Kneeling In The NFL

 

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NFL Protesters

 

The meeting was private. In attendance were a dozen muscular, well known millionaires. Their focus? How to use their fame and status to make a point. From their perspective, the police in America were out of control, shooting innocent, unarmed black men and boys. What can they do with their combined wealth and influence to solve this tragic problem?

Ideas were tossed back and forth until one of the men said, “I will refuse to stand when they play the National Anthem. This will call attention to this messed up situation in our country.”

At first he was alone as he knelt and bowed his head at the next game. The reaction was immediate and varied. Some called it stupid and irresponsible. Some thought it was a good idea. Then, as is always the case, more men joined in and refused to stand for the National Anthem. Now we have their attention, they thought. Now things will change. Did they? Unfortunately, the incidence of black men and boys dying at the hands of the police did not cease or diminish.

And the refusal to stand? The NFL has now decreed there will be no further kneeling football players during the National Anthem. If they plan to kneel, they must stay in the locker room while the anthem is playing. Then they shall come onto the field.

So what have those millionaire athletes accomplished by thumbing their noses at the American tradition of standing during the National Anthem? Well one consequence is they forced the owners to make the recalcitrant kneelers wait it out in the locker room during the National Anthem. After all, who cares about the anthem recognizing our country and its rich history; The country that has allowed these players to become wealthy and famous from doing what they enjoy doing?

My question to these role models is this: If you are actually concerned about increased violence and shooting deaths of black men and boys by police officers, what might you do about finding a solution? You have fame and wealth, people listen to you and you can afford to support a group or study aimed at discovering a solution. Wouldn’t that be more worthwhile than kneeling during the National Anthem?

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Unseen Warfare

 

“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood”  ~Ephesians 6:12

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We consider the problems in our life as originating from flesh and blood conflicts. For example, we are knocked off our perch by greedy, inconsiderate, backbiting, unfaithful, deceptive, unfair, fraudulent conflicts. Our hearts get broken, money taken, job jeopardized and so on. “How can this be happening to me?” we wail.

As Christians, however, we must remember what God says about the source of our struggles:

Ephesians 6:10-12 ~”Last of all I want to remind you that your strength must come from the Lord’s mighty power within you. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand safe against all strategies and tricks of Satan. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies—the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world.”

The unseen world rules the seen and temporary world. The unseen enemy who wars against our soul doesn’t want us to use our eternal weapons of warfare provided by God that reach into his realm. He wants us to blame each other and flail around with awkward, earthbound weaponry. He wants us to fight what we can see and touch instead of calling upon God. Above all, satan wants us to act as though we are still citizens of this earth and forget that our citizenship is in heaven.

2 Corinthians 10:3-4 ~”We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.”

There is a true King (God) and a false one; a magnificent heaven and a terrifying hell. We presently wander a battlefield called earth, which is caught between night and day, life and death. Everything we now see, including the earth, will one day pass away.

We are agents of truth who cannot afford to distrust the Holy Spirit within. Doubt is one of the mightiest weapons satan raises against us. Doubt gives birth to hesitation, unbelief and fear. Stand against the attacks, press in and get the counsel of heaven.

James 1:5-6 ~”If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him; he will not resent it. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to tell you, for a doubtful mind will be as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”

1 Corinthians 2:11-13 ~”No one can really know what anyone else is thinking or what he is really like except that person himself. And no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And God has actually given us his Spirit (not the world’s spirit) to tell us about the wonderful free gifts of grace and blessing that God has given us. In telling you about these gifts we have even used the very words given to us by the Holy Spirit, not words that we as men might choose. So we use the Holy Spirit’s words to explain the Holy Spirit’s facts.”

Psalm 86:11-13 ~”Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you. With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to your name forever, for your love for me is very great. You have rescued me from the depths of death.”

