Posted tagged ‘Jesus’

Life is a Marathon

April 19, 2018

Life is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

By Dr. Steven J. Callis

 

In my formative years, my brothers and I were involved in sports year round: baseball, football, and basketball.  Certainly, our parents had their hands full trying to get the three of us where we needed to be for practices and games.  Nearly every day at least one of us needed to be somewhere for some kind of sporting event.

At the high school level I added wrestling to my interests and dropped baseball and basketball.  However, there was a requirement for varsity football participants to participate in a spring sport.  I had not taken up golf at that point in my life, and being out of baseball for a few years seemed to negate that option.  So, I joined the track team.

My short, stocky body was not suited for fast or long distance running, so I never really embraced that sport with fondness.  Hence, athletes running the Peachtree Road Race or the Boston Marathon amaze me.  Premiering in 1970, the Peachtree is touted as the world’s largest 10K race with over 60,000 participants.

The Boston Marathon originated in April 1897 with 15 contestants.  Today, this 26-mile race exceeds 30,000 participants and draws over 500,000 spectators, making it the world’s oldest annual marathon and among the world’s most popular race.

Of the many interesting stories over all these years, one that stands out involved Canadian participant Rosie Ruiz.  In 1980, this amateur runner crossed the finish line first in the women’s race. Marathon officials became suspicious when it was discovered that Ruiz did not appear in race videotapes until near the end of the race. A subsequent investigation concluded that Ruiz had skipped most of the race and blended into the crowd about one mile from the finish line, where she then ran to her bogus victory.  Of course, she was disqualified and stripped of her title.

Events such as these remind me of a promise from the Bible book of Hebrews, that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who have already finished the race.  “Let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Unlike the incident of 1980, in the spiritual race it does not matter when a person enters it.  They key is to finish with one’s faith intact.  No matter one’s age, it is not too late to enter the race.

The athletes who compete in road races, both amateur and professional runners, are well trained and conditioned.  They spend months or even years in preparation.  Nevertheless, they will experience during their event fatigue, aching burning muscles, back aches, dehydration, and any number of other physical obstacles.

Besides the physical challenges, runners will face circumstances such as bad weather conditions, mental and emotional stress, the tactics of other runners, equipment issues, and such.  Physical, mental, and emotional stamina are essential in overcoming the various obstacles faced throughout the race.  They must remain focused on the finish line.

In the faith race there are many obstacles dealt by life circumstances: health issues, relationship challenges, immoral and addictive temptations, financial setbacks, and many other types of hindrances.  Finishing the race with Christ necessitates a determined focus on the One who has marked to race out for us.  The hurdles will seem insurmountable when we take our eyes off of Him.

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Longing for a Silent Night

December 15, 2017

by Dr. Steven J. Callis

I love to sing the carol, though I am uncertain as to the accuracy of the title.  Nothing about the night itself was holy; except that God chose that time to enter the world with the ultimate solution to the sin and degradation that had disrupted the peace it was created to enjoy.  He brought holy to the ordinary.  The real questionable word in the title is that first word: Silent.

First, Scripture tells us that the town of Bethlehem was filled to overflowing with people.  It was toe-to-heal traffic walking through the marketplace.  There were no vacancies to be found in any of the hotels.  Crowds of people scurrying here and there will make noise!

Add to that the reason they were there in the first place.  As we might imagine, many people were disgruntled at the necessity of travel and a government-mandated enrollment.  Rome was the political center of the world at that time, and the ‘census’ was ordered, in part, to force universal allegiance to Emperor Augustus.  People traveled long distances to fulfill this decree; a pleasure trip it was not.

Mary and Joseph found a resting place in a dwelling meant for animals.  Animals are sometimes noisy, and often smelly.  This certainly was not the ideal atmosphere for bringing a baby into the world.  Further, most of our Christmas hymns highlight the role of the angels announcing the birth of the Christ; at one point, a multitude of angels, singing loud and strong in grand celebration.

No, God probably did not enter the world on a silent night.  In fact, it makes more sense that the One bringing peace to the world would do so at a time when peace was absent.  He came to a world in need of something it could not find or produce on its own.

People who are famous in the public eye have lived under the proverbial microscope for centuries, so it is nothing new.  With the significant and rapid development of our technological world, however, I cannot remember in my lifetime when nearly every action and every statement made by influential people – including those on both sides of the political aisle – is judged, criticized, and protested in a public, widespread forum.  Our society has become more selfish, spoiled, and vocal when they are not rewarded, which leads to a divided, restless, frustrated nation.  We are in a mess, and levels of tolerance are quickly diminishing.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow voiced our perplexity in the third stanza of his poem, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day:  “And in despair I bowed my head.  ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said, ‘for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.’ ”

But the next stanza rings out with hope, “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”

No, our world is not silent.  It is still a dark place much of the time.  There is sadness, fear, pain, and loneliness.  Just as God’s pure love could shine brightly on that first Christmas night, so He continues to come into our darkness, bringing peace and joy for all people.  No matter who you are, or where you have been, or what you have done, God’s redeeming grace is available for you.  Jesus, our Savior, the Prince of Peace, is born.

Things to Do while You Wait

December 11, 2017

by Dr. Steven J. Callis

WAIT! …So, how did you do?  Generally speaking, our society performs poorly when it comes to waiting.  During the summers of my college days, most of the correspondence with my girlfriend (the lady I eventually married!) was by written letter; addressed, stamped, and mailed via USPS.  By the time it reached her two or three days later, any news it contained was past news!

The amazing development of electronic mail made it possible to for people communicate more quickly.  Then along came cell phones and text messaging, and e-mail became the new snail mail!  If we do not receive a response to our text within a couple of minutes, we become antsy.  We do not like to wait!

Nevertheless, we are forced do it several times everyday.  Shopping lines, traffic lights, health facilities, restaurants, medical test results, television commercials that interrupt our favorite shows…as much time as we spend waiting, one would think we might be better at it than we are.

In fact, it has been estimated that the average person spends seven years of life waiting!  Can you imagine that?  So, what do you do while you wait?

Many people go to their trusty, handy cell phone.  In a doctor’s office waiting room this morning I noticed that more than one half of those waiting for their name to be called were using their electronic devices.  Were they playing games, sending messages, or maybe searching the internet?

I often take something with me to read, but today I decided to leaf through a magazine that was provided by the doctor’s office.  I have never really looked closely at a People’s Magazine, so this was an opportunity to do so.  After several pages I realized that I was already familiar with most of the information I was seeing.  I glanced back at the cover and saw the date:  December 4, 2007!

And most of us have waited patiently (or not!) at a green traffic light for the person in front of us to look up and see that the red light had changed. It causes me to wonder if the field of chiropractic will become much more lucrative and in demand in the near future because of how much time we spend looking down or hunched over peering into that small handheld screen.

The Christmas season – Advent – is a time of anticipation, of expectant waiting for the coming of Christ.  It is a time to prepare for the spiritual side of the vastly celebrated holiday.  It is a time that we seek to draw closer to Jesus and invite Him to draw nearer to us.

At the birth of Jesus that first Christmas, the religious world had been waiting for 800 years from the time it was prophesied that Messiah would come.  We can understand, then, why Magi would travel nearly 1,000 miles to worship the newborn King, shepherds would leave their posts, and angels would joyfully declare, “Glory to God in the highest…peace to all people.”  The waiting was over.

God still comes to His creation.  No, not as a baby; but He chooses to be involved in the lives of humankind.  Those who seek Him find that He comes every day to make Himself known, to extend His mercy and grace, and to express His love.

This is Advent.  What will you do while you wait?  Certainly you will do some shopping and gift wrapping and eating – but will you take time to truly seek the God of our salvation?  Will you endeavor to make room for Him in the busyness of the season?  Will you notice it when He comes to you?

Playing the Part

July 18, 2017
JUST THINKING:  It is fun to temporarily assume a new identity or culture, like we do for our Cowboy Chowdown, and entering Medieval times like we are this week  At VBS (Over the Moat).  We dress the part, assume the vernacular, and step into character for a short time.  Then we return to our true nature and character, feeling much more comfortable at home.
Jesus left His heavenly throne and all that made Him ‘God,” took on the form of a servant in humility, and for a brief time walked this earth as a human being.  He dressed the part, assumed our vernacular, and made Himself nothing for a short time.  In fact, while in character He laid down His life for you and me; and it was effective because the one characteristic He did not assume UNTIL HE HUNG ON THE CROSS was sin, and even then it was ours, not His.  The spotless One became our sacrifice.
THANKS BE TO GOD FOR HIS INDESCRIBIBLE GIFT.

Mr. T and Gatorade

January 28, 2016

by Dr. Steven J. Callis

            Before Mr. T was a television star, and before Gatorade was the popular drink of choice among athletes, I experienced both.  Known to me as Mr. Turentine, this simple, kind old man loved kids.  When we talked about him, he was “Mr. Turpentine;” when we talked to him, he was Mr. T.

            A member of our large church when I was young, Mt. T was faithful in his attendance to services and church activities.  He enjoyed standing out in the foyer talking to people and sneaking candy from his pocket into the hands of young children.  His best suit was old and hung droopily on his medium build frame.

            He lived alone, owned no car, and was an eccentric individual.  He did not hold official positions in the church, though I recall him helping with custodial duties sometimes.  He was not one to be called upon for answers to faith or theology.  But he loved Jesus, and he loved children.

            Our church had a high school age baseball team in the summertime.  Most church leagues played softball, so our team was registered in a community recreational league.  Games were played at various locations across the city.  I loved baseball growing up and was good enough to be in the starting lineup during those elementary years.  But this was big-boy baseball.  I was a small 9th grader seeing my first ‘real’ curve ball, and one bop in the head proved my fear to be warranted!

            I did not get to play much, being among the younger boys, and being a ‘chicken.’  However, I did get on base a couple of times when the opposing pitcher could not hit my small strike zone. 

            We did have one faithful cheerleader who never missed a game.  His name was Mr. T.  No matter where we played, Mr. T found the bus route that would get him to our games, and he always brought a jug of Kool-Aid for us to drink.  At first I thought he used funny tasting water.  One of the older guys said that it was simply not sweetened.  He reasoned that Mr. T could not afford sugar, so he added salt instead!

            That was then.  We tried to be kind and not hurt his feelings, but it tasted awful, especially when we were expecting a sweet treat!

            Looking at it now, I don’t think Mr. T’s potion was a result of his eccentric ways or his lack of funds.  I genuinely believe he knew the effect sugar would have on athletes needing to replenish energy and lost fluids from perspiration.  I think he was providing us his own version of Gatorade, a sports drink that was not yet a staple across America in dugouts and on sidelines.

            In our large church Mr. T was well known and loved, but had no close circle of friends, no favorite people to sit with during fellowship meals, and was never an ‘up front’ person to be publicly noticed.  But he loved Jesus and he loved people, and he found a permanent place in my heart and memory. 

            By now he has long since reached his eternal home where he enjoys fellowship with Jesus forever.  I wonder if he ever knew what a blessing he was to others, and I wonder how long it took others like me to realize that fact, as well.

For Whom the Bell Tolls: a change of heart

June 30, 2015

By Dr. Steven J. Callis

On Father’s Day last week my wife and I attended a church service in South Carolina.  It was a well-orchestrated time of praise and worship that included a celebration of fatherhood and manhood, yet without demeaning the significance of the “fairer” gender.

Uniquely, the service began with a video of a man playing an acoustic guitar, singing from what appeared to be a living room or office.  The song was unfamiliar to me, and I realized the reason as the lyrics unfolded.  They were freshly written to honor the victims of the tragic Bible study shooting in Charleston earlier in the week, and to encourage the families and friends of those who died, as well as all who walk in the faith.  The theme that spoke to my heart was that evil will not triumph where God’s love abounds.

