Monday, January 30, 2012

Fighting Christians

"Fight the good fight of faith." 1 Timothy 6:12

True Christianity is a fight!

True Christianity! Let us mind that word "true." There is a vast quantity of religion current in the world which is not true, genuine Christianity. There are thousands of men and women who go to churches and chapels every Sunday and call themselves Christians. They make a "profession" of faith in Christ. Their names are in the baptismal register. They are reckoned Christians while they live. They are married with a Christian marriage service. They mean to be buried as Christians when they die.

But you never see any "fight" about their religion! Of spiritual strife and exertion and conflict and self-denial and watching and warring--they know literally nothing at all. Such Christianity may satisfy man, and those who say anything against it may be thought very hard and uncharitable; but it certainly is not the Christianity of the Bible. It is not the religion which the Lord Jesus founded, and His apostles preached. It is not the religion which produces real holiness. True Christianity is "a fight!"

The principal fight of the Christian is with . . .
the world,
the flesh, and
the devil.
These are his never-dying foes! These are the three chief enemies against whom he must wage war. With a corrupt heart, a busy devil and an ensnaring world--he must either "fight" or be lost!

To be at peace with the world, the flesh and the devil--is to be at enmity with God and in the broad way that leads to destruction! We have no choice or option. We must either fight--or be lost!

It is a fight of universal necessity. No rank or class or age can plead exemption, or escape the battle--all alike must carry arms and go to war.
All have by nature a heart full of pride, unbelief, sloth, worldliness and sin!
All are living in a world beset with snares, traps and pitfalls for the soul.
All have near them a busy, restless, malicious devil.
All, from the queen in her palace down to the pauper in the workhouse--all must fight, if they would be saved.

We may take comfort about our souls, if we know anything of an inward fight and conflict. It is the invariable companion of genuine Christian holiness.

The saddest symptom about many so-called Christians, is the utter absence of anything like conflict and fight in their Christianity. They eat, they drink, they dress, they work, they amuse themselves, they get money, they spend money, they go through a scanty round of formal religious services once or twice every week. But of the great spiritual warfare--its watchings and strugglings, its agonies and anxieties, its battles and contests--of all this they appear to know nothing at all."
(J.C. Ryle, "The Fight!")

This is very true and I would like to just add that there is a fight for joy in all this. We are fighting all these things every minute of every day, but we also must have joy in this fight or what unbeliever would want to join the fight?

I also didn't like the term "Never-dying foes" because these all will die and we are more than conquerors of all these things, which should help us in our fight for joy. But I did like his overall idea behind the post.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Danger, Danger

Danger Ahead
Reading the Exodus narrative is an amazing journey if you take your time and let your mind imagine all the things that were happening along the way. It is also a terrifying reminder of how wicked the heart can be.

God's Patience

It is strange to me that Moses argues with God and yet God still uses him and even gives him a provision for his weakness in being the spokes person. I'm not really sure why God listens to whiny/complaining people but He has a plan and it obviously included Moses in all his weakness and trepidation.

I love that God tells Moses what to say and actually what Pharaoh is going to say and do in response to what Moses says. We have God's Word to go back to and see His faithfulness through previous generations, Moses could look back on his own history of how he was saved from an early death and yet God knew that he needed the extra measure of grace in this time.

God is Serious

Hardness of heart; what a terrible place to be found. As I read through the narrative and God says that Pharaoh hardened his heart and then God hardens his heart I was struck with the realization that I know people like this today. Certainly God is not showing His power after the morning message by swarming our city with gnats, flies, frogs or boils but He does send people into our lives to shake us up and cause us to listen.

God doesn't send a Moses to each of us today but we have His Word and we should have godly people around us that can hold us accountable. If someone comes to us and tells us they are concerned about something in our lives, we should consider it. Since God isn't giving the plagues to us anymore maybe the "plague" is more than one person making the same or similar statements. If we ignore God's use of people and His Spirit our hearts are becoming hard just like Pharaoh's.

God is the Provider

The Jews were the slaves to the Egyptians and it was only 1 generation ago that Joseph had been 2nd in command to Pharaoh and provided for the entire Egyptian and Jewish nation. In one generation the whole thing came tumbling down and yet God allowed the Jews to leave Egypt far richer than they had entered.

