Becoming more than a Fan!

It’s not whether you win or lose its how you played that game that matters.
I wonder does that even still apply in our culture of winning at all costs?  Steroids, PEDS, payments from Shoe Companies are in the headlines as top athletes and teams are seeking ways to win at whatever cost.
Is it any wonder that this mentality has overtaken youth sports as well.
Does anyone else remember playing “championship” games of baseball in the neighborhood with tennis balls and frisbees for bases?  Or how about winning world championships in a driveway game of 2on2 basketball?

When did winning become everything?

Now let me move off the court of sport and into the stands …

When did having ‘your’ team win or lose become ‘your’ victory?

College teams win and students rush the floor in celebration.

Pro Sports teams win and fans riot in the streets.
Wear the wrong color and get beat up or verbally abused.

I am all for rooting for a team, but let’s draw a line — You didn’t win.

You didn’t play.

Simply put you were simply a witness to someone else’s victory.

That became ever more clear on Sunday evening as Purdue Fans paid tribute to a class of 4 graduating Seniors – PJ Thompson, Dakota Mathias, Isaac Hass, and Vince Edwards.  They have won a lot of games (100) – the most in Mackey Arena (62) for a group of Seniors.  I have loved watching them play and grow as players and young men.  I have enjoyed their victories and wallowed in their defeats, but I was a fan.  They did the work – they won the battles.  And I have loved every moment – still hoping there are more!
So, here’s my point:

Being a follower of Christ is not a spectator sport.  You can’t sit on the sideline and cheer for Jesus.  You can’t just go to church on Sunday morning, sit in your favorite seat, wear your “I love Jesus” t-shirt, and celebrate victory as if you are part of team without BEING on the TEAM.

Jesus has invited us to be a part of his victory, but the invitation is conditional:

This is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. So whoever had God’s Son has life; whoever does not have His Son does not have life.
I John 5:11-12 NLT
Christianity is not a spectator sport.
Get in the game.
Live out your faith on the playing field of life.

I can promise you this – the victory is much sweeter when you participate in the game.

See you on the field … I’ll be cheering for you!

On the way to Sunday … table manners

Where did you learn your table manners?

Most of us learned them growing up at the dinner table with family.  I blame my habit of eating fast on my mother who taught me I could not be excused from the table until my plate was empty.  Therefore … gobble gobble … “I’m done. May I be excused to go out and play?” became the norm.

But I also learned a lot of other good things:

Elbows off the table.

Take your hat off.

Chew with your mouth closed.

Don’t reach – Ask.

You know the routine.

In the realm of learning manners, I was fascinated to discover a little book penned by George Washington (yes that George Washington – first president and all) when he was a young boy.  The book was Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation.  Washington wrote down 110 rules that were drawn from an English translation of a French book on maxims intended to polish one’s manners.  The rules provide practical advice in any century like:

Rule 51 Do not be hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of any

You can read more excerpts from the book here.

Jesus had some ideas about what table manners should like.  He actually encountered a group of men at a banquet that had written a rule book for manners (including many new rules), but they also tried to force the rules on others.

What if all that you had learned about proper social behavior was wrong?

What if there was a different way of behaving in public?

Would you be willing to adopt the new rules as your own?

See you Sunday @ the table …

Does Size really Matter?

Even pastors fall prey to this age old lie. I recently read an article by Dave Ferguson entitled ‘Winning at any size’ in Outreach Magazine.  I have to be honest I would have blown right past the article except the the opening line of the article was:

 “being a baseball fan all my life”

Well right there he had me hooked so I had to read the article.  Ferguson went on to discuss a study by Economics professor Michael C. Davis regarding the correlation between winning baseball teams and attendance.  I know, exciting stuff – right?!.

Davis’ study concluded that high attendance will not produce a winning ball team, but rather a winning team will produce high attendance.  WOW! I hope we didn’t use a lot of Government funding to discover that little gem!

But to the point was Ferguson’s idea that we (as churches) have to stop trying to grow our attendance – see where this going . . .

We need to focus on changing lives – Methodists use the phrase ‘creating disciples to transform the world.’  This thought has come home to me the past few weeks, as I have gathered stories of transformed lives from churches I have served as pastor.

It seems for all that was done to attempt to attract people and draw them into the church – the one thing that was never accounted for was all the transformed lives within the congregation.  It was (in the final analysis) these changed lives that drew others in.

Lesson: If you want to grow a church, focus on people. Changing lives one at a time will do more to grow your church than any effort to market or advertise. In other words, build a winning team and the fans will follow.

Been helping to transform anyone lately?

On the way to Sunday … a drink before dinner

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food for dinner. John 4:7-8

You can read the rest of the story about Jesus’ drink at the well before dinner here.

The French call the before-dinner drink an apéritif. The Italians call it the aperitivo. In English, we call them aperitives. No matter the language, you are left holding a drink in your hand of some type.

The exact origin of a drink before dinner is unknown. Many trace the origins of the popular before dinner drink to the commercial production of vermouth in Italy as the drink was often served before dinner with finger foods such as nuts and olives.

Aperitives are supposed to stimulate your appetite. The root of the word is Latin which means “to open.” These drinks are supposed to get your stomach ready for food.

Truth is the ritual makes the meal a more memorable and prolonged experience for those involved.

Jesus invites us to drink from the ‘living water’.

Perhaps it is a means for Him to spend more time with us and prolong our relationship with Him.

When is the last time you took time to drink ‘living water’ with the Savior?

Join us Sunday morning and discover more with Jesus @ the Table and a drink before dinner.

Happy Valentine’s Day

The story goes that during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II many wars were being waged. The desire for a strong army met with the resistance that many men were not wanting to be soldiers. Claudius thought this was because to many men had wives and children that kept them wanting to be at home. As a result Cladius outlawed marriage. Reasoning that with no marriages men will ignore women and want to be soldiers.

Valentine was a priest that believed in marriage and as a result performed marriages in secret. Valentine was discovered and imprisoned. Valentine refused to recant his faith and to stop performing marriages. As a result he was sentenced to death. He was killed on the 14th of February in 269. It is reported that while he waited his execution he sent letters to friends and family signed Remember your Valentinee.

Who knows what is truth and what is legend?

It is good to think that someone believed so much in something that they were willing to risk death for what they believed was right.

Never forget that God loved you so much that He sent His one and only Son to die for you.

God loved you that much!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Clip art © by Dixie Allan,

Ash Wednesday – Why it’s important

In many countries the last day before the Season of lent is Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, or Carnival.

It has become a last fling before the solemnity of Lent.  For centuries is was customary to fast by abstaining from meat during Lent, which is why some people call the festival Carnival – which in Latin means a farewell to meat.

 Lent was a season in the early church that was used to prepare new converts for baptism on Easter Sunday.   Lent is 40 days in length (minus Sundays because they are mini-easter celebrations) – 40 is a reminder of the 40 years of wandering and the 40 days of temptation.

Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of the days until Easter with a reminder that we are mortal – from the dust we came from the dust we shall return.  So we receive the mark of the ashes as a reminder and the ashes come from the burnt remains of last year’s Palm Branches and serve to remind us of the cycle of life and the year that has passed us by.

On this Ash Wednesday we will learn come proper etiquette as it pertains the table and making reservations.  Oh and on this night – no Reservation is needed – just come.

Worship begins at 7:oo pm … it won’t last long … after all we are just getting started on our journey with Jesus on the way to Easter.



In His Steps … things I missed

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. John 20:14

The things you miss when you aren’t really looking …

When I took the picture above at the Garden Tomb, I never saw the man exiting the tomb. I was too busy to notice that anyone else was around.  I was trying to take it all in.
I can better relate to Mary not ‘seeing’ Jesus as John recounts in his Gospel.

While going through all the piles of pictures, brochures, notes, and receipts from our recent trip to Israel, I actually looked at my receipt from the Garden Tomb:

Did you miss it like I did?

I purchased a card with a beautiful watercolor painting of the Garden Tomb, a desktop model of the Garden Tomb made from Olive Wood (it sits in my office – stop and see it), and a book on the feasts of the Jewish Calendar for a Bible Study I am leading on Sunday Evenings during Lent.

I had a conversation with the young lady that helped me.  We chatted and even shared a laugh.
I paid for my things, took my receipt and the few shekels I received in change and crammed them into my pocket.  With merchandise in hand I hurried back to the bus and the group that was waiting.

But on that day – I missed it.  I never paid attention.

I was too busy shopping, talking, hurrying to the next.
I never saw the name of the person who helped me.

I was served by Esther !

The Book of Esther is a compelling story – take time to read it.  Veggie Tales even made a wonderful cartoon based on it. The book of Esther was written to the Jewish people to record the origins of the Feast of Lots, or Purim. This annual festival commemorates God’s salvation of the Jewish people, similar to their deliverance from slavery in Egypt (the book I bought is already paying off). In the story of Esther, we see God’s interaction with man’s will, his hatred of racial prejudice, his power to give wisdom and help in times of danger.

Remember my conversation with the clerk?

Amazingly it was about prejudice.  I was apologizing to her for the prejudicial remarks made by the unknown American that was in line before me.  I missed the connection … until today.

One last thing: One of the interesting things about the story of Esther is that God is never mentioned in the story and yet it isn’t hard to ‘see’ the sovereignty of God at work throughout the story.

So, even though I missed it the first time … God was still there.

I was served by Esther.

Who will you serve today?

And don’t be surprised if those you serve – miss it.

Just know … God is still in control.