What Shall I Do With This Man

Before we delve into this week’s column I want to begin with a quote.
And I want you all to really think about it.
Hopefully, if I’ve done my job, it’ll tie in well at the end.
So here we go.
“A human life has value to God wherever it lives and we’re not being let off the hook with geographical location being an excuse for somebody’s life to be wasted.”
Ok, now you might want to read that a few more times, but we’ll continue.
As you already know (unless you do truly live in a cave), Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, was released in theaters last week.
Now I wasn’t planning on writing about this movie, but as Gibson said, “I couldn’t not do it.”
I saw the movie Friday night and I’ll admit –it’s violent, but it is an amazing work of art.
I recommended to my mom that she waits for it to come out on DVD so she can pause or fast forward through it.
But beyond the violence and beyond the controversy there is a question that I believe needs to be answered.
It’s the same question that was asked nearly 2000 years ago by Pontius Pilate.
“What should I do with Jesus, the one called the Christ?”
As you watch The Passion of the Christ we see numerous accounts of what others have done with Jesus.
Of course we have his disciples. The 12 men who have give up three years of their life following Him.
Yet as we see from the opening of the movie, they have trouble keeping watch and praying with him.
We also have Judas Iscariot, one of the 12.
A name that has become synonymous with “traitor.”
In the Passion and in the Gospels we see that Judas struggles with this question of Pilates.
We see that he is willing to give up his friend, companion and teacher for a mere 30 pieces of silver.
In hindsight, I look back and can’t believe he would betray The Christ for something that small and that futile — yet, I look at all the things in my life that I’ve betrayed Christ for and realize I’ve done it for much less.
But Judas and I aren’t alone.
Another disciple turned his back on Jesus in a crucial moment.
Peter denied he knew Christ three times after The Christ’s arrest.
How many times have I denied my faith or my walk with Christ in order to stay “out of trouble?”
How many times have I backed down from a chance to be a witness in hopes that someone might like me more?
I can easily claim to be a Disciple of Christ or a Child of God on Sundays, but what about Wednesday or Friday or Saturday night?
Who’s child am I claiming to be then?
Another character in The Passion of the Christ, that Gibson took some artistic license with, was Simon of Cyrene.
There is only a brief mention of Simon in the Gospels of Mark and Luke, but I enjoyed the scenes Gibson added with Simon.
As you see in the movie (theologians upset with Gibson’s straying from the Gospels please bear with me), Simon was a member of the crowd.
He simply came to see the show until he was made to become a key player on the Via De La Rosa (The Way of the Cross).
Simon was very reluctant to get involved.
He didn’t want to cause trouble. He didn’t want to be associated with this man, The Christ.
Yet when he looked upon the face of Christ he was changed.
Like Moses talking to God on the mountainside — looking upon God changed his entire appearance.
As he struggled to carry the cross of Christ to Golgotha he changed. He knew that this man was no ordinary man. He knew that this man was special.
Perhaps he had been a part of the crowd on Passover.
Making a huge fanfare about this new man riding into town.
Perhaps he had been with Jesus in Gailee when Jesus had taught.
Perhaps he was even caught up in the frenzy of a mob that hollered for Pilate to crucify Jesus.
We don’t know.
But in Gibson’s version of the story, we can see that no matter what his past was, he was a changed man after his face-to-face encounter with The Christ.
He couldn’t not change.
Like Gibson has said in a number of interviews, The Passion of the Christ was a story he had to tell, because of the difference it made in his life.
And the Passion of my Christ is a story I must tell as well, because of the difference it’s made in my life – yet so often like Peter, or Judas – I betray my Savior for measly things on this earth.
Very quickly, let’s go back to the quote I gave you at the beginning of the column, “A human life has value to God wherever it lives and we’re not being let off the hook with geographical location being an excuse for somebody’s life to be wasted.”
Any guesses on who said this?
Does it matter? That quote should hit each of us between the eyes.
The man who said this knows what Christ has done for each of us.
He knows what Christ has called each of us to do.
He knows that following Christ means it should make a difference in our lives.
We should care and love for everyone around us not as a suggestion from Christ, but as a commandment of Christ.
We should be willing to go at the drop of a hat to Asia or Africa or Russia if we are called.
We should be willing to give up a Saturday to help build a house for someone in East Temple with Habitat for Humanity.
We should be willing to give up a lunch break once or twice a month to help hand out food and clothes to the needy with Helping Hands.
We should love our fellow man, because He gave us the ultimate example of love.
“Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for a friend.”
I admire friends of mine, who are ready and waiting to head to the mission field. They realize that God’s love knows no geographic bounds. They have examined Pilates question and said, “This is what I shall do with Christ.”
May God bless them abundantly on their journeys.
And while I and many of you don’t yet feel God’s call to a foreign country, may we do everything here in Belton, TX to share God’s love.
May we examine each day, “What should I do with Jesus, the one called the Christ?”
Is it just a fad we’re apart of – or has he made a true difference in our life?
And for those of you who might be reading this column and wondering what is all this fuss about Jesus about – I’d be amiss if I didn’t offer this phone number to you: 1-888-Need-Him.
It’s simple, it’s free and they will be happy to answer any questions you might have about this man they call the Christ.
Or e-mail me – I’d love to show you what He has done for me.

