black history, theology, Kids' books

Monday, September 30, 2013

How Nike, Blake Griffin and "Dr. Drain" got the gospel right

First, Nike gave us Michael Jordan and Mars Blackmon. Then it was Penny Hardaway and Lil' Penny. Now, Nike introduces us to Blake Griffin and "Dr." Daryl Drain.

 A former NBA Slam Dunk champion - made popular by those amazing dunking abilities - Griffin proves to be a great sports personality as well.

In the commercial, Griffin is hoping to participate in a pick-up basketball game, but the athletes are one player short of a pick-up game.

Insert Dr. Drain.

He's a young baller more obsessed with his swag than his game. He shares a comical exchange with Griffin.

Drain: (going third person on 'em) "Daryl Drain will go for a run."
Blake: "Daryl Drain, huh? Can you shoot?" 
Drain: (looking supremely self-confident) "Can a butterfly sing?"

As the video progresses, Drain proves to the worst kind of pick-up teammate; the guy who doesn't know he's terrible. In basketball language, Drain is a scrub. Fortunately, the high-flying Los Angeles Clippers forward is there to clean up all of Drain's mess with a plethora of his signature ally-oop dunks.

What a picture of the gospel.

Dr. Drain represents us. Spiritually speaking, we're a lot like Dr. Drain. We have about as much chance of achieving a righteousness that's pleasing to God on our own as Daryl does in sinking one of those 3-point attempts. With his eyes closed. From his knees. Using a medicine ball. Aiming at a moving moving rim. You get the point.

Spiritually, we're scrubs.

But there's good news. Even for scrubs.

Jesus was both willing an able to make up where we lacked.

We need that spiritual ally-oop!  Drain's awful shooting performance never hurts the team, because Griffin is able to take his shots and redeem them. That's just what Christ did for us. Jesus never sinned. To borrow a sports analogy, he batted a thousand. Spiritually speaking, he never missed. Scholars refers to Jesus' perfect life as the active obedience of Christ.

Here's where the ally-oop comes in. At the cross, He exchanges us his perfect stat line for our crummy spiritual stat line.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

 We get to play for the winning team.  The commercial concludes with Blake and Drain celebrating victory with a couple of cold drinks from a mobile vending truck. Drain did nothing to contribute to the win except for to get picked up by the winning team.

And Team Jesus was winning way before I got on the squad. It's just as Jonathan Edwards said.

"You contribute nothing to your salvation except for the sin that made it necessary." 

Question: What is your biggest life lesson that you've seen illustrated through sports? 

Chris Lassiter is a husband, father of five and Young Life leader at his former high school, Robert E. Lee in Staunton, Va. He has written for The News Leader, VIBE,, and Young Life relationships. He is the author of You're Grounded, which you can read about here.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Belief or Baby Mama Drama?

To abort or to keep?

That scenario was the backdrop facing hip-hop icons Common and Lauryn Hill in the thought-provoking 1990s hip-hop classic, "Retrospect for Life."

A smooth, soulful song, "Retrospect for Life" does a masterful job portraying the options couples face in an unexpected pregnancy. The lingering question throughout the song is whether the characters portrayed by Common and Lauryn Hill can work together for the benefit of a child.

Or, as Common asks, will it be a relationship filled with baby mama drama?

And while the topic of "baby mama drama" is a source of fascination for at least one talk show and its viewers, it's actually as old as the book of Genesis.

Nothing's new under the sun.

In Genesis, God reveals himself to a man named Abraham as a covenant-keeping God.  Genesis 15 ends with God making a covenant with Abraham and promising Him a great number of offspring.

When Abraham and Sarah don't see the promised fulfilled quick enough, they did exactly what you and I tend to do. They tried to make God's promise to them come to pass in their own power (more on that in just a second).  Genesis 16 begins with Sarah telling her husband to get her servant Hagar pregnant.

Uhm, yeah. Not a great idea.

Not only did this move not fulfill God's promise, but it created a whole lot of baby mama drama. Sarah starts to resent Hagar, and Hagar seems to feel superior to Sarah after bearing Abraham a child. When God does bless Sarah with a child, there's also beef between Abraham's two sons. 

