Doing an OK job

I read an article about WVU football’s loss to Iowa State.  In the game, starting QB Austin Kendall was injured early and backup QB Jack Allison played the majority of the game.  After the game, Coach Neal Brown was asked about Allison’s play.  “I think it’s tough when a backup quarterback has to come into a game and play,” Brown said. “In college football, you don’t get as many reps. I thought under the circumstances he did an OK job.”

Ouch.  While there are different ways to have said the same thing, like “He did as well as could be expected under the circumstances”, to say “…he did an OK job” is not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Yet, when it comes to our relationship with and serving Jesus, it seems like most “Christians” are content in their lives with an “OK job”.  I never preach  a funeral and say the person is hearing Jesus say, nor does anyone ever say their desire is to hear as they stand before Jesus, “I thought under the circumstances you did an OK job.”  No, we all want to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

I want to live my life, with God’s help, being a faithful servant.  And I believe that is accomplished through an attitude of the heart.  When my heart is right focused on my relationship with and obedience to Jesus, He sees me as a faithful servant even though it looks to others and myself like an “OK job”.

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Confession is good for the soul

Clayton Kershaw has been one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball for quite a while for the LA Dodgers.  However, he has not been so dominating when it gets to the playoffs, or post-season as it is often referred to in baseball.  Last night he came in in the unusual role of a relief pitcher, with a 3-1 lead.  In the 8th inning with two straight pitches the score became 3-2 and 3-3 with two home runs in a row.  Obviously baseball is a team sport and there are all kinds of ways things could have turned out differently, but the Dodgers ended up losing the game in the 10th inning and were eliminated from the playoffs.  After the game Clayton Kershaw said,

“Everything people say is true right now about the postseason. I understand that. Nothing I can do about it right now. It’s a terrible feeling. It really is. I’m not going to hang my head. I will be here next year and try to do the same thing I try to do every single year.”

While Kershaw did the best he could, there was a well written article here on ESPN about the coach’s decisions that put and kept Kershaw in the game, along with other decisions. Even if one might think that Clayton Kershaw is taking more blame than he should, I admire the responsibility he takes for his part in the game.

What is missing from our society and more importantly from modern day American Christianity is the idea of taking responsibility for one’s actions.  The modern church no longer requires people to admit they are sinners in need of saving.  Everyone is affirmed as being OK just how they are.  We throw around the line, “how God made me” and take that to mean that none of us need to change.  The truth is, we all need to change.  The only way to come to Jesus is to admit that we need saved.  We must do our best Clayton Kershaw and say,

“Everything the Bible says about me is true.  I am beloved by God, even though I am a sinner.  He loves me so much that He wants to forgive me through the sacrifice of Jesus and He wants me to turn from my sins and turn to Jesus.”

I admire Clayton Kershaw for taking responsibility for his pitching. It is hard to do and hard to hear.  I pray for his peace.  When someone confesses, we tend to want to minimize or trivialize things to make them feel better.  When we confess to God, He does not trivialize it.  He tells us we are right to confess to Him and He forgives us.  And that sets us free.

 

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When the offer of grace is withdrawn

This morning I was in Fort Ashby sitting at a green light hoping to turn left with a line of cars coming toward me.  I see a good gap coming up between two cars and I am getting ready to make my move.  The person leaving the gap can either continue their pace or make a conscious decision to withdraw the grace.  They clearly see me desiring to turn in front of them.  The person pushes the pedal to accelerate and closes the gap.  “Do not even THINK about turning in front of me” is the message received.  And in the middle of the intersection, I finally turn when the light turns red after the last person zips through a late yellow.  In all fairness, it is possible the person was indifferent to me, but was accelerating because they did not want to hit the light red themselves.  In that case, they were not being vindictive toward me, but simply putting their needs before that of a stranger.

In my admittedly judgemental mind, I think to myself “I hope that person does not have a bumper sticker that says “Jesus is my Co-Pilot””.  Or perhaps that would be an appropriate bumper sticker, because Jesus was definitely not driving the vehicle.  If He were, He would have left the gap to let me go.  (I know sometimes in my posts, I share things that let you know the Lord is still working on me.)

It is strange though, that when I pulled in to Fort Ashby Primary School, I typed into my phone this idea that the accelerating car was an example of “withdrawing grace”.  And then I gave thanks to Jesus that He never withdrew nor withdraws His offer of grace for me.  There are times when I say, “O come, Lord Jesus.”  There is so much evil and pain in the world that it makes me wish Jesus would return to begin His judgement.  Yet, the truth is, there are more people than ever that need to accept His grace to be forgiven.  My prayer should be that He tarry a little longer.  One day, His offer of grace will be withdrawn.  One day, those “waiting to turn” to Him will get stuck at the red light and it will never again turn green.  As for today, His grace and forgiveness is still on the table.  Today is the day of salvation.  Thank You Jesus for the grace.

