A Valentine to God

Heart & ArrowToday we consider love, as we celebrate Valentine Day.  I hope your gifts and cards are ready!   God, who clearly loves us, deserves a valentine. In Matthew 22: 36-39, Jesus provides clear directions on how we should love God, our neighbors, and ourselves.

Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. This is the most important, the first commandment on any list. But there is a second commandment to set alongside it: Love others, your family, your friends, and your neighbors as well as you love yourself. These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them. (Matthew 22: 36-39, The Message Bible).

The valentine that God wants us to give to Him is all about loving:

  • Loving God,
  • Loving our neighbors,

And

  • Loving ourselves,

Therefore, the question is how do we fulfill this valentine to God?  The scriptures truly provide all the guidance we need for the loving that God wants us to do.

Loving God

Loving requires action; loving God requires us to do something and that something is Love Godinteracting with God.  We can interact with Him in so many ways. Some of these ways are:

  • Praying
  • Worshipping

  • Giving

  • Witnessing

Paul make the loving interaction with God clear by saying this: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 (English Standard Version)

When we pray, we get closer to God, not only because we are asking Him for things, but because we understand how we can depend on Him, how we can trust Him, and how we can become close to Him.

Loving Our Neighbor

Neighbor SignWe need to look no further than “The Ten Commandments” in Exodus 20 for a vision for how to love.   We show love to neighbor when we simply pledge not to:

  • Lie,
  • Steal,

Or

  • Bear false witness against our neighbor.

Loving Ourselves

Romans 12:1-2 provides a powerful reason to love ourselves:

Successful diverse business team laughing togetherTherefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will  (Romans 12:1-2, The Living Bible).

As a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, I must love myself because God loved me so much that that he deemed me worthy to be pleasing to Him, and I can show that love to God by:

  •  Being Confident

We can say these things because of our faith in God through Christ.  We know we are not able in ourselves to do any of this work. God makes us able to do these things. 2 Corinthians 3:4-5 (New Life Version)

  •  Having Self Control

My Christian brothers, you know everyone should listen much and speak little. He should be slow to become angry.  A man’s anger does not allow him to be right with God.  James 1:19-20 (New Life Version)

  • Expiring Joy

…happy the man who puts his trust in God. Romans 4:6-8 (New Life Version)

 My Funny Valentine

Enjoy Valentine Day secure in the understanding that our valentine to God is far moreFebruary 14 that cards, flowers, and candy. For me, the thing that I love the most about the all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-blessing God that we serve is that while He commands us to love Him as we have seen in Matthew 22:36-39, he does not make us love Him.   God shows His loving power to us by allowing the best decision that we will ever make, loving Him, to be made by us.  God gives us the power to decide.  This Valentine Day, I hope you will give God a valentine and love Him with all of your heart, soul, and mind.

Happy Valentine Day!!!!

Hank Aaron@80 Consistency, Persistency, Dignity

 

 

Aaron WaveThis week marks the 80th birthday of baseball great, Hank Aaron.  His hall of fame career history shows that he played 23 seasons, leaving the game as an all-time, home run king, breaking Babe Ruth’s legendary mark in 1974.

Hank Aaron is my favorite baseball player, not only for his excellence on the field, but also for exemplifying three traits, if we emulate, will serve us well in life. These traits include consistency, persistency, and dignity.

Consistency

Hank Aaron’s work was playing baseball, and he went to work every day.  Presently, Aaron ranks third in all-time games played at 3,298; he ranks  second in career at bats, with 12,364; and he ranks third in plate appearances at 13,941.  These achievements make Aaron the only player in the history of the game to be in the top five in these categories.   However, more striking is how Aaron produced in those games, at bats, and at plate appearances.

Aaron Production

Aaron’s consistency in these important offensive categories clearly makes him one of the greatest players of the game.

Persistency

For Hank Aaron, persistency represented a commitment to excellence. Powered by the determination he learned from his parents, Aaron was considered an elite player as evident by his record of 20 all-star game selections.

Yet, Aaron’s game was not as flashy as other players of his day, like Willie Mays, Aaron-Maysresulting in him not being noticed beyond his Milwaukee and later Atlanta fan bases.  So, it came as a surprise to many baseball fans when, in 1973, the largely unknown Hank Aaron showed up on the national stage, pursuing one of the most cherished record in America, the all-time homerun record held by Babe Ruth, a baseball icon.  This count down chart shows Aaron’s nearly two decades of persistent chase to surpass 715.

Aaron HR1

Hank Aaron’s determined persistence landed him in the top 15 in home runs in the National League for 20 straight seasons.  While he only led the league in homers 3 times, it was Aaron’s persistence that enabled him to pass the Babe.

Dignity

Hank Aaron TuckHank Aaron’s consistent, determined chase for the all-time home run record was marred by racial taunts and death threats.  It was during those times that the country saw the dignity and grace of Aaron.  However, for those fans and foes who knew him well, the dignity of the man was always on display.  In his book The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron, Howard Bryant, reveals Aaron’s support for the Civil Rights moment and in the tradition of Jackie Robinson his fight for equality for African Americans in Major League Baseball. Aaron’s outspokenness did not make him popular at the time; however, the honesty and dignity that he demonstrated in the midst of the negative environment of the time, has garnered Aaron respect beyond the statistics of baseball.

Hank Aaron@80

Hank Aaron’s stature as a man of substance has grown mightily@Aaron2
in the years since his retirement.  His influence as a social activist and business man has nearly eclipsed his play on the field.  April will mark 40 years since the epic swing that broke the greatest record in sports.  However, the most important swing of Hank Aaron is the template he has given us as to how to live a life of consistency, persistency, and dignity.

