Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Snow Day!

This past weekend, my family and I went for an overnight trip to Stone Mountain, Georgia. We didn’t go for the laser show or to see the view from the top. We went to play in the snow!

If you have not heard, for the months of January and February, Stone Mountain Park becomes Snow Mountain. They use the water from Stone Mountain Lake to make snow. Then they blow it all over the slope where you usually sit to watch the laser show. Check out their website here

There’s plenty to do there. They have built a 400 ft snow hill with lanes for tubing, an area to make the ultimate snowman (or snowperson for the PC people out there.), and a place to make a snow fort and have a snowball fight. (By the way, my son won the fight when he smacked me right between the eyes with a fastball.)

The great part about all of this is that it was in the high 60’s, but we got to play in the snow! What an unexpected treat! We had a great time, and I highly recommend it.

I thought about how paradoxical the whole day was. We traveled 3 hours southwest, in 60-70 degree weather to play in the snow in a place where we normally go in the summer. While I was throwing snowball at my son, I noticed a guy outside the snow area who was jogging with shorts and a t-shirt on.

The God we serve loves just such paradoxes. He tells us that in order to receive, we must give; in order to lead, we must serve; in order to live, we must die.

God wants us to look for Him in the most unlikely places. Instead of finding the Creator of the universe in a palace or on a high mountain, He says to find Him in the hungry, thirsty, sick and imprisoned. He says to look for Him in the praises of His people. He says that He dwells in our hearts.

God comes to us in unexpected ways, so that we cannot take credit for ourselves, or give the credit to fate, for His good works. The Apostle Paul writes “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things, and the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29 NIV)

I’m reminded of the old song Spanish Harlem by Ben E. King. (I know there are other recordings of this song, but Ben E. King is the best!) The song is about a girl that the singer is in love with. The song calls her the “rose” in Spanish Harlem. The whole premise of the song is the amazement that something so beautiful could exist in the middle of such ugliness.

Isn’t it amazing that God chose to come down in the middle of all our ugliness, and become one of us? What could be more unexpected and unlikely than a stable, the manger, growing up a carpenter’s son, or the cross? If God has chosen the “foolish” things of this world, then why do we continue to seek Him in the same old ways and same old places? He is a God of newness and growth, not of mustiness and stagnation.

What circumstances are clouding your life right now? What challenges do you have today that you think you may never climb over? What areas of your life are the weakest? Look closely at them. You may be surprised to find God, right there in the middle of them. So many times we pray for God to take away all of our challenges when, in reality, they may be the very place where God is waiting for us to discover Him.

In what unlikely place will you find God today?

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland (Isaiah 43:19 NIV)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Kind of Race

Motivation is something we talk about a great deal. The detective looks for a motive in the homicide, the motivational speaker hopes to motivate you to do something, and the actor tries to discover his character’s motivation for his behavior. Some people find motivation in external substances, such as the person who just cannot function without coffee in the morning. There is a way to be motivated to do most anything.

Television producers have realized this and turned it into “reality” shows. Most of these shows have the same idea behind them. People compete with one another; get systematically eliminated each week, until there is one winner who gets a large sum of money. Face it, there is no way most of those people would subject themselves to the things that can happen to them on these shows, if it were not for the lure of money.

As some of you know, I took up running a while back. While I am never going to compete in the Olympics, I enjoy getting out early in the morning and getting that jump start on the day. I ran in one 5K race and truly enjoyed it. However, I read this week about a race I think a lot of us would like to try.

The fifth annual Krispy Kreme Challenge Race in Raleigh, NC, was run Saturday morning, at North Carolina State University. Racers had to run two miles to the downtown Krispy Kreme shop, eat a dozen glazed doughnuts and run back in under an hour. Runners began coming into the store's parking lot about 30 minutes after the race began. Veterans of the race were shoving doughnuts into cups of water and quickly eating several at a time. $35,000 was raised for the North Carolina Children's Hospital and 48,000 doughnuts were eaten. Now that’s my kind of race! Check out a video of the race here

The Christian life is one with many challenges. However, so is the life lived without Christ. Matthew 5:45 reads, “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” In other words, both the Christian and the non-Christian have happiness and sorrow. The difference is that those with Christ can withstand the storms of life, because we know that God loves us and wants the best for us.

