Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A double blessing for sin

Grace changes everything.

In Isaiah 40:1-2, God says, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for her sins.”

I used to read that and see the “she has received double” part in this way: Israel was so bad that God had to double-punish her in order for her to come around and now enough was enough. But in looking at this passage through the eyes of the Cross, there is a whole new meaning. Mercy is not getting what we deserve, and grace is receiving what we do not deserve. At the Cross, we received mercy and then the double-blessing of grace, which gave us life.

Israel gives God her sins, He gives her mercy and grace. She receives double. She does not pay double.

By Christ/In Christ, my hard service is completed – He lived the life I could not live.
By Christ/In Christ, my sin has been paid for – He died the death that I deserved, receiving the wages my sin earned.
Through Christ/In Christ, I receive from the Lord’s hand not only mercy, but also grace – not just payment of sins but the gift of life. A double-blessing.

Does this make me want to go out and sin more? No, it makes me love God and want to respond to Him in love, and it also helps me believe that God will give me all that I need to honor Him in my life and actions.

Monday, March 27, 2006

This one goes to 11

There was a super headline on yesterday following George Mason’s upset of UConn. It said, “This One Goes to 11.” Why is that so great? Because it is a reference to the Christopher Guest movie, “This is Spinal Tap,” in which the lead guitarist for the band has an amplifier whose volume knob goes to 11. When asked by someone why they don’t just make “10” louder, he replies in a no-duh voice, “Because it’s eleven. This one goes to eleven.” Nice work, ESPN.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

George Mason? Yes indeedy!

I’m not saying I’m not still hurtin’ from the Heels early exit, but if you gotta’ go down, it might as well be to the team that also takes down the #1 seed in your bracket. Congrats to George Mason, representing the CAA in the Final Four – nobody had that in their bracketology!

Friday, March 24, 2006

I've set before you life and death... choose life

God has given me and Diane a ministry to a few women in our neighborhood who pay for their crack addictions by selling their bodies. He has given us a heart for them and has given us favor with them that they trust us and come to us when they are in need, and we have seen one of them leave the streets recently and trust Christ to get her on the right track.

Another of our friends, however, is not there yet, and she recently stopped by the house after getting out of prison. She wanted a Bible and ended up staying for dinner, and in the course of conversation, we found that she had a job that night set up for her by a friend who has an escort service. She was to go to some party and dance with another girl, although she assured us she didn't have to do anything sexual (!). I felt led by God to challenge that choice and to invite her to stay the night with us, and then in the morning we could try and find her a halfway house. I told her that I felt that this was a very important choice for her, one that would have a huge impact on her life.

She practically ran from the house (she does this when Diane and I get too close to her issues or her heart is being revealed), and as I looked out our back window, I saw an SUV pull up beside her in the dark as she walked along our yard. She paused, got in, and was gone. And all I could think of was the verse in Deuteronomy where God says, "I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse - choose life."

I was so sad that she didn't choose life this time, yet how often do I ignore the same call and offer from my Lord? His way doesn't always look or feel like life. Yet He promises that it is. I pray that our friend and Diane and I will continue to grow in believing the good news that God's way is life, instead of falling for the Lie.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Choosing to be owners

A group from Salem College is here for a spring break trip with GUPY, and our first night we studied Jeremiah 29, which is God’s word to the Israelites to settle down in Babylon because they were going to be there a while. One of the ways God tells them to settle is by building houses, and we talked about the difference between being an owner and being a renter. An owner is invested; an owner stays; an owner is in it for the long haul. A renter can cut and run with little loss; a renter just sees their home as a place to live. In relocation, it is important to have the mindset of owners or else difficulties will cause us to leave.

The students and their IV staff are staying in an old church in our neighborhood, and like many old churches it has banging pipes when the heat comes on and lots of other quirky noises. Thus these six women only slept about three hours the first night because they kept being alarmed by the creepiness of the church. The next day they were asked if they wanted to sleep at a house in the country, which is being prepared to be a recovery home for women who are addicted and on the street. This option could fit with the GUPY vision (due to the mission of the house), and they could have easily decided to sleep there, staying on nice beds instead of aluminum cots.

But they came back to me and said, “We want to be owners this week, not renters, and so we are going to stay in the church.”

THAT is an application from a Bible study, and it is one of the high points of my urban ministry experience with students thus far.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Seven long months

Seven long months.

Since October I have lived and breathed UNC basketball. I was at the opening game against Gardner Webb, a squeaker that had me asking, “Who’s going to guard JJ Reddick? Who's going to help us beat State?” I was at the Illinios game that showed our team could play with the best in the country. I watched us beat Kentucky, and that was the game that I fell in love with this basketball team.

And now I have to wait seven long months until UNC basketball begins again. My main consolation is that maybe, just maybe, someone will knock the Dukies out of the tournament (soon, please), and the UNC women will cut down the nets for their tournament.

