Thursday, August 31, 2017

Strange Math

"One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." Job 1:6-8

I was never real good in math, but math is nice and tidy, very predictable. When you add one and one you always get two. Always. When you subtract 5 from 10 you get 5. Always. That is nice That is comfortable. That is so unlike life.

But somehow we take a mathematical approach to life. We think that if we do this good thing and combine it with that good thing we will get a good result. Maybe. Maybe not.

That is a huge part of the problem with suffering. It doesn't always add up. In the Bible some of the men who suffered the most lived the best. So here's the math: righteous living + faithful obedience = severe suffering. God's math is strange!

There weren't many who were more moral than Job. He was so righteous that God bragged on him to the Devil! Of all the people I want to impress, God is THE ONE! So what did Job's stellar resume get him? Deep sorrow and suffering. How does that add up?

David had a heart like God's. When God chose him to be King his life was constantly threatened by Saul the reigning king. He spent years running from Saul even though David was totally blameless. Several times he could have killed Saul and ended the period of exile, but he chose to honor Saul because Saul still occupied the throne. David suffered and suffered longer than he needed to because his heart was right and he chose to wait on God. How does that add up?

And then, of course, there was Jesus. He was sinless and remained sinless for one reason. So He could become sin for us and suffer our judgment. The very Son of God died a horrifying excruciating shameful death for one reason - He was the only One holy enough to do it! There is no worse suffering than death on a cross. God's best took our worst. How does that add up?

This brings us back to the problem that has no mathematical solution, a holy all powerful loving God Who could prevent all suffering doesn't. No one has ever been able to balance that equation. That has caused many to abandon faith or to choose not to believe.

What do you do when life doesn't add up?

What are you to believe when God subtracts from your comfort rather than adding to it?

Will you factor in God's goodness and love when the math doesn't seem to work?

Can you trust your problem to be His solution?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

August 31, 2017

"Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ," II Peter 1:1a

What Peter describes as his role, a “slave” of Jesus Christ, is also your role and it is my role. But just exactly does that mean?

It means to surrender to Him! Offer yourself with all your hopes and ambitions.

Billy Graham tells the story about a little child who was playing with a very valuable vase. He put his hand into it and could not withdraw it. His father too, tried his best to get it out, to no avail. They were thinking of breaking the vase when the father said, “Now my son, make one more try. Open your hand and hold your fingers out straight as you see me doing, and then pull.” To their astonishment the little fellow said, “O no, dad, I couldn’t put my fingers out like that because if I did I would drop my dime.”

It means to serve Him! Offer to do His will.
When Joseph Ton was a pastor in Romania he was arrested by the secret police for publishing a sermon calling for the churches to refuse to submit to the Communist government’s demand for control over their ministries. When an official told him he must renounce his sermon, he replied, "No, sir! I won’t do that!"

The official, surprised that anyone would respond so forcefully to the secret police, said, "Aren’t you aware that I can use force against you?"

"Sir, let me explain that to you," Ton said. "You see, your supreme weapon is killing. My supreme weapon is dying. . . . You know that my sermons are spread all over the country on tapes. When you kill me, I only sprinkle them with my blood. They will speak 10 times louder after that, because everybody will say, ’That preacher meant it because he sealed it with his blood.’ So go on, sir, kill me. When you kill me, I win the supreme victory." The secret police released him, knowing his martyrdom would be far more of a problem than his sermon

It means to satisfy Him. Obey Him in love.

I recently did a wedding. During the wedding rehearsal, the groom pulled me aside and made me an offer.

He said "Look, I’ll give you $100 if you’ll change the wedding vows. When you get to me and the part where I’m to promise to ’love, honor and obey,’ I would appreciate it if you’d just leave that part out." He gave me a $100 bill and walked away.

The day of the wedding the bride and groom were in front of me and we were to that part of the ceremony where the vows are exchanged. When it came time for the groom’s vows, I looked at the young man and said "Will you promise to bow down before her, obey her every command and wish, serve her breakfast in bed every morning of your life and swear eternally before God and your lovely wife that you will not ever even look at another woman, as long as you both shall live?"

