Thursday, August 27, 2009

Blessed to be a Blessing

One of the more inspirational movie's I like to watch from time to time is the film Cinderella Man. The true story of boxer Jim Braddock and his family's struggle through the Great Depression. Braddock was an up and coming fighter for a couple of years just before the economic turmoil hit our country. By 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, Braddock was already considered a washed up boxer who couldn't get a fight. In New Jersey at that time, the only jobs available were at the docks, and the jobs were scarce. Someday only 6 or 7 out of a crowd of a hundred or so men were picked for that day's jobs.

The money he earned on those limited days on the dock went directly for food. Jim, his wife and 3 children, lived on bologna for many days, weeks, and months. And through all of this, his wife still continued to pray, and thank God for what they had, even when the utility bills mounted up so high to where both the electric and gas get shut off in the dead of winter. When they begin to pray one night Jim finally caves, "You know what? I'm all prayed out. I can't do this anymore."

Jim Braddock was a man of pride, he was reluctant to ask for any handouts nor go and file for public assistance. He ends up doing both. With his wife clinging to her faith in God as they struggle to get by, Jim is met by his long time trainer who brings him good news: he has a boxing match set up with one of the contenders. The bad news is, it's tomorrow! It's a last minute notice due to a boxer backing out and because it was already billed with a bunch of other fights for one night only at Madison Square Arena. But, for $250, Jim wasn't going to turn it down. No one in the country had Jim winning the fight, for he hasn't boxed in over a year, but he pulls off the upset. Soon, Jim finds himself back in the limelight. After winning the next couple of fights, Jim goes back to the public assistance office, and pays back all of the money that the government assisted him with (over $300)

Jim would go on and contend for the heavy weight championship of the world, the whole country pulling for him in the process. (please see movie for ending)

Of all of the history books, documentaries, and films I have viewed on the Great Depression, this is the only story that comes to mind of someone actually paying back the money the government assisted them with. Could you imagine if someone were to do that today?

Though our economy is not as drastic as it was back then, you do have to feel blessed if you can say,"I have a job, my health, a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in, and food to feed my family."

There are many less fortunate right now. Operation Blessing, a food pantry which serves the south suburbs of Chicago is seeing a record number of families in need of food. If your church does not have a food pantry and you or they may be interested in helping out for a worthy cause, checkout their website linked on my blog homepage for details.

He who shows kindness to a poor man gives to the Lord and He will pay him in return for his good act. (Proverbs 19:17)

In our country, and the world, we can't take anything for granted anymore. Except the provision that our great God provides:

And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.


Monday, August 24, 2009

God Is

In the last few weeks I"ve noticed many of the new songs played on radio containing a common theme, reminding us of who God is:

1. He is the first and the last, the one that matters the most
2. A mighty fortress is our God
3. Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Amighty,
who was, and is, and is to come
4. He is, He was, He always will be
5. He's the Lord of all the earth,
Creator of all things,
He alone is the one true God
6. You are my refuge and strength,
You are my hiding place,
You hear my voice when I call,
before even I say anything at all
7. Majesty, forever I am changed by Your love

In our ever changing world it is good to be reminded that our God never changes. He is our ever present help in the time of need, and loves to intercede on our behalf:

But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood.

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb.7:24,25)

In the Book of Romans Paul asks the question,
"For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness
of God without effect?"

The Apostle Paul's answer,
"Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar."

The greek word for true is alethes, which means the opposite of false, concealed, and human inconsistency. In reality, the word true means God is faithful to His promises.

No matter how much the world changes, our country changes, our individual lives change, the one constant that never changes is God's love.

God You reign, forever and ever, God You reign.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth! (Ps.46:10)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ask For Wisdom

"They were who we thought they were!" This coming from coach Dennis Green in one of the more famous of all coaching tirades (sorry, have to leave out all of the fun-filled expletives, this is a family oriented blog), after blowing a 23-3 lead in the 4th quarter against the Chicago Bears. Dennis Green is more famous for that tirade than probably anything else in his career. He even went ahead and patented that saying, marketing it on hats and t-shirts.

One of the biggest challenges God had with the Israelites was to break them from their slave mentality of thinking. If you think like a slave, your going to act like a slave.

One of the biggest battles we Christians face is in our mind. We have a tendency to forget who God says we are. We either sometimes think like the Israelites thought or we fill our minds with doubt.

