About the Chief Outkicker

My photo
Dayton, Ohio, United States
I've accused my friends, Jeff and Jonathan, of reaping more out of life's harvest than they deserve. I joke about this with them, but in reality, I am actually the one who has been blessed way beyond what I deserve. I have a wonderful wife who loves the Lord and who loves me. I have three great kids. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is my great provider. I have done nothing to deserve the good and wonderful gifts I have been given in this life. I am the one who is "outkicking my coverage" daily. Life is good. I am a teacher (18 years and counting), a husband, and a proud father. Most of all, I am a Christ follower. My desire is to follow Him so closely I am covered in the dirt of his sandals. Follow along as I work on allowing the Spirit of God to help me navigate this blessed life He has given to me.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Livin' the Dream

"...a dream... in which each man and each woman should be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are."
- James Truslow Adams, from The Epic of America, 1931
Is there anything wrong with shooting for the stars? Hard work, high goals for what we want to achieve, a beautiful house in the burbs, 2.5 kids, a dog, 2 cars, providing a better life for our kids than our parents did for us...
These are all great things. In fact, hard work and providing for your family are both values that are strongly commended in scripture. These pursuits, however can become a huge problem for believers.
In his book, Radical, Dr. David Platt tells how this pursuit of the American Dream can become very dangerous for believers and churches. He states:
"The dangerous assumption we unknowingly accept in the American dream is that our greatest asset is our own ability. The American dream prizes what people can accomplish when they believe in themselves and trust in themselves, and we are drawn to such thinking."
This assumption is dangerous because at its core, it is the direct opposite of what the Word of God says. The American Dream calls us to MAKE MUCH OF OURSELVES, but, the Gospel calls us to die to ourselves, believe in God, and trust in HIS power. It tells us we can't really accomplish anything of value apart from the indwelling and power of the Holy Spirit of God. Look at what Jesus says in John 15:15:
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in Him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
The goal of the Gospel is to MAKE MUCH OF GOD, not ourselves.
Actually, the apostle Paul exalted his INABILITIES so that glory would be given to God:
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 -"To keep me from being conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect (complete) in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."
GOD INTENTIONALLY PUTS HIS PEOPLE IN PLACES WHERE THEY COME FACE-TO-FACE WITH THEIR DESPERATE NEED FOR HIM. He is the same God that healed the sick, made the lame walk, restored sight to the blind, cast demons out of the tormented, fed the 5,000, and raised the dead. He did this and continues to do this for only one reason....
Here are the vital questions:
Why do believers in today's American church miss out on the power that God gave 2,000 years ago and promised to give us even today?
The truth is that this condition exists because we as individuals and as church bodies have chosen to make much of ourselves. We have bought into the lie that our talents and hard work will be the deciding factors that ultimately make us successful. All the while we are missing out big-time on the blessings of the Spirit of God because we don't even think to ask for Him. We have convinced ourselves that if we can harness our resources, and organize our strategies, every sphere of our lives will accomplish what we set our minds to. WHAT'S MISSING FROM THIS EQUATION? What is missing is RELIANCE ON THE POWER OF GOD. Reliance on the Holy Spirit has become, at best, an add-on or an and afterthought for American believers and also church leaders.
"He (God) stands ready to allocate His power to all who are radically dependent on Him and radically devoted to making much of Him." -Platt

Monday, July 5, 2010


I've driven the route hundreds of times. I-75 between Dayton and Cincinnati. Historically, a trip to Kings Island or a Reds game used to be a mundane journey, but then IT was built. The Solid Rock Church, outside of Mason, commissioned an enormous 6-story Jesus statue to be built at the edge of its fountained pond. Over the past 5 years, this statue has been the subject of numerous talk shows, pull-over photo ops, and minor fender-benders. A song was even written about it (Haywood Banks' Big Butter Jesus).

