Nov 13

Getting Ready to Wait



Once upon a time, two young women tried out for their college’s basketball team. At the tryouts the pair quickly discovered that, as good as they were, neither one was going to be the team’s star. Over a couple of weeks, cut after cut happened, and still the women found themselves on the list to return for the next workout. 60, 40, 30, 20: finally the time came to announce the final 15 who would make the team, and there they were—14th and 15th on the roster. They knew they had no chance of ever playing. The team had 5 excellent starters, 5 really good second-string players, and 5 benchwarmers. The two women were not going to run the court this season. Continue reading

Sep 10

Real Church Life



Two weeks ago, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Houston megachurch pastor Joel Osteen brought on himself the kind of attention nobody wants. His church, Lakewood Bible Church, was slow to open its doors to offer its neighbors shelter. Osteen himself was a little clueless, if not insensitive, in his answers about why it took so long for one of the largest churches in the country to help out after such a bad storm. I can’t stand Osteen, and I think in general he does more harm than good, but I don’t bring up this unfortunate situation to beat up on him. I’m more interested in the reactions from people both inside and outside the church.

Almost everyone I heard said something like, “This is a church. Don’t they know how they’re supposed to act? Don’t they get it? How could they let something like this happen? Don’t they know that they’re a church?!” And on the one hand, I support that response. We Christians ought to hold ourselves to a high standard, and we shouldn’t be upset when others hold us to a high standard, too. But on the other, I think that attitude is dangerous. It makes the church an ideal, a fantasy society that gets everything right all the time. But the church, in this world, is not filled with ideal people. The church is a hospital for sinners, a place where we are healed from sin so that we can live according to the new life given in Jesus Christ. But a hospital is not a place where everyone is well. And the church is not a place where no one sins anymore. The “ideal” church is a lie. And when we believe the lie, or let others believe it, we set ourselves up for disillusionment and even for falling away from the church when things go wrong. Continue reading

Dec 27

Emmanuel



Of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, only two, Matthew and Luke, show any interest in the details of the early life of Jesus. Nearly every book, on the other hand, has something to say about Jesus’ death and resurrection. And even in Matthew and Luke, far more gospel space is dedicated to Jesus’ death and resurrection than to his birth and childhood. The church calendar reflects this. Advent is four weeks; Lent is forty days. The Easter season lasts 50 days; the Christmas season is only 12 days long. Nowadays, though, we’ve pretty much flipped that relationship. We spend tons of time and money “getting ready for Christmas,” whatever that means. The amount we spend preparing for Easter pales in comparison. And I think this is as true for those of us in the church as it is for the society around us. We like Easter, but we love Christmas. Continue reading