Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chris Spielman's Message To College Athletes

Photo Credit: RidePelotonia
It may be true that Chris Spielman is an Ohio State Buckeye at heart but the former NFL All-Pro Bowl linebacker also holds a special place in the hearts of many Michiganders due to his years with the Detroit Lions. Spielman, who is currently an analyst for ESPN, recently weighed in on the discussion of whether student-athletes should be paid for their services.

Here is what Spielman had to say:
"I wouldn't mind a stipend for players. If the Big Ten wants to add a stipend … fine. But here's what I would say to any player:

"OK, you're struggling with money. How about this. How about you rent an apartment with four guys, to cut down on your living expenses. How about not getting the latest, greatest smart phone. How about not downloading 100 dollars or 50 dollars worth of iTunes. How about going to a discount retailer and getting a coat and a tie and wearing that every week. How about not driving a (nice) car; get a used beater for a thousand bucks.

"How about doing things the right way. How about sharing rides. Let's do that instead of thinking that you're owed something.

"See my problem is we live — and we've got to be careful as parents — in a very narcissistic society because everybody believes they're owed something. Because we have Facebook and all these social networks and everybody thinks they're a freaking star: Let's post pictures online so everyone can see my great accomplishments.

"So until we get guys to realize it's not about them, it's about the team … And it's OK to suffer a little bit financially while you're in school, and you're going to be better for it. Then kids will make better decisions.

"But don't whine to me about money when you're getting free money already (scholarship, living expenses). We'll give you a little extra. But, hey, sacrifice on the clothes, the cars, the electronic toys. And maybe go without a PlayStation or an Xbox for a while, too. See how that works."
Some wise words from someone that has walked down the path that today's athletes currently journey.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why Physical Books Are Important In The Internet Age

Photo Credit: moriza
From Johann Hari:
"In the age of the internet, physical paper books are a technology we need more, not less. In the 1950s, the novelist Herman Hesse wrote: "The more the need for entertainment and mainstream education can be met by new inventions, the more the book will recover its dignity and authority. We have not yet quite reached the point where young competitors, such as radio, cinema, etc, have taken over the functions from the book it can't afford to lose."

We have now reached that point. And here's the function that the book – the paper book that doesn't beep or flash or link or let you watch a thousand videos all at once – does for you that nothing else will. It gives you the capacity for deep, linear concentration. As Ulin puts it: "Reading is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction.... It requires us to pace ourselves. It returns us to a reckoning with time. In the midst of a book, we have no choice but to be patient, to take each thing in its moment, to let the narrative prevail. We regain the world by withdrawing from it just a little, by stepping back from the noise."

A book has a different relationship to time than a TV show or a Facebook update. It says that something was worth taking from the endless torrent of data and laying down on an object that will still look the same a hundred years from now. The French writer Jean-Phillipe De Tonnac says "the true function of books is to safeguard the things that forgetfulness constantly threatens to destroy." It's precisely because it is not immediate – because it doesn't know what happened five minutes ago in Kazakhstan, or in Charlie Sheen's apartment – that the book matters.

That's why we need books, and why I believe they will survive. Because most humans have a desire to engage in deep thought and deep concentration. Those muscles are necessary for deep feeling and deep engagement. Most humans don't just want mental snacks forever; they also want meals."
To read Hari's complete article entitled, "How to Survive the Age of Distraction", please click here.

(h/t to Tim Challies)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Is BET The New KKK?

Photo Credit: Georgetown Voice
I haven't had cable television for a number of years, so it's been quite awhile since I've been a regular viewer of Black Entertainment Television (BET). But if the comments that I've read this morning about last night's BET Awards are any indication, the popular network has continued its downward spiral of disappointing entertainment offerings.

Dr. Boyce Watkins, a professor at Syracuse University, offers his commentary on the negative influence of BET on young black youth:
"...I consider myself to be a Hip-Hop insider, and I simply hate the idea of being labeled as a hater. But as a father and Black man who has seen too much death and devastation in my family and so many others, I had to say that “enough is enough,” leading me to candidly discuss my decision to walk away from certain styles of Hip-Hop music.

