Sounds like my rehab progress 😉
Monthly Archives: February 2018
Book Review: The Last Arrow: Save Nothing for the Next Life, by Erwin Raphael McManus
I have always been motivate by The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). I don’t want to stand before God and have him ask me, “Why didn’t you do more with what I gave you?” It is perhaps for that very reason that I resonate with the message of Erwin McManus’ latest offering,
The Last Arrow: Save Nothing for the Next Life.
The theme of the book is that we should die with an empty quiver of arrows. We should spend and be spent at the end of our days. We should die without any regrets, any sense that we left something undone. We should live with relentless ambition, a sense of driving passion, and a heart on fire.
The author mixes personal stories, interviews, and examples with the biblical account of the prophet Elisha, David and his mighty men, and Jesus. He weaves together biblical principles with business practices.
On the one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I found it to be inspiring and motivating. On the other hand, I felt I could not identify with the author. I do not pastor a megachurch, rub shoulders with Hollywood celebrities or power brokers, and do not travel the world speaking to thousands or ministering to refugees. It would have been helpful if he used examples that the average person in the pew could identify with.
I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Rehab is progressing and exercise is paying off …
From a walker to two crutches to one crutch and now to a cane. With each step forward, I have to use new muscles and relearn how to walk all over again. Each phase takes effort and practice. I go from awkward and painful to easier and more natural, and then I start all over again. I have to practice long in private before showing new skills in public.
One day (hopefully soon), I will be back on my own two feet. God is answering prayer!
In a recent series of comic strips, my favorite theologian, Calvin & Hobbes, conspired to keep his babysitter nemesis, Rosalyn, locked out of the house.
While it is humorous in a comic strip, it is sad in real life. It is even sadder when the person we lock out of our lives is Jesus Christ. In Revelation 3:14-22, the church in Laodicea had pushed Christ out of the church, but didn’t even know he was missing.
In Revelation 1:11, Jesus sent a message to each of seven local churches in Asia Minor. Jesus rebukes the church in Laodicea for its self-sufficiency and materialism which blinded them to their spiritual poverty. He exhorts them to repent and open their hearts to pursue a deeper relationship with himself. This letter tell us that We need to repent of our self-sufficiency and materialism. We must pursue a deeper relationship with Jesus.
The Church (14a) – It is possible that the three sister churches—Laodicea, Hierapolis, Colossae—were established at the same time by Epaphras, who founded the Colossian church (Colossians 1:7) as well as evangelized Laodicea and Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13) during Paul’s three-year ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19).
The City (14a) – The city was located about 40 miles southeast of Philadelphia on the road to Colossae. It was the greatest city of the Lycus River Valley. The city had material wealth through its banking industry. They were renowned for producing a garment of black wool fabric. The city was famous for its medical school that exported a powder used for eye salve. The independent nature of the city is demonstrated in the fact that when it was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 60, wealthy citizens paid to rebuild the city themselves without outside help.
The Character of Christ (14b) – Jesus described himself as the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. As the Amen, whatever Jesus says is true and certain. As the faithful and true witness, Jesus is reliable and trustworthy. As the beginning of God’s creation, Christ existed before creation and is sovereign over it. As the supreme creator and ruler of the universe, Jesus Christ has every right to critique his wayward church.
The Condition of the Church: Concern (15-17) – There is no commendation given to this church. Instead, Jesus soundly criticized the church. Their biggest failure was that the church was self-sufficient and blasé towards God.
Jesus critiques the church by saying they were lukewarm and that he wished they were hot or cold. The tendency is to think he is talking about one’s spiritual temperature. However, he seems odd that Jesus would rather someone was turned off toward him rather than lukewarm. The description makes more sense when you understand the geography and background of the city.
Laodicea was near two other cities, Hierapolis and Colossae. Hierapolis was a spa known for its hot mineral baths and medicinal waters. Colossae boasted the finest supply of cold, pure, refreshing water. While Laodicea was blessed with prosperity, their water supply was a problem. An aqueduct brought water to the city. Over time, mineral deposits accumulated in the pipes. The water that arrived in Laodicea was lukewarm and mineral laden. It was nauseating and disgusting to drink.
Like the city’s water supply, the church was neither a cold, refreshing drink nor a warm, healing bath. Some churches make the Lord weep, others make him angry; the Laodicean church made him sick. Lukewarm spirituality makes Christ gag.
