Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Born Again

Is there any concept in scripture that has been more misused, incorrectly interpreted or held up to ridicule as much as these two simple words? Let me know if you think so, but you would be hard pressed to convince me. Over the years, I have heard numerous interpretations of what that phrase means, from all kinds of sources. Even people who don't believe in the bible will use the term, with their own meaning attached to it. In the 1970's, the popular singer John Denver used it in one of his songs to imply that it meant leaving life behind and moving to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado or at least something to that effect.

This subject has been written about by dozens of Christian authors, who I am sure know much more than I do, but I thought that I would attempt to shed some light on what Jesus really meant, when He told Nicodemus that in order to see the kingdom of God, a person must be born again. Two little words, recorded in only three places, yet possibly the most significant and profound concept in the New Testament.

Why is it so important? Well, have you ever heard this statement before? "I'm a Christian but I am not one of those "born again" people. News flash, if you are not born again, you are not a Christian! Uh oh, some people are turning red right now. Give me a chance and I will explain. You see, I am not the one saying this. Jesus Christ said it. To be a Christian, you must be a believer (meaning one who puts their trust and faith in Christ). Therefore you must agree with what He says, so let's look at exactly what He says about this subject.

Nicodemus was one of the leaders of the Sanhedrin (the official ruling council of the Jews). He came to Jesus at night, most likely because he was afraid to talk to Jesus during the day, where someone might see him. Nicodemus was admitting to Jesus, that he believed He was sent from God. Jesus knew that Nicodemus did not fully understand who He was and replied, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3 NIV) Well, this really puzzled Nicodemus. He responded by asking, how a man could enter his mother's womb a second time to be born? Now surely Nicodemus did not think before he asked that question. After all, if that is what Jesus meant, what would become of anyone whose mother had died? Would they automatically be excluded from the kingdom? (Bet, you never thought of that one!) It seems a silly question.

Jesus, being very patient explains in John 3:5-8 "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." Nicodemus, like many people today, is confounded by the words of Jesus and can only respond by asking, "How can this be?"

How sad that a teacher of Israel could not understand the meaning of Jesus' words. Nicodemus was strictly thinking in worldly, temporal terms. In fact, he was so wrapped up in the "physical impossibility," that he didn't seem to care about, or understand the "consequence" of, not being born again.

Jesus says that there are two results of not being born again. One, you cannot see the kingdom of God. Two, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. Let's start by defining what the kingdom of God is. Most people would think that this means heaven, which can be true, but it is more than that. The word here in Greek, refers to the realm of a king. You could think of it as being wherever your king rules. It is true that God rules in heaven, but it is also true that Christ will reign on the earth during the millennium. If you closely study the many references to the term "kingdom of God," I think you would find that it essentially refers to participation in that millennial kingdom. However, it would be safe to say that it means anywhere that Jesus is after His return in glory.

Now, let's take the second result, first. Jesus said that without being born again, you cannot enter this kingdom. That means that you will not be participating in the millennial kingdom, nor can you be where Christ is, whether in heaven or on earth. Jesus is very straightforward on this point. He gives no leeway on this matter.

Even more than that, He says that you cannot even see the kingdom. What does He mean by that? The point He is making here is the same point that the apostle Paul makes in 1 Co 2:14, where he states that the natural man (a person who has not received the Spirit of God) does not receive the things of the Spirit, nor
can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Until you are born of the Spirit, you will not understand the spiritual nature of God. You cannot even see who God really is. You cannot know Him without the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. You must be born "of The Spirit."

The reason Nicodemus had so much trouble accepting this was because he related to God strictly in a worldly and temporal mind set. He was convinced that his ticket to the kingdom was already punched by the fact that He was a Jew; one of God's chosen people. His knowledge of the scripture was limited by his lack of personal relationship with the God that he thought he was serving. This same handicap is carried by people today. They think that they are Christians because they were born in America and after all they do believe in God. Usually though, it is a god of their own making. They want a god that they can live with comfortably, and not have to change their behavior or lifestyle, a god that won't judge them for their sin. That is not the God of the Bible. That will not suffice; Jesus said you must be born again.

As I said earlier, there is no such thing as a Christian, who is not born again. When you trust in Christ as your Savior and Lord, He gives you a new nature, a spiritual nature that was previously dead because of sin. (Eph 2:1-3). This is what Jesus meant when he said that you must be born of the Spirit. The technical term is regeneration. When we are born of the Spirit, the eyes of our understanding become opened and we can see the "things of the Spirit." Paul says in Rom 8:16, (NKJV) "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God." We now have a connection to God that was not there before we trusted in Christ. It is an essential part of our salvation by grace through faith.

This is what it means to be born again. It is not some silly phrase to be used flippantly. It has no real meaning apart from the Word of God. If you have trusted your life to Jesus Christ, you are a "born again" believer. We should be proud to bear the title, but not boast in ourselves because we didn't earn it. It was a gift from God. Let us be like Paul who said in 1 Cor 1:31 "Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." Amen!

Game Plan: Study the scriptures given this week about the idea of being born again. Ask at least one person what they think it means to be born again. See if God opens the door for you to share your testimony of receiving Christ and becoming born again.

May God bless you as you continue your walk with Him,


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

One Year and Counting!

It's hard to believe, but today marks the one year anniversary of Coach's Corner. I want to thank all of you who are faithful readers. For many people, anniversaries are one of those times that you look back and reflect on what has taken place since the last anniversary. This can be a good thing. The only drawback I see is that when you get to be my age, you realize that you have more years to look back on than you have to look forward to.J Well at least in the temporal sense.

I do believe that for Christians, it is an important thing to evaluate what each year brings into your life. I tried to think back to the day that the idea of this blog came about. Why did I feel led to do such a thing? It is interesting to contemplate what my thoughts were and I can't really say that I had a definite idea of what my real motivation was. It took a while to discover what I really hoped to accomplish by this adventure. Not too long after I had begun posting, I realized what the goal was that the Lord had instilled in me. My heart's desire was and is, to be used by the Lord to encourage other believers to grow steadily in their relationship to Him. That is what this blog is really all about.

While doing an in depth study in the book of Phillipians, I came to the conclusion that the apostle Paul had this same hope for the believers in the church at Phillipi. It is summed up in these three verses: And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God. Phi 1:9-11.

Paul brings out three important points in this prayer, contained in verse 9. Point one, is that their love might abound. You might ask, love for whom or what? The Greek word used for love here is once again, agape. It denotes love in a social or moral sense. I believe, if you keep it in context with the rest of the book, he is speaking of a love for the brethren. The type that puts others needs above your own. That kind of love is only possible when it is bestowed upon you by God, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Note that Paul says to abound in this love. This word is perisseuo in Greek and it means to "keep on flowing, like a flood."It means, continually and forcefully!

The second point is that this love has to have knowledge attached to it. The word for knowledge comes from the root word, epiginosko. It literally means, "become fully acquainted with" or to "recognize." He wants these believers to become fully acquainted with the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul concludes by giving them a reason to be knowledgeable. This knowledge will give them the ability to discern what is best. The NKJV says it more literally, "to approve the things that are excellent." How important it is in our Christian life to know the things that are excellent, the things that are best.

Paul then goes on to say that this will lead to a pure (meaning tested as genuine) and blameless (because of our relationship with Christ) life. It brings a life filled with the fruit of righteousness (right actions), which comes by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within the believer. This is what our life should be like, as we wait for the day that the Lord returns. The end result is an awesome life for us and as Paul says in verse 11, it brings glory and praise to God! What could be better than that?

