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David Burchett Christian Blog and Commentary

David Burchett

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Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and “Bring’em Back Alive – A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church.” Dave is available to bring his unique perspective to your conference, meeting, or broadcast. Dave and Joni, his wife of twenty-nine years, have three grown sons.

Today is opening day for the American League Champion Texas Rangers. Even though the World Series didn't end exactly like I hoped it still feels really good to write those words.

In my mind there is no more special day in sports than opening day in baseball. The smell of freshly cut emerald green grass delights the senses. The base lines are 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 today act like little boys. This is the one day that these privileged athletes seem to forget they are millionaires and appear extra grateful that they are paid to play a kid’s game. Children skip school and parents do not care because memories are being made for both of them. The hot dogs taste like gourmet food. Tacky souvenirs are treasures to be kept. Giant foam fingers become family treasures. The atmosphere is magic. It is opening day and every team has hope. Each fan has dreams and they are hopefully, or perhaps hopelessly, optimistic. Last year’s disappointments are gone and the hope of a new season dawns for fifty thousand fans in the park and thousands more across the city. The mood is upbeat and the expectations high. 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 longed for such a defining moment in my walk with Jesus. And recently I have been understanding that God’s Word tells us that every day can be 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 can believe that I have been renewed and optimistically face the day. I don’t have to wait a year to have a chance for renewal. Paul writes that every day has the potential for the spiritual magic of renewal and victory in Christ.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

As God’s messenger, I give each of you this warning: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5so it is with Christ’s body. We are all parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do. And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.

God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you. If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically.

Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and always be prayerful. When God’s children are in need, be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night.

If people persecute you because you are a Christian, don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible. (Romans 12, NLT)

I am grateful that in my spiritual journey God that has given me a chance for “opening day” renewal every day. I have had some bad seasons during my career as a follower of Jesus. But I am learning that everyday is a gift.

The fragile nature of our lives makes the bigger questions so much more important even as I enjoy the hope of opening day.  I realize that every day with Jesus can be like this special day in baseball. I can be transformed and new. Past losses (sins) are redeemed and forgiven. There can be freshness in the journey and joy. I can realize that I am a child of God and I can be grateful that I call Him Father. I can believe that hope for the future is real. I can understand that I must 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 any day and every day for a follower of Jesus.

Today I poured over the new titles at the local Christian bookstore. The usual suspects dominated most of the shelf space. One of the most important books in my Christian journey was not prominently displayed. And that is a shame. Because this book has a message that needs to be heard.

The organization is called TrueFaced and the newest revision of their book is called The Cure. I don’t think I have ever had a book (excluding the inspired one) impact me as much as this one. Here is how strongly I feel about this book and ministry. I have written two books. So selling a few books would be awesome for the fading retirement account. But if you only have the budget to buy one book in the near future I would tell you to buy The Cure. (That gives you a hint as to why I rarely am asked to do marketing seminars)

I am borrowing one little bit of content that is very timely during this month. John Lynch is one of the authors of the book and in this section he addresses how we are programmed from childhood to default to performance theology. He calls it the “Santa Claus is Coming to Town theology”.

You better watch out
Better not cry
Better not pout
I am telling you why
Santa Claus is comin’ to town
He’s making a list….checking it twice…three times…every day
Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice
Santa Claus is comin’ to town
He sees you when your sleeping, nows when your awake, he knows when you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake.

Oh, he’s watching. Waiting for you to screw up so you will get coal instead of a bicycle. You had better please him. And we teach our kids to put on the mask and be something they are not. Because Santa Claus is comin’ to town. This omniscient being who is judging our every deed is coming to town…and we learn to do the dance early. Buck up…be good. Don’t cry. Don’t pout. Santa Claus is coming to town.  (©Copyright 2003, William Thrall, Bruce McNicol, John Lynch. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.)

He is exactly right. We learn that we get good things and receive love only when we are good and do good things. Santa is pleased (and we later substitute God) when we obey. So we learn early. We had better be good. Or least fool everyone around us to think that we are being good.

Ask any child this Christmas if they are being good and I will wager you will never hear this response.

“Well, to be honest, I am really struggling with the whole being nice thing. I have actually been pouty and I cried yesterday. It just isn’t working out this Christmas so I suspect the video game system will have to wait.”

Nope. What you hear is the lie that we learn early and too often keep handy in our arsenal for a lifetime.

“Oh yeah. I am being really good!”

I remember (vaguely) the tension of the Santa Claus years. I knew I hadn’t really changed much. I tried to modify my behavior for a week or two leading up to Christmas but I knew I had failed to really be good. I learned a couple of things early. I learned how hard it is to change behavior by sheer willpower and I learned that I could fool Santa by living a lie. I learned that that he would bring me presents in spite of my failures. I did not learn about grace. That maybe Santa gave me gifts because of who I was and maybe he came to my house because I was lovable instead of rewarding me for what I had done to please him. I figured I had fooled him and to get the good stuff I would have to continue to hide the little boy who broke an ornament and then hid it.

