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This post needs no commentary. I only pray that you’ll allow this truth to change your eternal zip code…

From Max Lucado’s book, He Chose the Nails:

“Through the eyes of Scripture we see what others missed, but what Jesus saw. Colossians 2:24 NLT says, “He cancelled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross.”

Between his hand and the wood there was a list. A long list. A list of our mistakes: our lusts and lies and greedy moments and prodigal years. A list of our sins.

Dangling from the cross is an itemized catalog of your sins. The bad decisions from last year. The bad attitudes from last week. There, in broad daylight for all of heaven to see, is a list of your mistakes. … He has penned a list of our faults. The list God made, however cannot be read. The words can’t be deciphered. The mistakes are covered. The sins are hidden. Those at the top are hidden by his hand; those down the list are covered by his blood. Your sins are ‘cancelled’.

This is why he refused to close his fist. He saw the list! What kept him from resisting? This warrant, this tabulation of your failures. He knew the price of those sins was death. He knew the source of those sins was you, and since he couldn’t bear the thought of eternity without you, he chose the nails.

The hand squeezing the handle was not a Roman infantryman.

The force behind the hammer was not an angry mob.

The verdict behind the death sentence was not decided by jealous Jews.

Jesus himself chose the nails.

So the hands of Jesus opened up. Had the soldier hesitated, Jesus himself would’ve swung the mallet. He knew how; he was no stranger to the driving of nails. As a carpenter he knew what it took. As a Savior, he knew what it meant. He knew the purpose of the nail was to place your sins where they would be hidden by his sacrifice and covered by his blood. So, Jesus himself swung the hammer.

On Easter, remember:

The same hand that calmed the seas, calms your guilt.

The same hand that cleansed the Temple, cleanses your Heart.

This is the hand of God

And as the hands of Jesus opened for the nail, the doors of heaven opened for you.”

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dad and den

A Heart for Kids. This story is about my dad’s incredible journey as a heart recipient, but it starts here. My parents have always had a heart for children, but were unable to have them biologically. I was adopted from the foster care system on Dec. 17, 1971 in Phoenix, AZ.   When I was 6, they would later adopt my brother, Ted (5) and sister, Samantha (2).  We grew up in a great Christian household.  Going to church was a part of our everyday life and our parents modeled Jesus everyday. Around my freshman year of high school in 1986, my dad started getting lightheaded when he would go on walks. He was very active, was playing soccer and walking regularly.  He went in for a routine physical and they gave him a shock: He was diagnosed with cariomyopathy (a degenerative heart disease) and was told to “go home and get your affairs in order–you have 6 months to live”. Needless to say, we didn’t believe the doctors. After all, he was very active and didn’t seem any different.  However, we were soon proven wrong.  In the months that followed, his health deteriorated rapidly.

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He would soon be admitted into the hospital and would begin a fight for his life.  At one point, he was kept alive by every machine known to man. He coded 3 times. He saw visions. He couldn’t talk because of all the tubes running in/out of his body. He could only write stuff on a small chalkboard.

The Chalkboard. He was only able to eat ice chips and write on a small chalkboard to communicate. I’ve only seen my dad cry twice in my life. This would be one of those times.  His situation was dire. His health waning.  He was uncomfortable. He was uncertain.  Yet whenever a nurse, doctor, or someone from the medical staff would enter the room, he would motion for his chalkboard.  Did he want the bed raised/lowered?  Did he need his pillow adjusted? Did he want more ice chips?  No.  He would simply write FOUR WORDS: “Do you know Jesus?” That’s a picture I’ll never forget.  A dying man at the end of his life, trying a make a difference in the lives of others for eternity.

Sick Enough to Die, but Well Enough to Live.  The brutal part about transplantation is that in order to “qualify” to be put on the National Organ Transplant List, you have to be sick enough to die (from your condition), but well enough to live (through the surgery). For many weeks, my dad was too sick to survive the surgery.  The outlook wasn’t good. His health was failing fast. As he slowly deteriorated, we called the elders of CCV to come pray for him.  They prayed over him and anointed him with oil.  Soon, his body started to respond. He began to improve. Finally, he was deemed “well enough” to be put on the transplant list.

Don’t Pray for Me to Live.  While he waited for a transplant, he refused to let us pray that he would live. Because he knew, “in order for me to live, someone has to die.” Instead, he encouraged us to pray for God’s will.  So, we did. And we waited. I think everyone should spend time in a transplant wing of a hospital at least once in their lifetime.  Every patient in that unit knows that they will die unless people know that time is imminent. Every other patient in his wing died while waiting for a transplant.

