More than Magic Tricks

 In Sermons, Teachings

JR. Forasteros - April 8, 2018

A Defense of the Faith

Monday Messiah

Does the idea of fighting about religion make you nervous? Of course it does! But we’re so often taught that we have to defend our faith against people who don’t believe. After all, Jesus himself said, “I am the Way”. But what if Jesus’ words weren’t a line in the sand, but an invitation to life? How can we find a better way to engage our non-believing neighbors with vulnerability and love?

From Series: "Monday Messiah"

We like to claim that Jesus' resurrection changed the world. But how? How does it matter that Jesus was raised from the dead not on Sunday, when we worship, but on Monday, when we dive back into our ordinary lives? In this series, we explore the "I Am" statements Jesus makes in John's Gospel to see how the new life Jesus offers us is as immediate and relevant as ever, right where we live, work and play.

Discussion Guide     Manuscript

More From "Monday Messiah"

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God left Ohio in 2010.

I was living in Dayton at the time, and all the chaos was in Cleveland, about 2 1/2 hours away. The god in question was LeBron James, small forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers and one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

I say he’s a god half-joking, but that wasn’t a joke in Cleveland. Giant banners adorned the streets with phrases like, “All Hail King James”. Even though the arena is called Quicken Loans, there was no question whose house it really was. The night he left was a televised event – a whole nation watched anxiously as they discussed whether LeBron would stay in Cleveland, not even 40 miles from his hometown, or go to Miami to play for the Heat. The time of Revelation came, and it was indeed an apocalypse: the King was leaving for sunnier skies.

The city of Cleveland rioted. All over Ohio, people burned LeBron jerseys in the streets. They cursed his name and swore vengeance on his family and legacy. It got, pardon the pun, biblical.

Being neither an Ohio native nor an NBA fan, I watched from a distance, marveling at how quickly their worship of LeBron turned to hatred. I thought at the time it was a sign of their love of LeBron, an expression of the depths of the betrayal they felt.

Then, in 2014, just before we moved to TX, LeBron announced he was returning to Cleveland. I was skeptical. No way those jersey-burning, name-cursing Cavalier fans would take him back!

But Ohioans were ecstatic. They threw parades, danced in the streets, rushed out to buy new jerseys to replace the ones they’d burned, started naming babies LeBron again.

That’s when it hit me: Cavalier fans don’t love LeBron.

They don’t actually care about LeBron at all. What they love are the wins LeBron brings them. The prestige of having one of the GOATs playing in their city, for their team. They love the perks package that comes with LeBron. Take that away, and they turn on him in an instant. Bring it back and they embrace him without a second thought.

As an outsider to both Ohio and basketball, the hypocrisy was obvious. But when I looked closer at Cleveland’s cavalier attitude toward LeBron, I saw my own reflection. Because while I don’t care enough about basketball to care one way or another about King James, I have strong thoughts on religion.

And more often than I’m comfortable admitting, we are a lot like the Cavs fans – interested in Jesus not for Jesus’ sake but for what he can do for us. Maybe we’re looking for a strong family or job security. Maybe it’s a sense of inner peace and well-being or bodily health. Or a confidence we’re on the right path.

Whatever it is, we have certain expectations of our relationship with Jesus. As long as he fulfills us, we’re good. But if we don’t get what we want or expect, we become easily disillusioned, putting distance between us and Jesus or possibly even turning away from faith altogether.

That kind of faith is shallow. It’s just as false as the love Cleveland has for King James.

Jesus invites us past that shallow faith into something deeper and richer, a faith that isn’t interested in changing our circumstances but rather changing us so we can become agents of God’s love and healing.

Join us Sunday as we learn how Jesus changes us so we can change our circumstances.

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