Month: November 2013

Run to Finish the Race

Finish Line

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Tim. 4:7).”

He was born on August 21st, 1986 in Trelawny, Jamaica. He grew up with his parents, who owned the local grocery store, and enjoyed time playing cricket and football with his brother Sadiki and sister Sherine. In high school, his coach noticed his unusual speed and encouraged him to try track and field events. Good thing he did. Currently, that man, Usain Lightning Bolt, is the fastest runner on the planet, holding the world record for the 100 (9.58 sec) and 200 meters (19.10 sec) dash.

Usain Bolt didn’t become the fastest runner without setbacks. During the 2005 World Championships in Helinski, he suffered an injury in the final, finishing last place in the 200 meters with a time of 26.27. That same year, Bolt was involved in a car accident. Although he suffered minor injuries, his training schedule was further delayed. Nevertheless, Bolt continued to improve his performances in 2005 and 2006, becoming the top 5 fastest runner in the world. Once again, he suffered a hamstring injury in March of 2006, forcing him to be disqualified from the championship in Melbourne, Australia.

Despite these setbacks, Bolt never gave up. In 2008, at the Beijing olympics, Bolt won the first gold medal for Jamaica that year. Then, in 2012, at the London games, he was a triple gold medalist, winning the 100m, 200m, and the 4×100 meters relay for Jamaica. Most recently, in August 2013, Bolt beat Justin Gatlin in Moscow to keep his title as the fastest man in the world.

We may not be able to run as fast as Usain Lightning Bolt, but all of us can run to finish the race of life. We have a spiritual race that is infinitely more valuable than winning the olympics. As the apostle Paul states, “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever (1 Cor. 9:24-25).

In the Christian life, you are going to have spiritual injuries and setbacks. Trials, sufferings, and temptations will come. Despite these setbacks, keep focused on Jesus, who is the author and finisher of your faith. He will never give up on you so keep training and focusing on the race!

In the end, it doesn’t matter how fast we run the race. What does matter is that we finish it well. Don’t you hope that someday you will have the confidence to say, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith?” My prayer is that you do! May God bless you.

3 WAYS PEOPLE LIE

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor (Ex. 20:16).”

Liar Game

Liar Game (Photo credit: 邪恶的正太)

A Jewish Rabbi, known by the community as a friendly and trustworthy man, lived in a small town for a number of years. He was highly involved in service projects and volunteered his time to make the town a safe and positive environment. One day, a visitor came to the town. He began telling negative stories about the Rabbi, calling him a liar, an egotistical jerk, and a fraud. The community started to believe this visitor and cut off their contact with the Rabbi.

A couple years later, the visitor felt bad for what he had done and admitted that the rumors were untrue. He asked the Rabbi, “What can I do to make up for this?” The Rabbi said, “Take this pillowcase, go to the middle of the forest, cut it open, and throw out every piece of feather to the ground.” The man was confused but went ahead and agreed. Then the man said, “Is there anything else?” Yes, the Rabbi stated. ” Now, collect every piece of feather from the ground and put it back in the pillowcase.” The man responded, “That’s impossible!” The Rabbi immediately exclaimed, “That’s exactly my point. You can’t undo the havoc that has been done.”

Unfortunately, stories like these are commonplace. They happen in all cultures, regardless of ethnic background, religious affiliation, or socioeconomic status. Based on Scripture, there are two aspects to lying and gossip. 1.) Saying anything that is untrue or 2.) Not saying all that is true. Which mode of lying are you more tempted by?

Here are 3 areas where a lie can creep in. 

1. Flattery – Psalm 12:2 “Everyone utters lies to his neighbor, with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.” Have you ever given insincere and excessive praise to someone before? This is not the gift of encouragement, but an intent to please others for selfish gain. Do you know of those in your workplace who suck up to the boss in order to get a raise or promotion? They may not be deliberately lying, but the person is falsifying how they feel about a certain person to gain approval or appear more likable.

2. Deception – 1 John 3:7 “Little children, let no one deceive you.” We are inundated with deception in our culture. If you watch the news, you are aware commentators twist or alter political reports to deceive society. Look at beer commercials. They tell you if you drink this beverage, you will have fun, be popular, and have a successful life. I wonder why these ads don’t show car accidents, an individual throwing up on a toilet, or someone getting arrested for battery because of alcohol. It’s because their intent is to deceive. How many of us struggle with deception? Have you ever exaggerated or left out details in a story to appear better in front of others?

3. Slander / Libel – Lev 19:16 “You shall not go around as a slander.” Slander is malicious information used to inflict harm on someone’s character. Libel is the written form of this. There is now more opportunity to slander than any other time in history as a result of technology. You can text, email, Facebook, or tweet out a message with the intent of harming others. Teen bullying and suicide is a major problem as a result of slander. Be careful what you say and how you say it on the internet. It’s there permanently. Don’t worry about what the NSA will store in their database in Utah because Jesus has the book of remembrance that far outweighs any technology we have. He may say to you on judgement today: “Okay, Tom, let’s pull up your Facebook page, your Twitter page, here’s what you said a couple years ago on Tumbler and Linked in.”

