“Working the Land”

“Working the Land”

Working the Land

“Why did Adam have to go and eat that apple?”

Have you ever planted a garden? Please notice I didn’t ask if you had ever done any gardening, because you may think planting a few cute flowers around your tree in the front yard is gardening. No, I’m talking about tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beans, etc. Back in the day, I would help my grandfather with his garden each summer. It was hard work!

I thought my days of working the land were over. Then a few years ago, my wife decided it was time to get back in the game. In what can only be explained as selective memory, I eagerly agreed. It was the same kind of selective memory a mother has about the pain of childbirth. At the time she swears this is her last child, but then a strange metamorphosis of the brain occurs and she begins wanting to go through that whole ordeal again. What could she be thinking? And what was I thinking to agree to grow a garden?!

What does God’s Word say?:

Then God said to the man, “You listened to what your wife said, and you ate fruit from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat. “So I will put a curse on the ground,
and you will have to work very hard for your food. In pain you will eat its food all the days of your life. Genesis 3:17

So, as I was breaking up the dirt around the plants, picking out buckets of rocks, fertilizing, watering and well, you get the picture, I couldn’t help but wonder why in the world Adam had to eat that stinking fruit and now here I am dealing with “cursed ground” and working very hard for my food! Then it hit me, what Adam did I do everyday.

Adam chose to listen to his flesh instead of his Father, been there done that! He chose to please those around him instead of the One who made him, guilty! He decided to play God with his life instead of surrendering his life to God, convicted as charged!

Here is my point, never let your wife talk you into anything! Just kidding. Actually, just as Adam had a choice to make that day, you have a choice to make today. Are you going to stay true to God? Are you going to listen to the world, or the One who made the world?
Just a thought!

Credit: Lance Brown with WHOYOUWITH ministries, a Sports Chaplain at Vanderbilt University
Submitted by Ken Cross.


“My Way, Right Away”

“He who wants milk should not sit on a stool in the middle of the pasture expecting the cow to back up to him.” –Unknown

Aren’t we spoiled? We want it our way, right away. If we have to wait more than 3 minutes in a drive-thru we get upset and don’t hesitate to let that teenager with the earpiece-microphone know that they better shape up or else! We go nuts when we get in the wrong line at the store and they turn on the dreaded blinking light and announce they need a price check for half-a-dozen items!

Everywhere we go and everything we do is catered to be as fast and convenient as possible and yet we still complain. Yes, we are spoiled.

Not only are we impatient with those around us, but we also respond to Christ the same way. We treat prayer like a fast food order and we get frustrated when things aren’t done on our time table or we don’t get what we asked for!

We begin to think that because we are pretty good and we try to do the right things that God owes us something. Think again! We owe Him. We owe Him our obedience and trust.

What does God’s Word say?:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.
Romans 12:1

How can I express my love for Christ? Obedience. How can I worship Christ? Live it out everyday. Trust Him and obey Him. God owes us nothing, but has given us everything. I deserve nothing, but through Christ I’m an heir to everything! It is something I say a lot to the college athletes, “since He died for us, the least we can do is live for Him?”
Just a thought!

Credit: Lance Brown with WHOYOUWITH ministries, a Sports Chaplain at Vanderbilt University
Submitted by Ken Cross.


“Pass Me Some Oil”

“To keep a lamp burning we have to keep putting oil in it.”
-George MacDonald

Have you ever tried to see how far you can continue to drive after the low fuel light comes on in your car? If you are not careful this can become an odd game that brings a strange rush of adrenaline. Stop and think for a moment (as you pass perfectly good Mapco’s) is my heart beating a little faster and my palms sweating because I’m about to jump out of a plane? No, I have these feelings because I’m choosing to see if I can actually run out of gas!

Ok, maybe you haven’t done this and you think it is bizarre that anyone would even consider doing something like this. I totally agree. I didn’t say I haven’t ever done this. I just said I agree it is bizarre!

What does God’s Word say?:

Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command-be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:7-9

I wonder how many of us have treated our walk with Christ like we do fueling our car. We just drive until the low fuel light comes on and then we may even drive some more and at the very last second we coast into either church, time of prayer, reading our Bible, etc.

We are on fumes spiritually and have nothing left, yet we don’t take the time to refuel. Why? Pick your reason, “Can’t today, but definitely tomorrow. Too busy. I get bored reading my Bible. I don’t get anything out of church.” Not sure if any of those sound familiar, but they have all worked for me at some point in my journey.

