Tom’s Blog

Preoccupations

Today I would like us to consider the thoughts of Brennan Manning:
“Yet the false self rationalizes my preoccupation with my waistline and overall appearance and whispers, “A fat, sloppy image will diminish your credibility in ministry.” 

Cunning. I suspect I am not alone here. The narcissistic obsession with weight-watching in North America is a formidable ploy of the impostor. Despite the valid and important health factor, the amount of time and energy devoted to acquiring and maintaining a slender figure is staggering. No snack is unforeseen, no nibble spontaneous, no calorie uncharted, no strawberry left unaccounted. Professional guidance is procured, books and periodicals scrutinized, health spas subsidized, and the merits of the protein diet debated on national television. What is spiritual ecstasy compared to the exquisite pleasure of looking like a model? To paraphrase Cardinal Wolsey, “Would that I had served my God the way I have watched my waistline!” The impostor demands to be noticed. His craving for compliments energizes his futile quest for carnal satisfaction. His bandages are his identity. Appearances are everything. He convolutes esse quam videri (to be rather than to seem to be) so that “seeming to be” becomes his modus operand.” Brennan Manning

ABIDE

A few months back my good friend and head baseball coach at Huntington University had open heart surgery. I asked him to share his journey of faith with us.

“I​t was 4:06 am and the thought rushing through my mind was, “Can I really do this”? I knew that I had many family and friends that were praying for me, but for this moment I was all alone with my thoughts – and fears. I admit that I had things wander in and out of my mind for the past several days, but things were happening so fast I just did not have time to dwell on the reality of what was happening. It was about to happen. 

Nine days ago I had went to my family doctor for shortness of breath. I had some tests set up for some issues with acid reflux and I had just attributed my shortness of breath to that. The next day I went for some tests on my heart. I had some tests about six months ago so I thought this was routine. Then, after a stress test, I was being admitted for a heart cath the next day. Ok, still pretty routine. I can do this. Suddenly, surgery for heart cath ended early and I was told I had blockage in several arteries. I would be having quadruple open heart surgery in five days.

In the days leading up to surgery, I had lots of time to think. Why didn’t I take care of myself better? What will life be like after surgery? After coaching college baseball for 33 years, is my coaching career over? Am I going to be a burden on my family? Who will do my job in the athletic office? And, of course, the nagging question and fear of, “Can I really do this?

As I stood in front of the mirror the morning of surgery, my thoughts continue d to be focused on being strong enough to get through this. Heart bypass surgery has come to be viewed by the public as no big deal. It is no big deal until it is bypass on you! Every time this “Can I do this” thought entered my mind it was almost swallowed up by the comfort that God has this. He was going to bring me through this.  As Diane and I drove to the hospital there were still concerns occupying my mind, but there was also a peace that seemed to cover any concern that entered my mind.

Surgery went well. My heart was strong enough for me to not have to go on the bypass machine. I only had three arteries bypassed and not four. Now as I sit at my kitchen table with my morning coffee I am almost continually reviewing life “post-surgery”.  I know that God has seemed to stop me in my tracks 2 or 3 times in my life to “re-direct” my path. That seems to be how God deals with my hard headiness! It happened in my first semester of college in Georgia when I was cut from a baseball team for the first time in my life. It happened when I was trying to decide who my life mate should be and I had two young ladies that I really cared about and then again when He led me into coaching in 1984. Is this another “re-direct”? Am I to continue in what I am doing and just do it better with my eyes fixed more on Him or is there another adventure out there? Is there some other way He wants to use me?

Many times I have read about men and women that God has led through traumatic circumstances and they share what God ultimately taught them. I am still learning what God has for me through this experience. My Thursday morning bible study is in the process of reading Watchman Nee’s book, “The Normal Christian Life” and my small group is currently reading Kyle Idelman’s book called “Not a Fan”. Through these two studies, God is speaking to my heart about simply abiding in His Spirit each moment of every day.  Nothing earth shattering or a big biblical revelation – just abiding. The Gospel of John in Jesus teaching about the Vine and the Branches talks about “remaining in Him. Remaining in Him was easier to do when my body was weak and my days were filled with simple rest. Now that I am stronger and going through rehab, my tendency is to do what a lot of men do – “God I got this myself”.  We seem to step out of this abiding relationship with Christ and want to run ahead of Him. 

The longer I stay in coaching the more things coaching stuff I throw away and the more I try to simplify things. This is where I am in following Christ. Simple abiding in him from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed. It is not that simple and I am not very good at it. Life jumps in, but my goal is trying to abide in Him. God will take care of the details if I abide with Him every day. This is not a dramatic or earth shattering conclusion, but this is what God is trying to teach me. Stay tuned.”  Mike Frame

Hitting the spiritual wall….

Today I would like to continue the discussion from last week’s blog about “The Wall.”

 

Many people die some time in their 50’s but they aren’t buried until their 80’s because they hit a wall and give up on life!

This is sad but true. Something happens that shakes our world and though we are still living, we stop being alive.

“If you are such a loving God,” we ask, “how could you allow this to happen?” We have questions and doubts. We think if we live for God everything will go well for us. We don’t understand and our faith takes a serious hit.

“The Wall can actually be one of God’s good gifts. Why? Because it can cause us to dig deeper into who God is and why we are serving him. If we allow God to work, “The Wall” can bring us to a point of discovery and decision.

It is at this point that we make a critical decision. We can continue to live under ‘law,’ going through the motions of the Christian life, doing good deeds and saying all the right things. We stay involved in church for appearances or maybe for our children’s sake.

