Archive for October, 2013

Fans or Players

For 2 years I’ve spent every week writing a brief article for this newsletter. In 105 articles to date, I’ve tried to write in regard to understanding God’s word while, hopefully, uplifting or encouraging to fight the good fight.  In all those articles, I’ve not once used a football anecdote, illustration or analogy. Today, I will!runner

The Americanization of football was born on the winds of a fading storm that was the Civil War.  It began as a hybrid of European football (soccer) and Rugby. For many years, well into the 1920’s, Northern teams such as Yale, Princeton, University of Chicago, and yes, Norte Dame dominated the game.  Southern schools were ridiculed and laughed at as reconstruction bore a heavy toll on both academics and athletics. The War Between the States was still being fought and won by the North through the game of football. In the 1890’s the University of Virginia was invited to play Princeton.  The young men boarded a train and headed north to accomplish that which General Lee failed to do at Gettysburg, WIN! Same results, different field, Princeton won, 106-0.

Well, you know the rest of the story. I’ll not spend time retelling southern victories or the dominance today of the SEC. Football is the quintessential victory. It would be more bearable if all real wars could be decided on a football field.  I’ve listened to and read of many coaches who invoked young men to fight to the death. “Leave all that you have on the field men, and then leave some more.” That could be a quote from General Patton or General Neyland (Tennessee coach and brigadier general). We long for and bask in the light of victories. We wear hats and shirts that bear our team logos, spend entire days watching and rooting our teams to victory. We crave the success of victory.  We grow anxious before and during the game, all for the sake of victory.  Victory for what? A football game! Great, for a moment. Shallow and unsatisfying at best.

Our real victories come when we endeavor to overcome the real challenge of life, sin!  We like the idea of leading a righteous life and being the kind of person God intended for us to be. Maybe though, we’d rather be spectators, and pull for others to be victorious for us. We will cheer them on and applaud when they are good, and fuss when they are bad.  If they can’t win every game, we’ll ask to get rid of them and put those in who can win. After all, it’s not our job, reputation, or neck on the line, we’re  just fans.

Victory is truly for those who have a stake in the fight. Victory is for those who have left it all on the field and then some. Fans get to bask in the light of those victories, but the victory is rather hollow and fading because they really didn’t leave anything on the field.

Christ is victorious! He left it all on the field and then some for every human that ever was or shall ever be. His victory is complete and everlasting. He’s inviting us to come and join him on the field of play, to truly enjoy the thrill of victory. However, in order to have that victory in our lives, we’ve got to trust him, obey him, and execute His plan and then leave ourselves on the field.  We’ve got to be willing to do it as He has said, not as we feel. He is the author of the victory. 1Co 15:57  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Fans eat peanuts, drink cold drinks and spend lots of money. They leave at halftime, and read about the victory in next day’s paper. Players eat dirt, drink Gatorade and pay with sweat and blood. They leave when the game is over and carry the thrill of victory for the rest of their life. Let’s be participants of the victory! Not fans.

Darryl Fuller

The Right Info

So, I got up this morning and thought I would track my son and daughter-in-law’s flight to Colorado. I punched in the departure airport and the destination airport, located a flight that was leaving this morning, selected the flight and tah-dah!MySkyStatus I’m tracking their flight.  In real time data I’m able to see their altitude, air speed, flight path and to the mile, where they are along the flight path.  I immediately texted Ben and looked to impress him with my savvy techno knowhow.  “I see Ben that you are cruising along at 28,000 feet, with airspeed of 414mph and I show that you are flying directly over   Gadsden, Alabama right now.” A few minutes go by and no reply, “I see that you are now at 30,000 feet and are now passing over Huntsville.” Then I get a text from Ben, “That’s not us.” I asked, “Where are you?” He responds, “At the airport.” All that techno, GPS, WiFi, 4G, iPhone, Star Trek, “beam me up Scottie”, know-how is no good unless you’ve got the right flight. Imagine that! In the age of information, it turns out the right information is essential.

