Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Heat, Practice, and Christianity that Counts

The Miami Heat won the NBA Finals this past week.  Toward the end of the series, it looked like the Heat were going to lose.  Down by 3, with less than 10 seconds to go, Miami missed a 3 pointer.  Fortunately, they rebounded the attempt and passed the ball to their best three-point shooter, Ray Allen. With less than six seconds left and a defender in his face, Allen took a slightly off balance shot to tie the game.  Swish.  The Heat went on to become the NBA champs.

When interviewed about the difficult shot, Allen said, “believe it or not I work on it quite often. I try to put my body in precarious situations coming from different parts of the floor, different angles to try to get my momentum moving forward.  I honestly can say I gave myself a great opportunity, a great chance to make that shot. And it wasn't unfamiliar to me personally. When it went in I was ecstatic. But at the same time I was 
expecting to make it."  In sum, Ray Allen knew what to do when it counted because he practiced like it counted.

The same goes for our spiritual lives.  Christians know how to be Christian when it counts because we practice Christianity like it counts.  We study the Bible, pray, fast, memorize scripture, meet with other Christians for encouragement and accountability for a reason.  We want to recognize and follow the direction of the Holy Spirit when opportunities and challenges of life present themselves.           
That is one reason the Psalm writer writes, “The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”  We participate in devotional practices because they give light to our lives.  They help us see how to honor Jesus when it counts. 

As you go through the coming week, practice devotion to Christ.  Pray and meditate on the Lord so that you recognize the Spirit’s voice in times of crises.  Read, study, and memorize the scriptures so that you have a reference point when faced with tough decisions.  Begin each day practicing Christian devotion like it counts.  Then, go about your life looking for opportunities to put that devotion into action, ready to take the ball when the game is on the line.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Paying Attention to Jesus

According to a French newspaper, a bank employee in Germany made a really big mistake by simply not paying attention and falling asleep.  The employee nodded off at his work computer while making money transfers.  During the nap, the employee's hand came to rest on the 2 key of his keyboard.  As a result, the man ordered a 222,222,222.22 euro transfer when he intended to transfer 62.40.  Mistake indeed.

We laugh, but many of us are tempted to do something similar in our devotional lives.  We pay little attention to our relationship with Jesus, fall asleep, and wake up to find an embarrassing mistake.  It plays out like this: wait for a convenient time to pray and study the Bible.  Then, find that devotion to Christ is rarely convenient.  Follow by never studying the Bible, never praying, and rarely worshiping with other christians.  Then, fall asleep on your spiritual life because of lack of activity.  End with a rude awakening where you 
learn what went wrong during your nap.

The Apostle Paul encouraged early Christians to avoid such mistakes by simply paying attention to Jesus.  In Romans 12, the apostle writes, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  In other words, pay attention to your devotional life.  Don’t fall asleep on your relationship with Jesus.  Paying attention to Jesus keeps us out of all kinds of trouble.
As you go through the coming week, commit anew to talking with Jesus in prayer, reading about Jesus in the Bible, and thinking about Jesus during quiet time.  Pay attention to Jesus this week.  You will find riches in His goodness and ultimately avoid mistakes that can break the spiritual bank.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Simon Bar Kokhba and the Life of Jesus Christ

Simon Bar Kokhba lived in Israel during the second century.  He claimed to be Israel’s messiah and had a bunch of followers who called him lord.  He led a revolt that freed Israel from Roman rule for several years.  During that time, many credited Bar Kokhba for the redemption of Israel.  But, in the end, Rome recaptured Israel and executed Bar Kokhba.

To Christians, the life of Simon Bar Kokhba probably sounds familiar.  He shared a lot of experiences with Jesus.  But, in the midst of the similarity, there is one important difference.
Two thousand years later, billions of people still describe Jesus as the Messiah, Lord, and Redeemer of Israel.  Simon Bar Kokhba is remembered by few and called Lord by fewer.  Jesus’ messianic movement (Christianity) is one of the largest religions in the world while Simon Bar Kokhba’s died with him.

Why?  Why does Jesus’ movement live on and flourish while Bar Kokhba’s is forgotten?  Any Christian will tell you that the answer is simple.  The difference is that Jesus Christ is still alive.  Jesus didn’t stay dead when the Romans killed Him.  Jesus Christ defeated death, rose again, appeared to His followers, and is alive today.  Because Jesus is alive, working in the world today, His movement lives on.

As you worship this week, remember that your Lord and Messiah is alive and at work in the world today.  His rule isn’t a historical artifact that ended a long time ago.  It moves on.  It is leading to a new heaven and a new earth.  Rome, Simon Bar Kokhba and even death itself will not stop it.  Praise the Lord.  Jesus is alive!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

E-mail, the Taliban, and the Confession of Sin

A man named Mullah Omar prepares weekly press releases for the Taliban.  The press releases are distributed to journalists as well as Taliban members throughout the world.  Last November, Omar accidentally revealed the identities of those members (many of whom were secret operatives) by listing their e-mail addresses in the wrong copy line of the message.  Addresses intended for the “bcc” line were pasted in the “cc” line.  Hundreds of e-mail addresses belonging to people affiliated with the Taliban were broadcast around the world.  Talk about a bad day at the office.

While we may not be Taliban members, we’ve all had associations we wanted to keep secret.  We associated with bad and unhealthy things.  We sinned.  Then, we tried to hide it in order to avoid embarrassment.  When it was brought to light, we were horrified.

The Bible encourages us to avoid all that drama by simply fessing up.  Christians are instructed to admit their wrongs to other trusted Christians.  James says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”  In other words, bring sin to light so that it can be given to God and healed.

As you go through the coming week, fess up.  Find a trusted sister or brother in the faith and confess your sins.  Let another Christian walk with you and pray for you so that you don’t have to wrestle with sin alone.  As you do, you will find real freedom.  You will be free from the guilt, anxiety, and isolation of keeping secrets.  You will be free from condemnation as Jesus forgives you.  You will be free from any association with Taliban.