How Bad Do You Want It?

Rudy2

Rudy wanted it. He wanted it bad enough. The 1993 American sports film directed by David Anspaugh is the true story of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger who harbored dreams of playing football at the University of Notre Dame despite significant obstacles.  Because he wanted it bad enough, he overcame all obstacles in front of him and beat all the odds against him. Rudy is one of the best 25 sports movies of all time; watch it again for the first time.

We all need to get some “Rudy” in us.  This weekend, my Eagles will need to get some “Rudy” in them. In order to have a chance at the playoffs, the Eagles must beat Arizona. Likewise, the Chiefs cannot lose to Denver, and whoever wins between the Saints and the Seahawks Monday Night will have the upper hand in the NFC west. And today, if Alabama is going to go undefeated, they must beat Auburn. The question for each team is “how bad do you want it?”

Sometimes we don’t want it bad enough.  As soldiers of the Cross, we have a tendency to be complacent, inconsistent and nonchalant representatives of the Kingdom of God.  It’s sad to say, but we can be down-right lazy in our Christian walk. Our actions, attitudes and aspirations don’t always match those of our Lord and Savior.  Unfortunately, our lament tends to be this: “prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.” 

How bad do we want it?  Sometimes, not bad enough.  Sometimes, we’re not sober; sometimes, we’re not vigilant; sometimes, we don’t press toward the mark like we should. We don’t always hunger and thirst for righteousness as we should. Simply put, we don’t want it bad enough.  

So what is “it” that we should want?  First let’s get one thing straight: “it” is not things: silver and gold; fame and fortune; houses and lands. To their shame, the church of Laodicea wanted things. Jesus chided this church with these words: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17-18, NIV). We like this “lukewarm” church have replaced the gifts with the Giver; we want the goodies more than we want God.  We want big cars and big houses and big churches; we want to be part of the “in” crowd that is in the “inner circle” of the church elite.  This is not it.

How bad do you want it? The “it” that we should want more than anything is a relationship with Jesus Christ.  He loves us, desires to spend time with us, to share with us, and to love us unconditionally.  In return, He desires that we love Him with all of our heart, all of our mind, all of our body and all of our soul.  We should want Him more than anything.  The inspiring words of Rhea Miller’s song come to mind:

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold; I’d rather be His than have riches untold; I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands; I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand 

Than to be the king of a vast domain And be held in sin’s dread sway; I’d rather have Jesus than anything This world affords today.

So, how bad do you want it? How bad do you want to be like Jesus? When we put God first, others second and ourselves last, we will receive the precious promises of Heaven; we are guaranteed to receive His presence and His protection and his power. 

How bad to you want it? Can you sing this old song of the church: “To be like Jesus, to be like Jesus, all I want is to be like Him; so meek and lowly, so humbly and holy, all I want  is to be like Him.” 

 I want Jesus, how about you?

What’s Your Game Plan?

 athletes praying

Some people are going through life with no goals and no plans; aiming at nothing and hitting it every time.  As soldiers of the Cross, we have a goal. It is the same goal that our Lord Jesus has. It is to bring Joy to the world. In the process, “He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found.”

Some people go through life with no aspirations and no desires; yet they are full of regrets and remorse.  That’s no game plan. Our game plan is to receive and extend the Kingdom of God, and in so doing, shine the light of His love to dispel all darkness.  That is what Jesus came to do.  “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8b).  We are commissioned to do the same; to annihilate and obliterate, to eliminate and eradicate all things opposed to the righteousness of God.

So what’s your game plan?  My wife and I rented a townhouse with the intent of staying there one year, because the neighborhood was not good.  We stayed seven years. Sometimes the best laid plans must be adjusted and amended.  But at the end of the day, you begin with a plan; at the end of the day, the goal is the aim and the aim is the goal.  

So what’s your game plan?  Keep in mind that if you delight yourself in the Lord (aim), He will give you the desires of your heart (goal).  Keep in mind that we are to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (aim). “Our heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that we need . . .  and he will give them to us if we give him first place in our lives and live as He wants us to”  (Matt 6:31-33,TLB).  That’s the goal. That’s the game plan.

So stick to your game plan.  This can’t be emphasized enough.  Don’t deviate or be deterred. Once you know the game plan, it’s imperative that you stick to the game plan. The enemy will try to thwart your plans and intentions.  The enemy will try to use people to discourage you and throw you off track. Don’t let him and don’t let them.

