Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ridicule & Redemption

I watched Bill Maher’s documentary Religulous for the second time last night. I’m not exactly sure what inspired this viewing. Of course, the entire point of the movie is to make various belief systems (especially Christianity) look ridiculous, and Maher supposed to accomplish this by interviewing some very odd, ill-informed, blindly passionate and/or willfully deceptive faith leaders. I mean, come on, he visited a Holy Land theme park and interviewed the actor playing Jesus. He stopped in at a trucker church in Memphis and wanted to argue theology. Bill Maher, who is highly opinionated and well-spoken, came at these people with his arguments loaded and ready, and he got exactly what he was hoping for: a barrage of apologetics clich├ęs that carry little to no weight in an intelligent discussion, and believers who appear blind and ignorant in their devotion. Admittedly, I was a bit embarrassed (to the point of having to look away a couple times) by some of the believers portrayed in the interviews. It doesn’t bode well for faith when the critics are more informed than the congregants.

I’m not saying these things to be critical. Many of the folks being interviewed were totally blind-sided by the blatant opposition and it’s natural to get flustered or frustrated when that happens. I guess I was just challenged by it all.

Living here in China has been so good for me in this respect. While my “critics” are not so informed in terms of tenets or doctrine, they are, for the most part, incredibly intelligent. They believe in money, knowledge, science & evolution and have been heavily indoctrinated by atheism. Talk of miracles, prayer, salvation, even the very existence of God, gets them laughing. To say that I believe the stories I tell, to them, is like having faith in folklore or fairytale. It’s silly to them and they’ve not been shy about letting me know! One has several options when encountering this reaction, and I’ve grappled with them all…
  1. Become defensive and argumentative
  2. Try to make the Gospel sound more “believable”
  3. Feel hurt or offended
  4. Back down or build walls
  5. Graciously impart truth

 The first response, quite honestly, has never been an option for me. I get too nervous and my heart races, my voice gets all shaky and everyone thinks I’m going to cry. Plus, I’ve found that most people shut down when things take an aggressive turn, and it isn’t really how we’re called to interact with others. Jesus never bullied anyone into believing. Aggression in this context leaves little room for dialogue, or love for that matter.

The second option is always tempting… “Oh, it’s not as crazy as it sounds, promise!” Although the Bible says that the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, there’s always this hope that one can make it sound less divine and more doable. If I can make the Gospel more approachable, make the road less narrow, then certainly my listeners will more readily receive the message (and me!). But then what’s to be made of their concept of this so-called Christianity I’ve presented? They’ve only been deceived into believing in a deficient form of godliness. How is that any different from a cult? The stakes are high and the message requires faith. Presenting them as otherwise robs the message of its intrinsic power and stunts the growth & effectiveness of those who subscribe to it. Protecting the reputation of the Gospel (or more likely my own) by making it more “believable” is an incredible disservice to the Kingdom of God and its advancement. But the trap is there, and it’s rather attractive when you’re feeling outnumbered and ridiculed. I’ve fallen prey to it and I’ve repented for it.

I’ve had my fair share of hurt feelings in response to remarks my students have made. It’s easy to take things personally, especially when you feel like your very reason for living is being called into question. When faith is simply a compartment of your life that’s safely confined to Sunday mornings, it’s probably easier to shake the assault. But when you’ve allowed faith to infiltrate every fiber of who you are – your entire identity and purpose hinging on its veracity – opposition can feel quite intense. Being the fighter that I am, my first inclination is to cry. “Why are they being so mean to me!?!?” (I know, I’m very tough. This is when my big brother would usually come in and beat up whoever’s picking on me.) I’ve fought back tears on several occasions and replaced them with my brave face. The problem with giving into hurt feelings or offense is that it inevitably leads to the fourth option.

Dwelling on how bad opposition feels can lead to some serious compromise by way of backing down for acceptance’s sake, or building walls for safety’s sake. Now I’m a big fan of acceptance. I like being liked. But the problem with standing for something is that there will absolutely be people who don’t like you. They won’t agree with what you believe. They may think you’re perfectly tolerable, but your faith makes you an outsider and therefore a liability. To combat this, one can “tone down” their religiousness in order to find social acceptance. I’ve been guilty of this, mostly in not speaking up when misconceptions or poor opinions of God surface. Rather than call people out, I sit back in passive observance repressing any hint of zeal so that I can avoid being perceived as too devout. I don’t want to be one of those “weird” Christians. Of course afterward, the face I saved seems pretty petty, insignificant and horribly selfish. Another way to ensure social self-preservation is to build walls to keep the opponent out. They can’t reject me if they can’t get in. If I can keep my faith-life concealed then it’s safe from any scrutiny and I am safe from feeling bad. Win-win. Right?

