truth. And while it is true that while we point the finger at homosexuals, three fingers are pointed straight back at us, members of the church are not looking to be enabled to commit more divorces. We are looking for forgiveness and the opportunity to be reconciled to the identity of Christ.

The Road to Emmaus

Have you ever said goodbye to a hero?
Have you ever had to lay away your dreams?
Have you ever been so lonely that a stranger is your best friend?
then you’ll know what I mean

So this is our highway to heaven
our American dream
the two fools on the road to emmaus
well they might as well be you and me

Have you ever been angry at your country?
Have you ever been angry at your God?
Have you ever been so angry that you can’t see what you’ve got right in front of you?

Have you ever been distracted by the homeless?
Have you ever thrown your dollar with disgust?
Have you ever thought the great commission’s just too great a cost?
Have you ever played the fool?

The story of the men on the road to Emmaus is one of those stories that makes the Bible real to me. Two men returning home after witnessing the rise and fall of one they thought was the one who would bring about a new age. Their disappointment palpable, their hearts shattered, and their minds confused, I can relate easily to them. The situations behind them are so strong in their minds that they cannot recognize the joyful truth standing right next to them.

Fearless Love

yes, the high religious still will scorn,
Just like that did all that time back,
They’ll say you helped the other side.
They saw you haul that soldier’s pack.
But now how could you carry that man’s sign?
In your heart the choice was clear:
You didn’t join the other side,
The battle lines just disappeared.

-“Fearless Love”, David Wilcox

At our campus in Chapel Hill there is a man the students have affectionately named the “Pit Preacher” (He has his own page on Wikipedia for anyone interested). Gary Birdsong is what most might call a hellfire and brimstone preacher. His main subjects involve judgment for homosexuals, drug users, and promiscuous people. I have to wonder how much his sermons actually reach people. Does a greater than thou position of accusation ever really cause people to recognize sin and desire that it be taken away?

I read my Bible and it seems the only people Jesus ever stood over in accusation were the high religious. Jesus didn’t demand that Zachaeus change his ways, he asked if he could dine at his table.

Sin isn’t something that “they” do and “we” don’t. Being a murderer doesn’t rate worse on the scale than being a homosexual. And at the same time being a homosexual is no worse than selfishly praying to show off my spirituality. We’re all sinners, period. There is no big or small sin. All sinners go to the same place.

The Gospel of Christ is not about the reformation of the sinful nature, it’s about the removal of the sin. When we accept the gift of Christ’s death, at that very moment, our sin is gone. It can no longer be used against us. He took upon himself every sin you ever commited and every time you falter from now on has been paid for as well. The Gospel isn’t a warning to get people to stop sinning because the Bible itself says that is impossible, it’s a joyful announcement that what is impossible has already been accomplished and all we have to do is accept it for ourselves.

But Christ also rose again. The sin was taken to death with Christ on the cross. But the nature of sin can only be dealt with by an indwelling life of Christ in every believer.

Damn there’s so much more to say. I start talking about the Gospel and it seems incomplete if I don’t say it all. Suffice to say that the Christian life is not meant to be a constant striving against sin and immorality. It’s about releasing myself to let Christ live His life in me.

For those of you who’ve never heard David Wilcox, you’ve got to check it out. This man has a gift for writing lyrics that make you really think about what you believe and why you believe it.

Self-Control

One of my teachers at Ravencrest said that the Fruit of the Spirit are not goals to work toward, they are thermometers of the Spirits work in us. When we allow the Spirit to work through us, not quenching it’s work, the Fruit will show itself without any concious thought of it.

Self-control is one of those fruits and I’m not sure whether that is comforting or disconcerting. I struggle with self-control. It may not seem like a struggle outwardly, but I see so often that the actions that look like self control in my life are really just guilt-driven. It’s easy for me to take steps to avoid temptation in the moments I have fallen to that temptation.
Is it self-control if the only goal is to avoid feeling rotten? Is it coming from the Spirit if it has such practical motives?

