When Covid shook our world, sports fans and athletes were left wondering what would happen to attending sporting events. Major League soccer, baseball, and basketball all announced that they weren’t going to allow fans. LeBron James stated that, ‘We play games without the fans? No, it’s impossible,’ he said. ‘I ain’t playing. If I ain’t got the fans in the crowd…That’s what it’s all about. If I show up to an arena and there are no fans in there, I ain’t playing. They can do what they want to do.’ Link to full article
The NBA attempted to create fan sounds over the speaker system, and even showed video of fans watching as if they were in the arena seats, but it just wasn’t the same. Why was LeBron so adamant about not playing? Because he understood the need for fans. We’re not talking about desiring an opportunity to be a people pleaser. This is about the fact that we all desire / long to know that someone is cheering us through the good and bad times. Game time is special. Without the noise of the fans leaves an athlete incomplete. During these challenging times each of us needs to know that someone is cheering us on in our walk with the Lord. The apostle Paul in Galatians 6:9 (NIV) encourages us by saying, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” In John 17:20-23, Jesus prays for all believers, 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Faithful men then and now are praying for you…cheering for you. Most importantly, Jesus is praying for you…He too is cheering you on. The cheering and prayers go a long way for each of us. Who else do you feel cheering for you? Who are you cheering for...do they hear it? Let me encourage you to look for ways to be a fan / cheerleader / blessing to someone today.
Out in the highways and byways of life
Out in the highways and byways of life,
Many are weary and sad;
Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife,
Making the sorrowing glad.
Make me a blessing, make me a blessing,
Out of my life may Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, O Savior, I pray,
Make me a blessing to someone today.
Tell the sweet story of Christ and His love,
Tell of His pow’r to forgive;
Others will trust Him if only you prove
True, every moment you live.
Give as ’twas given to you in your need,
Love as the Master loved you;
Be to the helpless a helper indeed,
Unto your mission be true.
Link to Hymn
Message I preached at my Dad’s funeral on 10-20-20…
My dad would have wanted each of you to hear this voice of truth at this time.
In John 3:16 (NKJV) we read the promise that, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” In just a little different version it reads…John 3:16 (NIV) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Another word, or phrase, for everlasting life is eternal security. God in His faithfulness promises that those who place their faith and trust in Him alone will have everlasting life / eternal security. I have no doubt that my dad is fully experiencing this truth at this very moment…for all eternity. Throughout my dad’s life he struggled with insecurities…with fears and self-doubts. His challenge for us would be, that in light of eternity those insecurities were a waste of time. They were a hindrance to everything else he put his efforts towards. That if he could go back and do it over again he’d have his focus more so on the richness and benefits of eternal security, rather than on his temporary insecurities. But it’s not just my dad. Each of us struggles in this area. You’ll notice in life that the prettiest never feel pretty enough. The successful never feel successful enough. The wealthiest never feel wealthy enough. The skinny never feel skinny enough. The athletic never feel athletic enough. The smartest never feel smart enough. And the list could go on and on. If not in check…if not careful, then it can become a habit, a way of life, to allow those insecurities to become our security, and our everlasting life / eternal security become a distant thought. Oh, how my dad right now would desire for each of us discontinue thinking on the temporary / distracting insecurities. Stop making them an idol our lives.
Another phrase in John 3:16 is only begotten son, or one and only son. See, in our family I was that one and only son. What brings me joy is knowing that for periods of time throughout my dad’s life I allowed him to be freed from dwelling on his insecurities. Times when he’d come to my ball games and cheer for me as loud as he could…his voice, clapping and cheering stood out above all others. These moments allowed him to temporarily eliminate thinking on his insecurities. These moments brought him joy as he was able to watch, cheer on, and pour confidence into his one and only son. That confidence he shared wasn’t just in the arena of athletics, but in my spiritual journey as well. My dad was the one who led me to the Lord. He was the one who mentored me. He was my role model and example of what it looked like to be on fire for the Lord. He gave me that confidence in sports, business, family life, and most importantly in ministry. His desires became mine. His passions are now mine as well.
Undoubtedly my dad is fully experiencing not just God’s faithfulness, but how truly great God’s faithfulness really is. How fitting it was that his favorite hymn was Great is Thy Faithfulness. God’s promises never fail. If He promises everlasting / eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Him, then everlasting life / eternal security it is. And now he’s in His Savior’s presence forevermore…and one day his one and only son will join him in eternal celebration.
