Many Americans have stayed up late over the last two-weeks watching live event coverage of the Olympics from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. As a sports fan it’s like binge watching your favorite tv show for 14 straight days, exhilarating and exhausting all in one!
Each Olympics has their own heroes (Simone Biles) and villains (Ryan Lochte…nuff said). But occasionally we get to see something special, Like a 42 year old (now 43) mom Kristin Armstrong, who fought back from multiple surgeries and moments after crossing the
finish line for the gold collapsed, only to be comforted by her young son. You can’t make that up, no hollywood script could have been better written and no musical score could have made that moment more dramatic!
If we’re lucky, however, we get to see greatness. Athletes who are so dominate, so incredible that they transcend their sport. They become the thing of legend. During this Olympics there were three such athletes. Each of them winning gold in multiple Olympics and each ones performance so dominating that when they performed it was hard to look away.
Katie Ledecky won her first gold medal in 2012 at the age of…15! Can you believe that?! Can’t even drive yet and she’s whoopin’ on the best swimmers in the world. This year her swims were so dominate that she could have probably had a 44oz big gulp down before second place finished! She won a total of 5 Golds and one Silver, and became the first woman to win a gold in the 200, 400, and 800 meter races in the same Olympics.
Usain Bolt is another legend, but his greatness has extended over 3 Olympics. He is not only regarded as the fastest man ever timed, but he is also the only person to ever win the 100, 200, and 4×100 in three straight Olympics! No one has ever done it in back to back Olympics, much less three in a row. He has figured out a way to sustain greatness over a significant period of time on the largest stage in the world!
Finally, there is Michael Phelps, love him or hate him, he’s the best that’s ever been! Phelps has been swimming on the Olympic stage for 4 Olympics…that’s astounding in any sport, and especially a sport where the young ones are almost always dominant. Phelps has said that this was his last, but it wasn’t his least, he still won 5 Golds and 1 silver and showed very little drop off in dominance. Overall, Phelps has won 28 Olympic medals, 23 of them being gold. Additionally, he’s won gold in multiple strokes and multiple lengths. In a sport where specialization is king, it’s almost unheard of.
So, what makes these three so…special, so dominant, so legendary? Well, obviously their DNA has something to do with it. They were gifted with great natural ability, but my guess is that’s true of anyone that makes it to the Olympics. What sets them apart? I believe it is two things:
- First, each of them is notorious for their training regimen. If we did in a week what they do each day, I think we’d die! They have learned that putting in the time, energy, and effort when no one is watching means that when everyone is watching they’ll perform their best. Under Armour has done an incredible commercial specifically focusing on Phelps and gives you a glimpse of what I’m talking about, you should check it out: Phelps Under Armour Commercial
- Second, none of them are willing to set limits on what they can do. They don’t see boundaries, they don’t think in terms of what is possible. Ledecky has famously said, “I just like to swim fast, I don’t think about the distance”. Bolt has said on multiple occasions, “I don’t think limits.” And Phelps, well he actually wrote a book entitled No Limits, The Will To Succeed.
These athletes can teach us something about life and our walk with Christ. Often times we see the fanfare that others receive and we get jealous. But, what we don’t see is all the hard work, the behind the scenes effort that got them there. If you want to succeed in life and grow stronger as a follower of Christ, you’ve got to be willing to do what’s necessary without the accolades or audience. You’ve got to spend time just you and God, sometimes early in the morning and other late at night. Sometimes is joyful communion while other times it’s painful intercession. It’s in the moments when no one is watching that the strength of your character is forged, that the foundation of your soul is laid.
I also think it’s important for us to begin to remove all of our self-imposed limitations. Stop saying what you can’t do and start doing what you can. It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you just start moving towards your goal. Stop whining and complaining about how others have it easier, you don’t know that! You don’t know what their quiet struggles are, what their times in the dark are like. As the Apostle Paul says so eloquently, “Run the race set before you!” Don’t look at others, look ahead at what God has for you!
I just wrapped up a three week ‘stay-work-ation’, yeah I just made that word up, it’s my blog I can do that! Essentially, we have a ton of work to do on Acorn Ridge to get it ready to serve those who serve. So I spent the last several weeks painting, patching, sanding, weed whacking, and etc. During the weekends I spent my time luxuriously relaxing pool side…in a bleacher seat watching my youngest swim at three back to back to back meets. So, to say that I had a lot of time to think, is an understatement!
Each weekend I was gone I logged onto ExperienceFriendship.com and either watched or listened to one of our amazing elders deliver God’s Word in a powerful and challenging way. It was awesome, and I was so encouraged with what an amazing job they did. What I found myself missing though was the music, yeah you read that right! I found myself this last Sunday, my first Sunday back, just overwhelmed with the amazing sound of nearly 400 people joined in public, loud, joyful, and enthusiastic musical worship of our great God! I reflected on people whom I’ve heard say things like, ‘you don’t NEED to go to church to be a Christian’, or ‘my church is on tv’ or something to that effect. I never bought that excuse, yes that’s what it is, but during our time away I realized just how sad it must be to never experience the joyful worship of God’s people.
During our time off we did see and or ‘hang out’ with people that go to Friendship, but there is something special about wandering the halls on Sunday morning and taking in the buzz of excitement as people are using their gifts to serve our great King. There is an electricity in the air on Sundays at Friendship that just can’t be duplicated, it must be experienced. I, of course, am a little bias on this front, but it has been confirmed to me by others over and over again. I even had a family tell me just this last weekend, that they cut their trip to Kentucky Kingdom short just so they wouldn’t miss this last week. Okay, that’s awesome!
The bottom line is, I really missed being a part of the experience at Friendship, there was a hole in my heart each weekend. The old saying is, ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’, I don’t know if that’s true in every sense, but I’ve gotta say, being away from you all sure did whet my appetite for getting back!
Okay, this is not really a political post, this is a “Christians get a grip” post! I see many of my Facebook ‘friends’, former classmates, and random people who for some reason I said yes to a ‘friend request’ to on social media having some serious sacred cows, rants, and temper tantrums over the Republican Presidential nominee, the Donald. Well, as your friend, pastor, and random guy you liked on Facebook I’d like to say something to you…deep breath, seriously, take a deep breath! I’m neither here to support nor decry the Trumpster, I’m here to try to give a little spiritual valium to the slightly unhinged and out of focus Christian-Conservative-Republican people out there.
So, first, who is your Messiah? As far as I can remember the Bible clearly states that salvation is found in no one else except Christ, and Christ alone. If you are looking for some politician or non-politician running for political office, you’re going to be soundly disappointed and let down. Not to mention that you are living in a sinful state looking for salvation from another source outside of Christ. If you are fretting and frothing over the possibility of a Trump, or Hillary presidency can I just remind you…
Now he (Christ) is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else–not only in this world but also in the world to come. – Eph 1:21 NLT
Second, is Trump asking to be your spiritual leader? Maybe I missed it, but has your church’s search committee (I can’t believe I just used the ‘C’ word) presented him as your next Senior Pastoral candidate? Then why are you freaking out about the fact that he is obviously, at best, and immature believer? He is running to be President not Pastor, the spiritual threshold for these are pretty different (one has one and the other doesn’t). Listen, if you don’t like his politics and policy ideas than by all means voice your opinions on social media, lets just all be cognizant and careful to not violate Scripture or prove what people have been saying about you in the process…
Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back. – Pro 29:11 NLT
Finally, please remember who’s really in charge. Yes, we as Christians are supposed to be responsible citizens and active within our nation, but never forget, if Satan himself was elected POTUS it wouldn’t change a single thing in God’s unwavering purpose, plan, or power within the world. Stop looking at the temporary and start getting excited about the eternal purposes of God. It doesn’t matter who our next President it as long as God is still on the throne.
God reigns above the nations, sitting on his holy throne. – Ps 47:8 NLT
Sure my taxes may change, my freedoms may be liberated or restricted, and the constitution may be used for the bottom of bird cages, but this is all window dressing, a facade to the great plan of God who is actively working to draw all men to himself. Don’t get distracted by politics and miss out on seeing God’s purpose become a reality in your life!
Be all God’s called you to be and let him take care of the rest!
