Many umbrellas. One red.

What’s the most extraordinary thing you’ve ever seen?

I asked people on social media and here are a few of my favorites:

“My teenager cleaning his room without being told to.”

“Three guys on one motorcycle riding up a winding road in Guatemala, using only their cell phone as both headlight and taillight.”

“A nonverbal, elderly woman I took care of said “God is love” shortly before passing away.”

“Two people riding a motorcycle on Hwy 192, east of Kissimmee–naked except for their boots. It was bike week at Daytona.”

“One day while on duty, I was behind a lady in a new Cadillac. We were stopped at a light on a four lane road. A cattle hauling semi truck and trailer pulled up beside her and I saw a cows tail sticking out of the side of the truck. About the time the trailer and cow’s tail was even with the lady’s open drivers side window, a stream of cow urine shot into her window. The lady tried to get her window up but gallons were flowing in. The light changed and the truck, trailer and offending cow went on. I stopped to help and kept her from getting run into until we could get her off the road but could do little else.” (from a Police Officer in Colorado)

I want you to know something today:

*When we connect ordinary people with the love of Jesus, extraordinary things can happen.

Would anyone here like to experience something extraordinary today?

Would anyone here like lost people to experience something extraordinary today?

Stay tuned!

Luke 5:17-26

17 On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. 18 And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, 19 but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. 20 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 25 And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. 26 And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”

Let me start by pointing out how this passage begins and ends.

It starts off…

On one of those days

And ends with…

“We have seen extraordinary things today.”

I want you to experience extraordinary things today and I want people in our communities to experience extraordinary things today, but—for that to happen—we must help to connect them with Jesus.

That being said, let me affirm two truths I believe.

Jesus can make anything extraordinary.

Nothing truly extraordinary happens without a true connection with Jesus.

How can we help people to connect with Jesus?

Here are a few keys to helping lost people to connect with Jesus:

Extraordinary Friendship

Here’s all we know about the men who took their friend to Jesus:

18 And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus,

This doesn’t tell us much about the paralyzed guy’s friends, but we do see ordinary guys who become extraordinary friends.

They were ordinary. Luke refers to them as just, “some men.”

Well, this is proof that “some men” can do something extraordinary when they simply put love into action.

To make a positive impact in this world we don’t have to be anything special. We just have to be good friends.

Honestly, the Bible doesn’t even say these guys were friends with the paralyzed man. Even so, we do see signs of true friendship.

What are the qualities of a good friend?

Willing to Sacrifice—These men were putting themselves out to help this man. Carrying him, trying to get him inside the house, and even going so far as to put a hole in the roof to get him before Jesus.

People who are Selfless—Do you think these guys had needs? We don’t know, but what we do know is that they did not allow their problems to keep them from helping someone else.

What about you? Are you more concerned about your problems than you are about your friend’s problems?

People who are willing to Seek for and with—These guys were both seeking for this guy to get help and seeking with him to get that help.

They went seeking for him and did for him what he could not do for himself. They lifted him off his corner and delivered him to the feet of Jesus.

But, they didn’t just hand him a tract with information about Jesus and walk away. No! They walked with him…carrying him…and they never left his side until they saw him healed!

Those are 2 important qualities in a true friend.

Let’s be the kind of friends who never stop seeking for our friends to make sure they never feel lost and let’s also make sure to never stop seeking with our friends until they find healing in Jesus.

That’s what extraordinary friends do.

But, if we want people to connect with Jesus, it may also take…

Extraordinary Force

I love what these guys are willing to do for their friend.

19 but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus.

Let’s look at a few of the barriers these guys had to overcome:

Crowded House

This house was full of religious people who had come from all over to listen to, learn from, and witness the ministry of Jesus.

Yet, none of them was discerning enough or caring enough to make a “hole” for some guys carrying a paralyzed man on a bed.

They were “in”—they were in the presence of Jesus—and that was all they cared about!

May we never be like that!

May we never be more concerned about our salvation than the salvation of lost people.

May we always be willing to “make a hole” so that anyone and everyone can have a chance to connect with Jesus.

It’s not about capacity, it’s about compassion.

Calloused hearts

I don’t want to make too much of an argument from silence.

We aren’t told why those inside the house did not make room for this group of people to enter. That being said, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch, in light of who was in the house (Pharisees and teachers of the Law) to suggest that what might have kept them from making a hole for this paralyzed man was a lack of compassion.

I pray that we never lose our compassion for lost and hurting people.

I pray that we never forget what a gathering as Christians for Church is really all about.

It’s not about a show; it’s about the Savior!

It’s not about sitting in the presence of the Lord; it’s about seeking for and with the lost!

It’s not just about the teaching; it’s also about the Teacher!

It’s not just about the message; it’s about the Messiah!

It’s not just about hearing the Word; it’s about sharing the Word!

It’s not just about being holy; it’s about making a “hole” for someone in need!

It’s not just about the lesson; it’s about His love!

Bottom line: 

These guys were willing to rip the roof off if that’s what it took to get their friend to the feet of Jesus!

I love our church building, but I don’t love it more than I love lost people.

It’s all gonna burn!

To reach lost people, I’d be willing to…

Knock down walls

Make more room

Give up my seat

Put up with music that may not be my preference

Put up with something I may not like personally

Park farther away

Sacrifice my time serving in the nursery

Sacrifice pretty much anything and even rip the roof off, it that’s what it would take to get lost people to the feet of Jesus!

That’s what extraordinary friends do. They use extraordinary force, if that’s what it takes to get people to the feet of Jesus.

But, if we want people to connect with Jesus, it may also take…

Extraordinary Faith

These guys’ faith was so extraordinary, Jesus could see it.

20 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.”

What do we see in these guys’ faith that is so extraordinary?

In these extraordinary friends we see that Extraordinary Faith


These men really believed that Jesus could help paralyzed people to walk again so—while the Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there—they rose up and picked this guy off of his street corner and delivered Him to the feet of Jesus.

If we really believe that Jesus has the power to make impossible things possible we won’t just sit there; we will rise!

We will rise up out of our beds and come to church!

We will rise up out of our seats and serve where we are needed!

We will rise up out of our recliners and sectional couches and share the love of Jesus with our neighbors!

We will rise up out of our comfort zones and do everything we can to get people to the feet of Jesus!

The legalists sat there while people—like this paralyzed man—were suffering.

May we always have a faith that rises! Especially, when it will result in hurt people finding healing through the extraordinary love of Jesus!

Picks up mats (beds)

These guys had so much faith that they picked up a man who was unable to pick himself up.

They picked him up and did not set him down until they could lay him at the feet of Jesus.

This kind of faith truly delivers people!

If we open our eyes we will see people sitting on “mats” all around us. 

What are you willing to do to deliver those people to the feet of Jesus?

Give more?

Serve more?

Love more?

Are you willing to eat with them…building intentional relationships through which you can introduce them to Jesus Christ?

If we have extraordinary faith, we will pick up other people on their mats and do whatever we can to get them to Jesus.

But, if we truly have extraordinary faith, we will believe that Jesus has done what He says He has the power to do and we will pick up our own mats!