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Meeting our needs

Today, September 16th, I received the New Hampshire tourism book that I ordered.  On May 20th, Diane and I headed to Hew Hampshire for about 10 days of vacation there.  I ordered a NH tourism book about May 1, assuming 3 weeks was enough time for them to send it to me.  It turns out it took 4 1/2 months.   We did research online and talked to locals after we got there.  We received some great recommendations and had a great trip, no thanks to the New Hampshire tourism bureau.

When I set out to write today’s blog post, I thought I was going to make the “there’s a sermon in this” point out to be something about being too late.  I even titled the post “A Little Late”, before getting to this point and realizing I needed to change it.  The lesson I believe the Lord is giving me in this is that He made a way for Diane and I to have a great trip to New Hampshire, in spite of NH Tourism dropping the ball.  He provided other ways.  And what that means to you and me is twofold.  First, sometimes we get opportunities to glorify Him and be an answer to someone else’s prayers and we drop the ball.  We have regrets when we miss opportunities to be a blessing.  You can be sure that God already knew when we were going to fail.  We were not the Lord’s last hope.  He was not holding His breath hoping you were going to come through.  If He wants a need met for others and you or I fall short, He will still accomplish His will.  We will just miss out on the blessing.  And secondly, if there is a way you think God should or will handle things you are praying about, remember He does not necessarily meet your needs in the ways you think He should.  Hang in there – He is always doing something.  He will supply your every need.

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Evgeni Malkin’s Dog don’t care

Diane has a calendar with Pittsburgh Penguins hockey players and their pets.  As I walked by and looked at it this morning, Diane said, “I need to turn that to September.”  Mr. August was Evgeni Malkin and his dog Bailey.  Malkin is a famous hockey player.  If he were to walk through a crowd at a Penguins game, everyone would want a picture with him and an autograph. He would be swarmed with attention.  It crossed my mind that Bailey is not impressed with Malkin’s fame.  Bailey loves Malkin unconditionally and just because.

Today’s blog is just to remind you that the love God has for you is the same.  When we put our faith in Him, there is nothing you can do to make Him love you more and nothing you can do to make Him love you less.  He is not impressed with earthly fame.  He does not need us to be anything more than His children.  And He loves us whether we are coming to him with a handful of dandelions or we are covered in mud…. or both.

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Worth the wait

In March I bought a little bag of Dahlia bulbs at Aldi’s.  I planted them in April and gave some away and kept one.  All summer I have watched it grow to about 2 feet tall, all the while waiting for a flower.  In early August I had nearly given up.  It looked like I had grown a 2 foot tall weed.  As a matter of fact, had it come up in the perennial bed, I would have pulled it up and thrown it away.  But finally, after five months, three little bulbs appeared.  And for the last several days every time I walk in the house I pass the prettiest flower I have ever grown and one of the prettiest I have ever seen.  It sure took a lot of patience, but it was worth the wait!

I often feel the same way when I am waiting on God to act.  I know the Bible says, and I do believe that His timing is perfect, but man, sometimes I grow impatient.  This flower is a reminder to me that sometimes the greatest things require the most patience.  If you are waiting for God, I pray you hang in there.  Keep praying, keep hoping, and keep trusting.  He has perfect timing.

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Peace in who you are

29 year old NFL quarterback Andrew Luck shocked the sports world on Saturday night by announcing his retirement.  The owner of the team said Luck walked away from an estimated $500,000,000.  That is 500 million dollars.  He said Luck had made about $100 million in his career thus far, so I guess he will likely be OK.  Many players hang on and do whatever they can at the end of their careers to play one more year.  Most people do not remember that the Steelers’ Franco Harris played his final year with the Seattle Seahawks.  Joe Montana hung in there and went from the 49ers to the Chiefs at the end of his career.  Tom Brady is 42, still with the Patriots and wants to play as long as he can. Each person has their own reasons for continuing to play or for retiring.

In Luck’s willingness to walk away from being an NFL quarterback, there is a lesson to us as Jesus’ followers.  We must be careful about where we find our worth.  Sometimes we can mistake what we do with who we are.  Some married couples identify as parents so much that they are lost when their kids grow up.  Some people go into depression when they lose their job because their job became who they were.  Pastors of churches often struggle when they find their worth in the ministry and realize they are unable to please all of the members of the congregation.

I am no therapist, but Andrew Luck’s willingness to walk away from football leads me to believe that he does not find his worth in football.  I read in an article that he is a follower of Jesus.  If that is true, it makes more sense that he could walk away from football, because he would be first and foremost a child of God.  When we see our worth in what we do or in affirmations from others, we are crushed when those things wane, which they all eventually will.  But when we see ourselves as beloved children of the King of Creation, that is enough.  So whatever failings, whatever disappointments, whatever is taken from me, whatever I am called to walk away from, it does not change who I am.  And who I am is a child of God.  That is where I find my identity and where I find my worth.  There is peace to be found what you can repeat the song lyrics, “Jesus is all the world to me”.  He will never let you down.

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