Do You Think Like A Loser?

BostonRedSox_B2The Boston Red Sox used to be a bunch of losers.

Look – I know my team The Braves aren’t lighting up the world right now. And this year’s Boston team is stinking up the joint. But nothing compares to The Red Sox epic streak of futility.

For 86 years losing was their identity. The Curse Of The Bambino kept them out of the World Series year after year after year.

Yet, despite their pitiful postseason record, the Red Sox developed a legendary fanbase, possibly the best in all of baseball. In fact, the Boston fan culture was so legendary Hollywood made a movie about it.

Fever Pitch, a relic of late night star Jimmy Fallon’s brief adventure into cinema, was based on a British movie of the same name. Whereas the British version focused on a rabid soccer fan, the American film told the story of an obsessed Sox fan who has to choose between his team and his true love.

The movie was scripted to end with another heartbreaking loss from Boston at the end of the season coinciding with Fallon’s character finding his ultimate victory with the woman he loved.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the box office: The Red Sox won. 

In 2004 the Red Sox went on an improbable run to finally win the World Series. Already in the midst of production, Fever Pitch was rewritten to reflect this incredible change in history. The boy got the girl, and his team won the title.

With their new championship the Boston Red Sox gained newfound confidence. The organization’s identity changed.

After the 86 year dry spell the Sox have won 3 World Series in the past 10 years. They’re no longer a laughing stock – they’re a baseball dynasty.

The Boston Red Sox built their brand on being a bunch of lovable losers. In 2014, after a decade on top of the major leagues, the Red Sox can’t get away with calling themselves losers anymore.

It would look ridiculous if Boston still tried to market themselves the same way they did before they started winning. No one would buy it if baseball’s biggest winners of the decade believed they were still losers.

Do you ever think of yourself as a loser?

Do you ever feel stuck in your sin? Do you ever feel like you’re constantly losing the battle against your temptations? Do you feel like everyday you fall short of the glory of God?

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?…No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. (Romans 8:35, 37)

In this verse Paul gives us a new identity in Christ. We are not merely champions – we are more than conquerors through Him.

Why then do we revert back to our “loser” identity?

I think it’s because sometimes we think being a champion means never losing. We expect too much of ourselves. We think following Jesus mean we never have to fight sin again.

Then when we stumble we wonder how we could be so stupid. We look in the mirror and see nothing but flaws.

Nobody’s perfect. Even the Boston Red Sox don’t bat .1000. This season they will likely finish at the bottom of their division.

But when the Red Sox lose a game they don’t go back to thinking of themselves as losers.

Instead they look down at the 3 Championship rings on their hands and remember who they’ve become.

When circumstances change so should your perspective.

When we follow Jesus we no longer have to see ourselves as sinners. We don’t have to walk around looking like losers. We don’t have to start over from scratch with every screw-up.

We have already won.

A swing and a miss does not define your season. All that matters is who stands tall holding the trophy at the end. 

Instead of seeing yourself as a loser – doomed to failure, struck by a curse – change the narrative.

You may not get a physical trophy to remind you of your new identity like a baseball champion would. But you do get to hold the hand of the One who wears the championship ring.

For I hold you by your right hand–I, the LORD your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. (Isaiah 41:13)

There Is Such A Thing As Free

photo.PNG-2Who gives away the most anticipated new album of the year to the entire world for free?

Certainly not the biggest rock band in the world, right?

That would subvert the entire process we’ve become accustomed to as consumers.

That would flip the recording industry on its head.

That would be unheard of…if it didn’t just happen.

You’ve probably seen by now that after 5 years of waiting U2 finally released their latest album “Songs Of Innocence” completely free to anyone with an iTunes account.

And they didn’t just release it – it’s already sitting in everyone’s purchased music folder, waiting to be downloaded. The album is a gift to every iTunes customer, just waiting to be received.

Who could have seen something like this coming?

Actually, it sounds kind of familiar.

Sounds kind of like a God giving away His gift of salvation completely for free.

After all, something like that would subvert everything the world had come to understand about religion.

Something like that would flip the church on its head.

A God who gives His greatest gift for free to the world all of the sudden and out of the blue. And not just that – the gift is already waiting in our operating system available for download, if we’re willing to take Him up on it.

Of course, free is a complicated word.

Someone did in fact pay an incredible price for the free music of U2.

Bono explained how the free album came to be on U2.com after the huge surprise announcement:

You’ll have noticed the album is free to U2.com’ers from the band. It’s also free to everyone on iTunes thanks to Apple. To celebrate the ten year anniversary of our iPod commercial, they bought it as a gift to give to all their music customers. Free, but paid for.

“Free, but paid for.” Hmmm.

That sounds kind of familiar too.

There is such a thing as free. But it always comes at a cost.

Whether it’s an unannounced album already synced to your iPhone or an unexpected savior dropped into a lowly manger, the greatest gifts often show up in the ways we least expect.

Be thankful for these gifts. Someone paid for them, and you may never know what the true price was.

Keep your eyes peeled. God has a way with the unexpected.

You never know what He has in store for you next. Available for free (but paid for).

Are we ready to be swept off our feet,

And stop chasing every breaking wave? – U2, “Every Breaking Wave”

Have you downloaded the free U2 album yet? What are your first impressions? What do you think of their incredible free gift? And what do you think about the cost of freedom?

The Bible Is Not A Pop Song

aHR0cCUzQSUyRiUyRmRvd25sb2FkYm94LnRvJTJGdXBsb2FkcyUyRnBvc3RzJTJGMjAxNC0wOCUyRjE0MDk0MzQxODhfZmptbnltLmpwZw==Counting Crows are not the best band you’ll ever hear.

They’re not the best band of the 90s. Adam Duritz is not the best lyricist. He doesn’t have the best voice. His band is not comprised of the best musicians.

That being said, Counting Crows are the best “drive your car down the highway trying to figure out why the girl left you and what’s wrong with your life and what to do about it all” band.

Something about cruising down the freeway listening to “August And Everything After” makes pain and heartbreak a little easier to understand.

To put it simply, the music of Counting Crows has a way of making you feel a little better about the things that make you sad.

This week Counting Crows released their latest album “Somewhere Under Wonderland”. I’ve been playing it nonstop, remembering how I fell in love with their music in the first place.

I discovered Counting Crows in middle school (the 3 saddest years of any teenager’s life). I liked their music at first but I didn’t love it.

Counting Crows didn’t really start to make sense to me until I got my driver’s license. On the late nights driving home from friends houses I’d crank up songs like “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” and “Up All Night” and ponder the relationships I had and the ones I never would. The sad songs said so much, making sense to 21-year-old me in a way 13-year-old me couldn’t grasp.

Sometimes good music takes time to be truly appreciated. You have to lock yourself in the car with it, volume and windows up, letting the sound encompass you and your emotions.

The music which speaks to our hearts doesn’t always make sense at first. Some of the best albums don’t jump out to you until the 5th or 6th or 7th time you listen to them.

I think the Bible is a lot like this type of album.

There’s a tendency to want to understand the Bible in one simple reading. I do it all the time, breezing through a few chapters in a rushed morning quiet time, going for quantity of consumption rather than quality, praying a verse or two will stick with me at least until lunchtime.

I treat the Bible like a pop song – halfway paying attention to the lyrics and enjoying the melody momentarily as it slips in and out of brain ever so briefly.

It isn’t until I lock the doors and sit and wrestle with the scriptures that they start to make any sense at all. The moments I really move forward with God are the moments when I pour over a verse or a passage. The moments when I pray with my emotions and not just a routine. The moments when I write from the heart and not just to hit a goal.

The Bible is not a pop songThe Bible is more like a Counting Crows song.

It is emotional and lyrical and painful and intricately beautiful. It is complex and layered and poetic in a way that doesn’t always rhyme.

And if you really want to understand The Bible you can’t just treat it like a pop song. You can’t just leave it on in the background as you bob your head to the beat while you try to get on with your life.

If you really want to understand the Bible, treat it like a classic album: lock the doors, turn up the volume, and take it out for a drive.

But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)

What Cook-Out Taught Me About Tasting And Seeing

photo-30Cook-Out is the greatest restaurant of all time in the history of ever. Period.

Ok. Maybe I’m going overboard just a tad.

Seriously though: have you been? Did you know you can get a BBQ sandwich, a chicken quesadilla, cajun fries, and one of 40 different milkshakes for under $7? And it’s not just cheap – the food tastes incredible as well.

And they serve Cheerwine on tap. Heaven on Earth.

This is not a sponsored post. Just the endorsement of a true Cook-Out fan.

If you’ve never tasted Cook-Out, you won’t be able to taste what I’m talking about.

I can tell you this from experience. I didn’t believe all the hype about Cook-Out at first. When the North Carolina-based restaurant first hit Augusta in 2013, my boss was ecstatic. He was from North Carolina and tried to describe the many wonders of the fast-food chain to me.

