Saturday, March 28, 2015


How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?

-- Proverbs 6:9 

If you've ever overslept and been late to church or work, maybe someone has called you a Rip Van Winkle.

The name comes from Washington Irving's famous 1819 short story about a man who fell fast asleep one pleasant autumn day in the mountains. When Rip finally woke up, years had passed and his world had changed completely. His wife had died, his friends had either moved away or had been killed in a war against the British (the Revolutionary War)--and he now sported a foot-long beard. Then came his final great shock: There was another man in town who answered to his name. It turned out to be Rip's son, who had grown to manhood while his father slumbered unaware on the hillside.

Washington Irving's story was fictional, Alarm Clockbut there are several documented cases of real-life Rip Van Winkles. In 1984, a young man named Terry Wallis was in a serious automobile accident that left him in a coma. When he finally awoke 19 years later, he thought that Ronald Reagan was still president. He knew nothing about the Persian Gulf War or the 9-11 terrorist attacks. What's more, his six-week-old daughter had become an adult!

Much can change once we close our eyes--and not only with our surroundings--but also with our spiritual condition. The transition can be imperceptible if we're not on guard for it. And sleepwalking through life can lead us to some startling revelations once we finally come to our senses.

For example, what will it take before we finally wake up to the fact that we've pushed God away from certain areas of our life? Losing a job because of alcohol or drug abuse could certainly be an alarm about the immediate changes that must be made to prevent further damage. Another spiritual red alert might be a spouse's or child's growing alienation and withdrawal. Whatever it is, the signs and symptoms are there all along. The question is whether or not we'll wake up in time and do something about them.

An alarm's effectiveness is in direct proportion to how much we don't want to hear it. In Old Testament times, God often sent prophets to tell the people to stop sinning against Him and start living their lives His way. The people sometimes responded to His call in true repentance. But too often, they made excuses about their behavior, denied there was a problem or convinced themselves that everyone was doing it. Have things really changed in our day?

Centuries later, the problems remain. And the siren still blares away.

If that's your situation--or if it's facing someone you know--there's no time to waste. Ask God to open your eyes and ears (or theirs) to clearly perceive the message He's sending. And whatever the issue might be, God's prescribed life-changes must be made as soon as matter how unpleasant the wake-up process may be.

Is the alarm clock shrieking in your ear this morning? It's no time to hit the snooze button. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015


Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad."

-- John 8:56

This Sunday marks Velocity Christian Church's 9th 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--and every other Bible-believing church in the world--will celebrate this Sunday...and every Sunday to come?

It's the radical notion that God loves
BirthdayHis creation so much, He sent His only Son to pay the immense debt that we all owe for falling short of His perfect standards. With our individual accounts now cleared, every Believer, through faith in Jesus Christ, is reconciled to their Creator. Moreover, we're free to serve as His hands and feet throughout the community, the nation and even the world. 
How's the Church done with handling this Good News over the last 2,000 years? The familiar 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 a Christian.

"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 are in a predicament. Relativism rules America these days, 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.

Meanwhile, if a Christ-follower--real or in name only--slips up and does something wrong, the word hypocrite soon follows them throughout the media. Rest assured, however, that our Creator isn't blind to what's happening in the world.

"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil," says God, "who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."

As we celebrate Velocity's 9th anniversary of being His hands and feet in the Richmond area, Jesus encourages us to be salt and light to a distorted world in need of guidance, truth and character. May it be that the people called Velocity celebrate their Good News through changed lives marked with love in action!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

I Pledge Allegiance

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

-- Hebrews 11:6

When you hear the word allegiance, what comes to mind? 

Citizens of a certain age remember that the Pledge of Allegiance was recited each morning in classrooms across the nation--with millions of students placing their right hand over their heart--and all in front of the American flag. It was a daily declaration of devotion to the Stars and Stripes and the republic it represents.

Being a Christ-follower also calls Flag2for allegiance, but to One much greater than any flag or nation. In fact, Jesus requires total devotion from his disciples and would-be followers. Being half-hearted and non-committal won't make the cut.

