Friday, July 27, 2012

Eye to Eye to Opposition- II Corinthians 12

(Paul) had just gotten launched into the ministry and already he's got the Jewish and Gentile world after him. This was just the beginning of how it would be throughout his life until one day he laid his head on a block in Rome and a Roman executioner chopped it off and he entered the presence of the Lord. From the beginning of his ministry to the end, this is all he ever knew...all he ever knew. And anybody in their right mind today who sat him down in our contemporary Christian environment would have said, "You know, Paul, you really need to change your method, you're just infuriating the whole world. I mean, there's got to be a soft-sell here that you could develop. You've...there's got to be some subtleties, Paul, everything can't be blatant."  John MacArthur

One of the tough realities of the Christian life is that if you lift up Christ long enough, you WILL find yourself in opposition.

Have you ever been there? It is not fun.

I have had some occasions in my life where there were individuals and groups who stood against me. It will keep you up at night, prayerful, and cautious. I am so thankful to be at place where that is not true now.

The Lord has made it clear to me that I am not to share the details of my experiences for now. But He allowed me to go through it to teach me an encyclopedia of information about how men operate and to check me out as far as some of my heart strengths and weaknesses.

When I read I and II Corinthians, I am so humbled because what I have experienced in my life is NOTHING compared to what Paul went through and SUPER NOTHING compared to what my Savior experienced.

But there is great insight from Paul that has made me understand my experiences more fully and I want to explore these concepts with any reader of this post.

I will write more fully about this amazing chapter in 2 or 3 posts- but an overview of what is happening here will help the context.


Paul's life was one of opposition. My guess is that he was a lightening rod pre and post conversion. He did nothing halfway, it was ALL-IN.

My experience is that the world has a hard time with that type of person. And the reasons are as complex as the tangled web of opposition. Maybe these types of men are a threat. Maybe they provide a mirror to how safe and apathetic we tend to be. Maybe they convict us of our love of peace and fear of conflict.

Paul was dramatically converted in Damascus, struck down and blinded as he was hell bent on his terrorism toward these followers of Christ. God first sent him to Ananius, who cared for him and loved him in his baby steps following conversion.

I sometimes wonder if this was the first time Paul ever felt love in his regimented and martial life. He had been all policy, procedure, and power- now he was a helpless man- staggering and bewildered about what had taken place. But he was being cared for by this tender and sweet servant of God.

If you read Acts 9 and Galatians 1 and 2, you get more of this dramatic narrative.

The Lord then takes him to Arabia, south of Damascus, where he experiences the wilderness for three years. What happened there? He was taught the gospel, the message of Good News that he was going to take to the gentiles. "For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ." Galatians 1:12

He then comes out of seclusion and begins teaching this bold and beautiful message (Acts 9) and he so angers the Jews there that they already want to kill him. He angers the Arabians. So the gates are guarded and the murder plot is hatched.

In God's care, disciples lower him in a basket, allowing him to escape.

He then goes to Jerusalem where he spends 15 days with Peter and James. Then he launches into the ministry of evangelism, discipleship, and church planting.

What kind of life was it?

"far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles,danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches."  (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)

I  Multiple Level Opposition:
One of the notable observations of men who experience  "persecution for preaching the gospel" is the multiple facet of the attack. It is overt and covert. It involves twisting of truth and outright lies. Paul unveils a part of this in chapter 11.
13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
In my observations and in my experience, the greatest hurt has come by people within the church- not without. And the words cause more damage over time than the acts.When a group of men make up their minds that they now oppose you- there is little you can do to sway them. Paul's point here is  'If I stay silent, my opponents say I am manipulative. If I speak, they say I am lying.' This begs the question: What do we do?

II Conditioned by Circumstances, Protected by Grace:

God clearly sees it all. And in His good providence, He provides teaching and training that prepares us for the attack. Most of the time there is a consistent pattern if we open our eyes, we learn the ropes vicariously through the experiences of others.

In my circumstances, I saw the same pattern repeated numerous times before I entered the crucible. In the aftermath of my experience, I had close to twenty conversations that outlined the same pattern.

