Posted in Easter, Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, thankful, wisdom

Resurrection

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection.” Philippians 3:10

Like it or not…it was time.  Every spring and summer, my wife and I are blessed to have one of the most beautiful yards on our street.  Some people say it is one of the most beautiful yards in town.  When we moved to 217 West Poplar Street, it was a blank canvas.  There were literally no flowers and no flowering trees.  Judy, who has a green thumb, over the years has made our yard into several beautiful gardens.  She plants it and it grows.

Well, every fall, as the temperatures fall, some things go to sleep and some things just die.  The perennials go to sleep to be awakened the next spring and the annuals die and will have to be replanted or reseeded. Fall and winter leave a carnage of dead stems, leaves, and blooms and before the perennials can be awakened, last year’s carnage needs to go.  There’s where I come in.  She is the “make it happen” person and I am the “cleanup the carnage” person.  So, every later winter or very early spring, I have my work cut out for me.

Last week, I would come home from work and select a section of the yard to cleanup.  Using my string trimmer (hey, don’t laugh…it works), my rake, my loppers, and a couple of other tools for good measure, I would wack, cut, trim and rake my way through each flower bed.  When I was done, I would have a pretty clean slate for the coming spring.  If you saw all this when I was done, it would look pretty empty.  You would think, “Nothing is gonna happen there.”  But you would be perfectly wrong.

You see, beneath the soil, all those perennials (plants that come back year after year) that have slept all winter, that for all practical purposes seemed dead, are about to spring (no pun intended) back to life.  Green sprouts will be pushing up everywhere.  Before long what was bare is filled with new life and what is filled with new life will soon be filled with the beautiful blooms of spring and summer.  It really is quite amazing.

Well, let me just tell you.  For five days, I went out, two or three hours a day and did my carnage removal thing.  And, at least for this guy whose job has him sitting at a desk studying, it was hard work.  My arms were tired, my shoulders ached, and I was thoroughly and completely—pooped.  Somewhere along the journey, I lost my vision. All I knew was I was tired and that there seemed to be no end to the carnage of last fall and winter.  But then it hit me, and my focus returned.

It wasn’t just work. It wasn’t just something that had to be done.  I was on a mission.  I was preparing for…resurrection.  My work for those five days, was a work with purpose.  As I cleared away the old, I was making way for the new.  And because of my faithfulness in late winter or early, early spring—the resurrection could happen.  Already, tiny green sprouts are breaking through the dirt and reminding me that my work was not in vain.  It has a purpose.

In a few weeks, we will be celebrating another resurrection and this one is the biggie.  We are going to celebrate the fact that two thousand years ago, a man—the God-man—willingly died on a Roman cross to pay the price for the sins of the entire world.  That day the sin for every man, woman, and child was atoned for, making it possible for those same people to have forgiveness, power to live this life, and live forever in heaven.  Anyone who is willing to believe and choose to follow Him can have the privilege of calling God—Father. But He didn’t just die.

See, anyone can die on a cross and claim anything.  Jesus didn’t stay dead—He physically, really and completely came back to life.  He resurrected and one of the reasons He did?  He did it to prove that He was Who He said He was and did what He said He would do. His death shouted, “I love you” and His resurrection shouted, “I am victorious over death.”  Wow.  So, here’s the deal. 

Remember I mentioned in a few weeks we were going to celebrate the “biggie?”  Well, this is what I was talking about.  And these weeks are like my time preparing the gardens for their resurrection.  These weeks are a time for us to prepare our hearts and minds for the big event—Resurrection Sunday.  The more I prepare the gardens for their resurrection, the bigger the celebration of life as they sprout and bloom.  And guess what?  It’s true with Easter.  The more we prepare, the bigger the celebration. Like Paul, said, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know [to celebrate] the power of His resurrection.”

Each evening after work I had to make a conscious decision to prepare the gardens for resurrection.  Wanting to, longing to, intending to, just wouldn’t cut the mustard.  It is time for us to prepare to celebrate His resurrection.  Wanting to, longing to, intending to, just won’t get the job done.  We have to decide to prepare—for the resurrection.  It’s a reason to celebrate you see because He lives—we too can live.  So, start today, get ready for the biggie—the resurrection of Jesus.  Need help in preparing? Not sure how? No problem.  The One who made it all possible is a great party planner.  Just ask Him.  He’s got that, too.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, life, priorities, sovereignty of God

It Ain’t Over

I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:2

Siri gave me the bad news.  I am a pastor. I’m not sure what you do on Saturday nights, but I know what is on my schedule.  Forever, well almost forever, my Saturday nights have been reserved for doing the final studying for the message I am to deliver the next morning.  My wife and I don’t generally accept any kind of engagements on that special night because, well, it is a big priority.  Now, there is one kinda, sorta, exception.  Notre Dame football.

