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Black Saturday

You’ve heard of Black Friday, of course. But I doubt you’ve heard of “Black Saturday”….since I just made it up. But I think it’s a great fit for what I want to write about. You hear a lot about Good Friday, as you should. Good Friday is the day we commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. You can only totally understand why it’s called “Good” when you look it in the context of 1) What it provides for you, and 2) What transpired two days later. 

Jesus’ death on the cross was the one and only thing that could provide us the awesome opportunity to be forgiven of our sins….and delivered from our sinful nature and engage in relationship with the Father…. in exactly the way Jesus did! The pain and suffering Jesus endured on the way to the cross would’ve ‘done in’ any other human. But Jesus was determined to carry out to the ‘T’ His Father’s plan. So, YES, Good is an appropriate word to use for that Friday! A wise person would stop to reflect on all that happened on that day and, somehow, give thanks to the Lord. Seems like the least we could do.

Two days later on that ‘third’ day when the women went to His tomb they were astonished to find that Jesus was gone. The stone had been rolled away (an undeniable supernatural happening!) and two angels were sitting in the tomb. Jesus had risen from the dead! The resurrection; it’s the bedrock foundation on which the entire Christian faith is built. What a day!

But, have you ever thought about the day in between?? I’ve thought a lot about it. I’m sure there are those who have written pieces about that day, but I’ve yet to see them. I think about what might have been going through the minds of the thousands of Jews gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover. Most of them they believed that justice had been done in that ‘this imposter’ who made Himself equal with God had been rightly put to death.

 I think about the religious leaders who were obviously gloating over the fact that they, once and for all, did away with Jesus Whose faithfulness was a constant reminder of their full-blown self-righteousness. They wouldn’t have to deal with Him anymore. They must’ve felt good about themselves. For them…..it was a good day.

But, I think about the eleven who were with Him nearly every day for the past three years. They’d seen Him multiply the food, walk on the water, calm the storms, heal the sick, cast out demons, and even raise the dead. I think about James and John who had left their fishing business to follow this Man. And, Matthew the tax collector who, maybe for the first time in his life, felt valued and loved. I think about Peter who, in not much more than 24 hours time, had denied Jesus. They never once saw Him waver in His devotion to them or in obedience to His Father. But, now they’ve failed Him at a time when He needed them most. What would they do now? Would they spend the rest of their lives in regret for how they performed? Would they go back to their fishing business or collecting taxes? For these men it was a dark, dark discouraging day; the worst you could imagine!

I call it Black Saturday!

Have you ever thought about what might have been going on in the spirit realm? I’m sure the angelic host were totally taken aback when Jesus died on the cross. What did God have in mind? How could He let such a thing happen? They did NOT see this coming! And, to make matters far worse the demonic hordes of hell were celebrating with a deafening noise…..so loud it almost spilled over in the natural realm. Yep, for the angels it was a dark, dark day! A Black Day!

I call it Black Saturday!

But at just about daybreak on the third day a little jingling was heard above the hellish and noisy celebration. It almost sounded like keys jingling together. The atmosphere begin to change. Light began to break forth. Something BIG was happening….and both sides in the spirit realm knew it. 

…..and there He appeared!!

And in His hand were the keys to death, hell and the grave! No longer would the Father’s children be intimidated by the fear of darkness or death.

On that day EVERYTHING changed! 

That’s why you don’t hear much about Black Saturday!

Let us learn to live in the ‘finished’ work of Jesus!

 

 

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Organ Donors

I donated a piano to a church once; does that count? I really did but that’s not why I decided to write this. I was sitting with three other very close friends a day or two ago and the topic came up. I said, “I’m an organ donor, are y’all?”. It was unanimous in the room of the four of us. We had all, somewhere down the line, decided that when something serious happened to us they (whoever ‘they’ are) could use any of our body parts that they’d choose for someone else needing such things. My first thought was, “that’s a pretty noble thing to do; downright honorable if you ask me”.

