Light


Last time we looked at Jesus telling his followers that they were  “salt” In Matthew 5. Immediately after this, he uses another metaphor. “You are light” – a city on a hill that cannot be hidden, a lamp that is not covered up. (Matthew 5.14-15) He continues:  “In the same way let your light shine before men so they can see the good that you do and praise your father in heaven” (vs 16). He has given us a light to shine in the world around us so others recognize Him. Let’s look at some different lights and discuss how we can shine for Him.

Flashlight – Psalm 119.105, declares that the Word of God is like a “lamp for our feet and a light for our path”. There is a lot of darkness in the world and the only light is Jesus who shines in the darkness (John 1.4,5&9). That brings to mind the flashlight. When you go camping, one of the most important items to bring with you, I suggest, is a flashlight. Navigating your surroundings at night is challenging without one. If you need to take a path through the words, light will help keep you from running into stumps, rocks, roots or poison ivy. So how can we be flashlights. We can study God’s word. The verse mentioned above tells us its God’s word that lights our path and guides our feet to where we should be. So as we learn and live out the truth of God’s word in our life, He can use us to light the way for others that may have wandered off His path. In Psalm 119.11, we are reminded that hiding God’s “word in our heart” will help keep us from “sinning against Him”. So not only studying it, and memorizing it, but making it the guide for our life.

And a flashlight is useless as it comes, it needs an internal power source. The same applies to us. We need the internal power source of relationship with Jesus to make the light shine. So draw near to Him, study His word and shine for others to see.

Lighthouse – I grew up about an hour from the Atlantic Ocean. It was common for the scenic coastline to be dotted with lighthouses. More than a pretty addition to the coastline, they are strategically placed, and have 2 major purposes – to warn of dangers and to guide to safety.  Likewise, God is very strategic. He has placed us where we are and invite us to shine His light boldly. We can share of the dangers that exist in the world around us and invite those that are facing those dangers to know the God of refuge that can help them. We must offer both awareness of danger and paths to safety. Warning of dangers and then saying  “so good luck” as they continue on is not helpful. They need to know the refuge and protection that God offers. Let’s remember how we found refuge in the midst of danger and how Great our God is. Let’s be inviting and urgent.

And another thing about lighthouses -they are always on, and they may not know who they help. Our job is to shine God’s light in our world boldly and consistently. We may never know who we help or how we help them. But God can and does use his people in amazing and unexpected ways.

Nightlight – I have 2 older brothers. When I was 8 years old, I got my own bedroom. I was very excited – my own space to decorate, set up and mess up as I saw fit! But one thing I wasn’t counting on. When night time came, I realized that it was scary to be alone. My room was quite dark! So I decided to sleep with my door open. You see we had a Fred Flintstone nightlight in the hallway that gave off a warm, comforting glow. Even with that faint light, I was able to drift off to sleep feeling a certain level of comfort. And on nights when my room seemed extra scary, good ol’ Fred faithfully lit the hall so I could go to my parents room and tell them about what was scaring me.

How can we be a nightlight? We can be that warm, calming presence in the life of people who are afraid of what life is bringing their way. It is a privilege to be called to comfort those in distress. While it is almost always challenging, Our God is the great comforter and He can use us to share His perfect comfort with others.

Spotlight – A few years ago, a friend of mine worked for a local minor league hockey team. Before an afternoon game one day, he invited me to operate one of the spotlights during player introductions. My job was simple. Shine the this massive bright light around the crowd until player introductions started. Then the arena lights would all go down and my job was to move the beam of the spotlight to the ice surface and track the player as he skated to his place. All attention was focused on the player that was introduced. Then repeat with the next player. Similarly, if you have been to a concert or a stage play, lighting is an important part of the experience. In each of these cases, a spotlight is used to draw the attention of the audience to a specific place.  We can play this role as lights in this world as well. We can shine our light so others see and focus their attention on Jesus, the lover of their soul who desires so much for them to know Him and accept Him as their Savior.

He calls us to be His light in the world. Like a city on a hill, there is nowhere to hide. So let’s boldly shine His light for all to see. Let’s help people find the path that leads to Him,  where they find refuge and security that only He can provide, and let’s always point others to Him. Go light the world for Jesus!

Salt


As I have mentioned in this series of Tangible Truths from a Radical Jesus, much of what Jesus said when He taught was revolutionary. He opened eyes, dropped jaws, stirred up questions and confusion because what He said went against common thought. However, if we truly look into those words, we find profound truth in what He said.

