October 21, 2009

World's Greatest Athlete

I used to dream of being the "world's greatest athlete". When I dreamed, I pictured myself as a "6 foot, 4 inch, hunk of herculean steel carved into rippling muscles". What a picture I had in my mind!

I went on to be a decent athlete getting football scholarship offers to several schools. But I never came close to being the "world's greatest athlete".

I recently had dinner with the REAL "world's greatest athlete". Bryan Clay won the silver at the 2004 Olympics and the GOLD at the 2008 Olympics in the decathlon! As I met Bryan and spent the evening with him I kept thinking...he's not the picture I had in my mind.

Don't misunderstand. Bryan is sinewy, lithe, and toned. He is good looking and genuinely nice. But he is not even 6 feet tall. His muscles don't ripple largely under his clothes. I would never have looked at Bryan in a mall and said, "Hey, he might be an incredible athlete".He's not what I imagined, he's more ordinary looking than I thought.

My POINT? Amazing people are often disguised in ordinary packages. You look in the mirror and think I don' t look like a Greek God, I could never be amazing. But the truth is if you have VISION, DETERMINATION, and hours of DISCIPLINE then you could could be amazing at about anything you put your mind to. (Bryan trains about 8 hours a day).

There is a 20,000 hour principle. Take one thing, focus on it, get great coaching about, have a little natural aptitude for it, and then spend 20,000 hours on it and you will be better than 99.99% of the world in it.

That's 40 hours of practice 50 weeks a year for 10 years. If you can only practice 20 hours a week it will take you 20 years. That's just 3 hours a day. If you are 30 now, you can be one of the best in the world by the age of 50. The best lawyer, author, preacher, piano player, artist, real estate agent...whatever!

Don't let your preconceived ideas about what greatness is, stop you from being great! You can do it!
But on the flip side, you must ask if that is what God wants for you. Usually God wants you to live a BALANCED life rather than a "world record" life. By the way...Bryan is a good dad too.

October 19, 2009

Cancer Answer

The answer to Cancer is the power and people of Jesus Christ!

If you are like me you know more and more people who are facing the curse of cancer. I personally have ten friends and family members fighting cancer.

I hate cancer. It took my 82 year old grandmother and my 8 week old friend,Shamya. It doesn't care whether you are rich or poor, old or young, atheist or Christian. Often without rhyme or reason, cancer just sneaks in and starts spreading its death.

Cancer is powerful but cancer can not steal faith, hope, laughter, friendship, heaven, or love. Cancer CAN NOT!

When cancer comes it must be confronted. My wife, Deb was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer. It was supposed to kill her quickly. But we launched a counter attack. We sent prayer requests around the world. We went to the best oncologist we could find. We started claiming scriptures over her day and night.
In her case God did a profound miracle so that she is now cancer free for the last four years.

Not all cancer stories go this way. My friend Steve was not healed here. He was healed there.

I often tell Christians who are attacked...God is going to walk with you through the valley of the shadow of death. You will walk through it to healing or to heaven. But you will walk through it.

So again the CANCER ANSWER is the power and people of Jesus. The power of Jesus to heal, to comfort, to strengthen, to give hope, to open our spiritual eyes, to impact our spirit's with indomitable courage. The people of Jesus to hold our hands, to lift us up, to walk beside us, to surround us with their faith, to speak hope to our hearts, to love us with God's love and theirs.

I pray for break throughs in Cancer...but until that happens I encourage any one confronting cancer...to find the answer in the power and people of Jesus.

October 13, 2009

Financial YeeHaw!

Being from Kansas when I got out of elementary school for our summer vacation, I shouted one big "YeeHaw!" I was free from daily grind of worrying about homework, grades, tests, and pop quizzes. There was still a lot of work to do during the summer, after all this was the farm. But all the stress of fretting and worrying about tests, etc. was gone! 

I believe the God wants his people to live in Financial Yeehaw! The world wants to teach us to live in the elusive chase to "keep up with" or even "beat" the imaginary Jones' family. The world wants us to attach our significance, self-image and satisfaction to our bank account. The world wants to lead us away from the idea of "God being our true source".

Listen to Jesus: "For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them." Matthew 6:32. Don't chase stuff or it will steal your YeeHaw! It will robl your contentment. Trust God's provision.

Obviously this doesn't mean sit on your butt all day and wait for the Reader's Digest Sweepstake check to magically appear in your mailbox. But it does mean do what you can, then rest in God's love and then live in Financial YeeHaw!

Randy Alcorn makes a profound observation...

Many people misunderstand the idea of financial freedom. They see it as meaning financial independence, applying it to people who have built up enough  assets or income stream to work when they want, vacation where they want, and buy what they want. I’ve observed, however, that a person can be financially independent without being content. Conversely, a person can be content without being financially independent.

Besides avoiding the potential confusion between financial freedom and financial independence, I prefer focusing on contentment because that is the word the Bible uses. Here are a few notable examples:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. (1 Timothy 6:6-8)

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)

God knows how to free us from fear and worry and give us a "Financial YeeHaw!" 