So, there you have it. Now you know why I do this. I pray that Coach's Corner has and will continue to encourage you to … "live a life worthy of the calling you have received." (Eph 4:1, Col 1:10,1Th 2:12) In order to do that you must surrender your life, fully and completely to your redeemer, the lover of your soul, Jesus Christ. I pray that you have already done that, but if not, don't wait. Do it now. Learn what it is like to have the omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God who created you, to be in control of your life. Just ask Him to come into your life and take full control. He promises in His word that He will do it. (Jn 6:37)

May God bless you and keep you,


Monday, October 25, 2010

Do You Have a Power Shortage?

Growing up as an athlete, you learn that nothing comes easy. Hard work, dedication to training, self reliance all play a part in your success. As a coach, I tried to convey these same principles to my players. In order to improve, you must be willing to work very hard. How much you improve and how well you perform is tied directly to how hard you work. Often times a player who may not have the most talent, will succeed where a more talented player fails, just because of his or her work ethic.
As a young Christian, I always thought it would work the same way in my Christian life. If I just worked hard enough at it I would be a better Christian. I would be kinder, more self sacrificing, loving, and less sinful. I would be more like Jesus. The problem was, the harder I tried, the more I seemed to fail. The more I failed, the more guilt I felt. That guilt would drive me farther from the Lord rather than closer to Him. I didn't want to face Him because I thought He would be angry with me. I would just want to give up and forget trying to be a "better" Christian. Have you ever felt that way? 

I couldn't figure out why this wasn't working. After all, it worked fine in every other area of my life. I would set a goal, work as hard as I possibly could and reach my goal. Let me illustrate. When I made up my mind that I was called to be a teacher and coach, I set my goal to be a Head Football Coach at the High School level, by the time I reached my thirtieth birthday. I started coaching freshman football for no pay, scouted for the varsity, went to coaching clinics in the off season and learned everything I possibly could about coaching and the game of football. As I gained confidence in my abilities and knowledge of the game, I became a varsity defensive coordinator (the person in charge of the defense) and started applying for every Head Football job that came open. I was willing to go just about anywhere to get that job. At the age of twenty nine, (after finishing second at least eight or nine times) I landed my first Head Coaching position at a school in central California. I had reached my goal.

This made sense to me. If you are willing to work hard enough, eventually you succeed. Why would it be any different in my walk with Christ? Why then, did it seem that no matter how hard I tried, I just continued to fail? Maybe some of you are in that place right now. It is frustrating and demoralizing. You might even be thinking of giving the whole thing up. How many times have I heard people say, "This just isn't working for me?"

If that is you, I have some good news for you. Don't give up, there is a solution and it is not to try harder. In fact, it is just the opposite. You see, we need to understand that we have a power shortage. The truth of the matter is that we don't have the power in and of ourselves to be more Christ like. First of all, Jesus never told us to try to be more like Him. In fact, He said "Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."(Matt 11:28-30 NIV) Now I guarantee you that no coach that I ever had, said that to me, nor did I ever say that to any of my players. Instead it would be, "C'mon, suck it up and work harder!"

But in the Christian life, that just won't work. That which works in the realm of the flesh and the world, does not work in our spiritual lives. Why not? Because as Jesus said in John 3:6, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."

Paul says in Rom 7:18 "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out." For us to become more like Christ is a completely spiritual work. It cannot be done in the flesh no matter how hard we try, so we need to find a different "power source" than ourselves. That power source is God Himself, working through the person and presence of the Holy Spirit.

Let me share some words from the book of Phillipians, which I think will help you to understand this mystery. Paul says in Phil 1:6 "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Ok, look at the verse and answer these questions.
  1. Who began the work, was it you?
  2. Who will carry on the work, is it you?
  3. When will the work be completed? Is that any time in the near future, at least that we know of?
Do you get Paul's point here? God was doing a spiritual work in the lives of these believers, just as He is in your life if you are a believer. He is going to continue that work until we pass away or He returns. Later in the chapter Paul tells us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. 

He goes on to say in Chapter Two, to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Notice the term is work out, not work at. He does not mean that we do the work because in the very next verse he says, "For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose."(Phil 2:13 NIV) The word used for works here is energeoon in Greek. It comes from the root word energeo, which is where we get our word energize from. God, the Holy Spirit is our energy source. He provides all the power we ever need to live the life worthy of our calling. What we must do is tap into that energy source by just spending time with God in worship, prayer and study of His word. God is so good that He even provides us the energeo to do that! 

Now I don't mean this in some mystical sense. The Holy Spirit is a person, the third Person of the triune God. But the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, providing us the power to live a Christ like life. (Ro 8:9-11)

We do have one part to play in this. We must be willing to surrender ourselves to the working of the Spirit in our lives. We must allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit and then let Him do the work. When Paul was discussing his inability to do that which was good, he concluded this way, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom 7:24-25 NIV) What a wonderful Savior we have, who not only saves us and calls us to a holy life, but then furnishes the power to live it. Praise His mighty name!
Game Plan:
  1. Begin a reading plan in the book of Acts. See how many times you can find examples of the Holy Spirit empowering the believers.
  2. Ask the Lord to empower you through His Holy Spirit each morning for one week and see what the Lord does.
  3. Thank Him for your salvation and power in your life.
May God bless you as you allow Him to strengthen and empower you to fulfill His calling in your life,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Show Me, Don’t Tell Me!

If you would ask any of my former players to give you examples of my coaching philosophy, I am sure they would mention this phrase. I used it every day, probably more than once a day. Maybe, they heard it so much, they got sick of hearing it, but I'll guarantee you one thing, they remembered it. It actually would get to a point each season, where I wouldn't have to say it anymore, because the players would repeat the saying before it even got out of my mouth. Let me illustrate. If we had run a play several times and a certain player continued to miss his assignment, I might say (very gently and kindly, of course), "Son, do you have any idea of what you are supposed to do on this play?" The reply might go something like this. "Yes coach, I am supposed to… I know, I know, show you, don't tell you, right?" "You've got it, son!"

I think that most of us would agree that actions speak louder than words, wouldn't we? How often have the actions of a person, betrayed what they have said? Sometimes this plays out in a simple thing, like promising a friend to help them with a chore and then not showing up to do it. Have you ever done that? (Rhetorical question, you don't have to answer). This may not seem like a very important issue but what does it say about our character? It can be very easy to develop a habit of promising and never delivering.

The reason that I emphasized this to my players so much was because I believed it was such an important part of character development. Anybody can tell you what they will do, but it really means nothing unless they actually do it. The criminal justice system is filled with people who have said that they will not commit another crime and will seek help, but never do. My classes are filled with students who guarantee me that they will do everything they should and will pass the class, but are non-suit the next day. I can't tell you how many parent conferences I have been to and heard a parent say, "I will make sure my student is in class every day from now on," but within a week, they are truant again. It seems that there is an epidemic of integrity deficit when it comes to following through on commitment.

So often, when I am counseling with people, the reason a relationship is strained or broken, is because one or both people have not put actions to their words. For example, a person who tells their spouse that they love them, but then refuses to get help for their alcohol addiction. A parent, who assures their child how much they care about them, yet is always too busy to be involved in their life. How about a pastor, who preaches the gospel, but gets caught living a secret life of sexual sin? Let me ask you, do their words have any value or meaning? The old saying that actions speak louder than words is very true, don't you think?

