God Obliterates Our Sin!

99 Days of Football, Forgiveness 5 Comments »

My daily Bible reading calendar is arranged so that I read through the entire Old Testament once, the New Testament twice, Psalms twice, and the Proverbs 12 times every year. I’m also trying to read through a Gospel per month so those are read three or four times every year in an effort to know instinctively what Jesus would do and say in every situation. Yesterday’s Old Testament reading was from Isaiah 37-38. And I was struck all over again by the last part of chapter 38:

“In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction;

You have put all my sins behind your back.

For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise;

Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness.

The living, the living — they praise you as I am doing today;

Fathers tell their children about your faithfulness.”

God puts our sins completely out of sight, behind his back. Not only that, Micah 7:19 tells us that God puts our sins completely out of reach: “You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” Scripture also assures us in Jeremiah 31:34 that our God puts our sins out of mind: “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” And we know from Acts 3:19 that God puts our sins thoroughly out of existence: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.”

Wonderful news. Amazing love and grace. To know that the sins of my past and the sins of my future are out of sight, out of reach, out of mind, and out of existence. And then the calendar directs me to Proverbs 28: “He who conceals his sin does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

Don’t hide your sin. You’re not fooling anyone. Confess your sin and rejoice in the assurance that God forgives and forgets. And in your gratitude for and confidence in the blood of Jesus, be resolved to sin no more.

Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Don’t offer yourself or your body to sin. Offer yourself to God as one who has been brought from death to life. Sin is not your master because you are under the grace of our Father.

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How wonderful to know that when we wake up tomorrow morning it will be the first day of football season! All will be right with the world. Today is the last day of the long football-less summer. This is the last day for the next almost six months I’ll go home and not have a football game to watch on TV. Beautiful.

WarrenMoonMy last football player in the countdown to football season is also one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. He was an undrafted free agent out of the University of Washington, where the Huskies ran the ball on over 75% of their plays. But he became the most prolific passer in pro football history and the first black quarterback ever inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Warren Moon took Washington to a 10-2 record and a Rose Bowl win over Michigan in 1977. But he went undrafted by the NFL. So Moon took off to Canada where he quarterbacked the Edmonton Eskimos to five straight Grey Cup titles and a 9-1 postseason record in six years. The Houston Oilers signed him in 1984 and Moon threw for 3,338 yards that rookie NFL season and then absolutely flourished with the Run and Shoot offense. In 1990 he tied an NFL record with nine 300 yard games.

He spent three seasons with the Vikings and then signed with the Seahawks as a 41-year-old MoonUnderCenterin 1997. That season, Moon threw for 3,678 yards and 25 TDs, completed a team-record 313 passes, and went to the Pro Bowl. In fact, he appeared in nine Pro Bowls, including eight in a row, a record for any quarterback of any era. He completed his career with the Chiefs in 1999, capping a 23 year run — 17 in the NFL — that landed him in four different football halls of fame.

Warren Moon had nine seasons of 3,000 yards passing and four 4,000 yard years. When he retired he was the third leading passer in NFL history and had thrown for the 4th most TDs. But if you combine Moon’s passing yardage in the CFL (21,228) and NFL (49,325) he’s by far the most prolific passer in professional football history.

And football season starts tomorrow.

Peace,

Allan

Spirit-Empowered Christian Ministry

99 Days of Football, Holy Spirit, Ministry, Worship 3 Comments »

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”     ~Ephesians 4:30

In the middle of Paul’s instructions to the brothers and sisters in Ephesus regarding the “new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” and practical ways that new self is demonstrated in everyday life, he exhorts us not to grieve the Holy Spirit. The verb “grieve” and the pronoun “whom” are very clear in communicating to us that the Holy Spirit is a person, not just an influence, not just our conscience, and not just a power. The Spirit is a “he,” a “him.” And it’s through him that our Christian ministry receives its authority and its might.

The Holy Spirit of God who brought Jesus out of the tomb lives in us to empower us to do the things he calls us to do. That power is the grace by which we are called and the authority by which we speak. I appreciate the way Eugene Peterson speaks of the Spirit in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: he says the Spirit “is not marginal to the main action, it is the main action.” All of creation, all of salvation, and all of community takes place because of the Spirit of God.

God’s Holy Spirit produces in us the character traits and the confidence necessary for Christian ministry. The Spirit intercedes for us to our Father in words we can’t begin to express. God’s will is revealed to us by the Spirit. The Spirit gives life and guidance, purpose and protection. The Spirit of God lives in us to accomplish what is impossible without him. It’s beyond our capabilities as humans to keep God’s commands, to follow Christ perfectly, to spread the Gospel message to all the world, to redeem the lost back to God. We’re only human.

