Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Insanity of God

In my hometown Tuesday is the "cheap night" at our local movie theatre.  So, yesterday afternoon late, Hubster and I decided we'd see a movie.  At first, we were looking to go see "Ben Hur", which has been out a few days. Then, we noticed that there was going to be a one-night, single showing of a movie called, "Insanity of God".  Intrigued, we read the description on Fandango, and knew our choice was made.

The theater was packed.  We also ran into some of our church's ministerial staff and church friends were there, which was cool.  We sat down with our popcorn and Coke, and began to be blown away.

Here are my take-aways from this powerful movie.

1.  Most of us American Christians have no idea what persecution for our faith is like.  In countries that are "closed" to the gospel of Jesus Christ, persecution is generational.  Persecution is considered to be both a familial as well as a spiritual birthright.  In China, unless you have been to prison for your faith in Jesus Christ, you are not fully trusted by the underground Christian community.  Prison is their seminary.

2.  There is One True Church of Jesus Christ.  Do you pray for "the persecuted church"?  I have, and do.  But, there is not "the persecuted church" and "the free church"; there is just The Church.  One Body, consumed and propelled by One Spirit, following One Savior, our Lord Jesus.  Similarly, there are not "missionaries" and those that "fill the pews".  We are all missionaries, or should be.  I was shamed to hear the words of my denomination's current leader who said that of the millions of members of our denomination in America, most will go to their graves without having told one, single person the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I can only conclude that our reluctance to share the gospel on a day-in, day-out basis is due to our belief that either: 1) It is not a truth worth sharing or 2) Jesus doesn't really matter.
Yes, we pray for "the persecuted church" because we see them as "the needy ones"; we ought to pray for "the flabby church", because we are the ones who are poor, and wretched, self-indulgent and blind.

3.  God wastes nothing.  No trial or tribulation or hardship we endure, especially those we suffer because of our faith in Jesus Christ, ever goes unnoticed or unused by God.  We may never see how God will use it; but, He will.  Or, we may get to see how God uses it, but not completely.  For example, there is a story in the movie about a man imprisoned for his faith.  In the filming of the movie, as that scene was re-enacted on celluloid, for posterity, the Spirit of the Living God moved yet again, using that trial for His glory AGAIN!
Think about Paul's imprisonment.  Honestly, I do not think he had ANY idea that his little letters would form the backbone of the New Testament.  Many of them were written while he was under house arrest for his faith.
So, if you are suffering today because your Savior and Lord is Jesus Christ, and you are faithfully following Him, God will use and continue to use your sorrow, your pain, your loss to grow your faith as well as the faith of others, and perhaps even those around the world, especially if we yield to Him and let Him be God.
Don't think that your faithful ministry is for nothing. He never wastes anything, but instead uses it all to His glory.

4.  Finally, the movie made me consider the kind of faith I want.  And, here's my renewed commitment.  I want:
a faith based on the Word of God, no matter the cost,
a faith courageous in every circumstance,
a faith that enables me to truly see with Spirit-eyes EVERY opportunity, and to seize it
a fighting faith, one that confronts evil and defeats it
a miraculous faith that "moves mountains"
a faith that I don't merely possess, but a faith that possesses me, a radical, insane faith.

16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17For our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles.18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.…
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Dearest, precious, most Sovereign Father, Your all-powerful works among us humans demonstrate Your perfect plan....a plan that seems rather insane to us most of the time.  Often, it requires us to make super-human sacrifices, because Jesus matters.  He matters eternally, both now and forever. And, because He is all-in-all, no persecution we endure here is either insignificant or forgotten.  I thank you for that.  Almighty One, I lift up to You in prayer today all who love You truly and who are giving their last ounces of strength in Your service, moment to moment.  Strengthen our flabby faith, Jesus, and make us into warriors, brave-hearted warriors, for the sake of Your name, and for the spreading of Your gospel, over the whole world.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Extraordinary Beauty of The Same

Brutally honest confession:  Sundays have become, lately, a source of angst in my soul.  This Monday morning, for the second Monday in a row, I awoke with a raging headache.  Totally uncharacteristic for me.

In yesterday's church service one of the hymns sung was "Great Is Thy Faithfulness".  I got to thinking....if I were a preacher (I can hear you chortling out there....)....and I were preaching to a congregation for the first time....what would I preach?

(You can tell I'm between Bible books now, can't you?  "She finished Colossians and now she is in that crazy, wandering state she goes to before she starts another book...")

Call me what you will, but for anyone who digs into the Bible after asking the Holy Spirit for guidance and leading, a scriptural smorgasbord is found.  So many tasty delights!  Which one to select?  How to fill my plate?  The leading of the Holy Spirit is key.  He governs what I share here; and, in the case of every Bible-believing, Christ-honoring believer, He speaks to each one's spirits similarly.

So, in worshipping through the hymn "Great is Thy Faithfulness" yesterday, I thought of Hebrews 13:8.  The next letter that Paul wrote, after Colossians, was the short letter called Philemon.  It will be a brief sojourn in Philemon we together take next.  But ...
The book Paul wrote after Philemon was the mighty Hebrews, one of the crown jewels of the New Testament.  I am very eager to dive into that book.

For the moment, though, let's consider Hebrews 13:8, shall we?

Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday and today and forever!

This verse occurs in the last chapter of this great book, in the middle of the final exhortations.  The writer of the hymn put it like this:

"Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not.  As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be."

The hymnwriter, Thomas Chisholm, was just an ordinary Christian who loved the Word of God.  The phrase above was taken almost word-for-word from Lamentations 3:23 (KJV).

22It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
23They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
24The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

Chisholm was not famous in his day, or particularly healthy, or wealthy.  He did not become a Christian until he was 27, or become a preacher until he was 36.  Even so, he only worked as a minister for one year, due to poor health.  For most of his vocational life, he sold honest but quite mundane job.   He was just an ordinary Believer, day in and day out. In his spare time, he wrote nearly 1200 poems.  Several were published as hymns.