Stick with the game plan. Be determined.  Be dogged. Be determinedly dogged and have dogged determination.  Be resolute, resilient and always resist the devil. Don’t let “some people” derail your plans. Yes, some people aren’t going anywhere, and they’re jealous of where you are going. Don’t let them phase you.

The Apostle Paul had a God given game plan.  Paul was God’s “chosen instrument to carry the name of the Lord before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. And he also was to suffer much for His name” (Acts 9:15-16, NIV).  By contrast, Paul’s enemies had a game pan. “After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan” (Acts 9:23-24). 

We know that the enemy comes “to steal, to kill and to destroy.”  But the plan of the enemy is known and we will outsmart him, outmaneuver him and outplay him. Our Lord Jesus has already conquered the wily devil and this wayward world. Now it’s our turn to defeat our flesh and achieve the goal of being like Him.

So stick to the game plan.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight’ (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV).  Along the way, save money, give time, listen more, argue less, and remember that no matter what, “all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans” (Romans 8:28, TLB).

gods-game-plan

Hats Off: In Thankful Memory

 

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Thanksgiving and football are like Tom Landry and his hat; they just go together.  Football on Thanksgiving Day is an annual tradition in America, and so are the Dallas Cowboys playing on Thanksgiving. America’s team has played on Thanksgiving 45 times since the 1966 season and has a combined record of 28-16-1 historically on the day.

Today we say “Hats Off” to legendary Dallas Cowboys’ Head Coach, Tom Landry, who won his first Thanksgiving game with the Cowboys on November, 26, 1966 with a decisive 14-26 win over the Cleveland Browns. It was a memorable win because it was the first Cowboys’ game on Thanksgiving ever. Not surprisingly, Landry went 14-6-1 on Thanksgiving, which was common for Landry’s winning ways.

So today we salute my favorite football coach, Thomas Wade “Tom” Landry (September 11, 1924 – February 12, 2000) who was one of the greatest and most innovative coaches in National Football League (NFL) history, creating many new formations and methods. He invented the now popular 4–3 defense, and the “flex defense” system made famous by the “Doomsday Defense” squads he created during his 29 year tenure with the Dallas Cowboys. His 29 years as the coach of one team are an NFL record, along with his 20 consecutive winning seasons.

Landry would go on to build the Cowboys from an undermanned expansion team into an NFL power, first with a stunning array of offensive formations and maneuvers, then with a solid organizational structure.  In 29 seasons under Landry, Dallas won two Super Bowls, played in three other title games and went 20 consecutive years with a winning record. He ranks third in career NFL victories, with 270. In his 40-year pro career Landry was vital in forging a brand of football that the NFL could hang its hat on.

So hats off to Tom Landry. He was a faithful, committed Christian whose faith and fortitude were a positive force behind making him a football icon. Landry became an endearing, beloved figure on the Cowboy’s sidelines, not just because of his wins, but because of his inner strength.  He told interviewers after his fifth and final Super Bowl appearance in 1979 that he believed his destiny always had been controlled by a power greater than the Cowboys’ ability to win football games. “As a Christian, I know my life is in God’s hands,” Landry said then. “He has a plan for me. Therefore, I never worry about tomorrow or never worry about winning or losing football games. That knowledge gives me a lot of composure in tough situations.”

Landry and Staubach

On this Thanksgiving, we say “Hats off” to the man who was victorious on and off the field because he depended on God and put his life in His hands.   

Don’t Be A Turkey

Chalie Brown & Lucy

Charlie Brown was a turkey. He fell for Lucy’s ploy time and again.   Charlie Brown, truth be told, was the “Thanksgiving Turkey.”  Yes he tried, but what he needed to do was to deal with his inner inhibitions and to tell Lucy he was tired of playing her dumb game and playing by her stupid rules.  Sometimes you have to CHANGE the rules. So stop playing by the world’s standards. Stop letting those that don’t mean you well dictate the circumstances. Change the rules. Make them work in your favor. 

Turkey is sort of an outdated slang term for coward. Now it means chump, sap or sucker. In this case it’s sort of a pun: turkey refers to Thanksgiving as well.  Charlie Brown was a coward because he was afraid to change.  He was afraid to confront. He was afraid to contend.  He didn’t change.  So don’t be a turkey.  Change the rules.  Change the meaning of the word.