Did you know that the Bible actually has a lot to say on this subject? Let's start with a parable from Jesus. "What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' "'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went."Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go. "Which of the two did what his father wanted?" "The first," they answered. (Matt 21:28-31 NIV) Do you agree with their answer? Of course! You see, it wasn't what was said by the second son that got the job done, it was the actions of the first son.

Jesus was using this parable to rebuke the leaders of Israel, who talked a good game about loving God and being righteous, but would not repent of their sin. He also would rebuke them for putting burdens upon people which they could not carry and then not lift one finger to help them! All talk, no action. In fact Jesus exhorted us to not make boastful pledges to do things, but just let your 'yes be yes' and your 'no be no' (Mt 5:37). James reiterated this in Jas 5:12. We need to take this to heart.

The Bible makes it clear that we will be known by our fruit (works led by the Holy Spirit), not our words. You can read Mt 7:16-20 and be sure of that. James pulls no punches about this topic. James 1:22-24 "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man, who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like."

The Apostle John is adamant that your actions much match your words when you speak of your relationship with Christ. Look at these verses:

1 John 1:6 If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.

1 John 2:4-6 The man who says, "I know Him," but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys His word, God's love is truly made complete in Him. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.

1 John 3:6-7 No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous.

1 John 3:18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

I could go on and on with scriptures, but you get the picture. What we do speaks louder than what we say. Now, I am not telling you that we should never say to a loved one, "I love you." We need to do that. But we need to back it up with action. I also do not want you to be discouraged because you have not always done what you have said you would do. We have all fallen short in that area. Let's not live in guilt but remember that John also said that if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive our sin. What I do hope, though, is that we would recognize the importance of our actions and strive in our lives, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to let them speak for themselves.

GAME PLAN: Ask the Lord to show you in prayer, where you might have fallen short in letting your actions match what you say. Ask forgiveness for this. Receive God's forgiveness and pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to help you in this area. Look for opportunities to serve the Lord and do it without telling anyone what you are going to do. Just do it! (Apologies to Nike, but they were not the first one to use this phrase)

God bless you as you follow Christ,


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Can I Take a Mulligan?

Ok, for those of you who have never played golf, I will attempt to explain this to you. In golf, you have to count every stroke it takes to get the ball into the hole. You may, on a rare occasion after hitting a bad shot, ask for a mulligan. If your playing partners agree to it, you don't count that shot and hit another one to take its place. Everyone understand? Now, when you get as old as I am, it is always good to play with younger players. That way you can claim a senior citizen mulligan for every nine holes. Of course, it is not written in any rule book, but I always seem to get away with it. Then again, maybe that's because my partners usually beat me by eight to ten strokes anyway, so they let me think that I'm two strokes better than I really am.

It may seem silly, but it always feels good, after hitting a terrible shot, to be able to redeem yourself with a better one. It's interesting that the second shot is almost always better than the first one. I wonder why that is? There is actually more pressure on the second try than the first, because you never ask for two mulligans in a row. That would be really bad form.

Right now you are probably wondering why it is, that you are bothering to read the musings of an old football coach, who takes liberties with his golf score? Good question. It's probably because you are fascinated with inner workings of the mind of a person, who has spent almost forty years trying to get teenagers to run one lap. Or, maybe you are just bored because no one has been posting any thrilling news on your facebook wall. You know, like "just went to Starbucks and ordered triple chocolate caffeine free mocha something or other." Don't want to miss that news!

Well, if it's the first reason, here is where I was going. It occurred to me that so often in our lives, we wish we could take a mulligan. Think about it. How often would you like to take back something that you have said or done and then get to try again? Sometimes, we know immediately that something we have said or done was wrong. How we wish it wouldn't have happened. It was not what we wanted to say or do and we would love to do it over right away. Sometimes we get that opportunity, but often we don't

When I was coaching, there were many times I wanted to take a mulligan. Sometimes, I might make a play call and before the play would even start, I knew it was a bad call and the result of the play would not be good. Guess what, no mulligans in football (unless of course the other team got a penalty, but I'm not sure that counts). Usually, you just have to live with the results and try to make up for your mistake by doing better on the next play. There were games where our coaching staff would have liked to have taken a mulligan on our entire game plan. It's kind of like realizing that you should have hit a nine iron instead of your sand wedge. You thought the plan was good, but it came up short. If you have no idea what I was just talking about, please refer to "The Complete Guide to Golf for Idiots" or tune in to the Golf Channel.

On a much more serious note, I have to admit that there were times I would have loved to have taken a mulligan on something I said or how I handled a situation with a player. How you speak and act toward your players has a much more lasting effect on them than the amount of games you win or lose. I always tried to remember this when dealing with my players but I know that sometimes I said or did the wrong thing and there was no mulligan to be taken. You had to live with the consequences of your actions. Those consequences can be very painful. You know this to be true, because all of us have suffered loss of relationships by things we have said or done, have we not? We have had to live with the results of bad decisions that we wished we could have "done over." Oh how we would love to take a mulligan!

Well, I am sure by now that you are trying to figure out what spiritual application there is to this post. It's quite simple really. Do you realize that God gives us a mulligan on life? In spite of all the times we miss the mark (sin), rebel against God, do or say things that would hurt Him; He has granted us a mulligan. God gives us the opportunity to come to Him, receive His love and forgiveness and start life over. He allows us that second chance to get it right. Have you ever thought to yourself, "I just wish I could just start over?" That's what God let's you do. When you come to him in repentance (which means agreeing with him that you have been going the wrong direction and agree to turn toward Him), He will forgive you and bring you into a wonderful relationship with Him.

The purpose of Jesus dying on the cross was to give you life. Not just life, but a much better life than the one that you have been living without Him. John 10:10 says, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." He has suffered the consequences of our sin, so that we don't have to. The theological term for this is called justification. You may think of this as "just as if I never sinned" because that is how God looks at us once we have received Jesus as our Savior. Look at these verses

Ps 103:10-12, "he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."

Heb 10:17 "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more."

Even after we receive Christ, we are going to make mistakes. We will not live perfect lives. But guess what, as far as our relationship with God is concerned, we still get mulligans. God continually forgives us and gives us another chance to do it better. 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

This is a continual process. We are continually cleansed and continually forgiven. We are warned however to not take this forgiveness lightly. If we do the Bible declares that we are Godless. Jude 4, "For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only sovereign and Lord." God's grace is a marvelous thing, not to be taken for granted. I can't imagine after my playing partners have granted me a second chance, that I would purposely hit another bad shot, just to see if they would give me another one. We want to be thankful for God's amazing grace and ask Him for the power to do it right the next time!

If you are ready to take a mulligan on your life, to start over and live it God's way rather than your way, follow the game plan.

GAME PLAN: If you have never received Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, I pray that today you would make that commitment and begin your new life. If you look to the right side of this blog, you can find the steps on How to Become a Christian. Talk to another believer and share what you have done. Find a church that centers on teaching the Bible and get into fellowship with other Christians. I promise that you will never regret the decision you made.

