Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tony Dungy on Character

I especially liked this section from Coach Dungy's The Mentor Leader (pages 69-71):

"Coach (Cal) Stoll was the first person I can recall who made the connection between the quality of our character and our success on the football field. He was talking about success in life as well, but what was new to me was the emphasis on character and success in the short-term, on the field. Once I learned that lesson, making the connection to success in life was easy...

"Much of what we hear today about football players and good character has more to do with their not embarrassing themselves or their school or team than it does anything else...

"Coach Stoll made the point that how we did things affected our results. He further believed that the kind of people we had on our team would affect our ability to get the results we wanted, and that the people we were around would have an impact on us. To follow his thinking, then, the kind of people we spent time with affected our character, and our character affected our performance on the field.

"I had never looked at it that way before. I never thought that my personal life, or that of my teammates, would have any impact on whether we won or lost games. In my mind, winning games was simply a matter of talent and teamwork. So whenever I played pickup basketball on the playground, where the rule was win or sit out--and of course I wanted to win and keep playing--I didn't give any thought to character, just to who could help me win. Or so I thought.

"After hearing Coach Stoll, however, I began to think about the decisions I had made over the years and the types of guys I always picked. It hit me that I hadn't necessarily picked the most talented players to be on my team. Some of those guys never passed or didn't play defense. Rather, the guys I picked were the ones who had a burning desire to win and who would do the kinds of things--such as rebounding, defending, or passing to the open man--that would put their team in a position to win. If it meant they didn't score at all in the game, fine. If it meant they scored every point, that was fine too. I realized that, without even thinking about it, I gravitated toward the guys who had character. I began to see that the people I wanted to associate with were people of character both on and off the court or field.

"Coach Stoll made it clear that the guys who went to class, who treated other people with respect, and who were responsible in the little things on and off the field were ultimately the ones who gave us a better chance to win...

"Ultimately, Coach Stoll showed us that players who weren't reliable off the field would eventually demonstrate those same shortcomings in the heat of battle. If they weren't responsible in other settings, we wouldn't be able to count on them at crunch time. And he was right...

"Surprisingly for some, research conducted by the Leadership Research Institute had shown that in times of crisis, people gravitate toward the person of highest character, not necessarily the person who is 'in charge' or even the person they believe to be the most competent. Rather, people will tend to build a relationship with and follow the person they view as the most trustworthy, who cares the most, and who is willing to always do the right thing.

"In a crisis, people crave character. But there's no reason to wait for a crisis. You can continue to cultivate your character along the way, and it will contribute to your team's performance long before a crisis ever comes. Character is the glue that bonds solid and meaningful relationships."

Whenever I think about good character, I think of honesty. While it's a key ingredient of character, it's not the only element. Tony Dungy has correctly pointed out some of the relational elements of good character (such as caring about others and being reliable).

Coach Dungy's books are available at all major bookstores and amazon.com. I always buy one when it's published. You can find a link to his blog on my blog roll at the right side of my blog. You will find some wise advice and encouragement posted frequently.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Terry, Janet, and Christopher

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why Do You Want Me to be Surrounded by Poor People?

As we were preparing to go to our regular Tuesday evening prayer meeting tonight, our son Christopher asked me, "Why do you want me to be surrounded by poor people?"

In some ways, it struck me as an odd question. When did he discover that most of the people in our congregation were poor? He has been attending the Contact Church all of his life, but only recently has he mentioned the poverty of our members. How does he understand poverty? Has he noticed the condition of the apartment complexes that we visit? Does he remember the homeless man that we used to pick up and bring to church with us when he was younger? Have his friends at church mentioned the violence that they have witnessed and experienced? Has he noticed the prayer requests dealing with drug abuse, gang violence, and suicidal thoughts? Does he feel inferior to his friends at school because he worships with an urban ministry? Does he feel superior to his friends at church because he lives more of a middle class lifestyle?

I plan on exploring those questions with my son over the next few days, but I thought it would be good to answer his question about why we are raising our son in an urban ministry.

First, Janet and I want Christopher to be exposed to modern heroes of the faith. Many members of the Contact Church (including many poor members) are true heroes. They run to help people whom others would rather avoid. They are willing to cross the yellow tape of a crime scene in order to take the good news to people who need it. They will deal patiently with the struggling drunk or drug addict. They will comfort the victim of childhood sexual abuse. They will counsel a struggling couple to remain committed to each other. They will keep showing up for the woman with emotional problems. They will provide the food, clothing, and furniture needed by someone who is struggling financially. They will tell the hard truths of the gospel in a gracious manner to someone who would rather not hear them. They will encourage others to do good while quickly forgiving them for doing wrong. They do not give up. We want our son to see such men and women in action. We want him to admire their good qualities and to try to emulate them.

