Some Choices are Permanent

Rueben Foster recently committed to play football next year at the University of Alabama. He has an interesting history. He grew up a fan of the Crimson Tide. In fact, he committed to play at Alabama before his senior year in high school. But a little over a year ago, moved to Auburn, Alabama for his senior year. Auburn is the in state arch-rival of Alabama. After moving to Auburn, he changed his commitment from Alabama to Auburn. In order to show his allegiance to his new school, he had the Auburn logo tattooed on his forearm.

That wasn’t really a problem until February 6th when he change his commitment once again back to Alabama. Now, he’s going to go to the University of Alabama sporting a HUGE Auburn tattoo. That’s going to be really weird next year when he’s playing for the Tide against the Tigers. Some decisions are permanent. Be careful with your choices.

One of my biblical heroes is John the Baptist. What a tough dude. He was bold. He actually confronted King Herod because the king had taken his brother’s wife to be his own (gross—but that’s another blog post). Well the king put him in jail. On the king’s birthday, his wife’s daughter danced for Herod and a bunch of his friends that were there to cut a cake. Herod enjoyed it so much that he offered the girl whatever she wanted, up to half his kingdom. She asked for John’s head on a platter. The deal is the Bible says he wanted to kill John but he feared the people because they saw John as a prophet. So, he’d decided he’d not do it. But, since he said it in front of all his friends, he had no choice.

Be careful what you say (especially in this internet age) because once it’s out you can’t change it. Be careful what you do. Once you’ve done something, you may not be able to change it. Be careful with your choices.

Why did St. Peter carry a sword?

A thought has intrigued me for a while. I wondered, why was St. Peter caring sword? If you remember, the night the Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane and the soldiers came to arrest him, Peter took out his sword and cut off the ear of a slave. John 18:10-11 (NIV) 10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

If you look more into the text, you see that among Jesus’ disciples there were two swords. That means two of his twelve disciples, Peter and another were carrying swords. I just wonder why they were carrying swords? I mean think about it, there is a God of the universe, he’s right there with them, and they are carrying swords. And to top it off Jesus does not correct or rebuke them for it. He does not opposed it. He knew they were carrying swords.

ImageNow they were likely carrying a Roman short sword. This is not necessarily the battle sword, but a sword for self-defense. So in modern-day vernacular, they would’ve been carrying a handgun. I guess in many respects, it makes sense that they were carrying a weapon. I mean, these were guys who travel for their ministry. They were out on the road quite a bit. The roads were very dangerous. There were criminals, thieves, and marauders out on the roads. It was unsafe. There also were wild animals around the roads in the countryside and the swords would’ve been very handy for self-defense.

It seems to me that Jesus is okay with the person defending and taking care of himself or herself and their family. In fact we’re emplored to care for our family and part of that care is defending them when their safety is threatened. The Scriptures say, 1 Timothy 5:4, 8 (NIV) But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God….8 If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Resist Your Tendencies!

If you know me, you know that I’m a BIG Alabama Crimson Tide fan.  I graduated from the University. I bleed crimson.  Needless to say, I’ve been pretty excited since the 42-14 victory over Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship played here in Miami on January 7th.  I’ve been reading just about everything out there about the game.

I reaImaged the January 14, 2013 Sports Illustrated article, BCS Championship Heir Force.  It was a good recap of the game and the season.  One thing struck me though from a quote of one of Alabama offensive line players, Anthony Steen.  He said, “We knew from film study that if we shifted a certain way, Notre Dame was probably going to shirt a certain way that would give us some blocking angles. And they did. Every time.”  Rather they looked at what Notre Dame’s tendencies were and exploited them.

I believe in the spiritual realm our enemy, the Devil, does the same things. Peter warned in 1 Peter 5:8 (HCSB) Be sober! Be on the alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.   The Devil is going around looking for your tendencies that he can exploit, so he can defeat you.

So, let’s say you are a solid Christ-follower, but like all of us there are areas in your life where you struggle with temptation. Maybe you’re a guy who every so often has the tendency to linger too long looking at a low cut blouse or at a girl in a bikini on some internet site you’re on. The Devil is going to look at your tendency and try to exploit it.  Or let’s say you’re a gal, who although you don’t like it, sometimes you get in the comparison game with other women. You see how they are dressed and immediately you become critical. Then when you’re on the phone talking to one of your girlfriends, her name comes up and your tendency is to gossip.  The Devil is going to look at your tendency and try to exploit it.

