Monday, December 27, 2010

"Do Not Be Afraid," says the Lord. "I Have Big Plans for You."

What does God say to Joshua in the Old Testament, and Mary and the shepherds in the New Testament, and is still true for us today?

“Do not be afraid.”

And when the Lord says, “Do not be afraid,” He continues on by telling each person what are the big plans He has for them. They then have a choice to believe in Him, obey Him, and receive some incredible blessings; or, they can reject what He says to them, not believe, not obey, and miss the amazing blessings.

Let’s look at three passages, and determine:

  • Who is God talking to
  • Why God says, “Do not be afraid” to them
  • What big plans God has for them
  • How they respond to God’s Word

Joshua 1:6-9 (HCSB)
6 “Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them as an inheritance. 7 Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. 8 This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. 9 Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

  • Who is God talking to
  • Why God says, “Do not be afraid” to them
  • What big plans God has for them
  • How they respond to God’s Word

Luke 1:26-33 (HCSB)
26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And ⌊the angel⌋ came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. 30Then the angel told her: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.

  • Who is God talking to
  • Why God says, “Do not be afraid” to them
  • What big plans God has for them
  • How they respond to God’s Word

Luke 2:8-20 (HCSB)
8 In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”

13 Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: 14 Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!

15 When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. 17 After seeing ⌊them⌋, they reported the message they were told about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
19 But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.

  • Who is God talking to
  • Why God says, “Do not be afraid” to them
  • What big plans God has for them
  • How they respond to God’s Word

Big Plans

Joshua was chosen by God to lead the people into the Promised Land. Mary was chosen by God to give birth to the Savior. The shepherds were chosen by God to be the first eyewitnesses of the birth of the Christ child.

Each of the people chosen by God would have no doubt experienced a crisis of belief that required them to respond with faith and obedience.

  • Did they pass the test?
  • What do you learn from them?
  • How can you follow their example?

Put It Into Practice

  • What is one thing you will do this week to apply these verses of Scripture to your life?

A Simple Prayer: “Dear God, I believe that You have big plans for me. Help me to listen to your instructions, and to not be afraid. Help me to overcome all my fears by trusting in You. Give me the strength to walk in obedience and to experience the blessings you have for me.”

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Preparing for the Presence of God

“Prepare the way for the Lord;

make His paths straight!

. . . and everyone will see the salvation of God.”—Luke 3:4, 6

If we are to receive the powerful presence of God, we must prepare ourselves. John the Baptist was God's messenger to help people prepare to receive the Savior of the world. John preached unwaveringly: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven at hand!” (Matt. 3:2). Those who heard John's message and prepared their lives recognized Jesus when He came, and they left all to follow Him. This was especially true of the disciples, whose hearts God Himself prepared (Matt. 16:17). Preparation must precede God's presence!

God's instruction for preparation is specific: repentance! This involves a complete change of mind, heart, will, and behavior toward Him. He is Lord, and your life must be prepared to receive Him as your Lord. Anything less is inadequate. Some were obviously unprepared to follow Jesus and missed the opportunity (Luke 9:57–62). The religious leaders of Jesus' day were largely unprepared for His arrival. They knew the Messiah was coming. They even knew where He would be born (Matt. 2:4–6). Yet when word came that the Savior had been born, they made no effort to join Him, preferring instead their religious ritual.

If you are unprepared, you, too, will miss the opportunity to experience Jesus. You may practice religion, but you will miss God. While others encounter the Lord personally in worship, your heart will remain unmoved. As others receive a fresh word from God, you will experience a painful silence. Religious activity can never substitute for a heart that is pure before Him. Purity comes only through repentance. Pray, as the Psalmist did, that God will examine your heart and reveal your need to repent of your sin (Ps. 139:23–24).

Source: Experiencing God Day by Day: A Devotional and Journal.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mary Should Be Honored, But Not Worshiped

The young woman chosen by the Lord to give birth to the Savior was no doubt a faith-filled, humble servant of God. But the Bible is quite clear even by her own testimony that she is not to be worshiped. Only God is to be worshiped. We worship the triune God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Let’s take a look at Luke chapter 1 to see some amazing things. As you read the chapter, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is the hero of this chapter of the Bible?
  • What is one verse in this chapter that sums up the entire chapter?
  • What can we learn from the people in this chapter?

Read Luke 1:1-80 (HCSB)
1 Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. 3 It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.

5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest of Abijah’s division named Zechariah. His wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord. 7 But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years.

8When his division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 it happened that he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 At the hour of incense the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and overcome with fear.

13 But the angel said to him: Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 There will be joy and delight for you, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. 16 He will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.

18 “How can I know this?” Zechariah asked the angel. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. 20 Now listen! You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them. Then they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept making signs to them and remained speechless. 23 When the days of his ministry were completed, he went back home.

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived and kept herself in seclusion for five months. She said, 25 “The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favor in these days to take away my disgrace among the people.”

26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And ⌊the angel⌋ came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be.

30 Then the angel told her: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.

34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?”

35 The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”

38 “I am the Lord’s slave,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.

39 In those days Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah 40 where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she exclaimed with a loud cry: “You are the most blessed of women, and your child will be blessed! 43 How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me! 45 She who has believed is blessed because what was spoken to her by the Lord will be fulfilled!”

46 And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, 47 and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, 48 because He has looked with favor on the humble condition of His slave. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and His name is holy. 50 His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him. 51 He has done a mighty deed with His arm; He has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts; 52 He has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. 53 He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped His servant Israel, mindful of His mercy, 55 just as He spoke to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants forever.

56 And Mary stayed with her about three months; then she returned to her home.

57 Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she had a son. 58Then her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her His great mercy, and they rejoiced with her. 59 When they came to circumcise the child on the eighth day, they were going to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60But his mother responded, “No! He will be called John.” 61 Then they said to her, “None of your relatives has that name.” 62 So they motioned to his father to find out what he wanted him to be called. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote: HIS NAME IS JOHN. And they were all amazed.

64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue ⌊set free⌋, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 Fear came on all those who lived around them, and all these things were being talked about throughout the hill country of Judea.
66 All who heard about ⌊him⌋ took ⌊it⌋ to heart, saying, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the Lord’s hand was with him.

