Morse Code

Many years ago, a young man applied for a job as a Morse Code operator.  When he arrived for the interview, he walked into a large, busy office filled with noise and clatter, including the sound of the telegraph in the background.  Each applicant filled out a form and were seated until they were summoned into the inner office.  Seven other applicants sat in the room waiting. After a few minutes, the young man stood up, crossed the room to the door of the inner office and walked right in.  Naturally the other applicants perked up and wondering what was going on. They muttered among themselves that they hadn't heard any summons yet.  They assumed that the young man who went into the office made a mistake and would be disqualified.

Within a few minutes, however, the employer escorted the young man out of the office and said to the other applicants, "Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming, but the job has just been filled." The other applicants began grumbling to each other, and one spoke up saying, "Wait a minute, I don't understand.  He was the last to come in, and we never even got a chance to be interviewed.  Yet he got the job.  That's not fair!”   The employer said, "I'm sorry, but the last several minutes while you've been sitting here, the telegraph has been ticking out the following message in Morse Code: 'If you understand this message, then come right in.  The job is yours.' None of you heard it or understood it.  This young man did.  The job is his" (Tim Shin Illustrations).

We live in a world filled with noisy chatter and information.  There are so many opinions and beliefs that it can be extremely difficult to know what to listen to.  Thankfully, God made it extremely clear.  At Jesus’ transfiguration while He was on the mountain, God called down from heaven and said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5).

Jesus truly is God’s Son and the Savior of this world.  With so much background noise, it’s easy for the words of truth to be drowned out.  Jesus is only one who has the words of eternal life (John 6:68).  It is by His words that we will be judged by in the end (John 12:48).  In a world filled with confusing information, let’s keep focused on the words of life, Jesus’ words.

How to Avoid Speeding Tickets

I remember my first, and only, speeding ticket.  I was 16-years-old and had four friends in the car.  I was doing about 15 over the speed limit when the blue lights started flashing behind me.  My hopes of getting off with a warning vanished with the slip of paper the officer handed to me.  Not only was I embarrassed in front of my friends, but also the thought of facing my parents when I got home just about killed me.

No one likes getting a speeding ticket, or any ticket for that matter.  For this reason, a recent article titled, “10 Tips to Avoid Speeding Tickets” caught my attention.  As the article explains, motorists are often looked at as a source of revenue since 54 percent of all tickets are for speeding and add up to an estimated $2 billion in revenue every year.  Since this is the case, the article listed off ten ways to help avoid speeding tickets.  Some of them were to having situation awareness, being ready for speed traps, driving a less flashy car in the “slow lane,” and fighting every ticket in court.

Interestingly, there was one very important tip missing from this list.  If people want to avoid speeding tickets, then don’t speed.  It’s that simple.  Yes, there are some times when the speed limit drastically changes without warning with a cop waiting to nail you, but this is very rare.  The vast majority of people who get speeding tickets deserve them.  I know I deserved mine.

This article displays a sad mindset in our society.  Many are no longer concerned with “right and wrong” but simply if they get caught or not.  The article and other objects such as dash mounted radar detectors are designed to allow people to continue breaking the law without the consequences.  People are looking for ways they can get away with doing wrong.

Unfortunately, this mindset is creeping into the church as well.  Sometimes people do anything they can to sin without getting caught.  2 Corinthians talks about two different reactions people have towards doing wrong.  Listen to these words,  “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (7:10).

The “sorrow of the world” is talking about people who are just sorry they were caught.  They aren’t sorry they sinned.  Scripture says this type of sorrow produces death.  On the other side, “Godly sorrow” is talking about people who are deeply sorry they have sinned against God.  In this case, their sorrow causes them change their ways, whether they were actually caught and punished or not.  This type of sorrow leads to salvation.

Certainly we want to do everything we can to receive salvation.  Therefore, let’s choose Godly sorrow.  May we never be people who are trying to get away with doing wrong.  Let’s be people who are genuinely sorry, but also dedicated to changing our ways when we do wrong.

The Name of Jesus

Jesus--Oh what a name!

There is none other who has such fame.


This is more than just a title we speak.

His name is the epitome of the word, unique.


Throughout history, no one so wonderful can we find.

He is truly one-of-a-kind.


Because of Him God’s beautiful love was revealed (Acts 2:38).

In His name people were even healed (Acts 3:6).


Above all, eternal life through Him came (1 John 2:25).

No wonder God gave Jesus the name above every name (Philippians 2:9).


Sadly, many in this life deny Him, living for the hear and now,

But whether it’s today or soon after, every knee to Jesus will bow (Philippians 2:10).


Peter and John said, “We cannot stop speaking” about His name (Acts 4:17-20).

Since there is no name like Jesus Christ, let’s also have the boldness to do the same.