Not so with the Spirit. We’re super-human. God-filled. Able to do all things. Undefeated. Inspired. Invincible.

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For a thought-provoking column on what worship is NOT, check out this recent entry on the blog of my great friend Jim Gardner.

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Just two more days until football season officially begins! And I’m happy to report, no more kickers or punters remain in the countdown. Today’s #2 is one of the all-time greats in college football and the only player in NFL history to return eleven kicks for touchdowns: Eric Metcalf.

EMetcalfAs a halfback/receiver/returner Metcalf set the all-time Southwest Conference record for most all-purpose yards (5,705) EricMetcalfand was the SWC MVP as a Texas Longhorn in 1987. He set the school’s single season all-purpose yards mark that year (1,925) and is the only player in Longhorns history to lead the team in all-purpose yards four years in a row (1985-88). During his time in Austin, Metcalf also won the national championship in the long-jump. Twice.

Metcalf’s eleven year NFL career was spent in Cleveland, Atlanta, San Diego, Arizona, and Baltimore. He’s the all-time NFL leader in return yards (6,982) and #13 all-time in combined yards (14,434). He was quick and elusive and deceptive as a runner. But he just wasn’t big enough (5-10, 188) to do much of anything else but return kicks in the pros. Eric Metcalf is the all-time best to ever wear the #2.

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Sorry I was so late in getting the Cowboys predictions posted yesterday. If you haven’t seen it yet, go back to yesterday’s entry. I’d love to get your feedback.

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As an encouragement to all preachers and elders and church leaders, I leave you today with the words of Augustine to Valerius on his ordination at Hippo in 391 A.D.:

“First and foremost, I beg your wise holiness to consider that there is nothing in this life, and especially in our own day, more easy and pleasant and acceptable to men than the office of bishop or priest or deacon, if its duties be discharged in a mechanical or sycophantic way; but nothing more worthless and deplorable and meet for chastisement in the sight of God; and, on the other hand, that there is nothing in this life, and especially in our own day, more difficult, toilsome, and hazardous than the office of bishop or priest or deacon; but nothing more blessed in the sight of God, if our service be in accordance with our Captain’s orders.”

Peace,

Allan

School Bells, Dot Races, and .500 Ball

99 Days of Football, Cowboys, Stanglin Family, Texas Rangers 5 Comments »

The Dallas City Council held an emergency meeting this morning and agreed to postpone the plans for a Cowboys Super Bowl parade. At least for a couple of weeks. Good for them. Everybody back down to earth a little bit now? I find it enormously amusing to hear everyone from Wade Phillips to Tony Romo and Marcus Spears point to the Houston crowd as being a big factor in the preseason loss Saturday night. What?!? If the Texans crowd in a non-conference preseason game in August is a problem, how in the world do they plan to handle the partisans in Philly and New York in division games in November?

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Two Green Valley Gators and a Northridge Wildcat.

          SchoolBelles

Our girls all started school today: Whitney in 8th grade, Valerie in 5th, and Carley in 2nd. Whitney was very apprehensive and even a little unsteady this morning with getting her schedule and lockers and books and finding the classrooms. But Valerie and Carley were, as always, ready to go. I’m anxious to hear how their first day went. I’m sure we’ll celebrate by going out to eat together this evening and listening to all the stories.

My dad, the whole time we were growing up, woke us up on the first day of school every single year by singing “School NightBeforeSchoolbells! School bells! Dear old golden rule bells!” at the top of his lungs all through the house. It would irritate us so much. And it would get more obnoxious and loud every year, and our protests against it would be louder and more demonstrative, so that it developed into one of those things that we expected and counted on and — maybe — even looked forward to with a twisted kind of delight. It was extremely corny. And I’ve sung it to my girls on the first day of school now every single year since Whitney first went to Kindergarten 8 years ago. And they act the same way we did as kids. And I’m afraid I act the same way dad always did. Family traditions are very powerful ways to connect us to our past and give us and our children a real sense of history and belonging to something bigger than ourselves. The exact same things can be said about church and faith traditions. Maybe I will. Later.