Oh yes!

I’m about to drop some of you at the feet of Jesus, right now!

Some of you came to Christ years ago.

You were saved!

You were forgiven!

You were healed!

Yet, you’re still sitting on your mat…paralyzed by fear, shame, guilt, and a complete disbelief in the power of God the Father, Jesus the Son, and His Holy Spirit!

Stop being pathetic!

Stop being a victim!

Stop being less-than!

Stop waiting for someone else or the government or the church to do what Jesus has already done for you!

Rise! Pick up your mat! And, go home!

Carry the thing that once carried you by allowing Jesus to transform your mat into a message!

and Goes Home

The word here for “home” is the Greek work, “oikos” which means “an inhabited house.”

Jesus wants this man to let the people back home and share what he’s experienced with those who know him best.

That’s one of the most important things we can do: share what Jesus has done in our lives with those who know us best.

In going home we have a chance to testify that we’ve met a man who has the power to transform…

Our “paralysis” into praise!

Our “mat sitting” into a message!

And our ordinary days into extraordinary days!

I love how this event ends.

25 And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. 26 And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”

What do we see here?

We see that extraordinary friends, using extraordinary force, and showing extraordinary faith can be used by Jesus to do extraordinary things.

Because these friends connected this man to Jesus he found…



Jesus forgave him of his sins.


Jesus healed him from his paralysis.


Jesus transformed the purpose of his life from sitting on a mat to sharing a powerful message.

Let me affirm some things I believe to be true: 

Jesus can make anything extraordinary.

Do you believe that?

Nothing truly extraordinary happens without a true connection with Jesus.

Do you believe that?

Extraordinary things can happen when we are intentional about connecting people to Jesus.

Do you believe that?

I saw an example of this a few weeks ago.

That Saturday started off as just an ordinary day until Jenine Hawkins and her daughter Myranda, and Valerie Montanez and her cousin Tiffany, decided to take some homeless people in Greeley to Jesus by taking Jesus to some homeless people. 

“Pastor Arron… Random acts of kindness spark that you lit in the congregation, sparked in me and a fellow journey attendee to love on the dislocated (aka homeless)today. We made breakfast burritos and handed out water and prayers as well. It was a truly invigorating day!”

It was also a truly extraordinary day!

Which is what happens when we love people like Jesus.

*This content is available–along with a lot of other FREE resources–at: Loving Like Jesus


©2018 Arron Chambers

We are once again at the time of the year when we reflect on the past year and look ahead towards the next.

Reflection brings clarity.

Reflection brings conviction.

Reflection can bring new commitments.

Let me reflect on one thing I’ve learned over the past year and share a commitment I’m making for the next year.

I was privileged to be able to take a 9-week sabbatical this past summer after 27 years of ministry. It was one of the most important things I’ve ever experienced in my ministry.

Side note: Here are a few random bits of advice if you are blessed to take a sabbatical.

1. Do whatever you need to do to properly care for your soul. I was advised to stay home, leave home, travel, do nothing, do something, write a book, don’t write a book, etc., etc., etc. I ended up traveling around the country and speaking a few times. I went to 18 different states. Each trip was planned for a special purpose and with special people. My wife and I traveled to the Northwest to be mentored by someone I deeply respect. My entire family took a 3-week road-trip to see family in the Midwest. My sons and I spent a week in the mountains at cross-country camp. I spent a week by myself on the beach in Southern California. My wife, two daughters, and I took a road trip to Indiana. I wouldn’t trade a moment of my sabbatical. I owned it and the reward was renewing.

2. Budget to spend time being mentored by someone you respect in ministry. I paid a renowned author and leader for a couple of days of mentoring. It was an unbelievable blessing and set the tone for the rest of my sabbatical.

3. Budget for your sabbatical. Make sure you have enough money to do what you need to do and for your church to cover your absence.

4. Disconnect from work in every way. For 9 weeks I didn’t take calls, texts, or emails from my staff or from church members. A few people snuck through the “firewall” early on–which only served to remind me of why I needed a break–but…eventually…people gave me the much-needed space I needed to rest, reflect, and be renewed.

5. Ask the Lord to speak to you and then listen for His reply.

I did this and very clearly heard Him say (through sermons, Scripture, wisdom from friends, songs, and through nature), “Be still and know that I am God.”

Back to the point of this post…

To me, going on sabbatical and then coming off sabbatical, felt like stepping off the belt of a fast-moving treadmill, but remaining on the treadmill, and then trying to step back onto the racing belt.

If you’ve ever trained on a treadmill you’ve probably experienced what I’m referring to. You’re running at a fast pace–trying to reach a time or distance goal–but your phone rings, or buzzes, or your neighbor on the next treadmill over wants to chat and you don’t want to fall and be catapulted into the stack of free weights behind you, so you lift yourself off of the fast-moving belt and rest your feet on either side of the belt while the belt keeps turning. When you’re done with your “important” call or text you may have done what I’ve done in the past with varying levels of success: try to get back on the treadmill while the belt is still turning so as not to pause your workout and have to start the clock all over again.

Most of the times this works, but not always, and I don’t recommend it…ever!

Getting off the “treadmill” for my sabbatical was refreshing.

Getting back on the “treadmill” after my sabbatical was stupid and I don’t recommend it!

Life is busy for most of us. It’s just how it is. But, the pace at which I was living before my sabbatical was unsustainable. Even so, shortly after coming off my sabbatical I realized I was getting back onto that racing treadmill again and it scared me.

I know it’s unsustainable.

It scared me with how easily I could forget what God had clearly spoken to me over my time away: “Be still and know that I am God.”

Based on my actions, as I got back to work in ministry, it was as if I’d really heard the Lord say, “You better get busy because I can’t do this without you.”

Activity does not equal vitality.

I want my ministry to His church and His people and His world to be vital and only and all about the Lord and His will for my life, so I’m getting off the treadmill and getting on the path.

A path is the best metaphor there is for how–and where–we should invest our time and energy as we live this side of Heaven.

Psalm 23:1-3

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Proverbs 3:6

In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

Jeremiah 6:16

Thus says the Lord:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
    and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
    and find rest for your souls.

Here are some important truths about a path in comparison to a treadmill and reasons why a path is a much better choice than a treadmill.

Paths vs. Treadmills

Treadmills are, by nature, exhausting.

Paths are, by nature, refreshing (or they should be) because they are generally in nature.

Treadmills take you nowhere.

Paths take you somewhere.

Treadmills can only accommodate one person.

Paths can accommodate as many as necessary for the journey.

Treadmills are designed to move you along at a pre-determined pace.

Paths are enjoyed at a pace of your choosing.

Treadmills cost money to use (either through a gym membership or through purchase).

Paths are free.

Technology is required for treadmills to work properly.

Paths require no technology.

Treadmills run you.

We run paths.

Well, that’s enough for now. I think it’s time for a walk. It’s something I’m now committed to.

Can you think of any other differences between treadmills and paths that clarify the importance of getting off the “treadmill”? If so, share them in the comments section.

©2017 Arron Chambers




What’s the most effective thing you do to care for yourself?

I asked some friends on Facebook. Here are a few of my favorite responses:

Dr. Carol Miner—Learning to say NO and not feel guilty about it
Becky Freeman—Drinking coffee while blasting worship music!
Brendon Paladichuk—Gym time and my Guatemala missions
Brian Jennings—Jogging while listening to sermons, scripture or podcasts and praying
Shannan Nicole Snow—CrossFit
Laura Gorman—Nap
Guy Layfield—Other than the obvious Sunday school answers… Saying no to people every once in a while.

I was overwhelmed with that bit of wisdom…taking care of yourself by just saying “no” to stuff. Saying “no” was by far the most popular response to taking care of oneself.

Remember that anti-drug campaign: “Just say no!”


Side note: I remember going to the bathroom one time during that era and seeing that message written on the urinal pad and thinking to myself, “Really?”

Is some person going to say, “I was going to say ‘yes’ to those drugs you’re offering me, but…I was going to the bathroom the other day and I read something in the urinal that I’m going to say to you right now: ‘no!”?

Have you heard that when we say “no” to something, we’re saying “yes” to other things?

On Thursday, I’m beginning a 2 month Sabbatical.

I’m going to spend 2 months saying “no” to some things so I can say “yes” to others.

I’m going to say “no” to email, texts, and Facebook messenger (i.e. whatever you have to say to me), so I can say “yes” to whatever God has to say to me.

I’m going to say “no” to ministry at Journey, so I can say “yes” to submitting myself to God’s ministry to me, so I can say “yes” to another 27 years of ministry.

I’m going to say “no” to work, so I can say “yes” to rest.

I’m going to say “no” to caring for others, so I can say “yes” to self-care.

What do you need to say “no” to? I’ll come back to that.

We used to be good at saying “no.”

It’s one of the first words most of us learned.

Let’s practice! Here are some things we should say “no” to:

Creepy Mustaches


Fidget Spinners

Un-sweet tea

Hairless Cats

Trump Tweets!

Games on Facebook

That stupid post where you tell me that Jesus will bless me….or curse me…if I forward….or don’t forward your stupid post!

The Romper for Men!

I think one of the best things we can do for self-care is to say “no.”

God did.

Check this out…

Genesis 2:2
And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.

Didn’t He have more He could be doing? Of course, but he didn’t.

He rested.
He said “no” to work to say “yes” to rest.

Some of you need to do that.

Say “No” to work to say “Yes” to rest.

Say “no” to work on a regular basis.
Take your breaks.
Take your day off.
Take your vacation.
Take a nap!

Here are some signs that you are addicted to work, information, or things that are adding stress to your life:

Do you check work email on vacation?
Do you reach for your phone every time you come to a stop while driving?
Do you text while other people are trying to speak to you?
Are you missing memories because you’re obsessed with promoting your life on social media as being perfect, fun, and without any imperfections?
Does the idea of a day with nothing to do kind of make you nervous?

If you don’t have any time in your life where you are still you are missing an incredible opportunity to know God.

Psalm 46:10
“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”

When we are still we are reminded…
Busyness is a barrier to knowing God.
I believe it’s impossible to truly know God when we are moving at mach speed.

Busyness blinds us to the fact that we are NOT God!
Sometimes our busyness only communicates that we believe that WE are the key to success—not God.

If we really believe in God, we will be willing to be still and let Him move us wherever it is He wants us to go.

God is either going to be honored or we’re going to be honored.

So much of our work and busyness is about accomplishing something for ourselves.

Imagine what would happen if we become obsessed with honoring God?

Is work important? Absolutely!

The Apostle Paul taught this.

2 Thessalonians 3:10
For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

Work is important, but not more important than rest.

Say “no” to being everyone’s messiah, so you can say “yes” to being your ole messy human-being-self.

Jesus did. He was the Messiah, but He also knew the key to saving the world was in saving time to be alone with His heavenly Father.

Mark 1:35-38
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

Jesus retreated a lot during His ministry.

Luke 5:16
16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Was He not doing His job? Of course He was!
Weren’t there people who needed healing? Of course there were!
Wasn’t He the Messiah? Of course He was!

But, He was wise enough to know the importance of saying “no” to being someone’s Messiah now so He can say “yes” to being their Messiah when they really need it.

Rest in these truths:
Not every crisis is your responsibility to fix.
Some of you mom and dads need to hear what I’m saying.
You are not really helping your adult children by stepping in to fix all of their problems. What you may be doing is just enabling them to be victims.

You’re not Jesus.
It’s not your job to help everyone or try to fix their problems.
Let Jesus do that and you just focus on doing what God has called you to do.

You can only control what you can control.

Some of you spouses need to hear what I’m saying. If your spouse is being abusive or hurtful to you, or being unfaithful to you, or just being a bad person, it’s not your job to try to fix them or control their bad behavior.
Pray. Yes!
Seek counseling. Yes!
But, don’t beat yourself up for not being able to fix what only God can fix!

It doesn’t end very well for messiahs.

If you play the part of the “messiah” in your relationships—trying to do what only Jesus can do—don’t throw a fit and be surprised when they want to crucify you.

I’d say it’s best to let Jesus run the world.

Say “no” to the urgent so you can say “yes” to the important.

Luke 10:38-42
38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Martha was busy with the urgent…getting things prepared, making sure they were served, making sure things were being cleaned up.

She was also busy with being a tattle-tale!
“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

Sisters never change, do they? 🙂

Martha was really saying, “Mary is not being fair. Jesus, this is not fair! She’s not carrying her weight. I’m carrying this church. If it wasn’t for me, the programming of this church would fall apart. You better start appreciating me or this Church volunteer is out of here!”

Martha is anxious and worried about stuff that doesn’t matter.

What about you? Are you losing sleep over stuff that doesn’t really matter?

In the moment, was what Martha was doing really important? No!

It was urgent, but not important.

In the moment, what Mary was doing was more important.

What was she doing?

She sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.

Here’s a great principle: Being with Jesus is always better than Doing for Jesus.

Here’s another great principle: Listening to Jesus is always better than Talking to Jesus.

Martha was so busy trying to tell Jesus something that she couldn’t hear what He was trying to say.

How do we discern what is urgent and what is important?
What are your priorities? If you haven’t established them, do so…soon!
Where is the bein’?
Where is Jesus? Always do whatever you can to be next to Him.
What is Jesus telling you to do?

How do we hear Jesus?
Word—The Bible
Worship—Like Mary, worship at His feet and you’ll be close enough to hear Him when He speaks.
Wisdom—From the Body of Christ.
Witness—Keep your eyes open and you just may “hear” God speaking to you through things you see in the world around you.

So, back to my question:
What is it you need to say “no” to?
Let’s get real practical.

If there is something on your schedule right now that is not really important, I want you to pull out your phone right now and cancel it.

If you have not planned your vacation for this year yet, I want you to set up a reminder, or text your spouse, to make a commitment to get one on the calendar…right now!

Is there someone in your life who is draining the very life right out of you? Maybe you need to just go ahead and block them on your phone right now? Or delete the email string or Facebook string that is causing you such stress right now?

