Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Are Short-Term Mission Trips A Thing Of The Past?

Photo Credit: jeremy.wilburn
Do short-term mission trips really make the difference that we may think they do? Darren Carlson offers a challenging perspective on whether our good intentions end up resulting in what we had hoped for. He says this:
"I have seen with my own eyes or know of houses in Latin America that have been painted 20 times by 20 different short-term teams; fake orphanages in Uganda erected to get Westerners to give money; internet centers in India whose primary purpose is to ask Westerners for money; children in African countries purposefully mutilated by their parents so they would solicit sympathy while they beg; a New England-style church built by a Western team in Cameroon that is never used except when the team comes to visit; and slums filled with big-screen TVs and cell phone towers. 
I have seen or know of teams of grandmothers who go to African countries and hold baby orphans for a week every year but don't send a dime to help them otherwise; teams who build houses that never get used; teams that bring the best vacation Bible school material for evangelism when the national church can never bring people back to church unless they have the expensive Western material; teams that lead evangelistic crusades claiming commitments to Christ topping 5,000 every year in the same location with the same people attending."
As one that has participated on a number of short-term missions teams, I do believe that these ministry opportunities can have lasting value. I've also experienced the other side as one that has received short-term missionaries into an unfamiliar ministry environment for them. I've dealt firsthand with the challenges of seeking to accommodate these well-meaning but inexperienced missionaries while also trying not to push away the people that will remain long after the missionaries return home.

In order for short-term mission trips to have the type of impact that most of us hope for, it is important for us to examine our motives and intentions in taking part in such endeavors. Before participating in a short-term mission trip, we would do well to ask ourselves several questions. These questions could include the following:
1. Is this trip about me or about the people I'm supposedly going to serve? Do I project the posture of a tourist or that of a servant? 
2. Has our team already identified the needs of those we'll be serving without first talking to leaders in that community? Or have we sought their input on what will be most helpful for them? 
3. Is our team contributing to an unhealthy dependence on outside resources when the ability to generate those resources might already exist among those we'll be serving? 
4. Will we be eating the foods they eat, living in similar housing and respecting their customs and culture? Or will we refuse to identify with them while carrying a "superior" attitude? 
5. Do we acknowledge that there are things that the people we'll be meeting have things to teach us and that they can be a blessing to us even as we hope to be a blessing to them?
It is true that short-term mission trips can be unhelpful in some circumstances. But that doesn't have to be the case. When we approach others with a humble and teachable heart in which we are willing to serve and not be served, then we are helping to lay the groundwork for a positive experience for both short-term missionaries and those to whom they will be ministering.

To read the rest of Darren Carlson's eye-opening post on the Gospel Coalition blog please click here.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Terrell Owens' Sad Post-NFL Life

Photo Credit: moodsofnorway
It wasn't that long ago that Terrell Owens was an NFL superstar making millions of dollars a year. But appears that those days are now over. His life out of the spotlight gives some insight on the realities of life for professional athletes.

Grantland tells his story:
"People forget that I'm a human being, just because I play a sport that everybody loves," he says. "We're human. We're not invincible. We share the same feelings and emotions that people on the outside feel. I don't think people really understand that."
Then, unprovoked, he brings up the suicide of Junior Seau.
"You think about some of the things that Junior Seau was going through," he says. "You never know what a person is going through, regardless of how much money they make or however great a life you think they're living. You just really never know."
There are already incidents with pills and hospitals in his past. He knows people worry about him going out the same way. He knows others root for it.
"Everything that I've gone through since the end of 2010, from me finding out about my financial adviser stealing, mismanaging my money — that affected everything, from child support, mortgages, to me having to sell my properties, me being in and out of court trying to modify my child support. It's just everything. It's a lot to deal with at one time. My grandmother passing. Going through a relationship with my ex-girlfriend, Kari. All those things. I swear, I felt like I was just standing there and I had a firing squad going at me."
He's tense. As he speaks, he's looking at the synthetic green turf of the soccer field. He's not the only person to contemplate suicide, he says. "Again, if I'm saying what a lot of people have thought or think, why am I wrong for saying it? When I say, who hasn't probably thought of that? Am I wrong for saying somebody has thought about, Is it worth living? Just because I'm a figure and I say sometimes what people are thinking, that's not wrong. I'm not less of a person or a mental case because I say that."
This has felt like the longest year of his life. From the outside, it looks like the most consistent heel in modern sports is finally meeting his fate. But to the man, it feels like the Fates are testing everything he knows about life. He says he's been struggling lately.
"A lot of emotional stress that people go through, some people figure out a way to handle it," he says. "They have a strong enough support system to keep going and keep moving forward. And some people, they feel like they don't have that outlet. Some people are too prideful to go out and reach out to people to help them in that situation because it's just such a dark time."
T.O. is no different than the rest of us. Though blessed with tremendous athletic ability and a work ethic that few of us can touch, he still has a void in his life that can't be filled through fame, fortune or females. I pray that he will find a real relationship with God before it's too late.

To read the rest of the lengthy Grantland piece on T.O's post-NFL life please click here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Who Would You Put On Your All-Time Greatest NBA Roster?

Though it seems hard to believe, it has been well over twenty-two years since the 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball team known as "The Dream Team" first played together. Comprised of professional basketball players from the U.S. for the first time and loaded with future Hall of Famers, the Dream Team trounced each of their opponents while easily winning the gold medal.

With an NBAtv documentary and a book by Jack McCallum telling the story of the '92 squad, there has been much debate about whether another team could ever be assembled that could surpass the '92 U.S. Olympic basketball team.

Although it's always difficult to compare players from different eras since they never had a chance to compete against one another, it is fun to speculate on who the greatest to play the game have been. If I could have an all-time, top-12 NBA roster, I would go with the following players (with mention of their championships won, individual honors and career averages):

  • Michael Jordan (6x NBA Champion, 5x MVP, 14x All-Star, 30 pts, 6 rbs, 5 assts/game)
  • Magic Johnson (5x NBA Champion, 3x MVP, 12x All-Star, 20 pts, 7 rbs, 11 assts/game)
  • Oscar Robertson (1x NBA Champion, 1x MVP, 12x All-Star, 26 pts, 8 rbs, 10 assts/game)
  • Kobe Bryant (5x NBA Champion, 1x MVP, 16x All-Star, 25 pts, 5 rbs, 5 assts/game)
  • Jerry West (1x NBA Champion, 14x All-Star, 27 pts, 6 rbs, 7 assts/game)
  • Larry Bird (3x NBA Champion, 3x MVP, 12x All-Star, 24 pts, 6 rbs, 10 assts/game)
  • Tim Duncan (5x NBA Champion, 2x MVP, 14x All-Star, 20 pts, 11 rbs/game)
  • Julius Erving (3x NBA/ABA Champion, 4x MVP, 16x All-Star, 24 pts, 9 rbs/game)
  • LeBron James (2x NBA Champion, 4x MVP, 10x All-Star, 28 pts, 7 rbs, 7 assts/game)
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (6x NBA Champion, 6x MVP, 19x All-Star, 25 pts, 11 rbs/game)
  • Bill Russell (11x NBA Champion, 5x MVP, 12x All-Star, 15 pts, 23 rbs, 4 assts/game)
  • Wilt Chamberlain (2x NBA Champion, 4x MVP, 13x All-Star, 30 pts, 23 rbs, 4 assts/game)
If I had to go with a starting five, I'd pick Magic at the point, Jordan at shooting guard, Dr. J at small forward, Tim Duncan at power forward and Kareem as my center. Between the five of them, there are a total of 20 MVP awards and 25 titles. That would be a tough starting five to beat.

So those are my picks. Who would you place on your greatest team?

For an informative and often humorous look at who some former NBA players would pick on their all-time team, check out this video from 2011 where the NBA on TNT crew makes their selections:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tim Keller On Understanding Old Testament Law

Photo Credit: Brett Jordan
In this post, Pastor Tim Keller offers a good perspective on how we can best understand the Old Testament as it pertains to moral law, human sexuality and its relationship to the New Testament. In viewing the Bible  as a consistent story, the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament begin to become more clear in light of what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross.

Understanding this helps to explain why Christians are not necessarily being inconsistent when certain laws of the Old Testament are followed and others are not.

A highlight:
"Once you grant the main premise of the Bible—about the surpassing significance of Christ and his salvation—then all the various parts of the Bible make sense. Because of Christ, the ceremonial law is repealed. Because of Christ the church is no longer a nation-state imposing civil penalties. It all falls into place. However, if you reject the idea of Christ as Son of God and Savior, then, of course, the Bible is at best a mish-mash containing some inspiration and wisdom, but most of it would have to be rejected as foolish or erroneous.

So where does this leave us? There are only two possibilities. If Christ is God, then this way of reading the Bible makes sense and is perfectly consistent with its premise. The other possibility is that you reject Christianity’s basic thesis—you don’t believe Jesus was the resurrected Son of God—and then the Bible is no sure guide for you about much of anything. But the one thing you can’t really say in fairness is that Christians are being inconsistent with their beliefs to accept the moral statements in the Old Testament while not practicing other ones.

One way to respond to the charge of inconsistency may be to ask a counter-question—“Are you asking me to deny the very heart of my Christian beliefs?” If you are asked, “Why do you say that?” you could respond, “If I believe Jesus is the the resurrected Son of God, I can’t follow all the ‘clean laws’ of diet and practice, and I can’t offer animal sacrifices. All that would be to deny the power of Christ’s death on the cross. And so those who really believe in Christ must follow some Old Testament texts and not others.”
To read the rest of Keller's post please click here.