Monday, February 24, 2014

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ Something Better Than a Puck and Coffee

          Yes, I admit it, I’m writing from Canada, the country that won Olympic gold in both men’s and women’s hockey.[1] How do I feel about that? I’m glad you asked.

          When I read a news headline that declares hockey as Canada’s unifying “religion”, and we all know that Tim Horton’s is its chief evangelist,[2] I grieve that we are so easily satisfied by a rubber disk and a cup of brew. Yes, that is how I feel about it.

          Believe it or not, even studies on brain-chemistry, and how our brains react to various stimuli, show that we are addicted to exciting things that cause our brains to secrete feel-good chemicals. These studies also show that the chemical-induced good feelings that come from pucks, medals, and coffee, is inferior to what happens in our body, soul, and spirit, when we find our greatest joy in God and his people.[3]

          My grief in what people are settling for with gold medals and silver cups is intensified by the contrast with what they are not experiencing. There is a better game in town, so to speak, and a much better and more satisfying drink available without cost, and without the tease of rolling up the rim to get the best the hockey-evangelist has to offer.[4]

          Let me explain why the hockey-religion causes me grief instead of joy. In addressing the wonders of the ways of God, the song-writer expressed: “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold,”[5] While there is no doubt that many are temporarily satisfied with Olympic gold, the ways of God are even more desirable, with a promise of permanence to make the heart glad forever.

          Along with this testimony are other declarations such as, “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.”[6] In today’s language, I think the writer would have declared that the words from God’s mouth are better than thousands of gold, silver and bronze medals. With that same preference for the riches of God’s thoughts and words, he adds, “Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.”[7]

          In contrast to the joy and satisfaction that are better and higher than the finest gold and silver, the one who knows the supreme joy in God identifies that, “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands.”[8] Gold medals and silver cups are the work of human hands. While such things do cause people to feel joy, and stimulate the brain to secrete good-feeling chemicals, they can never give more than what they are.

          For that reason, God’s children listen to the wisdom that says, “Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold.[9]No matter how much gold or silver they ever might possess, their worldview is still, “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.”[10] When you know the only true God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you just cannot see life otherwise.

          The reason that Jesus’ brothers make more of him than gold is explained like this, you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.[11] Once such a price has been paid for our ransom from sin, nothing of silver or gold will ever be so valuable.

          When another of God’s friends spoke of the genuineness of your faith” in Jesus Christ, he said that it was, more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire” (I Peter 1:7).

          The bottom line is that those who live by the religion of hockey have no guarantees of lasting satisfaction. Their pleasures are momentary. They often live with dashed dreams, riotous disappointments, and the need to re-prove themselves year after year, Olympics after Olympics. And, whatever gold, silver and bronze has been gathered along the way is all left behind when the game of life is over.

          On the other hand, those who live by faith in Jesus Christ, and delight themselves in the true LORD of glory, are guaranteed to experience the deepest, richest, most satisfying desires of their hearts.[12]

          While some Canadian hockey fans would brand me as fanatical (weird, eh!), what I am writing about is very real. The testimony of those who know God through Jesus Christ is, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”[13]

          Along with such mind (and brain)-satisfying testimony, we have Jesus’ own words telling us how determined he is that we experience the greatest possible joy in the greatest possible way. He tells us, These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.[14]

          Now, if you ever walk past my house you may find me having fun playing hockey with my daycare friends. You will also find me sometimes enjoying a cup of Tim’s brew. But the real secret (hopefully not too secret) of what makes my life tick is what happens when I wake up in the morning and spend some time with the one who gives me, “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.”[15] Such time with the God who created us for joy, makes me want to share this joy with those who only know the temporary thrill of a gold medal (or two).

          There is actually something better than Olympic gold. And, since the same news media that presents hockey as Canada’s religion won’t tell people about what is best, here is one more way that Jesus’ brothers can share the wonderful joy that is ours in our Creator and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

          From my heart,


PS: Another very special side of this joy in Jesus is that God’s children from around the world can share in the richness of God’s joy no matter how their country did in the Olympics!

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Referring to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics
[2] Tim Horton’s is Canada’s famous coffee-and-donut chain.
[3] Look up the word “joy” in an online concordance and you will see how central this is to God’s plans for his children. I have found wonderful help in this regard through a book entitled, The Life Model: Living From the Heart Jesus Gave You, © 2010 Shepherd’s House, Inc, and other resources of that ministry. Their book, Joy Starts Here, ©2013 Life Model Works, has been helping me understand even better why we so often settle for the momentary thrill of an inferior pleasure, when God offers us the fullness of his joy.
[4] Tim Horton’s uses the “Roll Up the Rim” campaign to increase its congregations and revenue.
[5] Psalm 19:10
[6] Psalm 119:72
[7] Psalm 119:127
[8] Psalm 135:15
[9] Proverbs 8:10
[10] Proverbs 16:16
[11] I Peter 1:18-19
[12] Psalm 37:4
[13] Psalm 16:11
[14] John 15:11
[15] I Peter 1:8

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