Value


In the previous “Tangible Truths” post, I talked about going through the motions of Christianity versus true sacrifice. That led me to make this one my next “Tangible Truth”.

This series focusses on some of the radical things Jesus said and how, when inspected more closely, they are both very true and very challenging. Today’s passage is from Matthew 13.45-46. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Two little verses that pack a punch. Let’s imagine the scene like this.

Man: Wow! look at that pearl! I’ve never seen one like it in my life! It is beautiful!  I simply must have it.  How much?

Merchant: How much do you have?

Man: umm. well, let’s see, I have, uh… $1,000 cash on me.

Merchant: I’ll take everything you’ve got.

Man: Oof! Hefty price, but I’ve got more in the bank account, so I’ll take it! $1,000. It’s a deal.

Merchant: I said, I’ll take everything you’ve got- bank account too!

Man: Empty my account? Wow! ummm, but look at it- I’ve never seen its equal. OK, deal, I’ll drain the bank account. It’s so worth it.

Merchant: OK.

Man: What a deal! Now where did I park my car?

Merchant: Wait! You have a car?

Man: (drawn out) yessss.

Merchant: The deal was for everything you’ve got!

Man: You want my car, too? Sheesh! I mean its a few years old and needs some work, but I need it to get around!

Merchant: The deal was for EVERYTHING.

Man: wow! um… ok, let me think about it… It is a pretty steep price, but it is so perfect, so beautiful, so valuable. You know what, OK, you can have the car, too. Here are the keys, we can take care of the title and all that, I guess.  But, uh, can you drive me to my house?

Merchant: You have a house? Our deal was for everything you’ve got!

Man: You want my HOUSE??? Now wait a minute. Let me take another look at that pearl. (looks at it). It sure is flawless though. This is crazy! OK, you can have the house too. I can’t believe I just said that, but I HAVE to have this pearl. When you drive me to my house, can you explain to my family that we are homeless and carless?

Merchant: You have a family? The deal was for everything that you’ve got!

Man: YOU WANT ME TO GIVE YOU MY FAMILY? Are you crazy? I can’t give up my family! But I can’t give this pearl back to you either – Now that I’ve seen it and held it, I have to have it. um…OK, I guess they are yours.

Merchant: Great, now can you do something for me?

Man: What could I do for you?

Merchant: You know the family you just gave me? They are mine – don’t forget that. But I want you to take care of them for me. Treat them great. Tell them about me, share your pearl with them.  And the house you gave me. It is my house. But I want you to live in it, take care of it, and use it to show this pearl to others. Tell them about me – I have lots of perfect pearls – I’d love to strike up a deal with them too.

Man: OK.

Merchant: And the car you gave me – it is mine now. I own it – but  I would like you to use it – for my purposes. Help other people out with it, and the money you gave me. It is my money now, but I am going to entrust it back to you. Use it wisely, use it how I instruct you to. Use it to help others find a pearl of their own that they can enjoy like you will enjoy your pearl.

Man: I understand. Thanks! This is the best deal ever!

Merchant: Tell others about the deal you got.

Now, God is not a swindler or a tricky salesman. He is the source of all that we have in the first place. The cost of this pearl is great, but the value far outweighs that cost. Our challenge is surrendering ALL to Jesus and making him more important than EVERYTHING else in our life. I think that sometimes we lose sight of that, and feel that we have done this on our own. Everything we have is a gift from Him. And giving Him everything makes sense since it is all His to start with. So knowing that, let’s joyfully surrender ALL to Him and share the beauty of the treasure He offers for others to see.

