Thursday, March 27, 2014

Basketball and the Sacred Mission of Worship

A couple years ago, Beren Academy from Houston, Texas had a great basketball season. Their high school team won the regional championship and qualified to play in the state semifinals. Despite all the success, the team forfeited the game. 

Robert M. Beren Academy is an Orthodox Jewish day school and the semifinals were scheduled for a Friday night at 9pm. Jews worship God from sundown Friday night through sundown Saturday night, thus creating a conflict. Though the team had a shot at moving to the state championship, they prioritized their worship. A Rabbi from the school described their decision in saying this: “The sacred mission will trump excellence in the secular world.”

Obviously, as Christians, our belief allows for the occasional basketball game on our day of worship (Sunday). But as I read about Beren Academy’s decision, I wondered what we sacrifice for our mission to worship Jesus. When we look out our lives, where does our sacred mission trump excellence in the secular world?

Some might look at Beren Academy’s decision and call it legalism. But I don’t know if our culture’s problem is legalism (especially when it comes to observing the Sabbath). I admire the team’s decision. In a world where work, sport, vacation, family obligations, and even the Sunday paper tempt us to miss worship regularly, a group of high school kids prioritized their sacred mission to honor God.

This morning, let me encourage you let the sacred mission of worshiping Jesus Christ trump the many distractions our world has to offer.  We don’t do this to earn our salvation, but we worship because our salvation is earned in Christ.  In the end, the value of Him and His work on the cross trumps anything this world has to offer.  Praise the Lord!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Technology and the Lord Our God

On March 8th, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing during a routine flight to Beijing, China. Watching reports about the disappearance, I heard more questions than answers. How does a huge plane, filled with people, disappear? We live in a world of advanced radar systems, satellite surveillance, in flight wi-fi, and cell phones. How can we lose track of something so important? Those are all fair questions.

With the story still unfolding, we are reminded that we are not as in control as we think we are. Technology can accomplish wonderful things. But, it doesn’t deserve our complete trust and devotion. We can still be lost.

The Psalm writer says it well, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” Referring the technology of her/his day, the Psalmist announces (s)he will ultimately trust in the Lord. We could say the same in our day and age: “Some trust in search engines and ATMs, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

This week, place your trust in the Lord our God. Trust in the one who truly saves. As you do, you will find hope in a God who is truly trustworthy. You will find hope in the one who makes what was lost found.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Navy Seals and Self Sacrifice

I’ve heard a lot of great stories about the Navy Seals.  This elite military unit has been celebrated in everything from comic books to blockbuster movies.  This week, I read a story that I didn’t expect.

The Wall Street Journal published an article by a former Navy Seal describing some of what it takes to survive the grueling training required to become a Seal.  The former Seal said that service of others was the key ingredient to becoming a member of America’s elite military unit.  He wrote, “Almost all the men who survived (Seal training) possessed one common quality. Even in great pain, faced with the test of their lives, they had the ability to step outside of their own pain, put aside their own fear and ask: How can I help the guy next to me? They had more than the "fist" of courage and physical strength. They also had a heart large enough to think about others, to dedicate themselves to a higher purpose.”

That has an almost biblical ring to it.  Sacrifice for the sake of others trumps the “fist of courage and physical strength.”  In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus says, “But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."  For Christians, our greatest victories come through sacrifice and service of others.

As you go through the coming week, look for opportunities to sacrifice and serve others.  Give your spouse some time off, doing extra things to free them up.  Help a co-worker for no other reason than to make their job easier.  Volunteer to help a neighbor with a project.  Focus on – and serve – others as a way to serve Jesus.  As you do, you will find strength for the day.  And, ultimately, you will find strength in Christ.