Today Christians celebrated Palm Sunday. Did you know that the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey was a very important day even before it ever became known as Palm Sunday?
The Jews called that particular day in the Passover week, “Lamb Selection Day.” On that day, Jews would come to Jerusalem to select a Passover lamb, one lamb for each family. According to Jewish historians, the lambs were brought from Bethlehem to Jerusalem through the Sheep Gate. In the late afternoon, each family selected a lamb and took it home where they cared for it until it was slaughtered for the Passover meal. (Exodus 12:3-6)
But, on that particular day, while palm branches were waving in the air and people were shouting “Hosanah”, while Jewish families were selecting their Passover lambs and taking them home, God had selected a special lamb and had sent Him to Jerusalem. His lamb also came from Bethlehem, and He also arrived in Jerusalem through the Sheep Gate in the late afternoon.
This perfect lamb would be the very last blood sacrifice that God would recognize. And because of the greatness of this lamb, God would accept the blood of this one lamb for the forgiveness of the sins of all who would place their faith in Him. No more sacrifices would ever be required. This was the last Lamb. This was the very Son of God.
So “Lamb Selection Day” became Palm Sunday because God did the unimaginable and chose His only Son to be the final sacrifice for us.
Have a Blessed Week!
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. - Proverbs 16:9
One week ago, today, I received the phone call I’ve been waiting on for eight years. The call was from the Principal of a 3A High School offering me the Head Football Coaching job. I was shocked; I really could not believe it. It seemed to be an answered prayer from God. While I was somewhat nervous about the task, I was inwardly swelling with pride thinking about becoming a Head Coach at age 26. This was it; all that I had worked so hard for, prayed so hard for, and dreamed so much about was finally going to happen for me.
The reason I say that I thought this was an answered prayer is because two hours before the principal called me, I was sitting in my office at Sumter High School having my quiet time. I felt very burdened. I fell on my knees and I begged and pleaded with God to send me something, anything that would allow me to “move up” in my career. My heart wanted so badly to have the opportunity to lead my own football program and begin to accomplish things that I wanted to accomplish in my life. Exactly two hours later, that call came.
I’m blessed to have some very wise people in my life, so I began talking to some of them about the job, it’s problems, and what I could do to overcome them. While I still had some doubts, I was sure that God was in control and He would work out all the details. I worked diligently to prepare for my meeting with the high school principal that was scheduled for the end of the week. I was looking at houses, watching film of last year’s team, thinking about how I wanted to arrange my coaching staff; you name it, I was on it. I didn’t know how I was going to make it all work out, but I was absolutely determined to make it work because it was what my heart wanted more than anything else in the world.
Friday finally came and I was nervous because I wanted everything to go right. The principal and I began talking and for the most part he was saying “yes” to every single thing I was asking for. The more we talked, the more I really believed that this was it. We finished our conversation and I took a tour of the facilities and went to my hotel to gather my thoughts. I spent Friday night wrestling with the few problems that were going to come with this job.
Saturday morning, my wife and I woke up early and began our quest to find a place to live. As we began searching, it became apparent that finding an affordable place to live might be tougher than we thought because the cost of living in the area was so expensive. We found a house, but the rent was double what our current mortgage was! Still, even knowing this, I was determined to make this job work.
Just before I left Saturday to head back home, my wife and I were ready to make the call that would officially make me the Head Football Coach. We decided to give it until Sunday afternoon, maybe by then we would feel just a little more confident about taking the job and God would send us a firmer peace about this decision.
On the ride home I began to feel conflicted. The questions that I had been asking all week suddenly became a heavy burden on me. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling like taking the job might not be the right thing to do. Certainly the Lord would not have given it to me if He didn’t intend for me to accept it. I became keenly aware that by me accepting this particular job, my wife would have to make some huge sacrifices.
