An Amazing Fact From the Superbowl

Guess how many players in this year’s Superbowl were 5-star recruits out of high school? As spring (theoretically) begins to thaw the rage among football fans is college recruiting of high school players. To give a frame of reference to the quality of players, high school players are now given a ranking based on their skill level, with 5 stars being the highest.

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Although this could seem cruel, it’s a reflection of a society that loves to rank everything. We rank students based off their GPA. We rank careers based off net worth. So an article came out right before the Superbowl and blew me away when I came across it recently. Do you know how many 5-star players started in this year’s Superbowl? None. Zero. Neither team had a starter that was a 5-star recruit out of high school! In fact the average for both teams was between 2 and 3 stars. This year’s Superbowl teams were made up of players that were determined to be at best average in high school.

There are so many lessons to be learned from this, but let me give you three:

1. Don’t let someone else’s determination of you define who you are. If these football players stopped playing football because they were only a 2 or 3 star recruit out of high school, they would have missed out on playing a championship game for the ages. Don’t allow other’s determination of you to define who you are. God made you on purpose for a purpose.

2. Past success never guarantees future success. Just because 5-star players were great in high school didn’t mean they would be great at the college or professional level. If you rest on past successes, all you’ll have is memories of past successes. Each new challenge in life has to be conquered the hard way. There are no free passes.

3. Determination and perseverance are absolute keys to success. Many of the great stories of the NFL are the guys who were undrafted but walked on, earned a spot and made the team. Malcolm Butler, the hero of the Superbowl, was undrafted. The guys who started the Superbowl earned those spots because they worked harder than anyone else. They worked longer than anyone else. They persevered, and that counts for a whole lot more than their star count out of high school.

If you don’t feel like life has given you a 5-star rating, don’t give up. There still may be a Superbowl in your future!

Facebook vs. Reality

Social media is an incredible tool for people to stay connected like never before. But never confuse social media with truth. Social media isn’t pure truth. It’s the truth we want everyone else to see. Case in point: last week I posted a video on Facebook of our baby girl Elle taking her first steps. It’s a classic parent moment that we wanted to share with the world. We’re up to 154 likes and 21 comments.

Cute, huh? But that’s only half of the story. Like any great moment posted online, it took several takes to capture that priceless moment. Here’s an earlier take. Here’s reality:

Isn’t that horrible? But that’s reality, the reality we chose not to share on social media last week. That’s the beauty and danger of social media. It allows you to pick and choose which reality you share. So you can share the best you, the flawless you. But the danger is if we’re not careful we can get suckered into believing that Facebook is reality. It isn’t. Your friends aren’t that perfect. Their houses aren’t that clean. Their kids aren’t that well behaved. That’s just the reality they want the world to see.

Never forget, there’s a big difference between Facebook and reality.

To Whom Do Perfect Parents Compare Their Kids?

Sunday in our message on the Comparison Trap we looked at the most common way Jesus described God to humanity: our Heavenly Father. God wants to interact with us as a loving, perfect, heavenly father. Galatians 4:4 says that because of the Holy Spirit inside of us, we can even refer to God as our “Daddy,” our “Abba Father.”

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If we can ever truly embrace this relationship with God as our perfect Heavenly Father, our Daddy, it will help us get out and stay out of the comparison trap for good. Here’s why:

  • To whom do perfect parents compare their kids? No one. A perfect father loves his child simply for who they are. When parents do compare their kids, that doesn’t show that something’s wrong with the kids. It shows that there’s something wrong with the parents.
  • So as a perfect, loving, Heavenly Father, to whom does God compare you? To whom does your Abba Daddy compare you? No one. Before God formed you in the womb He knew you (Jeremiah 1:5). You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). God made you exactly how He wanted to.
  • So whose estimation of you should you embrace? Yours, or your Heavenly Daddy’s? Your Heavenly Father’s. Comparison to others should never be a trap for you, because you’re made in the beautiful image of your Heavenly Daddy.

If you’re a parent, you do this all the time with your own kids. If they doubt themselves or don’t think they’re worthwhile because that boy doesn’t like her or he didn’t make that team, what do you tell them? “If you could just see yourself through my eyes! Don’t listen to everyone else. If you could just see you how I see you, you’d realize how incredibly smart, and funny, and kind, and beautiful you really are. If you could just see yourself through my eyes!”

