What Coach Schiano teaches us about rest, behavior, and belief

This past Sunday, the Bucs wiped the floor-or I guess you could say grass-with the backside of the Buffalo Bills, winning 27-6. Despite the  blowout, rookie Mike “Napoleon Quarteback” Glennon turned in another rather sub-par performance.

So the day after the game, he was back grinding away at the “office,” trying to learn how to be a better QB (keep his job, keep his coaches job, etc….). Coach Greg Schiano immediately sent him home from the facility to rest, or do whatever he would do, if he weren’t a football player.

Schiano claims Glennon has been so working hard that he simply needed a break. In the end, to rest, Schiano thinks, would be more beneficial in his development as a quarterback.

Football is everything for many of these athletes. Of course many wouldn’t say it is everything (“family comes first” or some cliché like that). But how can you tell that what you believe is really what you believe? Or perhaps better put, how do you know if you really believe something? Simple, look at your actions.

All religions call people to live differently and to demonstrate their beliefs by their actions. But those actions in turn do more than demonstrate belief-they garner some response of divine favor and promise of heaven, or at least something heavenly. Christianity views behavior differently. Actions and behaviors are the fruit of a changed heart (Gal 5:22), but that fruit produced by God’s Spirit, does not bring about divine approval or promise of heaven. Divine approval and promise of heaven precede, produce, and motivate actions and behaviors. That’s a HUGE difference. Behaviors indicate a changed heart and the presence of belief in salvation by grace alone.

So how do I know what I deeply believe? Look at my actions.

Now I can’t say Schiano is as deeply concerned about Glennon’s heart as he is with his arm, statistics, and victories (though Schiano was featured in the Christian Sports Magazine “Sports Spectrum”), but he obviously sees what Mike Glennon really believes: football is everything and its okay to be consumed by it. It is only by the action, in this case, resting and taking a break, that Glennon can demonstrate that he truly believes.

Here are some ways that I can know if I really believe the gospel

1.)  Jesus is my everything as opposed to church planting: I can focus on my relationship with Christ before considering what can I do to help this church start/grow.

2.)  Jesus will build this church. While I, and many others will play a role in planting seeds (networking, outreach, evangelism), watering (follow up, discipleship, strategizing), only God can make this thing grow. How do I know if I believe that? I will pray and ask God to do before I try to do. I will make time for prayer if I believe this truth. I will also be able to rest. I will take a day off. If I don’t take a day off, then what I’m really believing is “God doesn’t have this thing, I’ve got to make sure everything is taken care of.” Silly to believe that, but sometimes my actions can indicate that is what I really believe.

Behaviors and actions for the Christian are important, but not important in the same way they are for other religions. They are not meritorious but the fruit of, and indication of what and in whom you believe. Therefore we can use our behaviors and actions to self-diagnose what it is we really believe.

 

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Insecurity is often Incognito

In case you haven’t heard about the supposed bullying case involving the Dolphin’s offensive lineman Richie Incognito and Jonathon Martin, already, you can read a little bit about it here, where the GM allegedly tells Martin to punch Incognito for bullying.

Whether positive or negative, one result of this high profile issue, is that it has opened the door for discussion on the sports talk radio shows. It’s a time when the morality of sports life takes front stage and opens up the door for everything from a can of worms to a can of whoop@#$.

Most of the discussion didn’t center on whether or not this was actually a case of bullying (although I heard today this was more classism than racism), but how one should respond when that happens. At any level.

Report: Jim Rome, who’s worldview I would describe as moralistic temporary karmic, thought that Jonathon Martin did the right thing and report it. After all, what if he did fight back? Could anything good come from that? End Incognito’s career, his career, assault charge, etc? From a pragmatic perspective, he could not be more accurate. Practical thing is to report it.

Fight Back: This was also present, and when there were two hosts, opinions seemed opposite. Fight back and be a man. That’s what you do. Then the bullying will stop. And you will have shown you are worthy of respect.

Rome’s best contribution to the discussion was his claim that not everything is black and white (do this and that will result). It’s not a simple issue. And it’s not a simple result. When grown men physically fight each other, I’m not sure the results are the same as on the playground in grade school. Such problems compound themselves not solve themselves.

But another question one host raised seemed to go a little deeper: is standing up, fighting back, of the essence of being a man? Or a follow-up question (from me) is self-control at the heart of being a man or is defending yourself physically when another is verbally abusing you?

Why is it important to start with belief? Because among other things, you always act according to your beliefs. Here’s a fairly apropos verse from I Peter 2.

21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

22 “He committed no sin,
    and no deceit was found in his mouth.”[e]

23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

What did Jesus do for me? He suffered for me. He also gave me an example of what do when people verbally insult me-though one needs to read more of the context to get that. But why was Jesus able to do so? Because of his belief: “entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

Jesus deferred justice to God the Father.

Jesus was judged unjustly so that we could be judged justly. So while he left us an example, he first and foremost initiated justification. His death on the cross shows me all the respect in the world. I don’t need your respect-though I often feel I do (disbelieving the gospel) because he has already provided that. In addition, if I entrust God to judge my bullies, I can go to the civil authorities and trust that God will use them to protect me. If not they will have to give an account.

I don’t have to fight back in order to “show some respect” or be a “man.” I don’t have to prove something to you in order for you to respect me. We’re made in the image of God and that’s enough (James 3) to warrant you not verbally bullying. Of course you build respect before others by what you do over time, but you have to start with the respect that God gives you or else you’ll simply do things to manipulate others into liking you (including physical violence).

We really probably have no idea of what all went on. And Martin’s parents are both lawyers, so he surely operated from their legal counsel. But instead of discerning what Martin should have done, and whether or not Martin is blameless in this, or if it all lays on the lap of Incognito or Dolphin coaches, the best question to ponder is what does it mean to be a man, or to have “self-respect.” If grounded in the gospel story, then I don’t HAVE to fight back. Now I may, and you may, but I would argue that if you or I truly believe, we won’t have to do so. Is the ability to take criticism and not respond impulsively (physically) a bit more masculine and respectable?

Instead of only preparing yourself for what you would do in that situation, it’s probably just as important to prepare yourself to not HAVE to succumb to your emotions and literally throw the first punch. You have the power not to do so (Romans 6:14) and have been stripped of the sense of needing to do so as well.

You could really argue that fighting back, showing you’re a man, showing you’re worthy of respect, is really insecurity dressed incognito. Incognito.

Brian Hoyer’s ACL and abrupt chapter endings

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As I drove to the gym two Thursdays ago, I heard the the introduction to the Browns-Bills game. At the start of the season, no one, outside of Buffalo or Cleveland would have even cared about the match-up. But as it so happens, the Browns had won 2 in a row and were on the verge of being over 500.

But something else hit me as I tuned into the pre-game broadcast. Brian Hoyer, who started the season as the third string QB, had been inserted into the line-up a few games prior and was set to have a chance to win a third straight. Three game winning streaks for the Browns are not common (for the record the Bucs did have a four game winning streak last year).

Yet the story didn’t end with a third string QB coming in to save the day. Hoyer grew up less than 20 minutes from where the Browns play. He’s an underdog, and a hometown kid, whose dream was probably to play for his home town team. And it happened. And he won.

And then he slid, very poorly on a run for a first down. A defender hit him, and he tore his ACL. And just like that, the story was over. Well the Browns won the game, and may still win. Such a franchise has a special place in my heart: Bucs fans are partial to losing organizations.

The story seemed like such a good fit. It shouldn’t end so soon, and with a simple slide? Who knows what could have been? We don’t. We won’t.

It’s just football, but probably all of us can think of how we would have written another’s story differently. Or our own?

If I had written my story, it wouldn’t have included depression, or back surgery at 25. It wouldn’t have included purchasing a house at the worst possible time in US History. It wouldn’t have been to head to West Virginia. It wouldn’t have been a number of things. Yet all of those things things God has weaved together into a story that is a part of His bigger story of undoing the curse of sin down in these parts. He’s used all of the above in our ministry here. For the record, the West Va time was enjoyable from the get-go, but it certainly wasn’t what this salt-water enthusiast had planned on doing!

Of course there are other things that have happened that I’ll never know why. And surely you will too.

Perhaps Connar’s memory verse for today at school is apropos:

And in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. -Romans 8:28

Some stories, or at least chapters in the stories end abruptly. They really do. And we should grieve. We really should. How can we not?

But there is a Story that has already been written. It is beautiful in a way that sometimes we won’t fully appreciate this side of heaven. I think we need to come to grips with that too.

I once heard that a high school class in South Carolina read Animal Farm but didn’t explain to the kids that it was an allegory. It wasn’t just an animal story. It would have been meaningless if not properly understand as an allegory regarding the “equality” inherent in communism.