Well, there you go. I’m outta here.

I’m about to say a whole lotta “no” to the urgent over the next 2 months, so I can say a whole lotta “yes” to the important.

©2017 Arron Chambers



I spent this past weekend at the State Track Meet.

I saw a lot of incredible performances.

Watching athletes run is almost a spiritual experience for me. I think the Apostle Paul was kind of like me, too.

The Apostle Paul seemed to be a fan of Greek Athletics and made a lot of spiritual applications of running in particular.

The Apostle Paul used a racing metaphor in I Corinthians 9:24-27 which makes a lot of sense since Corinth was home to the Isthmian Games every 3 years. Athletics were very important in Greek society.

1 Corinthians 9:24
24 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.

What do we learn from this?

Excellence is a virtue.

It seems we have become a people who celebrate mediocrity and teach young people that—if they just show up—they deserve a participation ribbon.

Each day we all have the same opportunities that everyone has to increase into more or decrease into less.

This teaching from Paul is a picture of more than a race; it’s also a picture of life.

In life there are winners and losers.

College student Daisy Rush, from Southern Wesleyan University, listed five truths that our entitled society needs to hear.

1. Every injustice is not a personal offense against who you are.
Stop seeing excuses in everything. If you didn’t get the part, or the position, or the A+, it is not because you are …..whatever, or the coach hates you, or you’re boy or your’e a girl. Maybe you didn’t get it because you weren’t good enough. By allowing people to see everything as a direct insult, we are not holding them accountable.

2. We raise our kids to be protected from failure.
Failure is not a bad thing. You need failure in order to be successful. You need failure in order to be humble. Making mistakes and messing up is a part of being human, and sometimes it is the best part. Losing every so often won’t scar you for life; it will teach you to appreciate the things that you work your butt off for. And…for Young People…if you never fail when you’re a child, you won’t be prepared to fail as an adult, when it matters.

3. We treat every graduation as a huge accomplishment.
As the school year comes to a close, Facebook is flooded with kindergarten graduation photos, middle school graduation photos, and endless high school graduation celebrations. And sure, congratulations are necessary. Congratulations on making it through the easiest part of your life! Yes, graduating elementary and secondary school is an accomplishment. I’m going to an 8th grade graduation this week. But, moving on to another grade in every grade before college is also free and required by law. Don’t celebrate just making it through. Celebrate when you have overcome, or gone above and beyond.

4. We give second chances. And thirds. And fourths. And fifths.
When did it become okay to settle? There is no reason to keep letting unhealthy things – and people – back into your life. By burning bridges, you are not being unforgiving. You are being strong.

5. It is okay to not be the best at something.
You know what happens when you win everything? You stop caring. And now, with every young player getting a trophy or medal regardless of the outcome, coaches and parents take away the feeling of accomplishment. It also teaches kids that they deserve a reward, no matter how they act. This is not an attitude we want to carry with us as we grow up. There are no gold stars in the real world. You may fail but try harder, run farther, and pull through. Don’t just coast on easy success, but see an opportunity and give it your all. It is okay to not be the best. But, it is not okay not to try.

God expects us to be the best at running the race we are running.

God expects us to run to obtain it.
“You mean God expects something of me?”

Build the boat and He’ll send the flood.
Put it all on the altar and He’ll send the fire.
Walk around the walls and He’ll tear them down.
Run the race and He’ll give you a prize!

You may get uncomfortable, but you must keep running.
You may get sore, but you must keep running.
You may get hurt, but you must keep running.
You may fall down, but you will get up, because you must keep running!
You may get knocked down, but you’re not going to sit there on the ground and whine, are you? No, you’re going to get up and keep running!

It’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth it!

Your momma can’t run this race for you!
Your Grandma can’t run this race for you!
Your spouse can’t run this race for you!
I can’t run this race for you!

We all have to show up, suit up, sweat it up, and keep running until Jesus shows up here, there, or in the air!

Run to win! The prize is going to be worth it.

He mentions the prize in the next verse.

1 Corinthians 9:25
25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

The early Olympic athletes were not motivated my money, but by the opportunity to wear a crown and the crown they won was only made up of twisted vines.

It was perishable, but God offers us a prize that is imperishable.

Definition of Imperishable:
Enduring Forever

Do you know that there is a prize that will endure forever waiting for everyone who finishes the race?

Or—in other words—everyone who gives their life to Christ, will receive the prize of eternal life.

Paul mentions this prize in 1 Corinthians 15. (Whenever you read the word “imperishable” I want you to say out loud, “enduring forever.”)

1 Corinthians 15:50-58
50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

How? How can we run the race so that we will win the prize that will endure forever?

Paul told us the key in verse 25. Let’s read it again.

1 Corinthians 9:25
25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.

The key to winning the prize is: Self-Control.

The key to success in life: Self-Control.

Do you have self-control?

This dog does! Click here: A Dog with Self-Control

This dog has a lot more self-control than some of the people I know.

Which is sad because…we are not animals!

Did you know?

Giraffes are known for using their tongues to clean out their noses.

Jackals scarf decomposing or diseased flesh, even if it’s been rotting for days. When lions and tigers are done with their kills, jackals will gladly move in for the sloppy seconds. They pass this practice along to their pups, teaching them to not let anything go to waste by putting food on the dinner table via their gag reflex. Yes, jackal parents actually feed their young with their own throw up every few hours to prevent starvation. If the pups get full, no worries — the jackals will just re-eat their regurgitation.

Cows can expel a half-gallon of gas every minute.

And my dog decided it would be appropriate to poop in my bedroom floor, my daughter’s floor, and then proceed to eat all of the cat poop in the litter box!

Why? Because my dog—unlike that freak of nature that can keep doggie biscuits on his nose—has no self-control.

Do you have self-control?

If you’re a Christian, you should?

Galatians 5:22,23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.

As I wrap this post up and finish this passage, we see some of the characteristics of someone who has self-control.

26 So I do not run aimlessly;

People with self-control run with purpose.

Do you remember this scene from Alice in Wonderland?

Here’s how it reads in the book?

Cheshire Cat: Where are you going?
Alice: Which way should I go?
Cat: That depends on where you are going.
Alice: I don’t know.
Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

Where are you going?

In track, you get disqualified if you leave your lane or step on the inside lane. One of my athletes ran 2 miles in record time, only to find out that he’d crossed over too soon to the inside lane.

Running aimlessly leads you off course.
Running aimlessly may also trip others up.

Mothers and Fathers, are you concerned that your lack of self-control might cause your kids to stumble?

Parents, are you so lacking self-control that you are incapable of teaching your children to have self-control?

Do we realize how vulnerable we leave our children when we don’t teach them to have self-control?

Proverbs 25:28
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.

Let me write it this way:

A child without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.

Are you concerned that your lack of self-control may cause another Christian to stumble?

Running straight is so much easier when your focus is on something straight ahead of you. My high school track coach, Coach O’Brien, taught me to focus on the old oak tree just beyond the finish line. When I was tired and starting to waiver and wander, I’d focus on that tree–just beyond the finish line–and run to it.

I have something, or someone, you can focus on.

Hebrews 12:1-3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Fix your eyes on Jesus!
People with self-control run with discipline.

1 Corinthians 9:26, 27
I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

This year, my coaching staff and I worked really hard to teach my athletes discipline.

We taught them the importance of controlling each and every step.

We taught them the importance of eating properly.
Early in our season, my relay teams struggled with handing off the baton in the exchange zone. They would drop it and get disqualified. They’d hand it off outside of the exchange zone and get disqualified, so we practiced and practiced and practiced.

They had to measure and mark when they would take off running.

They had to have the discipline to leave—not too late and not too early—but at just the right time.

A couple of questions:

Is your body under your control?

Edmund Hilary the first man who conquered Mount Everest was asked by an interviewer about his passions for climbing mountains. He gave this reply: “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”

Are you conquering yourself?

In the book, The Three Edwards, Thomas Costain described the life of Raynald III, a 14th century duke in what is now Belgium. Grossly overweight, Raynald was commonly called by his Latin nickname, Crassus, which means “fat.”

After a violent quarrel, Raynald’s younger brother Edward led a successful revolt against him. Edward captured Raynald but did not kill him. Instead, he built a room around Raynald in the Nieuwkerk castle and promised him he could regain his title and property as soon as he was able to leave the room.

This would not have been difficult for most people since the room had several windows and a door of near-normal size, and none was locked or barred. The problem was Raynald’s size. To regain his freedom, he needed to lose weight. But Edward knew his older brother, and each day he sent a variety of delicious foods. Instead of dieting his way out of prison, Raynald grew fatter.

When Duke Edward was accused of cruelty, he had a ready answer: “My brother is not a prisoner. He may leave when he so wills.” Raynald stayed in that room for ten years and wasn’t released until after Edward died in battle. By then his health was so ruined he died within a year… a prisoner of his own appetite.

Do you eat as one who has his/her body under control?
Do you drink alcohol as one who has self-control?
If you are single and dating, are you exercising self-control sexually?
If you are married, are you demonstrating self-control as you honor your marriage vows.

If we aren’t disciplined enough to control ourselves, we are going to limit the potential we have to be used by God.

Hugo Grotius, the Dutch scholar said it this way, “A man cannot govern a nation if he cannot govern a city, he cannot govern a city if he cannot govern himself, and he cannot govern himself unless his passions are subject to reason.”

Peter the Great of Russia said it this way, “I have been able to conquer an empire, but I have not been able to conquer myself.”

And, the Apostle Paul said it this way,

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. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

In his book, When God Whispers Your Name, Max Lucado writes:

I choose self-control …

I am a spiritual being. After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control. (Max Lucado found in God’s Treasury of Virtues (Tulsa, OK: Honor Books, 1995), 433.)

What are you going to choose?

©2017 Arron Chambers

Did you like to dress up as a child?

Who’d you like to dress up like?

I used to dress up a lot.

Sometimes against my will…my sisters would dress me up!

Most often, I chose to dress up.

Some of my favorite times to dress up was for Tea Parties my grandmother would throw for us.

dress up with cousins

tea party with Grandma1

Do you ever feel like you’re playing an adult game of dress up?

Could you be and not even be aware of it?

Today I want to talk to you about self-awareness.

Self-Awareness: conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.

Why is this important?

Good question.

If we are aware of who we really are—in Christ and as created by God—there will be at least 4 blessings we will experience, so I want to give you 4 questions you can ask yourself as a way of testing your level of self-awareness.

I’d argue that the most self-aware person to ever live is Jesus Christ.

Let’s look at His life as the model for a person who was self-aware.

Mark 1:32-38
32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”

“That is why I came out.”

This reveals one of the first blessings of self-awareness: Purpose

And, the first self-awareness test question:

Why are you?

Jesus knew why He was on this planet.

Why are you on this planet?

A chicken will run around for a while after its head has been cut off, proving…activity doesn’t equal vitality.

Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean that you are doing what God put you on this planet to do.

“How do I know my purpose?”

Ask God.
Olympic runner Eric Liddell did and here’s what he said:
I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.

What is it…when you do it…you feel God’s pleasure?

Ask Others.
What would your spouse, your best friend, your kids say if you asked them, “What do you think I’m supposed to be doing with my life?”

Ask Yourself…
What am I good at?
What do I like to do?
What do I have to do?

Let’s look at the life of Jesus again.

Immediately after His baptism Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Matthew 4:1-11
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
    and him only shall you serve.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

This reveals a second blessing of self-awareness: Protection

And, the second self-awareness test question:

Who are you?

As the son of God, Jesus had inherent protection when the enemy attacked.

Who are you?

A few important things I want to point out.

Jesus’ hair was still basically wet from His baptism when He is tested and tempted by the devil.

You will be tempted!
Satan—knowing Scripture—tried to use God’s word to bring Christ down.

Satan knows God’s Word, so you should too!

Satan knew who Jesus was so he tried to use Christ’s power and ego against him.

But, Jesus remembered who He was…and is…so He stood strong against this attack.

Jesus knew who He was…the Lord.

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
    and him only shall you serve.’”

Remember who you are!

When the enemy attacks you, remember—in Christ—you are a child of God!

Don’t take any of his crap!!!!

Just like with Jesus, Satan will attack you physically (stone to bread).

But, you’re going to reply… “Get out of my face! I’m a child of the one true God!”

Satan will try to attack you emotionally (ego: angels will rescue you).

But, you’re going to reply… “Get out of my face! I’m a child of the one true God!”

Satan will try to attack you spiritually (worship him and not God).

But, you’re going to reply… “Get out of my face! I’m a child of the one true God!”

In Christ, we have inherent protection because of who we are!

Let’s go back to the life of Jesus again.

Matthew 17:1-8
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

This reveals a third blessing to self-awareness: Power.

And, the third self-awareness test question:

Whose are you?

Jesus, knew He belonged to God, and that gave Him power. The disciples fell on their faces and were terrified.

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

In Christ, you belong to God!

Do you know whose you are?

Let me point out a couple of things.

There is power in authenticity.

Two lies we too often believe:
If people really knew me, they wouldn’t like me.
If God really knew me, He wouldn’t like me.

We don’t have to play dress up anymore. God adores you!

John 3:16
 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Romans 5:8
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Ephesians 2:4-5
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

There is power in belonging to God.

Psalm 34:19
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.

Nahum 1:7 
The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 
We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.

2 Thessalonians 3:3
3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.

Let’s look at the life of Jesus one more time.

John 14:1-6
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

This reveals a third blessing to self-awareness: Peace

And, the fourth self-awareness test question:

How are you?

This section begins with the disciples not at peace. They are troubled.

But Jesus, who is completely self-aware, calms them by giving them some truth to embrace.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

Jesus is aware of exactly who He is and this brings peace to the chaos around Him.

When you and I are not at peace, we add to the chaos around us.

When you and I are not okay, we tend to make others around us not okay, too.

So, let me ask this last important question:

How are you?
Don’t play dress up?
How are you?
Being self-award and admitting we are imperfect is not an ending, but a beginning.

The Blessing of Being Self-Aware Enough to Admit We’re Not Perfect

Admitting imperfection is a double-edged sword. The blessing of admitting that we aren’t perfect is healing. Alcoholics Anonymous has been unbelievably successful in healing people struggling with alcohol addiction by requiring authenticity.

Each meeting starts with members confessing, “My name is Joe and I am an alcoholic.”
If I could, I would start each Sunday morning worship service by requiring each member to stand and get real.

“My name is Mike and I’m afraid of losing my job.”
“My name is Mary and I can’t pay my bills.”
“My name is Jennifer and I don’t understand why my teenaged daughter won’t talk to me.”
“My name is Adam and I’m afraid I’m going to die.”
“My name is Teresa and I don’t like myself.”
“My name is Javier and I have no idea of how to be a good father, because my dad left us when I was five.”
“My name is Lori and my heart is broken.”
“My name is Peter and I’m depressed.”
“My name is Rebecca and my husband just left me for another woman.”
“My name is Robert and I’m addicted to pornography.”
“My name is Peggy and I hate working in the nursery, but I’m afraid to tell you all because I don’t want you to think I’m a bad person.”
“My name is Arron and I want you to like me.”

Since we are imperfect humans living in a fallen world, we all eventually encounter pain, problems, failures, doubt, and fear. We can choose to deny life’s problems and hide them behind a forced smile, a wink, and empty words:
“I’m doing great. How ‘bout you?”
“Couldn’t be better!”
“Can’t complain.”

Knowing who He was gave Jesus peace in the midst of the storms of life.

Knowing who you are will give you peace in the midst of the storms of life.

We are missing the blessing of authenticity because we have bought into the lie that it’s un-Christian to struggle on any level.

It’s not un-Christian to have problems.
It’s not un-Christian to hurt.
It’s not un-Christian to struggle with sin.
It’s not un-Christian to have a difficult marriage.
It’s not un-Christian to make mistakes while raising children.
It’s not un-Christian to hate your job.
It’s not un-Christian to be afraid to die.
It’s not un-Christian if sometimes we are even afraid to live.

I know it seems to be counter intuitive, but you and I are more powerful when we admit that we are sometimes weak.

And you and I are more courageous when we admit that sometimes we’re scared to death.

And you and I are closer to Christ’s perfection when we admit that we aren’t perfect.

The Curse of Being Self-Aware Enough to Admit We’re Not Perfect

The curse of admitting that we are not perfect is potential pain. When we expose our hearts we make ourselves more vulnerable. Authenticity involves risk. I have to tell you that it is a lot safer playing the game and never truly revealing to anyone who you really are. If you decide to get real you are most likely going to get hurt somewhere by someone. Authentic imperfect people make themselves targets for ridicule, judgment, and shame.

An imperfect life is not for cowards. Admitting imperfection requires vulnerability and vulnerability makes us more susceptible to pain. Authentic people know the pain of having secrets—entrusted to a friend discreetly—shouted mockingly by an enemy for all to hear, of tears—spilt in sorrow to a loved one—brought back to try to drown you in shame by one seeking revenge, and of freely sharing our true selves—with the hope of finally being accepted—only to have our true selves ridiculed and rejected by heartless critics. Hurt people hurt people. Openly imperfect people are often attacked by delusional imperfect people who think that they are perfect and find it easier to criticize flaws in others than to deal with their own imperfections.

But openly imperfect people also know that the healing and liberation that can only be found in authenticity is worth the risk of the hurt.

One day I fell off my bike while racing down a gravel road, opening several large wounds on the left side of my body. It took about an hour for Matt’s mom to clean the dirt and gravel out of those wounds. It hurt, but I knew it was the best thing to do.

The next morning I had a soccer game. My wounds were bandaged and somewhat forgotten until I slid in the dirt to kick the ball, ripping off the bandages and filling every wound once again with dirt. I went to the sideline, re-covered my dirty wounds with fresh bandages, and continued to play the game.

After the game my Dad took me out to the picnic table in the back yard. Slowly and carefully Dad removed each bandage exposing my dirty wounds to the air. Once my wounds were exposed he began to clean them. Each wound was covered in dirt. I cried as my Dad scrubbed away the dirt exposing the raw and painful wounds. The pain was excruciating. To this day I can still hear my Dad whispering, “I’m so sorry, son. I know this hurts, but your wounds won’t heal properly unless I get all of the dirt out.” I made myself vulnerable to my Dad because I knew that he had the best intentions. I endured the pain because I wanted to be healed. Hurt was the price I paid for healing.
Some of us are walking around with wounds that will not heal simply because—out of the fear of pain—we refuse to reveal them to ANYONE. And because we refuse to reveal them, they have not been healed. God’s word clearly teaches us that there is healing found in acknowledging that we are imperfect.

In 1 John 1:8, 9 we read, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Now admitting our imperfections—our “sins”—to God may not be a pleasant experience. In fact it may be a very painful ordeal, but John clearly teaches us that only in confession to God do we find forgiveness and purification.

In James 5:16 we read, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

Healing…that’s the goal.

So, let me ask you those 4 self-awareness test questions one more time.
Why are you?
Who are you?
Whose are you?
How are you?

Don’t put the costume on…unless your Grandma is throwing a really cool tea party this afternoon!

Just be aware today of the blessings you have in Christ?

You have…
and Peace.

©2017 Arron Chambers


Dealing with Disappointment

December 2, 2016 — 1 Comment


In A Christmas Story, young Ralphie wants a Red Ryder BB gun, but his parents’ only response is, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” All the adults in Ralphie’s life seem united in keeping him from this dream.

Even his teacher at school seems intent on dashing his hopes for a Red Ryder BB gun.

Have you ever not gotten what you really wanted?

I asked some people on Facebook to share the most disappointing gift they’ve ever received on Christmas as a child or an adult.

Jani B.—A hockey jersey that was 10 sizes too big #fail #didimentionidontlikehockey

Gary C.—A Christmas Card reminding me how much I owed someone.

Mark S.—Senior in high school… luggage.

Larry M.—I bought my wife an electric razor. Helpful tip: don’t do that.

Megan B.—Every year… my Grandma would wrap up and give us the freebies she received in the mail from TBN. I mean, I had all the free southern gospel music I could handle. Along with key chains, books, note pads & calendars….I should add… one year my sisters and I wrapped them all up and gave them back. I’ve never seen Grandma laugh harder. It was a grand Christmas

Steve L.—My aunt packed a sweater in a box that had contained a really cool truck (evidently given to someone else). My excitement upon unwrapping it quickly turned to utter hopeless disappointment. I am still not over it.

Donna R.—My Grandma would crochet these socks every year. They were pretty and warm but they hurt the bottom of your feet to walk in. Try walking on rocks while smiling at Grandma so you wouldn’t hurt her feelings

Aaron W.—True story. My aunt (moms sister) got my brother a cool star wars toy. She forgot me, so she sent my cousin eric out to the car. She wrapped and gave me…wait for it…a used, faded, cracked gloria estefan cassette tape from her car. I died a little inside.

Austin J.—A block of wood.

