Friday, February 26, 2010

Tournament Basketball

One of my pet peeves is the officiating we see during tournament time. Whether it is hockey during the Stanley Cup, the NBA playoffs, or March Madness, it is madening to me to see how the officiating changes during a tournament.

I was watching a high school girls tournament basketball game this week and the change in the way the game is officated was obvious. Fouls which were called during the 20 game regular season were ignored, bumping and physical play were more prevalent, and the players were allowed to "play".

It is understood that this type of officiating takes place at all levels. Referees don't want to "take the game out of the hands of the players", and so, referees will be hestitant to call a foul, thinking that they don't want to be accused of deciding an outcome of a contest or changing a game.

Let's say, for the sake of arguement, that this is true. Let the players play, don't call as many fouls, swallow the whistle, so that the players decide the outcome in the tournament. Then what are we to make of the other 20 games the players have played in the regular season? Are not these games important, escpecially when it comes to deciding league championships and determining seeding in the tournament? Shouldn't the same standards apply in officiating then as now? Why not let the players play during the regular season? Don't take the game of their hands and allow them to decide the outcome in the regular season as well as the tournament?

You see, there is the rub. Officiating plays a part in EVERY GAME. It always has and always will. So why not call the game in the same way in the regular season AND in the tournament? The game is the same, the rules are the same, the players are USED to playing a certain way and for the game to be called a certain way during the regular season. Shouldn't they expect the same for the tournament? I maintain that IT IS UNFAIR FOR THE PLAYERS to have games officiated differently.

My proposal? Be consistant. Call the game the same way both in the regular season AND during the tournament. It is the same game, same rules, shouldn't they be applied equally? Isn't that what is expected of an official?

Just be consistant. The refs have a difficult job as it is, why not allow them to call the game the same way throughout the regular season and post season? In the end, that would be best for the officials, coaches, fans, and most of all, the players.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Olympic Hockey

My favorite sport in the Winter Olympics is ice hockey.  Men's Ice Hockey, to be specific.  The action is fast, the hitting is hard, and the games are glorious.  The games are capitivating, as stars for each country plays for national and international glory and pride.  What the NHL needs to do is to somehow, someway, figure out how to bring the excitement of Olympic hockey to the NHL night in and night out.  Many games in the NHL are, sad to say, slow, plodding, and boring.  Oh, I still watch because I like hockey.  But for the masses to embrace the NHL, the NHL will need to find a way to bring the Olympic style of hockey to the masses, night in and night out.

You Can Be Forgiven!


ROMANS 10:8b-14

The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? [1] And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

In the name of Jesus:

When the mail arrived at our house this past Tuesday, Luann got this letter, which states on the envelope:” You’ve been pre-forgiven, open to find out how.” My first thought was, how nice, my wife is pre forgiven, which means that she is forgiven of a wrong even before she does something wrong. I was so happy for her, that I immediately ran the envelope to her so that she could open it. And then I looked for mine. After all, if she is pre forgiven, shouldn’t I be? After all, I am a minister, I am in the forgiving business, so if Luann would be pre forgiven, I would be as well. But I looked and looked, but couldn’t find an envelope with my name on it. Perhaps it was an oversight. So I looked at the mail the next day, no pre forgiveness for me. And none on Thursday as well. Here it is Sunday and I have not received a pre forgiveness notification!

Luann is such a gracious person, she allowed me to open her mail so that I could find more out about this pre forgiveness. Upon further inspection, the pre forgiveness comes with buying the insurance of the company that sent the letter. A phone number is listed so that Luann (not me) could call for a quote. So the bottom line is that you have to buy pre forgiveness. You have to do something to get it. It isn’t free, and no one is just going to give it to you.

The question which has plagued humanity is: “How can I get right with God?” It is a question asked by those who are in the prime of life and those who are facing death. People talk about getting right with their Maker when one lays on the death bed. All throughout life people are attempting to become justified before God.

It goes back to the Garden of Eden. There Adam and Eve tried to justify their actions before God. It wasn’t my fault, said both of them, it was someone else’s fault that caused me to disobey You, God. It was the serpent You made, Lord, it was the woman You gave me, God, that caused me to do what was evil in Your sight. What Adam and Eve said was essentially “I am blameless, justified in my actions, so go find fault with someone else.”

Mankind seeks justification for one’s own thoughts, words, and deeds. God speaks in Leviticus and states: “Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live.” And so, mankind in its wisdom seeks to keep God’s laws and even tries to fool itself into believing that it has keep God’s Law when it hasn’t. The Bible is consistent and teaches that one may get eternal life if he or she can keep the Law. This is the way of becoming right with God, by one’s own behavior. This is what Paul calls in our text the righteousness of the Law, a righteousness that comes from one’s own efforts and endeavors. This is the becoming right with God that Jesus speaks about in Luke 10:28, when He speaks to the rich young man and says: “You have answered correctly, do this and you will live.”

