OUT!!!! - i mean... safe???

full disclosure: i am a *huge* st. louis cardinals fan. i always have been. i (as a grown man) shamelessly cried tears of joy when they won it all in 2006 and after last years epic championship run i was still buzzing all winter!

sports can be a very enjoyable activity (to participate in or to follow as a fan) but they can also become an idol. when we get to the point that we get more excited, spend more emotional energy, spend more time and money on playing, watching,or following athletes or teams, or get more vocal about our appreciation and zeal for grown men playing with a ball than we do for the one who made us, sustains us, and saved us…something is wrong. it has become a vehicle for our sinful hearts to make another idol.

but this is not an “anti-sports” post.actually, it is about how sports can point us to the gospel.

i didn’t catch monday night football last night, but it didn’t take long for me to find out that a blown call had decided the game. as a sports fan, i know the frustration that comes from that.

blown calls that cost your team a game (last night’s packer’s game), a world series (’85 cardinals/”denkinger!!!”), or even a perfect game (jim joyce/ galarraga in ’10) are incredibly frustrating because we want what is “fair”.

when something happens that is “unfair”, we we cry out for justice. it’s innate in us.

that is why it is so perplexing that we don’t want what is “fair” from god.

justice demands that we, who rebel against god daily, get we deserve- which is his wrath against us. it is what we have earned because of our rebellion against him. justice demands that evil, wicked, & sinful rebels who have made themselves enemies of the perfect holy god get what they deserve.

yet we don’t beg for justice when it comes to us and god. instead we expect that god be unjust, unfair, looking past our sin and to *not* give us what we deserve- to be shown *mercy*, to not be given what we have earned.

and then in an arrogance of cosmic proportions, we *demand* that he give us what we *don’t* deserve… grace. and we can even be so bold at times to say or think that if he isn’t constantly and consistently benevolent toward us, then he is *unfair*.

how sinful & corrupt our hearts are… demanding justice when it benefits us, and demanding mercy where justice would give us what we deserve.

all of this amplifies the mercy & grace offered by the lord through the gospel- that god made jesus, who knew no sin, to become our sin (who did this willingly & with joy!) so that whoever puts their trust in christ, his life,death, & resurrection, can have their sins forgiven and receive grace & mercy, love & joy from god instead of the wrath we all deserve.

how “fair” is that?

how glorious is that?

have you thanked god today that sports (and replacement refs) can point us to the gospel?

 

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this blog was started in 2005 during what seemed to be an unending bout with insomnia. i began writing just to try and empty my mind of the thoughts that kept me awake all of the time. the only people i knew of that were reading at that time were some family members and a handful of friends. as time went by i found out through various means that my readership was much larger than i thought (that is not to say it was enormous, just a lot more than i realized).

it was at this point that i started writing  about or linking to various topics that i thought would help the typical “person in the pew” navigate through this world with a gospel centered world view.

when i started this blog, i was in seminary working a 2nd shift job that afforded me a lot of time on line and to write. i was also married, but with no kids. over 7 yrs. later, i am a full time pastor with 2 children, and i also teach a systematic theology class at a local christian school. my time is limited and i just don’t have the opportunity to post regularly anymore.

i have also recently began co-hosting a radio broadcast called”biblical thinking”. after its weekly broadcast, it is made available on the website, biblical thinking.org ,and also on itunes as a podcast.  in a lot of ways, the radio show has become a continuation of the purposes i had in mind for this blog. so please feel free to check out biblical thinking for new and previous episodes!

that said, i didnt want to take down this blog, because from time to time i hear that people still use some of the resources on it. and i may come across a topic that i really want to address from time to time. so i will keep the blog online and may even write new posts from time to time,but it certainly won’t be with any kind of “regularity”.

so for you long time readers – thanks for hanging in there with me for all of these years… keep the lowercase bookmarked and check back every now and again for something new.

if you are new here, there are nearly 350 posts and resources for you to look through and interact with (i am still notified of any comments – even on very old posts).

thanks again for stopping by…

-stephen

chick-fil-geddon 8-1-12

its the day after chick-fil-a day. literally hundreds of thousands were willing to inconvenience themselves, interrupt their schedules, give money, stand in long lines and then spend a lot of time in person and online to talk to friends, co-workers, & family about why they were doing what they were doing, why they believed what they believed, and why they should too.

i can’t help but wonder about what our church gatherings will look like this coming sunday morning. will we all make that same commitment to our churches so that we can promote the gospel of jesus christ in our own lives, homes, communities and world- for something of infinitely more worth  (as important as it is) than the current cultural debate over supporting certain businesses with certain views? (any christians out there drink starbucks, eat ben & jerry’s ice cream, drink pepsi products, or wear nike apparel? you might want to check certain organizations they support- then again,maybe not if you like to eat,wear clothes,or drive cars)

when we gather with our churches, will there be a sense of purpose and excitement? a sense of “what we are doing matters!!”? will there be that same resolve, that it is worth any (so called) sacrifice to be there? will we understand the weight and gravity of gathering as god’s people to worship him in spirit and truth, to celebrate who he is and what he has done, is doing and has promised to do – to glory in our lord and redeemer?

or will we be be too busy, and cling too tightly to our time, money,resources, and/ or convenience. will we not talk to those around us because of what they might think, or support the one institution that our lord himself founded and promised to use for the spread of his kingdom? lets answer this question without flinching – not just by our words and facebook statuses , but by our actions.

i love chick-fil-a  – especially a #1 w/ cheese & no pickle,dr.pepper w/ no ice,and polynesian sauce for my fries, please.
and don’t get me started on those banana pudding milkshakes…
[uncle jesse]” have mercy” [/uncle jesse] .
at one point in my life, i would have been called “obsessive” about it. (that is, if driving almost an hr.one way just to get to the closest chick-fil-a is”obsessive” *rolls eyes*.)

i support the owners right to have his opinion and voice it. i agree with his view on biblical marriage. and i want to make to sure that you understand, i don’t think that going to chick-fil-a yesterday was wrong. but it burdens me to see and hear of so many self- identified christians so freely express their outrage over the way chick-fil-a has been portrayed, change their schedules, go to so much trouble, endure long lines, etc. to eat a meal there, but for some of those same people  there is so little enthusiasm for christ’s church and his gospel.

the excuses flow like ketchup over waffle fries – the services are too long, our family’s schedules are too full with ball games, practices, lessons, etc. we can’t “add” something else like church to their week. sundays are our only days to rest, so staying home is what we need more than worship, instruction,fellowship and encouragement that a local church provides.

“my personality doesn’t allow me to feel comfortable to talk to others about jesus” or “they might think im pushy,closed minded, a religious nut, etc.”  or “i love jesus,but that doesn’t mean i have to talk about  him all of the time”. what about “i don’t have to say much, i show that i’m a christian by the way i live”. (when was the last time, by the way, that someone was converted because they saw you not gamble, not drink a beer, or not say a curse word?)

“i’m scared i don’t know enough to answer someone’s questions.” that one can be a valid concern, but why not share what we *do* know,and if we are truly saved, we know enough to share how others can be too. i doubt we all knew all of the ins and outs of cfa’s positions and decisions re: same sex marriage, but we spoke up for them, supported them, and went there anyway. some of us even did reserach to find out more so we could better defend the position. sounds an awful like “bible study”to me!

is it because the current chick-fil-a flap is more socially acceptable (even “cool” in christian circles) than pursuing holiness and living in light of the gospel each day, seeking to make christ known? is it because chick-fil-a doesn’t require much from us once the money/food exchange has taken place, but the church is always asking us to commit long term? why do we seem to get more committed to a restaurant and its reputation that the glory and reputation of christ?

i really like chick-fil-a and i hope you do too (banana pudding milkshakes!!!) but when the world sees us get up and get going to show our enthusiasm and support for a restaurant/cause, but never sees us get that excited and vocal about the gospel, then they begin to wonder what matters more to us – a restaurant and its “political” stance, or the one we call lord.

that should shame us.

and then it should drive us back to the gospel, that reminds that as prone to wander as our hearts are, if we seek him, we will find him, if we seek him with all of our heart. if we draw near to him, he will draw near to us. if we delight ourselves in him, he will give us the desire of our heart (which at that point will be more of him)

let us be those who have tasted and seen that he is good. and may the world know we are not talking about a chicken sandwich.

maybe this church does go to such great lengths to promote the gospel as much as they do chick-fil-a… i hope so..

if you choose to go to chick-fil-a today, remember a few things:

1.) cfa did not organize this “appreciation day”. though i am sure that they are glad for this business, remember that they are not perpetuating an “us vs. them” mentality, so we don’t need to do that either.

2.) they are very likely to be slammed *all day* today, so be extra patient with the ones who are almost always so pleasant when they *serve* us.

3.) those who have chosen not to go (today, or any day), are our ‘neighbors’, and if you are a follower of christ, your lord has called you to love your neighbor, even when you disagree with them, and even if they insult you or your motives. love, even when it doesn’t endorse certain behaviors, still seeks the good (christ) for others. let’s not lose the war for making the gospel of jesus known over a battle for a chicken restaurant owned by “one of us”.

