Ryan Lochte: A Second Chance

Ryan Lochte

Most Americans were familiar with Ryan Lochte long before the Olympics began in Rio. Now that the Olympics have ended, it will be a long time before the people in Brazil will forget him.

As a member of Team USA, Lochte has been known as one of swimming’s fiercest competitors.   Today, however, he is known more for his lapse of judgment and his questionable antics.

Although his behavior has led to a loss of his four major sponsors including  Speedo USA and Ralph Lauren, Pine Bros Softish Throat Drops, has just signed the 12-time Olympic medalist as a spokesman to advertise their company.

Rider McDowell, CEO of Pine Bros said, “We all make mistakes, but they’re rarely given front page scrutiny . . . I’m confident that Pine Bros fans will support our decision to give Ryan a second chance.”

As someone who has needed a second chance on more than one occasion, I applaud the decision of Pine Bros, and I’m reminded that God also gives people a second chance. Think about an incident in Jonah’s life and this principle from the Proverbs:

  • After Jonah’s gut-wrenching experience, The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you. ~Jonah 3:1-2
  • A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance. ~Proverbs 28:13

Examine the lives of Jacob, Samson, Peter and Paul, and you’ll discover that God is the God of second chances. He is the God of grace, of mercy,  of forgiveness, and the God of beginning again.

As Paul said,  if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. ~2 Corinthians 5:17

 

BiTTER or BeTTER:  A Titanic Difference

elite-daily-titanicEven though it sank on April 15, 1912, the Titanic is one of the most famous ships that ever sailed the sea, and of her 711 survivors, the unsinkable Molly Brown may be the most famous.

The difference between Molly and the other survivors is that she never embraced a “victim” mindset.  She refused to yield to the emotional negatives of what she had been dealt; instead, she focused on how she could deal; and, she transformed the negative into a positive.

Molly stepped-up at a critical moment and took charge of her lifeboat.  After being rescued, she refused to be defined by her personal loss and her near death experience. She chose, instead, to lead volunteer efforts on behalf of her fellow survivors.

Molly Brown never played Wheel of Fortune, but she knew the importance of letter placement and the power of vowels.  Molly chose an E instead of an I and became  BeTTER instead of BiTTER. This is the difference between a rose and a thorn.  Some people complain that the rose bush is full of thorns, while others are happy that the thorn bush has roses.

Molly could have wasted the rest of her life bitterly trash-talking the crew of the Titanic, and she could have denigrated the engineers who designed the ship, but she chose the better path in life.

I’ll close with this BeTTER or BiTTER instruction from the Apostle Paul: Put away all bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and slanderous talk—indeed all malice.  Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you. ~Ephesians 4:31-32

*You might enjoy this brief “Molly Brown” clip.

Fireflies At Night

fireflyPeople rarely partner stubbed toes and skinned knees with moments of pleasure . . . unless you’ve been a carefree child who chased the sentinels of light through the darkness of July nights. Even though those carefree days of bare feet and childhood innocence are long gone, I still enjoy the nocturnal dance of fireflies as they flutter across the night sky.

The waltz of the firefly reminds me of an old quote by Beecher:

If I were made a firefly, it would not become me to say: “If God had only made me a star to shine always, then I would shine.” It is my duty, if I am a firefly, to fly and sparkle, and fly and sparkle; not to shut my wings down over my phosphorescent self because God did not make me a sun or a star.

Regardless of person’s station in life, there seems to be a pervasive sense of dissatisfaction.  Solomon commented on this in Proverbs 27:19-20:  Just as water reflects a person’s true face, so the human heart reflects a person’s true character. As Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so the eyes of a person are never satisfied.

From their teenage years forward, people engage in an unending search for that elusive person, place, or thing that will satisfy the desires of their heart. The trivial pursuits of this world’s pleasures will never provide lasting satisfaction; you simply cannot find fulfillment in empty promises

Lasting peace and satisfaction is not found in the creation, but in the Creator:

  • Jesus said: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
  • God satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul is filled with good things. (Psalm 107:9)
  • Notice the promise of Psalm 16:11: God You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.

The next time you see a firefly at night, pause and think about what it means to be content in and satisfied through Jesus.  When you do this, it might help to reflect on these words of Paul:

 I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles. ~Philippians 4 (The Message)

Words of a Particular Kind

154451011How long would it take you to make a summary statement of your life?  How many words do you think it would take?

Robert Frost said he could sum up everything he had learned about life in three words: “It goes on.”  There’s a lot of truth to what Frost said, but it’s also true that what you say can determine how far you go in life and how your life “goes on.”

Mother Teresa was more concerned with the nature of your words than she was with the number of them: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”  David, like Mother Teresa, was well aware of the power of the spoken word, and he prayed: “May my words and my thoughts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my sheltering rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14).”

When I think about David’s prayer, I’m left with a couple of questions:

  • Are my words and thoughts acceptable to God?
  • If not, what can I do to make them more acceptable?

Joshua gave the answer to these questions, when he said: “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success (Joshua 1:8).”

