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Archive for June, 2008

When you’re approaching the throne of a just and righteous God, you’d better have confidence standing in His presence.  It is important to note that this confidence has absolutely nothing to do with you, or your good deeds while on earth.  UK rock band Coldplay recently released their 4th studio album Viva la Vida , translated “Live the Life”.  The title track off the album Viva la Vida was realesed last month.  The first time I heard the song it was instantly very appealing to my ears.  I have enjoyed the music of Coldplay for many years now, and this latest release was no exception.  As I began to listen closely to the lyrics of the song I was struck by an interesting line. During the second playing of the chorus the band sings “for some reason I can’t explain I know Saint Peter wont call my name.”  Being that the band hails from England I was not surprised at the catholic influence upon their theology, and position of Peter.  According to Roman Catholic tradition, Peter is considered to be the first to occupy the Papal office.  Also Catholics view the Pope as the head of the church, and Peter in particular holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Catholics.  The problem I have with the line from the song, and Catholic tradition is, on the day of judgment, that is the day I come face to face with my maker, I will not be looking for Peter but one far greater than him, his name is Jesus Christ.  The Bible teaches that Christ is the only way to God, the one who advocates on our behalf before the father, and the true head of the church (John 14:6, ,Hebrews 7:24-26, and Colossians 1:17-19). The is only one worthy of reading the names from the book of life, Jesus of Nazareth and Peter himself would attest to this Biblical truth (Revelation 5:1-12).   The other thing that troubles me from the song is that he believes Saint Peter wont call his name, but he is not sure why ( the actual lyric is “for some reason I cant explain”).  This phrase scares me far worse than many lines found in hip hop and rock that promote sex, drugs, and godless living.  The thing that makes this phrase or idea so scary is the individual Chris Martin sings about apparently cant grasp or understand why he wont be accepted into the kingdom of Christ. The person being spoken of here evidently believes based on his life’s work, he will not be admitted into heaven.  This line is the epitome of self reliance and the denial of Christ.  The greatest sin in the world is the sin of self sufficiency, and is the only unforgivable one, because it is final and absolute rejection of Christ which is blaspheming of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:30-32).  The Bible teaches that the man/woman who denies Christ here on earth, has no chance of acceptance into the kingdom of God on the judgment day (Luke 12:8-9).  Our right standing before the father has nothing to do with our perceived goodness and deeds, and everything to do with Jesus and his work on the cross (John 3:16, Romans 5:5-8). The funny thing about Viva la Vida or Live the Life is, according to the Bible, in order to truly live you must die (John chapter 3).  Sadly though, so many are taking the advice of Coldplay and others as they attempt to live their life now and hope for the best later.  The truth remains however, your best life is not now if you have Christ.  If you don’t have the savior?  Unfortunately, they are living the life now, only later to meet their doom.  So ask yourself this question today, What does it mean to truly live, and am I living the life that will be acceptable before God?  And if you can answer yes to this question, then blessed are you, and it’s for a reason you can explain, our unshakable hope that is found in Christ alone.             

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Summer time as a child is one of life’s great pleasures.  Swimming pools are the ice creme and apple pie of summer delights.  So it is no surprise that in the summer of 1987 I found myself in the swimming pool and faced with a great challenge.  I remember the scene like this, my mom and dad had dropped me off at the pool while they played tennis just a few hundred feet away.  The pool was crowded with children and adults alike colling off and tanning up on a late summers evening.  A few of my older friends decided to jump off the high dive and into the 12 foot deep end abyss.  After watching a few of the jump off and resurface, I decided the time had come to take the plunge for myself.  I gathered what little courage I had and climbed the ladder to the high dive.  Climbing the ladder reminded me of the beginning of the roller coaster when the car carries the passengers up the steep climb to the top, and you ask yourself “what have I gotten myself into”? As I reached the top I remember the person in front of me (probably a girl, which makes me feel even worse about my fear) leap from the board and plunge into the unknown below.  I readied myself, gathered my composure and walked to the end of the board.  I guess I can say I know what a pirate feels like when he is forced to walk the plank.  I reached the end of the board and just as I thought I was ready to be baptized into the fraternity of high divers, I froze.  I was completely overcome with fear as I stared at the water below.  My friends encouraged me, the life guard pleaded with me, but nothing was going to happen.  There was a rule that once you climbed up the only way down was in the water.  So I was stuck.  I couldn’t climb down and was not going to jump, that is until the bravest, strongest, wisest man in my world came to my rescue.  My dad walked down to the pool and saw the dire situation I was in.  He walked over to where I was and told me that if I jumped I would be OK.  I told him I couldn’t.  After just a minute of so of trying to negotiate with a seven year old, dad  got in the water and promised me that if I jumped he would catch me.  That is all these seven year old eyes and ears needed to see and hear.  I can still picture my dad swimming there below me and reassuring me his arms where strong enough to catch me.  i jumped, not into the unknown, but into the safe and secure arms of my father.  When I broke the surface after my plunge my dad was holding me and I was feeling like I had won Olympic gold for my jump.  That was the first of many jumps off the high dive, but none ever compared to that first one.  Jesus tells in the gospel of Mark chapter 10:14-15, we must have child like faith to come to him. 14But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  15“Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”  Jesus wanted the people to see that children are capable, and do express great faith.  A child is completely dependent upon his/her parents to provide and guide them during their early years.  Jesus wants us as Christians to be completely dependent upon him, and not just for our first formative years, but our whole life through.  Many people don’t come to Jesus because of their perceived fears, and apprehensions concerning giving up what they see is a lack of control in their own lives.  If they only knew they were never in control to begin with. Jesus says in Matthew 6:27, ” Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life”?  I believe that coming to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith for forgive of sins and abundant life is in many ways pictured in my jump that summers day from the high dive.  Following Jesus is not the easiest thing to do, but no matter what, he will keep you safe in his arms, and you will experience his all satisfying joy as you and I learn to trust his words more and more.                      

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I dont know if my dad is the worlds greatest dad, but I do know he is the best dad my brother and I could ever have.  So for fathers day, I want to pay a small tribute to my father, Ernest Mansfield Stewart II, better known as Buster. I want to share a few thoughts with you all, and then Trey will write a guest commentary and share some thoughts of his own.  Here’s to you dad; happy father’s day.

5 reasons I admire my dad

5. He is patient.  Growing up and even now, my dad has always seemed to have a surplus of patience.  I have only seen him loose his temper a few times throughout my life (most of them occurred while he was trying to teach me algebra in 9th grade).  A man with many virtues, his patience is one of his best.

4. He is a good listener.  I don’t anyone else who is as good a listener as my dad. I picture him in my mind rocking in his rocking chair and listening to me as I share my thoughts and feelings.  And when I finish talking i look at him as he intently ponders what I have just shared. He doesn’t always respond immediately, and sometimes not at all.  He knows when to speak and when to listen.  And when he listens, he listens good.

3. His actions speak louder than his words.  Dad is a man who leads by example.  He is the type of man that when he has something to say, people turn and listen.  This is a result of the way he lives.  He is consistent as father, a friend, a husband, and a Christian.  Whatever my dad does, he does with excellence.  Even when he doesn’t speak, he is saying something to me, follow my example son, as I follow the example of Christ(I Corinthians 1:11). 

2. I learned how to be a man from my father.  No one has taught me more about what it means to be a father, a husband, and a friend than my father.  Whether he would sit me down to discipline and impart wisdom on me, or simply by the way he lived.  I learned how to be a man from my father.  He has never been too busy to spend time, or talk to me. He has always treated my mother with love and respect.  He has not been perfect, but he has been a model and a standard for me and my brother.

1. I have seen him become a man of God.  For as long as i have known my father he has been a man of good character.  Over the last ten years I have seen my dad become a man of godly character.  I don’t personally know anyone else who has grown as much as dad in the last 10 years.  He is in the Word daily, I never doubt he prays diligently for our family and others, and I see him live out his faith each time I’m around him.  To me he exemplifies what a man of God should be.  The great thing about my dad is, as much as he loves me, he loves Christ more. And that is what I admire most about him. 

It is with great honor that my brother Taylor has asked me to share a few kind sentiments about our earthly father, Mr. Buster Stewart.  So, I will now try and elaborate on the person I look up to the most in this world. From my very first memories of my dad, I remember a kind, gentle, caring father who displayed unwavering love and compassion to his family and everyone around him.  Throughout my life, I have never met anyone who has said anything negative or disagreeable about my father.  My dad is not flawless, but from my biased perspective he is very close to it.   

My father has taught me many invaluable lessons that have helped mold and shape me into the person I am today.  He is one of the most humble people I have ever met.  I have always known my father was an excellent tennis player, but he has never once bragged about his accomplishments even though I have begged him too.  My father has accumulated numerous plaques and trophies throughout his illustrious career, but if you would like to see them, then you will need to venture to the deepest part of his closest o to the dustiest part of our storage facility.  I still can’t get him to talk about his “glory” days that I have heard and read about from so many sources. That is just one example of his humble nature.

My father is definitely that most patient man I know.  Taylor did do a great job of testing his patience with algebra.  (The responsibilities were eventually delegated to myself). I tried to test his patience pretty much my entire high school career.  However, he only grew more patient and more encouraging, and it made me so mad. How can anyone be so calm and patient all the time?  I would trash talk my dad when we competed in golf, tennis, or basketball (I am an excellent trash-talker).  When I would hit a good shot, he would genuinely be so happy for me.  This would infuriate me.  I wanted competition, to win, even blood.  I knew my dad was competitive, and much like the emperor I wanted to bring the dark side out of him.  Impossible, his patience and selfless nature are rock solid.  It is his selfless nature that I believe is his most impressive attribute.  

My father has always sacrificed so no one else would have to.  He truly puts everyone around him in front of him.  This is something that I pray for every night, to have the selfless nature of my father.  My father is one of the most Godly, caring, loving, encouraging, humble, selfless, and patient men I have ever met.  When I think of my father many scriptures come to mind but none greater than these:  

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, what all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and Prophets.”  (Matthew 22:37-40)

My dad truly adheres to this scripture in all that he does.  

Oh, and my father has never let a day go by without telling me he loves me.  These are probably the most comforting and reassuring words I have ever heard, and a worthy tradition that I will pass along to my offspring. Here is a poem for all fathers… 

What Makes a Dad

God took the strength of a mountain,

The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun,
The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature,
The comforting arm of night,
The wisdom of the ages,
The power of the eagle’s flight,
The joy of a morning in spring,
The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity,
The depth of a family need,
Then God combined these qualities,
When there was nothing more to add,
He knew His masterpiece was complete,
And so,

He called it … Dad

Author Unknown

 

 

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I spent the past week at at my parents home in lovely Rainbow City AL.  The goal for my week there, to un-clutter their house (anyone whose ever been there knows mom and dad are pack rats and clutter bugs), and paint.  With help from my good buddy Gabrielle Machari, we successfully donated three truck loads full of furniture and accessories.  Then Gabrielle, my brother, father, and I began to paint.  We painted, and painted, Gabby went home to Mobile, we painted, Trey went back to Auburn, and dad and I painted still.  Painting is slow, often tedious work, especially for an amateur like myself.  But I find painting, or rather the end result to be very enjoyable.  Even though I didn’t pick the colors (mom did), I thought the results from our time spent coloring the walls was well spent.  Did you ever stop to think about God, and how he has painted?  Look at a sunset, a river winding down a path, mountains rising boldly in a cloudless sky, or a field blanketed with wild, blooming flowers.  These are all the design and work of a creative and imaginative God.  But of all the mountains, sunsets, and wildflowers, the most beautiful picture God is working on is you and me.  As a Christian God is constantly painting us.  What is he painting on us?  The image and likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ on our very lives.  He paints with various colors and shades, but all based from His favorite color red.  Red is the color of blood, and in particular His Son’s blood.  God’s wants our lives to be a living picture of Jesus Christ(Galatians 2:20, Romans 8:11).  God is very much at work on us, in us, and through us.  He never rests or grows tired or impatient of painting on us(Romans 2:4, II Peter 3:15).  So the next time you find the painting or the work you are attending too going arduous, and even painstaking, remember, its a wonderful work in progress, just like you and me.                 

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