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Archive for April, 2010

Romans 8:28

28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Yet, with no rain on the radar it poured at my house.  I called my dad last week to tell him the grim news on Tenly’s car (new rear end differential), and to let him know the dryer quit working.  I said dad, is it raining at your house?  He replied that it was very sunny and pleasant, and quite bewildered he asked if it was raining at our’s.  I told him yes, pouring in fact.  Now, to top that off the TV (less than two years old)  decided to quit working today.  I want to be very transparent with you regarding this all.  First, I am not seeking your pity, but I am seeking your prayers.  Please pray God would use this all for his glory and our good.  With that being said, it still feels overwhelming when all this hits you like a landside at once.  Some will undoubtedly respond to my situation with the phrase (please promise me you will never say this to anyone else), “well, that’s life”.  No, this is God.  God is sovereign over all things.  He is constantly at work displaying his glory and making his son’s and daughter’s into the image of Christ.  Did God cause all this to happen?  I do not know, but I do know he allowed it to happen.  This morning as I was slumming over all the trials I was facing, God reminded me of something, nobody is sick, no one lost their job, no one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness (speaking about my family).  A little perspective from God goes a long way in better understanding things.  I can handle anything with God, this is minor compared to other things.  So, Tenly, Perry Rose and I called a prayer meeting this morning in Perry’s room.  We  pray each night together in Perry’s room just before she goes to bed.  This however was a special prayer meeting.  A prayer meeting where we thanked God that we were just dealing with “stuff” and not bad news concerning loved ones.  We prayed God would help us better trust with the things we do and don’t have.  We have resolved as a family in spite of the overwhelming sense of frustration that will trust God in these “minor”  things, even though when it involves money you really don’t have it doesnt seem minor.  In spite of the rain, the forecast for our family is bright, we have each other, and more importantly we have Christ. 

Romans 8:18

      18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be

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Matthew 13:44

44“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

This is one of the shortest stories in all the Bible, but it is also in my mind one of the most powerful.  You have Jesus here telling a story about a guy who really gets it.  What does he get?  He gets that all things are worthless compared with Jesus.  Jesus is that great treasure he has been searching for his entire life.  So, when he finds the one thing that can truly and chiefly satisfy every longing of his heart and soul, he goes and sells everything he owns fr the treasure.  All the possessions he had accumulated over the course of a lifetime gone, and all because he saw Jesus for what he was/is…supremely valuable.  And he didn’t just begrudgingly sell all his possessions, no, he with joy sold them in order to buy the field where he had discovered and buried his treasure.  Jesus truly is the treasure of all treasures.  In a life where we fill our life with so many things, where we store up so much “stuff” it begs the question we all must ask ourselves, is Jesus that valuable to us?  Is Christ our ultimate treasure, or is he just one of many treasures?  Even in our culture it would seem illogical for a Christian (lets just say he is a successful business man)  to downsize his home, sale his vacation home, give away his “toy” car and give a huge portion of his life savings to the poor and missions.  Even most Christians would think he was crazy, over the top ,but, Biblically he would be right.  The story teaches us that all things pale in comparison to the value and worth of Jesus Christ.  All the “things”  we collect and store up for ourselves here on earth will perish.  All that we do for Christ with all our resources (time, talents, finances) will have an eternal impact and value.  This guy gets it, many if not most in our “Christian” culture don’t.  To many, Jesus is a means to and end, a means to getting more of what they want.  To this man Jesus was the end, He was chief, He was greatest, He was supreme.  How much greater was He?  With Joy this man sold it all for the sake of knowing and having Christ.  Is Christ that valuable to you and me.  This is a radical call to you and I for examination of how we are spending our time, talents, money and every other thing God has given us.  This guy gets it…are we getting it?             