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LegacyAtBallpark65 of us from the Legacy Church, mainly teens and their families, attended the Mercy Me concert and Texas Rangers game at the Ballpark Saturday night. What a great evening of fellowship and worship and baseball. Singing “I Can Only Imagine” with my girls and the band. Paying more for the hamburgers and french fries than I did for the tickets. A three run homer in the taco inning. Explaining to Nick that it’s not cool to say you picked the right color in the dot race when you’re holding all three. Listening to Hooper and Fleming argue about obscure SEC football players from the ’80s. That cup of cold water NOT given in Jesus’ name (Thanks, Enger!) A great view of Jerry Wayne’s new stadium. Bott’s throw. Laird’s bunt. And a Rangers win. What a great night!

BearAtMercyMe  MercyMe  ValAtMercyMe  WhitAtMercyMe  JerryWorld

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AlDelGrecoThere are only three more days until football season begins with eleven college games on Thursday. And if we have a punter on the list in the countdown, we’ve got to have a kicker. Al Del Greco played for 18 years in the NFL, most of those seasons in Houston with the Oilers. He’s the Oilers’ all-time leading scorer. He holds the NFL record for most consecutive games with a score. He holds the top two NFL marks for most PATs in a row. And he’s one of only four Houston Oilers to ever score 100 points in a season along with Earl Campbell. George Blanda, and Tony Zendejas of the Flying Zendejas Brothers. 21 of Del Greco’s 347 career field goals came from 50 yards out or more. Jan Stenerud, Bronko Nagurski, and old Darryl Lamonica receive honorable mention. But I love those old Oilers. And Al Del Greco was automatic.

BrettFavre

Yesterday’s #4 is Brett Favre, whose first NFL completion as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was to himself off a deflection. He’s the NFL’s only three-time MVP. He’s never lost a regular season game in temperatures colder than 35-degrees. He took the Packers to two Super Bowls, beating the Patriots and losing to Denver. And he started his career in Atlanta with the Falcons as a second round pick out of Southern Miss. In that one season in Atlanta, he appeared in two games and went 0-5 passing with two interceptions. I love the way Brett Favre plays. I love watching him. It’s either disaster or brilliance, nightmare train wreck or poetry in victory. Either way, it’s exhilirating. Reggie Roby gets a well-deserved honorable mention. But I think we’re way over the quota now on kickers and punters.

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And finally, here’s what you’ve been waiting for: my game by game predictions for the Dallas Cowboys 2007 NFL football season.

Sep 9 v. Giants: It’s the only division game before the bye-week in late October. It’s at home. It’s the season opener. And it’s on Sunday night national TV. It’s Tom Coughlin’s coach-friendly boot camp training style against Wade Phillips’ player-friendly summer camp style. Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer have huge games receiving against the Cowboys’ suspect secondary. But Eli Manning fumbles in the Giants’ end zone late for a safety and Dallas wins by one, 18-17.

Sep 16 @Miami: Terrell Owens spends the Saturday night before the game at a party at Shaq‘s house on Miami Beach. Things get out of control when T. O. calls Dwayne Wade a goody-two-shoes and O’Neal actually puts on his Dade County Sheriff’s Office uniform and arrests the Cowboys wideout. Stephen Jones bails Owens out of jail at 2am. But the distractions prove to be too much. Zack Thomas and Jason Taylor crowd the box, stuffing the Cowboys run game and sacking Tony Romo four times in a 33-13 Dolphins win. Trent Green looks like Bob Griese (in a good way). Wade Phillips claims they lost the game on purpose to motivate them for the Bears next week.

9-23 @Chicago: If the road to the Super Bowl goes through Chicago, the dream is over. The Cowboys get rolled 34-6. Carrie Underwood has stopped returning Tony Romo‘s calls and has been seen lately with Kameron Loe. Wade Phillips, for the first time this season, tells the media his defense “isn’t hitting the gaps.”

9-30 v.Rams: Jerry Jones‘ new commercial for Motorola in which he wears black tights and sings Blondie’s “Call Me” inside the Alamo is the talk of the players and reporters at Valley Ranch. But it doesn’t seem to be too big of a distraction. Now that Bill Parcells is gone, it’s just Jerry back to being Jerry. Back at Texas Stadium, the Cowboys find their groove against St. Louis. Marc Bulger throws three interceptions and fumbles twice and Dallas wins 24-10.

10-8 @Buffalo: The trade between the Bills and the Cowboys that netted Dallas Drew Henson and made J. P. Losman the starter in Buffalo looks like a wash. Dallas wins a boring matchup 17-14 to get to 3-2 on the season. The biggest news of the week comes when Bill Parcells and Keyshawn Johnson make light of Emmitt Smith‘s “Dancing With the Stars” victory on ESPN’s pre-game show. Emmitt reminds Tuna and Me-shawn that, between the three of them, that’s the only championship that’s been won in the past ten years. For the first time in recorded history, both Parcells and Keyshawn are speechless at the same time. The earth shifts just a little on its foundation.

