Sales Calls and Basketballs

About 5 nights a week, my soon to be 4 year old and I spend about an hour in the driveway shooting hoops. Technically, I spend the hour shooting while she entertains me with stories about her day, the different pictures she colored and all the mischief her brother got into.

For about the first 10 minutes we are in the driveway, she is genuinely interested in playing basketball or, “taking some shoots,” as she calls it. So with secret ambitions to parlay my $300 basketball goal investment into a full-ride college basketball scholarship, I run thru some basic basketball drills with my little girl. We work on dribbling, passing and correct shooting form. She loves “taking shoots.” It’s the highlight of my evening too.

Tonight, we were passing the ball back and forth like any other night and Evy was jabbering on about all her daily adventures while I had been off at work. All of a sudden as she caught one of my passes I heard the familiar “thud” that only comes when a basketball has jammed directly into one of your fingers. Anyone who has ever played basketball knows exactly what I’m talking about. In my lifetime of playing basketball I must stubbed my fingers a thousand times. But this was the first time for my daughter. She immediately stopped in the middle of her story and grabbed her finger. Her eyes were welling with tears but I could tell she wasn’t going to let herself cry. I asked her, “Do you want to go in and call it a night?” “No way, Daddy!” She said, holding back the tears. “We haven’t finished our shoots yet!”

I was so proud of my little girl. I remembered back to when my dad was teaching my brother and me how to catch a baseball, and my brother caught one with his upper lip. Instead of going in right away to clean up the blood, my dad made him catch the next one so he wouldn’t give up and be afraid of the ball.
Stubbing fingers and catching baseballs in your mouth hurts. But making the perfect shot or the perfect catch makes all the busted lips and stubbed fingers and rolled ankles and worn out days in the driveway worthwhile. Evy understood if she decided to call it a night after stubbing her finger, she was going to miss out on the rest of the driveway time that she and I cherish so much. Evy knew the time she and I spent together tonight on the driveway would make the hurt of the stubbed finger worthwhile.

She got me to thinking. I work in the sales world. This has been a long week for me. I have stubbed a lot of fingers this week. This was a week of wheel spinning and fire-fighting. It seemed like every time I had a chance to focus on prospecting, another major issue would come up with a current customer. Some days I wanted to call it a day after some of those stubbed fingers. Just go home and not worry about prospecting or looking for new business. I figured I’ll take my shots another day when I’m not nursing all these wounds.

When you take a shot in basketball, within about a second you know if it’s going in or not. When you take a shot in sales prospecting, it usually takes 30 days or so before you know if it’s going in or not. Just like in basketball, no one is going to sink all the sales shots they attempt. But you are guaranteed to not make any sales at all if you are not taking any shots. Stubbing fingers in sales hurts. Hearing no several times in a row, dealing with customer issues, getting doors slammed in your face and Murphy ’s Law in general can make you want to stop taking shots and prospecting.
You gotta keep shooting. The only thing that hurts worse than stubbed fingers in selling is no commission on a paycheck. Some days you won’t get up your best shots. Some days you may have to make some calls outside of the golden hours of selling. Some days you are going to have to force yourself to turn around, go back in the office and make one more call. Take the shots. I don’t know how many will go in; you can let me know in 30 days. I do know this; sinking just one of those shots will make a week’s worth of slammed doors, and stubbed fingers all worthwhile.

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Shotgun Approach

It’s been at least 10 years ago. I was on a plane coming home from a mission trip to Latin America. Another religious group was on the same plane heading back to the states, having just completed a mission of their own.

Still fired up from their campaign, this other group made a point to greet every person on the plane and hand them a tract outlining their beliefs. I was sitting in between a man from another church that participated in the campaign I was on, and a girl from my home congregation. A member from the other group stopped at our seats, greeted us and handed us a tract.

Almost immediately, the man seated next to me began laughing out loud; almost as if he wanted to bring attention to himself. He pulled out his pen, opened the tract and began writing “lies” and “false doctrine” inside the tract without even reading it.

