Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Another Opportuinty to Help Haiti & The Haitian People

In mid January, the world was rocked with news of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Those in the known world did everything they could as the poorest country in the western hemisphere attempted to cope with the earthquake. This summer Oak Park Church of Christ is hosting a charity golf tournament to raise funds that will help further the work my friends Ricot & Mandy Leon are doing in Haiti.

For more the details of Ricot and Mandy’s work in Haiti check out their blog/website.

For more information on the golf tournament or how to help out, click here

Monday, June 14, 2010

Running Together

This winter I joined a racing team. Once a week we would do laps at an indoor track in preparation for a series of road races during the spring and summer months. A few weeks ago, I competed in my first road race since joining the team. I was amazed at the amount of people cheering me on as I approached the finish line.

Since then, the opening verse of Hebrews 12 has been on my mind.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1 NIV

The opening verse of chapter 12 is a continuation of what the writer pens in the previous chapter. Chapter 11 starts out with a definition of faith, then the writer lists a variety of people throughout the Old Testament who demonstrated great faith and commitment to God. Among those listed are Abraham, Moses, Rahab the prostitute, Samson, David, Samuel and the prophets. The list and the stories go on.

Trusting in the unknown is a tough thing to do, and all those listed in Hebrews 11 are people whose faith in God leads them into dangerous situations. Abraham gave up everything he had and followed God’s voice into an unknown land. Then he trusted that God would give him a son to pass on his inheritance; something that didn’t happen until Abraham passed his hundredth birthday. When Moses freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, he did so by leading God’s people in a revolt against his adopted father.

The Hebrew writer continues demonstrating the power of faith in God by telling the readers that faith conquers kingdoms, raises the dead, offers strength to those in need, and defeated whole armies (Heb 11:33-35). Great faith also leads to difficult times. Faith in God, the author says, cost many their lives as they fell victims to torture via jail time, being whipped with stones and public execution.

At this point Hebrews 12 opens with a word picture of running a marathon. Those listed in the previous chapter make up our “could of witness.” Those who have already finished a life of faith are cheering us on to follow in their footsteps. By providing us with examples of people who have completed a life of faithful commitment to God we the readers are encouraged to continue as the apostle Paul says “…toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called (us) heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:14)

Hebrews 12:1 encourages us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” By doing so, we will successfully finish the life of faith that has been marked out for us. There is no clear indication as to what weighs us down in our race. But theologian Ray Stedman suggests what that excess weight may be. He says: “As Moses laid aside the prerogatives of royalty for the sake of his God-given mission, so we must throw off whatever may hinder faith even though it may be right for others… Each runner must honestly judge what hinders faith for him or her and resolutely lay it aside, even though others seem to be unhindered by the same thing.”

I don’t know what could be weighing you down in your relationship with God, but I do know that whatever slows us down differs for every person. For some it’s an addiction to alcohol. For others it could be an ongoing struggle to maintain sexually pure until after marriage. Anger, over eating, laziness, busyness, self mutilation, pride, racism, struggling with body image are all examples of the things that weigh us down and distract us from a commitment to God. The possibilities are endless. Struggling with sin can be a daunting task, sometimes draining our energy and needing all our focus.

Toward the end of my road race, I was tired and sore but still had a steep hill to climb. A few times it was too much. I had to stop to catch my breath and gain some strength. While I was stopped, people passed me, “don’t give up!! You’re almost there!! You can do it!!” were some of the ways my fellow racers gave me the strength I needed to keep going. Before I new it I was at the top of the hill. From that point the race was easy to finish.

The same principle can be applied to our relationship with the Lord.

Living with sin can be like carrying too much weight slowing us down, preventing us from accomplishing all the plans God has for us. Getting rid of the weight that slows us down isn’t always an easy task. That’s why these verses are an encouragement. It reminds us we don’t face the world alone. We have a community of believers to turn to for encouragement and support. One of the ways we get that encouragement and support is by sharing our lives with each other and asking for it.

The book of James tells us to confess our sins to each other (James 5:16). Gal 6:1-2 says: “… if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” If you have been running the race on your own, and find there are a few things that you constantly stumble on (like maintaining sexual purity for example), let me encourage you to find an accountability partner.

Ideally this will be someone of the same sex you trust. The old adage honesty is the best policy applies here. An accountability relationship only works if the two of you can always be 100% honest with each other. The more vulnerable you can be with this person the better. When looking for an accountability partner try and find someone who has been through the same trial you are facing. As some one who has “been there,” they maybe able to offer tips and advice to help you avoid tempting situations.

With these things in mind, let me close by asking what is weighing you down in your relationship with God?

Do you have an accountability partner? Can you think of someone you can trust to be completely vulnerable with? If not, begin by asking God to put people in your life with whom you can be accountable. If you would like to, you can use the sample prayer below.

Lord Jesus thank you for loving me, despite the stumbling block I have in my life. Please help me find someone I can be accountable to so I can be a better servant for you and finally be able to put {name your stumbling block} behind me. Thank you Jesus in your name I pray, Amen!

