Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Life together...and death apart?

My sweet growing church just started a new series on biblical church and biblical community called "Life Together." This reminded me of one of the most challenging, encouraging and frightening verses to me on the importance of this topic.

Hebrews 3:12-13- "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."

FIRST, note that it is the responsibility of the community of believers to watch out for all other members. Not in a judgmental, nosy, gossipy way, but in an attitude of love, and care. The responsibility of the community is to make sure that no one has an "evil, unbelieving heart..."

SECOND, notice what the community should do to ensure the health of its believing members. "Exhort one another." Now, observe the relationship between these two clauses. The first clause ("exhort...") brings about the result of the second clause- "that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." A causes B.

A- "Exhort one another." This is the command.
B- "that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." This is the result/purpose.

The astounding implication here is that if we are not encouraged by fellow members of the church, we will be hardened. If you take away A, you will lose its result, B. Without encouragement, you and I will both grow hardened and deceived by our sinful tendencies. We all have weaknesses, blind spots, and tendencies, and we will indeed rationalize our sin- "You win every argument you have with yourself," as my old Dean used to continually say. So true.

The second implication is that your encouragement of others is crucial & necessary for them to avoid being deceived by sin and falling away. We truly gain 'life together,' but death apart!

Now, for those who may argue that we should 'mind our own business' and that encouragement and intimacy like this is 'nosy,' I would argue the following- Encouragement is loving. When I proofread your term paper and point out your grammatical and spelling errors, do I not have your own good in mind? When a climbing partner points out the dangers of the path his partner has taken, isn't he looking out for his buddy's best interest? Shoot, when you point out my open fly or the cream cheese on my face before the job interview, isn't that an act of love for me? In the same way, encouragement, correction, and instruction are not invasive, but life-giving acts of love.

How critical encouragement is to the health of our faith! And so I ask us the following...
1) Are you encouraging those in your lives? They need it to keep their faith!
2) Have you placed yourself in a position to receive consistent encouragement from others? How do you respond to their encouragement?

My encouragement to you- don't die away from the pack.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Art and Accuracy in Analogy

I love analogies- often times I don't remember whole sermons or messages, but I remember the analogies, verbal & visual, that paint the picture of the message for me. However, as a learner & occasional teacher, I must beware of the accuracy of analogies.

First, analogies are meant primarily to illustrate the truth explained. But the truth must be shown to be true, scriptural, etc. Consider the following example (off the top of my head!)

"Imagine water. When water runs down a hill, or my driveway, it takes the path of least resistance. If something is in its way, it simply changes course, follows gravity, and ends up at the bottom of the hill, as far as it can go. In the same way, God wants you and me to take the path of least resistance..."

Now is what I said about water true? Yes. But when compared with God's message it does not explain the truth of how God wants us to live. The Bible tells us to be like Jesus, who endured the cross. Therefore, though my example is true in real life, it does not accurately connect to a truth about God.

While my example was drastic and obvious, many others are less so. What's my point? When you learn from the great teachers God has given you, make sure your head is down, fixed on and learning from your Bible and not simply an ornate analogy. Make sure that the truth of the Bible is explained and understood, and the analogy is a super-sidekick that colors the truth, not distorts it. And when you teach, do not rely on analogy alone to explain- make sure that the God-given tool of analogy fits the truth of Scripture, instead of morphing Scripture into your clever analogy.

Analogically speaking, just some "food" for thought...

Monday, April 13, 2009

What I love about Hockey

Keep reading! Don't stop just because I said "hockey" you Americano estupido!

Yes, Spring is here, and you know what that means! Allergies, Daylight Savings Time, and Hockey Playoffs! Hockey is not my #1 favorite sport (football and baseball take the cake), but it is definitely up there. Why? Well, for starters, when you have a father nearing half a century who still plays ice hockey weekly, it's hard not to get addicted. And second, there are so many intriguing and hilarious elements of the sport that make it, well, unique, among normal team sports. See below.

The Penalty
Basketball has fouls, football & golf have 'penalties,' and in soccer they hold up colored cards while people whine (sounds juvenile to me!) But in hockey, you do something wrong (a "penalty") and they take you out of the game for 2 minutes. Now I know some soccer buff will respond that something like that happens in soccer, but, c'mon, when you have 11 guys, half of whom are standing around, it's not as big of a deal. In hockey, they take away 20% of your movable players! And if one of the remaining 4 players commits a penalty, he's gone too, and you're 2 men down!

The Penalty Box
Directly related to the above, when you do something wrong, they put you in a box by yourself (plus one guy in a suit who opens the door for you) on the other side of the rink. That's hilarious.

If you hit another player with your "high" stick, you get a penalty (2 minutes). However, if the other player is injured (which means 'if he is bleeding') your penalty is raised to 4 or 5 minutes long, at the ref's discretion! The presence of blood generally determines the severity of the penalty, a rule unlike any other sport!

The Playoff Beard
Many teams or sports have superstitions or traditions (the rally cap, the rally monkey, a cute little cheer), but rarely are these traditions universal within the sport. In hockey, no matter your team, age, or ability to grow facial hair, the players will not shave until they are eliminated from the playoffs. Which results is several large, burly, hairy men playing hockey with a few quick skinny guys with approximately 7 hairs on their face. Classic.

The Playoffs
Every sport is affected by referees, which usually is unfortunate. However, no team sport is less affected by referees than the NHL playoffs- I think they forget their whistles. It is absolutely brutal. If you don't know what I mean, the Ducks open the playoffs Thursday night against the Sharks. And there will be blood. Side note- In almost every other sport, players incessantly complain about 'bad calls' or 'fouls.' In hockey, players generally shake their head, spit, and go to the penalty box (see above!)

The price received vs. The price paid
Basketball players play 82 games and speak of fatigue down the stretch. Baseball players play 162 games and speak of the 'dog days of summer.' NFL has only 16 games! They got nothing on hockey! In each sport, the players are paid through the roof. In hockey, a star may command a $8 million salary (compared to the $20 million salaries of the NBA, MLB, etc.) However, those who are in higher paid sports do not nearly pay the same physical price as a hockey player. I mean, where else do you see a guy drop down and take a 100mph puck off his leg 2 times within 10 seconds, limp off the ice, and make 1.5 million a year? Over 82 games? That's right, nowhere!

These intriguing tidbits are what makes hockey a man's -or at least a mann's - game...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Long Overdue?

So I start...not start thinking, growing, and changing, but start writing my thoughts, growths and changes in concise, catchy, and hopefully not too confusing ways...for the world to read! Or at least my wife, a few friends, and my mom :)
So what do I mean? Why do I define the virtual extension of my heart, my very identity (aka-"my blog") as I do? Embrace the tension. To invite, to not fear, to never back down, explain it away, wimp out, or compromise- that's what I mean by "embrace."
But tension? As an "already, but not yet, resurrected, fallen mann" I face tension everyday. I face theological tension when the infinite God communicates and my finite mind struggles to comprehend. I face emotional tension when the melodies of my heart are far more majestic than the whispers of my life. I face social tension when the way things are pales in comparison with they way things ought to be- politically, spiritually, economically, socially, etc.
As the switchfoot song states-
"Welcome to the fallout, welcome to resistance
The tension is here, the tension is here
Between who you are and who you could be
Between how it is and how it should be..."

So 'the tension is here'- and to be the man God wants me to be, I refuse to ignore it.