Going for Gold

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” (1 Corinthians 9:24, ESV)

Sochi_Gold_Medal.PNGI love watching the Olympics. It’s incredible to see world-class athletes competing for that coveted Gold Medal. During the coverage of the Sochi Winter Olympics, NBC ran some background stories on a few of the members of Team USA. The stories consisted of where they were from, how they got into their sport, what motivates them, etc… What I found interesting about these stories was even though they all come from different places and whether they’re competing in hockey, bobsled, speed-skating, figure-skating, or even curling, they all had one thing in common: they are all motivated by their determination to win. That means they will practice hours and hours every day, work-out hours and hours every day, literately eating, breathing, sleeping, and thinking about and working toward their goal of a Gold Medal. They are going ALL OUT for the gold.

Can we make a parallel here of the Christian life? That’s the parallel Paul makes in First Corinthians 9:24. As Christians we are all running the race. Are you running in such away to win? Are you putting the time in each day, working toward the goal of Heaven? How much of your life revolves around your Christianity? Too many Christians are “Sunday Morning” Christians who’s entire Christianity is wrapped up in going to church on Sunday. Just as an Olympic Athlete has no chance of winning the Gold Medal by only practicing once a week, so it is for the “Sunday Morning” Christian who does nothing else the rest of the week.

Just as the Olympic athletes have coaches and training partners to help and assist them in their training, we also do not run the race alone. Our great God has promised to help us along the way. He has given us His Word that we may know how to run. He has promised to hear us in our prayers. He has given us our fellow “running” mates, our brothers and sisters in Christ to help cheer each other on and if necessary to pick us up if we are falling down. We have all the tools necessary to run this race.

I love watching the Olympics. I especially like seeing the expression on the faces of the athletes when they win. In the sparkle of their eyes you can see the satisfaction of knowing that all the hard work, blood, sweat and tears has paid off. In that moment, it was all well worth it. One day, I long to be with that host in Heaven who endured so much but in the end it was well worth it. Paul calls it a “light affliction” compared to the glories that await. I want that. Therefore, I am determined to run the race with endurance. Will you? (END)

Aaron Andrews

 - The Gospel Power, February 2014

 

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R-Rated Entertainment

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In James 1:27, James tells us to keep ourselves, “unstained from the world.” I want us to consider that for a moment in regards to the choices we make with our entertainment.

It’s been said that “you are what you eat”, or put another way, “garbage in, garage out”.  I think that’s especially true regarding what we voluntarily feed our minds by what we watch on TV, or what we click on the internet, or even what we buy a movie ticket for.IMG_1067

I’ve heard Christians make the excuse that it’s okay to watch an R-rated movie with all it’s sex, violence, and language because it doesn’t really affect them.  I have never understood that line of reasoning.  Why, as New Testament Christians who are seeking to serve Jesus, who are striving to be LIGHTS in this DARK world, why would we be willing to say that watching all that filth doesn’t have an effect on us? We are in a battle for our very souls, why would I want to give opportunity to the devil by willfully subjecting myself to wickedness?  James tells us to keep away from the things of the world, to not allow them in our lives. Why? Because he knew that they would stain us. It DOES have an affect on us.

With that in mind, I would like to offer a few suggestions that might help you make good choices regarding the kinds of entertainment you chose.

1) Check the reviews!

Hollywood does a great job of drawing us towards their movies with flashy previews.  Previews are designed to bait us in and are made for “All Audiences”. If you only rely on previews to make a decision about whether a movie is suitable or not, you’re going to end up making a bad choice. A good place to turn to if you want to know what to expect when deciding about a movie is website called: dove.org. You don’t have to go to the movies anymore and be “surprised” by some form of filth. Dove will not spoil the plot for you, but it will tell you about the kind of language to expect, if there is any nudity or sex, and the level of graphic violence in the film. (Dove also reviews DVD’s as well).