The mutual experience and discussions actually helped tremendously. And there quickly becomes a choice- do we grow bitter and angry or do we drink deeply of grace? This is the purpose for which God allows these things. When we choose life (grace) over death (bitterness/depression) it glorifies God in the midst of the conflict.

It doesn't matter if anyone notices your right choice or not- these are heart truths that you share with the Lord. And you understand that if you do choose right, it wasn't in your power to do it anyway.

III Collateral Damage and Unintended Harm

I do think it is important for me to mention the leader of opposition and some things we can all learn about participation in the opposition. Satan (and his minions) is the great maestro of these attacks. The enemy is NOT people per se- but I see people participating in the scheme willingly AND in ignorance.

Two things that we do which aid and embed the enemy is when we pass along negative information that may or may not be true.

We live in a culture of soundbites- and we adopt a blurp about people- and ignorantly pass along these quips without thought to their veracity or impact.

So there are 2 things we must constantly guard against:
1) gossip and 2) cowardly passiveness

If you pass along 2nd hand information (especially negative comments) or sit back and not challenge (in love) people who do so, you are unwittingly contributing to the multiple layered attack of the enemy against all men.

IV- The Biblical Response

What do we do when we find ourselves eye to eye with this type of opposition?

  • Pray- Search the Word- and Protect the Heart.

This is easy to write and hard to do.

When I first discovered evidence of others working against me, a very godly man encouraged me to love, pray for, and serve my opponents.

I noticed immediate results- not in my circumstance- but at my heart level. The anger and fear that had gripped me dissipated in a matter of weeks.

  • Prudently, Speak Up

Another response, which is not natural for me, is to actively defend without being defensive. This one is impossible to get right. You can't get paranoid and see Satan under every rock. You can't go charging on offense. But you do have to in prayer and humility confront the attacks as they come up. This was my biggest mistake- I got too quiet. I should have been more willing to lovingly confront, especially the  half-truths and twisted spin.

If I am honest, I sometimes retreated from speaking up, not out of humility, but an unwillingness to stir it up. Sometimes we need to speak up.

Look what John MacArthur says about Paul in these chapters:

Here is a man forced to boast. And in so doing he manifests such amazing humility that this may be one of the greatest illustrations of humility in all of Scripture. It's easy to be humble when you're a nobody. It's easy to be humble when you're inferior. It's very challenging to be humble when you're somebody uniquely called by God, uniquely gifted and when you have been exalted as THE apostle of Jesus Christ. It's unique to be able to boast about your superiority in such a way as to manifest the noblest of all virtues, which is humility. And that's what he does.    John MacArthur- Sermon on II Corinthians

V The Common Result:

The toughest part of this universal situation of men is this: you are likely to lose.

Once the opposition lines up and becomes visible- the individual is going to get rubbed out. The only hope we have, is to have great leaders come along and stand firm in the storm. Those types of leaders are not found very often.

I had a friend who went through a very similar circumstance before I got into my situation. The man who finally pulled the trigger explained to me why he did it.

"There was too much controversy. The stuff just kept coming up and finally I felt like this was the only way to get through it. This was best for everyone."

What he was saying to me was- it isn't necessarily right, but necessary to end strife. And this is how it is likely to go.

I shocked my very close confidants when I predicted what was going to happen to me a full year in advance. I explained the situation, told them what I suspected was going on, and told them what was likely to happen.

But (and God knows I am telling the truth) I told them to take heart, work confidently, push hard, have fun,  and maybe change the result. I never once reacted in fear. And we had enough success to think I had escaped the likely result, but in the end, it happened like it normally does.

And the ultimate result? Trust God's goodness and providence.

Paul eventually had his head removed and walked right into glory.

What did Christ tell His followers? :

11 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, igreet it. 13 And if the house is jworthy, let iyour peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let iyour peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, lshake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, mit will be more bearable on the day of judgment for nthe land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
16 oBehold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be pwise as serpents and qinnocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for rthey will deliver you over to courts and flog you sin their synagogues, 18 rand you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, tto bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 rWhen uthey deliver you over,vdo not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for wwhat you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 xFor it is not you who speak, but ythe Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 zBrother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 aand you will be hated by all for my name's sake. bBut the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they cpersecute you in one town, dflee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel ebefore the Son of Man comes.
24 f“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant5 above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. gIf they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign6 those of his household.

