D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young, and the Decay of Western Civilization

I’m a lifelong sports fan.  I love to play sports, I enjoy watching them, and I enjoy talking about them.  I do watch ESPN, and I do listen to sports radio, but as sports “journalism” and sports talk in general continue to move closer to soap opera-level melodrama, it becomes increasingly difficult to tune in.

The latest tabloid hit is the incident between D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young, teammates on the (blah) Los Angeles Lakers, in which Russell recorded and then leaked a video of Nick Young talking about various women apart from his fiancee.  I have no interest in watching that video, so I can’t speak to any of the specifics of what he said, but that is beyond the scope of my interest here anyway.  In fact, I am not even really concerned about either Russell or Young.  What has been most intriguing and horrifying to me has nothing to do with either one of these guys, but with the media reaction to the incident.

Again and again–without exception–I have listened to talking head after talking head talk about the pariah that D’Angelo Russell has become.  How in the world could a guy betray the confidentiality of the locker room, that O so sacred sanctuary of the sports world?  How could he betray his teammate and leak secrets from a teammates private life?  Who in the world would ever want to play with a guy who would sink so low and do something so unspeakable wretched?

Notice what is being implied by the sports media (filled with former players) in all of this: Every player is doing this.  Committed relationship (girlfriend, fiancee, wife) or not–everyone is in on this.  I have heard something referred to as the “bro code” come up multiple times, which basically says that whatever the players do out there on the road, in the clubs, in the locker rooms, or anywhere else should stay in those places.  No one should have to bear the consequences for their actions.  Nobody should talk about it, and certainly no one should go and tattle to the significant women in these guys lives.

In other words, the guy who committed the unpardonable sin against all guys everywhere was not Young who was fooling around behind his fiancee’s back.  It was Russell, who more or less told on the guy who who was fooling around.  He broke the “bro code,” which is the ultimate unforgivable sin among “bros” everywhere.

A “major sports story” went down this past week, and the outrage has had nothing to do with a guy cheating on his fiancee.  It’s been about a guy who dare to break the bro code.

What have we become as a society?  And what are we becoming?

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WNW – 3-30-16 (The Consecrated Life)

Last night we looked at Romans 12:1-2, two of the most well-known verses in all of Scripture.

Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
-Romans 12:1-2

This little passage is rife with really important Biblical concepts: sacrifice, conformation and transformation, renewal, God’s will, etc.  And yet underneath these themes, Paul is dealing with a question every Christian has to come to grips with: What is worship?

Music is not mentioned, nor is preaching.  This is not even about offering material things to God.  Rather, Paul says that true worship means consecrating your body to God, which we can restate like this:

Worship is giving God your self.

That is what God asks of us.  In the Old Testament all sorts of things were associated with sacrifice and offerings–bulls, goats, lambs, pigeons, grain, and oil to name a few.  Jesus came and offered His life as the once-for-all sacrifice that did away with the old sacrificial system.  And so there is nothing left for us to give, except for ourselves.

This is the lesson the Rich Young Ruler had to learn.  He wanted to know what good thing he could do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus’ answer, in short, was that there was no good thing to be done or precious thing to give, except for himself.  So he called him to go give away all of his stuff–there would no longer be any need for those things–and to follow Him.  Jesus asked for a total offering of the self.  Unfortunately, that proved to be more than the Rich Young Ruler was willing to give, and he went away sad.  How about you and me?  As Jesus asks you for your whole self, how do you respond?

As I shared last night, far too often I find myself struggling in corporate worship, dealing with distractions or hindrances from my own life.  I struggle with myself to produce joy where it is lacking or gratitude where there is none to be found.  I understand that worship is expressing adoration to God for who He is and thanksgiving and wonder for what He does.  But worship is also coming to God to meet with Him, to share His fellowship and joy.  Where there is sin to be found in a Christian’s life–whether subtle or overt, of omission or commission–it necessarily disturbs our fellowship with God.  David asks this question in Psalm 24,

Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood
And has not sworn deceitfully.

In John 4 Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that anyone who would be a true worshiper of the Father must be one “in spirit and truth.” And there is good news for us in all of us:

Jesus came to clean our hands, to purify our hearts, to remove our sins, and to bring us into fellowship with God the Father.

Through Jesus I can be made clean, and so can you.  As I hear His call to leave the things of the world behind and to follow Him, He purifies me and brings me to the Father.  As my life is consecrated to His, I experience the joy of my Father, and my heart begins to sing.

Worship truly becomes worship when it becomes the outflow of lives lived surrendered to Jesus Christ.

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WNW – 3/9/16

Last night we were talking about spiritual gifts, surveying the NT teaching from Ephesians 4, Romans 12, and focusing in on 1 Corinthians 12.  Here is quick summation of what we found:

-Spiritual gifts are special abilities, talents, and characteristics that the Holy Spirit supplies to Christians for the building up of the Body of Christ and enhancing the ministry of the Church.

-Spiritual gifts are given to each Christian (Eph. 4:7; Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:7) for the common good of all.

-Spiritual gifts are both the gifts that are given and the people who are given the gifts.  Eph. 4:11-12 says that Jesus “gave some as” apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to the church for the equipping of the saints and the building up of the body.

-Spiritual gifts are wide-ranging and quite diverse.  Some involve speaking (prophecy, exhortation, teaching); some take place up front (leadership) and some take place behind the scenes (service, helping); some are overtly supernatural (prophecy, tongues, miracles) and some are almost common (helping, giving, service).  The gifts are wide-ranging (probably even broader than just the ones Paul mentions), but all of the gifts are necessary to the proper functioning of the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:14-26).

