Posts Tagged ‘Clemson’

Joshua 14:6-15 (Part 2 of 2)
Caleb Requests His Land

Elena and I have a running bet each year. She is a University of South Carolina Gamecock fan. I am a Clemson University Tiger fan. As you may or may not know, depending on where you live when reading this, the Gamecocks and Tigers are archrivals. Tiger fans and Gamecock fans typically don’t like each other for the simple fact that the other pulls for their hated archrival. In a state as small as South Carolina is, you never have to go too far to find the enemy. Sometimes, like in our case, the enemy lives in the same house. In other larger states, the two rival schools have specific following in particular areas of the state. South Carolina is different in that your neighbor or even your own spouse in your own house can be a fan of the other team. And, in this state, Tigers and Gamecocks are competitive in everything. Some say that if the Gamecocks and Tigers had chess teams, the games between them would be heated. But regardless of what sports the two schools play against each other, nothing compares and nothing matters more than the results of the annual Palmetto Bowl football game. Clemson holds the edge in the series that dates back to 1896 with 68-42-4 record against the Gamecocks. The series was stopped briefly from 1902-1909 due to the fact that after the 1902 game a riot broke out after the game. It has been continuously played every year since 1909 and is currently only behind Minnesota vs. Wisconsin as the longest continuously played rivalry football game in the country. So, with that background, Elena and I started a tradition back in 2009 when we first became a couple.

Each year beginning with the 2009 game, the loser of the game has to wear the colors of the winner’s team to church the following day. When we started the bet, Clemson was a real tear in the series. From 1976-2008, a period of 32 seasons, Clemson had won 23 games, lost 8, and tied 1 in the series. In fact, in the overall series, Clemson, on average, wins 2 games to every 1 game won by the Gamecocks. So, the bet seemed a pretty safe one to me. Clemson was coming off two straight victories in the series in 2007 and 2008 and like I said, from 76-08, Clemson just had Carolina’s number. What happens? Carolina starting that year goes on a five-year run in the series. They win five straight in the series – 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. I had to wear a Gamecock sweatshirt that is that hideous combination of garnet and black. It is just not in my color wheel! Five years in a row! Even Clemson with its overall advantage in the series (68-42-4) has never won more than 4 consecutive games in the series. This was egregious! Order has been restored in the series with Clemson winning in 2014, 2015, and 2016. But those five years in a row still are a wound that Tiger fans alive during it will never forget. For me, it meant keeping my word for five consecutive years. Pictures of me in five different shots in a Gamecocks sweatshirt can most likely be found on my wife’s Facebook page somewhere. It was humiliating. I am the biggest of Tiger fans. Everyone who knows me knows that I am a Tiger fan. My mood on Sundays in the fall is directly correlated with how the Tigers did on the gridiron the day before. Wearing Gamecock attire is akin, to me, to wearing a scarlet A on my clothing in colonial New England. It was embarrassing and degrading. Oh the pain! Oh the agony of it all! Five straight years! But during that five year stretch (when it got progressively harder each year to put that dreaded Gamecock sweatshirt on), I never failed to keep my word and wear the sweatshirt so my wife could take my picture, several in fact. Oh that fourth and fifth year, I was so hurt by the Tigers losing, that I almost did not wear the sweatshirt. But your word is your word. You have to do it to keep your honor and integrity even if it means having to wear that dreaded garnet and black. Because I did not call off the bet and kept my word, my wife has not been able to get out of wearing that beautiful combination of burnt orange and white for the last three years. Sometimes, it takes a while for having to keep our word to be an advantage for us, but it will always have a positive long-term effect. Oh how I pray that my wife will have to wear orange and white again this November!

 

That was the thought that came to mind for some reason this morning. I think it is because the passage is about God honoring a 45 year old promise. God never breaks a promise. Like during that five year stretch where Clemson lost to Carolina five years in a row, I had to keep my word. It was a small, insignificant thing. A humorous little bet between a husband and a wife. We would think any less of each other if we did not keep our word heading into the 2017 college football season as we are now. The results of the 2017 Clemson-Carolina game (in Columbia, SC this year) will determine the “winner” of the 9th Annual “Sunday After” Shirt of Shame. We do not have to keep our word on this but it is just a small matter of integrity. To us, if we roll back against the bet, just a little tiny shred of integrity will be lost. It’s not like it an earth shattering thing but it is about integrity and reliability nonetheless. That’s what I think about when I think of God and his promises. Let’s read Joshua 14:6-15 together this morning with that thought in mind:

6 Now the people of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. 9 So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’

10 “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. 14 So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. 15 (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.)

