The Third Best News of the Day

If we win we will praise Him, and if we lose we will praise Him.

Coach's big speech from Facing the Giants

I like the movie, Facing the Giants. It is about a football team that had a reawakening that turned their whole season around. Now it's true that the movie is just fiction, but it has a very real message. When the team dedicated their lives to God, it sparked the entire school, which in turn sparked the entire community.

Their goal was this: To play their very best and at the end of the game, win or lose, they would praise God. And, even though this movie is just a movie, it contains a life lesson we all need: Devote yourself to God, present your requests to God and, win or lose, praise God for His help.

Late last night in a town called Petersburg, the Cowboys from Happy advanced to the Regional finals. It was a great game. The Cowboys have had a great season - the best they have had in many years, and they are not done yet. But, as great and exciting as this news was to those of us who love the Cowboys, it was only the third best news of the day.

The second best news involved a four year old boy named Caleb. I have written about Caleb before, but if you have not heard, Caleb has cancer and is going through some very rugged chemotherapy treatments. It had been over four weeks since he had a high enough blood count to have his chemo, and Caleb's family and doctors and loved ones were quite concerned.

I don't understand nearly enough about medicine, but the gist of the problem is that Caleb needed a blood count of at least 750 to have his treatments. Over the last four weeks, his blood count had been in the 500's and then the 400's. At church, we announced his difficulties and many, many people were praying for him. Finally, last Monday his blood count got up to 740, only ten points away from where he needed to be. His next test was on Thursday and surely, we all thought, his blood count would be high enough... but it fell to 688. The doctors told Caleb's parents if his count was not up by the next Monday, they would have to do a painful bone marrow test. What was going on?

On Saturday, we called everyone at the church we worship with and asked for special prayers. Of those who were called, I have no idea how many then made calls of their own, sent e-mails of their own, posted to facebook pages of their own, or had conversations of their own pleading for the prayers of others, but I do know this: On Monday, Caleb's blood count stood at over 2,500!

Now, some might be thinking, that is all well and good, but you cannot prove that prayer had anything to do with it. Perhaps those who think that way are right, but I think that they are wrong! Why do you think that God has us pray? Do you think it's merely an exercise, or is there something more?

I am here to tell you that it is something more - it is the power of God and that is why we pray! I also want you to know that whether or not things work out for Caleb in the way that I hope and pray they will, I believe the will God will be done! And, win or lose, if I may phrase it in such a clumsy way, we will praise God!

But Caleb's news is only the second best of the day. You see, Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners. He came down from heaven, lived for a little while among men, took our sins upon Himself, and died for us that we might live. On the third day He rose again! That, dear friends, is the best news of the day. It is, in fact, the Good News!

Yesterday was a very good day! I wonder what today will be like?

"Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."

Jesus' prayer in the garden

Do All You Can

Do all you can and leave the rest to God.

About a dozen years ago, a tornado hit Happy, Texas. It did a lot of damage, but we were blessed in the fact that very few people were injured.

There was one couple, however, that was not so fortunate. It was a tragic event because people from the city had come by to urge them to leave their mobile home and go to a shelter provided for them, but they would not be convinced. They said that they would remain in their home and pray.

A few minutes later, this sweet man and his wife were dead and their precious son had become an orphan.

I have thought a lot about this couple in the years that have passed. I want you to know that I admire their faith and I certainly have no criticism for their decision to stay and pray. Having said that, it did teach me a valuable lesson: I believe that we are to pray to God for help but then we must do our part as well.

I think that it is the same in the times we live in now. We watch as our government encourages nations around us to flood our borders with their own children. We watch as our nation prints up money in order to debauch our financial system. We watch as our own leaders release terrorists back onto the battle field to have the chance to kill Americans once again.

And now our own government insists that we take part in a health care system wherein part of our premiums go to pay for abortions… and sex-change operations for boys who are feeling like girls and girls who are feeling like boys… and anything else that is perverse or sinful that men can contrive.

And sometimes, especially during times like these, we simply do not know what to do… so we do nothing. Or we pray to God – a good thing, in fact,the best thing we can do – but then we do nothing ourselves because we believe that God will take care of everything for us.

I believe that our nation is in the most serious spiritual crisis that it has faced since it began. I believe that the current situation is more serious than our times of war, and more serious than our times of depression. We need God’s help more than we have ever needed it before, but we need to understand this truth: God will only take care of the things that we cannot; He leaves everything else up to us. And while we do not always have a perfect knowledge of what to do, we still have the obligation to try to do what we can.

We need to be paying attention to the times that we live in. We need to then do all that we can within the framework of God’s word. And we then need to have the wisdom to turn everything else over to God, trusting in His power to take care of everything that we cannot.

Day after day, men came to help David… men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.

I Chronicles 12:21; 32

Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in front of the new courtyard and said… ’O our God,will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you .’”

II Chronicles 20:5; 12

The Rocket's Red Glare

And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

Our National Anthem

Okay, I know this verse from our national anthem is not about a fireworks display, but it was the best descriptor of one I recently saw after a ball game the day before the 4th of July. I was sitting there in Denver, Colorado after a Rockies' game with 17 other folks from Happy, TX enjoying one the best display of fireworks any of us had ever seen.