10-14 v.Patriots: After scoring a first quarter TD, New England receiver Randy Moss runs to the star on the 50-yard line at Texas Stadium to celebrate. Terrell Owens laughs. George Teague, watching the game in his living room in Wylie, drives to Irving and clotheslines Moss on the sidelines late in the fourth. Bill Belichick is taken to Parkland Hospital for dehydration. The gray hooded sweatshirt in the 95-degree Texas sun wasn’t a good idea. Pats win it easily 28-12.

10-21 v.Vikings: Cowboys win big. You and I could give the Vikings a good game.

The Cowboys enter the bye-week at 4-3, very much in the thick of things in the “competitive” NFC. Bad news comes when Leonard Davis snaps a hamstring stepping over a sock on the floor in his bedroom. Julius Jones expresses concern with the big fella out. Marion Barber calls Julius a baby. Here we go.

11-4 @Philadelphia: Not a good start to the heart of the division-heavy portion of the schedule. The Cowboys get blown out by the Eagles 43-14. Julius Jones averages 1.1 yards for his 26 carries and a fumble. Marion Barber picks up 8.2 yards per carry on 6 runs, including both Dallas touchdowns. The Dallas Morning News reports that several “veteran players” say they miss Bill Parcells. Tony Romo calls Troy Aikman and asks if he still has Lorrie Morgan’s phone number.

11-11 @Giants: The secondary situation can’t get any worse. Eli Manning tried to throw the game away. But the Dallas defensive backs can’t catch anything. Roy Williams and Jacques Reeves both drop easy picks. And the Giants win a close one 21-17. In a desperate move, while they’re in New York, Jerry Jones signs free agent Alex Rodriguez to play cornerback. Derek Jeter actually drives A-Rod to the airport. But the deal falls through when Rodriguez insists on bringing his own equipment manager, massage therapist, and chef.

11-18 v.Redskins: In a move designed to stop the losing streak, Wade Phillips starts Brad Johnson at quarterback. And the plan works. Johnson doesn’t attempt a single pass in the 48-7 romp. Julius Jones and Marion Barber combine for 270 yards on 63 carries (Jones: 49-11 yards; Barber: 14-259 yards).

11-22 v.Jets: Thanksgiving Day. In an effort to retire while on top and “walk away on my own terms,” Brad Johnson has announced his retirement this week following the win over Washington. Tony Romo gets his starting position back and Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett is named his backup, all in a short work week. The Jets win 24-17. Wade Phillips ends his post-game news conference by screaming “They’re not hitting the gaps!!”

11-29 v.Green Bay: This Thursday night game is televised by the NFL Network. So my dad, who lives in East Texas and doesn’t have cable, is staying with us tonight so he can watch it. He keeps asking me if I think Brett Favre is going to return for the Packers next year. My mom keeps talking about Bart Starr. I can’t concentrate. The Cowboys win 23-14.

12-9 @Detroit: Marion Barber has shaved his head, figuring that’s the only way Jerry Jones will allow Phillips to make him the starter over Julius. It works. And Dallas runs all over the Lions 38-9. Matt Millen’s record now as the Lions’ General Manager is 25-78. It’s a joke. He could drive a Honda to work and the Ford family would still keep him.

12-16 v.Philadelphia: At 7-6, Dallas needs this win to secure a playoff spot and eliminate the Eagles from the postseason. Philly coach Andy Reid tells his squad he’ll wear spandex to the team Christmas party if they hold Terrell Owens without a catch. As a precaution, Under Armor hires 75 new seamstresses and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hires four new consultants. The Eagles win a dogfight (can we still say that nowadays?) 14-10.

12-22 @Carolina: Following the Packers game, my dad decided to stay through the holidays so he could watch this snoozer against the Panthers, also on the NFL Network. Carrie-Anne and I decide to buy dad a cable package for Christmas. Carolina wins it 21-17.

12-30 v.Redskins. The Cowboys always beat the Redskins.

Add it up. 8-8. No playoffs. You heard it here first.

Peace,

Allan

Revive Us Again

99 Days of Football, Four Horsemen, Legacy Construction, Worship 9 Comments »

“Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?”