Total Teamwork.  While we waited for word, so many people from Christ’s Church of the Valley came to our aid.  My mom moved to Tucson and got an apartment. Staff, friends and family helped act as a shuttle service, babysitters, and just hanging out.  My grandparents moved into our house and stayed with us so we could continue to go to high school.  On the day we got the phone call, Don Wilson drove me from track practice to UMC just as my dad was being wheeled into surgery.

A New Heart. On February 8, 1988  my dad received a heart transplant. He received the heart of a 43 year old woman who passed away in Tucson.  He would correspond with the donor family a few years later.  The first few weeks were precarious. We waited to see if his body would reject the new organ. Many times, transplants die of early infection or rejection.  In fact, every time we went to see him, we had to “scrub down” for 15 minutes with iodine and step into a sanitized “bubble”.  It was like something out of NASA.

dad post transplant

But my dad “took” to his new heart just fine.  Soon, he was walking and riding a stationary bike.  Eventually, the tubes came out. He was breathing better and more effortlessly than he could remember.  His color was better.  He had more energy.  He couldn’t wait to go fishing.

I’ll be there.  While my dad was recovering in Tucson, we would go to high school in Phoenix, then go visit on the weekends.  I was still in track and running became my ‘escape’ from the craziness of life.  As a distance runner, I had flirted with the 5 minute mile a few times as a freshman.  Now as a sophomore, I could feel this was ‘my year’.  In one of our early track meets, as I rounded the turn on lap 1, there were my parents!  They “snuck out of town” to see my race!  I honestly can’t remember the rest of the race, but it was one of the first times I broke the 5 minute mile.

Still Running.  Since all this, my dad is still running. He will celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary this June. He has been able to enjoy seeing all his kids graduate from HS, get married and start families of their own.  He is a grandparent 12 times over. He has worked on staff at Christ’s Church of the Valley for 32 years, and through his life and ministry, he continues to ask people, “Do you know Jesus?”  I am proud to call him my father.  This one’s for you, dad!  Happy 26th Anniversary.

Philippians 3:12-14 says, “Not that I already have obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” 

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“THE RACE”

by Dr. D.H. “Dee” Groberg 

“Quit!” “Give up!”  “You’re beaten!” They sometimes shout and plead.

“There’s just too much against you now, this time you can’t succeed.

And as I start to hang my head in front of failure’s face,

My downward fall is broken by the memory of a race,

And hope refills my weakened will as I recall the scene,

For just the thought of that short race rejuvenates my being.

A children’s race – young boys, young men – how I remember well.

Excitement some, but also fear, it wasn’t heard to tell.

They all lined up, so full of hope, each thought to win the race,

Or tie for first, or if not that, at least get second place.

And fathers watch from all the sides, each cheering for his son.

And each boy hoped to show his dad that he would be the one.

The whistle blew and off they went, young hearts and hope afire.

To win, to be the hero that was each young boy’s desire.

And one boy in particular, his dad was in the crowd,

Was running near the lead and thought “my dad will be so proud!”

But as he speeded down the field across a shallow dip,

The little boy who thought to win, lost his step and slipped.

Trying hard to catch himself, his hands flew out to brace,

And mid the laughter of the crowd, he fell flat on his face.

So down he fell and with him hope, he couldn’t win it now;

Embarrassed, sad, he only wished to disappear somehow.

But as he fell, his dad stood up and showed his anxious face,

Which to his boy so clearly said, “Get up and win the race!”

He quickly rose, no damage done – behind a bit, that’s all,

And ran with all his might and sought to make up for his fall.

So anxious to restore himself, to catch up and to win,

His mind went faster than his legs, he slipped and fell again.

He wished that he had quit before with only one disgrace.

“I’m hopeless as a runner now, I shouldn’t try to race.”

But in the laughing crowd he searched and found his father’s face,

That steady look that said again, “Get up and win the race!”

So he jumped up to try again, ten yards behind the last.

“If I’m to gain these yards,” he thought, “I’ve got to run real fast.”

Exceeding everything he had, he regained eight or ten,

But tried so hard to reach the lead, he slipped and fell again.

Defeat! He lay there silently, a tear dropped from his eye,

“There’s no sense running any more, three strikes I’m out…why try?”

The will to rise has disappeared, all hope has fled away.

So far behind, so error prone, loser all the way.

“So what’s the use,” he thought, “I’ll live with the disgrace.”

But when he thought about his dad who soon he’d have to face,

“Get up” an echo sounded low. “Get up and take your place.

You were not meant for failure here, get up and win the race.”

“Get up!” he said, “You haven’t lost at all.

