How Thoughts Become Things

Passing the Batton

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:”

Proverbs 23:7 

 

What’s the difference between a winner and a loser? What differentiates champions from also-rans? What differential divides first place and second?  Sports columnist Michael Wilbon said “what separates champions from the rest of us is a line so thin you can barely prove it exists.” 

What separates the men from the boys?  Our thoughts.  Individually and collectively, we can direct our thoughts to become things.  The individual, however, must join with collective, collaborative, congenial minds, for individually we can be lost in ourselves. Remember, there is no “I’ in team. So, in order to win as a team, there must be a meeting of common minds; there must be a meeting of determined wills; there must be a meeting of renewed spirits.  The collective minds and wills and emotions of victors cannot, and will not, be denied.

What separates who excels and who fails? Our minds.  It’s a spiritual thing. And spiritually speaking, winning is living with our minds focused on victory. And the victory has already been won. Therefore, our thoughts should ever be on Calvary.  Christ won on Crucifixion Friday, and proved he won on Resurrection Sunday.  Therefore, our thoughts should ever be on what Christ did for us in the past and what He is going to do for us in the future.

What separates champions from the rest of us? Continue reading

Fellowship of the Gym Rats

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I go to the gym now.

Twice a week I go to the gym with my wife.  It’s “A thing together.”  When I don’t feel like going, I know that she wants to go, so I “man up” and go anyway, for her and for me. There are times when she may not want to work out, but the “thing together” keeps us both going, together.  It’s a fellowship. 

I go to the gym now.  And there are other “gym rats” that I see at the gym regularly.  Seeing them work out motivates me.  I don’t worry about those who look like they’re in better shape than me, and I’m not particularly jealous of them (well, maybe a little) but the motivation of seeing them at the gym week in and week out is a great motivator.

When I was much younger, I ran track, played a little ball, road my bike and tried to swim.  Now that I’m on the other side of 50, I don’t (did someone say can’t?) do all that anymore. So I go to the gym now. The more I go to the gym, the better I feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I feel a lot better about myself now than I did when I was just “talking about” going to the gym.

The parallel of going to the gym and going to church cannot be stronger. You go to the gym and to church for yourself and for others. Faith is personal and yet it is lived out in community.  It is a fellowship.  You need fellowship as much as you need solitude; the two are not mutually exclusive. When I don’t go to the gym, I feel it. When I miss church, I feel it.  It’s a physical and a spiritual longing that can only be satisfied by attendance.

The down side to going to the gym is that it’s become a modern-day “temple” for some.  It is their worship.  This is nothing new; the ancient Greeks and Romans “worshiped” their bodies as well.  I advocate the parallel of the gym with worship, not the replacement.

So regardless of how we feel or what happened during our day, or who did us wrong, or what went wrong, we go to the gym. Likewise, we should also go to our places of worship, to fellowship with others and to get built up ourselves in the process. 

Sing Your Fight Song

  Rocky-with-kids

Fight songs.  They inspire, motivate, and drive.  I believe they are called “fight songs” because our teams are in a fight for victory. A fight is a clash and a contest, a battle and a brawl to determine supremacy.  The weekly competitions on the gridiron, however, are no match for the epic, eternal struggle between Heaven and Hell, good and evil, right and wrong. So, if we sing fight songs for the earthly competitions between flesh and blood, why not join in the eternal chorus for the ultimate prize? 

Fight songs. We don’t call the songs, hymns and spiritual songs we sing in church “fight songs”, but they are fight songs nonetheless. We are singing and cheering for our “team.”  Our team is “Team Jesus:” Father, Son and Holy Ghost. We worship the creator and the redeemer. We praise the Alpha and the Omega.  We cheer on the King of Kings and Lords because the victory has already been won, and the outcome has never been in doubt.

Heaven and earth sing fight songs.  Continue reading

Nasty With A Smile

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I once had a coworker who is nasty with a smile. They might not take that as a complement, but it is. My definition of nasty is this: being serious and dangerous, in a good way. She can be rough and gruff, but I really believe that she means well (for the most part). We haven’t always had the best of relationships, but it’s getting better. We are both Christians, but we approach our orthopraxy in different ways.

Both of us, however, must share this common thread: Christians are supposed to be kind and loving, gentle and forgiving, but many times we miss the mark. We can be mean and ornery, harsh and bitter. Oft-times, our speech is filled with cold words and sarcastic phrases; our countenance can be marked by icy looks and evil sneers. We need to learn how to be “wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.” We need to learn how to direct our “nastiness” against evil, not each other.

Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson were nasty with a smile. The Lakers and Celtics have met in the NBA Finals a staggering 12 times. In my lifetime, I remember the 1984 Finals when Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s “Showtime” Lakers lost to Larry Bird’s Celtics. That year, the Celtics resumed their dominance over the Lakers, winning the series 4-3. The rematch came the following season, though, and finally the Lakers took some revenge, winning in 1985. The Lakers then took more revenge in another rematch in 1987. Both teams won multiple championships, but now we focus on their head to head play.

Larry and “Magic” were nasty with a smile. They knew how to win, knew how to beat you, and knew how to get the best out of their teammates. During the game, they could be down-right nasty. On the court, they weren’t your friend, even if you were a beloved teammate. In the heat of the battle, they were mean, they were focused, and they were successful. With the game on the line, you better get out of their way. They weren’t just winners, they were champions. They won on and off of the court. They were the epitome and embodiment of “how to win.”

