Posted in Evangelism, Social, Walk

Why I Appreciate Arian Foster

Phil Congdon, New Braunfels Bible Church, August 27, 2015

Half of you are probably thinking right now, “Who?”  For all those non-sports-junkies out there, Arian Foster is a Pro Bowl running back for the Houston Texans.  He’s been injured, and had some off-field problems in recent years, but he’s still one of the top running backs in the NFL.  But now he’s known for something else: He did an interview for ESPN magazine (“The Confession of Arian Foster,” Aug 17, 2015) in which he publicly declared that he does not believe in God.  His brother calls him “the anti-Tebow”!

Arian FosterQuick background: Foster was raised a Muslim,
was exposed to American ‘cultural Christianity,’ and sought for truth as a teenager.  He didn’t find it.  Instead, he found hypocrisy, even in himself.  He prayed five times-a-day, facing east…but felt he was living a lie each time he did.  He read the Bible and Quran in search of truth…but God just didn’t make sense.

In college at the University of Tennessee, he was the only member of the team who didn’t identify as a Catholic or Christian.  But what he saw was more dried-up formal religion.  Tennessee’s head football coach Phil Fulmer took his team to church on Sundays for “team-building exercises,” which just more deeply entrenched Foster’s distaste for all things religious.  Playing professionally in Bible-belt Houston has been more of the same.  “I get the devil-worship thing a lot,” Foster says.  He doesn’t care what others think; he just doesn’t believe in God.

At this point, a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction might be to view Foster as an arrogant pagan.  But you’d be wrong.  Unlike so many who unthinkingly either reject or casually accept some religious affiliation today, Foster thinks about what he believes.  Right now, he can’t understand how God – if there is a God – does things.  He asks questions like Why would a loving God create evil?  Why would he allow eternal damnation?  In other words, he is asking questions a lot of professing Christians are afraid to ask!

What is striking is that Foster has a close friendship with a devout Christian Justin Forsett, another NFL running back who played one season in Houston (he now plays for the Baltimore Ravens).  Forsett knew Foster was not a believer, but never defensively said “Hey man, you’re going to hell.”  When Foster made comments or asked questions, Forsett listened, engaged him in discussion, told him what he believed, said he would love Arian to experience what a relationship with God meant, and that he would pray for him.  No judging, no condemnation.  Says Forsett: “Arian pushes me to be a better man and a better man of faith.  He’s going to ask questions, tough questions, and I take that as a challenge.”

And that’s why I appreciate Arian Foster.  In a day in which – as one quip has put it, ‘5% of people think, 10% of people think they think, and 85% of people would rather die than think!’ – Foster is willing to think.  No, he hasn’t worked through it all…and right now, he’s taken some detours that all lead to dead-ends.  But if you ask me, I’d rather someone think about whether or not there is a God, instead of blindly following church dogma, or a famous religious leader.

I think of another man who, like Foster, was an atheist, looking for meaning and truth in a world full of evil.  He was running from God, too.  I’m thinking of C.S. Lewis, who lived rational and idealistic atheism…until the day he believed.  In his own words: You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet.  That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me.  In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England (Surprised By Joy, ch.14).

The lesson in all this?  Two things.  First, before we believe in Jesus, we’re all running from God: There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God (Rom.3.11).  On our own, we’d never come to faith.  But the good news is that God can outrun us!  And that leads to the second lesson: Never give up on someone who challenges your faith.  God didn’t give up on you before you believed!  They’re searching for truth, not easy answers.  Talk to them, listen to their questions, and let them see the answers in your words and deeds.

Who will you ‘show and tell’ about God’s love, and Jesus dying for their sin…this week?

Note: If you want to be better prepared to engage unsaved friends in discussion about God and truth, and to answer their questions, the Growing in Discipleship course is for you!  Sign up for the Comal County Fair outreach training on Sunday, September 20th, 1-3 pm, or Tuesday, September 22nd, 7-9

Posted in Church, Goals, Walk

Lessons from an Early Morning Run

Phil Congdon, New Braunfels Bible Church, Aug 21, 2015

Early mornings are a precious time…for sleep!  Frankly, that’s my ‘default setting’ – I’m not a great morning person.  But I have found that a five mile walk-and-jog in the early morning is a wonderful way to start the day, both physically and spiritually.  As the pre-dawn darkness gives way to morning light, there are a number of lessons the Spirit has impressed on my heart.  Here are five.

Race You To Goal_6  The First Battle: Getting Started!  I have never regretted an early morning walk-jog; in fact, I am happy about my decision to get up and go from the moment I walk out the front door on!  But I must confess, when my alarm goes off at five-something and I turn it off, a battle ensues in my mind – with all kinds of reasons why I should roll over and head back to dream-land for another hour.  This is the hardest part of my morning exercise.

