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Archive for July, 2008

Why was crying on July 24th at 3:30pm such a big deal?  Well, because I don’t cry.  In fact, since Tenly and I have been married (over 3 1/2 years), this marks only the second time water has come from my eyes.  It’s not that I’m deprived of any deep feelings.  I’m just not an a emotional guy.  I am very passionate about many things including Christ, family and friends, the lost, world and cultural issues, sports, and getting people in running shoes to fit their feet.  Don’t misunderstand me.  I don’t consider it a loop on my macho belt that I don’t cry often.  I’m not boasting about it.  I just don’t do it very often.  All this to say that yesterday was a very special day for me.  Allow me to set the scene for you.  I arrived home around 3:00 pm from playing tennis with one of our assistant coaches at Tech.  She beat me badly.  Upon arrival, I went to get the mail.  We had received a several items including a bill, a box from mom, and a letter from a fellow named Wes Yeary.  Wes is the sports Chaplain on the campus of Baylor University in Waco, TX.   I had been expecting this letter from him for about a week.  

I have a friend In Kenya whose name is Joseph Riri (pronounced Lili).  Joseph is a professional runner, and the brother of one of my closest friends, Francis Muithiri, a former runner at Auburn University.  Since the first of this year, Joseph has been running a home for displaced and orphaned children due to the recent violence in his country.  He and I have talked on the phone and emailed many times in the past.  So not too long ago he emailed me asking if I could help him raise financial support for his children’s home there in Kenya.  I told him I would send him some money as soon as I got paid and would inform others as well.  Recently I sent out a mass email describing the financial need Joseph was facing, and I forwarded a copy of his own email to me detailing the urgent need for support.  Well just this past week the need grew larger.  Two of the children there at his camp as well as an overseer were tragically killed in an automobile accident.  He began to call and text message me saying that they needed help for the funeral costs.  I told him I had a little money and I had a friend who was sending me some money for him.  When I sent that mass email out, no more than ten minutes later I got a response.  Wes Yeary replied, “T, I’ll help, just let me know how.”  So I told Wes to just send me the money via mail, and I would send it to Joseph Western Union.  Yesterday as I sat at the kitchen table and opened the card from Wes and the saw the enclosed check something came over me.  Tenly was no more that 5-7 feet away from me in the kitchen cooking us an early dinner.  I decided to head back to the bedroom to be alone for a moment.  As I stared at the check walking back to our bedroom, I began to cry.  I cried because I could not believe how much the check was made out for.  It  wasn’t a great sum of money.  It was just more than I was expecting.  I imagined how Joseph would feel when he received it at Western Union the next day.  I imagined him just shaking his head in gratitude and disbelief.  The check could not have been more timely.  Just yesterday morning Joseph called and sent several text messages to me describing the financial situation he had.  He was having the funeral for the children on Saturday and needed money. He said he was desperate.  As I sat there on my bed crying for the first time in several years, my wife walks in and asks me what is wrong?  I said, “I’m crying.”  She asked, “Are you OK?”  She then hugged me.  I responded, “Yes, I just can’t believe how generous Wes is and how much this will mean to Joseph.”  She started laughing, as did I.  I told her it wasn’t funny.  To anyone who would ever listen to me, I have maintained long before this event that Wes Yeary is the most Christ like man I have ever known.  No one I have ever known serves our Lord more faithfully, humbly, or generously.  Spiritually speaking he is a hero of mine.  For the rest of the afternoon I was visibly shaken by his kindness.  As we ate dinner I fought back tears and even several hours after I was still struggling to maintain my composure.  I just kept imagining how much this money would mean to Joseph and the children he so faithfully serves.  I wish I could see his face when he gets the money.  I believe he too won’t know if he should smile or cry.  Wes is not a rich man by today’s economic standards (unless he’s got some cashed buried somewhere near Waco), but he is the richest man in life and in Christ I have ever known.  Wes didn’t just send money to Kenya yesterday, he sent hope, kindness, compassion, and his heart.  While Wes sent his heart to Kenya, he made mine weep with joy, as once again I was reminded at the love of God through Christ Jesus from one Wes Yeary in Waco TX, to one Joseph Riri in Kenya.  Oh and one last thing, did I mention that Wes has never met Joseph nor is he ever likely to do so.  Well until eternity of course, where we will all give thanks for our great God and Savior together. 

