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One of the divisive issues throughout the history of the church has been how to take communion appropriately. There are all kinds of questions about who should take communion, where communion should be taken, and even what kind of bread and juice should be used. It is unfortunate that we have been divided on what was intended to be a unifying experience for the Church and their Savior. My hope would be that Christians can take steps to unify in their worship practice, with communion as a (or even the) central component of the Church’s gathering. While we should not be divided on this issue, we do want to take Communion in a worthy manner. The Apostle Paul indicates in 1 Corinthians 11:27, that we ought to do so in respect to the central pursuit of the Gospel. With that in mind, I offer up five reasons to take communion “as often as you meet.

(1) The Command

“Do this in remembrance of me” from Luke 22:18-22 has in itself an instruction of continuance, consistency, and constance. This is something that marks us as believers, that we take communion together in remembrance of Christ, his sacrifice, and the forgiveness of sins. “As often as you meet,” shows our continual recognition that salvation is found in Christ alone, through his death, burial, and resurrection.

(2) The Connection

Jesus was also connecting this moment at the Last Supper to the Exodus from Egypt, when Israel was freed from slavery. Deuteronomy 5:15 tells the people of Israel to observe this Sabbath day, where they were freed from slavery and rescued to eventual life in the Promised Land. In this way Communion in the Church has a strong connection to Passover and Shabbat.

(3) The Passage

In 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 says to, “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” In other words, there was instruction to remember Christ together as often as we take up the cup. Paul is exhorting the Church to take the opportunity in corporate gatherings to participate in the communion of saints.

(4) The Pattern

In Acts 2:42-47, we see that the early church was practicing communion as a normative part of their Christian worship. If we think once a week is a lot, it appears that the early Christians were meeting “every day” to worship the Lord and commune with Him and one another.

(5) The Purpose

When meeting every day was not possible, Christians met weekly. Acts 20:7-12 reveals that Christians came together the first day of the week specifically “to break bread.” In other words, communion wasn’t here just an add-on, it was central to the Christian gathering. Christ has indeed freed us from our slavery to sin by his death, burial, and resurrection. As a result, this remembrance is central to the life and worship of the Lord by the Church.

May we, too, make the Lord’s Communion central to our worship gatherings, in and doing so, may we do this “as often as we meet.”

