01/19/09

It takes faith to memorize 

Psalm 119:11 comes to mind when someone mentions memorizing scripture. Psalm 119:11 gives a clear answer to the question, “Why memorize?”

Somehow, though, knowing “why” has not been enough to keep my going when I try to memorize. You could say it is a lack of desire to defeat sin. But I think the problem is deeper. I don’t think it is a lack of a desire to defeat sin, because I try pretty hard to do that whenever I see sin in my life. I think that even if I had a stronger desire to defeat sin, I’d still find myself ignoring the value, no matter how great, of memorizing. Why?

Because there is a fundamental lack of faith. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

I do try to defeat sin. That happens to be the problem, I am drawing on my own resources and assuming that at some point I will overwhelmed the power of sin. That’s nonsense, because it took the death of a member of the Trinity to overcome sin. It is arrogance to think that I can repeat that victory by my own strength. No, it is more than arrogance. I think it is practical blasphemy to say I am as powerful as God, or to put Him as weak as me. The blasphemy doesn’t come from my mouth, but do my self-sufficient actions not shout it?

It takes faith to spend time memorizing something, taking God at His word that it will do a supernatural work in my heart that is unexplainable yet real. To memorize scripture, it takes more than a head knowledge of the value and benefits of memorization. It takes faith in the heart, that says, “God I don’t understand how Your Word changes hearts, but I know that it alone brings the change because it is Your living Word.” Faith is acting on what you believe, taking God’s truth and applying it to life.

God, it is not by my own strength that I commit to memorizing scripture by faith. It is Your Spirit’s drawing me that has brought me to this place. Continue to draw me as I take each step and trust Your Word to do the work I see only You can do in my wandering heart.



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01/12/09

As valuable as anyone else

1223reilly As valuable as anyone else

This appeared on ESPN.com. It did more than tear my eyes up; it opened my eyes a little further to what it means to look out for the interests of others and humbly serve those who are needy and no one cares. Not just catering to those who have more than they need already.


By Rick Reilly
ESPN The Magazine

They played the oddest game in high school football history last month down in Grapevine, Texas.
It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.
Did you hear that? The other team’s fans?
They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, “Go Tornadoes!” Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.
It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on—by name.
“I never in my life thought I’d hear people cheering for us to hit their kids,” recalls Gainesville’s QB and middle linebacker, Isaiah. “I wouldn’t expect another parent to tell somebody to hit their kids. But they wanted us to!”
And even though Faith walloped them 33-14, the Gainesville kids were so happy that after the game they gave head coach Mark Williams a sideline squirt-bottle shower like he’d just won state. Gotta be the first Gatorade bath in history for an 0-9 coach.
But then you saw the 12 uniformed officers escorting the 14 Gainesville players off the field and two and two started to make four. They lined the players up in groups of five—handcuffs ready in their back pockets—and marched them to the team bus. That’s because Gainesville is a maximum-security correctional facility 75 miles north of Dallas. Every game it plays is on the road.
This all started when Faith’s head coach, Kris Hogan, wanted to do something kind for the Gainesville team. Faith had never played Gainesville, but he already knew the score. After all, Faith was 7-2 going into the game, Gainesville 0-8 with 2 TDs all year. Faith has 70 kids, 11 coaches, the latest equipment and involved parents. Gainesville has a lot of kids with convictions for drugs, assault and robbery—many of whose families had disowned them—wearing seven-year-old shoulder pads and ancient helmets.
So Hogan had this idea. What if half of our fans—for one night only—cheered for the other team? He sent out an email asking the Faithful to do just that. “Here’s the message I want you to send:” Hogan wrote. “You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth.”
Some people were naturally confused. One Faith player walked into Hogan’s office and asked, “Coach, why are we doing this?”
And Hogan said, “Imagine if you didn’t have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you.”
Next thing you know, the Gainesville Tornadoes were turning around on their bench to see something they never had before. Hundreds of fans. And actual cheerleaders!
“I thought maybe they were confused,” said Alex, a Gainesville lineman (only first names are released by the prison). “They started yelling ‘DEE-fense!’ when their team had the ball. I said, ‘What? Why they cheerin’ for us?’”
It was a strange experience for boys who most people cross the street to avoid. “We can tell people are a little afraid of us when we come to the games,” says Gerald, a lineman who will wind up doing more than three years. “You can see it in their eyes. They’re lookin’ at us like we’re criminals. But these people, they were yellin’ for us! By our names!”
Maybe it figures that Gainesville played better than it had all season, scoring the game’s last two touchdowns. Of course, this might be because Hogan put his third-string nose guard at safety and his third-string cornerback at defensive end. Still.
After the game, both teams gathered in the middle of the field to pray and that’s when Isaiah surprised everybody by asking to lead. “We had no idea what the kid was going to say,” remembers Coach Hogan. But Isaiah said this: “Lord, I don’t know how this happened, so I don’t know how to say thank You, but I never would’ve known there was so many people in the world that cared about us.”
And it was a good thing everybody’s heads were bowed because they might’ve seen Hogan wiping away tears.
As the Tornadoes walked back to their bus under guard, they each were handed a bag for the ride home—a burger, some fries, a soda, some candy, a Bible and an encouraging letter from a Faith player.
The Gainesville coach saw Hogan, grabbed him hard by the shoulders and said, “You’ll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You’ll never, ever know.”
And as the bus pulled away, all the Gainesville players crammed to one side and pressed their hands to the window, staring at these people they’d never met before, watching their waves and smiles disappearing into the night.
Anyway, with the economy six feet under and Christmas running on about three and a half reindeer, it’s nice to know that one of the best presents you can give is still absolutely free.
Hope.