A couple of weeks ago, IT even made the national news, as lightning struck it during a thunderstorm, and it burned to the ground. The leadership of the Solid Rock Church have vowed to rebuild it because "it was the symbol of hope for many people." REALLY? That statue gave hope to people? SERIOUSLY? I have to say that I think these people have it all wrong. I even am a little angry about the whole "graven image" thing. Hasn't anyone read the Ten Commandments lately? How could these people completely whiff at understanding who the real Jesus is?

WELL... It was easy for me to stand in judgement of the distortion of Jesus that I see from the leadership of the Solid Rock Church, but I have found that I am doing something very similar. In fact, I am finding that many, maybe even most Christian Americans are distorting the message of who the real Jesus is. I am uncomfortable with the truth of what I have reduced Him to, and I want to share this with you in this post.

A friend of mine, Jeff, recently gave me a book, titled Radical, by Dr. David Platt. It was the first book written by a pastor with whom I was pretty familiar. The messages I had heard him give mostly dealt with the overwhelming nature of God's love and spreading the Gospel to a lost world. What Christian can disagree with that message? I was excited to delve into the book, but then I became very uncomfortable with what was written in it. In the first chapter alone, Platt laid out what it truly meant to be a follower of Christ. It wasn't Platt's words or his great gift of persuasion that cut me to the core. It was the little numbers that led to the endnotes of the book. Everything Platt said was backed up by scripture -the RED words of the Gospel that were spoken by my Savior, Jesus Christ. It was at this point that I started to see that I have done just what the makers of the Jesus statue did... I distorted the image of God and have put my own unbiblical slant on the message of the Gospel. Here the scriptures that God used to bring me to this uncomfortable place:
  • Luke 9:57-58 - On the road someone asked if he could go along. "I'll go with you, wherever," he said. Jesus was curt: "Are you ready to rough it? We're not staying in the best ins, you know." Jesus said to another, "Follow me."
  • Luke 9:59-60 - He said, "Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father's funeral. Jesus refused. "First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God's Kingdom!"
  • Luke 9:62 -Jesus said, "No procrastination. No backward looks. You can't put God's kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day."
  • Luke 14:26 -"Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters -yes, even one's own self!- can't be my disciple.
  • Luke 14:27 - "Anyone who won't shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can't be my disciple."
  • Luke 14:33 -"Simply put, if you're not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can't be my disciple."
  • Mark 10:21 - Jesus looked him hard in the eye -and loved him! He said, "There's one thing left: go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me."
  • Matthew 13:44 - "God's kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field for years and then accidentally found by a trespasser. The finder is ecstatic -what a find!- and proceeds to sell everything he owns to raise money and buy that field."

In summary, according to the exact words of Jesus in God's inspired Word, to be a disciple, I must:

  • be willing to be homeless
  • be willing to abandon my responsibilities, my plans, my family, my home
  • be willing to sell everything I own and donate it to the poor for kingdom purposes

Man, this sure doesn't look like my life. It doesn't look like the life of anyone I know. As far as I know, no one in my family, my small group, nor my church lives like this. This is when the questions started to come... Is this really meant for me? Is God really talking to American Christians today in these passages? How can materialism be so ingrained in our lives that Christ's definition of a true disciple is completely antithetical to how we live today? Am I so hungry for God to teach me and work in my life that I am willing to give up everything for His glory? I know I am not. I am conflicted by this.

I can blame it on my culture. I can blame it on the "American Dream". I can blame it on people around me who I judge are more wasteful of their resources than myself. But what it comes down to is this question:

According to the words of Christ in God's Word, am I a true disciple?

According to the criteria laid out in Luke 9, Luke 14, Mark 10, and Matthew 13, I must answer with an embarrassed, shameful NO. Reading Platt's book and cross-referencing it to the Word of God has brought me to the conclusion that I have not been following the God of the Bible as he commands. I have created an image of Him and His Gospel that is more palatable for me. One that fits into my lifestyle and my world. I have held fast to the scriptures that talk about His love and His forgiveness, His mercy and His grace. BUT, I have ignored the ones that talk about my response and my responsibility to those amazing gifts of God. In Radical, Dr. Platt states,

"Fundamentally, the Gospel is the revelation of who God is, who we are, and how we can be reconciled to Him. Yet in the American Dream, where self reigns as king (or queen), we have a dangerous tendency to misunderstand, minimize and even manipulate the gospel in order to accommodate our assumptions and our desires. As a result, we desperately need to explore how much of our understanding of the Gospel is American and how much is Biblical. And in the process we need to examine whether we have misconstrued a proper response to the gospel and maybe even missed the primary reward of the gospel, which is God Himself."

This is my challenge. This is the challenge I lay on all of you who are reading this entry...

Evaluate how much of the "gospel" you are living- out lines up with the true Gospel, God's Word. Are we bringing glory to God the way He tells us to bring it in His Word, or are we creating our own "jesus"-one that looks a lot like ourselves - so that we can be comfortable in our wealth and excess?

Like I stated before, I am deeply conflicted by the fact that I am not living like a Biblical disciple. I am saddened that I don't personally know anyone who is. I am glad there are more chapters to Platt's book. I am hoping he (with the help of the Holy Spirit) will help guide me through the process of becoming a modern-day American disciple.

Stay tuned.... More to come....

Friday, May 7, 2010

There is a Redeemer

" There is a redeemer,Jesus, God's own Son,Precious Lamb of God, Messiah,Holy One,Jesus my redeemer,Name above all names,Precious Lamb of God, Messiah,Oh, for sinners slain.Thank you oh my father,For giving us Your Son,And leaving Your Spirit,'Til the work on Earth is done."
-Keith Green

Keith Green has always been one of my favorite Christian artists. I clearly remember hearing him sing at Jesus Festivals my family attended back in the late 70's and early 80's. Even at the age of 8-9 years, I knew that Green had something special about him. The guy inspired me. I think he was so inspiring because he was so inspired. He "got" something that I am just now starting to wrap my brain around. Keith Green understood that we have an amazing God. He understood that one of the things that makes God amazing is that he is near to us. He understands us. He wants us to know Him. He is personal. He is so personally involved in our lives that he was willing to give up the one thing that was most valuable to Him. His very own, only Son. The Father sent Him to live on this earth so that He could take our place, trading our ugliness, our sin in for His righteousness. His whole purpose in becoming one of us was to redeem us.

Today, the words to Keith's most popular song, There is a Redeemer, hold so much more meaning to me. As I dive into the Word and hear others explain it to me, I am beginning to get a taste of just why Keith was so inspired. I am beginning to understand the lengths to which Jesus went for me. He is my redeemer! Recently I heard a sermon by David Platt, which led me to study chapters 3 and 4 in the Book of Ruth. This sermon and the scripture reading put me once again face-to-face with the whole concept of redemption. Ruth's true story is a beautiful parallel of the redemption we are offered by the work of Christ.

Ruth's Story
Ruth had experienced great loss in her life. She lost her husband, her father-in-law, and the place she called her home. She was alone, sad, hungry, and uncertain of her future. Her only hope was to be chosen by a close relative who would marry her and act as a kinsman-redeemer for her.

She knew her great need for redemption. Not only was she poor and alone, but she also carried the negative reputation that comes along with being a Moabite. In Ruth Chapter 3, she went to Boaz, asking him to redeem her, even though she knew that she was not guaranteed anything from him.

She trusted the love of her redeemer. Boaz had previously proven himself trustworthy by taking personal responsibility for protecting and feeding her. He, the lord of the manor, had served her at his own table. She knew that he would deal kindly with her. This, however wasn't enough. She needed him to be her redeemer.

Ruth needed a redeemer, but was Boaz the right man for the job? According to Old Testament Jewish law, there were three qualifications for one to be a kinsman-redeemer:
1. He must have the right to redeem (he must be a close relative).

2. He must have the resources to be able to follow through with the redemption (must have capital).

3. He must have the resolve (the strong desire) to redeem her.

After some negotiations with another prospective kinsman, Boaz agreed to marry Ruth, thus becoming what she needed - her kinsman-redeemer. Not only was Ruth redeemed and given a good standing, but she was also blessed with the birth of a son, whom they named Obed. Obed would later become the father of Jesse, who would become the father of King David. This is the line from which our Lord and Savior, Jesus came!

Today, all of us have a spotted, stained, and sinful past. We are suffering under the effects of sin. We are rightfully separated from God. Left to our own, we have a very uncertain future. We have absolutely no right to be reconciled to a Holy God. This is where the work of Jesus comes in. This is where Jesus sets himself apart from the leaders of every other religion.
  • He alone has the right to redeem us. -He is a close relative to us, as he walked on this planet, breathed our air, and word our flesh. No other "god" claims to be able to identify with us in such a familiar way.

  • He has the resources to redeem us. -He is sinless, completely holy. He has authority over sin and death. Who else claims to have died for his people and then rose from the dead? No one.

  • He has the resolve to redeem us. -He wants us for his own. He seeks after us, not requiring us to do this or that, trying to find our own way. He is infinite in His goodness. His judgement reaches out against all that is sinful and hurtful to us.

He alone has taken the punishment for our sins upon himself. He took the full torment of the infinite wrath of Holy God on Himself. His mercy knows no end! We are the ones who deserve the punishment, but He has invited us to feast at His table. He wants to serve us a feast at his eternal table.

He is the only redeemer!

His only requirement for us is that we respond as Ruth did. We need to realize our need for redemption -that we have been separated from God by our sins and that we have nowhere else to turn. Then we need to put the full weight of our trust on Him for our complete redemption.

The question is....Will you accept the loving sacrifice of your amazing redeemer?

Ephesians 1:13-14 (NIV)
13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Which Way?

"The Christian's life in all its aspects-- intellectual and ethical, devotional and relational, upsurging in worship and outgoing in witness-- is supernatural; only the Spirit can initiate and sustain it. So apart from him, not only will there be no lively believers and no lively congregations, there will be no believers and no congregations at all."

-J.I. Packer-

Last Christmas I received a GPS from my in-laws. I don't travel much, but I really like having my Mio Moov 200 there to guide the way. You see, I have been known to stress-out when dealing with directions. To hear someone give directions to a location, and end the conversation with, "You can't miss it", makes me break-out in a cold sweat. I CAN miss it, and I most likely WILL miss it. That's why I love my GPS. She guides me to where I need to go.

Last weekend I took my daughter Taylor to a swim meet in Milford (where the heck is that?) at 6:00am. Without Claire (the name I gave my GPS), I would have been a mess. We got to the meet in record time, and I never once had to turn on the light and frantically try to read printed-out directions from Mapquest. I was really happy with Claire. In fact, I think I even uttered to Taylor that I loved her (it). Taylor looked at me kind-of weird, but I think she got the heart of what I was trying to express. Having something or someone to lead the way is wonderful. It is empowering and encouraging to know that every decisions for every turn does not depend on my judgement and short-sightedness. I was free to just drive.

On the way home from the meet I wondered to myself why I don't use Claire the GPS more often. In fact, many times I just leave it in the electronics drawer under out TV at home. It doesn't do me any good there. More often than not, I miss-out on the direction it could give me to get from one place to another. I subject myself to the pressure (check that...stress) of finding locations while also trying to drive my car. Anyone with any kind of sense would encourage me to keep the GPS in my car and use it regularly. It is downright stupid to not use it.