Isn’t that too often how we view God? We had better not cry. Better not sin. I’m telling you why. Jesus is coming to town. He’s making a list and He is checking it not once or twice but every moment of every day. God knows if you’ve been bad or good so if you want to be healed or happy or prosperous you had better be good for goodness sake. If I do mess up I am scared to death that I will get a bad life or miss all that God has for me. So I put on the mask and try to be really good for Jesus. If I can fool those around me maybe, just maybe, I can fool God too.

Satan sells the lie so convincingly. And we buy it for months and years and even decades.

But God and Santa are very different in their approach. God does not keep a list. He is not impressed by our hernia inducing straining to control sin.

You know the verse well.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NLT)

Jesus offers us so many gifts. But the one we seem to have the hardest time unwrapping is the gift of grace. The gift that allows us to become who God desires us to become as we simply trust Him and quit trying to be “good” for goodness sake. We are saved by grace and faith in Christ. We become like Him by the same radical strategy. Faith that He has changed us into a new creation. And understanding the grace that gives us good gifts even when we don’t deserve them.

Don’t let the Santa Claus theology live into the New Year. Go straight to the gift of grace that Jesus left under the Cross. Open it. And clothe yourself in His salvation, acceptance and love. It may be the best gift you have ever given yourself.

(You can download a sample chapter of The Cure by clicking this link)

This series was well received last year. Some would call this a repeat but I prefer to think of it as environmentally friendly blog recycling with no carbon offsets required.

Merry Christmas!  Dave

As a public service I am providing a shopping guide for things you can give to Jesus on His upcoming birthday. For the internet hall monitors who love to send anonymous and snarky comments I understand that the celebrated date of Christ’s birth is likely off a bit. But since this is when we celebrate we will go with the date assigned.

Let’s be honest…giving the King of Kings and Lord of Lords a unique gift is really tough. The last post examined the gifts brought to the young Christ child over 2,000 years by the wise men, I had hoped that examining what the Magi brought might jump start our gift giving ideas.  By the way, there is a plaque that is available in catalogs this year with the title “What if They Had Been 3 Wise Women?” Here is the conclusion….

They would have asked directions.
Brought practical gifts
Made a casserole
Cleaned the stable
‘ Changed the baby
And there would be peace on earth.

Alert readers from the last article remember that the first gift was gold. That is always a lovely gift. But now it gets a little tougher.

Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh. (Matthew 2:11, The Message)

The second gift brought out of the luggage by the Magi was frankincense. Frankincense is a very costly and fragrant incense. It is a gum distilled from a tree found in the Middle East. It is a white resin or gum, and is obtained by slitting the bark of the “Arbor Thurisfrom”, allowing the gum to flow out (there will be a test). The word actually means “whiteness”, referring to the white colored juice which flows out of the wound in the tree. This gum hardens for three months, and is gathered at the end of the summer, and sold in the form of “tears”, or clumps of hardened resin. Frankincense is highly fragrant when burned, and was, therefore, used in worship, where it was burned as a pleasant offering to God. It is interesting to note that this sweet smelling resin comes as the result of the tree’s woundedness and pain. It is cut open and bleeds to give us the sweet smelling scent. The spiritual parallel is interesting. When we can worship God in the midst of our sorrow, our brokenness, then it is a sweet smelling offering to our Lord.

King David wrote, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalms 51:17 )

Much emphasis in worship today is on “celebration”. No time for agonizing and tears, only for shouts of joy and victory. While joyful praise is acceptable and pleasing to God, tears, like frankincense resin, oozing out of our hurts, broken hearts, and tears of repentance are especially pleasing – a sweet smelling sacrifice to the Lord. Anyone can dance and shout when blessings are flowing, and everything is going their way. But true worship happens when we must overcome feelings of self-pity, fear and doubt. So how can we offer a pleasing aroma to God?

How about giving Jesus the gift of belief for His birthday? You believe that Jesus is the Son of God…that He came to earth as a little baby over 2,000 years ago. That he lived a Holy life and died on a cross as perfect sacrifice for my sin and your sin. I would guess that most of the people who stumble onto this blog believe that. But what I am talking about is really believing God in every circumstance.

Think about giving the gift of really believing in Jesus for every need this coming year. Completely trusting who God says He is and who God says you are when you put your trust in Christ. Completely believing that you are a new person and not the same old person reworked. Completely believing that this new identity in Christ gives you power to live and power to not sin.

Believing that you are an amazing one of a kind creation whom God has placed where you are and with gifts that can be uniquely used where you are in your journey.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are-no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. (Matthew 5:5 The Message)

Later in the gospel of Matthew we find this…If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty. (Matthew 23:12, The Message)

I believe that comparison is one of Satan’s primary strategies to cause despair. You are wonderfully made by the Creator of the Universe and you are valuable. Michelangelo made a nearly perfect sculpture of David. The statue’s muscular tension is precisely rendered down to the muscle contraction on his forehead as David is poised to go into battle. It is perhaps the most important sculpture in the world and it was carved from one large block of marble. Why is that unique? Two other artists rejected the block of marble because of imperfections. Michelangelo saw the beauty in that block of marble that others did not. Jesus sees the beauty in you that others might not. Can you believe in a Jesus that can take you, even if you feel like a rejected block of marble, and then lovingly chip away until you become a beautiful work of art? Can you give Jesus the gift of believing on His birthday? Nothing would please Him more.

This series was well received last year. You may view this as a repeat. I prefer to think of it as re-gifting.

Blessings and Merry Christmas!   

Dave

We are fast approaching the hardest day of the year for most men. Many of us men give gifts to our significant others with fear and trembling. Humor writer Dave Barry relates the confusion most men deal with when giving a gift to their wife.

He could tell by her reaction to the gift that she had not been dreaming of getting an auto emergency kit, even though it was the deluxe model with booster cables and an air compressor. Clearly, this violated an important rule, but the man had idea what the rule was, and his wife was too upset to tell him.

Barry continues his thoughtful treatise…

So why is the Christmas season so difficult for men? There are many complex reasons, by which I mean: women. The problem goes back to the very first Christmas. We know from the Bible that the Wise Men showed up in Bethlehem and gave the baby Jesus gifts of gold,frankincense, and myrrh. Now Gold is always a nice gift, but frankincense and myrrh – at least according to my dictionary – are gum resins.

 Barry asks the vital question…

Who gives gum resins to a baby? The answer is…Men. The three wise men…being men, didn’t even start shopping for gifts until the last minute, when most of the stores in the greater Bethlehem area were closed for Christmas Eve. The only place still open was Big Stu’s House of Myrrh.

Even though Barry’s interpretation of the Gospels might be a little suspect…I do think he is correct about the difficulty in finding the right gift to give to Jesus on his birthday.

On December 24th or 25th most of us will exchange gifts on Jesus’s birthday. Suppose you had a big party for me to celebrate my humble birthday this April. All of my close friends and acquaintances show up and you all start exchanging gifts on my birthday. But there is nothing for me. Oh, someone might mention my name now and then. But I just sit and I sit and I watch others open gifts. Then someone mentions how grateful they are for Dave’s birthday so we could all be together. I become hopeful. But then someone else yells that the refreshments are ready so everyone rolls into the kitchen and I am left sitting there….no gifts on my birthday. I wonder if we don’t do that exact thing to Jesus. We have reason for the season signs and all of that. But it is so easy to get all caught up and not even think of a gift for the guest of honor at our Christmas celebrations. 
  
JesBelieve it or not…I decided to go back to the Three Wise Men and see if there was more to their gifts than first appears. What is the story behind these gum resin gifts? What is up with the gifts presented by the Magi? The simplest meaning is that these men brought items which, in their experience, represented the greatest worth. All of these gifts were rare, precious and expensive. Whatever else we may learn from this story, we know that they gave their best in honor to the One they believed to be the King, the Messiah. It’s interesting that we don’t know the names of the Magi but we know what they gave. We don’t know where they came from but we know that they worshipped the  Christ child.
                      
They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshipped him.

The first important point is that the Magi did not visit the Baby Jesus at the stable so our Nativity scene on the mantle is chock full of Biblical errors. They showed up at the house and it is clear that the gifts were a part of their worship. They bowed down before Him, and they offered Him gifts. What an amazing spirit that must have surrounded that child that caused men of importance, wealth and education to fall down before Him!

The miracle of God becoming man… He became what we are so that He might make us what He is.
Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh. Matt 2:11 (MsgB)


The first gift mentioned is gold.

Gold was the usual offering presented to kings by their subjects, or those wanting to pay respect. Gold has always held extremely high value – as long ago as 2,500 BC, gold was especially prized, and used as a medium of exchange. Even today when investments get shaky you start hearing about buying gold as a hedge against economic downturns. The value of gold seems to be a constant in our civilization. In both the Old Testament Tabernacle and the Temple, gold was used plentifully and was clearly associated with worship.

So should we give Jesus gold on His birthday? Most of us have a rather limited supply of gold. I am going to suggest that we give Jesus a commodity that is as valuable in today’s culture as gold was in the time of the Magi. That commodity of great value is time. When I think of gifts that we can give to Jesus…is there anything more precious than our time? 

When you love someone you want to spend time with them. If you say you love your wife but you go several days or weeks without talking to her she might be suspicious. When we say we love our children but we can’t work them into the schedule they begin to have doubts. When a young couple falls in love they want to spend every moment together. When they are apart they think of each other. As Percy Sledge famously sang that when a man loves a woman he can’t keep his mind on nothing else.

So we say we love Jesus. But we probably have little difficulty thinking of something else. We tell others that He is the center of our universe…but we can’t carve out the time to spend with Jesus to develop that relationship. I am confessing here that I have been guilty of this far too often in my journey with Jesus. My lips confess my commitment to Him but my time with Him reveals my true priorities. The uncomfortable truth for me as a husband…as a father…and as a follower of Christ is that my calendar reveals my heart. I make time for the things that are most important to me.

Gift suggestion number one for Jesus on His birthday…give Him a little time. Sit down with Him…talk to Him…enjoy His company.

And join us tomorrow for another last minute gift idea for Jesus. Perhaps it is not that hard to give something to Christ this Christmas.

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