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Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Thrill of Being Liked

I work with youth at my church and I also do play-by-play for at least 125 high school sporting events each year.  I see young people interact quite a bit.

One of the common things you see in a high school setting is something we all remember well.  The male/female interaction.  Boys and girls figuring out what it looks like to be around each other.  Now, many of these boy-girl interactions are simply friendly and plutonic.  But sometimes you can see a bit of the song and dance.

Cute boy has some sort of interaction with cute girl then she begins to glow in excitement.  Boys do the same thing but their glow is more strategically hidden.  But both have a bit of a glow when this song and dance occurs because there is a thrill in being liked.  It reminds me of the movie "Mean Girls" when Lindsay Lohan's character is just thrilled to have her crush notice her enough to ask what day it is.  A small gesture that lets us know we're noticed or perhaps even liked excites us.



To have a crush is nice to to be crushed on is something completely different.  To be crushed on by an unwanted crush may be flattering yet annoying, but to be the one crushed on by someone you reciprocate that with is thrilling.

It's not just kids that have this feeling.

I remember the feeling when I noticed my future wife noticing me.  Oh, it was intoxicating.  It was heart-pounding to know that I was liked, I mean like-liked by someone that I was attracted to emotionally and physically. 

So, I see that glow from high schoolers at a distance and I remember it in my past.  There is an amazing thrill of being liked. 

Now let's meditate on the fact that the greatest being of all time, the most beautiful of all time likes you and me.  Not just likes, but loves.

Think about that and stoke the glow of excitement.  The God of the universe loves you enough to send His Son to die for you!

"The LORD your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

"This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." 1 John 4:10

The thrill of being liked is a great feeling and you are not only liked, but you are loved by God Himself.  This should thrill us to the max.  This should send our spirits soaring more than some earthly crush ever could, even if they asked us what day it is. 

Remember who loves you with an endless love and feel that teenage-like excitement about it today.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Midnight in Oklahoma

Occasionally my Grandpa Ray would let my dad stay up until midnight.  That was, I'm sure, a big treat for my dad as a boy.  At midnight in Southern Oklahoma and many parts of the country in those days the TV shut off for the night.  Before signing off the station would play our National Anthem.

"Stand up.  Feet together.  Hand over your heart."  My Grandpa would instruct.



As a proud American and a veteran my Grandpa Ray taught his children to be patriotic and to respect his country's National Anthem and flag.  Dad passed that on to me.  I attend hundreds of sporting events a year and I stand with hand over heart during the anthem each time.  I remember one time in Tripoli, Iowa when the CD player that was supposed to play the anthem wouldn't work I broke out in song to lead the crowd in singing the Star Spangled Banner because it needed to happen before the game.

I say all this not to brag but so you know that I do have a love for this country, a profound thankfulness for the fact that God decided to have me born in the United States of America, a enduring gratitude for those who help make this nation what it is.

But can love for a good thing get in the way of loving God and people well?

"Another time He went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there.  Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched Him closely to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath.  Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, 'Stand up in front of everyone.'

Then Jesus asked them, 'Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?' But they remained silent.

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.'  He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.  Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus."  Mark 3:1-6

Respecting and honoring the Sabbath was a good thing.  Dads taught this to their boys and their boys taught it to their children.  In fact, God had commanded it.  However, Jesus showed in this story that God desires mercy  and justice over religious activity.

I can almost hear the Pharisees in the story shouting, "What you are doing may be good but you're doing it the wrong way!  Couldn't you heal this man another time?  Couldn't you wait for a more respectful moment to be merciful?"

The Pharisees loved the Sabbath more than the Lord of the Sabbath!

This whole kneeling during the National Anthem thing feels similar to me.  I respect what the flag stands for and what the anthem represents, but do I  love God's ways more?  Do I desire to be merciful more than ceremonially respectful?

I'd prefer a different method of protest, I truly would, but many of us have turned a deaf ear to our brothers and sisters for too long.  Their cries for justice have been raised many times before but we didn't notice until one of our golden calves was threatened.

"He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

Our black brothers and sisters are shouting for justice, they are crying out for mercy.  Can we at least give them the mercy of a listening ear?  Can we put ourselves in their shoes, not wear our shoes in their circumstance, but truly lend an empathetic ear?

Truly listening won't disrespect our nation or its troops just like Jesus healing on the Sabbath didn't disrespect the Sabbath.

Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God today.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Should I Comment?

Often on Facebook, Twitter or whatever social media you use you'll come across something and want to comment.  I'm not talking about comments like, "Good for you!" "Congrats" or "Praying for you."  I'm talking about those posts that lure you into a comment war.  The post you scroll by and feel that your voice must be heard in it.

Then it happens.

A comment war.

We've all been there.  We've all gotten into a comment war.  We've all thought, "I'll say this one thing and then I'm out" only to be caught in a seemingly infinite thread involving you and people you didn't even know before you're done.