Stephany (my assistant and Austin’s mom) said Austin repeated himself all Christmas, “I got wood.”

Tammy D.—My mom made me a Christmas sweater with an appliqué of a cat on it decked out with a bow and bell. I am deathly allergic to cats and Christmas sweaters.

Tammy can relate to Ralphie in this scene.

Who hasn’t found themselves holding a bunny suit when you wanted to hold a Red Ryder BB Gun?

Who hasn’t been disappointed at some point in life?

So, I’m reading Luke from a copy of The Message and I read this:

1 1-4 So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives. Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story’s beginning, I decided to write it all out for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught.

5-7 During the rule of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Zachariah. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God. But they were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old.

Zachariah and Elizabeth didn’t deserve this.

They lived honorable lives.
They kept the commands of God.
They enjoyed a clear conscience before God.

Yet, they were old and childless.
Anyone here discouraged about getting older?
Anyone here ever dealt with infertility?

Sometimes life just isn’t fair.

What do you do in the midst of disappointment?

Pity party?
Stay in bed?
Unfriend people?

Zachariah gives us a good example of how to deal with disappointment.

Zachariah went to work.

8-12 It so happened that as Zachariah was carrying out his priestly duties before God, working the shift assigned to his regiment, it came his one turn in life to enter the sanctuary of God and burn incense. The congregation was gathered and praying outside the Temple at the hour of the incense offering.

This is a good example of what we can do when we are facing disappointment.

Keep serving.
He was a priest, so he went to work, serving God.
Do you serve God to be blessed by God or do you serve God because you’ve been blessed by God?

Keep seeking.
Here’s what the temple looked like in the time of Jesus:

The High Priest would go into the Holy of Holies only one day a year—the Day of Atonement.

The Holy Place (where Zachariah entered) was on this side of the curtain and it contained the lamp stand, the table of shewbread, and the altar of incense.

Zachariah was disappointed, yet he still went into the Lord’s presence.

What keeps you from seeking the Lord?
Hurt feelings?

Nothing was going to keep Zachariah from seeking the Lord and nothing was going to keep the Lord from seeking Zachariah!

Unannounced, an angel of God appeared just to the right of the altar of incense. Zachariah was paralyzed in fear.

4 things:
1) Angels are terrifying beings, not sweet little Precious Moments Baby-Like beings.

2) I wonder how many times we’ve missed an unannounced visit of the Lord because we chose not to seek Him?

3) God is not unaware of our suffering.

4) God hears our prayers.

13-15 But the angel reassured him, “Don’t fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John. You’re going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you—many will delight in his birth. He’ll achieve great stature with God.

15-17 “He’ll drink neither wine nor beer. He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother’s womb. He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. He will herald God’s arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics—he’ll get the people ready for God.”

This promise is very specific.
A son.
Named John.
Zachariah will leap (he’s an old man).
Many will delight in his birth.
John will do great things for God.
He’ll not drink wine or beer (like the Nazirites).
He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit as he leaves the womb.
He will prepare the way for Christ’s ministry.

What do we learn from this?
God is powerful.
God is purposeful.
God is passionate about lost people.

And remember…this all came out of the prayers of disappointed people.

They also had doubts.

18 Zachariah said to the angel, “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.”

You’re going to see that God’s answer to that question is: Yes!

God expects us to believe that He can do what He says He can do.

Jesus teaches the same thing when He confronts the disciples for having “little faith.”

Remember when Jesus and the disciples were on a boat at night. Jesus was sleeping and a storm came up and the disciples started freaking out.

Matthew 8:23-27
23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

“What sort of man is this?”
He’s the Son of God and He can do unbelievable things!

Do you know that God can do unbelievable things?

Are you asking God to do unbelievable things in your life?
Do you need help? Ask God.
Do you need healing? Ask God.
Do you need direction? Ask God.
Do you need financial help? Ask God.

Let’s have big faith not little faith.

I heard Matt Chandler say this is a sermon recently, “God may say ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ or ‘wait,’ but He will never say, ‘I can’t.'”

When God intends to make something wonderful, He begins with something difficult. When He wants to make something miraculous, He begins with something impossible.—Lord Coggin, Archbishop of Canterbury

Does God expect us to believe this? Yes!

19-20 But the angel said, “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word until the day of your son’s birth. Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time—God’s time.”

Well, God was a bit annoyed with Zachariah’s little faith so he made it so he couldn’t talk.

Side note: I don’t want you wives praying for God to silence your husbands! 🙂

Side note: If you do, don’t get mad when your husband prays that you’ll get pregnant at an old age.

Silence seems to be so rare these days.
Silence is a great spiritual discipline.

Do you have any time when you are silent?

When we are silent before the Lord it helps us to…

Hear more clearly
I’ve found that when I’m disappointed, I hear a lot of things that aren’t helpful.

I hear my own crying.
I hear my own justifications and rationalizations.
I hear horrible advice from well-meaning friends.

Jesus knew the importance of being silent so He could hear His Father more clearly.

Luke 5:16
Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Speak more effectively
When we’ve been silent before the Lord, we learn more about the Lord so we have more to say that is meaningful.

Psalm 46:10
Be still and know that I am God.

But, if we’ve not been silent before the Lord and heard Him, what do we know?
Only what we see.
Only what we feel.
Only what we know…which isn’t really that much compared to God’s perspective.

Zachariah had more influence over the people because they knew that he had been in the presence of the Lord.

21-22 Meanwhile, the congregation waiting for Zachariah was getting restless, wondering what was keeping him so long in the sanctuary. When he came out and couldn’t speak, they knew he had seen a vision. He continued speechless and had to use sign language with the people.

23-25 When the course of his priestly assignment was completed, he went back home. It wasn’t long before his wife, Elizabeth, conceived. She went off by herself for five months, relishing her pregnancy. “So, this is how God acts to remedy my unfortunate condition!” she said.

26-28 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary.

We’ll all be focused on that part of the story for the next few weeks, but–for now–back to this story.

57-58 When Elizabeth was full-term in her pregnancy, she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives, seeing that God had overwhelmed her with mercy, celebrated with her.

Disappointment can make us self-centered.
If we give into that temptation and throw a pity-party, we miss the opportunity to see God use our pain to bless others.

Her neighbors and relatives were able to party (celebrate) with Elizabeth because she refused to throw a pity-party for one.

59-60 On the eighth day, they came to circumcise the child and were calling him Zachariah after his father. But his mother intervened: “No. He is to be called John.”

I find this scene very funny.

Our relatives and friends just need to stay out of the baby naming process. They’re not that good at naming Our kids. Really Zachariah? You want to call him, “Zachariah”? Very creative!

Mama always wins when it comes to naming the baby. 🙂

God’s will should always win. God already said that the boy’s name was going to be “John.”

61-62 “But,” they said, “no one in your family is named that.” They used sign language to ask Zachariah what he wanted him named.
63-64 Asking for a tablet, Zachariah wrote, “His name is to be John.” That took everyone by surprise. Surprise followed surprise—Zachariah’s mouth was now open, his tongue loose, and he was talking, praising God!

What would have been the first thing you would have done after not being able to talk for over 9 months and it was the Lord who took away your ability to speak and forced you to learn sign language?

Would you pout or praise?

Pout or Praise?

We can pout or we can praise and Zachariah is praising God because He’s experienced the power of God.

65-66 A deep, reverential fear settled over the neighborhood, and in all that Judean hill country people talked about nothing else. Everyone who heard about it took it to heart, wondering, “What will become of this child? Clearly, God has his hand in this.”

When we are disappointed, do people feel pity for us or praise for God?

We’re all going to be disappointed sometime or another.

Do we want to be pitied or do we want God to be praised?

Pity or Praise?

God longs to be praised, so—if we will let Him have control—He will lead us to praise Him.

I love how Zachariah allows God to speak prophesy and praise through him.

Look at what his and Elizabeth’s disappointment what transformed into:

67-79 Then Zachariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied,

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
    he came and set his people free.

Bondage to disappointment is transformed into praise for Freedom.

He set the power of salvation in the center of our lives,

Death at the hand of disappointment is transformed into praise for Salvation.
    and in the very house of David his servant,
Just as he promised long ago
    through the preaching of his holy prophets:
Deliverance from our enemies
    and every hateful hand;

Enslavement to disappointment is transformed into praise for Deliverance.

Mercy to our fathers,
    as he remembers to do what he said he’d do,
What he swore to our father Abraham—
    a clean rescue from the enemy camp,
So we can worship him without a care in the world,
    made holy before him as long as we live.

Doubts about whether disappointment will ever end is transformed into praise for the fact that God keeps His Promises.

RueBea R. shared this with me:
(parents are divorced) one year my dad said he was going to pick me up and take me to see the Christmas lights around town. I waited by the window to see when he pulled into the driveway- ended up waiting all night and fell asleep there because he never came. I didn’t get to see the lights that year either. #disappointment

She is a part of Journey and praises God with us because God is a Father who keeps his promises.

And you, my child, “Prophet of the Highest,”
    will go ahead of the Master to prepare his ways,
Present the offer of salvation to his people,
    the forgiveness of their sins.
Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
    God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
    those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
    down the path of peace.

Disappointment about unfulfilled dreams is transformed into praise to God for a brand new Destiny through an unexpected son.
Back to A Christmas Story….
At the end of the movie, Ralphie is resolved that he’s not getting a Red Ryder BB Gun and then this happens.

Now, I can’t promise you a Red Ryder BB Gun, but I can promise you this:

God hears your prayers.
He knows all about your disappointments.
He loves you.
And, He’ll never give you a block of wood, a cat sweater, or a Bunny Suit, so He’s definitely worthy of our praise this Christmas.

©2016 Arron Chambers

The Seat of Gratitude

November 23, 2016 — Leave a comment



Are you seated?

If not, find a chair and sit down for this post.

Psalm 46

For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A song.

1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

7 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

8 Come and see the works of the LORD ,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

I’m so thankful for God.

I’m so thankful for all He does to provide and protect us.

Let these truths speak into your searching, frightened, and weary soul:

 “God is our refuge and strength . . . The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge . . . Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, though the mountains move in the midst of the sea.”

God is secure.

God is strong.

God is here…with us.

God is here, and ever-presently here, when we face trials and troubles.

How do you respond when debris from  this fallen world falls on you?

I want to respond like Mstislav Rostropovich.


Mstislav Rostropovich, who died in 2007, was universally recognized as the world’s greatest living cellist. During the height of the Cold War, Rostropovich and his wife spoke out on behalf of human rights and artistic freedoms in the face of oppression at the hands of  Soviet Union.

This enraged the Communist government and Rostropovich and his wife were punished severely.

Their concerts were canceled.

Their foreign tours were canceled.

Their recording projects were canceled.

The state-run media imposed a black-out of their names and activities.

Finally, they were given visas to perform in Paris, but then their Communist government refused to let them back in. They could never come home to Russia again.

They were without a home.

Everything they owned and loved was left behind. They lived in exile until 1989. Until November 9th, 1989, to be exact. The date the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.

The Berlin Wall was a 96 mile long concrete barrier that surrounded the democratic enclave of West Berlin between August 13th, 1961 and November 9, 1989. It was built to stop East Germans fleeing Communist rule that had been set up under Soviet control following World War II, it quickly became the most potent symbol of the Cold War. As many as 265 people died trying to cross it.

When Rostropovich heard the Berlin Wall was coming down, and the communist regime in East Germany was coming apart, his heart was full of gratitude. He knew that his exile from his native homeland would soon be over.

He was finally going home.

So what did he do?

How did he say “thanks”?

He flew to Berlin as quickly as he could. With his cello in hand, he caught a cab, and asked to be driven to the wall.

Upon arriving at the wall he realized that he could not play his cello because he’d forgotten something he never had to remember before: he’d forgotten a chair. You can’t play a cello without a chair. The chair was always ready for him. Never before in his life did he have to worry about the chair.

But now he had to find a chair.

He began knocking on doors of homes close to where he was let off. One German family produced a small kitchen chair. So to offer his joy and gratitude to God for the gift of freedom and homecoming, he sat down in his chair in front of the crumbling wall and played his cello unaccompanied.

So, what did the greatest cellist in the world play on his cello when he picked up his bow?

Something he had never recorded before. He played a Bach cello suite.

“I chose Bach to say thank you to the great God,” Rostropovich explains.


Rostropovich knew what it meant to have the earth shake, and the mountains move, and the sea roar, and the nations tumble. But he also knew in the midst of it all, “God is with us. And the God of Jacob is our refuge.”1

This has not been an easy year. We had an outbreak of the Zika virus. Terrorist attacks around the world. The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Ryan Lochte lied about being robbed at the Brazil Olympics. The nation has been in an election year tumult and has emerged bitterly divided.  We’ve faced some things this past year none of us could have predicted or anticipated.

Yet this Thanksgiving we will gather to thank God, to celebrate that God is our refuge and strength, that no virus, terrorist threat, Brexit, delusional swimmer, or Trump presidential victory can separate us from the love of God and the communion of saints.Now this is what I am going to ask you to do sometime this week, on Thanksgiving, or sometime soon: I want you to be Rostropovich.

Find a chair.

Place it in a quiet spot.

And say “thank you” to God for the walls that have crumbled in your life this past year. I’m not asking you to play anything (unless you can), though if you’d like to sing a song, or recite a verse of Scripture or quote a poem, that’d be great!

You can do this by yourself or set up a chair on Thanksgiving and give your friends and family the opportunity to take their turn with you in the seat of gratitude.

As you sit, reflect on Psalm 46 and how the truths of this psalm have come alive in your life this past year.

If you were Rostropovich, what words of thanks, what words of Scripture, would you speak out of our deep gratitude for the God who IS our Refuge and Strength, a very present help in time of trouble? Please share them in the comments section below so we may all give thanks together.

Happy Thanksgiving!




1 This portion of the story comes from a personal conversation between Rostropovich and John M. Buchanan, as recounted in the message”Glory,” at the Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago, Illinois, December 17, 2000.

©2016 Arron Chambers