Hearing the laughter one of the men passing out tracts turned and asked the man next to me, “what do you think about that?” motioning to his tract. The man next to me answered, “You don’t want to know what I think about this.” The man in the aisle insisted, “Yes, I really do! It sounds like you might have some questions.” The man next to me replied bluntly, “How can you so happily teach this bunch of lies? Have you ever heard of Acts 2:38?” (He asked this without ever actually quoting the verse.)The voice of the man sitting next to me began to grow louder and more aggressive, “You’re teaching people how to go to hell!” He shouted.

The girl and I sitting next to the man wanted to disappear.  I remember thinking, “I hope no one in this plane thinks I am associated with this guy.”

The man in the aisle went from friendly to defensive and a mild, yet immature argument ensued. I noticed several people turning around in their seats and looking at the scene that the man was causing. Upon hearing what the argument was about, many passengers rolled their eyes and turned back around.

When the man from the aisle left the argument and returned to his seat I could tell that the man sitting next to me seemed very proud of himself for successfully “defending” the truth. I couldn’t help but think about all the people sitting around who this man would now never have a chance to win for Christ because of his behavior. His method of sowing was to load all his seed in a shotgun shell and fire it directly into the face of anyone who had a different view than his.

While the shotgun to the face method of evangelism may be very easy to administer, you will rarely find anyone who finds this a comforting way to learn the gospel. Evangelism is an important responsibility that we should all take very seriously.

Here are a few ideas that might help:

1.            Don’t let your method destroy your message.

2.            Make sure when teaching, you are doing so with a spirit of love. Otherwise your message becomes a sounding brass or a clanging symbol. (I Cor 13)

3.            People who disagree with you are not the enemy. They are an opportunity. Remember, Paul went into the synagogue to preach, because this is where people seeking truth could be found. Someone with the conviction to give a complete stranger a tract on an airplane is someone who has a desire to do what is right. That’s someone I want on my team, and I would guess wants those kind of people on His team too! Don’t ruin a good future teammate by being immature.

4.            Know your audience and don’t seek to evangelize those who already agree with you. It feels good to hear “amen brother” from someone who firmly agrees with your point, but if you have totally alienated one who was lost in the process, what good have you done?

5.            Think about ways you might be receptive to a new idea, and try to implement those ways into your teaching.

6.            Think about words, actions, gestures, and phrases that instantly put you on the defensive and try to avoid using these when you teach.

7.            Realize that what you want to say isn’t always what a person needs to hear.

8.            Before opening your mouth to teach anyone ever; pray.

Evangelism is a great responsibility. What you say could lead someone to closer to Christ or further away. Choose your words very carefully.

 

The Power of One?

 I’m only one person. What difference could I ever make?

Besides…I’m not strong enough. I’m not good looking enough. I’m not popular enough. I’m too fat. I’ve made too many mistakes. I’m not a good person. I’m not a good speaker. I don’t know what to say to my friends. I’ve done some really bad things. I don’t fit in.

What difference can I, one severely flawed person, ever hope to make?

I mean I want to serve God, I really do. But do you realize what I have done? Do you know what kind of person I have been? Do you know what people say about me?

I want to be an influence for good at my school, but I am the only one who cares. And they will never listen to one person; especially when that one person is me.

The truth of the matter is, one person does not hold a lot of power. One person standing against a crowd is standing in a position of weakness. One Christian in a school of 1000 students is not in a position of power.

There is not a lot of power in one person.  The title of this blog entry should be called the weakness of one person, because people are weak. We are all weak.

I know a lot of people afraid to become Christians because they don’t think they are strong enough. 

You don’t become a Christian because you are strong; you become a Christian because you are weak. And the secret is, everyone is weak. We all are. And it’s ok that you are still weak.

The first thing Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount is “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I think this would be better said, blessed are those who realize they are poor in spirit, because we are all beggars spiritually.

Spiritually, human beings are beggars. We are destitute. We are the opposite of strong.

Look at Luke chapter beginning in verse 36 

“36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” 41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

In Simon’s mind he was in a position of power. He was a Pharisee; the best of the best spiritually. Oh sure, he knew he wasn’t perfect, but spiritually he was a powerful guy, definitely more powerful than this woman.  When you lined Simon up next to the woman, boy did she look weak.

Jesus’ point was not that Simon had less to forgive and therefore appreciated his forgiveness less than the woman. Jesus’ point is that because Simon THOUGHT he had less to be forgiven, he appreciated the forgiveness less.