Sometimes I think I might often misread what happens in my life in the same way.

Or you may have read a book that you didn’t appreciate when younger, but now you see the beauty, and style of the author as you get older. You learn there is much more to story-writing than piecing together details. Some stories are only appreciated when you get older.

Sometimes life may be the opposite of a Harry Potter story, which is easy to read and appreciated despite the level of maturity of the “reader.”

The more we recognize that God has written us into His story for redeeming and reconciling the world, the easier it will become for us when chapters end differently than we would have hoped.

Until that day when we will see the full beauty of the story, even to those who have had great injustices done to them, we have the words of the martyrs in Revelation to encourage us:

“Great and marvelous are your deeds,
Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
King of the nations.[a]
Who will not fear you, Lord,
and bring glory to your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship before you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”- Rev 15:3-4

Such is the ending of the Christian.

Corinth: The Tampa Bay Bucs of ancient churches

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If you haven’t followed the Bucs this year as a fan, consider yourselves, “lucky,” or perhaps a more Calvinistic expression is apropos: “Providentially blessed.” It’s an absolute circus. A tough and reasonably (people have good reasons) disliked coach named Greg Schiano, who actually was featured in the Sports Spectrum magazine volume which I wrote devotionals for a number of years back. So yes, as much as I want the guy fired, and really don’t see the same Christian character we saw in Dungy, we will be forever linked together in the minds of the vast Sports Spectrum readership across the globe. A quarterback, once considered good for a season, has recently found himself out of the picture. Literally, he overslept and missed the team picture and has now been relegated to watching the game in the “inactive” suite. As we speak he is in stage 1 of some substance abuse program, because in his words, he tested positive for riddalin when he only had a prescription for Aderall. Maybe someone confuses Tylenol for Advil, but that sounds to me a bit silly and missing a bit of info if not truth.

The team has lost 3 games by 3 points or less, one on a penalty, another on missed field goal, and the third because of Napoleon Quarterback’s bonehead interception at the end of the game. I guess things could get worse, and probably will. The Lions 0-16 team will be watching anxiously for this team to descend to such a level.

As much as I want to rid myself of all Buccaneers’ association, I just can’t. They are a mess, but I’m still connected to them because they are my team. They are in some sense my mess, because I live in the area.

The church in Corinth was a mess. It was the Tampa Bay Bucs of churches. Bad, probably Schiano style micro-managing leadership. Locker room factions saying, “I follow Paul, I follow Apollos.” Then the super spiritual, overly proud non-denominational guy, said, “I follow Jesus.” People sleeping with in-laws. “Super-apostles” comparing themselves with Paul and finding themselves better, and then getting people to follow? Folks thinking that their gifts were better than the giftings of others. Dudes getting drunk at communion and then eventually “falling asleep,” and I’m not talking about passing out.

Yet, in all of the mess and dysfunction caused by sin, Paul has the chutzpah-I guess you could call it that-to address these jokers as “saints.”

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours (I Cor 1:2)

Jesus must have done something to make the Tampa Bay Bucs of ancient churches “saints.” They were saints not based upon what they did (duh!!!) but what Jesus did for them. He purchased and washed the church with His blood, and He is the one who declares her righteous. Of course the church washed and purchased, has also been redeemed from slavery. But just like a bunch of convicts set free, we’ll soon make a mess of the good He’s made for us. Unaddressed sinful patterns don’t change overnight, despite the fact we’re no longer enslaved to them. Yet he will take the mess and make something good. Jesus takes greedy people and makes them generous. He moves sexually immoral people toward repentance and restoration. He takes skeptical folks and increases their faith. He did this in middle of this mess. There were bright spots too: evidence of Jesus work in the mess.

You can give up on the Bucs. But don’t give up on Jesus’ church, more specifically its manifestation in a local body of believers. Jesus didn’t, and he still doesn’t. It has always been a mess, but in Jesus eyes, it is a “hot mess” and we’ll eventually see what we’ll become. Until then, keep taking a sneak peak at Revelation 21 where the church comes down from heaven as a bride adorned for her husband. Hot, but no longer a mess.

Riley, Repentance, and Redemption?

