The Speed of Salvation: how fast is a soul saved?

Author Philipp Yancey once asked a Hindu priest how many times a person would need to be reincarnated before he was liberated, being pure enough to reach oneness with Brahman (existing no longer as an individual). The priest thoughtfully replied, “We calculate about six million.”

I once asked a Catholic Priest if the Pope would go to heaven or to purgatory. The priest replied, “Purgatory.” The reason: people are imperfectly purified and need to undergo purification to achieve the holiness necessary to get into heaven.

Considering those two options, the thief on the cross got a really good deal. He never prayed what we call “the sinner’s prayer,” but he told Jesus in his own way that he believed in him. Great was his surprise when Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” “Seriously?” he might have asked. The thief’s grin must have been enormous. Talk about incredibly good news for a convicted criminal who had absolutely no hope for anything good whatsoever from this world.

In pastoral care we comfort people with God’s Word; we share the good news of God’s love in Christ. Sometimes in healing, the process can be long. But, when it comes to a soul being transferred into God’s family, it happens as fast as…well, whatever top speed is known in physics, multiplied by infinity.

Lou Kleiman, leader of our Tysons Visitation Team, was an eye-witness of that spiritual speed just last week.

Lou was in the home of a man who would soon step into eternity. The man was not able to communicate; his eyes were closed. Below is part of Lou’s follow-up report of his visit:

“Speaking softly, but loud enough for him to hear, I recounted some of the discussion we had in his library last Thursday, thanking him for his service in the Coast Guard, reminding John[1] how loved he was by his family, and asking him if he recalled the spiritual discussion we had when Pastor Joe and I visited him last week.

I offered a prayer, asking the Lord to show John His love. I asked him to pray with me, if he could hear me, to ask the Lord’s forgiveness of his sins and to ask Jesus Christ to be his Lord and Savior in recognition of what He did for all of us on the cross.

At the conclusion of my simple prayer of salvation, I asked the Lord to give me a sign and then asked John to open his eyes if he had heard my prayer and had prayed with me to ask the Lord Jesus into his life. 

His eyes fluttered immediately, and then closed.”

In the nick of time, John’s eyes fluttered in belief. One foot was already over the cliff-edge of eternity, the second foot in motion to follow. In that flash of faith, the Holy Spirit whisked John so suddenly into God’s family that he instantly found himself surrounded by his new-found family members greeting him.

That’s the speed of salvation, the speed at which a human spirit connects with God for eternity.

 “The word that saves is right here, as near as the tongue in your mouth, as close as the heart in your chest…. you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation.”[2]

A cheetah sprints at 70 mph and a Peregrine Falcon swoops at 200+ mph. The speed of light in a vacuum is 186,000 miles per second. All are impressive, but all are God-light years away from the speed of salvation[3].

When God shines his light in someone[4] so that they see his love and put their faith in Jesus, two things happen with God-speed: God’s love is poured out into their heart[5], and their spirit comes alive because of the righteousness of Christ that is instantaneously given to them.[6] God’s love and light will be literally inside those who believe in Jesus, forever.

Share these thoughts with the people that you serve. Say, “You know, it’s going to take a while for me to explain how much God loves you. It’ll take some time for you to understand what Jesus did for you on the cross. But, someday you’re going to believe in Jesus. When that happens, you’ll become a child of God and it will be so real, you’ll feel so different, that you’ll wonder how it all happened so fast.”

The speed of salvation is an awe-inspiring miracle.


[1] Not his real name.

[2] Romans 10:8-10, The Message

[3] The speed of salvation is as fast as God because salvation is rooted in the essence of he is. God is light, God is love, and God is spirit.

[4] “For God who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness,’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6, NLT)

[5] “God’s love has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit…” (Romans 5:5, NIV)

[6] Romans 8:10, The Amplified Bible

Pride & Partiality: The cause of discord and its cure

January 19, 2015
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

“I have a dream!” “Let freedom ring!” “Free at last!”

How could anyone not be mesmerized and inspired watching Dr. Martin Luther King’s passionate appeal to the nation? I felt just as moved today, watching on my computer, as I did as a 15 year old riveted to the small screen of our black and white TV on August 28, 1963.

At that time, discord between blacks and whites was volcanic. What else could anyone expect? The decades old “Colored only” signs over public bathrooms and water fountains that I encountered everywhere were just another visual to bring the racial cauldron to a boil.

