I Miss College Freshman Teams

I miss college freshman teams.

Let me explain to the young.  In the old days, every college had a freshman baseball, basketball, and football team.  You were not eligible to play varsity until you had completed your freshman year.  The idea was an athlete needed time to adjust to college life, be tutored in the basics of his sport, and learn the system of the school he was attending.  After what was essentially an apprentice year, the student would have matured, learned, and would be ready.

In 1972, the rules were changed.  Colleges were under pressure to cut expenses.  The cost of maintaining two separate teams was an obvious place to start.  Freshman were declared eligible and freshman college teams went the way of steam powered cars.

I know this is nostalgia, but I miss college freshman teams.  I miss students having a chance to learn before we put pressure on them.

Then again, I know we’re guilty of the same thing in my world.  A person comes to faith in Jesus.  Instead of letting them play freshman ball, we throw them right into some spiritually challenging environment – like a room of two-year olds.

The first steps of a new believer are important.  They need time to learn a new way of thinking, adjust to a new environment, and be discipled.  Most churches I know – including the one I pastor – believe in the sink or swim method.

I know freshman ball will never come back.  But maybe followers of Jesus can learn not to throw people in the deep end too fast.

For or Against…

Has anyone besides me noticed the all the politicians taking stands against things?

I can’t escape the ads telling me Bernie is against Wall Street, Hillary is against Bernie, Marco is against Jeb, Ted is against immorality, Donald is against anyone who isn’t him, Ben is against Muslims, and everyone is against terrorists. It is a lot easier to against someone or something than to be for something.

People often think Jesus followers are against everything. Part of the problem is we get treated like a special interest group or a voting block by people who see everything through a political lens. The sad part is, some Jesus followers buy into this. I get regular emails and Facebook invitations telling me to take a stand against gays, Muslims, vegetarians, liberal agendas, and abortion. Two implications are in every communication: 1. If you take this stand with us, all the problems we face as a country will be fixed; 2. If you don’t take this stand with us, you are not a real follower of Jesus.

Do I think a time comes when you need to take a stand against something? Yes. But first, find out what you are for. If you are Jesus follower, you need to know what Jesus was for.

According to Matthew 5:3-12, Jesus was for:

  1. Being poor in spirit – which means you know the poverty of your soul.
  2. Mourning – being deeply grieved about your failures and lack of spiritual resources.
  3. Being meek – knowing your true position in the universe and knowing how much you need a Savior.
  4. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness – developing a deep longing for what is right (even if it means you don’t get elected).
  5. Being merciful – because you have been shown mercy, you have something to give someone else.
  6. Being pure in heart – matching your motives and actions to God’s Kingdom values.
  7. Being a peacemaker – not seeking to dominate, win, or triumph, but seeking reconciliation, relationship, and redemption.
  8. Being persecuted for doing the right things – because you have an allegiance to the Kingdom.

Jesus is for a sold out, surrendered, 100% bought in, on fire, submitted, relinquished, self-denying, Kingdom embracing, Spirit empowered, confident, inheritance wrapped, joy filled, love exuding life in Him.

It’s a better way to live.

Here’s what I guarantee. Politicians will be for and against things to gain your vote. Jesus is for you knowing Him so you can lose the world and gain your soul.

What Shame Does to Your Soul

What Shame does to your soul:

  • It makes you believe you are not good enough for anyone – even God – to love you.
  • It makes you believe you are not normal – no one deals with what you deal with.
  • It drives fear of being disconnected to others.
  • It wrecks your ability to make good decisions.
  • It clouds your feelings and thoughts.
  • It makes you compare your body to everyone else so you find out where you don’t measure up.
  • It causes you to wonder what everyone is really thinking about – so all your relationships are based on an elaborate game of trying to anticipate thoughts and feelings that aren’t really there.
  • It makes you susceptible to depression, bullying, and eating disorders.
  • It fuels your addictions.
  • It cause a slow death.
  • It leads you straight to hell.

So why would anyone choose to stay a prisoner of shame?  It feels familiar.  You can accept it as normal.

But shame is never what God wants for you.  Jesus came to forgive everything you’ve done that causes shame through his death on the cross and to break the power of shame through his resurrection.

You can choose his gift of grace or you can keep living the self-destructive narrative shame wants to write for you.

Don’t let shame write the ending of your story.  Let Jesus write the ending.

Is It Okay to Slander in Politics?

Last week I was preaching on Romans 1:28-32.  The heart of the passage contains a list of traits that mark a depraved mind, a mind that has failed to think rightly.

One of the traits of a failed thinking is someone who slanders.  A slanderer uses whatever platform they have to tell stories that put another person in the worst possible light.

Since this is the season of politics,  I’ve noticed quite a  bit of slander going on among both Democrats and Republicans.  Various supporters of candidates have posted on Facebook stories that portray other politicians in the worst possible light.

If you are not a follower of Jesus, I suppose this behavior is okay for you, although I remember Ronald Reagan saying there was an 11th commandment:  “Though shalt not speak ill of thy fellow Republican.”

But if you are a follower of Jesus, I don’t think you honor Jesus when you slander your opponent by saying something you know isn’t true, or is only a half truth.  Now I know this isn’t easy in the era of a sound bite;  but what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world (or the presidency) and loses his soul?

I think Jesus followers need to be cautious about what they post on Facebook and Twitter about anyone.  Maybe we don’t like a certain politician, but that gives us no right to spread a lie.

Tell the truth about people.  Isn’t it better to deal in the truth than in a half-truth or a lie?