My (Small) Quarter-Life Crisis

This week as I was putting the paper together and debating on the topic of my weekly column when I came across a familiar name in our obituary section.
Daniel Ramsey.
I couldn’t figure out why the name rang a familiar bell until I read the entire obituary.
I reported on Daniel’s fight with cancer (June 24, 2003) and Montgomery Chiropractic Clinic’s work to help find a bone-marrow transplant.
At the time I wasn’t very interested in covering the story. I was caught up in a number of other stories the morning of the press conference with the family.
I wanted to pass the story along to an intern or another reporter, but I’m glad I didn’t.
Especially now.
I only met Daniel and his family once, but I will always be struck by his calmness, bravery and sweet spirit.
It was well with his soul.
Daniel was down to his last chance for a transplant.
His family members had been rejected and now he was left with finding a possible donor from the general public.
Yet, it was well with his soul.
I was so touched by Daniel and his family that I did something I should have done a long time ago, add my name to the National Registry of Bone Marrow Donors.
I unfortunately didn’t keep in touch with the Ramsey’s after the bone-marrow drive that was held for Daniel, but if his last six months were anything like the brief moment of time I had to meet him, they were well with his soul.
Daniel loved his family and loved life, yet even in the face of death — it was well with his soul.
I’ve heard various people from time-to-time comment that a writer they read was always in search of themselves.
The more I write the more I think that’s true of all writers who are really honest with themselves and their readers.
I think that’s why we write.
We’re in search of ourselves and ultimately something greater than ourselves. We’re always questioning things.
As I look back at some of my writings I can easily see a pattern and see that I’m in search of myself and something greater.
Maybe it comes across to you, the reader, with more certainty than I feel, but the questioning is always there in my mind and in many ways I hope it’s always there.
As I turn 25 next week I’ve realized that for all intensive purposes my life is a quarter of the way over.
It’s a small quarter-life crisis I’m in.
I think my quarter-life crisis can be defined “as searching now — to be assured that I don’t end up having a mid-life crisis at 50.”
25 years from now — I’ll likely look back on my life and wonder if I chose the right path.
50 years from now — I’ll likely look back and wonder if my life made a difference at all.
I’ll wonder if anything I ever did or said or wrote will be remembered by anyone.
It seems like lately I’ve been replaying the final scene of Saving Private Ryan through my mind as well.
Pvt. Ryan is standing in a cemetery of World War II soldiers and he recalls the last words Capt. John Miller told him — the man who gave his life to bring Ryan home to his mother. “Earn this.”
Ryan turns to his wife and seems to beg her for assurance that he’s earned the sacrifices Miller and others made for him.
So as I break the quarter-century mark I continue to really question what I’m doing with my life and if I’m on the right career track or heading down the right path.
Maybe I should pack up and head to Asia or Africa for missionary work.
Or maybe I need to stop everything and focus on my side business.
There’s a number of if’s and maybe’s I could stress over if I took the time.
But in the long run I just want to live a life content and happy so that at the end of my life I don’t have to look back and wonder if I did my best or chose the right path.
I want to always be able to say, no matter how many questions may come, “It is well with my soul.”
So while I remember Daniel, I hope that his family will know that he did make a difference to someone. I only wish I could have told him myself.
And I’m sure I’m not the only one.
So, for Daniel and the Ramsey family:
When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this best assurance control: that Christ has regarded my helpless estate and he hath shed His own blood for my soul
It is well, with my soul.
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin not in part, but the whole is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, “Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord O my soul!”
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight. The clouds be rolled back like a scroll, the trumpets shall sound, and the Lord shall descend, “Praise the Lord, it is well with my soul!”
– Horatio G. Spafford

