Relax and Rejoice

When talking about sanctification in today's church, "relax" isn't the first thing that typically comes up. But really though, we should.

That link is to a post by Tullian Tchividjian from earlier this week. It was a necessary reminder for me and it is definitely worth a read by you.

Christianity is not first about our getting better, our obedience, our behavior, and our daily victory over remaining sin–as important as all these are. It’s first about Jesus! It’s about his person and subsitutionary work–his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, session, and promised return. We are justified–and sanctified–by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. So that even now, the banner under which Christians live reads, “It is finished.”

Tchividjian is pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and a grandson of Billy Graham.

Being Bad

Ichiro Suzuki with his first swing of 2011 (Seattle Mariners via Twitter)

I love the Seattle Mariners. For this reason, I think I've become an extremely cynical person, but I can't just stop loving them. There are a lot of times when I have to check myself and make sure that my love for Jesus is even greater than this...so much so that I can't just 'quit loving Him' -- to make sure that love is just a part of who I am. Well, on a smaller scale, that's how it is with the M's. The image above of Ichiro taking his first cut of this year's spring training while top prospect 2B Dustin Ackley (13) looks on conjured up all sorts warm, fuzzy feelings. Last season, the Mariners lost 101 games. Translation: they're really bad. I watched them on TV a few times and hated it, and afterward I was thankful I didn't blow a huge amount on an MLB.tv subscription. When Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez wasn't on the mound, there was nothing enjoyable about watching my favorite team play. It's an awful feeling. 
Living in Minneapolis/St. Paul, I'm surrounded by fans of the Twins, who would be considered the class MLB organization. Because of this, they were in the postseason (it's been 10 years since my favorite team was in the postseason), but they played the Yankees and, true to form, got swept. I attended the first postseason game, and a Yanks fan sat just behind us. Twins fans tried to get him worked up by shouting things like "Yankees Suck," which, as profound and clever as that is, didn't really affect him. He was accused, falsely, I think, of pouring a beer on someone and was almost kicked out of the game, but did return just in time to see Mark Teixiera earn his $20 million paycheck with a go-ahead home run just inside the right field pole. He was loving life. The thoughts are, man, it must be great to be a Yankees fan. They can have all the best players on their team. Would it be though? I'm not so sure. 

Winning is always fun, but it's a lot like weather. The first spring warmth in Minnesota feels infinitely better to its citizens than any good weather in a place such as Phoenix, where its commonplace. Winning the World Series for the San Francisco Giants was elation. Winning the World Series for the New York Yankees is expected. How fun is that? "Yep, we won again, business as usual. Next season, please." I looked at this Yankees fan, and the only thought I had is that it's just so easy for them. How fun can that really be? 

It's extremely frustrating to be a Mariners fan. Three years ago, the M's lost over 100 games. The next year, they won 85, sparking some hope in the fanbase. Then, last year, they lost 100 again. This year feels like a rehash of the 2009 pre-season...doom and gloom about the Mariners and how bad they are and how hopefully they can turn it around. Rooting for a bad team blows, and yet, I enjoy it, because there's still that hope. There's still that hope that, like the Giants did last year, the pieces will come together for a magical run. The hope that we can ride the Cy Young winner's arm, get a breakout from young guys like Justin Smoak, Michael Saunders and Ackley, and sneak into the postseason. Winning isn't expected, but I truly think it's coming. And when it does, it'll be complete elation. I may be happier than any Yankees fan could possibly be. I stick with them despite being bad, because soon we'll be good, and it'll make it that much better.


Dirty Snow Drifts

I'm tired of you
 That point has come in the winter. I snapped...I about went ballistic. All my life I have lived in cold weather climates in the northern United States, so it's something I'm somewhat accustomed to, but it hits me harder each year, and it hits harder in the Twin Cities than in Montana. That point when I'm driving in my car and I'm just watching the dirty snowdrifts on the side of the road and my car will be warm in like 10 minutes when I'm at my destination and crap there's a pothole I just hit and speaking of my car its covered in highly-corrosive salt after I washed it a week ago and what does grass look like again and brr it's so freaking cold in this state.
The dirty snowdrift ranks quite high on my list of least-favorite things. Somewhere between tuna and Robert Horry. Snow is beautiful when it falls, and, in fact, I think the snow falling outside my window right now is beautiful even with the mood that I am in. But that snowdrift that is mixed with road particles and sand and car parts and garbage? Melt. And melt soon. 

But, the redeeming factor about this moment is the moment that immediately follows. I see the grassy green outfield. I smell the clippings and the barbecue. I taste the sunflower seeds and feel the sun giving me cancer. I hear the crack of the bat. Spring will be coming, folks. Spring will be coming. 

Also, yes, I know, I did choose to live here. 


Marketing Jesus

Mark Galli of Christianity Today nails it:

Along the way—in sermons, in church slogans, and implicit in special evangelistic or missional events—are the promises. The therapeutic: Things will go better with Jesus. The practical: You'll find ideas for life. The transformational: You will be all that you can be. And whether the church is draped in the Disney-like efficiency of the megachurch or the counterculture of hipster rebellion, coolness is often an implicit part of the mix.