The changelessness of Father, Son and Holy Spirit make the unbeliever highly uncomfortable.  My Twitter friend, Steve Berman, wrote about this beautifully in his essay today, which you can read here:

But, for the Believer....oh!  The immutability of our God and Savior is of supreme comfort!  William Runyan wrote the music, "the tune", to the great hymn we're considering today.  And, the music IS beautiful! But, it is the hymn's message which has caused it to endure for nearly 100 years.

"Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth...Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide..."

No matter the headaches of this life, His peace endures in the heart of the Christian.
I'm so thankful for the changelessness of my Savior!  Yep, that "will preach"!

Sing it, CeCe!!

Dear Father, Savior, Lord and King...all my praise is to You, alone!  For You alone are worthy.  You are my anchor in the storms of life.  No "headaches" of this life are greater than Your peace.  You are incomparable.  I am so grateful that You call me Your own.  In Jesus' name, amen.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Meanderings Concerning Nympha and Archippus

We find ourselves now at the end of Colossians.  The second half of the last chapter, chapter 4 is devoted to personal greetings and admonitions.  These are portions of the Bible that are frequently glossed over.  Case in point:  ever heard of either Nympha or Archippus?

5Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters who are in Laodicea and to Nympha and the church that meets in her house. 16And after you have read this letter, have it read to the church of Laodicea. In turn, read the letter from Laodicea as well. 17And tell Archippus, “See to it that you complete the ministry you received in the Lord.”
Colossians 4:15-17 (NET)

Nympha, a woman of Laodicea, was apparently the leader of the Laodicean church; it met in her house.  This is the only time she is mentioned in scripture.  Nympha must have been a rather wealthy woman, to have a house large enough to host a small church.  There is some disagreement as to whether Nympha was a woman or a man.  Most modern Bible scholars agree that her name was changed to the masculine sometime during the Middle Ages by Catholic scribes who assumed they were looking at an editing error.1  Colosse and Laodicea were small towns, close together, which is why Paul directed that they share letters with each other.  I am fascinated by the apparently missing "Laodicean Letter" from Paul, as it is mentioned in verse 16 but was not preserved in perpetuity, nor was it incorporated into our holy, scriptural canon.

As for Archippus, the admonition from Paul to him is one for all Christians.  You are a Christian, but you aren't in "ministry", (diakonian) you say?  Wrong.  Every Christian is, or should be, a minister (diakonian).  I don't mean in the ecclesiastical, vocational, full-time occupational sense.  But, if we all are given spiritual gifts when we become Christians, how else would we use them, exercise them, except in "ministry"?

Here's the thing:  I don't think the Lord ever expected us to sit around and just be "takers".  A friend of mine's blog today was titled, "A Good Deal".  Salvation through Jesus Christ is "the best deal of all"!  If we really believe that, how is it that we do things like hire a pastor full-time and then expect him to do all the "ministry"?

Certainly, Paul did not believe that such "delegation of ministry" is scriptural!  Otherwise, why would he send that message to Archippus?  And, who was this dude, anyway?  It appears that he was just a "regular dude", not some mega-church leader.  He is mentioned in Philemon 1:1-2 as being a "fellow soldier" with Paul.  The word "ministry" in the Greek is "diakonian" or "diaconate" or "deacon", in the English.  But, it is used in a more general sense, not to indicate that Archippus was an actual "deacon".  Some have postulated that he was the leader of the Colossian church.  That may have been the case, as he is mentioned in practically the same sentence as Nympha, the leader of the Laodicean church.

Regardless of these meanderings and speculations, let's pray for each other, that each of us clings close to Jesus for the remainder of our days and that we boldly, courageously step out to fulfill the callings He has given to each of us.  Brick by brick....building on the Cornerstone, the firm foundation who is Jesus Christ, our Savior!




Thursday, August 25, 2016

Outsiders and Empty Words

I admire folks like Ken Ham, Josh McDowell, David Limbaugh, C.S. Lewis --- apologists all.  The English word "apologetics", which sounds like excuses are being made for something or one is "apologizing" for a belief system, is in my mind an unfortunate word.  It actually means that a valid, rational defense is being made for a belief system.

When I am talking with someone who is oppositional to the Christian faith beliefs I hold, as a Baptist, I find myself getting "emotional".  I'm tempted to allow my voice to take on a sharp edge, out of my desire to convince the person.  (My voice is very resonant anyhow; but, this makes it more "pronounced".  Yes, please pardon the pun!)

Paul gives great advice about dealing with people who hold beliefs different from our own or who are outside God's family.

5Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Colossians 4:5-6

Paul, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives us two guiding principles for dealing with those who do not know Christ.  However, they can equally apply to any of our conversations.

First of all, we need to make the best use of our time, in our conversations with others.  Are our conversations God-honoring?  Are they frivolous?  Frivolity is great, unless we spend an inordinate amount of time in it, which is an unwise use of our time.

The King James Version of the Bible translates "making the best use of the time" as "redeeming the time", which has a connotation of "cashing it in" or "buying it back".

The people Paul is speaking of are non-Christians, who watch how we believers live.  They also listen to how we talk.  Think about that, before you re-tweet something or post something hateful, off-color or even obscene.   It's so easy to just click the mouse and diminish your testimony.

At my church we have had a series of church conferences over the past two months.  At each one members have risen to speak at the microphone.  I wonder how many regret the words they spoke on those occasions?  And, those meetings were not with "outsiders", but, instead, within the "faith family"!

There was a preacher who was called to pastor a large church in Atlanta many years ago.  Shortly after his arrival there to minister, a local man hired a private detective to follow him around.  The preacher was unaware of this.  The detective reported back to the man who had hired him that the pastor was "the real deal".... that his "walk" matched his "talk".  And, the man accepted Christ as Savior, in large part because of this pastor's testimony.

Christians are very reluctant in this current culture to stand up against sin.  I wonder if that is because they have a "mote in their own eye" (Matthew 7:3-5), a hidden, secret sin?

When we do speak out, are our words "seasoned"?  Salt makes food taste better, to a certain extent.  If you use too much, the taste is spoiled; use too little and the food is bland.  A little salt goes a long way.

We certainly do NOT want to be as the infamous Westboro Baptist Church crowd who, though they have the word "Baptist" in their name, do not represent the Baptist denomination at all.  These are people whose hate-filled words and methods are doing irreparable harm to the cause of Jesus Christ.   (I was able to see them in person last month, at the GOP National Convention.  They are utterly repulsive.  God forbid we should even come close to their example!)

These verses are some of the most sobering in the entire Bible:

For the mouth speaks from what fills the heart. 35The good person brings good things out of his good treasury, and the evil person brings evil things out of his evil treasury. 36I tell you that on the day of judgment, people will give an account for every worthless word they speak. 37For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Matthew 12:35-37 (NET)

One of my Twitter friends told me yesterday that she prays over every Scriptural tweet she designs and tweets out.  Whoa.... What a testimony!  Twitter is just one example.  We absolutely must pray that the Holy Spirit will measure and weigh our words before they proceed from our mouths. God will hold us accountable for every single one!

Almost every day, I pray this Scripture.  Maybe it will help you too.  I certainly need to pray it often, throughout the day!   Let's pray it together right now.  Psalm 19:14 - - -

Dear Father,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer!  
In Jesus' name, amen.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Pleading for Righteousness

Last night, I was worshipping with some online friends, which I do most Tuesday nights, and a video played in the chat room - - - the movie trailer for War Room.  (I won a DVD of that movie at an education sorority fundraiser, and I really need to make the time to watch it again.)  At any rate, Ms. Clara, the elderly mentor of the female lead, said this in the movie and it struck me so that I wrote it down.
"Plead with God so that He can do only what HE can do.  Then, you got to get out of the way and let Him do it!"

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.   At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
Colossians 4:2-3 (NET)

"Plead with God"....
That is a contemporary rendition of "Continue steadfastly in prayer", (the supplication and intercession aspects of prayer anyway....)
But, what things are we to plead with Him about?  And how?  How do we know what to pray, about those concerns/needs?

Well, first of all, if you belong to Jesus Christ, if you have asked Him to be your Lord and Savior, you cannot pray wrongly.  The Scriptures testify that the Holy Spirit intercedes for you and presents your prayers before the Father's throne. (Romans 8:26) In so doing, He makes our prayers righteous, because He can do nothing other than to do righteously.  He is God, after all, the third Person of the Holy Trinity.

But, usually, we plead with God about things closest to our hearts, don't we?  Look, if what we pray lines up with Scripture, we are praying right.  If it does not, we aren't.  And, if we pray, "Lord God, You are sovereign.  May You receive all glory and Your will be done in this situation!", then we can't lose.  That prayer is ALWAYS going to be right, because it is scriptural and it is being prayed with a correct heart attitude.

Let me give you a current example from my own life.

Some friends and I are both in similar places as far as our "vocations".  We both seem to be in a sort of lull at the moment, a period of waiting.  As far as my friends are concerned, I have my own selfish wishes about what God's will is going to be.  But, that, frankly, is irrelevant.  What I am praying is that God will make His will known to my friends, in a very clear way.  Whatever that outcome will be, I am watching expectantly to see what God will do.  And, when He does it, I will celebrate Him, glorify Him and rejoice in His goodness.  I am always happiest when I and my loved ones are in the center of God's will, whatever and wherever that may be.

As for me, I too am seeking His will in how this blogging and vlogging ministry will grow and/or how He wants me to spend my time each day.  So, pray for me and for my friends, if you will, verse 3 above.  It would mean the world to me if you would!

When you are waiting on the Lord to make His will known, this is a spiritual discipline that grows the Christian's faith.  So, don't chafe against it, if you, too, are in a place of pleading with God and then waiting for Him to show Himself glorious.  Be watchful!  And, when you see God do His mighty work, when He works His beautiful plan, give Him all the glory.  Thank Him and bless His name.
His answer is coming, and it is always "right on time".

Father, I thank you that You are concerned with every detail of our lives.  Thank you for these verses, which remind us of the centrality of prayer in our ongoing relationship with you.  Help me to remember that prayer is not just about talking to You, but that it is also about a constant conversation with You so that I can also hear FROM You.  To You, Lord Jesus, be all glory and honor and praise, forever and ever!  Amen

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"She Works Hard For the ..."

Those of you who thought of Donna Summer's hit from the 1980s just put a date stamp on yourselves, lol!

Today's topic is "work".  The text is Colossians 3:22-25 and 4:1 (NIV).

22Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.25Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

1Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

These verses pertained to slaves and masters, in Paul's day.   (Some of you are saying, "That's right...describes my workplace perfectly!")  Well, I hope not.  But, I realize that some work situations are very difficult to bear, due to unruly coworkers or overbearing bosses.  I've endured both.  At various times, I've been perceived as both.  So, I'm "widja".  Let's apply the principles of these verses to the workplace, today's modern application.

God blessed me with a wonderful 36-year career in the sphere of education.  For the first 10 years, I taught.  For the next 21, I was "in management".  For the last five, I was a self-employed, free-lance teacher and for part of that a part-time university professor.  Now, I find myself sort of "untethered" as far as "paying work" is concerned.  For the first time since my teens, I am not "bringing in a salary" of any sort, but am devoting a lot of my time to ministry...this blog, video blogs, church work. I'm also still mothering two young adult sons and supporting other family members as needed.  It keeps me busy enough.

Enough about "yours truly".
The urgings from this passage are pretty straightforward.

1.  Regardless of your job or position, throw your heart into it and do your work as though you are working for the Lord...because you are.  Whether in management or on the "assembly line", everyone has a "boss" (if not earthly, then heavenly).  You may think that yours is the absolute worst.  But, ultimately, you are not working for your boss.  You are working for God.  If you cannot support the culture and mission of your employer, though, and after much prayer it still seems "irredeemable", I'd start looking for another position.
The "sweet spot" for the Christian is when you are doing work you believe God designed you and called you to do.  Then is when one's work becomes gloriously fulfilling!  Many young people have trouble deciding what to do as a life's career.  My advice is this:  explore what you are both good at and what you enjoy.  If you can make a living at that, go for it.  When you find the "sweet spot", you'll never dread going to work each day.  That is a blessing!