The groom gulped and looked around, and said in a tiny voice, "Yes." Then He leaned in and asked “what happened I thought we had a deal."

So I gave him his 100 dollars back and told him that she had made a better offer.

Are you choosing to be obedient to God or are you looking  for a better deal?

HERE’S A BETTER DEAL:  Give Yourself To God As A Slave And He Makes You A Son!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

If You Want Your Salvation To Work

“…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:13

Paul is teaching us how we can make sure our salvation works for all our days on planet Earth. His key thought is "obedience IS the work of salvation because it allows God to work out the completion of your salvation"!

If you want your salvation to work:

Obey faithfully!
Obey fearfully!
AND obey fruitfully!

You know salvation is working out when His will and His purpose happens through your life!
You know your salvation is working out when God is pleased by your obedience.

Salvation works when you are committed to obeying His will and purposes. It doesn't work when you disobey. It is that simple!

When you are committed to obeying His will and purpose your life will bear spiritual fruit. When disobey his will and purpose there will be not fruit.

Charles Finney noted this about obedience and sacrifice, “Revival is nothing more or less than a new obedience to God!”      

“Joy is the byproduct of obedience”  - (Unknown)

D. L. Moody has expressed it so well: “. . .Joy flows right on through trouble; joy flows on through the dark; joy flows in the night as well as in the day; joy flows all through persecution and opposition. It is an unceasing fountain bubbling up in the heart; a secret spring the world can’t see and doesn’t know anything about. The Lord gives His people perpetual joy when they walk in obedience to him”

Patrick Morley’s book “Walking with Christ in the Details of Life.” It is a book of meditations that includes one called “Revival: The Gospel of Addition.” In it, he said the following, “The American gospel has evolved into a gospel of addition without subtraction. It is the belief that we can add Christ to our lives, but not subtract sin. It is a change in belief without a change in behavior… A changed life is one that has added Christ and subtracted sin, that attracts a world weary of worn-out words. Obedience is the proof.”

"Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late - and how little revival has resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been TRYING TO SUBSTITUTE PRAYING FOR OBEYING, and it simply will not work. To pray for revival while ignoring the plain precept laid down in Scripture is to waste a lot of words and get nothing for our trouble. Prayer will become effective when we stop using it as a substitute for obedience." A.W. Tozer

You are more likely to OBEY YOURSELF INTO PRAYING than you are to pray yourself into obeying!




Monday, August 28, 2017

August 29, 2017

"Every day they continued to meet together......." Acts 2:46a

In a recent post I talked about the importance of doing small things well. Small things done well over time make a big difference. The tendency is to value the spectacular events and the exciting efforts. But unless someone is paying attention to the details nothing lasting will result from the big things.

Today I want to talk about the value of one particular small thing - the importance of showing up!

Just showing up almost sounds too abvious to mention. But it was one of the things that the Church in Jerusalem did best. They were consistent in their Christian disciplines. Consistency equates to commitment. Not much happens without commitment.

Cal Ripken is a cinch for the Hall of Fame because he developed the discipline of showing up. His career statistics are borderline for Hall of Famers. On the basis of his stats he would have been considered for Cooperstown, but the fact that he played in a record-setting 2,632 consecutive games make his selection a no-brainer. Ripken shattered the record of a previous Hall of Famer, Lou Gehrig by almost games!

I think of Betty Darling. Betty was a tiny little lady from the hills and hollows of West Virginia who was extremely shy - but amazingly faithful. Betty worked in the nursery at Heritage Wesleyan Church, one of the largest churches in our denomination. She was there when the church ran 25 people and she only had one infant to care for. She was still there when the church topped 2,000 and had more babies in the nursery than they used to have people in the church. Betty was so shy she had trouble looking you in the eye. She would slip into the nursery and out the back door. But you could count on one thing - if Sunday came, Betty would be there.

