Faith on Display at World Series – 2017 – Astros vs Dodgers

It is World Series time! And as a lifelong baseball fan, it is one of the highlights of my sports year. And this year, the games have been especially entertaining. And with game 4 today and game 5 tomorrow it is possible that the end of the baseball season will come this weekend. The Dodgers are hoping to send it back to LA next week. Do you have a cheering interest? If not, Let me share this video from CBN that focusses on 3 players from each team.

 

I have featured many of these players before – here are the links to the posts I’ve written for the players involved.

Dodgers

Clayton Kershaw – One of the earliest posts on my blog – shares about Kershaw’s efforts to help out an orphanage in Africa.

Josh Fields – Earlier this season, I wrote a post about Fields, being traded and giving it his all every time out.

Astros

Carlos Beltran – Last season, at the All-Star break, I shared a little of Beltran’s story and coping with tragedy.

Jose Altuve –  at 5’6″ Altuve impresses every time he takes the field. Here is the post I wrote about him and his work and effort to realize his dream of playing baseball.

And some more information about Curtis Granderson and Will Harris both of whom have participated in Baseball Chapel videos.  Check them out below!

If you want more, check out the posts I wrote on Carlos Correia and Lance McCullers Jr.

Enjoy the rest of the Games.

 

I Don’t Know Who You Are!

This next radical thing that Jesus said hits pretty close to home for me. As a boy, I spent a lot of time at church. We were there every Sunday,  Wednesday, Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, and choirs. We were ushers, deacons, Sunday School teachers, committee members, staff members and pot-luck eaters. Outside of the church building, we prayed at meal time, did Bible studies and had family devotions.  Learning and talking about God were important pieces of daily life.

Geoffrey Chaucer wrote “familiarity breeds contempt”. I had become so familiar with the common bible stories that I stopped paying attention. I knew the stories, I knew the characters, I knew the setting and the ending and from that, I knew what I was “supposed to learn” from each one so I tuned them out. 

By the time I was a teenager, I was simply through the motions of Christianity. I thought I knew how to be a Christian, but I didn’t allow Jesus to have any real impact on my life. And I was miserable. I didn’t like going to church anymore. If given the choice, I would choose something else. But my parents faithfully attended the church, there wasn’t really a question of whether we would go or not. So I sat through the programs in silent rebellion, tuning out the lesson and letting my mind wander to anything else.

Which makes today’s tangible truth totally terrifying. It is found in Matthew 7.21-23. 

 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the person who does what my Father in heaven wants. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we force out demons and do many miracles by the power and authority of your name?’ Then I will tell them publicly, ‘I’ve never known you. Get away from me, you evil people.

This may have surprised some in the audience. These harsh words are spoken to those who were identified as believers. Those who thought they had God reduced to a list of “do”s and “don’t”s – People who had had every chance to connect with Him and still missed Him.

That describes my teenage years.  I went to church, I acted like I was supposed to act on the outside at least. I gave all the Sunday School answers I could, and I truly believed that I was doing what I was supposed to do. But I now know that I didn’t know God.  And if I heard his words “I never knew you” I would plead with him. “Didn’t I have perfect attendance at Sunday School, and memorize the Lord’s Prayer and 10 Commandments? Could I not list alphabetically and chronologically the parables of Jesus and recite the different ways that Jesus healed people? God, can’t you see all that I did to show others that I was living right?” And He would say to me – Chris – You spent all your time trying to look good for me, but you never got to know Me! You’ve never let me in to change your heart or guide your life. I don’t know you!”

I wonder how many in our churches are in this same place. We have learned how to “do” church. We’ve learned how to have the appearance of following God but not actually surrendering our life to Him. We think following God was supposed to look a certain way, but without complete surrender, we are not following God. 

We are good at hiding behind masks- at looking good on the outside and hiding what is really happening on the inside. Jesus called out the Pharisees for this exact thing in Matthew 23. He said they were whitewashed tombs – looking good on the outside but dead on the inside. It continues to surprise me how similar we are to the Pharisees. Jesus came to give us life more complete and amazing than we can imagine (John 10:10). But unless we are willing to really let Him be in control, we miss out on that life.