67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: 68Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has visited and provided redemption for His people. 69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, 70 just as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets in ancient times; 71 salvation from our enemies and from the clutches of those who hate us. 72 He has dealt mercifully with our fathers and remembered His holy covenant— 73 the oath that He swore to our father Abraham. He has given us the privilege, 74 since we have been rescued from our enemies’ clutches, to serve Him without fear 75 in holiness and righteousness in His presence all our days. 76 And child, you will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways,77 to give His people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. 78 Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the Dawn from on high will visit us 79 to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

80 The child grew up and became spiritually strong, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.


Let’s revisit the questions we asked earlier:

  • Who is the hero of this chapter of the Bible? Even a casual reading of the chapter will illuminate the fact that Mary is not the hero of this story – God is! She is an important person of course, but God is the one who blesses Zechariah and Elizabeth with a baby, as well as chooses Mary to be the mother of Jesus. Many people focus the attention in this chapter on the events surrounding Mary and her words. But even her words clearly indicate the God is her Savior. She is not a perfect person; she is a faithful, humble, obedient servant of the Lord. But she was in need of salvation just like every other person except Jesus, the one who was born to be the Savior of the world, of all those who would trust in Him.
  • What is one verse in this chapter that sums up the entire chapter? The sentence that sums up the entire chapter of the book of Luke says, “Nothing is impossible with God.” That is what Christmas is all about. It is celebrating the birth of the Savior, the one who came to reconcile people to God. Even if a person is far, far away from God, guess what? Nothing is impossible with God. He can forgive all sin. He wants to be your Savior. That’s why He sent His Son, born of a woman, born to save us from our sins. Re-read Luke 1:37.
  • What can we learn from the people in this chapter? I want to leave this one for you for your personal study. Take a look at three people in this story – Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary. What do we learn from each of them about faith and obedience to God? You may need to re-read the chapter.

PUT IT INTO PRACTICE: What one thing (or more) will you do to apply the truths of this Bible study to your life?

A SIMPLE PRAYER: “Lord, help me to realize that nothing is impossible with You. Because of this reality, you can do anything through me that you choose to do. Help me to believe that, and help me to follow you in faith and obedience. AMEN.”

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pushing Through

Jean Driscoll was born in 1966 with a condition known as spina bifida. She grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and in those days there was not much technology or sports opportunities with people with physical challenges. Although she had wanted to fit in and be parts of sports teams as a child and teenager, she was not physically able. And then a bicycle accident during her freshman year at high school led to multiple surgeries to repair her damaged hips and related injuries. Driscoll says, “It was a really long year. I remember praying over and over again… that I would be like everybody else. I just wanted to blend in. I hated sticking out.”

None of the surgeries worked and now came the inevitable: first crutches, and then the dreaded wheelchair.

Is God Picking On Me?

“I was so made at God because I thought that He was picking on me,” Driscoll says. “First, I was born with this disability and I was constantly teased, and then I had all these painful surgeries. I’ve got foot-long scars over both hips. None of those surgeries worked, and doctors are supposed to be able to fix everything. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t fix my body. It was a really hard time.”

  • What are some personal challenges or physical limitations that you have dealt with?
  • Did you ever feel like giving up?
  • What was it that gave you the strength to fight through those times?

Open Doors

Driscoll had no idea that God would use the wheelchair and her disability to open doors to some incredible and unimaginable places:

  • First, in high school she began playing wheelchair soccer.
  • Then she played wheelchair ice hockey, football, soccer, tennis and basketball.
  • In college, at the University of Illinois, she added track and road racing to her collegiate repertoire.
  • Her college track and field coach challenged her to compete in marathons.
  • She placed second in the Chicago Marathon.
  • Then she competed in the 1990 Boston Marathon, where she not only won the race but she broke the world record.
  • She ultimately won eight (8) Boston Marathons.
  • She competed in the Olympics Games in 1988, 1992, 1996 & 2000, winning five gold medals, three silver medals and four bronze medals.

Why Isn’t God Mad At My Siblings?

Driscoll says that in her early years that her understanding of God was skewed by tragedy and tumult. “I always felt like I was being punished because God was a big, made God and if you did things wrong, He was going to get you,” Driscoll says. “My question was, Why is He only calling me out? Why isn’t He ever mad at my siblings?”

A New Beginning

Driscoll was invited to a Bible study and challenged to trust in Jesus Christ as her Lord & Savior. After a period of time, she surrendered her heart and life to Jesus Christ. She says, “All of those early years when I was being picked on [by her peers] and I thought that God was picking on me, I was so tired of being picked on. Then I realized that I had been picked out. I had been picked out to do things that God only created me to do. I was working so hard to blend in and be like everybody else, and He kept pulling me out and showing me that I wasn’t like everybody else. My life was not meant to blend in, but it was meant to stand out. That just blew me away — and it still does.”

Read Romans 12:12
12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.

  • Why would a person need to “rejoice in hope”?
  • What does it mean to “be patient in affliction”?
  • What is the value of being “persistent in prayer”?

Mentally Tough

Driscoll says that her disability helped her to develop mental toughness.

  • What does mental toughness mean to you?
  • Do you consider yourself mentally tough?
  • If so, what has helped you develop that quality?

Impacting Africa

Driscoll has had the opportunity to coach wheelchair athletes from Africa in the past few years. Had she not been faced with the challenges she was faced with – and persevered! – she would not have had that opportunity.

  • How have you seen God open up doors of opportunity for you through your successes or difficulties?
  • How do you want your life to impact others athletically and spiritually?

Read John 17:4
4 I have glorified You on the earth by completing the work You gave Me to do.

  • In what ways did Jesus persevere in order to bring glory to God?
  • What are some ways you can glorify God through your perseverance?

A Simple Prayer: “Lord, take all of me and use me for your glory. Take my abilities and my limitations. Let me do my very best, and let me point people to faith in you.”


Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 5, “Pushing Through,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Food Court Flash Mob, Hallelujah Chorus

Good Habits

Baseball superstar Albert Pujols has been an all-star multiple times, was the NL Rookie of the Year, has been the NL MVP multiple times, and his team (the St. Louis Cardinals) won the World Series in 2006. What are the habits that have led to his success?

Pujols knows that he was blessed with God-given ability. His friend, St. Louis Cardinals’ broadcaster Rick Horton says, “He talks a lot about the responsibility to do his best with the gifts God has given him.”

Three words that describe the good habits that Albert Pujols has developed are:

  • Preparation
  • Focus
  • Discipline


Part of Pujols’ preparation to compete as a major league baseball player includes putting in extra hours at the field working on hitting drills, studying film, and fielding ground balls. Another part of his preparation is his off-season workout program, which includes strength training and conditioning. He prepares in the off-season so that he can be his best during the season. And he prepares each day so that he can be his best every day.

