Category Archives: Sports Talk

The Place of Honor

I was intrigued, although not surprised by a news item coming from the Olympics. One of our American athletes was upset that he did not get selected to carry the American flag during the opening ceremonies. He was upset with the selection process. Perhaps he should have been selected. Perhaps the selection process is flawed. I have no way of knowing these things. But I do understand the emotion that prompted his public comments and that is why I was not surprised.

We like to think the Olympics are a time for athletes to represent and honor their countries. But the reality is that for most athletes it’s a time to win and be honored. I’m not saying that’s bad or wrong. Rather my issue is that we all too easily equate honor with winning, with being selected to hold the flag. Honor is equated with being the top dog, the most popular, or the most respected. Honor goes to the one who hangs out with or is seated by people of influence. I understand because I’ve too often been there and believed that.

But is that what honor is all about? Jesus had a different perspective. He, in fact, talked about the banquet table and the seat of honor.

“When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table! “Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward.” (Luke 14:7-12 New Living Translation)

To the Scribes and Pharisees, who deemed themselves men of honor, Jesus said, “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”(Matthew 23:11-12) Jesus taught his friends and followers the same thing.

“Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” “You don’t know what you are asking,”Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:20-28)

Not quite the same perspective, is it? The great news is that for Jesus it was not just a perspective. It was also His lifestyle.

As Paul later recorded:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very natureGod,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
(Philippians 2:3-11)

I’m not sure if Jesus’ view of honor would fit in the Olympics. But I wonder – what if we really lived for the true place of honor? What difference would it make? How would our world be different? Are you ready to take the place of honor?

Olympic Rings: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/13284311374/

More

I was humored and saddened recently when I heard the NFL players complaining about their salaries. Their basic complaint seemed to be that NBA players were getting higher salaries and fatter contracts; they felt it wasn’t fair. They talked about striking when their current deal with the team owners ends – which is still a few years away.

I was humored because it’s hard to listen seriously to multi-millionaires complaining they do not get paid enough. I was saddened because it reminded me again of the insidious power of greed.

So how do people become greedy? How do you and I become greedy? There are three common misconceptions about possessions. One such misconception is that having more will make me happier. “If only I had more money, a bigger car, more house, more clothes…” Think about it – the more you own, the more space, repairs and maintenance will be needed; there will be more requests from others for money and donations necessitating still more time and money. Many adults today have more than their parents ever had yet are enjoying it less and are deeper in debt. They live on a treadmill trying to keep up and get ahead. It’s like trying to fill the Grand Canyon with marbles – it will never happen. There just aren’t enough marbles. Having more will not make us happier. Rather, the reality is that it’s like drinking salt water when you’re thirsty – the more you drink the thirstier you will become.

No wonder the wise preacher of Ecclesiastes wrote: “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them?” (Ecclesiastes 5:10-11). Or as the New Living Translation puts it: “Those who love money will never have enough. How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness! The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what is the advantage of wealth-except perhaps to watch it run through your fingers?”

A second misconception is that having more will increase my worth. Yet in reality, greed is buying things with money we do not have to impress people we do not know or like. Why? Because we tend to think our net-worth is the same as our self-worth.
That’s why Jesus said: “…a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). You are not what you own! You are what – or who – owns you! Who or what owns you? Can you say with conviction that you are not your own but belong, body and soul, to your faithful Savior Jesus Christ? There’s your net worth.

The third misconception is having more will give me more security. Of course, that security disappears as soon as the stock market turns down and insurance rates go up! Solomon, in Proverbs, wrote: “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf” (11:28).

So how do we lessen our greed? One of the best cures for greed is to develop a giving lifestyle. In 2nd Chronicles 31:2-10 we are told that King Hezekiah “…ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due the priests and Levites so they could devote themselves to the Law of the LORD. As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the first fruits of their grain, new wine, oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything…Since the people began to bring their contributions to the temple of the LORD, we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare, because the LORD has blessed his people, and this great amount is left over.” Jesus said: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?… Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Lk. 9:25 & 12: 33-34).

These thoughts come from chapter 5 of 7 Habits of Highly Healthy People (Antidotes for the 7 Deadly Sins) by Pastor Curry. For more information go to https://www.pastorcurry.com/books/ . Or contact Pastor Curry for discounted copies of the book.

 

 

It’s All About the Numbers

I admit it at the outset – I am a big fan of the Michigan Wolverines. But I write today not so much but as a fan as an observer of life. You have probably heard the moving, emotional, inspirational story of the plane crash that preceded their current run through the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. The news has been filled with accounts of how the coaches, players and their families have been deeply impacted by the crash.