So how do we give Him total control? We realize that our checklist that we are trying to check off really only has one item on it. Trust God. That’s it. Trust that God’s plan dealt with our sins. Trust that his plan for us is the best life we can know. Stop trying to meet his standards on our own. Allow Him to work in our hearts, and ask for Him to change us. It may be hard, uncomfortable and may make us vulnerable in front of others. But it will also connect us to the one that went through all those same things so that He could offer us life. He is patient and willing to work with us over the long haul. We are not a quick fix, we are a pain-staking process. But He is OK with that. Let Him get to work in your life. He began His good work in us and will carry it through to perfection (Phil.1.6)

 

 

Undersized but Confident – Case Keenum -QB- Minnesota Vikings

Case Keenum – QB for the Minnesota Vikings

I am a New Orleans Saints fan living in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. The Vikings first game of the 2017 season was against my beloved Saints and I heard a lot of reasons why the Vikings would beat the Saints in the opener. And many of the things Vikings fans said came true. The Saints defense was not very good, the Vikings were a team on the rise. In that opening game, Sam Bradford (who I blogged about last season) led the Vikings offense to a comfortable victory over the Saints. So comfortable in fact, that hope began to rise that this could be a special season for the Vikings.

Keenum’s time at Houston was prolific. He is the all time NCAA leader in yards, TDs and completions.

Then it was announced that Sam Bradford would not play in week 2 against the Steelers. Instead, Case Keenum – an undrafted quarterback in his 5th season out of University of Houston where he was the most prolific passer in college football history. He also sustained a torn ACL which is likely why he went undrafted. You can read about that injury and how his faith in God grew through the injury and recovery process in this article from foxsports. Throughout his rehab, he would often pray for God’s help and end his prayer with “I’m going to trust in what Your plan is for me“.

And while the path he took was not the one he would have dreamed up, God did lead him, not just to make it to the NFL but to become a starting NFL quarterback. Over the course of his 5 seasons -he has started 27 games for 3 different franchises. He has thrown more touchdowns than interceptions and despite being smaller than the prototypical NFL quarterback, he keeps getting a crack at leading a team – often due to injury or ineffectiveness of those ahead of him on the depth chart.

Keenum’s accuracy and mobility lead him to a career day against Tampa earlier this season

And with Bradford ailing, the high hopes for the Vikings season landed on Case Keenum. As you can read in this article from Sports Spectrum, he has turned in a couple of solid performances (and a couple that were not as strong). He had the best game of his career 2 week ago against the Buccaneers and came in at half time to lead the Vikings to a come from behind win against the Bears on Monday night.

Over the course of his career, he was signed as a free agent, waived, signed to the practice squad and traded.  He has been a starter, backup and even third string quarterback. He knows that if he were to base the importance of his life on the game of football, he could feel pretty low. He says “You just realize that football is fickle; it’s not going to be there all the time. Just getting my priorities straight and knowing the true reason I play the game, and that’s to give glory to God. That’s something I take pride in. It’s why I do what I do.

His faith in God and its connection to sport comes from his father who, according to this article from lubbockonline is a regional Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) director.  He also has a couple of sisters and a wife that also work for FCA. His dad, who is also a football coach had plenty of Christian Athletes around Case when he was growing up and helped him understand the importance of good character.

Here are my takeaways from Keenum’s story:

Keenum lead a come from behind win over the Bears last Monday night.

1- Confidence –  I titled my post “Undersized but confident”. Confidence is an interesting thing. It is necessary for anyone looking to make it as a pro athlete or really, in any field. There will be plenty of others doubting your ability, you don’t need to be one of them. But there is a line that you don’t want to cross going past confidence to arrogance. It is important to maintain a level of humility.  Humility is often easily found. It comes from things not going according to our plan. For Keenum, it would have been easy to tell everyone “I am the all time NCAA leader is passing yards, completions and touchdowns! It would be really good for you to have me on your team” but instead of being able to rest on those credentials, get drafted early and have a starting job handed to you, Keenum injures his knee. He goes undrafted, he sits on a practice squad, gets cut, gets traded.  His confidence is not in his own ability or in the game of football. It is in God’s plan for his life. That is something that we can strive for too. Because so much of life is beyond our control. The only thing that we CAN have confidence in is Jesus the Savior and God’s perfect plan for our life.