For nearly 30 years she cared for several generations of little ones. There are young men in ministry that Betty rocked and burped. She is now in God's Hall of Fame, otherwise known as Heaven. By the way, the church now runs 3,000+ because of a lot of faithful people like Betty who just show up on a regular basis.

Can I remind you that God promised that "where two or three people are gathered together, I am in their midst"?

In other words, God promises that if we show up He will!

Commitment trumps talent every time. Don't discount the value of just showing up. Showing up is far more powerful than showing off. Obviously, the real deal is when talented people show up!

Churches don't happen without people who are committed to showing up and doing their best. How committed are you? How good are you at showing up?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

August 28, 2017

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."  Matthew 5:14-16

"A well-known Bible teacher has just finished speaking to a large class of business people on the Christians' responsibility to be light in the world. He had emphasized the as believers we all have the obligation to reflect the Light in the world, the Lord Jesus. 

The person relating the story said, "When I saw that, I thought, I may not a preacher or a teacher with the ability to expound Scripture, but a least I can be a copper kettle catching the rays of the S - O - N and reflect His light to someone."

It is instructive to realize when Jesus calls His disciples to be "the light of the world" He is not calling them to produce light but to reflect His light like the copper kettle did in the story.

Here are some practical truths that are illuminated by this shiny kettle:

Christians are called to be in the light. This kettle was hung near a basement window where it could be exposed to the light during the day.

You cannot be a follower of Christ unless you are in the light because He IS the light and He dwells in His believers.

Christians are to keep their lives clear and shiny. Though the kettle was positioned in the light, if it had been all tarnished and dull it would not have reflected sufficient light to give life to the potato.

Is your life dulled by the tarnish of sin and unable to reflect His light or is it pure and polished to brightly reflect God's light to others?

Christians are expected to be positioned between His light and the darkness of the world so they can strategically and effectively penetrate the darkness with God's light and life.

Are you remaining close enough to the darkness that you can impact it with the reflection of God's light?

When Jesus says, "You are the light of the world" He could have said, "I am the light and you are to be the reflector of My light into a dark and dying world."

August 27, 2017

Before I post the devotional thought this morning, I want to wish my youngest son, Marcus, a happy birthday. My baby boy turns 39 today. He is a great dad and hard-working young man. I am proud of him and love him very much!

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." James 5:16

Let me ask you a question. Is there something more important than healing in the church?

I guess it matters what your priorities are.

But, if I understand what James is telling us here, God values spiritual health above physical health. And if I am understanding the Scriptures correctly (and that's my job) God is saying that is easier for Him to heal your body than it is to give you spiritual health.

What are you talking about, Brad?

Let me explain it this way. Were I to ask, "How many of you would like physical healing?" I would imagine I would receive unanimous agreement.

Were I to ask, "How many of you want to be spiritually healthy" I am not so sure I would get such an enthusiastic response.

See, God can heal you physically because He is able and you are willing. But for you to be spiritually healthy you must surrender your will completely to Him and humbly obey Him. The same will that would allow Him to heal you physically might prevent Him from blessing you with spiritual health.

Spiritual health requires personal prayer. When you are troubled you share it with God in prayer. When you are happy, you praise Him with prayer and rejoicing. Essentially, what James is saying is that you and I must take personal responsibility for our personal spiritual health. Your spiritual and mental and emotional health is your responsibility (in cooperation with God).

Spiritual health also requires powerful prayer. What is powerful prayer? According to James, powerful prayer is the result of believers being completely honest before God and transparent with each other. Submitting to confession and accountability is the price for powerful prayer and spiritual health. Oh, by the way, something else happens too - physical healing!

Finally, spiritual health requires prevailing prayer. 

Prevailing prayer? James urges us to pray for those who are spiritually drifting and separated from God. You might call it intercessory prayer and you would be correct. But I want to tell you that when you combine personal prayer with powerful prayer you get prevailing prayer and God's Spirit moves on people! Especially, lost people!

So, physical healing is easier than spiritual health. They are related but they are not the same. Fortunately, you can have both!

