Monday, April 19, 2010


You learn a few things being stranded on an island.

Okay, really we weren't completely marooned, but it felt like it. Nine of my best college friends and I had just been arrived on the beach of Little St. George Island, an uninhabited estuary preserve. The fisherman gave us the kind of smile that says, "I'll probably return to find these guys dead," wished us good luck, and pulled off in his boat.

So there we sat: 10 guys, four kayaks, 25 gallons of water, food for the five days, and all our camping gear.

The plan had sounded great- four of us would kayak to this uninhabited island, and the fish charter tour would drop off the rest of us and our supplies. However, when we arrived on the island, instead of the palm trees and sandy beaches we expected, we found a forest that looked like it had been napalmed in Vietnam.

Apparently, a fire had swept over the island the year before, wiping out the lush paradise we hoped for. So there we sat, not knowing exactly what to do. Behind us was water, in front of us a burnt forest. After discussing our predicament, we decided the best option was to hike down the beach in search of the tropical paradise we hoped for.

The only problem was we had not expected to hike with any of our gear, food, water, kayaks, a cooler, or a guitar. We argued for several minutes about the best way to transport everything down the beach, and when no one found a good solution, we decided to "work harder, not smarter," and just carry as much as we could, leaving the kayaks behind. We could return later and retrieve them.

What started out as a show of manliness and determination turned into a "death march" about half a mile down the beach. The 90 or 100 pounds of food, gear, and water each of us carried became immense burdens. I had a backpack loaded with gear and carried a 40 pound container full of water.

As we plodded down the beach, each foot sinking into the sand, I couldn't help but feel this is the closest I'll ever be to being ship-wrecked. Our group looked like a rag-tag, exhausted group of sailors on an uncharted island. This was an adventure.

Soon our so-called adventure wore into an exhausting hike. I would look about 100 yards ahead to a tree or stump, and tell myself I could make it. Once I reached my way point, I fell down in a heap of heavy equipment.
Slowly, surely, we continued down the beach. Each member of our group faced the mental question of whether or not he could continue. And yet, when he looked up and saw his brothers next to him, he found strength. We were in this together.

I often think about community and friendship. So often it can be a selfish notion. We have friends because they make us feel better, or are at least entertainment. But what do we give to our friends? I usually feel I have so little to offer.

At that moment, though, we had everything to give each other, precisely because we had nothing left. The simple fact that we were in this mess together was a bond of strength. As the sun reddened our bodies, as our heavy loads cranked into our muscles, as our feet blistered with each laborious step, I felt strangely lightened. The looks of determination, of pain masked by words of encouragement, told me I could keep going.

In the end, the trip turned out to be all we hoped for- we kayaked with dolphins, we had a huge bonfire on the beach, we saw a shark, we met two mysterious coyote trappers, but most of all, we learned to live together. The individual spirit of each melted into a love for one another.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Salvation is here

It can be popular in Christian circles to emphasize that Jesus message does not stop at merely salvation and emphasize a redemption of culture.

In many ways, I agree with this and applaud it- Christians need to be fighting injustice, working to end poverty, and caring for the downtrodden, but this cannot come at the expense of watering down the Gospel.

Christ’s salvation and the implications of that are the heart of the Christian message. Anything good we do, any love we share, must come out of a full realization of salvation and the relationship with God we enjoy because of this. Salvation- Jesus’ death on a cross and resurrection three days later- is the watershed of history and humanity- the single most important event ever.

In order to fully operate with the power of Jesus Christ- to complete his ministry on earth- we must bring love and redemption in one hand and the hope of salvation in the other. They are not complete without each other. But salvation and relationship with God must be the nourishment that the Christian depends on in order to minister in love and redemption.

Romans 3:25-26 comes to mind: “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

The justice of Jesus Christ (love and compassion) only comes through his salvation.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

An offensive Gospel

Mohandas Ghandi once said of Christianity, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Most people have a positive view of the teachings of Jesus- “Love, forgiveness, hope, giving, real faith.” But they have a real problem with Christians. What is so offensive about Christians?
Christians are offensive in one of two ways- in a negative way as judgmental and hypocritical, or in a positive way because their lives are so filled with the message of the Gospel that it makes people sick.

First, I'll address the negative. Christians, especially in our culture, are known for their hypocrisy and arrogance. If you think of the typical church, its probably filled with white, upper-class people who go to church to feel good about themselves. What is lacking is love- love for one another and love for the lost.

A real relationship with God procreates into a love that seeps out of us in everything we do. We should first be known by our love. Yet, where this starts is living in the reality that Jesus has called us to life of prayer and devotion to him. If we make this the central pillar of our lives, we are filled with love for everyone around us.

So if Christians want others to look at them in a more positive light, they should first look within and ask if the message and salvation of Jesus Christ is real in their life.

Now for the second kind of offensiveness- a positive one. I firmly believe that in some situations, the Gospel, in its purest form, is offensive.

Look at Jesus Christ- he offended a lot of people- so much so that they killed him. If we are living out the Gospel, daily loving others with a real heart, people will be offended.
I am certainly not advocating that Christians make signs, stand on a street corner, and yell at people that they are sinners destined for hell. But I am saying we need to tell the truth in love.
John 4:23 says, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”

We must have both truth and love in our message to people. This may be offensive to people simply because they are resisting, trying to shut themselves off from the truth of the Gospel, so much that they will be offended.
Christians are called to live the message of Jesus Christ- we must be known for our love, but also equally so for the truth.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Adam and Eve II

The idea of Adam and Eve, and the whole question of what earth would be like if they hadn't sinned got me thinking.

Was Adam and Eve's sin inevitable?

In Ephesians 1:4-5 Paul says, “Even before the world was made, God had already chosen us to be his through our union with Christ, so that we would be holy and without fault before him. Because of his love God had already decided that through Jesus Christ he would make us his children – this was his pleasure and purpose.” (Good news translation)

This verse clearly points out that it was part of God's plan, part of his “pleasure and purpose” to save us from sin through Jesus Christ (which implies his sacrifice of his own life). What implications does this have?

For one, I think it says that the question of what the world would be like if Adam and Eve had sinned would be a mute question. God knew that Adam and Eve would sin before he even created the world. He gave them free choice in their lives, free choice to love him, and a choice to disobey him. Yet he knew that if he gave them free choice, they would eat from the fruit and fracture their relationship. It was impossible for Adam and Eve to have free choice and also keep from sinning.

But wait, if God knew that Adam and Eve would sin, if he knew he would have to sacrifice his own son to get us back, if he knew that we would cause him so much heartache and pain (as only a parent can know), why did he create us in the first place?

I think he created us because he knew that all the pain we would cause ourselves and him would be worth it. When our relationship is restored, when we live in perfect love with him, that is worth every ounce of pain God endures.

God's love is greater than sin. His love for us surpasses the evil of sin.

Walks with God (Adam and Eve)

In order to understand the story of Jesus saving us from our sin, you have to go back to the beginning, to the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. If you do not know the story, you can look it up in the first book of the Bible Genesis. But basically, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, thereby disobeying God, declaring their independence from him, and falling into sin, making all of their progeny (us) also subject to this sinful world.

Its often tempting to consider what things would be like today if it were not for Adam and Eve's sin. We would all be innocent, having a perfect relationship with God. In Genesis 3:8, after Adam and Eve have taken the fruit and their eyes have been opened to the concept of sin (because they themselves have engaged in it), it says, “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”

God was palpable to Adam and Eve. He walked with them in the cool of the day. He spoke, he moved and they heard him audibly.

Eden (the garden Adam and Eve lived) was perfect in many ways. They didn't have to work the land, kill animals, have disease, or die, but the most remarkable thing was that they had a perfect relationship with God.

They walked with him.

This is something amazing. And as heaven will in many ways be a second Eden, something I am looking forward to immensely. To walk with and talk to God. The idea, the concept give me shivers.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Divorce is bad. I think everyone would agree on that subject. It ruins lives, families, tears people apart.

However, is it ever alright for Christians to be divorced? I think the Bible is pretty clear on this. Some pharisees, or religious leaders, once asked Jesus if divorce was alright since in ancient Jewish law, given by Moses, provisions were made for divorce. Jesus' answer was pretty profound. “But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Mark 10:6-9 NIV).

To me, this is pretty clear. We should not be divorced.

Yet, what do you say to the woman who is in an abusive relationship? How about verbal or emotional abuse? When someone is in danger from their spouse, common sense is to separate. A woman who is being abused needs to get out of that situation.

Therefore, I would say that people who are being physically abused do have a reason for divorce. In many ways, when there is abuse, the function and protection of marriage is destroyed. The divorce papers are merely documentation of that destruction.

Can reconciliation happen, and people be re-united? Yes, I think so. People can be healed and set free from the lives they used to lead. That is the work God is doing in all of our lives- renewing us. Therefore, I think any marriage can be redeemed. It may take one person leaving in order to protect themselves, but we should always have faith in God to heal that which is broken.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Earning salvation

Is it possible to earn our salvation? In many ways, this question is redundant. If we look at salvation, it has the basic notion that someone is being saved. So, the salvation story, Jesus saving us from our sins, and eternal damnation through his death on the cross and resurrection three days later, is basically a story of a rescue.

A couple key points of a rescue:
You don't save someone if they were able to get out of the situation by themselves.
A rescue requires the cooperation of the person being saved. They must reach out their arms and trust themselves into the arms of the rescuer.

So here's how the story works. Everyone has sinned, or broken their relationship with God. This includes everyone in the world- everyone has lied, cheated, stolen, treated someone with less respect than they deserved, or any other of a host of sins I find myself falling into everyday. It is simply human to do this. However, this means we are separated from God and cannot be with him, even after we die.

Therefore, we need a hero, Jesus Christ who was and is God, who became a man so that he could take on the weight of the sins of the world and become a perfect sacrifice. He was crucified, and amazingly rose again three days later to demonstrate his victory over sin and the hope that is open to anyone who receives Jesus Christ as his savior.