I will write later on the proper way to fight. But as I close, I need to emphasize a few closing points.

GOD IS GREAT AND HE IS GOOD. When He allows us to experience this type of opposition, He is going to use it for our good. We need to be patient and trust Him fully. When I was going through my deal- it was the greatest spiritual high of my life.

OUR SIN DOES CONTRIBUTE TO OUR DEMISE. In the end, I knew that I had made mistakes. These are lessons to learn and we want to improve.

WILLING TO BE MIS-UNDERSTOOD. I realize that this post may cause some consternation. Some may see it as self-serving. I'm sure there are some who say, 'But there is another side to the story'.

I'm not here to debate all of that. We all move on. My prayer is that this post will instruct and comfort others who find themselves eye to eye to opposition.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Winning Part of A Winning Team: I Corinthians 12

I Corinthians 12: 4 Now tthere are varieties of gifts, but uthe same Spirit; and vthere are varieties of service, but uthe same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is uthe same God who empowers them all in everyone. wTo each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of xwisdom, and to another the utterance of yknowledge according to the same Spirit, to another zfaith by the same Spirit, to another agifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another bthe working of miracles, to another cprophecy, to another dthe ability to distinguish between spirits, to another evarious kinds of tongues, to another fthe interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, gwho apportions to each one individually has he wills.
12 For just as ithe body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, jso it is with Christ. 13 For kin one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—lJews or Greeks, slaves4 or free—and mall were made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, nGod arranged the members in the body, each one of them, oas he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,5 yet one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it,25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, pall rejoice together.
27 Now qyou are the body of Christ and individually rmembers of it. 28 And sGod has appointed in the church firsttapostles, second uprophets, third teachers, then vmiracles, then wgifts of healing, xhelping, yadministrating, and vvarious kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But zearnestly desire the higher gifts.
And I will show you a still more excellent way.
As I think about the ingenious analogy here and as I contemplate all of the interesting principles here, I am once again in awe of God's Word.

Sometimes, with these words on a screen, we tend to scan. Often when I read an online devotional, I skip the italicized Scripture and read the human commentary- what a dumb choice. As I carefully review what Paul wrote here under the inspiration of God's Spirit, I am so impressed and instructed.

Every championship team I have ever coached was a UNIFIED TEAM. It is pure joy to coach young men who pour themselves into a quest, with little regard to their personal stats or roles. Some have said that T.E.A.M. is an acronym for 'Together Everyone Accomplishes More'. We have a saying at BCS- "BIG TEAM- little me". There are important keys to developing these mindsets. I want to use some of this passage to highlight these keys.


To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

One of the enemies greatest attacks is to convince people that they are no good and have nothing to offer. He uses the attacks of bullies or a world of photoshopped magazine covers to beat down image bearers of the divine. Satan has built a system where height, strength, beauty, wealth, fame, popularity gets all the 'good stuff' and the average man or woman lives lives in hunched over body postures and little confidence. THE BIBLE SAYS "NO". God has created you with amazing gifts and abilities. You are made in His image and if you know Christ as Savior, you are an adopted son or daughter of the KING of the UNIVERSE. Which depiction of you are you going to start believing in?


All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually has he wills.

Don't look at what you don't have...find what you do have. You have a S.H.A.P.E.- spiritual gifts, heart desires, aptitudes, personality, experiences that are unique to you. Believe that, in time, you will discover that shape and use it to build God's kingdom in love and service to others. Don't let the world tell you anything different- God loves you and has a beautiful plan for you (John 10:10).

For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

Another problem with the world's system is the demand for everyone to be the same. The result is a mediocre middle where those who push ahead or take different paths are scoffed at or ridiculed. At the same time, others feel the pressure to be unique and avoid areas of expertise because others have achieved success in those fields. Both pressures can be mis-guided. Teams need more than one QB ready to play and they need participants in all areas from scout team, to managers and trainers, starters and stars.

