Thanksgiving’s Golden Rule

macys-parade-tom-the-turkeyTraditions are a large part of many of our holiday celebrations.  An absolute essential for some homes is to halt all activity to watch the march of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The ritual in other homes will involve football and the riotous cheering or jeering as favorite teams either win or lose.

While the Macy’s Day Parade, the game of football, and other long-held traditions can be good, they are as listless as your turkey-stuffed grandpa when he crashes on the sofa, if they fail to observe the Golden Rule of Thanksgiving.

The rule is not a third piece of whip cream-covered pumpkin pie: it is the peace of God and letting it rule your heart.

In a world of trials and tragedies, it is the peace of God that will carry you through your personal times of heartache and turmoil.  A key principle of the Golden Rule is the jewel of thanksgiving.  Paul spoke of this in one of his letters (Colossians 3:14-17):

  • Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts . . . and be thankful (3:15).
  • Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . . singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (3:16).
  • Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (3:17).

When the peace of Christ is ruling in your heart, it becomes the umpire that manages the game of life. When this peace is joined with the giving of thanks, worry-filled thoughts are refocused on the blessings of God.

Many of the Psalms focus on the blessings of God, and they are full of expressions of thanksgiving:

  • Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things (107:8-9).
  • The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him (28:7).
  • Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever (106:1).

Whatever your traditions may be, I encourage you to pause at some point in your celebration to focus your thoughts more on what God has given and less on what the world has taken, and give thanks to Him.

The Pick-Me-Up Principle

christianencouragementsecularencouragementThe season ended much differently for the Denver Broncos than it did for the Minnesota Vikings—especially Blair Walsh.  Confetti and ticker tape parades were the focus of the Broncos’ fans; however, some Vikings’ fans were thinking more of a hangman’s noose.

During the season, Walsh had made an NFL-high 34 field goals. With time running out, all the Vikings needed to defeat the Seahawks was a field goal.  Everyone assumed Walsh would kick the ball through the center of the goal posts, but it sailed wide and the Vikings season came to a sudden end.

While many of the Vikings’ fans attacked Walsh on social media, a group of first graders in Minnesota decided to share some encouraging words with the much-maligned kicker.  One of the students, Allie Edwards, said, “Blair was really sad, and we wanted to make him feel better.”

To see how the class reached out to Walsh, you can watch this video:

The actions of these children reminds me of one of the great pick-me-up principles of the New Testament:

If a person is caught doing something wrong, those of you who are spiritual should restore that person gently. Watch out for yourself so that you are not tempted as well.  Practice carrying each other’s burdens. In this way you will fulfill the law of the Messiah. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is really nothing, he is only fooling himself . . . So then, whenever we have the opportunity, let’s practice doing good to everyone, especially to the family of faith.    ~Galatians 6

Blair Walsh was blessed because Allie Edwards and her classmates heard opportunity knocking, and Walsh was encouraged by their little hearts that were large with empathy. Who will you bless and encourage today?

Broncos: More Than A One Horse Show

Manning-with-quoteEverything about Peyton Manning speaks of a seasoned professional.  His off season regime, the extra hours of preparation during preseason, his pregame warm-up drills, and even the carb-filled meal he eats before the game, are all legendary.

Ask anyone on the team, especially the rookies and newbies, if Manning’s focus is just on Peyton, and they will tell you that no one works harder than Peyton; and, no one works them harder than Peyton.

Manning knows he must prepare himself; however, he also knows his preparation is inadequate and incomplete if it doesn’t include the team as a whole.

If you listened to the post game interview, the philosophy of the old pro was heard in the pronoun he used. Manning’s vocabulary was not filled with “me, myself, and nobody else;” instead, he spoke of “our” team, “our” effort, “our” coaches, and “our” win.  That’s not to say he never used the word “I.”

With a thought to the sky box where his family was huddled, Peyton said, “I want to give my wife a kiss and hug my family.”  While the win was nice, it paled in comparison to the love he has for his wife and family.

A serious neck injury sidelined Manning during the 2011 season, and it required a series of three surgeries.  Peyton thought his career was over, but Ashley, his wife, encouraged him to give it one more try.  Her urgings were not because the family needed money or because she wanted her husband to take some more bone-crushing hits.   She knew Peyton would have always wondered if he could have come back and would have regretted that he had not tried.

When the Lombardi trophy was given to the Denver Broncos and they were crowned champions of Super Bowl 50, it was because of teamwork.  The defense played an excellent game; the offensive lineman blocked; the receivers ran their routes; and Peyton called a strategic game with his trademark “Omaha” checkoff.

While I watched the game yesterday I kept thinking of Solomon’s teamwork philosophy, and I think they’re a fitting conclusion to this post:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).”

 

Just Like My Dad

Like_Father_Like_SonYesterday was the first day of 2016, and it’s the day that many people announce their resolutions for the coming year.  I you read this blog yesterday, you know that I encouraged you to “join me in making at least this one resolution for 2016:  I will be a disciple who glorifies the Father by abiding in Christ.”

I based this resolution on John 15:7-11: “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you [that is, if we are vitally united and My message lives in your heart], ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.  My Father is glorified and honored by this, when you bear much fruit, and prove yourselves to be My [true] disciples.  I have loved you just as the Father has loved Me; remain in My love [and do not doubt My love for you].  If you keep My commandments and obey My teaching, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.  I have told you these things so that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy may be made full and complete and overflowing.”

