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

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Super Bowl and Lonie Paxton- A Repost

Here's a post from 2013 that is fitting since this is Super Bowl week.

The Super Bowl and Lonie Paxton

Jerry Rice, Tom Brady, Ray Lewis, Joe Namath... these are names of Super Bowl champions.  I'm sure many of you recognize these names if you are fans of football.  Let me add another name to this list.  Lonie Paxton.

Who the heck is Lonnie Paxton?

Lonie Paxton was a pivotal player in one of the Super Bowl's most dramatic plays.  It was Super Bowl XXXVI and the New England Patriots were the underdogs to the powerful St. Louis Rams quarterbacked by Kurt Warner.  Hardly anyone gave the Pats a chance of winning that game.  Despite the doubters, the Patriots were in the final seconds of the game with a chance to win.  All they had to do was make a 48 yard field goal and they would be the victors of the biggest game of the year as millions upon millions of people watched.

So who is Lonie Paxton?

That's still the question.  Lonie Paxton was the long snapper for the Patriots.  Lonie made a perfect snap and Adam Vinatieri kicked the ball through the uprights clinching the game for Tom Brady and the Patriots and starting a dynasty.

Lonie Paxton played a pivotal role in an enormous victory and 99.999999999999999999999999999999999% of people, let alone football junkies, have never heard his name before.

Billy Graham, C. S. Lewis, the Apostle Paul, Mother Theresa... these are names of people who have changed the world in the name of God.  I'm sure many of you recognize these names.  Let me add another name to this list.  Jerry Lockwood.

Who the heck is Jerry Lockwood?

Jerry Lockwood is a man of God from Enon Baptist Church in little Pittsville, Missouri.  Jerry spreads his hope in Jesus Christ in a variety of ways.  Jerry is playing a pivotal role in an enormous victory and 99.9999999999999999999999% of people, let alone Christians, have never heard his name before.  Jerry is participating in the victory of the Gospel.  Jerry is a player in Christ's triumphant spreading of His Gospel.

Why do I write this?  I want you to know what a privilege we have.  We get to be a part of the victory of Christ's Gospel.  God could do it all on His own but He invites us to be a player in His victory.  How awesome is that!  I also want you to know that name recognition isn't the only reward of sharing in this victory.  I'm sure if you talked with Lonie Paxton he would tell you want an honor and thrill it was to have played a part in a Super Bowl championship.

So, play a role in a championship.  Cherish the opportunity to participate in the victory of Christ's Gospel.  Be thrilled by that.  In whatever role you're given, be it quarterback or long snapper, play a role in someone's eternal destiny today.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How to do All Things

I'm continuing in the book of Philippians with one of the most famous verses in all of Scripture.

"... for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all things through Him who gives me strength."  Philippians 4:11-13

"I can do all things through Him who gives me strength"  or "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  Whatever the version you read, I'm guessing you know the verse and maybe have a T-shirt with it.

Paul is not saying we can do anything we want because Christ strengthens us.  I'm sorry if you have this verse written on your basketball shoes, but it isn't going to make you dunk no matter how much you meditate on the verse... unless you're 6'7" already.  Obviously, we can do anything including mountain moving if God wants us to, but that's not what this verse is about.

The Apostle Paul was a man that suffered greatly and he was a man that had great triumphs.  What Paul is getting at is that he could and we can be content in any and every circumstance.  That's the miracle he's referring to in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength."

So, what is contentment and why is it so amazing?

Contentment, first of all, is not complacency.  A content person is not someone sitting on their hands because life is just fine and there's no reason to do anything to change it.  Paul was a workhorse.  He pushed and pushed and was not satisfied with doing less than everything he could for the sake of the Gospel of Christ.  So, contentment is not complacency.

Contentment isn't necessarily happiness.  When we lose our job, get a cancer diagnosis, have depression, watch family members live without Jesus or even stub our toe we aren't happy, are we?  But we can have the contentment  Paul wrote about.

Here's what I thing contentment is to Paul:  Contentment is trusting in God's goodness and sovereignty in our current circumstance.

Let me explain by looking not at Paul, but at the ultimate example of contentment in all circumstances, Jesus.

Hours before His murder, in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus was far from complacency and happiness.  He went to pray earnestly to God the Father for many things including a way out of His circumstance.  Jesus knew He was about to be crucified and to have all of the Father's wrath poured on Him, and that troubled Jesus greatly.  Jesus was troubled to the point of sweating blood and begging God to change His circumstances.  Yet, He prayed this in Luke 22:42, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

See, Jesus didn't like His circumstance, but He was content in it.  Jesus trusted in the Father's goodness and sovereignty.  He didn't say, "You jerk, why are you doing this to me!"  And He didn't say, "Are you sure this is going to work?"  Jesus trusted that the Father was good and that the Father's will was best.  We must as well.