Basic rule of solidarity
While society struggled to figure out how King’s “brotherhood” between the races played out in everyday life, my high school track team intuitively knew the basic rule of solidarity: treat others with respect as equals. That’s why we all walked out of a fast food place that refused to serve our black teammates.

I think that Dr. King would be proud of the significant progress Americans have made to realize his dream. The reality is that inter-racial and inter-cultural discord is as old as history. Is it a curable disease?

Getting to the root of the problem
“If we don’t know how to love one another, what’s the use of all this diversity training?” asked a frustrated African American Air Force Sergeant, tired of mandatory attendance at a plethora of lectures and workshops on diversity that emerged in the 1990s. Changes were made in public policy, but attitudes often remained entrenched. What was I, the workshop instructor, going to say?

Later in the same year, I was attending a Leadership Diversity Conference and decided to ask the same question of the keynote speaker. The African American professor was an intelligent, sincere man trying to solve a real problem. I appreciated what he had to say. Here’s how he started his speech.

“Racism is a white man’s problem! And, if you want to learn more about this, then I want you to know that in the heartland of America, there is another excellent conference that you should attend. It is unlike any other conference in that it begins with the assumption that racism is a white man’s problem. This is a good thing that such a conference starts with this assumption, because this assumption is true.”

I thought, “Now that’s one way to get your audience’s attention from the start!” I actually didn’t have a problem with his assessment that someone needs to take responsibility for racism. I just thought that his focus was too narrow.

During Q&A, I walked up to the microphone and said,

“Sir, all of us have benefited from your knowledge and insight. Thank you for sharing with us. I find myself troubled on two counts.

First of all, rejection of another is a terrible thing, and the black race has been hurt and hindered by rejection.  Even worse, to reject the humanity of another is to reject the Creator who made him.

Secondly, as you were speaking, my mind drifted to Africa, to Europe, to Asia, to the Middle East and I discovered that regardless of the color or culture of the people group in positions of power, they all tend to do to others what you claim whites have done here. It seems that any race or culture that has the opportunity to be powerful or privileged could have the tendency to look down on minorities and treat them as second-class citizens.

Since this propensity appears to be universal, sir, what would be your response to the question posed to me by an African American sergeant at a workshop on diversity that I was facilitating in the military? The sergeant said, “We can talk about diversity all we want, but, unless our heart changes, everything we’re talking about is a waste of time.  How do you change the heart? If we don’t know how to love one another, what’s the use of all this diversity training?”

Doctor, how would you respond to that question? From all that you’ve learned, how does the heart change so that we forgive others for their transgressions against us, so that we fully accept them for who they are, and we make room for them if they desire to enter our world?”

With great regret, I must say this good man’s response was mostly cotton candy instead of steak (in his defense and in all fairness, I really do think that he had never considered the solution to racism from this perspective).

“I love people.  Love is the motivation for what I do,” was his closing statement. I believe that deep down this was the true sentiment of his heart, as it is for many others.

Natural pride: liking people who are like me
We like “our people” because together we understand how to do life. We don’t have to think about it, we just eat, greet, work, and raise a family in certain ways that we feel are normal. Then there are the “other” people. We would like them, too, if they weren’t so different in the way that they talk, think, dress, work, and live. In fact, when we interact with those from another race or culture, we at times may subconsciously think, “They could enjoy life more if they just learned my way of doing things.”

Culture is like our skin, we’re comfortable in it. Culture simplifies life for us. So, it makes sense to be proud of our culture and its ethnic or racial heritage. I’m proud of my Portuguese and Puerto Rican people. I feel comfortable when around them. I think that you should feel likewise about your race, culture, and national heritage. That’s called ethnocentrism at its best.

Pride and Partiality: looking down at people who are not like me
Healthy pride gets diseased when a person is infected with partiality. The more the infection permeates the person, the more likely they will develop the contagious disease of racism. Racists aren’t content with just not liking others who are different; they want to harm them, too.

What’s partiality? James writes that it has two sides: the up side and the down side. We look up to certain people and look down at others. We speak up to some and speak down at others, admire and view one group highly and disdain and view another group with low regard. We look up with favor[1] at our people and look down with superiority on others.