I thought that for just a few seconds before sheer reality set in. I looked at the other three guys in the room and considered myself as well. Then I got to thinkin’…..”exactly what body part would anyone possibly need that we had?” I mean, if you consider that the oldest of our little group is around seventy…and the youngest sixty-one there just ain’t much left that anyone would really need. Case in point: I’ve got two bad knees, one hip replacement, shoulders that have been overused and abused, one ankle that’ll roll without a warning, a toenail that’s trying to come off due to a bull stepping on it….twice, years ago. Julie says I’m gettin’ hard of hearin’, at least that’s what I think she said. But, I guess when you get right down to it my nose works great. (I can smell meat on the grill from a quarter mile away!) And my eyes are decent….but they’d need to throw my glasses in on the deal if they wanted to get much use out of them. I seem to be really, really healthy around the middle….but who needs that?!

And the other guys; well one’s got a shoulder that’s messed plumb up, another got his pelvis busted in several places, and the healthiest one’s got a nagging sound in his ear that just about drives him crazy. But, by gosh, we’re organ donors! Kinda makes me wonder if we’re really doing anybody any favors! All I can say is, if anyone needs anything we’ve got…..they’re in really, really bad shape!

But, what if our heart (no, not the one that’s still beating in our chest!), you know…our attitude toward God, and people and just life in general, is something that could be reproduced in the people around us? What if the way we handled criticism, adversity or grief was something that someone else could use? What if we took the hardships in life and because of our ‘heart’ we didn’t lose our sense of humor and, somehow, turned those things into victories? What if we hung onto the Lord when we didn’t think we had anything else to hang onto, and our lives actually made a difference? What if??

If you consider those things maybe we actually do have a chance in someone using something of us that’ll make their life better.

 

*Check out John Prine’s song here. He may have it all figured out!

 

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……as long as you’re speculating!!

The human mind is an incredible thing! We have the God-given capacity to think, reason, deliberate, decide and imagine. It’s been said that we only use a small portion of our mind…and having dealt with people for six decades I can totally concur! Easy….just kidding!

A lot of my life is spent walking through messy life situations with people. It requires that I be a good listener, be willing to hear both sides of a situation if that’s the case, be willing to give hard advice when it’s needed…., you know, the tough love kind. It requires that I do my best to get the Lord’s counsel on any given situation and to communicate it in a way that people can understand. In fact, I often pray this at the end of a counseling session, “Lord, the things that I said that You’d say….burn those things into their spirit”, “but anything I said to them that You wouldn’t say…..let them forget it before they get out the door.” I’m sure He’s faithful to do that. I don’t want to get to the place that I’m so confident in my own ability to give advice that I run completely past the wisdom of the Lord. So far, so good!

One, nearly universal, thing I’ve noticed in all the years I’ve been doing ministry is a person’s tendency,….and capacity, to speculate. It’s crazy sometimes how a person’s mind can immediately go to all the things that could go wrong. Our imagination is a wonderful thing but it can be a beast when it’s working against us. It can totally eat our lunch when we get on the wrong side of it. The reality is that some of those things can and do go wrong. I mean, the possibility is there.

But, I say, if you’re going to speculate about how bad it might get and all the things that could go wrong….then it seems only sensible that you should at least try to speculate what might ‘go right’!! You’re so geared to think in a negative way that you might not ever do that unless someone, (like me!), reminds you to!

Speculation can gnaw away at your faith. But, as long as you’re speculating….why don’t you speculate about what might go right?!

…..or we could just take the Bible’s word for it:

1 Cor. 2:9 – Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.

Try these:

Last Week: March Madness *(not what you think it is!)

Last Month: “You’re Gonna Like the Way You Look, I Guarantee It!”

A Year Ago: Objects in the Mirror are Closer Than They Appear!

2 Years Ago: There’s a Charge For Extra Baggage

 

 

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Sharpen Your Saw!

Have you heard the story about the two guys who were pitted against one another in a wood cutting contest? They both were given brand new chain saws, all the fuel they needed and the rules were that they would cut firewood for eight hours and the one that had cut the most wood would receive a cool million dollars. That’d be enough to motivate just about anybody.

There was a twenty foot curtain between the two woodcutters and enough downed trees to keep them busy for a long, long time. The starter fired his gun and the cuttin’ commenced! They were going at it with everything they had. One of them never let up. The only time he stopped his saw was to refuel. But there were plenty of times that he noticed that the other guy’s saw wasn’t running at all. That just made him that much more determined to cut more wood. After a few hours he was getting weary but he still kept cutting, determined to win that million dollar prize. He could hear the other guy’s saw part of the time but part of the time it was silent….so he knew he must be a long ways ahead of him with his growing pile of firewood.

The contest went on for, seemed like forever. It finally came down to just a few minutes left before the end of the eight hours. The one woodcutter was utterly exhausted but was confident that he was way out in the lead. He never stopped cutting all day; only stopped three or four times to get a drink but immediately went back to work. He was feeling pretty good despite being completely worn out. He knew there was no possible way the other guy had cut as much wood as he did. Too much time with the saw not running. He was already thinking about what he’d do with that million dollars!

The official signaled the end of the contest. It was now time to drop the curtain and see who the winner was. When the curtain dropped the determined, exhausted…but confident woodcutter was totally dumbfounded! He couldn’t believe his eyes! The other guy had cut nearly three times the amount of firewood as he had. How in the world could that happen!?

He had to ask, “How could you have possibly cut that much more firewood than me?” “I never let up; I never took a break; I just barely stopped long enough to get a drink of water”. And, all day long I noticed quite often that your saw wasn’t running.” “What were you doing all that time that your saw was silent?”

The other woodcutter calmly replied, “I was sharpenin’ my saw!”

About everyone I know is doing all they can to keep up in life. For most there’s no lack of effort and hard work. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if we’re winning or not. But it makes sense in this day and time to learn how to work smarter, not harder. You should ask the Lord what that means for you. The details will be different for each of us but there’s no doubt about it……….we all need to sharpen our saw!

Here’s the audio version:

 

 

 

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March Madness

I love college basketball! In fact, college sports are a lot more fun for me to watch than the pros. It’s about the only sport that I don’t really care who’s playing, I can get into the game. I think it’s the fact that there’s not six points difference in a team that doesn’t make the NCAA tournament and the one that wins it all. I love to watch the coaches as much as I like watching the players. Great sport, great watching!

Here’s a little analogy you probably haven’t thought of. The Sunday church service is much like the timeout in basketball. In most games both teams usually uses all their timeouts. The timeouts are critical and are used very strategically in every close game. I’d say the same about the Sunday church service. There are no points scored during the timeout….but what’s done there is always critical to the overall outcome of the game. If you think about it, it’s much the same with the church service. And, while many would argue that the Sunday service is the ‘big show’, wise people realize that the real game is outside the walls of the church.

I’m watching Roy Williams, the great North Carolina coach, during the timeout of tonight’s NCAA National Championship. He’s very animated, he’s passionate about getting his point across, he’s ‘coaching’ his boys about what they should do, and how they should do it, when the whistle starts the game again. He’s making sure everyone knows their job, knows their place. Mark Few, Gonzaga’s phenomenal coach, is doing the same. It’s coaching intensity at it’s very best. Nothing like it in any other sport, in my opinion. You’ll notice that they use every single second of every single timeout. It’s what the Bible calls “redeeming the time”.

The Sunday service should be just like that. It should be, above everything, very strategic. In my case I want to do the best job I can do to tell my ‘players’ what I’m hearing from the Lord. I don’t want to just throw a ‘sermon’ out there….I want it to be strategic and relevant for what my ‘players’ are facing in the game (real life!).

And, lastly…..the timeout gives the players a chance to get their breath, rest a little and get everything back into proper perspective. No games are won or lost during the timeout….but what’s done there directly affects the outcome of the game! 

There’s a lot at stake when we get back in the real world on Monday! We should be strategic when we gather up on Sunday!

**Gotta quit for now…it’s halftime and I’m doing research!!

 

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It’s Nice to be Able to Hear!

