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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

6 Lessons from Playing Sports - Part 2

4. Blue Ribbons Require Sacrifice

After graduating from elementary school, my parents signed me up to swim for the summer. To a kid my age, this was probably the worst thing that could’ve happened.

You see, I was looking forward to being able to sleep in every day that summer. But in order to be on the swim team, I had to get up at some crazy-early hour of the morning that had a 6 in front of it. If I had been rewarded with playing video games at that crazy time of morning, I would’ve had more motivation to get up.

Instead, I was rewarded with having to work really hard against the water in order to move from one side of the pool to the other. Couldn’t I have just run from one side to the other? I would’ve gotten there much quicker.

The first few weeks of getting up early to go to swim practice were grueling. I fought it every single day. But then we had our first swim meet. I was put on a relay team with three other guys my age and we smoked the other relay teams. The next morning at practice, I was awarded my first blue ribbon. Needless to say, that was the last day I struggled to get out of bed in the morning.

Life Lesson: Blue ribbons require sacrifice. Being a beginner in a new sport, I had absolutely no idea what it felt like to be on a winning relay team, let alone receive a blue ribbon for our victory. This is why I didn’t want to get out of bed and go bust my butt at practice. But once I got a taste of victory, I began to experience a hunger for more of it.

Certainly getting up in the morning was a sacrifice, but after I realized how much I could gain from it, I was quite content giving up my mornings for the opportunity to win more blue ribbons. In life, we’ll find ourselves in places where we’re faced with whether to give up something good for something even better. Don’t get stuck holding onto something good and miss out on the opportunity to gain something even better.

5. There Will Always Be Ball Hogs

In seventh grade, I found myself playing basketball in my city’s recreation basketball league. When my team would get together to practice, we’d run set plays that we could then run in a game.

But when game time would come, our point guard, Brandon, would regularly decide to scrap the plays, dribble the ball to the edge of the 3-point line, and fire up a shot. It didn’t take long for me to get extremely frustrated with Brandon. I would get open and call for the ball, but for the most part, he refused to pass it, choosing instead to fire up yet another shot from behind the arc.

Life Lesson: There will always be ball hogs. Whether you’re playing on an athletic team or working on a team at your job, you will encounter people who would rather try to do it all by themselves than work together as a team. Working alone isn’t necessarily a bad thing; there are job opportunities out there for people who like to work alone. But when a team has been organized and tasked with an assignment, the team will be much more effective when it works together to complete it.

6. Do What’s in the Best Interest of the Team

It was my senior year of high school. I was the captain of our varsity baseball team. We were in a game against one of our conference rivals and losing by one run. The bases were loaded with one out and I was the next batter.

As I made my way to the plate, I looked down the third base line to Coach Bowman to see what he wanted me to do. He called the play. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He signaled for me to bunt. Really, a bunt? The bases were loaded. Why bunt? I wanted to swing for the fence.

However, I nodded my head in agreement, stepped up the plate, and swung away at the first pitch. Strike one! I looked back down the third base line to my coach. This time with a disgusted look on his face, he once again signaled for me to bunt. I refused.

For the next five pitches, I refused to bunt, and got walked instead. I thought to myself, “We scored a run anyway and I didn’t have to get thrown out in the process. This actually worked out better for the team.”

But Coach Bowman didn’t see things the same way. As soon as I got back to the dugout, I was pulled from the game and got to watch the rest of the game from the bench.

Life Lesson: Do what’s in the best interest of the team. Standing at the plate with the bases loaded and not being known as the team slugger, my team needed me to sacrifice myself in an attempt to score a run, not try to be the hero who miraculously hits a grand slam. But I wasn’t willing to lay down my own interests (padding my stats) for the interests of the team.

In life, we all have our own goals. But when we are placed on a team, the team’s goals are much more important than our goals. If everyone on the team adopts this perspective, then teams will be able to accomplish so much more than they would be if they had a bunch of individuals all pursuing their own individual goals.

Have you had similar or vastly different experiences? Is there a particular lesson that stands out to you?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

6 Lessons from Playing Sports - Part 1

Playing sports has always been a major part of my life. Sports are fun, challenging, and they keep my body in good physical condition. I have learned numerous life lessons from playing sports and I wanted to share a few of them. In this post, I will be presenting three of these lessons. Check back next week for three more lessons.

1. Success Looks Different to Different People

I played my first organized sport, soccer, as a preschooler. All young aspiring soccer players have one dream: to score a goal. Finally, after weeks of practice, I got my chance. The ball came right to me in front of the goal. So what did I do? I did what any normal kid would do; I kicked it into the goal. I was so excited. I threw my hands up in the air and celebrated my first goal. But as I looked around, no one else was celebrating with me. My coach had to break the news to me that I had scored in my own goal. Apparently, success wasn’t measured by merely scoring in a goal; it had to be the other teams’ goal. But I still consider my goal a success, even if no one else does.

Life Lesson: Success looks different to different people. For me, success was simply a matter of kicking the ball into either of the two goals. But success to my team was a matter of kicking the ball in the opposing team’s goal. Regardless of what you’re doing in life, success can and will be measured in many different ways.