When you think about your words and thoughts, I encourage you to contrast them to the principles of God’s Word in general, and these words of Paul in Particular: “Don’t let even one rotten word seep out of your mouths. Instead, offer only fresh words that build others up when they need it most. That way your good words will communicate grace to those who hear them (Ephesians 4:29 ~The Voice).”

What Am I Missing?

life-of-faithWhen I hear a puzzling story or a comment about someone or some event, I wonder about the specifics of the situation and ask:

  • What happened?
  • What are the facts?
  • What details am I missing?

The mention of the name Demas stokes the fire of my curiosity.  Of the three passages that refer to Demas, two are positive and one is negative:

  • Philemon 23-25: “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
  • Colossians 4:14: “Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas.”
  • 2 Timothy 4:10: “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.”

What happened to Demas?  How could he go from being a co-laborer with the Apostle Paul to being classified as a Christian who went AWOL?  Had his Christian experience been a mere dalliance with no true alliance to Christ?

Was Demas like the sunshine soldier that Thomas Paine spoke of when he addressed the difficult times in which he lived?

 “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country.” 

Contrary to what many people believe, living a life of faith is not for the frail of heart.  Paul suggests that it takes guts, courage and backbone:

  • I Timothy 6:11-12: Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.
  • 2 Timothy 2:3 “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
  • I Corinthians 9:24-25: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”
  • Hebrews 12:1-2: “we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”

Demas dismissed the principled and dedicated life that Paul modeled, but a man named Jim Elliot embraced it.  Sixty years ago, Elliot was martyred on the mission fields of Ecuador. A daily practice of his was to write in his journal, and his notes give a glimpse of his dedication to Christ:

  • “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
  • “Rest in this: it is His business to lead, command, impel, send, call or whatever you want to call it. It is your business to obey, follow, move, respond, or what have you.”
  • “God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life that I may burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life but a full one like You, Lord Jesus.”

When you consider your life and the faith factor, what do you see.  Is your Christian walk little more than a dalliance of dedication, or does it reflect a true alliance with Jesus Christ?

Death:  The Common Denominator

your-destination_0In 2005, Stanford University asked Steve Jobs to give the commencement address. During his speech, he made an interesting comment about death:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it.

I find it interesting that Jobs, the founder of Apple, made a comment about death which is an apple-associated event.  To be fair, no one knows what Adam and Eve actually ate, but people generally think of the apple when they think of the Garden’s forbidden fruit.

Steve Jobs was right; death is the destination we all share.  Like it or not, death is the train that carries it passengers to destination death.

When Paul discussed death, dying, and the resurrection, *he said we all die due to Adam’s disobedience and sin in the Garden, but through Jesus all of us can live again.

While Adam’s way is the Path of Death, the way of life is the Am-Track Way or the Am-Way of Jesus: I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

When you get on board with Jesus, you experience the wonder of salvation, and its benefits:

  • You are justified by faith.
  • You have peace with God.
  • You have access to God.
  • You have a relationship based on the grace of God.
  • You can rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

When you consider your final destination, you should also, “Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children. And in the same way the world didn’t recognize Him, the world does not recognize us either. My loved ones, we have been adopted into God’s family; and we are officially His children now. The full picture of our destiny is not yet clear, but we know this much: when Jesus appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is. All those who focus their hopes on Him and His coming seek to purify themselves just as He is pure (I John 1:1-3 ~The Voice).”

Death may be the common denominator, but Jesus is the uncommon Mediator, and He is the only way you should travel to your final destination.

*Read The Message for an interesting rendition of this passage of Scripture.

 

Game of Thrones

game-of-thronesWith the start of its 6th season, Games of Thrones has been trending on social media.  Game of Thrones is a popular television show that is based on a series of fantasy novels written by George R. R. Martin.

The main pot of the show is the civil war between three rival families, the Starks of Winterfell, the Lannisters of Casterly Rock, and the Baratheons of Dragonstone. The story line incorporates swordplay, magic, and mythical dragons, as the backdrop in the struggle for power as each family endeavors to lay claim to the throne and to establish their kingdom.

While I have never read the books or watched the series on HBO, I know there is conflict among existing kingdoms—the kingdoms of light and darkness; and, it takes a certain amount of grit and courage to live walk out of the darkness and into the light.  Paul addressed this issue in his letter to the Colossians:

As you live this new life, we pray that you will be strengthened from God’s boundless resources, so that you will find yourselves able to pass through any experience and endure it with courage. You will even be able to thank God in the midst of pain and distress because you are privileged to share the lot of those who are living in the light. For we must never forget that he rescued us from the power of darkness, and re-established us in the kingdom of his beloved Son, that is, in the kingdom of light. For it is by his Son alone that we have been redeemed and have had our sins forgiven. (Colossians 1:11-14 ~J.B. PHILLIPS).

Never allow anyone to tell you they you have no right to this kingdom.  Jesus said He came to His own, but His own people did not receive Him. But to all who have received Him—those who believe in His name—He has given the right to become God’s children (John 1:11-12 ~NET).