Today, we will focus on what Jesus called the people He was teaching. In Matthew 5.13, Jesus says “You are salt.” This will be the first of a two-part series.

Why would Jesus call the people salt? In an effort to figure this out, lets look at the uses of salt. Here are four I came up with.

Flavoring Food – The most common use for salt in my life is for flavoring food. While salt does have a taste of its own, it does more than that. It enhances existing flavors. I read some articles about how this works, but the best that I can boil it down to is that salt brings out the best elements of the food it is sprinkled on. I believe that this is a great goal for us to have as Christians as well. How great would it be to bring out the best in the people that we are around? How do we bring out the best in people? By helping them meet God and understand that He has the best plan for their lives. He has created them according to His perfect plan. He can use us to help them discover that plan and live the best life possible – one that follows and serves Him.

Melting Ice – I’m originally from Eastern Canada, and I have also lived in Ukraine and Minnesota. With that history, I have experienced snow, ice, freezing rain, wind chill, black ice and many other things that make winter challenging. Each winter, after a large snowstorm or freezing rain, large trucks drive around spreading salt on the icy roads. Also businesses and homeowners spread salt on their sidewalks and walkways to keep others from falling on the ice. Why salt? Is it to make the sidewalks and roads taste better? Of course not! We know salt also melts ice. God uses us in this way too. Not to melt ice, but to melt hearts that have turned cold towards Him. God spreads us around this cold, cruel world where people are spinning their wheels, or skidding out of control. God uses us to help them gain traction and find their way to the life He has designed for them. How? We go where they are. Ice-melting salt is useless if it doesn’t go where people are falling or crashing. Sometimes we can be guilty of shutting out the rest of the world and living in a Christian bubble. God loves the lost so much that He gave his followers the mission to go and help them know Him. Let’s connect with real people and share the truth of our Savior with them. Let’s let the hope of Jesus steady their footing.

Healing Wounds – Have you ever had a canker sore? I get them from time to time and they cause grief that can last for days. I am proactive to get rid of them as quickly as possible and the best remedy I know? Salt water. Get water, add salt, swish it around in my mouth for as long as I can stand and then spit it out and, a few hours later, do it again. After a day or so of this treatment, I can see the improvement. Salt helps us heal.

It reminds me of the expression “rubbing salt in the wound”. The healing process is often painful and we all battle hurt and pain in our life. The difference is that we, as Christians, have hope in Jesus. So how can we be salt that heals wounds? By loving them as Christ calls us to do. We allow God to show Himself and His love through us, maybe even through our stories of hurt and pain. And like with a canker sore, one rinse is not enough. I need to do it a few times. When we are helping someone’s soul wounds heal it likely will take time and it may be uncomfortable, even challenging, as we build relationship and spend time with them. So be aware of the hurt around you and ask God how you can step into someone’s hurt and show the hope He offers.

Preservative – A few years ago, as I read the story of the fishermen catching a boatload of fish in Matthew 4, I realized that in Jesus time refrigeration was not a thing. So to preserve things like fish and meat people would use salt. Salt takes the water out of the food so that bacteria cannot grow. In short, salt keeps things from rotting. How can we be salt like this? By sharing the truth of who God is consistently with others. Psalm 119.11 says if we hide God’s word in our hearts it will help us from sinning against Him.  How can we be a salt that preserves? We can share God’s word with others. This comes from knowing it and studying it for ourselves. Isaiah 55.11 tells us that God’s word doesn’t come back empty. When we share God’s truth with others, God works through His word to connect with their hearts.

2 Chronicles chapter 23 shares the story of Joash, who became king at age 7. The Bible tells us that Joash did what pleased God until the priest Jehoida died. Then Joash turned from God quickly. When the influence of a godly priest was gone, the results were tragic. Joash made his own choices, but the influence of the Priest made a difference.  Who are you influencing? How can you help them grow in their own relationship with God and know Him for themselves?

So as we consider Jesus’ challenge to be salt, lets notice others around us. Let’s open eyes to the hurt and obstacles they face. Let’s ask God to help us heal hurts, melt cold hearts, fill hearts with the truth of God’s word and see God’s best plan for their life unfold when the choose to follow Him.

Throwback Thursday – The Praying Tailback – Herb Lusk – RB – Philadelphia Eagles


Herb Lusk scores on a 70 yard rush and kneels in the End Zone – October 9, 1977

A couple years ago, the NFL loosened its rules on Touchdown Celebrations.  Since then, we have seen some very creative expressions of joy and celebration. There have been tributes to video games, bowling, movies, and even epic baseball fights to name a few.  Here in Minnesota, the Vikings have won fans over with a limbo contest, leapfrog, Duck-Duck-whatever, and Thanksgiving dinner.

But in the last decade, the most well-known expression by a football player is still Tim Tebow (read the post I wrote about him a few years back). He would often be seen kneeling and bowing his head. He was quick to share that it was an expression of love and devotion to God. It quickly became known as “Tebowing” – a term the former NFL quarterback has trademarked.

And while Tebow was not the first to do it, this pose quickly became something he was known for? So, trivia buffs… who was the first?

“The Praying Tailback” played for parts of 3 seasons with the Eagles before leaving football to become a pastor

That honor belongs to Herb Lusk, a running back that the Philadelphia Eagles drafted in the 10th round of the 1976 draft (273 overall).  He was known as “The Praying Tailback”. He played parts of 3 seasons with the Eagles. On October 9, 1977, Lusk scored on a 70 yard TD run. He knelt down in the end zone and said a prayer of thanks to God.  “It was my way of saying thanks. I hurt my knee in junior college and the doctors said I’d never play football again, but I put my fate in God’s hands. I prayed every day and I knew if my knee healed, it was His will for me to continue playing.” It was actually his second touchdown of the game.  He knelt after the first one, too but it was after a 1 yard run and surrounded by celebrating teammates, it was not as noticed.  But after a 70 yard dash to the end-zone, he was alone to celebrate as he saw fit. Those would be the only rushing touchdowns of his career.  All told, he played in 28 games with the Eagles. But he stayed closely associated with the team. He is a pastor in the Philadelphia area and has served as a team chaplain. Check out this video from the Eagles Super Bowl winning season.

After 3 seasons with the Eagles, Lusk left the team to pursue life as a pastor. “I’m leaving the game very happy and very proud,” Lusk said at the time. “I don’t feel like I’m going to miss the game. I’m moving up to better things.”

And the better things that Lusk has been doing? He became the pastor at  Greater Exodus Baptist Church on North Broad Street in Philadelphia.  When he started there, there were 17 members in the church and large debt – somewhere around $1 million.  “I remember there were leaks in the roof, we had buckets of water everywhere,” Lusk said in an interview with NFL Films president Steve Sabol.

“So how did you turn it around?” Sabol asked. Lusk pointed to the heavens.“Once again, I put my faith in God,” he said.

And God has led him to some great work. The church has grown, Lusk has started a job training program, a charter school, housing for homeless, and food distribution program.

These days Lusk is pastor of Greater Exodus Baptist church in the Philly area. He also serves as a chaplain to the Eagles.

He also has been active in providing spiritual guidance for the Philadelphia Eagles  – a team that has many players and coaches who are outspoken about their faith in God.  When asked if faith in God alienates some teammates in NFL locker rooms, he says “Not really. Not our relationship with Jesus Christ because basically what we do is, we love everybody. The great commandment is that you should love your Lord with all your heart, all your soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. It’s impossible to alienate people when you love them.

While Lusk did not have a long, Hall of Fame career in the NFL, he is leaving a legacy of faith both with his actions as a player and his guidance as a pastor.

Here are my takeaways from Lusk’s story:

1- Always on Display – He took the moment of greatest NFL success to point to his Savior. Many didn’t know the journey he had been on before then – the injury and prognosis that suggested football was done – He trusted that God would carry out His will and Lusk would simply walk in obedience. Before that moment, Lusk continued to pray that God’s will be done. He continued to go through the doors that God opened for him. That is all that any of us can do. God always leads us to the best possible place for us to be – we are called follow and trust, even when obstacles and trials arise.  This is not a simple task, but it is always for the best. And so often, the plan God leads us to is even beyond what we could hope for. When those moments come, may we also just bow in honor and recognition that everything we have is from Him.

2- Do not Alienate People – So often, Christians in an effort to hold true to the word of God, take God’s place as judge of other people and their lives and choices. The only person that we have any control over as far as choices go is ourself. And even then, we sure need God’s help to make good choices. And while there are others around us that make choices that go against God’s teaching, convicting them of their sin is not our role. Our role, the task that Jesus himself calls us to is to love each other. If we are loving others as we love ourselves, we will not alienate them. We will be a channel of God’s love to reach out to them. He will take care of their hearts. We are just called to love. May we as Christians live that as our purpose – to love others with all that we have.