In bowling turkey doesn’t mean coward.  It means just the opposite. It is a sign of sustained victory.  All bowlers know that a “turkey” is three consecutive strikes thrown by a bowler playing ten-pin bowling. There is no recorded derivation of this term but Chuck Pezzana, the historian of the Professional Bowlers Association offers a likely origin. During the Great Depression of the 1930s many bowling alleys began to hold sweepstakes events during the holiday seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas offering food as gifts to the winners. The common award for bowling three strikes in a row was a live turkey. If a person accomplished this feat his or her teammates would all shout, “turkey!” letting the proprietor know that the prize had been won.

So don’t be a turkey.  Be bold enough to dare to change the rules. John the Baptist changed the rules. When he was born, the family wanted to call him Zechariah Jr., after his father.  But Elisabeth said no, and she looked to her husband, Zechariah, for support and confirmation. Zechariah, a mute at the time because of his unbelief, when asked what the child’s name should be, wrote on a tablet “He shall be called John.” As soon as he wrote the prophetic name of this, his son of promise, “his tongue was loosed, and he spoke, blessing God” (Luke 1:64). 

Courage comes when you believe God when others don’t and won’t.  You don’t get courage to believe, you get courage when you believe.  Don’t be a turkey.  Don’t be afraid to stand firmly for your faith. Be confident in your theology; be competent in philosophy; and don’t be arrogant in your spirituality. We know that our God is the only wise God, but we don’t have to put others down when the goal is to build them up. So change the rules. Seek ways to share your faith without denigrating or disparaging others.  

Don’t play by Lucy’s rules.  Don’t be a turkey.

You’re An Overcomer

We are the Champions. Not every team can say that. Not every team can do that.  Only the elite few can. Only the elite few do.  As believers, we all can overcome any and every hurdle we have. We can defeat every foe we face. We and subdue every challenge we come across.  But it depends on how bad we want it. Jesus did his part. He shed His blood.  He gave His life. What more can He do?  So it’s up to us to live our lives as a testimony to His goodness and His grace. 

Mandisa Poster

Watch the “Overcomer” video by the former American Idol singer Mandisa.  You’ll thank me later. Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and retired astronaut and Navy Captain Mark Kelly are featured in the music video for three-time GRAMMY® nominee and Season 5 American Idol finalist Mandisa’s new Christian chart-topping single “Overcomer.”

“I was really inspired by Mandisa’s song ‘Overcomer’ because its message is one of hope, perseverance and faith,” said Giffords. “We can’t always control what happens to us in life, but we can control how we respond. Like the song says, if we keep positive and ‘stay in the fight till the final round,’ we can overcome more than we ever dreamed possible.”

The “Overcomer” video, which includes never-before-released footage of Giffords’ road to recovery after being shot in the head at point-blank range at a Congress on Your Corner event in Tucson in 2011, Giffords and Kelly appear in the video alongside Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts and Olympic gold medal-winning figure skater Scott Hamilton.

The powerful words to this great song are as follows: 

Staring at a stop sign
Watching people drive by
T Mac on the radio
Got so much on your mind
Nothing’s really going right
Looking for a ray of hope

Whatever it is you may be going through
I know He’s not gonna let it get the best of you

You’re an overcomer
Stay in the fight ‘til the final round
You’re not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it’s hopeless
That’s when He reminds You
That you’re an overcomer
You’re an overcomer

Everybody’s been down
Hit the bottom, hit the ground
Oh, you’re not alone
Just take a breath, don’t forget
Hang on to His promises
He wants You to know 

You’re an overcomer
Stay in the fight ‘til the final round
You’re not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it’s hopeless
That’s when He reminds You
That you’re an overcomer
You’re an overcomer

The same Man, the Great I am
The one who overcame death
Is living inside of You
So just hold tight, fix your eyes
On the one who holds your life
There’s nothing He can’t do
He’s telling You

So how bad to you want it? The University of Maryland (my alma matter!) Men’s Soccer Team has been good for quite some time.  They have overcome mediocrity, achieved superlative success, and have earned the right to be called champions.  They won the ACC Championship this year. In 2008, when they were national champions, the sports page article read, “Turnaround Takes Terps to Title Shot.” During that season, the Terps lost a game they should have won. They used that loss as “the final lesson” en route to winning the NCAA Soccer title that magical championship season. 

MD Soccer

What have you overcome?  What have you defeated?  What have you gained victory over? In Revelation it says that “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. For they did not cling to life even in the face of death.”

 

Do It With Grace

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For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

Everything God does, He does with grace. God loves us and extends His love with grace. God sent His Son to save us, and we needed saving in the worst way. “Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God.”

