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News That Illustrates: April 1, 2013

March Madness: Play Like You're Loved
If you're a fan of March Madness, here's a fabulous, preachable quote from Scott Nagy, the head coach for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. (The Jackrabbits lost to Michigan in the opening round, but that's not the point of this story.) As his team was preparing for the conference championships, Ngay gave this inspiring and theologically rich pregame speech: "I want you to play like you're loved. Play freely. Love isn't dependent on your performance. No matter how you play, you are loved. Play with that in mind." What would it mean for our people to live like they're loved, forgiven, and justified in Christ? What would it mean to live as if Christ is risen?

PREACHING ANGLES: Confidence in God; Fear; God, love of

A Classy Postgame message
Speaking of March Madness, here's a touching story not just about sportsmanship; it's also about humility, servanthood, and encouragement (think of Philippians 2:3-4). The darling of this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament is the 15th seeded Florida Gulf Coast Eagle's. They weren't supposed to win a game, but they just beat San Diego State for their second win and a trip to the Sweet 16. (They lost in the next game.) After the game, San Diego State's star player, a young man named Jamaal Franklin, made a point to seek out the Eagle's best player—Sherwood Brown. When asked what Jamaal told him, Sherwood Brown said, "He just told me that we did a great job and he was just saying to keep this thing going. [He said that] we're doing something special, and he just wants us to keep it moving. Don't stop now."

PREACHING ANGLES: Encouragement; Humility; Servanthood

Are Relationships Our New Religion?
An interesting USA Today article observes that for millions of Americans relationships have become the new religion. They see gathering with family and friends is a spiritual experience that trumps actually showing up for a worship service with a specific group of believers. The article notes, "This week, most Americans will celebrate essential stories of Christianity and Judaism: God freeing the enslaved is a key Passover theme. Easter's core is Jesus' resurrection, offering a doorway to salvation. But many will celebrate with a twist. While 73 percent of Americans call themselves Christian, only 41 percent say they plan to attend Easter worship services, according to a March 13 survey of 1,060 U.S. adults by LifeWay Research …. Millions of people will delight in Easter and Passover as 'holidays,' not 'holy days.'" By the way, this really isn't anything new. It's called Gnosticism and in many ways it's still the same old heresy in modern garb.

PREACHING ANGLES: Community; Involvement; Worship

Isolation can Kill, Says British Study
After studying more than 6500 people, researchers at University College London determined that "loneliness hurts, but social isolation can kill you." Their findings over an 8 year period show that being socially isolated carries a higher risk of death, but that simply feeling lonely did not carry the same increased dangers, though it was unpleasant. Being isolated is deadly. And this is true for Christians in the spiritual life, isn't it? The old clichÉ that says the lion targets the sheep separated from the flock is true. We need each other.

PREACHING ANGLES: Community; Isolation; Loneliness; Small Groups

Punxsutawney Phil the Groundhog Indicted; Faces Death Penalty
Here's a hilarious story from Ohio where famed groundhog Punxsutawney Phil has been indicted on charges stemming from his incorrect prediction of an early spring. Mike Gmoser, the prosecutor for Ohio's Butler County, issued the following statement: "Punxsutawney Phil did purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the people to believe that spring would come early." Winter has been dragging on far too long so Gmoser is seeking the death penalty for the groundhog's malfeasance. Bill Deeley, president of the Punxsutawney club that organizes Groundhog Day, claims that the rodent—that is, his client—has a lawyer and he will contest the charges. Deeley said, "We'll have to plead our case one way or the other, but I think we can beat the rap." It's a great story to set up a sermon on divine or human faithfulness, truthfulness, and the power of promises.

PREACHING ANGLES: God, faithfulness of; Promises; Vows

But I Don't Want to Share!
You just thought that your toddler would grow out of it. New research from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor indicates that little kids know how to share, but don't want to. Researcher Craig Smith gave 102 wee ones the chance to share their four scratch-and-sniff stickers with others, and found that their behavior indicated awareness of sharing (indicated by their expectation that others would share with them), but that desire overcame their budding altruistic tendencies. It's a reminder that from the very beginning of life, humans are a bundle of moral and social contradictions. We can know what is right even as a child, but our innate selfishness holds us back from it. We don't need to be taught what's right. We just need the new life that lets us live it.

PREACHING ANGLES: Generosity; Regeneration; Morality

"Superbugs" Are a Reminder to Not Treat the Healthy Like the Sick
We've all heard about "superbugs"—antibiotic resistant germs that are getting deadlier and more prolific every year because of our high use of medications. Well, hospitals aren't the only place that the rapidly evolving micro-menace is hiding. They could be in your food, too, the result of modern farming practices that routinely deliver antibiotics to healthy animals to "prevent disease." As a result, superbugs that pose significant health threats to humans are developing. UK health minister Anna Soubry has demanded that the practices stop.

It's obvious that we shouldn't treat the sick like the healthy. They need a different level of care, and specific attention for their ailment. But when was the last time that you thought about not treating the healthy like the sick? Are there "remedial" spiritual practices that you're doing out of habit that could inoculate you to the gospel? There is a time for medicine, and a time to just let the cows graze as nature intended. The same goes for our hearts.

PREACHING ANGLES: Spiritual Health and Well-being

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