                                                                                                   ~Psalm 85:6

The prayers of Scripture, just like the promises of Scripture, never grow old. They don’t deal with the changing surface or the shifting circumstances of life. They deal with the living heart and the constant needs of mankind. And so God’s people pray for revival. And the Lord promises revival.

Revival has come to represent extraordinary religious activities marked by large numbers of dramatic conversions. We think of tents and loud preachers and all-night singings.

All it really means is a strengthening and elevating of life. And since God is the creator of all life, the one who gives life and sustains life, revival is God’s work. Revival is a gift from God.

As much as we may try with worship technologies and preaching philosophies and the arrangement of chairs and programs, we can’t manipulate it or manufacture it. Revival comes from God.

And when it comes, it is recognized by a deeper consciousness of sin and need and weakness and dependence on our Father. It’s characterized by an increased spirit of prayer — more urgent, more intentional, more frequent prayer. And it shows itself in a growing love of God’s truth. The Bible will be dearer to us and his love for us through Christ will be sensed more deeply.

Pray for revival at the Lord’s Church at Legacy. Prepare for revival. The God we serve is able to do more through us and for us than we can ever ask or imagine.

“Blessed is the people whose God is the Lord!”

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Legacy Worship Center Construction Update

WorshipCenterLeftWorshipCenterRight

They’ve actually put down the stakes outlining the outside walls of the new worship center and the zig zag pattern they’re going to have. It’s hard to tell from the pictures. I’ve tried to put them side by side here so you can kind of see the whole thing in one shot. Sort of.

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SeanLandetaJust six days until football season. And the all-time greatest #6 is a punter, for crying out loud! Sean Landeta, who wore #6 at Towson State, played for 22 years in the NFL and is the league’s all-time leader in punts (1,401) and punts downed inside the 20 (381). His 43.3 yards per punt career average is fifth best all-time and his 42 yards playoff average is third best in history. Four different times he led the NFL in punting, finishing in the top three eight more times. He only went one season in his pro career without at least one 60 yard punt. And of all his 1,401 career punts, only six were ever blocked. He won two Super Bowl rings with the Giants where he spent over half his career. He’s the Rams all-time leader in punts. He once kicked a 74 yard punt while playing for the Buccaneers. And in ’98 he downed 30 inside the 20-yard line as a Green Bay Packer. Landeta also won two titles with the old Baltimore Stars of the USFL. And he kicked a 57 yard field goal in 1980 with Towson State.

PaulHornungTomorrow’s #5 is The Golden Boy, Paul Hornung. Hornung did it all for the championship Packers of the late ’50s and mid-60s. He could run, he could pass, he could punt, and apparantly he could even fly. He led the Pack to NFL Championships in 1961, ’62, and ’65, leading the league in scoring three times and winning the NFL MVP award twice. He scored an NFL record 176 points in 1960. And he made it to two Pro Bowls.

The blight on Hornung’s record is the gambling. He was suspended by the league for one season in 1963 for gambling on his own team and then wound up playing three more years after that, finishing his nine year pro career with 760 total points, 62 TDs, 66 field goals, and 190 PATs. He’s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

And here’s the cool trivia: while at Notre Dame, Hornung became — and still is — the only Heisman Trophy winner to ever come from a losing team. The Fighting Irish went 2-8 in 1956. But the Golden Boy, who did it all, was good enough to be named the best player in college football.

Ladanian Tomlinson gets honorable mention at #5, the number he wore at TCU. But let’s give him a little more time.

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FourHorsemenThe Four Horsemen ride again this afternoon. I thank God for the times he allows us to meet together and encourage one another and pray for each other and our families. I’m not sure where I’d be if it weren’t for the influence of these godly men. But I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be preaching. Thanks, guys. Looking forward to this afternoon.

 Peace,

Allan

Sacred Space, Last Part

99 Days of Football, Cowboys, Texas Rangers, Worship 4 Comments »

Allow me to comment on a couple of your comments, attempt to sum up my thoughts at this point, and then get to some Rangers and Cowboys:

I’m sure Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple, not because they were making change, but because they were ripping people off. They were using their position to exploit the position of others and taking advantage of those who had no recourse and no way to defend themselves. However, having said that, Jesus goes on to quote the prophets when he declares that his house should be a house of prayer.

This whole thing with sacred space doesn’t have to be about money. It just has to be about recognizing things that are sacred and working to keep them that way, recognizing what worship space is for and what it’s not for. Of course, Christ’s Lordship claims all of creation. All things are sacred to Christ. God’s work through Jesus is to redeem all things back to him. And so we don’t just need to concentrate on the physical parts of our church buildings. Even more, we must apply those same principles to our daily and hourly lives.

