Monday, September 20, 2010 any other name would be the same...

This building is a church I attended while I was in High School. Recently an old friend who still lives in the area posted the picture because the building is up for sale. It prompted many comments of previous members who had fond memories. I didn't have such fond memories, not because of anyone else, but because of the suitcase of regrets I carry around in which I have carefully recorded and filed all of my mistakes so that I can access them quickly when the occasion demands. It was easy to come up with many regrets to go with this picture.

Another FB friend, who didn't recognize my new name quickly offered a solution for my unhappiness in the form of a "sinner's prayer". When I replied that I had already passed through that check point and had the T-shirt to prove it, he offered the next obvious solution for someone in need of a life-change - baptism in the Holy Ghost with evidence of speaking in other tongues. Got that T-shirt, too.

Before I go on, let me say this: I know that the quick posting of these solutions was because of the compassionate heart of this friend, and his firm belief that these would solve the trouble I clearly was in. They were given in love, and I appreciate friends who love me enough to offer solutions when they see my distress.

But they sum up the two things that have caused me the most irritation during the years I've been privileged to waste on this planet. 1) That one size fits all; and 2) that it's up to me.

Another editor's note: those who know me best will marvel at the restraint I will show in the next few paragraphs. This is a topic I'm passionate about.

We, in the occidental world, like quick easy solutions so that we can diagnose the disease, determine the remedy, and move on to the next problem. Take a number...we'll be with you in a moment. So we have developed the Romans Road to Salvation, a few verses out of the letter to the Romans which will undoubtedly convince you of your need for salvation if you have any spiritual sensitivity at all. And when you are convinced, you just repeat after me, and voila! (that's a French word meaning "here it is!") you are saved. Next...move along please we have many more behind you to save.

Similarly, the second step for many Charismatic or Pentecostal Christians will be the infilling with the Holy Spirit, evidenced by speaking in other tongues. We lay our hands on you, pray over you, and, voila! (pardon my french) you'll start speaking in a language that neither you nor anyone else knows. Now you're on your way to real holiness. Next...move along please...

If it were only that easy, then all those called to salvation would already be saved, and those not spiritually deaf would be filled with the Holy Spirit as well. And we could push the rapture up a couple of hundred years according to some. The trouble is, it isn't that simple and one size doesn't fit all.

God has indeed chosen the foolishness of preaching as the primary means of calling those He has chosen to come to Him. But real life is often complicated and tangled. And every day is a new day, as they say.

Finally, the real problem comes down to this: it's up to me. Not only do I have to recognize my sin, I have to repent and repeat to be saved (that's not an exact quote from the Book of Acts), then I have to speak in a language that I didn't learn, if I can - because if I can't there must be something wrong with me, and THEN I have to behave the rest of my life; avoiding a list of substances, activities, and behaviors the avoidance of which have traditionally marked out "good Christians". And if that weren't enough, according to the "word of faith" tradition, EVERY word I speak will either bring me blessing or (gulp) a curse. Wow. I'm not ready for this much responsibility.

Well, here's the good news (that's an English phrase which is translated GOSPEL in another language): it's not up to me. Not only was Jesus kind enough to choose me, he brought me to Him with cords of love, and works in me by the Holy Spirit to complete the work he began, which is to recreate me in His image. When I'm weak, He's strong. When I'm stubborn, He's patient. When I'm ignorant, He is light and revelation. When I can't go any farther, He carries me.

My salvation and subsequent growth are His responsibility and His joy. He loves me. And there isn't anything I could do that could change that. I can't make Him love me more - or less.

Whew! That's a load off my mind. Oh, that suitcase of regrets I carry. He's often offered to dispose of it for me, but for some odd reason I have insisted on carrying it. But I'm about ready to hand it over. Maybe soon...

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