Then the land had rest from war.

When Joshua gave Caleb his portion, it fulfilled a promise God had made Caleb 45 years earlier. God has integrity and reliability. Do we have the same integrity and reliability? Would we honor a 45 year old promise? God would and does. Even today, He is honoring a promise that He made thousands of years ago. There are promises God has yet to fulfill, but with His integrity and reliability we have no doubt that He will keep His promises.

That’s the takeaway this morning. God always keeps His promises. God promises will always come true. If He says in His Word that I am saved when I proclaim with my mouth and believe in my heart that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior and that He was bodily arisen from the dead, then, I must trust and rely on that. If God takes 45 years to fulfill a promise made to Caleb, then, I can rely on what God’s Word says and on what God says to me through the Holy Spirit, even if it is not happening as fast as I want it to. God has an eternal view and I have a temporal one. What seems like an eternity of five years to me is just a whisp of wind for a fleeting millisecond to God. I must trust that He has my best interest at heart and trust and obey Him. I must trust that He will only give me what is best for me. I must trust that sometimes the best kept promise of God is not to give us what we want because our desires are often not what is best for us. Sometimes, we may desire something that is perfectly in line with God’s will but He may seem to be delaying on keeping His word to us, but He is God and He knows when and where and how and what we need. He sees the big picture and we see only what is right in front of us.

Sometimes, God wants us to not get so caught up in the promise that we forget to enjoy the journey to the promise. Along the way, God is teaching us things that we need to know and need to experience so that when He does grant His promise to us, we will be ready for it. Would Caleb have really appreciated the land that he was given if it was just, bam!, given to him 45 years earlier. Think of all the things that Caleb had to go through in those 45 years. I bet he was beyond thankful to God for the land to be at rest once he conquered his land. I bet he was oh so thankful just to be in one place and building a life after all that wandering. I bet he was thankful to God for even the smallest things about his land that he would not have even cared to notice 45 years earlier. So, if you think God is not answering your prayers or keeping some promise to you. Think again. God is a promise keeper. He is truth so He cannot lie to you. He will keep His promises to you. You must simply trust that this period right now where the promise seems unfulfilled is a time that you must learn to trust in the almighty, eternal God who will fulfill His promises to you when He deems that you are ready to appreciate and understand what He is doing for you. Don’t forget to enjoy the journey to the promise. Let go and trust in God that He is developing you and moving you to that place of promise on His timetable. Trust in the Lord for He is reliable, trustworthy, and true. He is a God of His word. He is integrity.

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 16:1-50 (Part 3 of 3)

Korah, Dathan and Abiram

 

In recent weeks, we have seen North Carolina take a beating in the press with regard to House Bill 2, otherwise known as the Bathroom Bill. The latest in the vilification of North Carolina has been actions by the NCAA, the governing body of college-level athletics, and by the ACC (the Atlantic Coast Conference), whose headquarters happen to be within the borders of North Carolina in Greensboro. The Atlantic Coast Conference is made up of member schools, Boston College, Clemson University, Duke University, Florida State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Louisville, University of Miami, University of North Carolina, North Carolina State University, University of Pittsburgh, Syracuse University, Wake Forest University, Virginia Polytechnic & State University, and the University of Virginia, and member in all sports except football, Notre Dame University. The conference, headquartered in the heart of Tobacco country in Greensboro, NC has decided to join the ever-increasing bandwagon of sporting events that have been removed from North Carolina by removing all of its conference sports championships that had been planned for the next year in the state.