I say "one of the best" because the best displays occurred during my childhood. My cousin Judy's birthday fell on the 4th, so we always went to her Mammaw & Pappaw's for cake, ice cream and sparklers. All of us kids would then load up with Dad and Uncle Richard, head to a fireworks stand and then to a vacant field for an evening of sheer excitement.

My favorite was the pop bottle rocket. You could get a gross for a few bucks and then spend about an hour setting them off, one by one. I can still remember the acrid smell of the "punk" as I crept up to light the fuse of those bottle rockets. You would wedge a heavy glass coke bottle (one you had emptied just a few minutes earlier as a special treat) in the sand, place a rocket in the bottle with the fuse hanging out over the top and... light the fuse! The bottle rocket would make a sizzling sound as it lifted into the air, higher and higher, until finally it exploded with a loud "pop" that only real gun powder can produce. It was glorious!

It's a little bittersweet looking back on those times now, because I know they will never return. You only get to be a kid once and, as thrilling as setting off fireworks with your kids and grandchildren is, it just doesn't have the same sense of wonder it held when you were a kid with a heavy glass coke bottle, a freshly lit punk and 144 firecrackers on a stick.

I'm looking forward to Heaven... I don't want to reduce the glory of being in God's presence to the popping of a few fireworks - that's not my point - it's just that I think the mystery and wonder and childlike awe will return to our existence there. And, I've kinda missed those feelings.

Then I saw a new heaven... and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them, He will wipe every tear from their eyes..." and He who sat upon the throne said, "Behold I make all things new."

Revelation 21:1, 3-4, 5, RSV

The Mighty Champions

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit. Aristotle

About twelve years ago the head coach of the boy's basketball team in Happy asked if I would do him a favor. He and the girl's head coach were wanting to get the grade school kids excited about the basketball program, while at the same time building some fundamental skills. Would I be interested in helping with such a program? Like the dummy I am, I said yes.

A dozen years and a hundred or so kids later, we are still at it. Last night at half-time of the girl's basketball game, some 40 Kindergartners, first graders and second graders thundered onto the court for their debut - and the crowd went wild!

One of the things I love about Texas basketball is the support the fans give the kids. When the kids came out onto the court, the home crowd (and the good folks from the visiting team) roared their approval. For four solid minutes, the kids passed and chased their basketballs, dribbled and chased their basketballs, and ran into one another and chased their basketballs.

Now, from a basketball purist's point of view, the performance may have had a few rough spots. But from a fan's point of view, it was a thing of joy and of beauty. 40 kids, aged 5 to 8, with 40 basketballs, gave the first performance of their athletic careers. They had worked hard for a month to get ready for their debut and hundreds of parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts - and people who just love kids - stood and applauded. They did not clap and scream and whistle because they were in the presence of perfection. No, they clapped and screamed and whistled because they were in the presence of 40 young boys and girls who were attempting to be excellent.

And, despite dozens of loose basketballs and hundreds of miscues, these fans were treated to excellence. These kids were not excellent because they were perfect, rather, they were excellent because they had begun their journey towards perfection.

It's a lesson that we can all stand to learn - especially for those of us who would dare to attempt something as excellent as following Christ. We will stumble many times along the way, but we must remember that God is on our side. I don't pretend to know if there is clapping and cheering and whistling going on in Heaven when God's children begin their service to Him, but I know there is joy. 

Have you begun your journey towards perfection? You will have to be willing to stumble a few times (sometimes before big crowds) but God will be on your side and pulling for your success. Today would be a good day to start that journey! Do you have the courage... of our Mighty Champions?

Aim for perfection. II Corinthians 13:11, NIV


Eighteen Years in Utopia

"You know what I think? I think some time in Utopia will do you good."

from the movie, "Seven Days in Utopia"

For the last 18 years I have had the privilege of living in Happy, Texas. When Carolyn and I moved here, our oldest kids were still in grade school, and our youngest was about a year and a half old. Now, that one and a half year old is in college, our middle child is employed by the same school she attended when we got here, and our oldest is married to a beautiful woman and they now have a one and a half year old of their own.

Where do the years go?

I have seen a lot of people come and go from our sweet little town of Happy, Texas, and I have been fascinated to note that nearly every one of the good people who have moved away have said something along the lines of their time in Happy as being the happiest years of their life. Many, many of these have expressed some regret at having ever left.

Maybe that's why Carolyn and I are still here (combined with the fact that the folks with the church haven't quite figured out how to ask us to leave yet so that they can get a real preacher). Maybe it's because everyone in Happy seems like family. Maybe it's because there is a pace here, and a spirit of good will here, and an attitude among the folks here that shows they understand the command to love your neighbor as yourself.

Whatever it is, we know that we are blessed. And while we also know that this world is not our home, it has certainly been a privilege to be guests in the town of Happy for the past eighteen years... I hope that there are many, many more.

I also hope that, where ever you live, you have been made to feel just as privileged as we have been made to feel in our town. And, I especially hope that you and I will be neighbors some day in the place that Jesus is preparing for us. We can be, you know, if we will just make the most of our time in whatever place God has blessed us with on this side of eternity.

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Psalms 90:12, NIV