Deflated Footballs, Inflated Egos, and Repentence

Changing our mind toward our sin is key if we ever hope to be more Christ-like.

The current “scandal” involving a American football team – the New England Patriots – has enthralled Americans and taken over the endless news cycle. There has been many discussion with some becoming quite heated concerning whether the Patriots did indeed cheat in a football game. The evidence (at least that which has been released) seems to indicate that the Patriots cheated by using under-inflated footballs for when their team was trying to score points. An under-inflated football is easier to grip when the weather is nasty – and the weather was nasty for this game. The “they cheated” crowd is yelling about the principle of sportsmanship and fair play while the “they didn’t cheat” crowd makes a point that every team cheats in one way or another so, hey, what’s the big deal?

After I reflected on a discussion I participated in where the “everybody cheats” excuse was brought up I discovered why I find this whole event so disconcerting. And you know what? It has nothing to do with the apparent cheating. It also has nothing to do with the fact that cheating is prevalent in society. No, my reason for being so upset had to do with something much deeper and, in my opinion, more important that the cheating itself.

FIrst some facts…

We all sin and cheat

I am not using this as an excuse for anyone else cheating and thus saying their cheating does not matter. No I am observing a simple fact. All of us – you, me, everyone alive on this planet right now – have cheated and sinned.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God  – Romans 3:23 NASB

We are all in the same boat. We all do things that are wrong. We all try to game the system. In the parlance of this scandal, we all use under-inflate footballs to gain a competitive advantage. Yes even those reading this that think yourselves as good, moral people. So get over yourself – and myself – already. We are imperfect cheaters who want to win at just about any cost.

We are all helpless to change on our own

I don’t care how much you try to change, you will remain stained with sin as long as you try to change. “Turn over a new leaf” those around you may say. “Take some behavior modification classes” others may offer. Regardless of what you try to do, you will never be able to stop sinning on your own accord. Why? Because we are all as a dead person when it comes to sinning. What can a dead person do to change his condition? Yeah, thats right, nothing.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  – Ephesians 2:1-2 NASB

So what’s the rub here?

So if we are all sinners and cheaters and we can do nothing to change that fact, why then should we get so upset about the Patriots apparently cheating their way to the Super Bowl? If everyone does, what’s the big deal? It’s just humans being human, right?

It is about their attitude

The Patriots have come out and said they didn’t cheat. They have given implausible (my opinion) explanations about how a football will lose pressure. Their denials actually create more troubling questions for me. Their attitude seems to be of indifference to what they have done. They seem to be trying to dismiss this from everyone’s memory. I don’t think that will work.

So what is the Secret Sauce here?

What would help them get over this scandal and move forward? Simply put, they need to ‘fess up and repent of this mess and then they can move forward. Without that, this will follow them throughout the rest of their history as a team and franchise. And that is a good thing. But what does it mean to “repent”?


The Greek verb for repent is metanoeo (meta-no-e-o). It means simply “to have a new mind”. The idea of this word is to have a new mind regarding Christ (for issues of eternal salvation) or a new mind regarding the issues of one’s sin (temporal salvation). Though both aspects are important, I’m mainly concerned with the latter point.

How often do we feel bad or sorry about what we have done that is wrong? Whether what we have done is run a red light, take more than allowed, taken something not ours, or some other act, do we feel a sorrow for having done that thing?

 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 2 Corinthians 7:9 NASB

The passage above is referring to Paul’s scathing letter to the Church in Corinth that roundly condemned their hedonistic practices and perversion of the Lord’s Supper. If you want a good dressing down about sin, read through 1 Corinthians sometime. read it all at once. I dare you to stay the same after that. But in the selected passage here, Paul refers to the the sorrow that produced repentance. The Corinthians evidently repented of their wrongs when confronted about it. And here in 2 Corinthians Paul is commending them for it and even rejoicing that they did repent.

So what does all this have to do with me or you?

Well, simply put it has EVERYTHING to do with me and you. We have issues confront us every day where we must make a decision to sin or not sin. Every. Single. Day. What we do with that decision indicates where we are in our process of sanctification. If (when) we make the wrong decision and choose to sin or cheat, we suffer loss. Hopefully our conscience confronts us. When our conscience confronts us (as well as anyone else who confronts us) we have choice to either deny it and try to prove that everyone does it or we can choose to change our mind about our sin, agree we were wrong, ‘fess up and move on.

This is much more important than a football game where cheating happened. This has to do with your walk with Christ. Far too often we try to cover up our sin or even deny we did anything wrong. This is a huge mistake. Changing our mind toward our sin is key if we ever hope to be more Christ-like.  HIding behind excuses does nothing but enrage those around us and create further hindrances to our own spiritual growth.

So the next time you cheat, sin, or deflate footballs in order to win a game in bad weather and then get caught at it, don’t deny, obfuscate, or offer other excuses. Change your mind about your sin. Admit what you did, ask forgiveness, and then move on after being a changed person.

His Blood

“It is OK. It is His blood, not mine.” Chaim Engel

I am fascinated by World War II. I have been interested in it since I was in junior high school. I’m not sure why I am fascinated by it. Perhaps it was the dark charisma that Hitler possessed that fascinates me. Perhaps its how a charismatic demagogue like Hitler led a cultured people to either do or ignore the savage things that happened during that war. Whatever it is, I just cant’ get enough of history regarding that time period and what happened in Europe during that time.

Back in the 1990’s a co-worker of mine let me borrow a movie of his. It was about a revolt in one of the death camps in Poland. That movie’s title was Escape from Sobibor. It was about the largest and most successful revolt of Jewish prisoners in a death camp. Since that time I have looked high and low for information about it.

Recently there was a documentary on Public Broadcast System about the revolt at Sobibor. It had a few of the survivors in it sharing their experiences and the how the actual plan to revolt had progressed. One particular scene in that documentary got me thinking about the Christian life and how often we mess it up because we don’t see properly.

At one point of the documentary,there is the story of one of the Jewish prisoners killing a Nazi in an area filled with other guards and such. The man who performed this grisly task was named Chaim. His girlfriend (and later his wife) Selma went looking for him. She heard screams coming from the Administration Block where the killing was taking place. She was sure it was Chaim. When Chaim emerged from the building looking dazed and confused, he was covered in blood. When she noticed the blood she was certain that Chaim had been injured. Replying to her, Chaim said “It is OK. It is his blood, not mine.” That statement stuck with me.

How many times do we forget whose blood covers and cleanses us. 

Do you doubt?

Living in a fallen world with our battle with our old nature, we oftentimes focus on the battle that rages and not the war that has already been won. In other words we focus on our battle and not His blood. This focus problem can cause us to doubt our position in Christ. Paul writes concerning this battle within himself

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?  -Romans 7:24 NASB

Paul recognizes his wretchedness in performing the very things he really does not want to do. Have you ever felt this way? Have you been this broken by your sin? Have I? I sure hope so because being broken over my sin shows that the war rages…which means I am sensitive to the evil that I still do. But one thing I must remember in this struggle agains the sin that resides in me is that I do not gain victory through my efforts or strivings.

The longer I live the life God has given me the more I realize that I still sin. The more I walk this pilgrims path the more I hate my sin. I know that I’m saved but there are doubts that creep in every now and again. When the doubts do come, I need  not turn to others for comfort (though my close friends are a source of comfort). I need only to look in my mirror and realize that I am covered by His blood, not mine. It is His blood that cleanses me. It is His blood that was spent to buy me. It is His blood that secures me. My blood and effort mean nothing. The only thing that matters is that His blood was spilled to redeem me.


When the sea billows of sin roll – when the thunder of accusation boom in your life – when trials come and we fail once again – all we must remember is that it is not by our effort that we are saved or stay saved. It is only through Christ that we have victory over sin.

After all, it is OK. It is His blood not mine.


Finding Diamonds in the Mine of God’s Word

Are you and I mining the word of God for precious diamonds

or just shoveling dirt around and finding plain old rocks?


I recently watched a show about the process of mining for diamonds. They showed the beginning through the end. It was amazing what had to be done to get diamonds out of the ground and onto a finger. Simply amazing things must be done to achieve  a polished stone worth thousands of dollars. The reason companies – an people – go to great lengths to get diamonds out of the ground is because their is great value placed on the diamond itself.

How do we approach studying God’s word? Are we willing to put in the time and effort to dig deep into His word in order to wear the truth of it on our life? We should be wiling to do extraordinary things to bring the gems of God’s word out of the Bible and into our lives.

There is a man in the Old Testament who mined God’s word for diamonds he could not only wear but also could show to others. He was dedicated to learning, applying, and teaching God’s word. His name was Ezra.And we can learn a lot from tis man.

So who is this Ezra guy?

Ezra was a Jewish exile in Babylon, and he was a man who was called a “Scribe” in those days. He wrote down the Scriptures as the prophets spoke. He was said to have done more to collect and arrange all of the Scriptures and record them than anyone else.

Ezra was a man of “great piety and zeal.” What that mean was that he focused on the things of God, and it was a priority to him to do so. He put God and the Scriptures first in his life every day. We could call his attention to the Scriptures, “Mining for Diamonds in the Word of God” because the truths he found were like diamonds that had great value in helping him to live as God wanted him to live.


What can we learn from Ezra?

It is important for us to learn how to “mine for gold” that is in God’s Word. How do we do this? I don’t mean the mechanical process of studying. I’m writing about the mental process. How do we decide to mine for gems in God’s word? Lets take a look at a verse in the book of Ezra and glean some tips for it.


 For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. Ezra 7:10 ESV 

He Set His Heart

Ezra’s dedication to God’s word was not by chance. He didm’t just happen to know the word of God. He decided to “set” his heart to study. The Hebrew word here has the idea of being firm or firmly established. It can also mean to set aright. So Ezra made a conscious decision to study God’s word. Ezra prepared his heart to know God’s word, not just read it. Does that convict you? Although I’m a seminary-trained person, sometimes I just don’t set my heart to study God’s word. Sadly I sometimes just skimming over God’s word instead of intently studying it. Ezra reminds me that effective mining of God’s word begins with having a purposed heart.

He Chose to Study

The Babylonians were people who studied many subjects– astrology, magic, and other subjects of the times. They were the “intellectuals” of their time. If it was written-down knowledge, they read it, they studied it, and they did it. Though Ezra has been around these intellectuals, his choice of what to study intently was vastly different than theirs. What Ezra chose to study was the Law of the Lord. This meant he studied the first five books of the Bible – known as the Penteteuch – He could have studied anything he wanted to, but he selected the Word of God as his priority. Ezra was saddened to see that the Jewish people had not studied much. Romans 15:4 says that Scripture was written for our learning, and we must study not only to understand the true meaning of Scripture but to learn out of it what will do us good.

What do you choose to study? Is it worthwhile? Will it make you a better person? Will it help you to grow in the Lord or will it turn you away from Him. Is what you are studying a productive use of your time – like mining the gorgeous diamonds mined from deep within the earth – or is it digging up just another piece of granite? Ezra made sure that he was selective in what he studied. There are many books we could read. Let us be like Ezra and to select them wisely and place the Bible at the head of the line of what we choose to study.

Ezra Sought the Law of the Lord

I get a couple of magazines in the mail each month. Invariably when I receive these magazines, the first thing I do is to flip through it. I don’t read it much. I just skim through it and look at headlines and pictures. I usually don’t study the articles. No, I just skim them to get an idea of what the article contains. Now skimming isn’t bad. In fact it can be very helpful. But if skimming is all I do, I’ll never learn anything.

We are told that Ezra chose to study the law of the Lord. He made it his business to check into what the Scripture said. He searched the Scriptures and sought the knowledge of God. What was God trying to say in this verse? He spent time reading the Word, thinking about it, clarifying what it meant. He was doing more than merely skimming the pages. He would stop on a particular verse and get his “pick” out and mine the diamonds that were deep down below the surface and hidden from the sight of the casual reader. It is important for us to allow the Holy Spirit to bring these truths out to us as we study the Scriptures. Otherwise they will be overlooked. When Ezra mined the gold, he laid up a treasure so that whenever he needed it, he had it ready to give out to others.

Ezra Applied the Law

What he mined, he applied to his own life. Do you apply what you learn in Sunday school and church to your life? If you don’t, then it is not causing changes to take place in your life. God wants the Word to transform you and to help you grow [Romans 12:2 ]. Ezra made use of the knowledge of the Scriptures in his life first. We must measure our life by the Word of God, be so thoroughly acquainted with it, and resolve to conform to it. Make it your way of life.

We have to apply the Word on our own lives first before other people will listen to us. Application of God’s word to life does not happen by chance. Ezra made it part of his life. So should we.  We have to apply it and practice it daily.

In the Psalms David made the Word of God a priority. He hid it in his heart, laid it up there, that it might be ready for him to use whenever he needed it. He laid it up as that which he valued highly. God’s Word is a treasure that is worth laying up – like mined diamonds.

He Taught Israel the Law

Ezra was willing to mine the diamonds from God’s Word and to communicate them to others for their good. He wasn’t interested in looking smart as much as he was interested in communicating the truth of God’s word. Since he studied the Word, he could explain it to other people. He understood what God was trying to say, and he had applied theses truths to himself. Therefore he knew it worked.

Ezra was called a “ready scribe” in the law of Moses. He was able to discuss the Scriptures and explain them to others at a moments notice because he had already studied them. He knew them and was comfortable with the words already and was able to speak out just the right diamond of truth to the people that God brought to him. In 2 Timothy 4:2 Paul says to be ready to preach the word regardless of the circumstances you find yourself. We must grow in our Christian lives so that we can teach others what we have learned. It must be a part of us, not just something tacked on.


So are you and I mining the word of God for precious diamonds or just shoveling dirt around and finding plain old rocks?   

For this new year, I want to challenge you – and me – not to only read the word of God, but to study, apply, and teach it.

New Year, Old Problems

Yes the world is spiraling towards the abyss. Yes the world seems to think that right is wrong and wrong is right. Yes there seems to be an amorality pervading the world. Yes it looks hopeless. But I’m here to tell you, in spite of the downward trajectory of our culture, there are better times ahead. These are not the good ol’ days.

Happy New Year! 

So it is 2015 already. I remember all the hubbub about Y2K and the associated paranoia about computers going bonkers that day. I was working for a defense contractor at that time and we had to take steps to ensure that a our systems were Y2K compliant. What a nightmare that was! Do you remember that time? Do you remember that next-to-nothing bad happened? And now we are 15 years beyond Y2K. You know what? We still have the same problems we had before Y2K – only worse.

Our society is breaking down. We have some folks chopping heads off. We have riots in the streets of the US because someone gets shot. We have police officers who are getting executed in their cars because they are police officers.

Drugs. Disease. Murder. Mayhem. And it is only getting worse. Is this as good as it is going to get? Are these the good ol days?

As Christians we must answer those questions with a resounding NO!

Yes the world is spiraling towards the abyss. Yes there are times it looks hopeless. But I’m here to tell you, in spite of the downward trajectory of our culture, there are better times ahead. These are not the good ol’ days.

Evil seemingly grows stronger

So is this statement a contradiction; “Evil will increase in the world but the future is bright”? Nope, not in the sightest. In fact I think it is the most biblically based statement I could make about the future. You see the Bible is full of statements regarding the ever-worsening state of this world. At one point in history Satan (through his anti-Christ) reigns on earth for seven actual years. That can’t be good.

For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. Matthew 24:21 ESV

Take a look at this verse for a moment. In Matthew 24:21, Scripture states that there is coming a time of great tribuation. This time of tribulation will be unique in its intensity. When this time occurs there will be nothing like it in history. That sounds pretty bad. But we shouldn’t stop there.

And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. Revelation 13:1-8 ESV

Ugh! Here in Revelation we are introduced to the beast. This beast is empowered by the dragon, normally understood as Satan himself. He’ll seem to suffer what should be a fatal wound to his head yet survive. He will be worshipped and he will gladly receive that worship. This beast will blaspheme and be a prideful person. He will reign for forty-two months (3.5 years).

These two passages highlight the problems waiting in the future. They seem insurmountable, don’t they. For some these future problems create fear and paranoia. They stock up on food and water, They pack their basement full for the coming problems. They fear the future. Because of this fear they become unreasonable in their present life. Their problem isn’t with seeing the tribulation as bad. Their problem is seeing God as less than sovereign.

But is there any hope for us? Is there anything positive about the future? There will be problems like never before. Satan empowers his beast to rule the earth for 3.5 years. There will be blasphemy, pride, worship of Satan…geez, where is the good?

Our future is bright

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.   Revelation 19:11-21 ESV

The problems come. Evil seems to be winning. Until the return. Jesus Christ comes back riding on a white horse. He comes with the armies of heaven and destroys the nations that have gathered for battle. And it isn’t even close. In chapter 20 there is 1000 years of Christ reigning on earth. Boy that sounds great doesn’t it. Christ stomps His adversary and then reigns on earth for 1000 years. In those 1000 years there is unparalleled peace and prosperity on the earth. Noting could top this, right? Well, like Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the rest of the story.

After Jesus reigns on earth there will be a rebellion. Yeah, you read that right, a rebellion. But never fear, like before, this battle is a battle in name only. Jesus stomps His adversary again, and the final judgment occurs. After that judgment, those who belong to Christ – whether  save 3000 years ago or during the tribulation or thousand year reign of Christ – will enter into eternity with Him.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:1-4 ESV

It will be a happy new year for sure. You see though our new years are plagued by old problems, this final new year will include a new heavens and new earth…and no old problems. The core issue – sin – has been dealt with and completely defeated. No more sin. No more death. No more drug abuse, disease, murder, or mayhem.

So for us who belong to Christ, no matter what happens in the next few years, we should be joyful. Regardless of who is President, who is murdering others, or who is wreaking havoc in the word, our future is bright. It is bright because Jesus has this. He is in control. He is sovereign. Since we know where we are going to spend eternity, does it really matter all that much what happens while we await our arrival there?

If you are worried about the times and trials, set your mind on the future. Set your mind on Christ and where He is. Remember that you belong to Him forever.

Lift your head, Christian. Your redemption is near.