Climbing Mount Maunganui

December 20, 2013

TheMount

I climbed Mount Maunganui last Saturday. It is on a peninsula north of Tauranga, New Zealand. It has an elevation of 761 feet. My Fitbit One gave me credit for 63 flights of stairs climbed going around and up the Mount. The summit of the Mount is reached by walking trails and stairs.

I’ve climbed the Mount several times, but it had been at least 6 to 8 years since my last climb. I had a pacemaker procedure last June, so I feel so much better now, that I thought I could climb the Mount again. Now, I still have asthma, so it wasn’t easy. Physically fit young men and women in their twenties running the Mount two or three times for exercise is a common sight. My pace was very slow and steady in comparison to theirs, but I made the climb.

Many of the challenging things we do in life are not done in one fell swoop like Superman’s ability “to leap tall buildings in a single bound.” We mentally break down the larger task into smaller ones that seem doable. I was doing that in this climb. I would look at a set of stairs and say, “I know that I can make it to the top of these stairs.” Or, I would see a trail that went up and around a curve. I would promise myself that I would walk that much of the trail, and then set another goal. I made it up the Mount setting smaller goals until I had reached the bigger goal. That strategy works on many things in life.

You may be wanting to become more regular in prayer and Bible reading. You may have physical fitness goals or educational goals. You may have areas to work on in a relationship. The reality is that big projects are accomplished as we are able to see the various smaller steps that make up the big project. As the old time management adage goes, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is “one bite at a time.”

One of the problems climbing the Mount is that there is so much vegetation that you cannot see the top until you are very close. I had a runner who was descending the mount say to me, “Almost to the top, mate.” It was encouraging, and at that moment, I needed some encouragement. (I probably looked like I needed some encouragement too.) By the way, I wasn’t nearly as close to the top as I had hoped. Shortly after I heard those words, I came to a zig-zag staircase that discouraged me, but the words of encouragement kept me going.

Remember to give some encouragement along the way. We all need it in Christian living. We may need it in other areas of our life as well.

Here’s to the big, important things in our lives. Here’s to encouragement along the way. May you find new mountains to climb.

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The Death of Christ

December 6, 2013

“For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23) Physical death is the consequence of sin entering the world. Because of sin we are spiritually “dead in the trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) outside of Christ. And if left uncorrected, this leads to eternal separation from God, what Revelation calls “the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

Someone may ask, “Why can’t God just forgive us? Why should anyone die on account of sin, including Jesus?”

In explaining the meaning of the death of Christ, Paul states: “It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26, ESV). God’s own character is at stake in this business of forgiveness.

Suppose a defendant has a trial before a judge. All the evidence points to the defendant being a criminal worthy of punishment, but the judge lets him off. We would not consider such a judge to be just. We would question his character.

In the same way, God’s own justice demanded a substitute, a sacrifice. Paul uses three key terms in his explanation of the death of Christ (Romans 3:21-26): justified, redemption, and propitiation (the NIV’s “sacrifice of atonement”).

Propitiation is a sacrifice that averts wrath. Such a sacrifice satisfies the laws demands. It also involves substitution. The substitute takes our place and receives the wages of sin in our behalf.

Redemption is the payment of a price to set someone free. The debt owed is the wages of sin, which would lead to our eternal punishment. In the death of Christ, he paid our debt.

Justified is a law court term, the rendering of a favorable verdict. The charges are dropped against us in Christ, not because we are innocent, but because the demands of the law have been satisfied by our substitute. The debt we owe has been paid.

Humanity has a sin problem. If uncorrected, it leads to eternal separation from God. It even posed a problem for God: how to remain just and yet forgive. These problems find their solution in the death of Christ.


Thank You Bible Teachers!

December 1, 2013

The truth is I can’t remember their names except for the ones when I was a teen. I can’t remember specific lessons, although fragments of classes and moments in classes do come to recollection. Somewhere along the line a class made a paper model of the tabernacle. Songs, crayons, rounded safety scissors, Elmer’s glue, and a lot of patience on the part of teachers were a part of the experience.

It was in these classes that my first knowledge of the Bible came. It was there I heard of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Flood, Abraham and Sarah, and all the other great narratives of the Bible. Flannel graph figures of Jesus and the Apostles brought to life the gospels. It was in these classes that a life long study of the Bible was born. It was in these classes that faith took root.

Bible teachers share their time and energy with students. It’s not just the time in class that teachers share. It takes time to be prepared. When you multiply 52 weeks times Sunday and Wednesday times the number of classes that we have, you realize the hundreds and even thousands of volunteer hours it takes for our Bible classes. And it is not just time, but energy too. Preparing a class and teaching a class is work, but it is rewarding work.

Bible teachers share their faith. Why bother to teach? Is it not because we believe in God and in the gospel of Jesus Christ? Our faith motivates us to share this message with others. The Bible lessons we teach are God’s message to a lost world. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17 ESV). Even small children have the beginnings of faith. Elementary students have a great capacity to learn facts. When their ability to do abstract thinking develops around the age of 12, this great reservoir of facts is not lost, but is built upon. These basic facts can lead them to more mature understandings of God’s will. And most important of all, the students hearing the word also come to faith.

Bible teachers share their commitment. Teaching requires commitment. There is the commitment of time. There is commitment to be present at Bible studies and worship. There is the commitment to prepare and read your Bible. There is commitment to pray for your students and your class. Commitment is very important and attractive. Commitment begets commitment. Only the live ember spreads the fire.

To the Bible teachers in my life, I say thank you. To the Bible teachers of this church, I say thank you. What you share with others can influence for eternity.