  • What are some ways that you prepare for competition?

Read Ephesians 6:10-18
10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. 12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.

14 Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, 15 and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. 16 In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. 18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.

  • How is a solder’s preparation similar to that of a competitor?
  • What are some consequences of not being prepared?


When you are the leader of your team, as Pujols is, there are a lot of demands on your time. Media obligations, helping teammates, community events, and more. One of the remarkable traits of Albert Pujols is his ability to stay focused on the task at hand while he is training and while he is competing in each game. There are many distractions that could grab his attention, but he is able to keep his focus.

Read 1 Corinthians 15:58
58 Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

  • What are some distractions you deal with on a daily basis?
  • In 1 Corinthians 15:58, how does Paul encourage us to avoid distractions?
  • What does “knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” mean?


Albert Pujols has never given in to the bad habits of wild drinking, partying, smoking, etc. That lifestyle is not who he is. But more than just being a wholesome person, Pujols’ good habits and discipline are rooted in his faith in Jesus Christ. He became a Christian in 1999. And his desire for others to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior motivates him to live a life of excellence and discipline. He realizes that if he leads by example, then his teammates will listen to him when he tells them that they too can be changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Read Hebrews 13:15-16
15 Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name. 16 Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.

  • In what ways are good habits a “sacrifice of praise”?
  • How does placing God at the top of your priority list keep you disciplined and paying attention to the right things?
  • How does living a Christ-honoring, disciplined life open up conversations to talk with others about your faith in Christ?

A Simple Prayer: “Lord, help me to develop the good habits of preparation, focus and discipline, so that I may live my life as a sacrifice of praise to you, and so that I can tell others how they too may have faith in Jesus Christ.”


Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 4, “Good Habits,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Being There | Ministering to Winter Sports Athletes from Around the World

Check out this article about our ministry to winter sports athletes from around the world:

And watch this video to hear about ministry at the Olympics and more:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

2010 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering Challenge: "Are We There Yet?"

Our church will be collecting a special offering at our Christmas Eve Service to support international missions. We help support more than 5000 missionaries who serve with the International Mission Board. The missions offering is named for Lottie Moon, who was a missionary to China many years ago. Watch the video below to learn more about this year's offering and more:

2010 Lottie Moon Challenge "Are We There Yet?" from Rob Stevens on Vimeo.

"Are We There Yet?" Music Video by Rick Heil of SONICFLOOd

Are We There Yet? from Rob Stevens on Vimeo.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Willing to Forgive

"Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful." Luke 6:36

We do not have the right as Christians to harbor unforgiveness.

I have heard people say on occasion, "Well, there are some things that just can't be forgiven." Like what? What is it that Jesus couldn't forgive in your life? What is it that Jesus says is beyond His ability to cleanse, heal, restore, or forgive in a person?

Take another look at your own past.

If God has forgiven you . . . He expects you to be able to forgive yourself.

If God has forgiven you . . . He expects you to extend that forgiveness to others.

- "God's Way Day by Day"

The Passionate Pursuit of Excellence

Les Steckel was an NFL coach for 20 years, coaching in San Francisco, Minnesota, New England, Denver, Tennessee, Tampa Bay and Buffalo. He coached Pro Bowl players, and he coached on two teams that competed in the Super Bowl. Through the years he observed a lot and learned a lot about pursuing excellence with a passion. Here is some of what he learned.

“If you’re going to be excellent, you always have to find ways to get better,” Steckel says.

  • What are some areas of your life where you want to get better?
  • What are you doing to get better in those areas?

Steckel says that most people tend to take shortcuts and give only what is required of them and no more.

  • What are some examples of shortcuts people take in athletics, business, ministry and family life?
  • Why do you think people take shortcuts?

Read Daniel 1:1-21
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it. 2 The Lord handed Jehoiakim king of Judah over to him, along with some of the vessels from the house of God. Nebuchadnezzar carried them to the land of Babylon, to the house of his god, and put the vessels in the treasury of his god. 3 The king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his court officials, to bring some of the Israelites from the royal family and from the nobility— 4 young men without any physical defect, good-looking, suitable for instruction in all wisdom, knowledgeable, perceptive, and capable of serving in the king’s palace—and to teach them the Chaldean language and literature. 5 The king assigned them daily provisions from the royal food and from the wine that he drank. They were to be trained for three years, and at the end of that time they were to serve in the king’s court.

6 Among them, from the descendants of Judah, were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them ⌊other⌋ names: he gave the name Belteshazzar to Daniel, Shadrach to Hananiah, Meshach to Mishael, and Abednego to Azariah.

8 Daniel determined that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or with the wine he drank. So he asked permission from the chief official not to defile himself. 9 God had granted Daniel favor and compassion from the chief official, 10 yet he said to Daniel, “My lord the king assigned your food and drink. I’m afraid ⌊of what would happen⌋ if he saw your faces looking thinner than those of the other young men your age. You would endanger my life with the king.”

11 So Daniel said to the guard whom the chief official had assigned to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for 10 days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then examine our appearance and the appearance of the young men who are eating the king’s food, and deal with your servants based on what you see.” 14 He agreed with them about this and tested them for 10 days.

15 At the end of 10 days they looked better and healthier than all the young men who were eating the king’s food. 16 So the guard continued to remove their food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables. 17 God gave these four young men knowledge and understanding in every kind of literature and wisdom. Daniel also understood visions and dreams of every kind.

18 At the end of the time that the king had said to present them, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king interviewed them, and among all of them, no one was found equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they began to serve in the king’s court. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding that the king consulted them about, he found them 10 times better than all the diviner-priests and mediums in his entire kingdom.21 Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.

  • How was Daniel intentional in his pursuit of excellence?
  • What are some temptations to go with the crowd that we face today?
  • What are some of the benefits of avoiding worldly living, like Daniel and his three friends did?

Steckel says that two factors that are important in pursuing excellence are discipline and integrity.

  • How do discipline and integrity relate to one another?
  • Are they both important to pursue excellence? Why or why not?

Read Philippians 3:12-21
12 Not that I have already reached ⌊the goal⌋ or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, 14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.

15 Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. 16 In any case, we should live up to whatever ⌊truth⌋ we have attained. 17 Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.18 For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things, 20but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.