The cause of all discord
Pride and partiality showed up in the first century, of all places, in the church. Here’s what James, the half-brother of Jesus had to say to attendees of that church:

“My brothers, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention[2] to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or, ‘Sit here at my footstool’, have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges[3] with evil thoughts?”[4]

Can you imagine? As worshippers of God came into the same space to worship the same Lord, some in the congregation were looking up at the rich and looking down at the poor! And some of them didn’t keep their attitude of partiality to themselves. They actually told the rich, “Please sit here in these important seats!” as they told the poor, “sit over there in the cheap seats!”

In today’s world, no one would actually let on to others if they really felt that way about the rich and poor, or the culturally different.

I know a Caucasian businessman who didn’t want to work with anyone from another culture.  He didn’t understand their accents, social behavior, or why they enjoyed certain foods.  If his company had a job opening, he would automatically discard any resume that wasn’t from a white applicant.

An African American business woman, who was actually a fellow facilitator with me at a diversity workshop, told me, “I would never hire someone in my company who wasn’t black.”

The potential for legal action or social stigma has honed our skill in putting on the facade of political correctness.  It’s as easy as buttering a piece of bread to put on the appearance of equality with others, while hiding the superiority that you really feel inside.

Preference, prejudice, and partiality – what’s the difference?
Now, there’s nothing wrong with preference, for example, of liking over easy eggs versus hard boiled. And, it’s perfectly acceptable to choose to be with “your” people and enjoy their food and fellowship. There’s everything wrong with prejudice, having an unfavorable opinion of someone that’s based on inadequate facts. But, interestingly, scripture doesn’t mention the ignorance of prejudice as the problem. Rather, it condemns partiality, a willful and arrogant attitude of superiority that marginalizes and dismisses those considered inferior. Partiality is an enemy of humility, which is the essence of the spirit of Christ.

Make no mistake: pride and partiality are the cause of all discord between races, cultures, language groups, and nations.

The cure for discord
God hates partiality. It’s in direct defiance of his nature that loves his people equally and does not play favorites with anyone. In God’s kingdom there’s a Royal Law, which is the cure for discord, a law by which all its citizens live by.

What is this law?

The Royal Law of Love: favorably treating others as I would want them to favorably treat me.
Moses was the first to announce God’s Royal Law of Love to the world:

“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”[5]

God’s Royal Law of Love is the supreme law that is the source for all other laws that define, govern, and regulate all human relationships.[6]

The Apostle Paul declares this law as the summation of all such laws.

“Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.’ These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.”[7]

An expert in religious law tried to trap Jesus with the question, “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus’ reply was instant:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”[8]

Choosing not to love our neighbor is more serious than we think. The command to love others is not a mushy emotional sentiment, but rather, a hard-core requirement. James says, “If you commit partiality, thus choosing to ignore the Royal Law of Love, it is sin. That sin makes you just as guilty of breaking God’s law as if you had committed adultery or murder.”[9] That’s serious.

Putting the Royal Law of Love into practice

See the vision that God sees
Dr. Martin Luther King saw from the scriptures the vision that God had for the world, and hit the streets to do what he was called to do, to bring that vision to pass. His spotlight was on equality and reconciliation between whites and blacks, and indeed, it should have been.

God’s vision has a wide lens global scope: the reconciliation of all nations, cultures, races and language groups to himself and to each other. You can see his vision everywhere:

“God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them.”[10]

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you all are one in Christ Jesus.”[11]

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”[12]

Jesus took God’s vision to the cross and did what he was called to do to bring that vision to pass.

Where will you take God’s vision? How will you bring that vision to pass?
Start by seeing with your mind’s eye what God sees. When you see someone from a different race or culture at church, think, “He’s my brother, she’s my sister, we’re in the same family.” Then, be bold, go and introduce yourself, “Hi, my name is _____, what is yours?” When you see them wherever you go, think, “Lord, you died for him, you rose for her, just like you did for me. We all need you.” Practice solidarity with the human family through silent prayer.

Look for ways and means to introduce people who are different from you to God’s vision. You and I have a non-negotiable commission:

“…he has made us agents of the reconciliation… and has commissioned us with the message of reconciliation. We are now Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were appealing direct to you through us. As his personal representatives we say, ‘Make your peace with God.’”[13]

You are God’s chosen agent that he has personally commissioned to be his voice as his personal representative. You are working with God, he is working through you, as you show your world – filled with an array of varied races and cultures – what the Royal Law of Love looks like in real life.

[1] Some translations use the word “favoritism” instead of “partiality” in order to get across this idea.

