Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top 10 books I read in 2011

A plethora of "Christian celebrity" pastor types put up their list of top 10 books that they've read for the year. I'm not a Christian "celebrity," but for those open to hear from "D-Lister" (and I know that's even pushing it!), here are my top 10 books from this past year of which I commend to you.

1.) Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. This book was a page turner and I loved every page. Well written and truly redemptive in all senses of the word. The story of a world class runner turned WWII downed aviator. He barely survives 50 days at sea only to be captured and put in a POW camp. How about that for a bad day? Floating at sea for 50 days only to be discovered by Japanese. Wow. You'll be astounded at the journey, the camaraderie, the perseverance, and then the forgiveness of the story. My review here.

2.) Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian faithfulness and homosexuality by Wesley Hill. I did a quick review of it here. This book chronicles the struggle of a Christian dealing with same-sex attraction, but understanding that is not God's will for him. It really gives us a glimpse into the life of a believer who wants to remain faithful to Christ. In so doing, he takes heat from all sides: the pro-gay side; with those in the church who feel uncomfortable even discussing the issue; as well as those in the church who seem to have all the answers on why gay people are gay and how they can be fixed. Challenging and a good one for all of us to read. A great picture of sanctification: washed and waiting.

3.) When People are Big, God is Small. This one from Ed Welch is a brilliant but simple and practical guide to all of those who struggle with fear of man. It will draw your attention and your sense of need away from yourself and onto Christ. It is challenging, and at times offensive, but in a good way.

4.) The Trellis and the Vine. This book from Colin Marshall and Tony Payne challenges the reader to re-orient his view for how the church should work. Instead of having programs to fit perceived needs, programs should be centered around people. If people you have don't fit into the program (either those who would benefit or those who would lead them), then nix that program. Start with people, not with a program that may have outlived its usefulness. These lads really focus on the ministry of the Word from believer to believer, and not just ministry of the Word as it is preached on Sunday. Each member is a minister. A pastor's role is to equip members for ministry, which may or may not include ministry in a particular program. So much ministry is done one-to-one (these dudes are Australian so they say things a bit differently), which is good news. That kind of ministry is feasible given any budget or building limitations.

5.) No Bag for the Journey by Joseph Martin. A lad rides across the country on a bicycle before cell phones and emails and the like. More often than not Joseph Martin doesn't even know where he will be spending the night or what he'll be eating. God provided miraculously for him throughout this journey. Truly amazing story of faith and God's faithfulness. But my favorite part was the epilogue where he comes to know and embrace the reformation re-discovery of the gospel of grace. So neat to see a man who grew up in Tampa, went to the same Catholic school I went to, come to truly rest in the gospel. When I finished the book I immediately found him on facebook and let him know I was the step-grandchild of the mother of his best friend growing up. You'll want to meet this guy as well and pray for his journey as he continues to battle the liberal Episcopal church trying to cease their property.

6.) Generous Justice. I'm a Keller nut, so pretty much everything this lad writes I like. However, as someone who does not have a heart of mercy, but wants to be more practically and systematically merciful, this is quite helpful to non Keller-nuts too. It's also a helpful read because it places the mercy displayed by the church and individuals in a practically scriptural framework with a number of examples.

7.) The Lost City of Z by David Grann. Legend has it it there was at some point in time an astounding, fairly complex civilization in the heart of the amazon. And so that, with the allure of glory, fame, gold, and the sense of discovering something that many thought may not have existed has drawn in many glory-hounds. So many have died. This book focuses its attention primarily one man's fateful journey while the author risks his life to discover what happened and whether or not this city did really exist. Fascinating to say the least how such a city has brought so many men to their graves, and continued for centuries to do so.

8.) The King's Cross by Tim Keller. A commentary on Mark, but more than that. It's more like a series of sermons going through the gospel of Mark. I read much of it while down with the stomach flu so that's possibly why it didn't get as high a rating! Still, very helpful "walk-through" and application of the gospel of Mark.

9.) Gospel centered family by Tim Chester and Ed Moll. This is a short book designed to be studied and read in small groups or Sunday School. I loved it. Amy did too. So did/does our adult Sunday School class. It is practical enough to apply, but gospel centric enough to call for grace in grey areas. These authors attack idols graciously and truthfully. I appreciated the section on a family being missional and outward focused. That seems the last frontier yet to be tackled by most parenting books. Without this aspect, the family can easily become yet another idol.

10.) The Forgotten 500. The story of 500 or so airmen stranded in Yugoslavia and the miraculous evacuation that saw none of them be lost to Nazi resistance. It was a sad tale in some ways because this story was intended never to be told due to politics and communistic infiltrating moles. The rescue was in fact only a plus. What I was most challenged by was the picture of hospitality shown by such peasants. They gave out of their meagerness to help homeless airmen. A fun, challenging, insightful and informative read. Two of my reflections are here and here

 Honorable Mentions: These are books that were still good reads, but didn't quite make the final cut.

The Idiot by Dosteyevski. I didn't enjoy this one as much as I did Crime and Punishment or the Brothers Karamazov, and it really didn't quite have the same redemption as the former, but it gave me a picture of Russia and its struggle at the common level with religious, gospel, and atheistic thinking. Some decent illustrations of the gospel here and there. I would still recommend it to someone interested in exploring the mind and writings of this prophetic man.

Radical by David Platt. A good challenge to us all who tend to see Jesus as our means to accomplish the American Dream. We need to be challenged to give and live more sacrificially. I liked the personal and practical touch. I've already reviewed it here. Would have liked some more emphasis on grace as motivator and the "radicalness" of being a good worker, husband, churchmen, neighbor, etc...Still, David Platt plays the role of prophet to a complacent church and we should listen.

The Glass Castle. Powerful memoir. Still wonder if it is all true. Ultimately as redemptive as it could be without the hope of the gospel, so it left me a bit saddened. It did help give me a picture of WV outside to the suburban Teays Valley.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Annual Bono Christmas Eve reflection

One of my, or at least my blog's Christmas traditions, is to post and reflect on this quote from U2 frontman Bono. It never gets old. Just like the Christmas story. Every part of it seems counter-intuitive to me: God in flesh, the use of shepherds (sketchy fellows), magi (also sketchy), that Jesus was laid in a manger. How crazy is that? Where dirty animals feed. The king of the universe laid where animals feed. I hope we never fail to realize how crazy that is. Blaise Paschal hit it on the nose in his Pensees  when he said it is not that God has hidden this message so high so that folks can't understand it, but so low, as many will look over it.

