The Replacements

Remember this conversation?

Danny Kaye Phil Davis: My dear partner, when what’s left of you gets around to what’s left to be gotten, what’s left to be gotten won’t be worth getting, whatever it is you’ve got left.

Bob Wallace: When I figure out what that means I’ll come up with a crushing reply.

Bing Crosby 2

For you classic movie buffs out there, it was one of the memorable interactions between Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby from the holiday classic, White Christmas, in which Kaye plays Crosby’s comical sidekick. While most of us who love the film cannot imagine anyone but Mr. Kaye in the role of Phil Davis, the truth is that he was actually the third choice. After Fred Astaire turned down the original offer for the role, it was given to Donald O’Connor. When O’Connor had to pull out of the film due to illness, the role was re-worked for Danny Kaye.

And the rest… as they say… is history.

Fred AstaireIt sounds kind of like us. While the people of Israel were God’s chosen, because of their sin and rejection of God, He sent Jesus to be born of a virgin and open the way to life for those of us who were walking in darkness. He opened the way of Life to any and all who would believe.

Donald O'ConnorSo, even though you were not His first choice, you are His perfect fit for your role in His family… a role no one but you can fill.

Bringing the Presence to the Party

A man observed two well-dressed women having dinner in a restaurant. A cake was brought to their table, and because they were obviously celebrating a special occasion, he went over to offer his best wishes.

“What is the special occasion?” he inquired.

“It’s my son’s second birthday,” said the younger woman.

“Well, where is your son?” asked the man.

The women looked at him in amazement, and the mother replied, “You wouldn’t expect me to bring that little brat into a nice place like this, would you???”

Unfortunately, that is how much of our world celebrates the Christmas season — missing the presence of the One who is the source of peace and joy, and Who is the very reason for the holiday.

Too often, we become close with people who seem to enjoy being in our presence, only to find out later that they only want something from us. But Jesus is unselfish in His closeness to us, and His concern for us is abundant. When Jesus comes in, a new miraculous, supernatural, wonderful dimension comes upon your life.

As we celebrate this Season of Christmas, let us start now and invite the presence of the One we celebrate — the One the prophet Isaiah referred to as Wonderful — to be the focus of all we do. Let’s be sure to invite the guest of honor into the festivities, lest we lose the true meaning amidst the gifts, the tinsel, and the lights.

The group Cloverton recently performed a Christmas version of the popular Leonard Cohen song, Hallelujah. I invite you to listen to it, and let it’s beauty and truth resonate in your heart this Christmas season.

TSOCToday’s blog was adapted from book I had the honor of contributing to called The Spirit of Christmas. Other contributors to this delightful collection were John Hagee, Tommy Barnett, James Robison, John Bevere, Creflo Dollar, and Jackie McCullough. If you would like more information about how you can purchase your own copy of The Spirit of Christmas, please call  1-800-877-6493.

Lessons I Learned from The Iron Bowl… #RollTide

Being a life-long Alabama Crimson Tide fan, watching last weekend’s Iron Bowl between Alabama’s Tide and Auburn’s War Eagles was both exasperating and exhilarating. For those of you who didn’t see it, let me recap…

RTR ShirtAlabama led early, but after two quarters and two interceptions thrown by Alabama quarterback Blake Sims, the #1 ranked Crimson Tide was behind going into halftime. At the beginning of the third quarter, Sims threw yet another interception right out of the gate, which Auburn soon after turned into another touchdown.

At this point in the game, Crimson Tide fans all around the country were screaming at their TV sets for Coach Nick Saban to replace Sims with backup quarterback Jake Coker. Enough is enough! Let’s get some fresh blood in there and get something going before the game is hopelessly lost!

However, to the chagrin of many watching the spectacle, when Alabama once again got the ball, Sims ran out onto the field, ready to take his spot behind the center.

Tide fans everywhere were befuddled. Had Coach Saban lost it? Was he purposely trying to lose the game? Was this going to be a remake of Iron Bowl 2013, and the famous “Kick Six“?

Three minutes later, Sims threw a touchdown pass, closing the score gap to six points. Auburn kicked another field goal a few minutes later, and Auburn’s score began to inch up once again.

Then it happened…

Bear BryantWith a new-found confidence fostered by a coach who believed in his ability, Sims began to connect with his receivers. Over the next 15 minutes of play, the Crimson Tide scored four unanswered touchdowns, and went on to win what would be the highest-scoring Iron Bowl in the history of that rivalry… 55-44.

Now, you might be saying, “Well Pastor, congrats on your team winning, but what in the world does that have to do with anything in my life? I don’t even like football.” Bear with me a minute…

What if Coach Saban had pulled Blake Sims out of the game after his third interception, or even his second? What if Blake Sims had lost all confidence because his coach and teammates lost faith in him? What if they had switched to another plan in the middle of the game?

The fact is that Coach Saban saw something in Sims that eluded the rest of us (and probably Sims himself). He probably knew that replacing Sims would mean deviating from a plan he believed in — a plan he believed would make them the winning team at the end of the night. Trusting his instincts and what he knew and believed about Sims, he defied “reason” and the mob mentality, and chose not to throw Sims under the bus, but to show him he still believed in him.

And it paid off. At the end of the night, Alabama fans everywhere had 55 reasons they were thankful for Blake Sims.

YOU are on a team, and you have a coach named Jesus Christ. You’ve had some victories, but you’ve stumbled, slipped, thrown bad passes, interceptions, and fumbled the ball on more than one occasion. You are bruised, bloody, and beaten down. Honestly… you’re not much to look at, and people around you have serious doubts in your abilities and worth.

But you have a Coach who believes in YOU. You have someone on your side who, over and over again, will pick you up, dust you off, and send you back out there into the fray.

“Why? Is Coach Jesus just sadistic? Does He enjoy watching me get beat up every time I turn around?”

Not at all. Sure, He knows you. He sees your flaws, knows your failures, and sympathizes with your struggles.

But He also knows what you are capable of. He has a plan in which you are an integral part. Paul said in Romans…

For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. ~ Romans 11:29

That means God’s call on your life is not dependent upon your fumbles and missteps. His calling is irrevocable, and He makes no apologies for keeping you in the game. When we think it is difficult or impossible to trust our faithfulness, He reminds us that our relationship with Him is about trusting His grace. What we have to do is trust Him, and believe in His call and His wisdom for our lives and destiny.

So cheer up! You may be bruised and banged-up, but if you are reading this now, it means you are still breathing, still full of life, and still IN THE GAME! It’s time to start believing in the One who called you, for His calling is sure, and He’s never going to be sorry He did. Game ON!

Oh, and… ROLL TIDE!

Pastor Ron

The Festival of Lights

Whether referred to as the Feast of Dedication or the Festival of Lights, the celebration of Hanukkah holds great significance for both the Jew and Christian alike. One of the main symbols of Hanukkah, the menorah, holds great symbolism as well. So, how did Hanukkah come to be? What is the historical and spiritual significance of Hanukkah? What does the menorah symbolize for the believer in Christ?

Let’s take a look…

In 167 BC, Syrian-Greco forces seized the Jewish temple and dedicated it to the worship of the Greek god Zeus. The Jewish people were, understandably, distraught, but fear of governmental retaliation kept them in check. Antiochus Epiphanes, the governor, then made the observance of Judaism a capital offense. Following that, in a move copied directly from Daniel’s experience in Babylon, the Jewish people were ordered to worship only Greek gods.

It was in the village of Modi’in that the seeds of revolt began to break through the hardened ground of apathy. It was there that Greek soldiers gathered the villagers and forced them to bow down to an idol. Then, in a move meant to pour salt on the wound, the villagers were forced to eat the flesh of a pig. It was when soldiers ordered Mattathias, the local high priest, to bow and eat that the unrest began. Not surprisingly, Mattathias refused submit. When a villager stepped forward and offered to participate on Mattathias’s behalf, the high priest drew his sword and, in a fit of rage, killed the Greek soldier and the indulgent villager. Mattathias’s five sons, along with zealous villagers, armed themselves and killed the rest of the garrison in the village.

Mattathias and his family fled the village to hide in the mountains, and other incited Jews later joined them. Eventually the revolutionaries, who came to be known as the Maccabees, were successful in taking back their city and ultimately in regaining control of the temple in Jerusalem. Mattathias, who by this time had died, had ceded leadership of the revolt to his third son, Judah Maccabee (Judah the Hammer). Judah ordered the temple to be cleansed, a new altar to be erected in place of the polluted altar of Zeus, and new holy vessels to be made. When all had been completed and the time of dedication had come, it was discovered that there was only enough olive oil to keep the light of the menorah lit, not for the full eight days, but for only one day. The priest lit the wick anyway, and the flame burned for eight full days!

In the years that followed, this became a major feast in the land of Israel. Because the word Hanukkah stems from a word meaning “to dedicate”, we find references to this feast translated in many English Bibles, not incorrectly, as the Feast of Dedication. The Jewish people commonly call it “The Festival of Lights” and that is because out of that celebration (which occurs in the winter, before Christmas) came a peculiar menorah. The traditional menorah has seven branches and illuminated the Holy Place, wherein was the table of showbread and the altar of incense. In the New Testament book of Revelation, the seven branches represent the seven churches of Asia Minor as well as the church across the years. Recall the explanation given in the Book of Revelation:

The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches. ~ Revelation 1:20

The tradition of the nine-branched menorah comes from the eight-day miracle and the ninth mystery candle. Some rabbis believe seven of the branches represent the traditional menorah while the eighth branch represents new beginnings (which, historically, is the meaning of the number eight).

