Do you wonder how many “death threats” Alabama placekicker Cade Foster received on Twitter after Saturday’s loss? A dozen? A hundred? Thousands? Well the truth is, it’s hard to be completely accurate – his Twitter account was closed, scrubbed, and then re-opened. But, if Time Magazine and the Bleacher Report are correct, Foster received 2 death threats via Twitter.
Now, I 100% agree that’s 2 too many. No matter what the number, I am sorry that such happened to a fine young man, and I stand second to no one in believing that such behavior is reprehensible and inexcusable. The stupid, vile, probably drunk, people who sent those tweets need to be detained and questioned by law enforcement, and be permanently banned from Twitter, if not all social media. Heck, they don’t even need to have access to crayons and construction paper. They should also have to apologize to Foster face to face , and spend next season cleaning up corn dog droppings at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge…
Now, having said that, the media (and others) are using the brainless antics of a couple of idiots to paint an entire fan base. And that’s just not fair. I’ve met people from all over the eastern U.S. who have been to football and basketball games in Tuscaloosa, and almost all of them compliment Bama fans as being friendly, good sports in victory and defeat. And I have to say, I’ve been in quite a few SEC stadiums and coliseums where I was treated like a one-legged leper with pinkeye…
I know Bama has some knucklehead fans who make it hard for the rest of us – all teams do; just take a look at Facebook or any sports related forum or listen to, let’s say, 30 seconds of sports talk radio… Incivility and insensitivity is, sadly, near universal.
As fans, we can and should police our own selves. We can speak out against bad, unsportsmanlike conduct. They say you can’t fix stupid, but if we will stand together, we can clamp a dadgum muzzle on it. I’m fairly confident that in 15 minutes we could round up a posse from Walker County who could, umm, “deal with” the death tweeters and the Updykes of this world very effectively.
I share the outrage against the unkind things said to a young football player, but I also know those things do not reflect the hearts or the thoughts of the millions of Alabama fans who, though they were crushingly disappointed on one Saturday in November, love, honor and respect the Tide everyday of every year.
How would you describe Miley Cyrus’s performance at the MTV Awards?
- 63% Disgusting
- 19% Should have been censored
- 0% Cry for help
- 10% What happened to that innocent Hannah Montana?
- 7% It was OK by me
I appreciate the fact that the paper tried to be somewhat objective, in phrasing the question so that it was about the performance and not the performer. We were not so fortunate when other people were commenting on the incident.
I had more people than I care to count tell me, not that the performance was “disgusting,” but that Miley was. She was also “nasty,” “totally untalented,” and surely “must be on drugs.” Too many followers of Christ, including myself, were willing to drag another human being through the mud based on what? Something that offended us and our sensibilities? Were the batteries dead in our remotes? Did our remote not have an on/off switch or a channel changer?
I seriously doubt it. We watched it, when it happened live or the jillions of times it was replayed on news channels, and we clucked our tongues and we thanked God we were “not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector [singer].”
Is there grace for Miley Cyrus?
I hope I would always say yes, yes, if she would just open her eyes and understand that God loves her, has always loved her and that he accepts her, and that she doesn’t have to expose her body or behave in sexually provocative ways to get affection and acceptance and significance…
But I’m not sure I always do say yes.
Miley is 20 years old. I thank God that the sinful mistakes I made at 20 were not broadcast on television or written up in the newspapers. She is most likely surrounded by people who constantly say, “Yes Miley, whatever you think Miley, sounds like a great idea to me Miley…” There is probably nobody in her life who can put the brakes on, challenge her and encourage her to rethink. I’m afraid of what my own children would be like in those circumstances.
I guess the bottom line is “what can we do?” We can tone down the judgmental rhetoric. (How would you feel if your child made a huge, public mistake and people called them nasty and disgusting?) And we can pray – that the eyes of Miley and others would be opened to the reality of a God who stands ready to forgive, love, and accept. And we can offer to others the same grace, in the same measure, we would want for ourselves.
Yes, there’s grace for Miley Cyrus – and for all of us finger-pointing Pharisees too.
If you’re preaching/teaching/espousing keeping the Law, grace for salvation/performance for the Christian life, “being careful” with grace, or “balancing” grace and law, or if you like to use the phrases “hyper-grace” and “cheap grace” – if your focus is on what we do rather than what God has done – I’m not reading your books, listening to your messages or coming to your Bible studies anymore. I don’t dislike you or think I’m better than you – truth is, I love you now more than I ever have – but I’m not getting any younger, and I’ve got years of neglecting grace to make up for…
So I’m through judging and condemning people just because they don’t believe like I believe in every point of doctrine – or don’t do church, or worship, or dress, or vote like I do.
I’m praying every day for Christ to live in me, as me, through me, and to help me love and give and serve others – to make me a dispenser as well as a receiver of his grace – to make me a curator of the grace mojo for a world in need.
I know it won’t be easy. Doing the right thing seldom is. I’m sure I will have to get up, dust off my hands and knees and start again many, many times. But that’s the beauty of grace – there’s always a do over, always another chance, and always the assurance that my imperfect obedience is not a deal breaker.
I plan to spend the rest of my years in ministry proclaiming versions of the theme, “God loves you and wants you to be with him.”
I invite you to join me on this journey into the heart of God. Let’s do the grace walk together and illustrate for the world what biblical words like “love,” “forgiveness,” “acceptance,” “mercy,” and “kindness,” really mean.
I heard this morning about the passing yesterday of Brennan Manning, the author, former priest, speaker, theologian, and outspoken advocate of God’s unconditional love and grace. His book, “The Ragamuffin Gospel” has had as much influence on me – and shaped my ministry – as much as anything I have ever read besides the Bible. I remember reading the Introduction to “Ragamuffin,” hot tears filling my eyes and spilling onto the page as I prayed that God would let my ministry become one that could be described by the words written there…
“The Ragamuffin Gospel was written with a specific reading audience in mind: This book is not for the super-spiritual. It is not for muscular Christians who have made John Wayne and not Jesus their hero. It is not for academicians who would imprison Jesus in the ivory tower of exegesis. It is not for noisy, feel-good folks who manipulate Christianity into a naked appeal to emotion. It is not for hooded mystics who want magic in their religion. It is not for Alleluia Christians who live only on the mountaintop and have never visited the valley of desolation. It is not for the fearless and the tearless. It is not for red-hot zealots who boast with the rich young ruler of the gospels: ‘All these commandments I have kept from my youth.’ It is not for the complacent, hoisting over their shoulder a tote-bag of honors, diplomas, and good works actually believing they have it made. It is not for legalists who would rather surrender control of their souls to rules than run the risk of living in union with Jesus.
“If anyone is still reading along, The Ragamuffin Gospel was written for the bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt-out. It is for the sorely burdened who are still shifting the heavy suitcase from one hand to the other. It is for the wobbly and weak-kneed who know they don’t have it altogether and who are not too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace. It is for inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker. It is for poor, weak, sinful men and women with hereditary faults and limited talents. It is for earthen vessels who shuffle along on feet of clay. It is for the bent and the bruised who feel that their lives are a grave disappointment to God. It is for smart people who know they are stupid and honest disciples who admit they are scalawags. The Ragamuffin Gospel is a book I wrote for myself and anyone who has grown weary along the Way.”
Rest in peace, good brother, and enjoy forever The One whose Love you so eloquently, passionately described to those of us you leave behind.
Because I thought he got away with murder.
If you’re not familiar with the story – after leaving a Super Bowl party in January of 2000, Lewis’ entourage got in a fight with another group of people as both groups were leaving an Atlanta nightclub. Two men were stabbed to death in the fight. Lewis and two of his companions were indicted for murder – but Lewis cut a deal: in exchange for his testimony against his companions, he was allowed to plead guilty to “obstructing justice,” a misdemeanor. Lewis received 12 months probation and was fined by the NFL. Like I said, he got away with murder – or at least being an accessory to murder.
I was outraged – and isn’t it funny (or perhaps, pathetic) how we will get so emotionally involved in events that don’t really have anything to do with us or anyone we know and love? As the years passed, my anger cooled, but not completely. Whenever I heard or read anything about Lewis, whenever I watched the Ravens play, I was filled with contempt and disgust. And when I read a few years back about Lewis becoming a Christian, I scoffed, ridiculing and rejecting his conversion as “a public relations move…”
As recently as two weeks ago, after the Ravens beat the Colts in the first round of the AFC playoffs, I stated publicly and repeatedly that I would not be pulling for the Ravens because of one Ray Lewis and the events of 12 years ago.
And then God tapped me on the shoulder…
He reminded me that I too had been guilty of murder – or at least I had hated others, and Jesus said that was the same thing… Honestly, according to Jesus, I was an adulterer, a thief, and a liar. In short I was a sinner.
Just like you. Just like Ray Lewis.
I stand in front of people and preach the Good News – that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us… That none of us had really gotten away with anything – Jesus paid for every sin with his precious blood… Because of his sacrifice, we who have placed our faith in Christ and called on the name of the Lord do not have to pay the penalty for our sins – Jesus paid it for us and in doing so made it possible for God to give us the gift of eternal life.
I tell those who listen that our sins are gone, obliterated, drowned in the Sea of God’s Forgetfulness, as far from us as the east is from the west… With great joy I share with others that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. I preach grace and freedom from condemnation to some pretty messed up people – myself included.
But to my shame, I have failed to take off my judge’s robe and my executioner’s hood when it came to Ray Lewis. In practical terms, I have applied the blessings and benefits of following Jesus to every other believer I knew, myself included – but I have denied them to Ray Lewis.
