ARCHIVES: March 2016


03.25.2016

No More Sting!

1 Corinthians 15

No more jellyfish pix, I promise. But I saw this impressive fella (gal?) in the National Aquarium last week, and with today being Good Friday and all, I figured it couldn’t hurt to take a fresh look at how death lost its sting.

Here’s how 1 Corinthians 15:3-6 breaks it down:  Christ died for our sins, he was buried, he rose again, and then he appeared to a whole lot of people. Death, done.

Let’s join our voices with countless saints who have gone before and turn our Friday prayer into a praise today:

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

Have a glorious Easter!

 


ARCHIVES: March 2016


03.24.2016

The Road to Victory

I love college sports. I’m partial to U.Va., of course (and how about that Anthony Gill, praying for Coach Bennett on the sidelines last weekend?), but I’ll watch almost any team, particularly if a big game is on the line.

But there’s one part I definitely don’t love. Even if the whoopsie is on the part of the “bad guys,” I really hate it when a contest comes down to the wire and the guy on the free throw line misses his shot. Or the goalie lets a zinger rip past his shoulder in lacrosse’s “sudden death” overtime. Or (and this is probably the worst) when it’s up to the kicker, and he misses the last-second field goal. Even just writing about it, my stomach hurts.

It’s not that I hate the thought of losing. It’s more that I hate the thought that (as one of our football-playing friends put it), “First you’re the hero, and then you’re the zero.”

FullSizeRenderWhich is, when you think about it, kind of what happened to Jesus in the space between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. At first, the crowds are lining the streets, spreading their coats on the ground for his donkey and waving palm branches while they shout cheers like, “Hosanna!” and “Blessed!”

But then the mood shifts, and some of these same people are turning their backs on him. Pretending they don’t even know him. Spitting on Jesus, even. And shouting, “Crucify!”

And he took it.

Philippians 2:7 says that Jesus “made himself nothing.” He emptied himself of all the glory that was rightfully his and, voluntarily, became the biggest zero the world has ever seen.

To most people, it looked like Game Over. But it wasn’t. And I know we’ve still got a few days before the stone gets rolled away, but honestly? Easter is the best come-from-behind, bust-all-the-brackets, zero-to-hero story that has ever been told.

And I love it. I love it because Jesus didn’t just win one for himself; he won it all of us. “To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

And I love it because he didn’t just triumph over death so that we could go to heaven when we die. He did it so that we could be on the winning team now, so that we could play with confidence and joy, even when the game doesn’t seem to be going our way.

I don’t know where you are, spiritually, or what you’re dealing with this Easter season. But I can tell you this: God is all about the zero-to-hero thing. To him, it doesn’t matter how badly we’ve messed up our marriages, our parenting, our jobs, our whatever. He knows all of that, and he still wants us to play for him. He wants to take all the zeroes of our lives and turn them into a win.

If you’ve never made a decision to trust God – to just hand him your life, cuz he’s already given his for your sake – I want to encourage you to do that this Easter. Being a Christ-follower doesn’t mean you’ll never get fouled, or that you’ll never get a bad call. You will. But you’ll be playing for a Coach who is crazy about you, who has a wonderful game plan for your life, and who has already won the victory.

And March Madness doesn’t get any better that that.


ARCHIVES: March 2016


03.18.2016

Jellyfish and You

1 Peter 2-9So we visited the National Aquarium in Baltimore this week. Being from Virginia Beach, I didn’t particularly need to see the jellyfish exhibit. (We get plenty of those every summer, and it’s not like anybody likes them.) But the Robbies were curious, and so we checked ’em out.

And oh my. Floating there in the light, they were…captivating. Beautiful. Exquisite, even.

Which is exactly how God sees us.

We may think we are nothing more than a drifter, a nasty blob that nobody could ever like (okay so maybe you’ve never thought that, but I have). But that’s not what God says. He calls us into his light and says we are chosen, that we belong to him, and that we have a purpose.

Maybe you or someone you know needs to be reminded of that today. If so, here’s how you can pray:

Heavenly Father,

May ______ know that she has been chosen by you, that she is beautiful and holy in your sight. Remind _____ that she is your very own possession. Prompt _____ to show others your goodness, since you called her out of darkness and into your wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9, NLT)

Amen.

 

 


ARCHIVES: March 2016


03.11.2016

Spring Forward!

Psalm 84-11Ahhhh.

Tomorrow’s the night we get to set our clocks forward…which means an extra hour of daylight…which means more sun…which means…happiness.

To celebrate, I’m picking Psalm 84:11 for our Friday prayer. It’s the verse that Robbie and I put on our wedding program 30 years ago, and it’s every bit as good today (maybe even better, if you factor in all those years of Seasonal Affective Disorder) as it was back then. Turn this promise into a prayer for yourself or for someone you love:

Lord God,

Be _____’s sun and shield. Bestow on him grace and favor and honor. Do not withhold any good thing from ______, but help him to walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11, AMP)

Amen.


ARCHIVES: March 2016


03.08.2016

U.Va. Seniors Jumpstart March Madness

It’s March, which means that even if you are not normally a college basketball fan, it’s time to check in.

Because March is tournament time, and in the unpredictable and exquisite world that is college basketball, anything can happen. U.Va. fans got a foretaste of the March Madness Magic on Saturday night and, if you’re like me, you’re still smiling.

Mar 5, 2016; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Virginia Cavaliers players celebrate on the bench after a three point feel goal by Cavaliers forward Caid Kirven (not pictured) in the final minute against the Louisville Cardinals at John Paul Jones Arena. The Cavaliers won 68-46. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday was the last home game of the season, and the #4 ranked Cavaliers beat #11 Louisville. The 68-46 thumping was a story in itself, but it was Senior Night in Charlottesville, and if you were a sportswriter, you could lead with any one of the five guys who are graduating:

Malcolm Brogdan bounced back from an early-game slump and finished like the champion he is, leading the team with 17 points (and netting ACC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors the next day). Mike Tobey snagged 15 points and a career-high 20 rebounds, becoming the first U.Va. player to grab that many boards since 2003. Team prankster Anthony Gill finished with 15 and reminded us all why it’s not just his high school sweetheart (they’re getting married next month, whoop!) who’s crazy about him. Evan Nolte, given a senior night spot in the starting lineup, set the tone for the game just after tip-off by knocking down back-to-back threes (and treating appreciative fans to another of his mega-watt smiles). And, Caid Kirven, a walk-on with a grand total of eight points in his entire college career, brought down the house with his improbable, incredible, almost indescribable end-of-game three-pointer.

If you saw the game (and that last shot, in particular) you’ll understand why one Twitter fan summed it all up like this:  U.Va. Senior Night. Brought to you by Disney.

Like a zillion other U.Va. fans, I couldn’t get enough of the press coverage, and I spent the weekend devouring every article I could find. I “liked” a tweet where Coach Tony Bennett said his guys had represented his five pillars well, an accomplishment for which he was thankful. I read a tribute to the five seniors, an online post that came complete with video highlights. And I watched Caid’s shot go in, over and over again, until my face started to hurt from smiling so much.

My favorite piece, though, was about Mike Tobey’s big night.

After a career marked by ups and downs, Tobey had had a particularly discouraging game against Miami. A lot of players might have been tempted to slink off to the showers after that loss, but Tobey took another approach. He met Coach Bennett for lunch.

According to the article, Tobey said that he’d been worried about fouling (a habit that’s plagued him this season), and that he was worried he’d make a mistake. Coach Bennett’s response? “Focus on one thing. Don’t worry about fouling, don’t worry about a force. Just have a reckless abandon.”

And so he did. Tobey went out there on Saturday night and had the time of his life, setting a single-game rebounding record for the arena that left the fans chanting his name. Why the big change?

“Talking to coach actually helped free me up inside,” Tobey said. “I just went out there and played basketball.”

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Isn’t that exactly how it is with us? So often, we go through life feeling crippled by our past mistakes, worrying that if we try to play like we were meant to play we’ll get into foul trouble and blow it. Instead of living in freedom – accomplishing our God-given purposes, doing the things he intended for us to do – we stumble around in uncertainty and fear.

But what if we were to stop and have a convo with our Coach? What would he say?

I don’t mean to sound glib or irreverent, but I actually think he’d sound a bit like Coach Bennett. He’d tell us not to worry about fouling, because our mistakes don’t matter to him. “My grace is sufficient for you,” he’d say. “My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

He’d remind us to focus on just one thing. He’d say, “Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and run with perseverance, fixing your eyes on Jesus.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

And, at the risk of over-stretching the bounds of Scripture, I think he’d say, “Get out there and play with reckless abandon.” Maybe it wouldn’t come out exactly like that, but John 10:10 comes pretty close. That’s when Jesus looks around (and you can almost picture him, talking both to his players and to the crowd in the stands) and says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Play with reckless abandon. Live life to the full. That’s the freedom we’re meant to experience.

So to the five U.Va. seniors, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for giving us an amazing four years, and for the lessons you’ve taught us about things like teamwork, selflessness, and passion. May the Lord bless you beyond anything you could ask for or imagine, both now and in the days and years ahead.

And I don’t know if Coach Bennett had John 8:36 in mind when he was talking to Tobey, but to anyone who has ever tasted what it means to be “free indeed,” his words are worth holding onto:

“Just go out there and play free.”

(Photo credit virginiasports.com)


ARCHIVES: March 2016


03.04.2016

Friday Prayer for Time Management

Psalm 90-12I got a text this week from our daughter, Virginia, who is in her final semester at U.Va.  You’d think a college senior could relax a little in the spring, but her day was jammed from dawn until…well, nearly dawn again.

If you or someone you love is wrestling with a too-full schedule or the need for good time management, feel free to borrow the prayer I am praying for Virginia today. It’s one that Moses prayed in his old age, but I think it works pretty well for a college kid:

Heavenly Father,

Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should. (Psalm 90:12, TLB)

Amen.




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