My contention is that I and many, many other believers in Jesus Christ do the same thing with God's Word. All of us, at one time or another have acted in obedience and consulted His Word. We have reaped the blessings of guidance, peace and security that can only come from God. Then we do the unthinkable. The stupid. We forget about it. We ignorantly forge forward with how we feel the Christian life should be lived, without consulting the true source for wisdom, knowledge, and instruction.

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness..." -2 Timothy 3:16

This past week I had a conversation with at friend about the need for believers to be constantly fed by the reading of the Word of God. These are the questions that arose from the discussion: Does a believer really need to be in the Word in order to know and please God? Can he/she simply know God by serving others, through fellowship with other believers and by listening to K-LOVE? What if he/she is a poor reader or even a dyslexic? Surely God wouldn't ask us to frustrate ourselves by asking us to do something we find very difficult. Right? Isn't that equivalent to asking a physically disabled person to run in the Turkey Trot 5K?

In Jeremiah 29:13 God says to the exiles in Babylon, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Does that mean we are left on our own to make the decisive move toward seeking God? Do I really know how to seek him with ALL MY HEART? I have to say that this one is hard for me to figure out. Does it mean that He won't act until I figure out how to seek Him in this seemingly impossible way? This puts a lot of pressure on the believer. How can this be accomplished? Is it even possible?

Encouragingly, it is possible. Not through our own power, but through the power of the Holy Spirit. Look back 5 chapters in Jeremiah for the context in which Jeremiah 29:13 was written. Read what God says in Jeremiah 24:7 to those same exiles in Babylon: I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.”

Pastor and theologian, John Piper recently chimed in with this commentary of Jeremiah 24 and 27: "This is one of the most basic things people need to see about the Bible. It is full of conditions we must meet for God’s blessings. But God does not leave us to meet them on our own. The first and decisive work before and in our willing is God’s prior grace. Without this insight, hundreds of conditional statements in the Bible will lead us astray. Let this be the key to all Biblical conditions and commands: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13). Yes, we work. But our work is not first or decisive. God’s is. “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). "

The Word is essential! There innumerable ways to excuse our individual decisions to neglect the Word, but none of those excuses hold any water. We are not left on our own to seek God with all our hearts. He works in us to give us the heart to do this. We are not left on an island to figure this out on our own. We are given power to get this done. The guidance is there. Why don't we more often tap into it?

I Corinthians 11:31 says: "But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged." We are called to take a serious inventory of ourselves as believers. Are we growing in Christ, or are we just treading spiritual water? Over time, others can look at us and tell. Dr. David Jeremiah is quoted as saying, "There is no standing still in the Christian life since the plan of God is continually moving forward. To fail to grow is to lose ground in the kingdom of God." Am I, are you where you should be in regard to our spiritual growth?


The guidance and power is at our fingertips. God has pre-ordained it. Will we use it?

"God never puts anyone in a place too small to grow"

-Henrietta Mears-

Sunday, August 30, 2009

What will HE say???

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:2
Stories about people who died after living Godly lives are stories with happy endings. I think about a funeral I attended within the past year. It was the funeral of Dr. Dan Grabill, a former pastor, teacher, high school principal, mission trip leader, and counselor to myself and scores of others over the years. At that funeral, a packed house of well over 1,000 people, individual after individual spoke of how Mr. Grabill allowed himself to be positioned and used of his Beloved, the God of the Universe, throughout his life. It was inspirational to see the ripple effects of a life lived-out with one overreaching goal -- to know God and to make Him known. It was clear to everyone in the room that the words these people were saying were not hollow words. They had seen Christ through him. Mr. Grabill's character mirrored the man that the Apostle Paul had become at the end of his life.

...I am about to die, my life an offering on God's altar. This is the only race worth running. I've run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that's left now is the shouting --God's applause! Depend on it, He's an honest judge. He'll do right not only by me, but by everyone eager for His coming. --2 Timothy 2:6-8

Wow! What a legacy! To say that one is confident that God will give him a standing ovation for his priorities, intentions, and actions for Him is an awesome thing to express. Without a doubt, I know that Mr. Grabill stood before the Lord with the same confidence as Paul.