How can we expect to stay on the road while we are driving on fumes? Get some gas. No, that doesn’t mean eat a chili dog! I mean each day we need to be refueling at the feet of Christ by spending time in prayer, reading His Word and enjoying the fellowship of others who are pursuing Him!
Just a thought!

Credit: Lance Brown with WHOYOUWITH ministries, a Sports Chaplain at Vanderbilt University
Submitted by Ken Cross.


Be Useful: 9/9/15


Be Useful! : 9/9/15

Have you ever used the phrase or had somebody say to you, “Make yourself useful!” Usually it happens when there is work to be done and there are people just standing around…like in the pits at a boat race. That phrase summarizes the way most men view life. If it is not useful in their world they just do not engage.

For years I have encouraged men to read books I believe will help them spiritually. A wife finally told me, “Don’t send my husband any more books to read because he will NOT read them!” That same guy will pick up a manual or a specialty magazine that deals with his hobbies and read it from cover to cover…because it is useful…in his world.

The Bible describes itself as “useful.” This is one “manual” that needs to be a priority in life. Yes, for many it is hard to get into the Bible. But it is worthy of your attention because it is “useful” and God inspired it for you.

God wants to graciously integrate principles for life found in the Bible into your life as you step out in faith and expose yourself to those principles.

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful…so the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” II Timothy 3:16-17

Father, thank you for being such a practical God and for providing a useful manual to help make life work. Amen.

Credit: Jan Vidal – Legacy Ministry International, LLC
Submitted by Ken Cross.

“I am vs. I do”

“A man is rich according to what he is, not according to what he has.” –Unknown

Who are you? Here are the answers many give to this question: boss, coach, student, athlete, parent, son, daughter, friend, etc. We are a lot of things to a lot of people. But who are we before God?

The world determines wealth by what we do and what we have in a bank somewhere (or what we use to have in a bank somewhere)! But from God’s perspective, what makes you rich? What you do, or who you are?

Do you think there is any kind of worldly success that would impress God? It is hard to impress a deity who hangs out in a place where they use gold as pavement. So why would anything we do leave Him in awe of us. No, God measures success by a different tape measure than the world we live in. He measures a person’s heart! How we treat others, how we serve others, our desire to live obedient to God’s Word, these are the currencies of choice for the Lord.

What does His Word say?:

Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked.
Psalm 37:16

Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.
Proverbs 11:4

Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf. Proverbs 11:28

Don’t get me wrong; I think the Lord wants us to be as successful as we can be, but never at the sacrifice of our obedience and relationship to Him. This is not about being successful, or having wealth, it is all about the condition of your heart, the condition of my heart. When it is all said and done, God won’t look at earthly success, He will look to your spiritual condition. Did you love Him, serve Him, and glorify Him?

Just a thought!

Credit: Lance Brown with WHOYOUWITH ministries, a Sports Chaplain at Vanderbilt University
Submitted by Ken Cross.


Orange Pops: 8/19/15


“Orange Pops!” 8/19/15

Fans of racing, NASCAR or boat racing seem to love the crashes!
Oh they like the speed, the maneuvers, the jockeying for position and the sheer endurance; but when a crash occurs…well, it is spectacular!

Most accidents are the fodder for TV; the stuff that makes fans keep watching. Whether it is a “blow over,” a “barrel roll,” or a “stuff,” accidents are interesting to watch. Through the years we have seen some of the most spectacular! In Bay City there was a double barrel roll, almost in “tandem.” The orange and the yellow rising high into the air, side by side and then going backwards like a somersault, then landing in the water. In San Diego, the blue/gray boat and the blue/white boat rose together and in one photo it seemed they were stacked, one boat flying above the other. The fans go crazy over this!

For me and the community who know the driver personally, the best view is after the crash when all of a sudden out of the water, the helmet of orange pops up! The driver has surfaced, he’s made his way out of the cockpit and is now above water, breathing air! This is our favorite result of any crash.

In life, we want to be surrounded by people who want only the best for us. People who watch our difficulties and trials not with curious fascination; but people who wish we weren’t encountering these deep waters. People who believe we will resurface with an “orange pop!” People who will jump in and help us to get back on top of the water.

“A friend loves at all times, but in trouble he becomes a brother.” Proverbs 17:17

Credit: Jan Vidal – Legacy Ministry International, LLC
Submitted by Ken Cross.

