Wednesday, February 24, 2010

An Olympic Judge

O.K., it’s time for me to launch into my biennial ‘Olympic diatribe’ that my friends and family have grown so accustomed to hearing. While it probably stems from my general dislike of all of the ‘frou-frou’, sissified prancing around called ‘figure skating’ in the Winter Olympics and ‘gymnastics’ in the Summer Games, my aim is really focused on one thing: remove all events that cannot be objectively measured.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t knock the athletic abilities, talents, or training that goes into all of those various events that have ‘judges’; I have a great deal of respect and appreciation for what those athletes can accomplish. But, if you can’t determine the winner solely on speed, distance, goals scored, accuracy, etc. – it shouldn’t be an Olympic sport. When judges start applying their opinions as to ‘style’, ‘execution’, etc., you are really getting into ‘artistic expression’ rather than ‘athletic competition’. At least that’s my opinion.
So, I would completely eliminate a lot of events from the Olympics because they are based solely on judges’ scoring. But others would also need to be modified to remain an Olympic event. For example, in the ski jump, I’m sure that greater distance is obtained by maintaining proper form, etc. But, if one guy can out-distance the others by curling up in the fetal position and flapping his arms like a chicken, he should win. Use the tape measure; forget the judges.
The Olympics should be all about who can go faster, jump further, lift more, make more goals, etc.
And isn’t that the way we prefer to look at our lives, too. So often, we want to hold up our accomplishments and what we’ve done – especially in comparison to others – and use that as the measure of our lives. It shouldn’t really matter how we got we are as long as we end up with a few medals around our neck, right?
Unfortunately, God doesn’t look at our lives that way.
First of all, there is no ‘competition’. It doesn’t matter if we are faster than someone else, if we can go farther than another, or if we are more accurate than others. Why? Because we are the only ones in our race.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. (Hebrews 12:1, NLT, emphasis added)
The next way God views our lives differently than the Olympics is that He is THE Judge. And He is a perfectly righteous and just judge.
God doesn’t look so much at WHAT we accomplish (how fast, how far, how high) as HOW we do it. He judges ‘style’: heart, attitude, motivations – all of those things I prefer to be taken out of the equation.
And the real problem with the way God judges is that He demands perfection. If we hope to end up on the podium with a gold medal and a bouquet of flowers, we must score perfect 10’s every time. How can we possibly do that? We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. (Hebrews 12:2, NLT)
So, get out there and run the race God has set before you:
When you leave the end of that ski jump and are flying through the air and a gust of wind catches you and throws you off balance - look to Jesus. The Judge's Score: 10.
When you attempt a ‘Double McTwist 1260’ and end up in a crumpled heap in the half pipe - keep your eyes on Jesus. The Judge's Score: 10.
When you think you’ve pulled off a colossal upset and truly deserve the prize, you better look to Jesus and give Him the glory. The Judge's Score: 10.

You are in your own race.
Train hard.
Keep your eyes on Jesus.

Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith,
act like men, be strong.
Let all that you do be done in love
1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NASB)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Where's The Beef?

Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.
Did you know that in a study done about three years ago 80% of respondents could identify ‘two all beef patties’ as one of the ingredients of the Big Mac? That same study also revealed that only 60% of the respondents could identify ‘Thou shalt not kill’ as one of the Ten Commandments.
While 43% of the folks could identify two of the least-recalled siblings (Bobby and Peter) of the Brady Bunch, the two least-recalled ‘commandments’ were familiar to only 34% (Remember the Sabbath) and 29% (Do not make any false idols), respectively.
In another recent study, people were asked to identify which of the Ten Commandments they can agree with – which ones really matter. Their responses, in descending order of ‘affirmed’ importance, were:
Don’t commit murder
Don’t tell lies about people
Don’t steal
Don’t commit adultery
Respect your parents
Don’t envy other people’s property
Don’t create or worship idols
Observe the Sabbath as a holy day and a day of rest
Don’t have any gods other than the one true God
Don’t misuse the name of God
Jesus made clear that THE most important commandment is, in fact, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' (Matthew 22:37) But I really like another story where Jesus showed that same priority without actually stating it.
Once a religious leader asked Jesus this question: “Good Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother.’”
The man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”
When Jesus heard his answer, he said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
But when the man heard this he became very sad, for he was very rich.
(Luke 18:18-23, NLT)
What I get out of this story is:
1. While many may think Jesus was chastising the religious leader for calling him ‘good’, Jesus was actually saying, “You may not even realize it, but you are acknowledging Who I am when you call Me ‘good’.”
2. Jesus jumped right over THE most important commandment and started listing those outward, visible commandments that the religious leader could really claim he had been following.
3. Then Jesus got to the heart of the matter and said, basically, ‘So you’ve done all of those things that even the culture around you says should be done. But you’ve lost sight of THE most important thing: Love ME most; Put ME first.’
How can it really matter if we go through life without committing murder, without stealing, without committing adultery, honoring our parents, etc. without loving God most and putting God first? That would just make us ethical, moral people. But, we’d be no better off than that religious leader.
I didn’t mention those survey statistics to make anyone feel guilty for not being able to list all of the Ten Commandments in the correct order. Rather, I wanted to show that, like the religious leader in the above story, we tend to try to focus on doing/not doing those things that make us appear to be ‘good people’ in the world’s eyes. Instead, shouldn’t we focus on being God’s people?
And what do God’s people do? Love God most; Put God first.
All that other stuff just falls into place when we do that. We don’t even have to memorize all of those shalt’s and shall not’s.
It may not be quite as catchy as ‘two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.’ But it matters a whole lot more.
Love God most. Put God first.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Valentine's Day - U R 2

