Manute Bol: A Fool for Christ

Manute Bol’s Radical Christianity
Jon A. Shields

Bol reportedly gave most of his fortune, estimated at $6 million, to aid Sudanese refugees. As one twitter feed aptly put it: “Most NBA cats go broke on cars, jewelry & groupies. Manute Bol went broke building hospitals.”

When his fortune dried up, Bol raised more money for charity by doing what most athletes would find humiliating: He turned himself into a humorous spectacle. Bol was hired, for example, as a horse jockey, hockey player and celebrity boxer. Some Americans simply found amusement in the absurdity of him on a horse or skates. And who could deny the comic potential of Bol boxing William “the Refrigerator” Perry, the 335-pound former defensive linemen of the Chicago Bears?

Bol agreed to be a clown. But he was not willing to be mocked for his own personal gain as so many reality-television stars are. Bol let himself be ridiculed on behalf of suffering strangers in the Sudan; he was a fool for Christ.

During his final years, Bol suffered more than mere mockery in the service of others. While he was doing relief work in the Sudan, he contracted a painful skin disease that ultimately contributed to his death.

Bol’s life and death throws into sharp relief the trivialized manner in which sports journalists employ the concept of redemption. In the world of sports media players are redeemed when they overcome some prior “humiliation” by playing well. Redemption then is deeply connected to personal gain and celebrity. It leads to fatter contracts, shoe endorsements, and adoring women.

Yet as Bol reminds us, the Christian understanding of redemption has always involved lowering and humbling oneself. It leads to suffering and even death.

Link: Complete Article

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It Matters to Jesus

How Do We Work for Justice and Not Undermine Evangelism?
Mike Wittmer

Everything hinges on how we answer the question, “Why justice?” or “Who is justice for?”

We fight for justice in part because we want to stop the perpetrators of evil and violence. This is why the most satisfying part of a Chuck Norris movie is the last ten minutes, when the smirking gangster takes a boot to the face.

A better answer, especially for pacifists, is that we seek justice to help the victims of oppression. We care about the widow being scammed by a conniving contractor and we grieve for children who are forced into prostitution or maimed to enhance their begging.

But the best—and only Christian—answer is that we seek justice not only to pay back the perpetrators and to rescue the oppressed but because we love Jesus Christ. No one weeps over injustice like Jesus (nor has anyone been treated so unjustly), and he has been taking names for a very long time. Unlike Chuck Norris, who returned each week to battle new bad guys, Jesus will return to settle things once and for all. He will “set the world to rights” (see N.T. Wright), for his words will become swords that “strike down” evildoers and he “will wipe every tear” from the eyes of his suffering children (Rev. 19:15; 21:4).

We are committed to justice because it matters to Jesus. But if we fight for justice for Jesus’ sake, we will never be satisfied with justice alone. We will not rest until every perpetrator and victim bows before his name, the returning King who gave his life so every unjust person who repents and believes in him may live forever.

This requires evangelism, and it flows naturally from the Christian passion for justice. If justice is primarily about Jesus, we will eagerly tell others about their need for him. If we forget Jesus, it won’t be long until we also lose our passion for justice. For without the promise of his glorious return, really, what’s the point?

Link: Complete Blog Post

Follow Me

John 21:18-19

[18] “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” [19] (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Loving Jesus and serving His sheep will be costly.  If Peter follows Jesus, he will die a martyr.  We prefer to follow Jesus soaring above the storm, away from the mud, and the mess, and the ugliness of life.  But this is not the way of love.  In 1 Corinthians 4:15, the Apostle Paul says, “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers.”  It’s much easier to be a guide, than a father.  It’s much easier to be a Bible teacher than a mentor, a counselor than a parent, or a manager than a shepherd.

Real love does not clock in and clock out.  We know this.  When we get married, we no longer get to do whatever we want.  When we have children, we don’t get to go wherever we want.  Will following Jesus cost us less?

Loving Jesus and serving His sheep is costly, and moreover each of us does not get to choose what cost we will pay.  Jesus does not invite Peter to submit his business plan for approval.  Peter loves Jesus but martyrdom is certainly not his personal plan.  But there is more to life than our personal plans, even our “spiritual” personal plans.

In the end, Peter does follow Jesus and he does lose his life.  Peter preaches the gospel even though it gets him crucified all because he understands that Jesus does not just say “Follow.”  Jesus says, “Follow ME.”

Wherever Peter goes, whatever he endures, Jesus will be there with him.  Peter is willing to die because he knows when he follows Jesus, even in death, he will be near His Savior.

Jesus does not send us out alone.  He is a good shepherd.  Jesus will take care of us.  He will use His staff to beat back the wolves.  He walks with us through the very valley of the shadow of death.

Social Justice and Spiritual Power

How Do We Work for Justice and Not Undermine Evangelism?
Ray Ortlund

It’s a good question. But I would also ask, “How can Christians neglect the work of justice in the world without undermining evangelism?” And I am not thinking only of our credibility in human eyes. I am thinking of God. He said to us in Isaiah 58:9-10:

If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.

Jonathan Edwards, in his “Thoughts on the Revival”, when discussing how to promote the awakening, quoted Isaiah 58. Then he wrote this about serving the poor and defending the oppressed:

Nothing would have a greater tendency to bring the God of love down from heaven to earth. So amiable would be the sight in the eyes of our loving and exalted Redeemer that it would soon, as it were, fetch him down from his throne in heaven, to set up his tabernacle with men on the earth and dwell with them.

Social justice and spiritual power are bound together by Christ himself.

Link: Complete Blog Post

Do You Love Me?

John 21:15-17

[15] When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” [16] He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” [17] He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

In this passage, Jesus finally addresses Peter and his betrayal directly.

Three times, Jesus asks “Do you love me?”  Jesus could have asked Peter any number of things.  “Peter do you feel really bad?”  “Peter do you believe?”  “Peter will you go on mission trips?”  No, he asks “Peter, do you love me?”

See, Peter did not want crucified savior.  When he began to follow Jesus, he was a mess of mixed motives.  Peter was ambitious.  He wanted to be the greatest.  Peter was excited.  He wanted to see the kingdom of God and do miracles.  Peter wanted to reign, not suffer.  When Jesus spoke of His death, Peter rebuked Jesus to His face.

So Jesus asks, “Do you love Me as I am?  Merciful, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love.  Do you love Me as I am? Sovereign, just, holy, glorious.”

Peter’s response is amazing.  Three times, Peter declares “Yes Lord, You know I love You.” Of course Jesus knows everything and of course He knows Peter loves Him.  But Peter’s life has not demonstrated that love.  Peter is devastated, not because he broke a rule or is embarrassed or disappointed in himself; he hates his sin.  Peter wants his love for Jesus to be clear and unmistakable.

Finally, we come to Jesus’s reply.  Three times, Jesus tells Peter to feed His sheep.  We can be tempted to separate our love for God and our love for people.  Jesus never does this.  The inevitable result of love for Christ is love for His people.

This is the true measure of love for God.  The true measure is not how loud we pray, how many books we read, or how many meetings we go to.  These things matter but only insofar as they reflect our love for Jesus’s sheep.  Sheep are not easy to love.  Sheep are stupid and rebellious, just like us.

When I encounter extremely obnoxious people, I want to punch them but I’m a Christian, so I don’t.  Instead, I close my heart and cut them off.  Perhaps when they change, I’ll give them another chance.

When Jesus calls us to love, He is necessarily calling us to love difficult people.  Loving difficult people always involves forgiveness.  If we spend enough time with a sinner, they will sin against us.  If we are to continue to love them, we must forgive.

Paradoxically, forgiveness is not about people but about Jesus.  It is an act of worship.  When our love becomes like God’s love, it does not reflect the value of the person forgiven or our own value.  It reflects the worth of Jesus Christ.

Consider, who do you need love?  In other words, who do you need to forgive?  Jesus, give us grace to do the impossible.

He Chose

[28] After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” [29] A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. [30] When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 

– John 19:28-30

Some things are not our choice.  They just happen to us.  I was born in southern California.  I am a boy.  I am short.  I did not choose these things.

The cross is not a tragedy that happened to Jesus.  It did not surprise Him.  It was not something unfortunate, outside of His control.

On Good Friday, the crowd was not in control.  The Pharisees and scribes were not in control. Pilate was not in control.  Not even Satan himself was in control.  Jesus and Jesus alone was in control.

What does this mean?  It means you are loved.

Things that just happen to us don’t say much about what we value or what’s in our hearts.  My core value is not manhood or shortness.  It’s the things we choose that reveal what we really love.  What we choose to do with our time, money, vacation days, etc. reveal what we love.

Jesus chose all that happened to Him.  He did not have to die on a cross.  Some may say He had to because He’s God and God is supposed to do that, but it’s not true.  He had the power and right to do otherwise.  He would have been equally just, righteous, and good if He left us in our sin.

But He chose.  He chose to be flogged, mocked, rejected, and crucified.  He chose to become sin and bear the wrath of God in our place because He loves us.

The cross tells us that sin deserves death.  It tells us our Lord suffered terrible.  And it tells us that we are loved by the God of all creation.  Jesus proved it by choosing the cross.

No Place for Sacrifice

No Place for Truth
David Wells

Interpersonal relationships inevitable involve conflicts of interest that can be resolved only by compromise and sacrifice.  Self-fulfillers place a premium on such relationships, and yet their guiding concern for self-fulfillment, their devotion to self-interest, would seem almost to guarantee that they will not be successful in maintaining them.

Knowing God

[3] And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

– John 17:3

My children love it when their grandparents visit. Grandma and Grandpa give them gifts, take them places, and play with them. When they leave, my kids are sad. They still have the toys, but they miss their grandparents.

For children of God, faith is about more than the toys. Being a child of God is more than knowing the right things or even doing the right things. It’s about knowing the one true and living God, to love to be with the Father, and to love to worship Jesus Christ His Son.