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Larry and Magic were nasty with a smile. This “nastiness” emanated from the very fiber of their being and permeated to the far extremities of their teams. They demanded excellence. During a big game, I remember a teammate missing a free-frow, and Magic giving him “stare-down” all the way to the other end of the court. They didn’t “play.” Basketball was all “business.” And they were experts at the “business” of winning.

Would to God that the children of light were tougher, stronger and braver when it comes to defying and defeating evil. In order to conquer this wicked world, our flesh and the devil, we really need to be nasty with a smile.

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Why I’m a Sports Fan

PhilSports

I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.

John 16:33, THE MESSAGE

 

I’m a sports fan.

I’m a sports fan because living the Christian life is likened to being an athlete.  An athlete is not a casual observer of the sport. An athlete is a student of the game. And so are the fans.  And Philly sports fans are die-hard: we wear our hearts on our sleeves and take our winning seriously.  Christians should be as serious about their faith as Philly fans are about the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and Sixers winning games, and of course the championship (thanks to the Phils for winning recently!)

I’m a sports fan because in sports we can watch anything happen, especially the reversal of fortune. I like to run, swim and bike; the sports I cannot play I can watch and participate vicariously.  In other words, what I can’t do, “my” team can do.

I’m a sports fan because in sports:

David defeats Goliath

The underdog beats the favorite

The No. 16 Seed trounces the No. 1 Seed (one day!)

The “little guy” beats up the bully

The nerds beat down the jocks

 The last place team steamrolls the first place team

The JV whips the varsity

The old timers surprise the wiper-snappers

The walk-ons shock the starters

The washed-up veteran shows up the rookie of the year.

In the end, we win. Undermanned and overmatched, we win. Continue reading

Fantastic!

Hogettes

Fantastic means extravagantly fanciful; marvelous; incredibly great or extreme; exorbitant.  A “Fan”, the word being derived from the word fantastic, is a fanatical enthusiast or supporter, especially with regard to entertainment and sports. Its root comes from the Greek word “phantastikós”, meaning able to present or show (to the mind). Our English rendering means conceived or appearing as if conceived by an unrestrained imagination.

For 30 years, the Redskins’ most recognizable fan group was “The Hogettes”, a name was inspired by Redskins offensive line coach Joe Bugel in the 1980’s, who referred to his lineman as hogs.

The fan group was founded in 1983 after one member went to Halloween party at his grandmother’s retirement home wearing one of her old dress as his costume. This state was posted on the Hoggettes website; “After 30 seasons, the Hogettes® are hanging up our pig snouts & dresses. It has been an honor being a part of the greatest 12th Man fans in the NFL. We will forever be Redskins’ fans and cheer for our beloved team. It is a new era and we will continue to support RG3 and his teammates. HAIL TO THE REDSKINS!!! We will also continue to help (incognito) raise money for Children’s Charities.” (Mikey T. Boss, Hogette) 

If grown men were willing to wear dresses and pig snouts to cheer on a sports team, then shouldn’t we go all out for our Lord?  We are not just fanatical supporters of a team, but we are dedicated disciples and faithful followers of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He did more for us than a sports team could ever do.  He defeated death, Hell and the grave. He Purchased our salvation on Calvary.  Jesus is the reason we can sing “It was my Savior’s blood . . . I know it was the blood for me.” We should yell louder, scream harder and jump higher for Jesus than we do for the Redskins or Eagles (pronounced “Iggles”) or Cowboys or NY Football Giants.

Fantastic. That’s how we should be for the one who deserves all the glory and the honor.  We should lift our hearts, we should lift our hands, and we should lift our voices. We should lift our voices in jubilant praise. We should lift our hands in fervent worship.  And we should lift our hearts as we are “filled with His goodness and lost in His love” in expectant devotion to Him.  So lift every voice and sing.

 “Lift up your hearts!” We lift them, Lord, to Thee;
Here at Thy feet none other may we see;
“Lift up your hearts!” E’en so, with one accord,
We lift them up, we lift them to the Lord.

H. Montagu Butler, 1881

Impact Players

Cowboys Trio

I have a dear friend, confidant and brother who is an impact player. He loves the Lord and puts up with me. That, in my book, is enough to earn him a right to the tree of life.  He has made an impact on so many lives, and has made an indelible imprint on mine.  He continues to make a difference through his tears and sorrows, and his questions about tomorrow. He would kill me if I mentioned his name, but he knows who he is.

As an Eagles fan (that’s right, it’s pronounced “Iggles,”), I’ve come to the conclusion that if we are to have a chance at winning the NFC East and a Super Bowl in my lifetime, our impact players will have to “step up to ‘da plate.”  LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Michael Vick must be “the big three” in Philly just as the Dallas Cowboys big three of Troy Aikman, Emmit Smith and Michael Irvin took control of games and won two Super Bowls in the ‘90’s.

I’m not a Dallas fan by any stretch of the imagination, or at least not anymore (I quit when Jimmy Jones fired Tom Landry; an unconscionable act), but I know sports, and these three were impact players of the first degree.  Aikman, Irvin and Smith; a quarterback, a running back and a wide receiver; hmmmm. It sounds like Philly has the right pieces — we just need to put these pieces together.

The Bible is full of impact players who put it together. They trusted God and sacrificed themselves so that others would escape disaster and achieve triumph in this life, and the life to come. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way:  

“For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets –  who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated –  of whom the world was not worthy . . . ”  (Hebrews 11:32-38, RSV)

Impact players. They make everyone around them better. They play at the highest level all of the time. They are hated by their enemies and loved by their fans. And they aren’t concerned about who gets the credit, just as long as victory is won. 

Are you an impact player?