Monday, April 22, 2013

Why Jesus Did Not Preach About Grace

You are reading his title and thinking, "What is he talking about? This guy is crazy!" But I invite you to look through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. There is a word that you will never find coming from the lips of our Savior. That word is "grace." There is no doubt that rather than preach about it, He embodied it. In the first chapter of the gospel of John this is made plain, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, " and again, "For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:14, 17).

But Jesus never preached about grace. Why? I think the Bible reveals the answers:

1. Grace could not be given as God designed it until Jesus was crucified. It was impossible for mankind to receive the fullness of God's grace until the plan of redemption was completely finished. But now, the grace of God has appeared to all men (Titus 2:11).

2. The hard-hearted Jews didn't need the grace message as much as they needed, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17). Jesus continued what John the immerser had started. God was calling for the changing of hearts.

3. Jesus had come to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17). This included spending His teaching time explaining its true intent. The Jews had fumbled their resposibility in a miserable fashion. A good portion of Christ's preaching was spent in delivering the correct interpretation of the Mosaic system, which was not grace-centered.

4. Grace is what God does, not what we do. We are the subjects of the grace of God. Jesus was interested in helping mankind get their part right. That is why His teaching concentrated on love and obedience to God. It is through love for God, which leads to repentance and obedience, that grace is received. Christ came to extend grace through His blood, but he also came to help man learn how to obtain it.

Within the religious realm, the subject of grace is greatly mishandled today in our world. An honest and complete examination of the Bible will lead us to the understanding that no person could be saved, if not for the grace of God. And yet this grace teaches us how we are to live before the God who extended it (Titus 2:12).

Jesus did not preach about grace because He knew that He had it covered. His message, primarily, was, "Repent!" Because without genuine repentance, the grace of God is in vain.

"We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain." - 2 Corinthians 6:1

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Why I am Still Running the Kentucky Derby Marathon

In less than two weeks (April 27) I am scheduled to run the Kentucky Derby Marathon in Lousiville. In the light of the recent tragedy in Boston several people have asked me if I am still going, or if I am concerned about participating in this upcoming event. If this is of no interest to you, do not feel pressured to read what I have to say. But if you do wonder what a Christian runner may think about all of this, please read this post in full.

Here are the reasons why I am still running on April 27th:

1. I have faith in God. I believe that He is in control. I understand that we live in a world where terrorism has become a reality, and that we are never completely safe from the works of evil. Someone could break into your house tonight to hurt you. Someone could attack you on the street or unleash a device in a crowd. I cannot keep people from making bad choices. But I am a Christian and I am confident that God has preserved my soul for the day of judgment by the blood of Jesus Christ. By the grace of God I am ready for that day, whenever it may come.

2. I want to be healthy. So in a sense I am running for myself and my family. I want to be around for them for years to come, and my running has allowed me to be as healthy as I have ever been, even after cancer. I am still dedicated to the pledge of living as healthy as I can, by eating things that are good for me and exercising. My body is the temple of Holy Spirit. In order to serve the Lord, my family, and mankind, I am going to keep running for my health.

3. I will not live in fear. It is very common for people to make decisions that will help them to avoid trouble. In many instances this is wise. When we know that something is dangerous we should always weigh all of the particulars. Is it really worth it? A respect for the value of life will sometimes cause us to not participate in certain things or go specific places. Running in a marathon in a major city with thousands of people should be safe. Going to a ball game should be safe. Going to a movie should be safe. Going to school should be safe. Yet there has been terrorism in all of these places. But we will not stop going to any of them - because they are normal and good things...and we need to continue to live our lives normally.

4. I am running for the victims of Boston. It would be sad if we were to ever allow something they loved to be removed from society because somebody decided to be evil. I have heard that some people complained because they didn't get to finish the marathon. Who cares? Some people lost their lives or have injuries that will handicap them from now on. People have been emotionally scarred and have seen images and have experienced things they will never be able to remove from their memory. So we need to keep things in perspective. Nothing we can do will ever make what they have dealt with better. Only the hope we have of heaven can do this. One day, if we have obeyed the gospel and have been faithful to it, none of the worries and troubles of this life will matter. Until that time, the victims of this tragedy need prayers and support. One way I can support them is letting them know that I love something they love, too. And it is a good thing to share these feelings together.

And so, for this reason, and 1000 more, I am running the marathon and will keep running. Life is a blessing - it must not be wasted. Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith...

I am thankful for our omnipotent God. The Lord is with me, whom shall I fear? What can man do to me?