For winning is no more than this – to rise each time you fall.”

So up he rose to win once more and with a new commit,

He resolved that win or lose, he would not ever quit.

So far behind the others now, the most he’d ever been,

Three times he’d fallen stumbling, three times he rose again.

Too far behind to win, he still ran to the end.

They cheered the winning runner as he crossed the line first place.

Head high and proud and happy – no failing, no disgrace.

But when the fallen youngster crossed the line – last place,

The crowd gave him a great cheer for finishing the race.

And even though he came in last, with head bowed low, unproud,

You would have thought he’d won the race to listen to the crowd.

And to his dad he sadly said, “I didn’t do so well.”

“To me you won” his father said, “You rose each time you fell.”

And now when things seem dark and hard and difficult to face,

The memory of the little boy helps me in my own race.

For all of life is like a race with ups and downs and all.

And all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall!

“QUIT!” Give up!”  “You’re beaten!”  They’re shouting in my face.

But yet another voice within me says – “Get up and win the race!”

How did the rock get there?

How did the rock get there?

How did the rock get there? In Death Valley, some of these “mystery rocks” have been known to weigh as much as 17 tons and travel over 300 yards per year.  How? Really not too mysterious at all: a consistent concentration of small elements (water, wind & sand) acting over time. They work together to gradually erode the surface of the rock and slowly move it across the desert floor.

How do strong marriages end?  How do successful people fail? How do great friendships go into free-fall? How do tight-knit families falter?

Erosion. Small things working in conjunction to break us down over time. Think about it: It’s usually not just one swing of the axe that fells a tree or that one crushing blow that KO’s the fighter, but rather a constant steady bombardment of hit after hit.  Sure the “quick knockdown” happens occasionally, but they are rare. They are the exceptions, not the rule.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Probably because I’m getting older and probably because the longer I’m around, I see increased “casualties of war” in the relationships & marriages among my close friends and family members.  Divorce, animosity, bitterness and revenge have infiltrated relationships I thought were steadfast and immovable. Almost without exception, the victims ask…

How did I get here?

Some call it a “slow fade”: a series of small poor choices that eventually take you way off course.  If a pilot is only .2 degrees off, the longer he travels, he can end up thousands of miles away from his destination. In relationships, I call this “erosion”.  Erosion happens when a relationship tumbles through life with small points of tension. These “tension points” cause bits of friction over time and are caused by a number of things: patterns of sin, petty arguments, sarcasm, unresolved conflict, outbursts of destructive anger, and even differing views of parenting, financial management, Throw in other ingredients like: stress, lack of margin and hectic lives and you’ve got a “perfect storm”: a series of concentrated elements that erode your spirit and move you way off course.

You see, friction causes a callous over time.  Of course, a callous causes lack of sensitivity. You become insensitive to the needs of others. You trade Christ’s mission for your agenda. Your mind is controlled by the sinful nature. You become selfish, rude, short-tempered, brittle, cold, defensive, argumentative. You lack warmth, joy, laughter, compassion, integrity & praise. This is why the Bible warns against “hardening your heart” and encourages us to set our minds on the Spirit.

Romans 8:5-6 (NIV) Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;

What are the small things that erode your spirit?

What are the little detours that take you off course?

What are the small decisions you can make to bring things back on track?

In life? In marriage? In faith? In finances?

It’s time to identify those tension points. Eliminate the areas that cause friction. It’s time to have a conversation, an intervention, a redirection to bring us “back to center”.

When we set the desires of our heart and mind on Christ, when we align our decisions with Jesus, we won’t ask, “How did I get here?” We will not fall victim to EROSION.

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An old man had a habit of early morning walks on the beach. One day, after a storm, he saw a human figure in the distance moving like a dancer. As he came closer he saw that it was a young woman and she was not dancing but was reaching down to the sand, picking up a starfish and very gently throwing them into the ocean.
”Young lady,” he asked, “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”
”The sun is up, and the tide is going out, and if I do not throw them in they will die”, she said.
”But young lady, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it? You cannot possibly make a difference.” 
The young woman listened politely, paused and then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves,
saying, “It made a difference for that one. The old man looked at the young woman inquisitively and thought about what she had done. Inspired, he joined her in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.”  The Star Thrower; Loren C. Eiseley 1969.

In his book, the ONE Thing, Gary Keller asks the question, “What’s the ONE THING I can do this week, that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?”

If you really break it down: Life is a series of singular decisions. Some large. Some small.

You’ve heard the saying, “Yard by yard; life is hard. Inch by inch, life’s a cinch.”