Application – Throughout the week, be mindful of what you say and how you say it. If you feel like your motive was the intent to deceive for selfish gain or you were afraid to tell someone the whole truth, repent and ask for forgiveness.

RETHINKING CHURCH

Flight back to Houston: Crazy Love, Pretzels, ...

Francis Chan, former teaching pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, CA and author of the best-selling book Crazy Love, discusses four aspects concerning the mission of the church.

1. The Church is a family that loves one another.
2. The Church is determined to get the message of the good news of Jesus Christ to a world in need of a Savior.
3. The Church is focused on communion, prayer, and learning Scripture.
4. The Church equips leaders and instructs others how to serve the Lord.

Accountability Check-Up

I encourage you to have an accountability check-up with a friend, relative, or pastor that you know well. Here are specific questions that you can ask one another as you meet at Starbucks, work, church, etc. 

Coffee cup

1. How had God blessed you this week? What went right? What problem consumed your thoughts? What went wrong?

2. Have you read God’s word consistently this week? What did you learn? How will you apply it in your life? Describe your prayers for yourself and others. Are you spending time communicating with God? How has your relationship with Christ grown over the past week?

3. How were you tempted this week? How did you respond? Do you have any unconfessed sin in your life? If so, would you like to share it. Did you worship in church this week? Was your faith in Jesus strengthened? Have you shared your faith? Tell me about your experience.

4. How is your relationship going with friends? family? spouse? How are your children doing? Are you encouraging them? How are your finances? Are you sharing, saving, or spending in a godly manner?

5. Do you feel you are following God’s will? Do you sense his peace and presence in your life? What are you struggling with? Have you made provision to overcome this struggle? Are your priorities in the right order? Is your moral and ethical behavior as it should be?

6. Have you lied about any of these questions? Then you can close with 10 minutes of prayer and focus on the concerns of the week. This is a great tool to keep one another accountable. It should be practiced with grace and humility.

These questions were taken from The Man in the Mirror. For more help, see their website at http://www.maninthemirror.org

Judgment of God

An American judge talking to a lawyer.

“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God (Heb. 10:26-27).” 

The text is not declaring that if you sin once after receiving the knowledge of the truth, then you are condemned. Many within the early church would not get baptized until right before their death because they thought that if they sinned, God would not spare them. 1 John 1 tells us that if we say we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. Scripture is clear that we will wrestle with sin until we enter God’s kingdom.

Let’s categorize two types of sinners. The first sinner is one who loves God, but stumbles, makes mistakes, and then repents and asks for forgiveness. The intentional, deliberate sinner that will not be forgiven is the one who shakes his fist at God and says, “I will have nothing to do with Jesus.” That person is defiant, hardened, and unwilling to forsake their sin. An example would be the difference between Peter and Judas Iscariot. Both of them denied the Son of God and betrayed their Master. However, Peter had godly sorrow and repented while Judas committed suicide.

So everyone does sin. That is correct, but believers who have been born again do have victory over their sins and repent over time.  Jesus said you will know my disciples by their fruit. Does that mean that God judges us? Yes, He does judge us, and we can be confident that if one is not living a holy lifestyle, they don’t really know God. 1 Corinthians teaches that those who are practicing drunkards, idolaters, slanderers, homosexuals, adulterers, or liars will not enter the Kingdom of God. If you know someone who continues to get drunk and it’s a lifestyle for them, then don’t comfort them by saying God will save you. You need to lovingly tell that person to stop or He will be judged by a Holy God.

There is another “respectable sin” that professing Christians are prone to committing, and that is slander. There is a legal definition for it. Slander is a form of defamation that consists of making false oral statements about a person which would damage that person’s reputation. For example, If I spread a rumor that my neighbor has been in jail and this is not true, I could be held liable for slander. Another word, Defamation, is a form of publication which tends to cause one to lose the esteem of the community. This is injury to reputation and a person is liable for the defamation of another. I have heard and witnessed professing Christians defame state representatives and Presidents that they disagree with. Sadly, they justify it by the Scripture as if they were experts in the book of Revelation and know unequivocally who the beast, false prophet, and antichrist are.

All of us are capable of saying dumb things. We know it. That doesn’t mean you’re lost and on the path to Hell. I will say this though. If you make a deliberate intent to destroy a person’s character or reputation, this type of lifestyle will send you to Hell. Make no mistake about it. You might state, “We just say these things for fun. It’s not like one should take it personally.” Isn’t that what the bully’s excuse is right before a kid commits suicide? It’s a serious matter. Does that mean your telling me I need to get rid of the radio talk hosts that I listen to in my car and at work? Pardon me for being a legalist, but yea, maybe you do need to stop listening to those who continually defame others who they disagree with.  Aren’t we called to love our enemies? Let’s not be hypocrites.

