The Demon In Your Church

The church where I grew up had demons in it. I mean the place was covered with them.

What was that weird noise upstairs? Demons.

Why won’t this bus ever work right[1]? Demons.

Why is the graveyard across the street so spooky? Demons.

It seemed like everything that went wrong in our church was blamed on demons. I was fascinated. Going to church became sort of like going to see a horror movie. There would always be people talking about the weird thing that happened in the graveyard that bordered our church parking lot. There were surreal stories about lights in people’s homes going on and off on their own. And of course there was the semi-annual rock and roll seminar where we were reminded that Ronnie James Dio thought the devil was a pretty cool guy and we should avoid buying his music.

Today, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. Talk of Satan and demonic activity is reserved for the Christian Fiction section of your favorite Christians bookstore[2]. We’re too intellectual for this kind of thing. Angels? Fine. Demons? No way.

Obviously, both extremes are wrong. We can become so obsessed with demons that we begin to view the enemy as a novelty rather than a legitimate threat that has wished nothing but harm for God’s creation since the beginning (1 Peter 5:8). And we can become so intellectual that we rationalize our enemy right out of our sights and leave ourselves even more vulnerable to his attacks.

So were there really demons in my childhood church?

You bet.

I never did hear voices when I walked past the church graveyard.

I never turned a corner in the church hallway to find a small child with black hair, pale skin and a voice like Dikembe Mutombo telling me to “Get out!”


What I did see was much more frightening.

I saw it when I came home from college for visits. I didn’t know all the details then and I still don’t today. Whatever it was that happened did great damage to the church where I was baptized and discipled. I’m not sure if that church has ever recovered. Maybe they have. I hope they have. I’m just not sure.

I saw gifted, godly leaders run out of town by influential, long-time members.

I saw the atmosphere of joy, generosity and mission leave right behind them.

I saw a church that was so passionate about international missions suddenly too busy putting out internal fires to get the gospel to the international community that had literally gathered in our own town for the 1996 Summer Olympics.

I saw my church die.

I learned that Satan can do great damage to a church without ever really going public with some crazy tactic. Maybe that’s because in a lot of churches, weird voices and blood running down the walls might[3] wake them up to the threat that is against them.

I have no doubt that the phenomenal events can and do happen in churches and homes around the world. But it seems that things like gossip, fear, idolatry, lust for power and bitterness have been much more effective at destroying churches than creepy voices and floating hymn books.

A long time ago I went walking through the woods with my cousins. We were carrying led pipes and shovels. We were hunting for snakes. More specifically, we wanted to find a rattlesnake. Even at that young age, I had enough sense to wonder to myself, “What are we going to do if we find one of these things?”

Many in my childhood church were hunting for the supernatural. Sadly, even though they were looking in the wrong place, they found what they were looking for. The demonic problem wasn’t in the walls of the church or in the buses. It was much closer than anyone seemed to realize.

History has shown us that there are those who have grown quite accustomed to the demonic. In Mark 5:1-20, Jesus encountered a man with not just one but many demons. People would try to tie this guy up and keep him hidden from site but “no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain.” So every day and night they’d hear the wails and moans of this naked man who hung out in the graveyard cutting himself.

When Jesus arrives, we see a truly chilling confrontation; the naked, scarred body of a man with many demons standing face to face with a man who would soon be stripped naked and scarred for the sins of his people. Immediately after Jesus casts the demons out of this man, we see the formerly possessed man “sitting, clothed and in his right mind.”

And then things really get scary. For the first 14 verses of this account, we hear no mention of the people being afraid. The story is told as if the people in town were comfortable with the local demon-man. It was like going out to grab your shoes after the dog carries them off to the backyard. You don’t like it but it’s just part of the gig.

The first we hear of the people being afraid is when Jesus shows up and restores this man. In fact, these people were so afraid that they asked Jesus to leave their town. The demons were familiar but the holy was frightening.

Might this be true of a church? Could it be that the regular routine of gossip, slander, bitterness and power grabs, as destructive as they are, are just the way things are done and the truly redemptive pattern of forgiveness, love and repentance is too frightening? I think so. It’s almost like Satan and his demonic forces advance without ever firing a shot.

The question isn’t whether or not there is a demon in your church. There is. The real question is what’s more frightening to your church, the destructive power of a demon or the restoring power of the One who “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them” (Colossians 2:15)?


[1] In the year 325 AD at the Council of Nicea, church fathers decreed that all church buses should either never crank up or break down in the middle of where the movie Deliverance was filmed. Any bus that works properly is a heretical bus.

[2] As you walk in, go past the angel figurines and books co-authored by the wives of country music stars, take a right and you can’t miss the Christian Fiction section. 89% of the books are westerns with titles like “Love Whispers Slowly” or “Love Crawls Home”. The remaining 11% are somewhat evenly divided between books about demons with titles like “Demonic Disturbance” and books about the end of the world with titles like “The Obama Code”.

[3] I said might.

Troy Davis, Them and Me

It started out simple enough.

 

“Sir, could you please help me carry these things?”

 

Little did I know that my response in the affirmative would lead me to a place where I never thought I would be when I woke up that morning.

 

The population of the small town where I live doubled recently because of one man.  Troy Davis was convicted to death for his role in the murder of a Savannah police officer several years ago.  Last month, Davis was put to death for his crimes.  And just like every other convicted criminal who is put to death by the state of Georgia, the execution went down right here in Jackson, Georgia.

 

Usually there are a handful of protesters gathered out in front of the prison on the day that an execution is scheduled.  This one was different.  The pope had gotten involved.  Jimmy Carter had spoken out against it.  The execution of Troy Davis was an international story.

 

So, of course, I had to go check it out.

 

As I sat in the gas station parking lot across the street from the prison, talking on the phone, two desperate looking women came up to me and asked for my help carrying a bunch of bags and boxes.  I hung up my phone and told them that I would be glad to help.  Usually, when someone at a gas station asks me for help it goes like this.

 

“Sir, could you please help me?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“My firing pin isn’t hitting the alternator.  Do you have a crank valve that I can use on it?”

 

“Yo soy en el bano.  Vamanos (as I disappear into the horizon).

 

But even I can carry a few boxes and bags.  I was pretty amped that I actually got to help someone.  But I found out pretty quick that I wasn’t being asked to help carry a few bags to some car across the parking lot.  They wanted to load up my truck and have me drive this stuff across the street.  And by across the street I mean the lawn just inside the prison gates where the attention of the whole world was focused.

 

And so I found myself driving in my truck with a large man I’d never met before onto the most heavily guarded prison this side of Guantanamo Bay.

 

As I drove up to our first checkpoint, I had to explain to the officer that I was just helping these folks carry their bags over here.  No problem here, officer.  I’m just being a Good Samaritan.  I’ll be free later next week so you can give me the key to the city then.

 

And then the guards started searching the boxes and bags in the back of my truck.  They found food in those bags.  A lot of food.  As it turns out, food was not allowed on the prison grounds.  I was attempting to carry contraband through what seemed to be a hundred heavily armed guards.  Maybe I should have asked what was in those bags.  What else was in those bags?  The headlines flashed through my mind.

 

LOCAL PASTOR ARRESTED FOR CARRYING MALOTOV COCKTAILS ONTO PRISON GROUNDS

 

ATTEMPT TO FREE CONDEMNED INMATE STOPPED WHEN SAVVY COPS NAB IDOIT PASTOR/CONSPIRATOR

 

Thankfully none of that happened but I did have to pull over to a holding area while the guards figured out why this food was being brought onto prison grounds.  As it turns out, the food was for some of the protestors that needed to eat in order to take their medicine.  The guards were very accommodating and told me to drive my truck all the way over to where the protestors were gathered.  After going through a few more check points I parked next to a couple of hundred protestors and a growing number of members of the media from all over the country.

 

To say I stuck out would be a lesson in stating the obvious.

 

All of the media looked like well-dressed movie stars.

 

There was the woman in the clerical collar.

 

There was the man trying to preach a sermon.

 

There were several men in really nice suits.

 

There was the woman(?) from the very progressive Free Speech TV.

 

There were scores of people representing groups like Amnesty International and a few others I’d never heard of before.

 

There were a lot of people singing.

 

And there was me.  Wearing my flip-flops, standing beside my truck while strangers ate chips and tuna sandwiches off of my tailgate.  I was soaking it all in.  I listened to people talk about how Jesus was a liberal just like them.  I listened to people complain about Georgia being a backwards state.  And thankfully, I didn’t see any drama.  Almost everyone I encountered, guards and protestors included, was extremely nice.

 

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have a hard time carrying on a conversation with a group of strangers who were eating chips and sandwiches off of my tailgate.  But these weren’t normal circumstances.

 

“So, you said your name is Jay, right?”

 

“Yeah.”  Hey! That’s Al Sharpton over there.

 

“And you said you were a preacher?”

 

“Sure.”  Is that Steve Harvey?

 

“What’s the name of your church?”

 

“Baptist.”  Where’s Big Boi?

 

And before I knew it, the sandwiches were done and the protestors were back to the reason why they came to my town and I was free to go but not before some lady took our pictures for the website of her organization.  So much for any chance I had at running for president.  Whatever comes of that, just know that I was only there as a caterer.