Redeemed Sports from the 2015 British Open

Redeemed Sports from the 2015 British Open
During and after Sunday’s third round (because of weather delays) of the 2015 British Open, I noticed two examples of redeemed sports – as it seemed the players operated from a “striving with” vs. “striving against” mentality.

The first one came as Jordan Spieth described his third round playing with Sergio Garcia. Both players played well that round, Spieth shooting 66 and Garcia 68. Tom Rinaldi, the interviewer, observes that they birdied several of the same holes (they actually each birdied 5 holes that day – #1,5,7,10,15) and seemed to feed off each other’s energy. Spieth replies about their friendship and the fun of playing together. He goes on to describe how they offered encouraging remarks and even openly rooted for each other to make putts during the round.


Not convinced? Turn to the recently completed NBA finals. Think about the sixth game. Imagine one of the Warriors on the free-throw line late in the game with an important free throw. Next a Cavalier walks up to him before he gets the ball and says something. What do you think he would say? Something like Spieth and Garcia said to each other? I doubt it, unless you don’t believe what what NBAers say is usually said in those moments.

The second incident was a little more obscure. I never heard any actual accounts that would support it. Therefore, I acknowledge I am using some imagination in this one. However, I don’t think it is much of a stretch to think it happened. See if you agree.

The setting – Louis Oosthuizen, South African and former British Open Champion, is playing the third round with red-hot Irish amateur, Paul Dunne. A birdie on 15 ties Dunne for the lead in the tournament. As they walk off the green or the next tee (can’t remember which), Oosthuizen turns to Dunne, says something with a big smile and pats him on the shoulder.

If you watched it, it seems easy to imagine him saying something like, “Keep it up,” or “Great play,” or “You’re doing fantastic.” Something older “brotherish” to the younger amateur. Something meant to affirm and embolden this young man in what he was doing, coming at a time when Louie was right in the same mix, trying to win his second British Open.

“Striving with.” Fellow competitors encouraging each other along while in the “heat” of competition. Quite different. Quite moving.

Some might attribute this to the nature of the game of golf. They might say, “Golf is played more individually against the course rather than against another player like in tennis. It should happen here.”

Certainly the nature of golf may help to foster this attitude of mutual respect but I think it was from something more. Much more.

I think it came from a different perspective on competition. Rather than these players seeing their opponents as their enemies to conquer as is so often espoused in worldly competition, it seems so evident they saw them as their competitors to appreciate.

Appreciate? Certainly. Redeemed competition recognizes that without those opponents there would be no competition. No opponents, no game. Then where would the joy of competition be?

“Striving with.” God’s original design in competition.

Not just for golf. This perspective needs to be the design for all sports if we ever hope to see redeemed what is so broken – all our sports.

Credit: Bob Schindler – The Executive Director of our sister ministry, Church Sports Outreach
Submitted by Ken Cross.

10 of My Favorite Gospel Definitions

GospelI enjoy the below definitions not only because of their theological correctness but also because of the beauty and poetry of the words. The gospel is good news indeed!

In no particular order:

Martin Luther:

At its briefest, the gospel is a discourse about Christ, that he is the Son of God and became man for us, that he died and was raised, and that he has been established as Lord over all things…The gospel is a story about Christ, God’s and David’s son, who died and was raised, and is established as Lord. This is the gospel in a nutshell.

Jonathan Dodson:

The good and true story that Jesus has defeated sin, death, and evil through his own death and resurrection and is making all things new, even us. This definition recognizes that the gospel is both narrative and proposition; it is focused on Jesus not us or our works; it is anchored in history through Jesus death and resurrection; it is keeps Jesus identity as both a sovereign Lord and a redeeming Christ; finally, it reminds us of the scope of the gospel, that it is as big as new creation and as small as you and me.

Danny Akin:

The good news that Jesus Christ came from heaven, died on the cross having lived a perfect sinless life, bore then in His body the full penalty of our sins, was raised from the dead. Those who repent of sin and place their faith in the perfect work of Christ can and will be saved. There’s the gospel.

Andy Crouch:

The gospel is the proclamation of Jesus, in [two] senses. It is the proclamation announced by Jesus – the arrival of God’s realm of possibility (his “kingdom”) in the midst of human structures of possibility. But it is also the proclamation about Jesus – the good news that in dying and rising, Jesus has made the kingdom he proclaimed available to us.