There is a genuine tension here, not unlike the tensions we find throughout our Holy Scriptures. The Kingdom of God has come and the Kingdom of God is coming. We’re adopted as children of God and we’re groaning as we await our adoption as God’s children. We’re in the world and separate from the world. That “right now and not yet” tension is not unlike this question of sacred space.

My great friend Jim Gardner contributes this insightful gem in an email:

“What is undeniable to me is that people, created in God’s image, are the apex of God’s noble purpose and, as such, communities of faith that are serious about their calling should place their investment into causes that advance the reign of God in the hearts of people. That more often happens in the 165 hours each week we are away from the facility than it does in the three hours we inhabit the facility.”

True.

In the temple courts and house to house. Both. There’s a Scriptural description of both.

Last thing and most important thing: let’s just recognize and be aware that basketball goals and big screens and chairs and walls and paint color are not neutral. It all communicates something. Everything communicates something. Those things may communicate different things to different people depending on their experiences. But all things communicate ideas and shape perspectives and provoke expectations. Nothing’s completely neutral.

Here’s the bottom line. you wouldn’t use a gold-plated tray for BOTH communion and for spitting out your wad of chew. You wouldn’t use the font for BOTH baptisms and hot tub parties. And you wouldn’t use our worship space BOTH for praising God and for screening “Godfather.” We recognize that those lines are there. And we also understand that different people will draw their lines at different places for different things. We just need to be aware that, indeed, those lines do exist. And those things need to be thought through and talked about by church leaders, not ignored. We shouldn’t behave as if it doesn’t matter.

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30-3It was 14-3 when Whitney and I left for a quick bite at Whataburger before Bible class last night. It was 23-3 when Bible class began. And then we got home and learned that the Rangers had defeated the O’s 30-3. A modern Major League record. An all-time American League mark. And it immediately got me thinking: how many games this year will the Cowboys score 30 points? What’s the over-under on that? I’d put it at two. And I’d take the under. Along those same lines, the folks in Baltimore were thinking the same kinds of things. The NFL Ravens, who play across the street from the Orioles, haven’t given up 30 points in a game since the 12th week of 2005. It was funny watching the highlights last night as even the Baltimore fans were cheering for Texas as the score climbed into the upper 20s. As long as we’re getting scorched, we may as well break a record! It’s like cheering for the losing team with a no-hitter on the line in the 8th. At some point you find yourself rooting for the opponent just for a chance to see history.

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I was watching an interview with Cowboys coach Wade Phillips last week. And he was asked, as he is almost every day, what he expected out of his team this year. Record-wise. He replied, “I just want to get the best out of the players we have.” He went on to explain that they could have a losing mark this year and, if his players all played up to their maximum levels of expectation, they would still consider it a successful season.

If his players all met the highest expectations, the coach still doesn’t know if they would have a winning or a losing season? It sounds like the coach doesn’t know what he has. Or maybe he’s just overly downplaying things on purpose to manage expectations.

New Cowboys Defensive Coordinator Brian Stewart was also asked last week what it takes to be a great defense. And Stewart said it takes three things: no injuries, players playing up to their potential, and luck. According to his criteria, he and the coaches and players have little or no control over two-thirds of what it takes to be great. Now, are they just managing expectations or are they setting themselves up for later when this team stinks?

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JohnElwayThere are just seven more days until football season. One week from tonight we’ll have eleven college football games, some of them on TV, including the nightcap highlight SEC tilt from Starkville where Mississippi State hosts LSU. Seven more days until the games that count. And the greatest football player to ever wear #7 is John Elway.

At Stanford, Elway never went to a bowl game and lost more games than he won. Although he did hit .321 for the Cardinal baseball team. But he wound up in the College Football Hall of Fame. And that can only be based on the fact he’s the winningest quarterback in NFL history. Which is weak. But, whatever.

Elway was the Colts top pick and the number one draft pick overall in 1983. But he refused to play in Baltimore and wound up in Denver where he played 234 games in 16 years and led the Broncos to six AFC Championship Games, five Super Bowls, and two Super Bowl wins. He went to the Pro Bowl nine times. He was the NFL MVP in 1987 and the Super Bowl MVP in ’99. He’s the only QB in history to pass for 3,000 yards and run for 200 in seven consecutive seasons. He passed for over 51,000 total career yards with 300 TDs and ran for another 3,407 with 33 rushing touchdowns. Elway’s actually the 5th leading rusher in Broncos history. And he could lead a comeback. 47 times Elway took the Broncos on a game-winning or game-tying drive in the fourth quarter or overtime. 46 of those times were against the Cleveland Browns. Or at least it seems that way. Of course, detractors would say he wouldn’t need all those comebacks if he didn’t get his team so far behind at the start. The man did throw 226 career interceptions.