 

Although I am a Clemson fan and have been proud of our heritage as one of the few schools (in this day and age where schools change their conference affiliation like I change underwear) that has remained in this conference since its formation in 1953, this decision is so disheartening. Clemson has had chances to leave the conference on two occasions but has decided to stay because of loyalty to the conference. Although I think it would be better from a football standpoint for Clemson to join the SEC, they have remained loyal. I often defend the ACC to my SEC friends. I am angered when the level of competition in our football is questioned. Although the ACC has four teams ranked in this week’s Top 25 rankings and three of those are ranked in the Top 10 (Florida State, Clemson and Louisville), we still must defend the strength of our league. Although we rank only second to the SEC in the number of NFL draftees over the past five years, we still have to defend our league. And, I have done so with passionate fervor. However, I must say that I feel betrayed this morning by the very league I often staunchly defend.

 

The irony of it all is that the ACC, as well as the NCAA, do not seem to grasp their own hypocrisy in this situation. Although the ACC has come out in favor of unisex bathrooms in catering to those with claimed gender identity crises, it remains committed to holding separate men’s and women’s sports championships in sports common to both sexes. If you go to their website, www.theacc.com, and click on the “Sports” link at the top of the page, you will note the blatant segregation of men’s and women’s sports. The same would be found in a browse of the NCAA’s website. So, it seems that the objections of the ACC from the get-to to HB2 is fundamentally flawed and fundamentally hypocritical. Why not allow men to compete in women’s sports and vice versa and just remove the labels of men and women altogether. You and I both know why. It is because of safety concerns not only on the field but off it. Women could easily be gravely injured by competing with men. And, certainly, women would, in general, desire not to be required to undress in front of men.

 

The motivation for this removal of sporting championship from the state where the conference is headquarted is nothing more than political bandwagoning. If the ACC is so committed to principles to which it says it was committed to yesterday, why not move the ACC headquarters out of North Carolina? Would that not show how committed they are to the unisex concept? The ACC owes much its heritage to the tobacco industry that has long supported its core North Carolina member institutions. Why not protest that, too, by moving out of North Carolina? As Franklin Graham said yesterday, why not drop Dr. Pepper as title sponsor from the ACC football championship game. Dr. Pepper readily and willing operates in countries where transgenderism and homosexuality is actually a crime punishable by imprisonment or death. Why not put your mouth where you money is, ACC? The hypocrisy is astounding. Standing on wagon with tobacco on it while on one side of the wagon saying you boys have your championships over here and you girls have your championships over there, and then turning around and taking a gulp of Dr. Pepper and shouting that inclusiveness is our thing so we disdain the very state in which we are headquartered and have no intention of leaving. It’s all about gaining political currency as well as seeking to maintain actual currency. This has less to do with conviction and more to do with perception. I am dismayed. North Carolina actually had the common sense to make state law that would supersede a city ordinance passed by its largest city, Charlotte.

 

Jumping on the bandwagon, ACC, and caving to what you perceive as the populist wave does not make what you did yesterday morally correct. God did create us as men and women for a reason. If He had wanted us to blur the lines between manhood and womanhood, he would not have made the division so distinct. Such sexual identity crises should be met with loving and compassionate counseling not glorifying it as normal behavior. However, we are glorify and normalizing what we have no idea how it will impact society for years to come. It is like though we have the capability to create nuclear weapons we as society have chosen to not use them anymore. Just because we CAN be transgender does not mean we SHOULD not only from a God-ordained standpoint but also simply from a social chaos standpoint.

 

Yet, here we are, the bandwagon of lunacy and hypocrisy grows larger each day. North Carolina will be vilified to the point of having to repeal their law. The bandwagon pressure will grow and grow but as the bandwagon falls of the cliff, they will say they are supporting liberty and quash anyone who has a different opinion. The bandwagon was joined by the ACC yesterday, the biggest hypocrite of all. My dad used to say to me that “if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” That’s the very question that I ask here.

 

It is that idea of having to choose between popular opinion and that which is of God is the thing that I thought of when I read this rather extended passage for the third and final time today, Numbers 16:1-50:

 

16 Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent 2 and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. 3 They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”

 

4 When Moses heard this, he fell facedown. 5 Then he said to Korah and all his followers: “In the morning the Lord will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him. The man he chooses he will cause to come near him. 6 You, Korah, and all your followers are to do this: Take censers 7 and tomorrow put burning coals and incense in them before the Lord. The man the Lord chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!”

