C.J. Mahaney on Sports

Today at Covenant Life Church C.J. Mahaney gave an outstanding message entitled “Don’t Waste Your Sports”. If you enjoy playing, watching, or talking sports, you need to listen to this message.

Get it HERE.

My First Day at the Pastor’s College

This past Tuesday was my first day at the Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastor’s College. My good friend Bo Lotinsky, along with some other members of the staff, welcomed me to class by dragging my scooter (not moped!) from the parking lot and doing a little decorating. Needless to say, I got a good laugh, as did the rest of the class. Here’s some photos…

Do You Love The Wrath of God?

Nature’s Wrath

The title of this post certainly wouldn’t get me on Oprah. Why? Because it’s not tolerant and sensitive to talk about the wrath of God these days. We don’t want a wrathful God, we want a purely loving God who will come and tuck us in at night and give us a glass of warm milk. We don’t like wrath. The very concept makes us feel like primitive cavemen (or cavewomen) who eat their meat raw and carry large wooden clubs.

But recently I’ve come to see that there’s something very good and right about the wrath of God. Listen to this quote by J.I. Packer from the book In My Place Condemned He Stood:

And this [the wrath of God] is righteous anger – the right reaction of moral perfection in the Creator toward moral perversity in the creature. So far from the manifestation of God’s wrath in punishing sin being morally doubtful, the thing that would be morally doubtful would be for him not to show his wrath in this way. God is not just – that is he does not act in the way that is right, he does not do what is proper to a judge – unless he inflicts upon all sin and wrongdoing the penalty it deserves.

That, ladies and gentleman, is a deep quote. Let me encourage you to read it again. And maybe a third time. Now for a few thoughts.

Think for a moment about all the perverse, evil deeds committed by men and women. These wicked acts are against each other. Rape, murder, slander, selfishness, racism. They are committed in the privacy of our own hearts. Lust, arrogance, self-sufficiency, grumbling. But ultimately, all these wicked deeds are committed against the Creator himself. Every wicked act I’ve ever done, every perverse thought that has crossed my mind is ultimately rebellion against the very God who made me.

Isn’t it good and right that God punishes sin? How could we love a God who simply overlooked murder? How could we worship a God who didn’t care when we grumbled against him? The wrath of God is the only right response to our wickedness. I couldn’t follow a God who didn’t bring justice upon wickedness.

And all this makes the cross so sweet. I’m wicked and perverted. My thoughts are evil. Without a doubt I deserve wrath. But God’s mercy has made a way for God’s justice to be satisfied and for me to be forgiven. That’s the gospel. The cross makes it possible for me to love the wrath of God.

Originally published April, 2008

Degraded

“If there is a dispute between men and they come into court and the judges decide between them, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty, then if the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with a number of stripes in proportion to his offense. Forty stripes may be given him, but not more, lest, if one should go on to beat him with more stripes than these, your brother be degraded in your sight.” — Deuteronomy 25:1-3

How merciful God is in dealing with his people. A convicted man was to be whipped in the presence of the judge. But he was only to be given a number of strokes in proportion to his crime. The maximum he could receive was 40 stripes, so that he would not be degraded in the sight of his brother.

Some crimes might have deserved more than 40 strokes, but God in his kindness didn’t want to see anyone humiliated in front of his brothers.

But he did not show the same mercy toward his Son.

“Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.” – MT 27:26

The ESV footnote for the word “scourged” says: “A Roman judicial penalty, consisting of a severe beating with a multi-lashed whip containing imbedded pieces of bone and metal.” These cruel whips would literally shred the skin of one’s back and sides.

God, who would spare a guilty man from excessive whipping so he wouldn’t be humiliated in front of his brother, did not spare Jesus from degradation. How dehumanizing it was when the Roman soldiers mercilessly whipped him, crowned him with thorns, draped a purple robe over his shoulders, placed a reed in his hands for a scepter, then bowed before him paying him mock homage. How degrading as they struck him and spit in his face. How degrading it was when they stripped him in front of everyone than crucified him like a criminal. How humiliating it was for Jesus to hang there gasping for air, while the crowd mocked and laughed at him in his suffering.

And Jesus endured the ultimate degradation of becoming so identified with our sin that his own Father turned away in disgust and loathing and poured out his wrath upon him.

He did all that for guilty sinners — those who truly deserved to be degraded. But when we call upon Jesus, instead of receiving the degradation we deserve, he clothes us with his righteousness and crowns us with glory. What kind of God do we serve?

May I be willing to be humiliated for Jesus. May I be willing to suffer, to be thought poorly of, or to be mocked for the one who was degraded for me.

Illustration: The Flagellation of Christ

If There Was No Jesus

If there was no Jesus:

_We’d be forced to relate to God everyday on the basis of our works, and could have no certainty that God accepts us, let alone loves us. Any attempts to work our way to God would only result in guilty, fearful uncertainty.

_There would be zero hope of heaven, zero hope of seeing those who have died before us, zero hope of being in the presence of God for eternity. Only the prospect of hell. Unending punishment. Relentless flames and unbearable wrath.

_We could never pray to God intimately, as a son or daughter. God wouldn’t be our wonderful Father, he would be our judge.

_A clean conscience would be impossible. The weight of our guilt would be a never ending, suffocating burden. Any attempts to clean our defiled souls would be useless.

_There would be no one to satisfy our souls. All joy would be the superficial, short-lived, junk-food joy that comes from the pleasures of this world.

Because of Jesus:

_Our relationship with God isn’t about merit, it’s all about grace. Jesus lived in my place, died in my place, God accepts me. Period. He sings over me, rejoices over me, delights over me. I come to him freely, without fear, without guilt.

_I have the certain, assured hope of an eternity in the presence of God. This world isn’t my final resting place. Jesus has secured my place in heaven. When loved ones die, I can grieve with hope. Every day takes on meaning in light of eternity. What I do here matters then.

_We come to God as Father! He’s our Father who cares deeply, intensely, passionately about us. He cares about every moment of my day, and I’m greeted every morning by new mercies. My relationship with God is as son to Father.

_Clean consciences! Every night I can go to bed knowing that my soul has been washed in the blood of Christ himself. I’m not guilty before God. I’m not kept awake at night by an unhappy soul.

_The glorious satisfaction of my soul in Jesus. The world is on an endless, fruitless quest for happiness. In Jesus there is true joy for my soul. There is joy every day, joy in the pain, joy in old age, joy in death.

Isn’t the gospel glorious? What else would you add to the list?

+photo by kevindooley

Check Your Heart with Jonathan Edwards

Resolution 60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4, and 13, 1723.

I’ve found this resolution of Jonathan Edwards to be incredibly helpful. Our feelings are typically the manifestation of something that’s going on in our heart. If I’m feeling depressed or anxious, it’s usually because I’m craving something or believing something wrong about God.

A few months ago, Bob Kauflin asked me to do the “announcements” at Sovereign Grace Ministries’ Worship God 08 conference, which really meant I was to attempt to entertain everyone with some humorous comments before the main session speakers.

Ever been asked to be funny in front of others?

Friend: “Come on Mark, do your Bob Dylan imitation for everybody. Mark does this great Bob Dylan imitation. Have you ever heard him? It’s hilarious.”

Me: “No, it’s really not that good…”

Friend: “Are you kidding? It’s incredible. Come on Mark, do Bob Dylan.”

Me: “Honestly, it’s really not that good…”

Others: “Come on, Mark, let’s hear it. We want Mark, we want Mark….”

Me: “Oh, all right.” Clear throat. Begin singing in nasally tone: “Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me, I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to…”

Awkward silence, a cough.

Me: “See I told you it wasn’t funny!”

I’m always concerned my attempts at humor during the “announcements” will have a similar effect. Though I had run the announcements past my humor advisors (my sons Stephen and David and my wife Kristi) and they thought they’d get some laughs, during the times of corporate worship in the conference I found myself distracted and anxious.

So I prayed, “Lord, what’s going on in my heart? What am I craving? Why am I feeling anxious?”

God graciously revealed to me that I was craving the approval of man (flip side of the fear of man). I wanted everybody to think I was funny. I was more concerned about myself and what everyone would think of me than seeking to glorify God by serving his people. Also, I was not trusting Jesus to help me: unbelief. As I confessed my unbelief and selfish craving of man’s approval, Jesus brought a measure of peace to my heart and I was able to enjoy worship, though I still had to continue battling to focus on Christ.

So the next time you find your feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when you are conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I would encourage you to subject yourself to the strictest examination. Ask the Lord what you are craving that is driving your feelings and ask yourself what you are believing about God at the moment.

photo by practicalowl

The Greatest Moments In Sports History

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I’m proud to announce that the top ten moments in sports history have been determined. Thanks to all of you who submitted videos for the contest.

Just a few words before the fun begins. First, many of you submitted the same video clips. In that case, the winner is the first person that submitted the video to me. Second, I tried to choose clips from a variety of sports. Finally, I’ve included a little background info for each clip. Now, in no particular order, here are the top ten sports moments of all time. (If you can’t see the videos in your feed reader click through to the post)

1. Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympic Games (submitted by Glenn Warner)

In 1936 Owens arrived in Berlin to compete for the United States in the Summer Olympics. In the face of Nazi hatred and racism, Owens won four gold medals.

2. Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series Walk-Off Homerun (submitted by Rick Ratkey)

With the Dodger’s down 4-3 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning in game 1 of the ’88 World Series, Kirk Gibson steps to the plate to face Athletics ace reliever, Dennis Eckersley. Due to terrible pain in his leg, Gibson hadn’t even started the game, but he certainly did finish it.

3. Korean Baseball Fight (submitted by Pete Ing)

This isn’t really one of sports greatest moments, but it certainly is one of the most bizarre!

4. Grant Hill to Christian Laettner (submitted by Norm Brock)

With 2.1 seconds left in the East Regional Final of the 1992 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, Grant Hill passes the ball the 3/4 down the court to Christian Laettner, who then hits a turnaround jumper to give Duke a 104-103 win over Kentucky.

5. Jason McElwain (submitted by Wayne Ransleben)

This video needs no explanation. God exalts the lowly. I love it.

6. Trinity University Last Second Touchdown (submitted by Cassie Ransleben)

With two seconds left Trinity University needs a miracle…or fifteen of them.

7. Derek Redmond, 1992 Summer Olympics (submitted by Alex Forrest)

This was by far the most popular video I received. Derek Redmond pulls a hamstring in the middle of a race and is forced to the ground in excruciating pain. Yet in spite of the incredible pain, he keeps going, and he receives a helping hand from his dad.

8. Miracle On Ice (submitted by Isaac Johnson)

This was another popular one. In the 1980 Winter Olympics the USA men’s hockey team went head to head against the heavily favored Soviet Union. Incredibly, even though Team USA was made up of amateurs and collegiate players, they pulled off the upset of the century.

9. Michael Jordan, Game 6 1998 NBA Finals (submitted by Larry Lazarus)

In the waning seconds of game 6, Jordan steals the ball from Karl Malone and then takes the game and championship winning shot.

10. The Immaculate Reception (submitted by Brandon Minich)

No explanation needed.

Thanks so much for playing! If I chose your video, please email me your address so I can send you a copy of the book.

Favorite Olympic Moments

It’s now official: I love the olympics. The competition, the comraderie, endless Bob Costas – it’s all great. Here’s my favorite Olympic moments thus far:

  • The American men beating on the French in the 4×100 Freestyle after the French said: “We will smash the Americans.” Note to all athletes: if you want to be humiliated, saying that you will smash your opponent is a good way to get there.
  • Michael Phelps winning – count ‘em – eight golden medallions, thus making him the most decorated athlete in Olympic history.
  • Oprah Winfrey winning the 110 meter hurdles.
  • Seeing the US of A men’s basketball team playing like they care. They haven’t performed so well in recent years, being beaten by Argentina in the 2004 games and a boy scout troop in 2006. Now it looks like they might be on their way to gold.
  • Watching freakishly tall (6′ 9″) Phil Dalhausser spike a beach volleyball at upwards of 600 mph.

Your turn. Favorite Olympic moments?

Preaching Has Shaped Me

From time to time I hear well intentioned Christians say that preaching is no good anymore. We live in a post-modern culture that doesn’t want to sit and listen to one person deliver a lecture. Our culture values everyone’s opinion, and so everyone should have an equal chance to share. Preaching just doesn’t reach our modern, interactive, opinionated culture. It’s boring. It’s too much monologue and not enough conversation. Or so the argument goes.

I never want to lose preaching. Much of my spiritual life has been shaped by preaching. For the past fifteen years I’ve had the privilege of listening to my dad preach, Sunday after Sunday, month after month, year after year. I probably couldn’t discern spiritual growth at the end of each sermon, but the cumulative effect has been huge. God has used dad’s faithful preaching to slowly transform me into the image of Christ, much like a river slowly shapes a rock over time. By God’s grace, my life is rooted in glorious biblical truths. Why? Week after week of hearing those truths proclaimed.

God has also used particular messages by particular men to radically affect my life. A number of years ago I heard C.J. Mahaney give a message entitled “The Main Thing”, in which he passionately exhorted Christians to keep the gospel at the center of their lives. I cannot overstate the the impact of this message on my life. To this day I still experience the daily effect of this message

In 2 Timothy 4:1-2, Paul exhorted Timothy:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

I’m grateful for godly conversations between friends, but I also want preaching. I need to hear the word preached on a weekly basis. My spiritual life depends on it.

Let me encourage you to do one thing today. Email your senior pastor and tell him how grateful you are for his preaching. Tell him specific ways that his preaching has helped you. You’ll honor God and you’ll bless your pastor.

+photo by takomabibelot

No Cheering For Christ

Sunday night, along with millions of others, I watched Michael Phelps make Olympic history by winning his eighth gold medal.

Imagine the cheering around the world. Thousands in the stands, and millions watching TV, celebrating one of the greatest sports accomplishments ever.

But the greatest victory of all time was won all alone in darkness with no one cheering.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

When Jesus cried these desolate words from the cross he was achieving the triumph of the ages. But he wasn’t in a stadium surrounded by applauding fans shouting for him to go for it. The only similarity to Sunday was that Jesus’ mother was there watching, but she couldn’t see the victory Jesus was winning, for great darkness covered the land, and great spiritual darkness engulfed Jesus’ soul.

His disciples had forsaken him, and Peter had denied him three times. No one spoke up in his defense in the mock trial that condemned him. No one came to rescue him when the Roman soldiers shredded his back with their bone and metal-studded whips. No one objected to them pounding spikes into his hands and feet. No outcry was raised at the injustice of an innocent man impaled on a tree between two criminals. But worst of all, not even his Father would raise a hand to spare him.

Alone in the darkness, Jesus drained the foaming cup of God’s wrath against sin.

Instead of fans cheering him on, the crowd mocked and insulted him. Instead of encouraging him, they spit on him and jeered him. Even the angels of heaven probably watched in stunned silence as the Father crushed his own Son.

And when Jesus finally won his victory, there was no earthly celebration. No shouts of joy. No one pumping their hands in the air or hugging each other. No one screaming, “This is incredible! We’ve never seen anything like this! We’re witnessing history today! This will never be topped!” The only recognition Jesus received came from the lips of a Roman centurion who had rammed a spear into Jesus’ side: “Truly, this was the Son of God.”

But the moment Jesus uttered, “It is finished,” heaven must have erupted in the greatest celebration since Jesus’ birth. This was truly the greatest victory of all time. God’s furious wrath toward his children quenched forever. Millions of saints ransomed. Sin atoned for, ultimately to be destroyed forever. Everlasting righteousness ushered in for God’s children. Satan conquered and his doom sealed for good.

No earthly cheers were heard the day Christ died. But we’ll be cheering forever for the Lamb in heaven:

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” (RE 5.9-10)

Photo by nataliebehring.com