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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Is God as Sly as People Say He Is?

I hear people tell me about God all the time. (That shouldn't surprise you since I am a preacher.) They will tell me what He has done, is doing and will do in their lives. Unfortunately, what they are calling God isn't the same as I have understood Him.

Some people think that the reason they are having problems is because there is something that they haven't done. They don't know what it is but when they find out they are going to do that thing so they can get back on God's good side. 

They say things like, "God, tell me what I am doing wrong because I don't want bad things to keep happening to me." I wonder if they see life like a game show. You know, "If I can guess the right answers, I can get everything I have ever wanted." 

Do you really think that God wouldn't tell you what you were doing wrong if He was making bad things happen to you? He sounds more like Batman's the Riddler rather than God. "Come on, Batman, if you get the answer to my riddle right, you can save the girl!"

I really don't have to worry about the things I am not doing right. I know what they are. I sometimes choose to do them anyway and I do have consequences. God doesn't hide them from me. They are very plain no matter how hard I try to hide them. Sometimes I say, "God, don't look in the closet. You know there's nothing in the closet you wouldn't like." But God knows and He knows I know too.

Sometimes I try to surround myself with activity so I won't be caught all alone with God. If I am very busy and envelope myself with others who are doing the wrong things too I don't seem to notice what I am doing wrong. If I get alone with God, I always know.

It isn't like God hits me with lightning or anything. He doesn't even beat me up with words. He just lets me go as far as I would like from Him. When I get sick and tired of being sick and tired I come home.

The amazing thing is that the light is always on when I get there. He seems to say, "I knew you would come home eventually. I was waiting for you."

Some people are so afraid of coming home. I think they believe God will really get on their case if they did. That doesn't even make sense when you think about it. Coming home was the first right thing you have done for a long time. Why would God beat you for doing a right thing?

There really isn't much mystery here. If you want to leave God, He will let you. If you want to sin, He will let you. If you want to struggle, He will let you. If you want to come home, He will welcome you.

Does that mean all good things will start happening then? No. I think of the woman caught in the act of adultery. No one stoned her. Jesus did not condemn her. Yet, He told her to go and sin no more. I wonder what it was like when her husband came home and the whole town was talking about she had done. (They understood that only a married woman could commit adultery.) I don't know but I bet it wasn't real pretty.

I don't think God is sly at all. I know Him to be very plain. 

Sunday, May 18, 2008

When The Church Takes Steroids

I have back problems. Recently I  was referred to a pain management doctor who gave me steroid shots in my back. O, what a wonderful thing!

The pain in my knees and hip also went away. I felt younger. I started jogging again even though my doctors told me that years ago to stop. I know why athletes take this stuff. It turns back the clock. It makes you stronger, faster and able to build muscle quickly.

But steroids have their downsides too. The problems associated with them do not justify their use. When stopped, the person taking steroids becomes the incredible shrinking man. Not only is all lost but things are much worse. So, what does this have to do with the church? I think that some churches are trying steroids like gimmicks to get people to come. 

Sure, churches have always used gimmicks. I have heard it quoted so many times "be as innocent as doves but as shrewd as serpents" many times in the church. Now, I think we are using the shrewd part a little too much.

One church gave $10,000 to some lucky person who came to their church on Easter. They advertised and, yes, they had a huge crowd. Another church gave $300 gift cards to a local mall as door prizes to a youth gathering. 

So, what's wrong with this? Aren't these churches growing? Are they not growing faster than any of the other churches in their areas? Yes, they are growing rapidly. They are baptizing people at at a phenomenal rate. Others are saying they are the poster children for church growth . . . just like people have said of athletes who could out perform their peers because they were on steroids.

This practice brings up many questions for me. Is the gospel not good enough to bring people to its message? What about the encore problems this practice creates. If you give out $300 gift cards, won't it take more and more of this to get the same or greater crowds? Eventually you will have to give away cars! Doesn't this do damage to the churches who are not using this tactic? Doesn't this pervert the gospel? Where will we be twenty years from now?

I don't know the answers to these questions. Maybe I am concerned about nothing.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Does BCS Stand for Bad, Crazy and Stupid?

There are many sports that take a great deal of skill in which winners are chosen by judges. I do not know much about these sports. I know that it's bad when a skater landing from a jump falls but I do not know how these sports are judged. There is no basket, goal line, finish line or goal post that clearly indicate a score. Football is not like one of these sports.

Sure, there are ref calls which are clearly wrong (Yes, Oklahoma, I am thinking of you!) but the larger part of the game is getting the football over the goal line. Scores are accumulated and the team with the most points wins. Overtime was created so that we could clearly say which team was the winner.

Then comes the BCS. I am not sure that I understand it. It combines votes from coaches, team records against ranked teams and how the wind blows that day to determine the ranking of each team. There is a computer involved in this somewhere . . .and maybe a oiji board. In the end, you have a very dubious National Champion.

Is Division 1 college football the only team sport that doesn't have a legitimate playoff? It would seem simple enough to accomplish. It is done at other levels of College Football. Why not at this one?

I have heard that the college presidents don't want it because it will interfere with the student-athletes ability to be a student. Get real! If this is the argument, the school should drop the rest of the season. Yes, it interferes with their ability to be a student- just like the two jobs I maintained while I was in college interfered in my ability to completely focus. (Yes, I know it's not the same to be a bank teller and youth minister with the same intensity as playing Michigan this next week but other activities do have an affect.) If you want the degree, you have to pay for it someway. Playing college football is a legitimate way to do so.

I have also heard that there is too much money in the bowl games to have a playoff. I don't understand this argument since I see many seats in many of the games empty. Sponsors seem to be losing their shirts. Many of the games are not televised nationally.

I propose another system. Why not use the bowls for the playoffs? Thirty-two teams would be chosen to compete for the National Championship. Each conference winner and at-large bids would make us the selection. The number one seed would play the number thirty-two and so on just like in basketball. This would ensure that each game meant something. The bowls could bid to determine which level of play they would receive. This would would even give the Music City bowl some meaning! The highest bid gets the National Championship game. Lower bids get relatively lower ranks of the playoffs.

This means the season must start the last week of August. The regular season would end the third week in November and give an opportunity for each team to have a week off and for conferences who have a championship game to play theirs. Playoffs would begin the second week in December. This two week break between games allows the student-athlete to study and take final exams. The playoff will last five weeks. The championship game would be the second week in January. Yes, it will compete with the professional playoffs but do you really think that's going to make a difference? It isn't like we only have three networks to watch football any more!

I may be a little ahead of the curve as I prepare for the fall football season. I just want a clear winner. If not, I think we should need some judges who say, "Was that a double axle, camelback triple spin that he scored with, Chuck?"

"Yes," comes the excited reply, "And didn't he nail it with the landing?! We clearly have a national champion here!"