I have recently been blessed with a cool opportunity.  Since early November, I have been part of the broadcast team for Berea College men’s basketball.  We do a live internet feed and I get to handle the play-by-play responsibilities for all home games.  This has been very exciting for me, and I have spared no details in sharing my excitement with everyone.

Yet, on my priority list, this obligation is very near the bottom.  I have a few dozen people listen to me talk about basketball for a couple of hours per week.  While it is exciting that I get to do it, the overall importance in my life is minimal.  So why do I act as though it is a big deal?

Unfortunately, I often feel like I take my significant blessings for granted.  I have a home, a job that I love, vehicles to get me back and forth, a wonderful church, great friends, and an amazing family.  These are all blessings that many people don’t have.  Yet, I still find myself going through the motions.  The excitement I once had for all of these things comes and goes with circumstances.  I am spoiled.

Perhaps the thing that I take for granted the most is my relationship with Jesus Christ.  I know God, the Creator of everything and the One who gave me life.  I get to talk to Him, hear from Him, and experience His love every day.  And because of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, I get to spend eternity in His presence.  This is a blessing so great that it should make it impossible for me to calm down.  Yet…I go on about my day.

When we share Christ with people, we do so because we know the importance of having a relationship with Him.  Sometimes we are able to show our excitement for the gospel, but all too often we end up just trying to provide convincing evidence.  The gospel should be the most exciting thing in our lives.  It is, in fact, the most exciting thing in the history of creation.

And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.  (1 Peter 1:12b NLT)

Or, as it reads in The Message version of the Bible:

Do you realize how fortunate you are? Angels would have given anything to be in on this! (The Message)

Literally, aside from creation itself, the story of Jesus Christ is the biggest event in the history of everything.  The fact that we are not always buzzing about the news, even 2,000 years later, is an obvious byproduct of our sinful nature.  If we truly believe this good news, then we all need to take some time to realize how big of a deal it is.

"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words."  -Francis of Assisi

 
My son is four and a half and having conversations with him is a lot of fun.  He often says random things that seem to come out of nowhere.  He repeats things that I didn’t think, and sometimes really hoped, that he didn’t hear.  He uses words that I didn’t know he understood, and it’s even more fun when he doesn’t really understand how to use them. 

I’ve also noticed that he has words and phrases that he has made a regular part of his conversational repertoire.  To be more specific, he finds a way to work the word actually into every other sentence.  It takes great effort for him to pronounce it correctly, but he usually makes it work.  After he had done this for a few days, I started to wonder where he picked it up and I started paying more attention to the words and phrases I use regularly.

As it turns out, I actually do say actually a lot.  I also tend to mumble things like daggum and dangit when things aren’t going well.  When things are going my way, though, I turn to words like awesome and woo-hoo.

We all have “catch phrases” that we tend to use over and over.  It’s usually something we think sounds cool at some point, or a phrase that we’ve heard others use a lot, or just something that we are comfortable with.  Some of them are pretty consistent when stepping on Legos and getting cut off in traffic, while others indicate a victory by a favorite team or a Todd Agnew song coming on the radio.

In my daily reading recently, I came across a passage that made me think about those daily catch phrases that I use.  Just after David drops a hot Psalm to celebrate the ark of the Lord, we get an immediate response from everybody in ear-shot.

Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the Lord.” (1 Chronicles 16:36b NIV)

Amen and Praise the Lord were responses that were ready and waiting on the lips of God’s people.  These phrases were obviously something they said regularly as they all shouted them in unison. 

Yes, I hear people saying these things in church and around Bible studies.  But why is this not our response to a well-cooked meal or hitting consecutive green lights?  Why do we choose to save our Godly catch phrases for what we consider to be Godly situations?

The next time you get the chance to proclaim a victory or celebrate a joyful occasion, try to remember to give a shout out to the Lord.  After all, shouldn’t we give credit where credit is due?  If we do it often enough, it might even become one of our go-to catch phrases.  I'd say that's a pretty holy habit to have, wouldn't you?

 
I don't like weddings.  My wife already knows about this, so there is no need for all of you to email this post to her.  I loved our wedding.  It was a very special day.  However, weddings in general…not a big fan.

To me, marriage is a spiritual event.  This post has nothing to do with the legal aspect of marriage.  Weddings represent two people becoming one in the eyes of God, and a covenant being made between the groom, the bride, and their Creator.  This is the beginning of a lifelong journey of joy, pain, trials, sorrow, and overwhelming happiness.  This is the beginning of that journey.  Not the end.  Not a step somewhere in the middle.

The divorce rate in our country is out of control.  Why?  I don’t have all the answers, but there is one factor, in particular, that I see as a major problem. 

People spend months and sometimes even years planning their wedding.  Some people dream about their wedding from the time they are children.  They plan out the location, the colors, the flowers, the food, the schedule, and organize dozens of loved ones that make it all happen.  But what is the one thing that most people forget to think about?  Yeah, you guessed it…the marriage.

I hear people all the time talking about how big your wedding day is.  I’ve even heard some say that it is the biggest day of your life.  Would you like me to tell you what day is more important than your wedding day?  Every day of marriage after that.  Every day that you are married and challenged to grow closer to God as a couple is more important than the day that you walk down the aisle.  Living out the covenant and vows that you make on your wedding day is much more righteous than just saying the words. 

I truly believe that if engaged couples would put as much time, effort, and focus on preparing for marriage as they do on the wedding itself, the divorce rate in America, especially among Christians, would see a large decline.  Putting the focus on God and taking the time to talk about the adjustments you will both have to make will prove to be much more valuable than spending hours upon hours arguing over the menu.

If you are married, I encourage you to share your wisdom with a young dating or engaged couple.  If you are engaged, I plead with you to find a good, Christian premarital counselor to help you prepare for how your lives are about to change.    If you are dating, or even if you are single, be preparing yourself to be the spouse that God wants you to be.  Focus on getting closer to Him, and He will lead you into a marriage that He has prepared and is ready to bless.

I love my wife.  Our wedding was great.  But thanks to God and the work we put into our relationship during our engagement, our marriage has been amazing.  

I really do hope that you enjoy(ed) your wedding.  But I pray that you get to experience the indescribable joy and peace that come with a God-centered marriage.

 
Ah…the Olympics.  It’s such a magical time when dreams are fulfilled and we all live vicariously through our countrymen.  It brings us all together in a sense of camaraderie.  Whether you are cheering on the athletes, a fan of the obscure sports, or just really excited to have something to talk about, the Olympic Games provide us all with a reason to rock the red, white, and blue.

However, I do get a kick out of all of the random games that they play.  I feel like most of these things were invented out of boredom while they were waiting for the real games to start.  That kind of makes me want to invent some games.  So here we go….the Christian Olympics.

1.  Communion Races – Teams of deacons from all over the world compete to see how quickly they can get bread and cup to a congregation of 1000 people.  Every person must have a wafer and cup of grape juice, and the trays must be stacked neatly for the clock to stop.  Penalties will be incurred for spilled juice and dropped crackers.

2.  Walking on Water – All competitors are welcome to walk across the river to see who can reach the other side the fastest.  If they fail to walk the entire way, they are welcome to swim.  Penalties will be incurred if contestants fail to get out of the boat.

3.  Ultimate Frisbee – Yeah, you read that right.  Jon Acuff makes a very convincing case that ultimate is God’s favorite sport.  So we have no choice but to put it in the Christian Olympics.

4.  Prayer Marathon – The gold medal in this event will be given to the Christian that can say the most words in a prayer without repeating things the pagans.  Penalties will be incurred for speaking in old English

5.  Potluck Cookoff – I know that Olympic events are supposed to be athletic.  But the finesse with which Christian women create gooey-filled pastries rivals that of any gymnast.  Seriously, we could break this thing down into categories like entrées, potato-based dishes, green vegetables, breads, and a variety of dessert events.  Penalties will be incurred if any entry is sugar-free.

6.  Interpretive Dance – This could be great...like really great.  Folks could create their own interpretive dances based on Christian songs, hymns and contemporary style.  It would be judged by a panel with representation from each denomination.  Penalties will be incurred for anybody that tries to “Dougie.”

This is just the tip of the iceberg, my friends.  There are so many possibilities.  What other games would you like to see happen at the Christian Olympics?

 
I can’t dance.  Seriously…it is painful to watch.  Remember that scene in Hitch where Will Smith tries to teach Kevin James how to dance?  Yeah, I wish I could dance as well as Kevin James.  If everyone danced like me, everybody would have rooted for John Lithgow in Footloose.

Luckily, everyone does not dance like me.  That is why I don’t dance in public.  I don’t want to make a fool of myself.  That, and my wife won’t let me.

Believe it or not, I ran into a similar situation in the book of 2 Samuel the other day.  When the ark of the Lord finally arrived in the City of David, King David was so excited that he threw a party.  He went out in the street, gave away some bread and some desserts, and as they say where I’m from, he cut a rug.  And apparently he wasn’t fully clothed...it got a little weird.

When he went back in the house, he abruptly found out that his wife had been watching from the window.  She quickly let him know that she did not approve of his behavior, and that his attire and performance were not very kingly.  His response blew my mind.

David replied to Michal, "In God's presence I'll dance all I want! He chose me over your father and the rest of our family and made me prince over God's people, over Israel. Oh yes, I'll dance to God's glory—more recklessly even than this. And as far as I'm concerned...I'll gladly look like a fool.  (2 Samuel 6:21-22a The Message)

David did not care how people viewed him because of his worship.  He was willing to do anything for God, no matter how it reflected on himself. 

I wish we were more like that.  We don’t like to hang out with outcasts because people may think we are weird.  We don’t stand up for our beliefs because we are afraid of being excluded.  We don’t fully express our love and obedience because we are too worried about fitting in.

David had it right, as he so often did.  We should be willing to be outcasts to reach the outcasts, give up our statuses in society to seek justice, and ignore the funny looks to worship as we feel led.  God is unbelievable, and it is about time we started acting like it.

 
I Googled the word joy, and this was the very first picture that came up:
If that doesn’t scream, “JOY!”, I don’t know what does.  As we are about to round up our study on the fruit of the spirit, we arrive at the fruit that is, by far, the most easy one to identify.  The others, while they produce very holy, Christ-like fruit, are often hidden and can only be identified through the results of their labor. 

Joy, on the other hand, is undeniable.  When a person is filled with the joy of Christ, it is written all over their face.  And there is absolutely nothing on earth that says, “I’ve found what I’m looking for” like a person’s expression when they give their life to Christ.

Unfortunately, we often let the worries of the world get in the way and our joy gets hidden under our problems.  But it is in those down times where our joy means the most.  That is when our joy can be the most fruitful. 

When a person is down on their luck or going through a tough trial or painful situation, their ability to express the joy of the Lord can do more for the kingdom of God than we can ever imagine.  Being able to smile through sadness, praise through pain, and love through hate are some of the most powerful things we can do to be a witness for Christ.  Because of the overwhelming joy He gives us, we have the ability to overcome any and all trouble that this world throws at us as long as we set our compasses toward God.

When others see that joy, they are getting a glimpse of who Jesus really is and the power He has in our lives.  If pointing people in His direction is what ministry is really all about, then joy is our ticket to success. 

I know times get tough and life gets hard, but if we live each day as if the Spirit of the Lord lives within us (spoiler alert…He does) then our joy should be so overwhelming that the fruit we produce is both plentiful and eternal.  Joy changes lives…let yours show.
 
Doesn’t it always seem like there is something stressful going on?  It's Monday.  Your hairline starts receding.  Your air conditioner breaks down.  Unexpected illnesses.  Surprise bills.  You lose your job.  God’s answer to an important prayer is “no.”  All of these things are difficult to deal with.  But ultimately, you control your feelings as well as your actions. 

To rip off the Fish Philosophy, you can choose your attitude.   No matter what is going on in your life, you get to choose your mood, the way you approach each day, and the way you treat people.  No person or circumstance is responsible for your actions and attitudes except for the person in the mirror.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Think about what it would be like if you could actually live that. Think about how amazing it would feel to have the joy of Christ inside of you so much that there would be no room for stress, worry, or pain. While it is impossible to eliminate these things completely, we can minimize them. We can allow Jesus to minimize them by constantly rejoicing in His grace and thanking Him for His love.

God does not want us to stress out or worry.  In fact, He commands us not to. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34 NIV) There have been days in my life, particularly in college, where that piece of scripture has single-handedly given me the peace and strength to get out of the bed in the morning.

When you start thinking about all of the things that seem to be going wrong in your life, you need to stop, pray, and praise the Lord for your blessings.  If you focus on the blessings, your attitude will reflect the love of Christ and all of your problems will be much easier to solve.  No situation is ever going to be perfect, but rest assured that the Lord is always with you, He always loves you, and He is always seeking to bring you closer to Him.  Since that is the case, what is there to worry about?