It’s not surprising that for all of them, life now has a different, or at least sharper focus. As I listened to and read these accounts my mind recalled Psalm 90:12 – “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

It would be nice to know the number of our days – or would it? Would it make a difference if you knew the number of your days? How would it change your life? If you knew for certain that you had 30,000 days, what impact would it have on how you live this day? If you knew for certain that you had 30 days, what impact would it have on how you live this day? My guess is knowing the number of days we have impacts how we spend our time today. It really is all about the numbers. The more days we know we have the less likely we are to focus on the really essential things of life today.

The late Zig Ziglar liked to talk about how much we accomplish on the days immediately preceding vacation. We know time is short and certain things have to be done – so we exercise great discipline and accomplish a tremendous amount of essential work in those days – much more than normal. His point was that we should treat every day as the day before vacation and accomplish much more than we currently do.

Isn’t that really the point of the Psalmist? Did he really want to know the number of his days? Or was he pointing out the benefit of not knowing? If we do not know how many days we have we are much more prone to make today count – to focus more clearly on the really essential things of life. That’s why I like the Contemporary English Version of Psalm 90:12 – “Teach us to use wisely all the time we have.” It’s really not about the numbers, is it? It’s really about how serious we are about making each day count.

Here’s what we know for sure. We do not know the number of our days and we do not determine the number of our days. Therefore each day is a gift of grace. As the Amplified Version states it, “Lord, let me know my [life’s] end And [to appreciate] the extent of my days…” It really doesn’t matter if we don’t know how many days we have – we have today. Value it as a blessing; live it with gratitude; fill it with purpose. As the Gaithers sang years ago:

Hold tight to the sound of the music of living,
Happy songs from the laughter of children at play;
Hold my hand as we run through the sweet fragrant meadows,
Making mem’ries of what was today.

Tiny voice that I hear is my little girl calling,
For Daddy to hear just what she has to say;
And my little son running there by the hillside,
May never be quite like today.

Tender words, gentle touch and a good cup of coffee,
And someone that loves me and wants me to stay;
Hold them near while they’re here and don’t wait for tomorrow,
To look back and wish for today.

Take the blue of the sky and the green of the forest,
And the gold and the brown of the freshly mown hay;
Add the pale shades of spring and the circus of autumn,
And weave you a lovely today.

Chorus: We have this moment to hold in our hands
and to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand;
Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come,
But we have this moment today.

Plane Crash Photo from:  http://www.mlive.com/wolverines/index.ssf/2017/03/details_and_descriptions_of_mi.html

Success That Never Lasts

What a weekend! The Lions not only won (now 6& 2) but looked like a good team in doing so! Michigan won in exciting fashion! The Pistons won to move to 3 & 0. My alma Mater, Central College is nationally ranked and undefeated once again. East Kentwood High School – from which all 3 sons graduated and for which all played soccer – just became the first team in their class division from the West side of the state to win a state soccer title. And Calvin College, where all 3 sons attended and for whom one played soccer, is headed to the national soccer tournament after winning the MIAA conference. And while they didn’t play this weekend, the Red Wings are off to a terrific start. It’s been a long time since all my teams were doing so well. In fact, the only downer was the Tigers – Joel Zumaya having shoulder surgery because a heavy box fell on it while he was removing things from his family’s California home in preparation to flee the fire. I guess he won’t be shouldering the load next year! I realize this may not be the usual blog entry for me, but hey, it’s not very often I can enjoy writing about such success – so I want to enjoy it while it lasts. With sports, you need to do that – because success never lasts forever. Even the Patriots will lose some day!

An idea!

It’s so amazing to be a Detroit fan – be it Pistons, Red Wings, Tigers, or Lions. I was just thinking the other day. The Pistons failed in the conference finals – the panic has already set in and the debate begun about total remake of the team. The Wings failed in the conference finals – so it was not, supposedly, an acceptable season. The Tigers are tied for first, finding ways to win games even with a shaky bullpen – but you’d think, listening to the press and others, that the season is a disaster; they are not yet the ‘perfect’ team. Whew – I guess when the bar is set high anything less than world champion is a failure. So here’s my thought – maybe the Lions aren’t so dumb after all. I mean, if they should somehow, some year, manage to be really good, well then the pressure would really be on and the expectations really high. But if they keep at the bottom like they are there are few expectations. I mean, even a 500 season would have people dancing in the streets! Maybe that’s the grand design – “let’s keep it simple to make people happy!” Maybe that’s OK – except for one thing – they haven’t yet had that little better season! This year – maybe?