2006-07-26 0 comments

the fear of nothing ...

"God's spirit doesn't make cowards of us. The Spirit gives us power, love and self-control."
(2 Timothy 1:7)

It was so stunningly swift, it took all of 30 seconds.

When I lowered my daughter from the safety of my arms to the cold sand, she first gripped tightly to my arms -- they pinched, those little, stubby fingers.

Then, after watching the salt water lap harmlessly at her ankles for mere moments, she raised her eyes to meet mine, flashed her five teeth and ran ... right toward a surf swelled by a storm offshore.

I'm 6-2, she's just a little over 2-6 -- and I could barely keep up. Heck, even taking a nice-sized wave to her face when I wasn't watching closely enough only stopped her briefly ... and then only so that she could properly lick the salt water off her face. She thought that was a hoot.

At first I chalked it up to ber robust personality -- she's been known to climb the stairs in our house if you turn away long enough, and a few weeks ago she gladly accepted my uncle's pet rat onto her shoulders just days after playing with a rather slimy salamander. Maybe that's the case. She is quite brave.

But here's another possible explanation: maybe her bravado was really a lack of perspective.

After all, she only sees what's in front of her. One wave at a time, as it were -- not the fact that they keep coming with what can be a relentless cruelty if you don't have the requisite humility for nature. Indeed, she sees a small patch of water, not a seemingly endless ocean whose bosom has within it all the scary denizens of the deep, to say nothing of rip currents and high tides. She's never seen "Jaws," after all.

Yes, it's her innocence that kept her fear at bay. Quite simply, she doesn't know to be afraid.

I heard a preacher recently give a sermon, some of which touched on the theme of innocence. He played the song "The End of the Innocence," by Don Henley (great, great tune, yes?) and asked, among other questions, "Do you remember when you didn't know what a hospital smelled like?" "Remember when you'd never had a broken heart?"

I know what a hospital smells like. My wife's grandfather just passed away on Sunday after battling complications from a heart attack for several weeks. Unfortunately, that isn't the first time I've been to a bedside vigil for a sick loved one. And it's not the first time my wife's heart has been broken.

It sounds simplistic and trite, but life is cruel in the way it works sometimes. When we're born, we're pretty much a blank slate -- what Locke called tabula rosa -- left to be filled with experiences. And each of those experiences, even the good ones, chips away at our innocence.

How I'd love to have the innocence of a child once again.

It's the same way when you accept Christ -- or, as Jesus put it, when you are "born again." But that second birth comes with a twist: instead of each experience robbing you of innocence, each experience of growing in Christ builds toward a new, perfect innocence. Yes, those memories are still there -- I'll never forget watching my beloved Granny pass from this life into the next -- but Christ's redemptive power through his sacrifice at Calvary restores to me that which sin has robbed.

Then, the most amazing thing happens. At that moment of death, innocence is perfectly restored when, very literally, we combine our spiritual renewal here on earht with our physical one in heaven. We are made completely new when we come into the actual presence of God.

So, just as our experiences chip away at that pristine slate of innocence -- that which allows my daughter to boldly run toward a wave I understand in my less-than-innocent mind is dangerous -- our rebirth and growth in Christ builds toward that day when we finally meet Him face to face, and our innocence is made whole again.

And, when I rise to meet my Savior in the morning of eternity, I'll take a quick little detour afterwards -- to run headlong into an ocean that will hold no fear.

(copyright 2006, andrew j. beckner)

Want to know how to get your innocence renewed through Christ? Click on this link, read Romans 10:9,10 in the Bible and/or send me an e-mail.
2006-07-13 0 comments

a sad reminder

"He provided redemption for His people; He ordained His covenant forever -- Holy and awesome is His name."
(Psalm 111:9)

I saw myself last week, lying in a pool of blood just past midnight.

I saw my picture in the newspaper -- the reporter talked to a co-worker, who said "everyone is just shocked."

I saw my friends and family file into the funeral home. I saw them crying. My dad had to hold my mother up -- then take her home when she couldn't stand being there anymore.

Or maybe not. Maybe I saw myself two days ago, running my hands nervously through my disheveled hair. I'd run into an old friend, maybe, and was trying to explain why, at 30 years of age, I was still living in run-down apartments, still living on pizza and beer, still being the person I was. And knew I shouldn't be.