Peyton Manning – The ultimate measure of a man

Safety

Seahawks 48 – Broncos 8, and with that, the record-breaking Most Valuable Player (MVP) season of Peyton Manning was over in an epic Super Bowl loss that Manning himself termed “not an easy pill to swallow.”

 

Dr. Martin Luther King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Without question, the outstanding Seahawks’ defense lead by Super Bowl MVP InerseptionLinebacker Malcolm Smith, whose interception of a Manning pass resulted in a crushing 69 yard touchdown, provided times of great challenge and controversy for the regular season MVP of the National Football League (NFL).

However, it is in this moment of defeat, for a record-setting quarterback, from a family of football royalty, with millions in the bank, and millions more in endorsements, that we see the ultimate measure of a man.

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports reported that Manning faced a throng of cameras and PMSuit2microphones to explain to the football world how his team lost and his part in it. He was walking back to the locker room, surrounded by police and stray, media when he was approached by Steve Lopez, a 25 year-old beer vendor from the Bronx. Lopez said in a very respectful voice, “Mr. Manning, could I please get an autograph?”  Manning, in an equal respectful voice said, “Not now, but when I come back this way I will.”

This exchange between Manning and Lopez, as Wetzel calls it, represented the opposite ends of the NFL food chain, the megastar multimillionaire and a guy hawking Bud Lights in the stands. This exchange tells us all we need to know about the ultimate measure of Payton Manning.  At a moment, when the bright lights were off and his frustration from a complete defeat was at its highest, Manning could have been dismissive to Lopez, but he was not.

Y.A. TittleTheodore Roosevelt reminds us, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. “

God wants us out on the field, using our talents and skills and exercising our faith.  ForPM1 without works our faith is dead (James2:14-26, KJV). While the measure of Payton Manning, the football player, came up short on the Super Bowl field, the ultimate measure of Payton Manning as a man, came up big as he emerged from the pain and hurt of the Denver locker room to give an autograph to Steve Lopez as he said he would.

Super Bowl XLVIII The Faith of the Comeback

SB Team Logo2Welcome to Super Bowl Sunday, the columniation of the 2013 NFL season.  The 2013 playoffs started with an absolute classic, as the Chiefs and the Colts delivered one of the most exciting games in NFL history. Indianapolis erased a 28-point deficit and turned what appeared to be a Kansas City rout, into the second largest comeback in the history of the NFL postseason.

While a comeback usually features a series of mistakes and a ton of good fortune, a comeback also involves faith.  If you are on the side that is losing, you have the faith that your team will indeed comeback.  If you are on the side that is winning, you might lose faith in the midst of being the object of the comeback.

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)

However, for the comeback to happen, we must have more than faith; we have to have works.  For as scriptures tells us in James 2:17 “….faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

Work is Action

Payton ManningRussel WilsonAt best, works can be defined as action.  God wants our faith to be backed up by action, and action requires us to get off the bench and get onto the field where the action is taking place.  Just like the Colts in that playoff game, there will be times when we will be down and in need of a comeback.  Perhaps we will be down because of:

  • ·        A difficult marriage.
  • ·        Loss of a job.
  • ·        A health condition.

Or

  • ·        A wayward child.
  • ·        A dream deferred.
  • ·        A missed opportunity.

The Action of Faith – Robert Mathis, Linebacker

Robert Mathis2A comeback is possible only when we add action to our faith.  The Colts could not stop the Kansas City Chiefs through the first 33 minutes of the AFC divisional playoff game. Then faith and action entwined. The Chiefs had the ball on second-and-6 at their own 46-yard line early in the third quarter. Linebacker Robert Mathis sacked the Chiefs quarterback, Alex Smith, causing a fumble, which was recovered by the Colts.  Six plays later, Indianapolis scored that one action by Mathis. The sack, strip, and fumble represented the “work” that was required by faith, igniting the flame of the 28-point comeback.

The Action of Faith – Abraham, Friend of God

Action, the work of our faith, provides the trust needed for the comeback. Abraham obeyed God and offered his dearly beloved son Isaac on the alter, as a sacrifice.  Abraham put his faith in action, leading Isaac up the hill to his death.  However, it was Abraham’s trust in the God’s ability to power a comeback for both him and Isaac that made the difference. Abraham’s trust is illustrated in this passage from Genesis 22: 4-5:

Abraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants and his son Isaac. He had split wood for the burnt offering. He set out for the place God had directed him. On the third day he looked up and saw the place in the distance. Abraham told his two young servants, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I are going over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.” Genesis 22: 4-5 (The Message)

Abraham’s faith that God would spare Isaac’s life was revealed when he told the servants that both he and Isaac would be back from the place designated for the sacrifice. Abraham’s trust was rooted in faith that his work, being obedient to God’s commands, would produce a comeback.

The Essence of the Comeback

Enjoy the splendor of the Super Bowl this evening, knowing that for the team that is behind, a comeback is just a play a way.  Enjoy the grandeur of the Super Bowl this evening, basking in the knowledge that God is the king of the comeback.  He is willing and able to engineer a comeback for you and me as long as we have:

–        Faith that God is all powerful, and it is through his might that we can comeback from anything.

–        Work, for our faith is dead without works.

And

–        Trust, because when we believe in the Lord and His promises, all things are possible.

The chance of experiencing a comeback is ever present because we have faith in the power of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.