[2] “Pay attention” means “to look up to”

[3] Discrimination – choosing one person over the other – was rooted in impure motivation and intent.

[4] James 2:2-4 (NKJV)

[5] Leviticus 19:18

[6] In my opinion, before any case involving relational conflict is discussed in a court of law, all should stand as this law is read as the premise for justice, the point of reference in all deliberations, and the standard by which accuracy of the final judgment is validated.

[7] Romans 13:8-10 (NLT)

[8] Matthew 22:37-40

[9] James 2:8-11

[10] 2 Corinthians 5:19 (NKJV, NLT)

[11] Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

[12] Revelation 7:9

[13] 2 Corinthians 5:19-21 (J.B. Phillips)

Dissolve and Resolve: you have to lose to gain

What’s wrong with this true scenario: As I was talking with a friend, she poured a packet of artificial sweetener into her coffee, then dipped her donut in it and took a bite. “I’m on a diet,” she said, “so I’m cutting down on sugar.”

You got it, didn’t you? You can’t gain what you really want, without giving up what keeps you from getting there. Anybody knows that. But, not everybody does it. Yet one more reason for why we’re always making resolutions.

Go to the gym in January, and you’ll find it crammed with people determined to finally get into the shape that they resolved to have the year before. Tread mills, stationary bikes, and elliptical machines are humming, weights are clanging, and sweat is pouring. You can hardly get a workout in, as there are so many people everywhere. They’re all looking pretty good in their new workout outfits.

Go in March, and the whole place is yours. Why? Resolutions without dissolutions just fade away like the morning dew.

Dissolve: what needs to go away?

Shed weights
“Strip off every weight that slows us down,”[1] instructs the writer of Scripture. If a soccer team showed up on the field wearing football gear, it would probably be easy to predict the winning team. Sometimes, we run our lives like the losing team, wearing extra loads that are huge hindrances, and over the long haul can even bring harm. It’s no wonder that we’re so fatigued.

What unnecessary gear do we choose to wear? Jesus names several: overwhelming worries about all the things that we have to do and all the things that we think we need, and letting our minds be occupied with all sorts of other ambitions that are either worthless or not worth our time.[2]

What’s the answer? How do we shed weights? Give it up and let it go.

Peter meant each word when he said, “Cast all your cares upon the Lord.”[3] “Cast” means that you give up to Christ the anxiety that is weighing you down; at the same time, you let it go. You’re not allowed to pick it up again.  Some people find this hard to do. They just can’t get their mind around the fact that they can let a greater power carry their burdens for them without their involvement.

This leads me to the weight that’s the heaviest of them all.

The writer called it, “the sin that so easily trips us up.”[4] That means that it’s easy to do. It’s pretty serious if we can stumble and fall with just one sin. What sin is that? The one that got Adam and Eve in big trouble: the sin of unbelief. It’s the root of every known sin. Do you deep down not believe something God has said?

How do you shed the weight of unbelief? It’s pretty basic, actually. Your spirit and will choose to believe that what God has said is true. That’s what you did when you first believed that Jesus was your Savior. You now likewise believe that his promises are trustworthy, and his commands are reliable as your guide to a healthy and godly life.

What if you have a hard time believing everything God says is true? Tell him it’s hard for you to believe. God welcomes such honesty. He’ll work with you. “Come and let us reason together,”[5] is his open invitation when it comes to faith.

Resolve: only one is needed

Why not make just one resolution? To learn the spirit of joy and the way of thinking of the most successful person who ever lived. Can you imagine what life would be like if your ability to make wise choices would be intuitive? That’s how Jesus lived. And here’s amazing news: the purpose and plan God has for you is that you learn how to live your life as Jesus would live it if he were you.

The spirit of joy
Jesus was the most joyous human who ever lived on earth. Joy, the pervasive sense of well-being[6], permeated his spirit. How could that be? His life was hard. Physically, long hours of walking and often sleeping outdoors; socially, verbal assaults of his enemies were harsh and relentless; spiritually, confrontations with Satan and the demons were vicious.

What was the secret of the spirit of joy found in Jesus? Why was he able to be free from any anxiety and experience only rejoicing in his Father? His mind was saturated with the prayers and praise of his prayer book, the book of Psalms.

Read the Psalms and other scriptures that teach you how to use praise to trump the pressure of your problems. Choose the supremacy of joy as the strength of your spirit and will. In every situation, say to God, “I have settled confidence that your faithfulness never changes, that your truth endures forever, that you govern according to your wisdom.” That’s joy.