And how do you handle your problems? Are your knuckles bruised from fighting the world as though God were some distant deity, smiling down from heaven, wishing you luck? Take stock of who you are according to the Bible and call upon Mighty God to direct your path and destroy the wiles of the enemy. God never sleeps or slumbers and is always with you…every second of every day! He’s done everything possible to prepare us for battle with unseen spiritual forces. Tap into His unlimited power and, by faith, take up the armor of God! The shield of faith does wonders.

Weapons

 

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“No weapon that can hurt you has ever been forged”  Isaiah 54:17

 

In 1953 the movie Shane hit the theaters, starring Alan Ladd as the mysterious, confident stranger. Shane shows up at a farmer’s (Joe Starrett) place to find rest and work. Feeling uneasy about the stranger wearing a gun, Starrett tells Shane he has no work. Shane apparently leaves.

Moments later, cowhands from a local cattle baron ride up to the same place, intentionally riding through the vegetable garden to threaten Starrett into selling his place. The cowhands are menacing, all wearing guns, and leaving no doubt as to the future for Starrett and his wife and son if they do not sell soon.  

But then something happens to change the mood of the menacing cowboys from snarling to cautious as their attention is focused on a quiet stranger who has appeared at the corner of Starrett’s house, leaning against the building, staring ominously at the bullies.  

Since life is spiritual, it is obvious to everyone that this quiet, gun-toting stranger is a man to be reckoned with and the brazen cowboys are not sure just what he is capable of. A few words are spoken back and forth and the men begrudgingly leave after a few empty threats.  

Shane’s presence diffused what could have turned into a tragedy for the Starrett’s. The weapons formed against Joe Starrett and his family were abruptly stopped because of the potential power of the stranger.   

This simple example represents the powerful promises of almighty God to His followers: “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  (Hebrews 13:5)

In the midst of all our daily struggles and attacks of satan, God has promised that He has already defeated the enemy of our soul and we should, therefore, walk with confidence, realizing every battle is in His mighty hands. No matter the outcome, it is part of God’s plan for our lives.  

Ecc. 9:18  Better to have wisdom than weapons of war  

Is. 54:17  But in that coming day, no weapon turned against you shall succeed, and you will have justice against every courtroom lie. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord. This is the blessing I have given you, says the Lord.  

Hab. 3:19  The Lord God is my strength; he will give me the speed of a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.

Ps. 23:1  Because the Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need.  

Rom. 8:1  No condemnation now hangs over the head of those who are “in” Jesus Christ. For the new spiritual principle of life “in” Christ lifts me out of the old vicious circle of sin and death.  

2 Cor. 10:3-4  The truth is that, although of course we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. The very weapons we use are not those of human warfare but powerful in God’s warfare for the destruction of the enemy’s strongholds. Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defense that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ.  

1 Tim. 6:12  Fight the good fight for the faith; take hold of eternal life, to which you were called and have made a good confession before many witnesses.  

John 10:27-30   My sheep recognize my voice and I know who they are. They follow me and I give them eternal life. They will never die and no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. And no one can tear anything out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are One.  

Rev. 12:10-11  Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has happened at last! God’s salvation and the power and the rule, and the authority of his Christ are finally here; for the Accuser of our brothers has been thrown down from heaven onto earth—he accused them day and night before our God. They defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony; for they did not love their lives but laid them down for him.”

Until we establish in our minds, once and for all, that we are victorious in every situation in life because of God’s promises to us through our faith in Christ, we will walk in uncertainty, fear and frustration.

 

Insecurity

“Jesus Christ. . .is the atoning sacrifice for our sins” ~1 John 1:2

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The evangelist preached a powerful message on God’s forgiveness of sins; explaining how Christ’s death on the cross, followed by His resurrection provided a cleansing stream of absolute forgiveness of sins; past, present, and future. Anyone who calls upon the name of Jesus will walk in that forgiveness for eternity. Dozens of people flocked to the altar to drink in His forgiveness, desperate for a cleansing experience. And they were not disappointed. Washed in the blood, they became whiter than snow in God’s sight.