A Must-Have Tool for Every Christian

“Automaker Henry Ford asked electrical genius Charlie Steinmetz to build the generators for his factory. One day the generators ground to a halt
 and the repairmen couldn't find the problem.  So, Ford called Steinmetz,
 who tinkered with the machines for a few hours and then threw the 
switch.  The generators whirred to life.  Later,  Ford got a bill for $10,000 
from Steinmetz.  Flabbergasted, the tightfisted carmaker inquired
 why the bill was so high.  Steinmetz's reply: ‘For tinkering with the
 generators - $10.  For knowing where to tinker - $9,990.’ Ford paid the
 bill” (Today in the Word, MBI, April, 1990, p. 27).

Wisdom is an invaluable tool.  For mechanics, wisdom helps them to identify and repair a problem quickly.  For athletes, wisdom guides them to the exact right position on the field to make a spectacular play.  For doctors, wisdom can prove to be the difference in the life or death of a patient.

Similarly, wisdom is a tool every Christian must have.  Its value is priceless.  It helps us to battle sin and avoid situations where me might fail.  It guides us to say the right words to encourage and keep others faithful.  It aids us in bringing sinners to Christ.  It helps us to respond to those who challenge our faith.

The great news is that God is offering to give us this awesome tool for free!  James 1:5 says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  This doesn’t mean God is going to make us a master mechanic or world famous surgeon, but He will give us the wisdom we need for our spiritual lives!

If this tool is missing from your spiritual tool belt, be sure to consistently ask to the Lord for it.

The Horrendous Stench

Welcome to my newly purchased home.  It’s complete with all of the sights and smells of a home that was thoroughly neglected, rejected, and infested.  The first step into our home welcomes you with a whiff of nauseating stench.  Evidently, the previous homeowner allowed her pets to excrete themselves throughout the house until it became the cesspool it now is.  Even though the house had been vacant for about a year, the floors were in such terrible condition that when I pulled up the carpet the floor underneath was still wet with pet fluids.

To some, the odor of a full trashcan would smell like sweet perfume in comparison to our floors.  Just walking through the house makes you feel the need for a shower.  Now, you might think my wife and I are completely out of our minds, but we welcomed the challenge, adventure, and potential this smelly house brings.

As I was removing the floors and cleaning out the kitchen cabinets, I came upon something very unexpected.  I found can after can of carpet cleaner, air freshener, and other similar products scattered around.  What an odd thing to find in a home as smelly as this one.  It then became clear to me that the previous homeowner was well aware of the horrendous stench inside her home.  Strangely, instead of taking care of the problem by replacing the carpets and training her pets, she apparently just tried to cover up the smell.

Many people are living lives that reek of sin.  Unfortunately, instead of taking care of the sin problem, people try to cover up the stench by living double lives and wearing forged smiles.  This may trick some people, but not God.  God has a great sense of smell.  The perfume of lies and air fresheners of deceit don’t fool the Lord.

If we truly want to smell good to God, the first step is to wash away all of our sins through baptism (Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21).  As long as we live faithfully, we then become a sweet and pleasing aroma before God (2 Corinthians 2:15).  This godly smell can even bring life those who are lost (2 Corinthians 2:16).

Are we spiritually clean?  When God smells the aroma coming from us, will He smell a horrendous stench, or sweet aroma?

It’s Raining What?

Most of us are familiar with the phrase, “It’s raining cats and dogs,” but what about “it’s raining fish and frogs”?  Apparently there have been several occasions when fish and frogs have actually rained down from the sky (Weather Bug).  Fish and frogs haven’t been the only odd things to fall out of the sky.  Here are some others.

Money – Several years ago a 24-year-old woman was driving down the road when she noticed money raining down and swirling around.  She collected a substantial amount and later turned it in to the police (Reuters).

Golf Balls – Back in 1969, dozens and dozens of actual golf balls, not golf ball sized hail, rained down in Punta Gorda, FL (Popular Mechanics).

Worms – Just a couple of years ago school children laughed and ran for cover when it began to rain worms during their PE class (STV News).

Spiders – In 2007 a bunch of spiders rained down on some unsuspecting hikers in Argentina.  I’m getting chills just thinking about it!

Sharks – Last year a shark fell from the sky and landed on the 12th tee of a golf course in Southern California (Yahoo Travel).

In Scripture, there are also several accounts of strange things falling from the sky.  What fell from the sky often depended on the people’s spiritual state.  For the wicked, God rained down things like severe hail and fire (Exodus 9:23-25), powder and dust (Deuteronomy 28:24) or fire and brimstone (Luke 17:29; Genesis 19:24).  For the righteous people, God rained down manna and quail to provide for their needs (Exodus 16; Psalm 78:24, 27).

Today, the condition of our spiritual lives makes a huge difference as to what God will send our way.  If we are sinful, He will “pour out” His wrath and condemnation against us (2 Chronicles 34:21, 24-25).  For the godly, He has already “poured out” love and the precious saving blood of His Son for us (Romans 5:5; Matthew 26:28).

What God rains down on us largely hinges on the way we choose to live.  Let’s make sure we live in such a way so God rains blessings upon us (Hosea 10:12; Ephesians 1:3-10).

