Why Punt at the First Down?

It is college football season in America.  In Wisconsin the fall colors are white and red!  I caught the University of Wisconsin game this afternoon.  The Badgers looked pretty good!

For those of my readers who are not familiar with American football, the game is played on a 100 –yard field.  Each of the two teams has an “End Zone” at opposite ends of the field, where they are able to score.  A winning score is called a “Touchdown.”  The team who is playing the offensive role has 4 chances to move the football at least 10 yards toward their End Zone.  Each chance is called a “Down.”  The team who is playing the defensive role is trying with all their might, to keep the offensive players from moving the ball the required 10 yards.

If the offensive team fails to move the ball at least 10 yards within 4 downs, the ball is turned over to the opposing team, who tries to move the ball down the field to their own End Zone.  USUALLY, if the 10 yards are not achieved within three downs, instead of advancing the ball on the 4th down, the offensive team will kick the ball, or “Punt” the ball as far away from the opposing teams End Zone as possible, to make it as difficult as possible for the opposing team to move the ball into their own End Zone.

As I watched the game today, I was struck with the thought that Christianity is a lot like an American football game.  However, at least here in America, the offensive team is stuck at the first down.  In fact, many people do not show up at the line of scrimmage at all, let alone make the effort to advance toward the End Zone, the Kingdom of Heaven.

Many Christians view the New Testament Bible verse, John 3:16, as a means to loaf off and assume they are going somewhere really, really special when they die.  John 3:16 instructs us to believe in God through a belief in Christ Jesus.  Unfortunately, to some this is the end of the game.  Many people believe their salvation is assured, therefore, they go back to warm the bench.

Well, friends, the world is living on borrowed time.  It is over two thousand years since Christ Jesus was physically in our midst.  Because of a sense of apathy, many Christians forget that the opposing team is trying to keep us away from the End Zone.  John 3:16 is only the First Down!

I guess this post is a bit of a rant, but some of our churches need a wake-up call.  The only way to the End Zone, the Kingdom of Heaven, is through effort, grunting, exhausting effort.

We may be tackled along the way, but if we do not show up for the game, or if we do not put forth the effort, the enemy may win, and our children and our children’s children will live in the same quagmire state the earth is now experiencing.

How do we advance the football?  By engaging whole-heartedly in Christianity, including inviting Christ into our souls to guide and direct our paths, and obedience to His direction.

With Christ as our Quarterback, we will win this game, one rookie at a time!  Have faith.

W.S.

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Please Pass the Salt!

Here in the United States salt is all around us.  We have our salty potato snacks, and we even find salt in our ice cream.  In the U.S. salt is the gold standard for seasoning our food, and yet it is so common that it is almost insignificant.  But what would we do without it?

Jesus, in His sermon on the mountain, instructs us to be the “salt” of the earth.  What did He mean by that?  To be the salt of the earth?

Just as we use salt to season everything from soup to nuts, I believe Jesus was asking us to season the world with Christian love, and Christian knowledge, and Christian works.

In this age of “big brother,” (to borrow from the novel 1984) our neighbors see our every move.  Someone may be watching us at any given time, paying attention to how we relate to others and how we live our lives.

I believe that the famous quote from Jesus, “You are the salt of the earth,” is even more germane today that it might have been those two thousand years ago.

What would happen if the “camera” on our neighbor’s smart phone caught us giving to the poor?  What would witnessing about our Savior look like to our neighbors on the street?  What if the “camera” caught us in a prayer for peace?  What would all of this look like?

Our every move seasons the lives of others.  It is up to us whether we salt the world with thoughts of Christianity, or hot pepper sauce of something else.  It is our decision.  We decide how we season our relationships with family, coworkers, and strangers.

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, made several requests of us with His loving guidance.

Jesus asks so little of us, yet He provides so awfully much!  Have faith.

W.S.

The Sermon on the Mount can be found in the Christian Bible, New Testament, Book of Matthew, Chapter 5.  The verse that contains “You are the salt of the earth,” can be found in Matthew 5:13.

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Let’s Cross the Bridge Together

It seems as if the closer I follow Christ, the clearer my mind is and the less stressful life seems.  The last few days I have been meditating on why this is so.

 America’s dear Billy Graham invited literally millions of people to follow Christ in his “crusades.”  (Crusades is in quotes because this is what media called Graham’s sermons.  I do not wish to offend my Muslim friends by this term.)  Billy Graham would call his followers up to the altar to begin a life of fellowship with Jesus Christ.  We usually did not hear what happened to those who answered that altar call.

 Okay, what happened?  Graham often illustrated the problems an individual might be having in their life.  Addiction, money problems, relationship problems to name a few.  As a child watching Graham on my small black-and-white television screen, I was always under the impression that those who went up to the altar call would have their problems instantly swept away, never to return.  How naive!

 Yet, keeping our eyes on Christ allows us to navigate through life over a quagmire of sin.

  A vision of seeing myself walking on a rope-and-plank bridge over a swamp filled with hungry alligators, with Christ Jesus at the end of the bridge, comes to mind.  Keeping my eyes on Christ as I determinedly cross the bridge keeps me focused on One who loves me and who actually has my best interests at heart.  I keep my head up and do not even glance at those hungry scavengers below.