I was so inconsistent, and so wrong. And realizing that makes me sorrowful and repentant – and makes me thank God again for the forgiveness I do not – cannot – ever deserve. Obviously, I am still way too capable of having a “grace for me, none for thee” attitude. Obviously, I have much more to learn, much more road to travel in my understanding and living out of God’s outrageous, incredible, life-saving grace.
Thank God for his love, his mercy, his grace, love, acceptance, and forgiveness – freely given to a stumbling screw-up like me. And thank God for Ray Lewis, a fellow sinner, saved by the grace of God and my brother in Christ.
It’s one of the most common New Year’s resolutions among followers of Jesus: “This year I will read the entire Bible!” And we start out all gung-ho and read every day for 3 or 4 days, maybe a week… Then we miss a day or two – we plan to catch up “soon,” and we make a couple of stabs at it, but eventually, we just forget about the whole thing…
We know reading the Bible is important. We know it feeds us and teaches us and shapes our lives, our decision-making, the very quality of our lives on earth… But many of us feel defeated when we try to keep up with a Bible reading plan.
So here are some tips and a link to a plan that just might make 2013 the year we actually read the entire Bible:
- Get a version of the Bible you can read and understand. This cannot be stressed enough – (and I’ve got zero interest in debating with anybody who thinks there’s only one “authorized version.”) For most of us, the King James or the New American Standard versions are not very readable. I recommend the New Living Translation – I’ve used it since 2008 (here’s a blog post about why I changed versions: The NLT and Me).
- Do not, I repeat, DO NOT open your Bible up at Genesis and start reading with a plan to go straight through to Revelation! You will get bogged down pretty quickly in some boring stuff – legal codes, census counts, obscure history – and your eyes will glaze over and you’ll give up. There are better ways to do it – more on that in a minute…
- Read earlier in the day rather than later. I used to try to read at bedtime – I lost count of how many times I fell asleep on God’s Holy Word. Make it a practice to read early in the day, maybe at breakfast or on a coffee break.
- Relax – don’t get stressed if you miss a day. There’s no law, or Bible verse, or church requirement that says you can’t miss. So if you get behind a day or three or 30 – just pick up reading on the next day. The object is to read the entire Bible – if it takes you 18 months to do, no big deal.
Here’s a plan that might work well for a lot of people. Advantages include:
- Providing variety throughout the week by alternating different types of scripture. The benefit is you don’t get bogged down for days in the less than stimulating portions of the Bible.
- Providing continuity by reading the same scripture type each day of the week.
- Providing an opportunity to see the many interconnections between sections of Scripture. One day you may be reading Paul’s teaching about God’s covenant with Abraham in Romans, and in the next day or two you’ll be reading about the actual establishment of the covenant in Genesis.
In a nutshell, here’s how it works:
- Sundays: New Testament Epistles
- Mondays: Penteteuch/The Law (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
- Tuesdays: Old Testament history
- Wednesdays: Psalms
- Thursdays: Old Testament poetry
- Fridays: Prophecy
- Saturdays: Gospels
We have hard copies of this plan, and several others, including the Daily Walk magazine available in the foyer at New Hope – or here’s a link to a printable copy in PDF.
If I can help you with finding a Bible or a plan to help you read it – please drop me a note!
“My Dad lives in Eugene Oregon. A couple nights ago, around 9:30pm, he got an unexpected knock at the door. It turns out that it was Tony Dungy’s sister – Coach Dungy and his wife were actually sitting in a car in Dad’s driveway with an elderly gentleman.
Coach, his wife, and his sister had flown in earlier that evening to the local airport. Around the same time, the older man – who was from the local area – had also flown in, but his family had neglected to pick him up. The man was a bit disoriented and scared and he wasn’t sure how to get home. The Dungy’s rented a car and took the guy out looking for his house. The man spotted my Dad’s house and said he thought that it was his house. Obviously it wasn’t, but Dad actually recognized the man and was able to give the Dungy’s directions to get him home.
As luck would have it, one of Dad’s grandsons was spending the night and he just happens to be reading one of Coach Dungy’s books. It was quite a thrill for him to meet the family and get to talk to Tony Dungy. Dad said they got to spend quite a bit of time talking with them and he was quite impressed with the way Tony Dungy treated this older man who was lost.
I find it encouraging that Coach Dungy appears to be the kind of man the media represents him to be. I wonder if I would have gone so far as to rent a car and try to help a lost old man find his way home? Would any of us?”
I’m a Tony Dungy fan – I grieved losing him as the coach of my beloved Colts much more than I did the loss of that one guy who was QB for awhile – What’s his name? – oh well, doesn’t matter… I have been led to understand that Coach Dungy is a kind, compassionate man of genuine integrity and great faith. How refreshing to be reminded of that – and how, in some strange way, proud it makes me feel.
In a world where celebrities, leaders, and famous people regularly “get caught” in moral shortcomings that reveal deep character flaws, it is gratifying to get some confirmation that a few of them are the real deal.
We miss you Coach!