Article: POKIN’ THE SHEEP + KILLING JESUS

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skull spiderI do admit to being what others would refer to as provocative. Blame it on my tendency to not being satisfied with mere pat answers, or just taking things at face value. It’s not that I set out to play Devil’s Advocate with everything and everyone; part of my wrestling with my faith involves examining things from multiple angles and perspectives and not settling into a comfortable pathos.

For instance, I once made a shirt that said What Would Satan Do? Aside from being a response to the popularity of the What Would Jesus Do? merchandise that was everywhere at the time, I think that’s a good question for Christians to consider. Wise as serpents and innocent as doves, and all that.

One particular shirt, however, seemed to really get under everyone’s skin when it really shouldn’t have. I was at Cornerstone 2002, and was perusing the merch tents one hot and sultry afternoon. One table set up sold an array of shirts, one of which had I KILLED JESUS in big letters on it. This shirt called to me. It perfectly communicated, in shirt form, that because of my sins Jesus died on the cross. I was found guilty, but Jesus died in my place to atone for my sins. Also, the cotton blend was lightweight yet durable, and most importantly, it concealed my upper torso. So, I bought it, and immediately changed into it outside behind the merch tent.

To put a context to the reaction to the shirt–earlier in the fest, I was wearing the previously mentioned What Would Satan Do? shirt. Nobody bats an eye. As a matter of fact, I had a couple of people ask where they could buy one for themselves. I change into the I KILLED JESUS shirt, and suddenly I find myself unable to go ten minutes without someone stopping me to ask what my problem was. What was I thinking, wearing a shirt that said I KILLED JESUS at a festival that catered to Christian music and arts? You would have thought I was wearing the Cradle Of Filth shirt that said JESUS IS A [derogatory misogynist slur] on the back. Several times, I had to explain the meaning behind it, that not only did I kill Jesus, but they did too, for the same reason. It finally got to the point where I began answering with, “He got better,” and left it at that.

Mind you, I’m far from naive, thinking that everyone who attended Cornerstone was a professing Christian and were familiar with the core doctrines of the faith. But, I did find the nature of the questions and statements interesting. Could it be that, in this day and age, that the reason for Christ coming in the first place is becoming taboo in Christian circles? I admitting to any kind of sinful nature, and thus necessitating a perfect sacrifice for atonement, just not in keeping with living a victorious life? Or are some just simply unaware of Jesus’ death and resurrection to begin with? Like, they read the Gospel accounts and just stop reading when things get to the Last Supper, like shutting off Old Yeller before the dog gets rabies, unaware of the ending?

Or, perhaps they are aware of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but are still squicky to admitting it was our sins and separation from God that lead to His death on the cross? We’re quick to place the blame on the Jews, or the Romans, or whatever. I know all too well, however, it was I who nailed Him to the cross. As well as you. And everyone else who has ever lived. And I will continue to admit it openly: I killed Jesus. But fortunately, it didn’t end there.

I am a great sinner. But I serve a great Saviour. Cheers, my wonderful freaks…

::END TRANSMISSION::

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WILDERNESS WANDERINGS: The Journey So Far…

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SOUNDTRACK:

Here we are, the so-called “Dog Days” of summer. It’s nearly the middle of August already. Soon, it shall be September, and leading into my favorite time of the year. But for now, I’m taking a bit time to bring everyone up-to-date as to my self-imposed wandering around the wilderness that set on at the end of April.

You might recall the reason for my doing this, but just in case there is need of a refresher, this should bring you up to speed. Needless to say, while I’ve been keeping to myself mainly during my spiritual…quest? Does that sound too pretentious? I’m sure I’ll think of a better word hours after I’ve posted this. Anyway, despite this being somewhat private for me, I thought a bit of blogging about things so far will do me some good.

The thing to understand, first off, about so-called Wilderness Times, or wanderings, or Desert Times, or whatever spiritually-sounding euphemism you want to go with, is that they never really go the way you expect them to do. You start off, thinking you’re going to go out and isolate yourself (figuratively in my sense; I’ve known plenty who have done so literally…and a couple with a literal wilderness and/or desert of some sort), and spend one-on-one time with Father God, Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and have a splendid time and grow spiritually and find out my next chapter in my life and blah blah blah. I always get these Disney-fied ideas of what I think is going to happen: I walk outside to a sun-shiny morning, a bird or two land on my shoulder or my outstretched finger, a deer wanders out of the bushes, along with maybe some bunnies or squirrels or something, and then the Hillsong United song starts playing out of nowhere and everyone’s singing along. Then I read the Verse of the Day on Biblegateway.com, and the rest of the day just falls together perfectly. You know, much like it happened with Jesus for those forty days in the desert [citation needed].

