I heard on the news yesterday that Americans are expected to eat 1.53 billion chicken wings on Sunday evening. That sounds like quite a party, unless you’re a chicken. But that’s about par for the second biggest party day of the year (after New Year’s Eve), Super Bowl Sunday. No doubt, whether you are “partying” or not, most of your TV’s will be tuned in at some point Sunday evening to watch Super Bowl XLIX.
It’s the most watched sporting event in the world, with well over a billion people expected to be tuned in. Of course, it’s not just the game that we watch, but also the creative ads. This year advertisers are spending right at $4.5 million for each thirty-second spot in the game’s broadcast–simply because they know that for once guys won’t be hitting their remotes to switch channels during the commercials. And if past history is any indication, the buzz on Monday morning will be less about the Seahawks and Patriots than about the entertaining ads.
But still, when all is said and done, the excitement and hype is about a football game. Of course, you don’t have to tell people in Alabama how important football is in our lives, though the focus locally is usually reserved for the college variety. Many times our passion for the game in this state has been compared to a religious fervor, except that even in the Bible Belt, few people take their religion quite that seriously.
Some suggest that our three favorite sports in Alabama are football, spring football practice, and football recruiting (as evidenced by all the hoopla over this week’s National Signing Day). Just watch the sports on the local TV news or listen to sports talk radio any time of the year and you’ll see what I mean.
There’s nothing wrong with getting excited about a game now and then, but I hope we all keep it in perspective. More than anything, I hope we realize what’s really important in life, and prioritize our lives accordingly.
When you realize that Jesus Christ came to live and die on our behalf, so that we could have life–life eternally, and life abundantly–then every Sunday is Super Sunday. The fact that He loves us, and wants to have a deep and meaningful relationship with us that brings us lasting peace and joy like nothing this world has to offer is worthy of a celebration not just the first Sunday of February, but ever day throughout the year.
I hope to see you this Sunday at Shelby Crossings as we gather together in the name of Jesus to celebrate the difference He makes in our lives. It’s going to be a super day!
When Pastor David Jeremiah wrote his daily devotion a few weeks back, he included an “old school” (or old church) term that you just don’t hear much any more: backsliding
The word “backslider” is a visual term that describes someone who, having made progress in his or her Christian life, slides back into old patterns. It’s like a man climbing a hill who takes a step forward but slides two steps backward. Perhaps you can identify.
I remember hearing that term in church back in the day, usually with some level of guilt-ridden condemnation attached, but I had no idea that it had its roots in Scripture. The prophet Jeremiah warned God’s people, “Return, you faithless people; I will cure you of your backsliding.” (Jeremiah 3:22) Likewise, the Lord spoke through the prophet Hosea and observed, “My people are bent on backsliding from Me.” (Hosea 11:7)
We do tend to be “bent” that way, don’t we? The famed preacher, Dr. Harry Ironside, once said, “Any Christian who is not at the present time enjoying Christ as much as he did in a past day, or living for God as devotedly as he once did, is just to that extent a backslider.” Or, as my home church pastor used to say regularly, “If you’ve ever been closer to God than you are right now, you’re backslidden.”
I am not so sure that I would say it quite that way any more, unless I was in the mood to heap some guilt on my congregation. I realize from week to week, all of us are ebbing and flowing in our walk with the Lord, and that at any given time, some of us are moving forward, some of us are standing still, and some are struggling to keep our heads above water.
The problem comes not because we move off of a constant upward trajectory toward perfection, but because we get complacent in our spiritual lives. Backsliding comes when we get satisfied with just going through the motions. I remember a quote I came across a year or so ago: If you find that you are coasting in your spiritual life, you’re probably going downhill.
But that’s where the news is good. God is merciful, and understands where we are, and what got us there. He says of all of us backsliders, “I have seen his ways, and will heal him; I will also lead him, and restore comforts to him.” (Isaiah 57:17-18)
So today if you feel yourself sliding backward, or coasting downhill, into sinful habits and faithless religion, may I suggest that you change direction? The Lord loves you, and He is waiting to bring His healing and restoration and to change the trajectory of your life.
I’m praying for you, as I trust you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.
A little girl came home from church one Sunday morning obviously perplexed. When her mother asked her what was wrong, she replied, “Mom, our Bible study lesson this morning really confused me.”
The mother was concerned, and asked, “Why is that?” The girl replied, “Well, the teacher said that God is bigger than we are. Is that true?”
“Yes, that’s true,” the mother replied. “She also said that God lives within us,” the little girl continued. “Is that true too?”
Again, the mother replied, “Yes.”
“Well,” said the girl. “If God is bigger than us and He lives in us, wouldn’t He show through?”
Out of the mouths of babes! That simple story makes a profound point, with obvious implications for each of our lives. If God is who we say He is, and if He is as “big” as we claim, then He should “show through” our lives to those around us. Does He?
In the gospel of John, Jesus said that He was “the light of the world” and that whoever followed Him would never walk in darkness (John 8:12). He also taught, in the Sermon on the Mount, that His followers would be “the light of the world.” No one would light a candle, He said, and then cover it with a bowl. Instead, they would put it on a stand so that it could give light to everyone in the house. “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)
What was He saying? We are the light of the world, because He is the light of the world in us. His light “shows through.” Jesus clearly taught that when those around us notice our good deeds and see our light so shine, they won’t be inclined to praise us, but instead give praise to God. They will recognize the source of the light, and His glory will be revealed through our obedience.
May each of our lives be a testimony to all around of how big our God really is, and may His light shine through you this week. I’m praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeingyou on Sunday.
There’s a story about a man who is unemployed and desperate for work. He hears that the local zoo is hiring, and goes there to apply for a job.
“Well, it’s a little unusual, but I do have something,” says the zoo director. “Our gorilla died sometime ago, and we haven’t had the money to replace him. If you’re willing to wear a monkey suit and impersonate an ape, you’ve got the job.”
It didn’t really feel honest, but the man figured a job’s a job, so he signed on. After a few awkward days he began to get the hang of it, and soon he became one of the zoo’s primary attractions. One morning he was swinging from one vine to the next with a little too much animation and inadvertently swung himself right over the wall into the cage next to his–which was occupied by an enormous African lion.
The man knew he was a goner. He could feel the lion’s hot breath on his face. Reflexively, he began screaming for help, when suddenly the lion whispered urgently to him, “Shut up, you idiot, or we’ll both be out of a job!”
I think we all know what it’s like to sometime wear a mask, or pretend we’re something, or someone, that we’re not. It may be out of fear or insecurity or shame, but we all have the tendency to hide. Back in Genesis 3, even in that perfect environment of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve “hid themselves” after they sinned. As someone has said, we’ve been hiding ever since.
Psychologists sometimes speak of the “impostor’s phenomenon;” that is, the universal sense that at some level we’re faking it, that if others knew the truth about us, the jig would be up. Sadly, we as Christians are just as prone to this as those who don’t know the liberty that comes in Jesus. And so, the focus of our lives becomes impression management, rather than living sincere and genuine lives for Christ.
The apostle Paul wrote, in 2 Corinthians 3, of the freedom and authenticity that should characterize the life of the Christ-follower. He retold the story of Moses meeting with God on Mount Sinai, and how his face glowed afterwards, so much so that he had to wear a veil to cover up the shine. Later, when the glory began to fade, Moses continued to wear the veil, perhaps to cover up the fact that he wasn’t shining quite so brightly any more. Sound familiar?
Paul goes on to remind his readers that we are to live with “unveiled faces” in spiritual authenticity because “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” His point was, because of Christ’s work in us, and the Holy Spirit’s presence in us, we are free to be real. We don’t have to hide any more.
May each of us at The Church at Shelby Crossings live authentic lives, without masks or veils or impression management–or even monkey suits–free to be who God has made us to be in Christ. I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.