Do you understand what I am saying?

It would not matter if I had a debt today of $100,000 or $1,000,000 because in either case I would be in a position where I could not pay. I would need to beg those around me for help. And whether I was forgiven $100,000 or $1,000,000 I would be extremely grateful of that forgiveness because both debts were amounts I could not have paid.

We need to realize is that it does not matter what sins we have committed, any one of them, unforgiven, will keep us from the presence of God. There is absolutely NOTHING that we can do of ourselves to cover that sin.

We are helpless. We are beggars. We are weak.

There is no power in one person. 

There shouldn’t be any power one person.

It just doesn’t make sense.

Logically, one person is in a position of weakness.

But God knows we are weak. He allows us to be weak. He wants us to realize we are weak.

Look at 2 Cor 12 beginning in verse 7. This is quickly becoming my favorite passage of scripture.

“7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,[a] a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

God’s power is made perfect in weakness. 

The power of God can be shown in one weak person.

Abraham was one weak person. He was very old; well past the age that he could biologically become a father. But God needed a man to be the father of many nations; the father of His chosen people.

Think about this; if God is choosing a man to be the father of His chosen people, wouldn’t He want to pick a young man, a strong man with good genes?

But if He did it wouldn’t have been God’s power that was shown, it would have been the power of the young, strong man with good genes. So God chose an old man, a very old man, to be the father of his chosen people. And thru the weakness of one very old man, the power of God was made perfect.

Moses was one weak person. He was a murderer. He was a stutterer. He was an outcast by his own choosing. But God needed a man who God be His voice to the most powerful man in the world, the Egyptian Pharaoh.

God could have chosen a man who was not a murderer, a man who was not a stutterer. God could have chosen a bold man who was an eloquent speaker who was popular among the people.

But if He did that it wouldn’t have been God’s power that was shown, it would have been the power of the bold, eloquent popular speaker. So God chose Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, and thru the weakness of one flawed individual, the power of God was made perfect.

David was one weak person. He was just a boy. He was visiting his brothers on the battlefield. But God needed someone to step up and fight the giant Philistine, Goliath.

God could have provided His people with a warrior capable of defeating Goliath. He could have given them a giant who was bigger than Goliath to kill him.

But if He did it wouldn’t have been God’s power that was shown, it would have been the power of the giant. So God chose the young shepherd boy, David, to fight Goliath. And thru the weakness of one young boy, the power of God was made perfect.

Peter was one weak person. He had his moments of flair; including the time where he boldly told Jesus, “Even if I have to die with you, I will NEVER deny you!” But Peter was weak, and only hours later he found himself weeping bitterly having succumbed to his own weakness and denying Christ as He looked down at Peter from the cross. But God needed someone to deliver the first Gospel sermon on the Day of Pentecost.

God could have chosen a person who followed Jesus perfectly, a person who never stumbled. God could have chosen a person who had never denied Christ in their life.

But this person didn’t and doesn’t exist.

So God chose Peter, the man who denied knowing Jesus as the Son of God was being murdered. And thru the weakness of one human being, the power of God was made perfect on the Day of Pentecost.

God’s power is made perfect in weakness. And we are all weak.

The power of one person, is allowing the power of God to be shown thru our weakness.

I’m only one person. What difference could I ever make?

Besides…I’m not strong enough. I’m not good looking enough. I’m not popular enough. I’m too fat. I’ve made too many mistakes. I’m not a good person. I’m not a good speaker. I don’t know what to say to my friends. I’ve done some really bad things. I don’t fit in.

What difference can I, one severely flawed person, ever hope to make?

I mean I want to serve God, I really do. But do you realize what I have done? Do you know what kind of person I have been? Do you know what people say about me?

I want to be an influence for good at my school, but I am the only one who cares. And they will never listen to one person; especially when that one person is me.

God says, “You are exactly what I am looking for.”

Too many times, our instinct is to try to cover our flaws, and make people think we have no weakness. Pride gets in the way and we become like Simon the Pharisee. When we do this, we are not allowing God’s power to be shown.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”  – Ephesians 3:20-21

Paul wrote these words to the church at Ephesus. Paul was a man who used to murder Christians, and is now being used by God to show His power. And Paul says God is able to do way more than we could ever think or ask when His power is at work in us!

