Old rotting stump in the green forest

Stopping the Slow Rot of Sin

I used to be quick to jump on Christians who failed morally. How could they claim to be a Christian and do something like that? A bit of insight came from a Texas storm a few years ago. Strong winds toppled a 50-foot-tall tree in a friend’s backyard. But strong winds are a part of every spring in Texas. Why did this particular storm fell a mature tree? The answer came as my friend cut up the fallen tree. It was completely rotted inside. There was no way to tell when you looked at the tree. The bark covered the decay and the leaves were still green and pretty. But inside the tree was dying. It finally reached a point where there was not enough strength left in its core to withstand another storm. The example from nature is a metaphor for how we can topple as Christians and completely surprise those around us. We wear masks. We look good.
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Spring Training for Followers of Jesus?

Baseball fans countdown the day until pitchers and catchers report like a kid impatiently marking off calendar days til Christmas. The teams arrive in Florida and Arizona as the nation grows weary of gray and gloom. Spring Training is the first hope of Spring. Today begins the annual six week period of teaching, training, and repetitious fundamental drills. It seems almost silly for uber talented and well paid athletes to be reviewing the same fundamentals they learned in youth baseball. Yet you watch the very best players focus on repeating proper fundamentals over and over. Superstars hit off a tee. Gold Glove fielders practice footwork repeatedly. Pitchers constantly repeat correct throwing motion. The message is clear. Talent is important but even the best can be derailed by forgotten or sloppy fundamentals. Perhaps we should co-opt that idea of fundamental training for followers of Jesus. Today I am starting a movement for “Preachers and Christians” to report for Spring Training. For a few
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Grace Doesn’t Keep Stats

I live in the performance driven world of sports. We too often measure value not by character but by statistics like how many tackles for loss or how many yards gained per carry. Character is a nice bonus but performance is king. I remembered a comment from Northwestern University football coach Pat Fitzgerald about the impact of negative stats on a football player’s performance. Coaches often talk about the need to reduce “missed” tackles and they keep track of each miscue. Coach Fitzgerald has a different philosophy. His staff does not keep track of missed tackles at all. The staff evaluates each play by their effort even if it does not produce perfect results. His next comment stuck with me. “I don’t like to put negative results in their minds because you become what you think about.” It immediately hit me how profound that comment is for followers of Jesus. We tend to keep spiritual stats on failure. We beat
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Groundhog Day Faith?

Every year they rudely awaken Punxsutawney Phil long enough for the prognosticating rodent to let us know whether six more weeks of winter awaits. Phil always looks about as happy as I do when when I am disturbed in the morning. Twenty-six years ago a funny and underappreciated movie came on the scene. Groundhog Day told the story of a self-absorbed news reporter (redundancy alert?) that finds himself stuck in an endless repeat of the same day. Bill Murray is perfect in the role of reporter Phil Connors. Reporter Phil is less than thrilled that he has been assigned to cover Punxsutawney Phil’s annual peek outside to predict winter’s duration. He feels he is “above” such an inane assignment. Connor’s looks into the camera and cynically reports: “This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather.” The premise of the movie is that Phil Connors realizes he is doomed to live
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We All Bleed The Same

I have been on a news fast for a month. I backslid last week and tuned my satellite radio to see what was going in Washington (D)ysfunctional (C)hildren). Within a minute I regretted my decision. Both sides were attacking and demeaning the other’s motives, integrity, and decency. My mood turned sour. Then I flipped to another channel and the first song I heard was a duet from Mandisa and TobyMac. These lyrics immediately grabbed my heart. Are you left? Are you right? Pointing fingers, taking sides When are we gonna realize? We all bleed the same We’re more beautiful when we come together We all bleed the same So tell me why, tell me why We’re divided. Why indeed? I am praying for another leader like Martin Luther King Jr who will remind us that hateful rhetoric never, ever, ever changes a heart. Followers of Christ have a message of hope and light that is desperately needed. But we get caught
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Surviving Trials

No one gets through this journey unscathed. A song I default to when walking through valleys is from singer/composer Rich Mullins. The song “Hold Me Jesus” is from his CD called Songs. Well, sometimes my life Just don’t make sense at all When the mountains look so big And my faith just seems so small Right now I am in a pretty good place in my life and journey with Jesus. But then I start thinking about the many friends and loved ones who can relate completely to those lyrics. The words do not exaggerate the agony of going through dark valleys. And I wake up in the night and feel the dark It’s so hot inside my soul I swear there must be blisters on my heart I remember how I used to respond. I would deduce it must be my fault. God must not be pleased with me. I would decide that I had to do something to bolster my faith. I needed to
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A Leadership Trait That Changes Everything

I am a lifetime, avid Cleveland Browns fan. I know. Thank you for your prayers. I am more optimistic now than I have been in many years. Part of that hope is some great young players. But another factor is the new head coach. Freddie Kitchens is a down to earth and positive influence on the field. He asks each player what plays they like to run and then implements their ideas into the game plan. The players were blown away by that level of personal involvement. My first reaction was “why is that deemed unusual”? Why wouldn’t a leader want buy-in and ownership of the game plan? Why wouldn’t a leader create a culture of affirmation? As General Dwight Eisenhower wisely observed. “You don’t lead by hitting people over the head — that’s assault, not leadership.”  A recent book entitled The Carrot Principle by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton concluded that appreciation might well be the missing accelerator for
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