Funerals and scriptures, such as the one from 2 Timothy above, inevitably lead me to start thinking about what my funeral will be like one day (hopefully not any day soon). What will people say of me? No one ever makes negative comments about the recently departed at at funeral. In fact, the reality is that the truth is often stretched during eulogies, creating a semblance of a meaningful life. Have you ever been at a funeral where you had to take a second look at the shell in the casket to make sure the speakers were talking about the person you had actually known? Did you say secretly in your mind, "He really wasn't that great of a person"?

Will the speakers at my funeral be able to speak honestly about me when I die? My prayer is that my life will have significant ripple effects for the cause of Christ, much like the ones created by Mr. Grabill. Man, I don't want to waste my life so that people have to strain themselves to find kind things to say about me as an obligation of kindness to my family.

In his book, Crazy Love, Francis Chan makes the statement, "The truth is, some people waste their lives. This (statement) isn't meant to bash those who are gone, but rather to warn those who are alive." This statement refers to believers who have not lived-out their destiny of being and preaching the gospel. A.W. Tozer once was quoted as saying, "A man by his sin may waste himself, which is to waste that which on earth is most like God. This is man's greatest tragedy and God's heaviest grief." A Christian, one who has been saved by grace, can actually live a wasted life -one that doesn't center on anyone but himself.

God is teaching me that my greatest concern should not be for others to say glowing things about me after my demise. My primary concern should center around what God says about the condition of my heart and the works I did for Him while I was alive on earth. When I die and stand before God one day, the hollow compliments of those left on earth won't matter at all. What will matter most is the TRUTH. Before God, my worldly reputation won't matter at all. All that will matter at that point is the reality of who I am and what I did before the God of the Universe.

Paul speaks of the day we all will experience; the day of our earthly death, and our judgement before All-Knowing, and completely Righteous God:

"His work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." --I Corinthians 3:13-15

I don't want to squeak by and get into heaven by virtue of the "fire insurance" that I attained at the day of my salvation. That would indicate that the efforts of my life and the time that I spent on earth was largely wasted. I, too, want to be "poured-out" like Mr. Grabill and the Apostle Paul. I want to live an unselfish life that serves others and leads them to a relationship with the all-knowing, all-powerful, omniscient God of the universe. My natural tendency is to do the opposite, but I know this: With prayer and constant reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit to make me something that I am naturally not, I can live a life that wasn't wasted. All that matters is knowing and letting others know our King and God. I am most concerned with what He will say to me on that day.

Friday, August 14, 2009


This summer, after many years of dragging my feet- refusing to use my time wisely, I finally relented and started studying God's Word. Over the years, I have studied many books, but have, in a large part, neglected THE BOOK that should be the primary source for wisdom, strength, and life decisions. I finally acted in obedience and started to do as Paul instructed the Ephesians to do in Ephesians 5:15-16:

15Be careful, then, how you live— not as unwise but as wise,
16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

I asked God to help me find the desire, time, and opportunity to study His Word, the Bible, the way it should be studied. God is good. He always is. He gave me all of the above this summer. It was in studying His Word that He showed me some lessons that have completely changed my perspective. These principles can be applied to any career or sphere of influence in which you find yourself.

Daily study in the Word took me to the Book of Acts. This is a New Testament book, which was written by the apostle Luke around A.D. 63. This book was written before the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Luke's primary purpose in this book is to show how God used the apostles and new Christians to rapidly spread the Gospel of Jesus to all people from Jerusalem to the entire Roman Empire. The actual original title of the book is "The Acts of the Apostles." Acts chapter 4 tells the true, historically accurate story of Peter and John healing a lame man, and then preaching in the temple about the One who gave them the power to do this miracle. They are called before the religious leaders in Jerusalem (the same ones who executed Jesus) to account for themselves. At this point, Peter and John said something to these important religious men that caught my attention.

