Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Wildcats and hyenas will hunt together, demons will scream to demons, and creatures of the night will live among the ruins.

-- Isaiah 34:14

The fifth chapter of Mark’s gospel begins with the story of a man who faced some serious problems. Or perhaps a legion of problems is a more accurate description of his plight.

This tormented soul had been exiled from the community to live out his remaining days in a graveyard near Lake Galilee. The man was literally overcome by demons. And so total was his possession that he used supernatural strength to repeatedly break the chains and smash the leg irons that the townspeople had used to confine him.

No one could control him,” Mark wrote. “Night and day he was in the graveyard or on the hills, yelling and cutting himself with stones.”

And that would have been the end of the man’s bizarre narrative. But then along came Jesus and His disciples from their voyage across the lake. Recognizing that Jesus was literally God in the flesh, the demons that possessed the man begged to postpone their own eternal fate and instead possess the vast herd of pigs that roamed the vicinity. Jesus agreed. And the demons immediately fled from their victim.

Fast-forward now to 21st Century America. Does it seem like “demons” are only found in ancient fairytales? When a celebrity, sports star or even a neighbor faces the consequences of alcohol, drugs or some other destructive influence, count on their loved ones to observe that they struggled with their share of demons. Sometimes that’s a figure of speech. But literal demons really can torment people and do their best to make their victims’ lives a living hell.   

The fact is that everyone has their share of demons to one extent or another—even Christ-followers. And even though we’ve accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, asked Him for forgiveness and then received it, we still can slide back into all those bad habits and behaviors that we thought we had left far behind. And then slide back time and time again.

So what’s the problem? Doesn’t the Bible say that becoming a Christ-follower makes you a new creation?

It does. But our transformation is a work in progress on God’s timetable. Although it can happen immediately, shedding our personal demons often takes place bit by bit and day after day along that faith journey we hear so much about. Keep in mind that the journey’s pathway is narrow, twisting and full of unexpected hairpin turns. And it’s when we take our eyes off the Destination and listen to our demons that we wind up in the ditch.

Let’s finish by considering the life lesson of the Apostle Paul – the Christ-follower who wrote much of the New Testament. In his 2,000-year-old lament that sounds uncomfortably familiar to modern ears, Paul complains that he continues to do the very things he despises. Yet at the same time, he fails to do the things he knows he should accomplish.

If this great Apostle to the Gentiles had so many problems with sin and temptation, what hope can we have of breaking free from our own chains? Well…quite a bit! As Christ-followers, we don’t have to accept sin’s dominance in our lives. So it all comes down to our ultimate trust and dependence on a Power much greater than ourselves.

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” asks Paul. “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Stormy Weather

Jesus said to his followers, "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?"

-- Mark 4:40

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

It’s been about 2,000 years since Jesus’ first disciples heard these great words of truth and wisdom. And aren’t they just as relevant to modern-day Christ-followers? Turn on the TV and surf the Web, and just try to avoid the never-ending news stories about bankruptcies, foreclosures and unemployment. And let’s not forget earthquakes, tsunamis, and war in the Middle East.

The point is that there are storms everywhere. And there’s no escape – even after you’ve switched off the TV, folded the newspaper and logged off the computer. For some folks, a storm might be a job loss or bankruptcy. For others, it’s a chronic illness or the prospect of major surgery. Maybe your trouble involves family or relationship issues like a divorce or the loss of a loved one. But does God even care about our personal hurricanes and flash floods? After all, the waters are choppy and the skies are dark and threatening.

Under such gloomy circumstances, we need to remind ourselves that we worship a God who’s much greater than any natural disaster, economic difficulty or international dispute. Ours is a God who literally spoke the universe into creation, formed great mountain ranges with His hands and parted the seas with a breath. And with just a word, he calmed the choppy waters of Lake Galilee that had threatened to drown his small band of followers.

“Is anything too hard for the Lord?” asks the writer of Genesis, the first book of the Bible.

Let’s take God at His Word when He tells us that through life’s turmoil, He works for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose. We also need to remember that we’re not exempt from personal storms once we turn our lives over to Jesus and become Christ-followers. What does change is that we gain access to a Power Who helps us endure any difficulty -- great or small. Likewise, we also become beneficiaries of an eternal inheritance that will make our current troubles fade into oblivion. The storms that seem so great today will become laughably insignificant tomorrow.

