Tag Archives: Faith

Characters of Easter – the Brave One? (part 2)

I showed I was brave … willing to follow Jesus even to death (so I originally said). But I wanted the rational, clear vision to the direction and destination. And Jesus had not given it so easily. And then … then … they beat him, they humiliated my rabbi, and then … they killed him. Not just any death, a death that should’ve been swift and merciful. No. They gave him a cursed death, a death on a cross.

All was lost. The others hid themselves in that upper room. Trying to figure out the next step I guess. I wanted to be alone, away from it all. With his death, my dreams died. I brought into question all the teachings of my rabbi. The miracles, how? He may have brought Lazarus back, but there was no coming back from his execution. The compassion he showed on so many, that produced no compassion in return.

My brain couldn’t wrap itself around all of this. How could I let myself become so duped, so irrational? Everything … lost.

Then Peter found me. He babbled on. He said he saw Jesus. He claimed he was alive. Get real Peter. Your in denial.

No, it’s not true. I saw him die. They carried him to the cave. Soldiers guarded the tomb. Your words mean nothing Peter. Unless I see the marks and put my hand into his side, I will never believe you Peter. It’s just not rational.

Days past, others found me and they too were delusional. I tried to talk reason to their rantings, but they wouldn’t budge. I showed up at that upper room. I would talk reason to them. We locked the doors, shared our souls, and …

Wait, what? There were 11 of us. Now there’s 12. My eyes … my eyes looked up and saw … no, it can’t be. He’s dead. I saw him die. My brain couldn’t grasp what was happening.

He stretched out his hands. Scars. He showed his side. “Put your fingers here,” he said. “Place them in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” I lifted my hands with hesitancy. I slowly stretched them and placed my finger tips on those scars. I gently felt the spot where the spear pierced.

The fears. The doubts. The disbelieve. They melted away. The room was dark, but my vision was like the brightness of day. I knew it. I didn’t rationally get it, but I knew it.

He’s alive. Boldly, I proclaimed, “You are my Lord and my God.”

Never again will I doubt. Never again would my skepticism control me. No more fear. I may not understand, but I believe.

The next weeks would be a blur. So many questions raced through my mind … but even if the answers don’t come right away, I believe. Me, brave? Yes. But not in my own reasoning, but in the fact that he is alive and I saw him, I touched him.

Anywhere … anywhere he leads, I will follow. He is my Lord and my God.

———————

So many today try to rationalize everything. Science and logic are the only source of truth. If I can’t figure it out, I doubt it all. I too face that, even as a believer. There are times my mind battles with my heart. But that’s the battle of faith. I want clarity, I want all the pieces to fit together, I want to know. But faith says trust. It’s trusting even if you don’t understand everything.

This Easter, it is a reminder you can trust him. He is alive. The tomb is empty. And if that is true, it changes everything.

Do you believe? Then live according to it … doubter no more.


Daniel Darling has written an intriguing book, ‘The Characters of Easterwhere he looks at the villains, heroes, cowards, and crooks who witnessed history’s biggest miracle.For the next few weeks (pre-Easter) we will look at some of these fascinating characters and maybe get a refreshed look at this weekend that leaves eternal impact.

Part 1 of Thomas’ story, click here.

Three Simple Questions

I said it. You probably said it. It was a crazy thing to say to tempt fate. May we never say again, “I’m so glad it’s 2021, for it can’t be any worse than 2020!” And then Wednesday happened. Three Kings Day, Epiphany, the end of the 12 Days of Christmas, and now … the siege of Washington DC..

And so much has been said, written, commented on that anything else I would say seems superfluous. So I just want to ask three simple questions that put my mind at rest and maybe it’ll put yours at rest too.

Now be warned, if you answer any of these in the negative, it may cause more stress, so proceed at your own risk.

First … Do you think God is good and loves his people?

So simple, so basic. Do you?

Second … Do you think God is powerful and in control?

Well, do you? This is so important. If he’s not in control, than nobody is. And if not him, chaos. But if him, then so many other things fall into place. This is not asking if you understand how he works or why he does the thing he does, it’s just asking if you think he is in control and powerful enough to stay in control.