Another choice is to give up and stop trying to live the Christian life. This is what Peter did after he denied knowing Jesus. He felt like a failure so he gave up and went back to fishing.  

We can determine to just give up on Jesus.

The best choice also involves giving up! We need to give up trying to live for God and begin living from God. That’s what Peter eventually did. After an honest, intimate talk with Jesus, Peter began to understand Jesus’ love for him and he began to live out of love rather than law. He began to live out of relationship rather than performance.

There are three specific things that can lead us to give up on living the Christian life:

1. Fear

2. Unforgiveness

3. Failure

Most of us will hit “The Wall” at some point in our Christian life. It’s part of the way God grows and defines us. If this hasn’t happened to you yet, get ready! It has the potential to define how you will live life from that point on.

 

THE CRITICAL JOURNEY 

The annual UPI players’ retreats in Arizona and Georgia have just concluded. Once again they were well attended by current and former pro athletes. Spring training is just ahead and these retreats are always a highlight for the men as they prepare for the battles of the upcoming season.

This year I was honored to be asked by the staff to be the keynote speaker for both retreats. As we were planning the events, the staff and I decided on the topic of the critical journey of faith. This came about as we discussed a survey done by Janet Hagberg and Robert Guelich. They listed the following 6 stages of our spiritual journey.

1. SALVATION – We come to faith in Jesus!

2. DISCIPLESHIP –LEARNING ABOUT GOD – We want more and more information

3. THE ACTIVE LIFE – THE DOING STAGE – WE GET BUSY and involved in activities of the church.

4. THE WALL – IT AIN’T WORKING ANYMORE!We come to a point of decision; do I continue in my walk or just retreat into my experience?

5. JOURNEY OUTWARD – LIVING FROM GOD RATHER THAN FOR HIM – a new motivation. We become more intimate with God.

6. TRANSFORMED INTO LOVE – GOD CONTINUALLY SENDS EVENTS, CIRCUMSTANCES, PEOPLE, BOOKS AND OTHER WRITING TO KEEP US MOVING FORWARD. We are living out of a new and better.

The WALL is a place most people will encounter at some time in their Christian life. Will we struggle to break through the wall or will we quit?  

How about you?  Where is your walk on this chart?  Have you hit a wall? If so, how did you respond? How we respond to the wall determines if we will grow in our faith.

This is just an overview, but it’s a starting place. We will discuss that more in next week’s blog.

 “I have had enough, Lord,” Elijah said. “Take my life…” 

 

Replanting

 “Then Jesus said to them, …’The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop-thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.'” Mark 4:13-20.



 I believe we can all pick a time or two in our lives that we heard the Lord, His prompting or gentle nudging to sow that seed and then didn’t. I love how the scriptures speak right to this point: Satan took it away, which we know he will do anything to keep us unfruitful and unproductive and unbelieving, not trusting.

 Or we didn’t have any roots in our relationship with the Lord, in the Word or surround ourselves with more mature believers or accountability people. We allowed worries, deceit and desires to choke out what He wanted us to do. We have seen what it’s like to watch the seed produce a crop, and a fruitful one. 

Be encouraged today that the Lord is still in the seed planting business and He has some specific for you. Ask Him for a replanting or a new planting. He will respond! Have it take root. Protect it by building your faith and trust and sow it.


J.K.

LOST…

​The Son of man came to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10

What is Jesus’ analysis of the human condition? That they are lost. Or rather that WE are lost. Earlier in Luke’s gospel (chapter15) Jesus had told the story of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. John 10 portrays Jesus as the Good Shepherd who came to save the lost, laying down his life for the sheep.

Lost means to be in the wrong place or heading in the wrong direction. Nigel Wright says that people: “are victims of a lost relationship with God, a lost experience of God’s love and a lost destiny (eternal life)”. The good news is that Jesus came to seek and to save what was lost.

If you have had a dramatic or adult conversion then you are probably more aware of being lost and being found. If you have believed from childhood – like me- then you have to remind yourself that you were still part of that lost community.

The sad thing about our world is that most people do not recognize that they are lost. As we live our lives amongst other people, let us remember that we are lost people who have been found by God and seek to help our friends to find God too.

And to turn Nigel Wright’s words on their head, we have a restored relationship with God, we experience God’s love and we know that our destiny is eternal life. Now that is quite a foundation from which to attack our day of training or competition or whatever we do.  Stuart Weir

What do I do???

Several years ago, one of our son in laws worked for a local Ford dealership. Until then, I never was loyal to any particular auto manufacturer.  When I was younger, the acronym for Ford was Fix Or Repair Daily, but the Ford Motor Company has come a long way since those days.

 

With a family member in the auto business, whenever I needed a new vehicle I would ask him to fix me up with something that would fit both me and my budget. I totally trusted his judgment because I knew his character. As a result, we have been the owners of a few really nice vehicles!

 

That son in law no longer works at a Ford dealership. I still love my Ford F-150, but we recently bought a car from a different dealership. The Ford dealership has not changed, but my relationship with that dealership has changed.

 

The same principle can apply to our faith. Is it based on loyalty to a particular church, a program, or a person other than Jesus? Our faith has the potential to grow distant if it isn’t based on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

The apostles’ faith was based on a personal relationship with their Lord. They knew Him! All of them suffered for their faith but all remained faithful. How about you? Is your faith based on that personal relationship?

 

“that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” 1 JOHN 1:3