God can let you do more than you could ever imagine.

“I’m too weak to stand up to my friends.” God says, “You are, but let my power show in your weakness.”

“I don’t know enough to teach someone about Jesus.” God says, “You don’t, but trust my Word to guide you.”

“I’m not bold enough to be the only one at school who doesn’t drink.”  God says, “Let me in, and we’ll do more than you could ever imagine.”

What are we waiting for? It’s time to quit hiding behind our weakness and let God’s power show.

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

For when I am weak, then I am strong.

For when I am weak, then I am strong!

This phrase has been charging me up spiritually. I hope it can motivate you as well.

And when find yourself in a position of weakness, when Satan is doing his best to tempt you and make you fall, when you are the only Christian at your school, and when you friends are pressuring you, remember – you may be weak, but God is strong and When I am weak, then I am strong!

And that is the power of 1 person. When we allow God to work in the weakness of 1 person.

When I am weak, then I am strong!

Put on the shoes…

You are a Jew living around 2000 years ago.

Your life consists of typical Middle Eastern cultures and traditions of that day. Your earliest memories include your mother reciting Psalms to you, and your father giving you instruction from Proverbs. Your grandparents and great-parents told you stories of the Messiah who would come to be the King of the Jews and save His elect.  They tell you to be looking for this prophet like unto Moses. You went to school and memorized the words of the prophets for telling this great king. For about 4,000 years these prophecies have been handed down ever since God told the serpent in the garden, “You shall bruise His heal and He shall crush your head.” Every day you proudly and boldly recite, “Hear O Israel, the Lord thy God is one God!” You have been taught to love the Father for what He has done for you. You are anxiously awaiting the Messiah.

In your mind you have ideas about what to expect about the Messiah. How He will look, how He will act, the presence He will have about Him, His strength and the way He will rule as King of Kings. There is no way in your mind that God would choose a seemingly weaker vessel as He did with Noah, Abraham, Moses or David to show His divine strength. No, this time God would truly show His power, His might and His authority thru the Messiah.

The words of Isaiah “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised” either don’t make sense or don’t come to mind when you are envisioning your Messiah.

No, the Messiah you are looking for will stand out. You will know Him when you see Him. There is no way you are going to miss the King of the Jews.

Then one day you hear a man, Jesus, preaching like no one has ever preached before. He was preaching from His own authority. He was saying things like, “you have heard that it was said, but I tell you…” and this made you very uncomfortable. Who did this guy think He was? Hasn’t He heard of the prophets? Doesn’t He have any respect for the scribes and chief priests? Doesn’t He realize that the Pharisees know the Law better than anyone? Who is this Jesus guy?

You ask around and find out a little more about this man. Jesus is the son of a carpenter, and you have even heard that He may have been born in a barn. You hear that he’s eating and keeping company with tax-collectors and sinners. You’ve heard some rumors that He has done some impressive things as well. From what you’ve heard He’s fed multitudes, healed the sick and cast out demons.

But now you’re starting to hear from the religious leaders you look up to that this man is a heretic. The Pharisees have vowed to trap Him in His web of heresy. You hope they do. The last thing the Jews need right now is another false teacher sprouting up and diluting the Law.

Now things are starting to get worse. This man is claiming to forgive sins. He can’t do that! Only God can forgive sins! This man needs to be stopped. This has gone too far. Your anger boils to rage when you hear that now Jesus is claiming to be the Son of God.

NO! Not Him! Not this man! He is not your king. He is not your Messiah! Your Messiah would not look like Jesus, the poor son of a carpenter; the man who you would never pick out in a crowd. There is nothing about this man that says “King”.

So when you hear that He has been arrested and is being brought before Pilate, you drop everything to gather outside Pilate’s Praetorium. This heretic needs to be put to death. How dare He try to tell you how to live? How dare He claim to be the son of God? Jesus is not your King.

Pilate seems to be wavering on what he will do with Jesus, so you join the crowd chanting “crucify, crucify, crucify!” so that he will know for sure what you want to happen to this man.

