Monday, November 22, 2010

Jimmy Johnson is NOT an Athlete & Driving a Car is NOT a Sport

Really? Pressing an accelerator and turning a steering wheel require athletic ability? Seriously? I think NOT.

I'm not sure what to call racing. But I know what not to call it -- a sport. The word sport makes me think of athletes. And athletes are those with an unusual strength, endurance, flexibility, etc; & sometimes speed, quickness (not the same as speed), & accuracy. None of these things are required to win a car race. Now, I imagine that some car racers do possess some of these abilities in some measure. In other words, there may be athletic race car drivers. . . , and golfers, and bowlers, etc. But to say that those who drive cars, swing clubs and roll balls professionally are by definition athletes is just absurd.

I should also say that anyone who wins five consecutive championships in any major competition with his peers is worthy of our recognition. That is a noteworthy accomplishment. But to hear sportscasters talk of Johnson (& Hendrick Motor Sports) as being in the same athletic or team class as the dominant Boston Celtics and New York Yankees is a bit over the top. The Celtics and Yanks are teams of athletes that run, throw, slide, hit, catch, dive, etc. I played baseball, and basketball. And I've driven a car. Not the same sort of activities. The athletes in the ballgames have everything to do with winning and losing. In contrast, while the car driver contributes, the strength of the vehicle engine plays a massive role in the race outcome.

Don't get me wrong; I like to drive fast. I like to swing clubs at stationary balls, and to roll balls at defenseless pins. But I am under no illusion that these activities require athletic ability. To do them consistently well does require an ability, a skill. But not athletic ability. That's OK. Not everyone is an athlete. And even fewer have the gifts to be professional athletes. So let's all be happy to do well what God has given us to do well that we actually are able to do well. And let's call it what it is.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Beautiful Mess

These are shots of the front of our home refrigerator (The sides are no less crowded). So many stories are represented by them. Marian and I have been married almost 16 years now. And we've had our little Tess for almost three. The shot of the "ALE" spelling is her work. She doesn't know how to spell yet. She did, however, manage to compose this one word. She was playing alone with her magnet letters. When I went in to see her, "ALE" is what she had produced. Of course that gladdened my heart, like a good ale will.

As I consider the memories, I am thankful to God for my wife, my daughter, my parents, siblings and friends. I'm a bit of a loner by nature. I once said to someone that I naturally gravitate to myself. I'm not fueled so much by the company of humans. But I am refined by them. And I need that.

Good Father, thank You for the life you have given, and are giving, me. It all occurs under Your sovereign governance. You work it all for my good; indeed, for my salvation. There is nothing good for me that You will not give me. There is nothing bad for me that You will not withhold. You are always loving me because You have always known me. I belong to You. I exist for You. Help me to believe this with all of my heart, and to embrace suffering as willingly as ease. Make me always glad in your presence. Do it for Your name's sake. Thank You Father. Amen.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Marriage Secret

During her workout yesterday with her trainer, my bride was asked what the secret is to staying married. She responded correctly by talking about our faith in God. Of course non-Christian couples also stay married for a lifetime. According to the statistics I hear (I don't know where the people get them), the non-Christian marriages, as often as those of believers, last. Yet, I still assert that my wife's answer is correct -- for us. 

I think relationships that last are often the ones in which the parties involved share the same chief love (See 2 Cor 6:14-15). For Marian and me, that's Christ. But for non-Christians, it is certainly something else, maybe the marriage itself. There is a way to stay married that honors God as God and there is a way to stay married that is idolatrous. My love for Christ fuels my love for Marian. If I did not love Jesus, I think there is a strong probability that I couldn't stay married to anyone. I'm too cantankerous, reckless, and selfish. When two sinners are put into a lifetime relationship, in close quarters, with distinct personalities, preferences, and ideas on a variety of issues, well, that is a disaster waiting to happen. But when those same people have the same chief love, the relationship is strengthened ten thousand times over. I have learned from Scripture that I am to lay down my life for my bride; the way Jesus laid down His life for me. I am to crucify my old nature, considering it dead, and be no longer submitting to it. And while I have a desire to do this for my wife, would such a desire suffice if not founded upon the desire to do it for my Savior? I doubt it. I'm not good like that.

This is also true for me as a pastor. I do love my people. But I don't pastor them primarily because I love them, but because I love Him. I would not do pastoral ministry for anyone else. I pastor for Jesus. And if the day comes when I am convinced that He no longer is asking me to pastor, I will quit, promptly. Of course I have no skills, so I might die of starvation. Nevertheless, when Jesus is done with me I'm done with pastoral ministry. I don't think I'm particularly good at it anyway. Having written all of that, I also want to say that there is no other place I'd rather be in ministry than among my church family. What God calls us to, He gives us a heart for. So if my people will let me stay, I think I'll be with them for a long while. As I said, I love them.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Learning Luther, A Follow-Up

Luther's Rose

In way of recommending resources, I suggest the following concerning Reformer Martin Luther, Father of Protestantism, with a little help from his friends.

Martin Luther: A Guided Tour of His Life & Thought by Stephen Nichols. This is an introductory biography that is engaging, informative, and at times entertaining.

Reading the Psalms with Luther. Think with Luther through the Psalms, devotionally. This is not a commentary, but a reader. For each Psalm there is a brief word from Luther, the Psalm itself, and a prayer fueled by the content of the Psalm. Luther believed that each Psalm fit into a category with at least one of the 10 Commandments (Ex 20) and one line of The Model Prayer (Mt 6). Quite insightful. God has used this book in my life to draw me closer to Himself. Each read makes for a wonderful and reverent way to begin a day.

Tabletalk. Luther was full of Christian hospitality. The Luther dinner table was very often surrounded by not only family, but orphans, students, and colleagues. There was music (by the Luther family), beer, and Christ-like love. These evenings were not brief fellowships. During them Luther would discuss life, theology, government, parenting, marriage, and a hundred other things with his guests. His students, not wanting to miss any of it, took turns recording Luther's words. Therefore, this book is an inside look at Luther outside of the pulpit, the classroom, and the councils. His wife, Katharina, was known to say that her husband should have charged tuition for these discussions.

The Shorter Catechism of Martin Luther (Luther's Little Instruction Book). One of Luther's most enduring works written as an abbreviated form of his larger catechism as a means to train children and the "ignorant Christians" (Luther's words), in foundational aspects of Christian living. Still used widely today. Can be downloaded for free at

The Bondage of the Will. Luther's other most enduring work that records his thoughts on the nature of sin and salvation. Luther's ongoing debate with Erasmus sparked the writing of this work. 

My Reformation Day message called The Power of Gospel Light. It will give you an overview of what shaped Luther and how Luther has shaped Protestantism. It can be found at

Hope this helps.