Faldo’s Lucky Sweater

fringe-golfDo you know what happened in the world of golf this past weekend?  If you’re a golfer, you know that the British Open was played at Saint Andrews. If you’re a serious golfer, there’s a good chance that you know that Nick Faldo was the last Brit to win the Open.

Faldo had a miserable first round as he shot a tournament-worst 83. He was able to redeem himself with a 1-under score of 71 on Friday, and he credited his success to the advice of his kids:  They persuaded him to wear his lucky sweater.

During his career, Faldo won six majors; three of them were wins at the British Open.   In each of the wins, Faldo was wearing one of his signature sweaters. When he putted for the last time on Friday, his kids had convinced him to wear the same one that he had worn in 1987 and 1990.94ccb640-2ca8-11e5-81b0-336b09534c0d_faldo-sweater

Faldo’s sweater reminds me of my years in the Air Force, and the uniform of the day.  Everyone in the squadron was required to wear the same uniform which was determined by the events of that day.

Like Faldo and the military, there is a uniform of the day for Christians.  Paul described it as the “full armor of God” in Ephesians 6:

  • The belt of truth
  • The breastplate of righteousness
  • The helmet of salvation
  • The sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God

armorThe four items above are the uniform that equips us for the events of the day.  Our struggle is not found on a golf course, a baseball diamond, or a football field.  Paul said it is a wrestling match with a powerful opponent:   “This is not a wrestling match against a human opponent. We are wrestling with rulers, authorities, the powers who govern this world of darkness, and spiritual forces that control evil in the heavenly world.  For this reason, take up all the armor that God supplies (GW).”

Paul knew that a lucky sweater was not enough to win this battle, and he knew that he needed more than just a bullet proof vest. He concluded his list for the uniform of the day by including prayer:  “With every prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and to this end be alert, with all perseverance and requests for all the saints.  Pray for me also, that I may be given the message when I begin to speak—that I may confidently make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may be able to speak boldly as I ought to speak (NET).”

When you stand in front of the mirror to see how well your clothing fits, review this list to make sure you’re wearing the uniform of the day.

Step Up To The Plate and Take A Swing

pMLB2-19389877dtThis is the time of year when some guys go into some sort of a sports-like-hibernation.  Football season had ended, and they blankly stare at the TV screen yearning for the next kickoff.

Not me, I love the game of baseball, and I watch several games each week.  My fondness for Americas’ game is due to the many memories of my dad and the times we spent together on a baseball field.  He coached, his boys played, and the family rotated from one field to another playing and watching games.

Weather permitting, I played baseball almost 7 days a week. My buddies and I would ride our bikes to a designated field or park and choose up sides and the game was on.

There were usually 3 or 4 of the boys who were the best of the best, and all the other boys wanted to play on their team.  You wanted them to pick you because your odds of winning were much better when you were on their team.

While I was reminiscing about this favorite summer pastime, I thought of John 15:6.  Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that remains, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.”

The greatest All Star of all times has chosen you to play on His team. He promises to equip you and empower you to accomplish His will.

The game has begun, so why not step up into the batter’s box and take a swing or two?

A Heavy Mettle Discussion

867bfc01-5e47-4d5f-a8e9-9a3d2f48f421_zps40643497I heard the sad story of a man who died recently. He had crawled under a house to steal the copper wiring and was electrocuted.

This is sad for a couple of reasons:

  • Copper prices are at historic lows, and this man lost his precious life trying to take something so cheap.
  • His attempt to steal was evidence of a steel less and easily tempted character

This copper incident reminds me of the judgment discussion that Paul had with the Christians at Corinth:

“You are God’s building.  As a skilled and experienced builder, I used the gift that God gave me to lay the foundation for that building. However, someone else is building on it. Each person must be careful how he builds on it.  After all, no one can lay any other foundation than the one that is already laid, and that foundation is Jesus Christ.  People may build on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw.  The day will make what each one does clearly visible because fire will reveal it. That fire will determine what kind of work each person has done.  If what a person has built survives, he will receive a reward.  If his work is burned up, he will suffer the loss. However, he will be saved, though it will be like going through a fire.”               ~I Corinthians 3:9-15

In the verses above Paul offers a  Double M Lesson:

  • The first M is Metal or the gold and silver.
  • The second M is Meddle or the wood, hay, and straw.
  • Paul uses these objects to frame his argument in the context of a quality of life versus a quantity of life perspective.