They came in on wagons and carts with no food. Many had given everything they had just to get the food they needed to live and while they were leaving Egypt the Egyptians gave them loads of treasures- they held them up without a gun or sword.

That gold would skip a generation in its usefulness because they were in the wilderness for 40 more years and that entire generation was not allowed to go to a place where the money was needed, but rather God would provide for them all they needed in the wilderness. But before they got there God had one more serious miracle to show them His power as well as to show Pharaoh what a hard heart will get you.

God always Wins

Chasing them into the wilderness after he had let them go is a good sign of a very hard heart, I mean he had just seen every first born of everything be killed in one night. Really do you think you're gonna win this one? He's mad and he's gonna prove his point to those wicked Jews. We've seen this in history since.

So if all that is not enough here's the proverbial straw. Pharaoh no doubt had seen the Red Sea in it's normal state; the way you can see it today and every other body of water on the planet. He had just seen God clean his clock in 10 different ways plus the plundering that the Jews had done without lifting a finger and yet when he comes to the edge of the sea that is parted shouldn't there have been a really large warning sign there?

Again, the hardness of ones heart is so evident. God plans things in our lives for a purpose and we can either learn and grow from them or we can harden our hearts and push forward no matter the warnings we are given. May that never be me and may that never be you.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Snake in the Grass

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

The Set Up
I have a friend who for years has been telling me and many other that he is a Christian. So if we use the criteria above how would others know whether what he is saying is true or not? Jesus drops the analogy of fruit and words into the same paragraph, so I am taking this to mean that they are somehow linked. Jesus- talking to Jews in front of their very religious leaders is making a very poignant statement and you probably could have heard a pin drop in the dust until the "vipers" started hissing.

Good and Bad Trees and Fruit
If you have a tree that is diseased sometimes the only way you can deal with it is to tear it out and start over again. Sometimes you can treat it for a few seasons and bring it around. A good gardner or orchardist would know which trees have issues and be watching them. It goes without saying that a gardner is not thinking about ripping out a tree because it is producing good fruit though.

Evil People Exude Venom
It is also interesting to me that Jesus immediately goes from good and bad to words."How can you speak good, when you are evil?" Jesus was not looking for an answer here. So, think again whom He is talking to. These were men who quoted Scripture, were in church all the time, looked very religious and prayed in front of the masses anytime they had opportunity. Was Jesus saying that Scripture was bad? No. Was Jesus saying that going to church was evil? No. He must have been giving the idea that those "good things" coming from their mouths were tainted with venom- like they shouldn't be trusted.

Over Flowing
Jesus' next words are "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." He is wrapping a lot of things into one paragraph; fruit, words and the heart. So, trees are known by their fruit, words and fruit are linked and both of those are linked to the heart. If the tree is bad it produces bad fruit, no matter what words are coming from it. Bad trees, no matter what they say can't produce "good" words. Jesus has to be telling us to watch out for people who look good, say things that appear to be good and yet are really snakes.

There is abundance in all our hearts. We become like what we love or Who we love and this fills up our hearts. If I love American muscle cars and I read about them all the time and go to car shows and have a couple in my garage, guess what, I am going to be talking about them a lot. Those cars are filling up my heart and out of the abundance of my heart I want to speak. It is not work for me to speak about those cars- it flows out of me. You can insert whatever is your fight; sports, food, sewing, books, movies, work or God.

Unrestricted Flow
A person who is truly a "good tree" will have abundance flowing out from their heart to others. The Word implanted and watered will be growing up into a fountain of living water and the outflow will be psalms, hymns and spiritual songs as they are making melody in their hearts towards God. This is not work or effort- it just will come out. When something comes up it will often be directed back to God and His attributes and Word.

I digress for a moment- This is not some kind of manufactured love for God followed by religious pride, like the Pharisees and a quick way to tell is by where is the focus of the story. Is it "God did this even when I was not trusting" or "I had so much faith and I prayed for the last 20 years about this and finally I got what I asked God for"? Look at these 2 statements. "God is faithful" and "I just had to have faith".