But then, you say something stupid. And by “stupid”, I mean “in a superficial manner”, or “glibly”, “thoughtlessly”. During your prayers or whatnot, you say or write down something like, “Break me,” or “Refine me with Your Holy Fire, o Lord my God”. Because it sounds so gosh-darned super-spiritual, right? Been there, done that. I never really meant it back when I said those things before. I would say, “refine me in Your fire,” during my prayer sessions, sometimes out loud with others who were praying with me, not really expecting much of anything to come of it.

But then, a funny thing happened, something some of you who have been through this before could see coming from miles away: God said, “Okay,” and took me up on it. Not to get into details on that, on account this is about my current Wilderness Wandering thing, but the point is that God was serious about His relationship with me, even though I, for lack of a better turn of phrase, wasn’t. To say that was a wake-up call is to understate things greatly. And in case you were wondering, that happened when I was 19. I’m 43 at the time of this writing, and the whole “refinement” process is still an ongoing thing.

Through the years, I may have a much deeper understanding on how serious God is with His love and desire for me to be sanctified through His Holy Spirit; but no matter how many Wilderness Wanderings I go on, He always manages to pull the rug out from under me, completely destroy my preconceived ideas of what to expect, and brings up some dross I never knew I had.

The refining process sucks. It always does, and never gets easier, no matter how many of these I go through. There’s no sugar-coating this for you freshly-minted-by-the-Holy Spirit types: If you’re serious about your faith and not just playing some stupid Christian game, God is going to do the same with you. But…it’s a good thing. Just like it is with what I’m going through right now.

As to what that is…I’m not ready to share that specific detail. I’m still wrestling with it, sometimes late through the night, letting the Holy Spirit to His thing, trying to suss out everything in my head. It’s complicated. Maybe one day I’ll be able to put it in words. I can say I’ve talked about it with a couple of people from church that I trust with this information, which has helped a bit. But for now, I continue to wander the wilderness, seeking God and letting Him be Who He is and all that.

That’s it for now. Any questions and/or comments can be directed to my email: necrosarx@gmail.com

Cheers, all.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Baptisms, the Death of an Icon, and a New Doctor…

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[NOTE: This was supposed to be posted yesterday, but I forgot to email it to me after work; sorry about the tardiness – Uncle NecRo]

I have just emerged from a rather surprisingly full weekend. I never plan these as such; they just happen to…well, happen. Mostly, though, it was the Sunday of the two days that fall under my Blessed Days Off from my Place of Enslavement Employment. I wasn’t really running around a lot, but there were some things that made my head swim a bit.

baptism church birthday

The first thing that happened on July 16th was the first ever Baptism Service at my church. This also functioned as part of the One Year Birthday of the formation of said church that I’ve been involved with since the split with my former church. Fifteen…or sixteen, I can’t recall exactly…souls were baptized in the Blair swimming pool as an outward expression of their faith in Christ Jesus. We had set up in the parking lot for the worship service; I set up near them, at the best place I could find that was in the shade. Then, of course, after a few minutes, the Daystar found its way through the shade and stabbed me in the eyeballs. No matter where I moved to, it found me. Gads. So, for a little while, through the worship singing portion, I had to endure the angry ball of fire’s rays, and hope not to burst into flames in front of everyone. That would have been embarrassing. Fortunately, the trees managed to obscure the sun once again, putting me in some shade by the time the sermon came about. Fortunately, it was a truncated 15-minute sermon, so that it could include the baptisms. The sermon’s message in keeping with the event. Everyone was baptized, then it was time for the birthday celebration by way of a massive grillout potluck picnic, with a couple of bouncy castles set up for the kids. The heat of the day was getting redonkulous, with the heat index starting to soar as high as eagle. Weather sucking mighty buffalo. As such, I decided to forego the picnic lunch and the inevitable mingling that came with it (did I mention my anxiety level was starting to rise along with the heat? No? Huh…), and left as everyone was standing in line for their lunchy-munchy. I just picked up some drive-thru stuffs and headed back to the Haunted Victorian, ate my din-din and then settled in for a much-needed extended nap.