  • What are some things that can suppress our passionate pursuit of excellence?
  • What encouragement does the apostle Paul give to us in Philippians 3:12-21 to help us overcome such obstacles?
  • What is the ultimate prize for those who strive for godly excellence?

Here is a simple prayer: “Lord, help me to be determined to live a Christ-honoring life of excellence in everything I do. Help me to intentionally improve every day. Let me live a life of discipline, of integrity, of pursuing my best always, that I may be my best and bring glory to you. May my passion for excellence inspire others to be their best too.”


Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 3, “The Passionate Pursuit,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Spirit of Excellence

NFL running back Shaun Alexander has a strong faith in Jesus Christ. And that compels him to live his life and to participate in his sport with excellence. He has been on championship teams from high school to the pros. But he has also had his share of criticism, injuries and difficult times.

Through the years, the Lord has taught him a lot about living with a spirit of excellence. Alexander encourages Christians to “walk in the spirit of excellence.” He reminds us that excellence involves living our lives with the right attitude and the right actions, big and small.

Read Ephesians 4:1-3
1 Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, 3 diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds ⌊us⌋.

  • What does the phrase “walk worthy of the calling you have received” mean?
  • How do we live this out in our daily lives?
  • What words in Ephesians 4:1-3 give us insights into how to live a life that honors the Lord?
  • What are some concrete examples of how a person could follow Shaun Alexander’s directive to “walk in the spirit of excellence”?

Read 1 John 5:1-15
1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of Him. 2 This is how we know that we love God’s children when we love God and obey His commands.
3 For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden, 4 because whatever has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. 5 And who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

6 Jesus Christ—He is the One who came by water and blood, not by water only, but by water and by blood. And the Spirit is the One who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and these three are in agreement. 9 If we accept the testimony of men, God’s testimony is greater, because it is God’s testimony that He has given about His Son. 10 (The one who believes in the Son of God has this testimony within him. The one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony God has given about His Son.) 11And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

12 The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

14 Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.

  • What are some misconceptions that people often have about Christians?
  • What parts of 1 John 5:1-15 give you the courage to wholeheartedly pursue excellence?
  • What are some things for which you should confidently ask God?

Shaun Alexander says, “The best way to honor God is to be obedient. Whatever it is I’m doing, I want to be obedient. I want to pursue Him with excellence with all that I’ve got. That’s going to lead to true obedience and true love, which pleases God.”

Read Matthew 5:14-16

14 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 15No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

  • What are some ways that God has used excellence in your life as a light to attract others to Him?
  • What are some of the other areas in your life where excellence could have a similar effect?
  • How do you make sure that your life brings glory to God (and not glory to you)?

In his own words:

“When you strive for excellence, you are fulfilled in who you are, and you can have the greatest impact on the lives of others. I think the spirit of excellence helps to continue with everything we have so that we can get to the next test and pass it. Some people strive for excellence to glorify themselves or to look good in front of others. But if you have a spirit of excellence and you’re doing what God has told you to do, you can’t help but do something greater than you thought you could do and impact more people than you otherwise could have. Having a platform is one of my callings…. I’ve got friends who no one ever hears about, and all they do is pray. But they pray with a spirit of excellence. That is their calling. So their spirit of excellence launches me to go walk in my spirit of excellence. It all works together. You have to know who you are in Christ. You have to know what God has called you to do. Then you have to do that with everything in you. The spirit of excellence causes you to affect people when you don’t know that they’re watching. It’s not about putting on your Sunday best, but it’s about walking in that spirit of excellence. When people see that, they think, This Jesus must be the real deal.” - Shaun Alexander

  • What part of Shaun Alexander’s quote above is most significant to you?

Here is a simple prayer:

“Lord, help me to live with a spirit of excellence, shining a light that will point people to faith in Jesus Christ. AMEN.”


Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 2, “The Spirit of Excellence,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Excellence: The Big Win

How do you define “excellence”?

The head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI in 2007, Tony Dungy, whose team won the Super Bowl that year, defines excellence this way: “Excellence is doing something at the very highest level it can be done using all your capabilities and everything God has given you.”

What do you think of Coach Dungy’s definition of excellence?

Read and Respond to 1 Corinthians 9:24-25

24 Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. 25 Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away.

  • According to these verses, what do athletes compete for?
  • Is it right or wrong for Christian athletes to seek to win the prize of athletic games? Why do you say so?
  • What does verse 25 teach us about self-control?
  • What does verse 25 teach us about keeping these in eternal perspective?

In terms of excellence and spiritual values, Coach Dungy says this: “If you just practice one day a week, you’re never going to be as good as if you practice every day. And that’s what it’s all about, really. It’s reading and understanding what God wants you to do and then putting it into practice. When you come up a little short and don’t quite get it, don’t give up. Continue to work at it. Say, ‘Okay, Lord, I fell a little bit short in this area. Give me another opportunity to work on it.’ The more you practice those values, the easier they become, and the better you get at them.”

Is Coach Dungy right?

As followers of Christ, we must remember that we are not just on earth to accomplish things for our own benefit. When we have success, we must not become prideful. Coach Dungy says that our purpose behind striving for excellence must always be balanced and in tune with God’s plan for our lives. We can’t just be building “bigger barns” for ourselves.

Read and Respond to Luke 12:13-21
13 Someone from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 “Friend,” He said to him, “who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 He then told them, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.”
16 Then He told them a parable: “A rich man’s land was very productive. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What should I do, since I don’t have anywhere to store my crops? 18 I will do this,’ he said. ‘I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and store all my grain and my goods there. 19 Then I’ll say to myself, “You have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.”’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared—whose will they be?’
21 “That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

  • What is the point of the story?
  • What lessons does the story teach us?
  • How can a person be rich toward God?

What are your priorities in life?

If excellence to you is only about winning or losing, then you are in danger of pride (if you win all the time) or depression (if you never win). As Coach Dungy says, “Excellence is about how you do things and doing the very best that you can. Excellence doesn’t mean you always have to win or always have to be in first place.”

Excellence for the athlete who is following Christ also means never cutting corners. Excellence includes integrity in every way. Jesus compares a person whose life is built on following Him versus one that is built on anything else.

Read Matthew 7:24-27
24 “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!”

  • What do you learn from these verses?
  • How do these verses apply to your life today?

The “big win” is our reward in heaven, to hear the Lord say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Earthly success is fleeting. Do your very best at everything you do. Live your life with excellence. But remember you are on this earth to make a difference in people’s lives for eternity!