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From time to time, I will receive questions about the faith and this was one such question.
“Why doesn’t God speak to me the way that he did to others in Bible times?”
Thanks for your question! I hear you asking whether God still speaks today in the way that he spoke during the times of the Bible’s writing.
The short answer to your question is that God still speaks to anyone who would listen. God was the first voice that spoke in the universe, the first voice who said, “Let there be light.” And he has been speaking ever since. And he will continue to speak!
Note that our times are very different times than the time period in which the Bible was written and that much time passed even during the writing of the Bible. Hebrews 1 gives us a great rundown of the ways that God has spoken to us throughout history (prophets, writings, Jesus!). Here are some of those ways and others that we see in Scripture.
Throughout history, God has been speaking in several different ways:
(1) He speaks through creation – See Romans 1
(2) He speaks through His written word, the Bible – See 2 Timothy 3
(3) He speaks through His Spirit – See John 14
(4) He speaks through His Son, Jesus Christ – See Hebrews 1
(5) He speaks through others around us – See James 3
(6) He speaks through songs, music, teachings, books, etc. – See 2 Chronicles 20
(7) He speaks through angels – See Hebrews 13
(8) He speaks through visions, dreams, and prophecies – See Acts 2
Jesus, in John 10 says that His sheep hear his voice. In other words, if you are a follower of Christ, you hear his voice and learn how to hear his voice more clearly. This does not necessarily mean that you will hear him talking in the burning bush or that you will see an angel. I can tell you clearly that I do not believe that I have ever audibly heard the voice of God or that I have ever seen an angel. But, I have heard God talking throughout my life in various ways.
Have you ever seen a rainbow so beautiful that you knew there had to be a God who had created the world? Have you ever read a Scripture verse and had it speak directly and clearly to you? Have you ever had a song or piece of music move you in a way that drew you closer to the Lord? Have you ever had somebody give you encouragement and teach you something about the ways of life or the the ways of God? These are all ways in which God can and still does speak today.
And certainly, there are ways that are more “mysterious” than this. 
(1) 1 Corinthians 2:16 teaches that we “have the mind of Christ.” In other words, we can learn to think like he thinks.
(2) Luke 12:12 says that the Holy Spirit will “teach us what to say.”
(3) In John 10, Jesus says that his sheep will “hear my voice.”
(4) Romans 8:26-27 says that the Spirit will help us know what to pray.
(5) Acts 2:17 talks about the dreams, visions, and prophecies that can come from the Lord.
There are people all over the world that share stories about God’s voice, God’s leading, God’s showing up in this life still. Liz and I once had a complete stranger approach us in a sandwich shop in a different city than where we lived to ask us if we had been praying about exactly what we were praying about the night before. God is able to speak in both small and large profound manners.
So how do we hear God’s voice?
(1) The first thing is that we seek to know Him as Lord and Savior. We ask forgiveness for sins, ask for His forgiveness and salvation based on the work of Jesus on the Cross and his resurrection life, and we ask the Spirit to come into our lives. We want to be filled by the Spirit, which quickens us until life.
(2) We start putting ourselves in positions and places where we know He speaks. We know He speaks through His word and so we spend time reading the Bible. We pray and communicate with Him while doing so. We listen while we pray to see if the Spirit is guiding us in some way.
(3) We spend time with people that know His voice and hear from God. We are more likely to hear from God when we spend time with others that are doing the same thing. Ask close Christians around you about how they hear from God. Find out if there is anything that you should be listening for or hearing from their perspective/experience. Listening to testimonies from others about God’s voice is very helpful in learning to hear Him more.
(4) Ask the Spirit to talk. Tell Him that you want to see more of Him in your life and experience Him in ways that will be beneficial for your growth.
(5) We stay connected to the vine (see John 15). If we stay connected to God and his people, we have a better chance of hearing from the Lord and bearing fruit in our lives. Spend time with God, go to Church, read the Scripture, pray. Practice these kinds of spiritual disciplines and see where/how God speaks. This practice and journey is ongoing. So, don’t be discouraged if there is no “lightning moment” on the first try.
I Kings 19 tells an awesome story about how God spoke not in the ways that we may have expected, but in the still small voice. Sometimes, God speaks in the subtle small ways and we simply aren’t listening. Let’s take the opportunity to hear him in any way that He speaks and put ourselves in positions to hear Him wherever he does so. We may just be surprised with the ways that he clearly shows up and speaks even today!

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It can be an interesting thing to pastor a church.

On the one hand, you see amazing things. God is clearly at work in your congregation and He is showing His handiwork in ways that are unavoidably beautiful. On the other hand, there is consistent opposition to His work. It is certain that the devil has come to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10).

The truth is that, in Gospel ministry you will see amazing things, but it will come at a cost.  Yes, God is good. And yes, life is hard. The pain that come from a tough life coupled with the opposition from the “thief” can be difficult to overcome.

But, there is good news. Sometimes this kind of opposition can be a clear sign that God’s work is in fact taking place. And, Christ Himself told us to take heart, for he has “overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Here are three things that you can do during tough times to partner with God in His good work! So, the next time that you face opposition in your life or ministry, draw clearly, draw near, and draw close!
(1) Draw clearly the picture of God’s goodness and His work. Let us clearly declare and proclaim the good work of God when we see it. There is power in testimony and praising God for the work he is doing. May we be a people who spend more time talking about the good things that God does than the difficulty that we face.
(2) Draw near to the Lord. God is already the victor, may we bring his work against the opposition/difficulty in this life. Identify that God’s good work does meet opposition with the Enemy, who wants to steal, kill, and destroy. With this, we should not fear the opposition, but in awareness of the opposition, bring God’s work on the cross and in the Spirit against the attack/difficulty (e.g. “I pray the work of Christ in this particular situation by the power of the Spirit”). James says draw near to the Lord and he will draw near to you. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. May it be so with us His body!
(3) Draw close to one another.  2 Timothy 2:23-24 warns us about what can happen in a body that is divided in the midst of conflict. Paul writes to Timothy, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” By contrast, Hebrews 10:24 invites us not to give up meeting together and instead to encourage one another all the more!
Let us bind together and encourage one another in the Lord throughout the various circumstances of life. God’s good work will continue to be done! In times of opposition, may we draw a clear picture of God’s good work, draw near to the Lord, and draw close to one another.

