Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Non-violence in action:

This is a perfect example of non-violence. I was talking with my Senior pastor about the concept today, and he showed me this video. I love it!

Best line: "You don't have to kill me!"
[When I first heard that, I about when nuts! Its so good!]

To quote Martin Luther King Jr. "We will win you over with our ability to suffer." This is the heart of non-violence. In the end, the winner of this boxing match is Cool Hand Luke; even though he gets beat up nor in any way inflicted any sort of damage to the other boxer.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A message of Grace and Love

"To our most bitter opponents we say: 'Throw us in jail and we will still love
you. Bomb our houses and threaten our children and we will still love you. Beat
us and leave us half dead and we will still love you. But be ye assured that we
will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.' "
-Martin Luther King Jr.
"The American Dream"
July 4, 1965
[speech, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA]

Friday, December 18, 2009

How to respond to terrorists. pt.1

How do we respond to terrorists?

Well my first instinct is to look at the Bible. When we do this, we find that a significant character in the Biblical narrative was a terrorist. Who you may ask? Well the obvious answer is the Apostle Paul. He went from house to house arresting, beating, and killing Christians [we know at least Stephen]. These are the acts of a cold-blooded religious extremist/terrorist. If you know the story, this religious extremist converted to Christianity and became a prolific church planter/missionary/Apostle who just happened to write a ton of letters, some of which were included in the New Testament.

What would have happened if some of the earliest Christians had said, "What this guy is doing is evil, let's kill him!" What would the early church have become if a few Christians had got together and looked to kill Paul? Well, it for sure would look different.

What can we learn by thinking about the religious extremist/terrorist/Apostle named Paul?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thoughts on Football pt2: the spread offense

I have found most recently the development of the spread offense to be highly intriguing. Basically, for the past 100 years of football there has been 1 main philosophy: be bigger, stronger, and faster than your opponent. Until the past 25 years or so, every strategy included power as its main ingredient; even the West Coast Offense [The WCO was highly influential in the spread's beginnings, but there is still a difference in the two].

This has changed as of late. A new style of offense has developed very logically named the "Spread Offense" because it does just that. The basic idea of the spread is not to over power the other team, but to isolate one position on the football field and beat it with superior athleticism. Regardless of whether or not there is superior athleticism, the fact that the ball carrier is 1-on-1 and not 1-on-more than 1, is a significant upgrade.

Thus, the whole way offense is thought about has changed. Where before many teams aligned themselves close to the ball before the play started, now teams rely on spacing themselves out in a variety of positions. This spacing is the key to creating mismatches. Once teams are spread out thus creating the 1-on-1 match-ups, there are a variety of ways that teams can take.

Hopefully, a team utilizing the spread offense will find its quick players being guarded by bigger, slower defenders. Because of this, the spread is able to cover up deficiencies that a team may have. It is about individual skill in a 1-on-1 situation. Thus, allowing a less talented team to compete with superior talent. [in my opinion, more small high school football teams should use the spread as opposed to the old-school triple wing power running style. both offenses are attempting to mask the deficiencies of their school's talent pool; just IMHO, the spread is a much more effective strategy.]

The first main way to exploit the spread is with a quick passing attack. We see this in the NFL with the Patriots. Tom Brady usually works with 3 to 5 spread out Wide Receivers. His options are to 1.) look for a linebacker [a slower larger defensive player] matched up with a quicker, faster WR, 2.) throw a short pass [which is the equivalent of an old fashioned running play], or 3.) with all the WR's in movement [thus causing a defense to look for short passes] there might be one able to get open for a deep pass.

The second way to use the spread offense is a power running game. We see this used mostly by the Florida University Gators. They have a massive, brutish Quarterback named Tim Tebow who is more likely to plow over defenders than he is to avoid contact. Thus by spreading out the defense with fast players, causing the defense to spread out in order to defend against them, Tim is able to run against fewer & smaller defenders.

The third way that the spread can be used is a speed running game. This is used by teams like the University of Texas, the West Virginia University Mountaineers, and also the University of Michigan Wolverines. This is a strategy where because the other team is so spread out, the faster quicker quarterback, wide receivers, and running backs are able to use their speed to out maneuver the bigger, slower defensive linemen and linebackers. [often these teams decided to run one way or another simply by reacting to how one player on the field is attacking their offense.]

Already, we're seeing the effects the spread is having on the game of football, as every team in the higher levels of the game has included some elements of this into their gameplan.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thoughts on Football pt1: coaching

[Editor's note: I'd like to take a few posts (possibly as many as 10) to spend some time talking about the game of football. For those of you who read this blog, and don't like football...sorry!]

I've said it a couple of times during the past week, "I think coaching/leadership is 3-fold: recruiting talent, teaching a philosophy/gameplan/strategy, & then motivating your talent to follow your philosophy/gameplan/strategy. Everything that a coach/leader does can be found within these three parts. I think this is exemplified most clearly on a football team. Interestingly enough, I read a Bobby Knight book where he said - when looking to develop his coaching philosophy - he actually talked with football coaches to get tips, learn what it meant to coach, and to develop habits for himself.

Football, more than any other sport, relies on good coaches. For the most part, other sports can overcome poor coaching; even then rarely. In these other sports, a star athlete can compensate for poor coaching, but football is the ultimate team sport. Because of the sheer size of a football team, it requires a leader who is organized, motivated, and passionate enough to form a group of players into 1 cohesive unit.

My friend Handyman Mitch works for NBC's camera crew during the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, which gives him an interesting vantage point of the game. He was talking the other day about the difference between ND's [now former] coach Charlie Weis and Southern Cal's coach Pete Carroll.

Pete is the personification of energy during games; running up and down the sideline; high fiving his players; getting in players faces; constantly coaching, constantly cheering, constantly spreading energy to his players. On the other sideline, Charlie Weis would stand still with a massive laminated sheet that had all the plays. He'd stay pretty stationary on the sideline talking strategy with his coaching staff and players. Both coaches profoundly impacted their teams, and USC under Pete Carroll went undefeated against ND under Charlie Weis. I wonder why?

The head coach of a football team is the football team. Only in rare occasions does any other position on the team have a larger impact on the team than the head coach [the only such example I can think of is Peyton Manning and the Colts]. A team will mirror its coach. It is the pure truth. If you look at the great teams down through the ages, they all had great coaches leading them. There are 0 exceptions here.

Here are the characteristics I think that a head coach needs to have.
  1. Enthusiasm/Passion/Drive to succeed
  2. A strong understanding of who and what he wants his football team to be. And the ability to clearly articulate this understanding
  3. The ability to surround himself/herself with players that fit that understanding.

What do you think?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

World's Biggest Oxymoron:

The world's biggest oxymoron is a pro-life war supporter.

This person is one who believes that life is very precious and all life is worthy of a chance to come into this world, yet they also support using war [the world's #1 killer] to bring peace.

They are really just people who believe that all life is precious except the life that threatens theirs.

This to me is the definition of oxymoron.

There is a better way to bring about peace, one that supports and promotes life. A way that is loving. A way that is much more practical and pragmatic than war. It is the way of Jesus! It is a way that refuses to de-value any life [even the life that is wanting to take yours] yet also refuses to passively ignore injustice in the world.

It begins by valuing ALL life. It begins but realizing that there are underlining reasons why people would be willing to hate us [often its because of our actions] enough to want to kill us. It begins by not valuing your life more than that of your neighbor. It is a way that begins with the powerful humbling themselves to the lowest place possible [which is the Christmas story isn't it?!?!?] It begins with love.

It is the way of Jesus.

So let's be people who are Pro-life in every way we can imagine. Pro-life when it comes to abortion; supporting both the life of the unborn & and the mother who has no other place to go. Pro-life for those who are starving. Pro-life to those who throw away extra food. Pro-life for those who look to terrorize. Pro-life for those who wish to stand up for justice. Pro-life for those who are innocent. Pro-life for those who are guilty. Let's take a Pro-life stand towards everybody everywhere!

Let's let our Pro-life stand be so strong that peace would rule and reign on earth as it does in heaven. AMEN.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Advent doesn't = Christmas

First of all let's just clear something up...Advent is not Christmas.

Advent is the four week season of anticipation of Christmas; much like Lent is to Easter. As Christians we do this because Christmas [and Easter] is a very profound event. We celebrate this because Christmas is not something that should ever sneak up on us. Now, if you're an American, I'm sure you're thinking, "Christmas...sneak up on us? They start playing Christmas music in Wal-Mart 3-4 months out!" My response is, "Do you think what they're celebrating is Christmas?" [more on that in the next post]

A common way of thinking about Advent is twilight [not the vampire movie...]. Much as twilight is the time just before daylight, Advent is the time, just before the Light of the world has come amongst us; just before God fully reveals himself to the world; just before God puts all his money on the table. Twilight is a funny time of day just BEFORE actual light.

Last year, I was a part of a group, and to celebrate Advent, we got up really early in the morning, sat in the middle of a field, and worshiped together in the twilight. This is what we do the four weeks before Christmas, we're coming together to worship in the twilight before the full light is upon us.

A friend of mine [who just so happens to be a pastor] recently announced to his church that they were not going to sing any Christmas songs in their church until Christmas. His reasoning: "Christmas music celebrates the coming of Jesus, Advent is the seasoning preparing for Christmas" - two very different things. Instead, the church is singing, "Oh Come, Oh Come Immanuel."