The thing about naps is, sooner or later you have to wake up from them. And so was the case with this one: I woke up, and had to once again exist in the “real world”. Eh, standard Sunday afternoon. Late afternoon. Okay, it was early evening. I sleep a bit more than your average individual. I think it may be hypersomnia due to my crippling depression issues. Either way, it was close to 6pm, and I wasn’t hungry yet due to the ginormous nature of the fast food item I consumed upon arriving back at the Haunted Victorian around 1-ish. So I fire up the Fun-Sized Lappy, summon the interwebs, and the first thing I am greeted with upon signing into my Facebook page is a news item that the legendary George A. Romero had passed away.

george a romero

For those of you sad, deprived individuals who don’t know who George A. Romero is, he is the man that helped to not only redefine the zombie horror genre to what we recognize as today with the release of Night Of The Living Dead in 1968 (undead ghouls who wander about and only want to eat your flesh and nummy brains…up until then, “zombies” were of the voodoo magick variety), he also inspired generations thereafter in the art of independent filmmaking. He made more than just a bunch of post-modern zombie flicks, and didn’t just stick to directing, either. Nor did his influence remain in movie making, as several novelists and artists cite him as a great influence in what they do.

As for me, Romero helped to rekindle my love for the horror genre as not only an entertainment outlet, but also as a genuine means of conveying a message in a subversive manner. I salute you, good sir; and should you once again rise from the grave, I shan’t forget to double-tap.

The next thing that grabbed my attention from my nap-induced haze that was slowly clearing off, was the official introduction of the next Doctor. At first, I thought it was one of those fake-outs that have been making the rounds, the ones made by fans and such. But, no, this was an official BBC release: The next Doctor on Doctor Who will be played by one Jodie Whittaker. So, after months of denying that the 13th Doctor was going to be a woman, they finally came out and said that, yes, the 13th Doctor is going to be a woman.

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Up front, I have to say that I am completely on board with this. I’m intrigued with the possibilities with this new dynamic. Hopefully the writers won’t go the route of “Hey, I’m the Doctor, and now I’m a girl!” and really write some compelling yarns with the character. That said, there were two points of irritation that immediately hit me the moment I saw the announcement: first of all, they do this all the time, denying something’s gonna happen, and then it happens to be the very thing they’re denying. “It’s Missy in that vault, right?” “Nope, it’s something different.” Then it turns out it was Missy all along. Same thing here: “Nope, we’re not looking at a female actor to be the new Doctor.” I understand the need to play things close to the vest in these instances, especially with the show changing producers as well as lead characters, but this is the same thing the previous show runners did since the relaunch in 2005. I just can’t help but think my intelligence had been insulted a bit, is all.

The second thing that kind of irritated me about this, was that the reveal was so far in advance of the Christmas Special, where traditionally the regeneration into the next Doctor would take place in modern Who. More or less. Now…there’s really no surprise. I don’t know, and maybe I’m in the minority here, but I should think something as momentous as this would call for secrecy until the actual Christmas Special. I realize that trying to keep a lid on this in this day and age of instant news leakage is nigh impossible at times, but think about the impact that could have happened when, finally, Peter Capaldi’s Doctor–my favorite one thus far of the “New” Doctors–dramatically regenerates and finally emerges as the Jodie Whittaker Doctor…then end credits. Boo-ya. Chills, mouths agape, multiple cries of “WHAT THE [expletive deleted]….?!?” Now…we will never have that moment. Spoilers and all that. Oh, well.

Still, the upcoming Christmas Special will be awesome because it has the 12th Doctor and the 1st Doctor, together at last. I just squeed again. Cheers, all.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Membership Application Testimony

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rough draft writingIt’s been almost a year since the church that I have been helping to build up was birthed by way of an unfortunate at the church that I had been attending for ten years prior. Just now, we’re taking steps to have membership, and as I don’t count myself exempt for special treatment, I have filled out my application as well.

You might be wondering why I’m mentioning this. Well, on the back of it, it has one page with three questions pertaining to my personal testimony on how I became a Christian, and what that means and whatnot. One page, three sections with a short few lines to fill in.