The Nicest Prison in the World

Welcome to Bastøy Prison Island.  This piece of land is a lush, one square mile isle comprised of pine trees, beautiful coastlines, and serene ocean sunset views.  115 prisoners are fortunate enough to stay at this prison, or maybe a better label would be holiday resort.  The inmates enjoy amenities such as a sauna, tennis courts, horseback riding, prime fishing spots, and a beach for sunbathing.  There is even a “prison blues band.”  They stay in cherry red painted wood cottages to which they hold their own keys.  They are allowed to have TVs in their rooms and wear whatever clothing they want.

While on the island the prisoners work weekday jobs such as gardening, farming, grounds maintenance, and gathering firewood.  They can have meals prepared by a chef or they can choose to buy their own food from the local shop and cook it themselves.  The chef-prepared meals include everything from chicken con carne to salmon.  So, what types of criminals are kept on this island?  There are murderers, rapists, and drug traffickers to just name a few.  As you might imagine, this prison has received plenty of criticism for their methods.  Whether we agree with their “punishment” or not, there is no doubt the Bastøy Prison is a lavishly comfortable prison.

Interestingly, there is another prison in existence that rivals the Bastøy Prison.  This prison doesn’t even feel like a prison.  In this prison many of the inmates don’t even realize they are incarcerated!  What prison is this?  Paul gives us the answer:  “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.  For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” (Romans 7:21-23).

The prison Paul is referring to is the prison of our own sinful desires.  When we give in to our fleshly lusts, we become prisoners of our sinful cravings.  This is a prison that every accountable person has stepped into (Romans 3:23).  This is a prison many people are ignorantly happy to stay in (John 3:19-20).  This is a prison where the majority of the inmates will remain their entire lives, with few obtaining freedom (Matthew 7:13-14).  This is a jail where the prisoners can engage in the sins they choose (Romans 1:21-32 provides an all too accurate description).  This is a prison where there may not be immediate punishment, but those left in this prison will be transferred to a permanent prison of torture (Luke 16:19-31; Matthew 13:40-43, 49-50).

After realizing the dangerous incarcerated state he was in, Paul asked the right question, “Wretched man that I am!  Who will set me free from the body of this death” (Romans 7:24)?  He reveals the answer is in none other than “Jesus Christ our Lord” (7:25).  In the previous chapter, Paul tells us more about this freedom in Christ.  Those who receive this freedom will “walk in newness of life” (6:4), will become “united with Christ” (6:5), and “freed from sin” (6:7).  The question is: how can we receive this freedom?  Paul clearly identifies the get the get out of jail card comes through “baptism into Jesus Christ” (6:3-7).

Are you living in the prison of your desires?  It may seem good now, but it’s only temporary.  Freedom is available.  Have you been freed (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21)?

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Billboard: “Marijuana is Safer than Drinking”

Yesterday marked the beginning of the NFL season between my beloved Denver Broncos and the Baltimore Ravens.  Interestingly, just a few days earlier a billboard appeared in Denver, plastered in Broncos colors, saying, “Stop driving players to drink!  A safer choice is now legal (Here)” (Emphasis on original).  The “safer” choice being promoted here is marijuana.  The link at the bottom of the billboard is a petition asking NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to change the NFL’s policy on marijuana, which is currently banned.

As many are aware, Colorado became one of two states to legalize marijuana recently.  What you may not know is a few weeks ago one of the best players on the Denver Broncos, Von Miller, was suspended for six games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, which is thought to have involved marijuana.  Von Miller had already tested positive for marijuana twice before this point.

Clearly there are some strong agenda’s behind this billboard.  First, it is seeking to free Von Miller, and those like him, from their well-deserved suspensions.  Secondly, it is pushing for a larger acceptance of marijuana in the NFL and in our society.  The major way it is promoting this is by claiming that marijuana is safer than alcohol.

So, is marijuana really safer than alcohol?  There is evidence to support this claim (  However, the entire argument itself is flawed.  What they are doing is asking us to choose between the lesser of two dangerous substances.  It’s like saying that shooting a small handgun at someone is “safer” than shooting a shotgun at them.  This is like saying that jumping from a four-story building is “safer” than jumping from a six-story building.  None of these are safe!  Besides, this petition is not calling for alcohol to be banned, just for players to be able to use either method to potentially hurt themselves and others.

Alcohol is known to be dangerous, but marijuana is far from safe.  Marijuana is known to cause memory loss, distorted perception, trouble with thinking and problem solving, anxiety, and other issues.  Multiple studies have confirmed that marijuana users are twice as likely to cause a car accident (USA Today; CNN Health).  “Andrea Barthwell of the American Society of Addiction Medicine says pot can be just as debilitating as alcohol” (  It’s ridiculous to call something that keeps us from thinking clearly, acting rightly, and is an obvious hazard to ourselves and others, “safe.”