Scot McKnight:

The gospel is to announce that the Story of Jesus, who is Messiah/King, Lord and Savior, fulfills or completes the Story of Israel. It is the good news that God’s promises have now been realized in Jesus Messiah, Lord and Savior.

Tim Keller:

The ‘gospel’ is the good news that through Christ the power of God’s kingdom has entered history to renew the whole world. When we believe and rely on Jesus’ work and record (rather than ours) for our relationship to God, that kingdom power comes upon us and begins to work through us.

John Piper:

The Gospel is the good news of our final and full enjoyment of the glory of God in the face of Christ. That this enjoyment had to be purchased for sinners at the cost of Christ’s life makes his glory shine all the more brightly. And that this enjoyment is a free and unmerited gift makes it shine more brightly still. But the price Jesus paid for the gift and the unmerited freedom of the gift are not the gift. The gift is Christ himself as the glorious image of God – seen and savored with everlasting joy.

R.C. Sproul:

The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.

Ed Stetzer:

The gospel is the good news that God, who is more holy than we can imagine, looked upon with compassion, people, who are more sinful than we would possibly admit, and sent Jesus into history to establish his Kingdom and reconcile people and the world to himself. Jesus, whose love is more extravagant than we can measure, came to sacrificially die for us so that, by His death and resurrection, we might gain through His grace what the Bible defines as new and eternal life.

Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger:

In its simplest form, the gospel is God’s reconciling work in Christ – that through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, God is making all things new both personally for those who repent and believe, and cosmically as He redeems culture and creation from its subjection to futility.

(HT: Trevin Wax’s Gospel Definitions}

Credit: Bob Schindler – The Executive Director of our sister ministry, Church Sports Outreach
Submitted by Ken Cross.

The Problem of Competition & the Documentary ‘Broke’

The Problem of Competition and the Documentary BrokeI really enjoy ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentaries. ‘Broke‘ is one of those documentaries. ESPNHere is a brief summary:

According to a 2009 Sports Illustrated article, 60 percent of former NBA players are broke within five years of retirement. By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress. Sucked into bad investments, stalked by freeloaders, saddled with medical problems, and naturally prone to showing off, many pro athletes get shocked by harsh economic realities after years of living the high life. Drawing surprisingly vulnerable confessions from retired stars like Keith McCants, Bernie Kosar and Andre Rison, as well as Marvin Miller, the former executive director of the MLB Players Association, this fascinating documentary digs into the psychology of men whose competitive nature can carry them to victory on the field and ruin off it.

This was interesting documentary on many levels but one thing really stood out to me.

Several of the athletes discussed their motivation for frivolously spending money was COMPETITION.

They couldn’t allow other teammates to look as if they had more money than they did (even if it were true). A teammate having a nicer car, more spending cash in their pocket, or better jewelry was an invitation to a competition. And it’s a competition that no athlete likes to lose. These competitive juices would also lead many athletes to compulsive gambling. Sometimes players would lose up to $20,000 on a plane ride playing cards. There is a segment in the documentary where Michael Jordan is featured. As you may know, Jordan is known for having gambling problems. His father is quoted as saying, “Michael doesn’t have a gambling problem, he has a competition problem.

This comment as well as what the athletes say drove their efforts leads me to a qualification. Competition is not the problem. Worldly or bad competition is the problem.

This distinction is one that important to make. Yet, I see this lack of distinction even by people I greatly respect, C.S. Lewis being one of them. In Mere Christianity he says:

“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man… It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.”

C.S. Lewis is a great man, a mentor of mine from “afar.” I have read many of his books – several times. He is a fantastic writer, but I think he needs to add a word here.

“Once the element of worldly competition is gone, pride is gone.”

Without that addition and distinction between good and bad competition, the solution for Michael Jordan, or these athletes who spend all their money, or for you and me in our struggle with pride is the removal of competition.

At CSO, we think differently. We see a distinction between good and bad competition, a distinction we think very important. As such, competition is not bad. Competition is not the enemy and needs to be removed. Worldly or wrong competition is what needs to be removed.

Think of it this way. A composer writes a piece of music. Someone comes along and plays the notes in a different order or out of tune. The original score isn’t what is wrong. The way the person plays the music is what is wrong. To correct that person we don’t need to get rid of the music, we need to correct the way the person is playing the music.

Competition is like this. God built competition into the fabric or creation (see a Biblical view of competition). As God designed it, competition is supposed to be “striving with others.” We took that gift and distorted it to “striving against others.”