Here is a clip from our show, Ron Phillips from Abba’s House with my friend Rabbi Curt Landry, explaining the significance of the menorah…

 

Contentment and Thanksgiving

Tday-TurkeyX

As we enter this week of Thanksgiving, consider these words…

 The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

With these words, Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November to be the National Day of Thanksgiving. The interesting fact is that these words were penned in 1863 — right in the middle of the Civil War.

So how could President Lincoln be thankful in the middle of such a bloody conflict?

He found the secret in what the apostle Paul once said…

I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. ~ Philippians 4:11

From our family to yours, may you have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving!

‘Tis The Season…

Currier and IvesOnce again, the season of thanksgiving and joy are upon us. A week from today we will celebrate Thanksgiving, then begin the final stretch leading up to Christmas. As we think toward turkey feasts, holiday lights, Christmas trees, and seasonal music, our thoughts are filled with the love, joy, and goodness the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons bring. The memories of Christmas past, Currier and Ives, and “sleigh-bells in the snow” are a vivid contrast to the images we see in the news today…

The riots in Ferguson, MO.

The brutal beheadings at the hands of ISIS soldiers.

The recent synagogue attack and massacre in Jerusalem.

The continuing news about the ebola virus.

Stories like these are difficult to hear, not matter when they happen. However, they seem to be even more heartbreaking when they happen during the season of “peace on Earth, and good will to men”. And whether it is personal loss and tragedy, or something that is playing out on the national and/or world stage, the main question is the same…

“Why did God allow this to happen?”

Maybe you have experienced loss or tragedy during this time of year, or know someone who has… I know I sure have. So, what do we do when these times come? How do we respond during difficult times? Here are a few things that may help…

Bad things happen because we live in a fallen world. Since the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, there has been a curse upon the earth (see Genesis 3-5). Bad things happen, and while sometimes there are things and people we can point our fingers at, sometimes there’s just not. It may sound trite, but sometimes the non-explanation is the only explanation.

Salvation from sin and death does not mean we “dodge the bullet” here on earth. Being a Christian does not make us immune to tough times. The Bible says that “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). As believers in Christ, our eternal home and reward are in Heaven — this world is just a stopping point along the way. “Keeping your eye on the (eternal) prize” can make a huge difference in your earthly perspective.

It’s ok to not have all of the answers. For all of the many ways that God reveals Himself to us through His word, there are things in the mind and heart of God that remain a mystery. Job said…

Can you search out the deep things of God?
Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? ~ Job 11:7

Faith is such an integral part of the life of the believer, for “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (see Hebrews 11:6). That which we can see, touch, and understand implicitly requires zero faith. One of the very things that gives Him joy is the fact that, even though we don’t have all the answers, we can have faith that He does.

You’re not alone. He knows how you feel, for He has known immeasurable, crushing loss as well. Maybe you are saying, “Where was God when…?” I’ll tell you the same thing I would tell anyone: He is in the same place He was when He watched His own Son suffer at the hands of His creation, and die a cruel and miserable death on a cross — for me, and for you. Our sins put Jesus on the cross, and if anyone deserved to be rescued from that horrific death, it was the sinless Lamb of God. Yet God loved us so much that He refused to intervene (see John 3:16). He knew that those events had to play out in order to make a way for our redemption.

thanksgiving cornucopiaSo, whether you have always experienced the picture perfect holiday season, or your Thanksgiving and Christmas experiences have been, in some way, tainted by tragedy, I pray that this season, you will find peace, joy, and FAITH that the One we give thanks to and celebrate has not taken His hands off the wheel, and has your best interests at heart.

Happy Thanksgiving to you… His favorite!

Pastor Ron

Grace… A Good Reminder

Through The Looking Glass2The movie A River Runs Through It is narrated by Norman… one of the main characters. He makes this statement:

“My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things – trout as well as eternal salvation – came by grace; and grace comes by art; and art does not come easy.”

While we rightly view grace as a free gift, grace always costs someone something.

As Norman said, grace comes by art… but art costs the artist years of practice and preparation.

Grace releases an indebted person from their debt… but costs the lender the debt forgiven.

Grace sets us free from sin and death… but cost Jesus the pain, humiliation, and death of the Cross.

The grace God offers cost us nothing, but cost Jesus everything.

But, He did it all because He wants to spend eternity with you.

THAT is a priceless grace worth sharing.