Daily Prompt: Continue – a sports Haiku

Daily Prompt: Continue- a sports Haiku
One season over

Completed succcessfully

All is new again

Christianity Is: The Greatest – Comeback – Story Ever Told

Christianity Is: The Greatest – Comeback – Story Ever Told

I’ve said before that believing the Gospel is like seeing a live sporting event – but with the feeling of watching a recording of a victory for your team. No matter how bad it gets – even late into the game – you just know it’s going to come out all right. Last night’s Super Bowl LI was exactly such a win for my team, the New England Patriots.

Late into the 3rd quarter, they were down by 25 points. That’s four improbable scores- and things had looked bad and getting worse all evening. (For you non-American Football fans, it’s like being down 4-nil at the 68th minute.)

467I’m known as a big Facebook game-time poster (sheepish emoji), but all I had put as my status so far (at 21-0) was, “Well, this is disappointing.” (Honestly, win or lose, I’d rather witness an exciting, well-played game, rather than a blowout. Long-time Patriots fans remember the team’s crushing first Super Bowl, 1986’s 44-10 loss, even if the rest of NFL fans do not.)

BUT, even when the score last night was 28-3, I felt an assurance that this game was not over. (Granted, I was very nervous and twitchy, but that could have been the coffee I drank just before kickoff. Either way, I was not going to bed early!) In sports history, there are some legendary years of dominance by particular teams: the NHL’s Canadiens; MLB’s Yankees; NBA’s Celtics and Lakers. The Patriots have been such a dynasty in the NFL now for 16 years. The players have the experience, faith, and confidence of this streak, as well as the successful coaching staff, behind them. Their simple motto is, “Do your job.” If any team in history could make this greatest comeback, it was this one.

And this is exactly how I feel in my faith in Jesus Christ as the redeemer of the world. (Well, most of the time – sheepish emoji.)

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.
John 16:33 NIV

Christianity as an organized religion does have some deserved black eyes, such as in the Middle Ages. Certainly, some very un-Christian things were done in the name of God, and these types of actions have contributed to criticism. Likewise these Patriots committed some unlikely blunders that led to the huge deficit.

I have commanded you, “Be strong and courageous! Don’t tremble or be terrified, because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9 GW

243I’ve also said before that true Christianity is based firmly in the individual relationship its believers hold with God, The Creator (as opposed to relying on the trappings and ritual showiness of ‘religion’). Consider that 1986 Patriots team. They’d made an unlikely run through the playoffs, with games of huge import (and payback). But without the calmness of having been on football’s biggest stage before, when things got tough early in the game, they couldn’t hold up under the pressure. That team’s faith could not be more different than that of this year’s team.

399Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
Revelation 14:12 ESV

If any verse could be translated as, “Do your job,” this one’s a great candidate.

The verse I thought of when I woke up at 3am after just three hours of sleep, however, was

We have this confidence as a sure and strong anchor for our lives.
Hebrews 6:19 GW

It’s earlier in the chapter that I can imagine the substance of a halftime speech from the coach:

014Then… you will imitate those who are receiving the promises through faith and patience. (:12)
God made a promise to Abraham… (:13)
So Abraham received what God promised because he waited patiently for it. (:15)
God wouldn’t change His plan. He wanted to make this perfectly clear to those who would receive His promise, so He took an oath. God did this so we would be encouraged… those of us who take refuge in Him hold on to this confidence we have been given. (:18-:19)

I know it’s a stretch to compare the fate of creation with a fickle game, but, when I consider the faith, belief, patience, calm, and continual effort to live day-by-day, play-by-play, I see nothing but similarities. And I am grateful!

The Golden State Of Hope

This morning I awoke to two notable things. The first was the headline on mIphone of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors record-setting 73rd regular season win. The other, in my morning devotional, were the lines from Tony Evans’ book, The Power of God’s Names (in Men of Integrity): “…He will provide a way for you to experience victory in your life,” and “…resurrections in their hopeless situations.” Such things are how God talks to us.

The rest of this blog post wrote itself, as if by God’s hands. So to speak. Some things are that easy. As easy as 73 wins (in hindsight, of course.)

I don’t follow basketball, really. (I grew up in Boston and the Celtics were always winning.) I prefer the agony of questionable success, aka football’s New England Patriots, whose history has much more closely matched my own. My own interpretation of victory, I suppose I should say. If I loosely divide my life into Before and After God’s Saving Grace, I was first a doormat, like the Pats; but after, I’ve experienced incredible victory – not in a purely worldly sense, but in becoming familiar with the peace that surpasses all things. Peace and contentment with what I have. Joy over the miracles I’ve experienced. Humble wisdom from the bitter lessons I’ve been taught. Winning via freedom from compulsive and uncontrolled behaviors, worry, rage, and doubt (to some extent – I think we all experience some doubt in some form, like the Warriors’ 9 losses).

The “Dig Deeper” verses in the devotional were Psalm 138 – one of the short and sweet ones. It’s only 8 verses, and includes my favorite sort: those telling how I win these days:

:1 Lord, I praise you with all my heart,
I sing songs of praise to you…
:2… I praise your name for your love and loyalty…
and doing what you promised…

Yup, praysing in song and written word, or in Sharing God’s Story in my life with others. If you’re in the Boston area, I’m always willing to visit and give testimony. That’s how I win.

:3 When I called to you for help,
you answered me and gave me strength.
:4 Lord, all the kings on earth will praise you
when they hear what you say.
:5 They will sing about what the Lord has done,
because the Glory of the Lord is very great.

From what I understand, the star on the Warrior’s team is God’s man. Overcoming for him may literally be in the final score. Sometimes, however, victory can be found in a very simple thing: to continue breathing, with all hope in things to come. Some, I know, will grumble that lack of complete defeat – struggling through life without any hint of worldly success – is not triumph. But everything is perceived by the eyes with which we see it.

:7 If I am in trouble, you keep me alive…
:8 … I know you will do what you have promised.
Lord, your faithful love will last forever.

Life itself is a victory. As the sports’ saying goes, “it ain’t over til…”