2.  Your reward is not your paycheck.  Yes, paychecks are welcomed and they are necessary. However, the Christian's reward for doing a job well is the approval of our Savior.  Those intangible rewards are not going to be fully seen until we are with Him in glory.

3.  Don't worry about evildoers getting their own payback.  There is no such thing as "karma", as the world calls it.  God, however, is much more just and real than "karma".  God will right wrongs and avenge injustices.  He does not play favorites.  As godly bosses here on earth, we are to model our leadership after God's.  We are to do our best to deal with our employees in a way that is both right, fair and ... I would add, selfless and compassionate.

4.  The Importance of Teamwork
Regardless of the field, it is important that the employees and management are pulling in the same direction and helping each other.  This is where the "slaves/master" reality from 1st century Holy Land breaks down.  Applying a slave-master paradigm to the current workplace is just ridiculously ineffective, to put it mildly.  Let me give you a more modern twist to illustrate.
There will be times when management makes some rule, and it is "boneheaded".  Usually what happens is that they think they are doing the right thing, but they don't see all the potential results this move would make.  On the other hand, management often has to implement policies or change the work environment according to information that the employees don't have access to and, by law, cannot have access to.  So, this is where a certain level of trust comes in.  Trust is both earned and given.  When something is perceived to be detrimental to the health of the organization as a whole, both parties (employees and management) must approach each other to either get clarification or to address the problem.  Unfortunately, the customary response is to be tone-deaf to each other and then sit back and gripe about it.  This is not productive.

Well, well, I could go on and on until this becomes some sort of mini-book about work and leadership, which I have no desire to write.

Father, thank you for giving each of us a skill-set which we can then choose to use for Your glory. May we use it for the furtherance of Your kingdom, and not for our own self-aggrandizement.  May we deal humbly with each other, not in an exaggerated sense of importance, each Christian seeking to exhibit all the attributes of the holy, godly walk, in our workplaces.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Pushin' My Buttons!

Why is it that no one on earth has the peculiar power to "push our buttons" more than our family members?  Can I "get a witness"?  Particularly, this is often true with children and parents.  I think that one reason is ... we are often so much like our parents or children.  We sometimes don't want to admit that, unless we are talking about their favorable qualities.  I sometimes have referred to "YOUR son", when talking with my husband about one of our sons who has done something boneheaded.  Then, later, when he does something wonderful he is "MY son", lol!

If you believe that God is sovereign, however, you recognize (whether you want to or not), that He has given to you the parents and (if you have any) the children He absolutely wanted you to have.  I was blessed with wonderful, godly parents, and with two precious sons, all of whom I love dearly. Unfortunately, though, this has not been the case for all of you, my dear brothers and sisters and non-believer readers.  Some of you have had "terrible parents" and/or "heartbreaking children".

Because God gave to humankind free will, some of our parents and/or children have made disastrous choices, which severely impacted our lives in a negative way.  Some of these negative impacts have been long-lasting, over a course of years!

The truth is:  our closest family members have the greatest potential to both enrich our lives and to destroy our lives.

Today's text focuses on family relationships and the mutual love and respect which make them healthy.  I've written about the relationship between husbands and wives, in my devotional meanderings through other of Paul's writings. You can explore those at these links below:

Here's the complete text, but we will be focusing on verses 20-21:

18Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.20Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing in the Lord. 21Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they will not become disheartened.
Colossians 3:18-21

If you grew up in a Christian church, you probably had verse 20 quoted to you repeatedly.   (I have always been sort of ... intense ... so, it was quoted to me a lot!) Children can be quite provocative....that is to say, rebellious and disobedient.  Believe me, mine have provoked me plenty! The thing is, though, that verse 20 really goes hand-in-hand with verse 21, as verses 18 and 19 go together.

The only other thing to give us pause in verse 20 is that, obviously, we should not obey our parents in ungodliness.  Let's say your father is a philanderer and urges you to follow his example.  No, just (obviously) NO.  That is not what is meant by this verse, which assumes that the parents are walking in righteousness before their children, and leading them accordingly.  Parents are never going to be perfect; so, to expect them to be is an impossible standard.

Have you ever known or witnessed a parent, though, who deliberately provoked his or her children? I have.  What some would cause "playful teasing" is viewed by some as provocation.  I have a child like that.  He absolutely does NOT like to be teased.  But, that is not what is meant here.  Let's look at two action words from this verse, in various translations.

First, the word translated in the NET version as "provoke".  Here are synonyms from other versions:
embitter, aggravate, exasperate, "fret and harass", vex, "make angry".  You can see that these go beyond simple, playful teasing.  Nor do they mean the godly correction that parents are commanded to give their children, although the children will often find such godly correction less-than-pleasant.

When, as parents, we correct our children with an attitude of "lording it over them", and/or using our God-given authority as a mace or a club or a battering ram, then we will often get the response the Bible refers to in the NET as "disheartened" children.

What, then, are some words other translations use for "disheartened"?  Discouraged, "lose heart", "become morose".

There are so many applications of this verse in every day life, but when I read it, I think of the meme I put at the top of today's blog post.  There are times when we need to correct our children, and even give constructive criticism about their choices, particularly when our children are young and living at home.  As they mature and become young adults, we must be very judicious about our "advice".  I am learning that lesson, with two "twenty-somethings" whom I love.

The very worst outcome of our training of our children would not be that they come to doubt our love for them, although that would be awful.  No, the worst outcome would be if they start to doubt God's love for them.  Fortunately or unfortunately, our children begin to derive their concept of God according to how we love them (or not) in our homes.

When you look at our good, good Father, He does not "push our buttons".  He does not provoke us to anger or ungodliness, but instead gently "restores my soul" and "leads us in paths of righteousness for His name's sake" (Psalm 23:3). May we, parents or children, follow His example in endeavoring to do the same for each other.

