Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Unconditional Love

The following excerpt is from a daily devotional that I've been reading, called"40 Days To Your Best Life For Men" :

A respectful, sensitive young boy turns into a rebellious teenager and breaks his parents' hearts. In the middle of the night, he comes home drunk and passes out across his bed. His mother slips out of her own bed and minutes later her husband goes to the kitchen expecting to find her crying alone. Instead he discovers her at the boy's bedside stroking his matted hair. "What are you doing?" her husband asks. She replies,"He won't let me love him when he's awake."

This is a great example of unconditional love.

I am so thankful for that unconditional love during a season in my younger years when I wasn't living the way I should've been. I was brought up in a Christian home, knew right from wrong, but for awhile there I fell asleep to Jesus and was awake to the world and what it had to offer. And even though I slipped away from God for a season, I was still in His grasp and He still loved me. This is grace. This is God's unconditional love for us. A love that has no boundaries.

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ( Rom. 5:8)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Did You Know...

Did you know that swans and geese, even though they are from the same bird family, don't get along with each other. In fact, geese are actually afraid of swans. Go figure! When you think of geese you think of an aggressive, dirty bird. And swans, their behavior represents one of grace, and are also considered a symbol of love. Could this be the reason Tchaikovsky chose the title "Swan Lake" for his classic ballet?

One other interesting tidbit on swans:

In Hinduism, swans are compared to a saintly person whose characteristic is to be in the world without getting attached to it, just as a swan's feather does not get wet although it is in water.

I love the fact that the aggressive behavioral goose is afraid of the graceful, symbol of love swan.

In todays society we see the aggressiveness of man more than we want to: on the road during morning and afternoon rush hour, in the lines at the supermarket, in our workplace, in our schools.

But Jesus taught us that love overpowers all things, and:

The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (1 Tim. 1:14)

Imagine what we could do if we took that grace, faith, and love that God has given to us and applied it to the aggressive world we live in.

Just like the swan versus the goose, grace wins!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Community Within Tragedy

Some of the good causes that take place within our communities were created unfortunately from tragedy:

John Walsh, the host of Americas Most Wanted, began his crusade after the abduction and murder of his 6 year old son Adam. His show, on television for 22 years now, has helped capture over 1,000 fugitives and criminals, and has brought home more than 50 missing children.

Many of the child safety and protection laws that now exist are because of John Walsh and his family's tragedy.

A friend of mine, also named John, was involved in a one car drunk driving accident back when he was in his early 20's. His jeep flipped over at an intersection well after midnight, thankfully an off-duty state trooper was there to pull him from the huge fireball wreckage. After pulling him from the car to safety, the trooper took pictures of not only the car on fire, but photos of John lying in a hospital bed hooked up to many tubes and machines; the officer hoping John would pull through and use those photos for a good cause. John spent several months in the hospital. My friend was sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service, talking to high school kids about the dangers of drinking and driving. Some 20 years later, John still goes around sharing his pictures and stories at high school assemblies. If you ask him why he does it after already fulfilling his sentence many years ago, his reply is simple:

"God spared my life for a reason, and I am going to make the most of it."

Just this past weekend Jasper Howard, a University of Connecticut football player, who was also an expectant father, was stabbed to death after a homecoming dance on campus. Their coach was one who always stressed to the team that they were all one family and were to look out for one another. One of Jasper's distraught teammates exclaimed,
"As Jasper looks down on us, I can promise him and his family that when that son or daughter is born, they will have 105 uncles."

We don't necessarily need to wait for a tragedy to happen to get involved in our community ( your town, your family, or your church).

In 2 Timothy 4 , Paul urged Timothy:
But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

God has called all Christians to share their faith with others and to lead people to Christ. We do not necessarily have to be called into full time ministry to do this. We are also called upon to do good to others, especially those in need.

When we use the gifts and talents that God has given to us in a positive way,
positive results are sure to follow.

