Monday, September 16, 2013



I still like a morning paper.  After years of travel and more than one stay in a hotel, I have found USA TODAY to be my paper of choice.  But I have a confession to make.  After scanning the articles on the front page and perhaps following the lead article to the second, I quickly turn to Section C.  If you read USA TODAY, you know that's the sports section.  

I can spend quite a long time pouring over those pages, especially during baseball season.  I even read the columns--such as that of Christine Brennan.  I love the statistics and the human interest stories found there.

And then I turn to ... the Suduko puzzle.

I almost never watch network or even cable news anymore--unless there is a major event or a major storm that I am watching unfold.  I still love to watch Jim Cantrell bending in the wind ocean-side during a hurricane's arrival.

But the news, I just don't get that excited anymore.  Maybe it's the incredible bias of most news organizations, who seem more about presenting a political position that honest, unbiased news reporting.  I mean,the  Al Jazeera TV news channel on American cable television? What part of "beat up on the West" don't you see?

News cycles come and go -- sometimes taking something small and manufacturing it into a life-threatening crisis.  Would Mylie Cryus really have been such a big deal if we just ignored her foolish adolescent self-promotion?

Do I sound shallow?  Or naive?  Or just weary of the manufacturing of "news" that often ignores the true values needed by humanity and makes human imperfection a punishable offense.

Just reflecting today. Maybe this wasn't worth your time to read this.  But then, you can always delete this blog from your newsfeed.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


The Tigers' Fan
A number of my friends have entered the blogosphere as of late and others have been at it for a while. Let me share some quick looks at some great thinkers-Steve

From Dan Masshardt  CHOOSE TODAY

Reflections on Job: Bad Things Happen to Bad People?

I’ve been preaching through the Old Testament book of Job for the past couple of months (not done yet!).  It’s not quite like any other book in the Bible and I believe it’s been neglected a bit in our churches.

When was the last time you heard a sermon – or a series – from the book of Job?  Sunday School?
I’m planning to do several posts exploring some of the themes and challenges from the book of Job over the next few weeks.

One application that I’ve been encouraging for our congregation is to think through what you believe (your theology).  Most people don’t adequately think through the implications of their beliefs.  This applies to many of us, whether we’d claim to believe in God or not.

You Get What You Deserve!
One belief that shows up often in many forms is the idea that you get what you deserve.

“What goes around, comes around”
“You reap what you sow”

It’s quite true that our words, actions and habits do have consequences – good and bad.  This idea is supported through the Bible; you can see it clearly in the proverbs as well as scattered other passages throughout the Bible.  It’s also just common sense and you don’t need much faith to see that it is true.
The problem comes when this idea is taken to a theological level.  We can see it represented in Eastern thought in the form of Karma, a word that this used often.

In the context of the book of Job, the idea that was commonly held by both Job and his ‘friends’ was that if bad things are happening to you, you must have sinned someone to cause them.    Some call this idea the Retribution Principle.

You get what you deserve.

In the midst of Job’s great suffering (lost his wealth, much of his family, and his health), his friends are often encouraging him to repent of his sin (assuming that he has sinned to deserve this.
“if you put away that sin that’s in your hand…then…” (11:13)

One of the boldest claims comes from one of the ‘friends’ named Bildad.  If you aren’t familiar with the story, Job’s (grown) children are tragically killed.

Bildad says, “When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.” (Job 8:4)

Ouch.  Bildad assumes that because they tragically lost their lives, they must have sinned BIG.
Another friend, Eliphaz, asks, “Who, being innocent, has ever perished?” (4:7)

Tragic car accident?   Well, he must have really sinned.
Cancer?  Yup, time to repent.  You must have messed up.

Wow.  It’s pretty scary that some people would think this way – even today.

The irony in the book of Job is that we – the readers – know something that neither Job nor any of his friends know.

We know how God feels about Job.

“Then the Lord said to the satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (1:8)

In the story, God is giving Job his highest regard.  He’s the man!
That’s why so much of the theological assumption throughout the book is ironic.
Everybody thinks they have their theology nailed down.
And we know that they’re wrong.
Is it time for us to think more deeply through some of our beliefs?

From Steve Oberman's new blog OBIE: 

“Someone Hike the Ball!” 

 I love football! This game has so many aspects to get excited about. There is challenge and impossibility; there is exhilaration and agony; victory and defeat. This is a game of chess being played on a board of grass. It’s a game in which you line up eleven players against eleven players then take an odd shaped ball and devise a strategy to move that ball to a six point reward, while the other side plans your demise by stopping you or taking the ball away from you. To some, it’s a game that makes no sense. To others, who like challenge and conquering and striving for a prize, it makes perfect sense.

 I wish I could still play; to don the gear and run out on the field and give it my all, one more time. However, at fifty-six, I may have a lot of heart and desire; but the sad reality is that my body won’t do what my heart wants it to. So I spend some of my time teaching the game I love to a new generation.

 I can relate just about anything I do to the game of football. A lot of the life skills that I now possess are related to experiences on the football field. In fact, sharing Jesus with others can be related to this game. For example, the zeal and enthusiasm for football should be focused into my love for the Lord. This is where true victory and joy is found.

 When Jesus found me, I was saved. I knew there was “nothing” that could compare with being forgiven and knowing that I have the Lord Jesus in my heart. He did it “all” for me. That is worth getting excited about!

 Jesus told us to make disciples of all nations baptizing them in His name. That means we have to tell others about Jesus. I can’t say that I have always been good at sharing the good news of salvation. In fact, there have been times that I have not been confident; that I have avoided doing it; and to be plain honest, I was a chicken. Can you relate?

 As I look at our task of telling the world about Jesus, or as we call it in the “church world”, evangelism or more accurately “making disciples.” I draw from my favorite sport of football, to talk about my favorite person, “Jesus”.

Everything that we do in making disciples can be related to football. In this game, we take a funny shaped ball and we try to score points to win the game. In making disciples, we take a peculiar message of redemption and we strive to win hearts for Jesus.

 To play the game, we have to have a strategy; a game plan. A team must practice and move as one body, each position doing its part in order to succeed. When you coach kids, there are certain positions that no one wants to play. For instance, the offensive line; no one wants to be a center or a guard. These positions aren’t very glamorous; you’re always at the bottom of the pile; you’re always bleeding and muddy and you have to be the first to stick your nose in. It’s ironic that most people want to be a quarterback or a running back. They want the ball so they can score. However, nothing can start unless someone hikes the ball. We can have running backs and receivers and quarterbacks who are the greatest the game has ever known and they will never get to show their stuff unless someone hikes the ball. That ball can’t move unless someone will be the center.

 Making disciples has the same consequence. Instead of a ball, we have something more precious, we have the greatest news for everyone who will hear. Jesus Christ can take away our sin and forgive us and give us eternal life. All we have to do is receive the message. The church, just like that team, has to move as one unit so the message can be received. Jesus prayed for unity. We are a body, and as such, each person must do his part for the body to work properly. The football team has a job; to score. The Body of Christ has a job; to win everyone we can to the saving message of Christ.

 The problem is this; just like that ball lying on the football field with no one to hike it, the message of Jesus Christ is in our church and in our heart and may not be moving. One of the major problems is this; just like all those kids who want to play every position except center, the body of Christ can have people who will do everything except take the message forward to those who need it.

 The late Dallas Cowboy’s coach, Tom Landry said, “The job of a coach is to get players to do what they don’t want to do so they can achieve what they’ve always wanted to achieve.”

 A pastor’s job is to equip his flock to share the greatest message, a task that the flock is not always confident with, so we can win a great harvest for Jesus, something that we all want to do.

My old high school coach told us that great looking uniforms and cool behavior will not win games. The same is true for the church, we can be as fancy as we want but glamour and glitz will not win souls. In football, some times you have to run the ball up into the heart of the defense. It’s a “no frills play,” it’s hard; it’s straight forward. In the command to make disciples, we simply have to take the message and share it with others.

 I posted a sign in the locker room that says “Out of shape, unprepared, soundly defeated.” Even the simplest plays require preparation and practice. This is true for the believer’s task as well. We have to be confident in the message of Christ. We have to be prepared to share or the result in most cases will be a failure.

 I don’t believe that the church is refusing to take the “good news” forward. I believe the problem is that we’re not confident. We will do anything “in” the church except share the good news “outside” the church.

 This is not because we don’t want to, but most likely it’s simply a position we won’t play because it’s not comfortable. We want the ball and we want to be where the excitement is. However, unless someone hikes the ball and has the courage to take the message forward, nothing will move and nothing will change.

 There are two penalties in football that drive all coaches crazy, they are; “holding and delay of game.” These two penalties can stop scoring opportunities and can lead to defeat.

 In the believer’s faith walk we can “hold” onto things that we should not. We can grab hold of the comfortable and refuse to venture out into new areas. We can hold onto our opinions and never step out in faith. We can delay the game by simply dragging our feet and stalling or doing nothing at all.

Football is exciting! Its fun…. it’s a game. Jesus Christ saved me when I was lost; he took away all of my sin. My Lord did what no one else could. He gave His life for me. That’s real and that’s exciting and I know so many people who are just like I was; lost and bound for Hell (a Christ-less eternity). Jesus can change all of that. It’s time to take that peculiar message of salvation and move towards the goal. I pray we can all catch the vision of sharing the Greatest News about our Lord.

Monday, September 2, 2013



I have been on vacation and by intention, I generally restrict such times to baseball news and not national.  And to be honest, I try to stay away from the endless political dramas that so often dominate each day's news cycle.

When I started on vacation, Egypt occupied much of the attention on the airwaves.  Now it is Syria.  And the news is that our government has evidence that President Assad's government in Syria has used the deadly chemical sarin in its attacks upon the people in opposition to its power.  (If you are behind in all of this, this link from the BBC seems to me the most unbiased and accurate reporting on this issue as of Sunday.)

To be honest, I am also concerned when any nation's government uses chemical weapons on anyone--friend or foe alike. There is ample evidence of the brutality of the current Syrian regime to give credence to these reports.

The President is waiting until Congress reconvenes the week of September 9th to get their support of any military action against Syria.  People in other nations are declaring this to be a "failure of leadership."  It may be more a "confusion in leadership."

I am confused, for example, by our government's threat of withdrawal of support from the Egyptian military, who by all reports that I receive, acted to stop a "popularly" elected President who was in the process of turning his nation into a dictatorship of the Brotherhood, a Muslim power group that does not enjoy popular support in that nation and who is clearly anti-American, anti-democracy in its positions.  We have taken no action when thousands of Egyptian Christians have been killed, their homes and churches burned, and forced from villages they have lived in in peaceful coexistence with their Muslim neighbors for centuries.  This does not seem to be a "human rights" issue that even rises to the level of a protest by our nation and our perceived bullying on behalf of the other side is earning us enemies in that land that have been our friends for much of our nation's briefer existence.

Is there no coherent policy that takes a pragmatic and moral position on the Middle East.  Do we not understand that the constant swinging of the pendulum of foreign policy undermines our national interest and erodes our moral leadership?

And what price do these policies exact from the body politic of our nation?  What cost is paid in the lives of Americans who deeply love and defend liberty?  Maybe it's time for a national discussion about these questions instead of all the time we spend things like marriage policies and gun control and Miley Cyrus' adolescent stupidity.

If you want to read more about the Syrian situation, I found this very helpful from The Washington Post.