Exodus 35:31-35 CEB
The Lord has filled him with the divine spirit that will give him skill, ability, and knowledge for every kind of work. He will be able to create designs, do metalwork in gold, silver, and copper, cut stones for setting, carve wood, do every kind of creative work, and have the ability to teach others. Both he and Oholiab, Ahisamach’s son from the tribe of Dan, have been given the skill to do every kind of work done by a gem cutter or a designer or a needleworker in blue, purple, and deep red yarns and in fine linen or a weaver or anyone else doing work or creating designs.
Sometimes we get the idea that God only gives gifts that are spiritual in nature. Such as teaching, preaching, singing, etc… However, this is far from truth, in fact, some of the gifts that God first gave to mankind had ‘real world’ applications well beyond church.
The passage of Scripture just above refers to two men and the group that they led. The one speaking is Moses and he is addressing the entire nation of Israel. They are on the cusp of building God’s Tabernacle and everyone is taking account as to what items have been donated, the gold, silver, and jewelry, and also who has certain capabilities. These two men are called out by Moses because they had special abilities in woodworking, metalwork, sculpting, stone cutting, gem work, and practically anything else you could do with your hands. These men were the renaissance men of their day, they could do it all, and they could teach others as well.
What’s interesting about this is that this passage doesn’t say that God ‘just now’ gave them these gifts, but that he had (past tense) given them these gifts. Which means that for years they had been honing and practicing their craft and now God was giving them an opportunity to use their skill in the building of his holy Tabernacle. This was an honor that no one else in all of Israel shared except these two men.
This teaches us a couple of things: First, God has given all sorts of working gifts, and they are far from limited to a ‘spiritual’ setting. Don’t ever say, ‘I’m just a welder…carpenter…electrician…plumber’ God gave you those skills, use them, expand them, and teach them to others. God is honored by this!
Second, God gives each of us special opportunities when we are willing to use our gifts diligently and sometimes in obscurity. He loves to take the faithful workers and bring them to the forefront for everyone to celebrate. So, prepare for your moment, watch for it, and when God calls, jump on it!
Join me this Sunday as I talk about the benefits of working hard!
This post is directed to all the guys out there. Not that it isn’t for women, or that women won’t get anything out of this, but this will be directed and worded for us men.
Guys, we need a cause to rally around. In our world today finding a real cause can be hard to come by. In ‘yesteryear’ causes were a dime a dozen. As a man, your biggest cause was to get food on the table so your family wouldn’t starve. This drove men to do and attempt all sorts of things because the cause was so great. Today, in our world of convenience stores, microwaves, fast-food, and food stamps the fear that your family will die of starvation is all but eliminated. Often the biggest ‘fear’ when times are REALLY bad is…do we have to cut cable. I just don’t see that as a rallying cry!
Think back to all of the guy movies or books you’ve ever read. Each and everyone of them (including the Bible) has a point where someone lays out a clear and compelling reason WHY they need to do this or that, and ends with all the men around them either cheering, gritting their teeth, or growling in stone faced agreement. So, what is our cause today, what is the reason why we should become the men God created us to be?
As a father and a husband that answer to me is crystal clear. The Bible tells me that as the head of my home I am to be the provider, the protector, and the priest of my home. My job is to make sure that all of my wife and my girls needs are provided for, that they lack for nothing. It doesn’t mean that they have to wear designer clothes and eat filet mignon every meal, but it means they have all they need physically to become all God’s called them to be. As protector my role is to watch over them. Not just from outside attacks, but from internal bad decisions. My job is to be able to see, think, and process ahead and do all I can to protect them from others and from themselves. As their priest, I have the enormous obligation of making sure that my family knows God, loves God, and lives for God. As the priest of my home I will one day stand before God and give an account for them before the Father. No, the physical starvation of my family is not imminent, but I wonder how many of our families are starving for us?
Dad’s if you are not around, if you are not providing, protecting, and pastoring your home, your family may be starving in a deeper, more significant, and potentially more devastating way that will cost them the blessing of God and the joy of walking in his will. Men, take back the reigns, be a man, be a father, be a husband. It’s not too late. Today is your day to start living your MANifesto to become the man God has called you to be, so you can be the dad and the husband your family is desperate for you to become!
I will pursue my God recklessly! I will improve myself continually! I will love my family unconditionally! I will do my job excellently!
This question has been bandied around the internet a lot lately, especially since the shooting in Orlando. Often people are either ill-informed or just being run by their emotions when they comment on this, either for or against, on social media and I’m assuming when talking/discussing it with their friends.