The pastor stood at the conclusion of the song and explained that churches all across South Carolina were ringing their church bells that morning with nine chimes to represent those who were killed in the Bible study shooting.  He called the congregation to prayer and amid the silence clanged the bell nine times in slow, deliberate fashion, and then led us in a prayer for everyone whose lives are impacted by this event.

One would not expect such a somber beginning to fit with the traditional Father’s Day elements of a church service, but I was impressed at the way it all seemed to flow so smoothly and naturally, obviously anointed by divine intention.

Later in the day I saw news coverage of churches in Charleston ringing their bells and gathering for worship.  I appreciated the sentiment, but confess that seeing news reports could not begin to express the spirit of those moments.  In that atmosphere, in those moments, the tragedy became more personal to me than it had earlier in the week.  With each chime echoing across the sanctuary, and reverberating in my heart and mind, I was deeply moved with a mixture of sorrow and celebration; acknowledging the sadness and loss, yet knowing that God would use the crisis for His glory and for the strengthening of the faith community.

The example of wisdom and grace with which the church and its community responded to this act of evil in their midst is a model for our nation, from individual communities and people groups to the high-ranking government officials and group leaders who saw this as another opportunity to win political points rather than offer support for healing.  We witnessed members of various faiths, races, people groups, and political parties come together in Charleston for mutual edification and comfort.  They genuinely cared about each other, and they came with only one agenda: harmoniously seeking God.

If our god is politics, or personal rights, or economic gain – if our god is anything or anyone other than the one true God of Abraham, the One who was and who is and who is to come, The Almighty, then such unity and harmony will never come about.  The writing of new laws or the taking away of freedoms and rights will not cure racism or any other such ills of our culture.  It must come from the heart, not from legislation.

What we witnessed in Charleston is the re-enactment of the love of God through His only Son, portrayed by individuals who have personally experienced the measure of God’s grace and mercy, and who, therefore, cannot help but reciprocate that grace to others.  From the highest official to the common citizen, we each must make this a matter of the heart, for evil will not triumph where the love of God abounds.

The Stories We Tell

February 1, 2014

The Stories We Tell – By Steven J. Callis

We thought they were stories invented in the minds of our parents and grandparents, to help us realize how good life is today.  “Dad, I’m a senior in high school now, and I should not have to ride the bus to school.  Can I get a car?”  “Son, when I was your age I had to walk 2 miles to school in 3 feet of snow.”

In grandpa’s story, he made the same trek, but he was barefooted.  I did not know whether to believe those stories or not, but storytelling has been a gift handed down from generation to generation.  And 30 years from now the story will have changed somewhat, but it will be true:  “Son, back in 2014, I was stranded on the school bus overnight, in the middle of nowhere, in below freezing temperatures, and snow all over the ground!”

Our community is grateful especially to school teachers, administrators, school staff, and bus drivers who went above and beyond to keep our children safe.  Thank you!

I remember as a child asking my dad to tell me stories about when he was a boy.  Years later, my kids were asking me to tell them stories about when I was a boy.  Eventually, reruns were requested – –  “can you tell me the story about the time you…”

It is unlikely that a biography will be written about my life.  There will be no movie reels containing highlights and episodes of my glory days.  The sparse collection of awards and accolades will acknowledge a few accomplishments, but they will tell no stories.

However, the stories that were important enough to tell will live on in the hearts and minds of my children, along with the tales I related to them about my dad, and about my granddad.  Those stories would have little meaning to you, but they do matter to me; so they had to be told.

We all have stories to tell.  They may even be embellished a bit as we grow older and our memory of details fade.  But they are our stories, and they should be told.

In 1965, an epic film was released titled, “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” recounting the life of Jesus from birth to His Resurrection.  It is, indeed, a great story, but it becomes even greater (to me) when it includes the part about how He changed my life.  My children know the story, and now I have a granddaughter, and I can hardly wait to tell her my favorite story.