And Third and Last … If you answered yes to the first two, will you trust him, trust him completely in everything?

This is the way we should be living. Trusting him in everything and in every way.

Me? My answers are Yes, Yes, and absolutely Yes.

What about you?

It’s Fat Tuesday, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Lent starts tomorrow … so today is Mardi Gras. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

I spent a few years in Louisiana, and I picked up an appreciation for this grand time of the year. And though the celebration began in January, the day after epiphany, today (February 25, 2020) is the final day – Fat Tuesday. I remember parades, parties, and people everywhere. I enjoyed the King Cakes … though never did I find the toy baby within (the traditional symbol of luck to the one who got it … and even more directly, a connection to Jesus is king). Didn’t collect beads, visit New Orleans during the festival, nor dress up in purple, green and gold. Let’s just say I’ll add these to my bucket list and move on.

There is lots to the over 300 year tradition. And though most look to it as a time party, to let the good times roll, it really has a lot of faith connections. It’s history is in the Catholic Church. It is the day before Lent begins, thus the term fat … enjoying some last rich food before the period of Lent, where sacrifice and fasting takes place in preparation for Easter.

The King Cake connects to the gift of the wise men to the King.

The colors have come to stand for justice (purple), power (gold), and faith (green). According to tradition, these colors are connected to the colors of the royal Russian family that visited and threw beads into the crowd. Beads were thrown to those who exhibited these traits … though today, it’s often thrown for different things exhibited.

Another parade “throws” are Zulu coconuts – these golden nuggets are the round, painted, glittery orbs of shaved and gutted coconuts. “Throws” is in quotations because they’ve stopped throwing them as much to the fact that now they just hand them out to attendees. It means less injuries and even lesser lawsuits – though the ‘Coconut Law’ does offer some protection.

Mardi Gras doesn’t always get a family friendly seal of approval . Many take advantage of letting the good time roll and go to excess. Until the Krewes helped taper the debauchery, there was even talk of eliminating the carnival celebration. But I refuse to let a few take away everything that can be enjoyed about this holiday. I will also use it

School is out (at least in that part of the country). Parishes throw parades. Candy is “thrown.” People celebrate. And life is fun.

And if it can be used to talk about faith, preparation for Easter, and the true King of kings … then Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Fires, Fatalities, First Responders, Family & Faith

When the phone rings at 4.15 in the morning, it’s rarely good news. And this morning was no exception. A fire. And with the fire comes it’s damages.

I drove out and found the volunteers and their vehicles from three different stations on site. The flames had been extinguished, but smoke and flashing lights filled the dark, cold morning air. A friend was on the front lawn; she had been the first to see the flames as she was driving home from her midnight shift. A nurse, and no stranger to mayhem, she stopped to call 911. She helped where she could until the first responders arrived.

I prayed with her, with the family that had arrived, and with some of the first responders. I lingered for quite a while and just tried to be an encouragement.

As I now sit and reflect on the sights, smells, and situation as a whole, I still feel the coldness of the morning chill, and the coldness that this world can bring emotionally too.

Allow me to share my brain’s ramblings …

FIRES – they happen. We may not always know why, but they do. Physical. Emotional. Relational. Spiritual. We try to prevent them. We try to be prepared when they do happen. And we pray that they never happen. But they do. You may be going through something right now, or know someone that is. The sad truth is the reality of fires. And with fires come damages. But you are not alone.

FATALITIES – they happen. And we grieve and cry and wonder why. Today, a small child (a twin of 1 year) and her father perished. The mother and the other twin survived. The journey will be long for the survivors, and we pray for their strength and their peace. Damages may differ. It may be relationships, trust, resources, or more. And no matter the extent, damages are a part of a fire’s after effect. And we all eventually feel them. You are not alone.

FIRST RESPONDERS – they are needed. I may never understand the emotional roller coasters, the stress they feel, the tragedies they witness. But I am glad they are there. They train, sacrifice, and put themselves in harms way (and they do it as volunteers here.) We need them, and I never want to take them for granted. It was the greatest sorrow I had to pray with them today. It was the greatest joy I had to pray with them today. I reminded them – You are not alone.