Pilate continues to waffle. You feel like this is a decision he doesn’t want to make, so you put pressure on him. You let him know that if he does not send this man to be crucified, he is no friend of Caesar. Pilate tries to get out of the situation by giving you the choice to release the heinous murderer Barabbas or Jesus, thinking you’ll choose to release the non-violent heretic. Pilate is wrong. You’ll gladly accept Barabbas back into your community rather than this phony claiming to be God’s Son. What is wrong with Pilate? Why doesn’t he understand this man needs to be put to death? Finally Pilate makes a big show of washing his hands in front of everyone and says that the blood of this man would not be on him. “That’s fine!” you yell. “Let His blood be on us and our children!” And so He was led away to be crucified. Everyone’s pent up rage was violently released upon Jesus. He’s beaten, spit on, made fun of, humiliated, and stripped naked in front of His mother. You can tell as He hangs on the cross that He is carrying an incredible burden. “Good” you say, “serves Him right for claiming to be my Messiah.”  

And that was it for the man Jesus; the heretic who claimed to be God’s Son.

Fast forward 7 weeks. It’s the day of Pentecost and Jews from all over the world are gathering in Jerusalem. And something amazing happens. These Galilean followers of Jesus are speaking, but everyone is able to hear in their own language. Then Peter steps up and begins to speak. “This should be good,” you tell your friend. “This is the guy who denied even knowing Jesus the night we killed Him.”

But what Peter has to say surprises you a little bit. Peter is speaking very familiar words. He’s preaching from the prophet Joel, and he’s quoting the word’s of David. The pieces start to fit. A huge knot begins to develop in your stomach as you put two and two together. Your eyes well with tears, “No, He couldn’t have been,” you think to yourself. Emptiness and hopeless overcome you. You are cut to your heart when Peter says, “Let all the house of Israel know for certain, that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

“No no no no no no! This cannot be! Please don’t let this be!”

Crushed cannot begin to describe how you feel in this moment. Hopeless is merely the tip of the iceberg. You have failed. After 4,000 years of waiting and watching, you let your family down. “How could I miss the Messiah?”

“What have I done?”

“I murdered the Son of God. How could things be any worse? Why would God ever want to have a relationship with me?”

“I spit in His face as He was being beaten!”

“I chanted crucify, crucify, crucify!”

And when you can finally muster enough breath in between your tears, you ask Peter and the others in a weeping, broken voice “What shall I do?”

“Is there any hope for me?”

Peter says to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. And you do. Immediately. There is absolutely nothing that can even come close to being as important to you in that moment.

Hope! Forgiveness! Remission of sin!

In a moment, you have gone from no hope to a having a promise of hope. Three thousand other people felt the exact same way that day. They couldn’t believe they had a second chance at a relationship with the Father.

There is no way you are going to mess this up again. “Thank God for my salvation thru His Son! Jesus, The Messiah, The King of Kings!”

 

Next time: You are Mary.

Measuring Success

When Phillip, the youth minister, asked me to coach the church’s middle school basketball team, I asked him, “Am I coaching to win games, or are we just making sure everyone has fun and gets equal play time?” He told me, “I’m sure they all want to get their share of play time, but we’d really like to win some games.”

I love coaching basketball. A couple of years ago a friend of mine asked me to coach his high school girls’ summer league team. We won the championship. I coached a team of guys who had mostly never played before to an intramural championship game in college. I love teaching the game. I love making complex things simple. I love making a plan and seeing it come to fruition. I love seeing a game played the right way.

I love to win. There is a formula to winning basketball games, and if a team buys into that formula, winning happens. I love when that formula takes an underdog team to a victory against a team that overmatched them in the talent department.

I had to retire from my church league playing career a few years ago because I am unable to “play for fun.” I can play softball, ping pong, Frisbee, cards, and Chutes and Ladders for fun. I cannot play basketball for fun. When I play, I want to play my way, because my way will win.  

As you can imagine, I was very happy when Phillip told me that I was coaching to win games. Perfect. Now to meet the players, get them to buy into the formula and start winning games.

Not so fast coach. Phillip emailed me my roster. “There must be a mistake here,” I replied. “This roster only has five names!” Phillip replied, “You only need four to start a game, and now you don’t have to worry about everyone’s playtime!”