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(The Virgin Mary Consoles Eve by Sister Grace Remington)

When it comes to Mary, it often seems that Protestants have thrown out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Due to a fear of idolizing Mary (which most Catholics and Orthodox DO NOT do) and in an effort to keep churchgoers locked in on the birth of Jesus (which is important during a season of waiting on Him), many Protestants just gloss over the very important traits found in Mary, the mother of Jesus.

With that in mind, here are 7 Awesome Mary Traits (That All Christians Can Celebrate):

Trait 1 – She stands toe to toe with one who stands in the presence of God. (Luke 1:26-29)

Mary was awesome. Most cower in fear when an angel shows up (see Zechariah’s reaction to a similar visit from Gabriel). According to Luke, Mary was simply…perplexed. She moved straight past the shock factor of a visit from Gabriel and straight to trying to understand his message. While most men cower in the presence of an angel, Mary stood toe to toe with Gabriel.

Trait 2 – She has the Lord with her (in her) and receives His favor. (Luke 1:30-33)

Gabriel tells Mary that the Lord is with her. While Mary had not yet become pregnant with Jesus, the angel tells Mary that God is already with her. She receives favor from the Lord. This favor is unmerited and comes before Mary had done anything. God with us (Emmanuel) will soon literally be with her, as she becomes with child. But, before all of this, Mary is willing to receive and in Mary, God finds a willing vessel. This is an excellent example for the Christian. When God comes near, invite him in, and receive His favor.

Trait 3 – She doesn’t ask IF God’s Will will be done, but how. (Luke 1:34-37)

Most of us are caught still asking the question whether or not God is able to accomplish his will. Mary is not concerned whether or not God’s will is able to be done, but how it will be done. Again, contrast this with the way that Zechariah received his message from Gabriel. Mary believes already that God’s Will will be accomplished and asks not IF it will be accomplished, but how.

Trait 4 – She hears the word of the Lord and becomes obedient to it. (Luke 1:38)

Mary understands that it is not enough for the Christian to simply hear the word of the Lord. Instead, the Christian must hear the word, believe the word, and be willing to do the word (see James 1:22). The mark of the Christian is that the Christian becomes obedient to the word of God. Like Mary, we are to have Christ formed in us as we become obedient to the Word.

Trait 5 – She does not hesitate to share the word of the Lord and the work of the Spirit. (Luke 1:39-45)

If we believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths (see Romans 10:9), we will be saved. Mary wasted no time in sharing the word of the Lord and the work of the Spirit with those around her. Like Mary, we ought to boldly share the work of the Lord in our lives and be willing to give our hearts and our lips to the Lord.

Trait 6 – She proclaims God’s justice BEFORE it becomes a reality. (Luke 1:46-55)

The Magnificat (Mary’s Song) is a butt-kicking proclamation for oppression and injustice. In it, Mary proclaims that God has scattered the proud, brought down rulers, and sent away the rich empty-handed. At the same time, she proclaims that God has raised up the humble, filled the hungry with good things, and done great things for the bondslave. And, the original language uses a type of future tense as a declaration that God has already accomplished these things BEFORE they have come a reality in the world. Wow. Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection would literally upset the fallen order of things and restore salvation to humankind. Yes, in Christ’s birth, Mary consoles Eve. And like Mary, the Christian should console the world with God’s justice even in a world where it is severely lacking.

