Ya'll Clap

Great character is not often developed in victory - virtue rarely comes at so pleasant a price. Genuine character, the kind that endures, can only be forged in the furnace of defeat.

Anon

Last night I watched the seeds of greatness being sown. It happened after our high school girls were knocked out of the playoffs by a team that, at least for one night, was a bit better than ours. The loss was a difficult one for it did not come from a lack of effort, in fact, the girls gave everything they had for the entire game. Nor did the loss stem from a bad game plan, for we had open shot after open shot. It was just one of those nights that their shots didn't fall. That happens from time to time - in basketball games and in life.

What  added to the difficulty of this particular loss was the fact that we had a great team this year. We have had quite a number of great players through the years, but there was just something about this team. They played well together and they actually liked each other. There was not a lot of the petty squabbling that is so common among groups of adolescents. These girls played as a team! They cheered each other's successes and picked each other up when they failed. So, our hopes were very high that this just might be the year that we finally made it back to State for the first time in nearly half a century.

Then, in 32 minutes, it was over. The dreams of the girls and the coaches and the fans and the town came to an abrupt end in just half an hour of playing time. And we watched the other team's girls and the other team's coaches and the other team's fans celebrate the victory that we had wanted for our side. Then, while they were raising the victor's trophy at half court, the very trophy that we had worked so hard for all year, something marvelous happened. Our coach turned to his girls and said, "Ya'll clap".

And they did. And the seeds of great character were sown, through the tears of disappointment they were sown... at the half-court of a gymnasium in a small town in Texas.

When Jesus was hanging on the cross after having been beaten and spat upon by the Jews, and after having been beaten and spat upon by the Gentiles, and while the crowds were passing by and jeering and laughing and mocking His holy Name - at that very time... Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do". And the greatest victory ever was achieved in the death of the greatest One who would ever live.

But thanks be to God. He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

I Corinthians 15:57, NIV

 

Eternal Gas and Other Religions

In the beginning God...

I'm always fascinated by the so called "educated" minds within the evolution religion. I say religion, because it is more by faith than any religion I know.

We just got back from our annual teen trip to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. We saw incredible displays of God's might and power throughout the trip. There are places in the Rockies where you can actually look down on other mountains. One of the most beautiful views looks down on mountains sprinkled with lakes that are fed by glaciers. Our God truly is an awesome God!

But, to hear the "Big Bang" theorists, there is no God. When you press them for an explanation as to why they do not believe, you will often hear something along the lines of "I just cannot believe in a God that is eternal. Logic dictates that all things and beings came from something else already in existence. Therefore, those who believe in religion - and specifically those who believe in an eternal creator - are simple and superstitious in their thinking."

So, you humor them and ask them where they think the world came from. "Billions of years ago", they will begin, "There was no world and no universe - only various types of gas. This gas would explode from time to time, and one of these explosions formed our world. Microscopic creatures were also formed, over a period of millions of years, and these creatures slowly evolved into everything from trees and weeds to snails and men."

What dizzying intellects! So you continue to press them as to where this gas came from, they will respond, "Oh, the gas was always there." So, these geniuses who have spent over a hundred years and billions of dollars doing scientific research in an attempt to prove something that is still referred to as "Theory", believe that we are superstitious because we believe in an Eternal God, while they believe in "eternal gas".

Wow!

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20, NIV

 

A Happy Walk for Life

In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.

Abraham Lincoln

This evening in Happy, we will walk. It's described as a walk to help the American Cancer Society fund research to find a cure for cancer, but it is basically a walk for life - and a walk of love. You see, Happy has had it's share of lives shortened by cancer. In the last year we have lost good friends and have had other's lives interrupted by this cruel disease.

Four days ago, I attended the funeral of a friend who succumbed to cancer after a 16 year fight. I can remember driving him down for his first consultation and I can remember the doctor telling him about his cancer and the treatments that would follow. It was a hard 16 years for my friend, but it was 16 more years than many others in similar circumstances have had.

Just this last year, my own mother fought her fight with cancer. My Dad sat with her in the doctor's office when she got the news. It took his breath away. In fact, the ordeal was probably harder on Dad than it was Mom, just as I suspect it would have been more difficult for Mom had their places been reversed. She is doing well now, but is wore out after multiple radiation and chemo treatments, The threat will always be there, always hanging over her. While these stories are sad, they also have a lesson for us all: Life is short and you just never know what is around the corner.

