Friday, November 11, 2016

Major League Missionary

Unless you've been living in a cave, you might have heard that the Chicago Cubs won the MLB World Series this year. This was their first championship in 108 years!

Whenever something historically significant like this occurs numerous stories will be told to demonstrate how improbable the victory was. We'll hear tales of struggles overcome. And players will establish themselves as heroes in the furnace of the moment as the world watches.

This year, the Cubs' player who shined brightest in the World Series spotlight was veteran outfielder, Ben Zobrist. In his first year as a Cub, after winning a World Series ring with Kansas City last year, Zobrist hit for a .357 average and .919 OPS in seven World Series games. This was enough to win him the series MVP.

Even more importantly, Zobrist made the hit that scored the go ahead run for the Cubs in the top of the 10th inning.

As numerous articles were written about Zobrist he has clearly communicated the central role Jesus plays in his life. This article provides a good summary.

One quote that caught my attention was from an interview with his parents during last year's World Series run with the Royals.

The night before Ben left home to join the Astros’ affiliate in Troy, N.Y., he told his father, “I’m going to be a missionary in the big leagues.”
Read more here:
Whatever the details of that thought may have meant to Zobrist, at a minimum it means he's going to represent God. It means he's going to speak well of God when he gets the opportunity. It means he's going to conduct himself in a way that doesn't give people reasons to turn their back on God.

I wonder how our communities would change if everyone sitting in church each Sunday had a similar mindset.
  • I'm going to be a missionary in my workplace, or industry.
  • I'm going to represent God to my classmates.
  • I'm going to speak up and speak well of God when opportunities arise.
  • I'm going to ensure I don't give others reason to reject Jesus.
If we each left home every morning thinking of ourselves as a missionary for God, I wonder how the world would be different.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What Motivates You?

The Denver Broncos currently hold the title of Superbowl Champions. Last night they played, and defeated, the the quarterback they expected to start for them this year, Brock Osweiler.

Osweiler started last season as the backup to Peyton Manning. He started 7 games for the Broncos when Manning was injured, but was benched during the final game of the regular season and watched Manning start all the playoff games on the way to winning the Superbowl.

Much to everyone's surprise, even after Manning retired and the Denver starting QB job all his, Osweiler decided to sign with the Houston Texans. As he walked out the door he provided this explanation,

"I'm very thankful, I'm very appreciative for everything that the Denver Broncos organization has done for me,” he said. “However, in saying that, at this point in time in my career, I feel like the Houston Texans give me the best opportunity to be successful."  [Read more here.]
After last night's game the Texans fall behind the Broncos with 4 wins compared to 5. Did Osweiler make the right decision? It depends on what motivates him. The Texans paid him more money. Osweiler has stated that this was the best decision for his family. Others have suggested that Osweiler was offended after he was benched for the playoffs.

Superbowl rings, money, or family, how do they factor into his decision making process? How much weight does each factor receive?

This ESPN article suggests that Osweiler should have stayed in Denver, and provides this commentary about motivation,
"We all know that happiness and prosperity in life, even in pro football, are often defined by things that have nothing to do with dollars and cents. Take championship rings, for instance. How much money do you think Dan Marino would give back if it meant adding a Super Bowl title to his otherwise staggering legacy?"
As Christians we can harbour numerous motivations for retaining and living out our faith. The fear of eternal punishment for our sins is a common motivating factor. Others may be motivated to follow Jesus because of the example of people they know and respect. In an ideal world people would commit to Jesus simply because they love him: a loving response to a loving God.

The writer of the book of Hebrews explains how joy provided Jesus' motivation to endure the cross,
Now stay focused on Jesus, who designed and perfected our faith. He endured the cross and ignored the shame of that death because He focused on the joy that was set before Him; and now He is seated beside God on the throne, a place of honor. [Hebrews 12:2 VOICE]
You and I are part of that joy. Jesus didn't want to suffer on the cross so that he could sit on a throne. He already sat on a throne before he came to earth. The joy that motivated Jesus involved spending eternity with the people he loved, the people he died to save. Jesus' life-purpose was found outside himself. He lived for the benefit of those around him.

As imitators of Jesus we need to examine our own motivations. Why am I a Christian? Is it all about me? Is it all about God? Do I really care for my neighbours? Or do I just care for them because if I don't I'll be breaking the command to "love my neighbours"?

What are your Top 4 reasons for following Jesus?

For a different perspective on the same topic, try THIS ARTICLE.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

MJ Speaks... Now What?

This week Michael Jordan broke issued a statement on the recent violence and tension between police and the African-American community. Additionally, he donated $1 million to each of two organizations attempting to improve relations between law enforcement and black communities. Because it's MJ his statement made headlines on ESPN and other news agencies. You can read it HERE.

In my opinion Jordan said pretty much nothing. I heard Carmelo Anthony describe Jordan's statement as "brilliant", and perhaps it was encouraging to have such a prominent African-American speak up on the subject. The statement issued by Jordan was fairly short. It identified that the nation has a problem and expressed regret for that problem before announcing his donations. The following statement was about as profound as Jordan got,
We need to find solutions that ensure people of color receive fair and equal treatment AND that police officers – who put their lives on the line every day to protect us all – are respected and supported.
While I'm confident those organizations appreciate the donations they received, Jordan's statement does little more than say, "Thanks for the work you guys are doing to stand up against violence and injustice." But let's not pretend that this statement changes anything. Incarceration rates will not change tomorrow because MJ issued a statement. If Jordan really wants to initiate change he will need to engage many other community leaders in the conversation and raise considerably more funds for training, education and lobbying efforts. Perhaps he'll do these things.

It's easy to point fingers at others.

Sports talk radio (and blogging) encourages members of the public with zero training and professional experience to criticize and second guess professional athletes, coaches and general managers with years of experience.

The MJ statement reminds us that words are cheap. We all have potential influence in our families, workplaces, communities, and churches. If all we do is talk and criticize, then we've become part of the problems. To translate potential influence into actual influence we must roll up our sleeves and get involved.

The incarnation of Jesus, God becoming flesh, provides the ultimate example of not settling for words when action was possible. (Philippians 2:5-8) God could have relied upon His commandments, the numerous laws He'd given Israel. He could have said that the messages of the prophets communicated His will sufficiently. Instead, Jesus left the throne of heaven to be born in a manger. When words weren't enough, he acted to make a difference for us.

Before criticising MJ, or anyone, ask yourself, "What am I actively involved in beyond my direct responsibilities?" "What am I doing to make the world a better place?Be like Jesus, not Mike.