Blessings to you as begin the journey toward accountability my friend!

If this message touched you in any way please leave a comment sharing your story.

The Necessity of Biblical Context

Whenever reading your bible or preparing a bible study/ sermon or the like, it’s vitally important to consider the context of the passage. What things do the surrounding verses say about your passage and who is original audience the message was intended for? Consider their surroundings as well. This gets tricky when dealing with prophecies and apocryphal language as the imagery used can mean many things. This still doesn’t dismiss the importance of context. Without it, the message can become construed and people can make a mess of God’s word leading people to believe a message contained in scripture that was not there in the first place.

I remember being asked to preach from a particular passage of scripture by a pastor friend of mine and as we were discussing it, we were at odds with each other. By looking at the selected verses alone, the pastor saw one message. While I considered the context, I insisted he had missed the message because he wasn’t considering the context. In this particular case I stuck to my guns, prepared the message as I saw it, and it turned out to be one of the best messages the pastor had ever heard.

This is something I personally strive for when preparing any message I share. It’s also a discipline I tend to practice in my personal bible reading as well. Still, I find there are times when God speaks to me in lieu of scriptures contexts. Consider yesterdays worship service for example.

Accountability groups were being re-introduced to the congregation. To give us a taste of what its like, we were split into groups of 6 and were asked to mimic an accountability session. The pastor then asked us to interact with John 13:1-8 and answer a series of questions as it relates to our lives. At one point we were asked the question, how God spoke to us through this scripture passage. There was some talk about the cultural background and the meanings of a foot washer back in the day. However there were a couple guys in the group, myself included, who shared how Jesus reply to Peters refusal jumped off the page at them:

"No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."(John 13:8)

Our responses had nothing to do with its context. Instead we referred to being cleansed of our sin and living a holy, sanctified life. Without this cleanliness, we can’t be a part of God’s kingdom work.

I recognize the importance of scriptures context, as stated in the first paragraph. But situations like yesterdays church service have me wonder if examining the context and including it as part of God’s message to us is always 100% absolutely necessary?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Some Inspirational Thoughts to Ponder

The last few days I’ve encountered a number of inspirational quotes that have stimulated my thinking. So I thought I might share them. Maybe they will inspire you and stimulate your thinking as well. So here they are... Enjoy!

Faith in God's revelation is a way of grasping reality, without necessarily comprehending all the steps that may be involved. - Ray Stedman

As Moses laid aside the prerogatives of royalty for the sake of his God-given mission, so we must throw off whatever may hinder faith even though it may be right for others… Each runner must honestly judge what hinders faith for him or her and resolutely lay it aside, even though others seem to be unhindered by the same thing. - Ray Stedman commenting on Hebrews 12:1-2

Don’t think of me as a perfect Christian because I’m not. Anything good that you see in me, is not me as a Christian, its God being gracious and showing up in me - Nick Vujicic

It is essential to care about human rights - that ultimately is the bases of our existence. The responsibility to protect does trump sovereignty. If a sovereign does not take care of his or her people, the international community has a responsibility to protect." - Madeleine Albright

GRACE...God's Real Actions Compassionately Expressed - Erik Freiburger

Mine the things that make you angry and find the core values you can use to tell a great story - Don Miller

What makes you angry or think that “things” need to change - Erik Freiburger

The remedy for every tribulation is found in the cross. For obedience to God is found there - Thomas Aquinas

Tim Bits is now on Twitter

For all those that follow my blog and are interested, I just opened up a Twitter account. If you care to follow me there, just click this link, and you'll be directed to my twitter page.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Peace at Night on Twisted River

When Last Night in Twisted River, John Irving’s newest novel hit the shelves he adorned the red chair on CBC’s the hour. During the interview, he told George Stroumboulopoulos of his inability to devote 8 hour days to piecing together his works. The authors preference would have been to write all day every day. In reality prior to cider house Rules John Irving was able to devote 2 hours max to his writing. 

When I first heard this, I took that to mean because I had more availability I should be sitting with my pen and paper in hand every waking moment and writing. Truth be told that’s something I am having difficulty doing. Things get in the way of my writing. Advocacy meetings, being on the leadership team when Nick Vujicic came to town, neighbors wanting to socialize, church commitments, and the everyday responsibilities of keeping a home. Some days I get to the end of those daily commitments and I just want to be a vegetable. Throw on some Gordon Ramsey, CSI, or some comedy and wind down, till I head to bed.

When this happens, I would beat myself up because I didn’t spend all day writing and researching a new devotional. I would wonder how can I fulfill God’s call on my life to write a book if I can’t devote all day everyday to writing it? The last few days I have been reminded of John Irving’s words in that interview, and there’s something I missed. In the early days of his writing John Irving still wrote books, he just did it when time allowed him. A process I’m finding myself adhering too in the early days of my writing. There’s nothing wrong with it. I’m still accomplishing God’s call on my life to write a book, its just happening as time allows. Leaving me guilt free and able to accommodate the busy-ness that life brings.

to see George's full interview with John Irving Click Here
to preview and/or order Last Night in Twisted River Click Here