Quotes are from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness in All Areas of Life, chapter 1: “The Big Win,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Excellence, Part 1

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing a series of blogs that I hope will encourage you in your walk with Christ. Some of the winter sports athletes and I will be using a great book produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes entitled Excellence to explore what the Bible says about living a Christ-centered life, doing everything we do with excellence. You may order this book at the FCA Gear Store.

"It may seem obvious how 'excellence' fits in the world of sports, but the truth is, true greatness is only achieved when bringing glory to God is the ultimate goal. Excellence is more than wins on game day - it is the result of honoring your commitments, valuing quality over quantity and going above and beyond . . . every single time. Excellence [the book] is a devotional that will help you learn how to raise your standards of performance and have an eternal perspective on your sport and your life. When you live, work and play with excellence, your win lasts forever."

Excellence for Christian athletes includes doing your best at every area of your life: athletic, personal, spiritual, more.

Read these verses and then answer the questions below.

Colossians 3:23-24 (HCSB)
23 Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.
  • According to these verses, how should we do everything?
  • What does it mean to do a task on earth "as something done for the Lord and not for men"?
  • What does the Lord promise to those who do everything enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men?
  • In everything that we do, if Jesus is truly our Lord (boss, head coach, leader), who are we serving? How should this impact EVERYTHING that we do?
  • As athletes, what impact does Colossians 3:23-24 have on how you train and compete?
Philippians 1:27 (HCSB)
27 Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ....

  • According to this verse, what one thing should be the focus of how you live your life?
  • What does it mean to "live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ"?
  • As athletes, what impact does Philippians 1:27 have on how you train, compete, and live every day of your life?

Bible scholar named Warren Wiersbe describes Philippians 1:27 this way in his Bible Exposition Commentary:

"The old English word conversation, of course, means walk and not talk. "Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ" (nasb). The most important weapon against the enemy is not a stirring sermon or a powerful book; it is the consistent life of believers.

"The verb Paul uses is related to our word politics. He is saying, "Behave the way citizens are supposed to behave." My wife and I were visiting in London and one day decided to go to the zoo. We boarded the bus and sat back to enjoy the ride; but it was impossible to enjoy it because of the loud, coarse conversation of the passengers at the front of the bus. Unfortunately, they were Americans; and we could see the Britishers around us raising their eyebrows and shaking their heads, as though to say, "Oh, yes, they're from America!" We were embarrassed, because we knew that these people did not really represent the best of American citizens.

"Paul is suggesting that we Christians are the citizens of heaven, and while we are on earth we ought to behave like heaven's citizens. He brings this concept up again in Philippians 3:20. It would be a very meaningful expression to the people in Philippi because Philippi was a Roman colony, and its citizens were actually Roman citizens, protected by Roman law. The church of Jesus Christ is a colony of heaven on earth! And we ought to behave like the citizens of heaven.

"Am I conducting myself in a manner worthy of the Gospel?" is a good question for us to ask ourselves regularly. We should "walk ... worthy of the calling" that we have in Christ (Eph. 4:1, nasb), which means walking "worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing" (Col. 1:10). We do not behave in order to go to heaven, as though we could be saved by our good works; but we' behave because our names are already written in heaven, and our citizenship is in heaven.

"It is worth remembering that the world around us knows only the Gospel that it sees in our lives.

You are writing a Gospel,

A chapter each day,

By the deeds that you do

And the words that you say.

Men read what you write,

Whether faithful or true:

Just what is the Gospel

According to you?

(source unknown)

"The Gospel" is the Good News that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again (1 Cor. 15:1-8). There is only one "Good News" of salvation; any other gospel is false (Gal. 1:6-10). The message of the Gospel is the Good News that sinners can become the children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, God's Son (John 3:16). To add anything to the Gospel is to deprive it of its power. We are not saved from our sins by faith in Christ plus something else; we are saved by faith in Christ alone.

"We have some neighbors who believe a false gospel," a church member told his pastor. "Do you have some literature I can give them?"

"The pastor opened his Bible to 2 Corinthians 3:2, "You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men" (nasb). He said, "The best literature in the world is no substitute for your own life. Let them see Christ in your behavior and this will open up opportunities to share Christ's Gospel with them."

"The greatest weapon against the devil is a godly life. And a local church that practices the truth, that "behaves what it believes," is going to defeat the enemy. This is the first essential for victory in this battle."

--Bible Exposition Commentary - New Testament - The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 2.
  • After you read Warren Wiersbe's thoughts, what new insights do you have?
  • How will you apply the teaching of Colossians 3:23-24 and Philippians 1:27 to your life?
Here's a simple prayer to the Lord:

"Lord, help me everyday to live my life for you. Help me to remember that I represent you at all times, and that you are always there to help me. Let me do everything with excellence, enthusiastically, as if you were right there as my coach. Help me to live my life in a way that others see that Jesus is working in my life, that they might be challenged to follow Christ as Lord and Savior. AMEN."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

No Week Is Ever The Same - And Some Are More Different Than Others

No week is ever the same - and some are more different than others. I'd like to share with you about my week. One thing I am confident of: the Lord has been with me all the time.

Sunday, Oct 3, AM: Hollywood - spoke at Hollywood Baptist Church (Rome, GA). I served as an intern at Hollywood for a year while I was in college, and have remained good friends with their pastor David Harper and many folks from their church family. They have sent mission teams up to Lake Placid a couple of times, and hope to do so again in the future. It was fun sharing with them about our ministry in Lake Placid and my experiences as chaplain at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. I was surprised and encouraged to see my brother-in-law and sister-in-law Rob & Maria! They recently moved from Lake Placid back to GA, and they popped in for worship at Hollywood.

Sunday, Oct 3, afternoon: Hospital - met my parents for lunch, along with Rob & Maria, and Pastor David Harper & his wife Beverly. After lunch, my parents and I went to the hospital to visit my grandfather, who had become very ill. We visited with him, prayed with him, and saw other family members there. The doctors had decided that he needed to move back to ICU.

Sunday, Oct 3, PM: Hebron - spoke at Hebron Baptist Church (Dacula, GA). I served as a youth pastor at Hebron from 1992-2001. I shared with the folks there about our ministry in Lake Placid and experiences from the Olympics. I also showed a couple of the excellent videos produced recently that tell a bit of the story. One is called "Life in the Fast Lane" and the other is "God at the Games." Afterwards, I talked to many friends that I had not seen in a while, including Pastor Larry Wynn and many of the pastors & staff of Hebron. It was good to catch up, to see what the Lord is doing in their lives. Then, I went back to the hospital to visit with my grandfather until late night.

