One of the things I love about baseball is the fact that the champions celebrate like no one else. It’s not the champagne and the plastic covered locker rooms or the trophy presentations. It’s the final out, that final strike.
When the last pitch hits the mitt, jubilation occurs. The crowd roars. Gloves and caps fly in the air. The players swarm the mound and dog pile the pitcher and catcher.
Baseball players do it right. Their joy of victory is palpable. Even if your team lost, you can’t help but watch the winners celebrate.
I imagine this is what it was like in heaven when Christ took his last breath on earth and entered into paradise.
Angels roared. They ran to Jesus, picked him up and carried Him around on their shoulders. The residents of heaven stood to their feet and applauded. Jubilation occurred. They relished in victory.
I imagine a victory parade. The heavenly hosts marched down the streets of Heaven. Bands played, confetti drifted through the air and choirs sang as Jesus rode in the back seat of a car and waved to everybody.
After years of toiling with rebellious humans and evil, God won. His sacrifice payed off.
And because of His victory, we are free.
Our sins washed away.
Isn’t that worthy of a celebration?
How did you celebrate Easter?
You would think Jonah and the giant fish was the title of a children’s book. Kids love giant things. Like peaches, big red dogs and beanstalks. A giant fish, however, would make me cry for my mommy.
One of the morals of Jonahs story is that you can run from God but you can’t outrun God. He has a calling for you and as afraid or defiant as you may be of that calling, He will find a way to convince you otherwise.
Maybe we can learn something else from this story. I learned from Jonah that God doesn’t mind making you uncomfortable or that He wants you out of your comfort zone from time to time.
At the end of the book of Jonah we find him sulking in the out skirts of town, roasting in the hot sun, feeling sorry for himself. I think God messes with him a little bit by providing a shade tree and then taking it away again the next day.
I picture God giggling a little and having a big smile on his face while He does it. I think God makes Jonah uncomfortable not only to teach him a lesson but to poke fun at him at the same time. All out of love, of course.
The most uncomfortable thing for Jonah had to be sitting in the stomach of the fish for three days. There he was, in knee deep stomach fluid with seaweed wrapped around his head. Sitting there while the fish did its business. Always wondering if he was going to be part of the digestive process.
Could you imagine the stench; the discomfort? I imagine that the dark, smelly stomach of a fish is no party. Jonah didn’t have a smartphone to pass the time. He couldn’t play a round of Angry Birds or check the internet while he waited. There was nothing to do but be digested and pray. So he prayed and realized where his stubbornness had gotten him.
We are all stubborn to a point. Naturally, we want it our way and we want to serve and be obedient in a way that is comfortable to us. We love God but in the back of our minds we want God to allow us to stay in our own cozy little niche. But it is never that easy.
God prods and pokes us to get us to move. He puts us in uncomfortable situations so that he can get us to the next level. He doesn’t want us to be stationary or content.
We have to move. We have to take action. The mission rarely comes to us.
So the next time you find yourself in the belly of the beast, that uncomfortable situation, ask yourself. Why am I here? What is God telling me? Where is He sending me?
Question: Has God ever put you in an uncomfortable situation?
It’s that time of year again. It’s March and that means it’s time for March madness. It means that you and everyone in your office or circle of friends has filled out a bracket. It’s this time of year that we all become college basketball experts.
March madness has made me a little mad. My brain works in weird ways. Ponder this, if you will.
Forget that basketball wasn’t invented until 1891. What if we could make a dream basketball team from characters of the bible? A team that is so good that they could make it to the final four without breaking a sweat?
This would be my starting line up:
Center: 9’6″, Goliath. Do I need to explain this decision?
Power forward: Samson. He is strong. Probably a good rebounder. Samson could probably drive the lane like nobody else but his ball handling skills may be suspect and his weakness for women may distract him from the game.
Forward: Simon Peter. I imagine that Peter would be the team captain. He is loyal to the team to a certain extent. His passion and fire could motivate his teammates. His temper however could be seen as a liability. I’m sure he would see his fair share of technical fouls and ejections.
Shooting guard: David. Who better to shoot the rock than a guy who can sling the rock. We learned that David is pretty accurate with a stone. I think he would be just as accurate with the ball. He could potentially lead the team in scoring as long as he can get along with teammate, Goliath.
Point guard: Zaccheus (Spud, as I imagine some people called him). Maybe the shortest guy in the bible. However, he is probably the best ball handler of the bunch since he is so close to the ground. And since he was a tax collector, he is probably the smartest and most organized guy. Who’d be better at calling plays and running the offense than him? Does it matter that he can’t dunk?
Bench players and why they aren’t starters:
Thomas – lack of confidence
Cain and Abel - ball hogs
Judas - not a team player
Head coach: Noah. If the man can build a giant boat, he can build a championship team.
Who would your dream team consist of?
Faith is simple. It’s believing in something or someone you can’t see. It’s blind resolve. We decide to believe when conventional wisdom says not to. Faith is the act of moving forward when you don’t know what’s ahead. Faith is trusting when there is nothing or no one else to turn to. Faith is making a stand and putting it all out there without fear of repercussions. Faith is knowing you are loved even though you are imperfect. Faith is relying on God’s promises and potential.
This is what faith means to me.
I read the bible everyday but I am not a bible expert. I’m not a preacher. I didn’t go to a christian school or seminary. As I recall, I never memorized bible verses as a child in Sunday school other than John 3:16. If I remember correctly, when we were asked to recite it in front of the entire church, I fumbled it a little. I stuttered and paused but I eventually got it out.
If you ask me to quote a certain bible verse, more than likely, I’m going to swing and miss.
We didn’t sing that song with all the books of the bible in it. Don’t lie. You know which one I’m talking about.
We had that felt wall where our Sunday school teacher would smack famous and infamous characters of the bible on while he told us bible stories. The teacher kept us in suspense by keeping all the piece’s in an envelope until their part of the story was told and when he pulled them out, there was a lot of “Ooohhh” and “Aahhh”.
I loved the felt board nativity scene with all the donkey’s and cow’s and the flamboyant wise men. I also loved the David vs. Goliath scene. I recall Goliath looking like a character from the WWF. Blew my mind. But none of this led me to faith.
I learned faith in God from people who had faith. My parents have faith. My grandparents had faith. As all children do, I watched and learned from them. I soaked it up like a sponge. It was the small, almost subliminal, things that they did that taught me about faith.
Reactions. Responses. Demeanor. Interactions with friends. Interactions with family. Interactions with strangers. The look in their eyes. The softness in their voice. Their resolve. Toughness. Tough love. Determination. Devotion. Dedication. Passion. Resiliency. Brokenness. Reliance. Surrender. Hope. Love.
This is what I saw in them and what I see in people who have faith.
This is what faith means to me.
After all I learned about faith from others, ultimately, I had to make the choice for myself. But I didn’t choose God. He chose me. I just chose to follow.
I learned at a later age that I couldn’t make it on my own. I’m reminded daily that I have to rely on God.
I rely on God at home.
I rely on God at work.
I rely on God while I’m running.
I rely on God for my future.
This is what faith means to me.
Funny thing about the Bible. It’s not one size fits all. Everybody has their favorite version. We have the one that feels comfortable to us. The one we can relate to. We have the version that makes it easy for us to understand. But our preference is not about what’s actually written in the book. It’s all about the interpretation.
Here, in the deep south, there are a handful of churches that use the King James Version of the bible. I have nothing against this version. It’s God’s word and some people like it. However, the KJV uses elaborate language and ornate words. It uses words and language that we do not use in our everyday conversations. So I find it funny that the people who use the KJV are the same people who say “Aint” and “fixin’ to” and “y’all”. As a southerner, I’m guilty of using these very same words, so I’m not criticizing. I’m just sayin’.
Many churchgoers in the south think that the KJV is the only bible. Some actually condemn other versions. I saw an old pick up truck driving down the street once that had a sign on the tailgate that read, “If it aint King James, it aint bible!”. These same people believe that guitars and loud music don’t have their place in the church. I drive by a church often that has a sign claiming that they read only from the KJV and that they sing out of hymnals.
Do you remember those? Hymnals?
The truth is that God speaks to us in different ways. Through different mediums and different methods. Some people have meaningful worship through hymns, lead by men in three piece suits, while others enjoy the guitars and drums, lead by men and women who look like they stepped out of a fashion magazine.
And just like your worship preference, the version of the bible you read and study matters only to you. What are you getting out of it? How is God speaking to you through it? How can you share it? What works for you and I, may not work for someone else.
Jesus wasn’t a man of big words. He was God but his language was simple. His words have been translated and interpreted in many different ways but He didn’t need to use ornate language to get his point across. Many of his followers couldn’t read or write. They were simple people. So he taught in a simple way. Here are just a few words He used.
And most importantly, Love.
It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
I love my church. Our pastors are great. They are skilled and knowledgeable. They bring messages that I can really apply to my life. But I never watch them preach. On stage that is. I’m distracted. My eyes are enticed by something else. The jumbotrons.
If you walk into any church these days, you will almost always see the giant video screens that hang on each side of the stage. They are a prominent part of the architecture. They have become standard in most churches. So, do they make the church service better? I believe so. Here’s why:
I don’t know the words to the music
I hate those embarassing moments when I think I know the words to the worship song but I really don’t. I sing the next verse but the words are wrong. I sing the next verse when there is no next verse and I’m the only one singing. Have you been there?
I like to think I’m a good Christian so I’m kind of ashamed to admit that I don’t know the words by heart but I’m thankful that the jumbotron provides the words for me. I’m thankful the jumbotron enhances my worship experience by saving me from those awkward “I don’t know the words” moments.
It supplements the service
My church likes to play videos. Lots of videos. Videos that enhance the message that is being presented. They are often funny or sentimental. They strike emotions and get the attendee’s focused and engaged. They won’t win an Oscar but they look good and are created by some very talented individuals.
The jumbotrons also supplement the service by displaying bible verses. I’m not suggesting we should leave our bibles at home when we go to church. But, in all honesty, I really haven’t needed it at church for a while. For one reason, I have a digital version of the bible on my smart phone (thats another blog post) and I take my phone everywhere. Secondly, we don’t have normal Sunday school at my church. It mostly takes place during the week. I guess I can’t call it Sunday school if it’s not on Sunday. So, while I’m at church, the jumbotron gives me everything I need when it comes to Bible verses.
I can read the speaker
I often wonder what is going through the speakers head when he looks over the auditorium and see’s people staring either to the left or the right and not directly at him. I never watch the speaker directly and, as I have observed, neither do many other people. I always watch one of the jumbotron’s. Why?
The main reason is that there is a tall guy in front of me or a lady with big hair.
Another reason is that we live in a digital media world. We have big screen TV’s in our living rooms. We watch a lot of YouTube. We gather most of our information from moving pictures. So it makes sense that we are inclined to watch an image of the speaker on the 200 inch monitor that is hanging on the wall beside the stage rather than watching the speaker himself. It just feels natural and comfortable.
Secondly, it is easier to read the speaker because we have a close up. We see his facial expressions. We see the passion. We see the emotion. We can really get a sense if this guy is bringing it or just mailing it in.
Do you have jumbotron’s at your church? Does it make the service better?