II Corinthians 9:11  You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

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All sin is bad; however, prostitution is in its own category.  What makes it so bad?  You are not only sinning against Christ, but your own body. I Corinthians 6:18 reads,18Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Using what was made to be a temple for God’s spirit to dwell and making it into a self worshiping idol of pleasure and money.

God never intended for sex to be merely a pleasure enjoyed for a fleeting moment by two people who are basically strangers.  God’s plan for sex was pleasure and procreation in a marriage relationship between one man and one woman. If we were all very honest about ourselves, we would all come to the place where we would have to admit that we too participate in prostitution. We may not be selling our bodies to others for money and pleasure, but we all prostitute ourselves to sin and momentary pleasures in some form.  All sin is a form of prostitution.  We take the things that God gave us for good and enjoyment and twist them into sinful idols of pleasure for our own liking.  All sin is fun and pleasing to us in some form, otherwise we wouldn’t do it.  Sin is not dull and ugly.  It appears beautiful and enticing.  Oh but how we play the fool, as the sin we so adored leaves us feeling empty and unfulfilled.  This reminds me of the only time I have had the pleasure of hitting a Pinata.  I was in second grade and attending my friend Joey Steel’s eighth birthday party at his house.  His parents got all the kids lined up underneath a tree in his front yard to take a swing at the pinata.  I was second in line.  The kid in front of me hit nothing but air.  Then they blind folded me, spun me around, and turned me loose.  What happened next has been described by some as a Mexican Massacre. Even as a child, I possessed a keen sense of direction.  I headed straight for the Pinata stick in hand and determined to unleash my full wrath.  I reached back and took a swing from somewhere in Mississippi.  When I connected I heard two things, the children and parents standing by saying “Oh my,” and the sound of candy falling rapidly on the ground in front of me.  There were still several kids in line behind me including the birthday boy Joey.  The idea was for each kid to take a swing at the candy filled creation. However, after me there would be no more swings.  Once I connected with that Pinata shaped donkey, there was no stopping me.  I whaled on that Mexican party favorite as if it had hurled insults at my very mother. Any and all attempts to stop me were futile.  I wasn’t satisfied until the donkey was dead, done, lying on the ground with candy everywhere.  It wasn’t my birthday party, but it was my day of reckoning. 

The truth is that when you and I prostitute our lives over to sin, we are not at all unlike this unfortunate donkey.  Not only do we make an “ass” out of ourselves in God’s eyes, but we allow the devil to beat us down in an attempt to remove anything and everything Christ-like in our lives, and he won’t stop until we are on the ground beaten, bruised, and discouraged.  I believe it would do us all good in our fight against sin to take sin much more seriously than perhaps we previously have.  Look at it for what it really is, prostitution before a righteous and Holy God.  Realize that the temptation we are faced with is really the devil’s sneaky ploy to beat you and me down, and it will only be pleasing for a moment.  Jesus Christ is much more beautiful and satisfying than sin.  Jesus has/is saving us from the power of sin and death that once ruled our lives(Romans 5:8).  He reconciled us to God to be a people set apart to carry out the great commission to the glory of his name.  My earnest prayer is that you and I would see chiefly the beauty of Christ and the great commission as more satisfying than the sin in front of us.  I also pray we turn to Christ and away from the sin “that so easily entangles us and that we fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith.”(Hebrews 12:2).  When it comes to the temptation of sin, we either turn to Christ or risk winding up like my friend Joey’s Pinata. Trust me.  If you had seen that Pinata, then you would most assuredly choose Christ.

Judges 8:33-34  33No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith as their god and 34 did not remember the LORD their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side.