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The Gold Standard

It was impossible…more like improbable.  They weren’t supposed to win, but they did.  The 2010 Georgia Tech Women’s Tennis Team entered the 2010 ACC tournament at 5-5 in conference play and the number 7 seed.  To win, they would have to play four matches in four days against the best teams not only in the conference, but the country.  One by one they began their ascent toward the top of the ACC mountain.  Along the way they defeated Virginia Tech, 2nd seeded Miami, 3rd seeded Clemson, and 1st seeded and #1 in the country North Carolina.  In the final against UNC, the championship came down to #1 singles where Tech’s Irena Falconi faced off against the best Carolina had to offer in the nation’s #22 ranked player.  After winning the first set 6-1, Irena dropped the second 3-6.  The final set marked the true valor and toughness of a team, and defined by their best.  Irena, dug deep and scored a dramatic 6-4 third set victory which gave the Yellow Jackets the ACC Championship.  7th seeded teams are not supposed to win conference championships.  Winning four matches in four days is not only difficult, but highly unlikely.  After each big win, the team would be forced to recover and refocus within a twenty-four hour time period.  And lest we forget the Lady Jacket’s are doing this all without Senior, team captain, and former NCAA individual singles champion Amanda McDowell who has missed most of the year with a chronic back injury.  Take away an Amanda McDowell from any other team in the conference and I all but guarantee they do not win the ACC title.  But this team is special, they proved themselves to be unique because of what they had to overcome on their way to accomplishing one of the most improbable tourney runs in ACC women’s tennis history.  Honestly, I was am surprised, not shocked, suprised they were able to win the tournament.  I thought going in they had a chance, but the light was distant, the window for opportunity small, the road rocky and difficult.  Yet there was hope, Head Coach Brian Shelton is the best Women’s tennis coach in the game,  Tech has the nation’s #1 player, and a team that has progressed tremendously since the fall.  The hope turned out to be destiny.  All this team needed was to believe, believe that they could accomplish something great, something improbable if they would collectively be great for the four days spanning the tournament, and play like they were the best team in the conference during four remarkable days.  Champions do things like that, they take the tiniest bit of hope, the smallest window of opportunity and do something with it.  Pretenders and contenders wish something good will happen, while champions make it happen.  Over the span of four days last weekend, the Lady Yellow Jackets made it happen.  Now they sit a top the conference for the fourth time champions and the gold standard of ACC Women’s tennis.

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Champions Wear Red!

 

Well, Cardinal to be exact.  My dad who coaches the Gadsden State Cardinals won the Alabama Junior and community College Region tennis tournament this past weekend in Decatur AL.  In doing so, they also qualified for the national tournament which is held in Plano TX during the second full week if May.  Dad, who has been coaching the team for the past seven seasons guided the cardinals to their first conference championship in 30 years.  His teams several times have qualified and competed at Nationals, but always as the region runner-up.  In the process, dad collected his second region coach of the year award in the past three seasons.  This all for a team that began the year with a 2-7 record, before reeling off 5 straight regular season victories and the conference championship.  More than conference championships and coach of the year awards, dad is a champion of young men.  He cares more about the type of young men his players become after they leave Gadsden State than he does Conference Championships and National Tournament appearances.  He is like a father to his players and he and my mom treat them like they are family not only while they are players, but especially after they move on.  Perhaps this was best illustrated by the fact that 6 former players were in attendance this past weekend to support dad and the team.  Dad told me after the match the alumni who were present were just as excited about the Championship as the current players.  For all he does off the court in the lives of young men, he should region coach of the year every year.  Just prior to the current winning streak dad brought me in to practice the team for a couple of days.  He was concerned about some chemistry issues, and players not playing up to their potential.  At the end of two very intense and very good practices I called the team together and brought dad up to stand beside me.  I told them should feel fortunate to play for such a good tennis coach, but they should be honored to play for such a great man.  Dad, you taught me most things I know.  You taught me how to be a father, how to be a friend, how to be a child, how to become a Christian, and you taught me how to fish and play about 1,967 other sports.  Besides Christ, you have been the most influential teacher in my life.  You teach with your patience, your wisdom, your ability to listen well to others, and your love for Christ and your family.  You are always teaching us something dad.  Champions wear red because some young men became champions on the court, but let’s not forget they became champions because Coach recruited, invested, believed in, and loved a group of young men.  The Cardinal family is walking a little taller today, because of the champions you were red, a group of young men who gave their all for each other, and a coach who would still be a champion today even had the team lost last Fri. and Sat.  To my dad a champion officially recognized today, a champion in the hearts and lives of all the young men he has invested his time, energy, efforts, and resources in.  All the ones who were touched by dad, those are champions as well, greater one’s in fact, because if they follow Dad’s example and the person of Christ, they will be champions for eternity.