My mind tells me I need the sleep; the kids were up late the night before, and furthermore, my pushing-60 body can’t take the punishment.  I’ve even had Scripture come to mind: Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11.28).  ‘Jesus said that,’ I tell myself, ‘so maybe I should stay in bed!’  Or this: It is vain for you to rise up early… For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep (Psalm 127.2).  ‘God will help me get in shape while I sleep!’

So too in our spiritual ‘walk’: The hardest part is getting started, overcoming spiritual lethargy  and deciding to ‘just do it’!  What ‘spiritual exercise’ is the Spirit prompting you to start doing?  Reading through the Bible in a year?  Get started.  Volunteering to help with Awana?  Contact Lee Hicks today!  Getting involved with the evangelism ministry?  Talk to Robert Ambs today!  Remember, the first battle is getting started!


Run hillDownhill, Uphill: Easy times, tough times.
  I follow a set route in my neighborhood, and like most places in the hill country, sometimes you go downhill, other times uphill.  I’ve learned that on the downhill sections, I can pick up my pace – push myself harder.  On the uphill sections, I keep within myself: I don’t push it, just keep from falling off my pace.

That’s a good approach for our spiritual lives, too.  Sometimes everything is going well, and we feel like we could almost ‘walk on water’!  That’s the time to look for new opportunities, to push the pace spiritually, try new ventures.  But other times circumstances overwhelm us – something unexpected knocks us off kilter, or the pressures of life build and make us vulnerable to Satan’s schemes.  That’s the time to ‘stick to basics,’ make time to read Scripture, get alone for prayer and meditation, or meet with a trusted Christian friend who can encourage you.

early morning runSunrise: Sometimes Golden, sometimes Gray.  Some mornings, sunrise is absolutely stunning: Beams of golden rays piercing the dark-blue hues of the sky, punctuated by the occasional star or planet.  As I walk, I feel my spirits lifted, and the words of an old hymn come to mind: When morning guilds the skies, my heart awak’ning cries, “May Jesus Christ be praised!”  Other mornings are like today: Overcast and gray…the only sign of morning sun is the faint glow between dark clumps of clouds.

This is a reminder that as we walk spiritually with the Lord each day, there will be times when the sun is shining and our spirits will soar, and there will be times when the forecast is not good – there will be ‘storms’ brewing on the horizon, and the light of The Son will be less inspiring to our earthly eyes.  But just as the sun is still there, still shining, whether it’s clear or overcast, so too our Lord is ‘shining’ in our lives every day, whether we always see Him clearly or not.  Often, in the still and quiet of those ‘overcast times,’ we can draw closer to the Lord than when it is ‘clear and sunny.’  Remember the Lord is always there: Trust Him!

This walk is for Me – not Everyone!  Some people are always trying to get others to follow their exercise regimen.  If you tell them you walk a mile, they tell you they run three.  Or they feel the need to tell you what you’re doing wrong, and how you need to change.  But this is my walk-and-run.  It’s not for everybody!

Sometimes we Christians are like this: We get our conviction by proxy!  Instead of listening to what the Spirit is telling us to do and doing it, we tell others what they should be doing!  But every Christian is different, and if I tell someone to do something the Spirit is prompting me to do, I may be setting them up for failure and defeat.

If God is prompting you to pursue a spiritual goal, or to ‘go deeper’ in your spiritual walk, great!  Don’t try to ‘export it’ to everyone else!  God wants to work in your life in His time, and in His way.  God will work with others in His time, in His way.  Give Him the freedom to do that.

Running-Goal

Set a goal, and pursue it!  I know my body…and I like to push myself.  I like to challenge myself, to see if I can take 5 or 10 seconds-per-mile off my pace.  I have an App on my phone that tracks my speed, and updates me every five minutes.  I know when I’m slipping back a little, and when I’m ahead of my pace.  As I head into the ‘home stretch,’ I stick to my goal, and finish strong.

In our Christian walk, we need to have goals as well.  Perhaps you have a daily goal: Read the Bible for fifteen minutes, make time for prayer.  Perhaps you have a weekly goal: Spend an hour in prayer with your spouse, or with a close friend.  You may have a ministry goal: To invest time in kids, or get involved with a Bible study, or a ministry like DivorceCare.  Whatever you do, set a goal, and pursue it.  Don’t ‘throw in the towel’ if you fail once or twice; stick with it, and finish strong!

Lessons from an early morning run…are god lessons for the Christian life.  May God bless you as you pursue your daily spiritual walk with Him!