This should not shock or alarm us. Immersed as we are in a Super Bowl culture, what else is a church supposed to do? We think we have a "product" (albeit head and shoulders above any other product) to "sell." And we think we have to use good marketing if we're going to get people to buy into Jesus. Though I'm clearly no fan of this approach, let's face it: it often works. Many people come to faith and join churches by such means (even if they then have to spend years unlearning what such a method implies: that faith in Christ is a deal or transaction). So while I poke fun, I don't think it wise to condemn a method a gracious God is willing to stoop to use.
But he does believe there is a better way:

For one, we can stop marketing the faith as if it were a product in the marketplace. We can stop thinking it our job to convince or cajole people.
This barely scratches the surface of what he said, so really you should just read it all. A very insightful piece.


Give Me Something More Practical

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Several days ago the pastor of a local church spoke in our daily chapel at Northwestern College. It was one of the finest messages we've heard so far, if one is putting the messages on a scale from 'good' to 'bad,' which you tend to do when you've been in chapel every day for two and a half years. This speaker was fired up, and his passion and energy were contagious. His message was rooted in the truth of Jesus Christ as savior, and he finished with a great challenge for all of us. Best of all, though, was that he had a story. The theme of the week in chapel was 'story week,' where speakers came in and shared the stories of their faith journey or the testimonies of someone else. This speaker had his own story which included calling out to Jesus while DJ'ing (is that real verb?) at a rave, only to have a man come up to him minutes later telling him Jesus was his Lord and Savior. That's powerful. That's the real deal. That's the work of Christ. I love that.

But what if, say, I grew up with two fantastic Christian parents, in a Christ-centered home (usually...I'm not sure if any real home on this earth can always be completely Christ-centered), and have been brought up with the solid instruction of Christian schools and churches? Charles Spurgeon asks me, "Believer, do you recollect the day when your fetters fell off?" I think, yes, I do know that my 'fetters' (Spurgeon talks real cool) have fallen off, but do I remember the 'instant' that that happened? I remember several times when I feel as though I've really come back to Christ and been awakened from complacency, but I don't have that instant, and I feel like, as you go through the uphill struggle which John Bunyan's Christian goes through, you tend to forget certain things. There are certain words that I hear so often and read so often, they lose their meaning, and it is tragic. One such word is trust.

Growing up around constant Christian instruction, you start to want new ways to go about things. The simple scriptures is not quite enough anymore, as, well, I've already heard that time and time again, and 'it's not working.' Just writing it makes me feel foolish, but this is the honest thought process. Proverbs says "Trust in the Lord with all your heart," and I think, 'yeah, that verse again, ok, I've heard that one. That's cool and everything, but let's get to something more practical.' More practical? What's more practical than trusting? When I think about the problems and the sin and stress that plagues me and discourages me, how much of its influence can I attribute to a lack of trust in Jesus Christ? At the heart, that's essentially what happens with sin. It is no longer fully trusting in the Jesus as Savior.

And, at this point in life, when the future is very much up in the air, I think to myself, 'well yeah, I'm trusting in Jesus for that.' And when I get stressed, I think a large part of that stress is the refusal to trust in Jesus in the everyday decisions that I make and the everyday killing of sin. How am I to trust in Him with the big things, when I so often neglect to trust Him in the smaller things.

If anything is to be fully trusted, it is the Lord. First in the small things, then in the bigger things? Don't let the commonplace command simply to 'trust' be overlooked.

Life is So Hard Sometimes

This dude might need to go read Job or Habakkuk. Life can just be so very very hard, and he found that out yesterday. My heart cries out for him...nachos and popcorn are definitely things that cannot be replaced. They are priceless.


You know that guy that you thought was impossible to like much less, but then something happens that makes the impossible possible?



Something about Jersey Shore is redeemable (apparently).

“The Situation” is rigorously committed to, well, doing his laundry. He exemplifies disciplined pursuit of things that truly matter to him. Sadly, these ends are not ultimate; they are trivial and in many cases sinful. This does not obscure the point, however; for Christians, profitable rebuke can show up in the unlikeliest of places. If Mike Sorrentino can devote himself rigorously to what he sees as important, why do I struggle to do the same, when I am captured by Christ and given all things in him (Rom. 8:32)?

-- Owen Strachan
If you've ever watched the show, you've probably thought to yourself, "hmm...I wonder what Snooki would do if she were president for a day." Thankfully, Snooki answered that so you don't have to go on wondering about such a question. Whether or not she'll be running, probably with John McCain, against the likes of Romney, Palin and Bachmann, no one really knows.


I Stumbled Upon It

And you thought pop music was complex and original...

Music that is Good to Listen To

I will be the first to admit that when it comes to music, I can be a little out-of-the-loop. I find out about sweet bands about a year after their good album is released. However, thanks to my friendship with morning show co-host David Wonders, I'm finding out about delightful music as it comes out. 

The latest? The Civil Wars. Yesterday, they released a new album, "Barton Hollow." Relevant Magazine has the scoop with an interview. I haven't been able to listen to a lot of the album, but the tracks I've listen to are just good, good stuff, including the title track, Barton Hollow. They've got a good folksy sound, and while the music isn't "blatantly Christian," the band members are Christians. As my professor said, "it's just some Christian peeps havin' fun crankin' out some tunes." This is true. Fun music.

More Words! And Stuff!

As a senior at Northwestern College, I've begun working on my senior project, which is producing a morning show which will air three days a week on Northwestern Media's HD-2 station in Minneapolis. Since I am on the show, much of the content we discuss would be appropriate fodder for this blog as well, so I'll be posting a lot of the things from our show right here on this blog. That means more words and stuff, which is just neat.


Tim Tebow and Sports Fanhood

A good friend of mine sent me a link yesterday morning. I always enjoy links from this friend, and this one was sent to me, I think, with the main intent being to get a rise out of me. The subject of this link: Tim Tebow. Success for her. The link was to a site called "Always Think Positive," and at that point I knew I was in for something very special.

A little context. Tim Tebow is all that is man. Not only is he all that is man, he is all that is the Christian man. Timmy will throw a 60-yard touchdown pass, run for two more, head to New York to grab the Heisman trophy, swing down to the Philippines to circumcise kids, and still make it home for dinner with mom. After dinner, he and mom will film an award-winning anti-abortion ad. Exaggerated? Well yeah. He won't accomplish these tasks within the course of a day, however he'll surely take care of them within the span of just a few years. Tim's shot appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated and you immediately notice the eye black: "Phil" on the right side, "4:13" graces the left. The guy was a one-man wrecking machine at the University of Florida, winning the National Championship for the Gators, and since he left, their offense has been in disarray. It didn't stop there. Tebow was drafted in the first round by Josh McDaniels and the Denver Broncos, and before he even took a snap, he led the league in jersey sales. Tim started several games for the Broncos at the end of 2010, and after many doubted he had the ability to succeed at the pro level, he threw for 654 yards and rushed for 227 more for Denver. And he did it in the name of Christ. He is the Christian athlete, not only boldly standing for his faith, humbly serving and keeping from the moral corruption that envelops many athletes, but also succeeding. He was the best. And he loved God. So why am I not a huge Tim Tebow fan? Why am I, a Christian fan of sports, not a huge fan of Tim Tebow? Why have I not purchased his jersey yet? Am I what you would call a "Tebow-hater?" Absolutely not, but it seems as though the lack of my absolute adoration for him earns such a tag. 

But why is this? Is it because I happen to be a Tennessee Volunteers fan and he demolished my Vols on too many occasions for the rival Gators? I guess that's part of it. But he should be the type of person that I look past the uniform to cheer for the man, right? Well, then, is it jealousy? Am I envious of Tim and all that he has done? That's not the answer either. Tim is successful, and good for him. I don't get jealous of every person that is successful. I go nuts watching someone like Felix Hernandez pitch, and he hasn't spoken a word about being a follower of Christ and, unless I'm missing some article about him (which, I can assure you, I'm not), I don't think he does any circumcising or missions work. Should I not care as much about someone like Felix and be a bigger fan of Tim, simply because he's a better guy and more worthy of my fanhood? 

In short: no. There appears to be a misconception among fans that athletes are in categories: "the good guys" (Tebow, Tony Dungy - an athlete, sort of, and Josh Hamilton - but he's a little dirty with those tattoos, and screwed up that one time), "the bad guys" (Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, Dennis Rodman), and everyone else. The truth is, Tim Tebow is no better than any of these other athletes. Tiger Woods and Tim Tebow are both just as in need of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. 

I agree with Ted Kluck, who writes in The Reason for Sports: A Christian fanifesto, "I can relate to guys who feel angry, nervous and self-conscious, while I have a harder time relating to Super Bowl champions for whom things appear to be going incredibly well." I don't absolutely adore Tim Tebow partly because I can't relate to the spotlessness with which he is often portrayed. I would consider myself a bigger fan of Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton, and a big reason for that is that he screwed up. He struggles with something that I struggle with (and everyone struggles with): sin. But he's incredibly open and honest about it, much more-so than we often are. In addition to that, he humbly goes about his work. No one hour specials on ESPN, no commercials 'thanking' his doubters and no award-winning ads. If you want to look it up, you can find his testimony. But otherwise, Josh Hamilton puts a lot more importance on his relationship with Christ and his mortification of sin than on hitting bombs (which he does...often).  Hamilton doesn't make the game bigger than God Himself.

Do I hate Tim Tebow? No, not at all. Quite the opposite. I admire what he's done, and if he becomes successful and his success spreads the Gospel, then that's wonderful and praise God. Many legitimately hate Tim Tebow just because of his beliefs, while they decry other athletes who don't 'do things the right way.' Just the fact that he is hated because of Christ (Luke 21:17) is pretty cool. More of us should probably be hated by society because of Jesus Christ. I am less a fan of the hype and adoration surrounding Tim Tebow, which he might have nothing to do with; however, he also, by all indications, doesn't seem to shy away from. 

And I didn't really appreciate his running all over my Volunteers.