Monday, March 31, 2008
Many times when things are not going well - either in my world, or in the world around me - I begin to pray. It's all I really know to do.
I ask God for something - anything - that can help. I ask for mercy. I ask for healing. I ask for grace or love or justice. I ask.
And, then I hope. I hope that I am somehow going to convince God to do what I have asked. I have read scripture enough to know that He hears my prayer. I know when He hears, He acts. But, like most humans, many times I have difficulty discerning the answer, or seeing how God responds.
But, here's the deal. I've got it wrong. Not all wrong, but some of it wrong. Yes, God loves it when I come to Him with my troubles, sorrows, fears, weaknesses. He listens closely when I lift up prayers on others' behalf. Few things please Him more than when His children come to Him.
But, when I speak with God, and give Him my junk and plead with Him to make things right in universe, He only asks one thing in return. To believe.
Throughout scripture, miracles are performed, prayers are answered, and the unfathomable becomes reality.
How? Not because the right words were spoken. Not because the proper sacrifice was offered. Not because someone paid the appropriate amount of money. It's because of faith.
Read Hebrews 11:6 - And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (NIV)
Over and over again in the Bible, we see God rewarding FAITH. Peter walking on water. The paralytic carried on a mat, who is healed because of his friends' faith. The sick woman who just touched the hem of Jesus' garment and was healed. Noah building an ark, when it had never rained. Abraham and Sara - ages 100 and 90 - trusting that God would give them a child.
The examples are endless - and they all have one thing in common: faith.
One time, a group of men came to tell the synagogue leader that her daughter was dead. He had just asked Jesus to come to his home to heal his sick 12-year old girl. But, she apparently passed away before they could make it back. The men said, "Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher anymore?"
But Jesus turned to the synagogue ruler and said, "Don't be afraid; just believe."
And, likely those are the words he is saying to you and me right now.
You gotta believe.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Sitting in car line to drop off your child at school is a lesson in human behavior. Pretty much every morning is the same. Get in car line around 7:38 a.m., and pray that it moves quickly enough to get my son in the door by the bell, which chimes at 7:50 a.m.
This is the time of day you see parents at their worst. In a hurry. Desperate. Rude. Selfish. And, this is on the best of days.
Even worse for me is that I have to take a left into my son's school parking lot. Never a good thing when you are in a rush. Essentially, you are at the mercy of oncoming traffic - either those going straight, or those taking a hard right, who, like you, are rushing to get THEIR kids to school.
So, there I am, every morning. It's now 7:42, and I am three cars away from being the next to turn left. I inch up. Ever closer to my final destination.
It's now 7:45, and I'm the next to turn left. I see a gap open. I decide to go for it. But wait...a car pulls out in front of me from the parking lot back onto the main road. Foiled. Not only has my window of opportunity closed, but two more cars come straight through the junction, enabling a flurry of cars to turn right into the parking lot before me.
Don't they know the rule? One turns right, then one turns left. Give and take. That's all I am asking, people. Be considerate. Don't they see that I am in a tight spot?
It's 7:47. I'm sweating. Hands clinched at 10 & 2 on the wheel. I'm focused. Cars continue to turn right, but I am unwavering. I begin to turn my wheel. Eye of a hawk. No guts no glory. Then, the unthinkable happens. The person who I thought was turning right does something uncanny. She stops. She smiles. She waves me ahead of her. Glory hallelujah, God DOES answer prayer!
It's 7:48 and I can see the finish line. I begin to bump the car in front of me (I saw that on NASCAR one time). He gets the hint. Hurry up. Two cars away now. Gnashing of teeth. Heart beating out of my chest.
It's 7:49:42..."Love you, buddy. Get out! Run!" are the final words my wonderful 8-year old son hears as the tires screech out of the pit...and, I'm on the road again.
I love car line.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Ten of My Favorite Books of All-Time
by C.A. Phillips
Ten Little Indians (also known as And Then There Were None) by Agatha Christie
Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Trent's Last Case by E.C. Bentley
Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie
The Odyssey by Homer
Secrets of the Vine by Bruce Wilkinson
Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Friday, March 21, 2008
As I was getting ready this morning, a question began banging around in my brain. The question is this: How in the world did this Friday - the Friday before Easter - the Friday Jesus was brutally beaten and killed - come to be called Good Friday?
I began to do a little research, but my research was inconclusive. Many speculate that the term Good Friday evolved over the years from the term "God's Friday," which originated in Germany. Others say that the word "Good" is just the simple adjective with which we are all familiar. Still others contest that we de-emphasize the word Good, and that the word "good" in the Biblical sense means "Holy" or "Righteous."
What's also interesting is that the term "Good Friday" isn't universal. That's understandable given the ironic name of the day we, are Christ followers, observe and memorialize as the day Jesus was unjustly killed.
