Baseball, Football, and the Countdown to Eternity


Last week the baseball team where I teach made school history. Without previously having won so much as a regular season district championship, they won the district, region, and substate tournaments. Our guys made it all the way to the State Finals before finishing second and rushing home so the five seniors could graduate, wearing their uniforms under their graduation robes. It was a lifetime memory that I will hold dear and I know they will never forget.

In the semi-final game, we were up by several runs, and the visiting team was up to bat in the top of the 7th, the final inning in high school baseball. As our pitcher was throwing his warm up pitches, the PA guy began blaring the 1986 song “Final Countdown” by Europe. Our retro cool students all sang along in the stands and reminded us “old folks” that the song was older than they are.

We excitedly counted down the final three outs that put us in the State Finals.

GREAT memories. GREAT reason to have a countdown.

Yesterday morning I was watching SportsCenter while eating breakfast, and there was a segment discussing the fact that we have hit a key countdown:

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College football season. GREAT reason to count down.

The game that claims to have overtaken baseball as America’s Pastime is only 100 days away. Only. That’s almost one third of the year. But we SO love football, we start counting down the days to the first game at 100.

I can’t say much. I start the countdown to Spring Training the Monday after the Super Bowl. Baseball and football are in a constant battle for the title of First Love in my sports heart. As a society, we LOVE sports, and we love counting down to the beginning of each season, whichever season it may be.

But as I was running later, a thought occurred to me: What if we counted down to our step out of time and into eternity with as much fervor and excitement as we counted down to the beginning of sports seasons?

“But Bekah,” you say, “No one knows when He will return. Besides, we’ve been waiting two thousand years. No one can live their entire life as if Jesus was coming back tomorrow.”

To this, it would reply, “True, but not really.”

This is one of those Both/And situations, the beautiful tension of Christian faith.

Do we, as the Bride of Christ, anxiously await the return of the Bridegroom?

YES, just as the Church has done for 2,000+ years.

In His grace, He delays His return for His Bride, desiring that none should perish.

But in His mercy, He calls His children Home to be with Him every single day.

Our lives are a vapor, according to James, and while the Church has been in a countdown for over two millennia, we as individuals are not guaranteed our next breath.

So how do we live a life with the realization that each day could be our last without becoming focused on death?

How do we live with our mortality in mind without becoming useless because of the morbidity of the thought?

Paul addresses this very question in 1 Thessalonians 4. He begins this section of his letter talking about the daily walk of the Christian. He urges the Thessalonians to grow in the Word, to be sanctified, pure, holy, and to love one another. Those things will only happen in that order. The more we know, the more we grow, change, desire to be like Christ, and show His love to others.

What’s interesting is that Paul follows up that section reminding the believers of the hope they have in eternity. It’s as if he’s answering the question he knows they’re going to ask: “Why all the hard work? What’s the end goal?”

He gives his readers hope for this life with a reminder of the afterlife. We live a life seeking Christ, living each day as if it is our last, facing struggles and joys, persecutions and victories, so that we are as prepared as possible for our step out of this life and into eternity.

Paul, when facing his own mortality and impending step into eternity declared he had finished the race and kept the faith (2 Tim). He believed he had lived his life every day as if it was his last.

So as we live this life abundantly, as we celebrate victories, count down to favorite sporting seasons, welcome new lives into this world and remember those who have gone before us, let’s spur one another on to love and good deeds (Heb 10), remembering that both as Bride and as child, each day we are in a countdown, each day we are one day closer to the coming of our entrance into eternity.

How will you commit to live your countdown?

Musings on Guilt, Shame, and Redemption, CCEF Session Four


Notes from Ed Welch’s plenary session at the CCEF National Conference.

Shame is THE human problem. Shame for what we do. Shame for things done to us. BUT the lowly are raised up as they are associated w/ Christ.

The consequences of the cross on shame. Jesus took the humiliation and rejection of shame on the cross. FOR US. For our sin. For the consequences of the sins of others on us.

Paul gave musings on shame in his writings… “I thought I had overcome shame. Pharisee of Pharisees, but Jesus accepted ‘them’.” Jesus took the shame of “those people” and my shame was still present.

The cross was the height of shame. He wasn’t just murdered, but crucified. The royal identifies with us, and crossed boundaries into the cesspool of shame so we can identify w/ Him.

Faith is essentially saying “Help.” My life is now bound up in another.

Paul heaped shame on himself, like Christ, to relate to the shamed. When the right person absorbs shame, it loses power.

Paul expected shame from his enemies. But he received shame from his own church (2 Cor). In ministry, we can be shamed by our own. But that is also sharing in the shame of Christ who was rejected by His own.

Corinthians say, “Prove yourself.” Paul says, “I love you. Love me in return.” Unheard of apart from Christ.