Their biggest problem was they did not even realize they had a problem. Like the city, the church thought it was rich and self-sufficient. In reality, they were poor. The church thought it was clothed with righteous character. In reality, they were spiritually wretched, pitiful, and naked. The church thought it had spiritual insight. Instead, they were blind.
The Command (18-19) – While he finds the church repulsive, Christ takes time to offer counsel. They were urged to buy three things they did not think they needed.
Refined gold. A goldsmith subjects the gold to intense heat that liquefies the gold. The impurities rise to the top and are skimmed off. What remains is a purer gold of higher carat.
White clothes. Though they had beautiful clothes, they were urged to wear white, which was symbolic of righteousness which would cover their spiritual nakedness.
Salve for their eyes. The medical school offered a special salve to heal common eye troubles of the Middle East. What they needed was not this medicine but spiritual sight.
Christ’s criticism is based on his love. The most undeserving church is still loved by God. Christ rebuked them because he loved them.
The Commitment (20-21) – In addition to gold, clothing, and eye salve, Christ wants them to enjoy his person and his fellowship.
Christ pictured himself as standing outside and knocking on a door. Sadly, the church had pushed Christ right outside but did not even know he was missing. The appeal is for those who hear to open the door. To them Christ promised, I will go in and eat with him, and he with me.
With Christ on the outside, there can be no fellowship or genuine wealth. With Christ on the inside, there is wonderful fellowship and sharing of the marvelous grace of God. To those who respond, Christ promises to give the right to sit with him on his throne and share his victory.
The Challenge (22) – Take the message to heart. Hear and heed the message.
|True condition||God’s solution|
Relationship with Christ
Principles (1) Self-sufficiency and materialism can blind a person to their spiritual poverty. (2) Jesus rebukes and disciplines his children in order to heal them. (3) To experience renewed fellowship with Jesus, we must be serious enough to change.
Questions to consider: (1) Are you making progress in the Christian life? (2) Where do you need to change and/or grow? (3) Are you willing to change? (4) Who will hold you accountable? (5) If “YES,” repent & pursue a deeper relationship with Christ.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 25, 2018. It is the final message in a series on The State of the Church. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.
From today’s reading in Streams in the Desert: 365 Devotional Readings by L.B. Cowan, updated by Jim Reimann.
Perhaps you are very dissatisfied with yourself. You are not a genius, have no distinctive gifts, and are inconspicuous when it comes to having any special abilities. Mediocrity seems to be the measure of your existence. None of your days are noteworthy, except for their sameness and lack of zest. Yet in spite of this you may live a great life.
John the Baptist never performed a miracle, but Jesus said of him, “Among those born of women there is no one greater” (Luke 7:28). His mission was to be “a witness to the light” (John 1:8), and that may be your mission and mine. John was content to be only a voice, if it caused people to think of Christ.
Be willing to be only a voice that is heard but not seen, or a mirror whose glass the eye cannot see because it is reflecting the brilliant glory of the Son. Be willing to be a breeze that arises just before daylight, saying, “The dawn! The dawn! And then fades away.
Do the most everyday and insignificant tasks knowing that God can see. If you live with difficult people, win them over through love. If you once made a great mistake in life, do not allow it to cloud the rest of your life, but by locking it secretly in your heart, make it yield strength and character.
We are doing more good than we know. the things we do today—sowing seeds or sharing simple truths of Christ—people will someday refer to as the first things that prompted them to think of Him. For my part, I will be satisfied not to have some great tombstone over my grave but just to know that common people will gather there once I am gone and say, “He was a good man. he never performed any miracles, but he told me about Christ, which led me to know Him for myself.” George Matheson
A good an encouraging reminder. Success is not measured by numbers, but by faithfulness.
I must be making progress in my rehab. My therapy exercises don’t hurt quite as much as they used to. Either I’m getting stronger or my pain threshold has increased. 😉
My therapist has added two new tricks to my portfolio—standing up and walking. Before you scoff, let me explain why they are a challenge.
Standing up – Since November, I have needed to sit in a chair with arms. I needed to push off the arms in order to stand up. Last week, John, my physical therapist, had me sit in a chair without arms. He told me to put my hands on my knees and just stand up. You have no idea how hard that is when one leg/hip is weak! I needed a rolling start just to get out of the chair. Once I got going, I could do it ten times, but I was huffing and puffing to complete the cycle. It’s now part of my daily routine.
Walking – Since the goal is to walk with one crutch by the end of February (next week), John had me start two weeks ago. Initially, I did it 2-3 times a day as part of my exercise routine. Last week, he suggested relying on one crutch when I am indoors. This week, I started going up to the third floor gym at church and doing 2-3 laps around the gym. On the one hand, it’s getting easier, but on the other hand, my leg is pretty tired by the end of the day. I still have a ways to go. And considering we are still in winter and our weather forecast is iffy, I may need two crutches out of doors just for safety and stability.
Again, gradual improvement to thank God for. Please keep praying.
Like many, I was surprised and saddened to learn of Billy Graham’s death yesterday. Since he was 99 years old, it was expected, but it was still a surprise.
As I reflect on a life well lived, I acknowledge my debt of gratitude to Billy Graham. He impacted my life in a number of ways.
- My mother-in-law came to faith in Christ during one of Billy Graham’s first crusades in Los Angeles.
- As a junior higher, my parents and my brother and I sang in the choir during a crusade in Anaheim Stadium. I recall going forward and rededicating my life to Christ during that crusade. I benefited from the follow up material afterwards as it helped strengthen my faith.
- I attended the counselor training when a crusade was held in the Seattle-Tacoma area.
- Our church participated in phone counseling after several of the Graham crusades.
- Billy Graham’s practice of financial integrity and avoiding temptation with the opposite sex provided models to follow.
- Our church participated in the My Hope campaign four years ago. It provided one more tool of how to share your faith.
- A couple of articles I wrote were published in Decision Magazine.
- My wife and I visited The Cove and The Billy Graham Library two years ago and were greatly impressed and encouraged.
Salvation, discipleship, equipping, resources, examples, tools, models, encouragement, ministry opprotunites … I am indebted to Dr. Graham in many, many ways.
Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.
Book Review: Always Fall Forward: Life lessons I’ll never forget from “The Coach”, by Todd Gerelds
“Outwork your opponent.” “Your stance is critical.” “Leave it all on the field.” “A proper handshake.” These principles and 48 others are among the 52 life lessons described by Todd Gerelds in his devotional book, Always Fall Forward: Life lessons I’ll never forget from “The Coach.”
The author has penned a 52-week devotional book using key lessons he learned from his father, the head football coach at Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Alabama. Each devotional thought is based on a verse of Scripture. The author begins with a story from his high school playing days, a principle that his father employed in coaching, or an account from personal experience. He then weaves a biblical principle into the story and follows it with another illustration from business or family life. Each devotional thought concludes with another Scripture passage and a few questions to think about during the following week.
The book is aimed at encouraging men to live the way Coach Gerelds lived—grounded in faith and willing to stand up for what he believed—no matter the cost.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network http://tyndaleblognetwork.com/ book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
First Central Bible Church has the unique opportunity and privilege to send one of our staff members to Spain as a missionary with SEND Int’l. Below is a letter sent to the congregation describing the opportunity.
The world was horrified last week to learn of another school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In the midst of the tragedy, there were also acts of heroism as teachers shepherded students to safety. In particular, assistant football coach and security guard Aaron Feis used his own body as a shield to protect students. Taking a bullet and giving his life to save a student was a noble, heroic, sacrificial action.
Aaron’s action prompted one editorial cartoonist to suggest it was an automatic ticket into heaven.
It God grades on a curve, a sacrificial death would certainly rank higher than helping an elderly person cross the street. It would undoubtedly gain more points than donating blood, telling the truth, digging a well in Saharan Africa, curing malaria, or giving up your seat on a bus to someone with a broken leg.
But does God grade on a curve? Can one earn their way into heaven by performing good deeds? Do some actions guarantee one’s entrance into heaven?
In order to answer that question, we need to examine what Scripture says. Jesus told his own disciples that the path to God runs through himself.
John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
In an interview with a Jewish leader, Jesus said that eternal life is directly related to one’s faith in Christ.
John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
The apostle John reiterated the same point years later when he wrote his first letter.
1 John 5:13 – I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
The apostle Paul explained that one needs to believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Only then can we be saved and enter heaven.
Romans 10:9–10 – because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
If there was any question about how to enter heaven, the apostle Paul explained that salvation is determined by what God does for us, not by what we do for ourselves.
Ephesians 2:8–9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Good works, selfless deeds, and sacrificial acts are certainly valuable. While they might result in greater rewards in heaven, they won’t guarantee one’s entrance into heaven. Only putting one’s faith in Jesus for salvation will lead to eternal life.