 

38 Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! 9 Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the Lord’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? 10 He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. 11 It is against the Lord that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?”

 

12 Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab. But they said, “We will not come! 13 Isn’t it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness? And now you also want to lord it over us! 14 Moreover, you haven’t brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Do you want to treat these men like slaves? No, we will not come!”

 

15 Then Moses became very angry and said to the Lord, “Do not accept their offering. I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them.”

 

16 Moses said to Korah, “You and all your followers are to appear before the Lord tomorrow—you and they and Aaron. 17 Each man is to take his censer and put incense in it—250 censers in all—and present it before the Lord. You and Aaron are to present your censers also.” 18 So each of them took his censer, put burning coals and incense in it, and stood with Moses and Aaron at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 19 When Korah had gathered all his followers in opposition to them at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the glory of the Lord appeared to the entire assembly. 20 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 21 “Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.”

 

22 But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, “O God, the God who gives breath to all living things, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?”

23 Then the Lord said to Moses, 24 “Say to the assembly, ‘Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.’”

 

25 Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 He warned the assembly, “Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins.” 27 So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents.

 

28 Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: 29 If these men die a natural death and suffer the fate of all mankind, then the Lord has not sent me. 30 But if the Lord brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the realm of the dead, then you will know that these men have treated the Lord with contempt.”

 

31 As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions. 33 They went down alive into the realm of the dead, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. 34 At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!”

 

35 And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.

 

36 The Lord said to Moses, 37 “Tell Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, to remove the censers from the charred remains and scatter the coals some distance away, for the censers are holy— 38 the censers of the men who sinned at the cost of their lives. Hammer the censers into sheets to overlay the altar, for they were presented before the Lord and have become holy. Let them be a sign to the Israelites.”

 

39 So Eleazar the priest collected the bronze censers brought by those who had been burned to death, and he had them hammered out to overlay the altar, 40 as the Lord directed him through Moses. This was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron should come to burn incense before the Lord, or he would become like Korah and his followers.

 

41 The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. “You have killed the Lord’s people,” they said.

 

42 But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron and turned toward the tent of meeting, suddenly the cloud covered it and the glory of the Lord appeared. 43 Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the tent of meeting, 44 and the Lord said to Moses, 45 “Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.” And they fell facedown.

 

46 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put incense in it, along with burning coals from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the Lord; the plague has started.” 47 So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. 48 He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. 49 But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah. 50 Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance to the tent of meeting, for the plague had stopped.

 

The Israelites were told to not even touch the belongings of the wicked people. In this case, doing so would have shown sympathy to their cause and agreement with their principles. Korah, Dathan and Abiram were directly challenging Moses and God. Moses clearly stated what God intended to do the rebels. He did this so everyone would have to choose between following Korah and following Moses, God’s chosen leader. When God asks us to make a fundamental choice between siding with that which is not of God and that which is of God, we should not hesitate but commit ourselves 100% to the Lord’s side, no matter the ramifications of public opinion.

 

We should choose God’s side over human opinion each and every day. When we begin compromising our beliefs to make our beliefs more palatable to the world then we begin destroying the integrity of the Christian faith. At the same token, we are not to blow up buildings and such things to get our point across. We are simply to choose God’s way in peaceful and loving ways. We cannot jump on the bandwagon and say this thing that the Bible said is OK now in the 21st century but that has been wrong eternally. God does not change. What He says was wrong a million eternities ago is still wrong today. Just because we now call a gorilla a kitten does not mean the kitten is not fundamentally and in every way still a gorilla.

 

I do not wish to sound harsh here but the bandwagon mentality has taken over our country. We as Christians must lovingly stand against the tide of public opinion and stand with God. We must stand with North Carolina in a very public way. We must stand with them and not cave to public opinion and fear of losing corporate dollars as the ACC did yesterday. May we have the same conviction to the principles of God and with the same love for others as Jesus did when He died on the cross. That loving necessity meant pain and suffering and public ridicule but He was executing the Father’s will and that was the most important thing to Him. May we stand with Christian principles with the same conviction knowing that God loves the very people that are spitting in our faces.