I am not sure how it all started, but a long time ago I became a Notre Dame football fan. It really is the only thing in the sports world that I consistently follow.  I’m not a huge sports fan, however, college football and Notre Dame football in particular, ranks pretty high with me.  If I know there is a Notre Dame game schedule for Saturday night I will try and study earlier in the day to free up some time to watch the game that night.  This past Saturday, despite all my good intentions, that just didn’t happen.  That meant that the Irish would have to play largely without me.  Now what made that particularly difficult was the Irish, ranked number four in the nation, was playing Clemson who was ranked number one.  It was going to be a good game.

So what is a pastor/Notre Dame fan supposed to do?  Well, I watched bits and pieces of the game and occasionally would ask Siri on my Apple watch what the score was.  The Irish started off strong with a touchdown and by halftime had a pretty comfortable lead.  I was ecstatic.  I tuned in and out for most of the evening.  I checked in somewhere and the lead had shrunk to four points.  I figured I best not check in anymore or else the crowd at church was going to get a half-baked sermon.  So I studied, and wrote and wrote and studied.  Finally, about 9:45 pm or so I couldn’t resist the urge any longer.  I asked Siri, “Hey Siri, what’s the score in the Notre Dame football game?”  Her response was discouraging. No, it was devastating.

In her chirpy, Siri voice, totally indifferent to the pain she was about to cause, she said, “Notre Dame is losing to Clemson by a score of 26 to 33 with two minutes remaining.”  What?  I was studying about joy and mine plummeted like a roller coaster on a greased track.  I muttered under my breath (never mind what I muttered) and studied a bit more before calling it quits.  I went to bed.  Notre Dame hadn’t lost a home game in forever and tonight that streak was going to end.  Bummer.

The next morning, after some coffee, I picked up the sermon to give it the final look over.  After a while, I went over to the computer to look something up and my email app was open.  I took a moment to scan the list of emails that had come over night.  Halfway down the list my glaze came to a screeching halt.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I get a regular email from a company that sells sports stuff.  I especially like their fan gear like Notre Dame hoodies.  If the Irish win, they will send out an email that declares their victory and then offer a special discount to celebrate.  And…there it was.

The brief summary in the email list said it all, “Irish Beat Clemson.” Whoa…what?  As fast as a rabbit running from a bobcat, I opened the email and saw that the Irish had indeed beat Clemson in a double overtime thriller by a score of 47 to 40.  Fortunately, my Hopper thing from Dish records primetime and it had recorded the game.  As fast as I could I turned on the television, went to the DVR and clicked the button and there was the game in all its glory.  I cheated and watched the final two minutes but saved the rest for later. I got to watch the thriller ending after all…and it was incredible.  Go Irish.  Baptist or not—I love Notre Dame football.

Here is the amazing part.  I went to bed Saturday night assuming that my team had lost. Down seven with two minutes to play—no way.  But I should have known better because the Irish are famous for thrilling finishes but most of them don’t involve the number one team who had a 37 game winning streak…the reigning national champs.  Yup, I went to bed a loser and woke up a winner.  You just never know what is going to happen. It is true with Notre Dame football, but better yet it is true in life—especially when God is the head coach.

Life can be pretty difficult…especially these days.  We have never seen so many uncertainties from so many directions and all at the same time.  It is easy to think that we’ve lost the game.  It is easy to go to bed thinking all is lost, game over.  But God has an amazing way of turning it all around.  An old quote says, “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” Well, I don’t know who this lady is and you shouldn’t call people fat anyway, but let me tell—with God in the mix she isn’t even humming her first bar of music.  I’m trying to say, don’t give up…don’t be discouraged. You, or it, may seem like a lost cause but never, never is that true with God on your side.

I’ve heard some people say they like to read the end of a book first to see how things turn out.  Well, I have read the end of His Book—and He wins in the end.  Job, who knew all about hot mess circumstances said, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.”  Wow. You see, as I watched my recorded version of the game—even knowing the outcome—I winced at some missteps and cheered for every score.  And the best part—I rested knowing that nothing I was about to see could change that outcome.  The Irish were going to win.  If you are a Jesus follower, no matter how crazy life gets, no matter how it seems God can’t pull it out—just rest in knowing He can. Nothing can change His planned outcome in this game called life.  With Jesus you can rest assured, He’s got this.