A Parade of Champions

kcrIf you know anything about sports, you know that the Kansas City Royals just won a hard fought and entertaining battle on the baseball fields of Kansas City and New York; and, they have been crowned World Series Champions.

With child-like enthusiasm, baseball fans from near and far are descending on Kansas City today to celebrate with the Royals.  They will savor the sweet taste of victory and delight as their team winds its way through the streets of Royals Town USA.

The language of sports has been spoken for thousands of years.  Paul used the competition of the Isthmian Games as means to share spiritual truth.  He also spoke of a parade of champions that features Jesus as the parade Marshall:  “Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us spreads and makes evident everywhere the sweet fragrance of the knowledge of Him (2 Corinthians 2:14).”

The parade route in Kansas City with be lined with thousands of spectators, and it will be a great time for adoring fans to shout out to their favorite players.  The procession that Paul spoke of is one of triumph that calls you to more than a mere spectator.  You are to be a participator and speak up for Jesus.

You are the means through which God spreads the sweet fragrance of His love and mercy.  Wave your banner, and give thanks for the victory you have in Him.

Pits, Peaches, and Perspective

ImJustPeachyThe last time I was in Kansas City, I made a stop at Trader Joe’s.  I sampled some delicious grapes, and they were so tasty I decided to buy a cluster.  The quality of the grapes influenced my decision to buy some nearby peaches:  Bad decision.  There was nothing to savor in the way of flavor.

In retaliation for the tasteless peaches, I could have launched a tirade on Facebook, and Trader Joe’s would have received their just desserts.  Instead, I asked my wife to use the peaches for just dessert and make a cobbler.

Unfortunately, life is full of not-so-peachy moments.  Because Paul experienced many of these times, I often look to him for advice:  “We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” ~The Message

One of the defining characteristics of Paul’s life was his ability to make lemonade out of his many lemon-like trials: “Five times I have withstood thirty-nine lashes from Jewish authorities, three times I was battered with rods, once I was almost stoned to death, three times I was shipwrecked, and I spent one day and night adrift on the sea (2 Corinthians 11:24-25).”

Here’s the lemonade:  “So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.” ~The Message

If you go through life just focusing on the sourness of the pits and the trials, you’ll never notice the abundance of sweet fruit.  Paul said the pain of the here and now is manageable when you remember to frame it in the pleasure of the there and then or the “lavish celebration” God has prepared for you.

Like A Satin White Snowflake

sad-snowmanWhen I walk down the street or press my way through a busy mall, it seems people are as adrift as a satin white snowflake that’s blown by a fierce wind.  They participate in a vigorous celebration of an annual winter holiday that is a time of jubilation, but they have never experienced that infusion of joy that Peter described as being “unspeakable and full of glory (I Peter 1:8).”

Paul wanted the saints at Ephesus to embrace a joy-filled relationship with Christ, so he prayed for them to “have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19).

The joy and fullness of Christ is the essence of the incarnation, and as John said:  “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth . . . and of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace (John 1:14, 16).

When I observe people today, I wonder if their holiday happenings are a celebration of this grace and truth or an aberration of its substance.

When you look at the faces and into the eyes of the people you meet on the street:  What do you see?  Is it a lighthearted twinkle or a heavyhearted wrinkle?   Is it the glad refrain of the fullness of Christ or is it the sad disdain of the world’s dullness?

What’s the difference between the two?  Isn’t the incarnation the demarcation of wholeness and hole-ness?  Christmas is a contrast between the love of God and the lack of the world. Paul captured this in his letter to the Colossians:

  • In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9).
  • In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Colossians 1:19).
  • In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).

The joy, peace, and fullness that you hunger for will never be found in a neatly wrapped package beneath a tree:  It is only found in the baby who was born on Christmas day.