The metal and meddle aspects of your life will be judged by fire which “will determine what kind of work each person has done.”  The difference between your metal and meddle may be your mettle or the manner in which you confront the challenges of life and faithfully persevere.

When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy he engaged in a little heavy mettle discussion:  “When the going gets rough, take it on the chin with the rest of us, the way Jesus did. A soldier on duty doesn’t get caught up in making deals at the marketplace. He concentrates on carrying out orders. An athlete who refuses to play by the rules will never get anywhere. It’s the diligent farmer who gets the produce. Think it over. God will make it all plain.”  ~2 Timothy 2:3-5

I encourage you to do what Paul admonished Timothy to do in the verses above:  “Think it over.”

Strips and Stripes

Don't park here, go there! Fresh lines on car park area

When you’re driving down the road, have you ever thought about the strips of information  in the stripes that line the pavement ahead of you?  The stripes provide visual boundaries that indicate where you should drive.

The value of stripes are seen in other areas of life as well:

  • The stripes of a zebra allow him to blend in with the scenery.
  • The stripes of traffic signs give a warning.
  • Stripes determine when a baseball is foul, a football is in the end zone, and where the free throw line is in a game of basketball.
  • Thanks to stripes, I can distinguish between a black cat and a polecat because of the white stripe that paints the back of a skunk.
  • When I was in the military, stripes were a statement of authority and they defined the chain of command.

When Peter wrote to a group of persecuted Christians, he thought of stripes in a different context:  “Jesus bore our sins in His own body on the tree . . . and by His stripes you were healed (I Peter 2:24).”

It’s through the sacrificial death of Jesus that you’re forgiven.  Because of His stripes, God wipes away your sin:  “If a man belongs to Christ, he is a new person. The old life is gone. New life has begun (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLV).”

The stripes of the One has resulted in the healing and salvation of the many.  Are you one among the many?

Are You Among the 21%?

21percent_in_red_and_3d_NLI doubt there are many of us that number ourselves among the elite 1% of the world’s wealthiest people.  You may, however, find yourself among those who will be changed by the 21%.

What is the significance of 21%?  If you add it to your situation, it can make a big difference:

  • If you are concerned with your IQ, you probably already know that 50% of IQ scores fall between 90 and 110. If you add 21% to a score of 100 you become a person with very superior intelligence.  If you subtract 21% from 100, you will find yourself among the ranks of those who are classified as having a “borderline deficiency in intelligence.”
  • The average life expectancy is 71. If you add 21%, you would live to be 86.  If you subtracted 21%, you would only live to be 56.
  • If you are 71 inches tall you might be able to play basketball by adding 21% to your height. At 86 inches tall, you would be taller than LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers  If you subtract 21% from 71, you would be about 4 ½ foot tall, but still taller than Eddie Gaedel.  At 3 foot 7 inches, Gaedel was the shortest player to ever play in an MLB game; and, he did it in 1951 when he played for the St. Louis Browns.
  • If you weigh 171 pounds, 21% would be the difference between tipping the scales at 207 pounds and weighing only 135 pounds.

If you are a person who likes to travel on an airplane, 21% means you may have to buy new luggage. The International Air Transport Association has set some new guidelines for carry-on bags.  The IATA is recommending that bags should be 21.5 inches tall by 13.5 inches wide and 7.5 inches deep which is 21% smaller than current standards.

