Jesus Won’t Make Your Life Perfect

Do you think you have the perfect life?

Even though we are all masterpieces created by God, we’re broken.  I don’t think anyone can claim that they have the perfect life or that they’ve lived perfectly.  I think the majority of us would find that we have more in common with Aron Ralston than Jesus.

On retreat down in Reu, Guatemala, after I gave my message on being broken, several students came up to me and asked to talk.  So we walked around under a grove a palm trees in the sweltering heat and talked.  They, like me, had made mistakes in their past.  They, like me, had felt stuck because of what they’d done and wished they could erase their mistakes.

Jesus doesn’t erase our mistakes.  He won’t make your life perfect.  And we shouldn’t want him too.

As my students told me what had gone wrong in their lives, I felt God nudging me to tell them about Aron Ralston.  Now, if that name sounds familiar to you it’s because you just read my blog from my 27th birthday about being stuck in Guatemala and how God used that to get me to where he wanted me.  Or you saw the movie 127 Hours.  But then maybe, you read Aron Ralston’s book, 127 Hours: Between A Rock And A Hard Place.

Aron, an avid outdoorsman, found himself trapped by a freak climbing accident.  He’d survived being trapped in an avalanche and stalked by a bear, but when a large boulder dislodged itself and pinned Aron’s arm to the side of Blue John Canyon in Utah, Aron’s life had to change.  After nearly six days of being trapped, Aron cut his arm off to free himself.

If anyone has reason to wish he could go back and have a past mistake taken away, it’s Aron.  He describes in the book how he had the opportunity to take another route through the canyon, which would have kept him in contact with people, but he chose to remain alone. His choice led to the loss of his arm.  That is why I believe more of us relate to Aron than Jesus.

The Bible says that we all have messed up and fallen short of what it takes to make it into heaven.  We’ve all gotten our arms stuck between a rock and the canyon wall, with no real hope of living life the way it was before we were trapped.  I could tell, as I looked into my student’s eyes, that they felt this desire.

But then I shared with them the rest of Aron’s story.

After he’d cut his arm free and recovered in the hospital he wrote, “For all that has happened and the opportunities still developing in my life, I feel blessed.  I was part of a miracle that has touched a great number of people in the world and I wouldn’t trade that for anything, not even to have my hand back.  My accident in the rescue from Blue John Canyon were the most beautiful spiritual experiences of my life, knowing that, were I to travel back in time, I would still say, ‘see you later’ to Megan and Kristi and take off into the lower slot by myself,” (Ralston, pg 342).  Because Aron cut his arm off so that he could live, he inspired other people to fight to live.

Aron understands that God uses our pasts to help others.  He gave Aron a greater story, one not just about hiking and extreme sports, but about what it means to live and be connected to God’s greater story.

This is Redemption.  Aron is still missing his arm, it hasn’t grown back and he still has the painful memory of the time inside the canyon.

Our mistakes may seem simple when we place them next to Aron’s.  But that doesn’t mean they don’t matter to God.  I was truly saddened as my students told me what had happened in their lives over the last year.  But, if we let God, He will redeem or pasts, He wont make our lives perfect, but He will take what happened and use it to connect us to His greater purpose.

Redemption uses our imperfections.

Now, if you have been following my blog, you know that I have been talking about King David.  After committing adultery and then murdering to try to cover up his mistake, he realized he needed to ask God to renew him and purify his heart.  Because David opened his heart back up to God and asked Him to redeem his life, David’s story doesn’t end with his mistake.  David’s story becomes part of God’s greater story, the story of Jesus.

If you look at Jesus’s family tree, its roots lead back to David and his mistake.  God doesn’t sweep away our past, but he does use it, if we let him, to make something beautiful.

Jesus didn’t come to bring us peace or to make our lives perfect.  He came and died on the cross to pay for our mistakes.  And then he rose from the dead to mess up our lives.  The truth of the matter, that Jesus is alive, forces us to live differently.  It connects us to his story, and when we are part of his story our lives start to change.  We start to have a greater purpose.

As I sat there talking with my students, my hope was that they would start to let Jesus redeem their mistakes.  That they would realize the power for the resurrection, its ability to give them a new story.  A story with imperfections, with pain, and with hard times, but one that is far more adventurous than anything they could’ve tried to live before.

As we finished retreat and I said goodbye to some of my favorite people in the entire world, I hoped that God would connect them to a their true adventure.  Like in Hugo, where at the end of the movie, each character finds their purpose because they have let their past be redeemed and have been connected to something greater than themselves.  I know once we all start living in the reality of the resurrection our lives will truly become an adventure.

Good Friday: The Meaning of The Cross

The journey to the top of Calvary must have been difficult.  Jesus was exhausted as he carried the weapon of his demise all the way up Calvary.  He’d been beaten.  He’d been mocked.  Yet he endured the pain of that brutal cross.

For me.  For you.  For the sins of the world.

Since the first good Friday, the cross has become more than a tool for execution.  For me it is a reminder of forgiveness, how much I’m loved, and the tool used to redeem my brokenness.  To others the cross is just art, something to look at.  But as you can see from the pictures I took during my recent trip to Guatemala, even when the cross is represented artistically, it can still mean something.

Today, Good Friday, the day we celebrate Christ’s death on the cross, what does that cross mean to you?

Are You Broken?

God made me into a masterpiece.  And yet, like the broken volcanic rock I’m standing on in this picture, I’m a broken masterpiece.

I’m a broken masterpiece who’s enamored with a kids movie.  When Hugo came out before Christmas I was blown away by its beauty, but as I’ve watched it again and again, I’ve seen the true elements of God’s grace and redemption weave their way through the story.

In the movie, Hugo Cabret, the main character, loves fixing things.  As the story progresses he realizes that everyone around him is broken. Just as Hugo realized that the people around him were inventions who needed fixed, I realized that fact is true to life.  We are all creations who have been broken.

I’ve been writing a lot about my recent mission trip to Guatemala.  During the first part of March 2012 I led a small team down to Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala to help out with a vacation Bible school program and a high school and middle school retreat.

Now, if you have been following my blog you know that the week was quite an adventure.  You also know that you are God’s masterpiece.  You know that God created you for a reason.

But what happens when you mess up.  When you feel broken. Does God just toss us away?  Can we mess up so bad that even God wont take us back?

During the retreat, once we’d made it down to hotter than hell Reu, Guatemala, I asked my students if they knew what the word redemption meant.  We were packed into a small dining hall for games, worship, and a message.  Going along with the theme of creation I asked three boys to create something with Hot Tamales.  First they had to chew them up and then build something artistic.

The game failed.  I’m pretty sure all of the students were bored during the game, which wasn’t how I pictured it.  I’m glad it was just a game.  But then, somehow the games failure fit into my talk.  How often do our lives not go as planned.  If we are inventions we sure tend to break down a lot, and sometimes it’s our own fault.

In my last blog I talked about how God chose a little shepherd to be king of Israel.  David was the smallest in his family, but he had something God desired.  An open heart.  But let me tell you the rest of David’s story.  If he was a man after God’s own heart, he was also horribly broken.  Once David becomes king he stops following God’s plan for him.

If I think I’ve messed up, well at least I haven’t skipped out on God’s job for me so that I could commit adultery.  David did that.  But wait, there’s more.  David finds out he knocked up the woman he slept with, and wait, she’s married.  So, after he tries to pin the baby on her husband, which fails miserably, (as is what happens most of the time when we try to hide our mistakes) David has the man killed.  So, David has gone from a man after God’s own heart, to an adulterer, to a murderer.  I am sure when he woke up the morning before all this happened, he didn’t write on his to do list, sleep with a married woman and then kill her husband.

No.  We never plan on making mistakes.  As I shared this story of David with my students, I wanted them to realize that even great biblical figures mess up. If someone in the Bible screws up royally, then what does that mean for us normal folk?

And so I opened my Bible and shared with them how David responded to  God.  Yes, at first David hid from God, tried to cover up all his wrong doing, but then he does something us normal folk should do.  He admits his wrongs and asks God to redeem him.  In Psalm 51 verse 1-12 David writes:

1 Have mercy on me, O God,

The Cost of Redemption

according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

David was a broken invention.  God set him on a path to be king of Israel and David messes things up.  We are God’s masterpieces, but if you are like me you have messed up.  The first step to redemption is admitting to God how you messed up.

I have found that when I am open with my faults God tends to redeem them. Redemption doesn’t mean erasing all that we did wrong, but fixing what is broken.  Like David said, create in me a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  He didn’t say take this all away as if it never happened, he asked for God to fix him.

That is exactly what God did on Easter through Jesus.  He sent Jesus to fix us.  But that can only happen if we admit that we’re broken and need someone to repair us.  If we do, our story will be as meaningful as Hugo’s, probably even more so.  Because when we are living out God’s plan for us our stories turn into grand adventures.

As I finished giving my message I prayed that each of the students would keep their heart open to God and know that, no matter what they’d done or will do, they could never separate themselves from God.

I hope you know that too.  That this Easter is a time to celebrate redemption.  I urge you to join me, and my dad, Eugene Scott, in Living Spiritually.  We have set this year and hopefully our lives to keeping our eyes and our hearts open to God.  It has been an adventure so far and it would be amazing if you joined us.

Jesus is the Anti-Zombie and the Zombie Commandments

On Easter Sunday we celebrate the most famous case of the dead coming back to life.  You heard me right, celebrate.  I know many of you about to run away from your computer screens to grab your shotguns or katanas, but wait.  Hold up.

Have you ever had the fear that the living dead will come breaking through your door?  I’m talking about rotten decaying humans that hunger for your brains.

Many ancient societies held to the fear that the dead would come back to life and run rampant across the land.  Why else do we still bolt our coffins shut from the inside or why did the ancient Irish place a stone in the mouths of the dead.  Both are precautions against the dead returning to life; one locks the dead in a coffin and the other fills the mouth so that the dead is prevented from eating.

There are many other examples that prove that our world lives in fear of the death and  the dead.  Like the rules of cleanliness in ancient Israel, if a person touched a dead body there were considered unclean.  Maybe they were trying to prevent the spread of diseases or maybe they thought if someone interacted with the dead they would become a Zombie.

The technical definition of a Zombie is any dead body given the semblance of life, but mute and will-less by a supernatural force, usually for some evil purpose like eating brains.  In Harry Potter they are called Inferi and are used by dark wizards to attack the living. Even magical people fear the living dead.  Any Zombie has no will of his or her own, save to consume brains and make more Zombies.

Real Zombies, whether you believe in them or not, exist to suck life and meaning from their prey.  Zombies live, well not really live, with an unquenchable desire to feed.  Much like the American consumer, Zombies are always wanting more and what they leave in their path is death and destruction.

A Zombie’s main desire (If a Zombie has the free will to have his or her own desire) is to turn normal people into Zombies and once you have been turned into a Zombie you are condemned to a living death.  Imagine working in Dilbert’s cubicle for the rest of your life, bent on just amassing more; a “life” doomed to utter meaningless.  Just imagine living your life and your only desire is to eat brains;  human brains at that.

And now to the upcoming celebration of the most famous case of resurrection.  That’s right, I’m talking about Easter Sunday!

That’s right, Jesus Christ came back from the dead and in two weeks we’ll celebrate his resurrection.

Fortunately Jesus Christ is the Anti-Zombie!  Jesus, who called himself, “The Good Shepherd,” who was willing to die for his, “sheep,”  knew he had to die so that we would be protected from a meaningless life.  In the Gospel of John Jesus says, “I have come that [you] may have life and have it to the full.”  Jesus did not come so that we would live our lives in mediocrity.  No he came to break us away from meaninglessness.  His life gave us a purpose, which I believe is to love and serve one another with a confidence that we are protected from the sting of death.

Jesus died so that “whoever believes in him shall not parish, but have eternal life.”  Anyone can die, but Jesus came back to life.  However, unlike Zombies who are the reanimated dead bent on destruction.  Jesus’ resurrection is, in essence, an act against a meaningless life.

As J.K. Rowling says in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hollows, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”  Rowling cleverly pulls this quote from 1st Corinthians chapter 15 verse 26.  She is making the point that death, and in my opinion, meaninglessness are enemies to be destroyed.  And fortunately for all of us Jesus has conquered these enemies.

Paul, the author of 1st Corinthians, believed that Christ’s resurrection was a resurrection to a spiritual life and that death has no sting or power.  That whoever allows Christ to work in their life will be changed in life and through death.  Their body might die, but their soul will live on in Heaven.

So Jesus’s death and resurrection give a meaning to life.  Where Zombies are reanimated to consume, Jesus died and came back to give us the freedom to live.  That is part of the practice of the Communion at church.  Believers take in Jesus’s body and blood and are given a full life; one that is satisfied by Jesus and not material goods.  We, normal humans, who don’t go around eating brains, no longer need to be afraid of Zombies, of meaninglessness, or death, because Jesus died and came back to life for us, so that we could live our lives to the full.

And now the Zombie Commandments: Some of Jesus’ commandments with a Zombie flavoring.

1. The most important commandment is this, “Love the lord your God with all your heart  and with all your soul and all your brain,” mmmmm brains I can’t get enough brains . . . I mean, “mind and with all your strength.

2. Love your neighbor as yourself because his brain tastes as good as yours.

3. You are the salt of the earth, so add extra humans on any brains you might eat.

4. You have heard it said, “Do not commit adultery.”  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully and does not eat  her brain has already lost out on a chance for a good meal.

5. You have heard it said, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” but I tell you do not resist anyone that wants to eat your brain.

6. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your brain as well.

7. Give to anyone your brain if they ask for it, and do not turn away anyone who utters the phrase, “Must Eat Brain!”

8. You have heard it said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” but I tell you to love your enemy and pray for those who try to eat your brains.

9. Thou Shalt covet they neighbors brain.

10. Be a perfect brain eater as your Zombie father is a perfect brain eater.

Happy Resurection!!

Celebrate Holy Week by living like the anti-zombie, Jesus, and living in the freedom from a meaningless life.