Life and Basketball

Basketball is fun and exciting. But basketball in the month of March is…really really fun and really really exciting!

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is one of the most dramatic events in all of sports. Each year, without fail, the Tourney is filled with nail-biting finishes, dominant performances, and feel-good underdog stories.

Just a few days ago I was watching the last few minutes of a game, right as my wife and I were getting ready to leave for dinner. I had never watched either of the two teams before (and my bracket was busted) so I didn’t care who won or who lost. But let me tell you, those last two minutes were so incredibly entertaining. Every other play was met with my audible response. I stopped getting ready and stood, just a few feet from the T.V., with my eyes wide.

“Honey look at this replay!” I exclaimed at one point.

I was so enthralled with the game that I was undeterred by my wife’s apathetic response.

The game ended, I finished tying my shoes, and I walked out of the house with an adrenaline rush. Basketball in March is awesome.

Each team, whether they are an underdog or powerhouse, they all have one final goal. To win. To cut down the nets and be declared the best. To be champions. To leave a legacy. To have that “one shining moment.”

But “one shining moments” only last for a moment. Unforgettable plays eventually become forgotten. Champions are replaced, and last year’s records don’t count for anything the next season.

As I watch this year’s tournament I can’t help but think about the brevity of our lives. I know, I admit that is a strange thing to think about during an exciting game, but it’s true. Life is short. It accrued to me the other day that this year, and actually for a few years now, I am older than everyone playing in the tournament.

Just like that, in the blink of an eye, I’m an old man. Ok, that’s a tad bit dramatic, although my wife does keep finding grey hairs on my head. But the truth is still true, life is a lot shorter than we give it credit for.

With that being said, here are a couple of verses and thoughts that come to mind.

Isaiah 40:8 says that the grass withers and the flowers fade. You know what else withers and fades? Hearing and eyesight. But the verse doesn’t stop there. It continues with, “but the Word of our God will stand forever.” I can’t think of many more comforting words than that. God’s Word is full of promises and encouragements for those who put their trust in Him. If his Word endures forever, then that means that His promises to us endure forever as well.

Hebrews 9:27 says, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” Each and every one of us will have to give an account for what we do here in this short brief lifetime. Even though who trust Jesus will have to give an account for their actions or inactions. What we do in this life, even though it is short, really does matter.

Ephesians 5:16-17 says that we should be, “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” We can’t afford to let opportunities slip away from us. Each and every moment is important. As John Piper would say, “Don’t waste your life!”

What we do in this temporary life impacts our eternity. Yes, life is short, but Jesus came to earth to ensure that all who put their trust in Him don’t need to worry about perishing, but instead He offers eternal life. Real and lasting life can only be found in Jesus. He gave us a “one shining moment” on the cross that will last forever.

Soon the Sweet 16 will become the Elite 8. Then the bracket will be whittled down to the Final Four. After that, there will be a champion (*cough* Kansas…erhm what) and just like that, the tournament will be over.

Soon you will get older, and sooner than you realize, it will be your time to exit the tournament. What kind of effort will you give? What kind of legacy will you leave? Will you be a champion?

“Only one life,’ twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

-C.T. Studd

St. Patrick’s Day: You’re Doing It Wrong

Step away from the corned beef, put down that Shamrock Shake, and drop the phony accents. None of these things are what Patrick, the real-life Patrick would have wanted.

Well, maybe he would have been cool with the corned beef and shakes, but for sure not the fake accents. Those are silly.

This coming Saturday is a day that a whole lot of Americans seem to collectively lose their minds. My city dyes the river green, people drink waaay too much, you get pinched for not wearing green, and everyone claims to be just a “wee bit” Irish.

But none of this has anything to do with the man for whom this holiday gets its name. If we really want to be honoring this man’s legacy, we should go to our enemies and the people who have wronged us most in life and share a message of hope and love with them. That’s what Patrick did. And he did it because he loved Jesus.

When Patrick, who wasn’t Irish by the way, was about 16 years old his village was ransacked, and he was kidnapped and forced to become a slave. He was taken away from his home and family and was brought to Ireland. It was during his time as a slave that he put his faith in Jesus, whom he had heard about as a child but chose to ignore. It was Patrick’s relationship with Jesus that helped him to survive slavery. During his 6 years of captivity, his prayer life grew tremendously. Eventually, he escaped and returned home and was educated.