Father, teach me to deal with my dearest loved ones in gentleness and kindness, as well as in holiness. It is an area of weakness for me, this gentle holiness, and a lesson I need to learn over and over. In Jesus' name, amen. 


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Lies Like a Rug

I am so blessed to still have my mother in my life, and not just for this morning.  But, in getting ready to do this blog post, I was pondering whether or not rugs "lie" on the floor or "lay" on the floor. (There is a hen somewhere, which I should recall...)  Anyway, too lazy to contemplate the hen, I texted mother, the consummate grammar professional!  She has informed/reminded me that rugs "lie".

I'm sure that your day is blessed to know that.  Moving ON!

Today's text is Colossians 3:5-11, with particular emphasis on verses 8-10 (NET).

5So put to death whatever in your nature belongs to the earth: sexual immorality, impurity, shameful passion, evil desire, and greed which is idolatry. 6Because of these things the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience. 7You also lived your lives in this way at one time, when you used to live among them.8But now, put off all such things as anger, rage, malice, slander, abusive language from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man with its practices 10and have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it. 11Here there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all.

Now, yesterday, we examined the first verses of this passage.  Paul is telling the Colossians about "the old, fleshly nature" of man.  He focuses on two types of behaviors which best typify it.  We looked at the first group in yesterday's post.  Today, we are honing in on the second set.  Whereas yesterday's behaviors were centered around lustful actions and greed, today's have to do with the attitudes we have toward our fellowmen and, then, how we speak to and interact verbally with them.  Let's examine each of these, briefly.

Anger and Rage and Malice
It is not wrong to become angry with how our fellow humans behave, speak, etc.  How nice it would be if everything were roses and sunshine and unicorn breath here in this fallen world!  Alas, that is not reality here on good, old planet Earth.  People commit injustice, behave selfishly; basically, we SIN. And, our righteous indignation flares up!  (Note that we typically don't get as disturbed about our OWN sins; but, that's another blog post...)  So, righteous anger is not what is being described here. Since Paul pairs "anger" with rage and malice, he is referring to an extreme, sinful anger which, instead of leading to righteous correction, leads instead to malice (returning evil for evil), that is, sinful "retribution", which we have no right to dole out.  Such is God's prerogative, not ours.
"But, they deserve it!"  Nope.  Nope.  Don't "go there".  Not your job, much as you might want it to be.
So often we mess things up by circumventing the law, good policy, human decency, by giving into our own rage and malice.  Orderly, Christian societies have God-given, lawful remedies to correct injustices and to punish wrongdoers.  When we ignore and/or run around those, we are committing sin.  It is never right to do a wrong thing, in order to get a chance to do a right thing.

Lying and Slander
The unholy triumvirate of lying, slander and abusive language is a key weapon in the arsenal of those who seek to circumvent established policy or law.  Here's how it goes.  An injustice (or perceived injustice) occurs.  Our anger becomes ungodly rage.  We take matters into our own hands.  We know we'll be punished if we physically harm our target; so, we kill them with our words.  BOOM!
Ever seen close-up a loved one's life or career practically destroyed by vicious slander?  I have.  And, it was done by (so-called) Christians.
We need to remember that, when we lie, we are emulating Satan, whom Jesus gave the title "Father of Lies" (John 8:44).  That is high praise, isn't it?  That's whom we want to have as our model, right? No.  Certainly not!
Lying is tempting, particularly if it is a "lie of no consequence", or a "tiny, white lie".  Lying is used by habitual liars to control people or situations.  The more a situation spins out of their control, the more they lie, to rein it back in.
Don't be a person who is defined by the lies in which they have been caught.  Don't be that person whom people describe as "She lies like a rug."  (I'm Southern, you know!)

Abusive Language
To get a better idea what is meant here, I looked at this verse in several translations.  Here are some of the other words/phrases translators used:  filthy language, foul language, obscene talk, shameful speaking.  It is a kind of "catch-all" phrase which it seems Paul is using to say "use your speech for good and not for evil".
If you have ever been the recipient of abusive words, you know that their impact can wound for a lifetime.  The sing-song "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me!" is a lie from the pit of Hell.
People who are gifted verbally are especially susceptible to this sin.  In other words, (pardon the pun), the more words that come out of your mouth, the more likely some of them are to be evil ones. If you are one of my brothers or sisters who, in addition to being verbally gifted, have a vibrant, passionate spirit ... watch out!  You are probably (like yours truly) having to be constantly vigilant about misusing your words, when your intense nature overflows the Holy Spirit.
So put to death ... (vs. 5a)
Let's get out our spiritual weapons of war and KILL these manifestations of the old, sinful nature. We must do it every day, so that these sins won't draw us away from the Savior or besmirch our testimonies. When we find ourselves having been ensnared by one or more of them (because they are related and often flock together), let's confess our sins to the Lord and to one another, so as to make things right in the world, and most especially in the Body of Christ.

Father, you know that justice does not justify sin to achieve it, no matter how seductive taking things into our own hands seems.  Please guard our hearts from the evils mentioned by Paul in this passage, so that we may be "examples of the believer" in all we do.  In Jesus' name, amen.  

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Hoarding: A Godly Enough

Are you a hoarder?

In America, greed is pretty much celebrated.  We call it The American Dream.  Those who achieve it are either applauded, congratulated and celebrated.  Or, they are vilified because they "don't deserve it".   (The latter is a phenomenon that has come into the public square only in the last 20 years or so.) One of the mantras of The American Dream is:  "He who dies with the most toys, wins."  The goal, then, is to get as much "stuff" as possible.  And, we worship our "stuff".  Idolatry.

The text for the next 3 posts is Colossians 3:5-11.  Today, we'll focus on verses 5-7 (NET).

5So put to death whatever in your nature belongs to the earth: sexual immorality, impurity, shameful passion, evil desire, and greed which is idolatry. 6Because of these things the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience. 7You also lived your lives in this way at one time, when you used to live among them.

