Yes, I confess. I’m an unrepentant fan of Duck Dynasty. If you have no idea of what I mean, read this article, 9 Things you should Know about Duck Dynasty.
Enjoying God Blog
The Excitement and Stupidity of March Madness
If you aren’t a fan of college basketball here in the U.S., stop reading and go about your business. But if you enjoy the game as much as I do, read on. I’ve been tempted to write this for several years, but always resisted the urge lest I offend and upset my friends. But I can refrain no longer. So here goes.
Deciding the national championship of college basketball based on a single elimination tournament is utterly idiotic, insane, ridiculous, and asinine. You heard me correctly. I’m talking about the utter stupdity of March Madness.
Don’t misunderstand me. I love March Madness! I love the tournament. It is exciting and mesmerizing and always a blast. But to use this tournament in which a single loss eliminates a team from an opportunity to win the national title is the height of stupidity. I watch the tournament every year. I faithfully and carefully fill out my bracket. I agonize when my favorite teams lose and rejoice when they win. But here’s why the tournament is dumb.
Imagine for just a moment that I had the power and authority to run the National Basketball Association, the professionals of the game. I announce that a change has been made in the post-season schedule. Every team in the NBA will now be entered into the post season and all will play for the championship based on a single elimination tournament. After a few rounds, in which the Lakers are defeated by Oklahoma City and Boston falls to Miami, the Thunder and Heat play one game for the championship, regardless of what happened during the regular season. Instead of the standard best three of five or best four of seven competition, one game decides it all.
You would rightly accuse me of having taken leave of my senses. “Sam, how can you base the professional championship of basketball on only one game? Don’t you realize that i
When I started preaching through Philippians at Bridgeway Church here in OKC, I suspect that more than a few people wondered aloud about my decision actually to spend an entire sermon on the opening two verses of chapter one: “Sam, are you kidding me? You actually plan on preaching an entire sermon on the opening greeting of a NT epistle. Come on! Give us some biblical meat, something we can really chew on and apply to our lives, something that’s going to make a difference in how I conduct my life next week, something that’s going to stick in my soul and change how I think and feel and act. For heaven’s sake, don’t waste my time with the meaningless trivialities of an ancient salutation!”
I hope you’re not thinking the same. Allow me to persuade you otherwise.
Let me start by asking you a question. What is a Christian? Surely you will agree that it’s important for us to know the answer. Surely you will acknowledge that knowing who you are is of indescribable practical importance if you are going to live as you ought. I’m convinced that the struggle many Christians face each day is largely due to the fact that they have very little understanding of their identity as children of God. Ask a lot of Christians to identify themselves and you’ll hear such things as:
“I’m a painful boil on the backside of the body of Christ.”
“I’m an embarrassment to the church, a drain on the energy of other Christians, an unsightly pimple on the public face of Christianity.”
“I’m a massive disappointment to God and a waste of everyone’s time.”
“I’m quite simply good for nothing when it comes to the needs of the church.”
I didn’t make those up. I’ve actually heard Christian men and women describ
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been asked that question. Of course, I have to be careful in giving an answer, insofar as I can’t peer into the hearts and thought processes of another human. Only they know the true answer to that question. But let me venture a few thoughts.
Notwithstanding the efforts of ECT (Evangelicals and Catholics Together), the divisions between Catholicism and Protestantism are long-standing and the reasons multi-faceted. Whereas the vast majority of Protestants remain suspicious of Roman Catholicism, a few, often well-known figures (e.g., the late Richard John Neuhaus, Thomas Howard, Scott Hahn, Francis Beckwith), find a home in Rome. Before I address why we see such “conversions,” let me say a few words about why most evangelical Protestants are still suspicious of Rome.
The following are merely observations. I make no attempt to determine whether or not these evangelical fears are justified or misguided.
(1) Many Protestant evangelicals are energized by the Protestant martyrs of the reformation and post-reformation period: Hus, Cranmer, Tyndale, Hugh Latimer, Ridley, etc. They fear that dialogue with the RCC is a disservice and dishonor to those who gave their lives for their convictions. They were tortured and died for their refusal to embrace the Roman Catholic Mass or bow to papal authority. ECT represents for many evangelicals a tacit dismissal of such heroes of the faith: “Are we selling out those who sacrificed so much? Why are we willing to compromise so easily on matters that were to them a question of life and death?”
(2) Evangelicals fear the loss of theological integrity. They believe that the only way to enter a dialogue with Rome is by compromising on several key theological issues. Most evangelicals believe that unity is theologically based. Cooperative efforts must be grounded in theological consensus. Is this biblical? Is it
A lot has been made of the fact that with Benedict’s resignation the Roman Catholic Church will have two popes for the first time in 600 years (technically speaking, of course, Benedict is no longer pope; but you get my point). To be more precise, it was during the time span of 1378-1417. I’ll briefly explain.
The power of the papacy had surged under Innocent III (1161-1216), but suffered serious decline once Boniface VIII (1294-1303) came into office.
Following a conflict between the Pope and King Philip of France over taxation of the clergy and other issues, Boniface was deposed. Clement V became pope after Boniface died and immediately came under Philip's control. Indeed, Philip moved the papal seat from Rome to Avignon in France in 1309, inaugurating what has come to be known as The Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1309-77). During this time the papacy was the virtual pawn of the French monarchs and lost all semblance of the power it had achieved under Innocent. Still, the popes of Avignon lived in unmistakable extravagance. The Italian humanist Petrarch referred to Avignon as "the sink of every vice, the haunt of all iniquities."
It wasn't until Pope Gregory XI, with the help of St. Catherine of Siena, that the papal seat was returned to Rome, thereby ending the Babylonian Captivity. The problems for the Roman papacy, however, were far from over.
After Gregory's death, Urban VI was elected pope, but soon incurred the displeasure of the College of Cardinals in France (the story is that he was insane). The latter body elected another pope, Clement VII, who hastily retreated to . . . where else, but Avignon! Now there were two popes, one in Rome and one in Avignon (Urban was known to have tortured and murdered several cardinals in Rome who opposed him)!
This is known as The Great Schism. There is to this day disagreement among RC scholars over who was in fact the official successo
March 12, 2013 1 Comments
My book, The Singing God (Passio; an imprint of Charisma Media, 220 pages), has just been released in a slightly revised edition. The most obvious difference is the new cover design, but I’ve also made changes that bring the book up-to-date in terms of stories, illustrations, and other matters.
If you struggle with believing that God genuinely loves you, if you doubt whether God could ever take delight in a sinner such as yourself, or if the idea of actually experiencing the affection of God for your soul sounds outrageous and beyond belief, this book is for you. It is a down-to-earth and highly practical guide to helping Christians enjoy being enjoyed by God. Based on the declaration in Zephaniah 3:17 that God “sings” over his children, I try to help the reader not only understand this glorious truth but experience it as well.
You can purchase it at Amazon by clicking on the cover design, or find it in most bookstores around the country.
Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world when he announced that he would resign from his position as leader of the Roman Catholic Church. The process to select his successor is well underway, and news reports indicate that it officially starts today, March 12th. But how is it done, and should any of you bother to send your resume to the Vatican?
You’ve probably heard a lot about something called the “Conclave,” which literally means “with a key”. It refers to the placing of the electors in a locked room and refusing to release them until they have chosen someone as Pope.
Those who bear this responsibility constitute what is called the College of Cardinals (they have elected the Pope since 1179). They are a select group made up largely, but not exclusively, of bishops (a few distinguished theologians are included). All those in the College of Cardinals are chosen by the Pope (although only those under 80 years of age can vote). Needless to say, this means that the Pope has tremendous power to influence who will be chosen to succeed him by appointing as Cardinals, should he desire, only those who are of one mind with him on theological and moral issues. At last count, there are 115 Cardinals eligible to vote on Benedict’s successor.
The word “Cardinal” itself most likely is derived from the Latin “cardo” or hinge, and suggests the role of the Cardinal as a connection or hinge between the Pope and the church and world. They wear red as a symbol of their willingness to die and shed their blood for the church.
Since Benedict is still living, some of the normal procedures will not be followed. But if he were to die before leaving office, the person known as the “Camerlengo” (Italian for “chamberlain”) would call out his name three times to make sure he is dead (obviously this is merely traditional; if the Pope were in a coma he could hardly respond to his name
March 11, 2013 51 Comments
It has been a few years since I last blogged with any degree of regularity and I’m thrilled to be at it again. I hope you find the blogposts, articles, and sermons here to be helpful, encouraging, challenging, and edifying. They might even be a bit controversial at times (“all” the time?)! Here are my designs for this website.
First, my intention is to blog every day, Monday through Friday. I’ll probably take off on Saturday and Sunday. On occasion there will be two or three blogposts per day, although in rare instances I might miss a day here and there.
Second, the content of the blog will be a mixture of biblical studies, meditations on particular passages, wrestling with difficult texts and topics, book reviews, updates on theological issues facing the church today, developments in the broader culture that impact the church, sports, movies, and my own musings on topics that I hope are relevant and noteworthy.
Third, my policy regarding blog comments is that I will read all of them but probably only respond infrequently. I simply don’t have the time to devote a lot of work to formulating responses to every comment posted. My request is that your comments be brief and to the point, that you avoid uncharitable language, and that you don’t get angry at me when I choose not to respond. Anger will only intensify my resolve to say nothing!
Fourth, I encourage you to let others know that the website is up and running. Your support in that regard would be greatly appreciated.
Fifth, the website will no longer be selling or processing books, CD’s, or DVD’s directly; however, all my publications are listed on the Bookstore page, and you may purchase them through Amazon at greatly reduced prices.