Archive for April, 2009


It only took Vestavia Hills Country club 32 years, but they are finally getting it right.  On Saturday May 2, 2009 Brian Shelton will be inducted into the Alabama Tennis Hall of Fame in a formal ceremony at VHCC.  32 years ago this same Brian Shelton was the top ranked tennis player in his division (12’s) in Alabama.  But because Brian was black he was not allowed to play at VHCC, an all white private club.  Brian is currently the head women’s tennis coach at Georgia Tech, where as recent as 2007 he guided the lady yellow jackets to the national championship.  I spoke with Coach Shelton this week about the irony of being inducted into the Hall of Fame at a place that once he was not allowed to play tennis at because of his skin color.  I asked him how that made him feel as an 11 year old boy.  He said “it was the South, and we (his family) were used to that type of treatment from some people.  You would sometimes here people say things as you walked by, but that’s just people being people, and they are going to let you down.”  He went on to say it bothered him that he was not allowed to play in the tournament, but he didn’t allow it to affect him.  I asked him how his parents responded to the discrimination of their son.  “It upset my mom.  She hurt for me.  But she was a women of great dignity, so she didn’t allow herself our me to get to caught up in it.”  Coach Shelton would go on to become one of the greatest junior players in the history of Alabama Tennis, and then the same at Georgia Tech.  He would even reach as high as the top 55 in the world in singles on the professional tour.  His accomplishments alone make him stand out, but it’s someting completely different that makes him Hall of Fame worthy in my book.  Few men posses the character of Brian Shelton.  A much lesser man who faced similar challenges as Coach Shelton did as a young boy, upon hearing where the induction ceremony was held might decline the invitation to be present.  But we are dealing with a much higher man here.  Coach Brian Shelton is a great man of faith and family.  He himself understands the power of forgiveness as a born again Christian, who has experienced the forgiveness of God through the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross (Ephesians 1:7)  He is a man who reaches for that highest standard of excellence which is the person of Christ in his coaching life, his public life, and especially his home life.  I worry much more about me harbouring bitterness and resentment against those who wronged Coach Shelton than I do he.  I can only hope some of those same people who opposed a young Brian Shelton playing tennis at their club are still alive to see the day when he finally comes to VHCC as a Hall of Fame inductee.  But make no mistake about it, Coach Brian Shelton does not need this ceremony at VHCC in anyway to validate, or vindicate himself, in regards to those who wronged him.  He is validated by the blood of Jesus Christ in the eyes of his maker.  This is just a case of God righting a wrong in a believers life.  Racism is an ugly sin, which we here in the South bare the scars of.  In the family of God their is however no such thing as race.  All people that are redeemed by Christ are part of one family, and we only know one color…red, the blood.  That means Brian Shelton and I are brothers, and you cant convince me otherwise.  The family of God is a radiant picture of the love of Christ that knows no color or cultural barrier.  Coach Shelton’s own family bears this beautiful image, as he is African-American, his wife is White-American, and his children are a perfect blend of their godly parents.  The Shelton’s are a brilliant picture of the family of God!  Coach is a role model for a young Christian man like myself who just this past year was blessed with birth of his first daughter.  But even more importantly im glad to be apart of the same family as Coach Shelton.  A family that is multi-racial, multi-cultural, knows no social classes, and is everlasting!  The only other person I wish to one day see in the Alabama Tennis Hall of Fame more than Brian Shelton, is my own father.  My father is the most influential man in my life, so that should tell you how much I admire Brian.  I am so proud of him and for him.  No one is more deserving of this honor than he.  But more than anything I am glad to know him, as a friend and as a brother.  On Saturday May 2, 2009 at 6:30pm Coach Brian Shelton will receive his due award.  I can just imagine his kind and humble smile as he is recognized for his accomplishments.  It is however another honor I know he looks forward too much more.  On the day when he breathes his last earthly breath and he meets his maker in the sky and he is officially inducted into the Hall of Faith.  That’s the induction ceremony I don’t want to miss!

Galatians 2:27-29

27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.


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It was just on the short side of 2:30 in the afternoon and through the front doors of a fraternity house stumbled a girl, soundly drunk and apparently confused.  There were others on the front porch sitting, drinking, and playing cards, but no one seemed to notice this particular girl.  I watched her for a moment take a look around and stare seemingly into nothing.  It was as if I could hear her soul saying, “What is going on?  Doesn’t anyone care? Who am I?”  She had a dark and desperate look to her face.  One that seem to be crying out for help.  Now I don’t know this girl, nor do I pretend to assume too much.  But if you are stone drunk and stumbling out a Frat house at 2:30 in the pm chances are things are not well with your soul.  I felt a great sense of pain as I walked to my car.  I thought about her being some other father’s Perry Rose.  I prayed and hoped that one day if God allows Perry Rose to go to college she would never find herself in a dark situation like the one I witnessed.  The girl I saw that day I will likely never meet or know, but I pray Jesus finds and rescues her from clutches of the evil one.  It was a sobering moment at least for me to get what seemed like a glimpse from God into the condition and inner lostness of one’s soul.  It is true people get drunk at colleges and bars all the time…I just have never seen someone who looked so lost and cold.  All the more reason for we Christians to keep serving, praying, and proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ to the world.  The gospel is powerful enough to reach anyone (Romans 1:16).  The question is, who’s gonna proclaim the good news to them?   