TBT – Living up to His Name – Tshimanga Biakabutuka – Carolina Panthers


Former Panthers running back Tshimanga Biakabutuka

Before I moved to Minneapolis/St. Paul area, I had been to 2 NFL games in my life.  Both times I was privileged to see my favorite player at the time play. In 1997, it was Barry Sanders (who I wrote a post about a few years ag0) and the Lions, and in 2000, it was the Carolina Panthers and Tshimanga Biakabutuka in Atlanta to play the Falcons. I liked Barry because he was fun to watch and arguably one of the top 5 running backs of all time. I liked Biakabutuka because of his unique name and the fact that he was raised in Montreal and there were not a lot of Canadians in the NFL. His name is part of the reason that I am writing about him. The rest of the reason is the way God has been working in his life.

When I started this blog in 2011. I named it Living Up to My Name because my last name “Page” means “servant to the King”. As a Christian, I strive to serve the King of all Kings and live my life for Him. Biakubutuka’s name means “born again” and while that didn’t bear much significance for him during his playing career, in the days since, it has come to represent him as he has become a Christian.

Biakubutuka was born in Kinshasa, Zaire in 1974.  He and 4 of his 11 siblings moved to Montreal when he was 4 years old “in search of a better life”.  In Montreal, his mother worked long hours to keep the family fed while his father worked on a PhD. His mom encouraged faith in God but Biakabutuka was not interested. The article that I linked to says that Biakabutuka thought Christians used faith as a crutch.

“Touchdown Tim” got his start in football playing for Vanier College in Montreal

He started playing football in high school, and excelled at Vanier College – similar to junior college – where he earned the nickname “Touchdown Tim”. From there, American schools took notice and “Touchdown Tim” chose Michigan. In his 3 seasons with the Wolverines, he rushed for over 2700 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Carolina liked what it saw from Biakabutuka and drafted him with the 8th overall pick in the 1996 draft. But he played only 4 games in his rookie season before a knee injury ended his season. The next year, it was a rib injury that caused him to miss half the season. In 1999, Biakabutuka became the third player in NFL history to score 2 TDs of 60+ yards in the same game. Then turf toe, high ankle sprain and finally a nasty, one of a kind foot injury. The last one required immediate surgery and there was a possibility that amputation may be needed if it was not dealt with quickly. He would try to comeback, getting invitations to work out with a couple of teams, but as he says “I got invited to Minnesota, Tampa and Houston – but every time I got there, team doctors wouldn’t sign off on it because they’d say, ‘We’ve never seen anything like this.’ At that point, I knew it was over.”

Biakabutuka earned a scholarship to Michigan and played well enough to be drafted 8th overall by the Panthers.

So what was the start of life after football? Biakabutuka, with the help of Panthers owner at the time Jerry Richardson, opened a business – a high end Jewelery story called Beya fine jewelry. He opened 2 stored in the Charlotte area, but after a couple of tough years, he shut down that business and opened 4 Bojangles restaurants in Agusta. The businessman and restauranteur thanks former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson for helping him get started with Bojangles. In his playing days, he had spent some time with the Panthers team chaplain, talking about God and faith. The article I read says “At the same time Biakabutuka began putting his business plan together, he had also immersed himself in religion. At the urging of Bunkley, the Panthers chaplain, Biakabutuka had taken halting, gradual steps toward faith during his playing days. His NFL injuries gave him a sense of vulnerability. Teammates who practiced Christianity — Mike Minter and others — provided compelling examples of how to practice faith without sacrificing strength.” He now says “Nothing in my life brings me more peace and joy than my relationship with God“. During his days in the jewelry business, he offered a line of Christian themed jewelry that he designed himself. He is now living up to his name – as a “born again” believer.

Here are my takeaways from Biakabutuka’s story:

Now Biakabutuka is a businessman, who after a brief stint in the jewelry business, now owns 4 restaurants in Augusta, Georgia.

1- Jesus is a crutch – A Christian comedian said once in a bit, that people say Christians use Jesus as a crutch, but when you are crippled, that is not a bad thing.  The truth is that we are all broken people and the only way to sustain and survive in this life is to lean on the strength that God provides. If we live only in our own strength, when the struggles and hard things in life come our way, it can and does overwhelm. I gladly and freely admit that Jesus helps me in this way. I always need help and someone other than myself to lean on for strength to survive. He is the only One that is dependable.

2- Keep sharing – I love that his mother was faithful to God and shared her faith with her son. For so long, he refused to join her in her beliefs. He went on to college and his pro career, but others came into his life (including Mike Minter who I wrote about a year or two ago) and helped answer his questions of faith, guiding him to choose to follow Jesus for himself. In the end, he did just that. I am encouraged in this to always continue sharing the truth of what I believe to others, even if they reject what I believe. You never know when life circumstances will open them to consider what you and others have been sharing with them.