 

Amen and Amen.

Luke 1:39-45 — Have you ever let jealousy ruin a precious moment in life? That could have been the reaction of Elizabeth in this situation but her humility is worth noting when she sees her relative, Mary.

In first century Palestine, a woman’s value was largely measured by the children she bore. Barrenness often lead to personal hardship and public shame. When she found out that she was going to have a baby, it was a long-awaited answer to years of prayer. She would no longer have to hear the whispers as she passed by others. She also knew that her future was secure through her coming son. She also knew from her husband’s encounter with the angel of the Lord that her son was going to be special. He was going to be the one that paved the way for the long-promised Messiah. It was news that just had her giddy with excitement and feelings of blessing. I am sure that we have all experienced those times where we know that we have been given a great blessing. It just makes you feel as though all your years of faithfulness to the Lord have been rewarded. It gives you a feeling that yeah, I really have done the right thing following Jesus all these years. It is a moment of joy and satisfaction. It gives you a moment of pause when you realize when there is a blessing that you know can only come from the Lord. Have you ever received a blessing that you know was only possible through the grace of God? It made you feel especially loved and favored by God. I am sure that Elizabeth felt this way too. There are times when we feel especially blessed. It is the sweet spot of all sweet spots when you realize that God gave you a blessing specifically. Not your neighbor. Not someone you hear and see about on stage at church. Not something you read in a devotional or see on a TV program. It is you that has been blessed. You!

Imagine then Elizabeth meeting Mary. This encounter is when you really realize that Elizabeth is a true woman of God. We read earlier in a previous passage that Elizabeth and Zechariah were righteous people in God’s eyes. Now, from the scene in this passage, we know it for sure. Have you ever had one of those situations where you had a story that everyone was in awe of but then someone chimes in that they have an even better story than that. Everyone listening then turns their attention to the “better story” and then you are left alone as everyone then follows the person with the better story. We have a modern day example of this from my favorite football team, Clemson. Cole Stoudt is a senior and has worked hard over the past four years and waited his turn to become the starting quarterback. His faithfulness to the Clemson program is astounding. It is a story worthy of praise. He certainly has a story to tell about faithfulness and hard work and believing in yourself. However, he just happened to have a freshman phenom quarterback to be recruited whose talents are far above his. Everyone makes over DeShaun Watson. He is the next four years of Clemson football. What about Cole? He is left behind. His faithfulness had been rewarded. But along comes someone with far greater talent. Cole could have pouted. However, he stuck around and became a man. He could have let jealousy destroy him. However, without Cole over the past three weeks, while Watson has been injured, he has been a steadying force. Jealousy could have derailed a team’s season.

In the same light, Elizabeth could have been jealous of Mary. She could have felt like the kid who had the less great story. She could have reacted the opposite of Cole Stoudt. She could have, in jealousy, been angry with Mary. Elizabeth’s story was a miracle. She was advanced in years and finally was pregnant. And not just pregnant, pregnant with a special child. She encounters Mary whose son they both knew was going to be greater than Elizabeth’s precious long-awaited child. She could have been one of those people who start vicious rumors about those who seem to be more blessed that we are. She could have rejected Mary in jealousy. But that is not what we see from Elizabeth. Amazingly, Elizabeth shows her true humility. The statements about her and Zechariah are true. They are righteous people humbly serving their Lord. Instead of jealousy, she was filled with the Holy Spirit and filled with joy that the mother of the Christ Child would come to visit her. Have you ever envied people who seem particularly singled out for special blessing? Are you jealous of those at church who have positions of authority over you? Instead of being petty and jealous, let’s us rejoice for those who have been blessed. Instead of talking gossip about those in authority over us, let us be humble and realize that those in authority over us have been given that position because God ordained it and we often don’t see their behind the scenes faithfulness to the Lord. Let us rejoice and take the Elizabeth approach and not the jealous approach. Elizabeth knew that her son would serve the Lord and serve the one in Mary’s womb. She was a servant of the Lord not the servant of her own ego. We all are here to serve Jesus. We are all here to tell the story of his great gift of salvation and of restoration. Let us serve the Lord together in the capacities that He has given us right now at this place at this moment in time. All of us are servants. We must serve and work in our positions that we hold no matter how high or how low as if we are working for the Lord. God has you right where He wants you right now because this is where He needs you in the position you hold. Let us be humble like Elizabeth and realize and submit to the Lord.

