This past week most of America has been watching “March Madness,” the final basketball tournament for large universities and upstart Florida Gulf Coast University has stolen the spotlight. Only in their second year of eligibility to make the tournament, they have upset two better known teams to make the final 16 (out of 64) after being ranked as one of the worst 8 teams in the tourney.
The most striking feature of their play though is ….. THEY ARE HAVING FUN! They are [passing (what? a pass in basketball?) dunking, laughing, dancing, and enjoying every moment along the way. And making fans, including me. It’s reminded me of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird playing for the title when team play, passing, and loving the game of basketball drove their will to win.
One problem with theological litmus tests is that they’re binary. You’re either one thing or another. Sure categories and stereotypes provide quick summaries about where people stand, but I generally find that people use them to push others to the side – what we quickly term “right”or “left,” conservative or liberal.
I’m not a big country music fan, but I live in a home with two people who LOVE it. Kelly told me about the song “Changed” by Rascal Flatts and I think it’s a fantastic example of the transformation that Jesus Christ can do in our lives. And that we can stand up, raise our hands, or write that we’re changed. Because we are. Changed. Enjoy.
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.
I was listening to some instrumental music this week and the old hymn “Nearer, My God, to Thee” came on. Survivors of the Titanic reported that it was the last song played on the ship before it sank. However, it struck me that we so emphasize God’s coming to Earth that we often overlook God’s ultimate goal for his coming: That we would be nearer to him. Jesus’ atoning work would again make it possible for man’s dwelling to be with God. Jesus invited us to abide with Him (John 15) and the Holy Spirit is our Guide and Comfort.
So, the question for me (and for us) this advent is, “Am I drawing nearer to God?” It seems like it should be a mark of a growing familiar friendship with God.
I teach an online class on Christian theology. Designed for adults who didn’t complete college right after high school, the course often has students who are intimidated with taking a Christian theology course in person. In return, they usually take the opportunity and the online ‘security’ to be honest and discuss their spiritual lives with great honesty and detail.
Now, I haven’t conducted any rigorous research from the papers and discussion boards, but I have heard common themes over the past two years, 14+ classes, and over 200 students from the Midwest US. I have heard them share what happened in high school, often growing up in a ‘Christian’ home, and what happened since high school.
Most days of each week I read from A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants for my devotional time. For each week, there is a Psalm you read each day, the same Psalm. This week’s psalm was 103, one that is well-known. However, this week it popped off the pages again in new ways. So, I share it today for a Sunday reading:
Let all that I am praise the Lord;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. 2 Let all that I am praise the Lord;
may I never forget the good things he does for me. 3 He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases. 4 He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies. 5 He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! read more…
Confirm me, Lord, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and give me grace to be strong inwardly in soul and to cast out from it all unprofitable business of the world and of the flesh, that it may not be led by unstable desires of earthly things. And grant that I may behold all things in this world as they are – transitory and of short abiding, and I myself also to pass away together with them, for nothing under the sun can long abide, but all in vanity and affliction of the spirit.
Therefore, O Lord, give me true heavenly wisdom, that I may learn to seek you and to find you, and above all things to love you, and to understand and know all other things as they are, after the direction of your wisdom, and not otherwise. And give me grace, also, to withdraw myself from those who flatter me, and patiently tolerate those who grieve me so that the way I have begun will bring me to a good and blessed ending. read more…