To use the musical metaphor, our competition today is largely “out of tune.” The solution isn’t getting rid of competition. The solution is getting people to “play the composition like it was originally composed.” People aren’t too competitive. (That is like saying someone is too musical.) People are too worldly or wrongly competitive.

We don’t need to get rid of competition. We need to redeem it. (See For the Love of the Game for more on redeeming competition and sports.)

Credit: Bob Schindler – The Executive Director of our sister ministry, Church Sports Outreach
Submitted by Ken Cross.

12 Things You Didn’t Know About the Movie Hoosiers

unnamedI watched Hoosiers the other night and was reminded again how it’s not just a great sports movie, but a great movie. Afterwards, I was curious about the making of the film and discovered some very interesting facts about the movie. Enjoy!

In no particular order [Sources: Wikipedia & ESPN.com]:

1. The screenplay was written by Angelo Pizzo and directed by David Anspaugh. These two teamed up for another great sports movie: Rudy.

2. The school in the movie was Hickory High School but the name of the real school, which the film was based on, was Milan High School. Milan won the Indiana state championship in 1954 with an enrollment of only 161. It still stands as the smallest school to win a state basketball championship in Indiana.

3. In route to the 1954 state championship, Milan defeated Crispus Attucks High School of Indianapolis which starred future NBA Hall-of-Famer, Oscar Robertson.

4. The real life Jimmy Chitwood, Bobby Plump, went on to play college basketball at Butler and then professional basketball in the National Industrial Basketball League.

5. In the UK, the movie is named Best Shot.

6. The budget was so low for the movie that the crew had to hire locals from New Richmond, IN (where the film was shot) to play the parts of the Hickory basketball team.

7. Maris Valainis, who plays Jimmy Chitwood in the movie, was cut four times from his own high school team.

8. Maris Valainis was known for completing many of the shooting scenes in the movie in one take.

9. Gene Hackman thought that doing the movie would be a career killer for him. He was wrong.

10. In the real-life championship game, Bobby Plump (Jimmy Chitwood), held the ball for 4 minutes and 13 seconds before draining the winning jumper. That would have made for a less dramatic ending to the movie.

11. The gym used in the movie, as the The Hickory High School gym, is in Knightstown, IN and is open daily to the public free of charge.

12. The movie is 115 minutes long and there’s only 6 minutes of basketball action.


Here are some memorable quotes from the movie:

“My practices aren’t designed for your enjoyment.” –Coach Norman Dale

“If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be, I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we’re gonna be winners.” –Coach Norman Dale

Myra Fleener: You know, a basketball hero around here is treated like a god, er, uh, how can he ever find out what he can really do? I don’t want this to be the high point of his life. I’ve seen them, the real sad ones. They sit around the rest of their lives talking about the glory days when they were seventeen years old.
Coach Norman Dale: You know, most people would kill… to be treated like a god, just for a few moments.

“Five players on the floor functioning as one single unit: team, team, team – no one more important that the other.” –Coach Norman Dale

“Let’s win this game for all the small schools that never had a chance to get here.” –Merie Webb (player)

Coach Norman Dale: What’s gotten into you?
Strap Purl: The Lord! I can feel His strength!
Coach Norman Dale: Well… keep His strength in the dribble alright?

“I would hope you would support who we are. Not, who we are not. These six individuals have made a choice to work, a choice to sacrifice, to put themselves on the line 23 nights for the next 4 months, to represent you, this high school. That kind of commitment and effort deserves and demands your respect. This is your team.” –Coach Norman Dale

Finally, a part of Roger Ebert’s review of the movie:

unnamed-2special is not its story, however, but its details and its characters. Angelo Pizzo, who wrote the original screenplay, knows small-town sports. He knows all about high school politics and how the school board and the parents’ groups always think they know more about basketball than the coach does. He knows about gossip, scandal and vengeance. And he knows a lot about human nature. All of his knowledge, however, would be pointless without Hackman’s great performance at the center of this movie. Hackman is gifted at combining likability with complexity — two qualities that usually don’t go together in the movies. He projects all of the single-mindedness of any good coach, but then he contains other dimensions, and we learn about the scandal in his past that led him to this one-horse town. David Anspaugh’s direction is good at suggesting Hackman’s complexity without belaboring it.

Credit: Bob Schindler – The Executive Director of our sister ministry, Church Sports Outreach
Submitted by Ken Cross.

Using sports to impact the world with the transforming power of the gospel

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