This reflection on Christmas occurred after Bono had just returned home, to Dublin, from a long tour with U2. On Christmas Eve Bono went to the famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where Jonathan Swift was dean. Apparently he was given a really poor seat, one obstructed by a pillar, making it even more difficult for him to keep his eyes open…but it was there that Christmas story struck him like never before. He writes:

Here's Bono's quote:

“The idea that God, if there is a force of Logic and Love in the universe, that it would seek to explain itself is amazing enough. That it would seek to explain itself and describe itself by becoming a child born in straw poverty, in s#@% and straw…a child… I just thought: “Wow!” Just the poetry … Unknowable love, unknowable power, describes itself as the most vulnerable. There it was. I was sitting there, and it’s not that it hadn’t struck me before, but tears came streaming down my face, and I saw the genius of this, utter genius of picking a particular point in time and deciding to turn on this.”

Excerpt taken from Bono: in conversation (New York: Riverhead Books, 2005), 124-5.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Make Jesus big and Santa small

Recently, as is custom this time of year, my three year old Connar is being accosted by a plethora of folks asking if he's excited by what Santa will bring him this year.

In response to his pre-school teacher the other day who told him, "5 more days till Santa comes," he changed the subject with, "One more day till I get to go Xmas caroling!" How cool.

Here are some of my takes-which may not be super popular in Suburbia-on Jesus and Santa.

Of course his, like mine and like your motivations, are far from perfect. But the truth of the matter is that kids can and do get just as-if not more-excited about Jesus during the Christmas season than they do Santa Claus. We just often don't afford them such opportunity. As parents, and as a covenant community, and larger body of Christ (I'm surprised at how many Christians talk up Santa to my kid!), we often try to "save room" for Santa. You see signs that say "Keep Christ in Christmas." But what I've noticed is many Christians live out the opposite: "Keep Santa in Xmas."

Suburban Xmas is often more culturally syncretistic than distinctly Christian. And that is sad.

First of all, I do want to say, I'm not anti-Santa. Christians have a right to include Santa in Xmas. I'm not arguing against the inclusion of Santa in any form. I'm arguing against a culturally conformed, unrestrained, non-prayerful inclusion of Santa.

I remember reading a Sinclair Ferguson book where he seemed quite proud of his job as a parent when his kid didn't even know who Santa was or what he looked like. That's more of a separatist mentality that I cannot embrace.

We have Santa hats. We actually have a dancing Santa figure, who sadly only dances now instead of sings. Connar watched The Polar Express the other day with some friends who brought it over. The underlying purpose of that movie is to preach Santa to his skeptics.

But we try to focus on Jesus so much that Santa naturally gets pushed to the side. Where he belongs. There is only so much room. We do a kids Advent book called Beginning with God at Christmas. Solid. We listen to carols, sing them, sing them to others, try to talk about them (though just a bit). Xmas is a busy time. It's so busy, we don't have much time for Santa. We rarely ever even speak of him. What if your Xmas was so busy you didn't have much time for Santa?

Growing up my parents had a figurine of Santa bowing in worship to Jesus in the manger. So simple, yet so profound. That's really the model I like best, but one that seems missing to me so often in the lives of Christians. There are only so many times a child can be told about getting excited for Santa before he will only get excited for Santa and not for Jesus.

My kid is excitable. I'm excitable, so he can't help it. But he gets so much joy out of celebrating all things Jesus during this time, that I honestly don't feel the need to make Santa big. I tend to think other kids can get just as excited.

Connar can sit in Santa's lap, and I can take (not pay for) a picture if I feel like it. I just think we do our children a disservice by assuming that Santa is NEEDED during Xmas time for their enjoyment of the season. That's just a lie. He can be used and included, but he is not needed.

People say Christmas and Santa are for kids. That's really not accurate. It's for parents. The perpetuation of the Santa myth is done primarily for the sake of the parents. I've heard of folks say, "Don't steal my joy by telling them the truth about Santa." I think a good part of the perpetuation of the Santa myth is fueled by parents who aren't very excited about Jesus. They want to be excited and feel joy. But if you already have a joy so great as the shepherds, Mary, the Magi had at Jesus' coming, would it be that hard to make Santa less? Do you "need" Santa in the same way if you already have joy?

Many want to see kids get excited primarily in order for them to get excited. It's more selfishness than love. 

I think that's why its so hard for many to build up Jesus and move Santa down on the priority list. When we get angry, its often that an idol is being threatened. They usually don't come down easy. Family members will get offended when Jesus is made much of and Santa made less of. Of that you can be certain. But there is a greater cost. We will lose out on joy. I think many forfeit a greater joy this season when we make Santa bigger than Jesus.

Christians are free to include Santa in their Xmas celebration. Just because the Henderson presents come from the Henderson's, doesn't mean that I think your kids presents have to come from you. 

But I do think that you owe it to your self and your kids to talk Jesus up MORE than you do Santa. Try to see how often you mention Jesus and how often you mention Santa. Who gets mentioned more? I do think talking more about Jesus is a non-negotiable (of course this goes throughout the year!).

I'm not fearful of others trying to re-introduce Santa to my three year old. My incredibly awesome Uncle even apologized for it! I'm not worried when people mention it to him. I already see that he has a framework for thinking of Santa. He's a fun, fat, old dude who comes out around Xmas time each year. But he's no Jesus.

Monday, December 19, 2011

On shepherds and ladies

I was going through my advent devotional for today, available here, and stumbled over the shepherds. I guess you could say I've been picking up on the cues from scriptures lately that God really writes His story in a way that is altogether different from what we consider normal, respectable, upper class, or even pragmatic. 

The shepherds were the first witnesses to Jesus' birth. They could confirm this birth account. But ironically-or maybe not so ironically at all if we thought God's thoughts after Him-shepherds didn't get a vote in court because of their reputation of "confusing" their sheep with others sheep. Yet they are the first witnesses.

And consider the first witnesses at Jesus resurrection: ladies. They also couldn't testify in a court of law. Yet they are God's first witnesses, testifying to the veracity and fulfillment of Jesus' claims. 

