Archive - March, 2010

The “T”: Remember Me

Growing up, I always loved Easter, but always thought that my family went a little overboard on the traditions. In retrospect, I am grateful for my mom’s intentionality in keeping Christ as the focus of the holiday. Every year, she made us memorize her favorite Easter song, watch the entire video series: Jesus of Nazareth, and spend Good Friday reflecting on the cross and the Gospel instead of watching television or playing with electronics.

And, sure enough, every year, I remembered what Easter was all about:

“E is for the early dawn when Christ arose that day, and left us so a new life could begin.
A is for the angels who rolled the stone away
S means that He suffered for our sins
T is for two thieves who hung beside Him on the tree
E is for His everlasting love
R is for the righteousness He gave to you and me.
Yes, Easter comes from our dear God above.”

Aside from being one of the few songs I can sing in tune without music, it also ingrained something into my heart and mind. I have always been mysteriously fascinated and haunted by that “T”. The two thieves who hung beside Him, who were they? What was their story?

Unlike Jesus, these men were not innocent. They did something worthy of death in the eyes of the authorities, and lived their lives as criminals. Yet, through these two men we see perhaps the most simplistic and beautiful story of salvation. 

“Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ,save Yourself and us.” 

 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” – Luke: 23:38-43

 Both men are guilty, both deserve death. One uses his last moments to mock Jesus, and the other uses his final words to admit his sin, recognize the innocence of Christ and the power of God, and ask that Jesus remember His name. He uses his last moments to begin a relationship with Christ.  

Jesus invites him in, and assures him that his confession and request is enough… that today as he exits this world that he will enter paradise and continue his relationship with Christ there.

Yesterday, I wrote about the elements of beginning  and sustaining a healthy relationship with Christ, but we must not forget that salvation is simple, as simple as the faith of the  thief on the cross. This man did not recite a sinner’s prayer, he was neither sprinkled with nor dunked in water as a profession of faith, he never spoke in tongues,  he did not have a New Testament  to read daily, and he had the opposite of a life of good deeds. Yet, Jesus tells us that assuredly he was saved. This man believed that Jesus was who He said He was, he recognized his depravity, and he asked Jesus to remember him. He put his faith in Christ, and that was enough to save His life.

Jesus himself says: “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven” Matthew 10:32-33. And so, one thief disgraces Christ while the other defends Him. One man gets the death he deserves while the other enters into eternal life in paradise.

 It’s that simple, but also that complicated.  This tale is beautiful, yet haunting because the truth is that we are not in our last moments, or at least most of us aren’t. We have most of our life yet to live, and more opportunities to deny Christ. That ability to mock and deny him scares me because we are all capable of doing it. That is why we need all those elements of growth and discipline that I wrote about yesterday to support that faith which we know to be true, so that we can boldly acknowledge Jesus before men… but we must  also remember the simplicity of the Gospel, that it is by grace through faith that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-10).

The truth remains that I could have been saved when I was 5 and began singing “Jesus, Remember me when You come into Your Kingdom” every time I realized that I needed God. The truth is that a simple confession and request is enough when it is sincere. I cannot pinpoint my salvation because I cannot know when this deceitful heart was first sincere in its acknowledgment of Christ.

I do know that sixteen years after my first request, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if these were my last moments, “Today, I would assuredly be with Him in Paradise”.  After years of traditional Lutheran Easters, my constant prayer is still my favorite hymn. It only has one line and a simple tune, but they are the most beautiful words I have ever spoken: “Jesus, Remember me when I come into Your Kingdom”.

The beginning of the journey…

Lately, I have spent a lot of time trying to explain the Christian walk through points and processes. Often in these conversations, I am tempted to run back to my apartment, find my copy of Beginning Well  by Gordon Smith, and just start reading the book line by line instead of trying to explain things in my own words. This is one of those books that five different people tell you to read, and you never understand why until you read it. Then you read it, and are like “YES! This is what I believe and have never been able to adequately articulate. Thank you!”

The entire premise of Beginning Well is that we as Christians have greatly screwed up the theology of conversion. Christian conversion is a process that occurs differently for everyone, but has seven key elements that need to come into play over the course of coming to know Christ. For some people these elements all click in a few months, for others- especially second and third generation Christians- sometimes it takes a lifetime.

The seven elements are:
Four internal aspects of conversion….
1) Belief… the intellectual component.
2) Repentance…  the penitential component.
3)Trust and assurance of forgiveness of sin… the emotional or affective component
4) Commitment, allegiance, and devotion…. the volitional component

The three supporting and enabling aspects of conversion…
5) Water baptism… the sacramental component
6) Reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit… the charismatic component
7) Incorporation into a Christian community… the corporate component

For me the belief element came at age 5 and was reconfirmed around the age of 13. The repentance came around the age of 14, the trust came around 15, the commitment was a process occurring between 16-18,  the water baptism happened at 19, the reception of the Spirit happened at 18 but wasn’t embraced until 19, and the acceptance of a Christian community finally hit home in my 19th year. So when did I become a Christian? Eh, I dunno, somewhere along the way…

Smith compares conversion to an international flight. You start in one country and you land in another, but you do not get up midflight and ask the pilot to tell you the exact moment you crossed the border.  The pilot couldn’t tell you exactly and if  even if he could it wouldn’t matter. The important thing is that when you land you know that the border was crossed at some point and you’ve reached your destination. Smith reveals that we may never know the exact point we were justified in faith, but we will know that we were saved when we reach our destination.

