Put me in, Coach!

Well, its that time of year again.  The final weeks of College Basketball are upon us as we watch to see who makes it to the Final Four and the championship game.  We are one week away from the start of a new season of Major League Baseball, were everyone starts out with the same record, but only one team will go all the way.  Do you get excited watching your favorite team or players battle it out in a close game that comes down to the wire?  Do you have a favorite memory of playing any sport as you were growing up, even if just in little league?   You know God is probably a baseball fan, since the Bible starts out with ‘In the big inning.’  Do you think He has a favorite team?  It’s probably not the (insert put-down joke of your least favorite team here).

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.  1 Timothy 4:12

What did you learn from playing (or watching) sports as you were growing up?  You may learn that all players, and coaches, make mistakes and are not perfect, whether or not they admit it.  You can learn that practice does improve your skills and often your ability to play together as a team.  There is a lot you can learn about yourself, your abilities, limitations, and ways you can grow.  A good coach or teammate might help you realize this in some areas better than you can yourself.  Did you ever have someone recognize a potential in you and call it out before you had confidence in yourself (either in sports or other areas of life).  A truly good coach makes everyone a better player, and not just a select few.  A truly good teammate gives both encouragement and constructive criticism when appropriate.  With both of these in place, you can learn to both win and lose with dignity, and have more concern for other people than for winning a game. 

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  1 Samuel 16:7

Are most games won by good coaching or by just having more talented players?  Could be either or both.  Maybe, during the All-Star game, they should have one team coached by a goat, and the other by a horse, to see which animal is better, since it seems to be more of an exhibition than a real game anyway.  Either could probably do better than my high school basketball coach.  So, what makes a decent coach/manager from a great one?  The best coaches recognize the strengths, limitations, and potential of all their players and use them all the best they can to create wins.  Surely you have seen the Cinderella story of a team of mostly average players who work together to upset the more talented team in the playoffs.  There are more of these waiting to happen each season, but in the end, does it really make a difference?  Does it matter if a team has a winning or losing season?

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.  Philippians 3:8

What about when it comes to your faith?  Are you in the game, waiting till they need you and sitting on the bench, or just watching from the stands?  Most folks sitting in the pews are in the latter category.  They tend to help out only if needed, give a few cheers when something exciting happens, but mostly just watch what goes on and yell at the coaches, umpire, or players when things aren’t going the way they want.  All things considered, its best to be in the game where things are happening, and you can be a game changer.  Who are you turning to for advice…the coach sending you signals, your teammates, or the critics in the stands, telling you what to do?  Even if you are not the best player, if you give it your best, you can still be a factor in the game.  Less likely from the peanut gallery.  So, encourage your teammates, even when things are not looking the best.  If someone isn’t going after the pop fly, chase it down and lead by example.  Are you ready to give your all and play ball in the big game?

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.                            1 Thessalonians 5:11

Yours in Christ,

Clark

Chase the Lion part 3

I was playing Monopoly with my son.  He wants to beat me at a strategy game so bad.  About mid game, he is winning.  His roles are unbelievably lucky and I land on his big properties every time.  I get to a place in the game where I am almost out of cash and I finally land on the property I need.  If I buy it, it might win the game in the long term. However in the short term, I will be out of cash and one roll away from losing the whole game.  I have a decision to make, play to possibly win or try not to loose.

I think it is easy to play life not to lose.  Don’t stand out too much.  Do what is expected.  Play it safe.  However in our safe life, we aspire to be the risk taker. We know deep inside doing something significant in obedience to God or to serve or give until it hurts requires tremendous risk.  There are no guarantees or risk free options.  It will require faith at another level.

2 Samuel 23: 20 Another time, on a snowy day, he chased a lion down into a pit and killed it. (emphasis added)

Chase the lion- Defining moments require risk

Benaiah is a man who chased a lion.  He intentionally went after a 500 pound predator. One way or another, either the lion or Benaiah is going to die.  The natural instinct to survive is powerful and both warrior want it.  We would not know about Benaiah had he not chases the lion.  We would not know about him if he had died.  Billions of people will hear about him and be added to the scripture if he kills the lion.  Notice now he did not just go after the lion he chased it.  What causes a lion to tuck tale and need to be chased?