O.K. guys, in case you are still mourning the end of football season and haven’t turned on a radio lately to hear all of the ‘flower delivery’ commercials – Valentine’s Day is THIS Sunday. There is no getting around it; you’ve got to make your ‘honey’ feel special.
While I am no ‘super romantic’ (or anything even close to that), I have an idea for you that I believe will knock her socks off and avoid a lot of shopping angst. This idea may sound a little ‘counter intuitive’ at first, and it will definitely require serious commitment on your part. But she’ll love it and you’ll be a better man because of it.
You will need to find a quiet time when you can be alone with her for a few minutes. Sit across from her, hold both of her hands, and look her right in the eyes. And then, in your own words, tell her something like:
“Honey, I want you to know that from this day forward, you are second.
“Regardless of what I’ve done or said in the past, I want you to know that Jesus Christ is going to always be ‘first’ – my first thought, my first action, my first priority. But you will be second at all times. Everything else will be a distant third: work, children, golf, TV, hunting, money, power, position. Everything.
“Although I already love you more than life itself, by always making Jesus my Number One, I will be able to love you better, and more.
“You are second – I promise.”
Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church - a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ's love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They're really doing themselves a favor - since they're already "one" in marriage. (Ephesians 5:25-28, MSG)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Groundhog's Shadow - A Sign?

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign . . .”
Are you willing to show your age and admit to remembering when that song came out? Although referring to a different kind of ‘sign’, that song started going through my mind as I was reading the newspaper recently.
* All eyes are on Punxsutawney Phil to see the ‘sign’ of how much longer winter will last.
* A little cat named Oscar has been cuddling up to last stage Alzheimer’s patients in a hospice situation, indicating who has only days left. The cat is so accurate that the workers know to start notifying next of kin at this ‘sign’.
* A famous televangelist points to the earthquake in Haiti as a ‘sign’ of the deal Haitians made with the devil years ago to expel the French.
There are also lots of ‘end time prophecy’ gurus out there who point to all of the ‘signs’ that the ‘end is near’. You can look at what’s going on the world and see how accurately various ‘signs’ were stated in the Bible:
* "Wars and rumors of wars;" "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." Matthew 24:6 & 7. There are lots of wars, for sure.
* "There will be famines and earthquakes in various places." Matthew 24:7
* "Woe unto them who call evil, good, and good, evil." Isaiah 5:20. We seem to live in a culture that lets everyone decide their own ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.
* “Many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase.” Daniel 12:4. Travel, satellite communications, the internet, etc.
* "But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of god; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." II Timothy 3:1-5,7
* "And the number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them." Revelation 9:16. An army of that size had never existed until China's army reached that number in the 1960's.
* "For then I will return to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent." Zephaniah 3:9. Prior to the restoration of Israel in 1948, Hebrew was a dead language. Now Hebrew is spoken throughout Israel.
While I can really become fascinated with how so much of the biblical prophecy has been, is being, and will be fulfilled, I think there is a real danger with focusing too much on that. Certainly it is faith-building for me to see how prophecies have been fulfilled, knowing that the future prophecies will likewise be confirmed. But when we get wrapped up in ‘signs’, we are always anticipating the next one. And to some degree, we put off ‘getting ready’ until all the ‘signs’ we anticipate have been seen.
There are certainly many ‘signs’ left to be fulfilled before the Second Coming, before the Battle of Armageddon, before the Tribulation, before Millennial Kingdom, before the Final Judgment. BUT – there are NO unfulfilled ‘signs’ that stand between now and the Rapture. It could take place today, tomorrow, or in a hundred years. And there are certainly no ‘signs’ that stand between you and eternity – a bus could run over you tomorrow.

Are you ready?
Or are you waiting for some kind of ‘sign’?

I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.” . . . But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. . . . [Therefore], what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. (2 Peter 3:3-12, NLT, emphasis added)

Don’t wait.
The time is now.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind.
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign