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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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Yoke Up!

The old timers will all tell you that one of the sure-fire ways to train up a young draft horse to pull a wagon, a coach or a plow is to hitch him up to an older, seasoned horse. The young horse will fight the harness, buck, pitch and kick for all he’s worth but it doesn’t take long until he gives it all up. Yep, the old plow horse doesn’t let any of it bother him. He’ll just plod along doing his job until the young horse decides to cooperate.

Seems like a pretty fair analogy to describe our walk with the Lord. In fact, Jesus used that exact same analogy in one of the classic statements He made in His earthly life, “Take My yoke upon you”. For the most part His message up to that point had been directed to the Jewish nation and people. And this statement, while we can easily apply it to our own life, was directed to those who were ‘yoked’ up in the Law of Moses. Jesus’ message of grace flew square in the face of the over-religious, self-righteous, doctrinal police and they hated Him for it.

This message of grace and love was ultimately why they so often sought to kill Him. I find it extremely peculiar that as good as Jesus was they sought to vilify Him because He wouldn’t submit to their lifeless religion. And that’s exactly what legalistic religion is…lifeless. No man has ever been made righteous by the Law, and no man will ever be! The Law, as Paul says, served as a schoolmaster until Christ came, and after that there is no need for the Law. It’s a polarizing subject even today. In fact, it’s the issue at stake in the whole Body of Christ, this argument over law and grace. There are those who are being vilified in the same manner as Jesus was and the bottom line is that the legalists don’t believe that God is as good as we’re saying He is! So, Jesus’ statement was designed to take the heavy weight of trying to keep the Law off those who were burdened down under it and get them to ‘yoke up’ with Him.

Hitch up with Jesus!

His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Maybe we oughta quit our buckin’ and pitchin’ and try it!

Life is hard; It’s harder if ‘ya ain’t yoked up!

Here’s a couple you should take a look at:

I Don’t Know How He Does It!

He Won’t ‘Put More On Ya’ Than You Can Stand

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Amazing Grace, How Sweet the ‘Feel’

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.” One of my very favorite songs, no question about it. Here’s a little history on the song. It was published in 1779 (How’d you like to have the royalties on that one?!) by English poet turned clergyman John Newton. Newton, it turns out, was a very interesting character. He wrote the song from his own personal experience. He grew up without any particular religious conviction. He was heavily involved in the Atlantic slave trade when in 1748 a violent storm battered his vessel off the coast of Ireland. So violently, in fact, that in fear he cried out to God for mercy. That was a turning point in young Newton’s life and he soon ended seafaring altogether to pursue Christian theology. *(Must’ve been a heckuva storm!)

“Amazing Grace” was written to illustrate a sermon on New Year’s Day in 1773. It’s unknown if it was accompanied by music but most historians agree that it was probably just chanted in unison by those in the congregation that day. The song was officially published in 1779 and soon disappeared into relative obscurity in England. It became popular in the early 19th century in America. With the message that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of sins committed and that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God, “Amazing Grace” is now one of the most recognizable songs in the English speaking world. It’s definitely a song of “good news”! 

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound…..”  There’s a lot of talk about grace these days. As good as the sound of it might be, grace is best understood just by the sheer experience of it.  God has made sure that we’re never out of grace’s reach. And that wherever we are,….and whatever the need might be,…His grace is ever sufficient for the task! It’s never just barely enough, either; there’s always a generous abundance of grace!

In keeping with the original tradition let’s resolve, on this New Year’s Day, to make 2017 a year of immeasurable grace. Let’s commit to give it to others to the degree that we’ve received it from the Father. That’ll make for an incredible year! I guess God’s amazing grace has a wonderful sound…..but it can’t compare to how sweet His grace ‘feels’!

It only seems fitting, at least to me, to post one of my all-time favorite artists, who incidentally just graduated to heaven a few short weeks ago, singing one of my all-time favorite songs! Click here to watch Leon Russell sing Amazing Grace! Just an ‘ol Oklahoma kid with a ‘gift’ he gave to the world!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

You might enjoy this one, too:

Definitely Our Most Memorable New Year’s Day!