Sometimes God asks us to do something that takes significant risk.  It might be to forgive someone who isn’t sorry or doesn’t deserve to be forgiven. It might be to give what you can’t afford.  I might be to start something that hasn’t been done. It might be to move to a city you don’t know anyone.  What I know for sure is when I get around Jesus followers and listen to their stories, the ones they come alive telling are the ones where they obeyed God even when it didn’t make sense.

A couple years ago, my friend was applying for a job.  The job required transportation and just as he was about to begin his car broke down beyond repair.  Johna and I prayed about it.  I wanted to give like $500.  We didn’t have $500 to give.  Johna said we should give him our jeep.  So we compromised like couples do and we gave him our jeep.  We did not have the money to replace the jeep.  So I rode a bike to work for months.  I kept thinking God will give us a vehicle.  It never did.  We actually refinanced our house to pay for another vehicle.  It still doesn’t make sense.  However, we find so much joy in obeying God and seeing my friends face when I gave him our title for free.

Don’t misunderstand… I am NOT saying go gamble money playing the lottery or climb a mountain without gear.

What risk is God asking you to do?  Go do it in faith! Forgive, give and serve until it hurts, love again, start it.  We serve a big God with dreams! Go chase the Lion

Recklessly, obsessively following Jesus

Brandon Sereg

Red Letter Day: Father, Forgive Them

This lent we are walking through the final words that Jesus uttered before dying on the cross for our sins. We find today’s words in the heartwrenching story found in Luke 23:32-34. 

Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”And they cast lots to divide his garments. Luke 23:32-34

While I have never suffered anything in the ballpark of crucifixion, I have had a couple of scary moments in my life. One was in a triathlon in Chicago, with an open water swim in Lake Michigan. The water was 59 degrees with 20 mph winds, which made for extremely hazardous conditions. To top it off, it was a pier start, meaning your body has no time to acclimate to the water. About 30 seconds in I switched from trying to achieve a good time to simply attempting to make it out alive! Another scary moment was when our family flipped our SUV on our way home one Christmas. We spun out of control long enough, and flipped enough times, for me to realize this could be it. It was a pretty scary moment. 

Notice what I thought about each time? Myself. Maybe in the back of my mind my family was there, but I was pretty much concerned with self-preservation. Contrast that with Jesus. What is he concerned with as he dies an excruciating death on the Cross? Forgiving others. In the midst of all that Jesus is concerned with others receiving forgiveness. Yet, many of us (including this writer), struggle to forgive others in substantially less trying circumstances. We have a harder time forgiving someone who cuts us off on the road or, even worse, violates the sacred rules of the Oskaloosa McDonald’s drive-through lane (I have not been there for five years, but drive-through budgers drive me crazy!). Yet God, who created our world perfectly, and watched our sinfulness mess it all up, was willing to suffering and die so that we may be forgiven. If God can forgive, why can’t we? 

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

I really encourage you today to take a few minutes to forgive someone you’ve not yet forgiven. Maybe it’s for something that happened yesterday, or something 30 years ago. Let’s not forget Christ’s example this lent, and instead forgive those who have wronged us. 

I Have Others

John 10:16 New International Version (NIV)

16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

I love this portion of the Bible. In Jesus’ own words, he is speaking about us. We are the other sheep in the sheepfold. Today, there are three things that I want to hit on that stand out and apply to us as men.

  1. I must bring them. It is always important to remember that Jesus does the bringing. He brings others to the door of salvation in that our salvation was paid for by Christ’s blood. Our part is to do the asking. Introducing men to Christ and sharing our story of how he brings us along in life is our part.
  2. Listen to his voice. Are you hearing the Holy Spirit speaking to you? Jesus speaks through his creation, His Word, another person, and even in a still, small voice. The key is to listen and hold back outside voices that my not be speaking the truth.
  3. He has one flock, and Jesus is the Shepherd. Men, Jesus is the Good Shepherd bringing the nations to him. No one is excluded. It is important that we see all men through Christ’s eyes. 

I am thankful, today, for all men. May we live in peace and under our Lord’s blessing in how we serve him.

Strength and Courage

Michael

 

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