Friday, 25 April 2014

Trusting God and Basketball

In the United States college basketball is a big thing, particularly in the month of March.  We actually call it March Madness.  Just prior to the national tournament which will supposedly determine the best college team in the country a list of 64 teams is selected.

As a kid growing up I so wanted to play basketball on the school team.  I spent hours each week shooting baskets.  There were only three things holding me back.  I was too short, too slow and a bad shot.  However I never lost my appreciation for basketball, particularly college ball.  The action is fast paced, typically they are more athletic and agile than high school players and not nearly as physical as professional players.

Each year there are always a few games that go down to the final seconds to determine the winner.

And this relates to God in what way?   Life can be a little like a March Madness basketball game.  We may be wishing for and looking for a particular outcome.  An outcome which may or may not come to pass.  It may be waiting to be accepted by a college; hoping to find the person of your dreams; waiting to hear from a potential employer; desiring to conceive a child; awaiting an operating surgeons report; hoping for someone to purchase your home; imploring God to take away an addiction of a loved one, or waiting to see God work in the heart of your spouse.

The outcome of the basketball game is not a matter of life in death, although to some it seems like it, and in many cases the examples above aren’t of that magnitude either.  The difference is that in the above examples God has a vested interest.  God will ultimately determine when and how those events will turn out.  And, whether or not we approve of His decision, not to mention His timing, we must believe that the outcome is for our best.

I rather doubt that God has a favorite team going into March Madness but He has a plan for the life of each player, just as He has a plan for you and me.  I’d be surprised if God pays a lot of attention to those who pray for their basketball team to be victorious.  I’m convinced that He very much cares about those “life changing” events that can mold and shape our character, strengthen our faith, build trust in Him, or brings honor and glory to Him.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Are You All In?

I have an aversion to water, well not water in general, the kind of water you swim in.  I never learned to swim.  I’d like to blame my father, I’d like to but I can’t.  However I do remember a story he told about his WWII Navy experience.  Apparently the Navy expected its recruits to be able to swim – the gall of them.  They had a very good test – they supposedly threw you in a pool.  As the story goes they broke both of my father’s thumbs trying to rescue him from the bottom of the pool.

So it is only on the rarest of occasions that I go near a pool.  To make matters worse I hate cold so if a pool isn’t heated to 104 degrees it is just another reason to stay out.  I usually start with my big toe and try to advance to my knee caps all while at the kiddy end of the pool.  It is torture.  Occasionally I immerse my whole self in the water, it’s extremely rare that I am “all in”.  Parents ask me not to come to the pool when their little children are there for fear that my moaning, groaning and thrashing about might leave an indelible mark on their psyche.

This made me think that more often than I’d like to admit my faith in Christ may not be all in.  There are daily tests as to how committed I am and often I don’t do well.  For example have I availed myself of every opportunity to witness to someone with whom I’m having a conversation?  Did I remember to start and end my counseling sessions with a prayer?  Am I anxious about the time it has taken to sell our house?    Ironically I am less anxious about starting a new business in a new city once we move – maybe I’m just in denial.

Do I submit to my wife out of reverence for Christ? (Ephesians 5:21)  Do I love my wife as much as I love myself? (Ephesians 5:25)  Can I honestly say that I love the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, soul and spirit?  Probably not based on my behavior.  Can I say I love my neighbor as much as I love myself?  You have to be kidding.

So what does it look like to be all in for Christ, accepting the fact that I am in the midst of my sanctification process (becoming more like Christ)?    Do I at least display the Fruit of the Spirit?  Is there evidence that I am more faithful, gentle, good, joyful, kind, loving, patient, perseverant, and self-controlled than I was five years ago?  What would my wife say?

Monday, 21 April 2014

The Four “P’s”

"The King" Elvis Presley
Pleasure, prosperity, position, and popularity will make us happy or so our culture would have us believe.  If that is the case why are so many seemingly happy, wealthy, popular figures so miserable?  How many popular musicians have overdosed?  How many high profile actors and actresses have multiple divorces, failing to find happiness in any of them?  How many well-known politicians have behaved in ways that would indicate they need more than fame and fortune.

’Don’t you think that if happiness was to be our most gratifying accomplishment while here on earth that God would have made mention of that is His Word?  But then again almost everything that God thinks is important is counter-cultural.

God seems to think that loving Him with all of our body, mind, soul, spirit and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves trumps happiness.  The Fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians, chapter five, verses 22-23 is faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, joy, kindness, love, patience, peace, self-control.  Happiness did not make the top ten.

Wouldn’t it stand to reason that if anyone who has inhabited this earth deserves to be happy it would have been Jesus?  Yet, He seemed to derive pleasure from giving to people and doing for people.  Talk about prosperity – Satan offered Jesus “…all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor, if only Jesus would worship him.  That seems like a small price to pay for such prosperity and position. Jesus response was “For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”  Even Satan didn’t offer happiness as one of the highest values.

How ironic is it that happiness is one of the carrots that Satan offers to us today.  Many of us believe we are entitled to happiness.

So what’s the point?  How many couples are struggling in their marriage because one or both of the partners is not happy?  How often are sex and/or money a contributor to unhappiness?  Affairs, pornography, highly erotic novels, and flirtatious chat rooms have theoretically paved the way to pleasure and happiness.  Ask the one who is sexually addicted how fulfilled they are feeling?  Ask the spouse who has been cheated on how happy he/she is?

Few arguments occur over having too much money.  “Dear please stop bringing home so much money, I just can’t spend it all fast enough.”  If that is your problem I’ll give you my bank routing and account numbers.

As goofy as it sounds, perhaps giving to others and doing for others might bring joy and happiness to you.  Maybe if we sought to be filled with the Fruit of the Spirit we could find fulfillment in our marriages and in our work.