MARCH MADNESS A WEEK EARLY

It’s Friday night. My wife is leading  a  small group of women in Bible study in our living room and I am stashed away in our computer room blogging and watching the Big Ten Tournament on television. Anyone who has been watching this tournament and the others, especially the Big East, will know that top seeds and regular season champs have been knocked off by their lesser brethren on the hardwood. (As I write this Texas A&M is leading no. 1 Kansas in the Big Twelve and Alabama is leading no. 2 Kentucky. My beloved Buckeyes made a tremendous comeback when their national championship hopes were almost derailed by a back injury to Evan Turner, their Big Ten Player of the Year. Turner came back six weeks later and the Buckeyes almost became a juggernaut as the captured the Big Ten regular season title and the no. 1 seed in this tournament.

The Michigan Spartans almost derailed that juggernaut. Only a spectacular three pointer by Turner with 2.2 seconds left managed to salvage a 69-68 victory. However, if the Buckeyes has stumbled like Syracuse and Villanova–no one would have been surprised. The NCAA tournament has not yet begun but the madness has.

Speaking of madness, lately I have been thinking about the foolishness of preaching. I just finished an eight part series on making a Fresh Start, and have been in the pulpit 10 out of the past 11 Sundays. People often say, “How do you know what to preach?” or “How do you do that?” In some sense, the greatest danger is to have a message that comforts the comfortable instead of comforting the afflicted. One of the greatest challenges is to speak the truth to people who cannot always handle the truth, and to not be overly self-impressed when the already persuaded agree with you.

I like what Mark Batterson, a minister in Washington DC writes: “You can preach for two reasons: because you have to or because you have to. The first “have to” is because you are on the schedule. The second “have to” is because you have fire shut up in your bones, you have a word from the Lord, you have something conceived by the Holy Spirit that you cannot keep inside. Nothing is worse that the first “have to.” Nothing is greater than the second “have to.”

Jeremiah 20:9 ought to be every preacher’s mantra: “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”

If this is madness, let it have more important world impact that who ultimately wins the Big Dance. (By the way, do you remember who was the national champ last year? They won’t even make the tournament this year.)

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