What would happen if you made a 21% change in your life?  How would your life be different if you followed these old guidelines?

Let us drop every extra weight, every sin that clings to us and slackens our pace, and let us run with endurance the long race set before us, and stay focused on Jesus, who designed and perfected our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).

A Better Way

images (3)I recently made the comment that, “Sometimes we sacrifice the best because we are content with just the good.”  I think it was Saint Jerome who said:  “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.”

If my memory serves me well, it was Ernest Hemingway who said: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

The business of being better is discussed in several places in the Wisdom Books of the Bible.  My Top 10 list of verses follows below:

  1. Psalm 37:16: A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked.
  2. Psalm 118:8: It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.
  3. Proverbs 15:16: Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure with trouble.
  4. Proverbs 15:17: Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted calf with hatred.
  5. Proverbs 16:8: Better is a little with righteousness, than vast revenues without justice.
  6. Proverbs 16:16: How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
  7. Proverbs 16:19: Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.
  8. Proverbs 16:32: He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
  9. Proverbs 17:1: Better is a dry morsel with quietness, than a house full of feasting with strife.
  10. Proverbs 19:1: Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one who is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.

I hope these verses serve as a motivator to get you started in the pursuit of betterness.  Once you get started, you can develop the habits that will keep you going.

Finish The Race

Turtle_Racing1There are times when the burdens of life are incredibly heavy.  When I experience these times in my personal life, I’m reminded of Hebrews 12:1-3: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

Heartache, sickness, and grief can present circumstances that are difficult to endure. While these hurdles may slow you down to the pace of the turtle, don’t let them sideline you:  Finish the race.

To finish the race:

  • Consistently engage in “cross” training by walking in step with Jesus.
  • Focus on your goal.
  • Keep your eyes focused on the next step and not the hurdle three steps in front of you.

When troubles and trials come into your life, do you see just the mountain, or do you also consider the Creator of the mountain? When the storms of life shake you at your core, do you see just the storm or do you also see the rainbow? When you feel trapped and think there is no escape, do you hear the roaring lions or do you feel the presence of Daniel’s angels?

When it comes to endurance, you don’t have to walk alone.  Jesus extends an invitation to walk with Him, and He offers to help carry the load:  Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly (Matthew 11:28-30 ~The Message).

Baseball, Peanuts, and Superstitions

Take-Me-Out-to-the-Ball-Game-logo-FINAL-285x300During the Royals and Giants game on Wednesday night, I started eating roasted peanuts that were salted in the shell. When the 5th inning came to an end, I went to the cupboard, grabbed the peanuts, a soda, and returned to my chair. I popped the first peanut in my mouth and almost immediately the pop returned to the Royals’ bats.

If I was truly superstitious, I would eat from this same bag of peanuts for the remainder of the World Series. Baseball is a sport that is noted for its superstitions. Wade Boggs was one of the more superstitious players:

• He had to eat fried chicken before every game.
• On the nights he was in the lineup, he had to take batting practice at exactly 5:17.
• When he warmed up for a game, he would field 150 groundballs—not 149 or 151.
• Before he stepped into the batter’s box, he’d write CHAI (Hebrew for LIFE), in the dirt.

The superstitions of people have been a matter of discussion for thousands of years. Even the Apostle Paul addressed the issue with the philosophers on Mars Hill (Acts 17:22-24): “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious.”

The word “religious” is a Greek word (deisidaimonesteros) that means superstitious. The problem with the “men of Athens” was not that they worshipped too little, but they worshipped too much. These people had an altar for every god they could think of, and they even had one to “The Unknown God.”