Paul gives this list of behaviors, the hallmarks of the evil nature.  For the most part, they appear to be lustful and sexual sins.  Then, he throws greed into the mix.  At first glance, it doesn't seem to fit, does it?  When that list of behaviors is examined, at the root of all of them is selfishness. Greed is no exception, as it, too, is fueled by selfishness and stoked by pride.

This is not the way of Jesus Christ, who, by His own admission, had "nowhere to lay his head" (Luke 9:58).  After Christ died, there was no "reading of the will", no disbursement of His assets.  His cloak and His other clothes were his only possessions - - - "the shirt off his back", so to speak.

So, what would Jesus have us do?  How much, in this world, is "enough"?

Should the Christian's goal be to amass as much money and as many possessions as he or she possibly can?  Will doing so win God's approval?  Will doing so draw us closer to Him or to each other?

There is nothing wrong with being materially successful, particularly if we use our assets to further the kingdom of God in this world.  God will often financially prosper people so that they can glorify Him by advancing His kingdom.  Rich people can tithe more, do more, give more.  For example, although not what most would call "rich", I am now a fixed-income retiree.  God led me into a fulfilling career that had at the end of it a retirement benefit.  I'm "living off" that pension now, which frees me up to write this blog most days, to make video blogs and to use my time to further the spread of the gospel.

The problem comes in when we make these material things the focus of our love, time and devotion and/or when they limit our effectiveness for God.  The creep of idolatry is gradual and insidious.  We become "successful" in the worldly sense, after which sinful pride grabs a foothold.  We begin to credit ourselves with our "success", and the vicious cycle of idolatry repeats itself.

Unless we, through the power of the Holy Spirit, are watchful for this "creep" in our lives and when we discover it, take deliberate attempts to slay it, we are in danger of becoming spiritual and material "hoarders".  The Message version states it like this:
And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death:
(vs. 5a)

If we listen to the Holy Spirit, He will let us know how much is "enough".  All we have needed, His hand has provided, because He is faithful.  And, He will direct the use of the tools with which He has graced us. It is up to us as His disciples to obediently follow.

Father, thank you for provision, for giving us everything that we need to do what You have called us to do.  You provide what we need for each day's work.  Now, it is up to us to do it.  Then, you will provide the necessities for tomorrow.  We trust You with our "tomorrows"!  In this, Lord, you teach us about Your lordship and how to walk by faith.  Please give us the discernment to recognize the pitfalls called selfishness and pride, so we can avoid them.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Home Key

On Wednesdays, I am always eager to visit Leah Adams' The Loft1 , to see what the topic of the week is for Christian bloggers.  This week's topic...well, let's see if you can figure it out from my post.

We are back in Colossians 3 this morning, after a brief foray into other Scriptures for a two-day study on the believers' rewards.

4When Christ (who is your life) appears, then you too will be revealed in glory with him. 
Colossians 3:4  (NET)

I find it interesting here the apostle Paul inserts that parenthetical phrase.  In some versions, it reads "who is our life", and in the Greek (zoe)it is rendered "who is the life of you".

In her blog post for today, Leah was thinking back to how she used to study for an hour and not even know where the time went.  In today's modern world of social media and instant messaging, it is not possible to do that unless you absolutely turn off your devices.  Even then, it is difficult to remain undistracted.

Reflecting on my own life, I am extremely easily distracted these days.  My appetite to remain almost constantly "connected" to that universe of people on social media is huge.  I find myself placing my phone on the table when dining with friends.  Yesterday, I had a meeting with a friend at my home to conduct some business, and did the same thing.

I've also noticed a larger shifting of how I allocate my time.  And, I don't like it.  I am spending less time with my closest loved ones and more time with others (all wonderful people), which begs the question, "Who is my life?"

The "home key" on computer keyboards controls cursor movement.
On mobile devices, it always brings you back to a place of re-focus, so that you can make your best choices.  Hmmm....

For the Christian, position number 1, our "Home Key", our beginning and end,  must always be Jesus Christ.  I don't think any Christians reading this would argue this point.  But, then, He asks us to live our lives for Him, and what does that look like?  I believe it looks somewhat different for each Christian, as we follow the precepts of Scripture and apply to our life's path the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit has given us.

There are some commonalities, though.
Christ first.
People before things.
Priorities straight.
The body is His temple.
Trust in the Lord as He grows our faith.
All glory, honor and praise to Him!

I'm sure that you can think of more for that list.

So, is social media bad?  No.  Like most every part of our mortal world, it has potential for both great good and for our total destruction.  It is up to us to let the Holy Spirit lead us so that our choices are righteous and our lives maintain a Jesus-glorifying balance.

We learn from today's verse that someday, those of us who have chosen Jesus Christ will be revealed in glory with Him.  May we not be surprised at the revelation.  I don't know about you, but I want to go, "Oh yeah!  That's right!  Hallelujah!  I'm HOME!"

Jesus, you are my life, although I am often like my dog, Charlie, on a leash.  I get out of balance, distracted, off-course, bogged down, worn out...But, since you are my beginning and my end, You are always faithful to restore me to "home".  You ARE my home, my everlasting life, both now and forever.  Amen.




Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Crowns and Diadems

Haven't you always thought the word "diadem" is so lovely?  It just rolls off the tongue.  A diadem is a type of crown, our topic for today, as today's post is a continuation of yesterday's.

The Greek word translated "crown" in the New Testament is "stephanos" (from which the name, Stephen, derives).  It means a circular badge of royalty, or an honor given to a victor or a prize to the winner of athletic competitions, or all three.

While the New Testament speaks of five different crowns which can be earned by Christians, no one is really sure what those will be like when they are received at the Bema Seat of Christ.  (See yesterday's post.)   There is not 100% agreement by Bible scholars as to what each of these five named crowns will be awarded for.

One thing is for sure: they will not be awarded as symbols of someone having "worked their way into Heaven", as the Bible makes it quite clear that to do so is utterly impossible.  No, these crowns will be given for a Christian's faithful, enduring service AFTER the salvation decision has been made.

In 1 Corinthians 3:15 Paul gives the imagery of our Christian life actions as being put through fire at the Bema Seat.  What endures by surviving that fire (gold, silver, precious stones) will be our rewards.  What is "burned up" (wood, hay, stubble) will be those deeds done for selfish gain or out of pride or for otherwise wrong motivations.

Here then is what Bible scholars generally agree are the five crowns along with what each of them represents (with Bible verses corresponding):

1.  The Incorruptible or Imperishable Crown
1 Corinthians 9:25-27 and 1 Peter 1:3-5
This crown appears to be for those Christians who are faithful to the Lord, who deny themselves worldly pleasures for the sake of their love for the Lord, who are steadfast and true to Him in their words and actions.  Backslidden Christians "need not apply".  Paul uses the imagery of runners in a race.  The one who gets the prize is the one who has trained the hardest, who is the most focused, who wants the title the most, and who sacrifices "lesser things" in order to win.

2.  The Soul-Winner's Crown or Crown of Rejoicing
1 Thessalonians 2:19-20   Proverbs 11:30  Daniel 12:3 (the Resplendent Daughter Ministries verse!)
This crown pertains to those Christians who delight in winning souls to Jesus Christ.  These are those in our congregations who delight in visitation night, who are always looking for an opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with a lost and dying world.

3.  The Crown of Life or the Martyr's Crown
James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10
The first Christian martyr recorded in scripture was Stephen (is it an accident that his name means "crown"?!)  He was a deacon in the Jerusalem church, which also indicates he was involved in serving the congregation.  I'll bet he will receive many crowns at the Bema seat, including the martyr's crown.  Won't that be a sight to behold?  Witnessing our brothers and sisters from across the ages receive crowns of reward and blessing?
This crown is for those children of God whose love for Him has endured and held true, despite all sorts of terrible adversity that the Devil threw at them - - - imprisonment, extreme suffering, even death.

4.  The Crown of Righteousness
2 Timothy 4:8
This one is a little vague, but let me illustrate it like this.  The visiting preacher at church today told us that he met his wife in the Czech Republic and immediately fell in love.  He met her on a mission trip there; she was his assigned translator.  After getting to know her a few days, he wrote her over 300 letters over the next 2.5 months.  Then, he returned to her country, courted her in person for a week, and not only proposed, GOT MARRIED!
2 Timothy 4:8 speaks of those Christians who "love Christ's appearing", that is, His return, His "second coming to Earth", as it is often called.  This is not a casual "Oh, I can't wait until the Lord comes back" which one might think every so often.  This is a burning love for the Savior that makes the Christian LONG to be with Him so deeply that he/she can hardly wait until they are with Him forever.  Remember, the first century Christians believed, erroneously, that Jesus Christ would return in their lifetimes.  And, we should have a similar expectation!

5.  The Crown of Glory or The Shepherd's Crown 
1 Peter 5:1-4
I can't imagine how difficult the life of a pastor/shepherd must be.  In my many years in the church I have witnessed some pretty horrible treatment of the shepherd of the flock.  I'm talking about the senior pastor here, because seems to me this is a "head-honcho" crown.  Still.... it is not clear if this crown is for anyone in any ministerial position or a missionary assigned to a territory or both.  What IS clear is that there are qualifications for receiving this crown.  Merely having the title is not enough to earn the reward.  What is required is that the shepherd of the people watch over them carefully, with a willing, eager heart (not because it is "just a job"), and that he doesn't shepherd a flock for dishonest gain.  Peter warns shepherds not to wield their power like a weapon or to lord it over the people, but instead to be examples of the resplendent walk to them, to live holy lives of humility.
One thing I'm sure of is that we don't pray for our pastors enough, or encourage them enough, or love them enough to compensate for the difficult calling God has given them.

So, there you have them, the believers' crowns.
You may have visions of parading around Heaven, wearing your many crowns.  But, let's close by looking at Revelation 4:9-11, which reminds us of Who alone is worthy!
9And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever,10the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

11“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,

to receive glory and honor and power,

for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”

If you are familiar with the contemporary Christian band named "Casting Crowns", this is where their name originated.  Is it not reasonable to conclude that we, following the example of the 24 elders, will similarly lay our crowns before Jesus' throne, in worship and adoration?  We will certainly worship Him as we never have before, with all that is in us....and perhaps on us.  :)

Thank you, Lord, for being much more than worthy.  If, after I cross the finish line, I find you have allotted to me any crowns, I look forward to "casting them" reverently at your nail-pierced feet. (And, thank you for the marvelous gifts of music you gave George F. Handel, too.)  In Jesus' name, amen.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Risin' to the BEMA

A dear lady, whom I've met through the Empower channel that broadcasts my vlogs, expressed some confusion over the heavenly rewards.  Inexplicably, she asked if I would clarify.  Surely, there are many others who could do this better.  But, out of my appreciation for her and our friendship, here goes.  (Back to Colossians 3 in a couple of days)

You know how, in school, we would (usually in May or June) have Awards Day?  The whole school or grade level would march into the gym and year-end awards would be distributed.  That's the way I think of the Bema seat of Jesus Christ.

It is plain in the New Testament that there will be a "judgment" for Christians.  In fact, there is a total of seven judgments detailed in scripture, and this Bema Seat "judgment" is one of those seven.  I'll write about the others in a future post.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil. 
2 Corinthians 5:10

Oh, but wait!  I can't help but stop and write about the first judgment!  The first one is the absolute best judgment.  You won't be a beneficiary of this first judgment unless you have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior.  It occurred through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.   The recipient of that first judgment was SIN, the sins of all believers in Christ.  Sin was judged and defeated at this first judgment.  The Scriptures are very clear that no child of God will be punished for his sins after this life (Psalm 103:10-12; Isaiah 38:17; Isaiah 44:22; Micah 7:19; Hebrews 8:12; 1 John 1:7). For those people who accept His finished work on their behalf, Him "who was made sin for us" (2 Corinthians 5:21), they have all of our sins forever forgiven. That first judgment of sin gives us a place at the Bema seat judgment (or the awards day assembly).  Everyone there is a winner, in that respect.  There are no losers, in the ranks of Christians, because Jesus Christ took the judgment of God for our sins.

So, since the Christian's sins were judged at the first judgment God carried out, all true Christians will also be present at the Bema Seat judgment.  When will the Bema occur, and why is it called that?

Let's first consider its name.  The other six judgments are actual judgments of sin, except for the Bema.  Really, it is somewhat misleading to call the Bema a judgment; a more accurate term might be an evaluation or examination.  The Greek word, "Bema" means "a raised platform mounted by steps", or "dias". It describes the place where the judge would sit.  We see this usage in Acts 18.  (Imagine an earthly judge walking up the steps to sit at his "bench" in the earthly courtroom.)  That's why this heavenly occasion is often called the Bema Seat judgment.  But, here is another visual...

In 2 Corinthians 5, a bema was where the dignitaries, rulers, etc. would sit during an athletic contest, such as the Olympics, and hand out awards.  (We are in the midst of the 2016 Olympic games as of this writing.)
I think you are getting the mental picture.

WHO is going to, then, examine us?  Scripture tells us that Jesus Christ will be our Judge (2 Corinthians 5, Matthew 16:27, Romans 14:10-12, Ephesians 6:8).

WHEN and WHERE will this Bema Seat judgment occur?  A key verse here is 1 Thessalonians 4:13, which describes us rising up to meet Jesus in the air, whether we are dead at the time of His return, or alive at that time.  (Isn't it amazing to contemplate how some Christians will never experience physical death?)  A second key verse is Revelation 22:12, (which speaks of this same event described in 1 Thess. 4,) "Behold I come suddenly, and my reward is with me to give."  So, after we are snatched up, raptured ("harpazo'ed"), we will, from that point on, ever be with our Lord Jesus.  And, sometime after that "snatching up", we will find ourselves before our Savior at the Bema Seat.

If you have not yet figured this out...the Bema Seat examination/evaluation will be a REWARDS judgment...a commemoration, not a condemnation.  At the very most basic, all Christians will be there, and will know that they have a home in Heaven with Jesus, forever (John 14:2-3).  Hallelujah! However, in many places in Scripture, we are told that there will be specific rewards given to some Christians, called "crowns", "white linen" or positions of authority.

I wrote about these briefly in this post:

In tomorrow's post, I'll focus specifically on the 5 crowns!

Lord Jesus,  thank you for taking on the cross the judgment for my sins, so that I would not have to face the wrath of God for them.  I'm eternally grateful for Your sacrifice, although I cannot even begin to understand it.  Lord, there is a whooooooole lot I don't understand these days, as I look at the world around me.  The answer is: more of You, and that's what I want.  Not crowns, not rewards. You are the reward. To love You, to serve You forever .... "Better is one day in your courts, than thousands elsewhere." (Psalm 84:10)  Amen.


Friday, August 12, 2016

Better Than (Olympic) Gold!

For some reason, I am overwhelmed by Colossians 3 and lacking focus.  It strikes me as a mother sending her son off on a trip.  "Remember this....OH! And, don't forget that!"
Then, also, it is all so important....
I figure I may be in this chapter for a while.

So, let's get started.  Focus.  Focus.

Paul actually begins with talking about focus and about priorities.  Life is like a huge banquet of food choices (I was into the food thing yesterday...looks like I have not left...).  We get to choose what we put on our plates.  We had better choose well, if we want to be healthy, and of course, this goes for both the physical and the spiritual realms.

1Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.2Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth, 3for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Colossians 3:1-3 (NET)

Keep seeking the things that are above.  Choose this.  Don't choose that.  Seek this.  Don't seek that.
Keep thinking about this, not about that.  Olympians aren't the only ones who make critical choices all the time.  We all do.  It's just that some of us choose better than others, more often!  It seems like, every day, we hear more and more stories of our fellow men and women who chose heartbreak. Perhaps that is why we love the Olympics so much!

Paul shows us the motivation for making holy choices:  because we have made the choice to surrender Christ's lordship, to live for Him, which requires dying to ourselves.  Paul talks about this in many of his letters. When we accept Jesus' offer of salvation, our lives are then hidden with Christ in God.

What does this mean?

Again, verse 3 speaks of a finality, a "done deal".  Dying is pretty final.  So, when Paul uses the euphemism of "dying" to self, in one sense it connotes a final transaction, forever sealed and sure.
In another sense, Paul speaks of "dying daily" to the old nature's desires and wants, and this is why he admonishes the Colossians to "dwell on" (in some translations) righteous things.

In another layer of meaning, I love how there is a layer of protection and safe-keeping implied here, not that God will protect His children from all pain or trouble or stress, but that, in the final analysis we are His, and He is ours, forever.  One day, when we move into His presence eternally, all such heartache will end.

The fact that Christians are "hidden with Christ in God" does NOT mean that we should hide our faith, or only trot it out during trying circumstances.  Jesus proclaimed that "a city set on a hill cannot be hid".  If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit will most definitely shine forth through you!

Currently, the 2016 Olympics are taking place, with millions watching on television.  And, the first black American woman to win a gold medal for swimming is a Christian.  She doesn't hide it either. When Simone Manuel of Texas won her Olympic spot, after being deemed a "long shot", she tweeted out on Twitter:  "All glory to God! Isn't he awesome?"  Other 2016 Olympians who are Christians and not shy about it include:  Maya DiRado, who said, "My faith frees me to dream big!" and who also medaled for the United States, and David Boudia, who is already a gold medal winner from 2012, but just won the silver a few days ago for synchronized diving.  David has a book coming out soon:  Greater than Gold: From Olympic Heartbreak to Ultimate Redemption.   1

What marvelous examples of not hiding one's faith, but instead living it out gloriously!  Many in the world will say, "How do they do it?  What incredible force is at work in them to account for this seemingly superhuman performance? What is their secret?"  To that extent, the Christian's life is "hidden with Christ in God".  Jesus Christ, a relationship with Him, is the secret, the best secret, a secret ... better than gold!