Yep. Drama. 

Just like baby mama drama isn't new, God's people doubting God's word isn't new either. In fact, mankind's rebellion against God is a direct result of the first couple not taking God at his word. The pattern of Abraham and Sarah is one we recognize in our own lives. 
  • First, we doubt God's word and God's character. 
  • Second, we take matters into our own hands. 
  • Third, we end up with a huge mess. 
What do we do when recognize this pattern? Meditating on the gospel is a good place to start.

The gospel is the good news about God's redemptive work in mankind through the person and work of Jesus Christ. In the cross, we see the trustworthiness of God on full display. God goes to amazing lengths - making sacrifices that you and I wouldn't dream of making - to keep His promise to rescue humanity. 

Because of this amazing news, a church-persecutor turned church-planter named Paul stated an amazing truth to the church in Rome. 

 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? - Romans 8:32

If we trust our covenant-keeping God to save us, we can also trust Him to keep us. I'm in a season of transition, where lots of things are uncertain. The great comfort in this is knowing that God's promises are certain. 

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him (Jesus Christ). That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. II Corinthians 1:20

What about you? What is your best story about trusting God or trying to take matters into your own hands?

(Note: While I can affirm this song, I can not affirm the full catalog of either artist as consistent with scripture.)

Chris Lassiter is a husband and father of five beautiful kids. He has written for The News Leader,, VIBE, Hard Magazine, and Young Life Relationships. He is the author of You're Grounded, which you can read about here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How I became just like Tim Tebow and three things I learned from it

No, I didn't become muscular or win a Heisman Trophy. I didn't engineer an overtime touchdown drive in the NFL playoffs. I can't claim part to any college football national championship.

But I can relate to Tim Tebow.

Not in the success, but in the struggle.

I became like Tebow when I became unemployed.

Lots of people are looking for employment,but here's what make Tebow and me the same. 

We may be jobless, but we're not hopeless.

For the past decade - longer in one case - I have worked bi-vocationally as a journalist and a youth worker. I loved both jobs. But, as a father of five, I surveyed what my wife and five needed from me, and I knew it was time for change.

The transition hasn't been an easy one.

The job search is taking longer than I would have hoped. Money has been tight. And the uncertainty has forced me to put other things in my life on hold until I figure it out. In the midst of the uncertainty, however, here's what I do know to be true. It's the same truth Tebow tweeted out after being released by the New England Patriots.

I don't know that the future holds, but I know Who holds the future. 

These are not circumstances I would choose, but the Lord has been faithful to teach some things along the way. Here are three.
  •  God is God. I am not. During the times I have been discouraged, it has mainly been because I feel like God should have answered my prayer a certain way. I wanted God to deal on my terms, and I wanted to use prayer as a way to twist God's arm into doing what I wanted. While we could and should ask the Lord for our requests, the true purpose of prayer is to walk with the Lord to develop a friendship. I knew my heart was wrong, because when God didn't answer my prayers the way I wanted him to I lost the desire to pray. My motives were wrong from the beginning. 
  •  God's timing is not my timing.  Being a husband and a father to five kids really reveals my impatience. I want my kids to finish their homework fast. I want everyone at the dinner table to finish their stories fast. I want God to open up a door for a job fast. I'm learning - slowly - that the Lord works things out in his own time and not when I am ready. 
  • In uncertain times, there's still reason to be thankful.  I usually try to start my prayer time by reading Psalm 100, a chapter on thankfulness. Then I try to thank God for everything I can be thankful for that day. The chief of the those reasons is the gospel;  that Jesus Christ would exchange my rebellion toward God for His perfect standing before God. And there are have been countless reminders during this difficult season that God is still incredibly kind to me and my family. If I only remember one thing from this season of life, I hope that it's that God is good apart from all of my circumstances.
What about you? What is your Tebow moment? Where did you go from success to struggle? And what did you learn from it?

Chris Lassiter is a husband and father of five. He has written for The News Leader, VIBE, Young Life Relationships, and He is the author of You're Grounded, which you can find here.