 

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I Plant a Little, I Water a little…..

I was having a conversation with a pastor friend a day or two ago. We were having a good laugh about a few of those times when we were preaching or teaching and it just wasn’t happening, ….if you know what I mean. It’s funny now, but at the time…not funny at all. One of those times for me was about 15 years ago. We were still in the old building and doing two services. It was the first service and there were 50+ people there. It was one of those mornings that nothing was working. I had notes and was doing my best to teach from them but it was just flat. To be honest I wasn’t making any valid points. What I was trying to teach wasn’t making any sense….even to me! I’m tellin’ ‘ya, ……..it just wasn’t happening! In fact I went in the sound room after the service was over and said to the guys, “If anybody. Got anything. …out of that……it had to be the Lord!” I was certain that nobody DID get anything out of it! I was relieved when the service was over so we could all be out of our misery! I  would’ve like to have just gone home…..but I had another service to do….and that’d be awkward! lol

A person came to the sound room and I could tell he wanted to talk to me. I ignored him as long as I possibly could. I totally expected him to say, “WTH was that??!!” But he didn’t. On the contrary he said, “Man, that was really, really good!” I had two thoughts rolling around in my mind; one….he’s gotta be joking; two, if he’s really serious (which I couldn’t imagine!)...I’m thinkin’, “Was I there?!”

This isn’t the only time this has happened down through the years. I wish it was. But those times it did happen there were the same results nearly every time. Those times when I felt like I did my very worst would inevitably be the times that I would have the most people comment on how good the teaching was. I think the Lord likes it when that happens. What I’ve learned from those times is that it’s just a little reminder from the Lord that everything doesn’t necessarily depend on how ‘good’ a job we did teaching. Don’t get me wrong….I want to continue to get better at teaching the Word. But in the final analysis it’s the anointing (supernatural blessing) of the Lord that’s the deciding factor of whether it’s actually good or not. He definitely doesn’t want us to get prideful about how good we think our teaching is.

We can plant; we can water….but if anything significant is going to happen….it’ll have to be the Lord that gives the increase!

Here’s a couple for ‘ya:

10 Tips That’ll Help You Become a “Learner”

Relational Equity

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“Good Will Toward Men”

The heavenly angel, on a mission from the most High God, appeared with the heavenly host (multitudes of other angels) to announce to the world that a Savior had been born. Oddly enough this angelic sighting didn’t take place before a crowd of people….but to the shepherds who were watching over their flocks by night.  *(read “Good Tidings of Great Joy”) The angel didn’t say much….but what he did say was ultra important!

But, just what does the angel mean when he says,“Good will toward men”? I’ve been thinking about it all week. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone talk about that part. After pondering it for awhile…here’s where I landed. It’s an extremely important part of what the angel had to say. I’d even call it a great revelation. A Savior is born! And He came to the earth to “do us good”! It’s as clear a picture of Who God is that you’ll probably ever see. It reveals His heart toward all mankind. I don’t think it takes some kind of sophisticated commentary to figure this one out; it’s pretty simple. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believed in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

That phrase, “good will toward men”, reveals God’s absolute determination to be good to, and bless, all mankind…and in an almost unbelievable way! In ‘it’ He would do the only thing possible to redeem every single person that would ever live. He’s that good!

All other religions focus on how a person can get to God….but Christianity is vastly different. Yep, Christianity is about our God ‘coming to us’! He loved us so much that He came in the likeness of man, laid down His own life to, once and for all, forgive us of our sins! And the icing on the cake would be that, now,…..plain old people like you and I can have a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe! I I don’t know if you’ve figured that out by now but …that’s one heck of a deal!

“Good will toward men”……..

It’s God……willing (wanting, desperately desiring)…..to do you good!

More “good news”:

Maybe He Saved More Than Your Life!

If God Has Your Heart, He Can Get Your Feet Where They Belong!

What If It’s Not to ‘Break’ You,….but to ‘Make’ You?

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“Good Tidings of Great Joy”

The angel…along with a multitude of the heavenly host praised God and announced, “Glory to god in the highest, and on earth peace”. It was arguably one of the very few most important events that would ever take place within the context of time, itself. But the announcement wasn’t made before a multitude of people; it wasn’t made at the temple before the religious folk; it wasn’t even made on the town square. No, it was announced far away from all these, seemingly obvious, places way out in the middle of nowhere. The angel appeared to the shepherds and made his proclamation. What an unlikely place to bring such an important message to the world!

But, it’s typical of the Lord of Hosts to defy logic, conventional thinking,….even common sense. He can do what He wants to do, when He wants to do it….and how He wants it done.  And we can rest in the reality that He never makes a mistake…..and that everything He’s ever done, or will do, is always to our best interest….and to benefit us!

I have an opinion as to why He chose the shepherds to reveal this incredible happening on the earth. You see, the job of a shepherd in those days was the lowliest of nearly all the other jobs. They were out in the middle of nowhere; it was a lonely job as they were nearly always by themselves; it could be a dangerous job. David had to fight off a bear and a lion in his twelve-plus year stint as a shepherd; it was a thankless job and I’m guessing the pay wasn’t all that good either. It would be easy, if you were a shepherd, to think that life has passed you by, that you’ve been overlooked and forgotten about. But, it reveals the very nature of God to pick that very bunch to announce the most important happening in the whole universe, up to that point in human history.

Why did He do it that way?? I think to let them know that even though society looked down on them and made them feel like second-class citizens of the planet………He didn’t! He’s like that, you know!?

I’ve become aware over the years that this season, for many, is not a fun time. Maybe  you’re lonely; maybe you feel like you’ve been overlooked or forgotten by loved ones. Maybe you’re going through a hard time physically or financially and feel like giving up. But remember the shepherds. They were ‘greatly afraid’…but the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” It was “good news”.

Give Him the chance to love you like He wants to! He’d like to prove to you that you haven’t been forgotten!

Let it be your “good news” in this season!

Check these out:

It Ain’t Just “Good News” …… It’s “Great News”!

You ‘Can’ Get There From Here!

He Won’t ‘Put More On Ya’ Than You Can Stand

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“The Reason for the Season”

You’ve heard that phrase a thousand times. I hope we keep on hearing it. It’s just a reminder for us, ……and for our culture…and our generation to not forget ‘why’ we celebrate Christmas. I expect, for the people reading this blog, that you don’t really need to be reminded but it’s easy to see over the course of quite a few years that the message of Jesus gets ‘lost’ in the busyness of the season.

Retailers have capitalized on the opportunity to up their sales. It works! The big discount stores like Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart start putting Christmas decorations out in October, just to get everyone in the mood! “Black Friday”, that Friday immediately after Thanksgiving has become one of the biggest shopping days of the year, ….if not THE biggest. “Cyber Monday” right after that is their thrust to encourage Americans to shop online. Again, it works!! And, the last few years, I’ve received hundreds of emails advertising all kinds of special deals on everything from electronics to vehicles. One of the newer email methods is doing a ‘takeoff’ on the “Twelve Days of Christmas” song. There’s half a dozen or more companies sending me a different ‘special’ deal offer for twelve days in a row. I didn’t respond to any of ’em….but I bet a bunch of people did.

I don’t have a problem with observing the season as an opportunity to ‘give’Giving goes right along with what it’s all about. But it’s gotten so commercialized over the years that most of America doesn’t even notice Jesus in the middle of it. Add to that the push by the secularists, and the politically correct crowd (Lord, help us!!) to not even say Merry Christmas anymore…..It eventually gets on my nerves!

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have a problem with Santa Claus, Rudolph or Jingle Bells. Those things can add joy to the season……but, just being honest,…..it ain’t about them!

It’s about a Savior Who was born, Who came to the world to take away our sins and to enable us to have a personal,  one-on-one, relationship with the Creator of the Universe, Who chooses to be our Father!

It was the greatest show of love the world will ever know!

So, enjoy your family; enjoy a day or two off if you get ’em; enjoy the opportunity to receive and to give….but don’t forget about Jesus!

He’s the Reason for the Season!!

Room at the Inn?

There’s Just Something About ‘That Name’!!

 

 

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