Do Not Fear – Jared Abbrederis – Detroit Lions WR


Lions WR Jared Abbrederis

It is construction season here in Minnesota. Yes, construction begins as soon as the snow leaves and they can get to work, but this time of year, it seems like things amp up a bit as the crews try to scramble to get as much in as possible. The result is that the routes we take to get where we are going are often slower than we want to travel and occasionally lead us in a completely different direction then we want to go. It is the story of our commute, but it is also the story of our life. Things don’t often go the most direct route. There seems to be times of waiting, unexpected detours and even the occasional fender-bender. The difference between our life (if we know Christ) and our commute is that with Jesus, when we finally get to where we are going, we see that the route we took makes the most sense and turned out to be the perfect path and timing. I don’t ever feel that way about construction traffic.

Abbrederis played college football as a walk-on at Wisconsin

Jared Abbrederis has had a long journey in football. He had success in High School as you can read in this article from whatchristianswanttoknow.com, but it didn’t translate into recruiters beating down his door to play at the college level. At Wisconsin, he went from walk-on quarterback to a top wide receiver in the Big Ten. He owns a few receiving and return records for the Badgers. He was impressive enough in college that the Green Bay Packers chose him in the 5th round of the 2014 draft. He played in 15 regular season and 2 post season games with the Packers before an injury led to his release from the team. The Lions signed him in January and he has been active for 4 games with them so far, hauling in 3 catches.

For Abbrederis, setting out on the new adventure of college was where he truly made the decision to live his life for Christ. You can read his story in his own words in this article from Beyond the Ultimate.  And in this article from the Milwaukee Journey-Sentinel, his first semester at college is described like this.

His first semester in Madison — a campus with a sterling party reputation — Abbrederis said he made decisions he regrets. Nothing too vile. He didn’t spend any nights in jail. Still, Abbrederis admits he was heading in the wrong direction. He partied too much, hung “with the wrong crowds” and felt “empty.” A huge part of someone’s life is your freshman year of college,” he said. “You leave your parents. You leave your community that you had and grow up yourself. … If I didn’t go through that, I don’t think I’d be as strong as I am today.

Here are my takeaways from Abbrederis’ story

1- Do something about it! – Abbrederis shared that he knew he was making some bad choices and was not happy with how college was going so (from the first linked article) “The second semester Jared decided to reach out. He began to participate in college age ministries through Blackhawk Church in Middleton. He also got involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Athletes in Action (AIA), and Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU). He was going somewhere almost every night.  This participation was the beginning that brought new life to his walk with the Lord.”

He saw the issues that were arising and he took action. When we chose to follow God, he allows His Spirit to come and live in us. Part of what the Holy Spirit does is put that voice inside us that triggers when we are making bad decisions. What do we do when we hear that voice suggest that we make a different choice? I know that I can be pretty good at blocking out the voice and carrying on down the path I choose. And often that leads me to a place I don’t want to go. I’m challenged by this part of Jared’s story to take action and listen to the Holy Spirit guide me away from danger and bad choices.

Abbrederis believes God led him to Detroit.

2 – Context is important. I have been learning this over and over again as I study the Bible. I read a passage that contains verses that I have known for much of my life, but to read the whole story of what is happening sometimes magnifies the lessons even more. That is the case for the featured Bible verse in this post tonight. It is a verse that Abbrederis started writing on his arms in High School and continues to reference now as a pro. The verse is Joshua 1.9. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Moses has just been replaced as the leader of the Jews who left Egyptian slavery to go to the Promised Land. Along the way, there have been stumbles by the people, miracles showing God’s power and hard lessons to learn. Joshua takes over as leader, and is preparing to enter the Promised Land. There could be many things to be fearful of. “Will the people listen to Joshua and follow? Will they be ready to trust God? Will they be ready for the battles that may be ahead as they take the land from others? But God’s promise is amazing. “the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

God leads us all on a journey to His Promised life. There will be lots of things that could bring fear and discouragement – it is a constant battle to fight. But He is with us, He will not leave us. Wherever we go, He is there. We can trust in Him and in that promise that He will work things our for our best. Hard times lie ahead, but with God as our guide, we can face those hard times with confidence knowing that He is with us, and He has a promise that He is keeping to lead us to the place He has designed for us. Let’s Go!!

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!