 The alligators, my problems, are still there.  They may nip at my heels.  They may try to grab me, but I keep my focus on Christ.

 One by one, the alligators give up the hope of devouring me.  I ignore them, and keep my eyes facing forward, toward the Kingdom of Heaven with Christ as my beacon home.

 Outside of my vision, in reality, it may take some effort to ward off the demons.  But the battle against sin is championed by Jesus Christ.  With His help I find the comfort in each step I take across that wavering rope bridge.

 Together we triumph.  Sin has no hold on me.  Have faith.

 W.S.

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Thank God! We are NOT God!

Looking back, over a half century ago, at a little Presbyterian mission church outside of Chicago, I was taught that Abraham spread the word that there is only one God.  Centuries after Abraham, it appears that that lesson needs to be reviewed by many people in pop culture, and it is not only the New Agers.

 Mankind was created by God, in the image of Himself.  Like God, we create our own worlds, through our thoughts and actions, through the way we interact with other individuals, and through what media we choose to feed out psyches. 

 Like God, and often with the help of God, we answer the prayers of others as well as our own prayers. 

 Like God, we can often work miracles.  (If we can juggle a household and a career, and manage a budget in this era, who would deny that we can work miracles?)

 But we are NOT God!  Only God is God, and thankfully so. 

 God shares His very essence with us, and many feel His power deep within us.  But only God is God.  We are the vessel, but God steers the ship.  This should be a great comfort. 

 God is in charge of the universe.  He is not an impartial bystander.  He is a living, thinking, caring being.  God wants what is best for our lives and the lives of our loved ones, and add to that the lives of all creatures here on earth.

 I believe that those who say “we are gods,” may not know God.  Relationship with God does not mean that we are God.  We will not receive a promotion to be God. 

 I find comfort every day in knowing that only God is God, and God is in charge.  My boss is not God; the postman is not God, only God is God.

 Wouldn’t it be a fine kettle of fish if I actually was God?  What an awful mess that would be!  Have faith.

 W.S.

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Stepford Christians?

King David brought the Ark of the Covenant to the City of David, dancing, singing, rejoicing in joyful abandon.  David stripped out of his kingly garb, and clad in a priestly garment.  David triumphed in the carriage of the work God had called him to do.  There was singing, dancing, music and snacks for the multitudes who accompanied him.  Such disregard for self-control and timidity!

What about us? 

Last night I watched an old movie called “The Stepford Wives.”  (The original, not the remake.)  It was an eye-opening experience.  The movie explores how individuals can sometimes force themselves into molds, becoming robot-like in our behavior, giving up our true personality for perceived perfection.  This is all at the cost of the joy of living in freedom.

It dawned on me that this is how some Christians relegate their lives to robot-like behavior.  Sometimes entire congregations, or entire sects, can fall prey to this insanity.  Some sects want their followers to dress a certain way, behave a certain way, think a certain way.  Where is their individuality?  Where is their choice?  Where is God in all this?

We have a God of joyful abandon.  This does not mean to run naked through the streets.  This means to follow Him, not always the crowd.

In the village of Stepford the wives were relegated to household tasks and making themselves beautiful for their husbands.  Eventually, the robot would take over the wife’s entire person, and the woman would become that “perfect” robot. 

It is not always easy to suddenly start thinking for ourselves after undergoing years of indoctrination, and sometimes brain washing.  Breaking away is not always the most popular thing to do.

King David’s wife, Michal, criticized David for triumphing in the Lord’s work.  As a result, King David cut her off like a ripe fig, and she bore him no children.  Quite a price to pay for coming between King David and his Lord.  Have faith.

W.S.

 

Please see 2 Samuel Chapter 6 for the story of King David and the Ark of the Covenant.

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Pray? or Prey?

But the Lord God called to Adam and said to him.  Where are you?  Genesis 3:9 (Amplified Bible)

Shortly after creation, Adam disobeyed God, and therefore hid himself.  And so began alienation from God.  Soon, one thing led to another, and another, building a wall between God and mankind, and to present day, ourselves.  Until now, at best, most of us see God through a dim mirror, giving a blurred reflection of reality.  (Please see I Corinthians 13:12.)  (In fact why not read the whole book?)

Yet, in our alienation, as with the alienation of anyone we might love, we crave the attention and recognition of God.  We may pray often, hoping for any sign of relationship.

Believe me, my friends; there are people, sometimes bad people, who exploit this craving.  So many of us are looking for God.  Looking for God in romantic relationships.  Looking for God in songs we hear on the radio, or in the articles we read.  We are looking for God in our churches, in our schools, and in our families. 

 God seems so far away, yet He is as close as our next breath.  We all know this, deep down.  Many, many of us know that God is there, but we cannot experience that relationship or quell that craving.

In prayer we often can come close to God, even if only for a moment or two.  We may feel His soft, still presence.

Modern-day churches are filled with emotional performances and sermons.  Relationship with God is not an emotional rush.  Once the performance is over, many of us are left as we were, without lasting connection. 

It is through the life-giving, life-altering connection with Christ Jesus, in our hearts, in our minds, and in our souls that brings lasting comfort and satisfaction.  It is the engagement with Him that can lead to the kinder, gentler existence that can only come through His agape love and guidance.  “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest.”  Matthew 11:28 (Amplified Bible) Just ask!  Have faith.

W.S.

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