The solution is “Be on the alert.”  Recognize your tendencies and try to correct them so you won’t be devoured and defeated.  1 Peter 5:9a (HCSB) Resist him, firm in the faith.  He’s after your tendencies to temptation —RESIST!

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Prayer is hard for me.

I’ve always struggled with prayer.  More than anything it’s because of my lack of focus for a long period of time.  I’ve just not nailed it down.  Now, I usually do have some success with short prayers throughout the day, but what happens is I miss so many people I need to be praying for.  My prayers have the tendency to be self focused if I just pray throughout the day.  So, here’s what I’ve been doing lately with a little more success than before.

I’m now praying during my morning devotional time for 10 people.  It has been really helpful to limit it to 10 and make sure I get up to 10 a day.  That seems to take care of the people most in need of prayer and I don’t get overwhelmed.  Now, when I say 10 I usually mean 10 more than my immediate family.  I try to pray for my wife, my children, and their families daily.  So, here is what I’m attempting to do:

Mondays I pray for 10 pastors. Monday’s are usually their hardest day and it’s when they really begin to ponder what to preach about Sunday.

Tuesdays I pray for 10 people in our congregation who don’t fall into one of the following categories.

Wednesday I pray for 10 people who are dealing with health issues.  I pray for those in our congregation first then others.

Thursday I pray for 10 people who are businessmen and women.  I pray for those in our congregation first then others.

Friday I pray for 10 people who are far from God.  I pray for those in our congregation first then others.

Saturday I pray 10 people who will be involved some way or another in our weekend worship service either volunteering or paid staff.

Sunday I spend time in praise and worship preparing for our worship service.

I’m going to keep at it and see if this has more success than other ways I’ve tried before.

Shipwrecked!

I was reading Acts 27 this morning in my daily devotions. It talks about Paul’s shipwreck on Malta. I seemed to remember that the ship’s four anchors mentioned in the chapter had been found. I did a Google search and found a great video on Paul’s shipwreck.

This is extra-biblical proof Paul that weathered the storm with God’s helping hand. The anchors are a testimony of God’s gracious hand working in Paul’s life. You too may be weathering a storm. Look for God’s helping hand in your life. He will get you through the storm.  After he does, find a way to remember what he did.   Maybe write it down in a journal or tell your story to someone else.  That way when you go through the next storm you’ll remember that God carried you through the previous one and he’ll carry you through this one.

Take a minute now and pray for Malta.

Afghan Christian to be Executed

New York Times Article, Feb 5This morning my daily devotions took me to Acts 7. I always have a hard time reading this chapter. I would prefer to skip over it. It is about the martyring of Stephen. He is executed for his faith in Jesus Christ. He was a great guy. He cared for and helped widows in need. He was also full of the Holy Spirit and had a faith admired by many. Reading chapter 7 always is a downer for me. It’s hard to visualize his stoning for simply trusting Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

As I finished reading the chapter and was reminded about a story I heard and was disturbed about a couple of days ago. Sayad Mussa is an Afghan Red Cross worker who is to be executed because he has become a Christ-follower. He has been in jail for several months now. No lawyer will represent him for fear of reprisal of representing someone who converted from Islam. He has been raped in jail because of his faith. He only has one leg because he lost the other to a landmine explosion. You can read the New York Times article here.

I find it reprehensible, but not surprising, that American Christ-followers are dying in Afghanistan for the freedom of Muslims who would execute a Christ-follower for his faith.

Please, pray for the release of Sayad from prison. Pray for his wife and six children who fled to Pakistan under the threat of persecution. Also, please contact your Senator and House Representative and ask them to intervene on behalf of Sayad Mussa.

Going where the fish are

I was watching this guy fish this morning.  He doesn’t have a rod.  He’s throwing the fishing line in by hand.  While he was on the shore, he caught nothing.  Although you probably can’t tell it from the picture, he’s actually standing on a bolder that is farther out into the water.  Once he moved onto the bolder, he began to catch fish.