It just shows us God thinks quite differently than we do. And He wouldn't have it any other way. The birth narrative, the resurrection narrative, as well as the narrative of Jesus' life, just isn't written the way a middle class suburban deity would write it. His reputation and fame probably "took a hit" because He used shepherds and ladies as to testify. But he was cool with that, and still is.

Let's be reminded that God's identification with these shepherds (handpicked to be Jesus' first eye-witnesses) gives us hope that He is still pleased to identify with such witnesses as us. Fortunately the one who ultimately wrote the birth narrative is still writing such a story, and still using such people. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hard work?

This year's Heisman (giving to nation's top/most influential football player) trophy winner was Robert Griffin III. I didn't watch the Heisman award ceremony, but heard just a snippet of his speech. But I think the snippet spoke volumes. So did ESPN.

He took a few long strides up to the stage and let out a laugh when he got there, making a joke about the Superman socks -- complete with capes on the back -- he was wearing before going into his acceptance speech.

"This is unbelievably believable," he said. "It's unbelievable because in the moment we're all amazed when great things happen. But it's believable because great things don't happen without hard work."

What I did notice was an emphasis on the role of hard work and how it enabled him to achieve this goal. Here are my takes on how Griffin's acceptance speech differed vastly from Tebow's.

1.) Praise. One praised His God for the drive, opportunity, skill, and ability to put in the hard work necessary. The other praised himself for his hard work, and his teammates' for their hard work in enabling him to win the award. It is interesting to me how it is more offensive to give credit to someone's God than to take credit and praise oneself. Usually in life, we call people who praise themselves arrogant, self-absorbed, or sometimes narcissistic. Yet most people were clearly more offended by Tebow's humility and deflection of praise.

2.) Credit where credit is due. The Heisman trophy winner is about perception. Again I didn't hear the whole speech, so he might have credited the media who threw its support behind Griffin the final few weeks. I tend to doubt that though. Most athletes don't recognize the media for giving them their fame but only for the media's not granting them fame or coverage. Without much of the media's coverage and backing, a QB from Baylor does not win out over a big name quarterback or running back at a big name school like Stanford or Alabama.

3.) Hard work? Whatever we do, whether playing football or operating a toll booth (that seems like one of the harder jobs), we are to work at it with all of our hearts; for in such cases, as in all cases, we are ultimately serving the Lord  (Col 3:23-24). Are those who win necessarily those who work the hardest? Did Griffin work harder than others with known 'work ethics'? Despite hard work, let's remember this is football. Each game can bring out a career or season ending injury. Peyton Manning, known for being one of the hardest working quarterbacks in the NFL, couldn't outwork God's providence. He didn't play a down this year because of neck surgery. Providence can always trump hard work when someone hits you below the knees like someone did to the seemingly untouchable, hard working, Patriots QB Tom Brady several years ago.

4.) Opportunity knocks. No matter the amount of hard work, there still comes a time where the opportunity, or lack thereof, will more often than not, trump hard work. For instance, if you had been born in some small village in India, undernourished, and lived in poverty, you would not be playing QB for the NFL. You would be fortunate to work hard and hope to eat and feed your family. Last time I checked, we didn't have a say on who our mothers and fathers would be. We didn't have a say on where or when we were born. We didn't have a say on our DNA make up. We didn't have a say on how athletic we would be, or how much IQ we would possess. If you have risen to the top of your profession-whether it be mother, athlete, real estate, medicine-hard work obviously played a part. But it only played A part. Your station of life, what you have to work with, plays A part as well. Whether it's an acceptance speech, or simply a prayer each night before you God to bed, don't forget the God who grants you the plethora of opportunities that allow your hard work to pay off.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I like my women a little on the trashy side

Yesterday I preached a sermon called "A Scandalous Christmas." The title change was a last minute change from my previous title: "I like mine a little on the trashy side." I had three people very close to me encourage in me that direction. Since I figured I could have been wrong to unnecessarily offend folks, I willingly, though somewhat begrudgingly, changed it.

And I'm glad I did. But what ended up being more controversial than the song-I still referenced the song "The Trashy Side"-was the fact that I attributed it to George Straight instead of Confederate Railroad. That might be the last country song reference I make. If I do, I will be sure to google its origin!

I first heard this passage preached-actually the only time I've heard it preached at mega-church Northland in Orlando, FL. I was in seminary at that time, perhaps 7 or 8 years ago. I couldn't believe how scandalous the genealogy really was. God didn't shy away from the scandalous and would use people such as I in His plan of redemption.

Then I forgot about the message. I don't think I necessarily ignored or forgot the truth altogether. But in some sense it didn't seem to resonate as much. I've had plenty of opportunities to preach during the advent season and even on Xmas Eve (this Xmas will be my first time preaching on Xmas Sunday), but never even thought about the passage again.

I don't think this is all that abnormal. While its not abnormal to forget such a passage as this, it is terrible.

Let me explain. We realize that our lives are messed up and sinful. Some of us look worse than others on the outside-though we're all in the same boat in reality. Then God says, "I can forgive your past, present, future, and offer you my righteousness in place of your sin and trash." And we're declared righteous and holy.

Then our life changes a bit, and we think we really ARE righteous and holy. We forget that we are DECLARED righteous and holy NOW, but that one day we will BE righteous and holy. But not now.

Someone told me that he preached this passage for Mother's Day and got quite an uproar from the church. Perhaps it wasn't the best timing on Mother's Day? But people get really offended when you talk about God's love for trashy people. And its God's people who seem to get most offended.

They forget how trashy they really are. Jesus is just as offensive to religious people as he is to irreligious people. As much as it might make us uncomfortable, we have to talk about God's love for those who are, according to the world's as well as the church's eyes, trashy. If we never talk about such people (and thus keep everyone feeling good and comfortable), we will never believe the truth that by faith God STILL washes such people. Prostitutes, adulterous, murderous people do by faith enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (I Cor 6:9-11). If we never talk about such folks, we will very quickly forget this truth.

When we're offended by the mention of God's love for prostitutes, adulterers, murderers, all of which he clearly displays in the scripture, then we can rest assured it's not out of an elevated concern for God's Holiness, but an idolatrous celebration of our own.

