Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Ransom Of Captain Charlie Spade

The story of Captain Charlie Spade is similar to what happened to Captain Richard Phillips, the ship captain who was taken hostage by the Somali pirates in 2009 in the Indian Ocean, off the dreaded northeast African coast.

Picture this... the Estonia Emperor, with Charlie Spade at the helm. A 950 foot cargo container ship, cruising in the dark of night off the coast of Somalia, Africa. Things were going fine until they made a foolish mistake. They tried to make better time by taking a shorter route that brought them dangerously close to the shoreline, a practice that the shipping company prohibited. Nonetheless, Captain Charlie Spade and his crew took their chances, thought they could get away with it, and gambled that in the dark of night, while at full speed, they could avoid any possible pirate attack.

Sure enough, the worst case scenario unfolded. A small blip showed up on the radar, closing in fast. Armed pirates were chasing them down with the intent to board the ship, take the crew as hostages, and hold the ship until a large ransom was paid. Captain Spade tried to outrun them, but the huge vessel could only max out at about 28 knots. That's about 32 mph, no match for the pirate speed boat. 

The pirates reached the ship in no time. The crew had been alerted and was ready to try some evasive tactics such as turning on high power water canons which blasted water from the top of the ship toward the surface of the sea. However, the pirates were able to maneuver around that, and successfully throw hook and ladders to the side deck. Unlike the crew of the Estonia Emperor, who had no weapons on board, the pirates were heavily armed with machine guns, grenade launchers, and rifles. The crew had no recourse but surrender with their hands up as soon as the pirates spotted them. 

The pirates ordered Charlie to slowly bring the ship in close to the shore, anchor it, and wait for a ransom to be paid for the release of the ship as well as the crew. They were in trouble, not only because they were being held hostage, but also because they disobeyed company policy. The shipping company ended up paying a very large ransom...7 million dollars. After receiving the payment, the pirates released the ship and its crew, and they were set free. And even after discovering his illegal route, the shipping company reconciled their relationship with Captain Charlie Spade, and he continued to serve as a captain, convinced to never disregard any shipping company policy ever again. 

The story of Charlie Spade is an illustration of Biblical redemption. Charlie's disobedience got him in trouble, similar to how our sinful nature, early on in our lives, gets us in trouble. Charlie was held hostage. Similarly, we are held hostage by sin which can entangle us, shackle us, take us captive, and separate us from God. 

There's no way Charlie was going to be released by the pirates unless either force was taken or a ransom was paid. The definition of a ransom is this....."money that is paid in order to free someone who has been captured or kidnapped". In a sense, we are captured or kidnapped by sin, become separated from God, and there's no way to be released from sin except by God's own doing. 

The shipping company paid the high ransom price which freed Charlie Spade. Likewise, God paid our ransom price - the price to free us from the bondage of sin. It cost God a lot. This payment that freed Charlie redeemed him. To redeem is essentially to 'buy back' or better yet, to 'trade for payment', like redeeming a coupon at a department store. That coupon is as good as money.

Regarding the ship, the captain, and the crew, the shipping company said to the pirates, "They are mine!" And the company was willing to pay the price. Regarding us, as sinners, God says, "You are mine!" And He is willing to pay the price.

God must see every person as extremely valuable, even when it may seem that we are undeserving, unworthy, and sinful. That's proven by the astronomical price that He is willing to pay. The price God is willing to pay is the life of His one and only Son. But we must accept God's offer of the 'payment'. That's done through faith and obedience in Christ, committing our life to Him as our Redeemer, Savior, and Lord. If we accept the offer, Jesus trades His life for ours! The sacrifice of Jesus redeems us, frees us, forgives us, and reconciles us with God.

We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. It's true of every human. Still, because of His love and His grace, God's payment of ransom, through Jesus, is available to anyone. And just as Charlie Spade needed to be rescued, and just as his relationship with the shipping company needed to be reconciled, we can be rescued, and our relationship with God can be reconciled. Have you accepted God's offer to be redeemed, to be bought back? If so, walk faithfully. If you haven't yet, will you accept His offer to pay your ransom?

"For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake. Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God." (1 Peter 1:18-23)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Christian Zombies

Warning! - there may be Christian zombies in your midst! Even worse, you may be one yourself! What is a Christian zombie? Well, first of all, what is a zombie? It can be defined as "the body of a dead person given the semblance of life, by a supernatural force, usually for some evil purpose". In other words.....the walking dead!

So how does this apply to Christians? Well, as Christians, we are supposed to die to our 'old self', our 'sinful nature', our selfishness, our worldly ways. Christianity is all about new life - a new life of forgiveness and grace through Christ. So a Christian zombie is a Christian whose old self, the pre-Christian person you once were, the self-centered sinful-natured person you don’t want to be, keeps trying to come back. And as a Christian, we are supposed to bury our old self, not bring it back! There's no better picture of this than Christian baptism, especially baptism by immersion.

"Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives." (Romans 6:3-4 NLT)

At our baptism, our old self dies and is buried, and we rise to walk in a new life, joined with Christ, united with Him. Over the years, I’ve seen dozens and dozens of people, hearing and understanding this concept for the first time, become so convicted that they are compelled to be baptized - many for the first time, and many re-baptized for the right reasons.

“For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12 NLT)

This new life is only possible because of the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, and our belief and obedience to Him. New life = New start. 


"This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

To illustrate further, when we decide to become a Christ follower, not only are we to undergo a spiritual death, burial, and resurrection, but we also go through a spiritual crucifixion! That’s right, we crucify our old life style, our old self. You see, it's one thing to believe in the crucifixion of Jesus as simply a historical event, it’s another thing to personally identify with it! 

''We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin." (Romans 6:6 NLT)

So what does being crucified with Christ look like? It’s a process of transformation from living for self into living righteously for God. It’s becoming not just a “Christian”, but a Christ follower - not just believing, but learning from Him and walking with Him, for life.

“Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.” (Galatians 6:14b NLT)

So....if we crucified our old self, why would we want to resurrect it? Well, we don’t!! - at least intentionally. It’s when we slip up, yield to temptation, and fall back into our old ways, that our old self tries to return. That’s why we need to be on guard. When we have a tendency to resurrect our old self, it makes you wonder if Satan has his hand in it. Remember the definition of a zombie?...."the body of a dead person given the semblance of life, by a supernatural force, usually for some evil purpose". I would bet that supernatural force is Satan tempting us, trying to convince us to resurrect that old self. But don't do it!

Some horror movies depict a grave yard scene where during a dark, rainy night, in the solitude of a lonely graveyard, a hand pops up from a grave, usually with some freakish music! Yikes! If you find this happening, spiritually, to you, stomp that hand back into the ground!

There are some ways to avoid becoming a Christian zombie. Below are five:

1. Stay Connected with the Word (the Scriptures)
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2a) 

2. Stay Obedient to God's Commands
"If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love." (John 15:10)

3. Stay focused on Jesus
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:1-2)

4. Stay in tune with the Spirit
"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives." (Galatians 5:24-25)

5. Stay in fellowship with other Believers.
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)

Keep doing those 5 things, and you will never need to worry about becoming a Christian zombie!