October 12, 2009

Salad Bowl Love

I believe God is tossing the salad, not melting the metal. Salad bowl love is laying down our lives without losing our identity.

When different metallic elements are melted in a pot, alloys are formed which have different properties from the original elements. In a salad, a tomato slice doesn't become a radish.

In a melting pot, people lose their individual identity and try to become the same as everyone else. In a salad bowl, people keep their identity but blend together to create an overall nutritious and tasty new product.

I grew up singing, Jesus loves the little children of the world,  they are precious in his sight...
Jesus loves them just as they are because he created them just as they are. Yet he calls them into unity.

Oneness is not sameness. Unity is not loss of identity. It is much more difficult to rejoice in our ethnicity, yet lay down any superiority, for the greater citizenship and the higher cause of the kingdom.

Theologically, Revelation 7:9 makes clear that even before the throne of God, in our perfected state, there are ethnic distinctions...and perhaps even different languages. Perhaps the praises of God will be multi-lingual. We will all speak the common language of heaven but retain the language of our culture.

One of my most heavenly moments was a doctoral class with 9 different "heart" languages present in the room and Richard Foster had us sing, "Yes Jesus loves me" in our "native tongue".  

Yesterday in my office for our newcomer's "pizza with pastor" time, we had natives from Colombia, Panama, Trinidad, Mexico, Nigeria, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, with a Kansas farm boy like me. As one of the newcomers to church said, "I believe heaven will look like this". So do I.

October 10, 2009

Oil and Fire

Oil and Fire. Follow my reasoning here. It's clear from scripture that the Holy Spirit  is pictured as both oil and fire.

Zechariah's vision of a menorah, a lampstand with two olive trees beside it shows just one of those links between oil and fire, the Spirit and light. And that's why the Lord says, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord". Zechariah 4:6

In Acts 2:3,4 we see another connection when the Holy Spirit fills the believers and the flame rests on every head of disciples. The oil and fire.

One time John Wesley was preaching outside in a field in the cold of winter. He had a large crowd listening to him. Meanwhile in the warm cathedral nearby, the bishop had only a handful of people listening to him. He could take it no longer and went and asked Wesley why the crowds were gathered to hear him. Wesley's response was, "I set myself on fire and people come to watch me burn!" There was an oil and fire connection here.

1 Thessalonians 5:19 says "Do not put out the Spirit's fire".

Oil speaks of fullness, source, power. Fire speaks of energy, light, ability, passion, purity.

My prayer today and everyday..."Fill me with the oil of the Holy Spirit, so the fire of God may shine through me"

October 06, 2009

Godly Athiests

In my world travels it is interesting to observe the devotion displayed to false gods. Muslims bowing down for prayer on trans-pacific flights, Hindus putting their daily worship sacrifices out for their gods, animists building their little altars to the river god or mountain god, witch doctors fasting and cutting themselves to coerce the spirits into action.

But when I begin to observe a majority of American Christians there is nothing to see. Except for occasional Sunday church attendance, there is no place to view their devotion to their God. Their theology is invisible. They believe in God in intellectual ways that don't visibly alter their lives. They mentally ascribe to a "God belief" but functionally they are atheists.

Now I praise God that we are New Testament Christians unencumbered by the necessity of daily sacrifices. I thank God that our walk is by grace not walking up to Mecca. I bless Jesus that if I forget to pray for a few days, he's not ticked off and withdrawn.

BUT a living faith demands something observable and different. An integration of God into our daily living that is tangible. An adoration that treats God like He's real and like He's really here and really hearing.

Folks that I see worshiping their false gods appear odd and different to me. That's the way I should appear to those without a living faith in Jesus. They should say, "Hey, why do you do what you do?".

Why are you kneeling? Why do you pray before you reach for an aspirin? Why do you carry that little book around? Why does your checkbook have a weekly check to church? Why do you look for the hurting to help? Why don't you rent the raunchy movie that Hollywood says is so cool? Why do you dance around in your living room to worship music? Why do you take expensive trips to 3rd world places that are so poor they turn your stomach?

I don't want merely a "doctrine" of God, I want a "doing" for God! I want to act different by faith and because of faith. No functional atheism for me!

October 05, 2009

Have it Norway!

With my apologies to the old Burger King commercials,"Have it your way"...I was shocked to discover that Norway has been ranked as the best place in the world to live. Norway! (news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/8290550)

Norway...where six months out of the year the average temperature is below freezing. That may be "your-way" to live but it's "no-way" to live for me.

Based on longevity, educational system, safety, and earnings per person, Norway came out on top. Of course...they are frozen half the time, they are inside studying, people are too cold to commit crime, and there is nowhere to spend your money.

Give me Southern California, palm trees swaying, warm sand under my toes, people from around the world, average temp 70 degrees, and Disneyland. Come on people.

Just pray that my wife doesn't read this...she's full on Norwegian...I will take my Norwegian but I will take her to So.Cal! No way, Norway!

By the way...Iceland was #3!! Iceland!