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The Threat is Real

There are some things in life that take us completely by surprise, and we remember them often as we grow. Once such event happened when I was attending college at Samford University. While at Samford I joined a fraternity as an opportunity to share Christ’s love and message of hope. The Lambda Chi’s at Samford were known par-tiers, and I saw a great need. A fellow named Scott was a pledge brother of mine, and the most Christ like person in our fraternity. I will always remember Scott as a meek, wise, and joyful person. On one rare occasion however, he was none of these. Each week we held fraternal meetings on Sunday nights known as Chapter meetings. Chapter meetings were for all brothers and pledges to get together to discuss campus and fraternal news. At this particular meeting our members were taking turns discussing things related to their official position in the fraternity. Seemingly out of nowhere Scott spoke up from behind a table where he was seated as Fraternal secretary. “Grant, if you don’t stop taking my clothes out of the washer and throwing them on the floor, I will stab you with skewers!” The entire chapter room fell silent with disbelief. Apparently Grant, a fellow pledge brother had been throwing Scott’s washed clothes on the dirty hall floor instead of in the dryer. Later that week while in class I cautiously approached the normally mild Scott, and asked him this question, “Scott why Skewers?” To which he responded, “Because he had to know the threat was real.” I think Grant viewed the threat as real, as I never heard of him mishandling Scott’s freshly washed clothes again. There is another threat that is even more real than the one spoken by Scott toward Grant. This threat happens in many places and churches across our great land each Sunday. Places and Pulpits where sermons once focused on great themes of salvation, sin, grace, repentance and God’s glory have been replaced by a message that threatens the very good news that is the gospel. This threat is the “so called” Health, Wealth, and Prosperity Gospel (HWP). This perversion of the true gospel of Jesus Christ, promises success through, but not limited too, financial and material gain, promotions at work, social popularity, sickness and disease free living, and a general feeling of well being. According to those that teach this heresy, those that “speak in faith” can have any and everything their heart desires (all immoral and bad stuff excluded of course). It is truly Your Best Life Now.And if you are sick, in debt, unpopular, or poor, well either you don’t have enough faith, or you are obviously living in sin. I remember a church back home in Rainbow City, AL who ran a frequent commercial on TV promoting their fellowship. The commercial ended with the Pastor standing in front of the church saying, “So come join us at ——– Christian Fellowship, where Jesus is the source of our success.” I don’t disagree that Jesus is behind all of our successes as Christians, but isn’t he chiefly and primarily the source of our salvation? I recall another conversation I had with someone in a group setting who told me “God wants us to have nice things.” I was not a position to refute this claim because of the time and place that accompanied this theologically poor statement. I wonder though, does God only want American Christians to have nice things?  Because I have several Kenyan friends who are devout Christians and they and their families have never had “nice things.” Truth be told, i’ve never heard them say they needed or wanted anything materialistic.  The problem with the HWP gospel and the statement previously mentioned is, they merit no scriptural foundation. They are exactly what Paul warned Timothy about in II Timothy 4:2-4, where he tells him,

2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

The last days began when the Messiah came on the scene, Paul experienced false gospels just as we do. The false gospel of the HWP movement is in every way a danger and threat to the gospel Jesus that the NT and OT writers spoke of. It is a gospel void of life changing , God glorifying, sinner dying, soul satisfying, Christ centred salvation. Those that teach it, don’t use words like sinner, or sin in their messages. They don’t want to be offensive. Instead they use more “positive” terms like hope, love, success, prosperity, and blessing. My question is, what good news is the gospel if a man/woman doesn’t know he/she is lost. I remember a “prominent” TV preacher being interviewed once and was asked why he doesn’t use words like sinner in his messages? To which he replied by explaining that in his view people already knew how bad they were, and instead needed to be encouraged. Encouraged to what I would like to know, becoming better people? Because I assure you he is not encouraging them to go and die for the gosepl of Jesus like nearly all the apostles and many, many followers have done since Christ’s death. People like him, are not “encouraging” their prominent and wealthy church members to go the hard places of the world and serve in orphanages, dig wells for drinking water, or bandage the wounds of severely ill AIDS patients, while sharing the truth of the gospel with them. This is the gospel of “get all you can, while you can, and then sit on the can,” as a friend once told me. The true gospel of Jesus Christ is Romans 5:8, Romans 3:23-26, Ephesians, John 3:16, and many other verse found throughout scripture that place Jesus and his blood offering for the forgiveness of sins at the center of the gospel and not a new house on the lake or a promotion at work. Worse of all, if the HWP gospel is true then our Beloved Jesus is a liar. The HWP teachers insist that if you are sick and not healthy, then it is the because of sin in your life. Jesus was once asked whose fault or sin it was that a certain man was blind, his or his parents? To which Jesus replied neither. According to Jesus he was born blind so that the work and glory of God might be seen. Jesus then healed the man of his blindness (John 9:1-12). So if the gospel of John is correctly quoting Jesus than God’s will was for this man to be born blind until he met Christ. I guess all sickness is not bad and from the devil. I wonder how well the HWP gospel would go over with parents visiting the sick children in the cancer and leukaemia ward of a hospital. “If y’all weren’t in sin, your child would be well.” Or, “its not God’s will for your child to be sick.” The HWPG is a lie, a lie that has a proper place in hell. When it comes to Truth and the gospel I will side with scripture and Christ. As the bible says ” Let God be true, and every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). Personally, I believe what scripture teaches. I would be real careful about calling God a liar. But that is essentially what the HWPG does. Lies, money, and driven by success, no this is not an episode from General Hospital,it is called preaching from many pulpits. It is Jesus + money+ good health+ a new sports car. If you prescribe to Jesus + anything you get hell. It’s Jesus beaten, bloody, and crucified for me, because that’s what the scripture teaches, and God is no liar. I’m not opposed to “nice things”, or money. I am opposed to un-scriptural teaching about them, and the gift being valued more than the giver.