Of course, as I have this storyteller’s streak in me as a writer, I looked at those brief sections and, after I got done chuckling, decided to just add an attachment of the testimony, and just get out what I have to say without fear of running out of room. Or atrocious handwriting. You get the idea. It came out to four pages. Single spaced. Standard 12-point Times New Roman font.

I’ve decided, then, to post those Testimonial Questions here on my bligity-blog, and share with everyone my answers, to not only show off my scribblins, but also give some of the more curious as to my back story as a Christian, how it came to be and where I went from there and all. That, and I needed something to post to prove I was still alive, here…you’re welcome…

1) PLEASE DESCRIBE YOUR LIFE BEFORE YOU CAME TO KNOW JESUS:
Thinking back, I guess you would say that the majority of my “Before Christ” period was rather unremarkable. I spent the first nine years of my life the son of a Navy Seabee and a Nurse, both of them having been raised by farming families. We were always traveling to wherever Uncle Sam had my father stationed at for as long as I could start remembering things. Thinking back as I write this, I have to emphasis that I was very much blessed with not only parents but the entire family on both sides being completely loving and caring. I was never abused, I never felt scared, and even when I had to be disciplined both Mom and Dad would explain why it was happening, and were always quick to forgive and such. Even after they divorced when I was 9, both refused to use me and my sister as leverage against the other one; to the contrary, I remember my mother chastising me more than once if she heard me say anything derogatory about my Father, regardless of what she was emotionally going through (I can’t even begin to fathom what that was like for her). Even the man that would become my stepfather, while having a, shall we say, old school philosophy when it came to child raising, never abused his position of parental figure…regardless of how hard headed I could be. Believe me, i would have smacked me a few times for my attitude, if you want to come right down to it.

I needed to get all of that out of the way, because I wished to highlight the fact that, for everything that transpired for three or so years before I became a Christian, I’m not blaming my family, my upbringing, the society I grew up in, and especially not the mental condition that began manifesting when I was 9. My actions, my attitudes and especially my decisions were because I chose to do them and be that way.

That said: As I mentioned, at the age of 9, I began manifesting the symptoms of an odd neurological disorder the name of which I’m not going to share, due to the pop culture media typifying it as something it’s really not, and would rather not be met with a chorus of “Oh! The swearing disease!” (if that didn’t already tip off what that is). Of course, it wasn’t properly diagnosed as such until I was 13 (I had one psychiatrist convinced I had schizophrenia at one point…that was a fun time, let me tell you); so up until then, I was experiencing sudden depression and anxiety at an age where I should have been more concerned about playing and doing other kid-like activities. Instead, I was making fast headway to being That Weird Kid that carried over into Junior High and High School. I started getting suicidal thoughts at a rather young age, and was finally checked into a psychiatric ward at a hospital in Omaha for observation and treatment when I was 12. That’s how I spent my summer vacation that year. Later that year, I was put back in after an actual suicide attempt. I would eventually go back to that ward three more times between then and my Freshman year in High School. It was like I could feel myself mentally disintegrating, and I was helpless to do anything. The nurses were starting to take bets as to how long before I was back in the ward. I wish I was making that last bit up.

So, there’s the context. 15 years old, and already been in the psychiatric ward five times in three years. Not to mention having quite the legend going around school as to that nutcase James. Let’s move on with the story, shall we…

2) PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW YOU CAME TO KNOW JESUS AND WHAT YOU NOW BELIEVE ABOUT WHO HE IS AND WHAT HE HAS DONE FOR YOU:
A couple of years ago, Pastor John asked me if I remember exactly when I became a Christian. I told him “Yes, kind of”. It was about a week or two before my Sophomore year in High School, about a week or so after my final stint in the hospital, which puts it around mid-August, 1989. I was 15. But, I’m getting ahead of myself, here…

As is part of the cliche that is Midwest rural folk, church was an active part of our lives, even if only nominally. My father was raised Methodist, and my mother was raised United Church of Christ, which I half-jokingly refer to as “Methodist Lite”. You get all the Wesleyan religion with some coffee and pastries in the basement afterwards. Maybe a potluck every other month. Those were the best. Point is, we were church goers. Every Sunday, we were there. When I hit 8th Grade, I got involved with the Pilgrim Fellowship (which is what they called the youth group there), helped out the pastor when needed, and participated in the choir and got confirmed. I knew about Jesus: He was the guy who was born in late December, then died a few months later as a grown man (he got better, though). You get the idea. The classic “I go to church and I’m a good person’ kind of setup, where my only encounter with the word “Gospel” was when I landed on the starting page of the first four books of the New Testament while flipping through in boredom during the sermon. It really did become more of an enforced obligation, come to think about it.