If our motivation in becoming a Christian and living for Christ is freedom from problems, then we are running the wrong race. If our motivation is to avoid hell, then we are missing the point. If our motivation in giving our lives to God is to honor Him, and bring Him glory, then we are beginning to be on the right track.

We should want to run our race because it will bring glory to God, not for any prize we may attain. Don’t get me wrong, I know there is a prize, which is eternal life with God. I am only pointing out that if going to heaven is our only motivation in coming to Christ and attending church, then we need to evaluate our Christian walk. In other words, it would be like wanting to just run a 4-mile race, regardless of what treat may be offered. It is only when we begin running the race of our lives, out of the correct motivation of honoring God, that we begin to set our sights on the prize before us.

Run your race with the right motivation. Honor God. Bring glory to Him.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1 NKJV)

Do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. (Luke 12:29-31 NKJV)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


By the time of this reading, you have probably already heard the story of Daniel Pharr, who is serving at Ft. Gordon in Augusta, GA. As you may know, his girlfriend gave him a parachute jump for a Christmas present. He went on that jump this week, but he got more adventure than expected.

He jumped in tandem with his instructor, and as they floated to the ground the instructor, George "Chip" Steele, was unresponsive. Daniel had to steer the parachute to the ground by himself. When they were safe, Daniel tried to revive Mr. Steele, but was unsuccessful. The instructor had suffered a heart attack on the way down. Daniel said, "They told me afterward that it was amazing that I knew to do that. This is my survival instinct at that point. I just kind of did what I had to do."

You can read the article here

I have always been fascinated with skydiving. I have a crazy idea that I would like to do it, but I get nervous being on the roof of my house. Perhaps I’ll just continue to enjoy it from the ground. The story did bring to mind a show that I saw the other night on the US Special Forces HALO paratroopers.

HALO stands for High Altitude-Low Opening. These soldiers are flown to an altitude of 25,000 to 35,000 feet, where most radar will not detect the plane, and the sound of the engine cannot be heard. The paratroopers will then free-fall to earth at speeds of 120-200 MPH. They will open the chute at the last possible minute with only enough time to save their lives. As Erwin McManus says in his book The Barbarian Way, “If you live, you get to fight the enemy.”

Consider the Gospel of John chapter 3:1-3. There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

This is a rather familiar passage to us. We know that Jesus goes on to tell Nicodemus that God loved the world so much that He sent His only son. However, let’s look at that phrase, “born again”. We hear it regularly by preachers, but did you realize that the Greek phrase can be translated “born from above”?

In fact, I think that being born from above is even more accurate of what happens to us when we enter into the family of God. We are here on this earth, and of this world. When we accept Christ, we are lifted to the heights of heaven in a euphoric state of emotion. Then, as if part of God’s HALO team, we come crashing back down to earth, smack dab into enemy territory. If we live, we get to fight our enemy, the Evil One.

We are not born into Christ from above, so that we can live a life of luxury down here. It really is more like we are initiated into God’s Kingdom as special agents to infiltrate the enemy; search out, rescue, and recruit others who will be a part of the operation; and show God’s compassion and love for His creation.

We can rest assured that our guide and instructor on this adventure will not die or give up on us. The fact is, He already did, a long time ago. He gave His life, so that we wouldn’t have to. Not only did He die in our place, but He also rose again to defeat death. Through His death, we no longer have to fear death, because for us it means eternal life. Without fear, God can accomplish great things through us.

Take a risk. Step out on faith with God. He promises the greatest adventure of your life!

Saddle up your horses we've got a trail to blazeThrough the wild blue yonder of God's amazing graceLet's follow our leader into the glorious unknownThis is a life like no other - this is The Great Adventure
Steven Curtis Chapman

"Don't be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be 'born from above'—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it's headed next. That's the way it is with everyone 'born from above' by the wind of God, the Spirit of God." (John 3:7-8
The Message)

Our prayers are with the family of George “Chip” Steele during this difficult time.