But this won’t work. It can’t and won’t work. Why? Because it is the wrong righteousness. Paul says that he wants the Jews to be saved, that is his desire. But they have the wrong righteousness because their relationship with God is based on what they do or can do. The Bible says that there is a way which seems right to man and that way ends in death. To seek our own relationship with God on our own terms ends in our own death, and ultimately, eternal separation from God which is eternal death and damnation. To seek God on our own terms, our own efforts or self justifications denies the justification that God gives in Jesus, for God’s righteousness only comes in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has brought an end to the delusion that the righteousness of the Law can save man.

Why has Jesus ended the delusion? Because God gives to all access to Him in Jesus. This right standing with God comes not from man, but from heaven. God the Father brought this all about by sending His Son from heaven, to live rightly before God and man, and to die rightly in God’s sight on the cross. To prove that God has made all things right in Jesus, God raised His Son Jesus from the dead on Easter morn.

Jesus gives you this right relationship with the Father in His Word. God doesn’t say in His Word: Do this and live with Me, because that is impossible, it can’t be done. So what God says in His Word is that all is done. Jesus spoke from the cross: It is finished. Nothing else needs to be done for everything has been accomplished. Man can not nor does he need to discover it, man can not nor does he need to devise it, it has been done. Jesus, God’s only Son has done it and He alone gives it in His Word. This divine work is proclaimed to you in and through the Word of God. It is proclaimed in the Word and given in the Word.

In Baptism God has given this to you. In His Word He tells it to you. In the Supper He shares it with you. You are God’s child. You are forgiven. You have been made right with God in Christ. You have been saved by grace through faith in Christ, and this is not of your own doing. This is a divine work, a Godly gift to you all on account of Jesus.

By faith you receive this gift. Faith takes God at His Word. Faith receives the gift the God gives. Faith trusts that Word of God saying: Yes, this is mine, because God has made it so and because God says so. God says that in Christ you are cleared of your guilt. It is so. God says that in Christ you are forgiven, it is so. God says that in Christ you are saved, it is so. God says that you are His child and will live with Him now and forever, it is so because God says it and makes it a reality in Jesus.

This faith is a living an active faith. It proves itself as sincere as you confess with your mouth your faith in Jesus. It shows itself in its life as you seek to live your life to God’s glory because of what God gives in Jesus. NO ONE WHO IS A DISICPLE OF JESUS IS A SILENT DISCIPLE. NO ONE WHO HAS THE LORD JESUS HAS HIS LORD REMAINS A SILENT SERVANT OF HIS LORD, BUT SERVES HIS MASTER IN WHAT HE SAYS AND WHAT HE DOES. God has forgiven us in Christ, and this fact permeates all that we say and do.

In a Danish village there was a Lutheran Church where each Sunday the people would walk into the church by way of the center aisle. At the front of the church, there was a break between the pews and a blank white wall. Every Sunday, the people of that church would walk down the center aisle to the front of the church and genuflect at the blank wall. A man visiting the church did not understand what the people were doing; when he asked them they said that they had always done this. Upon further investigation, he learned that hundreds of years before there had been a painting of the Virgin Mary on that wall. At the time of the Protestant Reformation when the church became Lutheran they had painted over the display of the Virgin Mary. Since the people had always bowed before the Virgin Mary, they just kept on bowing even though there was nothing there. There are many people in church who simply go through the routine Sunday after Sunday. They know all the prayers by heart and could go through the entire service without ever opening the hymnal. For some that is all it has ever been. They do it because they have always done it that way before. But God wants to move beyond the routine. He wants the gospel to become so real that we confess with our own lips that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. God wants his love to be routine no longer but to be very real in our lives.


I Am Baptized!


ROMANS 6:1-10

6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self [1] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free [2] from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God

In the name of Jesus:

Tiger Woods has been in the news lately, because of his marital unfaithfulness. He made news of a different sort last Sunday on the Fox News Channel. Brit Hume, a retired news anchor, was asked while serving on a panel of experts, what the biggest sports story might be for the year 2010. Hume responded:

"Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer. Whether he can recover as a person I think is a very open question, and it's a tragic situation for him. I think he's lost his family, it's not clear to me if he'll be able to have a relationship with his children, but the Tiger Woods that emerges once the news value dies out of this scandal -- the extent to which he can recover -- seems to me to depend on his faith. He's said to be a Buddhist; I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So my message to Tiger would be, 'Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.'"

This response caused an uproar, a news anchor calling on a “star” to turn Jesus Christ in faith. Hume was asked the next day about those comments and he went on to further explain:

“And my sense about Tiger is that he needs something that Christianity, especially provides and gives and offers. And that is redemption and forgiveness. And I was – I was really meaning to say in those comments yesterday more about Christianity than I was about anything else. I mentioned the Buddhism only because his mother is a Buddhist and he has apparently said that he is a Buddhist. I'm not sure how seriously he practices that. But I think – I think that the – Jesus Christ offers Tiger Woods something that Tiger Woods badly needs.”

Hume was right in his call to Tiger Woods to repent and believe in Christ. Hume caught a lot of flack for those comments, some are even calling on Hume to resign. But Hume said something else that was right on, later, in his interview, something, that I believe, is just as important. Hume said:

“It has always been a puzzling thing to me. The Bible even speaks of it, that, you know, you speak the name, "Jesus Christ," and I don't – and I don't mean to make a pun here, but all hell breaks loose. And – and it has always been thus. It is explosive.”

Let me repeat that: Speak the name Jesus Christ and all hell breaks loose. Think about that. Christ has broken the shackles and power of Hell. We live in a world which is on a fast track to Hell. Humanity is conceived in sin. The Old Adam is something that everyone is born with. A person’s entire being is enslaved to sin. We are controlled by sin. Everyone is controlled by sin. By nature the sinner rejects God and His wisdom and help. By nature, the sinful soul is on the road to death and Hell. The Bible says that the soul that sins will most certainly die. Death is the ultimate pay off for sin. Look at it this way, if there was no sin, there would be no death. Everyone dies because EVERYONE IS A SINNER. No one can escape this fact. We may try to ignore it, postpone it, but we cannot deny it. Mankind is lost and condemned because of sin.

Is it any wonder, then, why people try to blow up airplanes in mid air? How can a person think like that? When we understand the doctrine of sin, we can understand it well, for every human being is corrupt to the very core of his or her being. We can shake our head in amazement and astonishment at the destructive nature of people today, but when we understand the fall of humanity from God’s grace, well, these news events and cases of the depravity of man only goes to prove that the Bible is absolutely correct.

Brit Hume should not be surprised at the animosity he receives over his comments of this past week, for natural man doesn’t know the things of God. And we are all in this sinful state, from the moment we are conceived until the time we die. Each of us are in bondage to sin and deserve Hell and damnation.

And yet, Hume is right when he says that all hell breaks loose at the name of Jesus Christ. But, how do we receive this power over sin, death, and Hell? We receive it by grace, as a gift. We can’t earn nor do we deserve it, because of our sinful state. It is given to us as a gift of God in Jesus Christ, in the waters of our Baptism.

The secular world looks at Baptism the very same way that the comments of Brit Hume are looked at: with scorn and distain. But Baptism is not just plain water. It is God’s word combined with simple water, given with and under the command of God Himself: “Go and make disciples of all people baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” This Sacred washing, called Baptism, brings all of God’s gifts to the sinner, for it works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and brings salvation to all who believe, for God says in His Word that whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. It isn’t just the water that does this, but it is God’s Word in and with the water which does this, along with faith which comes from Baptism itself. Listen to what God says about Baptism in Titus chapter 3:

“he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is trustworthy,’

God has done this, it is a work of His mercy, showered upon us in our Baptism, all on account of His Son Jesus Christ. You have new life, you have new hope, you have forgiveness of your sins, you have God’s mercy and grace, you have eternal salvation on account of Jesus’ birth in a manger, His Baptism, His innocent life, His suffering, and His death, all so that you can become God’s child in Jesus Christ.

This new life has been given in your Baptism. Your relationship with God, the almighty God of heaven and earth, has been given to you in your Baptism. God has moved heaven and earth in Jesus’ life and death, to give you new life in Baptism. God has drowned your sinful self in your Baptism so that by God’s power and Spirit a new person emerges, rises from the death of your self, so that you might live for God in the life you now have.

And what an opportunity this is! To live out your Baptismal calling is your greatest privilege. God has poured out His gifts to you in your Baptism, He literally gives victory to you over sin, Satan, and death, hell is literally replaced with heaven for you, so that the life you now live you live for God. Martin Luther explained that the Christian life is nothing less than living out your Baptism. That being the case, we have to keep at it as Christians, always and daily repenting of our sins so as to drown the Old Adam, so that a new person comes forth to live by the power of God in Jesus Christ.

Make no mistake about it: living the Christian life is difficult. Satan is alive and well and seeking to destroy God’s kingdom and His people. The Christian life is not a life marked by victorious living and success, as some in our culture would explain it. Rather, the Christian life is one marked by carrying one’s cross. Jesus says to take up the cross and daily follow Him. In the face of sin, death, temptation, and struggle, we need to remember our Baptism and what God continues to do for us in our Baptism. Luther said: “ we must regard Baptism and put it to use in such a way that we may say: 'But I am baptized! And if I have been baptized, I have the promise that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body'. . . . No greater jewel, therefore, can adorn our body and soul than Baptism, for through it we become completely holy and blessed, which no other kind of life and work on earth can acquire."

A new year brings with it hopes and dreams, but in reality, it will be filled with temptations and struggles. How can we live for Christ in these struggles and difficulties? We do so by remembering our Baptism. When struggles and trials come your way, say I am baptized, for in Baptism has given to you and continues to give to you what you really need: the blessings of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen