start and end strong

During our service today Chris Jackson, who recently relocated himself and his family from Cincinnati, lead our communion thoughts. Sports, gaming, and women kept him from being close to God until he met a group playing basketball, who invited him to play, but more importantly, study the Bible.  

Tony concluded the “This series could change you life forever” with some serious questions. Most notably, he challenged us with Jesus’ standards, not our watered down, 21st century version. We reviewed the steps to get right with God, then reminded us of how we started… “How’s it Going?” and more importantly, How WILL it be going in 5 years from now? How many promises do we make to ourselves, to be a certain way, and then fail so easily? Tony was insistent about starting AND ending strong (Luke 14:28) and read this quote (below) from a John Stott book.

“Jesus never concealed the fact that his religion included a demand as well as an offer. Indeed, the demand was as total as the offer was free. If he offered men his salvation, he also demanded their submission. He gave no encouragement whatever to thoughtless applicants for discipleship. He brought no pressure to bear on any inquirer. He sent irresponsible enthusiasts away empty. Luke tells of three men who either volunteered, or were invited, to follow Jesus; but no one passed the Lord’s test. The rich young ruler, too, moral, earnest and attractive, who wanted eternal life on his own terms, went away sorrowful, with his riches intact but with neither life nor Christ as his possession…The Christian landscape is strewn with the wreckage of derelict, half built towers—the ruins of those who began to build and were unable to finish. For thousands of people still ignore Christ’s warning and undertake to follow him without first pausing to reflect on the cost of doing so. The result is the great scandal of Christendom today, so called “nominal Christianity.” In countries to which Christian civilization has spread, large numbers of people have covered themselves with a decent, but thin, veneer of Christianity. They have allowed themselves to become somewhat involved, enough to be respectable but not enough to be uncomfortable. Their religion is a great, soft cushion. It protects them from the hard unpleasantness of life, while changing its place and shape to suit their convenience. No wonder the cynics speak of hypocrites in the church and dismiss religion as escapism…The message of Jesus was very different. He never lowered his standards or modified his conditions to make his call more readily acceptable. He asked his first disciples, and he has asked every disciple since, to give him their thoughtful and total commitment. Nothing less than this will do” 
― John R.W. Stott, Basic Christianity

A few years ago I met a young man that showed up at my annual Turkey Bowl flag football game on Thanksgiving morning. His name was Nohar and came with his cousin Derek. We’ve spent several Turkey Bowls together, then quite a few basketball games, then some church services. He has become a good friend and someone special I respect.    

A few years ago I met a 5th grader Johnathon Vargas. He was quiet and shy, but very intelligent. We spent several months studying God’s word in my unique way. Not everyone loves my teaching methods, but I just have a strong conviction that after being in public school all day, the last thing a 5th grader wants on a Wednesday night is a duplication of that. I try and make learning fun and I want my 5th graders to drag their parents to church instead of the other way around. Johnathan turned into one my favorite students.    

Last Sunday I went to church and sat next to a man who seemed like it was his first time. My wife encouraged me to talk to him. Over this past week we have become good friends and read a lot of Bible scriptures. He is one of the most open and vulnerable men I’ve ever met.     

ALL 3 WERE BAPTIZED THIS WEEK AND HAVE BECOME MY BROTHERS !   What a victory for God and his saints this week !  
Let’s START AND FINISH strong this week and forevermore !