2006-08-25 0 comments

Christ in the clutch

"And we know that all things work together for good for them that love Christ, for them that are called according to His purpose. "

(Romans 8:28)

Bandwagon fans irritate me. Can't stand 'em. Indeed, I take sports loyalties to the opposite extreme ... if there's a dominant team that everyone loves, you can bet I'll take sides with their rival, if only out of spite.

So it was that in the early 1990s, when the NBA was at the height of its popularity (and it's coming back to that point, I'm happy to say, with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and a new crop of superstars ... but I digress) I took up with the New York Knicks. I'd never really had a favorite NBA team until the Knicks were absolutely tortured throughout the 90s by a certain Chicago Bull name of Michael Jordan.

Some of MJ's luster has come off in recent years, what with his penchant for high stakes gambling, stints as a mediocre GM and, of course, his most recent -- and regrettable -- comeback.

But the singular fact remains: when Jordan was at his best, it was a wonder to behold. And this is coming from a Knicks fan, mind you. So it has to be true.

As such, I have a rather keen perspective on Jordan's magic. In short, it was incredible. It got to the point that no matter how many times he shot -- and it was a lot, mind you -- you always thought it was going in. Really. If you never saw him play in his prime it's hard to understand this.

OK, you know how it's a surprise when Tiger Woods doesn't win a Major? That was the way it was when Jordan took a shot. If it didn't go in, you were, frankly, shocked.

That sort of reputation isn't built overnight. It's borne out night after night, game after game.

Here's the spiritual insight: my wife had a rough go of it recently. I won't go into detail, but she was worried about how things were going to turn out for her and, by extension, our family. She had a hard time relying on the faith that God would, invariably, take care of everything.

Now, there are a lot of aspects of my Christian life with which I struggle. But faith is not one of them. I'm pretty strong that way -- I absolutely know, without a shadow of a doubt, that in each life event God will engineer the circumstances that will A) turn out for the best, and B) bring Him glory.

So after everything worked out (surprise, surprise) my wife asked me why I had that kind of faith (and, again, this isn't a "hey everyone, look at how great I am" kind of post. I promise you, I struggle with things that no mature Christian should ... it's just that faith isn't one of them). And I told her about Michael Jordan.

See, if you were a Bulls fan and the game was tied with three seconds left and MJ had the ball, you weren't exactly chewing on your fingernails. Any butterflies you might have had were the kind that only come with the anticipation of pure bliss. Such was Jordan's abilities.

Of course, there were times that Jordan missed, after all. He didn't make every shot. Remember those last two seasons with the Washington Wizards?

If you are a Christian, you can have the kind of assurance that, no matter how the chips are down, Jesus is gonna hit that buzzer beater. Every time.

So, does it feel like your life is in the fourth quarter, that you're down by two with three seconds left?

It's real simple, folks. Just call a timeout, look down that bench and put Jesus in the game.

Trust me, he's got a heck of a jump shot.

Want to know Jesus? Read Romans 10:9,10, then click on this link to find out how you can be on Christ's team. It never loses.

(copyright 2006, andrew j. beckner, all rights under copyright reserved)

2006-08-01 1 comments

A preface for later ...

I've been thinking about heaven lately, and I'm working on a few paragraphs of pitiful prose about it. I'm just not ready to start typing it all up in the blog yet and subject another round of ramblings to public scrutiny, for good or ill.

So, this is a preface.

First, a special thank you is in order for Jim Eaton, who runs The Outpost. I had the opportunity to spend a couple days with Jim and some of his friends up at Spruce Knob -- it was nice to welcome some city slickers from Atlanta and Pittsburgh to my neck of the woods (literally), even though they were hosting the whole shindig. Good fellowship, good conversation, good times (the impromptu "Aaron Shust: Storytellers" episode out by the camp fire was especially memorable, as was the Emerging Church pow-wow on Saturday morning).

I had to leave early, which I regretted, but the Lord truly blessed me to be able to get to know Jim and Co., if only for a little while.

Why a thank you? Well, The West Virginia Advance 2006 was nearly a month ago, meaning it's well past time to give the guys a shout out and a public "thank you." Hope you guys see this.

Second, he brought a few things to my attention -- specifically, some of the questions and concerns I had about the Emerging Church movement, some ideas on the difference between "emerging" and "emergent" (there's a world of difference there, believe me -- and I want to get into it here in a few weeks), and a few things to read.

(The things I learned about the Emerging Church, again, I'll save for later. Tons there. )

Jim turned me onto Mark Driscoll's book "Confessions of a Reformission Rev: Hard Lessons from an Emerging Missional Church." It's a great, great read for those of you looking to expand your ministry into areas of church planting, church attendance and church "action."

Driscoll is the senior pastor of Mars Hill Church, one of the fastest growing and most influential churches in America. He and his ministry have, in a very short amount of time, stirred something within me that God has wanted to come out of dormancy for a good long time now -- how long I don't know. It's not like I've been cultivating it, at least in the way He's wanted. Heck, I don't even know what He has planned yet, but it's something.

Long story short (or short story long, as it were; I get a little long winded with these things sometimes), I've been filling my MP3 player full of podcasts from Driscoll's ongoing sermon series about 1 Corinthians. In one of them he addressed the concept of Heaven ... well, if I don't quit while I'm ahead I'll end up writing too much today (oops, too late).

Anywho, I highly recommend checking out the Mars Hill website and, if you are so technologically inclined, giving the podcasts a whirl. It's pretty much all I've been listening to lately, and I'm partnering the sermons with a classic J. Vernon McGee study on 1 Corinthians while reading through the book myself. Good times.

Anyway, thanks again, Jim ... you and your ministry are in my prayers.