No Turning Back-Burn the Ships

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(This is an excerpt from Too Christian, Too Pagan by Dick Staub. Copyrighted and used by permission)

Frederick Buechner says, “The Gospels disdain equally saccharine endings and soft-boiled hope. Rather they record the tragedy of human failure, the comedy of being loved overwhelmingly by God despite that failure, and the fairy tale of transformation through that love.” So I guess I can’t end this book with the Beatles line, “and in the end, the love you make, is equal to the love you take?”

I’ve encouraged you to decide to follow Jesus into the world. I’ve urged you to experience the gospel, living it out and articulating it in compelling ways. Now I am asking you to endure to the end. Endure like my grandfather did.

My grandfather died in his 70’s having served God all his life. The night before he died he watched the news and there was a report about a fast-growing cult. Grandpa went to bed. My dad had a cot set up in the room so he could help Grandpa in the night. In the middle of the night Grandpa awakened and asked Dad what could be done about this cult. A few hours later he died having uttered his last words, loving the lost until the very end.

His favorite hymn was by A. B. Simpson and Grandpa always urged me to make it mine.
Lord You have given me a trust,
A high and holy dispensation,
To tell the world, and tell I must
The story of your great salvation.
You might have sent from heaven above
Angelic hosts to tell the story
But in your condescending love
On man you have conferred the glory

We all are debtors to our race;
God holds us bound to one another
The gifts and blessings of His grace
Were given us to give our brother
We owe to every child of sin
One chance, at least, for hope of heaven;
Oh, by the love that brought us in,
Let help and hope to them be given.

Let me be faithful to my trust,
Telling the world the story;
Press on my heart the woe;
Put in my feet the go;
Let me be faithful to my trust
And use me for your glory.

Beneath that archaic language beats the heart of a man who felt Jesus compassion for the world and dedicated his life to embracing, embodying and communicating the gospel. This is your trust, my trust, our trust. But as anyone who has pledged to fulfill this calling and endured will tell you, this is not the easiest of roads. Listen to the Apostle Paul’s advice to Timothy about living for Jesus in the world, “Proclaim the message; be persistent, whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage with the utmost patience¢â‚¬¦As for you, always be sober, endure suffering. Do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.” II Timothy 4:2&5

I started this book (Too Christian, Too Pagan) by explaining a paradox. I said, most Christians are either too pagan or too Christian and that if you truly follow Jesus you will seem both too pagan for your Christians friends and too Christian for your pagan friends. Your forays into the world will displease many Christians. Your spiritual attentiveness will discomfort many pagans. The road less taken requires persistence and the endurance of suffering. In war any casualty hurts but casualties due to “friendly fire” seem particularly painful. I want to urge you to endure to the end.

Here is some good news. You will not be alone. In the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, individuals all around the world become a “community of believers” simply by recognizing the same five note tune which turned out to be the tonal signal of the spaceship. In a similar way, I have discovered a rich and worldwide fellowship of disciples, who in following Jesus have heard the “too pagan, too Christian” refrain just as I have. Though sometimes feeling alien in both culture and the religious sub-culture, you will find the richest possible camaraderie among those brave souls, who like you counted the cost and decided to follow Jesus.

So, if you haven’t done so already, get ready to take the plunge. Prepare to follow Jesus into the world, experiencing the gospel personally, living-it and articulating it in culturally relevant ways. And then, having endured for the gospel, leave the rest to God. Aspire with me to be like the explorers referenced in Steven Curtis Chapman’s song Burn the Ships

In the spring of 1519 a Spanish fleet set sail
Cortez told his sailors this mission must not fail.
On the Eastern Shore of Mexico they landed with great dreams,
But the hardships of the New World made them restless and weak.
Quietly they whispered, “let’s sail back to the life we knew”
But the one who led them there was saying…
Burn the ships, we’re here to stay
There’s no way we could go back,
now that we’ve come this far by faith.
Burn the ships, we’ve passed the point of no return,
Our life is here so let the ships burn.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

PS.2 Today’s columns is excerpted from Too Christian, Too Pagan, Here is the information about how you can order your own copy at a discount.

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