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

Friday, February 24, 2017

I Hope My Son Enjoys Sports

My son is due May 22nd.

From the moment I found out that my child is a boy I've thought about what he'll be like.  I'll be honest, when I saw that penis on the ultrasound I immediately wondered whether I'll coach the little league team.  If I was having a girl I would have thought softball, but I'm having a boy.  I do wonder what my boy will be like.  I wonder if he'll enjoy music like me or art like his Uncle Mike.  I've wondered if he'll enjoy sports; I daydreamed about fighting to stay objective as I do play-by-play for my own boy.

I will love my son regardless of what his hobbies are, but I do hope he likes sports because of the mutual enjoyment and more importantly because of the lessons they can teach.

I was reading Hebrews 12 this week and the writer gives us a sports analogy... running the race.  Obviously by the title of this blog you know I that like this particular analogy.  I want to look at a few reasons and helps the author gives us to run the race.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."  Hebrews 12:1

If you've ever competed you know there's a certain high that comes from a good crowd.  Home field advantage can be the difference between winning and losing some nights.  The energy of a raucous crowd can fuel endurance and adrenaline.  The author of Hebrews says we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.  These witnesses are hall of famers at that.  Those from chapter 11, the faith hall of fame, are surrounding us and cheering us on.

Notice also that the race has a fixed course.  Those of you that play sports know that the rules are important, that the boundaries matter.  A cross-country runner who doesn't follow the course is a guaranteed loser.  So, we must know the rules and run the course marked for us.

Solomon says in Proverbs:

"Let your eyes look straight ahead,
fix your gaze directly before you.
Make level paths for your feet
and take only ways that are firm.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
keep your foot from evil."  Proverbs 4:25-27

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."  Hebrews 12:2

When I was in football we would occasionally have "captains runs".  During these runs the captains of the team would run and we all would follow in a grueling follow the leader.  The captains would take us across the field and into a wooded area most of the time.  We didn't always know where we were going, but we knew to follow the captains and we knew that we wouldn't go anywhere the captain didn't already go.  So it is with Jesus.  We set our eyes on Jesus and follow Him who blazes a path before us.  We set our eyes on Jesus whose course went through tough terrain yet He prevailed over it.  We know in this captains run that our Captain won't make it easy but He will make sure it's possible.

"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."  Hebrews 12:11

Most athletes will agree that practices often suck.  When I was playing basketball I was not very good, but I loved it.  However, practices, especially the first few practices hurt.  Beau Zaruba was our head JV and assistant coach and he put us through tough conditioning.  It was painful.  But I can tell you that it produced endurance and peace.  When our JV team was down at the half I didn't worry because I knew we were in better shape and could come back.  Now we were not often the tallest or the most talented and we did lose games but we always felt we had a chance because of the painful discipline of practice.  I hated the training in practice, but I loved its results.  The writer of Hebrews agrees that painful discipline and training produces results that are always worth it.

"Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 'Make level paths for your feet,' so that the lame may not be disabled but rather healed."  Hebrews 12:12-13

On almost every team there is that freak.  There's that one guy that just keeps going.  When the conditioning becomes unbearable and you're ready to quit you look over and there's that guy at the line ready to run another sprint.  Whenever you see that guy you at first hate him just a bit, but then you strengthen your own feeble and weak knees and saunter over to the line to run again.  That guy, as much as you want to loathe him, makes you realize that it is humanly possible to keep going, that there is another gear to be hit.

In your Christian race do you run in a way that inspires others to keep going?  Do you run in a way that "the lame may not be disabled but rather healed"?  Do you run in a way that inspires those who are just about to quit to toe the line and get ready to go again?  Every team needs that person and so does every group of believers.

"See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son."  Hebrews 12:16

In sports if you want to win a championship you've got to think about the championship.  People would question the mental health of someone who gave up glory for anything less.

Consider the story of Barret Robbins.  Robbins was the starting center for the 2002-2003 Oakland Raiders.  Just before the 2003 Super Bowl he went missing.  It turns out that Robbins had went partying in Tijuana, Mexico the day before the Super Bowl and thus was left off the roster on the day of the big game.  Now, it turned out that Robbins was suffering from bipolar disorder.  Quickly after he gave up playing in a Super Bowl for a night of drinking people began to be worried about his mental health.

Esau was like Barret Robbins, only without the excuse.  Esau gave up his inheritance for one meal.  Don't be like Esau.  Don't give up your inheritance for anything: sex, money, fame, comfort, etc.  As runners in the race we must keep our eyes on the grand prize.

