Archive for October, 2010

Leadership Lessons I Learned as a Football Quarterback

October 22, 2010

Many of the first leadership lessons I learned came from playing quarterback for my high school football team. While reminiscing about the good ole days, I made a list full of gridiron grit. I hope you enjoy it and can even improve the list from your own experience in life and sports.

Gotta have a game plan

Practice the fundamentals

Practice as you will play

Passion, more than talent, might make the difference between winning and losing

Listen to your coach

In the huddle, call the play with confidence

Run the play!

Capitalize on turnovers

Seize the momentum

Move the chains forward

Football is a game of inches

Study your opponent’s strategies

Play hard all four quarters of the game

Treat your teammates with respect

Feed your offensive line all the red meat they want

Find the open receiver

Protect the football

Dark Night of the Soul

October 14, 2010

(AP Photo/Hugo Infante, Chilean government)

As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Genesis 15:12

We all witnessed the remarkable, some say miraculous, rescue of 33 Chilean miners who were trapped nearly a half-mile beneath the earth’s surface. These brave men lingered in virtual darkness for 69 days, hoping against all hope that they would see the light of day again.

It took four hours for the dust to settle after the mine collapse that almost sealed their fate. The dust was so thick they couldn’t see their own hands in front of their face. For the first 17 days and before rescuers found them alive, the men survived by eating a half a biscuit and a spoonful of tuna every 48 hours.

Happy tears flowed and joyous celebration erupted as each miner emerged from the narrow Phoenix rescue capsule which was designed with input from NASA. A groundswell of national pride echoed through patriotic cheers for each miner. The people shouted, ”Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le!” as President Sebastian Pinera embraced each miner that emerged from the belly of the earth. 

Esteban Rojas, the eighteenth miner brought to safety, actually dropped to his knees and offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God for delivering him from his dark night of the soul. 

Another miner said, “I met God. I met the devil. God won!”

The entire scene reminds me of the psalmist’s exuberant words, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock, and gave me a firm place to stand” (Ps. 40:2).

You don’t have to be trapped in a mine shaft more than 2,000 feet beneath the earth’s surface to experience what some call a “dark night of the soul.” Frankly, it is not uncommon for a person of faith, even a dedicated follower of Jesus, to experience loneliness, doubt and a lingering sense of desperation.

The idea of a “dark night of the soul” comes from the title of a poem written in the sixteenth century by St. John of the Cross. The treatise describes a soul’s journey from birth to his eternal union with God. The journey happens at night as a metaphor of those dark times we all experience. Yes, sometimes even the most dedicated followers of Jesus feel as though they are groping in the dark.

For example, a Puritan named Thomas Goodwin who lived during the seventeenth century wrote, “One who truly fears God, and is obedient to him, may be in a condition of darkness, and have no light; and he may walk many days and years in that condition.”

Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, also experienced his own dark moments during the Boxer Rebellion. He said to a friend, “I cannot read; I cannot think; I cannot even pray; but I can trust.” It was a dark and difficult time in the famous missionary’s life, but God eventually gave him the light he needed to move forward.

Wherever you are in your walk of faith, be encouraged to know that even some of God’s star pupils, including Abraham, experienced times when they felt as though they were groping in the dark and wondering, “Where is God?”

Out of Ur

October 7, 2010

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all the peoples of the earth will be blessed by you”(Genesis 12:1-3).

This is one of the most significant passages of Scripture found in the entire Bible. Not only does it record how God would eventually establish the nation of Israel, Abraham being the first Hebrew, but it gives us a rare glimpse inside the heart of God.

The word “bless” or “blessed” appears five times in three verses. Make no mistake about it. God deeply desires to bless his people. Jabez understood this and prayed, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory!” Guess what? God did. We don’t know exactly how he answered the prayer of Jabez, but he did (1 Chron. 4:9-11). While the blessing of Genesis 12 was specific to Abraham and to the nation that God would form through him, both Abraham and his descendants were blessed in order to be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth.

I find myself smiling when I read the words, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse.” These words are spoken like a true parent who gently warns, If you bless my kids, I will bless you. If you speak kindly of my children, I will speak kindly of you. If you protect my offspring, I will protect you. But if you mess with my family, you’ll wish you had never met me.

These words should also shape every President’s foreign policy toward the nation of Israel. I believe part of the reason the United States is such a blessed country is that she has remained Israel’s friend, oftentimes standing alone in that role. Israel is not perfect but she is divinely chosen. Woe to the nation and its leaders that turn against the apple of God’s eye.

We should never forget that Abraham’s call has specific application to the nation of Israel. Any attempt to make the church the new Israel and thus the recipient of all the promises made to Abraham is, in my opinion, based on faulty, replacement theology. At the same time, we need to remember that God clearly said to Abraham, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” That includes gentile believers who are now in Christ by faith.

All the blessings Abraham was to receive from God were predicated on faith. God told him to leave his country, his people and his family, and begin traveling toward a new destiny. How different the world would be if Abraham chose to disobey.

Abraham had settled into a nice life in the Ur of the Chaldeans, which at that time was the greatest commercial capital the world had ever seen. Life was good. He was surrounded by friends and family who respected him. He was in good health. He achieved a free and clear mortgage with enough sheep and goats to last for a long and prosperous retirement. And his wife Sarah enjoyed beautiful shopping malls, a market filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, and a full pantry. But God had different plans. Abraham was 75 years old when the Lord told him to kiss his comfort zone good-bye.

The word “leave” had both practical and spiritual implications for Abraham. Keep in mind that the Ur of the Chaldeans was not only a booming commercial capital, but it was also home to a thriving religious community. The city was devoted to Nannar, the mood-god. Yes, Abraham and his family were pagan-worshippers and idolaters, polytheists who believed in many gods. However, God graciously called Abraham out of the darkness of idolatry and into the light of the one true and living God.

God is still in the business of calling people out of Ur. The apostle Paul bragged on the Thessalonians by telling how their faith “rang out” in reports all over Macedonia and Achaia. They “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:8-9).

Ring! Ring! Do you have an ‘out of Ur’ story you’d like to share?

Ron Jones is a pastor whose greatest passion is to introduce people to Jesus Christ through anointed biblical preaching that transforms lives.

 

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