Either Obsession or Rejection

Imagine if my son Noah (pictured above shooting a free throw) decided that he wanted to play basketball but that he also wanted to play video games on his Kindle during basketball practice and/or games. No coach in his right mind would be okay with that. You cannot give your best on the court if your mind (not to mention your eyes and your hands) are elsewhere. You have to focus. You have to be committed. You have to do your best.

My dad, who was my high school basketball coach, used to say something like, “You’re either all in, or you’re not in at all.” In fact, if you were not “all in,” you literally would not “be in” (in the game, that is).

While I found myself obsessed with basketball (and sports in general) when I was a teenager, I was eventually sorely disappointed when basketball did not take me (or I did not take basketball) as far as I wanted to go. I am thankful, though, for the life-lessons of teamwork, commitment, loyalty, hard work, dedication, sacrifice and priorities that are learned through sports.

Still, sports are just a part of life. They are not, despite what I believed as a student athlete, life itself.

Following Jesus, however, is different. Yes, there are sports-related lessons we can apply to a life of faith, but sports, like everything else in life, pale in comparison to knowing the Lord. Walking in a genuine relationship with Him is what we were created to do. This relationship is life.

Thankfully, I learned this as a sophomore in college, when God opened my eyes to the truth of the gospel, and I placed my faith in His Son for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

To follow Jesus, according to the Bible, means being 100% sold-out for Him. In other words, you are either obsessed with Him, or you are rejecting Him. Too many people seem content to find a middle ground, but there is no middle ground with the King of kings and the Lord of lords. You either give Him your all, or you are worshiping something or someone else. You’re either all in, or you’re not in at all.

Tomorrow, I will be preaching through Mark 14:1-31 during our church‘s morning worship service. In verses 3-9 is the amazing story of a woman who gave up something of incredible value in order to worship Jesus. As a result, Jesus said, “I assure you: Wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:9).

This woman was obsessed with Jesus. Are you? Or, are you rejecting Him? Do not settle for the lie of an acceptable middle ground. Surrender your life to Jesus, ask for His help, and be all in. Unlike sports, He will never leave you disappointed.

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Don’t be deceived.

Last week, Marsha and I took our kids to the Missouri River near Jefferson City. The kids were surprised at how big the river was and how fast the river was moving. Before this trip, I think they assumed they could swim across the river with ease or wade along its banks with pleasure. They quickly changed their mind, though, once they saw its width and its speed.

Not once did they ask if they could jump in for a swim, even though it would have felt good that warm, sunny day. And, trust me – it is rare for our family to be by a body of water without anyone getting wet. Thankfully, common sense (along with some parental instruction) helped our children realize that jumping into the Missouri River would very likely not end well for them. While a bird’s-eye view of the river would have indicated fun in the sun, a closer look was necessary.

When considering Christian discipleship, people often make assumptions from a bird’s-eye view, too. Instead of sincerely seeking God through His Word, they assume they know what discipleship is based on what they see from a distance and/or based on false teachings they have heard from others. God is the One who defines truth, though.

We are not able to decide for ourselves what discipleship is. Nor are we able to understand discipleship without seeking and trusting the One who created us – the One who created us for Himself and for discipleship, meaning following Jesus as revealed in the Bible.

Some might wrongly assume that the rejection of discipleship only takes place when someone blatantly and explicitly rejects Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Yes, that would indeed be the rejection of discipleship. What about those, however, who believe Jesus to be the Son of God and even believe He is who He said He is, according to the Bible, but do not fully embrace and surrender to Him?

Can one be a disciple without proper understanding (and resulting acceptance) of essential biblical truths like Jesus’ Messiahship and resurrection life?

If you read the first half of Mark 12, you will notice Jesus confronting those who were rejecting Him and His Word. You do not get to pick and choose what you will believe and what parts of God’s Word you will obey, and then still claim to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. If you do that, you are ultimately no different than the ones who completely rejected Him and sought His crucifixion.

Tomorrow I will be preaching on “The Rejection of Discipleship” from our Discipleship 101 sermon series. Will you recognize and confront the rejection of discipleship? This begins by examining your own heart, making sure you have a genuine relationship with God. And, it continues every day as you walk with Jesus and help others to do the same.

Don’t be deceived by a bird’s-eye view. Look closely by seeking God through His Word and growing alongside His church.

aerial photography of concrete bridge
Photo by Pok Rie on Pexels.com

Jesus is better than football.

Whether it’s my son Noah’s junior high game (like the picture above), “Friday Night Lights,” or the NFL, I really enjoy watching football. I enjoyed playing football when I was in high school. In fact, I still enjoy playing it today.

When I was watching my favorite NFL team, the Minnesota Vikings, lose to the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday night, though, I began to experience an overwhelming sense of conviction in my heart. No, I was not convicted about my decision of being a lifelong fan of a disappointing team. Nor was I convicted that I was watching the game. Rather, I was convicted because I was allowing the disappointment of the game to ruin my mood.

Of course, as a Vikings fan, I did not experience extreme disappointment Thursday night for the first time. Most likely, it will not be the last time either. Not only have the Vikings never won the Super Bowl (0-4 all time), they have not even made it to the Super Bowl since before I was born, having lost their last six trips to the NFC Championship Game.

If this trend continues, and if the Vikings continue to underperform, I will not see the confetti fall in their favor at the end of a season.

Butas much as I would enjoy a Super Bowl title for my all-time favorite sports franchise, it really is not a big deal. It really does not matter.

Even if they do end a season at the top of their sport, like my favorite NBA team, the San Antonio Spurs, have done five times, the jubilation will be short-lived. Fans (and I imagine players and coaches, too) end up being extremely disappointed if another championship is not achieved the following year. There is only one winner, and so most people who care usually find themselves disappointed.

Have you ever considered how ridiculous it is to allow sports to rob us of our joy? With the exception of my senior year of high school football, when we won the state championship, I cried at the end of each of my sports seasons, knowing that I had “failed” and had to wait another year to win. Or, in the case of our playoff loss in basketball my senior year, I experienced the crushing realization that I might never play competitive basketball again. My career ended with a disappointing performance in a loss.

Guess who actually cares about my senior football and basketball seasons today, though? Pretty much no one. Guess who really cares about who won the Super Bowl a few years ago? Pretty much no one.

More importantly, guess how much the results of sporting events actually matter? They do not.

Please do not get me wrong. I have no problem with people playing or watching sports. I think we can learn a lot about life, teamwork, hard work, dedication, loyalty, discipline, etc. from sports.

But, to let sports dictate our moods and/or guide our lives will be a tragic mistake. Jesus is so much better than football. He is the eternal, authoritative, powerful Son of God. He died on the cross for our sins, and He rose again to win eternal victory for everyone who calls on Him.

Following Jesus is not just another activity we tack on to our lives, like football or some other hobby. Following Jesus is life itself for those who are His genuine disciples.

The true joy that comes for those who follow Jesus is everlasting joy. Consider –  it would be utter foolishness to look back after your team won a championship and let one bad play upset you. You won! Who cares about that one play? Well, it would be eternal foolishness to try to find your satisfaction in the things of this world rather than in the One who is eternal. To try to find your satisfaction in one play rather than in the end result is foolish. Jesus has won the victory, the eternal victory. Do not make the mistake of settling for anything less than peace and hope in Him.

Tomorrow, I will be preaching on “The Lord of Discipleship” (Mark 11). While you will be able, Lord willing, to listen to the message HERE tomorrow afternoon, I would like to encourage you now to make sure you seek and surrender to Jesus. He is Lord of all, and seeking to find your hope, satisfaction, joy and salvation anywhere else will leave you disappointed today and leave you sorry forever.

Jesus is better than football. He is better than everything. He is Lord.

man wearing viking helmet focus photography
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Discipleship affects marriage.

If your faith and your marriage are not intertwined, then at least one of the two really does not matter to you. I would even argue that, according to God’s Word, neither truly matters to you, or at least you are sadly mistaken about the purpose of both.

During our morning worship service with Richland Baptist Church this morning, I preached on “Marriage in Discipleship,” challenging people to view and value marriage like God views and values marriage.

We don’t have the option of redefining what God has already established and defined. Furthermore, you will never be fulfilled and satisfied in life if you are not living for what God created you. This certainly includes your marriage (and even how we treat the marriages of those around us).

We were created and purposed for joy and contentment in life, but if we try to find that joy and contentment outside the will of God (as defined by the Word of God), we will always fall short.

Just as a child (like Micah below) is truly satisfied by the simple things in life, like swinging at Papa and Mema’s house, so can we be truly satisfied in and through a daily walk with Jesus Christ. That daily discipleship in Jesus affects everything, including our relationships.

Micah on the swing

What’s your attitude?

When we were on vacation a few weeks ago, my sister Ashley treated the girls (Zoe and her three Drake cousins) to airbrush tattoos. As is clear in the picture above, Zoe loved getting hers. That attitude of excitement was true of all four girls, from the process of picking out the tattoo to getting it applied to their skin.

While every single one of us is uniquely designed by God and not meant to be the same, we are to have the same attitude when it comes to following Jesus Christ. Does it mean we will look the same or be the same? No. But, it does mean that, by the grace of God and the work of His Spirit in our lives, we will have a biblical attitude.

This morning during our worship service with Richland Baptist Church, I preached on “The Attitude of Discipleship” (Mark 9:33-50).

Below is the entirety of a video I showed a portion of at the beginning of my message, illustrating what happens when we begin to have backwards thinking (or a backwards attitude).

God created us for Himself, and if we try to live for another purpose, we will never be satisfied. What is your attitude when it comes to following the Lord?

Right Learning

Our church’s Vacation Bible School finished Thursday, and our big family celebration was today. Praise the Lord for those who have decided to follow Jesus for the first time and for the many volunteers who served our children and church family so well!

There are various reasons VBS is so valuable, not the least of which is what children learn about Jesus and following Him. As should be the case, Jesus is the focus of our teaching, and following Him is the focus of our plea.

Yes, there are a lot of valuable things we can learn in life, and there are a lot of good things we can do. But, should we not prioritize the best things over simply good things?

That was my challenge to those in attendance at our worship service this morning. Preaching through Mark 8:1-26, I talked about the “Teaching of Discipleship.” Will you prioritize learning the right things from the right One?

It is very easy to fall into the trap of settling for “second-best” in many areas of our lives, including where we spend our time and energy.

When you think about your family, your commitments and your daily routine, are you prioritizing things of eternal value? Only through a right relationship with God and daily devotion to Him can anyone possibly be faithful in prioritizing the right things.

If this is a struggle for you, cry out to God for His help, seek Him with all your heart, and make sure you are actively involved in a Bible-teaching church that will walk alongside you in this lifelong journey.

Levi at crafts VBS 2018
Levi was one of many kids who had a blast in crafts during VBS, using creativity to learn important truths about following Jesus.

Faith is less about you…

When you think about faith, do you typically think about how much faith you have and/or how great your faith is? More important than the measure of your faith, though, is the object of your faith.

In whom do you believe? From where is your hope and assurance? If you are looking to yourself and the strength of your faith, what happens in your moments of weakness? What happens when your faith does not “feel” so great?

During our morning worship service today, I preached on “The Faith of Discipleship” (Mark 7:24-37). My challenge to those listening to the message (and to you) is that you have faith in Jesus and because of Jesus.

I would even argue that when our focus is in the right place, or more specifically, on the right One, faith comes easy.

In those moments when your faith is struggling, it is vital that you remember who Jesus is and what He has done for you. Faith is less about you and more about Him. In fact, it is mostly about Him.

Finally, regarding faith in Jesus, please be in prayer for the children who are attending Richland Baptist Church’s Vacation Bible School beginning this evening, as well as for the volunteers serving them.

Silas pushing Micah
Micah demonstrated unwavering faith in Silas, allowing his big brother to push him around on a dolly without dropping him or forcefully unloading him. The object of Micah’s faith (Silas) did not let Micah down, figuratively speaking.