Ok, minor speed bump. But if I’ve got five guys who can buy into my formula, we can still be successful.

I met my team at our first practice. They were pretty raw. The first time I saw them, only a couple could successfully dribble a basketball from one end of the court to the other. It was a struggle for some to get the ball to the rim on a shot attempt. Our first game we were blown out 58-3. It was apparent that we were out matched physically, athletically, and game experience by every team in the league.

I honestly wondered if the boys had it in them to take an entire season of blowouts.  I would have wanted to give up. But these boys started to teach me something. These boys loved the game. They all showed up for the next practice, and the next game. They encouraged a couple of their friends to join the team. They wanted to be better. They were sponges for information about how to defend better, dribble better, shoot better and rebound better. And we got better. A lot better.

Our measuring stick for success is different than most teams. We are almost assured to lose every game we play this season. But we have been successful. Victories for us are games where we hustle on defense or we make it an entire quarter without a double dribble. We went out for ice cream after the game that we kept our hands up on defense for the entire game.

That team that beat us 58-3 beat us 46-16 the last time we played them. They were upset they didn’t beat us by more and left their press defense on us the entire game, despite having an insurmountable lead. We’re getting better. We’re still a team that will lose a lot, but better than we were our first day.

These boys have taught me a lot. If you were to watch them play for the first time even today, you might think they are not very good. Maybe you would be right. But I know that these guys love the game.  They are learning, and they are getting better every day. They still make a lot of mistakes, and they still lose. But they don’t give up.

Let’s shift gears, away from basketball. In Luke 18, beginning in verse 9, Jesus tells a parable about a tax collector and a Pharisee. Spiritually, the tax collector was overmatched. The Pharisee has hung many banners in the rafters commemorating his victories. He’s chalked up wins against extortioners. He’s proved himself better than the unjust and adulterers. And now he’s thanking God for his most recent victory, against this tax collector.

The truth is we are all spiritually overmatched. The truth is we all need to realize our spiritual poverty so that we can humble ourselves like the tax collector to beat our chest and say, “God be merciful on me a sinner!”

Teams that claimed victory against us this season were far from perfect. Sure, compared to an inexperienced team like us they looked pretty good, but they still had their flaws.

It can be very easy as Christians to fall into the trap of using people around as a spiritual measuring stick, like the Pharisee did in Luke 18. As long as we’re not a drunkard, homosexual, adulterer, abortionist, addict, murderer, prostitute or thief, we usually count ourselves winners. As long as people worship the way we worship, sing the way we sing, believe what we believe, and teach what we teach, we consider them part of the winning team.

Can the spiritual underdogs ever claim a win? Could it be that sometimes we’re guilty of covering up our flaws by playing against the spiritual equivalent of a middle school basketball team that can’t dribble? And maybe that spiritual middle school basketball team has grown more than we have over the course of the season. Maybe we keep the press on them sometimes because we are embarrassed by their growth and our lack of development over the course of the season.

Perhaps that homosexual, that prostitute, and that addict are way better than they were at the beginning of the season. Maybe that person that doesn’t believe what we believe, teach what we teach or sings the way we sing is a sponge soaking up knowledge, but just started playing the game a few weeks ago.

My team has taught me that even when we’re not where we need to be, we can still claim victories if we are passionate about what we believe. Spiritually, I drop the ball on a daily basis. My heart is in the right place, though. I want to do what is right. I want to be pleasing to God. I want Him to be merciful on me, a sinner.

I’m thankful because these boys are teaching me that we’re all spiritual “losers” who can only gain victory through Christ. I’m realizing that as long as we share a common goal, we play for the same team, regardless of our differing levels of experience. I’m thankful because these boys are teaching me that if someone has a heart to learn, they will get better. I’m thankful because they are reminding me that dropping the ball yesterday doesn’t mean I have to drop it today.  

Trust

 

The world turns on trust. You may say that you are not a very trusting person, but that simply isn’t true. You may not be as trusting as others, but you do in fact trust people. We all do. We couldn’t make it thru one day without relying on people around us. Don’t believe me? Think about it.

