Sunday, February 22, 2009

Athletes, Apologies, and True Repentance

I am somewhat of a sports fan. OK, I am a huge sports fan. As my wife often says, it doesn't matter what sport it is, if its on TV, I will watch it (figure skating and cheerleading are noted exceptions).

Sports certainly provide great entertainment and most athletes are held in high esteem in our culture. However, in recent days we have seen numerous athletes whose images have been tarnished, including Michael Phelps, Alex Rodriguez and Charles Barkley.

As athletes are sinful humans just like us, their weaknesses and failures shouldn't be surprising. Nevertheless, there is much that we can learn from their transgressions. I have found this to be especially true with recent examples where these athletes have been "caught" and have been forced to admit to their transgressions.

Transgression isn't exactly the right word here, at least from the perspective of those making the admissions. Rather, Phelps said that he "made a mistake" and Rodriguez confessed that he was "stupid and immature".

We all have a tendency to somehow justify what we have done and try to come out looking as good as we possibly can. We blame our failures on our circumstances, on others, or simply try to minimize our failure. However, what we call a mistake, the Bible calls sin, rebellion against a holy God.

Instead of justifying or minimizing, the Biblical response to sin is repentance. Repentance literally means a change in direction, and consists of three important steps: confession, restitution, and change.

When we repent of our sin, we must confess (agree with God, 1 John 1:9), first to God himself (Psalm 51:4), and then to those that we have sinned against. Once we have confessed we must make restitution if the situation calls for it (for Rodriguez, for example, this could mean returning his MVP trophy won when taking steroids). Finally, true repentance means a commitment to change our behavior in order to avoid repeating the sin in the future (Acts 26:20).

While true repentance is hard, its fruit is well worth it. Repentance restores us to God and gives us the blessings of knowing that our sins our forgiven (Psalm 32). It releases us from guilt as well as the consequences that come from unconfessed sin (Psalm 51). Finally, true repentance often opens up wonderful opportunities to be a witness to others of what God has done for us.

For more on repentance, take a look at 2 Cor. 7:8-12 and Luke 7:11-32.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ten Lessons I Learned from Kent Eloe

Today I said goodbye to a good friend and fellow servant of Christ, Kent Eloe. Kent taught me many lessons, both in life and death. Here are the ten most significant:

  1. To do everything (including cancer) without grumbling and complaining. (Phil. 2:14)
  2. To prepare my family for when I am gone. (1 Tim. 5:8)
  3. To prioritize the shepherding of my wife and children. (Eph. 5:22-32; 6:4)
  4. To honor and value my parents. (Prov. 15:20)
  5. To use hard things as opportunities to glorify Christ. (James 1:2-5)
  6. To value the blessing of close friends. (James 17:17)
  7. To be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:18)
  8. To humbly serve without the need for recognition. (Mark 10:35-45)
  9. To forget the past and press on toward the prize. (Phil 3:13)
  10. To be slow to speak, quick to listen, slow to become angry. (James 1:19)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Tribute to Kent Eloe and His Savior

There are many heavy hearts at Bethel and around NW Indiana today. Our dear friend and brother Kent was called home to be with the Lord early last evening. And while we grieve for his family and ourselves, we do not do so as those without hope (1 Thess. 4:13). Rather, we have a (the) living hope (1 Peter 1:3), the assurance that Kent is now with the Lord and that one day we will join him there.

I had the privilege of knowing Kent in numerous different capacities; first as a fellow athlete at a rival school over 20 years ago. More recently and significantly I knew him as a fellow hunter, a businessman, a church member, and as a deacon at Bethel. I can honestly say that every memory I have of Kent is a good one; he excelled in every area of life in which I knew him, especially as a father and a husband. I don't know that I can say this about anyone else I have ever known.

Kent will be sorely missed, but his legacy will be a significant one. His testimony over the last several years as God worked in and through him in incredible ways will not quickly fade. He has touched many lives and brought much glory to His Savior.

We may be tempted to believe that the cancer won; in reality this is the farthest thing from the truth. Kent won, big time. He won because he took his cancer and used it as an opportunity to glorify God, to minister to others, and to become more like Christ. And ultimately, he claimed the prize to which he was called (Phil. 3:14).

Kent, we love you. You have been an example for us all.

And Jesus, we love you for taking the sting out of death and giving us victory (1 Cor. 15:55-57)!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Redeeming the Time

I have found that determining when to say 'yes' and when to say 'no' is one of the most difficult, yet important issues, in life and ministry.

This weekend I received an e-mail from a friend regarding an important theological issue of our day. As I was headed to church early Sunday morning I began to think of how I could address this issue. Teach a class, write some curriculum, do a seminar, and then the moment of truth........when? When would I have the time to prepare, and when would I have the time to teach it?

Early on in my ministry at Bethel, Steve DeWitt taught me that ministry is a black hole. There is always more ministry to be done than there is time to do it. The same is true of life; there is always more to be done than there are hours in the day.

A favorite verse of mine through the years has been Eph. 5:16 (KJV) "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." In other words, we have to make the most of the time and gifts that God has given to us. How do we do this? While there is much that can be written here, I will simply make two suggestions:

1) Prioritize. Redeeming the time means that we do the things that are most important first. If we are to do this we have to align our priorities with God's and then strategically and passionately pursue them. For the believer this means that I first and foremost focus upon my relationship with Christ and then out of that relationship I attend to my other priorities (for me: husband, father, church member, employee). In ministry this means that I focus my efforts on the things that will most strategically and effectively accomplish the mission of the church in making disciples and building the Kingdom.

2) Pray. This seems simplistic, but it is true. We must pray that God will give us the wisdom to prioritize correctly. We must pray that He will help us to say no to things that are good but are not the best. We must pray that He will keep us from wasting time. And, finally, we must pray that He will establish the work of our hands (Psalm 90:17).

We only have one life to live, so, Lord, teach us to number our days aright! (Psalm 90:12)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

From Vertical to Horizontal

I am currently teaching an Adult Elective class at Bethel based upon the book The Peacemaker by Ken Sande. I have taught this class many times and it has become perhaps my favorite material to teach. I love it because it is extremely Biblical and practical, two things I value greatly. (In actuality, the Bible is always practical, we just have a hard time applying it in most cases!)

However, this time around I am learning a significant Biblical truth in a much greater way -- the truth that the way that I am called to treat others is based upon how God has treated me. For example, I am called to be kind to others because God has been kind to me (Eph. 4:32). I am to be forgiving to others because God has forgiven me (Col. 3:13; Eph. 4:32). I am called to be compassionate and gracious because God is compassionate and gracious to me. (Psalm 103:8).

John Piper, in his latest book, This Momentary Marriage, describes this as taking what God has done for us vertically and bending it out horizontally to one another.

Through my study of both The Peacemaker and This Momentary Marriage, I have come to see that just like everything else, this all goes back to the Gospel. My relationships with people -- my wife, my children, co-workers, neighbors, etc. should reflect the truth of what God did for me through the Cross. And the greater I understand and appreciate the Gospel, the greater my ability to live it out in my horizontal relationships every day.

Praying for the ability to treat others as God has treated me!



About Me

I am a husband to Eva, father of 4, pastor, and most of all passionate follower of Jesus Christ. The focus of my life is to make the most of every opportunity God gives me to bring glory to Him. Outside of the time spent in my role as a pastor, I spend most of my time with my family -- a good deal of that coaching various sports teams that my children are involved with. Every fall and winter you will find me rushing to the woods of Indiana and West Virginia in search of a monster whitetail buck.