Inspecting Fruit
We hear all the time- "Don't judge me"- but isn't this what Jesus is calling attention to right here in this paragraph? Wasn't He telling others to watch out for the "vipers" around them that said one thing and must have been doing another? Wasn't He calling them to be very careful around the snakes? He was saying all that as well as telling us to examine our own lives, hearts, fruit and words.
If "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" then shouldn't it be that if we are "good trees" bearing "Good fruit" that there should often be spiritual abundance coming from our lives and mouths?

Back to my friend. Saying you're a Christian without ever talking about spiritual things should be a red flag. If our hearts are to be overflowing and there is seldom overflow in spiritual things then I think we are getting the answer as to whether the tree is good or bad- no matter what the tree is claiming.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What's your Stinking Deal?

Get out of the Game
This year we are hearing so much about the amazing selflessness of a guy named Tim Tebow. Here's a guy who could have been aborted but he wasn't. He could have listened to the press that he was never going to amount to much and certainly wouldn't make it in the NFL because "He doesn't throw well" or "He's the wrong size". Who's that talking anyway? Wh's trying to take him out of the game?

He could choose to listen to all the critics but thus far he is not interested in coming out of the game or the spotlight either on the field or off. He's got a platform and he's gonna stay on it and use it as much as is possible.

What about you?
I think that there are many who think that they don't have that kind of platform so what's the use? Maybe you want to have a huge influence/audience and if God doesn't give that to you then you are fine not doing really anything. Really? Wouldn't that be similar to saying "I never am going to make a million dollars in a year so what's the point of working and providing"?

Doing What Tebow Can't!
So, let's say that I can encourage you to get up out of our funk and connect with some people and do something that Tim Tebow can't do- influence your friends personally. Just think about the influence that you have on others. Are you waiting for someone else to come and do your "work" for you? When you are hanging out with your friends and family, when you're talking about spiritual things and encouraging spiritual growth in others and asking for accountability from others you will start to gain influence and really start to make an impact. A knife actually needs a steel and a steel has little use if there is no knife. Which are you?

A New Year
We have a new year and so how about trying to really engage others that are already in your life? One at a time, one hour or day at a time you can make a difference in someone who might be waiting for your encouraging words or actions and you just never know- you might have a life long relationship that starts from just that.

Ready, Set, GO!

You will Learn About Life When you Play the Game of Life

So- you don't think Tebow can play football. He certainly knows how to play life.

"I've come to believe in Tim Tebow, but not for what he does on a football field, which is still three parts Dr. Jekyll and two parts Mr. Hyde.

No, I've come to believe in Tim Tebow for what he does off a football field, which is represent the best parts of us, the parts I want to be and so rarely am.

Who among us is this selfless?

Every week, Tebow picks out someone who is suffering, or who is dying, or who is injured. He flies these people and their families to the Broncos game, rents them a car, puts them up in a nice hotel, buys them dinner (usually at a Dave & Buster's), gets them and their families pregame passes, visits with them just before kickoff (!), gets them 30-yard-line tickets down low, visits with them after the game (sometimes for an hour), has them walk him to his car, and sends them off with a basket of gifts.

Home or road, win or lose, hero or goat.

Remember last week, when the world was pulling its hair out in the hour after Tebow had stunned the Pittsburgh Steelers with an 80-yard OT touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas in the playoffs? And Twitter was exploding with 9,420 tweets about Tebow per second? When an ESPN poll was naming him the most popular athlete in America?

Tebow was spending that hour talking to 16-year-old Bailey Knaub about her 73 surgeries so far and what TV shows she likes.

For Tim Tebow's take on being named America's most popular athlete, click here.

"Here he'd just played the game of his life," recalls Bailey's mother, Kathy, of Loveland, Colo., "and the first thing he does after his press conference is come find Bailey and ask, 'Did you get anything to eat?' He acted like what he'd just done wasn't anything, like it was all about Bailey."

More than that, Tebow kept corralling people into the room for Bailey to meet. Hey, Demaryius, come in here a minute. Hey, Mr. Elway. Hey, Coach Fox.

