Remember The Rumble

santino-rumbleThis Sunday is the 30th anniversary of the Royal Rumble, the WWE’s most exciting hour of action every year.

30 Superstars compete in one match – each man drawing a random number and entering the ring in order every 2 minutes. The only way to be eliminated is to be thrown over the top rope and have BOTH feet hit the floor. The last man standing after all 30 men have entered wins a WWE Championship match at WrestleMania, the grandest stage of them all.

I love the Royal Rumble because it’s always full of surprises including debuts, returns of injured wrestlers, and one-off appearances by retired hall-of-famers. There’s a great sense of unpredictability in the air. For at least 60 minutes there’s wall-to-wall action and entertainment.

I also love the Royal Rumble because at its essence it is a grace-filled affair.

In theory the Rumble match is comprised of 30 entrants who randomly select their numbers to enter the match. The ones who enter early face a far tougher road to victory than those who enter late.

Unlike other “real sports”, there’s no advantage or special seeding given to wrestlers based on their win-loss records. Every competitor is given equal opportunity and equal odds at drawing the coveted #30 and having the easiest path to victory.

People who’ve never wrestled a match in WWE, legends who’ve been out of action for years, tag team competitors who wouldn’t normally compete for the World Heavyweight Championship – all of them are given a fair shot in the Royal Rumble.

Can you imagine if other sports applied this system? In the NFL this would mean every team would make it into the playoffs. The regular season would have no bearing. Every team would be randomly seeded. The Cleveland Browns would have equal standing with the New England Patriots when it came to earning a spot in the Super Bowl.

Of course the underdogs almost never actually go all the way in the Royal Rumble. But at least in theory the Bushwhacker Lukes and the Santino Marellas of the world are given the gift of an equal opportunity at glory. It’s sort of the sports entertainment equivalent of grace.

Jesus once told a parable that reminds me of this principle. 

In Matthew 20 He compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a landowner hiring workers to tend to his vineyard. He hires a crew early in the morning and offers them the standard daily wage. Then a few hours later he sees some more potential workers and puts them to work. Then again a few hours later he does the same. Finally with a just a couple hours left in the day he finds more people to send out to the field to complete the work.

When it came time to pay the workers the landowner had a controversial, charitable method:

When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’

“He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’

“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.”

– Matthew 20:9-16

The workers who sweated out in the sun all day were understandably confused when the landowner paid everyone an equal wage. They did not see any fairness or justification.

The workers did not realize there is no justification when it comes to grace. 

Those who spent the most time working hard in the field believed they deserved more money than those who only spent an hour. They forgot that they were not the ones in charge. They were not the ones who got to decide who deserved what.

Without the landowner selecting them to work the complaining workers could have easily been out on the streets like those who they became angry with. They were blessed to be given the chance to work in the first place.

The parable is a warning that we must not forget our lowly stature as sinners as well. To paraphrase Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, if not for the grace of God we would be in the same place as those sinners we look down upon.

The workers instead should have celebrated God’s grace. God extends His grace to all sinners willing to come and work for Him, no matter how hideous their actions and no matter how late they decide to come to Him.

We are all equal in God’s eyes. We are all equally undeserving of His grace no matter when in our lives we come to receive it.

Because of this we must treat all people equally. We must love all people equally. And we must be willing to extend grace to all people equally. 

Instead of being upset like the workers in the parable when God chooses to show grace to those we may deem undeserving, we ought to celebrate God’s miraculous generosity that does not discriminate.

In other words we should remember the Rumble when it comes to how we treat others.

For God’s grace is like the Royal Rumble – we all have an equal shot at receiving it. The difference is we don’t have to worry about tossing our competitors out over the top rope in order to ensure our victory. 

Instead, no matter who comes in the ring, no matter what is in their past, no matter where they come from or what they look like or what we think of them, we should be pulling them into the ring and not trying to toss them out. There is no competition here.

For no matter what number we draw, no matter what time we enter the match, all those who have received God’s grace will get to celebrate.

Those of us who are lucky enough to be born or adopted at an early age into grace must not be hostile to those less fortunate who desire to come in and experience what we have. We did not earn it. As God’s hands and feet in this world we must be open to sharing it .

I think instead of looking to throw out every person who scares us or disagrees with us or has a sinful past or whom we see as “less than”, we should be looking for ways to pull more people into the ring and extend grace to those whom we think may not belong. 

What if instead of fighting to keep out refugees from Syria and other nations we showed them grace? What if we truly abided by Jesus’s command to take care of the hungry, the thirsty, the strange and the sick? What if we truly abided by our country’s commitment to freedom of religion and showed no prejudice to our Muslim brothers and sisters?

We will not build the type of relationships which lead to salvation if we begin the conversation by pushing others away. So what if instead we invited them onto the field and hoped one day they too could experience the same undeserved grace of God we have?

After all, we have a God who once did and continues to extend the same grace to us each and every day. We must not pick and choose to whom we extend that grace.