4.) finally, as you eat your meal (cfa or otherwise) may the flavor, satisfaction and fulfillment it brings draw our hearts and minds to remember to “taste and see that the lord is good” (ps. 34:8)

well, these wont really be book reviews. more like a list of books read in 2011…maybe ill get back to reviewing them at some point. as always, my having read a book is not necessary an endorsement of the book or author.sometimes i will read authors/books that i disagree with to learn more about their position, why they think in such a way, etc. with that said, here are the books i read in 2011…

  1. jayber crow by wendell berry
  2. a praying life by paul miller
  3. tortured for christ by robert wurmbrand
  4. mere churchianity by michael spencer (already reviewed here)
  5. under the overpass by mike yankowski (already(reviewed here)
  6. of mice & men– john steinbeck
  7. tempted & tried – russelld. moore
  8. radical together – david platt
  9. unquenchable flame – michael reeves
  10. tuesdays with morrie – mitch albom
  11. according to plan – grahame goldsworthy
  12. sticky teams – larry osborne
  13. whitfield – arnold dallimore
  14. surprised by grace – tullian tchvidjian
  15. preaching in the holy spirit – albert martin
  16. to kill a mockingbird – harper lee
  17. how good is good enough – andy stanley
  18. don’t call it a comeback – edited by kevin deyoung
  19. north or be eaten – andrew peterson
  20. am i really a christian – mike mckinley 
  21. ablaze with his glory – del fehsenfeld jr.

 

 

…over at my friend doug wolter’s  blog, as im a guest blogger there this week…

(i actually already have 1 post there … just to prove i still know how to hit “new post”)

america is often referredto (by christians) as a “christian nation”. but by biblical standards, we are anything but.so what is the primary religion in the u.s.? we find the answer, not by citing what we think it is… but by looking at what people (media, culture, the arts, and individually) believe and base their lives on.

the stars and stripes aint what they used to be...

from ben simpson, HT: brandon porter

The most common religion in American might surprise you.  It’s not Christianity.  Neither is it Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Scientology, or Oprahism.  Neither is it atheism or science.  According to Christian Smith, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame, the most popular religion in our day–at least for young adults–is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

Never heard of that denomination or religion?  That’s because it doesn’t officially exist.  In fact, those who espouse this worldview wouldn’t call it that.  They would call themselves Christian or Mormon or Muslim or Jewish or agnostic, etc.  But, they are not really those faiths.  They are more of an amalgamation of lots of different religions and no religion at all.  It’s half religion, religion lite.  I’m afraid that this worldview is becoming the default American religion of the emerging generation, and we should be on guard, lest our children go the way of the culture.

Let me break down the three parts of what Smith calls Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

Deism is the belief that god created the universe but remains apart from it and permits creation to administer itself through natural laws. God basically wound up the universe, and let it go.  Deism thus rejects the supernatural aspects of religion, such as miracles and belief in revelation in the Bible, and stresses the importance of ethical conduct.  So, in this worldview, god is mostly distant and not particularly personally involved in our affairs—especially affairs in which we would prefer not to have god involved.  Here god is kept at a safe distance.  God is seen as existing but really has no relevance to life other than being the first cause of the universe.

This deism is therapeutic in that this distant god still wants everyone to be happy and occasionally is willing to get involved when a person has an unhappy crisis.  As Smith says, “This is not a religion of repentance from sin, of keeping the Sabbath, of living as a servant of a sovereign divine, of steadfastly saying one’s prayers, of faithfully observing high holy days, of building character through suffering, of basking in God’s love and grace, of spending oneself in gratitude and love for the cause of social justice, etc. Rather, what appears to be the actual dominant religion among U.S. teenagers is centrally about feeling good, happy, secure, at peace. It is about attaining subjective well-being, being able to resolve problems, and getting along amiably with other people,” (Smith, “On ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’ as U.S. Teenagers’ Actual, Tacit, De Facto Religious Faith,” p3, http://scr.bi/jH7tS8).

God here basically becomes my means of getting what I want.  He’s the cosmic Santa Claus who puts nobody on the Naughty List.  This god wants me to be happy with me and be the best me I can be.  Of course, given the self-esteem and self-help movements of the last few decades, is anybody surprised that young people would conceive of a god in this way?

Finally, this deism is moralistic.  In other words, this god wants people to be nice and fair to each other, which this worldview thinks is the upshot of all world religions.  This aspect has two underlying false doctrines.  One is the belief that all religions are essentially the same, such that it doesn’t matter which one you follow as long as you are good through it.  One young lady from Maryland that Smith interviewed said, “Morals play a large part in religion; morals are good if they’re healthy for society. Like Christianity, which is all I know, the values you get from like the Ten Commandments. I think every religion is important in its own respect. You know, if you’re Muslim, then Islam is the way for you. If you’re Jewish, well, that’s great too. If you’re Christian, well, good for you. It’s just whatever makes you feel good about you,” (Smith, “On ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’ as U.S. Teenagers’ Actual, Tacit, De Facto Religious Faith,” p3, http://scr.bi/jH7tS8).

The second false belief underlying this moralism is that mankind is naturally and basically good.  These young folks believe in an afterlife, even a Heaven and Hell, and “good” people go to Heaven, which includes almost everybody.  Hell is only for the vilest perpetrators among us—mass murderers and child rapists.

So, in summary, what we have here is an uninvolved god who wants me to do what makes me happy, hopefully doing more good than bad over the course of my life so that I’ll go to Heaven when I die.  Know any moralistic therapeutic deists?  Might there be one or a budding one in your house?