Bringing the Gospel into Daily Life

Bringing the Gospel into Daily Life

Luke 10:2
Jesus told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Does God Care About Sports? (Final Part) YES YES YES!

Does God care about Sports? ABSOLUTELY!
He cares about his creation, all that we do, in both our work and our recreation, both our work and our rest, both our work and our play.

God cares about sports because it's someone's work, and people are intricately involved in the work! Beyond that, the God of the Bible is the God who made the heavens and the earth, he is invested in all that goes on in creation and he is actively about the business of redeeming this broken world. Yes God cares about sports. Yes God cares about your ART. Yes God cares about your VIDEO GAMING. Yes God cares about your READING. Yes God cares about your WORK. Yes God cares about your FAMILY. YES GOD CARES!

By way of announcement let me say that it has been a pleasure blogging via this website for the last few years while in seminary. The time has come to move on from a personal blogging space, to a more ministry minded space that meshes well with both the WORK and REST I and my wife are involved in through the missions work God has called us to. If you would like to still follow my work, writing, and receive regular updates on how God's Kingdom is going forward through broken people like me-Go ahead and head over to and check out the work that God has called my family into!

Again thanks for all the opportunities and memories Toman's Tome!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Does God Care About Sports? (Part 9) Ethics

God cares about all that we do, both our work and our rest. In these two big realms of life we can offer to God worship that is pleasing to him, in our daily chores, daily work, and daily rest. Both our work and rest can be evaluated as worship by excellence, effort, and ethics.

Ethics can be thought of as the method or way in which we go about accomplishing our work or rest. God's word has lots to say about ethics and holds a high standard for his people. While at first this sounds like something very religious, otherworldly, or different from everyday life, it's not. You and I appreciate high standards in customer service. When customer service is terrible, inefficient, and rude, it's bad for business and you as the customer realize there is a difference between your level of expectation and the methods used to achieve your expected results.

The way we go about our work and rest is incredibly important. We all have standards for how we would like to be treated in our work and our rest. At this point you may be wondering how on earth a Monty Python skit has anything to do with ethics and how God has made us to worship him-good question! The argument clinic is run very well, the customer's expectations are met left and right. The method for actually accomplishing the goal of bridging the gap between the customers expectations and the companies performance are highly effective until the end of the sketch. Ethics are about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, and living in light of the expectations of God's created intent for humanity. When we cease to live loving our neighbor's as our selves, our ethics become incredibly sketchy.

Our ethics in our work and our rest can be summed up in the words of Jesus:
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:34-40
Whenever an ethical issue comes up, there are difficult nuances to play out, think about, and study. That being said, Jesus' words are a great place to start thinking about the ethics of a particular situation.

Check on back Next week as I have a big life announcement about the work that God is calling me to on the other side of Seminary!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Does God Care About Sports? (Part 8) Effort

Yesterday we looked at how Excellence is worth pursuing in our work and our rest. Today we examine how our level of effort plays a role in our worship, both in work and rest. The best way I know to think about effort is to share the classic story from Aesop's fables concerning the grasshopper and the ant.  

In a field one summer's day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.

"Why not come and chat with me," said the Grasshopper, "instead of toiling and moiling in that way?"
"I am helping to lay up food for the winter," said the Ant, "and recommend you to do the same."
"Why bother about winter?" said the Grasshopper; we have got plenty of food at present." But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil.
When the winter came the Grasshopper found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing, every day, corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer.

Then the Grasshopper knew...
It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.

Does my level of effort reflect the priority this work and/or rest this has in God's Kingdom? In our rest and our work we have an opportunity to let our "toiling and moiling" reflect the purpose and importance of our worship. This actually leads to two different freedoms: freedom from a sort of "effort-ism" that over does it, and laziness that doesn't give the right effort. 

Effort plays into both the excellence of our work, and the ethics of our work. Today don't give 110% effort, give just the right amount as you worship and glorify God in rest and work, sports and ministry. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Does God Care about Sports? (Part 7) Excellence

Yesterday we went over the big chart that sums up the rest of what we are talking about as we close out this miniseries on God and sports. Over the next 3 days We will be looking at 3 aspects of our work and rest that are areas of worship for our creator. 

Have you ever walked out of a movie and thought "that...was...terrible"? Maybe you have had an experience while listening to music thinking to yourself "who calls this music, this is more like yuck"? Perhaps you and some of your friends or coworkers went out to eat at a local establishment, things were going great, until you actually all got your food, ever think to yourself "this is gross"? Bad movies are just that, bad. Lame music is just that, lame. Disgusting food is...well, you get the picture. Bad, lame, and gross, are not supposed to be the characteristics of the quality of hard work and good rest. Human beings made in the image of God have the joy and responsibility to act as sub-creators as we worship and mimic God's grand work in creation. Part of that joy and responsibility is found in doing our work and our rest excellently.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
 Christians have long since been known for a "Christian Work Ethic". There is some aspect of ethics that play into this, but much of this term comes from the quality of work performed by an individual or group. Excellence is something to be pursued in our work. This may sound at first like a big concept that is tough to understand, but really what we are talking about is taking out the garbage before the house smells of rotten fruit, accomplishing a task in accordance with standards, finishing a project early, or blowing someone's expectations out of the water due to the relative amount of awesome that was put into a duty. Pursuing excellence is why many of us go to school, continue education, read books, and seek wisdom and knowledge in our work and hobbies. We humans don't just want to do stuff, we want to do awesome stuff that is worth remembering.

3 minutes of awesome, even if you don't enjoy rugby

Carlin Isles is one incredibly fast Rugby player. He is so fast that he actually has been a track star here in the United States prior to playing Rugby for the national team. When I think of excellence I think of Carlin running as fast as he can around the corner, scraping the edge of the defense, and scampering in to score a Try as his opponents suck wind behind him. Carlin runs excellently and he makes some amazing plays in his work. You and I are not Carlin Isles, we don't run that fast, and most of us don't play rugby. So what does excellence look like in our lives?

The more I read of Aristotle the more I am simultaneously amazed, and puzzled

Pursuing excellence for God's glory is more than running fast for Carlin Isles, but it is certainly for less. When Carlin sprints as hard as he can he is pushing himself to reach his limits, as a rugby player physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually! We must pursue excellence in our work, and our rest as we seek to worship God in the avenues of life he has placed us into, our work, our play, our family, our home, our friends, our church, our neighborhood.

I had a carpet like this as a child, it was an excellent play area. 

Excellence looks a bit different for each of us. For you pursuing excellence may be quite different from running with a massive leather ball in your hands, but the principle remains-whatever you do, do it for God's glory (1 Cor 10:31) and that includes doing it to the best of your ability. For you Lawyers, this means practicing law with your incredible mental and social capacity (you may like insensitive lawyer jokes, but all of the lawyers I know are awesome people). For you Mothers, this means loving your children in the ways the Lord has called you to, with both discipline (hard for some) and mercy (hard for others). For you Fathers, this means taking time to remember YOU ARE FATHERS! Be excellent fathers in the time you spend with your families-not half present with a phone, computer, ipad, or thoughts of the office on the tip of your brain, but wholly present with your family giving them your whole self during the time you are with them. For you Students, this means taking recognizing your capacities as a learner and pushing yourself to grow. For all of us, it means when we are not at work, we should be resting excellently.

Something we do excellently as a nation is avoid both work and rest!

Resting excellently is just as diverse as working excellently. For some it may mean firing up the computer and playing some league of legends with some friends. For others resting excellently may mean taking a walk to through a local park. For some it may mean a weekend away to hunt. For others it may mean time with a loved one in a hospital or nursing home. For some resting excellently may mean powering on all the gadgets and gizmos to make a symphony of sound and a digital virtual playground. For others it may mean powering down, finding a comfortable spot, and catching up on some sleep.

A challenge of pursing excellence is finding balance, many fall into obsession either in work or rest

What does an NFL Running back have to say about excellence? Pay attention when he says what he defines as a "bad game". For some they would say he had a good game, but Terrel Davis knew when he missed a block, missed an assignment, and in some way let his teammates down. We have moments in our lives where we know regret, and guilt intimately because we know personally (although others might not) that we have not pursued excellence. That feeling, more than anything else, isn't letting others down, it's letting yourself down. Those are the moments we can go to God, repent, and recognize that we are not pursing excellence in our work and/or rest.

Yes, TD is one of my favorite NFL players, and YES I'm excited football is almost back.

Work is hard work, and so is rest. God made us to worship him in our work and in our rest. One of the ways we do that is by pursuing excellence. I will never run like Carlin Isles, I don't have that physical ability. But there are things that Carlin Isles will never do that I can do at a level of excellence, not because I'm awesome, but because the God who made Carlin and Jacob is an awesome God who gives amazing gifts to his creation. Today, go and pursue the Lord God, maker of Heaven and Earth, pursue him excellently by pursing excellence in all that you do. Work well, rest well, and in all things give glory, honor, and worship to God our creator. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Does God Care About Sports? (Part 6) One Big Chart

Does God Care about Sports? Yes! God cares about his creation, in all that we say, do, and think, God is invested and desires what is best.

As we study how we can worship God in both our work and our rest, this week we will be looking in-depth at a couple of factors that means of evaluation that we can use to check our own hearts and where we are in line or out of sync with God's word and purpose for our work and our rest. Below is a chart that describes where we have gone thus far in our study, and shows a bit of where we are going the rest of this week.

God made all things, and he made all things good! (Genesis 1) All things made have been made with the Creator's intent to worship the creator (Genesis 1-2). When creation worships itself rather than the creator, lots of problems happen and this is known as Idolatry (Romans 1). There are two primary ways we humans worship-through our work and through our rest (Gen 2:15). Unfortunately, since we live in a broken world and are broken people we can fall short in many different ways in our worship (See the entirety of the OT for just how many ways we are broken). In both our work and rest there are multiple areas for us to check up on as we seek to worship God as he intends.

The rest of this week we will be looking at Excellence, Effort, and Ethics in our work and our rest. May God continue to bless this time in his word.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Does God Care about Sports? (Part 5) Denial and Addiction

Does God care about Sports? So far this week we have seen:
1. God cares about his creation 
2. God cares about humanities work and rest
3. God cares about how we balance work and rest
4. God cares about the big things, and the small things in our lives

Today we look at two pitfalls that are described in 1 Corinthians 6:12-Abuse, and Denial.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

Overuse, or Under use. These two pits of death seem to beset the living, breathing, human being on every side. Do we indulge in something, or do we avoid it all together?

Even Popeye once had to debate giving up his addiction to Spinach, and live in Denial of it's usefulness

Somewhere in between is where we are encouraged to go as humans, created in the image of God. Not in debt or captured for anything except the original intended purpose of creation. And enjoying, not denying the good creation around us that God has sent his son to Redeem. We all tend to go to one extreme or the other in our sin, either we "go off the deep end" and make something into a disproportionate part of life (addiction) or we deny an aspect of God's good creation out of fear (denial). When it comes to God caring about sports, rest, and work, we fall into these two pitfalls very quickly. Let me illustrate both of these quickly:

Living in St. Louis means I am a St. Louis Cardinals fan. The city is a robust factory of baseball mania, even in the bleak midwinter the talk on radio, television, newspapers, and in offices are consumed by discussions of spring training, the previous season, and the hopes for the upcoming year. Many folks in St. Louis know how to enjoy life well, going to a few baseball games here and there, and enjoying God's good creation and gift of athletic ability in others by cheering for the home team. But there is a level of obsession that is quite unhealthy and is borderline addiction for some who worship at the metaphorical grand church of Sports here in St. Louis. Busch stadium is awesome, the Cardinals are awesome-Don't read what I'm not writing-At the same time, the Cardinals are not what this life is all about. Winter is a God ordained time of year, and the offseason is an opportunity to have a reality check to manage healthy enjoyment and guard against unhealthy obsession. 

Addiction is a hard thing to define and understand. To someone who has never been addicted to something, it can be like a foreign culture, seen, heard, and observed, but only perceived like a foreign culture from a distance. Having worked for almost 3 years with addicts of all types and sorts here in the St. Louis homeless community, I can vouch for the strangeness of the thing that we call addiction. While addictions come in different forms, substances, and behaviors on the outside, addiction always looks the same on the inside of a persons heart. Addiction is the replacement of priority in the heart of the individual. When someone is addicted, the thing they obsess over takes ultimate priority in life, interfering with other priorities and making life about the obsession, rather than obsessing over life.  

Video games are bad, or so the argument goes. Don't ask me though, just ask Katie Couric writer Mark Petric:
Thousands of families, including my own, have been devastated by the effects that violent video games have brought upon our children all in the name of “freedom of speech.” As Americans, it’s time that we rise up against the video game industry and defend our kids and stop teaching them how to kill.
 Denial is the equal and opposite pitfall of addiction. While addiction screams "come and enjoy X with all your heart, soul mind and strength" (which is supposed to be how we live for God's purposes, Creational Intent!), Denial screams "run away from everything and anything that may look, smell, taste, sound, or feel in any iteration like a bad thing".

Denial is a rather attractive thing, especially for those who are seeking to follow the Lord's call to live in the world, but not of it. Often it is easier to just avoid television, avoid sex, avoid alcohol, avoid relationships, avoid video games, avoid guns, avoid medical decisions, avoid sports, and avoid this life, than actually pursue what it means to live life in a manner that reflects the wisdom of the Lord. It's so much easier to not have a discussion about sex with our teenagers, so much easier to just say "don't go to X part of town", so much easier to say "none of that" than to say "sex is good, but within God's boundary of marriage" or "you must be wise about when you go to X part of town" or "enjoy that thing, but seek the Lord it in". Wisdom is really difficult to teach, and often laying down simple rules or lists of "do's" and "don'ts" can be quicker and easier than taking the time to teach evaluative critical thinking.

Here is the great news for humanity! God has come to set free the captive addict, and to give wisdom to the one who denies good creation! There is a way out of both of these pitfalls, even though everyday we tend to fall into one, the other, or both. God has sent a redeemer, his son Jesus Christ to make creation new again. For those in Christ, we have hope to enjoy life, but not become addicted, and to partake in difficult things without denying God's goodness in the midst of challenge. Its so easy to be an addict and cheer for our favorite sports teams (as the high holy religion of America-the NFL and college football is right around the corner). It's also equally easy to deny that sports have any place or purpose in human existence. God has made us beautifully, and although this world is broken, Christ has come to redeem all of creation-and his people get to take part in that process!

Go play some baseball, enjoy a video game, watch a movie over the weekend, enjoy God's good creation in nature and in humanity. Just don't mix up the ultimate priority of God's plan, with our priority in our plans. God is good!

This guy has some serious talent! Enjoy a bit of his unique gifts from God by laughing along

Come on back next week as we continue our study answering the question "Does God care about sports?"

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Does God Care about Sports? (Part 4) Creational Intent

God cares about our rest? Yup! God cares about all that we are involved in as active participants in his creation. Beyond that, humans are much more than wall decor in this grand creation, we are actually the only thing to bear the image of God! Amazing! God has blessed us by making us special in a very unique and incredible way.
One of the ways my daughter and I enjoy God's good creation-singing and dancing to Bugs Bunny

God cares about what we do, every aspect of our lives. That includes how we rest, relax, and practice recreation. We are going to talk today a little bit about an idea I'm calling "Creational Intent". Play, recreation, and rest are all good things, when they line up with God's created intent. Creational Intent can be found understood through a great many ways. A good pair of jeans fit just right, they are comfortable, durable, and pragmatic. A computer keyboard that functions well, responding quickly and accurately to the movements of the owners fingers. A piano that is in tune is highly pleasing, capable of producing music at a level of excellence.

You and I actually observe and live by Creational Intent for much of our evaluative lives as we make observations and judgement about the things we use every day. When a created thing no longer performs the task or serves the purpose it was created for, it ceases to fulfill the role it was designed for. Jeans that are 10 sizes too big and thus fall down, do not provide coverage for your legs and lower body, this is hardly a good thing as pants are supposed to do just that. A computer keyboard that is missing several keys, is slow to respond, and is sticky or jammed, is frustrating as it can no longer reliably type. A piano that is completely out of tune may be the joy of a 2 year old, but it is the bane of the musician.

In our lives, both our work and rest, we have opportunity to give glory to God and worship him in all that we say, think, and do. Creational Intent for both work and rest is the same, worship God and give him the glory. In this way we can absolutely say God cares about Sports when they are done in a manner that reflects God's good Creational Intent for Sports.

The problem is not with sports, sex, alcohol, video games, or things in themselves. Rather the problem is with us as we misuse and abuse these things. Hero worship in sports, adultery and pornography, alcoholism, video game addiction, and other such horrible things are a result of a misuse of a good thing. God has given athletes fantastic bodies capable of wonderful feats, when those bodies become the ultimate priority in life instead of God's glory, we see pride swell and the crazy hero worship that so often prevails in sports. God has made you and I sexual creatures, capable of intense intimacy. That intimacy has a proper place to be enjoyed and delighted in, within the bounds of marriage between one man and one woman. Food and drink bring merriment to our lives and joy to our fellowship, but when food becomes the ultimate priority quickly gluttony takes over and selfish self indulgence becomes paramount to daily living. Video games provide a wonderful creative virtual world to engage imagination and experience, but when participation in a video game interferes with functioning life outside of a virtual world we are worshiping the creation rather than the Creator.

Wickedness has no power to create, only power to pervert

Everything imaginable in this world, can be taken and perverted for a purpose other than it's Created Intent. This is the exact understanding of sin that Christians have had for thousands of years. Sin isn't some abstract thing, a disease or force of evil nature. Sin is the misuse, abuse, and perversion of something that is good. Sports are a good thing. To survey and observe the talent and physical capabilities of others is a joy and marvelous opportunity to give glory to God. To realize that the same God who made Ray Lewis, Albert Pujols, and Lebron James, made you and me, is a wonderful opportunity to give thanks to God and worship him for his diverse and unique talents he gives to all his image bearers. Sports, Sex, Food and Drink, Video Games, and Rest are good things that God cares about. The trick of human life and Creational Intent is avoiding the pitfalls that come with our sinful hearts.

Check back tomorrow as we look at two extremely dangerous pits that we can fall into.