Your viewpoint is valid. That is, as long as others agree with it.

A professional athlete, a player in the NBA who is now a free agent, just came out as openly gay after living his lifestyle in secret for years. Even his biological twin brother didn't know it until he told him last year. This certainly sets a precedent as this man was the first pro athlete in a major US sport to declare that he was a homosexual. As a result, the media simply exploded with this story, with headlines and comments sounding like this:
"What a courageous act this man has performed, revealing his sexuality to the whole world."
"I really hope he gets picked up by a new team next year so that he can have the chance to play for the first time as openly gay."
"If no one signs this guy to an NBA contract next year, that will just go to show how bigoted professional sports have become."
Of course, not all of the press sang the same tune. One media figure, an ESPN sportswriter by the name of Chris Broussard, spoke out against the homosexual lifestyle. In fact, he spoke out against ALL sex outside of marriage, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual. In doing so he showed great respect for this man and did not choose to denigrate him as a person nor as an athlete. Yet Broussard did stick to his belief that the Bible speaks against all sexual sin, of which homosexuality is one. I think you can figure how this played out.

Intolerant. Bigoted. Hateful. Shameful. Narrow-minded. And those were just the cleaner words used to describe Broussard's opinion, which he voiced only when asked to do so. No one commended him as brave for speaking openly about his Christian faith. In fact, social media "experts" were abuzz with calls for him to be fired for being such a self-righteous bigot. We don't need that in sports! How dare he share his religious beliefs like that!

At about the same time that this was consuming the mainstream media, another athlete, this one a well-known NFL player, was handed his walking papers. Tim Tebow, the much maligned quarterback of first the Denver Broncos and most recently the New York Jets, was released from the team after just one season in which his cleats barely graced the turf on game day. It seems that Tebow was not a good fit for the Jets organization so they released him, putting their hopes in their more veteran quarterback and a newly drafted college star. Business is business.

Yet Tim Tebow's story was also splashed across the media headlines. Why so much coverage, much of it negative, for an athlete who has been released from his team? Players get cut all the time in professional sports. The reason Tim Tebow's story was so sensational is also due to the fact that he also chose to openly live his life in a certain way as well.

Tim Tebow has chosen to live his life on a different platform, that being to honor Jesus Christ. Many have criticized Tebow for being over the top with his faith, almost too zealous. But Tebow is simply an example of one who takes the truth of the Bible seriously and lives publicly what he believes. What has amplified his story is that, since he was first heralded as a quarterback phenom in high school, the press has been all around him with microphones shoved in his face.

Tebow's faith has never been private, never been kept a secret. As long as there have been reporters asking questions, there you've had Tim Tebow deflecting all glory to God. And he's enjoyed quite a bit of success along the way. Two-time NCAA champion in football, Heisman trophy winner, and AP college football player of the year, just to name a few. Yet for some reason, all along the road of his football journey, Tim Tebow has been castigated, doubted, and basically hated by so many.

The only reason that comes to mind is that Tim Tebow is a guy who is serious about his faith. Is he flaunting his faith, forcing people to believe as he does? No, he's just taking the many opportunities given to him to publicly profess Jesus. Not many in our world are given this kind of a stage to stand on as an athlete, yet there is a double-standard out there of what is acceptable to say once you are on that platform. It seems that Tebow's views are not what people want to hear, so he is publicly ridiculed for expressing what has always been public for him. Chris Broussard, welcome to the club.

When Tebow was released from the Jets, the media hounds were waiting on him to catch his last walk of shame from the Jets' facility. They captured still-shots of Tebow walking to his car, plastering them all over the news so that the rest of the sports world could revel in his failure as a player. At least that is what most people were saying - he's a failure, a joke, a disgrace to the game of football. And why? Certainly not because he was a loser. No, when he took the reigns as the quarterback in Denver they won games, even advancing in the playoffs. He was never given the chance with the Jets so it is unfair to say that he was a loser who didn't know how to win. You can't win at a sport that no one will let you play.

But that really isn't the issue here. It's about which viewpoints in our culture are considered valid. I'm sure this NBA player that came out as gay is a fine basketball player - he's been in the league for 12 years so he does have talent. And if a team needs him for next season I hope he plays and has a great season. I also want Tim Tebow to succeed in football because he has a great track record as a winner and has a work ethic second to none. Yet this is not how this will play out.

To want a player to succeed because his viewpoint matches yours while at the same time hoping to see another player fail because you don't share his values is hypocritical at best, shameful at most.

Faith always follows. Always.

"I believe in God," the man said to me. "I just do things my way. I mean, after all, I'm going to heaven when I die because I got baptized and prayed a prayer. I don't need to do all that religious stuff to prove anything to anybody. Besides, only God can judge me. I'm not that bad of a person."

I've had similar conversations like this with many people over the years and I'm sure you've either heard or even said these kinds of things too. Is that all we need to do, simply believe and then live as we want to? This begs the question: What should happen after you repent of your sin and place your faith in Christ?

For many, the feeling that comes when they surrender their lives to Christ is an emotional rush. The weight of the world is lifted off of their shoulders and they are giddy like a little schoolgirl. Freedom, forgiveness, and redemption are incredibly fantastic! But once the "honeymoon" is over, what now? Let me answer that by sharing with you a brief story from Mark 10:46-52.

Jesus was leaving a town called Jericho when He heard a voice crying out to Him. There, sitting off to the side, was blind man by the name of Bartimaeus. He kept calling out, "Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me!" and by doing so was annoying the stew out of those who were traveling with Jesus. The more they told the man to be quiet, the more he hollered out.

But Jesus wasn't bothered by the man's screams. Instead, He asked those with Him to tell Bartimaeus that He wanted to speak with him. As soon as Bartimaeus heard this, he jumped up, threw off his coat, and found his way to Jesus. Jesus asked the blind man, "What do you want Me to do for you?", which in itself is kind of an odd question because it was probably obvious to everyone there what the man wanted.

Bartimaeus pleaded in response, "I want to see!" It was his faith that brought him to the feet of Jesus and now it was his faith that was crying out for healing. Therefore Jesus responded to him, "Your faith has healed you," and at that moment Bartimaeus could see. The darkness had been lifted from his eyes and vision was now his.

But what happens next is what instructs us the most. After his sight was restored and Jesus bid him to go on his way, Bartimaeus "began to follow Him on the road." Once faith turned the heart of Bartimaeus, the next step that he took was to follow after Jesus, not to stay in one place. Faith always follows.

What happens with many believers today is that, once they respond to Jesus by faith, they choose to stay where they are. The neglect to follow. Yet this is completely contrary to Jesus' instructions to us in Scripture. Consider the Great Commission of Jesus that we are so fond of quoting. It begins with "Go!" and we so often see that as our command to get up and start moving in a certain direction. But if you were to translate the Greek in that passage more literally you would find that it actually reads, "As you are going." The idea is that we are not merely believers in Christ; the expectation is that we are to be followers.

When Jesus transforms our hearts, such a radical life event takes place that we simply cannot remain the same. We are changed, redeemed, renewed. Thus, it makes no sense for any of us to stay where we are and expect that our sedentary position is good enough. Faith always follows. Always.

Things in our world are as bad as they've ever been, right?

Like most of you, I was shocked, saddened, and ticked off when I heard the news of the bombing that occurred near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The first thoughts that came to my mind were, "What in the world is going on here? What are people thinking?"

I have the same kind of reactions when I read and hear about high school girls who get raped at parties after they have passed out from drinking too much alcohol. It makes me even more sick to learn that guys are taking their pictures and passing them around social networks as if these girls are the punchline in a funny joke. Then when I hear that some of these girls have taken their own lives after learning that what has been reserved as intimate has been splashed all over teenagers phones, I immediately want to hold my three daughters a little closer.

When I saw the news story about the abortion doctor who performed numerous illegal abortions and even went to the extreme of killing some of these babies outside of the mother's womb, I wanted to see justice served. Yes, I know that abortion is legal in our country, but this was cold-blooded murder, not a government-sanctioned medical procedure. This man must pay.

On and on the list goes of atrocities that we see committed all around us. It's not uncommon that, when tragedies seem to be stacked one upon another, I hear the comment, "It's the signs of the times." This refers to the belief that surely Jesus is going to return soon because things just can't get much worse. Right? I mean, our world is as bad as it's ever been.


Let me say that things today are bad. Let me say emphatically that that things are bad because sin is bad. And as long as there is sin, there will be horrific acts committed by sinful people. How long has sin been around? Since the first man and woman decided that their way was better than God's way, that's how long. And since that first sin was committed, there has been a snowball affect that has covered every corner of the globe.

So have things gotten worse? Consider some of these examples from ages past:
  • Child sacrifice was not uncommon in ancient cultures. Whether the children were offered to a false deity or to appease the "anger" of a volcano, child sacrifice was not only an accepted practice in some cultures but was also perfectly legal. (see Leviticus 18:21)
  • In societies such as ancient Egypt, unwanted newborn babies were left on the front porch to die. That's right, if you didn't want your child you simply set it out with the trash. Ironically, Christians are credited as the first group of people to rescue children is such situations, plucking them from doorsteps and raising them as their own, thus setting the precedent for adoption.
  • In the New Testament, King Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee, divorced his first wife in order to marry his brother's ex-wife Herodias. Herodias had a daughter who was able to seduce Herod into giving her whatever she asked. And what was her request? She wanted Herod to decapitate John the Baptist (a man whom Herodias hated) and bring it to her on a silver platter so that she in turn could hand over the bloody head to her mother.(Mark 6:14-29)
  • Then there was the whole idea in Rome about feeding people to lions and other wild animals and watching gladiators fight to the death in front of cheering crowds.
I could go on but you get the idea. These events were going on hundreds and hundreds of years ago and they involved activities that even the most corrupt governments of today would declare illegal. Because we didn't have all of the cable news networks and internet capabilities, these events were recorded in writing and not splashed across the world at microsecond intervals. Yet it still goes to show that things have always been pretty bad and that's because people have always been sinful.

In the midst of all of tragedies, catastrophic events, and human failings, there is one other thing that has never changed: God. Many wonder when God will stop all the evil in the world, and we simply have no answer as to what His timetable will be. But we do know how God has planned to stop evil and it's a plan that has already begun since the beginning of time - Jesus. God has chosen to redeem this fallen and broken world through Jesus and His desire to redeem sinful man has not changed.

Jesus has always been the solution to mans' sin problems No, things probably aren't going to change much for the better in our world, but Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He didn't come to merely fix us - He came to redeem us. As bad as the world can be, there is no comparison to just how good our God is through Jesus Christ.

You can redeem a soda bottle but you can't redeem yourself

The other day I joined in an online conversation centered around the origin of Easter. If you didn't already know, Easter was not originally a Christian observance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ but rather it was a pagan celebration of fertility. Over the years and through the influence of Christian leaders, the occasion of Easter was transformed into the time that Christians celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As the discussion continued it was mentioned that even though the original purpose for observing Easter had nothing to do with Jesus, it was cool how even the most pagan of occasions can be redeemed by God. There is nothing that God cannot make new. God is in the redemption business. The culmination of His redemptive plan came at the cross, with the death of Jesus redeeming mankind from sin and death. It was at this point that a rather curious statement was made.

Another guy that I did not know interjected with his belief that the ultimate redeemer is yourself and the we need to take credit for our own achievements. If any redemption is possible, then it is self-redemption by man. No one else can do it for us.

I was amused and perplexed by this at the same time. However, I chose at that point to leave the conversation because I just didn't see what good would come from arguing his point when the truth of Scripture had already been laid out earlier. Can man really save himself?

No, he can't.

The New Testament book of Romans pretty well sums up Christian doctrine in the area of sin and salvation.  
  • "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)  If we do not even come close to matching God's glory, how can we reach His glory on our own? We can't.
  • "For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6) God knew we were helpless to save ourselves so, at just the right time, He sent Jesus to die for us and redeem us as His own.
  • Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1) How awesome is this! You are freely and forever forgiven in Christ and your redemption is permanent!
I am so glad that I don't have to try to be good enough to earn my redemption because then I would never know how good is good enough. The purchase for our lives has already been made. If you are still trying to get it done on your own then stop! You'll never reach the mark because the bar has been set higher than you could possibly attain. Instead, rest in the fact that
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

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