This is our world today, an entire globe of people with tons of information at the tip of our fingers, but we’ve built our faith and decisions on bad information. Please don’t interpret my intentions here as an attempt to beat up on the youth, but those born after 1993 don’t know anything yet. Work awhile, have children, pay bills, change a diaper, sit up all night with a crying baby, wonder how you’re going to pay the mortgage, a broken car, and a torn up washing machine in the same week. Then, maybe, you’ve got enough information to make life-changing decisions. Until then, Wikipedia and Google search may give you all kinds of knowledge, but it will never be able to provide you with wisdom.

In the same way, the information age has somehow rendered the wisdom of God’s word as trivial and archaic.  We have so much information in regard to history and other cultures that “experts” young and old alike, think they have all the answers now.  “Attend the church of your choice” they say, and that sounds like a good thing, but it’s the wrong  information. 1Ti 3:15  if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.  And Eph 4:4-5  There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–  one Lord, one faith, one baptism. 

Joel Osteen claims that there are many paths to God and Christ is just one of them.  Sounds good and happy and inclusive, but it’s bad information. God says in Php 2:9-11  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,   so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,    and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Some experts say, “It doesn’t matter about your religion as long as you are moral and do good deeds.”  Once again, a great and encouraging sentiment, but it’s bad information.  The creator of the world says  Mat 7:21-23  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.   On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Ben and Jennifer are over Kansas City as I end this note.  They are cruising at an altitude of 38,800 feet with airspeed of 438 mph. They’ll be in Denver in another 59 minutes. I’m assured of this now. I’ve got the right path, the right flight, all because I finally got the right information.

Don’t be misinformed!

Darryl Fuller

Two Paths to Choose

Occasionally I am afforded the opportunity to go and proclaim good tidings to those who have been incarcerated.  Today was one of those visits. Although the Shelby County Correctional Facility is a new and modern building, one step inside and you are well aware of the institutional feel; this is JAIL! two-roads The only thing that separates me from murderers, rapists, thieves, drug dealers and addicts is a few steel doors. I do not feel threatened in any way; after all there are plenty of armed officers, a well secured system to keep the prisoners on one side and visitors safe on the other. However, one cannot quite squelch the feeling of a dangerous place full of dangerous people.  As soon as I enter, I ask a deputy for permission to see one of the inmates.  He asks for my driver’s license as I explain that I am a minister there to visit a young man. He sets up the meeting in a small 8 x 8 conference room, furnished only with a single chair. A video screen is mounted on one wall next to a phone. There are no paintings or other fixtures in this cubicle. It is austere, yet practical. As I sit in the quiet, I have a few moments to gather my thoughts and contemplate what words I will say that will have any bearing on this young man’s life. The night before, I rehearsed several scriptures and prayed to God that He would give me the wisdom and the words to make a difference.

A few minutes pass, then suddenly, the monitor comes on and I am now viewing the inside of the holding area. Several inmates are milling about, one is sweeping the floor with a broom, a few are off to one corner watching as one inmate is cutting the hair of another.  All are wearing orange trousers and pullover shirts. Soon, a young man comes over to the front of the screen and sits down on a stool that he has brought with him.  He picks up the phone and places it next to his ear and holds it there with his shoulder as he rubs his eyes and head as if he has been on a long journey and just wants to get out of the car.  A small commotion between other inmates occurs behind him and off-screen.  Before we can even begin our conversation, he drops the phone and wheels around instinctively. Apparently, it was nothing as he comes back into view, places the phone next to his ear, rubs his head again and warily says hello. The whole scene reminds me of a cat who is cautiously coming to let you pet it and at the last second is startled by something in its peripheral vision, only to recover and timidly try again.

We talk for a good while as he begins to relax and, I sense trust to some degree of my intentions. I quoted several scriptures to him, imploring him of the need to trust in God and seek His ways. I tried my best to get him to understand that he has choices and that he is not a victim and that the path he chooses now will determine how his life will forever play out. I told him that God had given him the choice. I asked him this question, “Do you like it in there?” He said, “NO!” I said to him, “Then choose another path.” He said that he had made bad choices and I took that opportunity to proclaim the good news of Jesus and how great and wonderful that path is.