When I was studying this Scripture, I read the Amplified version, and it offers some interesting concepts related to our resolution:

  • This first item is the one that caught my attention: Jesus said, “I love you just like My Dad loves Me.”  This is an eternal, never-ending, and unfailing love.
  • The word “remain” is used several times. In many versions of the Bible, it appears as “abide,” and the idea isIf you abide in Jesus, and His words take up residence in your life, you will attentively observe His teachings and strictly maintain a walk that is in step with Him.
  • An obedient life is a prerequisite to answered prayer.
  • Remaining or abiding is not a Sunday experience, but a lifestyle.

When you think of the 4 points above, I hope you realize that joy, not happiness, is the focus of each of these.  Jesus said, “I have told you these things so that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy may be made full and complete and overflowing.

The Bible only uses the word “happy” or “happiness” about 30 times, while “joy” and rejoice” are found around 300 times.  You will never find true contentment in the contents of merchandise that has been neatly packaged and gift wrapped.  It is not the result of the final score in one of the many football games played at this time of the year, and its not found in the empty promises of politicians.

Joy can’t be purchased and it’s not the victim of circumstances; it’s the fruit of a genuine relationship with God that perseveres.

Even though Paul had been arrested and jailed, he had learned to be “content” regardless of his situation, and He said: “Rejoice in the Lord always.”

I hope you use these 4 points throughout 2016, so you can be “disciple who glorifies the Father by abiding in Christ.”

Faith, Fractures, and Football

romodow1.0As the camera focused on the face of Jerry Jones, the agony of the Cowboys owner was only exceeded by the pain of his quarterback.  Tony Romo had just been sacked, and the force of the tackle had broken his clavicle.

While I watched Romo walk off the field, I wondered about the severity of the break.  I also thought of a phrase in the New Testament where Paul instructed Titus to “set in order the things that are lacking.”

This phrase describes the need of Romo.  “Set in order” is the Greek word epidiorthoo, and it is a construction of three words:

  • Epi which means upon.
  • Dia which means through.
  • Orthos is the main part of this word, and it means to straighten or make correct.

Orthos is the prefix of words like:

  • Orthodontist who is focused on the correct alignment of teeth
  • Orthopedist who is concerned with a straight skeleton
  • Orthodoxy which is associated with the correct teaching of the faith or of theology

In Romo’s case, the doctors will make sure the clavicle is aligned and straightened, so it will mend properly.   Romo will also need to give the injury time to heal.

Some people invest more time caring for their physical needs than they do their spiritual fitness.  This mindset can lead to a fractured faith.  To prevent this from occurring, the book of Hebrews says you should “strengthen your tired arms and your weak knees, and straighten the paths of your life, so that your lameness may not become worse, but instead may be healed. Pursue peace with everyone, as well as holiness, without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:12-14).”

If you fail to do this, you may be sidelined along with the Cowboys quarterback.

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.

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?

A Normal Failure

images (2)Success and failure are the topics of many discussions.  In the Proverbs, Solomon draws a contrast between the “God-loyal people” and the “wicked” and how they manage the difficult times they face:

“Don’t interfere with good people’s lives; don’t try to get the best of them. No matter how many times you trip them up, God-loyal people don’t stay down long; Soon they’re up on their feet, while the wicked end up flat on their faces.” ~Proverbs 24:15-16

When a person is successful, he hears the cheers of the crowd; however, when he fails, the whispers of the same people are heard as an agonizing shout.  Failure is, however, a normal part of a person’s life.

With this in mind, let me share my Top Ten Failure Quotes:

  • Failure is not falling down: It is staying down.
  • “Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be” – John Wooden
  • “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley
  • “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison
  • “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill
  • “It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts.” – Zig Ziglar
  • “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
  • Try again. Fail again. Fail better. ~Samuel Beckett
  • Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat. ~F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed. ~Lloyd Jones

When I think of a God-loyal person, I think of Tim Tebow.  This young man had a stellar career as a college quarteback.  When his professional career came to an abrupt halt, some peole labeled him as a failure.

Tebow stayed in shape, continued to work hard, and he signed a contract with the Eagles this week.  He is anything but a failure, and he is a living example of Solomon’s words: “God-loyal people don’t stay down long; Soon they’re up on their feet . . . “

How Do You Measure Life?

hwymyl_400x400Today is the day after Thanksgiving, and one of the discussions you will have today will be what you did yesterday—Thanksgiving as an event will be on your talk-turkey-agenda.

  • What did you do for Thanksgiving yesterday?
  • Where did you go for Thanksgiving?
  • How many people came to your house for Thanksgiving?
  • I ate way too much.
  • I had to sample a piece of every pie.

As you rehearse and digest the events of yesterday, notice the tenor of the discussion:  Is it geared more towards the quality of the day or the quantity of the food?  Was there any “thanks” in your Thanksgiving Day?

When he wrote to the church at Corinth, Paul made sure quality and quantity were center stage when he served his soliloquy on a life well-lived:

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master-builder I laid a foundation, but someone else builds on it. And each one must be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done.  If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward.  If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire. ~I Corinthians 3:9-10 (JB Phillips)

Corinth was a hedonistic city of commerce and many of the Christians were living the epicurean life.  Their lives were lived in the quest for fleshly quantity and not spiritual quality.

As Peter Marshal once said; “The measure of life is not its duration, but its donation.”  Do you focus more on the “who” you are living for or on the “what” you are pursuing?

Here’s a final thought for you to chew on:  “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor (Vince Lombardi).”