Trait 7 – She rests in God’s promised Word, knowing that it is God who accomplishes his purposes. (Luke 1:56)

The text in Luke 1:56 shows that Mary stayed for three months after this and THEN returned home. Most of us can’t wait three months for anything. Most of us would hear this word and frantically begin working towards the promises that God had just revealed. Rather, Mary rested in the promised Word that the Lord had given her, stayed three months with Elizabeth, and then returned home. After all, Isaiah 9 had prophesied in Isaiah 9 that “the zeal of the Lord” would accomplish all this. None of this is passive for Mary, but all of it rests in the promises of the Lord.

May each of us, today and this Advent season, follow Mary’s example of hearing the Word of the Lord, giving birth to Christ in our own lives, and proclaiming the work of His Spirit to a world in need of his justice!

You are not wrong to sing, “Jesus is the sweetest name I know,” even though Yahweh is. – John Piper

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Our church, Greenwood Community Church is currently going through a series of “I Am” statements from Jesus in the Gospel of John. Jesus claims, “I AM the Bread of Life,” “I AM the Gate,” “I AM the Resurrection and the Life,”I AM the Good Shepherd,” as well as others. As we go through the various claims that Jesus made, I can’t help but notice the common theme here. Jesus is not only claiming to be each of these things. Rather, He is claiming to be one with I AM. Those listening to and interacting with Jesus would be struck by the language that Jesus continued to use as he declared, “I AM.”

Many listening would have instantly thought of the Great I AM, YHWH, the God of Israel. In Exodus 3:14-15, we see an interaction between God and Moses, wherein God reveals his eternal name. The passage reads

14God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord,  the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever,
    the name you shall call me
    from generation to generation.

This is my name forever, He says! And, as John Piper points out, “No man gave Him this name.” So, in John 8:58, when Jesus Christ says that before Abraham was, “I AM,” Jesus is claiming to be God and one with the Father. He is claiming to be the one who will carry out the covenantal salvation that was promised to Abraham all those years ago.

May we remember today that there is no other name than Jesus under heaven by which we may be saved (Acts 4:12). And may we take his claim to be “I AM” seriously as we praise the sweet name of YHWH (Hallelujah)!

“We have more ‘things per person’ than any other nation in history. Closets are full, storage space is used up, and cars can’t fit into garages. Having first imprisoned us with debt. Possessions then take over our houses and occupy our time. This begins to sound like an invasion. Everything I own owns me. Why would I want more?” – Richard Swenson

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Has there ever been a time that you have felt like you have nothing to offer? To the world? To God? To yourself? This feeling is commonplace for many and has likely struck everyone at one time or another. That empty feeling. That lack of inspiration. That exhaustion. That feeling like you have nothing to offer to anyone or anything.

I heard a great talk from Cass Langton recently called “Rule the Margin” in which Cass discussed the need to create margin in our lives in order to receive and give in our lives. Cass pointed us to the Old Testament principle of farmers leaving a margin on the outside of their fields in order to be able to give to the needy in the land.

Leviticus 23:22 is a verse in which this principle is found. The verse says “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.”

Could it be that we do not have anything to offer because we are too busy gathering for ourselves? Have we exhausted all of our time gathering our entire field that we have not left room for giving to others?

In a world like today’s, it is easy to see how this could become a possibility. Social media, corporate gains, keeping up with the Jones’s, just struggling to pay bills. Our thoughts can be wholly consumed by the need to get ahead, stay afloat, or collect more.

Instead, Jonathan Parnell says:

We can put down our tools. We can close our computers. We can forbid those thoughts about that next meeting or those emails waiting for a reply or how the numbers aren’t as high as we’d like. We can stop and trust him who justifies the ungodly. We can trust that when Jesus died in our place on the cross, he died to destroy all the anxieties of our lack, to still our ceaseless striving, to hush the winds of our self-justifying labor, to irrevocably connect us to the abundance of his grace we possess by his work, not ours. We can trust the Lord of Rest who came to give us rest, and say, because of who he is: Stop making bricks — you can stop.

