Saturday, April 23, 2011

An Easter Meditation

The Cross was not a thing to celebrate in the Roman world. It was above all else a symbol of death. It represented a painful death. Make no mistake, when Christ went to the Cross He felt the fullness of the pain and suffering it involved. The stripes upon His back were real; the spikes in His hands were real; the thorns upon His head were real; the strain upon His muscles was real; His death was real; and it all was for you and for me. He died that we might be forgiven our sins and restored to fellowship with our Heavenly Father. He died that we might die to sin and live for righteousness.

It is so difficult for us today, sitting in our comfortable pews two thousand years removed from this historical event to fully embrace its meaning. How can we comprehend this kind of love? Yet, we must, because until we do, we can never fully embrace the Cross and live in the newness of life Christ died to give us.

Would you shut your eyes for a moment and imagine yourself standing at the foot of the Cross? See through your mind’s eye the blood running down. Hear Him as He cries victoriously, “It is finished!” Now hear his breathing as it slowly grows shallow until He finally looses consciousness and dies. He did that for you and for me; not because we deserved it, but because He loved us with an unconditional love and He wished to transform us from a life of sin resulting in death to a life lived in righteousness resulting in eternal life.

Through the years the skeptics have attempted to debunk the account of the resurrection. They have attempted to reduce it to a myth or to water it down to be some symbolic teaching. This is not new. From the beginning there were those who attempted to disprove the resurrection. Despite the fact that there is more historical evidence to the resurrection than there is to many things we accept as historical fact, skeptics today continue to try to debunk the resurrection. As they failed then, they fail now. Make no mistake the resurrection is not an option placed before us, it is a truth that is an essential part of our faith.

Paul addressed the issue and plainly stated that without the resurrection our faith is worthless and we are still in our sins; and if our only hope is in the life of Christ we are men most to be pitied. It is the resurrection that establishes the validity of everything Christ taught about Himself. If there was not a resurrection, then we have no more reason to believe Christ than any other religious leader. It is the resurrection that sets us apart. Christ is not a dead martyr, He is a living Lord.

God does not say that we must understand the resurrection. How can we? It contradicts everything we know about life and death. He does say that we must believe it. It is a matter of faith.

After appearing before His followers for a period of forty days, it came time for Christ to return to His heavenly home. His ascension was not to be forever. A common thread throughout Christendom from the day of His departure until today has been the belief that He would return.

Whole denominations have been founded upon a particular belief concerning the timing of the return of Christ. With all the different theories and interpretations, one thing remains constant among believers. This belief is that Christ is coming again. When He does come, the agony of the Cross will be replaced with a crown of majesty and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord of Lords, and King of Kings.

While we wait for His return it is important that each one of us live our lives in such a way as to enable us to look upon His coming with great joy and anticipation. His coming should not be a fearful time for us. Instead, it should be a time we look forward to because it will usher in a welcomed time of fellowship with our Master that we have not yet experienced.

The Cross, the Resurrection, the Ascension and the Return of our Lord are all critical parts of our faith. Would you embrace these truths this Easter, if you have not all ready do so? If you all ready believe, would you embrace His love and commit your life to His service until He calls you home or until He comes again? These are the only choices you will ever make that have eternal consequences. Do not take them lightly.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Embrace Cross

April 22, 2011

The public ministry of Christ began when He was thirty years old. His first recorded miracle was performed at a wedding. For many, this marks the beginning of His public ministry. His ministry was one of healing for those who were broken and downtrodden. Wherever He went He attracted crowds. Unfortunately, most of the people were interested in His miracles and not in a personnel relationship with the miracle worker.

When the excitement of the healing passed and Christ talked of the ultimate cost of following Him, the crowds quickly thinned. This falling away is graphically illustrated with the attitude change that took place between the trip into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and the mob’s cry for crucifixion a few short days latter. How quickly they passed from cheering to jeering the Savior.

From the beginning He was a thorn in the side of the established religious leaders. Partly because they felt threatened by His teaching and partly because He did not resemble the Messiah they expected. They followed his ministry closely, not for the purpose of learning, but for the purpose of attacking him. In the end they felt they had won the struggle because Christ’s ministry ended in what appeared to be complete failure. His ministry of love and healing was rewarded with a painful trip to the cross.

Little has changed through the centuries. During this Easter season, people who wear the name Christian will gather all around the world to celebrate the resurrection of the Christ. They will recognize that something is missing in their life. They will desperately long for the peace, joy and abundant life that Christ has promised in the Gospels. However, when they are confronted with the high cost of discipleship, when they realize that they can not experience the fullness of the joy, peace and abundance that Christ wishes them to have without embracing the Cross and dying to self, they walk away and say, “This is too hard.”

We settle for what man can do. We settle for what the world offers. We settle for less than what God promises because we are not willing to embrace the cross. C.S. Lewis explains it this way in “The Weight of Glory”. “Indeed, if we consider the staggering nature of the rewards promised us in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink, sex, and ambition when infinite joy is offered us. We are like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

This Easter do not settle for less that God would have you to have. Trust in Him; embrace the Cross; and believe that He will give you all that He has said.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Great Teams Have No Stars


My mind often reflects upon the twenty years of my life, eight as a player and twelve as a coach, when I was consumed with athletics. Memories of two a day practices, smelly locker rooms,and sore muscles remind me that hard work is necessary for success. However, the greatest lesson athletics taught me was that great teams were not great because of their star power but because of their teamwork.

This truth was drilled into me while I coached at Woodruff High School under legendary Coach W.L. Varner. During my six years, we won four conference championships, two upper state championships and one state championship. My final season, we went twelve and two and won the state championship. This was not unusual for Woodruff at the time. It was expected by the community and demanded by Coach Varner.

Contrary to what most people thought, we didn’t have that many great athletes. We had many good athletes but Coach Varner would not allow us to have stars. No matter a player’s talent level, there was no special treatment. When it came time to run the opposing team’s offense against our defense, the starters on offensive took their turns running the ball like everyone else. When the game was over on Friday night, win or lose, everyone knew that it was a team effort. The one who blocked for extra point attempts felt just as important as the one who scored the touchdowns. There were no stars.

This lesson carries over into life. Teamwork eventually out performs star power. It is true in the work place and it is especially true in the church. In fact, the bible makes it clear that there are to be no stars on God’s team. The Apostle Peter wrote these words, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to who belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen.” (I Peter 4:10, 11 NASB). From this scripture it is clear that God gives the talent and the assignment. It is equally true God deserves the praise, leaving no room for stars.

From the following account from John Wesley’s life, found in the book, 33 Laws of Stewardship, it would appear Wesley understood this truth. When he was approached by a young man who felt his service to the church was unimportant, Wesley responded “Sir, we are building God’s temple. Go now and read the third chapter of Nehemiah and learn that he who repaired the dung gate was counted of as much honor as he who worked on the gate of the fountain. All did their bit; you and I can do no more.”

The point in all of this is that everyone in God’s church is important. There is no partiality with God. There are no little jobs. There are no stars, only stewards of the grace that God has given to us.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Power of Words

The writer of the Book of James sums up biblical teaching on the tongue with these words, “But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:19, 20 NASB). It is important to notice two things in these verses. First, our speech and our anger are closely linked. Second, we need to listen more and talk less.

The writer’s admonition is better understood, when we realize the power of our words. They have the power to heal or to hurt. They have the power to calm or to crush. They can be used to build up or to tear down. It is important for us to choose them carefully. Here are a few suggestions on speaking positively. Remember to think before you speak. We may mean well, but if our words are thoughtless, they can cause great harm. While an occasional thoughtless comment may go unnoticed, a pattern of continuous thoughtless words in our homes, our workplaces, and in all of our relationships can cause immeasurable harm. Careless speech can poison our living environment.

Do not use the truth as a weapon, but speak the truth in love. The truth is not always what someone wants to hear. When the need to admonish arises, it is important to look for the proper time to speak and to speak in a proper tone. If anger is involved give the initial outburst time to abate and look for a private moment to address the issue. Keep in mind the tone of your conversation is as important as the substance. If your tone is judgmental, condescending, or arrogant, you can be assured that what you say will not be well received. If you use a tone that says you really care and your motive is to help, you increase the possibility of being heard. Whenever possible listen to what those around you have to say. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. By listening, we can be prepared to speak wisely when the time comes. We would do well to learn a lesson from the wise old owl in the poem below.

A wise old owl Sat in an oak

The more he saw The less he spoke

The less he spoke The more he heard

Let us try to be more Like that old bird.

(Author Unknown)

If each one of us learned to be more cautious with our words, we might discover we can accomplish more from listening carefully than from speaking unwisely. The result would be a more pleasant environment in our homes, community, church, workplace and every other place people congregate together.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Reflections for April 2011


One of the greatest needs in our country today is leadership. This is true in churches, government, business, education and every other endeavor. Without strong leadership the best anyone can expect is mediocrity. John Maxwell said, “An organization can not rise above its level of leadership.” The primary reason that there is deep dissatisfaction with government on all levels is the lack of clear, strong leadership. People of all political persuasions are crying for someone to stand up and cast a vision for the future. Instead, politicians are satisfied with standing around pointing fingers and assigning blame.

There is no better book on leadership than the Bible. As one studies the characters in the Bible, one sees basic truths about leadership put into action. Whether it is Moses, Joshua, David, Ezra, Peter, Paul or countless other characters there are at least three characteristics that they shared.

One, a leader is able to see beyond what is to what can be. This does not mean that a leader doesn’t have a full understanding of the past and the present. It does mean he/she is not willing to stay there. Look back over the history of our nation. There have been many difficult times. We have not always done things the correct way. With every difficulty, someone has risen to the top and has helped us to see that there was something better in the future. It was the vision of the Promised Land that kept the Jews going for forty years in the wilderness but it was Moses who kept this vision in front of the people.

Two, a leader is willing to take risk to make things better. He is willing to sacrifice in the now in order to insure the future. Maxwell said, “If I succeed without sacrifice, then it’s because someone who went before me made the sacrifice. If I sacrifice, and don’t see success, then someone who follows will reap success from my sacrifice.” Read the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, especially verses 38, 39. Why were these great men and women of faith willing to sacrifice so much? It was because they had a vision of the greatness that was to come. Leaders understand that the risk and sacrifice of today is necessary to reach the goals for tomorrow.
Third, a leader has perseverance. Things do not change overnight. A leader does not change course every time the wind shifts. He sets the example and keeps his focus on the vision laid before him. Books are filled with individuals that could have given up. Instead, they viewed each problem as an opportunity for greatness. They believed and lived Galatians 6:9. It reads, “And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.” (NASB)

As God’s people, we need to pray that He will raise up men and women who fit the description above, who are willing to stand above the finger pointing, and who are willing to paint a picture of our future that motivates our people to move beyond the bickering partisan politics that has been so prevalent in recent years and to move into the future with optimism and hope.