He also writes that “Conversion is never an end; it is a beginning and a means to an end. Thus it must be followed by a program of spiritual formation that should mirror the very nature and contours of a Christian conversion” (153). Meaning, even after I am introduced to each of those seven threads, I need to continue to progress on each  and every thread, always moving towards Christ. Conversion is only the beginning of the journey…

As a self proclaimed life long Christian, I spent twenty years beginning my walk with Christ…. and I am still very much a work in progress...  how then can I encourage others to continue to progress on their own spiritual journeys?

Expectations.

Except a longer, more elegant update at a later date. I realized that I haven’t posted anything of substance on here in awhile; recent entries have merely been my scattered thoughts. Expect substance again, expect God to give me intellectual revelation and inspiring reflections, expect things to change…… because I am expecting it.

For now, I’ll leave you with my thought of the day… some encouragement from an dear friend of mine.

” soak up the goodness, even if it’s a bit cloudy….

…. God can and does and will continue to use you :-)

 Truth. Time to live with these expectations once again….

Is this the real life… or is this just fantasy?

“He felt that his whole life was some kind of a dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it” – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

These last few weeks have been a surreal blur, and sometimes I am convinced that I will wake up, unplug from the Matrix and have an epiphany that life is just a dream. Last Thursday, I preached my first sermon. Twenty-four hours later, I left for Spain and returned late last night. My body is a little confused about the time of day, and I am a little confused about life in general.

It is no coincidence that I had the opportunity to preach right before I departed for a week in Spain. Preaching was  intimidating, but something that I knew that God could use me well in if I surrendered the opportunity fully to him. I did, and I believe that He spoke through me. I was satisfied with the experience, and felt refreshed that perhaps maybe I am following God down the right path in life. My heart was humbled and encouraged by the experience. And, I needed that affirmation before going to Spain.

God built me up with the preaching experience, but torn me down in Europe. I absolutely loved Granada, loved the people, and loved working with the Church there. However, what I did not love is what I learned about myself. I learned that I am extremely insecure, that I still have major trust issues, that I have open foot holes that I just invite Satan to play in, that I am not as spiritually solid as I would like to be, and that I need to make a lot of changes in my life and worldview in order to be a better Christ ambassador. Spain was not an exhilarating high for me, but rather a time to reflect and to notice where transformation is needed.

With language and cultural barriers hindering the talkative extrovert from engaging as much as she would like, I found myself reflecting and praying and thinking often. All of which are sometimes bad for my health. I do not like the stillness because it brings things to the surface. But now that issues have emerged,  God and I have some work to do before I transition into this next season of life.

I praise God for these painful revelations. I am grateful for this experience, and I will be forever changed because of it. God is good, way too good to me. Granada and my friends there will remain in thought and prayer. I hope to one day return for a visit with better Spanish speaking capabilities in tact. But until then, I will remember this experience as the week that ripped open my heart to reveal that there is so much learning, growing, and transforming yet to be done in my life.

“Turtle, turtle, turtle”

This morning, I was turtley enough for the turtle club. Upon opening my eyes, I discovered that I was curled into the smallest ball possible- tucked into the fetal position, my arms clinging to my knees, my head drawn tightly to my chest. Weird considering that my normal nap time strategy is to either sprawl out with my face under the pillow or to curl up on my side.


Psychologists believe that our sleep positions give valuable insight to our personalities. Our unconscious body position reveals our fears and insecurities by reflecting our posture towards the world around us. According to a British professor: “Those who curl up in the foetus position are describedas tough on the outside but sensitive at heart. They may be shy whenthey first meet somebody, but soon relax.” Accurate enough I suppose. 


Most days I do have a tough outer shell protecting an inner sensitivity… but why am I  more turtley in dream land now than ever before?  Ah, I have an idea. It may have something to do with this:

“3/4/2010 8:15:00 PM
Thursday, KayChapel. This is where Chi Alpha gathers to worship God, learn from theBible, laugh, and encourage each other. This week, our very own KeraPackage will be speaking and we’ll be sending out our spring breakmissions trips. See you there!”

I give the persona of an extrovert, but the truth is that I am a hybrid. And, the only reason I enjoy public speaking and large group settings is that they make me uncomfortable. The adrenaline rush of conquering one’s fears is an addictions of sorts; so alas, I am loud mouthed and always making a presence. However, my inner turtle is a little intimidated by this week’s events- preaching, mission trip to Spain, following God with reckless abandon. I guess it’s time to stick my neck out and break free of my shell. It may not be the most comfortable place to be, but it is totally worth the risk.

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