As I pondered this post all of the standard answers began to flood my mind, and I sifted through all of the arguments both pro and con, processing just how I would address this, but none of these seem sufficient to truly answer the question. You see almost all of the posts that I have read deal with the physical death, torture, treatment of women, etc… These things are indeed horrific, but the Scripture tells us this:
Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. – Luke 12:4 NLT
This is an interesting statement by Jesus is it not?! His focus was not on the stuff of earth, because the stuff of earth is temporary. Jesus clarifies his meaning in the very next verse:
But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. – Luke 12:5 NLT
He makes it very clear that the after-life or eternity is what we should concern ourselves with. That the temporary difficulties, struggles, pain, and hardship of this life are just that, temporary. He is challenging us to look past this life and ask the question, ‘What then?’
Taking that context let’s look at what Islam teaches about how you get to go to heaven and how you have a relationship with God. According to an official Islamic site, here is how you get to ‘Paradise’:
There are multiple ways to attain the pleasure of Allah SWT and enter His Jannah. Allah SWT has made it easy for us to enter His Jannah but some of us forget this due to an ‘attachment’ to this temporary worldly life!
Following are some hadiths which will show us 25 ways or good deeds to enter the Jannah. Remember, these are not the ‘only’ 25 ways and there should be ‘sincerity’ and ‘consistency’ in these acts to get Jannat-ul-Firdause InshaAllah. – OrbitIslam
So, Islam teaches that there are ‘multiple’ ways to get into Paradise, there is not only one way; that it is dependent upon us to do these deeds; and that paradise can be lost if we fall short.
The Bible teaches that there is only one way to get into Heaven, that it is not dependent on us but what Jesus Christ did, and that once we receive this salvation we can never lose it. The Bible teaches that God has won our salvation and made ‘peace with mankind’ through the death of his son Jesus Christ paying the price for our sin. But, the peace he has won is 0nly effective once we accept Jesus Christ, in essence sign the peace agreement with God.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. – Colossians 1:20-22 NLT
So, if Islam teaches that Jesus Christ is not the way to God, then all those who follow Islam do not have a relationship with God, and are not at peace with God. They have the full weight of the wrath and judgment of God upon their shoulders, and when their life ends they do not enter into his rest, but into his judgement…if Islam rejects the peace of God and leaves it’s followers standing in the way of God’s judgement, how could it possibly be a religion of peace?
Does this mean that God hates them, wants them dead, or that a muslim could never find salvation in Christ, well that’s a big fat NO!
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.- 2 Peter 3:9 NLT
Islam doesn’t teach it’s followers how to make peace with God, but God has not given up hope that some, maybe many, will turn to him, receive his grace, and enjoy his peace!
As news of the shooting in Orlando first began to trickle out, the information was incredibly, and in some ways still is, limited. Initially it was just a night club, no other real specifics came out. As the networks began to get additional information it was released that it was a gay bar, and that the shooter had specifically targeted them because of it. I wonder how many people internally had a change or even just a shift of emotions because of this revelation?
Some have even come out and expressed their feelings, suggesting that this was just ‘retribution’ or judgement of some kind from God. Others have hypothesized that ‘had they not been in that environment’ they’d still be alive today. Now, I can say with great certainty that I am far from being the most sensitive individual on the planet, but this strikes me as an egregious violation of a clear command from God to love others, and even if you see them as your ‘enemies’ for some reason, the Bible articulates that we are to ‘love our enemies’.
Death, in whatever form, is sorrowful. The link that we have as living being with others is a deep and meaningful thing, that when broken causes deep sadness and an emptiness in the lives of those left behind. But, when death comes so abruptly and violently the pain is sharper, deeper, and more distinct. Today across the United States families are grieving, friends are hurting, and the entire Orlando community is in shock. This was not a judgement from God, but the sin laced choices of a man who’s mind was warped with the hate of a man-made religion bent on world domination. (You may not like that last sentence, but that’s really to bad, because at it’s core that’s exactly what Islam is and it makes no prevention about it.)
More than 50 people entered into eternity the other night, my heart grieves. I pray for their families, I pray that those left behind seek out the truth and hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ, and that those who claim to know him, would act like him!