Archive | March, 2013

Good Friday

30 Mar

Good Friday. As a child I always thought that it seemed an unfortunately simple name. Good seems to be a catch-all word for positive circumstances to younger individuals and the name of the day just seemed to lack punch. Further, it seems like the worst of possible days, as our Savior was crucified for crimes that He did not commit.

I was discussing past decisions with my Uncle Joe, knowing what we now know, we wonder how we could have missed the incredible signs that were there. Not to argue the importance of God’s timing at this point, but it is a fact that knowledge changes perspective on past events. You see, with the The knowledge of Easter Sunday, we know that Good Friday is not simply Jesus being Wrongfully Accused.

Even with that knowledge, I think we downplay the significance of the momentous day of Christ’s death. Parenthetically, I, for one, am not that interested in having the debate of whether the death happened on a Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday; we can celebrate it on Friday if any of those is the case (e.g., is Christmas less impactful just because Christ was probably not born in December?) To understand the downplay, Understand that Christ’s death could be said to be the center of all human history.

If humanity was created to bring glory to God, then our existence is at its zenith when we are most glorifying God. Having work that is worthy of the glorification of God is a tricky subject, perhaps even a blog post or three of its own, but many will tell you that it can be accomplished by exemplifying the life of Christ. Everyone will (or at least should) tell you that the only reason we have the ability to glorify God is because of Christ’s death. The only reason we don’t have to answer for that inability is because of the imputation of Christ.

So, wherever one falls in the theology of salvation or theology of ability to work, it is clear that the life of Christ is central to bringing about God’s glory. So, why then did Christ live? God putting on human-ness for us is nice, but what was the reason? To borrow a phrase from Ron Hamilton, Jesus was born to die. He came because we needed a propitiation. He came that he might impute to us that which we could never do by ourselves. The reason Jesus came to earth was so that “His wounds could pay our ransom.”

While understated, that is why this Friday is so Good! Against the backdrop of a society that is making the argument of whether or not it should allow homosexuals to get married, we see the culture slipping away from even arguing what is right, other than a standard they have created themselves. We tend, whichever side we are on, to make our arguments based on our own definition of fair or right. I would assert that virtually noone thinks it is fair or right that someone else should pay the penalty for all of my sins.

The reality is that God is not bound by our definition of fairness, but we are bound by His definition of how to treat individuals kindly. We are responsible for our reactions to others, whether they be appropriate or not. And I’d also look at those who believe the whole thing is a decoy, and they are excited (one way or another) about President Obama signing the Monsanto Protection Act. My excitement needs to not come from these things in the world, but rather on the force of the gospel in my life.

I celebrate Good Friday not only because it is central to human history, but I celebrate it because it is essential to MY history (and present and future, and my life in general). Good Friday was the center-point of Christ’s work, which enables me to live for Him. Good Friday is the day that provides meaning and context to so many other days, like my birthday, Christmas, Easter, or anything else I want to color with the gospel. That is most certainly a reason to call Friday, good, even if it seems like a cheese-monkey name. And to think, all the banks are closed on a day in October to celebrate Columbus finding that which Jesus created millenniums ago, yet we all work on Good Friday. How messed up is that?


The State of the NCAA Tournament

28 Mar

A lot of people will claim that Florida Gulf Coast making the Sweet Sixteen is a sign that the tournament needs to be expanded. Even a condensed field would be likely to include conference tournament winners, so the better argument is that LaSalle is in the Sweet Sixteen (or that VCU was in the Final Four in 2011). So the argument goes that if teams at the very bottom can make a deep run in (or perhaps even win) the tournament, there should be more teams invited, as some of them have a shot also.

The flattening of the college basketball level doubtlessly means that there will be more “Cinderella” stories and that more teams have a chance to win the tournament. This is the premise under which Dicky V and many others would claim that we need more teams. The argument follows that we should include all the teams that have any chance of winning (or at least a chance of beating the teams that might have a chance to win).

I believe this is a mistake. You see, if every team that has any chance to win is included in the tournament, what was the point of playing the regular season? The best teams always have the best chance to win because they are…the best teams. As the gap decreases between that top layer and the next teams, definitionally differentiation becomes more difficult. The more difficult it is to differentiate, the more important it is to use the maximum amount of information at hand to differentiate.

Clearly the regular season is the best source of this information about which teams deserve a shot. The conference tournaments already give every team a shot to make the tournament. These factors, however, have contributed to the most ludicrous of seasons. Who really is eliminated from championship contention in the college basketball regular season? This year, one of the “first team’s out” was Kentucky, who couldn’t even beat Robert Morris in the NIT. I’m not saying that Kentucky couldn’t have created some damage in the NCAA tournament, because I believe they could have.