Today I feel like crying when I think about the loss to George Mason, and I am very thankful for an overachieving and very fun basketball season.

Seven long months to go.

A great article on the end of UNC's season

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A new name

A couple weeks ago I attended InterVarsity’s National Multi-Ethnic Staff Conference, which was such a privilege since out of 280 staff there, only 80 of us were white. I hope to make a few posts about things that I learned there, and this first one is about God dealing with my shame and “white guilt.” The more I was around my brothers and sisters of other races, the more I felt like I had not done enough as a white man and the more I realized how fearful I was around the black male staff members (fearful of being rejected by them). One night during worship, God was speaking to me that I had taken on the name of Shame – it had become an identity for me, and that I needed a new name. We had the chance to pray with a prayer team member during that service, and when we prayed, I felt like God said my new name was Chosen.

I am still seeking Him about the depth of what that means, but I think that it does begin to get to the root of shame that I have. To be chosen is to be significant. To be chosen is to be wanted. To be chosen is to have purpose. God has created and chosen me as a white man, exactly as I am, to be used in building His kingdom. My desire to be significant drives so much of what I do, and this new name is a reminder that my significance is found in Christ alone.

On Monday I took a day of retreat with the Lord (one of the perks of my job), and I read over Deuteronomy 7:6-9. In it, the Lord reminds Israel that He has chosen them as His treasured possession, and that He set His affections on them not because they were the biggest, greatest nation, but because He loved them and kept His oath to them.

God does not love me because I am chosen. I am chosen because He loves me. That may seem like semantics, but it was huge to me. I (we) am pre-loved, and thus Chosen.

That's my girl

This week at MOPS (Mothers of Pre-schoolers), one of our neighbors brought her son Quentin, and she told Diane when it was over that Eliza kept calling him Thomas. Diane thought for a minute and could not think of a single friend of Eliza’s named Thomas, and then it hit her – our girl is a Tar Heel born and Tar Heel bred, and she has listened to her daddy watch a lot of basketball games. The Tar Heels backup point guard? Quentin Thomas.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

March Madness

OK, here we go, my bold predictions for the tournament. Against all hope, I have Duke making the Final Four, with the 2 seed in their region being a team they beat by 30 points this year. (I can’t believe that Jay Bilas said they had the hardest bracket – oh, wait, did he go to Duke? Yes, he did.) My secret sleeper to knock them off – the mighty Hawkeyes of Iowa (yeah, Sean Meade).

They will be joined by Memphis, Boston College, and UConn. I have UConn beating the Heels in the Elite Eight, which is as far as my heart could carry my boys this year (but I seriously think that they could lose at any time, even in the first round, and especially in the second round to Michigan State. I also seriously think they could make a run and give UConn a good fight). For a great article on why I think the Heels kind of got a bad deal in this bracket, check this out. They have #'s to back their point up.

UConn will beat Duke in the championship game, saving all Tar Heels fans from the misery of relinquishing our crown to the Blue Devils, just like Arkansas did in 1994 (thank you Scotty Thurmond).

And the Lady Heels will cut the nets down for the Women's Title, just like in 1994.

Reconciliation at the ACC Tourney

I was given a ticket to see the Duke-Boston College game on Sunday, and so took one of the boys from the neighborhood to his first college basketball game (not a bad first game, eh?). The place was full of Duke fans, and none of them gave me a hard time about my wearing my 2005 National Champions shirt. Luckily I sat beside this sweet lady whose four kids had gone to Duke, and she was precious! She was nervous the whole game, and we had a great time talking. I even sort of wanted Duke to win for her (except that I can’t stand Duke and can’t imagine wanting them to win ever). We ended up hugging before we left at the end of the game (!), and I feel like I made new friend. Thankfully, I was only obnoxious one time, when I felt like Reddick flopped to draw a charge (YES, I am serious, he DID), and the withering looks I received from the Duke fans in front of me put me in my place.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

I had a feeling about this one

The amazing Heels did it again, taking down the dreaded Dook Blue Devils tonight. The Walker Dome was rocking as we watched, punctuated by a Benbow lap around the living room following a Byron Sanders layup as I screamed, "Quentin fed the Colonel! Quentin fed the Colonel!" We are peaking at the right time, and this has been the most fun UNC season I can remember. For more Duke-hatin' fun, check this link out.

(There are satires of UNC and State on there, too).

Got to give a shout-out to Miles - are you convinced that Tyler is the real deal now?

The win is all-the-more-special when you realize that a Duke student named Pearce and his posse had been waiting in line for this one outside Cameron since DECEMBER 21, 2005!!!

I am kind of expecting an ACC Tourney let-down, but am also looking for a possible #3 seed in the NCAA's.