No matter which is “safer,” they are both wrong according to Scripture.  God often calls us to be able to think clearly and be sober (1 Corinthians 15:34; 1 Thessalonians 5:6).  Paul talked about how he never wanted to be “mastered” by something else (1 Corinthians 6:12).  Both marijuana and alcohol have to power to take us over.  Philippians 4:8 calls for us to participate in things that are “true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, good repute, excellent, and worthy of praise,” attributes which do not apply to marijuana or alcohol.

Neither alcohol nor marijuana is safe.  The only truly safe option, both physically and spiritually, is for drugs and alcohol to remain out of our lives.

The Homing Pigeon

Most of us have gotten lost before.  Maybe we took a wrong turn or tried to navigate through an unfamiliar place.  Until the GPS was invented, getting lost was a pretty common occurrence.  The fact that we, the most intelligent beings on this earth, can get lost so easily makes one animal just that much more amazing.

The homing pigeon has astonishing navigation abilities.  Over and over again the homing pigeon has been taken far away to a place it has never been.  Once it is released the pigeon will find its bearings and fly straight back to its nest.  Some of these birds have been recorded traveling as long as 1,100 miles back to the exact spot where home is (Walcott, Charles. "Pigeon Homing: Observations, Experiments and Confusions," 1996).

This ability has stumped scientist for years.  There are many different theories about how the homing pigeon can do this.  Some think it detects the earth’s magnetic field through some sensitive particles on top of its beak.  Others think it uses distinct smells in the atmosphere to find its way home.  The most recent theory suggests this pigeon is able to hear sound waves from the earth (which are at an incredibly low 0.1 Hz) and somehow use this to help guide them home (Popular Science).  No matter the theory, scientists are still looking for the facts.

So let’s get this straight.  For generations scientists have been trying to figure out how the homing pigeon is able to go directly back to its nest from an unknown location over a thousand miles away (ibid), and yet they claim evolution as an undeniable fact?  What a completely and utterly outrageous claim!  In addition, why would the pigeon develop such an ability in the first place?  What “survival of the fittest” situation would cause a pigeon to know how to make the enormous 1,100 miles journey back to its nest?

If we are willing to accept the truth, we will see that evolution doesn’t offer us the answers, God does.  These animals clearly show design and intelligent handiwork.  God created animals like the homing pigeon to show His magnificence.  He has made these animals so that we will marvel at His power and intelligence (Isaiah 55:9; Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:21-31).

The Dog Pile

Similar to the big leagues, every year there is a High School All-Star game.  Fifty of the best High School players in the nation get an opportunity to be nationally recognized and play in a professional stadium.  For the third consecutive year, the West team beat the East.  When the final out came, the West team rushed out to the mound to celebrate in a dog pile.  A few seconds later, the East team decided to join in on the celebration and jumped on to the dog pile as well.  This joint celebration was a nice change.  It wasn’t so much about winning and losing, or celebration and grumbling.  It was just about having fun.

Even though I don’t know where these young men stand spiritually, I think they at least provide a good example for us to keep things in perspective.  See, hobbies and activities, like sports, are often taken way too seriously in our culture.  In many ways, they have become a form of idolatry.  In other words, people spend so much time engulfed in these activities that they are no longer a fun game, but have become the most important thing in life, even above God.

In Luke 10, Jesus had a conversation with two sisters, Mary and Martha.  Martha was extremely focused on being a good host and preparing a meal for Jesus.  She soon became upset at her sister for listening to Jesus’ teachings and leaving all the work to her.  She said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (40-42).

Even though Martha wasn’t engaged in a necessarily “fun” activity, she shared a similar mindset of many today.  She was simply focused on the much less important parts of life.  It’s easy to get focused on the trivial aspects of life.  Even if it is a hobby or something we love to do, we can quickly develop the wrong perspective about what is important.  Too often parents and teens allow a variety of activities to become more important than they are.

Let’s do our best to keep the sports we play and the hobbies we enjoy in the right perspective.  Let’s have fun and show good sportsmanship when we do them, but remember they are not more important that spiritual things.  In the end, nothing is more important than being focused on Christ and learning more about Him.

A Lion That Barks?

Sharon Liu had a fun family day planned at the zoo.  She wanted to show her son all of the amusing and unique animals, especially the different sounds they make.  They had approached a cage labeled “African Lion” when Liu’s son astutely pointed out that this “Lion” was barking.  It turns out this “Lion” was actually a Tibetan mastiff, a very large and longhaired dog (Pictured Above).  Apparently the zoo had been trying to deceive people, and this wasn’t the first time they had done this.

It usually isn’t hard to tell something is fake when we know what the genuine article looks like.  Sometimes the difference is so glaring that even a child can tell the difference.  The same is true in the church.  Today there is a lot of religious confusion.  There are massive amounts of literature and influential people out there who to muddy the waters, but it still isn’t too difficult to figure out what truth looks like in religion.  Even though it is a little lengthy, Jesus provided some awesome information about how to distinguish true religion and true Christians:

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  So then, you will know them by their fruits.  Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:15-23).

So, in our pursuit for true religion, the true church, and true Christians, how will we be able to tell them apart?

