Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Pursuit of Heaven, Crowns, and a Quivering, Giggling Mass of Blood, Snot, and Guts

Okay, I’ve been thinking for a while on what to write about and I know it’s been frustrating for my devout fans, okay, just Marty. Love ya Marty :) But nothing has come to me. When I decided to start this blog, I had all these deep church issues/problems that I had intended to gripe and grump about. Oh yes, my cantankerous nature was sure to be the focal point. Sometimes a guy just has to vent, and believe me, there is a lot to vent about in the church today. I believe we have lost our collective minds, but that is a story for another day :) But then our Lent study came up and the lesson I volunteered to teach, of which I wrote about in my first entry. I won’t go into detail here, but that lesson ended up straying quite far from Trooper’s Eyes as God smacked me right between my own eyes with a 2x4, as He loves to do with me. Needless to say, my cantankerous nature was muted a bit on that day.

So, as I was just beginning to recover and starting to feel a bit squirrelly again, I went on an Emmaus Walk. Once again, thanks Marty :) To make a long story short, I challenge anyone to experience Emmaus and to come out of there genuinely cantankerous and or squirrelly. It’s impossible, it can’t be done. I came home from my walk to find my email inbox flooded with what had been one of my most favorite current subjects, (thanks Bill :) ) and all I could do was to smile and shut the computer down. What in the heck has happened to me? I mean, I was getting a little frightened. The air was a little sweeter, the birds seemed to be serenading me personally, and the neighbor’s dog wasn’t quite as annoying. I was broken. I looked at the tattoo on the inside of my arm, which is simply the Greek spelling of Boanerges, with a cross through it, and I’m thinking, “Hmm, maybe I should get it burned off and replaced with something like ‘Hugs and Kisses’ or maybe just ‘Giggles’”, since that seems to be all I’m full of anymore. I walk around just wanting to hug everyone. Scary stuff.

But alas, this morning happened and that old fire alit and made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, in a way more akin to the ornery varmint that the good Lord created me to be. There is a Christian message board that I frequent. And on said board, there is a Jewish gentleman who I rather like to read. He reminds me of a good friend whom I hold dear, whom I’ve already mentioned, whom can always be counted on to keep my inbox full, in that he is always a good source for thought provoking, intelligent conversation. Anyhoot, the conversation was centered around that age old minefield of whether or not we (Christians) should be evangelizing to the Jews. I’m not one foolish enough to jump into this debate. I know where my heart and mind lie on the matter, but I also know that there is scripture to support both sides of the argument.

What got me was when a Christian asked the Jew, “How do you expect to get to Heaven?” And the Jew’s response was simply, “Heaven is not my focus, serving God’s will is.” You would not believe, or maybe you would, how that message board lit up with Christians just piling on this poor guy for that sentiment. And I’m sitting there thinking, “Wow, if that isn’t a microcosm of one of the many problems facing the church and Christians today.”

We get waaaay too preoccupied with the prize at the end of the race. As believers in Christ, we believe we are guaranteed a place in His kingdom and for many that is plenty enough. We like to use and abuse God’s grace and His love. We like to fool ourselves into a false sense of security that just because the prize is already awarded and promised, we don’t have to worry about finishing the race. “I know God wants me to do this…I know God wants me to be this…I know God wants me to stop doing that…I’m working on it!” That is one of my biggest pet peeves in all the world, the Christian response of, “I know, but I’m working on it.” Sorry, got a bit sidetracked, now back to the story at hand…

God’s will, now that can be a scary thing. What if He wants me to do something I don’t want to do? Something that makes me uncomfortable? Something that may change the way others look at me? The list goes on and on and on. God’s will scares us because so often it is not our own. Not our plan, not our ways, not our avenue to peace and comfort. All the while we like to forget that even as redeemed humans, followers and believers in Christ, we will still have to give an accounting. I used the analogy in a class one time that Christians seem to be under the impression that because we are such, Heaven is going to be kind of like Sam’s Club. In that when we get to Heaven we can just flash our “membership card” as we enter and be allowed to go about our business.

In God’s grace and love, we find the ultimate excuse to hide behind. God loves me no matter what. Isn’t that what I wrote in my last entry? YES! And He does! But that doesn’t mean the job is done. Our salvation is not the end of the race, it is merely the beginning. God expects and demands far more than our profession of allegiance.

This all got me thinking back to a Precept class that I attend. I absolutely love this class, (thanks yet again Marty :) ) and I absolutely love and adore the people who attend it. We have a really great, very capable instructor for whom I have the utmost respect. She can be a bit fiery and a hardliner, hmm, no wonder I like her so much.

Anyhow, during one of the classes she was discussing the various “crowns” we will be awarded in this life to present to Christ when we die. And as I sat there listening and following along in my Bible to the scriptures in question, I can remember thinking, “That’s all well and good, but frankly, I could care less about earning any crowns to present to Christ on my behalf.” I figure when I get to Heaven, if I can present myself to Christ as a quivering, giggling mass of blood, snot, and guts, then I will know that I have done my job here. If there are in fact crowns sticking out of that gooey mess, then so be it. But I have a feeling the condition I present myself will mean far more.

However, to present myself as such, the prize cannot be enough, nor can it be my focus. I can honestly say that I rarely think about Heaven. I know that I cannot even begin to imagine it or fathom it, so why try? But what I do know about myself and Heaven is that when it comes time for that promise to come to fruition, I want to make damn sure I have done all that I could to earn it (yes, I know we can do nothing to earn it. On the other hand, I think it is clear what I meant). As my Jewish friend said, “Heaven in not my focus, serving God’s will is.”

Cantankerously (for the moment anyhow) Yours,
The Cantankerous Christian