In many Eastern European countries, it's known as "Great Friday." In other parts of the world - Spain, France, Italy, Japan (among others), today is known as "Holy Friday," which seems to be the most appropriate name in my book. Other interesting terms for this day include Sad Friday (Arabic speaking countries), Friday of the Crucifixion (Ethiopia), Long Friday (Norwegian countries), and Day of Christ's Suffering (Chinese-speaking areas).
But, while the world does not have a common name for this day, it does recognize today as the day Jesus Christ went to the cross on our behalf.
Whether today is a Good day, Great day, Sad day, or Long day - I pray you pause to remember the love that was poured out for you on that monumental Friday nearly 2000 years ago. And, although his blood was spilled all those years ago, it continues to cover us today and forever.
And, if you have never begun that relationship with Jesus Christ, you have the opportunity to meet him today. I invite you to click HERE and watch this video from Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, who explains what it means to follow Christ.
Happy Easter, everyone!
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Rankings based on a mathematical formula, which comes up with a "G-Score," as in "greatness," a standard deviation measurement that shows the degree to which a team stood out among the field in a given year.
Top 5 NFL Football Teams
1. 1989 San Francisco 49ers (14-2)
2. 2003 New England Patriots (14-2)
3. 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers (14-2)
4. 2004 New England Patriots (14-2)
5. 1998 Denver Broncos (14-2)
Top 5 Major League Baseball Teams
1. 1975 Cincinnati Reds (108-54)
2. 1984 Detroit Tigers (104-58)
3. 1998 New York Yankees (114-48)
4. 1986 New York Mets (108-54)
5. 1941 New York Yankees (101-53)
Monday, March 17, 2008
As a dad, today is one of my favorite days of the year. It's March 17...my son, Chaz's birthday!! He turns 8 years old today, and he is one of my absolute favorite people to be around!!
Chazman is an absolute bundle of joy. He has more energy than any kid I have ever met. He is also one of the most positive kids to hang out with. Things are always "peachy" in Chaz's world, and he rarely encounters a dark cloud.
As a parent, there are many things I have learned from Chaz. He has had such a dramatic influence in my life. It's tough to get discouraged or look at the glass half empty when Chaz is around. He is care-free, which is exactly how it's supposed to be. In the Bible, we are commanded not to worry. Chaz has no problem heeding Jesus' words when it comes to not worrying.
Chaz loves to laugh. He loves to wrestle. He loves games. He loves sports - particularly baseball, basketball, and Georgia Bulldogs football! He loves candy, pizza, and ice cream (big surprise there, huh?).
But, my guess is that above all those things, Chaz loves people. He enjoys the company of others, and he is likely the most inquisitive little guy you'll ever encounter.
Chaz gets things that I have been unable to grasp in my 33-plus years on this earth. I am so thankful to God for him (and my other little buddy, Chandler).
I wish I could hit the pause button on his life, and get to enjoy more of these special times as he enjoys just "being a kid." But, I can't. So, I have to treasure them now.
And, that's exactly what I am doing!
Happy Birthday, Chaz-man!!
I love you!
Thursday, March 13, 2008
If you know who Charles Barkley is, you are not at all suprised that the guy makes some pretty outlandish statements. He loves the camera, and isn't afraid to create a stir.
This election year is no exception, as Sir Charles recently made some pretty bold statements on CNN. You can watch the interview yourself HERE.
This is actually rather timely for me. I just finished reading unChristian, by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, which points out six unflattering perceptions that "outsiders" of the Christian faith hold towards people who call themselves Christians.
What are your thoughts on Barkley's comments?
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Sunday, March 9, 2008
All this talk of Presidential Elections, primaries, caucuses, voter turnout, suspending campaigns, and well, politics in general, has worn me out. And, if all those topics don’t exhaust you, perhaps looking at the “Final Four” candidates will cause you to throw up your hands and wave the white flag (I don't think Ron Paul has officially withdrawn his name yet).
But, regardless of who your favorite candidate might be, each of these men and women have built something they have asked constituents to join them in standing upon: a platform. Whether it’s health care, drilling in Anwar, gun control, cutting taxes, border patrol, or stem cell research, informed voters select their choice of whom to follow based on that person’s collective stance on issues important to him or her.
And, more than their personality, their likes and dislikes, what they do in their spare time, or how they treat other people, a politician is primarily known for their platform. So, the question isn’t “Who has the prettiest platform?” but rather, “Who has the platform that will hold the most number of people without buckling?”
In biblical terms, it would be “Who has built their platform upon a Rock, and who has built it on the sand?”
I’ve been reading Tony Dungy’s memoir, entitled Quiet Strength. It may surprise you that the book is about much more than football, about X’s and O’s, offense vs. defense, and winning and losing. It’s about platforms.
It’s about a platform that Tony Dungy has built over the past 35 years of his life. A platform his parents gave him a head start in helping to build before he ever pounded one nail into it himself. A platform he continues to expand today as one of the most successful – and humble – people you will ever read about or see on TV.
