Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Tony Dungy on Pain & Loss

I got the following text in an email today from a good friend. It really has some inspiring words from Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy not too long after losing his son.

Dungy Makes Super Bowl Stop to Speak at Athletes in Action Breakfast

DETROIT, Mich. – They were there for breakfast, and they were there to cheer New York Jets running back Curtis Martin.

And it was Martin who received the Athletes in Action Bart Starr Award Saturday morning, but the hundreds who gathered in fourth-floor ballroom at the Marriott Renaissance in Detroit, Mich., on the morning before Super Bowl XL were clearly touched by the featured speaker.

That speaker was Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy.

Two hours into the breakfast, emcee Brent Jones introduced Dungy, who was welcomed with a lengthy standing ovation. Dungy thanked the crowd, shared an anecdote about Martin, then told the crowd he was going to speak for about 15 minutes.

“It’s great to be here,” Dungy told the crowd, then adding with a laugh, “I just wish I wasn’t here in this capacity so many times of being just that close to being in the game and just being an invited speaker.

“My goal is to have our team here one day and have a couple of tables with all of our guys here. Because we have a special group of young men, a great group of Christian guys. It’d be wonderful to have them here so you could see their hearts and what they’re all about.

“It hasn’t quite happened yet, but we’re still hoping one day it will.”

He told them he was going to talk about lessons he had learned from his three sons. The crowd fell silent. Then Dungy spoke.

And although this was a breakfast – and although at many such events speakers speak over the clinking of glasses and murmurs from semi-interested listeners – for most of the 15 minutes the room was silent except for Dungy’s voice.

He spoke of his middle son, Eric, who he said shares his competitiveness and who is focused on sports “to where it’s almost a problem.” He spoke of his youngest son, Jordan, who has a rare congenital condition which causes him not to feel pain.

“He feels things, but he doesn’t get the sensation of pain,” Dungy said.

The lessons learned from Jordan, Tony Dungy said, are many.

“That sounds like it’s good at the beginning, but I promise you it’s not,” Dungy said. “We’ve learned a lot about pain in the last five years we’ve had Jordan. We’ve learned some hurts are really necessary for kids. Pain is necessary for kids to find out the difference between what’s good and what’s harmful.”

Jordan, Dungy said, loves cookies.

“Cookies are good,” Dungy said, “but in Jordan’s mind, if they’re good out on the plate, they’re even better in the oven. He will go right in the oven when my wife’s not looking, reach in, take the rack out, take the pan out, burn his hands and eat the cookies and burn his tongue and never feel it. He doesn’t know that’s bad for him.”

Jordan, Dungy said, “has no fear of anything, so we constantly have to watch him.”

The lesson learned, Dungy said, is simple.

“You get the question all the time, ‘Why does the Lord allow pain in your life? Why do bad things happen to good people? If God is a God of love, why does he allow these hurtful things to happen?’’’ Dungy said. “We’ve learned that a lot of times because of that pain, that little temporary pain, you learn what’s harmful. You learn to fear the right things.“

Pain sometimes lets us know we have a condition that needs to be healed. Pain inside sometimes lets us know that spiritually we’re not quite right and we need to be healed and that God will send that healing agent right to the spot.“

Sometimes, pain is the only way that will turn us as kids back to the Father.”

Finally, he spoke of James.

James Dungy, Tony Dungy’s oldest son, died three days before Christmas. As he did while delivering James’ eulogy in December, Dungy on Saturday spoke of him eloquently and steadily, speaking of lessons learned and of the positives taken from experience.

“It was tough, and it was very, very painful, but as painful as it was, there were some good things that came out of it,” Dungy said.

Dungy spoke at the funeral of regretting not hugging James the last time he saw him, on Thanksgiving of last year.

“I met a guy the next day after the funeral,” Dungy said. “He said, ‘I was there. I heard you talking. I took off work today. I called my son. I told him I was taking him to the movies. We’re going to spend some time and go to dinner.’ That was a real, real blessing to me.”

Dungy said he has gotten many letters since James’ death relaying similar messages.

“People heard what I said and said, ‘Hey, you brought me a little closer to my son,’ or, ‘You brought me a little closer to my daughter,’’’ Dungy said. “That is a tremendous blessing.”

Dungy also said some of James’ organs were donated through donors programs.“

We got a letter back two weeks ago that two people had received his corneas, and now they can see,’’ Dungy said. “That’s been a tremendous blessing.”

Dungy also said he received a letter from a girl from the family’s church in Tampa. She had known James for many years, Dungy said. She went to the funeral because she knew James.