Is it possible that resting, creating margin, leaving the edges of our fields for the needy could actually result in having more to offer? It seems that this is at the heart of the biblical themes of sabbath, offering, collecting, and giving. May we look to our Savior, Jesus Christ, who dedicated himself to times in rest and eventually gave everything he could (even his life!) to save a dying world. May we each take inventory of the need in our lives to create margin and offer what we can to a world in need.

If only hurt people did not hurt people. But they do. To one degree or another, people always have. They are doing so at this very moment. And they are us.” – Sandra Wilson

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As I finished breakfast this morning, I heard a loud crash just to the left of me. I looked out the window and discovered that a bird had flown into window and was now sitting on the fence outside. As my daughter and I walked out, we realized that there was not only one bird, but three hawks sitting on the fences; one of them was eating some sort of small animal. We took a step outside and then we heard it, that famous hawk scream. I had never been so close to one red tailed hawk, let alone three. And sadly (this was the part my daughter was most affected by), a bunny rabbit had lost its life.

At lunchtime, I attended a panel discussion on “Race Relations and the Church,” as a part of the Citywide Worship Movement in Denver. About 60-70 pastors and Christian leaders from the Denver area gathered at Elevate Church and there was a sense that what would happen would be more than word. The panel was comprised of Elliot Sawyer, Doug Lasit, Del Phillips, Eric Garcia, Nirup Alphonse, Greg McDonald, and Dr. Raleigh Washington. They took their places and the group that had gathered begin to quiet. The ensuing conversation was beautiful…and painful.

I heard one panelist say that until all people have a place at the table, the conversation will be impossible. I heard one panelist say that the answer to the world’s problems is relationship; the relationship between people and their God, and the relationship between people and one another. I heard another panelist say that if a pastor isn’t multiethnic in his own life relationships, how can he hope that his church will be made up of multiethnic relationships. One said that if you want to see segregation in America go to a church on Sunday. One said that pastors themselves must be willing to talk about these issues from the pulpit. And yet, I heard every pastor say that God desires people from every tongue, tribe, and nation come together as one as He is one.

Nirup Alphonse suggested that the passage in James 5:1-7 contains content that is paramount for the world at this time. And so I looked it up. It says,

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.

This was one of those moments when you read Scripture and it just cuts to the core of what you see going on around you. Now, not many consider the book of James to be prophetic as its primary intention. But, look at the way James nails what is going on in our culture today. The material possessions of the rich won’t hold up in the last days. The wasted riches will witness against those who hoarded wealth. The laborers of the field, who have not been paid justly, will also cry against the rich. The rich have grown full and fat in a day of killing. A righteous man has been put to death, one which has not put up opposition. And God has seen it all.

Now, most of us read that passage and think that James is talking about someone else. The rich. That’s not me. But, this is ludicrous. Most of us that are reading this passage (online, on a computer, smartphone, or tablet) are among the wealthiest in the world. Just look at the Global Rich List sometime. Most reading this will come up in the top 1%.

As such, the message is for us. We hoard our stuff. We ignore the laborers all around us who have not been paid appropriately. And we feast while innocents are slaughtered. It’s sobering, really. The Good News is that the Lord of Sabaoth both hears and sees. And, in the end, each panelist declared the reason for their hope, Jesus Christ.

We all stood together, held hands in a circle, and prayed. It was beautiful because it was a picture of the eternal body of Christ. It was painful because it is not what we experience most days and there is much to be done.

It wasn’t until this afternoon that I connected the dots between the two major events of my day. At breakfast time, I was fascinated with the three red-tailed hawks in my backyard. They were beautiful, especially up close. But, it took my daughter’s concern for the bunny rabbit for me to recognize the pain of the situation as well. While there is nothing wrong with my enjoyment of something beautiful, it is wrong for me to ignore the simultaneous pain. My precious daughter, in that moment, was drawn to the pain of the situation that I, having been desensitized by decades of life, movies, and newsfeeds, barely noticed. Sometimes, I don’t even see the pain that exists all around me. And what is worse, sometimes I do not see how my ignorance allows the pain to continue.

But, I can choose differently.

The experiences that I had today, the people that I spent me time with, and the lesson I received from my daughter, can all contribute to different choices tomorrow. How can I walk in this life with a better awareness of the pain that exists all around me? How can I move past sentiment for those in pain and towards action for resolution? How can I be a follower of Christ who runs toward the pain instead of from it? As a voice in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, my friend Carlos Delgado asks the following questions:

How many millions of people throughout how many hundreds of years—how many voices crying out had I been taught never to hear? And how ought this Black suffering belong to my education, to my intellectual life, and finally to my actions in the world?

Lord Jesus, you, for the joy set before you, endured the cross for us. You ran towards the pain in order to bring us from death to life, from darkness to light. Teach us to better hear your voice and the voices of those who suffer around us. Give us the strength to offer our thoughts, our feelings, our actions, and our very selves to the purpose of your will be doing on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

“My prayer is that we would change the culture, our mindset, that we would arm people so that they don’t walk away from Jesus when life gets difficult, but that we arm them with a proper theology of suffering. We actually embrace it as a church because we rejoice in it. So no longer are we surprised, but we expect it, no longer do we complain when it gets difficult, but we rejoice in it, and no longer do we set our lives up so that we avoid suffering at all costs but we actually want some of it so that when Christ returns we go, ‘I am one of yours. Look at my scars; look at my life; I’ve lived the life of Christ.'” – Francis Chan

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There is a beautiful passage in Exodus 16 which describes the great love that God has for his people. YHWH has passed-over the homes of his people in Egypt, has freed them from slavery, has parted the red sea, and has brought justice to the Egyptian slave masters. The Israelites sing a song of praise for who God is and what He has done in Exodus 15 and then, just a month and a half later, there it is; grumbling in the desert.

I guess, I shouldn’t say just a month and a half later. I mean, think about it. Forty-five days in the desert? I suppose that would be enough to make most of us grumble. I’ll confess freely to times that I have grumbled when the internet is slow. Now, forty-five days in the desert. I suppose we can understand and give a little empathy to the people of Israel. They’ve been through a lot. More than what most of us have been through. And so, they grumble.

I’m fascinated by this passage for three main reasons:

(1) We have all had rival longings. I’d imagine each of us can point to a time that God was leading us on to freedom in some area, and we have had a rival longing to return to the way things have always been. Addictions, challenges, and just plain comfort. I can point to several times in my life that God was leading me in the direction of freedom and I turned back because it was just easier. Such is the nature of our rival longings. We long for freedom, but long for comfort at the same time. And sometimes, as one pastor said, “We prefer the slavery we know to the freedom we don’t know.” Exodus 16 points to the freedom that God longs to bring in our lives, even in the midst of the desert.

(2) Desert experiences become desert opportunities. At the heart of the Exodus 16 passage is the message that God can use the desert experiences of our lives in order to build our faith and draw us closer to Him. In other words, our desert experiences become desert opportunities. While our tendency is to hide when things get tough, God invites us, as He invited the Israelites, to draw near. It is precisely these times that God uses the difficulty to cause our growth and reveal His glory.

(3) We all have a testimony of what God has done in the desert. As God provided the people of Israel with quail in the evening and manna in the morning, he continues to provide the Bread of Life for his people today. The instruction was for the people to take a jar of manna and keep it in the ark of the testimony for future generations. Generations later, the author of the book of Hebrews notes the faithfulness of God throughout history to provide the way of life for His people. Jesus, who said he was the very Bread of Life has come to be the lasting source of salvation for the world. Just as future generations of Israelites pointed to the desert as a time that they drew near to God, so we can provide a testimony of what God has done the desert opportunities of our lives.

John Piper says, “It is free. Christ died in our place. He rose again from the dead. He lived a life of perfect righteousness. He stands freely available to everyone who will have him and stop working for him and start eating the bread of heaven and finding him to be more precious. Fall in love with him. Fall in love with him now. You need to love him now, know him now, Trust him now. My task on this planet is to eat the bread of heaven and be satisfied and overflow for others.” Whether you are currently in the desert or on the other side, may our satisfaction be ever found in Jesus, the eternal Bread of Life. God can use the desert experiences of our lives to build our faith and give us a closer walk with the Bread of Life.