A few months later, Frank, one of those who experienced God’s total forgiveness that night, met with Carl who had been a Christian for more than twenty years. He needed assurance. “So, Carl, how does this forgiveness actually work. I mean what about now that I’ve made some bad choices, lied a time or two, still wrestling with past sins? Some of the things I’ve done might curl your hair and I’m beginning to feel like I’m not really forgiven. I’m getting a little depressed if I’m honest. And it worries me.”

“I understand, Frank. And you’re not alone. Every person who has given their life to Christ has those feelings from time to time. And we all sin as well. The blood of Jesus washes all our sins away, Frank. Don’t forget that Jesus is at the right hand of God, interceding for our sins 24/7. God sees us through the blood of Christ. He sees us as pure and holy because of our faith in Christ, not our performance. Look at Romans 8:34, “Who then will condemn us? No one–for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.”

“That Scripture is powerful, Carl but sometimes I feel like a jerk. Like a loser. And then I wonder if I am really saved or if I am worth anything. I guess I get scared of my feelings. I get confused.”

“Many years ago I was at a conference and one of the speakers told us this very important fact, “Feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are!” At first I thought he was wrong but the more I asked God about it I realized he was correct. We all have feelings and they may be absolutely wrong but that doesn’t make them true. What matters is what we do after we have the feelings. If they are not good do we go to God in prayer or do we wallow in them. Do we ask the Lord to forgive us, believe that He has and move on, walking in the light of His forgiveness? Or do we act condemned, weak and hopeless? Keep in mind the very important verses in Romans 8:1-2 “There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit, which brings us life in union with Christ Jesus, has set me free from the law of sin and death.”

“I can feel (no pun intended) the heaviness lifting from my heart, Carl because I do believe that God never lies and always wants the best for me. You made me think of the verses later in that chapter, Romans 8:37-39, “No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below—there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“And there it is, Frank, nothing can ever separate us from His love! One of the keys to the Christian life is to believe absolutely in God and His Word, the Bible. He has done everything necessary for our salvation and eternal life but we must believe what it says! If we doubt the Bible and choose to sulk in our pathetic, negative feelings, what hope is there? We are saved eternally, forgiven eternally and never condemned, according to God Himself. If I remember those facts and call out to Him when I “feel” defeated or worthless, those feelings will go away.”

“Here is another promise found in 1 John 1:7, “But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.”  When we accepted Christ as Savior God did not give us a wink and wish us well. Instead, He gave us this assurance as written in Hebrews 13:5, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’.”

Building a Wall

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Walled Off

 

“Hey, what are you doing?”

“Building a wall.”

“How big?”

“Around my life.”

“All of it?”

“Oh Yeah.”

“Why?”

“To protect myself.”

“From what?”

“From being hurt!”

“Do you think it’ll work?”
“I do. Simply because of this; if no one can get to me, I can’t get hurt. Pretty smart huh?”

“I need to know more about your past before I can accurately answer your question.”

“Like what?”

“What happened to make you think you need to build a protective wall around your life? Before you answer, you have to tell the truth or I cannot give you an honest opinion. Agreed?”

“Well…Ah, what If I can’t remember?”
“Is that true? You can’t remember?”
Fidgeting as he looked at the ground, he finally let out a deep sigh and said, “Ok, here goes. A few years ago I met a woman who just knocked me off my feet. I’ve never been a guy who hangs out with women and gets dates anytime. I’ve always been shy that way.

“So we get involved and it gets serious. I mean I was ready to move heaven and earth for her. She said she was moving to Nevada. Well I had a good job and spent my entire life in Illinois. She said her family could get me a good job with one of the casinos and we’d be well off in a few years. After lots of talks, I agreed to leave it all for her; You know, the romantic, all-out sacrifice like in movies.”

“Sounds like a big sacrifice all right. But it sounds exciting too.”

“Yeah it was. And I got excited. Anyway, we moved to Nevada and her family came through with a great security job at the Bellagio. She was a blackjack dealer and made lots of money in tips. I thought I was in heaven. We had great jobs. Her family were good people and it never rained!”

“Oh no. I sense a collapse of your good life around the corner.”

