Thursday, January 31, 2013

Nearly 30% of 'mericans Believe God Rigs the Big Game

Just days before Super Bowl XLVII, a poll conducted by the  Public Religion Research Institute reports that 27% of all Americans believe that God plays a role in determining which team wins sporting events. A much greater number, over 50%, believe that God rewards athletes of faith with good health and success.  

The article goes on to give statistics based on race, religious affiliation, geographic locale and political party. One interesting contrast to note: More Democrats believe that God determines the outcome of a game, while more Republicans believe that God rewards an athlete's faith.

The report finally looks at how Americans feel about athletes who overtly share their faith. Here's an excerpt followed by a graphic of how the numbers break down.
“In an era where professional sports are driven by dollars and statistics, significant numbers of Americans see a divine hand at play,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, PRRI CEO. “Roughly 3-in-10 Americans believe that God plays a role in determining which team wins, and a majority believe that God rewards faithful athletes.”

Americans in the South are most likely to think God has a stake in the outcome of sports games. More than one-third (36 percent) of Southerners say that God plays a role in who wins, compared to nearly 3-in-10 (28 percent) Americans in the Midwest, 1-in-5 (20 percent) of Americans in the Northeast, and 15 percent of Westerners.

Religious groups also disagree on whether God has a stake in the outcome of sports games, the survey finds. Roughly 4-in-10 minority Christians (40 percent) and white evangelical Protestants (38 percent) say that God plays a role in who wins, compared to fewer than 3-in-10 Catholics (29 percent), fewer than 1-in-5 (19 percent) white mainline Protestants, and approximately 1-in-10 (12 percent) religiously unaffiliated Americans."
What about you? Do you think God influences major sporting events? How would you have responded to these questions, and why?

Read the entire article here: God on the Field

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

Bronnie Ware, is a writer, songwriter and nurse in her homeland of Australia. In her years caring for dying patients she identified the five most common regrets they shared about their lives. These observations became an article, and later a book titled, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.”

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again. 
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships. 
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result. We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win. 
2. I wish I didn't work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence. By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle. 
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.  It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it. When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
The truth is, we're all dying. In the words of the late Jim Morrison, "No one here gets out alive." It may be 50 years from now, it may be tomorrow. None of us know. 

For those who are in Christ, death is not something we should fear. We should actually look forward to it! As the apostle Paul said, "To live is Christ and to die is gain." If we live, we have the privilege of helping lead people to eternal life. There is no greater way to spend our days. When we die, we receive the reward of our faith, to live in glory with Christ forever. With that in mind, we can make the most of each day, each moment, each opportunity to share the eternal life giving message of Jesus.

Live today in light of eternity.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Gospel According to Downton Abbey

The phenomenon that is Downton Abbey is a complete anomaly. The show, featured on PBS' long running Masterpiece Classic series, is the antithesis of the reality TV trend that has run the gamut from Paris Hilton's Simple Life to Snooki's Jersey Shore. Duck Dynasty not included.

If you're unfamiliar with the show, Downton Abbey is a British period drama depicting the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants as they go through life together at the family estate, Downton Abbey. The show begins with the family hearing the news of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and currently follows them through the early 1920's. 

Something interesting about this story is the parallel plot lines of the aristocrats and the servants, constantly crossing paths though worlds apart. The contrast of the two classes provides an intriguing dichotomy. The servants often face the painful truth that although their hard work is appreciated, and it might increase their position, they are not equal to the Crawleys and never will be. Try as they might, their best efforts could never be enough to change their place in life. (Save the chauffeur who married Sybil. Did you watch last night? How could they? I digress...)

Bottom line is, aristocracy is a dead end... unless you're a member of the chosen family.

One of my favorite verses in all of scripture is 1 John 3:1 "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" Similarly, Ephesians 1:5 explains that, "He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will" and Romans 8:17 goes on to say, "Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory."

When we put our faith in Christ we are not only saved but we are adopted, transferred from a lineage of slaves to Aristocrats. Our value is no longer found in our attempts to perform, it is found solely in our Father. Our identity is not determined by WHO we are, but WHOSE we are. We are children of the King! And while that might sound a bit cheesy to say out loud, it is incredibly important for us to understand and believe. You may have heard it before, but is it evident in your life? Is there a quiet confidence in your heart, a sense of total acceptance and security, that confirms your belief?

