January 23, 2007

What Reputation Precedes You?

Man, I've been going through the book of Jonah from the Old Testament lately for a teaching series that I'm doing. This book really has a lot to say to believers today. The question that I get from Jonah 3 is "what reputation precedes you?" If you know the story of Jonah, you know that he was inside a big fish for 3 days before being vomited out & sent on his way to the city of Nineveh. When he got there he finally began preaching the message that God called him to. What was the result? The Ninevites believed. I have to believe that as Jonah's message spread through the city, his reputation did as well. Jonah probably looked pretty weird. After all, he had been sitting inside the belly of a fish for a few days. I find it hard to believe that someone didn't ask Jonah privately about his story. When these people heard Jonah's own story of rebellion, repentance, & restoration, I believe that as much as Jonah's preaching moved them toward repentance. So the question I ask myself & I ask you is "what reputation precedes you?" Jonah's story surely spread throughout Nineveh as well as his preaching message. When he moved through Nineveh preaching his message of judgment & hope, the people knew it was real because Jonah had just lived it. His repentance restored him to his place with God. The people saw that Jonah's life supported the message that he brought. So do our lives support the message that we as believers are trying to communicate? Sometimes I'm afraid that for most of us, we are living double lives. We have a different reputation depending on the group that we're with at the moment. Jonah's story challenges me to make sure that the reputation that precedes me is one that reflects the story of God in my life. I was & occasionally am as rebellious anyone else in this world. The only real difference between me & the most miserable, evil person you can think of is the way God has moved in my life & accepted me in my repentance. So the challenge for you & for me is to make sure our reputations tell that story.

January 9, 2007

It's Great To Be A Florida Gator

Well, the main reason that this is on my blog is so that my wife doesn't have to listen to me go on & on about my beloved Gators! Last night was awesome. The Gators played their best game of the year in the biggest game of the year. Chris Leak looked more like a Heisman winner than Troy Smith did, but the Gators' defensive line had a lot to do with that. In a way I felt bad for Smith because from what I've seen & heard of him, he is a good kid who has worked so hard to achieve all that he has. The bottom line was that last night his offensive line had no chance to block the big, strong, & fast Gators. Smith & the rest of the team looked stunned. You could see they had never faced a defense like Florida, & they weren't really sure how to get back on track.

I think I was most happy for Chris Leak. The Gator QB has had an up & down career. He had to start as a true freshman. After his second season, his coach left, & he had to learn a new & highly complex system that didn't utilize his abilities. Then this year he was booed on his home field as he came in to replace the freshman who will fill his shoes next season. All the while Leak was the consumate professional. He said all the right things & did all the right things even though you know it had to weigh on him personally. Last night it all paid off. He managed that game flawlessly. He took what the defense gave him. He threw the ball away when he had to & even took sacks rather than do something reckless. Most people don't realize that he holds many of Florida's QB records, & there have been some great ones play there. His record against their biggest rivals is one of the best in school history, but it wasn't until last night that he finally got the love & respect from the media & even from Florida fans that he has deserved for 4 years. He will be missed next year. Tim Tebow is going to be great, but he probably won't be great immediately.

I'm already stoked about next season. Tebow is exciting even though he is inexperienced, but most of those defensive players will be back next year, along with many key offensive players. The Gators will surely have another stellar recruiting class on the heels of this championship, so the future is bright for the Gator Nation.

Go Gators!!!


January 5, 2007

Are We Running?

If anybody out there is reading my blog, it won't take them long to realize that most of what goes on here is overflow from whatever I've been studying in preparation for my speaking. Right now I'm working through the Old Testament book of Jonah. Jonah was the prophet with an attitude. He was called to go to a city called Ninevah that was home to some of the nastiest people of his era. They were ruthless warriors & sworn enemies of Jonah's Israel. However, God chose Jonah to bring a message of both judgment & hope to the people of Ninevah. Jonah however decided that he would really prefer not to do this thing that God was calling him to. I can hear him now saying, "God, that's really not for me. I mean the Ninevites are some scary people." In our modern terms, this was out of Jonah's "comfort zone". I heard an interesting definition of comfort zone the other day. It was defined as, "a place where God exists, but is not needed". That totally blew me away. Many Christians live & die in their comfort zones. They never obediently follow God out into the unknown, wild places that He so often leads. They are content sitting at church & being church people without really ever understanding what it means to truly follow Christ.

What does that mean for us today? Well, I guess we need to ask ourselves, "What is Ninevah in my life?" It may be that God is actually calling you to do something that most of us would call "big". You know something like becoming a missionary or a pastor, but the truth is that most of us aren't called to that kind of thing. Most of us are simply being called to something that the world would call "small". God is calling us to a real, intimate relationship with Him. For the Christian that means spending time with God through studying His word & going to Him in times of prayer & meditation. For the nonbeliever it means surrendering his or her life to God & accepting the gift of Christ on the cross. After we answer that first question, we have another that we need to answer: "Am I running toward or away from God's call?" Jonah took off in the opposite direction of Ninevah. The sad reality is that many of us do the same thing. We choose to go our way when we know that it is in rebellion to God's call & purpose for our lives.

Jonah is a strange book. Most of us would expect the Bible to portray God's prophets as holy, obedient men, but the truth is that many of their faults are put on display for all the world to see, & Jonah might be the most flawed. Many prophets were reluctant, but Jonah was downright rebellious. Ask yourselves the two questions that I discussed above. I know I have had to ask those questions to myself several times in the last few weeks. If we choose rebellion, we will be able to run, but we'll never be able to hide. However, if we choose obedience, we will see the blessings of God poured out on us as we follow Him.