That is what our Heavenly Daddy is trying to get us to do: if we could just see ourselves through His eyes! If we would just stop listening the world, stop comparing ourselves to our friends, stop trying to find validation and worth in how much we own or how successful we are, if we could just see ourselves through His eyes, we’d know. We would know that we never have to do anything, or accomplish anything, or be smarter or prettier or richer than anyone to earn God’s love for us. He loves us simply because we’re His. When you’re tempted to look to the right or to the left to tell you that you’re okay, look up. Look up at your Heavenly Daddy, and here’s what you’ll hear Him saying: You’re fine because you’re mine.

The Only Time I’ve Apologized to Someone After Baptizing Them

This past Sunday I had a pretty good idea of what it would feel like to baptize in a river during winter. The water heater for our baptistry didn’t work properly, which I discovered fifteen seconds before I baptized Nikki. It was cold. And I mean cold. My legs started feeling okay after a minute, but that was simply because they had gone numb and I had lost all feeling.

And I was staying above water! I felt horrible for Nikki, who was about to get a baptism she would never ever forget. Here’s my reaction to the temperature. Thankfully Nikki was a great sport and didn’t let the cold ruin her incredible experience (I’ll show her baptism video Friday as our Hope Story). After she’s out of the water, you hear me mumbling something to her. That’s the only time I’ve ever apologized to someone immediately after baptizing her.

One Thing You Really Should Know About Abraham Lincoln

On this Presidents Day we celebrate all of our past presidents, most notably the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. If you’ll allow a brief history lesson, there’s an incredible truth we can learn from Abraham Lincoln. We know the man. We know the legend.

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Lincoln is considered by many to be the greatest president we ever had, who carried us through our darkest period as a nation. He boldly signed the Emancipation Proclamation and righted a terrible wrong. He preserved the Union and the America that we know and love today. Yes he did all that, but there’s so much more. Before Lincoln stood on the stage of the world and provided leadership for the ages, he did one notable thing prior to the White House: he failed. The one thing you really should know about Abraham Lincoln is that the majority of his life was characterized by failure.

Here’s a quick overview of the low points of Lincoln’s life prior to the White House:

1832 – defeated for Illinois State Legislature (finally elected in 1834)

1833 – failed in business

1835 – sweetheart died

1836 – had a nervous breakdown

1838 – defeated for Speaker of the House, Illinois State Legislature

1843 – defeated for nomination for Congress (finally elected 1846)

1848 – lost renomination for Congress

1849 – rejected for land officer

1854 – defeated for US Senate

1856 – defeated for nomination for Vice President

1858 – defeated again for US Senate

1860 – elected President of the United States

If Lincoln knew one thing, it was failure. To his benefit and our greater good, Lincoln discovered that failure can be a teacher. Failure doesn’t have to define you. He didn’t allow defeat to defeat him. Failing didn’t mean he was a failure. Through those valleys he learned dogged determination and unrelenting perseverance, twin traits that prepared him for the darkest hour in our nation’s history.

If you fail, that doesn’t make you a failure. Defeat doesn’t have to defeat you. Use setbacks as learning lessons and look ahead to what God has for you. Out of the broken soil of life the most beautiful and long-lasting fruit can spring forth.

 

 

Hope Story: Andy & Mia

Andy doesn’t strive for the spotlight. He doesn’t like to get on stage, never one to list his accomplishments. He’d most likely classify himself as an introvert. You might lose him in a crowd because he’s not one to bring attention to himself. But I’d like to give some love and attention to Andy today because he did something great last week.

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Last Friday I get a quick text from Andy (who’s in my church) saying that he met a young lady working at a local auto parts store and invited her to church. Wanted me to be on the lookout for Mia in case she came. Here’s the thing: he didn’t have to invite Mia. He didn’t have to even have a conversation with Mia. He could have simply walked in, conducted his business, and walked out, like so many other Christians do. But Andy decided to start a conversation. And he took the brave leap to invite her to church.