So, does the Bible have anything to say about this?  I believe it does and I believe the book of Proverbs has the most to say.  Most of these proverbs can be boiled down to "when it doubt just shut up and keep scrolling."  That doesn't mean that there is never a time to enter a discussion, but it does mean that most of the time it's a bad idea... trust me, I've stupidly gotten into these messes.

"When words are many, sin is not absent,
but he who holds his tongue is wise." Proverbs 10:19

"A fool shows his annoyance at once,
but a prudent man overlooks an insult." Proverbs 12:16

"Reckless words pierce like a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Proverbs 12:18

"A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself,
but the heart of fools bursts out folly." Proverbs 12:23

"A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1

"A fool finds no pleasure in understanding
but delights in airing his opinions." Proverbs 18:2

"He who answers before listening
that is his folly and his shame." Proverbs 18:13

"The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit." Proverbs 18:21

"He who guards his mouth and his tongue
keeps himself from calamity." Proverbs 21:23

There are times to comment, but the writers of the book of Proverbs say that there are more times to hold your tongue.  Facebook and Twitter and the like are great forums for many things.  However, in depth discussions on deep or touchy subjects are not these medias' best uses.  There are very few people that you will persuade via a Facebook comment but you will stir up dissension with many.  Proverbs 6:16-19 says God detests seven things and one of those is "a man who stirs up dissension among brothers."

So, when in doubt shut up and keep scrolling.

I know it's tough.  I know some discussions seem irresistible, but be wise and watch your digital tongue.  You may still contribute to the conversation perhaps but I'd argue from Scripture and from experience that more bad than good comes from entering the fray of internet anger.

Before you comment online think about whether that's a wise choice today.






Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Farewell Jim

"The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching." 1 Timothy 5:17

After just more than 11 years at Grace Baptist Church my friend and pastor Jim Lee is moving on.  Jim is going on to the next adventure in his life, not because he needed to leave the church but because an opportunity and God's calling met.  He will be missed.

Pastor Jim will be giving his farewell message at Grace Baptist Church this Sunday morning, September 3rd, at 10:00.  I encourage you to attend if Jim's had any impact in your life at all.  Whether he's influenced you as a pastor, chaplain of the fire department, as a fellow business owner or a friend.  I know he'd love to see you there.

I met Jim when he was in the process of being hired at Grace about 11 and a half years ago.  I had no idea then the impact he'd have on my life.  Through the years Jim has become a mentor, pastor and a friend.  He was there when I needed him for advice or simply someone to bounce an idea off.  He was there when I was at my wits end.  He was there when my wife was baptized and he did the dedication of Joshua and married Christine and I.  He even (multiple times) interrupted my first date with Christine by blowing up my phone trying to get ahold of me to watch Monday Night Football with him.

Jim is a dear friend of mine but he's more than that, too.  I have had two pastors in my life that have greatly impacted me: my Dad and Jim.  That's some rare air.

Not many pastors have time to devote to a young college student, but Jim did.  He poured time, energy and passion into my life.  He helped me navigate through my 20's and is one of the men that helped me become the man I am today and for that I am grateful.

Jim, I'm sure I'll see you around, though much less as time goes by.  But one of the great truths we Christians get to experience with other Christians in moving away or in death is this: there are no goodbyes, only see you laters.

Thank you for your service.  I know, even though you like me are not perfect, that you'll hear "well done good and faithful servant" when you give an account for your time here because you were faithful.  And I hope that you feel double honor from those of us at Grace today.

                                    (photo courtesy Jim's Facebook and the Leisinger wedding)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

How Would Your Life Change?

If you saw God as He really is what would you do differently?

I'm rereading one of my favorite books, The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer and Tozer begins the book with a monster line.

"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."

Studying the attributes of God is one of the most fruitful exercises in my faith life.  I am forced to ask myself what I would do if I really believed that God is as He says He is.  You can't think about and meditate on God's attributes, His self-existence, His self-sufficiency, His eternality, infinitude, immutability, omniscience, wisdom, omnipotence, omnipresence, faithfulness, His goodness, justice, mercy, love, grace, holiness and sovereignty and not be very practically and irrevocably affected.

Many will say this is the work of theologians and not the layman.  They will ask for three points and a poem and something practical for their week, but I say this is the most practical exercise for all Christians.  Seeing God as accurately as we can, as perfectly as He's revealed Himself to be, will change your life.

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." Proverbs 9:10

Our wisdom, that is our skill for living life, is rooted in seeing God rightly and thinking about Him as Scripture reveals Him to be.  This is not for scholars alone, this is for the everyday Christian who wants to live life well.

If you saw God as He really is would your life look different?

Would His infinitude, self-sufficiency and omniscience cause you to tremble?  Would his omnipresence, justice and holiness cause you to act differently in His presence?  Would His mercy, love and grace cause you to be humble?  Would His omnipotence, wisdom and sovereignty make you actually trust Him?  How would your life be different?

The bottom line is that God is who He says He is and we must think about who He is.  We must "be transformed by the renewing of our minds" (Romans 12:2).  Yes, our minds.  All of us must be thinkers.  We as Christians must be ones who think critically and often about who our God is.