19 But Peter and John replied, Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God.
20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.

What had they seen and heard that spurred them to be so bold? I mean, come on, they were talking to men who had already exercised the power to kill God's own Son. Do you think they realized that they could be killed for what they were saying here? What had they seen and heard? They had seen the reality of Christ as firsthand witnesses. They had His power can transform a lives...many lives. They had seen that God incarnate wasn't just a fairy tale story. He was historically real. He lived. He died. He rose again. After his resurrection, he was seen by no less than 500 witnesses. He promised to prepare a place for those who accepted His free gift of eternal life. He ascended into Heaven. He was at work in their lives through the Holy Spirit. The apostles had seen and heard all of this, and they couldn't be shut up. They didn't want to shut up. They had a boldness that can only come from one place... from God.

The religious leaders were amazed at the authority and knowledge from which Peter and John spoke. They let them go with a warning, not knowing how to punish them. Immediately following this exchange with the Sanhedrin, they went back to their group of believers -probably the equivalent of our modern-day church body. After telling the church about what had happened, the church members pray this amazing prayer:

24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. Sovereign Lord, they said, you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.
25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.'

27Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.
28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.
29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.
30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

In essence, they began to grasp the true concept that God was sovereign. He was in charge. He had allowed Pilate and Herod to put Jesus to death. It wasn't an accident or mistake God made. They had an "AHA! moment". He was sovereign. He was and is in control of everything that had and would take place on this earth. I love verse 29. In his video series, Pastor Andy Stanley says that in this verse these early church believers were not asking God to protect them, or bless them, or comfort them in light of the threats of their religious and political leaders. They are asking him to USE THEM. They realized that they had been invited to participate in this awesome sovereign plan of God's and it energized them. They asked for the boldness to do it. This is the kind of boldness that can only come from the empowering of the Holy Spirit, the one who Christ promised to send to give them to power to participate in His plan. In verse 31, God honored their prayer and gave them the power and boldness to share the Gospel.

What God has taught me from this study is that He is in control. I am fully aware that my life will most likely not be in jeopardy for sharing the gospel. Being killed for my faith and witness for Christ most likely won't happen to me, But I realize that I have often acted (or more correctly -not acted) out of fear when it comes to influencing my immediate world with the truth of the Gospel. In full knowledge of God's sovereignty, I have begun praying a prayer that goes something like this:

Sovereign God who is active in this world,

Enable me to speak your story with boldness.

Give me courage, opportunity, and sensitivity to share it with the ones you have placed around me.

Thank you that I am not responsible for outcomes, but that I can trust in your sovereignty to bring about the results.

Make me bold.


My hope and prayer is that you and I will grab on to the security of the truth that God is in charge. To truly believe this, and to rely on His power to participate in His plan...that's what brings hope and puts our anxiety to rest. GOD IS SOVEREIGN!!!!

2 Timothy 1:7-8 (NIV)
7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

Monday, July 20, 2009

It's Alive!!!!!

Recently one of our pastors, David Faile, used a trailer from the 1931 movie classic, Frankenstein's Monster, to illustrate a point from his sermon on Colossians 2:12-3:4. (See a clip depicting the scene from the inset picture http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5URYhXE55bo&NR=1)
The message was that before we accepted the gift of Christ's atonement for us, we were all dead in our sins. We felt dead and we looked dead. We wore grave clothes, and were basically slaves to sin. We were paralyzed by spiritual rigor mortis. The work of Christ gave us the opportunity to be truly alive. We are free to embrace the change that only his Spirit can give. We have the opportunity to go from being a collection of dead body parts to being fully alive in Christ. Being alive in Christ requires a new way of seeking, thinking, and living. That's the gist of Pastor Faile's message. My hope is to use this message as a springboard to show something new that God has put on my heart to share with you.

