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We don't exclude anyone....

Here in the states, we just finished up the football season with the two "greatest" games of the year for these teams - the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl. Even the names of these two games suggest they are something to be considered an honor - only for the "pros" and those with "super" skill.  People paid thousands and thousands of dollars for tickets to the game, even more for room and board while they were here for upwards of a week or more, and still more for the fun and games they participated in while awaiting the games. According to an article I read on Forbes, a ticket was running over $11,000 just six hours prior to the Super Bowl!  One ticket!  That is enough for a down payment on a home!  That same ticket ran around $2,500 if it had been purchased earlier in January, but at that point prior to the game it had skyrocketed to this astronomical "value".  They even had a partitioned off section outside of the stadium in Glendale where people could go to purchase tickets from "scalpers" - those who buy them low and sell them high!  How industrious of them!  It was like creating a savings plan without having to really work for the money!  As the "big day" approached, I heard countless stories on the news about how many had actually been "ripped off" by purchasing their tickets from those selling them this way, though.  They lost thousands and were denied access to the "big game".  Now, I like football and enjoy watching a good game now and then, but I wouldn't dream of this extravagance!  Why? Hopefully it is because I use the common sense God gave me, but if that isn't the reason, perhaps it is that I feel I work too hard for my money to let it go that fast! At the beginning of the season, the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks were both picked as possible winners of the Super Bowl - but so were several other teams who never made it that far.  Based on "skill" or "talent" - having the fastest runners, the best passers, the strongest tackles - they were "favored" to win.  Yet, only one wins in this game - one team stands above the rest - yet not always for their skill.  Sometimes it is just being in the right place at the right time - such as when a player from the opposite team intercepts a pass meant for the other team's player!  One step in the right direction is all it takes to be in the right place at the right time - one needs only put out their arms to grab hold of the ball!  All the season could be summed up in one thing - luck!

The fastest runners and the greatest heroes don’t always win races and battles. Wisdom, intelligence, and skill don’t always make you healthy, rich, or popular. (Ecclesiastes 9:11 CEV)

So, before I get tons of comments about the "superiority" of skill of one team over the other, let me assure you I fully appreciate the long hours of dedication these players put forward in learning their "skill" of football.  They practice long and hard - tire and get injured.  They make sacrifices of family time and fun time in order to focus on their skill.  Their game even comes at a cost to them when they find themselves no longer able to pursue their interest after career altering injuries.  I am not "dissing" any team, but simply pointing out the "win" doesn't always go to the one with the "greatest heroes" or the "fastest runners". It can go to the one in the right place at the right time!  Maybe this is what is so frustrating about some of the other things we observe in life - like the one who gets noticed at work for their particular project, or the child in the family who just seems to "shine" above the rest.  Lots of people give it their all, but not everyone gets the "win" in life.  Sometimes we just have to settle for knowing we gave it our all!

That was a touch lesson for mom and dad to teach us kids.  Why?  I think it is because as kids (and as adults, if we are honest), we want the affirmation of a job well done, to be noticed by our parents and teachers, or to be given the blue ribbon at the event.  We crave the attention or recognition - it is part of human nature.  A certain degree of this is okay - not really presenting much of a challenge for us because we can keep this desire for attention in balance with our willingness to let others receive credit.  Then there are times when pride really give some a little more of a challenge than others.  Either way, it is important to realize - if we don't already - sometimes the one who will come to the forefront is the one in the right place at the right time!  

In a spiritual sense, God doesn't have "favorites", nor does he show "favoritism". It is also good to realize that God doesn't "exclude" anyone from his love, grace, or salvation!  In fact, he made a way for "all who would come" to come!  What way?  Christ Jesus.  It isn't God's "way" to restrict "access" to his good blessings from anyone - all who will come to him by the means he provides (through Christ Jesus) can and will enjoy the blessings he provides. This becomes especially important for us to recognize when we consider some of the hateful things we hear today in some of our churches. Yep, I said "hateful" things are spoken of in church!  How so?  Well, when a church says "you don't belong here" because of your sin, they are speaking hateful things and excluding some from coming to the place of meeting, knowing, and following Jesus.  We don't have to "condone" the sin, but we certainly shouldn't exclude the sinner!  To "condone" means someone overlooks the sin - we don't overlook the sin - sin is just sin!  But...we don't "overlook" the sinner just because they sin!  If we do this for one group of "sinners", then there is absolutely no hope for ANY group of sinners - including us!  

The race doesn't always go to the fastest, nor the battle to the most calculating and strategic.  Sometimes it is us being in the right place at the right time.  I daresay the right place for a sinner is in church!  The right time for the sinner to be in the presence of God is now!  You never know when the "pass" will hit the mark!  Just sayin!


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