Even though sometimes-fatal Wegener's granulomatosis has left Bailey with only one lung, the attention took her breath away.

"It was the best day of my life," she emailed. "It was a bright star among very gloomy and difficult days. Tim Tebow gave me the greatest gift I could ever imagine. He gave me the strength for the future. I know now that I can face any obstacle placed in front of me. Tim taught me to never give up because at the end of the day, today might seem bleak but it can't rain forever and tomorrow is a new day, with new promises."

I read that email to Tebow, and he was honestly floored.

"Why me? Why should I inspire her?" he said. "I just don't feel, I don't know, adequate. Really, hearing her story inspires me."

It's not just NFL defenses that get Tebowed. It's high school girls who don't know whether they'll ever go to a prom. It's adults who can hardly stand. It's kids who will die soon.

For the game at Buffalo, it was Charlottesville, Va., blue-chip high school QB Jacob Rainey, who lost his leg after a freak tackle in a scrimmage. Tebow threw three interceptions in that Buffalo game and the Broncos were crushed 40-14.

"He walked in and took a big sigh and said, 'Well, that didn't go as planned,'" Rainey remembers. "Where I'm from, people wonder how sincere and genuine he is. But I think he's the most genuine person I've ever met."

There's not an ounce of artifice or phoniness or Hollywood in this kid Tebow, and I've looked everywhere for it.

Take 9-year-old Zac Taylor, a child who lives in constant pain. Immediately after Tebow shocked the Chicago Bears with a 13-10 comeback win, Tebow spent an hour with Zac and his family. At one point, Zac, who has 10 doctors, asked Tebow whether he has a secret prayer for hospital visits. Tebow whispered it in his ear. And because Tebow still needed to be checked out by the Broncos' team doctor, he took Zac in with him, but only after they had whispered it together.

And it's not always kids. Tom Driscoll, a 55-year-old who is dying of brain cancer at a hospice in Denver, was Tebow's guest for the Cincinnati game. "The doctors took some of my brain," Driscoll says, "so my short-term memory is kind of shot. But that day I'll never forget. Tim is such a good man."

This whole thing makes no football sense, of course. Most NFL players hardly talk to teammates before a game, much less visit with the sick and dying.

Isn't that a huge distraction?

Stephanie Taylor- Not everything Tim Tebow does on one knee is controversial. Ask Zac Taylor.
"Just the opposite," Tebow says. "It's by far the best thing I do to get myself ready. Here you are, about to play a game that the world says is the most important thing in the world. Win and they praise you. Lose and they crush you. And here I have a chance to talk to the coolest, most courageous people. It puts it all into perspective. The game doesn't really matter. I mean, I'll give 100 percent of my heart to win it, but in the end, the thing I most want to do is not win championships or make a lot of money, it's to invest in people's lives, to make a difference."

So that's it. I've given up giving up on him. I'm a 100 percent believer. Not in his arm. Not in his skills. I believe in his heart, his there-will-definitely-be-a-pony-under-the-tree optimism, the way his love pours into people, right up to their eyeballs, until they believe they can master the hopeless comeback, too.

Remember the QB who lost his leg, Jacob Rainey? He got his prosthetic leg a few weeks ago, and he wants to play high school football next season. Yes, tackle football. He'd be the first to do that on an above-the-knee amputation.

Hmmm. Wonder where he got that crazy idea?

"Tim told me to keep fighting, no matter what," Rainey says. "I am."

By Rick Reilly

Friday, January 13, 2012

Love Miles Apart

I have some friends who's son is in the Army and is in Afganistan right now. For us the time goes by pretty quickly because we are busy with all kinds of things and life moves along. I am pretty sure it isn't moving as quickly for him there. As I was walking and praying for them this morning I was reminded of a few things.

I'm in the Lord's Army

This young man has a guitar with him and has some sheet music to practice with. The music is praise and worship centered and so he is doing just that; playing, praising and worshipping in a tent half way around the world. Remember, he's in the Army. The Army is not busting out at the seams with young people who are committed to Christ anymore than the balance of the population here in the States is. He's truly in a hostile environment in more ways than one.