When there are only 2 categories, clean & unclean, the clean can be touched by the unclean and the unclean always wins. But w/ Christ, there’s a 3rd category– HOLY. When the Holy touches the unclean, Holy wins.

Philippi was a culture of reputation. So Paul tells them of a king who empties Himself (Phil 2). Paul also emptied self (3:7). He challenges us to do the same. Become people of no reputation.

The shamed know their neediness, but usually turn inward and isolate, to cover, to hide. In Christ we can turn to Him and say “help.” He becomes our covering.

Our biography is no longer our own reputation, but our association with Christ. This is how we are to see other believers, through the glory and holiness of Christ.

As a holy one, touch the shamed, bring them in. Love them as Christ. Invite them to dinner. Hug them if needed. Be people of hope.

What about Peter? Denied Christ, knower of shame. What does he say of those in Christ? 1 Peter 2:9-10.

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Be blessed, chosen ones.

A New Sexual Ethic? Part 5


This is part 5 in a 5 part series of a response to Carter Heyward’s essay “Notes on Historical Grounding: Beyond Sexual Essentialism,” which can be found in Sexuality and the Sacred:Sources for Theological Reflection, edited by James B. Nelson and Sandra P. Longfellow.

Heyward concludes her argument with a rallying cry for change. As is the case throughout her article, her call to change is correct, but the direction in which she desires to enact this change is deadly. The following is Heyward’s proposed solution to the issue of a misunderstanding of sexuality in the church:

If we are to live with our feet on the ground, in touch with reality, we must help one another accept the fact that we who are christian are heirs to a body-despising, woman-fearing, sexually repressive religious tradition. If we are to continue being members of the church, we must challenge and transform it at the root. What is required is more than simply a “reformation.” I am speaking of revolutionary transformation. Nothing less will do (Heyward, 16).

Heyward’s call to recognize the past sins of the church is valid. Only when sins are acknowledged and repented of can true healing take place and forgiveness be granted. A vast number of problems within the Church today would be resolved literally overnight if believers were willing to repent and humbly seek forgiveness from their God and from their fellow believers. God confirms this promise in 2 Chronicles 7.14: “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” True change occurs not through bitter retribution, as Heyward suggests, but through humble repentance and forgiveness.

This issue of creating idols out of sex and self ultimately stems from a misunderstanding of the person, nature, and work of God. Most claim that their disdain for God’s moral law has little to do with their “personal” relationship with God. They claim to love God. Their problems is with Scripture. Some may think that this type of thinking is extreme and could never be found in the mind of the average church member. But it is creeping into the pews and can be heard in excuses given concerning sexual immorality, divorce, exorbitant debt and a host of other self-gratifying sins. When people make statements like, “I know the Bible says it’s wrong, but God wants me to be happy,” they are judging Scripture through the lens of personal experience—the exact thing sexual pagans do to justify the worship of sex and self.

This idolatrous thinking has made its way into the local church, and it will not be corrected through a “revolutionary transformation,” but only through a humble reformation, by a return to the recognition that the God worthy of service and worship is powerful and sovereign, and He alone ensures that His will and ways have been communicated to His people without error or confusion. Those who think that Scripture is irrelevant today because it has been corrupted throughout time do not have a low view of man or of Scripture. They have a low view of God and his ability to maintain His promise that “the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Is 40.8).

Carter Heyward has so much right in her argument: sexuality can be seen as an aspect of humanity that is fluid and changing. While people (with very rare, medical exceptions) are born biologically heterosexual, through the influence of man’s sinful heart and the impact of the sinful choices of others, some go against the loving and unchanging one, right way of the loving Father and go astray, seeking to do things their own way (Is 53.6). Choosing to follow the sinful desires of the heart is not a liberating way of finding oneself and realizing one’s full potential, as a loving bodyself like Heyward tries so hard to claim. Rather, when man chooses to go his own way, his iniquities are not laid upon the Suffering Servant described in Isaiah 53. By going one’s own way, one is committing to pay the price for sins committed against an infinitely holy God.

For too long the church has silently sat back and uncomfortably watched society claim sex as its own. Before it is too late for the next generation of believers, the church must heed the warning of those who seek to take the good gift of God and further corrupt it in sexual paganism: “Our silence will not protect us…. We are shaping history with our words. Either we speak as best we can or our power… will slip away like a thief in the night” (Heyward, 16). Unlike Heyward, who believes that humanity’s power comes in unity with one’s self and with one another, Christians must remember that God’s grace is sufficient in whatever battle may be faced when standing in the truth of the Word. Christians are called to speak out against those who claim to speak for God but spread lies. Silence will not protect us, but it will most certainly condemn us if we remain silent concerning the increasing attack on biblical sexual morality.