Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Re-run

Last year, in the 12 days preceding Christmas, I posted a series of links to different Christmas stories. I thought of doing that again this year, but then never really took the time to do it. Now Christmas is just a week away and I thought that I would share a couple of my favorites from last year. If you're not into re-runs, you can skip these two stories. They are posts about the power of Christmas. I posted the story first and then the song that was inspired by the story.

It all happened nearly a hundred years ago -- Christmas 1914.
The Power of Christmas (part 1)
The Power of Christmas (part 2)

Merry Christmas,
John <><

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Albert Pujols

The end of an era in the history of St. Louis Cardinal Baseball.
Albert has moved on, accepting an offer from the Angels.

I think that says it all as far as baseball is concerned.

Okay, not really. In the coming hours and days there will be a lot more that is said about it. Already there have been fans that are turning on their now former hero and bidding him good riddance. Some fans are in mourning as if the Cardinals just closed the franchise down and will not be playing ball in 2012. Some feel betrayed that Albert would take the offer that best takes care of him for the rest of his career and in his life beyond baseball.

...And yes, there is life beyond baseball.

For most of us, it's just a game.  It's not our career. It's not our business. We have no stake in who wins or loses other than bragging rights among our friends. We pour our time, our money, our emotions into an escape from the worries of life...but most of life happens well beyond baseball. For Albert (and the elite few that make it to 'The Show'), baseball takes on a different perspective--one that I won't pretend to understand. So let me offer another perspective--one that many of you may not understand.

Over the past decade, Albert Pujols has brought a spiritual aspect to the Cardinal clubhouse. Certainly, there have been positive Christian role models in the organization prior to Albert, but because of his stardom, his has been much more visible. Evangelical Christians have greatly enjoyed his openness about his personal relationship with Jesus. His openness has encouraged other players (and fans) to be more vocal about their relationships with Jesus. The Cardinal clubhouse is full of guys that profess Jesus as Savior and Lord...and Albert has been a big part of that.

What if in the grand scheme of things, it's time to spread the gospel and encourage that kind of open testimony to another team? What if Albert really wanted to stay in St. Louis and prayed for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in making this career decision? What if he is not following the money, but is really following the leading of God?

Something tells me that God is not a big fan of the games that we play. I really don't believe that He cares if the Cardinal win another World Series in 2012 or the years beyond. (We already know that He doesn't care if the Cubs or Royals ever win another one!  Okay, that was mean--but a little bit funny, too.) IT'S JUST A GAME, FOLKS!

What isn't a game is that there are millions of souls that need to hear about God's love and His wonderful plan of salvation through His Son, Jesus. Albert has led teammates to know Jesus. He has given other Christian leaders and laymen opportunities to share Jesus in many different circles. Young athletes have learned that it's okay to be an athlete and take a Christian stand when it comes to using or not using steroids. Could it be that God feels that there are others to carry on with that message in the Midwest and it's time to move His superstar witness to the West Coast? Maybe this move doesn't have anything to do with baseball and has everything to do with a servant humbly obeying his Master.

Whether I am right about this or way out in left-field (pardon the analogy), each of us that professes Jesus as Savior ought to examine how we testify about our relationship in the career fields that we are engaged in. If we are to be obedient to the command that Jesus gave to us at the end of Matthew's gospel, then our work places are our mission fields. Our neighborhoods are our mission fields. If we have truly trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior, then our lives are not our own; they have been bought with a great price and we owe it to our Lord to serve Him where He desires, not where we prefer to serve.

If you are a Cardinal fan, I am sorry for the loss to our team.
If you are an Albert fan (and I am), then wish him the best and cover him with prayers in his new mission field.
If you are a Jesus fan, then trust Him in all of the areas of life and realize that eternity is no game.
If you are too busy playing games to get serious about life and about eternity, I would encourage you to consider what awaits you if there is no tomorrow.

less that 3 months to spring training!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Life and Death; Living and Dying; Immortality and Mortality

It's been a very interesting (for lack of a better word) last couple of weeks. It has been a time that keeps bringing to mind the fragility of life, the certainty of death and the question of "What happens next?"

Here's the rundown:

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, my dad's heart stopped. The pacemaker/defibrillator did its thing and brought him back around after zapping his heart with a jolt of energy. There were some pretty tense moments but the hospital checked everything out, made some adjustments to his meds and sent him on his way with some fears of why the heart stopped and some confidence that the defibrillator would do its thing if needed.

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, the mother of one of my co-workers passed away.
On the following Sunday, a friend called with news that his girlfriend's dad had passed away on Thanksgiving Day and wanted to know if I could do the funeral (that was Friday).
Following Saturday, the dad of one of Aaron's classmates had a very bad heart attack. He has been kept unconscious by meds and lowering of his body temperature and they will start to warm him and revive him in the next few hours.
Also on Saturday, one of our high school students from church was in a bad auto accident. He was okay (other than bump and bruises), but his truck was totaled and there was a fatality in the other vehicle.

It seems as though there has been a lot of death and near death not too far from me in the past two weeks. The Bible says that life is like a vapor; here for a moment and then gone. We never want to think of it as being that uncertain. We make our plans as if we have forever ahead of us and live without any urgency to share our faith, our time, or our love with the people that we encounter daily. We hold our grudges and withhold our forgiveness and never think about carrying those grudges into eternity or having the person pass away before we take the time to say we're sorry or express our forgiveness to them.

I really don't know about two of the three people that have died in the past days. The family of one of them told me that their dad had made a profession of faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. I know that there are some of my readers that don't believe in life after death. There are others that may believe in life after death but have done nothing to prepare for it. Not wanting to think about death won't keep it from happening. Life has a 100% fatality rate. Death is no respecter of age, wealth or social status. It overcomes all ages, all races, all cultures, all beliefs, all peoples--we all die.

I would encourage each of my readers to consider:
What happens next?
Is there an afterlife?
Is there a heaven?
Is there a hell?
How do I prepare for for this afterlife?

And whether or not you believe in an afterlife:
What has been left unsaid that needs to be said?
What has been unforgiven that needs to be forgiven?
What kindness needs to be done?
What encouragement needs to be shared?
What smile needs to shown?
and How many 'I love yous' need to be told to the people that we love?

If yesterday would have been your last day to live, would you be able to say that you ended life well? Would the people that you love know that they are loved? Would you have been ready to face God and stand in His Judgment?

Yesterday is history.
How will you end today?

"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." --Jesus (Jn 14:6)

John <><