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.

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.