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." - 2 Timothy 1:7

Monday, April 15, 2013

Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey, and Pee Wee Reese

On the 66th Anniversary of Jackie Robinson's breaking of the color barrier in baseball, this post is dedicated to Mr. Robinson and all those who have with the proper attitude allowed themselves to be persecuted for a cause that was right and good. I have been a huge Dodgers fan my entire life, so I am very familiar with all of the latest buzz from the movie "42" and this anniversary. It is good to know people are being exposed to some of the facts surrounding the Jackie Robinson story.

I would like to share with you just a few, perhaps little known facts about these three men who are the main characters in "42."

Branch Rickey was one of the greatest innovators the game of baseball has ever known:
  • He did play professional baseball and football in the early 1900's. He was not a great big-league catcher. He once allowed 13 steals in one game while behind the plate - still a record. (It was true in his case that, "those who can't play, manage.")
  • He was responsible for the invention of the farm system (which ultimately saved minor league baseball).
  • He promoted the first widespread use of the baseball helmet, and is considered by most as its creator.
  • He instituted the first spring-training facility in Vero Beach, Fl.
  • He not only drafted Robinson, but also Roberto Clemente, and earlier on had signed other players like George Sisler.
  • His farm system produced and developed players such as Stan Musial and the Dean brothers. He coached baseball for the University of Michigan and was responsible for building the "Gashouse Gang" - the dominant 1930's Cardinal team.
  • He served our country in World War I. As an officer in the Army in France, he commanded a chemical training unit that included Ty Cobb and Christy Mathewson.
  • He said "luck is the residue of design."
  • His efforts to desegregate baseball were born out of idealism and his astute sense of business.
  • He considered himself a religious man and a Bible reading man. During a speech in 1965, he collapsed while attempting a Biblical quote. These were the last words he ever spoke.
  • He died in 1965 and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1967.
Pee Wee Reese:

  • Always my favorite Dodger, he was born on July 23 (also my birthday) in Ekron, Ky (1918). He grew up in segregated Louisville.
  • He got his nickname during his childhood from playing marbles - a "pee-wee" was a small marble...and he, too, was small.
  • As a child his father made an impression on him concerning racism, once taking him to a tree where a lynch-mob had formerly murdered a black man.
  • He did not play any baseball until his senior year of high school, weighing only 120 lbs.
  • He was first discovered through his success in church league baseball, and his team was purchased by the Boston Red Sox solely for the purpose of his being signed to a contract to play professionally.
  • While waiting his opportunity to play shortstop for the Red Sox, he became familiar with persecution. Joe Cronin was the current shortstop and manager of the Red Sox. He was at the end of his career and felt threatened by Reese's talent. He downplayed his talents and kept him out of the big leagues as long as possible. Finally Cronin persuaded the Red Sox to trade Reese altogether to the Brooklyn Dodgers.
  • When he met Jackie Robinson, it was the first time in his life that Reese had ever shaken hands with a black man.
  • He refused to sign a petition by his teammates that said they would not play with Robinson. When asked if he was worried about Robinson taking his place at shortstop, he said, "If he can take my job, he's entitled to it."
  • The scene in "42" where Pee Wee Reese rescues Jackie Robinson from the ridicule in Cincinatti during the pregame warm-ups is true. Reese stood there with his arm around Robinson until the Jeers subsided. To this day this is one of the most famous events in sports history. This gesture is depicted in a bronze sculpture of Reese and Robinson, created by sculptor William Behrends, that was placed at MCU Park in Brooklyn and unveiled on November 1, 2005.
  • He was a 10 time all-star and helped the Dodgers win several pennants, including the 1955 World Series.
  • He later worked as a baseball commentator and for Louisville Slugger.
  • He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984, and died in 1999.
  • His most famous quote - "You can hate a man for many reasons. Color is not one of them."
  • At Reese's funeral, Joe Black, a former African-American baseball player from the early 50's who came in right after Robinson said these words - "Pee Wee helped make my boyhood dream come true to play in the majors, the World Series. When Pee Wee reached out to Jackie, all of us in the Negro Leagues smiled and said it was the first time that a white guy had accepted us. When I finally got up to Brooklyn, I went to Pee Wee and said, 'Black people love you. When you touched Jackie, you touched all of us.' With Pee Wee, it was No. 1 on his uniform and No. 1 in our hearts."
Jackie Robinson:

  • He was born in 1919 in Georgia. His middle name was "Roosevelt" - in honor of former US President Theodore Roosevelt who died 25 days before Jackie was born.
  • His father left him and his family while Jackie was just an infant. The family moved to Pasadena, Ca., where Jackie and several of his siblings became sport stars.
  • He had a brother, Mack, who won a Silver Medal in the 1936 Summer Olympics.
  • In 1936, Robinson won the junior boys singles championship in the annual Pacific Coast Negro Tennis Tournament and earned a place on the Pomona annual baseball tournament all-star team, which included future Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Bob Lemon.
  • He became the first person to ever earn varsity letters in four sports while at UCLA - baseball, basketball, football, and track. Baseball was actually considered his weakest sport of the four.
  • Hw won the 1940 NCAA Men's Outdoor Track and Field Championship in the Long Jump, jumping 24 ft 10 14 in (7.58 m).
  • He was assigned to the segregated Army in 1942 - where he applied to be an officer (but was met with opposition). He was the subject of persecution and lies during his entire miltary career. Once he was charged with public drunkeness by a superior (although he never drank). While traveling to a medical hospital on a non-segregated Army bus, the driver told him to go sit in the back anyway. Robinson refused and was eventually court-martialed. This charge was later reduced to insubordination and he was honorably discharged from the service.
  • In Branch Rickey's first interview with Robinson, Jackie asked, "Are you looking for a Negro who is afraid to fight back?" Rickey said he needed a player with "guts enough to not fight back." He requested that Robinson be willing to "turn the other cheek" - to which Robinson agreed.
  • He not only ended 80 years of segregation in baseball, but influenced Harry Truman to order the desegregation of the military in 1948.
  • He was the first ever Rookie of the Year in MLB.
  • Having been placed in MLB at the older age of 28, he only played 10 seasons. But he played in 6 World Series and 6 All-Star games.
  • He stole home 19 times in  his career - and none of these were double steals - (where a player is assisted by the steal of another base from a teammate).
  • He was named by TIME Magazine as one of the most influencial people of the 20th century.
  • In 1999 he was named to MLB's All Century Team.
  • He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, 1962.
  • He died from complications with diabetes in 1972.
  • On April 15, 1997, (the 50th anniversary of the breaking of the color barrier in professional sports) - Robinson's jersey number, 42, was retired throughout Major League Baseball, the first time any jersey number had been retired throughout one of the four major American sports leagues.
  • Today only - being April 15 - everyone in major league baseball will wear number 42 in honor of not only Jackie Robinson - but all those who worked for the desegregation of our country.
  • Robinson once said of himself, "I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me ... all I ask is that you respect me as a human being."
Hats off to Rickey, Reese and Robinson. You made a huge difference in sports and in our world. You will never be forgotten!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Reasons to Wish Reading the Bible was Illegal

Before you read any further, please recognize I am asking you to think "outside the box." I am thankful that we have the freedom of religion. I understand how terrible it would be for us if we did not have this freedom. So first of all I want to say, "Thank you" to those who have died to make this freedom possible. And above all, I praise God who has providencially allowed me to live in a time where I can worship and study without fear of the persecution of the first few centuries...

That being said, I have reasons to wish reading the Bible was illegal:

1. Persecution is not a bad thing for us spiritually or eternally. In fact, we could probably benefit from more of it. The early apostles and Christians rejoiced in that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Christ (Acts 5:41). If we lived under persecution for our faith, there would be very little hypocrisy in the religious realm. You will not die for something for which you are not genuinely dedicated.

2. It would not change anything in my home. My family and I are going to be Christians anyway. No government is going to keep us from reading the Bible and obeying it. If I had to leave the country to study and practice the teachings of the Bible I would do it in a heartbeat. Our allegiance is to the church over any human nation.

3. People would actually start reading it. Try to take something away from folks and see how they respond. We are literally "up in arms" about the debate over gun control. If you took the Bible away from American citizens, it would be like the old days of prohibition. They would be reading it in closets and valleys and caves. Right now, the Bible sits on everbody's shelves and coffee tables untouched. Next to the crucifixion of Jesus, it is the greatest human tragedy of all time.

4. No work of man will ever destroy the Bible. The Bible has almost always been illegal somewhere. People have lied about it. People have misrepresented it. People have tried to rewrite it or change it. People have gathered copies in piles for burning. People have been killed in every fashion imaginable for believing it. But God has preserved it. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away" (Matt. 24:35) The Bible is man's last great hope on earth. The Bible is not going anywhere.

5. People would lift it up. It really is true that we do not appreciate what we have until it is taken from us. Imagine how revered the Word of God would be if it were to be removed from us. Imagine what people would do to get a copy. Imagine the potential spiritual revival that would take place in our world. We need this revival now - and so I have good reason to at least wonder what could happen in human hearts if the Bible was taken away.

"Holy Bible, Book divine,
Precious treasure, thou art mine;
Mine to tell me whence I came;
Mine to teach me what I am." ~ John Burton Sr. (1803)