2) TV Security

With all the filth that’s on TV today, we need to make sure we don’t expose our home (our family) to things that are inappropriate. I don’t want my child to pick up a remote control and “accidently” change the channel to something that’s not suitable.  Some Christian families are deciding to turn the TV off all together. That certainly is commendable and it will definitely keep the garbage out, but if you don’t want to go to that extreme then allow me to suggest the following:

  • PARENTAL CONTROLS. Lots of cable boxes and Satellite providers have software already available to you that would “LOCK” the channels and ratings that you choose to be inappropriate. (Check with your provider for more information).
  • TV GUARDIAN. Lots of families are deciding to buy this inexpensive device that “scrubs” the language that comes in thru the TV.

Remember, it’s our responsibility as parents to choose what our kids see and hear.

3) Discernment          

Above all though, we must use good discernment when deciding on our entertainment. We need to apply the principle that Paul uses in Philippians 4:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  (Philippians 4:8)IMG_1068-2

We need to ask about our entertainment choices: Does God approve that I am subjecting my mind to this? Would I be embarrassed if the church knew I was watching this? Does this help me with my Christian walk? Is it pure? Is it commendable?

The stain of the world is all around us. It is a constant daily battle to keep ourselves from it. Don’t fall into the trap of letting your guard down when you sit down to a few moments of entertainment. Keep the garbage out! (END)

Aaron Andrews

The Gospel Power – January 2014

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Daily Bible Reading in 2014

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16)

2014-happy-new-year-1600x1200   The New Year is fast approaching and with the change in calendar comes the opportunity to make some New Year’s Resolutions; the chance to reset our priorities and goals. Are you making any New Year’s Resolutions this year? What kinds of New Year’s Resolutions are you making; eat less, work out more, watch less TV, spend more time in prayer, and read your Bible more? Do any of these sound familiar?

What usually happens to New Year’s Resolution? Usually by the time January 31st rolls around our resolutions are long forgotten. Does that happen to you? Most of us have been there. New Year’s Resolutions are often hastily made and easily forgotten.

If you are resolving to read your Bible in a better and more meaningful way in 2014, then I would like to offer a few suggestions to help you along your way. How many times have you resolved to read your Bible more only to find that after a few weeks you’re bogged down in Leviticus and too busy anyway to get thru it?

As New Testament Christians, we should be committed to the reading and studying of God’s Word. Our life depends on it! We must, like Jeremiah, delight in God’s Word. I want to help you make Daily Bible Reading a lifetime commitment not a rash New Year’s Resolution.

There are a lot of good ideas and methods out there to help with daily Bible reading, I’d like to offer you some things that have helped me along the way and I think could be of benefit to you as well.

1) HAVE A PLAN - Lot’s of times we fail to follow thru with our commitments because we just didn’t plan very well. The one who says, “The diet starts Monday” has not planned well as to what will happen on Monday when he walks into work and there to greet him in the break room is box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts! Before the day is out he has broken his diet, shrugs his shoulders and announces, “Next Monday. The diet starts next Monday.” Need to plan better.

Whether you decide to read the entire Bible in a year or just one chapter a day you need to sit down and plan your Bible Reading. There’s lots of Daily Bible Reading plans out there to choose from, I’d like to offer you two that I find helpful:

If you are planning to read the entire Bible in a year, let me suggest a 5-day reading plan instead of a 7-day one. A 5-day plan gives you a couple of days built in if you miss a day. My favorite 5-day reading plan can be found on the web at: bibleclassmaterial.com. The Bible Reading plan is free of charge. You can download it, print it, and keep it in your Bible or get it on your electronic device. It’s an easy to read plan.

The plan that I’m currently using is the Grant Horner Bible Reading Plan. The plan is a little different than your typical daily Bible reading plan. It requires that you read 10 chapters a day from 10 different sections of the Bible.

I like this plan for the busy individual because it is extremely forgiving. You don’t have to read the whole thing in one sitting to stay in context. You can, for example, read a couple of chapters in the morning when you wake up, a couple of chapters at lunch, and finish it all up before bed. Whatever works best for you.

I also like the free Bible app that goes with it; it helps keep my place in the readings. Check it all out at: ingodsimage.com/?p=13490.    

If you would like a straightforward checklist for Bible Reading, I put this one together. (Click on the image to go to download page). 

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  2) SCHEDULE YOUR BIBLE READING TIME – Another problem in keeping our Bible Reading commitment is that we try to “fit it in” to our already over packed schedule. It won’t happen if you don’t purposefully schedule the time. aecbfe6b4362663d3ba6caa2afd251bf

The same schedule doesn’t work for everybody; therefore you will need to figure out what’s best for you. Will it be early in the morning, before bed, or maybe four 15 minute sessions a day? No matter how you do it, just make it a real part of your daily life.

  3) MAKE IT A TEAM EFFORT – It’s very hard to follow thru with our commitments when nobody else knows about them and they can’t help cheer us on. Better yet, when multiple people are striving together for the same goal, we can be lifted up by that. A team effort is much better than going at it alone. Why not make Bible reading a team effort? Whether that’s 2 friends deciding together, or a Bible reading group that meets once a week for encouragement and accountability. Or better yet when the family decides to turn off the TV for an hour and read the Bible together. Whatever you choose to do, if you want to be successful, make it a group effort.

   4) THE “PEW” GUIDE TO READING – We need to read our Bible’s for more than just reading.

Bible reading isn’t just about reading to get the facts. The Bible is more than just a history book and more than a fascinating non-fiction novel. The Bible contains the road map to Heaven, shows us the best way to live life and to be found well pleasing to God and how we get along with our neighbor. Let me suggest the “PEW” reading guide to help as along with that.

PRAISE – As we read our Bible’s, we need to be looking for areas to praise God in. God is deserving of our praise. He created us, He sustains us, and He sent His son to die for us. It would be hard to read the Bible each day and NOT find something to praise God.

ENCOURAGEMENT – The Bible is filled with encouragement as we live here on earth and struggle with sin and temptation, persecution and trials. It’s good to read our Bibles and see God’s children struggle with the same things we struggle with and to watch them overcome with the help of God’s tender loving kindness. That’s encouraging to us!

WARNED – Finally, I need to read my Bible and be warned of Satan’s pitfalls and what can happen if I do give in the world and its wickedness. I need to see God’s admonitions and when I find reproof and correction in the pages of scripture; I need to change my life accordingly.

“PEW” – It’s a good day to read scripture. In the New Year, will you read the Bible with a readiness and willingness to make the Word of God real in your life?

Aaron Andrews

The Gospel Power – December 2013

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Happy 10th Birthday Laura!

Today our daughter, Laura Elizabeth Andrews turns 10. As I think about that day a decade ago the feelings of that day rush back: the joy of a new child, the warmth of love for this precious baby girl, but also terror and fear followed by disbelief and shock. I would like to take a moment to briefly share with you some our story:

Laura was born on December 15th 2003 at 5:00 PM 0816290-R1-043-20 by Caesarean section. She weighed 8

pounds, 13 ounces and was 22 inches long. Everything seemed to have gone well. Tammy had a tough time of it but everyone was positive that Mommy and baby were healthy and fine.

That night however about 8 hours later, I was awaken by the nurse who told me they were going to take Laura into the nursery to do vitals, picture in her outfit, etc…I was welcomed to come along or I could just stay and rest. I opted for rest. A few minutes later the nurse came back and woke me again and said, “we have a problem.” I raced to the nursery with her and there was my daughter surrounded by medical staff, I was told that Laura was having seizures and apnea episodes. (She would stop breathing and a nurse would shake her leg to get her to breath again). Somewhere in the conversation the hospital staff told me that they were not equipped to handle this and Laura would be moved to another hospital.

Several hours later, sitting in a little room in this different hospital awaiting the results of a CAT scan and with my wife recovering across town, the neurologist came in and said, “I’ve never seen this much damage in an infant before.” He went on to say that Laura had suffered 3 strokes prior to birth. 2 on her left side and a major on her right. I was floored! Of all the things Tammy and I were concerned about and prayed about, I had never heard that before. How could this happen? I think of stroke and I think of old people not little babies!

I don’t remember much about that day after that. I do remember the pain on my wife’s face as I told her the news, and I remember kneeling by Tammy’s beside, holding her hand and praying for strength. I also remember the love and support by our family, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ.