There is so much to learn from Hebrews 12 and as a sports fan I love that God teaches us here with so many sports metaphors.  Earlier I said that I hope my son enjoys sports, and I do, but what I really hope is that he enters the Christians race and runs with all endurance so that he receives "a kingdom that cannot be shaken."

I encourage you to read Hebrews 12 and run with perseverance the race marked out for you today.

Thursday, February 16, 2017


Today I read Hebrews 11 again.  This chapter is often called the Faith Hall of Fame.  I want to take a moment to look at a few things this chapter says about faith.

1) Biblical faith is in a certainty.

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."  Hebrews 11:1

Biblical faith is not "a hope and a prayer" as popularly seen.  Biblical faith is not a based on a maybe.  Biblical faith is SURE and CERTAIN of what we do not see.  Biblical faith believes the promises of God as cold hard facts and it won't be convinced otherwise.

2) Who faith is in is of upmost importance.

"By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." Hebrews 11:3

We have faith in a God who can do the physically impossible.  God took nothing and created something.  More than that, God took a bunch of nothing and made everything... and He did it with a vocal command.  He spoke and the universe came into being.  The fact that this is who I have faith in makes my faith reasonable.  It's the difference between having faith in the Cleveland Browns or the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl times infinity.  God is the ONLY one in all of the universe worth giving our unabated faith.

3) Faith comes to God to get, not to give.

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and the He rewards those who earnestly seek Him."  Hebrews 11:6

Faith believes that God is so much greater than us that we couldn't possibly give to Him.  He has no lack that He needs us to fill.  We, however, when we believe that He exists will find that He is so wonderful that we must take from Him.  We come to the masterpiece of masterpieces to view and wonder not to add a doodle.  We come to the river of life not to pour our own water in but to drink.

4) Faith is manifest in obedience.

"By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family."  Hebrews 11:7a

God told Noah that a massive flood was coming.  Noah believed and therefore acted accordingly.  Our faith is manifest in obedience.  If we have faith that God is who He says He is then we must act accordingly.  Our faith in His wisdom and honesty requires that once we believe His direction is right, we follow it.  I had someone recently say that they like Christianity but they don't like the idea of someone telling them what to do.  Well, if you really have faith in God as He presents Himself then you'll believe what He says is best for you.  If Noah didn't have an active faith he would have drown.

5) Faith endures despite the outcome.

In Hebrews 11 we see champions of faith who did amazing things.  They survived lions, fires, swords, raging armies and more.  But we also see the seemingly opposite:

"...Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might have a better resurrection.  Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison.  They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword.  They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated... the world was not worthy of them.  They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground."  Hebrews 11:35b-38

The group above is included in the Faith Hall of Fame.  Faith isn't fooled by the circumstances.  Those who had faith survived persecution.  Those who had faith died horrible deaths.  See, facing adversity is not a sign of a lack of faith.  Faith is being sure of what is unseen even if what is seen doesn't seem to jive with it.

Have faith.  Let your faith be built on certainties.  Let your faith be in the Almighty God.  Let your faith draw you to drink from the deep wells of God.  Let your faith be manifest in obedience.  Let your faith endure regardless of the outcome whether "good" or "bad".

Have faith today.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

You Will Make It, So Press On

It seems there are two errors Christians often make when it comes to thinking about their salvation.  The first is that some are so worried about making their salvation sure that they become head cases with no assurance.  The second is that some are so sure that they wonder why anyone would think about striving or fighting for faith.

In my experience, and in what the Bible teaches, the Christian life is about striving with full assurance.

Let me show you what I mean from Hebrews chapter 10.

I've written on this chapter before and it is full of great truths but I want to focus on what stood out to me today when thinking about striving with full assurance.

"let us draw near to God with a since heart in full assurance of faith..." verse 22

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful." verse 23

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another... and all the more as you see the Day approaching."  verses 24-25

"So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  you need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised."  verses 35-36

The writer of Hebrews mixes in statements of blessed assurance and dogged fighting.  We draw near to God with full assurance of faith yet we need to persevere.

Chapter 10 ends with great hope for anyone wondering if they will give up.  For anyone, and the church being written to was seeing people who seemingly were Christian abandon the faith, who wonders if they might not persevere the writer gives one line of great, confident hope for them.

"But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved." verse 39

See, endurance may be hard work but we can persevere with full assurance of faith.  We will not shrink back.  Saint Augustine of Hippo argued this, the Westminster Confession of Faith also affirms this and I believe that the Bible teaches that the saints must and will persevere.

Those God justifies will persevere.  If you have received justification from God you can have full assurance of faith that you will not fall away but God will do this through our holding on.  He will do this through our spurring one another on.  He will do this through encouraging community.  He will do this through our focusing on the "better and lasting possessions" God has for us.

You will make it so press on today.