After several months of “Rome-less” radio down in Bradenton, my wife let me know that Jim Rome was actually available on FM. That was music (ironically we’re talking about ‘sports talk radio’) to my ears. Rome discussed the whole Riley Cooper racist tirade caught on video while at a Kenny Chesney concert (his first mistake). The “N” word was dropped like a set of dumb-bells by a meat head in a weight room. Only this meathead wasn’t big enough to scare people after the racist ranting video went viral. Tebow’s former teammate, and roommate, is in some serious trouble.

While the NFL doesn’t seem likely to suspend him right now, it is tough to rebound from such a debacle. Remember Michael Richards who played Kramer on Seinfeld after his tirade? While he certainly has a career to think about, Cooper has to come to realization very quickly, that what he said (and probably thought-though seeing into the heart of another is impossible) was terrible and the consequences of said words could be around to stay long after.

Marcus Vick, who has done nothing good, well ever, has never been a great spokesperson for his older brother Mike. Getting kicked off Va Tech’s football team opened the door to playing for the Miami Dolphins. For a pre-season. But with the help of a famous brothers name, and twitter account, you can always make enough noise to be heard by a number of folks. He actually put out a “bounty” (a la Greg Williams and the Saints, allegedly) of a 1,000 for a safety to take out Cooper in a game. Not sure where he gets that kind of cash, but that’s for another day.

For today, I want to look at Vick’s response.

“I know what type of person he is,” Vick said of Cooper.  “That’s what makes it hard to understand but easy to forgive him.”Mike Vick also disagrees with his brother’s remarks about Cooper, saying that Marcus should “not show a level of ignorance himself.”

Receiver Jason Avant also forgave Cooper.  “I just know him,” Avant said.  “He’s not racist.”

I wonder if there’s also something else going on. Most people are centering their forgiveness around the words. But what about the thoughts? Could that be forgiven? If so, by who?

By someone who had been forgiven of something really big. Really stupid. 

Mike Vick did jail time for his role in dog fighting. It was bad. It was stupid. It was evil. But I wonder if that plays into his quickness to be able to forgive. Grace begets grace.

In Jesus parable in Luke 7:36-50, which he tells to some self righteous religious folks, he poses the question which person would be more thankful, someone with a small debt cancelled or bigger debt cancelled? The answer is obvious. Then he expostulates: 

47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
   
Whoever has forgiven Vick, or whomever he feels forgiven by-whether God, teammates, owner, friends, fans-it probably plays into his take on forgiveness. He has loved Cooper much because he has been forgiven much. For those unwilling to forgive such racist remarks, or racism in general, it reveals how small a debt they had cancelled. Of course it does take time, and it seems as though it may take time for other teammates to come around. But if there is belief in the gospel, even racism, not just words, but beliefs, can be both called out as evil, while the forgiveness process (provided there is repentance) can begin.  

Joe Delaney vs. Aaron Hernandez: Giving life as opposed to wasting life

One of the more intriguing summer “happenings” has been former Patriots Tight End Aaron Hernandez’s quick fall after his alleged involvement in the murder of his fiancee’s sisters’s boyfriend Odin Lloyd. It is yet another example of a complete waste of talent and opportunity from a professional athlete. One of the up and coming multi-talented stars, who had the slim possibility of playing with his former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, will now watch football from a jail cell. Not sure if he’ll be able to Direct-TV or not. Who knows, if Tebow ever gets out of his mind that Tight End might present a better opportunity, Hernandez might have actually given up his position to Tebow.

Regardless, you can’t get a better example of throwing away your life, talent, and finances  then Aaron Hernandez.

I don’t make this point by way of comparison of me to him, and that I could never have done what he did. Pastors do similar stuff, and throw it all away too for murder or adultery (David wasn’t beyond that). And this particular pastor is not beyond that either. We could all go the way of Hernandez, in some way or another. There but the grace of God go I. And you. But that’s not what this post is about.

Instead I want to compare throwing one’s life away versus giving one’s life away.

I came across this amazing story of Joe Delaney, a perfect illustration of the latter.

Thirty years ago today, Chiefs running back Joe Delaney noticed that a trio of young boys had waded into a man-made water hole.  It contained an unknown deep end, and they quickly were in trouble.
As Frank Deford, then of Sports Illustrated, later explained it, “There were all sorts of people around, but only Joe dashed to the pond.  There was a little boy there.  ‘Can you swim?’ he asked Joe.
“‘I can’t swim good,’ Joe said, ‘but I’ve got to save those kids.  If I don’t come up, get somebody.’  And he rushed into the water.”
Delaney saved one of the boys.  Two drowned.  So did Delaney.
Joe Delaney, who had played only two NFL seasons, was 24.  He left behind a wife and three young girls.
As a rookie in 1981, Delaney rushed for 1,121 yards.  But he willingly sacrificed a bright future to help save three young strangers.