So grace found us: “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” Grace brought salvation: “For the grace of God (His unmerited favor and blessing) has come forward (appeared) for the deliverance from sin and the eternal salvation for all mankind.”   Then grace saved us: “For by grace are ye saved . . .”   And grace keeps us: “Great grace was upon them all.”   Grace sustains us: “My grace is sufficient for thee.”  And grace matures us: “But grow in grace . . .”

What would we do without God’s Grace?

We, like Noah, should seek to find grace. God’s Grace. The rest of humanity was going to hell in a hand-basket, “but Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8).  Grace is simple elegance or refinement of movement. It can be well said of Kim Yu-Na, the Korean Olympic Figure Skater, that “she moved across the ice with effortless grace.”

So do it with grace. We should be gracious and graceful.  We should act with courtesy and decency; we should have good manners, decorum, respect, tact and be polite.  Grace is giving what is not deserved. We certainly want to be treated graciously, so we should treat others this way as well.

Everything we do, we should do with grace. We should not be found being judgmental or critical, cynical or sarcastic. We of all people need to extend grace, ‘for it was grace that taught our hearts to fear, and grace our fears relieved.’ We need to extend grace because ” ’tis grace hath brought us safe thus far, and grace will lead us home.” Well did Norwegian born hymn writer Haldor Lillenas say,

 Wonderful grace of Jesus, Greater than all my sin;

How shall my tongue describe it, Where shall its praise begin?

Taking away my burden, Setting my spirit free,

For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

So let’s do it with grace. Let’s love others with grace. Let’s extend kindness, with grace. Let’s forgive, with grace. Because without His grace, we are nothing. So sing with me

Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see.

John Newton

Are You A Team Player?

MJ and Rodman

Michael Jordan didn’t win all of those championship rings by himself. He had help. Good help. And you know what they say about good help.  So why was Michael such a successful basketball player? Indeed, why was he soooooo successful?

MJ was the consummate team player.  Jordan knew that there is no “I” in team.  His whole mentality was to win, by any means necessary. If he needed to score, he would score. If he needed to dish out assists, he would get double-digit assists. If he needed to play suffocating “D”, he would do just that. Jordan was a team player.  Sounds spiritual to me.

But most importantly, since there is no “I” in team, Jordan knew how to use his teammates in their strengths.  MJ knew he couldn’t just score his way to the ultimate victory. There is so much more to winning then just scoring. He figured out how to get all of his teammates involved in every game. He learned how to blend and meld a diverse group of variously talented, vigorously temperamental, and victoriously trumpeted athletes together to form a truly great championship team. How about using these principles in our everyday Christian lives?

MJ wasn’t always a team player.  After leading the league in scoring but loosing year after year in the early rounds of the playoffs, or not making the playoffs at all, Jordan figured out that there is no “I” in team.  More than anything else, it was Jordan’s personality that transported the Bulls of the mid ‘90’s from good to great.  And an enormous impact was made by the untraditional Dennis Rodman, who gave the Bulls the dominant rebounder they lacked – and in concert with the singularly agile and versatile Pippen, and the six-man, Toni Kukoc, the team dominated the league. 

Jordan knew how to get along with, and yes, sometimes put up with, all of his teammates, including the red-headed Rodman. And as Christians, when we learn how to get along with each other, when we learn how to love each other, when we learn how to band together and remember that there is no “I” on the “church team,” we will dominate as well.

The Chicago Bulls were a band of team players.  Once they latched on to the notion that there is no “I” in team, the 1995-96 Bulls went on to post a 72-10 regular season record, the best ever, and they cut through the playoffs like a hot knife through butter.  They won the fourth championship for the franchise, en route to the first championship win in their second “three-peat.”

Phil Jackson coached this team of all-stars who were highly motivated and wanted to prove just how good they were.  They proved that there is no “I” in team.  They proved that the way to win is to be a team player. They proved that the way to win is “team, team, team.”  We have Gene Hackman to thank for that line (see Hoosiers).

Every believer should be a team player.  So what is a team player?  Or more precisely, how do you spot a team player? Here’s how.  A team player has:

 1.            A Desire to Win

2.            Knowledge of the Game and A Passion for the Game

3.            A Selfless Spirit (Does What Needs To Be Done)

4.            Knowledge of the Strengths and Weakness of His/Her Teammates

5.            Friends With Teammates On and Off the Court

 So, are you a team player?