May God bless you as you walk with Him, Coach

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Decisions, pt 3: The Big Ones

Have you ever had to make a really big decision, I mean the kind that can literally be life changing, and you just don't know which choice to make or which direction to take? I'm sure that most of you have been there. I know I certainly have. What even makes it worse is that we often think that as a Christian, that shouldn't happen. After all, if I am walking with Christ and seeking His will, shouldn't I always know which way He is leading me? I have some Christian friends that tell me that unless they hear clearly and specifically from the Lord, they never move on any big decisions. I don't know if I am just too impatient or spiritually less mature, but that is not how it has always worked in my life. I admit that I would like it better that way.

I think that it always helps to look at people in the Bible to see if it always worked that way for them as well. We see many times in the Old Testament when God spoke clearly to men about doing something that would change their life. Here are a few examples:

1 Noah was told by God to build an Ark which would save him from the destruction of the earth (Gen 6)

2 God told Abram to leave his country and go to a land that He would show him (Gen 12:1)

3. God spoke to Moses and sent him to deliver Israel from the bondage of Egypt (Ex3:10)

At first glance, these examples would seem to indicate that God speaks clearly when it comes to the life changing decisions. A closer examination though, might give us a different perspective. In each of these situations you might notice that none of these men were seeking God about decision in their life. God was making a decision that would change their lives forever but it wasn't as though they were asking for that. So, are there examples of people who were praying and got absolute, clear direction from God?

The answer is yes. One beautiful example is found in Genesis. Abraham wanted Isaac to take a wife from his own people, not from the Canaanites that he was living among. He sent his chief steward to accomplish that task. The steward, in approaching the town, prayed for God's guidance in finding the right woman. He asked for specific requirements to be met, so that he would not make a mistake. You can read the story in Genesis 24 and see that God answered his prayer in no uncertain terms. He knew with absolute certainty that he was accomplishing God's will.

Well, those are some great Old Testament examples of how God spoke directly to people, giving them exact directions for their life, but what can we learn in the lives of people in the New Testament? Who could we look to for an example of how to make those big decisions of life? My first response would be to look at the life of Paul. Now he had real guidance is making a decision that would change his life. Basically, Jesus knocked him off his donkey to get his attention. Then He told him exactly what to do next. You can read about it in Acts, chapter 9. Once again, as in the life of the Old Testament examples we saw, Paul was not praying about any big decision. God just forced him to make one. In fact, I can't find an instance recorded in the Bible that says that any of the apostles were seeking to make a big change in their life when Jesus happened to show up and call them. What bigger, radically life changing decision could they have made than to answer the call of Jesus?

Right now you are probably saying, "I thought you promised some help in making big decisions and now I'm more confused than ever." That's OK, so am I. Just kidding. What I really want us to see is that I don't think there is any simple formula when it comes to making those big decisions. I believe that God works differently at different times in our lives. Sometimes He makes His leading unmistakable, but at other times we might just have to take a step of faith. I know that this has been true in my life. I can only share with you the ways that I approach those big decisions and hope that it might give you some help in making yours.

First let's clear up what kind of decisions we are talking about here. I'm talking about things like career changes, whether or not to marry someone, moving to another state, buying or selling a home. How about care decisions for your elderly parents or even your own major health decisions, such as whether or not to have surgery or try a different treatment? Those are really important and often very difficult decisions. How do we go about making the best decision? How do we discern God's leading when it doesn't seem to be obvious, even though we may have spent countless hours in prayer?

I believe we need to consider several things. First, we must look at what the scriptures say about the subject. That may seem like a no brainer, but we often make bad decisions because we fail to apply scriptural principles. One example would be a Christian praying about marrying a non believer. No need to pray about that one, the scripture is clear. The answer is NO! (2 Co 6:14) You will not pray your way into changing God's mind on an issue. Follow the biblical principles. This requires diligence in searching out which scriptures may apply to the decision we are considering but it will be well worth the effort.

Next, we should look at our circumstances and see if there is evidence that God is working. Often times God will arrange a pattern of circumstances that should be getting our attention, demonstrating that He is leading us. Sometimes God even drops something right in our lap and we fail to recognize it as His leading. However, this should never be the only consideration. Circumstances don't always lead us in the right direction. They should be viewed as a piece of the puzzle.

Along those same lines, a good way to discover God's plan is to ask Him to open doors that He wants you to go through and close the ones that might lead you in the wrong direction. A good example of this is found in Acts 16. Paul wanted to take Timothy on a mission trip to begin training him. In verse 6 it says that they traveled throughout Phrygia and Galatia because the Holy Spirit kept them from going to Asia. Though we are not told how the Spirit did this, we know it was a closed door. The same thing occurred when they tried to enter Bithynia. They decided to go to Troas. Read what happens next. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16:9-10 NIV) Closed doors, open doors!

Personally, when I am faced with making a life changing decision, I tend to emphasize the closed door in my prayers. I ask God to close any door that would allow me to make a choice that He would not want me to make and I trust that He will. Remember, God wants what is best for you and if you are sincerely seeking His will He is not going to lead you in the wrong direction. Jesus said in Matt 7:9-11 "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him?"

One last thing you should do when making those big decisions. Seek Godly counsel. Don't go to someone who you know will just give you the answer you may want to hear. Go to a mature believer, who will help you to seek God's will. Often times their counsel will confirm what you already know God wants you to do. Prov 11:14 says "Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety." NKJV

The key to the whole process is, seek God's will in these decisions, rather than your own. When you ask for His will to be done rather than yours, you can rest assured that He will guide you. Use biblical principles, circumstances, open and closed doors and Godly counsel. Trust Him! Just as He did Paul, the Holy Spirit will guide you. When you know the Holy Spirit is guiding and directing, you can experience His peace.

Game Plan: Read the stories listed above and see what God shows you about the decision making process. See if you can find any other examples that would also apply

God bless you as you seek His will, Coach

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Decisions, Pt 2

Ok, Ok, I know I'm late for my usual posting time but I couldn't decide what to write. Seriously, it seems that whenever you teach on any area of spiritual growth, you will bring testing upon yourself. I will tell you that before I could write about some practical ways of making good decisions, I had to examine myself to see if I had anything of real value to share. I hope that I do, but that will be for the reader to decide.

Over the years as a Head Football Coach, Athletic Director and high school administrator, I learned that there were some decisions that must be made immediately and some that did not. It was important to learn how to prioritize. Now this could sometimes offend other people who were certain that a particular decision must be made at once. I often got home late at night and had five to ten phone messages that were "urgent", with such major issues as, "My son's name was misspelled in the game program" or "the coach made Susie run an extra lap after practice and it wasn't fair." Now, these folks always expected an immediate call back, no matter how late it was (which was usually between ten to eleven pm). Let's see. Do I spend the next hour or so responding to these types of problems or try to get some sleep so that I can function the next day? Well, fortunately my answering machine died, (probably from overuse) so I just didn't get another one! I thought that was an excellent decision, you might disagree.

The question still remains though, how do I even decide what to prioritize and then, when a decision has to be made, how do I make good ones. The obvious answer for all Christians is found in Phil 4:6 "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God ( NKJV). This verse begins with an important concept that we often forget. Our first priority in decision making is to not be anxious. There are a couple of reasons for this. One, to not be anxious (meaning don't worry), shows trust in God. When we know that God loves us and has our eternal good in mind, what do we really have to worry about? I'm not saying that we act like there is never anything to be concerned over, but that we trust in God's provision for all of our needs and obey our Savior when he tells us not to worry.