The way of thinking
When Jesus thought, it wasn’t just with his brain. His mind was hard-wired by his spirit and will with a grid through which all thoughts and feelings were tested by a certain criteria. His body had to be in agreement, because it had been trained to act only in alignment with the criteria set by God. His soul coordinated and integrated his entire being in unified thinking.

And this ultimate and powerful way of thinking is available to us. Paul gave us a grid[7] that Jesus used through which we, too, can filter our thoughts and feelings.

True: would Jesus consider this as “real”?
Honorable: am I respecting myself, as God’s child and temple?
Right: is this a wise and ordered way of living?
Pure: am I free from wrong motives or intentions?
Beautiful: is this pleasing and attractive to morally upright people?
Good: would this be well spoken of, does it add to a good reputation?

The spirit of joy and way of thinking of Jesus was meant to be yours. But, it won’t come by trying, it will happen only by training. Day by day, over the long haul, dissolving weights that hold you back while practicing joy and filtering thoughts and feelings – you’ll learn how to live your life as Jesus would live it if he were you.

[1] Hebrews 12:1

[2] Mark 4:19

[3] I Peter 5:6-8

[4] Hebrews 12:1

[5] Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)

[6] The definition offered by Dallas Willard

[7] Philippians 4:8

What Are You Anticipating?

By Rachel Reed, @MBCArlington Director of Women’s Ministries

Have you ever eagerly anticipated a great event? A wedding, a long awaited reunion, or even a special meal? Sometimes, after all the anticipation, it doesn’t go as you had hoped or expected, and you’re left wanting more. What if there was something or someone who would always fulfill all that you anticipate?

Since the beginning of time, people have lived in anticipation of something greater, knowing deep within that there has to be more to life than what we can see. All those millennia of wondering and anticipating were answered in Jesus. Jesus, who was God born in human flesh, came to fulfill our greatest longing. He came so we can know and live in a personal relationship with God Himself—the greatest purpose of all. There is nothing disappointing in that!

Often we experience disappointments because we are hoping to be fulfilled by something that was never intended to fully satisfy us. But Jesus came to give us abundant life. Through His perfect life and sacrificial death on our behalf, we can have a hope that will never be disappointed.

To understand this abundant life and hope that Jesus offers, we must first be willing to surrender our own ways and admit that we can never be good enough to earn God’s grace. The good news is that we don’t have to earn it. Jesus offers God’s grace to us freely when we believe that He truly is all He claimed to be, the Savior of all mankind. We can trust what the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 10:11, “Whoever believes in him will not be disappointed.”

How to Begin the New Year

By Mike Kelsey, @MBCSilverSpring Campus Pastor

As we envision the next 363 days, all of us have a desire—if not some sort of resolution—to do some things better this year. If we’re smart, we’ll not only desire and resolve to make some changes, but we’ll create a plan to help turn our commitments into priorities. But the single most important thing to keep at the forefront of our minds as we begin this new year is the character and nature of God—the God who was with us this past year and who will be with us this year.

No matter what we do or fail to do, God will be God, and He will be with us and for us. So I’d like to challenge each of us with an exercise this weekend (or over the next week):

  1. Take time to reflect on how God worked (a) IN you, (b) THROUGH you, (c) FOR you, and (d) AROUND you in 2014. Literally, write down ways you’ve seen Him work in each of those categories. As you do that, write down any Scripture that comes to mind related to God’s work in those areas.
  2. Once you’ve made your list (either all at one time or over a period of days), spend time thanking and praising God for the specific ways you’ve seen Him work.
  3. Set up a time with your discipleship group or with good friend(s) over a meal to share what God has done.

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.

Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
Psalm 77:11-14

The Man Who Knocked On the Door With His Foot: A Christmas Parable

Many years ago, when much of the earth was yet unknown, an explorer who had spent years at sea was weary and ready to return home. His long walk from the harbor took him to a sight that had only been a dream. There in the distant valley was his village. “I’m finally here! Thank you, God!” he exclaimed. Reading again the words in a letter from his family and friends, “We’re waiting for your soon arrival!” he hurried on.

Home at last, he did what he had been taught from childhood, “Always knock with your foot,” his parents had told him, “because your arms will be carrying many gifts!” So he did, because, indeed, many gifts he had brought.

