Monthly Archives: February 2015

A Spiritual Application from “National Signing Day”

Today is “national signing day” for college football. If you follow the sport, you know what that means; if you don’t, you probably don’t care, but please stick with me for just a minute because there is an important point to be made. On national signing day, high school seniors from around the country declare which schools they are going to choose to attend to play college football. In preparation for that day, many recruiting guru’s set forth “star systems” to rank how good a prospect these players are perceived to be. 5-stars is a premiere prospect (there are only a handful of these guys each year), while 1 and 2-star guys are considered to be mediocre prospects at best. However, the number of stars by each player’s name is only a projection of how good somebody thinks he is/can be. The player hasn’t played a down of college football yet, nor is he ever guaranteed to take the field. While these projections are important to people in evaluating the talent a team is bringing in, they are not the final determining factor of how good a player or team is going to be.

From a spiritual perspective, it is interesting to consider how evaluators would rank the “spiritual prospects” of various people as they were “recruited” for the service of Christ. For instance, Paul would have been considered a 5-star recruit by anyone’s standard. He was highly educated, came from an excellent background, was extremely driven, and showed a zeal and intensity few would match. Put in football terms, he’s the recruit everyone would want. But what about someone like Peter? If one were analyzing him from the outside he would have been a 2-star prospect at best. He did not have an elite education, he was not raised in training for this kind of profession (he was a fisherman), he was young and impetuous at the time of his recruitment, and was inconsistent in performance. Nevertheless, both of these men shone brightly as preachers and great servants of God.

So, what’s the point? We all make projections about people in our minds even if they aren’t ever spoken verbally. I have seen many young preachers be heralded as, “the next great ______,” when it comes to preaching. Sometimes they are, sometimes they fail, lose course, or quit. Other times, individuals that nobody would have projected to be great servants in the kingdom have become exactly that. You see, just as with the stars next to a recruit’s name in football, our projections about someone’s prospects in service to God are based upon what we think they can or will be. The reality is, there is no way to know. A man who has the most clear and easy voice to listen to, whose family has been Christians for generations, and has gone to a great school of preaching may fall off the tracks, quit preaching, or leave the church altogether. Meanwhile, a young man with no background in the church, who has had a troubled youth and struggled through life, can wind up being a man who serves the kingdom with a vigor and love that few others match and bring many to Christ.

Projections do not determine results: the work-ethic, desire, love, and focus of each person does. Let us be careful not to say that someone would not make a good preacher, teacher, personal worker, or servant simply because of our perception of them and their background; nor should we say that someone is going to be the best in those areas for the opposite reasons. Instead, we need to encourage each Christian to reach their full potential in the service of Christ. Sometimes you’ll be surprised at everything someone can and will do in the service of Christ, other times you will be hurt and disappointed when they turn from the truth and fall away. Let us ever be those who “run the race” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) with the desire to be the best we can be in the service of Christ and help those around us to do the same.

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Are there Few that will be Saved?

“And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them,

Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.” (Luke 13:22-28, KJV)

When Jesus is asked whether there will be few people saved, the key word to his answer is the first word he uses. The word “strive” comes from the Greek term “agonizesthe” and it means – “to engage in an athletic contest, to strive, to strive to do something with great intensity and effort, to make every effort to.” (Rogers and Rogers)

When Jesus talks about who is going to be saved, he says it is going to require intense effort and commitment on the part of those who will be saved. It will not be by accident, nor with a passive interest that one will enter the kingdom of God. In fact, Jesus says that many will seek (from a term meaning – to search, to crave, to demand) to enter and will not be able.

There is no doubt that many people want to go to Heaven, but it is also evident by looking at people’s lives that not many actually want to put forth the effort to be there. We must strive to place ourselves within the kingdom. We must, in sports parlance, “want it more” than the average individual. We must want it to the point that we are willing to do whatever it takes to receive it. Otherwise we will find ourselves on the outside looking in.

Are you striving to enter the gates of the kingdom?

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The Lord is my Shepherd

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23:1-6, ESV)

It is unfortunate that this psalm is most often pulled out at funerals, for it is not a psalm of death, but a psalm of life. David’s magnificent words portray the comfort and beauty of life with the Lord as our shepherd (guide). Consider the three areas of life it affects:

1) I want for nothing (I shall not want). With the Lord as my shepherd I will be cared for in every respect. He lists 4 ways in the psalm: he gives rest, he sustains, he restores the soul, he leads in paths of righteousness. So, the Lord takes care of both physical and spiritual needs.

2) I will fear no evil. When the Lord is my shepherd, I have nothing to fear. For I know the power and authority of the Lord is in control of all things, thus I can have comfort. I also know that God will make it possible for my cup to overflow, even in the worst conditions, because I put my trust and confidence in him.

3) I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. When the Lord is my shepherd, there is only one place he will lead me: home. If I follow my shepherd’s lead and hear his commands, there is no doubt where I will find myself at the end.

This is truly one of the most beautiful psalms about life ever written. Is the Lord your shepherd?

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The Simplicity of Preaching the Gospel

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:1-6, ESV)

One of the most beautiful aspects of the Gospel is the fact that it is simple and straightforward. The preacher of the Gospel does not have to try to trick people into believing something without evidence, nor does he have to explain away things in the Bible that contradict what he believes. The truth is open and above-board in every sense and its preaching brings light and freedom in Christ.

There will be some who will not listen, and others who will hear but claim to not see. Some do not want to know what God says, others are blinded by their own assumptions and opinions. Even in such instances the Gospel of truth is available if such individuals change their hearts and want to see it.

We cannot preach ourselves or our own doctrine, for our beliefs and preferences do not matter. All we can preach is Jesus Christ as Lord, because we are his servants. If we do so, God will be glorified, the truth verified, and the faithful hearer sanctified.

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