The Kingdom of God is a monarchy, not a democracy, and we are born again into the Royal Family. Because of this we can wake up in the morning and go to bed at night in peace knowing this: Our Father has chosen us, we are His children, holy and dearly loved. Our status is secure in Him. Our position is not based on our daily work but on His eternal adoption. Receive it, believe it, and stop living like you're on Survivor. This was His idea and He chose to do it, "in accordance with His good pleasure and will."

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Own Less:Live More - Any Ikea Fans Out There?

If you're like me, when you're walking through those tiny model apartments at Ikea you think, "I could actually DO this!"  Well, Graham Hill at Life Edited takes it to another level with this 420 square foot apartment in Soho. One fascinating thing about this place is that the design was "crowd sourced" through over 300 entries, a growing trend in the design world today.

Graham says, "I think that simplifying your life... might actually make you a little happier." I couldn't agree more. He expands on this idea at
Since 1950, the average American consumes 6 times more energy and carries 24 times more personal debt. He uses 3 times more living space, but still doesn’t have enough room to store his stuff, a fact made clear by a $22B personal storage industry. Despite this excess (or perhaps because of it), we find ourselves no happier than we were 60 years ago. Most of us realize it’s relationships and experiences–not possessions–that make us happy. Why don’t we design our homes, products and lifestyles accordingly?
Ready for the amazing 420 square foot apartment?

This 20 minute video shows the entire building process from demo to completion, and a more in depth look at the space.

Life Edited's motto is "Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy".  I'm in, who's with me?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why Fewer Christians is a Good Thing

In an article at, Pastor Larry Osborne comments on the recent trend of fewer people identifying themselves as Christians. 

Why the change, and how could this be good for the Gospel?

"In the absence of any particular cultural advantage to calling themselves “Christian,” lots of folks who were nominal (in name only) Christians now choose “None” as their preferred spiritual moniker. That’s not a bad thing.  
In fact, here are some reasons why I find the results of this recent poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life encouraging.  
Cultural Christianity has never done anything to advance the kingdom.It only inoculates against the real thing.  
When large numbers of nominal and cultural Christians wave the banner of Christ, it confuses the message of the Gospel."
Read the rest of the story here:

Monday, January 21, 2013

For the Rev ML King, SING!

If you've never seen a live performance of "Pride, In the Name of Love", U2's tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., then congratulations, this is your lucky day. Below is their classic performance from the film Rattle and Hum, a documentary of the The Joshua Tree tour. #urwelcome

Cornel West: Obama & MLK's Bible

I've always been bothered by the way some people use and twist the legacy of MLK for their own gain. Rarely do they represent the same values he stood for. Reverend King fought for the dignity and freedom of ALL people. He spoke of unifying them rather than dividing them. He did not pit one race or class against another. He did not portray himself as a victim. He did not merely point fingers. He gave his life to be a part of the solution rather than exacerbate the problem. Reverend King had a dream, not an agenda. Cornel West get's pretty fired up here, and seems to shock everyone with his position. I love the expression of Tavis Smiley at the end. "You mentioned the children.. and that's a good segue..."  Yes, I bet it is. 

Why MLK Day Matters to Christians

The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.
            Martin Luther King Jr.

When Martin Luther King Jr. fought for the equality of all people, he wasn't just working for the transformation of America, he was working for the transformation of the Church.

A dying man's last words are often his most important, and in the 17th chapter of the gospel of John we read the last recorded prayer of Jesus before going to the cross. Our Savior could have prayed for a lot of things here. He could have prayed for the overthrow of the Romans, or the spread of the gospel, or for... himself. But He didn't. In some of His final moments on this earth, Jesus prayed for us and for the unity of His Church. Not just a church, but the Church: all believers on the earth.

“... I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one - I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." John 17:20-23

Did you notice the "if/then" statement that this passage clearly makes? The Church should be unified "so that the world may believe that you have sent me..."and "Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

Jesus says the unity of the Church causes people to believe in Him. Unity is evangelistic! It is so evangelistic that Jesus made it His final prayer. I guess this means He actually did pray for the spread of the gospel. And, tragically, we must assume that disunity in the Church has the opposite effect.

Disunity in the Church causes the world to not believe in Jesus. 

Disunity is... anti-Christ? I'm afraid so, and you don't have to look far to confirm it. Because of this, I agree with author Philip Yancey that racism in the Church is one of the most vile sins of all.
"It took years for God to break the stranglehold of blatant racism in me - I wonder if any of us gets free of its more subtle forms - and I now see this sin as one of the most poisonous, with perhaps the greatest societal effects." Philip Yancey, Confessions of a Racist
Most of us think segregation ended long ago. But do you know which day is the most segregated day of the week? Sunday, of course. Obviously, segregation is no longer legislated; today it's voluntary. Even worse.
Now I'm not saying that this is just a white problem, or that we all need to go to the same church. Disunity occurs for many reasons. However, I do believe we all have the responsibility to somehow respond to the prayer of our Savior in John 17.