My favorite book in the Bible is the book of James, it's contains 54 commands on how to do what we say we believe. In other words, be a doer of the word, not just a hearer of the word.
God wants us to be a model of consistency: in our hearts, our minds, in our walk with Christ.

A couple of weeks ago one of the topics of discussion that came up at our men's group breakfast was that of being double minded. And I am so glad it came up. I never really gave it much thought. But I have now consistently applied it to my life daily!! If I catch myself being in a question of doubt over something, I immediately turn to His Word and what He has to say about it. And tell myself to "Stop being double minded!"

This is the greatest battle of our mind, double mindedness. Thinking against what God's Word says about us or the situation we are in:

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.
For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;
he is a double minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:6-8)

When we fall into the trapping of doubt in any situation, we do become unstable, unable to think clearly. We literally make a mess of things. And we make ourselves miserable. So why torcher yourself like that? If you don't understand what the heck is going on,God says:

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)

The word reproach denotes: mocking, ridicule, insulting. If you ask God for wisdom and understanding, He says He will give it to you without insulting you or making you feel small. All you have to do is ask.

To stop being double minded, take a crash course through His Word to remind yourself of who you really are, who God says you are, and who God wants you to be.

But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed. (James 1:25)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It Is Well With My Soul

One of my favorite stories is that of Horatio Spraford, the author of my favorite hymn, "It is Well With my Soul".Mr. Spraford was a rich, successful lawyer and business man. One who seemed to have it all, then in the blink of an eye, he lost it all.

In 1870, Horatio's only son died of scarlet fever at the tender age of four. The following year he lost all of his real estate investments in the Great Chicago Fire.

In November of 1873, Horatio was set to sail with his wife and four daughters to England for a vacation. Horatio was delayed by a business deal, so he sent the women off and he would plan on eventually meet up with them there. The ship the ladies were sailing on collided with an English vessel, claiming the lives of 226 people aboard. His wife Anna was the only one of the family to survive.

Upon receiving the devastating news, Horatio immediately boarded the next ship out of New York to meet his wife. Standing out on the deck of the vessel one night, the Captain came out and mentioned that they were now over the waters where the ship had sunk. God began to speak to Horatio at that moment, he would then penn the lyrics to this great hymn:

When peace like a river attendeth my way

When sorrows, like billows roll

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

One of my friends since high school passed away a couple of years ago from Lou Gehrigs disease.

Tony grew up in a Christian home, married his high school sweetheart, had two kids, a good paying job, he pretty much had it all. His sister had won one half of a lottery jackpot of 48 million dollars, which she would share with her family. Two years after her huge winnings, Tony was diagnosed with the fatal Lou Gehrigs disease. Tony is probably dancing around somewhere up in heaven right now in a new, glorified body.

What we learn from both of these men is that, it is not what you have that's important, but who you have: Jesus Christ, your Lord and Personal Savior.

The unsearchable riches of Christ exceeds by far anything the world has to offer. (Eph.3:8)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Faithful to the Last Ice Cream Cone

One of my favorite places to go for a run is at a place called Old Grau Mill, just a few miles from my work.

I love the peace that transpires as the trail makes it's way around Salt Creek with the sound of the flowing stream of water as it gurgles through the rocks and pebbles and eventually down a waterfall dam.

For the past four or five years of running there I've come across alot of wildlife: deer, ducks, blue herons,beavers, and even a coyote. I also have frequently seen through those years an elderly couple sitting together in their car, both eating an ice cream cone, their windows rolled down, as they take in the peace and tranquility that this local environment brings. Their daily visits are pretty much on the same timetable as my runs. On ocassion I would even make it there for a run during the winter months, if there's no detour of snow and ice. And, yes, there they were, together, eating an ice cream cone. Whenever seeing them together, the one thing I gathered most from that couple was faithfulness. Recently the gentleman lost his wife. He still faithfully shows up there at the usual time, but no ice cream cone. I wasn't about to even ask why no ice cream cone, my theory is it just wouldn't taste the same.

On my way to and from work I pass a little white Baptist church that has been in it's neighborhood for over 40 years, with the same Pastor, who is now over 90 years old. When I pass by it everyday I see faithfulness.