This is not to say that no one tried to share the Gospel with me, in whatever form. It’s just that, they were afraid to. There was a High School Bible study that was going on at the time I knew nothing about, where I was told one night the kids were asked to name the last person you would ever expect to become a Christian, and I was named almost unanimously. To say I was “weird” and a “misfit” would be like saying “Van Gogh had an interest in painting”. Being a long-time psycho ward alumni notwithstanding, I developed into quite the antisocial freak, mostly by accident. I liked hard rock and metal, I was always off by myself reading some kind of dark fantasy or science fiction novel, and I was never seen without my denim jacket with the customized band logo on the back. So, obviously I worshiped Satan. That’s rural High School in the late 1980s for you. But, the truth was, I was alone and pretty much resigned to that fate. I can understand how the thought of coming up to someone like myself at that time was fear-educing, but had an upperclassmen came to me and just said something that wasn’t derogatory…I was starved for that. Would I have been open to receiving the Gospel from them? Maybe. We’ll never know, because they never did.

The one thing that preached the Gospel to me and let me to respond to Jesus’ gift of salvation and grace? Metal. Specifically, it was a copy of an album entitled To Hell With The Devil by Stryper. You may have heard of them. I got it when I was 14, and I listened to it all the time, nearly wearing out the tape in a year. Admittedly, I did get it because it had the words “Hell” and “Devil” in the title, but this album was…different. The lyrics were not like the songs that the other bands in my collection were singing about; they were talking openly about Jesus, being “The Way”, we were “Free” to believe in Him, His victory over the devil, so forth and so on. It was the final song, though: “More Than A Man”, when I first heard Jesus referred to something other than just Jesus; they referred to Him as God. I’ve never had anyone tell me that Jesus was more than just a guy who lived long ago who said a bunch of interesting things and did a bunch of mind-blowing miracles somehow. I began thinking about that concept. Then I began thinking maybe the song was true about this. Then, months later, in that mid-August evening, late at night, I was laying in bed, thinking about how dark the previous year had been, and not seeing any light at the end of this current tunnel. So, I asked Jesus to save me. I believe the exact words were, “Jesus, save me.” That was it. No flowery speech, no reciting of a specific pre-written prayer, just a simple “Jesus, save me.” That very moment, I felt a very tangible sense of relief and release wash over me. That was it. Simple, yet genuine, and Jesus did.

As to what I now believe about who He is and what He has done for me, well…simply put, He is not only my Saviour, but also Lord. He is God, the Son of the Trinity. The more I study the Bible, the more clear I begin to see how everything in the Old Testament pointed us to understand the plan for Him to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins that we inherited from Adam’s fall. Not only that, but because He was resurrected, He broke the power of sin and death. Think about that…Jesus conquered sin and death. Tell me of anyone who has even come close to doing that. His righteousness has been imparted to me, I have been reconciled to God because of this, and I have hope in the resurrection one day, and of Jesus’ promise to return. Until then, I am his humble servant. His grace and mercy abounds.

I sincerely hope you’re still awake. Again, my apologies. If you’ve made it this far, I applaud your tenacity. Moving along…

3) PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW YOUR LIFE IS DIFFERENT NOW THAT YOU KNOW JESUS AS LORD AND SAVIOUR AND HOW YOU ARE GROWING IN YOUR FAITH, OBEDIENCE AND SERVICE FOR HIS GLORY:
The summer after I graduated High School in 1992, I went to a youth retreat in Colorado with a couple of other guys in my graduating class who have had the (dis)pleasure of knowing me in my days before I became a Christian. We got to talking about when we became Christians with each other, and after I mentioned my story, both of them said they could sense something was different with me when the tenth grade year started. This was the first time they said anything about that. Granted, it wasn’t until my Senior year in High School when I first began to actually realize and explore what truly being a Christian meant, but before that I could very much sense a difference that I couldn’t really put my finger on. It was business as usual, but there was more of a clarity, like a light switched on. After graduating High School, I believe God started putting me through the refining process, as not only did I develop a strong desire to read the Bible and study it, but there were people placed in my life that very patiently instructed me in my growth.