So what insecurities, fears, self-doubts are holding you back from being all that God’s designed you to be? What’s holding you back from placing your faith and trust in the God of all confidence? What’s holding you back from experiencing eternity and security in Him alone? What in your life has become your idol other than God Himself? God is a jealous God, He wants all of you. He wants you to cast your insecurities at His feet because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 reminds us to Cast, or “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (NLT). He genuinely cares, and He keeps His promises.
Will you act on any of those previously mentioned questions today? Remember, we’re not promised tomorrow, but those who have placed their wholehearted faith and trust in Him shall not fear tomorrow.
At the completion of my challenge…my oldest sister led us in singing together the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness.
Additional passages that also influenced the challenge I brought to those in attendance…
Insecurities (the lies we give ear to) in comparison to Eternal Security (truths from a faithful God)…
Hymn: Video with Lyrics to Great is Thy Faithfulness by Chris Rice
Song: Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns
Please let me know if you accepted Christ as your personal Lord and Savior / placed your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus today…would love to celebrate with you.
Last month I posted a blog entitled What is your Red Sea? Today's posting is a similar message. I know I've also posted a portion of this song before as well, but really take some time to consider and pray over these lyrics from it.
What walls have you been marching around, and what's been your response when you haven't seen them fall in your timing? Keep marching, praying, and trusting the Lord...He'll never fail you. Hope the passage and lyrics below bring you great comfort and joy today.
Passage about the Destruction of Jericho
Do It Again by Elevation Worship
Walking around these walls
I thought by now they'd fall
But You have never failed me yet
Waiting for change to come
Knowing the battle's won
For You have never failed me yet
Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I'm still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You've never failed me yet
We had a great turnout once again last Saturday. We had 20 in attendance with three new visitors. Matt did a great job communicating to us how God’s worked on his heart and life throughout the years. Below are Matt's notes from Ox Strong on 10-10-20 that I jotted down as he spoke. Hope you enjoy!
Matt’s challenge can be viewed and listened to at this site https://www.oxstrongmen.org/men.html it is a little quiet at the beginning, but it does get louder further into it.
Theme: Be Strong and Courageous (Joshua 1:9) in the Lord, or A Slave to Fear.
Matt's upbringing...He grew up in Knoxville, IA. He grew up as a Lutheran, and discovered later on that he was missing out on what Church can really be...such as a place of celebration, and a Christian lifestyle / way of worship that is reactive rather than proactive. Matt had a PE teacher who planted a seed within him...a seed for the love of education.
Matt’s College Life...He left Knoxville after High School to attend Graceland University in Iowa. He was a student athlete...participated on the Golf Team. He found it difficult to balance both. His girlfriend, now wife, Lauren attended a different college. She held him accountable with his grades. She wouldn't allow him to come see her until his school work was done and caught up. He is grateful for her confidence in him and for her keeping him focused during his time at Graceland. He later returned to further his education at Buena Vista and then at Drake University (Educational Leadership).
Matt...the family man. He and Lauren, who he considers his better half, did get married and they have two boys (ages 4 and 6). Matt wants to create as many memories with his boys as possible. They bought a camper so they could do a lot of camping. Matt never played soccer before, but he's gone out of his way to learn the game so he can coach his boys.
Matt...the working man. He began as a banker at Wells Fargo. He was in a small group with some school teachers, and began second guessing his career decision. His heart was feeling a tug to become a teacher, and finally made the step to do so...becoming a business teacher at North Mahaska High School for nine years. During his time at NMHS he also took on the role as an Instructional Coach...this involved working with teachers more than working with students. God was building his confidence to get him to where he's at today. His son began attending CICS last fall, and during this time Matt was contemplating what the next steps would be for him and his family. Last year CICS began the search for its first ever on-site Administrator. His son wanted him to apply for the job. Matt was battling getting over the thoughts of job security, and whether or not he was capable for the position. Matt began praying about it, and then followed through with the application process. He received an interview and God provided him with the opportunity to receive the position...he accepted. God gave him the confidence he needed throughout that process and Matt was reassured that this was the right job/fit for him.
Internal Struggles...Matt has been a slave to fear for much of his life. He's had self-doubt since his time at Graceland as well. He wanted to pursue a business degree...he admired administration, but would find himself talking himself out of it from time to time. He wanted to become the principal at CICS, but was unsure about how to handle the long hours and the dealing with parents.
Matt...the Principal at CICS (Central Iowa Christian School). This was God’s doing and not Matt’s. Matt wasn't sure he was qualified for the position, but what brought him joy is knowing that his son wanted him to pursue this opportunity, and that God made it clear to him that this is where he needed to be.
Covid. It was difficult to implement physical distancing in an already small building.