BET, the media company that targets Black consumers, but is ultimately controlled by a predominantly white organization called Viacom, is not exactly on the same page when it comes to their assessment of Lil Wayne or any other artist (i.e. R. Kelly) who can be directly linked to the holocaust occurring within Black America today. Given that models of profit maximization rarely call for any assessment of the negative externalities that result from unethical corporate behavior, the executive committee for the BET Awards made the interesting decision to give the greatest number of award nominations to Lil Wayne, the man who said that he would (among other things) love to turn a woman out, murder her and send her dead body back to her boyfriend. Oh yea, he also said that he would kill little babies, have sex with every girl in the world, carry a gun on his hip and “leave a ni**a’s brains on the street.”

It might be almost feasible to overlook the “kill little babies comment” were it not for the innocent three-year old boy who was shot in the head by a 21-year old Black male in my hometown just a couple of weeks ago – these atrocities are all too common in quite a few neighborhoods across America. Also, the music might be considered simple entertainment were it not for the fact that millions of Black youth who had their history stolen during slavery actually look to Hip-Hop music to tell them how to dress, talk, think, act and live. There is no high school speaker more popular than a Hip-Hop star.

The Ku Klux Klan has been regularly criticized for encouraging violence against African Americans and terrorizing our community. But the truth is that the Klan doesn’t have much power anymore, and their thirst for African American blood seems to have waned a bit. At the same time, Lil Wayne and artists like him have made a habit of encouraging Black men to shoot one another, to abuse or murder women, to consume suicidal amounts of drugs and alcohol and to engage in irresponsible, deadly sexual behavior.

As a result, Black men are the most likely to die of gun violence, mass incarceration continues to decimate Black families, drug addiction and possession ruins Black lives in droves, and HIV is the leading killer of Black women. So, the truth is that Lil Wayne-like artists and the corporate armies producing this weaponized genocide have killed more Black people than the KKK ever could. So, by accelerating, financing and supporting the “Lil Wayne gospel” to a community that is already dying, BET has effectively positioned itself as a new and improved version of the KKK."
To read the rest of Dr. Watkins thoughts on BET, please click here.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

College Student Saves a Life

Photo Credit:
Danous Estenor may seem like an ordinary student athlete. Even though Estenor does play football for the University of South Florida, what he did recently was anything but ordinary... even for the average Division 1 lineman. tells the story:
"God, bring an angel to my side," prayed the desperate, screaming wife as she struggled to lift a car off of her husband’s chest. "Help me!"

In the parking lot of the Bull's Den Cafe near the University of South Florida, tow truck driver Pedro Arzola, 34, was pinned under the right front tire of a 1990 Cadillac Seville owned by Chris Merrick, a cook at the restaurant.

When preparing to tow the broken-down vehicle to a repair shop, Arzola remembers in a bit of a blur that the car somehow lurched forward, knocking him down.

It dragged him about 10 feet, one tire pinning his chest.

His wife, Maria Uribe, was napping in the cab of her husband’s truck when it lurched and she suddenly heard shouting.

It was "like a horror movie," she told the Tampa Times.

She leaped out and futilely began trying to help Merrick and dishwasher Marcus Baker lift the car off of her husband. She screamed for help. They couldn’t lift the 3,500-pound Cadillac.

Maria says she called out to God for what "in Spanish, we say, 'milagro.'" A miracle. She desperately needed a miracle. "There was a lot of blood," Maria told the Times.

College student Danous Estenor pulled into the restaurant parking lot. He was hungry, he remembers, but for some unknown had an extra urgency that evening to go to the cafe. He shrugs, unable to explain it.

In the parking lot, the communications major heard Maria screaming for help.

"I could just see his legs," remembers Estenor, 21, the son of immigrants from Haiti. "The car is crushing him. He's not moving. I'm thinking, 'Oh, God, this guy is going to die.'"
To read what happened next, please click here.

Remember, we never know how God might work through us until we step out in faith and trust Him to do the seemingly impossible.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

How The Gospel Shapes The Christian's View On Immigration

Photo Credit: Brian Auer
From Russell Moore:
"The Christian response to immigrant communities in the United States cannot be “You kids get off of my lawn” in Spanish. While evangelicals, like other Americans, might disagree on the political specifics of achieving a just and compassionate immigration policy, our rhetoric must be informed by more than politics, but instead by gospel and mission.

I’m amazed when I hear evangelical Christians speak of undocumented immigrants in this country with disdain as “those people” who are “draining our health care and welfare resources.” It’s horrifying to hear those identified with the gospel speak, whatever their position on the issues, with mean-spirited disdain for the immigrants themselves.