Yesterday you probably ate food. If you are like me, that food may have been purchased at a grocery store, a restaurant or even a greasy gas station. When you made the transaction to purchase the food, you trust the people responsible for that food to have not done anything harmful to the food. You trust someone you may have never met before to safely feed you that day. You trust the other patrons in the store or restaurant to not rob or harm you as you are making your purchase. You trust the general public to not steal, vandalize or impair your car while you are inside making a purchase. On your way to the store you trusted other drivers on the road to safely obey traffic laws and stay in their lanes. You trust the teller at the bank with your paycheck so you would have money to put gas in your car. You trust the gas station to have gasoline in their pumps and not water. You trust your place of employment to pay you on an agreed upon date. You trust when you they send you statements for your 401K that they are not just spending the money you are saving. You close your eyes at night and trust your spouse, parents and siblings to not harm you in the middle of the night.

You get on an airplane and trust that there are no terrorists on board wishing to send a message.

You go to college and trust that another student will not chain the doors shut and start killing their classmates.

You go to the movies and trust that no one will come thru the back door and open fire.

You send your kids to school, and trust in their safety.

99.9999% your trust is not misplaced. You eat food that is safe, you drive among safe drivers, and you close your eyes to wake to another day, 99.9999% of the time.

You get on and off airplanes without incident 99.9999% of the time.

You go to four years of college never once fearing for your life 99.9999% of the time.

You walk out of a movie theater happy and entertained 99.9999% of the time.

Kids come home from school, 99.9999% of the time.

And then there is that .0001%. When society lets us down. When our trust is betrayed.

Someone takes our trust, and abuses it in the worst way.

We call these times tragedy. Unexpected. Unprovoked. Unnecessary. Pointless. 1 in a million tragedies.

And 99.9999% of our country will mourn and pull together with our neighbors who we may not know, but trust on a daily basis. Because when trust is betrayed in New York City, or Blacksburg, Virginia, or Aurora, Colorado or Newtown Connecticut; trust is betrayed everywhere.

Questions will be asked in the coming days.

“How could we have seen this coming?” You couldn’t.

“What could have been done to prevent this?” Probably nothing.

“What can we do so this never happens again?” Nothing.

The truth is trust will continue to be betrayed. We are not smart enough, nor will we ever be, to know how to prevent people from betraying trust.

There is only One who is truly worthy of our trust, because He is the One who is assured to never betray that trust. The sad thing is, I have been guilty of betraying of the God who promised to never betray me. And yet He forgives me time and again and trusts that I will do better.

And so to move on from a horrific tragedy such as this, we offer the ultimate forgiveness, by once again placing trust in our neighbors and in God.

Don’t Be That Guy…

Proof that my wife has great taste in men… – TH

Everybody knows that guy. The guy who does something that is generally considered to be a faux pas. To other guys, this might just be a quirk. Or, more likely, they’ve never even noticed it. The problem here is that that guy usually intends to impress girls, and girls know faux pas. Girls read entire magazines on what to do and not to do in this situation, what to wear or what not to wear, what this says about that, and so on. Girls pick apart every nuance. They do it to each other, and they do it to you. So be warned – don’t be that guy.