As A.W. Tozer says, "... because we are the handiwork of God, it follows that all our problems and their solutions are theological."  And by theological he means the study of who God is.  He continues, "Some knowledge of what kind of God it is that operates the universe is indispensable to a sound philosophy of life and a sane outlook on the world scene." On another page he writes, "It is morally imperative that we purge from our minds all ignoble concepts of the Deity and let Him be the God in our minds that He is in His universe."

If you saw God as He really is what would you do differently?

I challenge you to think and think deeply about who our God is and then in faith act accordingly today.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Peace With God

We've heard it said that sin is its own punishment, and there is a whole lot of truth to that statement.  Sin keeps us from living the best life we could live, it keeps us from enjoying the blessings that could be gained from a wise life.  Though like the psalmist in Psalm 73 we see sin sometimes seemingly working out for others but we trust that in the end righteousness works out best.

When Jesus died on the cross He died to set us free from the bondage of sin (Romans 6:18).  We are no longer bound to a life of sin.  Sin is a punishment in and of itself and we are no longer subject to it.

But sin is not solely its own punishment.

Jesus died to save us from the wrath of God.  Before Christ's intervention we were by nature objects of wrath (Ephesians 2:3).  We were enemies of God.  God's wrath was directed at us as cosmic insurrectionists who always attempt to force God to abdicate His rightful place of authority in our lives and in all of the universe.

"But God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life"  John 3:16

We were objects of wrath and enemies with Almighty God and God Himself extended the olive branch to offer us peace before we asked for it.  Christ died to free us from the bondage of sin and to save us from the wrath of God and make peace with God for us.  Christ absorbed the full wrath of God... "He did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus." Romans 3:26

See how Paul explains it in Romans:

"He (Jesus) was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand." Romans 4:25-5:2

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through Him!  For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!  Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." Romans 5:6-11 (emphasis added)

See, sin is missing the mark, but it's more than just that.  As R. C. Sproul has said: "Sin is cosmic treason.  Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign."  It is treason that puts us at odds with God.  "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31b)  Well, if God is against us, what chance do we have?  But thanks be to God that God Himself, while we were still His enemies, made the terms of peace and made all the efforts necessary to secure that peace for us.

You can have peace with God and having that peace is necessary, it is the first problem we need fixed.  God is extending the olive branch of peace, a branch that cost His Son's life, to you.  Will you accept peace with God today?




Monday, July 24, 2017

Vows

My wife and I have never had a big fight.  We've never had a big blow out.  We've had our disagreements and we've raised our voices at moments but we've never had a big conflict.  I will tell you our secret.

We've not been married very long.

We are not so disillusioned to think that we will have a marriage completely full of happiness and free of conflict.  Our marriage is and I pray will overall be happy and hopefully be more peace filled than conflict ridden, but we are not naive enough to think we'll have a super long marriage that is all roses.

Christine and I are young and we go to a lot of weddings.  From friends and classmates, to former youth group kids and siblings we've been to a lot of weddings.

At weddings we notice the flowers, the DJ, the dresses and suits, the location, the colors, the groom's face as she walks down the aisle, the toasts, the first dances and all the things we thought about when we planned our wedding.

But the thing that matters most at a wedding and the thing I pay close attention to is the vows.

Vows are the solemn promises we make to each other and to God and before God and the congregation of witnesses.  These words we speak must be greater than a Hallmark card.

I've too often heard vows, especially self-written vows, that make promises that are unkeepable.  Promises to always make the other person happy, promises to keep a certain sense of adventure and wanderlust, promises to always be inspired to love by the other person; and while these promises seem lovely they are not doable.

I've not been married long, but I think there are only a few things we can really promise one another in our vows.  It seems being there and trying with God's help are the only two things we can really promise.

At our wedding Christine walked down the aisle to a song I recorded called "I Will Be Here" by Steven Curtis Chapman.  I will be here is one of the greatest promises we can make to our spouse.  I will be here: for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer till death parts us.  This is a very difficult promise and one that only by the grace of God can we keep, but one I believe we can make and if you ask someone who has been married for 60 years it's a very romantic and loving promise.

Trying.  This is the other promises I think we can make on our wedding day.  While trying is nearly unnecessary on our wedding day and trying sounds pretty darn unromantic on day one, trying is a very necessary and loving promise.  So many marriages ultimately fail because the will to try has been lost.  In fact, divorce is impossible unless one or both people give up the will to try.  I don't know this experientially yet but there will be times in every marriage where the ability to keep trying needs to come from outside of ourselves.  There is a point when your spouse will not inspire you to try, no matter how good looking they are and how warm and fuzzy you felt on your wedding day.  At this point we must get our ability to even try from God.

If you're engaged or thinking about marriage someday I encourage you to, when the time comes, think soberly about the vows you will make.  On your wedding day your heart will be stirred to make many grand and lovely promises, but I implore you to make promises that you can actually keep.  I encourage you to promise to be there and to try.

And if you've made vows I encourage you, and myself for that matter, to stay true to the vows you made to your spouse and God today.