Monday, January 18, 2016
Now that the official football season in America is almost over (with the college championship football game being played last week and the Super Bowl scheduled for three weeks from now), I did not want to let any further time elapse before sharing one of my favorite new acronyms from the world of sports that applies to faith.
First of all you remember what an acronym is right? It's an abbreviation formed with the initial letters of words that make a word. For example here are some from the world of aviation: Delta - "Doesn't Even Leave The Airport", TWA - "The Worst Airlines". In yogurt circles in America there is: TCBY - "The Country's Best Yogurt", and ICBY - "I Can't Believe It's Yogurt". You put the two together and you get, ICB-TCBY - "I Can't Believe It's the Country's Best Yogurt". You get the idea...
So, here is an acronym from the head coach the Clemson University football program, Dabo Swinney, who was leader of the highest ranked college football team last year, in the entire NCAA ("National College Athletics Association" or "National Communists Against Athletes" depending on your definition). It's;
Which means, "Bring Your Own Guts".
The acronym is a play on the old acronym chestnut BYOB ("Bring Your Own Beer" or "Build Your Own Burrito"... again depending on your context).
To get serious for a moment, though, coach Swinney's idea behind the acronym is that, "guts are the only thing you can't teach a person." You can teach a person how to run good plays, you can help them to develop their physique to the top levels of performance, you can help them to grow mentally and psychologically to withstand high levels of pressure. Guts, or an "inner strength", on the other hand, are unique to the individual. You either have guts or you don't. They are what define a person, and make them great (or not). You can't teach guts - you must, as the acronym suggests, "bring your own".
As a pastor of 15 years or more, I have thought that "guts" or inner strength are also important for the Christian faith.
Many people through the years have asked me about the true definition of the text Deuteronomy 6:5: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength." This text, known as the greatest in the Old Testament (or Shema - short for "Hear") is about guts. In the New Testament, Jesus would later elaborate on the law when he gave a similar version of the Shema; "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22:37). The best definition of this is that we should love God with all of our...guts!
The ancient Hebrew people, not knowing as much as we do in the modern world about the human body, thought that the center of the body was not the heart (just left of center in our rib cages), but below that in our stomachs or our middle section. Heart, mind and soul and strength were quite literally, the guts. The Hebrew word was - LEB (or LEV), which really translates as "inner man, mind, will and heart". The word can also be translated as, "conscience, courage, middle". Again, quite literally guts. It is this inner dynamic that we must bring to our relationship with God
This view of our hearts is for me, much more compelling and visceral than the sense that we have of our modern hearts (which are almost always highly emotional, often in a kind of affected way). When the book of Proverbs says, "My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad" (Prov. 23:15). The word that is used is LEB - guts. "If your guts are wise, then my guts will be glad." It makes so much more sense, and carries so much more strength.
In the book of Jeremiah, the prophet writes, referring to our relationship with God, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (guts)" (Jer. 29:13)
Bring Your Own Guts
Because it's MLK day (another acronym), I must get to babysitting my two daughters, who are out of school...ASAP
All For Now,
Monday, January 11, 2016
This week's blog post is an homage to the life and death of one of the greatest creative rock and roll geniuses of the 20th century (David Bowie), and a highlight of a brand new sermon series that I started this past week; "No Pressure: How To Connect People With God In a Postmodern World".
When the rock band Queen in collaboration with David Bowie released their hit song, "Under Pressure" in 1981, nobody could ever have imagined how prescient and prophetic the lyrics would turn out to be. The words spoke to the harried existences of modern people. Here is how the song opens:
Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you, no man ask for
Under pressure that burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
Again, these lyrics were meant to describe the modern life - a life that's highly under pressure.
San Francisco Theological Seminary recently asked me to deliver a series of talks (lectures) on the topic of evangelism. More broadly they have asked me to come and talk about how the modern church can begin to recapture for God the hearts and minds of young people in the world today. As I have thought about this question, in the start of my third New Church Development, I have realized that there is one singular reason that people don't have time for God these days. It isn't because they don't believe in Jesus. It isn't because they aren't familiar with the Bible stories. It isn't even because of the recent generational revulsion of organized religion. It is simply because they don't have....TIME...for God. Simply put, they are:
I don't believe that the world has ever been more "pressurized" than it is today. With computers and cell phones putting people in almost constant touch with information and telecommunication there is no space left for the human soul to rest. While there have certainly been moments of more overall devastation in world history, there has never been a time of more constant engagement. With the constancy of activity, and action, and movement and motion, our lives have become totally
On Christmas morning, our family woke up and opened up our presents, which took the girls about 3 and a half minutes. After breakfast we boarded a plane from Southern California Burbank airport to fly home to Sacramento (why did we fly? of course because we were under a time crunch to make the most of our time with family...we were Under Pressure). When we arrived, we noticed something different about Sacramento. As we breathed outside our breath could be seen as white plumes of steam. Our fingers tingled. Our lungs stung. The thermometer on the car dashboard read - 28 degrees. What was this strange and different thing we asked our parents? They explained to us that this was what was known as....WINTER. As Southern Californians we weren't familiar with this phenomenon.
It was so cold over the holidays in Sacramento that we actually weren't able to get out and do a whole lot of anything. We were forced to sit in front of the TV and drink hot coco and bundle up under blankets and warm our feet by the fire. At first it was sort of annoying, but then we realized how fun it was to actually sit and do...NOTHING. It was wonderful to go inwards for one week and not always live outwards. It was so nice for a moment to not be:
When we arrived home, we were happily met by the annual El Nino rains. Perhaps we might be able to spend a couple of days of down-time before the school year began. It was raining so hard that the droplets formed large circles the size of magnifying glasses on the car windows. And then a glorious miracle took place. As I was sitting at my desk writing my weekly Bible study, all of a sudden, the lights in the house flickered and they went dark. The power had gone out. "Finally", I said to myself, we can now slow down a bit. We can now experience our own form of WINTER. We can rest.
But then, as luck would have it, I heard a motor start up outside my office window, and a generator kick into action, and the lights went back on again. It turns out that the previous owners of the house we are now renting installed an electric generator for the house to kick in if ever the power went out. Even as the natural forces of the world were trying to force us to slow down, our modern contrivances were trying to get us to speed up. Once again, we were:
The Christian life should be marked by many things: love, joy, perseverance, generosity and forgiveness. However, one all too important dimension of the Christian life often gets overlooked - Peace. Jesus said, "Come to me all who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). As Christ followers we should be a people who are not always:
To paraphrase an old Christian campfire song: "They will know we are Christians...because we are calm."
To quote David Bowie, "Love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves."
All For Now,
Monday, January 4, 2016
With all of the festivities surrounding Christmas and New Years over the month of December, you might have missed one of the major pieces of news related to Major League Baseball in the United States. Pete Rose, former team member of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team, and three time NL batting champion (with a total of 4,256 hits from 1963-1986, topping Ty Cobb's batting record of 4,191) was denied entry once again into the Baseball Hall Of Fame. I can discern your collective depressed sigh even here at my computer in Camarillo:-). Citing strong proof about Pete Rose's continued gambling and evidence that he bet on baseball games, even after he was ejected from the game for life in 1989, baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said that Rose had not sufficiently shown enough evidence that he had reformed his ways.
As a side note, my own great uncle (by marriage), Maury Wills, former all star baseball player with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who has also been consistently denied entry into the baseball Hall of Fame for different reasons than betting (drug abuse), it must be said HAS shown a much higher level of personal remorse and contrition for his personal behavior while playing major league baseball than Pete Rose.
But I digress....
Actually, Commissioner Manfred's exact wording of his statement about Pete Rose is the entire focus of this blogpost: Here it is; "Mr Rose has not presented credible evidence of A RECONFIGURED LIFE either by an honest acceptance by him of his wrongdoing, so clearly established in the Dowd report, or by a rigorous, self-aware and sustained program of avoidance by him of all the circumstances that led to his permanent eligibility in 1989."
A Reconfigured Life!
A Reconfigured Life. I love that. As a pastor, I am constantly trying to come up with new ways to describe the Christian conversion experience and journey. So many of the well worn phrases that we all know so well have become tired with overuse and lack of thought. Phrases such as;
Dyed in the Blood of Jesus
often ring hallowly in the ear, or more likely "clunk" (especially for outsiders to the faith). They have become tired cliches. Just to be clear, these aforementioned phrases still carry meaning and weight when used with intention and focus. However, I am still struck by the concept of a...
I like it for so many reasons. First, it doesn't suggest that our lives are something that we ourselves reconfigure. God reconfigures them (Metanoya - Repentance, to use another old chestnut phrase of the faith) from above. I also like the notion of reconfiguration, in general. Reconfiguration suggests that the same materials are used, but they are - Reconfigured. A Lego set, for example, gets reconfigured each time someone plays with it. A Christmas Nativity scene gets reconfigured every December. The same pieces are used, but they are put together in a different way.
And scientists tell us that atoms, reconfigured in different ways, actually create different substances. Reconfiguration can imply adding certain things that change the entire organic makeup of a thing. For example, the difference between H2O and Hydrogen Dioxide is the placement of a small change of atoms - Reconfigured.
One of my pet peeves of Christianity is the notion, by some, that when we become Christ followers that we become totally new beings. And to be sure, the Bible tells us that we are a, "New Creation". However, as all of us know, when we become Christ followers, as much as we become something new, there is also much that remains the same. And that's why, as Paul says, "We do what we do not want to do." We are the same people we ever were but we are - but we are Reconfigured. When we become Christ followers, the same old us, meets a brand new Christ, and Holy Spirit and we become Reconfigured. We have...
All For Now,