-Every Christian is spiritually gifted.  Every gift is to be used for God’s glory, the building up of the Body, and the ministry of the church.  Therefore, every Christian is responsible to God and to the church for properly using the gifts God has given.  To be a Christian is to be a steward of God’s gifts.

All of these truths point to the comprehensive truth that God has made the Church for the Christian and the Christian for the Church.  God has given the church leaders (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers) for the sake of equipping and building up the believers.  And God has given Christians gifts for the sake of using them in the building up and ministry of the church.  To be a Christian is to be a churchman (or churchwoman)–both to serve and to be served in the life of the Body of Christ.

Have you experienced the blessing of brothers and sisters around you using their gifts for your growth?

Do you know how God has gifted you?

Have you found a place in the life of the church to use your gift?

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Wednesday Night Wrap (WNW) – 3/2/16

For the Spring 2016 semester in the student ministry we have been talking about our core behaviors, Connect-Grow-Serve-Go.  We spent a couple of weeks talking about Connecting (first to the Lord and then to the Church) and then about a month talking about Growing in the Lord (identity in Christ, putting off/putting on, fighting the fight of faith, and spiritual disciplines).  Last night we transitioned to Serve.

To start this series on Serve, we returned to Colossians 3, where we had discussed this as a picture of Growth in the faith, to make the point that the marks of Growth are inextricably tied to the call to Serve brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.  To put it plainly, Christian Growth that does not manifest itself through Christian Service is not Christian Growth.  Look at Paul’s instructions in this Colossians 3…

Put off: (v.5) Immorality, Impurity, Passion, Evil Desire, Greed, Idolatry; (v.8) Anger, Wrath, Malice, Slander, Abusive Speech; (v.9) Lying

Put on: (vv.12-15) Compassion, Kindness, Humility, Gentleness, Patience, Tolerance, Forgiveness, Love, and the Peace of Christ

Here is the takeaway.  Each one of these vices that Christians are to take off work to the detriment of the people around us.  Greed leads me to think only of myself and my wants; Anger causes me to think, speak, and act sinfully toward the people around me; Wrath causes others to suffer just for being around me; Malice, Slander, and Abusive Speech all rip apart the people around me (presumably for my own pleasure or gain).

On the other side, each one of the Christian virtues that Paul calls us to put on work to the benefit of the people around us.  Compassion leads me to empathize with others and find ways to work for their good; Kindness leads me away from being Wrathful toward others; Humility causes me to put the needs and concerns of others before my own; Gentleness, Patience, Tolerance, Forgiveness, and Love all work in the end for the good of the people around me.  Growth inevitably leads to Service.  As I take off the old self with the old attitudes, behaviors, and habits and put on the new self created by the Spirit of God, I am changed markedly.

If the work of God in me is real, the evidence of His work on me will be clear to those around me.  They will see it.  Even better, they will experience it.

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Treasure in Heaven: Your Heart

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;  for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:19-21

This passage is shaped by two aspects of a single command: one prohibition and one exhortation.  Do not store up treasure on earth; instead, store it up in heaven.  Notice that the prohibition here is not against hoarding; it actually endorses it, but not in the worldly sense.  Hoard away, but do so toward the heavenly inheritance.  To store up treasure there necessarily means taking it away from the earthly stash.  Heavenly gain necessarily means earthly loss.  This is exactly the thought in Paul’s mind as he writes Philippians 3:7-14, that everything he once regarded as gain (earthly) he has accounted now as loss for the sake of the matchless prize (heavenly).

A SOUND INVESTMENT

In investing there are several factors you might take into account before settling on an investment strategy.  With stocks, you typically weigh risk vs. reward.  With bonds and CDs, you should consider interest rates and time until maturity.  In all investments, you must take the security of the investment into consideration (Is this bank financially sound? Are these guys scammers?, etc.).  This is how the portfolio Jesus is offering shakes out:

-Initial cost of investment: Your life
-Risk: Guaranteed massive earthly loss (go read the Beatitudes)
-Reward: Unmatched heavenly gain (go read Philippians 3)
-Time until maturity: Your earthly lifetime
-Payout period: Throughout eternity
-Security of the investment: Guaranteed by the power of the eternal, omnipotent, omniscient Sovereign God (e.g. Isaiah 14:27 “For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?”)

THE HEART OF IS THE MATTER

The promise is sure, and the reward is immense, and yet I don’t think that this is Jesus’ point in this little statement from the Sermon on the Mount.  Notice his last words: where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  The promise of a heavenly inheritance is entirely true and totally sure, and yet Jesus’ point here is actually about your heart.  People get their hearts broken and stolen from them all the time.  It has happened to me, and I assume it has happened to most other people at well at some point.  Life is filled with unmet expectations and disappointed hopes.  Jesus lays out the only safe place to rest your hopes: in Him.  Everything on earth is subject to some sort of ruin, whether by devouring of moths, the corrosion and erosion of rust, or the robbery of thieves.  This is a totally unsafe place to rest your heart, where it may be eaten up or stolen by others.  But Jesus says your heart is completely safe when it rests in Him.  With these words Jesus is not trying to protect us from making bad financial investments or laying about 5 Basic Principles to Glorify God with Your Money.  He is offering Himself as the only sure refuge for your soul.  And with that, all of the glories of Heaven.

As the hymn says,

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name!
On Christ the Solid Rock I stand!
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

Lord, let that be true of me as well.

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