I shuffled my feet, avoided his eyes, maybe. I needed a shave.

"Yeah, just working," maybe I said. Maybe I was skinny -- too skinny -- and maybe I told the story of a mutual friend, now in prison for cooking meth.

But I was neither of those things last week -- or two days ago.

No, I'm married. And you should see my daughter -- oh, she's so beautiful. I'm healthy, happy ... a homeowner, for crying out loud (leaky basement and all!)

I want to tell you who I was.

I want to tell you who I am.

Last week, a young man was leaving his job as a bartender at a local restaurant. He worked there to provide for his live-in girlfriend, who is pregnant with the couple's first child. It was late -- just past midnight. A group of youths approached him, demanding his wallet. One of them had a gun. When he fought his attackers, he was shot in the head. He died almost instantly at the hands of a boy police say is just 16 years old.

I used to work at that same restaurant as a bartender a few years ago. I was about his age, and often parked my car in the same parking lot where he was killed. Why that parking lot in particular? Because it's free -- and I needed the money. Not only that, but I often carried a knife in my hand in case someone tried to rob me. When you are working a late bartending shift, you carry a lot of cash on the way home, see?

Then, just two days later, while shopping with my wife and daughter at Target, I ran into a friend from my restaurant days. He looked much the same as he did some six or seven years ago, when he was part of a group of friends to which I belonged. Drinking and drugs were the norm.

For anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant, you know it is a culture unto itself, full of its own rules and social norms. I was wrapped up in that culture for more than five years, and they had a devastating impact on my relationship to God. I'm overcome with emotion writing about it, really. I wasted so many years of my life chasing the sins of the flesh that it has, in many ways, left an indelible mark on the person that I am.

Of course, I'm free from all of that. The bondage of sin and death to which I was born -- and to which I most freely relished in those days -- has been loosed by the power of Christ in me. After knowing Him as a child, I strayed from His direction for my life for more than 10 years after graduating high school. Jesus welcomed me with open arms after I finally repented of the life I'd led -- he put on me the best robes He could find, and celebrated my return with a spiritual feast that has enveloped my life for the past few years (click here to read a similar story). Oh, how joyful a life He has given me!

But although that stain is gone from God's eyes, memories of who I was is painful. I hate that I was once innocent and now am "street smart." Some may think it a useful skill. I don't.

I hate that I know how to roll a joint. I hate knowing what certain drugs smell like when smoked. I hate knowing the difference between blended scotch and single malt.

I hate my past. I'm ashamed of it.

But here's the thing: it doesn't exist. Those things I once did? Gone. Literally gone. It's a Christian idea we refer to as "the sea of forgetfulness." Imagine your sins, everything you've ever done, completely drowned in the utter vastness of the ocean. And this is an ocean as deep and as wide as you've never seen.

I'm overjoyed at knowing that Christ's sacrifice on the cross has bridged the gap between my imperfection and the perfect love of God. Christ's love is so vast, it pours out into this great ocean, swallowing up everything I've ever done.

John Wesley wrote of the concept of "prevenient grace," that unmerited favor of God that pursues us throughout our lives, seeking to restore us into a right relationship with Him. All of our lives, He engineers circumstances in the world around us to reveal His perfect will for us. A preacher friend of mine likened it to the children's book "The Runaway Bunny."

"If you run away ... I will come after you, for you are my little bunny."

I ran and I ran and I ran. Christ not only came after me when I was mired in the muck of sin, but He also watched over me and protected me while I was there.

Because, really, I had two choices: I could have stayed there and died quickly -- like the young man at the hands of a teenager's bullet -- or died slowly -- like the friend of mine who lives where I once hung my hat.

I saw myself this morning, lying fully engulfed in the grace of my God.

(copyright 2006, andrew j. beckner)

2006-07-07 0 comments

Statement of Faith

Want the short version? It's all about Jesus. "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life," Jesus once said. "No one comes to the Father except through me." Not a lot of ambiguity there, huh? Our post-modern culture has embraced the "grayness" of life. It doesn't like black and white. It doesn't like the concept of Truth. But our culture has run into a very big problem. Jesus says He is Truth. Jesus says there is black and white, right and wrong, sin and righteousness, mercy and justice. And Jesus says the distinction comes only from Him.