Then in early August the derecho came and destroyed the school house. Scott Surovec and GCC wrapped their arms around them…CICS was able to move into their facility temporarily until the end of January 2021. The school start date got pushed back, which made for challenges for the students to be away from their friends for so long. Once school started back up, they were able to hold chapel inside the sanctuary, and they had access to the sound system for music, which was a huge blessing. They are down eight students in comparison to last school year. Fund raising has been difficult due to Covid. Creative ways in which to fund raise is still in the works. Lastly, the school board terms are up this Spring…replacing solid leadership will be challenging.
Unexpected blessings along the way…being his son’s principal. Seeing him and his son becoming more confident in certain areas of their lives. Getting the opportunity to ride bikes with his son on the way to and from school.
Concerning Fear… Fear can be healthy (for instance…don’t touch the burning stove with your bare hand), but it too can be paralyzing. Fear at times makes it so that you can't even function in whatever task is you're facing. It can negatively affect our obedience to Christ. If He says go, teach, etc, then it can be that fear that’s keeping us from being faithful and obedient to Him. In fear, God provides a peace of mind…He’ll remove the blinders of fear and show us what the right thing is to do…get out of the boat and walk on the water. Remember 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV), which states that, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” A paralyzed mind is a tough rut to get out of. Unhealthy fear is not from God. Fear is a practiced habit. If I’m fearful in one thing, then I’m most likely fearful in other aspects of my life. Some continued fears that Matt is dealing with…is knowing how to empathize with others to show his sincere love and concern. Being sensitive towards others fears and worries…what might not seem as important to him is very important to them. Continued self-doubt…he’s a people pleaser so he believes others will question his heart and intentions. Wondering if others will think he’s consistent is his dealings with each situation that arises. Sensing that others are observing how he handles each scenario. He doesn’t want to get sucked into the comparing game. He understands that he lives in a glass house right now, so his mind will at times want him to go down the path of questioning if he’s really fit for the job. Wondering if he’s knowledgeable enough for the position God currently has him in. Dealing with conflict correctly. Knowing that someone will be upset with a decision that he made, and then hoping that he’ll be bold enough to hold his ground. Knowing how to deal with families who are threatening to pull their child out of the school. These are real fears and concerns, but praying that God will help him navigate through each one His way. May he pass the test early and often.
Group discussion…How we respond to fear is caught by others. If we pass the test, then we provide others to share in that peace during their times of trouble as well…being an overcomer is vital for others to observe, it gives them hope that they too can make it through. Knowing that you might have helped someone else minimize their own fears is rewarding. Matt is seeing that firsthand even in the life of his own son…he too is overcoming some of his fears and becoming more and more social. We discussed paralysis by analysis / getting stuck…succumbing to fear, and where that leads to. Be humble enough to share with others how you’ve handled failure/non-successes in life…humbly displaying your humanness, and admitting when you’re wrong. We all agreed that when others aren’t pleased with us that it helps when we respond with the Word. We shouldn’t allow our emotions to dominate us.
We were encouraged by Matt’s personality…tenderhearted, kind spirited, and passionate about assisting others in the spiritual growth. Each were evident in his challenge to us.
What can we as an Ox Strong / Church Strong community do to help?
Be Strong in the Lord
Fear is a Liar
Sunday is right around the corner. Many of you will most likely be attending a worship service by either live-stream or in person. Let me encourage you with the following words as you enter your time of worship…I’m not saying to set discernment aside, but sometimes we replace the word judgment with discernment so we don’t seem so legalistic to ourselves or others. Anyway, let’s not allow any distractions (getting concerned about how others look, talk, sing…stop the comparison contest). Resist trying to find anything and or everything wrong with the service, with the pastor, with the worship leader, etc. Some people live to just nitpick the church and then report to others their findings…that’s not a building up mentality, rather, that’s a miserable tearing down / state of mind to live in. Be content with and focus on this…what is the Holy Spirit attempting to speak to me about today? What I always tell others, even as a coach or athlete…take the good and leave the bad. Look for something good. Mull over it. Ask the Holy Spirit how you can begin applying it to your life. Take action once that’s revealed to you. And then look forward to worshiping in God’s house once again the following Sunday, etc. Hope this helps make your worship service a little more enjoyable for you and your family this weekend and in the months to come.
Practicing His Presence,
Song: Revolutionary by Josh Wilson
Nate Smith is a college baseball and football coach, a husband, a father of 6 girls, grandpa to 3 granddaughters, a police chaplain, a pastor, and has a passion to see men grow in Christ.
#girldad including granddaughter