As he was playing some of the guys who room with him were taking a video and making fun of him and then they posted it on FB for all their friends to see and I presume they are wanting their friends to join in the mockery.

To the "Rescue"
As a parent I know this would make me upset and in his case, his parents were not very happy about what had happened and would like something to be done to take the posting down or whatever. "Just don't leave it there as a reminder that someone is picking on my son". I completely understand.

The Precedent
A precedent is something that has been done before that establishes and determines the way things will be done in the future. As I was thinking about this situation this morning and praying for their family to be strong I was reminded that The Father sent His Son to "another part" of His world to be an ambassador to some hostile people. From The Father's perspective what must have been His feelings of making the situation right as He watched the created ones treat His most loved Son with such disregard and hatred? How did He not just come down and "handle the situation" right then and there? What patience.

The Son too had to be undergoing some intense pressure to not want to call those 10k angel to rescue Him from the hands of people who should rightfully have been falling down at His feet, but He didn't. He endured for the joy set before Him all that we gave to Him and yet w/o sin.

So as I think about those mistreating my friend, think about how his family is feeling, think about the ways I have been mistreated and have mistreated others, I am thankful that God is patient and that The Son was willing to carry out the mission all the way until the end- which was death for Him- only to be buried and raised. He gives the phrase "I'll be back" new and glorious meaning and when He comes back He'll then make it all right.

Punch in the Throat

Have you ever been punched?
The other day my friend was dancing around in their house with all the kids and his wife, small as she is, and she accidentally kneed him in the nose. That really hurts. I told him that should bring a new appreciation for when you see an MMA guy get punched in the nose 50 times in a row. When you're messing around or in an environment of sports you somewhat expect to get banged around; it's not a great surprised. But if you get punched and you're not expecting it that's another story.

Not too long ago I went to a game. I was hanging out visiting with some friends and there were people coming and going. A friend of mine for the last 15-ish years walked into the game as we were all standing there. As they walked by I stuck out my hand to greet them and said "How are you doing?". The response was a punch in the throat. They refused to shake my hand and only said "No thank-you".

We shoot our wounded.
It seems that in the church today often times when we are upset with others instead of going to them we just write them off, talk bad about them, turn our backs on them or just shoot them and leave them for dead- because after all "They are dead to me" doesn't work too well if you don't treat them like they are really dead, right?

As Christians we should be accustomed to being ill treated; like less than a friend and more than an enemy. There should be people that we expect will give us this sort of treatment. I expect it bc they have come to me and told me their issues and I understand where they are coming from but I still disagree. We are not seeing eye to eye on any number of things. The surprise is when the last time I saw my friend there was nothing said and I had no idea there was anything between us.

Brotherly Kindness
I am not saying that I have all the answers. I am not saying that I don't sin. I am not saying that there is perfection in my direction right now, but aren't we told in Gal. 6:1 that if we see someone caught in a sin- I have to assume that in order for someone to treat others so hatefully that they think I am personally in sin- that it is the job, the responsibility of the more mature one to go to that person and attempt to restore them in a spirit of meekness?

Hatred and meekness are not the same things. Did this person really think that the way to win me back, as a brother, was to not be willing to shake my hand? Is punching someone in the throat the best way to start a dialoge? Isn't the Gospel all about restoration of enemies? Jesus didn't come to earth to punch us in the throat as a way of get us to submit to His authority.

Yet Without Sin
Jesus is our Supreme Example in all things and this too is a good reminder. Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He, unlike me, was without sin and didn't deserve any of the ill treatment we gave Him. He was oppressed and afflicted and yet He didn't even open His mouth. He didn't call anyone to defend Him against an indefensible humanity He created and yet He came to save those that hated Him. He was a servant to death on a cross for US.

The Perfect Example
May His Spirit empower us to live and love each other even when we disagree. May He enable us to absorb those punches and still be joyful, as He was. The mockery, the spitting in His face, the crown of thorns, the cross and death were real and they were painful for real. He left us His Word as a guide in times like these and these vv remind me of how I am supposed to live.

Heb. 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Do not Grow Weary

3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.