The mere fact that we allow a team to be under par all year and then sneak into a tournament and potentially win as our way of crowning a National Championship is ludicrous. I am not advocating a system like NCAA Football, where there are good teams who had worthy seasons, which don’t make the playoffs because (wait for it…) there aren’t any. On the other hand, a system where making the playoffs is an accomplishment unto itself is better. You need look no further than the difference between the college football and college basketball regular seasons to see, a season that matters is just better.

I state that a reduced field is the way to go. There are still approximately 30 conference champions who get automatic invitations. If we restricted the number of “at large” bids to about 18, that would include the top teams who had earned a spot into the field. It would also mean that most of those teams around #20 would have to give a full out effort to win their conference tournament, thereby increasing the urgency there. It would also allow for six rounds, just that the top 16 teams would only need to win five games. Of course, that would take away the dream that one day a 16 would beat a 1, but truly few of us lose sleep awaiting this opportunity.

If the regular season were given immediately more significance, a North Carolina-Kentucky game in December might have more meaning (and therefore, more viewers). A regular season which involves people watching more games, increases the tournament where most of us are just introducing ourselves to the teams. A tournament with fewer teams would also do little to take away the “Cinderella” stories and would eliminate the glut from the major conferences. A team that went .500 in the Big East would no longer be a shoe-in. And when has the insistence on excellence ever been a bad thing?

By what am I Known?

25 Mar

A year and a half ago, I wrote a series of blog posts on how people know me. I have come to realize that there is another way that people know (and often judge) you. We frequently are evaluated based on the recommendations we make. To me this may be more evident than it is to others. As an attorney, many have judged me just on the people I’ve recommended. As a Realtor, telling people other professionals to use often puts my reputation on the line. As the director of a ministry, my thoughts about a church often carry a lot of weight.

I have realized the tremendous benefit of recommending someone who changed a friend’s life, for which they continuously thank me. I have understood the tremendous guilt of recommending someone who did not pan out and assist the person to whom I recommended. Neither were really a result of anything more than my giving a simple name.

The more I think about it, however, the more I feel this is a normal reaction. To many people, we are unable to assist them in everything they need. Our friends may want a mechanic, an appraiser, a tutor, a computer programmer, a type of car, or even a ride. When they do, we sometimes feel confident enough to throw a name out there. After they get that name, most of our interaction with them on that transaction is done, yet we are often not finished with the transaction.

I find that often an evaluation of me (and my supposed wisdom) can easily be broken down by how well the the recommendations that I made worked out. Friends tend to know where to go to ask questions. So, when you have a question about taxes, you may say to ask Susie or don’t rent a car before asking Matt what kind of deal you can get.

This has become such a thing for me that last week, I had over ten conversations in a single day that people felt one way or another about a recommendation I had given them for something. I began to see that I am not known so much for the cool things (or even wretched things) I do or some salient facts, but rather for the people I have connected. Sometimes this gives me more credit than I deserve.

I should probably spend more time considering things before I recommend, but this also means that those who vouch for me are on the line when I work with others. So, if you are reading this because it was recommended to you, please don’t hold it against that person, unless, of course, they were telling you to read it because they thought it was entertainingly bad.

Count it All Joy

24 Mar

I’ve read quite a few books in my day. I’m quite confident there are people who have read more, but I’m not stating this to begin a contest. I remember quite a bit of the facts I have read in books. Fiction is not my favorite genre, but I’ve read a couple of fictions that stick with me. I’ve read quite a few nonfiction books also.

I feel the memory I have for these nonfiction books gives me a relatively wide array of knowledge, though my occasional Jeopardy viewing kills that dream. The reason this matters is because I think many people treat the Bible as if it is a non-fiction book being read for some mythical report we have.

The truth is that the Bible can teach you a little history or a little science. It can even teach you a little sociology, psychology, or literature. But reading it like a textbook in any of those subjects reduces it to human dispatching of information and knowledge, when the fact it is that it is a life-changing book.

This is why I made a suggestion that memorization become a part of your regular worship and walk. The knowledge of Scripture is different than the knowledge of any other book. Being familiar with it is different than being familiar with another text.

So, if, like me, you find yourself saying that you’ve got to get through your Scripture reading, so you can meet your goal of reading whatever amount of Scripture you want to get through, begin thinking about it. When I was a child I had to do book reports and “get through” books that I believe did me little to no good. But reading the Bible will always give me benefits, even when I do it out of drudgery. (I assert one of those benefits is making it less drudge-worthy).

This is why we should read the Bible with Joy. This is why you should make every effort to adjust your attitude. The reading of books is beneficial and can teach a lot. Yet, it should never be a substitute for a reading of the Bible, whose author can grant us wisdom and knowledge with the reading. Reading the Bible is one of the joys we get, where we learn more and more about the God who saved us and loved us when we were unlovable!

Learning Life from Chris Webber

7 Mar

I was finally able to watch the documentary, The Fab Five, about the story of Michigan’s college basketball team in the early 1990’s. As a person who was on a high school basketball team during that age, watching this team is something I remember fondly. Some of the simulacrums of my youth and basketball playing stem from this team. So as a full disclosure, the video may be more influential to me than the average person, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Watching it made me consider the story of Chris Webber. Not the story of his relationship with Big Money Ed (where, for the sake of full disclosure, I’ll concede that I think most people give him more of a bum rap than they should), but the story of his basketball playing at the University of Michigan. It’s an interesting story to be sure.

Chris Webber was the best player in high school, graduating in 1991. He was a phenomenal player, often looking like a man among boys. Then he was part of this incredible class recruited to the University of Michigan. He was a tremendous talent. Watching him play on that team, I remember thinking how wonderful he was.

If ever there was someone who could take over a college basketball game by himself to make his team win, Chris Webber was at the top of this list. Specifically, in the two championship games, Chris Webber played his best when everything was on the line. In the second championship game, he played incredibly well in the second half to pull the team back into contention. He was the reason that the game was close.

Finally, he made a play for which most people remember him. He called a timeout that his team did not have, which made the comeback that he had spearheaded, impossible. I remember the devastation in his eyes, as if it were yesterday. I remember thinking (as a fifteen year-old) that the media was too hard on this guy who had done yeoman’s work and made a simple mistake.

But most of all, as I think of the story, I recognize the fallibility we all possess. I think of this massive man, who had the running, jumping, and dunking skills like no other power player I’ve seen, yet had the grace to play the game well. I think of someone who did everything so well, then making one mistake and becoming the scapegoat. I think that none of us is capable of doing everything by ourselves. And we all make mistakes, though not always in front of 35 million people.

I am just glad that I don’t have to completely answer for those mistakes I make. Because in my quest to make things happen, I rarely come anywhere close to the achievement. In short, I’m not able to do, in any field, what Chris Webber did in the NCAA basketball game. Fortunately, I don’t have to bear the weight of my failures alone. Amazingly, because of the gift of the gospel, I am able to be far inferior and have the imputed works of Christ answer for me. For that I am eternally grateful, as I do not want to bear the weight of my massive failures alone.

A Good Name

1 Mar

“A Good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold”

I am a lucky man. I’ve known this for some time. I married a prize among prizes and have three incredible kids, all of whom are better than I deserve. That is easy to see and is commonly accepted by people who know and see me. But my blessings run much deeper.

We are all prisoners of those things to which our parents expose us. This can be positive or negative. Our perspective of normal is shaded by those things we see in our formative years. I’ll never forget the first time I began to realize the depth of my blessing. I was having a discussion with a godly man and good friend whose parents had built up such a negative reputation that he was unable to pursue an opportunity he might otherwise have had.

While I am truly saddened by this reality, I have come to discover it is not that uncommon In our world. I was speaking with a friend in another state just over a week ago, whose parents left him thousands of dollars of debt in his name.

Those examples are both parents who would, in many ways, be considered good parents. I’m not even talking about parents who are malicious toward their children, as was well discussed in this blog. These are just parents who failed to make a good family name for their children, which just makes life slightly more difficult.

I am really glad that I know of these things only on a second hand/theoretical level. I am frequently being introduced to people who know my parents and they are willing to give me a better chance because of it. As recently as yesterday, someone gave me a good business deal because of my dad. I have received work from people who trust me only because they know my mom.

Now why would I write this blog besides just to brag about my parents? Well bragging about them may be enough, but I think about what it means to pursue that biblical “good name” and I find that it is an easy concept for me to understand. It is what I want to leave behind for my children. It is the challenge I would have for anyone who might happen upon this blog post.

You see, whether it is your family, yourself, your business, your church or your Lord; anyone whose name you bear will be gathering information about that name from the things you do. Those things will be the impression people have when the name comes up. And building or maintaining that good name is something that should be done.

My friend, Jay Connors, once said, “live such that when others say bad things about you, no one will believe them.” That is what I want. I want to maintain that good name my parents fought for. I want to leave my kids that good name. I want to leave a good name in my business endeavors. I want people to think more of a church because we’re consistently conscious of having a good name. It is, after all, something to be chosen more so than loving favor, silver, or gold.