If we can have both why then do churches often have neither?

Frankly, it is because we would rather be happy than holy. We would rather be comfortable than committed. We don't want to hold others accountable to be holy because their sins and shortcomings make us feel more comfortable with our own. Honestly, we are more comfortable with our sins than we are with His Spirit. We are more comfortable with our secrets than with His sanctifying presence.

So, you wonder why there are so many struggling Christians and unhealthy churches?

Go figure.....

Friday, August 25, 2017

August 26, 2017

Jesus did a lot in His brief three-year ministry. Do you want to know one thing He never did? He never did a funeral!

As I am reading through John I am blessed as I am reminded of Who Jesus is! He is revealing Himself to His disciples and others who are paying attention. While they are hearing it for the first time, it is still good news of great joy as I reflect on it again. Thanks for joining me in this journey. I hope I have thrown a few blessings your way, too.

In Chapter 6 He fed the thousands with just a few loaves and a couple of fish and then revealed Himself as "The Bread of Life" and invites us to feed on Him!

In Chapter 9 He healed a blind man and introduces Himself as the "Light of the World".
Earlier  we reflected on the great truth of Jesus as our "Good Shepherd". We are well cared for! I quoted a friend who said, "When the Lord is your Shepherd the future is your friend!"

Each of those manifestations of His nature is significant. If only one of those was true it would be sufficient - BUT JESUS IS ALL OF THOSE! And more! Check out Chapter 11!

Jesus got one of those 9-1-1 calls. "Come quickly! Our brother Lazarus is deathly ill!" This plea came from His best friends, Mary and Martha. They lived in Bethany and it was a safe place where He could go and get ministered to. But He did something interesting - He headed the other way.

When I get one of those calls in the middle of the night I rush to the hospital or the home to bring comfort and support. Jesus didn't do that. He went back to Judea where He had just been rejected.

By the time He arrives in Bethany He is greeted by two grieving and disillusioned sisters. Martha greets Him with an accusation, "If you would have been here my brother would not have died!"

That certainly was true. But she was underestimating Jesus. Mary, Martha and Lazarus knew Jesus better than anyone and yet they underestimated Him. I have to admit that makes me feel better, because I am guilty of that.

Just when you think you know Jesus, He reveals something new about His nature. That is what He is about to do here. Mary and Martha knew what Jesus HAD done and defined Him in those terms. They were sure He could have healed Lazarus but they didn't reason that He could also resurrect him. How many times do I limit Jesus by expecting Him to respond in a predictable way? He is anything but predictble!

So, Jesus asked to be taken to the tomb. Mary and Martha are concerned because of the stench - he had been dead four days. They are thinking funeral, He doesn't do funerals. When He ordered the tomb to be open, they have "grave reservations". They are thinking about rotten odors He is thinking about resurrection! The tomb is opened and Lazarus is called forth. Since Jesus is Life, death has to obey! Lazarus comes walking out of the tomb! Jesus commands the grave clothes to be removed - Jesus is God of the living not the dead!

When He claimed that He is the "Resurrection and the Life" He meant it! Now we know for sure! As the Good Shepherd He give us "abundant life"! As the Resurrection He gives us eternal life!

So, what does this tell us about Jesus? He is bigger than life but also BIGGER THAN DEATH! He raised Lazarus from the dead (and others) before He submitted Himself to death on the cross. And when He rose from the dead, He conquered death for us! He truly became the "Resurrection and the Life"! Wow! What a Savior!

As one who still has to do funerals, I am thankful for the knowledge that Jesus is the "Resurrection and the Life". As one who has stood beside too many caskets and gravesides, I am glad I can point people to the hope of the "Resurrection and the Life".

Have you recently lost a dear one? Have you been overcome by the reality of death? Are you staring death in the face today?

I have good news of great joy! Jesus is the God of the living! There is no death in Him. When you live in Him you live in life! While in this life you live "abundant life" and then you simple move to REAL LIFE - eternal life!

