About the Chief Outkicker

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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.

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!!!"

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Charlie Hustle, I Hardly Knew Ye

Recently, I started to study a book with a group of men from my church. The book is J.I. Packer's Knowing God. This past week's reading drudged-up for me a childhood memory that helped me connect what God was trying to teach me to something I had personally experienced. The connection is kind-of a stretch, but it was helpful to me. I hope it is helpful to you too. Here is my story:

Growing-up I was a huge Cincinnati Reds fan. I spent my formidable years going to an inordinate number of games in Cincy with my dad. When I couldn't get to a game or when the Reds were on the road, I listened intently to Marty and Joe call the games, as I lay in my bed listening to my transistor radio. No night was complete until I heard Joe say, "This is the old left-hander, rounding third and heading for home." Those years were good: World Series champs in '75 and '76, and NLCS in '78. It was the Big Red Machine, and I was completely obsessed with my hometown (well, pretty close) heroes. I can run-off the line-up right now, as if I had just gotten done watching a game. Bench behind the plate, Perez or Driessen at 1B, Joe Morgan at 2B, Davie Concepcion at SS, Pete Rose at 3B, George Foster in LF, Ceasar Geronimo in CF, and Ken Griffey in RF.

I loved them all, but I especially admired the Reds' scrappy third-baseman, Pete (Charlie Hustle) Rose. I loved how he ran-out everything... even walks. He ran into walls, stretched singles to doubles, and boy-o-boy could that guy hit. I watched Pete; I read books about Pete; I made a mural of Pete for my bedroom; and I even named my dog Petie in honor of my baseball hero. I learned everything I could learn about him. I was a Pete Rose fanatic.

During the summer of 1978, I finally got the opportunity to meet Pete Rose, face-to-face. Pete had just joined the 3000 hit club, and I was so excited to tell him how much I really admired him. After a July double-header, I waited for him outside the clubhouse, by the player parking lot in Riverfront Stadium. I just knew that my hero would talk to me. Maybe he would ask me about my baseball team? Maybe he would put his arm around me and give me some secret hitting advice? I didn't know for sure what he would say, but I knew all about him and I was sure this encounter wouldn't disappoint. When he came out of the locker room, I was in awe. There was my mop-topped hero right in front of me. I held out my pen and a game program, hoping for a personalized message from Pete. Seemingly annoyed, he took my pen (man, was I excited!), signed another kid's program, put my pen in his shirt pocket, and then he got into his Corvette. What? He didn't ask me how I was. He didn't talk to me at all. This was a huge shock to a naive 8-year-old who worshipped this sports hero. I thought I knew all about Pete, but it turned-out that I didn't know him at all. He ended up acting kind-of like a jerk, and he took my pen!

I knew a lot about Pete Rose. In fact, I would venture to say that I spent more time than almost any kid in the tri-state area studying his stats, his approach to the game, and his play on the field. BUT...knowing about him wasn't enough. That summer day in the Riverfront Stadium parking lot opened my eyes to the fact that I DIDN'T KNOW HIM AT ALL. I didn't have a personal relationship with Pete anymore than I had one with the President of the Pope. I knew all about him, but I didn't know of him.

I started to wonder if I have taken the same approach to God that I took to Pete Rose when I was 8. Am I naive enough to think that knowing about God is the same as knowing Him personally? Am I fooling myself here? Over the past 2 years, I have dedicated my life to learning more about God. I have read probably 30 books about Him. The question is, DO I REALLY KNOW HIM? I am humbled and taken-aback by this question. The honest answer is NO. If I am telling the truth, I would say that my relationship to Him needs to grow in a huge way. I am excited about applying what Packer teaches in his book. I want to KNOW GOD, not just know about Him. I am thrilled to get to know God as a faithful friend. I know he won't disappoint like old Pete did.