For more thoughts on wrestling with God’s Word, check out these posts:

The Story Never Ends

Is Saying Yes Really Worth It?

How To Create A Wrestler

My 15 Seconds With Springsteen

img_0130It’s a little ironic that I ended up meeting Bruce Springsteen at a used record store. 

Last week I had the incredible opportunity to attend a meet-and-greet with The Boss at a store outside of Atlanta called 2nd and Charles – a place where you trade in used cds, records, books, movies and games for a fraction of their original value. 

I’ve been a Springsteen fanatic for close to 8 years now. But it wasn’t always that way. When I was in high school I went through a phase of trying to expand my musical tastes. In doing so I purchased a copy of “Born In The U.S.A.” to dive into the world of the E Street Band.

I listened to it for about a week before I decided Bruce Springsteen wasn’t for me. I traded in the cd for some spare change at a store just like 2nd and Charles. 

I had no idea that one day years in the future I’d be so obsessed with the New Jersey rocker that I’d be willing to stand in line for nearly 4 hours simply to shake his hand and take a picture with him.

Even though I paid $40 to only get about 15 seconds with my idol (more on that later) I thought the experience was worth so much more than I paid for it.  Continue reading

Finding Dory and The Importance Of Being Forgetful

thumbnail_24066By the end of “Finding Dory”, the latest wildly successful, hilarious, and heartbreaking Pixar movie, it starts to become clear that the forgetful blue tang’s memory is stronger than she realizes.

Throughout the film Dory is sparked by flashbacks of her childhood and the brief time she spent with her loving parents before she was fatefully separated from them.

It’s not clear exactly what type of condition causes Dory’s forgetfulness. She claims to have short-term memory loss, but I’m not sure a marine biologist or any other underwater doctor would diagnose the problem quite like this.

I think Dory’s problem is actually more like one many of us can relate with. Her issue isn’t with her ability to remember; it’s with what she chooses to remember. Continue reading

The Beautiful Compassion Of The Record Store (A Post For Record Store Day 2016)

View More: http://jbltphotography.pass.us/alexandkateA trip to the record store these days is an act of compassion. 

Sure there are plenty of new releases out on vinyl. In fact vinyl records are the fastest growing sales segment in the music industry.

But most record stores fill the majority of their shelves with vintage LPs. These are the records that get traded in by people who have no use for them anymore.

Maybe they inherited a collection from their parents or grandparents and they’re just not that into music. Or maybe they’ve played the records a million times and just aren’t into the bands anymore. Or maybe they thought vinyl died out 30 years ago.

For whatever reason they don’t see any use for the old Cat Stevens or Doobie Brothers albums. They look at vinyl records as an outdated format just taking up space in their attic.

Yet when I and other collectors come in to a record store we see the value in the classic pieces of wax. Continue reading

The Master’s Invitation

masters invite

CBS Sports

I think the most beautiful thing about The Masters tournament is that once you win, you’re in for life.

One of the coolest aspects of the tournament is seeing all of the past winners come back and compete year after year. It doesn’t matter how old they are or how competitive they’ve been in other tournaments. If you’ve won a Masters Tournament before then you’re allowed to come back and compete in every Masters Tournament after that.

Not every golf tournament works this way. For most other tournaments you must qualify to be able to compete. You have to be playing at a top level to be extended an invitation to play.

But there is no expiration date on the rewards of a Masters victory.

This too is The Master’s Invitation to us – once you win, you’re in for eternity. Continue reading

The Story Never Ends

(It’s WrestleWeek on POP GOD! In celebration of WrestleMania 32 this Sunday we’ll be looking at the intersection of faith and wrestling. You don’t have to be a fan to hop in the ring on this journey. Read on to see how this fake sport provides real lessons for anyone who’s ever grappled with God.)

wm main eventOn Sunday April 6th, 100,000 people of all ages, races, genders and nationalities will congregate upon Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. This happening could possibly set an indoor attendance record. The fans crowded in will scream and cheer for 6 hours until the main event where 2 middle aged warriors will set foot in a predetermined battle inside a structure known as “Hell In A Cell”.

This, my friends, is WrestleMania.

If you’re not a wrestling fan this must seem bizarre to you. How is that professional wrestling can possibly draw so many fans to its biggest attraction? How is that the WWE Network is one of the top 5 streaming video services in the world? How is that WWE’s signature show “Raw” has been on the air for over 20 years and over 1,100 episodes?

The answer is actually quite simple. It’s all because in pro wrestling the story never ends. Continue reading

Chasing The Championship

(It’s WrestleWeek on POP GOD! In celebration of WrestleMania 32 this Sunday we’ll be looking at the intersection of faith and wrestling. You don’t have to be a fan to hop in the ring on this journey. Read on to see how this fake sport provides real lessons for anyone who’s ever grappled with God.)

WWF Belt“Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Jake “The Snake “Roberts. The “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. Razor Ramon. Mr. Perfect.

What do these wrestlers all have in common?

They’re all iconic performers. They’re all WWE Hall Of Famers.

And none of them were ever World Champion.  Continue reading