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Sports Theology

Saturday was another hard day. Tennessee lost another game in the 4th quarter after leading by more than two scores. That tune seems to be competing with Rocky Top for Tennessee’s anthem these days.

I don’t handle losing well. I never have. My day will be worse after a loss than a win, almost regardless of the competition.

I’ve often wondered if I need to grow up. If my desire to win and my emotional response to losing are both just immature, worldly passions. I’ve even had people (and pastors) indicate this in their comments to me while I’m celebrating a win or recovering from a loss.

While I don’t believe these feelings should be allowed to linger or ever be justification for other sins, I do think that they are actually healthy if thought about rightly.

Let me explain.

I think sports are sacramental. They’re God’s way of reminding our hearts that we were designed for victory, not defeat. The thrill you experience when your team comes from behind, overcomes the odds, and comes out on top is a glimpse at what you were created for. You were created to win.

The story of the gospel is that we were down in the first half. We called the wrong plays, we turned the ball over, we missed tackles and gave up explosive plays. Then Jesus steps in for us, drives the ball down the field flawlessly, and orchestrates the comeback of all comebacks. It was truly a miracle. The crowd went crazy. The goal posts came down. And the celebration continues for all of eternity.

Is it sinful to base your happiness on whether or not Tennessee wins each Saturday? Of course.

But is it sinful to long for a win each Saturday? To celebrate when it happens? To feel defeated at a loss? Not at all. In fact, it’s one of the ways God points us back to our ultimate reality in Christ.

Praise God that in Christ, we win. It’s a come-from-behind-blowout. And the celebration never ends.

5 tips to winning a high school election

Many of our students at Relevant run for high school elections. Occasionally they will ask for help campaigning or writing their speech. Believe it or not, I haven’t seen that many helpful articles on google for this subject. I thought I’d share my opinion on it all here.

I was Student Body President at Rossview High School and have run many many times for student council elections. My overall record in school elections is 5-1.

Let me clarify very quickly for our cynical readers that I in no way claim to be an expert on this subject, I do, however, have some experience.

Here are 5 tips on winning a high school election

1. Give a good speech.
There are a few keys to a good election speech. First, your speech needs to be short (like 1-1.5 minutes max). Honestly, how many high schoolers do you know that like to listen to speeches? Keep it very short and simple. If you’re not funny, don’t try to be. The worst thing you can do is try to be funny and not be. You’ll stick out to people more if you’re up there less. Just be succinct. Second, make your speech about the future, not the past. So many people try to load their speeches with their own “responsibility testimony” or something. The entire speech is them listing reasons why they’re qualified to be elected. “As a member of the Junior Civitan club…” Stop. We don’t need to know every club and activity you’ve been involved in. People don’t care what you’ve done, they care about what you’re going to do. Instead of that approach, cast vision for the future. Casting vision is simple: 1) Define a problem. What’s a problem everybody at your school agrees is a problem? 2) Offer a solution. Explain (succinctly) what you will do when you’re elected. Don’t promise things you know your principal will never do. This is not about having a detailed plan for how you’re going to fix everything. This is just about painting a picture for people of what the school could and should be like. Say things like, “Wouldn’t it be great if…” or “Imagine how much better this place would be if…” This will inspire people and motivate people. Third, say your name… a lot.  Say your name at the beginning. Say your name at the end. Then say it again at the end. Say it again if you have to. The most important thing people need to remember from your speech is your name. It’s your name they have to vote for. I have heard several times, “I really loved your speech but I couldn’t remember your name!”  Finally, don’t be glued to your notes. If you write a short, simple speech, you should be able to remember it very easily. Even if you’re not a great public speaker, you can practice enough that you won’t have to read your speech straight from the paper.

2. Campaign during lunch.
Lunch is the one time during the day when all genres of kids show up together. Use that time to spread the word that you’re running and gain momentum for your campaign. I’ve only lost one election in my school days, and I think it’s because I didn’t do this one principle. If you’re a little nervous, get over it and do it. You’ll be glad you did in the long run. People don’t mind as much as it seems if you walk up and say, “Hey, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but my name is ______ and I’m running for _____. Would you guys vote for me?” Go for it.

3. Intentionally pick a few campaigners.

Find a few people who are well-liked and in different circles and specifically ask them to help you campaign. Tell them, “I really need your help if I’m gonna win this thing.” If they get on your team, you’ll gain credibility with the masses and get your name out there a lot faster.

4. Ask people to vote for you.

It sounds obvious, but so many fail to do it. If you’re walking down the hallway, ask as many people as you can. If you’re sitting next to people in class, ask as many as you can. It’ll seem forward and awkward at times, but it’s important to get people to say, “Yea, I’ll vote for you!” I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, “Sorry, I wanted to vote for you but so-and-so already asked.” Ask people, and then follow up with them on the day(s) of the election.

5. Be nice the other 180 days of the school year.
In all honesty you could give Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech and be a jerk to everyone the rest of the school year and you’d lose the election. Don’t be fake, be nice the whole year… not just at election time. Campaigning starts the first week of school, not the week before the election.

The birth of sacrifice

Sacrifice. It’s one of the best words to describe our God.

It’s when you put others before yourself. It’s when you pour out rather than fill up. It’s giving instead of getting.

Sacrifice is generally associated with death. One person dies, or gives up something, so another person can live, or have something.

As an evangelical, I have a tendency to rush Jesus to the cross. I’ve always heard people say—Jesus was born to die.

But think about this.

Jesus’ birth was a sacrifice. Jesus’ entire earthly existence was a way of giving up something so that we could get something.

At Christmas, the infinite God, completely unrestrained by space, finds Himself constrained to a 6-10 pound little body. The glorious God, accustomed to Heaven, ends up in a manger from which animals eat. The light of the world suddenly knew what it was like to feel cold. Our present help became helpless.

But think about even before Christmas. Jesus was an embryo. He lived for 9 months in a womb. John could not have been more literal when he wrote, “He became flesh and dwelt among us.” Or even literally… in us.

I think the hymn writer says it best. Jesus wasn’t born to die. He was born that men no more may die.

His whole life was a sacrifice, because His whole life was lived to give us life.

When you think about it like that, it makes Paul’s words in Romans 12 even more powerful. “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices,” he says.

You know why? Because that’s what Jesus did.

When Jesus…

  • Learned in the temple as a middle schooler…
  • Was baptized…
  • Went without food and water in the desert and overcame temptation…
  • Obeyed His mother’s orders at a wedding party…
  • Walked hundreds of miles from town to town to preach and heal…
  • Sat with little children…
  • Washed His friends’ feet…

… He was sacrificing. He was living so we could live.

Even His literal death on the cross was just a chapter in His life, not the end of it. Jesus’ death was a comma that occurred over and over throughout His life. He had taken up countless figurative crosses before He took the literal cross.

“Jesus was born to die.” Really? Or was Jesus’ living just so marked by sacrifice that it seemed like that?

He was living… so that we could live. So that men no more may die.

Imagine a life like that. A life so marked by sacrifice, that people confused your living as dying.

Christmas is where God’s sacrificial love shows up more clearly than it ever had before at that point in history.

When Jesus laid down in the manger he was picking up a cross.

What if we let that sink in?

Let’s worship Christ this Christmas by remembering and celebrating the sacrifice He made at His birth, and by becoming living sacrifices ourselves. This is your spiritual act of worship.

Summer plans

Last week was an eventful week for my family. My brother got married on Friday in Rose Mary Beach, Florida, and it was a very cool experience. On Saturday, my family drove me to Atlanta for my flight at 6:00 PM.

I’m spending the Summer in Europe with some other students and professors from Moody. We’ll be taking classes and touring Italy, Germany, and Switzerland. I’m taking Pauline Epistles I (1 & 2 Corinthians), European Reformations, and Systematic Theology I.

It’s going to be an exciting and stretching Summer. I’m very introverted, so meeting people and experiencing new cultures and things like that stress me out a lot. For some reason, though, I keep putting myself in those situations (which I really don’t understand).

So, I would like to ask you to intentionally pray for me this Summer. Pray that I would be well-rested, quickly break out of my shell, and grow a lot this Summer. Pray that the group would do the same, and that we would all mesh well.

I look forward to sharing what I’m learning and thinking as we move the on deck circle to Europe this Summer. Stay tuned.

Democratic culture

It’s interesting to me how embedded the concept of democracy is in American culture. Kids on playgrounds all over the United States make decisions about which game to play at recess by voting. If you go around the circle and 4 kids want to play football, and only 3 want to jump rope… you play football.

I was at an after-school program recently with some elementary school kids. Before I started the Bible-study portion we were playing some games. The kids were trying to decide between playing a game called “Guerrilla, Man, Gun” or “Mount, Knight, Chariot”. There was some disagreement, and eventually an argument broke out. Rather than intervene, I decided to watch and see how they would handle the situation. Finally, once sides were clearly formed, a kid spoke up and said, “Look! It’s 7 against 5! We’re playing ‘Mount, Knight, Chariot’!”

What caused him to rationalize the solution this way? Is it human nature to settle small disputes like that by way of democracy, or is that something ingrained in our American way of thinking? Do kids choose games by way of democracy all over the world? Does 7 against 5 hold any weight in other cultures?

Obviously underneath this argument was a sense of entitlement that Americans have. We assume we should have a choice in which games we play. But when it actually comes to making the decision, is this a normal reaction? Would children in India or China settle the argument this way?