- 2016May 10
Recently my buddy Ed Underwood (you should read his books and blog) texted that he had found the official anthem for Christians who try to live this journey in their own insufficient strength. I agreed so much that I asked his permission to steal his insight for today’s musing.
Ed had texted that rock icon Janis Joplin’s song “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)” perfectly summed up the frustration of Christians who think that just a little more effort or doing more of the right things will make them holy. It is a losing game. Joplin’s lyrics address a love interest but they fit perfectly into the frustrating cry of many followers of Jesus trying desperately to “be holy”.
Yeah, I’m gonna try yeah, just a little bit harder
So I can give, give, give, give him every bit of my soul.
I spent a lot of years alternating between trying harder, giving up, feeling guilty and trying harder again. What I got was not godliness. What I got was tired.
When I was a kid the preachers used to bellow about revival. We need REVIVAL! They preached in ALL CAPS ALL OF THE TIME! They would have week long revival meetings badgering us to sell out. We got yelled at about our sin. We heard clearly a message of condemnation and fear. We heard that we had better shape up or else! We heard stories about backslidden Christians burning in hell because they wouldn’t repent. We heard that we had better get serious about Jesus. And we believed we would. That fear based compliance lasted for a day or two or maybe a couple of months if we really got convicted. But it didn’t last.
Then I stumbled on a different message. What if the truths of grace so beautifully detailed in the book “The Cure” are true?
What if the secret to living this journey is not trying harder but simply living out of what Jesus has already done for me?
What if revival is based not on avoidance of damnation but on having an actual relationship with God? What if Christians really understood that they are new creatures when they put their trust by faith in Jesus? What if Christians truly got that there is no condemnation for them because of the Cross? What if Christians really understood that they are no longer have to prove anything and they could instead trust God for their spiritual growth? What if Christians saw that Jesus stood beside them ready to resolve their sin instead of looking with disappointment from afar? What if Christians learned to trust God and others with who they really are and dropped the dadgum masks? (My grandfather’s favorite Christian cuss word). What if Christians had the courage to put their full weight on these truths of identity and grace and allowed God to love them and others through them? These are the truths I have learned, refined and had a chance to live with my friends at Truefaced and other assorted misfits around the country.
Here is what one tired and discouraged Christian experienced when I began to understand the message of grace. It is changing me. And I have had the best years with Jesus of my four decades plus on the journey. I have had some really good spiritual seasons along the way but I have never had the consistency of joy and peace that I have experienced since I trusted these truths of grace. I have never felt such spiritual freedom until I leaned into grace that allows me to love God, receive love from Him and allow that to flow to others.
What if Christians really trusted who God says He is? Could we change our walk with Jesus? Could we change our family? Our church? Our culture? Dare we believe this?
I have often quoted from my friends at Truefaced. This statement rocked my world many years ago.
If you are a Christian God is not interested in changing you. That has already happened. You were changed when you trusted Christ. You were imputed with His righteousness. Your very spiritual DNA was rewritten and you became a new person. So the change happened right away. God is now interested in maturing you into what is already true about you.
We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. (Romans 3:22-23, NLT)
Remind yourself daily who you are. What is already true about you. That you are a new person. Righteous because of Christ. A new life has begun in you.
Live it joyfully and without condemnation. You are deeply loved by God today. Breathe that into your soul and quit trying so hard! I pray it will change your journey like it has mine.
- 2016Apr 03
Monday, April 4th will be my thirty-fourth opening day as the television director for Texas Rangers broadcasts. Someone asked me at church if I ever get tired of opening day. The answer is a resounding no! When I do it will be time to move to a rocking chair at the old director's home. I feel like I am just behind Lou Gehrig as the "luckiest man on the face of the earth" to be able to do this year after year.
In my mind there is no more special day in sports than Opening Day in baseball. It is an annual rite of Spring to post this article on the magic of Opening Day. The smell of freshly cut emerald green grass delights the senses. The base lines painstakingly and perfectly defined by a grounds crew that is committed to perfection on this day. Red, white, and blue bunting give the ball park a festive World Series look. The players bounce around like little boys. They seem a little extra grateful that they are paid to play a kid’s game.
The hot dogs taste like gourmet food. Humphrey Bogard wisely said that "a hot dog at the ballpark is better than a steak at the Ritz". Souvenirs a young fan begs for become treasures to be kept until adulthood. And then a challenge to explain to your wife why a twenty-five-year old bobble head needs to be in the china cabinet.
Children skip school and parents do not care because memories are being made for both of them. There is no shot that I love more as the Ranger director than the one of a Dad or Mom pointing to the field and explaining this wonderful game to their child.
The atmosphere is truly magic. It is Opening Day and every team has hope. Every team is undefeated. Who will be this year's team that surprises and surpasses all expectations? Each fan has dreams and they are hopefully, or perhaps hopelessly, optimistic. This is a new day and a new season. Old mistakes are forgotten. Past errors are no longer important. Today is the annual renewal of the incredible marathon that is big league baseball. It is a clean slate. The team has a new identity.
I once longed for such a defining moment in my walk with Jesus. It took me a long time to understand that God’s Word tells us that every day is like Opening Day (Dave’s paraphrase). I do have a clean slate because of Christ. There is hope. Yesterday’s sins are forgotten if you have accepted the gift of Jesus on the Cross. Every morning that I awake and see the magic of a new sunrise I know that I am renewed, redeemed and ready to face the day whatever pitches are thrown my way. I don’t have to wait a year to have a chance for renewal. Paul writes that every day holds the spiritual magic of renewal and victory in Christ.
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. (I Corinthians 5:17-18, NLT)
I am grateful that in my spiritual journey God that has given me a chance for “Opening Day” renewal every day of my life. I have had some really bad seasons during my career as a follower of Jesus. But I am learning that every day is a gift. I hope I have a few more Opening Days as a director. Then I long for many more as a fan with my precious grandchildren. Dan Patrick once quipped about an injured player. "He is listed as day to day. But then again, aren't we all?"
The fragile nature of our lives makes the bigger questions so much more important even as I enjoy the hope of Opening Day. Every day of my journey with Jesus can be like this special day in baseball. I can be transformed and new. Past losses (sins) can be redeemed and forgiven. There can be an exhilarating freshness in the journey. I can realize that I am a child of God and I can be grateful that I get to call Him Father. I can believe that my hope for the future is real. I can understand that I can be a better teammate to others that I encounter and not expect my team to be perfect. The magic of a fresh start happens once a year in baseball. It can happen every day for a follower of Jesus when we focus on His amazing Grace.
Author Dave Burchett's latest book is Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace. You can follow him on Twitter @directordb
- 2016Mar 25
One of the lowest points in my life occurred years ago when I was living in Washington, D.C., at Easter time. My older sister had recently died and both of my brothers were seriously ill; my best friend was leaving town, and on top of that I was questioning my work. In my journal that April I wrote, “Am I depressed?” When I read those pages now I laugh and shake my head. “Depressed?” That I even had to ask. In that long year I thought I’d never laugh again, just as I thought I’d never again feel love, the joy of easy friendship, or the satisfaction of good work.
I went to church that Easter out of both habit and desperation. I had grown up in a church-going family. It was what we did. And so to honor the family that I was losing I went. Easter after all, is the centerpiece for Christians, honoring and recalling Christ’s triumph over death.
I chose a big downtown church for Easter services — one with hundreds in the congregation — not daring to visit a smaller church where I might have to speak to people or be embarrassed by my own tears. I wanted the paradoxical safety and anonymity of being in a crowd.
The minister that Easter Sunday said many things that I don’t remember, but one sentence has stayed with me all these years. He said, “We live in a Good Friday world.”
That I understood. A Good Friday world is a world full of suffering, questioning, unfairness, trouble, mistakes, hurts, losses and grief. Good Friday in the Christian faith is the day Christians commemorate Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. So that certainly made sense to me at that difficult time in my life.
“But,” he continued, “We are Easter people.” Those words stopped me cold. I was stunned to be reminded that painful morning that there was something other than what I was feeling.
Wow. What an amazing message as we head toward Easter. We do live in a Good Friday world. How easy it is to stop right there, just short of healing, not realizing the hope of resurrection. The story of Easter week did not stop on Friday. The hope of this season is all about Sunday. Tony Campolo writes about a life changing sermon he heard in his book It’s Friday but Sunday’s Comin’. (Note to spiritual cyber hall monitors…I know Mr.Campolo is controversial. Just enjoy this illustration, take a deep breath, and move away from the keyboard). Campolo writes about hearing a wise African-American pastor preach about the events of Easter week.
For an hour and a half he preached one line over and over again…”It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’!” He started his sermon real softly by saying, “It was Friday; it was Friday and my Jesus was dead on the tree. But that was Friday, and Sunday’s comin’!” One of the Deacons yelled, “Preach, brother, Preach!” It was all the encouragement he needed.
He came on louder as he said, “It was Friday and Mary was cryin’ her eyes out. The disciples were runnin’ in every direction, like sheep without a shepherd, but that was Friday, and Sunday’s comin!”
The preacher kept going. He picked up the volume still more and shouted, “It was Friday. The cynics were lookin’ at the world and sayin’ `As things have been so shall they be. You can’t change anything in this world; you can’t change anything. But those cynics don’t know that it was only Friday. Sunday’s comin’! It was Friday, and on Friday those forces that oppress the poor and make the poor to suffer were in control. But that was Friday! Sunday’s comin’!
It was Friday, and on Friday Pilate thought he had washed his hands of a lot of trouble. The Pharisees were struttin’ around, laughin’ and pokin’ each other in the ribs. They thought they were back in charge of things. But they didn’t know it was only Friday! Sunday’s comin’!
Campolo continues, “He kept on working that one phrase for a half hour, then an hour, then an hour and a quarter, then an hour and a half. Over and over he came at us, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin!” By the time he had come to the end of the message…He had me and everybody else so worked up that I don’t think any of us could have stood it much longer. At the end of his message he just yelled at the top of his lungs, `It’s FRIDAY!’ and all 500 of us in that church yelled back with one accord, `SUNDAY’S COMIN’!”
A lot of people who stumble across this site might be in the middle of what seems to be an interminable Friday. It is hard to accept suffering and illness. Relationships that hurt us make Friday seem like it will never end. The trials of living on a fallen planet will make this seem like a Friday world at times during the journey. Ten years ago Joni’s diagnosis of cancer put us into a Friday state of mind. But we trusted that Sunday’s comin’! As we told our wonderful sons, if your faith doesn’t work at times like this it is of little value for the rest of the time. And it does work. We have been blessed with healing for now but we have the greater hope of the resurrection of Jesus as we continue. We trust in a God that has been faithful to strengthen us for the battle, work through us for His glory and teach us to be dependent on Him.
I believe the message of this week. Sunday’s comin’. And I believe that with all of my heart and soul. Paul wrote in Romans…
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1, NIV)
I am not ashamed of the Gospel. I fact I am excited about the Gospel. Even though I may be living in a Good Friday world today I am convinced that Sunday’s comin’!
Author Dave Burchett's latest book is Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace. You can follow him on Twitter @directordb