The second reason is that anxiousness often leads to bad decisions. If we are so worried about what might happen if we don't do something immediately, we become hasty in our decision and often don't give God time to work out the solution. I know by experience how hasty decisions can get us into trouble! I could give you numerous personal examples here, but I would really rather not. It's too painful. Ok, I will give you one, but only one. When my son was ready to turn 16, I wanted to have a car that I thought was safe and reliable that he could use when he needed to. Usually, I would take time to really pray and shop around, but I wanted him to practice driving the car he would take his driver's test in. Well, to make a long story short, I immediately went out a got a "really good deal" on a used (I won't mention the brand) car. Does the term money pit mean anything to you? It lasted less than two years before I had to part ways with it. Dumb decision!

Instead of being anxious, we want to follow the second part of this verse which is pray, pray, pray. Look at what verse 7 tells us will happen when we do that. (Phil 4:7) "and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (NKJV) Now, we often think this verse means that we should always have this perfect peace in every decision that we make or we shouldn't make it. At the risk of being called a heretic by some, I don't think that is exactly what this verse means. It is true that often times God will help us with a decision by really giving us a peace about that specific decision. But just having peace about it does not make it the right decision. You want an example? How about this one? I have heard of several examples of supposedly Christian couples who have been living together without being married. Then they say, "We have prayed about it and we have a real peace". That's nice, but it doesn't change the fact that you are living in rebellion to the Lord on that issue.

Really, what these two verses in conjunction are telling us is, that a life lived in prayer instead of worry will be a peaceful life and that God desires us to live that way. He loves it when we come to Him for our needs instead of worrying. Do you realize that you can never ask for God's help too often? Even Jesus prayed constantly to His Father in heaven. Should we do any less? 1st Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to "pray without ceasing". That means constantly!

I know, your next question is "what about when you have to make an immediate decision and there is no time to pray more than, "Lord help me". Well, number one "Lord help me" is a great prayer. Simple and to the point. But, my answer to your question lies in what you do with your time when you don't have to make an immediate decision. Do you spend time before your day gets going in prayer? If you do, and you are asking the Lord to lead you by His Holy Spirit in all that you do for that day, then trust He will be guiding you in those "must make immediately decisions". Pray for wisdom each day and James says in Ch 1, verse 5 that God will give it to you generously.

The other preparation you need to have in order to make good, quick decisions is to have a "working" knowledge of His word. The more you know God's word, the more built in guidelines you have at your disposal. Now, I don't just mean having memorized verses. You must have understanding of what they teach. This is why it says in 2 Tim 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.( NKJV) Rightly dividing the word of truth means knowing how to apply it correctly. This is a tremendous safeguard in preventing bad decisions, especially when they need to be made in a hurry. A great rule of thumb is, don't make any decision that you know goes against the will of God as contained in His Word. I can't think of anytime in my life that following this rule didn't lead to good results. God's word is living and active… it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Heb 4:12). The Holy Spirit teaches us how to use it properly and that is the basis for good and Godly decision making.

Next post, "The Big Ones." How do we go about making those "life changing" types of decisions?

Until then may God bless you as you seek His direction for your life, Coach


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Decisions, decisions, decisions!

Have you ever really stopped and thought about how many decisions you must make every day of your life? For that matter, think about how many you make every hour of every day. Some of us can hardly count the ones we have to make each minute. Do you ever get overwhelmed to the point that you would rather just have someone else make them for you? Oh, you mean I'm the only one that does? OK then, maybe I'll just decide to pick another topic to write aboutJ.

Seriously, having to make constant decisions can be very wearing, can't it? Maybe you thought I was exaggerating when I said each minute, but as a teacher and coach, you literally do make decisions on a minute by minute basis. In each class, your students will force you to decide some things. It may be that they are disobeying a class or school rule and you have to decide if it is going to be worth the time and distraction to enforce it. They may ask an inappropriate question and you must decide how you will answer. Maybe you're giving a test and you think a student is cheating. You must decide how to approach that student in order to get to the truth without possibly accusing them falsely. Are you getting my drift here? As a high school teacher, you are faced with multiple decisions for each of your five class periods.

When I was coaching, the amount of decisions could be quadrupled, especially as a Head coach. It is hard for anyone who has not had that experience, to imagine how many decisions a Head football coach makes each day. Just like in the classroom, you know that sometimes what even seems like a small, nondescript decision can affect one of your players in a big way. Let me give you one example. One year I had a wonderful young man, an extremely hard worker, who injured himself in a drill. He said his neck hurt a little bit, but that he was fine and wanted to get back in the action. He looked and acted perfectly fine and it would have been easy to do just that. Instead, we called his mom and asked her to come down and take him in to be examined by a doctor, which she did. By the time he got there, he was acting strangely and felt ill. He was immediately taken into emergency and the situation quickly turned worse. The doctor said that he had pinched an artery in his neck, which cut off blood flow to his brain. He informed the player's mom that had he not gotten treatment in the next twenty minutes or so, he would not have survived. Fortunately, he was treated in time and everything turned out well. Unfortunately, he didn't play again for us, but that, I'm sure, was a good decision.

I can guarantee you that an event like that, made our coaching staff realize how important our decisions could be. During each practice, literally hundreds of decisions are made which will affect the outcome of an upcoming game, but also will have an effect on individual player's lives. In my coaching career, I never wanted to take either of those two elements lightly. I remember another time when I wished I had made a different decision than the one I made. We were running what we call "team offense", which means that we run a certain number of our plays against our defense, live. We had run what was scripted to be our last play, but we did not execute properly, so I gave the famous coaching command, "RUN IT AGAIN." At the end of that play, my quarterback, the best player on the team, went down with a knee injury. It was his last play of the season. I cannot describe to you how badly I felt for that young man. There is nothing worse in sports, than having a player who has worked hard and sacrificed so much in order to perform at their highest level, lose the opportunity to play because of injury. Even after twenty five years, I wish I would have ended practice that day rather than saying those words.

I guess that the point is to realize that we make many decisions every day and those decisions have consequences attached to them. That is why it's easy to become overwhelmed by the weight of decision making. How do we deal with that issue? Is there a way to guarantee that we make good decisions? Can we eliminate the bad ones? Well, those are good questions, so now I will have to decide whether or not to try and answer them. I will tell you up front that I have certainly made my share of bad decisions. We all do, but I think that there are some things that we can do which will help us make the best decisions possible most of the time.

The first and most important thing you must do is make the biggest decision of your life. If you haven't already done so, you need to turn your life over to God. He created you to have fellowship with Him. This happens when you trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. When you do that, the third person of the triune God, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in you. One of His main purposes is to give you guidance in the entire decision making process. John 16:13 says, "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth." Col 2:3 tells us that in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. In order for us to make wise decisions, we must ourselves be "in Christ". Think about it. If God is omniscient (knows all there is to know, beginning to end), wouldn't it make sense to rely on him for guidance in our decision making?

Without this important first step, there is really nothing I could tell you that would help you to make good decisions. Why? Because God is concerned not only with temporal issues, but eternal ones. We tend to make our decisions based on what seems good for us here and now, but God wants what is best for our eternal soul. So without His involvement, we are bound to make wrong decisions. It really shouldn't be that hard to choose what God wants, rather than what we might think we want, when we realize how much He loves us. Consider this verse. Jer 29:11 " For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

During this next week, look at the book of Genesis in the Old Testament and read about three men, Abraham, Joseph and Moses. Write down what strikes you about how they made their decisions.

In the next post, I hope to share some practical ways to make good, Godly decisions. Until then, may God bless you as you seek to follow Him.


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mysteries, Pt 2

Did you enjoy unraveling the last mystery? This one might be even more amazing. Even after more than forty five years of following Christ, I am still in awe of things that the Lord has done for us. So let's get into one more of the great mysteries contained in the Word of God.

Col 1:26-27 is the text we want to consider. The apostle Paul was giving the reason that he was so willing to suffer for Christ and even be imprisoned for the cause of the gospel. He writes these words in Col 1:25-29;

I have become it's (the gospel) servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.

Now, there are several clues which we must find in order to discover the meaning of this amazing passage. The mystery that Paul speaks of is contained in the phrase, "Christ in you." Have you ever thought about what that statement really means? Well we are going to dig in like Indiana Jones looking for the Ark of the Covenant and see if we can get a handle on it.(No pun intended, or, maybe it was)

Paul says here that it was a mystery that had been kept hidden for ages and generations. That begs the question, from whom? Did anyone before this time understand what this mystery was? Well, in a certain sense, no one before this time could really understand this concept. God had chosen to reveal himself through the nation of Israel and its' prophets. The prophetic scriptures spoke of a coming Messiah. The term Christ, which is equivalent to Messiah, means anointed one. However, the Messiah that they were anticipating would be a man, who would lead the nation of Israel back to its' former glory. They thought he would be an earthly king. Now, how could they possibly relate to the concept of this Messiah being "in you"? It would make no sense.

Those outside of the nation of Israel had no concept of "the one true God", unless they had some association with the Hebrew people or had studied their scriptures. There were some "gentiles" (anyone who was not a Jew) living in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus, who had actually converted to Judaism. They must have had similar views about the coming messiah So you can see why Paul declared this a mystery. The true Messiah, Jesus, would be nothing like what they were looking for.*

The next thing Paul tells us is to whom this mystery has been revealed. It is disclosed to the saints. Ok, some of you may be wondering, who does he mean by saints. The biblical meaning of saints simply means those who have put their trust in Christ. We know this by looking at how the term is used in the New Testament. It occurs forty five times and is always refers to a group of believers. Any other meaning that people attach to the term is a manmade tradition, not biblically accurate.

You see what the apostle Paul is telling us is, that the mystery of true salvation, was revealed in the new life of a believer. It is still a mystery to those who continue to live under the law, but it is the assurance of eternal life with God for those who accept Jesus, the Christ, as their Savior (the hope of glory). The evidence of this new life is Christ living in and through you. Jesus said in Jn 15:4 "Abide in me and I in you." The word abide means dwell or live. He lives in us by means of the Holy Spirit as He says in John 14:16-17 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. NKJV

Paul also says that this mystery, now made known, contains glorious riches. It is obvious that he is not talking about monetary gain, so what are these glorious riches? Well, there are so many I could take weeks to share them, but let's look at a few of scriptures that use the term riches to describe some of the benefits of "Christ in You."

Ro 2:4 God's kindness and tolerance towards you

Ro 11:33 Wisdom and knowledge of God

Eph 1:7 God's grace lavished upon us

Eph1:18, 3:16 His incomparable great power for us through the Spirit

Php 4:19 All our needs met

There is richness to the Christian life that far surpasses anything else you might hope for. Stop for a moment and really contemplate the fact that God, the creator of the universe, wants to bestow these riches upon you and me! He loves us so much that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Ro 5:8) We become a part of the body of Christ, that He indwells by the Holy Spirit and we have assurance of eternal life with Him. Indeed, these are glorious riches! This is the mystery revealed, CHRIST IN YOU! What could be more glorious than that?

Well, there are many other mysteries revealed in the Word of God, just waiting for you to discover. I hope that your desire to unravel more and more of the "mysteries of God" has been stirred. The more you study his word, the more you will be blessed by His glorious riches!

*If you would like to learn more about the topic of messiah, you might want to listen to my message entitled "The Messiah, Whose Son is He?" Just look across the page for the information on messages at Living Truth Christian Fellowship. It's in the studies in Matthew, Ch 22:21-46.

GAME PLAN: Look up all the scriptures contained in this post. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you insight into each one. Write down any thoughts or questions that He brings to your mind. Share those with at least one other believer

May God bless you as you continue to grow in your relationship with Him,



Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Everyone Loves a Good Mystery

You've heard that saying before, right? Is it true? Well, I don't know if everyone does, but I think most of us enjoy getting caught up in a good mystery novel or movie, don't we? Something about a good mystery makes us want to do two things. First we try to guess the ending. Second, we cheat and look ahead because we just can't wait any longer to solve the mystery, right? C'mon, admit it. I know you've done that.

Maybe you're like me and can't wait for your next roll of the dice so you can accuse Col. Mustard, in the kitchen with the revolver. (If this means nothing to you, Google clue, the board gameJ) Advertisers and marketers count on our curiosity to see what happens next. They know we want to see the mystery revealed. We also want to see if we are smart enough to get the answer before it's revealed. When you watch "House Hunters," don't you always guess which house the buyers will pick? Oops, I let the secret out. OK, I have to let my wife watch something other than sports once in a while, don't I?

Well, if you love mysteries, then you have to love the bible. It speaks often of the mysteries of God, His love and our relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. Did you know that the New Testament speaks of a mystery twenty two times? What's really awesome is that some things which have long been a mystery have already been revealed. We don't even have to go all the way to the end of the book to find out the answers (although there are some great ones at the end of the book).

Let's take a look at some of these mysteries. The first one is found in Matthew and Luke and it concerns the kingdom of heaven. Jesus, speaking to His disciples says this, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given."(Matt 13:11 NKJV) Luke puts it this way, "To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that 'seeing they may not see, And hearing they may not understand.'(Lk 8:10 NKJV) The first thing that is revealed to us is that when Jesus talks about the kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God, He means the same thing. They are interchangeable terms. You might also notice that some people are spoken to directly (the disciples and consequently us) and some by parables. What is the purpose of this?

In many cases, Jesus spoke in parables so that the Pharisees and teachers of the law would not understand. Why is it that they didn't understand? When we look at the parables, we seem to be able grasp the meaning don't we? That is because if you are a believer, the Holy Spirit guides you into all truth (Jn 16:12), so that you might understand. The Pharisees and teachers of Israel had hardened their hearts and did not really want truth, they just wanted to maintain their power, so Jesus spoke in parables and they neither saw nor understood those truths.

So what mysteries of the Kingdom of God have been revealed to us? Would you believe that there are 66 references to the phrase "kingdom of God" in the NIV version of the New Testament? There is 32 more that use the term "kingdom of heaven" so obviously I'm not going to cover them all in this blog. (Hey, I heard that big sigh of relief!) What is important is understanding what the term really means so that you can look up all these verses and discover the mystery of the kingdom of God.

The Greek word used most often for kingdom in the New Testament is basileia. It comes from the root word basileus. According to Kittel, the term refers to the being or state of a king. Plainly it means being in the realm of and being ruled by a sovereign being. In an earthly sense it spoke of a realm in which the people of that particular area were subject to. If you live in a kingdom, you are subject to the authority of that king.

The people at the time this was written certainly understood what it meant to be part of a kingdom. The Roman Empire ruled most of the known world at that time and all who lived in it were subject to the dictates of its' current Emperor. But Jesus spoke of a kingdom that was not of this world (Jn 18:36). He revealed that this kingdom is eternal (Lk 1:33) and that you gain entrance by being a disciple of Christ. (2
Peter 1:11) Wow, how is that for a mystery being revealed!

Now in today's world, we don't think much about being under the dominion of a kingdom, especially here in the USA. But guess what? Until we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are under the reign of the ruler of this world, Satan. The earth is his kingdom for a while longer until the return of Christ. But Col 1:13 teaches that we have been rescued from the "domain of darkness" and brought into the kingdom of His (God's) dear Son.
There is a time coming when this earth will no longer be the realm of Satan. (Rev 11:15) Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!"
NKJV. What a day that will be! If I ever wanted to get to the end of a story and see what happens, this is the one!

Mysteries revealed. They are all over the Word of God. This is a book I just can't put down! I hope and pray that you won't be able to either.

GAME PLAN: I highly recommend that you get a concordance and look up five scriptures each day for one week about the "kingdom of God" or "kingdom of heaven" and let the Lord reveal more and more of this mystery to you.

God bless you in the study of His word,





Sunday, July 11, 2010

How to Fulfill Your Purpose in Life, Pt 3

Welcome to the third and final part of this series. If this is your first time on Coach's Corner, I hope you will go back and read the previous two posts. In fact I hope you go to the beginning of the blog and read all the posts. (Not at one sitting of course J) In the last two posts, we have discussed the first two steps in fulfilling your purpose in life, which is to do the good works that God has prepared in advance for you to do. Sorry, if you don't remember what they are you have to go back and look them up. JJ So, on to step three.

Step three in fulfilling your purpose has to do with finding your spiritual gift or gifts and operating within them. Again, so many people seem to struggle with this and it should not be so. I think that part of the reason for this is that they neglect the previous step and don't receive the baptism of the Spirit. You can't operate properly in your spiritual gift, without receiving the power of the Spirit to do it. Now, since you can get many books and messages about the individual gifts I am not going to cover them in this post but I think it is important to understand that to do the works that God has prepared for you, you must operate in the gifts He has given you. Paul talks about these spiritual gifts in two different sections of scripture. The first section is found in 1Cor 12:4-11 and 27-30. Paul gives another list of spiritual gifts in Ro 12:6-8. Some people like to break these down into the categories of "natural or "supernatural" gifts. Either way you see them, they are given to you by God's grace (Ro 12:6).

Many times people are frustrated and get burned out in the ministry that they are doing and it's usually because it is not what God has called them to do. How do you know which gift or gifts you have been given? Well, One extremely important question to ask is, what do you do in service to the body that brings you JOY? When you are operating within your spiritual gifts, there is such joy in doing the task. You just feel so blessed when you do it.

Let me illustrate: maybe when someone was in need, you brought them a meal. If, when you did that, it brought you such joy that you couldn't wait to do it again; you may have the gift of helps. If, when doing it, you complained about the time and effort it took and then they didn't even say thank you and you thought how rude, that is probably not your gift.(ok, hopefully your attitude wasn't that bad. If it was, you need to repentJ, but you get the idea.)

Our spiritual gifts should operate in agape love, done without expectation of anything in return. The blessing comes in just doing it, not receiving any other reward. You also needn't worry about how "successful" it is. That's up to the Lord. If you know that you are following the leading of the Spirit, He will bring the results He desires to bring.

Now, most often these gifts operate in a very natural way and they don't have to be forced. For example, one of my gifts is the gift of exhortation. That is an important one to have when you are a teacher. It involves encouraging, consoling, imploring. For me, this happens in a very natural way. I often am doing that without even thinking about it. I may have a conversation with someone and later on they will say thanks for the encouraging words and I don't even remember what I said. So, my only response has to be, "Praise the Lord" because it came from Him. I love that! Remember, when we operate in and by the power of the Spirit, God gets the glory, not us.

Now, this leads me into the 4th step in fulfilling your purpose by doing the good works that God has prepared in advance for you. Did I mention that before, the good works that God has prepared in advance for you? Good. The 4th step is humbling yourself before the Lord and realizing it's not you that's doing the good works, it's Him working through you. You see, it's human nature to seek after our own glory. Pride is a mighty powerful force. Pride and seeking glory is what led Lucifer to become Satan. He still thinks that He will be like the Most High and be worshipped as God.(Is 14:14) God makes it very clear that He will not share His glory with others but He also makes it clear that He loves the humble.

Luke 1:52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.

1 Peter 5:5 "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

The apostles knew this. Their biggest fear was when God used them to do miracles that people would want to worship them instead of God. In Acts 14 the Lord used Paul to heal a lame man. When the people thought that he and Barnabas must be gods to worship, they tore their clothes (a sign of distress or anguish). Listen to what Paul says about this in Acts 14:15 "Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.

Now, I will confess to you that for me, this is the hardest step. When people praise you for something that God did through you, it is hard not to get puffed up and start thinking that you are really something. I have some news for you. If you really want God to stop using you, just start taking the glory for yourself. God has a way of quickly showing us that it's not because we are so great, that He uses us. He honors humility. Now, He can humble us or we can humble ourselves. The latter way is usually much less painful. That's why my new favorite verse is Gal 6:3 "If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself."

1 Peter 5:6 says "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time." This is such a beautiful verse. We don't need to build ourselves up but just let the Lord work and He will lift us up.
The older I get (ok, stop laughing) and the longer I serve the Lord, the more I understand this concept.
I really can do nothing of eternal
value on my own, but it is awesome to watch what God can do. There is nothing that brings more joy than being used by God and watching Him receive the glory!


GAME PLAN: Review the four steps to fulfilling your purpose on this earth.

Receive Christ and be born again

Receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit

Find and operate within your spiritual gifts

Humble yourself before God

I pray that you can follow these steps and thus accomplish the good works that God has prepared in advance for you to do!

God bless you as you seek to fulfill YOUR purpose in this life,


Friday, July 2, 2010

How to Fulfill Your Purpose in Life, Pt 2

Welcome back, I hope you read part one of this series. If not, you might want to do that before you read this post. In part one; we talked about what God's purpose for us involves. That is the first thing we need to know. We looked at Ephesians 2:10 for that answer and found that it involves doing the good works that God has called us to do. We also learned that it is not possible to do that until we receive Christ and become born again. What then is step 2?

It says in the last part of the verse in Eph 2:10 that God has prepared these works in advance for us to do. So step 2 is finding out what those things are that the Lord prepared for us, individually and corporately to do. Ok, but how can we possibly know what those works are? I believe that the only way we find the answer to that is in developing a personal relationship with Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit! I submit to you that all too often the missing ingredient, which, by the way, is not mentioned in Pastor Rick's book, is the critical role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. I believe that much the body of Christ does not really understand the person and work of God the Holy Spirit and it prevents them from fulfilling their purpose.

Did you know that even born again believers can do works that are completely worthless in the sight of God because we do them with carnal motives, by the power of our own flesh and bring the glory to us not God? Listen to these scriptures

1 Chron 28:9 "for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts."

Prov 20:27 "The lamp of the Lord searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being."

You see, works that are truly good are always "Spirit led and Spirit powered", done with pure motives.

I really believe that a big part of this problem is the lack of proper teaching about the Holy Spirit in much of the church today. OK, so why is the Holy Spirit so important in accomplishing God's purpose in our lives? Because it is He who gives us the direction and power to do God's will. If you have studied the book of Acts you know this to be true. If you haven't, I suggest that you do. It will open your eyes to the working of the Holy Spirit in the early church.

I have recently been re-reading Pastor Chuck Smith's book called "Living Water" which has reminded me how much our lives need to be dependent upon the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish God's purpose in our lives. When He is leading you, it brings great joy to your life. But, I have noticed over the years that even people who believe in the Holy Spirit, sometimes don't seem to have the joy that comes in serving the Lord. Why is that so? Usually it is because they are still trying to do God's work in their own power. That will always lead to failure, discouragement and defeat. We cannot do God's work by our own power. We need the "power" of the Holy Spirit at work in us. To help in understanding this we need to see the three different aspects of what the Holy Spirit does in our lives.

Pastor Chuck, in his book, shows us three prepositions used in describing the work of the Spirit. The first one is found in John 14:16, 17 "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you."

The word with in Greek is "para." It literally means "come alongside" This is normally your first relationship with the Holy Spirit. He comes alongside to convict you of sin and leads you to put your trust in Christ. When you do, He then enters into your life and now resides in you The Greek preposition for in here is "en." In John chapter 20, verse 22 it says that Jesus, after His resurrection breathed on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Now the disciples had the Holy Spirit in them.

But there is one more preposition used to describe our relationship with the Holy Spirit and I think that this is what so many people lack. Acts 1:8 says, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." The word for on here is "epi". It means to come upon or over you. The purpose of the epi experience is to bring "dunamis," which means miraculous power.
Notice that Jesus then tells them that they will be His witnesses after they receive this power.
This is so important. You see, this power comes from God the Holy Spirit, not from us. Without it we cannot do the works God has prepared for us to do.

We often call this experience, of receiving the power that comes from the Holy Spirit, the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Why? Because in Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16 John the Baptist spoke of Jesus saying that his(John's)baptism is with water, signifying repentance from sin but that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. And, in Acts 1:5 Jesus said they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days. In Acts, Chapter 2 on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit filled the apostles, there appeared tongues as of fire that rested on them. Miraculous "dunamis" power was demonstrated by speaking in tongues. Peter explains that this is what God meant when He said through His prophet Joel that in the last days He would pour out His Spirit. The term pour out can literally mean to overflow. Again this is the epi experience where God overflows us with His Holy Spirit, bringing the power necessary to do His will. Notice too that this is a separate experience from the para (alongside) or "en" (receiving) experience. The disciples had already had that experience we read about in John.

You see, if we are going to fulfill our purpose in doing the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do, we need this dunamis power! Dunamis power doesn't always manifest in a supernatural way as on the Day of Pentecost, but don't be alarmed if it does. Don't quench the Spirit when He desires to do something supernatural. We want to be open to however the Lord wants to accomplish His will. I really think that the reason we so often don't see the miraculous power of the Lord, is simply our lack of faith, not necessarily that the Holy Spirit can work in that way, but that He will. Remember when Jesus was in His hometown. He could not do many miracles because of the lack of faith there. We don't want to limit what God might do because of our lack of faith, do we?

So then, step two in how we can fulfill our purpose in life, is receiving the baptism of the Spirit. We do that by simply praying and asking for it and then receive it by faith. It is, after all a gift from God, but we need to ask. The scriptures teach us that anything that is in God's will is ours when we ask for it. John 14:13-14 says "And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it."

GAME PLAN: If you have never yet prayed to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, do it now! Then ask the Lord to reveal Himself by the power of the Holy Spirit in your life and just watch what He does. You will find yourself able to understand His word better and serve him with joy.

May God bless you in your walk with Him


Friday, June 25, 2010

How to Fulfill Your Purpose in Life, Pt 1

(Author's note: This series is an expansion of a message given at LTCF on 6/23/10. It would be a good idea to have your bible out to follow the scriptures used in this post. J)

Ok, I know what you're thinking. Entire books have been written on this subject by much smarter people than an old football coach. I entirely agree. So why am I dealing with this topic? Well, is there any more important question to ask than why are we here and do we have a purpose? If so what is it, how do we find it? All of the great philosophers in history have wrestled with that question. I think that every person on earth must think of that at some point in their life. If you have not yet settled this is your mind and heart, I believe that this series will help.

Have you ever thought about how an atheist, who believes in evolution, must answer this question? After all, if we are a cosmic accident, evolving over billions of years from some other life form, then we couldn't possibly have a soul or spirit. If that is true, then how could we have any purpose other than what we ourselves might decide to have? The famous atheist philosopher, Bertrand Russell once said, "Unless you assume a God, the question of life's purpose is meaningless." How depressing is that? But it's true.

Let's think for a minute about what people who don't believe in God might decide their purpose is. I often ask my students what they would like their future to look like. Many would say that the sole purpose of their life is to become rich, famous and powerful. That can end in a couple of ways;

  1. It never happens in which case they may become depressed, angry and sometimes become self-destructive
  2. They reach their goal, but they find out it doesn't satisfy them.

We have all heard testimonies of people like this. People, at the pinnacle of worldly success, admit that they are empty inside. They realize that all they have achieved does not bring them the fulfillment that they thought it would. They still must ask themselves, "What is my true purpose in life?" Even people who have a more noble purpose than fame and riches, still find themselves unfulfilled in the end. I recall at the end of the movie "Schindler's List", the scene where He is being praised for his good works. His statement was "I SHOULD HAVE DONE MORE!"

Well, as Christians, we receive our purpose from God. Rick Warren, in his bestselling book, "The Purpose Driven Life" begins chapter one with the title, "It All begins with God". So true! Maybe you have read his book so you think that you can go ahead and take a nap now, but I hope, that in this series, I can share some important things about this topic that were not discussed. SO, STAY AWAKE! Pastor Rick is right, fulfilling life's purpose does begin with God, but it's more than that. Let's start with what God's word tells us our purpose is.

Eph 2:10 says: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Our purpose then is really quite simple. Do those good works that he has prepared in advance for you to do. The question is, how do we accomplish this? Notice it says that we are created for good works. I believe that the context of this word "created" is speaking of our recreation at the point of salvation, being born again. Why do I say that? Look back at verse 1 in Eph 2

(1) As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, (2) in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (3) All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

We were dead (spiritually) in our transgressions. DEAD! Not mostly dead like in Princess Bride, but DEAD! A (spiritually) dead person cannot do good works. Before being born again we cannot do any truly good works. You say "but what about non believers who give to feed the poor or save the whales or find a cure to cancer?" Well, I am glad that people do these things, but remember that God judges the intent of our hearts. Even if we think our motives are pure, there is always some selfishness involved.

Jer 17:9-10 "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.

Truly good works always bring glory to God, not man. We don't have it in our human nature to do good works without wanting some glory for ourselves. But, praise be to God he saves us from this plight and recreates us to do good works

2 Corinthians 5:17 says: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new. We are new creatures, recreated. All of this done by His grace!
Look back at Eph 2:7-9 "in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Therefore, when we are born again we gain the ability to do good works that bring glory to God, not us. So the first step in fulfilling our purpose in life is receiving Jesus as our savior and becoming a new creation in Christ. If you want to find your purpose in life, you must take that first step and receive Jesus Christ as your savior and Lord. If you have never done that I pray that you would take that step right now. You can follow the steps listed in the left hand column of this blog entitled "How to become a Christian" Then you will be ready for step two in fulfilling your purpose in life, which will be in the next post entitled, "The Baptism of the Holy Spirit"

May God bless you as you follow His leading in doing the good works He has prepared in advance for you to do! Coach