Modern Monday – Character Through Adversity – Kaden Elliss – LB – New Orleans Saints


Saints 7th round draft pick Kaden Elliss

Last time out, I wrote my first Throwback Thursday post of the football season. Today is Modern Monday, but it is going to have a throwback feel to it as well. Today’s post is about Saints rookie Linebacker, Kaden Elliss – the 244th overall pick in last April’s draft. What’s the Throwback angle on that? Kaden is the oldest of former Detroit Lions defensive tackle Luther Elliss. The senior Elliss played 10 seasons in the NFL, all with the Lions except 2004, his final season, which he spent with the Denver Broncos. After he retired, He now serves as defensive line coach at University of Idaho.

Elliss played Defensive End and Linebacker for the University of Idaho Vandals, and also played some Tight End.

At the University of Idaho, Kaden was a four-year starter. He played edge rusher, linebacker and tight end. The Saints picked him in the seventh round of the draft last spring impressed by his football IQ and sense for the game.  But even as a great player for University of Idaho, Vandals are not frequently drafted in the NFL. Elliss was not invited to the NFL Combine. So what made Kaden Elliss stand out?  Well, his workouts turned heads at the pro days at both University of Idaho, and University of Utah.  Elliss was the first Vandal drafted out of Idaho in 7 years. Then there is the previously mentioned NFL pedigree and time spent in NFL locker rooms as a child, hanging out with the likes of Robert Porcher and Barry Sanders. For me, it is how outspoken he is about his faith in God.

Kaden as a baby with his dad Luther Elliss who played for 10 seasons in the NFL.

This is something he no doubt learned at home – his father, after retirement and at one point filing for bankruptcy, founded a church in Salt Lake City and then spent 2 seasons as chaplain for the Denver Broncos. Luther says “I see a lot of turmoil and struggle that goes on internally for guys on the team and I understand it. It’s a hard life being in the NFL. Even if they have grown up in the church and know Christ, it’s hard to balance being a superstar football player as well as a man of God. Their whole lives have been based on being a football player. This is their identity and a lot of times, when that is taken away they don’t know who they are. They are lost. But if they have placed their hope in Christ, they can know that there’s something so much greater—something that lasts for eternity. Meanwhile, there’s a balance that the players need to find as they ask themselves, “How can I live out my faith while also being a part of the world?”  In fact, this is one of the biggest struggles for all people. 

Kaden got lots of playing time in the preseason games with the Saints this year.

This is great perspective gained from going through life as a Christian in the NFL himself, what a great platform to share with others and help them make good decisions about life and faith. Kaden was listening as well. He says “He went bankrupt after playing football, and honestly seeing the way he grew from that and the way he ran to his faith and then his family in that situation made me idolize him more. Obviously growing up, your dad is always your idol, but sometimes as you get older you see maybe he isn’t as great as he is, but I’d say growing up he has showed me that he is that great, and he is an awesome man. I hope to be like him one day.” “He’s really showed me how to choose character through adversity”

About his own faith, he adds “What I really want is to honor Him, my lord and savior Jesus Christ, before every game by the way I play and the passion I bring. At the end of the day, it’s to honor Jesus Christ with the platform he has given me.”

Here is my takeaway from Elliss’ story:

1- Being Like Dad – Kaden Elliss had a pro football player for a dad. As he sees his dreams of an NFL career of his own coming true, he has someone who has been through it as a role model. And he gives his father credit for showing character through the adversity that he has faced. He speaks highly of the lessons that he has learned from watching his dad go through hard things. As a son, I appreciate the lessons that I have learned from my dad. He has helped me recover from mistakes that I have made and has been a model of faith for me to follow and learn from. I am grateful for the example that God has given me in my dad.

2- Being a dad – As mentioned, I learned in my mistakes from my dad. I also have learned as a dad that I am a role model for my 4 daughters. I am far from perfect. I still make lots of mistakes. And I am challenged from the story of Luther Elliss to own my mistakes. To not hide from them, not blame others for my poor choices or play the victim when circumstances beyond my control make things difficult for me or my family. Instead, like Kaden Elliss saw in his dad, I want my kids to see a strong Godly character that shows at all times, even in the face of adversity. I pray that I will lean on God at all times, and that whether at the pinnacle of a great moment or in the valley of hardship, that my eyes will always look to God and my mouth will always speak of how amazing He is.