This is a gospel issue. First of all, our Lord Jesus himself was a so-called “illegal immigrant.” Fleeing, like many of those in our country right now, a brutal political situation, our Lord’s parents sojourned with him in Egypt (Matt. 2:113-23). Jesus, who lived out his life for us, spent his childhood years in a foreign land away from his relatives among people speaking a different language with strange customs.

In so doing, our Lord Jesus was re-living the life of Israel, our ancestors in the faith, who were also immigrants and sojourners in Egypt (Exod. 1:1-14; 1 Chron. 16:19; Acts 7:6). It is this reality, the Bible tells us, that is to ground our response to those who sojourn among us (Exod. 22:21; Ps. 94:6; Jer.7:6; Ezek. 22:29; Zech. 7:10). God, the Bible says, “executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:18-19).

This is much more than a “political” issue, abstracted from our salvation. Jesus tells us that our response to the most vulnerable among us is a response to Jesus Himself (Matt. 25:40). God will judge those who exploit workers and mistreat the poor. No matter how invisible they seem to us now, God hears (Isa. 3:15; Amos 4:1; Jas.5:4)."
To read Dr. Moore's complete post please click here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

What Fatherhood Means To Me

On a recent "date" with my kids
"It is much easier to become a father than to be one." ~ Kent Nerburn

I realize that I am one of the fortunate ones. In a society filled with boys and girls who grew up with an absent or distant father, I was raised by a dad that was (and is) loving, supportive and one of my biggest cheerleaders. I shudder to think what I would have become had I not been blessed with the father that I have. He's a U.S. Marine with a tender heart. A fitting combination that makes for a great dad.

In my years of experience in ministering to young people, I've encountered countless numbers of young men and women that didn't have the type of dad that I have. There are those who have never met their father. Or who had a dad that worked such long hours that he made little time for his family. Or those who were verbally, emotionally and sexually abused by their father. And then there are those that lost their dad to sickness, accident or some other misfortune at a young age.

Whatever the case may be, there are untold numbers of children and adults who are nursing daddy wounds. Men that don't know what responsibility is because it was never modeled for them by their dads. Women that go to bed with any guy that shows them the least bit attention because they are longing for a man's love that they never received from their father. In a culture filled with anguish, addiction and broken lives, too much of our heartbreak comes as the result of men that chose not to or were not able to properly father their children.

Our society often tells us that fathers are dispensable much like an added feature on a new car.  Sure, it might be nice to have but you'll be fine without it.  But I've counseled way too many people with deep emotional and psychological issues that likely could have been prevented had their dad loved and supported them as he could or should have.  Having an involved, responsible and caring father doesn't guarantee success in life, but it sure doesn't hurt.

Fatherhood is hard work and no one says it is easy.  A dad needs to provide for his children.  A dad needs to protect his children.  A dad needs to play with this children.  A dad needs to pray for his children.  A dad needs to know when to say "yes" and when to say "no."  It's a tough job but somebody has to do it.

Being an involved dad is part of being a responsible adult and, for those of us that are believers in Christ, it is one of our primary callings in life.  As a minister of the gospel, my most important ministry is to my wife and children.  If I fail there, does the rest of it really matter?  (See I Timothy 5:7-8.) That does not mean all of us will have perfect marriages or perfect children.  But those of us who are fathers need to ask ourselves if we are being the men has called us to be and that we trust Him with how everything turns out.

I love being a dad.  I love spending time with each of my four children and I'm grateful that God has blessed my wife and I with them.  I can't imagine life without them.  I love seeing them grow and develop and look forward to the people they will become.  But I also realize that I am merely a steward of them.  They are really God's children to do as He wishes with them.

My children will eventually grow into adulthood and will live the lives they choose to live.  I don't know who they will ultimately become but I trust that they will love God and love their neighbor well.  And I hope that when they are my age and have their own children that they will feel the same way about me that I feel about my dad.  That would be alright with me. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

U.S. Colleges Adapt As Numbers Of International Students Rise

Photo Credit: Matt Cline
According to Open Doors 2010, there are now nearly 700,000 foreign born university students studying in the United States. Included in this number is a rapidly growing number of Chinese students, who now comprise more than 18% of the international student population. Because of this increase in students coming from outside of the U.S., colleges must adapt in order to meet the needs of these students.

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:
"The foreign students on American college campuses today are not those of generations past.

They are younger, as undergraduate numbers surge. They are from more countries than ever and yet likelier to be from a single country, China. Many have the means to pay for an American college degree—more than 60 percent say their family foots the tuition bill—but a growing share are studying on scholarships sponsored by foreign governments. They are the product of a burgeoning middle class in places like Shanghai and Seoul, Delhi and Taipei, as studying abroad becomes less the exclusive privilege of well-traveled, well-heeled elites.

This changing profile presents challenges both academic and cultural to colleges across the United States. International-student offices are dealing with issues as varied as plagiarism, poor language skills, country-specific cliques, and cultural taboos against counseling. They are being called on to provide sex education to sheltered undergrads, to respond to religious conservatives unsettled by opposite-gender instructors, and to contend with helicopter parents a dozen time zones away.

"It's a culture shock not just for the students," says Ivor Emmanuel, director of the international office at the University of California at Berkeley, "but for the campus."

As a consequence, many colleges are taking a closer look at their foreign-student services, re-imagining and recasting them to be more responsive to this new breed of student's academic, social, and emotional needs. Colleges are rethinking orientation for international students, sometimes stretching it into a semester-long introductory course in American college culture. They are making use of social media, so students can begin their adjustment before they even leave their home countries, and enlisting upperclassmen from overseas and study-abroad veterans to serve as peer mentors. They are hiring counselors with specific cultural or linguistic expertise. And they are reaching out to faculty members, to better prepare them to work with pupils whose previous classroom experience is fundamentally foreign."
You can read the complete article here.

(h/t to Trae Vacek for the article link)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The "God Gap" Of American Politics

Photo Credit: tsmyther
From Christianity Today:
"Political scientists often refer to a "God Gap" in American politics, noting the tendency for religious people to be more conservative and vote Republican while those who are less observant lean left and prefer the Democratic Party. "If I know whether you say grace before meals every day, I can probably predict how you vote," Notre Dame political scientist David Campbell recently told Los Angeles Times columnist Doyle McManus.

New research suggests there are actually two God Gaps. For some Christians, being more religious makes them more conservative on social issues. For others, going to church, praying, and doing other religious activities actually makes them more liberal on social justice issues.

Previous polls have shown the God Gap has been limited to social issues, issues that focus on individual morality. People who are more religious tend to hold more conservative positions on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, but there was no God Gap on issues like welfare, health care, or other social justice policies.

A new study finds the difference between these two types of Christians is what they think it means to be a "good Christian." For some, being a good Christian might mean greater pietism, a focus on eliminating individual sins. As these kinds of Christians become more religious, they become more conservative on issues like abortion and gay rights. For others, being a good Christian means reaching out and helping one's neighbor. These Christians take more liberal positions on social justice issues as they become more observant."
According to the words of Christ, being a "good Christian" involves both issues of personal morality and how we treat others (e.g. see The Sermon on the Mount). It's sad that it often feels like American Christians are expected to prioritize one or the other when we engage in the political process.

You can read the complete Christianity Today article here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Heart Behind Why Powerful Men Sin

Photo Credit: Tony the Misfit
With a number of political figures recently in the news for their sexual misbehavior, there has been an increased dialogue around the reasons behind why those with so much to lose have a difficult time controlling their sexual urges.

Both Time Magazine and The New York Times weigh in on this issue:

From Time:
"By now social commentators have the explanations on auto-save: We know that powerful men can be powerfully reckless, particularly when, like [Dominique Strauss-Kahn], they stand at the brink of their grandest achievement. They tend to be risk takers or at least assess risk differently — as do narcissists who come to believe that ordinary rules don't apply. They are often surrounded by enablers with a personal or political interest in protecting them to the point of covering up their follies, indiscretions and crimes. A study set to be published in Psychological Science found that the higher men — or women — rose in a business hierarchy, the more likely they were to consider or commit adultery. With power comes both opportunity and confidence, the authors argue, and with confidence comes a sense of sexual entitlement. If fame and power make sex more constantly available, the evolutionary biologists explain, it may weaken the mechanisms of self-restraint and erode the layers of socialization that we impose on teenage boys and hope they eventually internalize.

"When men have more opportunity, they tend to act on that opportunity," says psychologist Mark Held, a private practitioner in the Denver area who specializes in male sexuality and the problems of overachievers. "The challenge becomes developing ways to control the impulses so you don't get yourself into self-defeating situations."