Joe Delaney didn’t waste his life, he gave it. I don’t know what motivated him as opposed to what didn’t motivate the other standers-by, who may have been able to swim much better. Perhaps it was Jesus? I don’t know. But he certainly followed in the footsteps of Jesus’ love, who reminded his disciples that, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

Except, these weren’t friends; these were strangers. Pretty amazing, eh? How many people would do this 30 years later? This story is powerful and moving in and of itself. 

But don’t stop with this story, because there is a reason why we find such a story so moving. According to Jesus this is the quintessence of love. Now think about the fact that Jesus modeled his own teaching, going above and beyond, laying down his life for enemies (Romans 5:8). Inspired by Jesus’ sacrificial love for His friends-who at the time were rather enemies-we have all the motivation in the world to give our lives instead of waste our lives. 

If we’re not giving our lives away, sacrificing for others, Jesus actually makes the bold statement that we are wasting them (Luke 17:33)

Instead of trying to be like Joe or trying not to be like Hernandez, we can live as the drowning victim who was saved by Joe, at the cost of His own life. And if we regularly remember that we were ransomed not by gold but His precious blood (I Peter 1:18-19), the choice of giving instead of wasting will make sense.

Jim Eliot, martyred by Indians, thought it just made sense to give his life for others: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Oh for grace to believe this more.

Pulling for Tebow, but not Patriots?

I have to admit I was somewhat saddened by the news that Tim Tebow had been signed by the Patriots. I have no love for the Boston sports market. I support a church planter bringing the gospel to this un-churched area, but outside that, along with my prayers, is all the love this area will get from me. Honestly, I’ve just grown a distaste for Boston’s sports teams, but its not like a Jonah-Nineveh type deal. I’ve got no beef with the people, just the sports teams.

Besides Bellicheat, we may have a new reason to dislike the Pats with the murder investigation involving one of its star tight ends Aaron Hernandez, who currently has not been ruled out as a suspect.

But I digress, as usual.

I’m happy Tim Tebow was able to find a team wiling to take a risk on his services (although he does have as many play-off wins as Falcons QB Matt Ryan). I’m not convinced he will make the 53 man roster, but I hope he does.

And therein lies my dilemma. What if he plays and plays well-unlikely as it may be? I couldn’t pull for the Patriots. Perhaps I’ll pull for Tebow to get some touchdowns and for the defense to play like the Buccaneers of 2012 (less than 30 yards away from worst pass defense ever).

I wonder if other folks do that? Pull for a player they admired in college, but pull against his particular NFL team.

Then I thought, I wonder if Tebow might be offended. Not that he reads this blog, or that I’ll run into him or whatever. But could that possibly be offensive to him? I think he might have a right to be offended. He’s a team player. It’s not about stats (his are always terrible), but about the team winning.

Would he be flattered-or rather honored-to have a fan who will pull for him to succeed yet for his team to fail? Or would Tebow say, “You can’t follow me, and hate what I care most about. You can’t like me, but hate and pull against my friends. Those people are like my brothers. You can’t follow me but hate what I came to do with and for these guys. You can’t separate me as a person from my work on this team.

If Tebow would be offended, then how much more so would Jesus be offended by those who say, “I love Jesus, but I hate the church.”

Can you love Jesus but want nothing to do with those whom he has declared to be his friends (John 15:14), his brothers (Hebrews 2:11)?

Can you love him but hate his bride (Rev 21:2)? That’s almost like saying, “I love you Geoff, and I’d love to hang out sometime, but don’t bring that dirty tramp of a wife you married. I cant stand her. No offense though.”

Hmmm…..Yep that would offend me. And I would say that you can’t love me and hate the one I love more than anyone else in the world. Well you could, but I don’t think that would constitute a very healthy relationship.

Can you love Jesus but hate the team he played for (meaning on their behalf)? Can you love Jesus but hate his wife, as though that is not offensive to Him?

I don’t think Tebow would be down with that, and I know Jesus isn’t down with it. As hard as the local church is to love (and those in local churches can be very hard; I know, I’m one of them), these are still Jesus’ little brothers, bride, servants, friends, and I guess you could say “teammates,” when they are fulfilling his mission.