2. Winning Isn’t Everything

After my short-lived soccer career, I took up baseball. It didn’t take me long to figure out that the object of baseball was to score more runs than the other team. If we scored more runs, then we won the game. My team didn’t score very many runs that year, so we lost a lot of games. After every game, my dad would ask me, “Did you have fun?” I would respond by saying, “We lost.” He would then repeat the question, “Did you have fun?” Again, I would respond by saying, “No, we lost.” He took these opportunities to teach me that I could still have fun even if we didn’t win the game.

Life Lesson: Winning isn’t everything. Having fun is simply a matter of perspective. Certainly it is nice to win sometimes, but you can have fun doing whatever it is you’re doing regardless of whether you win or lose. No matter where you are or what you’re doing in life, you can find a way to have fun doing it, even if it’s challenging to find a way to have fun.

3. We All Need Me Time

From the time I was big enough to hold a fishing pole, my dad took me fishing with him. For the first couple years, I spent more time playing in the minnow bucket than I did fishing, but I eventually learned how to fish. As I’ve gotten older, I have found that fishing allows me to spend some time alone doing something I enjoy. Fishing allows me to spend time with God, decompress from my day or week, reflect upon the recent events in my life, and strategize how I am going to move forward with the future.

Life Lesson: We all need me time. In the midst of our busy schedules, sometimes it can be extremely difficult to spend even ten minutes alone. However, we all need time to simply decompress, reflect, and strategize a path forward. And for those of you who are disciples of Jesus, you will also enjoy having some alone time to spend with God.

Do any of these lessons resonate with you? Do you have a similar story you’d be willing to share?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

5 Reasons Not to Be a Disciple of Jesus

In last week’s post, I shared 5 biblical reasons why you may want to consider being a disciple of Jesus. These reasons were grounded in the biblical claim that the things Jesus’s disciples may end up giving up are worth less than the things they will get in return. This week, I am going to share 5 reasons why you may not want to consider being a disciple of Jesus. These reasons are grounded in hard-to-accept biblical claims related to being a disciple of Jesus.

1. Jesus Won’t Lead You to Easy Street

In our fast-paced, complex world, wouldn’t it be nice, at least for a little while, to live on Easy Street? If we could find the secret formula to get to Easy Street, I’m sure most of us would gladly plug in the correct variables to get there. I’ll admit, in my naivety, I formerly envisioned that being a disciple of Jesus would get me to Easy Street. But according to the biblical writers, being a disciple of Jesus is as far from Easy Street as the sun is from earth. Jesus’s twelve disciples (known as the twelve apostles) were all imprisoned and killed, simply because they were Jesus’s disciples. As Jesus once said:

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. – Matthew 7:13-14

2. Jesus Wants All of You

How much are you willing to give your employer? Forty hours a week? Fifty hours a week? Sixty hours a week? Even if you give your employer eighty hours a week, that still leaves you with eighty-eight hours a week to spend however you want. At eighty hours a week, your commitment level to your employer would be 48 percent. The biblical writers claim that Jesus doesn’t require a 10 percent, 48 percent, or even a 99 percent commitment out of his disciples. Instead, they claim that he requires his disciples to be 100 percent committed to him. That’s a huge commitment!

…[Jesus] turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate [comparatively] his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple…So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:25-26, 33

3. Jesus Is Not a Means to an End

When I was in grade-school, I saw school as nothing more than a stepping stone to attain autonomy. Autonomy was the “end” and school was the “means” by which I planned to get there. According to the biblical authors, Jesus is not a means to an end. If they are correct, then Jesus cannot be used as a means to climb the corporate ladder; Jesus cannot be used as a means to find a spouse; and Jesus cannot be used as a means to get to heaven. Instead, the biblical writers claim that Jesus is the end; he is the treasure worth gaining.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as [sh*t][1], in order that I may gain Christ… – Philippians 3:7-8

4. Jesus Doesn’t Promise to Make You Healthy and Wealthy

Most people on this earth have a desire to enjoy good health and a sizeable nest egg. People go to great lengths (such as working those eighty hours a week) in order to enjoy access to the best health care, large monetary rewards, and luxurious possessions. Some people turn to religion in an attempt to find health and wealth. But according to the biblical writers, Jesus didn’t promise to make his disciples healthy and wealthy. Instead, he warned them against the love of wealth.

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and [wealth][2]. – Matthew 6:24

Conversely, the biblical writers did not claim that Jesus’s disciples would not be healthy or wealthy. Their claim was simply that there is not a biblical correlation between being a disciple of Jesus and being either healthy or wealthy or both.

5. Jesus Doesn’t Owe Anyone Anything

In American business, we often use a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” approach to getting work done. If someone does something helpful for someone else, then that person will naturally expect the other person to return the favor and vice versa. According to the biblical writers, Jesus doesn’t operate out of this ideology because he doesn’t need anything from his disciples. If Jesus doesn't need anything, then no one can put Jesus in a place where he owes them anything. As a result, Jesus can never be forced to do anything for his disciples; no one can gain the upper hand on Jesus.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. – Acts 17:24-25

Do any of these reasons stop you from becoming a disciple of Jesus? What additional reasons can you think of that detour people from becoming disciples of Jesus?

[1] The Greek word used here is skubalon. Our English translators were nice when they translated this word as “rubbish” in the ESV. In the KJV, it is translated “dung” and can mean poop, crap, or shit. Skubalon is something that is good for nothing except to be discarded.
[2] The Greek word used here is mamonas. Most English Bible translations use the word “money” in this verse, but mamonas has a broader definition than merely “money”; it can also mean wealth, riches, possessions, or property.