I got home and the burden became heavier and heavier, I was beginning to have a lot of doubt about whether or not this whole thing could work out. Even with every burdensome thought that came, I was nowhere near willing to let this opportunity slip by me. I was going to become the youngest Head Coach in the state. I was going to turn this program around, and by age thirty, I was going to have a “big” job, one with big lights, big community support, and big money. I was finally going to raise that big state championship trophy high in the sky at Williams Brice Stadium… the same one that had twice been denied to me, once as a player and once as an assistant coach.
On Sunday morning the burden was so heavy I felt as though I might not be able to carry it. I convinced myself that I must need to find a way to fill myself with more faith in God. I went to church thinking, “Surely God is going to speak to me this morning. He will calm my spirit, and give me this overwhelming peace that all these people keep talking about.” As I sat through the sermon, I was doing a very good job of twisting the words of my pastor into pretty much telling me that I should call the principal right after the service and accept the job, after all, I had worked hard for eight years and I deserved it.
After church, I was at home attempting to make myself as busy as possible so that I wouldn’t think about all of the problems that would come with the job. Problems that I knew God could and would handle for me. After all, He was calling me to this job; He had answered my prayer. My mom, whom I am very close with and am told by most everyone who knows both of us that I am “just like”, came by my house. She wanted to share something God had laid on her heart with me and give me a book she was reading. She thought I needed to read a chapter in the book before I made my final decision. In my mind I thought, “Great! This chapter will talk about having strong faith, it will talk about all of the rewards we get when we follow God’s plan.”
What the Lord would reveal to me over the next three hours would rock me. I had fallen so far, I wasn’t even aware of where I really was in my life. I had made for myself an idol that I had built so big it had consumed my whole entire life. The reality is that I have woken up every single day for at least the last four years wondering what I could do to become a better football coach, so that I could become a head coach. I woke up every morning trying to find what steps I could take that day towards becoming a Head Football Coach. I dreamed about it, I thought about it all day, I talked about it most of the day, and every day I asked God in heaven to give it to me because I wanted everyone to see me as a Head Football Coach. I wanted all of the glory, honor, and praise from man. That is the ugly truth behind my story to this point. In an effort to shorten this story, I called the Principal at the High School and turned down the job that I had wanted so badly for so long.
So, exactly one week later here is what the Lord has shown me:
When I walked into my office this morning the Lord began revealing to me all that He had been doing during the previous week. When I fell on my knees one week ago, I was not asking for my Father to lead me and be Lord over my life. I was asking, in fact begging with all of my soul, for Him to make me a Head Football Coach. I was on my knees asking him to give me my idol. I was much like the Israelites who begged God to send them a King because God being their King was apparently not good enough for them. I was behaving much like them except I wanted to be a King. I wanted to be a head coach more that I wanted to be close to the Lord, more than I wanted to serve him, and more than I wanted to love him. So, God gave me exactly what I had been asking for. I imagine He got sick and tired of me asking to be a Head Coach instead of me asking what I could do to be more like Him or how I could serve Him better. So, as only He can do, He gave me what I wanted even though it was not what he wanted for me; at least not right now. He used this as a test for me to see if I was willing to put my idol on the altar and sacrifice it to him.
What God taught me (with the help of my mother and Tony Evans in his book Dry Bones Dancing) is this:
“I can say with absolute certainty that you will be tested on that which your heart clings to. I guarantee it. He will test your willingness to sacrifice something that represents one of the most valuable things in your life, something that’s as precious to you as Isaac was to Abraham.”
“The test will take every bit of spiritual reserve we have to pass because He’s ready to move us up to the next level in our journey of following Him and growing closer to him.”
“Is there something God wants you to now put on the altar? If you. Like Abraham are in the middle of a test that you can’t figure out, then the one place you want to be is at worship. Approach his heavenly altar where the sacrifice of his son, Jesus, has opened the way for you into the presence of God. Worship the Lamb and worship God on his throne, even though you don’t understand what He’s taking you through. Worship even though you can’t begin to figure it out. Follow through in sacrificial worship. And there at the altar God will show you his way. He’ll come through for you.”