God doesn't stop showing love for trashy people even though His people, including myself, often have. But this Xmas, remember your Savior entered the trash to save-and continue to save-trashy people. And his character doesn't change. 

God does like His women and men a little on the trashy side.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Carols sung and Carols believed

I'm a huge fan of Christmas carols. I'm also a huge fan of the folks who take the standard Christmas carols and tweak them a bit. I mean, how many, "O come, O come Emmanuel's," can one hear before it seems like his Ipod is on "repeat?" So I'm thankful for the many good albums I've collected over the years, particularly for those free on noisetrade.com. Recently I've been really digging all of Joel Rake's Christmas music and some of Drew Holcomb and the Neighbor's Xmas album.

What amazes me with many of the Christmas carols is their rich lyrics. Aside from "Away in a Manger's" apocryphal description of Jesus not crying (hate that one), I'm blown away by almost all of them. I mean look at these:

Joy to the World:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing:

Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

What amazes me the most are unbelievers who sing these songs, but simply don't believe that Jesus is who He says He is. To sing of something so sublime, but to think of it as little more than a fairy tale, is to me surprising at best, and disingenuous at worst. 

Nevertheless it reminds me of the times when I, as well as many other brothers and sisters in the Lord,  sing such great truths in our carols and hymns but don't actively believe what we're singing. For instance, when I sing, "My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee," how much of that do I believe? If I hold my tongue when I need to say something hard but remain quiet due to fear of man, have I really believed the truth that the gospel sets me free? If I refuse to love an enemy, have I really "bought in" to the saving and transforming power of the gospel? Thinking and feeling the lyrics are a great first step. But actually believing, and then living out the implications of the truth found in such great carols is something even harder. I think that only comes as we bring the carols with us throughout the week. They're too good to only think, feel, believe on Sunday.

The unbelief of a Christian is of a different variety altogether, but it should still shock us just as much. I think the church singing "Silent Night" is different than Faster Pussycat (an 80's hair band) singing "Silent Night" on Monster Ballad's Christmas album. Nevertheless, the unbelief of the "musical artist" (and I realize that is getting a little loose with the language), can still remind us of our unbelief and the disconnect between the gospel we sing and the gospel we live out.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why churches and Christians should worship on Xmas Day

I guess it happens every so and so (maybe 7) number of years that Xmas Day falls on a Sunday. If you have a problem with me writing "Xmas," and plenty of Christians do (including several on a search committee I interviewed with a few years ago), let R.C. Sproul straighten things out for you. 

Anyhow, many churches wonder what to do when with Christmas falls on a Sunday? Some see great opportunity. Some see great difficulty because numbers will be down. Some wonder whether or not to move or cancel services.

According to Ed Stetzer, it does appear that many churches have elected to have corporate worship on this Christmas.

A recent LifeWay Research study of 1,000 Protestant pastors shows that 91 percent of Protestant pastors plan to have services on Christmas Day while 69 percent said they plan to host Christmas Eve services.

Here's why I think its a good idea to have worship this Sunday Dec 25th.

1.) If you believe that worship should be held on the first day of the week, as seems to the implied pattern in scripture (John 20:1,19; Acts 20:7; I Cor 16:2) , as well as the practice of most churches not called "Seventh-Day Adventist," then you probably should continue corporate worship that day.

2.) Our actions always teach something. Now of course those actions are always subject to interpretation unless one is given in conjunction. In other words, you can't simply assume what your actions teach. But let's consider what a service cancellation most likely teaches. What would be the main reason why people wouldn't want to come to church on Xmas Sunday morning? Family traditions. Presents. Family. That's what Xmas is often "about." If not Santa and presents, then it soon becomes about family. So by canceling a worship service because of, or so that, people can spend time with family, it seems to me that you're teaching "family first, Jesus second." According to Jesus, the order is actually reversed (Luke 14:26). What suburbanite doesn't need to not only hear this, but to practice this? Our families are often our idols. I know from experience: MY OWN! 

3.) In looking at some of the comments on Ed Stetzer's blog post, I noticed that some folks believed they were loving their pastors well by giving them Xmas Day off to spend time with family. My family and I (well at least Amy, but I can't imagine my 3 year old not being excited because he wants to be at church every day) are excited to be in church. Part of it is that we don't have family here. But part of it is that worship is our favorite time of the week. I don't say this because I think I'm holier or better than you if you don't. I'm just saying I WANT to be there. Last week my wife talked to a mother who said, "I'm so excited that Xmas falls on a Sunday. I can't wait!" We're not alone.

4.) What better way to elevate Jesus above presents, even above your family or family traditions, than by setting those aside in order to worship Jesus with your brothers and sisters in the faith? It gives you an opportunity to teach your children why you worship. It gives you a chance to declare before your extended family, that Jesus is your King. You will follow Him first even when it conflicts with family "obligations."

5.) Many Christians literally risk life and limb to come to worship. We don't need to feel guilty that we don't, but isn't our tendency only to worship when it doesn't involve risk or cost to us?

Just some of my thoughts on why church's should have worship on Xmas Day, and why I think Christians should seriously consider doing family stuff before or after worship. 

Here are some unhealthy motivations (we probably all need to repent from) for going to worship on Sunday Dec 25th

1.) You think your church is better than others. God will soon prove that He thinks the same way too.
2.) You just want to teach your kids that Xmas isn't about Santa or gifts, but don't consider the importance, need, desire for you to be there as well
3.) You are jealous and angry of the others getting a head start on the sticky-buns and sausage balls and the real fun.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Advent Devotions Week #2

If you would like Redeemer's Week 2 advent devotions, you can download them here. This week's content centers around Jesus' work as a fully divine and human Redeemer. The applications focus on our Redeemer's love for us and then our loving response to Him.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tell people you are praying for them

The other day I had the opportunity to talk with another pastor I hadn't talked to in a long time. In fact, I don't really ever remember meeting him. He said he met me, so I just agreed. I could be, and often am, wrong.

He recounted, "I remembered you speaking before presbytery and explaining that Hope Presbyterian couldn't afford to keep you on any longer. And so I spent some time in the back by myself praying for you. To see where you are is an answer to my prayers!"

I remember that day very well. It was kind of a sad day. But the Lord soon turned sadness into joy as I very soon received a call from Redeemer. 

This conversation taught, or at least reinforced to me a few things about prayer.