Monday, Oct 4, AM: Hospital - to the hospital with brother Greg. My aunt and my dad had both spent the night at the hospital so they could be there in case their dad (my grandfather) needed them. We all visited with him for a while, and many friends and family came by. My brother Kyle was also there all day too. Only God in His sovereignty could have worked out the details to have me in GA on these days, to be able to spend the last few days of my grandfather's life with him.

Monday, Oct 4, lunchtime: 12Stone - headed over to 12Stone Church, where a couple of guys who were in my youth ministry are now pastors. It was great catching up with Jason Britt and Ryan Britt.

Monday, Oct 4, afternoon & evening: Hospital - Our family met with a wonderful nurse who explained my grandfather's grave condition. The doctors, nurses and entire medical team at Gwinnett Medical Center provided wonderful care for him, and had been doing everything they could to help him get better. But with every day that went by it was obvious that his body was shutting down, that nothing more could be done for him. Our family cried together and then made the right decision to allow Hospice to care for my grandfather for the rest of his days, no matter how many days were left. Later that evening, after we had visited with many family & friends who came to visit, I said goodbye to Grandaddy, and told him that I loved him, knowing that this would be the last time I would see him alive on earth. But confident that in heaven I will see him again!

Tuesday, Oct 5, morning: Shorter University - my brother Kyle drove me to meet my father-in-law Eddie. Eddie had volunteered to drive me to Rome, GA so that I could speak at chapel at my alma mater, Shorter University. Shorter was where I met Kim, and we have now been married more than 16 years! It was great to see how the school has changed, and grown, and is moving forward to be a great Christ-honoring university.

Tuesday, Oct 5, afternoon/evening/night - caught an early flight from Atlanta to Charlotte, which was my connection to return home to NY. However, there was not an earlier flight to Albany, NY so I had about 5 hours in the Charlotte airport. The good news is they have free wireless internet (Atlanta airport does not) so I was able to get lots of work done, and post a few status updates. My flight arrived in Albany on time at about midnight. Then a two-hour drive home to Lake Placid. In bed by about 3:00 AM.

Wednesday, Oct 6, morning/early afternoon: LPBC office - up at regular times to get the day going and get the kids to school. Then home to rest for an hour before heading to the office at church. It was great to see that all was in order (we have a great ministry team). I got a few things done, and talked with a few people who stopped by. I talked on the phone (thankful for Verizon-to-Verizon free calling) to my dad several times during the day, and he let me know that my grandfather was not doing well. All signs seemed to indicate that he would pass away soon. At 3:30 PM, Dad called to tell me that Grandaddy had died. My emotions included: sadness, grief, and joy. I called Kim. She told Emma Grace. I drove home to tell Grant & Andy. We hugged the kids a lot. We told them how much we (and Grandaddy) loved them. We began making plans to travel to GA.

Wednesday, Oct 6, PM: Bible Study - it was good to gather with friends for a Bible study at LPBC on Wed night. We read and discussed Matthew 8 & 9, talked a lot about Jesus' ministry to people, about healing, about heaven.

Wednesday, Oct 6, late PM: Buddy Passes & Plane Tickets - thanks to some friends of friends and friends of our family, three buddy passes on Delta airlines were made available to us to help make our immediate trip to GA affordable. And Delta is one of the few airlines that still has bereavement fares available. So we purchased two confirmed seats for our youngest children, and the buddy passes were available for Grant, Kim and me.

Thursday, Oct 7, morning/afternoon: ALB airport - When our family arrived at the Albany, NY airport, we went directly to ticketing to check-in, then directly to our gate. At the gate the plane was already boarding, and when I went to the gate attendant I learned that there were only two seats available to us for standby. In other words, someone was not going on that direct flight to Atlanta. So I sent Kim with the kids on to GA. They safely arrived in ATL right on time, met up with my parents and headed toward my parents' home. Meanwhile, I was still in Albany waiting for the next flight.

Thursday, Oct 7, evening: still in ALB airport - I was a "sure thing" for the next flight to leave for Atlanta, at 5:46 PM. That is, until another flight was cancelled and all of their passengers were re-booked onto my flight. Uh-oh. After that flight left for Atlanta, I learned that there were no more flights that day. What was I going to do? The gate attendant told me that there were no available seats for the next flight - the next morning - and that the best way for him to get me to Atlanta by Friday morning was to fly me to Detroit (!) on Thursday night, then catch an early, early flight from Detroit to Atlanta. Let's go with that plan. And we did.

Thursday, Oct 7, PM: Detroit airport - After calling Kim to tell her the news ("I'm in Detroit!" "You're where? Why?") I found a good spot to watch the MLB playoffs. I made it all the way to the last inning of the Giants vs Braves game, and then the airport turned all of their TVs off - it was midnight. Had to catch the last inning by updates on my phone.

Friday, Oct 8, all night: Detroit airport - this is the third airport I've spent the night in this year, and third in my life. The first was in Washington, DC with our mission team on the way home from Nicaragua in January. The second was on my home from the Olympics I had to spend the night in Laguardia (that one took a lot of watchfulness and prayer). For this third one, in Detroit, I think I was the only non-worker who was spending the night in the airport. Lots of people looking at me strangely. Finished up a book recommended by a friend called The Race Beat. I recommend it. I had lots of Bible-reading time, lots of good worship music on the BlackBerry, lots of prayer time. I recommend that too. Finally fell asleep for a few hours, using my computer bag as my pillow (Kim's suggestion). Kind of felt like Jacob sleeping with a rock for a pillow - better than nothing, but not exactly comfortable.

Friday, Oct 8, early AM: still at Detroit airport - when you wear contacts, and you sleep in them, and you don't have saline solution (because you didn't anticipating having to sleep in an airport), when you wake up it's hard to see clearly to get to the nearest sink. After waking up a bit, I was all set to head to ATL.

Friday, Oct 8, AM: Atlanta - the plane took me from Detroit to Atlanta wonderfully, I found my parents' car that had been left for me at the airport, and cracking the code to the automatic locks I began driving to my parents' home. On the way I had a great chat on the phone with a guy who is praying about possibly planting a church in the Adirondacks at some point in the future. God is at work here. Arrived at my parents, hugged my wife, my parents and my kids, and we all prepared to go spend the day at the funeral home.

Friday, Oct 8, afternoon and evening: Tom M. Wages Funeral Home - tons of family & friends came by to visit with us. The atmosphere at the funeral home was a mixture of sadness and joy. All were sad that my grandfather had died. It's always hard to lose someone you care about and love. But there was also joy, so much so that the small kids were playing and laughing at the funeral home. They sensed that my grandfather's passing was not the end for him, just the gateway to heaven. The joy was there because we know that Grandaddy is with the Lord for all of eternity. Based on the authority of the Scriptures, the teaching of Jesus Himself and so many other passages, and based on my grandfather's faith in Jesus Christ as Lord as Savior, we have the assurance (we don't hope so, we know so) that he is with the Lord forever. If you don't have that assurance, visit this website called The Kristo. Jesus died to save you from your sins. My grandfather put his trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior - how about you?

Saturday, Oct 9, morning/afternoon: The Funeral & Graveside Service - I had the wonderful privilege to be one of the pastors preaching my grandfather's funeral. Pastor Larry Wynn from Hebron Baptist Church spoke from John 14, and talked lot about heaven. I spoke from Revelation 19, Mathew 8 & Matthew 22, talking a lot about the marriage supper of the Lamb and how my grandfather (who loved to be around family, who loved to eat, and who was deeply committed to Christ) must surely be enjoying the fellowship and food of heaven already! And then Pastor Jeff Parmer from Ebenezer Baptist Church (Dacula, GA), the church I attended through high school (and my grandfather's home church), spoke from Genesis 48 & 49 and compared my grandfather's life to Jacob. Two songs were sung, including "Amazing Grace." At the graveside, there was a military tribute to my grandfather's passing, as well as Scirpture and a final prayer. Again, there was sadness and joy. As the Bible says, "We don't grieve as those who have no hope" because our hope is in Jesus.

Saturday, Oct 9, afternoon/evening: on Grandaddy's front porch - our family gathered for food with lots of extended family and friends. Then we sat out on the front porch at my grandparents' house. My grandmother passed away 10 years ago. She and my grandfather had been married over 59 years. After she died he never remarried. He was 90 when he died. One of the things that we always did was to sit on the front porch with them, talking and laughing, and watching the kids play. A long time ago I was one of those kids! Now as we all sat there, we realized the blessing that our grandparents were to us. I mean we all knew it, but collectively we talked about it and shared our memories together. There was a lot of joy there. One interesting thing was that late in the day our youth pastor Ryan showed up. He had previously scheduled a trip from NY to GA to speak at the church my brother Greg's family attends, Chestnut Grove Baptist Church, to say "thank you" to them for bringing a mission team to NY and to share more about what God is doing here in NY. Also, Kim's sister Maria was able to come over to spend the evening with us too. So on Saturday night we all spent the night at my parents' home.

Sunday, Oct 10, morning/afternoon: traveling home to Lake Placid - our desire was to get back to Lake Placid as early as we could. We were not able to get back in time for Sunday morning worship, but Pastor Jeff Gray preached and all of our ministry leaders led, and the Lord was glorified and His Word was proclaimed! We landed in ALB, discovered we had a flat tire, called AAA (I was wondering whether to renew my membership or not, guess that question is answered!), and then headed for home. We stopped for a bite to eat, and made it home in time for me to get to a Nicaragua Mission Trip Meeting at church, and for Grant to make it to G.Y.M. youth ministry at church.

No week is ever the same - and some are more different than others. But what a blessing to know that the Lord never leaves us or forsakes us!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The God of our Salvation

"My soul waiteth only upon God [marg: is silent unto God]; from Him cometh my salvation." (Psalm 62:1)

If salvation indeed comes from God, and is entirely His work, just as creation was, it follows, as a matter of course, that our first and highest duty is to wait on Him to do the work that pleases Him. Waiting becomes then the only way to the experience of a full salvation, the only way, truly, to know God as the God of our salvation. All the difficulties that are brought forward as keeping us back from full salvation, have their cause in this one thing: the defective knowledge and practice of waiting upon God. All that the Church and its members need for the manifestation of the mighty power of God in the world, is the return to our true place, the place that belongs to us, both in creation and redemption, the place of absolute and unceasing dependence upon God. Let us strive to see what the elements are that make up this most blessed and needful waiting upon God: it may help us to discover the reasons why this grace is so little cultivated, and to feel how infinitely desirable it is that the Church, that we ourselves, should at any price learn its blessed secret.

The deep need for this Waiting on God lies equally in the nature of man and the nature of God. God, as Creator, formed man, to be a vessel in which He could show forth His power and goodness. Man was not to have in himself a fountain of life, or strength, or happiness: the ever-living and only living One was each moment to be the Communicator to him of all that he needed. Man's glory and blessedness was not to be independent, or dependent upon himself, but dependent on a God of such infinite riches and love. Man was to have the joy of receiving every moment out of the fulness of God. This was his blessedness as an unfallen creature.

When he fell from God, he was still more absolutely dependent on Him. There was not the slightest hope of his recovery out of his state of death, but in God, His power and mercy. It is God alone who began the work of redemption; it is God alone who continues and carries it on each moment in each individual believer. Even in the regenerate man there is no power of goodness in himself: he has and can have nothing that he does not each moment receive; and Waiting on God is just as indispensable, and must be just as continuous and unbroken, as the breathing that maintains his natural life.

It is, then, because Christians do not know their relation to God of absolute poverty and helplessness, that they have no sense of the need of absolute and unceasing dependence, or the unspeakable blessedness of continual Waiting on God. But when once a believer begins to see it, and consent to it, that he by the Holy Spirit must each moment receive what God each moment works, Waiting on God becomes his brightest hope and joy. As he apprehends how God, as God, as Infinite Love, delights to impart His own nature to His child as fully as He can, how God is not weary of each moment keeping charge of his life and strength, he wonders that he ever thought otherwise of God than as a God to be waited on all the day. God unceasingly giving and working; His child unceasingly waiting and receiving: this is the blessed life.

"Truly my soul waiteth upon God; from Him cometh my salvation." First we wait on God for salvation. Then we learn that salvation is only to bring us to God, and teach us to wait on Him. Then we find what is better still, that Waiting on God is itself the highest salvation. It is the ascribing to Him the glory of being All; it is the experiencing that He is All to us.

May God teach us the blessedness of waiting on Him.

"My soul, wait thou only upon God!"

