Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong and Faith in Jesus

Neil Armstrong died today at the age of 82. On earth, he will be remembered for many remarkable achievements, including walking on the moon.

Neil Armstrong was a great man in many ways. When my son did a project about him a couple of years ago, I was thrilled to review many of the details of Armstrong's life and career. He was not perfect, but he was a man we rightly look up to.

Still, when his earthly life ended, only one accomplishment really mattered at that very moment. During his 82 years on this earth, did he place his faith in Jesus Christ?

That matter alone affects every person's entrance (or non-entrance) into heaven. We are not saved by our accomplishments, no matter how wonderful they may be. We are not saved by our wealth or our fame. We are only saved through a relationship with Jesus Christ. We are only saved when we admit we are a sinner (Romans 3:23) and that our sin deserves death (Romans 6:23). We need to confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9-10). We need to stop trying to earn God's favor and simply accept the free gift He has offered us (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Have you given your life to Jesus Christ? If not, would you do so now?

Monday, August 13, 2012


I take tons of pictures. When I used film-based cameras, I took too many pictures; now that pictures are digital, I really overdo it.  

Pictures help tell a story of a particular point in time. When I look back at pictures from years ago, they help me recall significant events, funny moments, and cherished memories of loved ones. 

Here's the inherent challenge: a picture only records one moment in time, and by itself it cannot give us a complete perspective. A picture may be worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, but it still fails to convey anything to our senses of hearing or smell or taste or touch. A picture provides only a small glimpse of a brief moment in a person's life. 

Why have I brought up this topic? I have three interrelated thoughts about how this idea applies to our study of the Bible.

1) The words of the Bible give us many pictures of the character and nature of God. Each picture by itself is fully true, yet incomplete. We do our best to assemble the snapshots and understand how they all fit together, but our understanding is not as complete as we might really wish it to be. Still, each picture is a valuable revelation of His character. 

2) The words of the Bible give us many pictures of history. Still, there are huge gaps. Two thousand years of history are condensed into the chapters of Genesis. Large periods of time are summarized by only a few verses here and there in Scripture. Three years of Jesus' earthly ministry are conveyed all too briefly in the words of the gospels.

3) The words of the Bible give us many pictures of the future. Each picture helps us know valuable details, but they are merely snapshots. These pictures cannot begin to convey the glories of heaven, the horrors of hell, or the moment-by-moment details of the Great Tribulation. We study these pictures and we stand boldly on the things that the Bible clearly teaches, but we hold with a loose grip those things we fill in as we try to pull those pictures together.

As hard as it may be, we need to become content with not having every detail. God has told us so much, and we can study His revelation - the Bible - fervently so we can know its teachings well. We want to dwell on the things we know, and be content with the things we don't know or don't completely understand. 

One day when we are in the presence of God in heaven, we may learn more detail that will fill in some of the gaps in our understanding. For now, we rest in knowing that God is the sovereign Author of history and of the future. We live daily with gratitude for the many snapshots God has given us - snapshots of His holiness, His love, His grace, and His invitation to us to know Him more. And we fill in the gaps with our faith and trust in Him. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tell His Disciples...And Peter

It is the morning of the resurrection. The angel is making a great announcement to the women who had thought they were coming to the tomb to embalm Jesus's body. As part of the announcement, the angel says these words as recorded in Mark 16:7: "But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he [Jesus] is going before you to Galilee."

I love the two words: "and Peter"! Peter had denied Jesus three times. He was familiar with Jesus's teaching: "whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:33). I suspect Peter felt like a total outcast, unworthy of Jesus's love or forgiveness.

With two gracious words Jesus reached out in forgiveness: "and Peter." Peter was still to be counted among he disciples. He was to be included with those who would be the first to meet Jesus face to face after His resurrection. He was not an outcast; Jesus still loved him.

These words of grace and forgiveness have often been extended to me as well. When I have sinned and feel ashamed and unworthy of God's love, I hear Jesus call to me with grace and forgiveness. It's as if He's saying, "and Brian."

There is nothing you can do that would make you unworthy of God's love and forgiveness. Even if you feel totally unworthy, will you turn to Him today?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What's Your Theology?

Everyone has a theology of some kind. Theology, simply defined, is a set of beliefs about God. Some people may try not to think about their own theology; some people may try to deny they have one. But everyone has some kind of view about God. Yes, you do too.

So, let me ask you this: What is your theology?
* Do you think God doesn't exist at all (atheism or agnosticism)?
* Do you think God spun the world into motion but is not involved in day-to-day life (deism)?
* Do you believe God is just a good God who loves everyone?
* Do you believe God is a vengeful or angry God who is waiting to punish sin?
* Do you believe that God sent Jesus into the world to be the Savior, so that we may have a personal relationship with Him?

I encourage you to be honest enough to admit whatever your theology may be. Don't ignore the question, because it may have big implications.

Then, if you're especially courageous, take time to study more to learn if your beliefs about God are accurate. Are you willing to learn more, even if that means your theology needs to change?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Secret to Getting Healthy

I was quite overweight for much of my adult life.

Around 1999-2001 I shed 80 pounds, but I didn't do it with the healthiest techniques (skipping meals isn't a good idea). A couple years later I had gained some of that back, and I continued over the years to slowly gain more.

Then in 2010 I started the process of losing 50 pounds to reach my healthiest-ever adult weight. Now as I write this I have kept to that healthy weight range for sixteen months.

People who have observed my recent weight loss have asked about my "secret." Simply put, I decreased my food intake and increased my exercise. Sorry...I couldn't find a good shortcut. I didn't use any medications or health supplements. I didn't use any popular diet or exercise plans.

But in order to finally succeed after spending 20 years of my adult life overweight, I did have to make a big change in my mindset. That, if anything, is my "secret." I decided to really learn how to "honor God with my body" (see 1 Corinthians 6:20). Along with that, I shifted my primary goal away from "losing weight," toward "getting healthy." I focused less on the number I desired to see on the scale, and more on the goal of doing whatever it might take to be healthy. This helped me think more globally about my eating (food choices as well as quantities), my exercise, and other choices that affected my body (drinking water, getting sleep, etc.).

I always knew I needed to follow both of the only tried-and-true methods: eat wisely and exercise regularly. I am not a doctor, but even I understood these two very simple concepts. I knew that if I chose wisely the things I ate, using God-given self-control, I would be healthier. And if I exercised regularly - even a simple walk or bike ride a few days a week - I would be healthier.

But this is so very hard! I am truly a glutton at heart. I spent 20 years of my adult life overweight and hating it.

Now I wish I had followed these basic principles - which I knew all along - from the beginning. I feel so much better now that I am living with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Even more, I feel the joy of obedience as I honor God with my body.

I have hesitated to write a post about this topic because I don't want to sound like I'm boasting, nor do I want to make any fellow weight-strugglers feel bad about themselves. I understand how hard it is for people to make these changes; it was hard for me, too.

Still, for the glory of God, I wanted to write these words to you to encourage you also to honor God with your body.

After I lost the weight and learned all of these life-lessons, someone else wrote a book that covered the same concepts, but much more eloquently and thoroughly than I could have written. I would highly recommend Every Body Matters, by Gary Thomas (author of Sacred Marriage, which I also highly recommend).

Since I reached my goal to "get healthy," I made a new goal to "stay healthy" for the rest of my life. I want to continue to honor God with my body. Will you do the same?