Friday, September 29, 2006

The Words of Terrell Owens' Publicist

A Meditation

"Honor the Lord from your wealth..." (Proverbs 3:9a)
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth...But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven..." (Matthew 6:19, 20)
"Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death." (Proverbs 11:4)

Referring to Owens' 3-year deal with the Cowboys..."T.O. has 25 million reasons to stay alive" - Kim Etheredge, T.O.'s publicist

We've all certainly heard about the supposed suicide attempt (or accidental overdose) or Terrell Owens, and it is not my goal to talk about whether I think he did or did not try to kill himself. I will leave that for another day and someone else's blog. I was interested to hear T.O.'s publicist state that he had 25 million reasons to live, referring to the $25,000,000 contract he just signed in March. Kim Etheredge, who said she was the friend who called 9-1-1 when T.O. overdosed, summed up the existence of one of the NFL's most spotlighted receivers by saying that he has "25 million reasons to stay alive."

I didn't think much about the statement when it was first made, but the more I have pondered these words, the more grim the picture gets. Twenty-five million reasons to live, but not one good one. In fact, there is only one good one, and the apostle Paul hit it on the head in Philippians 1:21 when he wrote, "To live is Christ..." For Paul, the rest of that sentence reads, "to die is gain." My fear for T.O. is that his sentence reads differently. We know the reasons to live, but to die would be vain, not gain. The vanity of a public figure taking his own life leads to memorials, but nothing of significant, eternal value. There may have been a scholarship fund set up in his name at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, his alma mater. The sale of T.O. jerseys mave have sent proceeds to some drug overdose research fund. However, that would be the end of it.

The truly sad part is this, "Riches do not profit in the day of wrath..." Twenty-five million reasons to live wasn't enough. Standing before the Lord, T.O. (or anyone else, for that matter) could speak of his success and great wealth, but it doesn't profit anything. For all the profit there was in this life, there is no profit in judgment to having great wealth. Jesus told a parable in Luke 12 about a rich man who had so much wealth stored that he had to tear down his barns to build bigger ones. Once he did that, he felt like he could relax...saying, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry" (v. 19). He had 25 million reasons to live, and they were all in a barn out back. However, the story goes on, and God says, "You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?" (v. 20). Jesus concludes, "So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

Is it important to leave an inheritance for our children? Yes. "A good man leaves an inheritance for his children's children..." (Proverbs 13:22). However, that is not storing up treasures for ourselves. That is storing up treasures for the sake of our children's future...again, for another blog. Think about Proverbs 3:9 - "Honor the Lord with your wealth..." Now, if we take Kim Etheredge's words to heart, then the reason T.O. lives is for the bottom line in his bank account. If that is the case, then is he honoring the Lord with his wealth? Does it honor the Lord for anyone (rich, poor, or somewhere in between) to find their reason for living in pieces of paper with dead presidents on them? Should wealth be the reason for living? Should wealth be the source of joy? Should life be great with Jesus, but it's really better if you're rich, too? The answer to all of these is, emphatically, no.

We have to learn the secret of being content whether we have much or little, whether we have plenty or we're on empty, whether the bank is overflowing or barely dripping with money. It is a secret that Paul learned, and in Philippians 4:13, we see how he did it. "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." I have a friend who recently said that he felt he had the gift of earning a lot of money so that he could give a lot of it away. Both are true...he makes a lot of money, and he gives a lot of it to grow the kingdom and help those who need it. Certainly, he takes care of his family, but he's not tearing down barns in order to build bigger ones. He's financing the expansion of the kingdom of God. There's a reason for working...there's a reason for living.

"For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). Can you say the same? Don't get trapped in the "25 million reasons." Live for this one.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

It Never Gets Old

Six weeks ago, a man called dropped by the church and asked if he could speak with me. He had grown up as a Catholic, believing that he was a good person (better than all those hypocrites at the church) and would certainly find a place in heaven. Well, after years of wandering from any kind of church atmosphere, he ended up on our doorstep. He asked permission to come to our church, and I assured him that he was always welcome. He began to visit and ask questions. We spoke about salvation, and he said he had heard "all this stuff" before coming to Alta Loma.

A week and a half ago, he came to my Sunday School class, connected with some of our young couples and adults, and studied the Bible with us. He's been in our services faithfully when he's been in town. I got a call from him yesterday, and he asked if I could sit down with him and tell him how to be saved. I's tonight? It wasn't good, so he came by today. In fact, he just left my office.