Isaiah 43:6-8 


 6 “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness;
       I will take hold of your hand.
       I will keep you and will make you
       to be a covenant for the people
       and a light for the Gentiles,

 7 to open eyes that are blind,
       to free captives from prison
       and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

 8 “I am the LORD; that is my name!
       I will not give my glory to another
       or my praise to idols.


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To get to heaven according to the Bible an individual must twice die.  Most people struggle enough with one physical death that the thought of a preceding spiritual death is just too much to ask.  But that is exactly what God requires a death to our former life and a rebirth into a new life in Christ (Romans 6:4).  The problem with me and you and everyone else is a matter of the heart.  We all by nature are wicked to the core of being, enemies against a Holy God.  And to top it all off there is nothing good in us that would ever desire salvation.  Oh yes we desire to be satisfied as lost souls, reveling in our sinful ideas and practices.  The sin of the soul’s self sufficiency is the greatest obstacle that stands between every man and God.  Prior to conversion we hate the light because it exposes our own darkness, and the light is Christ (John 3:19-20)!  This is why it is so difficult for any man to get to heaven…there is but one way (John 14:6) and with every ounce of fiber in our natural man we fight against the light exposing our dark hearts and desires.  But heaven is not impossible, just exclusive.  An eternal resting and rejoicing place reserved for only those souls who call upon Jesus Christ and his atoning work on the cross for the forgiveness of their sins and the power to repent from them (Romans 5:9).  It is the great work of God through Jesus that saves men from eternal death and judgment. It is the call of the Holy Spirit on our very hearts that opens our eyes to God’s holiness and our sinfulness.  We receive the light of God because His Spirit calls us to be saved (I Corinthians 2:13-15, 6:10-12, Ephesians 2:1-8).  Otherwise we would never know we were lost to begin with.  So you see friends getting saved is no small matter.  It takes an act of God on our hearts through the calling of The Holy Spirit out of our former life of pleasing self, and it took an act of God on the cross in the crucifixion of His beloved and perfect son, Jesus Christ.  Heaven ain’t easy…but it’s possiblee, and Jesus is the only way.

I Peter 4:18 (Proverbs 11:31)   

   “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
      what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?

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Jesus rose from the grave to conquer sin and display his supremecy over all to all.  He did in fact die, but he rose from that borrowed tomb three days later.  His resurrectionwas witness by over 500 people, including the disciples and Paul himself (I Corinthians 15:3-8).  Because he rose and is now and forever more alive so can you and I be.  Jesus death on the cross paid our ransom to God for our very own sins (Romans 3:23-26).  His victory over sin and resurrection from the dead guarantees our victory over sin and death.  If Christ had only died on the cross for our sins, and not risen from the dead we would still be lost in our sin and without hope (I Corinthians 15:12-18).  But Christ is alive and the Holy Spirit that now dwells in the body of every believer attests to that very fact.  Furthermore, demons, disease, and idols of every kind bow before, cringe in fear, and submit to the authority of one who is not dead but alive.  For if Christ were indeed dead He would hold no power over evil of any kind.  Christ has been made alive by the very power of God, and now we can too be made alive if we trust in his atoning sacrifice on the cross and resurrection from the dead (Romans 6:4-6).  Praise be to the one and only God who is alive and His name is Jesus Christ!

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Pete Maravich is the greatest college basketball player…ever.  Before becoming a Christian he was fiercely dedicated to be the best at his game.  For a time in his life he became a vegetarian for what he considered the benefit of his health.  Still he would venture in the kitchen to cook meals for his wife Jackie.  On one particular occasion he was cooking a fine dish (chicken if I remember correctly) and his wife asked him how he could cook such a deliciously appetizing meal and not be tempted by its sight’s and smells.  To which he replied, “Its discipline Jackie”.  Here at the Stewart home have decided to take each month as an opportunity to focuses on a spiritual discipline or character trait.  And as you probably already guessed April is discipline month.  We are working together to create more time with God by through the elimination of certain things, and the good stewardship of others.  I have given up TV, am trying to eat out less, spend more quality time with my family, read more, and pray more.  Tenly and I have even started a prayer list that we go throughtogethor each night together.  On certain days of the week we pray for certain people, churches, ministries, GT teams, and even our city, state, and country.  We realize discipline is not the end…but the means.  It is but one way we can grow in our faith and love for Jesus Christ.  He is our beginning and end, and in all things whether discipline or else our goal and standard.  We are praying that this month through more disciplined lives we as a family grow in the likeness and pleasure of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 12:1       

 1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

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Well friends it seems I have developed an unforeseen love for this thing called reading. For so many years I read because I felt like I needed to. These days however I am reading at an unprecedented rate and with utmost pleasure. After The Hobbit I moved on to No Compromise, the Biography of Keith Green. I lack just 200 or so pages on No Compromise, and just ordered two more biography’s David Brainerd and George Muller. Brainerd and Muller are great men of the faith past. I have long known about them through the preaching and writing of John Piper, so I decided to become more familiar with them myself. I tell about this new found love of reading because…it surprises no one more than me, and I rejoice in the blessings it has already brought. We may think we know ourselves all to well then God surprises us with something we did not expect. This is one of the things that makes a life with Christ so enjoyable…it is full of joy in places unexpected. I thank God for this new found pleasure in reading. It has become a passion, a fire in the core of me. And the only remedy is not more cowbell (see SNL Skit featuring Will Ferrell) but words on paper that become words on my heart.

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