The (Real) Reason Ohio State Won the Championship Last Night

What Ohio State did was beyond impressive over the past two weeks. They won a national championship with their third string quarterback. That doesn’t happen! The Arizona Cardinals limped into the NFL playoffs with their third string quarterback and were quickly dispatched by a sub-500 team in the first round of the postseason. Ohio State took their third string quarterback and knocked off the number one and two teams in the nation. That’s unheard of.

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So for the first time since 2002, Ohio State is the college football champion. You can easily dissect numerous strategies, personnel matchups and play executions to find a reason they were triumphant, but I’ve got a simpler explanation: the reason Ohio State won the championship last night was because they had the chance to do so. Under the old BCS system, it would have been Florida State vs Alabama in the championship game, the two teams that lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Two and a half years ago, in the summer of 2012, the group of NCAA presidents approved this sweeping change to the college playoff format. It was new. It was controversial. It was change. The old system had brought in millions of dollars to the universities. And yet they changed it. They changed the number of teams, they changed the formula that chose the playoff teams, they changed the structure of postseason college football.

The results have been incredible to say the least. The college football world was transfixed throughout the season, and a red-hot Ohio State rose up to win the championship in a convincing fashion. And they had the opportunity to do so because a group of leaders were willing to change.

Now I don’t even have to move an inch to make application for the church today. A church that refuses to change is a church that will fade into obscurity. Now you know and I know that I’m not talking about changing the Bible or changing the gospel. That stays the same. What I’m talking about is the courage to embrace the change that brings a church out of the 1950s into the millennium in which we now live. It’s the courage to redirect energies and funnel finances to relentlessly reach the next generation. It’s the courage stop propping up legacy programs that lost their effectiveness decades ago and try new things until you find something that works. That church, the church with the courage to change, that’s the church that will win championships in the years to come.

Why the Bible Still Applies 2000 Years Later

1.12.15If you’ve grown up going to church, adhering to the Bible seems natural. To the rest of humanity, it’s an oddity. The Bible was written thousands of years ago. It’s not just one book, but a collection of books, written by dozens of authors over a period of 1500 years. There’s narrative, history, poetry, letters and prophecy. And it’s all ancient. It was written before automobiles, electricity, the Industrial Revolution, the discovery of the Americas, and about any other relevant thing you can think of. Humanity has progressed lightyears in the areas of science, medicine, the arts, you name it. We have cats that can play the piano on YouTube. We’re about as advanced as you can imagine.

So how can we make the claim that these ancient letters and books that make up the Bible still apply to us today? Simple: Because human nature doesn’t change. Solomon tells us, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The names of the problems will change, but the nature of the problems never change. Love, greed, sexual immorality, forgiveness, justice, mercy. These are all universal elements in the human story. As long as humans have existed, we’ve struggled with greed, fallen into temptation, aspired to goodness, coveted what we didn’t have.

The Bible isn’t merely a guide for the 21st century. It’s a revelation of the God who doesn’t change to humans whose nature is essentially the same as it’s been since the Fall. The truths the Bible reveals are universal, standing the test of time, far weightier than the light and momentary wisps of modernity. It’s a bedrock from which to build a life and a legacy that will last far after are moment in the sun has gone. That’s why the Bible will apply as long as Christ tarries from this earth.

Five for Friday (1.9.15)

5Happy Friday everyone! Here are five stimulating articles to keep you thinking through the weekend. Go to church somewhere! Be part of community!

5 Things I Wish Christians Would Admit About the Bible – Thought-provoking. Great read!

8 Ways to Stop Human Trafficking in Our Own Backyard – great thoughts if you want to join the fight.

Stuart Scott on the Beauty of Community – The world lost an incredible sportscaster this week. Here’s a great quote from his life.

5 Things We (Millennials) Need to Hear at Church – Great words for anyone reaching the next generation!

News Weak - A great rebuttal to the hack n slash article on the Bible printed in Newsweek recently.

“Jesus Can Do Anything!” (The Pivotal Difference When Teaching Children the Bible)

Jesus can do anything!” Those absolutely precious words were the sum total of what my 5-year-old told me he learned in church Sunday. And I loved it!

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Walking out to the car Sunday after church, I asked my son Shepherd the typical questions a parent asks, “How was church?” “What did you learn?” “Did you play with your friends?” As most parents know, some weeks you’ll only elicit monosyllabic responses. But this past Sunday, Shepherd was a motor mouth. He went on and on about how Jesus healed a blind man (John 9:1-12). In true 5-year-old-boy fashion, his favorite part was the part where Jesus spit in the ground and made mud to put in the man’s eyes. Mud? Spit? You just told the coolest story ever to a 5-year-old boy.

I was happy when Shepherd told me the story. But I was ecstatic with what he told me next, “Jesus can do anything!” That was the takeaway. That was the one phrase I know that the DiscoveryZone leaders drilled into my son so that he would remember after the lesson was over. It was the one big idea they wanted him to walk away with. And he did.

Here’s the pivotal difference when teaching children the Bible: It’s one thing to teach children a Bible story. It’s good. It’s positive. It’s truth. But it’s quite another thing to teach children what those Bible stories mean. That’s the pivotal difference. I don’t just want Shepherd to know a collection of true stories. I want him to know what they mean, the biblical principles, the timeless truths, the practical application. We don’t do our children the greatest service possible when we simply tell them Bible stories but not what they mean.

The anchor that I want planted deep inside my son from his earliest memories is not just mud and spit, not just a collection of stories. I want him to know timeless truths. I want him to know that “Jesus can do anything!” Don’t just teach children Bible stories. Teach them what those stories mean.