“The passion of our lives must be for God and not merely for his blessings and gifts. He’s interested in responding to people who are in active pursuit of his heart and who’ll make the appropriate sacrifice in order to experience it.” (Dry Bones Dancing by Tony Evans)
In order for me to please God and truly follow him, I MUST be willing to put my idol on the sacrificial altar of the Lord and be at peace with the possibility of never receiving that idol back. Not all stories end the way the story of Abraham and Isaac did. We must understand that there are times when we place what we love most on the altar and the Lord does not entrust it back to us. We must be at peace knowing that they are sacrifices we will never see again, and that it is for our good. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but if our desire is truly to please God, it becomes so much easier.
Yesterday at this time I would have rather died than be told that I would never be a Head Football Coach. I now realize that I was put on this earth to praise, honor, and worship the Lord, not to be a Head football Coach. So, this morning when I walked into my office and saw an image of myself, only one week earlier, on the floor begging for that which my heart most desired, I smiled and knew that I had finally found the “overwhelming peace” that comes from following my Father in heaven with my whole heart and having no idols before him.
Now on the other side, I am so overwhelmingly thankful to my Father in heaven for sending me this test. I recognize that it was only by the grace of God who used a complete stranger, an old friend, a mentor, a wife, a mother, a father, and a pastor to save me from myself that I was able to pass the test.
My family vacations near this high school every summer. I do not believe that it is a coincidence that God used a school located in a place where I will visit one time every year, right before the beginning of football season, as the place for this test. God chose this specific place to establish a “marker” for my walk with Him. For the rest of my life, I will remember the day and the time that I truly laid my idol on His altar and decided to let nothing be bigger in my life than He who created me.
Assistant Football Coach
Sumter High School
All this, David said, ―I have in writing as a result of the Lord‘s hand on me, and he enabled me to understand all the details of the plan. -I Chronicles 28:19
Here is a tested truth: light will always defeat darkness.
Try it out. Take a candle and light it. Put it in the middle of a room and turn off the lights, close the blinds, make the room as dark as possible.
No matter how dark a room becomes, the darkness will never be able to block the light from that single candle. In fact, the darker the room, the more evident the light from the candle will become. The darkness is powerless against the light of the candle.
The world, for now, is under the rule of Satan. Satan loves darkness and he rules in darkness. He uses the darkness to blind the minds of unbelievers to the truth of the gospel of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
But Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) Out of the darkness of our own hearts, God brought light through salvation.
Though the darkness cannot prevent our light from shining, we can. The light radiating from the believer results from an inward transformation. The more we grow in wisdom and knowledge and understanding of His Word, the closer we draw to Him, and the more intimately we walk with Him, the stronger and brighter our light becomes. But, when we are focused on ourselves and on the pursuit of worldly things, our lights are dim and harder to distinguish from the darkness. If we find ourselves ashamed of the gospel and afraid to take a stand for what we believe, we hide our light under a cover and no one can see it.
In Matthew, Jesus continues, “Let your light shine before men so they will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Too often we focus on doing good works – works in our own power – the ones we choose to do, the easier works, the ones that require little sacrifice on our part. We feel good about ourselves and about the good we are doing. Sometimes we even like to get in a little bragging. But those works too often point others to us instead of bringing glory to our Father in Heaven.
When the light in us shines brightly, when that inner transformation is what causes the brightness of our lights to shine, it illuminates the good works that we do out of a deep love for our God and others see Him because of the light in us.
We have seen that light in the lives of the families of our brothers and sisters who lost their lives in the shooting this past Wednesday night.
A dark evil descended on Charleston. One fueled by hatred and ignorance. The evil committed had the potential to give rise to more hatred, violence, and evil. It had the potential to throw the city of Charleston into turmoil, like the turmoil we just witnessed in Ferguson. But it didn’t because the darkness descended around followers of Jesus who chose to respond to the evil as their Savior commanded. Out of the darkness emerged a brilliant light; one that the darkest of darks could not extinguish.
Because of their response, the enemy was defeated. What the enemy meant for evil, God used for good. (Genesis 50:20)
To the families who lost their loved ones Wednesday night, first know that you will be constantly in our thoughts and prayers. Also know that as your brothers and sisters in Christ, we thank you for showing the world what it looks like to walk in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior. Thank you for showing all of us what it looks like to love and forgive in the wake of what seems to be an unforgivable act.
We have seen your light shining brightly in the darkness and it is beautiful to behold.
Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for a friend.
The Message puts John 15:12-13 this way, "Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends."
This, so far, is my favorite picture from Becca’s wedding last Saturday, really, for a couple of reasons.
One, it’s just typical of how our family rolls. We don’t just bustle a wedding gown, that would be too easy, and boring. Nope, we turn it into a, for lack of a better word, fiasco.
The dress had multiple layers that had to be bustled before Becca entered the reception. Knowing this, my daughter in law, Sarah Kathryn, and I practiced our bustling several times. We had it down pat. We were ready, or so we thought.
Well, when time came to bustle, we could not for the life of us find all the buttons and loops that we needed to find. It was hot, we were sweating, and gnats were flying up our noses. We had layers of wedding gown over our heads, which of course made things even hotter. Then to make things even more frustrating, we had irritating husbands trying to rush us. It was about to get ugly, fast.
My pastor shared this parable with us today. Thought I would in turn share with y'all. Hope you enjoy!
There was a boy by the name of Steve who was attending school in a western state. Mr. Christianson taught at this particular school. He had an open-door policy and would take in any student that had been thrown out of another class as long as they would abide by his rules. Steve had been kicked out of his sixth period and no other teacher wanted him, so he went into Mr. Christianson’s class. Steve was told that he could not be late, so he arrived just seconds before the bell rang and he would sit in the very back of the room. He would also be the first to leave after the class was over. One day, Mr. Christianson asked Steve to stay after class so he could talk with him. After class, Mr. Christianson pulled Steve aside and said, "You think you’re pretty tough, don’t you?"
Today is Memorial Day and I am reminded that I owe so much to so many. On this day, we remember those who have given all they had so that we can live in freedom and safety. It is only right that we pay our respects to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice; those men and women who laid down their lives for their country…for you and me. They are heroes, and we are so very grateful.
But today I am also reminded that there are others who have also sacrificed so much for all of us. They are still with us. They walk among us with wounds that no one sees.
I am reminded of Leigh Giglio.
I just finished teaching a six-week bible study to a group of amazing women. It wasn’t an easy study. It required intense soul searching and a willingness to take a really hard inward look. Not an easy thing to do. But these women were incredible. They dug in and refused to not learn…no matter how hard it got. Most of them are in the middle of very difficult circumstances. They are in a season where heartache is plentiful. Where throwing the towel in would be such an easy thing to do. But they have chosen instead to stay the course, no matter how difficult. These women are warriors and I am better for having shared this time with them.
We started our study off with this quote:
“Great warriors are not made from living pampered, unchallenged, obstacle less lives. Though they may think themselves valiant, they have never been trained for the intense battles. On the other hand, a mighty warrior is born out of great adversity, difficult obstacles, and many scars. The scars that come from deep wounds-but wound that have healed. They are the wise, courageous, diligent ones who never take their eyes off of their king. They are the ones that count the loss as gain, who surrender all they have for their King.”(Author Unknown)
Forgiveness is one of the hardest words in the English language to me. It’s one of the toughest things to do…to give. I think it should be a four-letter word, except, well, it has more than four letters, but whose counting?
How can one word be so difficult yet so freeing? Why is it expected to be given when it is so undeserved? It’s one of those things that my head knows I need to do, but I can’t seem to convince my heart to do what my mind knows to do.
When an offense comes against us and we find ourselves with a wounded spirit, refusing to forgive prevents our own healing. In fact, when we refuse forgiveness, in addition to the harm that has been done to us, we heap even more harm on ourselves. Anger settles in. Bitterness settles in. It’s like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die. Who would do such a foolish thing?
“Mom, they sank the boat.”
Philip and I were on the way to Columbia to see Bill Cosby when I got the phone call. Philip had bought tickets for me as a surprise because I love Bill Cosby, and I was looking forward to a relaxing night.
Sam and Lathan, his friend, were coming in from duck hunting behind our house when Philip and I pulled out of the driveway. Becca, my daughter was waiting to take them to get something to eat. Everything was under control, and I was ready to relax.
We were less than 15 minutes down the road when Becca called with the news.
Over the last several months and especially on a day just a few weeks ago, I witnessed firsthand multiple examples of the most precious blessings known to man. No, not a good health report (although my mom did receive one), not appreciation displayed by one of my children (although that did happen too) but the blessing I’m talking about is the love of a genuine friend, or in this case … multiple friends!
On May 4 my son, Preston, married his high school sweetheart after dating her for 8 years. On
Friday of the rehearsal dinner, rain threatened to dampen our “outdoor” celebration. If any of you have been through planning any part of a wedding (from whichever side it may be) you know rain can come in many forms. However, when the rains came in this case, my precious friends went above and beyond. Three had to be loving honest with me and hold me accountable to act and think according to the way Jesus modeled himself through his word. “In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.” Proverbs 28:23 (NLT). They affirmed me, at the same time rebuked, and sharpened me. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”. –Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)
Two of my friends offered to run the numerous last day errands I had on my list including getting my elderly parents to and from the rehearsal dinner (which, by the way, was a difficult trek even for the savviest of “GPS”ers. Within this offer, they soon realized just how much I was going to owe them when they made a wrong turn, ended up in a graveyard, couldn’t get the GPS to pick up, and had to listen to my dad embellish upon what he was going to report to me at the end of the adventure. You have to understand, my dad is the king of “making a story better” with a few additions! I actually think that was the highlight of my parents’ weekend! Priceless!
Another friend and her husband grilled their legendary grilled bbq chicken for the 80 people
invited AND helped set up the venue. One precious friend showed up and said “Just tell me what to do”. Don’t you love that kind of friend! One friend not only provided the absolutely beautiful site but stayed there basically from sun up to well after midnight to help another precious friend decorate and move 500lb picnic tables (or at least that’s our story) for plan “C” as rain again threatened our fun for the umpteenth time! But, in the end, plan “C” couldn’t have been more perfect and neither could my friends!
So not only did these friends, and true sisters, encourage me, hold me accountable, and sharpen my faith but they modeled true unconditional friendship by just being there to help. Hur and Aaron did the same for Moses in Exodus 17:11-13, “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up – one on one side and one on the other – so that his hands remained steady til sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.”
They, as well as my “sisters,” showed the marks of TRUE UNCONDITIONAL FRIENDSHIP in Christ. They weren’t my “yes women” they were my “friends” with all that goes along with it.
Sometimes the acts of friendship are small and sometimes they are large as they were with my sweet friends and with Hur and Aaron. I’m forever bonded to these girls and even to their husbands and children who showed up to cook, serve, and park cars! You can bet when their … let’s see … 15 children get married, I will be the first to sign up for duty!
So I guess bottom line, you may have hundreds of Facebook friends and thousands of Twitter followers, but don’t replace face-to-face friendships with profiles and status updates. I say this out of love and because when it comes time for your son’s rehearsal dinner and your emotions are all over the place (which I can PROMISE you will be) you may end up not having friends close enough to take your parents to the graveyard!
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