In Paul’s letter to the church at Rome, he said the conundrum is not that God cannot be known, but that people choose to not acknowledge Him:

“God’s anger is revealed from heaven against every ungodly and immoral thing people do as they try to suppress the truth by their immoral living. What can be known about God is clear to them because he has made it clear to them. From the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly observed in what he made. As a result, people have no excuse. They knew God but did not praise and thank him for being God. Instead, their thoughts were pointless, and their misguided minds were plunged into darkness. While claiming to be wise, they became fools. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for statues that looked like mortal humans, birds, animals, and snakes (Romans 1:18-22).”

How do you acknowledge God in your life?

Routine and Rhythm

rrI rarely complain about too much rainfall because you never know when the next rain will come; but, it was either too much rain or rain at the wrong time that caused a delay in a Royals-Angels game this past weekend.
I watched as the playes rain to the dugout and the umpires called a “rain-delay” of the game. During this time, a documentary on the life of Warren Spahn was broadcast.

Spahn was a left-handed pitcher who was a sensation for the Boston Braves. He won the Cy Young Award—the pinnacle for pitchers. Even though his career was interrupted by World War II, Spahn still won 20 games in 12 seasons—a tremendous feat for a pitcher.

In an interview, Spahn once said: “Hitting is timing, and pitching is upsetting that timing.” Spahn knew that if he could interrupt the timing of a batter by mixing in off-speed pitches, he could keep the batter from hitting the ball.

Trying to hit a round ball with a round bat is a hard skill to develop, and it takes both routine and rhythm. Successful hitters will spend hours in the batting cage and studying pitchers—this is routine.

The rhythm part of the game is visual. It is done before the game ever starts. It is closing your eyes; rehearsing the routine of the pitcher; seeing the spin of the ball; and, feeling your bat make contact as you drive the ball out into the field.

You also need routine and rhythm in your walk with Jesus. The routine is the daily spiritual disciplines of prayer and reading the bible. The rhythm is closing your eyes and seeing what God has in store for you.

Routine and rhythm were key to the lives of both Jesus and Paul:
• Routine: Luke 4:16—Jesus went into the synagogue, as was his custom.
• Rhythm: Hebrews 12:2—For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
• Jesus’ routine was the custom of worshipping, and His rhythm was to look ahead to see the full impact and benefit of His death for us.
• Routine: 2 Timothy 4:12 (Paul speaking to Timothy)—When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.
• Rhythm: 2 Timothy 4:7-8—I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
• Paul’s routine was a daily study of the Scripture, and his rhythm was to look for to the heavenly prize.

As you go through your routine, take the time to reflect on what God has done for you; what He is going to do for you; and what He is using you to do. This is the rhythm that will add joy to your daily routine.

The Perfect Pitch

Ted-Williams-Quotes-3Over the weekend, which happened to include Father’s Day, I listened to an interview that focused on a book written about Ted Williams. The book, written by Williams’ daughter, looks at one of the greatest hitters who ever played the game of baseball, and highlights some of the lessons this daughter learned from her father.

Williams spoke one time of his relationship with Rogers Hornsby who was also one of baseball’s greats. Williams said: Hornsby “treated me like a son, couldn’t have been nicer. And he gave me the greatest single piece of advice on hitting that I ever got: Wait for a good pitch to hit.”

To an impatient person like me, “wait” is a four letter word. It is, however, an important principle in a person’s relationship with God. Notice what the Bible says about waiting:

• Psalm 27:14: Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!
• Isaiah 40:31: those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
• Romans 5:1-5: Since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces patient endurance, patient endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Even though “wait” is a four letter word, it is one tht should be in your vocabulary, and the acrostic below helps to explain why:

Wisdom that is greater than yours: If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him (James 1:5).

Acknowledge there is strength that you need: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).

Insight from Scripture that will guide you: I gain understanding from Your precepts; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path (psalm 119:1-4-105).

Trust in the goodness of Good: Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things (Psalm 107:8-9).

Waiting is difficult when there is no obvious reason for the delay, and being patient can appear to be a waste of time when no purpose is in sight; however, when something better is promised, and hope is just beyond the horizon, waiting on God might be the best use of your time.