Second, we want our son to be exposed to the ugly side of sin. If he learns about alcohol, drugs, and sex outside of marriage from the media alone, he may never see the consequences of living outside of God's standards until it is too late. In urban ministry, he can see the consequences all the time. He can see how difficult it can be to be controlled by alcohol or drugs. He can hear the prayers of the men and women who cry out in despair. He can see some of the problems faced by our members who have not adhered to biblical sexual ethics, from emotional problems to single parenthood to incurable and deadly diseases. While he will see God's love and forgiveness extended, he will see how sin can take its toll on men and women even after they have been forgiven. We want our son to learn to see beyond the temptations of sin to see the consequences of sin.

I understand that risks are involved in our strategy. We could fail. But we could fail by avoiding the poor also.

I pray that we succeed. I want nothing more than to see my son become a genuine follower of Christ. I want to be able to echo the words of the apostle John someday: "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth" (3 John 4).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Why Should I Pray "Lead Us Not Into Temptation"?

"And lead us not into temptation" (Luke 11:4).

When I pray for God to lead me not into temptation, I am reminded of my potential for failure. Based on past experiences, I'm aware that I can place myself in situations in which I am likely to be proud, to boast, to lie, to lust, to slander, to mistreat others, and to commit other sins that dishonor my Savior. I can hurt the people I should be loving. I can harm myself.

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death" (Proverbs 16:25).

I need to pray for the Lord to lead me not into temptation, because I can destroy myself by going my own way. I am prone to find the destructive temptations around me.

I need to humble myself and seek the leading of the Lord. Then I can avoid temptations and honor my God.

"He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake...Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever" (Psalm 23:3, 6).

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Why Do God's People Turn to Idols?

Throughout history, the people of God have abandoned the Lord for idols. But why? Why would people who have experienced the grace of God turn to idols?

Part of the answer can be seen in the response of the rebellious men of Judah to the prophet Jeremiah's warning to them. They told him, "As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you. But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster. But since we left off making offerings to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine" (Jeremiah 44:16-18).

The ancient Jewish people refused to turn from idolatry back to the Lord, because at some point in their history, they had experienced comfort and prosperity in their idolatry. They had noticed the apparent success of their pagan neighbors. When times had become tough, they had decided to imitate their successful pagan neighbors. After all, if idolatry had worked for their neighbors, why would it not work for them?

Pragmatism, unbelief, greed, and envy combined to lead God's people away from their Savior. Unfortunately, it did not end well for them.

Since modern Christians often face a similar combination of temptations, we remain vulnerable to falling into idolatry, too.

In order to fight it successfully, we must be diligent in checking our motives, always remembering the apostle Paul's warning that "covetousness...is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5). If we can avoid envy, greed, and doubt in God, we can protect ourselves against the temptations of idolatry.

"Little children, keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday, December 03, 2010

A Quiet Life of Courage and Faith

In 1962, for the first time in American history, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against prayer in public schools in the Engel v. Vitale case.

However, I had no knowledge of the prohibition against prayer in public schools when I entered first grade at Catoosa (Oklahoma) Elementary School in 1973. Each day, my teacher opened the school day with a prayer. She would ask a student to lead the prayer. If one declined, she would ask the next student in line until one wanted to say a prayer.

My first grade teacher wanted her students to have the opportunity to seek God each morning. Without fanfare, she defied the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings because she had always allowed her students to pray, and it was a matter of conviction with her. She wanted her students to have a chance to know the Lord. More than 10 years after it became illegal, my teacher continued to allow her students to seek God in a public school classroom.

At the time, I did not know enough to appreciate what she was doing. I did not know that she was engaging in civil disobedience. But I knew that she was a woman of faith and conviction. She may not have been an activist, but she was active and courageous in living out her faith in Christ.

She was a "Daniel" in government service who continued the habit of prayer after it had been forbidden by the highest authority in the land. She was my teacher. She was my role model. And, most importantly, she was my grandmother.

Thank you, Granny Laudett. You have been gone for a decade now, but I still appreciate your life of quiet courage and faith. In my own way and in my own circumstances, I want to follow your example.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Project Hopeful for HIV Adoptions

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (James 1:27).

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Day Rosa Parks Changed the Nation

Fifty-five years ago today, Rosa Parks resisted injustice and sparked a movement that changed the United States of America. Justin Taylor recounts her story in the link below.

55 Years Ago Today: Rosa Parks Refuses to Move and Sparks a Movement