“If there’s a God, He’s laughing at us and our football team.” – Ben Folds

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Steph Curry and the Good News

The good news is that Steph Curry knows the Good News. The regular season MVP of the NBA is clear about professing “the Man who died for our sins on the cross.” He has been outspoken about his faith in Jesus Christ throughout his career, but he admits he is “not a guy who’s going to be trying to bash people over the head with the Bible. Instead, Curry hopes to live a life of faith across the categories of his life, whether on the court or off, whether winning or losing games. Curry plainly claims, “I know I have a place in Heaven waiting for me because of Him, and that’s something no earthly prize or trophy could ever top.” That kind of foundation of faith is good news indeed, as Curry and his Golden State Warriors have just endured one of the most heartbreaking losses in NBA Finals history at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

A foundation of faith like Curry’s has invited a variety of reactions from the sports world. This has been the case for decades, from Eric Lidell (the Olympian who refused to run on Sundays) to Tim Tebow (who was roundly ridiculed for his outward expressions of faith on the field). Sports fandom has been divided on this issue, with one side even praying for healing for Steph Curry amid the physical challenges and limitations that he has had this season. Others have rejected the idea of God’s involvement in sports, such as Aaron Rodgers saying in 2015, “I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome. He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.”

Joy and Lament in the NBA Finals

This leads us to the 2016, where occasions for joy and lament abounded in the NBA Finals. The sheer number of grown men crying on the basketball court Sunday night was a sight to behold in itself. And, as LeBron James screamed, “Cleveland! This is for you!” it was clear that the whole spectrum of emotions was on full display at Oracle Arena.

But did God have anything to do with it? Did The Babylon Bee’s fictionalized story of LeBron James praying an imprecatory Psalm against Curry actually work?

First Century Christians clearly believed that Jesus was involved in every part of their lives. In other words, Christians weren’t given the right to follow Christ in one activity and compartmentalize him another. And so Paul professed, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28, NIV) And he added, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24, NIV). And this is what Curry knows to be true: the eternal prize of Jesus Christ is of far greater worth than any of the trophies and titles that the world has to give. In that sense, Curry is right, as he is reported to have said, that he doesn’t pray to God for whether or not he will win or lose, but that God would use the situation that Steph is in for God’s glory. Now, that is a Biblical understanding of God’s involvement in sports!

The truth is that sports (like any other endeavor in life) is full of both joy and lament. It is a human past-time with the full spectrum of human emotion. You don’t have to look any further than J.R. Smith’s post-Game 7  press conference to see that! And, in that full range of emotion, there is an opportunity for God to use both joy and lament in a liturgy that shapes our souls. Steve Kerr understood this point, as he faced the Warriors after their Game 7 loss.

Kerr said, “You know, we’ve had so many moments of joy together, and it was like, wow, we’re actually having a moment of sorrow as a team. It’s a great reminder that, first of all, it’s not easy to win a championship. But, as I said, it’s life. Things happen. You move on.” And so we say “Congratulations” to Steph Curry, who knows (despite what The Babylon Bee claimed) that he can, in fact “do all things” (Philippians 4:13, NIV) through Christ after having learned the “secret of being content in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:12, NIV).

Everyday Liturgies

Such is the task that faces each of us, as we move on through the liturgies of our everyday lives. Merriam-Webster defines “liturgy” as a “fixed set of ceremonies.” This has typically been used to describe what happens in church. However, in You are What You Love, James K.A. Smith discusses the various liturgies we go through on a daily basis. Smith writes, “The point of looking at culture through a liturgical lens is to jolt us into a new recognition of who we are and where we are. This means we need to read the practices that surround us. We have to learn to exegete the rituals we’re immersed in.” In other words, the events of each day have an opportunity to shape us as human beings and as followers of Jesus Christ. And this opportunity for growth occurs whether we are in joy or lament, whether we have won or lost, and whether God is a Cleveland Cavaliers fan or not.