Nature matters, but so does nurture. Members of royal families are born into a world of indulgence and entitlement, and the princelings who grow up that way may never have to develop any discipline. Athletes often start life at the opposite end of the wealth-and-prestige spectrum, but as soon as they exhibit an unusual talent for swinging a bat or sinking a free throw, often early in adolescence, they may become a kind of local royalty and find that the rules have been suspended for them. They are waved through school and into the pros, and bad behavior is overlooked or covered up. Any skills they may have been developing for self-control or self-denial quickly deteriorate."
From The New York Times on the difference between men and women who are politicians:
"Research points to a substantial gender gap in the way women and men approach running for office. Women have different reasons for running, are more reluctant to do so and, because there are so few of them in politics, are acutely aware of the scrutiny they draw — all of which seems to lead to differences in the way they handle their jobs once elected.

"The shorthand of it is that women run for office to do something, and men run for office to be somebody," said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. "Women run because there is some public issue that they care about, some change they want to make, some issue that is a priority for them, and men tend to run for office because they see this as a career path."

Studies show that women are less likely to run for office; it is more difficult to recruit them, even when they have the same professional and educational qualifications as men. Men who run for office tend to look at people already elected "and say, 'I’m as good as that,'"said Jennifer Lawless, director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University here. "Women hold themselves up to this hypothetical standard no candidate has ever achieved."
So why do men in politics sin? The same reason we all do. They have a sin nature just like I do and just like you do.  When you throw in power, money and opportunity, it's not that difficult to figure out why elected officials will betray the trust of their spouses, their families, their constituents and their God for sexual gratification.  Without a heart redeemed by God's grace, we are all in danger of falling prey to the same traps as those in the public eye.

The temptations that we face today are no different than those faced by others for centuries.  The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life are still what ensnares us (see I John 2:15-17) and without consistent examination of our own hearts, we, too, will get tripped up.  The gospel of Jesus provides the spiritual heart transplant that we all need.

It is not enough to just focus on the sins we commit but we need to honestly examine the motivation behind why we do the things we do.  When we run to idols (those things that take God's rightful place in our life) for life, comfort and satisfaction, we will never discover fulfillment and will always find heartbreak.  Jesus is not simply interested in changing our behavior so that we can abide by an accepted moral code of ethics.  He wants to change our hearts in order to make us into new people with new desires and a new purpose in life.  Changed behavior may lead to temporal acceptance but a new heart will lead to a changed destiny.

Friday, June 10, 2011

What A Computer Keyboard Teaches Us About Resistance To Change

Photo Credit: Diorama Sky
Computers have become an essential part of our lives. From creating documents to paying bills to connecting with friends online, the personal computer has entrenched itself into the everyday lives of billions of people across the globe.

But it hasn't always been this way. When I was in college, hardly any of my peers owned a personal computer. I usually walked over to the computer lab on campus when I had a paper due and, on a few occasions, used the PC of the one guy on my dorm floor who owned one. But I also frequently used my roommates typewriter. I would venture to say that most young people of day have never even seen a typewriter, much less used one.

But before the advent of the personal computer, most of us used typewriters., a website with a wealth of trivia and obscure history facts, recently offered a fascinating history of the typewriter, the creation of the "QWERTY" keyboard and why our insistence of staying with what we're used to may be hindering our progress.

Mental Floss provides the background:

On the QWERTY layout (the modern keyboard layout, based on the first six letters of the top letter row):
"Christopher Sholes was primarily responsible for QWERTY, but it took years of tinkering to arrive at the layout we know today. The first model that Sholes built mimicked a piano keyboard, with the letters placed alphabetically. By the time the machines began to be mass-produced in the 1870s, the QWERTY keyboard was almost identical to the one in front of you."
On whether there is any evidence that the QWERTY layout is the most effective
"Not a shred. In fact, all evidence points to QWERTY being terribly inefficient. The most accessible row of the keyboard is the second, or ‘home’ row. So it would make sense if the most commonly used letters in the English language were there, right? But that’s not how QWERTY rolls. About 70% of words in English can be typed with the letters DHIATENSOR, yet only 4 of those 10 letters fall on QWERTY’s home row. The letter A falls on the home row (the only vowel to do so), but it must be struck with what is for most typists the weakest finger — the left pinky."
On why an inefficient layout was created:
"To slow down fast typists. Sounds ridiculous, right? But that’s the consensus among historians. On earlier arrangements of the keys, ones where the most commonly used letters were more sensibly placed on the home row, typists could get on a real roll, even when using the hunt and peck method. The problem with that? With all the popular letters close together, the keys got jammed. The typist had to stop to un-jam them. What made that worse was that in the earliest models of the typewriter, the keys struck the back of the paper, so the typist was unable to see jams — and the resulting mistakes — until the page was removed from the machine. Slowing the typist down a bit by dispersing the most commonly used letters all over the keyboard was preferable to wasting even more time because of jammed keys."
On why the Dvorak Keyboard, a more efficient layout of the keys, isn't more broadly accepted:
"Same reason we don’t use the metric system. We embrace its inefficiency and prefer it to the pain of switching to something better. By the time the DSK was introduced in 1932, several generations of typists had been using QWERTY. It was by far the most readily available layout, and the one that was taught in most typing schools. So even after technological advances solved the key jamming issue, we kept the relic of the problem – the QWERTY keyboard."
Because we're all used to typing in a certain manner and those of us that are trained typists are comfortable with a keyboard, we are resistant to change. Even when the keyboards that many of us spend hours on each day were specifically designed to slow us down, we still go with the flow.

I can't help but make some connections between the keyboard and Christian ministry.  Like the keyboard that was created ages ago for reasons limited to its time, many methods of ministry continue in widespread use because it is what we are used to and what we've been trained in.  Whether it impacts a new generation of people is really not that important because it's what we know and we go with what we know. 

For example, there are ministries that still distribute messages on tape -- producing cassette tapes and video tapes of sermons -- for a culture that consumes digital forms of media.  There are churches that don't have a website -- when not having a website means to many seekers that you don't even exist. The resistance to new forms of communication and technology will be (and is) the death knell for untold numbers of ministries.

Sure, we can all get our work done with a QWERTY keyboard.  It may not be as efficient as other layouts but we'll eventually get what we think we want.  We're comfortable with the results.  I wonder in what ways we could do ministry differently that would feel awkward and uncomfortable at first but would lead to a greater effectiveness in the mission God has called us to.  I thank God for my peers that are willing to be the Dvoraks of the world!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Why Our Mistakes and Our Sins Are Not The Same Thing

Photo Credit: ATENCION:
It happened again this afternoon. A politician who was caught with his pants down (literally) finally fessed up to what he had done by admitting to his "mistakes." In what seems like almost a daily occurrence, a public figure gets caught in sexual immorality, financial fraud or engaging in a series of deception and lies. These are frequently referred to as "mistakes" but is there something more to these patterns of grievous behavior that often lead to the losses of jobs, marriages and reputations?

Michael Hyatt has penned an excellent post on this very topic as he defines The Difference Between a Sin and a Mistake. Hyatt comments:
"...when people refer to this kind of behavior as a mistake rather than a sin, they are either consciously or unconsciously evading responsibility.

Why? Because of the fundamental difference between the two. Many people assume they are synonymous. They are not.

The term “mistake” implies an error in judgment—something done unintentionally. For example, a legitimate mistake might be:

- Turning onto a one-way street, going the wrong way.
- Pouring salt into your coffee, thinking it was sugar.
- Mistyping a web address and ending up on a porn site.

These could all be legitimate mistakes. They happen because we get distracted or careless. But a sin is more than a mistake. It is a deliberate choice to do something you know is wrong.

The word “transgression” is even stronger. It implies deliberately stepping over a boundary. The word “trespass” is similar. It implies entering onto another person’s property without permission.

Unlike a mistake, we choose to sin. Therefore, we must accept responsibility for it—and the consequences that follow. This is the measure of maturity and marks the transition from adolescence into adulthood. It is the foundation of a civilized society." (You can read Michael Hyatt's complete post here.)
It is rare these days in our society that we discuss sin outside of a church environment (and even that seems to be not that common, either). It is an uncomfortable topic and most of us feel uneasy in making judgments about what is and is not considered sinful.

From a Christian standpoint, sin means to miss the mark of God's perfection. We can sin through thought, word or deed and we can sin intentionally or by not really caring what God thinks. As Hyatt so adeptly shared, a mistake comes by accident but a sin is birthed through deliberate choice.

When we sin (which we all do every day), we need to admit this, own up to our transgressions and change our ways. Until we fully grasp the depth of our wrongs against God and embrace the ability to grieve our own sin, it will be difficult for us see real growth in our lives. We will continue to exhibit the same negative patterns of behavior until we honestly and openly address the heart issues that caused us to do what we did in the first place.

Though we all sin, the good news is that we don't have to continue in the same behaviors that harm others, ourselves and our relationship with God. Jesus Christ came to make us free from our sin in this life and the life to come. To learn more about how your sin can be forgiven and how you can start a new life today, please click here.  If you already consider yourself to be a Christian yet continue to struggle with the same sins over and over, please click here.

Pastor Tim Keller says the gospel tells us that "we are far more wicked than we ever dared believe, yet more loved than we ever dared hope." May we all experience this reality that our sin is very real...but so is our Savior.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

One Michigan Fan's Thoughts On The Resignation of Jim Tressel

Photo Credit: WDPG share
When Jim Tressel was hired as the football coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes back in 2001 I was not happy at all with the hire. You see, I'm a lifelong Michigan fan and having lived in Ohio for several years during the John Cooper era, I was quite happy with the arrangement. Every year the Buckeyes recruited extremely talented athletes and achieved a high national ranking but somehow managed to lose to the Wolverines in late November.

It worked well for the Maize and Blue. But then Cooper was fired and Tressel was hired. I lived in northeastern Ohio at the time, not too far from Youngstown State where Tressel was the coach, so I was aware of the success that he had achieved in Youngstown. He had won multiple national championships at the I-AA level and was greatly respected in the state. Shortly after being introduced as the new coach, Coach Tressel said this to the crowd at a Buckeyes basketball game:
"I can assure you that you will be proud of your young people in the classroom, in the community, and most especially in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the football field"
I immediately thought to myself, "Oh, no. This guys 'gets it.'" Growing up in the state of Ohio as the son of a football coach and spending some time as a Buckeyes assistant helped ingrain in Tressel the importance of the Michigan rivalry. He understood it in a way that his predecessor did not and he grasped its importance in a manner that his future rival, Rich Rodriguez, did not either.

So as the wins over Michigan mounted and the major bowl game appearances became common occurrences, I'm sure the pressure for Tressel's teams to perform at an even higher level only grew.  An outspoken and respected Christian, Tressel has been quite revered within the circles I run in as a spiritual leader of high integrity and impeccable morals.  But as so many other coaches have chosen to do, he compromised his integrity in order to win football games.

I do not judge Tressel's motives for I've never walked in his shoes. I'm sure that he rationalized his behavior as attempts to protect young men that he was trying to help steer in the right direction in life. Perhaps he was being honest when he said that he was unsure of who to tell when learning of the gravity of what some of his players had been involved with. But in many ways, I think the NCAA operates like a parent. You may get in some trouble for doing something wrong but the lies to cover it up will make the punishment even worse.

So it seems to be the case with Jim Tressel. According to an expose from Sports Illustrated, Tressel's pattern of questionable conduct goes back to his days at Youngstown and even to his time as an assistant at Ohio State.  Even with that knowledge, I still tend to view Coach Tressel as a good man that made some poor decisions in a profession with daily opportunities for compromise.  But, of course, which of our occupations does not allow for frequent temptations to lie, cheat, steal or engage in other forms of dishonesty?

I am saddened that Tressel's tenure at Ohio State ended the way that it did. I'm disappointed that another Christian leader has opened himself up to charges of hypocrisy and fraud. He had multiple opportunities to tell the truth, but chose to be less than forthright and, in some cases, deceitful. But I am choosing not to make light of this situation. I look at the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry as the greatest in college athletics and I certainly have my fun with it.  But I view it in a friendly and playful manner and making fun of the current situation, in my opinion, would not be friendly.

As mentioned, Tressel once promised Buckeye fans that they would be proud of their team in the classroom, in the community and on the field. While there has been much for them to be proud of  during Jim Tressel's tenure as coach (and make no mistake about it, he has done a lot of good in a lot of people's lives), this should be a caution for all of us to be careful about placing our leaders on pedestals of perfection.  Even the best of them will fail us.

College football is a big-time business with millions of dollars on the line. But there are more important things in this life than making money and winning football games. Honesty, integrity and character still matter and these same traits can be displayed in our own lives when those we believed in have failed us.

I leave you with this quote from a former Buckeye assistant coach:
"When your team is winning, be ready to be tough, because winning can make you soft. On the other hand, when your team is losing, stick by them. Keep believing." ~ Bo Schembechler