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One of the two most concerning issues I currently see facing the local church (many not all) is what has been refered to as Christianity Lite.  At the source of this lite beer for Christians is the style of preaching, or rather teaching being used.  The teaching consists of topical, man centered, teaching from the pulpit which are low on substance (scripture) and heavy on personal application.  Message titles like “How to be a Good Co-Worker”, “How to be a better Neighbor,”  How to Get out of Personal Debt”, ” Becoming The Person I want to be”, Taking Responsibility for You”, or a “Overcoming Bad Day.”  What do all the sermon titles have in common…they all are about you.  Messages like these are geared toward asking and answering questions about everyday life.  Messages that teach us how to be a better parent, wiser with our money, how to make personal and professional decisions.  It’s more self-help than it is preaching.  Preaching, biblically at least, can only be expository, that is the message is derived from and taken out of the scripture.  Literally, the Word of God is being expounded on, dissected, preached!  It is allowing the text to determine the message and not coming up with a topic and then producing scripture to back the claim of the message.  Scripture is primarily and chiefly about Christ.  Christ is the Word (John 1), and he is not as much concerned with how you overcome your bad day, as he is you worshiping and glorifying His father.  Rarely, in these messages do you find the preacher preaching about justification, repentance of sin, and the cost of following Christ.  Instead these messages often encourage you to live better, do better, and be better.  The problem the people of the church are robbed of the most significant doctrines of the faith which are essential to their growth and very lives as believers.  It is not the way John Calvin, Martin Luther, Jonathon Edwards, John Owen, or Charles Spurgeon preached.  These men preached on The supremacy of God, The perseverance of the Saints in Christ, The Depravity of Man, The Call to be Satisfied in Christ, The Profound Nature of Grace, The Glory of God, The Kingdom of Christ, Justification by Faith Through Grace Alone, amongst countless others.  So many have attempted to “dumb down” Christianity in order to make it more relevant and applicable to the people, when all they have really done is dilute to very word they claim to preach.  Give it to me straight, give me The Word of God and nothing else.  Not even you thoughts on the Word, give me the author’s intended meaning as inspired by Christ.  Edwards and Calvin, and Luther did it, and their listeners were able to likely understand and grasp much.  And we here in highly educated America, the epicenter of Western culture need to have things simplified for us?  No, we suffer from laziness, and biblically ignorance.  The very people who claim to believe every Word of scripture as the very Word of God, spend more time on their own pleasures and happiness than the Word (this is an indictment against us all).   Claiming to believe and follow the Word and yet not knowing the Word.  You and I don’t put nearly enough effort to know the Word of God so that we (as John Piper so often says), “might spread to supremacy of God to all peoples.”  It is a very humbling and liberating truth when we come to realize that we are not at the center of the cross.. that is that Christ’s main goal in death, burial, and resurrection, was not to save you and me, but to glorify his father.  We are idolaters if we believe we are Christ’s primary purpose in the cross,  and God also would be an idolater if Jesus came chiefly to save us from our sins.  We are not the reason for our own existence, Christ is (Colossians 1:16-20).  So how can we sit back and tolerate messages that focus on us?  I believe it is sinful to teach and listen to messages that put the wellness of man above and before the Glory of God.  And what is the Glory of God?  It is his infinite worth and value supreme and perfect above all also.  How do we accomplish the task of glorifying God?  When we come to the place where we worship our savior as our sole source of satisfaction and that motivates us to accomplish the mission of God for the people of God, and the Pershing.  Jesus is the very substance and purpose of preaching.  Against Christ, you and are trivial at best.  That is not to say we are not significant to Christ, or we do not lead live of significance in Christ, but rather compared with him we are nothing and nothing without him.  To me lite preaching is just what the beer commercials of old advertised…”less filling and tastes great”.  And that friends is why so many people are drawn to these types of messages and speakers,  they satisfy our desire to promote, elevate, and better ourselves, while not causing us to deal with our own sin issues before a Holy God.  We are naturally self-centered because we are born sinners.  So, even as new in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17)  we must continually fight and kill the urge to ultimately please and better ourselves.  Perhaps the real danger here, is that we say we want to better ourselves and we “use” God to do it, as though he were some means to our end.  But God is no means to an end, He is beginning and the end and the very reason for which we exist.  I encourage you to consider what I have written.  I mention no names and no churches because I intend to shoot no arrows or point fingers.  Instead, I wish for you to lovingly evaluate to state of preaching in your church.  I challenge you in Christ to settle for nothing less than Christ-centered, Word-saturated, God-glorifying preaching.  We need it now more than ever, the lost need it more than they know. 

II Timothy 2:4-2

2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

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Bloody Friday

Luke 9:51

                       51When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem;

Today, Christians celebrate/remember the greatest/most horrific event history has ever witnessed.  This is why Jesus came to earth…he came to die.  He was intently focused on the cross knowing it was why he was born.  Imagine, how he might have felt hearing of some criminal being beaten brutally and then hung a  tree left to suffocate and day.  I wonder if during his life he thought often the day when he would be in the place of a criminal, condemned to die for sin’s he did not commit.  Jesus was and is our substitutionary atonement.  He died so that we might have eternal life.  He did this through his blood shed.  Remember what the scriptures say, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22b).  If Jesus does everything else recorded in the gospels, but does not go to Jerusalem and die…then we are still in our sins.  This is why he sweat drops of blood the night prior in the garden.  The weight of all our sins was about to be put on him.  He was the only offering that could truly satisfy God’s wrath against man and his wickedly sinful nature (Romans 3:23-26).  Jesus, was the great lamb, spotless, sinless, prefect in every way, God in flesh sentenced to die because you and I are born to love sin more than our creator.  We might say it shouldn’t be, if only Jesus didn’t have to die in our place.  May it never be, for this reason he was born, for this reason he came (John 12:27-28).  The world was created, sin was permitted, so Jesus could die.  As we honor Jesus today on Good Friday remember, it is only good because it is bloody.

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