Let’s consider one of the Old Testament’s most famous passages to help us put our troubles and concerns into much-needed perspective:

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

The storms of life in one form or another surround every one of us. The lightning flashes and the thunder rumbles. But we can rest assured that through our great God, blue skies await.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

-- John 14:6

This Sunday marks Velocity Christian Church’s 5th Anniversary as a community focused on helping folks in the Richmond, Virginia area accelerate their faith journey toward God. But what is it that Velocity – or really every Bible-believing church in the world – will celebrate this Sunday…and every Sunday to come?

It comes down to the radical notion that God loves His creation so much that He sent His only Son to personally pay for the mess we’ve all made of our lives and a once unspoiled creation. With this immense price now cleared from our individual accounts, every believer, through faith in Jesus Christ, is free to serve as His hands and feet throughout the community. Ultimately, it’s a universal body of believers sent to show the world that it’s nothing less than a Church on the Move.

So how’s the church done over the last 2,000 years? The story goes that a missionary once asked Mahatma Gandhi – the pacifist Hindu leader called the Father of India – why he so often quoted Jesus but refused to become His follower.

"Oh, I don't reject your Christ. I love your Christ,” replied Gandhi. “It's just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ."

Yes, we Christ-followers find ourselves in a predicament. Relativism seems to rule America, and what’s obviously right and wrong is no longer considered so black and white. Popular culture brands those who believe in Jesus and His teachings as old-fashioned and intolerant. And those who dare to point out our nation’s retreat from God are called bigots and hate merchants.

The world really is upside down. For many celebrities, musicians and sports stars, breaking the law and going to jail is just a career move. But if a Christ-follower – real or in name only – slips up and does something wrong, the words hypocrite and judgmental quickly follow in the media.

It’s true: Christ-followers really do hold some narrow and politically incorrect beliefs. One is that Jesus is the one and only way to God. Ultimately, the world’s false philosophies and religions fall far short of God’s standards. It’s Good News that the world curses and can’t tolerate.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,” responds God, “who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

(Talk about having friends in high places!)

As we celebrate Velocity’s 5th Anniversary of being His hands and feet in Richmond, Jesus encourages us to be salt and light to a distorted world in need of guidance, truth and character.

A skeptical world is watching. May it be that Velocity celebrates our Good News through changed lives marked with love in action!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Join the Crew

Christ chose some of us to be apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors,
 and teachers, so that his people would learn to serve
and his body would grow strong.
-- Ephesians 4:11-12

Are you one of the millions of people who vacationed on the high seas last year?

Whether you sailed to the Caribbean, Alaska, Bermuda or the Greek Isles, the voyage was probably as memorable as some of the ports of call. That's because modern cruise ships are literally 24-hour floating cities populated by thousands of fun-seeking passengers from all over the world. Rising several stories above the water, many large vessels entertain their guests with onboard movie theaters, gourmet restaurants, bustling nightclubs and full service gymnasiums. Some cruise ships even have basketball courts, rock climbing walls and miniature golf courses. And if you're looking for shopping bargains in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, the duty-free store is on Deck 10. Then take the glass and chrome elevator five decks down for your haircut, massage and manicure.

Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas, one of the world's largest cruise ships, is over 1,100 feet long and serves more than 4,300 guests at full occupancy. Each day, its restaurants serve thousands of meals and its laundry cleans just as many towels, sheets and table linens. And behind it all are hundreds of talented, hardworking crewmembers - all dedicated to making their guests' vacations as fun and memorable as possible. A ship's crew includes an army of stewards, cooks, mechanics and even daycare attendants - and that's not to mention everyone assigned to navigating the ship. From captain to cabin boy, every crewmember has a critical role in helping their vessel sail effortlessly through both calm seas and choppy waters.

Like a full-service cruise ship, God’s church also needs dedicated people to help it operate efficiently and grow its international passenger list. That's because a church is much more than a group of people that meets on Sundays to listen to the pastor and sing along with the musicians. The Bible tells us that God has given each Christ-follower certain gifts, talents and resources for advancing His Kingdom on Earth. Some applications are obvious - like singers and musicians serving in the praise band. Others use their gifts in behind-the-scenes capacities - such as bookkeepers or office managers who help the church use its resources wisely. For every gift, talent and resource employed in the secular world, there's also an application for strengthening the body of believers known collectively as The Church. 
Jesus' earliest followers were a motley crew from many walks of life. Some were fishermen. One was a tax collector. And another might today be called a terrorist. Even the Apostle Paul moonlighted as a tentmaker. Centuries later, Christ continues to seek men and women from every background who are willing to represent Him and serve others through their many gifts, talents, and perspectives. It’s one help wanted ad where everyone is encouraged to apply. And experience isn’t necessary.

"Come, follow me," Jesus told the fishermen Peter and Andrew, "and I will make you fishers of men."

Are you ready to join His crew?