11-12 Weeks

When I worked in an office environment, I tried to keep a few things on my desk that might remind of what’s really important in life. A side benefit was that many of these things would promote healthy discussions among my co-workers. One of the things that I used to keep was a life-sized plastic model of an 11-12 week old fetus in the womb.

At this point in the pregnancy, the baby is about two inches long. Almost all organs are formed and most are beginning to function, including the kidneys, the liver, and the pancreas. Fingers and toes have become distinct. You can count them. Hair and nails have begun to grow.

Sadly, this is the age at which many babies are aborted. We need to pray for mercy.

Behind Closed Doors

I remember some good pastoral advice that I once received from another pastor friend. He told me, “Never be surprised what happens behind closed doors.” In other words, people may put on an appearance that all is well, when in fact, all is not well. It’s only when something happens that they are exposed.

An example of this came this week with the situation with Sam Hurd, former wide receiver with the Chicago Bears. He didn’t show up for team meetings on Thursday, so the team began inquiring as to what was wrong. They found out that he had been arrested by federal officials on Wednesday evening, who say that Hurd was setting up a drug-distribution network in the Chicago area.

Everyone in the organization was caught by surprise. The general manager, Jerry Angelo, said, “We’re all very, very shocked. … When we do our homework on players, we have a very sound and tested methodology that we go about researching all players. … So I can sit here and tell you with total transparency that we did everything we know how to do in terms of our research and there was nothing that we found that would create a flag or an alert or a real concern in Sam Hurd’s case.” The coach, Lovie Smith, said, “I’m in shock over it; never saw it coming. My dealings with Sam here have all been good. He’s a guy that showed up every day ready to go to work.” Brian Urlacher, the Bear’s middle linebacker, said, “He’s a good teammate. That’s what I know of him. He comes to work every day and works hard. Outside of here, I don’t know him very well. But he comes to work every day and practices hard and plays hard. That’s all I know of him. … He’s a friendly guy. He’s always been really friendly. He says ‘hi’ in the hallway every time you walk by him. I walk by him 10 times a day in the hallway and he still says ‘hi’ every time.”  Johnny Knox, a fellow wide-receiver, said, “He had a great character. The guy was always down-to-Earth, always laughing and made jokes with us all. I was surprised just as you all are.”

Hurd had hidden his activities very well. You never know what happens behind closed doors.

The Jesus Jersey

Tim Tebow is one of the most polarizing figures in sports today. Seemingly, people either love him or hate him. He is arguably the best college football player ever. And yet, as a quarterback, he has struggled to throw the ball accurately. His ways are very unorthodox. And yet he continues to win. Only time will tell how successful his professional football career will be.

Perhaps the most polarizing aspect about Tebow is that he is an outspoken Christian, born of missionary parents. Many hate him for this and many love him for this. Some fans in Denver, wishing to show their love for him, have begun to don his #15 jersey, replacing the name “Tebow” with “Jesus.” This is a testimony to Tebow’s character. Unlike so many professing Christian athletes, he matches up his walk with his talk.

But, in their efforts to honor Tebow as their football messiah, the jerseys miss the point. Names on the back of jerseys are used to identify the one who wears the jersey. But Tim Tebow isn’t Jesus Christ. Tebow is a sinner saved by grace through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9). Tebow’s desire is to see others believe in Jesus–the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

Mormonism and the Presidency

The presidential elections are more than a year away, and yet, things are heating up with the primary elections coming soon. One of the major discussions in this year’s election cycle has to do with Mitt Romney and his Mormon beliefs.

Dr. Robert Jeffress (pastor of First Baptist Church, a southern Baptist church in Dallas, Texas) was recently interviewed regarding his comments regarding Mormonism as a cult.  I thought his perspective is a good one to share as you think about casting your votes in the upcoming primaries and presidential elections.