First, we look at their fruits.  Are they unifying or dividing the church?  Are they consistent or two faced in their lives?  Do they engage in sinful practices?  Do they teach things not found in the Bible?  Certainly there are many other ways to tell a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” but the fruits they produce will tell us a lot about them.

Second, we check if they are doing the “will of the Father in heaven.”  To put this another way, we compare their lives and teachings with Scripture.  Jesus just clearly stated that not all religious people (those who say “Lord, Lord”) are going to heaven, but rather those who are doing God’s will.  Therefore, are their teachings consistent with the Bible?  Are they trying to loosen up on commands in Scripture?  Do they fit the mold of the New Testament church in regard to its leadership, worship, name, and teachings on salvation (1 Timothy 3; Romans 16:16; Acts 2:38ff, etc)?

To put it bluntly, if any congregation or anyone does not follow the mold in Scripture then they simply aren’t a part of the true church.  Jesus even calls them, “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”  This statement isn’t meant to be harsh, just truthful.

It is going to take some work and some study to figure out the religious fakes, but we don’t have to do it alone.  Together we can sit down and figure out strictly what the Bible says.  If there is any way we can help you in this pursuit, don’t hesitate to ask.  We can guarantee that the answers will come straight from Scripture and not from opinion.  After all, in this life it is not about who is right, but what is right (God’s Word).

The true church and true Christians are out there.  Let’s not be deceived by a barking lion or a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Let’s identify the truth and stick with it.

The Missing Sponge

A surgeon was very selective with the people he wanted to work with.  It was the first day on the job for a young nurse and the surgeon decided to issue a test.  As the young nurse assisted the surgeon during a procedure, she noticed a problem.

"You've only removed eleven sponges, doctor," she said to the surgeon. "We used twelve."

"I removed them all," the doctor declared. "We'll close the incision now."

"No," the nurse objected. "We used twelve sponges."

"I'll take full responsibility," the surgeon said grimly. 

"You can't do that!" blazed the nurse. "Think of the patient."

The surgeon smiled, lifted his foot, and showed the nurse the twelfth sponge, and said, "You'll do."

It can be difficult to stand up for what is right, especially when we meet resistance.  For the young nurse, she was willing to risk disapproval and possibly even her job to stand up for what was right.  Thankfully, she was working for a person who also valued integrity.  It takes courage to expose ourselves and come under the heat of the spot light.  In John 12:42-43, we see some people who weren’t willing to stand out, “Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.”

Which do we love more, God’s approval or man’s?  It feels really good when people like us, praise us, and agree with us.  Many people are even willing to sacrifice their morals and ethics in order to lay low and run with the crowd.  It can be scary to be disliked, made fun of, and disagreed with.  It can be hard to stand up for honesty and integrity as Christians, especially when those around us do not.

Moses told Joshua before his death, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

People may dislike or disagree with us, but there is only one approval that really matters anyway, God’s.  When we stand with God, God will stand with us.  Therefore, no matter what other people may think, let’s be courageous Christians and pursue God’s approval above all others.

Thieves With A Conscience

A group of thieves broke into a building and stole computers and equipment.  What they didn’t know at the time was they were stealing from a non-profit organization that helps victims of sexual assault.  Once they discovered this, they felt bad for what they had done.  The following night, they brought back everything they stole in a shopping cart and even included a hand written apology note which said (grammatical mistakes included), “We had no idea what we were takeing.  Here your stuff back we hope that you guys can continue to make a differenence in peoples live.  God bless” (ABC Local).

First of all, it’s ironic that the same people who were sinning called for God’s blessings.  Aside from this, one wonders what was going through these thieves’ minds.  Did they think returning the items made everything OK?  Even though these robbers made a good decision in returning the stolen items, they were the ones who committed the felony in the first place.  Sometimes people misunderstand what true repentance is.  These thieves likely thought they were making things right and repenting of what they had done, even if they didn’t put it in so many words.  However, it’s clear this was not an action of repentance, but just a rare blip on the conscience meter.

What does true repentance really look like?  First, true repentance is a 180-degree turn (Acts 3:19).  A person who is walking towards sin completely changes direction, putting his back to sin, and begins walking towards God.  Second, true repentance is found in the person who is sickened by their actions and is committed to changing his ways (2 Corinthians 7:10).  After sinning with Bathsheba, David wrote a psalm that perfectly displays this point (Psalm 51).

It’s fairly easy to feel and act “sorry” for the things we have done.  Sometimes we will even go so far as to try and smooth things over with those we have wronged.  However, let’s keep in mind that true repentance is about a sincere 180-degree change, feeling guilty, and being committed and determined not to repeat past mistakes.  May we have the courage to repent and turn our backs to sin when the need arises.

The Fist Pump Before the Finish Line

Meghan Rutledge had a comfortable lead approaching the last jump, turn, and stretch of the women’s X-Games motocross 12-lap race.   She accelerated into the jump, launched into the sky, and began pumping her fist victoriously as she sailed through the air.  Doing so caused the front of the bike to tip forward.  She then landed awkwardly, lost control, and crashed.  In the blink of an eye, three other racers passed her on the final stretch and she went from certain victory to a meager fourth place.