I had a little incident a few days ago. I was relaxing, watching the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Just kicked back in a soft comfortable chair, got up during halftime and walked into the kitchen and noticed that I couldn’t hear anything out of my right ear. At first I didn’t think too much about it but I did think it was a little strange. My hearing wasn’t totally gone. I could hear the TV but I couldn’t, for the life of me, tell what they were saying. I was sure that within a few minutes everything would return to normal. I finished watching the game but the problem persisted. I’m getting a little worried about it by now so I grabbed my computer and Googled, “sudden loss of hearing”. Turns out there’s such a thing. I read a few of the Google posts and was sure I had it! Testimony after testimony of men and women who just lost their hearing in an ear for no reason at all. For a few their hearing eventually came back, for others it never did.

I was sure when I went to bed that I’d wake up and all would be well. NOT! No better in the morning so I’m pretty dang concerned about it by now! Got an appointment with my trusty physician/close friend Dr. Craig Phelps and set up an appointment. Long story short, nothing serious. A little fluid behind my eardrum, a couple of meds and it should be good in a few days.

But it did get me thinking about not being able to hear!

We’ve been ‘given’ an incredible opportunity to be able to communicate with the Father. We can talk to Him…and He talks to us. One of the great adventures in life is learning to ‘hear’, and to discern, what He’s saying to us. He’s not limited to speaking in an audible way; He has all sorts of ways that He might choose to speak to us. But make no mistake about it, He’s speaking! Fathers always want to speak to their kids!

The Bible talks about a time where there was a famine in the land. Not a famine of food but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. If you read that account it appears that the problem wasn’t that God wasn’t speaking…..the problem was that the people weren’t ‘hearing’! ……..and maybe they weren’t hearing because they weren’t listening!

 I don’t know about you but I’m grateful we’re not living in that time, or that kind, of famine. I’m glad that we can hear what He’s saying to us.

We oughta make it a priority!

Check out the audio version:

Some more about ‘hearing’ the Lord:

An Often Neglected Part of Prayer

What’s the Lord Telling You? Part 1

What’s the Lord Telling You? Part 2

You’re Better at Hearing the Lord Than You Think!

 

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Running On Empty

As songwriters go, I’d consider Jackson Browne one of the best. In fact, way back in the 70’s, Glenn Frey and Don Henley (the Eagles) moved in above Jackson in a $60 a month apartment in L.A. They admitted that they learned, and perfected their craft of writing songs by listening to some  of those ‘mind boggling melodies’, as Rolling Stone magazine described Jackson Browne’s songs. They agreed that he was just a notch above anyone else who was writing in those days….and there were a bunch of ’em. One of those songs, “Running on Empty”, was the title track of his ‘Live’ album in 1977 and is, to this day, the most played of all his songs on Classic Rock stations. On an interesting note the song was written while Browne was struggling to make it and, in his own words, “I was always driving around with no gas in the car”.

I just returned to the office after five weeks off. Haven’t done anything like that in the 28 years since we started Trinity Fellowship. I didn’t take the time off to fast and pray. That would definitely be time well spent but I took the time off to just get away from it all. No studying, no preaching or teaching, no late night emergency phone calls, no funerals……no nothing! Pretty much everybody’s job has its own level of stress. Ministry’s no different; people ain’t lined up to tell you good news! It took at least a week to get out from under the load of ministry that I’ve been used to. And, maybe another week to get in full, no stress mode. But, with the support I have from the people around me (they’re the best in the business!) I finally started to actually relax. I think I was like a lot of folks who are out there today, running on empty……and maybe not even knowing it! It’s easy to get in crisis mode and if you’re not careful…..never get out. It’s unhealthy!

The Father, Himself, rested on the seventh day…and He designated and set aside a day for us to rest, too. Most of us don’t do it; don’t know how, never tried it. We’re too busy doing all the things we know we should be doing. But, the Sabbath was made for man! We should learn how to do it! When we’re running on empty we won’t even come close to doing our best work.

Hardly anybody can get as much serious time off as I had, I understand that. But, we could learn to take a day a week to get out from under the load. Maybe we could learn to work ‘smarter’, not harder. It’ll take some time, no question.  But if we’ll make it a priority…..we won’t have to be running on empty!

Audio Version:

If you’re wanting a little more:

There’s Something To Be Said For Not Knowing Anything!

‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

Click here to listen/watch my favorite Jackson Browne tune (you’ll like it!)

 

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