Application – Begin to pray for your enemies. Ask God to humble and remind you of the grace that was given before you came to faith in Jesus Christ. For the whole week, think of that one person you dislike and pray for their good. God bless. 

Warning Signs from God

English: "No climbing" warning sign ...

“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries (Heb. 10:26-27).” 

Warning signs. We see them every day. On the road. How many of you had to stop at a red light today before you read this blog post? They exist at our work place. Think of the utility closet that shouts in bold letters: DO NOT ENTER. They are on people’s private property. Do you have neighbors who post up “No Trespassing” signs on their fences or doors and wonder if the warning is legitimate or they just don’t want to be bothered by solicitors?

Some warning signs are to be taken more seriously than others. Obviously, if you don’t stop at a red light on a busy highway, you will likely get smashed by a semi-truck and die. You don’t want that to happen. However, if some stranger came up to you and said: “Don’t open the closet door to your basement. It will open the Pandora box of the universe and unleash an electromagnetic impulse that will destroy the world.” I assume you would dismiss the individual as being delusional.

Would you agree that warning signs are meant to be there for our good? Yes, they warn us of things that can harm us. The truth is, God’s word is full of warning signs. He tells Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because they will experience physical death and become separated from their Creator. He warned Lot to get out of the city of Sodom to avoid the judgment of fire and brimstone upon the sins of the people. He warned the generation in Judges not to worship the surrounding gods. Why? Because these false gods lured them away from the living God to idols that never brought fulfillment.

In the New Testament, does God warn His people? Yes, he warns them about being a religious hypocrite, lying on their taxes, the second coming of Christ,  and eternal Hell. It is true. Jesus spoke on Hell more than any New Testament character. Now, the author of Hebrews is warning the people of God on a couple of occasions. In Hebrews 1-2 he says not to neglect salvation, in Hebrews 5-6, the author informs them to be aware of spiritual immaturity, and in chapter 10, God is warning His people that if they continue sinning, after receiving the knowledge of the truth, they will be judged.

In all these cases, God warns because He loves us. The Bible makes it clear that God became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. He took the bullet for us, gave us the life boat and went down with the ship. He went to court, paid our fine, and endured our punishment. Always remember, when God warns us, his main motive is to protect us from the destructive nature of sin.

Application – Grab a Bible Concordance and look up the word “warn.” See how many times it is used in both the Old and New Testaments. Meditate on why these warning signs are given, and how they are there for your good.

Top 5 Theology Books

Bookshelf

Here are the top 5 books that I suggest reading for next year. 

5. Competent to Counsel by Jay Adams – Adams is a prolific writer and founder of nouthetic counseling, which seeks to base counseling on biblical principles rather than mainstream psychology. It has helped pastors, students, laypersons, and professionals bring about change in the personality and behavior of the counselee through the power and work of the Holy Spirit. This is a must read book if you desire to engage in discipleship with your congregation.

4. The Universe Next Door by James Sire – Dr. Sire received his Ph.D in English from the University of Missouri and was a former editor of InterVarsity Press, a Christian publication. His book The Universe Next Door is a clear introduction to world-views. It explains the basics of theism, naturalism, deism, existentialism, nihilism, postmodernism, and new age. The text has been translated in many languages and has been used as a text at over one hundred colleges and universities, ranging from courses in apologetics, world religion, history, and English literature. This book helps the Christian engage in defending their faith by giving cogent arguments with humility and grace. 

3. Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders – With over 750,000 copies, Spiritual Leadership stands as a proven classic for developing leadership. The book helps the reader learn how to lead in his praying, time, and reading, all three that are vital for healthy spiritual growth. Mr. Sanders also discusses the practical side of leadership, including how to delegate responsibilities effectively, replacing and reproducing leaders, and the hardships one experiences as they follow the Lord. If you are interested in pursuing a position of authority, the author will rightfully teach you that the best step to leadership is having a servant heart.

2. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem – This voluminous book will be a great asset in expanding your knowledge of biblical doctrine. It is a great “tool” to have in your “shed” of resources. Dr. Grudem, a graduate of Harvard and Cambridge, takes complicated topics, such as the nature of God, the role of the Church, the views of baptism, etc, and breaks it down in layman’s term for people to understand. This book will help you defend and introspect what you believe about the Christian faith, but reader be warned; do not exalt it above the most important book of all – God’s Word.

1. Bible by 66 authors and God-breathed – The Bible is always the main course meal; the rest of these books are appetizers and deserts. It may sound trivial, but it’s crucial for every Christian to maintain their daily devotions in God’s word. You can’t substitute any other book for Scripture, no matter how theologically enriching or intellectually engaging other books are. My wife and I are currently reading 10 chapters a day, which will give us enough time to read the Bible in a year. I encourage you to do the same!