Friday, March 27, 2015

It's Just a Game

It's Just a Game

Really, it is!  For a sports fan whether you like college or pro sports, or whether you like baseball, football, basketball, hockey, or soccer, or whether you play, officiate, or coach little league, jv, or varsity athletics there's a tendency to go overboard in our love of sports and sports teams.

I understand when you play in a competitive game, the goal is to win, and you certainly want to play your best, practice, know fundamentals, and play to help you team succeed.   I'm for competition and wanting to win. I also understand that we all have our favorite teams that we root for, buy their merchandise, have loyal devotion to, and like to trash talk with our friends, family, and co-workers over rivalry games, but my question is when do we cross the line or when do we take sports so serious that it's unhealthy?

I think there are those who get angry, depressed, argue, fight, and some even get into physical altercations all over a game, that was meant to be fun for those playing it and entertainment for those who are fans.  I think there is something wrong when sports or rooting for our favorite team becomes a priority in our lives or causes us to have negative behavior or character.

You don't have to troll social media very long when there are games on to see all the passion for sports. But, not all that passion is healthy, appropriate, or good for you when you lose touch with reality or it changes you in negative ways.  It's great to cheer for your team and it's ok to be bummed out when they don't win, but when we get so angry, we cuss, argue, fight, and lose self-control it has become more than just a game.

There have been coaches, players, fans and game officials who have been hit, attacked, and in extreme cases people hospitalized or even died over a game.  That is beyond sad and pathetic to me.  I have seen personally people harassed, threatened, and cussed out at games just because they were wearing the other teams colors or cheering for the opposing team.  We all have seen on the news or ESPN fans getting injured or killed because they were from the "other team".   Even years ago when I officiated basketball I was threatened at both a biddy league basketball game and at a JV game because "their team" didn't win.   We've all seen stories of parents or coaches or players getting into altercations over games.

How many friendships have been ruined, how many parents/children have bad relationships, how many people have you unfriended or un-followed on social media because of differences in sports?  I think many people take sports  way to serious and to the extreme and to the point where they lose touch with the bigger picture and that is no matter how you twist it, in the end "IT'S JUST A GAME!"

It might be business and big money in professional sports, but it's still just a game. It may be state pride or bragging rights or even money for colleges, but it's still just a game.  You may love your local high school or middle school teams or local little league teams and like to play or want your kids to play, but it's still just a game. Never forget that.

I'll admit I am a big sports fan, my closet and drawers are full of my favorite teams t-shirts, hoodies, hats, and my walls have sports teams stuff hanging on them, and my cupboard has coffee cups, mugs, and cups with my favorite sports teams.  I love my teams, spend a lot of time watching their games and supporting them, but I've always tried to keep it in perspective, it's for fun, it's for entertainment, I enjoy them, but at the end of the day, it's a sport, and it's just a game.

Out of all the priorities in my life, sports aren't even in the top 10.  My faith, my wife, my daughter, my family, my church, my ministry, my friends, etc...take a front seat to sports.  I don't need to turn to a pill or alcohol if my team loses, my self-worth and value is not wrapped up in my favorite teams.

I also think I need to point out that as Christians, there are way too many folks who put sports in front of God and His Church.  They teach their children that team and sports are more important than faith, they may say they don't, but the proof is in the pudding, we skip church services or things for ball games and practices, yet say God is first?  We spend countless hours and money on sports and hardly nothing on serving or giving in the church?  Or better yet, what do we teach our children when God and church becomes 3rd or 5th down the priority list above our beloved sports? Or we consistently miss church services or serving for ballgames.  I know on rare occasions it may happen, but  I've heard all the excuses, but truth is people are in denial, they love their sports and./or their kids sports a lot more than they do God and His church and you have to answer to God not me.  

Also, as Christians I think we forget our character matters no matter where we are? I've seen "Christians" yelling and acting a fool in the stands over a "call" or something, where is their Christian example? Is it on hold while the game is on? I don't think so.  We represent God wherever we are, at the stadium, at the field, and in front of the TV. Also, as Christian athletes and coaches we should se the example that sports are just a game and we play with class, dignity, integrity, sportsmanship, and respect.

The bottom line is no matter how you spin it, sports are just a game and they shouldn't be your life or diminish your character and take over your life to the point where you lose touch with the things that are really important.  Remember no matter how big the game, it's just a game. It's not life. It's a game. It's certainly not more important than God. It's just a game.

1 Corinthians 9:25(NIV)
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Matthew 6:33(NIV)
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Being Called

Being Called

If I was being honest and I will be, it wasn't my idea to go into ministry.  As a matter of fact, I've tried to run away from ministry and this "call" on my life.  When I first felt called into ministry I never imagined it would be into "full-time" or "located" ministry.  I was a teenager at church camp feeling God telling me this is what He wanted me to do, but at the time I just thought it was to preach or work in youth ministry as a volunteer or part-time, but later on I felt He was saying this was what he wanted me to do with my life as a living.