As Winston Churchill once said,
"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Yes, Believe It Or Not, It Happened

A couple of days ago I went on my usual 3 mile run on the trails after work. When I do go running I am usually praying or just plain old "talking to God". This day I decided to keep my mouth shout and just listen, hoping to hear from Him, and I pocketed my camera along as well, as the picturesque colors of fall are beginning to spread. As I got deeper and deeper into the woods, not much photographic colors were found, nor any Word from God. Sure enough, as I pro gressed further along, it happened. Not quite what I was looking for, but it was the ultimate, unexpected surprise.

As soon as I crossed the wooden bridge over the creek and made the turn, there it was: along side the trail, spread out upon a log were letters spelling out the words Happy Birthday.

My birthday is coming up this Saturday. The letters must have been laying out there for a few days as their color was faded out from all of the recent rain. Don't know who that message was intended for, but I have a feeling God just wanted me to see that. And I'll gladly accept it!

Thanks God, your the greatest!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hitting That High Note

This past Saturday both my parents and my aunt and uncle celebrated their 50th wedding anninversaries. A huge milestone you will rarely see within todays society. I think it speaks volumes of the word faithfulness.

I have been blessed to grow up in a close family and to learn from both my parents and my grandparents how to apply that word faithfulness into every area of my life:
1. faithful to God and to my church
2. faithful to my job
3. faithful in my relationships
4. faithful to my family
5. even faithful to my football teams (sticking with them even during the losing seasons)

In an episode of the very old skit comedy show The Honeymooners, Ralph finds his old coronet and still struggles with hitting the high note. While reminiscing, Ralph discovers that he could never hit that high note (succeed) in anything he tried. The coronet inspires him as he decides to be a success. Ralph receives some good advice from a successful business man on taking stock of his qualities. So, Ralph makes a list of both his strong points and his weak points. And if you're familiar with Ralph Kramden, then you guessed it, his bad points far outweigh his strong points. Ralph makes a conscientious effort to correct his bad points and takes a civil service test for a large job opening with the city. Though he succeeds in ridding himself of the bad points, he fails the test. His wife Alice still encourages him with, "You can't always win on the first try, you have to keep trying until you succeed." This being just another way of saying, "Be faithful to the task."

Our great Heavenly Father is the greatest example of faithfulness:

Oh Lord, you are my God;
I will exalt you and praise Your Name,
for in perfect faithfulness You have done marvelous things,
things planned long ago. (Isaiah 25:1)

Even when we may not always be at our best, God remains faithful and is perfect in His plans for our lives. So for us to hit that high note in life and to succeed in everything we do, all we need to be is faithful.

Just faithful.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

God, Football, and Community (conclusion)

If any of you had a chance to watch football on Sunday you probably noticed a new color upon the players uniforms, the color pink. No, they weren't trying to make a statement like T.O. or Ochocincco would do at times. They were simply raising awareness of this being breast cancer awareness month. The players are now auctioning off those pink uniform articles to raise money. What they are participating in is a partnership with the community, which is just another term for fellowship.

The word fellowship comes up alot within the church community. In greek, the word fellowship is koinia which means: sharing,unity,partnership,a society,a brotherhood. As believers we are called to have fellowship with one another. But, in the Book of Acts we are also called to share that "community" outside the church:

Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common,
and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
(Acts 2:44,45)
Community is all about sharing; sharing God's love through our words, through our actions.
And through all of this God shows favor upon us as individuals, and as a church:

So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,
praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46,47)

And in fact, earlier in this chapter in Acts we see the church receive the word from Peter gladly and they were baptized, and on that same day 3,000 people were saved and added to the church. This was God's way of showing favor upon that church, and He continued to do it daily all because they chose to give with simplicity of heart, and praise Him.

Through these hard economic times I have noticed the word "community" at work more than usual, through individuals and through churches. In my earlier post on this subject I had mentioned the Sports Illustrated article on the Detroit Tigers embracing their community; another tidbit from that article:
The Central United Methodist Church, just a block away from the Tiger's stadium, serves a free sloppy joe lunch (with the game available on television) during Thursday home games, to those less fortunate to have a ticket. Thus bringing even more community to a city that so desperately needs it.
The church can still be a powerful resource for the community today. We just need to bring that fellowship we have outside of the box.

Monday, October 5, 2009

God, Football, and Community (part 2 of 3)

On last weeks Focus on the Family one of the questions asked of Tony Dungy, recently retired from coaching the Indianapolis Colts, was:

"Why did you stick around in football for 30 years?"

Tony's answer was: "I stuck around to prove that a Christ led man could be successful in an industry that calls for you to be rough, tough, and hard-nosed."

Tony was known to be one of the more mild mannered coaches; one you never saw yelling and screaming at his players on the sidelines. And yet, very successful:

1. Only coach to take his team to the playoffs 10 straight years.

2.First black coach to win the Super Bowl (3 years ago against the Chicago Bears)

3. Only one of a handful that one a Super Bowl as both player and coach.

One of the more interesting things I found in his interview was that as a Christian he modeled that behavior to his team. Every season the very first practice he made sure his players knew that first and foremost he was a Christian. He didn't care what you're beliefs were, he wasn't there to persuade you, just that this team was going to be a team of character, and as a team we are representing the community.

Tony still lives in Indianapolis and works with the youth in the community where the graduation rate stands at only 19 percent.

You don't need to have a high profile job to make an impact in your community, or in your church. You could be a plumber, a janitor, a lawyer, or a doctor. God can and does use every heart who is willing and able. He has given each of us various talents and spiritual gifts to use to bring forth the Good News.

God does not call the qualified, but qualifies the called.

Friday, October 2, 2009

God,Football, and Community (part one)

A couple of days ago I had already prepared my prep work for my next 2 blog posts, and then it happened! One of my colleagues at work gave me this week's issue of Sports Illustrated with a cover story on the Detroit Tigers and their winning ways in unifying a city and state that is in economic turmoil. It is a really great , inspirational article, a must read for all. With somewhat similarities, here's my own:

What caught my attention Sunday afternoon, besides my beloved Bears victory, was what transpired after the Detroit Lions who, after losing 19 straight games over the last 2 and a half years, finally won a game. In the locker room afterward, their coach Jim Schwartz, congratulated them and then had them go down on one knee, say a prayer for their community, and then go back out onto their home field turf to celebrate with their fans.

The state of Michigan has been hit the hardest within these difficult economic times. The state relied heavily on the "big three" of the auto industry. The unemployment rate is now at 28%, many neighborhoods in Detroit are abandoned. There are other small towns within the state completely vacant where they have decided to not rebuild, but simply bulldoze them down and replace them with trees.

All sports teams carry with them an allegiance of faithful fans who stick with them even in the not so great seasons. So I love it when I see coaches and players make an effort to recognize those fans. In case you aren't aware, I am extremely bias towards my sport, football. In my opinion football has the hard core, extreme fans. In no other sport will you see 50 to 70 thousand fans sitting in 20 below temps to watch a game. I've endured that experience a few times and I have to say, I enjoyed every minute of it.

My love for football began when I was 6 years old, and Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. Yeah, I know what you're thinking, "What about Christmas?" But, I can honestly say, I still love Thanksgiving more. And that is how this mid western kid became a Cowboys fan.

Football on Thanksgiving brought community within my family. I am one of 27 grand kids, so it was great when my grandparents had everyone together for that one holiday. It was the one holiday where my grandfather had taught us about putting aside our various differences, feel blessed to be able to be together as one family, and thank God for those many blessings.

In a recent interview on Focus on the Family, Coach Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts mentioned that in all of his 12 years of being a head coach for 2 different teams, 3 of every 4 players on those teams had no father. That is an astounding number! So I thank God for family.

In Michigan these days they are desperate for anything that can bring a smile to their faces. It was very gratifying to see that thousands showed up for the National Baptist Convention held in Detroit, and to hear them say that their true hope lies in Jesus Christ.

It is also good to see some of their sports teams do well, to bring some enjoyment to these peoples lives. The Detroit Tigers are close to winning their division after finishing in last place a year ago, and, who would've thunk it, last year's very bad University of Michigan Wolverines are 4-0 this season.

Go Detroit Tigers!