 

In typical pastoral fashion, I had to ask myself what I learned from this experience.  Here are a few things.

 

Always know what’s in the bag. 

Unless, of course, you’re at the airport.  In that case, it’s okay to carry bags from strangers or even to allow them to pack your bags for you.  What’s the worst that could happen?

 

Jesus moved towards people who were different from him. 

That’s sort of the point of the incarnation (John 1:14) but it’s also something he did throughout his ministry (John 4).  I ended up accidentally spending the afternoon with people worlds apart from me theologically, politically and culturally.  Jesus did this intentionally.  He was driven by obeying the mission his Father gave to him, not by fear of what others may think of his associations.

 

Know your enemy. 

We do no good for the advancement of the Kingdom of Christ by simply repeating the talking points of Ann Coulter or her liberal counterpart.  As believers, our job isn’t to convince those who do not know Christ to vote like us but to plead with them to repent and believe in the gospel.  This is why knowing our enemy is so important.  The enemy isn’t the lady in the CCCP shirt, the dude trying to cram Jesus into a political image more to his liking or Troy Davis.  Our real enemy is the one who has been whispering in our ears from the beginning of time, “You will not surely die.”

 

I didn’t follow the Troy Davis case.  If his execution had not have gone down in my town, I probably wouldn’t have given the story much thought.  All I know is that a few minutes past 11 on September 21, he was standing before his Creator and bowing, either as one bows before an enemy in defeat or as one bows before a Master in triumphant rejoicing (Philippians 2:10-11).  And one day those of us who were on those prison grounds will be in that same position.  It won’t matter then whether we were prison guards, protestors or pastors.  All that will matter is whether we are carrying the guilt for our sins or if Jesus Christ has taken it for us (2 Corinthians 5:10-21).

 

Some of the last words Troy Davis ever spoke on this earth were, “I am innocent.”

 

I hope he was right.

 


Who Was Tesla?

I read a story a while back about a guy that died while being arrested.  It wasn’t a case of police brutality but of criminal foolishness.  The man being arrested had drugs on him and tried to swallow them while the police were attempting to arrest him.  I haven’t taken the time to do any extensive research on this but I’m pretty sure that this technique has worked zero times in the history of crime.

 

Sergeant: Did you find any drugs on the guy?

 

Officer: No sir.  And we looked everywhere.  But, come to think of it, he was talking kind of funny.  Hey, wait just a second!

 

It didn’t work in this case either.  Instead of swallowing the drugs, the man choked on them and, despite the best efforts of law enforcement, the man died.  One last thing.  This happened on Florida’s gulf coast.  Feel free to take a break from reading while you gather yourself from the shock of something like this taking place in The Redneck Riviera.

 

Compare this man to Nikola Tesla.  Nikola Tesla was one of the most influential inventors who ever lived.  We know this because there is a crater on the moon named after him.  You get craters on the moon named for you when you are very smart and very influential.  Nikola Tesla has over 100 U.S. patents and he’s the one you can think for having something to do with the invention of wireless electricity, radio and even the death ray.  That’s right, the death ray.  As if that weren’t enough, there’s also a rock band from the 80s named after him.  For my money, having a rock band named after you is much cooler than having a crater on the moon named after you.  Unless of course that rock band is Nickleback.  Apologies to Mr. Jeremiah Nickleback.

 

It certainly doesn’t seem like it at first but the guy who choked on his own bag of dope has a lot in common with the guy who gave the world the ray gun.  Nikola Tesla was a genius.  But now he’s a dead genius.  Not only is he dead, but for the most part, he’s forgotten.  Try it for yourself.  Ask the average person on the street who Tesla was.

 

You: Who was Tesla?

 

Average Person on the Street: Tesla?  They were great.  I went to their concert in Fresno back in 1988 and I’ve still got the quarter length sleeve shirt to prove it.

 

For all of his accomplishments, nobody really cares about Nikola Tesla anymore.  The great engineer and inventor is just like the guys you see on TV shows about dumb criminals that die doing foolish things.

 

Dead and forgotten.

 

Einstein gets all the glory.

Wisdom is a great thing but in the human form its limitations are numerous.  The author of Ecclesiastes knew this.

 

He knew that you could devote your whole life to the pursuit of wisdom and still feel empty (Ecclesiastes 1:13).

 

He knew what it was like to mix wisdom and pleasure so that at the end of your life you’re left with plenty of both.  But he looked back on it all and called it a vapor (2:1-11).

 

He also knew that wisdom was much better than folly.  Some would say that all the wisdom in the world may not bring happiness but at least it keeps you from ending up like some idiot.  The author of Ecclesiastes knew better than this.  Both the wise and the fool die and are not remembered (2:12-17).

 

But not me!  I’ve managed my business well.  I’ve got things in order.  When I’m gone, my family will be set and they’ll remember how wise I was in providing for them.  Ecclesiastes tells us to slow down with that thinking too.  Yes, you should provide for your family and do your best to insure that they will be taken care of after you are gone.  But, we are reminded, when we are gone, all that we have worked for is out of our hands.  There is a very real chance that our name and our money will be long gone after we too are long gone (2:18-23).

 

Jack Whittaker didn’t even have to die to learn this lesson.  Whittaker grew up poor but started his own business that would eventually be worth several million dollars.  One day he found himself holding a lottery ticket that was worth a record $315 million.  Whittaker loved his granddaughter and knew that this new money was his chance to really make sure that she was financially secure.  For Whittaker and his granddaughter, financial security meant a $5 million home with a room shaped like a genie bottle, a $2000 a week allowance and four cars.

 

Like almost every other person who wins big in the lottery, Jack Whittaker is now broke and divorced.  But his biggest loss came 2 years after he became a multi-millionaire when he discovered his granddaughter’s lifeless body wrapped in plastic in a place called Scary Creek.

 

But it’s not all gloom and doom.  In Ecclesiastes we are reminded that true pleasure is found in knowing God and living in submission to him instead of wasting our lives waiting for the day when we’re rich enough or smart enough or whatever enough to be really happy.

 

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.  This also, I saw, is from the hand of God.

Ecclesiastes 2:25

 

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth.  Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes.  But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.

 Ecclesiastes 11:9

 

It may be wisdom, it may be money or it may be something else but having a lot of it doesn’t bring you salvation or even happiness.  True joy comes when we begin to see that God created us to delight in him, not our things.  At the cross we see a man who died for the sins of his people.  When you understand what Christ has done for you at the cross, you can’t help but delight in him.  When you see that, by God’s grace and through faith, your just punishment is placed on Christ it frees you from living a life devoted to more things and compels you to live a life of pleasure in Christ now as preparation for pleasure with Christ later.

 

The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.  Matthew 12:42


Bold Predictions: Lady Antebellum, Romo and Dream Teams

We begin with another letter, this time to the NFL.

Dear Commissioner Goodell,

Please never allow Lady Antebellum to sing the national anthem before a game ever again. People who care about the NFL do not care about Lady Antebellum. The people who care about Lady Antebellum were too busy watching Army Wives or The Real Housewives of _______ or Not Without My Daughter to watch this game. Was Carl Lewis already booked or something?

Sincerely,

Concerned Fan

And now to the Bold Predictions where we begin with the college games.

Auburn @ Clemson
For the first two weeks of the season, Auburn has been the luckiest team on the planet. In week one, they played my old little league team and found themselves down early by triple digits. Somehow, my old little league team figured out a way to let that one slip through their hands. Some things never change. Last week Auburn was able to stop a very game Mississippi State team in a last second goal line stand.

Clemson on the other hand has been pretty bad for a pretty good while. We know this because every game they play is on ESPN 6 at 8:15 on Tuesday mornings with some lady doing play by play. I like to go with the trends so I see Auburn winning in a close one.

Clemson 10, Auburn 10.012

Coastal Carolina @ Georgia
You know when you’re in church and someone does a special presentation that involves a mime or creative movement or interpretive dance? It always starts out with good intentions then leads into you looking at the floor biting your lip with your eyes clinched shut and it always ends in tragedy. You’re not the one dressed in all black moving glow sticks to the beat of a bad 80s song but for some reason you’re still embarrassed. That pretty much sums up the Georgia season so far. But lucky for them, it’s Coastal Carolina and their very reserved coach.

In case you’ve never enjoyed an experience like the one discussed earlier, here’s a nice example.
Two things about this video.
1.) 0:05 – Apparently this guy is in charge of the Happy Hands Group and he’s very much in love with his job.

“Okay guys, if you forget your moves, just watch me. But you shouldn’t forget your moves because you’re only doing two moves the whole time. Either way, just watch me.”

2.) 0:45 – The mom who casually walks in front of everybody to pick up her kid.

“Hey! Hey! Grab your kid and get out of the way, lady. We’ve had a long, hard week of studying and now we just want to enjoy some good creative movement. Is that too much to ask?”

Georgia 27, Coastal Carolina 24

One more thing. I consider myself a Georgia fan and I plan on staying one for a long time. But, if you throw down the 40 bucks to watch this game on Pay Per View, you have allowed the terrorists to win. Save that money for when Bob Seger comes to town.

Ohio State @ Miami
Miami was good in the 80s and 90s. They reminded you of this by wearing camos when they got off the team bus and by doing a lot of cocaine. But now it’s a new millennium and things have changed in Miami. They no longer wear camos and they aren’t any good.

Ohio State has had a great deal of success in recent years but it turns out that they’ve been cheating. This game is a tough one to pick but I think it’ll come down to the last minute. By the end of the game, whoever has the most players still eligible wins the game. I’m going with the Buckeyes winning by a late game stabbing.

Ohio State 38, Miami 31

Michigan State @ Notre Dame
If the college football season were a presidential race, Notre Dame would be the candidate that was just found driving around the seedy part of town with a dead body in the trunk and Taliban pamphlets in the passenger seat but still has all the news hacks wondering what color curtains they’ll go with when they move into the White House. The Irish are 0-2 and their BCS chances are still alive and kicking. Could this be said about any other team in the nation? Please Mr. Sparty, pull the plug on the Irish.

Michigan State 28, Notre Dame 10

As we move to the pros we go to another media darling that never performs well, at least when it counts.

Dallas @ San Francisco
I often wonder how different things would be if Tony Romo played for the Cleveland Browns. Maybe instead of dating some Hollywood starlet he’d have to settle for the woman that played the house mom on The Facts of Life. Would he even be in the league anymore? Isn’t there a rule somewhere that says that you must be kicked out of the league within 12 months of taking a snap for the Browns? Why am I talking about the Cleveland Browns?

Dallas 24, San Francisco 21

Philadelphia @ Atlanta

This calls for another letter.

To my fellow Atlanta Fans,

Please get your head straight on Michael Vick. He didn’t kill a bunch of people. He was mean to some dogs and served his time. Also, when he was in Atlanta, he brought a breath of fresh air and two really cool playoff wins. You should want to see him do well.

But just not this Sunday night. If you are an Atlanta fan, you’re not supposed to cheer for the other team’s quarterback unless he is your son, nephew, father or brother. I know this is hard for you my fellow Atlanta fans. You love letting Cubs fans outnumber you at Braves playoff games. I even got to sit by a legion of Knick fans through a whole first round series a few years back. You made me feel like I was watching the game in some dudes basement in Queens. But, I forgive you. Just remember, Vick is our friend. Root for him but just wait until next Sunday to do it.

Sincerely,

Concerned Fan

I’m picking Atlanta in this one for one obvious reason. The Eagles are often referred to as The Dream Team. When a team gives itself a nickname like this before the season ever starts and Bird, Magic and Jordan are not on the roster, things go sideways quick.

Atlanta 17, Dream Team 6

False Gospel

Nick Diaz blew it.

 

Diaz is one of the best 170-pound fighters in the entire world and he’s not even 30 years old.  For the past year or so he has been lobbying for a title shot in the UFC and a few months back he got it.  Last week he was a no-show at two scheduled events meant to promote his upcoming fight with champion Georges St. Pierre.  After the second no-show, UFC president Dana White removed Diaz from the title fight and gave the opportunity to someone else.

 

The fruit of years and years of hard work, bleeding and trash talk rotted on the vine.

 

I’ve thought a lot about Nick Diaz over the past several days.  I’ve wondered to myself what would make a very talented fighter like Diaz walk away from the greatest opportunity of his career.  It wasn’t to join the Navy or to be a missionary.  So what was it?

 

Was he afraid?  Maybe it was a fear of the spotlight or even a fear of success that got to Diaz.

 

Was it all the pressure?  Maybe it all finally got to him and he couldn’t take the onslaught of mindless questions again so skipping out on his contractual obligations seemed like a good idea.

 

There has also been talk of some type of social anxiety disorder, similar to what made Ricky Williams do interviews with his helmet on when he first got into the NFL.  That almost certainly has to play a part in Diaz’s decision.

 

I don’t know Diaz’s life story but I do know that he grew up with no dad around and that he got into martial arts at a young age so that he could defend himself against the bullies that seemed to always be gunning for him.  For Diaz, fighting was a way out.  Like so many other fatherless young athletes in our country, his sport was his gospel.  And as we have seen season after season, the Gospel of Sports is a false gospel.

 

At the youngest of ages, our kids find out that their ability to play a sport well could get them on a better rec. team, a starting spot as a freshman on the high school varsity team, a college scholarship and afterwards[1] a substantial payday for playing a game.  Like most false gospels, this one looks really good at first glance.  There’s certainly nothing wrong with excelling at a sport and scoring a college scholarship and a nice payday for your talents[2].  But the danger of the gospel of sports lies in what you are not told.

 

The Gospel of Sports doesn’t tell you that you are not your talent.  Brady, Manning and Vick were created in the image of God just like every other human being and one day they will stand before their Creator, not as men who had rocket arms and the ability to change plays at the line of scrimmage but as men who either stand in their own righteousness (Matthew 25:41-46) or the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

 

The Gospel of Sports doesn’t tell you that your talent will one day betray you.  Manny Ramirez was once a young, power hitting phenom with a few quirks.  At the end of his career he was an old[3] guy with a pretty good bat and a lot of quirks that was forced into retirement because he couldn’t pass a steroid test.  Now he’s got a judge telling him that he can’t have contact with his wife because he allegedly slapped her during an argument.  Brett Favre was once a player with the talent of a superhero and the passion of a kid.  By the end of his career he was an old guy[4] that hung around too long.  The man who once reminded us of kids playing ball in the front yard began to remind us more of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that wont get off of your porch at 8:00 in the morning.

 

The Gospel of Sports doesn’t tell you that you are the manager of your talent, not the owner.  God, in his infinite wisdom and sovereignty, gave Nick Diaz the ability to box, grapple and run triathalons at an elite level.  In his wisdom, God gave Dwayne Wade the ability to drive to the basket and convince other skilled players to come and play on his team.  And he has also given me my talents[5].  But whatever talents we have been given we do well to remember that we are not the owner of those talents.  They have been given to us for a reason and that reason goes way beyond “I’d like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for allowing me to win this Grammy for my song about stealing a man’s wife and drugs.”  Taking full ownership of your talents is a guarantee that your talents will one day take full ownership of you until, like the tick on a dog, both the host and the parasite are dead.

 

The Gospel of Sports forgets to tell us that the final score is important but not the most important thing.  Keeping score is important, yea, even essential in sports.

 

“Dad, who won my game?”

“Son, we all won today.”

 

That may look good on a poster in your Sunday School class but it is a waste of a sport.  Winning and losing at a young age can teach a kid how to win and lose well as an adult.  It’s better to correct a 6 year-old who can’t handle losing than it is a grown man.  It’s much easier to teach a toddler how to win with dignity than it is an adult.  This is why keeping score is important.

 

But the final score (and stats for that matter) aren’t of the utmost importance.  We have seen many elite athletes stand before Congress to give an account for the coincidence that they finally became power hitters at a time in their career when most athletes their age are in decline and also why their foreheads are suddenly bulging, their shoe size has gone up and they turn green when you make them angry.  All that to say, you can win and succeed in sports and still be a lousy person.

 

The Gospel of Sports always focuses on the final score and the career stats.  But the real gospel, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, focuses on the heart.  It offends us by showing us that regardless of our success as athletes, accountants, pastors, or whatever else, we are failures because of sin.  And this failure isn’t just a dropped pass or air ball freethrow.  It’s something that comes from the very core of our being and makes itself known in such a way that no talent on earth can hide it.  But the offense of the gospel is what leads us to the cross.  At the cross we see that our significance is not found in our talent but in a Savior who was crushed on our behalf (Romans 5:6-8).

 

My sons are at the beginning of their sporting lives.  I get the privelage of seeing them play and I even get to help coach.  I hope they do well in sports.  I’d love to see them excel.  But even if they make it to the pros I hope I lead them in a way that they are constantly reminded that they will stop playing some day.  And if that day when they stop playing happens to be next year, I want them to know that their dad loves them no matter what.  But more importantly, I want them to be men who love Jesus Christ with all that they have, whether or not that includes a world title.

 

 

 

 



[1] Unless the child plays college ball for Miami, Ohio State or Auburn in which case the substantial paydays occur all throughout college.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Late 30s.  This is old in sports and I don’t like it.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Standing and drinking sweet tea are just a few.  I could go on but don’t want to brag or humblebrag.


Bold Predictions: Ugly Uniforms, Peyton Manning and Baby Seals

Before we get to the bold predictions, let’s start with an open letter to the NCAA.

Dear NCAA,

I know how much you love rules. You don’t care if the rules are too burdensome or even contradictory. Most college football fans hate your fascination with rules but I speak on behalf of fans everywhere in asking you to add just one more command to your already enormous rulebook. You know all the legalese so feel free to add words like hitherto, therefore and asunder to make things sound legit. But here’s the basic skeletal structure I’m looking for.

Teams are no longer allowed to switch up their uniforms every week. Simple home and away jerseys will suffice. Also, it would be great if those uniforms matched.

Oh, and could you please place the Oregon Ducks on probation for 5 or 6 years since they seem to be the ones that got this whole thing started?

Thanks!

Concerned Fan

If there’s one lesson we learned this past weekend it is that the uniforms in college football are out of control. What’s going on here?

Under Armour Rep: Hey, you should think about some new uniforms for your home opener.

Maryland Athletic Director: Sure, we’ll take every advantage we can get. What do they look like?

Under Armour Rep: Well, it’s hard to explain but try to picture a cross between something someone would wear at the Renaissance Festival and a taxicab.

Maryland Athletic Director: Where do I sign?

The bad news is that Maryland won so we may have to see these uniforms again. But know this Terps, the 1970s Atlanta Braves and 1980s Milwaukee Bucks said to tell you thanks for taking over their place as the ugliest sports team of all time.

Things didn’t work out so well for the Georgia Bulldogs and their new uniforms.

Nike Rep: Hey, you should think about some new uniforms for your season opener.

UGA Athletic Director: I don’t know. We usually get beat when we start messing around with our uniforms too much.

Nike Rep: I understand where you’re coming from. But these are all red and look like something a little league team would wear.

UGA Athletic Director: Hmmmmm. If you can make it where the helmets fall off too easy you’ve got yourself a deal.

Don’t expect to see these uniforms again, unless you happen to be a fan of a semi-pro team in Albania.

Enough with what we learned last weekend. Here’s what you can expect from the week that awaits us in college football.

The Lions will still be the Lions.

A week or two before the NFL season starts, fans and analysts alike say this to themselves, “If I pick the Lions to be good this year, and by some cataclysmic event[1] they happen to win their division or earn a wild card spot, I’ll look like a genius.” And all it takes is about three or four of the right people pushing the Lions down our throats for us to start buying stock in the Lions. But in the words of Chuck D., don’t believe the hype. The Lions will always be the Lions. My guess is that the wheels will start to fall off of the Lions Are Going to the Super Bowl Wagon around the 10:23 mark of the second quarter of this weekend’s opener.

This week’s score: Tampa Bay 11, Detroit 5[2]

Michael Irvin’s head will explode.

If you don’t get the NFL Network, you should get it for no other reason than Mr. Michael Irvin. For the record, I hate the Miami Hurricanes and the Dallas Cowboys but I love Michael Irvin. There is no other analyst in the NFL more passionate about the game than Michael Irvin. I’m not sure how I feel about life coaches but if I ever need one, Michael Irvin will be getting a tweet from me. Verizon, why is there still not an app that allows me to hear a motivational speech from Michael Irvin every morning before I get out of bed? Make this right!

Parents will have some explaining to do.

For the first time in 227 games, Peyton Manning will not be playing for the Indianapolis Colts. This is a tragedy for the 3.7 million parents in our country who name their kids after Peyton Manning each year. During that 227 game streak, father and son conversations went a little something like this.

“Son, you see that quarterback there, the one that just threw for 300 yards and 4 touchdowns? That’s who we named you after. No go do something successful.

“You bet, dad. Oh, and I love you.”

This year, the conversation will look a little more like this.

“Dead-ee[3], why’d you name me Peyton?”


“Well son, we named you after that guy they keep showing on the sidelines. The one that’s not wearing a uniform but is still yelling at everyone.”

Child walks away dejected and considers devoting his life to video slot machines.

But parents, don’t worry too much. At least you didn’t name your kid O.J. Here’s to hoping that Jeff Saturday doesn’t own a white Bronco.

Lou Holtz will say something weird.

Just trust me on this one.

The English language will be brutalized.

Here are some common examples of the marriage between football and improper speech. You can expect to see and hear things like these a lot more for the next 20 0r so weeks.

“We” – Dudes that are either way too big or way to skinny like to use this one when referring to their team. “We can’t block!” or “We win!” are two of the most common. If these same dudes manage their money well, they eventually get to be the owner of the Washington Redskins where they can legitimately use the we phrase.

“If” – This is another fan favorite. It’s always used by fans of losing teams that have yet to realize that they are in fact fans of a losing team. My personal favorite is, “Well, if we played them 10 times we’d beat them at least 6.” Georgia Tech fans are typically prone to use if in referring to their team’s mishaps.

“We’ve just gotta go out and take it one game at a time.” – Athletes are taught to use this phrase sometime before they enter college. I have no idea what it looks like for a team to take it two games at a time.

“It is what it is.” – This is a favorite among athletes, especially after they’ve a.) intercepted a ball but scored in the wrong end zone, or b.) killed someone. The it is what it is phrase makes all transgressions go away. “Oh, so you’re saying that it is what it is. Thanks for the clarification.”

“Misquoted” – This happens after an athlete says something dumb and a member of the media happens to be close enough to report on it. The athlete in question is able to smooth things over by saying that he was misquoted. Twitter really makes being misquoted interesting. “So let me get this straight. When you tweeted, ‘the Holocaust never happened & I’ll be leading a riot @ the mall sometime around 2pm’ you misquoted yourself?” “Exactly.”

The Dawgs win big.

I’m not referring to the game against South Carolina on Saturday night. Victory there for the Dawgs is becoming more and more uncertain. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has a demented talent for inflicting serious damage upon the University of Georgia and a win this weekend would do just that.

The win I’m referring to is the lack of police activity around Athens lately. Usually, the summer and early fall sees a high rate of arrests among Georgia players but not this year (so far). The Dawgs need a win where they can get it and this is one worth having.

Also, in the highly likely event that a player is caught driving around town on a suspended license with a blood alcohol content of 1.0, he’s always driving a scooter (without a helmet). That’s another sign of a clean program. No Escalades or BMWs for these guys. Take that, Nevin Shapiro.

Jack Del Rio will club a baby seal during half time of this weekend’s Jags Titans game.

Here’s the scenario.

Step One: Coach Jack Del Rio has long time starting quarterback, David Garrard go out to speak to Chamber of Commerce in an effort to help drum up support for a struggling franchise.

Step Two: Garrard does as he is told, even going so far as to hug the teams annoying mascot.

Step Three: Garrard returns from his assignment to find that he has been cut by Coach Del Rio.

Yes, this really happened.


[1] A runaway train that shuts down half of the country thus forcing the Packers, Bears and Vikings to forfeit 10 of their games.

[2] If that turns out not to be the final score of this weekend’s game, just know that I was really referring to the Rays and the Tigers.

[3] Southern for dad, this term is a cousin to pawpaw and momma.

2011 Football Forecast

Sports Illustrated writer Peter King predicted this week that the Atlanta Falcons will beat the San Diego Chargers to win Super Bowl XLVI. This is already a big win for both franchises. I hope Peter King is right but just in case, there’s already talk of a victory parade through downtown Atlanta sometime this weekend. The whole premature celebration thing almost worked out for the Miami Heat and at this point, Atlanta sports franchises will take any championship they can get, real or predicted.

Here are a few more things you can expect from the upcoming college and pro football seasons.

A Big Year For Notre Dame

Traditional powerhouses like Alabama, Florida and Ohio State will not do well this season. By that I mean that they may lose three games. But a three loss season is just what it takes to get The Fightin’ Irish into the national title picture. In fact, there is a better than 75% chance that Notre Dame will be the first team in the history of college football to lose three games, make it to the national title game, lose that game too and still win the national championship. You heard it here first.

A Bad Year For The ACC

By midseason Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech will announce their departure from the conference for the greener pastures of the SEC. Maryland, North Carolina and Duke will petition the NCAA to make basketball a year round sport. Georgia Tech will eliminate its athletic department all together in order to focus more time and money on getting really good at College Jeopardy. The Miami Hurricanes will take their considerable resources and experience with them and join the Taliban. They will still be suspended for the first six months of their membership.

A Bad Year For Kirk Herbstreit Takes A Turn For The Better

The Ohio State Buckeyes will have a bad year and fire new head coach Luke Fickell midway through the season. Following a legend like Jim Tressell never works out well but when you have a name like Luke Fickell it turns out even worse. The usually fair and balanced Herbstreit will not take this well and will not shy away from making his frustrations publicly known. By about the third game of the season, Herby will be named as Fickell’s replacement. He will keep his jobs as an analyst on ESPN College Gameday and color commentator for ABC’s Saturday night game.

And Speaking Of ESPN’s College Gameday

They will continue making dudes cry. Each week, you can expect a story that starts off a little something like this.

The University of Memphis’ unofficial mascot was an old mutt affectionately named Scooter. Scooter showed up at practice one day and never seemed to leave, until the day that The US Army requested his services for their bomb patrol unit in Iraq. Although Scooter never made it back from his call of duty, his spirit stuck around the Memphis locker room to help one player who was told that he’d never play football again.

And The Final Score Of Your 2011-2012 National Championship Game Is…

…Georgia 34, Florida State 31.

(But watch out for Notre Dame.)

A League Of Their Own

Over in the pros, ESPN will petition the NFL to make the Dallas Cowboys play the New York Giants every game of the season. This petition will be granted but both teams will still somehow find a way to go 3 and 13 on the season.

Lions

I have no idea who the Lions are playing on Thanksgiving Day but I can tell you two things.

1. I will ramble on and on all morning to my sons about how much of an important tradition this game is.

2. By the second quarter when the score is Detroit 3, _________ 42, I’ll ask them if they want to watch Veggie Tales instead.

And the Final Score of Super Bowl XLVI Is…

…the Atlanta Falcons 21, the Baltimore Ravens 17.

(But again, watch out for Notre Dame.)