I transferred to Bible college after one year at a state university, and started classes and was doing ministry when I had opportunity, but I still was resisting the call, to the point where I eventually dropped out of Bible College and tried to run form God.  I even joined the US Navy, I guess in same way Jonah boarded a boat to run away from God, I was doing the same thing, but luckily, I wasn't thrown over board and swallowed by a large fish.  But, eventually through my time in the military God molded and shaped me and got me back His track and after getting out of the military I went into full-time ministry. 

I would like to say this was the end of the story, but it wasn't a happily ever after. After a successful 5 year youth ministry, I tried to walk or run away from my calling again, whether it was burnout, satan, or whatever, I was close to not even being a Christian let alone in ministry.  But, by God's grace He didn't give up on me and though I tried to run away from God again and His calling on my life, I could not escape it.  I am thankful that God gives us second and third and sometimes more chances to get ourselves together.

God had a call on my life that I didn't ask for or really want, and even though I tried to run away and hide or walk away and rebel, God was patient with me, because He had and has plans to use me for His will.  I guess like Moses in the old testament I wanted to make excuses or like Jonah I wanted to run away, but when God "calls" you to do something for Him there is no excuse that is going suffice and no place to hide from God. 

Even today there are times where I don't want to be in ministry and I have taken a couple breaks from ministry since all these past times 15 and 20 some years ago, but this time whether I have matured or God has made me wiser, I realize that it's not about me and what I want, it's all about God and what He wants.  My life is not my own.  God paid a heavy price for me and my sin, like He did all mankind.  He also puts "callings" on all our lives so that He can use us for His will, His kingdom, His church, His ministry, and His glory.  Some of us are called into church leadership roles as Elders or Deacons, some of us are called into children, youth, worship, missions, or preaching ministries, and many are called as missionaries out into the world working regular jobs because He needs Christians doctors, teachers, bus drivers, coal miners, railroad workers, bankers, and whatever skills God has gifted you.

God also "calls" us to serve in the local church as Sunday school teachers, nursery workers, sound technicians, greeters, with the teens, or lots of other ministries that go on in the local church.  It is no accident or mistake that we are all gifted with different gifts and talents and that God wants us to use them for Him and not just ourselves or the world.  Do you every pray for God to use you? Or do you make excuses?  Do you ever ask God to show you want He wants you to do or do you run and hide? 

There are days where I just want to be a normal Christian and go to church and sit on a pew and do nothing but complain about the preacher and all the church is doing wrong that I don't like, haha only kidding, but I do at times want to just be a regular Christian serving in a local church and not being the Preacher or Pastor, but that is not what God called me to do or be.  He called me to preach and minister.  It's always for Him and about Him. Never about me or you.  It's about the one who does the calling, not the called. Our role is to listen, be available, be faithful, remain faithful, and be obedient to whatever God calls us to do.  Whether that is full-time, part-time, or volunteer ministry.  Whether that is doing ministry for a living or whether it's just being a faithful part of the local church body and serving God in our careers or lives.

May you listen to the voice of God and follow your calling.  I want to be and remain faithful to God and His calling til the finish.

[ Confirming One’s Calling and Election ] His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Burger King Religion

Burger King Religion

In the 1970's the fast food restaurant chain Burger King had a successful slogan campaign many of us may remember "HAVE IT YOUR WAY",  many fast food places tried to be fast and efficient so they made burgers/sandwiches with pre-made toppings,  BK wanted to promote you could have your burger/sandwich however you wanted it or whatever toppings you wanted on it.  This was real popular for them for many years and even most restaurants followed suit.

It's not secret that humans by nature are selfish and self-centered and always want things they way they want them, and even in churches and in the Christian faith many have this same attitude and like
BK's slogan "they want it their way"!  They want to church to be the way they want, the preacher to preach what they want to hear, want to the church to sing and worship with the music style and songs they want, want the churches programming and events to be the ones and the way they and, and you name it they want it to be all to their liking and their wants.  This is in many churches with many Christian circles and individual Christians.  They have totally missed the point of the Church and Christianity all together.

I got a different slogan for you:  "This isn't Burger King, you can't have it your way!" or better yet a popular one: "It's not about you!"  The Church is the Body of Christ and His church, not yours.  The churches worship is about worshipping God, not singing your favorite style or type of songs.  People can worship God with all sorts of styles, genres, and types of music, yet we try to limit God with our selfishness as if the worship songs/music was for and about us and it's not, it's us giving worship to and for God.  The churches decorations, programming, order of service, events, activities should be geared for what best suites the majority or best works to be efficient, productive, and positive so the church can better serve God and fulfill His mission of reaching the lost and making disciples, not pleasing your wants.