001 067Ten years have gone by and each year seems to have it’s own set of challenges where Laura is concerned. I will admit that I spent the first couple of those years in denial about Laura’s condition. (I remember being upset at her 2nd birthday that she couldn’t play in her cake like other 2 year olds).Yet Tammy has been a rock through it all. Several years ago when a helicopter landed on our front lawn at 1 AM and Laura had to be rushed to the hospital, Tammy was the one that was cool, calm and collected. DCP_3178It wasn’t until later when the emergency was over and Laura was given a good report that she finally broke down and cried. As I have observed this unique mother/daughter relationship I’ve never seen Tammy bemoan the fact that she’ll never be able to do the “normal” kinds of things that mothers and daughters do together. I see her taking care for Laura’s every need and doing all she can to give her a full life and I love her for it.

100_3981 On Monday, the day after her birthday, Laura will have VNS surgery at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. A VNS is like a pacemaker, but this one will potentially curb her many seizures. The doctors have high hopes that this well be a life changing event in her life. I pray for a successful surgery.

IMG_1160Through it all, I can’t imagine our lives without our special daughter. If you know Laura then you know that she loves to jam to Michael Buble’ music and pink is her favorite color. You also know that Laura has a smile and a laugh that lights up the room which she inherited from her mother…and a stubborn streak a mile wide which she inherited from her daddy. :)

Laura has taught us so much. She has taught us that love goes beyond simply hearing those words spoken aloud. She has taught us how precious each moment is. She has taught us that you don’t have to be like everybody else for life to have real meaning and purpose.

Laura is such a blessing in the lives of all who know her. Thank you for being there for her and caring about her and most importantly for remembering her in your prayers. I thank God for Laura and her first 10 years. We have been surely blessed. May the Lord grant her many more years in our lives. Happy Birthday Lou-Lou, we love you!DSC_1644

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Put The Big Rock In First!

Jar of RocksThe story goes that a professor at a business school once gave a very powerful illustration that his students never forgot:

One day the Professor came into class and sat a large glass jar on top of his desk for all to see. He then produced a box of fist sized rocks and began carefully placing them inside the jar. Once the jar was filled to the top and no more would fit inside, he asked the class, “Is this jar full?” To which everyone in the room answered, “Yes!”

“Really?” He asked and then promptly reached under the desk and brought forth a box of gravel. He then dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing the little pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

Then he smiled and asked the class again, “Is the jar full?” By this time the business students were onto him. “Probably not”, one of them answered.

“Good!” he replied and then reached under the table yet again and revealed a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and gravel.

Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?” “No!” the class shouted. “Excellent!” the professor exclaimed and for the final time he reached down and grabbed a pitcher of water and poured it into the jar until it was filled to the brim. The he asked the class, “What is the point of the illustration?”

One over achieving business student raised his hand and pronounced, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try real hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”

“No!” the speaker chuckled, “That’s not the point at all.” He went on to tell them that the big rocks represent what matters most: Your faith, your family, your education, a cause you are passionate about, etc…. The sand and water represents the everyday mundane things in life. “So in life,” he lectured, “we have to operate by priorities. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

This is an excellent illustration of the need to put the big rocks in first. It is a question of priorities. Yet as good as this is, Jesus makes a better point: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

Jesus would tell us that there is ONE rock – God! SEEK Him first; make God the single most important priority in life. Serve God first and let Him take care of all the rest. Trust God with enough faith to put Him and His kingdom at the center of your life. Let the sand and the water take care of themselves. God has promised to take care of us, if we will make Him our one Big Rock!

What does the jar of your life reveal about your priorities? You can’t say God is first in your life if you choose to compromise your faith and morality to be more like the world. You can’t say God is first if you choose your own wants and desires when they conflict with what God’s standards demands. Ask yourself the following questions:

What does your calendar say about your priorities? Does God have first place on Sunday? How much time do you spend in prayer, Bible Study, and serving God verses the time spent on entertainment, work or doing nothing at all?

Your priorities reveal what truly matters most to you.

Solomon in all His wisdom pointed this out when he says that what matters most in life isn’t what everyone usually seeks after. It’s not worldly pleasures, wealth, and power. It’s about God! “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

Where does the Big Rock fit in your jar of life?

Aaron Andrews

The Gospel Power – November 2013

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