Posts Tagged ‘Olympics’

Sermon 07-10-16: “If God Is for Us”

August 6, 2016

Opening the Scriptures graphic

Few, if any, heroes in the Old Testament were more faithful to God than Joshua. Yet when he realizes that he’s in the presence of the Lord in today’s scripture, he encounters a potentially deadly problem: The Lord is holy, Joshua isn’t, and he’s afraid he will be destroyed. This is a problem that all of us share with Joshua. The good news is that today’s scripture points to a solution.

Sermon Text: Joshua 5:13-6:5

[To listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

When the summer Olympics begin in Rio next month, one member of our U.S. Olympic team will be the most decorated Olympian in history, the 22-time medalist Michael Phelps. Eighteen of those 22 are gold medals, the most by far of any Olympian in history. And he’s now the first American male swimmer to make five Olympic teams. He qualified for number five just last week.


He told USA Today that, of all the things he’s done, qualifying for his fifth Olympics “means the most. With everything that’s happened, being able to come back, that’s probably harder than any swim I’ve had in my life.” Everything that’s happened includes being arrested for driving drunk in 2014, being suspended from swimming for a period, and, finally, entering rehab. But for the past year, according to both him and his teammates, he’s a changed man. He’s been focused solely on Rio.

Well, he’s got to be if he’s going to be successful. There’s no such thing as a part-time Olympic champion. Being an Olympic athlete isn’t one thing you do in your life among many other things; it is your life. You don’t say, “I’m going to spend this many hours a week training, and this many hours doing this other thing, and this many hours doing something else.” No… If you’re a champion, you eat in order to win the gold; you drink in order to win the gold; you sleep in order to win the gold. You are single-minded.

I haven’t known an athlete with that level of commitment before. But I did meet a classical musician who was close. She was a 16-year-old student at my wife Lisa’s school. She performed in a musical that her school was putting on. And she played violin. After the show I was introduced to her as one of Lisa’s students. So I complimented her. I said, “You were great! You didn’t sound screechy at all.” I was just trying to make small talk. I didn’t mean to damn her with faint praise. But, in my experience, 16 year-old violinists sometimes sound screechy. Read the rest of this entry »

A devotional for those out of work

August 16, 2012

As an associate pastor, I oversee our church’s Job Transition Ministry, which helps unemployed people find work. I prepared this devotional, in part from this blog post, for tonight’s meeting. I hope it provides some encouragement!

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 11:16-33, Philippians 3:7-14

The agony of defeat.

Did you watch the Olympics? There were many Olympic athletes who are Christians, and who publicly prayed and expressed gratitude to God before, during, or after their competitions. A couple of these athletes, like Usain Bolt and Gabby Douglas were huge winners at the Games. And we may think to ourselves, “It’s easy for them to be thankful! They won multiple gold medals! They’re on top of the world right now! Of course they’re grateful to God!”

But not so fast… Gabby Douglas fell off the balance beam in the individual competition. Even Usain Bolt has lost a race or two in his life. Then there was Christian athlete Lolo Jones, who failed—you know, by merely being the fourth fastest hurdler in the world. My point is that the path to Olympic success is paved with failure. Failure is often our best teacher. These Christian athletes know that. None of them abandoned their faith in Jesus when they experienced failure. They wouldn’t still be Christians if they did. In fact, all of them would tell you that failure comes with the territory—whether you’re an Olympic athlete or a mere mortal.

No one knows about failure better than the Apostle Paul. In one of his letters in the New Testament, he dusts off his résumé or pulls up his LinkedIn profile and shares some of his many accomplishments. Are you ready for these? He says that he was thrown in prison many times. He was beaten more times that he could count. He faced death many times. On five occasions, he was whipped “40 lashes minus one.” He was beaten with rods three times. He was stoned once and left for dead. He was shipwrecked three times. He spent a day and night on the open sea. He faced dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, and dangers from all kinds of different people—dangers in the city, dangers in the desert, and dangers on the sea. He experienced many sleepless nights. He was hungry and thirsty, often without food—and cold, without enough clothes.

Paul was a pastor like me. But you know what one difference is between me and him? If I experienced just one or two of these horrible events, I would probably think about changing careers! I mean, how many times do you have to be beaten up or go hungry or get sent to jail before you say, “Maybe I should be doing something else”?

Not Paul. He experienced more failures, setbacks, disappointments, and heartaches than anyone else I’ve ever heard about! And, yet, God redeemed each and every one. We’re here in this church today because Paul and other faithful saints like him didn’t call it quits when they failed.

While he was languishing in prison one time, facing what he imagined might be the end of his life, he said that while he had lost everything—at least in terms of what the world values—he considered all that he lost nothing more than “sewer trash” compared to what he had gained through his saving faith in Jesus Christ.

That’s the kind of perspective I want the Lord to teach me to have when I experience failures, setbacks, disappointments, and heartaches. How about you?