-from Waiting on God by Andrew Murray

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Unsearchable Riches of Christ

"The unsearchable riches of Christ." Ephesians 3:8

My Master has riches beyond the count of arithmetic, the measurement of reason, the dream of imagination, or the eloquence of words. They are unsearchable! You may look, and study, and weigh, but Jesus is a greater Saviour than you think Him to be when your thoughts are at the greatest. My Lord is more ready to pardon than you to sin, more able to forgive than you to transgress. My Master is more willing to supply your wants than you are to confess them. Never tolerate low thoughts of my Lord Jesus. When you put the crown on His head, you will only crown Him with silver when He deserves gold. My Master has riches of happiness to bestow upon you now. He can make you to lie down in green pastures, and lead you beside still waters. There is no music like the music of His pipe, when He is the Shepherd and you are the sheep, and you lie down at His feet. There is no love like His, neither earth nor heaven can match it. To know Christ and to be found in Him—oh! this is life, this is joy, this is marrow and fatness, wine on the lees well refined. My Master does not treat His servants churlishly; He gives to them as a king giveth to a king; He gives them two heavens—a heaven below in serving Him here, and a heaven above in delighting in Him for ever. His unsearchable riches will be best known in eternity. He will give you on the way to heaven all you need; your place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks, your bread shall be given you, and your waters shall be sure; but it is there, THERE, where you shall hear the song of them that triumph, the shout of them that feast, and shall have a face-to-face view of the glorious and beloved One. The unsearchable riches of Christ! This is the tune for the minstrels of earth, and the song for the harpers of heaven. Lord, teach us more and more of Jesus, and we will tell out the good news to others.

-Morning and Evening, Charles Spurgeon.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Filled With Awe

A friend shared this devotion with me and I wanted to pass it along to you:


After Jesus had risen from the dead and "was taken up into Heaven" (Luke 24:51), those who believed in Him "joined together constantly in prayer" (Acts 1:14), "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching" (Acts 2:42), and "ate together with glad and sincere hearts" (Acts 2:46). The first believers did naturally what we try to implement in our churches today - they prayed, studied, and fellowshipped. But they had an additional characteristic of their gathering that no amount of programming will ever be able to produce.

Acts 2:43
"Everyone was filled with awe..."

Being "filled with awe" means to have an overwhelming sense of reverent fear, wonder and amazement. This is the same meaning used by Solomon when he wrote: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10). Our understanding of God begins with a reverent fear - an amazed and holy awe - which compels us to our knees in worship.

The early believers knew they were in the midst of God's Hand and were amazed; but today we often become complacent with His wonders. We forget the miracle of, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1); the marvel of, "So God created man in His own image...male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:27), and the incredible wonder of His love: "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

These verses alone should inspire a lifetime of praise - but God has given us much more. He has given His Spirit to guide and comfort; and the entirety of His Word to reveal the fullness of His character and the grandness of His majesty. About sixty years after Jesus returned to Heaven, the Apostle John was given a vision of God's throne room in order to encourage us about the future glory we will one day see.

Revelation 4:2-8
"And there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it... A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.... Around the throne, were four living creatures.... Day and night they never stop saying: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.'"

Understanding the wondrous glory of Heaven can make our daily trials seem much less of a burden!
Let's reflect on the miracles of God's creation, His plan of redemption through Jesus, and the true majesty of His Kingdom. We will begin to experience all God has planned for our life, and the life of our local church, when we return to a true reverence and wonder of our Lord. Our lives can be made whole and our worship complete only as we approach our Heavenly Father with hearts filled with awe.

-God's Daily Word Ministries

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ironman 2010 by Paul Buff

Editor's note: Paul Buff was a member of a volunteer team that traveled about 1100 miles from Kennesaw, GA to Lake Placid, NY to serve in Ironman Lake Placid 2010 and other ministries. He wrote a poem about his experience and I'd like to share it with you.


Seeking Your will as each day we pray

We’re leaving tomorrow to go Your way.

Everything’s packed and ready to go

Help us to others, Your love to show

Get to the church, then our plane we’ll meet,

Head to Boston first and leave the heat.

Grab our bags and run for the bus,

Our orange shirts let all see us.

Our next flight took us on to New York,

We can’t wait to do Your work.

Met with Brothers and Sisters at Lake Placid Church,

To challenge us as Your Word we search.

On to our “home” for a week to come,

Where it sure will be “cozy” for some.

Breakfast came early, our lunches were packed,

On the road to Lake Placid our vans were packed.

Got our assignments to various places

Where we’ll meet up with many faces.

Registration, hiking, face painting, moved chairs,

Balloons, snow cones, and lead others in prayers.

Ended the day with devotions and sharing,

How all were blessed by loving and caring.

Another day to serve, You whom we praise,

Our hands to heaven, we will raise.

Our duties brought us to meet again,

Some of those we now call friend.

Shared on the beach, the Oval, and set up a meal,

Prayed for some their injuries would heal.

The work day was long ,we’re tired and hot too,

But it was great to know that others saw You.

The suns coming up and we get to begin

Serving pancakes and breakfast and Your Word again.

Our day was filled with duties to each meet a need,

But our goal is the Gospel they’ll heed.

Many came to the church to be a part of “Iron Prayer”,

And left so much different than when they came there.

Lives were touched, changed, and never the same,

As into their hearts You surely came.

Race day is here and off to our stations,

To be part of Your work to various nations.

Such an honor and thrill to be able to meet,

All these athletes as they come to compete.

Passing out water and a word of cheer,

Seeing them try harder as they leave here.

Some come by tired, hurting, others seem fine,

Their goal being just the Finish Line.

Our purpose has been to be here for them,

But mainly through us they have seen Him.

Set up the tent for awards, for winning a place,

A meal, a prize, and applause for their race.

Much skill, dedication, practice, and care,

Was what drove them on and placed them there.

Our prayer has been that somehow we’ve told,

With lives and actions on Jesus we hold.

They too, can find the greatest emotion,

Is knowing God with true devotion.

Went to training sites where they learn to fly,

Through the air on their skis from up so high.

Had supper with some of North Country’s team,

Their love makes our family “at home” it seems.

Saw places where athletes train and play,

Enjoyed Your nature for part of the day.

Went to athletes tent for volunteers service,

Awards and prizes made some people nervous.

It’s great to see how much work , effort, and love,

Can be done if we’re driven from up above.

You’ve used our talents, time, and prayers,

To show others You’re the one who cares.

Our “works” all done this time but yet,

Your marvelous blessings we cannot forget.

By Paul Buff