So, welcome to life in a dying world! As you celebrate abundant life, breathe in a deep breath of His Life and live in hope of a life to come! Life is good! And it only gets better!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Prayer Is A Relationship Not Just A Resouce

"Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins." James 5:13-20

Some incredible things start happening when God's people begin understanding that prayer is a RELATIONSHIP not just a RESOURCE! Big changes happen when you understand that GOD IS your resource and not just the provider of them. You enter into a relationship with Him not to get something FROM Him but to get everything IN Him!

There is more good news! Can you handle that?

Look at what you get when you enter into a healthy relationship with God through prayer:

Personal Prayer - "Is anyone of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise." V. 13

James, in his final words, urges believers to live in an intimate relationship with God that is characterized by continual prayer. When you are hurting, pray! When you are happy, pray! No matter what is going on in your life share it with God. Center your life, your loves, and your longings on Him.

That is the foundation of a healthy relationship with God which is the foundation of all other healthy relationships.

Powerful Prayer - "Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." Vv. 14-16

People who are in healthy personal relationship with God have a great opportunity to live in heal thy relationship with each other. That is God's great ambition for us within His Church. And when healthy people come together to call upon their God and agree according to His Word in behalf of one another - powerful things happen! Healthy things happen! In fact, health happens!

For my entire life I have heard this portion of Scripture referred to as a prescription for physical healing. Now I understand it is, indeed, that. BUT it is significantly more than that! It is the path to health!

A healthy church fellowship arises from healthy believers living in intimate relationship with God. When they come together to call up Him for a commonly agreed upon need, powerful things happen! Healthy things! Not only healing but health happens!

What do I mean by health? I refer to James' counsel to "confess your sins to each other and pray for each other that you may be healed". That sounds good doesn't it? That is a great promise on its face, but it is so much more than a one-time healing it is a prescription for ongoing health for individuals and for the church body! This is talking about two powerful spiritual disciplines - transparency and accountability. When practiced within a church prayer becomes power and the church becomes healthy!

James is advocating that we not settle just for physical healing but that we press for spiritual health. He expresses his belief that unhealthy spiritual and emotional issues contribute to many of our health problems. We do this by being transparent enough to confess to those in spiritual authority the sins that hold us in bondage. He tells us that when we do this and when we pray for each other for these sins healing and deliverance happens. Not only are we healed but we become healthy!

Prevailing Prayer - "Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins." James 5:17-20

One of the most revered men among the Jews was Elijah. Rightly so! He was a powerful prophet who was mightily used of God and who was rewarded with one of the awesome exits any human being has experienced - remember the fiery chariot thing?

Who can forget his great victory on Mt. Carmel? James reminds us of how he caused a 3 1/2 year drought that led up to the victory on Mt. Carmel. He was one of the supernatural visitiors who appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. This guy was special!

But James is saying we can be special too if we do the hard work of having a healthy relationship with God - a personal relationship and powerful relationship together. The reason that is true is because we serve the same God Elijah did. The same power is available to us if we will seek God and godliness has he did.

Elijah's passion was to call sinners back to God. In particular, he wanted to call the people of God back to their God. Everything he did was for that purpose. The dramatic events on Mt. Carmel we for that end. And that is the point of what James is saying here, "We need the spirit of Elijah in prevailing prayer for lost or straying people!" That prevailing prayer can only happen when God's people in God's Church will enter into healthy personal relationship and into powerful healthy fellowship and then God will encourage them in prevailing intercession for the lost!

That my friends is a healthy church! That is what I envision. That is my passion. That is better than healing and it will become a healing place!

You, my friend can be as powerful as Elijah! If you want to......

Photo by Dean Johns on Unsplash

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

August 24, 2017

"Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall." Psalm 55:22

You have probably heard this: "Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death."

The moral:

It doesn't matter if you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better be running.

No one enjoys being fearful, but fear is a powerful motivator. In our verse for today, the Psalmist offers some great advice, "Let your anxiety drive you to the Lord."