“You’d be right. We’d been together in Nevada for three years when she met me for dinner in town. Just as they served dessert she said, “I’ve got to tell you something and you’re not going to like it.”

“When a woman you’re about to marry says that, your heart sinks and you want to scream. But I didn’t. Like a big dummy I just sat there, head hung, looking up at her. “Go ahead,” I said, “get it over with.”

“Well, ok. But first I have to tell you how great you’ve been since we’ve been together. I mean you moved across the states for me and gave up your life. How many men would do that for a woman?”

“Ok, that’s enough of that. Tell me the bad news right now.” I wanted to punch her and storm out. Now I knew what she was going to say and I think you do too.”

“Yeah, I do.”

“Turns out her original boyfriend, well, her fiance, the guy she ran away from back when we met, returns to town and gives her a call. She falls all over herself and wants to take back up where they left off. She’s leaving me.”

Neither man spoke for almost a minute.

“Am I right in thinking you don’t ever want to be hurt like that again, therefore the wall around your life?”
“Exactly. Now you can see why I’m building it, right? So I can ask again, pretty smart, huh?”

“Before I answer let me ask you a question. Do you wonder why you don’t see walls around lots of other people? I mean, do you actually think you’re the only person who’s had their heart broken? How many divorced people do you know? Lots probably. And guess what, one of those people had their heart broken in the divorce. Where’s their protective fence?

“If you finish building your fence, you may not be taken advantage of or have your heart broken but, and this is important, you will never find love again or have great friends that are willing to give their all for you. We have to be vulnerable to experience the rewards of love and deep friendship. Broken hearts come with the territory. No matter how hard you try, friendships can fall apart and engagements can be dashed into the dust. In all of life, there’s only been one person who never disappointed anyone even though everyone turned their back on him and he was killed for them. He even forgave the people who killed him. He refused to build a protective wall and got killed in the end. But his life, although not too long, was filled with power and love just because he was always vulnerable.

Galatians 1:4 ~Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.

 

Am I Content?

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Job 5:17  “Consider the joy of those corrected by God .”

“I was upset and frustrated that I had wretched shoes until I met a man who had no feet!” While growing up I heard this quote many times but failed to give it much credence…until my life took a few hard turns. I can recall my pathetic pity parties as I longed for a better car, job, apartment, etc; unaware of just how self-centered I had become. I wonder what my friends and fellow workers thought of my whining? That’s ok, I think I know.

Strangely I thought I deserved whatever I wanted. I had allowed myself to believe that wanting was the same as deserving. Unfortunately, me-focused attitudes do not just pass away, there must be an impetus, a strong reason to change, to see others as more important, or at least, as important as myself.

In my life, the powerful change that shifted my vision from me to others happened when I met the One who can truly change lives. And that with no ill side effects. I met Jesus in a small rural church in Oregon. Jesus Christ, the Life Changer.

In a way, He fitted me with new glasses and corrected my focus; shifted my vision to see others rather than myself as most important. He became my primary focus. Day by day, week by week my gaze was redirected to the lives of friends, fellow-workers and even strangers. I was now concerned for people other than myself and, like the fellow frustrated about terrible shoes, I saw, for the first time, the needs of someone else. What a wonderful vision-shift.

Along with a visual change, I became content for the first time in my life. God’s presence in my life brought contentment as only He can do. Did I get a flat tire on the way to an important appointment? Well, praise God for building my character through an otherwise frustrating event. He brought peace into my life as no other person or methodology can do; a peace that passes human understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).

2 Cor 12:10  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Romans 5:1-5  Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Phil 4:11  I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.

1 Tim 6:6  Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 7 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it.

Heb 13:5  Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you.

And now what? We are laid bare before God, our excuses piled high like cord wood, waiting for a heavenly match to set them ablaze, burning away the impurities with only glowing hot embers of faith and contentment in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ remaining.

Oh God, thank you for your eternal patience, grace and mercy. We see your light of hope gleaming brightly just over the horizon, beckoning us ever nearer to walk along this life-path hand-in-hand.

“But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sins.”  1 John 1:7