One of my favorite sports columnists is Rick Reilly, formerly of Sports Illustrated and now of ESPN. Here is one of his latest columns. It's a great story of a coach, a team, and a town who looked beyond themselves and the score to what was best for their opponents - an athletic model of Matthew 7 and Philippians 2.
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 7:12
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2:3-4
This post has been delayed a few days because of blogger problems ...
The celebration of Christmas is often attacked from folks on both ends of the cultural spectrum - from those on the religious right who feel that it is too "secularized" and distracts from the real message of Christianity and from those on the liberal left who feel that the religious trappings of the season are inappropriate in our pluralistic culture. Here is a very good column by Michael Medved on the issue.
Have a very merry Christmas - regardless of what the Scrooges among us say.
To add to your Christmas season, here are a couple of Christmas-related links:
Many folks claim that their favorite Christmas movie is "A Christmas Story." I don't necessarily share that sentiment, but here are "Twelve Things You Might Not Know About 'A Christmas Story.'"
And here is my daughter's (Stacy) favorite Christmas song.
I recently drove to Nashville, AR for the funeral of Ralph Posey. I came to know Ralph shortly after we moved to Arkansas in 1982 and he served on our Board of Directors for several years. Ralph was, to me, a great model of ministry and influence - especially in rural America. Through the years, Ralph preached in churches in Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Texas, and Wyoming. During many of those ministries, he also worked as a welder, truck driver, farmer, police officer, and more. In fact, the program at his funeral listed at least 20 other jobs he held while serving in churches. As I drove the four and a half hours home from his funeral, I thought a lot about that.
One of my frustrations with many who are entering "professional ministry" is that they are often more interested in a position than in a ministry. The ideal job is on staff at a large church where they can have a salary and benefits and a professional-development budget. They aren't necessarily looking for the place with the greatest need or greatest opportunity. They aren't interested in a ministry that might require sacrifice, raising support, or working a part-time job. As one who has raised support for over 26 years and often seeks to add staff or open new ministries, I run into this often.
Ralph Posey was called to the ministry, not to a position. If he served in a church that could provide his financial needs, that was great. But if it meant that he had to work as a welder in order to preach the gospel, that was great, too. Ministry was what he was called to, not a position. (That sounds a little bit like the Apostle Paul to me.) And the benefit was that working as a welder, logger, or police officer put him in contact with those who needed to see and hear the gospel most of all. An overflowing church of people gathered to celebrate his life was testimony to the effectiveness of God's work through him.
I don't mean to sound cynical. I just think that we all fall into the trap of wanting a Christianity and a ministry that is easy and convenient, of thinking that the call of God will always result in a position where every need is met. You don't have to read very far into the Bible to find that isn't true. I'm thankful for the thousands of unknown men and women like Ralph Posey, whose only desire to serve God wherever he calls them, regardless of the sacrifice and work that it might require.
Some other items of interest for you ...
Read about the researchers who have identified the bright star that appeared over Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. Are you ready to move Christmas to June?
Here is an article on some of the things that celebrities require in their contracts when they make appearances. All I want is a Diet Coke!
Finally, I love this story about US sprinter Shawn Crawford. Regardless of what Sports' Illustrated might say, he is my Sportsman of the Year.