More Beyond …

Ancient Greek mythology told the story of the pillars of Hercules, giant columns marked with the saying, “non plus ultra,” meaning “Nothing more beyond. Over time, it was thought the Rock of Gibraltar was the northern pillar, and nothing lay beyond except sunken Atlantis. The saying made its way from ancient Greek myth to Medieval thought.   Sailors and navigators knew not to go any farther than Gibraltar: nothing else was out there.

Christopher Columbus thought there was something more out there. He sailed past Gibraltar and the Canary Islands. Five weeks later, he discovered a New world.

Shortly after Columbus’ voyages to the New World, Charles the Fifth ascended the throne of Spain. Aware of the old legend and the new discoveries, he adopted a personal motto that became the national motto of Spain: “plus ultra,” meaning “more beyond.”

We tell ourselves our stories and we are convinced there is nothing beyond. We accept that the mistakes of the past define us. Our consciences haunt us with guilt. We believe change is impossible. We stop exploring, hoping, and dreaming.

This is why people believe life on this earth is all there is. This is why people with addictions believe they cannot change. This is why people hold on to secrets they believe would destroy them if the truth ever got out.

On the Sunday after Jesus was crucified, He came out of the tomb. Death was defeated; despair was driven away; and darkness gave way to sparkling light. Jesus’ resurrection triumphantly proclaims “plus ultra!,” there is more beyond this life, beyond your story.

Resurrection tell us that the chapters written in our stories are not the end. Our failures do not have the final word. The final word belongs to God, if we will but give Him the pen.

Give God the pen. Let Him write a new chapter for you, where sin is forgiven, values are changed, secrets are told and their power is destroyed. Let God write for you a new chapter of purpose. Let God use your story to change someone else’s life forever.

There is more beyond whatever is written in your story. Let Jesus write it!

When You Hear You are a Failure

Someone soon will tell you you failed.

It maybe your spouse, telling you  you let them down.  Your child may tell you you are a bad parent.  It might be your boss telling you the project you sweated over isn’t good enough.  You might get a paper with that big red “F.”

Nobody likes to be a failure, unless they have something pretty wrong with them.  So what do you do when you hear you are a failure?

  1. Acknowledge the truth.  You are not perfect.  Maybe you failed as a spouse, a parent, or an employee.  This requires humility and honesty.
  2. Ask yourself, “What can I learn?”  Every failure teaches  you about yourself.  It also teaches you about other people.
  3. Tell yourself “Failure is not my identity.”
  4. If you are a follower of Jesus, remind yourself that nothing, not even failure separates your from the love of Jesus.
  5. Most people repeat failure because they don’t fully embrace the pain the first time.  Face into the pain, let it motivate you to not make the mistake again.
  6. Don’t use failure as stick to beat yourself up.  That means you are not learning, but letting the failure define you.

“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” – C.S. Lewis

 

21 Signs You Have a Broken Soul …

How do you know if you are a broken person? According to Romans 1:29-30, here are twenty one signs you have a broken soul:

  1. You are obsessed with yourself, your problems, and your hurts. You don’t care about what is fair, just what is good for you.
  2. You are okay with harming people if it shows you are more powerful.
  3. You want more – more power, more stuff, more recognition. You don’t care if someone else suffers, as long as you have more.
  4. Whenever you face the choice of better or worse, you chose worse.
  5. You resent other people’s success.
  6. There is someone in your life you hate.
  7. Your need to win triumphs over having close relationships.
  8. All your decisions and actions have ulterior motives.
  9. You put the worst construction on everyone’s motives.
  10. You pull people aside to whisper destructive stories in their ears about someone else.
  11. You trumpet false stories that put people in the worst light – yes, even on Facebook.
  12. In your heart, you wish there wasn’t a God so all the rules and accountability would be eliminated, and you could do whatever you want.
  13. You are so proud, you believe you can defy authority.
  14. You have contempt for everyone but yourself.
  15. You pretend to have what you do not have so you can impress other people.
  16. You get tired of old rule breaking, so you come with new ways to be defiant.
  17. You reject authority.
  18. You never learn from experience. You keep making the same mistake over and over.
  19. You break agreements and promises.
  20. People you should love – your children, your parents, your spouse – you don’t.
  21. You show no mercy.

How many of these do you have to have before you acknowledge your soul is broken?

One.

Your soul and my soul are broken, and we can’t fix them. We need a new soul, a new heart. That is the promise of Jesus – He has come to make all things new, even your broken soul.

 

Win or Lose, 5 Reasons I Like Dabo

Five Reasons I like Dabo Swinney, coach at Clemson:

  1. He hires good people to coach under him and lets them work.
  2. He enforces the rules, even if it jeopardizes his chances to win.
  3. He is not afraid to enter the world of the players and do a post game dance.
  4. He does not settle.
  5. At the end of day, you get the feeling he knows life is about more than football.

Win or lose, I’m a fan.

Four Ways to Bring God’s Story to Your Story

Four ways to bring God’s Story to your story:

  1. Spend time in worship.  Be in awe of God.  Only then will you have perspective of your life.  Worship increases your trust in God.
  2. Look at your own story.  Have you constructed it correctly, or are you just doing flawed first draft?
  3. Bring your story to God.  Ask God to show you where He was work while your story was being written.
  4. Give your story to God.  Live your story by putting all of who you are into all of who He is.  Everyday, ask Him, “How will we write the story of this day?”

Your Story

Your Story starts with a beginning, a beginning before you began.  You were born into a story that was already underway.  God has been a work a long time.  He made this world and everything in it.  People, of course, messed it up.  You, being a human being, will do your part of messing it up.

The question for us all is will we turn from our messed up ways and follow Jesus to a different way of life – eternal life?

Jesus puts the pen in your hand and asks “How do you want to write your story?”