What’s amazing to me is that someone else introduced this idea of a platform to Dungy – someone who saw his potential at a young age. The gentleman’s name was Tom Lamphere, and he was involved with Athletes in Action, a program started by Campus Crusade for Christ that was specifically geared towards helping athletes shape and use their personal platforms for Christ.
Dungy talks a great deal in the book about the incredible wisdom he gained from Lamphere: “Tom made it his mission to help me grow in my faith and in my leadership abilities” Dungy writes. “He wanted to help equip me to use that greater platform when I got it.”
So, here’s the $64,000 question: What’s Your Platform?
It’s not “Do you have a platform?” We all have a platform, like it or not. We all stand for and against things – passively or passionately. We all influence people in some form or fashion. At work. At home. At school. At church. At the ball park. At the supermarket. Wherever and whenever.
The easy thing would be for you to just shrug it off and say, “Who cares? No one is paying attention to what I’m saying or doing.” Wrong.
The wise thing to do would be to accept the fact that you have a huge responsibility – even opportunity – to make a positive difference in this world.
But, you’ve got to have the right platform. One with the proper support structure. One with balance. One meant to hold others up, not just yourself. One built upon rock, not one that will wash away when the tide rolls in.
This Easter, I pray you remember the construction on a platform that was built nearly 2,000 years ago. It was one that required nails and wood. One that was built with an unimaginable amount of love. One built with you in mind.
Jesus built it, and he finished it. And, he’s waiting for us to jump on with him.
He’s my platform.
Friday, March 7, 2008
Stories. We all have one. Whether you consider yours intriguing, boring, exasperating, dramatic, whimsical, or run-of-the-mill, you have one.
And, the reason you have a story (other than the fact you have lived long enough for things to "happen" in your life) is for you to use it. Learn from it. Share it.
At NorthStar Church, we recently launched a blog entitled NorthStar Stories, and it has been huge. Not only because we have had numerous responses already, but because people have a new avenue to share their story.
Why? Not so they brag on NorthStar Church or on themselves. But, to glorify God, and to hopefully provide encouragement and hope for someone else who may be following on a trail of mistakes they blazed years earlier.
If you're alive - I mean REALLY alive - your story is still being written this very moment. I know mine is. And, that is exciting stuff! Our lives are being lived out better than any soap opera or epic novel ever written.
And, if you call Jesus the Lord of your life, then God is the author of that story. And, that is even better news for you and me. Because anything we could dream up is dim compared to the amazing rewards He has awaiting us. And, there's no question that the conclusion of a story God Himself writes will be better than "...and they lived happily ever after."
I invite you to check out northstarstories.org and see for yourself what God is doing in the hearts and lives of His people. And, if you get the inspiration, please share your story, too. There's no telling how God wants to use it!
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
I've been reading an intriguing book entitled unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity...and Why it Matters, by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. Essentially, the book uncovers the results of three years of exhaustive research done by Kinnaman and the Barna Group, the leading faith-based research firm in the world. The research centers around the opinions and beliefs of 16-29 year olds who candidly share their negative feelings towards Christianity.
One of the most interesting chapters of the book deals with the "H" word - Hypocrites. Now, before I continue, it's critical that we understand what the word hypocrite truly means. Dictionary.com defines the word hypocrite this way: a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess. It doesn't say that a hypocrite is someone who has a tough time with self-control, or who struggles with various forms of sin: pride, lust, self-righteousness, greed, substance abuse, etc.
Many of us confuse hypocrisy with disobedience. Hypothetically speaking, if I tell people that I am a Christian, but I have a problem with anger, I am not being a hypocrite. I am failing to live up to the perceived "Christian Standard" for one, but mostly I am just not living as Jesus wants me to live. I still believe that treating people harshly is wrong, and it isn't what God wants...but, I struggle to live it out. It's only hypocrisy if I pretend to believe in Christ and what he's for, but don't really believe it in my heart.
This whole idea of acting like you believe something you really don't - true hypocrisy - is something Jesus strongly opposed. It angered him. It got to him, because he saw the damage that the Pharisees were doing by setting unrighteous, self-righteous examples for the people they "led." But, Jesus saw right through the charade.
In Matthew 12, Jesus confronts the religious leaders of the day, and makes it clear to them that their actions and words do not line up with their beliefs. What they profess isn't matching up with the attitude of their hearts.
And, that's the bottom line. If our heart is in the right place - following after the Lord - then He will change us from the inside out. Our actions will begin to line up with what we believe. And, the perceptions of others who don't know Christ yet will begin to change.
Until then, we'll be classified by millions of people as hypocrites - but only if we choose not to love as Jesus did - selflessly, and with eternity in mind.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Top 10 Undeserving Celebrities
Source: UnSpun Community on Amazon.com
10. Hilary Duff
9. Howard K. Stern
8. O.J. Simpson
7. Kim Kardashian
6. Jessica Simpson
5. Tom Cruise
4. Lindsay Lohan
3. Nichole Richie
2. Britney Spears
1. Paris Hilton
Check out the Top 48 List HERE