Dismantling the Bomb

A few days ago (October 25th, 2011), technicians in Amarillo, Texas, finished dismantling the last of America’s B53 nuclear warheads. Estimates are that the United States had more than 300 of them at one point in time. These were massive bombs, weighing close to 9,000 pounds. Each of them were 600 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. They were so large that a jet could only carry two bombs at a time. In service for more than 50 years, the United States has rendered all of them impotent.

Jesus did a similar work on the cross. Through His death, the bomb of death has been dismantled. As it is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory … through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54, 57). By raising from the dead, Jesus rendered death impotent. Praise be to God.

Helping the Helpless

A few days ago (October 23, 2011), a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey. The damage was great. More than 2,000 buildings have collapsed and the death told is more than 400 people (and counting). It’s all a reminder of the fact that we live in a fallen world.

Perhaps the most heart-warming story came from Ercis, Turkey, where rescuers were able to pull a 2 week-old baby (Azra Karaduman) from the rubble of a five-story apartment building, nearly two days after the quake hit. Shortly thereafter, her mother and grandmother were also pulled from the wreckage alive. It was a great rescue.

This is a good picture of our salvation. We were completely helpless, until God stepped in and pulled us out of the rubble of sin. “While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).

The Rise and Fall of Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods is (er, … was?) one of the greatest golf talents ever.  His meteoric rise to dominate the golf scene is historic.  I still remember watching in amazement as this 21-year-old golfer won the 1997 Masters by 12 strokes!  He looked unbeatable.  Over the years, I have very much enjoyed rooting for him to win.

Jack Nicklaus saw it coming.  In an interview with Billy Morris, on April 10, 1996, Nicklaus said, “Arnold and I both agree that you could take his Masters and my Masters and add them together, and this kid should win more than that. This kid is the most fundamentally sound golfer that I’ve ever seen at almost any age. … I don’t know whether he’s ready to win yet or not, but he will be your favorite for the next 20 years. If he isn’t, there’s something wrong.” Well, seeing the above chart, something is wrong.

For 719 weeks in a row (almost 14 years), Tiger Woods was ranked as #1, #2, or #3 in the world.  Yet, now, he has fallen out of the top 50.  It is no accident that his fall has coincided with the exposure of his sexual sin (in November 2009). He hasn’t won a tournament since.  The reason he didn’t lose his #1 ranking earlier than October 2010 is because the world rankings take into account all the golf tournaments for the past two years.  He was so dominant that without even playing very much (or very well), it took nearly a year to lose his #1 post. I’m hoping that he can regain his form and be #1 again.

Learn the lesson of Tiger’s fall.  Sin will destroy you. Don’t be deceived, “be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). Sooner or later, your sin will come to light.  When king David kept silent about his sexual sin, he said, “my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. … My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.”  After more than a year, David finally confessed his sin to the Lord and found forgiveness.  He spoke of the blessing that  “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!” (Psalm 32:1-5).

What’s David’s counsel to us? “Let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found” (Psalm 32:6). So turn to Christ today, while grace and mercy awaits and know the joy and relief of forgiveness of sins.

Clergy Not Welcome

Do you remember where were you when you learned that the World Trade Centers in New York were attacked on September 11th, 2001? I remember where I was. I was at my desk and my wife came and told me what happened. It proceeded to consume the rest of the day, as we watched the horrific images of the burning buildings and then the collapse of the towers. I suspect that most everyone old enough can remember what they did on that day.

Here are some follow up questions: do you remember what took place that evening? Congress spontaneously erupted in singing “God Bless America”! Many prayer meetings were held that evening. I was at one of them. Do you remember what happened over the next few days? People flooded into houses of worship in record numbers. Churches were full the next few Sundays.

How ironic is it that the current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided that there will be no clergy present on stage at the ceremony commemorating the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Is God good enough for a crisis, but not good enough for a ceremony of remembrance?

This is a good picture of how most people in our society view God. Oh, He’s good for a crisis. But, He’s not very good for regular life. But, if God isn’t good enough for regular life, how can He be good enough for the crisis?