Category Archives: victory

YOUR Olympics (a Post-Rio Reflection)

olympic_ringsDid you get your Olympics fix this summer? Did you carve out enough time to vicariously swim, jump, lift, dive, tumble, and throw alongside the greatest athletes in the world?

Fortunately, for Jessica and me, this summer’s Olympic Games occurred in the middle of our ministry sabbatical so if you missed any of it let me know—we watched it all!

We have always been Olympics fans, and every two years we clear our schedule so we can cheer and cry and pretend that we too are being crowned champions in our chosen disciplines. When we lived in Colorado Springs we routinely visited the Olympic Training Center there so we could touch the spirit of the Olympics even in the off seasons. There really is something about the Olympic Games that strikes a profoundly deep chord in the human soul.

It might be the beauty of the different people groups of the world…it might be the brilliance of watching someone set records that no other human can attain…it might be the human interest stories that augment the tumbling of Simone Biles or the pole vaulting of Ashton Eaton…or it might be something else.

It might be that the Olympics are a metaphor for our lives. WE are athletes in training, contending for victory and mastery in life. The Apostle Paul realized this, and he sprinkled his letters with powerful Olympic imagery. He spoke of competing for a crown “that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:25), winning “the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14), and he compared Timothy’s calling to an athlete who longs to “receive the victor’s crown” (2 Timothy 2:5).

WE are Olympians. As the Rio Games fade into history, OUR Games are just beginning. What prize so consumes you that you are willing to sacrifice to attain it? What victory is so essential in your life that you will rival the work ethic of Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt in your whole-life pursuit of it? Let’s go for it! Let’s pay the price.

When the 2018 Winter Games commence in South Korea, let’s be transformed. When the 2020 Summer Games are inaugurated in Tokyo let’s be brandishing medals and crowns that will never fade away.

 

 

Where your headquarters should be

fortressAt Grace Church we support a ministry called AIM (Agape International Missions), an organization devoted to abolishing sex trafficking in our generation. A number of years ago AIM shut down a horrifying brothel in Svay Pak, Cambodia where young, elementary age girls were employed as sex slaves. In the center of the brothel—the place where virgin girls were kept—there was a brightly painted room called The Pink Room. Through a series of powerful events AIM was able to shut down the brothel and tear apart The Pink Room, and today the former Pink Room is now a part of their ministerial headquarters!

Before King David could set up his headquarters in the city of Jerusalem he too had to drive out some enemy occupants. The Jebusites, entrenched in their Jerusalem stronghold, had defied Israel for many decades until David came along and dispossessed them (2 Samuel 5:7).

Often, strategic centers for mercy, truth, and justice have to be taken before they can be occupied.

I wonder where your headquarters needs to be established?

You might not need to convert a brothel or evict an army from a mountaintop, but you still need a place to set up shop. You need a command center, from which you will conduct your ministry to the world. Perhaps that place is a former stronghold in your life. Perhaps your ministry will flow from an area of former weakness.

  • If your marriage has suffered, perhaps it’s marriage ministry.
  • If you’ve struggled with dishonesty, perhaps it’s a new life of integrity.
  • If you’ve been addicted, perhaps you will bring freedom to others.
  • If you’ve floundered as a parent, maybe you’ll turn a fresh page.

Regardless of its nature, we all have areas in our character and our story that need to be renovated and re-purposed, and sometimes our internal strongholds are harder to defeat than external ones. The proverbs writer said, “He who rules his spirit (is better than) he who captures a city” (Proverbs 16:32 NASB).

Let’s add our story to that of AIM’s and King David’s…let’s be men and women who rule our spirits, capture our strongholds, and use those places as beachheads for the glory of God.

Winning, losing, and the Christmas story

boxersSometimes in life it is difficult to tell who is winning and who is losing.

Consider Joseph’s stint in slavery, the three Hebrews’ stroll in a fiery furnace, and our Lord’s own trial and crucifixion. Each of these events shouted defeat for God’s purposes, and yet each of these defeats became a doorway to a greater victory.

Sometimes defeated moments of extreme anti-climax are actually tipping points.

From all natural perspectives the birth of Jesus Christ was the greatest anti-climax in human history.

  • His entrance in to the world was not with the splendor of a world ruler bent on global conquest.
  • His arrival wasn’t marked by dignity and fanfare.
  • No one would have peeked into the stable and thought, “Surely, a king has just been born!”
  • Rather His nursery smelled like cow manure…his crib was a feeding trough…and his only attendants, shepherds.
  • Everything about His birth was a giant anti-climax.

Yet in that disappointing moment something else was happening and all of heaven knew that the most glorious of victories had just been unleashed. Immanuel, God with us, had come near.

What looked like anti-climax was the tipping point for the universe.

Christmas reminds us that things aren’t always as they appear. Don’t be too quick to judge and label the defeated moments in your life. God might see them as portals to a greater victory.

The Perfect Storm

perfect stormHave you experienced a perfect storm yet—a dynamic, fast-moving, confluence of elements that threatened to capsize your life?

If you have, you know how deadly it can be, and if you haven’t, you need to be prepared.

The Perfect Storm can arise on each of our horizons, and if we’re caught unprepared it can be devastating.

It happened to Jesus and His disciples once when they were attempting to cross the Sea of Galilee. Mark 4:37 says that, “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.” This particular storm was so fierce that Jesus’ followers—many of whom were career fishermen, well accustomed to stormy seas—despaired of their lives. It wasn’t until Jesus Himself arose and rebuked the wind and the waves that their sense of hope and serenity was restored.

Perfect Storms come up suddenly. They arise when the right combination of elements align to form a deadly brew. They start building on the horizon when we’re lonely, tired, or drifting in our faith. They scream at us, threatening to wreck us and pull us down to the depths.

However, they can also be survived. They can be sailed through, and the mariners who navigate them find clear waters, sunny skies, and friendly winds on the other side.

Here’s how the disciples survived their storm (and it’s how we can survive ours too):

  1. They had a mission…Jesus had told them to sail to the other side.
  2. They had Jesus…although He seemed absent in His slumber, He hadn’t left their boat.
  3. They had each other…they weren’t paddling one-man kayaks; they were sailing as a team.
  4. They didn’t jump ship…they stayed on course until God’s power subdued the elements.

If you hold steady, His power will do the same for you. Keep sailing!

Not the conquering warlord

warrior on a horseA donkey, a red carpet made of cast aside robes, palm branches waved in the air, and little children shouting, “Hosanna!”

That was the extent of the pomp and circumstance with which Jesus commenced His Passion Week. It was hardly the entrance of a conquering hero. Indeed, the Roman warlords of that day would have scorned such a humble entrance.

He was only days away from defeating sin, death, hell, and the grave, and yet Jesus entered Jerusalem in simplicity and “approachability.”

It was vintage Jesus.

From the moment of His birth when common shepherds helped Joseph and Mary count His fingers and toes, to dinners with both preachers and prostitutes, to this innocuous entrance into Jerusalem, Jesus made Himself “reachable” by the average Joe.

In fact after this ignoble entrance into the city He removed His robe and washed the sweaty feet of His followers. It was hardly the action of a Caesar or a Greek god, and yet it embodied the actions of the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Ours is a backwards kingdom. We push the down button to go up, we serve to be great, we give our lives away to find them, and our King approaches Palm Sunday amid the laughter and delight of little children.

The Christmas Anti-Climax

victory picSometimes in life it is difficult to tell who is winning and who is losing.

Consider Joseph’s stint in slavery, the three Hebrews’ stroll in a fiery furnace, and our Lord’s own trial and crucifixion. Each of these events shouted defeat for God’s purposes, and yet each of these defeats became a doorway to a greater victory.

Sometimes defeated moments of extreme anti-climax are actually a tipping point.

From all natural perspectives the birth of Christ was the greatest anti-climax in human history.

  • His entrance into the world was not with the splendor of a world ruler bent on global conquest.
  • His arrival wasn’t marked by dignity and fanfare.
  • No one would have peeked into the stable and thought, “Surely, a king has just been born!”
  • Rather His nursery smelled like cow manure…His crib was a feeding trough…and His only nurse maids, shepherds.
  • Everything about His birth was a giant anti-climax.

Yet in that disappointing moment something else was happening and all of heaven knew that the most glorious of victories had just been unleashed. Immanuel, God with us, had come near.

What looked like anti-climax was the tipping point for the universe.

Christmas reminds us that things aren’t always as they appear. Don’t be too quick to judge and label the defeated moments in your life. God might see them as portals to a greater victory.