The door flew open. Lively music poured forth like water, singing and dancing broke loose. He mingled with the crowd, telling with excitement all the things that he had seen on his many adventures.

But then, a very strange thing happened. “Stand over here,” they said. “Let’s look at what you’ve brought.” They examined one gift and said, “We don’t like this one. Put it outside.” And so it was with each one. After all the gifts were outside, they exclaimed, “We want you outside, too! You’re different from what we thought you would be.”

With a heavy heart, he said to his family and friends on the other side of the closed door, “I wish that this had not been so.” Picking up his gifts, he made his way to other villages, where he found people who received him and his gifts with gladness.

The man who knocked on the door with his foot was like Jesus. 

He came from heaven to His home on earth bearing gifts. Talk about an extraordinary arrival…

Angels were deployed for the most important assignments of their careers.

Stars were activated.

Prophecies were satisfied.

One would think that with such an arrival, his people, the entire nation of Israel would open their arms when Jesus came to their door. But, strangely, they didn’t receive him as one of their own, much less as their Savior. They rejected him and the gifts that he brought. At the end of his life, at the cross, just a handful believed in him for who he was. Yet, he was successful. He had fulfilled his purpose.

What can we learn from Jesus?

You may have come to your family, your school, your people, your neighborhood, your place of employment, your marriage, with great expectations. You knocked with your foot, wanting your gifts to be received as a blessing. But, they’ve been rejected. Perhaps you have also been rejected. What do you do? Here are a couple of thoughts that we learn from Jesus.

1. Be yourself, the person you were made to be. Jesus rejected rejection of who he was. For example, it didn’t matter if people rejected him as a qualified Rabbi because of his socio-economic status (the carpenter’s son), or his cultural identity (from Nazareth), or his spiritual self-identification as the Bread of Life that came down from heaven. He knew which words were true of who he was, and he lived by those words. The words that others used of him had no effect on the truth of who he was.

2. Stay focused on your purpose. Jesus knew that his name meant “Savior” and that the cross was his destination. He came to seek and to save those who were lost in life without him. Interestingly, it was because he had a life-style of “enduring pain” and “rejecting shame” that he was prepared for his divine mission on the cross, paying the price for saving us from our sins.

Who were you made to be? What are the talents and spiritual gifts that come naturally to you, with which you want to bless others? What is your purpose? Is it one of the roles you have – such as a spouse, parent, follower, leader, administrator, counselor, or teacher? Know yourself and stay faithful to who you are.

No matter the setting where you are with others, be yourself and fulfill your purpose. Offer your gifts. Keep on knocking and offering to those who will receive.

The Mark of Manhood

By Charlie Thomas, @MBC Arlington Leader

We’ve all done what David did, and, unfortunately, it’s not defeating Goliath. So, what have we done? At the 2014 MBC Men’s Conference, speaker Jonathan “JP” Pokluda challenged us by bringing to life the greatest triumph and the greatest tragedy of David’s life: Victory over Goliath and his fall with Bathsheba. While David’s sin with Bathsheba was certainly egregious, Christ tells us, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” Matthew 5:28.

As I sat in the conference listening to JP talk about David’s fall and read that verse, my stomach churned at the thought of cheating on my wife of two months. But the stark reality is that for any of us—single or married—who have ever allowed our eyes and minds to wander in lust, we have committed adultery in our hearts.

When we allow God to define sin, we realize that we are far more broken that we ever dared to imagine.

Before I trusted Christ three years ago, I recall thinking it was absurd that “lust” could be equal to “adultery.” At that time, I believed our cultural norms regarding manhood and sex, but the Christianity found in the Bible and explained at the conference runs counter to our culture on these topics. This is particularly evident in how we find our identity and develop relationships with others.

As Christian men, our identities are to be solely found in Christ, not in any achievements, successes or self-gratification. This is really a freeing concept because we don’t have to meet the cultural standards of salary, sex and supremacy for our manhood. Rather, manhood is marked by faith, humility and sexual purity as an act of worship and thankfulness to God (among other characteristics). While true, it’s very difficult to do on our own.

That’s why we have to be honest with other guys and develop relationships predicated on the principles in the Bible. I’ve benefitted from these deep friendships with three men, in which we were honest with each other about our struggles, studied together, and held each other accountable. However, in life’s transitions, we gradually moved to different cities, committed to different churches, and fell out of our regular conversations.

David’s faithfulness and reliance on God earlier in life did not protect him from future temptations and mistakes of shirking responsibility and adultery. Why should I expect such protection, having the same sinful nature as David, but with less wisdom, faith and discipline? Attending the conference with several other men from MBC Arlington helped knock down some of those prideful barriers and reawakened my need for honest, accountable relationships to fight for purity.

What about you? The stakes are high; so let’s fight together as men pursuing the honor of Christ!

Faith in the Real World

By Joe Kelty, MBC Tysons Director of Men’s Discipleship

In today’s morally relativistic culture, can we really be expected to share our faith in the “real world”? Let me give you a couple real world examples of a “rookie” Christian sharing his faith.

When I was a younger man, my wife and I had only been married for two years when we were blessed with our first child, a precious little girl. I was working in downtown DC at a firm with several young men in the 20-30 age group. One of the VPs had established a tradition of taking men out to lunch for their birthday. Somehow that tradition devolved into a group of rowdy men going to a gentlemen’s club in DC to celebrate a man’s birthday.

As a Christian and new father of a little girl, I decided that I could not participate in such things anymore. So when the next birthday outing was gathering, I stood up and announced that I would not be going. The group of men unleashed a barrage of peer pressure and insults on me. But I stood firm. I explained that “it just wasn’t right” for me as a Christian man, and as the father of a little girl. The insults continued. So, I offered to help pay for the birthday boy’s lunch, and sulked back to my office. The group of men left. Then about 10 minutes later, one of the men returned and came to my office. He said, “That took guts.” I smiled. He said that he also had a young daughter, and that maybe it was a good time for him to start taking the family to their neighborhood church every Sunday. Looking back on this memory, I realize that I had successfully shared my faith in the real world—and it helped someone take a step closer to Christ.

Years later, I was the VP at a different organization. Our company had teams of IT consultants working at various large clients in the DC area. One of the clients announced that they would have to cancel our contract, effective immediately, because the government had cut funding to the entire project. The client apologized, but without funding, they could not pay us. This meant that I would suddenly have several consultants sitting idle, and not earning profits for my company. I looked at the contract terms for this client, and realized that there was a clause that prevented termination of my team without one month’s notice. I could essentially force the client to keep paying for an additional month, even though they were not being funded by the government. Not my problem, so I thought. I informed my boss and my team that we would be forcing the issue, and that our profits would still look good for the month. But all that night my conscience kept convicting me. I prayed about the  situation. The next day I decided to change my mind, and let the client off the hook. Then I had to go tell my boss, and announce this to my team. In front of everyone, the team leader asked me why I had changed my mind. I told them that I was a Christian, and that I have been striving to live my life accordingly. It would not be a godly decision to sacrifice my personal integrity in exchange for profits. I apologized to all of them, and promised to be a better leader and a man of stronger Christian character. Later that day, a few of the team members came up to me individually. They each encouraged me, and thanked me for making this decision. One of them even asked about attending my Bible study. We had a tough month in profits, but ended up with a record year, financially.

Don’t become overwhelmed by the challenges you face because you are a Christian. Remain faithful and cling to your Christian integrity. Be intentional about telling people why you believe in the Lord Jesus. They will respect you for it—they may even find salvation because of it. And one day the Lord will say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Dissolving Reluctance, Resolving to Pray

By Julie Stoll, MBC Tysons Attendee

Remember Jonah the reluctant prophet? God shared His heart of compassion for the people of Nineveh, and told Jonah to go make a difference there. But Jonah went in the opposite direction, intentionally refusing to join God’s plan. Why? What prompted Jonah’s reluctance and emboldened him into rebellion?

Perhaps Jonah had bought into the cultural perspective of his nation. The Jews at that time had a nasty history with the Ninevites and viewed them as despicable. Why be involved with anything good directed toward a “bad” group who chose to be that way? I can relate to that in my prayer life. I am reluctant to pray for people I don’t understand or who don’t have direct influence on me. Only my favorites—those who deserve betterment—get face time. I sadly see my resemblance to Jonah; I am a reluctant pray-er.

Modern day Nineveh is Mosel, Iraq. The ancient ruins of Nineveh still stand on the eastern side of the Tigris River, which could remind all of God’s compassion at the time of Jonah. But instead we see it frequently on the newsa hotbed of warring Islamic factions—and chalk it up to someplace remote where God isn’t. But today I am challenged that God is indeed active.