Wrong.

Obviously the best option here is number five. In the face of opposition and ridicule, the absolute best response is to graciously impart truth. Hands down. This is what Jesus did. He was never defensive or argumentative. He didn’t shrink back or water down His message so He could enjoy the good graces of society. Jesus, full of grace and truth, spoke with boldness and conviction and was always exactly right. Every time. (Can you imagine living in the freedom of knowing that what you say is exactly what needs to be heard? How incredible!) When I choose any other option, I am choosing fear. I am choosing what appears to be safe or more acceptable. But at what cost? Is preserving my feelings worth leaving others in darkness? The choice is clear, but like I said, the stakes are high.

I have not been consistently good at graciously imparting truth while here in Qingdao. I’m sure there is so much more I should have said. I’m certain there are opportunities I let pass, relationships I didn’t seize, and conversations I misdirected. But I know that nothing I’ve done here is without purpose, or at the very least redemption. I mean, this blog entry alone proves that I’ve learned something through this process. And I will say this: facing opposition has solidified and reinforced my faith in immeasurable ways. It’s challenging and sometimes frustrating, but I have never been so sure of in Whom I believe. I’ve never been so sure of His love for mankind. I’ve never been so sure of His patience and affection for me. And while I haven’t quite mastered the art of sharing the Gospel, I know that HE is ever at work in and through me, and as I take bold and sometimes fumbling steps of faith, He is gracious to redeem and empower my feeble efforts.

I’m pretty sure that means I could give Bill Maher a run for his money.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Inventory: Expectations

Today my mom told me that I’m a reflective person. When she said that, I started thinking about whether it was true or not. After a lot of thought and consideration, I came to this conclusion:

Yep. It’s true. I am.

She mentioned my reflective ways because my American homecoming is fast approaching (Saturday, November 6… EeeeeEeeeeEEEEeeeeee!!!). It’s officially less than six weeks now until my feet are reunited with the glorious soil of my homeland. “My country ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty…” I’m still narrowing down which patriotic anthem I’ll serenade my fellow passengers from Beijing with. I feel like they’d really like Home on the Range or This Land is Your Land. Or maybe Empire State of Mind. We’ll see.

As this season in Qingdao wraps up, it’s only natural that a reflective person such as myself would feel the need to take an inventory of the last several months. I thought of making a list of regrets, victories, things I’ve learned, etc., but that felt hard. And I really don’t think my experiences can be categorized like that. Everything was so intertwined; successes contributing to bouts of self-reliance, failures leading to significant breakthroughs. I think to try to make it cut and dry would diminish the overall experience and somehow discount God’s ability to translate everything into something useful and worthwhile. So, instead I am (or have very good intentions of) writing a series of blog entries highlighting some of the different aspects of my experience. I’m calling it “Inventory”. I feel like I should create a graphic for it. This installment covers expectations…

I honestly didn’t approach my time in China with a lot of expectations. It was a step of obedience and I knew there would be a lot of trusting God, but in terms of particulars, I really didn’t know what to expect. Spiritually, I think I thought one of two things would happen:

1)     I would fail miserably.
Journal Excerpt – October 13, 2009
I’m having to trust the Lord like never, ever before and something in me is so resistant. I’m in turmoil – inwardly desiring to be obedient and dangerous for the Lord, but scared out of my wits to risk so much. I feel like Indiana Jones stepping out onto that invisible bridge. I don’t know what I’m so afraid of losing. I’m not wild about going to China by myself. I’m not adventurous enough. I’m not courageous enough. Why in the world would God send me? All I can think is that God must see something in me that I am missing; something I can’t see. He believes in me – and probably more than I believe in Him. But I’m scared. What if I can’t trust Him enough? What if I blow it? I’m not good at this. I’ve always played it safe. I’m afraid that I’ll be too afraid to accomplish what He sets before me; that I’ll fail or chicken out.
 OR

2)     I would have a yearlong summer camp experience.
Journal Excerpt – January 11, 2010 (on the airplane to Qingdao)
I’m feeling pretty unlikely these days. I just wonder what God sees. He’s sending me off to China. I’m going because I’m terribly compliant and I really do want to participate in what He’s doing. It’s wild that He would anoint me for this assignment knowing all my shortcomings – those being what I tend to dwell on. But He doesn’t. He’s sending me because He sees my heart and He sees something workable. He sees a willing heart. He sees, not just potential, but the absolute realization of all He’s purposed me to be. Not some theoretical, non-existent future, but the me today who will walk in obedience and set the pace for tomorrow. I want to grab a hold of the Jaime Jesus sees… No more fear, timidity and passivity. I’m taking hold of the fearless, bold and assertive woman God has made me to be. I’ve been picked and I’m going to have to deal with that and rise to the occasion. No more saying what I’m not, because whether I believe something is true about me or not, I’m doing it. I’m being adventurous. I’m being brave and faith-filled. Sometimes actions disprove attitudes and you realize you’re something other than what you always thought. Lord, I’m looking forward to our year together. 
My journal tells quite the interesting tale of emotional ups and downs. These entries were written before I got here. I’m sure you can imagine the roller coaster post-arrival. Needless to say, neither of my spiritual “expectations” were fulfilled in their entirety. I didn’t fail miserably. I was apparently brave and adventurous and faith-filled enough to make it; to live here and accomplish something. But I also haven’t been living on a mountaintop this entire time. I didn’t always grab that fearless, assertive Jaime by the ears and run with her. To my own shock and dismay I am still a work in progress with lots more for the Lord to prune and refine.

Overall, I would say that my lack of expectations in the particulars led to me being continually humbled by the open doors and opportunities the Lord set before me. Here are some things I never would have expected:
  • ·       Teaching the Bible 2-3 times a week at my English school.
  • ·       Obtaining the most colorful & beautiful apartment in Qingdao.
  • ·       My first marriage proposal (don’t worry, I said no).
  • ·       Unmerited favor in ridiculous measure.
  • ·       A newfound love and increased tolerance for spicy food.
  • ·       Above & beyond abundant financial provision.
  • ·       Resolute faith in the face of ridicule and opposition.
  • ·       A new smile.
  • ·       Numerous conversations with students impacted by the Gospel.
  • ·       Incredible friendships that will transcend continents and time zones.

These are just a few… I could tell story after story (which I should have been doing on this blog on a regular basis) of all the wonderful and unexpected opportunities and encounters I’ve had. And my time isn’t up yet! I still have several weeks to see how the Lord wants to punctuate this experience. These are exciting times, my friends.

Exciting indeed.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Two's a Crowd

Sometimes I feel like two people live inside of me. There’s the one that desires entirely to submit and yield to the purposes of God. She wants to be refined and stretched and challenged and used. She wants to press in and kick butt & take names for Jesus.

I like this girl.

But then there’s this other girl living in me. She’s a lazy, selfish pleasure-seeker who doesn’t want to put forth the effort to pursue wholeness. She’s content to settle into her hang-ups, and she’s indifferent to the opportunities beyond those presented to her.

I despise this girl.

I suppose all this is biblical… the whole spirit vs. flesh thing. And I suppose that on some level we all struggle with this. We all suffer from this inner battle to ascribe righteousness rather than recklessness to our lives. Of course we want to do what is good and right and life giving. Of course! But the broader, more destructive path entices us. It tells us that things will be easier if we just give in. Why press in when we can enjoy some measure of success without exerting much effort? Why contend when we can coast? Maybe coasting doesn’t sound blatantly reckless or destructive, but consider all that’s being neglected or left undone when we sit back and engage only what come to us.

As believers we’ve been called to take ground. We’ve been commissioned to go and make and preach, to advance the Kingdom of God. There is nothing passive about that kind of calling. But my tendency is to let opportunities come to me. I engage that which presents itself to me and then spend the minimum amount of effort required to enjoy success. And I call this faithfulness.

It’s not.

It’s laziness.

I do this in my own life with struggles and brokenness. I whine and complain and ask God to fix me, heal me, free me. And I’m frustrated when it doesn’t happen. But the truth is, I want Him to do all the work. I want my prayer and desire to be all that’s required of me. It doesn’t work that way. If I want healing and freedom and wholeness I will have to contend for it. I will have to make sacrifices, pursue safeguards, and wage war when necessary.

