Rugby

Like RugbyMy favorite sport is rugby. It’s been around for more than one hundred years, but it’s only now becoming popular in the US.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the game, it’s kind of a cross between American football, basketball, with a hint of soccer. Lots of running, tossing of a ball, with some pushing, shoving and tackling. To top it all off, it’s played without safety gear!

Unfortunately I’m not allowed to play. It’s not that I’m old and feeble, I’m just so good at the game that I’ve been banned from the sport in 43 countries.

Like in other sports, you don’t find rugby players giving up partway through the game. When a figure skater falls to the ice, she picks herself up, smiles, and continues her routine. When the lip of a boxer splits, the boxer stays in the ring and keeps on fighting.  When a curler . . . okay, curling isn’t a real sport. Sorry Canada. Real athletes don’t quit. They finish the competition and maybe retire, but they don’t quit.

Life is full of hard knocks, split lips, hurt feelings, and high mountains to cross. We all face tough times. The woman diagnosed with cancer still gets up every morning and fights the pain of the day. The unemployed man with a crying baby in the next room hits the street looking for a job until he finds one. The teenager whose father is verbally abusive after a night of drinking still gets up and goes to school. We fight through the difficulties because we know that something worthwhile is beyond the trial. Hope tells us that tomorrow will be better than today.

Jesus, for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame (Hebrew 12:2). He was beaten until His bones were visible through His flesh, His beard was pulled in chunks from His face, He was stripped naked and paraded through the streets, He was nailed to a cross. He continued to the very end for the joy set before Him. He knew that what He was doing would provide you and me with His gift of eternal salvation.

Today you may feel like you’re in the middle of a never-ending game of rugby. Put your faith in Jesus and set your eyes on the joy that lies ahead for you in Him.

Honey On My Lips

DSC01421I meet with my wife almost every work day for lunch. I don’t have to, or need to, but I want to.

We meet at a park near where she works and we eat a lunch that I make specially for her. Then we walk until she needs to return to finish her day. As we eat and then walk, my wife tells me about her day. She tells of her frustrations with missing parts, requests from co-workers that don’t make sense, traffic snarls on her drive, and whatever else she can think of. She can never tell me enough.

Sometimes she’s quiet and says, “You don’t want to hear about my day. You must get tired of hearing me talk.” But in truth, I can’t wait to hear her. I love my wife so much that I never tire of being near her or listening to her. Everything she says is like honey on my lips, so that each day I long to be with her and hear her speak to me.

Dear friend, is this how you feel toward Jesus? Do you long to spend time with your Saviour? Do you love hearing His voice speaking directly to you through His Word? If you are in love with the Lover of your soul, you will never tire of Him.

How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103).

He is God

He is GodWhy do you follow Jesus?

John 6 begins with Jesus miraculously feeding a group of 5,000 men and untold women and children. With only five loaves of flat bread and two tiny fish, Jesus fed the multitude with enough left over to fill 12 large baskets. His disciples were amazed and said, This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world (John 6:14).

WOW! Suddenly everyone wanted a piece of Jesus. If He could do so much with so little, imagine what else He could do! The people intended to crown Him their king on the spot, but Jesus quietly left before their plan came to pass.

When the people found Jesus the next day they pestered Him with questions, but He wasn’t about to fall into their game. He said, You seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled (John 6:26).

A sign is meant only to point to something important. It’s not the sign that matters, but what it directs you toward. When you see the “Rest Area” sign along the highway, you don’t stop and take a picture; you hightail it to where the sign leads. People weren’t looking for Jesus because His miracle revealed His deity; they sought Him because they wanted more free food and a show!

This is where many people are. They run after Jesus wanting to fix their marriage, experience peace, find hope for a sick child, or become wealthy. They aren’t transfixed because of who He is, but because of what they think He can give them. They are groupies, not disciples. And often, when He doesn’t give what they think He’s promised, they turn on Him and demand His crucifixion.

The Christian isn’t a follower of Jesus because of what He does, but because He is God.

God Has Secrets

God Has SecretsIt was Gary. “Hey Doc, I just got a call from Wendell. He says that you’re closer to his father than anyone else and he wants you to find out something … Is there anything in his dad’s stuff that should be destroyed?”

Dr Raymond Cox was my mentor, friend, and childhood pastor. His basement was a vast archive of books, sermons, research material, and original source material on the early days of the Pentecostal Movement and particular, controversial evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. His materials were so extensive, that Dr Cox was hand-picked to ghostwrite McPherson’s autobiography after she died. He might have sensitive information no eye should see!

Raymond was dying of cancer. This usual Tuesday visit would be more than our weekly discussion of politics and theology; we’d talk about secrets.

“Is there anything in your files that should be destroyed when you die? Are there any secrets the world shouldn’t know?”

He thought a few seconds. “The only thing that would shock people is that I’ve been a closet Calvinist all my life,” he said. “But after I’m gone, it won’t matter any longer.” We laughed.

We all live with secrets. Some things we hide because they feel embarrassing or harmful to our reputation, others are secret because the information doesn’t enhance anyone’s life (like what I ate for breakfast today). Even God has secrets. But He’s not hiding anything scandalous; there are just some things He knows that don’t affect our lives. However, He’s told us everything we need to know so that we can live for Him.

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law (Deuteronomy 29:29).

I Refuse to Go to Church

I refuse to Go to churchImagine with me that a man hears the Apostle Paul preach. He then claims to believe the gospel that Jesus died for his sins and rose again the third day to bring him eternal life. Sunday rolls around and our imagined man refuses to go to church. He refuses to fellowship with other believers in God’s Word by submitting to the teaching and authority of Paul. “Yes, I’ve become a follower of Jesus, but I refuse to go to church,” he says.

When a sinner is born again, the Holy Spirit indwells that person, transforming the new child of God from worldly and sinful desires to those which please God and glorify Jesus (John 16:14). The Spirit uses the words of the Bible to change the heart and mind to reflect the will of God (Romans 12:1-2). Like a newborn baby cries to be fed, the Christian hungers to be fed from the Scriptures in fellowship with God’s family.

Someone has said that if a professing Christian has to be urged to attend a Bible-teaching church, he doesn’t need to become a better Christian, he needs to actually become a Christian.

They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together (Acts 2:42; Hebrews 10:24, 25).

Daniel’s Birthday

Daniel & Dad

This coming week my son turns 17 years old. I could not be more proud of Daniel and the young man he is.

From the time he was 3-weeks old until 3 years ago, Daniel and I spent nearly every single day together. He went to work with me 6 days a week, we attended week-long conferences together, planned vacations, hospital visits, and “Daniel Day” adventures. He was my constant companion until he began public school in 2013.

As long as he’s been able to talk, Daniel has vowed that he would stay with me forever. He was never going to move away or leave me. Today he has plans to attend college, move to Germany, and work for a computer gaming company. He’s decided to leave me and each day brings that reality closer.

We let our children grow up and live their own lives, fulfill their own dreams, and seek out their own destinies apart from us. We are proud yet sad as they leave us behind, trusting that the godly foundation we laid as parents will sustain them as they build their own lives upon what we taught them by word and example.

I always knew that someday he’d grow up and become his own man – separate from me, but I thought he’d wait until he was 45 or so. This reality makes my Lord’s promise, I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5) all the more precious.

Still Keeping Portland Weird

Keep Portland WeirdPortland, Oregon, is the largest major city near to where I live. The un-official motto of the city is “Keep Portland Weird”; from city sanctioned “naked bike rides” through parks, to a twice-elected mayor who is a homosexual pedophile, to banning cars from neighborhood streets only on Sundays, to being a center for people who live as pirates.

So … what is “weird”? And if Portland stays weird, doesn’t that make being weird the new “normal”?