Honestly though, cheap burgers and milkshakes didn’t sound that exciting to me. We’ve got Dairy Queen and Steak ‘N Shake and a dozen other places who can offer those.

It wasn’t until I actually ate at Cook-Out that I understood its greatness. The BBQ and fries had to pass my own personal taste test for me to believe.

So I can truly understand the invitation of Psalm 34:8:

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

If God merely told us to see that He was good, we would have a hard time believing Him.

After all, we are a skeptical species. Especially in a time where internet hoaxes run rampant and misinformation bleeds through even the most trusted outlets.

We must pass information through many a filter before we find it fit for belief. God understood this when He created us.

He knew to follow Him we would need more than words and recommendations. So He boldly challenged the world to a taste test. God asked all-comers to take a bite of what He was offering with a life-back guarantee.

He does this in full confidence that if we truly taste His bread and wine our eyes will fully see what so many have been raving about all these years.

I didn’t buy into the cult of Cook-Out on words alone. I had to taste it for myself.

I didn’t come to believe in Jesus based on words alone either. It was through the actions of those who reflected Jesus toward me, along with the ways I saw Him at work in this world, that allowed me to taste what He was truly offering.

I think we should keep this in mind as we try to reach the lost and hurting people around us.

The other day I drove by a Planned Parenthood office. Outside were a small group of protestors picketing. They handed out pamphlets and held up posters with graphic images. They screamed at scared women, as if their frightening voices would light the way toward Jesus for the weary souls entering the clinic.

These protestors were trying to get others to see God without offering a true taste of His love. And by doing so they surely left a bad taste in the mouths of those they encountered.

You would never convince someone to believe a burger joint was incredible by words alone. You would have to offer them a taste to convince them.

In much the same way, we will never convince others of the amazing God we believe in without giving them a taste of His nature – His love, His forgiveness, His grace, His joy, His mercy.

Let’s offer a taste of God’s love instead of just our opinion on it.

POP GOD POPcast: Episode 24 – David Keel

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Welcome to the POP GOD POPcast – an exploration into the lives of people seeking God in the present tense.

This week’s guest is David Keel. David is a teacher, speaker, scientist, youth pastor, legendary coffee drinker, and most importantly my former Sunday School teacher. David shares openly about his journey to meeting Jesus at rock bottom, his on-and-off youth ministry career, and how he comes up with his offbeat analogies. We also get real about the struggles of joblessness and how to keep the faith when the paychecks stop coming. Plus David offers a look behind the scenes of Fort Discovery where he worked for over a decade! Enjoy this deeper look inside the life of a teacher who made a true impact on my life.

Listen to the podcast here:

Or Download on iTunes or Listen on Podbean

Check out David’s website to book him for Speaking Events

Subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, rate it, leave a comment, listen to all the other episodes, share it on Twitter and Facebook and anywhere else. I’d really appreciate it. Thanks.

I love sharing stories of people seeking God in the present tense. Let me hear your feedback. Leave me a comment and let me know how to improve things, what you’d like to hear discussed, and give me your ideas as to who you’d like to see on the next episode of the POPcast.

 

How To Overcome Stage Fright

Robin-Williams.-006You may not consider yourself an actor. But in this life you are a performer. 

I’m not saying God created us just to put on a show for Him.

I do think He created each of us to perform a unique role in His story.

Being called on to perform is incredibly scary. As you stand backstage waiting for the curtain to rise in your life, the weight of your burden can become suffocating.

As you run through the lines you’ve rehearsed in your head, you wonder about everything that could possibly go wrong.

It’s called Stage Fright. It’s a feeling every performer understands. It’s a force every performer must overcome each night.

Just when you’re about to make a break for the exit, the curtain finally rises.

When it’s time for you to hit the stage, you do your best to stick to the script you’ve seen so many other performers before you follow.

The problem is God didn’t create you to stick to a script. Instead we are called on to improvise. Continue reading

The Salvation Of Seinfeld

SeinfeldI don’t think Jerry Seinfeld is worried about his salvation

I’m not talking about Jerry Seinfeld the man. It’s hard to say if the current Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee host thinks much about his eternal future.

I’m talking about Jerry Seinfeld the character from the classic show Seinfeld which turned 25 years old this year.

While I imagine Jerry Seinfeld is a kind, generous, thoughtful and loving person in real life, his television counterpart was nothing of the sort.

Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer were self-centered, egotistical, perverse, and sometimes downright despicable. And for 9 hilarious seasons the world loved them for it. Continue reading