Whether this young man will make the right choices is entirely up to him.  I hope and pray that I said something that will prick his heart to action. To walk away from such a meeting sometimes leaves me feeling like I’ve come too late.With Christ however, all things are possible (Phil.4:13).

So we must turn our attention to those who have not ventured down the wrong path and encourage the young and old alike to make sound and Godly choices.  We may not be able to rescue those who have fallen from the ship into the great tempest, but we must certainly train and advise those still aboard to heed the warnings.

The best preventative for taking the wrong course in life is to first understand the paths that are before you.  So often, parents fail their children, by simply letting them figure out things for themselves.  I couldn’t disagree more.  God clearly states that we are to “train up a child in the way in which he should go, and he will not depart from it.” Prov.22:6.  Part of that training is going down the right paths ourselves.  If we don’t want our children to find themselves behind bars, let’s make sure we’re emphasizing a respect for all authority above us.  Do our children see us speeding, skipping on taxes, belittling dignitaries like commissioners, mayors, congressmen, senators, policeman, or even the President? If from an early age the only path my children have seen me take is one of cynicism and contempt for those who hold authority over me, they will follow my footsteps and perhaps grow to have little regard for the law and those who uphold it.

Another path I can lead my children down is one void of faith. I was blessed to have parents who took the faithful way.  They went to church for every service.  They prayed often, they studied their Bibles. They invited many strangers into our home. They cared for the needy, visited the sick and afflicted, and best of all proclaimed the gospel in many ways. Their faith was in action not just by their words but by their deeds.  Children are smarter than we give them credit for and  when we pretend to be Christians through vain words, by our fruits they will know who we really are. When we tell them they shouldn’t drink or smoke or watch terrible things on the television, are we showing them that’s the path I’m on or just pointing to the sign that marks the trail head?  If I don’t want to see my children spend a life of misery I’d better pay attention to the path I’m on and make sure it’s a path of faithfulness towards God. (Ps.89:33; Ps.119:30; Prov.16:6)

Still another path that leads to destruction is a crooked path of despair, resentment, anger, and bitterness. There should be happiness in the home.  It should be a place of refuge and peace. It’s unrealistic of course to expect every moment to be full of joy and excitement, but it should be the norm, one where fighting and fussing are rare and short lived.  Christ presented us the best example of this in John 16:33  I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Perhaps this one avenue of all others, one void of hope, is the single most cause for incarceration among young people today – a broken and dispirited home, a home where there is no love of God or family or country.  Work becomes drudgery. Home becomes a prison, family a nuisance to avoid.  It doesn’t just start overnight.  We must always be on the guard against anger and discontent with others. We do not have the luxury of venting our frustrations upon our spouses and children. To the contrary, as husbands and fathers our duty is to protect and even lay down our lives for them (Eph.5:25). When our children see that we have taken the path of joy and contentment, they too will follow.  They will see that we are not victims of the degradation that surrounds us all, but better they will see us as heroes, ones who have conquered life.   Rom 8:37  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Let us lead them down the right path.

 

Darryl Fuller

Open your Ears

plug_earsI read in a book recently of a brilliant but brutal man, who according to our standard of living had it all. He was not only educated in the finest of Northeastern schools, but was specifically tutored by an equally brilliant individual who was well educated in both law and philosophy. He grew up in a famous cosmopolitan city of the North and had a pedigree that was unequal among his peers.

This man was neither Christian nor Muslim, but he worshipped his God fervently and his religion was the very essence of who he was. He went about this country, defending his culture and religion adamantly.  He held lectures and seminars in places of worship throughout the country and with cunning lawful ability dared anyone to challenge his power. Over a brief time he grew in power and prestige among those who held the same views. As a result his popularity began to soar. He began to press the issues and demand respect for his teachings and beliefs even to the point of hurting those who disagreed.  Since he was educated at the most prestigious of law schools in the country, and his views empowered government officials he became a de facto spokesman and leader for the government. Without even being elected or appointed by high ranking officials, he was given carte blanch to do whatever was necessary to proclaim and promote their demagoguery. All the time his power, influence and position grew and solidified. He had it all!