I did this in college (don’t tell my professors). I cannot tell you how many times I wrote papers and mustered only the minimum effort required to land an A. I knew that I could pull it off, but what if I had spent my four years pushing myself, drawing out all the best that was in me? Maybe my grades would have been the same, but I wouldn’t have been.

And most disturbingly, I do this here in China. Everyday I am honored to be a light and voice, to be a tangible expression of God’s love for the people here. I am humbled by the opportunities that the Lord has given me to teach His Word and share His heart. I pray about these things. Sometimes. Usually my prayers begin when the person approaches me, or when I step into the classroom. But what if I spent my mornings on my knees contending for the hearts of those around me? What if I fought for them? What if I engaged heaven and released the will of God in their lives? What if I pursued relationship beyond my office hours? I’ve settled for convenience when I should be counting the cost for the cause of Christ (wow… impressive alliteration there, Jaime).

Complacency and lethargy are parasites of the flesh that eat away at faith life. They’re subtle and seemingly harmless, until the day we discover that our once passionate zeal for the Kingdom has become nothing more than a malnourished desire to be a good person and get into heaven.

The battle against the flesh is more than just resisting temptation and avoiding sin. The flesh is tricky. It seeks to undermine the spirit with “good enoughs” and “that’ll dos.” It tells us that a little effort is enough effort and if healing and progress and freedom don’t come at that expense, then they’ll probably never come. And so we settle. We settle for what comes our way. We settle for what will get us by. I don’t want to settle anymore. I want my life with Jesus to be filled with opportunities He brings and opportunities I seek Him for. I want to be proactive and vigilant in seeing the Kingdom come, His will done.

The passive, complacent, apathetic, lethargic girl living in me is going to need to find new digs. She’s not welcome anymore.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

“Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.”

“The Kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force.”

“How long will you neglect to go and possess the land which the Lord God of your father has given you?” 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Meltdown

Let me just begin by saying that it is hotter than BLAZES in Qingdao right now. It’s not that the temperature is so high, it’s the gosh darn humidity. The weather can appear to be perfectly lovely, nice and warm with a gentle breeze off the Yellow Sea, and then BLAM! Humidity punches you in the face and puts you in a chokehold. Is it possible for air to be chunky? Because it sure feels chunky here sometimes and it makes it hard to breathe. It’s also quite dirty. There’s lots of dust in the air and when it’s mixed with the moisture it becomes a lovely dust particle skin treatment that you get under your fingernails when you scratch all your mosquito bites. I guess it could be considered a kind of exfoliating. There are probably spas here that market it to gullible foreigners.

It wouldn’t be so bad if I drove. The problem is all the walking. I can leave my lovely air-conditioned home, walk ten minutes to my lovely air-conditioned school, and by the time I’m there I find myself soaking wet with misshapen, droopy clothes, hair stuck to my neck and face, and an overall sense of nasty, sweaty grossness. It’s unfortunate. I think I prefer to be cold. I’m much more comfortable bundled and chilly than I am sweaty and overheated.

You know what Chinese men do when they get hot?

This.

 














If only I had no shame…

So, I’ve been in China for six months. July 13 was my anniversary and I celebrated by having an emotional meltdown (I think that’s the standard six month anniversary gift actually, like gold on your 50th). My mom and I were skyping and the topic of dads came up. I have a long and sordid dad story and the Lord has been so gracious and caring and present in that daddy place throughout my life. I have been spared so much, but I am not without my father issues and on this day they came welling out of me in dramatic sobs. My poor mom, she was confined to a computer screen and, I’m sure, felt rather helpless in bringing me sufficient comfort.

It’s interesting the things that Jesus is addressing in my life while I’m here. I feel quite vulnerable in this foreign land without all my people; without my fallbacks and comforts; without my hideouts where I can avoid dealing with hard things. It’s like I’m being stripped bare. God is peeling back my facades and uncovering all the things I’ve camouflaged with optimism and sunshine and cheerfulness. He’s asking me to be honest. He’s asking me to confront unmet expectations and come to terms with the possibility that they may only be resolved and/or fulfilled in Him. And He’s asking me to be okay with that.