Now, there are a lot of different legends surrounding this man and his life, but what I would like to focus on today is the facts. The facts are that Patrick was transformed by God, loved God, and allowed himself to be used by God so that many other’s lives could be transformed as well.

Patrick devoted his life to sharing the Good News of Jesus’ love. His devotion to the Gospel eventually led him right back to Ireland and his former master.

Why would Patrick return to a place where horrible things happened to him, and to people that had, at one point, been his worst enemies and greatest oppressors? The answer is simple. The Good News of God’s love is really really good news.

Patrick knew that the Gospel is something that we cannot afford to keep to ourselves.

Patrick traveled all across the island explaining the good news of salvation in Jesus’ name to any and everyone who would listen to him. He cared for and loved the people of Ireland enough to share with them a life-giving message.

It wasn’t always easy, he was often met with resistance and persecution. But Patrick continued to speak about freedom in Christ Jesus in a place where he once was a slave. A whole lot of people put their trust in Jesus because of Patrick’s efforts and faithfulness.

So, if we really want to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day I say that we go to those who have done us wrong and forgive them and show them love. I say that we share the good news of Jesus’ love with them.

Imagine what would happen if we went to our worst enemies and showed them this kind of ground-breaking, earth-shattering, barrier-breaking, life-changing love.

You don’t have to be Irish to do that. Patrick wasn’t.

The Community Standard

We need each other.

This is a crucial thing for us to remember in the midst of a culture and media that would tell us “we are more divided than ever before.” Maybe the media’s statement is true (probably not) but either way, we still need each other.

The church ought to be the premier example of what a good need-each-other community looks like. We, as the church, haven’t always been that shining example. We can do better.

Mankind was created to live in community because (have I said this yet) we need each other. It is pretty undeniable that human beings crave community. We hate being lonely, and we can’t “do life” all by ourselves (no matter how much we might try to deny it.) We hate being alone because we were not created to be alone.

A good and healthy community was God’s plan for human beings from the very beginning. God said, in Genesis 2:18, “it is not good that the man should be alone.” Both men and women, being made in the image of the Triune God, need a community to support and be supported. Without some sort of healthy community, we all suffer.

The Church (When I talk about “The Church I am talking about both local churches and the Universal Church as a whole that is comprised of all believers worldwide.) should not have to suffer in this way. A lack of, or an unhealthy community should be the least of our worries. We ought to understand the great and amazing gifts that we have been given- each other.

The Body of Christ should, and needs to be there to encourage one another, (1 Thess. 5:11) comfort and pray for one another, (Gal. 6:2) look after one another, (Phil. 2:3-4) and love one another (John 13:34-35).

When the church focuses on doing these things and caring for one another in these ways other people will begin to take notice. Jesus’ prayer in John 17:22 was that “they [followers of Jesus-i.e. the church] may become perfectly one so that the world may know that you [The Father] sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

Our community with one another as believers is our strongest form of evangelism. This community-evangelism serves to remind us that the Family of God (those who put their trust in Jesus alone for Salvation) was intended to be open to all and ever-growing.

Our communities (churches, small groups, friend groups, Bible studies etc.) need to be a place where believers can love and support one another while growing in their faith as well as a place where non-believers can observe a healthy and biblical community that ultimately points to Jesus as Savior.

Another incredible reason why we need to focus on our community health more is that each of us, as individuals, has so much to offer. Every single person who has put their trust in Jesus has a God-given gift. These gifts (spiritual gifts) are given for the building up and strengthening of the church. And, as we looked at earlier, when the church is strong and focused that means good news for the spreading of the Good News.

There is a big difference between attending a church and participating in church. A healthy disciple of Jesus will be an active participant in the body of Christ. Those who simply attend church deprive both themselves and the rest of the Body, of a true and godly community. Those who participate in church (use their gifts and serve one another) will benefit both themselves and the rest of the body.

Romans 12:4-5 reminds us that the Body is made up of many members who need each other. A true and growing disciple of Jesus is one who understands and fulfills their purpose in the church.

What would our churches look like if we were to focus more on the health of our community with one another?

Imagine just how much more impactful we would be if we were more loving, caring, and committed to one another. It’s time for the church to, once again, set the standard for what a good and healthy community looks like.