Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bo and Woody, One on One

"Saturday November 21, 1970, Woody Hays and Bo Schembechler went one on one at Michigan Stadium. Each coach left his team at home, and they just played football against each other, one on one. In 1971 they were going to do a rematch in Columbus....."

It would have been unique, if it had happened. But, of course it did not happen. No one is interested in seeing coaches play one on one. The teams played in 1970, as they always do. Woody and Bo never played one on one. Joe Pa and Bear Bryant never did. Nor did John Wooden and Adolph Rupp. It just is not done that way.

The whole team plays, not just the coaches. In fact, while the coaches may work longer hours than the players, those hours are mostly worked behind the scenes. Actual physical contact with the opposing team is not to be engaged in by the coaches (when Woody forgot that, he lost his job).

Is it really supposed to be different in church work? All too often, church members act as if they have elders, deacons, and preachers to do the work for them -- to engage the world for them. Logic would indicate otherwise, and the scriptures certainly indicate otherwise, but often we do not operate by logic or the scriptures.

The task of the various gifts given by God to church leaders is not to enable them to do the work, but to enable them to equip the whole church for the work. "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith ...." Ephesians 4:11-13

Last week I told someone that this congregation has a better level of involvement than most congregations in the area. I believe that to be true. It is not, however, something to be proud of. While our level of involvement may be higher than at other congregations, it is still dismal. We have some who are very involved, but some who do practically nothing.

But do not worry yourself over the rest of the congregation's level of involvement. The only question you need to ask is about your own level of involvement. "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" 2 Cor. 13:5

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

God Hates Divorce

Cecil May is a professor at Faulkner University. He publishes a newsletter titled Preacher Talk. In the most recent Preacher Talk, Cecil May noted that the ESV, the version he normally uses and a good version in many respects, does a poor job on Malachi 2:16. The verse should read "God hates divorce." The ESV, while still indicating that divorce is not good, weakens the wording.

Brother May goes on from this to say, "God hates divorce, but he loves divorced people. Some are divorced by their partners against their will through no fault of their own. Some were at fault and have repented and been forgiven. Some continue in rebellion and sin and are in the same condition as the rest of mankind when God loved us and Christ died for us (Rom 5:8)."

Amen! And, while we are on the subject, let us add that God hates all forms of sexual immorality. His statements about premarital sex, extra marital sex, and homosexual sex are all perfectly clear. He hates them all, but he desires to bless and forgive those who are involved in them.

Let us, like God, hate the sin but love the sinner. Let us not be like those who, in the name of love, cling to and justify the sin. That is not loving the sinner. That is like a doctor telling us to keep our cancer and enjoy it. Sin destroys the soul as surely as cancer destroys the body. It is not love that motivates people to justify sexual sin. It is disguised hatred.

Those who justify homosexuality do so out of a deep-seated and hidden hatred. It is hatred of God, for it denies his design in making us male and female, and denies his word which repeatedly condemns this sin. It is also hatred of the ones toward whom love is being expressed, for no one who loves would leave another in the grip of such a perverted and soul destroying practice.

Let us, like our Lord, learn to love the sinner even while hating the sin. Sexual sin (whether premarital or extramarital, heterosexual or homosexual) is to be hated by all who call themselves Christians. The ONLY way we can truly love those engaged in such things is to hate what they are doing and try to rescue them from it. Any other reaction is just hatred in disguise.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Player Who Would Not Practice

Once there was a player who would not practice, and sometimes even missed games. The coach spoke to him about it and the player replied, "Coach, you told us once that everything we do must be done with our sport in mind. You told us that everything we eat, how we sleep, and everything else we do effects us as players. So I am always careful what I eat; and I only watch movies that have a sports theme. I even bought a blanket with balls on it so that even in my sleep I am reminded of our sport. Everything I do is colored by my commitment to the team. So, even if I do not show up at practice, and sometimes miss games, you still need to know that I am 100% committed to the team."

The coach then explained that, while it is true that eating, sleeping and everything a player does effects their play, there is still a need to be reliable in regard to practice and games. The coach closed by saying, "I am glad that you are trying to put even normal everyday activities to good use. That is very important, but it is no substitute for direct involvement with the team."

As Christians we must, of course, "do everything in the name of Christ" (see Col 3:17, 23-24). But we must also take our share in the work of the body of Christ, the church. We must urge one another on to love and good works; we must not neglect to meet together (Heb 10:24-25). Yes, everything we do is to be colored by our commitment to Christ, but that does not make everything we do a substitute for direct acts of Christian worship and service. Yes, every penny we spend should be spent in a manner pleasing to God, but that is no substitute for our responsibility to give to the church.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Foolishness We Must Preach

Many modern churches seem to think that we will be saved by means of political engagement. Others think that it is marketing techniques that are needed. Some still cling to the ever popular heresy of legalism. What all of these have in common is their human-centeredness. As different as they may be in details, they are all based on what we do.

It will not be our political schemes, marketing tactics, or legalistic keeping of rules that will save the world. As Paul told the Corinthians, "For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe." (1 Cor. 1:21)

What the world needs is not another human plan but the divine one. What is needed is not a powerful messiah figure but a crucified one. The folly of the cross, the Savior who does not save himself, is what needs to be proclaimed.

Most modern preaching is based on carefully calculated human wisdom. This preaching, in trying too hard to please man, inevitably displeases God and leaves us unsaved. It replaces the power of his weakness with the weakness of our strength.

The cross - a symbol of shame, of defeat, of failure - became, in God's plan, the centerpiece of glory, honor, and salvation. Presenting that message will not win the world's approval, but it is the world's only hope.

We face a paradoxical choice. We can present a wise sounding and popular human-centered message, or we can present the apparently foolish idea of the Savior who did not save himself. Presenting the apparently wise message will turn out to have been foolish. Presenting the folly is wise.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


It is a fact in this fallen world: weeds require no cultivation, no care, no watering. Weeds come of themselves without effort on our part. But the desirable crops demand attention, and they demand it constantly.

No, I am not writing a column on gardening. That is Chery's hobby, not mine. I refer not to literal weeds but moral and spiritual ones.

Children pick up our bad habits effortlessly. Our faults are passed on without planning or intention. But the great truths of our faith, the heritage of our culture, the desirable aspects of our lives require cultivation, watering, constant care.

Why is it so?

It is all a part of the curse that descended on the earth when humanity fell into sin. Did you think that it was only to literal weeds that the Lord referred in Genesis 3:17-18? No, it is not only the literal weeds that have proliferated. The spiritual weeds are the greater concern.

Therefore we must put forth real effort to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). Backsliding will come of itself, effortlessly. But spiritual progress will always demand both intention and effort.

Each generation must intentionally, prayerfully, and carefully pass on the faith to the next (Ps 71:18; 78:4-8). Evil will tempt without planning. Error will occur without effort. But for the faith to be passed on we must be intentional and diligent.

If we plant no garden this spring, we will reap no desirable harvest in the fall. Weeds will plant themselves and care for themselves. The desirable crops will not.