 

Growing a Church Isn’t as Mysterious as You Think

As a professional church leader, growing a church is one the things I (am supposed to) do for a living. The whole idea of why one church grows while another doesn’t can seem mysterious and mystical. I would argue that the answer is a lot simpler than we’d imagine. Watch this short video clip to get my take:

One Thing to Remember Before You Leave the House This Morning

If you’re anything like me, then the holidays are definitely over for you. All the rest that built up over Christmas and New Year’s dissipated in a day. Yesterday it was back to work, back to the routine, back to the grind. Today the schedule is screaming at you, you’re operating on less sleep than you should, and you feel as if you’re in danger of stumbling through the rest of the week.

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Before you walk out of your door, remember this: if you are a follower of Jesus, then you have the Holy Spirit living inside of you. He changes everything! “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us powerlove and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

  • You’re walking out of your house today with power. The same power that created the universe. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead. The same power that created new life in you. That power, in you. You’re not defeated, you’re by very definition victorious.
  • You’re walking out of your house today with loveThe same love that sent Jesus to the cross for you. The same love that has forgiven your transgressions and sins. The same love that compels you to spread this good news to the world. The God who is love, living inside of you. You’re not starved for affection, under appreciated or neglected. You are by very definition overflowing with love.
  • And you’re walking out of your house today with self-discipline. The self-discipline to resist temptation and life a life that pleases God today. The self-discipline to not just endure the next eight hours at work or school but to own it. The self-discipline to be the person you know God created you to be. You’re not a slacker. You’re not lazy. You have the self-discipline of the God of the Heavens living inside of you.

Remember that today. Shake off those cobwebs. Hold your head up and look expectantly at the world around you. God placed you here, on the earth, today, for a reason. Don’t endure today, own it. Don’t walk in defeat, run in victory. Don’t allow the worries and burdens of this world keep you down. You are victorious. You have the Spirit of the Creator God inside of you. Live like it!

The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

3 Bad Ways to Face the Problems of the World

As we start out 2015, we can look around us and quickly see that our world is full of problems:

  • Some of you have been keeping up with that airline that crashed into the sea in Asia.
  • There’s a cyberwar going on with North Korea that’s a bit surreal.
  • Our military is in harm’s way in global hotspots such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • If you go back a few months everyone was freaked out by the Ebola virus possibly spreading in America.
  • Here in America, you watch the news and see people being shot by police officers, people rioting and now killing police officers. Racial tensions are on a knife’s edge.

Crossing out problems and writing solutions on a blackboard.

But the problems are much more than just issues out there. They’re problems affecting us personally: Sickness and health for your family. The tough economy and trying to get by month to month. Some of you had a tough Christmas with the holidays reminding you of what you don’t have or who you’ve lost. We all have family members and friends that are going through hard times, far from God, making a mess of their lives.

So life is tough. The world is full of problems. Our lives are full of problems. The question for us to wrestle with is: How do we respond? How will we respond? As you encounter problems, here are three bad ways we can face them:

  1. Condone: Will we throw our hands up and give up? Life’s too tough? Or maybe we just don’t fight back? We go along to get along?
  2. Condemn: Do we look at all the problems and get angry and condemn all the sin and sinners in the world?
  3. Run Away: Or do we run away and huddle inside our home or a church building and pretend like the world and its problems don’t exist?

Those are three options that many have taken. Many that we know have taken one of those options. Maybe you’ve taken one of those options in the past. When we look at how Jesus addressed the problems in first century Israel, he chose a fourth option. He chose to be part of the solution. Here’s the Old Testament prophecy Jesus used to announce to the world that he was the promised Messiah:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19

Jesus chose to be part of the solution. As his followers, will we do the same?

The Great Secret About New Year’s Day

Hold on, it’s January 2nd! Why am I writing about New Year’s Day a day late? Because of what New Year’s represents: a fresh start. Mentally, we see a huge chasm between December 31 and January 1, giving us the margin we need to start again, to make amends, to live right, to do better.

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But the problem with January 1st is it’s only a day. And the problem with us is that our resolutions, no matter how firm, will falter sooner or later. You might have already messed up on a resolution less than a day in! But that’s the great secret about New Year’s Day: it’s everyday. The Bible reveals an ancient truth about our Heavenly Father:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his mercies never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

God’s mercies are new every morning! If you fail, you don’t have to look to next January 1 to start over. If you fail, you don’t have to kick yourself, blaming yourself for squandering your one chance to start over. Behold, today is New Year’s Day! So get out there and start again!

Two Things You’ll Need to Truly Change in 2015

This is the day of resolutions: I’m going to lose weight! I’m going to eat healthier! I’m cutting up my credit cards! I’m finally quitting smoking! Are they the same resolutions you made last year? What’s going to make this year any different?

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In his groundbreaking book The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg talks through the Golden Rule of habit change: if you keep the same cue and the same reward, a new (better) routine can be inserted. It’s what has made Alcoholics Anonymous so successful over the decades. But in his research Duhigg found that merely changing a habit isn’t enough for long-term change. For lasting change, two essential things are needed: belief and community.

And we know that habits are most malleable when the Golden Rule of habit change is applied: if we keep the same cue and same reward, a new routine can be inserted. But that’s not enough. For a habit to stay changed, people must believe change is possible. And most often, that belief only emerges with the help of a group . . . Belief is essential, and it grows out of a communal experience, even if that community is only as large as two people. (The Power of Habit, 92-93)

Lasting change happens with belief in someone or something greater than yourself. Lasting change happens in community. That’s why the driving passion of Mt Vernon church is creating contagious communities of hope. We can change. We can change together. We can change together because of the hope we have in Jesus.

So to all those resolutions you’re making today, let me add one more to your list: get yourself in church!