Confessions of a Tattoo Addict

I must admit, I am a tattoo addict.
Now granted, I haven’t become an addict like some people, but I really like the two I have — and I’ve got the itch to get another one (sorry mom).
A few months ago I went with a friend to get his second tattoo.
In the process, I met a great tattoo artist who shared her heart with us and reflected things I’ve heard said by many.
My friend’s artist questioned the design he was having permanently inked into his arm — a symbol for Alpha and Omega.
This of course opened the door for a unique exchange between us and her.
We were both saddened to hear her say, “I know about the Bible, I just don’t believe in Christianity.”
She told of how she had grown up in a Catholic church and left after realizing the church cared more about buying new carpet and air conditioning for the church, than feeding the hungry people sitting outside the church doors.
She told of how she had spent time teaching in Japan at a Bible school and was actively involved in the church.
After several years of service and involvement she went through a bad divorce and withdrew from God and the church she felt had shunned her.
“Not one person called to check up on me,” she said. “Not one person called to see if I was ok — after all I had done for that church.”
From this point she fell deeper away from God and began getting caught up in “the things of this world,” including her new found addiction with tattoos.
After several months she ran into friends from the church who walked by her in disgust judging her new look and lifestyle.
Now she won’t even step foot into a church.
My heart went out to her has I knew this was a familiar story to many.
Members of my own family have felt betrayed and forgotten by their churches.
While I don’t excuse any wrong behavior, I hurt for those who feel the church has turned their back on them.
I hurt for those who can’t stand pious Christians — too good to share a pew with someone not wearing a suit and tie, or someone who may have made a few mistakes in their lives.
As Christians we are to love our fellow man — regardless.
As Paul said, He was the chief of sinners, yet God’s grace saved him as well as us.
When we step out of our bubble and reach out to those around us, whether they have a tattoo, a divorce, three illegitimate children, maybe even someone who’s had an abortion, we are showing our love for Christ.
“When I was naked you clothed me, when I was hungry you fed me.”
Why do we ignore so many parts of the Bible that tell us to love our neighbor?
Is it because we have become to comfortable in our holy huddle and are too afraid to let any dirt in?
Why do we have people who live outside the Christian bubble, like a tattoo artist have to come in and wake us up?
And why are we still not listening?
What will it take for ME and the rest of the church to realize the love that Christ has for everyone, and the love that He asks us to share with everyone?
I’ve heard it said many times before, the Bible doesn’t command the world to go to the church, but for the church to go to the world.
If we are to reach out to the sinner we must be prepared for the sinner to come and join us in our fellowships.
We must realize that the person sitting next to us is a sinner just like us and we must show them the same love of Christ that someone once showed us.
I pray for my new friend. I pray that something, in some small way will make a difference. I pray that she will take our conversation to heart.
And more importantly I pray that God will continue to work in her and bring his grace to full fruition in her life like He has done in mine.

It’s All Stuff

Last week I caught an old George Carlin show on my new satellite dish.

It’s amazing what a small 18″ piece of metal can do to for an otherwise quiet evening.

Now while I’ve read and studied theology from a number of sources, I never expected to get a lesson in theology from Carlin.

It goes to show that God can use anything and anyone to teach you something important.

Carlin who is widely known for his routine on the 7 words you can never say on television (although recently I’ve began to doubt those are still accurate) gave a very hysterical and fairly accurate viewpoint on materialism.

Stuff.

That’s all it is. Stuff.

“You know why we have houses?” Carlin began. “It’s so we can keep all our stuff in them. And when we buy a new house and we have to buy more stuff to fill our house.”

He continued by saying that if we didn’t have any stuff we wouldn’t need a place to keep all our stuff while we go to work, to make more money, so we can buy more stuff, to keep in the place, where we keep all our stuff.

Oh how true it is.

And when we get too much stuff, we have to go buy a bigger house, to keep all our new stuff.

Then we find out that we have a new room that’s empty, we go out and buy more stuff, to keep in our house.

It’s such a vicious cycle.

I myself have been caught in this rat-race before and if I’m not careful, I can get caught up in it again.

As I’ve been telling my Sunday school class “the reason we buy newer bigger stuff typically, is because we see our neighbors or friends or family members buy bigger better stuff.”

I was perfectly content with the three or four channels my 19” television picked up until I kept seeing friend after friend with a 32″ television and 100 channels.

And now that I’ve upgraded to a satellite dish, I can’t pick up KNCT, the local PBS affiliate. I had begun getting very addicted to their documentaries and of course “Austin City Limits.”

Along with upgrading my television options, I’m considering buying a house.

It makes me wonder, am I buying a home as a wise investment or as a place to keep more of my stuff.

The house I have now is great. Granted, it’s right next to the rail road track and I found out last week at the Belton City Council meeting that apparently the majority of people in my neighborhood don’t like renters — but otherwise it’s a great house that holds my stuff.

And I even have a whole extra bedroom room where I can hide my “junk stuff.”

So what should I do?

Should I spend the extra money each month to have my own place where I can do what I want? Or should I be content with the things I have and avoid the worry and trouble of owning a house?

It’s a difficult decision.

Unfortunately Carlin didn’t give any real good theological answers.

Luckily King Solomon did over 3,000 years ago.

As we discussed in my Sunday school class this week, Solomon asks, in Ecclesiastes 6, what good is it to have money and never enjoy it.

“I looked long and hard at what goes on around here, and let me tell you, things are bad. And people feel it. There are people, for instance, on whom God showers everything–money, property, reputation — all they ever wanted or dreamed of. And then God doesn’t let them enjoy it. Some stranger comes along and has all the fun. It’s more of what I’m calling smoke. A bad business.”

One of the members in my class, brought an article to class this week that really illustrated this point.

The article told of a man who had won a huge sum of money and within an hour of wining it, was struck and run over by a car, killing him instantly.

What good was his money?

Now in no way am I promoting the idea of going out and splurging all your money to keep up with your neighbors — Solomon says repeatedly in chapters one and two that that’s only chasing after the wind. But I think Solomon also says to enjoy the blessings God gives you while you can.

“Say a couple have scores of children and live a long, long life but never enjoy themselves — even though they end up with a big funeral! I’d say that a stillborn baby gets the better deal. It gets its start in a mist and ends up in the dark–unnamed. It sees nothing and knows nothing, but is better off by far than anyone living. Even if someone lived a thousand years–make it two thousand!-but didn’t enjoy anything, what’s the point? Doesn’t everyone end up in the same place?”

Solomon says later, “Just grab whatever you can while you can; don’t assume something better might turn up by and by. All it amounts to anyway is smoke. And spitting into the wind. Whatever happens, happens. Its destiny is fixed. You can’t argue with fate.”

So, where does that leave my decision about buying a house or even buying more stuff that will someday fill a landfill?

I don’t know.

Sorry if you were expecting a great revelation from me.

I’m still examining how all this applies to my current situation — and I won’t even bring my desire to buy a Harley Davidson into the picture.

But I do know that above all I’m going to do everything possible to keep from getting caught up in the proverbial rat-race and still enjoy life and the blessings I have each day.