The point is, so many people have "Burger King Religion" where they want to mold and shape God and His church in their image in a variety of ways and they fail to realize that all of us are supposed to mold and shape our lives around God.  If more people were totally surrendering to God and allowing Him to transform their lives, we wouldn't have so many church splits, factions, and problem.  Even Preachers and church leaders(elders & deacons) can be selfish and "me" focused and hurt the church or hold her back. 

God doesn't approve or desire our fast food mentality to our faith.  Our goal should be to be the body of Christ (a healthy part of His church) our goal should be to worship God in spirit and truth regardless if the songs chosen don't meet our preferences, the church has to change and adapt with the times in order to continue to reach the lost and disciple people so that means that programs, events, and activities should change from time to time, meaning we stop doing things when they no longer work and we do new things that help our church be healthy and grow and most of all honors God. 

Some of the most selfish people I have met in this world have been "proclaimed Christians", yet I don't know how you can have the Holy Spirit, read and study God's Word, and be a part of His church and yet be so self-absorbed, self-centered, or self-unaware to realize it's never about you and always about God. Most of the things we argue, fight, grumble, and complain about in churches are not important, essential, or even matter.  People dying and going to hell and not knowing Jesus as their Lord, that's A LOT more important than whether we do the same dinner we've always done, or whether we get pews or pew chairs, or have VBS or the same revivals, or sing new or different songs, or something of that nature. 

In my years of ministry I might not have seen or heard it all, but I have certainly seen people who gripe, complain, control, stir up dissension, be power hungry, or selfish all to get their way, have control, and make sure things are the way they want. Some may even do it in the name of Jesus, but saying it's for Him doesn't make it for Him.  Satan will use Christians to destroy the momentum, work, and health of a church body.  We all must guard our hearts, egos, and agendas, so that we are not hurting the church or holding it back.     We must constantly guard our hearts and attitudes to realize it's not about us and always about Jesus and we all at times won't have everything our way or the way we like it or want it and guess what? That's ok! Because we should want it God's way and not our way because it's His Church, His worship, His money, His property, His service, His program, and always should be for Him and about Him

Let's all do a very objective self-awareness and make sure we're not being selfish or self-centered and trying to make our local church about us or for us.  While we need to take ownership in our churches it should always be with selfless motives and keeping the focus on God and not ourselves.

Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” James 4:6b(NIV)

Friday, March 06, 2015

What If

What If

I've said  before the "we've always done it that way" are 6 words that really hurt the church, but 2 more words that are harmful are the words "what if".  "What if..." are two words that we say out of fear, anxiety, or worry that cripple us and cripple our faith and cripple the power and influence of our churches.

"what one shows up?"  "what if someone gets mad?", "what if we make changes and someone gets upset?", "what if we do things different and lose a family", "what if we cancel and someone didn't know?" "What if we step out on faith and fail?" "What if it doesn't work?  "What if we can't afford it?" "What if so and so stops giving?"  "What if so and so gets mad and leaves?" What if...what if....what if...what if...

Do you see how a case of the "what if's" can keep you from helping grow the church?  Keep your church living in the past?  Keep leaders from leading? Keep decisions from being made out of fear or worry?  Maybe I'm a glass half full kind of person, but I look at the other end of the "what if? What if we don't do what we need to do then the church could die, dwindle, close it doors, not reach new people for Christ, not make a difference, and not ever change or grow!

They say only 2 things in life are certain, death and taxes, but the truth is life is uncertain and we can't live our lives guided and led by fear, worry, anxiety, or doubt and we certainly can't lead, serve, or worship in churches that are guided by the same feelings and emotions.  Jesus Christ is the head of the Church and we have His power to guide us, we have nothing to fear.  If someone gets mad, let them.  If someone leaves, let them.  If something doesn't work, try another way.  If something fails, then try it a different way. If something is broke, fix it.  If something is ineffective, then change it. 

I believe in the "no risk, no reward" philosophy.  I've often found it  ridiculous that our entire Christian faith is based on just that "faith", and yet we as churches, church leaders, and Christians alike seem to practice little or no faith. They want to do things they way they've always done them and not step out in faith, they want to stay in the comfort zones of tradition and not have faith in new methods, or not do anything unless they know they can do it or pay for it themselves without God.    They don't want to "rock the boat", well I got news for you, boats are made and designed to rock and we can't let the "what if's" destroy the work of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, our faith in Christ, or the power of the Church!

So, if you're a Christian, a minister, an elder, deacon, or church member not only get rid of the "we've always done it that way mentality", you also need to remove "what if" from your attitude and vocabulary and don't let satan destroy the great things God wants to do in our churches be leading, serving, or worshipping in fear or doubt. 

God can do anything He wants to do, but God also can't use us, bless us, or change u sif we're not willing to have the faith to trust in Him and risk great things in His name!  Let's stop limiting ourselves and the church by our "what if's"!

James 1:5-7(NIV)
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.