But how do you respond? What can one person do?  What can you and I do today? Pastor Beau Hughes address this in a recent blog post for The Village Church.
Of course, it’s too easy and ultimately unhelpful to merely point out the continued existence of racial discord in our midst, especially for Christians. As Pastor Frank Reid noted in an article for Christianity Today, “We’ve made a sport of pointing out racism, when what we should be doing is focusing our prayers and actions toward creating congregations that proclaim Christ’s lordship over his entire church.” We need to move past hopeless observations about racism and look to God for hope and direction.
You can begin the same way Jesus did, looking to the Father in prayer. Praying for other churches and pastors by name, praying for other ethnic groups, praying for racial unity in the churches of your city and most of all, for unity in your own heart. We never know what prayer will change around us, but we do know that it always changes us. Ask God to fill your heart with His unconditional love and compassion for all of His family, your brothers and sisters. Pray that you would be the Church Jesus prayed for, so that the world would believe in the Him.

Read the rest of Beau's article here: The Gospel and Racial Harmony

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Why I Cried at The Miserables

I took my parents to see Les Miserables a couple of nights ago. Dad fell asleep twice, I did once, and Mom wasn't sure what to think. Needless to say, our ride home looked nothing like the video below, but if you haven't seen it yet, you must. This is AWESOMAZING!

There was crying in our theater, however, it came from me when I realized that they weren't going to talk between the songs. Isn't that what normally happens in musicals? They speak, then burst into a catchy song about their favorite things or sweeping chimneys or a really fast car, then they speak some more as if that is normal behavior. Look, I saw The Sound of MusicChitty Chitty Bang Bang AND Grease. I KNOW musicals! About two minutes into this movie I thought, "Seriously? They're going to sing this whole thing? For nearly three hours? REALLY?" When people sing for three hours straight, mostly lines that do not have a melody or rhyme, isn't that called an opera? I know that this isn't the popular opinion. Everyone is raving about the beauty and the grandeur and this timeless story. Based on what I've been seeing in the blogoshpere, I should be writing an article on how the message of redemption is magnificently displayed in this epic production, then tie the whole thing into the gospel. SPOILER ALERT: That's not gonna happen here.

Now before I get any hate mail, let me clarify that I'm not calling any of that into question. I can appreciate it all. However, personally, I was too distracted by the mode of presentation(or medium) for my heart to deeply be touched by the message. I freely confess that this is largely due to my failure to appreciate some of the finer of the fine arts. Ten minutes into my first ballet I asked, "Are they really just going to just dance the whole time?" Fortunately I'm not alone in my cultural depravity. Particularly here in East Texas. On a broader scale, I know that many people have a similar problem when watching foreign films with subtitles. For them, there is simply a disconnect in the method of communication that they cannot overcome. Which led me to this question: "How often do people fail to hear the gospel, the  greatest redemption story of all time, not because the story is lacking, but because the presentation doesn't connect? Maybe it's culturally irrelevant to them. Maybe it seems like they're hearing it in a foreign language. Maybe it's just bad storytelling?

I've heard it said of gospel presentations, "The medium may change, but the message stays the same." I completely disagree. This notion flies directly in the face of what media genius Marshall McLuhan said nearly a decade ago when he coined the now-famous phrase, “The medium is the message.” Point being that how we communicate something plays as much a role in it's impact as what we are trying to communicate. If people don't "get it," our presentation may be more at fault than the state of their hearts. As believers, it is much easier to blame hard hearts or credit a sovereign God than to scrutinize our own efforts. I would go one step further and say that it takes much more creativity, investment, effort and research to present a message that connects well than one that does not. As a pastor who has prepared many sermons, I can certainly attest to this.  It is much more expedient to just rehash something you've done before, or another church did, or possibly worse,  recreate a low budget Christianized version of something the world did five years ago. And when I say research, I don't just mean of the scriptures, but also of the people we are trying to reach with them. In ministry we rarely, if ever, do any research or follow up with our target audience in order to discover how well they comprehended our intended message, why they did or didn't like it, or how they think we could present it better. I'm not talking about changing the message to appeal more, I'm talking about changing the presentation to communicate better. We could easily believe that something is amazing and heart touching because that's how WE perceive it, while all the while it has little to no impact on those who need to hear it most. In the commercial sector, Research & Development is often one of the largest budget items. Products are tested, revised and retested. Movies are screened multiple times, rewritten and reshot, often at a massive expense, based on audience interviews. Have you ever heard of a church with an R&D department? Have you ever heard of Community Research as a line item in a ministry budget? I can tell you this: if it's not in the budget, it's not important. Your budget says more about your values and mission statement than your website. Why is it that we, who believe that our "customers" have the most to lose, spend little to no time or money researching how well we're connecting with them? How can we do this better? I'll be digging in to that and more on Monday. Until then, enjoy your weekend, and maybe even go see Les Miserables if you haven't. But don't say I didn't warn you. They sing for the entire movie... almost THREE HOURS!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Life Savers

The Golden Gate Bridge has always been famous. It was the world’s longest suspension bridge when it was completed in 1937. Since then, it has become an iconic landmark of San Francisco and, tragically, one of the most popular places in the world to commit suicide. Few know this better than Kevin Briggs, a sergeant with the California Highway Patrol who has talked hundreds of people out of jumping. 


I recently saw this video, Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge, and was profoundly impacted. Take five minutes and watch it now.

I couldn't help but think about what it means to be a "guardian" of the gospel. Seargent Briggs' focus, dedication and determination convicted and inspired me. "How often am I living completely focused on the mission, the Great Commission, that I have been given?" "Am I on the lookout for people around me who need to be rescued?" "Am I sacrificial, committed and patient with them, unwilling to just let them go?" 

"When I talk to someone, I try to dig into them and see whats going on."
"I try to get them to raise their head up."
"I actually went down on my knees and said, "Look, I got nothin'.""
"I tend to talk about my life, because I've been through a lot."
"Hey, I've been through some of this also."
"I like to lead them with dignity."
"That's what we do, that's why we're here."
"What was it, after all those hours, that you finally decided to come back?"
"Kevin wouldn't give up."

"To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." 1 Corinthians 9:22

"Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh." Jude 1:22-23

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." 1 John 3:16

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

So You Wanna Start a Riot?

In an election year as polarizing as this one was, starting a riot is not a difficult thing to do. Throw in last summer's Chick-Fil-A day followed by Louie Giglio bowing out of the inauguration and it becomes clear that a culture war is not something looming on the horizon, it is in our midst. 

This battle of values is something that many Christians are eager to sign up for. Recently, while surfing hundreds of channels and finding nothing to watch, I landed on the show of a well known TV preacher. I tuned in just as he was reaching the crescendo of his message, "We are soldiers in the army of the Lord! And we are fighting a culture war for the soul of a nation!" As he wiped the sweat from his brow, the congregation responded with resounding cheers and amens. Hands were raised in support throughout the room. I was perplexed. I could not argue with his first point, although childhood memories of singing, "Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war..." still creep me out a little. However, the second half of his mission statement put me on edge. Are we really called by God to engage in a culture war? Is the mission of the church to fight for the soul of a nation? Could I please have some New Testament scriptures to support this? 

Ironically, a decade ago I would have joined in the cheers and high-fived the tv screen. I was an American and a Christian, therefore it was my God given duty to defend her honor and help get this country back on track. However, around the turn of the millennium, a conversation with a good Christian brother would leave me troubled and questioning my deeply held convictions. In short, he was a pacifist while I was a member of the NRA. He was from the northeast, I was from Texas. At first I thought it was just a geographical issue. However, what I really couldn't shake, what annoyed me the most, was that his convictions, though vastly different than mine, were based on scripture, not just culture, patriotism and "good ol' common sense". He also pointed out how these ideas could be seen exemplified by the early church. When he asked me for scripture to support my beliefs, I had none. Literally, nothing. After my initial defensive reaction (surmising that he was just another unpatriotic commie-pinko-liberal who had infiltrated the church), I began to realize that much of my world view had been shaped through the environment I grew up in: the Bible-belt south. Although he didn't completely convert me to pacifism, this conversation was the catalyst to a journey of seeking out what the Bible teaches about how a Christ follower relates to the world around them. I realized that I could no longer blindly embrace the views of my community, my parents, a political party, or even a church. I must seek to know God's truth myself and continually ask, "what does Jesus say about my mission on earth?", and "how do I see that lived out by His early followers?" While many of my perspectives were changed greatly through all of this, it only took one unexpected conflict to instantly reveal the "work in progress" my heart still is....Read the complete article here: