Our Adoption and Christ’s Complete Control

Luke 19.38

Yesterday, Scott Maze and I preached from Luke 19:28-44. This passage contains the triumphal entry as Jesus enters Jerusalem on what is more commonly known as Palm Sunday.

Leading up to the triumphal entry, Jesus gives specific instructions to a pair of his disciples regarding the procurement of a donkey colt for him to ride.

This passage reveals that Jesus knew a great deal of details about the donkey:

  • Jesus knows where the colt is tied up.
  • He knows that the colt has never been ridden.
  • Jesus prepares his 2 disciples with the exact words they will need to say to have the colt released to them.

Jesus’ knowledge shows that he is in complete control over the entire situation.


I’ve now had the privilege of leading several dozen wedding ceremonies, which means that I’ve been a part of several dozen wedding rehearsals.

It is easy to know which brides are in complete control of their wedding ceremonies and which are not.

The brides that are in control know where each person will stand on stage. She’s planned the precise spot for the groom & his groomsmen, for herself and her bridesmaids. She knows to what song everyone will enter to, and she will have given me exactly what to say weeks ahead of time.

A bride’s knowledge of her ceremony reveals that she is in control of the wedding.

The same is true here – Jesus knows exactly what will happen, which reveals that he is in complete control of all of the events of the week.


Even though Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to applause only to exit the city to jeers, he is still in complete control of the week. Nothing happens that is outside of his knowledge, his direction, or his control.

The same is true in your life and mine. Jesus is in complete control.

One area that is completely out of my control is the number of children that Janet and I have.  Each new year, it is a fun tradition to look back “On This Day” on Facebook and see the pictures of Parker’s birth.

We remember how Janet and I traveled to Austin on Christmas Day, 2008 in anticipation of Parker’s birth. We hurried to the hospital the next morning, and together waited impatiently in the hospital room. I remember standing with Janet, just outside the birthing room, only to hear Parker’s first cry.

Janet and Parker

Moments later, we were brought in the room to see our precious new-born son as Parker’s birthmom handed him over to Janet. Several days later, on New Year’s Day 2009, we brought Parker home.

Eight months later, Jonathan was born – little did we know that while we waited outside the birth room, that Janet was pregnant with Jay. Both births were a miracle – that Michelle picked us to parent Parker and that a short time later, Janet would give birth to Jonathan.

Here we are now 7 years after Parker’s birth, and we are no more in control of how many kids we could have than we were then. On March 1, 2013, we submitted paperwork to our adoption agency, and here we are almost 3 years later without a third child.

For Janet and I, 2015 brought some struggles and many disappointments as birthmom after birthmom picked another family to parent her baby.  We don’t know if ultimately Jesus will have us be a family of 4 or 5…but either way, Jesus is in complete control.


 

Just because Jesus is in control, doesn’t mean it will all work out according to your wants and your wishes.

Take heart – Jesus has your best interests in mind, even when your deepest desires are unfulfilled.

You may have ample excuses to doubt him, but that doesn’t change the reality that Jesus is in complete control.  And his control is good.

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10 Years at NRHBC/CC: a few of my favorite things

In May of 2005, I graduated with little or no prospects of full-time ministry.  For the previous two and a half years, I served at Harwood Terrace BC as the youth pastor, but needed a full-time position.  There were few places to turn, so the only prospect was the urging of my SWBTS professors to pursue a Ph.D.

Due to some arcane rules, I would first have to earn a Masters in Theology (after receiving a Masters in Divinity), so I wasn’t keen on the first steps in earning a Ph.D. Tommy Teague was a bit of a mentor for me, so I asked for his advice.  He set up a lunch and encouraged Janet to come with me.

Janet and I met Tommy and Danny Roberts at Olive Garden (where Tommy would always order breadsticks without the garlic butter seasons, for some reason).  After a great lunch and conversation, Janet and I left that meeting realizing that we didn’t merely have lunch but interviewed for their open missions minister position.  Suffice to say, we were pretty excited.

A few weeks later, we met with the personnel committee, and were then voted on by the church. My start date as the part-time Minister of Missions and Evangelism was September 26, 2005, with the understanding that I would start full-time on January 1, 2006.

In other words, today is my 10 year anniversary of working full-time at NRHBC. With that in mind, I would like to reflect on a few of my favorite things about serving the past 10 years at NRHBC and Cross Church.


 

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Favorite Memory with Tommy Teague

Easily, my favorite non-ministry memory with Tommy was the April fools day joke where I posted that he turned 60 on April 1, 2011. The outpouring of love and support on Facebook should make me feel bad, but I can’t look back on that date without a smile.

The favorite ministry memory is traveling with Tommy to India in 2006.  We worked together sharing the gospel to thousands and later toured the ministry offices, seminary, and orphanage of Gospel Harvesters International.

The time with him was fun, invaluable, and educational as I learned a great deal about life and ministry while spending time with him. As an aside, it was also a lot of fun watching him try to order food when he didn’t like curry in a country that has curry in every dish.


 

Favorite Memory with Danny

I couldn’t give you the date or even the year but Danny and I were meeting in his office once when bad weather was on the horizon.  We met for probably 45 minutes to an hour and when we adjourned, we walked out to an empty office building. Danny joked that we missed the rapture and were “left behind”.

Apparently, there was a tornado in the area and no one thought to warn us to take shelter while everyone else evacuated to the basement…


 

Favorite Memory with Scott

In February of 2013, Bryce Ulrich was ordained at an In His Presence.  Scott asked that I “charge” Bryce at the ordination service.  At the conclusion of the service, Scott sat me down and said nice things about what I had said.  He then offered me the job as Campus Pastor for Cross Church.  It was an affirming conversation that will always stick with me.


 

Favorite Mission Trip

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From 2007 to 2012, NRHBC took 25 mission trips to Buenos Aires, Argentina, of which I led 13.  About half-way through this partnership, we had a national partner church, a location to plant a new church, wonderful missionary partners, but we were missing an Argentine to lead the new work.

We were following our usual pattern of doing a major outreach event in a local park on Sunday afternoon.  On a  trip in 2010 (or so), a young man approached me and asked in English what we are doing.  I shared with him that we are planting a church and he introduced himself as Guillermo Otero, a local pastor and worship leader.

From that random conversation, a partnership and friendship was born that propelled our ministry in Buenos Aires considerably forward.


 

Favorite Innovation

For several years, those of us on staff had become discontent about the discipleship process at NRHBC.  At the same time, Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall introduced a ministry called Drive Faith Home.

From that initiative, Cindy Leach, Brian Simmons, and I developed a new ministry called Faith@Home.  The goal of Faith@Home is to equip families of every type to “become intentional about building a God-honoring home one step at a time“.

This was one of the most creative and innovate ministries that I was apart of at NRHBC and one I still think is crucial to the future of our church.


 

Favorite Future

Simply put, Cross Church is a major component of the future of NRHBC and I couldn’t be more excited about where it is headed.

Cross Church is a satellite campus of NRHBC, which is to say that we are one church in two locations.  The future is at hand as Cross Church serves, reaches and disciples Northwest Fort Worth with the hope of connecting the community to Jesus Christ.

As NRHBC and Cross Church finishes paying off the land and works toward raising the funds to build a faculty for Cross Church, I am confident that the future is bright for our church.


I would mention my favorite co-workers, but that’s unfair to my other co-workers.  So, Cindy Leach and Derek Rowden will have to be content that I didn’t share that they are my favorite people to work alongside. Sorry guys.

That’s enough pensiveness for now.

Jesus – the God Who Played

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Play.FredRogersI had the privilege of speaking at the Kids Beach Club Christmas Party this past Saturday Night where I shared the following.

As parents to boys, Janet and I have learned that everything in all of existence can be one of two things: a ball or a weapon. And sometimes they can be both. Sadly. a Bible can be both. A stuffed animal can be both. A crystal wedding present can be both.  My boys and other kids are all alike, they love to play.

One of the most amazing things about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is that he choose to come to this earth and to put on human flesh. Instead of coming to this earth as an adult, God took on the flesh in the form of a child – a baby – and grew into adulthood, which means that there was a time when Jesus was a boy – that there was a time that Jesus loved to play.

Jesus is the God who played.

(And I actually think this is important to how we disciple kids.)


 

There is such an onus on kids achieving that they are no longer allowed to be kids.

We are the weirdoes – and just to be defensive, my wife is an early-childhood teacher – whose kids did not start kindergarten as readers. They’ve yet to see a flashcard. And this was a conscious choice – we wanted our boys to be able to be boys – to play while there is still time to play.

What we’ve learned, now that my boys have started school, is that the schools are getting away from kids learning through play. What schools are doing – and I think they are forced into it – is to teach a kindergartner today like we would have a 2nd grader in the past.

As one commentator said, “One of the most distressing characteristics of education reformers is that they are hyper-focused on how students perform, but they ignore how students learn.”

(You can read that quote here.)

Don’t get me wrong – in some respects this is a good thing – we’re learning that our kids are more capable than we give them credit. However, it takes away their ability to learn through play when we force them to sit at a desk and do worksheets. Kids love to be kids – they love to play. And in some respects, they learn best through play!

The same commentator on education said, “Through play, children build literacy skills they need to be successful readers. By speaking to each other in socio-dramatic play, children use the language they heard adults read to them or say. This process enables children to find the meaning in those words.”

As we consider discipling a child, we must remember that we worship Jesus, the God who played.


 

You might wonder what this has to do with, well, anything.

Cross Church leads two Kids Beach Clubs that have play built into their curriculum.  Kids learn memory verses through play, they often have a part to play in the Bible study, and the day ends with a review game.

We had one parent who remarked, ““The boys loved it! And at 9pm were able to recite the verse for the day!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR OFFERING THIS PROGRAM!”

The reason those boys were able to recite the verse for the day at 9 PM is because they learned it through playing a game.

We must refuse to disciple kids with the same methods we disciple adults.  Kids learn best through play!

Here’s my challenge to you if you are a part of a children’s ministry: Make play a value of your ministry – it is a great way to lead kids to faith and to help them grow in their faith.

Zacchaeus, Jesus, and Little League Soccer

Kid perfectly imperfectly throwing the ball in.

Some kid perfectly imperfectly throwing the ball in.

I had the opportunity to preach on Zacchaeus at Cross Church this past Sunday.  My goal was to approach this familiar passage by trying to find something new – something that I had never seen before – similar to re-watching a movie or TV show and discovering something new, exciting, and refreshing.

As I studied the passage, many scholars and commentators pointed out the difference in reaction between the crowd and Zacchaeus to Jesus’ request.

Luke writes in chapter 19:5-7, “when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

Zacchaeus hurriedly climbs down and responds to Jesus’ request joyfully.

This is in stark contrast to the crowd who responds to Jesus’ request with grumbling.  It’s as though a not-so-low murmur goes through the crowd as everyone has the same thought – “Jesus has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

Those in the crowd are not entirely wrong. He is a sinner. It is likely that Zacchaeus made his money through exploitation.

In a way, tax collection was a pyramid scheme. The Roman Empire stood at the top and at each level everyone takes a cut.  As a chief tax collector, Zacchaeus took a cut from those underneath him as he passed the taxes onto his superiors.  This was a system that ensured taking advantage of people on the bottom of the pyramid – the common people who hated the empire and hated tax collectors by extension.

Zacchaeus is a sinner; of this there is little doubt.  However, “The complaint about Jesus staying with sinners shows that the crowd has learned little from his ministry” (Bock, BECNT, 1519).  The crowd had plenty of experience with Jesus, but never learned what Jesus’ was actually all about.


If you’ve spent time at Cross Church, friended/followed on social media, or whatnot you know that I coach little league soccer.

Even though my boys are only 6 years old, Parker has played 6 seasons of soccer, and Jonathan 8.  I’ve coached all of Jay’s 8 seasons, all 6 of Parker’s.

In soccer, when the ball rolls out-of-bounds on the sideline, players have to throw the ball in.  We practice throw-ins every practice.  We have about 12 practices a season. Some of these kids have played all 8 seasons…So they’ve practiced throw-ins 96 times.

We call them “aww-booms” because that is the sound we make as we practice the throw in, which does occasionally cause confusion when the ref calls for a throw-in, and my kids know it as an aww-boom.  In theory, a player is supposed to start by holding the ball in both hands with the ball behind their head.  With both hands on the ball, they throw the ball as they follow a path over their head.

And yet, for all of the practices, some of the kids can never do it correctly in a game.  (I know what you’re thinking: blame the coach.)

Lots of time with me…little learning.


Many in the crowd have spent countless hours with Jesus – and yet they have learned very little.  Zacchaeus, on the other hand, has not spent a great amount of time with Christ, and yet comes away as a tremendous model of faith.

When Jesus meets blind beggar at the end of Luke 18, the blind man cries out twice – Jesus “Son of David” have mercy on me.  This is not only a cry for help but also a profession of faith as “Son of David” means that the beggar recognizes Jesus as the Christ, the messiah, of the line of David.

But in Luke 19, we never hear a profession of faith from Zacchaeus.  And yet, Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house.”

How do we know that Zacchaeus comes to faith?  Because of verse 8, “And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”

Zacchaeus goes from exploiter to benefactor, from selfish to selfless, and from lost to saved.  It’s not that these actions save him – it’s that these actions demonstrate that a change has occurred.  When Jesus enters into a life, change must occur.

Darrell Bock puts an exclamation point on Zacchaeus’s faith when he explains, “If there was any doubt Zacchaeus meant what he said, his pocketbook spoke volumes” (Bock, NIVAC, 483).

Zacchaeus first believes and then demonstrates his faith through his generosity and restitution.  Our faith must also be manifested by our acts of service to others.

Five Things Not to Ask a Campus Pastor

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From my experience as a campus pastor for over two years, there are just somethings confusing about the relationship between the satellite campus and the main campus.

So I came up with five things not to ask a campus pastor.  These are all questions I’ve actually been asked.

These questions are kinda like what not to ask a woman, (How old are you? How much do you weigh? Are ALL these kids yours? Etc.).  They’re intended to be funny – or at least tongue-in-cheek – so enjoy.

Five Things Not to Ask a Campus Pastor:

  1. How’s your church doing?

Well…it’s our church. Members of of the satellite campus are members of the main campus. And vice-versa…

Instead, let me encourage you to change the “your” to “our”.  This is our church and our satellite campus.

2. Will Cross Church survive?

I understand the concern – I really do. In fact, since the satellite I lead, Cross Church got started, 2 large churches in the Fort Worth area have closed the doors on their satellite campus for a variety of reasons.

But it’s just not an encouraging question.  Sorta like asking a soldier if he or she will survive a war…

How about asking, “what successes are you seeing at the satellite campus?”

3. What are you doing here?

This typically occurs when a church member sees me at the main campus during the week, at a special event, or on a Sunday night.

Well…I am a member of the church too… I am one of the pastors of our church. Um…It’s good to see you too?

Instead, let me encourage you to say “My don’t you look handsome today”.

4. Are you ready to get into a building?

This is exclusive to the satellite campuses that don’t yet have their own facility to meet in.

The answer to this question is yes. The answer is always yes. Kinda like “is the sky blue?” or “Is the Pope catholic?”

A better question to ask is “How can we help?

5. Does the satellite campus still meet when you’re not there?

Does the main campus still meet when the senior pastor isn’t there?

I actually don’t have an alternative to this question.  And yes, it is one I’ve been asked…


I hope you have enjoyed these.  I love our church. I love NRHBC and so thoroughly appreciate the sacrifices we’ve all made to see God’s plan for Cross Church come to fruition.

It’s a tremendous blessing to be the campus pastor of Cross Church as one of the pastors of NRHBC.

Indictment Against Us

Indictment

For Cross Church, Sunday, November 6 was important for two reasons.

First, it kicked off the week of prayer for missions.  During the week, we prayed daily with our church family from North Richland Hills Baptist Church for missions partners around the world.

Second, at Cross Church and at churches around the US, it was national orphan day.

At first glance, these two issues are seemingly unrelated.  However, at closer inspection, we can see that the two are crucial issues for the church to address.

They are both important because God has given his people a mandate regarding missions and orphan care.

In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus commands his disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

It is the responsibility of every believer to take the gospel to the nations. It is not merely the responsibility of the vocational missionary, but of every Christian.

One of the biggest objections to the faith is fate of those people, from all around the world, who have never heard of the gospel.  Scripture is clear.  Those who die apart from Christ, live eternally separately from him.

Questions then arise: what kind of God is this?  How dare he condemn those who never had the chance to believe.

However, I don’t think this problem lays at God’s feet.  That there are people in this world that will never hear the gospel and spend eternity in Hell is not an indictment against God, but against God’s people.

God has given the task to his people.  We must take the gospel to the nations.


In James 1:27, God also gives the responsibility of orphan-care to his people,  “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

Here are some astounding statistics about orphans in the US (click on the image to enlarge it):

Foster Care Statistics

The Hartford Institute for Religious Research pegs the number of Christian (Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox) churches in the US at approximately 338,000.

Church Relevance puts it at a slightly lower number of 320,000.

As others have famously quipped, if only one to two couples per American church would foster-to-adopt, each orphan in America would have a mom and dad, a family that loves them, and a place to call home.

Again, that there are orphans in this country is not an indictment against God, but against God’s people.


 

Janet and I adopted our oldest son, Parker.  One of the most consistent questions we are asked is about our relationship with Parker’s birthmom.

We love her.

We don’t feel threatened by her.

She can’t and wouldn’t take Parker from us.

She made the most loving decision a person can make.  And because of her, we have the privilege of being Parker’s parents.

If you’ve ever had second thoughts on adoption due to your fears of a birthmom, let me encourage you to watch the powerful video below.

This isn’t Parker’s birthmom, but a young woman who made a tremendous sacrifice of God-given love.


It would be too easy to look to others.  To look to professional missionaries to take the gospel to other nations.  To look to other families to adopt rather than your own.

If you are a follower of Christ, God has given you the responsibility.

Don’t look to the right or to the left.

It is your responsibility.  Live up to it.

Why Do We Celebrate Ugly History?

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As a bit of a disclaimer, I am a fan of history. My undergraduate degree is in history. I read books on history. My family is forced to look at historical locations and artifacts while on vacation. So I feel like when it comes to history, I am a bit of a fan.

Recently there has been a great deal of debate and conversation regarding history – particularly American history –  and how we should honor and respect our history. I’m speaking, in this instance, of American Civil War history and of particular historical artifacts that speak to Confederate history – artifacts such as the Confederate flag, the Confederate battle flag, and other names or phrases associated with the Confederacy. There has been a great deal of conversation about how the use of the flags and other artifacts is a means to respect our history.

I will give my thoughts to more on that topic in a moment.


A second area that this historical conversation has impacted is the world of sports – and in particular the mascots of teams. The Washington Redskins are at the center of this controversy. Some defend the brand by pondering why the name has all-of-a-sudden become insensitive. As though a lack of previous opposition, in this instance by a historically oppressed people group, provides a legitimate excuse to use the name, Redskin. This argument is the very definition of specious.

Others defend the Redskin brand by appealing to history. Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins offered this excuse in an interview with ESPN, “What I would encourage you to do and everyone else to do is just look at the history, understand where the name came from, understand what it means.”

Dan argues that he is honoring and understanding history by continuing to use the name Redskin as his team’s mascot.

By naming mascots after dark pages of our nation’s history or by proudly displaying the Confederate flags, we are not honoring, remembering, or understanding history.

We are celebrating it.

Every time the crowd cheers when the Redskins score a touchdown, intercept a pass, recover a fumble, or kick a field goal, we are celebrating our ugly history.


We must remember these awful moments of our history. As the famous phrase goes, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it”. We must learn about, contemplate, understand, and study our nation’s history – all of its history – including the brutal treatment of Native Americans, the atrocities of the Antebellum South, and the Civil War.

But we must not celebrate it.

Imagine if teams in South Africa are named the “Apartheids” or the Waffen SS in Germany. Every country has dark pages in the past. Not every nation celebrates their dark days by naming teams after it or displays its ugly wares. We Americans are unique in this aspect.

Taking down the Confederate flags, no longer using Confederate phrases or naming teams after it, removing Redskin from our vernacular – sports or otherwise – demonstrates that we respect our history.

Keeping mascots and flying flags shows that we haven’t learned a thing.


We must continue to learn from our history.

We must stop celebrating it.

What Will We Do For All Eternity?

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Music conductor hands with baton isolated on white

Pop culture tells us that in Heaven we will be at a glorified resort – eating, drinking, and doing whatever we want. This is an inferior picture of eternity.

In Revelation 22:3, John gives us a greater picture.  He gives just a glance, but he reveals what we will be doing for eternity when he writes, “his (God’s) servants will worship him”.

This revelation (forgive the pun) might disappoint you. Eternity is more than just “a place of…leisure, but a place where service is done, centring (sic.) on God” (Morris, 256 – 257). Eternity will be spent worshiping God through acts of service.

Now, before we look at what it means to serve God, let’s start with what it means to worship him. It’s important to have a complete picture of what it means to worship God.

When we say worship, one thing tends to come to mind first – singing.

After all, we weekly (bi-monthly?) attend a worship service where we spend a good amount of time singing. Worship pastors (not Josh Strother) tend to latch onto John’s phrase here in Revelation and tell us that we will spend eternity singing…with them leading heavenly choir, no doubt. But we don’t only sing in a worship service…we do announcements, we hear a sermon…we pass plates.

Could you imagine if it were up to an usher what heaven would look like? Or heaven forbid, the pastor?

Instead, worship needs to be understood as something greater than singing (or even what happens in a worship service) – it includes singing, of course, but it is even greater.


 

Eric Liddle – a mid-20th century Olympian who became a missionary famously said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.”

So not only will we singing – but we will be doing those things that God created us for – he gave us gifts, talents, skills, and more.

For eternity, we will be putting those talents to work, serving and glorifying God in the process.


Have you ever seen the movie “Scrooged”?

It stars Bill Murray and is a modern (well…late 1980s) re-telling of Dicken’s a Christmas Carol.

Bill Murray is Ebenezer Scrooge – albeit with a different name.

Like Scrooge, he goes through a transformation after meeting the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.

It’s a deeply spiritual movie.

At the end of the movie, the culmination of his transformation, he gives these words as part of his speech:

“I’m not crazy.

It’s Christmas Eve.

It’s the one night when we all act a little nicer.

We…we smile a little easier. We…we…share a little more.

For a couple of hours we are the people we always hoped we would be.”


In the New Heavens and the New Earth, we will be the people we always hoped we would be for all of eternity.

We will worship God – in song – but also in serving him by using our gifts, talents, skills, personalities, and more, all the things God gave to us as he knit us in our mother’s womb.

Don’t you want to be there?

Sports as Sabbath

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This is the proposal that I submitted for 2015 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture that was accepted.  I will be presenting the full paper in November.

On October 6, 1965, the Dodgers selected Sandy Koufax, their best pitcher, to pitch the first game of the World Series. As the Cy Young recipient, it was only natural for the game’s best pitcher to take the mound for the first game of the fall classic. However, October 6 also marked the start of Yom Kippur, the Sabbath of Sabbaths for Jews. Koufax famously, and for some infamously, refused to start that first game due to his faith, ultimately a game that the Dodgers lost. In Koufax’s case, sports competed against Sabbath and lost.

Koufax’s stance is remarkable simply because it is so unusual. In many cases, when sports are scheduled during the “holy hours” of Sunday morning or Wednesday night, the athlete chooses to compete to the detriment of church attendance. Not a week goes by in which a myriad of athletes skip church for practice or a game. The same is true for fans that choose to tailgate before kick-off rather than participate in worship. Churches across America, née the world, experience the prioritization of sports over ekklesia. On many a Sunday, in sports versus Sabbath, sports win.

For many, sports offer the opposite of Sabbath rest. The athlete’s calendar is filled with clinics, private lessons, practices, and games. Weekdays are filled with preparation for weekend games. Tournaments consume the weekends. Even when the focus is on one sport, the athlete is expected to play or practice year-round. For too many athletes, sports become all-encompassing. Rest is absent. Sabbath is ignored.

But rest doesn’t have to be absent for the athlete. In fact, sports can, and perhaps should be, a source of rest. Rest does not have to be the absence of activity. The author of Hebrews, from 3:12 to 4:13, equates rest with both the entering of the promise land by the Israelites and those who will experience eternal life. The rest Israel experienced in the Promised Land was not absent of activity. Nor will those who live in the new Heavens and new Earth experience inactivity. Therefore, Sabbath rest does not need to be equated with inactivity. Instead, it is possible to participate in leisurely activity while experiencing Sabbath rest.

To understand this premise, a return to the foundation of the Sabbath is a must. In Genesis 2:2, having worked for six days, God rested on the seventh day. Whatever the Sabbath became by the time of the incarnation, it started as rest. To Sabbath is to rest. Since rest is not necessarily the absence of activity, it is possible for the playing of a sport to be restful. Sports can contribute to rest and as a result, sports and Sabbath do not have to be opponents.

This paper seeks to recapture the nature of sports as leisure. Leisure is a Christian practice because leisure and Sabbath can have the same purpose. Sabbath rest need not be the absence of activity. Leisure, by definition, is active. It is doing something. This paper argues for sports as Sabbath based on the idea that rest can be filled with leisurely activity. However, this certainly does not mean that all sports are restful. Instead, this paper will advocate for families to reduce participation in sports at the point that it is no longer restful.

Impacted by Church?

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At the SEND conference a couple of weeks ago, a common refrain challenged pastors to consider if their community would miss them if the church closed.

As stated previously (here) my goal is for Cross Church to be internally strong and externally focused.  An externally focused church is concerned with serving the community, building relationships, all-the-while connecting community members with Christ.

One of the challenges of being in northwest Fort Worth is the lack of community. As a new community, there are a panoply of homes without many means to connect with the community.

While this presents the problem of how to meet new people, it also provides an opportunity for Cross Church to be a community building group. As a result we have community building events once a month.  For example, this past June, we partnered with a local HOA for a block party.

We’ve called these events, “Building Our Community”.

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Keeping in mind the challenge from the SEND conference, it is important to denote the difference between activity and impact.  Through Building Our Community, I know that Cross Church has many community activities, but I was wondering about the impact.

So it was with great delight that I received an email from a faculty member at Schluter Elementary, where Cross Church meets on Sundays with the following paragraph discussing our impact.

“Have I mentioned how much I LOVE having the church as part of our community?? This has truly been a blessing. I know we don’t say it often enough but your presence is felt greatly throughout the year with the love you show our teachers, offering our students Christian clubs after school, snacks for the weekend and your endless words of encouragement. Schluter Elementary has truly been impacted by THE CHURCH!”

It is a result of this email that I can confidently say that if Cross Church was absent from our community, we would be missed.

It is a rare and special blessing to know that your impact matches your vision.