Don't be mad at me. I didn't make the rules.

Perhaps my grandfather said it best: "No creed but Christ. No law but love." That's good stuff.

More? I like the Mars Hill Church "What We Believe" page, specifically their opening statement. It goes like this:

"When it comes to doctrine, culture, preferences, traditions, lifestyles, politics, behavior, etc., Mars Hill takes a closed hand/open hand approach. The closed hand hangs onto the non-negotiable tenets of Christian orthodoxy: sin is the problem, Jesus is the answer, the Bible is true, Hell is hot. The open hand, however, allows room for differences when it comes to secondary matters; we liberally allow freedom for conscience and wisdom to guide where the Bible is silent. The open hand fosters unity among the diversity of expressions...Democrats and Republicans, soccer moms and indie rockers, carnivores and vegans, trendy bohemians and Microsoft nerds.

Hence, Mars Hill is in favor of good beer (in moderation), great sex (in marriage), and even tattoos (Jesus has one). But our goal must always be love and concern for our friends so that we don't enjoy our freedom at the expense of our faith.

In this way, we are seeking to simultaneously heed the Bible's commands to have sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16; Titus 1:9, 2:1), to love our Christian brothers and sisters (1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 4:7-21) and to avoid unnecessary divisions (Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 1:10, 12:25; Titus 3:10).
Finally, if you're looking for a traditional statement of belief--you know, the numbered list you find on most church sites--here goes.
  • I believe in a trinitarian God; that is, a God who exists in three persons: Father, Son and Spirit.
  • I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came to earth as both God and man, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, allowed Himself to be crucified to as a substitution for the punishment mankind deserved, physically rose from death after three days to fulfill the work of humanity's redemption and ascended to Heaven, where He lives and from where He will one day return to judge both the living and the dead according to whether they accepted His mercy or whether they will receive His justice.
  • I believe in the ministry of the Holy Spirit, is a spiritual presence that dwells within those who have accepted Christ as Savior at the moment of their redemption and, following that experience, acts as intercessor between man and God, guiding him to righteousness, convicting him of sin and fulfilling the work of sanctification.
  • I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, i.e., written by man through direct inspiration from God Himself. Therefore, the Bible, both Old and New Testament, is without error and is the ultimate authority from which man can discern the Truth.
  • I believe man is inherently sinful and therefore imperfect. Because of man's "total depravity," it is therefore impossible to have a relationship with a sinless and perfect God. It is likewise impossible for man, by his own abilities and efforts, to eliminate this alienation from God. Jesus, through His sacrificial death, bridged the gap, providing a way for man to have a personal relationship with God Himself. Salvation is thus a gift from God to man, provided by His grace, which must be accepted as an act of personal faith in the person of Jesus Christ.
(If you'd like scriptural references to the points above, some can be found at 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20,21; Matthew 5:18; John 16:13; John 3:16; Deuteronomy 6:4; 2 Corinthians 13:14; John 1:1,2; Luke 1:35; Romans 3:24; 1 Peter 2:24; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Acts 1:9,10; Hebrews 7:25; Hebrews 9:24; Romans 8:34; 1 John 2:1,2; 1 Peter 4:5; Romans 14:9; 2 Timothy 4:1; John 16:8-11; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14; Romans 8:9; Ephesians 5:18; Genesis 1:26, 27; Romans 3:22,23; Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:1-3, 12; Ephesians 2:8-10; John 1:12; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18,19. Or just read the whole Bible...it's all good.)

Please understand: this is not an exhaustive list of my beliefs. Far from it. But what you see in the bulleted list above is the foundation upon which my faith rests.

If you would care to discuss additional points, I would welcome the opportunity. Drop me an e-mail at CandidChristian@gmail.com, or we can "talk" through any number of social networks on which I maintain a presence: Twitter, Facebook, Theologica, Ping.fm, Last.fm, GTalk, Plurk, Pownce, Brightkite, Loopt. And we can chat by phone, too. I'm always open to talking about Jesus.

Grace and Peace...

2006-07-05 0 comments

Notable Posts

Thanks for visiting CandidChristian.com. I started the ministry in 2006 for one reason: to tell people about Jesus Christ. I do this the only way I know how: by sharing my own experiences with Him. Here, you'll find personal stories, political commentary, news items, links, videos, pictures. The common denominator is the same: it's all about Jesus.

Since joining the vast blogosphere in 2006, I've posted items that have generated a certain level of interest among the people who visit the site from time to time. What you'll find here, then, is a list of those posts that are either ones I personally enjoy or that others have either liked--or took exception with. I hope you'll take a look, and it's my prayer that through what you read you'll learn just a little bit more about my Jesus.
2006-07-03 0 comments

Independence Day

"Jesus said, 'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'"
(John 8:31b-33)

Hey, I grew up in a Red State family ... that meant a healthy dose of respect for the flag, apple pie, the 4th of July (rhyme time!).

But today, on our nation's birthday -- happy No. 230, America ... you don't look a day over 220 -- I say let's forget about Independence Day. Or, at least as it relates to this great country of ours.

Instead, let's celebrate our independence, not from the tyranny of a carpetbagging government, but from the depths of sin and shame. Because that's exactly what happens when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and personal Savior. We declare our indepedence from a life separated from God ... instead, Christ bridges that gap.

If that's not cause for celebration, I don't know what is.

So, interested in learning how to have that freedom? Want liberty from the death itself? You can, you know. Learn about Jesus.

Believe in Him. Know Him. Trust Him.

Want to learn how? Follow this
link, read Romans 10:9,10 in the Bible and/or e-mail me.
2006-07-01 0 comments

My new toy

See that? That's my MP3 player ... great, isn't it? (Guess you'll have to take my word for it.)

My most excellent wife sprung for that this Father's Day, and I've done nothing but annoy her with it since ... spending time holed up with Napster in the office, bringing my headphones to bed, plugging it into the car stereo when she's trying to talk to me. Good times.

Boys never grow up, it's just that their toys get bigger -- whoever said that was a genius ... or had a Zen Microphoto MP3 player.

Hey, this is a links post. Nothing much to say, really ... just wanted to point a few things out. Some of these links you'll find at your right -- like this most important link on how to know Christ -- but most are just for the moment.

This upcoming weekend (after July 4) I'm headed up to an outdoor retreat with some brothers in Christ. It's called "Outpost Advance," and you can check out their website here.

Oh, and one of the guys organizing the event is Jim Eaton, who I've e-mailed back and forth a few times. His blog is here. He's a forward thinker, and has a lot of great thoughts on true Christian action.

Jim sent me some links in regard to my last post, and you can check those out here, here and here.

Back to my MP3 player now. The thing is full of hundreds of songs already, and in case you're wondering what I'm listening to, here's a list, followed with a short description and a link to that artist's website. Give a listen.

Aaron Shust -- his infectious "My Savior, My God" is the best contemporary worship song going right now. But, trust me, his album has a lot more than that.

The Afters -- have a fantastic sound, a little pop, a little rock-n-roll. Great worship songs in here, too.

Downhere -- is another good modern Christian outfit. Good lyrics and a unique sound.

Gnarls Barkley -- eventually, I'll get around to listeing to something other than the song "Crazy," but it's so doggone good I never get past it.

Jars of Clay -- hey, a lot of CCM artists are jumping on the trend of releasing albums with nothing but old-time hymns, but I dare so no one does it better than these guys on "Redemption Songs"

Jason Morant -- a Christian version of Eliott Smith ... with hope, of course. Great, mellow Christian music.

The Longing -- as Discipleship Journal pointed out, a lot of bands take their cue from U2. Few pull it off as well as these guys (couldn't find a link, for some reason).

MercyMe -- who else? They've been in my rotation for going on three years straight now. Heard "I would die for you" yet?

I could go on and on. I've been busy realizing my early 20s fantasy of having every Pearl Jam song ever recorded. I'm doggone close, I gotta tell you. I've not been listening to a lot of PJ lately ... in some ways I think I've outgrown them, spiritually at least ... but I've sure been downloading the Godfathers of Grunge a ton.

For those times when I want to mellow out, it's Thelonius Monk, Damien Rice, Guster or the soundtrack to The Passion of the Christ.

And none of it would have been possible without my fantastic wife ... and my shiny new MP3 player.

Thanks, hon.