Father, help me to have an Elizabeth attitude about life. Help me to realize that you bless me daily and give me what I need not what somebody else needs. You personally know me and love me. I should not compare my blessings to others. You are doing a work in me that is unique to me. Help me to have a vertical mentality rather than a horizontal one. Help me to keep my eyes on you and how you sustain me personally rather than comparing myself to how you bless or don’t bless others. My relationship with you is vertical. You are my King and I am your servant. I need to remember that I serve to glorify you and not gain glory from others. Help me to be Elizabeth humble. Amen.

Romans 16:1-16 — After reading through the list of names in Paul’s greetings to the church at Rome, it strikes you that the early church was diverse and it was mobile.

The list of names includes Roman names, Greek names, Jews and Gentiles. It includes men and women. It includes prisoners and prominent citizens. It reveals that the church’s base was broad. It crossed cultural, social and economic lines. This is what the church should be. It should not matter where you live, what you look like, how much money you make, or the color of your skin. The thing that matters is that we all believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Too often in the church now, we segregate ourselves by economic lines, racial lines, etc. Our churches are mainly people just like us. Yes, there are many large churches that are culturally and racially diverse, but there are far too many mid-size to small churches that are not. We should be welcoming to all believers who walk through our doors and make them feel comfortable and accepted. The only qualification for acceptance in our pews should be that we are all seeking Jesus. Although LifeSong may not be as culturally and racially as diverse as we could be, our church is a collection of young in their walk believers and believers who have been away from church because of past hurts. As a result there is a general sense of acceptance to anyone who walks through our doors. The general sense we have at our church is that we are simply thankful to not be living our old lives and because of that we simply have no time for the old games. There are no stares or quiet whispers when someone new walks through our doors. This is church as it should be.

The list of names also make recognize that Paul apparently already knew a good many people from the church at Rome. How did this happen if he had desired to come to Rome but had not yet been there. The answer is that the church at Rome, much like all of the early churches, was mobile. Everyone was a missionary. Paul would meet these people in other places where the church was being planted. All of the early church was eager to get out and help the church along wherever the help was needed. These early Christians would go anywhere anytime to spread the gospel. They were willing to go to prison for it. They were willing to die for it. What if we had these sensibilities today. Many today use the excuse that they have jobs in the real world and thus what they can do is limited, very limited. Didn’t people have to work back in the first century? Well, of course they did. However, they made the advance of the church the single most important priority. They measured their employment options by how it would affect their ability to participate in the mission of the church. Last night, I was sitting in the upper deck of Clemson’s football stadium watching the Tigers play along with 80,031 of my friends. It struck me that we make priorities out the things we WANT to make priorities out of. What if we had the passion for the church’s mission that we Tiger fans have for our beloved Clemson Tigers. Clemson fans are some of the most passionate and most willing to travel fans in college football. Last week, Clemson was well represented at the Boston College game – the longest road trip that the Tigers have every other year. What if we were just as willing to travel far and wide to spread the gospel with that same passion and loyalty. What if we were willing to make the same sacrifices for the church’s worldwide mission that we are willing to make to follow our Tigers. May we be as passionate with our LifeSong Church t-shirt on as we are when we have our Clemson t-shirts on. May be be as passionate to post on Christian blog boards as we are to post our passionate feelings on our Clemson blog boards. The early church was mobile, passionate, and willing. This is the hope we have for our church in today’s world. May we be a church that is willing to do whatever it takes, go wherever we need to go, to help the spread of the gospel.

Father, help us to remember that the only thing that matters about membership in the fellowship of saints is that we are seeking Jesus Christ. No other qualifications matter. Help us to also remember that we should be passionate about this fact, seeking Jesus and making His name known. We should be willing to go anywhere and do anything to make His name famous. May we do it with all our passion. May there be no sacrifice that we consider too great to make this happen. Jesus thought that we worth no sacrifice too great. Let us repay Him with the same mindset. Amen.