My favorite success stories involve players who patiently bore their back-up roles and prepared for the day when they had to step in and win after an injury or need. When the back-up QB comes in and leads the team to victory- it inspires everyone!


And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 

This is such an interesting part of the passage. Bodies have parts that are 'weaker' and 'less honorable' and humans keep those parts in discretion and modesty. They are still VERY necessary. And it doesn't matter if the eye declares that it is not a part of the body- it still is.

I apply this in two ways. The saddest times I have had as a coach is when players will talk down to a team mate with a lesser role. One time I had a Junior who was starting over a senior and some members of the team were badgering him about that to the point that he grew deeply depressed. When I found out about it, I hit the roof!

Needless to say, that team was not a very successful team.

But a second part is this: Don't let what others say marginalize you. It is the losers who do those types of things, why worry about what they say?


 But as it is, nGod arranged the members in the body, each one of them, oas he chose.

My most successful teams have been willing to trust the coaches to make tough choices about positions or playing time. I had a good friend of mine who would express frustration that God had not allowed him to excel as a christian writer/speaker. He was a talented writer/speaker, but he would take 'snipes' at those who were achieving status in that field.

In the end- godly contentment begins with trusting in God's plan and timing. There was a reason why this friend was not allowed to go in that direction and only God knows all the details why and somewhat foolish for us to speculate or despair.


But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it,25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

In 1998 we went 15-0 and won the state championship. My most vivid impression of that team was how they honored every single member of that organization. They loved the managers, filmers, team docs, JV players.... it was 'laughter in the locker room and focus on the field'. Some of that stemmed from our starting running back had a brother in the band who was born with a type of dwarfism. That young man learned early the value of all people. His brother became an accomplished musician and accountant. That was a special team- no one was going to beat them.


And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 

The Bible doesn't sugar coat it- the reality is that there is a pecking order. All are valuable- but there is a first, second, third. All are equal in terms of God's love and care- but some are given more. But that extra talent carries more expectation. Go back and look at the Parable of the Talents.


But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

It is OK to have ambition to move up. That kind of drive and aspiration is encouraged. A great friend of mine used to say, "Aim for the stars- you may only hit the moon- but you hit the moon because you were aiming high." Put sweat equity in your labor. Be faithful in the little things. Be a good steward by pushing to constantly improve.

I have written on this before: The Link is Here: The Outlaw vs. The Sheriff

Persona style #1 I call the Outlaw coach. He has swagger, instant flash, and media appeal. The rebel side of human nature taps into great zeal and energy. This has been the case throughout history- it’s the bad guy that is most intriguing. They say that Milton was extremely upset that his readers of Paradise Lost became infatuated with Satan more than the other characters.
Outlaw coaches develop that contra mundum ‘we will fight the whole world’ attitude and it is very effective. Football is a fight, and the warrior energy can be fed with intensity that erupts from the outlaw swagger. Two recent examples of this are Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach. Leach is, in a way, a purer example- his ‘pirate persona’ won over Lubbock and rocked the southwest. The University of Miami tapped into this bad boy power in its dynasty days.
An outlaw coach can build a winner faster than his opposite. Flash, fire, inferno, burn-out – and a long term wasteland left behind.
But Paul is about to move to the better way:

And I will show you a still more excellent way...LEADING TO I CORINTHIANS 13

My best teams have been teams built on Biblical love. A heartfelt attitude where you care for others and you are motivated to work, sweat, achieve, persevere out of a desire to do it for your brother.

Want to be a winner? Want to be on a winning team?

Believe in yourself as a person whom God has gifted- trust Him- and give yourself fully to a team effort- not caring if you get noticed because God sees you- trust in your leaders- and learn the joy of loving others well enough to lay it on the line for them.

Surround yourself with those types of people and WATCH OUT- you can move mountains!

Monday, July 23, 2012

All Men Follow- I Corinthians 12

I Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were ledTherefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.
I will be spending a little bit of time in I Corinthians 12. So interesting that Romans 12 has such a strong connection with I Corinthians 12 and 13. Paul really spent time in drilling down the fundamentals of unity in a church that was going to have such diversity as the gospel was bringing in the gentiles.

Different cultures, skin color, religious training, moral standards, loyalties were all responding to the good news and the resulting church was a tinderbox for conflict or misunderstanding.

Fragmentation is a very dangerous thing. In times of peace, little cracks are barely visible- but when the pressure builds, an entire structure can crumble to ruins in an instance.

Adversity usually reveals the level of unity of any organization or group.

The reason Abraham Lincoln made the impossible decision to advance on the South was his strong belief that the United States would be in deeper trouble if it were left to fester and splinter. He quoted Jesus's true statement that a divided house cannot stand.

Lincoln, June 16 1858 (notice this was his belief before his term as President):
Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented.In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed."A house divided against itself cannot stand."I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.I do not expect the Union to be dissolved -- I do not expect the house to fall -- but I do expect it will cease to be divided.It will become all one thing or all the other.

 I worry about how divided we are as a nation- polling shows close to 50/50. The more down the middle a division is the more difficult the divide.

So how does the Holy Spirit guide Paul in writing these letters, dealing with the need for uniformity without unanimity? How can America stay true to the motto: E Plurabis Unum "out of the many, one"?

It all hinges on who we follow.

For years I have been making the statement: ALL MEN LIVE BY FAITH. We ALL trust in something. When an atheist says, "You have faith and I have reason" it is not true. The man of reason does not have perfect knowledge of all facts. He has never looked behind Mars. He is trusting in a lot of ideas, facts, materials, view points that have been handed down to him. He has a lot of faith in his facts and his perspective.

He may counter and say, "No, I just use logic." My response is A: Where did the universal standards of logic come from? and B: He has FAITH that his logic is sound.

The skeptic and I both live by faith- my faith is in the Creator, his faith is in the creature. One of us is wrong.

Here is one more point: ALL MEN FOLLOW. 

You say, "Not me. I am my own man and my own boss." So you follow yourself.

In I Corinthians 12:1 Paul is introducing the main idea that Christians all have different gifts and ability, but all under the direction of the One true God and eventually will lead to the famous love concepts in chapter 13.

But in verse 2 he makes a powerful statement:

You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led.
I have always found it interesting that we so easily fall into idolatry. We think we control the idol- but it quickly and powerfully controls us.

Every so often I pick up my iphone and can't help but notice how idol sized it is. It is a 'talking idol'- I carefully protect it, heck- I even stroke it like a pet. Do I control it? Is it under the Lordship of Christ? or does it have it's grip on me?

There is a part of me that wants to try a 40 day media/devices/screens/electronics fast and see how I would do. It would have to take a lot of planning, cooperation, and help- but I do think it would be beneficial.

Question: How do idols lead us astray? When even good things become god things, they are elevated to  a position that they will fall short of expectations. Marriage is a very good thing. But if I think marriage will completely fill me up, make me secure, give me a mission, cover my sins, encourage me when I am down- then, I am foolish because even a great marriage will fall short of those ideals. And when we are disappointed, or betrayed we wander into spirals of anger, fear, depression, selfishness- and before we know it we are attaching ourselves to all kind of things that promise high and deliver low.

But I digressed......

The only true way to unity with diversity is to follow the leader. And the best hope for that is to follow Christ.

Find good people who follow Christ and follow them as they follow Christ- but always evaluating and searching the Scriptures so that together the goal is to follow the King.

The class warfare divide in this country? Would disappear if we followed Christ.
The racial divide? Would disappear if we followed Christ.

There would still be problems and enemies- but the character and call of Christ would give us to tools to make these issues bearable until He comes back to fix it all permanently.

Now the final point: No one can do this without the Holy Spirit.
no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the helper that Jesus promised. He convicts us of sin and brings to remembrance the things we have been taught of God in His word. He empowers us in our fight against sin and He comforts us with peace and joy.

The big key is to not grieve Him by habitual or unconfessed sin.

SO we woke up today in God's great mercy.

And we are getting ready to follow somebody.

Who will we follow today?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Is There a "To Do" List?- Romans 12

In Romans 12 - after recognition of our sin and shortcomings, the futility of moral righteousness, the gospel, conversion, and the gift of God's spirit - we see an amazing verse. It is a strong imperative.

2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

When a Christian is converted, there is an abrupt invasion of God's spirit into his spirit. It is many times a 'rude awakening'... a realization 'what am I doing?', 'where am I going? Who am I living for? What have I done with my life?'.

It also presents a line of demarcation- which kingdom are you going to declare?

If US citizens have a child in another country, that child actually has dual citizenship until he is 18 years old. At 18, there has to be a declaration about his citizenship. This is a similar picture here, we are citizens in heaven but live on the earth. At some point there has to a declaration.... What is your home? Who is my king?

Now the Spirit helps to make it real clear... there is only one good choice. It isn't easy. It many times means sacrifice.God's people have a history of being pushed down, ignored, counted out, passed over, persecuted, mocked and ridiculed. The fact that I live in the US has been a great blessing because of the free environment and large number of common believers. But I feel the air changing... ever so slightly.

The key now is to use a renewed mind to produce new choices that reflect my actual citizenship.

The moment by moment choices I make everyday are creating patterns in my life. The patterns are producing my character. My friend, Jerry Harwood loved to quote his coach, "Practice does not produce perfection... practice makes permanent."

I'd like to show you the world's pattern from a Biblical perspective. This is where the pressure is on... to squeeze us into a certain mold. But this pattern is seen as far as its fruit is concerned. Read what Paul says is II Tim. 3.

3:1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

When I get in front of my players or my students, I want them to see this as the people they do not want to be. Because of sin, though, this is our default mode.

It's in me. I love self.. I am materialistic and lust for luxury..I am arrogance just bursts out of me from time to time.... I can be verbally abusive.. I disobey authority all the time.. do I have to go on? One day just sitting in my car at a red light the realization hit me "I have violated every commandment of God if you understand the active, passive, and heart requirements involved" and my life wants to always get pulled in that direction.

So we have to stop... think.. and pursue a pattern that 'breaks the mold'. We repent of the direction we are going and practice righteous choices instead.

Romans 12- 16 gives us those practices. Things to do. Things to break tendencies.

The cool thing is that it is almost moment by moment and day by day. It is not a list in a notebook, it is not a sheet on the fridge.. it is living... dynamic.

"Then you will be able to test and approve.. what pleases God"

Romans To Do's:

WARNING LABEL: BEFORE USE- Recognize that this is not a 1-2-3 step program to better help from God. This is not earning His love. This is not a list to use against anyone else. See Romans 1-8 for further instructions.

1) Lower your view of yourself...  I no longer have to compare and compete. I am who I am because God knows me, made me, chose me, and loves me. I do not feel shame or condemnation. I am free! I see my strengths and my weaknesses.. it is who I am. True humility is not throwing aspersions at yourself.. it is not thinking less of yourself... it is thinking of yourself less. I can get out of my little self and start living.

2) Find my shape and use my gift. God made you good at something.. find it and use it for Him. The happiest people in the world are those who act in accordance with their heart desires to serve others to God's glory not worrying about what others think.

3) Love.... This is huge and one that I am still an infant in. But this includes enemies...

4) Submit... yuck. We think only kids and teens are rebellious. Hah! When an authority tells you to do something that you don't want to do... how do you feel? What do you do?

5) Live soberly and simply, in expectancy of Christ's return. Be moderate and careful.

6) Learn to choose in light of the 'weaker brother'- don't flaunt freedoms. 

7) Choose peace over criticism and condemnation. Seek unity with other believers.

8) Proclaim the gospel to all in word and deed.

9) Live joyous lives... have fun... embrace your circumstances and dance.

10) All of this together is........ WORSHIP

That is Romans 12-16 in a nutshell. All of it is simple... but profound. Easy... but impossible. It is a lifetime labor of love.

Let's encourage one another to not get squeezed into the losing pattern of this world. But break the mold..... start today. It is never too late!