Recently there have been some anxiety-producing events. Last week it was the precipitous fall of the stock market. Events in the Middle East continue to escalate. Yesterday the earth shook in an area of the USA where earthquakes are rare. And this week-end a powerful hurricane has taken aim on the Carolina coast. How are you supposed to cope with these fearful developments?

"Cast your cares".

"Cast" in Hebrew means: to throw out, throw down, throw away, to hurl. It does not mean to take back what you have cast, nor to cherish, or keep - but to cast, toss, throw away from yourself.

"Cares" in Hebrew means: whatever is given by providence. That means every part of your personality, talents, thoughts, body, emotions, worries, burdens, joys, and gifts.

"LORD" as used here in Hebrew means - Eternal, Jehovah, self-existent. The One with no beginning and no end. "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty." Rev. 1:8; 21:6; 22:13.

Piece all these truths together and you get: "Throw and hurl everything that has been given to you onto the Lord. Everything that has been given to you, you are to throw onto the Lord and not to take it back."

That is your part. If you will do your part, here's what God will do:

"Sustain" in Hebrew means: "To keep in and contain, To abide, remain with and reside, To receive, comprehend and guide, To feed, nourish, make provision for and provide sustenance for."

God makes this personal - "You" - means God is willing and able to do this for you, just the way you are. No changes are needed to come before the Lord God Almighty.

Putting this all together: The Lord Jesus Christ will do all these thing for the one who casts to Him all that they have been, are now, and will be. Every facet of your life must be given away for Him in order for your joy to be full. God Himself will nourish and help you through what you are going through, no matter what it is!

"Fall" in Hebrew means: "To waver, slip, shake, fall; To be carried, cast, be out of course, be fallen in decay."

Add it up like this: The Lord God Almighty will never ever cause the just, clean and righteous person to slip and fall or be carried, cast, or be out of course and be fallen in decay. The Lord God will keep His child, that means the one who trust in Him and loves Him and obeys Him in Spirit and in Truth, He will keep that child cared for and nurtured, steadfast in His Love and protection.

What kept you from sleeping well last night? What caused you to awake with anxieties today? You can carry that again today or you can cast it on Him. Your fears can drain you or they can drive you to Him.

Listen to the Psalmist!

Rottonness To Righteousness

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.' God's Wrath Against Mankind The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles." Romans 1:16-23

Remember the good news, bad news jokes?

Doctor: I have some good news and I have some bad news.

Patient: What's the good news?

Doctor: The good news is that the tests you took showed that you have 24 hours to live.

Patient: That's the good news? What's the bad news?

Doctor: The bad news is that I forgot to call you yesterday!

Doctor: I have some good news and some bad news.

Patient: What's the good news?

Doctor: The good news is they are naming a disease after you!

In Romans Chapter 1, Paul tells you about some Good News and some bad news. I suggest you pay close attention.

Before I pursue that thought let me call your attention to the fact that their is no such thing as "Neutral" news. There is "Good News" or "Bad News" and you are involved in one or the other.

The good news is that the "Good News" IS the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "Gospel" means "good news". Jesus came to bring good news from God for mankind. Jesus came to be the Redeemer that would take away the sins of the world.

Paul says that the Gospel is "the power of God for salvation". Salvation from what? Salvation from the bad news.

How does that work? What is that power?

The "Gospel" is the good news that there is a righteousness that can deliver you from the bad news. That righteousness is found in a Person, Jesus Christ. The "Gospel" is good news exposes the bad news and points to the way out. When you place our faith in that good news of God's righteousness, you enter into a relationship with Jesus that gives you His righteousness.

Part of having faith in His good news requires you to confront and confess the bad news in your life. As you cling to His righteousness and repent of your "rottenness", you enter into a personal relationship with God through Christ that gains you access to all His power and holiness! "Rottenness" is rooted in your refusal to believe the goodness and avail yourself of His righteousness. Bad news loves being rotten and revels in it.