  1. Don’t be that guy who wears a class ring. Class rings are so…tacky. So you played football in high school. Just tell me that. Don’t wear jewelry that displays that fact in 4 point font. You were born in August. I’ll send you a birthday card. Don’t sport a gigantic, fake, green stone on your hand.  Maybe it was cool in high school. I don’t think it was, but hey, maybe. However, it’s not cool now. Class rings are big, brassy, artificial-gemstone-y time stamps. Don’t carry high school around with you. It is decidedly un-classy.
  2. Don’t be that guy who takes pictures of himself. It’s annoying enough when teenage girls do it. We do not want to see a grown man do this to himself. It’s self-absorbed and emasculating. And please, please do not be that guy that takes pictures of his muscles.
  3. Don’t be that guy who loves video games. I get it. All guys play video games. However, don’t drift into that category of guys who not only play video games, but actually then talk about those video games with other people, refer to them like everyone knows what you’re talking about, wears a headset while playing, or (please don’t) asks a girl to watch him play a video game. This is the point of no return. If you let yourself fall into this category, be prepared to only date girls who attend comic book conventions or worse, only date girls who also love video games. You don’t want to date those girls.
  4. Don’t be that guy who wants to travel. This line seems to work its way into every fantastical depiction of “the perfect guy.” Fluffy books and Lifetime movies are made on this stuff. Some real girls probably swoon over this lie, too. I really don’t know why. Oh, so the guy you’re interested in says that he wants to wander around the world for the rest of his life, and he wants to do it alone to “find himself?” Cool? No. That’s code for he’s going to dump you and disappear, and he wants you to assume he’s on an uncharted expedition to Antarctica where there are no phones and he can ignore all your texts. And that’s only if he’s telling you a blatant lie. If he really thinks he is going to travel, then you can probably also expect him to stay in college for ten years, achieving obscure and lofty-sounding titles and degrees.  Then, when he’s finally gotten every degree he can think of and the only logical next step is getting a job, then and only then, will he finally decide to travel (say that part breathily and with a most self-righteous look on your face).
  5. Don’t be that guy who can’t grow facial hair. I think most girls are attracted to some scruff, and a lot of girls are even attracted to full-blown facial hair. The problem is, not all guys can achieve that look. You know who you are. If you can’t grow a beard, you know it. It’s not your fault. Here’s the solution- just don’t let anyone know that all you’ve got is peach fuzz. That’s the easy solution. Patchy beards are the same. That’s not attractive, so even if a beard is stylish, just keep it clean-shaven. You’ll garner a lot more respect that way.
  6. Don’t be that guy who drives a weird car. All decent girls know that not everyone can afford a nice car, and you’ll do well to snag a girl who doesn’t require you go out of your means to please her with your vehicle. So, don’t fret, all you ’98 Honda Civic drivers. This one isn’t for you. This one is for those guys who drive the ridiculous cars. Why would you drive a Nissan Juke? Just please don’t do it. Those things are ugly and impractical. A two-door, small SUV? Why? This also applies to lifted, under-lighted, and decaled cars. It’s weird and kind of juvenile. But the worst offense, by far, is that of the obnoxious-colored car. Think that primer-base you’re sporting is edgy? No, just redneck. Loving your radioactive green sports car? You just wasted a lot of money, my friend. Your Corvette is yellow, you say? Drive it on over to Hooters. I’m sure you’ll find some admirers there, if you tip well. And that really goes for any yellow car. Don’t be that guy.
  7. Don’t be that guy who was a legend. Guys love to talk about the good old days, especially the good old sporting days. But isn’t funny how every guy was some unsung hero of the sporting world? There are some guys who were really legends, but it’s usually obvious. Like, maybe I’ve heard of you? Or maybe you look remotely athletic? Perhaps your friends could corroborate that story? Yeah, I didn’t think so. If you weren’t that great, then just own up to it. Girls love a great story, even if it doesn’t include you being carried off the field on everyone else’s shoulders. It’s ok if you were the one dragged off by the trainers or the one just sitting the bench. It’s endearing.
  8. Don’t be that guy who quotes American Pie and/or Old School. It seems that this is a male phenomenon. Guys love these movies. Girls don’t. Please don’t quote raunchy movie lines to a girl you’re trying to impress. Not only are they gross, but when did those guys debut? Like 2000? Early 2000s. Now, to be fair, you were probably in the target audience at that time. I think every teenage guy saw it and loved it. But hey, that was a long time ago and you have (hopefully) matured. And if you haven’t, at least pretend like you have. When you spout lines from American Pie, girls think of you as that sweaty, spindly boy sitting in the theater, memorizing every word with your peepers popping out of your head. Do you really want her to think about you like that? Nope. So, before you open your mouth to make some band camp quip, think about what kind of images you’ll be conjuring. Oh, and also, if you say that band camp line, she’ll think you’re really stupid.

I’m sure there are other scenarios that are immediately off-putting to 90% of the female species, but this is as critical as I feel like being right now. If you aren’t guilty of any of these eight, then you are well on your way. And remember, most women are pretty forgiving. Maybe you should amend that story where you had the game-winner or have your car painted, but hey, those are pretty easy fixes. At least you’re willing to change. There’s nothing worse than a guy who refuses to admit when he’s wrong. Just don’t be that guy.

-AH