“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith…”
On February 21, 2018 a Lion went home. He was ready. His Mane was snowy
white and his voice was smaller and quiet. Far different from the baritone
voice that boomed across hundreds of stadiums to thousands of people
gathered to hear him preach the gospel. He could not move about without
assistance… and to quote him, when he exhaled his “…last breath on earth he
took his first breath in Heaven.”
I had the opportunity to sing in the Billy Graham crusade choir during my
senior year in High School in Sun Devil stadium at Arizona State University.
With of my friends we sat in the back row of the choir way up behind the
platform. For three nights we sang those great crusade Hymns and watched s
Even from behind his strength of conviction was noticeable. What struck me
was the matter of fact way in which he delivered the message of Christ. His
speech pattern was unmistakable, especially in words with a long O sound
which seemed to have a little dip in its pronunciation. But the truth was
precise and clean with no added theatrics needed to make the point. We have
a choice to live in hope with the promise of Heaven because of the cross of
Christ, or die in our sinful state with the curse of Hell awaiting us.
Though I had heard him preach before, I hung on every word for those three
nights… And then came the invitation when hundreds of people poured out of
the stands and onto the field in front of the platform where Billy Graham led
them all in the sinners prayer.
This is my most cherished memory of Billy Graham. I was a witness to the
good fight he fought, to the race he ran in love and faithfulness to his Lord
Jesus Christ. A job very well done… I hope it could be said of us all.
A WITNESS TO FREEDOM For Freedom Christ has set us free… Galatians 5:1
In the fall of 1996 I had the opportunity to be in the cast of “1776” for the Rialto community players. This is a musical version of the events leading up to the writing, and eventual signing of the Declaration of Independence. Though I sang and soloed in several numbers, I had no spoken lines, and hardly left the stage during the entire length of the production. For 12 nights over the course of three weekends, I watched silently as the images of our nation’s founding fathers debated, sang, danced, haggled, persuaded, swore, pleaded and prayed for a nations independence from tyranny. For those 12 nights I was a witness to what those men risked so we could live in a free nation. Though we were just players telling the story of historical characters, the sacrifice and courage of men like John Adams, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, was not lost on me.
Another memory of freedom happened on a Palm Sunday when I was on staff at Crossroads Christian Church. It was Baptism Sunday, but not like any Baptism Sunday I have been a part of before. The service was designed to give people the opportunity to be baptized into Christ right then and there. Following the message centered on the Biblical teaching of Baptism, the invitation was given. After the prayer they were encouraged to make their way to one of the wading pools set up in Worship Center to be Baptized, as they came, clothes and all, by one of the Pastor’s waiting for them by the pools.
I was at the center wading pool, one of five altogether. I was not ready for what I encountered on that day. People lined up in droves wanting to be baptized. I will never forget the man covered in tattoos that came to my pool, with tears in his eyes, ready to give his life to Jesus. Like so many others that day, when he came out of that water, the man I baptized had a look about him that could only be described as freedom. He was free from all the stuff that had him in bondage before he gave his life completely to Christ. He was free in deed. In the end 400 people were baptized into Christ that day.
As I think about that Palm Sunday and the many who gave there life to Jesus on that day, I am reminded that true freedom does not come from a warrior’s sword, or a piece of parchment signed by a few men. True Freedom comes from the Son of God who gave His life for you and me, because God so desperately loves us. This is what I will celebrate on this day… and for the rest of eternity
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.- Philippians 3:14
PRESSING TOWARD THE GOAL
One of my great Joys as a father was watching my three girls run long distances in High School and college. My eldest started it and the other two followed in suit when they entered High School and college.
They all had varying gifts and strengths in running. Sometimes they would win their races and set school records, but with one, doing her best and finishing the race was the victory. But one thing that they all three had in common was the determination they had in their heart to do their best in whatever race they ran.
My favorite part of the race was to watch them finish a race, and all three knew how to finish well. With the finish line in sight, after having run several miles, with the pain and fatigue written all over their faces, they would find within themselves a new strength and a new speed that would kick in and they became a force to be reckoned with as they came up behind and passed an unsuspecting runner who had let up as the line drew nearer. It was beautiful to watch that in my daughters.
I think that’s how God felt about Paul when he wrote those words in Philippians about pressing on to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. He didn’t just write those words… he lived those words, and God was there every step of the way cheering them on.
The prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus is not just for the few gifted children of God, it is for all of us who dare enter the race in the first place with Christ as our savior. We run with Joy and with each other hoping to finish well.
"....That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection" -Philippians-3:10
What has power over you? What do we give power to? What has power over us?
I asked this question one time of a congregation, and a lady promptly blurted out, "A Hot Fudge Sundae!" We all laughed. I don't know how true those words were for that woman, but we can acknowledge that there are a variety of things and circumstances that can have power over us.
Whatever is given power over us can have control over us. Power is ultimately what determines our destiny. If we give power to addiction, addiction determines our destiny. If we give power to things, those things can determine our destiny. If we give power to anger and resentment....you get the picture.
Our destiny as Christians is determined by the power of Christ's resurrection. In Jesus' out and out defiance over the permanent power of death, all power becomes subservient to the power of the resurrection. It is the only power that should control us or would need to control us, for it is the only power that leads to life.
The power of the resurrection becomes ours in a passionate pursuit to know Christ. In knowing and loving Christ, all other powers eventually fade away as we come under the control of the Holy Spirit.
With the celebration of Easter Sunday fresh in our memories, let us let go of the bonds of any power except for that which sets us free.
"Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you." - 1Peter 5:7
LETTING STUFF GO
In the process of a recent move I found out that we had a lot of stuff. I mean a lot! How much stuff can a two bedroom house actually hold? ... Evidently quite a bit as I found out when I would open another closet or drawer.
With each door, drawer or room came the responsibility of deciding what to do with everything contained therein. Do I pack it, trash it, store it, sell it, donate it, orlet somebody else decide what to do with it? The various piles of stuff coinciding with each category got bigger and bigger.
An interesting thing happened as I got closer to the end of this wearying process, and the trash cans got completely full. I decided that at that point, what was left would go into storage. I just wanted it to be done. So into the storage it went, be it treasure or trash. So in my storage I have stuff coexisting with stuff that should really be thrown away. I am hanging on to my trash.
In our lives we may have lots of stuff we are hanging onto because we just don't know what to do with it...stuff that is really no use to us in our journey with the Lord.
In the scripture above, the Apostle Peter gives us the perfect invitation to get rid of our stuff, especially those in the form of burdens and anxieties. We get to throw it all on the Lord and let Him deal with it. We get to give Him all our stuff. Why do we get to do this? Because He cares for us.
As we enter into this Lenten season, let us RSVP His invitation to get rid of some of the stuff that even now coexists with treasures that God has given to us in Christ Jesus.
"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” - Lamentations 3:22-23
NEW EVERY MORNING
I have no idea what’s going to us happen this year, nobody does… except our amazing God. I didn’t know we were going to have to say goodbye to some friends in 2017, connected to our church family. I also hadn’t anticipated our amazing 4 th of July celebration where we got serve Hot dogs to hundreds of people waiting for the city parade to pass by right in front of our church. I had not counted on some of the difficulties we faced this year, nor the blessings from the Lord that came almost side by side along with certain hardships. I didn’t count on meeting so many people who have blessed my life immensely. I just didn’t know… and 2017 will come with a whole new set of blessings and challenges that we couldn’t possibly imagine… but I can predict at least one thing the future will bring… the un-faltering faithfulness of God’s Love to us, for this is the promise of His Word; The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. You and I as His children can always count on the love and mercies of God being renewed to us every day, week, month and year that we live. It’s a promise to us. So therefore we are able to affirm without hesitation what is said by the writer of Lamentations; 2 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. (Lamentations 3:22-26) So in 2017 let us be still, wait, and seek the goodness of God as it is found in the salvation that can only come from Christ.
"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." Romans 12:15
My friend Marty and I never voted for the same person for President during an election year. He had been my friend for 36 years and 8 Presidential elections and we never voted for the same guy. When my guy was in office, Marty thought the country was going to hell in a hand basket. I pretty much thought the same thing when his guy was running things.
Marty was not my friend because we shared the same political and social convictions, he was my friend in spite of them. Never once have our differences ever come between us.
We met in Seminary, and I think we liked each other right away. Since Seminary we have lived on opposite ends of the country, when we did talk the bookmark was taken from our friendship and we began where we left off, with laughter being the usual theme that had aways underscored our brotherhood.
I would have to say however, our bond was solidified forever in period of brokenness for both of us. For my part, I had ruined my marriage, and a career I was born to do. When many of my friends and colleagues, who by the way shared my same political and social convictions, didn't want anything to do with me, it was a letter from Marty that re-assured me that I was loved and valued by him, and by the God we both loved and served. His note to me was like a hand reaching into the darkness that the Lord used to lead me back intoHis light and restoration.
I think, as a result, both of us have developed a deeper compassion for the brokenness of humanity, and that the love of God is the only comfort for a lost a broken world. It is on this common ground that Martin and I had always met. We laughed with each other, and we cried with each other.
I cry alone now because Marty died in February of 2014, and I miss him.
At this writing, our country is months away from choosing a President, even as our nation struggles against itself in social unrest and bi-partisan division, it is my prayer that whoever is elected as President, my person or Marty's person (I know who he would vote for), that compassion and understanding will be the prevailing theme for the time to come...that it will be our common ground as a nation.
It seems lately that injustice, hatred, division and fear have ruled these past months driving away hope. But those of us who find our common ground in Jesus Christ as Lord, as was true for Marty and I, may we lead the way in bringing hope and compassion back into our nation.
Let the Church of Jesus Christ be that hand in the darkness, leading our nation into the light of our Lord's Love and Grace...as my friend Marty was for me.
"These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid" John 14:25-27
THE VOICE IN THE DARK
For all of my 60 years, there has not been a summer where Vin Scully, the voice of the Dodgers, has not been in my ears at one time or another. Many people can recall the first time they heard him broadcast a game. I do not have a first time memory, because as long as I could remember he was always there.
He came to me through a Zenith transistor radio encased in burnt orange leather, with the tuning knobs in the lower corners of the radio. He even went on vacations with us.
Where I most needed him was at night when I had to go to bed. I was one of those kids that always felt uncertain about the night time, uneasy and a little afraid...then I would turn on the radio and listen to a Dodger game. No...I would listen to him, to Vinny, in the dark telling me a bedtime story about baseball through my radio...and I would fall blissfully asleep.
I have told people I was raised by three adults growing up, My Mom, My Dad, and Vin Scully. Through hm I learned fair play, how to use words well, the savoring of fine moments, and appreciating what is wonderful. For me during those years as I grew up, he was a safe, steady and trusted voice of goodness.
On October 2nd of this year, after 67 years of wishing us a "...pleasant good evening/afternoon wherever we may be", before each Dodger game, Vin Scully will retire and his "magic" over the air waves will retire with him...Oh I will still listen to Dodger games and root for my boys in blue. But it won't be the same without him. I will miss him.
What I loved most about Vin Scully was he was a man with a deep faith in God. Which is why I believe God used him when I was a small boy, to put something of Himself in that comforting voice of Vin's to let me know that I was not alone, I was safe, and watched over.
Maybe that's a way the Holy Spirit works. He shows up in unexpected places, like Zenith transistor radios, through the expertise of a sports broadcaster, or each other, to remind us of God's constant vigilant presence over us.
This was Jesus' doing. He said, "I am sending you a helper, a comforter, a teacher, who will bring to mind all that I have taught you...so be at peace, don't trouble your heart...and don't be afraid." These words of Jesus about the Holy Spirit are what sustains us all through the dark, uncertain times. He is there...just one prayer away...and He doesn't retire after 67 years. he will always find a way to speak to us in the dark and teach us the wonder of His ways.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14
I MISS BRUCE
I miss Bruce. I remember the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal when a handsome athlete, with longish hair and infectious smile, named Bruce Jenner captured the hearts and imagination of all Americans when he competed in and won the Gold Medal for the Olympic Decathlon.
I really didn't know what it consisted of until the spotlight shined upon Jenner, and every detail of the ten events which made up the decathlon over a two day period. We all became educated on how many points he would need for each event in order for him to stay in the hunt for the Gold Medal.
He was a guy we all liked right away. He wore the same white with black striped tube socks throughout the competition. We loved his spirit and the easy way he expressed himself throughout the grueling competition, and when he stood on the top of the podium with a new world record and Gold hanging around his neck, it was if our brother or son was standing up there. We were all that proud of him.
I wonder what happened to Bruce, the motivational speaker, they guy on the Wheaties box. When did he come to the realization that the scripture above did not apply to him? When did he begin to think that God who makes no mistakes, made one with him and perhaps he was not fearfully and wonderfully made just the way he was?
I don't have these answers. I just know that Bruce is gone and a person named Caitlyn has taken his place. I do not have and understanding of what it means to be a transgender person. I know nothing of their personal pain and the isolation they may feel inside their own skin. Because of this I am not in a place to judge. My simple prayer is that each individual, regardless of gender and orientation, would know in their souls that they are deeply valued and loved by God. This would be my prayer for Caitlyn Jenner as well.
As the world celebrates the emergence and courage of Caitlyn Jenner, and as some ask whether they should be celebrating at all...for me, I just know that I miss Bruce Jenner, and the man that he was. I'm sad he's not here anymore.