Do you remember when a tattoo was weird? Pink or green hair on a half-shaved head was weird? A ring in the nose, a stud in the tongue, a hoop in the ear, or a stick through the lip was considered weird? Now it’s thought weird if you don’t have any of these things!

Some Christians have bought into a non-confrontational “lifestyle evangelism” where being “different” draws people to Jesus. But being different isn’t enough. We see strange, weird, or different people around us all the time and never stop to ask for an explanation. How often has your “weird” Christian lifestyle caused someone to stop you in the grocery store and ask “why?”

In Portland, attending church makes you strange, but when was the last time you were stopped and asked why you go to church? or read the Bible? You believe in God, but so do Mormons, Muslims and Hindus. Doesn’t everyone?

Not conforming to the world around you is insufficient to fully explain who you are, what you believe, or why you believe. The only way anyone will know “why” is if you purposely explain the reason for the hope that lies within you.

And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ (Acts 5:42).

God Hears Our Cries

God Hears Our CriesWe’re mighty good actors, hiding our true feelings and circumstances from most of the people around us. We might be able to keep reality from our friends and family, but God hears our cries whether made aloud or kept in silence. He knows the truth behind every cry.

The children of Israel became slaves to the Egyptians for 400 years. They suffered a genocide of their male babies and were forced into building the great pyramids and monuments of the pharaohs. The people must have wondered if God was aware of their pain, but the Bible reveals that Their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning … and God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them (Exodus 2:23, 24, 25).

But there’s another interesting passage about God hearing cries. It comes from the first Book of the Bible. God visited a man named Abraham. As He ended the visit, He revealed that He’d heard cries. The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto Me; and if not, I will know (Genesis 18:20-21).

In one case, God heard the cries of His people, remembered them, and acknowledged them. How marvelous! But in the other instance, God heard the cries of sin, saw the evil, and knew the truth about a city and nation calling out for judgment. A dreadful thought!

God hears our cries and always responds. He has unending compassion and mercy toward His people crying out to Him in suffering; He also demonstrates His wrath and judgment against the cries of sinful nations and cities.

From Everlasting to Everlasting

For EverMy friend’s mother passed away recently.

Lisa and her husband packed up their three children and everything they could fit into a U-Haul and moved to a small town on the other side of Oregon. Lisa’s mother suffered a series of physical set backs and needed someone to care for her. Lisa and her family took up the challenge.

The round-the-clock care wasn’t easy. The hours were long and difficult, but Lisa appreciated the opportunity to care for the one who had cared for her as a child.

Those 9 months opened a new world for Lisa. She learned things about her mother she never knew. She was reminded of the things in life which are really important. Lisa will miss the company of her mother, but the memories made during those months of arduous care are so meaningful right now.

We think we know God, yet after a lifetime with Him we will have only laid our knowledge on the surface of who He is. The amazing thing about eternal things is that there is no ending to them. As the years of eternity roll, imagine the things we will continually learn about the Eternal One!

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God (Psalm 90:2).

Giving Birth is not the Goal

Pregnancy is not the goalA 2009 story in the USA Today newspaper reported that out-of-wedlock births were exploding in numbers around the world. A decade ago, for example, 1 of every 3 births in Canada was illegitimate. In 2009 in the United States, nearly one-in-two babies were born to unwed mothers. It appears that in all too many cases, the goal in life is to make babies.

Many churches make producing spiritual babies the goal also, but the salvation of the sinner is only the beginning of the ministry of the local church.

Getting people saved isn’t the goal of church ministry, just like getting a woman pregnant isn’t the goal of fatherhood. The ministry goal of the local church must be the spiritual maturity of God’s people in the image of Christ.

God creates the new life in Christ and has then set as the purpose of local church spiritual growth; that God’s people would come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ … that we may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ (Eph 4:13, 15).

Maturity comes as the Holy Spirit uses Bible teaching, which is the sound doctrine (Titus 1:9) and solid food (Hebrews 5:14) of the Christian’s soul.