It makes me feel like a pouty three year-old who’s upset about not getting her way. I’ve shrouded my disappointment in compliance, but it’s still there. Underneath all the “it’s okays” and “I don’t minds” I’m discovering this stubborn, clinging part of myself. It’s not angry or resentful, it’s resolute. There is a part of me that refuses to let go of hope. Hope is not bad, but this hope is on my terms. And it’s primarily related to my dad. The three year-old in me is still waiting for the magical father-daughter reunion. She is still looking out the window hoping her daddy-knight-in-shining-armor will ride up on his horse and take her away with him. She is still imagining he wants her.

I wish I could send in 30 year-old Jaime to have a good, rational discussion with her, but there’s nothing rational or relenting about this girl’s hope. It’s something that only Jesus can address. It’s something only He can touch and transform into the kind of hope that brings healing and wholeness.

And I’m okay with that.

I’ve got a few more months in China and I’m sure I have a whole mess of things God wants to address in me. My heart is open and I’m okay with whatever He says because He knows best.

But I’m still not okay with the humidity.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Wants & Wonderings

Sometimes it’s really difficult for me to be honest about my desires. There are definite things that I want in life, but I struggle even to allow myself to voice them. I don’t know if it’s because I’m afraid that on some level what I want isn’t healthy or right, or because maybe I feel like only the less spiritual would admit such longings. Regardless, I have dreams and hopes and desires yet unmet.

I’m not bitter. I’m not cynical or desperate or hopeless. I guess I’m just wondering. I’m wondering when and where and why and how and IF all these bottled-up wants will come about. I suppose you’re thinking that my longings have to do with getting married, having a family, typical girl stuff.

They do.

But that’s not all.

I want to stop being insecure.
I want to have discipline.
I want to write and actually enjoy it.
I want to travel the world and make Christ and His love known.
I want to be okay with hard work and sacrifice.
I want to feel beautiful.
I want to feel established as a grown-up.
*the fact that I say “grown-up” instead of “adult” attests to my lack of feeling established
I want to be entrusted with something bigger than me.
I want people to see more than niceness and sweetness when they look at me.
I want to be bold and confident and unshakable.
I want a man to think I’m adorable.
I want to never wonder if that man will stop loving me.
I want to raise children consecrated to God and His purposes.
I want to sing and play the guitar really well.
I want to be healthier.
I want to exercise and eat right and actually see it through.
I want to know my dad.
I want to break down misconceptions concerning God.
I want my life to be utterly confounding to those around me.
I want my faith and obedience to challenge and encourage others.
I want my message and preaching to demonstrate the Spirit’s power.
I want to see miracles.
I want every person I meet to know that they’re worthwhile.
I want to laugh really hard every day.
I want contentment.
I want to see whatever it is that Jesus sees in me.
I want to voice my opinions with conviction, even at the expense of looking dumb.
I want to stop fearing rejection.
I want to live on the same continent as my friends and family.
I want to be braver.
I want to NOT want all these things and JUST want Jesus.

It’s hard.

I know these are good things and I know it’s okay for me to want them. What I have to work against is being controlled by them. I have to fight the urge to let their fulfillment, or lack thereof, dictate how I feel about myself, my life, my worth. That’s why I want Christ to replace them. I want Him at the center. If all I want is Him, then I will never be disappointed. Jesus Christ is always a sure thing – His love, His plan, His purpose – and if He is my focus then my satisfaction hinges on Him, not on what He gives or takes away.

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.”  -Philippians 4:12b-13

This China life is teaching me a lot about trusting God.

Please pardon the cheesy graphics (close your eyes or something so you don't have to feel embarrassed watching it), but this song is a beautiful expression of this whole process of trusting God... All My Devotion, by Kristene Mueller

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Deception

The other day, just before I was getting ready to leave for work, I heard this really loud buzzing sound coming from my bathroom. I stuck my head in to investigate and the buzzing was so loud and intense that I instantly squealed, ducked and ran out, having no idea what exactly was buzzing (reflex reaction… apparently I’m a flighter, not a fighter). I thought about just closing the door and letting whatever was in there die of starvation or something, but then I thought about it escaping into other realms of my house and I just wasn't okay with the idea of waking up with an oversized insect monster on my pillow. So I put my brave face on and walked (or maybe cowered) into the bathroom, checking every corner and crevasse for the buzzing culprit. My plan was to first identify my opponent and then select the weapon with which to bludgeon it (plunger, flip-flop, giant glass vase to trap and suffocate it with). As I continued my inspection, I noticed that the sound got louder as I closed in on the toilet, so I surveyed all the sides... nothing. Then I thought, "Hm. Is that my toilet buzzing?" It does this trickling water thing where I often have to tap the flush-button to make it stop and I thought maybe it was worth a shot to see if that same trick would make the scary buzzing stop. I cautiously approached the flush-button and did one last squealy jump backwards when the buzzing warbled and it seemed that maybe some ghastly winged creature was flying at my head. Recomposed, resolute and undeterred, I set forth again, tapped the button, and what do you know? The buzzing stopped. 

I hate it when toilets make scary China bug sounds. It causes unnecessary alarm and squealing. The whole episode reminded me of Buddy the Elf when he encountered the horrible noise coming from the evil box under the window (the radiator). Sometimes household appliances are just downright scary. Is a toilet an appliance? 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Courtesy vs. Confrontation

“For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.”  John 3:34

Jesus said some of the most confusing things! Reading his conversation with Nicodemus is just downright confusing. Jesus, what are you talking about? Poor Nicodemus just wanted to find out if Jesus was the messiah or not, but instead he’s met with all this talk about being born again and testimonies from heaven and such. I think I probably would have said something like, “Give it to me straight, Jesus!” But the thing about Jesus was that He was never really concerned with answering the questions people thought they had. He posed new questions and/or addressed the question/answer they needed. He didn’t mind confounding people. He didn’t mind leaving them to ponder and consider truth on their own. He always knew exactly what should be said, and it was rarely what people wanted to hear. He spoke the words of God, drawing from a limitless well of wisdom, knowledge and insight made available by the Holy Spirit. “God does not give the Spirit by measure.”

Sometimes I think I get a little preoccupied with telling people what I think they want to hear. I don’t like stirring the pot. I don’t like confronting the exclusivity of my faith, especially if it causes people to walk away or be offended. But Jesus wasn’t afraid. Jesus didn’t avoid talking about the difficulties of following Him and embracing His message. I think if I operated more like Jesus and less like me, I would find that I say exactly what needs to be said at the precise time it needs to be said – even if people walk away; even if people think I’m foolish or crazy or close-minded. I’m not doing anyone any favors by making the Gospel easy to swallow. It is Good News, but it’s a narrow road.

If I want to be effective, if I want to say what needs to be said, then I must draw from that same limitless well that Jesus did. I must speak the words of God by the measureless power of the Holy Spirit. It’s the only way I can know I’m saying the right thing at the right time. And it’s the only way I can have assurance that even if someone walks away, they heard what they needed to hear.

Lord, forgive me for being more concerned with courtesy than with confrontation. Help me, as one who has been sent, to speak Your word by Your Spirit. Help me do so boldly and without regret. Redeem what I’ve squandered and give me more opportunities to engage people the way Jesus did. Give me wisdom and understanding, but more than anything, give me Your presence and Your Spirit’s power. Thank you for including me in Your plans and purposes. I want my life to bring You glory.


This is straight out of my journal. I have more thoughts on all this business and plan to write a follow-up soon... :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Crucified

Pilate presents the people with a choice... "And he released to them the one they requested, who for rebellion and murder had been thrown into prison; but he delivered Jesus to their will."

Man is perpetually prone to making terrible choices. On this day, when given the choice between a Man who gives life and a man who takes it, the people chose the murderer. In all my spirituality I would like to say with absolute certainty that I would not have made the same choice, but I think my flesh would tell a different story. 

There are moments everyday of my life where I stand with the raging crowd and plead for the life of the murderer. I petition for the rebel. And in so doing, I send Christ to the cross. It's illogical, and when the murderer wreaks havoc on my life, I come to my senses and chase after Christ all the way to Calvary. There He invites me to die with Him, and again I am faced with a choice.

How do I want to die? 

Do I want a destructive death marked by chaos and brokenness and rebellion? Or do I want a death that leads to peace and contentment and life renewed? It's an easy answer and it should be an easy choice. I'm going to die either way.

"Let us also go, that we may die with Him."

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live,
but Christ lives in me."

How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He would give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross
My guilt upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no powr's, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom