Friendly Fire

Pat Tillman

Pat Tillman, professional athlete turned Army Ranger, died 10 years ago in an attack in Afghanistan. The worst part about this attack is that enemy forces did not carry it out, it was carried out by friendly forces AKA Friendly Fire.

Friendly fire is loosely defined as “an attack by a military force on friendly forces while attempting to attack the enemy, either misidentifying the target as hostile, or due to errors or inaccuracy. Such attacks often cause injury or death.”

This was a terrible tragedy resulting in loss of life, a decrease in combat effectiveness, and utter embarrassment for the US Armed Forces.

This incident was a completely preventable occurrence. Of course in the course of battle it is sometimes difficult to discern what exactly is going on, where the enemy is located, where friendly forces are located, etc.

Here’s the thing though, friendly fire is not only occurring overseas during war. It is alive and well within the church.

Just think about it, we have a very real enemy that is out to “steal, kill, and destroy” and we have Christians battling each other over meaningless things.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is a place for debate within the church. Always has been and always will be. People have deeply held convictions and God is beyond our comprehension. There will be differences within the church.

What I am saying, is that we need to be careful that we don’t forget our primary mission when we engage in these debates with fellow Christians. Our mission is not to win debates against fellow believers. It is not to be right all the time. It is not to be a theological mastermind. And honestly, from personal experience, I can tell you that most of these debates are a waste of time.

Hear me on this, truly hear me on this and think about it:

The world is full of dying people that need the hope of Jesus.

 Question- how effective are you going to be at 1) battling the enemy and 2) reaching the lost if you are engaged in a battle with your buddy in the trenches next to you?

Answer- Not as effective as you could be.

I pray that we would embrace this reality, and devote our full energy to the mission of Jesus Christ.

 

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The Measure of a Man

What is the Measure of a Man?

What is the Measure of a Man?

What is the measure of a Man? Is it his bank account? His job title? His athletic prowess? His sexual conquests? His impact on the world?

It is all of these things, according to the world at least.

Heck, even in the church we are guilty of measuring men based on worldly criteria. I know I am guilty of it all the time. We measure men based on their involvement in the church, the size of their family, their leadership, their gifts.

Now don’t get me wrong, all of those things are valuable traits and I am not diminishing them at all. But they are not how we should measure men.

So what is the measure of a Man?

 The degree to which his heart is devoted to the Lord.

This is the only measure that God uses.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

1 Samuel 16:7

I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

Jeremiah 17:10

Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.

2 Kings 23:25

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.”

2 Chronicles 16:9

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

Matthew 22:36-37

Clearly the Lord sees things differently than we do. He searches our hearts and knows our thoughts. Josiah was recognized for his total devotion to the Lord, and Asa was disciplined for his failure to rely on the Lord in that particular instance. Other translations of 2 Chronicles 16:9 say that the eyes of the Lord “run to and fro throughout the whole earth”.

Just stop and think about that for a moment… God is looking for men with hearts wholly devoted to Him, so he can give them strength!!

And finally we see Jesus affirm that the greatest commandment is to completely devote our hearts (along with soul and mind) to the Lord.

Men in Scripture were measured by the condition of their hearts before the Lord.

And we, men of today, are measured by the same standard.

I pray for you and I pray for myself, I pray for all of us as men- May our hearts be wholly devoted to the Lord today. Amen.

Recapturing Today

I often find that my day is consumed with thoughts of the future. In my weakest moments I become a slave to tomorrow. Worries and fears come to the forefront and I am paralyzed. Growing up and even to this day, Matthew 6:25-34 brought me comfort. 

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

In this passage we witness Jesus free us from worry. 

 You see, Jesus knew we would worry. He revealed that the root issue is our lack of faith.  He also revealed something that we all know from experience- worrying doesn’t solve anything. Pagans worry, followers of Jesus do not.

And why should we worry? He promises that God will meet those needs

Jesus also tells us about tomorrow. And what does He say? Focus on today! Today is challenging. Today is tough. Today is all you can handle! Tomorrow may come, and if it does, then handle it then. 

I tell you this because this is such a struggle for me. I desire to live each day for the glory of God, but as I said, I become a slave to tomorrow. How do we combat this?

The answer is simple- Faith.

If worry is the result of a lack of Faith, then the presence of Faith will squash worry. We must believe that Jesus is who He says He is in order to recapture today.

I pray that it would be so in my life and in yours. 

– B

“Private” Sin, Public Disgrace

It seems like every day we are bombarded with stories of icons that have fallen prey to the consequences of some sort of deviant behavior. Adultery, fraud, cheating, murder, etc. Take a look at this list from-

Tiger Woods
John Edwards
Elliot Spitzer
Bernie Madoff
Aaron Hernandez

There are many more, but you get the idea. Why does this shock us though? You see this played out in Scripture numerous times. Consider the story of David and Bathsheba. In case you have forgotten, here are the highlights –

David notices Bathsheba
David lusts after Bathsheba
David sleeps with Bathsheba
Bathsheba conceives a child
David attempts to cover up the indiscretion by bringing Uriah (Husband of Bathsheba) home from the war hoping he will sleep with his wife.
David tries the previous tactic again, this time using alcohol
David plans Uriah’s death
Uriah is killed

David is then confronted by his friend Nathan and reaches the following conclusion –
“I have sinned against the Lord.”

No kidding.

But I want to highlight what the Lord says through all of this-

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

Did you catch that? “Private” sin leading to public disgrace.

How humiliating must this have been for David? How humbling must this have been for David. By the way, of course all of what the Lord promised came to fruition (For example, see 2 Samuel 16:22).

Now take a look at what Nathan says to David about the consequences of his actions.

“The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”

Two principles in play here –

1) Sin is never private

“You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel”

We may think we are fooling the world. We may think our sin is just a private and personal matter. If you are like me, then these excuses are familiar to you:

“It doesn’t impact anyone else.”
“What I do privately is my business.”
“Nobody will know.”

The fact is, this is false. Here is the truth-

Sin, although often times conducted privately, is very much a public issue impacting everyone.

Maybe you don’t believe me, but just think

– That lie you just told, it hindered trust between you and another person.
– The anger you harbor towards your boss? Certainly leads to resentment in the relationship
– The woman you lusted after at the gym today, no big deal right? Ask your wife how she feels about that

You see, our so-called private sin manifests itself publicly, and then we must face the consequences of our actions.

2) Our sin carries consequences, always-

“The Lord has taken away your sin, …. BUT….”

Whether you are a follower of Christ or not, you cannot escape this truth. Our sin carries consequences. Christ never promises to shield us from the earthly consequences of our sin. We still have to face the reality of a fallen world that we readily contribute to each day. The consequence may be large, or it could be small. It could be as grand as worldwide public disgrace, or as small as a painful talk with your wife or friend.
Either way, we will face the consequences.

What do we do then? What is the correct response when faced with our “private” sin?
Psalm 51 has the answer

Humble Ourselves

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart

you, God, will not despise.

Confess

Have mercy on me, O God,
 according to your unfailing love;

according to your great compassion
 blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
 and cleanse me from my sin.

Praise God

Open my lips, Lord,

and my mouth will declare your praise.

Tell Others

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,

so that sinners will turn back to you.

– B

My Word for 2014

My church urged its members to consider a word that will mark their year. A word that they choose under careful consideration and prayer that will shape how they use their time, energy, and resources. Its kind of like the lens that their year will be viewed through.
As I was listening to the Pastor share the vision, I started writing some words down.

All of these words were good so I decided to evaluate them from there. I spent the next few days running them through my head, reviewing their definitions and context in Scripture. You know, doing all of the human things that I could to evaluate these words.

Sacrifice had been on my mind because I had been thinking a lot about the life I want to lead, a life of sacrifice. It was particularly fresh on my mind due to a part of a speech by President Reagan where he discusses the life of a soldier named Martin Treptow.

My Pledge
“America must win this war. Therefore, I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone.”
These words spoke directly to my heart, but I wanted to be sure. Absolutely sure.
I set the following Friday (Jan 3rd) as decision day. My mind had settled on sacrifice but I knew in my heart that the issue was not fully settled. Mid week was New Years and I talked to a friend of mine who really challenged me on my word. We discussed the concept of sacrifice as something that is not always positive in nature. Sort of like you adopt a martyr mentality. But I knew that this was not what sacrifice looked like in my mind. I knew that God had a different view, but I was conflicted. I left that night asking for clarity on what exactlysacrifice would look like for me.
So then something happened.
I stumbled on Romans 12, and it became abundantly clear that the word my mind had settled on was in fact the word God had for me.
 Sacrifice
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
Romans 12:1
This was it. This was perfect. Viewing sacrifice as an act of worship was exactly the vision that I needed for clarity. But there is more, the rest of Romans 12 goes on to discuss humble service, sincere love, devotion to others, and giving honor to all people.  This was blowing my mind due to the consistency with my stated goals for this year, namely finding a ministry to serve in, improving relationships with my family, and consciously investing in the people God places in my life.
So what does this look like day to day?
 
“offer your bodies as a living sacrifice
 
 I am thankful for this clarity and confident that 2014 will be a tremendous year.
God Bless
– B

Jesus Christ: The Author of Freedom

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12:2
July 4th, 1776
Independence Day.
  For over 200 years, July 4th has been synonymous with freedom for Americans.  We wave our American Flags, launch fireworks, cook BBQ, and honor the sacrifice of those who fought and died for our freedom. Last month as I was celebrating this day, I sat down and asked myself a few questions-
What is freedom? What principles define freedom?
Freedom is defined as “Absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government.”
When I think about the freedom I have as an American, I can’t help but consider the tremendous price that was paid to secure this freedom. As I think about it more, I consider the freedom I possess as a Christian. There are some principles of freedom that apply in both circumstances.
Freedom Is Not Free…it requires sacrifice
Have you ever stopped to really consider the statement “Freedom isn’t free”.
Its one of those statements that is so abused and overused that it is now cliche.  Its one of those feel good statements that we say on a holiday or when we hear that soldiers have died overseas.
If freedom isn’t free, then what is it?
Have you ever stopped and really considered the cost of freedom?  Sure, the cost of freedom can be measured by wars, money, and lives.  But I believe it can be summed up in one word: Everything. The cost for complete freedom is everything. Consider what it cost Christ to set us free? Everything.
Freedom Only Lasts… as long as you are willing to fight for it
As Christians, we know all too well the bondage of sin in our lives.  There is a misunderstanding that goes something like this: I am saved now, so I wont have to deal with sin.
False.
We still fight our sin nature, even after we enter into a relationship with Jesus.
Notice what Paul says here
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.   
Romans 7:14-20
I know this is a confusing passage, but this is what I gather from this- We battle against our sin nature on a daily basis. We know what is good and what is not. We seek to do good, but our sin nature prevents this sometimes. We are slaves to our sin nature.
Our sin nature is still there. And, our sin nature is at war against our Spirit. We must engage in this battle daily while also resting in the grace that Christ provides.
Freedom only lasts as long as we are willing to fight for it.
And perhaps the most important principle of freedom..
As Free Individuals…we are obligated to free others
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 1 Corinthians 9:19
We weren’t set free just to be complacent and do nothing. We were set free to free others by introducing them to Jesus Christ.
In closing I encourage you to consider your freedom.
And in light of your freedom, I encourage you to stand.
To fight.
To pursue those around you.
To give everything… so that they might be free.