“When I saw what happened at funeral, and your family and the celebration and how it was handled, that was the first time I realized there had to be a God,” Dungy said the girl wrote. “I accepted Christ into my life and my life’s been different since that day.”

Added Dungy, “That was an awesome blessing, so all of those things kind of made me realize what God’s love is all about.”

Dungy also said he was asked often how he was able to return to the Colts so quickly after James’ death. James died on December 22, and Dungy returned to the team one week later. Dungy said the answer was simple.

“People asked me, ‘How did you recover so quickly?”’’ Dungy said. “I’m not totally recovered. I don’t know that I ever will be. It’s still very, very painful, but I was able to come back because of something one of my good Christian friends said to me after the funeral.

“He said, ‘You know James accepted Christ into his heart, so you know he’s in heaven, right?’ I said, ‘Right, I know that.’ He said, ‘So, with all you know about heaven, if you had the power to bring him back now, would you?’ When I thought about it, I said, ‘No, I wouldn’t. I would not want him back with what I know about heaven.’

“That’s what helped me through the grieving process. Because of Christ’s spirit in me, I had that confidence that James is there, at peace with the Lord, and I have the peace of mind in the midst of something that’s very, very painful.

“That’s my prayer today, that everyone in this room would know the same thing.”

Sunday, February 26, 2006

New Year's Resolutions Revisited

If you happened to look at my New Year's Resolutions, you will find that one of them was to improve my spiritual discipline by spending more time studying the Bible. I just finished reading Proverbs from start to finish in two different versions, NASB and The Message. I won't say I read Proverbs every day but it is still an improvement for me.



Thursday, February 23, 2006

Bumper Stickers and a Crafty Serpent

I passed a car on the way to work the other day with a couple of bumper stickers that made me swallow hard and say a quick prayer for the driver.

The first bumper sticker I read said “Eve was Framed!” I take this to be a reference to the Book of Genesis and the story about the crafty serpent (the Devil) convincing Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. This is often called the “original sin.” On this topic I would like to point to a few words that usually go unnoticed.

Genesis 3:1-6 New International Version (NIV)

The Fall of Man
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"
2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "
4 "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Please note the words in verse 6 “who was with her.” Adam was right there while the serpent was tempting Eve and surely had an opportunity to jump in and say “No Eve! God said not to!” You can make an argument that the orginal sin was equally Adam’s for he was passive. His was a sin of omission before he too ate the forbidden fruit (sin of commission). At this critical point in the history of mankind, he did not provide spiritual leadership when he could have.

So... while Eve was not “Framed” she may have gotten too much credit for the fall of mankind. Adam played (or shall I say didn’t play) his part too.

Back to the bumper stickers...

As I passed the car I mentioned at the beginning, my eye veered a little to the left and found another bumper sticker with the words “Born OK the First Time” which I take to mock all Christian believers who professes to have been “Born Again.” This one really hit the pit of my stomach. I found myself wondering what happened in this woman’s life to make her so hostile to Christianity. Was she betrayed by a mother or father who outwardly claimed to be a Christian? I don’t know but it made me think about how everyone is watching us. We have to be ever vigilent and keep up our guard against any temptation which might cause us to fall short – and in so doing assist the crafty serpent of the Garden of Eden in keeping another from coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus. I fear I have fallen short too often myself. I thank God for the grace extended to me in spite of my weaknesses.

God, I pray for this woman I don’t even know. I don’t know what has happened in her life to cause such disbelief but I pray that You will put someone in her path that can be a shining example of Your love and grace. Stir her heart to want to know more about You and Your plan for salvation. Bring others into her life to “plant seeds” and still more to “water the seeds” when they sprout. Help us all to be alert to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to be involved in some small way in the lives of anyone around us who may be seeking You. Amen.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Our Job, Our Retirement, and Our God

I received wake-up call a while back in the form of an email newsletter from Dan Miller, author of the book 48 Days to the Work You Love. You can get the contents of the email yourself here.

Here are a few wake-up call bullet points from his newsletter for anyone who still thinks that working hard and being a good employee can lock in a comfortable retirement:

  • Several months ago I saw a bright and personable commercial airline pilot. At 53 years old, he had been with United Airlines for 27 years. His salary was $200,000 plus, and he had calculated that with his retirement investments and his pension he would retire in high style in 3 more years. But then his investments took a big dive, United defaulted on their pension and his job future for even 3 years was in jeopardy.
  • The status of most employee pension plans sits somewhere between threatened, and dead and gone.
  • The end of the pension plan is coming quickly for most companies.
  • IBM has converted its plan to a new system.
  • Northwest Airlines will likely dump its pension in bankruptcy, following the lead of United and US Airways.
  • Companies like Allstate insurance have “invited” all 6,200 agents to become independent contractors, losing health insurance and pension benefits.
  • There is no way the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation can back up these folding pension plans. The PBGC is already on the hook for $62.3 billion in expected pension payouts with only $39 billion in its accounts.
  • Bottom Line: we are quickly moving to a nation of “free agents” where we will each be responsible for our income, benefits and retirement.
  • General Motors is reeling in out-of-control benefit costs and may still go into bankruptcy.
  • See yourself as a “free agent” no matter what your current employment status.

Granted, Dan Miller is a “free agent” who is making his living selling books (like many of us bloggers want to do) on personal finance and other resources of the “you had better be financially self reliant” genre.

However, I think he raises great secular points that have huge spiritual implications.

  • We must live below our means and save for the future
  • We should not place our faith in our employer or our government to take care of us.

Here are some pertinent quotes from the Bible:

Proverbs 22:3 (New International Version)

3 A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge,

but the simple keep going and suffer for it.

Proverbs 30:25 (New International Version)

25 Ants are creatures of little strength,
yet they store up their food in the summer;

There are also other considerations:

  • What do we do if we feel led to give generously from our limited financial resources?
  • What if God has other plans for the financial blessings He has given me? Am I prepared to align my will with His?
  • Am I so in debt that I could not afford to change careers, move to a new city, etc. in response to the leading of the Holy Spirit?

More financial wisdom from Christian financial counselor Larry Burkett:

Financial freedom includes an absence of worries over money, overdue bills, threats from collection agencies, or the panic of never having enough money. Beyond the actual handling of money, financial freedom also penetrates the spiritual dimensions of your life, bringing freedom from envy, greed, and jealousy.

..

As a financially free person, you are available to respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. When God shows you someone’s needs, you will have financial resources to help meet those needs. You can see how financial freedom enables you to fulfill God’s plan for your life.

..

A plan leading to financial freedom begins by transferring ownership of everything to God, including debts and financial mistakes. If Jesus forgives your spiritual sins, He will certainly forgive your financial mistakes and help you to proceed with the plan He has for your life.

Larry Burkett, How Much is Enough?

Many of us want to travel and experience "the good life" when retire. I heard someone give an alternative definition:

"Retirement is when you can serve God without taking a salary."

That puts a whole different perspective on it!

Copyright © 2005 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Sea of Galilee vs. Dead Sea

The Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are made of the same water. It flows
down, clear and cool, from the heights of Hermon and the roots of the
cedars of Lebanon. The Sea of Galilee makes beauty of it, for the Sea of
Galilee has an outlet. It gets to give. It gathers in its riches that it pour
them out again to fertilize the Jordan plain. But the Dead Sea with the
same water makes horror. For the Dead Sea has no outlet. It gets to keep.


Harry Emerson Fosdick

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Prayer in U.S. House of Representatives the Day After the Bombing of Pearl Harbor

It was Sunday, August 28, 2005. I had driven home to visit my mother for her birthday. Right before I left I remembered that when my father (a minister) died back in 1980, the contents of his church office were moved into the garage of my mother's house. I had taken an interest in doing some writing about my own Christian faith and remembered from many years before that there were many boxes of his "preacher books" plus a couple of file cabinets where he kept manilla folders with his notes from almost 30 years of his sermons. I thought to myself, "There must be some great stuff in there that might provide good material for my writing!"

My mother used the garage for storage and not for parking cars so when I opened it, I found boxes of my brother's household goods that were nevershipped to Alabama when he moved, boxes of my sister's stuff from whenshe moved to a new house, and even a mattress my mother told me belongedto my niece's boyfriend. How did that get in there? After moving some old furniture, I found my father's file cabinets where they have beensitting for 25 years. I think I'm the only one who has ever even looked inside them and maybe only three times in that 25 years.

I found several drawer of manilla folders, each with notes for a particular sermon, as I expected. I removed one draw full of sermons to take home with me to look for ideas for my own writing. In the back of one of the drawers, I found something I never knew about. It was a brown, thin, hardcover book. When I read the title, I knew I had to rescue this little book from obscurity. To me, it was a genuine historical gem.

Prayers

Offerred by the Chaplain

Rev. James Shera Montgomery, D.D.

At the Opening of the Daily Sessions of the

House of Representatives of the United States

During the Seventy-Seventh and

Seventy-Eigth Congresses

1941-1944

Based on the date of publication, I guessed that this book must have belonged to my grandfather, also a preacher. I have since traded emails with my Uncle who said my grandfather actually met Rev. Montgomery on trip to Washington, DC and received the book from him directly. My uncle also said my grandfather had commented on "what a great guy he was." My
father inherited the contents of my grandfather's church office when my grandfather passed away.

Here's a scan of the front cover of the book.



The inside title page:



Here is the House Resolution authorizing the printing of this book of
prayers.



Apparently the chaplain got to dedicate this book of his prayers, which he did - dedicating it to his father.


I discovered that this historical gem containing a glimpseinto the spiritual life of my nation's past was originally offered forsale for $0.35 a copy.



Here's the first page of prayers.




I knew enough about history to know that these were the years of World War II. Captured in the pages of this book were the opening prayers offerred to our Congressman during the greatest struggle of war in my nation's history. I quickly searched to see if it included the prayer
offerred immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It was there!

Imagine if you will that you were this chaplain. Your nation had just been bombed and the Pacific fleet decimated. Before you was the Houseof Representatives of the United States of America. A declaration of war was likely. What would you say? What would your prayer be like? Here in the public record, is what the man who really had to do it said, beginning at the bottom of page 60 and continuing to page 61 below. See the opening prayer for Monday, December 8, 1941.



I think the words of this chaplain still offer us some wisdom for today. Remember our nation's leaders in your prayers tonight and remember our brave service men and women fighting today's war on terrorists.


Sunday, February 12, 2006

Adding to Our Prayer List

Things We Usually Pray for
  • for forgiveness of our sin
  • to help us stop sinning more
  • to help someone else stop sinning more
  • to remove or minimize the consequences of our sin or bad decisions previously made (likely decisions made without seeking God’s will first)
  • to remove or minimize the consequences of someone else’s sin on our lives
  • that our family & friends come to know Jesus as their Savior
  • for the future good health, happiness, and general well being of ourselves, family, & friends
  • for help in dealing with a difficult person in our lives
  • to remove a difficult situation in our lives
  • to take away our desire to repeat a difficult sin
  • for financial blessings or for success in life
  • for success in and God’s blessing upon the plans we have made for the future
  • for relief from financial distress or burdens
  • for His provision of a job so that we can support our families
  • to help us be a better parent to our children
  • to change our spouse so that he or she becomes more like the person we need them to be
  • to heal someone close to us already suffering from an illness or injury
  • for His protection from accidents and anyone who might intentionally harm us or our family & friends
  • to bless and lead our church leaders and other spiritual leaders who minister to us.
  • to bless and lead the executive, legislative, and judicial governmental leaders in the decisions they make which affect all of us.
  • to bless and protect from harm those who willingly risk their lives to protect us such as our policeman, firefighters, and military.
  • that doctors and nurses who try to make us or our family well again have the skill and wisdom they need to provide the proper medical care.

Food for thought... Should We Add Some Prayers More More Like These?

  • Seek God’s will in a difficult decision we must make before we make the decision
  • “I thank You and praise You God for Your grace in forgiving me of the sins I’ve committed in the past and for forgiving me in advance for sins I will no doubt commit in the future. Help me accept Your gift of grace. Help me stop feeling guilty about the past and help me instead to get about the business of glorifying and serving You to the best of my ability both now and in the future.”
  • Ask God to show us where He is already actively working around us and reveal to us how we should alter our plans and join Him
  • Help us to be able to forgive someone who has sinned against us because we are having trouble forgiving them
  • Ask God to reveal what He wants us to learn from a difficult situation when He chooses not to make it go away. (see I Peter 1:6-8)
  • To change us so that we become the person our spouse needs us to be.
  • That we be able to rejoice in the difficult circumstances we face if is because God is “pruning” us to bear even more fruit for Him in the future. (see John 15:1-8)
  • That the Holy Spirit lead us so that we always glorify God in what we think, say, and do... and that our lives be a positive influence on all those around us.
  • Ask God to reveal His purpose for our life, how He wants to use us to serve His purpose, and for the Holy Spirit to lead us and equip us for those tasks.
  • Ask God to reveal to us His plan for our “outreach” to those outside the church who do not yet believe.
  • Ask God to reveal to us His plan for our “inreach” to serve our fellow believers
  • For help in accepting a “no” or “wait” answer from God to one of our prayers for His help
  • For strength to persevere in times of adversity when God chooses not to relieve us from difficult circumstances or consequences
  • That God use the Holy Spirit to prepare the heart of someone who does not believe in Jesus to be ready to hear God’s truth and accept Jesus
  • That God use us in some way to help someone who does not believe to come to know Jesus as their Savior
  • That God use us today in some way to plant a spiritual “seed” in someone’s life, water a seed someone else has already planted in their life, or otherwise care for any spiritual “plant” which may be growing in someone’s life.
  • For the words to say to or the actions to take towards someone that God puts in our path today
  • That today God would place someone in our path that we are to influence in some way for God’s glory.
  • The ability to discern whose heart the Holy Spirit has already prepared and that God would prepare us to be ready to help that person find Christ in their life, or at least help them get started.
  • How we should respond as a Christian when someone around us is involved in some sin such as adultery, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography, drugs, theft, dishonesty, etc.
  • Identify what we do now or have now that God would have us give up so that we might more time/energy/resources to serve Him better
  • Help us identify the right balance of our time/energy/resources across our jobs, marriage, children, church, service to others, personal enjoyment, and personal growth.
  • Unity among Christians in the face of dissention and disagreement in the Church
  • That God give us joy when we submit to and obey God
  • That God give us the ability to lovingly confront believers who are giving in to sin.
  • That God give us the ability to discern between His truth and false teachings
  • That God give us the ability to discern between godly spiritual leaders and false ones
  • That God help us to submit to the godly leaders God puts over us.
  • That we have a hunger to know more about God and be have a closer personal relationship with God

Copyright © 2005 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

With God at Our Desks - Faith in the Workplace

On October 31, 2004, the New York Times published an article entitled "Faith at Work" by Russell Shorto. The article not only takes a look at the faith at work movement, but highlights the ministry of one bank in Minnesota and all they do through their business. It is worth taking some time to look over, regardless of your point of view. This article will make you think! Click here to view the NY Times article

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

In Scorn of the Consequences

Christ came, not so much to preach the Gospel, as that there might be a Gospel to preach.

R. W. Dale

When you face the perils of weariness, carelessness, and confusion, don't pray for an easier life. Pray instead to be a stronger man or woman of God.

Luis Palau

The Gospels do not explain the Resurrection -- the Resurrection explains the Gospels.

John S. Whale

Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of you. O, Father, give to your child what he himself knows not how to ask. Teach me to pray. Pray yourself in me.

Fran├žois Fenelon

Faith is not belief in spite of evidence, but life in scorn of consequences -- a courageous trust in the great purpose of all things, and pressing forward to finish the work which is in sight, whatever the price may be.

Kirsopp Lake

Monday, February 06, 2006

U2's Bono on Old Testament Prophetic Scriptures

U2 Rock Star Bono recently spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb 2nd. See Bono Waxes 'Prophetic' on the Christianity Today website.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

God Uses Imperfect People

God can and often does use imperfect people to accomplish his purposes.

Look at the lineage of Jesus in Matthew 1:3. “Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar.” Read Genesis 38 about how Judah fathered Perez with his daughter-in-law Tamar. She dressed up as a prostitute to get pregnant when Judah had money to spend after selling the wool from his sheep. David committed adultery with Bathsheba. (II Samuel chapter 11) David had her husband Euriah put in the front lines of battle to make sure he got killed to cover his sin. Yet God chose to have Jesus come from the “house of David.” Note that in Matthew 1:6 “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife.” While the child David fathered while Uriah was alive died, the sinners David and Bathsheba are still in the lineage of Christ through their son Solomon!

There are other well-known examples.

Before becoming a great Christian evangelist spreading the word of Christ, the apostle Paul was called Saul and he traveled around trying to destroy Christianity (Acts 8).

Abrahm lied telling one king that his beautiful wife Sarai was his sister, because he didn’t trust God to protect him. He was afraid they would kill him to take Sarai for themselves. (Genesis 12:10-20) Later Abrahm was Abraham and he told yet another king the same lie about his wife Sarah, again not trusting God to protect him. (Genesis 20) He told the same lie twice and both time failed to trust in God’s protection!

Peter was able to walk on water until he took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the wind and waves instead. (Matthew 14:25-31) Peter also denied Christ three times.

Moses killed a man and you know how God used him. I hope you will let God use you too!

Another “imperfect person” thought. My church had a pastor who spent time as a missionary on Guam and had served successfully at several churches. Along the way, he helped many come to know Jesus. Also along the way, he also started getting emotional attachments to women in his congregation. At a minimum, he committed some kind of emotional adultery. He wound up getting asked to resign from my church in disgrace. I traded emails shortly later with a missionary our church was sponsoring. (This man was planning to enter a Muslim country where it was illegal to preach Christianity.) I mentioned this rather ugly preacher situation to him and he responded with an insightful statement. “Whatever God accomplished through Brother XXX is still valid. Those people are still saved!” We have no power on our own. God works through us. Even if we later screw up, it was still God working… and can work through us again.

You comments are welcome and encouraged!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Hurry and Doing the Thing We Ought to Do

“The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is, on the contrary, born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else – we are the busiest people in the world.”

Eric Hoffer