Friday 25 January 2013

Was Lance Armstrong’s confession on Oprah that he took performance-enhancing drugs, right or wrong?

Was Lance Armstrong’s confession on Oprah that he took performance-enhancing drugs, right or wrong?

The big media news story of the last few weeks has been about Lance Armstrong the seven times Tour de France winner confessing to Oprah Winfrey (the agony aunt of America) that for years he took performance enhancing drugs. Armstrong also admits that he could never have won his seven tour de France titles without the drugs, and that he had been lying to many people for the last ten plus years. He acknowledges that he has put his friends and loved ones through much pain and torture.

Armstrong says that at the time he did not feel like he was cheating and that it appeared to him to be a “level playing field” because everyone else was doing it. I find this argument weak at best and morally corrupt at worse. This argument is what I have (unfortunately) come to expect from a naive teenager who justify their sexual promiscuity with the statement “everyone’s doing it” and not from a 41 yr old world class, multi millionaire athlete, father and husband.

However what I find somewhat grating is the moral hypocrisy from those in the media towards Armstrong’s confession. Some put forth various views that cast suspicion upon the authenticity of his confession. Some say he wants to compete again in triathlons, maybe even cycling. Whilst others say his confession is only because he was caught and that his decision to confess on Oprah was because she would give him an easy ride (no pun intended). Firstly at the age of 41 and having been out of any real competitive sport for the last 5 years I don’t think it is possible for Lance Armstrong to compete at any real serious level (unless he uses performance enhancing drugs, sorry couldn’t resist that one). Secondly was he actually really caught? Armstrong went on record to say that he had been tested more than any other cyclist in history and never tested positive. The only evidence against him came from former team mates who themselves confessed to taking drugs (and therefore implicating Armstrong) in return for light (6 months) punishment. I always find these scenarios akin to liars accusing other people of lying (how do you believe them). Thirdly I don’t buy the idea that confessing on Oprah was an easy option, I mean wouldn’t you rather confess to a priest / pastor in a small booth / office than on one of the biggest talks shows in media? I mean can you confess to any bigger audience in the world than Oprah’s? I think I am right in saying more people watch Oprah than the Tour De France? Whilst I accept that Oprah may be a more genial person to confess to (though her first question went for the jugular), surely human nature would rather confess to a friendly rather than fierce person?

I actually want to commend Lance Armstrong for his confession, on such a very public platform, (maybe others will be inspired to do the same?). This could not have been an easy decision. Apart from the fact he must of known he was going to be castigated by many, he has also opened himself up to numerous litigation cases being filed against him (already to the tune of £10m and rising). Many in his position would of kept up the pretence of the past ten years and taken their lies with them to their grave, leaving many in the public sphere still unsure of his guilt or innocence. No I think his confession was a very difficult decision to come to and will haunt him emotionally and financially for the rest of his life.

Yes he could have and should have confessed a lot earlier, but are we now saying that there comes a time when it is too late to confess? Ask the loved ones of those who have been murdered who have begged the killer to confess the whereabouts of their victim’s body for years. (Ask the relatives of the victims of the Moors murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley). Many in history have chosen in their dying moments that their ‘last words’ be a confession of a previous wrong. At least Armstrong did not wait that long (though I accept there maybe more to confess). Above all else I believe Armstrong proves that adage to be true and that is “confession is good for the soul”.

One of Jesus disciples wrote in 1 John 1:8-10 (NLT) If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

Armstrong still has a long way to go to repair the damage he has done and if truth be told, for some nothing he ever does will be acceptable penance for his crimes. But here a little perspective is called for; he cheated in a bike race and made lots of money from it. I can think of many in the public eye who have fallen from greater heights and managed to redeem themselves in the public eye. I think of Bill Clinton using his political leverage to help re elect President Obama. Many feel he has redeemed himself by his recent years of charitable work. Maybe Armstrong’s great work in fighting cancer will help him to redemption and ‘livestrong’ at least in the eyes of God.

Sunday 13 January 2013

Why You Should (Definitely) Want Your Church to Grow

Why You Should (Definitely) Want Your Church to Grow

The title of this post alone will be sufficient to send some into a fit.
Why don't I up the ante and say I want to see our church outgrow our current location again, launch new church plants, and start new campuses.
Uh-oh, I just sent somebody into overload.
“C’mon church growth isn’t important…you shouldn’t be all about the numbers!” Wrong.
Numbers represent people, and people are the reason God sent Jesus on His redemptive mission to our planet!

Why do I want to see our church grow?

Because it means that:
More people will turn their lives over to Jesus (as long as we’re not just stealing sheep from other churches, which I’m really not interested in). Depopulating Hell gets me excited! Not to mention giving people the hope, healing, meaning, and purpose found in Jesus!!
More people will grow in their faith (you cannot grow spiritually mature apart from a local body of believers).
More people will get on mission to make a dent in serving and reaching out to the people in our community with tangible expressions of the love of Christ.
More people means more opportunities for current church members to serve and step into expanded roles of leadership (thus continuing their discipleship).

You see, I just have these crazy beliefs…

I believe to my core that the entire world needs Jesus desperately.
I believe that our church is a good place for people to experience God because Jesus is magnified, the Bible is taught, and God is honored.
I believe that God has assembled an amazing group of people: our staff, our volunteers; everyone! So I know that a new Christian comes into a loving, supportive environment.
I believe that church growth honors God (the Bible teaches we are to be faithful AND fruitful).
Because of my beliefs, I let go of my career path over a decade ago and committed to serving God fulltime. Therefore, I pour my all into what I do every single week. So OF COURSE, I want to see that my family and my church family are all making a difference with what we’ve committed our lives to!

My Motives?

Some will question the motive of me or others who also want their churches to grow. “You just want bragging rights…”
God knows my heart, so I won’t bother defending that. But can’t we learn a lesson from Paul and rejoice wherever Christ is made known instead of being caught up in someone’s motive?
“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. But what does it matter?…The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this, I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.” (Philippians 1:15, 18 NIV)
Lest I be too misunderstood, church growth has never been the measure of our success.
We look to “changed lives” as the metric for whether or not we are succeeding at our mission. This places us in dependence upon God’s Spirit because we’re not capable of changing anyone’s life.
However, the greater the number of people in your church, the greater opportunity there is for changed lives. So while church growth isn’t the measure of our success, it is a goal and something we desire and plan for without apology.

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