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Is it possible to ever have “too much of a good thing?” Obviously if you were to eat eat too much ice cream too fast, you would end up with a nice helping of brain freeze and a stern stomach ache.  Or if your like my dad and you jammed Led Zeppelin in your ultra cool Barracuda at deafening levels for the length of your 20’s, you might find yourself asking people, “i’m sorry can you please repeat that?”  As I heard a friend of his once say, “I used to listen to my music loud because I wanted too, now I listen to it loud because I have too.” What about family, or sports, or friends, or television, or the Internet?  All of these previously mentioned posses the capacity for much good.  However, if we devote too much time to any one of these (or others), no matter how much we enjoy them or derive pleasure from them, they can become bad.  No they have not suddenly gone bad as if they have “turned to the dark side.”  We have caused them to become bad for us.  The Lord spoke to Moses and the Nation of Israel saying,”  You shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3).  So often we can be guilty of idolatry and yet believe in our own minds that we are simply enjoying the things God has given us.  This is especially true for me as Tenly and I are expecting our first child within the next two weeks.  We as parents must be oh so careful not to elevate God’s precious gift to us above Himself.  Even of late it seems we have spoken of the baby more often than Christ in our conversations.  For you it may not be family, it may be music.  You may listen to and play music to the point where you neglect to spend time with God in pray and His Word.  Perhaps you follow sports so closely that it dominates your conversations with your lost co-workers and friends (I have been guilty of this before).  Maybe you skip church to go fishing. Wherever you derive your pleasure, just know that the enemy wants to turn a good thing into a idol in your life.  We often travel down the road to idolatry when we set our spiritual lives on cruise control. We set a speed, zone out a little and stay there until something causes us to hit the brakes.  We must be ever aware that the devil is trying to destroy our lives at every step (1Peter 5:8).  So many Christians are not taken hostage by the “bad” sins we often think about, but by boats, and girlfriends, and football games, and flat screen TVs.  God wants our passion to be singular, for Christ alone.  We can use cars, tennis matches, bowling leagues, golf clubs, movie nights with friends, family vacations for the glory of God, but we can also use them for our selfish gain.  It isn’t wrong to go on a family trip, play church softball, or go shopping at the mall. It’s wrong when we do these things and don’t consider Christ.  So go enjoy the things you find pleasurable, just as long as you find your ultimate pleasure in Christ (Matthew 6:33, Psalm 37:4,Romans 7:22, Psalm 35:9).  The key to enjoying whatever you and I enjoy, is to enjoy them, through the person of Jesus Christ, and him above all else.

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Thanks to David

A fellow named David commented this morning on Coldplay, Christ, and Confidence Before the Throne that he thought the lyric in the song was “I know St. Peter wont call my name.” I had the lyric as “I know St. Peter will call my name.”  There is a wide debate among lyrical websites concerning whether Chris Martin sings “will” or “wont.” I copied and pasted the lyrics from a wesite in attempt to ensure accuracy.  After going back and listening to the song several times, both studio and live. I agree with David that he says “wont call my name”, but even now I am not 100% certain.  None the less, I have updated the commentary with what I know believe are the proper lyrics, thanks of course to David.     

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