I prefer the old AFL style Orange Crush uniforms seen here and here over the current look seen here and here. And the cheesy look seen here.

Morton Anderson gets an honorable mention. But Elway’s the best ever #7.

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I’m sick of the forced banter between Dale Hansen and new Channel 8 weatherman Pete Delkus. I’ve been watching WFAA TV since before I can remember. But last night I turned it off. For those two to talk about their sex lives and make fun of each other’s sex lives and joke about Viagra and who can and who can’t and then drag the other two news anchors into it is just too much. It’s juvenile, sophomoric, and completely inappropriate. How do they keep any news credibility or legitimacy about them? It’s embarrassing.

I think I’m switching to Fox 4. Possibly 11.

Peace,

Allan

Sacred Space Part Two

99 Days of Football, Cowboys, Worship 4 Comments »

I don’t want to throw Jason under the bus but…..

Just kidding. Your comments on the question of sacred space are all wonderful and they all represent deep thought and experience and reflection. Even mom chimed in. Excellent.

Let’s keep going.

I made the assumption in yesterday’s post that we all agree that disciples of Christ can meet anywhere at anytime and be in the holy presence of our God. Your comments all speak clearly to that. Wherever God’s people gather in the name of Jesus, God is there and it is sacred time and space. As my mother so perfectly and directly put it, there are holy places. But they’re made holy by the presence of God and the attitudes of those gathered. And that can happen at any place at any time. Agreed.

But there is something of a tension in most of your comments that reflects the tension I feel: where we meet our God as a church body every week is just a place; at the same time, it’s certainly not just a place.

Let’s keep in mind that no space, no place, no nothing, is neutral. Everything communicates something to everybody. A kitchen table communicates something. A tent in the woods communicates something different. A park bench, a construction site, a convenience store, an art gallery, and a library are all different. A gymnasium, a European cathedral, a shopping mall, and a school cafeteria each communicates something and facilitates a distinct set of feelings and emotions and even expectations in, I would say, almost 100% of everybody. If we go back through our lives, as Jason did, and recall several different worship settings we’ve experienced, I think we’d find, not surprisingly, that the setting did have at least a little bit to do with what happened there.

And, as Jeff points out, that setting should encourage and facilitate worship. Chris uses TicketLingo — that demon can come out only by prayer — to correctly observe that the setting gets us in the right frame of mind to do what God has called us to that setting to do.

So it’s not just a space.

Married couples are told all the time by professionals not to argue in the bedroom. If you’re arguing or fighting about something, never do it while you’re in bed. Go argue out in the garage or somewhere else. The bedroom is for intimacy and nurturing and love and feelings of security and unconditional acceptance and complete surrender to each other. To argue in the bedroom is to destroy the sanctity of the setting. The dynamic of the room is changed. The signals are mixed. The message of the space is conflicted. And we all try to adhere to that advice because it’s true. (I’ve joked a couple of times that it’s difficult to read the Word and pray with the church staff in the conference room on Monday mornings after a three hour elders meeting in there the day before.)

So what do we do with that space where we come together every Lord’s Day as followers of Christ to give worship to our God? And how important is it to make sure it’s set apart, separated, made holy, declared sacred? Does it matter? Jason talks about the magnificent cathedrals in Europe. There are several in Israel, built during the Middle Ages, that completely take my breath away. A group of about 30 of us stood right in the center of St. Anne’s cathedral at the Pool of Bethesda in January and sang “How Great Thou Art” and then marveled the rest of the day about the goosebumps. But most of those cathedrals have one thing in common today. They’re all empty.

When I was a teenager I worked for a roofing contractor who was also one of our deacons at Pleasant Grove. And we spent a couple of weeks one summer replacing stained ceiling tiles in the auditorium. We had moved out all of the pews and had forty foot scaffolding erected from front to back. Drop cloths everywhere. Dirt and debris everywhere. Loud construction workers with loud tools everywhere. And one morning after Ladies Bible Class, one of the women in the church yelled at me because I had placed my Gatorade bottle on the Communion Table. She was visibly upset with me and chastised me for not showing respect to God or the people of the church.