Over time, because of his popularity and power, the equal powers in government, turned their eyes away when he began to brutally put down the opposition. He employed terror and dread in eliminating the threat to their power.  In the middle of the night he would have those who opposed him and his constituents dragged out of their homes and beaten or worse yet, killed! At first this was done in secret, as not to bring attention to their monstrous deeds, but as they became bolder, they gave sanction to his deeds and even wrote laws to allow the horror. With every ounce of his energy he struck fear and terror into the hearts of men and women and he grew mightier and wealthier with every person he destroyed. He had it all!

This is truly one of the darkest men who has ever been a part of our histories and would have continued on his blood thirsty quest had it not been for one extraordinary, eye-opening event, an event that would forever change the way he saw things, even his own identity and every aspect of his way of life.

It happened as he was leaving from one of his clandestine meetings with top government officials in a large southern city. He had just been assigned a new mission to go to a large northern metropolis and capture what they considered terrorist cells, and bring them back at all costs.  He was traveling with his security detail, via a highway that went into this Northern city when, as they drew near, he received a call. The call was so powerful that the entire accompaniment came to a complete halt.   He was dumbfounded and bewildered as this voice cried out to him.

His entourage was not quite sure what had happened, but they quickly surrounded him and proceeded again into the city. After some time, one of the so-called terrorists came and met with the man, reluctantly, but they had a quiet and uneventful meeting. It was really during this meeting that things changed dramatically for the man. He was led away somewhere for a brief moment, but when they returned, his whole demeanor had changed.

Instead of arresting the so-called terrorist, he hugged him, ate a meal with him, then sent his security detail away.  He tore up the warrants and left his group.  He was giving up all that he had!

The man of course was a lawyer from the Northern city of Tarsus, in the providence of Cilicia, his name was Saul. He grew up as a Jew, but he had Roman citizenship. He considered himself to be a prominent  Jew Act 22:3-4  “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.  (4)  I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women,

Rom 11:1  I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.

Although many people believe that Saul was converted on the road to Damascus, his actual transformation took place in Damascus. It was an extraordinary event that took place along that roadside, but I would suggest to you that it was no more extraordinary than when you and I read and hear the voice of God calling to us. It was bewildering for Saul when  he was struck blind, but the truth is he was already blind and God used his blindness to get his attention.

So many people have said, “If God would only show himself, then I would believe.” Men from every age and every culture have grappled with the dilemma of seeing in order to believe.  It is with that thought that many believe this vision of Saul was an eye witness event of Jesus. Somehow or another Saul could not change to become a Christian unless he saw Jesus standing before him.  To the contrary, Saul never saw Jesus, with his eyes, but he did see him with his ears and his heart.

Act 26:14-18  And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’  (15)  And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.  (16)  But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you,  (17)  delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles–to whom I am sending you  (18)  to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

The scriptures are very clear about this.  Saul never saw Jesus here! Act 9:8  Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And yet even though Saul did not see Jesus, he heard Him.  After he went into the city he received further evidence of his error through the gift of the

Holy Spirit and the voice of Ananias who preached unto him the gospel.  It is the combination of these three voices, the Lord’s, the Holy Spirit’s (the Bible), and a man proclaiming the truth bravely that moved Saul to arise and wash away his sins through baptism.  The word of God, the voice of God in a willing heart, changed Saul to Paul.  Saul died that day! Paul arose from the grave of baptism where the darkest man in history was buried.

Everything he had, his wealth and fame, place of honor and power he buried and counted it as waste and refuge (Php.3:8), all because a kind and gentle voice cried to him , ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is the same voice that cries to us.  No more or no less than it was to Paul, our Lord cries and pleads with us, “Quit hurting yourself and just listen to me.”

 

Darryl Fuller