And guess what happened? Mia came to church Sunday! Andy walked her up and introduced me and I got to know a little about her story. She’s actually born in a different country, been here for a few years but doesn’t have many ties here. She’s a single mom trying to work hard and provide for her family. Church seemed to be semi-familiar to her but not a part of her normal life.

Mia told Andy afterwards that she had a good experience and wanted to come back with her daughter and mother next time. And who knows, Mia may never show back up. But what if? What if Mia comes back and gets plugged in? What if her little girl loves our children’s ministry and grows up in the church? What if Mia’s mother finds a community of faith to do life with?

Think of three lives, potentially forever changed, all because Andy decided to start a conversation and invite a stranger to church. Hats off to you Andy!

Who can you invite to church today?

Tim Tebow Stole* My Idea

Okay, so he didn’t really steal from me. He probably stole the idea from the same people I stole from. Back in 2006 I was sitting in a room with other youth pastors brainstorming when one stood up and shared how his church hosted a special needs prom every year. They called it Joy Prom. In that instant, about a dozen other youth pastors (including me) vowed to start one in our own city. As I continued to minister over the years I helped start Joy Proms in Jackson MS, Shreveport LA, and now Columbus MS. It’s always one of the highlights of the year as our high school students throw a prom for the special needs community.

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So I was surprised, then shocked, then ecstatic to hear in the news recently that Tim Tebow’s foundation is coordinating 45 simultaneous proms in different cities this weekend for the special needs community. Tim was inspired by seeing a special needs prom at a local church last year. Who knows? It could have been one of the dozen whose genesis started in that room back in 2006.

Either way, I applaud Tebow for leveraging the platform given to him to shine a spotlight on others and bring honor and dignity to a very special group of people. I also look forward to Mt Vernon’s annual Joy Prom taking place April 25. If you don’t have something like the Joy Prom in your community, consider starting one. It’s a ton of work, but more than worth it!

Here’s a typical letter we get in response to the Joy Prom. Here are the lives we get to touch:

I just wanted to thank you all for the work you did on the Joy Prom. My stepson Phillip was a participant Saturday night. His mother and I were with him and were amazed at all the work, effort, love and sacrifice you made for Phillip and the other special adults to whom you ministered through this special event. A very special thanks to Lauren, Phillip’s date, and the other amazing young people who chose to be compassionate rather than “cool” and took an awesome “image risk” Thank you for all you do and God bless you.

Why Brian Williams Has to Be Suspended at Least Six Months (if not more)

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48

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It’s been a surreal few days to see how quickly the face of NBC News has fallen from his pedestal atop the news world. Much more than a newscaster, Williams was a quasi-entertainer with his comedic timing and constant presence on the talk show scene. He was about as mainstream and beloved as a newscaster can get.

And it all came tumbling down with an admission that he misrepresented a war story that happened during the Iraq War. And maybe something he saw during Hurricane Katrina. And maybe something else. And maybe something else. Some are speculating that the six month suspension is merely an audition for the next anchor. Either way, Williams probably isn’t coming back.

The knives were quick to come out in the cutthroat world of journalism (interestingly enough, I checked several news media sites, and Williams’ suspension was the lead story on all but one. Yep you guessed it, NBC News). But a greater question might be asked: why such a harsh punishment for a seemingly small crime? So he embellished a few stories. Every person who’s ever gone fishing has done that. He was the face of NBC News for twenty years. How can that all be discarded in a matter of days? No laws were broken. The punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime. Until you realize what Williams represents: truth, transparency, integrity, trust, facts. When he embellished stories, stretched the truth, colored in the gray areas, he undermined the very foundation from which he built his entire career.

That’s why Jesus said that to whom much is given, much is required. That’s why Williams needs to be suspended (and probably fired) even though he broke no laws, even though he did what every other person does when trying to enhance their mediocre weekend to sound like a great one Monday at work. He’s not just any other person. He’s the face of a franchise. He doesn’t get free passes. Much much more is expected of him. And that trust is now irrevocably broken.

For the church world, that’s why ministers are (and ought to be) held to such a higher standard. That’s why a moral failure which may seem pedestrian to most is devastating to a minister or ministry. When the moral trust is broken, it is difficult if not impossible to regain. May Williams’ fall from grace be a warning to us all.