There is a story another teacher told:
I go down a road with a hole in it. I fall in the hole. It takes me hours to get out.
The next day I go down the road again. Again I fall in the hole. Again it takes hours to get out.
The next day I go down the road again. Again I fall in the hole. This time I can get out quickly.
The next day I go down the road again. This time I avoid the hole.
The next day I go down a different road.

Life Change

There was a student who came to Ravencrest in the second term. He was a “trouble” student; he was attending Ravencrest because the only alternative was military academy. I could see from the start he would be disruptive. At first, I was right, he didn’t want to be there and he made sure everyone knew it. But after a while his attitude settled and he began to enjoy it on the hill.
I thought it was a show. He was acting the part he thought they wanted to see in order to reap the rewards. I rejected the idea that someone would actually change because of something he has heard.

I’m beginning to realize that this was not an isolated incident. I truly believed that dramatic life change did not happen unliess it is an act for selfish gain. This preconception that people don’t change has affected everything I do. I am unwilling to offer my opinions. I do not try to convince anyone of anything. I don’t share Christ with people because I feel like nothing I say will matter.

But people do change when something in their perception of life changes. And while sometimes that change in perception has to be arrived at individually, offering my own experience can bring a person to a new perception as well.

Trust

I am a chronic doubter. I have a habit of experiencing something firsthand and questioning it minutes later. So when I experience God, I say to myself, “I’m going to remember this moment and next time I’m in a pit, I’ll think back to this time.” I never remember anything about those times, only that they happened.

So what do I do about those valley times when God seems miles away and the whole “trust in Him” story seems like a fairytale. What does trusting God in those times look like?

Perhaps, just perhaps, trusting God is better describe in terms of what we don’t do and not what we must do. When I board an airplane, I trust my life in the hands of the pilots and the plane. That means I make no attempt to do the pre-flight checklist, fill the fuel tanks, or operate the landing gear. I simply sit and trust that they will bring me to my destination.

Why should that be any different from trusting God? I simply say, “God, this whole Christian life is too much for me. It’s hard and no matter how much I try, I haven’t seen any results. So take it God. I’m gonna stop trying to do the pre-flight checklist; I’m gonna stop trying to load the luggage spaces; I’m not even going to try to operate the beverage cart. Take all of it.” Trust isn’t believing that God’s there and then working toward feeling that way. It’s acknowledging that I can’t see God anywhere and saying “You said that you will always be here, so I’m just going to let you work and get out of the way.”

Politics

So often the GOP is associated with Christianity. THis is because CHrist had a similar message of self-moderation and moral-responsibility. The GOP attempts to enforce these same standards and reward those who hold fast to them.

But is that truly the ideal Christ had in mind? No! We can’t expect this world to reward us for being moral. Indeed, we can expect persecution and ungratefulness. The GOP spends most of it’s time legislating for morality laws and protection for Christians.
Christ’s message was one of reaching out to the downtrodden and degenerate. His declaration of our own treatment was a side-note and exactly the opposite of the GOP. “Help the poor, protect the hurting, raise up the downtrodden; and oh yeah, the world’s gonna hate you for it.”

This social message may sound like the platform of the Democratic party. It’s not. I’m no ass. There is one essential difference between Christ’s social service and Democrat’s social service.

Christ showed compassion and care for disgusting people and expected them to do something about what he gave them. He expected a response.

Democratic social service is about making those same people comfortable in the personal pits they are in. There is no sense of responsibility to change or become better. It’s about handouts.

In conclusion, I’m tired Republicans touting their Christian values and doing nothing about the poor and wrecked people in their own backyards. But at the same time, just because Democrats are closer to Christ’s example of helping society, close does not count, especially if the goals and methods are 180 degrees different.

Purpose

I know who I am. No one else knows who I am. If I was a giraffe, and someone said I was a snake, I’d think, no, actually I’m a giraffe.
Richard Gere

How often this is not the case. I know I have often found that I determine myself by what other people say about me. This is one of the advertising “slogans” churches will often use as a benefit of becoming a Christian. “God gives your life purpose”, “God wants you exactly the way you are”, and “You matter to God.”

I don’t know what I’m saying about that, just saying that I’ve noticed it, that’s all.