2- Unlikely leader– At every stop in his NFL career, Keenum has come in as the back-up plan – in some cases the third or even fourth option. And yet, at each step along the way, he has become the starter – the man with the dreams of his team and their fan base in his hands. This season is no different, and with Sam Bradford’s knee issue proving to be unpredictable and Teddy Bridgewater not quite ready to return from his own knee injury, again it is Keenum who is guiding the Viking Longboat through the season, trying to improve on last year’s 8-8 record and with the ultimate dream of playing in a Super Bowl in their home stadium. And while there is a lot in the way of that ultimate dream, Keenum has shown the ability to take leadership when given the chance.  The Bible is also full of people who were not the first thought when it came to a leader rising up, and yet they did rise up and lead effectively. I think of Moses, Gideon, and even Paul. People who battled doubt, had rough edges and still God used them to lead. What leadership is He calling you to take? Trust in His plan and lead well!

Equipped

I’ve been working with kids for 20 years. I know a lot about how to relate with kids and have gained some insight on how their minds work. And while I know that I still have a lot of things that I can learn, I do know some things that don’t work. When someone suggests something that I’ve tried unsuccessfully before, I can be hesitant to follow that advice.

So, I can relate to the fishermen that Jesus would call to be his first followers. We read this account in Luke 5. Jesus drew a crowd and began teaching them while sitting on a boat. Verse 4 tells us “When he finished speaking, he told Simon, “Take the boat into deep water, and lower your nets to catch some fish.” 

Now let’s stop the story here for a moment. I thought about this exchange recently when I read it. These men whose boat Jesus used were professional fishermen.  It was a family business, so they had been around the fishing trade forever.  Jesus, well, Jesus was a carpenter. He would know what he had studied with his father, Joseph, but he was not a fisherman. So initially, this advice doesn’t make a lot of sense. If anyone in this scene knew how and when to increase their chances of catching a boatload of fish, it was the fishermen, not the carpenter. They even say as much. In verse 5, Simon answered  “Teacher, we worked hard all night and caught nothing…” They were tired, frustrated, and probably ready to get some rest. But Simon continued “But if you say so, I’ll lower the nets.”  This is a Tangible Truth #1. In fact this entire blog series is pointing to this truth. When Jesus asks us to do something, even if it sounds crazy, it is worth trying.

We may know the story from here. The fishermen push out a little ways and drop the nets. And the nets fill! The nets begin to tear, the boat fills with fish so full that another boat is called in to help. Both boats are so full that they are on the verge of sinking.

When they return to the shore, Simon asks Jesus to leave, recognizing his own sinfulness. Jesus responds with another radical challenge. He says to Simon “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”

Wait a minute here. What does that really mean. I live in Minneapolis – home to the largest mall in America. That would be a great “fishing spot” if I was trying to catch people. What do you think would happen if I were to go to the MoA and lower a lure over the railing from the 3rd floor balcony? How about if I were to toss a net at the lines waiting for the Rock-Bottom Plunge at Nickelodeon Universe? I bet I would get to meet some people in MoA security uniforms and hear requests not to return to the mall again.  What could it mean to fish for people

I am learning that when Jesus speaks to us, there are many layers to what He says and how He says it. That this was a word choice Jesus used specifically because He was talking to a fisherman. It is his way of saying “I’ve equipped you to what I have called you to do. It may look a little different than you expected it to look but you will do what I’ve created you to do, you will just do it for my purposes and in the way I set up for you.” Simon knew how to fish, how to draw fish in, set the bait, and catch them. Now he was looking to draw people, show them the best bait this life can offer and allow Jesus love to capture them.

What has he equipped you to do? How has he worked in your life to build in you a skill set that He wants to use for His purposes. Are you going to try and send him away? Or are you ready for the adventure that He has equipped you for? Simon and the other fishermen made their choice. They left their boats and nets behind and joined Jesus seeking to capture the world with the truth of His love and forgiveness. They trusted Jesus and joined him even though the end was uncertain for them.

Are you willing to trust Him?  Are you willing to set aside your excuses and faithfully respond, even if what He is asking you to do seems unsafe, risky or downright crazy?  He wants to work through us to impact the people in our sphere of influence.  He wants us present Him to people who need to know Him.  Grab your net, open your tackle box and let’s go fishing!

Tangible Truths from a Radical Jesus – Zacchaeus

Tuesday night, I posted article number 400 in the life of Living Up to My Name. I really enjoy sharing stories from Christian Athletes, their stories have helped me find a point of interest in pretty much any sporting event that I watch. It is fun to share my passion for sports through these “Heroes in the Game, Heroes in Life”.

But now having reached the 400 post milestone, it is time to change things up a little bit. Not only will I be sharing stories of Christian Athletes, I also want to share some bible stories that I have enjoyed sharing with kids. The focus of these, initially, will be to look at the familiar words Jesus spoke during his time of ministry. Many of these stories, I had heard countless times, but recently I began to notice that what He said was earth-shatteringly radical. Why would he say such seemingly crazy things? Is what He said true? If so, what can we takeaway from these radical truths. So, my friends, consider this an invitation to look with new eyes at some of the familiar passages from the Gospels. Lets allow ourselves to really be WOW-ed by Jesus teaching. The goal will be to look at them with proper perspective and gain a new, deeper level of understanding who Jesus is and who He calls us to be. I present to you. “Tangible Truths from a Radical Jesus”

I will start with the familiar story of Zacchaeus found in Luke 19.1-10.

What do we learn about Zacchaeus? First, we learn a little about what he was – a tax collector and a rich man. Next we learn what he was not – tall or popular. I imagine the gathering crowd not being willing to move aside and let little Zacchaeus through. They may have used this opportunity to take a swing at him, who knows. You see, he was a tax collector, but he was also a Jew. That means he was largely seen as a traitor. Someone who took money from his own people and paid it (at least “most” of it) to Rome to stay in good graces with this enemy regime that had taken over Israel. Tax collectors were also known to pad the numbers a little so they could keep some for themselves. That is likely how Zacchaeus became rich. So there was not a lot of love for him on that day when Jesus was reportedly coming to Jericho.

So Zacchaeus runs ahead of the crowd and he climbs a tree. He is motivated to see the Jesus that so many have been talking about. Motivated enough to put in the extra effort to see Jesus. And along comes Jesus and his entourage. We are not sure exactly what Zacchaeus hopes to achieve in seeing Jesus in person, we just know he climbed a tree. Jesus knew it too, and as he reached that spot, he said “Zacchaeus, come down! I must stay at your house today” (vs 5). You can almost hear the audible gasp from the crowd. The bible says “they grumbled”. They were upset because Jesus was going to visit this “sinner”. ‘Why him?’ I’m sure they asked each other.

But Jesus knew. He said “I came to seek the lost”

And Zacchaeus? He was a changed man. He vowed then and there to repay 4 times all he had collected dishonestly. He also vowed to give half of what he owned to the poor. And Jesus declared that Salvation had come to Zacchaeus’ house today.

What “tangible truths” can we take from this passage?

1- Jesus knew Zacchaeus – We don’t know about their relationship – if this was the first time they had met or not, but we do know that Jesus calle Zacchaeus by name. Undoubtedly, He knew all about Zacchaeus’ shady dealings and dishonesty. But it didn’t scare Jesus off. Instead, it allowed him an opportunity to show grace and change Zacchaeus’ life – which brings me to #2.

2- Meeting Jesus changes lives – Zacchaeus was curious about Jesus. He had heard enough to motivate him to check it out. But when he met Jesus face to face, everything changed. That is the power of Jesus. He realized his sinfulness and was convicted to make things right again.

3- Jesus sees potential – Jesus forgave Zacchaeus’ life of sin. The crowd was not so forgiving. They saw the sin, the problems he had created. Jesus saw a sinful man realize his sinfulness and looked to change. I see a lot of my story in Zacchaeus’ story. I know the things that I have done wrong and I understand the penalty I deserve for those things. But Jesus sees the potential in me. He has a plan for me and that plan is for his purposes. So often, we act like the rest of the crowd. We pass our own judgements on others and write people off if they hurt us once or twice. I’m glad that God doesn’t write us off and I am challenged to see people as God sees them, not as I see them. He loves them, so should we.