Through our eyes we sometimes have a tendency to mostly view "our" faithfulness(or another person's) towards someone or something:faithful to our friends, family, spouse, our job, our church, to God, our favorite sports team, faithful to a certain cause or organization.

But, how many times do we pause to reflect on "God's" faithfulness towards us? Or even thank Him for being there for us?

Some of the greatest examples of God's faithfulness were with the Israelites.

And the Lord said: "I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows." (Ex.3:6)

Here, God is telling Moses He knows what His people are going through. This means He: recognizes, acknowledges, and understands their sorrows. More importantly, He feels what they are going through and is with them step by step, and will intervene on their behalf.

If you feel like you are going through your own kind of Egypt right now, be still and know that God is there with you, He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Training Camp (part two)

One of the many tasks that Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith has is to instill in his players some discipline. Not just setting a bunch of rules for them to follow, but getting them to understand that hard work pays off. If they want to make the team they have to prove to the coaches that they are worthy of a spot on the roster. It is not just handed to them on a silver platter. Many of the players find that they are able to take those disciplines that they learn on the field and apply it to their own individual lives as well.

Of all the sports I played through high school, the one coach I learned the most from was my cross country coach, Mr. Kosteki, who we simply called Coach K. During races I always carried with me the bad habit of looking over my shoulder, to see which runners were behind me. Coach K was constantly on my case for this, especially when getting closer to the finish line. It was a bad habit to break. But with much "chewing out" on his part, I was able to break that habit. Even today, when I run 5 k races with my dad, I never look back, though Coach K always comes to mind, especially when I am sprinting those last 50 yards to the finish line and I want to turn my head to look back.

When we discipline ourselves forward, toward Christ, and not look back, we break those bad habits we carry with us in the flesh. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy! When we are in the flesh we make costly mistakes. We carry with us: anger, hostility towards others, fear, doubt, jealousy. All the negative emotions you could think of are there. So, how do we discipline ourselves to stay out of the flesh?

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. (Col.2:6,7)

Notice the scripture says to walk in Him and be built up in Him.

It doesn't say "with" Him. The actual definition for the word in means: enclosed by limits of.

So when we are walking in Him we are enclosed with:

1. His Holy Spirit

2.The fullness of God (the full complement of)

3.His character traits, the Fruit of the Spirit.

But whoever keeps His Word, truly the love of God is perfected in him.

By this we know that we are in Him. (1Jn.2:6)

The word perfected means: complete, absolute. So our love for God is complete in us when we have chosen to abide by His Word and live the way He wants us to live.

He who says he abides in Him, ought also to walk just as He walked. (1Jn.2:7)
When we make Christ the center of our lives, our joy will overflow into the other surrounding areas of our lives, and we will begin to see blessings overtake us.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! (Ps.34:8)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Training Camp (part one)

Yes, my favorite season is almost here: the crunching sound of shoulder pads, the cool breeze from flying pigskins, the roar of the crowd, and the thunderous growls men make when hitting and knocking each other down. This could mean only one thing, football training camp has begun! Here is a picture of myself with Chicago Bears wide receiver Rashied Davis. (don't you love our football tough smiles?)

Rashied was out on the practice field 45 minutes before anyone else on the team, doing pass catching drills with a passing machine, doing leg stretches and running drills. In other words, he was out there putting in the extra effort in order to succeed on the field of play. He even spent 15 minutes giving out autographs and taking pictures with the fans. A really great guy!

This is not their only training camp that they go through in the off season, but the one that is the most important if you want to make the team. The football season is a long, hard, grueling one, so they need to be well conditioned both in and out of season.

In a somewhat similar fashion our walk with Christ needs daily conditioning as well. This takes discipline on our part.

Our Christian walk isn't based on job performance, how well we do, or how much we do. There are no points earned to get to heaven. God just wants us to live our lives representing Jesus the best way possible, and this takes spiritual conditioning. His desire for us is:

That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and long suffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. (Col.1:10-12)

If we approach our Christian life as being a chore, we will never receive the full benefit and joy of following Him. The chaotic lives we may lead will only drag us down, but the Lord says if

we walk worthy of Him and are fully pleasing to Him then He will strengthen us with all His might and give us patience and in our long suffering He will give us joy.

The prescription for living a successful, godly life has been given to each of us. All we have to do is discipline ourselves and choose to walk in it faithfully.
Part two on my next blog post.