Sanctity of Life

More than 300 million people in the Sub-Saharan Africa make less than $1 a day. This number is expected to rise to 400 million by 2015 (The World Bank).
Every year Sub-Saharan Africa spends $14.5 billion dollars repaying debt to the world’s richest countries and international institutions. Nigeria debt payments are 11 times higher than the national health budget (IMF).
6,500 people are dying of AIDS each day in Africa, and another 9,500 contract the HIV virus. 1,400 of those contract the disease during childbirth or by their mother’s milk. Africa is home to 30 million or 70-percent of the global AIDS infections (UNAIDS).
AIDS is a preventable and treatable disease. With proper training and involvement, Uganda has reduced its rate of infection from 15-percent to 5-percent (USAID).
4.1 million African AIDS patients are in need of anti-retroviral drugs that allow patients to restore their health and help them to continue living a productive life, caring for their families. Of these 4.1 million, only and estimated 50,000 will receive them (WHO).
Last year during his State of the Union Address, President George Bush committed the United States to sending more aid to Africa to help fight and prevent the spread of AIDS, yet the majority of the money has been caught up in red tape.
And while 6,500 people die each day — we simply step back and say it’s not my problem.
How have we come to a point where we place so little value on human life?
Since 1973, 43 million babies have been innocently killed in the name of choice.
Rulers and dictators around the world have killed millions and millions of people because they disagree with their race or religion.
Yet I continue to read e-mails from people complaining about a war that was fought to protect the rights and lives of the citizens of Iraq.
Do we really value human life, or just the lives of those close to us?
When congressional leaders can argue passionately that the horrendous procedure of partial-birth abortion is an American right, we’ve lost the value and sanctity of human life. And it shows in more ways than one.
King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:18-21, “I said to myself regarding the human race, ‘God’s testing the lot of us, showing us up as nothing but animals.’ Humans and animals come to the same end — humans die, animals die. We all breathe the same air. So there’s really no advantage in being human. None. Everything’s smoke. We all end up in the same place–we all came from dust, we all end up as dust. Nobody knows for sure that the human spirit rises to heaven or that the animal spirit sinks into the earth.”
Solomon is saying that without revelation from God, we are no different than the animals.
Everything’s smoke. From dust we come and to dust we go.
At first glance it sounds like Solomon could have been the first animal rights activists. After all isn’t that what they all want?
They want animals elevated to a status equal or higher than that of mankind, while at the same time they reduce the value of human life to nothing more than something that can easily be tossed aside in a time of inconvenience.
I was astonished Tuesday night as I watched the O’Reilly Factor and heard author Alexander Sanger (“Beyond Choice: Reproductive Freedom in the 21st Century”) tell O’Reilly that our government should protect the right of a mother to kill her baby as long as it was still attached by the umbilical cord.
The value of life has been cheapened and reduced to something that can be tossed in the nearest trash can at our convenience.
Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
This scripture entails all of humanity.
From the living fetus at conception, to the orphan children in Africa, to the aging saints living in a retirement home, we are all created in the image of God.
The Psalmist writes, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Human life is priceless.
Yet our society continues to put a price tag on it.
If a birth is inconvenient, or if saving a life will raise my taxes, or if I have to make a donation – it’s not my problem to take care of.
How can we continue to ignore the value of life?
We all want a good life for ourselves, our families and those we love — yet we can’t seem to take the time to give value and help to a mother of three, dying of AIDS in another country.
There is so much we can be doing to show our fellow man that we do care and that we will come to their aid.
But before we can do that, we must each look at our own lives and see how much we really value life.
And I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I’m just as guilty as the next person when it comes to loving my neighbor.
So during this month recognizing the Sanctity of Life let’s ask ourselves:
Do we care for the poor orphans in Iraq, Africa or Ukraine?
Do we care about the homeless seeking shelter and warmth under a highway overpass?
Do we care about the poor in our community who need a helping hand just to make it week to week?
Do we care about the unborn children who have no one to protect them or watch over their rights?
Or are we too busy to care and love anyone but our friends, families and ourselves?
I hope that for each of us, the latter is not the case.
In closing I leave you with a statement from United States Secretary of State Colin Powell.
“AIDS is not only sapping their (Africa’s) today, it is stealing their tomorrow. And it is threatening democracy, prosperity and security all around the world. None of us can afford to look the other way and pretend that the AIDS crisis is somebody else’s concern or that it isn’t a crisis at all. It affects us all. All of us are vulnerable.”

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