1.) Prayer is a way to play a part in someone's life 
For him to hear that I was enjoying my call and experience at Redeemer was a blessing to his soul. Somehow he played a part. Even though I didn't know him at all, he still played a part. How cool is prayer? It allows us to partner with other people whom we may not know well or at all.

2.) You should tell people you're praying for them. You really should. When I heard that this lad broke away from the "business" of the meeting and personally prayed for me, I was astounded. I was moved. Someone really took the time to do this for me? Wow. It showed love and really encouraged me. I like to know that people are praying for me. I'm probably not alone in this. 

Sometimes I think we're afraid to tell people we're praying for them because we would rather remain anonymous. Sometimes me might be afraid because we don't want to come off as prideful. If that's the case, then confess the pride, but don't let that stop you from encouraging your brother and sister in the faith who may really need encouragement that day. Be aware of false humility that keeps us from encouraging others and receiving encouragement. 

We have ample scriptural warrant to tell others we are praying. Paul regularly tells his churches that HE (Col 1:3, Phil 1:3) and OTHERS (Col 4:12) are praying. Don't worry about "sounding" prideful. He didn't.

When you're praying for someone, do yourself and them a favor: tell them. You and they will be glad you did. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

When people in your church move away....

Several of the families that my wife and I consider close friends are being transferred out of state. That means we won't be seeing them much anymore. And that is sad for us. And it is sad for our church not only because we loved them for who they were, but because they brought their gifts and passions to Redeemer. We'll miss them personally, as well as their gifts.

Two nights ago I pondered this "exodus" for a bit. Is it worth getting close to people who may very well move in a year or two? Should we protect ourselves from this potential heartache? Should we be careful to befriend those who are more likely to stay in the area for a while?

Here are some thoughts

1.) Love vs. Self Protection: Much of what passes for love these days is nothing but self-protection. In other words, we say, "Yes" to some people and "No" to others to protect ourselves from their displeasure.  But if love keeps no record of wrongs (I Cor 13), it always opens itself to being wronged or hurt. Sometimes this hurt is not caused by any intentional or even unintentional sin (though this is often the case). Sometimes its caused by a job transfer. And if we let the "well this person could move and then I'd be hurt" mentality to creep in, we've protected ourselves but not loved. And love that Christians have for another ought to appear unique before the world: by this all men will know we are His disciples, if we love one another (John 13:35).

2.) God's love moves toward people. That has to be our definition of love. This quote from Ed Welch's When People are Big, God is Small, offers much to the challenge of befriending people who may move away from us.

In light of Hosea, such a strategy (never allowing oneself to get hurt by someone who could leave) is no longer an option for the Christian. God's love is a costly love. It never takes the easy path away from relationships. Instead, it plots how to move toward other people. It thinks creatively of ways to surprise them with love. 

3.) Losing people?  I hate "losing" people whom I love and who love me, and support and serve the local church. I've "lost" friends time and time again due to moves (I still keep in touch with some, but its obviously a different relationship). But I have to remember that they are not MY sheep. They're not yours either. They're Jesus' sheep. I'm just an "under-shepherd"(I Peter 5). So if He sees fit to shuffle sheep by moving them out of state, He has that right. I don't have to like it, and I can be frustrated and saddened, but I do have to recognize His right. And He seems to know more than I do, so that really helps too.

4.) A mindset of sending, as opposed to hoarding. Naturally we tend to hoard our blessings instead of sharing them, whether it be a good dessert, friends, family, or finances. Pastors and parishioners alike can be guilty of this when it comes to people in the church. But hoarding products or people is really contrary to the purpose of blessing (Gen 12:1-3). After a season of being blessed with good relationships and fellow laborers in the gospel, do we even consider that God may want us to bless others by sending our dear friends out or releasing them? Are we really quick, or even open, to send out families we love to serve as missionaries, or plant churches, or to move?

When people are "sent" in the traditional way missionaries are sent, that's one thing. We have a category for that. Yet often God sends people to serve in different places via a job change. They are still sent, as God determines the exact places where we live (Acts 17:26). And that's how the gospel really went out in the beginning: some were commissioned to go, but others were "sent" or "scattered" by persecution (Acts 8:1-4).

5.) It is always better to have loved/been loved and "lost" than not to have loved/been loved at all. When people love us and we love them, we and they are always better for it. One lad told me the other day that he had a "mini-revival" while at Redeemer. I'm glad for HIS SAKE that he was here. And I'm glad for MY SAKE that somehow I, and the rest of the church family, played a part in that. Despite the sad departure, loving them and being loved by them was worth it. It always is and always will be.

Just some things to think about when friends leave your church family. Simply writing these down has helped me look at people leaving in a different way.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent: Week 1 devotion

There's nothing greater to me than the Christmas season. I love it. I know that some folks have a hard time with Christmas because of the number of bad experiences with previous Christmases. For instance, one of my idols Steve Brown, has a rough time because of an alcoholic father. Others experience the loss of loved ones for the first time, and I can only imagine how hard that is. 

I guess that's why I appreciate advent so much. It's more than just Christmas.

Advent is a celebration and thanksgiving for what Jesus has already done, and yet a longing for him to finish the work He started. It's a time of thankfulness. It's a time of hopeful petition: the very nature of petitions is that you need something!

Advent marks a mixture of celebration, the kind of which John the Baptist experienced in the womb of Elizabeth (Luke 1:44). And its a time of longing, like John must have experienced in prison, when he wondered, "What's the deal with this Messiah?"(Matthew 11:2-3). Jesus responded to him, "I've done enough now that you can wait and trust me to finish it later.

Advent helps us capture and couch our emotions and center them around Christ. I hope our joy would be more robust and grounded, while our longings bust forth more honest and hopeful. Can you tell I'm a advent fan?

Here is a link to week 1's devotions. It comes with 6 daily devotions and one family devotion. Hope you enjoy them.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful for a different kind of present (amended)

A Sunday or two ago I preached a sermon on anxiety (since I'm well qualified to speak about the subject!) from Phil 4:6-7 called "I got a peacful easy feeling." In it I referenced the book A Praying Life by Paul Miller. If you haven't read this book, it's definitely worth checking out. CBD Reformed has it on sale Black Friday for 5 dollars. It is the only book that I've seen on prayer which has really connected prayer to life. That and its one of the better devotional books I've ever read. Check it out. No one has ever returned my recommendation with anything less than praise to God for it.