FAMILY – I met with the uncle and grandfather of the family. The grief was real, as were the tears. But the strength family brings is a powerful instrument God uses in the healing process. And family goes beyond blood and vows. This family also has a church (Thomas Road Baptist), and a church can be an anchor too. Shoulders to cry on. Assistance so needed. And again the reminder, you are not alone.

FAITH – tragedy can drive us from God or to God. As a pastor, I often see people at their times of desperation more than at their times of delight. They seek wisdom and answers. And often, I have none. But I challenge them not to lose faith, not to give up on God, and to hold on. Even in the dark times, the silent times, and in the lonely times, he has not left you. You are never alone.

No matter the fire you are going through, you are not alone.

Building on the words of three young boys getting ready to be thrown into a fire … our God is able to deliver us, but even if He chooses not to at this time, we still trust Him, we still believe, and we are never alone.

———————————-

We also lift up in prayer the entire continent of Australia as the fires there burn beyond imagination. You are not alone.

Two Ways to Live

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

I wish I had said this, but it wasn’t me. It was Albert Einstein. Einstein was a huge genius. I think his bagels are so good, maybe even better than Panera’s. (That was an early morning attempt at humor … sorry.)

This week, Lisa’s car had a warning light come on. Not a good time, but when is it ever. Expenses are tight, a wedding is near, travel is involved, and the bank account is … well, y’all know the rest. So, I prayed.

I went to AutoZone and got the code (clutch/transmission issue), reached out to a few mechanic friends, let Lisa use my car while I took care of hers, and scheduled for a friend who owns a garage to look at it. Now, don’t take this as trivial … but he fixed something I had already plan to fix and he couldn’t find anything else. The light never came on for him, the code was not on the car’s computer at all, and no remnants of issue were even evident.

It was a miracle – an answer to prayer. You may say coincidence, error on my part, quark, or his fixing A corrected B which then took care of C. Me, I say it is an answer to prayer. So yes, a miracle.

And I made sure I said thank you.

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

We walk through this life and think this is all there is … things we see around us. Everything is natural, coincidence, bound by cause/effect, and nothing outside of the natural system makes an impact. We talk about God but live like we can control our lives. We say we pray, but we don’t even look for Him to really answer.

I think we need to look a little deeper, walk by more faith, and open our eyes so that we see God at work around us. This week, besides the car issue …

  • He protected me when I went head over heals while descending the hike off a mountain, when I walked across a pedestrian swing bridge that was closed for repair, and kept all bears away (even when I saw their droppings)
  • Every morning, He let me look into the eyes of a woman who stayed with me for over 30+ years
  • He helped me show patience in tough situations, gave me kind words to say to those hurting, and revealed words of wisdom to a son who is beginning to feel the pressure of a wedding 22 days away.

  • So let me share a few quotes to ponder as we wrap up this week …

    • One of the main reasons that we lose our enthusiasm in life is because we become ungrateful… we let what was once a miracle become common to us. We get so accustomed to his goodness it becomes a routine...
    • Just because you can explain it doesn’t mean it’s not still a miracle.
    • And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.
    • Christ’s miracles were not the suspension of the natural order but the restoration of the natural order. They were a reminder of what once was prior to the fall and a preview of what will eventually be a universal reality once again–a world of peace and justice, without death, disease, or conflict.

    • God’s miracles are to be found in nature itself; the wind and waves, the wood that becomes a tree – all of these are explained biologically, but behind them is the hand of God

    So, today, look around, and see God at work. Expect a miracle.


    Quotes by Einstein, Osteen, GK Chesterton, and Ronald Reagan.

    Wrestling With the Big Issues … Nothing New Here

    How can a loving God send people to hell? Why does so much bad stuff exist in this world? I am not sure if there is a God. I want solid proof of the truth, truth I can logically grasp and reason with. Why are there conflicts within Scripture? Why don’t miracles happen today like they did in Biblical times?

    These questions are not new. And people have wrestled with them for millennia. I have gone to school for two and a half decades. I have worked on degrees of religion and biblical studies at undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. The more I learn, the more I realize there are so many more questions with which to wrestle.

    So recently, why is it that a few influencers in the Christian worship and leadership spectrum have given up on finding these answers and are now leaving the ministry they have done for years, even leaving the faith they have had … and they seem to get headlines in doing this?

    People ‘leaving the faith’ is also not new. We all go through difficult seasons that shake our foundations and challenge our faith. But for these drifters/wilderness wonderers/backsliders (or even labeled apostates by some) … for these to say these tough issues are not being addressed are deceiving themselves. They are … and these questions get asked to pastors by struggling church members and seekers every week. I have church families struggling with life and death issues … faith-shaking circumstances … and soul searching challenges all the time.

    People ‘leaving the faith’ is also not new. We all go through difficult seasons that shake our foundations and challenge our faith.

    And yes, sometimes I give answers that seem trite and insufficient. I wish I knew all the answers … after all, I’m the degreed, ordained, trained man of the Word … I should have the answers. Nope, not gonna happen.

    An excellent interview was given to John L Cooper, Skillet’s lead singer. He gave some good insight … (I adapted a bit)

    • Stop making worship leaders, influencers, and ‘cool’ people the most influential. They have important roles, creating moments and opportunities for God to speak. But people will disappoint us. Their influence is real, but should not be everything.
    • These issues are not new. The Church has wrestled with them for 2000 years. So just because you don’t have answers, doesn’t mean answers aren’t out there … and some answers we will never have. That’s why they call it faith.
    • Why do you have to be so public about your ‘new direction in life’? Why do we have to share everything these days, especially so publicly? I get the struggles, but maybe some personal reflection, seeking wisdom from your circle of people you respect, and wise mentors would be a better way to deal.
    • And we need to be praying for our pastors, our worship leaders, those in the limelight, and others that have such a platform. Their role and their impact reaches so many. They are targets and we need to always be pray for hedges of protection, for wise counsel in their lives, and that they would be given faith that is real and powerful. (Do you see these three prayer requests … they are about influencing the influencers.)

    I will say this … I don’t have all answers of ‘why’ or ‘how’ or ‘what’ … but I do have ‘who’ … and that who is Jesus.

    And I will trust in Him. Lord give me more faith that I can trust you more.

    Have a great weekend.

    My Little Corner of the World …

    In my little corner of the world, one can become a bit myopic.

    I sat here and looked out the window. I also looked at my iPad and perused the perfunctory snow pics by all of my neighbors and friends in the Virginia – North Carolina region. I ventured out into the yard yesterday to shovel a few sidewalks, check on the Shorters, and to have a little frolicking with Peg Leg. I know it’s a poor substitute to enjoying it with my son, Calvin, but he is in Dallas moving into a friends house – his new residence in his venture into adulting.

    But today, I ventured beyond the little community of Evergreen. Put the 4Runner into 4wheel drive, jumped over the little wall of snow on the side of the road at the driveway entrance left by the snow plow, and slowly progressed toward 460. And before long, I saw the roads were clean, vehicles were moving at an almost normal pace, and businesses were open.

    Had I remained in my little corner of the world, I would think the world was covered in snow, that roads were treacherous, and that all had come to a standstill.

    And I would’ve been wrong.

    Getting out of my comfort zone may have been tumultuous, but it ended up by offering more opportunity and a deeper realization that the thought of moving into the unknown doesn’t have to be paralyzing … that’s what stepping out in faith is all about.

    Let’s look at this from a LOTR illustration. As Sam and Frodo were making their way beyond the Shire, Sam stopped moving at one point and declared, “If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.” For somebody that’s never been outside of his comfort zone, this must have been terrifying.   He later found out that he’d have to go all the way to Mordor to protect Frodo. His life changed forever and it started with one little step. The key … he took that step.

    As you ponder living in your little corner of the world, take advantage of opportunities to explore outside of your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be extreme, but start with that one little step.

    Merry Christmas