(See Video Here)

How heartbreaking!  As the announcers said so well, Meghan Rutledge went “from the pinnacle of joy to the depths of defeat” (ibid).  The worst part about the whole situation is that it was completely her own fault.  She let pride step in the way before she had actually achieved victory.

In 1 Kings 20:11, the king of Israel responded to his prideful enemy with a wise taunt, “Let not him who girds on his armor boast like him who takes it off.”  In other words, one should never claim victory before he has achieved it.  In battle, those who had the privilege to take their armor off were typically the victors of the war.  Meghan Rutledge was boating of victory and it ironically caused her defeat.  In this case, pride literally came before the fall (Proverbs 16:18).

Jesus said in Revelation 2:10 that those who are “faithful until death will receive the crown of life.”  These are people who finish the race and live godly lives until the end.  Some feel their place in heaven is already secured and arrogantly try to coast in with their remaining time in life (1 Corinthians 10:12).  It only takes a moment for our pride to get out of check and cause us to fall.  May we never think we have won the spiritual race before we cross the finish line. 

Let’s learn from Meghan Rutledge’s mistake.  Let’s always keep our pride in check and never celebrate any victory before we have actually achieved it.

How to Quickly Damage A Reputation

Riley Cooper is a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles.  In July, Cooper attended a concert where he was denied access backstage.  Angered by this, and also a bit drunk, the football star spouted off with a very offensive racial slur at the black guards.  What Cooper didn’t know at the time was that someone captured his words on a smart phone and soon the video was posted all over the Internet.  Like a wild fire, the wide receivers words spread to his teammates, the NFL, fans, and to millions of others through the media.  Cooper has received harsh criticism from people all over the United States, as well as a fine from the Eagles.

Ever since this became public, Cooper has profusely apologized to his teammates and fans, and is even seeking counseling.  He went on to say, “The last few days have been incredibly difficult for me.  My actions were inexcusable.  The more I think about what I did, the more disgusted I get.  I keep trying to figure out how I could have said something so repulsive, and what I can do to make things better” (

Obviously Riley Cooper messed up, but thankfully he stepped up and is accepting responsibility for his actions.  Whether these were the words of an extreme racist, a one time slip of the tongue, or the “alcohol speaking” (which is a topic for another day), Cooper is going to have to deal with the consequences of his words.

This situation is a cold slap of reality about the danger of our words.  Our words can do terrible damage to others and ourselves.  Certainly this is why Scripture places so much emphasis on our words.  We are warned about the general dangers of the tongue (James 3:2-10; Colossians 3:8-10), gossip (Proverbs 26:22-25), words of anger (Matthew 5:22), lies (Colossians 3:9), etc.

As Riley Cooper can attest to, just a few poorly chosen words can quickly spread and damage our reputations.  People are watching, listening, and sometimes even imitating our words.  Let’s be all the more careful in what we say and all the more diligent to use our words for good.

The Price of Entertainment

Controversy has been swarming around the professional baseball world lately.  Around twenty players are facing the consequences for taking banned substances to enhance their game.  Some of the big names in these allegations include Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun.  There are a variety of opinions on the use of banned substances but one that really stands out is from retired Major League player, and known steroid user, John Rocker:

“Honestly, and this may go against what some people think from an ethical stand point, I think it was the better game.  At the end of the day when people are paying their $80, $120, whatever it may be, to buy their ticket and come watch that game, it’s almost like the circus is in town.  They are paid to be entertained.  They wanna see some clown throw a fastball 101 mph and some other guy hit it 500 feet.  That’s entertainment.  You’re paying to be entertained” (Yahoo Sports).

No matter what our opinion may be about the use of performance enhancing drugs, there is a much greater problem at the heart of the matter which can be seen from Rocker’s comments -- People want to be entertained.  Many problems in our society have come about as a result of people seeking to be entertained.

  • Good conversation is becoming an endangered species since so many eyes are glued to smart phones, TVs, and computers.
  • Sex, language, and graphic content have progressively bombarded our movies, TV shows, and music to make it more “entertaining.”
  • The worldly and sin focused city of Las Vegas is growing and thriving because of the millions of people who come to be entertained.
  • Performance enhancing drugs are running rampant in many sports because people continue to pay good money to watch a player succeed, break records, and win for their team.  As a result, these sports organization are able to shell out millions of dollars per year to players.  Case in point, Alex Rodriguez was paid $29 million last year by the New York Yankees.  All of this further encourages players to win, perform, and entertain at all costs.

Our world is addicted to entertainment, and it’s getting worse.  Video game sales in the US went from $3.2 billion in 1995 to $18 billion in 2007 (Video Game Sales). This desire to be entertained is even finding its way into the church.  The words of 1 Timothy 4:3-4 are ringing as true as ever, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”  Sadly, some congregations have ignored and changed Scripture to make things more appealing, tolerant, and enjoyable.  We are falling into a dangerous trap.

During his life, Solomon indulged and experimented with all the entertaining and pleasurable parts of life.  After do so, Solomon came to this reality, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.  For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”

Entertainment has a price, and if we aren’t careful, this desire may cost us everything.  Let’s be very cautious in satisfying our desires for entertainment and make sure we keep it in its proper place.  May we share in Solomon’s conclusion that fearing God and keeping His commandments comes above all else, even entertainment.

Pew Warmers

A man by the name of Steve Maraboli told of a time when he was traveling back from an exhausting business trip.  He was tired, grouchy, and irritable because of the rigorous schedule he just endured.  He was not in the mood for conversation so he turned his attention to the newspaper to catch up on the events of the world.  It seemed like nearly every page was full of stories about injustice, pain, suffering, and people losing hope.  Combined with tiredness and irritability, these depressing events pushed Steve to an emotional breakdown.  He retreated to the bathroom where he gave in to his emotions.

With tears flowing down his face, he looked up and began questioning God, “God, look at this mess.  Look at all this pain and suffering.  Look at all this killing and hate.  God, how could you let this happen?  Why don’t you do something?”  Then something strange happened.  As he was weeping and questioned God, he looked forward and saw himself in the mirror.  Just then he realized the answer to his own questions and said to himself, “Steve, stop asking God to do something.  God already did something; He gave you life.  Now YOU do something!” (Steve Maraboli. Life, the Truth, and Being Free).

For far too long many Christians and congregations, probably more than we would like to admit, have been characterized by spiritual apathy and evangelistic laziness.  The old saying still seems to be accurate, “Eighty percent of the work in a congregation is done by twenty percent of the people.”  Surely this varies from Christian to Christian and congregation to congregation, but the underlying principal is true.  Many Christians do very little, if any, work for the Lord and with the church.

On Sunday mornings many warm the pews and sing, “To the work!  To the work!”  Those in the assemblies mouth the words, “I want to be a worker for the Lord…I want to sing and pray, and be busy every day.”  We sing these words, but do we actually want to be workers for the Lord?  Do we actually want to be busy doing things for God every day?  Hopefully we really mean the words we are offering up to God in worship.

Scripture places a heavy emphasis on being active for the Lord.  It praises the workers and condemns the lazy (Proverbs 12:11; 14:23; James 2:14-26).  It honors the zealous and shows detest for the lukewarm (Matthew 22:37; Revelation 3:15-16).  It details numerous ways for followers to be active and busy for God (Teaching, preaching, evangelism, hospitality, encouragement, service, giving, etc).  The Lord is clear about the expectations for His followers.  So, what are we doing for Him?

The points stated above might have come across harsh and piercing.  The goal was not to be insulting or ugly but to simply to point out the problem and to help light a fire under us all, myself included!  Our Master, the one we all dedicated our lives to, saved us from our sins (Acts 2:38).  He sacrificed His only Son for us (John 3:16).  His Son ended up suffering an excruciating death so we could be saved (Romans 5:8-9).

God has done so much for us!  As Christians, the least we can do is be active and busy working for Him.  It’s time we do more than just warm the pews.

The Preacher With A Helicopter

The unfortunate reality of stuff is that it wears down, breaks down, and becomes old.  Take preacher I.V. Hilliard’s helicopter for example (Hilliard is the preacher for the New Light Christian Center church in Houston, TX).  Apparently he owns a helicopter and it is in need of new blades.  So, Hilliard sent out a newsletter to foster financial help from the members of his congregation.  Here are some of the things he said in the flier:

  • “Do you need better transportation?  Does your car need repair or total replacement?  Do you have a dream vehicle or luxury automobile you long to purchase?  Are you trying to sell a car, truck or SUV?  If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these please carefully read the rest of this letter!  It could change your life…”
  • “We have an urgent transportation need [the helicopter] that the Lord said can be an opportunity for you to see His favor and His wisdom released to help you.  Scripture teaches when you give to a Kingdom need God will raise up someone to use their power, their ability and their influence to help you.”
  • “…I heard that still small voice of the Holy Spirit say tell your special partners who have special transportation needs and their obedience will release favor for their needs and desires.”
  • “Send me the transportation need or dream you have by completing the online petition when you sow a $52.00 transportation favor seed believing in 52 days or 52 weeks you will experience breakthrough favor!”

(See The Full Flier Here

To put is simply, Hilliard wants people to pay for new helicopter blades.  He then gives a “divine promise” that those who contribute will experience a miraculous gift from God for their own transportation needs in the near future. This situation is wrong on so many levels. 

First, and most importantly, I.V. Hilliard is not a prophet nor did the Holy Spirit give him a message to give to his congregation.  Zechariah 13:2 talks about a time when the Lord would “remove the prophets…from the land.”  The time when this took place was during the time of the apostles.  1 Corinthians 13:8 further supports this point.  God no longer speaks directly to people nor asks them to communicate a “special message.”  Every single piece of information we need for life and godliness and everything God wants us to preach to others already been revealed in the Bible (2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Therefore, what Hilliard is claiming is false.

Secondly, Hilliard demonstrates an obvious love for money and material possessions.  He not only owns the $1 million helicopter, but he also owns a $2 million private jet, a $3 million hanger, and apparently lives in a very luxuriously home.  Scripture clearly condemns the love of money and materialism (Matthew 6:24; 1 Timothy 6:10; Matthew 16:26).  To sour the situation even more, Hilliard is telling others that by giving money to him, God will bring riches and possessions upon them as well.  Why would God ever want to spawn more love for money and material possessions in arguably the wealthiest nation in the world?  Hilliard’s claims are simply a contradiction to God’s teachings on money and material possessions.

No matter how much God blesses us financially in this life, let’s always remember to keep our earthly treasures in the proper place.  As Jesus clearly stated, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20-21).

The Fans That Missed the Victory

It was game six of the NBA finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat.  The Heat were playing at home and the Spurs were leading the series 3-2, meaning one more win would crown them as the 2013 NBA champions.  With 28 seconds left in the game, a spurs player stole a pass and got fouled at the other end.  After shooting the free throws the spurs had a 5-point lead, typically enough to secure the win.  This deficit was enough for thousands of fans to throw in the towel and try to beat the traffic.

Almost as soon as the fans stepped out of the arena, the Miami Heat sparked an amazing comeback.  With only seconds to go, the Heat dropped an incredible 3-point shot to tie the game and send it to overtime.  Meanwhile, the fans that left quickly caught wind of what was happening inside and tired to get back to their seats.  These fans were met with a team of security guards and the hard and fast rule marked with big read letters, “No re-entry allowed.”

The Heat went on to win the game 103-100 in overtime.  Players, coaches, and broadcasters all shared the view that this was one of the greatest and most exciting games.  As for the fans that decided to leave early, they missed this great victory.

In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus told a parable with surprising parallels to this game.  The parable is about ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of the virgins came prepared with enough oil and five did not.  The virgins who did not have enough oil had to leave early to go buy more.  While they were gone, the bridegroom came and let the prepared virgins in and closed the door.  When the unprepared virgins came back they begged to get in but it was too late.  The point of the parable was to warn people to be ready for Christ’s return because

In both of these situations, people missed out on the celebration because of poor choices.  As Christians, we want to stand in victory with the Lord.  Therefore, let’s remember two lessons from these situations.

1. Always Be Prepared.  We don’t know what the future holds (even in silly basketball games).  Depending on which comes first, Jesus or death, many people will be caught off guard (Matthew 25:13; 24:42, 44).  We must always be prepared.

2. Never Leave Early.  Don’t leave the faith.  Only those who are faithful until the end will receive the crown of victory (Revelation 2:10).

Let’s not be among those who miss out on the victory because we left early or because we weren’t prepared.

Lessons Learned Standing Outside the Church

Last Sunday evening during worship my 9-month-old son started getting fussy.  I took him out into the foyer and eventually had to step outside because the Lord’s Supper was being held in the foyer on this particular Sunday.  As I stood outside, I realized that I had never been outside of the building when worship was taking place.  It was a very unique experience.

First, I was able to hear beautiful singing.  Even though I wasn’t inside, I could hear voices harmonizing together and the wonderful melody pouring out of the open windows.  I was even able to pick out certain voices because of the conversations and fellowship I’ve had with these individuals.

Second, I noticed several distractions outside.  The street was busy with passing cars and people traveling to one destination or another.  My son (who loves cars) watched every vehicle until it was out of sight.  Every time a car passed by, the singing was drowned out by the road noise.  These distractions quickly cut off any connection I had with the worship inside.

Third, I saw the faces of the people in the cars.  Even though worship was taking place and there was beautiful singing to be heard, not one person looked over at the building or heard the praises being sung.  Car after car simply drove on by.  The faces I saw described people who were focused on their lives, their plans, their destinations, and people who were uninterested in worship.  These people were locked away in their cars, blocked out from God, and likely engulfed by the world.  It was sad to see people so near to a place of worship and yet so far from God.  While it’s possible not all the people I saw were lost souls, their actions and attitudes certainly pointed in that direction.

Seeing all of this outside brought me to this conclusion: It is a tremendous blessing to be able to worship with the saints.  We have no fear of persecution or punishment for our actions.  We can open the windows and let our singing be heard by all.  There are tremendous bonds and connections with those we worship with.  When we worship, we can shut ourselves out from the world and surround ourselves in worship (Romans 12:2).  While worshipping, we can put all distractions aside and focus on the Lord (Luke 10:38-42).

Worshipping the Lord is so wonderful!  This is why it’s so disheartening to see people pass by who don’t know about this blessing.  This is also why it is so horrifying to think of those who know of this privilege yet choose to skip out anyway.

Hebrews 10 summarizes this thought incredibly well: “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus…let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith…Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (19, 22-25).

When the next appointed worship time comes, let’s make sure we are there and invite others to come share in this privilege.