The lives of Believers must therefore reflect their faith in Him in tangible ways. That doesn't mean we have to earn God's favor through good works and morality, following a set of rules, going to church religiously and putting some money in the bucket each Sunday. In fact, Isaiah 64:6 tells us that our so-called "good" deeds are considered "filthy rags" when compared to God's high standards of perfection. That's why Jesus--who actually DID live a perfect, sin-free life--was the only one worthy enough to pay the penalty we all deserve for failing our Creator.

Although we're powerless to save ourselves, our Savior did so willingly to accomplish what was planned at the foundation of the universe. It's through this sacrifice that he made it possible for his followers in the centuries that followed to serve as his hands and feet on earth. To illustrate the importance of his incredible mission, Jesus told a story about a master who gave each of his three servants a considerable sum of money to invest while he was away on an extended trip. After a while, the master returned to claim what was his. He was very pleased with the first two servants, who had used their funds wisely. Their efforts and willingness to risk their allocations resulted in doubling the master's money. But it wasn't so with the third servant. He was afraid of his boss' stern reputation and didn't want to risk a loss. So instead, he played it safe and literally buried what was entrusted to him in a hole in the ground.

This is where modern-day Christ-followers enter the picture. Like the three servants in the story, we've also received resources, skills and opportunities to invest in the lives of others. The beneficiaries could be your spouse, sibling or child. They might be a co-worker, neighbor, villagers in Central America...or maybe someone God puts in your path through unexpected circumstances.

So here's the question: How are we investing what God has given to us? Are we putting our faith into action and changing the world one person at a time...or are we playing it safe? Ultimately, the answer depends on our allegiance.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Training Day

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

-- 1 Timothy 4:8

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the most popular attractions in the City of Brotherly Love. And it's not just because of the facility's impressive collection of masterpieces. Instead, many tourists flock there to reenact the iconic scene from the movie Rocky where the lead character (played by Sylvester Stallone) sprints up the museum's 72 steps Rocky Balboato complete the training regimen for his world championship boxing match. In January 2015, the Daily Mail website reported that three vacationers decided it was their turn to mimic The Italian Stallion. And once they had scaled the final granite step to reach the summit, they were shocked to run into no other than Sylvester Stallone himself, who was in town filming the next Rocky sequel!

Released in 1976, Rocky is essentially the Old Testament story of David and Goliath--but set in run-down 1970's Philadelphia. The protagonist (Rocky Balboa) is a washed-up, down-on-his-luck fighter who gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fight the reigning world heavyweight champion (Apollo Creed). The match is merely a publicity stunt dreamed up by Creed's handlers, and no one gives Rocky much chance of surviving the bout's early rounds.

But Rocky does take the match--and his chances--seriously. So as he begins his training and passes milestone after milestone, even his skeptical girlfriend, co-worker and trainer begin to see that there just might be a glimmer of hope. The movie's focus on Rocky's unorthodox workouts is arguably more interesting than the dramatic--but unrealistic--blow-by-blow fight scenes. We see the blue collar prizefighter exercising in a meat processing plant, strengthening his body by drinking raw eggs and then building his endurance by jogging through the city's mean streets. The sequence ends as Rocky races up the museum's steps, raises his arms in victory and surveys his beloved hometown.

At first glance, Rocky's lesson seems to be the ability of good to overcome evil. But the less obvious New Testament message--revealed through the fourth chapter of 1 Timothy--is the considerable value of intense training and discipline. In fact, every Christ-follower is called to develop and use the gifts and talents God has given them to influence their community and the world. 

An example is our mandate to explain the basis of our faith to anyone who asks us. But how can we respond without the discipline to set aside time each day for prayer, Bible reading and study? This type of practical spiritual training is also a great way for us to grow closer to our Creator by developing the ability to hear His voice. And in turn, it helps us to discern right from wrong when faced with one of those many real-life scenarios that never seem to be black or white.

Finally, watching Rocky Balboa's lengthy, early morning jogs through the city's winding streets reminds us of the need for endurance and perseverance along our own spiritual journey. The road we travel as Christ-followers is anything but straight, smooth and easy. And like the tourists who flock to The Philadelphia Museum of Art, there's no telling who we'll meet along the way.