Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Not the Sharpest Knife in the Drawer

Tim Tebow is taking hits again. This time, it’s in the area of his intellectual capacity. As part of his processing during the NFL Rookie evaluation gauntlet, Tebow, like all NFL prospects, was required to take a “mini SAT” of sorts called the Wonderlic Test. Wikipedia defines the test as, “twelve-minute, fifty-question test used to assess the aptitude of prospective employees for learning and problem-solving”. The object of the test is to get as many correct answers as possible within the time allotted, with one point given for each correct answer. The average score for professional football players is 20 and indicates average intelligence. Only one player in NFL history has scored a perfect 50 with the 2nd highest score being 48 and both of them were Harvard graduates. Tebow scored a 22, just above average, but many media outlets have heralded the score as an indication that he is at least one brick shy of a load. In case you’re wondering, some other NFL quarterback Wonderlic scores are: Dan Marino – 15, Vince Young – 15, Donovan McNabb – 14 Tom Brady – 33, Eli Manning – 39, and Brett Farve – 22. Had it not been for a willingness to do a quick search on the nature and parameters of the test, I might have been reduced to thinking that Tim Tebow was a great guy, possessing a great arm, a strong back and yet a very weak mind. Even a little research clearly shows that this is not the case. Tebow is a fine young man of normal intelligence and extraordinary character gifted with tremendous physical ability. My new perspective made me consider how it must feel being characterized as “dumber than the average bear”? It is actually an experience with which I can somewhat relate.

In my college days, I had my share of less than stellar academic moments where my greatest efforts to “Dazzle ‘em with brilliance” resulted in lack-luster performances that left others baffled with my dullness. In those moments I always had to make a decision; Would I see myself as a stunt double for the stars of “Dumb and Dumber” or would I use other measures to evaluate what I had to offer the world? I imagine Tim Tebow could be asking himself the same question and that he might derive his answer from the same source from which I derived mine – The Bible. The book of Colossians has comprehensive instruction regarding how we are to use the gifts, abilities and talents we possess:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving (Colossians 3:23-24).

One of my seminary professors warned of the dangers of seeking the applause of people and living in fear of failure in pursuing our calling. He wisely shared that, “People tend to be fickle and their view of what you do and how well you do it may or may not be based in reality. If you have done your best before the Lord – your absolute best with all your heart according to your abilities - it may not meet the standards or approval of people, but for God, your best is good enough. Remember, you will ultimately be evaluated by Him.”

Let me be clear that I am not championing mediocrity or sub-standard performance. I’m simply acknowledging that there are times when our best efforts fall short of our desired goals. When that happens, we cannot allow our failures to become defined by others who are observing us or allow their dim view of our poor performance to limit us in our overall ability to overcome our disappointments and to contribute meaningfully to whatever the Lord has called us to do. In Philippians 3, the Apostle Paul challenges us in this way:
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but in the Lord’s hands, at my best, I’m sharp enough to be of use to Him anywhere and anyhow He desires to use me – and so is Tim Tebow and so are you! Until Next Time…


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Earthquakes, Blizzards and Other Disasters – Is This The End and What Should We Do?

I am blessed to be a part of a pastor’s fellowship that meets monthly in a simple and laid back format to share a devotional word, pray and offer encouragement for one another as vocational Christian servants. This morning, we discussed some of the amazing weather-related events that have taken place so far this year and the implications for Christians around the world.

Consider this: In the first quarter of 2010, natural disasters and anomalies have given the media plenty to report and everyday people plenty to talk about. In the last month alone, we’ve seen back to back mega blizzards and back to back earthquakes that have shattered the record books and more significantly shattered countless lives. Whenever people experience the extreme forces of nature at work at such a magnitude, questions arise and issues of eternal and cosmic consequence become part of the daily discussion. Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 come readily to mind:

“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

The looming of the year 2012 and the Mayan Calendar’s purported prediction of that year as The End of All Things begins to cause disquiet in many hearts and stirs up thoughts of “Doomsday” and “The Apocalypse”. The Mayan Calendar not withstanding, there is no doubt that the Bible does indicate that “The End Times” will be characterized by a level of human upheaval unmatched in all of history. Great gains will be accompanied by great pains and there will be no easy solutions or relief from the trouble of those days. These observations bring a very important question to mind, “Are we in the end times?”

Many generations of humans have read the troubles of their times as indications of the immanence of the end of all things. Since the establishment of the New Testament Church, Christians have watched for Jesus’ return at any moment, measuring the experiences of their times against Jesus’ signs and warnings. As I read about the number of cataclysms we are experiencing around the world and the increasing intensity – much like “birthpangs” – the term that Jesus used to describe the troubled times of the end, I consider it a possibility that we could be in the end times. I temper those considerations with awareness that none of us are privileged to have God’s “Cosmic Calendar” on our wall and that as bad as things are, there is still far to go to completely match the level of devastation outlined throughout the Scriptures. Jesus’ complete phrase, “…the beginning of birth pangs” seems most appropriate. This would mean that though “The End” may not be in full swing, the clock is certainly ticking.

In the pastors’ fellowship I mentioned earlier, my friend Jon Nelson shared a well-known passage from 2nd Peter that describes the horrendous world-wide trauma that will be part and parcel of the end, but focuses not so much on the horror as it does the Christian response to the horror. Peter asks simply that as Christians understand the gravity and horror of human suffering that places every person in the shadow of a date with eternity, “What kind of people ought [we] to be?” “How, then, should we live?” With all the cataclysms Peter mentions he does not call Christians to stockpile weapons, food, clothing or to make sure they vote for certain candidates. He does give this specific admonition:

You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Peter is calling Christians to not lose sight of their basic and unwavering goals of holy and godly living, being on guard not to be derailed by enticing distractions, erroneous teachings, or temporary and destructive pleasures. Instead we must grow in grace and grow in our knowledge of the Lord. Practically, this means that as we see others suffering in these most troubled times, we must make it our business to work to minister to their physical pain and, as we comfort them, introduce them to the Lord and His Great News of life-saving salvation and hope. We must also oppose false teaching that uses hard times to manipulate, distort and abuse the pure teaching of God leading to the physical and spiritual destruction of those left vulnerable in their suffering. We must also see the difficult days as opportunities to grow in gracious living and to seek to grow more in knowing Jesus and allowing our knowledge of Him to transform us to be more like Him day by day.

Are we in the end times? Perhaps. Whatever your view on the timing of “The End”, consider this: whenever a person dies, that individual faces “the end of the world” for them in that moment! Daily untold numbers of people face their own personal “consummation of all things.” Therefore, regardless of whether we are in the “Macro” end times of history or the “Micro” end times of individuals, the mission we have been given does not change – To be witnesses for the Lord Jesus here, there and everywhere, letting our light shine before everyone so that they will see the good we do and glorify our Heavenly Father. The end is near for someone, let’s be about our Lord’s Business until He comes again or until He comes for us. Until next time…