Article: http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?section=magazine&id=3789373&lpos=spotlight&lid=tab1pos1



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01/5/09

Actions that give light

Matthew 5:16
15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

This verse troubled me for years. I felt like one who gazes at an ideal until awakened by self evaluation to the chasm between the ideal I longed for and the reality upon which I stood. The response my “good works” generally invoked from spectators was often praise directed at me, even if I corrected them and pointed up. If I did something good, people praised me, which was not glorifying God. Set aside for a moment the fact that an arrogant man who points to himself will draw attention to himself and leave God in the corner. I am not referring to times when I took credit for God’s work, or acted in a way that would make people think it was me.
I’ve also seen other struggle with this, though it was no fault of their own; you might be able to reference your own struggle in this area and understand where I am coming from. Let me give an example. A lady at my church who is single and has given her life to ministering to children in constantly getting praise for the way she ministers. She continually asks people to glorify God, not her. She is characterized by humility and reliance on God, as expressed in her continual prayer. However, this does not keep people from praising her, even though she wants God to receive the glory. A Biblical example would be when Paul confronted Christians who were saying “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos” (1 Cor 3:4-9). Proving his ultimate focus on Christ, Paul was the man who said “follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). Above all else, Paul was surrendered and submitted to a single minded mission to serve Christ. Yet, at times, men still wanted to praise Paul instead of God.

I do not think this struggle necessarily means that we have failed to fulfill Matthew 5:16, because I think Matthew is pointing to something deeper than wanting men to give lip service to God after they observe your good works. Let me tell you the story that opened my eyes.

A college student was physically on his knees before God, asking for wisdom. It was only 4 days into the New year, and 2009 was already presenting questions that could not be answered.  A young man had asked for the college student to meet with him and help show him how to handle a situation that the college student had experienced and, according to the young man, had handled well.  The student’s cry was, “God, you know I failed in that situation before Your grace lifted me out! How can this young man think it was anything of me?” The college student was credited with getting things right. However, the young man wanted to do the same as the college student because he had observed that the college student had handled it all in a way that honored God.

I think what happened to that college student was exactly what I want to be seeing in my life. People see me handle a situation in a biblical way, and then come ask me to help them learn to do the same. They want to follow Christ, not me. They see God’s grace in my life, and the hunger for the same in theirs. Matthew 5:16 took on a completely new meaning to me today, because I saw that glorifying God with your life is the heart of that verse. It is not “let your light shine before men so that they see your good works and say ‘praise the Lord.’” It is “let your light shine before men so that they see your good works and are inspired to glorify your Father in heaven by choosing God above sin and living a righteous life.” God by His grace alone uses me as a light to display what is the right way to live. I want them to be inspired to do more than simply say “praise the Lord.” That’s just lip service, and according to God speaking through Isaiah, that’s worthless unless it is accompanied by a life that puts action to the words. Action is the desired outcome, not words.

What does a light do? It let’s people see more clearly as they live. They are able to move, act, make decisions, etc based on the way they see in the light. Let your actions inform their actions. Light clarifies the appropriate way to act by revealing reality, thus allowing for informed actions rather than stumbling, staggering, and groping in the dark. Hence, my actions should be a light that reveals the reality of God and motivates those around me to live in obedience to God to His glory. The way I apply the concepts of scripture casts a light on their value, proclaiming that God and His commands are not vague and abstract ideas, but rather real and applicable that demand action in daily life. This is the idea of “stimulating one another to love and good deeds.” In the light of my good works, men should be able to see better who God is and how His reality affects the way life should be lived practically. They should be able to find some
thing to model, something to imitate. Hebrews 11 makes a strong correlation between faith, and a life of action that proves the faith is real and live. Men should see my life as an illustration of the truth that faith is not about simply knowing doctrine, but about acting as a new creation, for faith without works is dead. Faith without works is a life that has not been changed to become a glowing light that illumines the path of the Christ-life in a dark world.

Lord, Let the way I act reveal the reality of God to those around me in such a way that they act according to the reality of God. Just as a light would reveal a staircase that must be ascended, let my actions reveal the reality of God so clearly that others won’t hesitate to act in the same way. Just as we would not expect someone to run into a wall with the light on, let our works of faith be done in such a way that they light up the truth and people glorify God in the way they walk as a result.



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01/2/09

Bible Study

Goals when you study God’s Word:
2 Timothy 2:15
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the Word of truth.
Acts 17:11
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the Word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
1. Excellence
“Do your best…” We strive to do our best as we study God’s Word, because we are presenting ourselves to Him. Since we are presenting ourselves to our Lord, our heart is know and please Him, not men (Matthew 6:1, Mark 7:6-8).
Heart check: Am I studying God’s Word to the best of my ability?
2. Eagerness
“…with all eagerness…” We seek God eagerly from a heart that longs to be taught by the Holy Spirit (Psalm 119:33, John 14:26, 1 Corinthians 2:10-16).
Heart check: Am I eagerly studying God’s Word to the best of my ability instead of just trying to do the least required?
3. Examining
“…examining the Scriptures daily to see…” We will spend time examining the scriptures, knowing that a deeper knowledge of God requires intentional effort beyond simple reading and feeding on milk (1 Corinthians 3:2, Hebrews 5:11-14).
Heart check: Am I eagerly studying God’s Word to the best of my ability by examining the Scriptures instead of just trying to do the least required?




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