That reminded me of a verse that I read this morning during my devotions.  It is from Acts 2.  The Holy Spirit has descended on the disciples.  They began to supernaturally speak in the languages of those visiting Jerusalem at the time.  The people were hearing praises to God in their own languages.  Then Peter stood up and began preaching the good news about Jesus to them.  One of the things he said struck me.

Acts 2:39 (NIV) The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

The promise of a changed life through Jesus is also for “all who are far off.”  How do we reach those who are far off?  You got to go further out to where they are just like the fisherman.  You can’t reach them from the shore (the church building), you must go out to them.  What step can you take today to get closer to those that need Jesus?

 

What I learned last weekend.

These are just a few thoughts on what I learned last weekend.

I learned that pros don’t always act like it. I tried to watch the NFL ProBowl, but I couldn’t.  It was a lopsided event.  I noticed that it got so lopsided that both sides didn’t seem to care who won, so I didn’t either.  They were lackadaisical.  I have a profession.  Of course, in my case it’s a calling from God.  I don’t ever want to get either so discouraged that I don’t care anymore or so successful that I stop pushing to do things better.  Lord, keep me pushing forward for your Kingdom no matter what.

I learned that stuff happens. I did watch the College Football Senior Bowl.  In it Greg McElroy broke his hand.  He’s a quarterback and this could hurt his chances in the NFL draft.  He hit his hand on someone’s helmet in the middle of a pass.  It was something out of his control.  When things happen out of your control, it doesn’t help to worry or stress out about them.  What’s important is what you do next.  In spite of the circumstances, what can I do to move forward?

Things can improve. They don’t have to stay the same.  I also watched the Alabama Crimson Tide take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in basketball.  I rarely get to watch Bama Basketball.  It was fun watching them win by a significant margin.  The thing about Bama Basketball is that it was in the dumps for many years; usually bringing up the rear in the standings.  They got a new coach who has brought them a new spirit of competency and they now are competing.  Right now they are ranked 1st place in the Southeastern Conference.

God has created Christ-followers anew.  He’s made them new creations. If things are bad, know that with God carrying you through, things can get better.  That doesn’t mean the circumstances won’t be bad, but that he can work his purposes out in you no matter what and the circumstances don’t have to defeat you.

The Holy Spirit moves when I’m surrendered to him. God’s spirit really moved in church on Sunday.  I love it when He does.  People lives are changed.  They become more like Jesus.  But, the Holy Spirit is looking for the glory to go to Jesus.  If, in any way I try to take the glory and am not completely surrendered to Him, he doesn’t seem to move so readily. If you want God to work in your life, surrender completely—I mean white flag surrender…unconditionally and watch want God does.

There’s an app for that

Yesterday morning while it was still dark I went outside. I looked up and was blown away by the beauty of the night sky! I remembered seeing that there was an astronomy app for my iphone. I quickly downloaded the app and started using it. I just pointed the phone at a star, it told me the name of the star and showed me a picture of the constellation it is part of. Incredible.

Job said, “He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.” Job 9:9.  God made the stars, he formed the constellations.  We look up and marvel at what his hand has made.  I get to enjoy what the creator created.

We pray “hallowed be your name.”  Hallowed means to honor as holy. In other words to praise God’s holiness, his greatness.  Take a minute and look up at the stars and you’ll quickly be able to praise God for his creation.  There is an app for praising God, the stars & sky he created.

The Process

I’ve been really struggling with blogging the last few weeks as you who follow this blog can attest. I’ve been kind of dry on the creative side and things have been really busy. So, just to get my fingers on the keyboard I want to talk briefly about “the process.”

Every pastor I know wants to grow the church. Now they may say spiritually, but many are really just interested in numbers. That’s how they measure success. Church people think the same way.  I got a call yesterday from a person that I met a few years ago.  He just called out of the blue and asked if our church was growing.  Let me be clear, I want many people to come to Christ.  I want heaven full.  But, Jesus commanded us to make disciples.  The discipleship process is what’s important.

I recently read, Nick Saban’s book, How good do you want to be?.    One of the things he said was to not look at the scoreboard, but concentrate on what you were supposed to do.  If you think about that it makes sense.  If we do what we’re supposed to do the numbers will take care of themselves.

So let’s be busy about the process of making disciples.  It starts with you becoming a disciple and then helping others come to faith in Christ and grow in that faith.  Let’s focus on our part, being and making disciples, and let God take care of His part, the scoreboard.