Oh Immanuel, God with us, please come!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Peace through righteousness

[This is a re-posted piece...I thought it was pretty good and wanted to bring it out of the moth-balls. Enjoy]

The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever (Isaiah 32:17)

If there is anything we have learned from the past is that unrighteousness only leads to more conflict and struggle. If you don't believe this think of Europe in the 1920's and 30's as the continent moved towards World War II. At the end of WWI, the victors placed all the blame, all the guilt, and the entire bill for the war unjustly upon the nation of Germany. This injustice led to Hitler's rise to power, the way that the German people so freely allowed Hitler to act as he pleased, and to the death of literally millions in the 7 years of between 1939 and 1945.

In his letters from the Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King notes that even when those who are looking to fight injustice through non-violent means break they law, they must accept the penalty for their crimes; lest more injustice break out. This is something that Christians throughout the ages have realized. For if there is to be peace, it must come through righteous means.

How do we as Christians respond to Gitmo? To Israel's strangulation of the Gaza? To responding to 9/11 by going to war? Are these actions righteous? Do we expect these actions to really bring peace to our country and the world?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

How Christmas threw the world upside down

I recently have been thinking how we're all about success, winning, & being #1. We like to talk about being the best, championships, & top dogs. Its everywhere and in everything. We all are looking to live a perfect life, have a perfect family, looking to overcome the problems in our life.

I think this ironic, because as I read about Jesus, he was about failure. Failed Messiahs were crucified. Honorable people aren't born to parents out of wedlock. A king rides a majestic horse into a city; not a donkey. What kind of person hangs out with the traitors, losers, and prostitutes? Great men are born in regal palaces located in important cities, not tiny shacks in out-of-the-way little villages. Jesus' life is about failure, not success.

The Christmas story is a backwards story. The promised one has been born, yet the first people to greet him are shepherds who have tending to their sheep as they gave brith and probably have dirty and bloody hands. Even the Magi who came to find Jesus went to the wrong place, surely this important King would be born in a place of opulence and wealth; not to a common laborer under questionable circumstances. Its almost comical to think about Jesus' birth.

The trajectory of this story is one of a downward slope. Its one that rejects the mindset of success. The story of Jesus' birth is the first in many steps looking to challenge the very way we understand the world to be oriented. In the ways we understand the world to work, Jesus was a failure. If you have the mindset of success, Jesus' birth should be offensive to you.

If you actually think about it, you would look at Jesus and say, this is not the way it should happen. You should expect God to be the strongest and most powerful person in the room...not a helpless, illegitimate baby born to a couple of peasants.

How can we change the way we understand the world? How can we follow our lord and savior and become a pack of losers? Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Prayer is a time waster.

[Editor's Note: This concept is one of the hardest for me to live out. I constantly look at myself and say, "You need to be more like that!" So please don't feel as if I am the perfect one when it comes to prayer, it is something that I am working on in my life as well.]

At some level I believe that prayer is a time waster. Bare with me on this, I believe that prayer is of the utmost importance in the life of a Christian, that ones spiritual health is tied into ones prayer life. But prayer is a time waster. Here’s what I mean:

We spend all kinds of energy looking to solve the problems in our life. Marriage problems? Well let’s read this book. Let’s go to counseling. Let’s spend time together talking about our personal differences, reminiscing about the good times, and rekindling our love. Financial problems? Let’s make a budget. Let’s cut back on our spending. Let’s attempt to make our residence a bit more energy efficient. Hopefully you get my point, when we come to problems we look to do, do, do in an attempt to solve our problems. We like to think we can take care of our own problems, but reality is – you can’t do this.

A quick look at the amount of people on blood pressure pills should help us to see this...

Let’s think about tithe. For most people in the world, the concept of first giving away 10% of their income means that money will be really tight in their homes. We usually think we’ll need 100% of what we have to be able to get ends to meet. One way of looking at tithe is that it is God’s way of saying, “I can do more with 90% than you can do with 100%.” The whole point of tithe is for God to help us see that He is our provider! If we trust in God, He will provide for us. After all, don’t the lilies and sparrows have what they need?

God is asking you, in your life, to do the same thing with your time. There is always more than enough to do that will fill up a 24-hour cycle; more than enough activity to keep us occupied, busy, and stressed. As human beings we are like a hive of caffeinated bees…always running around here and there, endlessly busy. Yet God asks that we slow ourselves down – waste some of our precious time – in order to connect with him, to ask him for guidance, wisdom, support, and a way through the craziness of our life.

If God can do more with 90% of our wealth than we can do with 100%, think of how much more can he do with 23 hours than we can do with 24.

So God is asking you to waste some of our precious time; to slow down, to stop solving your problems, and come to Him. He knows that we are - like lemmings [in how we want to solve our own problems], we'll keep going until we fall right over the edge. So he asks us to trust him, to stop, to waste time and talk with him, confess to him, confide in him, and listen to him.

Let's go waste some time.