There's something more to this, though, than just the threat of dying from a harsh illness. In fact, it's not about dying at all, it's about living. Mom's friends have been amazed at how calm she has taken the news, and the treatment - but not me. In fact, I'm not surprised at all because for 52 years I have watched how Mom has lived and I can tell you this: She lives for Heaven, not for here. Because that is true she truly lives - something that, sadly, many people never really learn to do.

Are you... truly living? If so, then I suspect it is because you know of the One who died so that you might live. If not, I suspect it's because you do not know Jesus. If this is the case, let me encourage you to find out about Him. He will not only change your life, He will give you life.

But tonight we will walk for a cure for cancer. We may never find it, but we can find the cure for failing to live as God wants us to. That cure is found in Jesus, and it's available to all who will seek Him, obey Him, and live for Him. It's a cure that you cannot afford to miss. And... that cure will result in a very happy walk for life!

For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.

II Corinthians 5:14-15, NIV

 

Roll the Gospel Chariot Along

Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game. Michael Jordan

Sometimes we adults forget the importance of just having fun. I'm not talking about fun in sinful pursuits, but about the everyday joy that I am convinced God wants us to experience. I just finished a week that left me (and about 25 other adults and teens) totally exhausted, but absolutely and completely filled with joy - it was Vacation Bible School week.

About 45 years ago, some very clever individuals came up with the brilliant idea of the Gospel Chariot. The Gospel Chariot was (and still is) a cotton trailer. Now, there is nothing really spectacular about an old cotton trailer, but there is something quite wonderful about what is done with that trailer. At the end of the school year we drag the trailer out, air up the tires, put everything in safe, working condition, add benches and signs and in a few short hours we have a Gospel Chariot.

Then, for four days we haul that wonderful chariot around Happy, Texas and pick up about 50 kids to take them to Vacation Bible School. We learn everyone's names and laugh, we sing songs out of tune and laugh, we visit in between stops about vacation plans and laugh (you get the idea) and then we go inside for an hour and a half of Bible classes.

The Bible classes are essentially what they were when we started nearly half a century ago. The kids go inside and learn Bible lessons like Daniel and the Lion's Den, David and Goliath, the Creation and the Flood. And, the teachers teach them about God and Jesus and what They have done for us and what They expect of our lives. They break for about thirty minutes for cookies and punch, they play tag and Red Rover, they finagle another cookie or two from our sweet "snack ladies", and then they go back inside for another Bible lesson.

Our Bible teachers and their helpers are very kind and very long-suffering (you will understand "long-suffering" if you have ever tried to teach a class of 15 or 20 grade-schoolers who are all experiencing a sugar high), and they are very serious about just teaching the Bible. They help their kids with their memory verses and then they send them off for a return trip on the Gospel Chariot.

On the return trip, we sing sings off key and have fun, and we "spritz" those who need a "spritz" (a spritz is a squirt of fine mist in order to fend off the ravages of dehydration resulting from the grueling 30 minute chariot ride in the blazing sun) and we laugh, and we drop off the kids and we laugh, and we take the nearly full Gospel Chariot back to the building to drop off 90% of the kids who would rather walk home than miss a minute of the ride... and we laugh and we have fun.

Now, all this may seem frivolous to those of us who have forgotten what it means to enjoy the ride, but for those who are accustomed to joyous living, it does not seem frivolous at all. God has called us to a life of service, it's true, but He also wants us to have joy in our lives. Too many Christians, I am afraid, have forgotten about joy. They have forgotten that "God so loved the world" and therefore they have forgotten what all good parents should never forget: The desire for their beloved children to grow up and to be responsible and to actually amount to something in life... but also that their children have a good life filled with happiness, and good clean fun, and joy.

This is what God desires for us as well. He loves us. He expects much of us. He wants us to be with Him forever (on His terms - not ours). And...he wants us, I am firmly convinced, to enjoy the ride. This is what we do on the Gospel Chariot when we are kids, and this is what we should do, we must do, if we are to ever experience the joy that God and Jesus have called us to. Please, I beg you, do not forget to enjoy the ride!

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4, NIV