We talked, and he talked about the changes he's experienced in his heart the last few weeks. He has found himself avoiding sin and loving God's Word. He has found a new peace with the Lord. We talked some more, and he kept getting hung up on whether he was "worthy" to be saved. I told him that, in and of himself, he could never be worthy of salvation. However, Jesus Christ is our worthy, atoning sacrifice...dying to make us righteous. He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). I told him that when you belong to Jesus, you ARE worthy. Still, not because of you, but because of who you belong to. Jesus Christ makes us worthy of salvation, heaven, and eternal life. We "become the righteousness of God," and therefore, we find favor with God for all eternity.

After a couple of stories and analogies, I asked him, "Are you forgiven of your sin?" He replied, "I hope so." I told him that 1 John 5:13 says that we can know we have eternal life; we don't just have to hope so. He had brought a tract with he had received at a friend's church earlier in the week. It was "Steps to Peace with God." I turned him to the salvation prayer at the back and asked him to read it out loud. Then, I asked him, "Does that prayer reflect what's in your heart?" He said, "That's exactly where I am!" I asked about him being a sinner...yes. I asked about needing forgiveness...yes. I asked if he believed Jesus died for him and was raised on the third day...yes. I asked if he wanted to turn from his sins and trust Christ...yes. I asked if he would follow the Lord for the rest of his life...yes. Then, I told him that, based on the authority of Scripture, he is saved. Not my authority or the church's authority, but on the authority of God's Word (I thought that was important because of his Catholic background). You should have seen the relief that came over was as if he just wanted to know that trusting in Christ was really all that he needed to do.

It never gets old...seeing someone trust in Jesus Christ as Savior. Though I believe his faith had already been awakened before he came to my office, it was amazing to see the confidence he had in Christ as he left. Stay faithful at the task of evangelism...sometimes it takes six weeks...sometimes it takes six months...sometimes it takes six years. Jesus told us to compel people to come in, and my friend did. No longer is he just a friend...he's a brother. Praise the Lord!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Rosie O'Donnell, the Pope, and Danger

Nobody really likes being in danger. In fact, most people like to avoid it, unless, of course, you are a professional stunt man, a missionary to a third world country, or a convenient store clerk. Some jobs bring inherent danger with just comes with the territory.

On September 12, two statements were made about religion and danger that I think are interesting to compare. The first came from Rosie O'Donnell, new co-host of The View. (Side note: Though this is a second blog containing information from The View, I promise...I don't watch it.) In talking about the war on terror, O'Donnell said, "We were attacked not by a nation. And as a result of the attack and the killing of nearly 3000 innocent people, we invaded two countries and killed innocent people in their countries." When Elizabeth Hasselbeck, the professing Christian and conservative of the group, began to respond with comments on radical Islam, O'Donnell piped up again, "Just one second...radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America."

Did you read that correctly? Yes. Did she really say that? Yes. In other words, Rosie O'Donnell believes that Christians who stand for their faith (and hold to a doctrine that confronts her lesbian lifestyle) are just as dangerous as a radical Muslim. Sure, they aren't flying planes into buildings or torturing and killing those who oppose them, but they are certainly as dangerous with their articles and preaching and books. Please excuse the sarcasm.

The second comment on religion and danger came from Pope Benedict XVI, who spoke at the University of Regensburg in Germany that same day. He was speaking on faith and reason, and in doing so, he quoted 14th century emperor Manuel II, who said, "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." He did all of this to show the irrationality of conversion by compulsion...that it was no conversion at all. In other words, "The man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still." Clearly, in the pope's speech, the evil lies with radical Islam and not with Christianity.

Now, with such harsh statements coming against Christianity and Islam, I think we'll get to see which is more dangerous. First, let's think of the consequences of Rosie's words...blogs, articles, coffee shop discussions, radio talk show hosts with more material, etc. What is the world coming to?!?! (Sarcasm, yet again.). What about the result of the Pope Benedict XVI's words? Churches being bombed, Christians being shot in the West Bank and Gaza, an Austrian nun killed, the pope burned in effigy, a call for the pope's assassination, a threat to destroy the Vatican, and public Muslim prayers like "enable us to slit their throats." No sarcasm here...those are all things I found online in a 3-minute search. So, whose life is in greater jeopardy because of their words? Rosie O'Donnell or Pope Benedict XVI?

Well, the story doesn't end there. Remember those episodes of Scooby Doo when the mask was taken off the monster at the end, and you were surprised to find our who the real crook was? There's a mask here, as well. If we stop here, then we're in danger of disobeying a command of Jesus and giving too much authority to the Islamic religion.

What is the command would ignore? "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Mt. 10:28). If we stop the discussion too soon, then the greatest power of religion lies in this whether some radical Muslim will take our lives or not. Rosie would be wrong...radical Christianity wouldn't be just as threatening as radical Islam...radical Islam would be the greater danger because of the threat of death.

I still think Rosie is wrong, but in a much different way. I believe that, for Rosie O'Donnell and all others who do not believe, Christianity is much more dangerous than Islam. The Christian message is that all are sinners, and unless we repent and believe in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, then an eternity of hell awaits us. The threat of torture, a slit throat, a destroyed Vatican, a dead nun, and burned churches are nothing compared to the threat of the wrath of God being poured out on a soul for all eternity. That is danger...refusing to believe in Christ is the most dangerous life to live. We'll all stop breathing one day, but apart from Christ, you will never stop suffering.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The God of the Parking Lot

Sometimes, the Lord makes Himself known in the least expected places. Think of Balaam's donkey...who would think that the Lord would get Balaam's attention through the rebuke of an animal? Think of Elijah...we expect the Lord to be in the mountain-destroying wind, the earthquake, or the fire, right? However, it is the gentle whisper through which God spoke. Jonah was blown away by the idea that God would extend forgiveness in a place like Ninevah. The appearance of the Messiah as a humble Savior rather than a revolutionary crusader meant that Jesus was not recognized or received by His own.

When you think of how God works in this world, what do you think of? Do you think of great revivals or Billy Graham crusades? Do you think of multi-million dollar complexes being erected in the name of church expansion? What about missionaries being sent all over the world to reach the unreached millions? What about some sweaty, aching men and women resurfacing a parking lot? WHAT?!? Did that last question really fit with the others? It did this last Saturday.

God showed up when a group of men and women set out to improve our stewardship of this church property by resurfacing the parking lot. One of the things we are doing in our congregation is making an intentional effort to be better stewards of the property God has entrusted to us. Many repairs and improvements will need to be made, but we already had money set aside for this parking lot project. Originally, the money was to go to repaving...not enough money. Ok...we could consider hiring someone to resurface...again, not enough money. Well, we did have enough money to buy the supplies and do the work ourselves. So, at 8 AM this last Saturday several of our people were here, ready to get started.

After about 2 1/2 hours, it became very apparent that they would not finish half the lot...which was the goal for the day. About that time, a man named Daniel came strolling across the parking lot. He asked what we were doing, and the leader of the bunch told him. Daniel walked away...then, he came back a little while later with long boots on and equipment to do the job. It turns out that Daniel resurfaces parking lots for a living, and he decided he wanted to help. He was told that we couldn't pay him, but he didn't want it. They tried to feed him, but he wouldn't accept it. The group even tried to offer money at the end of the day, but he said the only way he would take it is to buy patching material so he could help finish the job in the coming week.

In those first 2 1/2 hours, our crew only got about 10% of the work done. In the next 2 1/2 hours, the other 90% was taken care of, with the promise of more help to come (watch out...there could be an illustration in there somewhere). Our men and women showed up that day knowing that there was a big job ahead of them. It was an overwhelming task. All they could do was be faithful to the task at hand...improving our stewardship of this property by improving the lot. In taking those steps of faithfulness, God blessed them with the help they needed to complete that day's task and more.

What do you know? God showed up in a parking lot! Mixed with the stain of resurfacing material and the sweat of the day's work were tears of joy, knowing that God had provided what we could not do ourselves. Who would have guessed that a day of potential disappointment would turn out to be an inspiring testimony to a whole congregation the very next day?

Do you feel like your just in a rut of daily living? Do you feel like what you do is no more important than parking lot maintenance? Do you feel like you are giving blood, sweat, and tears to what you do without seeing any results? Be faithful in what the Lord has given you to do, and trust the Lord for the rest...for the blessing...for the Daniel.