I wrestle with my faith continuously. I am not perfect, but it is the Holy Spirit that is constantly sanctifying me, instructing me, encouraging me, and convicting me. It’s been almost 27 years as I type this since I gave my life to Christ, and not only have the most interesting parts of my testimonies, my story have come after I became a servant of Christ, but I get the nagging feeling I’m not done here by a long shot. I still struggle with my mental condition, and while I have more than once begged God to take this away, I do believe that I’m square how Paul was with a certain thorn not being removed. His grace is sufficient. I am weak, but He is strong. That, and also there are the teens from the youth group I helped out with that have told me that they probably wouldn’t have paid attention to my preaching the Gospel during the lessons, had I not been openly candid about my condition and how it pertains to my faith. There are many other stories, too, but we’ll leave them for other times. You’re welcome.

As I said, I’m not perfect. I suppose at one time I fancied myself Mr. Super Christian, but you know what they say about pride coming before a fall. I’ve had plenty of those. All I can say is, throughout this journey, I’m not the same as I was back in my 20s. Or my 30s. Or even five years ago. The only constant has been God’s faithfulness. I am compelled to continue serving Him in whatever capacity. That’s all I can really say.

May the God of peace soon crush Satan under your feet. Cheers, all…

::END TRANSMISSION::

Farewell to the Youth Group…

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haunted hallwayFor the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:10

I’ve been silent. I know I have been silent, not posting my brain droppings or reviews or such these past few weeks. There have been some paradigm shifts, the major of which was where I said goodbye to my youth group last night.

It was known that this was Shelli’s last year of doing the youth group, as she had been faithfully doing so in the Student Venture capacity for 25 years. Not counting the few years before when it was just a weekly Bible study in the late 1980s and early 1990s. While she had said she was retiring every two years or so, this time she meant it.

It just so happened that I had gotten involved with Student Venture when it was started back in February of 1992, and have been involved in some capacity for approximately 17 out of the 25 years. There was that wilderness period between 2000 and 2009 that I’m not going to go into right now. Sufficed to say, I needed that time. When the Lord saw fit, He drop-kicked me back with the youth group to serve the leaders. Then I moved up to one of the co-leaders. We kept the name Student Venture long after Campus Crusade decided to change their organization name to CRU, and then the last year it was decided to break off entirely with being associated with CRU, more because we were affiliated in name only. The break was very amicable, really. That was also the last year we would exist as a youth group as we know it.

The original plan was to pass on responsibility of the group to myself and another friend–Darla–who were helping co-lead (for lack of a better word, this early in the mourning as I write this). Then, a few weeks into the new season, Darla left to to focus on her family (I swear I didn’t mean to evoke Dr. James Dobson’s old ministry, sorry); I realized that I would be the one taking over the lessons and teaching the group after Shelli was gone. And, after the initial period of anxiety, I  fell back to what I knew best to do: leave it up to God to do what He does, and let the Holy Spirit guide me as I merely serve to the best of my ability. Remain faithful in presenting the Truth of the Bible and Who Jesus is, and let God do the heavy work in the kids’ hearts and minds.

You know, what I’ve always been doing. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, and all that.

Then, without getting bogged with the details, a chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes was started at the High School, and Shelli decided that the torch should be passed to those starting up FCA and dissolving Student Venture entirely. It’s logical, really, as there are so many more opportunities for the kids to grow and mature in their faith and interact with peers from other FCA groups, and it’s headed up by a couple of instructors from the high school. I would be lying, though, if I said I wasn’t a little bit upset at the sudden shift. Then again, the group wasn’t mine to begin with.

So, last night I said goodbye to probably the best bunch of kids I’ve had the honor and pleasure of working with. To watch the Holy Spirit work in their lives, seeing them want to dive into what the Bible says, reading it chapter-by-chapter, and most importantly getting to introduce them to Jesus. It was the one day out of the week I looked forward to. It was…difficult, to understate the situation. Hugs and tears and laughter all around.

So, the torch has been passed for the kids in Hooper, Nebraska. And various surrounding communities. It’s difficult to imagine not being a part of their lives in the future, but I believe they’re in good hands. As for me, I foresee a bit more Wilderness Wandering. Or to put it another way: While it’s true that when God closes one door, He will open another, no one wants to talk about the period where you’re wandering around the hallway waiting for Him to open up the other door.

Can I praise Him in the hallway? Do I have a choice? Am I really going to end this with rhetorical questions? Sure, why not? Cheers, all…

::END TRANSMISSION::

AUGUST 16

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Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. – 2 Corinthians 7:1

Tuesday. The further along this post-Evangelical wilderness I traverse in my ongoing daily wrestling with my faith, there are certain things that have come into focus that I had taken for granted previously in my early days as a Christian. For instance, Grace.

 

Grace has become just a codeword for works in a lot of evangelical minds. The point to see here is that we tend to get anxious about the way God is doing things. If he starts getting all overly generous on us, we want to call him off to the side and see if we can’t add a few rules and expectations in there so WE feel better. Michael Spencer, internetmonk.com

 

Grace is messy. Grace is scandalous. If I’m honest with myself, I would rather not have anything to do with grace, because of the simple fact that, as someone who acknowledges being made in God’s image, I tend to be wired for justice. So whenever I see someone receiving grace, instead of the justice they deserve (some might use the word “karma” instead)…well, it bothers me, to understate things.

Which is why there’s always a constant reminder of how much grace I’ve been shown throughout my four decades here on this planet. About how I’m a great sinner who fortunately serves a Great Saviour.

It’s not enough to say that I’ve been saved by grace. I have to be willing and able to constantly show grace. And in that aspect, I am a great failure. I suppose I will be until the day I’m gone from this world.

::END TRANSMISSION::

MLK And The True Form Of Radicalism…

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indexToday is Martin Luther King, Jr. day. And depending on your disposition, this is either a day to remember a key figure in the Civil Rights movement, and his inspirational “I have a dream” speech, or this could be the day that’s an inconvenience because banks and other government buildings (and some schools) are closed in observance of someone you could care less about. For the record, I view Martin Luther King, Jr. as an inspiration, less because of what he said, but because he was a very flawed individual who none-the-less acted on the faith that he needed to speak out on matters of justice and freedom, not just for one segment of America, but for all of humanity.

On the Relevant Magazine site, there’s an article with 15 MLK quotes that I was browsing before work this morning, and one of them I found rather interesting:

“I imagine that the first question the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But by the very nature of his concern, the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’ The good Samaritan engaged in a dangerous altruism.”

See, I’ve been going through the entire book of Matthew recently. That’s the one Gospel of Jesus where you can find a lot of rather convicting statements made by Jesus, not just to the religious people, but to everyone who would listen to Him. And the stuff He says runs so counter to the ideologies of what the world says, it’s easy to see why He was considered, among other things, a dangerous radical in His day.

And the sociopolitical climate back then really wasn’t as different as it is today, really. While the world is shouting “Eye for an eye!”, Jesus proclaimed that we needed to turn the other cheek after being struck, so that they can strike the other one. When the world is shouting, “Do not infringe on my rights!”, Jesus told us that, when someone forces you to walk with them for a mile, go with them an extra mile. And when the world is shouting, “Don’t show love to someone who won’t show you love back!”, Jesus said that we should show love and compassion to everyone, regardless of whether or not they’ll show it back.

That last part, there, is probably the biggest hot-button statement today, considering what’s been going on these past few months, with the Muslim population and the refugees, and the majority of those identifying as Christians on their social medias saying to keep ’em out. After all, Muslims would never take in Christian refugees, and some of them might be terrorists trying to sneak in.

I’m torn, really. On the one hand, I understand the fear and desire to protect yourself and your family for any potential danger, speculation or not. On the other hand, as I take my faith rather seriously, I am obligated to show compassion and love to all people, not just those who share my same ideology or world view. I am fearful of coming to harm by those who would repay my kindness with evil; on the other hand, Jesus did say that we shouldn’t fear humans, who can only kill the body, but instead Father God, who can destroy our souls as well.

So, really, I understand that I am commanded, as someone who proclaims to be a follower of Christ Jesus, to follow His commandments as such. I’m also not ashamed to confess that the prospect of doing so, especially in this climate of fear and uncertainty (and with the prospect of being misunderstood by my fellow Christians), terrifies me. Which means that I need to pray for courage to step out in faith. Which brings me to another Martin Luther King, Jr. quote that sticks out to me from that article:

“We must learn that to expect God to do everything while we do nothing is not faith but superstition.”

::END TRANSMISSION::

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