Don’t think of the many tasks you have to finish or the daunting goal you’ve set. Don’t think about the total amount of weight you have to lose or how many classes to pass before achieving your PhD. Start with one thing. One purpose. One direction. One focus.

One thing can make a difference.

Key Question: Are you doing TOO MANY THINGS?

See, the problem with multitasking is that it gives you MORE OPPORTUNITIES to FAIL QUICKER.  When we have several things spinning, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel defeated.  But there’s a psychological advantage when you knock one thing down at a time. I call it call it the importance of “achieving wins”.  Winning is contagious. It starts healthy habits of success in your life. It’s time to start winning. What is one thing you can do to WIN right now?  In any category. Start with ONE thing. One step. One victory.

The power of ONE.

One deal you can close from your list of prospectives.

One bill you can pay against a debt.

One load of laundry you can finish against the pile.

One email you can close from your inbox.

One call you can return.

One person you can connect with.

One commitment you can make.

One uninterrupted block of time to spend with someone.

One intervention to have.

One conversation to start.

One goal you can set.

The Bible has a lot to say about this. Philippians 4:13,14 says, “Brothers, I don’t consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But ONE THING I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining for what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

In Matthew 6:33 Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well.” 

Paul told the church in Philippi, the ONE THING matters. If you’re ONE THING is motivated by a GOD THING, it is unstoppable. 

And Jesus says in Matthew, if your FIRST THING is a GOD THING, everything else FITS.  There’s POWER in PRIORITIES in life.

So, what is your ONE THING?

One cause you can join. 

One passage you can study.

One person you can invite.

One neighbor you can meet.

One attitude you can correct.

One addiction you can break.

One life you can change for all eternity.

Start now. You can do this.  Refuse to see the vastness of the task in front of you. Just pick up a starfish and start slinging.  Decide to make a difference for that one. Your action will be contagious. Soon others will join. Goals will be realized. Results will be achieved. Movements will be started. Lives will be changed. Causes will be ignited.

Never underestimate the power of one.

Chilean mining disaster

On Thursday, August 5th 2010, 33 miners at the San Jose mine in Chile became trapped under several tons of rubble when the mine caved in. They were over 2000 feet beneath the surface.

Initially, the outlook wasn’t good. Even if they had lived through the collapse, they would most likely starve to death before being found.  So bleak were the circumstances, that when other miners heard about their plight, they came to the site and hammered 33 crosses into the ground, fearing the mine had become their tomb.  (after all, they 8 people had died in the mine years prior to this accident)

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On the slim chance that they could locate the miners, crews drilled 9 holes into the ground in hopes of finding any evidence of their survival.  Miraculously, 17 days later, one of the drill bits hit a hollow spot deep below the earth where the miners had gathered. As the tiny drill bit retracted from the chasm, attached was the message “We’re great down here in the refuge—the 33”.

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What ensued was one of the largest search and rescue operations in world history.  Chile would enlist the help and expertise from countries around the world. They would combine their resources. They would coordinate their efforts. Their plan was radical: drill down to them and build an escape capsule large enough to hoist them out. NASA would design the capsule. The process took over two months.  It cost tens of millions of dollars.

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But finally, 69 days later, with 1700 journalists from 39 countries assembled,  all 33 of them were pulled to safety one by one.  And when they reached the surface, who do you think was more excited?  The ones who had found life again?  Or the rescuers who had given it to them?  The answer is: BOTH of THEM!

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This remains the single most-watched event in human history, captivating a worldwide viewing audience of over 1 billion people. Why?

Because the world loves a great rescue story!

John 3:16 reminds us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him, shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

What’s your response?  Have you “staked a cross in the ground” and given up on reaching your lost friends & neighbors? Is it easier to “stay on the surface”?

Let’s be a part of God’s great rescue.

What will it take?  The largest coordinated effort in history.

What if EACH ONE REACHED ONE?

This was Jesus’ plan.  He started with a FEW and he’s counting on YOU.

Eternity is worth the effort!

football mud

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” –Teddy Roosevelt;  April 23, 1910.

This is my favorite quote and has unlimited applications.

Interestingly, I found out that in 1995, Nelson Mandela gave a copy of this speech to Francois Peinaar, captain of the South African Rugby team, prior to defeating the heavily favored New Zealand team at the World Rugby Championship. The film, “Invictus” used that poem instead.  This speech has been used to inspire thousands, perhaps millions over the years.

How does it inspire you?

It is so true of most critics: most of them have never “stepped in the arena”.

But I respect those who are in the game. Those who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get dirty.  I admire those who devote themselves to a worthy cause and those who succeed and fail while striving valiantly.

May we never be cold and timid.

May we always “dare greatly”.