The first chapter of Romans lays it out simply. There is good news about God's righteousness and bad news about our rottenness. It also clearly details the choices, the motives and the ultimate outcomes of each way. And it issues an ultimatum:

Live in righteousness or die in rottenness. Have the joy of knowing you are right with God or suffer the shame of rejecting Him.
Thomas Kelley

Monday, August 21, 2017

August 22, 2017

"If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles."  Matthew 5:41

I read this on ESPN written by the Rick Reilly. This is a touching story and a perfect picture of what a church should be - second mile Christianity.

They played the oddest game in high school football history last month down in Grapevine, Texas.

It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through. Did you hear that, the other team's fans?

They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, "Go Tornadoes!" Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.

It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on—by name.

"I never in my life thought I'd hear people cheering for us to hit their kids," recalls Gainesville's QB and middle linebacker, Isaiah. "I wouldn't expect another parent to tell somebody to hit their kids. But they wanted us to!" And even though Faith walloped them 33-14, the Gainesville kids were so happy that after the game they gave head coach Mark Williams a sideline squirt-bottle shower like he'd just won state. Gotta be the first Gatorade bath in history for an 0-9 coach.

But then you saw the 12 uniformed officers escorting the 14 Gainesville players off the field and two and two started to make four. They lined the players up in groups of five—handcuffs ready in their back pockets—and marched them to the team bus. That's because Gainesville is a maximum-security correctional facility 75 miles north of Dallas. Every game it plays is on the road.

This all started when Faith's head coach, Kris Hogan, wanted to do something kind for the Gainesville team. Faith had never played Gainesville, but he already knew the score. After all, Faith was 7-2 going into the game, Gainesville 0-8 with 2 TDs all year. Faith has 70 kids, 11 coaches, the latest equipment and involved parents. Gainesville has a lot of kids with convictions for drugs, assault and robbery—many of whose families had disowned them—wearing seven-year-old shoulder pads and ancient helmets.

So Hogan had this idea. What if half of our fans—for one night only—cheered for the other team? He sent out an email asking the Faithful to do just that. "Here's the message I want you to send:" Hogan wrote. "You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth." Some people were naturally confused. One Faith player walked into Hogan's office and asked, "Coach, why are we doing this?"
And Hogan said, "Imagine if you didn't have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you." Next thing you know, the Gainesville Tornadoes were turning around on their bench to see something they never had before - hundreds of fans. And actual cheerleaders!

"I thought maybe they were confused," said Alex, a Gainesville lineman (only first names are released by the prison). "They started yelling 'DEE-fense!' when their team had the ball. I said, 'What? Why they cheerin' for us?'"

It was a strange experience for boys who most people cross the street to avoid. "We can tell people are a little afraid of us when we come to the games," says Gerald, a lineman who will wind up doing more than three years. "You can see it in their eyes. They're lookin' at us like we're criminals. But these people, they were yellin' for us! By our names!"

Maybe it figures that Gainesville played better than it had all season, scoring the game's last two touchdowns. Of course, this might be because Hogan put his third-string nose guard at safety and his third-string cornerback at defensive end. Still.

After the game, both teams gathered in the middle of the field to pray and that's when Isaiah surprised everybody by asking to lead. "We had no idea what the kid was going to say," remembers Coach Hogan. But Isaiah said this: "Lord, I don't know how this happened, so I don't know how to say thank You, but I never would've known there was so many people in the world that cared about us."

And it was a good thing everybody's heads were bowed because they might've seen Hogan wiping away tears. As the Tornadoes walked back to their bus under guard, they each were handed a bag for the ride home—a burger, some fries, a soda, some candy, a Bible and an encouraging letter from a Faith player.

The Gainesville coach saw Hogan, grabbed him hard by the shoulders and said, "You'll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You'll never, ever know."

And as the bus pulled away, all the Gainesville players crammed to one side and pressed their hands to the window, staring at these people they'd never met before, watching their waves and smiles disappearing into the night.

At FredWes we are committed to being used by God to transform people into winners. Second-mile Christianity does that because it is love that's too big to miss. Are you ready to love like that?