He is actually sovereign over all peoples and cares about their well-being, just as he cared about the Ninevites so long ago. Even when it seems that injustice is the rule of the day, where oppression and violence abound, God still desires His people to be messengers of hope, of His offer of redemption. Yet I find myself comfortable in my reluctance. It is startling to think that I may be acting on deep prejudice or, at best, intentional avoidance of “those” people who sadly suffer by their own choice of where to be born. Really?

The news stories of Christian refugees in Northern Iraq challenge me to pray. At the very least to pray for justice and safety for my brothers and sisters in Christ within warring Northern Iraq and now as refugees in Turkey. With Christian backgrounds, they are in positions today where God sovereignly placed them (Acts 17: 26-27). But can Christian Iraqis be embedded messengers of hope in that region without their broader global Christian community praying for the strength and wisdom they need to stand firm?

I am told to pray for workers in the harvest (Matthew 9:37-38). To pray for God’s plan to get His message to all the “Ninevites”. Whether I am prejudiced against them or not. He is going to act and my choice is whether to join Him in His work or just hear about how it was accomplished in the sweet by-and-by. I am more aware than ever of my own reluctance to engage in something that costs me so little—prayer. And that is for my brothers and sisters in Christ. That is not even to consider the majority population—people Jesus died for!

So here are five things I have decided to pray for this week as I try and dissolve my reluctance and resolve to pray:

  1. Pray for God’s gracious justice and peace to be present in the area surrounding Mosel. I think I will actually Google map the city and visualize it as I pray.
  2. Pray for laborers to be effective in the harvest fields of Northern Iraq and in the refugee camps in bordering countries. For me, I will pray for efforts of Samaritan’s Purse.
  3. Pray for Iraqi believers to be strong and effective in evangelism and planting seeds of hope among the culturally Christian Iraqi people.
  4. Pray that God’s offer of redemption be heard through brothers and sisters there (Colossians 4:3).
  5. Pray for my own heart to be renewed toward His purposes that includes a dissolving of my reluctance to pray for His work.

The Tale of Two Fowl Cousins

The time has come once again to remember the tale of two fowl cousins: the Bald Eagle and the turkey. Back when America was very young, there was a lot of talk about the turkey. That’s because the founders were trying to figure out which bird qualified to become the symbol of their newborn nation.

Pro-turkey talking points

Benjamin Franklin had suggested, “How about the turkey?” To him, the Bald Eagle’s distant cousin was perhaps a better choice. He wrote to his daughter, “For the Truth, the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original Native of America…He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

Good points. But as we know, the Bald Eagle won the votes to stand as our national symbol, representing the moral fiber of America. We feel good when we see the Bald Eagle sitting majestically high on the branch of a tree. We feel even better when we see the turkey sitting on a plate in the middle of our table. For a different reason, of course! And it isn’t just because the turkey tastes so good!  It’s because the turkey has come to represent the blessings of God.

Turkeys, the symbol

In the early 1600s, the newly arrived Pilgrims and Native Americans joined each other in fellowship around the table, to thank God for bringing them through the ruthless winter and harsh realities of beginning life in a new world. From that first Thanksgiving until now, the turkey stands as the symbol of blessing.

As we offer our boxes of turkey dinners at Turkey Outreach, we are saying to those who receive them, “In Christ’s name, we offer this blessing of God to you.” As we gather with families and friends on Thanksgiving Day for feasting and football, we push pause on the festivities  to offer heartfelt gratitude to our great God, “Father, in Jesus’ name, we thank you for the liberality of your love, mercy, and faithfulness, given to us and to our nation, in spite of our clear unworthiness. Amen!”

God’s symbols

I’ll end with a question. What symbol has God chosen to represent the magnificent qualities of our Savior Jesus Christ and the vastness of his amazing blessings? The choice wasn’t a tough one for God. He chose his children: that’s you and me. He chose us.  We, the people of God are his living symbols to represent the brilliancy of his moral character and the grandeur of his generosity. Peter, the Apostle, wrote: “Show others the goodness of God…proclaim…and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light!”[1]

So, let the celebrations of Thanksgiving begin! Be the symbol of God to those around you. May others see, taste, feel, smell, and hear of God’s love and blessing through you! During this time in America’s history, our nation is in great need for these truths of God.

[1] I Peter 2:9 (NLT, NASB, and Amplified Bible)