I never understood that. In fact I was angry about that. And up until just a couple of years ago I was arrogant about that. This poor old lady is whacked! She doesn’t have a clue! Where has she been? It’s just a table!

Or is it?

Does the furniture and the art (or the lack thereof) and the architecture and the arrangement of the chairs and the style of the doors and the height of the ceiling have anything to do with our moods and our mindset and our view of our God and each other and what we’re doing and why we’re doing it when we worship?

You know it does.

Walk a seven year old boy into Carr Chapel. And then walk him into the McDonald’s down the street.

I remember back in 1996 my broadcasting partner and I drove to Abilene to watch the Six-Man Football State Championship Game. We weren’t calling the game. We were just there to watch. The press box was arranged so that we had to go through the stands to get to our seats inside. I was visiting with folks down on the field before the game and found myself walking through the bleachers, up towards the press box, during the singing of the National Anthem. About halfway up, I felt someone grab my arm and a voice behind me said, “Freeze!” An older gentleman — a complete stranger, I’d never seen this guy before in my life — looked at me and then pointed to the flag above the scoreboard in the south end zone. I stood there until the song was finished and then told the man I was sorry. My bad. He winked at me and said it was OK.

We all stand at attention for the Star Spangled Banner. Or at least we used to. And yet I can’t read a passage from the Holy Word of God during a call to worship without dozens of people walking around and talking. If I stood there and waited for everyone to be still and attentive to the Word of our God before I started reading, it would never get read. Is that a byproduct of our space? Is it a big part of the problem or a small part? Does it matter or does it not matter that two or three hours after we’ve used our screens to project the sacred words of sacred Scripture and sacred songs that speak to the love and sacrifice of our Holy God we use that exact same screen to project an NFL football game with all of its worldly images that exalt and glorify sex and violence and and money and greed and power? Isn’t that like a man and wife arguing in the bedroom? I think it matters.

Mason Scott made us sit in silence for a full minute before he led us in prayer Sunday night. And I think it went a LONG way toward helping us, as a body, prepare for that prayer. I know it’s not just the space.

There are other factors, cultural and environmental factors, that have led to all the eating and drinking and texting and walking around during worship. But our worship space does play a role.

“Lex orandi, lex credendi.” The way we worship is the way we believe.

One last thing regarding my good friend Paul’s comments and then I’m done. For now. And I’m extremely interested in your continuing thoughts on this. 

In our faith tradition — and maybe in others, I don’t know — there have always been concerns about the amounts of money and time devoted to just one particular space and place that’s only going to be used once a week. And so, in our tradition especially, our worship spaces are characterized by “bare walls, bare pews, and a picture of the Jordan River over the baptistry” as Dr. Allan McNicol puts it. I, for one, don’t share those concerns. Paul, you see the idea of sacred sanctuaries and devoted space as a man-made tradition. I look at the Holy of Holies and see that our God commanded his people to spend amazing amounts of money and time and energy to build the most elaborately decorated and beautiful room to house a luxurious throne to represent his presence among his people. And that room was only used once a year. And it was only used by one person on that one day. Millions of God’s people never stepped foot inside that room. But it represented something powerful to that community and to the rest of the world.

As for worshiping in spirit and truth, isn’t a vital part of that recognizing that the space in which we worship either helps us or hinders us and doing what we can to make it right? There’s a vital relationship between the internal and the external, a relationship honored by the very act of God’s Incarnation. Christian worship is the internal experience of salvation in Jesus being expressed externally. “Spirit” isn’t just our insides. It’s all of us. That’s how you define “spirit.” Jesus Christ is Lord over all. And he demands our all. He claims everything. The apostle Paul makes that clear in Romans 12: the spiritual part of worship involves our bodies, it involves our all. It involves our heads and our hearts, our insides and our outsides, our bodies and our buildings.

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TroyAikmanEight more days. Troy Aikman. Left UCLA as third highest rated QB in NCAA history with a 20-4 record. #1 pick of Cowboys in ’89. 0-11 as a starter his rookie season. 12 year career, all in Dallas. 3-time Super Bowl champ. MVP of Super Bowl XXVII. Six NFC East titles. Six Pro Bowls. Winningest QB of any decade in NFL history with 90 wins in the ’90s. Obviously received a personality transplant upon his retirement as evidenced by his excellent analysis on Fox. Henrietta Hen in high school. Ray Guy and Steve Young are honorable mention.

Peace,

Allan