Monday, November 25, 2013

We, The Condemned

I've spoken on occasion about my times with the Christ next to the intracoastal. For whatever reason, God has used my times next to those waters as very significant and powerful moments in my life. So I figured the little place deserves a little more explanation. My school is about a 3 minute walk from the intracoastal, and then another maybe 20 minute walk to the beach. In between or after classes, I head off to have my daily time with God out there by the waters where there's normally very little to distract me.

The little place is actually owned by a church across the street, which had built a small outdoor amphitheater in recognition of a few successful years of crusades. A small, marble plaque inlaid into the floor commemorates it as "The Place of Decision." Sections upon sections of bright blue chairs face the intracoastal and a stage set up with a baptismal channel running in front of it. It really is quite the place to enjoy solitude and peace, sitting in an empty amphitheater where the worship of saints and souls won for Christ define its very existence. Sitting there reminds me that God not only works in the multitudes that once filled those seats, but also in the single, solitary man that sits alone in that sea of chairs.

However, when I said that the church across the street owned it, that wasn't entirely true. They used to. Now, because of monetary reasons, the property has been sold, and there are plans to build some of the tallest skyrises in downtown right on that area. Now, look, I'm no protester or activist - that's not why I'm telling you all this. I'm not going to tell you to sign a petition to save this property. The reason I bring it up is because the current structure that lies there is condemned.

And I love it.

I love the fact that I am fully appreciating something that the world cares little about anymore. I know it will all soon be over, and perhaps that increases my fondness of the time I have now with that little place. Look at me - I sound like a schoolgirl. Oh well, I love it. Every minute of it. Condemned and all.
"For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die - but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5)
Look, I'm not going to drag this out. Whatever pleasure I have in this little condemned piece of property is reflective of how God loves condemned humans. He loved us while we were still sinners. Not at our best, but at our worst - at our most condemned moment.

Can you see that?

God chose us, The Condemned. He loves us, The Condemned. And He rescued us, so we are no longer The Condemned.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Hardwood Floors and Fleshy Pads

I recently replaced the carpet in my bedroom with hardwood flooring. Usually, people compile a list of pros and cons before they do a thing like that, but I have nowhere near that kind of foresight. Instead, I've decided to compile my list retroactively, and here's the result.

-It looks positively alluring.
-It's easy to clean.
-It shines bright like a diamond. (Thanks, Rihanna?)
-My desk chair has become exponentially more slidey on its surface (thereby increasing fun percentage by 17%).
-No more rugburn.
-Did I mention it looks good?

-All the dust/hair/dead carcasses tend to ball up in the places where footsteps don't normally land.
-It's not very comfortable to lie face down on. (Don't ask.)
-I'm pretty sure it absorbs more heat than carpet, turning my already-hot room into the molten core of the earth.
-I may or may not have cried in frustration while installing it.
-It's super slippery.

One day, my friend tried to hide from me by putting himself behind one of the doors in my room. I tried to push the door open, only to find that I simply slid on my socks. As frustrating as this was, I knew there was a simple solution. I tore off my socks and planted the fleshy pads of my feet on the ground, giving me just the grip I needed to shoulder my way past the door.
"Give me a place to stand, and I will move the Earth." - Archimedes
I asked one of my friends the other day if he wanted to change the world. He replied, "Not really." However, my next question was of a little more importance: "Do you want to change your own little world?" To this, his response was a definitive, "Yes."

I think every one of us wants to change the world, either on a global level, or on the level of the world that is immediately around us. We want to impact our friends, peers, and family in a way that creates an indisputably compelling legacy. We want to leave our mark.
Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. (Luke 6)
Might I suggest that, at one point or another, the flood is going to come? If that's the case, my question is, "Will the legacy you have built survive?" which is really just another way of asking, "Were you standing on the Rock when you pushed to move the Earth?" All you are trying to accomplish will fall until you find out that there's only one spot to put the fleshy pads of your feet.

That spot is on a hill far away, next to an old rugged cross.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Spectator Sport Christianity

I never really enjoyed watching sports on TV. Go ahead. Be rude and say that I need to be more "manly" and participate in the ritual of gathering around a flat rectangle on a wall to scream and yell at minuscule impersonations of real people who will never hear me. Go ahead. I dare you.

I always preferred to be the one out there playing the games that people watched. Granted, I'll never be as good as the people who get payed Niagaran amounts of money to throw, kick, or hit a ball, but I see involving myself in something as way more engaging than sitting back and letting it happen in front of me. I know some people agree, and I know that some people think I just need to buy a jersey, make some spicy wings, and spend a Sunday watching the game with friends to really know what the experience is all about. Ok, I'll give you that.

However, I contend that we apply this style of inactive observation to other areas. We would rather hire a guy to come and fix our toilet than put our hands down the bowl and get the offending obstacle out. We would rather let the government give us our monthly benefit than get up and go to work. We would rather watch the wife cook than get up and mix our fingers in the beef.

We've turned life into a spectator sport.

And I fear that the worst casualty of this reality is our walks with God. We're content to sit in a pew and get fed by a ministry as long as God doesn't actually require anything of us. We're fine being told things that make us feel fresh-bubbly-tingly (I'm copyrighting that...) on the inside, but we avoid things that will actually convict us to the point of making us change. We're good with hearing someone pray after a sermon, just as long as we're not expected to actually find a silent time of solitude on our own and chase after God in secret prayer. We've become great cheerleaders who "Amen, brother!" the work of warriors in God's Kingdom, but we refuse to take up a sword and become ourselves the very men we applaud.
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Cor. 10)
Men and women of the church, we've got to stop with this notion that the Gospel is dedicated to making us feel good. I'm tired of people talking about God as a source of warm/fuzzy therapy instead of the source of all glory and power Who filled us with this strength that we may go out conquering in His name and for the sake of His glory alone. I'm sick of cultural Christianity.

I'm sick of spectating.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Your Brain on Banality

Let me lay out for you a typical weekend in my life. I don't have school on Fridays or Saturdays, so I typically dedicate these days to studying for my nursing classes. Sunday is supposed to be my day off, where I can just lead my small group and hang out with my family or friends. At least, that's what things are supposed to look like. Here's what actually happens.

Thoughts going through my mind on Friday.

"Ok, let's get down to business. I've got a lot to take care of, and there's a test on Wednesday. Let me just check my Facebook for a few minutes, and then I'm off to the races. Someone commented on my status? Oh sweet, I'll go respond to that."

*Scroll down my News Feed.*

"I'll just see what's going on with my friends. Someone posted a link to a Vine video? Oh... my... it's cats frolicking in a field of gummy bears. Must. share. Oh look, someone commented with a link to a Youtube video. WHAT?!? Cats rapping about gummy bears! Coolest. video. ever. And just look at these suggested videos! One's called, 'French Cat Performs Surgery.'"

*Watch this 7 minute video in its entirety, then follow a trail of suggested Youtube videos until you somehow get to one about the brand new field of biochemical engineering of 3D printers that print new organs already inside your body!*

"ACPTH! How is it 1 o'clock already?? I can't believe I let myself do this again. Now, I can't spend any time with God, or have the opportunity  to hang out with my brother and friends tonight because I have to study."

*Repeat on Saturday.*

*Have leftover work that needs to be finished on Sunday, which flushes family-hang-time down the pooper.*

Ok, so maybe this doesn't happen every week, but it happens in some form or another, to lesser or greater degrees, every day. It perpetually serves to frustrate me, get me behind, and prevent me from doing other, more constructive things. Plus, it doesn't even bring any satisfaction past the 5 seconds you take to do it! And I don't think I'm the only one.
And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” (Matt. 22)
I'm pretty sure God's cornered the market when it comes to time. He owns it. Monopolies ain't got nothing on Him - He invented it. So, I'm pretty sure that the root of the problem with this laziness is a failure to recognize that when God's asking us to give Him what is His, He's also talking about our time.

I write this article mostly out of the conviction that has washed over me with this stuff. And every time I try to buckle down and "just stop," I find that I am totally incompetent to do so. I find that the only thing that works is surrendering before I start my day, while I'm going throughout my day, and while the day is winding down.

Essentially, I need to shake hands with surrender every moment.

So who are you shaking hands with today?