Last week I read though the Book of Galatians as I wore myself out on the elliptical stair stepper at the gym. There is nothing like immersing the mind and spirit in the study of God's Word to take your mind off the pain of exercise. The Word was helping to build me up in more ways than one. Anyway, the Book of Galatians was written by the Apostle Paul around AD 49. It was a letter written to the Christian churches at Galatia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe to refute the teachings of an extremist Jewish faction of leaders called the Judaizers. This group of Jews was teaching that all new believers must fully obey all of the Jewish laws in order to be a part of the family of God. They said that even the newly-saved Gentiles (non-Jews) had to convert to Judaism and completely follow the Jewish law in order to please God and earn salvation.

In this letter, Paul pulled no punches in setting the record straight. He addressed those who were accepting the Judaizers' false gospel, and he called them gullible Christians that were being easily fooled by those who twist and change the truth concerning Christ's message. The Christian believers in Galatia were being duped into believing that they did not have Christian liberty, but that they were tied to the law. Paul refers to them as putting themselves back into slavery to sin when they had already been freed from it. He was basically accusing them of choosing to have a dead faith that relied on works.

Paul wrote to the churches regarding his confrontations with the apostles Peter and James over the same issue. Paul wasn't a people-pleaser. He cared only about pleasing God by setting the story straight. Paul wanted the believers to see that salvation in Christ is NOT earned by following rules. In fact, it isn't anything that can be earned at all. The Good News of the Gospel is not just for groups of people who can follow a prescribed set of laws. The Gospel is for EVERYONE, and there is no hierarchy when it comes to salvation. It doesn't matter if you are Jew, Gentile, white, black, etc. Salvation is for all. There are no strings attached. It is absolutely a free gift.

Paul demonstrated that salvation is by faith alone, and not by careful rule following. Having laid the foundation, Paul builds his case for Christian liberty. We are saved by faith, and not by keeping the law. Our freedom means that we are free to love and serve one another, not to do wrong. Out of our gratitude for the free gift of salvation, Christians should carry each other's burdens and be kind to each other. In Galatians 5, he discusses the supernatural outpouring of the Holy Spirit that is available to all who accept him by faith. These are the Fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. The spirit gives us the ability to live good lives that bless others. It seems that the Judaizers had the cart before the proverbial horse. They taught that you had to do works in order to be saved. God's Word says that we are saved through grace, and that good works are an outpouring of our gratitude for God, empowered by His Holy Spirit.

Having read Paul's letter to the Galatians, I have to ask myself if I am living my Christian life like a legalistic Judaizer, or am I living like a believer that is constantly aware of the fact that he is saved by grace? Am I completely caught up in the do's and don't's of the Christian life? I think sometimes I get caught up in that trap. God has recently made me aware that I also unfairly judge others on their works, setting myself up with the delusion that I am more obedient or more holy than them. When I let myself slip into this trap, I am completely ineffective in my witness. I am choosing to put on those death clothes. I am choosing spiritual rigor mortis. I am choosing to be an ineffective witness for Christ, as I am not relying on the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in me. I am unwittingly and incorrectly relying on the law to bring me favor from God and others. When I fall into this rut, I am choosing to live as if I were dead in my sins.

I want to show that I belong to Christ by doing what Paul called all Christians to do: show that I belong to Christ by nailing my passions and desires of the sinful nature to the cross and crucifying them there. I want to live by the power of the Holy Spirit, following the Holy Spirit's leading in every part of my life. I want my life to be an outpouring of the gratitude I have to God for saving me. Without His power, I AM DEAD. I want to love others as Christ did. I want to embrace what J.I. Packer refers to as the True Christmas Spirit. As Packer wrote, "For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor-- spending and being spent -- to enrich their fellow humans, giving time, trouble, care, and concern, to do good to others -- and not just their own friends -- in whatever way there seems need." I want people to see me and emphatically say, "IT'S ALIVE!!!! IT'S ALIVE!!!"