The book is so honest and real, just like our prayers should be. Our prayers are not detached from life. In fact, even when we are invited to lay our requests before the Lord (activity), we do this with thanksgiving (lifestyle). I tend to think the command in Phil 4 means more than just saying "thanks" the way we make our kids say "thanks" when the bakery gives them a cookie. It means a regularly thankful heart.

Paul Miller does a fine job of explaining the connection between thanksgiving, asking, and the experience of peace in the life of a believer. I would include a snippet if I could find it in the book-but believe me, it is not for lack of trying. He reminds us that a thankful heart is a life constantly on the lookout for God's hand in the story.

And sometimes the things we should be thankful for are those which we are not usually thankful for. It's not too hard to be thankful for friends, family, food, or football on Thanksgiving. In seminary, one my professors encouraged us to be on the lookout for people who would be hard to deal with, and who may possibly drain or annoy us. He said, "You need those people as well. Look at them as a present from the Lord giftwrapped with a bow on top." He instructed us to consider them presents, not problems, because God would use them to teach us more about our need to grow in grace. God could use them to develop us in special ways where "easier" types of folks would not "grant" us the opportunity. 

Unfortunately, he didn't necessarily take his own advice in one particularly important instance. However, that truth is nevertheless still true and timeless. I'm thankful for his challenge, although I've not done the best job of heeding his council.

We can be on the lookout not just for those obviously thank-able things, but for those "presents" which at first glance don't seem very much like presents. God loves us too much to leave us where we are. He loves us too much to not reveal more of our need for His Son Jesus. Knowing more of Jesus is just too great a gift for Him to withhold from us (Phil 3:8). When we see God really does love us so much he won't deny us such presents, we may find ourselves less burdened and more receptive to what God is teaching us through them. We've then opened the door to real thanksgiving and ultimately a greater experience of a Christ-centered peace.

This thanksgiving season, try not to overlook such "presents," remembering to be thankful for more than family, food, friends, and football on Turkey Day. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gospel-centered social media

This post is intended to be a recap of what we've been doing in Redeemer's Jr High youth group. However, it is quite applicable to all of us insecure generations living in the age of social media.

Social media like Facebook can be very helpful to stay in touch with people that you don't regularly see. The youth were quick to pick up some positives about things like texting/social media, but a little slower to see some of the negatives. However, most of the kids eventually either pointed out or agreed with the fact facebook/texting provides a "great" place to hide from people. Folks will often post or text "bold" words that they will not say in person. 
So we considered the simple question: Why? 

Genesis 3 gives us a pretty good picture of why this happens. As soon as sin entered into the world, Adam and Eve tried in vain to cover themselves and their shame. They hid behind leaves. That's why we have a tendency to hide behind a computer or cell phone screen.

So when we text message or do facebook posts that we would never say in person, it goes back to the fact that we really are not believing the gospel as much as we think. Since our sin is rooted in disbelief-as it always has from the beginning-we need to recognize that hiding behind a screen is tantamount to not believing the gospel: what Jesus has already accomplished. 

Romans 8:31-35 says that we are not condemned and no one can bring a charge against God's chosen ones. The more we believe that, the less we'll hide behind a screen. We can say things that people need to hear even if they don't want to hear them. We can then not write things that we should say in person. We can then not text things we shouldn't say at all. The more we believe the free we are to love each other.

The following Sunday we considered  how to actually use facebook/texting in a positive way. Ephesians 4:25-32 lays out some commands for verbal communication. But since much of our communication is now not verbal (for better or worse-probably latter), but written, the same thing applies to texting and facebook. Things like speaking truth in love, as opposed to responding hastily in anger or with slander, seemed to resonate with the youth. 

We instructed them to NOT EVER respond by facebook or texting while angry. I promised them, they will NEVER say, "I really wish I would have responded right away, because I would have had such great gospel centered things to say to that person that ticked me off." They will always be glad they waited. But few of us ever take the time to not respond right away. It's hard, but not impossible.

Of course the only way to do this behavior, is to go back to the gospel. Ephesians 4:32 reminds us that we forgive others as God in Christ has forgiven us. Regardless of whether the other party has repented or not, we can have compassion because God has first shown us compassion. And when we screw up on facebook and texting, and don't believe the gospel as deeply as we need, we can be rest assured that Jesus never hid behind fig leaves or a computer screen. He never slandered though he was slandered. He did it for us so that need not fear God's retribution. 

In the end, that's really the only way we become motivated to encourage one another through our text messages and facebook posts. We could have spent 30 minutes telling the youth to NOT post/text mean things, but instead TO post nice things. That would have been practical. However, that would have been no different than if they were being taught in a synagogue or a mosque. The gospel is what sets our message apart from the rest, providing forgiveness as well as power. After going back to the gospel, we then discussed some practical implications which stem from belief in it.

If you made it this far, and God bless you if you did, you've probably realized this post is just as applicable for you as it is for youth.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Money and Ministry: the lack of one doesn't necessarily hurt the other

Most churches, church members, pastors would prefer larger budgets, because larger budgets can mean more ministry to others inside and outside the church. Ministry does cost something. It costs time, commitment, and money. So churches need to take in tithes, which in turn fund budgets; a budget is just a bunch of numbers unless there is actually money in the bank. And this article in World Magazine explains that tithing is at its lowest in 41 years. This study was done with mainline churches, which already seem on the decline-so obviously tithing will be declining. Yet as I hear from other evangelical churches, the tithing tragedy probably affects many churches in America. I don't want to get into the "why," but how churches, can do more with less.

First of all, instead of an alarmist "sky is falling b/c the church has less money" mentality, we probably need a bit of perspective. As above stated, larger budgets can mean more ministry. They can, but they don't necessarily mean more ministry is actually being done. Like a parent who gives his/her youth 20 dollars for fast food on a one day retreat-and doesn't ask for the change back-we know that money that can be spent, will be often be spent. Because it can. 

But when money is tighter, we have the option to examine what needs to be spent, versus what can be spent. Sometimes it can mean that we are better stewards of God's money. Sometimes it can mean we truly do more with less.