When you walk with Jesus, you have been given the right to:

  • Be God’s Child (John 1:12)
  • Be redeemed and forgiven (Colossians 1:14)
  • Be a co-worker with God (6:1)
  • Be a citizen of Heaven (Philippians 3:20)
  • Be able to come boldly to the throne of grace, so you can obtain mercy and find grace to help in your time of need (Hebrews 4:16)

Life is more than just a game of King on the Mountain as you battle to claim a throne.  It’s a real fight, and you have a God who stands by your side:

Your arm is mighty. Your hand is strong. Your right hand is lifted high.
 Righteousness and justice are the foundations of your throne. Mercy and truth stand in front of you. Blessed are the people who know how to praise you.
They walk in the light of your presence, O Lord.  ~Psalm 89:13-15

Fashionista or Functionalist

home-juradoNo one has ever accused me of being a fashionista.  I’ve always preferred blue jeans over a three-piece suit; and, instead of wearing patent leather wingtips, I’d rather wear tennis shoes or boots.

This is why you might find it surprising that I took some interest in a fashion slide show: What People Were Wearing the Year You Were Born is geared more to women than it is to me, and it gives a visual history of what has been in style for the last 100 years.

While I do have my Sunday-go-to-meeting-clothes, I also have different sets of clothing that I wear depending on the occasion.  Instead of being a fashionista, I guess I’m a functionalist.  I don’t wear my Muck boots to church, but they’re sure handy when the snow is a foot deep and the temperatures are sub-zero.

When I read the bible, I think Paul was also a functionalist.  Instead of being worried about the fashion and style of his day, he instructed his cohorts to dress for the occasion:

In conclusion be strong—not in yourselves but in the Lord, in the power of his boundless resource. Put on God’s complete armor so that you can successfully resist all the devil’s methods of attack. For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil. Therefore you must wear the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground. Take your stand then with truth as your belt, righteousness your breastplate, the Gospel of peace firmly on your feet, salvation as your helmet and in your hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Above all be sure you take faith as your shield, for it can quench every burning missile the enemy hurls at you. Pray at all times with every kind of spiritual prayer, keeping alert and persistent as you pray (Ephesians 6 ~JB Phillips).

When he wrote to the Colossians, Paul spoke of functional clothing for the Christian life:

Put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;  bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do (Colossians 3:12-13).

Before you leave your house today, you might want to look into the mirror to see if your clothing is fitting for your agenda:

The man who simply hears and does nothing about it is like a man catching the reflection of his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, it is true, but he goes on with whatever he was doing without the slightest recollection of what sort of person he saw in the mirror. But the man who looks into the perfect mirror of God’s law, the law of liberty (or freedom), and makes a habit of so doing, is not the man who sees and forgets. He puts that law into practice and he wins true happiness (James 1:22-25 ~JB Phillips)

Peyton Manning Retires or Goodbye Omaha

peyton-manning1Four years ago, Peyton Manning joined the Denver Broncos.  Before he stepped on the field for the first time, he first waked through the locker room to meet the

In this era of super-sized egos, Manning was a rare gem.  He loved and respected the game, and it showed on that April day in 2012 when he shook hands with the guys on the practice squad, the backups, and the starters.  Every one of the Broncos already knew who he was, but Peyton wanted to know each of them.

Most people who follow the NFL were pretty sure Manning’s career was over, so no one was surprised when the news began to leak out on Saturday night.  To show respect for his fellow Broncos, Manning had sent each of them a text before his final decision to retire became public.

As I think about the way this famous man has managed his life, I’m reminded of a couple of Scriptures:

  • Romans 12:3: I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.
  • James 4:10: Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.
  • 1 Peter 5:6: Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time

I hope aspiring athletes will remember Manning less for his signature “Omaha” and more for the manner in which he has respected the game and the way he continues to invest in the lives of others.

Title, Deed, and Ownership

Title-DeedsWhen I woke up this morning, to the rhythm and words of an old gospel hymn.  The four-line chorus reminded me of a precious truth:

Now I belong to Jesus,

Jesus belongs to me,

Not for the years of time alone,

But for eternity.


Of the 19 words in that refrain, the word belong stood out more than the rest.  It occurred to me that when you belong to Jesus, you should be longing for a relationship with Him.

During a debate with some skeptics, Jesus spoke of the key to this relationship: The one who belongs to God listens and responds to God’s words. You don’t listen and respond, because you don’t belong to God (John 8:47).

When you listen and respond to God’s words it’s evidence that you belong to God, and it’s the first note in a harmonious relationship with Him.  Paul spoke of this relationship, and who you are in Jesus:

  • Ephesians 1:7—In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace
  • Ephesians 1:11—In Him also we have obtained an inheritance
  • Ephesians 3:12—We have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.
  • Colossians 2:9-10—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, and you are complete in Him

When the feelings of doubt and despair try to take root in your heart, remember that you belong to Jesus.  His desire is to have a relationship with you, and He will watch over you as a shepherd does his flock.

 

Psalm 100:2-4

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!

Serve the Lord with gladness;

Come before His presence with singing.

Know that the Lord, He is God;

It is He who has made us, and we belong to Him;

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,

And into His courts with praise.

Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.