Archive for December, 2009

Mark Ingram, the Heisman Trophy, and You

December 31, 2009

Few would have considered Mark as a future Heisman Trophy winner when he was in high school.  He was certainly a good player.  He averaged almost 9 yards per carry as a senior.  But, he was only ranked as the 58th best running back in the nation by Scout.com and the 189th overall prospect by Rivals.com (source: Tuscaloosa News, 11.27.09).  I don’t know, but some may have thought twice when he was offered a scholarship by a tier one team.

Today everyone who knows anything about college football knows who Mark Ingram is.  I would say he exceeded expectations.

Here’s the question:  “What if Mark had believed what many others thought about him, that he was good, but nowhere near the best?”  I imagine that statue would have gone home with someone else.  I don’t know Mark personally, but I’m guessing that proper self-confidence and an optimistic appraisal about what he could do on a football field were contributing factors to his success.

Here’s the application:  What others think about your ability to succeed, does not determine the ultimate outcome.  It’s what you believe about yourself that’s important.  If you believe you can get it done, that’s a giant step forward.

Here’s your mantra:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13 NKJV)

That’s right, you can do it, but you can’t do it alone.  I am confident that Mark would be the first to say he didn’t win the Heisman by himself.  But he did win it.  He had confidence in himself (regardless of the opinion of some others), he had help, and he produced.

You and I can do the same thing: maybe not with the Heisman, but definitely with our Christian lives.

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV)

Counsel:  Forget what others may have told you about yourself.  Forget what you may have told yourself.  Listen to what God says.  Live your life based on that.  Through Jesus, you’ll win!

… I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10 NKJV)

… In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 NKJV)

… For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NKJV)

… He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4 NKJV)

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When God is Proud

December 30, 2009

These all died in faith, not having received the promises,

but having seen them afar off were assured of them,

embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.

And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out,

they would have had opportunity to return.

But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.

Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God,

for He has prepared a city for them.

(Hebrews 11:13-16 NKJV)

This text occurs in the context of the listing of the heroes of faith in Hebrews chapter 11.  What was it that set these people apart?  Obviously it was their faith.  How did they keep their faith over their lifetime?  Read on.

Notice the repeated de-emphasis of the present and emphasis on the future.  You have heard it said that we should live in the present and not the past.  These people lived in the future and not the present.

They were not in current possession of God’s promises, but they could see them (in the future) afar off.  They embraced the future and acknowledged that they were here on a journey to a better place.  While they could emphasize the here and now, they deliberately chose not to.  Their desire was not for this world and this life.

Because of this attitude, they could have a hero’s faith…and God would be proud of them.  Does God feel that way about me?  I sure would like for Him to.

Am I a pilgrim?  Do I focus on the future?  Or, am I stuck in the present or past?  Here are some thoughts to help me look ahead to a future with God.

Train yourself to see heaven in every sight.  It’s like you have on glasses that filter out the banging and clanging of this world and reveal beneath all that clutter the God who created this physical universe.  That tree is so temporary.  In a hundred years another one will have taken its place.  Or, perhaps, a building or road will occupy that plot of ground.  That person will be dead and passed into eternity in a hundred years.  I will be with them.

Physical/material things are visible, but transient.  Spiritual things are invisible, but eternal. Every visible thing in this world is transient, partial, and brief.  Unlike inanimate matter and even your own fleshly body, God continues.  Don’t look at what you see.  Look beyond it to its Creator.  All this, all life and death, all persons and things, point to God and His city, the Christian’s eternal home.  See it, believe it, confess it, and live the journey to God.

This life sells pleasure, but that physical elixir runs out.  This life buffets with trials, but they too shall pass.  Seeing that, seeing that is what separates a pilgrim from a resident.  If you can see God in everything around you, if you can see God when you look out the window, or in the mirror – you’re on the journey.

What’s there that will last?  Nothing that you can see, unless, you have trained yourself to look hard enough.  The pure eye sees the hand of God.  When that happens, the heart of God is proud.

Change

December 29, 2009


Dictionary.com defines “change” as “to become different.” We heard a lot about change in a recent presidential campaign. Change itself can be good, bad, or indifferent. “The rain stopped and the sun came out.” That’s probably good if you have had plenty of rain and are planning an outdoor activity. “The stock market was up, but is now down.” That’s likely bad if you have a 401k or an IRA. “I changed from the green shirt to the blue one.” That probably doesn’t make a lot of difference.

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:
old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
(2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV)

“A new creature,” I would call that change. Jesus would agree. He believed in change – the good kind.

Here’s another one:

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death,
that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,
even so we also should walk in newness of life.
(Romans 6:4 NKJV, emphasis mine, JB)

As Jesus’ disciples, we must believe in positive change too. And, we must be instruments striving to effect change.

Because I am a Christian, I believe change begins with me. I must change myself from one who tries to be good to one who, by the help of God, actually is good. That is always a work-in-progress, and is a life-long task and privilege.

A few years ago I rediscovered this verse:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God,
who gives to all liberally and without reproach,
and it will be given to him.
(James 1:5 NKJV)

Hmmm…you mean, as part of a full Christian life, I can actually ask God for wisdom and He will give it to me? That’s what it says.

As I get older (I’m 58 now), I have kind of rediscovered the Sermon on the Mount, including, but not limited to, the following words from the heart and mouth of our Lord:

Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
(Matthew 5:9 NKJV)

I hope I don’t have to define “peacemaker” for anyone. “Sons of God” carries not only the idea of being in the family of God, but also of being like God. When you and I make peace, when we “seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3.11) – we are being like God. Sounds like a good goal for the day to me.

I have a question for you, “If all the wars that have been fought since the close of the Bible period of history, had never been fought, would my life and your life be significantly different today?” Maybe they would, “all” is a pretty big word, and I do believe there is such a thing as a “just war.” So, let’s say “most of the wars,” and you can pick and choose which ones were “just.” If the American Revolution, a war over money, translation: taxation, had never been fought, would our lives be significantly different? We would be good Englishmen instead of Americans, but would that really matter? If the American Civil War had never been fought (I am opposed to slavery, but it would have been ended anyway by the internal combustion engine), would our lives be that different? Was it worth 600,000 lives? You decide. The wars that have been fought during my lifetime, what was accomplished given the blood and treasure that was spelt and spent? You decide. For the record, my issue has never been with the soldiers, it is with the politicians who make the decisions to go to war. I love our military, think we should have a strong one, and think it’s fine for a Christian to serve in it if they so desire.

I think a core issue is that we sometimes confuse patriotism with Christianity. I am proud to be an American and would rather live here than anywhere else. But, I had no choice in the nation of my birth, nor did you. We would have been fine in a number of other places. Jesus Christ did not come to found the United States of America. He came to found the Church of Christ, and that He did. We must not confuse the two.

Now, having said all that, there is little I can do to affect American foreign policy. I am grateful that I can vote, along with about 100 million others. But it is questionable how much weight 1/100,000,000 of the vote carries.

What I can do, is accomplish positive change in my own life. I may not be able to bring peace to the world, but I can bring peace to my family, my church, and my community. Instead of worrying about things beyond my control, I desperately need to concentrate on what I can control. I need to bring closure in my heart to things I can’t change and fill my heart and life with efforts to change to Christlikeness my own personal world starting with my own personal life. This article is an attempt to do that. Your kindness, understanding, and patience is appreciated.

John