God gives us endurance in more than escape from circumstances.  Can He deliver us from our undesired circumstance?  Absolutely, but He's weaving an amazing complex tapestry that will be/is magnificently beautiful and good.  God is good and sovereign.  See the life of the Apostle Paul, Joseph, Jesus or the life of Louis Zamperini to see how our bad becomes God's good.

"I can do all things through Him who gives me strength."  I can.  I can be content in all circumstances whether rich or poor, sick or well, and you can, too because it's Christ who strengthens us.

Be content by trusting in God's goodness and sovereignty today.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Christian Box

I'm continuing in Philippians chapter 4 in this blog.  Today I want to focus in on one verse, Philippians 4:8.

If you grew up Christian or are a Christian now you are insanely blessed.  God was kind to me to place me into a Christian home where I learned the truth of Jesus early and often and where I trusted Jesus as my Savior as a young child; I pray my children have a similar experience.

That being said, I think we Christians can and often have put ourselves and our lives in a box.

We have created such as strict definition of what "Christian products" and "Christian art" is.  "Christian fiction" must be about a woman who lives out on some prairie and the cover of the book must show that.  Okay, that's a joke, but only sort of.  "Christian music" must sound a certain way and must have a very particular set of lyrics.  And above all, Christians must aim to one day do work in a mission field in Africa.

Don't get me wrong, I'm saying all "Christian fiction" is bad or "Christian music" shouldn't have the lyrics that it has or that Christians who do mission work in Africa aren't doing something great.  All this stuff with the Christian label is fine, but I feel like we've been making a Christian box that Christ never made.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable... if anything is excellent or praiseworthy... think about such things." Philippians 4:8

I believe the Apostle Paul in this verse gives us much more freedom than we as Christians give ourselves.  What I mean is that we don't have to be so narrow in our view of what "Christian art", "Christian products" and "Christian stuff" is.  We need to beware of shoehorning ourselves into a Pharisidical box.

So I say, Christians let's read and create excellent books.  In these books the characters can have a life changing experience with God or nearly any other true, noble, right, pure, lovely or admirable experience.  Let's listen to and create excellent music.  This music can share the Gospel clearly or explore the complex emotions that God gave us.  Let's view and create praiseworthy art.  This art can be impressionistic, cubist, realist or something new... and the art doesn't have to have a cross somewhere on it.

Christians, we need to pursue and appreciate excellence in its many forms.  The ultimate form of excellence is no doubt God Himself and what He does, but He created us to love excellence in all forms from the symphony to views of the Grand Canyon.

In pursuit of this excellence let's let our young people pursue it in all arenas.  While we can salute budding young missionaries or seminary students and encourage them, let's not tell our students that if they are fascinated thinking about science or engineering that their studies are somehow less "Christian".  Let's encourage our students to find what they love to do and to pursue excellence in that field for the glory of God.

There is so much about this topic that we could explore and I encourage you to think about it further.  I want to leave you with the words of the Apostle Paul: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable... if anything is excellent or praiseworthy... think about such things" today.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Groom's Face

At this stage of my life I attend a lot of weddings.  I've been a groomsman, usher, best man, groom and just an attender in the last few years.  I enjoy weddings, I especially enjoy them because of the symbolism they give us about Christ and His love for us.

At weddings I enjoy many things including the party at the reception, but my favorite moment in the wedding service itself is the groom's face.

I think you can see so much love in the eyes and face of the groom.  While the bride's eyes aren't easy to see as she walks down the aisle, the groom's are on full display.  I love the groom's face as his beautiful bride is walking down the aisle.  For many men this is the most tender they've been in public or will be until they show off their first child.

Here's a picture of me as my gorgeous bride slowly walked down the aisle.

I remember the flood of expectation that overwhelmed me at that moment.  I was overcome with love for my soon-to-be-wife at that moment.

This weekend at a wedding I watched the groom's face.  I saw the love in young David Dahl's face as he stared at his bride and the rest of the assembly no doubt faded from his consciousness.  While he had no desire to look at us, those of us watching his face could sense the love and devotion he was feeling.

So often in the Bible we are given the illustration of Christ as the groom and the Church as the bride.  Saturday at the wedding I wondered if Jesus looks at us the same way I looked at my bride and young David looked at his.  I think He must, except I know His love is far greater and purer and more faithful than mine can ever be.

With that illustration in mind I thought about this passage:

"The LORD bless you
and keep you;
the LORD make His face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn His face toward you
and give you peace." Numbers 6:24-26

The thought of God's face shining on us with more love than we could imagine is incredible.  That is a great thought and one I encourage you to think about today.