For instance, you might have 500 budgeted dollars for a fellowship event. With that money, you could cater bbq. It would be tasty. Or let's say you had 50 dollars, or even nothing. You could just have the church go potluck. This way, you save money, and the food is probably nearly as good. Plus you involve the congregation. You can involve your family in preparation, and teach them about fellowship and giving to others that which is good and precious to you (its kind of hard for me to share good food).  I would say more ministry has just happened because you had less money.

Don't equate budgeted/spent money with an illusion that more ministry is actually happening or the opposite as well: less money=less ministry.

Much ministry doesn't cost much money.

Think of C.D. groups (community/discipleship) or whatever you call them (small groups, Life Groups, community groups), how much do those things cost? The price of electricity, water/sewer, and a dessert. Not much. Yet I've seen first hand people come to faith, grow in the faith, begin to serve the church, and want to bring those outside the church in. Real life-changing ministry often happens on the cheap. In relationships. In community. 
Most of us do like to pay for ministry more than do ministry ourselves. That way we don't have to enter into the mess, and get messy. But for the price of a cup of a coffee, you can meet with and minister to someone who is going through a tough marriage, dealing with a tough child, a tough illness, has a tough question, tough sin struggle, etc....For the price of a cup of coffee, or a donut (that's what I do every Wed morning) you can meet with and disciple someone who is younger in the faith than you. And then THEY can start ministering to others. Good things happen. Relationships are costly in terms of time and emotion, but they are also cheap in terms of money. And yet the yield is tenfold. 

Ministry still does cost some money.

I don't have a budget for our CD group to purchase materials. So we (my co-leader and I) just buy the materials ourselves. A novel thought-things we can buy, we should buy. I think 10 dollars every 3-4 months is probably not that big of an investment. Other groups do the same thing, and we're seeing the fruit. Ministry doesn't stop when the tithing drops. 

Instead of a traditional VBS (which had nothing really to do with lack of funding), I wanted to try something more outward focused. So we did a "Kids Club" at a local income restricted apartment complex. People were HAPPY to donate to this. We spent very little, and yet were able to share the gospel with a more kids than came to our VBS. Then we turned around and did 2 "Bible Clubs" for kids in our church and neighborhood friends. Some members donated stuff and we spent little. But some folks spent little or nothing, because other folks donated and spent some money, and were glad to do it.

A neighborhood Xmas party, small group Xmas party where you invite unchurched friends to doesn't cost much more than a normal Xmas party you might already throw. I've done several of these out of my house and seen youth step up and lead well. It doesn't show up in the church budget, but it is ministry. And it does cost you some. It cost several involved families money, but I think they were happy to spend some. Isn't the ministry opportunity an eternal investment?

Something that Amy and I will be doing is buying the Jesus Storybook Bible for some of our unchurched friends-who still, thankfully, think Jesus is cool. Lifeway is selling them for 5 dollars on either Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Tim Challies is updating all of the deals on his website. Just scroll down to find the apropos post. This will cost you some money, but it will be worth it. If you don't have one for your toddler-Kindergartener, get it. You'll be hooked and handing them out to neighbors. We already have, and will be doing it some more this Xmas.

Ministry does cost. Sending missionaries cost money. Sunday School material costs money. When someone calls and legitimately needs money, that, obviously costs money. So I hope that people tithe and give generously to the local church, to missions, church planting, and other personal/group ministry opportunities.  Ministry cost some money, but it costs more time than money. It costs YOU. If you find yourself lamenting that your particular church can't do as much as you'd like it to do, consider all of the many cheap (and costly) that are waiting for you. You might have missed them if your budget/tithing was bigger. And in the end, Jesus said we find our life by giving it away (Matthew 10:39). 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Calling without "altar calling"

No one has asked me why I don't do altar calls. However, my step-grandmother (for a few months) several years back, did say she wanted me to speak at her funeral and "do an altar call." I can't remember how I responded, and I'm not sure that she has even remembered that request. But I think that we should at least have a robust reason why we do or don't do them.

I grew up in an evangelical P.C.U.S.A. church which has a tradition of not doing altar calls. Yet I came forward to trust Christ at a revival-although I think they called it a "renewal" we had at that church. I think it was at this time when I was truly "born again." But uncertain of my salvation, I came forward another time at a Methodist church altar call during a youth day camp. These are the first, but not last, "altar call" moments I can remember.

I've also "come forward" for different times of "re-dedication" or commitment to do certain things like commit to missions. I've never noticed any difference in my life after these times.

Ironically-or maybe not ironically-I felt guilty for not raising my hand "to be counted" among those who made decisions at a college retreat. Yet that was the time when my life most changed.

At the Gospel Coalition, they welcome folks to ask them all kinds of questions. This altar call question came up, and here is their response. All I've written is from an experiential perspective, and perhaps from a pragmatic perspective-(it doesn't seem to "work"). There are other reasons why I feel uncomfortable with doing an altar call. But these folks say it just about as well as I could myself. So check it out here.

It's a gracious response (a lot of Christians can be jerks when they disagree), not attacking those who do altar calls, but simply why it can be good or better NOT to do them, and what we can do in their place. Certainly when we preach or teach at any level, we have to continually call people to respond to the gospel, whether it be for the first time or the thousandth. I don't do a very good job at calling people to respond for the first time-to become as a Christians-as well as I do calling Christians to come back to the gospel. Articles like these challenge me to not just say No to the practical application (altar call), but to recognize the correct heart behind it (to call non-Christians to repent and believe). Even though I disagree with this 18th-19th century invention, I am still challenged to intentionally and deliberately call unbelievers to repentance and faith.

Here's on of the articles practical applications from a Baptistic point of view I think is worth thinking about.

Invite people throughout your sermon to "repent and be baptized" like Peter did in Jerusalem (Acts 2:38). But when you do, don't just stand there waiting with emotionally charged music playing, staring them down until they relent. Rather, make several suggestions about how and where to discuss the matter further.

Check the rest out here. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Another untraditional QB

Yesterday I commented on how I think God has lifted Tebow up, but has done it in such a way as only God can receive the glory-and then Tebow can bask in that. The polarization of Tebow stems partially from his outspoken Christianity.

But some of his larger critics are in fact professing Christians. Former Buc's QB, Trent Dilfer is certainly one of them. I'm not surprised that "the Dilf" has taken issue with Tebow because he is a fellow brother in the Lord. I'm surprised that "the Dilf" has taken issue with Tebow because "the Dilf" was not a traditional quarterback either. Or at least not a "traditionally" good QB. You don't typically win a Super Bowl and then get cut by your team soon afterwards if you are a good QB. Yet he did. Then he went on to Seattle, to Cleveland, to San Francisco. Traditionally good QB's don't pack their bags that often.

Yet "the Dilf" won a super bowl with the Ravens when his replacement couldn't win games. The replacement the following year just didn't work, and they didn't enjoy the same success as they had with "the Dilf."

"The Dilf" was far from a traditional QB because he wasn't asked to win the game. He was told "to manage" the game. That's it. Don't lose it, just manage it. He was a "non-traditional" QB, who temporarily was lifted up despite his lack of "traditional" QB skills.

He was lifted up, winning the highest honor a QB can have: a super bowl victory. Yet he couldn't boast in how well he played because the defense was clearly the ones who would receive the most glory. Lifted up and then humbly cut just months later. 

So that is why its so surprising that "the Dilf" has become such a Tebow "hater." They are not only brothers in the Lord; they are brothers in the "non-traditional" QB family. 

When we forget that we've been lifted up ONLY because of Jesus' good pleasure (even the good things we do are ultimately produced through His power-Phil 2:11-12), we will not only be prone to arrogance, but prone to disdain the grace and joy of others who've been humbly lifted up as well.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tebow, Israel, and when God "humbly lifts us up"

Yesterday was a crazy football day. Not because the Bucs lost, again, which I think I should be getting used to by now (false hope is terrible!), but because Tim Tebow and his Bronco's won again. He's now 3-1 as a starter. The guy who most analysts pull against because he is not a "traditional" quarterback, is now 3-1 and his team is still in a play-off race. But only because of the weak division that is the AFC West.

He actually completed 2 passes yesterday. He was 0-4 in the first half and eventually finished 2 for 8. Yet his team one again. 

I really don't think God cares that much about football. We see certain places in the scriptures that seem to suggest God does have a "special place in his heart" for widows, orphans, and the oppressed (Psalm 68:5). But it is also true he has a special place in His heart for His children the way any good father does. And he cares about their sanctification even more than their "success" (Romans 8:28). So that includes Tebow, as it does any Christian in the world or in the NFL for that matter.

And isn't it funny how God shows love, how he both lifts up and humbles at the same time? You can't get much worse than 2 for 8. Yet his team won. God lifted Tebow up, but he did it in such a way as he couldn't rest upon his individual stats. God lifted him up in such a way that Tebow would know it wasn't his efforts. And I think today Tebow is just fine with it. 

God has been doing this for some time. He lifted up Israel, and made sure they knew that they were chosen not because of anything IN them, but simply because, well, He chose to love them (Deuteronomy 7:5-7).

So he lifted up Israel, but not in the "traditional" way that He did for opposing nations-by sheer might and power. Remember, he had them shout down the walls of Jericho after marching around it 6 times. How untraditional? Frankly it would have been a quite humbling victory if they were thinking about "individual stats." Shouting? A battering ram would have been much cooler to me. 

God lifted them up in victory and at the same time humbled them.

From what we can tell, Israel actually rose to power because there was a power vacuum in the Ancient Near East-similar to the AFC West division. It wasn't Israel's might and power that did it. And I would argue that was by design

The goal of God lifting us up is never simply so that we can be lifted up. It's always His glory. And so when you are lifted up, keep looking in that same direction. There's a reason that God lifts people up, and doesn't allow them to have great "stats." You can then freely bask in God's glory instead of your own. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jerry West and the burden of being thought a hero

You've probably heard about how Penn State hero Joe Paterno has tripped over the wake of destroyed lives of which he has had a large part to play. No longer is he the hero. He's the goat. And a sadder more perverse thing I cannot dream of happening in college sports. I'm truly "speechless" from my computer.

I would guess one of the more currently heroic West Virginia natives would have to be former NBA star Jerry West. Pretty soon it could be Andrew Luck, the Stanford QB, and probable number 1 overall pick in the NFL draft next spring. But for right now, the man who IS the NBA logo (or rather the logo is him), probably takes the cake. 

I listened to a rare impressive local interview with Jerry a month or so ago. Then this article came out a few weeks ago regarding Jerry West and his depression. 

Some people like to be heroes until they are eventually, like Joe Pa, dethroned. Many others simply realize that they are not heroes. Role models for sure, but heroes is much tougher. That's a burden that's quite a bit too heavy to carry. 

Jerry West's new book West by West: My Charmed Tormented Life apparently reveals the darker side of Jerry and his struggle through depression. 

Most people writing memoirs/autobiography want more money. But probably part of the memoir/biography craze is a desire to be known. For people to know the truth about them, that there is more going on inside of them than what everyone else sees. It's hard to be a hero because we weren't meant to be heroes. We were meant to be have dominion over the earth and be "vice-kings/queens" but not heroes (Gen 1:27-28). 

There is one hero to the story and his name is Jesus.

Deep down inside people will suppress that truth, but they can only suppress it so far. The burden becomes too heavy and out comes the junk. I think that's why people like Steve Jobbs can give the OK on books which make them look less than "heroic."It's why I would want my depression story in any biography of me (not quite sure that would sell though...) 

Any book written about you or I would eventually paint us in less "heroic" colors than much of the outside world sees. And that's OK. It doesn't mean we necessarily think less of the person, but instead that we realize that they still need Jesus. A lot. Whoever they are, wherever they are, they still need Jesus. 

The burden of perfect and outwardly respectable performance for the Christian need not be ours to carry. Even though I think we do bear more of the burden than we let on (by refusing to recognize our weaknesses and sins), Jesus regularly speaks to us through His word and says, "Enough is enough. Let ME carry that burden (Matt 11:28-30)."

You can let others know your mess and how much you need Jesus because you don't need to be a hero. You don't need people to think more of you. In fact, in the end, we find it far more enjoyable for people to think less of us and more of Jesus. Deep down inside, even though I don't where West stands with Jesus, I think that's what his heart ultimately wants.

In the end, Jerry West and Tina Turner have a lot in common. One sings, and another one says, "We don't need another hero."